To the Masses: It took a little while to get this chapter out because between sleeping and researching the most random things, I kind of just don't feel like it. However, I told myself that I would get something out before I went and read the latest chapter Hurricane by Dark K. Sly (go check it out if you haven't). This chapter has been brought to you by way too much Coca-Cola and Pop-tarts.
Soundtrack: Some Nights by Fun., I Want To Be Free by Elvis Presley (but I like the Jason Lee version), and Another Saturday Night by Sam Cooke.
Warnings: OOC and AU (all fanfics are), pre-slash, eventual slash, mentions of child abuse, one really annoying OC, questionable writing, bad grammar, a few holes in logic, and so on.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything that's already been copyrighted by someone else.
"All things are difficult before they are easy.' Thomas Fuller
Harry's alarm went off at four-thirty in the morning, the alarm that one of his roommates had to help him with when he'd first been given his StarkTech phone. He'd named her Lady Victoria, and even if Harry weren't in the habit of naming his few expensive positions, Wes had told him it was good luck to name his electronics. Also, because she was programmed to accept voice commands and could respond in kind, he felt awkward talking to something that didn't have a name. So Lady Victoria woke him up at four-thirty in the morning, and he was up at such an insane hour because if he wanted privacy in the communal bathroom for their area then he needed to be up before the day shift but after the night shift had finished their bed time routines.
Dobbs, one of his roommates and a light sleeper, had asked what the hell was up with his insane routines, and Harry had explained very logically that on a hellicarrier jam packed with people, he liked to have a moment or two to himself. He was a private person, they understood. Actually though, Harry had a little problem, and one that had plagued him for pretty much his entire life. Harry blamed his father, because if it was anyone's fault it had to be James Potter's. It was embarrassing, because it had to do with his hair, and usually it didn't have to be a secret because he went to a magical school, with magical consequences, magical mishaps, magical quirks, and so on. However, in the muggle world, cocooned my a very secretive, mission based organization, it wasn't a good idea to be the freak who's hair couldn't change. Literally could not change, and as a child his aunt had shorn off his hair when it had gotten too long to be decent. Harry remembered very clearly the ridiculous haircuts she'd given him, and he remembered it growing back overnight. Then she'd cut it again, before they'd even gotten a chance to finish making breakfast, and sure, it kept short during the day, but that night it grew back again. So yeah, Harry had really long, embarrassingly curly hair every morning, and every morning he crept into the communal bathroom with a towel over his head and cut it all off. He'd gotten pretty good at it over the years.
Only after it looked relatively normal, the front was a little shorter than it should have been, and he'd cleaned up his mess, took he shower and dressed for the day. Harry tried to look his best while on the job, but the wardrobe he'd collected over the years was odd at best and just wrong in the eyes of the no-nonsense types (like Dr. Cole). His most sensible clothes were those that weren't stained with a variety of inks and animal byproducts or singed, but the vast majority of them were donated by his housemates who saw his cousins hand-downs, Lavender Brown may have shouted 'oh, hell no,' at one point, and outfitted him with a variety of styles, fabrics, and colors befitting their stations. Their girly, or brawny, or too-tall, wizardly, or exotic stations. Whatever though, Harry thought as he smothered the Weasley Wizard Wheezes t-shirt down over his thin frame. It's black and bright orange was toned down by the denims that Hermione had outgrown the year before, and yeah -he liked his plumb colored blazer and whoever said it wasn't he most awesome jacket ever could suck it. He glanced over his hair one last time, smoothed down the lapels of his favorite jacket and left the bathroom with his little bathroom caddy.
He bumped into his third roommate, Charleston, on his way back to their shared lodging and gave the brawny man a nod of greetings. The entire time they'd bunked together neither one of them had said a word to the other, and that seemed to work out well. He was a nice break from nosey Dobbs and the very talkative Wes. After two and a half weeks, he was still just happy that none of them snored. When he did make it into the dimly lit room, barely big enough for the four bunks and four slim lockers, Dobbs was still deeply asleep and Wes was half way off the bottom bunk, also not likely to wake up any time soon. Harry shook his head in amusement, and put his things away as quietly as possible. He took a moment to make his bed, even though he still wasn't subjected to the same intense regulations as the guys and therefore wouldn't be punished for a messy space, in case there was an impromptu room inspection. Whatever it was that they got punished with when their rooms weren't within regulation had no baring on Harry, but he did it because if they had to suffer so would he -in a way of their choosing, and no lack of body mass or cute-eyed expressions would exempt him if they were upset enough. It was just the roommate way. He'd learned that way back in first year when Seamus was blowing up everything his wand pointed at, and Dean had ignited his pants to avenge his lost sheets.
Harry left just as quietly as he did everything else and made his way to the science department. As much as he hated Doctor Richard Cole, the man was still his scientist, and Harry had made a point of checking on him just in case he accidentally exposed himself to anything corrosive or had snapped and started killing off the people that he thought were a waste of space. Also, because it was part of Harry's routine. Everything he did throughout the day was carefully constructed so that his movements could be tracked with expert precision, right down to how he took his coffee. Things needed to be that way, Harry kept telling himself, because in order to get away with a lot of the stuff he was planning, people needed to think he was that simple and predictable. So Harry carried himself to the science department, past the weapons department that he wasn't supposed to know about, storage, and the lab stuffed full of technical analysts that we devoted to decoding something or another that made them all want to rip their hair out. When he reached the biochem lab he punched his number in carefully, mindful that even the smallest burst of magic could bring the system down, and pressed his finger to the print scanner. He was let in as soon as his data was processed and made a bee-line for Dr. Cole's corner.
Harry didn't seem him at first, and he'd walked around the entire island stacked high with things Harry was expressly forbidden from touching, and found the doctor tucked underneath with a sleeping bag and a therapeutic pillow. Harry wasn't very surprised, because the man was very dedicated to his work (though it seemed like he was more dedicated to proving he was smarter than everyone else for the sake of bragging), and it wasn't the first time he'd camped out in the lab when his body just couldn't take it anymore. Harry didn't bother to try and wake him, because according to his calculations the doctor had been about fifty hours without sleep, give or take two, and it was about time he crashed. Instead he walked around to the other side and started shuffling through papers.
Most of the research had already been copied and filed away in Harry's wonderfully, undetectably expanded canvas satchel. There wasn't anything new, except the list of failed chemical combinations had been extended just a bit. Harry dug around in his bag and pulled out a moleskin notebook and his fountain pen, he jotted in the information down quickly before he put everything back exactly the way he'd found it. He brought Lady Victoria out of his pocket and snapped a couple of pictures of the cultures growing just to be sure, and then made his exit. He swung by the little coffee station on his way out, and grabbed up many of the yellow packets of artificial sweetener before replacing them with packets that looked exactly the same.
"Harry," someone called out just before he reached the door. Harry turned quickly to see another one of the scientists had called for him. 'Call me Olivia,' Harry recalled as he approached her work station. He really liked her, he'd decided the first time she approached him in the lab, she was short and stout. No doubt her lower threshold made her sturdy, and despite her age she could probably take on a few of the younger men on board. He'd heard she had before, actually. Wes heard she'd even threatened to spank an agent who had knocked her over and hadn't even stopped to see if she was alright. Her pale brown hair was shot with silvery strands and her skin reminded him of the leathery face of a house-elf. Also, she gave him candy. Little butterscotch candies for days.
"Madame," Harry greeted with a smile. She pulled him into a motherly hug, a bit like the ones Mrs. Weasley gave him, and slipped some candies into his jacket pocket. She took a silent moment to mess with his hair, and he let her because he knew better than to tell the maternal type 'no.' "How are you this fine morning?" he continued in an exaggerated posh-ness that amused her greatly.
"Oh you," she flirted, pushing at his arm playfully before backing off and giving him a bit of space. "You know a growing boy should try and get some more sleep," she teased, like she always did about the 'old folk' hours he kept. Maybe also because he usually looked like death warmed over until he had his first cup of coffee. Honestly though, he was just happy he had retained his English speaking abilities. "Don't you think for a second that we don't know you snuck something into the creamer," she whispered, and even if Cole was awake he wouldn't have heard them.
Harry smirked and shrugged. After his initial meeting with Darcy Lewis, a week ago, it had become apparent that Dr. Cole wasn't very popular even amongst his peers. There were a few scientists that worshiped the ground he walked on, but they were also a bit delusional, and people that had to share an immediate space with him were more than a bit tired of the arrogance. "I think, maybe some milk may have found it's way into the lactose-free creamer. Maybe also the Splenda isn't safe, but I'm sure the sweet-n-low is fine." He and Darcy had agreed that the first strike in any battle of sneaky-sneaky wit should be at the bowels, because the one thing he knew for sure was where and how Cole took his coffee. It was easy because Cole wasn't very quiet at his wants and needs, and he'd blown up at someone else's assistant on Harry's second day because she'd brought the wrong bottle of creamer out from storage and he had 'special needs, damnit.' The Splenda had just been carefully extracted, replaced with salt, and then sealed back up again with Darcy's flat iron.
"Oh, I am feeling a bit like some real sugar today," Olivia replied coyly. Then she turned a bit serious, like she did every time before she addressed a very real issue, "I do wish things had gone differently for you, this summer," she expressed sincerely. Harry knew it wasn't in her budget though, or anyone else's, to keep an intern or assistant. It had been in Cole's because he was the one with the big project and the big government grant. He would offer to help her anyway, because it wasn't like Cole let him do a lot, but the man was an ass and there wasn't any doubt that he'd take it as personal betrayal and report him to HR for not doing his job or doing it terribly.
Harry just shrugged again and kept smiling, "I'm getting along fine, and I'm still getting my credits." He wasn't learning anything though, not yet. He glanced down at his watch, Hermione had found it in the Come and Go room and fixed it up for him as a Christmas present. "I have to get going," tight routine and all. Plus he and Darcy had a standing breakfast date.
Olivia knew that and grinned, because she, like a lot of people, probably assumed he was sweet on his new friend. He wasn't, but that still wasn't the most terrible thing people had assumed about him so he let it go. "You get out of here then, and I'll see you at seven-thirty," like every day, and like every day he would bring her a little something to eat so she didn't have to leave her research.
The mess hall was on the other side of the aircraft and one floor up. It took a bit of navigating, but he found his way there at six, on the dot. He made his way directly to Queen Adele the Second, with her wonderfully duck taped curves and generosity. He dug the thermos that Dobby had given him, so of course it was garish and bold, and filled her up. Only then did he get in line for food, and those who were on kitchen duty stacked his plate high with eggs, biscuits, and sausage gravy like he was a starving, third world child. He grabbed an extra muffin for Olivia, and only then did he look around for Darcy.
Wonderfully curvy Darcy who could cut him to the bone with her sharp tongue, and probably watched his entrance and the proceedings like it was the greatest show in the world. "You're zombie walk is the funniest part of my day," she said as soon as he sat down with his tray. She was already half-way through hers, "They call this S.O.S. Did you know? Apparently it stands for 'Shit On the Shingle.' Doesn't that sound awesome?" she asked sardonically.
"Who gives a fuck?" Harry replied, and oh did he relish the ability to swear at his full potential without Ron or Hermione kicking his shins, "it tastes good. And I don't walk like a zombie." He took a long drink of coffee and his body started to catch up with his wakeful mind.
"Not like the old Vincent Price 'Last Man on Earth' type zombies. You just look like you're sleep walking, except you can have a conversation and actually get shit done." He didn't tell her he'd developed the ability out of need because, since he was a small child, Petunia would wake him up to help cook and clean before Vernon even woke up. Vernon was also the only other one in the house to drink coffee, and if Harry was really good then Petunia would give him what was left of it in lieu of actual food. "Anyway, how's Dick?" she asked.
Harry took a couple of bites before he replied thoughtfully, "seems his lab mates are aware of the little alterations that were made to some of the condiments, but no one seems to be concerned with his discomfort. We can move forward when we get the proper information," which he would need Wes' help for, he knew. He brought his satchel up to rest on the chair next to him and dug through it until he found the proper notebook, 'Marauding' written across the top, and his pen so he could make the proper notations.
Darcy snorted, her whole body was in on it and her chest jiggled just a little beneath her big sweater, not that Harry was looking or anything. "'We,' you are so cute. 'We' like you're not doing all of the work. Jane's fine, because I know you're going to ask. She's all excited for New York, because her hunk of a thunder god is supposed to meet here there. Now that he's got his dad's magic cube of awesome back he can come and go when he pleases, and he pleases to see her in New York in a couple of weeks. So now I get to deal with her staring off into metaphorical space instead of literal space, while she forgets to eat and sleep, and she gets this gooey look on her face -and it'd be cute, except I ain't gonna get any Norse booty so I'm kind of jealous."
Harry just gave her a blank look he donned when she talked about stuff he didn't understand, which was often, while trying to comprehend what she said about a the Norse god of thunder and a cube that was magic. He needed to know if it was actual magic or just really awesome science, or both, because he was a big enough person to admit that sometimes these things crossed paths, and how that would affect him as a magical person. Then Darcy got her rare, but often enough around Harry, look of sadness because he really wasn't following. The first day he'd known her she thought he was joking about his ignorance of pretty much anything pop-culture and technology related. "You really do live under a rock," she said in fascination, and then began telling him what had to be one of the weirdest accounts Harry had ever heard, and he lived with magic.
Darcy told him about how this guy came out of the sky and how Jane had hit him with her van, and how she'd tasered him. Then she'd taken a brief break to mourn her lost taser, because apparently she wasn't qualified to carry one of those aboard so someone had confiscated it, and it had been pink and awesome and also expensive. She eventually got back to telling him about Thor, and actual god of actual thunder from a planet far, far away and how he'd visited earth ages ago and people worshiped his family and friends because of their power. She told him about Thor's great body and his bottomless stomach, a concept that Harry was actually kind of familiar with, and the Giant Metal Man of Fire and Death. When she was done telling him about how Thor got his powers back by sacrificing himself for others, a thought that had Harry's stomach churning, and also how the entirety of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a great big bag of dicks ("They pay well," Darcy says and shrugs, "but I was music deprives for like, an entire day. Also, they took my taser.") she told him about the events that only recently occurred.
An actual, honest to Merlin, the moon, and magic, an actual worm-hole opened and an army of aliens launched an invasion meant to destroy man kind (and probably all the other 'kind' they didn't know existed), and no one in the Wizarding World had a clue. There was something very wrong with that concept, and Harry would get to fixing that when he returned to school, but for the moment he came to realize that people actually knew magic existed. In fact, they were light years a head of the wizarding world in understanding the way of the universe. Harry couldn't help but wonder if someone with a higher security clearance, like the guys who recruited college kids from Britain, knew about him. About his magic and his legacy, maybe even about the bad press he'd got throughout Umbridge's reign over Hogwarts. All of his tremulous thoughts led to the same conclusion, he needed to find some answers to his questions.
"…and then Thor took Loki back to Asgard for some, hopefully horrible, punishment and Jane was reassigned to the new lab opening in New York," Darcy concluded. Her explanation had taken longer than Harry thought it would, and it was about a hundred times more shocking than he'd anticipated, and they were all out of time. As per their agreement though, for every question Darcy answered, Harry had to answer one. It seemed to be a loophole in his previously very solid peeve about questions he wasn't legally obligated to answer. "So, how is it that you don't know any of this?" Harry should have expected that one.
"The boarding school I go to is very specific that we don't have any electronic devices on campus. Absolutely none," he was trying to drive the point home, "So we're late getting any news, and I wasn't so updated before then either." He didn't want to explain that he wasn't allowed any conveniences, not even a real bedroom, because that was a little too much personal information.
Darcy seemed to accept that, and even said "That actually explains a few things," like what, Harry wasn't so sure, but he checked his watch again and he was already running a little late getting back to the lab. Punctuality was very important for his mission. "It's Jane's sleeping day," which is what they'd taken to calling the crash that some of the scientists experienced after prolonged periods of work and coffee, "so I'll see you at dinner?"
"Yeah," Harry said, stacking the trays so he could take both of them, and shoved Olivia's muffin in his bottomless bag. "Cole crashed sometime over the night too. I'm going to try and learn something while he's still knocked out, but I'll be in around six," because that was the routine he'd decided on.
"Hey, maybe you can replace the next batch of Splenda with some sleeping pills. Jane has some. Do you want some?" Darcy asks readily, because she is on his case to do something -anything to get that education he's paying for, not like her because she got her credits and she was just sticking around for Jane, because Jane is her friend. She even tried to report Cole, but the bastard had tenure. Apparently his work with paralytics was really something. Her continued outrage had something to do with Harry actually wanting to be a scientist when he grew up, and he needed to learn all the stuff Cole wasn't teaching him -Harry's brain halted, mid-thought.
"Wont she notice they're gone?" Harry didn't flat out ask why she had them, but even though he'd never met the woman it didn't sound like something she'd take. Just two days before Darcy was complaining that Dr. Foster hadn't even noticed she'd been awake for over thirty hours. So maybe they were hers.
"She doesn't even know she has them," Darcy shrugged and said, "the medic bay hands them out to scientists like candy. You have to requisition them though, so your name would be on the list, but I can get you some of hers."
"You drug your scientist?" Harry continued to press, but he couldn't be all that surprised. She'd already admitted to snorting Ritalin.
"Only after the three day mark, then she's really unreasonable so I just mix some in with her coffee," Darcy explained as if it were perfectly normal. Harry didn't know, but maybe it was, he just hoped he never got to that point and people didn't have to drug him. "Oh, I'll get the trays today, you're already running late."
Harry took off quickly after that, and took an unused passage. By that he meant that he stuck into a supply closet and crawled through the air-ducts, which were much more straight forward than the labyrinth of bays and stairs. The hard part about living on the hellicarrier was actually that the stairs didn't move and the doors didn't appear and disappear depending on their moods. He enjoyed sliding through the thin metal tunnels though, because it reminded him a bit of the narrow passages through out the castle, mostly because they weren't occupied by other people. He made it to the storage room only one lab over form where he needed to be, without alerting anyone to his position and just in time to meet Olivia at seven-thirty with her chocolate muffin.
"You spoil me," she said as soon as he handed it to her, and it was kind of like a 'thank you' but better. Before he moved away, back to his own corner in the back of the lab with his latest 'for dummies' book she took him by the elbow, "now the most important thing about lab work is to make sure your drink hasn't started to grow mold. You would think it would be to wear appropriate clothing, you'll have to lose the jacket by the way, dearie, but you would be surprised by how many people don't even notice they're drinking from three-day-old mugs. Is your drink clean?"
Harry grinned and held up the bright green mug adorned with purple hippos in pink tutu's. "Good," Olivia continued, and so started Harry's learning experience.
Hours later he finally broke for lunch, not at all late according to his schedule, and took two servings of the days lunch. Burgers and crisps, Harry thought a little happily, as he entered the observation dock and made his way to Wes' station. Like usual, he wasn't really working, but Harry was good at pretending that was just because he was on his lunch break. "Yo Potter," Wes greeted when the food was put directly in front of him. "How goes the day?"
"Pretty good," Harry replied, already admiring the days view -bright blue and cloudless. "Yours?" he asked, even though Wes' answer was always just a shrug, and they dissolved into useless chatter while they ate their lunch. Wes was under no delusions, he knew why he was the only one the kid took lunch with was because of the view, and it was an awesome view. Half-way in Harry didn't respond to something right away and looked to be contemplating something. "I was wondering if you could do me a favor?" he knew his expression was innocent enough.
Wes paused mid chew, his rigid cheek-bones were set oddly. Then he nodded and swallowed. "Sure," he said sarcastically, "what's the worst that could happen?" Harry didn't argue, but he did give him a pitiful look, "look, I know you're not as nice as you come off to be…because frankly, you talk in your sleep. Sometimes it's English, and when it's English it's pretty nefarious stuff, and whatever this favor is -which has to be risky because your coming to me, the computer guy, but sorry, I can't tell you."
Harry pouted. He'd had Ginny teach him in his third year because it seemed like a solid plan to get Ron and Hermione to stop arguing long enough to give everyone's sanity a rest. "I just wanted to know by boss' bunk number."
Was dropped his voice and asked dramatically "are you sleeping with him?" then corrected himself, "that can't be it because he would have told you himself. Plus I know the dude you're talking about, and that's some gross shit. Wait, you're not going to kill him are you? Because I heard some stuff…"
"What stuff?" Harry asked seriously, and usually he wouldn't care because the press had pretty much beat all of his fucks away, but he really need to know if someone was on to him.
Wes looked a little guilty at first, "Well, not like we were talking about you or anything, but I had P.T. with Charleston this morning and we were just hanging when some guys from R&D department were talking about how someone from the biochem lab and that girl with the big boobs, which was probably that one girl that works for Thor's girlfriend, because she has an awesome rack, were sneaking around. That had to be you, because I saw you guys in the gym together -also, sorry about your physical failures dude, and then the guys from R&D said something about how that guy that is actually you is an asshole. Dude, you need to start talking to people more, because this recluse-thing you've got going on comes across as kind of…not-you, and vaguely homicidal. It's bad enough Agent Romanoff is wondering the halls with her ready-to-kill skill set. Obviously I don't think that, I know you're just a nerd."
Harry was starting to think that all Americans were as talkative and disjointed in their conversations as Darcy and Wes. "No," Harry answered slowly, "I'm not planning on killing him. I just want to short-sheet him, or put dye in his shampoo, and things like that." It was technically the truth.
Wes still looked skeptical, "why don't you just access the public registry, it's right there on your phone," Harry counted to three and realization dawned on his bunkmate, "Oooh, it's on your phone. Here, hand her over and I'll show you how to get to it."
Wes did, and when lunch was over Harry returned to the lab. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the biochem department, Cole was awake. Harry traded one long suffering look with Olivia as he passed and instantly retreated to his corner. Upon arrival he asked, like very day, "is there anything I can do for you?"
"Yeah," Cole grunted, his voice was like gravel along broken glass because he smoked at least a pack a day and probably had for a really long time. Harry was surprised, and anticipated being allowed to do at least something small, of being some kind of help. Dr. Cole was measuring something with a disposable pipet, and even the smallest of mistakes could be hazardous, so he forgot to finish his sentence for a moment. When he was done he turned his dark eyes to Harry, "you can get the fuck out."
As shocking as that was Harry should have expected it. Cole hated him, possibly more than Snape did. Considering Snape hated Harry because his father was a bully and caused significant emotional trauma, and Cole just hated him because he was Harry, it seemed very possible. He didn't even notice that the room had gone silent until he was half-way back to the door and his favorite lady-scientist every, Olivia gave him a mournful look. Somehow that only made things worse, and the rejection he felt was padded with humiliation and other sad-like feelings.
He left, and went straight into the supply closet. It was kind of like his cupboard under the stairs, and he felt a bit like he did back then. Like a freak, a worthless freak who couldn't do anything right. He had been on top of the world. He met new people like Hermione thought he would, and yeah -it was hard, but Darcy was nice and so were his roomies. He had his things, he patted his bottomless bag, no one had taken them away. He was literally in the sky, and flying was always the most fantastic thing. That was all brought crashing down around him at six words. 'You can get the fuck out,' rang around his mind like the very first Potions class, like Lockhart dragging him in front of the flashing cameras, like no one believing him. The loud silence, like Cedric's death, like the awkward silences surrounding his entire childhood, like the blood quill in the pink room, and like Sirius falling through the veil. It all came rushing towards him with that one solid rejection, like that was just the last straw that broke his back and he did the only thing he ever was any good at, and fled. He stood, the strap of his bag digging into his shoulder, and he climbed back into the air-ducts that were small and dark and made him feel just a little bit better.
Cole was going to pay, maybe not in the way that Harry had initially intended, but he would. He needed to scout the mans room out, he reminded himself as he wiped his face with the back of his hands. They were moist, and he'd already promised himself he wouldn't cry. He just needed to do his job, and that, at the moment, was to make some cocky bastard sorry for everything.
Two floors up, that was where the individual rooms were kept, reserved for the higher ranks and apparently a few, select scientists who were really important. The security was also a little tighter, and Harry didn't know why they thought they'd need them, but apparently there were little cameras in the ceiling. He'd recognized them after the first one, which he'd shorted out with the little touch of his magically charged finger. It took only a moment to slip his Invisibility Cloak out of his bag, because it had it's own easy-access pocket, and he slid into the slivery fabric easily. He didn't think to check the integrity of the structure, because all of the other ducts were reinforced, which was odd when he thought about it. They were reinforced like the designer had expected that they'd need to carry the weight, and where there were cameras there was no extra support. Harry hadn't really known that until he fell through the ceiling. I did have the added bonus of shocking him out of his emotional things.
"Oh fuck," he screeched as he fell, just before he hit the floor in an underweight pile of sadness. "Not good, not good at all. I am so fired. They're going to leave me in Thailand, and I'm going to have to walk back to the Dursley's, and they'll lock me up, and oh fuck," he muttered all the while he stood and noticed that the room was occupied. Occupied, he assessed, by someone with a lot of tubes wires also sticking out, and very much awake.
"Who are you?" the man inquired in an impressively stoic manner. Perfectly stoic, in fact, Harry thought. "You're covered in plaster dust, so I can see your outline," the man continued, as if Harry were even thinking of running away -which he was.
Harry huffed, and glanced at the door. There was one of those electric key pads that indicated someone would need a code to get through, a code Harry most certainly didn't have. He could try to get back into the vent, and just go back the way he came, but the man might call security to block off all of his exit ways. Finally, when all mental avenue's were extinguished, Harry let the cloak slide off, his face was already heated with embarrassment because he got caught and because he knew his eyes were probably red and puffy from the unwanted emotional intrusion. "I don't want to be fired.," was the first thing he said.
The man just looked at him blankly, and then, as if he were speaking to a small child, said slowly "English, please."
Harry recognized the tone as the one his house-mates at Hogwarts used when spoke in parseltongue, because it all sounded like English to him. Harry slowed his mental chatter and did his best to concentrate on the man, on the contours of his face, his neat hair, the vein of frustration in his neck, and then said again, "I don't want to be fired."
Realization dawned, but only with a small release of tension just between the mans eyes. Most people wouldn't have noticed, but Harry had learned to recognize certain facial cues when he was still very young. "You're not authorized to be up there," the man said and Harry wondered what kind of person was, "and I'm certain we can come to some kind of agreement." Harry didn't reply, it was at this stage people started asking questions Harry usually refused to answer, then a punishment. "Have a seat," the man said, indicating the uncomfortable looking chair at his side.
Harry did as he was told, clutching nervously at his cloak and bag while thinking 'this got out of hand quickly.' Then he wondered why S.H.I.E.L.D. would keep an injured man in his own quarters, and not in med-bay. The chair was just as uncomfortable as he thought it would be, and he quickly shoved his cloak back into it's designated pocket. If the man was important enough to be kept away from the average injured persons, then he must have been very high in the ranks indeed, or an insanely dangerous criminal, which meant that Harry probably did have to answer whatever questions the man may have. Then again, if they knew magic existed, it might not be so bad. Or it could start a new wave of Witch Hunts. Yeah, Harry didn't want to be that guy, the one that exposed the entire Wizarding World to trials and executions.
"Where did you get the electronic reflective cloak?" Because of course the man was going to ask where he got fabric that could cloak his entire person.
Harry fidgeted in his seat, "It's not really, whatever it is you said, and I'm not comfortable with saying," he replied honestly, then continued while trying to be a little more truthful, "it's was my fathers, but I don't know where he got it." The man didn't look convinced. Then again, he didn't look much of anything.
"Tell me why you were in the air duct," he said next. Harry knew it must all look horrible. He was invisible and sneaking through their really high-tech base.
"Uh," Harry began, because he really didn't like it when people wanted information from him, but he also really didn't want to spend the rest of his summer at the Dursley's or being subjected to any sort of interrogation from Dumbledore. "I got this internship with Doctor Richard Cole, but he hates me -I'm sure. I also don't appreciate being treated…well, the way he's been treating me, so I was looking for his bunk, so that I could -you know," dear Merlin, he was becoming a rambling lunatic like Darcy, "leave some Nair in his conditioner," Dobbs had been the one to explain that, and he'd even had a little jingle to go along with it, "or something. I got his room number off the register, and I thought I would just scope it out a bit -because he kicked me out of the lab about," one glance at his watch told him he'd been wondering the vents for a bit longer than he'd anticipated, "about an hour ago." He really didn't want to get sent back to Surry, and he really did want to actually graduate.
"You're the college kid from the biochem department," the man said, sure in his words. Harry wondered if everyone had heard about him, because frankly -he thought he'd kept a lower profile than that. "You were hired to help Cole in his research, not hinder it by playing juvenile pranks."
That didn't sound like something a criminal would say, so the man was just really important. Harry's face heated radically at the reprimand, "I know," he said in a soft, guilt ridden tone, "but it's not like he's doing his job right, either way." He wanted to prove himself, because the terrible rejection by an even worse man was still tearing at him a bit. He reached, elbow deep into his bag, not even bothering to mask the fact that he shouldn't be able to by gently shuffling through the top layer, and he pulled out the moleskin notebook he kept his science notes in. He opened it somewhere in the middle, and he flipped through the pages with one hand while he drug the chair closer to the bed with the other. "Here, he spent two days testing regular potassium with metal compounds, when it should have only taken half an hour to run the equations. Obviously it would not have been this cluster here -see the little Er, that's Erbium and the temperature it would take to sustain a liquid form would melt someone from the inside first, and then likely crystallize their insides…"
The man let him talk on like that for a while, and he seemed to be paying attention because he didn't get that glazed over look that Ron and Hermione, or even Darcy got when they didn't understand. After only a few minutes he actually took hold of the notebook and Harry invaded his personal space so he could point to what he was talking about. Then the notebook snapped shut in mid-sentence, and the man turned to Harry. "You had better be sure," the man warned. Harry swallowed the nervousness that tried to choke him and managed to nod. The man leaned back and let out a heavy sigh, as if it took all of his energy to sit up right while Harry had been talking, and it may have. "You'll have to wait until the nurse comes by to get out," which Harry supposed meant that the lock on the door was to keep him inside. Insane criminal was back on the plate as Harry took his notebook back.
"I'm Harry Potter, by the way," he said nervously, all though it may have been a mistake to let the man know. It wasn't like it would be all that hard to track down the skinny boy who worked for Cole though.
"Agent Coulson," the man replied with authority. So really not a criminal, unless he was lying.
They sat in awkward silence for a moment before Harry asked, "would you like to play chess?"
To Those Who Just Read:
This chapter was actually supposed to go much longer, but then again…it is three in the morning.
For those of you looking for more fics to read, and even if you aren't, go check out the series 'In Which Tony Stark Builds Himself Some Friends (But His Family Was Assigned by Nick Fury)' by scifigrl47 on Ao3, and also the series of accompanying one-shots called 'Phil Coulson's Case Files of the Toastervserse' by the same person. They're better than amazing.
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