Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter or the Avengers...
-About the reactor memory thing: yeah, probably doesn't make much sense in the real world but we'll assume the spare parts from the missiles he used to make the reactor had scanning devices/recognition features to lock on to targets and that was a part of the reactor until Tony took it out and saved it with the rest of his data once he got back home. Just nod, smile, and roll with it, people.
-And all my other uncompleted stories are still being worked on; some of them are just taking longer than others since I have a bit of a writer's block for those plotlines, but I'm not giving up on any of them:)
Chapter 5 – Trust is a Hard Thing to Gain, Especially When Deceit Comes to Play
When Tony strode into the coffee shop – dubbed Bifrost, he noted, which was a rather odd name; people wouldn't even know the place sold coffee if it wasn't for the lettering on the window that said as much – the first thing he looked for wasn't the barista, or at least not all of him. Instead, he let Pepper move forward to greet Harry while he stepped to the side so that he could get a look at the man's face. His eyes, to be exact.
He had been thinking all night; what had it been about his impromptu doctor that had seemed so familiar to him? When, at three in the morning, he had finally matched Harry's green gaze to the only other pair of eyes he knew to be that exact same shade, he hadn't known whether he should slap himself or investigate further. He had, of course, picked the latter.
Now, as haunting jade fully turned on him, Tony knew they were a carbon copy of the falcon's eyes. Even the exasperated annoyance the bird always seemed to adopt when dealing with him back in Afghanistan was written on Harry's face at this very moment. But what exactly did that mean?
"Mr. Stark, what a surprise," Harry greeted flatly.
Tony wasn't deterred by the lack of enthusiasm, striding forward to take a seat on one of the stools at the counter instead. "Morning! I just thought I'd come with Pepper to see what kind of place sells my favourite coffee."
The barista gave him a look that clearly called him out on his bullshit but Tony was glad to see that Harry didn't seem quite as uncomfortable here as he had been yesterday in his house.
"So Harry – I can call you Harry, right? – how long have you been in this business?" Tony ignored the disapproving look Pepper shot him. In his opinion, if he wanted answers, beating around the bush wasn't going to help and Harry didn't seem like the type to appreciate mind games anyway.
"A few months," Harry answered as he worked. His gaze was wary as he glanced at Tony but at least there wasn't anything hostile to it. "I opened almost half a year ago so this place is still relatively new."
"Went to school?" Tony questioned as the scent of freshly-brewed coffee filled the air.
"Some," Harry showed no sign of outward discomfort; indeed, despite the disinterested tone the barista had taken on, his words were still smooth and polite, and Tony found himself impressed. Not many people, especially at such a young age, could keep cool under what was pretty much an interrogation hidden in casual conversation. "Boarding school, not in the States. Graduated when I was eighteen and unleashed on the world."
A slightly mocking smile curled at Harry's lips as if he was enjoying a private joke, but before Tony could look deeper into it, the barista had turned back with a cup of coffee in each hand.
"A Zebra Mocha for you, Pepper," Harry set down a twin-coloured drink in front of the secretary, a dark brown and white striped pattern in the shape of a butterfly floating on the surface. "Made from a mix of regular mocha and white chocolate mocha."
"Looks delicious," Pepper smiled, slipping her hands around the cup. "I almost don't want to drink it."
Harry grinned, but the expression slipped back to a civil smile as he turned to Tony. "And a Vienna Coffee for you, Mr. Stark. Two shots of espresso infused with whipped cream instead of milk and sugar, and topped with chocolate shavings. Enjoy."
Tony studied the drink curiously, taking a careful sip and then instantly taking another. "This is great!" He commented, glancing up at Harry who seemed to be waiting for his verdict. A pleased expression surfaced briefly across the barista's face at the genuine compliment before he inclined his head and moved away to serve another customer who had just come in.
Out of earshot, Tony turned to his secretary and demanded, "With coffee this good, why have you been getting me only black coffee for me all this time?"
Pepper shot him a patient you're-a-moron look. "Because you told me to get you black coffee and when I tried to suggest other ones, you refused. There was that one time I bought a Black Eye for you, but that was just because Harry made it for me to give to you after you got me to do all your paperwork at the last minute."
Tony remembered that day all too clearly. That coffee had been strong. With a shrug, he took another gulp before telling her, "Well, from now on, order me something new every day."
Pepper sighed in a resigned way but nodded dutifully. "Fine, Tony. But right now, stop interrogating him, won't you? We're just here for breakfast."
As if on cue, Harry was back, placing two blueberry scones in front of them, fresh out of the oven. He didn't pause to talk this time, sweeping away to another table as the place began to fill.
"It's pretty popular here," Tony observed, ignoring Pepper's request as he looked around. Seated on the far left of the counter, not many people glanced their way, for which Tony was rather grateful for since he didn't really want to be mobbed so early in the morning.
"It is," Pepper agreed, biting into her scone. "Harry doesn't keep this place small for lack of money. He just prefers it this way. On Sunday mornings, there's actually a huge lineup outside."
"Huh," Tony followed the barista's movements, noting the ease with which he moved and the familiarity in each action as he led people to their seats, took orders, served food, and made repetitive trips to the kitchen, all without breaking a sweat. For someone who couldn't be older than twenty-two at most and had only been doing this for less than six months, he had adjusted very well. Maybe the boarding school he had gone to had been a culinary one.
"And here I thought you had finally shut down," A sneering voice called from their right, and Tony and Pepper turned to find a tall, broad-shouldered brown-haired man standing by the counter, a displeased look on his face as Harry paused behind the counter, two cups of coffee in one hand and two plates of fresh croissants in the other.
"If you are here to eat, sir," Harry said, completely ignoring the man's first statement. "Then please wait by the door. If not, please leave."
The majority of people in the café had stopped talking in order to watch, and beside him, Pepper had stiffened in anger.
"That's Tom Russell," She hissed under her breath. "Owner of a restaurant down the street. A lot of people used to go there since it was one of the few better places around this area, but ever since Harry opened, more people have been coming here even though it's so much smaller than Russell's, and he's been hassling Harry ever since."
Tony frowned, already disliking the man. "What did he mean by Harry finally shutting down?" He muttered back.
Pepper shifted, somewhat nervously, he noticed, but replied, "Harry closed the café for a little bit while you were gone."
"For?" He glanced at her. Something very important was trying to connect in his mind.
Pepper shrugged almost guiltily. "Maintenance, I guess."
Tony arched an eyebrow but couldn't press any further when Russell spoke again.
"Why would I wanna eat here?" He scoffed, carelessly knocking over a tray of napkins on the counter. "You only serve pig's food in this place. Get some proper training before you open a business; mommy's cooking ain't gonna cut it here, boy."
Tony's mouth thinned, a startling rush of anger pooling in his gut, and he made to stand up to confront the asshole but Pepper's hand on his shoulder restrained him.
"Pepper," He said tersely, eyes hard as he stared at Russell. "One look at me and he'll wet himself. I could have his place shut down with a snap of my fingers."
The exasperation was clear as day in his secretary's voice as she spoke. "Tony, Russell's come here before. Do you really think Harry can't handle him?"
This made him pause and glance at the barista. Harry had set down the food and drinks and was now staring back at Russell with a neutral expression, but he might as well have been showing open scorn what with the deep disdain Tony could sense coming from him.
"You may, of course, have your own opinion," Harry continued politely. "But you are also disturbing my customers. As I have told you before, if you have any grievances with me, I would be willing to listen to them after hours. For now, I will have to ask you to leave."
"The British are really polite, aren't they?" Tony muttered to Pepper as he enjoyed the show. Russell's jaw clenched and an agitated red spread across his face.
Pepper smiled in a satisfied sort of way. "Harry knows it pisses Russell off more than if he started yelling. He's not exactly the yelling type anyway."
"This is my street, Potter!" Russell growled, voice rising as his anger finally got the better of him. "How many times do I have to tell you to scram?"
"Always at least once more, it seems," Harry retorted blandly. "I have just as much a right to open my business here as anyone else."
One fist slammed onto the counter as Russell leaned forward, glaring furiously at the calm barista standing in front of him. "You're stealing my customers, you thieving bastard!"
Something cold entered Harry's expression, a clinically dangerous sort of expression lurking just out of sight for anyone unperceptive enough, but one that caught Tony's attention immediately.
"If that is true, it is only an insult to yourself, Mr. Russell," Harry said quietly, gaze unflinching. "Perhaps if you worked on making better food, you would receive more customers."
For a moment, Tony thought Russell was going to attack Harry and he took a step forward, his shoulders tensing. But the man's hand only shot out and grabbed one of the cups of coffee. Tony caught the stifled movement of Harry's right hand and guessed the barista had suppressed his reflex. The coffee had probably cooled down a little anyway, and the cream in it was already melting.
"Nothing special," Russell sneered after taking a gulp and wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. He half-turned so that he was facing Tony's direction, and the billionaire caught a whiff of alcohol. Ah, so that's why the moron was making a fool of himself.
Unfortunately, even inebriated, most people in California could recognize Tony Stark when they saw him, and when Russell's eyes landed on Tony, his face took on an ugly look.
"So the famous Tony Stark eats here too," He said loudly. Any conversation still going on in the café had long since died. "Well I guess that makes sense; this place is only fit for crazies and idiots."
Tony raised his eyebrows for a moment. "Don't know why you hate it so much then," He retorted easily. "Seeing as you're both."
The dull red darkened on Russell's face and the bigger man took a threatening step forward. Tony had to hold back a snort. This guy was less than nothing compared to the terrorists in Afghanistan.
"Shut your mouth!" Russell snarled. "I've watched the news. Billionaire Stark running a weapons company that doesn't make weapons! You're the crazy one, man. Flushing all that money down the drain just cuz Afghanistan made you a pussy."
"At least I have Afghanistan to blame," Tony didn't miss a beat, ignoring the thrum of instinctual fear that always returned, however briefly, when he was made to think about that place. "What's your excuse? Then again, your face alone isn't doing you any favours, but coming in here whining about your business; I gotta tell you, you should consider investing in a new brain. The one you have right now obviously isn't working."
Tony saw the hand still clenched around the coffee mug swing forward and he prepared to duck, but before Russell's arm could get more than halfway, slender fingers shot forward and snagged the thick wrist in an iron grip, stopping the movement so suddenly that some of the coffee slopped over the edge and dripped onto the floor.
"That's enough," Harry's voice could have frozen fire but it was his eyes that seemed to make Russell motionless. They burned with dark ferocity, a warning of the temper lurking just underneath the stony expression. "You will remove yourself from my premises. If you return and harass or attack any of my customers again, I will personally make you regret it. Do you understand?"
As far as threats went, Harry could have said a lot worse, but the uncompromising ruthlessness that flitted across the barista's face was so harsh that even Russell couldn't miss it. The restaurant owner dropped the coffee, shattering it on the ground before jerking his hand out of Harry's grasp. Tony had a feeling that if Harry hadn't wanted to, there was no way Russell could have pulled away.
Kicking over a stool, Russell stalked to the door, throwing back bitterly, "This place is nothing! It'll go under once people realize how disgusting that crap you call food is! And then I'll ruin you for ever daring to run me out of business!"
The silence was almost deafening as the door slammed shut behind the drunk and all the customers turned back to stare at Harry.
With a sigh, the barista offered an apologetic smile. "I apologize for the disturbance. Please pay no mind and return to your breakfast."
Some of the customers, obviously regulars, didn't seem too concerned with the spectacle and simply restarted their conversations, and slowly, the others followed their lead, their attention moving away from Harry as he came around the counter with a broom and dustpan. They also seemed rather disinterested in Tony, who was surprised, but pleasantly so, at the lack of people trying to question him about his latest press conference.
"Let me do that," Tony quickly stooped down beside the barista as he made to clean up the broken glass. "This was my fault. I can clean it up."
Tony almost winced at the cool gaze Harry levelled at him, but he did do a double-take when the barista apologized.
"What?" He blinked, bemused. "What for?"
"Russell had no right saying any of that stuff to you and he even tried to hit you," Harry replied, the stiff polite tone dropping now that he was only in Tony's presence. "You are in my café. I should've chased him out earlier. For not doing that, I am sorry."
Tony stared for a moment, long enough for Harry to sweep up the mess. That apology made no sense; yeah, Afghanistan still messed with his head since he had refused doctors and psychologists alike since his return, not to mention he had yet to get a decent night's sleep, and Harry was the type to be observant enough to notice it, but it was hardly the barista's fault some drunken asshole decided to take a swing at him. If anything, it had been Tony's fault for goading Russell.
But a part of him was unexpectedly pleased. He was used to people either liking him or disliking him before he had even met them, and for the most part, he was fine with it; he was used to it. But yesterday in the lab, while Harry's words had been sharp and sarcastic and he had left as soon as possible, he had also been very careful with Tony's arc reactor, never causing him deliberate harm (and he knew reporters who would probably push him off a building if it meant a story, painting him in the best or worst light possible), and Tony had quite enjoyed their banter. The hint of concern he had picked up in that apology was something he had never heard from anyone before, mostly because there weren't very many who would apologize to him of all people, much less actually mean it.
But that didn't mean he wasn't going to milk it for all its worth.
"It's fine," He said instead, sliding back onto the stool as Harry finished mopping up the spilt liquid. "You can make it up to me by coming over sometime. I could use some help with the preliminary stages of the arc technology I've been researching."
Harry glanced back at him as he turned to move back into the kitchen, a sardonic smile making its way onto his face. "I think not, Mr. Stark. I'm not that sorry."
And with that said, the barista disappeared from sight, leaving an inwardly amused Tony scowling after him.
"Really, Tony?" Pepper looked torn between smiling and sighing. She chose the former but shook her head. "You realize you just met him yesterday."
'No I didn't,' His mind automatically supplied, but Tony only grunted noncommittally out loud. "Yeah, but I wanna know how much he knows about arc tech. Not many people know what it is."
They watched as Harry returned with fresh croissants and coffee, serving them with speedy efficiency before he was off again, darting around the café without pause but still somehow making it look completely effortless and unhurried.
Three hours later, the crowd finally began to thin, and besides a few old couples, a man in the corner reading a newspaper, and Tony and Pepper, the coffee shop was empty.
"Still here," Harry observed, slipping into the vacant seat next to Tony. "Don't you have work?"
"After what Tony did?" Pepper shook her head with a wry smile. "Not really."
Harry switched his attention to the billionaire who stared evenly back.
"You'll stick to it then?" Harry questioned. "The whole no weapons manufacturing thing?"
"I always kept my word," Tony confirmed, surprised that they seemed to be having a real conversation for once. Suddenly curious to see what Harry thought, he posed a question of his own. "I wanna do something that could help people but still stay inside the Stark Industries field. Any ideas?"
"Me?" Green eyes narrowed suspiciously. "This another attempt to drag me back to your house?"
"'Course not," Tony said bracingly. "Really, I'd like to know a normal person's honest opinion. Where should I take my company?"
Harry said nothing for a long minute, turning to face the front after he seemed satisfied that Tony meant what he said.
"Do something with that," He finally said, turning back as his eyes dropped to the arc reactor in Tony's chest. "You already seem to be interested in it. Make something no one else has before. The arc reactor produces energy, yeah? Maybe you can try powering something bigger."
"Like... transfer the energy?" Tony said slowly, barely noticing his secretary's amusement as he turned Harry's words over in his mind. "Something like clean energy?"
Harry shrugged but a faint smile quirked his lips. "If you want. But I think you're still puzzling out your arc reactor so that won't be for a while. You're rich; why don't you just take a vacation? Figure out what you want to do. You're an inventor, aren't you? You said so yourself, that you'd shut down Stark Industries 'until such a time as I can decide what the future of the company will be, what direction it should take, one that I'm comfortable with and is consistent with the highest good for this country'."
Tony couldn't help flashing a cocky smirk. "Ah, you memorized my speech? I was that good?"
Harry rolled his eyes, getting to his feet as one of the customers started pulling on their jacket, wallet in hand. "Hardly. It's just difficult not to when it's practically broadcasted every other hour since you gave it."
"Oh, come on," Tony called after him. "You have to give me some credit. I bet nobody else in the world shocked the public as much as I did. Admit it, you were impressed."
Harry only tossed Tony a skeptical look over his shoulder. "Careful, Mr. Stark. Any bigger and your head won't fit through the door."
Tony grinned as Harry moved out of earshot and turned back to Pepper who had watched the entire exchange with exasperated fondness.
"He was totally impressed," Tony told her.
Pepper couldn't help laughing. "I don't think he said that, Tony."
"He didn't say he wasn't," Tony countered. "Which means he was."
"And that's logical?" Pepper queried, standing up as they finally got ready to leave.
"That's my logic," Tony informed her, pulling out his wallet. "And my logic is always right."
"Of course it is," Pepper agreed indulgently before frowning. "Wait, I can pay-"
Tony waved her off, placing the money on the counter. "Don't be silly, Pepper. What kind of person would I be if I didn't pay for your breakfast as well? Now, wait a second-"
He casually reached behind the counter and slipped the tiny recording device under it and out of sight.
Pepper leaned forward. "What are you doing?"
"Just- need a napkin," Tony withdrew with the serviette, patting his mouth for show before dropping it back on the counter. "Let's go. Lots to do."
Pepper raised her eyebrows at this but followed him to the door. They both called out goodbyes to Harry, who inclined his head in reply, and then they were off, back to Tony's house for another day of experimenting and building for Tony and fielding questions left and right for Pepper.
"Are you sure this wise, sir?"
"What's unwise about it?" Tony asked flippantly, adjusting his computer screens before turning back to the arm guard he was currently working on. "It has sound and video feeds. I'll be able to find out what I wanna know if Harry starts inviting government spies in for coffee or something."
"And if he finds out?"
Tony waved a hand before picking up a screwdriver. "He won't. The thing is tiny. Besides, I'm just curious."
"Curiosity does not justify-"
"Spare me the morality speech, J," Tony interrupted, attention already focused on his suit. "I'll remove it soon enough. Harry won't ever know."
"We had a deal. You were supposed to kill him."
"You paid us mere trinkets to kill a prince. We were simply taking the rest of what you owed us."
"Yeah? And how'd that turn out for you?"
"...His escape bore unexpected fruit. Stark did not take his designs with him when he left. What we have here we can build ourselves."
"Then I'd like to make another deal. If you can give me the designs, I'll give you something you want."
"That will come with a steep price. If I give you the designs, perhaps a gift of these iron soldiers will be repayment enough."
"You want a bunch of those suits?"
"A man with a dozen of these can rule all of Asia."
"...Fine. When you're done, contact me and I'll fly out to get them. Once I build them, I'll deliver a dozen to you."
"Agreed, Mr. Stane. We will hold up our side of this bargain. I trust you will hold up yours."
Obadiah hung up the static-filled connection, leaning back in his chair as he surveyed the view outside. He scoffed at the mere idea of giving even one suit to that incompetent fool, but if it convinced the terrorist to do his work for him, all the better.
His eyes narrowed at the empty parking space Tony usually had his car in. The pathetic idiot was ruining everything he had built from the ground, all because of a little jaunt in Afghanistan. He would make him pay for the huge losses and humiliation.
But for now, he would do as Tony wanted. He'd stop all weapons manufacturing and he would make sure not a single piece of it was sold. It would lull Tony into a false sense of security. And then once Obadiah had those suits up and running, his reign would finally begin.
Harry had to smile, however reluctantly, at Stark's persistent nature. He supposed the billionaire wasn't so bad and Harry had honestly enjoyed his company, brief though it may be.
He wondered if Stark was still working on the suit, and had to squash the mildly wistful feeling that surfaced with that thought. He had been a part of every stage in the construction of the original suit; twice he had shifted the blueprints around for them once they had gone to sleep to make something more obvious after a particularly trying day when they couldn't seem to work out the next step. A part of him wanted to see what else Stark had come up with now that he had everything at his disposal.
But it was better to stay away in the end. If Stark only came in for coffee and a snack every once in a while, Harry couldn't see the harm in that, so at least he'd have a particularly interesting conversation now and then.
With a languid stretch, Harry flipped the sign to 'Closed' and headed upstairs for a shower. He never noticed the dull glint of metallic black hidden from sight under his counter.
Finished! Chapter 5 done! A bit info-y and plot-buildy this time.
Review, review, review!