This was supposed to be a vacation. After defeating Voldemort and ending the war he had wanted to step away from being Harry Potter, just for a little while. Not just to get away from the war and the horrifying memories he still had of it, but also to get away from the sudden lavishing praise the wizarding world heaped on him.
Ron didn't really get why he wanted to leave now that the war was over, now that most of the wizarding world had been rebuild and people were celebrating. Even so his best friend had shrugged his shoulders and wished him a good time on his trip. Out of everyone it was Hermione who understood it best; his need to escape for a while now that it was over. She had encouraged him to go wherever he wanted to go – as long as he stayed out of trouble.
There was no escaping his luck, however.
Normal people didn't have to worry about this sort of thing when they go on vacation. No, other people may worry about things like losing their luggage or something similar.
Not alien invasions.
His instincts - honed by the too recent war and the years of playing Quidditch and having Bludgers whirled at him - warned him of an object flying towards him and without turning to see what it was he dodged to the right, seeking shelter in the wreckage of a building.
With a resigned sigh, Harry took off his necklace and enlarged it to form his emergency trunk. He swiftly took off his jacket and shoes and got decked out in his combat gear. Harry wasn't the type of person to spurge when it came to money, but while a full armour made of dragonhide would be considered a very extravagant buy for most people, to him it was more like a necessity.
Since he did have a penchant for trouble - it found him, not the other way around, no matter what Hermione says - it was best to be prepared.
A belt already filled with various potions and Weasley Wheezes was quickly fastened around his middle and his old phoenix feather wand slid into one of his hidden holsters before he shrunk his trunk to its previous size. He wasn't likely to need the wand as the Master of the Deathly Hallows, but Harry still didn't completely trust the wandless magic that came so effortlessly to him now.
The wizard spared a moment to take in his surroundings: people running and screaming, grey-greenish creatures in some sort of armour-like uniform spreading destruction, some sort of red flying robot firing muggle weapons at the aliens in turn and a large green rampaging being that seemed to be on their side; or at least against the other creatures…
Although Harry had learned a little bit more caution during the war, he was, and had always been, a Gryffindor at heart. The moment his eyes fell on a young woman trapped between two groups of the alien beings he jumped into the fray, the first few spells already past his lips before he even fully realised it. A quick wordless notice-me-not ensured that the aliens did not pay him any attention as he snuck up on them and a shield spell that Harry had gotten quite proficient at ensured the woman's safety as he quickly took out first one and than the other group of the creatures while they were still looking around trying to find his near invisible form amidst the wreckage in the streets.
No matter how many times he had fought, Harry knew he'd never really get used to it. Battles are always chaos. It consists of dozens of split-second decisions: stun them or hurl those bricks at them, dodge or use a shield, lead these people to safety or follow and attack the enemy instead… The chaos was even more complete because the battle took place in the middle of New York: buildings, cars, people, muggle weapons and aliens, screams, fire, explosions. There was no time to think things through, to worry about the consequences of using magic in front of muggles or about who was who. Instead he just ran on instinct, pure and simple.
Still, Harry did notice that there were others trying to get the defenceless people out of there, others fighting the aliens like he was. The man dressed up as the American flag stood firm, a pillar of calm strength in the midst of fear and destruction, and had an authority that could calm the panicking crowd and overwhelmed policemen enough for them to listen to his orders. Then there was the large green creature that was impossible to miss; it cleared large distances as it leaped from this skirmish to the next, destroying everything in its path and Harry just stayed out of its way as much as he could. The man with the red cloak and large hammer seemed the least strange of this trio that had - like Harry - made its way to one of the places swarming with the aliens. The blond-haired man was clad out in armour as well, though it looked far more heavy and bulky than Harry's leathery dragonhide outfit. Still, the man bore it as easily as the enormous hammer that he dramatically flung about.
The impossible feats of these supposed muggles didn't really baffle him - there was not much that surprised him nowadays - but he took note of them and kept track of their position. The three were fighting the aliens in front of a large building where many people had taken shelter inside. As they took out the creatures in front of the building, Harry started clearing the way for people to escape, levitating the downed ships and remains of cars and buildings aside and stunning the aliens taking aim at the odd trio.
As the building was cleared and the people started running away from the battle and towards him Harry briefly stopped scanning his surroundings and locked eyes with the strangely dressed American man that had given him the impression of a commander. A slight nod of the head was the only acknowledgement the wizard gave him before he turned away to guide the fleeing group to safety, taking out any remaining aliens in their path. He felt the intense stare on his back for a long moment, before the man apparently made up his mind and turned away.
Harry left the group of terrified muggles with the police at the apparent safe zone and turned his attention back to the battle, quickly scanning his surroundings. His seeker eyes fell on a group of four of the aliens making their way towards them. Ignoring the policeman calling him back, Harry rushed them, sending first one and then another red-tinged spell at them in quick succession. Their returning fire met resistance in the air before him and for the short moment it took for their shots to impact, his usually invisible shield glowed golden.
Another wave of his hand and another alien fell. But before Harry could turn to the last of them it was already down, an arrow lodged through its throat.
The wizard didn't bother to take the time to look around were the arrow came from, there was no time, and if it wasn't an ally, well his shield worked fine against the alien weapons, it should work for arrows as well. Instead he focussed on the next threat: one of the large space-ships was giving the flying red and gold robot some trouble, it seemed. Harry - never one to let down someone or something in such Gryffindor colours - decided to give him a hand.
For the first time in the battle he hesitated, hand hovering over the shrunken broom in his belt before he shook his head and chose option B. Just because he had bended the secrecy laws of the wizarding world beyond belief didn't mean he should spit on them as well. With a boost of levitation magic, he managed to jump high enough to relieve one of the alien soldiers of their transportation. The steering mechanism was, thankfully, straightforward enough, though he wasn't planning on actually trying to land the darn thing - hmm, maybe he could crash it into one of those space-ships… -
A closer look revealed the 'space-ship' to actually be a living creature that, with its enormous size and serpent-like looks and movements, reminded Harry of nothing more than a cross between a turtle, a dragon and a basilisk. The thing had cornered the red robot and seemed intend on ramming it into the building.
A powerful shielding charm prevented it from reaching its target. Harry allowed himself a moment of amusement as he saw the gigantic alien almost comically hitting its head, hard, on the wizard's translucent shield.
The robot's head went from him to the large alien life form and back before it seemed to almost shrug and blasted the thing away.
Harry's eyes widened at the fire-power of the robot and decided his help might be more useful elsewhere. With a shrug of his shoulders he turned and surveyed the chaos from a higher perspective.
What seemed like hours later, the previously endless flow of aliens came to an abrupt halt.
Harry was once more on the ground - he had, indeed, crashed his ship into one of the large alien creatures, jumping off only moments before - fighting the alien force mostly with a slight amount of sneaking around and striking them before they even noticed. Even Ron wouldn't disapprove of these methods, not anymore. The somewhat brazen boy of their earliest Hogwarts years might have called these methods too Slytherin, but the strategist that Ron had grew into during the war would heartily approve.
With no more creatures to fight, the wizard carefully looked around, seeker eyes searching for any remaining enemies, but he found none. Straightening up, he allowed himself a moment to catch his breath and looked around once more. This time he took in his surroundings not as a fighter, but as a man.
The destruction was staggering.
Buildings that had stood tall and proud only hours before were now no more than crumbled wreckage spilled out on the streets. At 18 years old, Harry had seen more of war than most but even he felt small and slightly overwhelmed when he realised that, unlike the wizarding world, it would take the muggles a long time to rebuild.
For a long moment he stood there, in what had been a thriving, busy city street, once again an unwilling witness to the results of war. This was one of the things he had wanted to escape when leaving the wizarding world and England behind on his vacation but it seemed like fate had other plans. A bitter smile twisted his lips as he slowly turned around and walked away, footsteps slow and light as if unwilling to cause more harm to the pavement. A disillusionment charm settled around his shoulders without even the slightest twist of his fingers, magic obeying his unconscious desire to fade away from the scene.
"Woah" Clint Barton exclaimed when he saw the kid disappear. "He just vanished." His sharp eyes scanned the place where only moments before a young, dark-haired man had stood. "No, wait. He's still there."
Natasha came to stand beside him. "Where?" she murmured as she squinted her eyes, trying to see what her partner saw, but failing.
"He's a shadow, even less than that. But he's there." Hawkeye answered, gaze never wavering from the indistinct form below, aware that if he lost track of his quarry he may never find him again.
Hawkeye's keen gaze didn't help him this time, though, because after ten minutes of aimless wandering, the young man disappeared completely. The sharp crack of what almost sounded like a gunshot the only sign of his departure.
Not even a full day later, Harry was back in the ruined part of New York.
After leaving New York, he had found a hotel that was somewhat on the cheaper side - the wizard wasn't really comfortable with the attention the staff paid you in the more expensive ones - and let his body fall onto the mattress.
Unsurprisingly, he'd slept poorly since too much destruction and memories haunted him behind his close lids. When the dawn came he reluctantly rose with it making his way to the small but comfortable looking restaurant of the hotel. Harry knew his search for a decent cup of tea would be in vain even before he started it but half-heartedly gave it a try anyway, to keep his mind focussed on something else than the previous day and all the memories it had brought to the surface. When he failed in his attempt - both to find tea and to occupy his mind - he sighed and tiredly sat down, picking at his toast and allowing the memories to wash over him once more.
The Gryffindor it was probably not the smartest thing to do - especially since breaking… or bending the Satute of Secrecy the day before - but he also knew that this would bother him for a long time if he didn't.
So here he was, back in New York, stealthily healing the wounds of the city. Most of these parts were deserted, but there were some muggles walking around the wreckage all of them trying to salvage something from the ruin.
The wizard didn't use his magic as obviously as in battle. A soundless reparo here and there, fixing up a few buildings that really weren't that bad off. Structurally speaking, that is. Anything that was a completely destroyed he couldn't fix. Not because he was magically incapable but because it would be far too noticeable. Instead he focussed on the little things; the inside of a store, the broken pavement in front of what used to be a hairdresser. And slowly but surely with each mended fissure he found the memories a little less painful to bear.
By the time he had reached the shawarma joint, the rough and tired edge had already been worn from his emotions and his usual unflappable attitude mostly restored.
Which was why, when he noticed the group sitting and eating in the middle of the messy restaurant - that should have been closed like everything else around - he merely shrugged, gave a small smile, and continued on.
Or he would have had a rude voice not stopped him.
Harry blinked and turned around, looking at the dark-haired man that was quickly walking up to him.
"Hmm…?" he answered indifferently, as if he hadn't recognized two members of the group as active participants in yesterday's mayhem.
The man looked him up and down for a long moment before actually walking around him in a circle looking at him like something up for sale. A normal person might have been a bit put out, but Harry was friends with Luna and with the Weasley twins so he was used to worse antics.
"So what was with the translucent shield and the sparkly beams of light?"
"Hmm… " Harry hummed again, ignoring the man's question and instead turning the tables on the man.
Harry took a good long look at the bloke in front of him, letting his piercing emerald eyes rove over every inch of him. He noted that the man was in good shape, had a very confidant, almost arrogant, pose and a glowing… thing… in his chest. "I didn't really notice you at all..." he answered, his British accent actually making the words sound somewhat polite.
The man looked at him with disbelief and Harry noticed the rest of his group sit up straighter, scrutinizing him from some sort of lie.
"What?" the wizard asked, wondering if he was missing something that was blindingly obvious to muggles - he had gotten used to that look: the wizard didn't understand even half of the movie, celebrity or technology references people were fond of throwing around either -
After a long pause the bloke in front of him answered, his voice coated in a sarcasm that was only skin-deep, beneath it lay curiosity and something else Harry couldn't quite define.
"I'm Iron Man."
Harry stared at him blankly; "Uhu."
He blamed his next action on his sleep deprivation as well as the years spend in the wizarding world, where just about everything was to be taken very literally. Without pause, the Gryffindor reached out and poked the man's shoulder. Twice.
The blond-haired American man - in far more regular clothes - and the red-haired lady stood up at that, moving to the self-proclaimed Iron Man's side. The guys that remained at the table were more tense than before and Harry saw the one of them holding something - possibly a weapon, considering the man's sharp look - under the table.
So the wizard felt the need to explain himself: "You're not made of any sort of metal far as I can tell. Except for maybe the glowing whats-it in your chest."
Another awkward silence stretched between before the man in question took another step forward, completely invading his space and pointed a finger at him demandingly: "Who are you?"
"You haven't exactly introduced yourself either." the wizard calmly pointed out, actually rather amused by the man's complete irreverence.
Harry blinked at the arrogance dripping from that introduction. "Alright. I am Harry."
The man's stare intensified at his non-reaction and the lack of a surname.
"You have no idea who I am, do you?" That sentence reminded him uncomfortably of Malfoy's I-am-better-than-anyone-else-arrogance.
"Hmmm…" Harry gazed at the man mock-thoughtfully. "Not a clue."
He was surprised when, instead of being offended, Stark's face broke out in a genuine grin. "That's very interesting." the strange muggle told him.
The blond man finally spoke up: "He can turn almost invisible and take out aliens with the wave of a hand and a blast of light and you think the most interesting part is where he hasn't heard of you?" Strangely enough, the hint of incredulity in the man's voice was colouring not the part where Harry had performed feats no muggle could achieve, but instead the part about Stark's self-absorption.
Then again, the wizard considered, after an alien invasion and amongst a group of people this… interesting… perhaps his use of magic wasn't that strange.
"Ah, yes what are you, anyway?" Stark asked flippantly as he glanced between the armoured blond still at the table and back at him "another alien?"
Harry blinked, considered the Statute of Secrecy and shrugged. "Legal alien" he answered simply.
Then he looked back at the remnants of the city and the crashed space... things, before turning again to the group in front of him. "It's been an interesting vacation." he added with another shrug as they kept staring at him.
At that Stark simply snorted.
A.N.: A small contribution to the Avengers/HP fandom and a little nod to Sting just because. This will remain a one-shot (unless someone else feels like expanding it).