A/N: Summary: Harry moved to America to start afresh, to put the war behind him, move on and become a journalist. Shame the universe would always conspire against him. This is the story of how he met the Avengers and his life was turned upside down. Again. Title inspired by the song of the same name by City and Colour. Rated T for future language.
This is my first story and hopefully I'll actually finish it. =P But please be nice. This is gonna be a Harry Potter/Avengers crossover. Yep, I'm jumping on that bandwagon! And it might be (read; probably will be) slash, so if you're not up to that, run away quickly before we convert you to the dark side. =P Updates are hopefully gonna be weekly.
I've been overwhelmed by your response, so thank you so much guys! You make me a very happy Overlady. =P I've made a few changes in response to some queries you guys have made, so again, thanks for that! =) They aren't essential to the plot so you don't have to read it again, but they'll answer a lot of your questions. I had assumed that you could apply for a Master's degree in the US straight out of college or school or whatever like you can in the UK. Whoops! I'll do my research a little more thoroughly next time.
Disclaimer: Anything you recognise is not mine; unless some nice person wants to give me them. Pretty please, can I have a Harry at least? *puppy eyes*
Beta'd by the amazing Isilarma and incredible princessoffireskies! Thank you both so much! =D
What Makes a Man
Chapter 1 – How it All Began…
The days immediately following the Battle of Hogwarts (as it was being called) were some of the hardest days Harry had ever lived; both physically and emotionally. And for a seventeen year old that particular list was rather long. Due to the sheer number of casualties sustained in the battle, the Hogwarts Infirmary, and therefore Madam Pomfrey, was inundated with patients. That meant that some of the less severe injuries were put to one side until those more seriously injured were stable. And as Harry was never one for admitting he needed help, especially medical help, his sprained shoulder, aching muscles and general fatigue were pretty much ignored. Only the fussing of Mrs Weasley and Hermione kept him from pushing himself too far. I suppose their concern is warranted, Harry thought wryly to himself. I did just die.
Harry had never seen so much bloodshed, death and destruction in one place before and, the fact that it was in the only place he had ever called home, had shaken him badly. The room off the Entrance Hall that was being used to store the bodies of those killed in the battle reminded him of news reports he had watched through a gap in his cupboard door at Privet Drive on the war in Bosnia and the Rwandan Genocide. Rows upon rows of bodies wrapped in white sheets lay upon the familiar stone floor in front of him. The Death Eaters and those on the Dark Lord's side had been separated from those on the 'light' side. Harry had spent many hours sitting in the room and thinking. Many thought it was not the place for their 'Saviour' to be and tried to shepherd him to more 'appropriate' rooms to 'celebrate'. But those closest to him knew that he needed to think himself out; remember those he knew, mourn those he loved and try to reconcile the stories he'd overheard about lively, happy people to the still corpses that lay in front of him. The words 'what if' became a mantra; what if I was faster? What if I had trained harder? What if I had started training earlier? What if I killed him faster? Would they still be dead? Or could some of them been saved? He felt responsible for the deaths. He knew that they weren't entirely his fault; his fifth year had taught him a lesson on how he couldn't prevent everything. How he couldn't save everyone. But what's the point in being a Saviour if you can't save anyone? He was eventually coming around to the realisation that he had tried as hard as he could. He had killed Voldemort and had lived to tell the tale. But the deaths were still taking a toll on him. How many families had lost someone? A parent? A sibling? A child? How many had been torn apart like the Weasleys? They were one of the humblest, most caring, most loving families Harry had ever known and were the least deserving of something like this. Mr and Mrs Weasley had lost a son. Bill, Charlie, Percy, Ron and Ginny had lost a brother. And George, poor George, had lost his twin, his partner in crime, his other half.
Harry felt connected in some small way to each of the bodies in the room; not only those he had known the best: Fred, Remus, Tonks, Snape, Colin and Lavender but also the fifty others he may have never known, never met. The Death Eaters that lay on the far side of the room, including Bellatrix's still form. They still had families, people who would mourn them. For Harry to accept what had happened and the consequences of such a battle, he knew he would have to talk to their families, hear their stories, thank them for their sacrifice and hope that it would be enough when his was not.
One of the deaths that had affected him the most was Severus Snape's. The man he had always thought he hated. His unconditional love for Lily that had stretched over thirty years was something that Harry hoped he would be able to experience one day. What he felt for Ginny, although strong and passionate, felt like a candle flame compared to the towering inferno that he had felt in Snape's memories. I wonder if I could feel his emotions in his memories because they somehow knew they would never be experienced again. Harry shook himself and knew his fatigue was catching up on him if he was wondering if memories were sentient. This is something Hermione would do, he thought. He stood, stretched and gave a final look around the room before steeling himself to head into the Great Hall. The hero worshipping and constant questions were grating on his already frazzled nerves but he knew he wouldn't have to endure much longer. I need to get away; he reasoned as he ambled down the familiar, winding corridors, I need a holiday. This place holds too many bad memories now. Maybe in time they could be rewritten with happier memories but not yet, somehow that would cheapen the sacrifices had been made in the past week, and indeed, past few years.
I've never been out of the United Kingdom. Maybe I should travel the world, see things, and experience different cultures. Maybe I should ask Bill and Charlie to give me some pointers for places in Egypt and Romania to visit? Should I travel the Muggle way or the wizarding way? Using Muggle methods would be completely different and I think I need that now. He sighed and returned his attention to his surroundings. Realising he had reached the Great Hall, he took a deep breath in and opened the massive doors before slipping in and heading over to an empty seat at what had once been the Slytherin table. His eyes wandered around the Hall as he ate. Most people in the room were sitting talking quietly in small groups with the occasional person sat on their own lost in their thoughts. A strange sense of solidarity, even calm, had fallen over the Wizarding world now that the battles were over and the dust had settled. It was now up to the politicians and authorities to organise the clean-up and rebuilding of the Ministry, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and various other small towns and villages worst hit by the Dark Lord and his minions.
The next month was as emotionally challenging as Harry had expected it to be. He had visited as many families of the victims of the Second Wizarding War as he could. He visited patients in St Mungo's to thank them for their efforts in helping to defeat Voldemort and his Death Eaters and listened to their accounts of their experiences in the War. He attended as many of the Death Eaters and former Ministry employee's trials as he could. He took great satisfaction in the life sentence Dolores Umbridge had been given for her 'crimes against all Wizardkind'. He testified for the Malfoy family and helped to get their sentences reduced to house arrest and hefty fines to "expedite the rebuilding and recovery of the Wizarding World".
The hardest were the funerals; massive public tributes to all those who perished and the smaller, more intimate ceremonies for those he knew. Fred's, Remus and Tonks' and Snape's were the worst. Many people say that only times of great joy or strife can bring a family together and the War was no exception. Harry, Hermione, the Weasleys, Andromeda, Teddy, Neville and his grandmother and Luna and her father had all become much closer through their shared mourning. They tried to help each other cope and to support them through the bad days and the mediocre. George especially was having a hard time of coping; he tried to hide most of his pain with humour but laughing and joking nowadays just seemed wrong.
Although Harry had never had a conventional parental figure to look up to, he was becoming an excellent father to Teddy, according to Andromeda at least. He had discussed his plans with both Andromeda (to find out if she was going to remain in the UK or move with him and Teddy; the latter, she had assured him) and Ginny. That particular discussion had been very difficult for both parties; they had tried to pick up their relationship where they had left off before the war. But the war had changed them and, in Harry's case more than just mentally and emotionally, though he didn't know that yet. Harry and Ginny had both lived through the horrors of war, but Ginny had only experienced one battle. Harry, on the other hand, had seen Voldemort attacking Muggle villages and torturing those captured as well as his own Death Eaters. They had agreed to part ways for the moment and attempt to recover from the war before starting their relationship again if it felt 'right'. If not, they would try to remain friends. Ron and Hermione had been told of the outcome of the discussion and, although Ron wasn't happy that Harry and Ginny were no longer together, he said he understood.
The Ministry had attempted to blame as much as they could on Severus Snape and that was the last straw for Harry. He contacted Xenophilius Lovegood and arranged a press conference. The wizarding world had to change whether they liked it or not. This could not continue.
Harry shifted in his seat, looking over the crowds that had gathered to hear him speak. Xeno had warned him that it might be hectic, but he really hadn't thought this many people would be interested in what he had to say. He turned his attention to the slightly dog-eared note cards that he had been shuffling unconsciously and were now hopelessly mixed up. Sighing, he returned them to their proper order and hoped that this would be enough to kick start the changes that desperately needed to be made.
Harry was startled from his stupor when someone dropped into the seat next to him. Looking up and into Luna Lovegood's wide blue eyes, he smiled and the nervous fluttering in his stomach lessened somewhat.
"Frowning attracts Wrackspurts, you know," she joked. Her general air of dottiness had diminished greatly after her torture in the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange at Malfoy Manor. Her blunt, odd phrases and conviction that creatures such as Nargles and Crumple-horned Snorkacks existed had once caused strange looks and rolled eyes. But now they reminded him of much simpler and happier times, of times when his worst problems were homework, detention, Snape's wrath and Voldemort's annual attempt on his life. I don't think I've ever had normal problems. Okay, homework and detentions aren't that unusual, but a vengeful Potions master and the most powerful Dark wizard since Gellert Grindelwald, both after my blood are not things normal teenagers worry about. He had stopped trying to be normal long ago, but occasionally the irrational longing for normalcy, for anonymity overcame him.
"Daddy is really looking forward to their reactions. He says the Ministry needs to change unless they want to alienate half of the population. Also the Rotfang conspiracy can't continue; the healers at St Mungo's won't be able to cope with gum diseases at a time like this." Her talk of conspiracy theories had banished the remainder of Harry's nerves and he gave her a knowing look. She merely smiled and thanked him for the exclusive interview Harry had given the Quibbler, her father's newspaper.
"Daddy can't wait to release this issue; he thinks it might sell more copies than your last interview! He's started printing already and he'll put my article in when I get back." Harry had approached Xenophilius ("Call me Xeno!") with an exclusive, no holds barred interview. He thought this would be the best way to shock the public the morning after his little press conference. Xeno had agreed, apologised for trying to give Harry, Ron and Hermione up to the Snatchers in the War and then given Harry a crash course in journalism the 'Lovegood way' to help prepare him for everything the reporters would throw at him. Only once he was sure that Harry could talk his way out of answering the most personal questions without blushing or becoming noticeably embarrassed did he actually interview him.
It went much more smoothly than Harry thought it would and he actually enjoyed himself. This journalism thing isn't too bad. I guess not all journalists are like Rita Skeeter. The interview was the strangest mix of serious, heart wrenching recollections from the War to Harry's favourite pair of socks ("The pair Dobby knitted for me for Christmas in fourth year; one red with broomsticks, the other green with Snitches," he explained lifting his trouser legs to show Xeno.) and what his thoughts on the new wizarding gallery that was being built in Diagon Alley ("A gallery? Really? Now?"). But somehow Xeno made it flow and it just worked. It would be published tomorrow and the Wizarding World would know everything he had gone through to get to this point and why exactly he needed to leave. He had bared his soul to the other man and in return, received a mentor and a friend. Xeno and Luna's unique take on journalism had made Harry think about it as a career. He had never really thought about what he wanted to do with his life after the War and what he wanted to achieve. He had briefly considered being an Auror, but the War had changed him. He had had enough of chasing 'Dark' wizards and he really didn't want the excitement and thrill associated with the job. His fighting days were over. Harry wanted a more relaxed job, one that didn't involve being attacked or chased. Perhaps journalism wasn't the most glamorous of careers but he didn't want to be famous because his mother and father had sacrificed themselves for him or because he had murdered someone. He wanted to have to work for praise, to climb to the top using his skills, to fight the competition with tooth and nail. Figuratively speaking anyway. Basking in the glory of being the Wizarding World's Saviour was not something his conscience would allow him to do. I'll travel the world and then think about studying journalism somewhere far away from here. Maybe America or Australia…
His thoughts were interrupted by Xeno's signal; it was show time!
"Well, that wasn't a complete train wreck," Harry sighed. Seeing the confused looks on Ron's and the Lovegood's faces, Hermione took pity on them,
"It's a Muggle phrase. It means a complete mess, a disaster, a catastrophe, a –"
"Hermione, for me this is SNAFU." Hermione giggled at that before explaining,
"Situation normal – all fucked up. Basically, everything's gone wrong but that's normal."
"So Harry's life, then?" Ron supplied. His and Hermione's new relationship status didn't stop her from elbowing him in the ribs before nodding slightly.
"There were a large number of Wrackspurts hovering over the crowd. That may not have helped our cause," Xeno interjected before Ron and Hermione could start bickering properly. "We got our point across; the Wizarding World needs to change and the Ministry needs to catch up with the rest of the world. I admit I'm glad there are others out there that agree with that wholeheartedly."
"Daddy that was the easy bit; even people who work at the Ministry know that. The hard part was getting them to let go of their Saviour and letting Harry live in peace."
"Me and peace have never really got on. I think I scare her," Harry joked. ("Peace and I," Hermione muttered.) "I agree with Luna though; I thought that would be the hardest part to put across to them."
"You could have always told them to 'bugger off', you know, mate," was Ron's contribution, before looking at Hermione quickly to see whether he needed to avoid another elbow to the ribs. She smiled fondly at him and linked their fingers. Ron beamed, partially because of her action and partially because he had gotten off without another bruise for his language.
"And next time I need call a press conference, I'll let you write the speech then, mate."
"Good, good. I look forward to it. But give me a bit of warning, yeah? You know how I am with homework and writing shi- stuff," he corrected himself quickly. The boys' easy banter made both Hermione and Luna smile before they concentrated on the issue at hand.
"I think all the visiting you've done in the past month has shown the public how dedicated you are to them and they might not want to let you go so soon after the War. But on the other hand, the interview will show people that you are a real person too and not just a hero and that'll help us. They'll realise that you need time to heal and recuperate too," Hermione mused. Xeno nodded before turning the conversation to Ron's favourite topic: food.
"Right enough thinking and more eating," he declared.
"A man after my own heart!" Ron exclaimed, dramatically clutching his heart with his free hand. Luna giggled and led them out into the Muggle world to look for somewhere to eat. After finding a small café and ordering some lunch, the conversation again turned to the reactions Harry's words had caused.
"Did you see the look on Rita's face when you told her you'd already given an exclusive interview? It was classic!" Ron chuckled around a bite of a cheese ploughman's and ignoring Hermione's disgusted look.
"Please Ronald, that's the least of our problems; did you see the look on Ginny's face when Harry said he was leaving? And going alone? Or the look on Mrs Weasley's face when he said that he wouldn't come back until the Ministry had sorted this country out? Or the look on Kingsley's face when he said that he didn't think that the Ministry was up to the task unless there's a massive upheaval and only people who can actually do their jobs should stay and help?" Hermione tutted. "Really, Rita's nothing anymore. Well, from tomorrow anyway. I can't believe you're actually defending Dumbledore's relationship with Grindelwald. I suppose it may have mellowed Grindelwald a bit but most people still think of it as a betrayal on Dumbledore's part." She turned to Harry and gave him a contemplative look.
"What he did as a teenager ("Who he did," Ron snickered.) and who he may have loved at some point does not stop him being a great man! And the public should not hold that against him. Why is it any of their business anyway?" Harry defended. "Why does Dumbledore's sexuality have any effect on them? I thought the Wizarding World was more open and less homophobic than the Muggle one?" Hermione nodded, already knowing Harry's thoughts on prejudice in the Wizarding World and that he was bisexual. Only four people knew and three were sat at the table (the other being Neville; he really was far too observant for his own good). Harry shot a look at Xeno, who was watching the ceiling with an intense concentration that made Harry look up too. Only to see the ceiling (surprise, surprise!) and he shrugged, assuming Xeno was watching the Wrackspurts that were undoubtedly floating around or keeping an eye out for any rogue Nargles. Harry had gotten used to the strange behaviours and beliefs that both Xeno and his daughter seemed to share after spending a few days with them.
"Let's not get into another discussion on human rights," Hermione sighed.
Suddenly Xeno started and checked his pocket watch before jumping to his feet. "Good gracious me; the Wrackspurts must have scrambled my brain. I have to go and finish off the papers for tomorrow. Make wise life choices!" They said their goodbyes and Xeno hurried off to the Lovegood home which doubled as the Headquarters of the Quibbler.
"Anyway, have you decided where you want to go first, Harry?"
"Umm… Well, I've never been out of the country and I'd like to go as a Muggle, so don't I need some identification or something?"
"A passport," she nodded. "But I'm sure Gringotts would be more than willing to help you out if you ask nicely, apologise for the dragon thing and give them enough gold. They might need to create an entire back story for you, as you've effectively been out of the Muggle world for seven years."
"They do, you know," Luna supplied. At Hermione's look, she continued. "Make a complete history for you; that's what they did for Stubby Boardman. That's why everyone thought he actually was Sirius Black." Ron shook his head and smiled at that.
"Well, I'm sure that'll be easy enough. Where do you want to go, Harry? What about a cruise? Or a tour of the world?" Ron looked up in thought, "maybe all of us could go on one and then go our separate ways for a bit before meeting up somewhere? Then we won't have to traipse around places we don't wanna go. I've already been to Egypt and Romania; Hermione's been to most of Europe and Luna's been to Sweden. We could get Neville to join as well. I don't think Ginny or George would be up for a holiday yet." Luna nodded before raising her head and picking up where her father left off in his search for Nargles.
"That's a brilliant idea, Ron," Hermione beamed as she gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"Always the tone of surprise," he joked. "But seriously, that would be really cool! I really wanna go to that vampire castle thing you were talking about Hermione. And I'd like to go somewhere warm and sit on a beach."
A general consensus was made that a cruise would be a good idea before splitting up and travelling on their own or in pairs would be the best way for everyone to visit everywhere they wanted to go. The group then finished their drinks, paid and went their separate ways; Harry to Gringotts, Hermione and Ron on a walk before heading to the Leaky Cauldron and Luna back home to help her father with the Quibbler.
Getting the Gringotts goblins to help him wasn't as hard as he thought it was going to be. He expected them to kick him out on sight, but they only treated him with extreme caution and watched him at all times. The papers declaring him 'Harry Orion Black' hadn't cost much; only 48 Galleons, 11 Sickles and 15 Knuts. The amount he 'donated' to help repairing the damage the dragon had done to the building, on the other hand, was considerably more. He wandered back down Diagon Alley towards the Leaky Cauldron, watching the rebuilding of the Alley and admiring the speed at which everything was done. Most people just wanted their lives to go back to how they were before the War and didn't want to be constantly reminded of the horrors that had occurred in their beloved Alley. Once reaching the Leaky Cauldron, Harry passed though the archway and headed over to the booth in the corner where he knew Ron and Hermione would be waiting for him. After giving them plenty of warning that he was coming (a loud cough), he dropped into his seat and ignored their red, swollen lips, messy hair and rumpled clothes. I glad their relationship is going well, then, he chuckled to himself. He took a sip of his Butterbeer to give them time to make themselves presentable before putting it down, looking up and smirking at them.
"Oh, stop it Harry," Hermione said blushing. "Let's go and book a holiday!" Ron still looked slightly uncomfortable that Harry would be paying for both him and Ron, as Hermione, Luna and Neville were paying for themselves. It had taken much convincing on Harry's part and only when he had said, "I'll use Sirius' money, he'd definitely approve of us travelling around the world and having fun when everyone else is slaving away and helping to sort out the Wizarding World," had Ron relented. Hermione rolled her eyes and stood up, dragging Ron with her. She led them back out into Muggle London and led them to a travel agents. Once inside, Harry and Ron let Hermione do all the talking.
An hour later and they had booked a round-the-world cruise for them, Neville and Luna leaving in 3 days and lasting about fifteen weeks. Hermione then declared that they each needed an entirely new wardrobe, new suitcases and a Muggle mobile phone ("A what?"). When they'd finally finished shopping, Harry and Ron both swore to never go shopping with Hermione again and they headed back to Grimmauld Place to pack. Two floo calls later and Neville and Luna were both up to date on holiday details.
The next morning dawned quietly and peacefully for many until they received their daily copy of the Quibbler. Then all hell, and most of Purgatory, broke loose. Harry had already asked Kreacher to filter his mail that he would undoubtedly receive and had offered the elf's services to the Lovegood's, who had declined saying that they would feed the letters to the Umgubular Slashkilter that lived at the bottom of their garden. Harry had just nodded, used to them by now. Harry stayed inside all day and refused to visit any Wizarding communities before leaving for his long overdue holiday.
Two months later and Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna were somewhere between Cairns, Australia and the island of Guam in the Coral Sea. They had sunbathed, swam in the ocean (a first for Harry) and shopped in completely new countries for presents for their families. Being away from the constant reminders of the War was doing wonders for them. And the gorgeous weather didn't hurt either. Sometime in the first month, Harry began to finally relax and just enjoy life. He spent considerable amounts of time talking to Luna about the Quibbler and her role in helping her father run a newspaper. During the War, the weekly paper had been changed to daily to try and keep the public up to date with the names of those missing, wanted by the Ministry and those presumed dead. It was something that Luna and Xeno had not enjoyed at all, but as the Daily Prophet was under the Ministry's thumb, and therefore Voldemort's, the public needed somewhere to find out the truth of what was happening. It fell to the Quibbler, as the only other national Wizarding newspaper, to deliver. And deliver it did. Apparently the number of subscribers had shot up and Xeno had to buy more printing presses to meet the demand. Xeno had even employed a few former Daily Prophet journalists (not Rita Skeeter, of course) to help him fill the pages.
Harry had started to seriously consider journalism as a career. He would much prefer write the articles than be the subject of them that much he was sure of. But whether he was any good at writing remained to be seen. Luna's constant tips and anecdotes left him feeling motivated and he had decided he would look for a journalism course in the US to start when he returned from the cruise.
Hermione had been trying to completely immerse the group in Muggle society and had been attempting, with varying degrees of success, to teach them how to use Muggle technology. Ron and Neville had been baffled at how Muggles could make a device that would allow them to talk to each other from anywhere on the planet without the use of a fireplace. Luna had taken to it like a duck to water. Harry, on the other hand, kept remembering how Dudley had destroyed many his possessions and then chuckling to himself at the most inappropriate moments. When Hermione was trying to explain what a 'PlayStation' was ("It's nothing to do with trains, Ronald!"), Harry had burst out laughing remembering when Dudley had put his foot through his television after losing a game, briefly earning him some weird looks before Hermione returned to her impromptu lesson.
When they arrived in Hong Kong at the end of the tenth week, Hermione had deemed all of them 'adequate Muggles' and then unleashed them into the Temple Street Market and Golden Shopping Arcade to 'stock up on tech' as Harry had put it. After spending most the money Hermione had exchanged for them, Harry, Ron and Neville headed back to Temple Street to meet up with Hermione and Luna, who had spent the day shopping for clothes for them all in the Ladies Market and had filled their bags with their shrunken purchases. They ate and then made their way back to the cruise ship to crash for the night.
The last five weeks of the cruise seemed to fly by and in, what seemed like no time at all, they arrived in Venice and were saying their goodbyes. Hermione had convinced Ron, with a look that Harry wanted to know nothing about, that they should go on a tour of all the historic places that she wanted to visit as a child. Neville and Luna wanted to visit habitats around the world that were home to either Luna's creatures or rare plants that Neville wanted to examine. Harry, however, was doing a Hermione and going to college. He was flying to America to sit his SAT's before applying for a Bachelor's degree in Journalism at Boston University in Massachusetts. He was immensely looking forward to starting his new life in a new country and wondered just what else the universe could throw at him.
- END OF CHAPTER -