AN: Please Read the Author's Note in CH 4.
This Chapter has been revised!
SUMMARY: After a life of war and adventure, all she wanted to do was live a fairly quiet life running her little café and avoid inquiries on future children from Mrs. Weasley. She didn't expect Tony Stark to wander his way into her life and decide to never leave. FEM!Harry/Tony Stark
Jewel-green eyes snapped open as the peaceful quiet was abruptly interrupted by the sudden blaring of music emitting loudly from the iPod dock setting innocently on the bedside table. The music was indistinguishable, distorted by the sheer volume being forced out of the electronic contraption, and it yanked her from her dreams into the realm of the living with great prejudice. Helen gave a startled jerk slapping her hands over her ears with a cry of surprise, interrupting the precarious balance she'd maintained through the night and sending herself careening over the side of her bed to land on the floor with a dull thud.
"I'm going to kill that girl," she groaned as she disentangled herself from the knot of covers that had been forced from their position on the bed with her fall. She blindly pulled herself to her knees and sought to destroy the source of the horrific noise, barely managing to figure out how to turn the damned thing off without resorting to exploding it in frustration. She sighed in relief when the noise finally stopped, giving way to the peaceful silence of early morning once again.
She stood up, wincing as she stretched her arms over her head to align her back, signing in relief when she felt her spine give a 'crack'. She gathered up the blankets and tossed them on her bed without a care, knowing that the house-elf assigned to the building would jump at the chance to take care of it. As she turned to head into the bathroom, she promptly tripped over the two-year-old Great Dane that she barely missed landing on, sprawled carelessly on the floor.
The canine raised his black head and stared at Helen accusingly for a second before laying his head back down to return to his previous position.
"Bloody hell, Bayer! It's not my fault you blend in with the floor," Helen grumbled, fumbling for the light switch on the wall to illuminate her bathroom. The dog had been a housewarming gift from a former teammate of hers. She'd gotten home and found the canine (then a large and gangly puppy) chewing on a favorite pair of shoes wearing a big, neon green bow. It had been love at first sight and Bayer had kept her company here in New York ever since.
Helen blindly grabbed her toothbrush and proceeded to destroy the stale taste in her mouth, giving herself a bland onceover in the mirror.
She had never been a vain person, learning at a young age to accept the fact that she'd be a gangly, unkempt mess forever. It was incredibly hard to feel pretty when your hair was perpetually a disaster and you were forced to wear your whale sized cousin's handmedowns all the time, but Helen sorely appreciated how she grew up over the years. It was with a smug pride that she accepted the fact she'd managed to inherit the Evans curves rather than the stick thin physique that her Aunt Petunia never grew out of. She wasn't that scrawny, awkward teenager with a terrible self-image and a fear of form-fitting clothing. Hermione had been admiant about beating that little phobia out of her as soon as the war was over.
Unfortunately the breasts and curves didn't decide to show up until well after Hogwarts, but at this point she'd take what she could get.
The twenty-seven year old witch gave a sigh and started her shower, stripping herself of the black Pearl Jam t-shirt and maroon Dr. Pepper pajama pants she'd worn as sleepwear that night. She stepped under the spray and cursed, turning the temperature hotter quickly before she froze herself with the cold water. As Helen absently went about her routine, her thoughts slowly drifted to the events that lead to setting roots in New York City just one short year ago.
The War had taken many friends and most of her family from Helen, leaving her with a life that had no purpose. She'd done her job. She'd offed the Dark Lord. And now she'd nothing to do, no goals. Helen had never expected to survive and when she did, she'd been completely lost.
In the immediate aftermath, the 'reformed' Ministry had put an inordinate amount of pressure on her to lead the cleanup effort rounding up remaining Death Eaters, but after scraping a survival through the horrors of actual battle and torture, Helen had wanted nothing to do with the Ministry in general, much less submit to being their personal Bitch more than she already had throughout her first eighteen years of life. She politely told them to go fuck themselves and opted to hide out at Hogwarts, offering her wand and skill to help with the repairs there until she figured out what the hell she was going to do with the rest of her life now that she had the option of having one.
When Bill Weasley had tentatively approached her with the idea of joining the Cursebreakers as both a reason to use her rather unique skill set and get out of Europe for a few years till the shit storm died down, Helen had jumped on the idea like a rabid dog on a bone. She gave Britain a collective "Fuck You" and hopped the first plane to Egypt.
She spent the next year in Cairo learning the ropes in crash-course training while Hermione and Ron returned to Hogwarts for their final year. Her two best friends had been slightly irritated that she left them behind, but in the end they accepted the fact that she had needed to get away and do what she wanted for the first time in her life.
The three of them made sure to remain in regular contact via letters during Helen's years with Gringotts and the Cursebreakers. Helen also made a point to make appearances at birthdays and major holidays to spoil her growing collection of nieces and nephews whenever she could. Much to Molly's annoyance, Helen had yet to find a man and settle down to have her own children and the Weasley Matriarch made it known at every family occasion that she was anxious to see little Potters running around before she kicked the bucket. Molly had been ecstatic when Helen announced that she'd be retiring.
Helen was no stranger to relationships. Her issue was having them last more than a few months at best as nine times out of ten the guy was dating her just for the fact that she was the infamous Girl-Who-Lived, and that shit just didn't work with her. After repeated failures, she decided to just dedicate her life to her work and her growing team, fully absorbing herself with her travels and experiences as she did jobs and expeditions, looking for treasures while hop, skip, and clawing her way through the ranks of her respected colleagues. Now that she was retired and locally focused in one area rather than all over the globe she vaguely entertained the idea of forming a relationship with someone, but she didn't put much stock into the thought of actually finding someone for the long haul.
The Goblins (and others) on the other hand hadn't been too enthused when after only seven years of operating with probably the most successful team ever, she decided to call it quits. The fortune she had amassed from her commissions and finder's fees was sizable outside of the Family fortune she had inherited, making her extremely wealthy in her own right and stupid rich with her combined family inheritance. When she decided to retire, most of the team that she had formed around herself had decided to retire with her. A number of them followed her here to New York, while others decided to pursue other directions, never loosing contact with their former leader. As fast as it had formed, the greatest concentration of skill and power the Goblins had in their employ evaporated to all corners of the globe.
Helen killed the water just as it started to go cold and stepped out, grabbing a towel to dry off with, wrapping it around her as she re-entered the bedroom to get dressed. She strolled over to her walk-in closet and dropped the towel carelessly on the floor, fishing for a pair of underwear from her drawers. She eventually settled on a lacy pink and neon green set and slipped the garments on. On her way out she grabbed a pair of her favorite dark washed skinny jeans and shimmied her way into them. She also grabbed one of her work shirts – a yellow one with the coffee shop's logo in black – and pulled it over her head before searching for her pair of comfortable yellow flats.
With a quick spell to dry her hair and a trip back to the bathroom to brush her teeth and do her makeup – just a bit of mascara and some lip-gloss – she gave herself another onceover and deemed it good enough. Working in a bakery/coffee shop didn't leave much opportunity for looking cute, which really put a damper on her late blooming sense of femininity.
"Come on, boy," Helen called to Bayer as she pulled on her flats and grabbed her keys.
The Dane scrambled to his feet and darted out of the bedroom heading for the front door. Helen followed after him, stopping briefly to grab Bayer's leash just in case she or one of the others needed to take him outside.
She locked the door and descended the stairs down three flights to the ground level with Bayer trailing after her, hanging an immediate right as she reached the street level, opening the glass door that lead into the café. Music was playing softly and all the TV's were on indicating that as usual, Faye and Cicero had both beaten her there to get started on the morning's fare.
Bayer made a beeline for his dog bed by the fireplace where he did a few circles before laying down, promptly falling asleep. Helen gave him a glance of fond exasperation as she made her way to the kitchen, ducking under the counter instead of lifting it open to walk through.
"Good morning, my Minions!" Helen said cheerfully as she opened the swinging kitchen door. The two people glanced at each other before rolling their eyes in unison, going back to ignoring the witch in favor of their work. Helen merely grinned, making a beeline for the bowl of cookie dough that had been prepped, working methodically to whip out tray after tray of homemade chocolate chip cookies.
It wasn't the exciting life of a Cursebreaker, but she wouldn't change it for anything.
Despite his pounding headache, Tony could not get out of there fast enough, tossing on whatever clothes of his that he could find to slip out of the unfamiliar apartment he woke up in. He couldn't remember much of the previous night and surely didn't remember going anywhere with the store-bought blonde he woke up next to. Apparently last night was yet another tick on Tony's growing tally of drunken one-night-stands that did nothing whatsoever to help him get over Pepper abruptly leaving him a month ago.
They had told everyone it was a mutual split.
As a matter of a fact, it had blindsided him so thoroughly that he chucked the diamond ring he'd bought into the lake at Central Park and proceeded to get so meticulously smashed that he woke up in a New Jersey cow pasture with no recollection as to how the hell he got there and the mother of all hangovers.
The press had a field day with that little excursion, as well as the many that followed while he did a head dive back into the rockstar lifestyle he had thought he had finally left behind for good.
His situation now wasn't much better. Not only had he apparently lost his phone sometime the night previous, but also his coat, his wallet, and his watch. At this point he was just glad he still had his shoes.
Tony quietly and swiftly snuck out of the apartment, trying to ignore his pounding head as he made a swift exit. He cursed himself for losing his coat as the biting October chill hit him full force the moment he stepped onto the city street. He crossed his arms over his chest and rubbed his biceps in a valiant attempt to keep warm.
He was cold, hung-over, and had no fucking clue as to where he was.
He eventually gave up trying to place himself within the city and picked a random direction to walk. Two blocks down, the scent of roasted coffee, chocolate, and baked goods filtered past him on the chilly morning breeze making his rebellious stomach lurch in protest of the abuse that it had suffered the night previous.
He eventually located the source of the antagonizing smells in a coffee shop across the street a ways down from him. He hurried down the street and quickly scanned the windows, taking in the black and yellow decal with the snarling rampant dog done in a heraldic style with the words "Blackdog Coffee House & Bakery" arced above and below it. He noted that the black banners above the windows and door had the same name across them in yellow.
He figured that the place had to have a phone and being warm despite torturing himself with the smell of coffee would be better than freezing on the streets of New York. With his mind made up, he crossed the street swept through the doors.
Tony took a quick moment to glance around at the place and he was pleasantly surprised at the tasteful modern décor of the café. Despite the concrete floor, the place gave off a very warm and comfortable feeling with caramel-crème walls offset by depictions of tasteful, modern art and black and white photographs of famous New York architecture.
There were metal tables with matching chairs in groups around the place save for the area around a roaring gas fireplace where there was a mishmash of armchairs and couches arranged in a sensible manner around a few coffee tables that had copies of that morning's newspaper on them. There were a few flat screen TVs hanging off the walls that had various news channels with the captions rolling so patrons could understand what was being said. Music was playing from the speakers just loud enough to be heard, topping off the pleasant ambiance.
Tony was surprised to see the black Great Dane sleeping away on a dog pillow in front of the fireplace. It had raised its head to look at him revealing a white blaze on its chest, deemed him unimportant, and went back to sleep.
Tony wandered in further and eyed the countless creations housed in the glass cases up at the counter. His stomach growled in protest as he gazed at them all longingly, lamenting over the fact that he was sure to puke if he ingested anything. Doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, brownies, croissants, muffins, scones, cookies, and cupcakes… It was everything you could imagine and more. The espresso machine gleamed in all its chromed mechanical glory on the back wall, sitting under a colorful chalkboard menu that declared a selection of soups, sandwiches, and salads as lunchtime fare.
The door to the kitchen suddenly opened and a nymph of a woman came out backwards, using her back to open the swinging door as she carried a tray of what appeared to be freshly glazed doughnuts. She was on the petite side of average height, but had dangerous curves hugged by the yellow t-shirt and skinny jeans she was wearing. Her hair was dark and reminded Tony of the color of black coffee, pulled up into a messy bun to keep it out of her face.
She turned around and gave a start, obviously surprised to see Tony standing there looking so disheveled and shivering. "Bloody hell, are you alright?" the woman said with a British accent that caught Tony off guard, bright green eyes wide with surprise.
"Well that would depend on your definition of "Alright" as I'm cold, hung over and I'm pretty sure that whatever the hell happened last night is going to be all over this morning's news. You don't suppose I could use your phone, do you?" Tony said wryly, trying hard to control his shivering. He really hoped that he didn't catch pneumonia from his frozen jaunt through the city because that would just be the icing on the proverbial cake.
The woman quickly tossed the tray of doughnuts into the glass case and snatched the phone off the wall behind her. "Here," she said, handing it to him over the counter. "Go sit by the fire and thaw yourself a bit. You look positively dreadful."
"Thanks," he muttered gratefully, taking the offered phone. He dialed one of the few numbers he knew by heart as he made his way over to the fireplace to hopefully defrost himself.
[Where thehellare you?] Rhodey's voice said sharply from the other side of the line, answering on the first ring.
"How'd you know it was me?" Tony muttered with slight bewilderment.
[We've all been worriedsickabout you! You never came back last night, no one knew where you were,andyou left your wallet and phone at some bar downtown! Damn it, Tony, you'vegotto stop doing this to us!]
Tony winced and felt the guilt well up in him. He knew that Rhodey and Happy didn't deserve all the worry he made them go through. "Look, I'm sorry," he sighed, running his hand through his disheveled hair.
[It's fine, Tony. Happy will be there soon. For the love of God,trynot to get into any more trouble until then, alright?]
The line abruptly went dead and Tony sighed again. He turned the phone off and tossed it on the table in front of him before dropping his head into his hands. He stayed like that until he felt something drape across his shoulders, encompassing him in a cocoon of warmth. He glanced up surprised to see that the British, green-eyed beauty had draped an offensively colorful, hand-made blanket over him.
She twisted to a table behind to her to reach for a steaming yellow mug and a plate, setting them on the coffee table in front of him rather than handing them to him, much to his inner relief. "Here," she said softly. "It's on the house. You look like you need a pick-me-up this morning. The tea is an old family secret," she said with a sympathetic smile. "It'll help with the hangover."
Tony glanced down at the cup of tea and the plate with a cinnamon scone, briefly wondering what her angle was. "Thanks," he muttered, confused as to why a complete stranger would do something so kind for him. When he looked up again she was gone, swept away in near silence back to the register.
He glanced back down to the tea and picked up the cup, bringing it to his lips to take a tentative sip. The brew was floral – a type of chamomile he figured – and sweet with a hint of honey. It was odd compared to his usual preferences, but not at all unpleasant. Most of all it seemed to work in quelling the mutiny of his stomach.
As she went about her business going through the morning routine with customers and baked goods, Helen tried to ignore the feeling of his eyes trailing her every move. It was obvious to her that the industrialist was trying to figure her out, trying to find out her ulterior motive was. She could tell that he wasn't used to people being genuinely kind to him just for the sake of being kind. All his life, everything had a catch and everyone had another angle.
Such was the life of a Celebrity.
Helen glanced up from making an espresso for a rather sour looking business man when a college-aged girl burst into the store wearing the inverted version of Helen's yellow work shirt, blonde and pink ponytail flying wildly behind her.
"You're late," she said in a sing-song voice as the girl ducked under the counter and made her way into the kitchen to grab an apron.
"I'm sorry!" she wailed as she came back out, tying the strings in front. "My scooter finally died and I had to run, like, five blocks."
"I told you to dump that piece of crap weeks ago, Kitty," Helen said with a laugh.
"There is nothing wrong with Alfred!" she cried with a sniff, grabbing a mug from the stack to pour a man a refill of plain coffee. "He just needs a fix-up and he'll be all better again."
Helen rolled her eyes with fond exasperation at the younger female's strangeness and went about her business. As more people started coming in, they continued to fill countless orders while performing a careful dance around the machines and each other. Every few minutes Helen found herself shooting the disheveled billionaire on the couch a glance, telling herself that she was just keeping an eye on him.
"You know, it's bad enough that you're giving each other goo-goo eyes. Do you have to do it in public?" Alex said, faking a gag.
"Oh stuff it," Helen muttered, rolling her eyes. "I'm not giving anyone goo-goo eyes."
"Uh huh," the blonde said dryly, "whatever you say."
Helen gave the girl a glare before grabbing a tub of dirty dishes, stalking back into the kitchen.
"There you are."
Tony glanced up from the newspaper he'd picked up to try and hide himself from the other patrons to see his long time friend and chauffer standing not too far away.
"Let's get you out of here, Mr. Stark," Happy said.
Tony gave the place a quick glance, almost sad when he didn't find the green-eyed barista anywhere in sight. He dropped the paper on the table and tightened the blanket around himself before he stood up to follow Happy out of the place. It was a little underhanded of him to steal the blanket the woman generously loaned him, but he figured it gave him a legitimate excuse to come back.
That and the damned thing was really, really comfy.
Tony was thankful for Happy just being Happy as the man had provided him with a couple of pain pills for the pounding headache and explained how Rhodey had JARVIS trace the call to find the address of the place two seconds after the man realized he hung up without asking Tony's location. He didn't ask where he'd gone or how he ended up in that coffee shop missing his coat and watch. He just returned Tony's wallet and phone with a brief quip about JARVIS cancelling all the cards and changing his personal number justin case.
The man was truly indispensable.
Tony nursed his hangover as Happy used his mad ninja driving skills to navigate the city and pull to a stop in front of the tower in less than fifteen minutes. The man was creepy good.
Tony immediately groaned when he recognized the blank-faced redhead standing on the sidewalk with her hands behind her back in a neutral-yet-deadly waiting position that only she seemed to pull off convincingly.
It was never good when Natasha showed up.
"Get your suit. We're being called in," Natasha said evenly without preamble as Tony stepped out of the limo.
"Well hello to you too, Anastasia," Tony said sarcastically. "Do I at least get to know where ol' St. Nick is sending us? Cause I'd rather not have to hack into S.H.I.E.L.D. to get mission information yet again."
"Chicago. Nice blanket by the way."
He unconsciously bristled, tightening his grasp on the rainbow colored blanket he'd snitched.
Within half an hour he was showered, changed, and on the Avengers' Quinjet alongside Bruce and Steve speeding towards the Windy City as they received their briefing from the redhead. Barton was already there and waiting for them and Thor (who had come back to earth to visit his Lady Foster) was en route from wherever the hell he was staying. Tony listened on with a glazed expression as the spy told them about some idiot scientist that decided playing with unstable radiation in his mother's basement was an okay thing to do and managed to accidentally mutate an entire hive of wasps into a killer swarm of giant mutant wasp-monsters that were now terrorizing the people of Chicago.
He had a sinking feeling that this was really going to suck.