An Avengers–HariPo crossover
Note: The Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, and I praise Stan Lee and Marvel for their wonderful brainchildren, too. I've never written a crossover before, so here goes nothing…! *Set after Marvel's The Avengers, as well as past the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, though I don't plan on spoiling much. Please excuse my toying with timelines, too. Read, review, and enjoy!
What had he expected?
Quite honestly, what had he expected?
Tony Stark was a man of observation and little restraint. He should've said something to Pepper when he'd seen how she and Phil interacted. Just how close had they been anyway? No, he couldn't blame her very much; if Tony were Pepper, he'd blame him, too, because Phil was a nice guy. And Tony was only trying to be one.
"Hey, Jarvis, any meetings today?" he asked aloud.
"Not today, sir," the A.I. replied. "You have a fitting for a new suit at two p.m., but your meeting with the natural resources company is tomorrow morning."
"Doesn't a fitting sort of count as a meeting?" Tony groused.
"Would you like me to answer that, sir?"
"No, Jarvis. Thanks." Tony turned around and looked at the cases behind him. If he were being honest, he would admit that the only suits he needed were those metal ones behind the glass. He touched the glass, typed in a code on the digital pad, and waited until glass no longer separated him from his array of Iron Man suits.
"Sir, you have a fitting for a new suit at two," Jarvis repeated.
"I know, I know, I—" Tony stopped short and glanced at his watch. He uncrossed his arms when he realized he had about five minutes before the fitting. "Next time, a little head's up, yeah, Jarvis?"
"As you had wished with Miss Potts and Agent Coulson, sir?"
Tony scowled at the reminder of Pepper and Phil. Sometimes Jarvis was too smart for his own good.
The civilian persona of Iron Man shrugged on a jacket over his t-shirt and went upstairs, locking up the lower level behind him. He'd just made it to the front door when the doorbell rang. On a screen monitoring the outside, Tony could see red hair.
He threw open the door. "Pepper, you shrank!"
"Sorry?" There was indeed a redheaded woman with the same shade of strawberry blonde tresses that Pepper Potts had. But her word carried a hint of an accent—and Tony had never seen a Pepper with blue eyes. Of course, he couldn't imagine a Pepper with blue eyes. It was a bit odd, really.
"Oh, you must be the seamstress for the fitting," he smoothly commented. He held out his hand, which she shook. "Welcome to the humble abode of Stark Enterprises' main man."
The woman furrowed her brow. "Right… Mr. Anthony Stark?"
"Please, call me 'Tony,'" he said, and he placed her as British with how she had pronounced "Anthony." "You are?"
"Victoire Weasley, of Magical Occasions," she answered, and she swiveled her head left and right, taking in the sights, as they walked into the living room.
"Magical Occasions? Seriously, that's what I ordered?" Tony shook his head and poured himself a drink. He held a glass up to her. "Drink? You are old enough to drink, aren't you?"
She gave him a look. "You are old enough to realize you don't ask a lady her age, aren't you?"
Tony grinned. "You got me. But seriously, Magical Occasions?"
"I'm an outfit from a home company in London. It's tiny, but it does good work," Victoire said, placing her purse on the table.
"Pepper hired you, didn't she?"
"I was contacted by a secretary to Miss Potts, and I couldn't say no."
"Surely they didn't have to pay you that much just to deal with little old me?" Tony smirked.
Victoire smirked back. "My payment is handsome, yes. But this is also good experience for me." She shut up.
Tony glanced at her and put down his drink. "Oh? You haven't been here long, I take it."
"Six months," she curtly replied. She gathered her hair and twirled it into a bun, jabbing a wooden stick in it to hold it in place. Then she grabbed a worn tape measure. "Arms out, please, Mr. Stark."
He did as she asked and turned away from her, but he spoke as though they faced each other. "I'm fine with 'Tony,' really. I call you 'Victoire,' you call me 'Tony'… What's with 'Victoire,' anyway? I thought you were English."
"'Miss Weasley' is fine, thank you," she said. She muttered some numbers under her breath and kept moving until she had all his measurements. However, when she stood in front of him, she had that typical expression of apprehension he often got from people when they saw the glow from his chest. She didn't dare touch it.
"That?" Tony shrugged. "Don't be scared of it. It just keeps pieces of shrapnel from tunneling any further to my heart… And it looks great in the Iron Man suit."
Her brow furrowed again, but she seemed to recall something. "Right… America has superheroes."
Tony grinned. "More like secret-agency-sponsored vigilantes, but that's another way of putting it. What, you don't like superheroes, Miss Weasley?"
"You ask an awful lot of questions, Mr. Stark," Victoire retorted hurriedly. She gathered up her things and straightened up. "We are done here. I will see you in a week after I have things roughly prepared." She headed for the door, but Tony kept up behind her.
"You don't have to make it a week if you don't want, Miss Weasley."
She raised her eyebrows. "Pardon me, Mr. Stark…but your hazardous, playboy reputation supersedes your superhero one. Goodbye, Mr. Stark."
Tony stared at the door after she'd left. Well, that had been an experience. No wonder Pepper had sent her. She might be able to handle him, as Pepper could.
Victoire Weasley had spunk.
The following day, Tony got up late and ran a hand over his face. He hadn't slept well, as he'd dreamt again of Pepper's announcement that she wasn't going to stay in New York. "You sent me to D.C.," she'd said. "I think I'll stay in D.C.," she'd said. Yeah, it probably had been a bad idea to let her know all that had happened in that ridiculous fight with Loki and his army.
"Good morning, sir," Jarvis said. "Coffee or tea today, sir?"
The man turned on his side and rolled out of bed. Tea, eh…? "Make it coffee. Black," Tony answered.
"And, Jarvis? Find out all you can about Victoire Weasley."
"Of course, sir."
As Jarvis managed his tasks, Tony showered, dressed, and headed for the kitchen. The newspaper was laid out on the countertop, and Tony flipped past the cover articles; he'd heard plenty about the Avengers by now.
The business section was rather drab, but a tiny square-inch photo of Pepper caught his eye. Tony reached for his coffee as one of Jarvis' robotic arms set it down, and the philanthropist read:
"POTTS TOWER" TO COME?
What a ridiculous headline. It made Tony snort.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Seven months after returning to the offshoot of Stark Enterprises and several months after the appearance of the Avengers in what some have been calling Manhattan's "M-Day," Pepper Potts is as powerful as ever at the top of a company that does not bear her name. As acting president and CEO of Stark Enterprises, Potts has done more for the company than Tony Stark, the former acting head, ever could have imagined doing. Helping the company to get back on its feet after Stark's turnaround with the company's focus—he switched from making weapons to putting the company's abilities to other good uses almost three years ago—Potts has held the company together strongly through this recession, and now the D.C. office is running on self-sustaining power, just as Stark Tower back in New York has been for months. Potts seems to have focus and her head screwed on straight while Stark parades around in that mechanical costume. Even if Stark Tower should really read "Potts," at least one can be sure of one smart play on Stark's behalf—Potts should definitely be the one in power.
"What, did you forget I happened to save the East Coast from nuclear destruction? Not to mention the world," Tony grumbled as he turned the page. He turned back and read the byline—which was useless, since the snippet was attributed to the Associated Press. "And I'm the one hiding behind the mask."
He rolled his eyes. He did kind of agree with one thing, that it'd been best to hand over all the responsibility to Pepper. But he hated that that was all people ever managed to say about the company—or about him, for that matter.
And since he hadn't heard anything from his fellow Avengers except for Bruce or from the recuperating S.H.I.E.L.D. in what felt like forever, Tony couldn't think of anyone who'd say anything else about him, either.
"Tell me some good news, Jarvis," Tony said with a groan.
"You asked me to look into Miss Weasley."
Tony raised his eyebrows and grabbed a nearby tablet. "Uh, right… Put it on-screen for me."
"As you wish, sir." Onto the screen flooded snippets of documents and a few pictures. "Weasley, Victoire Apolline. Daughter of William Weasley, Englishman, and Fleur Delacour, immigrant from France. Two younger siblings, Dominique and Louis. From a large extended family with many uncles, aunts, and cousins. Education unknown. Former residence unknown. Her family and family friends are well-known local heroes, sir."
"Oh? What for?" Tony eyed her passport photo, thinking it didn't do her justice. Too bad there wasn't a driver's license for him to scrutinize.
"There was a class war well over two decades ago in Great Britain. There were many disappearances and even some small-scale acts of terrorism, such as the destruction of the Millennium Bridge. Her parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all fought, and now one of her uncles is a liaison to the British Department of Security, sir. His name is Harry Potter."
Tony flipped through the documents—newspaper clippings of some accidents about the class war Jarvis had mentioned, Victoire's application for a Green Card, her work permit, even her apartment lease. No credit cards came up, which Tony thought was a bit strange, but what he thought was more interesting was the lack of documentation for her education. "She didn't go to any school?"
Jarvis didn't reply immediately. "No, sir. I have just searched using her name and separately using her picture. There is no record of her student life, sir."
Tony rolled his eyes. And Pepper was the smart one? This woman—really, girl—had barely anything of a past. And yet she'd been sent to do business with one of the most powerful men in the country. Now Tony was just plain curious, and when his curiosity got to him…he pushed people's buttons.
"You have a meeting with the natural resources company in an hour, sir," Jarvis reminded him as he finished his coffee.
"Yes, I do, Jarvis… Do me a favor first, though, and email Miss Weasley. Tell her that I'm sorry, but she's been fired."
"As you wish, sir."
There was nothing like pushing buttons, yes?
The result was not immediate. If Tony had been in her shoes, he would've seen the email automatically and confronted the person.
Victoire Weasley took three days to turn up on his step.
She banged on the front door, ignoring the doorbell altogether as Tony came up from his gadget room. When he opened the door, her blue eyes were blazing. She definitely looked ready to smack him—but she also seemed the type to pick her fights.
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Stark. I just got the ow—er, e-mail…" She gave him an odd look, as though "email" would always be a strange word to her.
Tony acted suavely. "No harm done, Miss Weasley. And no need to come all the way here just to confirm a successful delivery of my message." He began to close the door when she slapped it and kept it open. Well…she was quite strong. A lot stronger than she looked. Hmm, the last time Tony had met someone like that, she'd turned out to be Black Widow. He looked at her. "You're not related to a Natasha Romanoff by any chance, are you?"
"I don't have any idea who that is," Victoire said, confused by his sudden question. But then she looked annoyed again. "I just want to ask why you fired me—did I say too much? Did I see something I shouldn't have? Did I do something?" She winced as if recalling something. "Cripes…calling you a playboy didn't help me, did it?"
"Well, for the record, you didn't call me one. You just said it's a reputation of mine."
She narrowed her eyes at him, though he thought he saw her right arm twitching, itching as if ready to grab something to throw. "Then I can only surmise you fired me because I didn't like you hitting on me." She stood up straight and crossed her arms, as though she weren't shorter than him by a few inches. "And if that's the case, then a sexual harassment suit is the least of your worries."
Tony backed into his place and she followed him, slamming the door shut. "And why is that? By the way, I have to say—you English sure do put the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllables. It's 'harassment,' not 'harassment.'"
"Leviosa, Leviosa—same difference," Victoire remarked, making a reference that Tony didn't understand at all. "But my family could certainly make you regret ever hitting on me."
"Right, the whole troupe of freedom fighters."
Her cheeks flushed with color. "What?"
"Yeah, the freedom fighters. In some class war that happened before you were born?"
Victoire appeared flustered. "How did you—you researched me?"
Tony smiled. "I like to know what I'm getting into."
"I'm not some toy, Mr. Stark. I'm a wi—woman, a woman with opportunities and talents. Someone who really shouldn't have showed up this morning," she added with a hiss. Was he imagining things, or was she flaring her nostrils at him?
He cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair. He had experience with strong-minded women before. He could turn this around. "I'm sorry, you're right, I'm being a total douche—allow me to make up for it? How about dinner? How's that sound?"
She gave him a look. "I hardly think—"
"Great. Eight o'clock works out for me, too. How about I pick you up—"
"You just don't get it—"
"—or we could meet there. I was thinking about the classics, burgers and fries—you do like American food, right? I mean, to come to New York—really, Manhattan, of all places—"
"Mr. Stark!" she yelled. "I will not go out with you, I will not have dinner with you, and I will return in two days' time to check how the suit's coming along!" Victoire was red in the face again, but the overall effect made her sky blue eyes pop out.
"You know you're not helping your case by staring at me like that, right?" he commented after an odd beat.
Victoire huffed and shook her head. "I will see you another time, Mr. Stark."
"Sure thing, Miss Weasley." He moved as though he'd show her to the door, but she held up a hand to stop him—and he listened. It wasn't as bad this, time, watching her go. After all, Tony felt he'd secured not just the two last business meetings with her (one for checking the sizing and the final one) but perhaps even one other meeting, as well. And that one he'd make sure would be personal.
"How are you liking your NYC lab, Bruce?" Tony asked his friend over video chat a couple of days later.
Bruce Banner stared at the camera over the tops of his glasses. "Tony, you ask me that every time you call. I still love the place."
Tony grinned. It was probably a good thing that they'd heard nothing from Thor after the past summer's events, but Tony only heard from Bruce now-and-then. Bruce said it was the same; Rogers had disappeared somewhere on his own, but both scientists thought he eventually had returned to S.H.I.E.L.D. with Fury, Romanoff, and Barton. Since they'd heard nothing from the one agency that had wanted their freak show to come together so badly, Bruce had said they should enjoy their "time off." So Tony naturally had offered to set him up with materials. After all, Tony had not met someone before who could speak "English" as Bruce could.
"But that's not why you're calling. What's going on, Tony? Did you finally get word?" Bruce fiddled with something, his attention diverted.
"Nah…they're still under-the-radar for now." Tony tinkered with a new addition he was thinking of adding to the suit. "I just…guess I'd call and say hi."
Bruce paused and took another good, long look at him. "To say hi? Well, it's better than you flying over, I suppose." Bruce chuckled. "Something got you rattled, pal?"
"You'd think nothing could after what we accomplished."
"Says the man whose first words after saving the world are that we should go eat shawarma."
The philanthropist smirked good-humoredly. "Yeah, yeah…"
"Hey, I, uh… I saw the paper." Bruce winced. "Not very nice, what the AP's saying…"
"The Associated Press can go kiss my shiny metal ass, for all I care."
"That's so like you, Tony Stark." Bruce held up a piece of equipment. "But I think I'm gonna end this conversation now. Got some work to do."
"You haven't started fooling around with any more gamma rays, have you?"
Bruce smiled. "The super-soldier dream, man…I'd just like to see if there might be another Captain America someday."
Tony nodded. "Yeah, yeah… I've gotta go anyway."
"Yup. I have a date with a pretty, young lady."
Bruce removed his glasses. "Wait a minute, Tony, why didn't you say—"
Tony ended the video chat, only a tiny bit guilty that he'd hung up on his friend. "Sorry, I lied," he thought aloud.
"Miss Weasley will be here in twenty minutes, sir," Jarvis prompted him.
"Whoo, boy. Plenty of time to scrub the grease from my fingertips." He cleaned up after jotting down some notes on a blueprint—if things went well, he could plant the crystal- and stone-cutting laser in the toes of the left boot later this week—and he killed the lights in the gadget room.
Up on the living level, Tony's attention was snagged by the scene outside the window. Even months later, he was still not very used to seeing all the tarps still on so many of the buildings. It had been easier for him to repair Stark Tower than it had been for New York to repair much of Manhattan. "Jarvis, remind me to write a big check to the city."
"Are you sure, sir?"
Tony sighed. "Of course not. But I can't really ask much more of this place that remains my home, so I don't mind helping it out."
"Very well, sir. Miss Weasley is at the door, sir."
Right as Jarvis said it, the doorbell rang, and Tony grimaced, hoping this went better than the last time she'd been over. "Miss Weasley," he said, letting her inside.
"Mr. Stark," Victoire said with a nod. She had a large plastic bag draped flatly over her forearm. "I've your suit right here, so shall we?"
"We shall." He closed the door and followed her into the living room.
She laid out the suit in pieces and commented as she took out her sewing things. "The pants are nearly done; you just need to try them on. The vest is done and the jacket is coming along, but I thought perhaps you might want them joined, so please let me know. Also, do you have a pastel shirt with which you'd like to wear this?"
"What, you didn't make that, too?"
Victoire pouted, her cheeks pink. "I can, though it wasn't specified."
Tony smiled warmly. "Nah, it's fine, I'm just egging you on, I guess. I've got plenty."
"Then why don't you get one and we can start?"
"Good enough." Tony asked Jarvis to pull a white shirt out, and he grabbed it from his room. Back in the living room, Tony had an occasion to pause. Sure, Victoire was a stranger…but she sure looked nice here, in his place. He was pulled from that thought as he saw that wooden stick from before in her hand; but she noticed him and quickly pulled her hair back into another bun, securing it again with the stick.
"White…," Victoire remarked, unimpressed. "How…unique."
"What? It's a black satin suit," he said somewhat defensively. He pulled it on over his t-shirt and Victoire handed him the pants. "Er, you want me to do that right here?"
She blushed furiously and turned her back. "I'm a seamstress by trade, Mr. Stark. There's very little I haven't seen." But her weak voice gave her away, so he lightened up on her and discreetly slipped them on.
"It's okay to look now."
Victoire turned and scrutinized her handiwork. She hemmed and hawed, but she didn't touch his waist. She knelt and checked the hem, smoothing wrinkles with her palms. "Looks good."
Tony nodded. "I'll say. They fit perfectly. How come you weren't in the U.S. before? I could've used your business many times before. So far, things fit like magic."
She coughed and changed the subject. "Ah…the—the, um, vest now, if you would…" He held out his arms and she helped him into it. As her hands smoothed the shoulders, he felt her dainty fingers move more slowly…and he couldn't deny that he liked the attention.
"That, too, feels nice."
"The vest," he fibbed. He glanced at her over his shoulders, dark eyes meeting light. After a moment, he asked, "How'd you learn all this anyway?"
Victoire looked away. "My grandmother always did a lot of this kind of thing for the family—well, my father's mother. She often made clothes for my father and his six siblings."
"Six?" Tony whistled.
"Yes…they were a large family and not very well-off, but that was fine." Victoire smiled. "I think it made them the better for it."
"And yet you were able to come to America?"
Victoire nodded. "My father's job helped support us, plus my mother comes from a bit of family money, so our part of the family has always more than managed." She paused and met his eyes. "But I'm no spoiled little rich girl, mind you. I'm smart and did well in school…I was even engaged once."
As her tone had gone iffy at her last statement, Tony ignored it. "You said you were a brainiac? Then how come there's nothing that says you ever attended school?"
She pursed her lips, taming her anger at the fact that he had indeed researched her before. "…I did attend school. But it was more of a private thing, not really noticed by many."
"Er…yes, like that. I, along with my siblings and cousins and the children of family friends, learned what was necessary to survive in both worlds."
He couldn't help the look he gave her, because that had been a weird statement. Like, Thor weird.
She recognized the bewilderment in his gaze. "I mean, you know…home life and the real world." Victoire forced a chuckle.
"I guess…I kind of understand," Tony said slowly. "I was in two bad worlds before—a selfish one and the arms one." He frowned. "Then for a short while I was playing with the big boys while being Iron Man on the side. Now those worlds have become one."
Victoire measured the button holes on the vest and then paused. For once, she looked him in the face, and Tony didn't feel as those she was being defiant or coy or the like. She was being simple and frank with him now. "What's it like? The two worlds being one?"
Tony pursed his lips and lowered his arms, finding no good place for his hands but his pants' pockets. "Sometimes it's hell. Sometimes I actually consider donating those suits to a museum." He narrowed his eyes, and she gently smiled, acknowledging that she would never mention that to another soul. "But…it's something I couldn't live without. You know? I get pissed with secrets. Secrets bug me." He chuckled to himself, thinking of when he'd gotten past S.H.I.E.L.D.'s firewalls…that had not been pretty.
The redhead nodded in agreement. "Yes, secrets bother me, as well." She continued on in silence for a while then.
The atmosphere after her words left the room uncomfortably quiet for Tony's tastes. She'd sounded so…sad when she'd agreed with him. Not only was Tony not used to dealing with a woman of her type agreeing with him, but he was not used to dealing with any woman very much who sounded so forlorn.
Worst of all, he didn't know how to gently remedy this kind of situation.
"So a billionaire, a demigod, a scientist, and three soldiers walk into a restaurant and order some food…"
Victoire quirked an eyebrow at his statement. "Is that your attempt at an awful joke?"
"Yes. But you don't know it's awful yet," he insisted. "It'll only get awful if you decide not to let me finish it."
She laughed, and she sounded much happier than before. "Then why not spare me, Mr. Stark?"
"Because, you're much prettier when you're laughing, Miss Weasley."
Victoire's laughter died down at his abruptness, her eyes wide and her expression a tad stunned. She dropped her eyes again to her work. "Um, so, um… Would you like the—the vest and the, uh, the jacket to be one piece?" She helped him into the jacket, though he noted she was more sparing with her touch this time around.
"No, it's fine. I like the set as is." Tony watched her as she nodded and took some notes before beginning to put things away. He changed when her back was turned, and then she had everything. She was set to leave. And Tony's compliment had assured her leaving.
"I'll have this done in three days," she told him as he walked her to the door. "You know, other clients and such."
"Of course, of course…" Tony ran a hand through his hair as Victoire stood there awkwardly. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, by the way. I just have a habit of speaking my mind. There's no filter here," he added, gesturing to his brain and mouth.
Victoire grinned. "I think I learned that a while ago."
Tony gave a half-bow and opened the door. "Well then, until three days from now."
She hesitated and bit her lip. "Or, until two. Sometimes work gets done faster, or certain projects interest me more…" Victoire raised her eyebrows.
"Until two, then…maybe. Goodbye, Miss Weasley."
"Goodbye, Mr. Stark."
Tony doubted his sanity for a brief moment. For, in a brief moment, he could've sworn that Victoire had not only grinned but given him a sultry grin. …but that wasn't Victoire Weasley, of course it wasn't…
Tony felt distracted afterwards, and he lost a few days' work for it. He didn't like how antsy (because Tony Stark was never nervous) he felt in anticipation of the final fitting. He rather liked seeing Victoire, and he had an inclination that—if he could get her to open up more—they'd have a wealth of things in common, of things to debate (because it was never fun when all Pepper had done was argue with him and order him around).
But things were looking up and in Tony's favor when Victoire arrived on his doorstep, bubbly. "This is certainly some of my best work, Mr. Stark," she rushed, flying past him to set her things down. He'd only just turned around from shutting the door when he realized everything was already set out for him to change.
"How did you—" he started.
"Ahaha, things just…fly off my worktable when I've finished a new order," Victoire replied smoothly. She gestured to the balcony. "Uh, may I…? While you change, of course."
"Sure, go ahead," he said, and she literally bounced outside to take in the view. He couldn't help but watch her for a second before turning to the suit. Victoire Weasley really was a strange one.
She returned when he was fully dressed, and her eyes lit up more than ever. "Oh, I was right…! Those seams in the vest, and the cut of the jacket… And the sleeves—definitely fab."
"The jacket sleeves feel a little loose," Tony commented.
"Oh, they're supposed to be that way," she assured him. "The design is based off, er, some local designs from back home. So the sleeves are a little bigger at the wrist and, though fitted, the jacket has slight tails. But it works with the addition of the vest." Her eyes finally left his chest and flew up to meet his face. "Now to share with you my one piece of advice—don't where a white shirt with this."
"What? Why not? White's a classic!" He called after her as she marched down the hallway.
"Your room?" she asked, pointing to the door.
Tony gaped at her. For wanting almost nothing to do with him before, she was being quite brave now. "Hey, you don't just barge into—"
But she was already at the closet, and Jarvis had apparently thought it fine to let her roam through Tony's collection. Victoire put a finger to her chin and scanned all of the clothes. "You have more clothes than me, my sister, and our five female cousins put together," she remarked with a snicker.
"Sorry, I've had years to build up my wardrobe," he retorted. He rested his hand on a hanger to keep her from pushing any more jackets, sweaters, and shirts aside. "And you are toeing the line of appropriateness, Miss Weasley." But Tony said it with slight teasing.
She raised an eyebrow, as if to say, Well, you already toed the line plenty of times before, Mr. Stark. But she held her tongue. Instead, Victoire grabbed a shirt and thrust it at him. "Wear this shirt with that suit, and only this shirt."
It was a French gray shirt, and Tony briefly compared it with the suit. Well. He was sure to look like a lady-killer if he paired them.
"So. Put it on," she urged.
Tony smirked. "If you insist." She squealed as he pulled the jacket and vest off and then stripped his shirt off, but she had nowhere to go with him standing there blocking her way.
"Git," Victoire spat, but her red cheeks betrayed her, and she laughed.
"There," he said, having dressed again.
Her eyes widened happily, and she let out a sigh. "There is nothing quite like a well-tailored suit on a gent…"
They returned to the living room so Tony could walk around in the suit, test it. He saw the content look on Victoire's face. "I see that a nice suit on a guy is the same as lingerie on a woman," he quipped.
She stuck her tongue out at him—actually stuck her tongue out at him. "Oh, hush up. It's just nice to see my hard work paying off." She gathered her hair over one shoulder and played with the wavy ends. "Though I get to keep the design, I must admit that it's always hard to part with my work." Victoire sighed and shrugged. "But that's the way of the artist's life." She began to gather her things…and Tony felt that it was too soon for her to leave again.
"You're not a starving artist, though, I hope," the philanthropist said, his mouth working faster than his brain.
Victoire smiled gently at him. "Miss Potts paid me in advance. Don't fret about a thing."
Tony's eyes roved over her as she slipped the strap of her purse over her shoulder. "One meal."
There went his mouth again… He hastened to elaborate. "One meal with me."
"I'm sorry, I really shouldn't," she said, her face burning once more.
"Just one, and then I'm completely out of your hair. I won't even call it a date." Okay, maybe that last part had been a bit much.
Victoire gave him a wry look. "Well…I haven't had lunch yet today…"
Tony smiled. "Excellent decision, my good lady. Are burgers and fries all right with you? Because I'm starving."
"Fries? Fries…oh, chips!" Victoire nodded. "That would be nice, as I'm starving, too. But," she added, poking him lightly in the chest as he neared her, "no way in Azkaban am I letting you eat burgers and chips in that suit. Go change. I promise I won't rabbit off whilst you're not looking."
"Assuming 'Azkaban' is another name for hell, understood. I'll be right back." And while he was changing, he asked Jarvis to look up "Azkaban," because he was fairly sure he'd never heard that one before.
Tony took Victoire downstairs and out onto the streets, insisting that they walk to a local joint. It was a mom-and-pop place that had done okay despite the recession, and, though Tony was a regular, the workers treated him as a normal person, which he liked. Victoire seemed to like that, too. And it was nice to enjoy lunch with a woman who knew what Tony was yet didn't need to be impressed by all that.
"Don't," he said, stopping her hands that were reaching for her silverware.
"I have manners, you know," she said.
"And proper manners towards the cheeseburger dictate that you form an intimate connection with it. No utensils allowed. That's cold."
Victoire laughed and listened. She also acted as though she'd only ever had one or two burgers before, as well.
"You're definitely not a city girl," he stated between fries.
"No, no, I'm not." She sipped her ice water and watched him for a little while. "But you're a city bloke, that's for sure. Do you like it?"
Tony shrugged. "The city's all I've ever known." A little bit of his enjoyment left him. "The city's all the Starks have ever known."
Victoire dropped her eyes (a habit of hers, he'd begun to realize) to her hands. "It's not always fun when there's so much around you that you know, isn't it?"
"Humans—we strive for familiarity and then whine when we get it. Forget fun; it's annoying."
She forced a grin. "But there's a comfort in an ounce of familiarity. It's how we gain a footing in the world." And as she said it and looked at him, Tony had the feeling that she was alluding to something which she had not yet shared.
He knew that because he was doing the same thing. He looked at her and knew he took comfort in the fact that her hair was strawberry blonde and that she had a few freckles over the bridge of her nose, even though they were so faint that he'd almost missed them. He took comfort in those resemblances to Pepper, as well as the few times she had been stern with him. He just had to wonder to whom she was comparing him.
They picked up another topic for conversation shortly afterward—apparently Victoire liked the look of classic cars even though she was deathly afraid to ride in or drive them—and things just felt…nice. It was a plain kind of feeling, but Tony liked it. And even if Tony only ever made a business acquaintance of Victoire, he doubted that staying friends with her would be too bad. Simply, Tony liked her.
After they were done, they headed back in Stark Tower's general direction, but Tony insisted on popping into the convenience store and grabbing dessert. "Chocolate to finish the meal," he said, breaking the Hershey bar.
Victoire looked at it, an unknown amusement dancing in her eyes. "Good thinking," she said, "though I'll have you know that Hershey isn't as big in the U.K."
"I'm not surprised. It's an American classic, anyway."
She nodded, but then she bit into it and made a little cooing sound. "Bloody Nora…I should've come to the U.S. sooner for this alone. I like Galaxy bars, but this is…different." Her reaction was quite entertaining.
Near Stark Tower, they began to drag their feet, and the remaining block of chocolate felt warm and malleable in the wrapper. Tony glanced at his watch, noticing that it was approaching dinnertime. Had the time flown by so quickly already? He grimaced.
"Well…thank you for a lovely time," Victoire said, turning to him.
"Ah…yeah. I mean, yes. It was…uh, nice." Cripes, when had Tony Stark lost his eloquence?
"Familiarity is also nice," she said, cocking her head a bit to one side. "And…Tony?"
She caught his attention, that was for sure. She had refused to call him that before. "Yes?"
Victoire took two short steps closer to him, enough to feel her body heat. She looked up slightly, and Tony was reminded of that fantastic sense of having to look down into a woman's lovely eyes, for Victoire was taller than Natasha but at least shorter than Pepper—and, more importantly, shorter than Tony. Actually, now that he thought about it, Victoire was really the perfect height for him… His thoughts fogged when her face neared his, but she didn't kiss him. Her lips went to his ear. "I don't mind calling this a date."
She pulled back, patted his cheek, and winked at him before disappearing down an alleyway. Tony unfroze after a second and looked down the alley after he heard a pop, but it was empty. Victoire was gone—but she'd be back, he knew it. And Tony doubted "staying friends" could ever be part of the equation now.
Things got easier, in some ways, from there.
Victoire sometimes dropped by because she was "in the area," and she didn't mind sharing a few drinks. Nothing had happened, which was somewhat of an infuriating challenge on Tony's part. He'd never had to take things slow—not at all.
He appeared to be a challenge for her, as well, especially when he insisted on a small handful of other cozy outings. It seemed as though it had been a while since Victoire had been treated so nicely, and it had been long enough that she wasn't used to the attention. But Tony knew she was getting used to him; on several occasions he had caught her staring at him with that nostalgic look on her face, a look that she didn't bother to explain.
After one of those times and him asking her to tell him what that was all about, she turned on the couch and faced the outside view. "You'd done well so far, not asking me too much about my past, you know."
Tony snorted. "I'm trying to be a gentleman."
Victoire grinned and nudged his leg with the toes of the foot that was folded under her. "You'd make a good Englishman, Tony. Though the metal suit would have to go. You could probably still solve crimes and the like, but you'd have to trade in the metal suit for some nicer ones."
"And do you have a pipe to complete that image of 'Sherlock' Stark?"
She laughed, and in her merriment she rested her head on his shoulder. After a second she must have realized her positioning, for in the next second she was sitting up straight again. "It's nice having company in the States, though."
"You don't have anyone over here with you?"
"No. All my family's still in England. My sister and brother are too busy to visit, but I have seen a few of my friends—my cousins—on occasion. One of them, the second-oldest of our little Weasley-Potter clan, is a year younger than me, and she's been thinking of coming here—not that her father would love the idea."
"More of you…great."
Tony laughed. "I'm joking, joking… Lighten up a little, Victoire." He'd only used her first name a few times, and still it was great to see her turn so sheepish each time the word reached her ears. She'd get this line of red that ran from the tip of one cheekbone to the other, making her freckles and blue eyes pop. It also made her look…well, kissable. Which was another infuriating thing.
He had yet to kiss this gorgeous woman, dammitall.
But he forced his attention from her rouged lips. "By the way…I was wondering if you'd go somewhere with me."
"Where?" she asked.
"There's a little gala—hear me out," he asked when he saw her brow knit together in discomfort. "There's a little gala for this up-and-coming natural resources company. They mentioned it at the last meeting I had with them. Two- or three-hundred people will show up, at best, so you'd be in a big enough crowd to get lost but a small enough one so that you wouldn't feel overwhelmed. Plus you'll be with me; I can't really make you any safer."
"I really don't think that's a good idea," Victoire replied, and she swung her legs off the couch so that her feet were planted firmly on the ground. That wasn't a good sign.
Tony dragged a hand over his face, thinking. "Think of it this way: I can show off my suit and its designer at the same time." He mustered up a grin, but it didn't change the frown on her face.
"I just—no," she blurted. Even though weeks had passed and they'd seen each other casually, apparently this was too big a step. Even Tony thought he was being hasty…but he still couldn't get over the fact that Victoire had gotten him to slow life down some.
She pecked his cheek and said goodbye before dashing off, leaving Tony feeling irritated with himself. "What in Azkaban did I just do?" he thought aloud—which reminded him… "Hey, Jarvis, anything come up on Azkaban?" He couldn't believe he'd forgotten all about that. It looked as though he'd been too caught up in Victoire's change of pace.
"Nothing, sir," the A.I. answered. "I tried alternate spellings, taking Miss Weasley's accent into account, but still nothing surfaced."
"Yeah, okay, thanks."
A full day later, Tony dialed the number on Victoire's "Magical Occasions" business card. The line rang and rang and rang, but Victoire didn't pick it up. Tony just hoped that she didn't hate him now.
Jarvis interrupted his work in the gadget room. "Sir, a call for you—"
Tony looked up expectantly. "Good, put it through—"
"From Miss Potts."
The philanthropist groaned. "Crap…still, put it through, Jarvis."
Apparently it had been long enough since he'd last seen her that Tony ended up drinking in the sight of her. "You look well," he said.
Pepper smiled gently, but he knew that smile. It was the same, slightly condescending one she always had whenever the thought "how is it that he's my boss?" ran through her head. Tony had seen it too much. "I'm fine, thanks. And it looks as though you haven't blown anything up lately."
His first thought was that he'd blown things with Victoire, but he didn't voice it. "Nope. I'm as G-rated as ever."
"Tony—that gala with ECOcellent—are you planning on attending?"
"I was thinking about it."
"I need an answer, not for you to think about it." Pepper stared into her tablet's camera to fix him with her business stare. "One of us has to go, and if you're not going, then I'll represent the company."
He wiped his hands with a cloth and looked at his work. "I'll go then."
There was a pause. "You'll be fine without an escort?"
How she said it made him feel as though she was treating him like a child. "I have an escort," he announced.
Pepper looked stunned and, perhaps a little, hurt. "I see. Then I'll trust you to represent Stark Enterprises. Please, though—don't blow anything up."
"I won't, Pepper, I swear. Besides, I have a suit besides the Iron Man one to wear."
"Oh. I see it went well with Miss Weasley, then?"
"Yup. She's brilliant, you know."
"Never thought I'd hear you say that of a mere seamstress," she stated with a light titter.
"Never thought I'd hear someone who'd once been a mere secretary speak like that about someone making an honest living," he retorted. Pepper shut up.
"Then I'll return to my work now," she said, changing the subject. "Bye, Tony."
He scowled at the tablet and the word "disconnected" that flitted across the screen. Shyeah, they'd disconnected a long time ago.
But there was another buzz, and Jarvis said, "Sir, you have another call waiting. It's Miss Weasley."
Tony blinked. "Oh…okay, I'll take it." As Victoire had an old cellphone model, he'd have to make do with the sound of her voice. "Hello."
"Ah, Tony…wait, what's wrong?" Her voice fell.
"Nothing. What's up?"
"Nothing, my foot. You sound angry."
He sighed. "It's not you, Victoire."
She paused. "If you give me that 'it's not you, it's me' crap, I'll use your own bloody suit on you."
"It was Pepper, Victoire."
She paused again. "…oh."
"Is there something I can help you with, Victoire?"
"Well, I wanted to say…I'llgotothegalawithyou," she rushed.
"Sorry, what was that?" he said with a smirk.
"The gala. I'll go with you." Even by her voice alone, he could picture her pinked cheeks. She sighed. "You really should thank my friends. Molly and Roxanne convinced me to change my mind."
Tony dropped one of his tools in astonishment and cursed as it landed on his toes.
"Everything all right?"
"Yeah, yes… I'm just… It's good you called." He knew he meant those words as he said them, and he could hear the smile in her voice.
"I'm glad I called. By the way, when is the gala?"
"Friday night, at seven in the evening. Can I pick you up?"
"No, thank you. I'll meet you at Stark Tower."
"You live on the other side of town. It'd be unwise to dress up and walk across Manhattan at that time of night—not to mention it'll be cold."
"I'll be fine, Tony, promise. I'll see you then."
"Yowza. How the hell did you arrive here safely looking like that?"
"That" described an elegant side of Victoire which Tony had never dreamed up. She wore a strapless violet gown with a modest slit and a fluffy shawl, and her hair was pulled back in a tighter bun than before—but that same old wooden hair stick held it. Her jewelry was modest, as well, and her heels weren't killing her feet. She looked as though she could last an evening dressed to the nines.
Tony shut his gaping mouth. "I feel like a bum compared to you," he said. He held the door to his car open and helped her in; he climbed in after her and motioned for the driver to go. He was still kind of pissed that Happy had gone with Pepper and even Rhodey dealt with her more than he dealt with Tony, his supposed best friend…but Tony knew in their little "divorce," Pepper had taken the "kids."
Victoire punched him in the arm. "Don't you say that—that suit really is some of my best work," the redhead remarked, and she couldn't keep herself from glancing at him every couple of minutes. She really seemed to appreciate his taking her advice and wearing the gray shirt with the black suit.
"Is something the matter, Miss Weasley?" he lightly teased. "Do I look ravishing?"
She rolled her eyes and punched him in the arm again, only a little harder this time. "Git. Don't forget that I grew up around a bunch of hormonal boys. I'm used to male pheromones."
He pulled a face. "But you're related to them."
"Not all of them. There's…Teddy." He noted how her body language shifted when she said his name. "And there're the Scamander twins and Scorpius. Frankie, too." She frowned at the last one's name, and Victoire was lost in her thoughts as they pulled up on the event.
ECOcellent had borrowed a reception hall from one of its other contributors, and the gala looked pretty and pretty boring all at once. At least there was supposed to be food, drinks, and dancing. There was also a silent auction slated for the end of the evening, but Tony had no plans on going to that. He figured showing up for a little bit and leaving when he or Victoire got tired—whoever did first—was the best decision.
"It's lovely here," Victoire breathed, clutching onto his arm as they entered. She was very taken with the other fashions on the floor, though she blended right in with her own radiance.
"Agreed," he said, his own gaze lingering on her awestruck countenance.
Then the distractions came, as Tony knew they would. This senator, that mayor, this governor, that selectman—there were quite a few politicians here tonight. There were also the heads or representatives from other companies like Tony's and others like ECOcellent. Several people stopped to say hi, and others demanded conversation. It was a little tiresome, considering the last thing Tony wanted was for Victoire only to follow him all night long, but he did get the chance to show off her abilities with a needle and thread.
"I'll grab us some drinks," he told her at last, leaving her with the wife of the mayor's brother-in-law.
"Ah, but—" she protested.
"I'll be right back, promise," he said, and it was an odd sensation for their fingers not to be joined for once. Tony caught up with one of the fast-moving busboys and grabbed two flutes of champagne. Upon turning around to head back to Victoire, however, he bumped into someone.
"Watch where you're going," the man hissed. The man's annoyance didn't fade when he recognized Tony. "Ahh…Stark." His grin reminded Tony of a shark. Or an arms dealer. Eh, same difference.
"Sorry about that—do I know you?" the philanthropist said with a sardonic little smile.
The man scowled. "No, you probably don't. But Justin Hammer wasn't the only face of Hammer Industries."
Some of the color drained from Tony's face. The last thing he needed or wanted was to deal with anyone from Hammer Industries. Besides, wasn't Justin Hammer in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s custody? Hopefully none of Hammer's former employees were as readily evil as he had been… Tony straightened up. "You're right. And I'm not the only face of Stark Enterprises."
"No, you're not." The man's "smile" returned. "Enjoy your evening then, Mr. Stark." He shoved his way past Tony, and a sharp cufflink caught on Tony's jacket. The man noticed and yanked, and his cufflink tore free from the fabric, and he moved on.
Tony cursed. So, apparently Justin Hammer's former employees were looking into other business ventures… "But Christ, really?" Tony spat to himself as he looked down at the tear. He had no idea how Victoire would react if he returned to her with the suit shredded…then again, Tony was better with welding than he was with sewing.
The look of horror on Victoire's face was bad. She acted as though someone had beaten up Tony. "What the hell happened?" she hissed.
"It'll be fine," he fibbed. "I just bumped into someone who remembers me, that's all."
She gave him a look. "And you let them walk away?"
He stared at her. "Um, I've learned to pick my fights, Victoire…"
"That's a shame," the wife of the mayor's brother-in-law lamented. She looked to Victoire. "You really do beautiful work, dear. I was actually wondering if you could make some things for my husband."
"Oh, I do dresses, too," Victoire added quickly as she tucked the torn edge of the jacket in. "I made this dress, as well."
Tony and the woman looked at her, astonished. "You made that, too?" he asked.
"Of course I did. Why spend a million quid when I can just look as though I did? Oh, damn—Tony, take it off."
The woman's eyes bulged, and Tony stepped aside with his companion. "Er, Victoire, I think…"
"I mean the jacket. I'll go repair it right now."
"I told you, it'll be fine. I just won't wear the jacket for the rest of the night."
"No!" Victoire looked ready to cry. "I insist. I'll be right back, I swear."
He didn't have much of a choice as she nearly forced him out of it. He watched her scurry off towards the bathrooms, but he followed her as there was nothing interesting on the floor without her there. He was sorely tempted to round the corner when he heard a zipping sound—but then Victoire emerged and crashed into him. Her face was awfully white.
"What, were you expecting Captain America?"
"I—I—did you see anything?" She blinked rapidly.
He raised one eyebrow. "No…should I have?"
She quickly shook her head and pushed the jacket at him. "No, nope, it's nothing. The jacket's fixed, though. Good as new." She helped him back into it and, when he was all set, she looked relieved.
Tony finally realized that her hair stick was in her hand and her hair was down and falling over her shoulders. "What happened with your hair?"
Victoire blinked again, and some color returned to her face. "Oh, that… I, er, was just about to fix it. Some pieces were falling out. I'll be right back." She ducked into the women's restroom and returned before even fifteen seconds had passed. Victoire pecked his cheek and clung to his arm again. "There. All right now. Let's go grab something to eat. I'm hungry."
The evening finished pleasantly, and when the auction was set to begin, Tony suggested they leave. "Otherwise we'll never get out of here."
"But it's for charity," Victoire said.
"I already donated, so don't feel bad." They headed outside and waited for the car, but when it pulled up, Tony had another idea. "Actually…what would you say to flying back?"
Victoire raised her eyebrows. "I'd say that sounds dangerous—and fun." She really was perfect for Tony Stark.
Tony grabbed the portable Iron Man suit in its case from the car's trunk and slapped the vehicle side to send the drive home. Tony set the case down and Victoire stepped aside to watch as the lightweight armor quickly settled over Tony's clothes. Then he held out his hand to her. "May I offer you a ride?" he asked, his voice sounding a bit tinny now that he was in the suit (and, hell, it felt nice to be in the suit that was like his second skin).
"You may," she answered, and she stepped into his arms.
Flying by the Iron Man suit meant that the trip back to Stark Tower was shorter, but Tony extended it by just this much by flying up to the balcony. She waited for him by the door as Jarvis removed the suit from Tony…but then Tony was standing before Victoire, that never-disheveled, always-having-the-last-word woman.
"That was fun. And dangerous," she added, a mischievous glint in her eye.
"That's the point," Tony noted.
"But I think I like fun and dangerous," Victoire said, and maybe she had moved or maybe he had, but they were standing close again. Closer than before.
Tony touched her cheek, and then he moved his hand back and slipped the hair stick from her hair. It was nice to see her look a little disheveled for once. "Dangerous fun, it is," he breathed before he finally went for it and kissed her, and the night was lost in a memory of violets, grays, reds, and bright, bright blues.
Waking up with a woman in his arms was a sensation to which Tony Stark was accustomed, even if he'd been off his game for several months. Waking up with Victoire in his arms had been something new altogether. Waking up with Victoire in his arms on more than one occasion was something to which he was growing accustomed, was something which he liked very, very much.
After the gala night, he hadn't needed to say anything. Victoire had become a regular part of his life, and Tony knew he hadn't ever learned Pepper so well even though he'd known Pepper as a part of the company for so long. For instance, Tony knew that Pepper preferred coffee to tea even though she insisted he didn't need all that caffeine. He knew that Pepper preferred the left side of the bed, and that her freckles looked darker when she scrunched her nose up at him.
But Victoire was, for lack of a better word, different.
Victoire preferred the right side of the bed because she was a lefty and felt more at ease with her left arm free since she slept on her side. She constantly pushed this one lock of hair behind her right ear because it got frustrating when it hung in her eyes, but she liked how it helped to frame her face. Victoire also never bit her lip when she thought; instead, she puckered them as though her thoughts were sour things. She drank tea with lime, didn't know her way around the remote control, and loved spending time on the balcony looking at the free skies.
Tony had surprised himself by actually falling for this woman. If he hadn't urged her to be a little friendlier with him, he was certain he would've seen her as either uptight or, if he had ever learned about her more, he would have seen her as a woman grounded on her own earth, certainly not the same as his.
"…think it's amusing," Bruce said over another video chat with Tony.
"Yeah, what? I wasn't listening."
"Thanks, Tony." Bruce looked at him. "I said that I think it's amusing, you letting in someone like her."
"It's not really me letting her in. She's letting me in."
"So what? I'm more qualified to be your girlfriend than she is?"
"Now, Bruce, you're handsome, but my heart belongs to the big green guy."
Bruce laughed dryly at Tony's humor. "You're a riot, Stark…"
"Thank you, thank you very much. I'll be here all week. Actually, I'll be here until S.H.I.E.L.D. figures out if they want to commit to me. Did I tell you I'm involved in a love triangle with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the green guy?"
"Tony." The scientist cleared his throat. "It's nice to see you happy and all, you know—not being neurotic. But…what about Pepper?"
"She was a part of your life for a long time, man. You don't just forget that after two months with another redhead."
Tony paused what he was doing. "First off, it's been more than two months. Secondly, my gamma-greedy pal, Victoire's not 'another redhead.' Thirdly—when it comes to Pepper, what about her? She married my other office. She was never going to marry me."
Both men were silent awhile. Finally, Bruce released a low "whoa." "I see."
The philanthropist fidgeted. "I don't know what I just said."
"I think you did."
"No, no, I don't. It's not as though I was seriously thinking that, I just…"
Bruce cupped his cheek in his palm. "This is what I meant by you not simply forgetting Pepper, man. And I sense you're not a creature of commitment, so this is real change for you."
Tony rubbed the back of his neck and dropped his gaze to the mini arc reactor in his chest. "You'd think I could get used to change, all things considered."
There was a clatter by the stairs, and Tony looked up, expecting to find Victoire at the door. Instead, it was one of Jarvis' mechanical arms that had knocked over a stack of metal trays with various little bits and pieces. "That Victoire?" Bruce asked.
"No…," Tony said. "I don't smell any rats here."
Bruce gave him a look. "All right, then… Until next time, Tony."
"Yep. See you, Bruce."
But Tony had to wonder if Victoire actually had heard his exchange with Bruce, as she seemed to grow a little more sensitive to Pepper's name or the word "pot." She also seemed more distracted, and when she grew frustrated with her lack of concentration (which she needed as Tony had seen her bring work with her when they relaxed in the den), she used weird expletives that Tony hadn't ever heard. One time he heard her say "accio," another time was "evanesco," and yet another instance was "reducto." He also heard her say things like "blibbering humdingers" and "oh, nargle dicks," but he wasn't quite sure what to make of those.
But that was fine…because he would know what to make of those things. And very soon.
"Mmm… Imma sleep just a little more…"
"Sir, please get up."
Tony opened his eyes and yawned. Ugh, his face felt weird… He looked down at his work station. Well, no wonder his face felt funny. He probably had the impression of the wrench on his cheek. "What's up, Jarvis?"
"There's a message waiting for you, sir. From Director Fury."
"Put it through, put it through!"
Nick Fury's one-eyed face graced the screen before Tony. "Enjoying your midday nap, Mr. Stark?"
Ton chuckled. "I'd ask if you caught a little bit of shuteye recently, director, but I think that would be rude of me."
Fury snorted and ignored Tony's jab. "S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing fine, thank you for asking."
"The world isn't ending, though, is it?" Tony asked, more serious now.
"No, it's not, Mr. Stark. But we've reestablished our base, and now we can focus on fixing the airship. We were wondering if you might have some insight to offer about covering our vulnerabilities and perhaps improving our defensive measures."
Tony whistled. "Not what I expected from someone who'd been curious about using the cube as a weapon."
Fury chewed on that. "…everyone learned a lesson this past summer, Tony. So are you up for it?"
He nodded. "How can I say no? Do I need to come out there?"
"No need yet. We can send you some of our blueprints from here, and we'll let you know about the new location in a little while."
"Are you going to inform Dr. Banner?"
"Also not yet. Dr. Banner's work should remain his focus, so there's no need to displace him now that he's settled where he is."
Tony nodded, still surprised that Fury would've even bothered contacting him at all. However, it went to show how many agents S.H.I.E.L.D. had lost thanks to Loki, if the agency was looking for outside advice. Although, Tony wasn't really sure if he counted as being on the outside since he was an Avenger. "Where are the others? How are they?"
"We take it as a good sign that Thor has not contacted us," Fury replied. "Rogers said he wanted to stop in Europe, but he'll be back with us soon enough. Barton and Romanoff are here as usual."
That bit of information alone made Tony's heart lighter. Maybe things really were going to be all right if they could recover from so much…change.
"We're sending everything you'll need right now, Mr. Stark. And, please, hesitate to call if you think you need a question answered. Questions likely won't be answered."
"Yup, sure thing, direc—" Tony stopped as Fury didn't even end the call. But then hundreds and hundreds of files started pouring in without notice, and Tony ordered Jarvis to start sorting piles.
"I'm afraid I can't keep up, sir—" And Jarvis was cut off as his computer system crashed from the overload, and the gadget room went dark.
"Tony?" Victoire called from the den.
"It's fine!" he hollered. "Just a little email problem!" He used the light from his chest to guide him to Jarvis' emergency switch—but it was a stupid thing to flip it right as Jarvis rebooted without any assistance, and the shock of the power surge knocked Tony off his feet.
Very, very slowly, Tony opened his eyelids and saw…red. Well, red hair. Strawberry blonde, to be exact. And all that strawberry blonde hair belonged to a pretty face with vibrant blue eyes. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw a spot of brown. He had no idea what that was.
"Tony, can you hear me? Revered Rowena, you are a daft man…" Victoire moved the brown thing—which he understood now was her hair stick—over him, and the tingling in his fingers faded. The parts that stung on his arms and the back of his head stopped hurting, too. He began to sit up, which Victoire was reluctant to allow. "Merlin… Tony, are you all right?"
But Tony focused on his arms…because, before his very eyes, his swore he saw his cuts disappearing. Literally disappearing! Like—like—like…magic. Oh crap.
"You gave me a right fright, you know," Victoire said, her eyes red and wet. "I heard this awful noise and came and found you out cold and… Agh, I just went insane. Are you all right?"
He looked again at her hair stick. "What the hell was that?"
"You tell me. One moment you're saying something about email, and the next I find you injured—"
"But I'm not injured anymore." Tony finally looked at her, and he held up his arm. "Victoire, what was that?"
She looked like a deer in the headlights. At last, she was her usual self as she dropped her eyes to her hands and spluttered, "M-magic…"
Okay. Tony understood. He got it. Either he was hearing things, or Victoire wasn't so perfect after all. She was a freaking nutcase. "Right. Of course it was."
"You don't believe me," Victoire stated, glancing up at him.
He stood up and tapped the mini arc reactor to make sure the surge hadn't made it brittle. "Of course I don't."
She got up and tried to get him to look at her. "You're angry."
He felt his annoyance bubble. "Of course I'm angry. What the hell? I wake up in perfect condition and you tell me this is magic? I like science, not dreams, Vic."
She winced at how he said her name. "But you believe in magic—at least, in Thor's magic. Why can't you believe others have it?"
"I've seen Thor's magic, all right?"
"And you just saw mine!" She followed him into the kitchen where he grabbed an ice pack. There was still a dull thud in the back of his head. "And…and you should have never seen mine…" She dropped into a chair at the counter, her hair stick clattering onto the countertop. "Bloody hell, the Ministry is going to be after me…"
Seeing her like that alleviated some of his anger. "What? No, no… Victoire, tell me what's going on. Just tell me. I told you before how much I hate secrets."
She stared at him. "Well…that's mine. Remember, before, when we talked about two worlds being one?" She shook her head. "I couldn't leave my magic one—the Wizarding world—behind me, Tony. Even though I've done my best to do many things the Muggle way—"
"Wait, wait, wait—'Muggle'?"
"Non-magic people. Not mortals, because witches and wizards are mortal, too…well, they can be somewhat immortal, but that's not a typical or a good thing…" She sighed. "And I'm going to pay for telling you any of this."
"Pay? What, it's against the law to tell me?"
Victoire nodded gravely. "It's against the law for you to have even seen me perform magic. Why do you think I hid that time to fix your jacket? But it's been harder, the more I've been around here… I've just been so distracted that I've been using more verbal magic around you, but now you've seen…" She shook her head again, and her eyes were freshly wet. "It's just…shit…"
Tony let her gather herself. He pointed to the stick. "So that's…?"
"My wand," Victoire answered. She bit her lip, hesitant. But a what-the-hell-might-as-well expression crossed her face. "I got it when I was eleven, as all witches and wizards due when we come into our magic. I went to a school—a magic school—and did brilliantly. I worked as an apprentice to a famous magical seamstress from Wizarding London. And in London just as you have in your American capital is the head of the Wizarding government. The American Ministry of Magic, just as all others, has a department that is notified when magic is performed in front of a Muggle…and, oh Merlin, if convicted I could do time in Azkaban…!"
He pursed his lips. "I take it that place is hell on earth."
She looked at him and glumly nodded. "Some of my family works at the British Ministry, but that's no guarantee that I can be helped. And my divulging all this to you…"
He groaned and walked around the counter so that he could hug her. "Cripes, Victoire—then why did you tell me?"
"Because!" The—he knew now—witch glared at him defiantly. "I had to save you, Tony. There was blood behind your head from you having been knocked out and I just freaked when I saw you like that and I just—just—" She drew in a deep breath. "Even if I faced punishment, I could do it knowing you were okay. Sometimes I don't always think when such a situation happens, and magic's a default setting for me."
Tony swallowed, still not sure whether he believed her, believed his ears. "But…what you're telling me…is that you'll be going away."
She was quiet. "…yes."
He led her over to the couch, plopping down and insisting on holding her. "Then they'll just have to pry you from me," he growled. There was no way in hell that he'd let her go. It had taken too much out of him to get her to be friendly, to get her to talk with him…to get her to fall in love with him. And just when he was thinking that he might…love (there, he said it) her, now he was being told that he should never have even considered the option.
Victoire rolled her eyes, but her usual strength was not with her as she smacked his arm. She seemed at least to appreciate his idea. "I—I love you, Anthony." And those were the last words she said before she managed to doze in his embrace, drained from her tears and worries.
When Tony awoke, he immediately was aware that his arms were cold. Then he thought as to why that would be.
"Victoire. Victoire!" Tony bolted from the couch and checked the balcony and the kitchen. He was heading for the gadget room when it occurred to him to ask Jarvis where she had gone.
"Miss Weasley left—"
"Dammit!" Tony barked. She had been worried about those Ministry officials coming to cart her away—or would they have given her notice? She hadn't said—and right after he'd sworn to protect her, Tony had gone and fallen asleep. He could use a bad guy right about now; he needed something to trash.
A door clicked and Tony wheeled behind him. He was stunned to see Victoire.
She blinked in confusion. "I'm sorry. Is everything fine? I went to the loo to wash my face…"
Such a simple statement… Tony breathed a huge sigh of relief, marched up to her, kissed her, and hugged her to him. "I thought you'd gone."
Victoire leaned into him. "No, never…" She pulled away a bit. "But…I don't quite understand why I've not gotten any letter yet. Usually with this kind of thing, it might take an hour or two at most—they really streamlined things since the Second Wizarding War."
Though he wanted to ask about the war, he didn't, for something was forming in his head. "Wait… You said that you'd get in trouble if a Muggle saw you do magic, right?"
"Yes," she confirmed sullenly.
"Well, that doesn't make sense. You didn't perform magic in front of a 'Muggle.'"
Victoire gave him an And I'm the crazy one? look. "Yes, I did, Tony—are you bonkers?"
Tony laughed, loving this line of thought. "Even if I'm not magical, I'm not all human." He tapped the arc reactor in his chest. "I'm like some—some android. I'm not really Muggle. So you didn't really do anything wrong. So you don't really have to go away to the big, nasty, magical Gitmo."
"Gitmo?" Victoire shook her head, pushing that minor confusion aside. "But Muggles…"
"Look, Victoire, you're human and yet you're not because you can do magic. I'm human and yet I'm not because this thing's keeping me alive," he said, pointing to his chest. "You did nothing wrong."
She stared at him for a long moment before she pouted and leaned her forehead against his shoulder. "I did do something wrong…" She sighed. "…I got involved with Tony bloody Stark…"
He grinned, because the world felt a little more right now. "Well now, that's just half the fun, isn't it?"
"I think you mean it's half the danger."
O.O Well…welcome to my Confounded Heroes universe—Confundusverse, in short. Not only did I get to write two of my very favorite characters of any fandoms, but I got to write them together, and I hope that diehard fans of either fandom don't see this as blasphemy; this was done purely for fun. Besides, Molly and Roxanne were mentioned for a reason… As were the other Avengers… ;] And I hope to write more for Tony and Victoire sometime. For now, let's be satisfied with a companion story, "The Last Light Left." Hopefully it'll be up sooner than this one, as I wrote this in May 2012 but am only posting it now…! X0
Please review! And thank you for reading all the way to the end!