The Morning's Martyr
Disclaimer: I don't own the Avengers or Harry Potter.
Lolchan: Haha, glad you caught the Slytherin/Gryffindor thing in there, and don't worry, I left it hanging on purpose! And again, with the job thing, don't worry! You were actually the only one that caught how easy he was able to nab one. There's going to be an explanation for all that later! See what else you can find that seemed a bit too easy ;)
VLight: Wow…you're really gonna make me wait? Oh well, haha, I guess that's just your insurance, huh?
SylphJr: Glad you enjoyed the jell-o! I wanted it to be something seemingly mysterious in the beginning, this great struggle over something life changing!...only for it to be jell-o! I don't actually know where the idea came from anyways… I love it when people like how I do my OCs, it makes my day! And the detective…well, I actually went back and fixed that, cause you made a really good point about how odd his expression seemed, thanks! And thanks for the support too. And the 'other' voice…well it isn't exactly as malevolent as everyone is seeming to think, I'll just say that.
Lady Dreamcatcher: Wow…just wow! I'm so glad my story itches!...kind of. Thanks so much for the review! I must admit, you do your homework far much better than I do mine haha. And the Deathly Hollows idea, I might be taking just a smidgen from it, but it's not the reason he hears the voices. And this chapter should answer any questions you guys have about when this takes place too. For the rest of your theories…I can't really answer them yet! I love long reviews btw! And I'm not sure if I'll go back to that detective…hmm…
Harry didn't return to work after that. He hadn't even returned to his empty apartment – not a home yet, not ever a home – instead choosing to wander. For the rest of the day, and stretching into the late hours of the night, he walked and walked, with no apparent destination in mind; just the thought of listening to the once again happy thrum of New York.
Eventually though, as if by some divine prank, he found himself staring at the same spot where'd he opened his eyes, frightened and scared, to his new, empty life; in the center of Central Park. So he found a hobo-less bench and sat there, listening to the birds' songs and the tinkling laughter of children.
Sooner rather than later the sun set, the light rushing by as faster than he could think – What was that? What even happened? How did it happen? – and the police trickled in to ward off the homeless. And with a heavy sigh, Harry stood and made the trek back to his apartment by the dim moonlight and bright neon signs.
And then it was the second time Harry met Tony Stark. The circumstances weren't much better either; the man was passed out drunk (again) and splayed out half-naked across his bed.
It was safe to say that collapsing on his bed after an emotionally, and oddly physically, exhausting day only to find someone already occupying it did not make Harry happy. At all.
With his eyes shut, Harry had fallen backwards onto his bed, expecting the loud spring mattress to squeak its gloriously uncomfortable welcome. That didn't exactly happen.
Harry yelped, jumping up and scrambling to light when something squishy, and decidedly not his pillow, groaned heavily beneath him. "What the-" he flipped it on, "Mr. Stark!?"
Tony Stark, laying face down and still groaning, turned his head to blink owlishly at Harry standing next to the light switch as he attempted to push himself upright on the bed. Good lord, this was just like the first time, only now, a few key pieces were missing.
Like the man's shirt.
And that observation led to a whole new level of panic.
Briefly ignoring the explanations that could possibly clarify why the man would be half dressed in his apartment, Harry darted over to him, staring at the glowing blue light in his chest with a sort of sick fascination. It seemed to just sink into his chest, a ring of metal surrounding it. "What the heck is wrong with your ches-"
Tony's bleary eyed look vanished and his gaze snapped down, looking terrified at what he might find, only to relax as soon as the blue light washed over his face. What? Slowly, he turned once more to look at Harry, still staring with bewildered green eyes, and gave him a lopsided grin, eyes droopy and glazed over. "Hey kid! Nice 'f you to join the par'y."
He blinked at his surroundings now, from the tangled mess of the bed underneath him, to the Harry's silhouette against the plain brown backdrop of the wall. He squinted in the light, confusion twisting his face into a heavy frown. "Where'd it go?"
"Mr. Stark-" Tony cringed slightly, but still continued to grope around on the bed for something, "I'm pretty sure it is not natural to have a personal flashlight installed in your chest," Harry tried to make his tone as light as possible but he couldn't shake of the slight tremor to it. "And even if that's supposed to be there, I'm pretty sure those black lines aren't."
And it was true. Listening closely, Harry could hear the whirring of the blue machine in the man's chest. It sounded completely natural, creating a part of Tony Stark's song actually, now that he really took note.
But those black lines looked sick.
It wasn't that he could hear them, he couldn't hear everything after all, but they didn't look as if the even remotely belonged with the soft blue light. They stretched out only a little ways from the center of Stark's chest, maybe a good couple of inches, but the skin they touched looked pale and transparent, blue veins standing out starkly against the white. He'd seen the same skin color on the sicker patients that had come through the clinic. Those were the ones they usually had to transfer to the hospital.
So Harry, with all the medical knowledge of a secretary working part-time in a clinic, reacted the only way he knew how. "You've got to go to the hospital!" He rushed towards the landline phone next to his bed, all pretense of calm abandoned. "You've got to get help-"
But Stark was faster, diving so suddenly with a feral burst of energy for the same phone that Harry flinched back from the abrupt and wild lunge. "No!" Tony snatched the entire set off of the night stand, wrenching it violently from the wall only to toss it to the other side of the room. "No-no, I'm… fine. I'm completely fine," his hands shook fiercely as he brought them up to cover his sweat covered brow., words no longer slurred, but shaky "It's supposed to look like that. It- that means its working…its working," he choked out, breathing ragged and shallow.
Harry didn't reply, instead merely raised his hands in placation and slowly made his way towards the wheezing man, "Okay, I'm not going to call the hospital. I'm not going to do anything now that my phone is completely trashed on the floor."
The man bent over on the side of his bed, still half falling from his lunge, did not react in the slightest, and not even the barest twitch of comprehension at Harry's acquiescence.
Stark looked as hollow and toneless as his voice sounded, all broken echoes and desperate beats. At first glance he seemed to be every bit the charismatic drunk he had been just the last week, but now he fit the image of a dying man in denial. Harry could still even here the muttered 'its' working' under his breath, sounding to be more of a prayer than anything.
It didn't seem to be doing much of any good.
The uncharacteristic silence that filled the room, broken only ever so slightly by the glowing thing in Stark's chest, unnerved him. "Do you want some water," Harry asked hesitantly.
Stark's head snapped up, eyes wide as if he'd completely forgotten Harry were there, that he was in his house. Groping once again along the sheets of the bed, Stark didn't reply. With a grunt of frustration after a minute of searching, he snapped quite clearly, "Alcohol; bear, vodka, wine, medicine– anything with alcohol it."
So that's what he was looking for. His bottle of whatever it was he'd been drinking that he no doubt lost in his haze. Harry snorted, "No, I'm pretty sure I offered water. Besides I'm a minor, I can't buy beer. And even beyond that, I don't think your liver can handle much more."
Tony fixed him with a steely glare, no waver in his voice as he replied coolly, "I've had worse." And Harry believed him. The conviction was there, ringing in his voice.
But Harry didn't budge. "Water, and that's it. My house, my rules - billionaire or not."
The first phantom of a smile twitched on the edges of Stark's mouth and he jumped at the opening for a change in topic, his voice still shaky and hurt. "So you finally 'Googled' me then? Knew you couldn't resist."
"I Binged you, actually." In reality, Harry had done neither. For some reason or another, technology didn't really agree with him, and the feeling was mutual. Even when faced with the so-called 'dinosaur' phone he'd been provided with, Harry found himself stumped with the smallest of tasks. He'd taken one look at the sleek laptop Mrs. Finks offered and promptly refused, politely of course. The old lady had still been kind enough to look up the stranger in front of him when he'd asked though.
He'd read the first sentence and blanched. Had Harry honestly just housed a ridiculously wealthy (though he could've guessed) drunk genius in his home?
His musing was cut short when the man snorted, grinning wryly. "Well that's a new one, don' think I've ever been 'Binged' before." With a slight slur to his words, Stark still refused to meet Harry's piercing and curious gaze, but neither did he shift away uncomfortably. He still sat rigid, and even strong, in the face of his trembling hands and clenching jaw, strong against what seemed to be a disease growing right inside of him.
Harry felt a wave of nostalgia wash over him. This scene, this determination seemed almost…familiar. Almost like – Harry ground his teeth as the feeling vanished, leaving nothing more than an imprint in his chest. He was so sure that he had almost found something if he'd dug just a bit further into…into what?
Stark, even through his fog, had apparently noticed Harry's rising frustration, an odd look passing briefly over his face. "Hey, what-"
Harry ignored him, barely managing a mumbled 'be right back' before throwing open the bedroom door and striding quickly towards the kitchen.
What had that been? For weeks he'd felt nothing, absolutely nothing surface from his past, no hints, miraculous flashes of scenes, no inkling that he'd even had one to begin with.
And despite logical thinking, Harry was angry, seething inside. Maybe he should feel grateful to the stranger in the other room for sparking something inside his screwed up head, but all he could feel was bitter frustration. He'd tried everything, searched everywhere possible, and all of a sudden, magically, it might be right here?
What had that feeling been? When the hollow, echo of a memory (?) had risen, the voices rose with it. They hadn't stopped their singing since he had entered his apartment actually, but just then they hadn't been singing. It sounded more like they were beating war-drums and they did nothing to quell Harry's anger.
But, as he leaned against his small kitchen counter staring blankly at the empty space in front of him, Harry knew he couldn't shove the man, no matter how annoyed he felt with him at the moment, out his front door again. It went beyond the fact that the voices seemed to revolt at the very thought of it (although that did make him a little queasy), but more because, unlike like last time, this was no joking drunk-night-out-lets-crash-in-a-strange-teenager's -place.
Tony Stark was dying.
That man in the other room was dying. Harry wasn't sure how he knew, but he was sure that was what those black lines were; a disease. And judging by the state Stark was in, and the slight wheezing Harry could still hear drifting out of his room, the older man had just discovered the same.
So with a heavy sigh, Harry quickly filled a random glass with cold water, and trudged back into the room.
Stark was in the same position Harry had left him, if slightly more composed and controlled. His hands were no longer shaking uncontrollably, though they did waver now and then, and his spine had lost just the smallest bit of stress. His jaw was still taught with tension, a firmly clenched line.
But finally looking at the man bathed in the lamp light, without shock to distract him, Harry realized what an awful state he seemed to be in. The dark rings around his eyes, what had appeared to be bad before, were now pools of black ink staining the bags drooping down. And though his chest just right around the blue light was the palest and most diseased looking, Stark's entire face was linen, a sheen of sweat covering it.
Stark certainly looked the part of death.
"Are you done?" the man asked dryly. Harry started out of his musings, shooting Stark a glare before quickly handing over the glass of water. "Great," Tony muttered, "I hoped you were actually kidding about not getting me beer. Guess not."
Harry scrutinized the man sitting before him, glowering slightly. The voices could screech all they wanted, but that didn't mean he had to like the guy's attitude. "You do realize I have a life outside of cleaning up after you, right? And hey," he threw his hands up in the air dramatically, "I don't even know you - andyou, you don't know me either! I haven't even told you my name."
Tony didn't spare him a glance, "Listed officially as Harry Patterson. Found just over two months ago in the middle of central park with several lacerations, broken bones, and numerous bruises with developed amnesia, theorized to be a rare case of fugue state. No missing persons report on a kid of your description and no leads on your case; determined as seventeen years old and currently working at a small, family run clinic and living alone in a small, cheap apartment."
He eyed the glass in his hands distastefully, swirling its contents before downing it in one go, finally looking up to stare soberly into Harry's eyes, "So you tell me – I'd like to think I know you pretty well; at least well enough to know that no one is looking for you."
Not a muscle twitched, not a single puff of air betrayed the sharp pain that stabbed through his chest at the truth Harry had been trying his hardest to bury away in some dark, dank hole. With a dry humor that was nowhere near the sheer hopelessness that drowned him, Harry bit back, "So I was right the first time I met you. You are a stalker after all." It didn't come out nearly as well as he'd hoped, his own voice cracking down the middle.
That statement was a slap in the face and it twisted viciously in Harry's stomach like a thrashing snake.
Stark gave no signs of sympathy, not even in his voice. "No, I'm just a curious guy with unparalleled genius at my beck and call. Plus, I like a good mystery, and a teenager with no memory housing a strange drunk he apparently doesn't know for a night – yeah, there was no way I'd miss that one."
Fury burned in Harry, "If I'd wanted your sticky fingers in my case I would've called you, not that I'd even thought of it. And breaking into police files like that is probably against the law too."
Tony scoffed, clunking down the water on the bedside table where the phone had previously been, "Like I care about some privacy law."
"I suppose you wouldn't, what with the whole dying thing going on," Harry shot scathingly in retaliation. To his immense satisfaction he saw the man freeze, muscles almost audibly snapping together and a steely shine reflect in his eyes.
The silence stretched for minutes, each empty beat pounding in Harry's chest. But he refused to feel guilty about his statement; the man had it coming. And he had been avoiding it out of respect for the man's privacy, up till now that is. It didn't seem the guy cared for it much after all.
Finally, Stark allowed a warped, grim smile to play at his lips, his haunted eyes looking up towards Harry, "So no cares about you and I'm dying – looks like we're even." The statement was firm, his voice like stone with all of his harmonies bleeding into one endlessly flat tone. "How'd you know?"There was just the tiniest hitch at the end and Harry doubted that even Stark was aware of how translucent it made him.
A tiny bit of that barrier cracked, and a small sprinkling of guilt trickled through, not much, but enough. Harry rubbed his forehead wearily, a headache already beginning to form. Suddenly he felt tired, just too tired to deal with this. "I just took a wild stab at it, guess I got it right. That and I work in a clinic, I've seen a person come in with a life threatening condition, hoping our out-of-the-way place would have some magical remedy." He eyed Stark with a knowing look, "And I've seen what those kinds of people are like when we have to tell them we can't do anything."
It was a half truth - Harry just wasn't sure how well the man would take the 'voices' card.
Stark's entire face narrowed, a dark gleam shinning while he scoffed, "And I know what it looks like when a person knows when no one's looking for them."
And that was when Harry felt the thin string of patience snap, the tiny shred of guilt swept away along with it. "How would you know," he asked heatedly, "How in the world could you know anything about my case, whether or not someone's even looking for me? You shouldn't even care- why would you possibly go through all the trouble it must have taken to get information on some kid who gave you housing for one night? You can't possibly know anything about that."
"I told you, I'm a bored, genius, billionaire with not enough time left to squander. I'm an expert at squandering; it's sort of a hobby actually." The words were shallow and weak, even without special insight. And with his voice, it gave away so much more. But the sharp spike of anger that hit Harry had ignited a fire, and he was dead set on stroking the flames.
"No, that's not it. You knew you were dying, even before you met me, you just didn't know it couldn't be stopped yet. I was just a passing distraction to put it off. You couldn't stand to think about your disease, sickness, whatever it is, but there wasn't enough about me to distract you for long," he said with a deficient grimace. It was ironic, really, that a man looking for a diversion found just the opposite; a blank canvas that forced him to face his worst fear. "And I'm guessing tonight is when you found out, huh?"
Stark didn't reply for the longest time, dazed and seeming to focus on just stopping his hands from shaking so hard, as if that action took all the strength and concentration he had. He heaved a rattling sigh, breathy and winded, "Well, I guess you're not too bad at detective work after all, Sherlock."
And he fell silent, a dark shadow pressing his eyes black with shots of red. A weary acceptance seemed to fall over his entire countenance, mouth no longer pressed in a firm or resolute line; instead it sagged, the weight of his burden dragging it down no matter how much he tried to make it float up by filling it with alcohol.
Harry pressed his back against the wall across from Stark, sliding down it slowly while nausea twisted and churned in his stomach and his anger was doused. Tony Stark looked more broken than Harry did every time he looked in the mirror each morning, and he wasn't nearly as good at hiding his feelings as the man in front of him. But neither did he have to wonder how deep that pain went, he could hear it.
Sick with himself and feeling completely exhausted for the dying man, desperate for a way out, Harry sat silent, hoping his quite respect would take back some of the darkness blanketing Tony Stark.
Finally, something twitched and Stark spoke, "What about you then? You've had your chance to psychoanalyze me, now it's my turn." Harry said nothing in response to the change in subject, but couldn't help how his body immediately stiffened at the question, a guarded mask falling down. "You know no one's looking for you, so why are you still hanging around here," The man gestured vaguely to the entire room. "If I were you, I'd be on the first flight to Vegas."
Against his own will Harry felt his barrier drop. He just couldn't help it. The man in front of him - his voice screamed of desperation and sorrow and so much pain that Harry wondered how he could've possibly missed it before. Obviously he caught onto the larger part of it, but now he could hear the ache in his song, the smallest tremor of fear. Something akin to pity curled in Harry's stomach; that and shame at the fact that he'd had a part in causing the double toned song.
So against his will, Harry let a wry smile touch his face. A small thing, but somehow he felt it would do some good. He let his nose scrunch up in, not altogether feigned, disgust at Tony's suggestion. "Well, I guess it's a good thing you're not me then. Live in a city where I could possibly lose more memories than I already have on a daily basis? No thanks."
With a proud humming in his head, Harry watched as a similarly dry smirk touched Stark's lips. "Eh, not like you've got much to lose." Something in his face changed at those words, an odd calculating gleam entering those brown eyes. And then his demeanor switched like a light bulb flipped on. It was such a startling difference - Harry knew nothing he said could've been the cause of it.
So what caused it?
What was probably for dramatic effect Harry was sure, Tony began to stroke his beard thoughtfully, and he shifted under the fixed, scrutinizing gaze.
"So it's an ixnay on the Vegas plan then, it's too main stream anyways. No, Malibu is where it's at," he carried on with a drawn out drawl.
The sudden shift caught him off guard, Stark seeming to morph into a completely different person before him, "Uh," Harry racked through his brain for anything that would match an image of something called Malibu, drawing an annoyingly familiar big white blank, "Malibu?" he asked hesitantly.
Tony gave him another peculiar searching look before he went on, gesturing with his hands, "Yeah, you know, wide sandy beaches, beautiful sunsets, hot teenage girls just waiting for a good sob-story," he winked suggestively at Harry's disgruntled frown. "There's a reason why a guy like me lives there."
"Sounds nice I guess, better than the New York cabbies anyway," Harry offered lightly, still confused as to what exactly Stark was getting at. Malibu sounded kind of exotic in a way, well as exotic as America probably got. He could even already imagine the sound of the pulsing waves, a steady rhythm on the shores.
"I hear they've got great psych doctors by the way."
And a light bulb's little 'ding' went off in his head, echoed by an oh of sudden understanding. Harry watched Stark, stunned, as the man completely ignored him, plopping back face down into the bed of pillows.
"Is this one of those billionaire bucket list things?" Harry asked, genuinely curious with a healthy dose of suspicion on the side. "Doing huge and probably expensive random acts of kindness for the first stranger they meet?"
Stark shrugged, barely moving head to face him as he smirked, "Sure, you could say that. After all, what else is a dying and ridiculously rich bachelor with too much time on his hands supposed to do?" Here his smirk grew into a full blown grin, "Donate to charity?"
Grinning with what he knew was a ridiculous and careless smile, Harry snorted, "Only for the cameras." The voices were telling him to 'go with the flow' and this time he was going to listen.
That and it wasn't like he knew what else to do.
A/N: So, again, the little line thingy in FF Docs doesn't feel like working this fine afternoon, ugh. But anyways, a question came up and I just want to establish that this story will not have slash in it. Not only am I cruddy at writing romance period, but just personally I can't really write slash. And that's it there. So, now all of you know exactly where this story is starting. For those of you not happy, here's my reasoning: later, Harry needs some background to go with, who better than Tony Stark? That's all I can say!
And wow! You guys blew my expectations away for reviews, thank you so much! Maybe I can even aim for 200 now! My inbox was filled to the brim! Thanks so much for all of your support and I hope I can keep it coming.