A/N: Hello. Sin here. To make things a bit clearer, I'm going to explain a bit about the timeline here. This story begins near the end of Harry's 5th year when he is 15 years old and a few years before the movie "Iron Man 1." Here is the order I'm using for the movies:
- Iron Man
- The Incredible Hulk
- Iron Man 2
- Captain America (Steve Rogers is unfrozen)
- The Avengers
Also, because I know it will be asked about, yes, this story will be slash, and no, it won't happen for a while, and no, I'm not certain who Harry will end up with. But, I think that's half the fun.
Now that that's out of the way, on to another matter. This story is in desperate need of a beta. At least half of the chapters that I've pre-written were done so while I had no access to internet, which means I couldn't check sources and fear that a lot of information is incorrect. More than that, those pesky spelling mistakes and grammar inconsistencies always sneak their way in. Not to mention that this story will be of epic length, and will need someone to help me keep all of the sub-plots, details and characterization in check. If you would like to apply, please send me a PM. I'm looking for someone dedicated to betaing with a grasp on not only the English language, but Harry Potter and Avengers (or rather, the hero's in it) lore.
Anyway, without further ado, please enjoy the story. And if you liked it or have something to comment on, leave a review.
My body ached. Pain tingled along every nerve ending of my body and a painful rattling sound, like someone kicking a tin can filled with rocks, sounded in my ears. As another wave washed over me, I realized it was me who exuded the sound. My vision blurred as I tried to take in my surroundings, but I was unable to. Everything appeared to be shrouded in a wispy fog, and with my pain addled mind, I wasn't able to understand why. I touched my face with trembling fingers and through the haze realized that my glasses had been removed from my face.
With great effort, I searched with my hand around me. I was laying on the ground, dirt and small bits of rock digging into my skin. At last, my hands collided with something thin and plastic. My glasses.
I placed them over my nose with some difficulty and the world returned into focus.
"Where…" I glanced around me in abject confusion, the gears in my sluggish brains turning and unable to connect the dots. On either side of me were dark stone walls, while above me a feeble ray of light shone down. There was a foul smell coming from a stack of black garbage bags further away from me.
My head throbbed as I sat up and placed a hand to my forehead. What was I doing here? Where even was here?
I tried to stand to my feet, but my legs were like rubber under me and I had to lean against the cold wall to find balance. My body was stiff, and even standing to my feet had exhausted more energy than I would have liked. Breath short and fast, I again tried to remember.
I knew who I was. Harry Potter. I was born to James and Lily Potter and I was fifteen years old. I could still recall the sordid affair that was my childhood and I knew that I had been saved from it when I turned eleven—when I found out that I was a wizard.
The sounds of battle and pain. Bright lights soaring in every direction. It was loud. So loud. People were yelling and shouting, some in pain and others in exhilaration.
I ignored it all.
"Harry, no!" Hands grabbed me, pulling me away from my destination. "You can't save him; he's fallen through the veil! He's d—"
"NO! Sirius is alive, I know he is!" I refused to believe it. I had experienced so much death already… I could not take another… No, I would not allow another. "Let! Me! Go!" A swift elbow to the gut of the owner of one holding me back drew a grunt of surprise from them.
They released me and that was my plan.
"Harry, wait, no! Dammit! Stupefy!"
I heard the spell being cast and turned around just in time. I raised my wand."Protego Maximus!" A shield appeared around me and the spell fizzled off of it, like a balloon that had lost all of its air. I was in front of my destination. I could save him—I knew I could. I had to. "…I'm sorry, Remus…"
I stepped backwards into the veil and darkness surrounded me.
I gasped. The veil… Sirius… Sirius!
I once more gazed around my surroundings, as if I expected Sirius to appear before me and bestow me with his signature grin. Only trash greeted me and my shoulders slumped.
As I leaned against the alleyway wall, I began to doubt. Had the veil even done anything? Before stepping through the veil, I had expected to arrive in the fiery wastelands of hell and had steeled myself with the thought that I didn't know what awaited me on the other side. Yet, this…?
At the edge of the alleyway, I could see humans—honest to goodness, normal human beings with two eyes, ears and a nose—walking by, not even glancing at me as they headed towards the destination. There was no mistaking it. This was a Muggle city, which meant that I hadn't been transported anywhere. The veil was a total dud…
A strained laugh bubbled from my throat. To be honest, I was glad. I had been prepared face demons and other unknown atrocities to get Sirius back, and now I wouldn't have to. With my mind at ease, I gave a jolt when I remembered something. The Department of Mysteries!
Ron, Hermione and the others were still there, fighting against Voldemort and the Death Eaters! Or… were they? I glanced again at the sky. It was darkened with clouds, but through the occasional breaks in the overcast, sunlight filtered through. When we had left Hogwarts for the Department of Mysteries, it had without a doubt been night time, which meant… time had passed.
For all I knew, I could have been in this alleyway for only a few hours, but it just as easily could have been days. I had no clue, but I hoped with all my being that everyone was okay. The last thing I remembered before Sirius falling was Dumbledore arriving at the scene, his old eyes burning with a quiet fury.
I felt my shoulders relax. Dumbledore would have protected my friends and his students with his all, of that I was certain. The old wizard was the strongest person I knew, and he had arrived with reinforcements. Surely that had been enough to turn the tides in their favor? Instead of fearing the worst, I decided that my next course of action would be getting back to Hogwarts so that I could learn for myself.
Since Sirius wasn't around, I assumed that to mean that he had already went back to inform the others that he was okay. If that was true then that meant that they knew where the veil lead to, and it would only be a matter of time before they pinpointed my location.
…Or, the veil had sent me and Sirius to different locations, and they had no idea where I was. Or worse, Sirius had been injured falling through the veil and was now alone in some remote part of the world, unable to receive help.
Breathe, I told myself when I could feel my heart rate rising and my breath quickening. I didn't know anything for certain. It wouldn't do to work myself into a pointless frenzy and then end up doing something stupid.
Sirius was fine. He had returned to Hogwarts and help would come for me soon as well. I had to let myself believe that everything was okay or I was sure to drive myself crazy.
Still, I wasn't one to sit idly by while I waited for people to do things for me. Also, it couldn't hurt to take a look around and try to pinpoint where I was. I was probably closer to Hogwarts or any other magical location then I realized.
While I thought, my headache had eased and my muscles relaxed, making it easier to move around. I pressed off against the wall I had been resting against and stretched, feeling my bones pop and muscles stretch as they begrudgingly settled into place.
I began heading toward the opening of the alleyway when I heard a low growling noise, like the purr of a vehicle engine. I thought nothing of it, assuming that it was just the distant rumbling of an oncoming storm. And then there was the distinct sound of gnashing teeth, so close to my ear that I released a cry of surprise and turned, so quickly that I fell backwards and landed on my arse. I expected there to be a great Cerberus standing behind me, but instead I found… nothing. Only empty air.
…It was official. I really was going crazy.
Sighing, I stood to my feet and dusted off my clothes. Trying to push the incident from my mind, I once more turned to leave.
A shiver went down my spine and I turned. That hadn't sounding like thunder, and I know for a fact that I hadn't imagined it. There was something in this alleyway with me—something massive, from the sounds of it. And yet, as I scanned the alleyway, there was nothing and nowhere for a massive beast to hide. Did going through the veil have more side effects than just aches and pains? Or was this growling creature like a Thestral, hidden from the naked eye?
That thought made me gulp and search my body for my wand. Nothing. A cold tendril of ice began to coil through my chest, but I kept the creeping unease in check. I knew I had my wand with me when I fell through the veil, so it had to be somewhere nearby.
Not if you lost it, the chill that sought to overwhelm me whispered. Not if you dropped it inside the veil or, like maybe Sirius, it was spat out into a lava pit and is gone forever.
I couldn't swallow past the lump in my throat. The growling had ceased, so I didn't think I was in any pressing danger, but without my wand, what would I do if the beast returned? What if—?
I shook my head. I was letting panic blind me. Was I or was I not a wizard? Thinking that, I peered into the shadowed hollows of the alleyway and whispered, "Lumos." The resulting glow was like the sun rending through black storm clouds.
It was hidden underneath some of the discarded items littering the alleyway and appeared unharmed. I let out a chuckle, half from relief and half from a lingering sense of something that itched at the very recesses of my mind.
I cast the ray of light from my wand around the filthy alleyway (I had done this plenty of times at home while reading late into the night, so I was certain that this level of magic wouldn't attract negative Ministry attention). Just as I had I expected, it was empty. But that still didn't rule out the possibility of something invisible or—I swung my wand upward toward the wall stopped short. There, graffitied onto the wall was a beast. It was big with shaggy black fur and bloodshot eyes. It was… a Grimm.
I blinked as I looked at it. In the dim alleyway, the black of its fur had seemed to meld into the wall, but that still didn't explain why it growled. I drew closer to the image and shined my wand into it more fully to get a better look. Its jaws were pulled back into a snarl and clutched in its massive teeth was a scrap of paper—no, a letter…
I stepped closer and illuminated the letter. It was a plain white envelope with words written on it in a looping scrawl. To: Harry James Potter.
I forgot to breathe. I looked both ways down the alley, expecting someone to be watching me from cover, because this had to be some kind of a prank, right? But no, I double and then triple checked, and there was no mistaking it. That was my name—my full name—written onto a letter clutched in the jaws of a Grimm… A Grimm… A giant black dog! Sirius! Sirius had left me a letter…?
With my free hand, I touched the cool stone wall where the image of the letter was imposed and gasped when the image rippled like the surface of a still pond. The letter disappeared from the drawing and materialized into the world where it drifted downward to land softly on the ground. I stared at it for a long moment before staring back at the picture of the Grimm—of Sirius.
It had changed. The dog was now sitting on its haunches with its teeth pulled back—this time resembling a smile. Its eyes were closed and I could see the cartoonish lines around its tail which symbolized that it was wagging.
This was clearly the work of Sirius and I found myself smiling.
Reassured, I picked up the letter off the ground and confirmed once more that it was indeed my name. Drawing in a quick breath, I undid the wax sealing the letter shut with my wand and took out the contents inside. Something fell out and made a small clinking sound as it hit the ground. I shined my wand on it and bent down to retrieve it.
It was a simple silver necklace with a snake entangling itself around a small emerald. I studied it for a moment, fascinated, before slipping the chain over my head and turning back to the letter. I was sure that the necklace's purpose would be explained within. My eyes scanned the words as I read.
If you're reading this, then that means that you've either: A) Fallen through the veil in an unfortunate accident; or, the much more likely B) Followed me through the veil like the hippogriff-headed Gryffindor I know you are.
Either way, it doesn't change the fact that you're here now, so I guess there is no reason for me to dwell on it.
It also means you managed to figure out the little puzzle I left for you. It was cute, right? Only someone in possession of magic would have been able to see and hear the Grimm, and I knew only you would come looking for me.
Because you're reading this, I'm guessing the veil dropped you off in the same place as me: in the middle of arsehole nowhere. As you're reading this letter, do not panic. Your old godfather put his noggin to work, and I think I came up with a solution for every possible problem you may have.
First things first: you're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. Despite what you may think at first glance, this isn't the same world you know. If you're anything like me, you'll have thought that the veil was a total rip-off and that it didn't work. Well trust me, it does.
I'm not sure of the mechanics, but the veil transports you to a parallel world.
I had to stop reading to raise my head in disbelief. Parallel world? I looked around me. Weren't parallel worlds supposed to be like… bizarro land where the sea is in the sky and people walk on their faces? So far, everything seemed relatively normal.
Shaking my head, I once more returned to the letter.
To be more precise, there is one major difference from this world and the one we came from: magic does not exist—nor has it existed—on this world. No, I phrased that wrong…
Magic as we know it does not exist here. That means: no Hogwarts, no Diagon Alley, no Quidditch (this one really gutted me), and no wizards or witches. The wizarding world never came to be for there were never magic-folk to build it. If you really need to, check for yourself, but I know that you won't find anything.
Don't worry. Anything that passes through the veil retains its magic, so you and anything you brought through the veil is unaffected—which if you've found this letter, you already know for yourself.
There is so much more I want to tell you, Harry, but this damn pen is running out of ink. If only I had more… Bah. Oh well.
Remember how I said that I had all the solutions worked out? Well I wasn't winding you up.
Enclosed in the letter you should have found a necklace. I'm not an expert or anything, but I managed to convert it into a port key. It should take you to my general location… give or take a kilometer… or four. Again, don't panic. To activate it, just tap it with your wand twice and say, "Snuffles." It only has enough juice for one trip, so after you use it, it's just an ordinary piece of jewelry. But, hold onto it anyway, okay? Think of it as a present from your loveable old godfather.
You should be in the general area of Long Island, New York in America. Find Stark Industries—it's impossible to miss, trust me. There, ask for Stark and tell him you're my godson, he should be able to take care of the rest.
I'll see you soon, buddy.
I read the leader multiple times under the light of my wand as I tried to wrap my head around what I had just read. The veil was a… doorway to another world? A world without magic? Impossible…
Sirius had said that he wasn't trying to wind me up, but it was all just too far fetched. It seemed to fall apart at the very basics. How could magic send me to a place where magic didn't exist? Such a thing was impossible… wasn't it? A more plausible explanation was that this entire thing was just a joke.
Sirius had set this all up somehow—perhaps by using a time tuner—because he knew in the future that I would follow him through the veil and wanted to teach me a lesson. The port key was probably just that: a port key. Only, instead of taking me to across the pond all the way to New York, it would probably take me back to Hogwarts where everyone would be waiting to remind me of how much of an idiot I was.
With a fond smile on my face as I thought about returning to Hogwarts, I folded the letter and put it into my pocket. Then, I grasped the snake necklace Sirius had left for me and tapped it twice with my wand. "Snuffles."
The familiar, though unwanted, feeling of being hooked behind my navel was instant. And then I was falling and spinning just as I had gotten over the uncomfortable feeling of going through the veil.
I landed on my feet but stumbled before falling onto my hands and knees. I breathed deeply as I tried to settle my rolling stomach and swimming head. I would never get over how uncomfortable all forms of wizarding transportation was, no matter how many times I did it.
Once my vision was no longer spinning, I stood to my feet and looked around.
What. The. Bloody. Hell.
…This wasn't any room I had ever seen in Hogwarts.
It was dark, but I could make out the outline of various shelves and boxes which had collected dust from years of disuse. Sparse amounts of sunlight streamed in from grimy windows and spider webs clung to every surface. It appeared as if I was in some sort of abandoned warehouse or storage facility…
I walked over to one of the shelves and peered at its content; I once more cast Lumos for a better look. From what I could make out through the layers of grime, they appeared to be packaged toys of some sort. There were action figures, dolls, plastic wands and fake vomit. I looked through the boxes beside the shelves and it was more of the same.
Why would Sirius' port key take me here and not Hogwarts? Or Number 13 Grimmauld place? An unsettling feeling clawed at the back of my mind, but I refused to pay it any attention. This had to be an elaborate joke of some kind—the fact that Sirius would send me to an abandoned storage filled with toys just proved it.
"Sirius!" I bellowed into the empty building. My voice echoed back at me. "Okay, Sirius! You got me! Ha ha, the joke's on me! You can come out now!" I spun around in a slow circle, my wand shining over every surface as I waited for him to step out from behind a box with a 'gotcha.'
It never came.
"Please," I whispered to no one.
Unsettled when there was no response, I turned toward what I hoped to be the exit and practically sprinted toward it. My footsteps resounded in my ear, making it sound as though a specter followed me. A shiver ran down my spine and my jog turned into a full blown run. I burst out of the doorway like a hellhound was on my heels and was blinded by the sudden sunlight. I covered my eyes with my hand to shield them, sunspots dancing behind my eyelids.
After a few moments, I lowered my hand and took in my new surroundings. I could only gawk.
All around me were signs of a modern world. Tall sleek buildings which stretched as high as the eye could see, vehicles of all shapes and models I had never seen, traveling along the streets at a brisk pace. Civilians of all ages wandered by in a steady stream, some talking into small devices while others jabbed at similar devices with their fingers. High in the air, along the face of one building, a giant TV screen was fixed into place, and a woman wearing a red business suit spoke while a marquee of text rolled under her.
I swayed and fell on my arse. This was no joke.
I wasn't in Kansas anymore.
After nearly a full ten minutes, I managed to overcome my disbelief and began to move. With every step I took, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
It occurred to me that I could be in a coma. Maybe I had exited the veil—only now I was asleep in a medical ward somewhere and this was all in my head. But was that possible? Did people in a coma sometimes doubt if the world they were living in was a reality? And then there was the fact that my imagination was not this grandiose…
I hadn't watched much telly growing up and the books I read tended to lean more towards fantasy than sci-fi. And this new place I found myself in was definitely a place of science and technology. The contrast between the more medieval Diagon Alley of the wizarding world was almost appalling.
Whatever the case, I was here and it felt real so what could I do but take what I was experiencing at face value? I didn't know what was going on and I was still not quite ready to believe that I was in a different world. If I did, I wasn't sure if I would be able to press on.
As long as I continued to tell myself that I would eventually be able to find my way home, it battled back the dark thoughts in the back of my head which I feared would crush me.
One thing was for certain though: everything about this new place was loud. There was sound coming in from all around me. There were people talking; automobiles zoomed past and others honked in the distance; from below me I could hear the distant sound of what I assumed to be the subway train and from above planes whined as they flew past.
A small magazine stand situated on a street corner caught my eye. A bored looking man sat behind it reading one of the magazines. He didn't even spare a glance as I sidled up and began looking through the magazines, searching for—ah ha! The newspaper.
The headline caught my attention immediately: Tony Stark Says New Weapon Will 'Change The Face of War!'
Underneath the bolded letters was a photograph of a man with short black hair and sunglasses shaking hands with another bald-headed male. The black haired man was of average height and scruffy, and seemed to exude an aura of confidence even from the still picture. Under the photo read: Left, Tony Stark; Right, James Mattyfran.
I stared at the man in the photo, at Tony Stark, for a moment before reading the article.
Tony Stark, current CEO of Stark industries announced today that the blueprints for his new weapon—the Jericho missile—has been finalized. When asked about the purpose of his latest invention, Mr. Stark had this to say:
"People like things to go boom. Well this will make things go boom better."
I stopped reading. Tony Stark was an inventor of weapons? Weapons that, from the sound of things, were to be used in warfare. A frown worked its way onto my face as I once more stared at the self-assured face of Tony Stark.
Sirius had written in his letter that this man would be able to help me… But help me in what way? I still didn't even know the relation between Tony Stark and Sirius.
Even if I did believe Sirius' letter—which I didn't, at least not one-hundred percent—what exactly could this man do for me? If there was no magic in this world, no home for me to even go back to—my chest clenched at this thought—then what would even be the point?
I sighed and removed my glasses to rub my eyes with my palm. All I had done today was think and theorize, and it was getting me nowhere. Without conscious thought, my eyes wandered over to the corner of the newspaper where the date was located. I did a double take, my eyes going wide.
"Excuse me," I said, trying to get the attention of the man behind the stand. "Um, this date—this is today's newspaper?"
The man raised an eyebrow and spared the newspaper I held up to him a cursory glance. "That's today's paper alright." Then he went back to his magazine.
I swallowed hard, the paper rattling as my hands shook. If the date on this newspaper was to be believed, then somehow, someway, I had gone more than ten years into the future. But that… that didn't make any sense! I struggled to hold in bitter, if not hysteric, laughter.
Nothing that had happened today made sense, and impossibility after impossibility was thrusted upon me. What was one more to add onto the list?
I took a calming breath and closed my eyes.
Okay. Calm down. Even if this was the future, that didn't change anything, right? Whether it was one-hundred years into the future or one-thousand into the past, if Sirius' letter was indeed the truth, then magic would still not exist. So there was no use for me to feel anything over this revelation.
When I return home—because I would return, no matter what anyone said—it will be the correct year. Sirius will be there as well as Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville and Luna, and I will tell them about my bizarre adventures into the future of another world.
I laughed when I realized that I had begun to think as if this situation was real. …I didn't know anything for certain, but if I had no hope to latch on to, then my predicament really would have become hopeless.
Getting back on track, I returned the newspaper onto the rack and once more called to the stand worker. "Um, hello. Sorry to bother you again."
The man gave a long suffering sigh and folded his magazine closed before piercing me with an annoyed stare. "What?"
I gave an awkward cough and shuffled my feet. "Do you… do you know how to get to, um, Stark Industries?"
There was a quiet moment where we stared at each other, me waiting for him to respond and him… I did not know what he was waiting on. But seeing that he would not find it, he asked, "You're kidding, right?"
My eyebrows quirked upward before I frowned. "No?"
The man grumbled under his breath what sounded like "dirty tourists" and "pain in my ass" before he pointed a plump finger to his left. I followed the digit and felt my face redden.
Across the street and proclaiming for all to see in bold letters was a sign attached to the side of a grandiose building which read 'Stark Industries.' This building was the tallest I had seen yet, and for a moment I wondered how I hadn't even noticed it until it had been pointed out to me.
Mumbling a quiet thank you, I absorbed myself into the passing crowd and shuffled much slower than I would have liked across the crosswalk. After what felt like an eternity, I was spit free of the crowd and stumbled a bit before retaining my footing.
I stood in front of the glass doors of Stark Industries. Outside stood a single security guard in full regalia, but it wasn't him which made me hesitate. It was again my damnable brain which refused to, for one moment, stop thinking.
This time I didn't listen. I could doubt and ponder and do enough mental gymnastics to convince myself of almost anything, but I would never know for sure unless I mustered my fleeting Gryffindor courage and met whatever awaited me inside head on. I walked with steady steps through the automatic doors and into the lobby inside.
The room was huge. The floors were done in a splendid marble and the walls seemed to be made of red oak wood. There were several photos and magazine clippings lining the wall—all of them having to do with Tony Stark in some shape or form. In the rightmost corner of the room was a crystalline table surrounded by sleek leather sofas. People were already sitting there and reading magazines as they waited on whatever business they had come to achieve. To the left was a counter, made of the same wood as the walls, and behind it sat a pretty blonde female wearing a headset.
I made my way over to the female who was typing away at the computer next to her. She ignored me for only a moment before turning away from the screen and bestowing me a curious look. "Can I help you?" she asked.
For a moment I didn't know what to say. I scratched my arm and looked anywhere but at the woman before me. "Er, is Mr. Tony Stark in?"
The woman tilted her head. "Do you have an appointment?"
I faltered. "…No."
"Then I'm sorry," she said with a shrug. "I can't allow you to see Mr. Stark."
"How would I go about getting an appointment?"
The blonde turned to the computer next to her and seemed to check a few things. "Kid, you're what… thirteen? Whatever big dreams you have about working with Tony Stark, just forget them." I stared at her. She sighed. "If you're serious about this, I can pencil you in for… four months from now?"
I blinked. "…Four months from now?"
The receptionist again shrugged, looking entirely unapologetic. "Mr. Stark is a very busy man. I'm sure you understand."
"Right," I said with a frown and looked toward the elevator. It was of course being guarded by another security worker, and what was more, I had already spotted a camera in the corner of the room, and there were who knew how many more littered about. It would be impossible to sneak in without my invisibility cloak, which I had unfortunately not thought to bring along with me when we had gone traipsing into the Department of Mysteries. The only other option was a Disillusionment Charm, which I had never learned to cast, thinking that my invisibility cloak would be more than enough. I was regretting that decision now.
With no other choices, I trudged out of the cool building back into the warm afternoon sun. I didn't know the time and didn't dare cast a spell to check in such a crowded environment. But, front the sun's high position in the sky, I concluded that it was at least two PM.
I couldn't go to Stark, so I would instead wait for him to come to me. He would have to leave the building eventually, wouldn't he? And when he did I would be waiting.
At first I had been content to sit out in front of the Stark Industries building, but as the minutes turned to hours and no sign of Stark was forthcoming, I had instead went back to the magazine stand across the street and perused to my liking.
The stand owner only gave me a raised brow when he saw me wander back, but said nothing as I picked up a gossip magazine and began to read.
I learned a lot about Tony Stark in those few hours. In every magazine I read, there he was—and there was more bad said about him than good. Every story seemed to either be praising Tony Stark for his wild behavior or condemning him for it. I didn't know how much of it was true or which side to believe, but for someone to be so centered in the public eye… It couldn't be easy. If there was one thing I wouldn't miss from the Wizarding World, it would be my daily life being public knowledge.
As the sun began to set and it became too dark to read, I began giving up hope that I would be meeting Tony Stark at all. I had nowhere to go and my empty stomach was growling in outrage, as I hadn't eaten in near twenty-four hours.
I was frowning down at the ground, lost in thought when I felt someone bump into me from behind. I stumbled forward and sent a glare toward the retreating back of my assailant, who did not slow down or even glance backwards as he hurried away.
"Watch where you're going!" I growled at his back, annoyance from hunger, heat and exhaustion making my teeth gnash.
I turned back to glance across the street and froze when I saw a man with messy black hair appear. He was wearing a sleek grey business suit with the jacket slung across his shoulder. The man had a swagger that was palpable even from a distance, and I knew without a doubt that this was the man I had spent hours staring at in photos—Tony Stark.
Tony was talking to the blonde receptionist as they both exited together. The girl seemed to be eating up whatever story the man was telling, her finger twirling a curl of her hair and clear adoration shining in her eyes.
I crossed the street and arrived just in time to hear the tail end of their exchange.
"—me sometime, okay?" the receptionist said, still twirling her hair.
Tony gave her a heart melting grin and bowed. "Of course."
The girl giggled before practically skipping off back into the building, throwing glances over her shoulder.
The weapon's inventor watched her go before turning and noticing me. I froze as if I had been trying to sneak through the dark and someone turned on the light. I didn't know why, but my heart beat a crescendo against my ribcage and my hands had begun to sweat.
I tried to swallow with a dry throat. "S-Stark?" I questioned, even though I knew who he was.
The man just gave me a disinterested once over. "You want an autograph, right? Just hand over whatever you want me to sign—actually, don't. I don't like being handed things. Just drop it on the ground and kick it to me. No, wait. I'll just do this." Tony reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. He patted his body for a moment and let out a triumphant cry when he revealed a pen.
"What's your name kid?"
I licked my lips, too petrified to even be insulted that he thought I wanted his autograph. "Harry Potter… "
Stark seemed to tense the slightest bit. He relaxed within moments and his eyes scanned me. His eyes landed on my scar and stayed there for a moment longer than necessary before looking me in the eye.
"Who are you?"
Confused by his reaction, I said again, "Harry Potter."
I could see the annoyance and doubt flicker across his face. "Look kid, I don't have time for this. My limo just pulled up and I have an appointment to make. Do you want the autograph or not?"
Tony Stark had recognized me; that much was obvious. His eyes had gone to the scar on my forehead in a reaction I had seen many times—yet he seemed to doubt who I said I was. "My name is Harry Potter," I told him with a frown. "I think you knew my godfather, Sirius Black."
The response was instant. Emotions flickered across Stark's face, too quick for me to place before his expression settled on neutral, but there was a chill in his eyes that made me take a small step back. "You must take me for a fool," he said. "Do you know how many people a week claim to be my long lost relative, looking for a quick buck? Go on, guess."
My eyes were wide in shock. I opened my mouth to tell him that he was getting the wrong idea, but he continued over me.
"Hundreds. That's how many. They dig up whatever they can about my past and come up with the most elaborate back stories you've ever heard. A long lost brother. My uncle's cousin's brother. You name it, I've heard it. But you…" Tony frowned. "You're the first ever claimed to be Sirius Black's godson. I have to hand it to you though; you almost had me with that scar on your forehead! That was a nice touch." Stark walked up to me and bent so we were near eye level, his focus on my forehead. We were so close that as I looked up at him, his breath misted the lens of my glasses.
"What is that anyway?" he continued, on a roll. "It doesn't even look real. What did you use, magic marker?" As if to prove his theory, Tony wetted his thumb with his mouth and then rubbed my scar, as if trying to clean it away.
I let him, my face screwing as he pressed harder than necessary against my forehead. He was like me in a way—he needed absolute proof before he was convinced of anything.
"It… won't come off… And it's so rigid… almost… like a… real…" He trailed off, his brain seeming to shut down as he came to the only logical conclusion. I stared at him with a raised eyebrow. Tony stepped back and gaped, his eyes wide. "You're… Sirius' godson?" I nodded. "Really?" I nodded again. "Really, really?"
"Yes, really!" I sighed, rubbing at my forehead.
Suddenly, his eyes narrowed. "When is your birthday?"
I opened my mouth, ready to reply with the truth when I stopped short. If I said I was born in 1980, it would be obvious that I wasn't the correct age. I tried to do the maths in my head to get the corrected date, but the damage had already been done.
Tony's eyes had steeled and I could tell that I had lost whatever ground I had gained.
"Please," I said instead, changing gears, "just call Sirius and he'll explain…" I trailed off into silence. If possible, Stark's eyes had gone from cool to a full-fledged blizzard. I didn't understand what I had said that seemed to invoked such a response.
"You people," Tony began, voice quiet and with a razor sharp edge, "are lower than dirt."
I felt as if I had been slapped and I once again swallowed, a cold feeling settling in my chest. "…Where is Sirius?"
His response was simple and brooked no argument. "Dead."
My entire world cracked and I swayed on my feet, my surroundings seeming to settle into a haze. It took all of my effort to hold it together and remain on my feet, no matter how much I wanted to break down. "N-No…" I croaked out, shaking my head in denial. "Sirius is…" Stark's glare made me want to crawl into a hole and die. "Sirius is alive…" I said more to myself than to Stark. "He has to be! I came all this way for him…" My vision blurred as tears gathered. "…All this way…"
The man standing before me had no pity. "I'd really like to stay and continue this farce, but I really have a premier to get to." Stark stepped around me and headed toward the sleek black limousine that had arrived during the course of our conversation.
"W-Wait…" I called, my voice weak. Stark stopped with his hand on the door to the vehicle but didn't turn to me. I sniffed and drew in a few breaths to calm myself. "How… how did he…"
"Why should I tell you anything?" he asked, glaring at me over his shoulder. "In fact, why am I even indulging this? I should call security and have you—"
"Please!" I begged, wiping my eyes with the back of my hands. "I promise I'll leave you alone if you just tell me h-how… how he..."
There was a tense moment as we stared at each other. The iciness in Tony's eyes was still there, but it seemed to have lost a bit of its chill. With a sigh, the man turned around and rested against the door to the limo, his arms folded across his chest. "Look, I don't know if he's dead but he might as well be," Stark said as he ran a hand through his hair. "Around twenty years ago, he just… he just disappeared without a trace. Poof. Gone. I've looked, but there are no records of the Sirius Black I knew having ever even existed."
This time I did fall to my knees in shock.
"Hey," Stark called out, a hint of panic in his voice, "…you okay?"
"Is everything alright, Tony?"
"Yeah, we're fine, Happy—just give us some space, okay?"
I wasn't even paying attention to the happenings around me.
"Twenty years ago…" I repeated, my eyes staring at nothing.
Twenty years ago.
Twenty years ago.
Sirius had been missing… for twenty years? How…? We had gone through the veil around the same time period… It had only been the difference of seconds, the time between when Sirius entered the veil and the time when I entered the veil. It was less than a minute's difference, of that I was positive.
…Had it been twenty seconds? Had twenty seconds cost me my chance at reuniting with my godfather? Twenty measly bloody seconds…
If only Remus hadn't held me back. If not for the werewolf, I would have followed after Sirius immediately and the difference would have been miniscule. Ten seconds perhaps? Would that have translated to a ten year gap, instead of the current twenty plus?
Would I have been able to reunite with my godfather had I only been quicker? A mere twenty seconds quicker?
It was too much. It was all just too much…
Before I could stop it, the flood gates I had tried so desperately to keep closed burst forth, and everything I had been doing my damndest to suppress rose up with a vengeance. All of it. My fear of Voldemort and what he would to the world while I wasn't there to fight him, the loss of my friends, the loss of my home, the loss of my family.
I had thrown away so much for Sirius, only to come to learn that it had all been for naught. I had lost Sirius not once, but twice. And this time, there was no portal for me to fall through for another chance.
This time, it was for certain.
So, I wept without reservation. I cried and screamed and cursed until my throat was sore from the force of it, and still it was not enough. It would never be enough. I had nothing but grief, and I was drowning in it.
I wanted to drown in it. I wanted it to drag me into its depth and to suffocate. I just wanted everything to be over.
Through the fog, I could hear a voice speaking. "H-Hey… don't cry... I don't like it when people cry either."
I felt a warm hand touch my shoulder but I refused to be comforted. I slapped the hand away, but they would not be swayed. I was drawn into a chest and could hear the steady beating of a heart. I struggled against the chest, clawing, hitting and even biting, but they endured with muffled curses.
When I had finally drained myself to the point of exhaustion from my tears and struggling, everything hit me all at once. My hunger, my fatigue, my grief. My brain simply could not handle it, so it did the only thing it could.
It shut down and I fell into blissful unconsciousness.