Authors Notes:

Another one for Hermione Smut 2012! Original Prompt: Hermione chooses to walk away from a stagnant dying society, to leave Wizarding Britain/Europe and work for a Muggle family/company/govt. Some of Harry's trouble-finding germs must have rubbed off on her because it's only her first day on the job and she's already hip deep in it!

The use of flashbacks in this story are indicate by italics. The official MCU time line (which can be found here . ) has been used for this story, with the assumption that the origin is around the time of release of the first Iron Man film (May 2008). By this logic, Hermione is 28/29 and Tony is 38/39 according to the official birth dates from respective universes.
Massive thanks to Nathaniel Cardeu and Mistress Malfoy, my beta and alpha respectively. Without both of you, I would have been in a bad place with this one 3

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable character, settings etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author of this story. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended, and no financial gain is resulting from this work.

.........

London, England

26 September 2009

"I thought all you Brits drank tea."

Hermione looked up from her newspaper, half way through a sip of espresso, and raised an eyebrow. She took one last gulp of the coffee and turned her eyes back to her reading. "Phil got you doing his dirty work now, has he?"

There was a moment of silence, the newcomer emanating an aura of sadness that Hermione would not have expected from a ruthless assassin. "Phil's dead."

Hermione looked up from her paper, her mouth dropping open in surprise.

The other woman sat down, mask of indifference firmly back in place. "Close your mouth, Granger, you look like a fucking goldfish."

Hermione shook her head and folded her newspaper closed carefully. Setting it aside, she signalled to the waitress and pointed to her empty cup. "Was it-"

"When shit went FUBAR in New York? Yeah."

"Merlin's beard." She paused, scratching her chin and swiped a finger around the inside of her empty cup, scooping the remaining foam from the cooling ceramic, and licking it from her finger. "I always thought Phil would just always... be around, you know?"

A flicker of emotion crossed the other woman's eyes. "Yes, I know what you mean." She let out a heavy breath and set her hands palm down on the table. "Listen, we're not here to talk about how sad it is that Mister Monotone got stabbed in the heart by a deranged demigod... can you give us some-"

She was interrupted by the return of the waitress, who set down Hermione's coffee and removed the empty cup. "Can I get you anything, ma'am?"

"Thank you, no." She smiled tightly at the waitress, who nodded and returned to her tending the other customers in the small but crowded café. "Can you give us some privacy?"

"What's the matter, Romanoff? Afraid I'll get you to spill all your super spy secrets in front of Muggle London?" Natasha's lips tightened and she glared at the Hermione. "Relax, I've already charmed this booth to a point where I'm surprised the waitress can still find us."

They sat in silence for a few moments, Hermione taking a gulp from her fresh coffee, and Natasha watching her every move. "We want you to join us."

Hermione snorted and coughed, nearly choking on her coffee. "You want me to joinyou?"

"Quit with the shit and just say yes. I know Coulson tried to recruit you into SHIELD after Budapest."

"I am not joining an organisation who spends just as much time inciting wars as they do preventing them."

"I'm not asking you to join SHIELD, I'm asking you to join the Avengers."

Hermione raised an eyebrow and looked at her companion pointedly. "And who, exactly, do the Avengers report to? Because the last time I looked, I'm pretty sure the Ministry file said SHIELD."

"Officially, we work under SHIELD."

"But unofficially?"

Natasha shrugged and reached into her satchel. "The Global Security Council doesn't fully understand exactly what shitstorm they've unleashed by having a little play with the Tesseract. We do."

'So you're operating outside of anyone's jurisdiction?"

"Unofficially." The redhead slid a thin black folder across the table and met Hermione's eyes. "Read the proposal. Trust me, it's better than being treated like a second rate citizen in your world."

Hermione sighed and opened the file. "You can tell Barton to take the sight off me." Natasha made a vague hand gesture visible through the window and Hermione turned her attention to the proposal set out in front of her. "Why you thought you'd need to bring him along is beyond me, it's not as if I'm going to try and kill you because of a job offer."

"Tranq arrows."

Hermione laughed mirthlessly. "So, this particular job offer isn't optional."

"Officially? You're more than welcome to turn us down. Unofficially? No."


Budapest, Hungary

22 June 2008

"So how's the whole elemental super witch thing working out for you?"

Hermione looked up from her drink and down the hotel bar to the average looking middle aged man sat, perched on a stool that was slightly too tall for his short length legs. She smiled and chuckled, shaking her head and pushing off the cool marble of the bar top. Sauntering towards him, she held out her free hand, which he gripped firmly, shaking as she leaned forward to place a peck on his slightly stubbled cheek.

"I wasn't aware that SHIELD was sending senior agents to this snooze fest. I'm sure if the Minister had known he would have sent Harry Potter or Arthur Weasley."

"You know SHIELD, always an ulterior motive." He motioned towards the tables and they moved to a small booth tucked in the back of the bar, his hand on her back. "Officially, I'm here for the conference."

"And unofficially?"

"Well... let's just say there's a small problem with a suitcase nuke getting into the wrong hands."

"Aren't you getting a little old for field work?" He pinched her on the hip and she chuckled, placing her beer down on the table, and running her free hand down his arm. "Watch it, Agent. I might get the wrong idea."

They sat and he leaned across the table, snatching up her drink and taking a sip. "Why is that I always end up ordering the crappy beer?"

"Because you're American?"

He put the drink back down, face impassive. "Touché."

Her gaze lingered on his for a moment and she cleared her throat, looking down at her bottle. "So... anyone accompanying you on this unofficial mission?"

He shook his head sharply and looked down at his own drink. "Uh... yeah. Widow and the Hawk are running point on this one, I'm just the poor bastard who has to make sure they don't kill each other."

"I don't think killing each other is the thing you have to worry about."

"You would be surprised." Hermione raised her eyebrows and looked back across the table. "They tend to break stuff."

Her mouth formed into an 'o' and she blushed, taking a quick swig from her bottle. "That could make returning to the same hotel a problem."

He waved a hand in a flippant gesture. "It's nothing, I've been on Iron Man clean up duty for the past two months, dealing with some damage bills and nudity complaints is a walk in the park."

"Oh Merlin, you've been stuck with Stark? That is just... my worst nightmare." She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Good luck with that one."

He smiled wryly. "He has his uses. He's actually rather brilliant." She screwed up her nose and gave him her most disbelieving look. "I'm serious. Beneath all that cocky, arrogant, womanising..." He laughed. "No, you're right. He's more trouble than he's worth. But Fury wants him as part of this task force he's putting together, so I'm trying to be a little more optimistic. Thank god I'm just observing at this point, I don't think I could handle having to talk to the fucker daily."

"What kind of task force?"

"He's calling it the Avengers Initiative. Wants to bring together a bunch of supers under the one banner."

"Sounds like I'm lucky Fury doesn't like wizards."

"It's a shame, you would have been great on the team." He drained his drink and moved towards the edge of the booth. "Look, I've got to get back to Mr and Mrs Hotel Havoc over there." He gestured to the far end of the bar where a woman with flaming red hair and a deceptively petite man were eye balling one another, muscles subtly flexing underneath their business attire.

He sighed and looked down at her regretfully. "It was good to see you, Hermione."

Smiling, she stood and patted his arm, once again kissing his cheek. "You too, Phil."


Somewhere over the Atlantic

27 September 2009

Hermione hated flying in Muggle aircraft. Even the incredibly advanced Stark Industries jet was too claustrophobic for her liking. Despite growing up travelling by air to the continent, and even as far afield as Australia, she much preferred the instant, if a little sickening, trip by portkey. Sadly, her abrupt resignation from the British Ministry of Magic, combined with the risks from the Asgardian sorcery Thor had woven through the structure of Stark Tower, meant portkey was out of the question for this particular journey.

"So..." she began, hesitating a little before continuing. "You're going to have to explain this to Fury somehow."

Natasha looked up from her tablet and met her eyes matter of factly. "Fury can kiss my ass."

"Oh, right. That's that then."

'Don't worry about it; he's beginning to warm to the idea of having a witch on the team. Also, Coulson kind of wrote a scathing report on the lack of magical involvement in SHIELD before his death. Last filed paperwork tends to have a kind of profound effect on some people."

Hermione nodded and shifted in her seat. "How is your relationship with the Department of Magical Beings?"

"Good enough to gain you entry into the US as a registered witch. Stop worrying, everything will be fine." Hermione sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "Seriously, Granger. They're desperate for a witch with elemental power like yours on the other side of the Atlantic."

"Oh great, so I'm destined for a life of being America's little Earth speaking puppet?"

Natasha huffed loudly and set the tablet down on the small table between them. "Okay, I'm only going to say this once so listen." Hermione gulped and nodded. "We need you, we need someone with magical ability that is specific to Earth, and the last report Agent Coulson wrote was about recruiting you. Not some random wizard from God knows where, but you. According to him, you're the only elemental on earth who hasn't let the power go to their head in some way." She sat back in her chair and picked up the tablet once again. "We good now?"

"We're good."


She barely remembered the car ride from the airport to the tower, the short few hours of sleep she had managed on the flight not nearly enough to bring her back to a full state of alertness. When the Bentley eventually pulled into the underground car park, she could barely work up the energy to rub the sleep from her eyes and pull herself out of the plush leather seat.

"Come on, Granger. You can sleep all you like once we get you to your floor."

The door was opened by the driver, and she vaguely registered the man mentioning he would bring her bags to her quarters shortly. She didn't care; all she was interested in was trying out what was bound to be a ridiculously comfortable bed. "Please tell me Stark doesn't wander around the tower terrorising people at eleven at night."

Natasha laughed and stepped out of the car. "You don't have to worry about Tony, he's off at some biotech conference in China. Thor is the one you want to watch out for, he's here for a visit and his booming voice has been scaring the crap out of everyone for the last week."

Hermione groaned and trailed after the other woman, towards the elevator. Natasha pressed the button for level ninety and Hermione's stomach dropped at the speed of the ascension. She was momentarily thankful that it only travelled on the vertical plane, unlike the Ministry's higgledy piggledy pile of junk.

They were sailing past floor number seventy when the lift slowed, halting at floor seventy three a second or two later. Hermione grunted, unhappy with the delay, and bit back another loud groan at the greeting from the person on the other side of the doors.

"The shit just hit the fan, Tony's been kidnapped again."

Hermione turned her head sideways, exhausted eyes meeting the unnervingly alert ones of her companion, who smiled ironically.

"Welcome to Stark Tower, Granger. You remember Agent Barton?"


"So you're telling me he went to a conference in Beijing with only Happy for backup?"

The group fell silent and all turned to look at her over the table. She held up her hands in surrender, and leaned back in her seat, jamming a stick of something they said would wake her up into her neck, and leaving them to their argument over how to rescue the clearly insane billionaire. There were various ideas being thrown around, from attempting to deploy the mark seven in the hopes that he was wearing his bracelets, to sending in Romanoff and Barton in for deep cover infiltration. None of them stacked up.

It would have been easy if they knew where Tony was, but the best information they had was what Happy had managed to glean from one of the kidnapper's henchmen, which wasn't much use at all. The grunt had blurted out that the base of operations was underground somewhere, but his brain stem had exploded before he could tell Happy exactly where underground Tony was being held.

Hermione sat and waited until the group exhausted all their options, each member reacting to the stress of the situation in their own ways. Eventually the room fell silent and she piped up.

"You all do realise why I'm here, don't you?"

Five pairs of eyes swivelled towards her and stared, whether it be in curiosity or dumbfounded amazement at their own ignorance, she was unsure. Regardless, she flicked her wrist, conjuring a small ball of fire in her palm.

"I'm a witch, remember?"

Everyone continued to stare at her, and she bristled under the scrutiny. Eventually Thor spoke, his voice loud and resonating in the largely empty space. "What, pray tell, can Midgardian sorcery conjure that is superior to that of the great realm of Asgard?"

Hermione frowned. "Well, I don't know, Thor." Her voice was filled with irony and she rolled her eyes a little at his arrogance. "I think perhaps our forms of magic are quite different, for instance, can you do this?" She took her wand from its holster on her forearm and waved it at the table they were all seated around. Everyone froze.

Hermione looked pointedly at Thor who, for once, was speechless. After a couple of moments of opening and closing his mouth in a rather unflattering manner, he responded. "I see not how turning a table into ice cream can help us find Mr Stark."

Hermione sighed and scratched her head. "Look, you might not have had the chance to read my file yet, but the bottom line is I can talk to the Earth. I can convene with it, and hopefully it can inform me of Mr Stark's whereabouts." She looked around the group, most of which were flicking their eyes from her, to the enormous pile of ice cream in the centre of the circle of chairs. Barton reached out an arm, looking to scoop some of the sweet treat onto his finger, but Hermione interrupted quickly. "Don't-" She flicked her wrist and muttered a quiet finite incantatem. The return of the large glass and stainless steel table seemed to relieve some of the tension in the room.

"What if you can't get an answer?" This time it was Doctor Banner, his face a picture of sincerity and concern, a welcome change from the irritation emanating from Thor and Rogers.

"Well I guess we'll have to come up with a plan B." Everyone looked at her expectantly and she widened her eyes, once again holding up her hands in a gesture of surrender. "Oh no, you lot have to come up with plan B, I only just got here."

Steve cleared his throat and leaned forward in his chair. "Miss Granger, what exactly was your role in the UK?"

She frowned. "Security Liaison, Captain Rogers. Why?"

"Security Liaison?"

"Yes, why?"

"So you didn't actually use your elemental powers while working for the UK government?"

"Well... no. Not officially." She furrowed her brow. "I don't see how that's relevant... youdo know who I am, don't you?"

Steve crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back. "Apparently not."

Hermione glanced at Natasha who appeared to be struggling to maintain her normally impassive face, a smirk tugging at the corners of her mouth. "She's Gaia, Steve."

"Gaia." Steve looked to Natasha, mouth a little slack.

"You know, Goddess of the Earth?"

"Yes, Romanoff, I know who Gaia is. But how can she be... a Goddess?" He was looking between the two women, clearly unsure of what to do next.

"Look, how about we just try plan A, and if it doesn't work then we'll cross that hurdle when we come to it." Hermione looked around the table expectantly, making eye contact with every member of the group and nodding. "Okay, so let's do this. I haven't slept properly in thirty six hours and I'm desperate for a bloody hot bath."

Steve nodded. "Okay, everyone suit up and reconvene in thirty minutes."

They all stood and headed for the door, Hermione falling into step next to Natasha. "So... do you have any idea what the Department for Magical Beings' stance is on illegal portkey creation?"

"I'm under the impression that whatever we do is pretty much ignored by the Department. They answer to the GSC and well... as far as the Department is concerned, so do we.

"Excellent. There is no way I'm getting on another plane today."

Natasha let out a rare short bark of laughter and clapped Hermione on the back. "Get use to it, around here it never rains, it pours.


"He's not so bad, you know."

Hermione turned towards Barton as she strapped her wand holster against her grey Gore-Tex pants. "Who?"

"Stark."

"What makes you think I don't like him?"

"You've got a face like a stuck pig."

She poked her tongue out and leaned over. "He's an arsehole. An idiotic, cocky arsehole and I'm sick of cleaning up his messes." Clint looked at her curiously and she grinned, keeping her eyes fixed on his as she tied her bootlaces. "We've had a few run ins."

"Yeah, I figured." He picked up his quiver and bow, tossing them over his shoulder casually and holding his hand out to help her straighten up. "You're not going to kill him instead of rescue him, are you?"

"Nope. I think the pain of having to actually be rescued will slowly kill him anyway." She strode purposefully towards the door of the locker room and yanked it open. "Besides, I like having something to hold over him. Anything to wipe that smug smirk off his face."

Clint trailed after her, letting the door slam behind him as they entered the long hallway that would take them back to the conference room. "Exactly how many run inshave you two had?"

"None of your business, Agent Barton."

"If you're going to be working with us, I'm pretty sure it is."

"And I'm sure Tony's fully aware of what happened in Budapest?"

"That's irrelevant, it was before we started working... aaah, I see your point." He shook his finger at her and smiled wryly. "I still think this is important information for the mission."

"Trust me, it isn't." She paused, hand on the stainless steel door handle. "You trust me, don't you?"

He sighed and scratched the side of his head with a wrist guard. "You may have saved my life once, but that doesn't mean I trust you."

"Romanoff trusts me." She raised an eyebrow and pushed the door open, ignoring his groan of displeasure as her eyes fell on Banner, who was reaching towards the large fruit bowl in the centre of the table. "Don't touch that, Doctor Banner."

Bruce snatched his hand away from the apple he had been reaching for and frowned. "I thought you said you set it for a specific time."

"I did, but if you eat that apple then I'll have to create another one."

"Oh, right." He shuffled nervously, and twirled his glasses around by the arm. "So... I guess we're doing this then?"

"You don't have to come with us, Bruce." Steve's voice was concerned, almost a little hesitant.

"No... it's okay. You might need..." Bruce trailed off and Hermione raised her eyebrows. Barton leaned towards her, whispering the unsaid word in her ear.

"Smashing."

Her mouth formed a small oh and she made a strangled noise, suddenly afraid at the reminder of Banner's drastic transformative abilities. Her momentary lapse was quickly taken over by her usual business like demeanour, and she glanced towards Rogers.

"What's Romanoff's position?"

"I sent her ahead in a SHIELD Quinjet. She mentioned something about this magical transportation solution not working on the way back."

Hermione nodded. "Yes, your God here has apparently cast some form of sorcery that does not quite agree with mine. " She gestured towards Thor who frowned. "Out should be okay, but back in, not so much."

"Now look here maide-"

"Seriously? Are we just going to stand here and argue about equally ridiculous magical powers while God knows what is happening to Tony?"

Both Hermione and Thor closed their mouths at Rogers' telling off, and Hermione instead leaned towards the fruit bowl. "Well then, might as well get this over and done with." She looked around the room, the other occupants all staying a step back, apparently afraid of the pears and apples. "Well come on, you've got about a minute before you miss this thing all together, and it's a once only deal."

All four men hesitantly moved closer to the table and reached over, gingerly placing fingers on various pieces of fruit.

"You're going to feel a pull at your belly button and then there is going to be a sort of... washing machine sensation. Try not to be sick on me, okay?"

Four sets of eyes glared at her and she gulped. She had just enough time to ponder quickly running away once they landed, before she felt the familiar pull at her stomach. She sure hoped Tony learned from his mistake this time, she'd had enough of dealing with his trail of destruction.


Chaitén, Chile

May 2, 2008

Her hands lay flat against the rocky surface of the craters edge, magic coursing through them, attempting to calm the earth, convince it to spew its magma in a calm and civilised fashion, preferably not in the direction of a village, rather than violently and in a fit of anger.

Closing her eyes, she breathed deeply, the sulphurous fumes burning her lungs, hurting her insides as penance for her request. The earth sighed, and she smiled, caressing the stones beneath her fingertips. She opened her eyes slowly, focussing on something rather unexpected. Directly above the crater, a figure in an ostentatious gold and red suit hovered, almost curiously, occasionally darting about above the rippling surface.

Hermione frowned. She had seen the news and the kerfuffle caused by Tony Stark and his ridiculous suit, and had a moment of concern over whether or not he would somehow screw up her attempt at calming the perilously close to eruption volcano. She sighed and decided to ignore him, trusting her disillusionment charm to hold up against whatever sensors his suit had installed.

The crater coughed, almost as if it were attempting to get her attention, and a large chunk of magma was expelled and glanced off her shielding charm. She winced and lay her hands back down on the ground, once again closing her eyes to convene with the earth.

She didn't realise what had happened until she was hundreds of feet up in the air, metal arms wrapped around her waist and head tossed over a bright red shoulder, still warm from the radiant heat of the volcano. Rage bubbled up in her chest, but she forced it down, not bothering to struggle while hovering high in the sky over a forest of rather pointy looking trees.

Several miles later, they descended suddenly into a clearing and, with a single swift motion, Stark landed and dropped her to the ground. Flipping up the mask of his suit, he spread his arms wide and raised his bushy eyebrows to a rather alarming height.

"What, in the actual the fuck, woman?"

"Thanks a lot, arsehole!" Her arms had flown over her head and she stomped her foot childishly. Tony crossed his arms over his chest and glared at her. She glared back. "How did you break through my shield?"

"What shield?"

"The shield I had erected to stop me being obliterated by flying lava, what other shield did you think I meant?"

"Oh, you mean the weak magnetic field you erected around yourself somehow to combat the first degree burns?"

"Not a particularly accurate description, but yes. That shield."

"I have an app for that."

"No, no you don't."

"Pretty sure I do, it's right... oh here it is." He took a step closer to her and cocked his head to the side, mouth set in a straight line and eyebrows raised as he held is hand out, palm up. A blue glow briefly engulfed them and shimmered in a dome like shape just above their heads before disappearing. Hermione prodded at the space to her left and felt some resistance.

"Cute party trick. Now can you take me-"

The ground shook beneath their feet and she put her hand on the now cool metal of his suit to steady herself. Looking back towards the volcano she saw a plume of ash spreading east and the orange glow of magma being ejected from the caldera.

"Shit shit shit shit shit..." She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a small rabbit's tail. "Thanks a lot, Stark. Now half the world is going to be pissed off because of the ash cloud, and all the unfortunate people who live around here are going to be displaced for Merlin knows how long."

"Wait, how exactly is this my fault?"

"How is this not your fault? You pulled me out of a very complex and important communion with the Earth to play hero." She pulled her wand out of her sleeve and pointed it at him. "What were you doing there anyway? It's not as if your fancy bloody suit can stop a volcano from erupting."

"It was an experiment."

"An experiment."

"I wanted to see whether or not the suit could withstand the temperature."

"Are you fucking insane?"

"Well... the jury is out on that one. I prefer rakishly irresponsi-"

"Oh just shut the hell up. I'm out of here. Good luck with your experiment, you might want to donate some of your squillions of dollars to the relief effort, seeing as any destruction wreaked here is entirely your fault." She tapped the rabbits tail with her wand and placed it on the ground, crouching over it.

"Hey, I object to the term 'squillions' that's not even a..."

His voice was taken over by the white noise of the void as the familiar tug at her belly button drew her home, and she couldn't help but hope she never had the displeasure of crossing paths with Tony Stark ever again.


Happy was waiting for them at the airfield. It was quiet and out of the way enough for them to arrive unnoticed, popping back into existence at the edge of a short runway designed for microlights and small planes.

Steve had immediately gone into Captain America mode, querying Happy about his choice of car, calling a brief meeting in a hangar, and tossing in an obligatory introduction, all within the first minute of their presence. The usually unflappable bodyguard had wide eyes, bewilderment evident as he shook Hermione's hand distractedly.

As they walked towards the hangar, Hermione trailing behind by a few feet, she heard Happy whispering in Steve's ear.

"Wait, who's she again?"

"The woman Coulson recommended. The witch?"

Happy coughed and muttered back in a strangled voice, just loud enough for Hermione to hear.

"You mean that's the Hermione Granger?"

"Yeah, that's what I said when I introduced her, isn't it?"

"Oh, Tony is not going to be happy about this."

Steve grunted and shoved Happy through the small side door, stopping for a moment to hold it open for Hermione.

"Thanks." She smiled. "Not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, is he?"

"Who, Happy?" Steve frowned briefly and shrugged. "He has his moments."

A few moments later they had all pulled up various crates and stools and were sitting in a rough circle next to a small helicopter. Hermione could feel Happy's eyes on her, curious and yet almost accusatory. She shifted in her chair and cleared her throat.

"So... how far away are we from the abduction point?" She looked towards the bodyguard and raised her eyebrows.

"Err... about two miles. We were on our way to the airfield when the car was run off the road. He didn't have time to put on the suit before they pulled him out of the car."

"That car?" She pointed towards the Mercedes parked in the corner of the hangar, right front panels twisted and buckled, the wheel barely straight enough to stay on the axle, let alone drive. "And you drove it back here?"

"Well... yeah. I mean, I wasn't going to run two miles and it's still drivable."

"Is there any sign of where the accident happened?"

"We hit a fence, and there are skid marks. I remember exactly where it was."

Hermione sighed in relief, and rubbed her eyebrow with her thumb. "Okay, I need you to take me there."

Happy looked towards Steve expectantly. "I don't think-"

"Do what she says, Hogan."

"Okay."

"The rest of us will stay behind and plan the bunker assault, if that's still the best intel you have?" Happy nodded and Steve turned towards Barton, effectively ending the exchange between them. Hermione stood and looked downward at Happy expectantly.

"Do you have another car?"


Siberia, Russia

May 30, 2009

Her wand was trained on him, blue bubble surrounding his body, trapping him in the crater he had made in the small dirt track that ran through the centre of the village.

"Don't even think about getting out of clean up duty this time."

He flipped up the faceplate of his mask and grinned. "But I have things to do Granger. My country needs me."

She glowered at him and dropped the confinement charm, instead sending a stinging hex towards his nose.

"Ouch!"

"This is the third time this month that you've got in my way during an investigation!"

"What the hell are you doing investigating? People are dying here!"

She made an infuriated noise and tugged her coat tighter around her. "You have no idea what you're messing with here, Stark. Just stay the fuck out of my way, stay away from anything that looks strange, and if you happen to be in some random place where I am too, piss off."

"I'm starting to think maybe you don't like me very much."

"Don't like you? Don't like you?" Her incredulity manifested itself in an almost shrill pitch and she stomped her foot, turning on her heel and storming off towards the smoking ruins of the village pub. A small cluster of locals stood huddled in a store front, staring at her with wide eyes. One of them started muttering quickly in Russian and made the sign of the cross, prayer rope clutched tightly in her hand.

"If I help you clean this up, will you stop being such a bitch?"

She whirled around wand whipping her wand in a sweeping movement and casting a wide silencing charm around them. He had followed her towards the rubble, and glanced at the group of people staring at them in terror.

"Why are they so scared? We just saved their lives."

"Hold out your hand, palm up." He thrust out one armoured limb, repulsor shining brightly towards the sky. Hermione placed the tip of her wand against it, pointing directly towards the earth. "Repeat after me... I, Anthony... what's your middle name?"

"Edward."

"I, Anthony Edward Stark, solemnly swear to uphold the statute of secrecy to my best ability."

"What's the-"

"Just say it."

"I Anthony Edward Stark solemnly swear to uphold the statute of secrecy to my best ability." His eyes were fixed on hers, his words quick and a little smarmy. She narrowed her eyes and completed the spell, a yellow glow emanating from his palm at the final flick of her wand.

"You see these people?" He nodded. "They're like you."

"They're nothing like me. They're helpless and poor and stuck in permafrost central."

"They, are Muggles. You too, are a Muggle."

"As opposed to..."

"Being like me. Being magical."

"You have a word for normal people?"

She ignored his indignant reply and gestured around them. "All of this, is just part of a greater war. A war between magical government and those who believe Muggles need to be cleansed."

"Genocide. You're talking about genocide. Of... us." She nodded. "Wait.. magical government? How many of you are there?"

"Not many. Well in comparison to Muggles anyway." He raised his eyebrows. "Maybe one percent of the population."

"One percent? One percent of the population wants to wipe out seven billion other people?"

"You're assuming that the extremists are a large proportion of our population. They aren't."

"So what? One percent of the one percent?" He looked towards the dull grey sky and laughed. "Tell them good luck with that."

"You saw what they did here. They'll do it again, in another village, probably in another country. You tell me you laugh in the face of Muggle extremists, and maybe I'll consider your opinion."

His face hardened and he took a step closer to her, eyes harsh and cold. "Don't try to tell me I don't know about terrorists."

She smiled coldly. "Hit a nerve there, did I Stark?"

He stared at her for a moment, biting at his lower lip. "Fine, I'll stick around for a bit."

"Don't suppose you want to help me get back on the trail of the cunts who did this? Because that would be far more helpful."

Tony's eyebrows raised, surprise evident at both her language, and sudden request for help. "I thought you didn't want me getting in your way."

"Doesn't mean you can't keep an ear to the ground, call me if things look fishy."

"You're going to willingly give me your number? What parallel universe have I stepped into?" She turned on her heel and raised her arms, wand balanced gently between her right thumb and forefinger.

"The kind of parallel universe where you help me clean shit up."


It turned out to be an easy rescue. After visiting the site of the abduction, Hermione had quickly pinpointed the location of the base Tony was being held in, which turned out to be the operations centre for a terrorist cell known as A.I.M. Led by a cyborg, and consisting mainly of scientists, infiltrating A.I.M. had been reasonably simple, given the varied nature of the Avengers' abilities.

Without plans of the compound, most teams would have cut their losses and retreated. They made their way through the corridors with a combination of smashing, marksmanship, shield and hammer tossing, which Hermione found amusingly useful, and the odd well placed hex. Tony stood behind a heavy steel door, waiting expectantly.

"Took you long enough."

Hermione rolled her eyes and threw him a bulky briefcase that had been strapped to her back a few moments earlier. "Here, put this on."

"I was beginning to think you'd stopped caring."

"Don't flatter yourself, Tony. Put it on."

"Couldn't you have brought the seven? I haven't used this one since... well since Monac-"

"Put on the fucking suit, Stark," Barton barked from behind Hermione, his icy gaze causing Tony to raise his hands in surrender. The archer let an arrow fly and there was an explosion from further down the hallway.

"Okay, okay. No need to get all crabby about it, jeez." He stomped his foot on the case and it opened up. Leaning over, he jammed his hands into a couple of small spaces, lifting part of the interior onto his chest. A few moments later, the briefcase had gone from ostentatious luggage to metal exoskeleton, covering every part of his body, except his face. "What do you mean by don't flatter yourself anyway? I mean I thought you'd stopped caring. Not that you do care which-"

Both Clint and Hermione's heads whipped around from where they had been firing off arrows and spells at oncoming thugs, their angry shout in unison. "SHUT UP"

Tony's faceplate snapped closed and Hermione grinned at Clint. "This remind you of anything?"

He grimaced and shot off another arrow. "These guys are a bit easier than Doombots, though. Don't you think?"

Hermione flicked her wand at a small cluster of NBC suit clad figures that had run around the corner, dropping six of them with one spell and the seventh with a particularly well aimed screw that she had levitated from the floor, and propelled in their direction.

"Tony, you about ready to get the hell out of here yet?"

"Yeah, just waiting for you two love birds to quit with the nostalgia." She jumped a little at the response, directly behind her ear, and berated herself for not being fully aware of her surroundings.

She recovered quickly though, acid tongued and bristling uncomfortably at the insinuation. "What's the matter, jealous?"

"Hey, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Isn't that the way the cliché goes?"

Barton whipped his head around, wide eyed. "Wait... what?"

Hermione rolled her eyes and shot a hex past his ear. "Ignore him, he's being a dickhead."

"Dickhead with a death wish. If Tash were here..."

"Wait, you and Romanoff?"

Hermione and Clint stopped their attack for a moment, turning in disbelief towards the man in the suit. Hermione opened and closed her mouth a few times, eventually finding her voice. "Are you blind? Exactly how long have you been working with these people?"

"It's not like I take any notice of their love lives. I doubt they have any idea what's going on with me."

Barton had already turned back to the now almost empty corridor, inching back in the direction of the main elevator shaft, still firing off at targets and sharp retort on his tongue. "What, you mean you completely wrecking your relationship with Pepper by being a total fucktard? Yeah, we all completely missed that."

Tony stepped forward out of the doorway and aimed his palms at the ceiling, repulsors glowing white. "You know what? Screw this." Letting loose a blast, the ceiling of the tunnel collapsed, and he grabbed Hermione around the waist, shooting through the hole almost fast enough to hit the high roof on the level above. "Make your own way out, Barton!"

An arrow flew past his head, lodged itself in the ceiling, and Clint popped through the hole, attached to the end of a lightweight zip line, dangling in front of where they hovered above the gaping chasm in the thick stone. "Oh come on, you know it's not that easy to get rid of me."

The three of them dropped to the floor, eventually taking in their surroundings. The room was littered with bodies in various states of consciousness, and the three other team members stood stock still, surprised at the spectacular entrance.

Tony looked up at the ceiling, light peeking through the hole where Barton's arrow had been a few moments earlier. He flipped up the faceplate of his helmet and tossed his hands in the air.

"One level? They only had me under one level?"


Las Vegas, Nevada

July 18, 2009

He caught her eye from the opposite side of the room where he was chatting with the party's host. She made a face and turned away from him, searching fruitlessly for Harry, whom she had brought along as her plus one for the evening. The crowd was rather thick in the ballroom of the Bellagio, and she frowned a little at the apparent lack of security. She would have expected more from such a high profile wizard as Sir Richard.

"Well shit, you scrub up okay, Granger." She jumped at the voice and accompanying prod in the back from a pointy finger. She turned abruptly and huffily placed her hands on her hips. Running an appraising eye up and down the length of his body, she eventually settled her gaze on the top of his scruffy hair.

"You're shorter without the suit."

"I can put it on if you like."

"I'll pass, thanks."

His smirk faltered momentarily and she watched his mouth, distracted by the movement of his bottom lip as he pressed his tongue between it and his teeth. After a second or two he replaced his neutral expression with an overly exaggerated grin. "You know, we really did get off on the wrong foot, you and me."

"Multiple times." Her tone was wry and weary, and she took a sip of her drink.

"I think we should try again." He took her right hand in his and shook it purposefully. "Tony Stark, all around fucking brilliant, and you are?"

Setting her drink down on the table next to them, she grabbed his wrist with her now free hand and attempted to pry his fingers away from hers. When she didn't have any luck, she directed a little energy to her palm and he snatched his hand away, cradling it against his chest.

"Ow. I'm trying to play nice here, and you're getting all... hot on me." She raised an eyebrow. "Wait... that's not right is it? How about... reactionary?"

"How about you leave me alone, Stark?"

"What, and leave you over here looking bored and miserable? No." He grabbed her wrist and tugged her towards the large stage on the other side of the enormous space. She had the presence of mind to snatch up her drink before being dragged across the ballroom floor, and she could have pulled away from him if she wanted, but she was curious. And a little drunk.

"If you're going to force me to do a speech with you, then I'm afraid you're going to be sorely disappointed." He ignored her and jumped up onto the waist height platform, reaching down to help her up after him. "What in the blazes are you doing?"

"Just trust me, come on." She cocked her head taking in his almost eager expression, and decided to humour him for the moment. Taking his hand she allowed him to pull her up on to the stage and behind the heavy curtain, close enough to the wings that even the band didn't notice.

"You are one batshit crazy billionaire, you know that right?"

"You say that like it's some kind of breaking news."

"Oh, fuck you." She stopped in her tracks and tugged her hand from his. "What do you want, anyway? There's nothing back here but crates of booze and extra tablecloths."

He ran a hand through his hair and turned. "I... thought it pertinent to take all precautions to avoid whatever nasty ass spell you may possibly cast on me afterwards."

"After what?"

"Go out for dinner with me."

She opened and closed her mouth a few times, goldfish like, before finding her voice. "You're right, I am going to hex you. What would you prefer, boils on your face or genitals?"

"Come on, don't be like that."

"Like what? Pissed off by the presumption of a rich arsehole who always gets what he wants? If you want to add me to your collection, take a fucking picture." She turned and moved to storm off, but was jerked back by his hand gripping the back of her dress. "Tony, if you want to keep your fingers I suggest you let go of me right now."

But instead of letting go, the fingers gripped tighter, pulling her back against him. She felt his breath against her neck and shivered, heat rising within her, anger and the unwanted attraction she felt mingling in an uncomfortable twisting at the pit of her stomach.

"Let me kiss you, just once." His voice was low, almost a whisper, and she squeezed her fingers tightly around the wand in the pocket of her voluminous skirt.

"Forcing women to kiss you is not going to get you in anyone's good books, Stark." She jerked away from him and flicked her wand out, aiming it between his eyes.

He held his hands up in a gesture of surrender, eyes wide and lips pursed. Their eyes locked for a few long seconds before her gaze slowly drifted to his mouth, now relaxed and opened a little, tongue running across the edge of his upper teeth.

"Oh, bloody hell." She shoved her wand back in her pocket and took the two largest steps she could manage in her ridiculous shoes. Body now inches from his, noses almost touching due to their similarity in height, she narrowed her eyes and placed her hands on each of his cheeks. He had the good graces to look a little shocked, eyebrows raised and everything on his expression frozen apart from his fidgety tongue. "I'm only doing this because you're pretty."

"Pretty?"

"Yes, pretty. Are you wearing lifts?" Her lips were millimetres from his, ragged breath mingling in the scant space.

"Am I wearing lifts?" He let out a sharp bark of laughter and his lips brushed hers briefly with the movement.

"I can tell by the way you walk. You're a short arse." Her eyes were laughing, lightly crinkled around the edges and sparkling in the low light. "Good thing too, or I'd be having to lean down to kiss you."

"I don't give a shit how you do it. Are you going to or not, because if you aren't then I can think of-"

She interrupted him, pressing her lips to his firmly, eyes still open until she slid her palms away from his cheeks, eyelids fluttering shut as her fingers trailed over his shoulders and down the open collar of his shirt. The kiss was chaste, a simple press of barely parted lips, an edge of anger still simmering beneath the gentle hum of desire.

He pulled away first, hands sliding around her waist and pulling her body closer, pressing the length of his torso against hers. "Are you just doing this to fuck with me, or is this something you're actually amenable to? Because if you are, then I sure as hell would love to lift that fucking ridiculous skirt up right here, and stick my fingers in you. Now."

She let out a shuddering breath and stared at him daringly. "Do it."

Eyes still on hers, he trailed a hand up her side, glancing over her breast, and brought it to his lips. Two fingers disappeared into his mouth and he raised an eyebrow, daring her to stop him. Removing the fingers with a quick motion and a barely audible pop he grinned. "I'm pretty certain that pocket goes straight to that thigh holster you favour so much, doesn't it?

"Think you're clever, do you?"

"MENSA thinks I'm clever. I know I'm clever." His hand was dipping into her pocket, and he was being careful not to brush his fingers against the fabric. He pursed his lips together cheekily when his hand met no resistance at the end of the pocket, instead brushing against bare flesh, clad only in a soft leather holster.

"Do it."

The sound of the party continued behind the heavy curtain, and Hermione was vaguely aware of the band stopping, and the tinkle of cutlery against glasses. As the opening words of Sir Richard's speech echoed throughout the large ballroom, Tony's fingers brushed against her, teasing long enough for the slickness from his mouth to disappear. She whimpered softly and moved her hips roughly, burying her face in his shoulder and gasping against his collar.

His other hand moved her head then, straightening her neck enough for his lips to find hers with ease. He gasped into her mouth, not bothering to tease her with his tongue, instead tugging on her lips with his teeth, sucking and biting with as much enthusiasm and desperation as she was displaying with her lower half. Seconds later his fingers had slipped inside her, and she broke away from his mouth, gasping at the ceiling as one hand clutched at her hair, the others digits curling, pressing hard against a spot that made her grunt and break out in a light sheen of sweat.

"Tony Stark!"

"Shit." He broke away from her neck, where his lips had been resting lightly, breath heavy against her skin, and met her eyes apologetically. "This is... bad timing. I kind of have to... do a speech, but you stay right here. Don't go anywhere, I'll make this quick."

She glowered at him, trying not to shiver as he removed his hand from between her legs. He slid his fingers between his lips, cleaning them off thoroughly, and she didn't react, still glaring and trying not to gulp hard at the sight.

"Um... right then so I'm just going to..." She cocked her head and made a sweeping gesture with her arm, encouraging him to get out on the stage. He sauntered away, sending her one last grin before disappearing through the curtain.

A loud cheer erupted from the crowd of guests, and she could imagine the arrogant swagger that the adoration would only encourage. She straightened her dress and ran a hand through her hair, and a few moments later slipped out the side door of stage left, back into the crowd

Tony was making some crack about even billionaires needing to take a pee, and she rolled her eyes. Slipping into place behind a tall American wizard she had been introduced to earlier, she put her polite face back on, applauding and chuckling along with the crowd.

Never again. She was never doing that with Tony Stark ever again.


The ride back to the US had been largely silent, Romanoff and Barton riding in the front, the rest of them strapped into the back in various states of alertness. The adenosene blocker that Hermione had injected into her neck had long worn off and she was beginning to nod, head dropping to her chest ever few seconds. Eventually she submitted to sleep, not waking again until the Quinjet touched down on the roof of Stark Tower and she was shaken into consciousness by Doctor Banner.

She stretched a little and glanced up, eyes meeting the dark brooding ones of Tony across the narrow fuselage. He was still in the suit, having muttered something about not wanting to have to wake up to go to the bathroom, before dozing off. He was awake and alert now though, gaze not leaving hers, and she looked away uncomfortably.

As she unstrapped herself from the complicated harness, she caught herself in some webbing and in a fit of frustration whipped out her wand and shot a severing spell at it.

"You've got some serious rage issues, Granger."

"Oh, go to hell."

She stomped down the ramp and squinted into the mid morning sunshine, following Steve, Bruce and Thor towards a set of glass sliding doors on the edge of the roof. She heard the loud thudding footsteps of the suit behind her and picked up her pace.

"Have dinner with me."

"Bite me."

"Happily."

She made a strangled noise of anger and hurried through the doors and into the elevator, jabbing the button for the floor she thankfully remembered her quarters were on.

"Grange-"

"Do me a favour, Tony. Don't talk to me for a day or so, okay?"

He stomped his foot and the whole elevator shook. The other four occupants of the lift jumped a little and Tony grimaced apologetically. "Why do you hate me so much? I mean, you don't exactly have a well rounded impression of my wonderfully glowing personality."

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and chose to ignore him.

"Oh come on, not even some excuse about that whole volcano thing?" She blew a strand of hair out of her face, still ignoring him. "How about Cairo? Siberia? Vega-"

"Don't. Even." She held up a hand, gesturing for him to shut up. Her mouth was set in a line and she didn't react when they reached her level.

"Thank you." She was half way down the corridor before he called out, and she paused, not bothering to turn.

"You said it yourself, you were only one level under."

She continued to her apartment as the elevator doors slid closed, with no response. His silence left her uneasy, but she ignored the feeling in the pit of her stomach.

She was going to have a bath, with bubbles, and nothing short of the apocalypse was going to stop her.


"Have dinner with me."

He stood on the other side of the door, feet bare, body clad in sweat pants and a thin grey tee shirt, the cool light of the arc reactor glowing strong through the worn fabric. In one hand he balanced a large New York style pizza, in the other a six pack of Heineken dangled from between his thumb and index finger.

She moved to slam the door closed and he quickly slipped his foot in the space next to the door frame. Hermione hesitated and stopped the movement inches before it trapped the appendage painfully between the two lumps of wood.

"I knew you didn't want to hurt me that much." She glowered at him. "You hungry?"

She nodded and he pushed his way into her space, looking around curiously and bobbing his head in appreciation. "Designer did a good job of this one."

"It looks like it's out of a stupid magazine with stuff in it that nobody but you can afford." She flopped down on the royal blue couch, sinking into the plush cushions, and tucked her legs up underneath her bottom, effectively wedging herself into the very corner of the piece of furniture. Tony set the pizza box down on the coffee table and handed her two beers.

"Open those for me, will you?"

She raised an eyebrow and flicked her finger twice, popping the tops in the direction of his head. One glanced off his eyebrow and he rubbed it instinctively. "And here I was thinking we were doing the fresh start thing."

"I never agreed to that." She took a swig from the beer and put her feet back on the ground, reaching for the pizza box.

"Nuh-uh. You agree to let bygones be bygones or no dinner."

"Do you want me to have dinner with you, or not?"

"I don't want you to have dinner with me if it's going to be all... vibey."

She frowned and tilted her head, screwing her nose up a little. Ignoring his protest, she flipped the box lid up and grabbed a slice of pepperoni. "Speaking of vibey, I'm surprised you can still eat this stuff."

"What, pizza?" She raised an eyebrow, teeth clamped around the slice, and pointed to the salami with her free hand. Tony shrugged and grunted, joining her on the sofa. "Emotions shouldn't get in the way of food."

"So you do still-"

"Don't even go there, Granger. Pepper and I are done. End of story. Do not reread. Period. End of the worst ever portmanteau in tabloid history." He ran a hand through his hair and over his face, rubbing harshly at a cheek before dropping it back to dangle between his knees, arm resting on a flannel clad thigh. "You ever get the feeling that people say they forget, but don't really? That they're just festering pits of anger and resentment, waiting for the right time to pounce?"

She barked a harsh laugh and tossed the remaining half slice of pie back in the box, took a swig of her drink, and crossed her legs Indian style in front of her. "Are you trying to insinuate something?"

He looked confused for a moment before realisation dawned and he shook his head. "No, I'm not talking about us. I'm talking about just... everyone. Me, you, the rest of the fucking world... everyone."

"Why do you keep trying to save the world?"

"It wasn't that long ago that I was helping to destroy it."

She nodded. She would have to have been living under a rock not to know of his company's previous merchandise, but she wasn't particularly interested in the details. She had little interest in Muggle wars, instead having enough problems of her own, attempting to maintain the security and safety of the Wizarding World, without appearing to do more than what was considered appropriate for a woman. "One day, I might tell you exactly how much I know about people not moving on." She stood up and put her half empty bottle on the coffee table and picked up the rest of the six pack, heading for the kitchen. "Until then, you're probably best to watch your back."

She tugged open the fridge and glanced over her shoulder. Tony was jumping over the arm of the couch, surprisingly nimble for a man whom she assumed gained all his agility and strength from his brain, rather than his body. "What do you mean, watch my back? Is that a threat? Are you going to cast some hideous spell on me while I'm asleep?"

She placed the bottles in the barren refrigerator and shut the door, turning to find her face full of curious male. Sucking in a short breath, she regained her composure and leaned back a little against the cool stainless steel. "Just because I agreed to come and work with you all, doesn't mean I trust you. You really don't think I'll bust out the big bad wolf in my closet this early on, do you?"

He leaned in, hands on either side of her head, body almost close enough for her to feel the warmth of his torso through her thin tee. The kitchen was dark, the only light filtering from the low lamplight in the living area, and from the glow of the arc reactor in his chest. The bright white-blue circle distracted her for a moment, and she tapped it with a fingernail,

"Doesn't it get distracting?"

"I just put on a thicker shirt."

"What if I find it distracting?"

He pressed in closer, body hard against hers, lips brushing against her ear. "Then I'll put on a thicker shirt."

Her hand was now flat against the glowing halo, her fingers surrounded by red, the light slicing through her skin. She wanted to push him away, to shove him against the kitchen island and tell him to get out, but instead she found herself tugging at the hem of his tee shirt, scratching at the skin of his hips and stomach as she tried to gain enough leverage to get it up and over his torso.

"Granger..."

She turned her head as he pulled his back, lips brushing together accidentally. "Just shut up. Shut up and take your shirt off."

He gulped, pulling back quickly and finishing the job she had started in one motion. Scant moments later, she was pressed hard against the refrigerator, his lips on hers, their pressure and urgency a vast difference from their previous encounter.

His tongue was in her mouth, lingering against hers, teasing, tasting, dancing in a way that had her gasping for more. Her hands clutched at his chest, scrabbling for purchase before giving up and instead sliding up and over his shoulders, fingers tangling in the short hair at the back of his head, gripping tightly, pulling him closer.

The kiss lacked finesse, instead unresolved, unwanted, and confused feelings bled through to create a strange desperation, teeth and lips unafraid to become confused. Biting where they should have been soothing, sucking where there should have been a tender caress of tongue on tongue. It was aggressive, challenging and utterly exhilarating.

It wasn't long before her legs were wrapped around his hips, arms above her head and shirt around her wrists. He had twisted it tightly, not removing it entirely, and held her prone, his hand gripping the bunched fabric tightly. She could feel the beginnings of pins and needles in her fingers, but ignored it, instead catching his eye and biting down on her lower lip.

"Looks like you're going to have to make a choice."

Tony grinned and stepped away from her, still holding her hands, but letting her legs drop. Her eyes widened in fear momentarily before her feet thudded against the fridge, her toes just able to reach the floor to support some of her weight. He reached down and shoved the waist of her yoga pants as far down as he was able, taking her underwear with them. Pressing his body back against hers, he lifted a leg and tucked a toe into the elastic, using his foot to push the fabric to the floor.

"Smart arse." She lifted one of her feet out of the puddle of clothing, the tip of her tongue running along her lip as she concentrated on balancing on one set of toes. Eventually she managed to kick the pants away and glanced down at her chest. She raised her eyebrows and looked back up at him.

He shrugged and pulled one of the cups down on her plain purple bra, pinching the nipple and squeezing her breast cheekily. Hand still on her chest, he kissed her again, this time slower, teasing. Sucking a lip into her mouth, he pulled back, his teeth catching on it just long enough to drag along the inside before release. One of her legs was rubbing along his in an attempt to convince him to lift her back into their previous position, and he got the hint, quickly shuffling out of his sweat pants and lifting one of her legs by the thigh, helping her to wrap them back around his waist.

They stayed in that position for what felt like forever, mouths exploring and at times, abusing the other's. Her hands eventually were freed, the feeling almost completely gone, and they giggled as they flopped back down to her sides, effectively useless until she got them moving again.

He took her there, against the cold stainless steel of the refrigerator; the heat of his body, the chill of the metal, and the glow of the arc reactor strange enough for her not to lose herself completely in the moment. He was rough and needy, meeting her own aggression with a fire and hunger that both surprised her and didn't at the same time - the perfect metaphor for his quiet intensity, so often overshadowed by his obnoxious, extroverted exterior.

Afterwards, they sat on the kitchen island in their underwear, her wand holster still somehow attached to her thigh, eating cold pizza and sharing a drink between them. Their clothing had been tossed in the direction of the bedroom door, and neither spoke for a long period, instead chewing quietly, taking a gulp from the bottle from time to time. Eventually, Hermione spoke, eyes fixed on the refrigerator, voice a little husky and broken.

"So... you want to do that again?"

He took a sip of beer and cleared his throat. "Sure, but you have to be on top, my legs are fucking broken."

She hopped down from the counter and padded off towards the bedroom, voice carrying across the large space. "And for the record, this does not mean I trust you, and I still don't like you very much."

"I'm fine with that. This is actually pretty much awesome for me. I don't think I really like you very much either." She turned sharply, glaring at him, her hand on the door handle. "I mean, you're amazing and brilliant and fucking gorgeous but seriously... you're a bit of a bitch."

She narrowed her eyes and turned the handle, shoving the door open forcefully and undoing her bra as she walked towards the bed. "You're damn lucky you're pretty, Stark. Damn lucky."

There was silence behind her, and she turned back towards him, wondering if she had gone too far. He was smiling widely, scratching the side of his head and fidgeting with the edge of his boxer briefs.

"Well, I'm glad we're in agreement on one thing."

End.