THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO'S REVIEWED!
This was such a strange-flowing chapter. It came very easily as I wrote it, but there's parts that I'm not entirely happy with. To be quite honest, it's a little bit of a filler, but it was a lot of fun to write, and sometimes filler can be important.
Not gonna waste your time, so let's hop to it!
Stark Tower was as grand as he remembered, and Jarvis as disarming as he'd been the last time. Harry jumped a bit when the AI spoke in the elevator to tell him where he was directing him, but after that it went smoothly. The elevators were glass on one side, and he could see himself rising above the city as he went.
Gods but he did love New York. There was just something about the surplus of lights and people that spoke to him; but before he knew it the ride was over, and he was stepping out onto the common floor for the team. Tony was the only one there, and he was quick to great him.
"Hey! There you are Peanut!" He sighed. Really he should just kiss his dignity goodbye. He was never going to escape the short jokes at this point.
"How's Asgard been treating you?" He came over, throwing a hand on his shoulder and guiding him back to the elevator.
"Decently. What are you doing?"
"Taking you to the training room. You're a little late and everyone else is already gathered down there. You'll have to tell me what's been going on later. We can have a drink."
"Whole team." The doors closed behind him. "We figure after 'The Incident'," Was that what they were calling the invasion now? "And the fall of Shield we may as well consider you a full member. No one to argue against it now at any rate. Cap's holding a little meeting downstairs before we get to training regimens. Ugh. Exercise. Gives me the willies."
"Doesn't that mean you're late too?" Tony shushed him and he laughed a bit.
Well, this could be interesting.
"So, if this is going to work, we all need a basic rundown of each other's abilities." The way they were all gathered in a loose circle in the large training room, sitting on the floor, made them all look younger than they were. Harry was reminded of children getting ready to roll a ball around to one another. He and Tony had come down here to find them all already sitting like this, with some spaces left for the two of them. They'd gotten a disapproving look or too, but no one had commented on their tardiness.
And really, it wasn't like anyone had told Harry a specific time, just a day of the week and a vague 'late morning'.
... Although it had been Bruce to inform him, who had been informed by Tony, who was not quite a detail person, so it was possible something had gotten lost along the way.
"We need to know each other's strengths so we know who can handle what, and we need to know each other's weaknesses, so we know when one of us needs someone to cover them." The Captain was very straight-forward. Earnest too. There was something about that the animagus liked. The man was less suited for politics than Harry himself was, but he could understand why he'd been picked as the Avenger's leader.
"This feels like a sewing circle. Are we gonna bust out the embroidery hoops? Ma-"
"Shut up, Tony." There were few sights more amusing than a grown man visibly pouting. "Who wants to start?" Everyone sort of eyed each other at that. Harry had little problem with telling these people his strengths, but every Slytherin instinct he had flared in alarm at the thought of willingly revealing his weaknesses. Still, if this "team" thing was going to work, it needed to be done. He knew that.
Knowing it did not make it easier to swallow.
And given the way that everyone hesitated to speak up, he knew he wasn't the only one who felt that way.
"Well." He blinked, looking to Barton. He didn't know who he'd expected to speak first, but it hadn't been him. "Most of my strengths and weaknesses are pretty self-explanatory. I'm an archer. I've got good aim." Harry's lip twitched. "I'm good with guns and throwing knives too, I just like my bow better. Uh... I'm pretty well-trained in hand-to-hand combat but I'm not the best. I'm an acrobat, so I'm good at fitting into tight spaces, climbing things, and just generally sneaking around I guess. Um. I'm human, no mutant gene or super soldier serum or magic, so, you know, I'm a little more delicate than most of you tough bastards." There were a few chuckles. "I also have hearing problems." The wizard blinked, looking around. That seemed to be news to most of them. Barton turned his head, pointing at his ear. Sitting so close to him Harry could see something small and black in the hollow of it. "I've got some nice high-tech hearing aids, and they're damn near indestructible, so it's usually not a problem unless we end up near an EMP." What was an EMP? "Without them I'm basically deaf. So there's that." He shrugged then, and turned his head to Romanoff, who sat next to him, apparently done speaking and ready for her to go next.
"I was trained as an assassin." She told them bluntly. "My primary skills are in stealth and espionage. I'm well-trained in hand-to-hand combat, and I'm a decent markswoman." Her lips curled up slightly. "Not as good as Clint, but good enough. I have training in interrogation and torture." There was a dull silence as everyone digested that. "I have acrobatics training like Clint, but not as extensive. I'm not as much of a monkey as he is." Said former-agent rolled his eyes a little. "Like him, outside of my training I'm an ordinary person." Nothing about this woman was ordinary, he thought sardonically. "So I have the normal weaknesses that come with that." She hesitated. "No disabilities, but I have some old injuries. My left arm and my right knee are a little weaker than they should be. It's not usually an issue, but I try to avoid getting injured in those places, and if I was, say, fighting for hours on end, then there would probably be some problems." She hadn't changed her position at all. She still leaned back a bit where she sat, arms loosely crossed, looking like she hadn't a care in the world. But there was a barely-noticeable line of tension in her that spoke to Harry of just how difficult it must be for her to even mention those old injuries.
At least he wasn't the only one who itched at giving up that kind of information.
Rogers nodded at her, and then looked at Sam, sitting next to her. They were apparently going around in a circle now, and if he hadn't been reminded of primary school earlier, he absolutely was then. It occurred to him that with Barton to his right, that would leave him as the last person to speak. Sam rolled his shoulders a little and sat up straighter.
"Also an ordinary human here." He told them, with a hint of laughter in his voice that made most of them smile. He seemed like an easy-going sort. "Standard Air Force training. Um... With the wings I'm pretty fast, and I've got a lot of movement, but I can't always make turns as sharp as I want, and I can't go up too high. I've got a suit I wear with it, but it won't help me much if I drop from too high so uh, if you guys can watch my six and keep anything from damaging the wings while I'm in the air I'd appreciate it. Um, I have a weakness for apple pie?" There was some laughter at that, and Harry grinned. The former soldier shrugged. "No old injuries or anything that causes me trouble now. Some mild ptsd, but I think that probably applies to everyone in the room, so- yeah." He looked a little awkward then, with nothing more to say, but Steve nodded sharply in approval and looked out at them all.
"Most of you already know what the serum did to me, but for those of you who don't, I'm a lot stronger and faster than your average joe. I'm not much good with guns or knives so I stick to my shield. My hand-to-hand training is kind of spotty, but my strength usually makes up for it. I'm a brawler." He shrugged and there was a chuckle. "I uh. I don't handle cold well, so if we have to go somewhere cold it might be better if I hang back." He looked uncomfortable mentioning it. "Um, I also don't always get everything, because of my background, so uh, I need someone else to handle advanced tech for me." And Harry still did not know what his background was-
"I can do that." Tony cut in, and Romanoff snorted.
"Everyone knows you can do that." Rogers cleared his throat a little.
"I'm filling in most of the gaps still, and I'm getting there. So it shouldn't be a problem for too much longer. And I'm color-blind, although that hasn't caused any real issues yet I figure it's worth mentioning." He appeared to be done after that.
Tony grinned, and then gestured to himself, since he was next up.
"Genius, super awesome armour, rich guy if you need a bank roll."
"Tony." He rolled his eyes.
"Outside the suit I'm pretty much useless except for my exceptional brain. I can box, that's about it." They all were quiet a moment, waiting for him to say more, which he didn't. Rhodes looked like he wanted to add something, but didn't.
"... Well it's a start." The Captain said kindly, letting him get away with the lack of information, and they moved on. Rhodes sat up a little straighter.
"Well I'm in the Air Force, so pretty standard combat training. Got some advanced training in when I started piloting the Iron Patriot-"
"War Machine." Tony cut in, and Rhodes sighed with the air of someone who had heard an argument many times over.
"Iron. Patriot." He repeated. "So I can do most of what Tony can do in the suit and hold my own well enough. Got some issues in one of my shoulders that could be a problem, but I'll mostly be in reserve, so I don't know how much I'll actually be working with you guys. I'm still on active duty, so military comes first."
"Understandably." Rogers nodded. Bruce was next, and he looked a little uncomfortable. Harry gave him a reassuring look and he sighed.
"I'd uh, I'd like to be kept out of the field as much as possible, to be honest. I don't have the best handle on the other guy, pretty much the only one who can control him is Harry-"
"Wait what?" Sam cut in, looking over at the animagus with wide eyes. He hadn't been around during the thing on the helicarrier, so he wouldn't know about it, Harry guessed. He shrugged.
"I don't control him, he just kind of listens to me. Hulk's pretty cool." Sam stared at him, and he wasn't the only one. Bruce snorted.
"Only you would think that." Tony raised a hand.
"I also think that!"
"You don't count." Tony pouted again, and Bruce rolled his eyes and continued. "I'm a scientist, not a fighter, and I'd kind of prefer to work on background stuff as much as I can. No combat training, but it hasn't really been necessary with the other guy. He comes out just about every time I get hurt, so..." He shrugged. "He's pretty much indestructible, from what I've seen. You guys know enough about him that I don't think anyone here needs a run-down..." He awkwardly petered off, and after a moment they moved on. Thor had listened fairly quietly as everyone spoke, and he smiled to have the attention on him now.
"I am a skilled warrior of Asgard!" He declared. "I've no skill with weapons of marksmanship, but Mjolnir is easily thrown. I prefer her might to any other weapon, though I've a small measure of skill with a blade. I am strong and swift and graceful on my feet!"
"Nice modesty." Rhodes said, sardonic.
"You tripped over nothing this morning." Harry offered shamelessly.
"And you can't swim."
"What, really?" Sam looked delighted, and the wizard nodded.
"He can tread water, but he can't really move around at all." They'd gone swimming once during a quiet day in Asgard, and Thor had very pointedly kept to the shallows while Harry swum literal circles around him. There were a few chuckles, but Steve and Tony remained quiet, both looking a little uncomfortable. Tony spoke up, looking stiff.
"I can't swim either, at all." Rhodes frowned.
"You know how to-"
"I know how, but I can't. Submersion in water for more than a few minutes could damage the arc reactor. Can't take baths for the same reason. It's why most of the living floors in the tower only have showers." Everyone was silent for a long moment, an uncomfortable air around them.
"I'm a strong swimmer." Harry interrupted the silence, and Tony looked at him, one of the few people in the room who knew why he was a strong swimmer. "If you end up in deep water I can get you out. Thor too, if it comes to that, but he can probably get himself out with his hammer." A flicker of emotion passed over the billionaire's face, something like surprise, and then it was gone.
"Thanks." They all looked back at Thor. He shrugged and was silent, so they moved on.
Harry was the only one left.
"Um." He swallowed, nervous. He'd decided he was going to do this, that it was necessary, but Asgard had taught him that he was right to be wary of how certain people would react. He took a deep breath and set his fear aside as best he could, clenching his fists in his lap. "Before I begin there's something I need to confess." He paused, swallowing. "I hadn't originally planned on telling any of you, but if I'm going to be working with you all regularly, and you're going to depend on me to watch your backs and fight with you; then it's something you deserve to know. It's connected to some of my abilities." He stopped, looking between them all. Everyone was watching him attentively, some confused and others curious. Thor and Bruce both looked supportive.
"The short version, I suppose, is that when I was fourteen I tried to do a bit of complicated magic and messed it up, and there were consequences. It changed me, made me into something that's not... quite human anymore."
"You look human." Clint offered, and he nodded.
"It's an illusion, makes me look like a- well, a human-version of myself. I'm telling you all about it because the fact of the matter is, the illusion only hides so much; there's a certain way that I fight and I move that I have to hide in order to look more normal, and that means that I hold back a lot. If I'm going to be fighting with all of you, then I want to be giving it my all, and I figure if you saw me going about as I do, it would become obvious to you that I'm... different. I didn't want for you lot to have to figure out I'm strange in the middle of a fight, and I don't want my having to hold back to lead to someone else getting hurt, so, this is something of an extending of trust, on my part."
"And we appreciate it." Rogers told him. He looked earnest. "I get the feeling it's not an easy thing for you to reveal."
"It's not, but you all deserved to know." He hesitated.
"Do we get to see what's under the disguise?" Romanoff cut in. She'd been mostly silent since her turn, and he looked at her. She was still suspicious of him, that much he could tell (and in some way he could also understand it, he was aware how shady some of his actions must be from her perspective), but at some point she'd seemed to decide not to behave with hostility, and he supposed that was the best he could hope for.
"Yes." He unlatched the band and pulled it off. A shiver of magic and the truth of himself lay bare for them all to see.
For reasons he couldn't name, he kept his eyes on Romanoff. Her mouth opening slightly was the only sign of surprise he could pinpoint. Her gaze flicked over his form and features, catching on his tail when he unravelled it from his waist, leaving the finned end to flick idly against Thor's leg next to him. Said god clapped him on the shoulder.
"Great bravery my friend! I am pleased that you would share this with our other friends, and that it is no longer something we must hide. Shield brothers and sisters should not keep such secrets." He nodded gravely after his own words.
"You knew about this?" Romanoff asked Thor, and he nodded.
"Aye, my friend revealed it during his stay in Asgard. I was honored to receive such trust from him." Harry was reminded that Thor, for all his usual Gryffindor-like qualities, had been trained to be a king; had been trained in some measure of politics. His words made it seem like Harry had showed him his form privately as a sign of trust, rather than having been forced to publically, and the tone of his words made it clear he expected everyone else in the room to feel honored too. Romanoff's eyes flicked to Bruce, and he answered the unspoken question next.
"He's my brother, I've known about it for years."
"Honestly I think that's more weird than any of the rest of this." Clint cut in. Harry looked at him questioningly. "The brother thing. I mean, you guys are like, really adamant about it, but no offense, no way you're actually related. And what's-his-name, that Snip guy?" Oh Father would love that. "Tasha said he called you both his kids and I mean, I might believe that you're his son," he pointed at Harry. "But he and Bruce can't have more than like, ten years between them, and Shield has records of his actual father. So like, yeah you have a tail and that's awesome and all, but what the hell is up with the family thing, because that shit is kinda bizarre." There were some disbelieving chuckles, and Harry found himself laughing. Not at all the reaction he had expected. Bruce shrugged.
"Harry keeps people."
"What?" He said incredulously. "I don- you make it sound like I kidnap them."
"You kind of do." Bruce pointed out. "You make a friend and then go 'oh I like this one they're mine now' and then you adopt them and don't let them leave."
"Do you want to leave?"
"I don't adopt everyone."
"Nearly! You adopted me, legally even!"
"Wait, what?" Tony cut in, and Bruce nodded.
"He's the head of his family, and in the magical world that means he can just straight up adopt people, as more than his kids. In any magical paperwork my name is listed as Bruce Black. He literally adopted me."
"With your consent!" Harry defended himself, tail flicking up behind him. He didn't notice that he'd smacked Thor in the face. "You signed the papers!"
"You threw it on me unexpectedly!" Harry faltered.
"Did you... Did you not wan-" Bruce sighed.
"Of course I want to be your brother, I would have signed anyways, but still! A little warning next time!"
"I don't think I can adopt you twice." Bruce groaned.
"I mean for the next person you randomly claim."
"I don't randomly-"
"You would absolutely adopt all your friends if you could get away with it."
"No I wouldn't!"
"Aw, you don't love us enough?" Tony cut in, pouting (he did that far too often for a man his age), and he faltered again.
"I- I didn't mean it like that, I just assumed- I mean-" He took a breath, and then spoke more seriously. "I'd be honored to have you as a brother, if you wanted to. We'd have to figure out some sort of a contract first since I'm my family head. I wouldn't want to gain access to any of your holdings or anything, and I'd have to introduce you to Mum, and-"
"I was kidding." Tony said, wide-eyed. "Jesus, I was just teasing you, but damn you look so genuine about it. I feel loved." He looked at Bruce. "You weren't kidding at all were you? He just keeps people."
"He does. It's ridiculous." Harry opened his mouth to defend himself, and Rogers cut in.
"I think we've gotten a little off topic." The three of them looked up. The man looked like he was trying not to laugh. A look around showed a lot of amused looks, and Thor rubbing his face. Harry frowned a little. What happened to him? Rogers cleared his throat and continued. "Is it ok if I ask about the magic that led to," He gestured up and down towards Harry. "All of this?"
"Erm. Yes of course. It's called an 'animagus transformation'. It's a transformative magic where you gain an animal form you can then turn into at will. You don't pick your form, just kind of discover it, but um, there's a potion you're supposed to take during the discovery process that keeps your animal form from bleeding over into your human one, and well. I was younger than most are when they do it and I didn't read the fine print." Rhodes snorted.
"Wizards aren't immune to the stupidity of youth. Good to know." Harry chuckled.
"Afraid not, no." Rogers looked thoughtful.
"Do you have a full-on animal form? Because I can't really imagine an animal with all those features. Also," He frowned. "The uh, the bleeding into your human body, is that just a physical thing, or were you affected mentally as well?" Harry could hear how he kept his tone carefully neutral.
"I do have an animal form, it's just that it's a magical creature, and um, there were some mental effects yes." He looked down. "I'm honestly not sure how deep it goes." He informed him honestly. "My childhood wasn't typical, and there's some things about me that, well- I mean some things I can attribute to my animagus form easily enough, but other things that could be because of that, might just come from my childhood being what it was. Regardless, it's all me." Rogers nodded.
"Of course." He hesitated. "Any mental effects that might prove dangerous?" Bruce tensed.
"Steve." His voice held a warning, and Rogers lifted his hands in a gesture of surrender.
"I'm not trying to be mean about it. He showed he was perfectly capable during the Incident, but it is a concern." He looked apologetic. "I have to ask." Bruce pursed his lips and looked at him. Harry looked away, wondering. It was not... Something he wanted anyone to know, but-
But it was something that could put these people at risk, and so they deserved to know. Not everything was about his own comforts.
"The thing I become is a predator species, so there's some natural blood lust there. Sometimes when I fight... Sometimes I enjoy it too much, and get caught up enough that I sort of get tunnel-vision." He wasn't actually sure, entirely, if those moments could be attributed to his animagus form, but it was his best guess, and there was no reason to get into a debate with all these people. He took a deep breath. "But I have some safeguards in place to pull me back from it before I hurt anyone who's a friend, so none of you should be at risk." Namely Tom, and, when he was here on earth, Mitera was always there to ground him. Rogers studied him.
"These safeguards are effective?"
"Yes sir." He nodded. The Captain looked relieved.
"Then that's all I need to know."
"You never actually said what you turn into." Barton pointed out, looking fairly unbothered by it all.
"It's called a Mishipeshu. It's um, a sort of giant scaled cat with horns that can breathe underwater." Barton blinked.
"Not at all."
"I want to see!" He bounced a little like an over-excited kid, and Harry laughed.
"Um." He looked up and around. The training room was very large. It was a long open hall with a high ceiling, and he bit his lip. "I think there's enough room for it here." He turned to the Captain. "I know I was supposed to be telling you all about my abilities, but do you think it would be alright...?" Rogers smiled a little.
"Go ahead. This won't be our only meeting, and we're going to learn the most about each others' abilities in training anyways." Harry nodded and stood up. The others stood along with him, and he backed up. Rogers frowned. "What are you doing?"
"I need the space. My form is pretty big." He moved halfway back to the other side of the room before he stopped. "Well," he muttered to himself. "Here goes nothing." He shifted, the process as familiar to him by now as breathing. The others took several steps back, and when it was over he towered over them. They looked so small like this, and also more than a little wary of him. With a small chuff he lay down on his belly, settling his head down on his paws so he looked a little smaller.
"Holy shit." Tony stared at him wide-eyed, hardly the only one. Harry had told him about his form (which he'd noticed he hadn't mentioned to any of the others), but the man hadn't actually seen it before, for all that he'd studied his more human form). He looked awed, the sight of it stirring his inner sense of pride. It was flattering.
"Fuck that's awesome." Barton came closer. "Can I pet you? I mean, is that a weird thing? That's probably a weird thing." Harry huffed a laugh, and moved his head up close to the archer, who touched the space between his brows hesitantly. "Jesus Christ." He breathed, barely more than a whisper, and ran a hand along the scales across his snout. "You're huge and for the record that feels so hella weird." Bruce came up to him fearlessly, familiar with his form, and ran a hand through his mane, scratching in just the right spots. He tilted his head a little, eyes closing and tail flicking happily, and purred.
"Oh fuck." Someone said, Sam maybe. "That shit's loud." Bruce chuckled, and his hand fell still. Harry opened his eyes and looked at him, the two of them staring for a long moment. His purrs eased to a quiet rumble.
"He wants to say hello." Bruce told him.
"Is that safe?" Rogers cut in. Bruce shrugged.
"Like I said, he listens to Harry."
"I also pretty much Hulk-proofed the room." They all looked at Tony. "The walls are made of layers of reinforced adamantium. Not the strongest metal in the world but pretty damn close." They all stared. "What? Big Green's a part of the team too, figured we'd need to train with him too. Besides, he didn't hurt anyone the other couple times he came out." There were some reluctant murmurs of agreement while Harry tilted his head. He'd vaguely figured they'd all met Hulk while he was gone, but he'd not gotten the stories behind that.
He would need to remember to ask later.
Bruce awkwardly stripped down to his pants while the others milled around, a little tense except for Barton, who seemed happy to keep running a hand along his scales. At least until Bruce started to grow, whereupon he backed up a little. Hulk huffed out a breath, looking down at him, and then grinned.
"Kitty." He seemed pleased, and Harry stood. The last time he'd been in front of the Hulk in this form he'd been shorter than him, so it was a little startling to discover they were now at eye-level.
Was it just him, or was he... bigger than the books said Mishipeshu were supposed to get?
He shook his head, it didn't matter.
He moved forward a bit, bumping his nose against Hulk's shoulder, and the big green man grinned and scratched his ears. He flicked his tail a little and then butted the other with his snout. He jumped back, the rafters shaking with the vibration, and stretched, clicking his nails against the concrete floor. Sam's eyes widened at the sight of them. Harry made an inquisitive noise at the Hulk, and then darted forward to paw playfully at him before darting back. Hulk narrowed his eyes and seemed to be thinking, then he grinned.
"Play?" Harry chuffed at him and darted in again. This time when he jumped back Hulk chased him, and they began an impromptu game that was a mixture of keep-away and tag. The others were quick to scramble over near one of the walls and watch out of the way. There were more than a few stunned looks as the two giants ran and hopped around the large room.
It wasn't quite enough space to get a proper run in, for either of them, but it was big enough for Harry to bounce off a wall or two (leaving behind some dents he'd need to repair later) and for them to have a bit of fun. Hulk let out a booming laugh before Harry finally let him catch him, ending their short playtime. He let himself be knocked to the ground with a huff, where he stretched and showed his belly to Hulk, who was happy to scratch it for him.
"Wow. Don't think I've ever seen the big guy so happy." And the spell was broken. Hulk looked over at Tony and then huffed, sneering, and sat on the ground, back to the others. He looked grumpy all of a sudden, like a child forced to share a favorite toy. Harry made an inquisitive noise and the billionaire grimaced. "Ah, he doesn't seem to like us much. The other times while you were gone? He didn't attack anyone, but he won't talk to us either." Harry tilted his head and then rolled back over so he could stand and change back. Hulk stared down at him, and he fearlessly climbed up to sit on the giant's leg.
"What's all that about?" Harry asked him. Hulk huffed and crossed his arms. Harry touched one. "Hey now, none of that. Talk to me." Hulk growled.
"Well yes, of course they're Bruce's friends." His brow crinkled and Hulk poked him with one thick finger.
"Kitty Bruce friend, Kitty Hulk friend."
"Brothers, not friends." Hulk nodded. "Well of course you're both my-" And he stopped as it clicked. "Oh." and then more loudly "Oh. Is that what this is about? You're upset because they're friends with Bruce but not you?" He shook his head.
"Hulk not Bruce."
"Oh I see. Okay I think I understand now." He turned a bit, leaning back against Hulk's wide chest so he could see the others and explain. "He's upset with you all because you think he and Bruce are the same person."
"Aren't they?" Rogers asked, and Hulk turned to snarl at him. Harry swatted his leg.
"Stop that. He's not trying to be rude, he just doesn't understand." Hulk pouted at him and then sniffed disdainfully, turning his head away again. Harry looked back down at the team, all of them watching he and the giant man's interactions with wide eyes. "They're not." He told them. "Not quite. Hulk and Bruce have distinct scents. They have their own thoughts and actions. They share space, and in some ways they blend together at the edges, but they're not quite the same. Hulk isn't a small part of Bruce, he's his own person. It's a bit like two souls sharing a single body." Tony frowned at him.
"You sure about that?"
"Positive." He stared them down. "I imagine you've been treating Hulk like a larger, angrier version of Bruce? Maybe even calling him by the same name?" There were a few hesitant nods. "You need to stop that. They share a body and they're connected, but Bruce is Bruce, and Hulk is Hulk. I don't imagine any of you would like it very much if someone constantly compared you to someone else, or mistook you for them." Barton, again the person to apparently take things as they came, was the first to shrug and take a few steps forward. Hulk turned his head to eye him with open distrust.
"Sorry Hulk." He told him, looking surprisingly casual. There was a forced looseness to his frame that belied his discomfort to the hunter in Harry, but he wasn't about to point it out. "Can we start over?" He held a hand out. "Clint Barton, nice to meet you." He waited, and Hulk looked equal parts bewildered and distrusting. Harry bit back a laugh and nudged him.
"Go on. He did apologize." He grinned up at him. "Go make a new friend."
"Friend..." Hulk murmured, looking at Barton and sniffing. He huffed once, and then very slowly and carefully reached a hand out and settled a finger in Barton's grip. "Hulk." He said firmly as the archer shook it.
"Awesome." There was a bit of shuffling, and after a moment the others came up, one by one, and copied Barton's example; giving their apologies and introducing themselves properly, and then there was a moment where they all stood around a bit awkwardly, seeming unsure what to do with themselves. Harry found it hilarious, and Hulk seemed ever more convinced he was surrounded by crazy people. Harry patted him.
"There now, they've done good, yeah? Think you can give them a chance? They are your team after all."
"Well sure. Bruce isn't the one who's gonna be fighting with them after all. He'll be in the labs mostly, or so I imagine, and going in transport with them to get wherever they need you. He'll be a part of the team in his own way, but they're your team first." Hulk blinked at him, looking a little startled.
"Hulk team." Thor stepped forward.
"Aye my large friend! A finer warrior amongst our ranks, we could not ask for!" Hulk grinned, and then huffed at him.
"Spark Man get in Hulk way, Hulk punch spark man again." Harry's eyes narrowed.
It was quite a sight to see such a large green being look so sheepish.
Rogers had them run a few simple drills after that and go through a few stretches and exercises to evaluate them all physically. Harry was familiar with most of it, and Rogers watched them go through everything while quietly writing things down. Hulk seemed to think it was all a waste of time, but he did what he was asked and even smiled a couple times and transformed back easily enough when it was time for Bruce to go through the same. The Captain gave them all a time for a couple days later to start going through simple maneuvers, and then Harry and Bruce were on their way. It was all fairly casual and painless; much better than he'd initially expected (his time learning under Moody had colored his perceptions of what counted as 'training').
The animagus hadn't cooked the entire time he was in Asgard, but getting back into it came easily enough. He'd probably never really enjoy the chore itself, but he was happy to be making food for family. He bustled around the kitchen happily enough while Bruce and his father chatted at the table. They'd not lost touch at all while he'd been gone, and he found himself thankful for it.
Spending as much time as he had in Asgard had been necessary, and he would need to go back soon enough, but he did hate being away from Earth.
There had been a lot of people he'd left behind when he initially began his travels, a lot of people who had become less a part of his life and more just people he knew, and that was his own fault. He knew that. He just-
Didn't want his father to become one of them.
So he went about cooking dinner, listening to his family talk behind him and learning about what he'd missed.
"So you've been looking at shop fronts?"
"I have." His father sounded pleased. "I don't have enough to buy a shop outright, but I've managed enough for a downpayment and a little extra, finally."
"And we got all those extra potions done."
"Enough to have a starting stock. I can still count on you to help me?"
"Of course. I'll be there at least three days a week if I'm not called away."
"And you'll be with Stark the rest of the time." There was a wry tilt to his father's voice that made him turn to look. To his surprise, Bruce was blushing. He blinked at them.
"In the labs! I'll be-" He cleared his throat, going from a raised voice to a quieter one. "I'll be working in the labs." Severus offered an affirmative noise and took a sip of tea, looking more than a little smug.
"Wait." Their gazes flicked to him. He looked at his brother. "Do you... Do you fancy Tony?"
"I don- Tony is just a friend!" Bruce declared vehemently. "And he's very well off and out of my league, and he's in love with Pepper, and probably very straight and-" Harry's grin grew with every word.
"I'm not hearing a no." Bruce spluttered, and he laughed a little and patted his shoulder. "It's not a bad thing you know, liking someone." Bruce pursed his lips, and then, suddenly, he grinned.
This was a very bad omen.
"Moo called." He informed him.
A very very bad omen.
"Said you've got someone you like. Up in Asgard?" His father looked up.
"What?" After much spluttering and careful defending of privacy, a few jokes on his behalf and traded teasing barbs, dinner was ready and they all settled down. Bruce told them a bit about his work at the tower's labs (most of which went over his head), Severus told him about his plans for his shop (the shop fronts that looks promising, the potions he wanted to specialize in, his process of finally publishing some papers on his experimental work under a pseudonym), and Harry traded some tales of Asgard, his brother's antics, Thor's antics, his less private discussions with Loki, and the progression and finalization of the treaty, after which he started to fall quiet.
"Everything alright, Harry?" He hesitated to answer, stirring his gumbo around a little. He couldn't remember where he'd picked up the recipe now, but it had turned out very well. He was somewhat proud of himself for it. "Harry?" He looked back up. They were both watching him with concern.
"I'm... Planning on going into politics, back in England." Bruce frowned.
"You've... mentioned the possibility before." He hummed.
"I... Kind of thought it would never really be necessary? I could have, before, and it would have helped maybe, but- I... I don't think I was ever actually going to."
"And now you are?" Severus was frowning a little.
"According to Moody, someone's trying to gain support for a bill to ban werewolves from the Isles entirely." The potion master sat up straighter.
"A ban? That's... Extreme. They've tried and failed to impose those sorts of regulations before."
"It's serious enough that Moody told me to warn the twins. He's paranoid, but he wouldn't warn me like that if there wasn't a real threat." Severus gave an acknowledging nod.
"He has a... Reputation. But in my personal experience with the man he only voices his worries when they're... Very real ones. Have things really regressed so far?"
"I don't know. I don't... I need to get involved a bit, get a feel for things. If this bill is a real threat I don't think they'll bring it up in the Wizengamot tomorrow. Hopefully. I can't just sit back and assume whenever it does get brought up that it'll be voted out, and I can't come in right when it does get brought in and assume that people will vote how I want them to just because I'm there. I need to get involved before it comes to that, build support."
"You'll need to sit in on sessions, and the first time you do so will reveal your title to the wizarding world."
"There will be questions."
"Some of which you won't be able to answer without causing more trouble."
"I know." The potion master looked thoughtful for a long moment, and then he hummed, smirking like he had a secret.
"You're good friends with Stark, yes?" He blinked. How was that relevant?
"Yes...?" His father almost grinned.
"I may have an idea."
Snape's got some crazy-ass plans brewing.
And Bruce has a cruuu~uush~ Fair warning, that probably won't turn into an actual pairing. I love Pepper far too much to steal Tony away from her. That said, Bruce having an interest in anyone is meant to be a sign of healthy growth. Maybe he'll end up with someone eventually, more likely I may not pair him off at all. We'll see.
A very fluffy chapter, altogether. I love Hawkeye so much.
Anyways, that's all for now folks! See ya!