Harry walked out of his bakery and coffeeshop into the hot late afternoon air of Malibu. He sighed, another day at the office so to speak. He still was getting used to living in the Muggle world, in America, in a place where the sun always shone. Yeah, it couldnt't have been a bigger change from Surrey England and Hogsmeade, Scotland than that. It had been years since he last had seen the island on the other side of the pond. He had no real inclination to ever return there either. All that waited there were memories of pain and death and the people that he couldn't save. Tomorrow it would be exactly ten years since the Battle of Hogwarts. The decade hadn't lessened the memories for Harry. He could still smell the blood, the despair. He could still hear Hermione screaming and blasting Fenrir Greyback off of Lavender, he could still hear Percy's cry for Fred thrumming against his eardrums.
It had been a pandemonium when he defeated Voldemort. All people saw was the hero, their hero. No one wanted to hear that Harry wanted quiet in his life. No one wanted to see that Harry was dying under the burden of grief and guilt. Especially his friends. The Weasleys were grieving for one of their one. The twins had been ripped apart, and Harry could still feel his heart break when he remembered George in the months after his twin's death. There was no smile on his face, no mischievous spark in his eyes. George had dulled under the loss of his brother, his partner in crime. Harry felt the loss of Fred too, of course. But he felt like he could not say anything in the light of the pain Fred's death caused George and the other Weasleys.
Remus' and Tonks' deaths had hit him hard. He guessed he could have held it together if he could've taken care of little Teddy, like his appointment of godfather should've allowed. But Andromeda Tonks wanted to raise him herself, and had went to the Ministry and made a case for it. claiming that after all the death, fear and loss at such a young age, Harry couldn't be fit to raise an infant. Kingsley Shacklebolt had agreed, and Harry was forced into sessions with a Mind Healer at St Mungo's.
That would've been something good, a way to process everything he lost in his fight against Voldemort. All that went up in smoke when, after a session in which Harry had discussed his recent discovery of his sexuality, it had appeared on the front page of the paper. Hermione had been disgusted. She still held onto the values she was raised with by her Muggle parents. The Weasleys would've been okay with Harry being gay, were it not for Ginny. He had dated her in sixth year and she still clinged on to him, wanted to marry him. This made it all impossible for her. After the largest row Harry had ever participated in under the Burrow's roof, Mrs Weasley had thrown him out. He was not welcome anymore in the only house he had ever considered a home. He had went to Hogwarts, to professor McGonagall. She was the one who listened to him, and in a huge crying session he relieved his heart of every ache that was lingering there. In his old Head of House's arms he felt safe and lost at the same time. He didn't know what to do. it was then that the professor gave him the best advice ever. "Harry, you have nothing to prove, no one to consider in this anymore. Your friends turned out to be different than any one of us could have expected. So go! Go and start anew, cherish your good memories of the people you love and find your own path." It was not said in her usual brisk an no nonsense voice. Instead, her voice was soft and full of warmth, sympathy and heartache for the young man in her arms. Harry had looked up to her surprised. With a smile she squeezed his shoulder. "Go and find your happiness Harry. Just... don't forget this old lady." With a watery laugh he had nodded to her and promised that wherever he went in his life, he would keep in touch with here.
And he had go. Within a week he had a visum to settle in the States, packed all the belonings he still had and said his goodbyes. There were only three people that knew he had left; Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minerva McGonagall and George Weasley. They all took Unbreakable Vows not to reveal where he had go. So two months after the ultimate defeat of Voldemort, he stood in the arrival hall for transcontinental portkeys at JFK airport. He had first stayed in New York and started to read; he doved into magical theory of all kind of subjects. He became well versed in the theory behind Charms, Transfiguration and Potions. He could be considered an expert when it came to Defense Against the Dark Arts. After a year he couldn't stand the city of New York anymore and he had up and left and went to Michigan. Here, he became the neighbour of an old and sickly lady. Trying to help her in the last part of her life, he started to cook and bake for her. When she died, she left him a considerable sum of money (even if he was one of the richest men in the UK, he didn't advertise that particular fact about himself) and the instruction to open either a restaurant or a bakery, but that he couldn't let his talent go to waste. After a year and a half he moved again, going further west. He had ended up in South Dakota in a small town where he first tried his hand at opening his coffee and lunch corner. It became a huge success. Every morning and lunch hour, he had his business filled up with people. His success was broadcaste towards neighbouring towns, and after six months he had people waiting in line for a traditional British Sunday brunch, or a high tea.
He revelled in his baking. It kept his hands busy and his mind peaceful. It had been that way since the Dursleys, when his back felt like it was on fire because of the belt Vernon had used on him, cooking was a way to let his mind drift away from the pain. It remained the same. While he was busy with baking, cooking, or helping his customers, his mind was drifitng away from the pain that was still lingering in his conciousness. At night was when the pain returned as nightmares.
Harry had made good on his promise to Minerva, he had remained in contact with her. He wrote dutifully once a week, telling her about his customers in that week, a strange occurance, or a new theoretical hypothesis he had encountered in an obscure book written tree hundred years ago. Minerva on her part, kept him updated. At first the rebuilding of Hogwarts, the re-opening of Hogwarts, Kingsley being officially voted into office, Hermione and Ron marrying. Then there were the endless stories of students vying to become the new Mauraders or Weasley Twins. Harry always laughed at that part of her letters, the pranks the current students came up with were either pathetic or a stroke of genius. She always compared the current pranks with either the antics of the Mauraders or the actions of the twins. Those comparisons became an incredible source of informations about his parents, especially his dad, and their friends.
Five years ago he came to Malibu. He created a little shop with the back windows and porch looking over the beach and ocean. It was on the right side of the middle of nowhere. But people came nonetheless. Malibu consisted of a lot of people with fancy cars, fancier clothes, and without a clue how to spend the rest of their money and time. There were a lot of assistants as well. Men and women who came in speed walking to get the coffee and muffin/scone/donut for their bosses. Five years, he sighed. It had been five years already and he still didn't feel the urge to move on, to another place, start anew again. Maybe he was finally settling? Finally finding a place in the world were he can rest and let the wariness slowly evaporate in the salty air of the ocean?
Harry decided to walk along the beach for a while, before doing stock and then, he groaned internally, the books. God he hated doing the books! There had been a reason that Harry decided at the end of second year that Arithmancy was not meant for him. Altough his primary school math was doable, adding up the numbers was a bimonthly disaster! He started down the stair towards the beach when he heard his name called behind him. Turning around he saw the very well known head of red hair nad the recognizable click clack of her stilleto's. Pepper walked towards him with her impressive speed. He could never understand how she could walk like that on four to five inch heels. Walking up the few steps again, he came face-to-face with her. Pepper looked flustered, frustrated, and was (Harry knew, altough it did not show) completely exasperated.
"Pepper, what a pleasant surprise! I didn't expect you here. Is Tony back already, or has there been a delay with the presentation." Harry was confused.
Pepper swallowed dryly. She didn't know how to tell Harry. For nine months, Harry had been dating Tony. It was a rocky road, and Harry had cursed Tony to hell and back again more times than she could count. But they were reasonable steady and the relationship had become somewhat resembling stable. This was more due to Harry, who had the impressive capability not to listen to any of Tony's reasoning or blunt logic and put his foot down when it counted. And now... "Harry," she had to take deep breath and start again. "Harry there has been a situation in Afghanistan."
Harry paled. Situations with Tony were serious. This to contrary of complications. Usually complications with Tony meant something along the line of 'Hary, I promised I wouldn't drink at that party and drive myself home. But I am really drunk now, lost my phone and JARVIS and only know your number by heart, pick me up?' Complications meant headaches for Pepper, because Tony decided that going to a meeting where billion dollar contracts were signed was to boring to do. complications consisted ninety percent of the time of Tony being an arse. Situations, however, were the heartattack inducing shit. Like when they still were only friends and he crashed his car beyond repair and was in a coma for two days. The day after he came out of his coma, Harry agreed to go on a date with him.
"Pepper, what is it?" He would never know how he managed to create a sound at that moment, considering his heart was blocking his vocal cords by the feeling of it.
"A-at the way b-back of the presentation. The convoy of Tony was attacked. T-they, he is..." Pepper was shaking now. "He was kidnapped. They only found his phone behind some rocks." Harry was sure Pepper said more after this, but he couldn't hear it. The world came rushing in at an alarming speed, a strange buzzing in his ears prevented Harry hearing the rest of what Pepper said. Tony Stark, billonair genius playboy philantropist – as he had once called himself-, gone? Kidnapped? But that couldn't! No, no, no, no! Harry didn't realize he had fallen to his knees. He didn't see the world go sideways as he lay down on the pavement. But he did welcome the blackness that helped him evade the hopelessness and pain that engulfed him from the moment Pepper had uttered the word 'kidnapped'. With relief he succumbed to the darkness