Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers or Harry Potter. Unfortunately.
Chapter 14: Guess Who's Back
In two days Harry would finally be returning to Hogwarts. However, today would Harry's last day in the tower. Tomorrow morning they would be taking the jet to London so none of them had to experience the horrors of taking a portkey again. He was feeling more comfortable with the idea of returning to Hogwarts after he and Tony had talked about it. Tony had been able to impart some words of wisdom to him due to his own experience being in the public eye, and constantly having people judge him.
"When you're a public figure people are always going to decide who they think you are. You can't constantly worry about what people think of you. It's too much effort and not worth wasting your time over. People are going to think what they want about you regardless of what you say to them. The most important part is just knowing who you are. You keep people who you love and can trust by your side, and you ignore the rest. People are going to be idiots no matter what. They'll make up stories because they're bored or want to sell papers. I've had to deal with the publicity my entire life. I know the highs and lows, and how quickly the public can turn on you. I want to protect you from that but realistically I can't stop people from thinking. I'll do my best to keep them from printing stories about you. But the freedom of the press and all that make it difficult.
"If you really don't want to go back to Hogwarts then I'm behind you one hundred percent. But I don't want something that might happen hold you back from doing what you want to do. Don't let other people's opinions stop you. Look at me, I always just do what I want and somehow it works out."
"Did it bother you, the way Hagrid and Mrs. Weasley acted towards you? I didn't like the way they treated you," Harry had confided in him. Harry knew that Tony was far too observant not to have noticed, and wanted to know if he had been offended by their behavior.
"It's nothing that I didn't expect. But I don't care what they think of me. All I care about is the way treat people you. That's a completely different situation and definitely not okay in my book. I'm kind of the bad guy in this situation, kiddo. To them I tried to ruin a perfect marriage. I knew my relationship with your mom was wrong but I did it anyway. I wasn't a good person back then, Harry. I freely admit that. Like I said I did things how I wanted when I wanted and didn't really think of the consequences to other people. I'm trying to be better," Tony had conceded.
"You are doing better. You're a superhero. You save people, and you're an awesome dad," Harry had declared proudly.
"Thanks Mini-Merlin," Tony had wrapped his arm around Harry's shoulders. The gleam in his eyes had told Harry how truly touched he was by Harry's claim.
"But its still not all your fault," Harry had told him adamantly.
"Yeah, well life's not always fair. I'm willing to shoulder the blame as long as I've got you," Tony had shrugged it off.
Harry wished that he was capable of doing the same thing. He still didn't like the thought of Tony being painted as the villain.
"What do I say to people? You know if they ask about you and mum?" Harry had asked.
"I don't know, what do you think you should say?" Tony had challenged.
"It's none of their business?" Harry had offered.
"Perfect," Tony had ruffled his hair before the two of them returned to watching the Bond marathon they had been enjoying.
Now Harry was heading to his last sparring session with Natasha and Steve. The two of them traded off with his basic training depending on whichever one of them was available at the time. Sometimes Clint joined them. Hand to hand combat wasn't really Clint's thing but he helped improve Harry's aim by teaching him basic archery skills and knife throwing. Clint had the best aim Harry had ever seen. He always hit his intended target without fail. Harry thought improving his aim at archery and knives would insure perfect aim when casting his spells.
Natasha, Steve, and Clint were all the training room when he arrived. Natasha and Steve were sparring with one another while Clint watched from his position on top of the climbing wall. Harry paused to watch as well. Watching the two of them spar with one another was really something amazing to behold. They were both very good but even with Steve's greater strength, Natasha was obviously more skilled. But still it made for a good show. Steve could take Natasha's hits with minimal damage while Natasha was fast and skilled enough to evade Steve's attempts at stopping her. Both he and Steve had learned quite a lot from Natasha in the finer arts of physical combat this summer. Steve had gotten really good. Harry was pleased to say that he was a lot more confident in protecting himself in a physical confrontation. He'd gotten stronger and was more lean than scrawny now.
In the end Natasha won their scrimmage by getting Steve in a headlock on his stomach. Harry clapped and rushed over to them.
"So what are we going to do for my last practice?"
"It's not your last practice. I still expect you to practice your training while you're at school," Natasha said sternly.
Once Harry had gotten to know her a little better, Natasha really wasn't that scary. She was actually a very nice person, and a really good teacher. She was strict like McGonagall but she knew exactly when to push or when to give him space. She was knowledgeable about many different forms of martial arts. Harry enjoyed their sessions together.
"I will," Harry assured her. He wanted to be able to protect himself without magic. It would give him an advantage over his opponents. He would make sure to practice every day.
"Good. Let's get started then. Run through your warm ups," Natasha commanded.
Harry immediately obeyed, going through his normal routine to warm up and loosen his muscles. Natasha then helped him stretch. She had imparted to him just how being flexible could aid him in a fight. He believed it after watching the way Natasha could flip around, and outmaneuver her opponents. Harry had been pleasantly surprised by his own limberness. Natasha attributed it to youthfulness, and told him that it would be important for him to keep up with his stretches if he wanted to maintain his level of flexibility. Once he was ready Natasha and he went through a series of maneuvers. Harry practiced moving as smoothly as possible, and having as much control over his own body as possible. He kicked and punched the air, spinning and dodging invisible foes.
Steve and he squared off to spar. Steve was always extremely careful with Harry. He was afraid of hurting him. It made Steve focus more on technique rather than brute strength, which was exactly what Natasha wanted from him. While Harry was encouraged to try his hardest when sparring against Steve, knowing that the Captain was durable enough to take the hits.
Their practice was going well. Harry was feeling confident and surprisingly graceful in his movements thanks to all of the practice. Steve, of course, was letting him make hits so that he would know what it felt like. Natasha was circling them correcting their stances and offering advice on other moves they could have tried.
It happened suddenly. Harry landed a solid open palmed hit square to Steve's chest, something he had done often enough in the past. But what he wasn't expecting was for Steve to fly back off his feet, and slide off across the floor. They all froze at the shocking turn of events. Harry was stunned, and stared from his hand to Steve in confusion. He hadn't felt any different when landing the blow. Everything had felt completely normal. How had he done it?
"Was that a burst of accidental magic?" Natasha asked looking him over.
"It must have been," Harry murmured.
There was no other explanation for him being able to knock Steve off his feet like that. Steve was a tall and heavily built man, not to mention a super soldier, there was no way Harry could have possibly knocked him off his feet without assistance of some sort. But that didn't make sense. His accidental magic only reacted when he was feeling a particularly strong emotion. Harry had been exerting himself but he had felt perfectly relaxed. He shook it off. It had to be nerves about returning to Hogwarts tomorrow, and his magic was reacting subconsciously. He hadn't had the chance to practice using his magic with his newly remade magical core. He felt fine with the new structure, and he hadn't any other outbursts. It had to just be nerves, and his magic just slipped out easier than it did before.
"Are you all right Steve?" Harry asked.
"I'm fine. Don't worry about me, Harry. It takes a lot more than that to hurt me," Steve flashed him a reassuring smile. However, the Captain wasn't able to completely hide the wince of pain as he climbed to his feet while rubbing his chest.
"Maybe we can take a break and jump on the trampoline for the rest of the session?" Clint offered.
Harry grinned. Clint loved the trampoline and the two of them had gotten up to a lot of mischief on it. The trampoline was set in the ground of the training room with a foam pit surrounding it. For safety, of course.
Harry looked to Natasha for permission. She rolled her eyes and sent Clint an indulgent smile.
"It is your last day," she sighed.
Clint grinned back before sprinting towards the trampoline with Harry hot on his heels. The two of them hopped onto the trampoline, and started trying to bounce the other off into the foam pit giggling like children. The incident was soon all but forgotten as he and Clint flipped and spun around.
Afterwards they headed back up to the penthouse for lunch. Pepper, Bruce, and Tony joined them.
"I have something special I want to give you," Tony announced after lunch. "You've probably noticed that I've been working long hours in the lab recently. Well, I've been working on something I wanted you to be able to take to Hogwarts."
Harry's interest was piqued. He couldn't wait to see just what Tony had made him. The red and gold metal knapsack that he was presented with was the last thing that Harry had been expecting.
"A bag?" Harry asked curiously.
A slightly manic grin stretched across Tony's face as he slapped a pair of metal wristbands on him. Then he pressed a button on the side of the metal case. The knapsack unfurled itself before launching itself at Harry. He was only able to give a startled yelp before the suit wrapped itself around him, incasing him in a protective metal suit. The lights inside the helmet flickered on and Jarvis's chimed a welcome in his ear.
"Your own suit! I modeled it after my own. I only reversed the colors. And it's perfectly capable of working in the presence of magic since it runs on arch reactor tech," Tony cheered.
"Tony, I can't believe you did this," Pepper gaped openly.
"Don't worry, Pep, it's completely harmless. It's meant to be a pretty, protective shell, and of course it can fly to get out of sticky situations. Most importantly while active it is capable of recognizing dangerous settings. If you're in an inescapable and life threatening situation it will unlock the combat mode for you to be able to use the weapons, and escape," Tony enthused.
Pepper didn't look sold on the idea. "I don't think they'll let something like this into a school, Tony."
"That's why we're not going to tell them anything. Besides it's a magical school. They have things like thestrals. A suit of armor isn't a big deal. And Harry's responsible enough to know that it's only to be used in case of emergencies," Tony waved away her concerns.
Harry nodded in agreement.
"I love it," Harry told Tony once he figured out how to slide the faceplate up.
Tony looked so pleased with himself. Harry was amazed by the fact that Tony had actually taken the time to make a suit just for him.
"Can I try flying now?" Harry asked eagerly.
"Um, yeah. What else would expect? We'll spend the rest of the day going over how to use it. Of course you don't need to do much. I installed Jarvis and he'll be able to take care of everything for you. Not to mention the suits directly connected to the mainframe so I will be notified immediately if you ever need some help," Tony explained.
But Tony ended up showing him how to use everything anyway. He taught him how to take the suit on and off, and how to control the suit manually. The best part, however, was flying without a broom. It was more freeing somehow. The broom flying had really helped him adapt to flying in the suit. He was a natural at it in no time, and Tony and he ended up playing tag in the large training room.
That night the Avengers plus Phil, Pepper, and even Director Fury gathered for a huge dinner in the tower. Tony had gone all out ordering food from Harry's favorite Chinese restaurant, and getting his favorite dessert to send him off. It was loud and boisterous, and like being a part of a real life family. It made Harry realize that it wasn't just him that enjoyed these dinners. As he looked around the table he realized that the other Avengers looked forward to this as much as he did. Everyone that Steve had known was dead making the rest of them the only contacts he had left. Bruce likewise didn't have anyone else since he had distanced himself from other people due to his condition. Harry didn't know a lot about Natasha and Clint's pasts but he figured that they couldn't have many people they were close to considering the dangerous lives they led as spies. Despite their differences the Avengers needed one another, and Harry knew he was lucky to be a part of it.
After dinner everyone stayed. Conversation strayed to a variety of different topics. Harry found himself sitting with Phil. His curiosity got the best of him. He couldn't resist asking Phil what type of business he had conducted with the Ministry of Magic.
"It's all right if you can't tell me," Harry assured when Phil hesitated.
"It does in part pertain to you, Harry so I think you have a right to know."
Harry waited patiently for him to continue. His interest was piqued.
"I went to talk to Minister Fudge about Voldemort still being alive. Unfortunately, he was very unwilling to even entertain the notion that he might still be alive. However, SHIELD is making Voldemort one of their top priorities, and we will be looking into the matter with or without the British Ministry's help. I'm going to be putting together my own special team within SHIELD, and hopefully one of the projects we'll be overseeing is Voldemort," Phil explained.
Harry felt relief slide through him. It was nice to know that he had a group like SHIELD on his side.
"Oh, will you keep me updated on what you find?" Harry asked. He still wanted to be involved with the investigation. Voldemort had murdered his mum, and tried to kill him as well. He wanted to see Voldemort destroyed once and for all.
"We're going to be consulting with your father on the matter so I'll make sure he passes along the information to you as well," Phil assured him.
"Thanks Phil," Harry smiled.
"You're welcome. I hope we can ensure that you don't have any more mishaps while at school," Phil told him sincerely.
Harry thanked him again before Clint suddenly engaged him in a spitball competition. Steve tried to protest the juvenileness of it but a spitball to the face from Tony had Steve up in arms and ready to retaliate.
Once the spitball fight came to end with Clint being the clear winner, Pepper sent them all to bed. Harry said his goodbyes to Phil and Fury since they wouldn't be able to make it to breakfast tomorrow before they left for London. Harry already had everything packed but he double-checked just to make sure. In the morning Tony, Pepper, and Harry would be taking the jet to London. They would spend the night in a hotel, and catch the Hogwarts Express the next morning.
The morning of their departure Clint, and Bruce made a huge breakfast. Then the goodbyes started. Harry wasn't used to having people who were going to miss him. Everyone wished him well, and told him to call them often especially since Tony's magic resistant mobile phone had proven to be effective. It was surprisingly difficult for him to say goodbye to the tower and all of the Avengers. After just a couple of months the tower had become his home and he was going to miss it.
Happy drove them to the airport. The paparazzi were still just as rabid to get pictures of Tony and Harry together. After his run in with the public in Diagon Alley Harry was even more wary of them.
The three of them settled on the jet, and were off to London. On the trip Harry and Tony went over the lay out of Harry's suit some more. The two of them were drawing up improvements that could be made when Harry came home for break. Tony told him to keep a note of improvements if he came up with any. They talked about other inconsequential things trying to keep themselves occupied on the long flight.
They arrived in London late in the afternoon. The three of them went to explore the city. Harry had never spent time in muggle London before and enjoyed the chance to get to know the city. They saw the sights, did some shopping, and got dinner in a fancy restaurant. Tony wasn't as easily recognized in London as he was in America, which made it easier to go about doing normal things without the interruption of the paparazzi.
After dinner they returned to the extravagant hotel Tony had booked for the night. Even after a couple of months of it, Harry was still trying to get used to the rich lifestyle Tony lived with such a casual ease. It made him feel slightly out of place to be a part of such luxury. They had gotten the presidential suit, which held its own large hot tub. Harry took advantage of this while Pepper and Tony settled down together in their bedroom. He had just relaxed himself in the hot tub when a strange creature popped out of nowhere.
Harry jumped, spilling water out of the tub and on to the floor. He scrambled back in the water gaping at the odd little creature that had suddenly appeared. It was small with huge bat-like ears, large round bulging eyes, and a long pointed nose. It was wearing what looked like a dirty pillowcase on it's thin frame.
"Harry Potter, sir," the creature spoke in a tremulous voice. "Dobby is so happy to have finally found you, sir. It's such an honor to finally meet you, sir."
"What… who are you?" Harry finally managed to get out.
"Dobby, sir. Dobby the house-elf, sir," the creature murmured in awe.
"Um, yes, nice to meet you, Dobby," Harry watched the creature closely incase it decided to attack; although, it looked relatively harmless.
"Nice to meet you, Dobby. Oh, Harry Potter sir, you are too kind."
"Er, uh, thanks. Can I ask just why were you trying to find me?" Harry questioned.
"There isn't much time Harry Potter, sir. Dobby has taken too long in trying to find you, sir. Dobby almost didn't make it," the little creature worried.
"That's alright just sit down and tell me what was so important about meeting—" Harry was cut off when Dobby loosed a long wail.
"Sit down? Harry Potter is asking Dobby to sit down," the creature sobbed.
"Alright, alright. Calm down Dobby. You don't have to sit down," Harry tried reassuring the creature. He wondered at what point he should go and get Tony and Pepper. Although if Dobby kept up with the loud noise they'd come looking for him anyway.
"You are too kind Harry Potter, sir. No wizard has ever asked Dobby to sit down. You are truly a great wizard, sir, to be so nice to Dobby, sir," Dobby warbled.
"You must not have known very nice wizards," Harry glanced over the creature's clothing and then at his bandaged hands. He wondered what had been done to him.
Dobby looked like he wanted to say something but then lunged forward to bang his head on the side of the hot tub. "Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!" He shouted.
Harry surged forward to stop him.
"Stop that! You'll hurt yourself," Harry cried.
"Dobby must punish himself. He almost spoke ill of his family, sir," Dobby said ears drooping.
"Your family?" Harry was confused.
"The wizard family that Dobby serves, sir. Dobby is a house-elf. Bound to serve one family forever," Dobby explained.
"Did they send you to find me?"
"Oh no, Harry Potter sir. Dobby's family would punish Dobby if they knew he was here. Dobby will have to punish himself after this. Shut his ears in the oven. If they ever knew, sir…" Dobby trailed off and Harry figured that his punishment would be even worse then sticking his ears in the oven.
"Don't they care about you hurting yourself?"
"No, sir. Dobby is always having to punish himself for something. Sometimes they remind Dobby to give himself extra punishments, sir."
"That's awful why don't you just leave?" Harry was appalled by Dobby's treatment.
"Dobby is bound to his wizard family serve. Bound forever. Dobby cannot leave unless his family frees him, sir," Dobby said wringing his hands.
Harry felt bad. He understood what it was like be stuck with cruel masters and no hope of escaping. It was pure luck that he gotten Tony in his life.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Harry wanted to know.
It was the wrong thing to ask but Dobby instantly went into hysterics, crying in gratitude about Harry's kindness.
"It's okay. Calm down, Dobby," Harry attempted to placate him.
"The great Harry Potter. The defeater of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is too good to Dobby," Dobby continued to wail.
"All of that is a load of rubbish and you don't have to keep calling me sir," Harry assured him.
"You are too good Harry Potter, sir," Dobby cried.
Dobby's wails had finally caught Tony and Pepper's attention. The door to bathroom banged open. Tony rushed in looking concerned.
"Harry? Are you all right? Why are cry—" He stopped and stared at Dobby in open mouth shock.
Dobby gave a startled yelp at Tony's sudden appearance, and promptly disappeared with a snap of his fingers.
"What the hell was that!?" Tony cried.
"Tony? Harry? Is everything okay?" Pepper questioned as she arrived behind Tony.
"I have no idea. What was that?" Tony turned to Harry for answers.
"I don't really know. He said he was a house-elf named Dobby, and that he came to tell me something. But with all the crying and trying to hurt himself he never seemed to get around to it," Harry shrugged.
"A house-elf named Dobby. Huh… this is my life now. Fighting aliens and being visited by strange little gnome creatures," Tony muttered.
"Gnomes are actually vicious little creature that live in gardens. Dobby seemed harmless in comparison."
Tony sent him a look. Harry flashed him an innocent smile back.
"Should we be concerned about the house-elf visit?" Pepper asked, focusing them back to the point of the matter.
"I don't think so. Like I said, he was harmless. He just kept hurting himself because he wasn't supposed to be here. But he seemed really excited to meet me," Harry told her remembering the reverent way he mentioned Harry defeating Voldemort.
"Maybe he was just a fan, and just wanted the chance to meet you?" Tony offered.
"I guess that makes sense. I sort of feel bad for him. He said he'd have to put his ears in the oven in order to meet me," Harry told him.
"That's awful," Pepper cried.
"Maybe I'll have to get in contact with the British Magic Ministry or whatever it's called. I can't have random creatures just popping in and out of your room all the time to meet you. And here I thought my fans were bad. Having magical fans who can teleport is definitely worse," Tony said.
"Yup," Harry agreed.
"You weren't kidding when you told me about your popularity, huh?"
"Nope," Harry sighed.
"I'll see what I can learn about this house-elf. From what McGonagall told us on the tour the barriers around Hogwarts will keep out any unwanted guests. So you should be fine at Hogwarts," Tony reassured him.
Harry smiled gratefully at him.
"Let's all get to bed. You have a long day tomorrow," Pepper threw a towel over his head and gave it a brisk rub to dry him off.
Harry laughed and pulled away looking up at her from under the towel.
She smiled back before frowning a bit. "Did your hair get darker?"
Harry frowned and tried to peek at it. It looked like the same dark brown to Harry.
She shook her head. "It's probably just the lighting. Wow, it's been a long day. Off to bed with you. Both of you." She sent Tony a stern glare.
"But mom," Tony whined.
She smiled at him, looping her arm through Tony's to drag him away.
Harry changed out of his bathing suit, and into his pajamas. He wondered about Dobby's visit. But he figured Tony must be right. Dobby must have just been a fan. Harry couldn't help but think that his life would have been so much simpler if he wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived. He didn't want to be famous. He didn't the world knowing about his personal life, and forming their own opinions about his and Tony's relationship.
The next morning the three of them ordered breakfast from room service, and ate in the room. Tony was abnormally quiet as Pepper and Harry talked about Harry's upcoming trip on the Hogwarts Express. Harry hadn't realized just how much his leaving was going to affect Tony. Honestly Harry thought Tony would like to finally have some time to himself after all that had happened.
Before long the three of them needed to leave. Tony grabbed Harry's trunk, and Harry grabbed Hedwig's cage. Tony had a car drive them to Charring Cross Station. The station was bustling with tons of people, and the three wove their way through the crowds with Harry leading the way towards Platform 9 3/4. They arrived in time to watch another family disappear into the barrier.
"That's not something you see every day," Tony commented offhandedly.
"You can go first," Harry offered Tony with a grin.
"Ha, ha, very funny," Tony muttered.
"Why don't we all go together?" Pepper suggested looking a little nervous about trying to walk through something like looked like a solid wall.
That decided they walked forward at a brisk pace. Harry couldn't help but flinch as they reached the barrier. Even though he had done it before it didn't make running at a brick wall any easier. All too soon they had made it across to the other side of the barrier. Harry smiled as he was greeted by the bustling sounds of Platform 9 3/4. Hogwarts students and their families dragging their trunks and animal cages while the Hogwarts Express billowed smoke in the background.
"That was amazing," Pepper said looking a little awed.
"It's pretty impressive for a train," Tony agreed.
"Look, there's Hermione and her parents," Harry said spotting Hermione's bushy hair through the crowd.
They headed over to where Hermione was saying goodbye to her parents.
"Harry! Aren't you excited? I can't wait until classes start. I've made a list of all the things I want to research this semester," Hermione greeted enthusiastically.
"It should be a great year," Harry agreed glancing back to where Pepper and Tony were greeting Hermione's parents. They all chatted for a bit, waiting for the Weasleys to show up before boarding the train.
However, when the Hogwarts Express released a whistle informing them it was about to leave they decided to board the train just to be safe.
Harry turned to Pepper and Tony. It was time to say his final goodbyes.
"You have a great time at school, Harry. And if you need anything, anything at all, don't hesitate to call us. But you should call us anyway. At least three times a week," said Pepper in a rush. Harry couldn't help but wonder if there were actual tears in her eyes as she gazed at Harry.
"I'll try," Harry assured her. Pepper gave a half laugh and half sob as she swept Harry up in a crushing hug.
"Oh, Pepper don't smother him," Tony complained with a smile. Pepper reluctantly released him and stepped back so Tony could move closer. He leaned down to talk to Harry so that their conversation would be overheard. "But really I expect to hear from you once a week, kiddo. If not I'll think something horrible has happened, and storm Hogwarts in a rain of repulsor blasts with the Hulk and Captain America at my side, okay?"
"I will. I promise." Harry looked down at his shoes suddenly nervous about what he should say.
He'd been so focused on getting to Hogwarts that he hadn't really focused on just how much leaving Tony was going to hurt. The last two and half months had been amazing. Tony had become a huge part of his life. He had changed his life so much. Tony had made it so much better. They were still working things out but Harry knew he could trust Tony.
"I'll miss you," Harry said finally.
"Me too, kiddo," Tony choked up but was trying not to show it. "I had a pretty spectacular summer with you around."
"It was definitely memorable," Harry agreed.
"If you need anything, call me, and text me whenever you can. Most of all have fun, pull a few pranks, and learn some new magic we can use to scare Barton. Just don't get in too much trouble, otherwise Pepper will get mad at me. Now, go catch up with your friend. I'm sure she wants to review the entire year's information before you get to school," Tony grinned.
"Right," Harry murmured.
"Now get over here, Mini-Merlin," Tony opened his arms wide in invitation.
Harry grinned and threw himself into Tony's arms, "Bye dad."
"Bye Harry. Have a great time and I'll see you soon, okay?" Tony gripped him tightly and pressed a quick kiss to his hair.
Harry reluctantly pulled back from the embrace. Harry and he walked on to the train. Hermione had found a compartment with Neville Longbottom. Harry gave Neville a quick greeting before going over to the window to wave to Pepper and Tony. Tony smiled and waved back. Harry stayed at the window until the train began to pull away. The Weasleys had made it just moments before the train was set to leave. Ron and Ginny appeared in their compartment breathing heavily, having run the whole way to catch the train in time. Harry leaned out the window waving to Tony until the platform disappeared from view completely. Only then did Harry return to his seat, and greet Ron and Ginny.
"How was your summer, Neville?" Harry asked the quiet, slightly pudgy boy. He needed something to distract him from leaving Pepper and Tony behind.
He listened absently as Neville went on about the greenhouse his Gram had let him set up.
"What about you, Harry?" Neville asked politely.
"I found out I have a different father who builds flying metal suits. Then I met the Norse god Loki who was leading an alien invasion against to take over the Earth. And I spent the rest of the summer living in America with a group of superheroes," Harry replied.
Neville blinked a few times. "Oh, that sounds… interesting."
"Yeah," Harry nodded.
There was a long period of silence
"What are aliens exactly? Is it a muggle thing?" Neville asked.
Hermione and Harry laughed, and launched into explanation about aliens. Neville, Ron, and Ginny were all very interested in hearing more about science fiction. After spending a summer with Tony, Harry was more than up to date on a wealth of different movies. They talked about their summer homework for a bit, mainly on Hermione's insistence. Neville brought out his Exploding Snap cards, and the five of them played a couple of rousing games. Their good time was ruined when the door to their compartment was thrown open. Draco Malfoy flanked by his two gorilla-like cronies stood in the doorway wearing a smarmy grin.
"Hello Potter. Or I guess its Stark now, isn't it? My father looked up Tony Stark and found out about the whole sordid affair. How James Potter isn't your real father," Malfoy smirked.
Harry glared at the blonde boy. Technically Malfoy was only telling the truth. His name was Stark now. Harry just didn't like the way Malfoy said it. Out of everyone, Harry knew Malfoy would be the worst he would have to face in regards to his parentage. Harry also knew that it would have only been a matter of time before everyone found out the truth. He just thought he would have had more time to prepare himself for the eventual leak. But he supposed it was better to deal with Malfoy in the beginning, and just get everything over and done with so he could enjoy his time at Hogwarts.
"You're right, my last name is Stark now. Just like my dad." Harry shrugged, feigning carelessness. Malfoy just wanted to see him humiliated but Harry wasn't going to give him the satisfaction, and besides he was proud to have Tony as his father. Malfoy's words didn't matter to him because he was an idiot who wanted to hurt him.
Malfoy looked taken aback for a moment that Harry was admitting it so easily, and that he hadn't managed to upset Harry.
"You're mother was just a filthy mudblood after all. That's what happens when they marry above their station," Malfoy sneered.
"My mother was a brilliant witch who gave her life for mine. My dad is a genius, and a hero. And anything else about them isn't any of your business, Malfoy," Harry snapped coldly.
"Yeah, so sod off, Malfoy!" Ron snarled jumping up.
"Whatever you say, Stark. It doesn't change the fact that your mother is a slag," Malfoy said in a superior manner.
"There's no need to use such foul language, Malfoy. I think it's time you leave," Hermione commanded.
"Oh shut up, mudblood," Malfoy snapped.
"Leave her alone. She's twice the witch you'll ever be," Harry snarled. He had a good understanding of just what mudblood meant, and he didn't like the word being used in regards to his mum or Hermione.
"Just go away. No one wants to hear your negative opinions," Neville spoke up bravely.
"Oh really fat arse? What are you going to do about it? You think a pathetic lump like you can make me leave?" Malfoy whirled on Neville causing the boy to cringe back.
"The only pathetic one here is you, Malfoy. You need to hurt us to make yourself feel superior. Just leave, Malfoy, before someone gets hurt," Harry demanded.
Malfoy just glared, feeling secure with Crabbe and Goyle backing him up.
"I won't ask again," Harry growled. He could feel his magic reacting to his anger. It was surging up inside him more powerful than he had ever felt it before. But it didn't feel wild or uncontrollable. It was concentrated and Harry knew he could mold it to do what he wanted. And he wanted Malfoy to leave.
"You can't tell me what to do, Stark. You're barely even a wizard. A mudblood mother and a muggle father. You're no better than being a mudblood yourself," Malfoy smirked.
Harry didn't think, he just willed it. He lifted his hand a shot of blue fire shot from his palm. It slammed into Malfoy, and caused him and his goons to be forcefully ejected from the compartment. Harry had a moment of fear that he had hurt them. He was almost relieved when Malfoy stood up whining loudly, and brushing ice from his robes.
"You'll be expelled for this, Stark," he cried.
"For what? I didn't do anything to you, Malfoy," Harry replied feeling oddly calm.
"He's right, I didn't see anything," Ron smirked at Malfoy.
"Go away, Malfoy," Hermione sighed in exasperation.
Malfoy sent them all one last withering glare before stocking off, Crabbe and Goyle at his heels.
"Wow, Harry! How did you do that?" Ron exclaimed.
"I have no idea," Harry replied, still more than a little stunned.
"Well, he's a git and deserved to be knocked on his arse," Ron said firmly.
"Ron," Hermione chided before turning to reassure Harry. "Don't pay attention to anything that Malfoy said, Harry. He just wants to hurt you and get you in trouble. Reacting like that just gives him what he wants. You handled yourself well, until the end that is."
"I know, Hermione," Harry sighed. But he couldn't help the anger that bubbled inside him when Malfoy had talked about his mum.
Facing Malfoy hadn't been that bad. He was feeling more confident that he could deal with whatever else people decided to throw at him.
The rest of the trip was only interrupted by the sweet cart, which Ron and Harry eagerly fell upon. Around the time the night started to fall, the Hogwarts Express began to slow. They had already changed into their school robes, and were more than prepared to disembark from the train. This year they would head up to the school in the thestral pulled carriages with the rest of the student body, instead of taking the boats as first years. Harry was more than willing to impart his knowledge about the thestrals when the carriages that pulled themselves startled Hermione.
Harry couldn't help the smile that stretched across his face as he got his first good look at Hogwarts. The castle, all lit up at night, was truly something amazing to behold. It was beautiful, and Harry felt a rush of warm familiarity at finally returning to the castle. He missed his dad and the tower but he was happy to have finally returned to Hogwarts.
The great hall with its floating candles was another welcome sight. Harry, Ron, Neville, and Hermione made their way over to the Gryffindor table. They were warmly greeted by their fellow Gryffindors. Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan were the other two boys in Harry's year, and they shared his dorm room. Harry gladly chatted with the two boys about his summer. Dean Thomas was from a muggle household, and he had heard all about the attack on New York. He was very eager to learn more about the invasion. He was also aware that Harry was Tony Stark's son. Harry was relieved to discover that the discovery hadn't changed Dean's opinion of him at all. It made him relax. The more people that accepted the discovery the more Harry relaxed.
"Why is that loony Lockhart here?" Ron suddenly demanded.
Harry turned around to look where Ron was looking. Sure enough there was Lockhart wearing shiny metallic gold robes with hints of light purple. He was grinning and smiling at everyone. Snape who was sitting next to him looked even dourer than he normally did as Lockhart chatted away beside him.
"Oh no," Harry muttered noticing the place where Lockhart was sitting.
"Oh, do you think he's our new Defense Against the Dark Art's Professor?" Hermione gasped. "It would ever so exciting to have the author who actually wrote all those texts teaching us. He has so much experience, and he must know so much."
"I don't know, he's kind of… odd," Harry said looking warily at the man.
"I'm sure he's brilliant. He wouldn't have been hired if he wasn't," Hermione argued.
"If you say so," Harry murmured not at all convinced. He would just have to wait and see what happened.
The sorting began shortly after. Professor McGonagall led the small, terrified first years into the great hall. The Sorting Hat was brought out, and it sang a new sorting song before the first years were sent up one by one. Ginny Weasley joined Gryffindor to the applause of her brothers. Harry smiled in remembrance of his own sorting, and how he had insisted on being placed in Gryffindor. He absently wondered what his life would be like if had let it put him in Slytherin. He could imagine that it would especially horrible now with Malfoy knowing about Tony.
Before the feast could begin Dumbledore called their attention to say a few words. He gave a speech about having a good year, and then indicated where Lockhart sat smiling his ultra white smile at everyone.
"This year we have Gilderoy Lockhart," Dumbledore had to pause as the uproarious cheers from the female population of Hogwarts were too great for him to continue. "This year we have Gilderoy Lockhart joining our faculty as our Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor."
There were more cheers and screams of joy, and if possible Professor Snape's expression became even more pinched than before. Everyone knew Snape wanted the Defense position but he seemed to genuinely dislike Lockhart. Snape was giving the man a dark look that was very similar to looks he often reserved just for Harry. Maybe Lockhart wasn't all that bad if Snape disliked him so much.
Harry was just relieved when the food made its appearance, and everyone settled back down to eat. The meal was wonderful, like always. He easily allowed himself to be swept into conversation with those around him. It allowed Harry to distract himself from the surprising amount of homesickness he felt. He missed the tower and all of the Avengers. He even missed Jarvis. The end of the feast arrived and the various houses all made their way up to their dormitories.
Harry texted Tony and Pepper to let them know he was safe and in Hogwarts. Tony responded, telling him goodnight and to have a good first day of classes. This allowed Harry to relax a bit. He settled into his bed that night looking forward to starting his classes, and getting back into the swing of using magic. Harry really hadn't had the chance to practice using his magic, and he wanted to get better acclimated to the new way his magic worked.
The next morning Ron and he got dressed before they headed down to breakfast. As they entered the already crowded great hall he couldn't help but feel like people were staring at him. Harry was well acquainted with students staring at him. His first few weeks of Hogwarts he'd been subjected with a lot of stares and whispers before everyone had gotten used to him. Harry took a covert look around the hall. Quite a few people were indeed looking at him.
"Why is everyone staring at me?" Harry questioned as he and Ron sat down beside Hermione.
"Oh Harry, some woman wrote an article about you and your father," Hermione said concern written all over her features.
Harry felt dread suffuse him. But at the same time it was almost a relief to just have everything out in the open instead of having to wait in anticipation of when everyone would find out. He just hoped that the article hadn't attacked his mum or dad.
"Do you have The Prophet?" Harry asked.
"I borrowed it from Padma," she reluctantly handed it over to Harry.
Harry looked at the front page which held a picture of himself and Tony in the bookshop under the glaring title: HARRY POTTER: NOT A POTTER? Harry took a deep breath and quickly read the article. It wasn't anything terrible, nothing that hadn't been in the press statement that Tony and Pepper had released to the muggle public. The article just went over the discovery that James Potter wasn't his biological father. It talked about Tony getting custody of him, and went on to talk about his life with Tony with surprisingly accurate details about the day they spent in London before Harry returned to Hogwarts. Harry had no idea how this Rita Skeeter woman had known any of it.
"Are you all right Harry?" Hermione asked in concern once Harry had finished reading.
"I'm fine. It wasn't anything too terrible." Harry could shrug this off. He was going to call Tony about this though.
"I'm sure people will talk about it. But before long something new will come along and they'll forget all about it," Hermione said knowingly.
"I know," Harry agreed.
"And if anyone says anything we'll hex them," Ron said.
"Ronald!" Hermione glared at the redhead.
"They'd deserve it Hermione," Ron replied unrepentant.
"We'll tell a professor, Harry, and they'll take care of it," Hermione told them sternly.
"I think Harry can take care of himself after what he did to Malfoy," Ron noted.
"Just try not to get us expelled. It's only the first day of school," Hermione huffed.
"I'll do my best," Harry promised.
The rest of breakfast was spent ignoring the stares of everyone around him. Surprisingly his fellow Gryffindors rallied around him, and for the most part they all acted like nothing was wrong. Harry was grateful for their support as the rest of the day passed, and the stares and whispers continued. No one had approached him or said anything to him yet. It was no different than his first few days at Hogwarts when everyone had been interested in getting a look at the Boy-Who-Lived. Harry was thankful that no one was outright antagonistic about it.
That night Harry called Tony about the article. Tony's main concern was that Harry was all right, and that no one was treating him any differently. Harry told him about the stares and whispering.
"You can always come home, kiddo," Tony offered.
"I know. But I want to stick it out. It's nothing that I can't handle," Harry insisted.
"You're a tough kid. I know that. But you don't have to be if you don't want to," Tony assured him.
"I can't just run and hide every time someone says something mean to me. I have to make a stand somewhere. I can't let it get to me. Like you said I can't let other people's opinions keep me from doing what I want. And right now I want to stay at Hogwarts," Harry told him.
"All right, Mini-Merlin. I'll talk to this Skeeter woman. She must have bugged us to get all of those details about our little shopping trip. I'll figure it out though. That was the first and last article about the subject," Tony swore.
Harry believed him. He took a deep sigh of relief. Tony was on the case. He would take care of it. Harry had his friends, and Tony. He wasn't alone in this situation. Harry didn't have to face this on his own. It wasn't the end of the world, and he had certainly survived much worse in his life. He would get through this.
Sirius Black lay curled up in his cell, waiting, always waiting. He'd lost track of how long he'd been locked away. It felt like a hundred years had passed him by. It was impossible to keep track of time in Azkaban. The prison was always dark and gloomy. The temperature was constantly damp and chilled. The wails, shrieks, and whimpers that ricocheted through the dark stone building were the only lullabies that played for the prisoners. Sirius only had his own scrambled thoughts to keep himself sane in a place where madness ran rampant. The knowledge that he was innocent also went a long way in warding his mind from the dementors. But not even that could stave them off forever. His only other respite was his time spent in his animagus form. The dementors ignored the large black dog offering him some time away to rally his strength.
Sirius was woken from his normal state of light dozing by the sounds of footsteps. He'd already been brought his morning meal. The only other reason for the arrival of the guards would be a new prisoner coming to join the fun or the Minister. Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, delighted in visiting Sirius Black. He stopped in every once in a while to tour the prison and gloat over those incarcerated there. He often stopped in on Sirius more often than most due to his notorious and lethal status in the wizarding world. He absolutely hated the self-important man's visits. Sirius did often wonder, however, what the pompous windbag would do if he ever discovered that he had the wrong man, and that the real culprit had been on the loose for years.
Changing back into his human form, Sirius crossed his fingers in hope that it was just a new prisoner. Of course his luck wasn't that good, and the footsteps paused at the door of his cell.
"Black, I have something you might like to look at. I think you might even find it enlightening," Fudge offered cheerfully even going so far as to give a little chuckle.
It was the man's overly smug tone that filled Sirius with instant anxiety as he cautiously approached the cell door.
He could see Fudge's smiling face through the small slot in the door. Fudge placed what looked like a folded newspaper in the slot for Sirius to take. Feeling a sense of dread wash through him, Sirius reached for the paper. He turned so his back was to Fudge as he unfolded the paper. Sirius didn't want to give Fudge the satisfaction of whatever reaction he was hoping to get out of him.
With great trepidation he opened the newspaper and was confronted by the shocking title flashing in large bold letters: HARRY POTTER: NOT A POTTER? By Rita Skeeter. Utterly confused and angry Sirius quickly read through the article about Lily's supposed scandalous relationship with an American muggle. The relationship had resulted in Harry's birth making the muggle Harry's real father and not James. The truth had all come out when the muggle got custody of Harry and took him on a shopping trip to Diagon Alley. There was a picture of on the front page of the man in question with an arm wrapped across the shoulders of a slender boy who looked quite a lot like the man in the muggle suit. The article continued on page four discussing Harry's life with his newly discovered muggle father. But Sirius couldn't keep reading. His stomach was twisted in knots and he felt physically ill.
Sirius couldn't accept this. He tossed the paper to the floor in a fit of fury.
"How can you let the Daily Prophet print such lies?" Sirius hissed in outrage.
"Oh they're not lies, Black. It's all true. Harry Potter isn't a Potter at all. He's the son of this man, Tony Stark, a rich American muggle. I just thought you might want to know. I know how disappointed you'll be, knowing that you didn't actually betray James Potter by sending You Know Who after his family. Since they weren't really his family after all. A cuckolding wife and a child that was never his. Such a shame for such a noble man to have died for a child that wasn't his. He probably never realized that the boy wasn't his," Fudge remarked.
"No, it can't be true. Not Harry," Sirius croaked.
"It's all true. The ministry has concrete proof of it. Harry Potter is Harry Stark. Your precious master was defeated by the child of a muggle and a muggleborn witch," Fudge taunted.
Sirius's legs lost the ability to support themselves causing him to slowly sink to the ground. Thoughts of revenge against Peter, and getting custody of Harry, James's son, were the only things that kept Sirius going. Harry not being James's son was devastating to him. It was like losing James all over again. At least with Harry being alive it was like there was still a piece of James alive somewhere in the world.
No, Sirius just couldn't accept this. It had to be some sort of trick. It could be Death Eaters trying to come up with some plot to discredit James and Lily's names, to belittle their sacrifice. This Tony Stark could be working with them to try and hurt Harry. Sirius needed to know the truth. He needed to see the facts for himself. Only then could he start to accept that Harry might not be James's. But he was! Sirius was so certain of this fact. He'd looked just like James when he was younger. Hadn't he? His memories of little Harry were fuzzy due to his time in Azkaban. Was that even Harry in the picture on the paper? They could have taken the real Harry and replaced him with an imposter.
Sirius shook his head he needed to get out of here. He had to get out of Azkaban to prove these claims wrong. He had to prove to himself that they were wrong. Fueled by the surge of determination he came up with a plan of escape. It had been there all along and it was utterly brilliant. It had just needed the right motivation for him to realize it. Sirius would be long gone from Azkaban before his jailers even realized he was gone. Soon he'd get to Harry and he'd prove all these rumors were false. He would save Harry from the ones who were trying to turn him against James.
The next chapter is Metamorphosis and Harry is going to be going through some worrisome changes. I've started writing so hopefully it will be ready in a couple of weeks.
I appreciate anyone who took the time to review. I'm sorry that I can't respond to all of them.
Thanks for reading!