Harry Potter and The Invincible TechnoMage
Chapter Fourteen - Year Two Christmas
The whistling sound faded as the quinjet cleared the last of the atmosphere and main propulsion dropped to standby mode. The suborbital ballistic arc portion of the trip had begun.
Pepper tightened her grip on Harry’s hand. “Glad to be coming home?”
“Yeah,” Harry said, rubbing his thumb across the back of her hand. “It’s been better this year, no major excitement at all.” He grinned, “Well, other than some kind of possessed book.”
“Yeah, a diary that wanted people to write in it… It tried to get a girl interested in me for some reason.” Harry shrugged. “We turned it into Professor Flitwick, who got awfully excited about it. Whatever it was, the teachers took care of it. Since then I’ve just worked on keeping my grades up and staying on my exercise program.”
“Well, the Captain will be happy to hear that you haven’t been slacking off.” Pepper laughed. The idea of a possessed book was a bit disturbing, but it had evidently been taken care of. She wasn’t sure she really approved of this school Harry attended. “What are your plans for the holidays?”
“Well, I’ve got to do a little shopping. Fortunately I’ve got three and a half months worth of allowance burning a hole in my pocket, so that won’t be a problem.”
“Planning on getting something special for your friends at school?”
“Not really. Oh, small things, but nothing special… Speaking of special, could you remind me to talk to Dad about going back a day early?”
“Sure,” Pepper released his hand long enough to make a note in her PDA. “Why?”
“I need to go by the Gringotts bank. A couple of classmates suggested that I might be an heir of an estate of some sort. I keep being told my birth parents were well off.”
“Do you suppose that you could deal with that at the Boston Branch?”
“I didn’t know there was a Boston Branch.” Harry paused to consider this new information. “That would be worth a shot, the worst that could happen is that they tell me that they can’t help me and I need to use the London branch.”
“Tony arranged to pay your tuition through Gringotts Boston, that’s the only reason I know it’s there.”
“You’re the best Pepper.” Harry said. “So,” he asked conspiratorially, “Any idea what Dad might want for Christmas? Billionaires are a pain to buy for.”
As per family tradition, Augusta Longbottom personally brought the family tea service to her Grandson’s suite upon his return from Hogwarts as she had done this for his father and her mother for herself so long ago.
“Welcome home Neville.” She said pouring his tea from him.
“Thank you Gran, it’s good to be home. How have you been?”
“Oh I’ve been keeping busy with my Daughters of the Goblin Wars meetings and charity events. How are your classes going?”
“Other than Potions, fine. Professor Sprout really likes my work in Herbology, I guess all my time in the greenhouses is paying off.”
“What is is about Potions that is giving you problems?”
“Well, I think it’s mostly the professor. He’s got something of an abrasive personality, and he tends to wait until I’m concentrating and asks me a question, that distracts me, and I end up making mistakes.” Neville grinned. “I’m guessing you’d already guessed that from the number of caldrons I’ve had to replace.”
“Yes…” Augusta got that vacant look she wore whenever she was remembering her son as he had been. “Your father spoke of Severus Snape on occasion, calling him petty and bitter. I suppose it isn’t really surprising he hasn’t changed much over the years. Perhaps we should look into getting you a potions tutor over the summer. Many careers require a firm grounding in potions to even get started; we can’t have you losing out because of Albus Dumbledore’s unfathomable hiring practices.”
“Uh, Gran… About this summer…”
“Yes Neville? What about this summer?”
“I’ve been invited to stay at a friend’s home for the first week in July this summer.” Neville hesitated. He never liked asking his Gran for things, she tended to be overprotective. “I’d like to go, so I wanted to ask permission.”
Augusta raised an eyebrow. “A week? Do I know this friend and his family?”
“You met Harry last year on the platform when I left for school. Remember? The dark haired boy with the American accent?”
“Yes, I remember meeting him. He seemed to be polite as I recall…” Augusta thought for a moment. “So this visit would be to the New World?”
“Yes. Harry lives outside New York city in the United States.”
“I don’t know Neville. An international Portkey would be fairly expensive…” Augusta was torn. She liked the independence that Neville was slowly beginning to exhibit, but international travel at his age?
“Harry told me not to worry about the transportation. His father has some business in Europe in June, so Harry will be staying with him on this side of the Atlantic from when school lets out until July. The plan was for us all to ride to the States in their flying machine.” Neville tried to think of what the flying machine was called… “Their airplane.”
Augusta was horrified at the thought of her only grandson being flung through the air in one of those insanely dangerous wood and fabric Muggle flying machines she had seen as a child. “I don’t know Neville. I would have to speak with Harry’s guardian about the visit.”
Neville rolled his eyes, just a bit. “Yes Gran.”
“Your father and his were good friends. They were in Gryffindor together, played Quidditch together, and joined the Aurors together.” August found it a bit hard to breath. She had always wanted Neville to be like Frank. Did she want him to be this much like Frank? “Had things been different, the two of you might well have been raised as brothers…”
“I believe that we can work something out for your holiday with your friend Neville. I will need to contact Harry’s guardian to work out the particulars, but I believe you will find the experience educational.”
Tony Stark waited inside the hanger as the quinjet made its final approach. Waiting for the roar of the space plane’s main propulsion system to be replaced by the hissing shriek of the hovering jets, the billionaire occupied himself by thinking through the next upgrade he had been playing with to suggest for the suborbitals in his fleet. Just a few tweaks might shave as much as four minutes off a transatlantic flight. The idea was almost ready for testing. He would have to send a copy to T’challa and his Wakanda Design Group, so that the Design engineers for the Quinjet project could check out the upgrade for viability.
He watched the space plane canceled its forward momentum to fully engage hover mode, and then slowly settle onto its landing gear before power was cut. Good pilot, he noted. Whenever Tony himself landed one of the quinjets, there was a decided bump involved. Probably one of the jocks that Rhodey trained. That meant he was one of the young ones.
Wonderful. 40 was rushing at Stark with the speed of an oncoming train, and the man who wore the armor wasn’t looking forward to it in the slightest. It was hard enough running his business interests while doing the Hero thing without having to get old as well.
The door to the suborbital aircraft opened and the access ramp extended to the ground. Tony’s depression vanished when he saw his son appear in the doorway. From his place in the hanger, he raised his right hand in greeting and started toward the giant aircraft at a trot.
Harry had been home for three days, and had finally cracked the books for his project. He looked up from the book he was taking notes from and discovered his father had picked up one of his drawings and was examining it. “That’s a rough draft of a block diagram for a school project.”
“This looks like you’re going to be trying to build a computer from scratch?” Tony asked. “Fun.”
“I’m working on the processor section, but yeah, that’s the project. We promised a calculator, but we’re trying to build a computer.”
The elder Stark sat down across from Harry. “That’s always a good plan, promise low, deliver as high as you can.” He returned his attention to the drawings. “Interesting. Not electrical I take it?”
“No, we’re trying to use the ambient magic in magical structures.”
“Hmm.” Tony picked up a pen from the table and started making a few notes of his own. “How big is your team?”
“Nine of us.” Harry said absently as he made a few more notes on processor design. “I think that’s about the minimum number we’re going to need to be successful, but we’ve got some forceful personalities involved… That might make it interesting.”
“Smart creative people almost always have forceful personalities, it’s pretty much part of the package.” Tony said, crossing a few line out on the diagram.
“Dad.” Harry said, having noticed what his father was up to.
“You know, if we did a little work over the next few days, you would be well on your way to…”
“And this summer, we can hit the fabbers down in the lab,” He paused to examine the sample rune set for an ‘and’ function for a second, “These symbols conduct your magic somehow I take it? I think we could get these symbols etched fairly easily…”
“What size casing for the final processor do you think?”
Tony looked up surprised at Harry’s shout. “What?”
“This is a school project Dad. A School Project. I’m not using your fabrication facilities. We’re going to earn our grades and learn something. I can’t let you take over.”
“I don’t take over your projects.” Tony said with a pout.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” The billionaire said defensively.
“The Pinewood Derby?”
“So I helped a little.”
Harry presented his father with a long suffering look. “Oh, yes. The car you ‘helped’ with broke the freaking sound barrier and buried itself three inches into a concrete wall.”
Tony grinned. “It looked really cool doing it though. And I still say it was regulation, there were no moving parts beyond the wheels.”
“For a Cub Scout Pinewood derby you broke several laws of physics when you gave a wooden car a ‘frictionless surface’ and managed to isolate it from planetary motion. It broke the sound barrier Dad. The sonic boom blew out every window in the gym, and broke quite a few across the street.”
“It beat Reed’s car.”
“You do realize that the competition between you two isn’t the healthiest thing in the world don’t you? Once he saw that you had developed a linear accelerator that used the axles of the car to accelerate the car along its own axis, then he figured out a way for his wooden car to project a pinhole singularity in front of itself, so that it was in an ever accelerating free fall. Reed destroyed the track with that stupid thing.”
“Destroyed the track AND lost to my car.” Tony pointed out with a grin.
“Franklin and I couldn’t show our faces at the meetings for months after that without someone bugging us about ‘the car incident’”
“We fixed everything. That pack is the only one in the world with an indestructible six lane Pinewood derby track complete with a finish line timer accurate to a picosecond… And a nice video score board for showing instant replays of the finishes.”
“They’re also the only pack in the world with restrictions against mad scientist fathers helping with projects. Don’t forget the Raingutter Regatta. Balsa wood boats aren’t supposed to throw up a rooster tail, or attack the boat in the next lane. That’s what got us thrown out of Cub Scouts.”
“I still say Reed was cheating.”
Harry just looked to the ceiling. “I suppose I should just be thankful that Dr. Doom didn’t have a kid in the school district. God knows what might have happened then.”
“My car would have kicked his gun metal grey butt too.”
“What are you working on Daughter?”
Padma looked up to find her father Chandrahas, looking over the books she was using for research.
“Pad’s just doing her Geek thing Papa,” Parvati snarked from her place on the sofa on the other side of the room. The Gryffindor half of the twins turned her attention back to the Patil/Stark texting device she was using to converse with her best friend and dorm mate Lavender Brown.
“I’m working on some ideas for out OWL project Papa.” Padma said, ignoring her sister.
“Should I assume that since you are researching these Muggle books, you are teamed with either Hermione, Harry, or both?”
“With both Papa,” Padma grinned at her father, “and with six others from Ravenclaw and Slytherin houses. It was Harry’s idea to try and replicate Muggle electronics using magic to let us try and build a computer capable of working in high magic areas.”
“Hmm. As an upstanding member of the Pureblood community, I suppose I should be opposed to this.” Chandrahas said sternly. When Padma looked up with concern, a grin formed on his face. “Of course, given the amount of money I’m making in my partnership with Stark’s Magical Consumer Electronics division, that would be a bit hypocritical wouldn’t it? So, what are you intending to build?”
“We’re hoping for a computer Papa.” She gestured at the notes she had made. “Harry has come up with ways to emulate some of the more basic ‘logic circuits’ using magical constructs, mostly runes. He has asked me to look into better ways of doing so over the holiday.”
“It is good to see you taking your project so seriously Padma.” Chandrahas looked to Parvati still lying on the sofa. “And what of you Daughter? How is your project progressing?”
“Oh Papa, that’s not due until the end of Fifth year. Lavender and I submitted out outline for the project. We’re working on improving some of the more advanced cosmetic charms, but there’s plenty of time to worry about that, no sense in ruining a holiday.”
Chandrahas and Padma exchanged a look. Padma shrugged. She had no idea why Parvati had so much trouble motivating herself toward her school work.
“I will see progress on your project by the end of the year Parvati, or I will have to see what I can do to motivate you. Perhaps a summer working in the office with your mother would allow you to find the focus you need.”
Parvati sat up on the sofa, her texting conversation with Lavender forgotten. “Papa!”
“What are you looking at?”
Harry looked up from the jewelry display. “Just looking for a gift.”
“For who?” Franklin Richards asked.
“Friends.” Harry pointed out a necklace. “Do you think Julie would like that one?”
“Julie?” Franklin put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Harry, Julie’s got a boyfriend.”
“A boyfriend? Since when?”
“Harry, she’s just turned fifteen, she doesn’t tell you stuff like that in her letters.” How was he going to break this to his best friend? “Harry, she always thought that you hung around them so much because you were Jack’s friend.”
“Crap.” Harry breathed, before looking up to their adult escort.
Happy Hogan smiled at Harry before returning his attention to the crowd in the vicinity. Happy took his responsibilities very seriously. “Don’t look at me Kiddo. I don’t unnerstand women, never have, not even when me an’ Pep was married.”
“Come on Harry, she’s fifteen and you’re twelve. Did you really think you had a chance with Julie Power?” Franklin said seriously, before bumping shoulders with his friend. “Now, Katie on the other hand…”
Harry slugged Franklin in the shoulder.
“Harry,” the former boxer said quietly interrupting the fight before it could really get started. “Sometimes the smart thing t’ do is wait. The two and a half years between you look like forever to her now. When you’re twenty five and she’s twenty eight, she won’t care in the slightest. Now, how about some lunch? You two are buying.”
“Which way do these screw things go?” Tracey Davis asked from across the Granger kitchen table.
“Uh,” Hermione paged through her manual, then looked up panicked. “It doesn’t say.”
“What are you two doing, and why are you doing it to my computer?” Stuart Granger asked from the doorway.
“Its research Daddy.” Hermione explained. “Our OWL Project is an attempt to make a magical computer. We wanted to see what a electronic computer looked like so that we would know what we are trying to emulate.”
“And the manual doesn’t tell us how to get the screw things out.” Tracey complained.
Stuart looked between the two girls trying to decide if they were serious. They were. “Ok, to begin with, those are Philips screws and you’re using a slotted screwdriver. Here,” he took the tool from the young girl’s hand and handed her the proper driver. “See how the tip comes to a point, it fits into the X shape on the screw. As to what direction, there’s a rhyme to help you remember which way to turn most screws. ‘Lefty loosey, rightie tightie.’ You want to loosen the screws, so you turn them to the left… but I don’t think you’re going to learn much just by looking at the insides.”
“It’s filthy in here” Tracey said as she pulled the access panel off the box. Hermione craned her neck to look and indeed the metal box seemed to be full of dust bunnies and dead insects.
“Honestly Daddy, don’t you keep your equipment clean? This is hardly hygienic.”
“Alright, alright. I’ll get it cleaned up for you.” Stuart Granger hefted the open computer case and carried it out to his garage where he powered up his air compressor while wondering just when it was that his life had reached the point that he had two women yelling at him to clean up around the house. Shaking his head at his lot in life, the dentist searched though the drawers on his work bench until he found the appropriate nozzle (he principally used the air compressor to keep the tyres of his car properly inflated.) which he attached to the hose, and then carefully blew the dust from the interior of his computer.
“Here you go.” He said as he carried the PC back inside. “All clean.” Still a bit concerned about his delicate machine, Stuart settled into a chair to observe.
“Well,” Tracey said hesitantly, “it looks different than the pictures. It’s got all these strings and ribbon things in it.”
Stuart looked to see what she was talking about. “Those are cables. They either move information between pieces in the computer or electricity from the power supply to power all the parts.” He examined the reactions of the two young women, Hermione seemed to be getting upset that the photos in her book didn’t exactly replicate what she was seeing in the case, and Tracey seemed to be hesitant about actually touching anything at all. “How about I explain what I know about the computer?”
“Ok.” Tracey Davis said in a manner that suggested that she didn’t think anyone really understood these masses of metal and plastic.
“This is the power supply. It takes the 240 volts alternating current from the mains and changes it to several voltages of direct current.”
“That’s electricity, right?” Tracey asked doubtfully.
“Right. The electricity flows through these cables to power the system. This is the main board…” Stuart spent the next twenty minutes explaining to his daughter and her classmate the various parts of his computer and their function. He then left them to their studies.
He found Kris in the sitting room reading.
“How goes the war, oh purveyor of obscure electronic knowledge?” she asked with a grin.
“I don’t know. They didn’t know how to use a screw driver until I told them how. Hermione was near panic because it wasn’t outlined in her book, and I think Tracey is frightened by every single thing in this house.” He shook his head. “They may have bitten off more than they can chew.”
“Why? I mean sure, it won’t be all that easy, but, I mean you built the one they’re looking at.”
Stuart shook his head. “I built it from standard easily obtained parts. It would be more honest to say that I assembled it. What they’re proposing to do is start with the raw materials and build a machine from scratch. I know I couldn’t do that with one of our computers… But, they do have Harry on their side, and Tony could probably build a computer just using a pile of sand and an old pair of shoes I suspect. I just hope Hermione doesn’t end up too disappointed.”
“Be seated girl,” The old man said imperiously.
She nervously sat where her mother indicated. This would be her first meal in the dining room with the adults. Prior to this the only place she had eaten when at home was in the nursery under the watchful eye of her nanny. She knew that there were reasons for her being here tonight. Someone wanted her to do something, and this was part of the payment for her services. She wasn’t supposed to associate with the adults until she was fifteen if then, still three years in the future.
The Soup course was served. She concentrated on eating properly. No noises, no spills, nothing to call attention to herself. Of course, none of that worked when one was specifically invited to dinner to be the center of attention.
“Tell us about the Potter heir.”
She carefully placed her spoon on the table so that she wasn’t tempted to gesture with it. The folded her hands in her lap, “He was sorted into Ravenclaw, and he is doing well in all of his courses. His class standing is fifth overall, even with his withdrawal from class participation for the last three months of last year.” She said searching her memories for things to say about Harry Stark. “He is has friends in and is friendly with all of the houses. His principle male friend is Neville Longbottom.”
“The Potters and the Longbottoms have a long history together. If there has ever been a major disagreement between those two families, it was long ago.” Her Aunt Eunice noted as the next course was served.
“I’m not sure Harry Stark knows of his family’s history or alliances. His closest friends appear to be Padma Patil and Hermione Granger.” She continued.
“A foreigner and a Mudblood.” Uncle Wesley added.
“Yes. They are first and second in our class respectively. He is also close to two female Hufflepuffs, Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott. A pureblood and a Half blood. I believe that Stark met Longbottom and the four girls on the Express.”
“And his other friends?” her Grandfather asked.
“I’ve seen him being cordial with all five of the Weasleys from Gryffindor, and he is on good enough terms with Draco Malfoy that the two of them engage in public debates on the importance of Blood Status.”
“And the results of these debates?” Grandmother asked.
“None, really. Draco makes points supporting the pure blood advantages and agenda based on tradition and emotion, Stark makes his in support of equality and merit by pointing out achievement and logic. Neither is going to convince the other of the correctness of their position, and I don’t think either of them really care all that much. They appear to enjoy the exchanges. Stark is on friendly terms with many other people, but not in any significant way.”
Grandmother nodded. “What of this ‘study group’ that the boy started last year?”
“It is held in the Great Hall pretty much every night. It started with Stark and his core group of friends and in a few weeks expanded to almost out entire year. Then second and third years joined in, now on any given night you’re likely to find someone from every year. The House Elves have taken to serving drinks and light snacks to those studying.”
“Tell us about his abilities.” Uncle Wesley demanded.
“In class he is above average, especially in practical application. There are rumors that he was tutored by Agatha Harkness prior to his admittance to Hogwarts. I’ve heard that she referred to him as her ‘favorite student in a century’ but I cannot confirm that. He is capable of wandless magic with either hand,” She paused, wondering if she should include rumor in her report. “Last year a troll somehow made its way into the castle. No one ever explained exactly what happened that night. What I can report at fact is that a huge section of the wall on the fourth floor under the Astronomy Tower was blown outward, while half and only half of a troll was seen being removed from the castle and Harry Stark ended up in the Hospital wing.” She paused to allow everyone to draw their own conclusions from this information. “The next day Stark’s Muggle father along with several other people, including Agatha Harkness, were all in the Great Hall at Breakfast time.”
Aunt Eunice nodded. “And we are all aware of the boy’s demonstrated relationship with the Old Norse powers from the appearance of the Odinson at the Wizengamot last May. Further, just the mention of the boy’s adopted father’s name frightened Amelia Bones to her very core.”
The old man at the head of the table nodded slowly as he took in the information offered. “And you have joined his group for his OWL project to make a thinking machine?”
“Yes Grandfather,” she said not really wanting to correct the old man that a computer didn’t actually ‘think’.
“Excellent. Good initiative on your part, you surprised me given your heritage.” The old man gave her mother a look of loathing, she noticed that mother averted her eyes from the gaze of the patriarch. “Alright then, you will carry on with the project and obtain his interest. Come your fifth year we will open negotiations to join the Potter fortune to our own.”
“Excuse me Grandfather? I don’t understand…”
“Your mother understands how to gain the interest of a young man.” The old man said coolly. “She will explain the techniques to you.”
“Family time is so important.” Daphne Greengrass said looking across the nursery table at her cousins, her voices dripping with sarcasm.
“We love you too Daphne.” Millicent Bulstrode laughed saluting her with her wine glass.
It’s not like the clan gets together all that often cousin.” He sipped from the single glass of wine that the adults allowed the preteens. “What’s the status on your project?”
“I’m still not convinced that we will manage to succeed,” Daphne posited, “and I for one am not anxious to test the theory that a failing project can still get awarded a good grade if the methodology is sound.”
“I think I am,” Millicent disagreed. “Convinced I mean, Stark has quite a mind, and he has working examples of Muggle toys at his disposal.”
Daphne shrugged. “We’ll see. Anyway we’ve broken into teams, each ultimately responsible for a different part of the whole. Once we get the individual logic units figured out and finalized, we start in on our individual responsibilities. Millie and I are supposed to work on displaying the output of the machine. Obviously we will be basing this on the one used by the Ravenclaw Library reader.”
“Obviously. It was suggested that we also find a way to produce a printed version of the display. I’ve a few ideas in that direction.” Millicent agreed. “Granger and Davis are tasked with dealing with what Stark called ‘memory’ a sort of short term storage of information, while Zabini, Entwhistle and Su Li are supposed to develop a longer term method of information storage.
“Hmm, I wonder, is her give name Su or Li?”
“I don’t know.” Millicent admitted. “I’ve only heard anyone use both when speaking to her.
“I think her given name is Li,” Daphne offered. “I recall reading something about naming conventions of the Orient and…”
“It doesn’t matter.” He said waving his hand dismissively. “You haven’t said what Stark is doing.”
“He and the Smart Patil are working on something called ‘the Processor’. He describes it as the ‘brain’ of the system, the place where all the ‘Data Manipulation’, whatever that is, takes place.” Daphne shrugged. “From what I’ve read and what Stark has told us, this will be the most complex portion of the project. After we start in on our individual teams, as each finishes, we will all join in on the Processor unit.”
“Interesting” he said.
“Not yet, but it might be.” Millicent said. “So, we’ve told you our news, your turn. What’s going on with the Malfoys?”
“Yes. They’ve cancelled all their normal public appearances.” Daphne added. “Lucius and Narcissa even missed the Ministry’s Yule Ball, that’s a first.”
“I wish I knew,” he said with a shrug. “They’ve been locked in that estate of theirs since the day after Draco got back from school… I’m as in the dark as everyone else.”
“True,” Daphne giggled. “But then everyone expects that of you.”
He didn’t even bother to try to look offended, smiling gently as he nodded. “Indeed.”
“To missing friends” Remus raised his glass.
“And a promise to those friends that we will kill a few people who so richly deserve it.” Sirius agreed.
“Happy Christmas Sirius.” Remus said as he drained his glass.
“And to you Moony.” Sirius agreed. His eyes fell upon the still wrapped gift at the end of the table. “Do you think he’ll like it?”
“I hope so. What boy wouldn’t like an invisibility cloak, though getting it away from Dumbledore was like pulling teeth.” Lupin smiled. “Hopefully he’ll appreciate the photo album as well, as a way to connect to his heritage if nothing else.”
There was a lull in the conversation, the only sounds being that of Kreacher cleaning up after the holiday meal.
“I was thinking…” Sirius began.
“Merlin protect us, almost nothing good ever comes from you starting a sentence with those words Padfoot.”
“Oh, very funny Moony. One could almost forget that you were the brains of the Marauders and not the wit.” Sirius snarked, side arming a pillow at his friend. “As I was saying, I was thinking that once the new school term begins, I might head over to the States and see if I could get to know this Tony Stark bloke.”
Remus blinked. “Why?”
“Well, he’s done a smashing job raising our boy, and I’ve been thinking that the reason we’ve had such trouble connecting to Harry is that we’ve been trying to connect to him through James.” Sirius hesitated for a moment. “Harry isn’t James, and never will be. The mistake we’ve been making is not recognizing that. I think the reason that he seems to lose interest whenever we bring up James and Lily is that at some level he believes learning more about them would be a betrayal of his dad.”
“James is his dad.” Remus growled.
“No, James was his father. Tony Stark is his dad. Believe me Moony, I know.” Sirius refilled both his and Remus’ glass from the bottle on the table between them. “Orion was my father, but I never had a dad until Charlus accepted me as James’ brother.”
“James would have been a hell of a dad, given the chance,” Sirius interrupted. “But he and Harry never had that chance. Stark stepped up, and has done a fantastic job raising our boy when we couldn’t do it. Harry’s smart, strong and happy, what more could we ask for or expect?”
“A little knowledge of his family’s history would be nice.” Remus groused. What was going on here? He was supposed to be the level headed contemplative one, not Sirius.
Sirius smiled. “And where would a Muggle like Stark have learned of the Potter family history?”
“Damn it Padfoot! Since when are you the calm sensible one?”
“What can I say Moony? Like a fine wine, I’ve matured with age.” A smile crossed the lips of the dog animagus. “And another aspect I share with a fine wine; I enjoy being drunk.”
“Lucius, come to dinner.”
The man didn’t speak, or give any indication that he had heard her. He just continued to stare out the window as the snow continued to fall around the manor.
“Lucius, please. Draco needs his father,” Narcissa tried pleading, knowing it wasn’t going to work. “He needs your example.”
“Then Draco needs to find his example somewhere else.” The man’s voice rasped out, as if rusty from lack of use. “Perhaps your cousin.”
“Lucius please. He is your son. He needs you.”
No response once again. Narcissa stood watching the broken man, watched as his long fingers caressed the flawless bone white surface of his ‘new face’. She found herself wondering what her husband could have done to provoke whoever had maimed him so, to hate him so much.
The broken bones and cuts had been healed within days of their infliction, but what ever they had done to her husband’s face… The Healers couldn’t identify what had caused the damage; much less counter its effects.
Now Lucuis wore a half mask, one that covered the damaged right side of his face from temple to chin. Yet even with that, all the man had done for the last week was stare out the window and caress the smooth surface of the mask.
Shaking her head Narcissa exited Lucius’ bedchamber, and returned to the manor’s formal dining room where Draco sat waiting.
“Is father coming?” the boy asked.
“I do not believe he is Draco. Your Father is having difficulty dealing with what has happened.”
“Why? Why would anyone do that to a great man like Father?”
Narcissa hesitated. “When a man is as successful as your father has been, enemies are gained. While your father hasn’t shared with me what actually happened, I suspect that he was attacked by one of those enemies.”
“Then father must identify who ever it was and they must be sent to Azkaban!” Draco proclaimed.
“I quite agree Draco. Your father however refuses to speak of what happened.” She watched as the boy’s face clouded. “My son, your father is a great man. Never doubt that. He took a family estate that was well past its prime and turned it into what is all about us. He has provided for us in ways that most of our peers can only dream of. Lucius will work through this and do what he needs to do to get justice for himself. I trust your father, and you must as well. You cannot speak of this until Lucius decides to speak of it himself.”
Narcissa watched as Draco steeled his features, and nodded. Sighing quietly, Narcissa rang the bell to signal the Elves to begin the dinner service. She found herself quietly hoping that Lucius was deserving of such a dutiful son.
“There you are.” Tony said as he pulled himself into the tree fort. As soon as he was inside the tree house he found himself to be very warm. The billionaire began removing his jacket and scarf. “Why is it so hot in here?”
A small smile crossed Harry’s lips. “Magic,” he explained.
“Ah, something that makes no sense and I will never understand, got’cha.” The man leaned back against the wall. “So, what’s the problem?”
“Just feeling sorry for myself. Nothing important.”
Tony stared at his son, not saying a word, just waiting for Harry to break. He always broke.
“Will you stop staring at me?” Harry whined pitifully.
Tony’s response was several seconds of silence and eye contact.
“Come on Dad.”
It took almost twenty seconds. “Ok. Ok. I got dumped. I just need some time to feel sorry for myself.”
“You got dumped? I didn’t know you were dating.” Tony said.
“Well, we weren’t exactly dating, but we had an understanding.”
“An understanding?” Tony asked incredulously. Since when did twelve year olds have understandings? “Who is this girl?”
Silence filled the magically warmed tree house for a moment, finally interrupted by “Uh, who?”
“Who indeed. Did you really think I didn’t know what you, Franklin and the Power kids were up to?” Tony asked with his own small smile.
“Uh… Yeah. Kinda.”
“Well I did. And so does Reed. So, tell me about Julie Power dumping you.”
“Well… You know how it is.”
“Actually, no, I don’t.” His smile got wider. “I’m Tony Stark, I’ve never been dumped.”
“Oh, great.” Harry said hanging his head.
“It’s the cross I have to bear. So tell me what happened.”
“Julie, well, you know, she kissed me at my birthday last year.”
“I seem to recall you painting the entry hall, yeah.”
“That’s when I knew that we had an understanding.”
Once again silence filled the tree house. Tony desperately fought off the laughter that threatened to erupt from his chest. “Harry…”
A miserable boy looked up to his father.
“Harry, you weren’t dumped.”
“Harry…” Tony tried to think of the gentlest way of telling his son the truth. “Julie didn’t dump you, because as far as she was concerned, you were never together outside of being the friend of her little brother and sometime teammates.”
“But she kissed me,” Harry protested.
“She was thirteen. Thirteen year old girls kiss people. It didn’t mean anything beyond that she was slightly fond of you. Now she’s what? Almost fifteen?”
“Turned fifteen on the fifth.” Harry said morosely.
“She’s fifteen, and you’re twelve. She is looking to experiment with a more adult relationship. She couldn’t get that from you. Hell son, she never even considered you for a real relationship.”
“Harry, would you consider dating a nine year old?”
“Ugh, No.” Harry proclaimed.
“And how is Julie dating you any different?”
“But... she kissed me.”
“As a friend. Nothing more.”
Harry considered what he had been told, and was beginning to see the logic behind it. He didn’t like it, but… “Should I try to talk to her?”
Tony shook his head. “Only if you want to embarrass her and yourself. She would likely be mortified that you believed that she was leading you on.” The man reached over and ruffled the untamable hair on his son’s head. “I know it’s trite, but you’ll look back on this and smile a bit. And who knows, in ten years, when the three years between you don’t matter quite so much, you and Julie might make a real try of it.”
“Do you really think so Dad?”
“No, not really. You’ll likely always feel a bit weird around her, but you’ll never forget her. No one forgets the first person they were desperately in like with. Now come on. Jarvis has pulled out all the stops for Christmas dinner tonight.”
“Good afternoon, how may Gringotts help you today?” the Goblin asked with his long fingered hands folded on his desktop.
“We’ve come to investigate rumors we’ve heard that my Son has a family vault in your London branch.” Tony said. “We weren’t sure if you could access the records of another branch, but thought that it wouldn’t hurt to ask.”
“We can,” the Goblin who had identified himself as ‘Scarmonger’ admitted. “However I can assure you that other than the vault you hold in partnership with Chandrahas Patil, we have no vaults under the name of Stark at any of our branches.”
“Stark is my adopted name,” Harry said speaking for the first time. “My birth name was Potter.”
Scarmonger blinked. Twice. “Potter?” he choked out.
The Goblin seemed to hesitate, and then pushed forward a shallow bronze bowl and a knife with a curious blue metallic blade. “If I could get a blood sample to use in the verifying of your claim?”
Father and son exchanged a look, and then Harry picked up the blade.
“A shallow cut across the palm should do it,” Scarmonger said. “The blade is charmed to heal the cut after a short time, allowing the sample to be taken.”
Harry paused, and then with a determined expression drew the blade across the palm of his left hand. He was so shocked by the lack of pain he almost dropped the knife. Gathering his wits he allowed the blood to pool in his palm before tipping his hand over to allow the blood to drip into the bronze bowl.
“Thank you,” the Goblin said, rising from his chair. “One moment please while we analyze your sample.”
Tony waited until Scarmonger had left the room before speaking. “Blood as ID? Well, I guess you can’t ever claim to have lost your wallet this way.”
“You know, it’s really odd the way that the magical world is more advanced than our ‘normal’” Harry made air quotes, “society, but in other ways is positively medieval.”
Tony shrugged. “Asgard is like that too. I guess if you factor in the life spans involved, it isn’t really all that surprising. He seemed a bit shocked that you were Harry Potter.”
“I believe shocked is a bit of an understatement Mr. Stark.” A new voice said.
Father and son watched carefully as Scarmonger deferentially escorted a goblin who appeared to be much older to the desk in the room.
“I am Oddbit of major accounts, London Branch. Yes Mr. Stark, we have been looking for your son for most of a decade. It was more than a little embarrassing when we realized that we had lost track of the Potter heir.” The older Goblin adjusted the pince-nez spectacles perched upon his pointed nose. “We have much to talk about.”
“You said you were from ‘Major Accounts’?” Harry asked. “Does that mean that my birth family was…”
“I believe the polite term is ‘financially comfortable’.
“How comfortable?” Tony asked.
“Once I was made aware that the Potter heir had presented himself in our Boston branch, I had the Potter records gathered for me. While I was waiting I did a bit of research on you Mr. Stark. My compliments on your business acumen, from what I could see of your portfolio, I would venture to say that you are almost Goblin in your pursuit of an honest profit.” The being removed his spectacles and set about cleaning them with a handkerchief. “In answer to your question, the Potter estate comes to a current market value approximating one tenth of your own rather impressive public holdings.”
“And who controls the estate?” Harry asked. “I’ve noticed that my birth name and image are in fairly wide spread use.”
“The Potter estate is currently without a head. We at major accounts have been working under the last direction given to us by James Potter, which was ‘make it grow’. While following this instruction the estate managers of which I am one have been quite active in investing in profitable ventures on both sides of the magical divide. For example the estate holds a very minor position in your father’s Stark International.” Oddbit replaced his spectacles upon his nose. “As far as use of your name and image go, once you had vanished we discovered that people were interested in using your name, so we authorized the use of your name and image like we would any other valuable asset of the estate.”
“So those ‘Little Harry’ dolls?”
“Are authorized by the trust and manufactured in a facility in which you hold a thirty percent stake. On top of your share of the profits from that very profitable enterprise, your personal vault is credited on sickle and three knuts for every doll sold.”
Harry considered that for a moment. “Well, that’s a little better I guess. Still creepy, but better.”
“Now that Harry has been found, what happens with the estate?” Tony asked.
“As it stands, young Mr. Stark has access to his Trust vault. This vault is intended to pay his living and educational expenses and is credited with ten thousand galleons per year every year since he was born. Since this vault has never been accessed, it has a current standing balance of…” Oddbit checked the file in front of him. “Two hundred seventeen thousand, nine hundred fifty three galleons, nine sickles and eleven knuts. In as much as the assets of the trust vault have never been invested, the amount in excess over and above the one hundred twenty thousand one would expect to find in the vault is explained by the fees for the use of Mr. Stark’s name and image over the last decade.”
“Wow.” Harry said in a dazed manner.
“Indeed,” Oddbit agreed. “The contents of the Potter family vault and the personal vault of James Potter will become available to Mr. Stark upon reaching his majority, which is to say, seventeen years of age. Control of the Potter estate and all of the associated investments will pass to Mr. Stark when he reaches the age of twenty five.”
Harry glanced at his father, who nodded. “Mr. Oddbit, one of my classmates suggested that it was possible that there might be prearranged marriage contracts associated with the Potter estate. Do such things exist, or is that something I don’t have access to until I’m older?”
The old Goblin smiled a truly horrific sight. “I’m sorry Mr. Stark, but there will be no easy way to a mate for you. The Potter family hasn’t contracted for marriage since before I came onto your account, more than one hundred and fifty years ago. You’re going to have to stalk and capture your mate just like everyone else.”
Harry found himself wondering if he really wanted to know that much about Goblin culture.