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Harry Potter and the Invincible Technomage
Year Three — Spring Term
A/N: I do not own Harry Potter. Nor any of the Marvel Comics Characters mentioned herein. But, you knew that.
Hades Davis inked his quill, and resumed scratching out his thoughts. The fools of the Light Faction thought that they could force their 'reforms' through the Wizengamot in the face of perceived weakness among the traditionalists, including, but not limited to his own illness. The following day he was going to issue only the latest 'Most Important Speech of his Life', to disabuse his rivals of their fantasies.
He was in the midst of the second paragraph of his preparation when the hearth flared and the flames turned green.
Hades' brows climbed up his forehead. Who had the access to this fireplace? He had installed it so that he could make outgoing calls and to make possible covert egress from his library.
"The Pits of Hell," a young voice called from the flames.
That settled it; this was not an accidental miss-connection. Someone had specifically called out his floo address.
He stood from his desk, his wand in his hand. "Identify yourself."
"Mr. Davis, my name is Harry Stark," the young man's voice echoed in the room. "I'm a classmate of Tracey's. If you have the time, I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you."
Davis chewed his lower lip while contemplating his decision, not knowing that his granddaughter had the same habit. With a gesture, he shut down the defenses that rendered the floo connection communication only and allowed a one-time passage. "You may come through."
A small form shot from the fireplace as if he had entered the floo network at a full run. The black haired boy slid along the floor striking his head on Davis' desk.
"Ouch," the boy said eloquently, while holding his head.
"And what do you call that?" Davis asked, focusing on his annoyance that the boy somehow got his address to avoid smiling at the child's entrance.
"I think that was an insanely bad exit of the floo network," the boy said as he sat up rubbing his head. "I apologize for that, sir; it was my first attempt at flooing. Hopefully, I'll get better with practice."
"Get up boy," Hades growled. "What do you want, and how did you get my floo address?"
"I'm here because yours is the only family involved in the kidnapping last month that I haven't spoken with yet and apologized."
The old man returned to his desk and sat down. "And how did you get my floo address?" He repeated.
"I purchased it from my Gringotts account manager."
The old man blinked. It never occurred to him that his personal information might be for sale by the Goblins. "And what did my private floo address cost you?"
"Thirty Galleons," Harry shrugged.
"Thirty…" the old man sputtered. "Did it occur to you that you could have simply written me using a school owl and it would have cost you nothing?"
"Something that cost me nothing would reflect that value to you, sir," the boy said. "From what I have gathered from Tracey, it is unlikely that you would have responded to a letter from a stranger, and even less likely that you would respond to one from someone like me."
"Someone raised Muggle and the child of a Muggle born," Harry explained.
Hades nodded. "So, from what my granddaughter has told you, you decided to leave the school and violate my privacy."
"It's a Hogsmeade weekend," Harry explained. "I’m supposed to meet with Tracey for an early dinner, to make up for the date that was spoiled by the kidnapping. Outside of my Head of House and my Account Manager, no one knows I am here."
"You are aware of my reputation?"
"I am," Harry admitted. "My Account Manager and my Head of House both cautioned me against meeting alone with you. I also know that you were in the second row of the Wizengamot when the Headmaster and the Ministry attempted to set aside my adoption. Your reputation suggests that you would not have been there if the result was not a foregone conclusion. That session was going to be as fair as last month's kidnapping."
Hades sat back in his chair and considered what he was being told, "and my presence at the Wizengamot session means?"
"It means that you are aware of, at least, some of the forces that would be brought to bear if something were to happen to me," the boy said simply.
"One of the Odinsons," Harry said with a shrug. "Loki has taken a liking to me on occasion and he might express an interest. Hercules would likely join in as well, and several of the Titans owe my father favors. Then, we would get to the people for whom finding me would be somewhat personal. Mistress Harkness, for example, has no great love of Britain, but does seem to tolerate me on occasion. A chance to rub the Wizengamot's nose in their own mess would likely appeal to her."
"Are you here to threaten me boy?"
"Not at all, Sir. I'm sorry if I gave that impression. I was simply explaining why I went against the advice of both my Head of House and my Account Manager about meeting you. Both Tracey's stories and your reputation have led me to believe that you are not a fool."
The boy smiled. Despite still wanting to be angry about this invasion of his privacy, Hades could not help but note aspects of his own eldest son in the boy. No wonder Tracey had been so willing to work toward her assigned goals.
"So," the boy continued. "To sum up what I came to say, the kidnapping was my fault. The Kree were looking for a soft target in me to avenge themselves for the actions of my father. Tracey and the others were not the targets of the kidnapping and were only taken because they were with me."
"My Granddaughter explained all this to me," Hades noted.
"Did Tracey also tell you that it could happen again?"
"What?" the old man choked, this information giving him more pause than he had expected.
"My father is a powerful man," the boy explained. "One who has made enemies who might want to try to strike at him through me. It has happened before, and will likely happen again. They generally learn that they have made a mistake in trying to strike at my father by using me as a proxy, but there are always others who are willing to try. Since returning to Britain, I've learned that I have enemies of my own."
"You do," Hades agreed.
"So far," the boy continued, "these enemies have manifested themselves mostly in the form of the Headmaster attempting to control me, and the Ministry actively seeking to assist him in that. There were some rumors my first year that Voldemort himself appeared in wraith form and had possessed a teacher, but the two girls who told me about it had seen me fry myself earlier that evening and were pretty distraught, so that one may not have happened, and if it did, I wasn't involved. Gringotts tells me that those are only the first attempts I will face, and a seer has predicted that I will be facing Voldemort again someday. The seer offered no opinion on which of us will walk away from that fight."
"You put a lot of faith in seers and the Goblin scum."
"The Goblins have never lied to me," Harry said quietly. "They don't like me any more than they like any other human, but they've always been honest with me. They had unrestricted control of the Potter family fortune for a decade, and according to the independent audit my father had done, were utterly honest in all of the dealings done in my name, and their efforts made me richer than I was before by a substantial margin. This is not something I can say about the Wizards. As far as seers go," the boy shrugged, "she's been right so far."
The old man considered what the boy was telling him before nodding. "So, what aren't you saying? Surely coming to tell me all this isn't your real reason for coming here."
"I know Tracey is important to you, since she is your heir, and I know you are important to her. I just wanted to make sure you were aware of what her associating with me could mean."
"And you did this with the others?"
"I did," the boy admitted. "Madam Longbottom was insulted that I would even think that Neville would even consider distancing himself from me, the Patil family seemed to think the whole thing was a great adventure and the Grangers actually thought about pulling Hermione out of school to keep her away from me and the trouble I attract."
"Muggles," the old man nodded. "They appear to be sensible, none the less."
"I haven't noticed any real difference on either side of the magical divide, as far as common sense goes," the boy paused, as if undecided if he should go on. "Mr. Davis, would you mind a personal question?"
The old man frowned. "What is it?"
Again, the boy hesitated. "Why are you pushing Tracey into trying to seduce me?"
Hades blinked. "She told you?"
"She did, but she didn't need to," Harry said. "I'm the son of a very rich, single man, and I've inherited a sizable personal fortune of my own. I have seen a whole lot of women being intensely interested in my father without really knowing the first thing about him beyond his net worth. Tracey is nothing like any of them, which is why I knew she was doing as she was told. Your granddaughter is shy and quiet, unlike the brashness of the women pursuing my father. None of them last very long, but there is always another one waiting for her chance," a small smile played upon the boy's lips. "More than one suggested that I might be better served attending a boarding school."
"I… see," Hades responded. It truly had not occurred to him that the boy might be able to recognize what the girl was trying to do. Evidently, he had underestimated both of the children.
"Tracey is my friend, and we've had fun together," the boy continued. "Someday that may become something else, but we're both only 13, and while I've noticed that people appear to marry awfully young in this society, I don't see that future for myself. Once I finish my education, I will need to establish myself in my career, and only then will I have time to think about a family."
"I will speak with her," Hades said, surprised by the shame he was feeling at having had his plot discovered.
"Thank you, sir," the boy said with a nod. "As your heir, you'll be expecting her to carry on with the family traditions and values after you are gone."
"Of course," Hades agreed.
"Have you considered that the way she has been treated throughout her life may have an effect on just how she views those traditions and values?" the boy asked innocently.
The question shocked Hades, his first reaction was anger that the presumptuous boy would dare question him in this way. Then his anger was replaced by a feeling of concern. What if the child was right? What if he was dooming the family's traditions with how he treated his granddaughter and her mother? "In the future Mr. Stark," Hades said quietly, "an owl from you would always receive my immediate attention."
"Thank you, sir," the boy smiled, and made his way to the fireplace.
The door opened before he could knock. "Come in Mr. Stark."
"Professor McGonagall said you wanted to see me, Headmaster?"
"Yes Mr. Stark," the old man said shifting his paperwork into his in basket. "Have a seat."
"We appear to be alone, Headmaster," Harry pointed out as he remained standing by the door. "I believe your agreement with my father has us never being alone together, sir."
"You left Hogsmeade yesterday."
"I did," Harry admitted. "If you want this conversation to continue, you're going to need to call my Head of House to attend."
"I hardly thing we need to bother Professor Flitwick with this," the Headmaster said soothingly.
"Whether you think so or not," Harry said shaking his head, "either you call for him, or I'm leaving. You destroyed any trust I had for you my first year, and nothing over the last two has done anything to rebuild it. If this is an issue I can be out of your school by tomorrow."
"Very well Harry," Dumbledore sighed, his disappointment evident in his voice. The Headmaster scribbled out a note, and called for an elf to deliver it.
"Professor Flitwick will be here shortly; surely we can begin our conversation while we wait for him?"
"Surely not, Headmaster," Harry answered. "The contract you agreed to so that I would return for my second year is quite clear on that."
"I am saddened by your lack of trust in me, Harry," the old man said quietly.
"And I was saddened when you attempted to take my father away from me, Headmaster," the boy responded. "Which of us has the more valid reason for our feelings?"
The pair waited in silence for several moments until the door opened to reveal the diminutive head of House Ravenclaw. "You called Albus? Oh, excuse me," he corrected himself upon spotting Harry, "You called Headmaster?"
"Please, both of you, sit down," the old man said. "We are here, Filius, to discuss Mr. Stark's leaving the boundaries of Hogsmeade Village yesterday."
"I did," Harry admitted as he finally took the offered chair, "but I refer you to the Hogwarts Student Handbook section on Hogsmeade visits, specifically the section that states: 'Students will remain within the village limits of Hogsmeade or within the approved paths between Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts school unless on family business with the approval of the student's parent or guardian. ' My father approved my business outside of Hogsmeade. I submitted the letter that granted me permission to Professor Flitwick a full week prior to the Hogsmeade weekend."
"Mr. Stark fulfilled the notification requirement," Filius pointed out, clearly perplexed by this line of inquiry. "I was aware of his appointment with Hades Davis, an appointment I recommended against, given Davis' reputation, but Mr. Stark had his father's permission and it wasn't really any of my business."
"Why didn't you inform me?" Dumbledore asked.
"Why would I Headmaster?" the Head of Ravenclaw. "This year alone I have processed seven of these family business requests, and you haven't wanted to know about any of them before."
"If there is nothing else, Headmaster, I do have classes…" Harry pointed out.
"You are excused, Harry," Dumbledore said.
Flitwick waited until the boy had left the office before he continued. "What is going on, Albus?"
"I'm not sure what you mean, Filius," the old man said shuffling the pages of parchment on his desk.
"It's as if you are trying to drive that young man out of the school," the younger man suggested.
"He left Hogsmeade to see Hades Davis of all people. And you allowed it."
"How was I supposed to prevent it? Why would I? He had the proper permissions, and good reason to want to speak to Hades. I'm not sure why you are doing this, but you are making a mistake with this boy. He's not an obedient Hufflepuff, he's not a follow the leader Gryffindor, he isn't even a calculation Slytherin. He's a thinking Ravenclaw, and he sees what you're doing."
"Thank you, Filius, that will be all," Albus said dismissively.
"Any time, Albus," the Charms Master said.
"A moment, Severus?" Flitwick said as his colleague rose from the table following dinner.
"Yes?" the Potions Master asked.
"This evening I was planning on dropping in on our combined OWL Project Group's meeting, to check on their progress. I've heard they will be meeting to work on their 'calculator' just about now. Would you like to come along?"
"I suppose I should," Snape sighed. "Even if I don't understand what they are trying to do."
"I must admit to not really understanding myself, but both Bathsheba and Septima both assure me that that not only is what they are trying to do important, perhaps even vital, at least to their specialties," Filius admitted.
Flitwick lead the way out of the Great Hall and to the stairs. He made sure they were alone before speaking again. "Albus is up to something with the Stark boy."
Snape snorted. "Albus is always up to something, having the Stark boy be his focus is far from unusual."
"True enough," the smaller man laughed before sobering. "Well, we're here."
Snape examined the door as if he expected it to open to hell. "We'd best fulfill our responsibilities then."
Flitwick nodded and reached for the door.
Neville turned the corner heading back toward the Gryffindor dorms when he found himself lifted off his feet. A slight feeling of dread filled him when he noticed that a pair of redheads had taken each arm and were carrying him into an unused classroom.
The twins returned him to his feet and one of them sealed the door behind them, while the other stood in front of Neville with his arms crossed.
"Is there something you want to tell us, young Longbottom?" he asked.
"I think he’s been holding out on us, Fred," the other said as he took his place next to his brother.
"Hello lads," Neville said, wondering how quickly he could get his spider-men into action. "What can I do for you?" He really had to develop some defenses that he could deploy at will.
"We heard the story of how you lot beat those bug eyed monsters," one of the twins said. They had already shifted positions several times and Neville had lost track of which of them had been identified as Fred.
"Blue people," his brother corrected him.
"Bug eyed blue people," the first speaker continued as if not corrected. "And there was mention of small red and blue men who swung from the ceiling and shot webs as part of your escape."
"Like the ones that chased us through the castle and stuck us to walls, George," the other noted.
"Quite right, Fred," George agreed. "Exactly like the ones that chased us through the castle."
"The Ravenclaws are all going on about how Stark, Granger and the ‘Claw Patil all claim you are some kind of alchemist, and that the red and blue men are yours to control," Fred suggested.
"So?" Neville asked, while trying to determine the best way to get out of the room without getting hexed too badly.
"So, you've been holding out on us," Fred said. "It turns out you're a budding alchemist. We want your help."
"We're forming a company," George continued, "a joke shop."
"We were going to call it 'Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes' but if we take on a partner, that could change," Fred noted.
"We can do a lot," George explained.
"We're dab hands at Charms, and are much better at potions than we let on," George added. "But, alchemy… that's just beyond us. You bring so very much to the table."
"So, you're not mad about the Spider-Men chasing you through the castle?" Neville asked.
"Mad?" Fred asked incredulously. "Why would we be mad, Nev? We're pranksters."
"What kind of pranksters would we be," George asked, "if we couldn't take a joke?"
"You got us, got us good," Fred admitted. "We had no idea how it was done or who did it. Finding out we were bested by an alchemist, I’ve got to tell you, that was a relief."
"If it had been just another student, it would have killed us. So, what do you say Nev?" George asked, draping an arm around Neville's shoulders. "Are you in, partner?"
"You’re kidding me," Harry said as he stood on the dock staring at the 80 foot yacht.
"Have you ever known me to joke about something like this Harry?" Tony grinned.
"Ahoy!" Sirius Black called from the ship’s cockpit, waving a beer bottle as he did so.
"Branson’s been smug as hell since he set the world record," Tony explained. "It’s time I took it back."
"Ok," Harry nodded, wondering if Sirius’ insanity had infected his father, or if it had been the other way around. "Three points. First, didn’t Branson do his attempt from North America to Britain to make use of the prevailing currents?"
"He did, and I took that into account," Tony grinned as he crossed the brow onto his newest toy. "My Party Beast has power to spare. All the projections say she’ll break the record against the currents."
" Party Beast ?" Harry asked.
"I named her," Sirius explained as he handed Tony a beer. "It seems the ladies love a boat, and they love the Captain of a fast boat the most."
"You’re the captain?" Harry asked.
"As far as they know," Sirius admitted before brightening and pointing to the top of his head. "I’ve got a hat. Never underestimate the power of a good hat."
Not really knowing what to say to that, Harry turned back to his father. "Second point, didn’t the Virgin Atlantic Challenger have a crew of professionals?"
"Unnecessary," Tony laughed. "The Party Beast is so fully automated; it can be run by one man in the cockpit. We’re doing it with a crew of four."
"Four?" Harry asked. Did Jarvis come along?"
"I’ve been called a lot of things," a throaty female voice broke in, "But I’ve never been mistaken for a butler. Hello Harry."
The woman covered with auburn fur with black tiger stripes slinked past Harry to curl onto Sirius’ lap.
"Well, I didn’t expect to see you here, Greer," Harry noted.
"I told you, she loved the hat," Sirius confided.
"Oh, Sirius," the woman purred, "It had nothing to do with your silly hat."
"You didn’t like my hat?" Sirius asked, sounding wounded.
"Ok. Moving on from the Disturbing Adult Relationship theater, third point, if memory serves, Branson made his run in June, in the summer, not December, also known among the sane people of the northern hemisphere as winter. Why are you trying to kill us?"
"Harry, you’re worrying too much," Tony teased. "If need be the Party Beast is fully submersible, can dive to over a thousand feet and is 15 knots faster submerged."
"And we’re doing it on the surface because?"
"Because the record if for the surface transit," his father explained.
Harry just looked toward the sky. "We’re going to die."
Edwin Jarvis entered the kitchen having been in his quarters when the house's security system informed him that the Starks had returned.
"Richard?" the elder Stark was speaking into his cellphone. "Tony Stark. Thought you might want to know I beat your Atlantic crossing in my new little boat."
A sodden Harry was standing next to his father appearing to be miserable beyond all belief, while a puddle formed at his feet.
"Yeah," Tony enthused. "I wasn't in a hurry, so I only trimmed five hours off your time, oh, and just for fun, I did it east to west, I figured why not make it challenging?"
"Hello Jarvis," Harry said piteously. "We just crossed the Atlantic in a speed boat. I don't recommend it."
"Of course it was legitimate," Tony laughed into his phone. "It's just like you hobbyists to think the worst of everyone who beats you. Oh, don't worry, I'm sending a full set of the ship's logs, including the start and arrival times to you… it will be a copy of the set I send the Guinness people…"
"It was a rough crossing then?" Jarvis asked, trying not to laugh.
"Oh, loads of fun," Harry said. "We bounced from wave to wave; it was like riding a dunebuggy without a suspension for three solid days. And we ran into two different storms, the first one blew a portion of the roof off, and drenched the entire living quarters. Greer Nelson was along. Do you know what a wet cat person smells like?"
"I’m sure I have no idea," Jarvis answered, knowing he was enjoying this just a bit too much.
"Well, it turns out my godfather is something called an 'animagus' which is a wizard who can change into an animal. When he found he couldn't sleep as a cold, wet, human, he changed into a huge wet wolfhound and slept that way. Greer and Sirius the dog smelled exactly alike," Harry complained. "Two days in a small cabin with them, capped off with three hours in customs where they had nothing to dry off with."
"And are we to expect Mr. Black and Miss Nelson to be arriving anytime soon?" Jarvis asked.
"I doubt it. We dropped them off at a hotel, and they were both making disgusting innuendo concerning hot tubs, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream," Harry said shaking his head. "I’m taking a hot shower for a couple of hours, and then I'm going to bed. When I wake up, I'm going to hurt the next person who suggests breaking a world record."
"Richard," Tony laughed, "I'm pretty sure that isn't biologically possible. Anyway, I really just called to say HA! In your face."
Closing his phone, the billionaire looked to his long time retainer and friend. "Where did Harry go?"
"Jarvis said you wanted to talk?" Tony said as he entered the basement workshop that Harry had taken over as his 'lab'. He found his son hunched over, scribbling frantically.
"Just a sec, Dad, don't want to lose this thought," Harry murmured.
Tony nodded, quite familiar with the need to get his thoughts down before he got distracted and lost what he was working on. He turned his attention to the Whiteboard where Harry was working on a formula. Why was Harry concerned about computing wire gauge ? Next to the white board a table held what appeared to be an antique broom, which had some sort of pedal assembly mounted on the stick just above the twig like bristles.
A broom made for… riding ? Oh surely not.
"Done," Harry called. "Cool broom, huh?"
"You seriously ride these things?"
"Yeah," Harry nodded. "It's fun… not as much fun as your flight trainer, but fun. They play sports on them."
"Wire gauge and flying brooms?" Tony asked. "What are you up to anyway?"
"Do you remember my Vibranium levitation disk?" Harry asked his eyes flicking to the hole in the concrete ceiling.
"The combination storage battery/amplifier? Something that violates all the laws of physics as I understand them is fairly hard to forget. As I recall, you were running some simulations on how you might use that."
"I was surprised at how little of the Vibranium I needed to pull off that trick, and the simulations are showing that I actually needed even less," Harry opened his drawer and pulled out a silver disk the size of his palm. "I've inscribed a runic shield cluster on this," He explained, crossing to the wall of the room and stuck the disk to the wall via double-sided foam tape. Stepping back, he pressed his wand to the cluster and the carvings on the disk began to glow a faint blue.
Harry clicked on a stopwatch and waited as the watch ticked off fifteen seconds. "Ok, try to touch it."
"Is it going to dissolve my hand?" Tony asked cautiously.
"It's just a shield, Dad," Harry laughed. "Two shields actually. One for kinetic attacks, and one for magic and energy. Go ahead and touch it."
Tony cautiously extended a finger and moved toward the silver disk. What he found was one of the oddest sensations of his life. It was as if he were pushing through an absurdly thick fluid to reach the disk.
"That really feels weird," he noted as he withdrew his hand.
"I know Harry laughed, still watching the stopwatch. "That was at 30 seconds, let's wait a bit."
The seconds ticked by while Tony wondered what they were waiting for.
"Ok," Harry grinned. "That's a full minute. Try it now."
Tony extended his finger again, and this time found a solid barrier, changing to pushing against the invisible hemisphere with the palm of his hand, he put his entire weight into it. "It got stronger, that's the amplifier affect isn't it?"
"Yep. And it keeps getting stronger, after about three days it becomes opaque. I don’t know if the field starts blocking light or if something else is happening. By that point the only way to disrupt the shield I've found is to come in from the rear and break the runic cluster."
"Hmm," the billionaire hummed, "I wonder what it's like from the inside?"
"The effect is one way only," Harry explained. "From the inside, it's like the field isn't there, energy passes with no problem, so do kinetic packages and magic. Even after it becomes opaque from this side, from the inside it remains utterly transparent."
"It becomes one way light permeable? That does not make the slightest bit of sense, but then it's magic and isn't supposed to. How strong does it get?" Tony asked.
"I don't know," Harry admitted. "After it's activated, after an hour, whatever I mount it on gives way at the perimeter before the shield fails. I've been thinking of taking a larger one to the Baxter Building and talking Ben into whaling on it for a while, but I wanted to get your opinion first."
"Do you think I might find it useful?"
"Well," Harry hesitated, "Maybe, but it would be a one-time use. Once triggered, the only way to turn it off is to disrupt the array, and when you do that, it dumps the magic sump. For this shield to be fully functional in a traditional sense, the user would have to be a magic user."
"Hmm," Tony hummed again as the possibilities rolled over in his mind. He then returned his attention to the broom. "So you're going to give up on my flight systems?"
"Oh, no," Harry shook his head. "Not entirely. I'm proposing a hybrid system, with the broom for lift and the thrusters for speed and maneuverability. I'm still trying to integrate the flight capabilities of a broomstick into my prototype, and I may end up needing to use two of them to actually get into the air, but I'm pretty sure it will work."
"What are you going to call yourself?"
Harry blinked. "Excuse me?"
"I'm not blind Harry," Tony said as he sat down. "You're gearing up for a fight. You resisted every time I suggested armor for your personal protection, and now you're building that," he nodded toward the prototype mounted in the corner of Harry's work room. When you were out with Franklin and the Powers kids, you used Pulse, but that isn't going to work anymore is it?"
"Technomage," Harry said quietly. "It seems to fit, half way between you and Sirius and his 'Magician'."
"Technomage," Tony nodded. "Nice."
"You're not going to tell me to stay out of it?"
"Would that work?" Tony asked, a single brow raised.
"Probably not," Harry admitted.
"Then what would be the point? I hate wasting my time. Rather than have you going behind my back, I prefer access to that I can make sure you're being as safe as possible. So, what was it you really wanted? I know it wasn't just to show me you shield."
From his workbench, Harry produced a 10-inch square piece of his sheet vibranium. "Could your fabbers draw this out into wire?"
"Ah, so that's why you have the wire gauge formula on your whiteboard," Tony nodded again. "Vibranium is tough to work with, but I think so, what size and how much?"
"40 Gauge, and as much as that will make," Harry said as he spun his computer display around to face his father. "The sims project some truly awesome results."
Tony examined the diagrams and the projections, and not for the first time, wished he knew more about magic than he did. Perhaps a visit to Stephen Strange was in order. "Is this right? Four hundred percent increase in power throughput?"
"That's what the numbers say," Harry agreed. "The only way we'll find out is with vibranium wire."
"It should be ready by summer vacation," Tony agreed. "I want to be there when you try it."
"That boy," Hermione laughed as she held up her gift from Harry. "Just because I like to read…" Christmas morning in the Granger home had been quiet this year. Her parents had been smugly mysterious about their plans for the summer. Something about a 'surprise'.
"What is it?" her mother asked while still admiring the necklace from her husband. The Granger's investment with the Patil/Stark Magical Consumer Electronics group was paying off nicely. Quite possibly, the day Hermione sat down on in the compartment with Harry Stark would turn out to be one of the luckiest days in the Granger family’s lives.
"A tee shirt," Hermione groused, obviously trying very hard not to smile. "No, five tee shirts, in different colors;" She held up the yellow shirt and turned it so her mother could read the words emblazoned on the front.
"She Blinded Me with Library Science," Kristine read, laughing. "Well, it suits you."
"They all say the same thing. I hope the prat likes the homework planers I got him," Hermione smirked.
Tracey opened the door to her grandfather's library at his "Enter."
"Happy Christmas, Grandfather, you wanted to see me?" she asked quietly from her place at the door.
"Sit down, girl," the man said distractedly, before he seemingly noticed what he had done. "I'm sorry, please, sit down Tracey, and Happy Christmas to you as well."
Her Grandfather's use of her given name surprised her, almost as much as his acknowledging the season, but Tracey was careful to show no reaction as she took her seat.
"I'm sorry I've waited so long to see you, Granddaughter," Hades sighed. "Your young friend Stark came to visit me not long after you were taken. A most audacious young man, who all but told me I was a fool. He gave me much to think about."
"Harry said he wanted to speak to you," Tracey said. "I never really thought he would do it."
The old man actually smiled, something that shocked Tracey more than if he had flown into a rage at Harry's presumptive behavior. "He did it all right, and jumped through some hoops to do so as well. Far more than I would have done when I was his age."
"I told him that I was directed to get his attention," Tracey admitted.
"He already knew," Hades said softly. "The young man is more aware than he leads one to believe. He also believes that you were unhappy with the situation, which was why he was willing to get to know you."
Not knowing what to say, Tracey remained silent and waited.
"Our discussion led me to examine how I've treated you, and frankly I'm feeling ashamed of my behavior. It was your name, you see. 'Tracey', as you know is not a name used by Wizards. I blamed your mother for your name, as I blamed her for your father's death," the old man paused, looking older than Tracey could ever recall him looking, even during his bouts of his illness. "Then the boy came and spoke with me, I saw so much of your father in him, and I found myself wondering."
Hades produced a leather bound book. "This is your father's journal. I've had it since the day he died, but I never had the courage to read it, to find what my son thought, what he aspired to, what he wanted from life. I began reading it the day your friend came to speak with me. Your father named you Granddaughter, not your mother. It was a name he heard once at a cinema with your mother and he liked it. And my son, Illtud, was in Diagon Alley when he was attacked, not at the behest of your mother, not even searching out something for you. No, his journal from the night before listed his plans to purchase a gift for me."
The old man sat silently for a moment, his eyes down cast toward his desk, and then he resumed speaking. "For too long, I have blamed your mother; I have blamed you for the loss of my eldest son. That was wrong, and I am sorry."
Tracey had never, in her entire life, expected to hear her dour, dismissive grandfather apologize for anything, ever. She had no idea what to say.
"This is yours," the old man said, pushing her father's journal across his desk toward her. "It should have always been yours, another of my mistakes. I have also obtained all of the information my agents could find your friend, Stark," he added a sheaf of parchment to the journal. "So that you can make your own decisions about how seriously to pursue your relationship with him. His values and goals are not ours, but I'm sure you know that already."
"Thank you, Grandfather," Tracey said as she accepted the journal and parchment, wanting nothing so much as to return to her room to think about how much her world had changed.
"While you are at Hogwarts, Eunice and Wesley will be moving out of the manor, to their own apartments," Hades continued. "Along with a stipend to see to their needs, I hope you will continue the stipend to continue when you are the Head of House. You will not need a reminder of the mistakes of your elders when you assume the duties that are coming to you, and frankly, I am tired of them staring at me, waiting for me to die. Your mother will, if she is willing, assume the duties of your regent until such time as you are ready to take the reins yourself."
The old man sighed before continuing, "I have made mistakes, Tracey, and I had them pointed out to me by a 13 year old boy. I am going to spend what time I have left trying to make it up to you."
Padma entered her sister's bedroom with a small package in her hands. "Wakey wakey."
"What?" Parvati asked from under her blankets. "It's too early."
"It's 10 A. M.," Padma teased. "And I bring gifts. Well, a gift anyway."
"We're not in school," Parvati groused. "I should be able to sleep all I want. What gift?"
"It's a Christmas gift from Harry." Padma explained.
"Why would Harry get me a gift?" the Gryffindor asked sitting up. "We don't do Christmas."
"And he knows that," her Ravenclaw sister agreed. "However, as he put it, he does 'do Christmas', and according to him, Christmas is about the giving not the receiving. He got me this lovely bracelet," she said extending her arm to show the gift off, "and Harry said that it wouldn't be right to get me something and not get you something as well."
Taking the package from her sister, Parvati opened it and gasped at the earrings she found within. "Nice. Lav was talking about trying to steal him away from Davis in the New Year, but now that I know what kind of gifts he gives, I may try and steal him myself."
"Yeah," Padma smiled sadly, as she left the room. "Good luck with that."
The entire building shook violently.
"Whoa!" Franklin said with a wide grin. "Uncle Ben is really going to town!"
"You're telling me," Harry agreed as he picked himself up off the floor. "How does the rest of the building react to this sort of thing?"
"Shock absorbers on our floors of the building," Susan said with a smile as her invisible force field returned the snacks to the tabletop. "Occasionally, we get complaints about the noise, but they never feel the building move. You really made that force field Ben is pounding on? Do I need to have a new Stark wing built onto the Mad Scientist museum?"
"Dad doesn't already have a wing?" Harry grinned.
"Your father," Susan explained, "is an engineer. Ask him, he will deny being a scientist, mad or otherwise. I'm certain there is a whole museum dedicated to Mad Stark Engineering."
That image made Harry and Franklin laugh before Harry explained. "That force field isn't science or engineering, at least not yet. It's magic."
"We've had to deal with magical shields before," Susan pressed as the Baxter building again shook, her force field keeping the boys in their chairs and the bowls on top of the table. "They're tough, but not this tough, at least not without someone like Stephen Strange powering them."
"Ah," Harry nodded. "You can thank Ms. Ramonda for that."
"Ramonda?" Susan asked, puzzled. "T'Challa's step mother?"
"Yeah, Dad went to Wakanda for a conference and I tagged along. I got a tour of the Sacred Mound facility and Ms. Ramonda and I got to talking about our Magical Computer project. She suggested that I try using vibranium instead of aluminum for the base material, and got T'Challa to give me some," Harry explained. "That stuff is way too valuable to be used in a school project, but I got to thinking she must have wanted me to use it for something, so I tried it on a simple levitation rune cluster, and then got distracted and left it. It should have run out of magic in about a couple of minutes, but when I found it six weeks later, it had pushed a penny three inches into the concrete ceiling and was still going."
Harry saw the expressions on the faces of the two Richards. "Yeah, I know. Not only does the vibranium amplify the magic used to power runes scribed on it, but it acts like a sort of power source/battery, that constantly charges itself until something disrupts the magic sump. It's really cool."
The building shook again, as if in agreement with his statement.
Harry paused in his way to his common room, shifted his luggage to his left hand and turned to find Tracey at his side. "Tracey! I was worried when you weren't on the train."
"I flooed in," she said simply. "You made an impression on my grandfather."
"Did I?" Harry asked. "I wasn't sure that I got through to him and that he really understood what being around me actually means."
Tracey took his hand and led him through the castle. "I think you frightened him, he has told me I didn't have to pursue you any longer."
"Oh," Harry said, waiting for her to continue.
At the top of the stairs, Tracey led Harry into an unused classroom, sealing the door behind them, and leaning against it.
"Who else have you been speaking with?" she asked.
"A couple of days before the break, Draco Malfoy questioned why I was wasting my time with you," Harry admitted. "I didn't hit him or anything, I simply pointed out that you were my friend, and the heir to an important family, and suggested that he might pull his head out of his butt before you became the Davis and crushed him like a bug."
"Everyone in Slytherin is being nice to me," Tracey whispered. "Daphne Greengrass invited me to eat with her. Daphne Greengrass."
"Tracey, don't go all star-struck on me. Daphne is cute enough I guess, but she isn't, well, you."
"Not me?" she asked.
"She isn't special," he responded, "She isn't my friend."
"Oh, Harry," she sighed, wrapping her arms around his neck and resting her head against his chest.
More than a bit confused, Harry returned the embrace and waited for Tracey to tell him what was on her mind.
His wait was almost 30 seconds.
"Harry," she said quietly, still clinging to him. "I think we need to stop dating."
"What?" he asked, releasing his embrace.
She pulled away from him, and turned away to face the door. "Are you planning on marrying me, Harry?"
"What?" the question flabbergasted him. "Tracey, we're only 13."
"I turn 14 Tuesday next, Harry. In three years I reach my Majority, and I will be expected to marry, and have my first child by the time I'm 19."
"So, you're 'expected'. Don't do it. Defy the expectations."
"I cannot leave the magical world," she continued, ignoring his words. "Are you willing to stay here with me, take my name and further the fortunes of House Davis?"
"What?" He asked again.
"I spent most of the break thinking about this Harry," she said quietly. "You have plans and dreams that go much further than I will ever be willing to go. I used to dream about meeting the Machine Man… The Vision and his wife, who is a witch, but not our kind, and then, thanks to you, I did. However, I also saw how very small my world is, and how much the larger world outside of what I know frightens me. I thought I could learn to be ready for your life, but I read the information my Grandfather had on you and your life terrifies me. I can't follow you out into the world Harry, and I can't reasonably ask you to give it all up for me."
"Tracey!" Harry exclaimed. "You're talking about the rest of our lives, but we're just kids. We aren't in love or anything. We're just having fun."
"I know Harry, I'm sorry. I want to stay friends. We can still be around each other, and have fun, as you put it, but I don't think we should date."
She left the room without saying another word.
Harry found himself alone in the room, staring at the door, wondering what had just happened.
Tracey looked up from her notes when the door opened. She may have broken up with Harry, but the project still had work that needed to be done.
"Oh, hello," Padma said from the doorway. "I didn't expect anyone else to be here the first night back."
"Too noisy in the common room," Tracey said simply and returned to her work
"I'd have thought you would have spent tonight with Harry," the Ravenclaw said as she sat down at her usual table.
"You don't like me much do you Patil?" Tracey sighed.
"I hardly know you, Davis," she replied.
"You know me well enough that you've been staring daggers at me every time you saw me with Harry," Tracey noted.
"Harry is my friend," Padma said quietly. "What kind of friend would I be if I wasn't concerned about him?"
"Concerned about him and the mistake he was making?"
"I didn't say that," Padma disagreed.
"No," Tracey said sadly. "You didn't say that, not to Harry, not to me, though, maybe you did say it to Granger. And you were right."
"I was right?"
"I was ordered by my Grandfather to approach Harry and seduce him," the Slytherin said simply. "I never actually did anything about it, but Harry evidently figured out what was happening and became my friend in spite of what I was supposed to do."
"He would," Padma acknowledged.
"The first Hogsmeade weekend after we got away from the Kree, Harry left to see my Grandfather, and they spoke," the girl's expression became focused, as if she were staring at something miles away. "It is quite possible that, other than me, Harry was the first halfblood my grandfather had ever spoken with in his entire life. I'm not sure what they spoke about beyond Harry telling my Grandfather that he knew what was going on, and that it wasn't going to work. Somehow, Harry Stark, the famous Harry Potter, made Hades Davis feel shame over what he had planned, if you can imagine that. Over Christmas, Grandfather told me I no longer needed to pursue Harry if I didn't want to. He gave me a file of information about Harry and his life."
"Did you want to?"
"What?" Tracey asked.
"You said your Grandfather gave you leave to quit going after Harry. Did you want to quit?"
"No," Tracey admitted. "I didn't. You have to understand, before Harry made the effort, I never had friends, not really. I had my books, and my mother. In Slytherin house, I was the one of the few halfbloods, barely tolerated by most, and hated by the rest, including our Head of House despite being a halfblood himself, over some kind of grievance he had against my father."
Padma did not know what to say to that, so she waited for the other girl to continue.
"Then Harry came up with the Computer Project, and he was talking about things I'd only read about, and he talked to me, like my ideas had value. The more time we spent together, the more he meant to me. Even when we were on that ship in space, I knew it would be ok, because Harry was there," Tracey continued. "When we got back, he actually went to see my Grandfather. I don't know everything they talked about, but things have changed at home. Changed quite a bit. Grandfather researched Harry and his father, and shared that information with me."
"The details of Harry's life terrify me. Remember when we woke him up on the ship and told him we'd been taken and he said 'again?' According to the Muggle press in North America, it would have been his eighth kidnapping since he was adopted by his father. His eighth, Patil. Who does that happen to?"
"Only Harry," Padma admitted.
"Only Harry," Tracey agreed. "His life terrifies me. I told him we needed to stop dating this morning. I just can't do it, I can't face what he sees as an annoying inconvenience, even though breaking it off has me wanting to cry," she closed her eyes and sighed. "I know you like him Patil, and he likes you. I doubt the word has gotten out yet. If you want, you can be the one to explain my inexplicable behavior to him."
"I hardly think…"
"Look Padma, we know the nice guy Harry Stark who is always looking to take care of his friends. The rest of the girls here see The Boy Who Lived, Harry, heir to the Potter fortune, and if you don't step up now, some fifth year is going to shove her tits in his face and it will be over," Tracey sighed at the thought. "Harry is a nice boy, but he's still a boy."
Padma looked down at the front of her robes doubtfully.
"Oh for Merlin's sake," Tracey said exasperated. "You've been glaring at me for the last four months, and now that you've got a chance, you're not going to take it?"
Mavis moved to the unmarked plot, and paused, trying to remember the man's face. Like so many of the "Joe Bloggs she had cared for, after they left her ward, she tended to forget the details.
It was so unfair. He had been healing so well, before whatever had happened. In all honesty, it was as if the screws used to rebuild his pelvis had suddenly expanded to 100 times their original size before returning to normal, but that just was not possible.
Joe had, of course, bled out long before anyone could react. The reviews over what might have happened were still going on, though the truth be told, Mavis suspected that no one would ever figure this one out. Her career in the wards had shown her many things that were never explained, and she fully expected this to be another.
The police were far from pleased to learn that 'Joe' had passed, leaving the mystery of what had happened to the man open to question. An inspector had shown up asking for speculation as to how something like this could have happened. He had not appreciated being told that there was no explanation for the man's injuries.
Mavis sighed. She hated it when those in her care died, it happened all too often. It just seemed that it was worse when those who died did so alone, with no one to mourn them. Mavis knew she cared too much for those under her care. She knew that she tended to become far too attached to her patients.
She knew and it did not matter. It never mattered.
She sighed again, and laid the flower that had been abandoned in the ward when a patient had gone home the day before. Straightening, she whispered a prayer for the man whose name she had never learned. Then it was time to move on, she had three other Joe Bloggs to visit today.
It was important that someone did.
"Why do I have to go to Hogsmeade?" Harry asked as he was pulled through the door.
"Because you've been moping around the castle for two months," Hermione said reasonably, as she pulled him toward the carriages.
"Your pain has been sad, yet extremely funny at the same time," Padma agreed while yanking on his other arm.
"And since Hannah is off with Neville," Susan Bones added as she followed the trio to the carriages, "I'm bored, so I'm coming along so you can buy me things."
"Lucky me," Harry said as he boarded the carriage with the three girls piling in behind him Harry took a seat on the forward facing bench, with Susan at his side, and his two housemates took the rear facing seats. "For the record, I wasn't moping. I have been working on our OWL project."
"This must be some strange new version of working on the project that involved never being in the same room as Tracey if you could help it," Hermione noted, as the carriage started moving.
"Does anyone have any idea just how these things move?" Harry asked, desperate to change the subject.
"They're probably charmed to go to and from Hogsmeade," Hermione said, not fooled for a minute.
"It would have to be a really complex charm," Harry pointed out. "I mean, it's not like they're on an endless loop. They stop and wait until they have people in them, and I've seen everything from six riders to people on their own."
Padma's brow furrowed. "That would be a complex charm," she agreed.
"Almost logic based…" Hermione agreed. "If we could get to the charm schematics…"
"Bored now," Susan gasped as she collapsed across Harrys lap. "Too much Ravenclaw jabber. Losing… will… to… live… So very bored."
"It can't be that bad," Harry grinned, looking down into the redhead's very blue eyes. "How can we revive you?"
"Well," Susan said, her lips pursed in mock concentration. "You could start by telling me how pretty I am, that always gets my attention. Start with my eyes and work your way down to my lips. I like hearing how kissable they are."
"Or," Padma said, "we could dump her out on the side of the road and see if the fresh air revives her by the time we head back to the castle."
"Harry," Susan said beseechingly. "She's being mean to me, make her stop."
"You like hearing how kissable your lips are?" Hermione laughed. "You've been hanging around Justin too much, he uses that line on everyone."
"On, everyone?" Susan asked with a pout. "Harry, they're still being mean. You didn't stop them."
"What was I supposed to do?" He asked.
"Oh, I see how it is," Susan said, sitting up and moving to the far side of the carriage. "I see. Everyone against the Hufflepuff. This is just like your trip into space. You took a Gryffindor, you took a Slytherin, but you didn't even think about taking a 'Puff, did you?"
"It was a kidnapping," Harry said reasonably. "It's not like I had time to put out invitations."
"Beast!" she pouted.
Harry looked to his two housemates for any sign that Susan was, like he hoped, joking. He missed Susan's wink the let the other girls know she considered Operation: Pull Harry out of his funk , a success.
Tony pulled his son into a hug. "Hello, Harry. Ready to head home?"
"How?" Harry asked suspiciously. "I’m not getting on another boat."
"Well, I was thinking about breaking Richard's record for crossing the Atlantic in a balloon, but that's not really conducive to heading home from here," Tony teased.
"Then, how are we getting home?"
"My boy," Tony said, sliding his left arm around his son's shoulders. "There comes a time when a man must test his mettle, when he must face life in the manner of his primitive ancestors, when he must rough it."
"Dad," Harry said, shaking his head. "Every time you get like this, I start worrying about you. How are we getting home?"
"Ah, we're catching the Concorde home," Tony explained.
"The Concorde?" Harry echoed. "Man, that thing is so slow."
"I told you we were roughing it," Tony laughed.
A/N: Who's Who in this chapter:
Greer Nelson - also known as Tigra . She is the current holder of the position of the historical defender/champion of the Cat People, a humanoid race created by sorcery during the Dark Ages. Concerned about the Cat People's uncontrollable population growth and savagery, a community of sorcerers eventually banished the entire original Cat People population to a demonic netherworldly realm. Tigra's powers are the result of a combination of science, magic, and mental energy. Her physical appearance is distinctly cat-like. A thick, sleek coat of orange fur with black stripes covers her entire body. She has pointed ears, sharper-than-normal teeth with pronounced upper and lower canines, eyes with enlarged irises and vertically slitted pupils, and retractable claws on her feet and hands instead of nails. Her claws and teeth are sufficiently strong to puncture sheet steel, such as that found in a car body. Tigra also has a long semi-prehensile tail, and can willfully contact (but not grasp and lift) objects with it. Tigra's feline physiology grants her various superhuman attributes including superhuman strength, speed, stamina, agility, reflexes, and resistance to physical injury. If she is injured, her physiology enables her to heal much faster and more extensively than an ordinary human.