At way too early in the morning for a day when he didn't have classes and wasn't stuck at Privet Drive, Harry Potter lay in his bed at St. Peter's Hospital, breathing shallowly so his ribs wouldn't hurt as much and idly watching the BBC Breakfast program. It wasn't exactly stimulating, but the hospital didn't have a wide selection of books and his textbooks were out of reach at Aunt Petunia's house.
Aunt Petunia …
They'd told him she died in the accident, and he wasn't certain how he should feel about that. He wasn't grieving for her, exactly, but without her somewhat moderating influence, who knew what Uncle Vernon might do? Harry didn't want to imagine the worst case, if only because the worst wouldn't happen since Hedwig had flown off a few days before, so at least she wasn't trapped in her cage at Privet Drive.
But what about the best-case scenario? In the best case, Harry supposed Uncle Vernon would throw him out - but then where would he live?
Harry's vault at Gringotts had a lot of money in it, and it would certainly be enough for him to stay at the Leaky Cauldron for the rest of the summer, if Tom the barman agreed - but what about next summer, and the summer after that, and all the other summers until he graduated and found a job?
Just thinking about it was making his head hurt worse, and he wished for one of Madam Pomfrey's pain relief potions. However bad they tasted, they worked much better than the paracetamol the hospital had given him.
Harry looked up as an orderly brought in his breakfast tray and slid it onto the bedside table. At some point around dinner last night, he'd been moved into a private room - which was great, if a little puzzling. There was no way that Uncle Vernon would have paid for a private room for him, much less the upgraded meals he seemed to be getting, and he wasn't well-enough known in the Muggle world to rate a private room.
Still, he thanked the man for the meal and used his good hand to push himself to a more upright position so he could eat with less difficulty. The movement sent a twinge of pain through his chest and he gasped, then breathed slowly and shallowly while the pain subsided somewhat before lifting the cover from the tray.
He was halfway through his porridge - he really wanted a full English, but with one hand in a cast, manipulating the knife and fork wasn't something he was ready to try just yet - when the advert came on the telly.
It was for a solicitor firm, Devereaux Peck, that specialized in personal injury cases, and Harry smiled as the solution to his problems appeared on the screen before him. He'd have to move quickly, to talk to them before Uncle Vernon could - Uncle Vernon would probably try to sue on Harry's behalf as his guardian of record, just to take whatever money Harry might be awarded away for himself - but that shouldn't be difficult, as he was stuck in hospital another day and didn't have a funeral to arrange.
The advert ended, and Harry grabbed the pencil they'd given him to place his meal orders and scribbled the number to Devereaux Peck on the serviette. He'd call later, after business hours started. For now, he'd finish his now-lukewarm porridge and the fruit cup that came with it.
By the time he finished, it was after eight - maybe that was early enough for the solicitor's office to be open? He had nothing to lose by trying, so he grabbed the phone the nurse had politely hung from his bed rail and punched in the number.
"Good morning, Devereaux Peck. We can help." The woman who answered sounding caring and almost motherly. Or what Harry thought motherly would sound like if it came in a quieter package than Molly Weasley.
"I hope so," Harry said, startled by the greeting. "Um - I was in a car accident the day before yesterday. My aunt died in it, and I'm afraid my uncle's going to take whatever compensation I could get for himself."
"I'm sorry for your loss," she said. "Now, let me take your name and age -"
"My name's Harry Potter, and I'm twelve - no, thirteen," he said, remembering that, "Today's my birthday."
There was another pause. "Wishing you happy birthday doesn't seem appropriate under the circumstances," the woman said.
"No, it's fine," Harry replied, and the pause this time seemed somewhat awkward.
"Well, then," the woman said finally. "Would you prefer a male attorney or a female attorney?"
"Um." Harry paused. "Does it matter?"
"Only for your comfort," she said. "All of our solicitors are quite competent."
"Then, no, I guess."
"Normally, we'd want you to come to -"
Harry lost the rest of what the woman was saying thanks to a commotion outside his room. When he looked toward the source of the disturbance, his mouth dropped open.
Tony Stark stood outside his room, having an animated discussion with the doctor Harry had seen yesterday.
"I'll call you back," he told the woman on the other end of the call and hung up, too interested in what was happening outside his room to pay attention to the person on the phone.
After a minute, the doctor - a dark-skinned man with curly hair called Dr. Mendscole - came into his room, leaving Tony Stark outside, with a cheerful, "Good morning."
"Good morning, sir," Harry replied dutifully.
"How are you feeling?"
"I could list all the injuries that suggest you're not fine, as you put it." The doctor grinned as he slipped the eartips of his stethoscope into his ears and pressed the round disk against Harry's chest and back. "Your lungs sound right - which isn't a surprise, but it's always good to be certain, isn't it?"
"Yes, sir." It was a safe response, even though Harry agreed with the sentiment.
Dr. Mendscole's smile faded. "I understand it was your aunt in the car with you?"
"Yes, sir," Harry said, wondering why the doctor brought it up.
"Do you live with her?"
"And Uncle Vernon, and my cousin Dudley," Harry said. "Or - I did."
"What happened to your parents?"
"They died when I was a baby." It was true, if incomplete, so he added, "My aunt and uncle told me they were killed in a car accident."
And, come to think of it, wasn't it poetic justice that Petunia had died the same way? Harry felt ashamed at the thought, even if it might be true.
"That's … not entirely true," Dr. Mendscole said and held up a hand to keep Harry from protesting. "What were their names, your parents?"
"James and Lily Potter."
"Well." Dr. Mendscole glanced back toward the door, where Harry could see Tony Stark and another man - tall and blonde where Stark was average height and dark - waiting and watching.
Dr. Mendscole cleared his throat. "There's no easy way to say this, so forgive my being blunt. James Potter was not your biological father."
Harry's stomach seemed to have fallen out of his body. "Wha - what?"
"James Potter was not your biological father," the doctor repeated. "I have DNA tests that prove it."
"He's not - then who -?" And it hit him, Harry jerked his gaze back to Tony Stark and the connection snapped into place. "Tony Stark is my biological father?"
"Yes -" Dr. Mendscole began, but Harry glared at Stark.
"Where were you?" Harry shouted at the man standing in the hall. "Where were you after they died?"
Stark came into the room. "I didn't know they'd died."
"Y- you didn't know." Harry hated how small his voice sounded, how weak. He'd defeated Voldemort - three times! - and killed a basilisk. How was this what terrified him?
Dr. Mendscole cleared his throat again. "I'll - leave you to … sort things out."
"Thank you, Doctor," the blonde man said, as Harry seemed to be stuck in a staring match with Tony Stark.
"I still have to report -" the doctor broke off as Stark waved a hand.
"I think Tony means you should do what you have to," the blonde man said with a wry grin.
"Oh - uh - right. When you're ready to leave, just let us know." Harry barely noticed Dr. Mendscole pulling the door shut behind him when he left.
Stark blew out a breath. "You want to hear the story?"
"Yes, please," Harry said, still quietly, but at least he didn't sound pathetic.
"Okay, then." Stark pulled a chair up to Harry's right side, angling it so that he faced Harry. "I was at a quantum engineering conference at Cambridge - back when Hawking was still teaching. Brilliant man, too bad his body failed him. Right - off track. Sorry."
Harry couldn't help laughing. "It's okay - you just reminded me of my best friend. She babbles sometimes, too."
Stark looked offended. "I don't babble."
"Yes, you do," the blonde man said, but he was smiling. "Sometimes."
Stark huffed at the man, then turned his attention back to Harry. "One night, a few of us were sitting around, talking, and there was this girl - beautiful, vivacious, intelligent. We hit it off, spent a lot of time together when we weren't attending panels. I fell a little more in love with Lily every time we talked. And then she introduced me to her husband."
Harry couldn't help wincing at that. The blonde man, who was leaning against the wall to Stark's other side, did as well.
Stark waved away any awkwardness. "Long story short, James was sterile - some kind of exposure at his job, I think." He paused, frowning. "Huh. I would've sworn I remembered it all perfectly, but I don't remember that. Anyway - James was sterile, and Lily really wanted a child. Well, James too, but I think it was Lily wanting one that made him agree."
"Agree to what?" The blonde man asked, saving Harry the trouble.
"Sperm donation. They'd been looking for someone who looked enough like James that physical resemblance wouldn't be a problem, and who was smart enough to satisfy Lily, for a while." Stark blew out a breath. "I was glad to help out, on the understanding that as long as they were okay, I'd never see you again. But if anything happened to them before you grew up, I'd take you in."
And that brought them back to, "So where were you?" This time, Harry managed to just ask the question, rather than shout it. "They died when I was fifteen months old."
"I didn't know," Stark replied, looking angry for the first time since Harry had seen him. But Harry didn't think Stark was angry at him. "I swear. She promised me they'd name me in their wills - but nobody ever contacted me."
Harry's throat felt like it had swollen ten times its normal size. Pushing words past it seemed like far too much work. Stark appeared oblivious to his reaction, his expression still set in an angry frown. Harry glanced at the blonde man, whose expression was full of sympathy.
"Tony?" he asked. "How'd you find out about Harry now, then?"
"A couple of months ago," Stark began, "something happened."
The other man snorted. "Aliens invaded and you flew a nuclear weapon into a wormhole. I guess that could be summed up as something happened."
"Rogers," Stark said in a tone that held a hint of warning.
"Sorry," the other man - Rogers - replied, and he did sound at least a little sorry. "That was just the biggest understatement I've ever heard."
Stark just gave the other man an exasperated look and turned back to Harry. "Like I said - something happened. It made me think about a lot of things differently. I -" he blew out a breath. "I realized that I wasn't the same person who'd made that agreement with Lily. I couldn't just forget or ignore that I had a son out there somewhere. Lily had assured me she and James could provide for a child, but I had to check for myself - it'd been thirteen years, and as we found out in May, literally anything could've happened in that time. So, I had JARVIS search for her - them - you."
Harry swallowed, and it felt like he could talk again, so he said, "Who's JARVIS?"
Stark pulled a phone from his pocket. "It's an acronym - Just A Really Very Intelligent System. It's what I named my AI - though calling him an AI is rather like calling a computer an adding machine. Say hi, J."
A voice with a London accent - Harry couldn't place it any closer - responded, "Hello, Mr. Potter."
Harry blinked, then snorted when he saw Stark's amused expression. Still, manners made him say, "Hi, JARVIS."
"When JARVIS came up empty on the first pass, I set him to passive searching so I'd be notified if any of you showed up," Stark continued. "There was a news report about your aunt's death, so here I am."
"But - how'd you know my name to search for me? I mean, I get knowing my - my parents' names, but how'd you know mine?"
Stark smiled. "I've always known." He pulled an envelope from his pocket and offered it to Harry. "She sent me this."
Harry took the envelope from him, noting the neat handwriting on the front - was that his mother's handwriting? - and how it had been neatly slit open. From it, Harry pulled a letter and a photograph.
His breath caught when he saw the photo - it was of him. Well, him in his mother's arms with his father's arms wrapped around them both. He waited a moment, but the photo didn't move, and he gave himself a mental kick. Of course it wouldn't move - they couldn't send a magical photo to anyone not in the magical world, after all.
He studied the picture closely, smiling as he realized that his parents in the picture looked just like the parents he'd seen in the Mirror of Erised back in first year. The Mirror must have read his subconscious memories of them and used that to frame its image.
On the back of the photo, in the same neat handwriting, he saw an inscription:
Henry James (Harry) Potter
31 July 2000, 1577 hours
3.42 kg, 50.8 cm
"May I see?" Rogers asked quietly, and Harry passed the photo to him and unfolded the letter, which was written in the same neat script.
I just wanted to let you know everything went as smoothly as anyone could hope, and both Harry and I are doing well. Everyone says he looks like James, which means he looks like you! Except his eyes - they're green like mine.
I'm enclosing a letter from us to him. It's a morbid thought, I know, but James has taken on a somewhat risky project. If the worst happens, please give it to him.
Thank you again for making our baby possible. I hope your life is as filled with magic as ours is thanks to Harry.
Beneath that note there was another, this one in somewhat sloppy handwriting:
The thanks are from both of us. He's amazing.
Harry's eyes burned and he quickly put the letter aside so he wouldn't stain it with his tears.
He didn't know how long he sobbed let alone why he was crying. Was it anger or grief - or even joy at having something tangible that his parents had left for him, even if James wasn't his biological father?
When the tears subsided, Harry realized that Stark - Tony? - Father? - Dad? - was holding him and rocking him gently. Rogers picked up the box of tissue from the side table and offered it to him. He blew his nose loudly.
"Yeah," Stark said when Harry had dried his eyes and looked up at him, "so I suck at being comforting."
Harry couldn't help laughing a little. "I suck at accepting it, so I guess we're even."
That made both men laugh, at least briefly, and Stark sat back.
"Do you want their letter now?" he asked.
Harry's instinct was to say yes, but he could almost hear Hermione chiding him. "No. I don't want to risk it getting lost or left here."
"You heard the doctor," Stark said. "We're springing you from this joint. - That is - if you want to live with me?"
"Oh, God, yes!" Then he frowned. "Where do you live?"
"SI has an apartment here in London," Stark replied. "Four bedrooms, living room, dining room on one floor, workshop and game room on another. Plus a rooftop garden and a tennis court."
"Wow." Harry couldn't help exclaiming at the description. It sounded like paradise to him.
"I'm relocating over here while we get to know each other and get things sorted out," Stark continued. "This is new to both of us, and I don't want to just uproot whatever life you have here. We'll have to figure things out, together."
"Wow," Harry repeated, staring at the man who was his father. "That's - nobody's ever offered to do anything like that for me before."
Stark ducked his head, apparently embarrassed. "Yeah, well - get used to it, kid, because from now on, you're my number one priority."
Harry could only smile.
"So -" Stark - Dad? No, Harry wasn't ready for that yet - said. "You okay with going to the apartment?"
"They're flats over here, Tony," Rogers said.
Stark waved that away. "To-may-to, to-mah-to. Well?"
"Yes, please," Harry said. Then he laughed. "You could probably say we were going to some dark alleyway in America and I'd still think it was better than being here."
Stark laughed at that. "No alleyways, even if we go to America. Anyplace you need to go before we go there?"
A sudden dread settled in Harry's gut, and he swallowed, hard, before he said, "Uh - my aunt and uncle's house in Surrey. I need to get my school things."
If Uncle Vernon hadn't already destroyed them.