Perfect Illusion

Part the Third

Tony always thought that Lily was the love of his life.

Now he had to seriously evaluate that.—for a child, a child could be loved even more than a great love like he had once had.

At first he didn’t realize that the young man being led in by Pepper was his son.  Yes, he’d seen pictures and, yes, he looked almost like an exact copy of Tony at that age except for the glasses and Lily’s green eyes, but he was the most beautiful creature Tony had ever seen.  And that wasn’t him being vain or self-conceited.

In that moment he wanted to protect this child, love this precious life, and—he was a father.  It was as simple as that.  It was absolutely wonderful and horrifying all wrapped up in one.  He was responsible for this kid, for his well being, and his entire fortune just frankly wasn’t going to cut it. 

Howard had thrown money at Tony, and that hadn’t made him happy.  He’d been fucking miserable.  No, this kid needed love.  And Tony already loved him with all his heart and they hadn’t said a word to each other.

But then Pepper interrupted his thoughts.

“Tony,” she said with a strained smile.  “This is Harry, your son.”  Strangely, the kid had an owl with him.  At least it was in cage and Tony could have JARVIS do research into Nyctea scandiaca.

It was like a douse of cold water had been shoved over Tony’s head, bringing him back to reality, when he realized this wasn’t a dream or a figment of his imagination.  Still, he managed a smile and when Harry offered his hand, he quickly enveloped his son—his son—in a hug.  “Is this okay?” he asked, knowing he was technically a stranger, but Harry only snuggled closer. 

“Yeah,” he murmured back.

Petting his hair and resting his chin on top of Harry’s head, Tony could feel tears coming to his eyes.  This was a piece of him—this was a piece of Lily—this was the product of their love and there was nothing more precious.  How could there be?

After several long moments, Harry pulled away.  “I’ve been waiting to meet you, Mr. Stark, since I was four years old.”

Tony smiled at him sadly.  “I’m sorry it took me so long,” he said sincerely.  “And it’s ‘Tony’ or ‘Dad’ if you ever decide you want to call me that.  Can I call you ‘Harry’?  Is that what you prefer?”

He shrugged with one shoulder.  “I’ve thought of myself as ‘Anthony, Jr,’ for years.  ‘Harry’ was for the public.”

“Well, then,” he answered with a half grin.  “That settles that then.”

He ran his hand through Harry’s hair, trying to tell himself not to move too quickly, that though Harry was his son that they had only just met, and indicated the sofa in the corner.  “Now,” he said as they sat down.  “I don’t know if you’re hungry.  They’ve got some great pizza a few towns over we can have delivered—not as good as this little place in New York, but it will do—or there’s Chinese.  We could even go out to this great Italian place—”  (Harry’s eyes lit up)  “Italian it is.”  He glanced at Pepper before turning his attention back to Harry.  And, God, wasn’t it scary how much he looked like Tony when he was that age?  “Do you only have that one bag?”

“Er,” he moved closer so only Tony could hear.  “There’s a trunk in it.”

A little surprised, he answered, “Right you are!  Why don’t you sort that out along with your—owl—and I’ll let Happy know we’re going out?  As tacky as this sounds, your room has your name on it, at least for now, and—Pepper—do you mind taking one of the cars back?  I think this is a great time for father-son bonding.”

“Of course,” she agreed, her eyes squinting.  A look of annoyance passed over her face but it was soon gone.  She got out some papers and set them down.  “Those are for you, proving that Anthony, Jr. is yours.  I’ve got duplicates and his lawyer back in London has copies as well.”

Harry had already gone off looking for his room.

“Have you seen that kid’s grades?” Tony asked, slipping into father mode.  “He aces math and science.  “And—I’m not sure what to call it.”  Defense Against the Dark Arts really didn’t translate into the No-Maj world.  It turned out America was very strict about wizards intermarrying with No-Majes so there were rarely home visits, but given that Lily was British, they weren’t at all surprised.  “He wants to go into this specialized field of top-secret government research.  Let me say, he’s got the grades to pull it off.”

“They wouldn’t let us see his test results.  We just knew that he was part of a secret society.”

Yes, that was one way of putting it.  “It will do him good,” Tony confided.  “He’s being nurtured in a way I can’t give him.  Of course, I’m going to have to eventually talk to him about the company.  Maybe give him some summer courses on mechanics and engineering or get him into my lab.”

“Aren’t you taking this well?  It’s like you were born to be a father.”  There was a hint of something in her voice, not jealousy per say, wariness with something added to it?  Tony really couldn’t pinpoint it.

A dark look passed over Tony’s face.  “If only I’d known earlier.  I could have given him a good life.”

“From what I can tell,” Pepper soothed, her voice almost a purr, “despite having an aunt who didn’t want to hold onto him, he had a good life.  I have a private investigator on it, but Anthony, Jr. seems to have wanted for nothing.”

Tony hummed.  “That’s something.”

Harry poked his head back into the room and Tony saw him and gestured him in.  “There he is!  Did you like your room?  I didn’t decorate it that much because I wasn’t sure what your style was, but say the word and we’ll get you whatever you want.  I understand there’s this alley in L.A.—”  He glanced over to see that Pepper had already gone, but decided to check.  “JARVIS, where’s Pepper?”

JARVIS immediately answered, and strangely Harry didn’t react to him at all.  “Miss Potts is currently entering the garage.”

“Good,” he answered.  “We can talk freely.—You don’t seem surprised by my AI.”

Harry shook his head.  “No.  Wizards can misdirect their voices.  I taught myself last year although it’s sixth year magic.”  He blushed, which looked utterly adorable. 

“And you’re two months into your third year?” Tony checked.

Nodding, Harry bit his lip and looked down.

“Well, there’s a shopping center in L.A.  I have directions.  We can get you magical pictures and whatever else you want—wizarding clothes.  I understand you have a different sense of fashion.”  And wasn’t that something to learn about?

“We do,” Harry agreed after a moment.  “You’d let me wear robes and pureblood black—here?”

Tony was confused.  “Why wouldn’t I?  You’re my son.  You’re a wizard.  I want you to feel at home.”  It seemed obvious.

“I—”  He paused.  “My house at Hogwarts was filled primarily of purebloods.  I dress like a pureblood mainly even though I’m, well, a half-blood.  I understand that America is comprised mostly of purebloods so—”

“Then dress like a pureblood,” Tony said as he stood up.  “I don’t want you to be ashamed of who you are, never that, but if you feel more at home that way, then, by all means.”

Harry relaxed (Tony hadn’t realized he had been slightly tense) and smiled.

The father-son duo went down to the garage where Happy was waiting for them and they went to a restaurant in Malibu.  Tony proudly strode in the front doors, pressing lightly between Harry’s shoulders to guide him, and they were instantly given a table despite the line and the fact they were both dressed casually.

“So,” Tony began.  “You have an owl.  That’s unusual.”

“She carries my post,” Harry informed him.  “She’s more than just that, though, to me.  Hedwig is my friend. She’s my familiar.”

Tony paused.  “I didn’t realize that actually existed.”

“Yeah,” Harry admitted.  “Not all owls, cats, toads, whatever are familiars, but Hedwig is mine.”  He gave Tony a small smile.  “It’s not going to be a problem?” Harry asked worriedly.

“No,” Tony reassured.  “We’ll make it work.  You have a window and you’ll be in charge of cleaning up after him—”

“Her.”  The voice correcting him was soft, not judging.

“Her,” Tony amended.  “And I assume she’ll go to Ilvermorny with you?  You start Monday, by the way.  We need to go to L.A. to get your uniform and whatever else you need.  I have a list of books and other things.”

Harry nodded.  “What’s Stark Industries?” he asked.

“We’re a Defense Company,” he answered, “for the U.S. Military.  Some of our weapons seem to have gotten into the wrong hands, however, so I need to launch an investigation.”  Tony was pensive for a moment.  “When you’re more settled, I wanted to talk to you about the company.  It’s your legacy.  Science and math are a huge part of it along with mechanics.  I spend a great deal of time inventing weapons and other items for the government and, over the next few years, I’d like you to consider joining the company.”

Sitting there stunned, Harry admitted, “I want to be an Unspeakable.”

“I know,” Tony said, “and I fully support that.  However, this is your legacy.  This is all for you.  For future generations.”

Harry sat there for a long moment, clearly considering, and then nodded.  “We only sell to the military.”

“Yes,” Tony promised.  “If you want, I can show you Headquarters over the weekend in New York.  Screw the doctors.  It’s in the same country.”  He shrugged.

“I’ll—” Harry paused, looking away and putting down his fork from his chicken parmesan.  “I’ll think about it.”

“No pressure,” Tony promised.  “If you want to leave it until Christmas or next summer, then I perfectly understand.”  When Harry continued to look away, Tony reached out with his good hand and rested it on top of Harry’s.  “What is it?  I didn’t mean to pressure you.  I just want to include you in the Stark family.”

Harry turned and his eyes were glistening with tears.  “You want me,” he whispered.  “You really want me.”

Tony’s heart broke.  “Yes,” he agreed.  “I really want you.—Now, you’re a bit thin.  Eat up.  You’re part Italian, so you should enjoy this.”

Laughing, Harry picked his fork up.  “I didn’t know that.”

“My mother, Maria, was Italian,” Tony told him.  “Not the best mother ever, not really a mother at all, but mine nonetheless.”

The smile that lit Harry’s face was absolutely breathtaking.  “Mum’s mum was Irish,” he shared.  “Her name was ‘Violet’.  Strange, I know.  That’s why Mum was ‘Lily’ and my aunt is ‘Petunia.’  Grandfather Stephen was a teacher of fifth form in a factory town.  Cokeworth.  It’s in Hertfordshire.  Aunt Petunia never told me how they met.”

“Lily never told me about your aunt,” Tony admitted with a sad smile.  “She never liked to talk about herself except about the future.  I know she wanted you, though.  She admitted once when we were drinking a bottle of wine over dinner that she’d always wanted children, but hadn’t ever thought of names for them.”

Harry’s face lit up.  “Really?”

“Really,” Tony agreed.

“And you?  Did you—did you want children?”

Tony paused, knowing he had to be honest with Harry, but wanting to answer the question in such a way that Harry knew that he was wanted.  “Not with just anyone,” he admitted.  “Lily was the only woman I ever loved.  When I found out she was married, I knew it wasn’t a possibility, but when I found out about you—I wanted you.  I knew you were mine—in my gut.  So, yes, I wanted children, I just didn’t realize it.”

The smile on Harry’s face was worth it.  “I wanted you, too,” he whispered.  “I found a letter you wrote Mum, begging her to leave James.  You said you would sweep her away and take her anywhere she wanted in the world.  I thought, when I found it, maybe you would do that with me—and you have.  You brought me here.”

“Was England really that bad?” he asked carefully.

“You have no idea,” Harry whispered.  He took a sip of his coca-cola.

“Maybe one day you’ll tell me,” Tony pushed carefully.  “Unless it’s classified.”

“No.  No one else can know outside of our families, but it’s not classified to you.  I’m hoping none of it follows me here.  I just want to be Anthony Stark, Jr.  Is that too much to ask?”  His bright green eyes, so like Lily’s and yet so much more beautiful, captured Tony’s gaze.

“No,” Tony promised.  “That’s not too much to ask.”

Harry lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling.  Tony—he hated to admit it—was the most brilliant person he had seen his entire life.  As soon as Tony had pulled him into a hug, he had prolonged it for as long as possible, glad that the most secret desire of his heart had finally come true.  He now had a father.  A dad.

It was ridiculous that he should feel this way, he told himself.  It was the shock of being in America, of the time change, of finally meeting the man his mother had been in love with.  He shouldn’t feel an instant connection.  It was almost like—magic.

Still, when he went to sleep, he dreamt of the future, of being wanted, of being loved, of having a family all his own.

Harry was in the workshop being taught the basics of how to tinker with an engine.  “No,” he finally said.  “That’s not how you do it.”

Tony looked up at him in surprise.  “I thought you didn’t know mechanics or engineering.”

“I don’t,” he answered calmly.  “However, I think I could fix this thing in less than an hour.”  Leaning over it again, numbers floated over various parts of the engine in his mind and he got down on the floor and slid under the thing with a wrench. 

Tony chuckled.  “What do you like to listen to, kid?” he asked.

“Squeeze,” he answered without hesitation and then Tony was telling JARVIS to play just that and Harry was secretly rocking out to 1970s British rock. 

He was unaware when someone entered the lab until there was the sound of voices and someone ordered.  “Cut the music!”

“Don’t cut the music, JARVIS!” Harry demanded.  “Whoever it is can go outside.  I’m working here!”

For a moment there was silence, and then Queen began to play again as Harry continued to work on the engine.  It took him less than ten minutes to finish and when he saw the lab was empty, Harry asked the AI where everyone was.

It turned out they were in the Living Room.

Wiping his hands, Harry moved up there and took in an older man with a bald head and a white beard sitting across from Tony. 

“It works like a dream,” he told Tony.  “I dare you to say that it doesn’t work twice as well as when it was made.  I am that good!”

Tony ruffled his hair, and turned back to the man.  “Obadiah, this is my son, Anthony Howard.  I’m teaching him the beginnings of mechanics but he thinks he can show his old man a thing or two.  Anthony, Jr., my second-in-command, Obadiah Stane.”

Obadiah lifted an eyebrow.  “You have a son.  I mean, he looks just like you—but—he’s that woman’s child, isn’t he?”

That woman,” Tony replied dangerously, “has a name.  Lily died over thirteen years ago and Anthony, Jr. was left with his aunt.”

Obadiah continued to look over Harry for a long moment and then seemed to come to a conclusion to whatever he was thinking.  Turning back to Tony, he then continued what seemed to be their earlier conversation.  “As I said, there’s a board meeting tomorrow.”

“Perfect,” Tony replied.  “I can show Anthony, Jr. Stark Industries, if you don’t mind, Son.  I don’t want to overwhelm you as I know you want to work for Intelligence.”

Harry looked up at him.  “You’ve got the wrong branch of the government,” he told him quietly.  “They’re not spies.  It’s Government Research—sort of.  Think the Manhattan Project of our times.”  His eyes sparkled, knowing how much his mum loved it and now knowing that his own grandfather had worked on it.

“My son,” Tony bragged, “is a Stark in every way.  His testing is off the charts in the sciences and math.  I couldn’t be prouder.  We’ll just go to the New York shopping district for your things over the weekend and I’ll drive you to school on Sunday.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Harry agreed.  “Hopefully we don’t have to wear ties like at Hogwarts.  I hate wearing ties.”  He shivered.  “Just because we’re British does not mean we should always have to wear ties.”

“So this young man is off to school,” Obadiah put in.  “New York?”

“Massachusetts,” Harry answered before Tony could.  “They’re the sister-school to where I went in Scotland.  There’s an entire network across the globe.”

Obadiah simply looked puzzled but didn’t ask.

Tony ruffled Harry’s hair again, and didn’t that feel wonderful?  To have a father who actually cared and felt pride in what he did and not as some means to an end? 

“I’m surprised Pepper didn’t tell me about Anthony, Jr.”  This was Stane again.  “Is that what she was doing in London?”

“Hmm,” Tony agreed, still looking down at Harry before turning to Obadiah.  “As soon as I found him, I knew he was mine, but his aunt wouldn’t let him go without DNA proof.  She was only being conscientious.  They only had the name ‘Anthony, Sr.’ to go by.”

Obadiah was now looking at Harry critically.  “Perhaps Anthony, Jr. should sit in on the board meeting.  It may be a bit boring for him, but if he’s good with numbers, as you say, and if he is to inherit—”

“No,” Harry responded, suddenly feeling overwhelmed.  “I want a break.  I was managing the books of my stepfather’s estate since I was eleven with a thirteen million pound fortune.  I don’t want to deal with any of that for awhile.”

Both Tony and Obadiah were clearly shocked.  Tony, though, wrapped an arm around him.  “No numbers then.  Numbers only for schoolwork and fun.”  Then he looked thoughtful.  “We should have that money transferred—”

“I had to renounce it when I allowed for my paternity to come into question,” Harry explained, shrugging.  “I didn’t want any of my stepfather’s money anyway.  One night Aunt Petunia got drunk and admitted that Mum turned up once when she was pregnant with me with a black eye.  I think he was a wife beater.”

“He was,” Tony murmured, running his hand through Harry’s hair.  “I suspected as much almost from the beginning.”  He leaned over and kissed Harry’s head.  “But—none of that.  He’s gone and he never got the chance to hurt you.”

“I’ll go in black,” Harry suddenly decided.  “I have quite a few outfits in the British style, that way if there are any of us in the area, they’ll be able to pick me out.”

Harry could see that Obadiah was confused, but he frankly didn’t care.  He didn’t want him here.  He had only a few days with Tony before he was going to Salem, and he’d rather not have them interrupted by this oaf.  He may be selfish, but this was his dad.  HIS dad.  Didn’t the man get that?

They were taking the jet to New York, getting up early in the morning.  Harry hadn’t really unpacked and it was easy to get Hedwig into her cage.  He dressed casually in Pureblood black, his linen trousers tightfitting and ripped to show see through black mesh underneath.  The cotton top was ribbed, the sleeves hanging loose and similarly ripped into long swaths with the same type of material grasping tightly to his skin to show modesty and retain warmth.  The final piece of the outfit was a wizarding cross in silver, showing that Harry was a wizard to anyone who looked.

“Is the jewelry a statement?” Tony asked as he got Happy to load the trunk into the car.  Harry was carrying Hedwig’s cage.  “What is it?”

“The four corners of—you know,” Harry told him.  “Air, fire, earth, and water.  The circle around it symbolizes eternity.  It tells another one of us what we are.  It’s for recognition purposes.”

“Oh,” Tony realized.  “Clever.”

“I could wear one on my wrist,” Harry continued as they got in the car, “but when I tried one on my first year, I found it uncomfortable.  The necklace is easier and more visible.  Some shirts come with the design on it, but I just find that tacky.  You also can’t switch out crosses then.  I have a small collection, as do most—” he glanced toward the front of the car and Tony put up the partition “—wizards.”

Pepper Potts was waiting for them on the plane and she greeted Harry with a terse nod, though she had a bemused expression when she took in his clothes.  “We’ve got milkshakes for you, Anthony, Jr., and soda.  I think you’re a little young to try and sip off of hard liquor.”  Her eyes twinkled.

“You’ve had alcohol, young man?” Tony asked, clearly not minding in the slightest.  “Be careful, that’s all I ask.  Regular alcohol use at your age can cause brain damage and people can take advantage of you when you’re drunk.  If you’d like a small glass of wine, I won’t object.”

“It’s a little early—” Pepper objected.  “It’s eight-thirty!”

Tony smirked at her.  “You have a glass of champagne.”

“I’m in my thirties.”

“I’ll have a milkshake,” Harry quickly said.  “Maybe a Guinness tonight, Tony?” he asked hopefully.

“I don’t see why that can’t be arranged.  If you can drink responsibly by the time you go to college—er, university—then that’s only a good thing.”

Pepper raised an eyebrow, as if to challenge that assertion.

Harry glanced between them.  “Er—Tony.  My education includes University level courses.  At the end of my seventh year, I go straight into the workforce unless I choose to pursue a mastery, which I may in—numbers.”  He had almost said ‘Arithmancy’ around Pepper, which would have been bad.  Very bad.

Looking at Tony, at that knowing and slightly mischievous look in his eyes.

A flight attendant came in and Tony ordered Harry a strawberry milkshake and a bourbon for himself before telling Harry he had cued up Beetlejuice to play for him while he and Pepper got some work out of the way. 

Stark Industries was quite impressive.  It mainly consisted of several labs and a boardroom and Harry was allowed to tinker with an old car that someone had in the corner of a basement lab during the board meeting.  Harry wasn’t even sure it was supposed to be there, but he didn’t question it.  They had a tee shirt waiting for him so he could slip out of his good shirt and all the tools he could want.  He didn’t even realize three hours had passed until Tony tapped his foot and Harry climbed out from under the car with a smile on his face and Tony announced it was time for lunch. 

They ended up eating the “best pizza in America,” according to Tony (Pepper had disappeared somewhere—thankfully). 

After shopping for all of their school things, they collapsed in a suite at The Carlton, Harry happy though afraid that Tony would disappear in a puff of smoke.  His lifelong dream had finally come true, but he was about to go to Ilvermorny, and he was afraid what was going to happen after that.  Would his father still want him?  Would he have moved on?

It had only been a few days, after all. 

This could have been just a passing fancy to Tony Stark—but, no, Harry reminded himself.  He had read the letter Tony had sent his mum before he was born.  She would have been about eight months pregnant (not that Tony had known; she had disappeared from his life by then), begging her to leave her husband, promising her the world, promising to love her the way she had deserved to be loved.

If only his mum had left James Potter.  Perhaps if Tony had taken her to America, Mum would have been safe from Voldemort—and then Harry would have been born with both his parents.

With those bittersweet thoughts, Harry fell asleep, clutching onto his father’s arm, still afraid he would just disappear by the time Harry woke up.

Published by excentrykemuse

Fanfiction artist and self critic.

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