Perfect Illusion

Part the Fourth

Please Note

Aldric Weathercrest does not even appear in this chapter.  He is rather unimportant except as a topic of conversation and for a reason for Harry/Anthony, Jr. to go into Los Angeles.  Don’t worry!  The beginning of Harry and Loki’s love story begins his chapter!

American wizarding fashion was different from British.  Purebloods still wore black, of course, and there was the equal lateral cross.  Harry’s was more on the formal side, but that really didn’t matter.  People didn’t care.  As soon as he opened up his mouth and they learned he was British, everything was explained away.  However, robes were unheard of.  Instead, wizards wore Muggle (No-Maj, Harry.  Remember: No-Maj) clothing with a bit of a twist.  The colors were more outlandish.  The clothes were tighter, the buttons and lapels bigger.  In short, wizards looked like caricatures, and Harry rather liked it—once he got used to it. 

At Ilvermorny he was known as “Anthony, Jr.” or “Anton.”  Explaining “Harry” was just too much work.  It felt like he was getting away from his public image, which he rather liked.  He hoped Tony wouldn’t mind the fact that he was being called “Anton”, given he had apparently suggested the nickname to begin with. 

He exchanged owls with his father and then—when he got back to Malibu for Yule the first thing he said before he even greeted his father was—“What do you mean you almost died, Tony?”

“Hey, kiddo!” he answered, getting off the couch with a glass of whiskey in his hand.  “How do you like the floo?”

Harry turned to it, having forgotten he’d just used it to transport himself from Ilvermorny, and stared at his father.  “Died, Tony.  Died.  You can’t go around in metal suits and expect yourself to live.  I didn’t even know until this morning!  Why didn’t you tell me?”

Tony ran a soothing hand through his hair.  “I didn’t want to worry you, Anthony, Jr.  Now—do you want me to start calling you ‘Anton’?  Because I can do that.”

Pausing, Harry wondered.  “No.  People just use it to quickly call out my name in the halls,” he answered.  “Do you—I never thought—do you think Mum will mind that I’m no longer ‘Harry’?”

“Hey, kiddo,” Tony said, setting down his drink and drawing Harry into a hug, which he reveled in.  “I don’t think your mum would mind.  You’re my son as much as hers and she named you ‘Anthony’ after me.  What do you prefer, kid?”

“Anthony, Jr.,” Harry whispered.  “I like Anthony, Jr.”

“Then that’s who you’ll be.”

Harry had to admit, even to himself, that he was displeased when Pepper came over with Indian take away.  He looked at her for a long moment and then at Tony, a question in his eyes.

“Pepper’s now CEO of Stark Industries,” he told his son, “until you turn eighteen or choose to take over the company yourself, if that is your choice.  I haven’t got the time to be Iron Man and run the company.”

“I don’t want you to be Iron Man,” he replied.  “It’s far too dangerous.”

Tony smiled, the left side of his mouth quirking.  “Your faith in me is astounding.”

Harry’s eyes snapped to him.  “I don’t think you understand—”  He glanced at Pepper.  “Later.”

“Men with their secrets,” she sighed, her look calculating when she glanced over at Tony.  Harry didn’t like it one bit.  “Tell me about Ilvermorny,” she said conversationally, looking over at Harry.

“Er—well, we have weekends in the town proper.  I missed the last one.  It was in October.  I—er—Aldric Weathercrest asked me to go with him to the one in February.”  He blushed just thinking about it.

Aldric Weathercrest was the third and youngest son of the President of MACUSA, Nathaniel Weathercrest.  He was a sixth year, which was rather astounding and Harry wasn’t sure what he had done to gain his attention, except being advanced at the end of December to the OWL year in Arithmancy, which was subject to much gossip as was his transfer from Hogwarts.

Sometimes he thought he was a new shiny toy, but Aldric liked to come sit with him at desert and find out what he thought of America and his classes.  At first Harry had thought him a goodwill ambassador of some sort, but then Aldric had tried to kiss him.

He had found this rather peculiar and had shied away, but Aldric said he understood, that Harry was still young, and would he perhaps like to go into Salem in February on a date and get to know each other better?

Tony looked a bit startled at this and glanced at his son.  “Is this good? Bad?”

“I can’t decide,” he admitted.  “I like Aldric.  He’s a great guy.  I’m a little afraid of his father—of the idea of his father.  He’s—er—the President of MACUSA.”

Coughing, Tony quickly took a sip of his beer.  “You know how to pick them, Anthony, Jr.”

Harry rolled his eyes.  “Aldric picked me.”

Pepper cleared her throat.  “I know I am no longer your personal assistant, Tony, and I wouldn’t dream of interfering in young Anthony, Jr.’s life, but perhaps he should not—sexually explore at the age of thirteen.  The press would have a field day.  They don’t even know that he exists.—and when they find out with this add to the mix—it will just explode.”

“Anthony, Jr.,” Tony said sternly, “can be gay, straight, bi, anything else he wants to be.  If he wants to go with Aldric, then he can go with Aldric.  If he doesn’t, he doesn’t.  Just because his old man prefers the ladies, doesn’t mean he has to.”

“I—I think I’m gay,” Harry admitted quietly.  “That’s okay?”

“Yeah,” Tony admitted, ruffling his hair, making Harry lean into him.  How he loved the feel of his father’s hands—they made them feel safe.  And Aldric was a good choice.  Yes, yes he was.  He was handsome, strong, and his shocking blue eyes were absolutely arresting. 

“Aunt Petunia would find it—freakish.  She found everything freakish, though.”  He sighed.

Tony put down his carton of some kind of noodles and looked at Harry in the eyes.  “There’s nothing wrong with this.  If you want, why don’t you invite Aldric to a restaurant in L.A.?  I’ll write his fearsome dad and ask permission even, so everything’s on the up and up.”

“Remember we’re interviewing possible personal assistants for you, Tony,” Pepper piped in.  “You can’t function without someone keeping your life organized for you.”

“I want someone Anthony, Jr. is comfortable with,” he replied perfunctorily, his eyes never leaving Harry, who was now blushing at the thought of being alone with Aldric in public.  “Whoever it is will have access to the house and the lab.”

Pepper sighed.  “Very well.”

Harry immediately liked Natalie Rushman—apart from her dark ginger hair.  Tony was looking at her appreciatively and Harry couldn’t help but wonder if it was because he had a type. 

“I don’t want a stepmother,” he stated cautiously as she was fighting Happy in the ring.

Tony looked over at him.  “I wasn’t thinking of giving you one,” he answered honestly.  “I want to give you stability but I don’t want to replace your mother, Anthony, Jr.  I’ve never wanted to replace her.”

Instantly relaxing, Harry breathed out in relief.  “I had JARVIS look you up—I know that you—though not since you found me—”

Seeming to understand what Harry was trying to tell him, Tony wrapped an arm around him.  “As I said, I want to give you stability.  I don’t need that hollow form of comfort anymore, Anthony, Jr.  If I ever want to pursue someone, you will have veto power, okay?  But we need to settle first.  We’re still getting to know each other—we have your world that I’m not used to—I’m still learning how to be a father—I promise to tell you if I decide to start dating.”  His expressive brown eyes looked down at Harry and seemed to contain something.  “Still, she has some mad skills.”

Hesitating, Harry finally offered—“I think Pepper fancies you.”

“I know,” Tony answered.  “Nothing will come of it.”

He couldn’t help it.  Harry breathed out of his nose in relief again.  He really didn’t want a ginger top as a stepmother. 

When he got Natalie alone, he told her in a low voice, “I want Pepper kept away from my father.”

She looked honestly surprised.  “Why?”

“Pepper’s nice, sort of—but she fancies Tony.  It’s not that I think Tony’s going to fall for it, but I just don’t want—”  He shook his head.  “She’s delusional and I don’t appreciate it.”

Natalie paused for a long second.  “I’ll keep an eye on the situation,” she promised.  “I’m your dad’s personal assistant—but I’m here to make your life easier, too.  I’ll let you know if I see anything.—You know you should be getting ready for the press conference.”

Harry looked down at his black slacks and black button down shirt.  “Tie?” he wondered.

“Well,” she suggested, undoing the top button.  “I suppose you could do without.  You are young, after all, and you don’t want to be a Mini Me, now do you?”

Harry honestly didn’t get the reference, but decided to let it slide.  “I suppose not.”

“There,” she agreed, standing back and looking at him after messing up his hair slightly.  “You look handsome.  You’ll be quite the heartbreaker.”

Wondering if he would be breaking Aldric Weathercrest’s heart and if that was even possible, Harry took a fortifying breath.

Tony seemed to have slipped into the small waiting room, which was off of a public hall where they would be giving a press conference, and placed his hands on Harry’s shoulders.  A feeling of warmth passed through Harry and he tried not to melt into his father’s touch.  “That’s my boy,” Tony agreed, and Harry looked back at him to see he was in a suit and tie.  “I can hear the ravenous beast already waiting.”

He was, of course, referring to the reporters who were already filling the hall.

The subject of the press conference had been kept a secret, along with Harry’s existence, but Natalie thought that it was best to control the story before Harry went back to school just after New Years’ in case anyone should find out who he was before he got back for Summer Hols. 

Harry didn’t bother to correct her that wizards had no idea who Tony Stark was and Muggles weren’t given access to Ilvermorny’s records.

“Here’s looking at you, kid,” Tony teased, Harry for once getting the reference, as Tony walked out on stage to the sound of the crowd shouting questions at him.

Moving to the space that led out onto the stage next to Natalie, Harry watched as Tony settled the reporters down and gave one of his charming smiles that had the crowd eating out of his hand.

“Ladies, Gentleman,” Tony greeted, “I’m here to tell a bit of a story, if you’ll bear with me, before I make my announcement.”  He paused and clung to his podium.  A second one, closer to where Harry was standing, was conspicuously empty and waiting for him.

“I fell in love about fifteen years ago with a woman who was—unlike anyone I’d ever met.  Her name was Lily.”  Immediately, Harry saw flashes go off as reporters took Tony’s photograph, and he just stood there for a moment, his face unreadable.  Finally, he continued, “We parted ways on her insistence, but I never forgot her.  No one ever compared.  I’ve kept every single letter from her, every memento, everything that has reminded me of her including her impressive mathematical calculations that could almost put mine to shame.”  He gave the crowd a cocky grin, and they laughed as if on cue.  “When I was in Afghanistan, all I could think about was surviving—not for my own sake, but for the hope of seeing Lily again.”

“Are you getting married?” someone shouted in the crowd, which started another round of photographs.

Tony, however, didn’t quite answer the question.  “When I got home, I did everything to find her.  I discovered, however, that she died less than a year after we said our goodbyes—but she had left behind a child—our child.”

All of a sudden there was an uproar.  People were screaming out questions, cameras were going off, but Tony just stood there and took it all for several minutes until he leaned down and spoke directly into the microphone.  “Anthony, Jr. was living with his aunt, with no idea who I was, how to contact me, only that his father was somewhere out there and that he was named for me.  It’s obvious just by looking at him that he’s a Stark.  His grades in math and science are phenomenal.  He’s a right chip off of the old block, and frankly DNA doesn’t lie.—I will never have Lily back, but she gave me something much more precious.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my son.”

Harry took in a deep breath and looked at Natalie, who smiled at him.  To the sound of surprised reporters, Harry walked out onto the stage and looked out at everyone, trying not to blink as they took his photograph.

He was only thankful that he was wearing contacts and that just the week before Tony had the top plastic surgeon in L.A. resculpt his forehead so that he no longer had the tell-tale lightning bolt scar.

“How old are you?” someone shouted up near the font and Harry took a deep breath.

“Thirteen,” he answered, “and a half.”

“Quiet down,” Tony commanded into his microphone.  “We’ll be taking one question at a time.  If I don’t call on you, Anthony, Jr. won’t be answering.”  He looked over at Harry and winked.  It was clear he had experience with the press before.

“You lived with your aunt?” someone asked.

“Er—yes.  We thought my dad’s name was Anthony Howard—which is my name—and was British, like us, but it turns out that Tony is, well, American.  I’m still getting used to the accent in general.”

This caused a bit of a laugh. 

“How do you feel about your dad making weapons?”

Tony stepped in.  “Is that really necessary?  I was expecting that you, of all people, would ask about girls.”

Harry looked at him in shock.

“There’s a story,” someone murmured to laughter.

Blushing, Harry answered, “I’m not interested in girls right now.—Currently, I’m not interested in weapons” (which was true; Harry found weapons odd in general because guns were illegal in England) “I’m just trying to build my first robot.”

This caused everyone to laugh once again.

The banter went back and forth—what did he remember of his mother?—nothing—who was she?—Tony took that one as she was twenty when she died—where did Harry go to school?—what were his favorite subjects?—what did he like most about Malibu?—did he want another mother?

“No,” he answered quite firmly.  “I don’t want another mother.  I’ve always had Mum—who was brilliant and loved me more than anyone in the world—no one can possibly live up to her.”  His voice was firm and brooked no argument.  “I only ever wanted my dad.”

The interview wrapped up soon after that and Natalie gave him a smile when he came through.

“Good job, Anthony, Jr.,” she praised.  “You handled the press well, especially for your first time.”

“Never again,” he begged Tony.  “Why would I ever want another mum?”

“Wishful thinking on their part.  I’m now a family man,” he told Harry honestly.  “They’re looking for the complete picture.—But as I told you.  No one could ever replace your mom.”

This both soothed Harry.  He felt a sense of belonging he had never felt before, and he wanted nothing messing with that.

At least he had his lunch with Aldric to look forward to the following day.  He was willing to give this a shot, even if he was only thirteen.  He needed to get his mind off of the press and the thoughts of Pepper who was constantly hanging around—and what better way was there?

There were reporters when Harry was dropped off near the magical district in L.A.  Happy had driven him and had been given directions to leave him at a clothing store three magical blocks away where wizards often snuck out the back, Natalie accompanying him in case he was spotted on his way in.

Tony had told him—“I’m not going to be overbearing, just tinkering in my lab.  You give me a call if you need anything, though, kid, and I’ll put on the suit and be there before you know it.”

Harry was dressed in wizarding fashion but Natalie only looked at it for a moment and then returned to the files she was going over.  His coat was a rather interesting cut of sharp angles and a dark yet shocking red, the collar meant to be tucked up over the ears in sharp points.  Dragonhide gloves encased his fingers, his boots a typical wizard style, shining unnaturally.  The only thing that appeared Muggle were his trousers—which were the typical pureblood black and, at first glance, seemed to be just black trousers.

“When should I expect you?” Natalie asked, not looking up.  “There’s a café two blocks away I was going to go to.”

Looking out the window, he didn’t at first answer.  “I don’t know.  Aldric and I are having lunch and then—I don’t know.  I’ve never gone on a date before.”

She smiled at him.  “Okay, Anthony, Jr.  I won’t cramp your style.”

Reaching up to fiddle with his glasses, Harry realized he was wearing contacts.

Natalie smirked, “He’ll love you without glasses, Anthony, Jr.  Your eyes are gorgeous.  Did you inherit them from your mom’s side?”

“Yes,” he answered after a moment.  “Obviously I look almost exactly like Tony, a little paler, but with Mum’s eyes.”

She shifted papers around and then looked up.  “Well, I can’t speak for Mr. Stark, but I can see why he fell for your mother if she had eyes like those.  I’m afraid you’re going to be a heartbreaker.”  Natalie took in his coat briefly and then they were pulling up to the curb.

Harry didn’t wait for Happy to get out and open the door, but immediately got out with a quick wave to Natalie.  The place where they parked was a little way down from L.A. Genes, and he put up his collar, hoping that no one from the Muggle press was around, and headed down the street.

He wasn’t so lucky. 

“Anthony, Jr.!” someone called and he ducked his head and hurried up.  Immediately he felt Natalie by his side, her hand on his lower back.  There was the flash of a camera, and Harry looked away.

“Are you a secret love child?  Was your mom cheating on someone when she was with Tony Stark?”

Surprised by the question, Harry paused and looked up at Natalie, who pushed him forward.  “How could they ask such things?” Harry whispered, his heart clenching.  He knew the truth of his parents’ affair.  Of course, he did.  But to suggest such a thing when James Potter had been a wife beater—it made Harry sick.

“Think nothing of it, Anthony, Jr.,” Natalie told him as they entered and went toward the back of the store.  “They’re just roaches.  They’ll say anything to sell a story.”  Removing her hand, she looked around at the jeans that were coating the store in confusion.  “I leave you here?”

Shrugging, Harry gave her a small smile.  “You leave me here.”

“Play cloak and dagger, kid,” she teased, and then she was gone.

Harry took in a deep breath and was immediately heading toward the back.  The girl behind the counter had an earring with an equilateral cross and as soon as she saw him in his wizarding clothes, she tipped her head toward a little side door and winked.  Nodding, Harry went through the gap onto a paved street that clearly had buildings on either side without windows looking out onto him.  There was graffiti of stars, names of famous popstars, tag lines, and he even paused when he found the famous lightning jagging in between glasses that were hovering on the wall.

How odd.

At the end there was a door that was locked and without a handle.  Remembering the instructions, Harry found the small hole and inserted his wand before turning it counterclockwise until he heard a click.

And then he was in.

Colors erupted everywhere around him and Harry immediately smiled.  His bright clothes fit in perfectly and he looked like just another well dressed teen out for a winter’s day among magic. 

When he was passing the public floos (there were three large fireplaces in a row), he paused when he noticed a wizard who was taller than him, a young face, wearing what appeared to be—Harry paused.  It was clearly wizarding, but it was inspired by—No.  The waistcoat was a bright green satin with a green cravat of a matching color.  A gold watch chain hung from the waistcoat—thin, expensive, wizarding certainly.  Whatever the shirtsleeves were, which were clearly of a British wizarding fashion, they were completely hidden.  The coat could either be black or dark green, it was difficult to tell, but it was brocade with bright green buttons.

It was incredibly elegant, incredibly masculine, and if it had snakes embroidered on it, then it would certainly be—Slytherin.

A gentleman’s hat was on his head and his emerald green and proud chin were looking around him as if he was above everything he took in.

His eyes swept the crowd and then paused on Harry who had stopped to take him in.  His hair glinted a deep in the winter’s light as it fell to his chin.  His lips curled pleasantly as if he had found exactly what he had been looking forward to, and he approached Harry. 

Standing before Harry and nodding his head, the stranger inquired, “Do you perhaps know where they sell international publications?  I’m interested in Russia as well as—America, I believe you call your country.” 

Oh, he was definitely British and his voice sent a shiver down Harry’s spine.

Why did he have to be meeting Aldric?  Aldric, although a sixth year, was nothing compared to this man.  Maybe Harry had a thing for older men or ones who were clearly inappropriate.  Then again, that wasn’t quite true.  Aldric was still quite a boy, and Harry had rather talked himself into it.

But wasn’t it so good to hear a British voice again?

Raising an eyebrow, Harry answered in his crisp posh accent.  “I’ve only recently moved to America,” he apologized, “and it’s my first time here in Los Angeles.  I’m not even certain how to find the restaurant I’m meeting a friend at.”

“Forgive me,” the wizard apologized, taking him in again, “you seemed to be dressed in the height of American wizarding fashion as far as I could tell.”  The wizard’s eyes raked over Harry, roving over his coat, to his hands, and then flicking up to his lips for a long moment before catching his eyes.

Harry laughed a little.  “My father, who’s American, would have nothing less.”  No, Tony wouldn’t.  He liked to bum around in his (designer) jeans and rock band tees, but he had suits that probably cost as much as Dudley’s fees at Smeltings for an entire term.  He wanted Harry to both dress as he wanted to dress but also to be able to dress to his station in life—and Harry considered himself a Slytherin pureblood, so Tony saw that he got everything he needed.

Smiling again, Harry apologized, “I’m afraid you asked the wrong person.  You found someone as uninformed as you are.”

Their green eyes met for a long moment in an easy manner, as if Harry and this person had done so many times before.

“Loki Odinson,” the wizard introduced himself, holding out a gloved hand (green) in proper wizarding respect.  It was the way men greeted men, not men introducing themselves to children.

The name seemed familiar, as if Harry should recognize it, but a haze seemed to fall over it, and he promptly forgot.

Wryly and with a little thrill, Harry took the hand.  “Anthony Stark, Jr.”

“Perhaps,” Loki suggested, “we can find our separate destinations together.”

Tilting his head in a way that he had actually practiced in the mirror having seen Tony do it and witnessing women melt at it, Harry fell into step with the wizard.  At first they didn’t speak, but the wizard had a certain presence and, while people didn’t necessarily part for them, Harry found it easy to walk with the wizard without people getting in his way.  It was as if some magic were at play, but Loki was not using a wand, his hands were not moving at all even.  Peculiar.

“Did you just arrive from England?” Harry asked, “or are you visiting America over the Hols?”

Loki glanced over with brightness in his eyes.  “I hail from Norway,” he admitted.  “I’ve been scouring Europe for certain publications, and have found myself disappointed.  I thought I would try here and then New York.  I might even stay a couple of days if I’m successful.”

“Oh,” Harry murmured before catching Loki’s eye again.  “Do you know England at all?  Perhaps Godric’s Hollow?  My mother lived there before she died.”

“I do,” he agreed before scanning the stores to his left.  “I tend to avoid it because of the—tourists, I suppose you could call them.”

Stopping, Harry looked at him.

Loki didn’t notice for a moment, but then paused and came back to him.  “Monsieur Anthony?” he questioned and his eyes were so intense that Harry tried to suppress a chill running down his spine.

After a moment, he asked as he tried to keep his voice stable, “The Potters?”

Tilting his head, Loki agreed silently.

Harry let out a breath and the idea that there were tourists that went to the village where his mother was murdered and then glanced to the right and saw The Sneaky Kneazle.  “There it is,” he murmured before turning to Loki.  “I didn’t know.  I suppose I should have guessed.  I had thought I’d go visit my mother’s grave over the summer perhaps, my father would take me if I asked, but I’d rather stay away from—Potter fanatics.”  He tried not to sneer at the end of it.  He hated people who cared for him because of his fame. 

At that moment, the maître d’ of The Sneaky Kneazle seemed to spot them and approached with a folded note and bowed before handing it to Harry.  Harry looked at it in shock, surprised at being handed a letter as if he were passing notes in class.  Why wasn’t he just owled?

He opened the note up and saw that Aldric canceled fifteen minutes earlier when his father identified him as a half-blood and the son of Muggle titan Tony Stark after that little run in with the reporter.  It seemed MACUSA had eyes everywhere.  Harry was honestly surprised that Nathaniel Weathercrest hadn’t realized who he was given his adoption and relocation to America just that November.  There was also the rather well-covered press conference that the wizard had seemed to miss.

Loki politely remained silent until Harry folded up the parchment and put it in his pocket.

“It seems that I have more time to help you find what you’re looking for,” he offered, gathering himself together again.  “You can tell me what’s happening in Europe.”

Taking a step forward, Loki placed a hand on Harry’s arm.  “Is everything well, Monsieur Anthony?”

He gave a small smile.  “My friend cannot make it.  His father is rather important and something seems to have come up.  My own father is rather influential and just keeping away from reporters is difficult—so I can imagine where plans might have to be canceled suddenly.”

His look turning calculating, Loki indicated that they should continue walking.  “Well, are you aware that Harry Potter has been removed from Hogwarts?  Although I’m Norwegian, I attended that particular institution,” he told him.  “Potter was a first year when I was taking my NEWTS in Slytherin House, but I never personally met him.”

A sort of haze fell over Harry’s mind again, one that he could identify, one that he didn’t even realize was there.  Looking at Loki for a long moment, Harry realized he didn’t recognize Loki except—“you played Quidditch.”

“Of course,” he seemed to realize.  “You must have attended Hogwarts before you moved to America.”

“I did,” Harry agreed.  “I doubt more than a handful of people really cared.—I’m currently learning the rules of Quodpot, but I’m not too keen.  I really do prefer Quidditch.”

“Well,” Loki stated smugly, “let’s not have these colonists convert you.”

Published by excentrykemuse

Fanfiction artist and self critic.

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