Disclaimer – Anything you see and recognise does not belong to me. Harry Potter is JK Rowling's; The Avengers and other related characters belong to Marvel. I'm simply playing in their sandboxes.
A/N – Welcome to a brand-new story, something that's been bouncing around in my head for a while now. It's a little different from my usual scribblings and I'm hoping that it'll be something that others might also enjoy.
Chapter 1 – The Sixth Continent
Harry James Potter stepped out of the tunnel and immediately to the side. Around him, the passengers that had travelled with him from Lima continued on, either in search of their baggage or to connecting flights or even in search of transportation from JFK International to New York proper.
After travelling for so long and so far, Harry knew what to expect: the hordes of travellers would surge past, intent on their destinations and anyone who got in their way or impeded their progress was in for a jostled, uncomfortable time. More often than not before he'd learnt his lesson, Harry'd been bumped into walls, cut off from his own destination or lost. Once he'd been knocked completely to the ground, an experience that he never wanted repeated.
Once the way before him seemed to have settled down, he began making his way through the airport.
Passing through customs here had been a little more of an issue than it had been in almost any other country that he'd explored, and especially the South American ones that he'd been travelling through for nearly the past year. Only the fact that he'd had the foresight to cast notice-me-nots, muggle-repelling charms and disillusionments on the series of miniature trunks strapped to his belt had gotten them past the officials. Thankfully, he'd learnt early on to keep anything magical in the trunks, saving his muggle belongings - clothes, some books, toiletries and a few knickknacks - for his backpack.
Having the backpack as his only luggage was another blessing. No trips to baggage claim for him, not to mention the horror stories that he'd heard from people who had arrived in one country, only for their luggage to arrive in another.
He weaved his way through the crowd, past the duty-free shops, eateries and other businesses, intent on finding his way out of the airport. This was why he'd decided upon his next course of action - he was getting tired.
Five years he'd been travelling the world – visiting communities, muggle and magical alike, learning the customs and seeing the sights. He'd picked up untold amounts of knowledge, both magical and muggle. And he'd become a bit of a pack-rat. Books, souvenirs, clothes, knickknacks and doodads of all variety and interest that he could find had found their way into one of his trunks.
Some things were incredibly useful, like the small silver stud that he now wore in his right ear. To anyone else, it was simply an earring. To him, it was a translation device. Using it, he could understand any language that he heard. He couldn't speak it, of course, but he could at least understand what was being said. It was an amazing find, one of many that he'd picked up in Japan. The only limitation that it seemed to have was the fact that it could only translate human languages - nothing of the goblin, merpeople, dwarf or any of the other magical people languages dotted about the world.
But after five years and four continents, he was ready to settle down, at least for a little while. And while the thought of going home to Britain had been mildly appealing, knowing that he had yet to explore and learn about North America had decided him on this course of action. Oh, there was also Australia, but he was in no rush to go there again - he had already spent quite some time there when he'd gone with Hermione to find her parents and return their memories to them.
So, when the time had come that he felt ready to move on from South America, or more precisely, Peru, he'd taken the very first plane that he could get to North America. To New York, to be precise.
Exactly what he was going to do there, he still hadn't quite decided. All that he had in mind was to find somewhere to settle, to use as a base as he explored the continent. And if it took him a little longer to explore said continent, with being based in one place, well, he could live with that.
The bright sunlight after being cooped up in a plane for nine hours, plus the time in the airport itself almost blinded him when he emerged from the heavily tinted glass doors. When he'd finally blinked the spots from his eyes, he looked around.
A long line of yellow taxi cabs sat waiting for passengers off to his left. In the distance, a slight haze in the air marked where the city was, not unlike what he'd experienced anytime that he'd first arrived in the more heavily populated cities of the world.
Hitching his backpack a little higher onto his shoulder, he headed towards the first cab in the rank.
"Where to, Boss?" the little driver of obvious Indian descent asked the instant that Harry'd shut the door to the cab.
"A hotel," Harry replied. "Something mid-range price-wise."
"Know just the place, Boss," the man said.
The car was put into drive and the cab took off in a rush into the swirl of traffic. The fact that the little man hadn't even bothered to look for on-coming traffic had Harry scrambling to find his seatbelt.
The hotel that the little Indian taxi driver - Manish, according to the little plastic card that Harry'd taken care to memorise so that he'd know the name of his potential killer, a likely outcome with the way the man seemed to ignore even the most basic of road rules - had taken him to was mediocre at best. Harry'd definitely stayed in a lot worse places, though. It had its own bathroom, which was a plus, as well as a bed that was only marginally lumpy in places. The fact that the woman behind the counter when he checked in was Indian explained exactly why he'd been brought there.
Harry, though, wasn't overly concerned; he had no intention of staying there long.
And thus, he was out exploring the area, learning about this new city that he'd found himself in.
New York City, Harry quickly realised, was very aptly named. The 'City That Never Sleeps', was a hive of millions of people and cars, all hustling and bustling every which way in their important lives. In terms of people, it reminded him a lot of the largest cities that he'd experienced in India and China. But in terms of buildings, it was more comparable to Tokyo. Skyscrapers towered above him, each vying to be the biggest, the tallest, the most ostentatious.
The Empire State Building was clearly one of the most impressive, even if it was no longer the tallest. Oscorp Tower was another that stuck out against the skyline. The Chrysler Building was amazing. And then there were the older buildings, the ones built with more charm than glass, like the Baxter building.
As Harry wandered from street to street, he found that even more towers were planned for the mega city. The ground was still in the process of being cleared for one called Stark Tower. Idly, he wondered what distinctiveness it would bring to the New York skyline - would it be impressively tall or designed more artistically; would it be filled with glass windows or perhaps even a helicopter landing pad on the roof?
The further that he walked, the more that Harry was forced to dodge and weave his way through the crowds. It seemed that no matter which way he decided to go, it was always against the crowd. More times than he cared to count, he was bumped and jostled, sometimes even into poles or signs on the sidewalk.
Deciding that he'd had enough of fighting the crowds, Harry took the next right, sighing in relief as he found himself on a less populated street. Here, the buildings seemed slightly smaller, only standing between three and six stories tall. They also had a slightly older feel to them, as though the technological advances of the past decade or so had left them behind.
Even the very sight of these buildings felt more welcoming. Instead of concrete, steel and glass, almost all were made of old red brick. Here and there, if one cared to look closely enough, wood trim on some of the buildings enhanced the old-world feel.
Feeling some of the tension that had begun to build in his back and neck begin to ease, Harry slowed his pace.
This was an area that he felt comfortable in, a neighbourhood that he felt that he could settle in, at least for however long he decided to stay in North America, which, judging by how long he'd spent in the other continents, could easily be a year. But, then, he realised, if he had a base to come back to instead of simply wandering from place to place, that one year could very easily stretch to several. It wasn't as though he was in a hurry to get anywhere.
The smell of fresh bread hit his nostrils and he turned, following the urging of his growling stomach.
The bakery was small, with a counter near the back wall and several tables and chairs set just inside the door. A flash of movement from the corner of his eye drew his attention to the T.V. in the corner, the newscaster on the screen droning on about something that Harry had no idea about.
A chocolate scroll and cappuccino were quickly ordered and given to him. He was just about to leave when the flash of multiple explosions on the television caught his attention.
Harry moved to the side and absently leant against the wall as the amazing images continued to roll. Most of them were tiny and blurry, obviously shot from a long way away. But others ... they were the ones that really caught his attention. There seemed to be two metal ... men. One, the smaller of the two, was Gryffindor to a tee, all shiny red and gold. The other was a flat grey and seemed the more powerful of the two.
The cameras had caught some kind of fight between the two, one where cars, buses and buildings alike were demolished in great numbers. At the end, after a massive explosion at some place called 'Stark Industries', the images shifted to show a newsroom.
"And now we cross live to where Tony Stark himself will be giving a statement about the incident between Iron Man and the Iron Monger," the young news reporter stated.
Harry watched the television spellbound, his only concession to the real world was taking the occasional sip of his cappuccino.
The image that appeared when the screen cut to the live feed was that of a military man, who the text at the bottom of the screen identified as Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes.
"And now, Mr. Stark has prepared a statement," the Lieutenant Colonel was saying. "He will not be taking any questions. Thank you."
While Colonel Rhodes was giving his introduction, a man in a crisp black suit with the most intricate facial hair that Harry had ever seen, joined him on the stage. At once, Colonel Rhodes stepped back and to the side, giving up the microphone to the man identified as Tony Stark.
"Ah, been a while since I was in front of you. I figure I'll stick to the cards this time," Tony Stark said, holding up the indicated cards. Then, holding out the cards in front of him, he began to read. "There's been speculation that I was involved in the events that occurred on the freeway and the rooftop ..."
"I'm sorry, Mister Stark," a female journalist in the audience interrupted, "but do you honestly expect us to believe that that was a bodyguard in a suit that conveniently appeared - despite the fact that you ..."
"I know that it's confusing," Stark interrupted her, an annoyed look on his face. "It is one thing to question the official story, and another thing entirely to make wild accusations, or insinuate that I'm a superhero."
"I never said you were a superhero," the female journalist pointed out.
"Didn't? Well, good, because that would be outlandish and fantastic," Stark replied. "I'm just not the hero type. Clearly. With this laundry list of character defects, all the mistakes I've made - largely public ..."
It was then that Colonel Rhodes stepped back into the screen and whispered something in Stark's ear. The fact that Tony Stark immediately looked down at the forgotten cards in his hand and then held them back out in front of him told Harry exactly what was said.
Tony Stark paused then, staring at the cards for a long, long moment before his hand dropped and he looked right into the camera.
"The truth is: I am Iron Man."
Not only the reporters on the screen, but also everyone in the bakery with Harry immediately began talking and sending questions every which way.
Harry, though, couldn't see what the big deal was. He thought that Stark was saying that he was in one of the iron suits that had been on the screen not long before - most likely the Gryffindor red and gold one - but to him, it didn't mean all that much.
So, the guy could obviously do stuff that the ordinary person couldn't. Harry could relate to that. The big difference between the two of them that Harry could see was that Stark seemed to eat up the attention that the media was giving him, and that was not something that Harry'd ever been comfortable with.
Deciding that, since he'd seen the 'big news announcement' and not wanting to stay around where a bunch of people were beginning to talk louder and louder to the person next to them, he sidled out of the bakery and continued his explorations of his new home.
Sipping his cappuccino and munching on his chocolate scroll, Harry continued wandering the streets. He particularly loved the old world feel that the old red-bricked buildings gave him. He wondered idly about that, especially when he realised that, no matter what country or continent he'd visited over the past four years, he'd naturally seemed to gravitate towards the oldest section of the city or town. But then, the more he thought about it, the more that it made sense.
When it came down to it, the first place that Harry had ever been happy to call home, the one place that he'd always felt most comfortable in, was Hogwarts. And if you wanted the old world feel, then Hogwarts was always bound to win. Diagon Alley, too, was an extension of that. Both were places where he began to come into his own. Especially the summer before his third year when he got to spend a number of weeks living in the Leaky Cauldron and exploring the Alley every day.
Whenever Harry found that he was starting to leave the old neighbourhood behind, he'd turn back, exploring a different street or even simply the opposite side of a street that he'd already been down.
It wasn't surprising then, when he found the place that seemed to instantly call to him.
The building was much like the ones around them - all red-brick and old wood and steel. Huge plate glass windows lined not only the front of the building, but were also set into the top third of the old oak door in wedges that formed a semi-circle, a small circular piece of glass set in the bottom centre of the glass as though it was the sun and the other pieces were its rays shining forth.
It was only three stories high, the highest level even having a small balcony set in the centre. To one side of it, a second building, made from the same materials, only twice as high, butted up against the one that had caught Harry's attention. On the other, across from the small alleyway, was a second building, much like its counterpart, six stories high and seeming to loom over the smaller, forgotten building.
And it was indeed forgotten.
An old, grubby for sale sign hung lopsidedly in one window of the building, catching Harry's attention.
As though drawn like a moth to a flame, Harry quickly found himself standing right up against one of the big glass windows. But even having cupped his hands around his face and leaning right in, he was hard-pressed to see anything inside - the windows were just that grubby and stained that they simply obscured everything from sight. The only thing that Harry could make out was a large, seemingly empty space that was completely devoid of light.
Stepping back, he looked up at the building again, this time a little more closely.
The outside looked to be in fairly good shape, but he assumed that that had more to do with the materials used in its construction than anything else. Deciding to investigate it further, he walked the few metres to the alley and turned down it.
The alley was filled with piles of rubbish and old boxes. A dumpster, completely overflowing, seemed to have been long forgotten hear its end. Partway down the alley, Harry found a single old door with three padlocks on it that led back into the building. And a little further down, was a pair of doors that could only lead to a cellar.
He knew that he was being impulsive. Foolish, too, if he was willing to admit it to himself; but there was simply something about the old building.
Yes, he suspected that it needed a lot of work. But magic could do wonders. In some ways, it almost reminded him of himself. After the war, he'd been almost lost and in need of a lot of work to make him better. A tiny fraction of that he'd been able to accomplish in England, but it took leaving and travelling, experiencing new and different cultures for him to slowly heal and put himself back together again.
Maybe, just maybe, he reasoned, that's what this old building needed - a new lease on life and some good hard work to help it live again.
Rounding the building to the front again, Harry dug into one of the front pockets of his backpack to find the small notebook and pen that he kept there. In it, he carefully wrote down the name and number of the agency selling the building.
Now, all he had to do was find a phone.