Warning: There was a bug with emails from FFN for a while last month, so there's a good chance some of you never received the chapter 14 notification email when it was posted. I recommend checking chapter 14 to see if you read it or not.
Meanwhile, here's chapter 15. Enjoy!
Once he had his books organised for the day and a printout of his schedule stuck to the inside of the door, Peter shut his locker and made his way to class. He had AP Physics first. He did the reading at the start of summer break, so he felt ready.
Ned was already in class, having saved him a seat. No MJ though. He wondered what classes she was taking. Joining Ned, Peter looked around as he slipped into the chair. There was a new face at the front desk — a strict looking elderly woman ignoring them in favour of her computer — and there were a few students scattered around in small groups.
"Hey," Ned greeted him jovially. "Day one. How ya feeling bro?"
Peter shrugged. "Feeling okay, I guess. I dunno. I felt kinda excited and nervous this morning, but as soon as I stepped through the gates, I got over it. Just another year, y'know?"
"Yeah, I guess," Ned nodded in understanding. "But still, I'm hyped. Junior year! Whoooo!"
They got a few looks from other students over Ned's exuberance, but nothing they weren't used to. Peter kept up the chatter with Ned, killing time as people filtered in until the bell rang and the new teacher got up to start her lesson.
She introduced herself as Ms. Connaty, and to Peter's surprise, and pleasure, she walked right up to the board and wrote out some equations related to kinematics. She set the class to work on solving a few problems. Basic stuff, but infinitely more engaging than the lengthy lectures about the curriculum he expected from the rest of his classes.
The lesson went well until the end, when Ms. Connaty wrote out a straightforward question about a ball rolling down a ramp and falling off a table. Simple enough, Peter reckoned. He just needed to figure out the time the ball spent falling and its horizontal velocity. There were no numbers given, so she probably wanted an algebraic answer.
A minute later, Peter dropped his pen and looked around. Most of his peers were still going at it, and most of them stayed that way until when, minutes before the end of class, Ms. Connaty asked for the answer.
Peter raised his hand, but she picked another student first. The girl struck out, and Ms. Connaty called on Flash, who confidently declared the wrong answers, much to Peter's delight. He had to wipe the smirk from his face and affect a look of innocence when the teacher asked him for the answer, which he provided happily.
Ms. Connaty smiled with approval. "Great job, uhhh…."
"Great job, Peter. Good to know there's at least one person reading ahead," she praised, then turned the rest of the class with a frown. "If any of you read the second chapter, this would have been easy peasy. Take it as a lesson: I expect you to read ahead."
Peter smiled faintly at the praise, then saw the pissed look on Flash's face and had to duck his head to hide a grin. Sure, Flash was rich, with a fancy car and nice clothes, but Peter was always several steps ahead of him academically. Before he'd become Spider-Man, his smarts were his one point of pride — the thing that let him keep his head held high in the face of ceaseless taunting.
He'd be lying if he said it wasn't hard sometimes, but now he had more important things to worry about than a bunch of would-be bullies. 'Sides, if Flash ever went too far out of line, he could send a certain wizard his way.
When the next class let out and they went to the cafeteria for lunch, Peter scanned the room and found MJ sitting alone in the corner. She was leaning on the table and messing with her phone. He pointed her out to Ned and pulled him along to go join her.
"MJ!" Peter greeted with a smile. He slid off his backpack and sat himself across from her, while Ned slipped in next to her.
"Dork one, dork two, hey," MJ greeted with her trademark half-smile. "How's it going?"
Peter shrugged. "Going alright."
"Same ol', same old," Ned chipped in.
"Just another year," MJ said. "Then one more after, and we'll be out of this hellhole." Her gaze flicked to Ned and she lowered her voice, staring him directly in the eyes. "You know they poison the water with lead to impair our cognitive function? Critical thinking is a threat to the government, so they'll do anything to keep us helpless."
For a moment, Peter was at a loss for words. What could he even say to that kind of conspiratorial thinking? Then he realised MJ was just teasing them and snorted quietly. Ned was a little slower on the uptake though.
"Are you for real? There's no way! Where did you even find…that…oh! Never mind." Realisation dawned on Ned and he blushed at the resultant smirk from MJ and Peter's laughter.
From there they swapped stories, Ned starting off by describing his mostly uneventful summer of gaming and family bonding. MJ then took over and told them about her summer internship at a research lab in Maine. Though there wasn't much to say about it, with her describing it as "dull, dull, dull. A complete waste of my life," much like she did over their texts.
"It can't have been that bad. Didn't you learn anything?" Ned asked.
MJ leaned forward. "Well, during the French Revolution, when the guillotine was introduced, the people up for execution ended up fighting to be killed first, because the blade would get more dull with every execution. After the first few people, it would take more than one try to do the job, making it more painful and messy over the day," MR replied, serious as can be. "But that was from an article I was reading while I photocopied like 200 pages, so it depends on how you look at it."
Ned stared blankly at MJ. "..oookay then, I'm just gonna go get some food. Coming, Peter?"
"Nah, I'm fine for now, thanks." Peter absently wondered how Ned still had an appetite after a story like that.
Nodding, Ned took off to wait in line, leaving Peter and MJ alone.
"So how was your summer?" MJ asked. "You were pretty quiet about it."
"It was okay. I still have that Stark internship that no one else believes me about. I also did that extra-credit programme. You did it too, right?" MJ nodded, so Peter carried on. "And y'know, Ned and I hung out pretty often… then Harry moved in like a month ago, so I've been chilling with him too."
"Yeah. He's pretty cool," Peter described, smiling as he thought about the curious wizard that stumbled into his life. "And a little weird," Peter continued, wanting to talk more about Harry without spilling any secrets. "Barely knew how to work a phone when I met him."
That caught MJ's attention. She set her phone down. "Really?"
"Yeah. It was like he came out of the 1900s to be honest."
Curiously, according to Mr. Stark, when he looked into Harry's background, he didn't find anything strange — beyond the peculiarity of that community's lifestyle, that is. That did surprise Peter, because the way Harry talked about his magic, there had to have been other wizards to teach him or to share knowledge with. It was a mystery that had him incredibly curious, but he figured he'd have to wait till Harry decided to tell him.
"So you've been what, his padawan?" MJ asked, eyebrows raised in interest.
Peter gasped, then held a hand to his heart and glared at MJ. "You know damn well that padawans are the students, Michelle Jones," he accused.
Michelle stared blankly at him. "Are they? My bad," she said, then stood up, a small smirk on her face. "I'm gonna go get a bottle of water."
Peter shook his head fondly. "I'll come with. Could use a snack."
He stood up and joined MJ, both of them walking to the nearest vending machine. She broke the silence first. "So, tell me more about Amish boy. Is he a dork like you?"
"My dearest MJ. Nobody is a dork like me."
Harry was just done cleaning up after a late breakfast when his phone started buzzing. He picked it up and saw that he was getting a call from… Tony Stark?
'When did I save Stark's number?'
Confused, Harry answered the call. "Hello?"
"Hey Power of Three, how ya doin'?"
"Erm. Fine, thanks. Just… how exactly is your number saved on my phone, Stark?" he cut straight to the point.
There was a small snort on the other side of the phone. Not Stark though; it sounded feminine.
"No 'hey', 'hello', or 'how are you mister genius superhero man'? You jump straight to interrogating me?" Stark complained theatrically. Harry rolled his eyes. "You wound me, Halliwell!"
"Merlin, spare me,"Harry groaned to himself. 'And he's dodging the question.'
He sighed. "What do you want, Stark?"
"Need you to come in for a bit. I have a couple of things I need to run by you."
"And it can't be done over the phone?"
"Nope. 'Fraid not."
"I suppose I can come by later this week. Thursday, perhaps?" Harry suggested, knowing full well he had nothing better to do, but feeling unashamedly petty.
"Can you be here today? It's important," Stark urged, a slight pleading note in his voice.
"I see. Well… I suppose if it's that important," Harry acquiesced. He found himself curious what Stark wanted with him after more than a week of silence. Besides, it couldn't be worse than fiddling with his phone for a few hours.
"Don't sound so enthusiastic," Stark complained wryly.
"My apologies, Mr. Stark," came Harry's deadpan reply, disdain dripping from his mouth. "I am at your disposal. It will be my pleasure to accept your invitation."
There was a stifled giggle on the other end of the phone, and a few words were exchanged, though he couldn't make them out.
Stark spoke up. "You're a real dick, you know that, kid?"
There was a gasp in the background, and a startled, "Tony!"
Harry nodded, forgetting that Stark couldn't see him. "I've been told that once or twice before," he answered cheekily, thinking of a pointy chinned, blond prat he'd grown up around.
"I bet," Stark replied, sounding fairly amused. "When can you be here, Saruman?"
"It depends. Where do you want to meet?"
"Same lounge as last time, why?"
"I could apparate there now," Harry suggested.
"Sure thing. Beam yourself up, Scotty!" Stark quipped, then hung up.
Harry was left looking around the room. "...Scotty?"
Harry apparated straight into the lounge they had used the last time he was there.
Stark was already there, relaxing on the couch, legs propped up on the coffee table and arms folded behind his head. Next to him was a beautiful woman with fiery red hair that reminded him fleetingly of Ginny. While his host was dressed casually, in jeans and a shirt with rolled up sleeves, the woman was his stark contrast, dressed sharply, with a suit jacket and pencil skirt.
"Hey baby Gandalf, thanks for coming," the superhero greeted him.
Having recently seen the movies, Harry understood the reference, but he found little humour in it, or anything this man had to say.
"Stark," he greeted stonily, then turned to the man's companion and shot Stark a questioning glance.
Not one to be deterred by a frosty greeting, Stark set about introducing them. "Harry Potter, meet Pepper Potts. Pepper Potts, Harry Potter." he said, waving his hands lazily between them. Then he snickered. "Well, that was a tongue twister. Can you say it ten times in a row?"
'Don't hex the billionaire, Harry. Awful idea. Do not,' Harry reminded himself, already exasperated with the man. 'Pepper' — what a strange name — looked similarly exasperated, but one couldn't miss the fondness also present in her expression.
Harry stepped forward and shook Pepper's outstretched hand with a polite smile.
"Nice to meet you, Harry," she said. "I'm sorry about Tony being… Tony."
"A pleasure as well Ms. Potts. And s'alright, I've met worse."
She giggled. "Give it time, you barely know him," she teased, then whispered loudly, "he gets worse."
Harry snickered, and they both studiously ignored Stark's bark of protest.
"Very true. I'm sure Mr. Stark will continue to delight with his antics. Though you seem to be well acquainted with them, Ms. Potts."
"Please, call me Pepper," she insisted.
"Pepper it is, then. Are you an Avenger too?" Harry asked, curious about her presence.
Pepper opened her mouth to reply but was cut off by a strangled voice to the left.
"Ohmygod. Pe- Pepper. HAH!" Stark was clutching his stomach in laughter. "Pepper! A- An Avenger! That's…" Stark stopped to think for a moment and cocked his head. "That's actually a scary idea."
Pepper shot a fond glare at Stark. "No, I'm no superhero. I'm CEO of Stark Industries, and..." she shook her head, affection and resignation warring on her face, "...Tony's fiance," Pepper admitted with a sigh.
Harry didn't mean to say that out loud, but it seemed to work in his favour, drawing a snort and a quickly suppressed giggle from Pepper. Alas, Stark wasn't quite as amused.
"I happen to be a hell of a catch, you know," he muttered.
"I'm sure," Harry drawled, in a way that had him stop short and blink, wondering if somehow he'd channelled Snape's spirit. "Er, so, why is it that you wanted to see me? I assume this isn't a social call."
"Oh golly! Gee," Stark rolled his eyes and gestured flamboyantly. "I just figured we could get to know each other better. It's slumber party time."
Harry's fingers twitched, itching to summon his wand and practice his human-to-animal transfiguration. "Well, I haven't brought any pyjamas, but I'm sure I could transfigure what I'm wearing," Harry smiled at Stark politely. 'Would we be sleeping in separate beds?"
Stark blinked, taken aback.
"I tend to have cold feet, if that makes a difference," Harry continued, watching as Stark spluttered while Pepper chuckled at her fiance's antics.
"Hold on kid, that's— No. Just no."
Harry frowned and crossed his arms. "Are you retracting your invitation, Mr. Stark? That's a shame."
"No," Stark pointed at him. "Bad wizard."
Unable to keep up the act any longer, Harry laughed quietly, then walked over to a sofa opposite Stark and Pepper and plopped himself down, waiting to see what the duo wanted.
"So, Harry," Stark addressed, sounding serious for once. Alarm bells were ringing in Harry's head. He sat up straight, sensing the gravity of what Stark would tell him. "I still have questions for you about the wizard thing, but that's not what I asked you here for."
Stark picked up a tablet device and unlocked it. He held it out and stared Harry right in the eyes. "I know you don't like me, which, you know, I get, but… I need a favour."
Harry met Stark's eyes, then looked down at the tablet device, seeing a picture of a man with some sort of mechanical contraption attached to his legs.
"A favour…" Harry repeated, eyes flicking down to the man's lower half. "His legs…" Harry's eyes narrowed in realisation and he looked up, meeting Stark's gaze, his eyes earnest and full of regret. A glance to his left revealed a similar expression on Pepper.
"Anything you can do? I tried, but Extremis is too volatile and the Wakandans say their vibranium tech can't do much unless the damage is new. But you… well, I figure if you can fix yourself up after getting some of your brains blown out, you might be able to do something for him," Stark explained.
Harry had no idea what Extremis or vibranium was, but he generally got the idea. "Who is he?" he asked gently. It was clear the man meant something to Stark and Pepper both.
The couple shared a look, communicating silently. Pepper was the one to answer him. "Colonel James Rhodes, Tony's best friend and an Avenger."
Stark nodded. "Don't ever call him that, though," he warned. "He goes by Rhodey."
Pepper scoffed. "Only because you refuse to call him anything else."
"To-may-toes, Po-tah-tos," the man shrugged. "So," he turned his attention squarely back to Harry. "He… let's just say he fell from pretty high up and broke his spine. His legs are completely paralysed. Can you fix him up?"
'Good question. Can I? Should I?'
The last question was no question at all. For all his gripes with Stark, Harry knew the Avengers were a force for good. Even Death referred to them as 'the realm's heroes'. If he could help this Rhodey person, he would be helping more people in turn.
Resolved to offer his aid, Harry turned to the question of 'how'. Potions came to mind — Skele-Gro wasn't that hard to brew, but Harry couldn't remember if it was effective with nerve injuries alone. It was worth looking into, at least.
Harry nodded slowly. "I can't promise anything, but... I might be able to come up with something. I reckon I'll need a few days though."
"That's great!" Pepper enthused, clapping her hands together.
Stark looked pleased as well, then cocked his head in puzzlement, "A few days? You can't just wave your wand and make it happen?"
"No, it's not that simple, not for something like this. I have a potion in mind that might help, but I may not have all the ingredients on hand, and the brewing process is time consuming. Also, I could stuff it all up and end up with a poor batch, and of course before all that I need to figure out if it would even work," Harry explained, sidestepping the fact that he would need to check a potions book for that information.
The older man nodded, his curiosity satisfied. "Any chance of you doing your whole 'double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble' thing over here?"
"My what now?"
Stark rolled his eyes. "Shakespeare? Macbeth?" he said, as though Harry was supposed to know what he was talking about. With no sign of recognition from Harry, Stark sighed and fell backwards onto the couch, raising his hands into the air and despairing about the "lack of respect for the arts."
Pepper wasn't having it, though. She coughed loudly to draw their attention and said, "You hate the theatre, Tony. When I got us those tickets, you said that the only way I'd get you to watch a play was if the actors were all robots. I had to go with Vision instead."
"I did say that," Stark agreed, turning his head in Pepper's direction. "You can't tell me that wouldn't be awesome."
The couple fell into a playful argument at that point, so Harry took his leave, shaking his head and smiling as he apparated away.
'They're an interesting pair,'he thought. 'He's more human with her around.'
Pepper and Tony were both startled out of their friendly bickering when Harry teleported away with a loud crack.
"So," Tony asked, "what do you think?"
It wasn't often that Pepper had a day off, busy running a multi-billion dollar company as she was. So when she did get that precious, precious time off, she liked to have a nice, quiet day. That meant no superhero shenanigans, which included teenage wizards.
She honestly didn't believe Tony when he first told her about Harry. He kept insisting, but until Friday showed her the footage, she assumed her fiance was just joking around.
In retrospect, Pepper wasn't sure why she found the concept of a real life wizard hard to believe. Aliens were real. Norse gods were real. Why not an eighteen year old British wizard living in Queens? That he lived across the hallway from Spider-Man was just the icing on the cake.
Then Tony blindsided her by saying he wanted her to meet the wizard to get a reading of his character. "The Pepper Lie Detector™" he called it. It took some convincing, but she agreed, though privately she was wishing she'd joined her parents on that trip to Greece.
When Harry Potter finally showed up, Pepper wasn't sure what to expect, but it didn't take her long to figure out that this kid was unique; she picked up on it as soon as he opened his mouth.
Tony was one of the best people she knew, and sometimes he liked to act the fool, but in his capacity as an Avenger, just about everyone knew to take him seriously. Yet here was this teenager, who bantered with ease and wasn't at all intimidated by the renowned genius. Hell, he sounded pretty annoyed at Tony, which was probably fair. Anyone would be after being spied on like that.
Either way, he was self-assured but not arrogant. Pepper respected that.
It also helped that he seemed genuinely sympathetic to Rhodey and agreed to help easily. Maybe he would surprise them, but Pepper didn't think they had anything to worry about. And she had to admit, it was nice to have someone else who didn't kiss Tony's ass around. With most of the Avengers gone, and with Peter worshipping the ground her fiance walked on, it came down to just Rhodey, Friday, and herself to keep Tony down to Earth. A task of herculean proportions.
"He seems like a good kid," she reassured him. "Don't worry so much."
Tony shrugged. "You know how I get."
Pepper smiled. "I do. And I know that if you actually thought he was a problem, you wouldn't be hemming and hawing over it. Listen to your instincts, Tony."
A soft sigh. "Yeah, alright," her future husband relented.
Pepper's smile widened, and she moved closer to Tony, laying her head on his shoulder. "So… we've got the rest of the day together," she said in an airy, noncommittal voice. "Wonder what we could do…"
She felt Tony's shift to hold her closer, his chin pressing down on her head as he tucked hers into the crevice of his neck. Pepper enjoyed the closeness for a bit, then asked, "Season two?"
"Damn right," Tony agreed.
She detached herself from him and stood up. "I'll go make some popcorn."
"Great." Tony clapped his hands. "Friday! Log into my Netflix."
"Thought he hated the theatre," Harry muttered, reading the Google search results. He shook his head and put his phone away. He had a potion to brew. Harry got to work, and before long, he had assembled a pile of ingredients on the counter.
"Right, then. Scarab beetles, puffer-fish, Chinese chomping cabbage…"
Harry brushed his fingers over the items in question, making sure he had everything. "What else? Oh, right! The arm bones. Merlin, I'd have to answer a lot of questions if someone found all of this."
There was a pot of water simmering on the stove to his left. He'd much rather have had a cauldron, but alas, Death didn't deign to provide him one. Hopefully it didn't make too much of a difference, he thought, even as he pictured Snape lecturing him about the importance of copper cauldrons in the brewing of certain potions.
Harry turned the heat down while he went to fetch the bone fragments. Unfortunately, it seemed he didn't have any of those, as they weren't part of the standard potions kit. He tried calling for Death, hoping the deity would feel generous enough to, quite literally, throw him a bone, but alas, no response was given. Wincing, Harry realised that he would have to go acquire them on his own.
'Merlin's' balls, the Daily Prophet would have a field day with this. Thank err… Death, I suppose, they aren't around, because I can see the headlines now. THE-BOY-WHO-LIVED TO BE A GRAVE ROBBER!'
Harry made ready to apparate, but found himself hesitating.
'...what am I doing? If Stark wants a potion, he can rob the grave himself.' And with that, Harry swapped his wand with his phone and dialled up Stark.
The call connected and Stark greeted Harry, "Afternoon, Poppins."
Harry cut right to the chase. "I need an arm bone."
"Humerus preferably, but radius or ulna will do just fine."
"Oh. You're not kidding. What the fuck do you need a human bone for? And why are you calling me!? I deal in tech and green energy, not organ trafficking."
"I need it for your friend's potion, and I don't fancy grave digging. So I'm sure you'll sort something out, hopefully by tomorrow?"
"Potter," said Stark sternly, "if this is a prank, I will retaliate. I'm talking loud kinky porn blasting out of your phone every time you use it in public."
"Not a prank, no. And if you were to ever pull something like that…well, I hope you're prepared to suffer in kind, Mr. Stark," replied Harry nonchalantly, with just the vaguest hint of a threat in his voice. He was just daring Stark to invite a prank war that would make Fred, George, and the Marauders proud.
"Suffer in kind? We both know you couldn't hack your way into a wifi router if the code was 0000," Stark drawled.
"That we do. I'm not even sure what hacking entails, really. It looks different in every movie," Harry said. "But I do happen to know my way around a wand, and I can think of a jinx or two that would have you pissing out of your ears."
"Where does the piss come from?"
"Where does it come from? From my bladder? Is it conjured? Oh god, it's not someone else's, is it?" questioned Stark, leaving Harry at a loss for words. Honestly, how did this man's brain work?
"Errr… I don't know, but you're welcome to be a test subject."
"Nu-uh, not unless you can guarantee I don't have someone else's wicked whiz leaking out of my ear."
Harry snorted. "Shame on you, Stark. Where's your intellectual curiosity?"
"Nowhere near an earful of piss, that's for sure," the man snarked. "Anyway, I'll get you your bone. Probably. Somehow. I'll figure something out. Maybe from a cadaver? Does it have to be fresh? I could call in some favours from the dean of Columbia… nah, he's a fucking gossip and I don't need this getting to the press," Stark rambled.
"Err, no it doesn't have to be fresh, as long as it's mostly intact," Harry said. He mumbled "I think" to himself as he tried to remember his old potions lessons. Aloud, he continued, "right then, I'll leave you to it. Have a good day," and hung up.
The next morning, Harry opened his door to find a disgruntled Happy Hogan standing there, carrying a nicely wrapped rectangular gift box.
"Here you go," the man grunted, pressing the box into Harry's hands and walking away.
"What, no card?" Harry called out to the man's retreating back. He received no response as the man walked down the stairs.
Shaking his head, Harry brought the box inside and opened it up on the counter. Sure enough, there was a long bone inside. A humerus, it looked like.
"Perfect," Harry said. "That's everything."
Wasting no time, he set up his makeshift potions equipment and set out the ingredients again.
'Well,' Harry thought as he rolled up his sleeves, 'time to see if I learned anything from Snape.'
Belatedly, Harry realised he should have asked for spare bones. He hoped that this first batch turned out well, because he didn't think Stark would react well if he had to source more bones a second time. Actually, maybe he would ask for more…
'Hmm… better not,' Harry decided. 'Wouldn't want to give him another bone to pick with me.'
It was the next afternoon, around eleven; the potion was done, bottled, and needed to mature for fourteen more hours. Given the long wait, he decided to pop over to see Peter, knowing he'd be back home from school. May let him in and, after exchanging small talk, he walked to Peter's bedroom and found that the door was open. He peeked in and saw Peter working on his computer with one of those over the ear sound things. Spotting an opportunity, Harry slipped into the room and crept up to the unsuspecting teenager, keeping his steps light and his movements nimble.
"You know I have super hearing, right?" Peter spoke up, turning his upper body to get a glimpse of Harry.
Startled, Harry let out a yelp and flailed as he tripped over his own feet, desperately grabbing onto the back of Peter's desk chair to stay upright. Peter, may he rot in Azkaban, snickered at his poor balance and failed attempt at stealth.
Harry had one word for him.
An unrepentant grin was the other boy's only response. It would be a lie to say Harry didn't think about sending a stinging hex his way. But he was better than that. Mostly.
"What are you doing?" he asked, peeking over Peter's head to look at his computer screen. It was just a bunch of numbers and some symbols. Maths, perhaps?
Peter swivelled his chair back around to his desk. "Oh, I'm just working on some homework."
Harry cocked his head, as though looking at the equations from a different angle would help him make sense of it. He knew basic arithmetics from muggle primary school, and it was hard not to see the similarities between some of the rune matrix calculations he'd seen Hermione go over in their sixth year.
As he parsed through the contents of the screen, a trickle of shame crept in. Harry wasn't stupid, he knew that. He did just fine at Hogwarts, and his OWL scores were quite good for having spent so much time slacking off with Ron. Through no fault of his own, he was stuck in a world where none of that knowledge was of any use. Where he was uneducated and uninformed.
He wondered if it was even possible for him to catch up. There was so much to cover! Muggle sciences, history, geography, and more! All subjects he'd only scratched the surface of as a child. He wanted an education, to understand this muggle world and fit in just like everyone else.
Harry jerked backwards slightly, not having realised he had been so obviously distracted. Sighing, he nodded towards Peter's computer screen and admitted the truth. "I was just wishing I wasn't so… far behind when it comes to my schooling. I stopped going to muggle school at eleven in order to start going to Hog- er, magic school. Looking at that, I haven't the slightest clue what I'm seeing, let alone what half of these subjects entail," he said, pointing to the screen and then to Peter's scattered textbooks. "I feel a bit dense,
"Well, why not just go to school?" Peter asked. "You can use magic to fake your way in, right?" Harry was about to explain all of the problems with that idea, but Peter was evidently thinking aloud, continuing, "No, that wouldn't work, you'd be really behind and it'd be waaaay too obvious. Private tutor, maybe? You could pay someone to catch you up on the major stuff. Can't see ya catching up enough in time to go to high school though, not unless you're a secret genius. But maybe… wait a sec, let me look up if it's legal."
Peter swivelled around and brought up the internet to google something.
While he did that, Harry stood there staring blankly at the back of his head.
Peter barely spared him a glance, googling some laws about home-schooling, and scanning the results page for whatever he was looking for.
"This is gonna take ages," Peter whined, letting go of the computer mouse and picking up his phone instead. "Karen?"
"Yes, Peter?" the AI responded, her voice coming out of Peter's phone.
"Can you look up home-schooling in New York? What are the options and requirements?"
"One moment," the AI told him. "According to the laws and statutes of New York state, to be able to—" Karen went on to explain the rules and technicalities, while Peter interjected with questions here and there. In the meantime, Harry wondered what he'd gotten into and eventually stepped in to shut the conversation down.
"This is all a bit much," he said. "All I want is to do some studying here and there and see how it goes. I'm not worried about certificates and degrees and such."
"Oh." Peter smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. I guess I kinda got carried away."
"S'alright, nothing to be sorry about," Harry reassured him. "It's useful information regardless." Sighing, he walked over to Peter's bed and took a seat. "I wish I could use my magic for this. Wouldn't that be great?" Harry mimed a wand motion. "Studius Instantus! And voila, I've got 7 years worth of information in my head."
Peter snorted. "Well, it's good to know magic can't do everything. That'd be way OP — overpowered," he clarified at Harry's quizzical look.
Harry snorted and fell backwards, laying on the bed. He let Peter finish up his homework while he killed time on his phone. He didn't pay much attention to the time passing, but three videos of Korean street food later, he heard movement to his right and looked over to see that Peter was putting away his books. He stowed the last of them away, then swivelled in his chair to face his silent guest.
Harry waited for him to say something, but instead Peter just watched him. He was about to call Peter out for being a creep when the bloke spoke up.
"I keep forgetting just how new to all this you are," Peter said with a small laugh. "Look at you go, bingeing random YouTube vids. RIP your algorithm, by the way. You're gonna see nothing but food vids recommended for the next few weeks. But yeah, don't sell yourself short, bro. It's amazing how quickly you're learning this stuff. Would've never guessed that a month ago this was all new to you."
"Oh, well… thank you. I've still got a ways to go, I don't know what most of the programs on my laptop do, and don't get me started on that TV," Harry replied in a bashful tone. "But yes, I'm glad I don't stick out like a sore thumb these days."
"Welllll, I wouldn't go that far," Peter teased. "You're still funny looking."
Harry didn't think twice before he grabbed Peter's pillow and tossed it at the smirking arsehole. It was a real shame that it didn't hit the git as Peter caught the pillow easily, with a mocking grin that Harry returned as he grabbed the second pillow, bolting off the bed to smack Peter with it. His opponent used the first pillow as a shield, and the next thing Harry knew they were having a pillow fight.
Harry had a blast trying to nail Peter in the face with his pillow, but the other boy didn't make it easy, dodging with ease and performing over the top acrobatics to stay out of reach. Only the limited space of the room and Harry's own fighting experience allowed him to land a few hits on the incredibly agile Peter and dodge the superhero's pillow a fair number of times.
They kept at it for a good while, but eventually Harry couldn't keep up, panting from exertion while Peter looked completely unaffected.
'Superpowered git,' Harry thought fondly.
Signalling his surrender, Harry sat on Peter's bed and fell back, sprawling out and letting his heart calm down. Peter plopped himself next to Harry and twisted around to face him.
Peter looked down at Harry and grinned a bright, joyful smile that made Harry's heart skip a beat — 'from the exercise.'
Peter broke the silence. "Well, that was fun."
"Yes it was," Harry agreed. "But call me funny looking again, and I'll turn you into a pig."
Peter snorted. "Sure you will."
"I will!" Harry insisted, the grin on his face doing very little to help him sound convincing.
"No you won't. You like me too much," Peter teased, reaching forward to poke Harry in the stomach.
Harry jolted forward at the poke. "Hey!" he protested.
Peter just smirked and poked him again, this time in the side.
'That does it.'
Taking a little inspiration from his old friend Hagrid, Harry pulled his wand out of his sleeve and flicked it at Peter.
Taken by surprise, Peter tried to dart away from Harry, but he was hit dead on by the purple spell. He went still momentarily and looked himself over, but when he saw and felt no changes, he relaxed and moved over to his desk chair.
"What was that spell? Nothing happe— ow!" Peter yelped as he tried to sit down. He turned his body and lifted the hem of his shirt to get a glimpse of whatever had caused the pain, and instantly a look of abject horror appeared on his face. No doubt he saw the pig's tail Harry had transfigured right above his arse.
"What the— Harry! Did you— is that a- a- a pig tail?! Get rid of it!" Peter cried out hysterically.
Harry stood up and winked at Peter, then apparated back to his flat.
Peter was proud to say he only panicked for about a minute before he got his wits together and stormed over to his jackass neighbour-slash-friend's apartment. He banged on the door until a smug looking Harry answered.
"Fix this," Peter demanded, and thank God, Harry didn't draw it out and promptly used another spell to make the tail vanish. "Okay, two things," Peter said afterwards. "'A', you're the worst, like the absolute worst. And 'B', that was really cool."
"You had it coming," Harry retorted playfully, to which Peter responded by sticking out his tongue, ending up with both of them laughing.
Since they were already at Harry's place, they just stayed there and chilled. Peter booted up the console. Then they took turns playing games while talking about their lives, sharing funny stories and the like. Peter told Harry about his early days as Spider-Man, like the first time he faced a gang, and how he had to sneak around school after hours to make his web fluid, and Harry told Peter a few stories about his childhood. Peter was especially amused by the story of Harry accidentally vanishing the glass barrier in a zoo and releasing a deadly snake.
Though amusing, Peter could tell Harry's stories weren't quite the whole truth and he wished the guarded wizard would be more open with what he shared. Given all that had happened, however, Peter understood why things were this way, so he told himself that he just had to look forward to the day that he truly earned Harry's trust, and cemented their friendship and—and… something about that idea, of him and Harry as the best of buds, it… left him a little— just a little —bit hollow, and he couldn't figure out why.
[AN:] You can thank/blame my ever helpful editor AxleBoost for that chapter title.
Happy holidays everyone! I finally had some free time after semester break started last week, so as a holiday gift and a thank you for sticking with this fic for all this time, I finished off both chapters 15 & 16, and combined them into one. If the pacing feels a little off, that's why, but ah well.
Thank you all so much for the reviews on the last chapter. Wish I'd had the time to reply to them, because they honestly made me smile amongst the misery of cramming for exams 😂 Can't wait to see what you thought of this one!