“Tamper with the deepest mysteries — the source of life, the essence of self — only if prepared for consequences of the most extreme and dangerous kind.”
Tony sat alone in his study, his late uncle’s favourite saying reverberating through his ears. He had failed. He had tried to venture into an area he knew was strictly forbidden, overcome by his arrogance and the blind faith he had placed in his intellectual prowess. This arrogance had almost brought about his downfall, and if his uncle’s friend Nicholas Flamel hadn’t intervened, the nails would have been driven into his coffin instead.
He got up and examined himself in the mirror. The scars on his skull would fade; time would heal them and the residue would be hidden beneath a mass of hair. The scars on his soul, however, were another matter altogether. He felt incomplete, powerless. The Elixir had bought him the remainder of his human lifetime, but it hadn’t repaired the gaping hole that lay within. The fragment that had gone missing when he tried to rip it apart in his quest for immortality.
“Worrying about me again, sir?” J.A.R.V.I.S. quipped from his central computing system.
“We need to act fast. We don’t know much about them. They are able to utilise power beyond our wildest imagination, summon objects, torture and kill, all with a sweep of their wands. Our military is no match for that kind of power. We cannot do anything in case of an attack. They have dragons, Howard.”
Howard Stark sighed in despair. His project was a success and he hated every bit of it. Howard Stark was a part of a covert military operation that had been monitoring different groups of people who had been singled out because of their erratic behaviour and something odd Tony had noticed when he was young.
“Look daddy, that man just vanished!” Tony had excitedly exclaimed one fine morning, when he was taken for ice cream in the park. Howard had been looking bemusedly at the odd fellow who was wearing a violently violet cloak, deep in the heat of summer. His smile soon vanished along with the man’s disappearance.
Howard was at the height of his career then; the military was assigning all its contracts to Stark Industries, his failed expedition with Captain America was long forgotten and he had discovered something special that he would leave as legacy for his son to continue work upon. Life was going well for him. The only worry nagging him was his curiosity at that man’s ability to vanish into thin air. Curiosity was what made Howard Stark a technological genius. It was the basis for why he pursued his career; he absolutely loved pursuing projects that made him delve deeper into subjects that made him curious.
He had seen another man disappear in the blink of an eye. And he was determined to know how. Was it some new technology that had hitherto been untapped into? Another company sending test recruits in the field? If so, Howard Stark was determined to understand it and more importantly, make it his own. He had contacted his friend and source in the government; together they would solve the mystery. He had obtained all the necessary sanctions and was allowed to go ahead with his research.
Eleven years had passed. Howard Stark sat in his study, exhausted beyond measure, nuzzling a bottle of Firewhiskey. His project was a success. Eleven years of lying to his family. He had found out the secret of that man’s disappearance. Eleven years of alcoholism. He had infiltrated their ranks. Eleven years of living a lie. He would kill them all if it meant protecting his family.
He felt a draught on his neck and looked up. His window was open, although he didn’t remember opening it. Probably the wind, he thought as he felt goosebumps popping on his neck. He picked up the telephone again.
“I know they have dragons, Pete. That bloody Welsh Green was a nasty piece of work. And I have heard rumours of something worse. Something they only speak of in whispers. Diggle accidentally let it slip once. Dementor, he called it.”
“Look Howard, we need to know if they are dangerous to our kind. They aren’t ordinary humans. What are we to do in case they decide to attack? You need to go into this further. You need to learn all their secrets. Think about Tony and Maria if you can’t think about the rest of humanity. What would happen to your family if these… these muggles got hold of them?”
“We are the muggles Pete, not them. That’s what they call us. Fine, I’ll leave tonight. I’ll leave Tony with you and take Maria to her parents’. We need to keep them safe and separated. It would be too easy, otherwise, to find them. I’ll call you when I reach the Leaky Cauldron.”
“I still don’t understand how you can see it and I can’t. Aren’t muggles supposed to not be able to see it?”
“It’s a mystery to me as well, my friend. Ah well, I suppose I had better leave. Don’t talk about this with anybody else yet, we need to present concrete proof that they exist.”
“My lips are sealed. Farewell my friend. Until we meet again.”
Howard and Maria Stark died that night in a car crash, leaving their seventeen year old son Tony, an orphan and in charge of the biggest technological empire in the United States.