Travelers

Summary: Harry knew he had leave the Wizarding world because of the Hallows. He just never expected to have company on his journey. Or to encounter a stranger world than the one he'd left peopled with armored men, gods, secret agents, and villains. Oh to be back in England again.

Disclaimer: I do not own either Harry Potter or the Avengers. I only want to play a bit and will give them back untarnished.

AN: This will be a Harry Potter and the Avengers story. Eventually. Give me some time to develop things, however, I think you will like what happens.

Chapter One: Arrivals

~~~Travelers~~~

Harry and Hermione stepped out onto a winter street, stumbling a bit in the dark, snow blowing around them. Both turned to watch the glowing portal behind them close. With it gone, ended their only way home. Hermione turned towards him with a look of trepidation on her face.

Harry quickly reassured her. "See? No problem at all. We're here all in one piece. Our bags did not lose their expansion charms and bury us in gold bricks and books. Especially books. Even better, I still feel magical."

Hermione gave him a doubtful look, so Harry pulled out his wand. "Lumos."

Both watched the tip of Harry's wand light up. With a flourish, Harry canceled the spell. "Nox."

"Harry, I still don't know about those eighth degree rune clusters we used-"

"You used. I was just along for the ride.

Hermione huffed. "Fine. I used to get us here." Her eyes narrowed as she stared at him. "You know you could cast something more useful like a Warming Charm." Harry gave her a hopeful look. "Fine. I'll cast it."

With a quick flourish of her wand, Hermione cast the spell twice in rapid succession, and Harry immediately felt a warm toastiness reducing the effects of the cutting wind. "Now about that runic cluster..." Harry was distracted as Hermione chewed her lower lip. Finally her face cleared. "Oh well, all's well and all of that rubbish."

Hermione squeaked as Harry pulled her into an embrace, giving her a hungry kiss. "Harry! What was that for?"

Harry kept him arms around her. In an aggrieved tone, he accused, "You did that thing with your lip. You know I can't control myself when you do that."

Hermione's face wore a look of innocence. "What thing? This?" With that, she lightly chewed her lower lip, mesmerizing Harry.

He didn't even realize he was leaning in for another kiss, when he encountered Hermione's raised hand rather than her soft, velvety lips. Harry murmured against her palm, "Not fair."

Hermione broke free from his arms with a laugh. "Down boy. We need to find out where and when we are. And if there are other wizards here."

Harry shrugged nonchalantly. "If there are wizards here, you would think that our little spells would have brought them running."

Hermione nodded in consideration. "Maybe. But there could be reasons. Magic might not have as tight of strictures here as back home. The spells we did might not have set off any magic detectors. The fact the spells were simple and appropriate for the circumstances since its dark and snowing, requir-"

Harry held up his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. I give up. Lets get a newspaper and get out of this cold."

Luckily, they spotted a cluster of newspaper dispensers only a half block away, located not far from the brightly lit front of a large building. Since neither had any local money, Harry surreptitiously tapped one twice with his wand and tugged it open, removing two papers. He handed one to Hermione.

There was just enough light to read by since they'd gotten much closer to the lights of what Harry had since noted was a large hotel. He stared at the headline in amazement. "Well, that's something you don't see every day."

Beside him, Hermione wailed in horror, "I knew it! I knew that last rune cluster was wonky! We were supposed to end up in Newfoundland, not several hundred miles to the south and west. New York City, Harry! We're in New York City! This is the New York Post!"

Harry deadpanned, "And here I thought the banner headline reading 'Tony Stark: I'm Iron Man!' was the big news. Flying men in armored suits. You don't see that every day."

Hermione shivered. "We need to get out of the cold. My warming charm isn't up to this weather. Unless you want to pull out the heavy artillery?"

Harry gave a shiver of his own, although his wasn't from the cold. No, he would rather not use that particular item any time soon if he could help it. Hermione read his face and nodded. "Thought not. Let's head over to that nice, big, well-lit hotel just ahead and check in. Then we can talk about things in our room." At Harry's eyebrow waggle, Hermione clarified, "Our room with two beds."

An hour and half a dozen Confundus Charms later, they were well ensconced in a beautiful, warm suite of rooms in the Hotel Peninsula. Room service would soon be on the way with two English-style breakfasts. It turned out that in a hotel of this caliber, even arriving at 3:30 in the morning did not significantly reduce services available.

Harry reclined in the sofa in their 'sitting' room. "This is the life." He ignored the fact that this was his first time in an establishment as luxurious as this one. He was half afraid to touch anything in case he got it dirty or somehow broke it.

Hermione teased, "That wasn't what you were saying when you first found out that we weren't sharing a room."

Harry flipped over onto his stomach and gave her an narrow-eyed look. "I can understand you not wanting to sleep together just yet since we've only been dating less than a month. But I figured that we could at least share a room and you would..."

Hermione prompted, "You would what?"

Harry reconsidered his original words, instead finishing with, "You would be the last thing I'd see every night before I closed my eyes."

Hermione blinked rapidly as she rushed over to hug him. With his prone position, she ended up lying half on him as she hugged him tightly. After a moment, she wiggled and twisted, eliciting a groan from Harry, before finally settling in with her back against the couch, facing him.

Staring into his eyes, Hermione asked, "Have I ever thanked you for letting me rescue you from the Wizarding World?"

Harry felt himself grimace, but fought it off. "Plenty of times. I haven't thanked you for saving me. For coming with me a second time on a crazy adventure from which there's no real return. So thank you, Hermione Granger."

They both lay there content to be in each other's arms. As Harry rested, he couldn't help thinking about how they'd gotten there.

~~~Travelers~~~

It had started with his name called on a city street. Turning around, Harry beheld a redhead staring at him with a shy, expectant smile. Ginny Weasley.

A brief conversation had led to dinner, something which he appreciated as something to get his mind off of his best friend and best mate's steadily deteriorating relationship.

It turned out that what had seemed possible in school, and romantic when they were all on the run from Voldemort, had slowly crashed and burned under the day to day expectations of both parties when there was nothing external to distract them.

Hermione wanted a career. The last thing she wanted, or would tolerate, was to only keep house and raise a family. Filled with Muggle values, she planned a career, a marriage, and eventually a family, perhaps one or even two children. What she didn't plan was to have a brood as large as what Ron wanted. Or to stay home and keep house for her husband and large family, like one Molly Weasley had once upon a time.

Ron Weasley was Harry's best mate. He'd always denoted him that way, if only because another person held the place closest to his heart, and that person was not Ron. So when Ron complained endlessly to Harry about how unreasonable Hermione was being, his cries fell on mostly unsympathetic ears.

The harsh criticism of his best friend on his best mate's part wasn't something that he easily forgave and it put a distance between the two friends. At the same time, Harry grew steadily closer to Hermione as she turned to him to also discuss her relationship, eventually moving out of the flat she and Ron shared and into Grimauld Place.

Unlike Ron, Hermione didn't attack the redhead's position as unreasonable, just that it wasn't right for her. She also indicated that the inability of either of them to compromise on their position might just sound the death knell for their relationship, something she was already beginning to mourn even before the break up became official.

The entire time Harry's two friends fought, he was growing increasingly disillusioned with the Magical World. Once a place of joy, a haven from his life with the Dursleys, it had slowly become anything but that in his teens with the slow but steady increase in the hate and fear that he struggled against as Voldemort stirred, eventually managing to come to life once more and gather his followers and their children to his banner.

Despite the victory the Dark Lord, nothing really seemed to change, or so it felt to him. Harry had noticed that the same pureblood families still ruled the Wizengamot, even if a head or two here or there had changed. Worse, somehow he'd inherited Dumbledore's banner of notoriety, and was constantly the receiver of problems and issues which seemed to have nothing to do with him.

What did he care that a dark wizard was gathering followers in Romania. Didn't the magical government there have Aurors? Apparently not from the way that the governmental representative presented the need for Harry to help them to deal with the man despite the fact that the man had barely a dozen men and was, at best, a pale imitation of Voldemort.

When he'd refused, he'd been painted as a fool and coward by the Daily Prophet, which less than a year before lauded him as a hero. Once more, as he had so long ago at school, he received dark looks and scornful whispers seemed to follow him wherever he went. It drove home to Harry that too many of the wizards who inhabited the Magical World seemed unable to think for themselves. It also alienated him further from many of the old families, even those like the Weasleys, who had been his friends for so long.

But the thing which most complicated his life was that Harry still retained the three Hallows. The cloak, which he'd inherited from his father, he used but little anymore. The stone, which he'd received from Dumbledore, he'd used but twice since receiving it. The wand, which he'd won from Snape, he used not at all, as it scared the hell out of him, seeming to possess a mind of its own, as well as a bloodthirstiness that could not be slaked.

Unfortunately, the Hallows didn't appear to like not being used. Slowly, but surely, they were putting a form of psychic pressure on him that was threatening to drive him mad. Nightmares and visions of a future where he, or rather a red-eyed, white skinned version of him, ruled over a broken and devastated Great Britain were utterly terrifying and cost him untold amounts of sleep. It was something which no one other than Hermione ever seemed to notice.

Except, perhaps, Ginny, who had smiled so winsomely at him that day, and later expressed concern over the bags under his eyes. Harry began to date her just days after their meal together and almost immediately ran into a problem.

It turned out that Ginny was extremely jealous of Harry's relationship with Hermione, something which he'd never known. Add in the fact that Hermione had been staying with Harry at Grimauld Place as she distanced herself from Ron, and her jealousy just seemed to grow exponentially. Soon, Ron also got into the act, especially after Hermione finally broke up with him, something for which he blamed Harry.

The baffled rage on Ron's face after he'd screamed at Harry that last time had shown the young man's confusion and anger, but he seemed to be unable to make his way past the minefields of love and loss back to recover any of his relationships with either of them. Harry's own pain at the sundering of yet another tie led him to grow closer to his best friend, as late night chats and shared meals led them to rediscover just how much they had in common.

That closeness also led to a break up for Harry as well, proving that perhaps Ginny had been right all along to be jealous of his best friend. It also led to the loss of the sense of family he'd once had with the Weasley's as they'd closed ranks against the outsiders who had so grievously wounded two of their children. Even George had taken his siblings' side, although he'd been apologetic about doing so.

Between the way the Daily Prophet had been treating him, the loss of his erstwhile family, the pressure from the Hallows, and the sheer unfairness he dealt with on a daily basis, Harry slowly grew set on leaving England. Not that he thought it would be all that much better elsewhere, as the other magical governments around the world seemed just as helpless to do anything about their problems as were the British.

He left England briefly, traveling with Hermione when she finally got a line through a Muggle private eye as to her parents' location. Unfortunately, neither of them were able to reverse the memory charm she'd used, leaving her a stranger to the very people who'd bore and raised her. It had hurt her so badly, enough for her not to notice how Harry was treated by wizards and witches even on the far side of the world.

Things had grown worse from there, as bad news piled upon bad news. Hermione had been having difficulty finding work in the Magical World despite her stellar grades and vast intellect. It infuriated Harry that she'd been reduced to working part-time at Flourish and Blotts while she looked far and wide for an apprenticeship in runic enchanting.

Hermione hadn't had any luck so far, but hoped to see a response to the many letters she sent out sometime soon. Still, it was unlikely to be in Britain as the old Pureblood families there still held a great deal of control despite some of the changes that had occurred postwar.

Behind the ancient wards of Grimauld Place, the two of them were currently ensconced within the Black family library, one of the few places where the siren call of the Hallows seemed minimized.

"Harry, what's wrong," Hermione asked as she stared at him from behind the huge volume she was currently perusing.

How did you tell your best friend that you wanted to leave this world, he wondered? And not just flee into the Muggle one, but rather, to leave this world behind entirely and travel to a new one where the Hallows would be contained, passing into obscurity when he died. He'd even gone as far as to use the Black Family library to research a ritual that would send him away, but the arithmetic and runic calculations involved had been far beyond him.

Harry had a rough, working knowledge of each discipline, gained through brutal necessity during the time they had been on the run, but the fact that he had never taken either while at Hogwarts had kept him from getting all that far with the gargantuan task that faced him.

After some thought, Harry said, "Hermione, I can't stay here. Between everyone wanting me to be the person who fixes all of the problems, and the way the Hallows are slowly driving me crazy, I literally can't bear it. I can't even leave the Hallows locked up somewhere because they want to be used. If I don't have them with me, they'll eventually seduce someone else. I am the Master of Death. I'm just starting to understand what that means. Sometimes, I feel the darkness closing in around me. If I could get to another world, the lure would be less. At least, I think it would. I have this ritual, but it's... impossible. Maybe I should just jump through the Veil and return the Hallows to Death directly."

Hermione appeared less than impressed by his idea as her loud renunciation of it let him know in no uncertain terms. "Are you completely mad? How could you think it's a good idea to kill yourself just to get rid of a few magical artifacts? If you think for even one moment, Harry James Potter, that I am going to let you do something that hare-brained, you have another thing coming? Why I could just shake you until your teeth come out for saying that!"

Harry sat there, cringing slightly. Finally, though, he had enough. Gathering what was left of his Gryffindor courage, he asked, "Well then, what do you suggest, if all my ideas are so bloody stupid?"

Hermione stared at him as if he were an idiot. As a slow flush crept up his face, she said, in an ever so reasonable tone, "You could ask me for help, you know."

Harry stared. "Help? From you?"

Hermione shook her head in exasperation. "Who else do you know that would be able to do the math on something this complicated and write out all of the runic arrays?"

As understanding dawned, Harry slowly nodded. "No one. Hermione, would you help me with a ritual to send me to another world?"

Hermione momentarily looked sad, but then nodded briskly. "Of course I would, Harry. What would you do without me?"

He drew a complete blank. What would he do without Hermione? Well, if things worked out, he'd have to learn. Harry ignored that little voice inside of himself that said he didn't want to. That he'd been glad when she'd broken up with his best mate.

Later, more bad news had arrived for his best friend, in the form of owl-delivered letters. He sat there watching as Hermione opened the latest of more than a dozen. After a moment, he asked, "Any luck?"

Hermione frowned and shook her head. "No. This one says that he has no openings at this time. Of course, according to Minister Shacklebolt, he had two just a week ago and no prospects to fill them."

Harry encouraged her. "You'll find something, Hermione. I know it."

Hermione shook her head. "Maybe if I want to wait tables or work as a clerk. I knew about the glass ceiling in the Wizarding world, I just never realized how embedded it was. It's everywhere, Harry, not just in England."

Harry wanted to yell at the morons who didn't realize how amazing Hermione was and what they would get by accepting her. "I wish you would let me set you up in your own research facility. I can afford one better than almost anything out there."

Hermione looked pensive. "I don't think it will work, Harry. I can do the research, though it would take me longer since I'll need to catch up to the current knowledge levels without a teacher. But there are plenty of books on the subject, so I can make up the difference."

Harry was confused. "Then what's the problem?"

She looked sad. "I am. I don't want to do research that will help wizards live better lives. I know I'm being selfish, but I can't help feeling bitter about how things turned out. You and I sacrificed everything, only to find out after beating Voldemort that nothing's changed. I think you have the right idea."

Harry stared at her. It was so unlike Hermione to be this fatalistic. Where was the girl who can pulled a Don Quixote and charged the windmill of House Elf care? "Hermione, I'm worried about you. I-"

Suddenly, Hermione sat up straight as resolve seemed to fill her. She turned a bright smile his way as she interrupted him, "No need to worry, Harry. I've made up my mind. I'm going with you. You'd be too lonely all by yourself. Plus, without me to pull you out of it, you'd brood. You need me, after all. When you think about it, it's actually quite brilliant."

Harry helplessly smiled back. There was that Don Quixote. He couldn't really say he was happy about her choice, but at the same time, something powerful within him strained at its bonds as long suppressed feelings rose. After a moment's thought, Harry reconsidered. Maybe he was happy.

Hermione was his best friend and the person whom he loved most in the world. Or so he believed, although he wasn't entirely sure what love was. He thought that he would have been lonely by himself, no matter how much he'd have gotten used to it. He did need her after all, and now he wouldn't have to get used to living without her. So her coming with him was brilliant, just as she was.

As the time grew closer, Harry felt his feelings for his best friend grow, although he was helpless to do anything about it. Like today in the library.

Hermione looked lovely. When she turned and sent a smile his way, it sent a jolt right through him. Then she called him over, "Harry, come look at this."

Harry leaned down to read over Hermione's shoulder. It was a written list, but of what, he couldn't say, distracted by the smell of Hermione's hair. It was apples and ink, books and sunshine, and he couldn't think as it filled his thoughts completely. It was also how Harry thought a love potion would smell to him now. Lost in his thoughts, he didn't notice as Hermione's voice trailed off.

She turned to look at him, their faces only inches apart. Harry could not control his lean as he crossed the short distance to her lips, It was as if they summoned his. Kissing Hermione was warm and tender, filled with an indescribable sweetness and yearning, even as little fireworks exploded in his brain. Pop. Pop. Pop. Their lips touched and caressed, slowly deepening, until finally he broke it, breathing deeply.

Hermione's face was flushed and her lips swollen as she stared back at him. "Harry, what-"

Harry interrupted her, his own voice breathless, "I think I love you, Hermione Granger. I think I love you more that I can bear. I'm not really sure I know what love is, but this has to be it. It feels better than flying."

Hermione's face blossomed like a flower as her smile grew brilliant. "You love me? Truly? Well, I love you too, Harry Potter."

Harry smiled so widely that later his face hurt. "You do? Since when?"

Hermione thoughtfully chewed her lower lip, and act that he'd always found both endearing and distracting. "I think since an incredibly brave boy saved me from a troll. But I never thought you'd feel the same way. I never thought you'd see me as a girl instead of a friend."

Harry's voice was full of irony as he said, "Hermione, I've known you were a girl ever since we rode that hypogryff together. You were pressed so tightly against me that I would have had to be completely oblivious not to figure that out. It was both embarrassing and arousing. I walked funny for hours after."

Hermione's face was slowly turning red. "Oh. I thought maybe you'd finally noticed during the Yule Ball because you stared at me for the longest time."

Harry brushed back her hair from her face, then cupped her cheek in his palm. Meeting her uncertain gaze, he said, "No, the hypogryff ride was when I saw you as a girl. I just didn't know what to do about it. I never thought someone as brilliant as you would like someone like me. However, the Yule Ball did open my eyes in a way. It was the first time that I noticed that you were beautiful and it broke my heart that you weren't going with me."

"Oh Harry!"

A week later, there'd been poignancy in running into Ron while converting most of the Potter fortune to simple gold bullion at Gringotts. Under the watchful eyes of the Goblins, who still hadn't forgiven their actions during the war, despite vast reparations made, they'd taken the gold bars and put them into bags that Hermione had spelled.

On the way out, they run into Ron coming in.

Harry hadn't known what to say. The redhead stopped as well, that same look of angry bafflement upon his face. Finally, he'd lowered his head and muttered, "Heya, Harry. Hermione." He made to walk past.

Forced to act, Harry said, "Ron."

"What?"

Staring at the mulish face, which was slowly growing angrier under the confusion of his feelings, Harry merely said, "Just wanted to say goodbye. I'm leaving England with Hermione. We probably won't see you again."

On Ron's face, anger and sadness fought for dominance as he stared at their joined hands. Finally, he just nodded. "Bye then." Then with a startling suddenness, he murmured, "Take care of her, Harry."

"I will."

One final nod of shared understanding between them and they parted.

Harry and Hermione headed back to Grimauld Place to begin their final preparations for their trip. One which included tidying up loose ends.

Like Rimer and Posey, a mated pair of Potter elves that had finally tracked Harry down shortly after the Battle of Hogwarts to bond with him. They were the last of the Potter elves, being only children when Harry's parents had died, and badly in need of the bond. Harry had bonded them both back then without telling Hermione as he saw no reason to upset her. After retreating to Grimauld Place, he had eventually called them to him. The two elves had been taking care of the two of them for the past two months they'd been there.

"Rimer. Posey. Come here please," Harry called.

With a pop, the two elves arrived. "Master Harry needs something?" Rimer inquired.

"Please, Rimer. Can you and Posey take over the care of the house, getting us meals and such, and taking care of laundry until such time as Hermione and I leave?"

Rimer eyed him closely. He was a far different elf than the excitable Dobby, though no less loyal. He also seemed to have a far deeper understanding of things. "Of course, Master. When will we be leaving?"

Harry frowned. "Hermione and I will be leaving in a few weeks. You'll need to stay here with the house."

Rimer nodded. "Master wishes us to slowly starve to death. We understand." Beside him, Posey sadly nodded as well.

Harry was shocked. "No! There'll be no starving. I'll find you another family. You'll be fine."

Both elves shook their heads. Rimer replied. "We are Potter Elves. The last of our kind. We will not accept another's bond. Do not worry, Master, we accept our fate." They bowed with dignity, their tiny shoulders slumped.

Harry stared at the two elves. With growing suspicion, he said, "I see that you have left me with no choice. You can both come along along. Well-played."

It was Posey who replied. "It was needed, Master Harry. We can't stop you from taking terrible risks, fighting Dark Lords and such, but now that we've finally found you, we will stay at your side."

Harry nodded. "Fine. Let's not tell Hermione just yet. Okay?"

He received a chorus of "Yes, Master Harry."

Great, thought Harry, dreading Hermione finding out about the two House Elves.

Next had been to finalize the packing of all their remaining worldly goods into apartment trunks to be shrunk and placed on Harry's belt. If he'd sneaked in a few things (and a couple of elves) that Hermione would not have approved of, it couldn't be helped. She could give him the benefit of the doubt since he had not only packed up the Potter and Black libraries for her, but had spent an absurd amount of galleons purchasing a copy of every book on magic he could track down.

Over the last couple of months, Hermione had agonized over the runic arrays, laid out in a great spiral in the grand ballroom. The array had been more than one hundred feet across and had consisted of a staggering number of runes laid out in various complicated patterns. Looking it over, Harry had comprehended about five percent of the total, the rest well beyond his self study. However, he had complete confidence in Hermione. Which clearly was the right decision as they were here, even if they'd missed their target.

Sometime during Harry's internal soliloquy, Hermione had fallen asleep. Harry lightly stroked her hair back from her face. Hair that had grown decreasingly less bushy as Hermione used his Christmas gift to brush her hair every night.

It was odd to think that after all of these years of trying so many different things, Hermione's hair had been tamed by an enchanted object. One that had cost substantially more than even a Firebolt, something that still stunned Harry when he thought about it. He could only speculate that it contained roughly the same amount of rune work and spells on a vastly smaller chassis, smaller typically meaning more expensive.

But she was worth it. Harry had decided that come Heaven or Hell, being with Hermione was worth any any risk, any sacrifice. She was the light at the end. She was his home. With that thought warming his heart, Harry found himself drifting off to sleep.

~~~Travelers~~~