Chapter 22 - In which another artifact surfaces
"This got to be the strangest scene I have ever witnessed," said a voice in Harry's ear.
Harry blinked in confusion and looked up from the letter he was writing.
"What?" he looked around and spotted Howard, floating a few feet away from him, eyes fixed on where Tony sat legs crossed on the carpeted floor. Dummy, now wearing a new shirt and socks, was sitting in front of him, unconsciously mirroring Tony's position. They weren't moving at all, opting to stare at each other in fascination.
"Is he going to be OK?" Harry asked. He didn't know how Stark dealt with children, especially ones he had helped create himself.
"He's a little freaked," Howard explained, "But that's normal. Tony had never been particularly good with children. I have to admit that as parenting models went, I was a pretty bad one. It's only after I died that I got time to think over my actions. I whish I could go back and change things, but that's not possible."
"He's his own person Howard," Harry said softly, "He'll be fine. He has a lot of support anyways."
"Hmm," Howard floated a little closer to his son, but not close enough for him to feel the chill that always came from being too close to a ghostly entity. "By the way, where did that magic user go? Loki?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted. In the midst of all the excitement, he had lost track of the other man. Probably a good thing too; he hadn't exactly enjoyed the way he was looking at him the last time he was here. It made Harry feel like a piece of meat on display. "He's probably back home."
Before anything else could be said, Dummy made a giggling sound, breaking off the staring contest he had going on with Tony, prompting Tony to make an alarmed noise.
Harry sighed, getting up from his chair and walking over.
"How's everything going?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," Tony admitted, eyes glued on Dummy. The toddler had given up trying to communicate and was now attempting to stand on his own feet…with mixed success. Harry debated on whether to help him but finally decided Dummy can make his own experiments without people interfering. Besides, it's not as if he could hurt himself.
The rest of the day passed quickly. Harry spent it writing letters and making phone calls to his contacts all over the world. Despite no longer actively working as an Auror, Harry had maintained the relationships he had created with other members of law enforcement, wizarding and muggle alike. It was extremely useful when he needed information and didn't have time to go through the proper channels. For instance, in this case, he wanted to know if other artifacts had surfaced in other parts of the world. It is of primordial importance that as much information is gathered on these mystical items before any definite plan of action is formed.
His first few calls gave him nothing, but a call to an Auror currently working in Paris actually yielded some results.
"Quelque chose de bizarre?" asked his French counterpart, sounding pensive.
"Oui, c'est difficile à expliquer," said Harry, struggling to find the right words to explain the situation. He couldn't even do it properly in English let alone in French. "Par exemple, est-ce que vous avez rencontré une situation où une personne a touché un object et par conséquent, a commencé à agir différement?"
*It's very difficult to explain. For example, did you encounter any situation where a person touched an object and started acting weird afterwards?
"Maintenant que tu l'as mentionné," said the other man, "J'ai entendu parlé de quelque choses de semblable. Un de mes collègues a une amie qui travaille pour le Département de Mystère. Apparement, elle a trouvé a livre lors d'une de ses expéditions en Egypte et elle a dit que ce livre l'a envoyé dans un univers parallèle au nôtre."
*Now that you mention it. I heard something similar. One of colleagues has a friend who works for the Department of Mysteries. She found a Book in one of her excavations in Egypt and she said this book sent her to a parallel universe."
"Est-ce qu'elle possède toujours l'objet en question?" Harry asked urgently, quickly noting down this new piece of information.
*Does she still have the object in question?
"Je ne sais pas," he admitted, "Mais je peux te donner son adresse. Elle habite à Paris."
*I don't know. But I can give you her address. She lives in Paris.
"Merci Gérôme," said Harry, "Ça sera très utile."
*Thank you Gerome. That will be very useful.
Harry made plans to go to Paris soon afterwards and was of course asked by Tony if he could tag along.
"Don't you want to bond with Dummy?" Harry asked, pointing to where the boy was playing. Next to him, Captain America sat, looking over the kid and making sure he doesn't accidentally hurt himself.
"Nah," Tony shrugged, "Steve can take care of him."
"And you sure you're strong enough to travel," Harry asked.
"Of course I am," Tony insisted, "A book that can be used as a link between dimensions? I've got to see this."
"If you're sure," Harry said. Truthfully, he really didn't mind the company. It would beat having to travel alone. "We're leaving in 2 hours. I'm not sure how long we'll stay but it won't be more than 2 days. I still have to be back before Monday."
"Got it," Tony said and rushed off to pack.
Harry's own packing was done rather quickly and mainly consisted of him throwing things in to his bottomless bag. That was done in 30 minutes and once he and Tony were both done, Harry produced a Portkey.
"We're not going by plane?"
"No," Harry showed him the boot, "This will bring us there instantaneously. Although I have to warn you, it won't be comfortable."
"Fascinating," Tony said, following Harry's lead and putting his hand on the boot. After the password was spoken, they were gone.
Agent Marissa Hawoll, the friend Gerome had mentioned, greeted them at the door of her Parisian apartment with a big smile.
"You must be Mister Potter," she said, her English almost without an accent. She was probably raised somewhere else than Paris. "I'm Marissa as I'm sure you know. Gerome told me you were coming today. Please do come in."
"Thanks Marissa," Harry stepped forward, "This is Tony by the way. He offered to keep me company."
"That's very nice of him," she said, no sign of recognition at Tony's appearance. Not many witches and wizards knew about the going ons in the muggle world, even when it's things like a whole city being attacked by aliens. "Let's go in to the living room. Do you want some tea?"
"That would be lovely," Harry said, "Can we help?"
"No, no," she assured them, "Go sit on the sofas. I'll be with you in just a moment."
"So," said Tony, once they were out of earshot, "Do you really believe her story?'
"This is the first time I've heard about an artifact with this kind of power," Harry admitted, "But anything's possible."
Tony looked unconvinced but Harry couldn't really blame him. Aliens - like the ones who had attacked New York - was one thing, but the concept of the Multiverse is still pretty difficult to grasp by most. For a moment, Harry wondered why Tony had offered to come along if didn't even believe Marissa's story was true? Had he really offered just for Harry's sake?
Before he could ponder more about it, Marissa came back with a tea set and some biscuits. She set it on the coffee table before sitting down herself.
"So, what is this about?"
"Your discovery in Egypt," Harry said, "The book."
"Oh yes," Marissa got up from her seat once again and went to retrieve a box from her bookshelf. She brought it back and put it next to the tea cups. "This is what I found."
"The ministry is letting you keep it?" Harry asked in surprise.
"I'm the most senior member on that expedition team," Marissa explained, "They didn't make too much noise when I said I wanted to keep it for further observation."
"Have you found anything?"
"I have nothing concrete," she admitted, "But there's something I did learn. This book can not only transport people to other universes but bring people from other universes here."
"Is it permanent?"
"No," Marissa shook her head, "They usually stay for about 10 minutes before disappearing. I can show you if you want?"
Harry turned to Tony, who gave him an enthusiastic nod.
"Alright," Harry said, "If you don't mind."
It was probably not a good idea to play around with an object whose powers he didn't understand but Harry knew he had to see it with his own eyes.
Marissa carefully opened the box and extracted the object within. She set it on the table and gestured for Harry and Tony to step back. The book from where Harry stood didn't look anything special. If he had found it on the street, he wouldn't even have given it a second glance.
Marissa closed her eyes and muttered a few words, making the book glow for a few seconds before all movements subsided.
"Here they come," she said and like in the movies, a portal opened and spit out a human figure. Everything happened in the blink of an eye.
A woman, Harry realized. She stumbled a little, catching the edge of the sofa to steady herself before looking around her in alarm.
"Where am I?" she asked, her voice strangely familiar.
Tony made a strangled noise behind them.
"That's the arc reactor," he said, pointing to the woman's chest.
"Of course it is," the woman said, arms crossed defensively. "I invented it. The name's Natasha's Stark. Who are you?"
"According to the information here," Marissa offered helpfully, "She's a version of Tony Stark from universe Earth-3490."
Harry's eyes widened.
Well, isn't this interesting…
A/N: The first artifact was the necklace that can grant people's wishes.
The second artifact is the book that can open doors in the Multiverse.
Stay tune to see what the others ones will be.