When Hariel Lillian 'Harry' Potter woke up, she found herself in a cold, dark room made of some metal she'd not cared to learn the name of before that day.
Considering that yesterday, she'd been preparing to have another crack at that whole 'baking' thing, purposefully ignoring a pleading Kingsley trying to get her to join the Auror force, it was a significant change. Especially since she remembered going to sleep in her own bed last night.
With narrowed eyes, Harry twisted her head to a side, seemingly the only part of her body that she could -that she was allowed to- move. Her hands seemed to be held by her sides, the sharp sting of heavy metal coiling around her wrists and locking them in place.
It appeared to be the same situation with her legs, though they'd seemingly been kind enough to leave her in the pyjamas she'd gone to bed in. The soft cotton, which had been comfortably thin beneath her thick duvet the previous night, was now pitifully slight, offering little to no defence against the chill of the metal she rested upon.
Frowning, the redhead turned her gaze to the corners of the room, taking in the four cameras that hung neatly from the ceiling. Each one had a blinking red light upon its surface, and though it'd been a while since she'd last ventured into the muggle world, she had enough common sense to realize that yes, the light indicated they were indeed recording.
Had the muggles finally lost it and declared war upon wizarding kind? It certainly didn't explain why she was here of all places, considering the fact she'd been safely shrouded behind the impressive wards of Grimmauld Place for several days now. No muggle would have been able to even see the house, never mind slip inside to kidnap her. So what was going on here?
Shuffling about ever so slightly, Harry felt the comforting weight of her shrunken trunk necklace resting between her breasts, her wand still nestled within the holster upon her wrist. She never, never went to sleep without it. Never took it off, not even for showers. Not since the disaster of the Seventh Year that wasn't.
Call it paranoia or any other label, but Harry would never take it off unless she was using it. Which, as was always the case whenever she was listening to her stomach, had turned out to be a good decision.
Flexing her toes, Harry slowly moved up her body parts, checking each and every one of them was working.
The long sleeves of her top had been rolled up on one side, exposing a small pinprick in the curve of her inner elbow; she'd been drugged the muggle way. She could still remember Petunia dragging both herself and Dudley to the doctor to get their vaccinations when they were young, could remember the feel of the needle breaking skin, a sharp, stinging prick that would have jolted her arm had the doctor not been holding it in place at the time. She was however, aware that injections could come in more forms than a dead strain of virus.
Drugged, they'd drugged her but not taken into account her magic, her magic that'd wipe it quicker from her system in comparison to that of a muggles.
Grimacing, Harry gave another flex of her fingers, rotating her wrists slowly before closing her eyes. She needed to focus. She needed to find out who these people were and why they'd kidnapped her.
What did they want? Why her? Had they taken more wizards and witches? All Harry knew was that she wasn't going to get answers strapped to an examination table as she was.
With a quick snap of her wrist, her most trusted Holly wand shot out of its holster and into her hand, thrumming in pleasure at the movement. Her magic agreed, she needed out of here.
Turning her gaze back to the cameras for just a second, Harry distractedly pondered if this was a live feed, if they were watching her right now. They couldn't be, because otherwise they'd have come in right away, come racing in to steal her wand now that it was in sight, no longer stashed within the holster that hid it from sight. Both her holster and shrunken trunk necklace were charmed with notice-me-not's, it wasn't a surprise that the muggles hadn't found them. Clearly they had no idea what they were dealing with here.
There was a low click, a whirl of gears as the chunky plates of metal restricting her limbs were released, allowing Harry to sit up. Even with the adjustment to her position, the metal table was nowhere near comfortable, the redhead slowly sliding off it's cold surface and eyeing the four cameras within the room. They were quickly taken out with small, controlled, blasting hexes, their remains dropping to the floor with a bell like ring of metal rain.
Rubbing at the tender skin of her wrists that the metal restraints had pinched, Harry turned her attention to the door, wand in hand and proceeded to flash through a series of locking charms and wards. No one would be getting into this room unless she allowed it.
Pausing, she turned her gaze to the curious grates on either side of the room. It was a long shot, but the Lady of the House of Potter was pretty sure she remembered some spy or another from Dudley's movies being able to gas his enemies, knocking them unconscious. Still, it was better to be safe than sorry, so Harry summoned up a bubble-head charm as well. Just as a precaution.
Hermione would be so proud.
Worrying her bottom lip between her teeth, Harry slowly sat herself down on the floor, wand held loosely between her fingertips and knees pulled up to her chest.
Okay, so she was here in what appeared to be a muggle holding facility. She had no idea how she'd been brought here, no idea what they wanted with her or what their motives were. But she would find out. She needed that information, and once she had that, then, and only then, would she decided what she was going to do with it.
If that was to run or blow this place sky high, she wasn't sure yet. Only that she wouldn't be making the same mistakes here that she made with the Death Eaters at the battle of Hogwarts. Watching them flee, only for the result to be several months of guerrilla warfare tactics; she wasn't going to allow another incident like that to happen once again.
Stretching out her arms, Harry let her gaze flicker to the door as two quick bangs echoed from its indestructible surface, followed by another quick successions of hard knocks. It would be best to find out what they wanted, but she would be meeting them on her own terms.
Pulling the trunk from its snap-on chain, Harry unshrunk her luggage, fearlessly stripping herself of the pyjamas that covered her form. She even took the time to neatly fold them up, depositing them into the trunk's unfathomable depth, before summoning up the Basilisk skin armour that she'd had commissioned after the war.
Seeing as she'd retained her abilities to speak Parseltongue, Harry had felt there was nothing stopping her from going down into the Chamber of Secrets and surfacing with the shed skin of the Basilisk. She'd had armour made for herself, and Hermione and Ron, seeing as the both of them had ended up high profile targets due to their association with her. Anyone who still supported the late Dark Lord's ideals was going to go after them first.
And Harry would give her friends any advantage she could. So if that meant near skin tight Basilisk armour, then skin tight Basilisk armour they would wear. They'd promised her that they'd do so, as long as Harry herself always put her own on before going out to face a known threat.
And while the threat wasn't really known here, Basilisk skin was as close to bulletproof as you'd get in the wizarding world without any spells and enchantments. And oh, had Harry seen to it that their outfits were enchanted to the high heavens. One of her better decisions, it'd turned out.
Grinning to herself, Harry threw on the long sleeve jacket over the black tank top, followed by the tight snake skin jeans. Oh sure they looked great, but it'd taken her three wears to realize that damn, they were most certainly not breathable material at all. Something she still needed to figure out actually.
Lacing up a pair of dragon hide boots, Harry stood up, flexing her fingers before deciding to forgo the gloves. They always made it more difficult to keep a secure grip on her wand, and it seemed highly doubtful she'd be climbing any rocky surfaces today. If this room was any indication, this entire place was made of surgically clean tiles; tiles on the walls, tiles on the floors, tiles on the ceiling. Just lots and lots of tiles. It reminded her painfully of Petunia and Vernon.
And while she may have made her peace with Dudley, may have even been on Christmas card terms with him, she would never forgive Vernon and Petunia for ruining her childhood. Especially when she'd not had time to ever get it back at Hogwarts.
She would carry that grudge forever.
Gritting her teeth at the reminder, Harry once again shrunk her trunk, slotting it back onto her necklace and quickly went about tying her long, dark red hair back in a ponytail. It would only get in the way if she was going to end up moving at high speeds now.
Giving her limbs a quick shake, the Girl-Who-Lived, Woman-Who-Conquered, faced the door and blasted it right off of its hinges. Chemically altered air -she had been right to throw up a bubble-head charm, clearly- rushed out of the door. She'd not even noticed the air slowly altering.
Striding forwards, Harry was swift to shoot three stunners off in quick succession, taking down the trio of soldiers that hadn't already fallen to their own sleeping gas. At least, she hoped it was sleeping gas.
Squatting down by the nearest one, Harry watched his eyes -dark blue, pupils dilated in panic- shoot around, the only part of him able to move under her spell.
"I think you're gonna answer my questions, now stay still, I'm not too hot with Legilimency." Oh, she'd learnt enough to get by, to be able to look her dates in the eye and find out if they were there for the money or the fame. It was always one or the other. And Hermione could never understand just why she was so quick to drop some of the boy's she offered up.
Snorting under her breath, Harry made careful eye contact, diving deep into the man's mind. His name was Ian Wingate, and he was a lowly grunt at this HYDRA base in Texas. The sudden influx of information left Harry somewhat spellbound.
She'd never heard of HYDRA before, never heard of Captain America or Iron Man or alien invading in New York. But Wingate seemed pretty certain the current year was 2013, not 2003 that Harry had been certain she'd gone to bed in the previous option.
So, a new dimension huh?
Digging a bit deeper, Harry was quick to withdraw when she figured out just what HYDRA was. A Nazi division, secreted away within the bowels of the American secret service. Or at least, one of them. It was the Death Eaters all over again.
Sneering in disgust, Harry stood up, wiping her hands on the seat of her pants as if she'd be able to pretend she'd not touched such a disgusting creature. Nazis. As if the Death Eaters weren't bad enough.
Still, though, this HYRDA and its unknowing host SHIELD, seemed to know everything. And they didn't have a clue about the wizarding world. Which meant one of two things; the wizards here hid a lot better than she'd thought them capable of, or they didn't exist here. One of two possible outcomes, and judging by the fact that SHIELD had a god on pay roll, so to speak, then Harry was more inclined to go with the second one.
Head shaking at the very idea of Thor, the God of Thunder, Harry turned her attention back to the miserable excuse for men on the floor. The stunner spell would wear off on its own after twelve hours. But, but she was not about to let them go with just that. She'd gotten enough on HYDRA's goals from these grunts to have a rough idea; to clean the world of people who didn't fit their easily controlled mould.
Harry Potter was not a dark witch, she was no Bellatrix Lestrange. If she just so happen to look to Lockhart for some ideas, well, the men that sudden had no bones in their arms probably didn't appreciate the sentiment. Absentmindedly, Harry wondering if they had such a thing as Skele-Gro here, or something resembling it in the very least. Maybe, maybe not.
Shrugging her shoulders, the Girl-Who-Lived continued onwards, blowing up ever camera that caught her attention as she went.
She was in Texas, Texas of all places.
She'd only ever left her homeland to visit Viktor in Bulgaria on her twenty first birthday and travel around Europe. If they'd hooked up for a few days, so what? They were both young, both entitled to have a bit of fun while they could. Both of them had known and accepted it'd never last, not in the long run, but Harry had been happy enough with the short, sweet summer she'd gotten. What mattered though, was that she'd never visited America before.
Rolling her eyes skywards, Harry let another camera explode in a shatter of sparks and pieces of metal, the glass of the lens hitting the floor and breaking with a sharp crack.
So far, three teams of grunts had tried to stop her march to freedom, and each one had been met with a stunner to the face, followed by the Lockhart treatment. Harry felt no sympathy for them; these were the kinds of people that would have fallen in with Voldemort, those who thought themselves superior and oh so clever because they'd snuck under the nose of authority. They were quite content to kill people who didn't fit their narrow minded vision of the world. Most of those people were doing the world some good, changing thing for the better.
Harry was not about to allow such a travesty to continue. Not if there was something she could do about it. Who knew what other people HYDRA had hurt on their path to their 'perfect world'? Merlin, it was a corrosive mixture of Grindelwald and Riddle's ideals, only with muggles. Muggles.
Frowning a bit deeper, Harry stopped before the massive steel door that was now blocking their path. Apparently they were in lock down right now, judging by the lack of light and the fact every door she'd come across so far had been locked. But this massive work of metal was the first of its kind she'd encountered as of yet.
Harry would freely admit to the fact she was quite smug when she simply vanished the metal as if it'd never been there. There was a camera on the other side, and she fervently hoped they were scared now.
How they'd got her here, Harry didn't know. But heavens above if they weren't regretting it already.
Teeth grinding, Harry looked between the two corridors, attempting to decide which way she should be going now, before the sound of a male, muffle scream echoed down the walls.
Well, that was a decision made.
Fingers clenching tightly around her wand, Harry took off down the corridor, thick soled boots tapping out every step she took.
It wasn't long before Harry was skidding to a halt, blasting open a door to the source of the scream. Her stomach curled slightly when she saw what was inside. Three scientist stared back at her with blank eyes; the eyes of prey caught within a predators gaze.
Harry let her eyes trail over all their guilty, guilty faces before she turned to look at the source of the pained noise, wand already levelled at the closest attendant.
"Turn it off." Her voice was flat and cold because this was torture. She knew torture, had felt her nerves light on fire under Riddle's wand, felt the pain race through every fibre of her being and send her muscles into shuddering contractions that the human body was not suppose to experience.
This man was tied down; his hair long and scraggly and she wasn't even going to start on the scary looking metal arm and the scar tissue around it.
"I-I can't, I-"
Harry didn't give the man a chance to finish, transfiguring him into a toad and then levelling at the next man.
"If we stop it, he'll be unstable, he'll-"
This one got turned into a bluetit, dropping onto the table he'd been working by with a squawk of surprise, wings flapping about uselessly.
Wand now aimed at the final man, Harry just raised an eyebrow, not willing to approach the torture machine on her own. It was obviously running on some form of electricity, and god knows how her magic would react to that. She might end up doing more harm than good.
"I'm doing it, I'm doing it!" Buttons were pressed, switches were flicked, and as usual, the threat of the unknown got those focused on self preservation moving a lot quicker than it'd have happened otherwise.
The electricity cut off, as did the man with the metal arm's screams. He was wearing a mouth guard. A mouth guard and cuffs on his arms, strapping him to the seat in the same way she'd been strapped to the table.
Snarling under her breath, Harry gave a flick of her wand and the restraints were instantly gone, the lone scientist instantly back pedalling away from the man he'd been torturing. Not that he'd get out of the room, Harry had already warded the entrance way. No one was passing through without her permission.
The man had removed his mouth guard now, though he otherwise hadn't moved, staring forwards with the blankest look on his face. Harry hadn't seen looks so blank since she'd helped rescue a set of muggles torture victims from Avery Manor.
Approaching the man slowly, Harry caught and held his gaze when eyes shockingly blue turned on her. Intense, but so empty. His mind was the same too. There was all sorts of information stored up there, about guns, about knives and about hand to hand combat. Assassination techniques and how best to go about not being seen.
But there was no name, no birthday and no kind of personal information at all. He was just the Winter Soldier, the Asset. It was all they'd ever called him. And even then his memories of them, of HYDRA, were foggy, clouded over and as solid as smoke.
Fury boiling in her stomach, Harry forcefully pushed it down, focusing on the information that'd be most helpful right now. There was no way she'd be able to correct the damage done to this guy right now, they needed to get out of here first of all, to get somewhere safe.
Then, and only then, could she start helping out her fellow captive. Thank Merlin she hadn't been here as long as he had. No doubt they'd have started to wipe her memory -because god, that's what that machine had been doing- had they been given the chance. And that was unacceptable.
"Hey there soldier," Harry began, slowly drawing more of the man's -the Winter Soldier's- attention onto her with her soft tone. "My name's Harry and I'm going to take over as your handler for a while, okay?"
It was heart breaking how instantly the man closed off, dead blue eyes staring back out at her from an emotionless face.
"Autumn's over, Winter's here." How dreadfully dull, codewords. But if what she'd read from his painfully sparse mind was true, then he'd trust her now, would listen to her only. She'd worry about breaking that conditioning later one, because right now, in this building, she was probably the only one who'd look out for his wellbeing out of all the people in this building. Straightening up, Harry held out a hand to the soldier, watching as he just stared blankly at it, uncomprehendingly.
"W-What are you doing?!"
Spinning around to look at the scientist, who'd gathered up the toad and bluetit that were his former colleagues, Harry found the righteous rage that'd been threatening to bubble over in her stomach erupting outwards.
"I don't know what the hell gave you the impression that this was oaky, but this was torture! You had no chance of me ignoring that! Now where the hell is his stuff?!"
"Y-You c-cant! He-He's the Wi-Wint-"
"I don't care!" Waving her wand, the scientist went flying back, hitting the wall with a dull thud and he didn't get back up. Harry found she quite honestly didn't care if he did or not. Gritting her teeth, she turned on her heels, holding her wand out and giving it a wave.
"Accio Winter Soldier's possessions."
Instantly several things came flying her way, a multitude of weapons, ranging from guns to -thankfully sheathed- knives, and a leather looking outfit with only one arm. Of course, the metal would be best served without a covering, these HYDRA goons were disgustingly proud of their work here.
Snarling silently to herself and not quite able to contain the crazed storm of anger now rolling about in her chest, Harry offered the equipment up to the Soldier, who was staring at it with only the slightest hints of confusion on his face. No doubt wondering how she'd been able to do what she'd done to the scientists, how she'd summoned his stuff with such practiced ease.
"Get ready, we're leaving soon. Unless I ever tell you the words 'Aresto Momentum', don't stop trying to escape this place with me. Hell, don't stop even if I get left behind."
Because this guy seemed capable enough, they had trained him that way.
The Soldier was reaching for the muzzle like mask that'd come with his jacket, but Harry threw that aside in disgust.
"Your stand down code?" He questioned dully. In fact, it didn't sound much like a question, more of a confirmation.
Guilt swirled about in her ribcage, because she was taken blatant advantage of this poor guy, but it was the only way to get him out of this awful place without him kicking up a fuss. She'd make it right later, she'd help him figure out who he'd been. She would make it right because clearly these HYDRA swines weren't going to be the ones to do so.
"Yes, my stand down code. Ready?"
In response, the Soldier just pulled down the goggles that'd been resting upon his forehead, covering his eyes with bug like black glass. No, not glass, plastic perhaps? It'd certainly help against any kind of pepper sprays or other such harmful smoke.
She still cast a bubble-head charm on his anyway, having not got rid of her own yet.
Turning on heel, Harry collapsed the wards on the doorway with a practiced ease. After the Seventh Year that wasn't, the year where Hermione was the one making the wards, making sure they were always protected, Harry had sworn she'd never be so useless.
So maybe she'd spent the five and a bit years since the end of the war looking up all sorts of wards, all sorts of spells. She'd learnt how to cook better too, learnt the magical ways in the kitchen even if her baking skills were none existent at the moment. And she'd spent her time apperating until she could do it half asleep, blindfolded and with her arms tied behind her back. Because after watching the results of Ron getting splinched; well, she never wanted to be in that situation ever again.
Swallowing down against the bile that threatened to rise up in her stomach at the memory, Harry suddenly paused in her steps, the Soldier smoothly halting beside her without so much as twitching his head to look at her.
"Of course, apperating. I just assumed there'd be wards up to stop it, but muggles.."
Trailing off, Harry could have cursed herself. So used to not being able to apperate, so used to expecting a kidnapping from wizards she'd completely forgotten that these were muggles and they would most certainly not be able to put up any kinds of anti-apperation wards against her now.
"Come here, I'm going to teleport us out of here, but it's a bit of a rough ride. I need your arm."
The Soldier's lips were pressed in a thin, hard line, but Harry ignored it, instead focusing on London, muggle London, trying to remember every detail she could. She didn't dare try apperating to Wizarding London, because on the off chance it didn't exist, she'd be bounced back to who knows where. And no doubt both she and her companion would end up splinched.
Taking a gentle hold of the metal arm that the Soldier had offered her, Harry tried not to focus on the cool metal plating that rested beneath her fingertips, cool and smooth to the touch.
"Right, here we go."
And then she apperated.
"Is this suppose to be a joke." It wasn't a question.
Hidden away in Washington, within the large, grand building that housed SHIELD HQ, Nicholas Fury stared straight at his computer screen. Or rather, the image upon it that he'd been presented with.
It had been taken in London, an hour or so ago, portraying the expanse of space that rested just before the London Eye. There was a neat, empty patch of pavement that didn't have any person occupying it.
And then, when he clicked play on the video, two something's popped up out of damn thin air to fill that space. There was no burned runes on the ground to indicate an Asgardian visit, which meant this was an unknown. And Fury was really starting to hate unknowns.
Gritting his teeth, the man narrowed his one good eye, pulling up all the visuals they had upon the two unknowns, scowling deeper when the female seemed to know exactly where it was she was going. That wasn't what scared him though.
The female moved with a soft grace, the kind that civilian dancers had trained into them, regardless of the fact her eyes were darting all around her. Some form of paranoia perhaps?
No, it was the male that had him worried. He moved with slow, calculated steps, never leaving the girl's side regardless of how much quicker she appeared to be moving. He filtered through the crowds with a calculated ease, and he spent much less time on the camera than the female. Much less time than any other in the crowd. He was trained, a professional.
Fury would bet a Helicarrier that it was only because of his need to remain close to the girl that they'd caught him on camera at all. Whoever he was, that man was the greatest threat.
Which implied the reason he was with the female was because she was the one that could teleport; otherwise he'd have no need for her.
But what the hell were they doing in London, and why had it taken so long for this footage to reach him damn it!
"Hill! Get me Natasha up here!"
The redhead was in the building, thankfully, running a training scenario. She would be his best bet at identifying the two of them, even though several people were already running facial recognition on the duo. The girl would be easy, what with the amount of time she spent both on camera and looking in each and every direction possible.
But the male! The male with his tendency to seemingly flicker in and out of existence on the screens, wearing those huge black goggles that gave no clue to this identity at all. It'd be damn difficult to get a match on file as a result, and
Fury found himself snarling slightly under his breath in annoyance. He did not need to deal with this right now.
The cool, collective tone of Natasha Romanoff reached his ears and Fury let out a long breath, pulling up the best photos they'd gotten so far of the duo.
One was a side shot of the man, torso level with his head on a profile. The fact that this was the best quality picture they'd been able to get so far proved how effectively the man was dodging the cameras.
The girl on the other hand, had a clean mug shot. Her hair was dark red, darker than Natasha's, and her pretty green eyes unnaturally vibrant. Combined with the lightning bolt scar on her forehead, half hidden beneath a thick fringe, it should have been damn easy to find out who she was.
But nothing was coming up on the scans, nothing at all, discounting a English woman in her fifties with the same eyes, a Lily Potter née Evans. The woman had only had one child, a Harry Potter who was now in his thirties, his eyes matching his mothers. Only, neither's eyes were quite as bright as the unknown female's, and while she was within the right age range to be a member of this English Potter family, Lily Potter's reproductive organs had been damaged beyond repair by the birth of her only son, so the medical file said. It was impossible for them to be related.
Moving on, Fury scowled at the photo of the male who wasn't setting off any of the facial recognition scans, he wasn't matching anything in their database at all.
Thankfully, it appeared their digital database wasn't their only resource.
"The Winter Soldier."
Oh hell no. Unacceptable.
But when he looked at the footage a bit closer, it was possible to see the slight gleam of silver as the English sun bounced off the metal arm. It only happened once, he was clearly an expert at preventing such a thing considering it only occurred on their landing in London, but it was enough.
Swearing violently, Fury spun around to look at his number one spy, watching as Natasha ran a hand across her stomach, no doubt over the bullet wound that rested there.
"You mean to tell me I have the damn Winter Soldier running around civilians in London?! What the hell is he even doing there?! Who the hell is that girl Natasha?!"
The Black Widow frowned, staring intently at the female before she slowly shook her head.
"I don't know. Can't possibly be good if she's in his company though."
"I want you in London. Even if it's just to pick up a trail, find out what's going on."
Her companion didn't take too well to apperating. Still though, he managed to not only remain on his feet, but hold down the urge to upchuck everything that rested within his stomach. Harry was quite impressed, she could distinctly remember apperating Dudley that one time and swearing to never do it again. That had been a day of suffering, certainly.
Scowling to herself, Harry ran a hand through the bangs of her hair that'd fallen free, subtly adjusting the memories of all those that'd seen them land.
With another flick, they were covered from muggle eyes with a notice-me-not charm, allowing the crowd to weave wordlessly between them.
"Right, I need a newspaper, and then we can work out where we'll go from there, okay?"
The Soldier's face was blank of all emotion, and the only reason Harry even knew he was looking at her at all was because she could feel the heavy weight of his stare from behind those nasty black goggles. They looked damn awful.
Grimacing, the witch turned on her heels, making her way into a London that look suspiciously more advanced than what she'd seen previously. Maybe she should check out Grimmauld Place and see if that was here; it'd certainly let her know if the Wizarding World was around or not.
But no, newspaper came first. Not only was it a confirmation of the date, but it'd give her a rough idea of what the world was like right now, the important information.
Praying that her companion would have the common sense to keep up with her, Harry began swiftly walking through the crowds, threading between the masses with the expert ease that came with dodging reporters for a good portion of her life.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught the Soldier fluttering in and out of existence, using the shadows of the buildings, the copious amounts of people, to remain mostly out of sight. She had a pretty good feeling that she was only seeing him because he wanted her to know that he was still there. A constant shadow.
Frowning to herself, Harry let her eyes scan the huge buildings with their large glass windows, the mass advertisement boards and the traffic. There was a lot of traffic, busses passing by constantly along with the iconic black taxi cabs. Thankfully though, the area around the London Eye was a great spot for tourism and as such, there was a multitude of shops nearby.
Selecting her one, Harry quickly summoned up a ten pound note from the pocket of her trousers, which were charmed deeper with Hermione's much beloved undetectable extension charm.
The heavy thud of feet landing behind her had Harry whipping around to face the new threat, only to come face to face with the blank visage of the Soldier. Even through the weakening notice-me-not charms were still working, people were staring to pay attention now, and Harry hastily reapplied them. The fact that the charm was slipping at all on this man implied he wasn't normal, something to look into later on.
"Take the goggles off," Harry whispered, reaching up -this guy was tall, whoever he was, Harry had to stand on her tiptoes to reach the top of his head with her hands- and pulling the goggles up so they held his hair back from his face.
He had a handsome face, nice bright blue eyes, that was for sure. The light dusting of stubble gave him a pleasant edge to his jaw as well; he was indeed quite attractive. People would have noticed if he'd gone missing. So it was either a case of; he'd been gone for quite a while, or there was no one to miss him.
Neither answer really sat right with Harry, and she found herself frowning down at the counter of the newsagents they'd entered.
The Soldier followed after her, eyes scanning the room. No doubt cataloguing the entries, the exits, the defensive points and anything that could be used as a weapon. Her stomach flipped, but Harry pressed on, picking up three different newspapers and dropping them on the counter before the startled middleaged woman.
"Hi, just the newspapers please." When the woman didn't seem to jump right to it, Harry followed her line of sight and found it resting on the Soldier, who was leaning calmly against the wall. Pawing at a knife. If he weren't under the notice-me-not, Harry would bet the woman would have already run away screaming.
Right now though, the woman's brain was registering that there was a threat in the room, but wasn't quite able to pinpoint what about the Soldier was so threatening.
"My husband," Harry threw out, watching as the woman's head snapped around to stare while the Soldier's eyebrows came together in confusion. Finally, some form of emotion.
"He's just came back from his service in the army, a bit traumatized by it to be honest." There was always some war or another going on, right? Some form of conflict or fighting. Even if not, Harry was pretty sure she'd heard about some terrorist thing going on in the muggle world, so surely the army would be doing something about that? Then again, that had been ten years ago according to the date on the newspapers.
Putting on her best pitiful face, Harry stuck out her bottom lip and gestured to the newspapers, which the woman then began to ring up. Her brown eyes, almost hidden beneath a fringe of grey hair, never left the Soldier again through.
"Iraq or Afghanistan?" The woman as quietly and Harry forced herself not the grin. Lie successful.
"Iraq," Harry answered, accepting the papers and tucking them neatly under her arm. She offered the woman a polite goodbye, making her way over to the Soldier who had now pushed up off the wall to stand neatly by the door.
"Come on Regulus, we've got places to be."
Snaking her arm neatly into his, Harry could feel the muscles coiling beneath her fingertips at the unexpected touch, the Soldier turning to look at the contact with obvious puzzlement on his face. This was really unacceptable and dear god was there a lot here she had to fix.
Nevertheless though, the Soldier was compliant, allowing her to lead him out of the shop and down one of the lesser used alleys, apperating them away.
They landed in the Forest of Dean, back at the spot where she and Hermione had been camped on their lonesome. The tent they'd abandoned wasn't there. The two of them had agreed to leave it be, to never remove it and have it as a place they could safely retreat to if they felt the world was ever getting a bit too much. It's absence meant either another witch or wizard had found it, or she really was in another world.
Seeing as no Aurors had come after her yet for using magic on muggles, Harry was more inclined to go with the latter option.
"Why did you call me Regulus?"
The voice completely broke Harry free of her musings, turning to look at the Soldier. He'd now removed himself from her grip, having taken a step back to put three or so feet of distance between the two of them. Confusion and suspicion were evident on his face, but he wasn't running yet. Had been forcibly programmed not to.
Grimacing, Harry slowly sat herself down on the ground, looking down at her legs which were stretched out before her. The sun was breaking through the smallest gaps in the leafy canopy above them, leaving little dazzling sun spots to grow along the snake skin material of her pants.
"I lied to the woman at the counter, told her you were a soldier from Iraq and that you were a bit traumatized; knowing that kind of thing implies we're close, so I gave you a name since I couldn't find one in the HYDRA base… You don't happen to remember your name, do you?"
How painful it was to have to ask that question. It reminded her uncomfortably of a little girl in a cupboard under the stairs, who'd once thought her name to be Freak. Who'd only ever been addressed as Girl or Freak and seen her identity as a person slowly but surely stripped back and away from her. It wasn't until she'd gone to school that she'd learnt her name was Hariel. That it could be shortened to Harry by those that liked her. Not that she'd really learnt that next bit until she'd gone to Hogwarts.
"No. I don't have a name."
Biting her lip, Harry grimaced, looking off to a side as she did so. Though she'd hoped otherwise, it would appear her probe of the man's mind had been correct. He knew nothing about his identity, had no knowledge of his personal likes or dislikes or of people he may have once known. They had turned him into the perfectly little weapon. Until she'd come along that was that was.
"You probably had a name at one point, we'll just have to find out what it was with a bit of research. Listen," taking a gentle hold of the Soldier hands, both the flesh one and the metal one, Harry dragged him down to her level, until he was squatting before her, just to the right of her legs, "what they were doing to you was wrong. I don't know what they've told you, but I can promise you were a person before they got their hands on you. And I'll help you find out who that person was."
He looked lost. So horribly lost and confused. It wasn't easy to read in the face, but certainly in the eyes. They were uncertain. Still cold, ice cold, but there was confusion in there too.
In retrospect, Harry figured she really wasn't cut out to be the guy's councillor, it wasn't exactly like she had her life put together either.
In reality, Harry hadn't dealt the trauma of war at all, other than to distract herself within the aftermath. She'd buried herself on books, in tomes from the Potter and Black library, spent her time experimenting and creating her own spells. She hadn't talked to anyone about spending more nights often than not, watching Voldemort torture some unfortunate wizard or another, of watching him ruthlessly cut down family after family until her hands began to replace his, both covered in slick, sticky blood. She'd never dealt with any of it.
But that didn't mean she couldn't try for this guy. Because while she was faking it till she made it, this man didn't have that option, wouldn't have a clue how to even start 'faking it'. They'd took everything from him. And seeing as she'd been the one to break him free of the HYDRA base, she felt massively responsible for helping to get the guy back on his feet again.
Because she was the only one he had to rely on right now, now that there was an organisation that were probably looking for their assassin as she sat there on the ground. An organisation that was no doubt very angry at her. She would not let them take it out on this guy here, who, as far as she was aware right now, hadn't personally done anything wrong.
Harry was aware she was likening the situation to Imperio controlled victims, and perhaps that was the best way to go about doing this. It was a little sickening though, to realize that the muggles had gotten to the point now that they could manage something as complex as brain washing. Hopefully, it'd be nothing like Obliviate. The memories had to be in there somewhere, right?
"Regulus is a codename then. Until you uncover the information you seek."
Looking back up at the broken man before her, Harry thought back on the one Regulus she knew of. Knew of, but had never met. Who'd died an unsung hero of war, trying to bring Voldemort down. Had died at eighteen, a scared teenager who'd tried to back out from something he recognised as truly evil. Who'd tried to right his wrongs by helping take down Voldemort. Who'd died a good man.
"There was a Regulus who died a hero during a war I fought in. I think he wouldn't mind you borrowing his name until we've found your own." Harry doubted Regulus Black would have been happy to share his name with a muggle, despite how dangerous this one was, but Harry would never know either way.
"Regulus," the newly dubbed Regulus repeated dully, not looking too enthusiastic about it.
Regardless, he still sat himself down beside her, even if he did begin playing with a knife as soon as he was comfortable.
Watching the man from the corner of her eyes, Harry took a moment to just fully memorize his face. His long brown hair was scraggily, like it hadn't been washed in a good while. But when it was held back from his face by the goggles, it framed his features nicely. The nose and jawline were both strong, the lips seemingly falling into a natural pout. Nothing too excessive, but enough that she noticed it. It was the eyes that were most interesting though. Both the colour, and the intensity. So very blue, and so very focused.
Snapping to attention, Harry offered the Soldier a small smile, mentally vowing to herself she'd only ever use his 'codename' in public. It didn't feel right to think of him as anything that he wasn't. And she' have to find some way to hide that silver arm more effectively. And figure out why the notice-me-not's were just sliding right off him. There was a lot adding up on her to-do list.
"Was that a joke?"
Nose twitching slightly, the man's frown deepened, brow creasing as he did so.
"Oh, well I am done looking anyway. You've got a nice face by the way, memorable enough. Shouldn't be too hard to find someone out there that remembers you… You don't happen to have any idea how long HYDRA have had you, do you?"
Head cocking to a side, Harry raised an eyebrow, watching as the Soldier's fell, hooding his eyes and casting a brilliant shadow across them. As he thought, Harry took her thunk off of her necklace, unshrinking it and pulling out two packets of rations. There was only enough free rations to cover a week or so between the two of them, but hopefully by then, Harry would have figured out who her mystery man was and been on her way home at that point.
Peeling back the tin lid of one container, Harry held it out to the Soldier, who accepted it with steady hands.
"A long time. It, it was always cold." He spoke quietly, eyes downcast and not looking in her direction at all.
Harry's heart clenched. She couldn't figure out any reason why he'd have been constantly kept cold, but it was certainly something she needed to look into. That much was obvious.
Passing her companion a fork, Harry tucked into some Kreacher cooked rations. Stew. She wasn't quite sure what animal it was; considering that the Blacks had always had a taste for the expensive and exotic, Harry was well aware that Kreacher was more used to cooking pheasant, kangaroo and venison than he was pork or beef. It tasted good, that was all that mattered right now.
Watching the Soldier eat, the way he scraped the sides of the metal tin with a practiced ease, Harry felt her chest lighten ever so slightly.
"Well, you've certainly eaten out of metal tins like this before; it's all in your muscle memory."
The man looked down at his hands, at the tin he held between them, before nodding slowly. Harry didn't push, waiting to see if he would say something, anything at all. And he did.
"I- It seems familiar." That was good. Really good. At least something was coming back, even if it was only a feeling of some kind.
Smiling, Harry took the empty container from his hands, stashing both in her trunk before pulling out the tent. Having travelled a good part of Europe after the war, visiting Fleur's family, Viktor's family and all the other magical cities outside of England, a tent had kind of been a necessity. It was a simple enough wizarding tent, big on the inside with two bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen/living space. Certainly more than enough for the two of them.
A flick of a wand had the tent setting itself up, another gesture bringing wards up around them. It was only as she preformed this casual bit of magic, recognising the fact the Aurors still hadn't come for her because, hello, there was a muggle beside her, that a thought hit Harry.
Why hadn't the Soldier asked why she had been able to teleport them from the HYDRA base? Shouldn't he have asked why the tent was pitching itself, why she was waving a highly polished stick around in a series of complex, but obviously practiced patterns? Was he really that used to going out and performing whatever task was asked of him, that he didn't question anything else? Any of his surroundings, any of the people he was working with?
No, not with.
Working for. He'd have been working for them. Because working with them implied that they kept him on the same level as them. Which was clearly not the case at all.
A droplet of rain landed on Harry's nose and the girl paused, cocking her head back to look at the suddenly clouded sky. How long had they been sat outside here? It didn't feel like too long, but a significant amount of time had to have passed for the clouds to have rolled in and covered the sun.
"Come on, let's get out of the rain."
Taking a gentle hold of the Soldier's sleeve, Harry got her feet, heading for the tent.
Ducking into the flap, the redhead walked calmly into the moderately sized sitting room, pulling off her jacket as she did so.
"It's bigger on the inside."
Looking back at the quiet, startled voice, Harry offered up a small smile and a shrug of her shoulders.
"Magic. Listen, I've got a technique where I can go digging in your head, see if you have any memories in there. But I won't do it unless you say you want me to."
It was quiet for a moment, as the Solider looked at her with guarded eyes, body situated in such a way that the metal arm was between the two of them. Harry stood quietly off to a side, trying not to let her anger show. Even without any memories he knew people had hurt him before, enough to put his best weapon between his body and an unknown variable. When Harry got her hands on those HYDRA goons, she was going to rip them all to pieces.
"Can you try it once." It wasn't really phrased as a question; more the kind of speech from someone who wasn't sure if they were allowed to ask questions or not.
The sudden freedom, the lack of memories, was no doubt confusing. The Soldier didn't know where he stood with her. Whenever they were done with his memory wipe they probably established who was in charge of him and what he was to do. Harry hadn't done that. She'd just overrode the people who were taking advantage of him and then fled.
And now he was questioning what little he knew from that place. Which was good, very good indeed.
"Sure. I'll be able to tell if you want me to stop, and I swear I will."
Smiling, Harry sat herself down on one of the couches, patting the space next to her until the Soldier slowly sat himself down beside her. Reaching out, Harry took a gentle hold of the man's face, feeling the scratchy stubble rub against the tender flesh of her palms.
"Okay, just relax. It won't hurt a bit."
And then Harry preformed her first act of consensual Legilimency within the past twelve hours.
"The Target is approaching. Asset in position?"
"Don't you dare go out in that snow! You know how fragile Steve is!"
"I thought you were dead."
"I thought you were smaller."
"Document it, wipe him, and put him on ice."
"The little guy from Brooklyn who was too dumb not to run away from a fight. I'm following him."
Gasping in shock, Harry reeled away from the Soldier at the same time the man winced, clutching at his head with both hands.
Her brain hurt. The memories had passed a blurry rush, only a few words had been clear. Some had been in the Soldier's voice, others were from people he'd clearly known. There'd been a name -Steve?- but more importantly, there'd been a place.
Brooklyn. Though the slight accent had already clued her in, this guy was certainly American. Most importantly of all though, HYDRA had been documenting anything relating to the Soldier.
Standing up, Harry grimaced, already knowing exactly where it was she'd be going to get a new source of information.
"I'll be back in a few minutes. Give me a quarter of an hour or so." The Soldier looked up at her from where his hands were threaded through his hair, goggles now on the table, and bright blue eyes red rimmed and haunted. The memories were there, they just weren't clear. But he knew they were missing now, knew they'd once been there and had been forcibly taken from him.
"I'm gonna help you fix this, I promise." So what if she had a bit of a hero complex? If she could help out people like the Soldier here, then she was never going to tone it down.
Nodding to herself, Harry twisted on her heels and apperated out of the tent.
Agent Dale Milner was in a state of panic. That wasn't such a big difference from all those currently working in the same building as he. Approximately five hours ago, the female that Loki's staff had summoned into existence had woken up. She'd then proceeded to break free of her bindings, completely ignoring the Grade Seven knock-out gas they'd thrown at her, and then blow up all the cameras within her room.
It hadn't stopped there. She'd surfaced five minutes later in some form of battle armour and proceeded to wreck a path of untold carnage throughout the base, coming to a stop when she found them in the process of wiping the Winter Soldier. A procedure they'd already started before she woke up, and none of them had dared to stop.
There had been a high possibility that the Asset would turn violent if they had.
Things had just gotten worse from there. If things had been going South since the female woke up, now they were practically in Antarctica.
The female had stolen the Winter Soldier.
She'd turned two scientists into animals, and stolen the Winter Soldier. Disappeared completely from the room with the Asset.
Like neither of them had ever existed.
Only, they'd registered on London security cameras not seconds later.
Instant teleportation. A fearful skill for an enemy to possess. And SHIELD had caught their radical, sudden appearance too before HYDRA could erase all the evidence. And now it was a race to find the duo before the other. Not that SHIELD knew they were competing. Nor would they ever, until they were crushed beneath their heel.
The only problem with this was that now all the HYDRA agents were being ran right off their feet, rushing back and forth to make sure this document got to this officer because the female had managed to scramble most of the electronic equipment with the weird energy waves she gave off. Naturally. She gave off some form of radiation naturally.
Oh if only they'd managed to keep her captured, that kind of power under HYDRA's control-
Freezing in place, Agent Milner spun around to find the source of the voice and almost whimpered. It was the female that'd stolen the Asset. A sweet smile was plastered on her face, but her eyes were filled with poisonous venom.
"Don't worry," she whispered, hitting him with some kind of freezing power that saw his limbs unable to move. His lips unable to open and issue a cry for help.
"I've only got a few questions for you. My new friend and I are very interested in some information you could provide us. Let's go see him."
His vision went black.
Agent Milner woke up tied to a chair. Rope wrapped tightly around his wrists, chaffing the skin beneath; it appeared his suit-sleeves had been pulled up specifically for this purpose. The rope wasn't even good quality, but no matter how much he struggled, it didn't give even the slightest hint of breaking.
God, what had happened to him, how had he ended up being captured so easily? Hadn't he been in the Texan base? Prepping the Winter Soldier for another deepfreeze-
The Winter Soldier! He'd been stolen from them, by-
Agent Milner looked to a side and forced himself not to gulp.
The female. The female who seemed able to bend reality to her whims. She's kidnapped him. Which meant-
His eyes trailed over the room, freezing at the sight of the Asset casually sharpening a knife. His mind raced, because even though the female had managed to run off with the Asset, he was still HYDRA's weapon.
"Autumn's over, Winter's here!" They'd all been given the stand down code, on the off chance one of them ran into him. Agent Milner had never been so thankful before.
Blue eyes, darkened by the shadows that's been cast across his face, stared out at him from the Asset's face. But he never stopped playing with the knife, whet stone scraping across the metal surface and bringing the edge to a wicked gleam. There was no reaction at all. Wasn't he suppose to stand down, to stop doing what he was doing and acknowledge him as his new handler?
"Sorry, he's retired from your service now."
Twisting his neck around, Agent Milner froze at the sight of the female.
Her long, claret hair was tumbling down her back now in a wild mess of curls, seemingly damp from a shower. She looked rather pretty, with those unnaturally bright green eyes and that soft smile.
It made her even more dangerous. The undetectable poison, colourless and odourless. You didn't even notice the danger until your airways were already closing.
Uncomfortably vibrant green eyes landed on him and the girl's lips twisted up into a tighter smile, dropping into the chair sat across from him. What an amateur interrogation technique. A classical set up, but all agents were trained against such a thing. Pain wasn't desirable, but he'd put up with it to keep HYDRA's secrets. She would never get him to crack, he'd never tell the secrets of his organisation to her.
"My name's Harry, it's nice to meet you Agent Dale Milner."
Something in his bones chilled slightly, because he never kept identification on him, not any that carried his true name anyway.
Those inhuman eyes stared back at him, curiously blank of all emotion as her face hardened.
"I want to know my friend's name over there." She gestured towards the Asset, who had stopped sharpening his knife and was now flipping it casually back and forth. He caught it at the handle every time, each movement perfectly calculated. Why hadn't he stood down, why hadn't he attacked the girl? What was it the female had said earlier? Retired? How the hell could the Asset retire?
"He's the Winter Soldier."
"Ah," the girl hissed, lips pursed in a tight frown as she took hold of his chin, short sharp nails digging into the flesh of his cheeks, "but he was a person before you ruined him, no? What. Is. His. Name."
When he'd first looked around this place, he'd registered the Asset as the biggest threat in the room. But he seemed almost disinterested in what was happening right now. Certainly didn't plan on helping him out of the tight situation that Agent Milner found himself in right now.
The female, Harry, other hand, seemed quite set on getting the Winter Soldier's identity out of him. His former identity.
Not that Agent Milner knew who that man was. He'd been with HYDRA longer than he could remember, ever since he'd first started working here he'd heard whispers of the Winter Soldier. A ghost, even in their line of work. Everything about the Asset was kept close to chest, even now, working with him as he had been the past five years, Agent Milner still had no idea who the man had been.
Only Doctor Blackburn was allowed full access to the file, and currently, he was spending his time in a carefully guarded tank eating flies.
Skin broke under the force of the female's nails, five beads of blood welling up and slowly trailing down his cheek.
"Do you know what my kind can do with blood?" She asked, eyes completely focused on the red liquid that was now painting streaks across his jawline.
"I could take just this little sample and twist it. I could control your every action, I could decided when you get ill, when you windpipe should close up and cut off your breath. Every movement, every reaction of your body; all under my control. Or I could ignore that all together. I could just put you under my mind control, like you and your work colleagues did to my friend here."
She couldn't do that… Could she?
Then again, she had instant teleportation under her belt, had somehow calmed the Winter Soldier to the point where he was simply reclined in a seat, face free of both mask and goggles. He looked strangely naked without them, so terrifyingly human even if his eyes seemed dead.
The Asset's eyes were much better to meet than the females. The Asset would just kill him. But if the female's words rung with truth, she could do so much worse to him.
"No no no, you destroyed his mind, his memories. Whatever life he had," the female drew his face around until he could do nothing but meet her chillingly bright eyes, "destroyed. So I think it's only fair you get the same treatment. Don't worry, I'm sure that organisation, SHIELD was it? I'm sure by the time they have you in their custody it'll all come rushing back. And by Merlin will the guilt eat you alive."
The female met his gaze and there was no other way to describe it; it felt like something was invading his mind, sinking into it, becoming everything that he was.
And then mercilessly ripping it all to pieces.
Breathing heavy, Harry stepped back from the drooling mess that had once been Dale Milner. He'd come back to himself in twelve hours, but he would experience exactly what the Solider was feeling right now. The uncertainty of who he was, what his place in the world was. Having memories that were just out of reach, not quite close enough to touch, but aware enough to know they were there. The spell she'd tagged him with would ensure that, upon the return of his memories, he would feel the crushing guilt that he deserved to experience.
Running a hand down the side of her face, Harry let out a low sigh at the sight of the -temporarily- brain dead human, trying to figure out where she could drop him so that he'd register on the radar of SHIELD -who Harry gathered from the minds of the HYDRA agents, were the good guys- and not just HYDRA.
It had to be somewhere public, somewhere that the brainwashing, evil organisation wouldn't be able to cover up.
Drumming her fingers against her thigh, Harry let out a low breath before turning around and dismissing the issue for now.
Instead, she turned her gaze to the Soldier and forced herself not to throw up as Milner's memories came rushing back to her. They'd forced this broken man before her to become their personal weapon; dehumanized him beyond all comprehension. They'd broken him and then froze him up, to be pulled out of storage later for when they needed his skill-set.
The Soldier was a little younger than she'd expected, physically, he couldn't be more than thirty. Maybe a year or so over? Merlin, he wasn't that much older than her.
Grimacing, Harry crouched before the man, swallowing forcibly against the lump in her throat.
"Do you want to try and see if we can get any more memories out of your head?"
The Soldier's cool blue eyes focused on her for but a second, curious gaze turning towards the agent who was no doubt slumped against the chair he'd been restrained in now.
"I promise you won't end up like him. I did that on purpose because he's an awful person and deserves to suffer for a bit." She wasn't quite sure if that's what he'd been thinking, but she said it anyway. Harry believed in justice, and if she had to break a few rules to see it carried out, then so be it.
Slowly, almost painfully slow because Merlin, the trust in her he had was so fragile and it shouldn't be this difficult for a human to offer trust to another, the Solider nodded.
"Right then," placing a hand on either side of his head, fingers threading slightly into the dark brown hair, Harry made eye contact with her male companion.
And then she was back in his head.
Blood splattered across the floor. A bullet through a skull.
A quirk of the lips, a smile more charming than any boy at Hogwarts had ever managed. "Well doll, fancy a dance?"
Car tires giving out, swerving and then crashing, no survivors.
A boy with sickly features, small, thin and underweight. Ill, definitely ill. "You don't have to handle this all on your own Steve, remember that."
A man in the most awfully patriotic uniform.
"What're you doing punk?"
A worn but beautiful woman with blonde hair and the Soldier's eyes and children that looked as if they could be his siblings.
Falling, falling and searing pain. Arm, left arm hurting, left arm burning with the cold. Left arm not there!
Pain. Cold and pain.
Harry was torn from her Legilimency when an ice cold, hard and unyielding metal hand closed around her neck.
Choking, Harry reeled back. Somewhere in her mind she recognised that the Soldier had reacted badly to that last memory, that the searing pain had felt too real and too dangerous to the both of them. But right now she was focused on the metal fingers threatening to crush the life right out of her.
Fingers sprawled, Harry cast the disarming charm wandlessly in her panic, scrambling for her wand when she landed on the floor, neck throbbing in pain. The polished wood was finally within her grasp and pointed towards the Soldier at the same time he raised a small handgun from his pocket, both weapons aimed at one another.
Chest heaving, Harry let her free hand trail up to slowly dance across the tender skin of her neck, intimately aware of just how close she'd come to having her windpipe crushed by those metal digits.
Both of them stared at one another, each equally aware of just how dangerous the other was with their chosen weapon, neither quite willing to strike the first blow without hundred percent confirmation that it'd be the last. Harry's green eyes met the Soldier's ice blue, neither of them quite willing to back down before the other did.
Instead, Harry slowly began to lower her wand, watching as the Soldier copied the motion with his gun, though he never did pocket it.
Not that she sheathed her wand.
"Sorry," her words were a raspy whisper, throat whimpering in pain because Merlin damn it that choke hold had hurt, "I went too deep."
There was a pause between the two of them as the Soldier looked over at her with cautious icy blue eyes, most certainly emotion in them now but what it was, Harry couldn't even begin to guess.
"I.. Sorry…" He gestured, quite uselessly, with his free hand towards her, eyes looking away.
He was waiting to be punished, Harry realized. No doubt if he'd attacked one of the HYRDA swines when he'd been in their control they'd have disciplined him.
Nails digging into the plump flesh of her palms, Harry bit her lip and looked away, instead finding her eyes drawn to the agent that was still slumped across the sofa. Raising her wand to her own throat, Harry went about soothing the damage, coaxing it into healing up much, much quicker than it would have managed on its own.
"It's okay. We're both at fault."
The Soldier just stared back at her with those haunted blue eyes that had the slightest glimpse to the human who'd once owned them. Legilimency was rough, tugging memories to the front of a mind that'd long forgotten them, either through choice or force, was hard on a person. She remembered how hard Slughorn had tried to forget what his favourite pupil had asked him, how desperate he'd been to hide it away, ashamed and dismayed over it. And he'd been conscious of the awful memory he'd been repressing.
The Soldier wasn't. This was all new to him, but it'd come with the raw emotion, the feelings that he couldn't ever remember experiencing. No wonder he panicked.
Standing up, Harry rolled her shoulders back and forth, running a hands down her face and heading over to the kitchenette as she did so. It was only half stocked -she hadn't thought to fill it up since her latest trip to Egypt had seen half her supplies devoured between both herself and Bill, who'd she'd met up with while he was working- but that would be more than enough to feed them for now.
Pulling out a container of premade stir-fry, Harry dismissed the preservation charm that was cast upon it, dishing up between two plates before making her way back over to the small living room, cutlery magically dancing along behind her.
"Here, eat something. Once we've got some sleep, we'll drop off Agent Brain-Dead somewhere the authorities can find him, then we'll go crack that HYDRA base open. There has to be some form of paper file on you that we can get our hands on. It'd be… Less dangerous to do it that way." Holding out the plate of food, Harry watched as the Soldier accepted it with his flesh hand, keeping the metal one back and away from her. He'd lost that arm in a fall, it'd been replaced by a metal one that worked so much unlike any prosthetic she'd ever seen before. No doubt Moody'd have killed for a leg like that instead of the chunk of wood he'd been lumped with.
With a nod to indicate his gratitude, the Soldier picked a knife and fork from the air before him, watching dispassionately as the last pair danced over to Harry.
It was quiet between them as they sat eating, both of them slouched slightly, but the Soldier leaned forwards whereas Harry leant back, resting against the plush support of the sofa as she did so. The only sounds were the clinks of metal against porcelain, the soft, muffled crunches as they chewed their food.
It was a fragile peace, broken when the Soldier finally looked up at her with curiously blank eyes and said, "I can't remember sleeping. I don't think they let me."
There had been something in the Agent's memories, something about a deep-freeze, but Harry had only managed to get a slight impression of what it was. Like being stunned, or put under a preservation charm. But frozen. It'd have to be cold, so very cold.
Merlin, it was inhuman.
"I hope you don't mind if I put some wards up around my room; I don't want to risk you remembering something in your sleep and, well, I can't help you if…" She trailed off awkwardly, watching with surprise as the Soldier's lips cocked in a twisted, broken parody of a smile.
"If I attack you again. If you can't stop me next time."
"Yeah, that. It'll just keep you out of my room, you'll be able to go around the tent, leave if you want…You can leave now if you want. I just figured you might want to know who you were, you know, before."
There was quiet once more as the Soldier finished eating, plate scraped clean before Harry had even gotten through half of her own. A painful reminder of a little girl who ate as quickly as she could, because she couldn't be sure when the next chance to eat would be.
"I want to know."
Harry slept restlessly that night, tossing and turning over and over again in her bed. The covers, the pillow was familiar. It smelt of home, of a place she'd been dragged from forcibly. Not that HYDRA knew how she'd ended up here. Agent Milner had known something about a staff, an alien staff that'd summoned her from another world. But that was the full extent of his knowledge on the subject.
So really, she needed to go back to the HYDRA base to find out a bit about herself anyway. Having the Soldier watch her back would be helpful, and she had promised herself she'd help him find out who he was. It seemed like a fair enough trade in all honesty. She'd help him out, set him back on his feet and then she'd go off and find out just what she had to do to get home.
Even if it meant looking through all the HYDRA bases to find out just where the hell this alien staff thingy had been moved too.
Because they wouldn't be stupid enough to keep it in the same place as where she'd landed.
Snorting at the very thought of aliens and gods, Harry rolled over and pressed her nose deep into the pillow, inhaling the oh so familiar, comforting scent of home. Her plan for the next few days was set.
Find out who the Soldier was and find out about the alien staff. Seemingly simple enough.
Nodding ever so slightly to herself, Harry scrunched up her face, nuzzling deeper into the comforter. Yes, tomorrow she'd get started on her whole plan to help the Soldier and get home.
Starting with the drop off of Agent Milner.
Walking briskly through the streets of London, Agent Natasha Romanoff covertly adjusted the length of her denim shorts, woven brown wedges clicking top the pavement's smooth surface. She was dressed as a young twenty-something, out enjoying the summer sunshine that'd decided to grace Britain for the day. If there was some subtly applied make-up that hid the bags beneath her eyes, then so be it.
She highly doubted any of the women passing her by with lesser done make-up had spent their night stalking the streets of London, following the path that their Unknown and the Winter Soldier had taken.
There hadn't been any clues, and they'd dropped right off the cameras not long after entering a newsagents not too far from the Eye. Natasha had a very long list of personal dislikes, and chasing a cold trail was one of those things.
She longed to frown to herself, but still, she had to keep up the act of an American tourist visiting London for the summer.
So she let her oversized sunglasses inch down her nose slightly, enough to wink at a passing male. Good looking, early to mid thirties. The two males accompanying him offered a congratulatory slap on the back at her not so subtle gesture of appreciation and Natasha ignored the urge to roll her eyes with a practised ease.
Men, so easily played. Well, when they were normal men that was.
She was moving so smoothly through the crowd, towards the newsagents, that she almost missed her.
In fact, had she not been looking specifically for that shade of red, Natasha didn't doubt for a second that she'd have walked right on by her without paying any attention at all.
Instead, her head swung around, watching as her fellow redhead -claret was perhaps the closest colour, hair like dark red wine- moved through the mass of people with a practiced ease.
It took about two seconds longer for Natasha to notice the male following after her. The brown hair that'd once hidden his face had now been pulled back into a small, messy bun, keeping it out of the intense blue eyes that tracked the female throughout the crowd so effortlessly she found herself ever so slightly envious.
The outfit was exactly the same, and Natasha couldn't, for the life of her, understand why no one else seemed to notice the two as they made their way through the throng of people. It wasn't like the female was even being subtle about it.
Hell, she bumped into people, but no one reacted how they should. It was like they couldn't even tell she was there, stood right before them, at all.
Holding up a hand to the earpiece, Natasha flicked it on, turning on her heels to follow the duo.
"I have a sighting, I'm in pursuit."
"Do not engage Natasha, do you understand me?"
She could still feel the bullet tearing through the flesh of her stomach, zipping right out the other side into the guy she was suppose to be protecting. A mission failed there. He'd taken the shot from an impossible distance, and managed to land a one hit kill.
As much as she wished she was able to do otherwise, she couldn't take him on by herself. Not right now anyway. But she could follow them.
Sliding between the crowds of people, Natasha weaved effortlessly between the London traffic, eyes constantly finding the unknown female. Because it was so much easier to keep track of her than it was to keep track of the Winter Soldier. The clothes she was wearing seemed to be made of some kind of snake skin, thick hide. She didn't recognise the pattern, but the scales were much bigger than anything she'd have expected of a snake. Much bigger. How big could snakes grow again?
"We have a visual, keep following the two Natasha." Fury's voice echoed over the com.
Taking a quick look around, Natasha felt her brow furrow upon realizing that they were in fact moving towards the London Eye. Why was that? Was the structure important to the two of them? To one of them? Were they meeting somebody there?
Natasha stopped not a few seconds after the female did, coming to a halt by a reasonably nice looking guy.
"Hi," flicking her hair over her shoulder, Natasha offered the male a sheepish grin, looking covertly back over her shoulder, "my creepy ex-boyfriend just found me; you wouldn't mind hugging me until he goes away, would you?"
As she'd hoped, the man flushed but did just as she'd asked. She was just a normal tourist, meeting up with her boyfriend. If she could just so happen to see the unknown female over a broad shoulder, then what of it?
She did freeze up a bit when the female pulled a thin stick from her sleeve, gave it a twirl and suddenly there was a man tied to a fork of the London Eye. He was alive, and quite clearly terrified out of his wits. And he'd just appeared.
What the hell was this girl? Another Loki? God she hoped not, having to all out all the Avengers right now would be a big pain.
"Fury, are you getting this?"
The silence on the end of the line told her he was indeed getting it. Hell, with the Winter Soldier involved, she should just be pleased they were leaving someone alive for her to interrogate. Though what the hell this man had done to deserve this fate, Natasha wasn't sure she wanted to find out.
People were noticing now; whatever it was that kept them from seeing the female and the Winter Soldier wasn't covering him.
Suddenly, the Winter Soldier appeared beside the female, whispering something into her ear and instantly the unknown's gaze snapped up to look her right in the eye. The cameras hadn't lied, they were unnaturally bright. Brilliant green, the kind that no human should be allowed to have without the aid of coloured contacts. Expensive coloured contacts.
The worst part was that Natasha could not read her face. At all.
Oh, she could see the confusion, the curiosity in the tilt of the head, it was blatantly obvious. But she couldn't see what lurked beneath the play. What the true emotion behind that mask was. It was escaping her. She looked, for all accounts, to be a genuinely normal young woman.
Aside from the fact she'd just tied a man to the London Eye in a seemingly impossible way.
Natasha carefully avoiding the word magic.
The Assassin's ghost like blue eyes darted over to look at her a second time, narrowing and Natasha felt her heart speed up despite herself.
But the female laid one hand on the man's shining metal arm -all but gleaming in the sunlight they stood in right now- before her lips quirked up at the corners.
And then the duo were gone, all that even gave away they'd ever been there at all was an ear shattering crack and the collective jump of panicked tourists.
Natasha remained rooted to the spot for a second, running the past few minutes back through her mind.
There was no doubt about it, the female and the Winter Soldier were working together. The Soldier had seen her as a threat, but the female had seen to it that she hadn't been attacked.
The female employed some kind of, power, that let her do impossible things. Tie people up, teleport away. Make those who weren't looking for her ignore her presence. Something that would be very useful in their line of work.
Mind spinning with the implications, Natasha returned her focus to the technology in her ear, listening to her boss rant furiously, with numerous swears thrown into the mix.
"Teleportation. As if he hadn't caused enough problems for us these past few years, now there's this girl…" Fury trailed off in a grumble, barking orders at whatever poor person just so happened to be closest to him.
"I'm sending a squad to extract whatever poor sucker just got tied to the Eye. I want you to stay where you are, keep your ear to the ground. We'll be running through the cameras, see if we can find out where they've teleported to. And bloody well hope there's a limit to the distance they can cover."
"I copy." Switching off the earpiece, Natasha took off in a stride.
She had a newsagent to speak to.
The HYDRA base hadn't changed much since they were last here. It looked like they'd beefed the security up a bit, but other than that, it was still the same. They hadn't managed to replace the huge metal door she'd vanished. Probably hadn't felt the need to.
Beside her, the Soldier was tense, muscles no doubt coiled beneath all that leather. "Ready to go find out what they've done to the two of us?"
Dark eyes fell on her for a second before the lips lifted up ever so slightly at the corners. He'd wanted her to go looking in his head again that morning, just not as deep as before. And Harry had.
It hadn't been memories she'd been uncovering, but behavioural patterns. Emotions. Little bits that made up the 'core' of who the Soldier had been, so to speak. That wasn't to say he had instantly been fixed. No, the Soldier was still exactly the same. He was just aware that he was a person, had been a fully functioning one before HYRDA had gotten their hands on him.
And he was angry about it. Self aware enough to know he was right to be angry about it. About everything that'd been forced upon him. And Harry was pretty upset she was here too.
Only, she wasn't completely certain it was HYDA's fault she was here. If they'd known what they were summoning, they would have had more precautions that to just strap her to an table. Not that such a thing would stop Harry from feeling any form of pity for them, considering what they had done to the Soldier. She just couldn't let that kind of thing slide.
The Soldier's metal arm made an odd noise, the kind that Harry could only compare to the air escaping from a recently popped soda can. She hadn't the slightest clue how the arm worked, but she needed to get information on that too. Because otherwise, the Soldier could end up running off and getting it broken, and would be unable to find anyone who could fix it without the designs.
So, Soldier's identity, all the information on her arrival, the staff, and the arm. Four things. They could do this. A simple point me spell would show them to way to the paperwork that they were both after, and Harry swallowed around the lump in her throat.
It'd been an eventful twenty four hours so far. Hopefully it'd be calming down for the rest of her time here.
Not a second after she'd thought this, a hard body was colliding with hers, a flash of metal followed by a ringing 'clang' that echoed through the hallway just as much as the ringing gunshot that fired afterwards did.
Staring at the metal arm that was curled protectively around her, Harry took in the ever so slight dent in the forearm where what could have only been a bullet, had bounced off of the surface. He'd just blocked a bullet from hitting her.
Staring up into the cool blue eyes, pupils eerily focused upon her, Harry forced herself to drum up a smile.
"Thank you." He'd save her life.
It wasn't until the Soldier uncurled himself from around her that Harry noticed the body on the floor, the steady pool of blood spilling out from under it. It wasn't her first dead body, far from it. Nor was it the most excessive amount of blood she'd ever seen. Thank you so much Voldemort for those mental images.
But it was the first time she could remember someone she barely knew bodily tackling her to block a killing blow. Putting themselves in harm's way for her. The Soldier's identity was priority now. She owed that to him, without a doubt.
"Don't mention it doll."
He looked just as surprised as her at the words that came out of his mouth, brows furrowing and lips turning down in confusion. The pout was even more obvious when he pulled that face out of nowhere and Harry felt a small smile tugging at her own mouth.
"Right, let's go."
They ran into four more people on their way to the paperwork they required. The Soldier took out one of them, probably killed him but Harry tried not to pay too much attention to it. She was quick enough to stun the other three though. Already she knew from Kingsley's stories that stunners took a full twenty four hours to wear off of muggles, and in all honesty, Harry wasn't feeling any guilt at all over leaving them slumped on the floor.
Stopping before the door, Harry didn't get a chance to raise her wand before the Soldier had already kicked it in, chunky combat boot proving it's worth at the gesture.
Eyebrows raised, Harry ducked in, eyes scanning the room and finding no other human nearby, she transfigured the wall to stretch over the new door shaped hole, leaving no openings for anyone to sneak up on them before they were ready.
"Accio paperwork on the Winter Soldier."
There was a soft thump as a metal draw opened, a folder perhaps an inch think shooting out towards them. Harry snatched it from the air with an ease that came from playing five years as a Seeker, turning her stare upon the Soldier beside her.
He seemed almost afraid to reach out and take the file. Harry couldn't blame him.
This was his life. The life they'd stolen from him. The first step to getting it back, finding out the person he'd once been before HYDRA had ruined him. If his hand trembled a bit when it reached for the file, Harry didn't say anything. Nor did she make a sound when the Soldier laid it upon the table just to the right of them, well within her line of sight.
"You don't mind?" Harry asked quietly, watching as the Soldier turned his dead blue gaze on her.
"You can't call me Regulus forever." Simple fact.
Nodding slowly, Harry felt as if she should offer some form of physical comfort to the man beside her. But she didn't know him all that well. She'd gone looking for memories and ended up with another near death experience under her belt. Hell, the Death Eaters would probably be quite upset to learn a muggle had come closer to murdering her than what they had.
The Soldier flipped back the cover page.
Harry didn't have much of an idea over who Captain America was. She'd gotten a very vague overview of this world from Agent Milner's head. Bits and pieces. Captain America was some kind of war hero that'd been frozen in an accident or something. He was still kicking right now, having apparently been around in the alien invasion.
And James Buchanan 'Bucky' Barnes had been one of his Howling Commandos.
The Winter Soldier wasn't just anyone. They'd taken someone who'd opposed HYDRA right from the start and twisted him into their weapons. Just picturing the Death Eaters ever daring to do that to someone she loved, someone like Sirius or Remus or Ron or Hermione, was enough for Harry's blood to start boiling over.
Merlin, this was beyond awful.
Choking back a small sob of horror, Harry looked up and to the side to see a similar expression on James' face.
Horror and terrified disbelief. Uncertainty.
He couldn't just slip back into society, society believed he'd died falling off a train during WWII.
WWII which had taken place seventy years ago. He had all the information, but it was slipping through his fingers. Everything was slipping right through his hands like rain water.
James Barnes had just been thrown his own Trelawney prophecy.
So Harry did what she'd wanted to happen when she was presented with this scenario. She offered up her best distraction.
"Would you like me to call you James or Bucky?"
The man looked at her, bright blue eyes appearing so lost -lostlostlost- with the slightest glint of teeth as he drew in a shaky breath between his lips.
"I… James… Bucky, it… no. James."
She hesitated for a second, before reaching for James' hand and giving it the slightest squeeze. He seemed somewhat surprised at the contact, eyes drifting down to look at the limb invading his personal space before, seemingly through no effort of his own, he flipped his hand over and caught her fingers between his own, thumb brushing over the back of her hand.
"It's familiar," he whispered, looking down at their intertwined limbs. There was no smile, no wistful glance, just a deep well of sadness.
Grimacing, Harry slowly drew her hand back, picking up the file and shrinking it down, allowing James to pocket it's tiny form.
"Come on, I need to see a man about a staff."
It didn't take long to find where they were keeping the scientist she'd turned into a toad. Sat in a nice little glass tank, the lazy brown toad was stretched across the artificial ground, looking perfectly content.
Teeth grinding together, Harry gave three flicks of her wand, one breaking the glass, another half summoning the toad towards them and the final one transforming the toad back into the man he'd once been. If he happened to gain a liking for insects because he'd spent too long transfigured, then hey, that wasn't Harry's problem.
"Doctor Blackburn is it?" Harry asked, lips twitching when James' metal hand clamped down on the man's shoulders just as he was about to make a run for it. The sheer panic behind the man's eyes as he realized who was holding him sent some form of vindictive justice spiralling about in Harry's stomach. "
I'm afraid I've got a few questions for you. About my arrival here. About the staff that was involved in it?"
"Well that wasn't a complete bust I guess."
Sat at the entrance to the tent, still pitched up in the Forest of Dean Harry reflected back on the past six hours with a detached sort of fondness.
It hadn't taken long to realize that while Doctor Blackburn might be in charge of James' 'care', he didn't know a hell of a lot more about the staff. Other than it'd been shipped off to another facility and the only person who knew where it was going had gone along with it. Apparently, they'd learnt from a previous mistake to not keep a complete list of all their other facilities, so right now, Harry didn't even know where to begin looking.
Seeing as she didn't even know the official name of the staff, she couldn't just throw a point me spell out and hope for the best. It was the Horcrux hunt all over again.
Snarling in annoyance, Harry kicked at a small mound of dirt near her booted foot, watching with satisfaction as it exploded outwards.
The time they'd spent in the HYDRA base after that hadn't been a complete waste of effort; once she'd finished up with Doctor Blackburn, they'd gone and visited the first room she'd met James' in. There, they'd set up a timed explosive -something her current companion was scarily knowledgeable on- around the chair.
If she'd realized James' hands were shaking as they did so, then Harry chose not to mention it, instead sucking in her lower lip and offering up the thin piece of rope they were suppose to light up. It'd gone with a nice bang.
If Harry had just so happened to let the local police know that there was shady business happening in a nearby location, well, they were in England now. What was going down in Texas wasn't any of their business.
"What happens now."
Twisting her neck around to look at James, who was sat leaning against a fallen tree trunk with legs pulled up to his chest, Harry found it unusually difficult to speak around the lump in her throat. She was going to leave eventually, as soon as she figured out where the staff was and how to make it send her back. Attachments to other people, it hurt when they were ripped away from you for good.
Out of everyone alive, Harry knew that better than most. Sirius, Remus, Dumbledore. It hurt more than anything in the world.
But on the other hand, the Soldier, James Buchanan Barnes, literally had no one. No one he could turn to for support, no one who'd go out of their way to make sure he had somewhere safe to sleep, some food to eat. Oh sure, he'd probably be able to survive out there on his own.
But there was a difference between surviving and living. Something else Harry knew quite well. And one person could change everything.
A little red-head boy on a train, with a long nose and freckles, offering his friendship to the lonely, socially stunted orphan girl.
Or a woman with wine red hair and green eyes, offering a brainwashed Nazi victim the chance for something more.
"I'm working on a way that I can get back home. But you're welcome to join me on my mad hunt across the world until I do."
James' eyes -cold chips of ice- stares forwards, fingers digging into the leather material covering his knees. Watching the male slowly lower his head until his chin was resting neatly upon the back of his hands, a few strands of hair having escaped his bun now brushed against his cheekbones.
Harry watched with curious eyes at the internal battle, feeling her stomach churn slightly.
"Please." The whisper was quiet, the voice scratchy, but Harry heard it all loud and clear.
"What the hell do you mean they were in England an hour ago?!"
Wincing slightly at the exceedingly loud shout that echoed down the ear piece, Natasha turned her attention to the man they'd brought down from the London Eye, who was already in chains. She had absolutely no idea what the woman by the name of 'Harry' had done to get him to spill all his guilty little secrets, but Natasha felt no sympathy for him now.
She was all too familiar with being stripped down to the bare bones, being rebuilt, moulded into something. But even she'd never been brain-washed, even she'd never had her memories stolen from her.
If Agent Milner just so happened to have had a knife stabbed through his hand, well, Natasha had three SHIELD agents that would more than willingly vouch the wound had been there long before they'd gotten their hands on him.
Clenching her fingers into a tightly packed fist, Natasha turned on her heels, leaving the hold of the Quinjet to go and speak to Clint up front.
"Natasha, they were in Texas half an hour ago. That kind of travel…" Fury trailed off, and the redhead grimaced slightly.
To be able to travel unhindered to America from England, in less than thirty minutes -perhaps even shorter a time than that, seeing as they were only going by what they had one hundred percent confirmation for- was a terrifying ability.
As soon as Fury had all the information they'd gotten from the guilty ramblings of Agent Milner, he'd recalled her from England. The Soldier clearly wasn't as big of a threat now that he was in the hands of a female who, according to some reports Fury was currently getting from an agent in Texas, was evidently an enemy of HYDRA.
And wasn't that a kick in the teeth, to learn that HYDRA was still around? She had a pretty damn good feeling what she and the Cap would be getting up to in these next few months.
Judging from the reports though, the base they'd found had no connections to any other. The only reason they knew it wasn't just a one off was because of Agent Milner's guilt-ridden confessions.
Oh yes, Natasha really wanted to meet 'Harry'. She wanted to know why she'd taken such an interest in the Winter Soldier. She'd given Agent Milner the impression that she was looking for who the Soldier had once been, and judging from the lack of paperwork on the man within the base Fury was currently personally overseeing, she had no doubt that the woman had found what she was looking for.
'Harry' and the Winter Soldier were clearly working together right now, but to what ends, no one seemed to know. The woman had asked after Loki's staff, according to some of the captives Fury had in hand now.
Which was another very big problem. They'd all assumed that the staff had gone back to Asgard with Thor. Clearly not.
So, the staff, 'Harry' and the Soldier were all a problem now. The Soldier was in the woman's company, and with no memories and just a basic understanding of what had been done to him, he would be malleable, suggestible. And they had no way of tracking the duo. No way or tracking and capturing them anyway. Not if the female could just teleport to the other side of the god damn world.
She hated the idea of brainwashing, and while it was seemingly good that 'Harry' was clearly intent on helping the Soldier, her reasons were a mystery. And that made her dangerous.
Frowning, Natasha crossed her arms over her chest, watching Clint listen to the same reports that she was. Out of anyone, Clint would know best what the Soldier was experiencing. He would be the one who knew the kind of backlash that could come from such a thing. And from the grim set to his face, it wasn't good at all.
"I don't like it. Teleporting, reading minds, too much like Loki." Ah.
Careful to keep her face blank, Natasha sat herself down beside Clint, turning her gaze to look outside of the window.
"But Loki did the brainwashing, this 'Harry' seems to be trying to break it."
"Just so she can win some loyalty I guess. You know how dangerous that guy can be Natasha. And now he's with a complete unknown. And let's not even touch on those powers she has. How do we know she isn't already screwing around with his head?"
"We don't. For now, we'll just have to wait until they surface again."
Thinking back on the short glimpse she'd gotten of the duo back in London, Natasha analysed everything she could possibly remember about the female.
"She's either a really good actor, so she doesn't have a clue who I am. Who SHIELD is. She seemed, confused, over why I was following them."
Clint grunted, eyes like steel as he looked out over the rolling ocean before them.
Sighing slightly, Natasha began rooting through the cupboards.
"Second shelf on the right." Ah, nachos.
Pulling the packet from storage, Natasha grinned at the male, popping open the top.
"Can I tempt you agent?"
"Sure can 'Tasha, sure can. Pass me the bag."
April 1st 2014
Pulling down the brim of the cap until it was sat tighter on his head, James Buchanan 'Bucky' Barnes walked quickly through the door to the Smithsonian in Washington, double checking the glove that covered his left hand. plodding along quietly beside the man, Harry rolled her eyes.
Ever since he'd realized that her magic was most certainly not normal, he'd been checking everything over, just to make sure it was working. Harry still didn't have a clue why her magic seemed to roll off him after a few hours, instead of sticking like it did with everyone else. But they'd found a way around that, hence why the glove that Bucky was wearing was charmed to appear like a normal human hand.
It'd taken five months before he'd felt somewhat comfortable being addressed by the nickname he'd once held so dear. Ever since that day when they'd sat in the sunshine in the Forest of Dean, ever since Bucky had quietly asked to join her on her quest for the ever travelling magical staff, they'd been holding a Legilimency session once a week.
And so far, Bucky had only attacked her twice over a memory, and even then it'd been in the early months.
They'd been travelling, visited almost all the countries in Europe, and had spent the past three months trekking across America. It wasn't until they'd heard about the Captain America Exhibit in the Smithsonian that they'd decided to visit Washington.
Their visit to Brooklyn had managed to jog some memories naturally, so it was fingers crossed that they'd get the same result from visiting the exhibit.
Because while Legilimency was effective, it was equally as slow. And just a bit painful. The memories returning naturally on the other hand, came in longer bouts and with more feeling. As if with Legilimency, it was almost like a person cupping water between their palms and then running towards an empty pond to fill it up, whereas the naturally returning memories were as if a river was flowing back into the pond. So much quicker to refill what had been lost.
Sliding a bit closer towards Bucky, Harry slipped her fingers between him, looking for all the world like a normal couple. Her hair was pulled back in a loose French braid, not the neatest she'd ever seen but with her curls, such neatest was forever beyond her grasp anyway.
"Just a normal couple, looking over a bit of history," Harry whispered, watching as Bucky nodded sullenly from the corner of her eye. He'd been the same when they'd visited Brooklyn, but he'd come away with a little more light in his eyes. Hell, he'd even started teasing her ever so slightly a month ago. She could only hope that this visit wasn't going to knock that progress back again.
Sucking in a deep breath, Harry caught the scent of the preservatives on the exhibits, the leftover crumbs of a cookie that she'd failed to brush off her sleeve. The amazing zing of the aftershave Bucky had taken to using. While he wasn't clean shaven, it was only the lightest dusting of stubble.
It was, well, attractive.
Forcing herself to retreat from the line of thought for now, Harry turned her attention back to observing the few people around them. Bucky's hair was still hanging loose, he insisted on keeping it to a length that almost brushed his shoulders, but it was nicely washed now, the scraggily, broken ends trimmed.
"Can't really be a normal couple when I've got the prettiest girl in the room on my arm," Bucky whispered under his breath and Harry felt her lips twitch a bit. It'd seem today was a good day, if he felt up to a bit of needless bragging to amuse himself.
"Quiet you," Harry grumbled, rolling her eyes even as her thoughts darted off elsewhere.
It'd been a seven months and she hadn't set her eyes upon this so called magical staff, the one that had apparently summoned her from her own world. And the more time she spent here, the more content she grew.
Before, back in the Wizarding World she'd been hounded. Every day, she couldn't go to Diagon without people whispering, staring, asking for autographs. Couldn't go a month without at least one idiot trying to attack her.
Now, travelling this world with Bucky as she had been doing, she realized exactly what she'd been doing back there when she'd been visiting all those different countries. Running away. She hadn't felt comfortable in that life. It hadn't felt like her's, more like a role she'd been pressed into playing, and she'd had to follow each step. Until it got too much.
She hadn't want to be an Auror, and she'd not been one. But Kingsley had kept asking, the public had kept putting the press on.
And so she'd hidden away. Either studying new magic, or travelling or trying new things. Anything to get out of conforming to the public opinion again. Because how many times had they turned their back on her before? And now she was expected to just follow after them? No. She'd lived, for Hermione and for Ron, for the Weasleys and for Neville and for Luna. For all her friends.
But it hadn't been a life, not really.
And the more time she spent here with Bucky, the more time she spent free and travelling and without the weight of the world on her shoulders, the more her resolve to go back crumbled just that little bit more. She still kept looking though, because if she stopped that, she wouldn't have anything else to do for herself here, no direction. So she'd remain on target for now.
If she just so happened to be putting more effort into helping Bucky, then who was there to notice such a thing?
The two of them stopped before a black and white video showing a clean shaven Bucky with short hair, talking with a man that seemed to represent America in the flesh.
"Is that Steve?" Harry asked quietly, running her thumb over Bucky's knuckles when he nodded beside her.
Video Bucky was grinning, half doubled over laughing at something that Steve had said. With his short hair, clean shave cheeks and sparkling eyes, he looked years younger. Though the Bucky stood beside her couldn't be more than five years older if she had to guess. Probably not even that. Maybe less. HYRDA guessed his physical age to be somewhere around thirty one, thirty two. It was hard to tell, given that they'd been freezing him on and off. Bucky had been happy enough to pick thirty two and leave it at that though, so thirty two he was.
"You look happy," Harry mused, watching the video repeat itself over and over, the volume muted. And he did.
Harry couldn't quite remember an incident in the past year where she'd seen Bucky completely and utterly happy like she was in this video. He'd smiled, chuckled ever so quietly under his breath, teased her. But those incidents were far and few inbetween.
"I'll be happy again."
Glancing at the former weapon from behind her bangs, Harry smiled.
That was another thing. Now that nobody knew what it represented, she wasn't afraid to have her scar on show. The thick fringe of hair she'd had since she'd first learnt of its origins and what it represented was long gone. She had two short bangs framing her forehead and cheekbones now, would have the curls framing her face as soon as it grew out enough.
It was quite freeing.
"I suppose so. You could find a nice girl, settle down in that white picket fence house and have the two point five kids with a dog. The all American dream."
It hadn't changed that much from her world really, a lot of things were still the same. Only, there were no wizards. Just superheroes.
Snorting slightly at the madness that'd become her life, Harry shook her head, eyes sliding over to look at Bucky and freezing when she noticed he was completely focused on her. His head was cocked back ever so slightly, brows wrinkled together as he sucked in his bottom lip, slowly running it back over his teeth… He looked more human for it. The little gestures like that he'd been picking up again, made him a weapon no longer.
Just Bucky Barnes, the guy from Brooklyn who had liked dancing and had a tendency to call women 'doll' or 'dame'.
"I think I've already found a nice girl. She just wants to leave."
Harry flinched back as if struck, well aware that the hurt was showing on her face as she looked up at Bucky. But he wasn't staring at her, just looking at the video of himself and Steve, watching it one last time before he turned on heel, leaving her stood rooted to the spot.
He, he hadn't meant what he'd just said, had he? What a stupid question, of course he had. He wouldn't have said it otherwise.
Turning to look towards the door that Bucky had left from, Harry felt her heart sink just a little bit, swallowing nervously as she did so. He wouldn't go off without her, that much was obvious. But he clearly thought they both needed some time to think over things on their own.
Dragging both hands down the sides of her face, Harry let out a frustrated breath, pressing her knuckles into the sockets of her eyes when they started to tear up. Okay, so maybe she'd gotten a bit fond of Bucky too. But this wasn't her world, was it? Did she really belong here? Could she in good conscious, give up trying to get back to the wizarding world?
"Ma'am? Is everything okay?"
Looking up into the soft blue/grey eyes of an exceedingly tall man, Harry offered up her best smile, certain the expression would show just how wobbly she was on the inside right now.
"No, not really. Sorry if you were expecting 'I'm fine', or something like that."
The man laughed quietly, running a hand through his hair before looking at the video behind her back. Something wistful came over his expression before he turned back to look at her, thick blond eyebrows almost knitted together with the worry expressed on his face.
"Is there any way I can help?" It wouldn't be right to unload all of her emotional baggage on this random guy, it wouldn't be right to rant about it and try and see if anyone, anyone at all, could offer up an answer.
She still did it anyway.
"I don't belong here, and I've been getting ready to go home but I've got a friend who needs me here and I don't know what to do, if I should go home or stay."
The eyes looked a bit startled for a second before the man gave a solemn nod. He looked a lot older than his thirty years in that moment.
"I see. Well, do you want to go? Or do you just feel like it's your duty to go? Because I've spent a good few years doing what people tell me is my duty, but sometimes it's nice to just get away and be me for a bit."
Blinking, Harry drew her bottom lip in, sucking on the flesh and then realizing she'd actually picked that gesture up from Bucky. The questions were good ones.
Did she want to go back to the life she'd had, following everyone's expectations and then suffering for it whenever she tried to escape? Or did she want to remain here, free to do whatever she pleased? Free to spend her time however she pleased, with whoever she pleased?
In reality, it wasn't that hard of a decision. It was the guilt, the feeling that she was abandoning something, that had her holding back. But she couldn't afford to do that anymore. After all, was she a Gryffindor or not? It was time to stop hiding from it.
She wanted to stay here.
It was so blindingly obvious. Even if she had to perform little magic tricks on the street to earn enough tips to by them some food, even if she and Bucky had to go hunting for meat whenever they were out in the wilderness. Even if the both of them lived out of a tent.
She was happy here, that much was obvious now.
"Thank you," Harry grinned, feeling so much lighter than she had, like the weight that'd settled upon her shoulders when she arrived was gone. Lifted off her small frame by this stranger before her.
"Serious, thank you. I have to go and find Bucky now."
Spinning on heels, Harry took off towards the exit, completely missing the pained look on the strangers familiar face as she went.
It wasn't until Harry had shot out of the Smithsonian that she realized it was Captain America that'd just given her that wonderful bit of advice.
She found him stood outside a coffee shop. A black coffee in one hand and one full of cream and sugar in the other. Smiling, Harry accepted the former, something warm settling in her stomach because he'd always remembered how she took her coffee since they'd first got one together.
"Sorry. It, it kinda felt like I had to go back. People would be expecting me to find my way back… But I don't want to. Not anymore. I feel more like a person here than I did there."
Bucky's face was emotionless, but his eyes were warm, for perhaps the first time that she'd ever met him. Fully warm, happy even. It wasn't the gleeful joy she'd seen in the video, it lent more to a broken man slowly finding more to live for in his life again.
But it was happiness. And she'd put it there.
Feeling her cheeks heat, Harry buried her head into the coffee cup, ignoring the steam that swirled up into both her eyes as she did so.
"Good," he muttered softly, taking a sip of his own, overly creamy and sugary coffee. Rolling her eyes, Harry forced herself not to flinch when cool, human fingers wove themselves between her own.
Glancing down, Harry watched Bucky's thumb dance over her knuckles, just like her own had done his minutes ago.
"Is this okay?"
Arctic blue flickered to look at her as lips lifted up in a smile around a coffee cup rim.
"This is good."
Natasha stopped, remaining dead still.
The pair who'd just finished pulling Captain America to shore froze in a similar manner, but not before the male put his left arm between her and the green eyed woman. Sam was right behind her, his hand hovering right over the handgun strapped to his thigh, but so was the Winter Soldier's.
The red-head female, 'Harry' was staring at them with wide green eyes. Brilliantly green, they hadn't changed in their inhuman colouring since she'd last seen them over half a year ago.
They'd been almost impossible to track, the two of them, popping up on security camera's all around the world, in Paris one day then Vienna the next. It'd gotten to the point where Fury had given orders for the Agents to stop actively chasing and only approach if they saw them face to face.
Like right now.
The female's hair had changed, the fringe gone to fall in choppy bangs instead, showing off the lightning bolt scar that sat above her right eyebrow. She couldn't be older than twenty five.
They remained that way for a few seconds, before Steve began to splutter, coughing up whatever water had gotten into his lungs. 'Harry' moved forwards, taking a hold of Steve's arm and Sam took a warning shot from his gun, hitting the ground not a half foot away from the female.
Natasha threw her arm out to prevent the man from following through, especially when she saw the way the Winter Soldier's eyes had narrowed dangerously, how he'd drawn a gun while she'd panicked that Sam was getting in over his head.
During this, 'Harry' had flipped Steve over, rubbing his back in a soothing manner as he threw up all of the water he'd taken in during his bout of unconsciousness.
These two had dragged him out of the lake, though for what reason, Natasha had no clue. They'd had plenty of video footage of the woman walking about different cities with a man they assumed to be the Soldier, only he'd had what appeared to be two human arms; the metal one had often been missing.
But there was no denying that the man they'd been following and the man before her now where the same person. They wore the same face, even if he was a lot tidier than when she'd last seen him in London.
But he was much, much more defensive of his companion than he had been before. So much more. Was this what she'd been aiming for? The ultimate body guard?
Pulling out a gun loaded with a sleeper bullet developed to knock out Steve -and maybe even Thor, but it wasn't tested yet-, Natasha shot at the Soldier, already moving to push Sam behind some cover.
Just to see what would happen.
She was not expecting the female to throw out both hands and stop the bullet mid motion, a look of complete panic on her face. Natasha watched as those vivid green eyes traced a line from the immobile bullet to the Soldier, calculating the route that both Natasha and the Soldier had already worked out. It'd have gone right over his shoulder. Another warning shot.
But the female had stopped it, protecting him and show-casing skills she hadn't before.
"Don't do that again," 'Harry' snapped, glaring at her before her eyes went back to the Soldier, checking him over with an attentiveness that belong to something more acquaintances using one another to survive the world. So they were close to one another then?
"Stand down. Your involvement with the Texan HYDRA base is questionable, SHIELD has questions they want answering."
Natasha would never get to know if they duo would have come with her, because in that moment Steve had looked up at the two, specifically the Soldier, and his eyes went wide.
"Harry. Time to go."
The Winter Soldier -Bucky?- snatched up Harry's arm, pulling her up until they were standing.
Steve was struggling to get up now, struggling against the multitude of wounds that the HYDRA assassins had no doubt inflicted upon him. Natasha shot another sleeping bullet, this time at the female because she was the one that could teleport, but it was several moments too late.
They were gone with another loud crack so similar to that one all those months ago, leaving the space they'd occupied empty and Steve looking both devastated and full of hope at the same time.
Damn, she was missing something here.
"What the hell just happened?" Sam hissed and it was only then that Natasha remember the man wouldn't have been clued in on the fact there was someone out there in the world with teleporting powers. Steve knew about the unknown -considering he was the only one on payroll that they figured had a chance of taking her, you know, if you ignored the teleporting thing- but of course Sam would.
"A problem Sam. Another problem."
I am so glad I finished this up before I was due to go on holiday; I was panicking that I wouldn't finish but inspiration hit me these past two days and I got all of this wrote since I started it on Monday. I should never have even played about with the idea of FemHarryxBucky, because there is not enough of it -nothing, I've found nothing, someone please go write something- and now I feel it is my duty to fix such a problem.
So here, have a 20,000 word Oneshot that I might make into a series.