"Put on the suit, let's go a few rounds," Steve barked at Tony.
The tension in the room rose and rose until Bruce found himself drowning under a tidal wave of tension and anger, desperately wishing he could crane his neck for a breath of fresh air, away from the heat and anger that was threatening to wash him away.
Then there was a crack like a gunshot and the whole world exploded. A bright light flashed and Bruce's muscles locked, his legs snapping together and his arms jerking to his sides. He fell hard onto his side and pain exploded behind his eyes. He felt the rapid thumping in his ribcage and every conscious thought running through Bruce's mind was eclipsed by his fear of the Hulk emerging and killing everything on the Helicarrier.
He could feel the green monster bubbling beneath the surface, but the ripping pain of the transformation never came. He waited, but when the dreaded sensation remained dormant. He returned his attention to the room, interested only in distracting himself. The only thing he seemed to have control of were his eyes, as joints remained locked. He peered about the room, noting that no one else seemed to be better off than him, bound invisibly to the floor.
At the center of the room stood a man. His midnight hair whipped in an intangible wind, and his eyes, coldly scanning the room were a toxic green.
"I'd say I was sorry for my rude entrance, but you were the one to forget your manners first, Director Fury." The man's voice was quiet but dangerous, like the hissing of snake you haven't laid eyes on yet. His shifting eyes paused on Bruce, striking a match to the fear smoldering in him. The Hulk surged to the forefront of his mind, stronger than ever, and he could feel his muscles bulging in the commencement of the transformation, the mysterious force binding him no longer sufficient to keep the monster at bay.
"None of that now," their attacker's voice cut sharply through his rage. With a flick of the stranger's hand, Bruce's world shifted once more, and he found himself upright. "Drink this," the man commanded, holding a vial to Bruce's suddenly mobile lips. Bruce made to protest but the stranger had already tipped the vial of viscous blue liquid into his mouth. He moved to spit it out, but his jaw snapped shut, out of his control once more.
Bruce's heart battered his ribcage, as he was faced with the decision to swallow an unidentified substance forced on him by a known hostile, or choke. For the first time in his life, he found himself desperate for the safety and security of the Hulk, but no matter how the presence in his mind battled for control, the invisible restraints kept. They'd somehow halted the Hulk's mental takeover by hindering his physical transformation.
Bruce, on the brink of choking, swallowed the substance that tasted vaguely of dragon fruit. The effect was instantaneous. The constant anxiety—the anger—that plagued him every minute of every day, that stopped him from sleeping more than a handful of hours, that prevented him from building relationships, that stopped him from living just—just vanished. The Hulk, forever fighting for control, reeled back, sitting contently in a deep recess of his consciousness.
As soon as he finished processing his sudden bliss, he blinked himself back into awareness. He licked at his lips, realizing that control of his mouth had been returned to him.
"What…" he began to ask.
"Calming Draught. I'm not particularly interested in seeing you lose control on the admittedly high likelihood that things get more… interesting. I'm not fond of being interrupted, and I have business with your director that simply could not wait." The man who had just shifted Bruce's entire world view was cold and impersonal. His words were sharp, and cutting, his voice a weapon he was clearly well versed in using. As he spoke, his attention returned to Fury, dragging his piercing eyes across him like blades.
"Potter," Fury began in a tense, restrained voice. "We can resolve this without—"
"I'm through negotiating with you," Potter hissed. "You clearly don't follow your own rules, foolish considering the consequences."
"When this first began, you appeared to understand exactly how dangerous I could be, which is why I find it unfathomable that instead of respecting what is me and mine," the man's careful composure cracked into a righteous rage. He took a breath to gather himself before continuing, "you chose to court death."
"Master Death, these mortals are—"
"Silence Odinson, or you will find that not even Asgardians are above my wrath," and miraculously arrogant, rash Thor, full of pride and strength fell silent under the cutting words of the stranger. Whoever this man was, his influence and power extended far beyond any realm the Avengers were prepared to deal with.
"Fury, you have far overstepped your bounds, and this incident will not be forgiven or forgotten," his words rang with finality. "However, if you return to me what you took, both you and your merry band of heroes will remain intact when I depart, both physically, and mentally."
Fury eyed the man stoically, clearly not willing to crack under the man's threats.
"Crucio." The biting word sliced through the air. A flash of red struck Fury square in the chest.
Quite often, in times of crisis, Natasha's brain slowed things down for her, played the world in half speed, giving her time to process, plan, react, and attack. It had saved her life more than once. Never before had she resented it, but right now, as she was forced to watch as Fury, one of the most self- controlled men she knew, threw his head back against the unforgiving floor with a sickening crack and writhed in pain, she desperately wished she could instead fast forward.
Fury, the spy, as Tony had called him, opened his mouth and screamed, and none of her training, her countless life-threatening experiences could have prepared her for the terror the sound struck into her. Fury was trained for torture. Nothing known to mankind should have been able to break him, yet this man, practically a child, was destroying him. She watched the dispassionate green eyes of Fury's torturer, and knew she had to do something.
"Stop," she called out firmly, overwhelmed in relief has Fury's screams finally tapered off. She slipped into her favorite persona, smiling salaciously at the man, fighting the feeling that she was failing before she'd even truly begun. "There's no need for that," she practically purred, using a similar to tactic to the one she used with just about any man she needed information from "I'm sure that between you and I, it won't take much at all to coax what you need out of the Director." His eyes remained fixed on her for only a moment more before he disregarded her entirely. She closed her eyes against the failure.
"Had enough Fury? Have I made myself clear enough? I'm not here to play politics with you anymore. If I don't get what I want, I will take it from you by force. Do you understand?" Potter squatted next to Fury peering closely into his face. "Your will is nothing compared to mine. I will destroy everything you were, are, and ever will be." Low and ominous, the whispers carried in the utter silence of the room. "Now," Potter continued, stepping away from his victim, "the room number."
"You can delude yourself however much you like," Rogers growled, "but men like you will never get what they want. You can't walk all over good men without the consequences catching up to you eventually."
The room froze with baited breath, awaiting the man's response. None of them expected the laughter that came.
"Good men?" the man snorted derisively. He smiled condescendingly at the Captain. "You stupid, naïve fool. You'll follow anyone who says they have the world's best interests at heart, won't you? As long as you get your proper pat on the heat, you're content to close your eyes against the truth you don't want to see. Fury, the man you follow so blindly, is a master of deceit, just as full of the flaws of humanity as the rest of you.
"This man," he spat, "didn't appreciate it when I didn't fall perfectly into his plans, so he stole something precious to me. So now, I suggest you cease speaking on matters of which you understand nothing, before I sicken from your childish naivety.
"Fury? I think your men have stalled long enough on your behalf. The room number. Now."
"S-24," Fury spat, through gritted teeth.
"Excellent," Potter intoned with a sardonic grin. "I had expected more of a challenge from you to be honest." His expression shifted suddenly into the cold control they were more familiar with. "You," he snapped at Tony. "You know this computer system backwards. The records for S-24, would you?"
"Unfortunately for you, I don't take orders all that well. You can ask the one-eyed bandit there. He loves complaining about it," Tony snarked, standing up as he felt his bonds being released. He was tense and ready, but knew it would be futile. He was the only person in the room who was practically useless in a physical altercation. His mind might have been sharp, but without the suit he was unable to subdue their attacker.
"Fortunately for Fury, I wasn't ordering you. You have every right to refuse, but understand that without your expertise my only alternative will be to pull the information directly from the good Director's mind," he glanced calculatingly at Fury. "Legilimency, when performed by someone skilled in the art, feels like having your mind raped. Your most intimate, protected place is torn through and exposed, while you're left powerless to stop it. When performed by someone less skilled, well, you would need a new director," he grinned viciously.
"I want it to be on record that I'm only doing this because I'm extremely curious as to what Fury could have possibly taken to warrant all of this. I don't think anyone will be very impressed to find out a man like you is going to such great lengths for his creepy collection of locks of hair. That would just be sad," Tony chatted as he typed frantically. "Here, storage room 24 has—"
"Storage room?" Potter's voice was dangerous, and Tony immediately knew that something had gone wrong. "Fuck you Fury." Potter's foot embedded itself deeply in the Director's ribcage before coming down on his neck trapping his head against the grated floor. Tony jerked forward instinctively to stop him, but his body had once more locked up without his permission. "Legilimens," Potter hissed.
The air was heavy and solemn as they watched Fury grit his teeth in apparent pain, but Potter's patience was apparently running thin. His invasion was short-lived, as he pulled the information viciously from the man's mind, trying desperately not to flash back to his own torture at Snape's hand, all under the guise of occlumency lessons.
Potter stepped away from the man and took a settling breath before walking over to a table laden with technology. He pressed on a clearly labeled button to activate the intercom. Tapping his wand twice against his throat he began to speak, "Coulson, transport the asset in B-18 to lab 3 immediately," Potter intoned brusquely in a perfect imitation of Fury's voice.
Bruce's mind raced with the new information. His own quarters were B-32. Was B a prefix for all the housing units, or merely an indicator of the room's location? His chest hurt at the implications. Outside of Bruce's tumultuous thoughts the room remained silent but for Fury's strained breathing and the nervous pacing of Potter's feet.
Finally, the solid sound of Coulson's steps echoing up the hallway eclipsed the silence. Potter ceased his pacing, turning to face the door with squared shoulders, his wand coming up defensively.
Then several things happened in quick succession.
The door slid open, someone gasped, Bruce closed his eyes against the confirmation of his suspicions, Potter sank to his knees, and an impossibly small voice called, "Daddy!"
"Teddy," Potter gasped desperately, reaching forward to pull a small black haired boy into a crushing hug. The child buried his head into his father's neck, but not before most everyone in the room noted the pale sheen of sweat that coated his face. Potter pulled back quickly shifting the child so he was cradling him in his arms. "Teddy, love, where does it hurt?"
"Here," the child, Teddy, whimpered, reaching up to touch his temple.
Potter moved quickly with his free hand, rifling through a bag that had appeared from thin air and pulling out a vial remarkably like the one he'd forced on Bruce earlier. This one was filled with a murky green liquid, and though the child wrinkled his nose at it, he drank it down dutifully. Potter quickly brought two more colored vials to Teddy's lips before he settled for stroking the child's black hair soothingly. Bruce watched in relief as a healthy pink stained the child's cheeks and his breathing eased.
"There now love, that's much better isn't?" Potter crooned.
"Yes Daddy, thank you," the child responded sweetly, burrowing further into his father's arms. "I was scared Daddy, but I knew you would come get me." Teddy's words seemed to jerk Potter back into reality, as he glanced up at the gun Coulson was pointing threateningly at him.
"Mifty," Potter called, and the room was startled by a small alien-like creature with floppy ears and bulbous eyes as it popped into existence. "Please take Teddy to Healer Malfoy."
"I'll be along in a moment love, I need to finish up here. I promise I won't leave you alone long," Potter soothed. "Plus," he added with a conspiratorial wink, "You know if you're a good boy during your check up Cousin Draco will give you a chocolate frog." That was apparently enough as the small child put up no fight as he was passed along to the strange creature Mifty, who was not much larger than he was.
"Daddy!" Teddy called out suddenly, "They said that I had to stay here because you were busy saving the world. The world won't really end will it Daddy?" Teddy asked him imploringly.
Harry suppressed the flare of anger at the manipulation of his child, but conceded the point anyway. "Of course not, Teddy. You know I would never let anybody end the world." And so Teddy, secure in the knowledge that the world would still be around for his Monday playdate with Victoire, only gave a toothy grin at his Daddy Harry as Mifty the house elf popped them away.
The moment Teddy was gone the atmosphere shifted. Harry coldly considered the gun Coulson was pointing at him, calculating.
"How dare you. You kidnapped my son, my five-year-old son. He missed two doses of his medication. You could have bloody killed him. And then, you have the nerve to point a gun in his direction," Potter barked, stalking towards Coulson with determination.
Now, in light of the truth, everything about Potter seemed different. He wasn't a malicious villain, he was a loving father. His actions weren't despicable, but desperate. He wasn't filled with callous disregard for humanity, but with crushing love for a single human. Suddenly it wasn't Potter who was in the wrong, but Fury. Fury, who had kidnapped a man's child, an act which they doubted they would be able to accept the excuse for.
"I'm leaving, but know this: If Teddy transforms this month because of your careless actions, you will face the consequences, and if you ever even think of touching him again, I will paint the world red with the blood of your Agents, and I'll leave you to fucking watch, Fury. Don't approach me again, and fix this bloody mess with Loki. Teddy likes this planet, and I certainly don't want it under the rule of a mad man," Potter finished, before disappearing with a loud crack.
"What the fuck," Tony snarled at Fury.
A loud crack announced Potter's reappearance.
"By the way, I've kept this ship in a time bubble for the last twenty or so minutes. There's actually a bomb about 2 seconds from taking out one of your engines," he announced before vanishing again. They stared dumbfounded at the spot he'd occupied before the world exploded once more.
The Avengers were gathered in the conference room of the Helicarrier, waiting for their debriefing in the aftermath of the Manhattan battle. Loki was cuffed securely with magic dampening metal while the scientists prepared a method to safely transport both he and his brother back to Asgard.
Fury strode into the room solemnly, examining the heroes with a firm eye.
"First you should know that Agent Coulson is not actually dead," Fury began unflinchingly.
"What?" the Black Widow glared viciously, having been most effected by his death.
"He was in critical condition, but pulled through thanks to the aid of Mr. Potter."
"Potter? The same Potter who nearly killed you after you stole his son?" Hawkeye asked callously, not having been there to experience the utter submission the man had forced them all into.
"Apparently, Teddy told his father how much he liked the nice Agent that read to him and rubbed his back while he fell asleep. Potter felt the need to reward Coulson for looking after his son during his stay here."
"His stay here?" Rogers butted in, "Don't sugar coat it. You kidnapped a sick five year old, terrorizing him and his father. How do you plan to explain that away?"
Fury examined the intent expressions on every members face and realized with a sigh that he could not escape this conversation.
"Harry James Potter was born a British citizen. He was also born a wizard, one of 45 million that populate the Earth," he silenced their questions with a preemptive glare. "He's considered the most powerful and influential wizard since Merlin himself. By the time he was 17 he'd singlehandedly saved the world twice. He is known for his insurmountable morals, and reckless bravery. He sacrificed his life to save 200 school children. Somewhere along the way, he became more than just wizard." Here Fury paused, reluctant to continue. "He was considered an ideal candidate for the Avengers Initiative."
Most everyone in the room was sharp enough to understand the implication. "Potter, however, made it very clear he was not interested. Our goal was to bring Potter into the facility long enough to convince him to reconsider. We'd planned to lure him here with his godson Teddy. We miscalculated."
"You think?" Tony snorted.
"We'd known that Potter prioritized the safety of his family, but failed to consider that he might take an aggressive course of action. We were unaware, upon acquiring Teddy that he was affected by a condition passed onto him genetically by his biological father that required medication and monitoring."
"Your actions were unwise," Thor intoned solemnly. "Legends of Harry Jameson, have reached Asgard. He is known as the Master of Death, for it is said he conquered Lady Death in a game of her own choosing, and thus she will never cross him again. His power is such that not even my father would dare incite his anger.
"Well damn, we lucked out."