Please enjoy this chapter, yo. I hope it revitalizes your weary soul, and helps you to fondly remember what you had had for breakfast. *Bows at your hearty applause*
Sorry it took so long, but hopefully this long chapter will make up for it. ;) Special thanks to musme for being my 200th reviewer! ;) Special mint chocolate chip brownies for you.
As always, I do not own either of these wonderful plot masterpieces. They belong to their respective owners and I make no profit from them whatsoever.
Truly the righteous attain life,
but whoever pursues evil finds death.
Harry stared into the face of Death. Literally. Like, in the most literally literal sense ever even heard of in the history of anything ever. He could somehow sense that Death was smirking, despite not being able to see the person-thing's face from inside the tattered, black cowl. Harry only hoped that this would not end up in tears and/or him nearly dying. Again. Or, even worse than anything else imaginable: being transported to yet another dimension.
Time was still stopped around the duo, with every last object and person frozen in whatever position they had been in when Death had decided to make his surprise visit. Harry, meanwhile, was testing the limits of his Occlumency to keep any ounce of the fear he was feeling from showing on his face. The fear was not because he was afraid of Death. No, he was long past over that useless little thing that some people had that was referred to as the sense of self-preservation.
What terrified him was the unknown. Harry feared what he didn't know. Completely natural, but still a terrible thing to deal with that caused panic, that would lead to mistakes, which would further lead to those he cared about dying because of his own shortcomings.
Which was unfortunate, since pretty much everything that he had been experiencing since arriving in a new dimension was previously unknown to him. But he knew he could handle it, if he could take out a Dark Lord and all said Dark Lord's eight soul fragments, then he could most definitely live in a new world. Or, at least he was nearly powerful enough to take down anyone who tried to control him. He still had quite a few hidden tricks up his sleeves, after all.
But what he was really worried about was Teddy. His godson was at kindergarten being watched by a magically concealed phoenix, who would make absolutely sure to keep the young Metamorphmagus out of harm's way. But a juvenile phoenix would be no match if Death decided to interfere. And Harry still wasn't quite sure what caused his godson to tag along on his little inter-dimensional trip.
Not helping anything to think about the reasons behind that now, Harry thought as he blinked his eyes back into focus. Stop getting off track, I need to focus on now. Dangerous being standing straight ahead. Best to be alert. Constant vigilance, constant vigilance.
"Have you enjoyed your stay so far?" An amused voice questioned politely from Harry's left, making the young wizard turn sharply.
Death was sitting as nonchalantly as possible on the metal counter of a nearby hot dog stand, sipping steaming tea that seemingly came out of thin air. The cloaked being turned to look straight at Harry, and almost into his very soul. The faceless gaze made him feel insignificant, and small.
Harry was mentally sending his sense of awareness to sit in the corner for a time out as punishment for failing its job. So much for constant vigilance. Mad-Eye would be severely disappointed in me for not paying attention to a potential enemy.
Harry frowned slightly, trying his best to repress an eye twitch. "Of course I haven't 'enjoyed my stay', what makes you think that I would enjoy being dropped in another freaking dimension without any clue as to what I'm even doing here!" The Master of Death aimed a ticked off glare at the cloaked figure.
Death stretched his arms above his head, his brief yawn interrupted by the being's back popping. "Ahh, I'm definitely getting too old for this stuff." Death muttered to himself, and hopped off of the hot dog cart. Harry could hear the mutter, of course. And the wizard crossed his arms over his chest, confident that nothing the cloaked being would ever say next could possibly sway him.
"What about Leopold Fitz, and Jemma Simmons?" The amused voice of Death turned dead serious. Harry felt a chill go down his spine, though he stubbornly refused to shiver. The green-eyed man wouldn't let the cloaked being have the satisfaction of seeing how uncomfortable those words had made him.
"You shouldn't take your new friends for granted, Harry James Potter. And you also shouldn't hurriedly assume that my bringing of you here was only for my benefit. Far from it, actually. But you'll hear more of that later." Death reached up and pulled back his tattered cowl, showing his face to the surprised wizard for the first time.
Harry gaped at the man in front of him. What was once covered by a cloak, was a seemingly middle-aged, though surprisingly fit, silver eyed man. Death's hair color was dark brown, nearly black, and was spiky in various places like it had a mind of its own.
"Surprised to not see an empty skull? Or milky eyes? Or other numerous cliche things people make up about my appearance?" Came the amused voice again, though this time it was accompanied by the raise of an eyebrow.
"What… I mean, I didn't think that you'd look so…" Harry trailed off uncertainly.
"Normal? Not-freakish? Spiffy, even? I can go on all day." Death smirked. "You know, I wasn't always an entity. I lived, I died." The being sighed dramatically before plopping himself down on a nearby bench. "I just didn't stay dead." The silver eyed man grinned, eyes lighting up in an almost familiar way as they fixed on the young wizard still standing nearly two meters away. "Now sit down, we have much to talk about."
Harry walked closer warily, still not trusting the man, but he sat anyway. It didn't appear that he was in any immediate danger, so what the heck. He was a Gryffindor, after all. And he was also determined to find out more about his special circumstances. And here was his chance, assuming he could trust Death.
"Wait, are you actually going to tell me something this time? Or are you just going to spout cryptic sentences and disappear dramatically again." Harry asked with his eyes slightly narrowed. He was startled when the being laughed boisterously.
"I honestly can't believe you asked that. I just cannot believe it." Death gasped for breath, and after another two minutes of chuckling, and bearing Harry's unamused stare, the being finally got a hold of himself. He wiped a tear from his eye. "All these years… and I finally get called out on my behavior. And by a short person with glasses -wait, you don't even have glasses anymore… weird." Death scratched the side of his head in puzzlement.
"And why would my vision correcting itself be such a strange thing?" Harry raised an eyebrow in question, ignoring the mention of how he was somewhat vertically challenged.
"Ah, it's not that big of a deal. By itself. But if your sight suddenly changed back to normal recently, then it's possible it was a side affect of being chosen as my champion…" Death frowned and started mumbling unintelligible things under his breath.
Harry felt that chill again. "Then what…?" He asked, not being able to hold back his question. Something in Death's tone and what he could catch from the mumbles was starting to worry him.
Death blinked and faced the young man again, but this time without his nearly ever present smile. "Then it's possible that some other things have changed about you since the time you were chosen as well."
"What do you mean?" But just as he'd spoken, he had remembered how his magic had gained sentience, and how his magical reserves had enlarged since he had traveled dimensions. And now he was going to find out why.
"Eh, I don't really know how this all happened. But any changes that I had suspected would happen, had involved the Hallows." Death ran a hand through his hair and smiled at Harry uncomfortably. "Kinda why I was here in the first place… because of the Hallows."
Harry glared at the being in front of him. So much for getting new information. Great. "So, that's all you were here for? Nothing about telling me what my valiant quest as your noble champion would include? Just showing me how to use the cursed items that had brought me here in the first place, and away from my own world and every single friend and acquaintance, save for my godson. My three year old godson, who shouldn't even be here." Harry said, voice dripping with heavy sarcasm and irritation.
Death's previously calm gaze turned cold. The being glared at the wizard, and Harry immediately felt paralyzed. He couldn't move. Not even his eyes were able to look away from the silver eyed glare. Harry started to feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness sink into his gut. And he understood that he was completely outmatched in every way possible. And he knew right then, that there would be no possible way for him to win against Death, even if he managed to break the paralysis.
"Be careful of how you talk, child. And do not just assume that I even have to tell you of the things I already have. Champions have been sent against numerous dangerous enemies with far less preparation than what you have had so far. You should be lucky that I'm even helping you at all, because normally this would not happen." Death stated, carefully neutral. Then the being looked away. The break in eye contact released the paralysis and Harry gasped, trying to fill his lungs with air.
"Harry James Potter." Harry looked up warily. "I never said that you would be alone." Death added with a smirk. Harry frowned in confusion after he had finally caught his breath. "Ah, you'll understand what I mean in time. I'm sure it will be amusing."
"...Why." Harry rasped, all fight already having left him. Leaving him feeling cold, like the sensation during an encounter with a dementor. Except worse, in a way.
"Why what?" Death responded, frowning at Harry.
"Why did you choose me? Over everyone else, why me?" Harry asked in honest confusion. Why not pick someone who wanted this?
Death stared at the ground in thought, mulling over what to say in response. The silver eyed entity looked up with a fond smile. "Because you care, and that is more than I can say for most people, myself included."
Harry stared at Death in shock. Not quite comprehending what he had just heard, but he found himself nodding anyway. He still hadn't appreciated all the trouble he had gone through, but as far as excuses went, that wasn't too terrible.
Death suddenly groaned, and slapped a hand onto his forehead, startling Harry. "Listen to me, getting all emotional and crap. At this rate I'll never get to doing what I came here for." Death sighed tiredly, glancing at the young wizard with an expression that would be used by a grandfather talking tall tales to his grandchild. "This sort of thing happens all the time. You'll understand when you get older."
Harry tried not to think too much on any hidden meanings with that last sentence spoken by the older man/entity, if only to save himself a headache. "What did you even come here for? And how long do you plan to keep things stuck in time like this?"
Death blinked. "Oh. Right, the time thing. I probably shouldn't leave it for too much longer, since I don't want you to get older or whatever. And there's also the fact that it's abusing my power, yadda yadda…" Death rolled his eyes. "And that brings me to what originally brought me here."
Harry gave Death his full attention, and he hoped that this would be at least a little helpful, even if it was not what he wanted to know. Some information would be better than complete ignorance.
"I guess I'll start off by asking what you think is the meaning of the Deathly Hallows." Death clasped his hands in his lap, and studied the wizard's face intently.
Harry thought over the question. He wanted to respond quickly with something about how Death gave a Hollow to each of the three Peverell brothers as a way of congratulating them for outsmarting the entity. By using their magic to create a bridge to pass over a deadly river, the three brothers had been presented with the Deathly Hallows.
But that wasn't what the man was asking. He asked for the meaning of the Hollows. All the knowledge I knew about the things that have changed my life, were from a children's storybook.
"I don't know." Harry admitted softly. It was the truth. Just because all three magical objects of power had been in his possession since he was seventeen, didn't mean that he knew of their purpose. Any experiments that he had done on them to find answers, had only left him with more questions.
One time, when Harry had been eighteen, he had even thrown the Hallows into raging Fiendfyre that he had conjured -with his holly and phoenix feather wand- in an attempt to rid himself of the cursed objects. When he had cut off the magic flow from his wand and the Fiendfyre dispersed, the Hollows had disappeared. But only to reappear the next morning as he woke up in his house. The Invisibility Cloak hung on the coat rack, Resurrection Stone still attached to the Gaunt ring, and on the bedside table where his glasses used to rest before his vision fixed itself. And the Elder Wand under his pillow, within easy reach in case of an emergency.
"The meaning of the Deathly Hallows is to find a person whose only ambition is to protect the innocent, even at the cost of their own lives. Someone who has never searched for immortality, or for power merely to feed their own greed." Death's silver orbs fixed on the wizard. His voice was dead serious. "But you are the only one to be found this way. Congratulations." Death gave a small grin at Harry, who was silent.
"Oh! I almost forgot." Death said, slightly embarrassed. "I kinda really only came here to tell you that you can now fully use the Deathly Hallows. Now enjoy that crap." Death got up and reached out an arm to the sky, gathering his power to dispel the time-warp.
"Wait!" Harry called out impulsively. Death lowered his hand, the being's power dissipating back into the world as he raised a dark brow at the wizard. "You didn't specify what the changes were." Harry said in a decidedly much calmer tone.
"Oh. Right. Weeeeell, I guess I've never been one to dwell on the details of things... and stuff." Death grinned at Harry again as he plopped back down on the bench. Not seeming to care in the least about the disturbed look the far younger man was sending him. "Um, yeah. So… The Hallows were kinda restricted in their power before you got them all together again. I mean, obviously! I can't just have any old psycho-hobo off the street picking them up and like, destroying the world, or whatever! I might be not all there in the head, but I'm not stupid."
"Yeah, yeah, I know I'm getting off track. Shush." The seemingly middle-aged man frowned at a perplexed Harry, who had just opened his mouth to ask another question, before promptly closing it again.
"Mmhm. Well, for example: the Stone, before your little trip through the Veil, could only show, like, images of the people you wanted to see. Transparent versions of people from what you had already known about them. Heh, I guess it was a bit similar to the mirror of Erised. Showing only your greatest desires." Death suddenly turned cheerful. "And did you know that Erised is really just 'desire' spelled backwards? Cool, huh?" Death then rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "At least it's cool until you become obsessed with looking at lies and waste away in front of a dang mirror, of all things."
"You're saying that the Stone… could make people lose all hope to live, just the the mirror of Erised?" Harry asked slowly. If that was true, then was it wrong of him to have used the Stone all the times that he had in the past few years that he'd had it?
"Uh… duh. That's what is was originally designed to do." Death raised both of his eyebrows. "Why do you think it was given away to the middle brother? As a trap, obviously. The three brothers had basically cheated Death out of his dues, and so they weren't going to get out of that situation alive. Only the third brother, the youngest and wisest, managed to stay out of Death's claws." The being said with an odd smirk.
Harry thought that the way Death had talked about the Three Brothers was strange. Wait… did he just talk about himself in the third person? Harry stared at the being even more intently than before, mostly in morbid curiosity. I guess he's more insane than he had first appeared to be.
"So that's what the Stone was before I went through the Veil. What is it now?" Harry asked, even though he wasn't certain he even wanted to know anymore. This person-thing was seriously not right in the noggin. And not in a Luna kind of way, but in a psychotic-drug-addict-eats-someone's-face way, except without the bath salts.
"Now it is what it was thought to have been before the Veil, but was not because it wasn't." Death smiled, showing teeth.
Harry stared. "Were you dropped on your head frequently as a baby, or did you eat paint chips when you were little?" He asked simply. Still staring.
"Yes. I mean-no, what. I was never anything other than what I am, except for when I was not. So I was totally not anything, and never a child." Death crossed his legs and folded his hands in his lap. Looking the definition of relaxed and collected.
"Denial is not just a river in Egypt, you know."
"And you're an annoying, little turd." Death retorted elegantly.
"How old are you, again?"
"I am so old, that I am senile. So therefore, I'm practically a kid again. Reverse aging. Yeah. It's totally a real not-thing." Death said, face completely devoid of anything to tell of emanating sarcasm.
Harry stared at Death. Death stared back. Harry blinked, rubbing his forehead to keep back the quickly approaching migraine. What in the potato had just happened…?
"As pleasant as talking to you was, or getting out of the office, and smelling the…" Death sniffed the New York air, "...pollution. I have just got to be leaving now." The being's silver eyes were filled with exuberance as he stood up from the bench, again, and shook a stunned Harry's hand. "Nothing else really changed, like Hallow-wise, other than more power, so you need more responsibility and whatnot. And I kinda just figured that stuff out pretty recently and used it on the spot as somewhat of an excuse so I could meet you like this without you getting mad and yelling at me."
"What." Harry managed to get out through his mental-paralysis, Death still shaking his hand.
"Okay, bye now." Death finally let go of the absent-minded wizard's arm, and promptly walked away. "Say hello to that adorable Metamorphamagi for me. Sorry for that thing I did to him when I transported you two. I couldn't have him dying off from the portal, and all that. I think I really did you a favor, and it's not like you hadn't already adopted him. I just made it a bit more… permanent. Anyways, have a good day!" Death grinned once again, and winked at the flabbergasted Master of Death.
Harry shook off the shock, and ran after the being. "Hey! Where do you think you're going?! Tell me what you meant by-"
Death reached out his arm, his hand in a fist. Letting his fingers uncoil, power escaped from inside the opened hand. Death gave one last, sarcastic salute, and disappeared as shadows enveloped the pavement where he had been standing. Time moved on again like nothing had ever happened. People pushed by where Harry stood, transfixed, on the sidewalk.
"Watch where you're going, kid. You're taking up the whole walkway. If ya got issues, go see someone about it. Sheesh." A dark haired man grumbled as he walked around Harry, eyeing the young man like he was on drugs or something. The random person kept on walking with a shake of his head.
Harry sighed as he stepped out of direct foot traffic. "Well, anyone that I told about my problems would probably only laugh." He looked into the sky, trying to remember a time when his life had made sense. There wasn't. "I guess it's time to finally accept what's been repeatedly shown to me for a long time. My life will never be normal."
A young woman in a dark gray sweatshirt, with the hood pulled up, leaned against the bricks of a building in an alleyway. She was completely inconspicuous in the shaded area, which was exactly what she was going for. She didn't want to get into any legal trouble for what she was about to do.
The young woman, barely out of her teens, was a hacker. And a pretty good one at that. She had grown up without anyone and she didn't need anyone. She was her own person, and no one would ever control her. She had found people who respected her for her talents in hacking, and she was happy. Even though that obviously wouldn't last long, just like nothing lasted long with her around, but she could at least enjoy the feeling while she had it.
Two burly men -thugs, the woman thought with slight amusement- walked into the alley, and nodded in her direction. They were wearing baseball caps and sunglasses. The taller one with a Yankee's cap was carrying a dark blue duffle bag, while the shorter one -who was whistling something that sounded like Mozart- sported a Browns' cap.
She didn't say anything in greeting and reached a hand into her sweatshirt pocket, pulling out a flash drive. "Your Intel on that rival gang of yours is in this." The tall, Yankee's fan, stepped forward to take the flash drive, but the woman jerked her arm back. "Ah, ah. Give me the green first." The other man tossed the duffel bag over to her, after a quick, shared glance with his partner.
The woman pulled the bag closer with her foot, and kept her eyes on the two men as she checked to make sure that she hadn't been shorted anything. It was all there. She gave the two men her full attention. "Here, enjoy." She said as she tossed the flash drive, which was deftly caught by the short Browns' fan. "Make sure to put my hard work to good use, 'kay?" She called out as they turned to leave, and smiled slightly as the man who'd tossed her the duffel bag, the one with the Yankee's cap, turned and tipped the small rim of his hat in her direction.
"A pleasure doing business with you. Don't get into any trouble." He waved behind himself as he and his partner made to leave again.
"That's something that you should be telling yourself." She said, loud enough for the two men to hear. The woman grinned as she heard them chuckle.
"Take care of yourself." The Brown's fan said, honest concern in his voice. The young woman rolled her eyes, but couldn't help the smile that curled her lips at the man's worry.
When she was sure they had left, the woman pulled back her hood and started walking down the sidewalk. Her hair was a pleasant brown color and long enough to go past her shoulders. Her eyes were a strange hazel, somewhere between a dark blue and a light green. The color seeming to change depending on the light, so when asked what her eye color was as a child, she had never been able to answer to her satisfaction. Which, coupled with not knowing her birth parents, served to frustrate her beyond comprehension.
She breathed in the early morning air, taking strength from the feeling of living in a large city where she could disappear in a crowd at any time. Strangely enough, it seemed that the larger the amount of people there were in one place, the less they socialized with one another. But that was why she liked cities, because they were the perfect place for someone who didn't want to be seen. Who didn't want connections.
The young woman walked down the sidewalk, duffel bag slung over her shoulder, with no clear destination ahead. Maybe I'll get some Chinese food at that one place, before heading back to the van. She thought to herself. Humming an upbeat tune under her breath, the woman continued on with considerable more energy than she'd had recently.
Now that she had money again, she could stop rationing whatever cheap food she had managed to scrounge up with her previously sad amount of funds. Oh! And maybe I can get my laptop upgraded as well, and of course get some new clothes… her thoughts trailed off as she spotted someone standing on the sidewalk a little ways away, the bulky man was smirking as he looked in her direction.
For a second she was sure he was looking at someone behind her, but then she remembered that this part of town was practically abandoned so early in the morning. This revelation sent chills down her spine. Who was it that had sent someone after me? And why?
Just as she was about to ask what the man was doing there, she felt strong arms grab her, and a hand cover her mouth. Her eyes widened, and she tried to struggle out of the second man's grip, dropping her duffel bag on the ground. He merely chuckled at her feeble attempts to escape, and dragged her to a nearby alley. She looked around desperately, hoping with everything that she had, that someone would notice and help her. But there was no one.
The man she had first seen on the road walked into the dark alley as well, and pulled out a gun from his waistband, her bag resting on his other arm. He pressed the handgun against her head. "Now listen here, you little hacker, my friend will release his hold in a minute. But there will be no screaming, and no running. Not that it would do much good." The man ended with a smirk, showing a single, black tooth. She nodded, her eyes starting to prickle with tears caused by the fear and stress of having the cold barrel of a gun against her temple.
The man who had previously just ambushed her immediately let her go, and she backed up slightly to keep both men in her sights. The second man, now that she saw his face, had an apathetic expression and a large scar stretched across one eye. She eyed him, and the first man -who was smirking smugly- warily. "What do you want with me?"
"Oh? Who said you could ask questions? Oh well, I want to get this over with quickly. We want to know how you hacked our accounts. There was no way an amateur like you could've gotten past our firewalls." The apparent leader of the duo asked arrogantly. The woman opened her mouth to object, but the man began to speak again, cutting her off. "Tell us who you're working for, and we'll let you go."
"I-I'm not working for anyone, I swear! This was just a favor for a friend." She crossed her arms, suddenly feeling defensive of her skills. "And I got past the firewalls myself, and without anyone's help. I work alone." She met the first man's gaze without backing down. His smirk turned into a scowl.
"Oh yeah? Between friends, you said?" He roughly threw her bag on the ground between them, unzipping it to reveal neatly stacked bills, about five thousand dollars in total. "Would a friend give you all this for a little favor?"
It was a small gig, but it was what she could get. But now she wished that she hadn't been paid at all, it would've been much better if the guys from before had just taken the flash drive without paying. But she knew they wouldn't have done that to her, which was why she had made a deal with them in the first place. She usually didn't like to deal with gangs at all, but those two were what caused her to make an exception.
"Ahh, isn't that what friends do? Help each other out with bills and such?" She said nervously, slowly backing away. But she felt a hand clamp down on her shoulder, keeping her in place. Shoot, I forgot about the second guy for a second. This probably won't end well. She thought with a mental grimace.
The sudden sound of multiple footsteps running closer startled her. She looked to the entrance of the alley to see three men run in, chattering excitedly and pupils dilated from a recent adrenaline rush. Two were carrying guns, the third with a knife… a knife covered in blood. The young hacker held a hand up to her face, turning away. She felt sick. And worried. About herself, or the others she had left at the exchange, she didn't know.
The leader turned to the new men with his smirk back in place. "Did you get what I asked?" He questioned with a psychotic gleam in his eye.
One of the newcomers gave a thumbs up and tossed a small object at the leader. The smirking man caught it, and the hacker gasped as she recognized the flash drive she had had in her possession less than thirty minutes ago. What happened to those two?
"Did any trash get in your way?" The leader asked, pointedly looking at the blood-stained knife.
"Not really, Cap'n." One of the new men with a gun responded, tossing two baseball caps on the ground in the center of the small group.
The hacker stared at the bloodied ball caps -one Yankee, and the other Browns- for several moments, not comprehending. Then she suddenly felt something wet dripping down her cheek. She reached up a trembling hand to her face and when she withdrew the hand, she saw the tears. She closed her eyes and fell to her knees, the man behind her had taken his hand off of her shoulder and gave her some space. She wasn't going to be making a run for it any time soon.
"Ready to talk now, little hacker?" The leader of the gang asked. He walked over and lifted her head gently with his hand, smirking at the hopeless look in her eyes. "Were those two weaklings of that pathetic excuse for a gang really your friends?" She looked away, making the leader guffaw. He let her go, and turned to his men. "She was seriously friends with that trash!" He addressed his followers, drawing laughter from the assembled men.
The leader turned back to her, tilting his head with his eyebrows raised in mock surprise. "What did you say? Does the little hacker feel all angsty about those feeble, little weaklings? I bet you didn't even know their names." The man scoffed in disdain.
The hacker lowered her head. He was right. She didn't know their names. And she never told them her name. Yet they cared about me. Me, a complete stranger. Even the matrons at the orphanage hadn't been that sincere in their concern. And what good did it do them? She felt ashamed. How dare she call them her friends when it was her fault that they were killed. She started to silently cry, tears running down her face as knelt on the firm ground. Then she stared at the baseball caps, and a strange calm overtook her mind.
"Yeah, and you should've seen how the tall guy reacted when we told them you two was going after the girl, priceless! He was bleeding out, there on the pavement, and all he could say was 'just let her go, she's just a kid'..." The thug said the last of his sentence in a high, mocking voice, making the rest of the men nearly double over in harsh laughter.
The young woman twitched, and quickly stood up and ran at the speaker with a burst of speed fueled by righteous fury. She quickly reached him, and catching him off guard, she viciously kneed him in the groin. The hacker smirked in satisfaction as she heard his pained howls, even as she was pulled back and her arms restrained behind her back.
"They were good men, and a thousand times better than any of you could ever even dream of being!" She yelled in defiance, her unique eyes holding a fire to them.
The leader swaggered up to her, and stared, his face unreadable. She spat at his feet, and glared at him, daring him, to do something. He sneered, and raised his hand to strike her. The hacker closed her eyes, expecting the blow to come, and accepting it. Only it didn't.
She looked up, startled, as the leader of the gang stumbled backwards with a yelp. All the gang members were looking around frantically. She was confused, until she saw the leader's hand that had been about to hit her, covered in boils. From where she sat on the concrete, she stared about herself blankly. The men around her paying her no mind as they spun around in circles in an attempt to spot their mysterious attacker. What…? She thought, thinking on the sudden appearance of the boils, how is that possible?
"Didn't your mother ever tell you it wasn't polite to hit a lady?" An amused voice came from somewhere behind the young hacker. Her eyes widened and she turned to see a shaggy figure standing behind her. He looked like he had been through hell; the man's clothes were ripped in numerous places, there was a gash across his forehead, that looked like it had been bleeding for a while now, and she could see he was favoring his right leg. But despite all that, he stood with a determination in his silver eyes that would make anyone envious.
He looks like a lion, protecting his pride from rogues, the hacker mused to herself. She looked up at him to see him wink at her. Then, the strange man grinned with gleeful excitement, and brandished a stick at the gang members. ...or maybe he's just an insane hobo that ran into a pack of feral dogs, the hacker amended.
The gang laughed at the shaggy man that had saved her. "You coming at us with a stick? A stick!" The leader exclaimed. He pulled out his gun, aiming it almost lazily at the young woman and the strange man. The hacker flinched backwards, involuntarily moving closer to the man standing protectively behind where she was still curled up on the ground. The leader of the gang put his finger on the trigger.
"Protego!" The man behind her yelled, and a burst of blue light that originated from the man's stick -no, wand- filled the dim alleyway. She stared in amazement as the shield not only stopped the bullet, but vaporized it as well. She looked up at the man, seeing surprise on his face as well. Then his face hardened, and he turned back to the now-terrified gang members.
Ten Minutes Earlier (still in the five years before the rest of the story)
"Sirius, no!" He heard his godson scream as he fell backwards through the Veil of Death. Bellatrix's last spell cutting across his forehead and leaving him wincing from the pain, even as he fell through the dark depths into certain death. As good a way to die as any. Heroic, dramatic and awesome. Not a bad way to die at all.. Sirius thought to himself as he lost consciousness.
He wasn't sure how long he had been drifting in the seemingly endless void of blackness. But he must have finally stopped somewhere, because suddenly he felt the ground underneath him. And he felt his wounds start to ache. Sirius didn't open his eyes. He was afraid of what he would see.
The Veil of Death was something that had always secretly terrified him when he had worked as an Auror for the Ministry. Many stories had been told about the cursed archway; including one that had claimed Death itself had placed it there; for unknown, and most likely sinister reasons. Though, most stories about how the Veil got there involved Troll cults, or government conspiracies.
Sirius was afraid to open his eyes, because he had no idea what rumors were the truth, or even if any of them were anywhere close to the real deal. He heard someone walking nearby where he sprawled, on what appeared to feel like concrete. He stiffened slightly as the footsteps stopped next to him, but the animagus still refused to open his eyes. He just didn't want to accept whatever had happened. Not yet.
"Good, you're alive. I was worried for a bit, but I guess I really didn't have to. Bloody Gryffindors. Anyways, try to stay alive, and somewhat mentally alright, for a few more years. I'll try to bring him here, too, after he gathers all three of the gifts." The voice of the person who was standing close to him sounded… amused? Sirius slowly opened his aching eyes, only to widen them as he spotted that the man -no, thing- was wearing a tattered black cloak, with a dark shadow covering up the person-thing's face.
"W-what…?" Sirius managed to rasp out, staring at the cloaked figure in confusion. His mind was a bit fuzzy from losing blood, but he felt more and more energy start to return to his limbs the longer he was awake.
"Good! You are recovering much faster than I had anticipated, which is good. And try to get up soon, because you really don't want to be picked up by any peacekeeping organizations here. They are certifiably wacky. Anyways, just don't die and stuff. Ciao!" The cloaked being said in exuberance, and dissolved into the shadows, just as Sirius had finally managed to sit up.
The Black sighed, looking around his surroundings to try and find something he recognized. Everything was unfamiliar, and he looked to have been dropped off in the middle of a large city. Glancing at the slowly lightening sky above his head, he determined it to be currently in the early hours of the morning. No time to think on what that was about. Right now I need to find some place to hide out. Sirius thought, and stood up with a groan, his stuff muscles protesting his movement.
The shaggy man looked around, and let out a relieved sigh as he found the blackthorn wand on the ground a meter away from where he had been laying. The wand wasn't his favorite, just a replacement for the one that had been snapped when he had been wrongly thrown in Azkaban. But it worked, and it was a weapon. So that was good enough for the moment.
He pocketed the wand in his torn jacket and limped through the back alleys, deciding to tend to his wounds when he had found cover. Sirius stopped when he passed by an alley with two forms sprawled on the ground. Seeing the blood, he rushed over, not being able to help his Gryffindor disorder, and not feeling the need to do so. He knew enough of first-aid to at least keep someone from dying until help came, so he felt obligated to help out.
Stopping first to check on the shorter of the two, he felt for a pulse. Finding no heartbeat, Sirius lowered his head. Whoever had murdered these people were lucky they were already gone, since the signs obviously showed the two men were outnumbered. The man he had just checked over had been shot in the back. It hurt Sirius's ego to think that another human being could've done something so cowardly. Like a Slytherin.
Gently closing the eyes of the deceased man to give respect, Sirius grimly moved on to the taller of the two men. A hand shot up as he reached down to check the second man's pulse, startling Sirius. The man on the ground moved his lips, trying to form words, but the blood that coated the ground showed that the stranger had very little time left. Too late for first aid to do anything helpful, Sirius thought grimly.
The man on the ground coughed, and a stream of blood ran down his chin. He weakly motioned for Sirius to come closer, and the Marauder obliged the dying man. Leaning closer, with his ear right next to the glazed eyes man's mouth, Sirius heard the man whisper.
"There's a young girl. N-not far from here, most likely. S-she had nothing to do with our problems… just helping out… a good kid. A... good heart, she… has. You… do, too. Not… many would… stop. Rare people… the two… of you." The man rasped, barely loud enough to make out. Then he slumped backwards, the last of his energy spent.
Sirius could see the man was only seconds away from meeting the maker, and so he decided what he would do. "Don't worry about her, I'll make sure to save her. I'm just that sort of guy. So stop worrying, and go in peace." The Black softly answered the stranger. The animagus watched as the man relaxed, and, with a smile, exhaled his last breath.
Sirius felt adrenaline rush through him as he stood up from the ground, and he smirked in anticipation. Nothing like getting back into the good work of saving people. He then frowned. So much for trying to stay under the radar… oh well. Pulling out his wand, he started running down the brightening street. Using his enhanced sense of smell to follow the smell of blood -an ability that came from being a highly skilled canine animagus- and he set off. He had a damsel in distress to rescue.
The hacker stared in disbelief at the five unconscious gang members on the ground. She quickly looked up at the man who had knocked them out -and all with a magic wand. She felt like she was in a comic book. "Unreal." She whispered.
"Ha… well, I guess that the level of… my… awesomeness is pretty unbelievable." The shaggy man grinned tiredly at her. That was when the young woman realized he was barely standing up. Right, he had looked wounded earlier. She quickly ran over to him and supported him with his arm over her shoulder. She frowned as she saw the blood. How did he even fight like this? He shouldn't even be conscious!
"Man, we really should get you to a hospital." She said worriedly, concerned about how heavy his breath was becoming.
His eyes widened, and shook his head, causing him to wince at the pain that that action caused. "No. No hospitals. I can't…"
"Why not? You're injured!" The hacker started to walk them in the direction of the nearest hospital, half carrying the strange man.
"Can't… let them find me…" the man wheezed out, making her even more worried about his condition. He looked into her eyes, and she could see the pleading in there.
She looked away uncomfortably. "Okay, I won't take you to the hospital." She turned them both around, going to where she had left her van not too far from where they were currently.
"...what?" She stared at him, certain that she had heard wrong. "I already know that you're serious about not going to the hospital, like a normal, sane person would be inclined to do if they were in your situation. So shut up already." She rolled her eyes.
The man blinked. "Oh. No, that's my name. Sirius Black." He clarified. He was able to talk easier now that she was assisting him in walking.
"Well, with a name like that, you really should try to explain it better." She raised an eyebrow at him as she carried on, half dragging him. The shaggy -no, Sirius- merely snorted at her comment. The hacker debated on telling him her own name, since she hardly told anyone the name she had made up for herself after she disliked the one she had been assigned at the orphanage. But... he had saved her, after all. And he'd even done that while he was already injured. Since he seemed like someone who she could trust, and also would not die very easily, she made her choice.
"My name's Skye." She said softly. Sirius grinned at her, and nodded, seeming to understand what she had just mentally debated about. He seemed like a pretty cool person. Hopefully he won't disappear like everyone else I had gotten close to, Skye thought as she hiked the duffel bag up higher on the opposite shoulder from the one she was supporting Sirius with; two stained baseball caps could be seen sticking partially out of the bag.
Skye looked at the man, and felt content that she wouldn't be alone anymore. Whatever the future brought, she would take it like the beaches on the coast take the rising tide. She would hold fast no matter what, like she always had. But now she had a friend that would have her back.
"You may try to hide the truth, to conceal it from the world. But we know, and we will expose all of your secrets." A feminine voice rang out through the background of a video playing various clips of superpowered fight scenes from around the world, the most prominent broadcasting was of the Avengers taking out aliens in New York.
"SHIELD may try to keep us from doing what is right, from the truth about all the real dangers in our world. But they will fail. No one can stop us." The young woman's voice rose in pitch, growing louder as the unseen female began to attempt to sway the listeners of the hacked broadcast.
"We are the Rising Tide, and nothing will stop us." An amused, older, and distinctly male voice ended the commentary. The video ended with a last, hazy clip of a masked vigilante with a spiderweb design on his outfit attempting to fight a man who was transformed into a lizard, all while sporting a bullet wound in one leg.
Once the recording had ended, the SHIELD agent who had observed the video frowned. The Rising Tide was one of many of the recent hacktivist groups that were being formed. But this was was one that looked to be causing the most trouble. And even though this group had -so far- kept their hands clean of anything too underhanded, it would be better to keep an eye on them, just in case.
Agent Phil Coulson could already see the trouble that could be caused by a group like this, if the files of one of the identified members was anything to go by. He glanced at the back folder on his desk, 0-8-4, the title read. Opening the file, Coulson was greeted with the blurry image of the smiling face of a shaggy, dark haired man grinning at someone not included in the photo. The man had silver eyes, and a slight scar running across the top of his forehead. "Where did you come from…?" The agent said, trying to piece together in his head what he knew, and he could feel that the answer was right in front of him.
A.N.: This chapter took a lot of effort from me (like staying awake past 4:00am). So if you don't like it, I will hunt you down and... give you cookies. ;)
This was my longest chapter that I have ever written, and I really hope you guys like it. I don't think of myself as a very good writer, but writing fanfiction has really helped me improve. And all the reviews, follows, favorites, and being added to communities has been really fantastic. I hope I won't let you guys down. Thank you all so, so much.
Alternate chapter titles, credit for the idea goes to kathryn518, used in her story: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.
"The top dog of hobos." -Sirius Black
"Looks like I finally found a crazy uncle." -Skye
"Death took a walk down the road of life." -Cloaked dude of Awesome
"My life is way too confusing, and I just can't even odd." -Confunded-Emo Potter
"Why am I not in this chapter...?" -Sad Teddy Lupin
"Ditto." -An Agreeable Luna Lovegood
"Am I sane, now?" -Coulson
"In a loose sense of the word, yes." -Doctor Potter
Oh my cheese, Sirius and Skye are in the house! Ahhhhhhh! O.O
Thank you mommy, God, Jesus, and cake.
Oh, and thank you bacon.