Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Chapter One: Hariel Potter
"Hello Death," Hariel Rose Potter greets. She knows she is dreaming, but as Dumbledore once told her: Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?
Death doesn't answer her. He isn't one for small talk, even uttering a greeting is considered tedious.
"Why are you here?" she asks warily.
"You called for me," he answers.
Hariel frowns. "I did?" she inquires. Again, she receives no answer. Death doesn't like to repeat himself. "Please tell me why I called you," she requests softly. Harry knows she could demand answers, being the Mistress of Death, but she has never been one for throwing her authority around. She didn't even like to order around Kreacher, back when he was still alive.
"You wish to be released from your position," Death answers impassively.
"I do," she answers. "Immortality isn't for me."
Even now, fifty years after the war, Harry looks only seventeen years old. She'd stayed in the Wizarding World for about twenty years, long enough to see Teddy grow up and get married, long enough to spoil her quasi-niece and nephew Rose and Hugo Weasley rotten. She'd seen Hermione take the world by storm, squashing centuries-old pureblood traditions and making the world a better place for muggleborns, house elves, goblins, and many more.
But Harry hadn't been able to stay and watch more. She couldn't hide behind glamours forever. So she'd finally resigned from her position as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and gone on to travel the world, only returning for short infrequent visits for memorable events: Ron and Ginny playing for England in the Quidditch World Cup, Teddy's graduation from the Auror Academy, Hermione's inauguration as the first muggleborn Minister of Magic.
It hurt. All of them growing older while she stayed young. It had always been Harry's dream to have a family, to grow old with her husband and friends, and one day fall asleep surrounded by her grandchildren, ready for her next great adventure. Instead, she spent years travelling around the world, searching for a way to permanently destroy the Deathly Hallows that kept following her around. She'd tried everything, except giving them to someone else. That was the one thing she would not do. Hariel would not wish this burden on anyone else.
Even dying was no escape. And hadn't that been a surprise, when she'd been shot straight through the heart when a feud between two wizarding gangs escalated, right in the streets of Novosibirsk. She'd woken up in a muggle morgue, hours later, and walked away. Only when she'd arrived home had she broken down.
Having a family of her own had not been possible.
"There must be a way to free me," she finally says. "Otherwise you would not have come to me."
"There is," Death replies. "But it is not without a price."
"Name it," Hariel answers resolutely.
"For every year that you have been my Mistress, you must spend a year serving me," Death responds.
"Oh," she answers faintly. The feeling leaves her legs and she has to sit down. Thankfully, there is a seat nearby, as they are currently in the familiar train station of King's Cross. "Fifty years?" Harry asks, silently despairing.
By the time those years were over, all her loved ones would be old and grey. And Harry would still be a teenager.
"Would I," she has to pause and clear her throat, her voice is too rough. "Would I age while serving you?"
"You will age only once you have completed your servitude," Death tells her impassively, though Harry likes to imagine that there is a hint of compassion in his voice.
She'd have to spend fifty more years alone, and she'd still be a teenager by the time her friends would die of old age. Hariel doesn't think she can endure another half decade of watching all her loved ones grow older and become frail and weak. It was bad enough to see Professor McGonagall's health decline until she died at ninety-five years of age.
Would Molly and Arthur Weasley be the next ones to die, being ninety-nine and ninety-eight years old, respectively?
"I can't stay here, if I am to take you up on your deal," Harry finally says after a long pause. "It's- I can't watch all of them grow old and die."
"Then you may serve me in another world," Death tells her. "But you will never come back, and such magic demands a sacrifice of you."
She resists the urge to break into hysteric laughter. A different world, really? What's next, time-travel? Merlin, she thought she'd seen it all - an idiotic assumption, given how often life has proven her wrong - but this takes the cake. Hariel doesn't think she can take any more. Death must sense this as well, as she feels the dream dissolve around her. But his parting words echo in her mind long after she wakes up.
"When you are ready, walk through the Veil."
The first time the Asset sees her is in London, on the first of January 1960, after the completion of a mission. He is crossing the deserted snow-covered London Bridge in the dead of night when a person appears out of thin air six feet above the surface of the bridge, only to crash down in a heap.
If he had been anyone else, he'd have rubbed his eyes and thought that his mind was playing tricks on him. But he isn't, and so he doesn't.
He is the Asset. If he thinks he saw something then he did see it.
Drawing his SIG-Sauer P49 and levelling it at the unknown threat, he stalks forward with single-minded focus, unstoppable and unyielding. If the unidentified party proves to be a threat to HYDRA, they will be executed.
His sharp eyes make out more details in the dim flickering light of the street lamps as he approaches. He determines the other party to be female, about 5'4". Her clothing consists of tight fitting pants, a black leather jacket, and combat boots. Her hair appears to be black and curly. Her body lies there unmoving, her back to him.
She isn't built like a fighter, though she is dressed ready for combat. Her jacket looks durable, it might well be bulletproof; and he cannot identify the leather's origin. Her footwear, too, is of unknown make and material.
He compares her description to the profiles of persons of interest he has memorised. There are no matches.
He stops within a distance of two feet of her and levels the gun at her head when she twitches. She makes a soft noise of distress and first curls tighter in on herself before she slowly starts working herself to her feet. The Asset studies her every movement and deduces that she must be injured, for she moves slowly and insecurely. She has yet to take notice of him.
He deems her to be of no immediate threat to him. But he will neutralise her anyway for the secrecy of his mission. The world needs him to do it. So Hydra can give mankind the freedom it deserves. Sacrifices must be made. There are to be no witnesses of his existence.
But he needs to find out her identity beforehand.
"Who are you," he demands.
A small gasp escapes the woman and she whirls around to face him, only to slip on a patch of ice. She nearly falls over but manages to catch herself on the bridge's railing. The flickering light falls on her face - young, aristocratic features, pale skin. A strand of black hair dislodges as she looks around wildly and a faded lightning-bolt shaped scar on her forehead is revealed. But most notable are her eyes. They are almost colourless, in the dim light they look silver.
"I can't see," she whispers weakly, echoing his thoughts. Her hands helplessly flit about her face, waving before her eyes, touching her eyelids. "Merlin, is this the sacrifice?" Her voice is horrified, not unlike when his previous target uttered his name when he realised who came for his life.
But he doesn't need to kill her now. She is no threat and her blindness ensures that she cannot divulge his description. The only thing that remains to be found out is the nature of her appearance.
"Your name," he reminds her. Her head snaps around to his general direction.
"Hariel," she whispers. "Potter. Please, can you tell me where I am?"
He ignores her question to interrogate her further. Her name is unfamiliar; he needs to find out more. "Where did you come from?" he demands, already contemplating the merit of taking her with him. She is not his mission. But HYDRA might be interested in her.
"I don't know what happened," she answers, obviously distraught. Her hand clutches the bridge's railing so hard her knuckles turn white. "Why is it so cold? Is that snow? What day is it today? And please, please, where are we?" she asks desperately.
He discards the notion of taking her to HYDRA. She has no information. She is no person of interest and she has nothing to do with his mission. And he is on a schedule.
With heavy steps, the Asset stalks past her and leaves the girl behind, ignoring her pleas for him to wait and answer her questions. He hears her scramble after him, only to fall over with a muffled cry.
Later, at the HYDRA base, his memory is wiped of the encounter and he forgets all about the girl named Hariel Potter.
Two years later, they meet again. By then, Harry has almost forgotten about her first encounter in this new world, the man who left her, blind and vulnerable, to fend for herself without even telling her that she was in the middle of London.
In the past two years, she has managed to figure out when and where she is - in a parallel world similar to her own, but without magic, and way back in the past.
She has acquired this world's Grimmauld Place No. 12 and fixed and warded the house that had long stood empty. Due to her blindness, it wasn't easy. Thankfully, wizards have long since developed spells for orientation in the dark - back when she'd lead the DMLE, she'd even made them a mandatory part of Auror training. There are also a great many spells for gleaning information from one's surroundings. Harry didn't know them all, but Hermione had helped her pack three libraries worth of spell books. She can't read her books anymore, but luckily, Hermione once taught her a spell that makes books read themselves out loud. It's a bothersome method and Harry would kill for a spell to convert written English into braille, but it works for now.
To compensate for her lack of eyesight, Harry now releases continuous bursts of magic, and the feedback shows her her surroundings in front of her inner eye - sort of like how a bat uses ultrasonic sounds for echolocation. She can't see colours that way - and Merlin, she misses colours, so much! - but it's a hundred times better than any other method she has tried, especially since she can do it wandlessly. By now, it has become second nature to see things this way.
She hasn't tried to fix her eyes or made herself an artificial one, like Moody once had. Magic had demanded her sight as its sacrifice, and Harry doesn't want to find out what will happen if she tries to cheat magic itself.
Travel is another problem. Apparition requires a clear image of where one wants to go. The only places she can apparate to now are previously set up Apparition Ports. A Floo Network obviously doesn't exist and she doesn't see the point in setting one up, not that she has any idea how to do something like that in the first place. And since she never really got the hang of Portkey-making, she mostly travels by broom or flying carpet - it hadn't been fun working out how to fly blindly, but a rather complicated version of the Point Me-Spell had helped. For longer journeys, she has to rely on trains, busses, ships, and airplanes. Which isn't comfortable at all in 1962.
But fixing the house and working out ways of seeing and traveling aren't the only things she's done, not by a long shot. No, she still has to serve Death.
As a soul reaper. Oh, the irony. Half a century after the Horcrux Hunt, Harry once again has to hunt down souls.
Curiously enough, dead souls are the one thing her blind eyes can see - they look and behave a lot like the ghosts back in Hogwarts, only they have more substance. Harry can touch them, too - and they can touch her. Can hurt her. Thankfully, the Deathly Hallows allow her to subdue and avoid them if necessary. Still, it isn't a risk-free job.
Her work involves a lot of traveling. When a job starts, she feels this pull in her chest that guides her. Once she arrives wherever her destination is, she has to wait. Sooner or later, someone or a lot of someones lose their life in the place she was led to. That's when she comes in. Her job is to convince the souls to go to the afterlife - either with words or by banishing them with the Elder Wand. If there are too many, she uses the Resurrection Stone to summon souls from the afterlife to help her.
Some souls are accepting of their having to move on. Some turn violent and attack her. Most are just indifferent to the fact that they just died. Regardless of their reaction to their death, Hariel has to convince them to move on, by any means possible.
After the job is done, she returns to her lonely home, until the pull comes again. Sometimes, that takes weeks, other times, she doesn't even bother apparating home.
Harry isn't quite sure what the point of her work is. She knows Death would have no trouble doing all of it himself - he has done so for millennia already. Her best guess is that she has to do something as compensation for the years of immortality, even if it is completely unnecessary and painful for her.
This time it's particularly bad. The pull in her chest feels cold which means that it'll be a violent death, maybe even a murder. She hates those times, because there is one rule she cannot break: Harry isn't allowed to interfere in the final fate of mortals. She can't save a child from dying of hunger, can't prevent a fire from consuming a hospital, can't stop a terrorist from killing dozens of innocents, and it goes against her every instinct. But whenever she tries to stop what's happening, her body refuses to move, her breath cuts off as if she is being choked, and her very blood turns so cold, it might as well be liquid ice. And still, it doesn't hurt as much as letting the deaths happen. Though the pain becomes more of a background throb as time goes on.
Today, she is led to a large mansion in Paris. From the feel of the pull, she guesses that there's about an hour left until it happens. More than enough time for her to walk in and find the right place, in theory.
Go in, wait a bit, do the job, go home. Her work is disgusting in its simplicity.
Hariel walks straight into the estate, opens the front door of the mansion with a quick Alohomora, and walks right in. She has long since learnt that no one ever notices her when she is on a job - it's like she's under a super-powered Notice-me-not-charm. There isn't even a need for the Invisibility Cloak. She does use an obscuring spell though, since she doesn't want to show up on security cameras - she has no idea if those have been invented already and she doesn't really have anyone she can ask.
The mansion turns out to be a right maze. More than once Harry walks into dead ends, but eventually, with about ten minutes to spare from the feel of it, she finds the room where the deaths will happen. It's apparently a dining room, a large table is set with all kinds of elaborate dishes and way too much cutlery to make sense of. Judging from the number of seats… five people will dine here. And most likely die.
Merlin, she hates this job. Absentmindedly, she fiddles with the charm bracelet on her left wrist - a farewell gift from her closest friends, the ones she told where she was going. A book charm from Hermione, a chess piece from Ron, a broom charm from Ginny. Luna had given her a… thing that she swore was a Crumple-Horned Snorkack charm, Neville had given her a miniature Mimbulus Mimbletonia. From Teddy, she'd been given a wolf charm. There are magical charms on the bracelet as well, for protection, happiness, health. It's her most cherished possession.
With a sigh, she hides herself behind a couch. Just because it is hard to notice her doesn't mean it's impossible, after all.
And then she waits. Three minutes later, she hears people approach and feels them enter the room.
That's another thing. She can feel people, their - well, their life energy? Their essence? Their aura? It's hard to grasp, but she can feel people's presences with a sort of sixth sense. It's either a gift from Death or her magic compensating for her lack of sight. Either way, it's useful.
Harry hears the five people sit down. Two middle-aged men, she guesses. A younger woman. And two teenagers, twins, judging from the similarity of their presences. A family sitting down for dinner. Bile rises in Harry's throat at the thought of them dying, but she forces it down so she can concentrate. The faster this is over, the better.
Suddenly, the windows of the room shatter with a loud bang; and almost immediately, a man, or rather his soul, appears in Harry's otherwise useless vision. She hears the screams of the rest of the family and feels someone swing into the room through the window, but she focuses on the dead man in front of her. With a swish of the Elder Wand, she banishes him to the afterlife, right as two of the screaming voices abruptly cut off. Two more souls materialise. Harry inches around the couch so she can take aim. The soul of the woman is quickly banished, but the remaining man's soul is obviously panicking and running around the room. Harry brushes her hand over the Resurrection Stone in her pocket and the ghosts of two men appear to hold the soul down.
Two shots sound. Two more souls materialise - two teenaged boys, at most twelve years old. She was right, they were twins. Their eyes fall on her - the souls always notice her after a while. It's like she's a beacon to them.
"Are we dead?" one twin asks in French.
"We were shot, moron, of course we're dead," the other mutters. "Are you Death?" he asks Hariel.
She gives him a sardonic smile and answers in the same language. "I just work for him. You should move on now."
"Will it hurt?" Twin number one asks, sounding scared. Harry shakes her head and forces a smile on her face.
"No. It's just like going home after a long day," she says gently. "Go on, now."
The twins grab each other's hand. A moment later they are gone. She sighs and turns to the remaining soul that's currently being held down by the helpers she summoned. "You can't do this!" he screams. "Don't you know who I am?!"
"Everyone's equal before Death," Harry replies tiredly and lifts the Elder Wand.
And freezes when the cold barrel of a gun is held against her temple.
"You shouldn't be here," a hoarse voice says. It takes her a moment to figure out that he's talking to her. "Who are you."
She knows this voice. She knows this voice.
He still feels like a violent storm in winter to her sixth sense.
"You," she whispers. "You were there. You were there on the bridge in the snow. What are you doing here?"
A pause. A click. A loud crack.
The dead girl lies there motionlessly, a puddle of blood spreading under her head. The Asset stares down at her, commits her face to his memory.
She said they'd already met somewhere. He's never seen her before.
And she was blind, so how would she know?
It doesn't matter anymore. He killed her.
But she shouldn't have been here. According to his information, the French Defence Minister should have dined with his family in private, without visitors. A blind female teenager was never listed among the known acquaintances of the family.
He'd report the aberration and subsequent death of the unknown girl.
Hariel opens her eyes to see the familiar surroundings of King's Cross. Her eyes widen as her eyes take in the scenery.
It had been two years since she lost her eyesight. Her echolocation spells and the seeing-souls-thing are only a poor replacement for seeing actual colours.
"I died, huh?" she muses. "Again."
She sighs and looks around, her eyes greedily drinking in the light, the colours. King's Cross is mostly filled with grey and brown and black, but to her, it's the most beautiful scene she has seen in a long time, precisely because she can actually see it.
"Hariel," Deaths deep voice says from behind her. She turns around.
He still looks the same. A tall figure, swathed in black fabric, a hood obscuring his face completely. Harry is quite sure that she should be glad she can't see his face. There are probably consequences to looking Death in the eyes.
"Hello," she replies. "I didn't think working for you would be this hard."
He doesn't answer.
"It's lonely," she tells him softly. "And I can't make friends if I already know that I'm going to lose them later."
Still no answer.
"And I still have forty-eight years to go," Harry sighs. Death stays silent, and suddenly Harry is filled with rage. "What's the point?!" she yells. "Why do I have to suffer? I never wanted immortality in the first place! Finding all the Hallows was an accident, why do I have to pay for something that I never wanted, that I put in every effort to get rid of?! Haven't I sacrificed enough? And you, you only showed up with a way out after fifty years! A bloody half-century, and your grand solution takes another half-century, except I'm supposed to be miserable all the time! What's the bloody point?!"
He just stands there motionlessly, taking in Harry's screams with no reaction at all.
"I had to leave everyone I loved!" Harry rages. "I had to leave them." A sob breaks free.
Merlin, she'd left them. She had LEFT them! Her knees hit the ground and she hunches over, shaken by sobs. "W-Why me?! Why the hell does it always have to be me?! Just let me move on already! I don't want this anymore!"
Around them, King's Cross starts to dissolve - Harry is waking up.
She wishes she wouldn't.
The last thing she hears is Death's deep voice echoing.
"You will not be alone forever."
She opens her sightless eyes to the room she died in. The lone soul she hadn't managed to banish is gone, Harry guesses that Death took care of it.
With a choked sob, she curls in on herself and starts to cry, lying among the corpses of the murdered family.
The following day, the murder of the French Minister of Defence and his family is reported in the newspaper. Five deaths in total.
According to the Asset, there should have been six. But the spies of HYDRA can't find any mention of the sixth body that should have been in that room.
The incident in France would be the first to bring attention to the mystery of Hariel Potter.
Another year passes. Harry does her job mindlessly, no longer trying to defy her fate. She's so, so tired of fighting and death - both the event and the entity.
A four year old girl in Spain has just fallen down the stairs and broken her neck. Now her soul stares down at her dead body in confusion, then looks up at Hariel.
"Are you an angel?" she asks innocently in Spanish. "You're very pretty."
Hariel wants to cry. But instead, she forces a smile and replies in the same language. "I don't know if I am, but I'm here to help you."
"Can you make me better again?" the child asks. "Mama will be angry if I'm not in time for dinner."
"I'm sorry," Harry answers gently. "I can't make you better."
"Oh," the girl says softly. "Does that mean I'm going to heaven, like Abuelo?"
"You'll see your Abuelo again, I'm sure," Harry tells her. "Do you want to go now?"
The girl nods. Harry gives her one last smile, then she waves her wand and the soul vanishes.
When she's gone, Harry furiously wipes at her eyes. Children are always the worst.
In the distance, she hears the mother call for her child. With a swish of her wand, Harry makes any spilt blood disappear, then she arranges the girl's body into something that looks a little less brutal, and closes her eyes.
It doesn't change the fact that the little girl is dead, but perhaps it'll be less traumatising for the mother. In any case, it makes Hariel feel a tiny bit better, which is horrible of her. A little girl just died, and here she is, thinking that anything she does could make anything better.
There are days when it feels like all these people die just so she'll have a job to do. Like they die for her. It makes her feel like a monster.
Hariel disapparates before the mother finds the body. That's… not something she has a right to witness. And there is no comfort she can offer to a woman who just lost her daughter.
It's only an hour after she has arrived home that she has to head out again. By now, she has set up warded apparition ports on every continent, so that at least spares her the trouble of weeks-long boat trips or rattling and uncomfortable airplanes - muggle transportation in 1963 is not half as comfortable as it used to be where she comes from. Oh, for the rich, traveling can be quite luxurious, but Harry really sees no need to acquire a private jet or a yacht. That would just be… such a Malfoy thing to do. Bah. No.
With a sigh, Harry grabs her travelling bag, shrinks it, and in quick succession apparates to her various apparition ports until she has found the one closest to where she needs to be - in Hamburg, Germany. It isn't the right city, so she finds the central station and takes a train going in the direction she's being pulled in. And so, Hariel Potter finds herself in West Berlin.
It's not… pleasant. The Berlin Wall was built only a year before, and the atmosphere isn't pleasant. But it's nothing compared to when she crosses over into East Berlin. There are soldiers everywhere, guarding the Berlin Wall. Once she leaves the Wall behind, they become fewer, but their presence is still noticeable. From what Harry can tell with her echolocation, the streets are in poor condition, the people are used to either keeping their head down or pretending to be happy. Unlike in West Berlin, few cars are on the street, and they are tiny, they stink, and they are loud.
Hariel can't stand the noise. Ever since she lost her eyesight, she's become more attuned to using her other senses, which means her hearing and sense of smell have become much stronger. In some cases, it backfires on her, unfortunately.
At least there aren't too many of those annoying cars.
It takes her the better part of three hours to make out the building her... job will take place in - "Altes Stadthaus", it's called, or Old City Hall in English. Harry actually saw it once in her old world , though that was a very long time ago. She distantly remembers a large and imposing building with a large tower jutting out from its roof.
Squaring her shoulders, Hariel walks into the building, hidden under Notice-Me-Nots and obscuring charms. She's become more careful ever since that man shot her in Paris, because obviously the magical protection her job offers her is not infallible.
Hariel would use the Invisibility Cloak, but she can't use her echolocation magic from under it. These days, the precious heirloom is only good for hiding while standing still or crouching behind furniture.
Well, like Dumbledore once said: There are other ways of moving about unseen. And Harry knows many of them, though she never quite got the hang of the Disillusionment spell.
But even if she's seen, what's the worst that could happen? She's already unable to die. And she did finally succeed in making a Portkey, though it's only capable of carrying her back home and nowhere else. But it's enough for escaping purposes.
Harry doesn't have to fear anything. And that fact in itself scares her because she is no longer sure if she can still be called human. Her existence is... unnatural.
Unseen and unheard, she walks through the Old City Hall until she has located the site. From what she can tell, she still has a day to go until the death will happen - and judging from the cold of the pull in her chest, it'll be a violent one. Considering the Old City Hall is where the Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic is located, she suspects one of the politicians will be murdered.
And she has to let it happen. It feels so bloody wrong.
Regardless how she feels, there's nothing she can do about it. So she might as well find a place to set up her tent for the night and at least try to get some sleep - everything will be easier if she is well-rested.
Harry hates herself for thinking that way. But she knows nothing will come of fighting her fate and that of others. It kills her inside to give up, just like that.
Even after half a century, she still feels hardly any different from the seventeen year old that once carried the fate of an entire world on her shoulders. Harry hasn't aged, at all. Not in body and not in mind. She's just a little bit more cautious now, and she has more memories and experiences to draw from. But in essence, she's still a teenaged girl and has been for over fifty years. And she still feels everything with the same intensity that she did back in the day when she was eating snitch-shaped cakes and hunting horcruxes.
Harry leaves the Old City Hall through a side entrance, intent of finding some place to hunker down in. For a moment, she thinks she detected a vaguely familiar energy, but the feeling is gone as soon as it came, so she dismisses it as not important and leaves the Old City Hall behind.
The Asset watches. He has been staking out the building for hours, has noted the routines of people who could get in the way of his mission, has studied the target's habits. He has moved about the Old City Hall unseen for hours until he relocated to a rooftop a short distance away to watch the entrances.
He almost missed the girl exiting the building. Almost, which means she definitely isn't normal, because nothing and no one escapes his attention, especially someone who so obviously doesn't belong in this place. And now that he has noticed her, he can't take his eyes off of her.
She's of average height. Long midnight curls fall down to her waist, untamed. Her skin is pale. He can't clearly see her face through his binoculars, but he can tell she is young, possibly not even in her twenties.
She wears a black leather jacket, blue jeans, and combat boots.
How the hell did he not notice her before? She stands out so much; it's a wonder she hasn't been stopped and arrested by the Stasi yet. She'd be scrutinised for wearing jeans alone, but with that jacket and the combat boots? It's like she wants to be arrested.
And yet, she moves through the streets with ease, and nobody even looks at her. And the way she moves… no one bumps into her, there is no insecurity at all, she doesn't even look at the ground when it's riddled with potholes - it's like her feet know exactly where to step so as to not trip and stumble.
And then there's the fact that she seems oddly familiar, when he's never seen her before. He has memorised countless profiles and pictures, but no one fits her description. It pisses him off, because from what he sees, she should have been on the radar of HYDRA.
And now this unknown is interfering with his mission. Because it can't be a coincidence that she's sneaking around the seat of the government of the German Democratic Republic when that's where his target Hans Hofmann, the Minister of National Defence in the Council of Ministers, would be assassinated tomorrow.
Who does she work for, what is her purpose here, and who is she?
Unseen, the Winter Soldier, as he's now named in certain circles, follows her via the rooftops as she walks along the streets into less populated alleys with shabby apartment buildings until she disappears inside one that looks completely abandoned.
The base of whatever secret service she works for must be located inside. Without hesitation, he drops down from his roof and determinedly leaps on a fire escape. A heard kick against the door and he's inside. He walks down the corridor and reaches the dilapidated wooden stairwell. He can hear the girl walk up, the stairs creaking under her steps. Twice, he hears her open doors, but she closes them without going inside.
Either she forgot where her people's base is located or she's looking for something else.
A third door opens, just one floor below him. A pause, then he hears her huff in frustration and slam the door shut. "Stupid building," she mutters in English with a surprisingly low and husky voice. The British accent tells him where she hails from. "People should have demolished this death trap ages ago. Damn GDR economy!"
So there is no secret base in this building. Then there is no reason for waiting any longer.
The Winter Soldier vaults over the railing and lands directly in front of her. The stairs groan ominously under his heavy landing, but they hold. The girl jumps back two steps until she stands no longer on the steps but on the level ground before the door she just slammed shut seconds ago. A thin stick appears in her hand and points at him.
He studies her. She's even younger than he first thought - no older than eighteen, for sure. High cheekbones; delicate, aristocratic features. And green eyes that are pale, faded, and blind. And yet, she moves as if she could see as clear as day. The Soldier doesn't understand. It irritates him.
"You," the girl breathes, her sightless eyes wide with recognition. Obviously, she knows just who he is, so she must be part of one of the few organisations aware of his existence.
"Who are you, and who do you work for," he growls out.
Her shocked look is replaced with a confused one. "But you know my name already," she answers. "I've told you my name twice before!"
Beneath his mask, he scowls in irritation. She continues to stare at him. "I'm Hariel Potter. Don't you remember?"
The name is unfamiliar. But given how young she is, she must be new. If she had any experience, she'd have tried to run.
"What are you doing here?" she asks. "Who are you?"
"I ask the questions," the Soldier growls out, an army knife appearing in his hand. The girl named Potter stiffens, straightens her shoulders, and slips into a ready stance. If she had working eyes, she'd have seen his metal arm and tried escaping. Instead, she points her stick at him, her free hand curled into a fist.
"Tell me who you work for," he orders.
The girl's eyes narrow, defiance sparking. "I work for Death," she hisses. "Expelliarmus!"
Something slams into him, wrenches the knife from his hand, and throws him back into the stairs, which suddenly break under him and he finds himself crashing down one floor lower. Growling, he pulls his out his gun and fires.
"Protego Maxima!" he hears Potter shout. A moment later, she suddenly runs into his field of vision, red beams of light shooting from her stick. He lifts his metal arm and deflects them, causing her to falter in surprise. He pulls out another knife, runs toward her and brings it down on her neck. She just barely manages to throw herself to the side and rolls over her shoulder, taking a tumble down the stairs. He leaps after her and brings his metal fist down on her, but she rolls to the side again and the stairs fall to pieces under them, causing them to crash two floors down until they both hit the ground floor.
The Winter Soldier shakes off the rubble and gets to his feet on the cement of the ground floor, looking for his opponent. Potter lies among splinters of wood, softly groaning. Her stick is in her hand, broken, only held together by some sort of red-golden thread.
When he steps closer, she tenses and tries to get up again, but then she gasps in pain and stills. Her hand around the stick goes limp and the piece of wood falls to the ground. The Winter Soldier waits for a moment, but she doesn't so much as twitch. He still pulls out a tranquiliser gun and shoots her once in the shoulder. Then he gathers her broken weapon and checks her injuries - nothing serious. A broken left wrist, probably some cracked or bruised ribs, and possibly a concussion.
Done with checking her over, he roughly grabs her wrists and ties them up, then throws her over his shoulder.
He'd finish his job and take her to HYDRA. They'd be very interested in her abilities.
Hariel can't move when she wakes up. One, because her body hurts like hell, and two, she's tied up. However, that doesn't mean she's helpless.
The man who captured her is in the room, and she curses herself for dismissing her instincts so recklessly earlier. She really should have known better after the war and years of service as an auror. Then again, the man is obviously a professional while she's blind and way out of practice. And she really did not expect him to be apparently near indestructible and have the ability to deflect spells with his arm.
By her estimation, no more than a few hours could have passed, but she could be wrong, her mind feels oddly sluggish. Was she drugged? Or maybe it's a head injury? Well, that would wear off eventually, there is nothing to worry about. And in a real emergency, she could still use her emergency portkey. All she'd have to do is say the password. Though that would make completing her job hard, seeing as she'd have no way to return to Berlin.
Harry lets out a small burst of magic. The feedback shows her a small apartment room that's mostly void of furniture, except for a few crates, the mattress she's lying on, and him, sitting near a window and staring out of it. The man who she has now met three times, all of them ending with her on the ground and in one case dead.
Though he doesn't seem to remember that, luckily. Who knows what he would do. It's bad enough already that she's been captured. He has also taken her phoenix feather and holly wand, she can sense its magic on his body.
Unbidden, horror stories of witches that were kidnapped by muggles come to her mind. She suppresses them violently. Really, it's not like she's helpless. And now she has a better idea of what she's dealing with.
Harry is distracted by her painfully throbbing ribs. Forcing herself to focus, she directs magic to the places in her body that cause her the most pain - her wrist and her ribs. Her head aches, too, but that is not something she wants to mess with. She's already taking enough of a risk in healing her bones while having a head injury. But then, she has experience in fixing her bones - she's broken enough of them to practice on.
A sharp gasp escapes her when a rib snaps back into place and starts mending itself. Merlin, what wouldn't she give to reach the small vial of painkillers in her travel bag. Unfortunately, that's in her shrunken bag which is clipped to her charms bracelet, which is disillusioned on her wrist, which is tied to her other wrist behind her back with some material that won't give at all.
Her captor suddenly moves. Harry observes with all her senses as he steps closer and closer. She remains motionless, until a cough wracks her body. It hurts in her dry throat and in her injured ribs, and the cough won't stop. It feels like her throat is being rubbed with sandpaper. She can't breathe right and her eyes tear up.
Suddenly, an arm is around her shoulder and lifts her until she's leaning against his chest, and something is held against her lips. Harry closes her lips in reflex and tries to turn her head away, but something made of cold metal catches her chin and turns it back. Merlin, is that a metal hand? No wonder he could deflect her spells.
"Drink," his hoarse voice orders; and the bottle at her mouth is tipped until cool liquid drips over her lips and down her chin and neck. She finally lets them drop open, the coughs breaking free once more, but some water manages to make its way down her throat. It hurts at first, but soon the coughs stop and she's able to drink normally until the man takes the bottle away.
"Thanks," Harry rasps and aims a weak smile at him. She feels him stiffen at her back, then he grabs her shoulders and lays her back down on the mattress again. She can't help a sharp intake of breath as her ribs are jolted.
The man doesn't offer any comfort and simply returns to his place near the window.
She scolds herself for expecting any kindness from him. The man has already killed her once before. She witnessed him assassinate an entire family.
In hindsight, it's so bloody obvious that he's an assassin.
Harry supposes she should be glad that she isn't being treated worse. If she were the captive of a Death Eater or any of her other enemies, she'd already have been tortured. But this man does not seem to be the type to enjoy torture. Actually, he doesn't strike her as evil at all. Dangerous, yes. But not evil.
Silence fills the room as she closes her eyes and focuses on directing her magic through her body. From time to time, she can feel his eyes upon her, but neither of them speaks. Which suits Harry just fine, the last thing she wants is to be interrogated.
An hour passes like that. Most of Harry's injuries are mended now, though she'll still have to be careful so she doesn't rebreak any bones. The effects of whatever drug were used on her seem to have passed, too. Her head still hurts, but by her standards, that's nothing.
What isn't nothing is the pull in her chest that is steadily growing stronger until it hurts. Which means the death is going to happen in the near future. She needs to make her escape, and soon. Harry doesn't know what will happen if she fails a job, and she doesn't want to find out.
That means she has to free her wrists, retrieve her wand, somehow deal with her captor, and find her way through unfamiliar surroundings. Merlin, it's almost like being young again. Except she is handicapped now. And she doesn't have Hermione and Ron to watch her back now, and she never will again.
The man, the assassin, suddenly stands up. Harry tenses. "Are you going to drug me again?" she asks.
He doesn't bother with answering and instead steps over to kneel beside her. Gloved hands grab her, pull her head to her side awkwardly, and then Harry feels a sharp prick in her neck. Cold liquid seeps into her bloodstream and her body goes limp. But her magic is already working on neutralising the narcotic even as the man steps away, grabs a bag that most likely contains weapons, and leaves with disturbingly light steps.
It takes another seven minutes for Harry to be able to move again. Not that it does her much good. She's still all tied up and blind and hurt.
But somewhere in her mind, Ron's voice echoes, "HAVE YOU GONE MAD? ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?!", which kind of puts Harry in a better mood.
With some effort, she manages to flick her bound wrist so that the Elder Wand shoots from its disillusioned holster, and with a seeker's instinct she grabs it. "Relashio!" Harry snaps, and whatever was used to bind her wrists falls off. She works herself back to her feet and stands for a moment, taking inventory of her mental faculties and her physical state. Then she starts mumbling spells - silencing ones on her feet, obscuring spells all over her body though she isn't too hopeful they will work on her captor.
And then she gets moving.
The security of the Altes Stadthaus is no hindrance for the Asset. The personnel responsible for it might as well be blind. No wonder the woman named Hariel Potter was able to infiltrate them.
HYDRA would be most interested in her.
No one sees him as he stalks along the corridors. This isn't the kind of mission where he is meant to be seen. Given how paranoid the officials in this country are, they are sure to blame their political adversaries. No, Hofmann will die in a manner that will clearly indicate assassination, but there will be no hints left as to the culprit.
He locates the target easily. Hofmann is in a meeting with other ministers. The Soldier listens attentively, perhaps this information would be of help to HYDRA. And what helped HYDRA would help the world and bring about peace.
HYDRA is doing the world a great service, after all. And he, the Asset, is their weapon. This is the way things must be, for the good of humanity.
And for the good of humanity, Hofmann must be killed. So he waits patiently, until the target excuses himself. The Asset has studied the habits of his target, he knows the man is going to find a quiet spot to smoke a cigarette. Silently, he follows the man through corridors and hallways.
He shows himself to the man when they reach a more abandoned looking part of the building. Hoffmann takes a step back in surprise at the Soldier's appearance. "Wer sind Sie?!" he demands. "Sie sind nicht befugt hier zu sein!"
They are his last words. Terror fills Hofmann's face and cuts off his voice as the Asset draws a knife. The man doesn't even have time to scream. Blood spills on the floor as the Asset slashes the target's throat. With a dull thump, the corpse falls to the ground. The job is done. All that is left now is to vacate the building, retrieve Potter, and return to his rendez-vous point.
The Soldier surveys the scene, then he turns on his heel and marches away. But then he hears something unexpected and whirls around again, drawing a gun in the same motion. And stares.
Hariel Potter's petite form is kneeling beside the corpse, another stick in her hand. He hears her whisper something to the body as she gently closes the man's blank eyes. And for some reason, the gentle gesture strikes something in the Soldier. He swallows drily. Training demands that he pull the trigger and kill the witness. But he can't. His finger won't move.
Potter rises from the ground gracefully, facing him. A sad smile is on her face, and now the Asset's entire body is frozen by that smile. "It's alright," the girl says softly. "He's in a better place now. On his next great adventure."
He can't reply. His body won't move. His voice won't work.
Potter raises the stick in her hand to point at him. "Accio wand!" she exclaims. And from the Asset's pockets, the broken pieces of the stick he took from her before emerge and fly towards her. With uncanny skill, she grabs them out of the air. "Farewell," she says calmly, turns on her heel, and with a crack she is gone.
The Asset later learns he was right. HYDRA really is interested in her abilities, especially when it turns out that a person by her name and description was reported dead about two years ago.
And even later, after his memory has been erased and not even a smidgeon of the confusing feelings Potter's sad smile at him evoked remains, he receives standing orders to capture the woman alive at all costs.
A/N: So here's the much requested HP/Avengers crossover! I decided to publish it today to celebrate a very special day to me. Exactly one year ago, I started writing and published my very first chapter that same day. Back then, I never would have guessed that writing would become such an important part of my life. So I'd like to thank all you wonderful readers and reviewers, because while I started writing on a whim, it is thanks to all of you that I realised that I loved it and continued.
Thank you all, and happy writing anniversary to all of us! May there be many more...