Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Previously: Hariel Rose Potter, Master of Death, hasn't aged in fifty years. Finally, Death offers her a way out: To regain her mortality, she must serve as a soul collector for fifty more years. She is, however, allowed to do this in another world so she won't have to see her loved ones grow old and die, though she will have to pay a price for that.
This price turns out to be the loss of her eyesight. However, she figures out magical ways to compensate for the blindness.
Her soul collector job in this new world consists of missions: When she feels a 'pull' in her chest, she follows it. Sometime after arriving at the destination, a death will happen. Harry then has to use the Hallows to banish the souls to the afterlife.
Which isn't always a walk in the park, as evidenced by the fact that a certain assassin keeps running into her.
But then, would she really be Harry Potter if things were going smoothly for her?
Chapter Two: Jack Frost
Hariel's life continues. The only change is that she is much now more cautious than she was before she met the assassin for a third time.
Once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. Harry knows that well, and while she has become more cautious since the encounter in Paris, now she is actively taking precautions. The first thing she does is fix her broken wand once again with the help of the Elder Wand. The second... it takes a Confundus spell, but she manages to talk an old army veteran in her neighbourhood into giving her self-defense lessons. Furthermore, she reads up on the old auror procedures that Ron and her implemented into the auror training. And she enchants a few dummies to move so she can practice her aim.
Protective and obscuring spells are worked into all of her clothes. Her wardrobe is expanded to contain current fashions that may help her blend into her surroundings. Her jeans and dragon leather jacket aren't exactly inconspicious. Women in dresses don't draw as much attention.
Then again, women under tons of obscuring charms and whatnot usually don't draw attention either and she still got noticed by the assassin, so Harry doesn't hold her breath on the success of the wardrobe changes.
She also trains herself to be aware of her surroundings at all times. Her capture in Berlin could have been avoided if she'd just been a little more trusting of her instincts.
And still, she worries that it won't be enough. She's been in this world for only three years, and she has met the assassin as many times. If the trend goes on... Well. It never hurt anyone to be prepared.
But a year and a half passes, and Harry doesn't run into him again. Still, she refuses to let her guard down. In her experience, that is exactly when things tend to go pear-shaped.
Eventually, though, she concedes that maybe she is being too negative. She'd been in this world for quite some time now, and she hasn't yet done anything for herself, for her own enjoyment. She needs to live a little, she decides. Hermione in her place would have been all over this world already to witness history in the making and study it, to explore what a world without magic looks like. And so, in honour of her long-time best friend, Hariel decides to visit the Stark World Exposition which is being held on the first of January in New York City, 1964. She already left an apparition port in the city on one of her previous jobs, so travel would be no trouble aside from the usual discomfort that apparition entails.
Harry half expects a new job to pop up and keep her from attending the Expo, but nothing of the sort happens. So with a sad smile, because this is the kind of undertaking that she never would have done without Hermione or Luna before leaving her old world, Harry departs.
New York is loud and disorienting. The Stark Expo, which is being held at Flushing Meadows in conjunction with the World's Fair, is even louder and more disorienting. Harry has never liked crowds, and that was before she lost her eyesight. Now... if it weren't for the training she'd been doing, she wouldn't have made it further than ten steps in. There are so many people, and all of them radiate their energy. All of them move all the time, and Harry's usual echolocation spells do her no favours here. She has to resort to activate a Homenum Revelio field around herself. What's more, people keep bumping into her, and when they see her empty eyes, they rapidly apologise, offer her help, try to take her arm to lead her around, and generally treat her like an idiot because apparently being blind means that she must also be deaf, from the way some people talk to her.
"ARE YOU ALRIGHT," a man's voice says in an overly loud and pompous tone. Harry has no doubt that he's using exaggerated gesturing to emphasise his meaning, which strikes her as incredibly stupid considering she can't see. "LET ME HELP YOU." And he attempts to take her arm, but Harry smoothly extracts herself and vanishes into the crowd.
Rinse, repeat. She ought to invest in a pair of sunglasses to hide her eyes. (But what if she picks stupid-looking ones? It's not like she can see whatever she puts one her face!)
Aside from these annoyances, the Expo turns out to be quite interesting. She's already seen things that she doubts anyone in her old world even thought about at this point in time. It amazes her how much further along this world is in terms of technology. And she can't help but think of one of Luna's conspiracy theories. According to her old friend, a cult of clairvoyant witches and wizards existed secretly for the sole purpose of erasing any muggle technology that could lead to the discovery of the magical society. The methods used involved nifflers, old socks, and something Luna called a 'Schnavalix'.
Socks and Schnavalice aside, Harry is fairly sure that such a group with the purpose of keeping the magical world undiscovered at all costs did in fact exist in her old world. Now, witnessing all the inventions, all the progress around her, Harry thinks she might finally have evidence of what her world could have been like, and she feels anger at the thought of selfish wizards halting decades of progress by erasing some of the brightest minds of all times.
Maybe her world had a Howard Stark once. Maybe muggles could have had hovering cars in 1964 like here. But in her world, the only people to succesfully make a muggle vehicle fly had been Sirius and Arthur Weasley.
Harry frowns and leaves that particular exhibit, the man on stage enthusiastically relaying an anecdote about the Hovercar crashing the last time he presented it. She finds herself reminded a bit of the Weasley twins, who never failed to make fun of their own fiascos, as rarely as they occured. The audience ate it up back then, and it does so here now. Mr. Howard Stark certainly knows how to play the crowds.
She finds herself drifting about aimlessly. A lot of the exhibits are made to be visually engaging for the masses, which means most show effects are entirely lost on her. But Harry still enjoys herself. There is a certain charm to this event - to this whole age, really. She's from 2047, where everyone is in a hurry and muggle technology could do anything. Getting to see all this, all the ideas, the enthusiasm, the pioneers... it's special, and Harry is glad she came here.
Eventually, she finds a quieter area. The loud sounds and yelling showmen are absent here. People talk in civilised volumes about whatever the exhibits here are about. Apparently, she has found the area where the real treasures are on display, not just the attractions aimed at the pleasure-seeking masses.
Naturally, because she wouldn't be Hariel Potter if she didn't get into at least a little bit of trouble, this is when a man enters the Homenum Revelio field surrounding her, reeking of alcohol. Harry side-steps him neatly, but the man trips and bumps into her anyway. If it weren't for the training Harry had been doing, she would definitely have fallen over.
"S'ry," the man slurs, but he doesn't sound sorry at all. "You alrigh'? Lemme buy you a dring."
Harry frowns at him. She is fairly sure that she isn't old enough for alcohol in this country. "No," she answers, edging away. "You are drunk, sir."
The man draws closer. Harry wrinkles her nose at his scent. "C'mon, pretty gurl," the man insists. "S'gonna be fun."
"Back off," she answers coolly. "I said no."
"Thing yer too goo' for me, huh?" the man suddenly accuses her loudly. "Yer jus' some blin' girl! Shoulda be thankful someone paid attention to you, ya cripple!"
Harry can feel people turn to watch. Some start whispering. She shifts uncomfortably. Once upon a time, she'd become used to being the centre of attention wherever she went. But that was a long time ago.
"That's enough," an authoritative voice cuts into the drunk man's rambling. "Jared, Bill, remove this man from the premises."
The loudly yelling man is dragged away by what Harry decides must be security personnel. The newcomer turns to her. "Are you alright, Miss?" he asks smoothly.
"I am," Harry answers politely. "Thank you, Mr. Stark."
"Ahh," the man realises. "You must have recognised my voice from the earlier presentation."
She nods. "It was very interesting," she relays with a cautious smile. "I'm enjoying the exposition very much."
With a frown, she notices people crowding around them. "Mr. Stark!" a man shouts. "It's such an honour! I'm Jackson Makepeace, from Makepeace Industries. Would you consider-"
"Janet Brandon," a woman with a sultry voice introduces herself, surreptitiously pushing Harry away. "I must admit, the Stark World Exposition is splendid!"
"Mr. Stark, could you please comment on-" yells someone who must be a reporter.
Stark grabs her Harry's arm and draws her closer to him. "My apologies," he says smoothly. "But the young lady seems to be quite upset, I will escort her somewhere to regain her spirits. Perhaps another time, gentlemen?" Masterfully, he manages to steer Harry out of the crowds.
Harry raises an eyebrow at him. "A well-practiced maneuver, Mr. Stark," she comments.
"Call me Howard, please, Miss...?"
"Potter," she answers. "Hariel Potter. Call me Harry."
"An unusual name," Stark comments. Harry laughs lightly.
"My mum was sure I was going to be a boy, so my parents decided to name me Harry. And when I turned out to be a girl, they had no girl name ready. Dad wanted to just name me Harriet, but mum vehemently refused. They settled for Hariel eventually." Harry smiles sheepishly.
"And would your parents be here somewhere?" Stark asks. Hariel suddenly remembers that she looks like a blind teenager who definitely shouldn't be alone in a place like this.
"Ahh," she says softly. "No. They died when I was young."
"I'm sorry for your loss," Stark answers immediately. "So who are you here with?"
Not so easily distracted, is he? Harry sighs. "My friend had an emergency," she lies. "They had to leave in a hurry, but I wanted to stay."
"Well then," Stark says. "Would you allow me to show you around, Miss Harry?"
Harry blinks in surprise. "That's... that's really nice of you. But, uh, what would the press say? I mean, I don't mind, but-"
"I don't mind either," Starks says with good humour. He grabs her hand and puts it on his arm. "Shall we?"
A surprised laugh escapes Harry. "We shall."
The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur. Howard Stark shows her the best attractions, explains to her how things work, tells her of ideas that he has that blow her mind. She certainly has never heard of anything called the 'Arc Reactor' before. In turn, she can contribute her own ideas, which are really things she knows are eventually going to be developed in the future. They continue their discussion over dinner and until late in the evening. Harry finds herself incredibly disappointed when Howard gets a call and has to leave on urgent business, but perhaps it's for the best. A lasting friendship is impossible after all, with her situation.
Nevertheless, the evening opens up a craving for companionship in Harry. So she makes an effort to go out more, to get to know people in her neighbourhood. When she's on a job, she makes it a point to visit hospitals in the area and heal patients, to help people where she can.
And that is how she ends up in a hospital in Wisconsin talking a woman named Julie Coulson through giving birth just like she once did Hermione, because the husband is hours away at work and couldn't be reached through the phone. Hours later, she is glad she stayed.
"Hello, little Phil," Julie coos to the child in her arms.
Hariel hugs herself, feeling a distant pain in her chest. All her life, she'd wanted to have a family, to have children of her own.
"Would you like to hold him?" Julie asks her kindly. Harry nods, a lump in her throat. A nurse kindly helps her position her arms and stands close, just in case, and then little Phil is placed in her arms. Harry can feel the flutter of his energy, the warmth of his tiny soft body.
This. This is the reason she agreed to Death's deal. This is what she wants for herself one day.
"Aww, he's smiling!" the enthusiastic nurse gushes. Harry hears the click of a camera.
"What does he look like?" Harry asks softly, a tiny smile on her face as the nurse describes the baby. Julie occasionally throws a comment in. And while they talk, Harry draws runes for protection on Phil's forehead with her finger. She knows she'll probably never see him again, she knows these people are perfectly ordinary and would probably run screaming if they knew what she is, what she does as Death's Soul Collector. But it doesn't matter. If Harry could give every child in the world magical protection, she'd do it in a heartbeat.
"Robert and I haven't decided on a middle name yet," Julie rambles. "Nothing sounds quite right. We've thought about naming him after one of our grandfathers, but-"
"James," slips from Harry's lips.
"Huh?" Julie makes.
"Phil James Coulson," she sounds out and smiles. Then feels heat rise in her cheeks. "I'm sorry, it's not my place to-"
"I like it," Julie interrupts. "Phil James Coulson. Thank you, Hariel. You're a good girl."
Harry's activities don't go unnoticed. To HYDRA, Howard Stark is a person of interest and monitored as closely as is possible without raising suspicion. When several gossip magazines publish articles about the man in question escorting a young woman who just happens to be blind and fit the description of one Hariel Potter - a woman of unknown affiliations with a set of supernatural abilities who had interfered in HYDRA's affairs twice, and who also doesn't seem to be aging...
HYDRA decides to act.
It's the winter of 1967 and Harry is on yet another job. She has now been dimensionally displaced for seven years. Some days, it's hard for her to remember what her loved ones look like. But she has her charm bracelet with the charms her friends gave her as a goodbye to remind her of what they were like. How being with them was like coming home. Harry may never be able to see them again, but as long as she remembers, she won't have lost them.
Seven years down. Forty-three to go.
Merlin. She ought to get a hobby. Studying runic magic like she'd been doing the past two years won't cut it. Though some good had come of it, she thinks, as she absentmindedly flexes her fingers which are covered by comfortable gloves. These gloves have several features, both for combat and comfort. But her favourite is this: The runes imbued in them will transform any script into braille under her fingers, and revert the transformation once her fingers leave the paper. It finally solves the problem of her reading in public, now she can sit in a café with a nice book and sunglasses on her nose or a cap pulled low to hide her eyes, and no one will be the wiser of her blindness. No longer does she have to ask waiters to recite their menus, now she can read herself. It makes her life much more comfortable.
Finding a hobby... the things Harry once enjoyed doing have become difficult. Flying because her eyesight is gone - she can still do it with the aid of her spells, but it's complicated and the best thing about it used to be the feeling of leaving all her troubles behind on the ground when she took off and saw the world grow smaller below her, and now she can't see a thing when she flies. She used to enjoy teaching too, not regularly or anything, but she'd hold seminars for aurors or for students at Hogwarts. But in this world, there are no students for the things she could teach.
She could learn to play an instrument. She always wanted to, but never found the time. Hermione's daughter Rose had learned to play the piano, and Harry had loved listening.
Yes. Learning to play the piano would be nice. She'd look for a teacher when this job was done, but only if she hadn't broken any of her bones until then from slipping on the ice and snow covered ground. Siberia in winter is not a fun place to be, even in a larger city like Omsk. Harry is just glad for the warming charms woven into her parka and trousers - this time, she had forgone the dressing-in-local-fashions part of her job, mainly because the thick skirts women seem to wear here would drive her insane. She'd trip over the hems all the time and any stealth would be lost anyway. But to be fair, in this snow it's impossible to sneak around no matter what she wears. Harry is half-tempted to pull out her Firebolt Thirteen and just fly to wherever she needs to be. The only thing stopping her is the heavy snowfall which is seriously messing with her echolocation spells. She's already resorted to using the Homenum Revelio spell field around her, like she did at the Stark Expo three years ago. But she's still forced to cling to house walls to avoid falling over, because she can't see the ground and it's way too slippery.
"Stupid snow!" she mutters disgruntledly. "A hippogriff for a snowplow! And thank Merlin for Impervius-charms!"
Finally she arrives at her destination, a small house in a quiet neighbourhood. Harry really couldn't care less, as long as she gets out of the damned snowfall that makes her feel like she is really blind. Once she gets home, she won't rest until she's modified the echolocation spells to not be influenced by the weather.
A quick Alohomora gets her into the house. She senses only one person inside, and she hears an old woman's voice softly singing. Harry breathes a sigh of relief. Old people are easier.
Harry follows the voice and finds the singing woman doing laundry. And then the singing cuts off, and the woman sways on her feet before she falls to the ground. A stroke, Harry thinks numbly, or a seizure, she is no trained healer, she can't tell. Harry hurries to the woman's side, trying to offer what little comfort she can give. It takes five minutes until it's over.
Later, when Harry leaves the house, she is sorely tempted to just apparate back to Grimmauld Place. But the stubborn part of her brain insists on going to the hospital and see if there are people she could help. And perhaps she should leave an apparition port? If she ever has to come here again, she'd rather not travel for ages with Transsiberian Railway again.
"Freeze!" a voice startles her. She quickly expands the range of her Homenum Revelio field around her, her mind analysing the situation.
Five people, in a circle around her. She hadn't noticed them, too distracted by the weather. The language spoken was English, with an American accent.
"Miss Potter, you're under arrest. Come quietly," that same voice says harshly.
Harry is gobsmacked. What in the world is happening?! Nothing she has done warrants an arrest, aside from the breaking and entering which almost no one ever noticed! And these people have no authority to arrest her on Russian soil!
"Who are you?" she asks quietly, surreptitously adjusting her stance. These people, the way they've circled her - Harry is certain they have weapons levelled at her. "What are you arresting me for?"
It's not like she's worried. She's a damn good witch and immortal to boot. Granted, her portkey won't work in this region with the weather anomalies, and over the long distance using it is risky in the first place. But she doubts she'll need it. They have no idea what she's capable of.
"We are the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. You are wanted for questioning," the man says pompously. "I suggest you come quietly, otherwise we will have to use force, Miss."
Harry notes several different things. First of all, the named organisation has the nifty acronym S.H.I.E.L.D.
It's entirely Hermione's fault that she notices this. In her time, Hermione had founded quite a few charity organisations, the notorious ones being S.P.E.W. ("Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare") and P.M.S. ("Protection of Muggle Society"). And then there were L.U.N.C.H. (Ron's favourite), S.H.O.E., and D.O.O.M. Harry had been a member in all of them.
The second thing she notices is that the man never stated what their homeland was.
The third thing, there is no mention of what she is being questioned for.
Fourth, they want her alive.
Fifth. They want her to come quietly.
She has always, always wanted to pull a Dumbledore. Granted, she doesn't have a phoenix available, but she can improvise.
"Well, the game is up," she quotes with a peaceful smile on her face. "Would you like a written confession from me or will a statement before these witnesses suffice?"
Confused silence. Harry wants to burst into giggles, but she's too busy trying to remember how the rest of it went. She kind of forgot what Fudge ranted when he tried to arrest Dumbledore back in fifth year. It was a long time ago, after all.
"Cut the games!" a man behind her barks. "Hands up!"
"Ah," she says. "Yes. Yes, I thought we might hit that little snag."
That was how it went, right?
"Snag?" another man repeats dumbly. Harry nods sagely.
"You seem to be under the delusion that I am going to - what was the phrase? 'Come quietly.' I am afraid I won't come quietly at all - frankly, I can think of a number of things I'd rather be doing than getting arrested."
She hears the click of the weapon.
"Don't be silly," she laughs. "I'm sure you're excellent at your job, but if you attempt to - er - 'bring me in' by force, I will have to hurt you."
"Protego circumretio!" Hariel shouts, spinning once around herself with her wand in her hand. Her magic forms a protective bubble around her that deflects all bullets or tranq darts or whatever they are shooting at her. "Expelliarmus! Stupor!" She hears a man curse as another falls with a dull thud. Snow crunches under hurrying feet, and in a sudden flash of inspiration Harry points her wand at the ground. "Depulso!" Snow blasts toward her opponents. Harry hears them yell and scramble as she does it again and again, followed by spells and curses.
"Retreat!" the leader finally shouts. The only other man left standing is only too glad to obey. "Bring in the Asset!"
The asset? What is that supposed to be? Some sort of weap-
Something impacts her shield. Whatever the men shot before, this is way stronger. Her defense holds, but only barely. She can't counter-attack like this, not without risking her shield breaking. But if she doesn't do something, she'll basically be a sitting duck. Portkeying away is too risky, apparating is out, too - she'd have to drop her shield which would make her way too vulnerable to whoever is shooting at her. And running away with all that snow and ice on the ground is impossible.
Another shot hits her shield and drives her back a step. She's starting to feel the drain on her magic now - after all, she'd had her Homenum Revelio field activated for a while now, then there's the job from earlier, and now the shield takes some power to maintain... But she now knows the direction the shot came from. With an angry growl, she waves her wand and transfigures snow into hundreds of little ice shards that she sends in that direction. For a moment, she thinks it's over.
But then a heavy impact on the ground tells her that someone just jumped from a rooftop - what?! - and she hears heavy steps approach her in a run, but the spells she sends are evaded without fail. And then her senses pick up the familiar presence that feels like a winter storm and all she can think is oh shit not him when he hits her shield with his metal arm and smashes it to pieces. Her shield, that is, not his arm.
The target is thrown back and lands heavily in a snowdrift. The Asset gives her no time to recover and immediately sets after her. To give her time is to risk her teleporting away.
Potter is a threat to HYDRA. She must be brought in and her strange powers researched so that a defence can be found. Her existence threatens the balance of the world. HYDRA will restore it.
The Asset is doing the world a great service.
The girl that is his mission manages to just throw herself to the side before he can hit her, and scrambles to her feet unsteadily on the slippery ground. She's breathing heavily, and there's a look of fear on her face. She doesn't look like a threat like this, but he saw her moments earlier, standing inside a golden bubble of pure energy, hair whipping around her as she unleashed a storm of colourful blasts at the retrieval team. She is formidable. They hadn't stood a chance.
The Asset, however, does.
Again, he charges her, but this time she stabs the thin piece of wood that she uses as a weapon toward him and what feels like a solid brick wall slams into him and throws him back, right into the snowdrift she herself landed in earlier. But unlike her, he flips in mid-air and lands on his feet, eyes narrowed on the weapon. If he takes that out, she'll be helpless. Snarling, he runs at her again.
Potter flicks her wrist and the stick vanishes. Instead, she clenches her gloved hands into fists and punches the ground. He mentally curses it explodes under her fist, icy shrapnel flying everwhere.
She's magnificent, he thinks. She must be stopped.
He charges straight through the cloud of snow and ice shards, but she's ready for him, her gloved palms, now glowing, lifted at him. For a disappointing moment, he thinks she's surrendering. Then her right hand clenches into a fist and it feels like an invisible hand is grabbing him by the throat. A large throwing motion and he's flying into a house wall., cracks forming at the impact. For a moment, he can't breathe, though that isn't so much because of the impact and has more to do with the image of her petite form standing there, hunched over, face framed by wild black strands, her pale eyes narrowed at him in a fierce expression of defiance, as if she's glaring right into his very soul with her sightless eyes.
The Asset sends a knife straight into her upper thigh. She crumples down with a pained exclamation, fingers pressed on the wound. An attempt to stand up fails, he knew just where to aim in order to destroy her ability to walk. But when he gets up, she thrusts her right hand out at him. He's slammed against the wall once more, but this time, she doesn't let up.
"What the bloody hell do you want from me?!" she yells at him angrily, and the force pressing him into the wall grows with every word. He hears it groan as if it's about to give in. The air is pressed out of his lungs. "What have I ever done to you?! And who the bloody hell are you?!"
He gasps for air. She blinks, and then a horrified look crosses her face. She yanks her hand back as if burned. He slides down the wall, drawing in hurried breaths while she loses her balance and falls on her ass. She yanks the gloves from her hands. "I'm- I didn't mean to do that," she whispers as she stares in his direction. "I'm so sorry."
He draws a gun and points it at her. But when he blinks, an image of her face flashes through his mind, lips pulled into a sad smile, eyes so soft, aimed at him, and his finger won't move to click the safety off, to pull the trigger. It unnerves him, this loss of control. He doesn't know where that image came from. He's never seen Hariel Potter before.
But her eyes now are just as soft and sad as they are in that image.
"Goodbye, Frost," she whispers, and the last thing he sees is a flash of red heading toward him.
Harry lands heavily in the entrance hall of Grimmauld Place No.12. Her legs, the knife wound on the right one still bleeding, fold under the weight of her body, and the disorientation following the travel by portkey - she'd had to break into a house to avoid the complications bad weather causes to portkey magic - does not help. Add to that magical exhaustion... Well. She isn't in the best condition right now.
Her mind is reeling. Why had he been there? Why had those people decided to attack her? And what in the world had she been thinking, giving him a name? Apologising to him? Instead of taking him out, like she should have done, because he's a freaking assassin!
"Ugh," she groans, getting to her feet and peeling the gloves off her fingers unhappily. They had worked, but they sucked up magical power like nobody's business. She'd have to adjust the runic arrays on them. She'd also have to do something about her inability to properly navigate in bad weather. And something to make her bulletproof wouldn't be amiss. And meditation. She needed to get that temper under control.
It seems that learning to play piano would need to wait for a bit.
Harry has things to do.
1969. It's been two years since the debacle in Omsk. She hasn't seen the man she now calls Jack Frost in her mind (she has to call him something) again, but there have been more incidents in which she was attacked. But she's made herself a charmed necklace that automatically erects a bullet-deflecting shield bubble around her when she comes under fire; and she's improved her gloves, so for the most part, it wasn't too hard to avoid injury or capture. Not exactly easy either, but there hadn't been any real threat to her safety and freedom. There was one time where a warehouse filled up with sour-smelling gas while she was inside, but a bubble-head charm had taken care of that. After that episode though she'd made sure to add a charm to her charm bracelet to prevent herself from falling prey to any gas again.
The job this time takes her to a hospital in Barcelona. Not inside the hospital, though, no. Just outside it, there's a traffic accident. The whole scene is a nightmare. People screaming, crying, the smell of burned metal and rubber, blood and fire. And Harry can't do a bloody thing to help and it kills her inside.
When it's over, all she wants is a quiet place and some peace, but everything inside her balks at the idea of going back to her lonely house where the only sounds would be those of her own making that only seem to make the silence that much louder.
So she doesn't return home and looks for a quiet place in the city instead.
It's a sunny day in the summer of 1969. The streets of Barcelona are crawling with people, and the sweltering heat makes the Asset's clothes cling to him in a way that makes him feel trapped. His mission is already over, but it went on for three days and he's injured and tired. His head hurts like hell, and the noise the people make echoes painfully in his brain. He still has to hold out until midnight until he's picked up. And there is no quiet corner where he can lay low for the rest of the time he has to kill.
In the end, he ducks into a small church tucked into the corner of an alley.
Music is the first thing he registers upon entering. Piano music. He doesn't recognise the piece, he has little to no knowledge on the subject of music, only the bare basics he might need to know to understand a target's habits. But this song makes something in his chest clench. It's a slow song, mournful, longing. It isn't perfectly executed, there seem to be little stumbles in the player's fingers, but it doesn't detract from the music's effect.
He should leave. There is no solitude to be found here. It's too risky staying where he can be seen. The Winter Soldier is a ghost. A phantom in the dark that no one can escape from. He must remain that way. But his feet carry him into the church anyway.
His mind catalogues all entrances and hiding places in an instant. He barely registers the colourful windows and artful decorations. They are of no consequence except for the strategic advantages and disadvantages they potentially offer him or an enemy.
The only enemy here is the piano player. He recognises her from pictures he's been shown. Highly dangerous, he's been told. To be captured alive. Level S threat, with supernatural abilities that Dr. Zola believes can be researched and harnessed. Death follows wherever this seemingly ageless woman goes.
The Death Bringer doesn't look like any of that. At the moment, she's just a girl playing piano. The image of her sitting in front of the instrument, eyes closed, the light falling through the stained glass of the church windows behind her; it makes his fingers itch as if to reach for something, but he doesn't know quite what. So he reaches for a gun instead. She just plays on, not even noticing the gun levelled at her.
The safety clicks off. The small noise startles her. The music cuts off, and he feels relieved.
"Frost," Potter breathes. She slowly gets up, turning to him.
He shoots. The tranquiliser dart speeds at her and then bounces off of a force field surrounding her. A necklace around her neck glows.
She frowns at him, head tilted to the side. "You're injured," she says.
He switches the tranquilising gun for a grenade. He doubts her force field will hold up to that.
She takes a step back, raises her hands. "Look, I don't want to fight. I doubt you want to, either," she insists. "I'm tired, you're injured, this is a church, people aren't supposed to fight in church. So can we just... talk? Or not fight? I'll leave-"
He throws the grenade. Her pale green eyes widen, but then a determined expression overtakes her features. The force field vanishes, and her hand shoots forward and snatches the grenade right out of the air as if she'd spent her whole life practicing it.
Her hand glows for a moment and the grenade turns into a golden orb with wings that unfold and start fluttering. When she lets go, the thing takes off and starts zooming around the church, and Potter stands there with a wistful smile on her face, head tilted as she listens to the small wings beat. The smile vanishes and is replaced by a frown when she turns back to him.
He reaches for his army knife. Firearms obviously had no effect, but in close combat she wouldn't stand a chance.
"Expelliarmus!" she shouts, and the knife is ripped from his fingers and flying toward her. She catches it just as expertly as she did the grenade and throws it behind her. It slides under a bench, far out of his reach. It doesn't even make him hesitate as he lunges at her. Her force field snaps back into existence, but it collapses under the force of his artificial arm's punch, and Potter stumbles back with a cry. His body smashes into hers and they both crash to the floor. His ribs protest painfully at the impact, but he ignores it as he grabs her wrists with one hand and uses the other to grab her throat, holding her down. A knee is wedged threateningly into her stomach, making her unable to even attempt to get up.
He takes his hand off her throat so he can knock her unconscious. His arms is raised - and freezes. His muscles refuse to move, something paralysing him. He growls as Potter manages to extract one wrist from his grip and takes care not to lose skin-contact with him as she cautiously slithers out from under him. His eyes widen as nimble fingers pull off his face mask, reach for a spot under his chin, and press down.
He loses consciousness almost immediately.
When he comes to, it's dark. He's still in the church, though now he's lying on a bench. He rolls off it, finding cover and drawing his gun in one smooth motion.
Movement from the corner of his eye. Without a second thought, he shoots.
With a metallic noise, the small golden ball falls to the ground, wings crippled. It rolls a few steps before it bumps into the steps to the altar and comes to a stop. With a soft cheeping noise whatever made the thing move vanishes from it and it turns into a piece of mangled metal.
Silence. Nothing more happens. He's alone in the church. The Death Bringer is long gone. And he's almost certainly late for his rendez-vous. Scowling, he gets up. And notes that all his aches and injuries are gone as if they'd never been there.
His army knife, the one he threw earlier, lies on the piano, the blade glinting in the moonlight.
He grabs it and the piece of metal that was once a grenade and leaves the church with angry steps, rage curling in his chest. He'd been bested in combat, he, the Asset, the Winter Soldier. The Death Bringer had taken his control over the situation, over his very body, away. And when he'd been helpless and vulnerable, she had healed him.
It pisses him right off. The emotion feels foreign. He shouldn't even have it. Emotions distract from missions, and missions are all that matter. Clearly, the Death Bringer did something to him while he was unconscious.
He'd have his whole body ripped open if only to get it out of him. It hurt.
Hariel sits heavily down in her favourite armchair once she returns home.
She had always been a rather independent individual or tried to be anyway, with friends like Ron and Hermione it was kind of hard to take everything on by herself.
Normally, she would be the very last person to admit she has a problem...
But boy does she have a problem now.
Not only had she not delivered Jack Frost to the authorities or done anything to neutralise the threat he represents to her in particular and people in general, no, she'd gone and healed him and made sure he was comfortable before leaving.
And worse even still – a part of her had wanted to take him with her. And that seemed like a bad idea all around.
But so sue her, she'd had an awful day and had just wanted some company and she'd even have taken his, if only he hadn't started shooting at her. And even then, he'd been a distraction and that was what she needed.
"Merlin, I'm an idiot," she groans into her hands.
Clearly, something needed to be done about the matter of Jack Frost.
But hell if Harry has any idea as to what.
For the first time in decades, Hariel Potter is well and truly way out of her depth.