A/N: This is the sequel to The Death of Natasha Romanoff and Iris Potter, Agent of SHIELD, so you'll want to read them first. In this installment, you'll start to see more divergence from the movie canon than before. Basic plot points are still hit, and that will need to continue down the road, but underlying elements are changing, and some significant new ones are being added.
This story takes place during the events of the movie Thor. I have fiddled with the movie's timeline a little because it's already a bit odd, but the changes shouldn't be too noticeable unless you try to map out events like I needed to. A couple of elements have been reordered, but mostly the timeline has simply been extended somewhat so that events happen over a longer timespan. This was necessary to accommodate extra characters, events, etc.
Also, I have tried hard to avoid simply repeating scenes from the movie. For the most part, you'll see scenes that would have happened before or after scenes in the movie; where there are repeated scenes, it's because something important has changed. So, unless I write something that directly contradicts something in the movie, you should assume that anything I don't show happens as the movie depicts.
As always, thanks to Bonnie for beta reading this and making it much better than it would have been had I simply been left to my own devices.
Thanks also to kenobisunryder for letting me use the artwork that the cover image is based on. What I have here is a cropped version, so visit her DeviantArt site to see the full version as well as other great images she's created.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter; that's owned by J.K. Rowling. I don't own the Avengers, either; that's owned by Marvel.
Recommendation: This chapter's recommended fic is "Deal with the Devil" by SilentlyWatches. HP/Dresden crossover. Lash, the bit of Lasciel that shared Harry Dresden's head, is offered a chance for redemption and she takes it. Her task is to help a boy with a heavy destiny: Harry Potter. What will happen to wizarding Britain when the Boy Who Lived returns... with a fallen angel in his head, giving him advice?
Chapter 01 - Prologue
Freyja carefully adjusted the thin, gauzy fabric so that it lay just right across her nude body, then shifted a bit to get comfortable - never an easy prospect when she had one leg thrown over an arm of her ornate chair. Comfort, however, was less important than presentation. Few understood how important theatrics were to her art; then again, if she did her job correctly, they never even recognized them as theatrics.
Soon her expected guest appeared out of the swirling mist she used to guard her realm. It was a small thing, the mist, but it encouraged the imagination to run wild. Those unworthy of her attention ran off in fear. Over the millennia, a few had actually been frightened to death by their own nightmares. And those that made it through were invariably in a highly suggestible state of mind, perfect for her purposes.
Then there were those like the large figure approaching her now. This Aesir never reacted the way she wanted, not that that ever stopped her from trying. After all, there was sometimes as much fun in the hunt as there was in the catch.
"Have you no shame?" he exclaimed.
"No, none at all. Life is too short to be burdened with such notions."
"Short? You're practically immortal, and certainly will be so long as we continue to meet like this once a century!" he scoffed.
"So?" Freyja asked. "Eternity is hardly enough time to fully explore and enjoy all the possible pleasures there are to be had." She licked her lips and shifted slightly in her seat, knowing that the light and shadows created by the nearby fire would do interesting things to her appearance.
"Fatherless child born of a dead sow! You're even more brazen than you were last time!" he exclaimed.
"So... you do notice me, then? And you remember," Freyja purred, lazily dragging a finger around one breast. "It's about time you admitted that, Odin Borson."
Odin shook his head slowly in exasperation. "It would be difficult not to notice one dressed such as you... or not so dressed, I suppose I should say. But do not read so much into my words."
"In case you've forgotten, creative interpretation is part of my job," she replied with a slight smirk.
"Not too creative today, I would hope," Odin grumbled. "Though we will not proceed so long as you remain dressed like that."
"You wish me to divest myself of these garments, then?" she asked, slowly pulling away the pointless material.
"Please!" Odin cried out. When her grin widened, he realized what he'd said and added, "Please, no! Just... put some more on, will you? This is hard enough as it is."
Freyja's expression turned gleeful as she pulled a robe from behind her and slowly put it on, flipping her long, red hair out so that it was draped over her shoulders. "In that case, I'll call this a victory and wait until next time to press my advantage." Odin groaned and put his hand over his face, causing Freyja to laugh at his distress. "When did you get to be such a prude anyway?" she asked.
"When I got married," Odin muttered as he stepped forward and sat down across from her.
"Don't let Frigga hear you say that."
"Don't worry, I won't make that mistake again," he replied, then sat straighter and began to speak more formally. "I have come to treat with you under the terms of our ancient agreement."
"It has been more than a century now since you last graced my domain," Freyja said. "Do you bring your gifts?"
Odin pushed two items across the table for her. "One set of rune stones, personally carved by me and imbued with my power, to replace the last set I brought. And one of Idun's golden apples, to rejuvenate and invigorate you."
"Thank you," she said as she received the gifts. "In return, I offer you my services in divining the future, without expectation of further... compensation. Though you are of course not prohibited from offering." The last was said in a sultry voice, but Odin gave her a hard, cold stare in return. "Oh, fine, be that way," she said. "Remember that I will not provide any information regarding you directly. This will only involve those whose fates are linked to yours in some fashion. If you want anything more personal from me, you will have to offer something more personal in exchange."
Odin nodded in understanding, for this was something she told him every century when he visited. He frowned, though, when she pulled out a stack of what appeared to be cards. "What is this? It doesn't appear to be any of your traditional methods of divination."
Freyja stopped shuffling the deck and ran a finger across the back of the top card. "These are known as tarot cards and are popular among some of the mortals who inhabit Midgard. As to why I am using them... I honestly don't know." Odin raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Truthfully, I do not know," she insisted. "I discovered them during my travels a few decades ago, and this morning I felt an overwhelming sense that I would need to use them today. I learned a long, long time ago not to ignore such feelings. I know not where they come from, but they are always important."
Odin's eye narrowed suspiciously. "You still visit Midgard, then?"
"And why not? I am not a prisoner here," she snapped.
"No, you are not, but I had thought you would refrain, after..."
Freyja's face flushed in anger. "Much time passed before I returned, that I will admit. But return I did, for the mortals have much to offer that interests me."
"Too much, as I recall," Odin growled. "I trust that you have been keeping to our other agreement?"
"Yes," she hissed, refusing to look him in the eye. She'd never forgiven him for what he'd done, and the reminder had ruined her mood.
"Very well," Odin said, then gestured back to the cards in her hands. "How are they supposed to work?"
"There are different methods, but I will draw three cards. Ideally they will describe the past, present, and future of someone whose fate will impact your own, but those divisions are not absolute. I will also try to use the cards as a medium for a vision, but I cannot promise anything there."
"Will this work as well as other methods?"
Freyja shrugged. "I have not used them much, but they should work as well as any tool. Objects such as these are but conduits for my power, and there are none who can keep secrets from me. Gods and mortals alike may keep secrets from each other and may even try to suppress the truth from their own conscious minds, but none can hide the truth from me."
Odin nodded again. "I will not argue, then."
After a bit more shuffling, Freyja abruptly stopped, then began to reveal the top cards.
Snick. "The Fool reversed. Someone has acted recklessly, taking a foolish, unnecessary risk... or perhaps many such risks..."
"I could more easily list those which that does not describe than those which it does," Odin murmured, though not so softly that Freyja failed to hear, and she scowled at the interruption.
Snick. "The Nine of Cups, reversed. This person is driven by greed and dissatisfaction with their current lot, though their actions will not likely improve their situation."
Snick. "The Seven of Swords. Betrayal... this person will betray others, using stealth and trickery to get away with their scheme. I think that their greed and dissatisfaction will produce great sorrow and suffering in others as the betrayal unfolds. I'm not sure if it can be stopped."
"A threat to the throne, do you suppose?" Odin asked, clearly disquieted.
"The betrayal may not be directed at you," Freyja responded as she began to gently run her fingers along the faces of the cards. She caught brief flashes of Loki pacing in his rooms, obviously upset about something, but she couldn't tell what. She said nothing, though. Not only was accusing Odin's own son of betraying anyone risky, but she knew that Loki had to be allowed to make certain decisions for himself in order to fulfill the prophecy she'd given him. Events had been set in motion, and she wanted to see where they would lead.
"But I would be cautious anyway," she finally said, shivering despite the warmth of the fire. Her agreement with Odin didn't allow her to completely hold back information she saw and which she reasonably felt affected him, and it certainly didn't permit her to lie. That was the point of these once-a-century meetings, after all.
She could, however, be creative in how she presented the information.
Snick. "The Chariot reversed. Someone who has lacked control or direction. They act aggressively, and without just cause."
Snick. "The Ten of Swords. This person is betrayed. Stabbed in the back, leading to great loss."
Snick. "The Six of Swords. But not permanent loss, perhaps, because they experience a difficult yet necessary rite of passage. I think that ultimately the outcome will be positive, but there will be much grief and suffering before that point is reached."
"It sounds like the fates of those two could be intertwined," Odin said.
Freyja nodded as she touched the faces of the cards. "Indeed. The fact that the two readings came together suggests a connection. But remember, that connection may simply be you." She got an image of Thor, obviously hung over, waking up and finding himself wearing a woman's bridal gown. She yanked her fingers away from the cards as if she'd been scalded.
"Did you see something?"
"Nothing that I care to see again," she responded. "I don't think it had anything to do with you, though."
Odin frowned as she began to reveal the next reading.
Snick. "The Empress. A feminine figure. Someone beautiful and connected to nature."
Snick. "The Seven of Pentacles. This person is pursuing a vision, gazing at the stars. She seeks... recognition? Reward, perhaps?"
Snick. "The Six of Wands. She will succeed in finding whatever she is seeking, but she will find much, much more that she couldn't possibly have anticipated. She already had a bright future, but something or someone will significantly alter it."
Running her fingers along the cards gave her an image of a young woman engrossed with mathematical calculations. "This seems to involve a mortal woman on Midgard. Does the name 'Jane' mean anything to you?"
"No," Odin responded, frowning again. "I can't see how a mortal woman's fate would affect my own."
"Never?" Freyja asked, her eyes dancing with amusement.
"Not in a very, very long time," Odin said somewhat defensively.
"Well, then, perhaps her fate will only affect you indirectly," Freyja said as she reshuffled and began the next.
Snick. "The Emperor Reversed. Someone who has acted out of a need to dominate. Who seeks rigid control. They are inflexible." Odin shifted uncomfortably in his seat, despite knowing that none of these readings could be about him personally.
Snick. "The Lovers. This person seeks balance - balance in themselves and in their relationships. They seek a union that benefits all who are involved."
Snick. "The Ace of Swords. They will achieve a victory and a great deal of raw power. Whether they will be able to use that power successfully later on is another matter, of course, but they will have power."
Running her fingers along the cards, all she could see was green... and all she could hear was a deep, angry growling. She slowly pulled her fingers back and looked at the cards with some trepidation.
"Is something amiss?" Odin asked.
"I cannot tell how directly or indirectly this person's fate will affect yours, but I hope it is very, very indirect," Freyja replied softly. "For the foreseeable future, I recommend you be cautious around the color green."
"I do not know," Freyja said as she reshuffled. "But I think I shall avoid green myself for a while." Goosebumps rose up on her forearms, and she hitched her robe up around her neck, wondering where the chill in the air was coming from.
Snick. "The Magician. Someone who is powerful, skillful, and with great knowledge. They have achieved much and will achieve even more."
Snick. "The Tower. Disaster approaches them. They are experiencing dramatic change in their lives... there will be suffering and pain."
Snick. "The Two of Cups. Beyond that, though, lies love... unification with one they love, in fact. A true partnership."
"Good for them, but not good for their enemies, methinks," Odin murmured as Freyja ran her fingers along the cards. This time she received a vision of a woman with bushy brown hair talking to a dark man wearing an eyepatch. She heard the woman mention the word "girlfriend," and there was something about her that felt familiar - almost familial - but Freyja was certain that she didn't recognize her.
"What did you see?" Odin asked.
"I'm... not sure. Another mortal woman..."
"I haven't been to Midgard in centuries, and now suddenly my fate is intertwined with that of untold numbers of human women!" Odin groused, causing Freyja to smirk slightly as she reshuffled.
"If it will help, you can probably tell Frigga that this one, at least, won't be interested in you," Freyja offered, amused by his reaction.
Snick. "The Hermit. Someone who has long been isolated and alone. They have been... soul searching? Searching for a soul? I'm not sure, exactly."
Snick. "The Devil reversed. They are breaking free. They wish to reclaim the power that was always rightfully theirs, then acquire even more. All will tremble, and not all will survive."
Snick. "The Two of Cups, again. This person also finds love with another - a powerful love, in fact, if their partner is the same as the previous one I just did."
"Midgard, again?" Odin asked.
Freyja ran her fingers along the cards and got an image of a sleeping woman with red hair, tossing and turning as if caught in a nightmare. The sense of familiarity was even stronger, though once again Freyja didn't recognize her. "Yes, a troubled woman this time. Troubled, but powerful. Power enough for an Asgardian, at the very least, though I'm not sure if I'm seeing her before or after she completely breaks free from whatever has been holding her back."
"That makes me troubled," Odin said. "Such power has not been seen in Midgard for many an age, and I cannot think of any reason why it would appear there now."
"Well, that's it," Freyja said as she wrapped her arms around herself, making a mental note to find what was causing the temperature to drop so much. "I don't feel drawn to doing any more readings, so that's all of the fates I can tell you about this time. It's more than usual, though, so I suspect that the next few years or decades will prove to be interesting for you."
"I guess that's one way to put it," Odin said. "I don't suppose you could..." Odin stopped in mid-sentence when the deck started vibrating, then slid to the side, fanning out in front of Freyja.
"You know I don't care for your theatrics," Odin said warningly.
"This isn't me," Freyja whispered as three cards slowly slid out of the deck and stopped. Her hand shook slightly as she reached out to turn the three cards over.
Snick. "Death. Someone characterized by... endings and beginnings? Someone in transition? I'm not sure... this card isn't normally literal, but perhaps it's someone who is going to die."
Snick. "The Emperor. A parental or authority figure, someone who provides structure, stability, and guidance. I would have expected this card to be first. Are they going to die? Or will someone else die or change, leading to a second person taking on this role?" Freyja frowned in consternation, unaccustomed to having so much difficulty in reading the future.
Snick. "The Ace of Swords again. Raw power and victory, probably the authority figure being victorious. But in what? Victory over death? Victory after someone's death?"
"You are certain that none of this applies to me directly?" Odin asked.
"Absolutely. You are not the authority figure in question," Freyja assured him. She hesitantly ran her fingers over the cards and suddenly felt very, very old as an icy chill seemed to sink down into her core. She yanked her hand back even faster than before, but not before she heard the echoes of a raven cawing in the background.
She pulled her robe even tighter and shivered, unable to rid herself of a chill that seemed to have settled right into her bones. Now she thought she understood the source of the growing cold, and she wasn't the least bit happy about it. "When was the last time you visited your granddaughter?" she asked.
"Which one?" Odin responded.
"The one which, if I'm not mistaken, you always avoid."
"Hela," Odin spat, clearly unhappy. "She was sent away precisely because of the prophecy that disaster would follow in her wake. Her exile and forced isolation are necessary to ensure that that prophecy never comes to pass - or if it does, that it does not impact Asgard any more than is absolutely necessary. For me to actually go there... to willingly enter the realm of the dead which she was given to rule over... no, that would be tempting fate far too much."
Freyja suppressed a frown at the memory of another, similar prophecy - one that had led to different and far more tragic consequences for those involved. "I realize that such a visit may come with risks," she said diffidently, "but perhaps you should make the effort. While you still can."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Odin asked, his eye narrowing.
"Death stalks all the readings I did," Freyja explained. "All those I read are touched by death, to one degree or another. And I think that last one was indeed literally about Death. If you can get her to talk, maybe you'll have an easier time figuring out how all the rest of the readings relate to you. Maybe you won't have to wait until events are already in progress before you understand them. You may even have a chance to avoid disaster."
"I shall consider your words," Odin said as he stood from the table. "Thank you, Freyja. I believe our arrangement has been satisfied for another century."
"Don't thank me yet," she whispered as she watched him leave. Once she was alone, she gathered up the cards and tossed them into the fire, unwilling to ever use them again after so many disturbing visions. She sat there silently for several minutes as she watched them burn, wondering whose fates would mirror that of her cards.
A small part of her hoped that Odin's would be one of them, though a much larger part still hoped that he survived long enough for her to seduce him into her bed, thus giving her the chance to personally exact her revenge for his crimes. She had not forgotten, nor would she ever forgive.
There were some things that no mother could ever forgive.
Helheim, Lowest Realm of Niflheim.
On a desolate plain of ice stood a lonely, frost-encrusted castle. Deep within that castle stood a young woman with a green cloak, its hood covering half her face. Her throne sat empty behind her as she gazed into the water of her scrying basin, its runes glowing blue with power. The subject of her observations tossed and turned as if in the throes of a nightmare, but this did not bother her overly much.
She knew that the true nightmares were yet to come, and her Mistress was not yet as prepared as she needed to be if she was to survive them.
"Soon," she whispered to the image in the basin. "Soon your trials will begin in earnest. You and your partner will be pushed much further than you can imagine. I am limited in how much I can do to support you, for I am not permitted to make direct, permanent changes in your world. I will continue to act indirectly when I can, though, for your world will have great need of you, Mistress. And then, so will I."
Slowly, the cloaked figure made her way back to the throne and sat, the visible half of her face full of loneliness and despair.
Gamma Base, New Mexico. Early September, 2009.
"General Ross, sir!"
"Report, Colonel Talbot."
"Sir, most of the troops have arrived, though a few units will still be coming in over the next couple of weeks."
"How much hardware were we able to get?"
"Most of what you requested is here, sir. We have one hundred M2 Bradleys, fifty M109 self-propelled guns, one hundred M1 Abrams tanks, sixteen Apache attack helicopters, two Kiowa observation helicopters, sixteen VTOL transports, and one supersonic transport."
"Very good, Colonel. Make sure all the late arrivals are properly taken care of when they get here."
"Yes, sir!" With a quick salute, Talbot was gone, leaving General Ross alone once again as he looked out over the base.
My base, he thought. I had intended to name it Hulkbuster Base, but now that my goals have expanded to include capturing that woman, I guess that name won't fit anymore. Gamma Base is so... pedestrian, but we're stuck with it unless I can come up with something better. Then again, a relatively innocuous name like that will be easier to keep from being noticed by the pencil pushers in Washington who keep trying to shut me down. With S.H.I.E.L.D. sticking their noses into things, maybe I'm better off flying under the radar for as long as possible.
New York City. Early September, 2009.
"Well, you've passed all the background checks and psych evaluations," Fury said as he sat behind his desk, leaning back in an uncharacteristically relaxed pose. "Not that I thought you wouldn't, but we do have policies that have to be followed."
"Of course, I understand completely," Hermione responded.
"Good. One of the policies I think you should know about is the ban on romantic relationships between employees, or at least those within the same unit and chain of command," Fury said. "We can't have people giving orders to someone they are sleeping with. Relationships between those in different departments or at the same rank level are ignored."
"But... but..." Hermione stammered. "But I'll eventually be department head of W.A.N.D., the same department that Iris would—"
"However," Fury continued, "there is an exception to that rule. Relationships which exist prior to one or both parties joining us are permitted. We don't want to force good, talented people to have to choose between joining S.H.I.E.L.D. or breaking up with their significant others. That would be bad policy. It's expected, though, that those involved leave their private lives at home as much as possible. All members of S.H.I.E.L.D. are to act professionally at all times when on the job."
Hermione's confused expression slowly shifted to one of comprehension as a smile spread across her face. "So that's why you kept calling me her girlfriend! Iris always thought you were needling her, but—"
"But I was simply referring to a relationship which already existed between you two," Fury finished, fixing her with a pointed look. "And it did exist, right?"
"Absolutely," Hermione said crisply, suppressing a grin.
"I thought so," Fury replied, handing her some papers and her brand-new ID wallet. "Welcome to S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Granger."