This is the last chapter. I feel kind of bittersweet. But, here it is. Enjoy!
Tony's head slumped down. The ruined remains of his Iron Man suit clung to his body. A chuckle escaped his lips. It mutated into a terrible cough, wracking his frame with agony. Dried blood clung to his skin like a lifeline, just as he clung to the shreds of resolve in his mind. His mind was still working, though his body lay prone, shattered. Had Thanos ever heard of the word restraint? Apparently not, he thought bitterly.
He may not have a way out of here right now, but he would find out. He wasn't a genius for nothing. While pain shot through his body with every move he took, his mind was still as sharp as ever. The fog of pain was pushed away, leaving him as clever as ever. He snorted. Clever as ever. He was apparently not as lucid as he thought if he was rhyming.
Thanos...Thanos had ripped through his mind in search of the other Stones. The overwhelming feeling of blue was something that would haunt him for the rest of his days. The feeling of someone inside his head...it was indescribable. Then the guilt when Thanos got what he wanted, the location of the Tesseract, the Space Stone. The ship was on its way to Asgard and Tony was just sitting here, unable to do anything.
The way Thanos kept parroting on about respect put a fury in him. He talked about respect while raping Tony's mind and leaving him broken on the floor.
Tony wasn't going to be left here, leaning pathetically on a wall, while the rest of his team were out there risking their lives. Though his body was broken, though his mind was teetering on the edge, he would push forward. It was his fault that Thanos knew where the Tesseract was. Making up for that by keeping on keeping on was essential.
He pushed himself off the ground, biting back the gasp that bubbled in his throat. The pain was unbearable. The door was three metres away, a smashed keypad looking thing next to it. Three metres. He could handle three metres.
Suddenly, the doors blew up. Tony was buffeted back against the wall by the force of it. Through squinted eyes, he could see a hunched silhouette, arm missing below the elbow. The air around them seemed to be crackling, uncontrollable. Tony recognised that crackling magic in an instant. Harry.
"We've got to go, there's not much time," Harry rasped. His voice was rough like he's been screaming. "I already have Clint and Bruce. They don't know that we're out yet. Here." Harry knelt down, placing his hand over a patch of exposed skin. His eyes fluttered shut, a faint glow emanating from his hands.
The pain inside Tony slowly began to disappear, until only a faint ache remained. He breathed a sigh of relief. Magic (science they just didn't understand yet) may be incredibly annoying at times, but he wouldn't deny how helpful the healing parts of it were.
"If I had my wand, I could heal you more." Harry stood, face twisting. "We're nearly at Asgard."
"Already? How fast does this ship move?"
Harry sighed. "Fast enough. I think that Steve and Natasha are already on Asgard if they got my message." He helped Tony to his feet, the ache in his bones slowly going away. "Hold on to my arm."
Tony did so, immediately being pulled into a dark tunnel ten times too small. He was spat out the other end, staggering into a wall. If there was one thing he hated with a passion, it was Apparition. Harry, of course, landed smoothly. That was probably the only thing okay with him.
Now that he got a better look, Harry looked like death. Lacerations, deep and brutal, covered his body, his arms, his face. They weren't healing. The most obvious wound was his missing arm. Where a stump would usually be bloody, it was grey and crumbling, pieces of dead skin flaking off.
On the other side of the room were Clint and Bruce. Both were fine physically. The haunted looks in their eyes betrayed their fear. Tony knew that despite his best efforts he looked the same.
"Thanos doesn't know of this room yet. I'll shield your mind so there's less chance of him finding us with the Stones. We just have to wait until we get to Asgard." Harry placed a hand on Tony's forehead. The following sensation was cool, relaxing, totally different from the Mind Stone.
And so they waited, discussing strategy and remembering good times before Thanos attacked.
Natasha felt her limbs stiffen with the familiar tension of battle the second the call went out. The call of the approaching ship. The call of the oncoming war. The people around her, Asgardians and Humans alike, were doing the same, grim smiles on their faces. Eyes glinted with determination and the tension in the air was so high you could cut it with a blunt butterknife.
Beside her, Steve, Ron and Hermione stood ready. They were at the top of a tower, with a perfect view of the city. Ron and Hermione would teleport them down into the battle, in the best place, the second Thanos arrived. Asgard looked perfect, a golden city untouched by time.
By the end of today, it would be ablaze, buildings crumbled, the site of a war. Thanos wasn't going to get to the Tesseract of the Aether. She would die before that happened. All of Asgard's might was going into this fight. She was putting ll of her might into this fight. Life or death, the fate of the universe was at stake.
Thanks to Loki's intel, loathe as she was to admit it, they learned that Thanos only had a small army this time around, compared to the Chitauri nearly a year earlier. Tony blowing up the Chitauri Mothership really did a number on his troops. It also (in theory) did a number on Thanos' ego that only served to make him more determined.
The thought of Tony brought her thoughts to her team. Steve was here with her, along with Thor. Harry, Tony, Bruce and Clint were missing. Well, Harry was on Thanos' ship somewhere. A deep dread coiled in her gut, but she pushed it away. If there was anything her team was good at, especially Harry, it was surviving. Beating the odds. The Avengers were a team of survivors who fought for what they knew was right.
The dark shadow of Thanos' ship rose on the horizon. The sheer enormity of it struck her once again. In New York, it was the biggest ship she'd ever seen. Now, it was impossible. It could house the tower seven times and still have room for more.
"I never thought I would see the day," whispered Hermione. She grasped Natasha's wrist, ready to teleport the second the signal was given. Her hand was shaking. "War, I mean. I thought it was over for me."
"War never ends," Natasha said. It was a statement she knew to be true, one she was intimately familiar with.
"I know. I just wish it wasn't." She glanced down at the ground, hair pulled back in a braid.
"We're here now, we fight," piped up Steve. "We have to fight for what is right. It'll work out."
They fell into a tense silence. Natasha avoided fidgeting, waiting for the signal to teleport.
The silence was suddenly broken by a barrage of missiles shooting down on Asgard. Twenty metres above the buildings, they hit a golden shield, starbursts spreading out among the billowing explosions. The shield was erected by Odin, an emergency measure rarely taken but always remembered. She was immensely thankful for it.
Smaller shuttles spilt out of the side of Thanos' ship like parasites, all undoubtedly carrying the troops primed to attack. Hermione's hand tightened. Ron did the same with Steve.
A great bellowing cry came. Unsubtle as it was, it was the signal for them to go. Natasha braced herself for the unpleasantness of teleportation. She'd done it once before, to know what the sensation was. Living without it wouldn't be a trouble at all.
Hermione turned on her heel. With a crack, they disappeared and landed in the middle of the courtyard just as the alien troops cracked through the golden shield. It began crumbling, the missiles finally running out. At least Asgard wouldn't be blown to smithereens before the fighting could even begin.
A blue beam appeared from the bottom of the ship, a dark figure stepping out of it the second it touched the ground. With his purple skin, the golden gauntlet on his wrist and the glinting jewels inside the gauntlet, she knew without a doubt that this was Thanos.
And as she looked up, she saw a sight that made her heart flutter with joy, with hope. In the sky was a golden bird with four wings, three minuscule figures on its back. Harry. The rest of the team was here. The chances of victory in her mind shot up.
The Avengers were here.
And by God were they ready to fight.
Harry swooped down to a courtyard, landing a few over from where Thanos touched down. His descent was wobbly, affected by his crippled back wing. The damage transferred from human form to animagus form, and half of his arm was missing.
As he touched down, Clint, Bruce and Tony jumped off his back and began sprinting towards the courtyard where Thanos was. He didn't shrink down to normal size. Instead, he took flight again, circling around a few spires, giving himself time to power up.
When lightning circled around his body, Harry dived towards Thanos. His team, including Ron and Hermione (he filed the surprise away for later), stepped away, knowing what he was about to do.
With a mighty screech, lightning launched from his skin, slamming into Thanos with the force of a thousand suns. Harry kept the barrage going, it becoming more powerful the closer he got.
A purple beam cleaved through the lightning. It hit him directly in the chest, knocking him off course. The familiar pain of the Power Stone rocketed through his body.
Harry crashed to the ground, straight through a building. Rubble fell down around him. Instantly, he shrunk down to being a human again, scrambling out of the way of a massive piece of concrete that would have crushed him.
A gaping hole was in his chest, slowly healing. Nothing new. He gritted his teeth through the pain and walked out of the destroyed tower, towards where a burned Thanos was fighting with the Avengers.
And so it began.
For hours upon hours, they fought against Thanos and the infinity stones. Every move they made was countered. Natasha slipping under him to get the gauntlet while everyone held him down. Tony blasting him with endless repulsor shots while Harry launched magic at him like never before. Steve's shield flying through the air, batted away like it was a pesky fly. They were injured, they were battered and bruised, and yet the refused to give up. Thanos wouldn't win, and they wouldn't lose, even if winning would mean losing their lives.
Somehow, their fighting migrated into the vaults of Asgard, ruined by the Power Stone. Harry had grabbed an axe along the way.
Suddenly, he saw an opening. Thanos was attacking Steve and Tony, all eyes on them. Harry heaved the axe through the air with all of his strength, screaming out both in rage and in pain. The axe came down and cleaved through Thanos' arm.
It fell to the ground with a roaring finality.
Instantly, Thor leapt forward and bashed Thanos in the head with Mjolnir. Steve drove his shield into Thano's chest, they all attacked. Harry launched one more spell and their combined efforts finally downed the mad titan. After hours and hours, the fight was finally over.
With bile in his throat, Harry raised the axe one more time and brought it down on Thanos' neck.
It was over.
The recovery period after what came to be known as the Great War of Asgard was long and strenuous. The Infinity Stones were returned to their rightful places, with Harry still hanging onto the Soul Stone. Asgard would never be the same again, marching on into a new era.
And the Avengers.
Oh, the Avengers.
They returned to Earth, battered and bruised but victorious. The world knew of their victory. New York slowly started to recover. Eventually, they returned to their old rhythms, never quite the same though. Harry needed a prosthetic arm, gladly supplied by Tony. He finally got together (officially with Natasha) and forged an even stronger bond with Steve.
For him, life was as good as it could be. He had a family, not joined by blood, but by something stronger. Their bond was unbreakable. And that was all he needed.
And as he sat on the roof of Avengers towers, gazing out over the jagged and recovering skyline of New York City, he smiled gently to himself.
This was only the beginning.
We're here. At the end of the story. By God, this has been a journey and a half. It's been a year and two days, a year of good day and bad days that I will treasure throughout my writing journey. I have learned so much and am so thankful for the joy that this story has brought me.
I won't keep you for long, but I just want to say thank you. Thank you so much.
Until the next story, my dear, dear friends,