Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter or Avengers...
Alright, so here's the kick-off to the next arc. This will be the LAST CHAPTER in Finding Home. I'll be starting a sequel sometime in the future leading on from this.
My exams are coming up as well so updates won't be so close to each other either.
Chapter 15 – To the Next Arc
"And you couldn't have told us this when Loki was still somewhere on the planet?"
Harry shrugged unrepentantly, facing down Fury's glare expression with ease. The S.H.I.E.L.D. Director was nothing compared to Snape.
After Thor and Loki had left, Harry had quickly laid out all the things Loki had given him about Thanos. The team had acted quickly, without any doubt that Harry might be wrong or deceived. Clint and Natasha had contacted Fury immediately, and now they were all assembled in the Helicarrier once again. Needless to say, Harry was being chewed out about keeping vital information to himself.
"We have no way of contacting Thor!" Fury continued to rant. "He's-"
"Don't worry, Director," Harry interrupted. "Loki will tell Thor."
"And you know this how?" Fury demanded.
"He told me he would," Harry responded.
Fury snorted. "Yeah, 'cause Loki's a regular boy scout."
"Look, does it matter?" Harry finally asked sharply, fed-up with the dressing-down. "You've got bigger worries right now. Thanos, remember? Let's try to stay on topic here."
Fury glowered for a while longer but he turned his attention on the rest of the team anyway, gaze hardening when Tony couldn't quite hide the open amusement at their exchange fast enough.
"Alright; Thanos," Fury motioned at the holographic screen where all the information Harry could divulge was displayed there. "We know he's coming, we know his goal. How do we stop him?"
"If Loki was telling the truth, Thanos has a far greater knowledge of technology than we do," Bruce started. "It wouldn't be possible for us to fight him that way, though what we do have will help. I think the best way to beat this guy is to find his weaknesses and go from there. Tackling him head-on is suicide."
"Great plan Doc, but I think we're gonna have a few problems with the whole 'find his weaknesses' part," Tony was sitting beside Harry, head propped in one hand. "I mean we know he's big, purple, and thinks he's better than everyone else. Say that to any kid and they'll point you in Barney's direction." The billionaire shot Steve an exasperated look when he raised a hand in question. "Star of a kid's show, gramps. Seriously, you need to soak up some modern American culture. Now what can Thanos do? The Chitauri could shoot energy blasts out of their glowing sticks of doom. Does our new bad guy have x-ray vision or super strength or what?"
"We have absolutely nothing on him," Clint confirmed. "All we know is what Loki knows, or at least what he told Potter. Beyond that, we're flying blind."
"He'll head straight for New York," Natasha was staring unblinkingly at the screen. "Any decent strategist will stick with what he knows. The Chitauri that managed to escape would've reported back to him."
"Why would he care?" Steve objected. "He's out to destroy the Earth. He can start on any piece of it."
"But if he's as confident in his own power as Loki said he is, chances are he's also arrogant," Natasha countered. "And the first thing he'll want to do is wipe out the people who managed to stop Loki and the Chitauri. Us. He'll want to show the world that unlike them, he can't be stopped. Trust me, he may be alien but I've profiled dozens of people with his personality. He'll come straight to Manhattan."
"Then we need to be ready when he gets here," Fury pulled up a map of New York. "If there's gonna be a fight, I'd rather it not take place in the middle of the city again, but it doesn't look like we've got much choice. We'll have to send out a warning to get all the civilians underground."
"They won't all listen to us," Bruce interjected. "Some of them don't even believe there was an invasion, and they're looking at the proof right now."
"We still gotta try," Steve leaned closer to the map. "We could clear out the taller buildings, get them into the subways or even quarantine a part of New York off for them." He turned to Harry. "Think you can set up wards to protect them?"
Harry frowned thoughtfully. "I could. That's a good idea. But I'll set the wards to hide as well as shield. I don't know if Thanos has something that will work against magic."
"Good," Steve nodded. "We could get them underground and just ward all the exits."
"It's not going to be that simple, Rogers," Fury cut in grimly. "S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't very well-known. People will just think we're a bunch of lunatics if we go out there and announce the next apocalypse."
"Then tell the government," Steve persisted. "The President-"
"-Won't want to cause nationwide panic," Fury shook his head. "If the President broadcasts news like this on TV, even just New York, there's no telling what will happen." He turned to Harry, eyes sharp. "I was thinking more along the lines of… suggestion. Is there a spell you can use that can make the people evacuate at the right time?"
Harry was silent for a long time, gaze distant even as the rest of the team looked at him as well. "There is one," Harry said at last. "But it's illegal."
Fury raised an eyebrow. "Seeing as we're trying to save people from the end of the world, I think we can forgive a little criminal activity."
Harry's jaw tightened and he glanced down at the table for a moment. "They won't have any free will," He continued flatly.
"Will it hurt them?" Fury countered.
Harry's lips thinned. "No, they'll think it's the most wonderful feeling in the world, even as every thought and worry in their head is wiped away. It leaves nothing but a vague, untraceable happiness. They'll barely be aware of anything going on around them."
"Then that's what we need," Fury said briskly. "You can-"
"And the more one uses it, the more they would want to do it again," Harry interrupted, his eyes unnaturally cold. "You could get drunk on its power, and it's even worse being on the receiving end. Imagine not being able to control your own body-"
"So you would let them all die instead?" Fury challenged. "Is that it? Because that's the only alternative, Potter. You don't force them underground and they'll all be dead. It's better to shut them all in one place than have them all die."
Harry stared back blankly before finally releasing a sigh and averting his gaze. He said nothing more, and Fury nodded, satisfied.
"Slow down, Hitler," Tony snapped, gaze focused on Harry. "Can't you see he's not comfortable with this?"
"This is war, Stark," Fury said irritably. "If we were planning a slumber party, I'd worry about how comfy he is, but we're not."
"He's right, Tony," Harry nodded, features smoothing over again. "Don't worry about it. I just don't like that curse much. I can do it. I'll need a transmitter though; something to send the curse through so that it'll affect a large crowd. Like sending sound waves but different."
Tony frowned but said nothing more as Fury nodded. "Stark, Banner, you two can get on that. In the meantime, the rest of you will spread out and outline a perimeter around Manhattan. Thanos will probably head for Stark Tower when he gets to Manhattan so make the tower your centre. Understand?"
A chorus of affirmation answered him and the meeting was adjourned. Harry stood up abruptly and swept from the room without waiting for anyone. Exchanging a look, Tony and Bruce followed.
"Harry? Hey, c'mon, wait up!"
Harry didn't stop until he was on the deck of the Helicarrier, half-turning to face the two Avengers.
"You don't have to do this," Bruce said immediately. "Trust me; I know how bad the Director can be about this sort of thing. I mean he got Agent Romanov and half an army to drag me all the way back from Calcutta after all."
Harry shook his head. "It's fine. I'm fine. Controlling them for a short while is better than leaving them to die. Besides," His gaze moved to the open air around them. "I need to do whatever I can in the upcoming war."
"Why's that?" Tony was frowning at him. "It's not really noticeable or anything but you've been more invested in Thanos than you were with Loki. Your magic picking something up?"
For just a second, Harry was tempted to tell him that magic didn't work that way, that only seers could know things before they happened, but the questions that would lead to weren't ones he even had the patience to deal with at the moment. So he shrugged and nodded, giving a vague answer before Apparating them back to Stark Tower so they wouldn't have time to grill him some more.
"I'm going to bed," He announced. "It's been a long day."
And he was gone before either of his friends could call him back, never noticing the worried glanced they shared.
"I really don't have the patience for iambic pentameter today so cut the rhymes and tell me what you're playing at," Harry growled irritably at the figure in front of him. He still thought she was rather genderless since he couldn't describe her out loud if he wanted to, but Loki wouldn't lie about something like this.
Death stared back, calm and unruffled. And Harry hated her in that moment. Oh, he had always resented Death a little, for roping him into the Master of Death business, but he also knew that his own actions had been a large part of it, no matter how little a choice he had had when he had gathered the Hallows.
But this time? This time couldn't possibly be his fault. Death's Champion? Death's would-be lover? As Death's Master, didn't he have a right to know these things before the world exploded around him?
"...Thanos has oft been called the Mad Titan," Death said eventually.
Harry snorted. "Trust me, there isn't a single person out there who tried to rule the world or destroy the world or rule and destroy the world that wasn't at least somewhat mad."
"He wishes to court me by offering up the souls of the Dead," Death continued as if Harry hadn't spoken. "He has done so for many, many years."
"And here I thought Death was all about being fair," Harry said derisively. "What's so fair about millions dying because of this psychopath?"
Anger flared in Death's eyes, distinctly visible for the first time since Harry had met her. "I do not have the power to stop him," She snapped stiffly.
Harry was in no mood to be sympathetic. "So just because you couldn't do anything about it, you let him get away with literally universal homicide?"
"Watch your tongue, Human," Death hissed.
Harry stood up. He hadn't felt this type of anger, icy and contained, for a very long time. "So I'm a human now?" He was vindictively satisfied when he saw Death take a step back. Somewhere behind him, a lamp exploded as his magic lashed out around him. "Human was all I wanted to be but you wouldn't let me go. So you watch your tongue. I've had it with your riddles and games. I don't care if you think humans are a waste of space and not worth saving. You'll tell me everything you know about Thanos, everything that could be remotely useful to us, and you'll shut up about everything else. Understand?"
Death stayed silent for a long time after under Harry's unrelenting glare. To Harry's surprise, she acquiesced with a careful nod, launching into a detailed, albeit monotonous, explanation of Thanos, and Harry found his glare ebbing as he took in the true extent of just what Thanos was capable of.
"Humans are no match for him," Death concluded bluntly. "He will destroy you as he has every other world."
Harry rose, already cataloguing the information so he could pass it on to the Avengers. "We'll see," He said grimly. "But we were supposedly no match for a lot of other things too. Funny how we're still here." Harry shot Death a sharp look. "You don't think too highly of humans because we're not as strong or not as advanced. And yeah, maybe you're right. We're probably not as powerful in terms of weaponry, definitely nowhere near the level of Thanos."
He headed for the door, only looking back to throw Death a determined smile. "But the thing is, we haven't survived this long by being weak. When we fight against impossible odds, that's when we shine."
"Where are you getting your information, Potter?"
Harry shrugged, ignoring the frustration in Fury's expression. "It doesn't matter. Thanos will attack in three weeks. I've given you everything I can about him. What are you going to do?"
The Avengers had assembled for yet another meeting and most were giving him odd looks as he stood across from Fury.
"We stick with our current plan, build up so weaponry," Fury waved a hand. "But that's beside the point right now. If there's someone out there who's giving you such detailed information, we need them here."
Harry heaved a sigh. "It doesn't matter how many times you ask or insist or demand. Where I get my information is my business and my business alone. All you need to know is that every word is true."
"So you don't trust any of us enough to tell us where you got this intel?" Fury persisted. His gaze flickered to Tony. "What about Stark? He not trustworthy enough for you-"
"Now that's just childish, Nick," Tony cut in, voice light but eyes hard. "I know you've lived in paranoia for most of your life, guess it comes with the job, but let's try to remember Harry's on our side. There's no need to accuse him of lying to us or keeping anything important from us."
Fury shot the billionaire a dark look. "You don't find the fact that he knows more about Thanos than any of us strange? I wanna know where he's getting his information-"
"Or what?" Bruce joined in, frowning heavily. "You'll lock him up for interrogation? Director, all I'm seeing here is you trying to put a rift between Harry and Mr. Stark. Is that really the best idea right now? I think we all know that's not gonna work and the only thing that will happen is the Avengers splitting again."
"I don't expect you to understand, Dr. Banner," Fury said tersely. "But as an organization that values its intel, we-"
"-Need to be in control, we get it," Tony rolled his eyes before rising to his feet. "But if Harry's not gonna say, then there's nothing you can do to force him to reveal his informant. Now if you don't mind, Doc and I've got a transmitter to build. If I have to stay here and listen to you rant on about how S.H.I.E.L.D. is all-knowing, I'll die of old age. Coming, Harry, Banner?"
Neither Harry nor Bruce wasted any time in vacating the room, leaving a fuming Fury and three weary-looking Avengers in their wake.
"You know-" Steve started.
"Rogers, if you say he has a point, I'm hauling you in for a psych evaluation," Fury said irritably.
Steve raised his hand in a placating gesture but it was Natasha who spoke next.
"Look, just leave Potter alone," She shrugged at Fury's raised eyebrow that all but screamed his disbelief. "Normally, I'd be all for hauling him in for questioning, but there's no doubt Harry's on our side and we're all entitled to our secrets. Mostly. So long as he's telling us everything that he can about Thanos, I've got no problem with it. Besides, he's still a civilian. It's not exactly our place to force it out of him."
"You're placing a lot of trust in a basically unknown man, Romanov," Fury growled. "All we know is that he's a wizard and a damn powerful one at that. Nothing else."
"Personally, I don't care all that much about his life story," Clint spoke up, getting to his feet and stretching. "My gut instinct says I can trust him to watch my back in a fight and that's good enough for me. Now we've got a war to fight in three weeks; let's get back to work."
As the three Avengers made their way out of the Helicarrier, Steve muttered, "I supposed it doesn't hurt that Harry lets you play with his motorcycle too, huh?"
Clint pulled an innocent face as Natasha muffled a laugh. Behind them, Fury threw up his hands and stalked away. At least working with the new intel he had been given would take his mind off this issue.
The days passed and the atmosphere in New York grew tense. Everyone felt it, from businessmen to police to normal everyday civilians. They didn't know why, of course, but that didn't stop the anxiety from rocketing as they went about their daily lives.
Those who witnessed the invasion or simply believed it had happened knew to look for the signs. Their eyes were entirely focused on Stark Tower, watching men and women coming and going from the building with a sort of grim purpose and determined resolve in their stride. Those who were more cowardly but perhaps smarter immediately phoned family and left town, not willing to get caught up in another crisis. Those who were braver but perhaps more stupid stayed and kept watch, observing the activity that never seemed to cease no matter what time of day within Tony Stark's home.
Some people whispered of another invasion, some insisted on a government conspiracy, and still others scoffed and brushed everything off as a hoax.
There were warnings put out of course, of a terrorist attack that might hit Manhattan. People were to stay indoors as much as possible and if they heard an alarm, they were to vacate their homes and head underground, to the subway stations, cellars, anywhere that wasn't above ground.
Some heeded the advice and prices soared when store owners noticed all the extra food people were buying, but others didn't, and sometimes, they would find a man with brown hair dressed all in black staring bleakly at them as they joked about the paranoia, or a woman shaking her head and wearing a resigned expression as they laughed at the people returning to their driveways with bags canned foods, or another man with black hair, features hard as he watched them make fun of the broadcasts on TVs in shop windows or restaurants, or even a blond with anger lining his face as they gossiped about the latest news on the media and did nothing about it. They never stopped to tell them off or challenge them on their views though, hurrying by with a sense of purpose around them as they glanced up at the sky from time to time. Most surprisingly of all, even Tony Stark stepped out in a press conference, confirming the terrorist warning on television and pressing for all of them to heed it. Some did, some didn't.
The days passed and when the worst finally struck, those who were alive in the aftermath would remember the forewarning and think if only.
Two weeks before Thanos would attack, Jarvis cheerfully informed them of Thor's return, and Tony gladly let him in. It was one of the rare times that the Avengers were all assembled at Stark Tower, and Thor was greeted warmly as he stepped into the penthouse, hammer in hand and a worried expression on his face.
"Loki told me of Thanos," Thor said after the greetings were finished. "What can I do to help?"
The demigod was filled in, telling them in return of Loki's sentence. His brother had been stripped of his magic for the present, though still free to roam Asgard as long as a guard was with him. All things considered, it wasn't a very harsh sentence at all.
"He says hello," Thor added to Harry. "Something about decent conversation and being stuck on a planet with nothing but simpletons who are only good for swinging weapons."
Harry bit back a chuckle as Tony snorted.
"He sounds like a charming guy to hang out with," Tony decided. "Remind me to send him flowers when all this blows over. Maybe it'll brighten his mood."
Nothing on Loki was further enquired, and Natasha quickly picked out some clothes for Thor to change into so he wouldn't stand out as much before they led him out on a tour of Manhattan, pointing out the weapons and defenses they had set up all over the city, now cloaked with Harry's magic so no one would see them or bump into them.
Hopefully, she explained. This would include Thanos.
With Thor's return, the Avengers were fully assembled once again, and as the invasion drew closer, every one of them as well as SHIELD threw themselves into preparation for war. Attack plans were drawn up by Steve, perimeters were scouted by Clint and Natasha, the strongest of weaponry SHIELD had to offer were checked over by Tony, any new technology that could help but were still being tested were advanced by Bruce, shelters cloaked with Harry's magic and built around subway stations and even sewers were reinforced with metal ore from Asgard by Thor, and everything, from weapons to shelters to Stark Tower and the Helicarrier, were all meticulously strengthened by Harry.
"We might lose," Tony remarked one night during one of the rare times they could rest. The billionaire was sitting out on the porch with Harry perched on the railing as everyone else was getting some shuteye. Pepper and the other employees had been flown out to D.C. yesterday, even though Pepper had tried to refuse.
"We might," Harry agreed sombrely. "But we have to think we'll win or we'll be defeated before Thanos even shows up."
Tony nodded silently, swirling the beer he was drinking in one hand. "Well," He said at last, tossing a smirk in Harry's direction. "I'm not dying until I get all your secrets from you. I'll find out eventually."
Harry rolled his eyes at him, idly reading the label on his own beer. "You probably will. But I'm not saying anything anytime soon so you better keep your promise."
Tony nodded and raised his bottle for a toast. The clink of the two beers was loud in the night air but it rang of promise and resolve.
"Big Ugly will regret ever putting a toe on Earth. If nothing else, we'll make sure of that."
Finished! Complete! Look out for the sequel I'll be posting in a while. In the meantime, review!