"Ugh, where am I?" Harry asked.
Looking around, Harry saw that he was in a white room, devoid of anything except for a simple white table and two white chairs. In one of the chairs sat a man Harry did not recognize. He was a wizened old man with a kind face. He was dressed in a long black robe that stood out compared to all the white, and in his hand was a staff, adorned with a black jewel on top.
"Ah, hello young master," the old man said.
"Master?" Harry asked, confused, "Who are you?"
"Who am I indeed?" the old man chuckled, "I suppose there's no beating around the bush. I am what humans call death… personified."
Harry's mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water.
"Wait, how? When? Why?" asked Harry, completely bewildered.
"You mean why do I call you master? Or how am I death?" Death said with an amused smile.
"Umm, do you think you could answer both?" Harry asked.
"To begin with, death is not always what you humans describe it as," Death began, "In all honesty, I should not have appeared at all, because death is not a being, but instead it is merely a passageway."
"Then who on earth are you? Why are you sitting in front of me like this?" Harry asked, being more and more confused by each answer.
"So many questions, young Harry," Death responded, "But as to why I am here… just hear the entire story."
Harry nodded, clamming up and sitting down in the chair across from Death at the white table.
"So I am death, there's no doubt about that, but I gained a human form through you possessing the Deathly Hallows, and even then, this is all in your head. The only reason I chose this form is because it was the best way to communicate to you. Death is like a ferry, carrying souls over, whether it is human, animal, or some other life force, to the next great journey. Do you understand all of this so far?"
Harry nodded vigorously, trying not to anger death.
The old man saw this and smiled, "Oh young Harry, death isn't something to be afraid of. In fact, you already proved that by truly mastering that Hallows and willingly accepting your own death when you had to. Death cannot be considered bad or good, but only inevitable."
Hearing this, Harry calmed down a bit, and asked with growing confidence and curiosity, "Then what about those searching immortality? Is it possible?"
For the first time, Harry could see the face of the old man grow dark as a shadow crossed his face while he said, "Those seeking immortality, young Harry, are those running away from death. No one person is meant to walk among the living forever, because not only would it disrupt the circle of life and death, but it would also drive the person himself to insanity. To those searching for immortality, their endless search for it would drive them forsake their values and humanity for the one goal. To those who would have achieved it, they would find themselves becoming more and more detached, standing by as anything and everything close to them withered away with age."
Harry's eyes widened as he processed all the information. Voldemort, during his reign of terror, searched not only for growing power and dominance, but also feared death the most. That is why he created his horcruxes, and in turn, losing more and more of his humanity.
"Then," Harry asked, "What does it mean to be a Master of Death? I mean, I'm not immortal, am I? And you still haven't answered why you're here."
"What does it mean to be the Master of Death? Well, obviously, you have access to a great source of power, one that few, if any, can surpass. Furthermore, by mastering it, the Deathly Hallows will answer to you, and only to you, unless you are defeated, like the rules surrounding the Elder Wand."
"However," Death continued, "That does not mean you are immortal. Well, actually, you could be if you truly wished it, but to do so would cause you great pain and force you through terrible trials. Even then, would you want to live a life while everyone else died around you?"
Harry shook his head.
"Good, it seems you understand," Death said as he smiled, wrinkles deepening, "To answer your last question, though, you are here because you did invoke one of your powers as the Master of Death."
"Besides being able to access great power, you can influence of the deaths of those around you. While you cannot call on me to claim the soul of another, you can prevent me from completing the deed. Similar to the costs of immortality, however, you will have to pay a price usually. While not as heavy, it is still significant."
Harry opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, Death raised his hand to stop Harry.
"The price is never determined until the moment occurs. Therefore, it's always a risk for you, and sometimes, for me as well. There are many higher powers Harry, and no one man can hope to control it all. This time, however, I can grant you a pardon and save this man without a price. Call it an act of goodwill and a welcoming present for my new so-called master."
Feeling himself let out a sigh of relief, Harry nodded in thanks. This entire situation was extremely confusing. Logically, it made sense. Anything given must also be taken, like the laws of conservation in physics. But aside from that, all this talk about mastering death, immortality, saving others, and everything else made Harry's head spin.
"Well, Harry," Death said, "Now that that's settled and you know the specifications and responsibilities to your power, I must be going now. Lives to claim, people to deal with. You know how it is being death."
Already, Harry could feel his vision turning white once again. Standing up, Harry wanted to yell out for it to stop. He still had so many questions, not only about being the Master of Death, but about all these other things that Death had brought up. Yet, Harry could do nothing except see Death's smiling face one last time before everything turned blindingly white.
Yet for some reason, he could hear a feminine voice call out his name.
Steve looked up at the threatening figure of Nick Fury as he walked in.
'Although he's just as human and prone to error as the rest of us,' he thought to himself.
Speaking aloud, Steve asked, "How's Harry and Coulson?"
"Harry's fine as far as we could tell. Nothing's wrong with him, although it seems like he's completely exhausted," Nick said, "And Coulson…"
"Spit it out, Fury," Tony snarled out.
"We don't know," Fury said, "By all means, he should be dead. The way the wound was positioned, it seemed like Loki stabbed him in the heart. And yet… he's barely hanging on. His heart somehow mended, and it's beating weakly. Potter did something when he got there, we don't know what, but it kept Coulson alive. Whether or not he survives is up to the doctors that are still around, his willpower, and whatever greater power exists in this world."
When he had walked in, Nick saw Harry kneeling in front of Coulson, hands out as looking up as if in prayer. Next thing he knew, Fury saw a bright light emanating from Harry's hands before it filled the room. A few seconds later, Harry lay collapsed next to Coulson and when he checked for a pulse on Coulson, he could feel the faintest signs of life on the man who supposedly sustained a life-ending hit. He didn't know what Harry did, but somehow, Harry gave one of his best agents a fighting chance.
Sighing, Fury said, "We've got nothing here. No communications, no intel, no Banner or Thor, nothing."
Looking at the two remaining Avengers Initiative members at the table, he saw the looks of hopelessness and anger on their faces.
"Yes," he explained, "we were going to build an arsenal with the Tesseract, but I believed in something greater. Stark was there when I proposed the idea."
Tony gave the slightest of nods before going back to his dazed state.
"It was called the Avengers Initiative. We were going to bring together a group of people, remarkable people, who had the potential to be something greater together; who we could count on when we were out of luck and out of weapons, when we had nothing left to lose."
Nick continued saying, "Phil Coulson believed in the idea, even when he was simply another human being in the world. Even with his life on the line, he fought for us all, fought for the heroes. Even Harry Potter, the young man thrust from one life-or-death war and into another, fought, being the support when others couldn't."
Suddenly, Tony walked out, as if refusing to hear any more of the hero-talk. A few silent moments passed between Steve and Fury before Steve, with a determined look on his face, followed behind Tony.
Groaning, Thor stood up and looked around. He was in the middle of a meadow, with no other sign of life around him besides the plant life.
Thor took a breath and sat down where he was, subconsciously noting the presence of Mjolnir beside him.
Why was he fighting? He was a demigod out of place and out of touch with the world. Even though his intentions were in the right place, others did not seem receptive of his presence. When he had taken it upon himself to be Earth's protector after being with Jane Foster and learning the beauty and goodness of human life, he thought he was doing the world a favor. Yet, it was his very own brother who threatened the existence of this planet and its species, including his friends.
Who was he to meddle in these people affairs when he could not even deal with his own family?
Lying down, Thor looked at his hand, gnarled with years of training and battle, both from his belligerent childhood and from recent events, when all he wanted was peace. Opening and closing his, Thor's mind wandered to the young unknown that appeared in the group. Harry, despite being one of the youngest in the group, had eyes that saw war, just as much as anyone else. He had his own mental traumas and difficulties like everyone else. It was hard to imagine that even though Harry only had so many years under his belt, somewhere amidst all of the confusion surrounding him, he had faced some scarring tribulations.
None of the others trusted Harry much, and to be honest, it was hard to. The information about Harry was minimal at best, and what Harry had shown and told them only raised more questions. He did not do much as a part of the group but was mostly just there. Tony and Bruce both had the brains, and sometimes brute force, that unraveled S.H.I.E.L.D's plans. Captain America was a natural born leader. Natasha and, Thor assumed in extension, Clint Barton were both extremely resourceful and talented. And Thor himself was a demigod who had the responsibility to deal with his brother.
But Harry had no motivation, except for the flimsy one of discovering the mysteries of his own past. To do so, he didn't even need to be with the Avengers or even in America. Thor wondered why Harry did not go back to the source of his troubles, in that large island in Europe. Apparently, however, being in America did have its uses as Harry discovered S.H.I.E.L.D's supposed involvement in his affairs.
Sighing to himself, Thor got up and stared at Mjolnir, his weapon and a major source of his power. Regardless of whether Harry Potter was trusted or not, he was a part of the team and should be treated as such. They all came together to protect the Earth, and by Asgard he would.
Thor took hold of Mjolnir and pointed to the skies, before a large thunderbolt engulfed him as an explosion rocked the meadow.
Bruce blinked a few times before shaking his head.
Apparently, he had crashed into a building if the gigantic whole in the ceiling was any indication. Feeling a slight breeze around his nether regions, Dr. Banner felt himself heat up. If his pants could enlarge with him when he transformed, why couldn't they shrink with him too.
"You fell out of the sky," a voice said from behind him.
Turning around, Bruce saw an old security guard peering down from above the crater he had made with his impact.
"Did I hurt anybody?" Bruce asked worriedly.
"No one around here to get hurt. You did scare the hell out of the pigeons though," the man replied with a smile.
"Lucky," Bruce grunted as he looked for something to cover him.
"Or good aim," the man said, "You were awake as you fell."
Dr. Banner did a double take.
"You saw?" he asked.
"Yep, everything and every part. Fell right through the ceiling, big and green and butt naked like the day you were born," the old man grinned out, "Here."
Bruce looked up just in time to catch a pair of pants three sizes too big for him.
"I didn't think those would fit you until you shrunk down to a regular size fella," the man said.
An awkward silence fell upon the two of them as Bruce put on the pants.
"Are you an alien?" the old man blurted out.
"A what?" Bruce asked wide-eyed.
"From outer space. An alien. You know, big and green… like you were?"
"No," Bruce said.
"Well then, son, you should probably get that checked. You have a condition."
Bruce opened his mouth to speak before a loud, yet peaceful song suddenly echoed throughout the ruined building.
If it was anything else, Bruce would have tensed up, but what he heard was something not of this Earth. It was a song, not by a human, but by some kind of creature. Like a bird song, but flawless and calming. Dr. Banner could feel years of tension and fear draining away as he heard the song. It was as if nothing mattered anymore, and he could truly be at peace with himself by hearing this wonderful music. Mildly aware, he could see the old man do the same, closing his eyes and rocking slightly in time with the mellifluous sound.
As he closed his eyes to enjoy the heavenly music, Bruce vaguely felt something land on his head, and suddenly, he felt warmth overrun him as he was clothed in flames. These burning tongues, however, did not harm him at all, but instead brought the same peace as the song. Slowly, everything turned bright and, as the old man opened his eyes, Bruce disappeared.
Blinking his eyes and looking around for any sign of the not-really-an-alien person, the old man sighed.
"Yep, definitely a condition."
Natasha looked on worriedly as her partner and friend, Clint Barton, struggled against Loki's mind control, strapped down to a chair.
"You'll be alright Clint, you're stronger than this," Natasha said soothingly.
"You know that?" Clint grunted out, "Is that what you know? I need… need to flush him out."
"It's going to take some time, but we need you now," Natasha said.
"Have you ever had someone mess around in your brain? Make you do things you didn't want to do?" Clint asked angrily.
A small moment of silence passed before Natasha said, "You know that I do."
Clint, finally getting the remnants of Loki's influence out, asked, "So how am I back? How did you give me back control?"
Natasha smiled, "Cognitive recalibration."
"What?" Clint asked.
"I hit you really hard in the head," she replied as she undid the restraints around Clint.
"Thanks," Clint said before saying solemnly, "All those agents…"
Natasha realized what he was referring to and said, "Don't even think about that. It was all Loki's doing. Monsters, magic, superhumans… This is nothing we were ever trained for."
"Did he get away?" Clint asked.
"Then we need to act fast. I don't know what he's doing or where it'll be, but it's soon. Today," Clint said.
The female spy's eyes widened.
"We gotta stop him," Natasha declared.
"Who's we?" Clint asked.
"You, me, everyone that we can muster," Natasha said before her eyes widened.
"Harry…" Natasha whispered as she stood up.
"Wait, who?" Clint asked, completely unaware of who she was talking about.
"Harry. Harry Potter. He's one of us… well… them. He can help us take down Loki," Natasha explained as she headed towards the door.
"Them? You mean he's a part of the Avengers Initiative?" Clint asked, "I know he was one of your marks for a while, but I didn't think he had what it takes to join Fury's superpowered league."
"Yeah, he has all that and more," Natasha said quietly, "He's different. Dangerous even... but his heart's in the right place."
"What can he do?"
"Magic," Natasha whispered, as if the word itself could awaken a sleeping giant.
"You mean like Loki?" Clint asked, eyes widening in apprehension.
"Yes… well… no. Not exactly. It's a different kind of magic, at least from what I've seen. Just… trust me. I believe in him, and the rest of the team, whether they realize it or not, trust him too."
"Natasha, what's gotten into you?" Clint asked, "You're a spy. You don't get involved in hocus pocus and wars. What happened? Did Loki do something to you too?"
Natasha had a faraway look in her eyes, "He didn't… I just… I've been compromised. I got red in my ledger, and I'd like to wipe it out. Maybe start fresh… Maybe… as a hero… for once."
"So they're alive…" Steve said as he walked towards Tony, who was standing where Coulson was stabbed outside Loki's old prison cell.
"I guess…" Tony said.
"Then what's wrong with you?" Steve asked, "They're alive. We have Clint back. We have a chance."
"They're idiots," said Tony quietly.
"You heard me," Tony growled, "They're idiots."
"Why? For believing?" Steve asked.
"For taking on Loki like that," Tony said as his voice escalated, "For being out of their leagues and still trying to fight. For messing with things beyond their control!"
"Sometimes," Steve said in a whisper, "You don't have a choice."
"Yeah, you don't," Tony said, "And where does that get you? Inches away from death."
"Is this the first time you felt this powerless? Like you were losing your men?" Steve asked.
"Men?" Tony asked incredulously, "We aren't soldiers, Cap. We aren't little pawns in Fury's game."
"We aren't," Steve agreed, "Fury is at much as fault as Loki is. Still, we need to move past that and figure out Loki's plan. Now Loki needs a power source, if we can put together a list…"
Staring at the blood stain where Coulson lay, Tony snarled out, "Always with the plan, right Cap? I'm sure Coulson would've loved to hear this."
Steve looked at Tony. The billionaire was hurt, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. He was losing faith and losing hope.
"We need to do this Tony," Steve said, "If we can do this, maybe one day, Coulson can hear what we did. Tony, remember. Coulson is still alive thanks to Harry. He has that second chance, but we still can't let what he already did go to waste."
"Ugh," Tony said, "Don't get me started about Potter. Who does that kid think he is, claiming to be a master of magic and hiding his secrets. I still don't trust him."
Steve sighed, "Well you should, Tony, because it's thanks to him that Coulson's still alive. It's thanks to him that Natasha made it safely through Hulk's rampage to get to Barton. Even if he hasn't told us everything, he's been there for us. Everyone has their secrets, but as long as we can put them aside to fight the real battle, it doesn't matter."
Tony didn't respond, but inside of his mind, the wheels were turning. Logically, he knew that Harry's secrets were his own and that whatever powers he has doesn't matter as long as he could help. Tony couldn't help it though, having an unknown like that. Even with Banner, Tony understood both of his sides had good in them whether the doctor realized it or not. Harry Potter, however, was still a virtual unknown to him and everyone else, but Nick Fury let him run freely as a part of the team.
Standing here, though, looking at the bloodstain and thinking of what worse situations could have occurred, Tony knew that Harry was a big help to the team. In the end, the biggest problem at the moment was Loki, not the mysterious Harry Potter.
"He made it personal," Tony said, eyes widening.
"Who, Harry?" Steve asked confusedly.
"What?" Tony asked, shaking his head, "No. Loki did. That's the problem. He hit us where we live… but why though?"
"To tear us apart and hit us where it hurt," Steve answered.
"But that's not all," Tony muttered, "Loki's greedy. He wants to win, but he wants to do it in a big way. Loki wants the world to see us crumble and fall. It can't just be attacking us at the carrier. He wants every eye glued onto our destruction and his ascension. He wants a monument to his actions, his supposed greatness. Loki wants his name known to… damn it!"
Steve could barely follow Tony's train of thought as Tony listed off Loki's desire and asked, "What?"
"He wants everyone to see. And where better to do that then to take over the headquarters of a member of the Avengers?"
Steve's eyes widened as he remembered Tony's latest project.
"We've got to act now," Steve declared.
"Harry," Natasha said, sitting down on Harry's bed and nudging awkwardly at his arm hoping he would wake up.
To be honest, Natasha sucked at giving human contact. It was one thing trying to seduce someone, but it was a completely different matter trying to go through regular human interactions that didn't involve fighting or killing.
Harry's eyes slowly opened as he groaned.
"Wha-?" Harry asked, stifling a yawn, "Where am I?"
"Oh good," Natasha said, trying to cover the fact that she had jumped slightly at the noise, "You're awake."
"Natasha? What's going on?" Harry asked before realizing the past events, "Wait, where's Coulson? Is he okay?"
"Calm down Harry," said Natasha, "Coulson's still alive somehow, thanks to whatever you did."
"I did something?" Harry asked, trying to hide it.
But Natasha saw right through it thanks to her years of training.
"Nice try," Natasha said, "But it'll take years before you can lie to me and get away with it. Fury saw everything. Whatever you did, it worked, and none of us are questioning it right now. We're just all grateful."
Harry nodded, relaxing slightly before remembering where Natasha had gone.
"What about you? How are you? Did you get to your partner in time?"
Natasha answered, "Yeah, I'm fine. Everyone's fine. Well, not everyone. There were casualties… but my partner and everyone else that you know are probably okay. Thor and Banner are somewhere though, we don't know where, but I'm sure they survived. They're made of some tough stuff."
An awkward silent moment passed between them as Harry leaned against his elbows on the bed, processing everything that had happened. Master of Death or not, he had work to do, and if everyone didn't treat him like some freak for saving Coulson, even better.
"Thanks," Natasha said quietly.
Shaking his head free of his thoughts, Harry asked, "What did I do?"
"You helped me out during Dr. Banner's crazy rampage," Natasha said quietly, "If you weren't there, I'm not sure if I could've handled the Hulk by myself."
"Haha, I didn't do much," Harry said sheepishly, "If Thor hadn't come when he did, we probably would've been in trouble anyway."
"Either way," Natasha said, waving away Harry's excuse, "Thanks."
Harry simply nodded before going back to his contemplative mood. He figured Natasha was done, and he still had to get his head back together before they had to go back to the battlefield.
Meanwhile, Natasha was unsure of what to do.
'Umm, what now? Am I supposed to hug him in thanks? Isn't that what friends do?' Natasha wondered, sweating, 'Wait, can you even consider us friends? We're comrades, but so are the Cap, Stark, the Doc and everyone else. I mean, Clint and I are friends, I guess… I mean, we're partners, but what am I supposed to do now? Maybe I should just leave.'
Harry looked at Natasha oddly. She looked like she was deep in thought too, but hadn't left yet. She was just sitting there at his bedside.
Just as he was about to say something, Captain America busted in, completely in his star-spangled attire.
"Time to go," he commanded before looking at the two of them and said awkwardly, "Am I interrupting something?"
Harry and Natasha's eyes widened and immediately spluttered out denials. Steve smiled at the two of them. It was good that Harry was making friends with the group instead of just being secluded. The same could be said for Natasha, who spent most of her life dedicated to her work. Steve assumed she talked normally to her partner, but that was probably it. Especially during the times when Clint was under Loki's control, Natasha was not really close to anyone in the group. It was nice seeing them becoming fast friends.
"Go where?" Natasha asked once they both calmed down.
"I'll tell you on the way. Harry, are you okay to move out too?" Steve asked.
Steeling himself, Harry nodded with a serious look on his face.
"Good," Steve said, "We'll need all the help we can get. Can either of you fly one of those jets?"
"No, but I know someone who can," Natasha said.
"Clint?" Steve asked sharply, narrowing his eyes slightly.
"Yeah," Natasha responded with a smile, "Don't worry, he's free from Loki now, and he wants some old-fashioned revenge."
Everyone suited up in their attire and walked to the hangar to commandeer one of the Quinjets. It was an odd sight to see, the five people unlikely heroes walking down completely suited up in their personal attire, except for Harry.
"Wait a minute," Tony said, "Harry, you're fighting in that?"
Everyone looked at Harry. He was dressed casually, with jeans, a white t-shirt, and a bright red jacket.
"What?" Harry asked, "It's comfortable."
"You're also a walking target," Clint muttered, "Especially in that bright red jacket."
"Well, what about Tony?" Harry asked, "He's even worse. Bright red and gold!"
"Well I have the protective armor to make up for it," Tony retorted, "Civilian clothes aren't gonna protect you from much. Can't you use your hocus pocus to make something better?"
Harry sighed, pulling out his wand. He knew there was no fighting their arguments. Even Natasha and Steve seemed to disapprove of Harry's clothing choices.
Transfiguring his clothes, Harry wore, instead, a robe similar to what he had at school but without the logos and color. Underneath, he wore a black, long-sleeved shirt and black pants. As an afterthought, Harry conjured up quidditch armor for himself as well, creating thick leather bracers for his arms and legs as well as protective gloves.
"Please don't tell me I have to hide my face like you guys too," Harry joked.
"No, you should be fine," Steve responded with a completely serious look on his face, "Unless you want the world to know who you are."
"Nobody knows who I really am anyway…" Harry whispered as they continued walking.
Tony nodded to everyone halfway to the jet as he flew out ahead of everyone else, impatient as ever to save his tower.
As they were approaching the Quinjet, however, a young pilot stood in their way.
"Hey!" he said, "You're not authorized to be here…"
Harry, already annoyed at having to change his attire, pointed his finger at the offending pilot causing a spray of sparks, like powdered ice, to hit him.
The pilot suddenly stood straight up, arms to his sides, and fell over. Looking warily at the man, the others could see a white-blue hue color his face. They all turned to Harry, who gave a non-committal grunt before going into the open jet.
"Remind me to never get on his bad side," Clint said.
"Agreed," Natasha said as they both entered the plane.
"Son…" Steve said with a pitying look on face as he looked at the petrified man, "Just… don't."
A/N: Yeah, a bit rough, but necessary to lead to the action in the next chapter and to somewhat cement Harry's position as a part of the team. Thanks for all the reviews and hope you all are doing well!
Oh, and as someone pointed out to me, I know Thanos's obsession with Death kinda shows how she's a female. In my version, Death is personified by the person and what makes it easier for Death to communicate to said person, thus Death to Harry is the old man. It's more of a genderless entity that changes based on the situation instead of being simply one gender or another.