To the Masses: I've only got about a hundred and something writing projects going on right now, but I feel that this HP/Avengers category is still underdeveloped and would like to add my face to this mix.
Soundtrack: In Other Words (Fly Me To the Moon) by Frank Sinatra, Le Grange by ZZ Top, and Party In the CIA by Weird Al.
Warning: AU & OOC (All fanfics are), potential slash, questionable writing, a few holes in logic here or there, and so on.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything copyrighted by other people.
Harry almost never got mail. He'd accepted that ages ago, before secondary schools and before Hogwarts. After he'd started his magical schooling he'd reassessed that notion and concluded that he received regular mail during the summer, but he almost never got mail during the school year. When he was working on his and his own friends secret project all mail was to be delivered through Hermione -because it was less suspicious that way, and he hated it when people asked question that he wasn't required by law to answer.
When the non-descript owl landed directly in front of Harry, his first instinct was to look around and see if anyone was missing their mail. He soon made the connection between the manila folder and he could see no expectant looking muggle-raised children, so he gently took hold of the letter for a clue. Harry's eyes widened when he realized that has his name, printed mechanically, just above Hogwarts dummy address. "Oh," he said, pleasantly surprised. He detached the note with one hand, the other was never unoccupied by a tea cup filled with coffee so long as he could help it. "Thank you," he told the small owl after he'd retrieved the folder, but before he fished out two knuts to reimburse the owl-fueled postal service that forwarded all muggle mail. The owl promptly left after it received payment, which was all for the best because Hedwig was really the jealous type.
Harry's friends kept their distance as he slipped the folder into his canvas bag, and while he scanned the surrounding breakfast crowd for anyone that was paying too much attention or trying too hard to act like they weren't. There were a few curious gazes, but they all originated from his closet house-mates, who knew enough about him to know that mail was an odd occurrence indeed.
When his scan was complete Hermione tried to ask a question, but Ron probably pocked her leg with his foot just as she opened her mouth. The act in itself would rouse suspicion, but not as much as if either were to make any mention of mysterious mail. The last thing any of them needed was for a responsible adult to confiscate his mail and ask those pesky questions. They would get all paranoid and Harry wouldn't get his letter back for who-knows-how-long, and by that time it might even be irrelevant. The return address was one he didn't recognize, but at this point in his education any bit of mail was important.
Ron had sense enough to wait until History of Magic to start scribbling out his many, no doubt endless, questions. Lucky for those of the trio that weren't prone to exercising their self-control, which mostly just meant Hermione, History came just after breakfast on days they didn't have Potions. The ginger used the code that he and his friends had perfected ever since first year, using a combination of doodles, runes from various cultures, and a few of the parseltongue squiggles that Harry had managed to teach both of his friends. He scratched it out in a notebook that Hermione's parents had sent her, which Ron found clever, having all the paper bound together like that but still easy to tear out, and when he was done he slid it over to Harry. The notebook they used to pass messages was so commonly seen every day that none of the other students became curious.
A small Russian letter in the top corner of the page was a key for their code for the day, it meant that it would mostly consist of Russian letters, but the correct letter would actually be the one after the one that was written, Morse code, and just a little bit of Orkhon runes (which Harry detested with a passion). Despite the complexity of the code, Harry translated it easily. They only had five different types of code, which they would pick randomly and just left a little key somewhere on the page, and while that may have seemed a lot to the untrained eye, they had spent a lot of time since first year developing it slowly. There were notebooks in Hermione's trunk from their second year that was laughably simple, containing mostly Latin and little symbols. Back then Professor Snape had been a simple Potions vial, Hagrid had been an extra-tall stick figure, homework was simply abbreviated to 'hw' and so on. Since their methods grew slowly over the years, it came naturally.
Harry read it over before he even had a chance to take the letter out of his bag. When he reached down to get all of the answers to their questions, he did so carefully but wasn't bothered by the noise. If he tried to be as quiet as possible it would show, and someone would notice an obvious effort to remain under the radar. So he broke the seal before he even took it out of his bag, and pulled out the small stack of papers instead of the entire envelope. Their peers were also used to Hermione's parents sending various print-outs of things at their daughters request, which they'd actually asked for to mask what else they were receiving in the mail.
Harry read the first few lines carefully, and then rushed through the rest in an excited mess. He passed the top page over to Hermione first, because she had compulsion issues and always had to know things. She did the excited dance under the desk that she usually did when she was elated about something, which involved a lot of kicking, and passed it across Harry and to Ron. They continued like that until everything was read over twice. Harry didn't have to reply to Ron's note, and he wouldn't have had the chance to anyway, because Hermione had snatched the notebook and was excitedly doodling things.
'An internship! That's amazing,' she wrote, 'You can graduate earlier than planned.' Ron added to the sentiments with an arrow that pointed upwards, which was the simplest way to agree. Harry took a little time to analyze both of his friends, looking closely for signs of jealousy.
They had started their project because Harry got bored at the Dursley's over summer vacation, and it didn't take a particularly observant person to realize that when Harry was bored he went looking for trouble, whether he saw it that way or not. Hermione had set up a way for him to get a self-study muggle education, to which the Dursley's agreed to readily. In his relatives hive-mind, if Harry focused a bit on what was normal, maybe he would leave behind all of that stick-waving nonsense. Harry didn't mind, it gave him something to do when he was bored. Of course, Hermione signed herself up for it as well, as her mother fretted after their first year that her daughter wasn't getting as well rounded of an education as she was promised. Ron did it because he didn't want to be left behind, at first. Over time it just became something they worked on in their downtime, and none of them really expected it to go anywhere, but after the fight at the Ministry just two weeks ago, it became an advantage and a back door out of an impending civil war.
Harry hadn't applied to any internships for the summer, because he knew Dumbledore would insist on his presence at the Dursley's. Neither had Ron, because he didn't want to explain to his parents how he got into a muggle program without their consent (Harry was pretty good at signatures. Who knew?) or that he'd been carrying on with it even when he ignored his regular homework. They all knew Ron's mother would probably see it as an extension of his father's obsession with how non-magical things worked, and her disapproval would be loud and probably very soul-crushing. Hermione had, but she hadn't heard back from anyone yet. Whatever she applied or wasn't even worth half of the credits or money that this place was offering.
Carefully, Harry put the papers back in his bag to examine more thoroughly later. When he'd done that, he took up his quill and jotted in reply 'I'm unsure. Perhaps they got the wrong information. Plus, the Headmaster would want me back at the Dursley's.' The symbol for his relatives was the roman numeral for three, because it reminded them of a tiny jail-cell. He had several questions about these people who were all ready to hire him, the greatest being why they decided to send the information directly to the school rather than routing the packet through Hermione's parents.
Hermione's thin brow dropped in thought before she replied 'It's not uncommon for certain programs to recruit, and your scores are very good.'
'Wicked good,' Ron added without reservation. It helped that they all had different focuses. Harry, for example, decided to expand this knowledge of Biology after the incident in his second year. The mystery of lycanthropy only fueled his taste the subject, as did Fleur and her Veela nature, and the all of the other variations of people he'd met in his short life. He wanted to know the difference, the similarities, the way all the different types of DNA worked together or didn't.
This program was offering to let him work in a lab, which would help him immensely. Not to mention it would get him away from everything coated in the memories of his lost godfather. He could do something he actually liked, he could see new places, and according to this packet the lab was actually aboard an aircraft. Reality was the only issue, because Voldemort's threat was very real and Dumbledore was a controlling force in his life.
Ron took the notebook back when he realized that Harry was commiserating in his own mind, and wrote a note that he passed directly to Hermione before he bent to dig around in his own bag. Harry quickly recognized the notes that Ron had been working on that directly translated his parseltongue to it's closest approximation, which was, according to him, something called Kartuli from Georgia. Harry didn't really care, because he already knew the language, but Ron needed to translate it so he could teach it to Hermione so that the both of them could embarrass him about his sleep-talking. Sleep-hissing, whatever.
'It's a great opportunity, and you're not going to get your lab hours any other way,' Hermione wrote, and just above that was Ron's message to 'convince him.'
'I know,' Harry scribbled back, 'it's just Dumbledore.'
'It's not his business,' Hermione argued, and Harry debating about whether or not he should tell them all of what Dumbledore had told him -about blood wards and prophesies. He'd been asked, and they both knew phrasing it as a request was just an empty courtesy, to keep them out of the loop. On the other hand, the two of them stood by him despite three headed dogs, vaguely sadistic chess sets, and Voldemort-infested professors -and that was just first year. Instead, because he knew if he told them outright here would be emotional outbursts, he wrote a promise to tell them later, but Dumbledore had given him some information that was important to the mission -the mission being to survive Voldemort, that required him to follow the Headmasters orders.
'Now Harry,' Hermione wrote steadily, and Harry could just see the 'I can't believe I have to explain this to you, as if you were a small child' type of exasperation she had mastered ages ago. 'It seems a lot like he's only telling you enough to keep you where he wants you.'
Harry didn't reply, but he did shove it underneath Ron, so that he could get a second opinion. Ron gave him the raised eye-brow before he looked down at the note, and his expression turned dour. 'It does,' Ron added, 'he's got you positioned exactly where he wants, and that's a bit alarming.' Coming from Ron, that was most likely a chess metaphor, and he usually believed that Dumbledore was using him. For all of Harry's intelligence, his friends were still a bit bemused that he could be so air-headed.
Harry tapped his quill at the edge of the notebook, staining the last white corner with his favorite purple ink. 'You're probably right,' he conceded, because the Headmasters slow dribble of information had always been a little suspicious. However, he was sure that Dumbledore had the best interests at heart, and he probably did. 'That doesn't mean this opportunity is not unsafe. I don't mean that it could be a trap, but if I'm not where he wants me to be he'll start asking questions.' Both of his friends knew his peeve about inquiring parties and how it was none of their business, but on the same hand if Dumbledore started peeking into Harry's life then he would peek into Ron and Hermione's. Harry could take the snooping, he wasn't keeping any secrets because the parties that needed to know did, but none of them needed their business brought out before the Order of the Phoenix.
'Whatever,' Ron wrote when he got the notebook back, 'I expected my mother to find out ages ago, and now that the Twin's have dropped out there's nothing I can do that would make her more angry with me than she is with them.' It made sense, Harry relented with a tiny nod, and that was really the last excuse he'd been holding on to.
'You'll get your lab hours, you won't have to go back to the III, you get to do what you want to and get paid for it, it's undetectable by the Death Eaters, and you can meet new people,' Hermione listed all of the positive reasons, and under 'cons' there were none. However, Ron then added 'the giant muggle aircraft could crash.' In reply, Hermione reached around Harry and punched their friend in the shoulder.
'That's what parachutes are for,' Harry wrote, then leaned back in his chair to maybe catch the last fifteen minutes of Binn's lecture. There really was no reason he shouldn't, other than that the Headmaster didn't want him to -and doing it despite his orders somehow made him feel empowered. Meeting new people though, Harry's lips twitched in a bit of a frown, he wasn't so sure about that.
Doctor Richard Cole was an arse, there was no way around that, Harry thought. The aircraft was amazing, his bunk mates weren't so bad, and he got three meals a day plus all the coffee he could ingest, but Dr. Cole was a dick and had been from the very start.
Apparently the man had gone to the Human Resources department, which consisted of five overworked and underpaid agents, complaining that he did all the work of ten people and he wanted a raise. Instead, he got Harry. Harry the starry-eyed undergraduate student from England that had zero lab experience (he didn't need to know that Harry brewed potions in a dungeon since he was eleven). Harry knew all this because Cole told him. More accurately, he'd ranted about it while pretending Harry wasn't in the room. The man had taken one look at him, literally turned his nose up at him, and set him to work in an out-of-the-way corner with a book called 'Biochemistry for Dummies.'
Harry immediately resented being called a 'dummy.' However, he read the book anyway, just in case there was some small gap in his knowledge. There wasn't.
In return, Harry was perfectly polite. He thought that if Dr. Cole could just see that he was competent then he'd be a bit more respectful, or at least he'd be less hostile. It didn't take long for that theory to be shot down to hell, because the doctor mistook his manners for simpering and became even harsher in his regard to his assistant. Harry didn't know how else to act though. Cole was a bit like his relatives, in that he didn't appreciate having to share the very air he breathed with Harry, and Harry had been conditioned almost his entire life to respond to that sort of treatment in a very specific way. He was a bit at a loss, because while he just really didn't like Dr. Cole he loved his internship.
First, and foremost, because it was on a giant air-craft. He got to look out of various windows throughout the day and see nothing but fluffy clouds and blue skies, and occasionally the darkened beauty of storm weather. He'd started taking his lunch out on the bridge with a tech-head named Wes, just because Harry needed an excuse to stare out the gargantuan windows. He didn't even mind when the Director was there, because he'd met trolls and dragons and some agent named Romanoff that scared him a million times more.
He had to share a room with four other blokes, but that was nothing compared to Ron's snoring, Seamus' drinking, or Neville's sleep-walking. He got to eat three times a day, just like at Hogwarts, and nothing like at the Dursley's. Then there was the coffee, the heavenly sludge of cheap beans made by a coffee-maker that was being held together by duck-tape that Harry affectionately called Queen Adele the Second (the first being his Aunt's coffee-pot). Hogwarts didn't serve coffee, for some reason that escaped Harry, but he had mail-ordered some shamefully expensive beans and the house-elves were only too happy to fill a tea cup with awesome for him at breakfast. Unfortunately, he couldn't drink it often, because his supplies needed to last. On the airship though, on the helicarrier -he needed to remember, there was an unlimited supply of coffee. All day, every day.
So what if Dr. Cole thought he was a stupid, immature sixteen year old who didn't know a beaker from a Bunsen burner? Really, Harry kept telling himself, it was totally worth it.
He was even willing to ignore the obvious military bearing. It was obvious from the name of the organization, but when he'd arrived at the facility in London and been patted, scanned, and screened it really sunk in. When it was all done and Harry had been vetted by the organization's security personnel he was given a small cell-phone, an ID card, his bunking assignment, and told to report to the lab as soon as possible. The big, burly men and elegantly muscular women wore uniforms, carried weapons (usually in concealed places that Harry wasn't meant to notice), and conducted themselves like good soldiers. He'd almost taken a dive off of the launch pad, taken his Firebolt out of his conveniently expanded canvas bag and hightailed it back to the wizarding world the first time the men and women around him had snapped to attention -except then he'd found a break room and the rest was history.
Then he, and a lot of other new bodies, received a memo from Maria Hill, the chief lieutenant aboard the helicarrier, stating that all of those who have not yet received their basic combat assessment should do so or be left behind at the next port -some very questionable waters just off the coast of Thailand, if Harry remembered correctly. It went on to explain that those who didn't pass would just have to take a series of courses before their eligible for the retake. If they failed the retake they won an all inclusive ride back to their home country, and yeah -Harry was nervous. He was an underweight, brittle tower of skin and bones. He was like Jenga, only more wobbly. He knew the standard, because he shared a bunk with four very burly manly-men who could snap him in half. Wes, the tech-head on the bridge was a nocturnal nerd who probably hadn't seen the light of day in ages and only remembered to eat because Harry placed his food right on top of his keyboard, and he was still in better shape than Harry.
Dr. Cole gave him a rather sadistic smirk that morning, before sending him off to his corner to memorize the periodic table of elements, because apparently he couldn't even be trusted to wash the equipment. Cole didn't say anything, but he was also sure that Harry wouldn't even be able to pass. The arse. Like Harry hadn't already committed that entire chart to memory.
Five o'clock that day he was in the mess hall, still sweating profusely, with a large mug of coffee in hand an a sense of failure the size of Draco Malfoy's ego. That wasn't only because he was weighed and measured in front of a large crowd of people, but because he wasn't nearly as flexible, strong, or long lasting as Margaret from the copy room. And Margaret from the copy room had to be at least sixty. He was fast, which was a consolidation, and sure he could render them all useless with the flick of his wand and a single word, but that didn't stop his inferiority complex from rearing it's ugly head.
Just when he was about to go be miserable somewhere else, large breasts sat down next to him. He was sure those breasts belonged to a perfectly nice, probably smart woman, but in a top that low it didn't really matter. He was staring, he knew he was staring, and he even would have turned away if they hadn't just shimmied.
"Better?" a voice asked, and it would have sounded sweet except there was a hardened edge that the most experienced of sarcastic people typically had. Large breasts were soon covered by an even larger, baggy sweater and Harry broke eye-contact. "'Cause that's just about as much pity as you're getting."
"Yeah, lots. Thanks," Harry replied, amusement shining through, and he looked up to meet the actual eyes of a young looking woman who was almost as sweaty as he was. "How did you do?" he asked, his tone was daring her to say it was any worse than he was.
"Yeah, no. I did horribly. I tell you, if failure were personified. I've got like, the best excuse though -if I run too fast I might actually punch myself in the throat with my own boobs," the girl rambled on. Harry nearly choked on his coffee at the imagery that produced.
"I bet you didn't do worse than Margaret from the copy room," he muttered back, just a bit pitifully. His eyes scanned the mess hall and he caught sight of Dr. Cole in the corner, eating with some of the other scientists, and the man was entirely too happy for his liking.
"Dude, don't feel bad. I'm think she does pilates," the last bit was said a stage whisper, as if it were some great secret. "Besides, you'll probably be exempt once they realize you're from the science department. You are, aren't you? Because you look like one of those science nerds, no offence." Harry wanted to find that amusing, but his disposition soured further. "Seriously, I come over here to cheer you up because you're all sad and cute. You're absolutely adorable, but what is up?"
"I'm only an intern," Harry confesses, "and my scientist won't let me be any sort of help, and since I'm not technically not a scientist but S.H.I.E.L.D. still signs my paychecks, so I still have to pass the test."
The young woman deflated a bit too, "Yeah. I have no clue what my scientist is talking about most of the time, and she doesn't have to take this stupid test. Lucky for us though, assistants only have to take the fitness test, and not the hand-to-hand or the tactical-something-something mess."
That was good news, because Harry was sure he would have failed those too. "I just got to make it past Thailand though, and then there's some stop in the Middle of Nowhere, Africa before we land in New York. A week tops. StarkIndustries has funded some super-secret government lab place that a lot of people are being transferred to." The girl turned to one side and then the other, as if looking for someone and when she found that person she pointed and said "That's my scientist, Jane Foster of the Astrophysics."
Harry had heard good things about her. Actually, he'd heard terrible things, about how she was just using some guy named Thor for his scientific knowledge and how she didn't deserve the funding she was getting. Since it was Dr. Cole saying it though, Harry understood that she was working on a controversial theory that apparently had something to do with astrophysics. Harry gave an obvious huff of disdain as he pointed past the girl and towards Dr. Cole, in silent indication that that was his scientist.
He knew just what she saw when she turned around to get a look-see. Cole was tale and lanky, like most of the underfed, workaholics were. His dark hair was standing on end with the collective grease, because no matter how repeatedly Harry suggested it, he wouldn't take a shower more than once every other day. Harry didn't even want to think about how terrible it would be if he weren't banished to his own little space and actually had to breath in that body odor.
"Oh, I've heard wonderful things about him," the girl said as sarcastically as Harry never thought possible. "He's supposed to be the hot-shot researching the Super Soldier Serum and it's relation to Asgardians, and the variation that created the Hulk -or something like that. It's supposed to be some secret, but he blabbed it all out as soon as he could." She informed him briefly, and Harry felt the skin on his neck heat up in anger.
"I've been on the airship-helicarrier thing for almost two weeks and he hasn't even told me that much," Harry hissed, and he was perfectly aware that his parseltongue was slipping out -just a tad.
The girl didn't shrink back though, as so many of his housemates did at the sound of his anger, she just nodded solemnly, "what a dick. My name's Darcy, by the way," the girl said, because they hadn't even made introductions and that was kind of rude of him.
"Harry," he replied, trying this best to sound nice, "I don't suppose you know how even I can get, without getting fired. Do you?"
"Maybe," she said slyly. It was the type of sly that Hermione got when she was withholding just the right information in exchange for something. Darcy leaned in, smirked, and said "if you're up for a little avenging."
To Those Who Just Read:
I just shoved a lot of information out there, and kept a lot of different information back. It's cool, because it's only the first chapter. Yeah?
Feedback is very helpful. If you're going to review, please do so in complete sentences.