Wand and Shield by Morta's Priest
Chapter 1 - First Days
There was nothing.
He'd half expected it, of course: between the empty lot that had replaced the Leaky Cauldron in London and the impoverished family that had taken up residence in 12 Grimmauld Place, the Wizarding World was suddenly looking considerably different from how he remembered it. Indeed, it looked very much as if it had never existed.
Unfortunately, that proposition seemed to be correct. Harry sighed wearily, wiping his messy black hair out of his eyes and settling his glasses on the bridge of his nose as he quickly glanced over his map. He was most definitely in the right location. Around him stood the crumbling walls and towers of what had to have been a magnificent sight, far in the past, a great castle. Now it was a museum piece, if even that.
The Marauder's Map was quite an invention and had been helpful back in Hogwarts, all those years ago. He thought back with a smile to the time he'd used it to track Snape through the halls, certain the man was up to no good. It was effectively useless now, the many intricate halls and hidden passages depicted on it unrepresented in reality. Yet, right here, in ancient castle ruins on the bluffs of Scotland ravaged by time, he could see a little dot appear labelled 'Harry James Potter'.
"Well, that's the last of them, then," he muttered, stuffing the map back in his mokeskin pouch, glancing around warily for Muggles. They were pretty much the only people he'd be liable to run into here, it seemed. He'd been here for the better part of a week now. He still hadn't quite figured out where he was, but the pieces were beginning to fall into place. They were beginning to paint a disconcerting picture.
This place: it was definitely not where he was born or raised. Oh, there was still a Hogwarts (well, a ruin of a castle) and there was still a Surrey, but they weren't the same ones. Number Four Privet Drive was actually now inhabited by a strange old couple, now. The balding man who lived there had quite stereotypically told him to get off his lawn when Harry had stood before his house, gaping. That had been on the first day after he arrived, so he figured he'd had an excuse.
Standing here, among the ruins, he finally admitted what his research seemed to conclude: there was no Wizarding World. If there had ever been one (many of the same legends existed, so it wasn't an unreasonable idea) then it had either vanished or hidden itself even deeper below the surface, beyond even his considerable power to detect.
"Well, Dumbledore, I guess you were right in the end," Harry said aloud, sighing deeply. "Though, I admit, I'd expected the 'Next Great Adventure' to be less... Muggle."
Harry shook his head and spun on his heel, apparating back to London, where he'd Confunded a hotel clerk to give him a room indefinitely. Not very honest, but he didn't have nearly enough money on hand; not Muggle money, anyway. He'd pay her back... probably.
He'd never even noticed the CCTV camera.
"How long will you be staying?"
"I'll be staying..." Harry waved her off surreptitiously; the woman blinked for a moment and then went back to her computer. It wasn't strictly allowed to use spells such as befuddlement charms for mundane things. It'd been drilled into him aplenty at the Ministry, but in a world without such rules the convenience definitely made up for the brief tinge of moral indignation. He really didn't want to stand in line for half an hour, after all. "Thank you."
Taking the plane had been a spur of the moment thing; with all of his familiar places missing, there was little keeping him restricted to Britain, and he'd found himself considering seeing other places around the world that he'd only ever read about. Indeed, not having to worry too much about the laws of the Wizarding World felt liberating as well, and it would greatly facilitate a travelling lifestyle. Who knew, perhaps he'd find what he was looking for, out there.
He'd done his share of travelling as an Auror, so he knew the basics of Muggle travel, even if he'd never actually gone on a plane before. He half-expected Scrimgeour or his successors to come storming around the corner with a small army when he first started using magic among Muggles, here. He'd given up on that idea fairly quickly. The whole point of the rules was to prevent abuse, and he wasn't the type to randomly start torturing Muggles anyway.
That stance had been tested, the last few hours; travelling through the air had always been one of his fonder pastimes, but the plane-ride had been anything but. There had been cramped and hard seats, poor food, dreadful noises all around (especially the loud snoring of the man directly ahead.) Harry had cast a few silent charms to ease his journey by softening his seat and warming his food, but even then it'd been barely tolerable. He'd finally found a way of travel he disliked more than the Floo, it seemed.
"Where am I?" Harry wondered aloud as he wandered away from the confused lady at the desk, staring at the signs around the airport with some trepidation – they all had English translations, but above it was just rows of unintelligible characters that told him nothing; it might as well have been Gobbledygook, and he'd never even cared to study that. Soldiers were positioned around the arrival hall as well, their scowls practically imprinted on their faces; they were holding dangerous-looking guns. Definitely not a peaceful nation, then. "What I wouldn't do to have Hermione here, right now..."
Harry blinked, whirling around; he managed to avoid snatching his wand; still his hand had made it part-way to his pocket, and the amused woman behind him had definitely noticed that. He dropped his hand tiredly, smiling sheepishly.
"Little trigger-happy there," The woman noted with amusement. "I'd watch it, with all the goons with guns around here." She winked. "I noticed you staring into nothing, just now. It looked like you were a cat that just wandered into a kennel of dogs – are you lost?"
"Eh... I'm not entirely sure what country I'm in, honestly, so I suppose that's correct," Harry said, smiling sheepishly. "Going where the wind blows, that's what I'm doing. If you could point me to what continent I'm currently on, that might help."
"I'd get your luggage and find a way out of here, if I were you," The redhead said, shrugging. "We foreigners should help each other out, I suppose?" She glanced at him with a curious look. "Just so you know – this is Afghanistan. Not exactly hospitable and heart of half the conflicts in this region. I'm not sure you could've picked a worse destination to go play tourist."
Harry ruffled a hand through his hair nervously, glancing around. "I suppose I'll figure out if I stay here for a while. I know where the airport is, at least. I'll find my own way out - wouldn't want to inconvenience you."
"Ah, don't be like that." The redhead pouted, sticking her hand out towards Harry. "It's no trouble helping out a fellow traveller; I think it's good karma, or something. I'm Natasha. Nice to meet you."
Harry hesitated before shaking the offered hand. "Harry. I can take care of myself, you know." He looked at her somewhat nervously – he'd not really spoken with much of anyone since he'd arrived here, and certainly not someone quite as forthright as this lady; the irony of his first acquaintance in a new world being once again a redhead didn't escape him. "I'm not a baby."
"You're a tourist, though. I think you could use the heads-up about how screwed things are around here." She glanced around uncomfortably. "Let's face it: if I didn't have to be here, I'd be on the next plane out and I'd keep running."
"What are you here for, then?" Harry wondered as he followed Natasha out into the sweltering midday. Coming from the air-conditioned halls, the dry and hot atmosphere was stifling; breaking out into an immediate sweat Harry cursed being incapable of using his wand for a quick cooling charm with so many Muggles around; Natasha didn't seem to mind the heat at all despite wearing a warm-looking dark blue overcoat.
"I'm just here for a little observation – there's some projects around here that need to be kept an eye on, and I'm the one to do it. It's boring stuff. Mostly a lot of waiting, scarcely any action, lots of dreadful reports." She sighed. "It's a living."
"I can relate," Harry muttered darkly. At her inquiring glance, he elaborated. "Worked for the government back in Britain – pretty exciting at times, but the days did get bogged down with a lot extraneous nonsense, especially near the end... You wouldn't believe how much of a mess a single accidental..." He hesitated, shaking his head. "Well,as I said, I can relate."
"Ah, you stopped when you were getting to the good part," Natasha joked, sighing. "You're one of those guys, aren't you?"
Harry blinked in confusion and raised an eyebrow. "Pardon?"
Natasha rolled her eyes. "Those men that act all mysterious, try to pretend they're super-spies or something. I've met my share of them – wild stories of working for secret government projects, that sort of thing. I suppose it's a hazard of talking to strangers, though."
"I'm not," Harry said dryly and he wilted under her skeptical gaze. "Anyway, do you know of any hotels around here? I can't very well sleep on the sidewalk, I'd probably end up smelling like bacon with this kind of temperature..."
Natasha frowned momentarily. "There's a few hotels here, but mostly people avoid the ones in the less savoury part of town... I'll take you to mine, perhaps they've got a few rooms left." She smiled. "Come on, it's only a block or two on foot."
Harry muttered under his breath as he followed the young woman. His laboured breathing after only one block reminded him that he really should get back to training – four years of what amounted to a desk-job had returned his muscles to what they'd been at school, after he'd been so very fit while running around the country as an Auror. He supposed he was still capable enough at Quidditch since his reflexed were fine, but he was crap at everything else, especially endurance running. A smile made its way on his despite that as he finally caught up with Natasha. They jogged up to what was probably the most dilapidated building Harry had ever seen; even the Burrow had looked more stable, and that was saying something!
"I'll go see if there's any room," Natasha muttered, nodding at him to stay put.
Harry let her go, smile unwilling to go away. He'd never really given any stock to fate: not after that self-fulfilling prophecy had thoroughly dominated his life for several years, not to mention the decade of fame that had followed – he'd really been done with destiny. Still, the first new place he went in this world, the first girl he met immediately invited him over to her hotel. That had to be some kind of record. For once, the interest couldn't have been the 'Boy Who Lived' nonsense which was quite a relief. Harry frowned, finally certain he was alone. What was the reason Natasha had just come up and addressed him? Happenstance? Harry scoffed at the thought. He might not believe in destiny - but he believed in coincidence even less.
Weapons developer and wünderkind Tony Stark blinked up at the roof blearily, his eyes roving around as he couldn't quite make sense of what happened – there had been explosions – bombs going off. He'd been in a car. He'd joked with Rhodey, just now. He'd been getting in after a successful demonstration of the Jericho Missile and – blank. What had happened?
He couldn't move: he felt as if paralyzed, shivering even in the sweltering heat; it felt as if it was cold and his chest hurt terribly, but he didn't know what was causing it. Had something hit him? Was he actually dying?
There were raised voices; he couldn't make them out. He only saw flashes intermittently, incapable of keeping his attention; a face, sometimes; screaming, probably his own. The pain didn't go away, but it dulled – his chest still stung like a hundred bees had worked their magic.
From one moment to the next, he shot awake; he blinked blearily into the darkness, his eyes adjusting; it looked – like a cave. He raised a hand to his face, finding a tube going into his nose. Pulling it out was quick but disgusting and as he leaned forward, he once more noticed that stinging pain in his chest.
He had something in his chest. Embedded in his chest. What the hell. Gingerly he raised a hand to the device.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you..."
"Agent Romanoff. What can you tell me?"
Natasha sighed into the mouthpiece, imagining Nick Fury right next to her, critical glare with that one eye of his focused on her every move."I don't have a lot, yet. He didn't seem particularly paranoid – at least, I don't think he's got any idea about us. Introduced himself as Harry. It seemed a genuine answer. He's staying in the same hotel as I am so I'll have to do surveillance via equipment during the day, or even an idiot would look through my cover-story."
"Keep him under watch – the moment he decides to do something drastic or makes it across the pond, we might have more options. As long as he's non-hostile, I suggest we keep our distance. Banner protocol."
"I doubt he's a big threat like that one," Natasha commented lightly. "He's not much of a spy if he couldn't even figure out my game."
"Nevertheless, I want you to do this. Time permitting, Agent Barton may assist."
"Understood." She put the remote transceiver down and grimaced. She knew full well that Clint Barton wouldn't be sent over – not to Afghanistan, and certainly not now. She turned to look outside and smiled slightly. "Well, Harry. Let's find out what you're up to, shall we?"
Author's Note : Will span the timeline of the various movies, though skipping through certain periods is probable. Harry took a number of things with him to the marvel movie-verse; some of them are obvious, like his cloak, a spare wand or two, some books; others less so.
This is a spin based on a DLP discussion that happened recently – I'll see for a few chapters if I can get into the groove for this story; I'll probably finish Torikaeru until the end of the present large arc before I put a lot of time into it though. I'd hate to leave people hanging, there, without at least a decent stopping point. (DSHND is a slower updater but that's fine.)
See you soon. (Probably second chapter tomorrow.)