Title: Stand by me
Author: Yeziel Moore
Fandom: Harry Potter/Avengers (2012)
Characters: Harry, Steve Rogers, Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., etc.
Warnings: AU. Language. Violence. (Prone to change)
Summary: Somebody else found the frozen Captain America before S.H.I.E.L.D. How would two abnormal and displaced heroes get along? Will their friendship change anything? What difference a better adapted and less uptight Steve Rogers could make? What difference, if any, will Harry make? (What will I do with all these 'what ifs'?)
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or Avengers or anything with copyright. This mad bunny, on the other hand, is mine.
AN: I really ought to put a restraining order on those damned plot bunnies because this one jumped me out of nowhere while I was minding my own business. I just imagined how a conversation between these two would go if Harry had found Steve. I've to admit that it was a lot crackier in my mind.
I'll try to see where this go, but I suck at regular updates, so don't kill me!
Credit where it's due: The name was taken from a song by Ben e King. It's an old and well known song, look it up people.
1. Breaking the Ice.
The fight back to consciousness was a slow and disorientating process that Steve would pay anything to be able to avoid. No matter how many times he had been knocked unconscious the return to the waking world was a chore every damned time. The vulnerability of those first minutes was something that his soldier mindset simply could not reconcile with. His only relief was that since he was injected with the Super Soldier Serum it was a lot harder to knock him unconscious.
This time, coming back from the darkness was a lot more difficult than all the others put together though, and Steve had no idea of why. His mind was at an all-time slow and it felt as if someone had replaced his brain with cotton and a set of drums, very loud drums; his body was no better, he felt heavy and sluggish, like the weight of the world was sitting on top of him and at the same time trying to push him back into the abyss he had barely escaped from. For a brief moment he panicked but there was little he could do in his state, his body was numb and his mind was miles away, too addled and basically incapable of putting together the pieces of the puzzle his memories had become.
Steve tried to calm his racing heart but he found it impossible to focus. It was suddenly too dark and the space around him too constricting. He tried to reason with himself, to calm his fastening pulse because panicking never did any good to anyone; he tried opening his eyes, if only he could see his surroundings he was sure everything would be better, even if he was in a cold cell somewhere he could ground himself with the solid knowledge of where... His eyes didn't open. Steve couldn't tell if he had been blinded on purpose or if he was just too tired to open them. It didn't matter because his breathing was coming faster now and he found his frustration being swallowed by the beginning of a textbook panic attack.
He didn't remember what exactly happened next. He had been told, of course, but the only thing he could remember was a steady voice pitched low, calming and comforting all at once. It had reminded him of Bucky and that was what truly calmed him, because Bucky would never hurt him, Bucky was his friend and protector. Then something warm enveloped him and he knew no more. This time the darkness around him was the calming cadence of sleep instead of the drowning void of unconsciousness. So he let go.
The second time Steve pushed his way into awareness the process went far more smoothly than his last -embarrassing- attempt. His body still felt abnormally heavy and his thoughts seemed to be waddling in syrup, but this time his eyes responded to his command and his head was mostly clear, if a bit slow in the uptake. However, he was a soldier and it was high time that he started acting like one. Opening his eyes in an unknown place and situation had been a mistake, he remembered being taught that, but fortunately it seemed like he was alone for the time being so he pushed the slip-up aside. From his prone position Steve proceeded to catalogue what he saw and felt.
He immediately knew that was lying on a bed, bigger and more comfortable than any other bed he had ever slept on, with soft linens that screamed expensive to his senses so attuned to poverty. He was covered with at least five blankets, much to his confusion. His confusion fled when he realized that he was cold in spite of the fire he could hear burning away in a nearby hearth, so either it was winter in this place or something was very wrong with him because Steve hadn't felt cold, really cold, since he was injected with the Super Soldier Serum. That made alarms to go off in Steve's head. Momentarily forgetting about his surroundings Steve shoved the blankets away from his body and noticed that he was wearing night clothes instead of his Captain America suit, ignoring this he proceeded to take stock of his injuries. And frowned when all he found was unmarred skin… no, quite unmarred, it was actually more sensible to touch than what was normal for him and too pink, almost as if he had scrubbed himself too hard and for too long. Apart from that there was nothing that could tell him why he was shivering when he wasn't supposed to feel cold in the first place except in the direst of circumstances.
"You are awake," said a somewhat familiar voice.
Steve startled and instantly made a motion to grab his shield only to remember that it was not there or anywhere he could see. Not that he had seen much, being too worried about feeling cold of all things. His hands clenched around the blankets, he must be more out-of-it than he had thought if he was being so careless and absentminded, normally he would've been out of this place by now.
"Hey, are you alright?" The man, for it was a man, asked in a worried tone. He also was standing closer, out of immediate reach, but closer. And Steve hadn't noticed. Yup, he was definitely way out of his game today.
"I am fine; there is no need for you to be concerned," he lied and almost cringed at how pathetic his attempt at misdemeanour was; instead of dwelling on that he observed and catalogued the newcomer in his mind. He was young, around his mid-twenties perhaps, tallish but of slight built, muscled but just so. Not a front fighter then, more likely very fast though. He had a mess of black hair, long enough that it reached his eyes, partly covered his ears and caressed the nape of his neck, and the greenest and loneliest eyes that Steve had seen.
His observations were cut short as the young man snorted inelegantly. "You are shivering," the stranger pointed out at his questioning look. Ah, so he was.
"It's nothing," he said but inwardly he was starting to get worried. Why was he shivering? His brow scrunched up as he tried to recall what he had been doing before… before what? What had happened to him? Disjointed pieces of information came to him but they didn't make any sense at all in that fashion. He remembered that had been fighting Hydra all over the map for months and then there was something about a bomb and… and what?
"It's not 'nothing'."
Steve blinked, startled. "What?"
"I said that it's not 'nothing'" the man repeated seriously. He was still in the same position and in the same place, as if he could somehow sense Steve unease.
"What do you mean?"
The black-haired man gave him a long and appraising look, it was exactly the kind of look that had always made Steve bristle, the kind of look men had gave him moments before finding him lacking in some area or all of them. Steve hated those looks. This stranger, however, didn't seem to be measuring his worth, he was searching for something and apparently he had found it.
"First of all, my name is Harry Potter," he positioned a nearby chair next to the bed and waited for Steve to make himself more comfortable before offering his hand in greeting. The super soldier gave him a wary and distrustful look but it was replaced by confidence a moment later. They shook hands firmly but without violence, it was enough for now.
Harry hummed and crossed his arms over the back of his chair and propped his chin on them. He hoped that his relaxed posture would put the soldier more at ease or else this conversation was going to be a very painful experience for both of them. "Well, first of all, or second of all, you will have to be a bit patient with me, there is a lot to explain and I don't know half of it."
"What do you mean you 'don't know half of it'?" Interrupted the blonde soldier a bit more harshly than required. Harry paid it no mind.
"I mean what I said," he lifted a hand to stem the avalanche of questions or complaints that would follow such a statement. "If my guess is correct and you really are who I think you are, well, that really leaves me floundering, you know. I don't know how to explain this, the only thing I did was find you Captain."
The way Steve eyes lit in recognition at the military title told Harry that he was spot on in his guess. Who would've thought Captain America was more than a comic book? Considering that Harry himself was a wizard maybe he should have.
Steve for his part was terribly confused, now more so. One question at a time, he reminded himself. "Find me? I was not aware of being lost." He hadn't, or had he? He didn't know. Truth was that his memory of those last moments was coming back, but it was a slow process. He remembered the Cube, fighting Red Skull, then coldness and darkness. He shivered but resisted the urge to crawl back under the warmth of the covers. What on Earth had happened?
"You have been lost for a long time Captain," the young man said with no inflection in his voice. A shiver of a completely different nature went down Steve's spine; he didn't like the sound of that. Harry passed a newspaper to the soldier who took it with hands that threatened to start trembling, hands that starting trembling when he read the date of a newspaper he didn't know existed until that precise moment.
8th August 2011.
Blue eyes, wide as saucers, snapped upwards, he opened his mouth to protest, to call this plot into the light because what he had read couldn't be true, it just couldn't. He never got the chance to speak though, as furious blue clashed with compassionate green Steve knew the truth, that this was very real and not a cruel joke or a clever torture technique designed to throw him off his game. For a fleeting moment he wished for this to be one such a plot. But it wasn't, of course it wasn't, the true was printed there in black letters and in Potter's eyes, which still held that compassionate edge. But no pity. Thank God for small mercies, Steve hated being pitied.
"How?" Managed to say Steve, voice hoarse from the force of his emotions.
"How it happened I can only guess on my own but when I found you, by some freak mistake, you were frozen, encased in ice, quite literally I may add." Harry explained blandly, as if finding people trapped in ice was a normal occurrence. "I couldn't leave you there, naturally, so I brought you here and thawed you out."
And the Captain remembered now: the plane, Schmidt, the strange blue Cube disintegrating the Red Skull's body, the bomb still active heading towards New York, beautiful Peggy and his decision to sacrifice himself for his loved ones sake. The promise he couldn't keep.
Tears prickled at his eyes, he tried to contain them like he had done all his life but in the end had to bury his face in his hands to keep his sorrow and shame from spilling over. Harry said nothing and limited himself to grip the soldier shoulder for a few seconds, showing his support and nothing else, after that he merely put away the wrinkled newspaper. Steve was glad for it, he wasn't sure he wouldn't throw up if he had to see the physical proof of his displacement in time again.
He had spent almost seventy years encased in ice, he had slept away sixty nine years of his life, not that he had changed at all since day one, but still! How does one reconcile with that? The world had been changing at an alarming pace even back then, now he was almost afraid to find out how much had really changed since 1942. He breathed deeply and tried to shut down his racing mind, it wasn't working. What would he do now? His war was over, the world had most certainly left him behind, he had no one to protect, no goal to achieve; what use did he have now? True, he still was a soldier, there was that, there would always be that. But he hadn't joined the army to fight just because he could, and at the time he hadn't been able to fight worth a damn, he joined because he believed in fighting for his country and its people. He believed in helping to end the war. It was done, so now what? He didn't know, all his life he had always had a goal to reach, and here he was, floundering because didn't know what to do anymore! What use was a soldier without a war?
"What do I do know?" He asked to nobody in particular. He had forgotten that he wasn't alone so he was surprised when Harry answered.
Steve looked up, eyes a bit red but otherwise dry. "What do you mean?"
"What you lost, it can't be recovered," Harry started with just the slightest hesitation, "so you start over, you learn and you adapt." Or you die, was left unsaid but it was there and Steve could hear it all the clearer for it. Harry knew that it probably wasn't the best way to put it, never mind elegant, but it was true. Steve could feel the veracity imbedded in those few words and it struck something deep inside him.
The super soldier peered at him, with curiosity that soon turned into wonder and horror. "You know," he said and it wasn't a question.
Harry smirked and the only thing Steve could see in that gesture was bitter loneliness, the loneliness of being the only one who has experienced something terrible and knowing that nobody else could understand no matter how hard they tried.
"It was different for me and I slept a lot less than you did Captain, but yes, I know." Harry wondered how could he word his experience in a way that the blond soldier was able to grasp. He settled for the simplest way. "Basically, it's a matter of whether you sink or swim, you either do or you don't. Period."
Steve nodded at that, a bit calmer now that rationality had asserted itself. He was a soldier, survival was something he understood well, and barring his personal loss, this could be likened to any other survival test he had passed before. In his mind he knew all of this, it didn't, however, prevent his heart from hurting any less.
Once again he found himself wishing he could get drunk.
"Sir, w-we found it, sir!"
Nick Fury glared at the new recruit trembling in front of him, his mood souring faster than milk left on the sun, in the middle of summer, in the desert. Fury knew the men and women under his command, it was imperative that he did, which meant that he knew their ins and outs, their little traditions passed from veteran to rookie and every insignificant quirk they had, have or may have. The little tradition of sending rookies to report bad news was old, older than any comparison he would dare make. He had been there too, years ago, when he himself had been a rookie, and as a veteran he sometimes found it a little bit amusing.
Today was not one of those times.
"Well?" He growled impatiently. The rookie gulped and his shaking got worse if possible, fortunately for everyone involved the soldier braved the storm head-on.
"After the quake that uncovered the aircraft we dug it up and it fit the description and sketches left by Mr. Stark. We opened an entrance and went in but..." the soldier fumbled with his words for a few seconds before taking up where his voice had tapered off. Director Fury was going to be livid no matter how he word it, so better get on with it now rather than later. "There was a lot in terms of armament and the deactivated bomb but Captain Rogers was not there sir."
"He was not there?" Fury repeated and pinned the recruit with a glare potent enough to strip paint from walls. "Then where is he soldier? Sightseeing in the ice perhaps?" The trembling man gulped and shook his head in a clear negative. "You were sent to confirm the origin of the aircraft and to retrieve Captain Rogers's body. Now I ask you again: Where. Is. Captain. Roger's. BODY, soldier?"
"I- w-we d-don't know, sir! It was nowhere in the premises! B-but there w-was just one anomaly, sir!" Fury made a wordless gesture for him to get on with it! "The ice had been cut, it... it looked as if something, or someone, had been carved out of it."
Fury paced his office as the report was delivered, thoughts whirling furiously through his analytical mind. This, no matter from which angle he looked at this one, it was a disaster. The Super Soldier Project had remained unparalleled since its inception and abrupt ending and through every attempt to revive it, attempts that had officially ended with the Hulk disaster a few years back. That some unknown person or group of people could've gotten its hands on Captain Rogers, even if it was only the body... it could spell disaster for everyone. S.H.I.E.L.D. didn't work on 'could be' and 'what ifs', they turned the odds in their favour or they had them either controlled or eliminated.
"O-only that the scientist said that the carving had been recent and it had something to do with the accumulation of snow. T-they will enclose their conclusions in the written report, sir."
"Very well. Dismissed."
The soldier couldn't have gotten away any faster even if he had run. Later he would drink with his fellow soldiers and proceed to get shitfaced as a reward for successfully passing The Rite.
While the rookie was toasting with his friends about his bravery, director Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. was seated in his chair, thinking over every little detail of the report and seeing no other conclusion but the totally obvious, that somebody else had found Captain America before them. Wasting no time, Nick Fury started making calls and pulling strings, all the while mulling over which agents would've the best qualifications for a mission of this importance. The man rubbed his temples and growled. This was going to be a major headache, one on par with Stark and Banner, he just knew it.
God, he needed a drink, or a dozen.
To be continued...