Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter or the Avengers…
-This is a 5-and-1 fic so there'll be two more chapters before it's over.
-I'm going camping for several days which unfortunately means no updates during that time. (No wifi; torture…)
-Anyway, this chapter takes place after the Avengers obviously. This next bit is entirely mine, an AU so nothing to do with the comics. Enjoy!
Chapter 5 – The Saviour Saved
The fifth time Tony saw Harry was by far the worst. It made their second encounter when he had put his foot in his mouth per usual look like a friendly tea party, and he couldn't even claim responsibility for it so he could try to fix it.
As it was, the only thing that meeting managed to do for Tony was reinforce the fact that though immortal Harry may be, he was just as susceptible to danger, just as vulnerable when all his defenses had been torn down, as everyone else was.
He couldn't say he particularly appreciated this revelation.
The second time Tony ever set foot on the Helicarrier again was one and a half years after the whole Loki disaster. It wasn't a social call.
"Where is he?" Tony demanded as soon as he found Fury on the deck. Bruce hovered a little nervously behind him as Clint, Natasha, and Steve stood off to the side, and Thor, who had returned only two months ago on the stubborn insistence that his father had wanted an Asgardian envoy on Earth, was situated in the doorway. Over the course of several months, the entire team had gravitated to Stark Tower and it had now more or less become their headquarters. Whenever Fury had a mission for them, he would simply relay it via video feed, having given up on ordering them back to base before handing out their assignments after Clint and Natasha both failed to actually show up in person for work after the first few weeks.
"Where's who, Mr. Stark?" Fury sighed, looking annoyed as he looked up from a file he had been studying.
"Harry," Tony prompted with a roll of his eyes. "'Bout this tall, green eyes, black hair, has the odd habit of bouncing back from the dead?"
"I know who Harry is," Fury said irritably as he looked down at the sheaf of papers in his hands again, clearly dismissing Tony. "He's on a mission; you already know this."
"Know?" Tony repeated, crossing his arms. "I know he was carrying out an assignment for you somewhere in Alaska. I also know he was due back six months ago. What I don't know and would like to know is why he isn't back yet."
Fury finally snapped the folder shut and pinned Tony with a glare. "How many times have I told you not to hack into S.H.I.E.L.D. databases, Stark?"
"Twenty-one," Tony answered without batting an eye. "So you should really get a clue by now and realize I'm never going to stop. Now are you gonna answer my question or not?"
Fury released a frustrated breath as he surveyed the room. The rest of the Avengers had been silent so far but there was no way anyone could miss the grim determination on each face as they waited for the Director to divulge whatever information he had on the missing consultant.
Fury heaved another sigh, this time with a telltale note of defeat, and Tony smirked triumphantly. He knew it was the right decision when he got the rest of the Avengers worried before bringing them along.
"…Potter was supposed to return six months ago," Fury finally confirmed as the Avengers moved further into the room. "It was also the last time he reported in; he told us that he had completed the mission and would be returning to the States in a few days. Something about enjoying the scenery while he was there," Fury shook his head. "That was the last we heard from him. We've tried contacting him but it's like he's completely dropped off the face of the planet. We've been looking for him ever since."
"And you couldn't have told us this earlier?" Steve demanded from Tony's left, and the billionaire was reminded, with a touch of envy, that Harry had been the Captain's friend first.
"It was supposed to be a simple mission," Fury snapped back. "Information gathering. And Potter's pulled this sort of thing before. Sometimes, he finds something new and goes incognito for another few months before reporting in."
"And what's the longest he's ever been… 'incognito'?" Bruce asked testily.
It was Natasha who answered, frowning at her boss. "Four months. That time he went down to Chile and infiltrated that drug ring."
"Great; so he's two months late and you still think everything's rainbows and sunshine," Tony ignored the rising irritation on Fury's face as he continued. "What was his mission?"
"That's classified," Fury countered automatically.
A beep came from Tony's pocket and the billionaire quickly withdrew his phone. "Not anymore," He announced, scrolling though all the information Jarvis had managed to hack into. It had taken months of carefully digging around so he wouldn't be caught, but his patience had finally paid off and, as a bonus, he had even managed to time it perfectly.
One look at Fury told him the Director was about ready to erupt like Mt. Vesuvius on steroids but Tony had had great experience in dealing with people yelling at him so ignoring the man was fairly easy. Taking in the information he was reading off his phone, not so much.
"Alaska… mountains… caves… what the hell are Jhal'harrat?" Tony glanced up at the Director, tilting his phone so Steve and Bruce, who had both come forward to peer at his phone, could get a better view of the words. He made a mental note to tease the Captain about this later; the super soldier didn't seem particularly bothered by Tony's 'unethical' means now that it was Harry in potential danger.
Fury closed his eye and pinched the bridge of his nose as if warding off a migraine. "Sit down," He finally said before turning to the large computer screens behind him.
"Shortly after you stopped the Chitauri invasion," Fury began, pulling up a map of Alaska. "We picked up another anomaly somewhere up in Canada, and we traced it back until we found out it appeared at the same time the wormhole over Manhattan opened. So, after Loki left with Thor, I asked Potter to do some digging, just in case a few rogue Chitauri somehow jumped over there when the portal opened. From what Potter managed to find out, it seems that when the Tesseract opened a wormhole between the Chitauri's mothership and our world, it also made the fabrics in space a lot thinner during that time.
"The Jhal'harrat," Fury enlarged a picture and Tony's eyes widened at the cloaked figure on the screen. It resembled a human, but it had a skeletal head and red eyes. "From Potter's reports, they're shapeshifters with their own brand of magic. Potter thinks they have telepathic abilities, though they seem to be short-range at best, and mostly require touch. They accidentally slipped through the crack between Earth and wherever they were and crashed into the Alaskan mountains. Luckily, their ship must've had a cloaking device or they'd be splashed all over the Times by now. Either way, their ship is undergoing repairs and since the wormhole closed, they're stuck, and they've been trying to find a way to leave for months, passing off as humans and using whatever energy they can get their hands on," Fury turned to fully face them, the screen blinking black behind him. "And that was the last we heard from Potter."
Dead silence met his explanation. The assembled Avengers had never been so quiet together.
"Right then," Tony rose to his feet, stowing his phone away as he shoved in his chair. "Give me the last known location you have of Harry and I'll take care of the rest."
Fury raised his eyebrows in challenge. "And what are you gonna do? They're hidden away in the mountains of Alaska. Even Potter couldn't give us an exact location, and we can't pinpoint their position either."
Tony offered a cocky smile for the Director. "And that's where you and I differ. I don't do 'can't'. I got myself out of that hellhole in Afghanistan. With some help on Harry's part. A few mountains in Alaska are nothing. I might even stop for a bit of skiing afterwards. So," He glanced pointedly at Fury. "Location."
"I'm coming too," Steve stepped up beside Tony, and a part of the billionaire had to laugh at the utterly bemused look on the Director's face. It wasn't often that he and the Captain presented a united front.
"Me too," Bruce's voice was quiet but brooked no argument. He would not be left out.
"I remain indebted to Harry for sparing Loki," Thor hefted his hammer. "I too will come."
"Us too," Clint said as Natasha nodded. "Gotta get our partner back."
Fury looked from one face to the next. "Do you have any idea how cold it is over there right now?" He enquired dryly. "We've stopped the search parties because it's at least minus forty over there. Layer windchill on top of that and you'll put yourselves on ice before you even get close. At least wait until winter passes-"
"And he might already be dead by then," Steve cut in. "We have to go now."
Another glance told Fury everything he needed to know and he heaved a resigned sigh as he turned back to the screen and pulled up a picture of a white-capped mountain.
"Dress warm," He told them grimly. "You're going to Mt. McKinley. Trust me; it's no vacation spot, especially this time of year."
Well, Tony thought sardonically. Fury wasn't wrong. This is no vacation spot.
The chill of his surroundings seemed to seep through his suit even though Jarvis has the heating function cranked up to full.
They had arrived yesterday and had been searching for hours. Clint and Natasha commandeered the jet while the rest of them searched on foot or in the air. But even Bruce and Thor had looked more than a little grateful when a break was called and they could get some rest and warm up in the aircraft.
"Anything, Stark?" Steve's voice cut into Tony's thoughts.
"Would I still be freezing my balls off if I found something?" Tony shot back, but it was half-hearted at best. He had been circling above what looked like a cave for a while now. Normally, he would fly closer for a better look but there was something a little off about it that made him keep his distance.
Swerving to the right, he thought he saw a shimmer at the entrance but it disappeared as soon as he blinked. There wasn't anything particularly different about it now. The snow still swirled at the mouth of the cave, slowly adding another layer to the ground. Hesitantly, he scooped up some snow, packing it tightly together before hurling it at the entrance.
He ducked just in time.
"Whoa!" Tony twisted out of the way as the shimmer instantly flashed into existence and a beam of sickly yellow light hurtled back at him, missing him by inches.
"Stark, are you alright?"
"Yeah, fine," He dusted some snow off his armour. "Better than fine. I found a way in. Sort of."
"… What do you mean 'sort of'?"
"This isn't 'sort of', Stark," Steve bit out. "This isn't a way in, period."
"Well did you find anything?" Tony retorted crossly. "At least now we know they're hidden in there somewhere."
"If you two could shut up for five minutes, maybe we can figure out a way to get in," Natasha interrupted, glaring at them from behind her goggles.
Bruce, who had temporarily changed back to human form, peered at the nearly invisible force field. "There's no way we can get in without being noticed."
"So we go in guns blazing?" Tony's shoulder armour rose to reveal several missiles all pointed at the entrance. "Excellent. My favorite kind of plan."
"Stark, no-!" Steve grabbed his arm but Tony had already fired, the missiles making a beeline for the cave.
The resulting explosion had them all diving for cover as the ground shook and the force field retaliated with wild bursts of yellow beams.
"YOU IDIOT!" Steve bellowed above the detonations all around them. "ARE YOU TRYING TO GET US KILLED?"
Tony didn't bother flipping up his helmet as he invaded the Captain's personal space, the metal of his suit mere inches from the super soldier's face. "There is no other way to get Harry out," He said in a harsh cutting tone. "So we might as well stop wasting our time talking about how impossible getting in is and just do it," He shoved Steve away a few steps as the shield began to falter, flickering in and out of existence as the beams it was still shooting became more irregular.
"You don't know what it's like to be captured and locked away," Tony continued coolly. "Harry's been in there long enough. I'm getting him out of there one way or another, even if I have to get rid of every Jhal'harrat who gets in my way."
And as the force field finally dissipated with a hiss, Tony launched himself at the cave without waiting for a reply, attention focused entirely ahead.
Behind him, Bruce immediately transformed, the Hulk ripping through the jacket he had been wearing before charging off after Tony, Thor at his heels.
"Well, I suppose we better go too," Natasha pulled out her guns as Clint notched an arrow to his bow.
Steve only sighed and readied his shield. "Really should've seen this coming."
The entire team eventually found its way to a large cavern, several tunnels branching off and leading further into the mountain. All six almost jumped out of their as a figure made itself known, scuttling out of one of the tunnels, and they all swung around with their weapons raised.
It turned out to be a human.
"Are you here to rescue us?" The man whispered, freckles standing out in his face. He had fiery red hair and blue eyes, a long nose and a somewhat lanky frame.
"You're a captive?" Natasha asked warily, lowering her guns but not putting them away. "There are more of you?"
The man nodded, stepping forward nervously as he kept one eye on Bruce's looming form. "A few of us, yeah. Wait," He glanced back at the tunnel and gestured with one hand. Slowly, a woman with curly brown hair, another girl with red hair, and another man bringing up the rear, slightly round-faced but broad-shouldered, appeared.
"They caught us but we managed to escape," The red-haired man said, licking his lips anxiously. "Can- Can you get us out? All of us? We can lead you to the others."
The Avengers all exchanged looks before Steve stepped forward. "Of course," He nodded. "But could you tell us if they have a man with black hair and green eyes?"
The redhead's eyes brightened as he nodded. "Yeah, there's someone like that. Dunno his name though."
Tony couldn't help the relief that coursed through him at this news but he caught Clint and Natasha sharing narrow-eyed looks with each other out of the corner of his eye.
"Great, we originally came here looking for him," Steve revealed, shifting his shield. "But we'll get the rest of you out as well. I'm Steve. These are my colleagues. Who are you?"
"Ronald," The redhead replied before gesturing at the other three. "This is Hermione, Neville, and Ginny, my younger sister. We've still got a few friends back there. You'll really help them?"
"Definitely," The Captain hesitated. "But we can find our own way. I'm sure you wanna get outta here as soon as possible."
The redhead shook his head hastily. "No, we need to go back for our friends. We can get you there faster."
"Oh, well then…" Steve trailed off, glancing at Natasha and Clint. Obviously, he was better at open combat than infiltration.
"Lead the way," Natasha said smoothly. "But do what we tell you to if we bump into any danger, okay?"
All four of them nodded before they turned and began to walk back the way they had come, leading the Avengers down a sloping tunnel.
As they walked, Tony dropped back beside Clint. "What were you two talking about?" He muttered in a low enough voice that no one else would hear.
Clint glanced briefly at their guides before murmuring back, "What are the odds that four Brits just happen to be captured in Alaska of all places?"
Tony frowned. "Could be here on vacation," He pointed out.
Clint shrugged. "Could be. Seems strange, that's all. And the red-haired woman is Ronald's sister. What kind of a brother would allow his own younger sister right back into the hands of their captives?"
"Maybe they just don't want to be separated," Tony didn't particularly like putting holes in Clint's theories because something about their guides struck him as a little odd as well, but it had to be said.
Clint just nodded at the former captives. "Then what about the fact that they're too relaxed? They're speech patterns match a captive's fear but their postures don't. Maybe they are worrying about their friends, but no prisoner would be hurrying back like that. They're no hostages. I'm willing to stake my life on it."
Tony glanced briefly at Clint before nodding curtly and scooting around to the other Avengers to warn them. None of them seemed too surprised and the Hulk even thumped a fist over his heart once and grunted, "Three heart." This was, luckily enough, covered by Thor who just happened to sneeze when some loose debris showered them from above.
Tony slipped back to the forefront of the group, thrusters ready. He didn't care if they were aliens who accidentally landed on Earth. They had Harry, and that was enough for Tony to label them as the enemy.
In the end, the rescue wasn't actually particularly hard. They had a man in a suit of very technologically-advanced armour, two assassins, a demi-god, a super soldier, and a Hulk. Add the fact that they were expecting an attack and knew how to work together – for the most part – in battle, and the several hundred Jhal'harrat found themselves hopelessly outmatched.
No, the hard part was what they saw when they entered what looked like the main cavern.
Bound and hooked up to some weird-looking device that was attached to an even weirder-looking ship was Harry.
Except he didn't look like Harry. The consultant was literally hanging lifelessly in the shackles that held him up and any colour in his skin had long since fled, leaving the man pale and lifeless. His clothes hung off his starved frame and his hair had grown out, hanging past his shoulder blades now. There was also a pale green glow around him, and it took Tony half a second to trace a golden thread-like beam of energy from Harry's chest to the device to the ship.
The goddamn alien bastards were using Harry as an energy source.
Tony saw red. He wasn't the only one.
The battle was short-lived and almost a bloodbath. The Avengers still had the presence of mind to not kill off every single Jhal'harrat, just the ones that were attacking them, and it took all of ten minutes to pound it into their heads that they could not win before the aliens fled down the tunnels, heading deeper into the mountains.
It took Tony and a de-Hulked Bruce several hours to detach Harry from the machine because it turned out that the shackles around the consultant's wrists had some type of magic-suppressing needles that literally stabbed into him. The trails of blood, still dripping down his arms even after six months, threatened to make Tony lose the lunch he had eaten only a few hours earlier.
"I don't get it," Natasha said in a hushed voice as they finally made it back to the jet after Thor had sealed the entrance with one blow of his hammer at its structure. They had no time to check for more openings but they had called Fury who had told them to come home and that he would send another team in their place to take care of the Jhal'harrat. For once, nobody argued.
"Don't get what?" Bruce asked from where he was sitting by the exam table Harry was lying on, still as death. If it wasn't for the slight rise and fall of his chest and the gut-wrenching rasp he made every time he drew in a breath, they would've thought the immortal had finally been beat.
"Harry's strong, really strong," Natasha reminded. "There's no way the Jhal'harrat could've gotten their hands on him, even if they came at him altogether."
"Maybe it has something to do with those four Brits they shapeshifted into," Tony suggested, voice soft as he cleaning the blood from Harry's right arm and began bandaging it. "They had to get those forms from somewhere, right? Might as well be from Harry's memories. They're telepathic, aren't they?"
"That could be it," Bruce agreed, smoothing out the bandages on Harry's left wrist. "What happened to them anyway? I lost track of them in the battle."
"I got them," Tony said shortly, an edge of dark satisfaction underlying his words. "They had no right changing into those people."
"You killed them because you thought they invaded Harry's mind?" Steve frowned.
Tony shot him a glare. "Would it help if I said they tried to kill me?"
Steve arched an eyebrow at him. "Do you hear me complaining? You seem to forget Harry's just as much my friend as he is yours," The maybe more went unsaid but still heard. "I'm just saying," The Captain continued before Tony could snap at him. "You should probably not mention that in front of the Director."
Tony eyed him suspiciously for a moment before deciding it was too much of a hassle to argue any longer. "Wasn't going to," He said instead, turning his attention back on Harry.
The rest of the flight was silent, only punctuated by Harry's struggling breaths as they transported the consultant home.
It was another two months before Harry finally woke from his coma. On a twenty-four-hour watch, they had managed to figure out that the consultant had been so magically drained and constantly so for six months that it had taken him quite a while to regain enough strength to even wake up.
When he did, the tired faces of the Avengers were the first things he saw.
The hoarse request for water had all of them slumping with relief as Clint ran off for a glass and Natasha dropped her cold demeanour for a moment to wrap Harry in a tight hug.
It was still too soon though, and after a few sips of water, Harry dropped right back to sleep. But his temporary consciousness seemed to alleviate some of the Avengers' fears and they slowly returned to their usual schedule, ducking into the bedroom Tony had set aside for Harry long before the consultant had returned from time to time.
All except Tony.
It was pretty stupid, all things considered; Tony could admit this. But he had never had many friends and protecting himself had always seemed the most important, simply because it was the hardest to do. Pepper wasn't in danger most of the time, Rhodey could take care of himself, and even Happy had some experience with boxing if some fool ever tried to break into one of the chauffeur's cars. And the rest of the Avengers could definitely handle any danger thrown their way.
But Harry was different. Tony didn't know why – of all the people he had to invest his concern in, it was the one who couldn't die; he could definitely see the irony – but he worried about the consultant a hell of a lot more than he worried about himself.
He thought back to the flash of longing he had seen in the immortal's eyes, the very clear and very frightening desire to die, and thought perhaps that that might be why. If Harry didn't want to live, then Tony would just have to give him a reason, show him that life was still worth living even after so many years.
Tony was very good at living after all.
"But where are you going?" Tony asked for the third time as Harry drew on a new sweater, movements still a little shaky from his ordeal. The rest of the Avengers had gathered in the room, silent and still slightly shocked at Harry's decision.
It was another two months since Harry had first woken up and the consultant had insisted on taking off to God-only-knew-where almost immediately.
"Everywhere," Harry said, waving a vague hand in the air. "I just need to move about for a bit. I need some space."
"You can have all the space you want here," Tony persisted. "Stark Tower is so big you could get lost in here for hours. Just ask the Captain; he really did get lost."
Steve sent a mildly annoyed look at Tony but didn't argue otherwise. Anything that might make Harry stay was a good thing.
Harry finally straightened and turned to look at all of them. "Look, I know this is short notice but-" He released a deep sigh, still looking ridiculously small in his clothes. "I just need to get some air. Some… memories were brought up and I just want to clear my head before I come back."
His eyes flickered around the room again before settling on Tony. "I know I already said this, but thank you for coming after me. I wasn't… well, I wasn't expecting a rescue so it came as a pleasant surprise. I'm not sure how I would've gotten out of that situation otherwise."
"You saved us plenty of times," Bruce pointed out with a shadow of a smile. "Besides, we're a team. We couldn't leave you there."
Harry looked taken aback for a moment before his features melted into a small but genuine smile. "Thanks," He said again, and then picked up his bag.
"You'll come back?" Tony knew defeat when he saw it and settled for a promise instead.
Harry paused and looked back at him. His eyes were distant but he nodded firmly, once.
"I'll come back."
And then he was gone, a whisper of his clothing being the only sound he made as he disappeared from sight.
Finished! Hope that entertains you for a while since this will be the last update for the next four days.
Reviews make me happy so after four days of no wifi, coming home to a chunk of them would be excellent! *hinthint*