A/N I must apologise for further delays, I am writing as the scenes come to me in disjointed segments, but you will be pleased to know that I have planned to the end .
Disclaimer: None of the characters are my own.
Neville clambered out of Harry's fireplace and scanned the room. Harry wasn't here and though he could see evidence of George scattered around the room he wasn't there either. The tower that Harry had mentioned at dinner came to. Harry had dubbed it the 'Avengers' tower to which his new friend, 'Tony' had protested genially. Neville apparated to the roof of Harry's building, the height affording him a view of the city. He looked past the signs of repair still going on in the city and made out in the distance a tall, glass tower, the letter 'A' lit up on the side. With a crack he vanished from the gravel roof. He arrived at the base of the tower. He looked up at it for a moment, marveling at its size and complete Muggle-ness, before crossing the pavement and pushing open the front door.
He came to a darkened foyer. He glanced around, it wasn't that late, and the place wasn't locked. He had been under the impression that Muggle buildings stayed lit with their electric lights when open. The door he was walking away from opened.
He spun, his hand on his wand which was tucked into the green, slightly scruffy robes he wore when working in the Green Houses. Two figures stood in the entrance, hands at their sides in a similar position to Neville's that made him certain that they were armed.
"Who are you?" the female one asked, obviously looking at Neville's form of attire, somewhat out of place in Muggle society.
"Neville Longbottom." Neville decided to be upfront, "I'm a friend of Harry Potter's." He stayed poised for action. He knew that these two weren't Wizards, and that no self-respecting Death Eater would stoop to involving Muggles in their plot. But there was something about their stances that kept him on edge. Part of his mind offered the possibility that these two were part of the team that Harry had mentioned at the party. It would make sense.
The man was looking at him carefully, "George mentioned you." He said finally. "What are you doing here?"
"I have a warning for Harry." Neville revealed, part of him relieved that he wasn't about to run foul of two hostile muggles. The American's Ministry were funny about spells being cast on their muggles by foreigners.
The pair exchanged a glance. "Something's wrong." The woman admitted. "Stark never has the lights off at this time."
"Not to mention the distinct lack of people." The man commented.
Neville frowned. He'd come here with a warning, but now his blood quickened when he realised that he may be too late. That he might get a chance to fight. Rudolphus' face flashed in his mind, sneering at him.
"Come on then." He muttered, pulling his wand out in preparation.
"Jarvis, what's the situation?" the man asked. Neville frowned at him. Jarvis didn't sound androgynous, let alone a female name. But the man's companion didn't answer. The silence stretched for a moment.
"Looks like there's no power."
"No shit." The man muttered.
They were discussing further possibilities when Neville, who'd been scanning the room as he walked, noticed something behind a desk. It was a foot, wearing a high heel.
"Here." He said, striding towards the foot. A young woman lay on the floor, her eyes frozen open and her face stricken. Despite knowing already, he pressed to fingers to her throat.
"She's dead." He announced, recognising the cause as he rose. "Avada Kadava."
"The killing curse." Neville said shortly. He nodded at the stairs. "Let's go."
They made their way up the tower. Barton, as he found out the man was called, commented that the lifts wouldn't work, so past a certain floor where the public stairs ended, they searched out the emergency stairs. Neville preferred this he found, who knew whose attention would be drawn by the moving lift.
They moved quickly and quietly. Neville had been correct in his original assumption that the pair were fighters. They moved with experience, the woman, Nat, as Barton called her, pulling a pair of knives from Merlin knew where. Barton had a collapsible bow, and a quiver that had been previously hidden from view. Neville tested each floor with a quick spell for life signs, but came up empty.
"Wait, the lab." Nat murmured several floors up just as Neville had said the floor was devoid of life. Barton nodded and they left the stairs and went down a corridor. They came through a door into a darkened room. Neville could see evidence of experimental potions littering the sides and moving posters on the walls. Aside from that the room was empty.
"Shit." Barton commented eloquently.
"What about Banner." Nat asked, "Surely he would have hulked out if they were attacked."
"Maybe he never got the chance." Barton suggested darkly.
"The guy can spit out bullets!" Nat protested quietly.
"This is magic." Barton pointed out, "We can't know anything for certain." He met Neville's gaze. Neville looked back up the corridor. He guessed the pair was glad not to have found a friends body there.
"We'd better get moving."
They reached the end of the staircase.
"We've got life." Neville informed them as his wand let out a cloud of orange vapour. They nodded and tensed in preparation. The entered the floor and found themselves in a corridor. They tread its length carefully, passing bedrooms as voices became audible from the only light they'd found so far.
Neville recognised a mixture of firelight and Lumos.
They stopped at the corner and took a head count. Harry wasn't there, Neville noted, but Tony was, kneeling next to another man who was lying on the wooden floor. Neville saw the rise and fall of his chest. Both men were bound with ropes, as was the ginger woman trapped next to Tony. She was glaring angrily at her captors with tear tracks on her face while Tony engaged them in conversation. There were six wizards, most of them young, younger at least than the man who led them all, who made Neville's heart freeze in his chest.
It was worse than seeing that sneer in pictures. Rudolphus was taller than he remembered, his appearance more disheveled, making him look more deranged. It was reminiscent of his wife, his black hair dank and tangled, his dark eyes crazed, noticeably so, even from Neville's less than ideal vantage point. His skin was pale and flaky, he'd not seen the sun for a long time while twisted, yellow teeth showed through a ratty beard.
Hatred blazed through Neville, exacerbated by the monsters taunting voice. He found himself angrier than he would have been had the man been perfectly groomed. The bastard had wasted the life that he had bought with his parents sacrifice.
"You get the prisoners while I distract them." He ground out quietly, his eyes on his target.
"There's six of them!" Nat argued.
"Wizards. You'd be useless, I know what I'm doing."
They were unprepared for an attack. Neville took advantage of their distraction in Tony by stunning the one closest as he stepped out from behind the wall. His fellows reacted, spells began to fly and it started.
Tony was lying on the floor bound by ropes that had sprung around him. Pepper was bound next to him, a fact which angered him. These bastards could do what they liked with him, but as soon as she was harmed something ugly in him rose its head. He was struggling with his bonds when he saw a limp figure levitating before him. It was Bruce.
The other man was dropped unceremoniously on the floor and Tony manipulated himself onto his knees to examine the other man. He couldn't put into words the relief he felt when he saw the rise and fall of his chest.
"What did you do to him?" Tony asked, in the most cavalier tone he could muster, but even he could hear the restrained anger in his words.
Their boss, an unkempt man who knew nothing of dental hygiene, or any hygiene at all by the look and smell of it, leered at him. "We did our research."
Tony realised that the man meant in regards to the Hulk. When he lent in to Tony's personal space, Tony was met by a solid wall of noxious odor.
"Well it's good that you are capable of something, 'cause seriously? First impressions, not your thing."
The man's lip rose in a sneer. "God knows what Potter sees in things like you. But then, he always was a muggle loving blood traitor."
"Who killed your boss and stopped your take over." Tony quipped, guessing that this man was one of the Death Eaters that had been mentioned, "I don't see what all the fuss was about if people like you were his competition."
All he knew was agony. It was as though he was drowning whilst on fire, his nerve endings inflamed. He couldn't remember a time when there wasn't pain and someone was screaming. After what felt like hours, the sudden absence of it was shocking, as if he had been drenched in cold water. His body still tingling with the aftermath, he took his bearings as he gulped down lungs of fresh air. He was lying on the wooden planks, covered in a layer of sweat. He became aware of Pepper, sobbing behind him. Pepper. He wiggled to get a better vantage point, he had to know what they had done to her. She was crouched over him, he eyes flickering between him and the threat. He still had a thin stick pointed in their general direction as a cruel smile stretched his face.
"I don't tolerate impertinence. Especially not from vermin." He sneered, allowing his wand to trace small circles in the air.
Tony's mind caught up with events. I recognised the spell as one of the Unforgivables that Harry had mentioned in London. Tony had taken the information in at the time, but only now did he have a full appreciation for how much power this man with a wand had over him. He remembered his question about one of the other Unforgivables, the Killing curse. He realised that his life depended on this bastard's whim. He managed to pull himself to his knees again, to a chorus of laughter from their captors. He cursed his Iron Man remote bracelets, which were sitting on the far counter and Jarvis' ominous silence. Roger's words from the helicarrier echoed through his mind.
Take away the suit, what are you?
He'd answered flippantly at the time, but now he found himself relying on his friends return to get out of this alive. He hadn't felt this helpless since Afganistan. It also threw Harry's battle experiences into perspective. Harry would be walking into a trap, he thought, eyes running over the Death Eaters. They looked young, one was looking slightly nervous even as he joined in his companion's laughter.
Tony needed more information, and to buy time. His body recoiled at the possibility of being subjected to the curse again, but with more ego then self-preservation, he began to look for an angle. A genius billionaire philanthropist… with a knack for pissing people off. Now annoy him enough for him to lose focus, but not enough for him to start throwing around curses.
"Why keep us alive then?" Tony asked, gambling with the hope that he had no intention to kill them. He could have done so several times by now after all.
The man's eyes narrowed as he lent in. Tony held his breath so as not to breathe in the rank air that came with him.
"Potter is going to see his friends suffer, his new life disintegrate and be reminded of what he took from us." There was a cold chill laugh, "Then he'll die with the knowledge that his family are next." He straightened, "With Potter's death, all those that waver at joining us will know that we have the true strength and they will join us in our revenge."
Tony scanned the other men and decided that his captor was delusional. Just to add that extra layer of fun. Sure, while the six wizards here were threatening to a group of muggles and maybe their single-but-extremely-powerful wizard, most of them looked like they were just out of college. Surely no match for the Auror's that he had heard so much about during the barbecue, the survivors against a war with Death Eaters not quite so green about the ears.
"Good luck with that." Tony remarked meeting the dark eyes.
"You should be proud that your Death has meaning." The nut job said imperiously.
A red light shot from the corridor to Tony's left, striking the man just behind their leader and he fell to the ground.
The Death Eaters spun on their heels, raising their wands. Tony was surprised at who stepped around at the corner. The school teacher blocked three spells with a flick of his wrist and sent a couple in return. Tony watched as Neville went on the defensive, spending more time blocking spells then he was sending off his own. Tony recognised it as the only course of action, but he couldn't help but wonder how long the man could keep it up.
He was so absorbed in the light show that he didn't notice the two spies until they cut his ropes. He looked around at Romanov as she cut Pepper's bonds and Barton checked Bruce's pulse.
"We gotta get you out of here." Barton muttered.
"If you cover me, I can get my remotes and repulsor those bastards." Tony pointed out. Barton paused in consideration before nodding once.
He stood and in one smooth action notched and released an arrow. It soared into the fray and struck one of the unsuspecting attackers in the back. He crumpled.
Buoyed by the success, Barton let another arrow fly, but this time the wizard was prepared. He conjured a solid shield and directed a blue dart of light at Barton who dove out of the way. The spell left a small smoldering crater in the pine wood floor and Barton swore. Romanov had pulled Pepper up and pulled her from the battle, leaving Tony and Barton with an unconscious Banner. Tony looked back at the wizard who'd blasted a new hole in his living room as he raised his wand again, having left the onslaught of Neville to his companions.
Just as he began to mouth a spell there was a flash of light and he crumpled. Tony grinned as he recognised the mop of black hair and green eyes that flashed with each spell. George joined him; a steely look on his face that Tony thought was out of place on the usually cheerful man.
Neville felt his heart rise as Harry and George joined him and the spells he had to block decreased, allowing him to take more offensive action. He instead focused his attention on the figure of his nightmares.
Lestrange noticed his particular attention and Neville saw the moment that the monster recognised him. A slow, evil smile revealed his teeth and a gleeful glint entered his black eyes.
Regardless of the other fights, Neville pursued Rudolphus, fire fueling his actions, making up for his recent lack of fighting practice. Then he saw his opening.
Neville saw Rudolphus' wand fly into the air and a surge of glee that surpassed all else passed through him. The man tripped backwards and ended up sprawled on the ground while Neville stood over him, towering over the creature that had helped ruin his childhood.
Neville regarded him dispassionately, the shell of a man lying helpless beneath him. The sneer had gone and Neville thought he could see a trace of fear creeping into the soulless depths of those eyes. He couldn't explain the emotions roiling within him, but they rose until he could hear only the pounding in his ears and see only the decrepit faces of his late parents.
A sudden calm came over him. Without considering his actions he slowly raised his wand and pointed it.
His voice was strong and deliberate as he spoke the curse.
The battle continued with much better odds, except the wizards still in the game appeared to be a lot more talented than their fallen companions, Tony felt a new appreciation for Harry's spell casting ability as he battled two of the remaining Death Eaters, dispatching one as Tony watched.
Then his gaze was caught by Neville who was fighting with a vengeance. Tony had known that he had fought in the war, but had still only seen him as the bashful school teacher. That preconception was shed now as the man fought with a fury against the boss, pushing the man back with his onslaught of spells.
Tony looked back at Harry whose demeanor was cool and focused, almost as if visiting a friends and being forced into a deadly light show was a common place event.
The battles end was sudden, but difficult to place. Tony just became aware that no more spells were being flung; no more Latin words were being shouted over the cacophony. But in the absence of battle, a long, drawn out scream filled the air.
All gazes turned to Neville, standing over the boss who was writhing on the ground, emitting a terrible screech He was barely drawing in gulps of air to keep up with his yells. With a cold certainty, Tony identified the curse as the one that had been used on him earlier.
He looked up at Neville's face, it held a simmering fury beneath the surface and Tony realised that their would-be killer had done him some great wrong.
The other wizards had been standing as if frozen for a moment that seemed to stretch an indeterminable length of time while their friend tortured the deranged man. It was Harry who moved, striding up to Neville and placing a hand on his shoulder. He murmured something into the taller man's ear. Neville showed little sign of having heard him, so Harry spoke again, this time a word that carried across the now silent room.
A/N And on that I must apologise for further delays, I am writing as the scenes come to me in disjointed segments, but you will be pleased to know that I have planned to the end .