I altered something in Thor's conversation with Harryin the last chapter that was grating at me. It isn't anything major, it is refernced in this chapter however, so for continuityk I thought I should point it out.
This chapter was actually a bugger to write, I may come back and rework it in the future, but for now I hope that it goes over well. If I have missed any glaring grammar or spelling errors in my troubleshooting feel free to point them out. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: Don't own any of this.
Harry trailed after Thor, who in turn followed one of the ships personnel who'd been waiting for the Asgardian at the end of the corridor. After a few minutes of navigating the complex's corridors they came to a sliding door which opened to admit Thor and his guide. Harry darted forward quickly to get through the door which closed smoothly behind him.
He was standing on a platform which looked onto rows of computers, their operators buzzing around them. Beyond that was a great expanse of glass, disrupted by a hexagonal frame structure, that looked out into the dark sky
He was standing on a platform which looked onto rows of computers, their operators buzzing around them. Beyond that was a great expanse of glass, disrupted by a hexagonal frame structure, which looked out into the dark sky. Closest to him, in the centre of the platform was a large round table around which stood faces that he recognised. Sat at opposite sides of the table were the red head and the Soldier. Banner stood between them, behind a chair, his arms crossed, his attention on a screen lying on the table. Or one of several screens. At each seat there was a screen, each showing the same picture of Loki, standing in a cube of glass and metal, a fancy cage. Thor barely glanced at the screen before he averted his gaze, choosing instead to stare out of one of the nearby windows. Harry stood beside him, his attention, however, was on the closest screen.
"We thought you'd want to be present." a woman commented from her place next to the biggest and only horizontal screen showing the camera feed on the platform. Thor nodded but kept his gaze trained on the black glass.
"In case it's unclear,"
The deep voice came from speakers around the room while Harry watched the dark skinned man face Loki. Broad-set, in a long black coat and eye patch, the man radiated power, much like Kingsley; Harry suspected that he was in charge on this vessel.
"You try to escape- you so much as scratch that glass-"
The man push a button on the console next to him and Harry's eyes widened as with a whirring, the floor beneath the cell folded away. A whistling came through the speakers as the microphones picked up the wind that the aircraft was cutting through.
"Thirty thousand feet straight down in a steel trap. You get how that works?"
The man held Loki's gaze for a moment longer, gesturing to the control panel for emphasis before he hit a button to close the hole.
"It's an impressive cage." Loki's voice was silky and for some reason unnerved Harry, who'd now edged closer to the screen to get a better look. "Not built for me I think."
"Built for something a lot stronger that you."
Banner stiffened, drawing Harry's attention. He glanced at the man, puzzled before Loki spoke again, in that tone reminiscent of Draco, one that had always made Harry want to hit the blonde boy.
"Oh, I've heard. A mindless beast, makes play he's still a man."
The red head turned her head to look at Banner and Harry looked between them, intrigued. The doctor met her glance with a quick self deprecating smile before looking back at the screen, but Harry could read the tension in him, despite his casual manner.
So this man, like the others; Tony, Thor and the Captain, was special. A beast masquerading as a man so, a werewolf? Or something along those lines. People like that were often misunderstood, he'd heard many of Hermione's rants in regards to their rights, it would explain some of the personnel's actions around the man, he'd noticed that they seemed to be slightly more on edge in his vicinity. But that cage... if that was dropped with a person inside it, that would be devastating. The idea of inflicting such a fate upon a person purely for being a shifter unsettled Harry and caused him to look at the people around him in a new light. He looked back at Banner. Just how willingly was he involved in proceedings?
This could also mean that the red-head had some sort of ability as well, in theory. On the other hand, she was the only one dressed in the same uniform as other military personnel, so perhaps not. He looked back at the screen to realise that he'd missed the guy's response. Loki was now talking again.
"Ooh. It burns you to have come so close, to have the Tesseract, to have power- unlimited power, and for what? A warm light for all of mankind to share? And then to be reminded what real power is."
Harry frowned, Loki's words stirred something in the back of his mind, but he couldn't pinpoint what.
"Well, let me know if 'real power' wants a magazine or something."
Harry watched Fury leave the room, his mind whirring. Around him, the other room's occupants began to stir.
"He really grows on you doesn't he?" Banner said to the room at large looking about at his companions.
"Loki's going to draw this out so," the soldier drew his eyes from the screen to look through Harry at Thor. Even after all these years, the whole thing was somewhat unnerving, "Thor, what's his play?"
Thor continued to look out the window as he replied, "He has an army, called the Chitauri." He turned to look at the others, sparing Harry a glance as he went, "They are not of Asguard or of any world known. He means to lead them against your people. They will win him the Earth, in return I expect for the Tesseract."
"An army. From out of space." Harry couldn't tell whether or not he was detecting cynicism in the soldiers' tone or not, but he himself found himself slightly shocked. But then again, what right does he, a figure who by muggle beliefs shouldn't exist, have to argue against aliens?
Banner took off his glasses and folded them up as he addressed his word to the soldier, who appeared to be the leader here, "He's building himself another portal. That's what he need Eric Selvig for." The doctor gestured towards Thor but the statement rang bells for Harry as well. Didn't Hermione ask him about an 'Eric'? what were the chances that this was the same man. Knowing his luck, higher than average.
Thor also perked up at the mention of the name, "Selvig?"
"He's an astrophysicist," Banner clarified.
"He's a friend," Thor countered.
"Loki has him under some form of mind control. Some kind of spell. Along with one of ours." The red head added. Mind control? Like the imperius curse? Or something to do with this twisting of nature he was here to investigate. However it was done then, it was even more 'unforgivable' than the mind curse. It's not as if he was aware of every time that particular spell was cast.
"I wanna know why Loki let us take him. He's not leading an army from here." The soldier cast a cursory glance around the room, to exaggerate his point. Which was a very good one.
"Look, I don't think you should be focussing on Loki." contributed Banner, "That guys brain is a bag of cats. You can smell crazy on him."
Harry let a wry grin cross his face, reminded for some inexorable reason of Mrs Figgs. Thor was less impressed though as he took an offended step forwards.
"Have care how you speak! Loki is beyond reason but he is of Asguard and he is my brother."
"He killed eighty people in two days," the redhead commented blandly, rolling her eyes to look up at Thor who thought for a moment before replying carefully.
"I think it's about the mechanics." Banner asserted, "Irridium. What do they need the irridium for?"
Movement caught Harry's eye and he froze as he saw Tony, complete with suit, saunter through the door and into the room, just in time to cut over Banners words.
"It's a stabilizing agent." Tony then turned his attention to the man next to him whom Harry recognised as Agent Coulson and muttered something to him about flying him somewhere. Coulson replied and Tony conceded that it was the other man's love life before he turned his attention back to the room at large. "Which he needs, so the portal wont collapse itself like it did as S.H.I.E.L.D."
He made a placating gesture at Thor, "No hard feelings big fella, you've got a mean swing." He pated the man on the arm before walking on. Harry had to move to avoid his friend as he strutted to the edge of the platform as he continued, "Also, means that the portal can open as wide and stay open as long as Loki wants."
He gave an order to the people at the terminals and they stopped to look at him.
"That man is playing Gallagah!" he exclaimed, pointing to a man on the far side of the room. "Thought we wouldn't notice, but we did." He added at a lower volume, cavalierly eyeing the screens. Before frowning and covering one eye.
"How does Fury even see these?" He asked the agent to Harry's right, pointing to the screens closest to the covered eye.
"He turns." supplied the Agent in a matter of fact tone.
Harry rolled his eyes, the whole thing was so typically Tony, the whole 'cock of the walk' attitude, commanding the attention of the room. Fury must be the man who'd been interviewing Loki.
He fiddled with something on the screens, not looking at the audience that he knew were hanging on to every word.
"The rest of the raw materials he can get his hands on, pretty easily. The only major component he needs is a power source of high energy density. Something to…" He clicked his fingers, "Kick start the cube."
"When did you become an expert in thermonuclear astrophysics?" the agent asked cynically.
"Last night." Tony replied and when he got a confused look he continued, "The packet. Selvig's notes. The extraction theory papers? Am I the only one who did the reading!?" He asked in disbelief of the room. Of course his serious demeanour wouldn't hold for long.
"Does Loki need any particular kind of power source?" asked the soldier, having turned his charit to follow Tony as he strolled around the room.
It was Banner who answered however, still fiddling with his glasses, "He'd have to heat the cube to a hundred and twenty million kelvin just to break through the cooling barrier."
Tony directed his 'that's-obvious-class-how-couldn't-you-know-that' attitude to the others and countered, "Unless Selvig has figured out how to stabilize the Quantum tunnelling effect."
"Well if he could do that, he could achieve heavy ion fusion at any reactor on the planet." Banner replied, stepping in Tony's direction.
"Finally, "Tony exclaimed, striding towards Banner, "Someone who speaks English.", Holding out his hand for the other scientist to shake.
"Is that what just happened?" asked the soldier.
Harry was inclined to agree with him, he'd been lost the moment 'kelvin' had been brought in to the conversation. He took comfort in the fact that should he ever have to enter into a discussion in the uses of murtlap essence, Tony would be just as lost as he was.
"It's good to meet you Doctor, "Tony greeted, "Your work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I'm a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into a enormous green rage monster."
Green rage monster? That was new, and obviously the reason for all of the sidelong looks from the red head.
Banner didn't seem to know quite what to make of Tony's words but settled on a "Thanks."
"Dr Banner is only here to check the cube." Stated the man from the interview, Fury, as he strode into the room. "I was hoping you might join him."
The two scientists looked at each other appraisingly while the soldier spoke,
"What about that stick? It may be magical, but it works an awful lot like a HYDRA weapon."
The stick had power, yes, but it wasn't anything like magic.
"I don't know about that, "Fury replied, "But it is powered by the cube. And I'd like to know how Loki used it to turn two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys."
"Monkeys?" asked Thor, "I do not understand."
"I do!" exclaimed the soldier excitedly. The others exchanged glances while he shifted slightly. "I understood that reference."
"Shall we play doctor?" asked Tony.
Bruce nodded and gestured out the door Harry had come through, "This way sir."
Harry watched his friend leave the room, trying to decide what to do next. His decision was made for him as Thor stepped past him, muttering, "With me."
Harry followed him out of the room only to be shooed down a side corridor where threre weren't any people. The Asguardian turned on him.
"Do you not plan to reveal yourself?"
"Erm," Harry hadn't considered it. On one hand, he now knew that he had to stick around until they found the cube, in that he was useless. He could only track it through use and it was fairly dormant at the moment, just a faint prickling at the back of his mind. And point me spells were only good if you were in a close vicinity. He also wasn't looking forward to Tony finding out about his presence on board.
"There is nothing trustworthy about a man who hides in the shadows." Thor remarked, a brusqueness to his tone that didn't bode well for the man keeping his secret. Thor fixed his gaze a foot or so above Harry's head. Although not directly pointed at him, it had the desired effect. Plus it was probably better for him to reveal himself rather than have it done for him.
"Fine." Sighed Harry. "Lead the way."
A triumphant grin spread across Thor's face as he bowed his head and brushed past Harry back onto the bridge. He paused before entering the room to remove his cloak; there was no need for him to pull an appearing act, no point in unduly startling the armed soldiers; and tucked it away.
He was hidden by Thor's bulk as the Asgardian spoke to the room beyond.
"We have another ally in the search for the Tesseract."
Thor half-turned to look back at Harry, still smiling. Now that he was visible, was incredibly conscious of how diminutive he was compared to the big man. As predicted, the military personnel, basically the agent and the red head had their weapons out. The soldier came to his feet in surprise, his body tensed for action. His eyes widened in recognition after a moment and his mouth opened in an 'o' of surprise. Coulson had the least obvious reaction, surprise appearing on his face only temporarily before being replaced by what looked like self-satisfaction before that was in turn was covered by an impassive neutral expression.
"Wha- You're Stark's friend!"
Harry gave an awkward wave, "Yeah, that's me. Nice to see you again."
"How'd you get on the carrier." Spat the red head, her weapon still trained on Harry.
"How about," Coulson smoothly overrode whatever answer Harry was going to formulate, "we page the others. I think Stark especially will want to hear this. You can lower your weapons."
The women did, albeit hesitantly while the soldier remained standing.
"Please do take a seat." Coulson gestured towards the table, before speaking into his earpiece, summoning Stark, Banner and Fury to the bridge.
Harry knew what was coming, but that didn't make him any less nervous as he waited for Tony to show up. He didn't think that the man would take kindly to finding out that his friend had kept such a massive thing from him for the past few months. Tony was his friend, the only one to reach out to him once he'd essentially isolated himself. He hadn't known him as long as say, Hermione or Ron, but he really liked him what with his snarky wit and eccentric personality. And now this fundamental secret risked destroying everything. But he needed to get to the Tesseract and this was the best option all around. Hopefully he and Tony could work past it, Merlin knows Tony was stubborn enough to get to know Harry, the least he deserved in return was the same persistence to keep it going.
It suddenly hit him that while he considered Tony a friend, he was just another person to watch grow old and sooner or later die. And that's how it would always be. Feeling like he'd been punched in the stomach, he contemplated anew his immortality and the relationships that he could form, all of the ups and downs and the futility of them. It had hurt enough to lose his friends in the war, could he really stand doing the same for the rest of his abnormal life?
On the other hand, what if he adapted? Got used to losing those he loved. What sort of monster would he be, to look upon the loss of life with indifference?
While Harry wallowed, the silence in the room was deafening, no one moving as they waited for the summoned. Too soon, the door slid open.
"Honestly, we're not miracle workers- well I am, but even Moses would be pushed to... Harry?"
Harry stiffened and turned to look at his friend.
"Hey Tony. What are the chances?" the words slipped out a moment before Harry realised that blasé probably wasn't the best tactic at the moment.
"What's going on?" Tony asked tersely, his glancing at Coulson, "Why were you brought here?"
Harry opened his mouth to answer when the soldier cut across him.
"Actually I'm under the impression that he brought himself here."
Tony's brow crinkled into a frown, "What...?"
Harry decided to break in here. "I have talents, Tony, and I want to find out what happened to my friend." He wasn't happy with his wording, but if he could sidestep around the whole 'society of magical people' thing, it would be better, at least less illegal.
"Talents." The word fell heavily, "Like what?" There was a hardness to Tony's tone that didn't bode well.
For some reason, the word magic was hard to say, especially surrounded by all of these people. Harry hadn't found himself so tongue tied since he'd tried to ask Cho to the Yule ball. The secrecy of magic had been ingrained in him, over many years, and here he was trying to tell a room of strangers and Tony about it.
Tony took the silence that accompanied his internal struggle as unwillingness to talk and sighed, instead he looked at Coulson.
"A well connected PI's parlour tricks can't stand up to Loki. I'd suggest you take him back. He's no use to S.H.I.E.L.D."
Harry frowned. The Tony he knew would usually be pestering him for the truth at this point, not dismissing him. And then he realised, 'no use to S.H.I.E.L.D', he was trying to protect him from this military body that had so far rounded up five of the most powerful muggles in the world. But Tony didn't seem to think that whatever Harry was capable of would be helpful in the grand scheme of things, otherwise he would have considered letting him help. As it was, he probably thought that Harry could just appa... teleport, looking at his ability to show up on the other side of the world all too quickly.
"On the contrary, a Warlock could turn the tide of battle against Loki." Thor interjected, either defending him or possibly fed up with Harry's impression of a mute. He couldn't tell.
The room did a double take,
"I'm sorry, a what?" the soldier sputtered, "A warlock?"
Banner scoffed while Tony snorted.
"I actually call myself a wizard."
Harry's words were quiet but cut through the others disbelief. Suddenly all of their attention was back on Harry. There was a pause before,
Harry met Tony's eyes and nodded, "I wouldn't joke about this. Not now."
"Can you prove it?"
Harry tore his gaze from Tony's enquiring, hurt eyes to look at the redhead who eyed him suspiciously.
Possibilities flitted through Harry's mind and settled on flicking his fingers in mimicry of the wand movement and murmured,
A flame alit upon his fingers, hovering over his palm and the other occupants reared back in surprise, or shifted, if they had a good poker face. The redhead's hand twitched towards her weapon. He didn't look at Tony, instead focussing on the flame before extinguishing it. He continued to stare at where the flame had been until,
"Can you just conjure flames? Or is there other stuff." Scepticism was retained in Banners's voice. Of course, he was in a room of super powered people, who's to say there wasn't one out there that could create flame, it didn't necessarily mean magic.
He looked around but saw nothing that wasn't well secured down, or safe to levitate in a cramped space with so many people. He was tempted to try transfiguration, but that was never his strong suit and unfortunately he'd never learnt Hermione's nifty bird-making trick. Not to mention, it had to be something that couldn't be passed off as a random super power. He could try his animagus, but that would leave him having to explain about phoenix's. He stood slowly.
"Okay, so just, remember, it won't hurt you." And before any of them could speak he raised his hand. He thought about introducing Tony to all of his friends, everything out in the open.
The silver stag erupted from his hand, landing lightly on the floor in front of him. It rolled it's head, looking around as it stood amongst them all in resplendent silver.
Nobody spoke for a moment, and it was the soldier who broke the silence.
"What is it?"
Harry stroked the patronus' flank, as it wasn't carrying a message, it was perfectly tangible and answered the soldier.
"A patronus is the embodiment of a happy thought or memory. It's for protection," he nearly mentioned the messages, but stopped himself when he realised that that would imply that there were others to send messages to. He refrained from motioning Dementors for much the same reason.
Banner stepped forward, holding his palm out, as one would do when approaching a horse. The stag nuzzled Banners palm and the man smiled gently,
"It's beautiful." He murmured as the stag dissolved, the light fading.
"So what, magic's real?" the soldier tried to clarify.
"They say that magic is merely science we don't understand yet." Tony contributed. Was his tone actually sullen, or was Harry just projecting?
"That's all very well," the soldier stood, asserting his leadership, "but these... tricks, can they be used in battle? Not to mention, no offence meant Mr Evans, but you look a little young to be involved in such a fight."
There was a small scoff from Tony's corner accompanied by something that sounded like, "Pot meet Kettle," while a door slid open and Director Fury stood on the threshold. His eye took in the scene before him, and settled on Harry.
A smile more akin to a smirk graced his mouth, "Ah, Mr Potter. How good of you to join us."
Harry stiffened at hearing his surname, eyeing Fury warily even as a handful of the others started in surprise.
"You were expecting me." Harry noted, trying to portray none of the unsettlement that was roiling in his gut.
"Potter? I thought his name was Evans." questioned the soldier as he looked between Harry and Fury. Tony didn't comment but continued to watch the scene impassively, quiet for the first time that Harry had known him.
"You are younger than I expected." Fury commented offhandedly, and Harry had to catch his surprise before it shown on his face.
"How do you know me?"
Fury let a small half smile cross his lips before he answered wryly, "What kind of Intelligence expert would I be if I didn't recognise the Chosen One of the Wizarding World?"
Well that's his attempt at a degree of subtlety dead. On cue, the others in the room began to speak.
And the more simple exclamation: "What?"
Fury silenced hem as he spoke again. "While this has been a nice diversion, I don't believe that we have time to address the topic now. We need to find the Tesseract, so get to it. Potter, with me." And with that, Fury dismissed the room, leaving with a bemused Harry in his wake.
Harry shot a glance backwards at the rooms occupants, all of whom were staring at him with different levels of interest and defensiveness. Tony was leaning against the far wall, arms crossed, staring at him as though he were a new problem to solve.
"You enjoyed that." Harry shot at Fury upon entering a room that must have been Fury's office. Fury walked behind his desk and raised an eyebrow at Harry, who scoffed.
"Yeah, don't give me the eyebrow. I know your type; outwardly impassive while laughing at everyone on the inside. So what was the point in that? What did you gain?"
Fury put his palms on his desk and leaned forward.
"You can be useful. They needed to know that and as you strike an unassuming persona, they needed to know that quickly. The great war is a bit too large a kettle of fish to be tackling at this stage of the operation."
Harry had to concede, the move made sense, but it left him with a major mess to clear up.
"What about the Statute? As a muggle in the know, you just broke the law."
"I'll square it with your Minister." Fury stated as he straightened. "Is that all?"
It took a beat for Harry to process the man's sheer confidence that he'd be able to gloss the whole thing over with Kingsley, as well as the basic concept of the man knowing Kingsley to that extent before he answered.
"No. All that's left is to find the Tesseract. Loki's locked up, you have the staff. You have the means to find the device and settle the matter. Why am I so important?"
Harry knew why he wanted to be there, but he needed to know why Fury wanted him, especially enough to out him.
Fury looked at him, "What do you think?"
Harry sighed, "I think that capturing Loki was too easy."
Fury nodded. "My men are still under his thrall. It's never over that quickly."
Harry nodded and received a small device that Fury held out for him. It was one of the earpieces that the others were wearing.
"I need to talk to Loki."
"Hermione Weasley," Harry started, watching for a flicker of recognition. It was hidden, but Harry was not disappointed, "The artefact she was examining, it was the Tesseract wasn't it. She mentioned Eric Selvig."
Fury gestured towards the door," I suggest that you talk to Agent Coulson for details on that matter Mr Potter, these are busy times and I have matters I must attend to."
Harry accepted the dismissal and left the room, nodding at Fury as he did so before walking away to assess what he knew.
Fury wasn't telling him everything, that was for sure, but on the other side of the scale, Harry wasn't telling him everything either; like how he planned to destroy the staff and most likely the Tesseract when the time came. Then again, he was expecting Harry to show up, so maybe he was... no, it must be his connections to Tony that had alerted Fury to his presence. The only other thing connecting him to the case was the staff's effect on Death and the natural order, which Fury couldn't possibly know of.
As the former Head Auror, he knew the importance of a functioning team and the decisions the leader had to make and for that reason, he was hesitant to just blast his way through Fury to find out what he needed, and risk messing up the entire affair and so he was happy to follow Fury's direction until it suited him to do otherwise or Fury gave him a reason not to. Harry knew Fury would know that, and had seen firsthand what Fury had prepared for one he didn't feel that he could control.
Harry came to a halt beside a door. His gut told him that this was where Loki was stashed and he was inclined to agree with it. He walked into the door's sensors and it swept open, letting him into the room he saw earlier on screen. He spared a quick towards the camera in question before looking at the God.
Loki was staring at Harry with a strange smile on his face.
"Warlock." He acknowledged, with a tilt of the head."
"Murderer." Harry returned, casting a quick Muffliato once Loki was in range.
Loki's eyes twinkled, "It's not murder if it's cattle."
"You remind me of someone I knew." Harry remarked casually, "Powerful, in control, criminally insane. He's dead now. I killed him."
"Interesting attempt at power play," Loki conceded, nodding, "but completely useless. We both know where the real power is."
"The staff, right?" Harry checked, not waiting for Loki to respond before continuing, "It's not your power though. Is it? Where did you get it?"
Loki didn't answer but continued to observe Harry.
"You see what I think," Harry continued, "What I think is that someone gave you that power. I think that if they find out what is going on down here, they won't be happy. Trust me when I say that the price dealt out by someone with that much power... well you can see how that'll go. On your own, you won't stand a chance,"
Loki sat forward, a sly grin on his face, "And what about the price for your power Warlock?"
Harry allowed a ghost of a smile to cross his lips even as his stomach clenched, "You can call me Potter."
He regarded Loki for a moment longer but felt only traces of the Tesseract energy clinging to him, probably a connection to the staff. Having hopefully given the man food for thought, and recognising that he wouldn't get anything out of the god without resorting to other methods of persuasion, he nodded good day, cancelled the spell and walked from the room. Outside, he tried to figure out what to do next. He was right in his suppositions, he knew it. The Chitauri didn't sound like more than foot soldiers, and something about Loki screamed 'pawn', though Harry couldn't place his finger on what.
He walked the corridors back to the original lab with the staff, figuring correctly that that was where he would find Banner and by extension Tony, who had at some point found time to change out of his suit. When he came to the door, they were deep at work, words from a conversation just ended hanging between them. The tension was palpable.
"Ah, Mr Evans, or should I say Potter?" Tony quipped with a flourish when he saw Harry, "Good of you to join us."
Harry nodded and murmured a quick "Hi" to Banner who nodded in acknowledgement before ducking back into his work, his eyes flicking between Harry and Tony at regular intervals.
"So, a wizard." Tony stated, looking at Harry.
"A real, God-honest, wand twirling, broom riding wizard."
"We have robes too."
Tony let out a bark of laughter which grew, setting Harry off. That was when Harry knew that he and Tony were still friends, despite the lie.
Tony quietened into a deep chuckle as he looked at Harry, "So there's a whole world of you? Oh I know, is every Brit secretly a wizard?"
Harry shook his head, "We're all over the world, but there's not actually that many of us. The wizard:muggle ratio is more than slightly weighted."
Tony peppered Harry with questions as he and Banner continued working, mostly about the basics of the wizarding world that had amazed Harry when he'd first been introduced to it. None of the questions were too personal which Harry noted; realising that it be would be a long time before Tony's curiosity was truly sated. As it was, Tony's questions were backed by a scientist's pure fascination with something hitherto unexplored. Banner too let his curiosity get the better of him, and was soon as involved in the discussion as Tony.
"There are all sorts of magical creatures," Harry found himself saying half an hour later, "Probably just as many breeds as there are Muggle I would imagine. Centaurs. Hippogriffs. Grindylows."
"Are you sure that you're not just making up words." Tony piped up.
Harry smiled, "A Hippogriff has the head of a bird and the rear of a horse. Grindalows are spindly creatures that lurk in bodies of water and drag people to their watery graves. Then there are Boggarts or Blast Ended Skrewts, Bowtruckles and hundreds more that I don't know. A friend of mine once bought Flesh-Eating Slug Repellent and I still haven't figured out whether it repels flesh-eating slugs or whether it repels slugs by eating their flesh."
"What about the more conventional mythical creatures?" Banner asked while Tony sputtered over the concept of flesh eating slugs."
"Well I mentioned, Centaurs. There are also Giants, Dragons, Trolls, and Vampires. Not to mention Werewolves. "
"Have you ever met any?" Asked Banner the excitement of new discovery tinging his voice.
"Well, the forests at my school had I believe the largest herd of centaur in the UK, and I ran into them a couple of times, one of them actually became a teacher at one point. A troll was released at Halloween once and attacked a friend of mine. I was set up against a Hungarian Horntail once in the Tournament, that's a breed of dragon… Most of my interactions with vampires happened when I was with the Aurors…" He suddenly realised that if he spoke too much of his time after he left Hogwarts then they would notice the age discrepancy. "And, uh, I've met several werewolves. My old professor and a good friend was one."
"You were friends with your teacher? Nerd." Tony snorted.
Harry recalled tales of the Marauders and smiled ruefully, "I think you'd have liked him."
"So people don't care that they turn into wolves?" Banner asked, curiously.
It suddenly occurred to Harry why Banner was taking this line of questioning.
"Not completely." Harry told the scientist honestly. "There were some pretty nasty Anti-Werewolf Legislations and a fair degree of prejudice amongst some groups and it can be difficult for them to get jobs. My friend, the one I'm here for was involved in overturning several of the unfair laws and fighting for the rights of Half-Breeds all over the UK. The Minister of Magic is very pro such movements at the moment, so is most of the country. Anything to rebel against Voldemort's regime."
"Okay, so everything you say at the moment brings up at least a dozen more questions." Tony informed him while Banner mulled Harry's words over, "So I've decided that the easiest thing to do is make a list and tackle each thing once at a time. You mentioned a school?"
Harry nodded, "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Speaks for itself. It's the British Magic Academy, but there are others all over the world.
"What sort of name is Hogwarts?" Tony snorted.
Harry shrugged, "You'd have to ask the founders. Or Hermione." He added as an afterthought figuring that the answer was probably somewhere in 'Hogwarts: A History'.
"What about the Dragon Tournament."
"Ah, that's between three Wizard Schools. Each has a champion and they go through three trials to win the cup which comes with money and great prestige." Harry pushed aside the flash of green light and Cedric's dead eyes as he forced a smile. "Hogwarts hosted it for the first time after a century. It'd been cancelled because too many champions died."
"You have to wonder why when they pit you against dragons." Banner commented wryly, "So you were one of the three champions?"
Harry grinned with a nonchalance he didn't feel. "Nah, I was the controversial forth."
Tony chuckled, "Always a rebel then?"
"You've no idea."
A computer beeped and Tony's head jerked in the direction of the noise. Banner in turn looked towards the screen nearest the sceptre making his way towards it even as Tony reached the device and began tapping at the screen.
"What's going on?"
"I put a bug on Fury's system." Tony explained, eyes not leaving the screen. "There's something he's not telling us."
Banner left his monitor with a nod of confirmation and went around the desk to Tony's side.
Fury marched into the room a few minutes later to find the two scientists still there while Harry perched on the desk next to them.
"What are you doing Mr Stark?"
"Uhm, "Tony prevaricated, "Kinda been wondering the same thing about you."
Fury's expression if possible became even less impressed.
"You're supposed to be locating the Tesseract."
"We are." Banner chipped in, "The model's locked and we're scanning for the signature now. When we get a hit, we'll have the location within half a mile."
"Yeah, we'll get your cube back. No muss. No fuss."
Harry looked away from the screen in question as Tony's beeped.
"What is Phase 2?"
Harry noticed the soldier he now knew to be called Rodgers enter the room, carrying something he likened to a large gun. He placed it heavily on the table.
"Phase 2 is S.H.I.E.L.D uses the cube to make weapons." He looked over at Tony, "Sorry the computers were moving a little slow for me."
"We gathered everything related to the Tesseract," Fury started to placate Rodgers, "it does not mean-"
"I'm sorry Nick." Tony swivelled the screen, "What were you lying?"
"I was wrong Director," Rodgers asserted as Thor and Romanov entered the room, "The world hasn't changed a bit."
"Did you know about this?" Banner asked of Romanov, gesturing to the weapons. Harry slid to his feet as he felt the tensions rising in the room.
"You want to think about removing yourself from this environment Doctor?" the Agent asked condescendingly in Harrys opinion. It was more likely to get Banners back up than calm him. He looked round to Banner who chuckled.
"I was in Calcutta. I was pretty well removed."
"Loki is manipulating you."
"And you've been doing what exactly?"
"You didn't come here because I bat my eyelashes-"
Harry found himself in-between them and could see where this was going.
"Look bickering won't help anyone."
"I'm not leaving because she'd getting a little twitchy." Banner asserted and Harry accepted this. "What I want to know is why S.H.I.E.L.D is using the Tesseract to build weapons of mass destruction."
His eyes flickered between Fury and Romanov. Harry stepped back, unsure of whether to meddle in muggle affairs here. He was on unfamiliar ground here; a Wizard's weapon was more often than not his wand, how dangerous it was depended on how skilled you were with it. Dangerously enchanted objects influence weren't as wide spread as was suggested by the term mass destruction, and he'd been somewhat detached by muggle politics, even during his recent emersion in their world.
The silence was held for a moment before he raised an arm and pointed it at Thor with the damning words "Because of him."
Thor looked startled, "Me?"
"Last year earth had a visitor from another planet who had a grudge match that nearly levelled a small town. We learned that not only are we not alone, but we are hopelessly, hilariously outgunned."
"My people want nothing but peace with your planet." Thor interjected.
"But you're not the only people out there are you? And you're not the only threat. Your war," He directed his gaze at Harry, "Killed nearly as many humans as it did your kind. If not more. And we couldn't do anything to defend ourselves." Harry stiffened, also noting the implication that he wasn't human.
"We did what we could." He retorted.
"What you could wasn't good enough. Your government toppled at the first sign of opposition and it was the rest of the world that suffered, for the whole merry year during which you vanished." He didn't leave Harry time to respond before ploughing on. "The world's filling up with people who can't be matched, that can't be controlled."
"Like you controlled the cube?" Rodgers questioned.
"Your work with the Tesseract is what drew Loki to it and his allies. It is a signal to all the realms that the Earth is ready for a higher form of war."
Rodgers looked at Thor in shock, "A higher form?"
"You forced our hand. We had to come up with something-"
"A nuclear deterrent." Tony cut across Fury's argument, sounding unimpressed, "cause that always calms everything right down."
"Remind me again how you made your fortune Stark?" Fury directed at Tony. He was obviously getting riled up if he was getting personal with the jibes.
"I'm sure that if he still made weapons, Stark would be neck deep."
"I'm sorry how is this now about me?"
"I'm sorry isn't everything?"
Blood was rising, everybody getting worked up. This was what Loki wanted. Harry pushed down the bile that had risen at Fury's comment regarding the war and tried to calm himself, but the annoyance was catching and it was tricky.
"I thought humans were more evolved than this." Thor remarked to Fury who closed his eyes and drew in a breath before rounding on Thor,
"Excuse me! Did we go to your planet and blow stuff up?"
In a matter of moments the room had detiorated into a mass of bickering. Each person with a strong personality and own way of doing things, thrown together and told to play nice, none of which willing to completely share the reigns.
Unease was rising within Harry and he wasn't entirely sure if it was the situation. Death had materialised beside the sceptre and raised an eyebrow at Harry who shot him a look back. He shrugged and bent to examine the sceptre and Harry turned his attention back to the fighters.
"Shut up!" he shouted over the others, who seemed not to hear him.
"Sonorus." He muttered before bellowing, "SHUT UP!"
That got their attention.
"Quietus." Harry muttered as the others stared at him. "Trust me when I say fighting doesn't help. It just causes chaos and if we want to beat him we need to work together."
"For all he speaks of control, he causes chaos." Thor stated, looked at Fury.
"That's his MO isn't it?" asked Banner, drawing the room's gazes. He ploughed on, "I mean what are we, a team? Ah, no no no. We're a chemical mixture that makes chaos. We're- we're a time bomb."
"You, need to step away." Fury walked towards Banner.
"Why shouldn't the guy let off a little steam?" Tony asked nonchalantly, placing his hand on Rodger's shoulder only to have it batted away.
"You know damn well why! Back off!"
Tony met Rodgers glare, "Oh, I'm starting to want you to make me."
Rodgers circled Tony, "Oh yeah, the big man in a suit of armour." Harry watched warily, knowing that Tony could handle himself. "Take that off, what are you?" Rodgers challenged.
"Genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist." Tony riposted. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Romanov acknowledge the statement.
"I know guys with none of that worth ten of you." Rodgers continued, "I've seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself." Harry gritted his teeth on Tony's behalf while his friends face remained blank. "You're not one to make the suicide play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you."
Harry was brought back to the forest, with Voldemort's quavering voice, the hateful eyes and the green light. Rodgers didn't know Tony. Beneath his brash exterior, Tony cared. Harry could see him dying for people, especially ones he cared about, like Pepper. It's one of the reasons he stopped making weapons and donned the suit himself. Even so Tony would probably come up with option number three if he could.
"I'd rather just cut the wire." Tony confirmed Harry's thoughts.
Rodgers smirked as if he'd proved a point, "Always a way out. You know you may not be a threat but you'd better stop pretending to be a hero."
Harry took a step forward and opened his mouth to protest but Tony beat him to it.
"A hero. Like you, you mean? You're a laboratory experiment. Everything special about you came out of a bottle."
The niggling feeling was increasing in the back of Harry's mind, like an annoying buzzing that wouldn't settle. He shook it off as they continued to square off against each other.
"Put on the suit. Let's go a few rounds."
Next to him, Thor started a deep throated laugh, "You people are so petty. And tiny." He added as an afterthought.
"Yeah, this is a team." muttered Banner behind Harry as Fury ordered Romanov to escort Banner from the room.
"Where?" Banner asked, "You rented my room."
Fury began to defend the cage as Harry remembered with a sickened feeling that it had been meant for Banner. He'd known that before, but now that he had gotten to know the man, and his genuine curiosity, the whole thing seemed more barbaric. Like executing a hippogriff for being provoked.
"In case you needed to kill me!" Banner asserted, "But you can't, I know, I tried."
Harry felt the room freeze and direct their attention on Banner, even Tony's bravado deflating. He took in their gazes and ploughed on, "I got low, I didn't see an end, so I put a bullet through my mouth and the Other Guy spit it out. So I moved on. I focussed on helping other people, I was good."
A cold nugget rested in Harry's belly. He understood to some degree the feeling of hopelessness, of not seeing an end. Maybe he didn't turn into a monster, but he still feared his connection with Death, on some level. But any thoughts of escape were futile so he focussed on doing what he could to help people with his experience, just like Banner. Could the other man simply not die by outside means? Or had he stopped aging as well? Had Harry found someone in the same boat as him?
"Until you dragged me into this freak show and put everyone here at risk." He looked at Romanov, "You wanted to know my secret Agent Romanov, you want to know how I stay calm."
The room shifted, those with weapons reaching for them, except Harry who remained where he stood ready to react if need be but willing to give the man before him the benefit of the doubt.
"Dr Banner," Rodgers murmured, "Put the sceptre down."
Banner looked at the device as if he hadn't even noticed that he'd picked it up. He looked back up to the group, a questioning look in his gaze when a beep sounded across the room.
The tension broke.
"We got it." Fury stated while Banner placed the sceptre back on the table and walked over to the console.
"Sorry kids, you don't get to see my party trick after all."
"You've located the Tesseract." Thor asserted while watching Banner check the screen.
Bickering started up again, Thor stating that the cube belonged on Asguard while Tony and Rodgers argued about who could get there faster. Harry realised that Thor may have a problem with Harry's plan to somehow destroy the Tesseract- he was currently toying with the idea of tossing it through the Veil in a curse box- but then again, if it was pure energy, was it safe to have it floating around whatever realm lay on the other side, or would it be possible to destroy in the first instance?
Rodgers reissued his challenge and Tony, being Tony didn't back down.
A quiet exclamation from Banner drew Harry's attention.
"Oh my god."
The Helicarrier shook and a mushroom of fire erupted in the centre of the room , throwing Harry into a metal table while crashes and yells echoed around him.
He lay there for a moment before raising himself on his elbows to look around . Tony and Rodgers who hadn't been as close to the explosion were already up.
"Put on the suit."
He watched the two scramble from the room as he too stood, assessing the damage, while he listened to Fury and Hill on the Comms. Fury left the room, as did Thor, leaving Harry by himself in the wrecked lab. Wait, that wasn't right. Where were Banner and Romanov? He glanced around and saw a shattered window. He strode up to it and looked through it. He glanced down and saw that a section of mesh floor and fallen through, beneath which he could make out the fiery red hair of the S.H.E.I.L.D agent in question. She didn't appear to be moving.
Avoiding any particularly sharp shards of glass he manoeuvred himself through the window and perched on the edge of the hole.
"Agent Romanov, are you okay?"
She looked up at him, which was a relief but her gaze didn't linger for longer than a moment before it darted back down to something beyond Harry's field of vision.
"I'm fine, but trapped. Dr Banner…"
Harry was through had slid through the whole in a moment, using a quiet arresto momentum to ensure that he didn't land to hard. He came to a crouch next to the Agent, turning his head to follow her gaze towards where Banner was.
The man had his back to them, his head in his hands, trembling.
"Dr Banner, it's okay."
Romanov tried to calm the man, but Harry could hear the underlying fear in the woman's voice as she pulled at the cylinder trapping her leg. Harry put his hand in her shoulder to still her before raising a couple of fingers and exercising the unforgettable swish and flick. As he muttered the incantation, the cylinder rose and the agent pulled her leg free. She stared at him for a moment as he lowered it to the ground, before her eyes flicked back to Bruce.
A growl came from Bruce's direction and Harry turned to see the man start to grow, his spine becoming more prominent as it pressed against his shirt.
"Go," Harry told Romanov without looking at her, "Help the others, I'll keep him occupied."
Romanov murmured in assent and left Harry's side. Before him, Banner turned his head and Harry could see the virulent green seeping into his eyes, masking the sorrow in the man's expression. It was dangerous to interfere with magical transformations, so Harry felt reluctant to try and jinx the man as he expanded, ripping his shirt to shreds, revealing the green skin beneath.
Adrenaline pumped through Harry, more than it had in a long time, as he faced the creature, slipping his wand into his hand. It didn't notice him at first, looking around and taking in its surroundings before it lumbered about and saw Harry.
Remembering a time long since gone when he'd faced a mountain troll he pointed his wand, "Stupefy!"
The red light shot at the creature and dispersed over its green mass. It had no apparent effect aside from angering the creature as it snarled and began to charge. Harry backed away, keeping his wand pointed towards what was once Banner. What did he know about the Other Guy?
He fired a couple of distracting spells at the Guy, to keep him occupied, allowing Harry to avoid the thing and think. Spells didn't affect it, making what he was doing no more than a pretty light show. Bullets didn't work either, according to Banner, the Other Guy had spat out a bullet to the brain, so it could probably survive anything. Even then, he didn't want to risk hurting Banner.
Harry had to leap to the side as Banners fist narrowly missed him, landing winded next to a pile of crates. A voice was speaking in his ear, but he tuned it out as he scrambled out of the way of the creature. A dragon's hide was resistant to spells. Cedric had gotten around that by going for a weak spot, its eyes. Anywhere not protected by its hide was vulnerable.
Spells that affected the body wouldn't be viable in this situation. So… Having reviewed his repertoire he knew which was one of the only spells that would affect the mind directly, which was why it was considered illegal. He thought of all the people on the ship, and how they were at risk if Banner continued, Bellatrix's words echoing in his mind, "You have to want it…"
He wanted to protect those people.
He felt the spell rush down his arm, connecting him to Banner. Harry hadn't used this spell since the war, his main experience with it being during the Gringotts break in. But even he could tell that something was different with Banner's mind. The Other Guy had a mind of its own, an oversimplified but resistant one. He could also sense Banners, pushed to the fringes, only occasionally flickering from dormancy. He focussed his efforts on the dominant mind, creating a mantra of "Sleep, go to sleep". The creature shook its head as if to rid its self of an annoying fly and AHrry recognised attempts to throw the control off. He put more pressure behind the instruction and it stumbled, but it didn't seem to be enough. Harry needed more, which was when he realised that the elder wand was still strapped to his arm. He pulled on the natural power granted by the Hallow and layered it through the spell he was already casting.
The creature came to a halt and fell to his knees. Its eyes rolled up into its head and it fell to the floor with a sizable crash. Harry found himself staring at Banner's Hyde, breathing hard. Drawing upon the energy of the wand without it actually being in his hand was always trickier and that was no simple spell. He was wondering how long he'd have to keep the control up when suddenly the figure began to change. Before his eyes, the Other Guy shrunk and drained of colour, leaving Banner in his place.
The man's clothes had been shredded and what remained did nothing for the man's dignity so Harry conjured a blanket, a rich red with gold trim- old habits die hard, and lay it over the other man. He also shrugged off his jacket, enlarged it slightly and placed it next to the man for when he awoke, figuring that it was better than nothing.
It the moments of calm, he became suddenly aware of the niggling that had been growing for a while now. After placing a couple of protection charms over Banner lest anyone unsavoury trip over him, he followed the ominous feeling. He ran through the complex and came to a storage room, near control and found Romanov, standing over an unconscious man, looking down on him and breathing hard.
She looked up when he entered, immediately on guard. She relaxed slightly when she saw Harry.
"He's fine. Who's this?" He gestured to the man who he identified as the source for the irritation.
"Agent Barton." Romanov replied shortly. Death was standing by her shoulder examining the man with a bemused expression on his face.
"Do you mind if I-" He gestured to the man. Romanov watched him warily but shook her head. Her eyes never leaving him, he knelt by the man and thumbed open an eyelid. The iris was glowing electric blue.
"Now that's not right." muttered Death.
Harry hummed in reply and looked back at Romanov, "Did he say anything before you knocked him out." When she shook her head he continued, "Right I may be able to do something, I'll have to wake him up first but bear with me."
He then turned to Barton and pulled out the Elder Wand.
"Enervate," he muttered and the man's eyes flickered open. Before they could properly focus Harry cast his next spell.
And like that he was in Barton's mind. Images threw themselves at him, Natasha, missions, the Archery range, the Circus. Harry delved through all of these, trying to ignore them and focus on the poison that ran through the man's mind.
He soon found what he was looking for; a blue parasite nestled deep within him. Contrary to what he had originally though, it wasn't so much that the sceptre had infected Barton, but that it had taken part of him; which was why he had retained a sense of self but changed allegiance. This was unlike the Imperious which took controlled their will. It's impossible however to completely separate only part of a person from themselves without their conscious decision to do so, i.e. Horcruxes – even the Dementors took all or nothing rather than trying to split the soul- and so the sceptre had rooted part of itself here to keep the connection alive.
To give it a physical description would be to liken it to an electric blue human nerve coiled around a distorted silver elastic, pulling it through its centre away to its original core while the nerve endings were latched to the tissue the elastic was drawn from.
"That's just wrong that is." Death commented from Harry's figurative elbow. "Pretty much on a par with making 'orcruxes, except worse, 'cause you're forcing it on someone else, rather than inflicting it on y'self."
Harry nodded, "What do I do?"
"Uproot the leech and coax the soul back to its vessel. The second part shouldn' be too 'ard. It wants to be 'ere."
Harry nodded and started trying to figure out how Death meant. He wasn't using his magic at this point, but some other power that came with the Hallows and Death's guidance. Bind by bind he detached the unnatural structure from its grip and watched it slip away, fading to the distance, back to the sceptre from whence it came. As it was, once the grip had been released the soul flowed back to its home and Harry flew from the man's mind.
He found himself once more crouched by the man's side, his muscles stiff, though he could not have been in there long, judging by Romanov who was exactly where he'd left her.
The blue had fled Barton's eyes, returning to their natural green before flickering closed. Harry sat back, to gather himself after an extended and unfamiliar use of the Hallows.
"What did you do?" breathed Romanov.
Harry pushed himself to his feet, "I released him from Loki's hold. He'll need to rest, It wasn't exactly pleasant." He gestured to her comm, "Any news on the battle? How long was I out of it?"
"Maybe a minute, slightly more," her eyes were back on Barton, "He'll be ok?"
"Go." She said, "I'll deal with him, you go see if you can help."
Harry nodded and left swiftly. Wait, Loki. In all this confusion, he'd be trying to escape. Harry ran to the cage room. The doors were already open, but he came to a halt at the sight before him. Thor was pressed to the glass staring at Loki who was by the control panel facing off against Coulson who was toting a huge gun.
"Even I don't know what it does," he was saying.
Loki seemed to shift, a shade of him appearing behind Coulson, empty, invisible and intangible. Harry spotted the sceptre in Loki's hand and knew what Loki was about to do. Before Loki could complete his teleport, he flicked his wand and cast the first battle spell that came to mind.
He felt the energy from the spell fly across the room, make contact with Loki… and rebound. Loki had seen in coming and raised the sceptre in defence. It reacted with the spell and caused it to expand across the room. He felt a searing pain across his chest, and everything went black.
Thor yelled in distress as gouges spread across the room, cutting the metal, the grill, scratching the glass and the flesh of his teammates. He saw the warlock crumple, his life flickering as blood seeped from him. The mantle of centuries dimmed and faded. Just like that, a person who must have seen so much history was dead. The Son of Coul was fairing little better. He'd collapsed against the metal side, blood seeping from a multitude of cuts. He was alive but did not have long for this world.
He barely paid attention as Loki, his brother flicked the switch and sent him tumbling, trapped in a glass box, through the sky.
I'm afraid I have no idea when I can next update, but I know where this story is going, so it's just a matter of finding typing time. I know some of you aren't fans of long chapters, but there was nowhere in here that I wanted to break and still have chapters of a decent length. The next one shouldn't be nearly as long.