Of Hel and Earth
Chapter 7: Of Interrogations
Fury was outside the cell, watching the man within via a hand-held screen, when Natasha arrived. She stopped a respectful distance away, silently waiting for him to acknowledge her.
"He was found in Central Park?" the director asked.
"Yes sir," Natasha replied. "He was unconscious and appeared to have fainted upon… reappearing. We assumed his hideout is somewhere nearby so Barton is leading a team in a ground-based search. Stark and Banner are also keeping up continuous surveillance of the area. So far we've been unable to find anything new but Stark confirmed that the strange readings they detected earlier haven't moved or changed."
"Good." Fury finally glanced up from the screen to fix her with a heavy look. "Get in there and the minute he wakes up, start working him, understood? I want to know everything you can get from him and I want to know it yesterday. God knows we don't need another magic man wandering around New York."
Natasha couldn't help the twitch in her fingers at the reminder. "Yes sir."
When Harry awoke it was to a pounding headache, a fuzzy tongue and blindingly bright light.
Harry cracked one eye open but quickly slammed it shut again when it painfully protested the amount of light in the stark white room. Absently he noted that his glasses were missing and started analysing what he could about his surroundings - cold, silent and sterile from the smell. A moment later the harsh light and the metal surface he was lying on clicked and he realised that this was most definitely not his tent.
The fear that rocketed through his brain was not unexpected, but it was unwanted. No matter where he was or what was about to happen Harry knew he had to keep calm; panicking would do him no good.
"Sorry," came a feminine voice, too loud and also unwelcome. "I'd turn the lights down but they only do on or off."
Turning slightly onto his side so he was no longer directly facing the ceiling lights, Harry slowly and carefully opened his eyes to let them adjust. It wasn't hard to find the source of the talking; the same woman who had been chasing him on the streets was slouched against the far wall. Now though she was wearing a uniform-like cat-suit and strange gloves that Harry assumed were probably a weapon of some kind.
"That's fine," Harry replied. He was contemplating the pros and cons of playing along versus just teleporting straight out but so far, the potential for information gathering outweighed his hesitance. He didn't see much point in playing nice though, and a few tests couldn't hurt. "If they were bugging me that much I would just blow them up."
Deciding that the pain in his head was now manageable, Harry slowly sat up then swung his legs around to sit on the edge of the metal cot. He kicked his right leg out experimentally, testing the chain connecting the cuff around to his ankle to a metal hoop in the floor. It rattled but moved sluggishly, too heavy to really swing, and he tried to guess how far it would let him walk. Halfway across the small room, maybe?
The woman's head tilted slightly, her red hair swinging around her face. It made her seem curious and not dangerous but Harry saw the change in stance she tried to hide behind the movement. It was classic misdirection but she did it so well and Harry found himself yet again upping her danger rating. Then again, it hadn't exactly been a subtle threat.
"How do you do that?" the woman – agent, most likely – asked. She sounded genuinely curious and not at all like she was interrogating him. She was good. "The EMP thing, I mean. Being able to just short out technology like that…"
Harry felt his lips pull into a small, wry grin at the leading question. "It's a talent," he replied.
The agent smiled back, looking innocently interested. "That's for sure. You completely blacked out an area with a twenty kilometre radius in just under six seconds."
"And your friend shot me with an arrow," Harry returned, ignoring the bubbling guilt. He stood up and stretched, watching how the agent shifted her weight in response. So far this best theory was highly-trained government agent, but highly-trained criminal minion was still equally likely. "Strange choice of weapon. Then again, I suppose I can't really talk. But, seriously, an arrow?"
"Sometimes having an unusual weapon can give you the advantage," the agent replied, watching him test the limits of the chain. He could go all of two metres metre from the bed, giving him half the room to wander. It put him far out of reach of the agent though; the room was almost twice as long as it was wide and she stood at the far end, right next to the door.
After a minute of silence and despite not expecting her to reply, Harry finally asked, "How did you get me?"
"Tranq dart," the agent replied. At Harry's questioning look she added, "Hawkeye's arrow had an impact-released tranquiliser dart and a tracker in the tip. We found you after you teleported out of that alley and brought you here. You were unconscious when we found you."
Harry had to hide a wince at that. He could remember apparating but after that there was only a blurry flash of green before he woke up in the cell. He was very lucky he hadn't splinched himself.
"And where is here?" Harry tried.
The agent's returning smile had an edge to it that was decidedly not nice. "A cell."
Harry huffed, amused despite himself. "Of course." It had been worth a try.
Unfortunately, he was still trying to work out the best way to deal with the situation. He could just apparate out but there was something to be said for asking the right questions. If he could at least find out who was after him it might be a bit easier to avoid them. Finding out how much they already knew would be helpful too.
"Honestly, attacking you wasn't the plan," the agent suddenly said. She stepped forward, no longer slouching against the wall, and let the innocent act go. In its place was a new seriousness and openness that Harry was loathe to trust. "We would have preferred a more diplomatic approach but unfortunately things didn't work out that way. There's still a chance for this to work though. If you cooperate—"
"Why should I?" Harry asked, his voice losing any trace of warmth. Unconsciously his stance settled into something a bit sturdier, a bit more defensive. "Why should I believe anything you say?"
"Because we're SHIELD."
Harry startled at the name but didn't respond, not wanting to reveal his confusion. From the way she paused, the agent obviously expected some kind of reaction, but he had absolutely no clue. He had certainly never heard of a SHIELD back in his world.
"We're the Strategic Homeland Intervention and Enforcement Logistics Division," the agent explained after a moment, not reacting to his silence. "We deal with the threats that the normal law enforcement organisations can't."
Sudden understanding made Harry's whole perspective on the situation change. "Like me," he said, thinking of agents with bows and how easily he had been found. Tracked, even?
The woman smiled. "Like you," she agreed, "and many others like you. Though most aren't quite as… obvious about it." She sounded almost amused on the last few words.
Harry knew his expression was a bit sheepish but couldn't bring it back under control. He really did regret what his arrival had done to New York. "Sorry?"
If the twitch in the agent's hands was any sign, she hadn't expected that at all. Once again weighing his options, Harry decided to go the Gryffindor route and have one last try at getting information from the agent. "I'm James," he offered. "James Evans."
The agent's smile looked nicer this time but to Harry it still felt very dangerous. It reminded Harry of an old black diary and the echo of a young man hidden inside. It really didn't make him feel any better about the situation.
"Natalie Rushman," she replied.
Harry would have frowned if he wasn't controlling his expression so tightly. For being so chatty before, Natalie had suddenly become rather quiet. And there was no way that was her real name.
"Apologies for not offering a hand to shake," he tried, "but I figured you wouldn't accept it anyway."
Natalie's smile grew. "You're right, I wouldn't."
Starting to get annoyed at the short answers and lack of information, Harry decided to give it one last try. "What made you chase me, back then, on the street?"
Rushman didn't respond immediately, instead taking a second to watch him. Then, eventually, she admitted, "Because the last time we had an unknown person with unknown powers and potentially dangerous, magical artefacts wandering New York he tried to enslave the world using an army from outer space."
Briefly, Harry wondered whether she was supposed to tell him that. Then what she had actually said sunk in.
"An army," he spluttered. "As in an alien army?"
The agent seemed amused but there was an underlying seriousness in her expression that stopped Harry from immediately dismissing her words as a lie.
"Led by a Norse god."
Harry couldn't even think of a response to that. Instead, he asked, "So because of a one-off situation you decided I was a threat and your boss – whoever that is – sent you and your archer friend after me?"
"As I said, attacking you wasn't the plan. We were going to tail you until you went somewhere less crowded and pull you aside to talk. That was it."
"Really?" Harry asked. "Why do I not believe you?" He knew his fear was finally starting to affect his thoughts and responses but he could no longer force it back. "And what then? What if I had run or—or resisted or something?"
Rushman seemed to be growing concerned, taking a step forward and frowning slightly. "We would have backed off and asked again later. There was really nothing—"
Harry laughed. He knew he shouldn't but he couldn't stop it. "I spent four years as an Auror, Natalie! I know how this goes. I was a threat; you wouldn't have just let me slip time and time again. Eventually your boss would have grown sick of waiting and you would have been ordered use force and we would have been right here in this cell with you over there and me chained to this floor!" He stepped forward, purposefully stomping his foot to make the chain rattle. "Nothing would have changed, agent, so really I just saved us all a lot of time and frustration!"
"James," Rushman murmured, suddenly soft and understanding again. "I know this must be frightening but if you just cooperate—"
"Or what?" Harry snapped. "Or you keep me chained up in some basement somewhere and hope I don't get out? Well sorry, but that wouldn't work out very well for you."
Natalie's hands twitched again and Harry could have grinned at the tell. It was slight, barely more than a flicker of movement, but Harry was a wizard; watching your opponent's hands and therefore their wand was instinctual to him.
"I just have one last question," Harry said, speaking right over whatever the agent was going to say next. "Where are my things?" He had noticed the lack of his holly wand the second he had woken up but had avoided drawing attention to it until now.
Another twitch. It really was Natalie's only tell. "'Last question'?' she quoted. "You sound like you're leaving."
"Well," Harry replied, "as nice as your hospitality has been, I have things to do. So, if you don't mind…?"
"Your effects were confiscated for examination," Rushman replied. Her tone and expression were blank and hard, finally dropping all the pretences. Harry also noted the change to a more solid stance. "We would be willing to return them if you cooperated."
"Cooperation again, really?" Harry replied. Slowly, in a move he had learnt early on in his career as an Unspeakable, he unfurled his magic and sent tendrils out searching for any close-by magical signatures. Thankfully it took only a couple of seconds for his to find his wand and other items, up two floors and to his left. "Sorry, but I'm not the cooperating type."
A thought and the Elder Wand was in his hand, a shield flickering into life between him and the agent. It was good timing too as she lunged at him the instant his wand appeared, only to quickly pull up before she touched the glowing blue wall. A simple alohamora took care of the cuff on his ankle, and Harry sent the agent a bright smile. "Thanks, it was fun. Bye!"
And, with a quick spin and a pop, Harry was gone.
Fury was still outside the cell when Natasha dashed out. He was already barking orders into his phone to secure the labs but only a few seconds later he was interrupted by an agent reporting back. The target – Potter, Evans, whoever he was – had appeared in the lab with a loud crack, swished the stick – weapon? – he had drawn in the cell, somehow made all his possessions fly towards him then disappeared with another crack.
Several devices in the lab had also shut down or blown up sometime during his visit and Fury immediately ordered those objects to be collected, quarantined and scanned for any hints as to the man's powers.
Five minutes later everything had mostly calmed down again, except Fury who looked pissed. Natasha had followed him to the bridge, awaiting orders and mentally replaying her interrogation over and over. She had gotten some information but not enough and she was hoping to find more hidden in the nuances of the man's speech and actions.
"Romanov!" Fury suddenly barked.
"Go down to the labs, see if there's some kind of residue on you, then tell Stark, Banner and Barton what happened. Unless something new happens, you'll join Barton on the ground again."
"Yes sir," Natasha replied, already turning to leave.
"And Romanov?" Natasha paused in her steps, back turned to the director. "That bastard was playing with us, staying in that cell and stealing his stuff back. His danger rating just skyrocketed." Natasha could feel the weight of his gaze on her back. "You have permission to use anything short of lethal force if you think it's necessary."
So. It's been a while, sorry. I kept rewriting this chapter but I never liked it enough to post so it stayed on the backburner for ages. You can thank ARTs Ninja Pal for this chapter – she let me bother her literally all day, read several version of it and kept my muse going by thinking of more hilarious scenes (nope, not explaining, you'll see!).
It's short but the next scene would have taken ages more to write so I figured shorter and updated was better. Let me know if you find anything wrong? I not sure this is of the same quality as I used to write... I've been going through the reviews and fixing things people mentioned in previous chapters while I was stuck on this one so I'll switch those over soon too.
Someone, sorry I don't remember who, asked if I would put OHAE up for adoption. While I must admit that I don't mind the idea of someone writing something similar, even basing something off OHAE, I will keep writing. I'm just very slow, sorry. If someone does want to... I don't know, read my notes or something, PM me and we can talk.
Hope you're all doing well,