Chapter 25 – Condensation
A big 'Thank you!' to all my readers who reviewed the last chapter. Winger Seer Wolf, Silvermane1, Separ, The-Living-Shadow, ReadPaxJoy, Navn Ukjent, wrathchild8, dracoman, discb and kacoo. Its been a fun ride getting this story to this point. Hope you will continue to like it.
A note of consideration: I've read several stories on this site that incorporate dialogues directly from the movie. As in 'all of them'. It's a bit difficult not to do so and quite frankly, its easier to follow the main plot that way. However, I have also come across several reviews where individuals have said that they wished that the author of the story hadn't followed the movie dialogues quite so religiously. That, I thought, was a significant point to have made.
Therefore, as I hope to already have demonstrated, I will try not to follow the dialogues ditto as in the movie other than where I feel they are largely unavoidable for the plot. The story, with Harry's addition is already being twisted at this point, so fitting the dialogues themselves will be quite difficult, hopefully allowing all the characters to grow while remaining within the Avengers plot-line.
Do tell me what you think of this, so I can make amendments to the story if required. And if not, let me know all the same. Your reviews and comments are all very important and very welcome, not to mention its fun waiting on tenderhooks for them!
So Keep Reading and Keep Reviewing! :)
Harry's disappearing act with Loki had caused quite a lot of panic among the team sent to retrieve him until Fury had patched in to call them all back since Loki was already on board. Behind him, leaning negligently against the guard-rail, Harry couldn't quite hide a wide grin.
Captain America managed to assure Thor that his brother was already on board the Heli-carrier and convinced him to come peacefully. The slightly miffed god glared at the tin man and agreed to accompany them on the flying metal transporter.
Meanwhile, Harry's little 'talk' with Loki hadn't gone entirely unnoticed. Still waiting in the air, Natasha had kept a watch on the truant god of mischief since he's been abandoned by his brother and Stark. She was witness to Harry's little transformation and could have sworn she saw wings against the flames, even though it was too dark to see much of anything clearly. But then, and she would have staked her life on it if she were that sort of person, she definitely saw Harry-on-flames pull a disappearing act with Loki covered in some sort of black stuff. It was only later that the Director had informed all of them of Loki's prior retrieval. Well, she mused, guess that technically makes him one of the good guys.
Fury called for a meeting as soon as Natasha touched down and everyone made for the private meeting room above the bridge. Fury walked with Harry.
"Does this mean you are willing to work with us?"
"It shows I'm willing to not working against you."
"Why did you bring Loki back?"
"Couldn't leave the poor waif out there in the cold. Did you see how skinny he is? Could be sick now, for all you know."
"That's Lord Potter, if you will."
Fury cleared his throat.
"That 'poor waif' has threatened our world with war. He plans to use the power of the Tessaract in some way to harm us. We have to stop him. And your help, like your grandfather's, would be invaluable."
"Ah, yes, good old Granpa."
"We already know you helped Stark with his problem."
"Tony had his love life under control. He just needed a nudge. He's a bit shy."
"Lord Potter, you know I meant the palladium poisoning."
A silence. "What of it, Fury? Do you think I would have left my friend to suffer or die or wait for you to come up to scratch?"
Fury winced at the hard tone but hid it, letting no emotion show in his voice or expression. "I merely meant that you have already shown yourself to be resourceful. We could use your help. I still don't know how you managed to get Loki here, barring your disappearing act, but your friends and this organization could use those kinds of unexpected acts."
He paused. "I've read your profile to some extent. You have strong leadership qualities, but don't offer yourself up for the lead role. Yet people tend to gravitate around you. You are able to pull off unexpected results because of your unpredictable behaviour. And you never leave a man behind if you can help it. Fury stopped before the doors to the meeting room, stopping Harry as well. "You are here for Stark and Banner. All I'm asking is that you extend that to the entire team until this thing is done. Think about it." Fury moved back, the doors opened and he stepped inside, leaving Harry to ponder his words.
Harry thought about it. Calmly. He really did. But beneath that was a rising rage. He'd thought Fury had a holier-than-thou attitude, but he'd not expected him to do a Dumbledore quite so soon. Still, the man made a valid point and he knew his own nature well enough by now to know that if he had the means to help, he's probably end up doing just that. But that would be on his terms, he concluded, not Fury's.
Meanwhile, in the room, Natasha was showing Fury the plane's tape on Harry and Loki. To his credit, Fury watched in silence and didn't twitch a muscle. Nodding, he closed the display and waited for the others to join.
One by one they all trickled in, Bruce meeting Harry at the doors and walking in together. Harry chose to sit as far away from Fury as he could, with Bruce taking the seat next to him. Captain Rogers was already there, looking alert and waiting on the rest, while Natasha had settled a seat away from Fury, trying not to look in Harry's general direction. A few minutes later Coulson walked in with Thor in tow, then left again. The demi-god was still wearing his armor, but had left his hammer somewhere. It didn't really matter, since Mjolnir would come at his command, no matter the obstacles. Thor chose to stand in a corner of the room, making a triangle with Fury and Harry at the other two points. He had a curious look on his face as he spotted Harry. Before he could speak, though, Fury activated a monitor showing the glass cell containing the smoke bound Loki.
Thor erupted. "What have you done to my brother?" he roared, advancing on Fury, fists clenching.
"He was prepped for transport this way and is presently in stasis pending interrogation. We cannot leave anything to chance."
"No matter the cause, Loki is of Asgard and he is my brother. He may be beyond reason, but he deserves respect."
"He's killed over 80 people in 2 days," came Natasha's quiet voice, soft but firm.
Pause. "He's adopted," replied the god a tad embarrassed.
In the ensuing awkward silence Harry raised a hand. "Actually, he was directly the cause of only about 10 or so casualties, counting the men lost at SHIELD's base and including the German guy who lost an eyeball. The rest of the lives were an unfortunate loss due to Director Fury's 'let's stall Loki until the place blows up' ploy."
"I thought the fact that a universal conduit had just admitted a guy powerful enough to crash your party in 10 seconds flat and turn your men against you, would be proof enough that he was dangerous, at the very least," Harry replied, looking Fury right in his one good eye. "The 'crazy' label could be put later. I'm sure the problem would have been solved just because the place blew up and everyone was buried under tons of rock and concrete? Burying even yourself and the Tessaract? Did you even think that one out, Fury?" Harry looked pensive. "You talk about saving this world and its people from Loki's war. And then you deliberately allow so many in your service to die for no reason really. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time." He paused and took a breath. "Have to say this though; if people are so disposable to you, maybe these guys here need to rethink why they're here."
"I made a judgment call. By stalling, I gave many more a chance to escape rather than have all of them die by Loki's hand."
"Really, Director. That's your excuse? Never heard of a strategic retreat? Picking your battles? Analyzing your opponent? None of that ring a bell?"
"What are you getting at?" asked Captain Rogers, looking very much like the man Charles Hadrian Potter had talked about in his journals.
"I'm saying, Captain, that at the time he first appeared on Earth, Loki's powers and those of that staff were unknown. It would have been better to take a step back and learn what he could before deciding on a plan of attack. The Tessaract is capable of great power, a power that none of us here fully understand, except perhaps you, Thor. Strategically allowing Loki to leave while doing exactly what you're doing now, would quite possibly have seen us sitting here in exactly the same conditions as now. Ergo, we would still be looking for the Tessaract and Loki, but without the blood of several people on your hands," finished Harry, directing the last bit at Fury.
"After all, from the story I've heard, Loki did not start attacking until you asked him to 'put down the spear'. As Tony and Captain Rogers know, Thor does not like putting down his hammer. It stands to reason that Loki would have the same behavioral characteristics. Selvig gave you the hint right then."
"So, … don't blame the new bad guy for everything wrong going on around you. The End."
There was a very expectant pause. Four pairs of eyes playing a tennis match between Harry's face and Fury's, while the fifth just watched Harry like he was an interesting specimen under a microscope. Then the Captain brought the focus back onto the issue at hand. "So what is Loki here for?"
Everyone looked to Thor. "He has an army called the Chitauri. They're … not of Asgard or any world known. He means to lead them against your people in war. The Tessaract for a kingdom."
"So he's building another portal. That's why he's taken Erik Selvig. That's why he needs the Iridium. Its …"
"It's a stabilizing agent," sounded Tony's voice as he strode into the room with Coulson by his side. "Means the portal won't collapse on itself like it did at SHIELD. Also it means the portal can open as wide and stay open as long as Loki wants." He winked at Harry.
Rolling his eyes, Harry flipped him the finger. He then proceeded to tune out of the entire conversation that followed. He assumed that Tony and Bruce would take over and explain the significance of the Iridium to the others, which left him free to do other things. Keeping an ear out for anything special in the conversation flowing around him, he closed his eyes and opened his mind.
Legilimency was a closed mind art taught only to those who's magic was the most controlled and stable. Harry had learnt it early since he had a large magical core that outweighed the stability with raw power. The subsequent merging with Azazel all those years ago had only cemented his abilities including this one.
The mind of the Fallen Angel of Hell didn't work like a human's. While witches and wizards could only practice legilimency by looking into their subject's eyes, Azazel and therefore Harry didn't really need to observe that rule. And of course, it was completely undetectable. After all, who ever thought of protecting the mind against angels and demons and everything in between?
Accessing the Fallen's centuries old knowledge, Harry merely directed his mental gaze to the minds around him. Surface legilimancy showed their attention riveted towards Bruce and Tony. Trying to follow their scientific jargon. By the looks of it, the Captain and Thor were truly lost, the others had at least followed the basic they needed to understand. Fury was waiting impatiently for Tony to stop shooting off his mouth.
Harry dug deeper.
Steve was thinking about making plans to stop Loki's plans. Regular soldier that one. Thor was worried about his brother, someone called Jane Foster, Ekir Selvig who was a friend, Odin the All-Father, and about Earth. A lot of major things to worry about for anyone. Natasha was giving the conversation her full attention. But beneath that was a mass of worry about someone called Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye. He seemed to be her only friend in this shipful of people. Directing her mind to give more details about Barton, he found a bit of disturbing information. Apparently, Barton had been sort of Imperiused by Loki. He snarled in anger. Of all the curses in the world, there were few like the Cruciatus Curse and the Imperious Curse that could alter a person's sense of identity and self. For that reason, and because he had seen it used on too many people during the War, Harry hated those curses with a passion.
Locating a resonance in Fury's mind, Harry dipped into the Director's head and rooted about till he found the scoop on Barton. Replaying the memory like a penseive, he saw for himself how Loki using his scepter had turned both Barton and Selvig into, as Fury termed it, 'his personal flying monkeys'. Monkeys he could get. But flying? Really?
Well, at least he could forgive Natasha her forbidding attitude. But he could not forgive the Director for his plans concerning Phase 2 using the Tessaract. Weapons of Mass Destruction using a ticking nuclear grade incendiary device as a power source? Yeah, great idea! Worthy of the Order of Voldemort. Harry could really see himself, as well as Tony and Bruce working willingly for this guy. He decided to try something.
"Hiya Tony! Don't shout, don't scream and for Merlin's sake act normal.' Harry heaved a sigh of relief when Tony nodded mentally.
'What the hell are you doing in my head?'
'Ugh. Not so loud. I was getting bored and this meeting is going slower than a snail's race.'
'I meant, how did you get in here?'
'I do have special abilities, Tony.'
'You've never done this before.'
'Duh! Where's the fun if I do this every second?' Tony shook his head in disbelief.
'What are we talking about?'
'Oh yeah. Well I want you to decrypt SHIELD's database.'
'I found something interesting that I think you should see.'
'Well then, my Lord Potter, you'll be glad to know that Jarvis has been hacking into SHIELD since the moment I hit the deck.'
'Bully for you, Chief! Now I have one more mind to visit, and after that we can meet up and talk.'
'I'll bump you when the meet-n-greet's done.'
Withdrawing from Tony's mind, Harry broadened his focus and found Loki. The smoke cocoon may be impenetrable to physical attempts, but Harry was able to enter Loki's mind with ease. What he found in there was shocking, to say the least. After several minutes, he felt Tony's signal in the real world and withdrew from Loki's mindscape. Slowly he opened his eyes to find every single person in the room staring at him.
"Umm, I think they want you to tell them about yourself," Bruce quietly updated him.
Harry blinked. Then looked at Fury. "Why don't you tell them for me, O Esteemed Leader?" He queried, his voice deceptively light.
One perfectly sculpted brow raised on Natasha's face, betraying absolutely nothing about her thoughts. Aware of the nuances of body language and human psychology that Harry was not displaying, she tried to guess at why he was suddenly being to cold to her boss. Of course, Harry's question was itself one that begged an answer. He'd implied that the Director knew about him and should have told the rest of the team by now. By the same implication, and at a stretch, one could also deduce that both Stark and Banner knew about his abilities and possibly his background as well. She leaned forward and like the rest, turned attentively towards Fury's impassive one-eyed gaze.
Realising that glaring at the young man would evoke no further responses, Fury looked around at the others and punched a few buttons on his display. Harry's known profile, background, abilities and the clip from the plane were there for all of them to read and watch for themselves.
The two scientists looked impressed and Tony even gave him a thumbs-up after watching the clip. Catpain Rogers looked … confused. He had the face of a man who could not accept the evidence of his own eyes. Natasha … was looking right at him. After a moment, she nodded slightly to him then looked away.
That was new.
And for the last remaining member, to say the least … Thor was furious.
"What madness is this! For one of the Old Ones to behave in so reprehensible a manner does not become your heritage."
Not surprisingly, everyone stared at the fuming demi-god. Harry cocked his head to the left. 'Say again, what!'
"We on Asgard have known of the existence of your race on Midgard for many millennia. We have the greatest respect for your arts, Old One. Your ancestors kept the peace here when humans were yet younger than you are now." He glared piercingly at the wizard in their midst. "But I had not thought that in time you would forget your duty and engage in such petty acts. You dare to lay your hands on my brother! Were we at home, for all your gifts, I would have seen you flayed for your presumption. I …"
Harry put up a hand, stopping Thor mid-rant. "Look, that's going too far now. Your brother is the one who stole something from you and I am to blame for bringing him in peacefully? How did that happen? So what if I scared him a little. He's a god, like you. Or so you keep saying. Didn't seem too god-like to me when I collected him. More like my cousin Dudley when I went back to collect rent for Privet Drive." A frown appeared on his face, "And as for my duty, rest assured I have not forgotten it. There are few of us that remain, but I am one of the few. And I'm just starting out on this new job. So relax, Thor. Things aren't as bad as you're making them out to be." Having said his piece, he grinned and fell silent.
Rogers broke the silence. "Is that it? Is that all you're going to say?"
Harry spread his hands out dramatically. "What more do you want, Captain?"
"I want to know just what you did to Loki. That thing in the video is not you."
"Oh?" Grinning wickedly, Harry turned into Eclipse between one blink and the next, a mad smile on his face, black eyes shining. They noticed that his chair wasn't burning at all. Fury let out a sigh; maybe he would not be quite so volatile after all. Then again, there were other factors to consider he thought, when Stark started poking the demonic creature with a pen.
"Mr. Stark, could you please not do that?" he asked with a long suffering sigh.
"What? Don't you think its fascinating that my pen hasn't burnt at all? How do you do it, L.P.?"
"Eclipse. Trade secrets, Tony. Don't make me call Pepper." Harry shrugged off his hybrid form returning to his normal handsome self.
Amused to see the resident genius gulp and hastily backpedal, the others refocused on Harry expectantly. He looked around at them and exhaled harshly.
"Oh for the love of …! Fine! Alright, I'll talk," he growled. He took out a slender white stick and pointed it to his head. "Memoriam Revilio."
In small concentrated bursts, Harry showed them the main points of his life, keeping out the dragons, the locations of his properties and Azazel. It was enough for them to know about Eclipse. That at least was his own transcended form.
Interesting was the word for the various responses from around the room after that little A/V show. Both the Captain and Thor seemed to trust him, acknowledging his worth as a warrior. Bruce and Tony already knew most of it as well as the back story and were watching the young man carefully. They alone among the present knew how much Harry disliked having to 'prove' himself to strangers.
Fury was impassive as ever; not a glimmer of emotion showed after that viewing. But his eyes showed an understanding. Harry guessed that was as much as anyone could get from that stoic man.
Most surprising was Natasha reaction. The spy was furious.
Skimming her surface thoughts, Harry reaslised that at the core of this hard, strong woman was a center filled with remorse and sorrow for all that she had lost. Being the best at what she did came at the price of her childhood and innocence. And to realise now that he himself had led a life much the same, shouldering the responsibilities of a war as a teen, hit her hard. Thankfully, there was no mothering instince there like he had come to recognize from Mrs. Weasley. But there was the beginning of trust.
Seconds later, they were back to the discussion of Loki and the approaching war with the expected Chitauri.
"Well, since you two know what you're talking about," Fury addressed Tony and Bruce, "and what we're dealing with, I want you to start tracking the cube."
"Let's start with that stick of his," suggested Steve, "It may be magical, but it works a lot a like a Hydra weapon."
Harry snorted. "Clearly you haven't realised that the only reason it works like a Hydra weapon it because Hydra weapons were powered by the cube. Just like the staff."
Tony's eyes flickered towards Harry, itching to ask him how he knew, but chose instead to turn to Bruce, "Well then, shall we play, Doctor?" He turned to Harry. "Coming L.P.?"
"Yeah, I think I will." The wizard levered himself out of the chair, and followed his friends out.
The following few hours were full of busy calculations, mechanical engineering and percentage errors. But they succeeded in making a suitable device to track the gamma radiation emitted by Loki's staff to locate the Tessaract. While the scientists were working on that, Harry had phased out to the deck to set up wards around the heli-carrier that would immediately notify him of imminent danger. He'd included a ward that would also send an alarm to the Director on the bridge in case Clint Barton came calling. It seemed possible that Loki's cube-controlled minions would come to retrieve their leader. A written message folded itself into a paper plane that flew off to apprise Fury of the same.
Then he headed down to the heart of the ship. He had a date to keep.