Life Sucks and then you Die
Chapter 3: Gender Bending and the rules of the Universe
"Harry!" Even with the wind violently whipping around Harry Potter's body gave a large twitch. He would have sighed in frustration if he weren't so intent in finding his broom in the moleskin pouch that hung upon his neck. The accio he'd preformed earlier had only resulted in the fairly ominous sound of multiple items crashing in upon each other. He'd never been that great at packing anyway.
"Oh my God Tony! Would you just fucking shut up for one second!? I'm trying to save our lives here!" the genius just clutched Harry tighter in his death grip.
"Our lives? You can't fucking die! Oh my god! That was the skyline! Did you just see the skyline? I never wanted to admire my tower like this! I want my fucking armor! And what do you mean our lives!? Newsflash! You can't die! Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!"
Harry growled a bit as the genius' arm flailed, knocking his hand out of the bag just when he felt the smooth end of a broomstick fall from his grasp. "Well, shit." Harry mumbled.
"Why is your hand not in that bag? Oh my god! I'm gonna die! I'm gonna die! Splattered Tony Stark is not a good look for me okay! NOT. A. GOOD. LOOK!"
"Would you stop flailing about? You aren't making this any easier! And just because I can't die, doesn't mean it won't hurt! You try reforming your body after it's been flattened against a concrete and see if it's a walk in the park!" But Tony had given up all pretense of talking and had begun to scream bloody murder into Harry's ear. It was a flash of green in the corner of Harry's eye that made him turn his head and let out a curse. 'Seriously? What the hell?' "Uhh, Tony? Hey Tony?"
"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATT?" Tony screamed.
"You wouldn't happen to have trolls in your universe would you? Big green, angry trolls?" Tony's head snapped in the direction that Harry was looking.
"OOOOOOOHHH SSHHHHHHIIIIIIIII . . ." and then the 'big green angry troll' slammed into the duo at high speeds. Fortunately it slowed Tony's descent exponentially. Unfortunately it broke the two universe travelers apart and when Harry noticed he was about to have an up close and personal meeting with the ground he only had a few moments to say a few spells before darkness claimed him.
"Damnit, this is gonna . . ."
It was to the familiar sight of King's Cross Station that Harry woke up with a groan, rubbing his palm against his face to get rid of the disorienting feeling of his conscious being temporarily ripped away from his physical body.
"Why is it always this place?" but then Harry snorted and slowly managed to pull himself up into a sitting position, wincing as he remembered the final impact of his body against the pavement. Thanks to the super powered impervious spells he'd cast around himself, Harry doubted there would be any broken bones or exploded organs, but his return to life was going to definitely hurt. A lot.
"This place is a manifestation of how you view death Master." Harry's head flung up at Death's voice and he abruptly stopped all movement.
'What. The. Actual. Fuck?'
"Umm Death? I have a question for you." Harry couldn't stop his gaze from traveling south. "Ah, uh. Well. Have you always been female or are the breasts just some sort of new metaphysical experimentation that all the entities are doing these days that I should know about?" Harry knew even without being able to see Death's face that the look in his/her eyes was not impressed.
"In this realm beings construe my form as female. In your realm I was seen as male. I have countless other forms as well." Harry nodded slowly, deliberately keeping his gaze off of Death's new 'additions'.
"Riiight. Well, that's cool and all, but why did you bring me here? I'm not sure Tony is safe what with the giant green angry trolls flying through the air back there. I should really get back." Death shook her head briefly before gesturing towards the trains behind her.
"You have not had need of the in between place for ages Master. The reason for your travel here is that I have need of you." Harry raised an eyebrow, a trick he'd finally managed to accomplish after hundreds of years of attempting to imitate his sour old Potions professor.
"Yeah, I kind of figured that when you carried Tony across the dimensions. He provided the lifeline needed to direct my journey correct?" Death nodded. "The question is why? Tony is mortal. Your jurisdiction lies solely with those who have passed on. Fiddling with mortals is always a tenuous process at best when you have millions of years of tradition to follow, but you didn't in this instance."
Death very visibly hesitated. "It was your assistance that I required Master, your assistance in dealing with a being who threatens this universe." Harry grunted as he stood from his sitting position and went to stand in front of Death.
"Lower your hood." After a long pause Death nodded almost imperceptibly and raised a gloved hand to pull down the hood. Before Harry stood what appeared to be a young woman. Her hair was long, blonde and very straight, bunched up slightly into the back of the robe. Her skin held little color, pale and flawless as he would expect an entity's to be and her eyes were magnificent to behold. They were swirling masses of colors, without pupils, swiftly changing from blue, to aqua, red, orange, silver, and gold like a wildfire being perpetually over taken by the ocean. "Huh." Harry managed with a small smile, "Never pictured you for blonde." Death's facial expression did not change except for a slight tensing of the jaw.
"Sometimes Master, I truly hate you." But Harry just shrugged.
"Hey now. Cut me some slack. That's not fair. I'm probably the best boss you could ever have. Who else would just let you do whatever you wanted 99% of the time? Besides, aren't I here because you needed me? At the moment I have no need of you. And not to mention; you're an entity. Can entities even feel hate?" Death shifted slightly before nodding slowly.
"Which is why I said sometimes." Harry smirked a little.
"So why am I here anyway. Not like here here, but you know, alternate universe here." Harry motioned vaguely with his hand.
"There is a being who calls himself Thanos who threatens this world in my name. It has gotten a bit . . ." Death paused.
"Out of hand?" Harry ventured. Death nodded her lips pulled into a frown.
"Thanos calls himself my champion. He seeks to eradicate all life."
"All life?" Harry's voice was incredulous.
"He fancies himself the lover of death and feels that if all life were destroyed, I would hold him in high esteem." Harry held up a hand and made a shushing noise as he stared at Death a bit shocked.
"Wait! Wait! Are you telling me that you called me across the dimensional boundaries because you are having a domestic dispute with an alien suitor!?" Harry brought his hand up and pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. "Seriously, Death, it was better when you were male. You are like, the worst employee of all time."
Death made a small noise in the back of her throat, somewhat affronted by the statement, but realizing the partial validity at the same time. "I did not ask for his attentions Master. He created them in his head without any input from me. But you know as well as I that I cannot interfere more than I already have. Thanos' motivations might seem ridiculous, but the power he wields is anything but. Master, the amount of souls that I have shepherded because of Thanos' actions is astronomical. He's destroyed entire worlds in the blink of an eye."
Harry frowned severely turning away from Death and placing a hand upon his chin, gazing absentmindedly at the train that always seemed to be waiting for him each time he visited. It was the only way he could ever truly move on. Harry instinctively knew that, but he also knew that he'd never take that ride. The vacuum of power that would open when the Master of Death disappeared would be catastrophic at best. Harry may not have ever wanted the powers he'd stumbled upon at the age of seventeen, but he'd long since grown accustomed to the responsibility that came with them. It had taken several hundred years and a close call immediately after Ginny's passing to come to terms with his immortality and the necessity of it.
"This Thanos, he is headed to Earth?" Death nodded.
"Thanos has destroyed much, but Earth, as we both know is important to the universe. If this dimension's Earth is destroyed, so too is the balance of power." Harry shook his head.
"You mean the superheroes Tony's been telling me about? Are they really that much of a threat in the grand scheme of things?"
"Much like magic was a threat in your universe, super humans are the threat in this one."
"Ah," Harry mumbled, thinking about the magic of his universe. He'd learned enough magical theory in his lifetime to know that the magic thrummed through everything in his home. To take away magic was to take away the very basis of life as nothing could survive without, even muggles or squibs who couldn't harness the small amounts of magic within them. He was a little lost on the fact that a group of superheroes, physical beings, could maintain that sort of presence in this world. It shouldn't have been possible, or if it was possible, the Earth he had arrived at certainly shouldn't have been stable enough to contain a New York city or a company like that one Tony had to described to him two weeks prior. If one superhero died, even from natural causes, then how far was the balance of power thrown? If Tony had died going through that portal like he'd expected to, then would his sacrifice have doomed the world he was trying to protect? But then again, Harry thought, Death had taken a personal interest in Tony, not like the interest she took in Harry, her master, but a significant one nonetheless. That Death had been frustrated with Tony in the first place was indicative of a closer relationship between the entity and mortal than Harry could actually decipher. It was clear, however, that Tony Stark, was no stranger to almost dying and that, for whatever reason, Death had not allowed for the mortal to pass over the line that constituted as the very end of life. Was it like this for the rest of the superheroes? The Avengers that Tony had told him about? And why was Death even included in maintaining the balance anyway? Wasn't that the responsibility of some other entity? Harry ran a hand through his hair, uncaring that the action had probably made the locks even more unruly than usual, and turned back towards Death who seemed to be watching her master closely in trepidation.
"I don't know enough." Harry said. "Can you tell me anything else about this Thanos? And if I am here, doesn't that risk Thanos defeating me and gaining possession of the Hallows?" But Death shook her head.
"Master, I have risked much by telling you what I have and bringing you across the brink with Tony Stark. I shall not be able to interfere anymore." Harry nodded, having expected her to say something like that.
"Well then, let's recap then. My world, or realm, or whatever, subsists upon magic. Its light and darkness creates the balance of power. Correct?" Death nodded. "Then in this world, the superheroes provide the same function, but most of them are still mortal. That's where you come in right? You make them harder to kill, or less likely to die so as to keep the balance between the good and the evil?" Death made no motion at that statement, but Harry shook his head in exasperation. "Right, so you can't tell me that part then? This is all conjecture anyway. What you are essentially saying though, is that Thanos threatens the balance of power and must be eliminated? But wouldn't that create another power vacuum?"
"Thanos' death would result in a minor vacuum yes, but it is believed that the universe can take that small clash. If he were to make it to Earth and destroy it, however, all of the super humans and beings that seek to protect that world risk extinction. The difference between the souls of one powerful man who controls evil and the souls of several powerful beings that are peaceful is of almost no consequence." Harry shook his head roughly and walked a bit away from Death. Her eyes followed him, still cycling in an unhurried manner between blue and red.
"But I am now in this universe. What does that mean, that I am the being that would tip the scales in favor of the superheroes, or that I've just given them a chance?" Death remained stoic.
"Nothing has been predicted. The future is uncertain for the world of mortals."
"I hate this "fate" crap. I always have and I always will." Harry turned back towards Death. "Fine. I'll solve your woes in couples-ville," Death's left eye gave a particularly violent twitch, "But I reserve the right to tell the mortals of what they will be facing should it become necessary. That includes your part in it." If Death were a lesser being, she would have shrugged like a disgruntled teenager. As it was, she'd had a little less than eternity so far to practice controlling her emotions. She briefly noted that it hadn't been so hard before Harry Potter became Master of Death.
"I have nothing to hide Master, nor do the opinions of mortals hold weight in my conscious."
"Okay, first, do you even have a conscious? I'm honestly curious. And second, don't make this what it isn't. The fate of the realm might be in danger, but you're still just pissed at Thanos because he keeps killing things and giving you more work to do. Plus, he's fashioned himself your boyfriend and we all know alien creatures who may or may not have the power to destroy entire planets always have cooties." Harry smirked as Death visibly tried to control herself from jumping at her master. He couldn't help but feel that female Death was a whole lot more fun than the male Death of his realm, even if they were technically the same person/thing. "Now . . ." But Harry didn't have a chance to finish as the world around him began to shift, signaling that his physical body was waking up. With a disgruntled sigh Harry prepared himself and tried to ignore the fact that Death was desperately trying to hold back a smirk as he vanished from the space in between.
Death, left in the silence as the ghostly King's Cross Station began to melt away allowed herself a small chuckle before disappearing herself.
When Harry came to all he knew was pain. Obviously he really needed to work on his impervious spells some more, but as he slowly took stock of his body he was thankful that he couldn't feel any broken bones and no compromised organs. It was a good thing, even if it meant his entire body was basically one big bruise at this point.
With a grimace Harry focused on the outside world, refusing to open his eyes just yet. Below him was the cold cracked concrete cupped around him which indicated that he'd hit the ground hard enough with his impervious spells to create a crater in the street. Around him he could hear the shouts of what seemed to be civilians and the ominous sound of a building collapsing in the distance. 'So', Harry thought, 'war torn New York'. Tony had literally nuked the enemies, so he wasn't so concerned about being stabbed by an alien creature, but if there were collapsing buildings about then it was in his best interest to scrape himself off the pavement and go see if Tony had survived the big troll creature.
With a groan Harry set about doing just that, finally opening his eyes to the destruction that was New York City, but it was harder than he'd initially thought to pry himself out of the literal hole he'd dug. Tony's monstrous tower loomed over him, smoking, but intact. Freeing a hand he unconsciously slapped it against the pavement, attempting to gain some leverage. Another groan escaped his lips, this one more violent than the first as his arm trembled with the effort. Finally, painfully, Harry managed to move himself into a sitting position, but could go no further. Deciding to merely stay put until some of the pain lessened Harry sighed.
"Harry!" he could suddenly hear Tony's voice amidst the faint ringing in his head.
"Harry!" his head throbbed as Tony's voice grew closer. Dimly he became aware of the sound of footsteps traveling quickly in his direction.
"Harry!" and then his whole body twitched, which seemed to be his default reaction to Tony's general presence.
"Tony Stark, seriously, do you ever fucking shut up?" Harry groaned as he saw Tony slide himself down into the crater, which he now realized was larger than he initially thought. The genius' face held a worried expression, but it was clear from his only slightly ruffled clothing that the troll hadn't done him any damage. Tony sighed heavily as he kneeled next to Harry, cautiously hovering a hand over one of the wizard's arms as if touching him might finish the job of breaking bones that the concrete hadn't.
"Nope. Stark trait. Holy fuck man, how are you alive?" Harry just paused a moment to stare at the man. "Ah, right, can't die, but Jesus! You sure hit the ground hard. How are your organs not like scrambled all over the pavement?" With a grunt Harry finally lifted himself out of the pavement with not a little help from Tony.
"Emergency impervious spells."
"That's . . . really impressive. Any chance I could get some of those for my suit when I get it up and running?" Harry just sighed nodding his head ruefully. Already he was becoming accustomed to Tony's personality. He wondered if it was a matter of being a wizard who'd dealt with strange things his entire life or the fact that he was immortal that made it easier.
The sound of more approaching footsteps caught their attention before Harry could answer and the wizard looked up to see a group of people standing at the edge of the crater. They could only be Tony's superhero team. One man was dressed as an almost literal American flag, a woman and a man stood to the right side dressed in sleek body suits. To the left was a massive blonde holding a hammer dressed almost like Godric Gryffindor would have save the fact he was carrying what seemed to be a hammer rather than a sword. And then Harry paused as he saw a man cautiously making his way down into the crater. He was small, but definitely taller than Harry, because, well, almost everyone was taller than Harry. But what was unusual about the man wasn't his stature, but that he was mostly naked, holding the scraps of some severely damaged pants with one hand while the other was helping him with balance as he made his way towards Tony and Harry.
"Ah, Tony. There's a naked man walking toward us." Tony startled, focusing his attention upon the others, his eyes darting towards the man.
"That's just Bruce. He's cool. He's my science bro." Harry raised an eyebrow.
"And you just let your "science bro" run around New York City during an alien invasion without decent pants. What kind of man are you?"
Tony looked alarmed for a second. "Of course not! I am the epitome of style. Bruce just happens to have a crazy anger management problem and very bad luck when it comes to pants."
"Bad luck with pants? What? Did that troll hit you in the head? What happened to it anyway?"
"It wasn't a troll. My God, do you really have trolls in your universe?" Tony paused to greet the aforementioned Bruce as he finally made it to the duo. "What, do they like hide under bridges and eat unsuspecting couples who are making out in the moonlight?" Harry gave Tony a strange look.
"What? What are you talking about? Hiding under bridges?"
"Uh guys." Bruce raised a hand attempting to stop them from talking, his eyes darting back and forth sort of nervously. Harry got the impression that he would be wringing his hands if one of them weren't still holding onto the pair of pants.
"Seriously man? Trolls? Did you have vampires too? Or werewolves? Honest question: do vampires sparkle? Because I always thought that would be a bit ridiculous. Oh and do werewolves imprint upon their mates while they are still in utero, because that one seriously freaked me out?"
"Tony, I know that I've been with you all day, but are you drunk? Why would a vampire sparkle? And werewolves can be perfectly civil. I had a close friend who was a werewolf. His son was my godson. He definitely didn't imprint on Nymphadora while she was still in the womb."
"Who the hell names their kid Nymphadora? That's, like, literal child abuse." Bruce shifted again as the rest of the team came to stand around him all staring incredulously at the pair.
"It was a Wizarding traditional name thank you very much. We called her Tonks though if it makes you feel any better."
"That does not make me feel better. Tonks? Really? How many "Honky" jokes did she have to suffer I wonder."
"Guys. . ." Bruce tried again. It seemed the red haired woman beside him was getting frustrated with the scenario.
"Tony . . ." Harry brought his hand to rest on his forehead in exasperation. "Just, stop. Help me out of this hole."
Tony complied, but as the group made their way out of the crater he couldn't help but have the last word. "You know, if you had just been a bit faster up there, you wouldn't have created this mildly impressive crater." Harry just grunted looking back, refusing to give Tony the satisfaction of saying the crater was massively impressive not mildly.
"Are you guys going to explain what is going on here?" Bruce finally broke in. His skin was looking a bit green and for some reason that Harry couldn't fathom, that made Tony and the others in the group look a little nervous.
"Last I saw Stark was taking a suicide trip strapped to the side of a nuke into space" grunted the blonde man who had a bow strapped to his back. The red haired woman just gave the two an eerie stare that Harry felt was distinctly familiar. Then he froze.
"Woah woah." Harry walked quickly towards the woman ignoring Tony's frantic hisses that it was a majorly bad idea to do so. But Harry had never really gotten the memo that bad ideas were bad so he just continued towards the woman even when she began to draw a handgun out of her utility belt. "Lily!?" Harry's voice rang out making the woman freeze, her eyebrows drawn together in confusion.
"It's Natasha actually." Tony's voice was a bit dubious behind him but Harry ignored him looking at the woman more closely.
"Huh. Well, no you aren't her, but you look a lot like her. How strange." Natasha shifted slightly her hand not moving an inch from where it rested on her gun.
"And who do I look like?" The woman asked briskly.
Harry smiled a bit, his eyes gaining a bit of a sparkle, glowing almost inhumanly bright. "My daughter Lily. You look almost the same. You could've been her twin."
The man holding the bow frowned, "You don't look old enough to have kids." Harry shifted his attention.
"Oh I'm much older than I look. Though I guess if it's 2012 in this universe then I've just been downgraded to the age of 32. Huh, I wonder if that mean I'll have another excuse to go through a mid-life crisis again?" Harry turned slightly from the group with a hand on his chin. "Though Ginny was really upset then. Hmm."
"Who exactly are you?" The American flag guy asked.
Harry snapped towards the voice with an easy smile. He reached out a hand to shake the man's hand. "Harry James Potter. Wizard, Master of Death, personal savior of one Anthony Stark who owes me big time. And might I know your names?"
The man with the flag shrugged little and looked at Tony for a moment. The billionaire almost imperceptibly nodded his head. It was obviously enough for the Captain that Tony Stark who trusted nobody was willing to trust this man.
"I am Steve Rogers." He pointed at each member of the team finally giving Harry a name to go with each face. Harry seemed to nod along pleasantly at the introductions, though he gave Natasha a particularly long look that the woman was obviously not comfortable with. When Rogers finished the wizard promptly turned towards Thor.
"So Thor. Clinical question here. Would you be willing to answer it?"
"I will attempt to provide what knowledge you seek young sorcerer." Thor's eyes shifted a bit before returning to Harry.
"Woah now, nice Shakespeare thing you have going on there. You are like the actual Thor right? Norse God, son of Odin, controls Thunder and lightning right?" Thor nodded.
Harry smirked. It seemed a bit vicious upon his face and he barely heard Tony's groan behind him when the genius realized what he was about to ask. "Tony explained to me before we left my universe that the device in his chest was based off the notes his father left on a Norse cube called the Tessarect." The Avengers stiffened at the mention of the cube, weary that he might be another villain like Loki seeking its power. "I would like to know, in very basic definitions, what the primary function of the cube is."
Thor hesitated, but he answered anyway, "I do not completely understand it, but father says it is a portable, powerful energy source." Harry's smirked and turned quickly in Tony's direction ignoring the collective flinch from the rest of the team. Tony looked sort of constipated as he gazed at Harry. "Dear Tony, I believe the definition of a battery is quite literally "portable energy source" isn't it?"
"Oh no. It means nothing. Just because one Norse God plays into your favor doesn't mean you get to belittle the technological marvel of my arc reactor!"
"Arc reactor!" Tony said through clinched teeth. Harry smiled.
Tony sighed. "You live to annoy me don't you?"
"Well, among other things, yes."
There was a snort from the team behind him. "I'm starting to like this guy." Steve mumbled.
"Seconded." Natasha smirked.
"Harry." Harry jerked his head to the side at the voice and grinned as he saw Luna floating there next to Bruce who seemed to be so shocked he was having a hard time holding up his tattered pants.
"Luna dear! You made it. How was the trip? Are the descendants settling in nicely into Potter manor?"
"Oh yes, the trip was quite pleasant, though currently your relatives are attempting to re-enchant the stone above the library in the East wing. It seems like there was a massive hole there for some reason." Luna's voice was light and her hair seemed to be ruffled by a slight breeze, though Harry still didn't know how that was possible.
"Oh yeah, I knew I'd forgotten something." Harry dismissed.
"But Harry, we have a problem." Harry's gaze sharpened on the ghost, but Luna's face was as serene as always.
"And what's that?" Luna gestured towards the still shocked Bruce.
"This poor man has the most serious case of Wrackspurts I've ever seen!"
There was silence for a moment and then Harry grinned, though he knew Luna wouldn't appreciate it.
"Never change Luna dear." Luna scoffed already taking off the ghostly butterbeer cork necklace and laying it around Bruce's neck. Harry mused at the action and began to seriously think about whether or not he should ask Luna if she was a regular ghost or not. Seriously, how did she do these things? Ghosts were not supposed to be able to remove their jewelry and place it on other people.
"What a silly thing to say Harry. Ghosts don't change."
And as it was the scene that played out in the middle of a battle damaged New York was one of the strangest in living history. Even the Avengers who'd become accustomed to the oddities of aliens, Gods, and mind control weapons stood in silent confusion. Tony Stark merely sighed and put a palm to his forehead wishing desperately for an alcoholic beverage. But first, he knew they all had a meeting with a pirate to attend, not to mention a date to collect a Hulk smashed God of Trickery. But after . . . well after that, "Hey," Tony spoke up "have any of you ever had swaharma? I really want to try some swaharma. There's this place about two blocks down and I think we should go get some. It could be team bonding exercise."
They all glanced in his direction, but nobody had anything to say,
And there's chapter three! Not sure if I'm entirely happy with this one, but there you go. I'd like to once again thank everyone for the overwhelming response to this story. It's nothing short of amazing every time I see the favorites, follows, and positive reviews. As a matter of concern I would like to reinforce that this is a Gen fic meaning that there will be no SLASH. To be honest, I prefer writing SLASH, but I want to keep this as completely plot driven and character oriented as possible. You all seem very concerned as to who is shacking up with who so I'm here to say that only canon pairings will be included, but even those relationships won't be focused on.
On another note, I'm happy to report that I did not change Harry's gender. I don't really get how everybody is so concerned about that one, but you can all rest happy now.
Also, just curious, to those of you who write your own fics. Have you noticed some of the text from your chapters disappearing randomly during the initial editing process on the actual site? Some of the typos that have been appearing are not showing up as typos in my original Word file so I was just wondering if maybe I'm going crazy or not.
Thanks again for all of the reviews and I hope to hear from you guys soon. Until next time!