Thank you to all my reviewers, and my lovely and patient readers!
So, as the above says, this chapter didn't get betaed. Both I and La Tigra have been too busy this past week to bother with it, but we'll replace the chapter with a betaed version later on. This is also the reason the chapter is coming late in the day.
Moving on. The winning one-shot will likely not be posted until we hit break between part 4 and part 5. The request was for a fic where Natasha Romanoff and Lily Evans are the same person, so we'll see how I do with it.
I enjoyed writing this chapter, so hopefully you'll enjoy reading it.
It didn't take the director more than three minutes to reach the lab, and Harry was already standing when he entered. Fury nodded to him.
"Agent Coulson says you're done."
"Yes sir. The only thing I hadn't understood yet was the nature of the control."
"And you do now?"
"Yes. It took me awhile, because I've never seen anything quite like this. Most control-based magic works in one of two ways. Either it's like the Imperius curse, and it takes absolute control, turning the victim into little more than a zombie following orders, or it works like a love potion, altering the victims thoughts to make them so focussed on one thing, they work towards set goals without direction."
"You really have love potions?" Stark interrupted, in a tone that could have been excitement or fright. They both ignored him.
"But this doesn't really work like either of those. It doesn't alter the victim's personality, or their thought process, or their emotions, but it doesn't make them unable to do anything but follow orders either. Theoretically, it would actually be possible for a victim to disobey an order given to them under its' effects."
"Then how does it work?"
"It gives them information. It makes them think that the actions they're being ordered to complete will lead to an outcome they themselves want. Say, for instance, that someone wants world peace. The spear would make them think that whoever is ordering them around, wants the same thing, and that following those orders will lead to it. It's like dangling your deepest desires in front of you, and making you believe they're in your grasp." Fury frowned.
"That doesn't sound like it would be enough to make one of my agents defect." Harry shrugged.
"It's a lot more dangerous than it sounds. There's this mirror they used to keep locked away in my old school before it was destroyed, that shows you your deepest desire when you look into it. They locked it up in the first place, because so many people would waste away in front of it, or go mad because they believed that because they could see what they wanted in the mirror, that that meant it was actually possible, even if it wasn't. It may not sound like it's enough, but when you're put into that situation..." Fury paused, and then hesitantly nodded, and Harry wondered what his deepest wants were.
"Is there any way to prevent the control in the first place?"
"I don't know sir. Like I said, I've never seen anything like this before. The Imperius curse can be fought against by having a stronger will than the caster, and occlumency training. Love potions have both counter potions and preventative ones, but I don't know if any of those would work with this. There might be some sort of mental preventative that would work, but the mind arts aren't something I'm very knowledgeable about."
"What about your father? You said he was a mind reader didn't you?" Hill asked, and Harry was reminded for a second at just how offended Severus would be to hear it phrased that way. "Would he know anything about this?" He thought about that, considering it. He couldn't say he was eager to drag more members of his family into this, but he could use Severus' calming presence at the moment, and it was true that he had the expertise.
"He might. If you've got a phone I can use, I could give him a call. I can't guarantee he would be able to help though." Fury nodded.
"We'll take what we can get right now. Hill."
"Get this man a phone." He turned back to Harry. "Let me know if we need to bring your father aboard, Mr. Black."
He had worried that he would have to work on convincing him, but as it turned out, the thought of having a puzzle to delve into, one that might even require his skills as a potion master, looked to be enough of a draw to lure him in. Harry had only just gotten off the phone with him, when he was bashfully asking Coulson if he could send someone to get him from Stark tower. He still wasn't sure how Severus even knew what it was, but then, he sometimes forgot, that, like him, the man had grown up in the muggle world, and so was perfectly capable of finding his way around a muggle city.
"Will he be able to work here in this lab?" Coulson asked him almost fifteen minutes later, once Severus was confirmed to be on his way. Harry pondered for a moment, looking around at the metal and glass room that really wasn't very big.
"Not if he winds up needing to do any brewing. He'll need more table space than this, and a room with good ventilation." Coulson nodded slowly.
"I think there's a room just down the hall that would work. Let me check." Harry returned his smile, and the Agent stepped out of the room. For a moment, Harry had begun to gather up and organize his papers, thinking nothing of it. Then it suddenly occurred to him, as he looked up, surprise lancing through him at what, he was certain, had been an accident.
"He left us alone." Stark glanced up from his phone.
"What was that pee-wee?"
"Coulson left us alone." Stark blinked a few times, brown eyes widening slightly, and then looked around. Harry saw Bruce do the same thing from the corner of his eye.
"So he did. Good." He put away the phone and his fingers flew across one of the screens. Harry heard a click and a rush of air from the door, and watched as the glass windows, which had been completely clear, suddenly darkened to black, impossible to see through. How did they do that without magic?
"What are you doing?"
"Oh, just locking down the lab and shutting off the security cameras." Harry frowned, apprehension curling in his gut.
"Why?" Stark grinned at him.
"Because it will take them at least fifteen minutes to override it, and when they do I can tell them I used this time to tell you everything." Bruce's eyebrows raised.
"You realize he doesn't have clearance and that Fury will be-"
"Furious? Yep. But then, I already told him."
"What?!" His surprised eyes fell on Harry then, who pointed to the lit table he had been working at all this time.
"Apparently, that's a computer too." Bruce looked back and forth between the table, Harry, and Stark for a moment, and then sighed and shook his head; his forehead scrunching and his eyes darkening.
"As long as I don't have to get involved." He told them, and sat down.
"So," Harry started. "Since that's just what you're going to tell them we're doing, what is it that we're going to actually be doing?" Stark came closer and leaned his back against one of the work stations, smirking, and Harry's apprehension grew.
"You are going to explain how it is that your weight and mass don't match up." Harry's forehead scrunched in confusion.
"Pardon?" Stark sighed.
"When you came in, I did a few scans of you. You have some sort of unknown energy with traces of gamma rays, which I assume is your magic. The scans also included an X-Ray, and muscle mass scan, and a height and weight analysis. Your body's combined height, density, and overall mass, couldn't possibly fit with your weight. You are seven pounds heavier than you could possibly be, and yes, I factored in all your little trinkets and clothes. So, you're going to explain to me how that is. What magical thing did you do to yourself?" Harry's mouth opened and closed once. He hadn't thought that he would be put in this situation. He hadn't thought there was even a remote possibility of anyone discovering that he was hiding anything. Or rather, he hadn't thought that if anyone came to suspect he was holding something back, that they would confront him about it; especially not in such a very bold manner. Bruce spoke up, and when Harry looked he saw his brother was actually glaring.
"That's not any of your business." He said in a harsh tone, his body taking on a protective stance. Stark shrugged, not at all concerned with the growing irritation of someone who could turn into a being fully capable of ripping him in half.
"That's fine. If you won't tell me I can just tell Fury you're hiding something, and watch him lock you in a box until you tell all of us. I think you can tell for yourself how paranoid he is." He tilted his head, and walked around to the other side of the workstation while he was talking until he was leaning over it on his elbows. "Or, you could just tell me, and this doesn't have to go any further."
"Stark!" Bruce hissed at him, standing now.
"What? I just want to know. I don't like not knowing something. It's not like I'll actually tell anyone about whatever this is."
"That's not the point!" Bruce yelled at him, moving so that he stood somewhat in front of Harry. "You don't get to go butting into people's lives and secrets like that!" Stark rolled his eyes.
"It's not like I'm hurting anyone."
"You-" Bruce's mouth snapped shut, his teeth gritting. Harry noticed a green tinge to his skin, and for the first time, Stark actually looked a little afraid. Harry put a hand on Bruce's arm, and those eyes, which had turned a poisonous green, snapped to his face. He smiled calmly, even as irritation flared alive inside him; not nearly as strong as Bruce's anger.
"It's okay, brother. Just take a deep breath, and I'll handle this. Okay?" Bruce stared silently for a second, as though unsure he wanted to, but then breathed in, and Harry was satisfied as the glow to his eyes and the tinge to his skin began to fade. Then he turned to Stark, and as he approached him, his pleasant smile faded away and he bared his teeth like the feline he was. Stark seemed to sense something wrong, and took a step back when Harry got too close.
"There's this spell called Crucio." He informed him "It's a dark spell that stimulates the nerves in the body based on the intents of the caster. In most countries, it's illegal because when you use it with angry or harmful intent, it causes the victim such excruciating pain that it's capable of sending them into unrecoverable states of near-comatose insanity. In this country, however, it's perfectly legal, because of its' popular usage with good intent." That was one of the few things he actually knew about American Union laws; courtesy of a report he had done on the curse for the fake-Moody, back in fourth year. His eyes hardened. "I've never properly cast it before, and I'd rather not start now, but I don't take kindly to anyone who threatens me." His voice lowered to a dangerous hiss." I'll show you what you want to know, but if that information goes any further than you, I promise you'll live to regret it. Are we clear?" It was an empty threat, of course. Oh, he would make Stark pay if he opened his big mouth, but not with that curse. Yes, he could cast it (at least he believed he could, believed in his magical ability to do so). Yes, he could torture with it (he could hurt anyone who proved themselves a threat to his, or his family's, wellbeing). But after all the times the Dark Lord and his loyal followers had used it during the war, after the time he himself had been subjected to it, the thought of using that curse left the taste of acid on his tongue.
But Stark didn't know that, and was listening with wide, fearful eyes, aware enough of the workings of the human body to understand just how badly something that stimulated nerves negatively could hurt.
"Good." He lifted up his arm, and pointed to the black band of rune-carved stone. "This is a glamour band that alters my appearance to make me seem human." He took it off. It was reckless, threatening Stark, and showing him this (though no more than showing the Slytherins back in sixth year had been), but he was too stressed from the environment, and and too irritated at the thought that Stark had nearly made Bruce turn into the Hulk; which would have put him in danger, given that this was, in fact, a military environment. He also recognized the gleam in Stark's eyes well enough from his past friendship with Hermione, to know he wouldn't give up until his question had been answered. It had been a trait of hers that he hated; no matter how much he had loved the rest of her. It had been that, and her desire to tell him what to do, combined with her relationship with Ron (and his pigheadedness about Slytherins), that had led to them parting ways. He sometimes wished that it could have been different.
Stark's gaze roved over his glamourless form, and Harry let himself be circled, tail twitching behind him, with Stark occasionally prodding at it, or his scales, or horns. He looked fascinated, all previous fear gone and replaced by intrigue, and Harry wasn't really sure what to feel about that. He felt almost like an animal in a zoo; like he and that boa constrictor from his childhood had suddenly traded places, and Stark was Dudley, banging on the glass to his cage, trying to get him to do something interesting.
"What are you?" He asked, and his voice was filled with curiosity and a hint of awe. Harry snapped the glamour band back on and walked away, shivering unnoticably. He didn't like the way Stark looking at him like that made him feel; as though he was back in his first year with people always watching him. Like he was some freak to be gawked at.
"If you can behave yourself, then I might just tell you once all this shit is over and done with." Stark was grinning triumphantly when he looked back up.
"Good. Once Loki's all squared away we can talk over drinks."
"As long as you're paying." He almost looked offended, and put his hand to his chest in an exaggerated motion.
"Of course I will be! You speak as though I have no class!" Harry gave him a deadpan look, which he grinned at, and the wizard couldn't help but to chuckle. Bruce shook his head at them, and there was a sort of disbelief on his face of how quickly the animosity in the room had come and gone.
"In the future, Mr. Stark," Harry began. "if you want to know something, just ask nicely and say please. I tend to be pretty honest when given the chance." Most of the time anyways. "No more threats from you, and there'll be none from me." Stark nodded, still smiling. Harry thought his teeth were too white.
"I'll keep that in mind, also, it's Tony, please."
"Then you can call me Harry." He offered.
"Aw, but short-stuff sounds so much better!" Harry cast him an irritated look, and would have commented, but the door chose that moment to open with a click and a hiss, the windows lightening along with it. Romanoff stalked in, hand fingering the gun at her hip, her furious eyes already on Stark, who winced. Fury was right behind her, his face twisted up in his rage.
"You better have a damn good explanation Stark." He said, not even needing it clarified that Stark had told the animagus everything despite lack of clearance. Harry found his calm, quiet voice, was much more frightening than his expression or the way he gave the impression of looming over them all.
"I seem to have come at an unfortunate time." Harry felt a shocking sense of relief at the smooth baritone, and his face broke out in a bright smile despite the current atmosphere. He jumped to his feet to greet his father. Severus looked down at him with amusement when he hugged him, and put a hand on his head; which never failed to make him feel like a child. It was a welcome change from the sense of overwhelming he'd been burdened with since the moment he first stepped into that helicopter. He didn't like this whole situation; making him feel as though he were back in Bogdon worrying himself into the night on how he was to kill Voldemort. And this, felt so much bigger than that. After all, Voldemort had wanted wizarding Europe, but Loki wanted the entire world. Severus looked away from Harry to the spear on the table.
"So this is what's caused enough trouble for two of my children to be dragged into it." He eyed the weapon with distaste, and his words were enough to temporarily distract the others in the room, which now included a new face that Harry hadn't seen before. A tall, muscled man with short blonde hair and honest blue eyes, who was looking at Stark the way a parent might look at their misbehaving child.
"Two of your children?" Romanoff asked.
"Bruce and Harry, yes." She raised a brow.
"I thought Dr. Banner's father was Brian Banner." She said, in a tone that held suspicion. The potion master looked down at her with distaste, his nose wrinkling slightly in a sneer, as though she were gunk on his boots.
Lucius would be proud.
"One does not need a blood connection to be family, Miss Romanoff." His eyes moved to Bruce. "You look well. They are treating you with respect I should hope?" Bruce smiled up at him, looking a bit lighter than usual. It occurred to Harry that outside of the handful of jokes they had made on the subject of Harry's odd hand-picked little family, this was the first time Severus had really laid any claim to Bruce (or to Muhammad for that matter) the way he often did with Harry. It felt nice, and it made him grin. He looked to Agent Coulson.
"Mr. Coulson? Could you show us where that room is please?" Coulson's face moved into his usual pleasant smile and he nodded.
"I'd be happy to. Just this way." Harry followed Coulson and his father out just as he could feel the anger begin to reinfect the atmosphere. At least he wouldn't have to deal with the backlash. Stark could deal with that alone, the bastard. He walked side by side with Coulson, his father a pace behind.
"He told you everything didn't he?" The agent asked.
"Yep." He sighed.
"So you know about Loki?"
"Think you could help us with any magical problems he causes? Assuming the director approves."
"I'll consider it."
"Good. Here it is." He held a hand out towards a room that looked similar enough to the lab, but without all the computers and other equipment. Harry thanked him, and he started to walk away before stopping.
"You're going to tell him everything too, aren't you?" He motioned at Severus.
"Probably." He sighed again, and with a nod, walked away. The wizard thought he heard him mutter about how they should have just shot Stark and been done with it. Harry followed his father into the room, and was immediately subjected to a look that said 'tell me what's happening, now'.
Severus' face was grave as he listened to Harry and set up his equipment, carried there as it had been in a special case he had used often while they travelled. The young man told his father everything he had gleaned from the files, which only gave him the basics of the situation at hand, and the involvement of Loki and Thor, as well as a small bit of their background. There had been mentions of a physicist, who, like one of Shield's agents, was under the control of the scepter, and something called 'the avenger's initiative', that Harry left out because he didn't have anymore information on them outside of those tiny mentions. Severus sighed wearily when he was done.
"How is it that anytime I turn my back, you manage to get yourself involved in some manner of catastrophe?"
"It's not always a catastrophe." He gave Harry a bland look. "Only most of the time." His father snorted and turned back to his set up.
"I have a bad feeling about all this." He told Harry. "This Loki character reminds me of the Dark Lord in a way that is decidedly unpleasant."
"He's not like Voldemort." Severus paused, and raised a brow, and then his face tightened.
"He appears to be, from what you have told me thus far, unless of course, there is something you have not shared?" Harry swallowed, and tugged nervously on one of his leather sleeves. There was a stifling silence, that was broken only by the small clink of his armour beneath his clothes as he nervously shifted on his feet. Harry had never shared what he had seen, had experienced, when he had lost consciousness during the battle at Hogwarts, or rather, when he had temporarily died there. It had been a secret he had held close to his heart, not ready for anyone to know of it. Even now, with it having happened again in his sleep, he was reluctant to share his knowledge of Hel, and of his position as Death's Master.
More than that, he couldn't begin to explain what he had witnessed, or what he had been asked to do, or why he had hidden it; not when he himself had yet to fully understand it all.
"Harry?" Severus' eyes were soft when he looked up. "What troubles you child?" There was genuine concern in his voice, something he still occasionally had trouble believing.
"I-" He paused, took in a steadying breath, and then met his father's eyes. "Look for yourself." Severus dipped his head, pausing only a moment.
"Legimins." He felt a banging in his head, like a knock on a wooden door, and he opened his shields just enough for Severus to enter, his mental presence familiar to Harry in ways no other was. Images swirled through his mind, remaining untouched by his father's invading presence, and he brought up the ones he needed, of the first time. Then they were watching, the memory playing out before them like a picture on a screen, his emotions and thoughts laid bare for the potion master to see. He watched in interest, as Harry spoke one last time to the man who gave him life but could never hold the title Severus himself had been given, and then his encounter with she who embodied death. Harry watched him study her, both through Harry's own thoughts at the time, and his own. He listened carefully to every word as the memory played to its' end.
There was a moment of thoughtful pause before he brought up the next, much more recent occurrence, and this one, Severus watched almost in slow-motion; first in shock, then in a sort of desperate melancholy. He poured over the image of Lily's face, her hair, her eyes, the sound of her voice and her laughter. He listened intently as Harry spoke to her, and interacted with his mother for the first time. Harry felt his joy and his sorrow as he listened to them together, and his bittersweet happiness as she thanked him for taking care of Severus, and Severus for caring for him in turn.
But then she was gone, and Hel was there again, and he let the memory play out at normal speed once more, pushing down his emotions to listen to her words, the things she implied, and, most importantly, her request. Then he pulled back, and Harry took a steadying breath as they were flung from the mental world back into reality, having to take a step back to balance himself. He looked around him, relieved to note that no one had come in while they had been preoccupied. Severus looked troubled. It was such a strange thing for Harry to visibly see in a man who tended to downplay and hide his own emotions, even after all this time.
"I'm sorry I didn't-" Severus put a hand up.
"We all have a right to our secrets, Harry. I'm not angry with you. Still... That she wants your help with him does not mean he is unlike the Dark Lord. You told me the scepter doesn't alter the person it controls, and that the reports you read say that he is trying to use an artifact to bring an army here, to take over Earth. If he is working towards that goal, even under the effects of the spear, it means he genuinely wants to rule."
"But that doesn't mean he would ever have gone about it in this way on his own. And we don't know if it's ruling he wants, or something connected to it, like respect."
"Or control over others." Harry sighed. "I'm not telling you you're incorrect, Harry. I'm telling you that you must be prepared for the possibility. If this Loki is beyond reason, you will have to accept that." Harry looked away from him, frustrated but knowing he was right.
"Hel said he needed saving from himself, not from anyone else. He's in Shield custody right now." He turned. "They're muggles."
"Which means they have no magical protection to ensure his confinement." Severus finished for him, allowing the minor change in subject. Harry nodded sharply.
"Which means there's not actually anything keeping him here. So why hasn't he escaped yet?" Severus frowned.
"He must be waiting for something."
"But if it was just that, why would he let himself get caught in the first place?" He bit his lip. "Wait." Harry's eyes narrowed. "How did he manage getting caught in the first place, without it being suspicious?"
"Perhaps the muggles have some tricks up their sleeves?"
"If they'd be able to stand up to him, wouldn't that make them a threat?" Severus nodded.
"It would, especially as the magical world wouldn't involve themselves in this."
"Because if he manages to bring his army here, it will be a very public event. Getting involved would mean a risk of exposure for us. No one in the magical world would allow that."
"So no one magical would stand up to him, which makes these muggles the only real threat."
"I did say he reminds me of the Dark Lord, and it was always in his nature to stamp out threats to himself as early as he was able."
"That's exactly why he tried to kill me as a baby." Severus nodded.
"If Loki shares that trait,"
"Then that would explain why he was here." Severus looked thoughtful.
"But how can he do so if he's remaining in his cell?"
"He still has that Agent under his control." Severus waved a hand towards the door, and the guards they could see out there, even now.
"One man, and whatever allies he can scrounge up, would hardly be enough to take down the army of men that Director has under his employment."
"No it wouldn't... Unless..."
"What is is, Harry?"
"The Hulk comes out when Bruce feels threatened, when he's in danger." His father nodded.
"And then he loses control."
"They wouldn't need to take down all Fury's men." Severus' eyes widened in realization.
"They would only need to frighten Bruce into a transformation so he could do it for them." Harry swallowed.
"I need to tell Fury."
He started to move towards the door, when the entire vessel seemed to shake and shift, a loud boom sounding out as Harry was sent sprawling across the ground, the windows around them shattering violently. He scrambled for purchase, disoriented and shocked by the suddenness of it all. His hands were cut a bit as he threw them up around his face to protect it from the flying bits, and as the tremors subsided he managed to work his way to his knees, hearing grinding metal in the distance. His heart pounded against his ribcage in a way it hadn't done in what felt like years; adrenaline immediately shooting through his veins.
"Father!" There was a cough and a grunt; the shifting of glass Harry could only just hear over the deafening alarms that had begun to sound; echoing off the metal walls and hurting his ears.
"I'm fine Harry! Get Bruce! Go!" Harry nodded towards Severus, sprawled on his back as he was, but in one piece, and relatively unharmed, and leapt up. The door was jammed shut when he tried it, so he climbed out one of the windows, instead of wasting time fighting with it, and was sprinting down the hall to the lab, his feet crunching over broken glass. He stumbled a bit, still disoriented, and shook his head to try and clear it. The alarms lost volume, helping his endeavor.
The lab door had been broken off, the metal bands that had surrounded the windows were bent at odd angles, all the glass gone and scattered into pieces across the ground. He could see Stark, and the blond man, both on the floor, but moving, struggling to their feet. The blond man was up first, and looked at him as his eyes finished frantically scanning over the mangled lab, finding no sight of his brother.
"Where's Bruce?" He demanded. Like he had, the blond looked around, as Stark finished scrambling upwards.
"Where's Natasha?" The blond asked quietly, almost to himself. Stark looked up, and around, and his eyes fell on the open hole at one end of the lab where glass had once been.
"Harry. The windows." Harry ran to them, and looked down. He swallowed. They had fallen, over a floor down, and he could see them. Romanoff was down there, struggling but trapped under something, and Bruce was there too, on his knees, Harry looking down on his back from above.
His shirt started ripping. It was too late to stop it.
Harry cursed in Arabic, and jumped.
There was a moment, one which he knew should have terrified him, but didn't, where he was almost grateful to the Alu for stealing his ability to fear from him. It should have been horrifying, to see those poison green eyes fall on him, in that moment, just a moment, where there was no recognition. That moment right after the transformation where there was only animal fear and rage in those eyes and he knew the Hulk didn't know him; didn't know he was a friend.
Yet he felt no fear, no terror, no horror. He felt concern, for his brother, for the Hulk, for the people on board. He felt worry for how they would get out of this mess. He felt anger, towards Loki, and whoever was controlling him, for causing this, because he knew, had seen it in the way Coulson and Romanoff moved around Bruce, that they knew about the Hulk, and Harry didn't know what they would do.
But then it passed, the rage, and the fear lessened some, still there but not so horrifying, a flicker of knowledge appeared inside those depths of green, and the Hulk opened his mouth.
"Kitty?" Harry smiled, his body flushing with relief that lifted a full stone from his shoulders.
"Yea. It's me. How you doin' big guy? You okay?"
"Hulk fine." His eyes fell on Romanoff, who's breaths came so quickly, and whose body was still trapped under a large beam of metal. Harry could almost feel her panic, as the Hulk's face twisted in anger and he snarled at her.
"Hey!" Those green eyes fell back on him, the being looking almost startled that he would yell at him. "You leave her alone you hear me? You don't hurt her." He ordered him sternly. He felt like a parent disciplining their child.
If that child was big and green and able to snap him in half like a toothpick. He bit down on the hysterical laughter that threatened to come from his throat.
"Red want Hulk in cage!" He snarled.
"No one wants you in a cage." Harry told him, putting a hand out. "And if anyone tries to put you in one, I'll kill them. Okay?" Hulk breathed hard, staring at him. Then he growled once, in Romanoff's direction, before nodding. Harry patted his arm comfortingly, and was thankful to note, from the purple underwear, that Bruce had chosen to use his gift. It certainly avoided a great deal of awkwardness. "Can you help me get this off her?" He asked, pointing to the metal. Hulk grunted, baring his teeth irritably, and lifted it up with one hand enough for Romanoff to roll out and jump to her feet. Her hazel eyes, wide and filled with fear and disbelief, shifted rapidly back and forth from him to Hulk. "You have a radio?" He asked her, and she swallowed and seemed to gather herself; all emotion disappearing as she fell into 'action mode'; a soldier left where a frightened woman had been.
"Let them know I'm bringing him upstairs, to that control room we can see from the lab. If anyone is stupid enough to shoot him, I won't stop him from retaliating." She nodded, and pulled her arm up to her ear to send out the warning. Harry pulled his attention away from her. He pointed up. "Can you get us up that hole?" Hulk nodded, smiling at being of help.
"Hulk jump good." For the second time in his life, Harry was gathered up into huge green arms, and then Hulk jumped. It was more a hop than a jump, Harry could easily see the length of many feet was no difficulty for Hulk. Still, when he was put down, Harry grinned at him.
"Thank you Hulk." He looked so pleased with himself, Harry had to hold back laughter. It made him think of a little kid wanting nothing more than to please their parent, and then being so happy when they managed it; not unlike how he had been around Severus during the early days of them not hating each other. He grasped a huge green finger, too big for him to wrap his own fingers all the way around it. Hulk let him lead him through the halls. He could hear gunfire in other parts of the ship, but no one they passed shot at them; even though they all looked scared shitless at the sight of the Hulk. Instead they kept their guns up, and gave them a wide birth, often pressing tightly up against the walls.
The incredulity on their faces at seeing the Hulk let him lead him around like a child was amusing enough to temporarily distract Harry from the current situation. The shock on Fury's face was even funnier. Harry ignored him a moment though, once they reached the control room, in favor of Hulk.
"Hey big guy?" He grunted at him. "I have to go make sure father is okay, and see what I can do to help. I need you to stay here and keep all these people safe. Can you do that?" Hulk glared out at all the Shield employees, and more so at Fury, but nodded.
"Hulk protect. Kitty stay safe." Harry hugged him, more wrapping his arms around a leg than anything, and he was very gentle in returning it.
"I'll be fine. You take care of yourself." He met Fury's eyes, and nodded. The Director nodded back, and Harry knew when this was over that he would have questions to answer to.
But right now he was more concerned with doing what he could to help.
Harry cast reparo after reparo as he made his way back to the lab Severus was in. He could still hear gunfire, and explosions as he went, and though he got some looks at the instant repairs, he ignored them. He didn't know how many people here were aware of magic, but he figured Fury would appreciate the help enough not to care about him using it in front of them, and given the situation anyone who did could bugger off. Stark and the blonde man were gone when he made it back past the main lab, repairing the windows as he went. Then he could see his father, the windows of his own work station already back as they were before the blast.
"You alright?" He asked coming in.
"I would be fine, if my ingredients weren't strewn about like papers in the wind." Severus kept all his ingredients in unbreakable bottles, but that said nothing of the handful of corks that had come out; spilling the vials' holdings all over the floor. There wasn't much though, and they were all dry ingredients that Severus was slowly cleaning up and putting back while Harry looked him up and down. There was a shallow cut on his cheek, a couple scrapes on his hands, and his robes were scuffed where he had fallen on his knees. He would probably have a few bruises soon, but he was fine.
The roar of the Hulk sounded out from the control room, accompanied by more gunfire. Harry heard crashing and rending metal but wasn't worried for his brother; the memory of Hulk easily killing that feline beast still fresh in his mind. He tried to think of what to do, and then saw Coulson run past, carrying a very big gun. He gave his father a look and slipped out. The potion master could fend for himself, and if Coulson needed that big a weapon in the first place, he could probably use some backup.
He just saw him disappear down a set of steps, and followed after him, jogging to keep up, but not running so he could keep his breath even and hear better. Beneath his glamours his tail fell against the floor and dragged; feeling the vibrations of the bullets and small explosions happening around him. Somewhere there was a sort of vibrating hum that worried him because he hadn't heard it until after the first explosion.
He wondered how many people he could keep alive if this craft fell into the ocean.
He stayed a few paces behind Coulson, until they were suddenly in a completely new area. They walked down a bridge of sorts, and Coulson stopped before a set of glass and metal doors. He turned to look at Harry, likely having known he was there from the moment he had chosen to follow him.
"You got my back?" Harry met his eyes and nodded. He felt a strange pressure with the agreement, and Mitera's presence sharpened in his head. He had no time to dwell on it yet. "Good. Stay behind me." The doors slid open and they walked into a strange circular room. Wind assaulted Harry from below, and he noted the large cylindrical glass cage, suspended over a hole of open air, clouds that looked strangely serene floating by below them. A large long-haired blonde man with a red cape and a silvery, rune-covered hammer was trapped inside, looking from below to the other occupant of the room in something like fear with ice blue eyes. Harry thought he might be Thor.
The other man was taller than Severus, and thinner. He had dark hair and pale skin. High cheekbones framed a handsome face, and when he looked up, Harry saw that his eyes were a sharp blue, and knew they should have been the same color as Hel's, though his had pupils and whites. Loki. He grinned malevolently at them with shining white teeth that were perfectly straight. His eyes glinted, his hair was frizzy at the ends, and he didn't look sane. Harry reached his magic out on instinct; curious, wanting to know what this man's, this god's, magic felt like.
He sucked in a breath, and Loki's smile vanished as a sea of dark waters met a storm of ice.
It was incredible.
Like watching a mountain fall, or feeling an earthquake.
It was like when Mitera showed him how truly insignificant he was and how much she loved him all the same.
It was like swimming in the waters of Hogwart's heart room, looking up and seeing all the thousands of runes and feeling as though he were an ant standing before an elephant.
It was like fighting Voldemort.
It was like killing Bellatrix.
It was like flying.
Like swimming in the ocean.
It was a vivid torrent of unstoppable emotions.
Loki's magic was a storm of ice and sleet and snow and rain; falling down and sideways and up all at once. It was violent. It was wild. It was chaos. It was powerful. It twisted and swirled and tumbled and roared with the same uncontrollable rhythm of his own.
His own magic, a churning sea of untamable black waters that swirled and spun and crashed met Loki's storm like two old friends greeting each other after a long absence. They embraced, they danced, they fought, they tested the limits and created a song together; singing as one in a moment of perfect harmony. Harry's sea churned and then calmed, Loki's storm raged and then eased.
There was a singular moment of absolute peace and contentment, where both knew they had met their equal in power, their match in strength and ability, and smiled. Calm, happy, matching smiles like ones who had all they could ever want. The blue in Loki's eyes flickered, giving way to incredible green that was brighter than Harry's own for just a second and then going back.
The moment shattered when their magic parted, their minds returned to themselves, and both were suddenly and sharply aware that a war had just been set in motion.
And they stood on opposite sides.
Coulson was talking, saying something to Loki, but Harry couldn't hear him. He thought Loki could, because the god replied, but his eyes never left Harry's, his face never altered away from the frown it had set itself in when the moment of their magic meeting had passed. Harry's mind swirled with so many emotions, and so much confusion, he could do nothing but meet that gaze head-on and say nothing.
What had just happened?
He didn't know, and felt like he should have been afraid. He wanted to be afraid. But he couldn't. Fear was beyond him, and where he had thanked the Alu in his mind not ten minutes before, he cursed it now, finally understanding why Muhammad had called it both a gift and a curse. He loved and hated his inability to fear all in the same moment. Loki's body flickered, not really there, and Harry saw what be planned before he did it.
He moved fast, jumping behind Coulson and twisting, catching the spear with a fist, stopping it less than an inch from his own head. His face contorted in anger, and he glared at Loki, eyes blazing. The god gave him a slightly abashed look, almost like apologizing, before pulling back and then trying to bring the blade of the scepter down on his head; slicing through the air with the sound of a whip. Harry's tail pushed Coulson forward and away from the god in the same moment he moved under the weapon and slashed at Loki with his claws.
They cut through one of the leather straps like it wasn't there at all, and Loki jumped back. He grinned at Harry as Coulson twisted around, aiming to shoot. Only when he slammed his hand down on the button did Harry realize he stood near a panel. He heard the cage disengage before he could turn to look. Coulson fired, but Loki was gone, the huge beam of light smashing into the wall with a strange sound and leaving a small crater; not unlike a bombarda spell.
The entire exchange had been quick, taken only a couple seconds from the moment Harry first moved, and then it was over, Loki was gone, and Thor was falling; maybe to his death. Harry said the first word that came to his mind.
Harry sat at a circular metal table, and felt exhausted. His encounter with Loki had been brief, and yet he felt as though he hadn't slept in years. His father sat next to him, and the hand the potion master kept on his shoulder was the only thing grounding him in that moment; the only thing keeping him calm. Even the soothing mental waves of ocean water Mitera sent to him did nothing. It didn't stop his stomach from twisting and swirling fretfully in a manner that made him nauseous.
Across from them was Stark, clad in a gold and red metal suit that looked scuffed and damaged, the helmet of it sitting on the table in front of him. A couple seats from him was the blond from earlier that had introduced himself to Harry as Captain Steve Rogers. He wore a red, white, and blue outfit with a star on it, and had a shield of the same colors leaning against his leg. Fury walked around them in a circle, Hill and Coulson standing a few paces away against a railing and watching them all in silence. The click of the Director's boots on metal floors was the only sound.
Bruce was in a medical bay somewhere, sleeping off his transformation into the Hulk. Romanoff was nowhere to be found, though Harry heard they had recovered their lost agent, and thought that might have something to do with it. He didn't know if Thor had survived the fall or not.
And Loki had escaped.
All their faces were grave. Harry knew he had been dragged into something he had never been meant to be a part of. It hadn't started when Bruce had called him for help. It hadn't started when he called his father for more help. Not when the explosion happened. Not when he showed he could keep Hulk under control.
It happened the moment he saved Coulson from Loki, and revealed his strength matched his; revealed in those small seconds that if he had to, he could fight him.
He couldn't say he regretted it. Not exactly. But even now he could see the wheels turning in Fury's head. He could see the way Hill and Coulson looked at him. Not like he was an enemy. Not like he was an ally. Like he was an asset.
Like he was something they could use for their own means.
Dumbledore had looked at him that way, but Harry had forgiven him for it (though not until after he had died). It had been in his nature, a part of his position as a leader. The needs of the many against the needs of a few. He couldn't afford to think of Harry as a person.
It bothered him that Fury was the same, but now, at least, he understood it; could accept it even.
Even though he wanted to tell them all to go fuck themselves, light up a cancer stick, and then pass out for a day or two, just like he knew Muhammad would do in his place; he knew that if they asked, he would fight.
He knew they didn't even have to ask.
Severus gripped his shoulder a little tighter, as though he knew his thoughts, and though Harry felt no mental intrusion, the man probably did. He knew him well enough to know. Harry thought on that a moment, distracted by how easily his father must read him. But then Fury began to talk, and Harry was pushed back into reality.
"A year ago, a couple of aliens came to Earth and had a grudge match that levelled a small town. We not only learned that we weren't alone, we learned that we are hopelessly, hilariously, out-gunned." It seemed there was a lot more to all this than the things Harry knew about. "The council thought we could use the tesseract to create weapons to defend ourselves; to keep it from happening again. But I never put much stock in that plan, because I was playing something even riskier." He stopped walking, and stood near the table between Harry and Stark, where he could see them all.
"There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles we never could. Stark knows this. It was called the Avengers Initiative." So that's what that was. Stark snorted.
"Fat load of good it did." He spat. "Everything's fallen apart now." He stood up, and Fury looked like he would say something, but changed his mind, as the billionaire stalked away. Harry frowned. Loki escaping didn't mean that all hope was lost. Fury sighed.
"Get some rest. We need to figure out what Loki's next move is, and we'll need your help when it's time."
"Yes sir." The captain stood, and with a nod of acknowledgement towards Harry and Severus, he left. Fury's eyes fell on him next, and Harry couldn't help but sit up straighter.
"You went toe to toe with Loki."
"It was hardly a fight." Harry protested.
"But you did it." He pointed out, and Harry fell quiet. "When it comes down to it, can we count on you?" Harry sighed, already having decided on his answer and nodded. "Agent Barton tells me Loki isn't planning to make his move until tomorrow. I'll have someone take you back to the city, and pick you up in the morning."
"Bruce comes with me."
"That's probably for the best." He was a little surprised that Fury didn't argue against it. "Get some rest, and come prepared tomorrow."
And that was the end of it.
I didn't realize how the scene with Loki could be seen until after I wrote it, so, while it'll be explained a little next chapter, I'm making a note here, because of something a friend said about the scene.
There is currently NO plans for a Harry/Loki pairing. He might not even be included in the second poll. I don't know yet. The scene has nothing to do with that, so don't take it that way.
As for how you should take it, well, that's up for debate.
On another note, there were a few of you who've wished me luck with my girlfriend. I love you all for your support, but well…
I'm single now.
Not feeling too happy at the moment, so I'm gonna go and chill, and paint, and get my mom to say something outrageous like she does so I can laugh and feel better.
See you all next week.