Summary: At eighteen Harry figures that he's done all the good that he'd ever going to do. SHIELD thinks otherwise. First in the Team Dynamics Series. Set Pre-Avengers Movie. Potterverse is AU after book 4.
Extended Summary: Enharmonic Interval is the first story in a series. The series will also crossover with the Batman Nolan verse in a major way. This story is set several years before the Avengers movie. Potterverse goes very AU after book 4, which means keep an open mind. Seriously, absolutely everything after book 4 is up for grabs. If you're not a fan of backstory and explanations being revealed over time this story might frustrate you. Likewise for people who dislike unreliable narration, or characters who outright lie to other characters without any indication at the time that they might be lying.
That said, thank you for reading my story! I hope that you enjoy the ride; it's a crazy one.
PS: I own nothing anyone would recognize, and everything that no one would.
Edit 3/11/14: I've continued to get some not so nice reviews over this first chapter. I'm not sure how much clearer I can say this without ruining all the suspense and mystery I've worked my ass off to cultivate in subsequent chapters. Absolutely everything is up for grabs after Goblet of Fire. Meaning that all canon events and abilities after that point are up for grabs. I'd strongly suggest delving into this story with an open mind, and please trust that any weird leaps in universe logic happen that way for a reason. And if you find that you're unable to trust me that much, please just stop reading. Sending another abrasive review pointing out what the reviewer thinks is a failing of logic, but in actuality is a plot device, is really a waste of everyone's time. Thanks so much for reading. I'll let you get to the story now.
Harry was eleven years old when he began to figure it out. The thought had existed for a long time, but in a new and strange place it still prevailed. In the end, the lesson didn't stick.
He was young, and he was foolish.
He was twelve and the opportunity recurred. He was older, smarter, but not smart enough. Again the chance slipped away and Harry reverted.
He was thirteen and he had hope, however brief. He learned another lesson then. You can't lose something until you have something to lose.
He was fourteen. He'd seen the beginning of the end. And he finally, finally understood.
He'd been stubborn, and it had taken years but now he knew. And he wouldn't forget.
"I want to be ready," he said calmly.
Sirius sucked in a furious breath, but a single glance made him deflate. He stared at Harry with a furious worried desperation. But he had no answers. So Harry turned to the Headmaster, whom he knew held the majority of the cards here.
"I want to be ready," he repeated. "He's going to come for me and he will kill me if I'm not prepared. So tell me. Tell me everything."
Dumbledore remained gravely silent for a moment, staring deeply into Harry's eyes. He seemed to come to a decision then. He straightened in his chair, his presence swelling until it touched every corner of his office.
Because Harry understood now. In the end, no one would be able to save him. If he wanted to live, he would have to save himself. No matter what it took.
He was fourteen, and he was done being helpless.
He was seventeen and victorious. Seventeen and different. Seventeen and broken.
And the world, the world was wrong. His people were weak and fearful.
It didn't end with Voldemort. There would always be evil. Humanity would continue to create evil. So now he would be there to stop it in all the forms it existed. He relished the burn, reveled in the collective majesty of the all those around him. His knees buckled, and he would have fallen if his brothers had not been there to gasp his elbows. Bolstered. Surrounded. Buffered. Safe.
And the Master, the Master was smiling. "Welcome Brother, to the League of Shadows."
He was eighteen, and he was probably going to die.
The arrow pierced him high, entering the back of his shoulder, sinking all the way through and exiting in the front. Then the head blossomed into a claw and dug into the skin and muscle around the wound. Harry had a moment to think oh shit before he was jerked off his feet.
He managed to twist as he fell to keep his weight off the wound, but couldn't protect himself beyond that.
Oh shit, he thought again. And then, who the fuck just shot me with an arrow?
There was the crunch of someone approaching over the roof tiles, and he quickly began groping at the arrowhead. He managed to detach the gripping arms just as the footsteps drew near. He rolled to his feet and ripped the arrow free in one motion. He stabbed out with it, hoping to catch his attacker off guard. The woman sidestepped out of the way, wielding a long wicked looking knife. Harry fell back, eyes cutting side to side as he searched for an escape.
The woman hadn't fired the arrow. There was no sign of a bow anywhere nearby. That meant backup. It meant that his chances of surviving this took a nosedive. Harry tossed the arrow shaft away, and reached for the knife strapped to his thigh.
"I wouldn't," the woman said coolly.
Her body suit was free of distinguishing markings. Her hair was a bright vibrant red, pulled back into a low messy tail that reached mid back. Her face was intent, with just a hint of an amused smile curling up her lips at the corners. Her sniper could have taken him out; Harry was fairly sure of that. For some reason they didn't want him dead.
Harry hesitated and then dropped his hand.
"What do you want?"
There was another crunch behind him, but Harry was already turning, hand falling back to his hip.
"Ah! Hold it." The man who had appeared behind him motioned with his loaded compound bow, indicating that he wanted Harry to take a step back from the roof's edge.
Harry grit his teeth, but took a shuffling step farther onto the roof.
"Nice to meet you in person, Nightshade," the woman said.
"Likewise," Harry said flatly. "Who the hell are you?"
"Yeah," the man said. "And I'm Hawkeye."
Harry stared at him for a long moment. "Who?"
The man's lips parted, his eyes widening in surprised outrage. "What do you mean who?"
"I mean, 'I have no fucking idea who you are."
Hawkeye pressed his lips together, and he shook his head in disbelief. Widow's eyebrows were raised, and she was smiling slightly.
"Shut up," Hawkeye said to her without lifting his gaze from Harry.
"What do you want?" Harry asked.
Black Widow and Hawkeye shared a look over Harry's head.
"How old are you kid?" Hawkeye asked, his voice grave.
Harry sighed, resisting the urge to rub at his face because it was always this. The Master hadn't cared how young he'd been. His people, (the people Before – before he'd won/loss – when he'd been whole) they hadn't cared. It was only now that people questioned. The questions usually stopped after he completed his first assignment, but it grew so tiresome at times. So he sighed, let his face go carefully blank, and didn't answer.
"Okay kid," Hawkeye said and he sounded resigned.
Black Widow moved, and Harry's head snapped in her direction, wary of the knife she held.
There was a draw back to bows, which was why it was so unusual that Agent Hawkeye used one in the field. They telegraphed far too easily, and became useless at short range. It made little sense that Hawkeye would reveal himself, especially when both Agents had to have known that Harry was alone.
So when Hawkeye drew his arm back, Harry was already moving, spinning and sprinting to the edge of the roof. He hadn't counted on Black Widow slipping in between him and his escape, slashing out with her knife and trying to drive him back. He was wounded, he remembered grimly, and outnumbered. Not outmatched, he was pretty sure of that. Individually, Harry was confident that he could have taken them. With them together, and his range of motion arrested by his wound, the chances were slim.
Harry rolled, groping at his belt with his left hand while he finally unsheathed his knife with the right. He came to his feet, and then pushed off with his back foot. Black Widow's eyes narrowed as she was forced to take a step back to keep Harry outside her guard, Harry seamlessly taking offensive. He feinted right, and then spun, releasing the power in his left hand and blowing. Widow brought her hands to her face instinctively, protecting her eyes and nose. Harry jumped, using her exposed thigh as a platform, and spun, slashing at the back of her exposed neck. The end of Hawkeye's bow arrested what would have been a killing strike. Harry followed through, striking Hawkeye in the temple with the flat of his foot as he grasped the agent's back shoulder. He re-launched himself, but somehow Black Widow was in the air too. She wrapped her thighs around Harry's shoulders and bore him to the ground.
He landed on his wounded shoulder, but shoved the pain aside in time to block Widow's sparking gauntlets as she attempted to bring them down on his head. He brought his right leg up between them, knocking Widow aside and flipping them. He brought his knife up to her throat, victory rising triumphantly in the back of his throat.
It descended just as quickly when he felt the sharp point of an arrow digging into the back of his neck, and the equally sharp edge of a knife pressing at the inside of his thigh.
Widow looked up at him, her expression still coolly intent, but slightly also reluctantly intrigued.
"Where'd you learn that?" she asked, only slightly out of breath. "That launch?"
Harry paused, holding himself stiffly between the sharp point of the arrow and the equally sharp edge of the knife. "The first one?" he asked.
"The second, from his shoulder."
"It wasn't a launch," Harry admitted. "I was already in the air." After a moment, Harry asked. "How did you-?" Because he was going to die, and why not learn a final lesson before he went.
"He launched me as he was going down. Thigh to shoulder."
"Huh." He couldn't help himself, so he added, "If he hadn't been here, this fight would have ended much differently."
Hawkeye shifted, and Harry cut his eyes to him briefly in time to see the man roll his eyes. "We could have killed you 10 times over, kid. Drop the knife."
"Why should I?"
"Because we need to bring you in, and I'd rather you walk instead of us having to carry you."
"Bring me in?"
"Yeah," Hawkeye said. "So drop it."
Harry narrowed his eyes down at Widow, who raised a challenging eyebrow. They wanted to bring him in, most likely to interrogate him before they executed him. No way. Widow's eyes narrowed and before Harry could follow through with his knife, she slashed at his thigh with hers, arching up and sliding her forearm between his wrist and her shoulder at the same time. Harry pressed down automatically, but his knife scrapped uselessly against her gauntlet. There was a hot bloom of pain in the tight muscle where his neck met his shoulder, and he was tugged back by his collar. He lay there for a moment before remembering the knife. He jerked his hand up, aiming for his own neck because dead was better than taken. A heeled boot came down on his wrist.
"Feisty," he heard Hawkeye say, but the agent's dry voice sounded like he was speaking underwater – blood was streaming from the cut
"Very well trained."
"Better than you?"
"Oh he wishes."
Things got fuzzy after that.
"…call this unharmed? Someone get pressure on that leg wound."
"…will please the Director…"
"…a few hours out. How's he…
"…has seen serious action. Look at all his…"
Harry lashed out when he felt the clasps on his kevlar lined vest come undone. Or, he tried to. His hands were tied down.
"Don't touch me," he said. "Don't-."
He felt a firm hand on his sternum, pressing hard in order to hold him down.
Things fell away but a little while later he was blinking his eyes open, at once jerking against the restraints around his wrists and chest.
"Welcome back," a mild voice said. And Harry jerked again, turning to look at who'd addressed him.
He looked more like an accountant than an agent but there was a dangerous stillness that he recognized. It made him grow quiet, eyes falling half shut as he forced his body to relax. The suited man offered a sharp smile.
"Hello, Nightshade. My name is Agent Coulson," the man said. "You are now a guest of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Harry had been a 'guest' often enough to know what that meant. He'd also been around enough to have heard of S.H.I.E.L.D. They were based in the U.S, more than enough reason to avoid. Their acquisition of Black Widow sent the organized criminal underworld into a tizzy for a while. Her shift in allegiance had left a sizable hole, one that many clandestine persons had sought to fill. Harry had done his best to avoid the fallout, but he'd been able to boast a spike in the amount of job offers. But now here he was, in a position he had fought so hard to avoid.
"Okay," he said. "What do I owe S.H.I.E.L.D in exchange for its 'hospitality?'"
Agent Coulson smiled, and Harry's uneasiness increased.
"You're lucky that you're with us, and not one of our rival agencies. It's likely that they would not have been so kind."
Harry pressed his lips together and glowered. Agent Coulson settled back into the chair and folded his hands over his stomach. He seemed willing to wait Harry out. Well whatever, Harry was the best at waiting. Eventually he closed his eyes. Agent Coulson was a solid presence, but Harry was able to set his uneasiness aside. The pain in his shoulder and leg was barely noticeable. He let himself doze, waking once in a while to see Agent Coulson seated at his bedside, reading from a tablet computer in his hands. Whenever Harry opened his eyes, Coulson looked up, his expression mildly expectant. By the third time Harry glowered at him, turned his head, and allowed himself to truly sleep.
The room he was in was private, with large windows on three walls and a door made of wire-enforced glass. He was under surveillance, both through the windows and the through the four cameras installed in the room. Two of the cameras were visible, situated in opposite corners of the room. The other two was hidden, one in the molding above the door and the other in the drop ceiling. He might have considered it overkill, especially with the restraints holding his wrists and chest to the bed. The truth of the matter was that if it weren't for the cameras, Harry might have felt comfortable enough to attempt to contort his way free. He would not be able to do so fast enough to avoid being caught.
So he allowed himself to be kept captive, but that was the extent of his cooperation. Twice a day his hands were freed and food was brought in, accompanied, of course, by Agent Coulson and another armed agent. For three days, Harry glowered and ignored them. He refused anything they brought him, even the water.
Agent Coulson never betrayed anything more than exasperation.
"What are you trying to achieve?" he asked as Harry's breakfast was taken away.
Harry frowned at him and remained silent.
"Medical plans on inserting an NG tube. Do you know what that is?" Coulson didn't wait for Harry to answer. "It's a tube inserted through the nose, down the throat and into your stomach. I'm told it's rather uncomfortable."
Harry raised his eyebrows, and tried to look as mocking as possible. Coulson settled into his usual chair.
"What's your name?"
Harry laughed at him.
Coulson smiled thinly. "I thought it was worth a try." The smile fell and he sighed. "I'm going to be honest with you Nightshade. My superiors are becoming impatient. Right now you are only useful to us for the information that you possess. If you continue to remain silent, we will be forced to terminate you."
Harry stared at him, thinking quickly. Dying was not something that he was prepared to accept. He had done too much to end here, in this place with these people. There were things that he knew, jobs that he'd taken – that information didn't matter much to him beyond the desire to maintain his own standards of professional integrity. They would want to know who trained him, though, and that was not something Harry was willing to divulge.
So he remained silent.
Coulson sighed, like Harry had disappointed him.
"All right," he said.
He did not return the next day, but Harry was the proud owner of a nasogastric tube. Coulson was right. It was more than a little uncomfortable. He slept, mostly out of boredom. He woke some time later, and a new person was sitting in Coulson's regular chair.
"I've been told that you're being stubborn," Black Widow said.
She had changed out of the body suit, which was a bit of a shame. Her jeans and black t-shirt did little to gentle the fuck you vibes she seemed to put off without even trying. Harry stared at her, just as unwilling to speak to her as he was to Coulson.
"You don't seem like a complete idiot. So I'm going to tell you something. Are you listening?" She waited, and Harry, reluctantly intrigued, nodded. "There is absolutely no one, and nothing, worth dying for. SHIELD will terminate you, if you don't give them what they want."
"That's not true," Harry said, and then pressed his lips together.
Widow leaned forward, gaze intent. "No," she said. "Life is yours from birth until death. It is the only thing that can be taken away that matters. Dying needlessly is the height of stupidity, and any death that is not on your own terms is needless."
"You don't know what you're talking about."
"I do," Widow said. "Don't be an idiot."
"Why do you care?" Harry asked. "Why are you even here?"
Widow pursed her lips and sat back. She stared at Harry for a long time, and Harry felt himself bristling under her gaze.
"What?" he snapped.
"How old are you?"
"I'm eight-fucking-teen years old and it doesn't matter."
"When did you begin your training?"
Harry sneered and turned his head away. "Nice try."
"You were young. Thirteen? Twelve?"
"Eleven, and before that I was verbally abused by my mother's sister and her husband. The first time I killed someone I was eleven years old." Harry laughed, staring defiantly up into Widow's stony expression. "If you're trying to convince me that I'm fucked up and that I have fucked up loyalties you don't need to. But they're my secrets, and if I choose to die for them, I will."
"You sound like a child."
Natasha laughed this time, unexpectedly bright and utterly mocking. "I was wrong. You're young, and you're stupid. You'll allow yourself to be killed in a fit of childish pique. Never mind," she said, and stood up. "I'll go and let Coulson know that you're a waste of our time."
Harry glared at the back of her head, and continued glaring until she disappeared from Harry's sight. He seethed for a few hours, glaring at each of the cameras and at the medical personnel when they came to check the dressings on his wounds. When he next woke he was calmer, and spent the next few hours waiting for Coulson or Widow to show up.
Instead two men in kevlar marched in, an agent in a lab coat trailing behind them. Harry stared up at them, and wondered if this was it. Would he be taken somewhere and quietly taken care of? How would they do it? The medic suggested that it might be drugs, and the armed guards might just be there for the medic's protection. He'd thought that he was ready for this, but staring it down he felt himself cower back. The medic reached for the IV tubing hanging above Harry's head.
"Wait," he said. "Wait! I want to talk to Agent Coulson."
The medic stared at him dispassionately. "I have orders," he said.
He depressed the syringe. Harry stared at the IV, breathing quickly and flexing his fingers.
"I want to talk to Agent Coulson," he said again.
The medic didn't answer. The agents in kevlar remained silent as well. Harry closed his eyes, and his head settled back onto the thin hospital pillow.
"I want to talk to Agent Coulson," he said, and the words sounded wrong, blurred.
The world began to fall away, but Harry fought. He was not ready to die. He could feel the drug, and he hated it for what it was doing to him. He blinked. The world tipped sideways, and then fell away completely.
Phil was sure to make himself comfortable in Fury's office by the time the director stalks through the door. Phil doesn't look up, instead he sipped peacefully on his coffee as Fury stepped around him, and settled in his chair. Fury was not looking at him. He made himself busy pulling up his email. Coulson settled back in his chair, and waited. Eventually Fury sighed, and turned his unamused gaze onto Phil, who offered him a thin smile in return.
"Spit it out," Director Fury said.
"My report on Nightshade passed your desk three days ago. I need your permission to move forward sir."
"Do we have a real name yet?" the Director asked. Phil didn't sigh; he was better trained than that. Instead he smiled again and said, "There are a few possibles. Without verification there's no way of knowing for sure."
"And you haven't gotten this verification yet?"
Phil accepted the jab with a peaceful nod. "No sir."
Fury leaned back in his chair and raised his eyebrows. "We have no way of knowing who this kid is. He's been resistant to all our attempts to debrief him. Why should we give a damn if he doesn't?"
Phil stalled by sipping at his coffee again. Fury watched him, his bearing only slightly impatient.
"Barton asked me to try."
"Barton has a bad habit of picking up strays. Soon he's gonna figure out that not all rabid animals can be tamed." Phil nodded, conceding the Director's point. He remained silent, watching Fury expectantly. Finally, Fury sighed, his impatience cresting. "What do you recommend?"
His official recommendation was in his report, but he knew what Fury was actually asking for.
"He's young, and very well conditioned. With time—."
"How much time?"
Phil shrugged. "I'm not going to get through to him. Barton might. Romanova gave a passing attempt, but I'm sure that given the opportunity—."
"You want to tie up our two best operatives in something that might not even pan out."
Phil frowned, making his annoyance at being interrupted visible. Fury's eyebrows shot up, but that was the only sign of his amusement. Phil sighed lightly through his nose.
"If we can turn Nightshade, it would be a valuable addition to the agency."
"What do we know about his abilities? Is he a mutant? Human plus? What?"
These were all answers that Fury already had, and again, Phil knew why he was being asked. Even so, he said, "Intelligence leans towards human plus but we haven't seen any evidence of augmented abilities."
Fury turned away, his attention settling somewhere past Phil's right shoulder as he fell into his own thoughts. Phil sipped at his lukewarm coffee, waiting for the director to make up his mind. Fury sighed deeply, and pinned Phil with his steely singled eyed gaze.
Fury's eye narrowed. "Four."
Phil tipped his head to the side. "Four," he conceded.
"We can't allow him to go free if we can't turn him," Fury warned.
Phil gulped down the rest of his coffee, getting to his feet at the same time. "I'll do my best sir."
Fury nodded, and turned back to his computer.
Phil wasn't really surprised that Barton was lingering outside his office door. He perked up when Phil approached, and trailed Phil into his office, closing the door behind them.
Phil settled himself behind his desk, his eyebrows rising in question. "So what?"
"What did the Director say?"
"He said that you need to stop bringing strays home."
Barton hopped onto the chair in front of the desk, perching on the back with his booted feet resting on the seat. Phil eyed him disapprovingly but didn't say anything. Barton offered him a grin in return.
"You saw the kid in action. It would be a waste not to try to turn him."
"So you say," Phil said, pulling up the paperwork needed to transfer Romanova and Barton to HQ for the next month.
"What else did he say?"
"We have four weeks to make him see sense. When we're done here, go track down Romanova so I can brief you both properly."
"Wait me? I'm in charge of deprograming him? I don't have any experience with something like that?" Phil glanced up from the screen in order to raise his eyebrows. Barton shrugged. "Nat doesn't count."
"You know she does," Phil said. "And I just said that she'll be helping you."
"Are you sure about this?"
"If you want the kid around, we don't have a choice. I won't get through to him. You and Romanova have the best chance." Phil turned back to his computer, not looking as he heard Barton hop down from the chair and move toward the door.
"Start at the name," Phil said. "And be yourself."
Harry preferred the hospital room. There at least had been the occasional distracting visit. Here there was nothing but gray concrete walls, a reinforced metal door, a low rimless toilet, and a small, barely padded ledge that he assumed was for sleeping on. He had considered attempting to break free for a while, but he had no way of knowing what was on the other side of the door. The light was soft and diffused, no chance of shadows. He was sure that he was under surveillance, but he was unable to pin down the location of the hidden cameras.
In the few hours since Harry had woken no one had entered to speak to him. After he'd examined the room, Harry had removed the scrub pants he'd been dressed in to examine the liquid stitches holding the gash in his leg together. It was healing well, and he could move with little pain - good to know. Then he settled back onto the uncomfortable ledge to doze.
The door groaning open made him open his eyes, and he watched as armored agents carried in a card table and two chairs. They left without saying a word, the door thudding closed behind them. Harry debated getting up, but ultimately decided not to. A few minutes later the door opened again. Harry remembered him at once, but remembering how Hawkeye had reacted to not being recognized the night Harry had been captured, Harry was sure to keep his expression blank.
"Hey," Hawkeye greeted and collapsed into one of the chairs.
Harry did not return the greeting, instead watching Hawkeye warily from where he was sitting on the padded ledge.
Hawkeye pulled a battered deck of cards from his pocket and began lining them up on the table. Harry watched him carefully for a few moments before losing interest and turning away.
"You want to tell me your name?" Hawkeye asked.
Harry contemplated remaining silent before huffing and saying, "No."
"That's okay," Hawkeye said without looking up from his cards. "How about I try to guess and if I get it right you give me a sign, okay?" Harry didn't respond but apparently Hawkeye didn't need him to. "Widow says that you're from England. She wanted me to tell you that you need to work harder on burying that accent."
Harry opened his eyes and turned to glower at Hawkeye. "Noted."
Hawkeye grinned at him, and turned back to his game. "Is it a typical English name, like Reginald? Oh! Or Winston?"
"I'm offended on behalf of Englishmen everywhere."
"John? Garvin? Kenneth? Darrel?"
Harry drew his arm over his eyes.
"Roger? Daniel? Aaron?"
Sighing harshly through his nose Harry muttered his name to the inside of his elbow.
"What was that?"
Harry gritted his teeth, suddenly angry that the agent's juvenile tactic had almost worked. "Why are you here?" Harry asked. "I'm not going to tell you anything."
Hawkeye just shook his head and went back to his game of solitaire. "My name's Clint," he said.
"Good for you."
"Here I would remind you that I showed you mine so you should show me yours, but I know that you don't care."
Harry huffed, slightly amused despite the inappropriateness of his currently situation.
A few hours later Harry was no longer enjoying himself.
"Freddy? Theo? Dick? Ted? Harold?"
Harry lifted his head. Clint looked up from the game he was playing on his phone, his expression suddenly very interested. "Is that it? Harold?"
"When I had friends they called me Harry," Harry said, anything to make Hawkeye stop.
"All right," Clint said. "Nightshade aka Harry who-pretends-that-he's-not-from-England."
Harry pressed his lips together, and lowered his head back onto his folded arms.
"Our medics say that you're sixteen tops. What's a kid like you doing in a place like this?"
"Eighteen," Harry said before he could stop himself. "And if that was a short joke, consider me offended." A moment later he hit his fist against the stone ledge in an unconscious show of frustration.
Clint was quiet for a moment. Then he repeated, "Eighteen," his tone slightly incredulous.
"Don't you have something to do?"
"No. This is what they're paying me for. At least for the next few weeks." Harry heard Clint set his phone down on the table. When he looked up Clint was looking back at him, his expression as serious as Harry had seen it. "I'm going to be honest with you," he said. "You have information we need about the League of Shadows."
Harry flinched back, his gaze skittering across the card table for something to fasten to. Clint leaned forward, his expression turning even more serious.
"Yes, we know about them and yes, we know that they trained you. I've been given four weeks to get that intel from you. If you remain uncooperative, the Director will have you terminated. Do you understand, Harry?"
Harry took a slow breath, allowing his eyes to close for a moment before looking up. "You can't do that."
"Yes we can."
"I'm in America aren't I? Prisoners have rights here. Is your government really going to get behind executing someone without a trial?"
"Nice try kid. You're an unaffiliated agent. No one is going to fight for you."
"You won't kill me."
Clint stared at him evenly for a long time, long enough that Harry began to grow uncomfortable. "I don't want to," he finally said. "But I will." He gathered up his phone and stood up. "Think about it."
Harry watched the door for a while after Clint left, expecting someone to come in to collect the table and chairs. When no one did, Harry's attention waned. He closed his eyes, prepared to doze until something interesting happened.
Immediately a piercing siren began wailing from some unseen source. It filled the room, bouncing off the smooth walls. Harry jolted, his hands coming up to cover his ears. It didn't matter. He could feel the sound vibrating inside his bones, thrashing against the sides of his skull.
Suddenly it was over. Harry slumped, hands still cupping his ears, which were ringing in the aftermath. The whole thing had taken no more than thirty seconds. Slowly he realized that he was shaking, his breath coming fast and shallow.
"All right," he said. He looked up, searching the corners of the room and finding nothing. It didn't matter — he knew that they were watching. "All right," he said again, louder.
Hours later, maybe even days, Clint reappeared and tossed a protein bar and two bottles of water onto Harry's stomach. Harry stared at him blearily and shrugged to sit up from his prone position on the ledge. Clint made himself comfortable in his chair, unaffected by Harry's shaking hands.
"You're looking a little tired Harry."
Harry looked up from one of the water bottles. He was too tired to be amused and was edging steadily to extreme annoyance.
"I was on a job once," Harry said. "Standard infiltration that went complicated. I was trapped in hostile territory for three days. No sleep and no food." He waved a disdainful hand. "This is nothing. You're nothing."
Clint grinned at him, the expression inappropriately genuine. "Really? Tell me about it."
Clint leaned back in the flimsy chair, appearing more comfortable than Harry thought possible in one of those things. He sighed, shaking his head ruefully as he stared up at the ceiling.
"I had one of those once. It was just supposed to be intel gathering. Things went south. I ended up separated from the rest of the team. Four days in the wilderness before I reestablished contact. Who bailed you out?"
"When you were stuck in hostile territory, who bailed you out?"
It was a stupid question, and Harry scowled at him. "No one."
Clint nodded slowly, as if Harry had said something expected. "Is that how the League usually operates?"
Harry tossed the unopened water bottle onto the table. "I have nothing to say to you."
Clint leaned forward his expression finally betraying his frustration. "How about you make me understand why an organization would take an underage kid and leave him behind in hostile territory. Why do you owe them your loyalty? Are they worth dying for?"
"Yes," Harry said without hesitation.
"You wouldn't understand," Harry said, and then pressed his lips together, banging his head back onto the hard concrete in frustration.
"Make me understand."
"Get out," Harry said, and risked closing his eyes.
The room remained blessedly silent, and Harry allowed himself to relax for just a moment. As soon as he did the siren began and Harry's eyes flew open. Clint was sitting in the chair, expression hard. He gave no indication that he could hear the wailing. When it stopped a few moments later, Clint reached for his ears. When he moved his hands Harry noticed the buds for the first time. They looked a lot like ear plugs, but were made of metal, with a blue indicator light glowing dully. The light turned off as Harry watched.
"You're an asshole," Harry said, struggling to control his breathing.
"I don't want to tell you anything."
"But you probably do."
Ears ringing anew, it took a moment for Harry to decode that statement. When he did, he scowled. "I'm sure I don't," he said.
"I read somewhere that people have this compulsion to try to convince someone that they're right if they're in disagreement. To me, it makes absolutely no sense to give loyalty to an organization that won't save me if I'm in trouble. So make me understand. Just give me that."
Harry closed his eyes, but they flew open warily an instant later, his gaze darting to the ceiling.
"I can arrange for you to sleep for a few hours," Clint said. "Just give me something."
A headache was beginning to pound its way through Harry's temples. His eyes felt huge, gritty. Even his face was beginning to ache. Even an hour, and he would feel better.
"I got into trouble when I was young. The League took me in and taught me what I needed to know to protect myself."
"So you owe them?"
Harry shook his head. "I was part of them. A part of something. The Master…" Harry literally bit his tongue, and squeezed his eyes shut.
"I think I get it." Harry's head snapped up and he narrowed his eyes at Clint, who shrugged easily. "When I was young, someone took me in too. I grew up in a circus. Most of us were strays. Together we made a whole."
"Yeah," Harry said warily. "Something like that."
Clint stood, pulling more bottles of water and protein bars out of his pocket and arranging them on the table. "Get some rest," he said.
Harry lowered himself onto the thin cushion, his knees tucked in almost to his chin. He closed his eyes, body tense. The siren did not kick on and Harry released a slow breath.
Natasha was sitting in the observation room when Clint entered, silently terrorizing the tech seated next to her. The man visibly relaxed when Clint collapsed into the only other chair.
"Good," Natasha said without looking at him, her voice distant. "The next shift is mine."
"Do you think we can turn him?"
"Yes," Natasha said promptly. "I have no doubt. I'd be surprised if he makes it to the third week. He needs structure. For whatever reason he's been separated from the League — not by his choice. He needs to belong to something."
"How are you so sure?" Clint asked, and he fully expected the question to be deflected.
There was only one way Natasha could subscribe so resolutely to what she was saying. In the years they'd known each other she'd only spoken of her childhood once. It had been all Clint needed.
She finally turned her head to look at him, her dark green eyes hard and cold. She didn't say anything, but he supposed that it was answer enough.
It felt like Harry had only been sleeping for a few minutes before he was awake again. He opened his eyes, staring up at the featureless ceiling for a long moment. Then he turned his head to stare at Widow, who was perched primly in Clint's chair.
"Are you supposed to be the bad cop?"
Her eyebrows rose. "Have you given any thought to what we spoke about last time?"
"Nothing to do here but think."
Widow leaned back in the chair, her arms crossed over her chest. "I didn't always work with SHIELD," she said. "I was a spy for the USSR, when it was still a thing. Long story short, Clint was sent to kill me."
Harry let his eyes wander over her, and tilted his head to the side. "Yet here you are."
"Here I am," Widow agreed. "Instead of killing me, he asked me if it was worth it, working for people who didn't care about me. It wasn't."
"How do you know that no one cares about me?"
Widow raised her hands and spread them. "Look where you are. No one is coming for you. I could pull out my firearm and shoot you in the face and no one would care beyond the mess your brains would leave behind."
Widow pulled another protein bar and water bottle out of her pocket and tossed them into the growing pile at the foot of the ledge. "I'm not saying that SHIELD is perfect," she said. "Nothing is perfect. Being here would at least be your choice. I'm guessing that you haven't had much choice in your life. Think about it."
She stood up to go. Harry cleared his throat and she paused.
"Is it true? About Red Room?"
Widow's eyes narrowed and for a long moment Harry was sure that she would leave without answering. "My first was when I was ten," she finally said, all the more chilling for the utter flatness of her voice.
The door groaned open, and slammed resolutely shut behind her.
Harry sat for a long moment, rubbing his hand over his face. He glanced at the small pile of foil wrapped bars and plastic water bottles, trying to ignore that yawning maw his stomach had turned into. He was hungry, he admitted to himself. He was thirsty too, and tired.
But the League was not the same as Red Room. The Master had sought him out, but he had entered training voluntarily. It had been months since he'd heard from the Master or any of the others, but their parting had not been in anger. If he attempted to search them out, he was sure that they would welcome him back. They had wanted him when no one else had. They had taught him what he'd needed to know to do what was necessary, when everyone else had insisted on coddling him. Now he did nothing that he did not want to do — Widow had no idea what she was talking about.
Things continued. Clint would come in and pester him until Harry let something slip in frustration. Initially the slips were small. Things like his favorite beer, or which grade of chocolate was better, white, milk, or dark. Every time it happened he clammed up, growing hostile. It never seemed to bother Clint, who left and returned a few hours to a few days after. Widow visited as well, and relentlessly laid down her brand of truth before cat-walking out.
In between was the siren, which sounded every time he kept his eyes closed for more than a few seconds. He was allowed sleep, but he could never predict when. High calorie food bars were delivered a few times a day. Sometimes Clint brought him an apple or orange. Every few two days, two armed guards arrived, put his hands in cuffs and escorted him out of the room and a few yards down the hallway to a small room where lukewarm water rained down from the ceiling.
More than a week later, Widow asked, "Do you know why you're still here?"
Harry glanced up from the orange he was peeling, his elbows planted on the card table. "I have this feeling that you're going to tell me."
"You're here because you don't have anywhere else to go." Like always, her words rang just true enough to make Harry uncomfortable, so he kept his head down. "With your training you could have made a few serious attempts. We left openings on purpose, just to see what you would do. Is it because you don't care whether you live or die?"
Harry popped an orange slice in his mouth. "You're the smartest Red." He offered her an orange slice, passing it across the card table.
Surprisingly, she took it, propping her feet up on the table. She stared at him for a long moment. "Clint likes you."
"It's because I haven't tried to strangle him yet."
The corners of Widow's mouth turned in, like she was suppressing a smile. "He has that effect."
She paused, her head tilting to the side. "He is still vouching for you, even though the higher ups are getting impatient. He thinks that you're another me, and that you just need something to belong to."
"And do you belong here?" The question burst forth without Harry's permission, but there was no taking it back now.
Natasha tapped one of her feet idly, staring into his eyes like she was looking right through him. It should have made him uncomfortable, but he was used to such looks, first from his Master and now occasionally from Red.
"Yes," she finally said. "Its better than dying."
Harry shoved the last of the orange in his mouth. He swallowed, his gaze falling from hers for a moment. "Maybe it's not."
She didn't move, but she did hold her breath for a moment. Her expression didn't change, but suddenly he had the whole of her attention — he hadn't even known that part of it was missing until he was faced with all of it. It was heady, and it made him just uncomfortable enough to lower his gaze. He cleared his throat, and when he looked up Widow was still waiting.
"They saved me. No one else had ever cared enough to teach me what I need to know."
Widow lowered her legs and leaned forward, easing her way into Harry's personal space so smoothly that he only noticed when her forehead was scant inches from his. He glanced up into her eyes, and saw no censure there.
"You needed to protect yourself."
"Not just me. Everyone."
Her eyes narrowed, not in judgment, but in confusion. Harry shook his head. "You wouldn't believe me."
Harry shook his head again. "It's over. Everything's over. There's nothing left." He leaned back in the chair, recreating the distance that she had taken from him.
She didn't understand what he meant. She had to know that she almost had him. Harry knew, distantly, that she and Clint had been working towards this. They brought him food, were the only people he had spoken to for weeks. They were building trust, destroying his walls.
He'd let it happen, he realized suddenly.
"Tell me," she said.
Harry pressed his lips together. "It's all that I have."
Suddenly he leaned forward, folding his hands between them on the table. Red barely shifted, obviously considering him a non-threat. And when had that happened?
"I won't work against SHIELD," he said. "Please, let me go."
There was no give in Widow's expression, but Harry hadn't truly expected to see any. There was no need for her to shake her head, or to say anything at all. Still she reached forward and wrapped her small strong hand around his wrist.
"You're a smart kid Harry," she said. "Clint told you that the director will terminate you if you don't give us what we need. He's telling the truth, and we're running out of time. You say the League taught you how to take care of yourself. Don't you think that they would understand that you need to tell them what they need to know to save yourself?"
Harry hesitated, because the answer should have been yes. Death was not supposed to frighten him, only failure. His life had been necessary to destroy Voldemort - it had mattered then. Now, there was no mission, only loyalty.
"My name is Natasha," she suddenly said, distracting Harry from his circling thoughts.
Harry realized that he had been holding his breath, and exhaled shakily. "I like my name for you more."
Natasha tilted her head to the side, and her expression turned hard again. "Harry." Her hand was still on his wrist.
When was the last time someone had touched him without intending to harm him? Skin suddenly crawling, he shook her off. He stood, threaded his fingers though his hair and began to pace. She remained seated.
She said his name again, and he spun on her, his hands clenched into fists. "What do you want from me?!"
"Nothing that you can't easily give," she said.
"It's not that easy."
"Yes it is." She leaned forward, bracing her arms on the card table. "I know it doesn't seem like it, but follow the logic. If they cared about you they would want you to tell us what we want to know. If they don't care then there's no reason to keep their secrets."
Harry tugged at his hair. "You make it sound simple."
"It is," she said.
Harry paced for a few moments, fingers still tangled in his hair.
She said his name again, and he turned to her. He didn't know what he was going to say until he'd already said it. "What should I do?"
Her lips pressed together and it was a long moment until she spoke. "It's your choice," she said. "I won't make it for you." She paused again. "You have your life. No matter what, that belongs to you. I would be careful how you spend it."
He stared at her, waiting for instruction, for orders. Some part of him, the small distant part, realized that she had him now - she could ask him anything, and he would happily tell her – and was horrified. Was he so weak, that she could reach inside him and say exactly the right thing? He walked over to the ledge and sat down, his legs weak. He kept his head down, digging his fingertips into his legs. When he looked up Natasha was still looking at him, waiting for him to choose.
The words came haltingly at first. He started at the beginning, and told her a lot, more than he'd told any single person before. When his mouth grew dry, she produced water for him. When he paused, unsure if he could continue, she waited patiently. When he was done she only looked at him, non-judging and unsurprised.
Harry expected to feel…something. He had betrayed his brothers, betrayed the Master. Instead he felt buoyant, like he could float away.
In the observation room, Clint leaned back in his chair. He rubbed a hand over his mouth, and found it surprisingly easy to digest the idea of 'magic.' Next to him, Coulson seemed to have no problem at all accommodating all this information. He was standing now, buttoning his jacket. Clint stared at him, waiting for instructions.
"Move him," Coulson said. "Get him a proper meal. Let him sleep until he wakes up. We'll continue when he's ready."
"That's it?" Clint asked.
Coulson turned to him, expression as placid as it always was. "I'll talk to the Director."
"He's in right?" Clint waved his hand at the monitors where Nat was watching Harry sit in exhausted silence. "He gave us everything we asked for and more. We can't just—."
"What did I tell you about strays, Barton?"
It wasn't an answer, but Clint smiled anyway. It wasn't a refusal either. His handler left the room, but Clint didn't move right away. Inside he turned back to the monitor, watching his partner and the kid — Harry. He had been the one to bring her in, but Coulson had been the one to debrief her. She had come to them voluntarily; preferring to change allegiance then face execution. She had told them just enough. Clint couldn't be sure, but he had a feeling that Harry was barely holding back. He wondered how long had twisted in the wind, unable to confide in anyone. He sat, rubbing his hand over his face for another moment. Then he hopped to his feet. He imputed his code into the panel next to the door. Natasha was on her feet when it opened, her brow furrowed in question. Clint offered her a smile. She nodded and stepped aside.
Harry looked up at him, his eyes bloodshot, his face tinted gray with exhaustion. He lifted a languid hand in greeting, and managed to look slightly expectant.
"We're going to move you somewhere more comfortable," Clint said.
He pulled a pair of handcuffs from his pocket. Harry wordlessly offered his hands, and Clint snapped the cuffs on. He had to prod Harry in the shoulder to get him on his feet, and then again to get him moving. The kid was walking like a zombie, his gaze on his feet. Clint shared at look with Natasha over his head, but she looked relatively unworried. Clint took his cues from her, watching as she took Harry by the arm and began leading him from the room.
They took him up a floor - still detainment but the rooms had real beds with actual blankets. As soon as the door was open Harry shuffled into the cell and collapsed face first on the bed, his head at the foot and his bound hands trapped underneath him. Clint dithered over what to do, but Natasha left, appearing a moment later with a standard issue gray blanket. She shook it out and tossed it over Harry without bothering to maneuver him into a more comfortable position.
"Do you know now long we'd been partners before you tucked me in?" Clint asked. "Nine months."
"I'm better looking than you," Harry said into the mattress.
Clint eyebrows shot up. "He wishes."
Natasha shook her head, and didn't bother to comment. "Do you want to eat or sleep?"
Harry's groan was muffled by the blanket. "Sleep."
"All right. Sleep now, eat later."
Harry sighed, his body visibly sinking into the bed. He was probably already asleep, but Clint wasn't so stupid to think that he should poke him and find out. He'd known and had cultivated trust with Nat for years and he would still never dare to do that. She was standing at the door, her head tipped to the side as she waited for Clint to join her. She thumbed the door closed, and punched in the code to keep it locked. They stared at each other for a moment, Clint waiting for her to speak.
Instead her shoulders fell and she frowned.
"Do you need Coulson?" Clint asked.
She shook her head, but still looked troubled. "The roof?"
"Sure. I've got nothing better to do."
They rode the elevator up. It was the nebulous time between late and early so they didn't meet anyone on the way. They didn't actually have access to the roof. It was an easy point of ingress in case of an attack, so it was easier to restrict access completely. Instead they sought out a narrow balcony that agents used to smoke on their breaks.
They were high enough above the street that sounds barely reached them. There was just the wind, the sea of glass and steel, and the sky that was just beginning to turn gray with dawn. Nat leaned against the railing and glared out at the sky like it had called his a nasty name. Clint let her brood, confident that she would speak if and when she was ready to. He didn't have to wait long; only a few minutes later she slammed her fist into the railing so hard that it bent slightly.
Nat was usually so careful not to let things like that slip, which was why Clint drew back in surprise. It seemed that it was the only show of anger that she was going to offer, so Clint relaxed, and turned to stare at her expectantly.
"I didn't like it when they did it to me, and I don't like it that someone did it to him," she finally said.
Clint nodded. "You both had it rough."
"I really don't like it Clint."
She wasn't looking for him to agree; she already knew that he did. Again, Clint courted the inclination to search down their handler. Coulson usually knew exactly what each of them needed to hear. He wouldn't leave Nat though. It wasn't that he thought she would do something foolish. She had asked for him, something that she had only done a handful of times in their entire partnership.
She took a slow breath and then released it, the tension in her shoulders and neck oozing out as she fought to gather herself. She managed it— of course she did.
"Feel better?" he asked. She nodded, running a hand through her hair and squeezing the back of her neck. "Coulson said that we can have a few hours. Sleep or food?"
The corners of Natasha's mouth turned in, the look she got whenever she was suppressing a smile.
"Food, then sleep."
His body was sore when he woke, which wasn't an unusual occurrence. It wasn't the ache of overuse however. This was an ache that he wasn't as familiar with, one that came with a body having lain in one position for too long.
He pushed himself up on his elbows, but couldn't move much beyond that. He thought yearningly of coffee, and managed to lose track of time. He wasn't sure how long he lay there, eyes open but thoughts drifting, before the door opened. Clint had ditched the uniform for a dark t-shit and jeans. More importantly he was holding a ceramic cup in his hand. Harry would recognize that smell anywhere.
Clint said something, probably a greeting, but Harry wasn't listening. He levered himself up onto one elbow and reached for the mug with his free hand, his eyes mostly closed. Enough time passed where there was no coffee in his hand, so he grunted and made a 'gimme' motion with his fingers.
"Oh my god," Clint said. He pressed the mug into Harry's hand. "I wish I had a camera."
Harry gulped down the rest of Clint's coffee with an appreciative hum. He clumsily passed the cup back, and pushed himself to his feet.
"Mirror," he slurred.
Harry shuffled past him into the bathroom. He sloppily washed his hands, and then removed his contacts, operating almost entirely on autopilot. Without the case he had no where to put them, so he placed them on the edge of the sink, blinking blearily. When he turned around he almost ran straight into Clint, who had entered the bathroom behind him.
"You had those in this entire time?"
Harry didn't respond. He didn't have nearly enough coffee in him to be polite yet.
Clint didn't seem put off, but Harry had to squint to even make out his expression, so what did he know.
"I here to escort you to the mess," Clint said.
Harry grumbled something at him, and raised his hands for the cuffs. Instead Clint took his arm and tugged him along. The mess was nearly empty, and Clint deposited him at the only occupied table. He squinted at the dark blur in front of him, and was able to make out a single glaring eye in a stern dark face. Agent Coulson was seating next to the dark figure, hands folded on the tabletop.
"Hold on Director. He's going to be useless to you without this."
A mug was set in front of him, full of steaming bitter blessed coffee. Harry stuck his face in it, breathing deeply before he beginning to drink, never-mind the threat of burning himself.
When he came up for air, he was more awake, and mourned the absence of his glasses.
"Barton and Romanova have assured us that you'll be cooperative from now on," Agent Coulson said.
"Good. We were able to corroborate some of the information you gave us," Coulson said. "We need to talk about the magic."
"Don't believe me?"
"We believe you," the darkly dressed man said.
Harry squinted at him. "I didn't catch your name."
"Director Nick Fury."
Oh. "Good to meet you Director Fury. Thanks for not having me killed."
"You wising up gave us a reason to keep you around," Fury said.
Harry frowned at him, bristling at his tone. Clint, who was sitting next to him shifted meaningfully. It distracted Harry from his annoyance and gave him a moment to calm himself before he said or did anything unfortunate.
"About the magic," Coulson said, unrelenting. "You need to understand that that information is extremely classified." He turned, addressing Clint as well. "The highest clearance level. Understood."
"Yes sir," Clint said.
Harry tilted his head to the side, looking between Fury and Coulson. "You already knew." Neither one of them spoke, regarding Harry stonily for a long moment. Harry's eyes narrowed in realization "No," he said. "But you had an idea, and now you have proof."
Fury narrowed his eye, but Coulson nodded. "We would like you to give us as much information as you can."
Harry hesitated for a moment. Then making no effort to hide his wariness said, "All my experience was in England, and the last I heard things weren't going so great over there."
Coulson nodded, "You'll give us what you can."
"So that's it? I give you the information you want and you fold me into your operation? Just like that?"
It was Fury that spoke, his firm expression actually giving a little. "Yeah Potter. Just like that."
Now, you're probably thinking "Why didn't Harry just leave? He's a wizard isn't he? Wizards can apparate." That's an excellent question. I would be wondering that as well. I actually do answer that question. If you're interested please go on to the next chapter, and things get a little clearer. Honestly, this is not just me being a fail Harry Potter fanfiction author. I have a plan.
Thanks for reading! And please tell me your thoughts.