And It All Starts

A/N: Trigger Warning: Child Death and language.

Thanks to jcampbellohten, stars90, Halo Star Wars X-over fan for the reviews, and to all those who follow this story and have marked it as a favourite.

"We still had a couple of days in Brazil," Sirius grumbled as the three travellers and their newly acquired companion landed in merry old England.

"Quit whining already!" Harry irritably snapped. Luna, who had claimed the window seat, merely opened her eyes and blinked blearily. She had forgone the use of the headrest and decided that Harry's bony shoulder was a much better pillow. The awkward position had only added to his discomfort, and that coupled with the normal irritability most passengers display after long-distance travels, made Harry seem like a particularly benign and mulish kin to the Blast-Ended Skrewts.

"Well, Dr. Banner probably didn't," Corvus mildly remarked, very accustomed to her nephew's behaviour to pay it any mind. She had shown a face (not necessarily her own) for the duration of the American sojourn. Around them, the Auror guard that she had scrounged up at the last moment was on high alert. It was more for purposes of formality, since she had no doubt the between them, Sirius, Luna and Harry could easily take on anyone should the objections to Bruce Banner's new status become too strenuous. A legally ratified protective contingent accompanying her was for the benefit of such objectors. She had taken extra care to stay behind and receive them in person at the embassy.

Bruce was, as was his wont, skittish and paranoid and doing his best to not set anyone off. Years on the run and having his trust betrayed had left the man on a perpetual state of high alert when it came to dealing with other people, and here he had been pushed into a situation where he had no reason to trust the people in question. He had somehow, inexplicably, just gone with the flow as these people, whoever they really were, had pulled some strings to make him a free man. True, being presented in front of the embassy and not being arrested on sight was pleasantly jarring, but it had also somewhat put him on higher alert, still believing it to be a trap. He only relaxed slightly when he breezed through Immigration and Customs processes on his own passport for the first time in several years. Being a stowaway on boats and smuggling dens, and relying on the silence and goodwill of any that he treated with his limited medical knowledge had never been a kind experience.

"Are you alright, Dr. Banner?"

"I am, thank you," Bruce answered politely, still a bit wary, but seeing as how he received no more perusal than the next person, he was relaxing a bit. And that was considering the fact that they had just flown. The Other Guy positively hated flying.

"You feel no urge to let go and strut around as Mr. Green?" Sirius joked blithely.

Bruce looked at him in a manner that clearly showed that he was unsure as to how to reply, so he simply settled for a timid, "Not at this time."

"Merlin, man, I was joking," Sirius assured.

"An unfortunate side-effect of our company, Dr. Banner, as you will soon find, is having to endure what Sirius believes is a sense of humour," Gienah tiredly explained. "You might get some reference when you understand that he has not yet missed a chance to make a "time of the month" joke regarding his werewolf friend."

"That's right. I have known them since 1993. I have heard that joke since I was young enough to be scandalised by it."

Somehow, this simple, blithe, and nonchalant acceptance of the fact that he could turn into the Hulk, truly disarmed Bruce. This man, Sirius, was absurd. He had never yet met anyone who could joke about that. Sirius, of course, was far from stupid. The running gag that James and he had run through their time at Hogwarts was a concerted effort to keep Moony's spirits up. It didn't hurt to try the same with this Banner bloke. Gienah and Harry had easily aided his efforts.

Bruce just had to ask. "Are you not afraid? I mean, I can understand being curious, but everyone's afraid."

"Perhaps, Dr. Banner," Luna lightly interrupted, "it has always just been you who's been afraid of everyone being afraid of you that's keeping you alone."

Bruce found nothing to say to that as their little party made their way out of Heathrow. Was it arrogance or was it ignorance that made these people behave in such an unbothered manner? Either that, or they were being very careful and civil to him. Whatever it was, it confused Bruce and a confused Bruce wasn't a happy Bruce, but certainly not an angry Bruce either.

"Harry!" a voice called out, breaking his reverie, and he saw Potter respond with a genuine smile as he moved towards a brown-haired woman who proceeded to hug him tightly. "Come on quick, I have got the car, and we better move fast! You wouldn't know what I had to do and how I had to fight for parking space!"

"I bloody taught you to drive when even your dad who was teaching us couldn't," Potter protested. "I know London, thank you very much."

"Yes, yes," the woman hurriedly brushed that off. She was presumably a close friend if their bantering comfort was any indication.

"Will you be going to...?" "Corvus" as he knew the hooded woman to be asked leadingly.

"Islington," the woman answered. "Do you want me to...?"

"I would prefer a portkey after enduring a tin can for eight hours, thank you," Corvus replied.

"No appreciation for technology, I tell you," Sirius muttered at Bruce's general direction. "Crabby old lady!"

Corvus ignored Sirius with ease. "Dr. Banner, please rest for the day and tomorrow. I shall have Harry bring you to your new digs, professionally speaking, two days hence. It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"I cannot thank you enough, Ma'am," Bruce politely responded. "It is a treasure to be a free man."

The older woman nodded once, and then proceeded to vanish in a swirl of lights with their accompanying guard, leaving a fairly discombobulated Bruce Banner with an odd assortment of wizards and witches.

"I apologise for the haphazardness of this whole situation, Dr. Banner," the hitherto un-introduced woman spoke, "but your arrival was in no way planned, and it might be risky to have you in public spaces just as yet. Except for the security check-ins and other processes, magic ensured that you drew no attention. To keep that up till you are out of public memory, we think it would be prudent to have you stay with Sirius and Harry, till you know your way around well enough as well."

She said this all at a very high speed.

"I understand, Miss..."

"Yeah, no introductions, just start bossing the new bloke around," Harry jibed. "Dr. Banner, this is Hermione Granger. She will be working with you on the same issue as we discussed, and has been studying your work on Gamma rays to understand how they would react with magic. She might be a little star-struck, so forgive her."

"It is an honour to meet you, Dr. Banner."

"And mine, Ms. Granger," Bruce automatically answered. He had been shoved so far out of his element with so much human interaction that he was mostly proffering automatic responses. All in all, he knew that he had just started out living a new life, in the strangest manner possible.

The ride to a suburban area in North London, if his bearings were right, was a bit quiet. And given the snail's pace that they were moving with, Bruce reckoned they would need a fairly long time. Putting himself in the limelight had never been his nature, but given how he had been somewhat legally acquired by these people without much information to go with it, he felt a bit like the gladiators sold and bought in ancient Rome.

"So, where are we going?"

"My place," Sirius Black answered. "You must have been pushed out of any semblance of comfort in this whole affair, so we figured it would be better for you to stay with us while you get to know London and also till the news of your new status is widely spread to prevent any trouble for you, just in case."

Bruce nodded. Unfortunately, having that question answered to his satisfaction (to an extent), left no openings for further conversation. He was not sure whether that was intentional; giving any pertinent information in one go usually stops the flow of questions from someone who is very uncomfortable and not normally aggressive.

"Dr. Banner, please do feel free to ask us whatever occurs to your mind," Hermione offered. "You were uprooted from Brazil, and bundled off here without even a by your leave, so we can understand if you are unsure."

"Indeed, Dr. Banner, we will answer, as honestly as we can, and not at all if we can't," Harry added.

"This was better than a lie, I suppose," Banner declared with a wry air. "Alright, let's have it then. Witches, wizards, all this magic and everything; how does nobody know?"

"We are legally bound to secrecy. The Statue of Secrecy came in not a moment too soon for us. America had the Salem Witch Trials, and by the time any repercussions were felt here to add to witch hunts already taking place, magicals were mostly hidden."

"So, your kind were murdered?"

"You know, you keep saying your kind as if we are not human or are a different species," Harry noted bluntly an undercurrent of polite irritation not hiding as well as he intended it to. He had always had a bad reaction to people who did that, the Dursleys being prime examples of that.

Bruce had learnt to note these changes and to not ignore them. His days without transformations often depended on such cues. Implications regarding the super- or extra-human nature of magicals were a sore point for Potter. "You could be, for all I know. Manipulation of energy the way you showed me is not possible for just any human. Your biology could be so vastly different in spite of your similar or humanoid features externally. It could very well be an extra set of hormones or enzymes, or a slight mutation in any or your organs. It could be a mutated gene. I don't exactly have any data to go by. So, I am not sure how you can be proven to be, what was it you said? Humans to some and only human to others."

"That is quite the hypothesis. However, Dr. Banner, let me assure you that we are quite human. My parents – biological parents who raised me, I might add – are perfectly non-magical dentists, after all, and Harry's maternal grandparents were non-magical too."

"You don't have familial antecedents?"

"Not that I know of," Hermione answered. "None of my grandparents and their parents were in any manner magical. I am also very sure that at least three of my great-grandparents would have shunned me as a child of the Devil."

"That's fascinating." Then he stopped and realised that his response had been rather at odd with Ms. Granger's last statement. "I mean, it's terrible with the shunning."

Hermione just laughed at the inadvertent gaffe. "Never mind. It's not surprising. I am sure you find matters of your interest fascinating."

Bruce nodded gratefully. "So, you are what, like the next stage of evolution?"

"That is unlikely. Documented history proves the presence of magicals for at least the times since the Egyptians through their hieroglyphs and in Ancient Indian civilisations. If we were to be the next stage in evolution, Magic would have become a significant trait. But even among people who have been magicals for several generations, there are people born without the ability to use or manipulate it. I believe that both evolutions may be concurrent and meant to eventually mix so that humanity evolved as a whole."

"More like a trait that can go recessive then," Bruce mused out loud. "Then my initial question to you about genetic mutation may not be so wrong after all," he said to Harry.

"It's all Greek to me," Harry replied with a shrug.

With another topic over for the time, Bruce peered out of the window contemplatively.

"You know, I never asked. What is it that you do? I just know that Mr. Black is your godfather, Ms. Lovegood is your friend, and you have a minor position in the government."

Hermione snorted incredulously. "Mycroft Holmes, Harry?" she demanded. "He doesn't have "a minor position" in the government, Dr. Banner. Harry was the de facto second-in-command to the Minister, the highest elected office in Magical Britain till two years ago, by popular demand. You will find that Harry has an infuriating knack for underestimation."

"But you look barely twenty!"

"I am nearly twenty-seven actually."

"But you were what, twenty-five when you left?"

"I didn't leave. I was reassigned to the field."

Bruce didn't ask whether that was a demotion.

"No, it wasn't a demotion," Harry replied, not even turning look back from the front passenger seat. "And no, I didn't read your mind," he clarified at Bruce's shocked expression. "I still need eye contact for that. But you don't hide your shock too well, and I can see your face in the rear-view mirror."

"Harry," Hermione tersely demanded, "do you honestly believe that irritating Dr. Banner is the wisest course of action?"

"Oh, he can keep Mr. Green in, Hermione. He runs into many irritants daily. It is when there is true danger that he turns." This time he turned around. "And that, Dr. Banner, I gleaned from your memories." Turning again, he spoke to Hermione, "Dr. Banner deserves as much truth as he can digest and a straight refusal with reasons, as of now. Once he acclimatises to magic on a daily basis, we can tell him more. And he has already experienced my brand of legillimency."

"For a person who held such a high post, you don't really believe too much in diplomacy, do you?" Bruce asked wryly.

"Horses for courses, Doctor; you care for facts more than diplomacy. You seem to be one of those people who'd rather know where you stand with people than guess."

Bruce couldn't exactly deny that.

"Why were you reassigned then?"

"He refused to go to Afghanistan on the argument that magic was an escalation that could cause the war to be bloodier, and that international pressure on the magical communities in those regions could easily avert that kind of escalation from their side," Hermione answered in Harry's stead. "And he dissuaded most magicals from active participation. Your Lieutenant General Ross wanted you as a weapon. They wanted the same from magicals across the Nations actively participating in the War. But Harry's word carries some not inconsiderable weight especially when he pointed out that the war could reveal many secrets of magic closely guarded by all the Nations, not least regarding magical development that they would want to keep to themselves."

Bruce found himself silently appraising the man who had upended his beliefs regarding the boundaries between the possible and the impossible in a span of five days. The man's weight carried enough weight to dissuade people across the world.

And he was only twenty-seven.

"Are you some kind of super-wizard or something?" The obvious inference was that the man was very powerful, though it was not obvious in what way.

"For a few years till about a decade ago, I had the misfortune of being one of those involved in the resolution of a set of very uniquely unfortunate circumstances, and more to the point, having my involvement relayed to the world at large. These circumstances were, in both our worlds, closely monitored from many quarters."

The other magical occupants of the car didn't deem fit to elaborate. It made no sense to tell Bruce on his first day in England that he was stepping into a world that was nearly done being rebuilt from the ashes of a civil war. Moreover, the events surrounding the Hallows had driven home the vulnerability and fallibility of Harry Potter.

"You were a kid!" Banner protested.

"Those with adversarial inclinations were not particularly picky about whom they attacked."

The rest of the trip mostly passed in polite silence, with Sirius or Luna pointing out the magical sights of London often hidden from muggles to Bruce.

Over the course of the first two days, Bruce had taken to observe his fairly easy-going, civil and gracious hosts out of paranoia. Sirius Black, seemed to be the only full-time occupant, even though Potter was the secret-keeper of the house that appeared out of thin air. The idea of the Fidelius Charm for the security shocked Bruce beyond measure. Apparently, there had once been a Potter residence far more inviting than Grimmauld Place, but it had been razed to the ground before Harry's birth and he simply hadn't had the time to rebuild it with his duties, and since he rarely was in one place for a long stretch of time, buying or renting another place seemed pointless. Costs seemed to be concerns for wizards also. Harry often crashed on his godfather's couch.

Quite a few other people often flitted through the place, one of them being the Minister of Magic himself who was really good friends with both Black and Potter. And then there was Remus Lupin, who had come with his son, Teddy. Having been evaluated and read so easily by Potter, and now that he thought of it, acquired as an asset, Bruce had mentally listed Harry Potter as a person who dealt in people, not with them, and was not exactly the most personable person. Yet he had seen all the humanity the man possessed when the kid had jumped onto him with a yell of "Uncle Harry" and had demanded a game of Quidditch before the two engaged in what could only be termed the fastest game of tag, played in air on brooms, yelling in genuine yet fierce glee, instead.

That was short-lived however, as he spoke to Remus Lupin. Potter had assessed both him and this man he claimed to think of as family. He had the strangest feeling that he had looked into a very odd mirror, so closely their situations resembled. The man was certainly knowledgeable and also seemed to have a healthy interest and at least a layperson's understanding of the non-magical world, which seemed to be rarer than his initial contact with Potter and the others indicated.

Hermione Granger had only stayed long enough to help him settle in before she had to leave for her job. She was a fairly intelligent woman who could easily keep up with him, and he could have found less accommodating and less curious a colleague to work with. What she lacked in exposure, she made up for with sheer tenacity and a greed for knowledge he had rarely seen.

It would take him some time to settle, but he didn't feel as ill-at -ease as he had feared he would be during the transition.

It would be a hectic week. Bruce Banner had taken a bit of time to understand his new environs, and had nearly come close to going green when he was shocked every so often. It frayed his nerves a bit, enough that Harry had to explain that he had set up specific protections that would foretell any oncoming danger to any of them and that Bruce had nothing to fear, though he could always be surprised since magic surprised them as well, and often.

Then they had gone about setting up the premises for him to work, and that was when the lack of an SI unit for magic, or at least any derivability from existing SI units directly brought things to a screeching halt. It was a week of Bruce following rabbit trails regarding magic as he constantly found a new way to mould magic to his understanding, instead of the other way around.

But that part of the job, instead of frustrating Bruce, made him more excited by the minute. Indeed, the man who was so painfully shy, or stiff, that he would contribute very little to their dinner conversations, actually started off on lengthy expositions regarding the nature of magic and its manipulability. Hermione listened attentively and the two tossed theories that sometimes seemed increasingly wilder and then went about with lengthy arguments on initial hypotheses to prove or disprove them.

Eventually, Harry had had to resort to taking Hermione out for what he maintained was not a date, but had all the benign elements of one, while Sirius and Remus took Bruce to see Diagon Alley which sent him into a near ecstatic state as he marvelled at the improbability of the architecture.

"You called me?" Harry asked as he peeped inside Corvus' cabin, a whole week later.

"Yes, Potter, come in," Corvus bade. "Are you better now?"


"Good; I hope this is an objective self-evaluation."

"As do I," Harry quipped.

"Banner settling in well?"

"He is working up to it. At least Hermione's able to keep conversation when he starts with the science-y stuff."

"The girl does have her uses."

"Don't make her or treat her like an asset. She is a researcher here," Harry warned.

"Is that protectiveness?"

"You made Sirius and me assets, and neither of us was in a position to complain. But I draw a line there."

"Don't worry. She doesn't have the wherewithal to be one."

"I know her better than you. She would take that as a challenge and likely surprise you. Don't challenge her. Don't use her. And don't challenge her just to make her work towards being an asset either."

"Don't worry. She is more valuable to me as she is."


Gienah just snorted. "Yes well, I didn't call you over for a chat. Are you ready to get back into the game?"

"I am, as always, at your disposal."

Nodding, Corvus paced around the room once.

"Did you read the dossier I sent with Sirius?"

"Have HYDRA infiltrated SHIELD?"

"And they know."



Harry remained quiet as he digested the information. HYDRA were the ones who had found the Tesseract. And that in turn had fuelled the ambitions of their benefactor and beneficiary – Grindelwald. The man wanted to be the Master of Death – or at least that was supposed to be the end result of collecting the Hallows. And Harry was in the unenviable position of having done just that.

"I have a few options."

"We can cut any open confrontation. They have always used that to insert their members into the fight and to infiltrate; at least that's what your dossier implied."

"I discarded that as soon as I thought of it," she admitted.

"I could throw those things through the Veil."

The look she gave him was answer enough. "You honestly mean to wash your hands of such power that is going to be useful one day?"

"I hoped you wouldn't say that." Harry slumped into the seat. "What do you think they know, want to know or want to do?"

"I would rather not speculate," Corvus answered. "I freely admit that HYDRA has always enticed some of the brightest minds, brighter indeed than many I have encountered, who were equally heinous."

"What were you going to suggest?"

"Ignoring them superficially and keeping an eye," Gienah replied unhappily. "But I can't be sure when the iron is truly hot enough to strike."

"You fear that we are infiltrated also."


They sat in silence as Harry ruminated over the problem.

"We have to falsify the myth around the Hallows."

"It seems the most plausible solution."

Harry stared at her.

"Just so you know, you are a manipulative bitch."

Gienah just smiled. She hadn't needed to guide Harry much to come around to her solution after all.

"How soon?"

"Not for a bit, yet. We need you visible enough for all players, first. And I want you to have a very, very specific skill-set."

"Such as?"

"Think of it, Potter. Riddle could fly. Your father and Sirius were animaguses. You are reasonably skilled at magic and legillimency, but you could and should improve to the point where nothing short of a lack of sentience or a mind can stop you from pulling another's thoughts. You are certainly more powerful, and as skilled a fighter magically, but you use nowhere close to the imagination Dumbledore used, and not for want of imagination itself. We are going to be exposed in due course of time, what with the satellites everyone's sending into space like it's going out of fashion. If not magic itself, they are going to sense the absence of traces of normal mundane activities. You could use at least a primer in muggle technology, if not a recognised degree itself. What I am saying, Potter, is that you are good, but not the best; certainly not the best you can be. The world's getting faster, weirder and it's changing. And in the things that we deal with? It is either know, cope, use and improve, or wither and die. And that cost is going to be too much to pay, always. And I need someone competent and trustworthy helping me out."

"In spite of the thing with Hallows?"


"That's vague and too broad compared to your usual requirements, not really specific as you were claiming. What is it that you want, really? What are you aiming for?"

"In the short term, relevance for us as a society in the changing world. In the long term, I am aiming for vigilance and readiness for whatever the Universe might throw at us."

This was not Corvus, the Unspeakable, or Corvus, the Master of Enchanting speaking, or even Gienah Black, the woman who had decided that Sirius and Harry were both assets and family. Nor was she not assuming any of those roles. This was the woman with a specific vision. SHIELD had been around, long enough to have a lethal cancer within it, but also to know far more than it had any right to, and also long enough to develop an alarming degree of arrogance where its jurisdiction over the sovereignty in terms of operations as well as information were concerned. The UK had a very good Secret Service yes, but it was not augmented enough by those who dealt with matters outside the ordinary.

Magi-scientific advancement, military collaborations, international collaborative anti-terror intelligence activities; the list was endless and seemed ideal, both in her mind and on paper. It would bolster the current Secret Service, and keep the magicals relevant. Only when one is useful is one relevant. Ironically, this was the sort of thing that the Government should have asked instead of military participation on the back of an actual civil war.

And this pet project was Gienah Black's ultimate vision, a vision that she desperately needed Harry, a man who had experience of methods, motives and means, of successes and failures, as well as of being compromised, to buy into. And if that experience wasn't enough, he had also developed cynicism, paranoia, and if her observations were true, a certain amount of patriotism (perhaps it was resignation in response to SHIELD's overtures – better to be used by your own country than any other) that could not be attributed to any experience through his life till then, and a degree of ruthlessness that always sent her mind careening towards that horrible blue, glowing ball of prophecy. And as the acquisition of Banner showed, he was opportunistic. And all of this, was a far cry from the boy she had heard of from the people in the Order, before of course the summer of '96. That boy could have grown to be Britain's answer to the long-lost Captain America, and would have become a fossil, a relic of the past in the world that had changed beyond recognition.

It would not be difficult to convince Harry to do the job, though. It was going to be difficult to get him to lead such an organisation; not immediately, but in a couple of years.

Which was why she needed Kingsley, but the man was too public, too well-liked, too admired, and more importantly, even more needed than at the head of her division that would expand the ambit of the Unspeakables' operations. Sirius was the furthest from being an actual candidate. He was a very good operative if it came to it, and it often did because she knew to never let Sirius be idle, but he had scruples. People who face injustice become two things – empathetic, or vengeful. Either extreme is terrible, if not tempered by the other. Sirius' empathy was tempered, having fought in two wars, but not tempered enough.

And worse still, she knew the people between her generation and Potter's and they had failed, or aided Voldemort's rise. The good ones like Amelia Bones, Rufus Scrimgeour and even Severus Snape, the actually experienced spy whom she would have eagerly recruited had he survived the war (in spite of being a generally detestable man), were dead. The rest were untrustworthy – as she had found out the hard way with Crouch senior.

Bones' niece was a good interrogator for the Aurors, and Gienah had an eye on her – as she did for the entirety of the group that comprised the younger Order of the Phoenix who had acquitted themselves wonderfully well as they rebuilt magical Britain – but she was too high-profile now, especially in Harry's absence. Weasley, who had taken his chess skills into real life to avenge the death of half his family in one stroke, and so could have been passably trained and also had a history of working with Potter that couldn't be written off, was dead.

What she basically needed was a trustworthy, refined, subtler, sharper, more cynical and paranoid, younger version of Mad-Eye Moody – one, if possible, with fewer compunctions (Moody had always brought the bastards alive, as far as he could). In spite of his recent troubles, Potter was it. And due to those very troubles, she was loath to load him just yet.

There was one obstacle in that path – Hermione Granger. The woman had displayed uncommon belligerence and resilience, such virtues as often seen in opposition to the other, as she strove to protect the humanity of Harry. While that was good when protecting him from the Hallows, when it came to the larger picture, her efforts would be dangerous hindrances. Potter was needed, because he had put himself in the line of fire, and had stood up to be counted. He was too valuable to be lost to well-meaning friends now, when he was nearly ready. She would stoke whatever fires it took to forge and reforge him.

And back on the topic of their conversation, she was proven right again, for he picked the one word out of her explanation that held a plethora of connotations.

"What do you mean "the Universe"?"

Gienah leaned back, looking truly worried and tired. "There is a very different version of the Tales of Beedle the Bard, Harry," using his name on the rare occasions that the situation was horribly grave. "And now we know for a fact that at least one myth is not a myth at all."

"What did this myth say?"

"It speaks of a group of individuals who trapped a treacherous being which has been dubbed as Death, and it is not elaborated whether it was a taken name like Voldemort or the real thing, and stopped it – or her – from destroying the entire Universe for her amusement alone by making her break the power she held in the form of a gem. The split would hold her at abeyance in perpetuity. A power that was not meant to be reunited, but you unwittingly have." If she needed to lay a heavy layer of guilt, guilt for something that in all honesty wasn't his fault at all, just so as to ensure that he would listen, accept and acquiesce, then she felt not the least bit bad about it.

"The Hallows," Harry noted pensively.

"Yes. It spoke of the Peverells, yes, but also of Bor Burison and Odin Borson…"

"Odin, like the Norse myths?"

"The very same. It also mentioned a mystic from the East called Agamotto, and many others. But this "Death" was not vanquished without losses, for the Peverells perished over time, yet it was a welcome death, for they lived in fear of the power that had been taken from the entity much as you do. Odin's young daughter was cursed to be her vessel. Agamotto was forever lost to time, existing, and yet not, everywhen at once."


"He managed to cheat "Death" by the expedient of turning back time over and over again, binding her to it."

This tale seemed absurd. And yet, Gienah Black felt the need to speak of it. Then again, he had seen the absurd, the horrible and perversions of nature and magic and any laws the Universe set often enough.

"This is fantastical."

"Is it?"

"Do you believe it?"

"I don't want to."

This was a non-answer. But then it opened up a new avenue for their paranoia. "It is the worst based on what we have already seen. Felix Felicis in the hands of HYDRA, and them creating a real Fountain of Fair Fortune for nefarious reasons is a bad thing in itself too."


Gienah watched as Harry stood from the chair and walked towards the fake window. It provided a view of London as it could be seen from about twenty feet above the Tower of London.

"What do you think of me being significantly visible before, you know…"

"Are you really Harry Potter? You do realise how much of a show there will be after that?"

"That is what we are aiming for, aren't we? To make things believable? Nobody's going to mourn an absent man."

"I thought you hated that?"

"You know, had this been ten years ago, I would have told you how much I hate the attention in detail. Today I will say, yes, I hate it. But, for the ah…Greater Good, this is going to be necessary. My reservations, fears, beliefs and whatever else do not matter, not when there's such clear and present danger. But then that's not new, is it? I doubt that the boy I was till an hour before that dream Riddle sent me would recognise what I have since become."

"I am quite sure that when things came to it, you were always capable of it. You held on to Quirrell, if I remember right. It may have been self-defence, but you were cognisant of the fact that you were hurting him. And you did truly want to kill your parents' betrayer, just as you wanted to kill the woman who nearly murdered Sirius. You used the Cruciatus on her; not effective on the woman when she had had experience with Riddle, but your instincts always ran that way." Gienah smiled in the most infuriatingly, smugly, benign manner ever. Harry didn't like being reminded of that. It had been his one failing. He had killed over and over in the war and often since, when there was no recourse left, for self-defence would not hold water in times of peace, and rightly so. He had never used the Killing Curse, and the Cruciatus had been a momentary lapse in rage, but if she had to resort to these methods, she would.

"You haven't given me your opinion regarding what I asked you."

"Do it as you see fit. We shall go over the plan. We will need to account for any infiltrators ourselves."

"While you were busy trying to guilt me into doing whatever it is that you want me to do," Harry drily retorted, "I was forming the rudimentary outline of one. If, that is, you would pause in your rather unsubtle means of manipulation and care to listen."

Gienah just smiled widely and unashamedly.

"I suppose Dumbledore's portrait will teach me, so that's magic handled. If you would care to supervise, because I bloody well won't touch that thing alone, then I could use the Stone to command Riddle to teach me flight."

"And since it is painful for the souls brought back…"

"I will very happily cause him the pain. I daresay it would be cathartic."

"Words of Wisdom, indeed."

"About the Animagus forms, I intended to borrow Banner and take him to Hogwarts."

"You believe that the Hulk is an Animagus form?"

"It's a theory."

"He's a muggle. No magic equals no Animagus form."

"He is not naturally radioactive either. That much radiation should have killed him. It may not be an Animagus form, but it could be controlled the same way an Animagus learns control."

"And, may I remind you that you were the one who equated his condition with Lycanthropy?"

"I did. But if we show him an alternative, who knows, maybe he could find a solution."

"That's a very big maybe. What's to stop him from going on a rampage?"

"Grawp, Sirius and Hagrid."

"And you."

"And me," Harry agreed.

"That leaves the aspect of technology."

"I have no obvious solution to that."

"Leave that to me. Consider yourself on indefinite recuperative leave."

"Sure. I will do that. I will also leave you with a few questions. How are we going to hide magic if I am to use such obvious…powers? And how are we going to dissociate Harry Potter from the new persona?"

Corvus pinned Harry with a pitying look.

"The world doesn't need to know what genetic modifications we made to the DNA of our Super-Soldier volunteer, an experiment, since we do not wish to disclose what modifications lead to powers, and which ones. Frankly, everyone seems to buy any bullshit when we sell it suitably packaged, mostly because they have no idea what is possible and what isn't. Land often while flying and make the flying seem like really long jumps; disillusion your wand and make it an illusion of spells from your fingers. Perhaps do the impossible and go for wandless magic," she added derisively and condescendingly, referring to the mythical powers all magicals seemed to yearn for. "Just use your brains. Be a good infiltrator. Learn from Snape's experience as a spy. We can't be overt."

"And what to do when they know."

"Potter, we don't need the people I want you going after. Somewhat abhorrent, but we do need a better system for taking care of problems than the one we had to employ last time."

Harry grimaced. "I hate killing. I am good at it and I have done that too often for my comfort. Not even knowing that the people I killed were unworthy to live stopped me from being disgusted by that."

Jubilation was the closest description of what Corvus felt at that moment. "Well, till you become the boss, I get to assign you missions."

"Manipulative bitch," grumbled Harry in a very low voice. "You fucking want me as a fucking weapon."

"That's what "directors" are for. We direct weapons." Then with a speculative glance she purred, "Fucking, yes."

Harry nearly went as green as the Hulk and beat a hasty retreat.

"You seem even more paranoid, of late," the councilman remarked.

"And you seem extra observant about me," Colonel Fury replied without missing a beat. "Even without being here."

It had been a trying couple of months for the organisation. They had lost nineteen agents in three months since SNAFU had been dismantled. Since the Brits had pulled Potter out, and all the information regarding him. And since he had been told, as nothing more than a way to set the cat among the canaries, that the organisation he was leading, loyal to and responsible for, had been infiltrated by some of the very worst foes in the business, right under his nose. It had set him on a heightened state of suspicion, and it clashed with the need to portray that all things were normal. As it was, he couldn't bring himself to fully trust the man he spoke to either. Certainly not enough to admit that all nineteen were HYDRA agents he had ordered culled in the most covert manner. And that was in addition to the favours he found the Brits had done them.

"To those who take the time to see, old friend, it is blatantly obvious."

"Then you should know why."

"How many is it now?"

"Nineteen in the past month alone."

"You saw it too."

"I always do. You put me in charge for a reason. When my agents suddenly start coming down with fatal accidents, it is a cause to worry."

"I agree. I advise you to not entrust anyone with new missions for a while."

"And have them cooped up and start killing each other?"

"There is that," the councilman agreed. "What do you intend to do?"

Nick Fury took his time answering. He couldn't trust the council. He couldn't trust anyone.

"I intend to rotate partners for a while. Can't let there be a pattern for whoever is hunting them to use. We are flying blind here, there's little else to do right now."

"I agree. Keep me posted."

In response Fury switched the transceiver off.

The councilman switched on another secure link.

"Fury might start looking closely. I don't think he knows, but we need to keep it that way."

"Ja, Herr Secretary. This has been a recurring setback. We have to scale back for a while. Otherwise Project Insight will not take off."

"I am assigning all personnel to desk jobs in phases. Give me a list of disposable ones. Perhaps a traitor could be culled in it."

The man on the other end merely grunted. "Hail HYDRA!"

"Hail HYDRA!"

"Hello Dr. Banner," a very gossamer light voice said, startling Bruce, who was deeply engrossed in reading about the society he had somehow become a part of. Well, it was less of understanding, and more of being horrified about his…benefactor, for lack of a better term, being pushed into the war as a child, and having a kill count in triple digits.

"Miss Lovegood," he weakly acknowledged, once he had wrestled control back from the Hulk. This singularly odd woman was the one regular visitor he couldn't even pretend to understand. Yet, it was obvious that she was very dear to Potter, for he not only accepted all her idiosyncratic utterances, he even indulged them regularly. "Please don't startle me."

"You really should let Mr. Green out to play every once in a while," Luna replied with a frown, not paying much attention to the admonishment.

"I don't think that is wise."

"Have you ever tried boxing?"

Bruce paused, grit his teeth, and then made an effort to calm himself at the latest non-sequitur. Then again, with Luna Lovegood, you could never say that something was unrelated, not that Bruce knew.

"I haven't really had the chance."

"Hmm…maybe you should."

"Why?" He wondered why he was humouring her. He could just be polite and not engage the woman and maybe she would be distracted by something else.

"The Wrackspurts around your head," Luna answered with an air that suggested that the reason should have been obvious to anyone with even half a brain.


"Wrackspurts, Dr. Banner. I do remember telling you about them?"

Bruce tried not to whimper in irritated confusion. "What of them?"

"Oh dear, it seems the infestation is worse than I thought."

Bruce just looked blankly.

"Bruce, the Wrackspurts are confusing and irritating you so much that you cannot talk to yourself." Almost at the end of his tether, Bruce almost snapped disparagingly about people who talked to themselves, when she continued, "It's making you think that your rage is not you, even though you think of it all the time and get angrier each time you think of how angry you are."

It took Bruce a couple of minutes to make sense of what she said. She wanted him to pursue boxing to let go of a bit of steam instead of constantly being afraid of getting too angry and making the anger and the fear a self-perpetuating cycle. She was also asserting that the Hulk was a part of him, instead of being the Other Guy and was disagreeing with his habit of dissociation, and wanted him to communicate with the Hulk and make peace with him. On one hand, he thought it was rather brilliant. On the other, he was beyond irritated by the fact that she wouldn't say it straight out. She was a singularly infuriating lady, Luna Lovegood, who said a lot and said nothing at the same time, all seemingly without really meaning to.

In the interim, Luna busied herself with the books.

"You are reading about the War," she observed.

"Yes. I didn't realise Potter was that important. He understated it a lot."

"He always was. He is my friend. Friends are always important."

"In your War, I mean," Bruce corrected with deliberate calmness.

"Maybe," Luna agreed. "I think my friend Harry is more important, though."

That again left Bruce baffled. "That's what I said. I didn't realise that your friend, Harry Potter, was as important as I find he was in a war that the world didn't know of."

"You know of the war. You just believed in the odd happenings such as falling bridges, tornadoes and everything else in England in that time to be what they were proclaimed as. You say you are a man of science. That aberrant data must have caught even your attention."

This sudden switch to a serious tone and sensible speech jarred Banner again. He just couldn't make head or tail of this woman.

"The giants, did it, according to the book," Bruce carefully replied.

"Perhaps," Luna replied. "Venomous Bubblebreaths are sometimes eaten by Olive Bucks when they set out to make new territories. It makes their dung poisonous, and destroys much of the patches of forests on the boundaries of their territories. Does that mean the Bubblebreaths are destructive, or the Bucks?"

Bruce assumed they were magical creatures, but that was beside the point. "You believe that the Giants by themselves were not responsible for the destruction, but rather it was the humans, those Death Eaters, who were."

"That is right, too," Luna happily agreed.

She said nothing more, leaving Bruce to ruminate upon the odd conversation. It was the longest one he had directly had with her, yet.

Then it struck him. Once it did, it was a bit embarrassing really. Luna Lovegood seemed to speak in analogies for the most part. And once that realisation struck, things not only became somewhat clearer, but he started to marvel at her meaning too. She seemed to think that Ross had to shoulder much of the blame, for instigating the whole Hulk process in the first place. It was somewhat reassuring. She was not crazy. She was just…unconventional.

"But the Giants still destroyed…"

"Venomous Bubblebreaths don't stop being venomous, Dr. Banner. They do sting very painfully and cause nausea and hallucinations. But Bubblebreaths do stay far from other creatures, and are very solitary. It doesn't change their nature."

"But the giants must have some culpability."

"Yes, they do. That's why they we had to kill them when they attacked. Sirius killed one with his bare hands, did you know?"

Bruce nodded. The idea of the slightly childish man who was his host killing about ten tonnes of pure strength, roughly four times as tall as himself (and Sirius was a tall man) by going straight for its joints and then its head, sat ill with him, just as it was somewhat reassuring that he could probably hold the Hulk at least for a few seconds. It was what had driven home to him the idea that these people really didn't care for the Serum. The short biography of the man had described how he had ended up being half-dead, quite literally, before being saved by what was reported to be some alchemical experimental concoction that Dumbledore given him. That must have been the magical version of the serum, and it certainly worked.

Bruce had found himself respecting Dumbledore a lot. If the man had actually done even half of what it was claimed he had done, then he was certainly a man of great intellect.

"But," Luna continued gently, "I know a giant, who really is just a big, really, really big child, who just doesn't know his own strength and is really unhappy if he hurts anyone. Most giants aren't like him, but that doesn't mean some couldn't be too."

This time, she was hinting at the Hulk quite directly. And it got too close for comfort, so Bruce did what he did best. He avoided the topic.

"Why is Harry more important?" he asked, truly out of the blue.

"Did you read about his sacrifice?"

"Yes. I am just chalking it down to magic, but I don't understand how it might have worked."

"You don't understand, because it shouldn't have. Harry knew he was walking out to die. And he had accepted it."

And Bruce could see how that might have earned Potter loyalty.

"But you misunderstand," Luna corrected, again, very seriously. "After his sacrifice before it, dying was not that big."

Bruce's eyes almost bulged out at that proclamation.

"What do you mean?"

"Harry was my friend when nobody else was. He taught me, cared for me, when nobody else would. And through him, I made many more friends who treated me just the same as him. People only know Harry as a great man, Dr. Banner. I have known him when he was a good one."

"I do not understand."

"Have you read the papers of that time?"

"Ms. Granger gave me access to her archives."

"And you know when he started killing?"


"That was the sacrifice." At Bruce's uncomprehending look, she explained. "It was not revenge, not really. It was desperation. Harry was my friend before most others. But just as I had him, he only ever had us. So, he decided to do whatever it would take to keep us safe. Sometimes, he even sacrificed his humanity for it. What more is left after that? Harry became a weapon so we wouldn't have to be."

It set Bruce thinking again. Perhaps, he thought, his perception of the man was smeared as that of anyone from the military after Ross. Seen from Luna Lovegood's eyes, everything was very different.

"Do you trust him?"

"The question is, why don't you?" she asked in a faintly disappointed tone.

Bruce had no answer. It didn't feel nice at all.

As such, Bruce resolved to observe Harry more closely than he had thereunto. Then again, that night was going to be an aberration. He had seen the man usually in his stoic, extremely polite, reserved way as he was around him, always dealing with some issue that seemed to crop up, or as the fun guy he was around Teddy Lupin. That night at dinner, though, Harry was in a grim and grumpy mood.

"Uncle Harry, you are really, really, really sad today!"

"I am not, Teddy."

"No," Teddy insisted.

Even Teddy had picked up on the difference enough to comment on it.

"What's going on?" Sirius asked.

Whatever it was, it was really big. And Harry had no intention to speak.

"Harry," Hermione demanded.

"I went to meet Corvus today. She was going to assess whether I could return to full-time work."

"Oh." Hermione's tone contained a whole world of relief and joy that she was unable to disguise. Obviously, since Harry wasn't happy about it, it meant he wasn't cleared. "And?"

"Harry Potter is no longer to work at the Department except for the enchanting Mastery. Even that is official now."

"Oh Harry!" Hermione cried, going around to hug and console him, even if it was painfully evident that she was very happy about the development. It was uncomfortably long enough for Sirius to make a crass comment about consoling him further and for Harry to use the muffling spell to prevent Teddy from listening to Harry very rudely informing his godfather where he could get off.

"You're happy about it, Hermione," Harry grumpily mumbled as she released him, calling her out.

She in turn honestly tried to protest, but ended up blustering in a manner very reminiscent of Cornelius Fudge, before giving up. "Yes I am."

"Well at least someone is," he retorted, behaving more like a teen.

"I had hoped she would do this before you travelled," Hermione blithely admitted.

"You know, friends usually are less joyful when people lose their jobs. What makes you happy about me being useless to everyone?"

"You have never been useless Harry. Frankly, I admit I am relieved to see you free of that job as well," Remus admonished. "It was destroying you."

"Traitors the both of you," Harry muttered.

"You can have your angst and pity party later. Tell us what happened."

"She said that she still is not inclined to send me out into the field. I will be continuing my Mastery with her. Dr. Banner remains my responsibility, and I will be the lab rat for you when you build isolations for magic and electrical and electronic interfaces. In other words, she thinks I am an invalid and that I should be cooped up in an office and spend my time with books like Dumbledore did and that I should be Banner's nanny even though he doesn't need one."

Everyone winced at that.

"That's harsh, Harry."

"Doesn't mean it's untrue," Harry replied mulishly. "Even my Mastery is once a week."

"It's harsh on Bruce." When Sirius chastised someone for insensitivity, it made everyone pause.

"Of course it is! That's what I told her. Sorry to speak about this like you aren't here, Dr. Banner, but come on! She's agreed to task you with the setting up of our labs and everything and she's treating you like a bomb that might go off any time. I said as much to her. She wants me to work on the Hulk with you."

If Bruce Banner thought that Harry was behaving too out-of-character, he kept the thought aside for the time-being. He hadn't expected being supported.

"Most people are rightly scared."

"Look, you have led research teams for years. Whatever irritations and frustrating things that may happen again, you either know how to manage them, or they are too usual and unavoidable for you to turn into the Hulk over them. You are the expert. You should be trusted, that's all. She didn't take kindly to that as you can see."

The implication was not lost on Bruce. The guy he couldn't bring himself to trust much, had basically hedged his entire career on Bruce's control and had been fired for it. And he was defending him even then. Potter seemed to trust whatever he had seen in his, Bruce's, mind.

"It's an obvious risk."

"Risk management is a thing, you know. It doesn't mean fearing the risk, but working around it. Why are you giving me her arguments again? Did she speak to you or something?"

"I am just saying that I can see where she's coming from. At least she's honest about it. Ross just started hunting me."

"Well, if she is going to have me play nanny to you, then it's going to be by my rules, and not her," Harry stoutly declared.

"What do you intend to do?"

He waited patiently for the response, but instead, Harry looked a bit lost. "I didn't exactly have a plan then," he sheepishly admitted. "I was just angry about being fired, so I haven't exactly thought about it. I might need a day or two."

Bruce smiled in spite of himself, while Hermione snorted.

Sirius, however, looked at Harry suspiciously, who jutted his chin at the adjoining room in a fluid gesture which nobody else caught.

"That's fine," Hermione informed him. "We are working on our protections for electrical and electronic systems, and you are the user who can induce the worst-case faults, so it fits in our plans. Come along tomorrow or the day-after."

"Not like I have a choice," Harry grumbled. "Oh yeah, Dr. Banner, when you have time, we are going to Hogwarts between June and September. You can turn into the Hulk there, and I can introduce you to Hagrid and Grawp and Professor McGonagall."

Bruce who had just warmed up ever so slightly to Harry was struck cold at that. "Why would I willingly turn into the Hulk?"

"I had a theory that Corvus didn't like much. I think you can control the Hulk. Professor McGonagall was our transfiguration teacher – that's turning one thing into another – and she is an Animagus too. She turns into a cat. She can help you learn control. The Hulk is not crazy. I didn't realise it at first, but it can speak words, right? And you have enough control to not attack people not fighting you."

"You think the Hulk is a humanoid Animagus form?" Remus asked.

"Dr. Banner could be powerful enough to wield magic, for all we know. Perhaps a late-bloomer, or perhaps just a whisker less powerful than required to be classified as a muggle-born, since neither of his parents were magical. Maybe the radiation jump started the process, and since he didn't know, and had nobody to guide him, things got out of hand." He spoke directly to Bruce, as he explained, "Your transformations are triggered in a similar way as the accidental magic in children."

"And this Professor McGonagall can guide me?" trying not to even think about the implications of that. Him, a magic-using, wand-waving wizard?

"Yes. She is a global authority on the topic."

"And Hagrid and Grawp?"

"Hagrid is a half-giant. He is nearly ten feet tall and I am pretty sure weighs as much as an elephant. He is possibly the gentlest person you'd ever hope to meet. He might even want to raise the Hulk like a child, come to think of it. And Grawp is his kid half-brother. He is small by giant standards. Only sixteen feet. They can help if things get out of hand."

Bruce was only vaguely aware of Teddy giggling as his steak dropped off his fork.

"What really happened?" Sirius demanded as soon as he had shepherded Harry and Remus (on Harry's request) into the room after Hermione had left and Bruce had retired for the night.

Harry held a finger to his lips and added a couple more silencing charms to the ones Sirius had put up.

"Did you see the dossier she sent with you?"


"Grindelwald was one of their Heads."


"That's what I said."

"You think they might have infiltrated us."


"Sorry, what is this about?" Remus interjected.

"This is about the little fact that Harry lied at the table. Nice acting there, neither Moony nor Hermione caught it."

"I didn't lie. Harry Potter is never going to work for the department again."

"What exactly…?" Remus started again, unable to get a toehold on the conversation.

"HYDRA are an international terrorist-cum-world-domination zealot agency. They allied with Grindelwald. They have never been successfully defeated fully, and we have reason to believe that they may have infiltrated most European governments on both sides."

"What's that got to do with anything?"

"Come on Remus. You can't be that naïve."

"What? They are sending Harry undercover…?" Remus trailed off as the looks on both Sirius and Harry's faces told him the truth. "You lied! You haven't been fired have you?"

"Harry Potter has been, Moony. I haven't."

"What ruse?"

"We need to pull a Peter." Harry's face was twisted in disgust at that, and Sirius mirrored it. Remus caught on a few moments later.


"The Hallows again, Moony. We don't know what they do beyond what they did to me. We can't risk them falling into the wrong hands."

"And by staging your death, you intend to make the world believe that it really was only a children's story."


"Should you be telling me this?"

"I shouldn't. But even if I was under an Unbreakable Vow to not reveal this, I would have found a way to let you know. You entrusted me with that duty. Moony, HYDRA have several modus operandi. One of their most heinous is human experimentation."

"You fear they will go after Teddy."

Sirius crossed over to a cupboard and filled a glass with a couple of fingers of firewhiskey for Remus. Harry avoided it, and Sirius didn't feel like having one just then.

"How long till…?"

"Two years, give or take a couple of months, likely after Teddy goes to Hogwarts. I have been tasked with acquiring certain skills along with a specialised training programme she's putting together, and being a visible public figure till then. Moony, I would have never asked this of you, but…"

"I will keep my ears to the ground. You don't need to ask, Harry."

"What do you need me to do?" Sirius asked.

"I need both of you to help me create a persona. One that needs to be inducted into the department at least a few months before my "death". All the stuff, you know, alibis, identification, cover stories, safe houses, character, mannerisms, the works. We need to weave in the skills Corvus wants me to have into that. And we need to consider the impact of the means of my death. I personally am veering towards a muggle car accident while on a night out with friends."

"Right. If you are murdered then that would mean the Hallows pass on. A muggle accident makes the things useless even if they pass on."

"Exactly. Even though a muggle could use the stone and the cloak, the Third Hallow is forever out of use."

"Do you two realise how morbid you are being?" Remus incredulously demanded. "And Padfoot, you want me to help you do what Peter did. You are alright with that?"

"I would rather have the world think that Harry is dead than have him hunted by HYDRA. Harry's well-trained and more powerful than anyone we know. This keeps control with us. I want him protected. If I have to go back to Azkaban for that, I would do it."

"Cut the dramatics, Padfoot. You'd be more useful as an angry, vengeful, distraught godfather, snapping orders and being the office terror and who'd guide the newbie. I got the impression that Corvus wanted someone other than her in charge, and I am not doing it. She's anyway keeping you busy with field work for her."

"You want me to lead that thing."

"She wants to load me with it, maybe do what SHIELD did and find out what those death things do, no matter what she claims, and I am not going to do it. Split the duties between the two of you if you need to, Padfoot, Moony. You are what remains of the Marauders. Make it count. Keep the office prison away from me and protect Ted. You are the only two trustworthy people who can pull off the hoax both ways. Who else can I turn to?"

"And this way you can keep an eye on my dear old Aunt."

"The phrasing was awkward, what with the way she…"

"Keeps flirting?" Sirius completed with a full-body shudder. "Yeah. It's horrible."

"Yeah, but well, I think I would prefer you there for that reason too. We can't trust her fully, Sirius."

"Might be a good idea to start checking right from her."

"True. She is wily enough to challenge us like that and still play us like pawns, if indeed she might have HYDRA links, or something else entirely. That's why we need better information control. I don't want her knowing all the specifics of the new persona."

"Good idea. How about we make two very similar personalities, use one and show her the other? You know just keep something in reserve?"

Harry nodded in silent agreement.

"What are you going to do with them?" Remus asked.

"No mercy. Pull out information in any possible manner, then kill."

"That's going to be a Herculean task. If you are going on a one-man crusade, that is. These organisations grow faster than they can be brought down."

"Iolus cauterised the necks to stop the re-growing heads," Sirius commented sagely. "Just killing them won't suffice. HYDRA doesn't need to be cut down, it needs to be unravelled. Even if you could pull all the information from every person you interrogate, there will be dead ends, repeated and redundant information, maybe even spies placed inside HYDRA, like Snape was Dumbledore's. You need a really good way to analyse the information, so that you can streamline your approaches over time."

"Very much so. I can't do that alone, and we can't have either of you doing it. I might need a couple of people helping me, or at least trustworthy people with whom I can consult in a crunch. And we need to go above Gienah's head on this one."

"If only we could be sure in her case, there is a lot more we could do," Sirius grumbled. "She is my Aunt. I don't know whether I can never fully trust her in spite of that or because of that."

The three men were silent as they considered the situation.

"We have got two years or so before Harry is deployed," started Remus, mostly thinking out aloud. "And there is reason to believe that your will and mind could be stronger than hers; your magic certainly is. As invasive and distasteful as this is, make her a benchmark of sorts. If you can invade the mind of any person in her department without detection, that will both give you the necessary information and also create a relative level of expertise in wandless legillimency."

"I am not on Dumbledore's level there, Moony."

"What you need to be is way beyond Dumbledore's level, though I suppose that the lack of intent contributed to that. In fact, now I challenge you to calm Moony, without the Wolfsbane, through a protective transparent wall, with only Legillimency. If what you say is true, then there simply is no time. I am invested in this on both Teddy's account and yours. If we have to make you some sort of overpowered, overachieving super-skilled super-wizard, then so be it. You aim for that, at least you could reach a third of the way there."

Sirius and Harry traded amused glances at that. Moony the taskmaster was a bit jarring to see.

"We would still need to hide these developments, though."

"Yes. And for that, you have to actually do what Corvus said, our misgivings regarding her notwithstanding. You should be exceptionally visible."

"I know. I suggested that, actually," Harry replied as he summoned a couple of butterbeers from the cupboard.

The three chugged on their respective drinks pensively, before Sirius, unable to take the silence (every silence was an awkward one for Sirius), declared "Well, then, here's to Project Peter.".

"Really? Peter?"

"If you are going to undertake one of Hercules' twelve labours, then it makes sense to name it after the man who remained hidden for twelve years the way you want to, however much I hate him."

"That's fucking cheesy, corny and contrived and you know it. And I am not living like a rat. Call it Project Iolus at least."

"No. It's Peter. And we don't know your Animagus form, though you might work on that with Banner. You could easily be some slippery creature, hiding and striking from the shadows."

"I would have taken offence to that once."

"Yeah, when you really were a Gryffindor."

"Unlike you, I grew up. You still go charging in with all the strength and grunts and smell of a troll."

"If I hadn't known James and Lily were married…"

"Yes, you'd have called me a bastard. Move on, old man."

"Old man? Let me tell you, I have such vitality that women…"

"I don't want to know," Harry interrupted loudly, cutting off Sirius' extolling of his own…virtues.

"Says the twenty-six-year-old virgin," Sirius snidely remarked.

"What's that got to do with anything? What makes you think the stuff I have been involved in allows me a life at all?"

"That's what I am saying, my child. I am not looking for deep love shite. That's for children. And James and Lily, but then I never thought either was particularly bright."

"Yes well, I have never been a child, and never knew my parents, so thanks for disparaging them."

"And we have the drama," Remus idly commented.

"Way to lay that angsty guilt-trip on me, kid. Been there, done that. It doesn't really work on me."

"Well, thank Merlin for small favours. I thought you were going soft in your dotage, and so had to boast to your godson and best friend about your vitality."

"And you can never stand to attention even when a bird is chasing you like James chased Lily, only more subtly."

"And a cat-fight involving a dog," Remus said again, to nobody in particular, if only a bit louder.

"I have to distance myself from that sort of thing when you resort to cradle-robbing, Sirius. That last one I had to chase off before you could score with your Cyborg routine, she was only a firstie when I was in my third year. Moony has taught her. What are you, a barely legal paedophile?"

"And the playground insults," the werewolf continued even louder, trying hard to be the voice of adult behaviour and politeness.

"Moony had lots of seventh year girls vying for his attention. Why do you think he finally caved into Dora?" Sirius retorted, a bit side-tracked and then groaned.

"Yes! You couldn't find anything to say to me! I win!" Harry exulted.

"You take that back! You didn't win!"

"I so did win!"

"Why did you bring Dora and me into this?" Remus demanded.

"Leave that Moony. You're my friend, aren't you? He didn't win right?"

"Yeah speak up Moony. You've got to say I won. Even dad would agree."

"I am not feeling very charitable towards you, Padfoot, for bringing Dora…"

"Moony says I won!"

"I hate both of you!"

"ENOUGH!" Remus finally yelled, having had enough of the tomfoolery that all three knew was only an act. "Stop it, idiots! If you are done, maybe we should retire for the night!"

"Yes, goodnight retiree," Sirius mocked.

Remus flipped him the bird, setting the two sniggering at his back.

When Moony was gone, Harry admitted, "You were right about Moony cradle-robbing our cousin." At Sirius growing smile, he added, "But I still win!"


100 light years from Earth (Terra)

Sachetan, the planet where everything was always silent, where even beauty turned to reality with but a thought, a thought sent through the minds of all the inhabitants of the planet with barely a ripple on each mind, wasn't so silent.

"You do realise that your resistance shall mean very little, little one? It is futile."

In the hand of the speaker was held the throat of a very humanoid being, a very faintly orange-hued child that seemed just about five years old, just old enough to understand one thought from another, just old enough to know a good thought from a bad one. A child of absolutely pure thoughts, of absolutely innocent curiosity, of such simplicity that defined the very word. The child held the terrible knowledge of the thoughts of any being its wise eyes turned to, and yet it remained as always, unwilling to judge. It knew of every sentience on every world, even other worlds that not only bore other sentient creatures, but were sentient themselves. It was one in the long line of bearers. A mantle, that now, it seemed likely, it would never pass on to another.

Yet, it looked placidly at the attacker.

"I do not want to do this, little one. You should realise this. No thought of mine is hidden from you."

The child did not answer.

Behind the speaker, a green-skinned alien flinched as subtly as she could. "Little One", an epithet that was burnt into her mind… She would always remember the way her "Father" had stolen her from her family, and her world, her childhood and her parents from her. Bastard. Insane. Terrifying.

A creature that Gods themselves could fear.

Thanos, the Titan.

The mad creature intent on bringing balance to the Universe with a plan told to him by the One they could not see or perceive.

"Please, not my child, please," the child's mother begged. "Please, take me, leave…"

With just a swat of the gigantic creature's hands, the woman's wish was fulfilled. Permanently. The child acknowledged the death of its mother in a detached way. The grip on its throat tightened. The violence wrought upon its planet intensified.


The little voice that broke though the grasp tightening on its throat was defiant. It was also its undoing, as it broke the one law that it had to follow as a bearer. That it would not judge any thought or intention beyond what it meant according to the thoughts of any other being. It was the ultimate intelligence, learning by probing, by experiencing the thoughts of others, till its bearer judged an intention without the intelligence itself being involved in the thought on any level. It was a possession of sorts, but a willing one. The child used the last of its tethers with the intelligence to speak words of warning, even as it felt its mind start to revert to that of what could truly be considered a child.

"You are an idiot. And a liar. You will fail. Your ambition is based on a lie, and you are too stupid to understand it and too stubborn to recognise your flaws."

The little orange head glowed yellow.

The Great Titan's face was stricken. Not because of what he had heard but because of what he saw with the glow. He had heard it too many times and from too many souls. No. His cause was terrible but just. His will was strong. The Lady would not drive him the wrong way. But his conscience, it rebelled. He was well-advised by the Lady, and yet, yet, this salvation was painful to him as he delivered it, even though the world would be grateful for it. A terrible, but just solution, as She had assured him it was. A solution to the problem everywhere across the Universe, on countless worlds, a problem that had destroyed his own planet. He had embarked upon a conquest that would ensure the survival of the Universe. His conscience was but a necessary sacrifice.

"I am sorry, little one," Thanos said, true regret flowing through his words.

"I am sorry you do not understand."

Those were the child's last words, as the gigantic purple hands closed upon its little head. Thanos closed his eyes and sighed as his hand crushed the child's head and released the body, only to pick the stone that thought and learnt and reasoned and planned and felt, and yet was painfully innocent, from the remains.

The child's father released a wail that was also a roar, a sound of such pain and anger, and such emotion that even the Titan sympathised.

"I understand your pain," Thanos consoled, as he held the head of the father with the same hand that had crushed and murdered the child.

"Daanav!" swore the man. "Monster! You have no heart. What good can understanding do? Murderer!"

The Titan did not speak. He retreated to his ship, his daughters, Nebula and Gamora and his trusted children trailing in the wake of their Lord, Master, Father. The attack on Sachetan was successful.

"Little one," Thanos addressed his beloved daughter, Gamora, who managed not to flinch with only the utmost effort. It made him pause. "Do you fear me?"

"Should you not be feared, Father?"

Thanos smiled a sad, grim smile. "I trust you, daughter. Repay it by locating the Stone that would temper this wilful one."

"Yes father. As you command." Gamora was trying not to even think of her relief as she would get to be far from the Monster.

"I beg you, father," interrupted Thanos' other daughter, Nebula. "Let me do it."

"I do not doubt you'd try, for you know the consequences of failing to do so, young one," Thanos replied coldly. "But I fear you may be a little past being able to bear the consequences of fail–"

"Die Monster!" interrupted a scream as the Sachetanian father, in utter despair, thrust a spear of thought through him, caring nought for stealth in his pain and rage.

It did not touch the Titan. The Stone relayed and amplified his thoughts and the spear disintegrated.

"I shall spare you the pain," Thanos sorrowfully said. And then his hand clenched around the stone, as he thought the planet out of existence.

To those who notice the discrepancy between the administration of the magical variant of the Super Soldier Serum to Sirius (and isn't that an alliterative mouthful?), please note that Dumbledore was already famous for his work as an alchemist, or at least for working with one. The Department of Mysteries had no intention of ever revealing their full capabilities. Make of that what you will.

Earth-616 had the Mind Gem (not Stone) on Deneb-IV. In the MCU, we don't really know how the Mind Stone came to be with Thanos, nor do we know how he ever stumbled upon the information regarding the Stones. I am taking creative license with that.

Thirdly, most characters that we see in the MCU are severely ret-conned in one way or the other. Harry, obviously is the ret-conned version of another.