Things are never easy.
After the war things never settled down, rather than being able to slip into ignominy Harry's life became a prison. Ginny Weasely who wanted to be the chosen one's wife, not that it would ever happen, Ron Weasely who finally had a lion's share of fame had shown his true colors beating Hermione in a drunken rage. Harry had nearly killed him for it. He tried to comfort Hermione but between the scars on her arm and Ron's final betrayal, she took her own life ten years after the end of the war. Harry withdrew from the world and for the next decade, Kreature led what could be called a rearguard action in keeping Harry alive through a myriad of suicide attempts. Until old age claimed the Black elf…
Harry walked into the Ministers' office. The secretary looked up "Mr. Potter, What a pleasant surprise."
"Thank you, Hannah, does Susan have a free slot in her schedule any time today," he asked earnestly his eyes downcast toward the floor hiding the depths of pain he was in "If not when could I get 5 minutes of her time."
'What is going on with him? 'Hannah thought "Harry you know you have an open invitation as one of her advisors you do not have to make appointments. Susan would love to see you it has been a while. Go on in she is having lunch right now."
Harry looked up "I thought that advisor thing was you know a pro forma thing I never..."
Hannah smiled again "That is exactly why you are one of her advisors when you come to her it is generally not for something little. Now go on in."
"Yes, Ma'am!" he said as he went toward the door. He stopped for a moment to gather himself up opening the door he saw Susan eating a sandwich while absentmindedly looking over a long scroll and Harry could not help himself "you know if you get a grease spot on a treaty with the goblins there will be war"
Susan jumped at the voice "Harry Potter that is not funny you scared a life out of me I only have three left now" She said standing with a cocked head her hand on her hip and smile crossing her lips "What brings my favorite advisor to my office."
"I need a favor!" Harry stated coming to attention "The kind that I will likely never be able to repay nor will you like what I am about to ask. As I have never come to you with any request, I want you to give my request due to thought." Harry said gravely "I request access to veil."
Susan looked shocked "Harry surely it is not that bad."
"No, it is worse. I cannot go out in public for reasons that are well known which means I cannot spend time with what friends I have left or my godson and his beautiful wife. Susan my affairs are in Order Teddy will be the lord Black and the lord Potter he will get the lion's share of my fortune. Please just let me go I beg you please with her gone I have no reason to stay."
Susan sat down when the gravity of his feeling manifested on his face. "Is there no other way?"
Harry slowly shook his head "There is no peace for me here, no rest. Please Susan it is the only way."
For the first time in years, she looked at her friend. Gone was the boy she knew, the boy who had life and hope in his place a shell of a man she barely recognized "Very well Lord Potter if you are sure. When would like to go?"
"Now would probably be best," Harry said once again looking at the ground" I am sorry for putting you in this position Susan I know you want me to live but I…"
"I know Harry I was with you when we received the call discovering her body. I know what she meant to you, still means to you it hard competing against a memory."
"It was never a competition madam minister, there was never anyone in the universe other than her for me." He said flashing her a white stone.
"Is that a…" she asked and all Harry did was nod "I see then my condolences feel inadequate now"
"No Susan they were a balm when I needed them I am sorry it could not work out for us"
"Let's go then," she said wiping a tear from her eyes
"You don't have to take me, Susan!" Harry mumbled.
"Harry if you think I am going to let you walk into the veil without at least one person being there for you then you are truly dumb." She said as they walked out of her office. "Hannah Love I will see you at the orphanage later please take the rest of the day off"
They walked in silence to the lifts people giving them a wide birth as the lift went down Harry spoke again "Funding for the Orphanage is taken care of as part of my prep work I made a sizable donation in the Black and Potter names."
The rest of the journey was made in silence until at last they stood in the veil room when she turned to Harry and embraced him "Goodbye my brother goes and find peace" she choked on sobs as she stepped back Harry stepped forward; he could hear her voice whispering to him. "Hermione I am coming to join you, my love." As he stepped through, he felt the cloak appear on his back, the ring on his finger, and the wand in his hand. 'What the hell is going on? I snapped the wand and deliberately lost the stone' Harry thought as he stepped across the threshold.
As he disappeared Susan broke down and cried until several unspeakbales found her hours later.
Harry emerged into a very plain stone room with a small round rose-colored crystal table. The room was dark lit by only a single candle. A chilled breeze filtered through the room causing the candle to the gutter and almost go out.
"So you are the master of death … thought you would be taller."
Harry turned and saw an inky black figure that he thought he would have missed if she did not want to be seen. "Death I presume. No scythe to reap my soul. I am disappointed" He could almost see her, well he thought it was her rolling her eyes. "Where is she I came to be with her?"
"Master Potter she is not here," the entity said sadly "She did not commit suicide she was murdered' I am sorry for your loss." it declared, and then he almost missed the barely audible "Master"
Harry drew a shuddering breath took the Cloak off, draped it across his arm setting the stone and the wand on it, and held them out "I am not your master, I never wanted to be. I can barely be my own master take them and test someone else."
"I cannot take them. The multiverse needs you" death said with a grimace "I need you!"
Something in Harry snapped "I need her! She was the reason even if she fell in love with him it was always her for me. You want me to save the multiverse. For the love of Merlin give me Hermione and I will do anything you ask." He sank to his knees sobs wracking his body "Please just let me be with her"
He sobbed for what seemed like an eternity when he felt a pair of arms and smelled a familiar scent and felt her hair tickle his skin his sobbing came to an end "She can't do as you request my love somethings are beyond even the reach of death." She said holding him tight "our time together here will have to be enough for a lifetime Harry or in your case many lifetimes and for that, I am sorry if I had known the depth of your feeling while alive things would have been very different!"
"I can't do it Hermione, the burden, this life is too much to bear alone," he said his eyes downcast so she would not see his tears "Please let me stay here with you."
"Harry James Potter there will come a time when I will either be reborn or you will join me here but now is not that time. You are needed by the multiverse something is coming. It leaves nothing but death and destruction in its wake all in the name of love for Lady Death who while she is the caretaker of all souls does not enjoy senseless death and destruction in her name. I love you, Harry, right now is a gift from whatever gods listen to our pleas; we are here together... The multiverse needs you, Merlin's balls I need you to be the man, the hero I know you to be. The hero we all know you to be" and suddenly he was surrounded by everyone he had lost "if what is coming is not stopped it will roll over the multiverse leaving nothing in its wake. You may feel alone my love and while physically that may be true all of us live inside of you every day. Every time you think of what Dumbledore or Sirius or every time the voice of your conscience answers you in my voice. WE. ARE. THERE" she ended screamed poking him three times in the chest tears streaming down her face.
'Great my behavior made Hermione cry I am no better than Ron' he thought as he reached up and wiped the tears from her eyes "I never wanted to make you cry love I am sorry."
"Just do not do it again" she mumbled "our time is finished here Harry but this does not mean you cannot live and find love again. I happen to know where you are going there is a very pretty petite redhead who is going to need saving because like you; she chose to do what was right over what is easy." She spoke in quiet tones leaning in to steal her only kiss with her best friend and personal hero "Love never dies Harry and ours is with you always!"
Harry touched his lips still feeling the caress of her lips as she vanished the feeling of love permeated him and he found himself kneeling in front of death "Well that was …. Unexpected. As I was saying before you are needed and you know now that you are loved even beyond the grave. Most notably you are worthy to bear my ring, my staff, and my robe unlike many other bearers throughout the ages you have not succumbed to them."
"Hermione said something was coming," Harry asked suddenly "Can you fill me in the more information I have the better I can do my job."
"His name is Thanos, the last of his race from the planet Titan he is seeking to purge half the universe in his quest for my affections he does not understand his action … hurt me while I am death and the dead are my responsibility the living brings me great joy a baby born growing with age and time finding love having children growing old having grandchildren and yes dying after making their mark on the universe as it made me happy," death says sadly looking down on perhaps the one being in the multiverse who can understand. "But he is like that crazy stalker girlfriend you had Ginny Weasely. Only with nearly unlimited resources and even less conscience."
"Sounds a billion times worse than Tom Riddle ever was," Harry said remembering exactly what Voldemort was like. "What more do I need to know before going?"
"Have you ever heard of the six Infinity Stones?" Lady Death Asked with a chuckle
To which Harry responded "The what?"
Lady Death pinched the bridge of her nose drawing in a long breath "Have a seat this could take some time. Please save your questions until the end"
Harry sat down and conjured a pad of paper and pencil and over the next few hours he learned of the stones in broad terms before Lady Death opened a portal to another universe.
"You are the Master of Death whether you want to be or not Harry Potter. I am sending you to the very center of my dominion the planet of Vormir in the universe in question. You will know what to do when you see what is going on."
"Will I ever really be able to join my friends and family or will I be the eternal hero?" Harry asked pausing before the portal
Lady Death shook her head sadly "Even among Wizards Master Potter you are several orders of magnitude beyond them. You will live as long as you need to and then one day you will join your friends and family."
"Once More into the Breech," Harry said gravely and nodded to Lady Death stepping through the portal Lady Death had opened
The fight with Clint had been heartbreaking for Natasha he was her brother in all but blood and he needed his family. Now they were hanging off the side of the cliff Natasha having saved Hawkeye's life by securing a safety line to his belt
"Let me go… it's okay" she whispered before kicking off the rock face and yanking her hand out of his.
Harry appeared away for the base of a very great cliff noting the many skeletons he felt the oppressive need to sacrifice that which was most dear to him and then shook it off looking up to see a woman falling he could feel the malevolent intelligence behind the Geas practically salivating a he could feel the life of this woman, the depths of her grief for those lost and those left behind it spanned the universe and time.
Natasha had done it she had ensured they would get the soul stone and reverse the damage Thanos had done when she felt her self-slowing down until she landed gently in someone's arms one part of her was glad that someone had saved her from herself the other keening in a rage that now they could not save the universe from the Mad Titan's quest to bring balance to the universe. The Keening rage broke from her form as a choked sob "Why did you? My sacrifice would have given us access to the stone we could have repaired the damage done by Thanos."
Harry held her close "I am sorry my lady if you give me a few moments I will retrieve the stone for you in a moment after I have dealt with the being using it to feed. I am going to set you down now and when I do I want you to get behind me and no matter what do not try to assist me."
A snarl emanates from everywhere all at once "I will have my due Mageling and they will have the stone for a time. You will not prevent me from consuming her soul!"
Harry's blood had been boiling since the very second, he felt the geas. "I walk in the dark place where others fear to tread, I stand on the bridge and none may pass. You will have her soul over my dead rotting corpse so I have spoken so mote it be." His voice started soft and climbed also taking on a multi-tonal quality until it felt like the universe was resonating with each syllable dwindling to the barest whisper "not only am I Mage I am the hand of death and you are at odds her wishes. You have failed in your assignment as a guardian."
Above Clint and the specter of Johann Schmidt looked down and for the first time in almost 85 years, the red skull felt hope that he would be free to rest rather than feeding the beast below. He heard the exchange and felt the power of the newcomers' presence in the universe. His words held power and it suffused the universe restoring that which the true guardian and the others like them had taken.
Clint finally managed to climb back up the cliff "Who is that guy, you knew our names what is his?"
Schmidt thought for a moment looking at the young man and felt his allegiance change from the being who lived below to the newcomer "He is my master; he is the Guardian of the soul stone you may want to seek cover Son of Edith this is going to be very loud."
"Whatever you say big red" Clint said as he retreated down the mountain.
Natasha listened to the voice of the man who had prevented her from them getting to the soul stone and the resulting exchange. And then she remembered his words and bristled a little 'I am not a damsel in distress' she thought as she tried to step abreast with him so he did not have to face death alone when his hand shot out preventing her from proceeding, she saw and felt the being rise out of the broken pad the bones of the dead rising with it "I have not failed mageling throughout the ages there has always been a price to use the stone I merely changed it so that it did not bring madness and suicide." The voice boomed as it finished rising from the ground. It was of medium height the details of his face hidden by shadow the malevolence settled around him like shawl it was not until it moved forward toward Harry its hand shown a ring like the one, he wore. Harry's eyes narrowed as a thought permeated his brain
"You changed it so you don't pay the price, the rest of the universe does" Harry sneered "The resurrection stone is not meant to be used to trade souls or to claim to souls and it should not be used lightly yet here you are pedaling in life and death all because you cannot get her back can you Uncle Cadmus."
The creature stopped "How is it you know my name? I have no kin left, Antioch died without issue and Ignotus line vanished" the creature whispered as it focused its malevolence upon the man before him, the girl now long forgotten
"Uncle I am sad you won't claim me as kin it hurts right here" Harry snarked pointing to his heart "I am the last of the line of Ignotus I bear the cloak, staff, and ring. I am Harry James Potter Master of death." The regalia of death materializing on him as if summoned by his voice.
Cadmus Peverell had lived a long torturous existence as a result had come to consuming souls and controlling access to the soul stone through a well-placed tale about sacrificing that which you love the lie told so often it had become the truth in his mind with the sudden appearance of those thrice-cursed items for the first time in many eons an unfamiliar feeling settled on him… fear
Natasha could feel the power roiling in the air toward them from the being the young man had called Uncle Cadmus she knew if the boy were not shielding her, she would be consumed by it and when the words master of death left the boy's mouth the malevolence became fear
"I did her bidding for nigh on 10 eons in this dimension she did not say I could not do what I have done"
"You are right she didn't but right now you are in my way uncle and I have it on good authority that this nice lady you tried to eat needs the stone far more than you and your servant do. So really the choice is yours we can do this the easy way or the right way." Harry said sliding into a fighting stance his magic building behind his eyes
"you really must be from our family sounds like something Antioch would spew at least before his throat was cut" the shade spoke looking thoughtful "Am I to assume that the easy way would be giving it to you" To which Harry nods "nephew you must sacrifice what you love "
"Already did that since it won't be easy it will be right, Expecto Patronum!" Harry cried pouring every ounce of his magic into the memory of Hermione kissing him. He could not see prongs for the light the spell generated. It was shown across the face of Vormir tearing away the red skull and absorbing the being called Cadmus. as the light died down, he noticed the luminous moon I the sky and could feel the stone calling to him he held his hand aloft and said "come" and in a flash he felt the resurrection stone quiver before becoming a slight bit heavier Harry could sense its power grow significantly before he turned to the cute redhead who was staring at him with a somewhat dumbfounded look on her face "Do I have something on my face"
Natasha stood there mutely trying to process everything she had just seen looking between him and the stone "Miss you need the stone yes?"
"sorry" Natasha muttered shaking her head her hair loose from the fight with Clint catching the haunting light shined beautifully Harry thought "Yes we need the stone and there is no way we can thank you for this."
"No thanks are ever needed. It would have been easy to let my kin consume you. It would not have been right and in this and any other universe, all we have are our choices to define us. I am Harry by the way."
"So, I have heard," Natasha said a smile gracing her face. You pretty much announced it to the universe. I am Natasha Romanov"
"Sorry about that." He said a blush "It was a bit much wasn't it "his blush deepened as he lowered his eyes to the ground and a nervous hand
"Hey there is no need to be embarrassed," Tasha said reading his body language "Because of you my partner will get his family back and they also get to keep their aunt Nat too. I wish there were some way to take you with us you know your way around a fight."
"Well given we are where we are I would love to return earth as well, even if it will be different than my own." Harry sadly stated
"That would be the understatement of the century, Harry." Natasha said with a laugh until she thought about it "We are going back to our own time which is five years in the future and I am going, to be honest, I do not like leaving you here alone
"I don't suppose you could arrange transport back to earth?" Harry asked after hearing the declaration of time travel "Or would that be breaking the rules of time travel"
"I am not sure" Natasha started chewing her lip "Tony or Bruce would know more. Come on we can talk about it as we circle mountain"
"Why would we need to walk, we could fly," Harry said with a smile "Or we could Apparate up."
"Unless you have a jet hidden in your pocket and since I doubt you do until we get back to our transport let's just keep our feet on the ground." She smiled at him and for the first time in years, she reached out to another person and took his hand. Suddenly memories began populating in her head that was not there until she touched his hand, she could see the day she met him when he applied to be one of the cook staff at the avenger's compound after Ultron. She saw the furtive looks that her past self-received from him the obvious cute crush he had on her and she knew why "time travel rules are damned this was meant to happen and we need to get you to earth not solely to fight but to heal" she turned toward him her arms snaking around his neck her hands finding purchase in his messy hair drawing him close and kissing him tenderly, tentatively even. Tasting him, savoring him falling in love with him.
Harry felt the warmth of her hand and was listening to her. He found her voice hypnotic. He was surprised when she snaked her arms around his neck. When her hands found purchase in his hair the feeling of her fingers lingered like a fire on his scalp. When she claimed his lips, his pulse quickened and his hands went to her hips pulling her as close to him as he could. The heat continued to grow until he could not hold it in anymore and his magic responded he could feel her life force, her love, and knew that the next nine years of his life were going to be complete torture because the kiss showed him her newly awakened memories
Hawkeye had long since grown tired of waiting for them and began his long trek around the mountain but he was not prepared to see his longtime friend lip-locked to a stranger even if that stranger just saved her life "Um new guy while I am thankful for you saving my best friend slash sister but we kind of need to go and if Tasha has not talked you into it we could certainly use a guy like you" he tapered off "take your time it's not like we have a universe to save but then again this is alien space magic what do I know."
Slowly the newfound lovers separated Tasha turning to face her best friend leaning back against the love of her life possible 'I guess love is not just for children.' She thought when Harry spoke "Alien space magic huh imagine that and here I am a Mage so magic is what I do. Tasha said you guys could give me a lift to earth then you will be returning to your time at which time hopefully I will be there to meet you.
"Not here even an hour and you got it all figured out" Clint laughed as he held out his hand "Clint Barton but you can call me Hawkeye."
Harry smiled "well Hawkeye can we please get back to earth the sooner we get there the sooner we can undo what has yet to be been done.
"And you" as Clint whirled on his partner grabbing her in a fierce hug "please never make me do something like that ever again"
The trip back to earth took a lot less time than Tasha would have liked as they dropped him not far from the future Avengers compound, she took the time to create Harry's ID's setting him up with an unimpeachable background, A small fortune, and catering business.
"Nat come on, we have to go," Clint said before turning to Harry "Again thank you for saving my friend we will see you in a few minutes/nine years"
"For you, it will be nine years and I know if our roles were reversed, I think not being able to kiss you or hold you would seem like torture" Natasha whispered sadly "Don't be surprised if I kiss you in front of the others"
Harry smiled "let me think," he said as he struck a thinking pose "I think I can live with you kissing me in front of anyone. "He punctuated his words with a kiss. Before whispering in her ear "We will talk in nine years Love." Then he got a thoughtful look on his face "or you might meet me sooner"
Shortly thereafter the ship lifted off
"It is going to be a long nine years," he said to himself.