I have decided, and having decided, I shall now proceed to implement and endeavour. From this day forth, every chapter of my ongoing story, Name of the Game, will be interspersed with a one-shot whose sole purpose in life is to allow me to recharge my creative batteries for a fresh assault on the aforementioned story.
The story I am now posting… is not exactly a story, but more of a poignant misxture of memory and reality, of past and of present. At least, that is how I wished for it to be presented.
This is the first crossover that I have written. It's a short one, I know. The reason it's an Avengers/HP crossover is… well, I love the Avengers. Hope you do too.
If not, you're a poo-head.
He walked down the path slowly, sparing his aged joints the pain of a faster pace, savouring the quiet and the peace that permeated the atmosphere. It was a refined crowd with whom he was mingling, a crowd where he stood out like a Crup amongst Kneazles. It was only to be expected, after all – these, around him, were men and women of society, while he was a soldier of war. He slowly dwindled to a stop. It was not like he had any place to be.
There was a visible gap around him.
The faint sounds of distant screams impinged upon his reflections, and suddenly he was drowning in the past, memories blurring with reality as crowds erupted from the museum at whose pavement he was currently occupying.
Screams filling the air as the students rushed backwards, and the forces of the Dark advanced further upon the castle. At their lead stood a devil of pale skin and red eyes.
"Kneel before me." Said a distant voice, but he was too far gone to respond, the crowd around him buffeting him backwards from where he stood. Magic sparked in the air with an intensity he had only seen once before, from a cruel half-man with cold smiles and a terrible power.
The crowd around him gasped in fear and froze.
Gasps erupted around him as he slowly heaved himself up, his mind his own once more. An old man stood next to him and the devil stood opposite, though mere seconds ago he had been inside him, been a mind in his mind and a soul in his soul.
"I said, KNEEL!"
Numbly, he knelt with the rest of the people, barely hearing the screams as he sunk deeper into the wells of history, forgotten fears swimming up to the surface from the depths of his conscious.
Bow, said the devil, and he had bowed, because he had no choice, because of the power which the devil wielded over his life - he had bent but he had not broken, not under the weight on his back and his shoulders and his head, though the burden had been great, but he was strong enough, and when the devil had demanded his life he had given it freely, for that was all that he could do – he had stared Death in the eye and found it unworthy of his fear.
As the other spoke, he looked up, hearing words of subjugation and place and suppression that were the same as ever, words which resonated with the words of devils across the ages, with the speeches and triumphs of men since the dawn of time, and though the words were different, they were in the end the same. And as he looked at this newest conqueror, he was conscious of a feeling, not of fear, for fear was weak without death at its back, but of pity, for though the other was skilled in arts in a way that the devil himself could not match, he was small and weak and tired in different ways, young for all that he looked grown, too young to have gazed upon life and know what it means, to see what was precious in the wheel of time and what had worth only in the eyes of the fallen.
He felt no fear, for he had not broken before and he could not kneel now, not to the lost who needed guidance, not to the likes of the one who stood. Slowly, achingly, he rose, his limbs tired and stiff, but his eyes were old and calm; they had no fear in them. He was not afraid, because he could not kneel to the other, not to men like the other.
"Not to men like you." He whispered, but a hush had fallen across the crowd and his words carried far on the winter winds. He had no choice.
Not to those who need help, to those who have been lost in the light and wander among the dead lights of the marshes, alone and unanswered. Not to those who seek to rule, to those who wish only to be above all others, sitting and weeping on a throne made of blood.
And still the other was foolish and proud, not looking to see what he meant, far too certain in his own power – too young, perhaps, to understand the difference between mere power, and strength. "There are no men like me." He proclaimed, and in this he proved his foolishness, seeking to show himself as unique, as being without compare in all of history when there were scores other like him, others who had stood only on the hands of others, scores like the devil with the red eyes and pale skin, and though they were terrible in their wrath and constant in their rage, they too passed, as all things passed with time and began anew.
"There are always men like you." He said softly. Men who wish only to rule, who wish not for a kingdom or a world but for ashes that rest beneath their feet, men who seek the glory of life in the death of others; such men have always been, they were there in the beginning, and they will be there in the end at the turning of the world and the flickering of the stars. And though now his voice was changed, older and rougher and coated with a burr that came from too many nights of drinking away his past and too many years in this country, his words were still the same, words he had spoken in a castle in the highlands, wild and free as he had been under the wrath of the devil who was red-eyed and pale skinned, and the same truth rang through them as was carried in his words now, the same song of honour and acceptance and peace and defiance that had been sung since the beginning and would be sung till the end.
And now the other understood, looking into his eyes and seeing what he could not say written there, now the other listened and knew what he was doing.
"Look to your Elder, people." He said softly, a deep, immeasurable sadness filling his voice as he slowly raised his staff. "Let him be an example."
And perhaps the other was not as foolish as he seemed, merely proud and young, for now there was respect in his eyes, respect for the wisdom that he had earned over his years and respect for the acceptance he had gained and the chance that he played, for now the other had lost, no matter what he did, and he had no choice but to kill him; his hand was forced – he had made a gamble with the odds on his side, but now the tables were turned and he had no choice but to see it through till the end.
A blue light rushed towards him and the people around him shrank away, and now they were on their knees and he was standing and that was enough; and surely he could have fought with the other, bought himself a few desperate seconds of life through struggle and endeavour; but he was far too old, far too tired and Death held no fear for him now - he welcomed him as an old friend into his house – for had he not seen Death enough, as death had seen him – and if he had spent all his life in war, then he would die at least in peace.
And the light he saw was not blue but green, green as the grass in the mountains and the leaves on the trees beside the Lake, green as the wind from across the ocean and green as the eyes of his mother, and how many men had he seen, men and women and so many children, falling to the same green light to the other side of the chasm, to be seen again only in mirrors and memories and dreams and Stones.
But the light was blue, not green, and as he stared it in the eye he saw behind it the other, and for an instant his eyes too flashed as green as his own, as he raised his staff in a toast and a salute and an acknowledgment, mourning already the death of the man he had killed because he had no choice and because his hand was forced and because he had lost the gamble he had made, and now he visited Death upon the Elder of the people.
But it was not to be, and as he watched the two men trade barbs as many had traded barbs since the beginning, and would until the end, watched the other lose too fast, too easily, too confidently to be real, he felt merely a relief that no lives were lost; that and a deep, residing sadness, sadness and grief and sorrow for the man-who-was-not-but-was-other, for he too was merely lost and forsaken and forgotten, and though he had passion and skill and a power born of fear he was but a shadow of the devil, of the demons that had lived in the devil's mind and had burned in the devil's heart.
He had hoped, perhaps, to guide the other, to show him that not all in this world was as dark as the sky he saw, that still there was light that shone out through the clouds, warm on the coldest of nights. For there had been another who had showed him the same when he had seen nothing but the night, another who had been old and kind, bearded and wise with laughing blue eyes and words full of meaning that he still thought upon with fondness and regret, and still, though he had forgotten much of what had happened in the years that had passed, he remembered the last such words of meaning that he had spoken, and they had been spoken to him.
He wished to do for another what that man, in his death, had done for him, and as he had grown older, he had found himself becoming less cynical rather than more – remembering his own sins and follies, and realizing that man's hearts were often not as bad as their acts, and seldom as bad as their words – and he had realized indeed that the wisdom of his mentor had far exceeded his own, and in his death, the world had lost something that was wondrous in its magnificence.
"I am not afraid, Harry. I am with you."
The Winter Lady sniffles into her blanket.