Some say that on All Hallow's Eve, the borders between this world and the next are much weakened and that on this day and night the spirits of those who had passed away would return to the mortal earth.
Harry Potter, Master of Death, knew better than that.
Spirits either lingered on earth, becoming ghosts, or they went on to - as Albus Dumbledore liked to call it - 'the next great adventure'. They didn't move back and forth between the two. Once they had left the mortal plains for the afterlife, they couldn't just decide to leave it, not even on this night, unless they were summoned.
Of course, the fact that there were far more lunatics willing to summon a ghost on Halloween did give some credence to this idea.
But there was an actual direct truth in these folk tales as well: the lines between this world and the next are always weaker around this time of the year. But not between this world and the afterlife - no, between the different worlds that make up all existence.
With all these facts taken together, Harry really shouldn't have been surprised when he was suddenly displaced from the grocery store and found himself in front of a manically cackling man in a very dramatic outfit.
"Yes! Yes! Now do you see, you foolish mortals? I have conquered Death itself and it shall do my bidding. By becoming the Master over Death, I have become the Master of all!"
"Yeah, that's great buddy" A red and gold robot said irreverently.
The raving mad-man's reply was rather predictable: "Silence! You have lost! The mighty Avengers have failed and the world shall fall to my feet!"
Harry blinked and decided to ignore the obviously delusional man for a moment to fully take in the situation he suddenly found himself in. They were in a park that was surrounded on all sides by a city skyline. An elaborate circle had been painted on the grass with a suspiciously red fluid that - considering the mental state of the man who he assumed had made it - Harry figured that he did not want to take a closer look at. The park was empty besides him, the guy dressed in elaborate robes that only Albus Dumbledore would consider appropriate wizarding attire, and a group of five people outside of the circle.
The man dressed as an American flag started some sort of brave, self-righteous speech that sounded like something he himself might have said back when he was still Dumbledore's little soldier and believed that the side of light was incorruptible and would always triumph over dark.
Luckily this man seemed to be wiser to the way of the world than Harry had been back then (and than Dumbledore ever was) and instead of waiting for the crazy guy to suddenly decide to repent, he actually followed up his words with actions. The blue, red and white shield went flying at the bad guy and - as if that had been the cue for the others by his side to act as well - this attack was followed by a weapon's blast, an arrow, a quick succession of two sleek knives and a very large hammer.
All of which bounced harmlessly of the magic shield that covered the summoning circle.
The stereotypical evil laughter made Harry look at the other man in the protective circle in disbelief. He didn't think anyone actually did that outside of a film. That man had not just gone around the bend – he was going in circles on a roundabout.
When the lunatic was done laughing, he straightened himself and pointed imperiously at Harry: "Now, hear me Death! We will start a realm of endless terror on this mortal world! And as your new Master I will rule all. For now I will give you these mortals." he waved his hand dramatically at the Avengers, "Take them!"
Harry looked from the crazy bloke to the so called 'Avengers' with a slightly disturbed look on his face: "…well… that sounded wrong in every possible way."
"Yeah, I don't really swing that way either." replied the robot. Which was weird, because he didn't think that robots 'swung' any which way. Dismissing the issue as something he definitely didn't want to ponder too deeply, Harry turned his sights to a more pleasant subject.
He looked thoughtfully at the woman in a skin-tight outfit. She was beautiful, but she looked dangerous as well. "I did always have a thing for red-heads, though." The knife thrown his way never reached him - due to the magical shielding - but the deadly glare made its way across in all its force.
The robot actually chuckled; "If I wasn't so sure that she would kill me…" a quick look at the woman palming her knife presumably made the thing's self-preservation programming kick in, because it wisely chose not to finish that sentence.
"Tony, maybe you should stop courting Death?" A small, unassuming looking man - who was the only one who hadn't thrown a possibly deadly object at the would-be-ruler-of-the-world - asked with a touch of sarcasm.
"Ha!" the robot answered, pointing at his supposed friend "he made a funny!"
The man armed with a bow shook his head. "Seriously, Stark, what are you, five?"
When the Gryffindor-coloured robot turned to the man, probably to argue, the American flag spoke up again, taking charge of this ragtag group of people: "We have more serious things to worry about than Stark's mental age. Death, impenetrable barrier… maybe we could focus on that first?"
"Hmm… ah yes, about that." started Harry.
Everyone tensed and readied for battle.
But instead of attacking the 'Avengers', the wizard turned to his summoner. "I'm afraid you must have misinterpreted whatever mystical whats-it you used to summon me here…"
The man opened his mouth; possibly to start a well-reasoned discussion of this fact, but there was an even higher probability that the robed man would start raving or cackling again – so the wizard wisely decided not to give him that chance. Harry quickly continued his explanation, his voice having taken on a slight lecturing aspect that made him sound like a teacher dealing with a particularly dense child: "From what I understand you meant to summon Death and become its Master and then fulfil all sorts of nefarious plans."
The wizard waited patiently for the crazy guy's vehement nod before he continued "Hmm… but you see, you did not summon Death and became his Master. You summoned The Master of Death."
The villain opened and closed his mouth a few times in some sort of stunned disbelief.
"A common mistake." Harry said kindly, even though he had never been mistaken for Death before… Actually, he didn't think he really looked the part either; he was still wearing casual clothes because he had been grocery shopping, he wasn't even wearing his Halloween costume yet. That was probably a good thing too, he mused, since this situation was enough of a mess as it was.
Then as an after thought he added; "And I am really never going to call anyone 'Master' because that would be immensely disturbing."
That done, Harry gave himself a satisfied nod and calmly walked out of the summoning circle. Even without watching, he could tell that the magical barrier – that had been softly glowing while he was inside it - collapsed behind him as his power left it.
Moments later, the armoured, muscled blond with his hammer had knocked the crazy guy unconscious and was lecturing the man with his loud and archaic speech. Most people would have done the lecturing before knocking someone unconscious, but who was he to judge? Harry didn't exactly always follow the rules either…
The rest of the 'Avengers' surrounded him with an atmosphere of awkward and wary tension.
"Is that… a bag of candy?" The robot finally asked with a slight hint of incredulity.
"Hmm… I was grocery shopping. A bit late, perhaps but…" he shrugged.
A strained silence fell between them.
"So… are those Halloween costumes or are you just…" Harry trailed off there, not quite knowing how to put it.
"We're the Avengers." The walking, talking American flag informed him.
"…Right…" Harry replied, incapable of keeping his eyebrows from rising just a bit. He didn't have the slightest clue what sort of club these Avengers were, but he didn't think anything but Halloween could excuse that costume.
Of course, he didn't actually say any of this. He cleared his throat, and nodded politely. "Well… that's… good?"
The robot let out some sort of muffled snort and raised a part of his helmet, revealing a human face.
"Oh, thank Merlin!" Harry burst out before he could stop himself and a small, embarrassed blush started to bloom on his face. But he was still very much relieved that the disturbing issue of robots having sexual preferences was put to rest. That would have bothered him, even if he tried very hard not to think about it - not thinking about something was hard work, after all, so he was more than happy to forgo that.
The dark-haired man seemed taken aback for just a moment before a large self-satisfied smirk took over his face. "Ah, so you've heard of me. I get that reaction a lot. Of course most people say 'thank God' of even 'ooh, God, please' – but those are usually women."
"…Right." the wizard stared at the man for a moment longer before turning to the others. "Well, if that's all I'll just be going now."
"Going… where?" The man with the bow asked warily.
"Home. Well, grocery shopping first, again. Huh, did I just steal this when I was magically ripped away from the store?" Harry wondered as he gazed thoughtfully at the sweets in his hand. "…that would mean that there is now actually some truth in what my Aunt and Uncle tell everyone. Who knew? Ah well…"
With a loud crack, Harry Potter disappeared from that world as abruptly as he had entered it.
Leaving the Avengers staring in silence at the space he had just occupied.
Finally Tony decided to share his unwarranted opinion: "Well, I liked him."