It started with a shiver, a subtle quaking that began at the base of his spine and slithered its way up the length of his back, between his shoulder blades, and through his ribs. It sought out his heart, sliding through the blood in his veins and the marrow in his bones and it squeezed. His ears rang with a cry, a tinny wail as faint and insubstantial as the breeze it rode upon. No one had heard the sound, the cry had been meant only for his ears.
He knew this feeling, the sudden buzz of disquiet that made his knee bounce and his fingers twitch with restless energy. It wasn't magic, not the sort he was used to at least, but something older, far more primal; he could count the times he'd experienced this sensation on one hand and still have a finger to spare. He wanted to run from the room, find the source of the feeling; he knew it would take him no more than an hour to find it, but even that was an hour too long. They were feasting, celebrating yet another battle he had not bothered to remember the name of, his absence would be noticed and, if this was what he believed it to be, he could not risk being followed, could not risk being found out.
So he waited for the three days and three nights it took for the revelries to end, for the halls to clear and for his family and comrades to depart, well fed and happy. Only then did he run, bypassing the road of glittering lights that led to the golden observatory, he delved into the darkness of the mountains and through his secret passageway. He landed on Midgard, a realm he had not stepped foot on in many months, and allowed this age old instinct to lead him to cottage that was tucked away in a quiet village and cloaked in seidr.
He didn't make a sound as he entered the cozy home and climbed the carpeted staircase; the door to the room closest to him was cracked open, allowing the sound of soft breaths and incoherent mumbles of those deeply asleep to drift out into the corridor. He slid past the cracked doorway without waking its occupants and stalked to the room just across the hall. This door had been left wide open, allowing him easy access into the carefully decorated nursery; it was done up in pale creams and navy blues with an impressively accurate depiction of a forest surrounding the large bay window on the far wall. On the shelf mounted on the wall directly across him, surrounded by various infant related objects, was a manmade replica of some sort of scaly, reptilian creature whose maw glowed with heatless flames. The unconventional light source took the edge off of the shadows and spilled soft, golden light upon the impossibly small creature curled among a nest of brightly colored blankets.
He approached the cot slowly, trepidation shortening his stride and weighting his step, and yet it still took only a handful of steps before he was peering over the edge of the bassinet. The child was awake, he was emitting quiet chirping sounds as tiny fists waved agitatedly above him. However the moment he caught sight of the stranger looking down upon him, his little face screwed up in a gummy smile and he let out a sound that sounded suspiciously like a coo.
The band that had sat tight around his chest slowly eased until he could breathe easy once again, and yet his heart still stuttered and his fingers continued to tremble as he reached out to run a gentle hand over fine hair. There wasn't much there, only a light fuzz that barely covered the child's head, but it was dark as pitch and just as slick. The babe's face was still soft and round with youth, but he could pick out the exact points where it would sharpen, were his cheekbones would protrude and jawline would slope, granting him the elegant attraction of one of noble blood. And then there were the eyes, green eyes, large and bright and so curious. Those were his eyes, that was his face, this was his son.
Hands, that were suddenly and inexplicably steady, carefully lifted the child from his cot and cradled him against his chest. "Hello," he murmured, carefully cupping a large hand behind the child's head to ensure his neck was properly supported. "I'm not entirely certain what these mortals have been telling you, but I am your father, your real father."
The child responded with a nonsensical but no less cheerful gurgle, that brought a small smile to his face. "Ah, you cannot yet speak, but fear not, a few more years and you will be ruling the masses through the power of your silver tongue alone."
Fingers tangled in the fabric of his tunic, while a tiny fist rubbed into tired, green eyes and pink lips stretched into a yawn. He began pacing a few meters in each direction, adding a bit of bounce to each step as he quietly hummed a melody his mother had sang to him many times when he was young. He wasn't entirely sure how to do this, it had been centuries since he'd been so close to a child so small but whatever it was he was doing seemed to be working; the gentle rocking and the soft tenor of his voice slowly lulled the child to sleep. The babe was secure in Niorun's grasp within minutes, and yet he found himself unable to replace him in his cot, just the thought of releasing his son left him feeling cold and bereft.
Of course, his feeling on the matter wound up mattering very little as, only a few minutes later, the choice was taken from him. From the room across the hall came the rustle of displaced sheets then a sleepy, confused murmur. He stopped his pacing for a moment to focus on the words being exchanged between the couple in the other room.
"…been a few hours since he's made a sound," a man was saying. "I'm just going to check in on him. Make sure he's all right."
"If you wake the baby, I will end you," an exhausted female responded.
There was a creak of the wooden bed frame, then the quiet thumping of approaching footsteps. A man, dark hair tousled from either sleep or bad genetics entered the room, he immediately stopped short when his gaze landed on the unfamiliar man. "What…?" Sleep heavy, hazel eyes widened. "Lily!"
The urgent bark of his voice drew the other rooms occupant immediately, the man's wife was by her partner's side in a matter of seconds, carrying a stick of intricately carved wood in each hand.
Forest green eyes darkened with dread as they flickered from the man's face to the child cradled in his arms. "Loki."
The man in question inclined his head as he allowed a small smile to touch the corner of his lips. "Lily-fire." The woman tensed at the moniker. "It's been some time, I see you've been busy."
Lily frowned, clearly not in the mood for pleasantries. "What do you want? What are you doing here?"
Loki sighed, as if disappointed by the queries. "I'd been under the impression that, along with an extraordinarily lovely face and quite a talented mouth, you also possessed a brain. Why don't you take a guess?"
Lily's face hardened at the unsubtle jab but she answered nonetheless. "Harry."
Loki looked down at the child curled against his chest, still sound asleep. "Is that what he's called? Harry? That certainly won't do, it's entirely to dull. What is his full name?"
"Harry James Potter."
"James Potter, hm? The boyfriend."
"Husband now, actually," the hazel eyed man cut in.
"Mazel tov," Loki said dryly. "Tell me, James Potter, why would you name the result of a love affair between your partner and another man after yourself?"
"It wasn't an affair, and it certainly had nothing to do with love," James snapped. "We were going through a rough time, both of us did things we weren't proud of. But we've worked past it, I won't have you reopening old wounds. I named him after myself because we never knew he wasn't mine. We didn't want to know because it didn't matter; no matter, who sired him, I'm his father, he is my son."
Loki snorted inelegantly. "How touching. Truly, my heart is just…warm. It doesn't change the fact that you are so incredibly wrong, a few words and naïve beliefs doesn't change the fact that this is my son, mine. You have no claim to him."
"He has every claim to Harry," Lily interjected. "James is my husband, he stood by me through everything despite the mistakes I made. He cared for me during the time I was pregnant, and he's done nothing but love and care for Harry since his birth. It is you who has no claim to him."
The only sign of Loki's anger was the darkening of his eyes, he would like to see these mortals try and keep him from his son. "You seem to forget, Lily-Fire, who and what I am. The customs of my people are not like whatever twisted ideologies you mortals now follow; if I so wish, I could take my son, refuse you any visitation, and there isn't a thing you could do about it."
Lily's fingers tightened around her wand until her knuckles turned white. "Is that what you intend to do?" she whispered, a barely perceptible tremor shook her voice. "Are you here to take Harry from me?"
Loki's demeanor shifted infinitesimally, softening in the face of the woman's quiet anguish. "No, that is not what I intend to do. There are no words for how much I long to return home with my son, but I do not wish to put his safety at risk."
"What do you mean?" James asked, placing a steadying hand at the small of his wife's back.
"My father," Loki said delicately. "If he discovers that I have had a son with a mortal he may very well wish to get rid of him."
"Harry is his grandson," Lily protested.
"And I am his son, but that has done nothing to change his feelings regarding me and my children. He will always view them as a threat. No, my son will remain here where he is safest." The boy in his arms stirred and made a quiet noise of discontent, but Loki shushed him and began to gently rock back and forth. "You should not have named him, not without seeking my council, names are powerful things," Loki said when the baby had settled. "I will not take his from him, that would be unfair, however, it will not remain his only title. He will act under the name Harry James Potter for as long as he resides in the world of mortals, it will simply act as another line of defense in keeping his identity secret from my father. But if the time ever comes for him to be introduced upon Asgard, he will be known as Haraldr Ivarr Kaden, Son of Loki."
"I…I will agree to that," Lily said reluctantly.
Loki chuckled, she didn't exactly have a say in the matter, but he appreciated the sentiment nonetheless.
He spent a few moments longer absentmindedly rocking Haraldr as he committed the feel of cradling his tiny creation in unworthy arms to memory. "It will soon be time for me to take my leave. If I remain too long my father will notice my absence." He gently replaced Haraldr in his cot, careful to tuck him snugly into his blankets. "I will weave a number of protection spells around him, something to shield him from the sight of my father and his servants. But I am limited in what I can do, I cannot protect my son from everything, not when I am worlds away. Remember that he is no mere mortal, he carries my blood, when your kind find out, and they will whether it be in several days or several years, they will fear him as much as they will want to use him. You must protect him from that, protect him from them and any who seek to do him harm. Swear it."
James and Lily didn't even hesitate before nodding, solemn resolve in the set of their jaws and the spark in their eyes. "We will."
And they did. They died keeping that promise.
A/N: Many thanks to Payne's Grey, whose one-shot Mortal Blood was the inspiration for this story.