My internet went in the middle of uploading this, so some sites were updated a day before other sites. Sorry, to readers on certain sites!
This was great and fun and I loved it, until I got to "April 3rd 2011" and I lost myself. It was just so hard to write the- (want to say it so badly but don't want to spoil anything) -stuff! Anyway. I hope you like it! I have one more Loki/Harry pre-Avengers fic to go (but it's actually Harry/Loki-ish though), and then I think I'll work on a FrostIron fiction I had an idea for… And then on the sequel to Butterfly, because it's bouncing around in my brain…
And it's time to study for exams again (and purge FFNet apparently)…
"The Sum Of All Your Fears"
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is property of JK Rowling, Bloomsbury, Warner Bros, et all. Avengers, Thor, Loki, etc belong to Marvel, Stan Lee, et co. I make no money from this and own nothing, don't sue.
Summary: [Loki/HP] The Chitauri found him after he fell. They promised him revenge and the boy from his dreams, the boy with the lightning bolt scar that Loki should know but couldn't remember. The Tesseract invaded his mind, polluting it, emptying it, until all that remained was fear and anger and he didn't know who he was anymore. But Harry would save him. Because that's what heroes did.
Warnings: Slash. Loki/HP. Pre-Movies; through Iron Man; post-Avengers. Violence. Language. AU. Implied Torture. Typos. Character death. Creepiness. Eventual happy ending. Mind Control. Induced Insanity.
A/N: Hmm. I seem to have a new obsession. Fellow Lokeans, arise! ALSO! I HAVE CHANGED THE HP DATES. Harry was born in 1990, not 1980. Add ten years to everything (it was that, or make this another master of death story). Harry born: 1990. Hogwarts: 2001. Iron Man: 2008. Iron Man 2: 2010. Thor: April 2011. Captain America: July 2011. Avengers: April 2012.
"We have finally learned, at far too great a cost, that if the most powerful weapons ever created are ever unleashed, they will be fired not in anger... but fear." – President Fowler: The Sum of All Fears (2002).
June 17th 1996. London. Five.
It was to be expected, Tony supposed, what with his reputation and all. It was an eventuality, not a probability; it was like the knowledge that one day the sun would implode and wipe out life on earth. One day his lawyer was bound to issue him with a paternity suit: eventuality, not probability. But of all the women, in all the world, Tony had never expected that letter to come from Lily Potter.
They had been friends, sort of. Lily had been on holiday with her family, the two of them around ten and eleven at the time, Tony one year older. They had bumped into each other; or rather Tony had almost run her down during one of his many cries-for-attention stunts that his father simply ignored anyway. He had ended up at her hotel, eating dinner with her parents, who were lovely, and her sister, who wasn't as lovely, and Howard Stark hadn't noticed that he was missing. Eventually, Tony had called a much younger Happy to collect him and his father's stolen Ferrari. But Lily had given him her house phone number, and Tony had spent the next months running up enormous phone bills calling England every other weekend, until the year Lily went to boarding school. They had exchanged letters from that point on, brief, to the point letters, because Tony always wrote down everything he had always wanted to confide in a person, but changed his mind, binned it, and rewrote the customary "I'm fine, you?" letter that still amounted to more of a conversation than those he shared with his father.
He hadn't ever gone to visit her, but Lily had come to see him twice more. When she was fourteen and then at sixteen, and she had been the prettiest girl he had ever laid eyes on. But she hadn't been interested in him like that because he was a playboy and a charmer and too much like James Potter (whoever that was) for her tastes. She had told him about living at her school and the parents who missed her, which always made Tony pathetically sad because he lived at home and still missed his father, but was never missed. She never told him about magic, but she listened with interest and curiosity and occasionally confusion as he tried to explain about physics or chemistry or robotics, whatever he was working on. They were friends, for a time.
They fell out of touch for a few years before Lily graduated. Tony had gone to MIT at fifteen and had only seen her once since then. Lily had started working for the Ministry of Magic, and then Tony's parents had died, he had inherited the company, and was too busy getting drunk, or high, or setting things on fire in the name of science to really care about any of it. He missed Howard and Maria Stark, but in an abstract, he was forced to grow up, kind of way, because it wasn't like he had ever had them as parents anyway. Not really. Lily had written to him, after hearing about his father's death on the news. She even sent him pictures of her and her new husband, James. Tony never wrote back. He didn't want to talk about Howard, and he didn't want to talk about James, because the last Tony had heard James was an egotistical waste of space and Lily wouldn't touch off him with a barge pole, and if she was going to pick anyone with the ego the size of a small country she should have picked Tony.
He had regretted it, of course; cutting her out of his life, because despite the miles between them, Lily Evans was really his only real friend. Tony had been too prideful to track her down, and the one time he had tried her house phone her sister had answered and told him never to call again and that was enough of an effort on his part he had thought drunkenly to himself later that same night.
But in October 1989, Lily turned up on his doorstep with nothing but the clothes on her back and tears on her cheeks. Tony had invited her in, given her a drink, and hadn't pushed her away when she kissed him. They had had sex, and later he had felt guilty about it, watching her sleep with a wedding ring on her finger, but at the time he had pulled her closer and kissed her harder and moved inside her while she clung to him.
"I'm sorry," she had whispered to him the next morning, before silently pulling her clothes back on. She drank something from a strange looking glass bottle that she had pulled from her pocket, smiling softly down at Tony who had continued to lounge across the bed naked. "James can't have children, and we wanted one so badly. Please forgive me, but, well, you were the only person I could think of." Lily didn't speak to Severus anymore, she had told him that when she visited at sixteen. Severus had insulted her and she couldn't bring herself to forgive him this time. Her only other male friend was Tony. "Don't be angry?"
"You were using me to try and get pregnant?" Tony had asked her, sounding incredulous. He raised an eyebrow at her, running a hand through his hair as he laughed. "It doesn't work like that, you know. It's never a certain thing, Lily."
"I am pregnant." Her hand squeezed around the glass bottle that was now empty. Tony's eyes flicked to her stomach and a frown pulled down the corner of his lips. He thought about his own father and his childhood, and how he had never wanted children. He had told Lily that once before, and she had always insisted he'd make a great dad if he wanted to put the effort in, but he hadn't wanted to, he hadn't wanted children, and now Lily was telling him he was having one regardless? His thoughts must have been written across his face, because she was suddenly sitting on the edge of the bed beside him, her hands on his face as she whispered, "don't worry, Tony. This is mine and James' baby as far as anyone knows. You'll never have to have anything to do with them, I promise."
Tony had let her leave then. He hadn't tried to follow her or stop her, he hadn't called out for her, and though he had spent more than six years thinking about whether Lily had actually had his child or not, Tony had never tried to find out. Sure he had thought about it every now and then, when he was particularly lonely, imagined what it would be like to have someone look up to him and love him, just because he was 'dad', but it wasn't like he had chosen to be a father. It wasn't like Lily had given him a choice in the matter, and she had told him in as many words that she didn't want him involved with his son's life, so he'd just never bothered to find out!
And yet, here he was, walking through London at Lily's solicitor's bequest, because she had added an extra special clause to her will. If Harry's guardians (and there were quite a few names listed on the will before his own) were ever found to be inadequate or unable to care for Harry Potter, Tony Stark was to have full custody of his son. Apparently, Lily's sister had been seen hitting Harry hard enough to knock him to the floor, and unlike every other time she had hit Harry, there was no Wizard there to cover it up. So, Harry had been taken into care, and social services had tracked Tony down in Malibu, and Lily's solicitor had written to him. And here he was.
He was still trying to get his head around the fact that Lily had been dead for nearly five years and no one had told him. No one had known of him to tell him, but still. He had loved her once, so shouldn't he have known the instant something happened to her? Shouldn't he have felt it deep within himself?
Tony glanced at the little boy, sitting curled in on himself, dwarfed by the hard plastic chair that seemed to be present in every government building in the world. Tony reached out a hand to the child, and Harry looked up, cringing away at the same time. Harry's eyes were the same colour as Lily's, but they were wide and terrified, and when Tony looked into them he could see himself at that age, trembling under the force of his father's anger—
"Don't go in my workshop, Anthony! Don't touch that, Anthony! Why are you such a nuisance, Anthony!"
—Tony cringed, pushing those memories forcefully back where they belonged: away. Instead, he turned his full attention to the small, dark haired boy and tried to smile. It looked more like a grimace and Harry made no attempt to return the gesture.
"Hey kiddo. My name's Tony, but, uh," he mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, "you can call me dad if you want?"
"I've never had a dad before," Harry whispered. His voice was almost too soft to be heard, but Tony knew that was because the child had trained it to be that way, never heard, never noticed, because it was safer. But Tony hadn't been that kind of child. He had wanted the attention, even the bad kind, because, hey, bad publicity was still publicity, negative attention was better than nothing, even though it got him punished, even though his dad still hadn't cared about anything more than 'that one time I worked with Captain America'. How could Tony have competed with that?
"Yeah," the elder man said, crouching down so that he was eye to eye with his own son. "Neither have I. What do you say we learn how to do this together, huh?"
And yeah, while he had thought about whether this child had actually existed and fantasied about what it could be like to have him, Tony had never really considered finding him, because he hadn't wanted children and he didn't want to work at anything so personal. He had been annoyed with the solicitor, with Lily, even a little bit angry with the child he hadn't met at the time, but now, watching Harry grin up at him and warily reach forward to take Tony's hand, now he was damn proud. This was his son, his damnit, and he was going to be the best father there ever was.
How'd you like that, Howard Stark? Tony was finally going to be better than his father at something.
July 31st 2001. Eleven.
Harry had turned out rather well over the past five years. He didn't cringe anymore if Tony moved too fast, and he didn't flinch when Tony shouted at Dummy or Jarvis or Pepper (Tony never shouted at him, because Howard had shouted enough for two sons), he'd put on enough weight so that people no longer wondered if Tony was feeding him at all, and he got more beautiful every day. Tony would often introduce Harry to people as 'his little heartbreaker' or 'his snow white', grinning widely as people complimented his eyes or his hair or his skin. When Harry was older, Tony would let them compliment his lips too, but right now, he drew the line there.
The boy looked a lot like his mother, but he had picked up most of his mannerisms from Tony. They stood the same way, they slouched the same way, and they even raised their eyebrows and drawled sarcastically the same way when they thought someone was being particularly stupid. Most people were considered stupid by Tony's standards, but Harry was smart too. Not smart-smart, like Howard or Tony, but he was a quick study and he got good grades at school, and he'd even been accepted into some pretty decent secondary schools across the country. He'd applied to Eton too, and got in, but he wasn't going to go, because that was in England, and Tony was in America and Harry would miss him.
But this? Magic school? That was worth moving away from home for!
"Repeat that please?" Tony bit out, with one eyebrow raised.
Harry glanced back and forth between his father and the professor from Hogwarts. Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry was in Scotland, and only people who could perform magic were invited. His mother had been a witch, and he was a Wizard, and this professor Snape was a Wizard too. Harry remembered the Dursleys, though he pretended he couldn't when people asked about where he was living before living with Tony. Harry remembered them hitting him and calling him a freak but not knowing why, but he supposed this made sense. If he could do magic, if he could be a Wizard and go to magic school, that would make him a freak.
He glanced back at his dad, ignoring the dark haired Wizard who was glaring at him. "Dad?" Tony turned to stare at him, eyes still narrowed from his staring match with the side of Snape's head. "Are you angry with me?"
"Course not, kiddo. But remind me to talk to Obie later. His idea of a prank could use some work, don't you think?" Tony snorted, waving his thumb in Snape's direction and rolling his eyes.
"I think he's telling the truth." Harry whispered, before glancing down at the hands he was twisting in his lap. "Strange things happen sometimes, around me. Maybe it was magic?"
Tony thought about it. He remembered the first time he had brought Harry into his lab, just to show him around, and Harry had touched something (and god but he couldn't even remember what). It had exploded. Harry was banned from the lab, much like Tony had been banned from Howard's, but Tony had actually fixed things in there, had improved on them or made them work. Harry had blown up everything he had touched, anything he had switched on, and one such incident had ended up with Harry in A&E receiving treatment for third degree burns to his arms and Tony had only had custody a month.
Tony never shouted though, or threw Harry from the lab, or dragged him down the corridors by his arm the way Howard always had. Tony had been kicked out for Howard's best interests, but Harry stayed out for his own. It was strange, Tony had always thought after putting Harry to bed and going down to the lab to clean up the mess. When Harry tried to help, things exploded, but he could turn the kettle or the toaster on without having to touch them, and damn, but Tony could never figure out how. He had always assumed Jarvis had been the one to do it, and Tony was just being pranked, but magic?
Magic had never crossed his mind.
It explained how Lily could be so certain she was pregnant, after one time, though Tony was very sure he had used a condom (but he'd been drunk, so maybe he wasn't so certain). Magic would explain why technology didn't really get on well with Harry, magic would explain the way those burns had healed almost overnight because no way was State health care that great.
"No kiddo, I'm not angry with you." He reached over to pull Harry onto his lap, and the boy curled automatically into his chest. "But you damn well better show me everything you learn at Christmas. And if you think you won't be teaching me potions and stuff this summer you have another thing coming, snow white."
Snape cringed at the mention of a Muggle trying potions, but he kept silent as he watched them. He had come to their home fully expecting the man to react badly, for Harry to be refused admittance to Hogwarts, or to even be moved to another carer, but the Muggle was calm and curious and understanding, and nothing like Lily used to describe him as. Anthony Edward Stark had always been another James Potter in Snape's mind, and when Lily's son had been placed into his custody Severus had been heartbroken. He had been Lily's friend too. He had been Lily's best friend at one point! Stark might have known her longer and Potter might have married her, but Snape was always there, he had betrayed the Dark Lord for her, he had protected her son. James had just died, and Stark had never even shown his face, but both of them got to keep Lily's son, but not him? He deserved it more; he would have happily given Lily a child when James couldn't. He had been angry and bitter and jealous, but now, sitting before them, watching Stark cuddle the child against his chest, Severus just felt sad. Stark seemed like a good father. James had been a decent enough father too, he grudgingly admitted, though a terrible human being. Maybe Lily had chosen rightly, in not choosing Severus; and wasn't that always the way?
"I do have better things to do, you realise." He drawled after a moment, sick of watching the scene in front of him, sick of a lifetime of being denied that. "If you want to see Diagon Alley sometime this decade, I suggest you get your coats. Now."
They got their coats, and Severus brought them to Diagon Alley using a Portkey, which made Harry dizzy and made Tony bounce on the spot like a hyperactive child. Their first stop had been Gringotts, where Harry was given access to his trust vault, which was then taken away again because Tony had insisted he had more than enough money for Harry's school things, and yeah the Goblins were creepy, but Tony would deal with them himself (because it was apparently illegal to involve Pepper since she wasn't actually family) if it meant he was providing for his son.
With a new account set up to draw Galleons straight from Tony's bank in America, and pockets filled with gold, they had set off into the Alley, and Stark was more like a child than Harry was. Along with Harry's school things, and a broom, that Harry couldn't actually use, but Tony wanted to see if he could make fly anyway, Stark brought home one of everything that caught his fancy. His reasoning was that maybe Harry wouldn't like Hogwarts and wouldn't go back next year, and then Tony would never get the chance to buy this kind of stuff, and anyway eventually Harry would be old enough to use it, or Tony would figure out how to replicate it into Muggle technology. That had Snape cringing again, but there were no laws against the parents of Muggleborns bringing home souvenirs, so there was nothing he could do but remind the Muggle of the Statue of Secrecy.
"Laws were made to be broken," Tony had told him with a shit-eating grin.
Severus had been glad to get rid of them, to drop them back to their house in Malibu and slink off to Hogwarts to wallow in the memories of Lily and Harry and being the father who never was. And Tony had pulled out Harry's Nimbus 2000 and a textbook on flying for beginners and insisted Harry give it a try. Pepper had walked in on Harry flying around the kitchen, bumping into the fridge and knocking the saucepans off the stove on two separate occasions before they even noticed she was there, and Jarvis had been long ago put on mute because he was a spoilsport apparently. That was how Pepper learnt of magic, because what else were the supposed to tell her?
"Sorry Potts, turns out Harry was genetically enhanced in the womb?"
"Hey, so, guess what? Harry's a mutant, Pep!"
"Yeah. About that! Gamma radiation!"
Who would believe that shit? No one, that's who, so Tony told her about magic and Harry explained about Hogwarts, and promised to call her 'mum' to keep her from getting her memory wiped. Pepper had blushed as Tony joked about them getting married to keep their cover, forgetting her shock in favour of embarrassment. It was a good thing Pepper had found out then, to be honest, because Tony never was much good at keeping things secret.
Harry had gone off to Hogwarts, and visited for Yule and stayed during the summers, and he and Tony would share their learnings in science and magic with one another. They'd tease Pepper, who'd blush but take it all in stride, and Jarvis would bitch at them all about irresponsibility and obligation and manners. The older Harry got the less Tony tried to hide his one night stands, which eventually led to the awkward birds and the bees conversation, which led to how exactly Tony became Harry's father. Tony didn't like to talk about his feelings much, or at all really, but Harry was different. Harry was his kid, and the kid deserved to know he was loved and wanted, to know the truth. So when Harry asked, one day out of the blue, "did you love my mother?" Tony thought of four different ways to lie, but told the one truth that had jumped to his mind.
"I love her too." Harry had whispered back, reaching forward to squeeze his father's hands. "I love you as well."
"Me too, kiddo. Love you too."
A few years later, Harry had blindsided him again, sneaking into Tony's bedroom where he was trying to silently extract himself from the grip of some blonde reporter, and scaring Tony half to death, calling out of the darkness. "How did you know you loved my mother?"
"What?" Tony had hissed, pulling on his pants. He led Harry from the room, into the kitchen where the kettle was already reaching boiling point.
"How did you know you were in love? How will I know I'm in love, I mean?"
Tony allowed his body to slump into a chair, accepting the cup of coffee Harry pushed towards him as his mind struggled to catch up. What were they talking about? Love, at four am? Tony hadn't even been aware Harry was interested in anybody, or in a relationship, or dating, and now they were talking about Harry trying to figure out if he loved somebody. Where had the time gone, when had Harry grown up and gotten so old? He was eighteen now, or would be in a few days, an adult by Wizarding standards, but he would always be Tony's baby son and no one would take that away from him. He was Tony Stark, damnit, and he hated it when people took his things.
"Who is she?"
"What?" Harry chuckled, taking a sip of his own coffee.
"This girl? Who do I have to kill to get her out of your life?" Tony was only half joking. He knew, logically, Harry was going to grow up and get married and have kids the traditional way, because he wasn't an emotionally stunted bastard like Tony was. The Dark Lord had been defeated in May (and because Tony was human and non-magical and useless basically, Harry hadn't told him a thing about the war until it was over), and the Boy-Who-Lived was free to do as he wished with his life now. Including dating apparently, and not introducing the girl to his father, because sure what was Tony's opinion in the face of love? And that was the 'other hand'. He wasn't being logical right then. He wouldn't be logical when he finally met the man either, but this was more emotional than logical, because his child had grown up and Tony didn't want to lose him to anyone else.
"It's a guy, dad." There was that shy smile again, green eyes peeking up through a dark fringe, eying him warily. Harry curled over his knees, protecting his stomach and chest, the way he had as a child and Vernon would come towards him with a fist raised. Tony hated it when he did that, hated that someone had caused his son to act like that, had trained that behaviour into him. He hated that Harry did that with him sometimes, when something happened and Harry was afraid of the reaction: when Tony learnt of magic, when Tony learnt of his guardianship, when Harry blew things up in the lab by accident, and when Tony learnt his son was gay.
"Right. Well." He cleared his throat, rubbing at the back of his neck the way he always did when something threw him off track. "Who do I have to kill to get him out of your life?" He said it without adding any sort of inflection on any of the words, as if he were simply repeating his earlier sentence and nothing had changed in the interim.
Harry grinned widely up at him, eyes crinkling and lips curving, and the newspapers were right: Harry was beautiful. Tony could see why this man, whoever he was, loved Harry (because obviously he must do), but Tony didn't think he'd ever understand what was so great about that guy. No one would ever be good enough for his son in his opinion.
"His name is Loki."
"Unusual name. One of your lot?" Tony asked, moving to make another cup of coffee.
"You could say that." Harry grinned at him again, and there was something mischievous in it that made Tony not want to know. So he stayed silent, simply accepting the strange name and stranger's presence in his son's life without question.
He had asked to meet the man, but he never got to, and three years later Harry came back in tears from England where he had been working and living with Loki. It was like the night Lily had come to him, to his bed. Tony had opened the door at ridiculous-o-clock and there was a Brit on his doorstep crying desperately and asking to come inside. Hysterically, because Tony had never been good with tears, he wondered if maybe Loki couldn't get Harry pregnant either, but he shoved that thought away with a snort because men didn't get pregnant, and hell what was Tony going to do about it with his own kid even if they could!
"He broke up with me!" Harry had whispered. He pressed his face to Tony's chest, the arc-reactor, which was a relatively new addition to his anatomy, lighting up the tears on Harry's cheeks. Harry wouldn't answer any questions, and they tip toed around the subject for the next week until eventually Tony got sick of watching Harry mope.
So then Tony got him drunk, hoping that Harry would be more talkative and give Tony enough information to track the bastard down and put a couple repulsor blasts through his chest, but Harry didn't say a word about Loki. They talked, instead, about Voldemort and how Harry had been tortured by him a few times, and of Afghanistan and Tony's time spent trapped in a cave there, and it was the first time Tony had talked to anyone about it, baring the basic 'I got kidnapped, tortured, mutilated and then I escaped' story that he fed the press and every two faced arsehole that pretended to give a shit about him when he was MIA. Pepper got a little more from him, especially now that she slept beside him at night and he woke her with his screams sometimes, but even she didn't know everything he had told Harry that night.
Harry had been touring the world at the time. He and his friends had spent a year almost living out of tent while hunting Horcruxes, and Hermione had decided they should probably do some real, actual travelling considering they had just saved the world and earned it, but it had had to wait until the holidays and school breaks as Harry finished repeating his last year of school. He had hugged his father goodbye, told him he loved him, but that he probably wouldn't contact him much because there weren't many places to rent owls in the Alps, and Tony had let him go. Tony had gone to Afghanistan and never told Harry, because it was supposed to be a quick in, quick out with a brief demonstration in the middle. He had never intended nor expected to get kidnapped by terrorists.
Harry had left Tony Stark and come back to Iron Man and arc reactors and Obie having tried to kill them all, and he hadn't been there to help just like Tony hadn't known Harry was in danger from Voldemort for years. Without the arc reactor, there was no Iron Man. Without Iron Man, Tony was vulnerable and helpless and useless again, and having a piece of machinery in his chest outweighed the cons by miles, so he had refused to go to St Mungos for treatment and he had refused to let Harry help him even though the arc reactor was probably going to kill him anyway one day.
But in the meantime, Tony had turned into a hero, a superhero instead of the Merchant of Death, and it was a feeling too good to let go of. Harry had been a hero for years, and Loki had made him feel normal, like a regular teenager in love (and it was love on both of their ends), and now like a regular teenager he was drinking away his heartbreak, but that was fine. Harry was a Stark; he'd do as his father did, and deal with his demons some other time.
December 8th 2004. Fourteen.
Ever since his name had been drawn from the Goblet of Fire Harry had found himself sneaking into the Forbidden Forest whenever he could manage it. There were nights where he couldn't sleep and he'd pull his invisibility cloak on over his pyjamas and wander through the forest bare foot, or days where Ron had been particularly unbearable in class and Harry would skip lunch to sit by the edge of the forest with a book on Runes or Defence or Arithmancy because those were his favourite subjects and he'd just read until Hermione came to get him. Sometimes he'd even skip the last class of the day to sit in the forest, his back against a particular tree in a particular clearing he had grown rather fond of, and he'd sit there and write letters to his father about the tournament and Voldemort and the war that he would never send.
Today was one of those days. Harry found himself trudging gloomily into what he had dubbed his clearing.
Except there was somebody already sitting in his clearing.
"Oh!" Harry gasped, glancing around warily. The man wasn't a teacher, and he didn't appear to be a student, but Harry supposed this man's idea of 'casual clothes' could be leather and velvet and gold, but he looked a little too old to be at Hogwarts. "Sorry, I- it's just, well, no one is ever here. I wasn't expecting- right, I'm going! Sorry!"
He turned to leave, but there was a hand on his arm keeping him from moving away.
"You are welcome to stay if you desire." The man's voice was soft and warm, with an accent like nothing Harry had ever heard before, and he was curious despite his reservations. He should leave, he knew. He shouldn't stay here in this clearing with a stranger while Voldemort's forces were rising up in his name again, this stranger could be one of them, he could even be the Dark Lord for all Harry knew, because Quirrell had been and no one had noticed!
"Right," Harry murmured, turning around and blushing because the man was staring straight at him, green eyes fixed on Harry's face. The eyes flicked up to his lightning bolt scar and back down to red lips, and Harry licked at them nervously. But then the man smiled at him, and in the last month no one but Hermione had smiled at him. So Harry found himself leading the man back into the clearing and sitting beside him in the grass and listening avidly as the man explained about the origins of runes after catching a peek of Harry's Ancient Runes textbook as it fell out of Harry's bag, discarded on the floor.
Loki, as he had introduced himself as after he finished speaking of runes, reached out for Harry's bag. He pulled out a book on Charms and a book on Potions, and he glanced up at Harry curiously. "This school?" He pointed back in the direction Harry had come from, at the school he had caught a glimpse of just after he had transported himself to Midgard. "It is a school for magic? Your parents allow you to go there or do you sneak out here to study from your sister's texts?"
"I go to Hogwarts!" Harry told him rather indignantly. "And I don't have a sister." He scowled then, before it melted into a confused pout as he caught sight of the awe on Loki's face. "My dad is proud to have a Wizard in the family, though he didn't know about magic until I got my invitation to Hogwarts. My mum was a witch, but she died before telling dad anything about magic. Aren't you a Wizard?" Harry tried to think of what else Loki could be, because he wasn't a troll or a centaur or a goblin, that's for sure. Were there vampires in the Forbidden Forest, Harry wondered, or elves, or fairies, or nymphs; for Loki was certainly beautiful enough to pass for one?
"I am a sorcerer," Loki told him half a truth instead of a whole lie, which was unusual in itself, and in recompense for his truthfulness, Loki demanded Harry tell him of Hogwarts. He listened in awe, something swelling in his chest which could have been pride in himself or bitterness at his father or anticipation because surely if he told his father plenty of males learnt magic on Midgard, Odin wouldn't be so ashamed! But on Asgard, only women learnt the art of magic, and the men learnt to fight, but Loki had never been good at that. Magic was his strength, magic was his art and his blood and his breath, but that had never been enough for Odin. Though the man claimed to love him, he was always disappointed in Loki, for Loki could not be better, not be enough, but if Loki was of Midgard his magic would not be a cause for shame. He half envied the human for that and the other half of him was desperately curious and interested, and because it had been a while since something had so struck his interest, Loki kept Harry within the forest talking for the rest of the night.
When the sun rose, Loki only allowed Harry to leave if he promised to come back the next night. Harry came back that night, and Loki met him at the entrance to the clearing, their clearing, and that night they spoke of parents and disappointment, and Harry confided in him of the Dursleys who had despised him and of his father who had saved him from all that. And again, Loki was envious and bitter.
"But it's not always about parents," Harry had told him, when Loki had scoffed at the idea of his father ever being pleased with him. "I have some great friends. Hermione, in particular, she's a saint! She's always there for me, no matter what stupid stuff I do, or what I say wrong, or what I want to learn about because sometimes I read books on the Dark Arts and she doesn't like that, but she doesn't hate me for it, you know? And dad has Pepper, she's his secretary, but really she's his friend too though he pretends otherwise cause dad is sort of afraid of emotions cause his father was crap too. I think they'll get married one day, because dad just can't function without her and she loves him and she takes care of him, and he loves that about her."
Loki watched him in silence, green eyes fixed on a pale face and on the unusual scar that marked his forehead. Harry smiled softly up at him, lying down on the grass, and twirling the fingers of one hand through his hair. Loki had the sudden urge to lie down over him, to hide all of Harry from the eyes of others, but he restrained himself, because though Loki had been almost three hundred years old when he had looked as Harry did, Harry actually was only fourteen, and regardless, he doubted the boy would welcome his attentions. No one else ever did, after all. But Loki was a shapeshifter, and that was why people took Loki to their beds; it was never for him alone.
"One day, it might be a long time from now, but the wait is usually worth it," Harry sat up and leaned forward then, pulling Loki into an unexpected hug as he spoke softly, "you'll find someone that will love everything about you. They'll leave you nothing to be ashamed of."
Harry left after that, and Loki waited in the clearing all day, dozing or eating or thinking about Harry's words. When Harry came back that night without having been asked or demanded to, and every night until the Christmas holidays started, Loki suspected that despite Harry's age he had found that someone.
September 1st 2008. Eighteen.
Harry recalled the conversation he had started with his father that summer, the week before his birthday, while a blond woman lay sprawled out on the bed.
Harry made his way through the forbidden forest, his invisibility cloak around his shoulders and over his uniform, and he chewed thoughtfully on the apple he had snuck out of the great hall. He was on his way to their clearing, the place deep within the forest that he and Loki would meet at each night for almost four years. Loki had kissed him, the last time they had seen each other; the day after Dumbledore's funeral, Harry had stumbled into the clearing in tears and Loki had pulled him into his arms and kissed him until the tears stopped falling. The elder man had whispered something into his ear, and though Harry hadn't understood the language, he thought he had recognized the tone. His mother spoke to him softly like that in his dreams, and Pepper sounded like that when she joked about loving Tony (even though both she and Harry knew she wasn't joking), and Harry sounded like that when he whispered, "I love you, dad", or "I love you, Pepper", so did that mean he loved Loki too?
He had pushed the thought out of his mind last year, because the Horcruxes were more important than his own feelings and worries, and he had hunted each of them down while Loki watched over him from Asgard, or Jötunheimr, or Midgard, keeping him safe but keeping himself out of the affairs of mortals. Harry understood his reasoning. Loki was a god, Loki had explained it all to him after their first kiss, and though Harry didn't feel like he was running away from what Loki was, the year he spent away from Loki and their clearing and Hogwarts still felt like a year spent running away. But he had talked to his dad the summer passed, and he had talked to Pepper too, and to his reflection in the mirror, because his summers with his father were the only time that Loki did not look in upon him as was their agreement, and it was safe to say what he thought and admit what he wanted without worrying about scaring the god away.
But now, now he knew that his father wouldn't hate him for it, and that Pepper was happy for him, and that Loki did love him too (because Harry had had Hermione translate that sentence Loki had whispered in Norse to English), Harry was feeling sure enough, brave enough to admit it now.
Turns out he didn't actually have to. Loki met him at the entrance of the clearing with a small smile and narrowed green eyes. He was twisting the resurrection stone between the fingers of his right hand, and the ring was in his left, and as Harry watched Loki fitted the pieces of the Gaunt ring back together again and held them out silently. Harry took the ring from him, smiling softly.
"Thanks." He glanced down at him, considered what he could do with it; because he didn't actually want it for all that he had mastered it. He had put the Elder Wand back in Dumbledore's grave, and the ring had been lost or so he thought. Harry had only kept the cloak because it had belonged to his step-father and because he had inherited it. "You keep it." Harry held it out to Loki. "Consider it a gift."
"Gifts are met with like gifts on Asgard, Harry." Loki kept his gaze as he slid the Gaunt ring onto his wedding finger. On his right hand, Loki wore a ring proclaiming him as Odin's son, made of gold and onyx and emblazoned with his father's crest. Loki pulled it from his finger and held it out to Harry. Harry reached up for it, a small smile on his red lips, and Loki's eyes drifted to his mouth, to the mouth that he had tasted once before and never forgotten the taste of. Loki's right hand closed around Harry's left wrist just before the boy could take the ring from him. Loki's ring was pushed forward slowly, giving Harry enough time to jerk his hand back but he didn't move, until it was sitting snugly on his left hand's ring finger.
"You know, on earth, wearing a ring on that finger means-" Harry began to say.
Loki raised a hand to cut him off, softly saying, "I know what it means, Harry. Do you?"
They stared at each other for a moment, Loki's heart beating loudly from nervousness in the sudden silence. A blush spread across Harry's cheeks, because yes he did know what it meant, and yes he knew what he wanted, and yes to everything that Loki was offering because he loved him, had loved him for years, but was too afraid to admit it, too insecure to put himself out there because this man was a god and what was Harry compared to that? So, instead of trying to explain his feelings or his thoughts, Harry just smiled widely. "Yes," he said, "but I think we should, you know, confirm this some way?" He waved his ringed hand in the air teasingly.
"Confirm it?" Loki asked, a smirk drawing up pale pink lips. "And how would we confirm it?"
"Oh, I don't know," Harry drawled, raising his eyebrow the way he did when he thought someone was being particularly stupid, "you could start by kissing me?"
"Kissing you?" Loki smirked again, leaning in to playful nip at Harry's bottom lip, but he pulled back quickly as Harry arched towards him. "Why would I want to do that?" His hand ran lightly down the length of Harry's pale cheek, caressing the flush of red with interest and amusement, before he dragged his thumb across a pouting mouth.
"I'll make it worth your while?" Harry offered before moving to suck the tip of Loki's thumb into his mouth and biting down on it lightly. "But, you know, only if you want to."
Loki hummed lightly, "Oh yes, most certainly," he agreed at last, before leaning down and catching Harry's mouth with his own. As they kissed all of Harry's fears fell away, all of his insecurities melted into nothing, and Loki left him with nothing to be ashamed of.
April 3rd 2011. Twenty.
Loki had had a plan. If you asked him, it was a rather good plan, only as with all plans that involved Thor, it wasn't working out quite the way Loki had planned for it to.
It was a rather convoluted plan, but to Loki it was simple enough. Thor would make for a terrible king, and so Thor must not be king. Loki's planning had resulted in Thor's banishment, which had gone exactly to plan; for all that he denied expecting such a reaction from Odin when Thor's friends asked about it. The problems arose, unfortunately, when Odin was left with no choice but to finally reveal the lie that was Loki's entire life. It was the proverbial punch line to the joke that was his existence: a Frost Giant, upon Asgard; the monster parents warned their children of, living in the palace above them all. He could have dealt with that though, in time, because he had Harry and their little flat in London that Harry's father had bought for them (showing immeasurable trust in a man, monster, that refused to ever meet the mortal). Harry would not be ashamed of him, Loki knew. This, none of this, would ever change Harry's opinion of him, nor Harry's love for him, and so Loki could not be ashamed of himself. It just wouldn't be possible without questioning Harry's love, but Harry's love for him was beyond questionable, beyond reasonable, and Loki rejoiced in that. Just as his love for Harry was unwavering, and his pride in showing off the Gaunt ring that rested upon his wedding finger, a symbol of his betrothal, a promise to all Asgardians of their new king's future husband.
His being a Jötun was a problem, but it was not the problem.
The problem was that Thor's friends had disobeyed their new king's orders and Heimdallr had advocated it, undermined Loki, and their actions put his plans in danger. If this plan did not succeed, Loki would have Jötunheimr as his enemy. Asgard would be his enemy too. Thor was meant to stay banished, unknowing of Loki's part in these schemes, his parents would be unaware of Loki's plotting, and when Jötunheimr was gone, and the war was averted and Thor had learnt patience and pragmatism and humility and was welcomed home again it would be Loki for once playing the part of the hero. No one could then deny his one request, his favour to exchange for his heroics, for his saving of Odin from Laufey. And he would marry Harry before all of the Æsir. It took great feats of courage or compassion on Asgard to earn the right to bring a mortal among them, and while Loki would not be the first to do so, he would never be the bravest or the most compassionate. But he was the most cunning of them all. Nothing, unfortunately, neither intelligence nor luck could change Thor's continuous ability to become the proverbial spanner in Loki's works.
Every. Single. Time.
And now Loki ran the risk of Sif and the Warrior's Three telling Thor of his lies and his schemes and of Thor then telling Odin once he woke from the Odinsleep. There was Thor's quick to anger nature to take into account, and Odin's profanity for spitefulness and wrath, and the Jötuns retribution upon learning that they were tricked and betrayed and defeated. Loki would risk everything, anything, usually to achieve his desired results. But he would not risk Harry. Never.
It was for the best, he told himself unconvincingly, as he waited in silence for Harry to arrive home from his job at St Mungos. It would not be for long, Loki promised silently, not for long, just long enough for Odin to forget this grievance and for Loki to talk Thor into forgiveness and for the Jötuns to once more fade into obscurity. Harry would wait for him, because Harry had promised to always love him, always need him and want him, the day Loki had formally asked for his hand in marriage. It would be difficult for them both, but it would be for the best. Unfortunately, it did not quite go the way Loki had hoped it would go.
Harry walked into the room, a wide smile stretching across his mouth as he caught sight of Loki who was lately more often than not away from their home. At the sight of the frown on Loki's face, Harry's mouth turned down too and he took three hurried steps backwards. His hands were raised, as if to ward off an attack that would never come, because Loki would never harm him. The god stepped towards him, mouth pressing into a thin line, but Harry cried out for him to stop. Harry turned his face away, blinking back the tears that threatened to spill over his cheeks.
"What did I do?" He asked softly, face still turned away and eyes blinking rapidly.
"Pardon?" Loki asked, sounding confused.
"The look on your face? I know that look, Loki. My father wears that look every morning after the night before when someone comes home with him. Hermione wore that look when she called off her engagement to Ron, Cho wore that look when I asked her to the Yule Ball and she said no. Was it something I did?" Harry sounded so broken, and his hands shook as he reached up to brush those few stubborn tears that insisted on falling away.
"No!" Loki hissed. He strode forward, reaching out quick as a snake to grab hold of Harry's shoulders before the young man could shift out of the way. "I love you. I love you, like nothing I have ever felt before, so much so that it frightens me at times. You have done nothing wrong. Nothing you have done has led me to this decision, Harry, nothing has changed the way I feel about you, but this is for the best. Just for a short time," Loki whispered, reaching one hand up to cup Harry's right cheek, thumb brushing over the wetness he found there. "Just for a short time."
"Is this one of those 'it's not you, it's me' speeches? Or is this actually, me, and not you, Loki?" Harry kept his eyes on Loki's face, waiting and watching for some sign, anything that would give away Loki's reasons for doing this. "Why are you leaving me?"
"I will never leave you!" The god hissed at him. His teeth were bared and poison green eyes were narrowed in grief and anger, and his mouth was upon Harry's then, furious and passionate, teeth and tongue and bruises upon lips. When they pulled apart, Harry couldn't stand up without Loki's arms around his waist and there was blood running down his chin from where the god had bitten him, and Loki was panting harshly against his neck, his erection pressing to Harry's hip as they rutted lightly against one another.
"Then why are you leaving me?" Harry extracted himself from Loki's arms, moving to the couch and flopping down like a marionette whose strings had been cut. He gazed tiredly at his fiancé, and Loki moved to kneel between his legs.
"I will never leave you, Harry. Never. But there are matters arising in Asgard, problems with Jötunheimr and I am… I fear that my actions will lead to a horrible reprisal this time. I will not have you be the price I pay for these actions, Snow."
Harry smiled softly at the nickname, his lips tilting barely up at the corners, even as he thought hard on Loki's words. His father called him Snow sometimes, shortened from Snow White, because the newspapers had taken up the habit of addressing him as 'Snow White Stark' after someone joked that his lips were red as rose. Loki had agreed that Harry was the male equivalent to the fairy-tale beauty, but Loki was not one to carelessly toss around words of affection, so whenever he used a nickname himself it was usually to reassure and dismiss Harry's insecurities.
"Just for a short time?"
"Just for a short time," Loki promised honestly, moving forward to press his lips to Harry's clothed stomach and then his chest, his throat, until he was hovering over Harry and they were kissing again.
Their clothes fell away as Harry's fears did, and though Loki's fears remained he pushed them to the back of him mind and lost himself in the feel of Harry's bare skin against his own. He had the human pinned down on the sofa; arms held high above his head by one of Loki's hands, as the other slipped down between their bodies to wiggle their way between Harry's cheeks and inside of him. They wriggled and spread, probing, searching, and all the while Harry moaned beneath him, head thrown back and legs spread in invitation as Loki prepared him. They kissed. Every time fear for Harry's safety welled up inside of him, Loki pulled Harry's mouth into a kiss and lost himself in the taste of Harry. Every time Harry feared that perhaps Loki was only placating him, that Loki was really leaving him, he pulled the god into a kiss, hungry and desperate, until he could think of nothing but the other man's saliva on his mouth and Loki's fingers in his hole.
Loki's cock pressed easily inside of Harry's body, both so familiar with one another after two and a half years of doing this that there was no nervousness, no tension, and no attempt to pull away. Harry relished in the feeling of being full, complete, and Loki loved that Harry only wanted him, desired him, in his true form and no other person's. He considered, briefly, as he moved on top of his fiancée thrusting in and out rhythmically with one hand squeezing Harry's hip hard enough to bruise, if Harry would ever lay with him while Loki wore his blue skin, but then Harry leant up and bit down hard on the skin of Loki's shoulder to muffle his first orgasm and Loki once more learned to lose himself in Harry.
After they were done, Loki lay with Harry on top of him, head pillowed on Loki's chest as the human slept. He gave himself one hour, and only one hour to enjoy this, before he moved Harry into his own bed and took himself back to Asgard.
Loki confronted Heimdallr. He released the Destroyer upon earth, and he watched in anger as Thor strolled back into Asgard as if he had never been banished. Loki threatened Thor's new mortal lover, all the while praying that Thor never discovered his own.
He was defeated.
He failed to destroy Jötunheimr, even though he had made a spectacular attempt at it, and when the bifrost was destroyed and Odin awakened and still ever so disappointed in him, Loki fell. He figured that he could transport himself to Harry's side, cross through the shadows and use his magic to travel through worlds as he had always done.
It would be simple, it would be easy; easier than having to face Odin's anger and Frigga's disappointment and Thor's righteousness on behalf of the Frost Giants he had once attempted to destroy himself. Loki would be with Harry again, soon, as he had promised. Unfortunately, the power of the bifrost was more than Loki had anticipated, and as it swirled around him, though he fought and valiantly attempted to grasp hold of a thread, any thread, of magic that would lead to a world he recognized, all evaded him. Eventually, exhausted, he fell through darkness for longer than he imagined one could ever fall for. He saw things, felt things, feared things, forgot things, and when he landed he landed hard.
Loki groaned as he rolled over. His ribs hurt and at least two were broken, his back ached and he could feel a horrid bruise forming across the width of his chest. Something like bile though was actually blood rose from his stomach, and Loki spat it out upon the ground beside him as he struggled groggily to sit up.
"Who are you?" Something asked him, hovering just out of sight behind a strange purple-grey colour rocked, with the hood of a robe pulled down low over his face to hide everything but the creature's purple chin.
"I am Loki, of Asgard," Loki told the creature, narrowing his eyes at it suspiciously. "And I am…" He furrowed his brow, stopping mid-sentence as he thought.
There was a blond man in his memories, calling him brother and throwing a hammer down upon his chest. An older man with one eye missing shook his head disappointedly at him; 'no son', he said over and over and over as Loki tried in every memory to make him proud. There was a city within his mind, all golden and glass and home but not quite so because Loki had never belonged, but there he was seated upon the throne, a king, with his crown, until four warriors stood before him and helped Thor usurp the throne out from under him.
Another city spread out in his memories, buildings that reached the sky made of glass and concrete, metal monstrosities that people drove through the tarmacked streets, humans, humans everywhere, and one in particular who shared a small flat with Loki in the centre of the metropolis.
But that boy was lying on his back in a forest too, surrounded by green, grass like his eyes, like Loki's eyes, and a smile upon rose red lips. Dark hair, like the wing of one of Odin's ravens, spread around his head like a halo, and pale skinned hands reached up to tug Loki down on top of him. Eighteen years old, and giving up his virginity in their clearing in their forest, crying out for more beneath the god of lies and mischief, who cried out on top of the boy for love. There was a strange scar upon the boy's forehead, and Loki's ring upon his wedding finger, long enough that a tan line had developed around it, visible whenever the boy played with the ring.
Loki shook himself from his memories, blurry and disjointed though they were, and glanced down at the ring of onyx and gold that rested upon his own finger. The band that symbolised a joining, a union that he could not remember, with the boy with the scar, who he also could not recall, but knew he needed to.1
As he fell, his memories fell with him, becoming tangled with all of the fantasies that existed within Loki's mind, all of the things he had desired to do but never done, out of fear or logic or just because he hadn't yet had the time. But now he couldn't remember what was real and what wasn't, and when the Other (the creature with the hood and the purple chin) spoke to him of Thanos (who frightened Loki more than he cared to admit) Loki learned that he had fallen for over eight months, through darkness and loneliness. In that time, he had broken a promise that he couldn't quite remember, but he could still imagine the hurt on the boy with the scar's beautiful face nonetheless.
"Where did you come from?" The Other asked him.
"Asgard," Loki answered sometimes, and at other times he answered, "Midgard," because that was what he had been thinking about.
"I was a king once," he told Thanos once, remembering sitting upon his throne, but the memory was wrong because Harry was seated by his side until Thor tore him away, tore them apart.
"My brother ruined everything," Loki confessed, as Thanos searched secretly through the god's mind, separating what was real from what wasn't. Thanos knew the truth, though he refrained from correcting Loki's beliefs or from repairing the god's scattered thoughts. Instead, he offered Loki a sceptre, fashioned after the one that Loki used in his memories to fight Thor on the bifrost, but this one glowed blue at the tip. Thanos promised him the boy with the scar, and his throne back upon earth, and his revenge on Asgard and Thor who had tried to claim the earth for himself in Loki's absence.
"What is it you desire, Asgardian?" The Other hissed at him in that strange whispering voice of his. All of his words sounded so dangerous, angry and cruel, no matter what it was he said or how he said it. Loki considered it a good talent to have, a good way to cower ones enemies, though he didn't appreciate the Other using that voice upon him.
"Other than your boy with the scar," Thanos added softly, skin dark and red and cracking around his lips and nostrils and eyes like dried clay finally coming apart.
"Vengeance." Loki answered. When they asked against who, Loki told them, "Thor and Odin and Asgard and Midgard". When they asked him why, it was because they all conspired together to take his throne and to take his boy from him.
Loki glanced down at the ring upon his finger just before he accepted the sceptre, the key to having his revenge, and he wondered sadly if the boy remembered him though Loki could not quite remember himself. He hoped, prayed to all gods but his own kin, that though it had been much longer than Loki had promised it would be that his boy would still be waiting for him.
July 19th 2011. Twenty.
Harry had waited a full three months before finally admitting to himself that he was an idiot. Loki wasn't coming back; Loki was never coming back, and he was a fool to ever think otherwise. Loki had told him goodbye, and Harry had been too blind or too naive or too desperate not to see it. Loki had told him goodbye without words, with his body and kisses and frantic brushes of hands over flushed skin as he fucked up into Harry.
Perhaps, Harry consoled himself as he slipped Loki's ring off of his finger and into the pocket of his trousers, Loki had intended to come back at first. Harry figured it would make sense if the problems with Jötunheimr had spilled into Loki's home life and the god's family found out about him. They would disapprove, Harry knew, because he was mortal, and mortals didn't marry gods or go to Asgard, and Harry should have seen this coming a long time ago despite Loki's proposal. It was like running up a hill that would never level off. It didn't matter how hard Harry ran or how much Harry and Loki loved, the hill would never end and Harry would always be mortal.
But it would have been nice to have been told, officially, that it was over. Loki could have had the decency to break things off formally, or send someone else if Loki did not want to see him or was not allowed to. Or Loki could have told him the truth from the offset. Loki could have told him there were problems in Asgard and in his home and there was a likelihood of his family finding out about them and insisting Loki break things off. Or, perhaps, Loki had gotten cold feet. Forever was a long time for a god, though he was only immortal as long as he ate one of those infamous golden apples a decade, and Harry would not live that long. If Loki was afraid of living all of that time without Harry, after Harry, and he wished to spare himself the pain of being widowed for such an awfully long time, Harry would have understood. It would have hurt like hell, but he would have understood, and the pain would have been less than the pain of this. The waiting and the hoping and the wishing was killing him, and it hurt so, so much more than the pain of simply being left.
Harry packed up a handful of things, shrinking them and shoving them into the pocket of his trousers alongside Loki's ring. He didn't look around his flat, because it was his and Loki's and three months of barely leaving it in case Loki came back and Harry wasn't there had turned the flat into a prison instead of a home, and Harry couldn't bear to see any reminders of a time when he had been happy.
Instead, he closed his eyes tightly, and apparated.
His father welcomed him inside with open arms, ignoring the tears and the rain and the way Harry seemed to be falling apart at the edges. Tony Stark held his son tightly, rocking him lightly as Harry cried with his face pressed to the arc reactor and the light of it casting strange shadows across tear stained cheeks. The light made Harry's tears shine like diamonds, and for once the light didn't glint off of the unusual ring that usually sat upon Harry's wedding finger. Tony noticed the tan line, and the lack of a ring, but he said nothing, because there was nothing to say. Loki had left; there was no fiancé, there would be no wedding or happily ever after.
Despite how much Tony wanted to march into his workshop, suit up and hunt that sonofabitch down and kill him, he clung as tightly to Harry as Harry did to him and he kept all of his opinions to himself because Harry didn't need that shit. Not from him, not now. A week later, Harry still couldn't say Loki's name without flinching, so Tony took him out and got him drunk off of alcohol that Tony kept buying for 'himself' because Harry was still a week too young to drink legally, and everyone knew that Harry was drinking anyway but said nothing because it was Tony fucking Stark paying the tab, thank you very much. They drank, and they spoke of Afghanistan, and Obie, and Iron Man, and Tony told Harry everything that he had been too afraid and ashamed to talk about back then. Harry told his father how it felt like he was dying inside, and Tony didn't know how to respond to that, how to make that better, except to buy a bottle of tequila from behind the bar and pour shot after shot until Happy had to come inside and carry them out one by one to the car unconscious.
Five months later, Loki landed upon an unknown planet in an unknown part of space. Two weeks after that, he accepted the sceptre, unaware of the way his green eyes glowed and swirled and changed to a haunting blue colour that looked so unnatural upon his pale and gaunt face. He still thought of vengeance, of retribution and reclamation. He would take back his throne, take his revenge, and then he would take his boy as his husband as he should have done eight months ago. Though his thoughts were wrong, and his memories skewered, and his anger unwarranted, none of the Chitauri corrected him, for his vengeance would secure the Tesseract for them, for Thanos, and with the Tesseract, Asgard would be theirs for the taking. Loki could keep Midgard, and his little scarred human boy; Thanos would have the universe when he was done.
A year after Loki had first left Harry, he appeared once more, shaking and sweating in one of SHIELD's underground facilities. He told those who addressed him, "I am Loki, of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose."2
Those who attempted to stand up to him were defeated, killed or enslaved to Loki's will, easily. Nick Fury pushed himself slowly up off of the floor, relieved that he had chosen to wear his bullet proof vest to work as always, because he worked with some motherfucking crazy shit, but this took the cake. But the vest, and his paranoia, had saved his life, though it didn't stop Loki from escaping with the Tesseract, two of their scientists, and Hawkeye.
April 6th 2012. Twenty-One.
SHIELD made a habit of monitoring each and all threats against themselves. In July of last year, Captain America was found buried in ice, and when he woke up, he was added to the list of threats to national security that Nick Fury was in charge of compiling. Before that, Thor of Asgard had made the list, along with the Destroyer that had been sent by Loki and which had levelled a small town in less than an hour. In 2008, Tony Stark had come to SHIELD's attention, along with his Iron Man design. It was, by complete coincidence, as Fury attempted to find out every speck of information that existed about Stark, anything by which to blackmail or force compliance from him with, that SHIELD had stumbled across the existence of one Harry Potter. Or rather, Harry Stark, though the boy had never legally changed his surname.
Harry was a strange creature altogether. He moved to America at age six, gained citizenship by way of a paternity test and Stark's own Californian birth certificate, and then practically disappeared off the map at eleven-years-old. He turned up now and again in the papers or on the news, each calling him Snow White Stark since the boy turned fifteen years old. No one at SHIELD had ever really connected the boy to Stark until Obadiah Stane was dead and James Rhodes was attempting to run media interference and SHIELD were left to clear up the mess, and an eighteen year old ran into the middle of the circus and threw himself into Tony Stark's arms, exclaiming "I'm so sorry I wasn't there to save you!"
It had left Fury wondering how exactly it was that a boy, a child, so slight and fragile looking, so completely normal looking, could have the ability to save someone from terrorists in a cave in a fucking desert and from terrorists that masqueraded as a friend faster and easier than Iron Man could have. And so, after he had finished speaking to Steve Rogers and Coulson's text came through, Fury had instructed a pilot to take him to England, to London, where Harry was supposed to be working as a doctor. "Healer," was the word Virginia Potts had used in the phone conversation that SHIELD had listened in on. "A Healer for magical maladies," she had tried to explain to Stark on the phone, tried to convince him to let Harry attempt to remove the bits of shrapnel in his chest.
Magical, they had said, repeatedly. On the other side of the phone line, four years ago, Director Fury had snorted at the thought and told the tech team to disconnect.
Like Loki of Asgard? Or like Iron Man would be considered magical and impossible and unbelievable? Fury was determined to find out which one it was, but that wasn't the only reason he was searching for Stark's son. Phil Coulson had made friends with Tony and Pepper, though Tony still denied that vehemently. Loki had not wanted to meet Harry's family until Loki could return the favour, and so not Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, Hermione or Ron, or anyone really, had ever met the man, but occasionally a photographer managed to take the odd sneaky picture. Harry hadn't been able to resist sending one to Pepper. It had been cut from a newspaper, and Harry had bought three papers, so he could cut out three pictures; one for himself, which he had framed in the living room of his flat, and one for Loki to fold and take with him everywhere in his pocket, and one for his parents who were supposed to keep it hidden, but Phil had discovered while searching for Pepper's phone that had been ringing.
"Answer that please, Phil," she had called to him from the kitchen, "I think Tony hid it in one of those drawers," she carried on talking, searching for drinks. Phil had seen the photo, had taken a picture of it with his own phone and sent it straight to Fury, before answering Pepper's phone and closing the drawer like he had done nothing suspicious at all.
No one would have been able to tell who it was, not without having taken a really good look at the photo or without having seen it numerous times. Stark would probably recognize the man from the photo, and Fury damn well recognized him after staring him down from the wrong end of a magical sceptre as the maniac order him shot and stole from him. But his one remaining eye was good enough to know a face when he saw it or the side of a face as it was in this case, and the photo was clear enough to be of use to him. The photo was old though, because the boy in it was younger than he was in the most recent media shots of him, two years at least, but there were rings on both wedding fingers of the two in the photo, and engagements weren't called off for no reason, or for less than their fiancé killing almost eighty people in a day at least, or so Fury hoped. If they were still together, and Tony Stark's kid or not, Harry would bring Loki of Asgard to them, regardless of whether he wished to help.
April 8th 2012.
There was something vaguely familiar about the man seated beside him. Tony couldn't help but stare at him, his helmet off and slightly scuffed from his fight with Thor earlier. Loki sat still and silent, though there was a strange curve to his lips that reminded him of Harry that time Tony asked him if 'Loki' was magical.
Tony's eyes narrowed suddenly. Opposite him, Thor and Steve both leaned forward in their seats cautiously. Tony's hand shot out, grabbing hold of Loki's chin and turning his head towards him. Loki allowed himself to be moved, the smirk on his mouth growing wider, as Tony continued to turn his head so that from the position his brother and Captain America were in it looked as if they were kissing. "Take a photo, Jarvis, would you?"
"Already done, sir," a voice intoned within his helmet, the ear piece he wore buzzing with static.
Tony let go of Loki's face, pulling out his phone instead and pulling up the photo he had Jarvis send him. If Tony ignored the fact that it was him in the photo and not Harry, and that their prisoner was dressed differently, it could have been the same picture that Pepper kept hidden in a drawer in the lounge of Stark Tower.
"What did you say your name was?" Tony practically growled out, now staring once more at the side of Loki's head.
The Asgardian turned back to him, blue eyes looking out of place on his face, set within the dark, wide rings of exhaustion around his eyes. "I am Loki, of Asgard."
Tony thought about it for a moment, about how the eyes should have been green, but of how magic was possible and Harry had once given his teacher blue hair when he was eight. "You are Loki?" Tony asked, clenching his metal encased hands at his sides, "of 1232 Mayfair, London?"
Loki said nothing in response to that, but his eyebrows rose high on his forehead and his mouth pursed and in his mind he remembered the boy with the scar signing the deed to the flat they shared in both of their names. A gift from the boy's father, Loki remembered, but a gift to them both, an approval of a relationship from a man who had never met him. There had been a circle of metal on the door when they moved in, with "1232" engraved onto it, but Loki later replaced the circle of gold with a silver fleur de lis that had their house number poured onto it in melted copper. Loki narrowed his eyes at the man of iron, silently asking how he knew that, how was it possible that he had known that when Loki had only remembered just now.
It was enough of a reaction, enough of a confirmation. Tony stood up, towering over the seated, chained man, and he punched him hard, once in the jaw. He pulled his fist back, aiming another swing at the man, but Steve's arms were locked around his shoulders, and Thor's hand was clenching over his own fist, and they were pulling him back and away, until Tony was slumped angrily in between them on the bench opposite Loki's own. Tony watched, satisfied, justified, as a bruise began to form on the pale chin, but it was gone and healed by the time the jet landed on the helicarrier.
"That was for Harry, asshole." Tony told him, as guards surged onto the jet, guns raised and helmets down, and crowded around the captured god.
"Harry?" Loki whispered, trying to remember why anyone named Harry would matter to him. And there, in his memories, was his boy with the scar, smiling and laughing and kissing him, but answering to the nickname of Snow. "I love you, Harry," the Loki of his memories whispered into the dark hair of the boy who slept in his arms in their bed in their flat in Mayfair. "I will never leave you, Harry. Never," he had promised in another memory, pressing desperate kisses to unresponsive lips just before Thor had thrown him from the bifrost.
"Harry?" Loki asked again, turning around as the guards led him away, so that he could search out Tony Stark's steely expression for any hint or idea of where he might find his lover.
Stark stared back at him blankly, fists clenched at his sides, before he pulled the helmet on and took off into the sky. He had to blow stuff up, he had to work off all of the anger and frustration and fuck-you-you-bastard-you-broke-my-son's-heart that was building up inside of him with every breath. Tony couldn't go back in there, not after chasing after Thor earlier to keep Loki alive so that they could find the Tesseract. Because now Loki was in a cage, defenceless, unarmed, and magic or no magic (because Harry had shown him ways to defend himself from that and Tony had built them in to his newest arc reactor), Tony wouldn't be able to keep himself from beating the living shit out of a arsehole. That would lose them the Tesseract for sure, because Tony didn't think he would be able to stop if he started until Loki was dead or someone was dragging him away with the force of a thousand wild horses. He should care about the Tesseract, but he didn't; Harry was more important, and Harry had been heartbroken and destroyed by the fucking god back there, and Tony needed desperately to do something about it now that he finally could.
But he didn't. He blew up statues and rocks and chased seagulls into the ocean until Jarvis informed him that SHIELD had started their meeting without him. Tony headed back to the helicarrier, landing shakily on the deck of the moving airbase, and making his way inside, glad that the titanium his suit was made from was heavy enough to keep him from blowing away. He changed quickly, Jarvis removing the suit and storing it safely. And all of the witty comments he had been planning to make, thinking each response within nano-seconds of the words before, spoken through Jarvis' interference with SHIELD's intercoms, by those in the meeting without him, and there were many witty comments he was planning to make, each of them flew from his head the second he walked into the room.
Seated at the table, (along with Fury, Coulson, Hill, and all those who would later make up the Avengers), with his wrists handcuffed to the arms of his chair, was Harry Potter.
"What the fuck did you do to my son, Fury?" Tony hissed, striding up to the dark-skinned man with eyes like daggers.
"It's just a precaution, Stark. To keep him from running off to help a certain criminal we all know. Now, sit the fuck down and shut up." Fury turned his one eye on Harry, glancing him up and down curiously. The boy had come with him easily enough, following Fury onto his jet and back to base. He had made the odd protest, insisting he didn't know where Loki was, or why they would be interested in Loki, because Loki hadn't been on earth in a year as far as Harry knew, and even if he had why would Harry know? Loki had left him. Loki was gone.
"Loki is in Asgard!" Harry said again, rolling his eyes at his father as the elder Stark moved to tug at the handcuffs. "I already told you that. There's no reason to chain me up." And yet, Fury reminded himself, Harry had been the one to suggest they restrain him if they were so afraid of him, of what he could do, of what his connection to Loki was.
"Is he, indeed?" Nick asked, tilting his head just enough that Natasha Romanoff would notice it. A giant screen appeared in the centre of the table they were seated around, or rather, the table became a giant screen. It showed a cell, a cage suspended over a steel trap that would open into thin air, and in the cage Loki stood stock still with his arms folded calmly behind his back. Blue eyes stared up at the camera that he knew was watching him, and at the people on the other end of the camera that were thus watching him too. And he smirked, like a shark before its prey, or like Bellatrix as she cackled at him that she had killed Sirius Black, and it was a terrifying sight but it would have hurt more if Harry had known who Sirius Black was at the time. Just as Harry would have been more afraid if he hadn't known who Loki was.
He was straining in his seat, leaning forward as far as the cuffs would allow until he could see Loki completely, until he was right over the image. He wanted to reach out and touch it, wanted to feel Loki's hair and skin and make sure the man was real and there and back, but it was an image on a computer screen Harry reminded himself as he slumped back into his chair.
"What do you want from me?" Harry asked softly, sounding as broken as he had the day he turned up without Loki's ring on his finger and told Tony that "he broke up with me!"
"Help us stop Loki, Harry." Fury said softly, giving himself a congratulatory mental pat on the back when Harry turned his full attention from the computer to Fury. Harry nodded, listening, and so Nick spoke. "If he gives back the Tesseract, if he stops whatever he is planning, and doesn't hurt anymore people, SHIELD is willing to go easy on him. There will be no execution, no banishment, perhaps no imprisonment, not if he concedes now, before it is too late."
"I haven't seen Loki in a year, Director. What makes you think he'll listen to anything I have to say?" Harry was genuinely curious. If Loki had not come back to him as he had promised, why would Loki care enough about him now to stop this madness?
Fury didn't give him any genuine reasons, he had simply touched one hand to his chest, and told him it was just a hunch he had. Nick figured that gods didn't propose to mortals on a normal basis, and the fact that from what he could find out while Natasha flew Loki from Germany to them, Harry had been wearing that ring since before Iron Man had even been invented. That was enough to motivate his thought process, enough to act upon, and Nick Fury always acted upon his gut instincts. They had never led him astray yet.
"Fine," Harry conceded quietly. "But if anyone else is planning to try, you've all got to go first. Just in case he reacts badly to seeing me. I don't want to ruin anything for any of you. I want to help stop him," Harry promised. Inside of his head a voice screamed, and he imagined that if his hands were unbound he would be clawing at his face or his chest, because the voice in his head sounded so desperate, so tormented, and Harry's heart ached at the look his reflection wore upon his face every day since Loki left—
Just please don't kill him I love him I love him I love him Loki what are you doing please don't leave me what did I do wrong why don't you love me Loki don't hurt anyone please don't kill Loki I love him I love him please come back to me
—The voice continued to scream, unheard by anyone but him, but Bruce Banner took one look at Harry's face and winced. Because he had demons too, and a monster that he couldn't kill without suffering through a death of his own too, and he knew exactly how Harry was feeling as the boy glanced back down at the image of Loki on the computer screen. Bruce reached out to rest his hand lightly on Harry's arm; it was shaking so hard the handcuffs were rattling, and on his other side, Tony did the same thing. Tony also happened to be picking the lock.
Fury had tried, as they first put Loki in his cage. There was an allegory about a boot and an ant that Harry didn't understand but that seemed to amuse Nick and Loki too for that matter. Bruce and Steve avoided Loki, and Tony took it upon himself once to simply stand outside of the cage, just staring, until a metaphorical light bulb seemed to go off above Loki's head and his blue eyes widened.
"You are Harry's father?" He asked, though he needn't have had. Because he now remembered the name on the top of the deed, reading Anthony Stark, before Harry had signed it over into their names. "That would explain why you punched me," Loki conceded quietly. "But my absence is a quarrel between my fiancé and myself, and I politely request that you stay out of it, man of iron."
"Fiancé?" Tony snorted, his arms folded across his chest, just under the glow of the arc reactor. One hand moved down to root through his pocket, and when he pulled it out there was a ring sitting innocuously in the palm of Stark's hand. "Harry hasn't worn your ring in nine months, asshole. He isn't your anything, and if you come near him, Tesseract be damned, I'll kill you myself." Tony threw the ring down on the ground, and it rolled to a stop beneath one of the metal railings that wove its way around the edge of the platform that led to the cage.
Loki watched the ring as it moved across the floor, eyes wide until it finally came to a stop. He could not reach for it through the glass, not while he was pretending to be bound and magic-less, but it had not landed on the metal beneath him, and he resolved to recover the ring as soon as he was freed and it was time to flee. With the ring in his possession, he would find Harry, and bring Harry away with him where the boy would be safe while the Chitauri invaded earth.
Natasha spoke to him next, and Harry appeared in a different doorway to the one she left through, having only caught the very last part of the conversation. "Co-operation?" Harry asked with a small chuckle, "that doesn't sound like the Loki I used to know."
Confused and disorientated (and secretly impressed) as he was by Black Widow's impressive display, Loki did not think to check himself. Instead he answered casually, without thought, and with unexpected honestly. "It was tricked out of me, I'm afraid. A relatively decent performance on her part, though I appeared to have been woefully lacking in some respects. Nonetheless, I'll have the chance to make up for it now, will I not, agent-?" Loki trailed off, expecting the SHIELD agent to fill in the blank with his own name.
Harry chuckled again.
When the human didn't speak, Loki turned from the direction Natasha had disappeared in. His eyes widened as they landed on Harry, then softened, and one pale hand pressed desperately against the glass that separated them. Harry's heart almost stopped beating as he noticed that Loki still wore his ring, gold and tight around his wedding finger with a cracked onyx stone on top engraved with the symbol of the Deathly Hallows.
"Snow?" Loki whispered, before the other hand came up to press against glass, as if Loki could simply push it down and bare the way to Harry.
"You're wearing my ring?" Harry asked, ignoring Loki's use of his old nickname. No one had called him that in a year, not since Loki had promised Snow he'd come back to him and didn't, and Tony had used that name and Harry had flinched so hard he fell over and knocked himself unconscious, and Tony had sued the reporter who innocently asked why Snow wasn't wearing the unorthodox engagement ring anymore and Harry had been inconsolable and blind drunk for four days afterwards.
"You used to wear mine. I remember that much."
Harry glanced down at the bare finger on his left hand, before offering Loki a sad, soft smile. "And you left me," he said, though he thought quickly about Loki's second comment and wondered what it meant. He couldn't think of a reason, and so to be spiteful, he simply repeated it. "I remember that much."
"I was supposed to come back?" Loki asked, though he remembered the answer. He had made a promise he could not remember and he had dreamt of Harry's hate and disappointment. But he had fallen for months and that was hardly his fault, so surely, once Harry was away from these humans and from Thor Harry would forgive him and love him once more. "I took too long, did I not? Did you grow tired of waiting for me?" Loki waited for the answer, his breath held and his forehead pressing to the glass above his hands.
"It was a long time ago, Loki. Let's talk about now instead, yeah?"
It was the longest Loki had gone without insulting anyone, and it was the most honest he had been since Thor could actually remember, and each of the Avengers should have been watching Harry talk to Loki but none of them were. Because Harry wasn't supposed to speak with Loki until tomorrow morning, and today they were too busy fighting in Doctor Banner's laboratory while the sceptre tried to influence their minds.
"Why are you doing this?" Harry asked, but he never got an answer. An explosion rocked the ship, and Harry stumbled forward with a cry, catching himself on the metal railing in front of him. "What the hell?" He wondered out loud, unnerved by the smirk that was growing across Loki's face.
"Forgive me," the man whispered, folding his arms serenely behind his back again. "You will understand in time, my love."
Behind Harry, one of the soldiers the Tesseract had already infected snuck silently into the room. Loki watched him calmly, making no move to warn Harry, or to stop the soldier, who raised his gun and hit Harry across the back of the head with the butt of it. Harry slumped forward, but the soldier caught him and carried him carefully to the corner of the room and tucked him into an alcove out of sight. The man released Loki then, and the god stepped out of the cage, leaving an illusion behind, just in time for Thor to charge into the room, at Loki, and get himself locked in the cage instead.
Harry's eyes fluttered open just as someone croaked something about lacking conviction and the sound of a small explosion filled the room. He turned his face away, feeling nauseas and dizzy, and didn't look back again until whatever had blown up no longer seemed as bright or as hot. Loki was gone, actually the whole cage was gone and Harry hoped that Loki hadn't been in it when it fell. Phil Coulson was slumped against a wall, wheezing and bleeding, and Harry crawled towards him, his head spinning too much for him to consider walking just yet.
"Hey kid," Coulson choked down, spitting out a mouthful of blood a few seconds later. "Get out of here kid, before he comes back." Harry turned his head in the direction that the agent was staring into.
Through a doorway, surrounded by broken bits of wall and ammunition, Loki slowly pushed himself to his feet. When Loki made his way back into the room, snarling darkly and thinking of all of the wonderful ways he could torture that human in the miniscule time he had left to live, Agent Coulson and Harry were both gone. Loki screamed in rage, memories of losing Harry the first time warping inside of his mind, the Tesseract's power twisting them and him, blaming Thor because that was who Loki had always blamed for his suffering as a child, and this time blaming SHIELD, because they must have taken Harry from him. Who else could have? He had just been about to pick Harry up, to carry him to the stolen quinjet his mind-enslaved soldiers were planning to lead him to, when that agent had shown up with his gun, interrupted his defeat of Thor, and blasted him through a fucking doorway. SHIELD had distracted him, and while he was downed, SHIELD had stolen Harry from him.
It was the man of iron's fault, Loki told himself squeezing the ring he had given Harry, which Stark had thrown at him, which he had retrieved just now, as the jet took him away. It was Tony's fault because the man had sworn Loki off of his son, and SHIELD must have been doing his bidding.
"To Stark Tower," Loki told the pilot angrily, because if Stark could take what was his, he would take what was Stark's.
When Stark figured out what was happening and where Loki had gone, the newly assembled Avengers followed him. Harry remained on the helicarrier, because he wasn't an Avenger and no one wanted to risk Loki kidnapping him, or (though no one dared to say it out loud) Harry willingly siding with Loki against them. Phil Coulson recovered slowly but surely under Harry's magical healing care, and Nick Fury sheepishly presented him with his newly-blood-stained trading cards when Phil opened his eyes. To say the man was pissed was an understatement, but the cards had done their job, as had Phil's 'death', and Fury was happy enough at the moment to promise his agent a brand new set, he'd even collect them himself this time to save Phil the bother.
Harry sat in Banner's abandoned laboratory. The Stark-computer was open in front of him, still tracking Gamma radiation across the world. It was the one of two pieces of technological equipment still working on board the helicarrier including the surveillance systems, and Harry used the privacy to silently will the machine to hurry up and tell him where Loki was. No one else had, no one else knew, except his father who had gone without him for his own protection apparently. But it was as Tony explained through Jarvis, over the Stark-phone Harry always carried, that Loki was out of his mind and didn't seem anything like the person Harry used to crow about or loved, that Harry understood what had happened. It was like Ron, in the Forest of Dean, pale and gaunt with dark circles around each eye and the Locket of Slytherin hanging like a noose around his neck. It wasn't the same thing, but it had the same effect. Just like the Locket had controlled Ron's emotions and influenced his actions and words, the Tesseract had done to same to Agent Barton and Doctor Selvig. And the little blue stone embedded just below the point of Loki's sceptre had been doing the same to him.
Communications came back online just as Loki threw Tony Stark threw a window, and Iron Man returned to blast Loki into a wall. Harry figured out where they were as Thor appeared to fight his brother, listening in confusion as Loki snarled out accusations and insults that were mostly untrue. As Thor begged Loki to stop, to give up this harmful quest and to come home with him, Loki remembers suddenly, vividly, the Others' threat to him the one time Loki questioned the plan.
"And if I change my mind?" Loki had asked back then, his arms folded casually across his chest, the sceptre tucked against his body. "If I feel that I would find my boy faster on my own, extract my own brand of vengeance sweeter on my own, what then?"
"You think we do not know where your boy is hidden, Asgardian?" The Other had hissed in angry almost-silence, "you think He does not know, He who put the sceptre in your hand, who gave you this power, this knowledge? You think we could not find the boy before you could even hope to remember his name, Asgardian? What do you think you could do to Him, to stop Him, should He choose to tear your human apart limb by pathetically fragile limb until he is nothing but a bloody mass of flesh, all that remains of your boy, your human, but a stain upon the floor by His feet?" There was nothing cruel about the expression on the Others' face, but Loki shuddered as their eyes met anyway. He thought of his boy with the scar, and he remembered a man in a hooded robe pointing a stick at the boy and making him scream, and of green light that should have killed him except Loki was there to protect him over and over, until the close and it was time to die. This time there would be no protection, this time Loki would not come to Harry's aid, because the Other was right and there would be nothing Loki could do to stop Him. Except uphold his end of the bargain. To save Harry's life, (and his greatest fear was losing him, to death or his own foolishness or to another), Midgard had to bow before him. To save Harry, Loki would give the Tesseract to Thanos and doom the universe to his omnicidal rule. Loki would have Midgard and Loki would have Harry and all other sentiment beings could burn, Asgardians included.
So Loki stabbed Thor in the side, throwing himself off of the balcony of Stark Tower and onto the flying chariot that awaited him. The Chitauri flew around him, destroying and killing, and Loki flew among them, directing them, instructing them to aim for the so-called Avengers because without them the rest of humanity would fall to their knees and beg for mercy. Without the Avengers, without Tony Stark and Thor, there was no one to keep Harry from his side.
When Clint Barton shot an arrow at his face, Loki caught it in mid-air. But it exploded, and threw him through the air, off of his chariot and in through the window of Stark Tower again. He slid across the lounge, landing beside the bar Tony had earlier offered him a drink from. There were no Avengers there now, but Harry Potter glanced down at him instead, with the sceptre held between both hands. Loki smiled up at him, holding one hand out for the sceptre and the other hand out for Harry's own, but Harry handed neither over.
"I loved you," Harry whispered.
"Past tense?" Loki asked, feeling suddenly small and afraid as he waited for the answer. His eyes flashed green for half a second as Harry tugged with one hand at the little blue gem just below the point of the sceptre's blade.
Harry offered him a soft smile, the kind that Harry had always offered him when Loki was unsure of himself, questioning himself or Harry's love for him.
"I love you," Harry corrected his earlier statement.
Loki rose warily to his knees, hands still reaching for Harry. The gem broke away from the sceptre, and the blue light drained out of it until all that was left was a small clear crystal in the palm of Harry's hands. As the blue faded from the gem, the blue drained from Loki's eyes until Harry was staring into ones as green as his own, until those eyes fluttered shut and Loki slumped unconscious to the floor at Harry's feet.
Outside, Iron Man flew a nuclear missile into space with no intention of coming back alive, and Thor and Captain America fought bravely and Hawkeye ran out of arrows. Black Widow searched for Loki's sceptre, needing it to close the portal, and having overheard her as she muttered to herself outside on the balcony, Harry handed it over.
"I'll need to put the gem back in though," he told her, before going outside, away from Loki's prone form to do so. The gem flashed blue again, powered by the presence of the sceptre, or vice versa, but neither worked without the other regardless. Natasha used the sceptre to close the portal, just as Iron Man fell back through to earth, and the Hulk swung across buildings to catch the unconscious man and break his fall. Harry watched, with his wand out, ready to catch his father if he had to, even from such a distance, until Tony was safely on the ground.
"Thank you," he whispered to the Hulk, though he doubted the green creature could hear anything over the sound of its own proud roars. Harry turned back then, after he was sure his father was safe, and he glanced sadly down at Loki. "What am I going to do with you?" He asked softly, crouching down against the bottom of the small set of stairs that led up to the bar. He pulled Loki until the man was cradled against him, his head in Harry's lap, body across his legs, with Harry's arms around him.
When Loki woke, he was warm and safe and Harry was carding patient fingers through his hair the way he used to when Loki fell asleep on their sofa or in their clearing on a bed of leaves. Each of the Avengers stood over him, in a semi-circle of frowns and glares and hands on hips, and though he should be repentant and worried, Loki was relieved. If the Avengers had won, the Chitauri had been defeated, and hopefully with them Thanos. Harry was safe, and surely it was not Loki's fault that the Others' army had been too weak for the task? Loki had upheld his part of the deal: he had brought the Chitauri to earth and he had handed them the Tesseract for the taking, it was not his fault that none of the Chitauri had thought to take it.
His head felt clearer than it had in months, and though the strange messed up memories were still there, they were fewer than before, and Loki could remember how it was he had truly fallen. He remembered why he had lived in Midgard, not because he was king there, but because Harry was there. He had been the usurped king of Asgard, and so it should have been Asgard the Chitauri had invaded to reclaim Loki's throne. But the Tesseract had not been on Asgard, and so Thanos had not sent Loki there, but to Midgard, to the Tesseract and to Harry and to failure. But with his failure came the freedom of his mind, and Loki glanced up at Harry in thanks, his head still pillowed in the boy's lap with long fingers running patiently through his hair.
Tony cleared his throat, not looking at all pleased to see Loki anywhere near his son.
The Asgardian turned his head slowly, his usual half-smirk present as soon as he was turned from Harry. "If it's all the same to you," he said slowly but surely, smirk growing wider as he gazed at each of their narrowed eyes in turn, "I'll have that drink now."
It was Harry who got Loki a drink, and Tony who handcuffed him, and the Hulk who dragged Loki roughly to another jet. But Loki allowed it without complaint, because Harry walked along beside him, unafraid of the Hulk, with his left hand lightly brushing Loki's side with every other step they took. Later, when Loki was chained a little tighter in a different cage, pretending to be unable to escape once more because this time Director Fury threatened to gas him to unconsciousness if he took so much as a step towards the glass, Harry came to him again.
The Avengers had spoken first, and Thor had been firmly against Midgardian punishment because Clint kept throwing the word 'execution' around like it was going out of style. Natasha and Clint had agreed with one another, because they weren't dumb enough to believe that Loki was staying on board this time for any reason other than the fact that Harry was on board, and though the others agreed with that fact, the assassins rightly pointed out that they didn't have anywhere to imprison Loki that would hold him. Tony had offered to build them a prison, somewhere far away from Harry, like the moon maybe, which had startled a laugh out of Fury against his will.
"Will you be imprisoning or executing agent Barton as well, Director Fury?" Harry asked politely, once the man had schooled his expression back into his default 'fuck you, that's why' mode. Fury's eyebrows furrowed, expression startled once more into changing before it slipped back firmly into place.
"Of course not. Agent Barton wasn't in control of his own actions."
"Neither was Loki," Harry told them firmly. Thor looked hopeful, pleading silently with Harry to continue defending the brother who had broken the boy's heart. Bruce looked intrigued, especially when Harry compared the effects of the sceptre on Loki's mind to Bruce grabbing hold of the sceptre in the lab as he began to lose their temper when they fought earlier. Steve thought it was only fair, if they excused one set of actions, to excuse another, because you didn't punish people with mental illnesses. Natasha looked put out, and Clint horrified, but arguing to punish Loki after Fury had agreed with Harry's discovery meant arguing to punish himself, so he bit his tongue to keep himself quiet.
Tony looked resigned, and he nodded his head slowly when Fury turned to look at him. "It doesn't change the fact that he hurt you, kiddo," Tony whispered, reaching out to touch one hand to Harry's cheek. He added then, almost as an afterthought, though Harry knew the guilt of it weighed heavily on his father's mind, "and doesn't change the fact that he killed Phil."
Harry had only smiled at him, turned to Fury to mutter, "You should tell them soon". Then he made his way unhindered to Loki's new cell.
"I was lost," Loki whispered, moving to press his hands hesitantly against the glass. He waited, to see if Director Fury made good on his threat, but when nothing happened, Loki leant his head against the glass too, smiling softly as Harry moved to press his hands against his own, pretending the glass did not separate them. "You were lost as well, and I could not remember your name, but I remembered you, and I missed you, but you were lost to me. They promised to give you back to me, Harry, after I had lost you." He paused, closing his eyes tightly, refusing to cry when he knew that others were watching and listening. "Did I lose you, Harry?"
Harry was gone in the blink of an eye. With a crack of apparition, Harry was inside of the cage, and the chains that wove around each of Loki's hands and around his neck and waist and feet were gone. "You could never lose me, Loki."
Loki turned slowly, eyeing Harry for a second until his brain caught up with his eyes and his ears, and then he had the boy pinned against the glass behind them, pressed tight against his own body as their mouths moved as one and hands slid under shirts and down the back of trousers. "I love you," Loki whispered into Harry's mouth, moving his hand into his own pocket and pulling out the ring he had once given Harry. He pushed the ring back onto Harry's fourth finger on his left hand where it belonged without asking for permission.
Harry glanced down at it, a crooked smile on his lips. "Gifts are met with like gifts on Asgard, no?" Harry asked coyly, fluttering his eyelashes.
"They are," Loki agreed, his mouth moving to claim Harry's own again. "What will you gift me with?" Fingers stroked against a pale cheek, thumb pressing against red lips, and Loki's mouth moved to follow the path his hand had traced first.
"Unfortunately," Harry said, pushing Loki back just far enough to give him room to pull his t-shirt over his head. He threw it to the floor, "I only have myself to offer."
"I accept," Loki murmured, his hands moving to tug at Harry's belt, to reach inside and reclaim what was once his. "I accept gladly."
"Good," Harry snapped, unbuckling the metal straps across Loki's shoulders. "I wasn't giving you a choice!"
In the control room, the moment the chains were gone from Loki's person, Fury's hand was hovering over the big red button that would release the knock out gas into the cage. It was more than enough to tranquilise the Hulk, and they'd tested it, so they knew: it was how they had got Bruce back on the helicarrier after the battle. It would be more than enough to knock out Loki Odinson. But Tony's hand on his wrist stopped Nick from pushing the button. Tony kept Fury's hand still, just out of reach of its target, and Fury let him because he was interested in seeing whatever Tony was so interested in watching.
On the screen, Loki had Harry pinned against a glass wall, and after they kissed, Loki pushed that familiar ring back into its place and Harry took his shirt off. Tony managed to watch, keeping an eye on Harry in case this was some sort of trick and Loki was using his kid to make a quick escape, until they were completely naked. But when one of Loki's hands disappeared completely from view and Harry's head fell back and his mouth dropped open with a moan, hips arching up beneath the god, Tony turned his face away and gritted his teeth.
"Jarvis," he ordered, "shut it off." All around them, computer screens went black, and the sounds of Harry's moaning cut off abruptly over the speakers.
Awkward silence spread out over the room, like fog across the ground in the mornings, until the sun rose to dissipate it. Going with that metaphor, Phil Coulson happened to be the sun that morning. He strode into the room, hands in his pockets and a wry grin on his face as everyone but Nick Fury turned to look at him with surprise and shock on their faces. "What, guys?" He asked, pretending he didn't know why they were staring at him. "Do I have something on my face?"
As each of them came towards Phil, pulled him into a hug, or slapped him on the back, or welcomed him home, Harry and Loki made love for the first time in a year. When they were together, in one another's' arms, their bodies joined, breath and sweat mingling, and seed sticking to their skin, it was as if the rest of the world had fallen away. There was no one else but them remaining, just them and this forever, and Loki no longer feared and Harry no longer second-guessed himself. There were no insecurities or worries. There was nothing to regret or resent. Lost in the love they felt for one another, they were left with nothing to be ashamed of.
April 12th 2012.
While Harry had successfully spared Loki from Midgardian punishments, the same couldn't be said for what awaited him upon his return to Asgard. Thor, naive but kind hearted Thor, was determined to bring his brother home, promising Harry that Loki would return soon this time, and promising Loki that he needn't fear punishment from the All Father, for Harry had been right and those with mental illness should not be persecuted. Odin had agreed, punishing Loki who had been under the influence of the Tesseract (which was now stored safely in the weapons vault) would be unnecessary and cruel. But, Odin had continued, Loki still had to answer for his crimes against Asgard.
He allowed Jötuns to invade during Thor's coronation. He had manipulated Thor into venturing to Jötunheimr and nearly got five Asgardians and himself killed. He had caused a war with the Frost Giants and then destroyed the bifrost in an attempt to implode a planet. They were weighty crimes, carrying heavy punishments, but Loki was his son, and Odin had already wronged him so badly, had failed him in so many ways and he understood now that Loki had only been trying to impress him and Loki understood now that he had gone about it the wrong way. There was nothing like a foreign presence within your mind, forcing you to do things against your will, to help you understand the difference between right and wrong actions, when before you might have struggled alone to figure it out.
Because Loki had admitted to his mistakes, and had asked, without being prodded, for forgiveness, and then shockingly for his mother's blessing to marry a mortal that he had loved for almost eight years, Odin punished him less harshly than he had first planned to. But, just like with Thor's banishment, Odin did nothing without reason.
April 18th 2012.
Thor had helped him find somewhere to live, and Thor had sat before him scowling and pretending to be Tony Stark while Loki practised his speech on him. Silvertongue, though he was, Loki had no doubt that he would be nervous before the father of the man he loved, the same father Loki had defenestrated. He had no desire to mess things up more than he already had, and he certainly had no desire to test whom Harry might chose if he were forced to pick between them, because given the recent hurts that he had been responsible for Loki had no doubt that he would not come out favourably.
When he was ready, after he had gotten accustomed to being banished to earth (though he still retained his magic, thankfully), Loki found himself standing at the door of a rather large, rented house in New York. Thor had informed him, just before the All Father cast him out, that this was Tony Stark's current, new address since Loki had partially destroyed his last.
He knocked twice on the door, and Bruce Banner opened it wide some moments later. The greeting that had been on the man's lips stuck there at the sight of Loki in a suit and green stripped scarf, dark wooden cane raised to knock on the door a second time. "Good afternoon, Doctor. I was wondering if Harry might be home."
"Loki?" Bruce's voice trailed off midway into a squeak, and he took a step backwards into the house. "I thought you were in Asgard?"
"I am living out the terms of my sentence upon the planet I tried to conquer. The All Father hopes it might teach me some empathy… or something." It was a lie, of course. Odin had sent Loki there because he had to be seen to be punishing his wayward son, and earth was where Harry was. After the sentence was over, which lasted for the time it took for Loki to convince Tony Stark to let him marry his son, Loki would be free to come and go as he pleased, the only stipulation being the next time he came home he had to bring Harry with him to meet his family.
Harry appeared then in the doorway, and Bruce happily disappeared back inside of the house and away from Loki's unnerving stare. "Loki? What are you doing here?" Harry seemed confused. Despite Thor promising to return Loki to him from Asgard soon, Harry had half expected him to never keep that promise, and half expected that even if he had that 'soon' meant something different to near-immortals.
"Well, I figured that since I have asked you to marry me officially once and twice now unofficially," he said while glancing down to check that Harry still wore the ring he had given him four years ago. He did. "It was about time I asked your father for his blessing."
Harry snorted in amusement, before realising that Loki was serious. "You're going to ask my dad, who you threw out of a window, which I'm annoyed with you about by the way mind control or otherwise, for his permission to let me marry you, after you threw him out of a window and wrecked his house?" Harry laughed softly, leaning forward to press a soft kiss against Loki's pursed lips. "Fat chance of that happening, but I'm more than happy to elope with you if you want."
"I will do this correctly, Snow, it is the least I can do to make up for my mistakes." Tony appeared behind Harry, glaring at Loki's head until the god looked up and met brown eyes dead on. "Mr Stark," Loki purred, pulling away from Harry to hold his hand out to Tony to shake, "it is a pleasure to meet you again. Perhaps we could put my past mistakes behind us, as I humbly ask your forgiveness for my words and actions, regardless of the fact that I was being controlled as much as Agent Barton and Doctor Selvig."
"And whose fault was that?" Tony asked with a raised eyebrow, purposely ignoring the hand Loki had held out to him. "I don't like being handed stuff," he said, glancing pointedly at the hand as Loki continued to keep it suspended between them.
"Fortunately, I do," Pepper chimed in softly, pushing her way passed Tony so that she could reach out and shake Loki's hand firmly. "Virginia Potts, though everyone calls me Pepper. It's nice to meet you, Mr Odinson."
"Loki will do, Lady Pepper." Loki raised her hand, kissing the back of it lightly, and suppressing a smirk as she smiled warmly back at him. She would be easy enough to convince, Loki thought to himself, before glancing warily in Stark's direction.
Tony had his arms folded across his chest, under the arc reactor that glowed through his shirt, and his face looked decidedly unimpressed. At his side, Harry had one hand over his mouth to hide his laughter, but he moved the hand aside long enough to mouth, "Good luck", at Loki before nodding his head in Tony's direction.
"Come in, come in," Pepper said still smiling as she led Loki into the house by his arm linked through hers. Tony stepped out of the way, pressing up close against the wall, even though he had been nowhere near them to begin with, but Loki understood it for the insult it was. He pursed his lips again, frowning as the man of iron slammed the front door rather roughly behind him and Harry laughed softly as they made their way into the living room. It would be more difficult than he had first assumed, Loki conceded. Yes, his ability to be persuasive and to talk his way into and out of any situation was the stuff of legends, it had earned him several nicknames in fact, but Anthony Stark, it appeared, was a man to hold a grudge. Loki wondered silently, if Tony was angrier about being thrown from a window and having his house broken or about the year where his son's heart had been broken instead? If it were the second, Loki clearly could understand the cold reception, because he hadn't forgiven himself still for leaving Harry behind through no fault of his own. He doubted Stark wanted to listen to his explanations or his excuses, but Loki offered to express them regardless. Stark continued to stare back at him with the same I-will-destroy-you glare that seemed to cross his face anytime Loki and Harry were brought up in the same conversation or were in the same room together.
It would be much more difficult than he had first presumed, Loki corrected his earlier correction, glancing resignedly at Tony Stark once more. But then his eyes searched the room, landing on Harry who was leaning against the bar that was a must have in every Stark household, and his eyes were bright and his mouth was curving up, and he whispered, "I love you," just loud enough for them all to hear, and Loki consoled himself that no matter how hard it would be to win Stark's approval, nor how long it took, and thus how long his freedom was denied to him for, the end result would be more than worth it.
"I love you too," Loki whispered back. Though, he did take great, secret, satisfaction in the ugly scowl that crossed Tony's face.
"Fuck this," Stark growled, jumping out of his seat and making his way hurriedly to the bar, ignoring Pepper and Harry's laughs, "I need a drink." He turned to Harry, "you want a drink? Pepper, you want a drink?" They both shook their heads as Tony grabbed an unopened bottle of scotch.
"You never did give me that drink I was offered, Mr Stark. If I recall correctly, I received one from Harry, but not you." Loki folded his hands demurely in his lap, keeping his expression innocent as Tony turned slowly, one eye twitching, to stare straight at him again. "May I perhaps have a drink, please?"
"Fuck you, asshole," Tony grunted at him, before drinking straight from the bottle. Five minute later, Tony moved to pour himself an actual drink from a second bottle he pulled out from behind the bar. When he sat down, he had two glasses with him, and he slid one silently across the table towards Loki. Loki picked it up unhesitantly, and sipped from it, nodding his thanks even as Stark took a rather large mouthful from his own drink, grimacing at the sight of Harry moving to sit beside Loki, pressed closely against the god's side.
"Well, Loki, huh?" He asked Harry after Pepper had brought him his third drink.
"Yeah," Harry whispered, glancing besottedly up at the dark haired man, "Loki."
Harry sounded so happy, so different from the Harry he had known this past year that Tony wondered if the year had really happened at all or if it had all been a figment of his imagination. But no, they were living in a rented house, because Loki had tried to take over Asgard, fallen into insanity apparently, been mind controlled, tried to take over earth so that he could find Harry and marry him (and what a backwards, fucked up fairy tale this was starting to sound like within Tony's slightly buzzed mind) and save him from the evil Prince Thor, and then had smashed up Tony's house along with a lot more of New York, resulting in them living in this rented house. And through it all, Harry had been lonely, heartbroken and insecure, but now, with Loki pressed against his side, smiling softly down at Harry, who raised his chin occasionally to beg for chaste kisses Harry didn't look any of those things. He looked happy. It was because Harry looked so happy that Tony forced down the anger and resentment, (and damn, but he was a spiteful bastard), and ignored the voice in his head that whispered this person was planning to take his son away from him, and held out his hand instead.
"Anthony Stark, but if you call me Anthony I'll have Hulk use you to make a mosaic out of the floor, got it? It's Tony, or Stark, or, well, anything but Anthony." Tony finished the rest of his drink, reaching for the bottle that Pepper had kept cradled on her lap beside him. "Want another?"
"Sure," Loki answered, holding his glass out. "Thank you, Tony. Then I insist you call me Loki in return, deal?"
"Yeah, sure, whatever, bottoms up." They sipped from their drinks, and made awkward small talk, and Tony decided Loki wasn't too bad when he wasn't breaking up with people or breaking up cities, and he rolled his eyes when he caught Harry's mouthed, 'thank you, dad', and responded with, "so, exiled god that you are, you got somewhere to stay? Cause there's plenty of room here." He paused, thinking about it, and then added, "but you're staying in your own room, got it?"
"Yes, Tony, I 'got it'. I thank you for the offer, and I will gladly accept it."
It turned out that Thor had wasted his time finding Loki somewhere to live on Midgard, because Loki continued to spend every night at Tony Stark's temporary home and every day with Tony Stark's son. They never did sleep in separate rooms, but Tony knew enough now about holding on to what you've got with both hands to hold his tongue and just let Harry be happy. He did throw in the odd comment now and then, mostly to watch Harry blush, or see Bruce choke on his cereal, though Loki only ever smirked deviously at him, and threw back his own comment that had Pepper flushing a rather fetching shade of pink.
When the Avengers Tower was rebuilt and renamed, each Avenger got their own floor, if they wanted it. Tony got the top two floors to himself; the first, topmost floor was his workshop and no one was allowed in there, ever, but he shared the second with Pepper. The floor below Tony's was Harry's, and he shared it with Loki.
1 – Kept wanting to say "the boy with the bread"!
2 – Burdened with glorious Porpoise, anyone? See this: . /tumblr_m46ze5QHJG1qinkz0o1_
Thank you all for reading. Please consider leaving a review, because LoKitty will purr for you if you do! And, now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to destroy Jötunheimr…! (Walks away, all BAMF, with my sceptre, activates the full power of the bifrost… freaks everyone out, turns the bifrost off again. Laughs. Just kidding, Frost Giants, LOL jokes. Loki'd) XD