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Chapter Twenty Five

Harry's expression brightened drastically, and he smiled at his companion. "That's all I'll ever ask of you. I don't need anything else." He sighed, and straightened on the bed, noting absently with relief that Fenrir had fallen asleep on his lap at some point. At least Harry wouldn't have to worry about what havoc the young wolf could wreak upon his room unsupervised.

Running his finger over the wolf's soft snout, he put a sleeping spell on Fenrir that would keep him in that state for a few hours. Just in case.

Turning his attention back to Sleipnir, he began explaining what he was going to do. He often found that explaining things tended to soothe the people around him when he was doing something they weren't used to, and often had the benefit of avoiding later conflict. "Now, I've already done this sort of thing twice, so you won't find a better expert on it than me. What I need to do is delve into your mind. Minds are separated into three parts, conscious thought, memory building, and base instincts. I'm going to have to go through each thoroughly looking for cracks and weaknesses. To do this, I'm going to have to enter your mind three times, because you have to go in with a destination, and that's the only place you can go while you're in there. On average, altogether, the process takes eighteen hours. I usually stretch it over six days, spending two three hour increments in each zone. Do you want to start today or..."

"No, it is fine. We can start now." A gusty sigh echoed in Harry's mind. "Even when he is not here, that man causes problems for my siblings and I. I assume you will have to do the same for Jormungand if he is receptive?"

"It would probably save everyone a lot of trouble. Even in your Earth bound forms, you two have a lot of power. I can only imagine what Jormungand is like, having lived here since..."

Sleipnir snorted. "You try to be too tactful. I am grown and can handle the truth you avoid. You meant to say, 'since he was cast out by Odin'. I am no fool, World-walker."

Harry shook his head ruefully. "No, you're not. But your life's been pretty difficult up until now, and I hate to have to add to it."

"The truth is not a difficulty by itself. It is the intent behind it that makes some truths hard to bear. Your only intent, for whatever reason, is to care for my siblings and I."

The wizard looked to the side, embarrassed. "You're very blunt." He muttered.

Sleipnir tossed his head, and Harry got the impression that if he could, the horse would be smirking. "I am only being truthful. Now. Shall we begin?"

The dark haired man nodded. "Yeah. Alright. Could you come closer? All you have to do is look me in the eyes. From that point on, your consciousness will be following mine around, seeing what I see." The animal god complied, and Harry smiled one last time before diving in.

He decided that the first area he would work on would be the base instincts, wagering that most of the damage would be there, and focused on that thought, letting the mind naturally pull him there.

Hunger, fear, pain, anger, sadness, lust. It was all here in an ever undulating and pulsating whirl of colors, and flashes of emotion.

"So these are my base instincts? I did not expect something so disorganized." The consciousness did not have a recognizable form, it was just an entity that gave of the same feeling that Sleipnir did in the real world.

Harry sighed. "It's not supposed to be." There was a lot more to be done here than he thought.

Sleipnir was silent as the wizard worked, disentangling strands of emotions and healing patches where it seemed something had split, spilling colors all over.

Harry lost himself in his work, forgetting everything except what he was doing. He did not have to make an effort not to examine the innermost feelings of his charge, because he barely gave them a passing glance, other than to clean them up.

It was a surprise to feel the tug of his body, calling his mind back.

"That would be the end of our first time, then, Sleipnir." Harry announced, and allowed the pull to grip him.

He opened his eyes, and stretched muscles that cramped from being in the same position for a few hours. "Alright, so tomorrow I'll finish up with that section, and then start on your brother. We'll find out soon enough if I have to do the same thing with Hel."

"What the heck was that?" Tony's voice caused Harry to jump, which jostled the still sleeping Fenrir into wakefulness as the sleeping spell wore off. The wolf blinked in confusion, and yawned.

Harry looked around to find himself surrounded by interested looking Avengers. He lifted an eyebrow. "Jarvis?" He called pointedly.

"I'm sorry sir, but Mr. Stark overrode your order forcefully. And... technically, they weren't bothering you." The AI pointed out.

The wizard shook his head. "Yeah, great." He muttered. "How long have all of you been standing there?"

"Well, we've actually just been coming in and out to check on you for the past two hours. So... what was that? We come in, and you and pony boy are just staring at each other, not blinking or moving or anything. I thought you two were having the most intense staring match ever... but you didn't even twitch when we called your name so then I figured that it probably had something to do with the thing point break and Capsicle said you were pissed about." Everyone else gathered nodded in agreement while Tony threw himself on the bed, and was immediately besieged by a playful Fenrir, who tugged on his hair.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Could we move this interrogation out into the lounge. It would be too cramped if I were to conjure seats for everyone." He said, getting up. Turning to Sleipnir, he murmured, "Stay in here and get some sleep. You'll be too tired to do anything for a few hours."

"Do not worry about me. I had no intention of following you. The man who smells of iron and pain is annoying when he is curious." Harry snorted, and picked up the tail end of the line that filed out of his room.

Once they were all settled, Harry began. "Well, I'm going to assume that by now all of you have a vague notion of what Loki did."

Natasha nodded. "Thor and the Captain filled us in when we got back." She motioned to herself and Clint.

Cap shrugged sheepishly. "Sounded like he got rid of some sort of connection that he had with the kids, and doing so did a lot of damage."

The wizard nodded. "That's a bit of an understatement."

Over the next few minutes, he filled in the entire group about the different links, and how they worked.

"So... in tearing it apart, he tore apart some of the children's minds?" Thor growled, looking at Fenrir, who had followed them out of the room and was playing with a ball Harry had conjured for him.

"In short, that's exactly what he did."

Tony frowned. "How does that connect back to the staring contest we found you having?"

"Is it like what you did for me?" Clint asked gruffly. Harry had a feeling the guy didn't thank people much, and had no idea how to go about it.

He nodded. "In a sense, yes, it is. I go into the mind, and fix it. But that's where the similarities stop. See, with you, Clint, I felt that the poison was only affecting one part of your mind, the memory building. I went there, and got rid of any lingering poison from the staff. But there are two other areas of the mind, the base instincts and the conscious thought. What I'm doing for Sleipnir and Fenrir is going into all three of those areas and fixing any damage caused by the breaking of their link to Loki."

"Sounds pretty intricate." Bruce pointed out, looking interested.

Harry shrugged. "Not really. It's just a lot of work." His eyes sharpened. "But what you guys did today was foolish." The group as a whole flinched from his sudden change in tone. "If you had disturbed me over much, the connection between my mind and my body could have snapped, leaving my consciousness stranded in a part of Sleipnir's mind."

They all looked horrified at the notion, and began talking at once, and the wizard sighed, putting up his hand to stop the chatter. "It's alright, it didn't happen. But for the next few weeks, you'll need to leave me alone if I ask you to. I'm going to be doing this for several days. Understand?"

"Of course, Gle-Harry, I'll make sure we'll stay out from under your foot while you're taking care of the kids." Cap said forcefully. Harry smiled at him, then stood, stretching.

"Alright, talk over. I'm starved." He announced, unceremoniously walking off to the kitchen, leaving a slightly dazed group behind.

Thor address them. "Do you think he intends to do anything to Loki, for what he has done?"

No one could answer him, because no one knew.


Harry sat back with a sigh the next day. "All right, that's your base instincts back in order. That man really did a number on them." He muttered. "He better hope for his sake that the rest are not in such bad order."

Sleipnir nodded sleepily, his eyelids already drooping. It was interesting watching the world-walker work in the mental scape. But he claimed the area was done, and it looked the same to the horse god as it had the first time he had seen it.

Maybe there were things out of order that he would not notice, as untrained as he was in the mental arts?

He let that thought pull him into slumber, while Harry quietly got up and led Fenrir out of the room.

"Outside?" The wolf asked hopefully. Harry grinned down at him.

"Sounds like a great idea." He told the animal, conjuring a leash and collar that fixed themselves onto Fenrir's neck. The young wolf pranced around as he led his packmate to the door.

"Going out, Harry?" Cap called, jogging up to them.

The wizard smiled. "Yeah, you want to come?" He offered. Cap accepted cheerfully, but before they could make it to the door, they were stopped again.

"Save me, Harry!" Tony cried dramatically, grinning as he ran out of the lab. Harry could hear Bruce shouting after the man. "Oh. Are you going to walk Fenrir?" The man asked brightly, "Can I come? I need to get out of that lab!"

Rolling his eyes, Harry laughed. "Alright. You want to come too, Bruce?" He called, and heard an affirmative sounding but incomprehensible answer. Soon all four were trekking out the front door of the building, waving at the construction workers.

Harry marveled at how resilient the people of New York were. It was not even a week after the attack, and it seemed the people were already getting back on their feet and back to business as usual.

A few people who caught sight of the group stopped and stared. Apparently they'd been recognized. Harry quickly sent up a mild Notice-Me-Not around them so that they wouldn't be mobbed. Too many people made Fenrir nervous. The people who had stopped shook their heads and moved on, and the infamous group was left alone.

They walked to the closest park, chattering to each other. Bruce and Tony seemed to be deep into a discussion about the project they were working on. Steve decided it was the perfect time to ask the question that had been on his mind since the day before.

"Hey, Harry, you said yesterday that we need to leave you alone for the next few weeks to deal with what Loki had done to the kids... but you're leaving tomorrow, aren't you?"

The wizard smiled at him, clearly understanding the question the man didn't want to ask. "Yeah, but I'm coming back right after." He carefully did not comment on the other man's sigh of relief. He could understand the value of a familiar face in a strange world. "Loki needs to spend some serious time with Odin, Frigga, and Thor. And besides, I don't want the kids near him right now, so I'm leaving Fenrir and Sleipnir here while I transport the brothers and the Cube to Asgard, and then I'm heading back here. It's time I started looking for Jormungand."

"The world snake, right?" Steve asked, remembering someone talking about it.

Harry nodded. "Someone's been reading up on their mythology."

"Not really, but I think I heard Director Fury mention him."

Harry's expression sharpened. He hadn't forgotten about the man, and the council he still had to deal with, but they had been put off for more important things. Now that he was thinking about it, maybe it was time to visit the man, and the council that had attempted to bomb the city.

Filing the thought away for later, he let Fenrir off his leash at the park, and smiled as the pup immediately found some innocent bug to stalk.

Tilting his head back to look at the sky, he frowned. There was a faint sense of something at the edge of his senses, something wrong. It felt like Hel's aura in some ways, but nothing like her in others. It was a jarring note.

"Harry, could you help me out here? The good Doctor insists that my calculations aren't right, but he won't tell me where they're wrong." He heard Tony whine, and turned to the man, shaking his head. He was just being oversensitive. Nothing was coming.

The evil had been eradicated.

Right?


Miles away, in a bunker that very few people knew about, and fewer still knew the location of, a prisoner looked at the bleak ceiling of his cell, and shuddered.

Loki had been warned of what would happen should he fail, and had waved it off. It was assured that he would not fail.

But in the face of the gathering of humans, his brother, and the world-walker, he and his powerful army had fallen. And now... he did not want to think about what He would do to him once he came. And it was assured that he would come.

But maybe... maybe, if Loki threw himself to Odin's mercy...

It was of no use. Even Odin, in all his power, was no match for Him. Odin was more suited to the throne than the battlefield, now, having ruled for so long in peaceful times. But... Loki had felt the power from the World-Walker. The human-who-was-not-human contained more might than the god of mischief had ever encountered. He, and the ones who called themselves the Avengers, may be able to protect him from what would come for him.

But the Avengers would not protect him if the world-walker refused to. And the world-walker would refuse to as long as they had quarrels about the things Loki had borne. So, in order to gain the protection of the only being that could save him, the animals were the key.

He would just have to... play at being a father to the long enough to gain the world-walker's approval.

He smiled grimly. It was a slim hope, but it was all he had.


And now, bedtime. Because it is three in the morning, and I have work in a few hours.

Lionna