Disclaimer: Don't own.

Chapter Twenty Six

Harry sat back, pulling out of Fenrir's mind as smoothly as possible. The pup had no real idea what was going on, too young to understand, but he had been insatiably curious about what his 'packmate' was doing inside his mind. The entity that was Fenrir's being had followed Harry around the entirety of the three hours, asking questions about everything. Not content to stand back and observe like his elder brother had.

But that wasn't what was troubling the wizard. What he had seen of Fenrir's mind had been astonishing. The difference between his and Sleipnir's base instincts area was decidedly marked. Where Sleipnir's was bad, Fenrir's was horrible.

He caressed the sleepy pups head, his eyes distant. "I don't know if I'll be able to finish his base instincts by my next session. It's so bad, it looks like it will need at least two more three hour stints before it's done." He told Sleipnir quietly.

"The way you spoke of this "tearing" of minds, you made it sound like it would get worse as we aged, and yet, you now say that my younger brother's mind was more torn than mine? Why is that?'Sleipnir asked, his voice a soft whisper in the world walker's head. Fenrir drifted into dreams of bright colors and the warm presence that he associated with his pack mate.

Harry sighed, and ran his fingers through the downy fur. "I have a theory, but there's no way I could prove it." He murmured.

"By all means, share it." The horse urged.

"Well, when Loki was talking about snapping the bonds, he said that by the last time, he felt next to nothing. Fenrir would have been the last connection he broke so maybe by that time Loki's own mind recognized the signs of a breaking connection, and instead of allowing itself to experience the pain, redirected it back to the other end of the connection, thus doubling the damage done to Fenrir's end."

Sleipnir stomped once, baring his teeth. "You talked once of peace between us and the one that born us, but-" His large chest heaved with suppressed anger, "That man has done nothing but cause my siblings and I grief. Were my servitude the extent of my quarrels with him, there would have been hope for forgiveness, but now..." He moved forward to nudge at his slumbering younger brother, instincts urging him to take in the other animal's sent, which would usually help to gauge his health. But the pain that Fenrir had experienced was long gone, probably not even remembered. What lingered now was not a physical aspect.

Harry nodded, "I understand if you feel that way. I'm not going to force you to make peace with him. Hell," Here, he scowled, "If I didn't have to look at this objectively, I would go right now and incinerate him without another word."

Sleipnir's dark eyes focused on him. "What is staying your hand?"

The wizard gazed down at the sleeping wolf in his lap. "Mainly? Two things. One, he was a lot younger when he made the mistake of breaking the connection. A decision that he, by his own admission, did not entirely understand. Where would we all be if we were made to suffer forever for a bad decision?"

"He should suffer." Sleipnir's voice was a hiss in his mind, and Harry sighed. He would love to agree with the horse, but really, he had made some pretty spectacular fuck ups in his time, so it would be pretty hypocritical for him to hold Loki to answer for ancient mistakes, especially when the god was sure to be punished by Odin soon enough. Sleipnir took that nebulous thought that Harry couldn't quite put into words. Harry could feel him calming over the link, soothed, most likely, by the knowledge that Loki was going to be suffering soon enough. "And the second?" He prompted finally.

"Er... what?"

"You said there were two reasons why you were hesitant to just kill the man. What is the second?"

"Fenrir." Harry said simply, shrugging.

The horse tossed his head, and a wave of exasperation flooded the link. "Yes, he does still hold a persistent... affection for the man. He would be sad if we kept him away."

The dark haired man nodded, quirking a small smile. "Maybe he knows something we don't."

Sleipnir just snorted at that.

A few hours later found Harry standing alone in the park he had been to the day before. The Avengers had promised to meet here one last time until they scattered to their proper places, and Harry was a bit early. He sat pensively by a gurgling fountain, staring into the water like it held the answers to the universe.

He didn't hear the approaching footsteps until Thor was right behind him. When the man wasn't speaking, he could be incredibly quiet. Sometimes.

"World Walker, we are ready to depart." Thor said, his booming voice breaking the almost hypnotic state the other man was in. Harry jumped slightly, and turned to look at him, smiling sheepishly.

"Alright. Everyone's already here?"

Thor just nodded, and lead Harry over to the group. Natasha smiled warmly when she saw him, and Clint nodded. Tony grinned and grabbed his arm, dragging him over to Bruce so the two could explain how, under the right circumstances, the cube's transportation tube could also open a gate between Earth and Asgard, though the function was moot with Harry there. Steve just grinned when he saw the wizard roll his eyes in exasperated affection.

All the while Loki stood off to the side between two burly armed guards, his eyes intent on the scene.

Where were the animals? That was an integral part of his plan to get the powerful World Walker to trust him, and yet he could not enact that plan if the other parties were not present. Had the wizard already taken them ahead to Asgard?

Loki would have bared his teeth in irritation if it weren't for the odd thing over his mouth. Which was yet another hitch in his plan. If he could not speak, how could he convince the World Walker he had changed?

At just that moment, said man seemed to notice him, and the god found himself the focus of hard, laser green eyes.

The brief twist of a sneer on the World Walker's face was not a reassuring sight.

Loki felt like throwing things. His life was in danger, and the only hope of saving it was rapidly slipping through his fingers.

He took a deep breath, and tried to content himself with the thought that, while the World Walker disliked him now, maybe when they were both on Asgard Loki could insinuate himself into the group of those the wizard considered trustworthy after enough time.

Harry clapped Thor on the back, and jerked his head in the prisoner's direction. "So are you ready to push off?" He asked?

The god of thunder blinked, his eyes full of confusion. "Push... off? Of what?"

The dark haired man shook his head. "Sorry, turn of phrase. It means to leave."

The blond's expression brightened with comprehension. "Oh! Then yes! I am ready to be pushing off!"

Harry laughed lightly. "Close enough." Turning back to the group at large, he smiled. "Alright, so I'll be back in... say four hours? I need to speak to Odin and pay a visit to Heimdall. Fenrir should be waking up soon, and he'll be hungry, but you shouldn't have a problem with that. And feed Sleipnir, too. I'd like to keep them both on the same meal schedule. Don't forget to take them both outside to-"

Tony waved his hand, rolling his eyes. "Alright mom, I get it. Babysitting duty for me."

Harry grinned. "You got that right. Just be glad I'm not making you give Fenrir a bath." He took the container that held the Tesseract from Bruce, and made towards Loki. He handed the cube to Thor on the way.

He didn't get to see Tony's expression. The horror on the philanthropist's face was real. "I will never get that bathroom back to normal again. I should never have let him get a bath there." He bemoaned to the only person who would listen to him, which turned out to be Bruce. But he didn't get sympathy from the other scientist. Instead, the man laughed.

Thor and Harry went to stand in front of Loki while the two guards stepped back. The other Avengers gathered around in a loose circle to see them off. Harry stiffly grabbed Loki's arm, his face decidedly neutral. Thor clasped the wizard's other arm. With a final slurry of goodbyes, the three were gone. No one noticed the way the cube flashed when Harry's power activated.

They found themselves facing both Odin and Heimdall when they landed, and Harry quickly pulled away from the god of mischief to make his way over to his friend, a bright smile on his face. Thor handed the Tesseract to his father with a grandiose gesture, and the king took it solemnly, waiting until it was handed off to an attendant to pull his son into a hug.

The king then made his way over to Loki, who had watched the whole thing with blank eyes.

That expression did not stick around when Odin pulled him, too, into a hug.

"Welcome home, my son." Odin said gruffly, pulling away. The bound man just stared at him with open confusion.

Sighing and shaking his head, Odin said, "Were it not for your actions against Midgard, you would have been restored to your rightful place without punishment. Your fight should have started, and ended here. Because you decided that the innocent had to suffer for your folly, and struck a deal with the war creatures, you will have to face the consequences. I- what is over your face?" It seemed the king had only just noticed the technological gag that had been used on his youngest son.

"It is a device that kept my brother from using his silver tongue. The people of Midgard would fall easily into his web were he able to weave it." Thor explained boisterously. "So Director Fury decided that they would use that, in case there were others at the place of our departure. It proved an unneeded measure, but I thought it wise all the same."

Odin nodded, examining the device with interest. "I have heard much of this Director Fury from Heimdall. He seems like a warrior of good integrity. Is there a way to remove this?"

"There's a button on the side that releases it, same with the cuffs. I figure you have something that would hold him if you needed to."

Turning away from his bound son, he nodded to the wizard. "Indeed, but I hope that we can come to a decision that would make them unneeded. World walker. I gather that there is much we need to talk about. Would you be willing to wait until my family and I have discussed what is to happen to Loki?"

Harry nodded and smiled. "Of course, Odin. You'll find me at the Bifrost when you're done." He bowed, before Heimdall led him off.

Half an hour later found the two inside the Bifrost building, which had mostly been cleaned up by that point, lounging on a set of dark blue furniture Harry had declared the building needed.

"So what do you think I should do?" The wizard asked after a few minutes of silence. He knew he wouldn't have to explain what he was talking about.

Heimdall made a thoughtful humming sound. "Why do you feel the need to ask, Harry? You should know better than I do what sort of action this situation is calling for."

Harry turned to flop onto his stomach, stretched over the chaise lounge he was laying on, and sighed. "I don't know. I feel like I could mess up a lot of things if I make a bad decision."

"You could." Heimdall told him, nodding.

The dark haired man grimaced. "Thanks for the vote of confidence. No pressure, right?"

The god smiled. "But you are not going to make the wrong decision. You will think you are sometimes, but in the end, it will all work out for the better."

Harry blinked at him. "Oh, right. I forgot that sometimes you don't just see the present. So... just continue as I have been, then?"

Heimdall reached over the arm rest of the couch he was sitting on to ruffle the wizard's already messy hair. "Not only are you piecing back together a family, but you are well on your way to preventing Ragnarök."

"That is a relief." Odin said from the doorway, and both men turned to look at him. "I will admit, I was wary of placing the future of our whole race in the hands of an outsider. It is good to know my trust was not misplaced."

"Well, Heimdall did tell me all I needed to do was be myself. And since I had no plans to be anyone else, it worked out well for me." Harry said, sitting up. He gestured to the only piece of furniture that was not occupied, a plush blue arm chair.

Odin sat with a smile, and Harry grinned when he saw the surprised pleasure on the other man's face. The chair was probably a lot more comfortable than that gilded throne he normally sat on.

"Since you're here, I'm guessing that you have made a decision about what's going to happen with Loki." The wizard prompted.

Odin nodded. "We have, but before that... how are my grandchildren?" He looked a bit taken aback when Harry scowled.

"Loki did a number on them. I don't know about Hel, but both Sleipnir and Fenrir have some pretty severe mental damage. I hate it when people who have no idea what they're doing try to dabble in the mental arts."

The king sighed, and seemed to age before their eyes. "Heimdall has told me about Loki's brash actions regarding them. You must understand that it was a mistake made by a young and foolish man."

"I know. But it's still a hard pill to swallow. I don't know if I'll ever get Sleipnir to forgive Loki. Fenrir I would have no problem with, he's just a child. But Sleipnir's older, and has had more time to become bitter. I don't know how Jormungand feels, because I still haven't found him. Hel... well, she's mad at Loki, but only because of what his actions did to her brothers." Harry told him. "The real problem is, I don't know if I'm willing to let the kids be around Loki enough for any of them to really forgive him. He was young when he made the mistake of tearing the bonds, but he also spurned each of them, and continued to do so long past the point one could call him 'young and foolish'."

Odin sat back. "That... may prove to be a problem. I did not consider you would feel that way."

Harry gave him a strange look. "I told you before about the many children I've adopted over the years. It should come as no surprise to you that I would be wary about letting someone who has messed up so much near the ones he's wronged so badly. But... why would that be a problem for you?"

The king smiled a bit sheepishly, and Harry was reminded of how many times he'd seen Thor make the same expression. He was torn away from his musings when he registered the words that accompanied the smile. "The decision has been made that Loki would lose his magic powers until he has proven worthy of them. And that he would be put under your authority back on Midgard."

And that's chapter 26. New poll on my profile, unrelated to Crestfallen. I don't know why I always update so late at night...