People get Murphy's Law wrong a lot. It's been boiled down into the phrase: "If it can go wrong, it will go wrong." There are a lot of people out there who claim it's actually: "If it can't go wrong, it still can go wrong, and probably will." Actually, Murphy's Law is more accurately represented as follows: "If there are two ways for something to be done, where one option will bring success and the other failure, then the variant where failure is the result is more likely be the first one taken." It is because of Murphy's Law that power plugs have a clearly defined fashion by which they are inserted into the outlet. Some even say that it was actually because of the first power plug of real importance not having any way of telling if it was being put in the right way around or not that Murphy's Law came into being in the first place. Murphy's Law was meant to be applied to machines, mechanical accoutrement of various varieties, inanimate objects, and non-living things.
Not carbon-based life-forms and their social interactions. Though, on occasion, it did seem to apply there as well.
There's a funny thing about the way people age. Up until about the age of twenty-some, there's definite changes that occur in each passing year. From twenty-some to thirty-some, not so much, though there's a difference between twenty-some and forty-some, and less difference between thirty-some and forty-some... but those changes, though happening slowly, still visibly happen and people notice. Once a person is past sixty-some, on the other hand, people stop noticing. By that time there's masses of grey hair and wrinkles and possibly even some of that infamous 'old person smell' hanging about if they've got joint problems that mean they can't wash themselves as thoroughly as they once could.
So, when Harry died at seventeen, met Death and was told that thanks to his new status as 'Master of Death' (a la reuniting all the Hollows) he wouldn't die (or at least, he wouldn't stay dead if he did die) Harry quickly started talking technicalities with the anthropomorphic personification that had just claimed deference to him. Harry might have let it be said – and often – that he wasn't the most intelligent wizard of his generation, but... there was a reason (quite apart from a little bit of Tom Riddle attached to him at the time) that the Hat had wanted to put Harry in Slytherin in his first year of Hogwarts.
Ten years of living with the Dursleys had taught Harry – and taught him very well – to hide his achievements. To dumb down his tests and assignments. To not draw attention to himself – of any kind if he could help it. While he couldn't help it nearly so much in the Magical World as he could in the Non-Magical World, he had managed to pass himself off as a lot less intelligent (and a lot less learned and well-read) than he really was.
In the end, they settled on Harry being allowed to age until his mid-thirties. It was a compromise that Harry was much more satisfied with than Death's original proposition of him not ageing any more from the moment Harry's soul rejoined his seventeen-year-old body. Some people might be out for eternal life and youth, but not Harry. Mid-thirties was a good age for blending into crowds unnoticed, people wouldn't mind if he didn't age too much if he was stuck at that point, and he could grow and/or shave as according to how young or old he wanted to look if he was in his thirties with a few lines set in. Besides, mid-thirties would still have him in his prime, providing he kept fit.
When Harry opened his eyes, he did not (as a great many would have expected) immediately return to the battlefield. Instead, he apparated to Gringotts. There, he emptied his accounts. His trust vault, the greater Potter Family Vault that held more material assets than money, and the Black Family Vault that had been left to him by Sirius. Oh, he didn't empty them completely. No, that would be suspicious. To say nothing of pissing off the goblins if he removed his entire wealth from their bank. They were a bit more accommodating when he explained that he intended to (as far as the Magical World was concerned anyway) 'stay dead'. After all, there had been plenty of witnesses to his death just an hour before.
After that, he waited out the 'Final Battle' in a secure location until news of Neville (of all people) killing Voldemort made the front page of the Daily Prophet. Harry was glad for his once-shy friend, being recognised as a hero and all would be good for him, he was sure. Once the furore had died down, Harry grabbed up several differently-flavoured vials of polyjuice potion and went to do a lot of shopping. He had plans of leaving the UK after all, so he'd be stocking up on everything that Diagon Alley had to offer him before he left.
Including a thin little guide to all the magical shopping locations around the world. That would come in very handy when he made his move. It was also useful in that it indicated that only the wizards and witches in the UK, France and Scandinavia used a different currency to the non-magical population.
That his little shopping spree helped to bolster the economy a little bit didn't hurt, and he made absolutely sure to stock up most particularly on items from the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes Defence Range. Like their Peruvian Darkness Powder – he got enough of that to last him until he could find (or figure out) the recipe to make it for himself.
Which, incidentally, put Peru up near the top on his list of 'places to visit'. Places he would be visiting through use of non-magical methods. He'd take a train, take a boat, take a plane, heck, he'd even ride a goat (to go with the short list from the old song Cuanta la Gusta) though he'd probably keep that last one for 'only if he had to'. Horses, donkeys, camels or similar native variants that were more normally trained for transportation would be much preferred to goats, as far as Harry was concerned. Or any other animal with horns/antlers/pointy bits on its head and a generally unhelpful attitude in regards to being ridden.
Regardless of goats or similar though, travel the non-magical way would allow Harry plenty of time to study the various texts he had bought for himself on his last spending-spree in England. One which, incidentally, took him outside of just Diagon Alley. So, while he spent time on the train that would take him to Wales, Harry started studying.
When he got to Wales, he learned even more: he charmed a metalsmith into taking him on. From six in the morning until one in the afternoon, Harry learned everything there was to know about various metals and how to work them. After that time, Harry dedicated himself to his magical studies. Mondays was transfiguration, Tuesdays was charms, curses, hexes and jinxes, Wednesdays was potions, and Thursdays was studying runes (including hieroglyphs) and the cultures they had come from. Fridays he packed up and left for a weekend exploring the country. Three years of that had Harry proficient in working nearly all metals, fluent (though not without accent) in the Welsh language, and ready to move on to his next destination.
In Ireland, it was much of the same routine for Harry. He chose a trade, found a tradesman, and learned from him in the mornings before dedicating himself to his magical studies in the afternoons and going exploring on the weekends. After learning about carpentry for three years in Ireland, Harry moved down to Spain, where he learned the language through immersion, a little help from a handy translation book, and a helpful old potter who spoke both English and Spanish. A helpful old potter who was willing to teach Harry all there was to know about clay, about shaping it and moulding it and all the different ways it was fired in the kiln.
Harry moved to France after three years in Spain, and in France he had to change his routine – studying magic in the mornings and learning about making alcohol in the afternoons. Wine in particular, but a little experimentation and searching the internet (something introduced to him by his French wine-making teacher) taught Harry enough about other sorts of alcohol as well that he felt sure he could make more than just wine if he cared to. Of course, learning to make wine means learning to grow grapes, and on a grand scale, so Harry learns about farming as consequence to that, and about budgeting a farm and business as a further consequence.
After France, twelve years after he'd gotten out of England, Harry went to Germany. The first thing he did in Germany was get a series of special tattoos across his back. The 'pattern' was a series of runes. A way Harry had figured out for himself to be able to turn into more than just one animal. If they were translated, the runes Harry had on his skin in black ink would read 'air change, water change, earth change, fire change' – roughly anyway – and by sending his magic to any specific mark, he would be able to change into an animal of that element. Well, except for the fire one, that was the mark that would help him turn back into himself, fire here representing the human spirit.
Harry spent three years in Germany after getting tattooed learning from a mechanic who owned his own garage. He'd been on his way out of Germany – hiking through some of their remaining forested area – when he saw two figures coming towards him from the sky.
He was very near to where they semi-crash-landed (he was at the top of the rocky outcropping after all – he'd curled up there in the form of a wolf for the night), but managed to get the slight ringing in his ears to stop in time to hear a slightly breathless, ever-so-slightly pained, and very amused (to say nothing of sarcastic) voice say: "Oh, I missed you too."
Without even looking, Harry decided he liked this person, who could be presumably hauled out of a craft, without a parachute, slammed into the ground, and then joke out a greeting. Well, he liked his sense of humour at least. Then he rolled his furry, currently-wolf-shaped body around on his bit-of-dirt-surrounded-by-rock-in-a-high-place and looked down at the two people he'd spotted as they fell from the sky without a parachute and (apparently unharmed) were stopping to have a not-entirely-pleasant chat.
An absolutely fascinating not-entirely-pleasant chat.
"Do I look to be in a gaming mood?" demanded the one who was still upright – armour on his top half, short beard over the entire bottom half of his face, light coloured hair (Harry would guess blonde, but being a wolf at that moment he only saw in greys and smell) a cape hanging from his shoulders and a stupidly massive hammer in one hand.
The one on the ground, dark hair, layers of fabric that were intricately put together, clean-shaven, grunted as he tilted his head up to look at the other man. "You should thank me," he said. "With the Bifrost gone, how much energy did the Allfather have to muster to conjure you here, to your precious Earth?" he asked as he slowly pulled himself up, off the ground. His tone was mildly derisive by the end, where before it had been sarcastically fond.
Now, those words – Bifrost, Allfather – those were words that Harry knew from when he'd been studying all things related to Norse runes (which meant mythology, of course, and damn that had been fascinating! Why couldn't Binns have talked about some of that stuff? Then again, Binns could have made the apocalypse sound as boring as a snail watching paint dry).
The guy with the hammer slammed it into the ground, clearly frustrated. "I thought you dead," he said as he grabbed the other man.
"Did you mourn?" asked the darker one.
"We all did," the light-haired one answered. "Our father -"
"Your father," the dark-haired one cut in, raising a finger between them to highlight his point before removing the other's hands. "He did tell you my true parentage, did he not?" he asked as he started to walk away, a hand at the small of his back. Clearly he'd been slammed into the ground quite solidly.
"We were raised together," objected the light-haired one. "We played together, we fought together," he continued as he started to follow after the other man. "Do you remember none of that?"
"I remember a shadow," the dark-haired man answered solemnly, turning back to face his light-haired apparently-adopted brother. "Living in the shade of your greatness. I remember you tossing me into an abyss. I who was, and should be, king!"
An adopted brother who he apparently wasn't getting along with these days.
"So you take the world I love as recompense for your imagined slights?" the light-haired man asked.
Harry couldn't help but notice the expression on the dark-haired man's face. Really, it was the only face he could see from that angle, so it had his full attention. Wolf eyes may not be able to see in colour, but they sure as hell saw in detail, even in the low light.
"No. The Earth is under my protection, Loki."
Ooh, now there was a juicy name. Made everything fit into place too. Loki. The dark-haired man was the trickster god of Norse myth. How... how very his damn luck. He'd managed to go this long without any trouble finding him too. Beyond having to fast-talk his way out of being punched in the face because some guy's girl decided to make eyes at him from across the floor of an establishment where alcohol was sold. Okay, when he'd been reading up on Norse canon he'd become a bit of a fan of Loki's – sympathetic to not only his plight but the what-all that his kids had been subjected to (and really, it looked like there were no good father-figures in the Norse canon) – but there was a difference between liking a god in theory and actually meeting the guy.
Loki, for his part, laughed a cruelly amused laugh. "And you're doing a marvellous job with that," he said sarcastically. "The humans slaughter each other in droves, while you idly fret. I mean to rule them, as why should I not?"
"You think yourself above them?" the light-haired man asked. And really, Harry was going to take a stab in the dark and guess he was Thor. What with the out-of-the-blue lightning storm just before they'd showed up and the very big hammer.
Loki blinked a little in surprise at what (from the expression of his face) he clearly counted as a stupid question. "Well, yes," he answered, softly, flatly, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Then you miss the truth of ruling, brother. A throne would suit you ill," the light-haired probably-Thor said.
It was clearly the wrong thing to say, since Loki snarled and pushed past the slightly-larger man and stalked up the little rocky outcropping they were on.
"I've seen worlds you've never known about!" he snapped. "I have grown, Odinson -" he growled and spat the name like it was an insult, turning at the same time so that the other could see the hate-filled expression on his face, "- in my exile. I have seen the true power of the Tesseract, and when I wield it -"
"Who showed you this power?" the light-haired, probably-Thor, so far called 'Odinson', asked – cutting across Loki's words as he slowly followed up the slight slope of the rocky precipice they yet shared. "Who controls the Would-be King?"
"I am a king!" Loki yelled, enraged.
"Not here!" the other snapped back immediately, just as vehemently as he grabbed Loki by both biceps. "You give up the Tesseract! You give up this poisonous dream!" Then, more tenderly, he moved one hand to very near Loki's neck and begged: "You come home."
Loki smiled a moment, as though he was touched emotionally by that plea, before he answered. "I don't have it."
The probably-Thor immediately released him, a scowl on his face as he summoned his massive hammer from where he'd shoved it into the ground.
"You need the Cube to bring me home. But I've sent it off, I know not where," Loki insisted, sincerity in every chime of his voice and every slight crease in his face. Nowhere in his scent that Harry could tell, but every where else. Then again, Loki was god of lies as well as mischief.
"You listen well, brother," the probably-Thor said, levelling his hammer at Loki's face.
Some other force joined in the party just then, removing the probably-Thor in a flash of light and a horizontal trajectory.
Loki blinked and leant forward. "I'm listening," he said, focused on the empty air where the other had been just a moment ago.
Harry couldn't help the laugh that got past his wolf-shaped lips at that moment. That? Yeah, that was just about comic gold. If only it could be done so well as that on a stage. Happily, Harry got up on his four paws and leapt down from his ring-side seat to that he stood beside Loki.
"Hello," the Norse god greeted Harry, getting down on one knee so that he could more easily scratch between the wolf's ears. He liked animals better than people most days. They may not have had much in the way of intellect, but they weren't stupid, as such, and often made for much better company than just about any Asgardian he could care to name. "Were you watching us?" he asked.
Harry took a moment to breathe the scent of this mythical figure before he pulled back from the hand that was scratching in just the right way in just the right place, sat down, and called his magic to the appropriate tattoo (currently hidden by his fur) so that he turned back into himself, sitting, one leg stretched out, one arm supporting his upper body, one leg pulled up and one arm stretched across it. "I was," he answered with a slight smile.
Loki blinked in surprise.
"What are you?" Loki asked as he straightened up again, adding just a little bit confused and very curious to his previous surprise. "For clearly, you are no mere human."
"Wulfric Doors, wizard, pleased to meet you," Harry rattled off absently, lying about his name without even a thought. It had been his name for the past three years after all, so he was used to giving it. Of course, he generally picked a new name when he changed countries. He'd been Willy Evanson in Wales, Jimmy Trotter in Ireland, Romulus Wolfe in Spain, and Orion White in France. "But, ya know, there are plenty of people, humans, who can do what I just did. Okay, so not everybody who can actually cares to learn how, but I had a teacher at school who could turn into a cat, while my dad and his mates gave each other nicknames based on what animal they could turn into."
"Yep. So, what brings you to Earth again after all these centuries? Are you really going for world domination or is it just a cover for visiting Jörmungandr?" Harry asked.
"Who?" Loki asked, eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, and confusion in every line of his entire being.
Genuine confusion at that. Harry may not have still had his wolf nose to be able to smell a lie, but he could see that Loki was trying to think of who Jörmungandr might be, and was having a hard time of it.
Harry sighed. "Strike one for either your memory or Norse mythological canon," he said with a despairing huff as he leant back against the rocks. "I was half-hoping to meet the world serpent myself some day. Maybe have a chat."
"Well at Ragnarok we are all ended and only the Allfather shall remember the life previous," Loki said, his scholarly inclination showing through. "Perhaps it is simply some one or something not yet come to pass in this life time."
"Nah," Harry dismissed casually. "I'm inclined to believe it's a strike for the validity of the Norse canon. I don't think anything ever gives birth to something not of the same species. Unless crazy scientists are involved of course. On the other hand, you could be right too, and what do I know?"
Their slightly academic conversation was interrupted then by the rather loud spectacle of a very big tree being felled, and they turned to watch the probably-Thor fight the figure who had tackled him. It was violent, entertaining, and short-lived. Kinda. It was cut into by a third party that was neither of them at any rate.
"Okay, I recognise Iron Man Tony Stark from the news, and I'm guessing the blonde -" he could see in colour now after all, so it was good to have his guess confirmed, "- is Thor, but I'm not familiar with the new guy," Harry said.
"The man out of time," Loki answered. "If you stay, I'm sure he'll -"
"You want me to put the hammer down?!" Thor's angry yell cut across Loki, then he was charging the guy dressed in blue and, with a leap, brought the hammer down onto the shield the guy carried. There was bright light, a boom, and a very impressive (to say nothing of destructive) shock-wave.
It took even Loki and Harry (who had been further away from the centre of that boom) a moment to get back up on their feet.
Or, well, upright in Harry's case, since he'd been sitting down before he was blown over. He just decided to be glad no large rocks had fallen and landed on his head. That would have been awkward to explain.
"Who are you?" Iron Man demanded shortly when he, probably-Thor (it still hadn't been confirmed yet), and the one Loki called 'the man out of time' (which was as bad a moniker as 'boy who lived' or 'you know who' or 'he who must not be named', in Harry's opinion) reached them. The face-plate of his armour was directed at Harry, so he guessed he was the one being asked. "And what are you doing here?"
"Fred Westley," Harry answered, giving the new alias just as easily as he'd given the name he'd used in Germany to Loki. "And I was camping just up there -" Harry said, pointing to the ridge where he'd bunked down as a wolf, "- when two people fell from the sky and decided to argue about something rather than go splat, like normal people who fall from great heights without a parachute generally are inclined to do."
"Guess you'd better come with us Mr Westley," said the man wearing blue, with red-and-white vertical stripes around his middle and a shield on his arm. "The Director will want to talk to you about the things you're not going to be allowed to talk about."
Harry shrugged, not minding. It looked like his luck for trouble finding him had finally caught up. It only took nearly two decades.