Harry was glad that he didn't have to conjure anything. Everything that he needed was right there and available to him. Including Selvig's vast intellect, even if he wasn't interested in turning the Tesseract into a weapon. The fact of the matter was that it already had been, or Harry wouldn't have the sceptre he was currently mounting on the modified rig. He'd had to use magic to manipulate the stuff inside the barrier, and it had been harder than it had a right to be, but he'd managed.

The jets with their payloads came by just as he finished his set up, and were all clear in time for him to launch his attack on the Chitauri and their not-actually-a-Chitauri rulers – that were worse than the Chitauri being as they were smarter and more naturally difficult to kill than the aliens that were currently swarming Manhattan.

That were currently dropping like puppets with their strings cut, all around Manhattan. Guess the nukes did it for them then. Still, Harry wasn't going to leave anything to chance and fed his magic into the weapon he'd made from the portal-contraption, the Tesseract itself, and the sceptre.

The spell that rushed up and out to the space beyond the portal was incredible and would, if he had any say in the matter, never ever be performed again by anybody. Including him.

It was all at once fire and ice, entrails being expelled, body pieces being hacked off and hacked up, explosions, implosions, stretching and shrinking and twisting and breaking and pain and death and all in one great burst of beautiful shining blue that killed the mind of the sceptre as it left, and sent the Tesseract into dormancy soon after, which in turn caused the portal to close.

Harry took back the sceptre as soon as the barrier around the Tesseract went down (better safe than sorry), and removed the Tesseract as well, just to be cautious. He didn't touch the Cube of course: he used a pair of tongs and set it back into the metal suitcase it had been brought up to the roof in originally.

"Status?" Harry asked, calling out on the comm-unit.

"We're all fine, and headed for Stark Tower," Steve answered.

"See you soon then," Harry replied. "Come along Dr Selvig," he instructed gently. With the sceptre tucked under an arm and the Tesseract secure in its suitcase in the hand of that same arm, Harry grabbed the recently freed doctor with his other hand and did the lazy thing – he apparated them down to where Harry had left Loki.

"What -?" Selvig started to ask.

Beyond silently checking that he hadn't left any of Selvig behind with that last apparition, Harry didn't much bother with him. He hadn't finished checking Loki was clean yet after all. Going through the mind of someone a couple of thousand years old took a bit longer to check all the places foreign influence could stick itself than a mind only thirty-some years old.

It was made even more of a tricky business when Harry kept on finding different influences placed on Loki throughout his life and mind, and almost every spell placed on the poor guy by a different person than placed the spell before.

"Good, you didn't go anywhere," Harry said with a smile as he pushed Loki back into his crater – he'd been starting to sit up. "Now, let me finish making sure that all external magical influences have been removed from your mind."

Loki's eyes popped wide open at that, and Harry took advantage of his stunned compliance to re-enter the Asgardian's mind and pick up where he'd left off. He didn't notice when the rest of the team arrived, some a bit bloodied, some a bit banged up, most of them bruised and scraped, and all of them tired.

Even the Hulk.


Harry didn't even notice Stark getting out of his Iron Man suit and serving people drinks (small miracles, his kitchenette had survived even if his his windows, a wall, and his floor hadn't. It was about when Steve was ready for his second drink – upright, downright, clean-cut Steve going for a second drink – that Harry finally sat back on his heels, his searching and de-bugging of Loki's mind finally complete.

Loki let out a sob and curled himself up in his crater.

"Loki?" Thor boomed in concern when he saw that. "What have you done to him?" he demanded of Harry.

"I have removed every taint from his mind," Harry answered solemnly. "There were a lot more in there than just the one from the tosser who gave Loki the sceptre."

Thor's brow furrowed in confusion. "But... Who could have... Who would have... When?"

"Generally when he was sleeping," Harry answered as he reached out to gently stroke Loki's hair in comfort as the grown man cried into Harry's knee. "Though there were a few that were like the sceptres hold on him: placed insidiously over time and in every interaction they had."

"What was done to him?" Natasha asked as Clint went to pour more drinks.

"Mostly? Lots of little behavioural modifications, which I suspect were innocently intended, that piled up and twisted around each other," Harry answered, "and then got really twisted with the few big ones like the spell from sceptre making a muck of things."

"Here," Clint said, coming around from where he'd been pouring drinks and offering two glasses to Harry. "One's for Loki."

Harry nodded his thanks and accepted them both, setting them on the floor at his side before he tried coaxing Loki into opening up enough for a drink.

"So what happens now?" Steve asked. "It sounds to me like Westley is saying Asgard might not be the best place for Loki, but he probably can't stay here either. I can't see S.H.E.I.L.D. taking to the idea too kindly, even if Loki wasn't in his right mind."

"Yeah," Barton agreed solemnly. "I'll probably be getting a discharge because I was compromised, even if I got a clean bill from our Mr Wizard."

"For that matter, so will I," Romanoff added. "We're both S.H.E.I.L.D. agents, and we took off with that jet without authorisation. Even if Fury wanted us to come in and save the day like we did, which is possible..." she trailed off, shaking her head.

"And I think I heard someone say something about the National Guard?" Banner added, having de-Hulk-ed and been given new clothes by Stark while Harry was in Loki's mind. "I can't see them being all that merciful if they get hold of him either," he added, and he was speaking from experience. "Or me, for that matter."

"You're part of the hero squad now, big guy," Stark lectured Banner kindly, "and you're my guest. The army can go jump."

Banner smiled a shy, crooked, grateful smile. "Thanks Tony."

"Only stupid people would mess with the guy who made Iron Man after all," Harry quipped. "From scratch, in a cave, with minimal resources and a hole in his chest to boot, if the papers of the time it happened are to be believed. I'd say that makes Mr Stark a pretty dangerous guy."

"I'm flattered, but you're wrong," Stark quipped with a smile. "I'm dangerous because I'm charming."

Steve shook his head, his old blanket-mild-disgust with Stark returning now that the fight was over and lives didn't depend on their ability to work together. "That's great for Bruce, but it doesn't answer what we're going to do about Loki," Steve pointed out, dragging the conversation back to an as-yet unresolved but very important point.

"I could take him with me when I leave," Harry suggested.



"You're not -?"

"But -!"

"Where -?"

Harry quickly raised a hand to silence them all. "Yes," he said, once they'd shut their mouths and were staring silently at him. "Leave. I was on my was from Germany to Switzerland and then Italy when you picked me up."

"Would we even see you again if you left?" Bruce asked quietly, his question solemn and concerned. "Ever?"

"Don't know," Harry answered honestly. "Maybe. I'm not exactly dedicated to my travel plans, so I could put them off, but disappearing seems to me like just the thing Loki needs right now, and I can help with that."

"I don't see why you couldn't stay here and disappear into the crowds," Tony suggested, a little petulantly. "You promised answers after the fight, Westley. You're not skipping out on that, so you may as well make yourself comfortable here. I'm sure we can help Loki just as well as Banner."

"I like the sound of staying on Midgard," Loki spoke up, his voice quiet, but clear. "I do not wish to return to Asgard as I once did."

"Brother..." Thor said, a saddened, pained expression on his face.

"For you, I would," Loki assured the blonde, though he didn't look up. Didn't let anybody but Harry see the tear-tracks still on his face or the red puffiness of his eyes. "But though you are my brother, Asgard is no longer my home. I must find a new place for myself. I believe that Midgard may hold such a place for me."

"Does for most everybody else," Harry quipped kindly, then sighed. "Three years," he said firmly to the group. "I will stay in America for three years. Not a day more than that, though if you need me, I'll come. Suppose I should help with the clean up around here anyway," he offered, and pulled out his wand.

A quick, powerful, blanketing repairo had Tony Stark's place of residence looking like it had never seen the middle of a war-zone.

"Wow," Tony said, stunned as he looked around him. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."


Fury arrived on the roof of the Stark Tower in a helicopter a little under half-an-hour after Tony and Bruce have finished the two-hour process of disassembling the incredible bit of scientific engineering that allowed the Tesseract to create a hole in the sky over Manhattan. They don't want that sort of thing repeated, but that doesn't mean they don't want to understand how it worked. After all, they're already planning to make a device that will allow Thor to use the Tesseract to come and go between the Tower and his home in Asgard.

"I believe we have some things to talk about," Fury announced to the group – all of whom had gone up to the roof to meet him, including Loki and Selvig. "And a certain spell to remove," he added, looking at Harry pointedly with his single eye.

"You put a spell on Fury?" Stark asked, shocked and – reluctantly, because it sounded unethical – impressed. "What did you do?"

"I spelled his eye-patch so I could hear everything going on around him," Harry answered as he withdrew his holly wand. A little bit of 'foolish wand waving' later with barely a mutter of a spell incantation past his lips, and Harry slipped the wand back into its holster. "There you go, clean of spells. I even got rid of the bananas I'd left embossed on your coat."

"Thank you, Mr Westley," Fury said, grateful but pissed that such removals had been necessary, and not bothering to hide it.

"So, shall we return to where there are comfortable chairs and drink options?" Stark suggested.

Fury nodded and let the man who actually owned the building lead the way back down, if only because he wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of having all these people in back of him.

The short trek was made in silence, and once they were inside the silence broke only to name drink preferences before they were all seated with a glass of something. Steve, Harry, Clint and Loki were having water, Natasha and Bruce were having different flavours of ice tea, Thor had been given a bottle of beer with the assurance that mortal liquor would not be potent enough to affect him (because no one wanted to have to deal with a drunk god after they day they'd already had), Fury had asked for and actually been given a glass of red wine, while Stark poured scotch for himself.

"Can I take it from the lack of restraints on Loki and the general ease of the room with him loose that he is no longer a threat?" Fury asked.

"You can," Harry answered.

"He also doesn't appreciate being talked about as though he weren't present," Loki added with a frown.

Fury didn't answer that.

Clint did though. "Fury's always like that," he informed the god he was sitting next to, his voice low and quiet. "Does it to everyone. It's nothing personal."

"What about Selvig?" Fury asked.

"See?" Clint quipped softly to Loki, who didn't smile, but did give the archer a grateful look.

"I am myself again, Director," Selvig answered for himself.

"Glad to hear it," Fury said, giving the man a slight incline of his head. It wasn't concern for the man that made him glad to hear it. It was concern for the security of the planet. Selvig had proven that, under the control of someone else, he was quite capable of opening portals for armies from outer space. Fury would like that situation to not be repeated.

"The threat is neutralised?" Fury questioned.

"The current threat is neutralised," Stark corrected.

"As long as the Tesseract is on Midgard, and being used as you have been endeavouring to use it, it will continue to attract threats," Thor added. "As I said before, it is a signal to the nine realms that you are ready for a higher form of war."

"The sooner you get the Tesseract off this planet, the safer you will all be," Loki contributed. "It belongs in Asgard, not here."

"So we'll be working on making something for Thor to take it back to Asgard in," Banner finished firmly. No one argued with Banner, even when he was regular-person-sized and drinking ice tea.

But Fury surprised them all with his answer.

"Good," he said firmly. "If the Tesseract is out of our reach, then I don't have to deal with the Council bitching about finding old HYDRA blueprints and making weapons from the damn thing. You were at least part right, Captain: the world hasn't changed all that much since you went under. There are still idiot politicians giving stupid orders that engineers and soldiers have to follow."

"Like firing nukes on Manhattan," Harry said lowly, catching everybody's attention.

"What is a 'nuke'?" Thor asked, confused while all others around him went wide-eyed. Even Loki. After all, the trickster had actually spent time getting to know a bit about those he was planning to rule. He didn't know everything of course, but he knew more than his brother did.

"It's short of 'nuclear warhead', and it's the really big bomb that we fired into the portal before Mr Westley did whatever it was that he did," Fury answered. "One of which could have wiped out the entire island of Manhattan and its considerable civilian population." The man sighed. "Right now, S.H.I.E.L.D. troops are moving in on Manhattan to start the clean-up. They'll collect the bodies of the Chitauri, as well as their weapons, and the new Council will probably order the tech to be duplicated rather than disposed of. At least I can definitely make sure the Chitauri themselves will be disposed of. I don't care what we could learn from their dead bodies. They're not hanging around. All my operatives have orders to incinerate them wherever they are found."

Everyone took a moment to digest that bit of information. Fury had just admitted to some of the crazy inner-workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. to them. With little to no prompting, cajoling, nagging, or dragged-up dirt so that he couldn't wriggle a lie out instead. He clearly wanted them on his side in case of more shit hitting the fan, meaning he needed their trust, which in turn called for honesty from the man who's secrets had secrets.

"What's next?" Natasha asked quietly. "What happens next?

"Chaos, probably," Harry answered her. Quickly, simply, and before Fury could even open his mouth to give his answer to that question. "Battle's over, bad-guy's dead, now is the time for the victims to recover and bemoan their injured state and seek out scapegoats."

"Scapegoats?" Thor asked, in the same way he had asked about monkeys when Fury had wanted to know how Loki had made Clint and Selvig his personal flying ones. All innocently confused and hoping for clarification.

Silently, Loki had the same expression on his face.

Harry sighed and got out of his chair. "Goat," he said, and, pushing his magic to the 'earth' tattoo on his back, transformed into the cloven-hoofed animal with horns. Rather than cycling through lots of different kinds though, he just stuck with the basic domestic goat, mottled black-brown-and-white with horns curved back because he was a billy goat not a nanny goat and no one was chopping his horns. Then he pushed his magic to the 'fire' tattoo and changed back to himself and re-took his seat. "They used to be offered as sacrifices, still are in some countries, to take the place of someone who has done something wrong, basically taking the blame for whatever and paying for it, dearly, more often than not."

"Oh," Thor and Loki both said quietly as understanding dawned. Even Loki wasn't all-knowing after all, and despite that he'd taken more time to get to know the world he was in than Thor had, even with the disparity in time spent on Earth by each of them, Loki had clearly not come across that expression yet.

"I suppose I'd be the best taker for that position," Loki suggested, his tone implying a resigned if forlorn acceptance of what he fully expected to be his fate.

"There are people who would agree with you," Harry admitted. "But as you were mind-fucked at the time, a case can be made in your defence. I'd just as soon keep you out of the press though, except for as a victim, blackmailed and mind-controlled into doing something you didn't want to."

"Public Relations isn't something that S.H.I.E.L.D. generally gets involved in," Fury pointed out, almost delicately. "Our media relations department generally does cover-ups, not getting heroes popular with the people they're helping."

"If you can cover this up, I will be impressed," Harry informed the man. "I'll give you a week of damage control your way before I start looking for a PR guru."