Okay, my exams are over and now I can direct a lot of time to writing. Feel free to start celebrating. That said, this'll probably be must last update for a couple of weeks, as I'll be without my computer from the 15th to the 29th of June. And ooh, Chapter 10 at last.
This chapter is… well, I suppose it turned into a sort of 'day in the life of' chapter, minus the recorded times.
It features a little more action to go with the character development. I know, there's been a lot of character development, but bear in mind that this fic is part of a series going to the length of at least five epic fantasy length novels, and the fic itself may yet be divided in two. I'm setting up a major world here.
I'd also like to dedicate this chapter to my solitary reader in Iran, discovered by way of the Story Stats page on my account. Whether expat or native Iranian, I can't imagine that surfing the internet is the world's safest thing for you to do, and I am deeply honoured you would spend a little of your time on the net reading this fanfiction. Thank you. Thank you so much.
And seriously, I love all of you guys, every one of you from the thousands in the US to the single, solitary readers in the Vatican City and Iran. Thank you. You honour more than I deserve. Oh, and reviews make me smile, each and every one of them. This is unbetaed, so all constructive criticism is welcome.
Life in the Tower continued apace. Tony declared that Harry's room would be Iron Man themed, while Thor testily pointed out that Harry was his son, Steve weighed in on Thor's side, Bruce tried to avoid being roped in by Tony and Loki gleefully fanned the flames of the argument, with comments like, "But Brother, Harry does like red and gold," and, "Stark, my nephew has his father's taste."
Eventually Pepper stamped on them all, and, giving Loki and Tony warning looks, said that if anyone was deciding what colour his room was, it was Harry and that was the end of it. She then suggested video calling Harry. This was a mistake.
"So, Harry, what colour do you want your room?" Tony said.
"Um… I don't mind?" Harry said. This was the wrong answer.
Thor kicked Tony's wheeled chair off screen and said cheerfully, "Gold is good."
"Red and gold maybe?" Harry suggested.
Thor's expression soured and there was a loud, "HAH!" from off screen.
"Or not," Loki said, idly floating into frame. It had been a matter of great surprise to everyone that Loki could fly with his magic. He preferred using transportation or teleportation, but if push came to shove, he could fly and he was good at it. "Green and gold seems like a good idea," he said, smirking at his brother.
"Silver and red would be… acceptable," Thor said.
"What's wrong with red and gold?"
"You're my son, not Tony's," Thor said, before glaring off screen. "Do you hear that Stark? He's mine! My own. My… precious."
Harry by now looked bewildered and a bit disturbed. Natasha dropped in. "I know. They're crazy."
"How about a SHIELD logo and black and silver?" Clint called from who knew where.
"Clint!" Thor yelled. "Stop corrupting my son."
"How is that corrupting?" Loki asked, mildly interested.
Natasha shrugged. "Dads. Go figure."
"Our father doesn't care what our rooms look like as long as any smells and interdimensional portals are kept within the room and we don't keep things that might eat the servants," Loki said idly, as Thor stalked off to yell at Tony and Clint. Bruce and Jane came to the camera and gave Harry a small wave each. Harry responded in kind.
"The other guy says to 'say hi to Little God'," Bruce said.
"Tell him hi back," Harry said, smiling.
Darcy joined them and said, "Yo, Harry, how's magic school going?"
"Not bad, thanks. Should I just let dad and the others fight it out. Because as long as it's not pink, orange, canary yellow, or green and silver, I don't really care what it looks like," Harry said.
"Or you could compromise," Pepper said, as a loud crash heralded who knew what.
Tony's cry of, "ATTACK, MY ROBOTIC MINIONS! ATTACK THE HEATHEN WHO DARES SAY THAT RED AND GOLD ARE NOT THE SUPERIOR COLOUR COMBINATION!" did not help matters.
Pepper sighed, and leaned out of frame, giving Harry a fine view of her ass in a tight pencil skirt. Harry liked her platonically, but, again, teenage boy. He blushed horribly. Jane followed his gaze and also blushed. Clint and Darcy smirked, while Natasha rolled her eyes slightly.
"Where's Steve?" Harry asked.
"NO, DON'T ATTACK STEVE! Or on second thoughts... ATTACK HIM! WITHOUT MERCY! HE DESTROYED MY DVD PLAYER LAST WEEK! NO TECHNOLOGY IS SAFE!"
"ARGH! TONY, IT WAS AN ACCIDENT! I DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS THAT FRAGILE! GET YOUR ROBOTS AWAY FROM ME!"
Tony's cackling echoed through the building.
"NEVER FEAR, STEVE, THOR IS HERE TO LIBERATE YOU FROM THESE MECHANICAL – ARGH! WHAT IS THIS STUFF! IT BLINDS ME!"
"Dummy used the fire extinguisher on him," Pepper said with a sigh. "Harry, seriously, you need to choose or your dad and Tony will destroy the Tower."
"Thus rendering the question moot," Loki observed.
"Yes, but that isn't very helpful. Even Tony Stark's insurance doesn't cover grand acts of idiocy," Pepper sighed.
"You should get that looked at," Natasha said.
"Maybe," Pepper said, sighing.
"How about… Red and Gold with lightning bolts?" Darcy suggested.
"I like that," Harry said.
"TONY! THOR! WE'VE GOT A COMPROMISE!" Darcy yelled.
"WHAT?!" both yelled back.
"Red and gold – "
"With lightning bolts!"
"Is that it?" Harry asked. "I'll be seeing you guys soon, right?"
"On Yuletide," Loki confirmed. "Christmas," he clarified. "And you'll be seeing me for lessons before then."
Harry nodded and smiled. "See you guys soon."
They waved him off. "Bye!"
After Pepper calmed Tony down, and Thor realised how childish he was being and freed Steve from the grasp of Tony's robots, everything settled down. Tony called out for decorators, Pepper watching him like a hawk all the while. Darcy and Clint snickered about Harry checking out Peppers ass, until Jane rolled her eyes and said, "He's a teenage boy. Objectively, I can tell you that Pepper is gorgeous and wearing a very tight skirt. What do you expect him to do?"
Meanwhile, Thor went to find Loki, who had returned to his divining and scrying spells, which were set up haphazardly around his room. Scrying bowls and mystical candles occupied his shelves, runic circles were painted on pieces of wooden board, runesticks occupied his bedside table, usurping 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'. Loki enjoyed mystery fiction and spy fiction, as the intricacies of intrigue appealed to his trickster's brain. Magic books from both Asgard and Earth were half open on the floor, so Thor trod carefully as he walked in.
"How goes the search for Sirius, brother?" Thor asked.
Loki ran a hand through his hair, looking up from where he was sitting cross-legged on his bed with one of the scrying bowls in his lap. "Not well," he admitted. "Any artefacts you have are too out of date. He hasn't used his wand in a good twelve years, so even that connection is easily masked. I asked Heimdall, but he says that Sirius is masked from his sight. How, I am not sure, but I suspect his nature as an animagus comes into it. Heimdall has always had difficulty tracking shapeshifters."
"Maybe his clothes from Azkaban?" Thor asked.
"No," Loki replied. "He has no real emotional attachment to them. I am scanning for his magic, but even with his wand, that could take a good week or so more."
"Okay. Keep doing the best you can, brother," Thor said, gently squeezing his shoulder. "And thank you."
"Not a problem. Thank me when I've found him," Loki said, going back to his bowl.
The trio were eating lunch and doing their best to ignore the stares that Harry was getting. The conversation had mostly comprised what had happened in New York and how Tony and Darcy were two of the coolest people in the history of ever, when Hermione raised an interesting point.
"Harry, one thing I've noticed these last few days is that you're taking being the son of a genuine god very well," Hermione observed. "Why is that? Shouldn't you be a little more… confused?"
Harry gave this some thought. "Yeah, I suppose I should be," he said slowly. "It's just… I only see dad as, well, dad. It's like some really, really old memories are telling me that he's my father and that everything's going to be all right if he's around."
Hermione nodded slowly. "But he doesn't look like he did back then."
"He can shift between the two," Harry reminded her. "And he generally looks like he did back then when he's around me."
"So… there's sort of a disconnect," Hermione said. "You still don't unconsciously associate your father with being Thor."
"A bit," Harry said. "It's complicated.
"But that what about Loki?" Ron asked.
"I haven't really seen him in full God of Magic mode," Harry said. "And I think my weird-shit-o-meter is busy dealing with me being royalty and not just human. The god part is sort of… in waiting. I can be confused about it…"
"Once you get over everything else," Hermione said, nodding.
"Right. And right now… I have a family. And I'm just happy to accept that."
Ron spoke up. "How do you feel about Odin knowing that you were with the Dursleys?" he asked, curious.
"Ron!" Hermione hissed.
Harry's eyes flashed. "Not happy," he ground out, mood and tone darkening dramatically. He took a deep breath, and calmed slightly. "Loki says that Odin doesn't look at the world the same way as we do, because the closest to human he gets is looking like one," Harry said. "He's also thousands of years old and where we see as ten years being close to forever he sees it as… well, a pit stop." He frowned. "I'm still pissed off, though. And I'll be having words with him about it."
Hermione squeaked and Ron paled as both imagined Harry chewing out the Allfather. "Harry," Hermione said. "I know you're not quite coming to terms with the fact you're related to gods, but…"
"The Allfather is ridiculously powerful, Harry. He's the closest thing there is to omnipotent. I've researched him and all the books agree – the Allfather can create planets, destroy stars, even bring back the dead under the right circumstances, and that's just the beginning. He's from myth and legend, Harry, and he's a great warrior," Hermione said, voice low. "And he is a king, even he is family. King's and warriors don't like being disrespected in public…" she took a deep breath. "So if you have to shout at him, do it in private."
Harry gave her a petulant look that said, almost word for word, 'I do what I want, Hermione!'
If anyone had any trouble believing he was, at heart, an ordinary teenager, that expression confirmed it.
"She's right, mate. Yelling at him isn't a good idea, even if you think he deserves it," Ron said.
Harry nodded. "Fine," he grumbled slightly. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a Stark Phone. Tony had insisted on giving him one.
"Harry, that's not going to… work?"
Harry smirked at Hermione's poleaxed expression. "Tony figured out how to shield from magical interference," he said casually. "And, it doubles as a computer. Look."
He laid it flat on the table and tapped the screen twice. Instantly, holographic screens the size of a pc monitor sprang up. This drew some stares, but not many. Students often practiced magic at the table, so this, while not magic, was hardly out of the ordinary. "I can send messages, surf the net and watch videos," he said.
"Can you play chess?" Ron asked, curious.
"Yeah, but not wizard's chess. Speaking of, you should introduce Tony to Wizard's chess, he'd love it. We can play wizard's chess later, if you want," Harry said. Ron nodded, and Harry smiled, bringing up a video of Loki debating with a member of some tiny American church that thought everyone but them was evil. He was about to move on, then paused.
"I am not a false god leading the people to hell, madam," the image of Loki said. "I am of Asgard. Physically, I am beyond you. Mentally, I am beyond all but your very greatest minds. I perceive things on a level you cannot even begin to comprehend. I can make the world warp to my will. Your life and death is in my hands. How else would you define a god? You say that your god hates all of humanity. I would reply that if you consider a being like that worthy of worship, you should have been worshipping me when I tried to rule Earth, for I was very definitely that kind of god. A wrathful, vengeful, hateful god who was cruel, petty, and slaughtered any who dared disagree. And I can tell you that I would not have given you heaven because you worshipped me and followed my commands. No, such a god would laugh at your weakness, your grovelling cowardice, your hatred for all that is not like you, and seen how small and pathetic you really are. Such a god would get your hopes of a heaven up high, then laugh as he crushed them, torturing you, hurting you, treating you as the most base slaves just to see the shock and horror on your faces. Such a god, madam, is not worthy of worship. Such a god is insane. Such a god has no love in their heart. Such a god, madam, is a monster. Take it from one who knows. Take it from one who was, one who learned that he was not truly superior to those he sought to rule. One who relearned the virtue of Love."
Hermione blinked. "I remember watching that," she said. "And thinking…"
Harry glanced at her and made a prompting sound.
"Thinking that if someone that old, that clever and that powerful could change their views and admit they were wrong, pureblood supremacists like Malfoy could too," Hermione said. She frowned. "And Malfoy is, actually, improving."
"We noticed," Harry and Ron said in stereo.
"What's that?" Neville asked curiously. Harry blinked. Half the school was looking.
"A mobile phone made by Tony Stark."
Neville looked puzzled. "Um, Pureblood, remember?" he said.
"A mobile phone is a muggle communications device. With it, you can contact anyone with a mobile of their own by typing in a number," Hermione said. "It's like a floo call, but you can do it from pretty much anywhere."
"Cool," Seamus said, voice low. "What else does it do?"
Harry was about to start explaining when Snape walked up. "Mister Potter, I know your instinct is to show off your new toys, but please refrain from doing so before I am forced to confiscate them," he said coldly.
Harry sighed and shut the phone off. "Yes, Professor," he said, pocketing it. Snape, satisfied, moved off. "I'll show you guys later," he said.
"How did you get muggle technology to work in Hogwarts?" Dean asked.
"Tony's a genius," Harry said, shrugging. "It took him fifteen minutes to figure out how to block out the effects of magic on the phone."
"Fifteen minutes?" Hermione asked, shocked. "People have been trying for years!"
"Well, they weren't Tony Stark," Harry said. "Most were students, whereas we're talking about a guy who built a miniaturised arc reactor from scraps in a cave in less than a week."
"What's an arc reactor?"
"A energy producing muggle machine," Hermione said. "The miniaturised version is like the muggle answer to the twelve uses of dragons blood or the invention of the floo network."
"Whoa," Dean said slowly, sentiments echoed by the rest. "Yeah, that's about right," he said, glancing at the rest. "Tony Stark's pretty much the smartest man on the planet, like Professor Dumbledore or Nicholas Flamel clever. He invented the Iron Man armour all by himself."
"Not quite all by himself," Harry said quietly. "The design was all his, but he had help building the first one. A doctor called Ho Yinsen, who was imprisoned with him helped him build it, then gave his life holding off the terrorists while the suit powered up." He looked around. "I saw pictures of him. He was short, thin, clever and he looked… kind. Very kind. And he gave his life without hesitation for one man he believed could not just be a great man, but a good one too."
There was a solemn silence as the Gryffindors contemplated this act of valour.
"It sounds like he would have a Gryffindor," Percy said.
"To Ho Yinsen," Fred said, raising a goblet.
"Honorary Gryffindor," George said.
Those listening repeated the toast and drank.
"Being brave isn't all its cracked up to be, sometimes, is it?" Neville said. Everyone turned to look at him and he blushed. "Well, think about it. How many legends are about people dying gloriously? How much of history is about people dying bravely? I can be brave but… I don't want to die. The idea scares me."
"I know exactly what you mean, Neville," Harry said, cutting off Percy who was about to say something that was probably tactless but well meant. "But sometimes, because we believe in something better, we have to overcome our fear, and risk death. If there's nothing worth dying for… what is there to live for?"
All the students turned to see Professor Dumbledore twinkling down at them. Eyes widened.
"Everything worth doing has a price. Sometimes that is life," Dumbledore said. "Though I sincerely hope that none of you face such choices for many years, if at all." He smiled. "It is nice to see Muggles being toasted and ranked alongside wizards. Very nice indeed. Twenty five points to Gryffindor, I think, ten for Mister Potter's statement on the nature of sacrifice and another fifteen for Mister Longbottom for being brave enough to ask such a question in the House of the Brave. Enjoy your lunch."
With that, he walked off, his stride long and sure for a man as old as he. Hermione turned to Harry in amazement. "You got us points!"
"Always the tone of surprise."
Meanwhile, Thor and Loki were training in the SHIELD gym, the matter of the room decoration having been resolved. Tony was planning to build a hard light projecting training room, nicknamed 'Project Danger Room', but that project was mostly on the backburner. For now, SHIELD had training devices specifically designed for superhumans, largely using Thor's strength and Loki's magic as durability benchmarks, so for now, the two gods generally trained there, and when they trained in earnest, generally trained against each other, so they had no fear of killing their training partner if they did not hold back very, very carefully.
Naturally, the sight of the two training, first hand to hand, then moving to weapons. Powers were not used in the confines of the city. Instead, Loki would teleport the two to the South California deserts or the Rocky mountains, or to the wide grassy plains of Europe, Asia and South America. Thor used Mjolnir, Loki used either an adamantium stave or glaive that reminded some unsettlingly of the Chitauri sceptre. That particular weapon was currently in Odin's treasure rooms under some very heavy dampening enchantments, because Loki, Thor, Fury and Odin had one unspoken fear – the one who gave Loki his weapon, his armies, and his goal, would use it to control him. Thanos the Mad Titan was not to be underestimated, even at when he was almost a universe away.
The bout started lightly, the two brothers circling each other. These bouts had a pattern, and while Thor's rediscovered memories caused it to shift slightly, the shift was minor. As it was, Thor merely took a little longer to lose patience and lunge at Loki, who neatly sent him flying past, towards the metal supports of the ring. But Thor, instead of blundering into the pole, twisted, pushed off the pole with his right foot and sent himself spinning into the elastic ropes, and then shot at Loki like a dart, tackling him.
In response, Loki dropped and rolled, kicking his brother off, and closing with a series of feints and lightning fast strikes, moving like a dancer. Thor slowly backed away, blocking as best he could, then suddenly feinted a low blow to the stomach, which Loki leaned away to avoid, then caught him plum across the jaw with a powerful right cross that had Loki spitting blood and chuckling.
"Nice shot, brother. But you must know I won't fall for the same trick twice."
"I would say the same to you," Thor said equably, closing and delivering a couple of hammer blows to the chest, followed by a powerful headbutt that sent Loki staggering and apparently had him doubled over in pain, clutching his ribs. Thor frowned. Had he struck his brother too hard? Had their fight with the Doombots left his brother weaker than normal. He went up to his brother – carefully, because Loki was still the Trickster. "Brother? Are you well?"
"What is it?"
He laid a hand on Loki's ribs. They felt fine. He frowned in puzzlement, then his face cleared as his brother began to grin.
Then, moving in a blur, Loki grabbed Thor by the shoulders and slammed his knee into his brother's balls. Loki suddenly frowned. Thor smirked and hit him with an uppercut that sent him flying. "I have taken to wearing a box, brother, as this is not the first, or even five hundredth time, you have pulled that trick on me."
"He can be taught!" Clint crowed from the audience.
"Which is more than can be said for you, Clint," Thor retorted. "Was last week not the fifth time that Stark panicked on detecting a foreign presence in his air vents and had you flushed out? Right in front of that robot that seems to think everyone is on fire and must be covered in fire extinguishing foam?"
Clint scowled. "I know that he knew it was me this time," he growled. "He just did it because he thought it was hilarious."
"Well, it was," Thor began, before there was a loud thunk, and he went down like a felled tree, causing the ring to shudder. Loki emerged from behind him, smirking, adamantium stave in his hands.
"Yippee kee yay, motherfucker," he drawled.
"Stark is infecting you with his 'popular culture'," Thor said, voice muffled by the floor. "This can mean nothing good. You'll be introducing Steve to Midgardian pornography next." He didn't mention that Lily had made him throw out his numerous and… well loved, shall we say, copies of Playwizard.
"No, Pepper caught Stark trying to introduce Steve to something called '4-Chan' yesterday, and has banned Steve from accessing the internet based on Tony's suggestions," Loki said. "You'd think he'd learn."
Thor stood, rubbing his head and smoothly dodging Loki's next swing, before turning to deliver a powerful blow to the calf muscle. "Steve is a good, moral, trusting man, and I am honoured to be his friend. Stark is a good, immoral man whose friend I am honoured to be and is totally untrustworthy if he thinks it will be funny. The two are a match made in Hel."
"But hilarious to watch," Loki retorted, using the stave to launch a double footed kick that sent Thor careering across the ring.
"Oh, undoubtedly," Thor replied. He summoned Mjolnir. "Now. What was the phrase? Oh yes. Let's dance."
The two clashed in earnest now, no longer talking, fiercely concentrating as they matched skill to skill and strength to strength. As they did, the ring expanded, and the footing became uneven, just to spice things up. When it was merely combat skill involved, Thor won six of every ten bouts. When both used the full scale of their powers, or as full as they could get without causing earthquakes and other natural disasters, Loki won the greater number, simply because his tactics could change in a heartbeat, and the nature of his powers was so broad.
This fight looked to be going Thor's way, and, indeed, after another half an hour, Thor pinned Loki. He didn't put Mjolnir on his chest. It was, to his eyes, an unfair reminder of the Bifrost, and it was a tactic that Thor generally used on villains who just wouldn't stay still. Thor was damned if he was going to treat his brother like a villain. And it was also too easy. Loki had no similar fight ending advantage, so why should he use his?
"I have won, brother," he said.
"This time," Loki said, with the implication that next time would be different.
"This time," Thor agreed, getting off him and standing up him, pulling Loki with him. He clapped a hand on his brother's shoulder as he stood straight. Applause spread around the gym. People didn't clap quite as loudly when Loki won, but that was changing.
The two showered, changed, grabbed five burgers – Thor – and three – Loki - from the cafeteria, large helpings of chips and ketchup. Loki got salad. Thor maintained that he was allergic to green things, causing Loki to mutter "Small child in adult's body," and plot to get Jane to get him to eat something healthy later.
"Uncle, sorry to bother you, but how is the nobility of Asgard ranked?" Harry asked. Hermione had asked the question while he and Ron were playing chess, and Harry had been curious himself, so he went to the best source.
"It is no bother, Harry. We just came back from sparring, I and your father, so there is no problem."
"Are you sure you aren't tired?"
"No I am not, thank you for asking. I can go for weeks at a time without sleep… though I do not enjoy it," Loki said.
Harry nodded, relieved.
"As to your question, it can be a little complex, but the broad ranks are as follows. First is the King, your grandfather, and his Queen, your grandmother. Second is the Crown Prince, then his heir – you – then any other Princes, like me," Loki said. "Following them are the Sub Kings and Sub Queens, such as Hrimhari, Prince of the Wolf People, and Karnilla, Queen of Nornheim. They are autonomous – free to rule as they wish – within their lands, but ultimately answer to the throne. Next are the Jarls, who inherit land from their ancestors by right of blood or are conferred it by the King. The Riksjarl is historically the King's right hand man, and is traditionally given to the very highest jarls, such as Lord Tyr, ruler of Vanaheim in the name of Odin, and the various 'marcher' lords, sometimes known as Markgreifi, who rule the dangerous edges of Odin's kingdom. Of equivalent rank are the embetsadel, advisors and high counsellors, such as the Chancellor and the Archmage of the School of Sorcery, who earn their place through scholarship, diplomacy and bureaucracy, and through attaining high honour. Also equivalent are the brevadel, mostly our very greatest warriors, those who are close to the throne and achieve fame by special acts of valour. Lady Sif, the Warriors Three, and Brunnhilde the Valkyrie are some examples."
Harry's head was spinning slightly. "Right…" he said slowly. "That isn't it, is it?"
Loki chuckled. "No. Never fear, I am constructing a chart."
Harry made a face.
"I know, more homework, I'm a horrible uncle. But you asked," Loki said, chuckling.
"I did," Harry said ruefully. "What else?"
"The Barons, formerly called the Lensmand, follow on," Loki said. "Then there are the Húskarl, elite infantry and often personal guards to the King and the Princes. The Royal Guard are the most senior infantry soldiers, closely followed by your father's, my and now yours too guard, the Princes Guard, who mostly act as a battalion unto themselves in the army."
"Okay," Harry said, feeling a little at sea in all of this. He suspected it would be easier to understand if he saw this chart of his uncle's.
"Following that are the Castellans and the Stewards, men below the higher nobility who would maybe rule a castle or two in the name of a Baron or even a Jarl," Loki said. "Chieftains are generally below them, though sometimes you get a particularly powerful chieftain who rules an unusually large amount of land. Finally, you have the Clerks and Thegns, freemen, raised either by possessing a reasonable amount of land or money or having gained rank in the local bureaucracy. Local sorcerers general hold a similar place in the ranking system. Finally, you have free men and indentured servants. Indentured servants are essentially working to pay off a debt. As such, they are not paid, or if they are, it is a minimal amount as they are working to pay the person they are working for. They are, however, given food, board and training in their job, meaning that they gain a home and a skill, and the employer gains a cheap worker, and are very rare."
"Are there female nobility?" Harry asked.
"Not as many, for Asgard is very much a warriors society, and it is rare that a woman advances so far under such circumstances. But yes, many advance through sorcery, scholarship and bureaucracy. It is rarer that they advance through warrior skill, but Lady Sif and Brunnhilde are two, and your grandmother, Frigga, a third, who have achieved high rank through such. Queen Karnilla rules Nornheim in the name of Odin, and the three Norns are highly respected. When they speak, even the Allfather does not dare go against them. If Thor and Jane marry, she will be Crown Princess." Loki noticed Harry's lips twist slightly. He still wasn't entirely comfortable with his father being with another woman. He understood it, and he honestly liked Jane, and she him, but still… "Other women rise to high rank," Loki continued. "Such as Amora the Enchantress." Loki's lips thinned. "I will tell you more of her later. Not as many as men, and I think that is "
"Are there… slaves?" Harry asked, trepidation in his tone.
Loki was silent. "Not any more," he said eventually. "It was officially outlawed by your ancestors, but it still happened and resurged under Bor. Odin reiterated the outlawing off the practice many years ago, and slaves are not allowed in Asgard. Any who tries to take slaves faces the full force of Royal Justice," he said. "I will not lie, Harry. Some men and women are very poor. They are cared for, but they are still poor. But is it not the same on Earth? Not everyone can win."
"Yes, but I didn't win. I was born with this legacy," Harry said. "I didn't earn it. Why do I deserve it?"
"I think your suffering at the hands of the Dursleys, the loss of your parents for over a decade in one case and forever in the other, along with saving goodness knows how many lives more than entitles you to the comforts of noble rank, Harry," Loki said gently. "I once asked my father a similar question. He replied that we must make sure we deserve it by our actions. We must turn our strength and privilege to the advantage of those who have none. We our royalty, yes, but we serve our people. In wartime and peacetime, they are our first priority, as is their wellbeing. We have been given a gift, so we must use it wisely."
Harry nodded slowly. That made sense. "Didn't dad ask?"
"When your father was younger, he often took things at face value. He was rich, he was powerful, and he accepted that as his due. He could be horribly arrogant, but he was also immensely kind and generous. One lesson he learned well was the duty of a Prince to their subjects, and the duty of those with power to those who had none, and I have no doubt that even at his worst, Thor would not hesitate to put his life on the line to protect those in need," Loki said. "He did not question because it did not occur to him. He knew no different, so simply assumed that this was the way the world worked. It was not malice, simply ignorance. He knows better now."
Harry nodded. "I suppose."
"Fame and fortune weigh heavily on you," Loki said. "It is as I told you before. You must accept what you are. It may be hard, but it is necessary."
Harry nodded again. "Thanks, Uncle Loki."
"Any time. Go well, nephew. And remember to practice varying the power levels on those spells I taught you. Practice makes perfect," Loki said.
Harry grinned. "I will. See you later in the week!"
"I look forward to it," Loki said, smiling and signing off.
Sorry, no Sirius this chapter. I wanted to put him in, but there is a long section with him next chapter that wouldn't have fitted in so well in this one. Something to look forward to, I think. Oh, and COS broke the 300,000 word barrier. Go me! Reviews are much appreciated.