On the Snape bashing – this is a fic largely written from the point of view of Harry and James/Thor. Both of whom have no reason to like Snape. They don't know about his redeeming qualities, which are few and far between. Snape was a good guy in the books, but he was also a jackass. It was only Alan Rickman's awesome performances that made him especially sympathetic.
He may get a bit nastier than he was in canon, but he won't be a bad guy – and that's because he has to see his childhood rival become internationally adored, politically powerful, personally powerful and quite literally as rich as a god, something which is bound to make him even sourer than before. And that's the thing about Snape: he's a bitter man who can't let go of the past. Also, where Lily's concerned, while I have no doubt that he genuinely cared for/loved her, it spilled over somewhat into obsession and I don't think he ever accepted that she chose James over him, nor why.
Harry was finally out of the Hospital Wing, and he walked through the corridors of Hogwarts alone. Wherever he went, people whispered. It was annoying, but at least - unlike last year and the whole 'Heir of Slytherin' fiasco - they weren't whispering about anything bad this time, or implying that he was evil incarnate.
Isn't weird that his dad's back from the dead?
He's a god, what do you expect?
True. But why doesn't Harry have his powers?
Maybe it's like magic – it doesn't develop until a certain age. Besides, who says he doesn't? I mean, I heard that he killed a basilisk with that sword in Dumbledore's office last year, and he fought a full grown dark wizard the year before. And don't forget the Troll. Surely that's a sign of something special?
Yeah, I guess… and I suppose he is good at Defence and Charms. And he's a parselmouth. Maybe he inherited that from Loki via his dad.
Under the circumstances, he reckoned, curious and ambivalent was probably the best he was going to get.
A couple of corridors later, he was alone again. Except for one other. Draco Malfoy.
Harry's hand went to his wand.
"I'm not here to fight, Potter," Draco said calmly. He smirked slightly, and Harry noted that he sounded different. Older. More mature. This was a difference striking enough to be suspicious. "Come, we may be enemies, but at least credit me with a sense of self preservation." He raised his hands. They were empty.
"And this whole enemies thing… well I've been thinking. Being Death Eater spawn really isn't all it's cracked up to be," Draco said. "I was a bigoted fool when I came here. I didn't realise the integral role that people like Weasley play." He smiled sharply. "What is a leader without his followers, after all? Every great building needs its foundations. People like the Weasley family are necessary, and useful. They have undoubted talent in certain areas."
"You're talking about them like they're tools. Means to an end," Harry said, staring at him and wondering if someone wasn't impersonating Malfoy via Polyjuice. Then again, half the point of using that potion was to not seem out of place. Also, Snape wasn't complaining about stuff being stolen from his stores.
"Not quite. I am merely saying that it is wrong to dismiss them for being poor," Draco said. "When you think about it, it really is rather remarkable what they have achieved with so little: one is a world class curse breaker, another is an international level Quidditch player and an expert on wrangling dragons, yet another looks destined for high office in the Ministry with enough ambition for any Slytherin, and the terrible twosome are remarkably… inventive. Even Ronald seems to have talents. Chess is not to be sniffed at – it is a game of high strategy and skill at it is often indicative of high intelligence. Even if said intelligence is otherwise not apparent." He paced. "Then there is Granger's undoubted brilliance and you…" Unsettling clever and intense grey eyes settled on Harry, really looking at him for the first time. "Intelligent, strong willed, a survivor… with more cunning and power than most would credit you with," he murmured and inclined his head. "I misjudged you before, Harry."
"Are you sucking up to me?" Harry asked suspiciously.
Draco laughed. "Do I look like Cornelius Fudge?" he asked, amused. "No. I am merely letting you know that I hold you and your friends in somewhat higher regard and that I do not intend to harass you anymore." There was definitely something different about him. Pleasantly different, but unsettling.
"Why are you being friendly, Malfoy?" Harry asked suspiciously.
"I make it a policy not to piss off gods. You are also of royal blood, something that any enemy of yours would hesitate at," Draco said simply. "That and Loki is the patron of Slytherin House. I'm not on your side, and I am not on You-Know-Who's side. I am on my side. The winning side. But if it helps, while I am not fond of mud – muggleborns, I respect their capabilities. I am also decidedly not in favour of the return of a powerful genocidal maniac. Among other things, it's bad for business."
Harry eyed him carefully, then said, "You might want to talk with my uncle at some point, if business is what you're interested in."
"Oh, I've already invested heavily in Stark Industries with my allowance," Draco replied casually. "It seems to be a good bet. Maybe I can help fund Granger in some research project on combining magic and technology, something like that. Money, after all, was meant to be used."
"Who are you and what have you done with Draco Malfoy?" Harry asked in outright bafflement.
"Oh, I'm still Draco, Harry. The game has changed, and I am changing with it," Draco replied. "I bid you good day." And then he left, Harry watching in confusion.
Draco smiled. The voice that had started whispering in his ear two months ago had yet to lead him wrong. What it said made sense. It would take him to greatness, he was sure. It didn't seem to have a name, but it did let him call it Ariel. Why that was, he was not sure.
Call it a joke on my part, young Malfoy, the morally ambiguous angel on his shoulder said. Come, we have much work to do.
He smiled. Yes. They did. After all, terrorism was such an unsubtle and inefficient route to power. Fear only lasted so long. People forgot their fear, and it became anger. That was dangerous. But love… that lasted, as long as it was carefully maintained. Those that were content were less likely to rock the boat.
His personal adviser – though he considered the other to be more of a teacher and a guide than an equal – had explained all this to him. All this and more. He smiled again. Life was definitely looking up.
Harry shook his head in puzzlement as Draco left. Then he heard footsteps, and saw his uncle walking in a purposeful stride. Where was he going? Harry resolved to find out. Tailing his uncle through corridor after corridor, thankfully not going up more than one set of stairs, he finally watched him walking into Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. He waited a few moments, then peeked round the door. There was nothing inside. He slipped through the door, looking around all the while.
"What are you doing?"
Harry yelped and jumped a foot in the air. He swivelled and nearly fell over on coming face to face with a curious Moaning Myrtle. "Looking around," he said slowly.
"Oh," Myrtle said, disappointed. "I thought you'd come to see me."
"No. Sorry," Harry said, tone apologetic. "Look, did you see a tall, dark haired man with eyes like mine walk in a couple of minutes ago."
"Yes. He hissed, and the sink opened up for him. Then he disappeared," Myrtle said. She lowered her voice. "He went down into the Chamber of Secrets."
Harry frowned in thought. "Thanks," he said, then went up to the sink, and hissed, "Open up."
He stood back as the sink opened up. He looked down the dark, forbidding chute. Last time he'd been down there, he'd been with Ron and Lockhart. He'd nearly died. Ginny had nearly died. She'd been hurt – something which bothered him in a less abstract fashion than it once had. He gulped. There wasn't a basilisk down there anymore. And if something went wrong, his uncle could protect him – maybe the reason he'd gone down there in the first place was because he knew about the Chamber, and since he taught the Founders, he probably did. He smiled slightly and remembered something a character he liked on muggle television called 'The Doctor' liked to say.
He leapt down the chute.
The ride down was both terrifying and wildly exciting. Wincing as he landed with a thump on the further decomposed bodies of rats and mice, he stood up and took stock. It was all silent. Quickly, he moved forward and came upon a scene that shocked him. Loki was sitting by the head of the very dead basilisk, completely ignoring the smell of decay, and stroking its scales.
"I came too late," he whispered sadly. Then, he looked up and raised his voice. "You can come in, Harry."
"How did you know I was there?"
Loki smiled slightly. "I saw you out of the corner of my eye, a few times, then I heard you land on the pile of bones when fell down the chute."
"She," Loki corrected.
"She… she was yours, Uncle?" Harry asked, suddenly feeling horrendously guilty.
Loki sighed, and nodded. "Yes, yes she was. I passed her onto Salazar as he was the one who had the gift of speaking to snakes," he said, and looked sadly down at the basilisk, gently stroking her faded green scales. "That was a mistake. Sally, as Godric dubbed her, a name that seemed to stick, always loved the students, those who did not fear her for her power, and she had no care as to whether they were muggleborn or otherwise. How could she? Snakes have no concept of blood purity."
"Then why did she attack students?" Harry asked
"Because Salazar worked an old magic that bound her to his bloodline. She could not disobey a master who came from his blood," Loki said. "That is why I and Godric drove him from the castle." Loki looked distant. "Salazar was powerful, skilled and he had the favour of some dark being,a creature that granted him power. Great power, and great, deadly knowledge. Both of these 'gifts' warped him, turning his just caution to evil purpose. It took my full power and skill and Godric accessing the full gift of his bloodline, power that granted him the greatest mastery of fire magic and mind magic that I have ever seen, to defeat him. It devastated the land around the castle, but eventually, we triumphed." He sighed. "Sally went with Salazar that time, and did not return to the castle until long after I left."
"And you wanted to see if she was all right," Harry said.
Loki nodded mournfully. "But I was too late. Salazar's heir used her as a weapon, recently, and some brave young person put her down." He gestured at her mouth. "The killing blow went up through the roof of the mouth into the brain. It would have been quick."
"What… what would you want to say to the person that killed her?" Harry asked hesitantly.
"I would thank them," Loki said. "As, I suspect, would she. She did not want to be used as a weapon, and it would have grieved her greatly to be forced to kill the students she so loved."
"Uncle Loki it -"
"Was you. I know. Albus mentioned that you had used the Sword of Gryffindor last year when I saw it and asked," Loki said softly. "You gave my friend peace, Harry. And if I could not save her, that is the next best thing. I do not blame you for killing her. Even though you speak the tongue of the serpents, she would not have been able to listen."
"Still," Harry said, kneeling down beside her. "I'm sorry she's dead. I have been ever since I killed her."
Loki stared at him. "Why is that?"
"Because she was as much a victim of Riddle as Ginny was," Harry said, gently stroking the snake's scales. "She was being used as a puppet, and that wasn't fair. When Riddle pays for his crimes, this one'll be near the top of the list."
Loki smiled. "Maybe we should name you Harry the Just," he said lightly, but there was a wealth of pride behind those words, causing Harry to blush. He gestured, and basilisk began to disappear. "I shall take from her that which can be used again, her last gift," he said firmly. "The rest shall have an honourable burial. She is beyond where Riddle can hurt her now."
He slipped an arm around Harry's shoulders. "She would have thanked you, for what you did," he said quietly. "And so do I." He smiled. "If I remember correctly, the kitchens are right beside where Helga's students lived, and I'm in the mood for a snack." He glanced down at Harry's robes and grimaced. "You, young man, are a mess." He gestured, and the dirt flew off. "One of the first things I'm teaching you is cleaning charms. And levitation."
"Levitation…" Harry said slowly, then his eyes widened. "Uncle Loki… can you fly?"
"Not half as well as your father, or even as well as you do on a broomstick, but I can fly. And fly fast," Loki said. "Though I prefer teleportation." He made a rude noise. "Your fellow wand wavers call it apparition. In truth it is a bastardised form of the old art."
Harry looked puzzled, and Loki explained. "Among other things, my teleportation is silent. Apparition makes a popping crack every time it is performed, rather reducing its abilities as a both a weapon and a matter of discretion, especially in this age when mortal man gets so justly jumpy around explosions." He sighed. "It is also smooth, like stepping through a doorway - and rather more so than other mystical doorways, such as those to the Nevernever."
"What's apparition like?" Harry asked, setting aside his questions as to what the hell the Nevernever was when it was at home.
"According to Professor Lupin, being pulled through a rubber tube that is about six sizes too small," Loki said. He shrugged. "It only took me fifteen minutes to teach him and Albus how to teleport – it was just a matter of correcting technique – though it may be sometime before they are comfortable using it on a regular basis. Old habits and all that."
Harry nodded thoughtfully, and they passed the rest of the trip to the kitchens in silence. The house elves were… effusive. It turned out that their ancestors had been brownies who had served Loki, and therefore, they treated him like the god that Harry supposed he was. He wouldn't have minded this if they hadn't included him in this worship as well.
"Mr Prince Harry Potter sir!" one cried, bowing so low that its batlike ears and long nose scraped the floor. "Is you wanting anything from the kitchens? Is there anything we can be doing for you?"
This was just one of a deluge of questions asked, and supplications performed by the as ever over-excited House Elves.
Harry was about to open his mouth to protest at his royal treatment, when Loki drew him off to one side, smoothly saying to the elves, "I am glad to see that the old ways are kept up, and I gladdens my heart to see that the children of my steadfast servants of old flourish and retain their remarkable and praiseworthy loyalty. However, I must briefly speak with my nephew in private, as we have much to discuss." He conjured a privacy bubble and smiled kindly. "Still not fond of being worshipped, eh?"
Harry nodded. "I don't like…" he said, struggling for words.
"Being singled out for who you are as opposed to what you can do?" Loki asked.
Loki looked sympathetic. "I'm afraid you're going to have to get used to it," he said. "You are the son of Thor, second in line to the throne of Asgard. We have managed to keep your identity secret in the mortal world for now, but all the other realms clamour to know more about and meet the son of the mighty Thor." He looked Harry steadily in the eye. "We of Asgard, though we aren't truly immortal, are so close that it makes very little difference, particularly in the eyes of mortals. This means that we generally have children fairly rarely. A new child is something to be remarked upon. A new royal child… now that is something that happens maybe once every three centuries. At most."
Harry's eyes bugged out.
"Asgard is the most powerful and advanced of the Nine Realms," Loki continued. "And I dare say that many of our enemies were hoping that neither I nor Thor would produce an heir, and that we would die before we got the chance. Now, with your existence, a lot of them will have to re-evaluate their plans. They will have to re-examine their relations with Asgard, gear their expectations towards a nation with a true line of succession. Powerful families will resent your presence – they will have hoped to marry into the royal family and have their daughter produce Thor's successor."
Harry looked deep in thought. "So… I've got lots of new enemies," he said. Loki nodded. "Great," Harry drawled. "More people who hate me because of my family. Just what I need."
"You also have far more who love you because of who you are, and your new friends both outweigh the numbers of your new enemies, but are more powerful as well," Loki replied. "No one will dare move against you in any overt fashion, because they that to do so would invite the wrath of the Allfather, Thor, and myself, not to mention a good 95% of Asgard. The people of Asgard are very loyal to the royal family, and Thor is particularly beloved."
Harry looked half relieved, half annoyed. Then he laughed a little.
"What is it?" Loki asked.
Harry just shook his head wryly. "Most kids would give all they had to be where I am now. And no offence, I'm glad to have you and dad, it's just..."
"You only ever wanted to be normal," Loki said, nodding. "I understand that. Not truly, I suppose, for I have never been normal." This was not said with the arrogant tone one might expect. It was quite simply a statement of fact. Loki was not normal, not by any standards. "But the desire to fit in, to be accepted as you are… now that I understand very well." He sighed and took Harry's hand. "You are a good boy, Harry, and I am certain that those who you regard as your friends will treat as they always have." His lips twitched. "In the case of my twin apprentices, with a heavy dose of teasing."
Harry chuckled slightly.
"But you have to accept that you are no longer entirely human. You are no longer mortal. You are half of Asgard, even if the effects of your Asgardian spirit have yet to show themselves," Loki said. "I do not want you to abandon your humanity, for that would be a grievous loss, and both I and your father have learned and prospered from humanity. What you need to do is accept that you are no longer just mortal. You are of Asgard, of royal blood, and you, Harry James Potter, are heir to a legacy that you cannot even begin to understand."
He sat back. "You have much to learn about being royalty. But a couple of key lessons I can teach you now. One, be confident when people are deferring to you, but not arrogant. Two, you will find that some people, like House Elves, are more comfortable in deferential roles. One of my mistakes when I was mad was assuming that mankind would be the same." He chuckled dryly. "I found out that it was wrong the hard way. Do you remember the elderly gentleman who stood up to me in Stuttgart?"
Harry nodded. The footage of the old man's defiance in the face of a mad god had gone viral, getting a million views under the title 'Badass Grandpa sticks it to Loki'. What the title lacked in gravitas, the content more than made up for.
"I wrote a letter to him, thanking him for the object lesson in the courage of humanity, and his reminder that I was not so different to mortal tyrants. It was a speech that I spent much time reflecting on during my redemption," Loki said. "I received a very nice reply, as a matter of fact." He shook himself back to the present. "Anyway, some will want to be treated as equals. Unless you are in a formal setting and they are worthy of respect, there is no reason not to treat them as such. But House Elves will, for the most part, be unsettled if you treat them as wizards. Treat them fairly, treat them justly, but do not shy away from politely accepting their deference." He looked at Harry who was deep in thought. "I am confusing you a little, aren't I?"
"A little," Harry admitted. "But I think I get it. But isn't humility one of the things dad came to Earth to learn."
Loki nodded approvingly. "Exactly. It is a fine balance." He glanced at the elves. "Now, I will teach you more later. But for now… I'm a little hungry. What about you?"
Harry nodded and gulped slightly. Loki lowered the privacy bubble, and Harry had his first practical lesson in the nature of royalty.
"Hi Jane," Pepper said, walking over and sitting down next to a pensive looking Jane. The younger woman had arrived just that morning from Asgard and had been thoughtful ever since. That was a good sign, as compared to ranting and raving, but Pepper might still need to provide a little bit of cajoling.
She'd told Thor that she would speak to Jane on his behalf and she would. She got the feeling that James Potter had been very like Tony – smooth, charming, but with very little grasp of basic tact, and Thor was not exactly the most eloquent – or with his syntax and vocabulary, both charmingly several centuries out of date, comprehensible - of speakers. Jane had arrived earlier that day, and had been sitting around and looking thoughtful for most of it – which was an improvement on the worst case scenario of tears and anger, however rational or irrational, that Pepper had feared.
However, she hadn't considered it likely. Jane was clever, thoughtful and her nature as a deeply methodical scientist meant that she wasn't over-inclined to jump to conclusions, unlike Tony, whose scientific process mostly involved leaping from one bit of inspiration to the next, which led to him invariably jumping to conclusions. Unless she was involved. It was quite staggering, Pepper thought, when you realised that the man you loved trusted you implicitly in a way he trusted literally no one else.
"Oh, hey Pepper," Jane said.
After a long moment, Pepper said conversationally, "It's hard for Thor too, you know."
"Suddenly becoming a dad. He's also just got around twenty years of memories to deal with, along with the sudden knowledge that he had a wife and she's dead," Pepper said. "The only person who's really equipped to understand him is Steve. It's torn him up inside. When he came to the Avengers tower a couple of nights back to tell us all, when he related his story, he was crying openly, which is something that Sif, Loki and the Warriors Three have all told me that Thor normally does not do under any circumstances."
Jane blinked in shock. "He was crying?" she exclaimed.
Pepper nodded. "Uh-huh, though I reckon it was a one off. That much emotional turmoil will push anyone to the limit. And the poor man's confused. He's just regained an entire lifetime of memories. He loves you dearly, but he misses and grieves for his wife, who from the perspective of his regained memories, he only lost a few days ago. He also has to deal with raising a teenage magical son who's also adjusting to having a father. From what I hear, the kid also has a prophecy hanging over his head, an even stronger tendency to wander into trouble than Tony and a hero complex easily as big as his dad's. Oh, and speaking of Thor, his best friend from that time is a possibly insane fugitive from injustice and one of his other best friends betrayed himself and his wife to death. It's a bit of a mess, really."
"Whoa," Jane said quietly. "It's just…"
"You thought you knew him," Pepper said. "You thought you finally understood him, knew what made him tick and now suddenly all of this happens and you don't know which way is up."
"How…" Jane asked, awed.
"Honey, you're talking to the woman who has run Tony Stark's life for the past decade. I've got previous on having your entire world turned upside down," Pepper said with a smile.
"Oh," Jane said.
"My advice would be to support him, to let him know that you love him and are there for him," Pepper suggested. "Chat to Harry. He's a good kid, and he and Loki get on like a house on fire, which is more than a little worrying now that I come to think of it."
Jane chuckled. "I'm guessing that the insurance premiums on the Avengers tower are going to go up again," she said.
"No, thankfully Thor can fix all the damage with a wave of his wand, if Loki isn't around or can't be bothered to do it. Or caused it in the first place, for that matter," Pepper said, then sighed as Jane started giggling at the unintentional innuendo.
"That wand only works for you," Pepper said dryly. "I don't want to know if it has special magical powers."
"Oh it does," Jane said dreamily. She opened her mouth.
"No, Jane," Pepper said firmly. "I said I didn't want to know."
"Save it for Darcy," Pepper said. "She'll doubtless pump you for all the details." She frowned. "Wouldn't you have told her already? I mean, you and Thor have been going out for what, two years now?"
"I give her snippets every now and then," Jane said, smiling slightly. "Enough to keep her from bugging me about it, but not enough to make her bug me about something else."
"That's… very devious."
"I've been learning from the best," Jane said with a shrug.
"I suppose you have," Pepper murmured.
Jane smiled. "All right," she said, shrugging. "No more TMI." She smiled. "Have you met Thor's son yet? What's he like?"
Pepper shook her head. "Not yet, but from what Thor tells me, he's a good kid."
Jane nodded. "If he's his father's son, he can't fail to be," she said firmly.
Pepper smiled. Everything seemed to be on track.
And that's the end of this chapter, everything running smoothly.