Well, I'm sorry for the wait, and I'm afraid you'll have another one. I have lots of exams and lots of work, so you may not see a chapter for a while (on the other hand, I tend to write when stressed, so who knows?)
In return, you get what is the longest chapter I have written in my life. While the rest of the Avengers don't make an onscreen appearance (Clint and Natasha appear at the end, but aren't seen), the next chapter will feature each and every one of Earth's Mightiest heroes.
His father was alive. The dearly departed James Potter, the war hero who had attacked Voldemort himself with his bare hands in a desperate attempt to protect his wife and son, the man who Harry had been told he looked like by just about everyone he met – not forgetting, of course, the caveat 'but you have your mother's eyes' – and the person who Harry had always, consciously or otherwise, wondered if he measured up to, was alive.
It was only really hitting him now, Harry thought, as he looked out the window. It was well into November, and Autumn was relinquishing its hold on Hogwarts in favour of Winter. Frost rimed the windows, the ground was hardening as the mud froze, the water on the grass gleamed like diamonds in the moonlight, and if Harry looked carefully, he could see that the lake was beginning to freeze over at the banks. Did the giant squid get cold? He could ask either Hermione or his uncle in the morning.
That led him back to his father. His feelings for his father were rather complicated by the fact that he also happened to be Thor. While this contributed much to the explanation of why the hell he hadn't been around, it also put Harry's brain through the blender. Having a father who came back from the dead was one thing. Having a father who came back from the dead and also happened to be a bona fide deity… well, not only was it mind bending, it meant that Harry was going to be in for even more fame. He was almost certain that the next issue of the Daily Prophet would be screaming about it, and he was already attracting even more stares and whispers than before, stares and whispers that were growing at an exponential rate.
So. More publicity. Not of the good, as Buffy might say – he'd liked that show. Mrs Figg had let him watch it, though when he made the mistake of telling Uncle Vernon, the belt made an appearance and he'd been locked in the cupboard for two whole days, desperately wishing for his own personal Buffy to come kick down the door, set him free and kick Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia's arses. And Dudley's for good measure.
He shook himself and focused his thoughts. Anyway. More fame. Not good. But his dad couldn't really help the fact that he was famous, and hey, maybe he could learn to deal with it better. Some of the things his Uncle Loki – and those were two words he never thought would have occupied the same train of thought, aside from previous idle hopes that Vernon and Loki would meet and Loki would… well, he wasn't sure what he had hoped Loki would do to Vernon, but it wouldn't have been pleasant – had said stuck with him. He was a Prince of Asgard now. He'd long since dumped the idea that this was a fevered dream inspired by Quidditch injuries on the grounds that it was pointless to work under that assumption and that his life was weird enough for this to be possible.
But back to his father. So far, resentment for the additional fame this brought and the complete divorce from any semblance of normality, anger – irrational, Harry admitted – that he hadn't been there when Harry needed him. That he hadn't held Harry as he'd cried as a child, he hadn't come to whisk him away from the Dursleys every time who silently begged any being listening for someone to save him, someone to love him, for someone to play the father and take him by the hand.
On the other hand… he had empathy for the fact that his father had had his memories removed by Odin – his grandfather – and Loki being bound by the fact that Odin's word was law, and Odin's word had apparently been for Thor's time as James not to be brought up to, as far as Harry could discern, prevent Thor going mad with grief.
And it was clear that while his father was busy and had flown off – something that rankled slightly, until Loki had explained that he was clearing up matters with some of his friends on Earth, since the first thing he had done on being reminded of Harry's existence was to go to his side and stay there – it was also clear that he loved him very much. He smiled as he remembered his father's embrace, simultaneously tight like he never wanted to let go ever again, and gentle, comforting, with a sense of truly vast strength being carefully restrained. And that, in Harry's mind, was enough to leave him in a state where he was happy with his father. Confused of course – it was still a lot to adjust to, but that was to be expected.
He looked out the window, and smiled. It was snowing. Somehow, just somehow, he got the feeling that his life was looking up. After all, not so long ago, he hadn't had any real family. Now, he had a father, an uncle and grandparents. Yes. Life was looking up. He climbed into bed and went to sleep.
A week passed, and Harry was excited. Professor Dumbledore was letting him go stay with his dad for the weekend, and meet his dad's friends, the Avengers. Like just about every other kid in the Western world, and a lot out of it, he had idolised the Avengers. His favourite had been Loki – with dark hair, green eyes, magic and tragedy in his past, Harry could well identify with him.
He liked Iron Man, because Tony Stark was hilarious, and he liked Captain America and Thor because of the fundamental kindness and decency that they radiated in every television appearance and interview. He'd already met two, who just so happened to be his dad and uncle, and was going to get to meet the rest of them.
He was still getting used to the fact that he actually had a dad and that he no longer had to live with the Dursleys. He was also apparently getting new clothes when they were in New York. Loki had said that a Prince should look like a Prince, and that apparently there were lots of shops, both muggle and magical, that they could go to.
Harry didn't mind the idea of new clothes – Dudley's old stuff was far too big for him - but what he was most looking forward to was spending time with his dad, something that had been a bit restricted over the past few days, what his dad having to re-establish control over the Potter vaults and with the help of Loki, explain how he had a blood right to reclaim – and Harry to inherit - the Potter vaults and not have them parcelled out to the nearest relative that wasn't in Azkaban. This relative happened to be Narcissa Malfoy, which made Draco related to Harry himself.
Once, this would have utterly disgusted Harry. But now, as he put it to Ron, "Malfoy isn't so bad." Indeed, while Malfoy hadn't gone out of his way to talk to either them or Hermione, he had nodded politely when he passed them in the corridors and been civil in every one of the few conversations they had shared.
Ron had been suspicious. "He's a Slytherin. They're always plotting something. I mean, you're uncle's brilliant, but he's always planning, isn't he? And isn't he the patron of Slytherin House?" he'd asked.
"Yeah, but I think that Malfoy isn't plotting against us. I mean, Ron, he's been an irritating bully in the past, but he isn't stupid. And he's a Slytherin, he's not going to want to go against Loki now, is he?"
Ron had nodded his grudging agreement. "He has gone out of his way to be friendly," he grudgingly admitted. To Ron, a Slytherin who wasn't being actively antagonistic was going out of their way to be friendly.
"And he sounds older. Smarter," Harry had added. He looked thoughtful. "It happened really suddenly, though…" he shook his head. "I'll ask my uncle. Anyway, d'you want to hear about dad and uncle Loki meeting with the goblins?"
Ron had, so Harry told him.
Thor strode towards Gringotts, ignoring the stares he got. He was in his James Potter form, and was well used to being stared at, both as a Prince of Asgard and an Avenger. Once upon a time, he would have invited the stares and played to the crowd. Now, he was older, wiser and more importantly, busier. He could still play to the crowd as well as Tony could – albeit in a different fashion – he just had more immediate issues to deal with.
He glanced slightly to his right. His brother was matching his stride, and attracting a fair few stares himself. And a cry of 'murderer!'
On hearing that, Thor wheeled on the source of the voice, and was about to demand that the speaker show themselves and apologise, when Loki touched his arm. "No, brother," he said softly. "It is an accusation I have more than earned. What would you do? Dispute the truth of it?"
"People shouldn't treat you like a monster," Thor growled. "You aren't that person anymore."
"Violence won't help them see that, brother," Loki replied. "It is just one in a sea of mortals. I am fine."
Thor let himself be led away, but he knew Loki was lying. He could read his brother even better than ever now, and he recognised the look Loki had very, very briefly got on his face when he'd heard the cry. Surprise, hurt, grief and a certain sense of resignation. He'd seen it often enough of Sirius' face in the early years of Hogwarts, when the Slytherins, many of whom he had been related to, started getting at him. He also suspected that, like Sirius, his brother would enjoy talking about it as much as most people enjoyed having their teeth pulled.
Soon, they reached the bank itself and ascended the stairs. Thor looked around the gilded marble halls. The last time he'd been in here, he and Lily had been getting an enlarged money pouch for their time in hiding. If everything went wrong, if Voldemort cracked the Fidelius, they would take it and Harry and run to the continent. He let out a sudden, loud, bitter laugh that drew attention from everyone in the hall. Look how that had worked out. Lily was dead, his happy family life had been ruined… he had lost so much.
But, he thought, he still had his son. He still had Jane. He still had the Avengers, his parents, his brother, Remus, and Sirius, when they found him. That was something. More than something. And Lily would kick his arse if she thought he was moping.
"Brother?" Loki asked gently.
"I'm fine, Loki," Thor said, aware that his voice was slipping into more James like patterns as he unconsciously ran a hand through his hair. He had noticed that the more he thought on his mortal memories, the more he tended to act as he had when he had been James. Even when he didn't, he still had more modern speech patterns, which came as a blessed relief to just about everyone. "Just remembering, is all."
Loki nodded. "The memories are too fresh?"
"A little. But I can manage," Thor said, then looked at the impassive goblin. "We have an appointment with your manager, Ragnok."
"Crown Prince Thor Odinson of Asgard, formerly known as James Potter," Thor said. "And Prince Loki Odinson of Asgard. May I know who I am addressing?"
"I am Griphook, your highness," Griphook said, getting down from his desk and pushing a small button, that opened a door that would easily admit a man of medium height. Neither Thor nor Loki was of medium height. Or, strictly speaking, a man. "The wizards are right, for once," Griphook commented. "Your son does look like you. But if you're Thor, as that hammer indicates, why do you look like that?"
"I was incarnated as James Potter," Thor said, patience slightly frayed. It was a question he had answered many times these past few days. "I normally look as I appear when I am with the Avengers. I can change between the two at will."
"Useful talent," Griphook commented. "Can't remember the last time an Asgardian was in here, except for your brother, and some blonde Asgardian witch with a large, bald minion who was trying to extort money." He smiled toothily. "It didn't go as she might have hoped."
"Did she have a tantrum?" Thor asked.
"One of epic proportions," Griphook asked.
"My apologies for her actions, Griphook. Amora is…"
"A self-obsessed prissy little bitch?" Loki asked venomously. "I have a list of further appropriate adjectives. I had to consult a dictionary for some." To say he had had a bad experience with Amora the Enchantress and her faithful dog, Skurge, was the understatement of the century. It was not one he talked about, and all that was known about it was that the Trickster had come off worse and had ever since nursed a legendary grudge against the Enchantress and the Executioner.
"Am I wrong? If you had heard some of the things she said when she heard you had married Lily…" Loki said. He smiled viciously. "I defended your lady's honour. And took great pleasure in doing so." He looked at Griphook. "You need not fear her return, Master Griphook. The Allfather banned her from coming to Midgard at my suggestion, to prevent her doing something foolish to Lily."
"If she had touched Lily, I would have killed her," Thor said flatly. "If she touches Harry, I will kill her and if Skurge tries to stop me, I'll ram that precious axe of his up his sorely whipped arse."
Griphook chuckled darkly. "Many a goblin would pay gold to see that."
"If the opportunity ever arises, Master Griphook, I will ensure that if you do not see it, a recording is circulated," Thor said, tone just as dark.
They walked in silence for a few more minutes, before reaching a round doorway.
Griphook laid a hand on the door, which shimmered, then rolled aside into a hollow in the wall. "Follow me," he said, and Thor and Loki did, entering a well-appointed office.
"Ah. Prince Thor, Prince Loki," Ragnok said. "You have business?"
"We do, Lord Ragnok," Loki said politely. "My brother was incarnated as James Potter, which means that he inherited the Potter vaults and passed them onto his son. While we have the vault key," he said, withdrawing it from a pocket and holding it up. "There is the small problem that my brother is no longer mortal. While he can change from what once was to what he now is at will," he said, indicating Thor, who shifted to Thor form, then back again. "We are not sure how this affects both his blood and his ownership."
"You fear a legal challenge from Lucius Malfoy by way of his wife," Ragnok deduced, and Loki nodded.
"While we do not need the money as such, there is principle and there is the fact that Malfoy is rich enough and dangerous enough as it is, at stake," Thor interjected.
"Hmm," Ragnok said. "You are in the interesting position of inheriting two different things from what are technically two different fathers. Do you have any plans to puzzle this out?"
This, as Loki was acutely aware, was a test. These goblins were very like the dwarves they were distantly related to. He smiled. "We do. First, we point out that possession is nine tenths of the law, and we possess the key. However, that strategy has flaws. Second, we cite the fact that Thor was, as James, Charlus and Dorea Potter's acknowledged heir, meaning that even if he was no biological relative, he had every right to inherit. Third, when asked if Harry has the right to the Potter name, we explain the circumstances. The body of James Potter was mortal, and acted as the vessel for Thor's spirit. In other words, hewas both man and god, and has equal right to inherit both."
Ragnok smiled toothily. "Very clever, Prince Loki. The stories my people have handed down speak truly. You understand well how to turn the law to your advantage."
"That's what it's there for, isn't it?" Loki asked, tone lightly amused.
Thor coughed. "You're meant to follow it, brother. Not just when it's convenient," he said mildly, well aware that he too had dodged the law when he had had too. Unlike Loki, however, he rarely took such glee in doing so.
"Sometimes, brother, the law restricts too much," Loki said. "It is a fine thing, but no law is perfect. Sometimes it impedes justice."
"True. But you have to distinguish between justice and vengeance."
"Yes, but brother, must we have this discussion here?"
"You started it."
"No, you did."
Ragnok sat back and smirked. Free entertainment. Always a bonus. And it was rare that non-goblins felt comfortable enough to relax in such a fashion before goblins. Rare and gratifying. While Ragnok was no fonder of wizards than any of his kind, he understood that it was their gold that kept the system going, and he got the feeling that he may have just acquired two very valuable customers. Maybe even allies.
He coughed. "My lords?"
"I think we can draw up a contract to reaffirm your ownership of the vault. Do you wish for your son to have access?" Ragnok asked.
"Yes," Thor said.
Thor looked thoughtful. "No. I trust him."
"Thor, you've hardly seen him since he was one and a quarter," Loki said. "He's a good boy, but you can't really get a full gauge of his character."
"Harry Potter does not strike me as a boy who would go on a spending spree like others his age. Not without an extremely unusual reason," Griphook put in.
"Besides," Thor said. "I hardly lack money, Loki. While the Potter accounts only have maybe quarter as much as Stark's fortune, that is approximately…" his lips moved. "300 million galleons. Or £1.5 billion."
Loki stared at him.
"The Potter family goes back millennia and inherited a lot from other pureblood families as they died off, and a good deal of that is tied up in property and valuable artefacts. Also, my mortal father met Howard Stark and was favourable impressed by him, so he invested in Stark Industries. I believe we own a five percent stake," Thor said carelessly.
"Your mortal father had a sound mind for investment," Loki said.
"He did," Ragnok said, grudgingly impressed by both Thor's calculations and the late Charlus Potter's business acumen. "The Potter fortune grew by a good 24.37% from the beginning of his time as head of the family."
"That… that is impressive," Loki said slowly.
"Stark Industries grew by over 500% from the beginning of Charlus Potter's investment. That was a mix of major military contracts and development of the arc reactor which offset the vast majority of energy costs," Ragnok said. Thor stared at him. Ragnok smiled sharply. "Come now, my lord. Did you think that my kind would avoid the ample opportunities for profit that the muggle world provides?"
"No," Thor said slowly. "I suppose not."
"This has been most illuminating," Loki said mildly. "My lord Ragnok, how long will it take to draw up a reaffirmation of my brother's status?"
"We have a blank contract prepared," Ragnok said, and snapped his fingers. Griphook went over to one of the cabinets, rifled through the folders and withdrew a contract. "Griphook, have one of the scribes informed of the particulars of this case, and have it filled out."
Griphook bowed and left.
"That should take fifteen minutes," Ragnok said calmly. "May I offer you a drink? I would like to discuss potential Asgardian investment. Odin Allfather and his father both did good business with my people, creating much profit. If Asgard is to meddle in the mortal worlds once more, the Goblin nations will want to be on… what is the muggle phrase? Ah. The ground floor."
Thor raised an eyebrow, then looked at Loki. "Brother, this is more your department."
Loki smiled. "So it is," he said, voice full of anticipation. Ragnok suddenly got the feeling that negotiating with Loki would be about as easy as parting one of the elder dragons from its gold. Loki leaned forward, smirking. "Now, Lord Ragnok. Let's talk business."
Loki looked at his four apprentices. He was thoroughly enjoying his re-immersion in the Wizarding World. Not only was it good to be surrounded by magic users again, and to be the expert that others turned to the same way they normally turned to Stark and Banner when there was a science based issue, if only to say, 'please stop doing it', he got to see his nephew. And negotiate with goblins. Which was fun. While he was a hero these days, he still enjoyed the chance to cajole, trick, manipulate and outwit a worthy opponent. And have the satisfaction of them knowing that he'd beaten them. The only difference was that now he turned such talents to the protection of the Nine Worlds and their people instead of conquest and his own benefit.
Speaking of the Goblin's, Harry had looked both gobsmacked and unbelievably discomfited when Thor had, quietly, informed him of the state of his finances. This was likely to do with the truly vast disparity between the Potter finances and that of the Weasleys, which more closely resembled those of Doctor Banner when he was on the run by comparison to those of Tony Stark.
However, since Lily and James' will had never been executed, Loki had taken the opportunity to, with the approval of Thor, slip in a one hundred thousand galleon endowment to the Weasley family, which was to be used to improve the state of their home, their family and provide for their future, with a suitably mid war flavour statement, 'to either make sure that the fight will continue without us or to at least partially relocate your family to a more peaceful land.'
He drew himself back to the present. "Apprentices," Loki said. "I call you that because that is what you are. While you are in a lesson with me, I will refer to you as Apprentice Thorson, Apprentice Granger and Apprentice Weasley, respectively. You will refer to me as Master. I have the right to ask this of you as I am a Master of Magic. Such mastery, even in the compressed and minimised Midgardian version, is hard earned. It took the Founders five years of constant lessons to achieve it. But even if you do not complete your mastery, you will learn things that your fellows will not have imagined. Including the art of wandless magic. Make no mistake, wands are better for precision work, and will, until you master the art, require less power. But once you master this, you will cast spells with only your will and, at most, a gesture and a word. What you will learn with me includes arts long thought lost, arts known only by the mystic masters of Asgard. You will warp reality, bend the world to your will and the impossible will be to you as the mundane is to others."
All four of his students were listening closely. Good.
"First, you must consciously find your magical core, so you can access it," Loki said. "This will require patience, calm and meditation. Do not fret if by the end of your session you do not even glimpse your core. It took Godric and Salazar five sessions each, Rowena three and a half, and Helga one." He looked at them seriously to make sure they understood this. "This part is not complex. But it isn't easy, either. If it was easy, it would not be worth doing."
He settled into a lotus position. "This is the position I prefer. Try this, then vary it until you are comfortable. After that, close your eyes, and turn your mind inwards. Look for a ball of coloured energy that is intrinsically yours. That is your core." He watched as they did so. Hermione seemed to find it hardest, constantly shifting and rearranging her skirt. Her nose was scrunched up. He smiled inwardly. So like Salazar and Rowena. She was trying too hard. Fred and George seemed to settle in quite easily. He imagined that was because of the sheer number of punishments that had given them time to sit still and think, as well as their bond to one another. A brief interrogation of their brothers and sister had revealed that they had manifested and even appeared to control their accidental magic as children. There were shades of Helga there. And Harry? Harry was taking to it both well and badly. Well because he worked best under pressure and on instinct, but badly because he was a very energetic and active boy. Very like Godric, very like indeed.
He waited for a few minutes, to see if they settled down, then stood up silently and moved around the classroom, offering whispered advice, Hermione to stop trying too hard. She wasn't relaxed enough, not yet, wanting to get it right immediately. The twins to focus on themselves rather than each other – that would probably be their biggest difficulty. For those spells that were either enhanced by or required two casters, they would be a truly fearsome combination. Harry also needed to relax, and to banish some of the more random thoughts from his mind. Loki examined the upper layer of his thoughts with amusement. Teenage boys would be teenage boys, he thought, as he caught Harry idly imagining what Black Widow would look like naked, then getting very hot and bothered about it. Loki suspected he still expected his idle thoughts to be of Quidditch as opposed to the fairer sex, which would be new and uncharted territory for a boy his age.
"Try transferring your focus from the Lady Widow's nakedness to the task at hand, Harry," Loki murmured, so low that the others would not hear. Harry twitched, green eyes flying open and opened his mouth to either deny it or apologise. "No," Loki said. "Do not apologise, I understand. My first lessons were marred by similar thoughts. The trick is not to try not to think about them, it is to focus on something else, and it can serve as a spur."
The time ticked on, and he watched as the twins slipped into easy, slow, breathing that was generally a sign of near completion of the exercise. They wouldn't complete it this session, but they would at the start of the next. Hermione looked on the point of frustrated tears. He would need to talk to her. Harry seemed to be more at ease, and wasn't far off where the twins were, though his focus kept wandering. That would simply have to come with practice. A few words of encouragement, reiteration of advice.
Finally, the lesson ended, and Loki stood. "The lesson is over," he said. "You have all done very well. Fred, George, practice in between sessions. If you manage to complete the exercise before our next lesson, do nothing further. Instead, find me and talk to me, and I'll tell you what to do from there. Harry, excellent, just keep making sure you transfer your focus properly. Hermione, I need to talk to you."
Hermione looked upset, and the other three gave her sympathetic looks, in between whispering to one another, as they left, shutting the door behind them.
As soon as they left, Hermione burst into a frustrated rant. "I can't do it!" she cried. "I'm sorry, Master, I can't! I'm useless, I can't focus on this to save my life!" She looked on the point of angry tears, so Loki cut her off.
"You are rather used to getting everything right first time, are you not, Apprentice Granger?" he asked gently. "And aside from, say, flying, this is the first part of magic you've had real trouble with."
Hermione nodded, face red, bushy hair bouncing. "Yes, and I don't understand! I'm trying, I really am, Master, it's just…"
"You're trying too hard," Loki said. "Because you are impatient. That is often a problem with truly brilliant people, and make no mistake, Apprentice Granger, you are truly brilliant. You want to be first to get it, to win a competition that isn't a competition." He looked serious. "This is not something you can rush, Apprentice Granger. You strike me as a passionate young woman who is ferociously clever and very hardworking. Both Helga and Rowena would have been happy to duel Godric to teach you. However, you are also very highly strung. You need to learn to kick back and relax. Take a cue from your friend Ron. He may not be the highest academic achiever, but I hear that he is an excellent strategist and a chessmaster. A chessmaster does not hurry their moves. They consider every facet of the problem at hand, then act."
Hermione sighed and nodded. "Yes, Master."
"Keep trying. Practice before bed and in your free time," Loki advised. "If by the end of the session after next you have made little or no progress, I will put you in touch with Doctor Bruce Banner, who will be able to advise you on how to relax, or how to harness your apparently boundless energy and enthusiasm." Hermione blushed slightly, and nodded.
"Yes, Master," she said, still sounding a little down.
"Hermione, it took even Rowena Ravenclaw three and a half sessions and all the time in between practicing to get it right," Loki said. "I am confident that once you have got past this opening hurdle you will do excellently. But for now, go against your instincts. Relax, and don't be down that you haven't got it yet. You will get it in time." He looked up at the clock. "Go on. It's dinner time, and I'm willing to bet that you're hungry."
Hermione nodded and ran out.
Loki smiled. He liked being a teacher again.
Thor found his son on the Quidditch pitch. "Hello, Harry," he said, in his James Potter form. Eventually, he would try and get his son to be accustomed to both forms, but for now, the one he instinctively knew to be his father would have to do.
Harry turned and smiled. "Hey dad," he said, running over for a hug, which he got. Thor revelled in it. He had missed out on so much of Harry's childhood. No more, he vowed. And Harry would get a childhood, he vowed. As soon as Voldemort showed his face, Thor would smite him and drag him to Helheim himself, prophecies be damned.
He still had difficulty looking at Trelawney and was, at best, curt with her. Every time he saw her face, under those stupid glasses, that ridiculous hairdo, that vacant expression that made her look more like a stunned cow than the mysterious sage she thought herself to be and that moronic bevy of clothes, he got the urge to grab her and shake her, and demand why the she had made, as her only genuine prophecy, the one prophecy that had ruined his life, that had killed his wife and hurt his son. Couldn't she have made it where Snape wasn't around to hear it? And that was another person on the 'to-restrain-from-smiting' list. He hated Snape. Before, he had disliked him. But now… it was his fault Lily was dead. So he hated him more than he had hated anything in his entire life, a bitter flame that licked at his heart like a cancer.
Sometimes, he wanted to look up at the sky and scream – and had, once. He'd flown to the top of a mountain in the Grampians and screamed, causing several minor avalanches and scaring some birds to death. He just wanted to ask 'Why?' Why him, why his family, why did the people he loved have to bend over and take it from Fate and Destiny? It wasn't fair! And as he had those thoughts as easily as he breathed, he lived in the bitter knowledge that somewhere, the Norns were laughing.
But for every bitterness, every hurt, every wound, there is a balm. Harry was that balm. Every time he saw his son, he felt a wave of overwhelming love and pride. That was his boy. And when he smiled, he looked so painfully like Lily, green eyes practically glowing with happiness, like emerald lamps, shining in the darkness. He just wanted to hug him, hold him and protect him from the cares of the world. Harry was his son, flesh of his flesh, blood of his blood and bone of his bone. He was his and he do anything to protect him.
And now, his wonderful boy was in his arms.
"How are you?" he asked.
"Fine," Harry said, but his tone betrayed a bit of pain.
"What is it?"
"Nothing… well, you know when I fell off my broom?"
Thor fixed him with a wry look. "Harry, no parent is going to forget their only child's near death experiences, as much as they might want to," he said dryly. "I was terrified for your sake. It is safe to say I remember."
Harry chuckled slightly, and unconsciously leaned into his father's body. "Yeah, I suppose so. But, my broom was smashed by the Whomping Willow. It's beyond repair."
"Then we'll get you a new one," Thor said. "For Christmas, if that's what you want."
Harry looked startled, then smiled. "Yeah, it is." He paused, and shifted his feet awkwardly for a moment or two.
"What is it?" Thor asked, amused.
"… Can I have a Firebolt?" Harry asked hesitantly. "I mean, if it isn't too much to ask," he began anxiously.
"Harry," Thor said, chuckling softly. "Nothing is too much to ask." He inwardly resolved to ask Loki to help him not just buy a Firebolt, but to improve the charms and make it even better. And to get one for Ron – though he would have to check with Molly about that one.
Speaking of Molly, she'd been trying to get him to take the money back, but he'd turned a deaf ear. That was, until he'd got tired of it and pointed out that one, the will was written in war time and was long overdue its execution (a total lie, since Loki and the Gringotts scribes had forged it only a few days ago), two, it was doing nothing in his vault, three, she, Arthur and the children deserved the best, four, he'd had much longer to practice being stubborn and he really wasn't backing down, and five, Loki had an in with the Queen, and accepting the cash would quickly become a Royal Command if necessary. Molly had given in at that point.
"Also, I owe you twelve years of birthday presents, Christmas presents, and random parental spoiling," he added as an afterthought. He suddenly had an idea and drew his hammer. "Do you want to fly?"
"What?" Harry asked, then looked at the hammer. His eyes promptly widened. "Really?" he breathed.
"Yes," Thor said, gratified that his son didn't even bother to ask if it was safe. Not only did that show trust, it showed inherited recklessness. Of course, Lily would have worried and probably screamed at him for endangering their child in such a fashion. "Sorry Lils," he murmured to himself. "But the boy's going to fly some time."
"Nothing, Harry. Your dad's just rambling to himself," Thor said, and pulled Harry close with his left hand, spinning the hammer with his right. "Hold on tight," he said, grinning. Harry matched the grin, and let out a wild whoop as they took off.
They shot straight upwards at speeds no wizarding broom had ever achieved, the magic of Mjolnir preventing wind shear from affecting either himself or Harry, then turned sharply to race over the countryside. Hogsmeade whipped past, looking like a child's toy beneath them. Fields blurred into a giant patchwork quilt, patches of forest like bits of stuffing marring the pattern, yet also improving it, as if put there on purpose by a particularly adept and ambitious seamstress.
Roads crisscrossed the country side like solid grey rivers, cars darting up and down them in a multi-coloured horde, flashing like tropical fish as they moved up and down their pre-ordained paths. They turned again, and soon they were racing over the sea. Thor took them low, so that they could have reached out and touched the waves. Thankfully Harry was holding on too tight and had too much sense to do so, though even if he hadn't been holding on, Thor's left arm held him to his body as tightly as a vice.
They shot past a trawler, and Thor smiled. He shared a look with his son, who was clearly laughing and revelling in this flight. "This is brilliant!" he yelled over the rushing winds, and Thor laughed.
"I am glad you think so," he said, and slowly, their flight began to curve upwards, turning unerringly back towards Hogwarts, accelerating slowly until they were cruising at just below the speed of sound, passing over the great patchwork quilt with its grey rivers and multi-coloured fish. Finally, they landed again, back on the Quidditch pitch.
"Did you enjoy that?" Thor asked, looking at his son, whose hair was as messy and windswept as his had ever been – and currently was.
Harry's grin threatened to split his face in two. "That was incredible," he breathed. "Can we do it again?"
"Not today," Thor said. "Maybe when we're in New York. Knowing Tony, he might insist he take you for a flight."
Harry's eyes sparkled with excitement. "Oh, could I?" he asked hopefully.
"No. Far too unsafe," Thor said firmly. "I have twelve years of over protective parenting to catch up on as well," he said, smirking at his son's slight pout, the same one Lily had had when she'd been thwarted when she'd badly wanted to do something. He'd seen it most often when Sirius interrupted their make outs for some prank or other, usually after her immediate irritated expression had faded. He ruffled his son's hair. "Come on in, Harry. Your uncle is plotting a prank with the twins, and I don't know about you, but I want in."
"Do you even have to ask?" Harry said playfully.
Thor laughed and gently clapped his shoulder. "That's my boy!" He looked down at Harry, all coltish limbs, windswept hair, sparkling green eyes, cheeks reddened with wind and excitement and dazzling smiles, and thought, oh Lily, I hope you're watching. Because don't look now, but our son is the most beautiful, brave and brilliant thing in all the Nine Realms.
And ever after, he would swear that it wasn't just the early Winter wind brushing up crackling leaves, or a light breeze caressing his ear, but he could have sworn he heard a female voice whisper, I am. And I already knew, you great lummox.
He burst into hearty laughter.
He smiled. "Nothing, Harry. Nothing." He looked down at Harry. "I love you, you know that? I love you, Harry, my son."
Harry's smile was dazzling and he laughed, a carefree, happy laugh. "I do now," he said, voice teasing. Then he hugged his father tightly. "I really do. I love you too, dad."
On hearing those five words, Thor's heart melted into a puddle of sappy goo. Tears in his eyes, he hugged his son and said nothing. For a few long moments, they just held each other on the grassy lawn and enjoyed being with someone who loved them unconditionally.
Time passed. The week ended, and Saturday dawned, bright and misty, with the crackling of frost on the grass and the lake beginning to freeze over. It was nearing December and the first snows. Thor could feel them on the wind, and he stood on the battlements, savouring the coolness of the dawn.
"The James Potter I knew could not have been woken at this time for anything short of, oh, the chance to see Lily less than fully dressed," Remus greeted him.
"She did look adorable in her lime green pyjamas," Thor said equably, shifting to his James Potter form.
"You're just saying that because the top was a tight tank top and she didn't wear a bra at night," Remus said, then chuckled. "Not until Sirius dumped a bucket of cold water over her head."
"Yeah, and then she started wearing bras to bed and Sirius started complaining that he could feel when the wind changed direction with his left elbow," Thor said, grinning as he remembered Sirius' helter skelter attempts to escape the wrath of hurricane Lily in full rage mood, dripping with cold water, shrieking imprecations and hurling curses.
He noticed Remus was watching him carefully. "You're coming to terms with Lily's passing very well," he said carefully. The 'too well' went unspoken.
"I'm not forgetting her, if that's what you're worrying about," Thor said. "It is simply that my memories as James are slipping into the rightful place in my memory bank, as it were, losing the bright, harsh immediacy they had when they were restored. The time they belong to was twelve years ago. I have twelve years of experience and memory to buttress against the pain." He sighed. "It does still hurt, Moony. I can't, won't, deny that. Ever. Every morning since I got my memories back, I roll over, expecting to see Lily, or here her mumble 'geroff' or 'your turn to deal with the baby', or something like that. That said, I'm managing. I'm focusing on the good times, not the bad." He looked off into the distance. "Because if I don't, I'll go mad."
Remus gently took his friend's hand and squeezed briefly, before releasing it.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I just thought…" he said, hunting for the words.
"That everything that was James was being overwhelmed?" Thor asked.
Remus paused, then nodded.
"I can understand why you'd think that, Moony, but it isn't. It's being assimilated. When I dwell on my memories as James, I sound more like I did then. When I'm dealing more with my Asgardian side, I sound more like I did before," Thor explained. "As far as I and Loki can tell, it is settling into a blend of the two."
Remus nodded. "I see," he said. "James?"
"Harry is rather badly affected by Dementors, Prongs. And we both know why. He saw Lily murdered in front of him, and that's his only memory of her," Remus said quietly. Thor stiffened. "I would like to teach him the Patronus charm, and maybe you, I and a few others could pool our best memories of Lily. Otherwise all Harry will ever see of her is photographs and her last moments."
Thor nodded. "That is an excellent idea, Moony. Both are excellent ideas," he added.
There was a sudden roar overheard, and Remus jumped slightly. Thor smiled. "The Avengers Quinjet," he said by way of explanation. "We couldn't get a cross continental portkey on such short notice, I'm not sure if Loki is up for teleporting himself, Harry and I over to New York, the Dark Paths are dangerous even for full grown men and women to traverse, let alone a curious child and I want Harry to see Asgard when he has a chance to appreciate it." He flashed Remus a grin as the jet came in to land. "Also, I've persuaded the pilot to teach Harry a little bit of how to fly it." He paused. "I think he removed the ammunition for the minigun…"
"Big, spinning gun with at least six barrels and it fires thousands of large bullets a minute," Thor said. "I'd say that maybe ten seconds sustained fire could turn a full grown giant into mince."
"What happens if it isn't disarmed?"
Thor shrugged. "Should be interesting to find out, don't you think?"
We're going to see the Avengers next chapter, I promise. And see lots of them. Not just them, but Jane, maybe Darcy and Selvig too.
Well, funnily enough, Jean ended up coming top of that poll. Dark Horse contender and all that. I am intrigued by the results. Some close to the mark… some less close.
Requested Avengers Profile:
Thor Odinson: Norse God of Thunder and Lightning (not Reason and Understanding). Crown Prince of Asgard. Likes his hammer. Technologically inept. Very powerful. Formerly James Potter.
Loki Odinson: Norse God of Magic and Mischief. Reformed super villain. Prince of Asgard. Technologically adept. Born a Frost Giant. A little touchy on this subject.
Steve Rogers: Captain America. American super soldier. Really far too nice for his own good. Spent 70 years as a Capsicle. Likes his (indestructible) shield. Fish Out of Temporal Water.
Tony Stark: Iron Man. Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist. Built a mini arc reactor. In a cave. With a box of scraps. Technologically awesome. Deadpan Snarker Supreme.
Natasha Romanov: Black Widow. Russian assassin. Works for SHIELD. Has a softer side, deep down. Incredibly beautiful. Terrifies anything with a brain.
Clint Barton: Hawkeye. Sniper. Inhuman aiming skills. Works for SHIELD. Not quite as scary as Black Widow, but still terrifying.
Pepper Potts: the woman who runs Tony's life, and by extension, those of the rest of the Avengers. She somehow finds time to run a company as well. Is pure, distilled awesome.
Bruce Banner: Small. Sweet. Apparently harmless. Brilliant scientist. Has a very special party trick.
Nick Fury: Director of SHIELD. Has one eye. His sheer Badassery more than compensates. Owner of a very nice long coat.