Ooh, another long chapter. My longest in, well, ever. Seriously, nearly 5 figures. That's crazy. And it's a more character driven one to boot, which hopefully sheds a little more light on the shadowy side of the cast, most particularly, Loki. How fun. This chapter was largely born out of the fact that writing is literally my stress ball these days and I have upcoming exams. Enjoy, and please review. It makes me smile and write more.
Lucius Malfoy was not a happy man. Overnight, the power balance in the Wizarding World had shifted dramatically. In favour of the so called Light, at that. In one night, Potter had gone from isolated, with only the old fool, Dumbledore, and a couple of friends to protect him, the next he was in the protective embrace of the Avengers and, most particularly, the two heirs apparent to the throne of the legendary Asgard.
In other words, he might as well be out of reach, and if any of his father's, or worse, his uncle's, powers lay latent within him… well, it would certainly explain why the Dark Lord had attacked the family, doubtless seeking to strike while the mighty Thor was indisposed as a mortal.
And even if one took the Avengers out of the equation, any plans would face a large, scary, one-eyed African American road block. He hadn't seen Fury since the night he'd taken the younger man's eye and the young man had shattered his wand and given him a limp that even the best magical medicine and therapy couldn't dislodge. Lucius was of the opinion, as informed by his old friend, Baron Von Strucker, a rare muggle who had transcended the boundaries that faced the heaving mass of muggle kind, making himself worthy to associate, at least vaguely, with wizards, that Agent Nicholas Fury had not been weakened by age. Only hardened.
And he was not Agent Fury anymore. He was Director Fury, the undisputed master of SHIELD – an organisation Lucius despised, but respected, albeit grudgingly, a power among muggles and wizards alike. Lucius' sources in America, the base of Fury's power, had noted Fury's unseen, unspoken but powerful influence on the Wizarding Community there.
While Lucius deplored the man's desires, to mould a pro-muggle status quo, he could admire, in a wary fashion, the man's efficiency in forming an entire community in his desired image in approximately four years. Yes. Age had definitely hardened.
He was also the teacher of the mysterious and deadly Agent Wisdom, a shadowy figure who had spent the last five years picking off the more influential but anonymous, and usually subhuman, servants of the Dark Lord with methodical efficiency. He didn't move on Death Eaters, however, leading Lucius to suspect that he was merely a muggle, albeit a dangerous one, who had lost his family to a Death Eater attack and leaving him with a healthy fear of the powerful wizards that had composed Voldemort's strike force, as was right. Of course, if he ever overcame that fear…
In short, Fury was dangerous. Extremely so. And he would be keeping a very close eye on both Potter and on Lucius himself. Naturally, Lucius would repay the favour. He half smiled. In a way, he'd missed this, matching wits and skills with the greatest minds and fighters of the age. His eyes narrowed. He would have to tread carefully, to ease back into this. While he fancied himself Fury's superior, the man had been playing the great game for high stakes for the last decade or so, well enough to gain a meteoric ascendance through the ranks of SHIELD, whilst he had grown comfortable in the role of peacetime power broker. One had been sharpening his skills while the other had let them gather dust and grow dull. First, he needed to cultivate a closer relationship with his old allies. Second, he needed to do it quietly. Third, he needed to get gold flowing through the Malfoy vaults. Fourth… he needed to practice his duelling.
He smiled. "First blood to you, Director. Enjoy it while you can," he said softly, rising, crossing to the wall of his study and whispering a password. A small compartment seamlessly opened and he withdrew a book. Snape may have been the Dark Lord's finest spy, but it was Lucius who had been the political mover and shaker. And, of course, the spymaster. It was time to dust off his old skills, he thought with a smile. He may have lost the last game, but this time… this time he was going to sweep the board.
"Doubtless they are preparing for war at this very moment," he murmured, imagining shelves full of contacts, letters being written to old allies and deadly serious preparation by muggle minions, as Loki and Fury presided over all. Yes, the war machine of the light would be working right now…
It was just after lunch at the Tower, the sky dark and crows calling. It was a day for shadowy deeds and fell thoughts.
"What are you watching?" Tony asked, coming to investigate the sounds from the living room. The two spies were in the gym and he'd left Bruce to play with an experiment.
Thor, Jane, Harry and Loki were all ensconced on a sofa, watching some television show, which they paused. Jane and Harry were sandwiching Thor, while Harry had clearly dragged his uncle into the sprawling pile. It was like watching sleeping puppies.
"It's a British television show called Doctor Who," Harry said, pausing it. "You'd like it."
Tony raised an eyebrow.
"The hero is a scientist, who solves problems with his brain and tricks his enemies," Thor said. "Lily liked it as a child. She told me that it was proof that not all problems could or should be solved by brute force."
Tony sat down beside them, undisguised interest on his face. "Tell me everything," he said. They did. Tony watched in silence.
As the end credits rolled, Tony said, "I am so badly making a sonic screwdriver. And a TARDIS." He rubbed his chin. "And patent bigger on the inside technology."
"If you're thinking about the viability of buildings that are larger on the inside, Thor learnt how to do that when he was mortal and fourteen," Loki said with great relish. Tony stared. Thor shrugged.
"It is an easy spell," Thor said nonchalantly.
Tony continued staring. "Why must you people always ruin my dreams?" he moaned, back of hand dramatically laid against his forehead. Jane shook her head in amusement.
"Sometimes dreams don't hold up to reality," she said. "That's why we have science, to test things."
"No muggle version currently exists," Loki pointed out. "So you could invent it."
"Oh, yeah, fine," Tony said, shrugging, instantly mollified. "That works." He looked up. "JARVIS? Open two new project files. First, Sonic Technology. Second, Bigger on the inside tech."
"Of course, sir. However, I feel it necessary to remind you that your last foray into sonic technology lead to a sexual harassment lawsuit?"
"Noted. And that was an accident," Tony said. Harry, Loki and Thor all looked deeply sceptical. Jane had raised both eyebrows.
"What? It was! How was I to know that the sound waves resonated at the exact same frequency as the fabric of 68% of the dresses at the 2001 Christmas party?" Tony complained.
"… Because you knew the exact percentage?" Loki said.
"That's beside the point," Tony said dismissively. "Do we have any more episodes?"
Thor silently produced a box set. Tony grinned.
Unless planning for war includes marathoning the first two seasons of the revived series of Doctor Who, the Avengers were doing nothing of the kind.
"Yes," Lucius murmured to himself. "Undoubtedly they are hard at work as I speak…"
He looked up. His lovely wife, Narcissa, the embodiment of the perfect pureblood woman, with beauty, elegance, intelligence – properly applied, of course – and natural talents in the department of ladylike behaviour. So unlike Bellatrix… yet just as dangerous, if not more so for being subtle. She was his asp, as deadly as she was beautiful, and she was indispensable to him. And he loved her.
It was an odd thing among pureblood couples, with their arranged matches, but he'd fallen in love with her as soon as he'd seen her. And the feeling had been mutual. True, they had only produced one child, but that… that was because Narcissa's pregnancy with Draco had been difficult to put it mildly. Lucius refused to risk his lovely wife again. Besides, they had a fine son. They did not need others, no matter how much they might have liked one or two more. Narcissa had always wanted a little girl to play with.
Still, what was, was.
"Yes, darling?" he asked.
"What are you doing?"
"Preparing the way for the Dark Lord's return," Lucius said. As she opened her mouth, he continued. "The signs are true, he is returning. And it coincides with the Potter boy. In his first year, he faces the much diminished spirit of our Master. Second year, that same spirit uses an old artefact to control the basilisk of Salazar Slytherin." He smiled. "And Peter Pettigrew is still at large. His final option for returning as a hero of the light has been cut off with the return of James Potter, so that means his only option is to seek out our Master."
"But did he not betray him to his death?" Narcissa asked, puzzled.
"This is Pettigrew we speak of. He is not that stupid. Now it makes sense. Some latent godly power in the Potter boy, or some protection granted by Loki or the Allfather himself guarded him," Lucius said. The Allfather intervening on Earth, a being of such power that turning god to mortal and mortal to god was merely a matter of a moment's thought… wasn't that a frightening thought.
He drummed his fingers against the table. "That said," he muttered, thinking aloud. "The Allfather doesn't exactly have a history of intervening directly, and planning to fight him is pointless, as none of us have the power to match Odin in battle."
"Do we have the power to fight Loki? Or Thor?" Narcissa asked.
Lucius shook his head. "Not face to face. But we can outmanoeuvre them," he said, standing to pace. "It will be difficult," he admitted. "But everything worth doing is."
"Is it worth doing? Why not make them our friends? Loki should understand our cause better than most. He is famously an outcast among the Norse Pantheon," Narcissa pointed out. "Maybe he is a candidate for recruitment."
Lucius smiled, and thanked the heavens that he was blessed with so clever a wife. "Unfortunately, I do not think that will work. For one, the legends aren't entirely accurate – he isn't a Frost Giant. The bestiaries show that they are rather distinctive. For two, he is even more famous for holding a grudge, and the murder of his sister-in-law, mudblood bitch or otherwise, is good cause for a grudge," he explained. "For three, he and Thor seem to have repaired their relationship, acting as one. And Thor hates everything to do with the Death Eaters." He chuckled grimly. "Severus informed me that he had a rather nasty set of encounters with both. Loki took an immediate dislike to him and seemed to be able to sense the Dark Mark, being willing to kill Severus. Thankfully, that meddling old fool Dumbledore stopped him."
"That is a blessing indeed," Narcissa murmured, thankful that her son hadn't been suddenly deprived of his godfather by way of a pissed off Norse God with a vendetta.
"Quite, proving that Dumbledore has some purpose," Lucius said, sneering slightly. "Anyway, he then faced Thor, who immediately threatened him with obliteration if he so much as looked at the Potter boy the wrong way ever again."
"Poor Severus," Narcissa said. "He'll have to be careful." She looked out the window. "From what I remember of James Potter, he was not a man to make idle threats."
"No," Lucius agreed. He closed his eyes briefly. The crackle of flames echoed in his mind. A phantom pain shot through his leg and he shuddered. Only through iron hard strength of will did he retain his self-control. Some things frighten even Death Eaters. He sucked in a deep breath. "And nor were his friends."
"Lucius," Narcissa said gently. "We have a good life now. You have power, influence, and are respected by all right thinking wizards. Why should we risk that, and Draco's future, on the dreams of a madman who is a bodiless wraith at best."
"Narcissa, the Dark Lord is –"
She fixed him with a hard stare. "I may agree with his views on muggles, husband," she said sharply. "But that man was insane when he was alive. Who knows how bad he will be now?"
"The odds are against us in a way they weren't last time. Yes, the Ministry is riddled with corruption and overall, sympathetic to the cause. Yes, the Order of the Phoenix is defunct and no longer can call on many of its core members, assuming they would even answer. Yes, Dumbledore is an old man," Narcissa said. "But even an old Dumbledore is a dangerous one. You discount him at your peril – he is the most cunning and ruthless Gryffindor in the last four centuries, if the testimony of my Uncle Phineas Nigellus is worth anything. You know how clever a politician he is."
"I can manage Dumbledore."
"But not Loki! For Merlin's sake, Lucius," Narcissa said, revealing the Black passion. Many had assumed the fire that could be found in Bellatrix and their cousin, Sirius, was dormant in the two younger Black sisters. In fact, it was merely better controlled. She grabbed Lucius' shirt and looked into his eyes, imploring him. "You are talking about going against the Arch Trickster, the God of Lies, the Patron of Slytherin House and the man who taught Salazar Slytherin himself!"
Lucius looked at her, and sighed. "I am sorry Narcissa, but if I do not act… you have seen what happened in America! Mudbloods rule over all and they are muggle ridden! All because of Fury, who I am certain will repeat the trick here if he can." He took her shoulders gently. "It is not just my duty as a pureblood to try and stop him, but my duty as a husband and a father to protect your and Draco's futures. It is duty, and duty carries risks."
She sighed softly and nodded. "If you are certain, then, my husband, I shall support you. As I always have. But for Merlin's sake, be careful!"
He kissed her. "I always am," he said tenderly.
Whatever they said about the Malfoy's, no one had ever accused them of not loving each other. Even the wicked have people they care for.
Severus' blood was boiling as he sat in his place at the staff table, glowering even more than usual. That miserable godling! James Potter, the so-called 'Mighty Thor', had not changed one bit since his school days. As ever, he sought out Severus and humiliated him. And unlike during their school days, Severus had few overt means of fighting back. How do you curse someone who is not only a deadly skilled duellist, if not quite his equal, but also has the very elements on his side and has a hide thicker than any giant's, doubtless to match his the skull of his oversized head!
He'd been doing his research. Full blooded Asgardians tended to be immune to any Earthly poison or disease, something that no doubt made Potter Senior even smugger than he already was, quite an achievement. They also tended towards ridiculous durability and strength and a natural talent for magic, though, conversely, it was rare that it manifested in the style of mortal magic, and generally had to be trained and coaxed into life.
In other words, Potter was even more muscle headed than before, even brasher, stupider and more irritating. Oh, and don't forget the overbearing. That man had the sheer gall to first threaten him with violence, intimate him and force him to agree to his demands to treat his son specially well, then to spread his victory around the school, causing students to whisper about him whenever they thought he wasn't looking.
And after all of that, he didn't even pay Severus any attention, save to pretend to be polite when they crossed paths. Severus knew the truth, though. Potter was laughing at him inside. Each word he spoke to Severus carried, to his ears, an undertone of mockery. A soft chant of, Look at me, look at how I have everything you ever wanted while you have nothing.
Potter had power beyond imagining. Potter had respect and willing minions at the snap of a finger. Potter had friends, even if they were insufferable dullards, but that was fine for Potter as he was with those who matched his limited intellect. He was even Loki's brother! Oh, how Severus had studied that dark, mysterious, mischievious god as a boy, how he had looked up to him, identified with him!
One of the ways he had been lured into the Death Eaters was a meeting with the Dark Lord, who had listened to his woes and his interest in Loki, and encouraged him to emulate the darker aspects of his idol, to get even with his foes. He had even seen the Dark Lord as being like Loki, a dark, shadowy, charismatic figure, who would lead the clever, downtrodden wizards against the brainless muggles and even more brainless Gryffindors who insisted on defending them.
While Severus was not one to keep up with the muggle world, it had been impossible to miss Loki's invasion of Earth. He had been almost happy to see that his idol was alive and well. Though he could not really care less whether muggles lived or died, and was somewhat against mass destruction, he could appreciate the fact that Loki had defeated his brother, Thor, who Severus had always thought was the archetypal Gryffindor: large, stupid and violent, and defeated him outright. That suspicion was confirmed, as regarding Thor. He didn't entirely approve a madmen seeking to rule all, but to see someone he so identified with standing tall and powerful, as respected as he was feared… that was gratifying.
And now, to see him in cahoots with Potter of all people, to see him teaching and playing kindly uncle with the wretched Potter spawn, his insufferable muggleborn friend and those fucking twins, whilst regarding Severus himself like he was something scraped off a shoe that he was debating vanishing was not unlike Loki's famous fate of being bound with the entrails of his son and having burning poison dripped onto him for all eternity to Severus. It was that deepest of betrayals, and to say he was deeply, bitterly disappointed was an understatement.
But there was one thing worse. Potter had had Lily. Darling Lily, beautiful Lily, all green eyes, red hair, full figure, fire and brilliance. Yet she had fallen under Potter's spell, while Severus had watched helpless as she turned her back on him forever. For a while, he had hated her for it. But he could never hate her. Not for long. She was Lily. No one could bring themselves to hate her, not if they knew her well. His fellow Death Eaters had hated her because she was living proof that not all mudbloods were useless near-Squibs and that she defied their Lord, as well as being the mother of the one their Lord had deemed it necessary to destroy personally.
He snarled softly. "She should have been mine," he whispered under his breath. No one heard him.
Dumbledore knew, that irritating old man who had immediately used it to maximum advantage, as did the Dark Lord, who had said, "Oh, my dear Severus, you can do better than some Mudblood whore! Come, you are one of my most loyal, and any pureblood witch would be glad to marry a wizard of your noble blood. Do not let your lust for one mudblood infect you, Severus." That last part had been a threat, the stick to go with the implicit carrot that he could have any unmarried pureblood witch he wanted. The Dark Lord had been good at that, he remembered, blending threat and charm as naturally as breathing.
Ah, Lily. Others knew. Loki did, though how he had no idea. Maybe even Doctor Strange, or as he had known him, Professor Strange, who had given him knowing looks on many an occasion. Potter had figured it out, in a rare and vastly irritating display of intellect. And he had used it as a weapon. He had pointed out why every time he saw the brat he could not bear to look at him, how he hated him with every fibre of his being. He embodied what he had lost, with those luminous, expressive emerald green eyes that had been Lily's. Luminous, expressive emerald green eyes that often expressed dull confusion in her son, who inherited his father's arrogance as well his lack of intellect, doing a disservice to her blood as he did so. No, he did a disservice to her and her sacrifice just by breathing. Why should he and Potter live when she was dead?
That child should have been his. A boy, who would have had his hair, his face, his features, and his mother's eyes… or a girl, maybe, who would have had his eyes, and his mother's sweet face and hair that shone in the light like the fire at the heart of the most perfect ruby. And her smile… ah, that would be common to both, like her mind, a smile to melt the hardest heart and a mind to discern it's inner workings in a heartbeat. Maybe, just maybe, she would have loved him, if she'd only given him the chance to show her what greatness she could achieve with him and the Dark Lord.
Yet Potter, smirking, swaggering, arrogant Potter had swooped in and charmed her to the side of the self-righteous and her doom, damn him! And he didn't even seem to care! You'd think he would grieve, but oh no, it was all smiles. Dumbledore had even casually mentioned that he had a new girlfriend. If that was not proof that he was not worthy of Lily, then Severus didn't know what was. Severus had not forgotten her. He would never forget her. He'd gone too far for her to do that. He sighed inwardly. He would go on protecting her brat, he supposed. For her sake. No one else's.
He looked up sourly. McGonagall was looking at him curiously. "Yes, Minerva?" he asked, tone cold.
"Are you all right?"
"Fine, thank you," he growled.
"Good," she said. "Now, can you pass the salt?"
Silently, he passed it to her, and resumed brooding. McGonagall had turned to talk to the Headmaster as if she had never spoken to him. No one really cared for or about Severus Snape. Respected him, feared him… not since Potter's return. Potter, who, solely by existing, managed to ruin Severus. And people wondered why he hated the man, him and his brat, darlings of the Wizarding world and doubtless the muggle world too. He hated them because he saw them for what they really were. And because no one else agreed with him.
It was night-time in the Tower. Harry, Thor (as James) and Loki had formed a dark haired Asgardian pile on the sofa in front of the fire. The rest of the Avengers responded as they saw fit.
Tony very carefully drew moustaches on all of them before going to sleep at the foot of Pepper's bed – he was still a bit in the doghouse, but not so much that he wasn't allowed on the bed. Bruce gently slipped a pillow under Thor's head. Harry's was pillowed by his father, and Loki was leaning on his brother's shoulder. Natasha ran a critical eye over them, then, satisfied that they were all comfortable and hadn't been poisoned, smiled slightly at Harry, then walked on quietly. Clint did much the same as Natasha, but gently reached down and ruffled Harry's hair, before leaving. And Steve? Steve set himself up quietly in an armchair and began to sketch.
A couple of hours later, he was done. He considering waking them, then decided against it. Instead, he went to the supply cupboard and brought out a large duvet, which he carefully draped over the three, before leaving the sketch on the coffee table and leaving for bed.
The next morning, Loki woke first, and very carefully didn't move. He took stock. He was still on the sofa in Avengers Tower, nestled with Thor and Harry. Who both had carefully drawn moustaches on their respective top lips. Clearly Tony's work, he thought with a wry smile.
His head was pillowed by a cushion – Bruce or Steve, he thought. And they were covered by a duvet that had been neatly put in place, probably by Steve. Bruce was too small, and as tender as the Hulk had shown himself to be with Harry, Loki really didn't think him to be the duvet arranging type.
A piece of paper on the coffee table caught his eye. He summoned it to him and examined it. He smiled. It was a picture of the three of them cuddled up on the sofa, done with methodical care and attention to detail, one that captured the essence of them. He banished it back to the coffee table and snuggled up to his brother and nephew. He wasn't going to miss this opportunity for a cuddle, no matter how undignified it might look. He would of course, never admit it in a million years.
About three hours later, despite general attempts to keep quiet by the rest – even Tony – the hustle and bustle of the Tower woke first Loki and then Harry. Thor, quite accustomed to sleeping through thunderstorms, Volstagg's stomach in full digestion mode and Sirius' snoring, peacefully slept on. Therefore, Harry decided to stay cuddled up to his father, and pretended to be asleep. Loki gave him a conspiratorial wink, before wandering into the kitchen and making some coffee. He could have made it by magic, but somehow, it tasted better this way. That and Tony almost literally rose from the dead for Loki's coffee. The smell of it being made was generally a reliable way to entice the Avengers into the kitchen and had been ever since Loki had arrived. The only difference now was that they didn't make him taste it first, just in case it was poisoned.
"Morning Loki," Pepper said, smiling. "How did you sleep?"
"Very well, actually," Loki said and leaned in conspiratorially. "Harry is awake. He is just pretending he is not." He smiled. "My nephew feels that he has a lot of cuddling to catch up on."
"And being doted on," Pepper said. "He makes half-hearted complaints when I do it, but he secretly loves it."
Loki chuckled. "That is very true." His smile faded. "That poor boy has been starved of love."
"Not anymore," Pepper said, and smirked. "He even gets maternal feelings out of Natasha, somehow or other. I think it's the hair. And the eyes. They just make you want to grab him and hug him."
"He'll be a hit with the girls in a couple of years," Loki predicted.
"Oh, definitely. With parents like that, how couldn't he?" Pepper said. "Thor, whatever he looks like, is a very handsome man, and Lily was absolutely stunning."
"Yes… my brother always did have excellent taste in women," Loki mused.
"One thing that's bugged me is that Thor didn't remember Harry, but you did. Why didn't you do or say anything?" Pepper asked.
"Oh, I wanted to," Loki said quietly. "I wanted to very badly. When I saw the sort of people he was going to be forced to live with for his own safety, I begged father to let me bring him to Asgard, to be raised as part of the royal household, or even to let me find him a more suitable family. He refused, even when mother pleaded with him. He was sorrowful, but he said some things had to be the way they were, and if Thor remembered, then it could be catastrophic. He banned me in particular from doing anything that might arouse Thor's memories."
"But you broke the enchantment a few weeks back," Pepper said. "Aren't you breaking his command?"
Loki shrugged and smirked. "What sort of son and God of Mischief am I if I don't indulge in a little harmless rebellion against my parents, every now and then?" he asked. "Besides, father hasn't come down to tell me off, so I assume he approves." He paused. "I did manage to do a few things for Harry, every now and then. I visited Midgard often, and kept an eye on him. It broke my heart to see his treatment, and I had to restrain myself from wreaking horrible vengeance on the Dursleys on many an occasion."
He looked into the middle distance, remembering. Remembering the night James Potter had died alongside his wife, and Thor had returned unexpectedly to Asgard. He began to speak again, hands dancing and creating images to aid the storytelling.
It was a dark October night – or November morning, depending on how one looked at it – cool and quiet in the southern English suburban neighbourhood of Little Whinging, and Loki was agitated to say the least. Their plans for Thor, his own and his father's, which had been proceeding so smoothly, had been ruined by one cowardly, death fearing, power hungry wizard. In one stroke, his brother was left desolate and raving, a woman who would have been a great partner, a great mother, a magnificent future Queen of Asgard and, Loki had privately hoped, a great friend, was dead, and their son was left an orphan. All for desire of power.
The very thought made Loki's blood boil, and he vowed that if he ever came across the shade of the creature that had wrought this horror, it would suffer agonies uncounted. Asgard was in turmoil since Thor had so suddenly returned to his true form, and gone mad with grief – not the Loki blamed him in the slightest – so much so that their father had been forced to block his memories. Loki thought that Thor would probably be back to his old, boisterous self as soon as he returned, with no memory of his wife or his son. Carefree because he quite simply did not remember the cares that he had taken upon himself.
He watched as the elderly wizard, Albus Dumbledore, put out the lights. Loki liked him. He was clever, and – as mortals went – extremely powerful. Only one, a Doctor Strange, matched him, along with the fallen Dark Lord Voldemort. He also sought to try to do what was right, however he could. Loki knew that Dumbledore was doing the best he could with the horrible hand he had been dealt, but he was uneasy.
He, like the shapeshifting sorceress who was currently objecting to Dumbledore's makeshift and hastily cobbled together plan, did not like the look of the family that were Harry's mortal kin. He did not like the look of them at all. He had watched the mother in connection to Lily in the past, and had seen a bitter, jealous woman, both envious and fearing her sister's power, beauty and brilliance. She hadn't, as Loki had, sought to match her brilliant sibling on her own terms. No, she had let the bitterness fester and grow until it consumed her. And he feared what would happen when she came to take care of her nephew.
He watched, silent and undetectable, as a giant on a strange flying mortal conveyance landed, and tenderly handed a small bundle to Dumbledore, who took it tenderly. A closer look told Loki that it was his nephew. He smiled. Even on this night of tragedies, he thought, there was still something beautiful in this dark realm. He watched as the giant clearly had difficulty restraining his sorrow, then as the three left. When he was certain they were gone, he slipped over to his nephew. Harry James Potter. Named for his father, in part at least. He lifted the child in his arms, cradling him. He cast an illusion over them, dispelling his own disguise. Anyone looking at them would merely see the baby as he had been left.
He cradled the baby, who wriggled slightly in his sleep, and smiled involuntarily. The child was beautiful, even with the jagged scar marring his forehead. Loki gently ran a thumb over his nephew's mostly smooth forehead. His eyes were shut, but he knew that when little Harry opened them, he would reveal eyes as green as his own, with only a shade or two of difference. He had hoped to cradle the child, his lovely nephew, hold him and tell him he loved him, letting in show in his own eyes, to watch him grow and play among people who valued him.
But that wouldn't, he thought sadly, happen for a long time. The baby had looked into the eyes of a person, no, two people, who loved him not two hours before, yet Loki feared it would be a good ten years before he did so again. To his surprise, the baby blinked his eyes open, one set of green eyes focusing on another. Loki hurriedly set up a silencing ward, in case the baby started crying. As it was, the baby just looked at him, then said one word.
It was so innocent, so puzzled, yet at the same time, so happy, that it broke Loki's heart into little pieces.
"No little one," he said softly. "I am not your dada. But I am your uncle. I am your kin. And know this Harry. I am your family, and I will always love you."
Little Harry blinked, then seemed to accept this turn of events. His curious eyes, however, spurred Loki to say more.
"And your father?" Loki continued. "He may not remember you now, and may never again, but deep down, in the small part of him that does remember you… he loves you. Oh, he loves you so much more than words can say, nephew mine."
He hummed gently as he rocked Harry to sleep again. Hours passed, and as the grey light of dawn began to break, he gently put the sleeping child down on the front step, and kissed his forehead. "I will be watching out for you, little one," he said quietly. "So swears Loki, on his broken heart and crooked soul."
Then he turned and trudged away, slipping back along the secret paths between the worlds. Normally, he felt a soft thrill of cheer at the feat of slipping past Heimdall's watch. Now? Now that joy was dulled as everything was. Dulled by pain, not only for lost lives, but for lost innocence, lost joy and lost hope as well.
"For months afterwards, I was disconsolate. Thor was, of course, at first oblivious, then both worried and puzzled. Sif knew, as I confided in her. She supported me in my attempts to alleviate Harry's suffering in small, subtle ways, making my excuses to the others," Loki continued quietly. "Even though for every kindness I did him, they did him a hundred wrongs, far greater than the kindnesses I could manage, I persevered. And she helped me."
"She sounds like a kind woman," Pepper sniffed, wiping away tears. She had started crying quite soon into the story. "Oh god, Loki… I'm so sorry. That must have hurt so much, and to be never able to tell Thor or your parents."
"It did," Loki said, offering her a conjured handkerchief. "There, there. Dry your eyes, Lady Pepper. Harry is with people who love him, and his supposed kin are suffering a fate they richly deserve. Everything has, though it has been a long time in coming, been set to rights. Besides, if you are still crying when Stark comes in, he will assume I have upset you. Then horrible things shall happen, both to him and to me, and you will need to refurbish the Tower again."
Pepper nodded, and taking the conjured handkerchief – red and gold – from Loki with a muttered, "Thanks," she dried her eyes then blew her nose.
"Keep it," Loki said, when she tried to hand it back.
She nodded, and gave him a tight, brief hug. "You're a good man, Loki. Never believe anyone who tells you different," she said firmly. Then she released him. "Now, do I smell coffee?"
"Indeed you do," Loki said. "Steven, do you want some?" he asked, as the supersoldier walked in.
"No thanks, Loki. I'm trying a fruit smoothie that Jane recommended," Steve said, and set about setting up the smoothie machine with banana, pear, apple and melon, not noticing Loki's slight frown. Loki was justly proud of his coffee, and tended to take it being ignored as a personal slight – no matter how unintended. Tony joked that it was transference behaviour from his ego.
Loki and Pepper watched in mild apprehension as Steve turned on the machine. Steve was just about capable of operating a toaster, an ipod and a laptop, the latter two after several months of intense tuition and Steve being scarred for life by internet pornography.
Tony had found him desperately trying to turn off the computer, before resorting to punching it. Naturally, Tony had laughed himself sick and shown no sympathy. Steve still flinched slightly every time someone brought up a video on screen and mumbled how two girls shouldn't do such things with a cup. He had never tried to use the smoothie machine before. Remarkably, however, it seemed to going fine.
"Wow Steve, you're doing great," Pepper said.
Steve favoured her with a smile, then frowned as Loki looked concerned. "Thanks Pepper. What is it, Loki?"
"Nothing… there's just something a little off about the lid," Loki said, voice carefully measured to have the right amount of mild curiosity and concern, all of it feigned. Steve turned to examine it closely and Loki winked at Pepper.
"I don't see anything wrong," Steve said doubtfully, nose only an inch or two away from the lid.
"Really?" Loki asked, feigning surprise. "How about now?"
The lid vanished. Steve barely had time to yelp before the sludgy mixture shot out of the machine and coated most things within five feet of it. This mostly consisted of Steve's face.
Loki grinned as he covered himself and Pepper with a magical shield, as Pepper sighed and shook her head.
"Maybe coffee might suit better, Steven?" Loki said, tone completely innocent.
"Yeah, Loki," Steve sighed. "Whatever you say. I'm going to clean up now."
Loki idly waved a hand. The mess disappeared.
"No need," he said, smiling cheerfully. "You like yours with milk and no sugar, correct?" he asked, pouring a cup.
"Yes, thank you, Loki," Steve said, and watched as Loki carefully added milk, then passed it to him. He sipped it. He supposed it could be worse. It did happen to be excellent coffee.
Ten minutes or so later, Thor arose, smiled at his son, and gently coaxed him into 'waking up'. Both moved, sleep ruffled and looking utterly identical, into the kitchen. They were even wearing similar clothes, red t-shirts and jeans. The only difference was Harry's glasses.
As both munched on toast and cereal, Tony walked in, equally sleep ruffled, grabbed a coffee, grunted his thanks, and took in the scene, as Bruce followed, having already been up for two hours. As his eyes brightened while sipped the coffee, visibly waking up, he looked thoughtful.
"Hey, Thor, can you conjure a pair of glasses like your kids'?" he asked. Normally, he would have asked Loki, but Thor's newfound/rediscovered magical abilities were a source of endless fascination to him.
Thor blinked and did so.
"Put them on."
Thor did and looked at Tony, he and Harry sharing identical expressions of curiosity and puzzlement.
Tony drew himself up, grinned. This was too good to miss. So naturally, he didn't. He said, in a nasal, high british accented voice, "And I shall call him… Mini-me."
Bruce snorted, then burst into outright laughter at Harry and Thor's – again, identical – expressions of complete and utter befuddlement.
"Tony," Pepper said, amused and chiding. "That's a bit rude."
"But funny, and come on, Pep, it fits so badly," Tony said. "Hey, JARVIS, take a few pics."
"Certainly, sir," JARVIS said, obliging.
"Why am I suddenly called Mini me?" Harry asked.
Tony opened his mouth.
"You don't want to know," Steve said firmly. He'd previously expressed an interest in the James Bond movies. Naturally, Tony had interpreted this as, 'please introduce me to Austin Powers and give a running commentary on which of the actresses you have slept with and which sexual positions you explored in doing so'.
Tony pouted. "You realise he will just go and ask JARVIS," he pointed out.
"It's better he hears it from JARVIS than from you," Pepper said. "He has better morals."
"You mean he has morals," Steve muttered, then his eyes widened.
Tony cackled, as Loki smirked.
"The Captain strikes like a snake in the grass: all the better for being unexpected," Loki chuckled, sipping his coffee."
"You have weird ideas of what is 'better'," Bruce observed.
Loki shrugged, as if to say, 'weird to you, maybe.'
"You do realise that we are talking to a guy who can legitimately turn into a snake," Tony pointed out.
Bruce nodded his acknowledgement. "True."
Harry turned to his father. "Is every morning like this?" he asked.
"Most. Not all."
"Okay," Harry said, returning to his cereal.
The rest of the morning was passed in companionable chatter, aside from an incident where Natasha and Pepper frogmarched Harry off to a bathroom and brushed his hair to try and make it lie flat, Tony of course laughing himself sick at Harry's beleaguered expression, until Pepper chucked him out for one threesome joke too many, to be exact, "Why the long face, kid? You've got two gorgeous redheads holding you down and giving you orders. In a year, you'll be begging for this and dreaming about it. Of course, they'll be wearing a lot less and more of it'll probably be black. Bet you ten dollars."
Harry had looked puzzled and mildly distressed, while Natasha had cocked an eyebrow, Clint had been sniggering in the background, Bruce had been sighing at Tony's corruption of the youth, Loki and Thor had been amused and Pepper had given Tony a Glare of Death and said, "Out."
He had swiftly complied.
It spoke volumes of their effectiveness that it succeeded, until after lunch, when Harry's hair resumed its normal form. Pepper and Natasha's expressions suggested that this was not over, while Harry, seeing those expressions, had retreated to the safety of one of the few people he thought might conceivably defy the two. And took the opportunity to ask a few questions.
"One thing I've always wondered," Harry said thoughtfully to Loki. "Is how you won over the Avengers when you were sane again. I mean, after all you'd done…"
Loki looked thoughtful. "It wasn't easy," he admitted. "It was a long process, but one incident sticks out…"
He began to speak, and Harry listened. Loki was not called Silvertongue for nothing.
Loki was adjusting to life in the Tower. It was all too easy to remember that not so long ago, he'd tried to destroy it. He glanced at one of the windows. That was the window he'd thrown Stark through. He closed his eyes. What things he had done in madness, under the influence of the Mad Titan. Still, he was here to repent of his mistakes.
He saw Steve and ambled over. The soldier. He had been the one of the Avengers he had personally harmed least – though attempting to destroy the man's beloved city had not gone over well – and he was generally the nicest. Tony was slowly warming up to him, and the sharp, witty barbs they exchanged were now less cruel and more friendly. Doctor Banner's eyes tended to glow an ominous green when he was around, and once, when Loki had made one smart remark too many, he had said, calmly, relaxed and unworried, "Puny God."
Loki had shut up very quickly.
"What are those?" he asked curiously. Steve was examining a set of stained cards somewhat sadly. He looked closer. "Are they images of you?" he asked.
Steve nodded. "I was pretty much America's poster boy during the war," he explained.
Loki nodded. "I have seen similar images of Thor and father, the Lady Sif and the Warriors Three in Asgard," he said. He paused. "There used to be some of me, but I am not exactly… what is the phrase? Ah. 'Flavour of the month'," he said.
Steve nodded. "I never liked them much," he admitted. "I always felt they were too gimmicky."
"Still… whoever owns these must value you and your achievements very much. Stains aside, these are very well preserved," Loki said admiringly. "As well as anything in my personal library, and that uses magic." He frowned. "Who do they belong to? And how were they stained?"
"Agent Coulson," Steve said quietly, and it suddenly dawned on Loki what had damaged such beautifully preserved objects. The blood of the son of Coul, which he had so unjustly shed, mostly to spite his brother, marred them forever. He imagined what he would have felt if something of similar significance to him had been marred. Gut wrenching pain and anger was most likely.
"Oh," Loki said quietly. "Well," he said. "Since I caused them to be damaged, I must make amends for it," he said firmly.
"These are one of a kind," Steve said. "I looked them up. They're pretty much unique, a set this well preserved."
"I talk not of replacing them, Captain," Loki said. "But of fixing them." He concentrated hard and carefully gestured. The stains melted away, leaving the cards clean and unstained.
Steve stared at them, then smiled wide eyed at Loki, who smiled. "Magic is not only a weapon for destroying," he said quietly. "Mjolnir itself can as easily be used to build as it can to destroy. Magic is a gift, to be used for the benefit of others, not simply oneself. That is the lesson with all power." He looked saddened. "Alas, the lesson I taught my students, the most important lesson of all, is the one that I forswore." He sighed. "I cannot return the Son of Coul to you, but I can at least undo some small part of what I have wrought."
Steve smiled at him. It was a genuine smile. "Thank you, Loki," he said.
"There were others," Loki said, coming back to the present as Harry listened attentively. "Such as my help in getting Stark to overcome his trauma caused by flying a nuclear missile through the portal, which largely consisted of letting him beat me up in that suit of his. It was preferable to having his semi-independent armours jumping on me every time he had a panic attack. Being dogpiled by several sentient suits of armour is not a pleasant experience. Anyhow, that was the chief one. They started looking at me more as a friend, after that, though Clint still spent the next six months 'testing my reflexes' with arrows shot at random times of day or not." He shrugged. "It stopped once I let one hit me in the shoulder and explode." He smirked. "That gave him a right shock, and certainly satisfied his desire for vengeance."
"But, your shoulder," Harry began, eyes wide.
"Easily mended by a sorcerer of my skills and inherent healing abilities," Loki said calmly. "We of the Aesir can regenerate all but missing limbs, given time, unless the wound itself is prevented from healing."
"Didn't it hurt?"
"It did, a lot," Loki admitted. "But I have suffered worse, and I cast numbing charms once Clint seemed to be satisfied by my suffering, in recompense for my forcible remodelling of his mind." He chuckled. "Clint and I got on a lot better, after that."
"That's… a bit messed up," Harry said.
Loki laughed. Harry was very much his father's son, blunt and to the point. It was refreshing, when compared with his regular dealings with those who measured each word for the advantage it would bring them, each phrase meaning fifty different things to fifty different people. That was one reason he liked the Avengers. Oh, they had their secrets, but they rarely directly lied to each other. They might mislead or outright omit information, but rarely lie – unless it was Tony about how much sleep he had had or alcohol he had consumed, and one of Pepper's patented Looks could generally get him to admit the truth.
"That is probably true," he admitted, then he smiled at his nephew. "Now, I must go and try once more to track down your elusive godfather," he said.
Harry smiled back. "If anyone could find him," he said seriously. "It's you."
Loki smiled. One reason he loved his nephew was his childish unshakeable trust in those he cared about. It could come to bring him grief in the future, and Loki resolved to teach him to temper it with a realistic world view, but… it was undeniably endearing.
He hugged him. "I will do my best to honour your faith in me," he said, letting him go. "Now, I think Tony and Bruce are planning a new experiment."
"Does it blow up?" Harry asked hopefully.
"Considering those two, almost certainly, even if it involves materials that logic dictates should not explode, such as water, bread, clay and cakes," Loki said dryly. This referred to an incident the day before in which Pepper had bought a chocolate cake and Tony had decided to fill it with low level explosives to liven it up, with a magnesium flare for 'the world's most badass candle'.
Unfortunately, he, Darcy and Bruce had juiced them up and the result had been a chocolate coated kitchen. Harry had, in the fashion of teenage boys everywhere, thought this was the best thing ever. Tony maintained that it was only his obvious happiness behind chocolate smeared sunglasses that had saved him from being skinned alive by Pepper, and that Harry was therefore allowed to sit in on all of his and Bruce's experiments that he wished to.
Harry grinned. "Awesome." Then he ran off. He would be going back to school later that evening, Loki noted, and to his pleasure, he also noted that Harry was, for what was probably the first time in his life, wishing he could stay at home. He'd admitted such to Thor that morning, who had beamed and said that Christmas was not far away.
Of course, Loki thought, neither was Harry's first public engagement. He would have to prepare things, he mused, and teach Harry the basics of etiquette, which he had so far passed over, in favour of the more practical lessons of being royalty, such as 'beware not just greeks bearing gifts, but everyone who does not have your total trust.'
Yes. He had work to do.
Okay, a few warnings for up ahead.
One, this is starting off relatively light, fluffy, good conquers all, evil grovels at the feet of the righeous. Which is largely how the Harry Potter books started, and comics too, come to that. That is going to change soon. This fic is going to grow steadily darker. Good guys will go dark, bad guys… there'll be a little more to them. Good won't always win. Far from it… *cackles*
Two, I will be blending canons like mad, taking influences from the Marvel Films Universe (bedrock of this continuity), the Mainstream Marvel Comics Universe, the Ultimate Marvel Universe, X-Men: Evolution, Spectacular Spiderman, the X-Men Films and many others, with a side order of Fanon. Why? Well, largely because I can, because I want to, and because it spices things up a little. The ensuing mess will bear my stylistic stamp, and some creative liberties may be taken with certain characters. This will be mostly caused by the ripple effect of this continuity mix up and, in some cases, me being a little unfamiliar with the original material.
A particular example of this will be Doctor Strange. There are several very good reasons for this, largely based on the nature of his character, which is intentionally different from any other version. I intend to keep you people guessing for a long time about him, as he will have a very key, if vaguely off stage, role to play in the overarching plot arc.
Three, if you recognise something from another fic, book, film or tv series, I may well have consciously, or more likely unconsciously, borrowed it. I read and watch widely, and it seeps into my head, influencing my writing style.
The main influences for this fic (yes, influences) are a fantastic Harry Lokison fic that is floating around on fanfiction dot net, which inspired the whole idea, the Last Son series by the Writer With No Name (which, despite my gripes about its overpowered Kryptonians, underpowered Thor (who seems to be rated as around Storm level. He really isn't. He is much, much more powerful) and irritating love interest who thankfully improves with time, is a phenomenal piece of writing with fascinating world building, which made me turn my epic scale story writing ideas to the Avengers.
Nods also go to Bella the Strange's awesome fic 'The Magic of Torchwood', which, along with regular correspondence with her, influenced my additions of an emotional dimension to upcoming events, and helped me learn how to write more subtle pain and how it affects characters. It also gave me a few ideas as to how to manage fitting new characters into an established plot and keep it going without metric tons of exposition and keeping the story character driven.
The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher influenced the sheer scale of the arcs and the sheer amounts of protagonist torture, as well as the snark and pop culture references.
The ever intriguing (if oddly written) SmallvilleX:Evolution series is also up there, the Buffyverse, the Whoniverse and Smallville (which largely forms the basis – Harry, like Clark, discovering his inhuman heritage, mastering the powers that come with it, accepting it and understanding it and seeing how he fits in with the wider world, all the while dealing with classic teenage boy issues (romance, in large part).
Last but not least, there is a touch of Neil Gaiman here and there, as he is pretty much the most awesome writer in the history of ever. I am something of a fanboy.
Of course, others are floating around, including just about every author I ever read, but those are some of the main ones. And yes, this is one long ass author's note, I know. Just felt it was worth saying.