Hello everyone! Thank you to everyone who has reviewed!
I did say I would update again this week, and I thought to myself, why wait? So here we are. Some interesting things happening in this chapter.
This also marked the last chapter of Part 6. The next bit of the story should cover some politics, Niflheim (finally) and, with any luck, the events of Thor: Dark World (goodness but we are behind the times aren't we?).
Through that and after we'll start to see our full break away from MCU canon.
Anyways, as previously stated, I've got no timeline for the release of the next chapter, but we shouldn't see a hiatus like the last one barring disaster. So, here you go.
Loki stealing away from the dungeons to spend time with the twins became a regular thing. Once in awhile he'd pop up to see Harry, but the animagus kept visiting him in the dungeons mostly when he wanted to talk, knowing how suspicious it would be if he suddenly stopped.
But occasionally, after that morning, their dinner or breakfast table would include a Trickster, and sometimes when Harry went to bed he'd find a tuft of black hair already poking out of the blankets, or hear Loki's lilting voice from the direction of the twins' room. Moo raised an eyebrow the first time the Liesmith sat down to eat with them, but made no verbal comment or further visible reaction.
He and Loki didn't talk about Jotunheim. It became an unspoken agreement between them that they would discuss the subject if and when the god himself brought it up, and not before then. It was an avoidance tactic that probably was not especially healthy, but Harry didn't want to press, so it would have to do.
For a couple weeks, Harry's life was a blur of training with Sif and talking with Loki, lunches with Thor and his friends or Muhammad (sometimes both), and tentative discussions with Odin to go over various final aspects of the peace treaty.
And then the treaty itself was done and he found himself walking out along the bifrost, the palace behind him in an uproar of activity as everyone there prepared for the soon-coming day when King Surtur and Queen Skadi would arrive to finalize and sign everything with the Allfather.
He was nervous, not about either ruler refusing the treaty as it was (he was confident both would approve and neither would go back on their verbal agreement to sign), but about his sudden importance in the situation.
... Or not so sudden.
It wasn't that he hadn't known that a centuries-long ceasefire between three separate dimensions wasn't important, but he hadn't fully comprehended just how important.
This treaty would mean no warfare, no physical or magical conflict (though it couldn't force anyone to be nice) between Asgard and two planets they had a history of problems with for centuries. It would help support peace between those two planets and six (technically five?) others. It would allow for a way for two separate cultures (three species), one diminished and the other dying, the opportunity to finally take a step forward and potentially thrive.
And he had, somehow, become the mediator to make it happen.
It had finally hit him, had finally become real, and the concept was too big to wrap his brain around.
So he was nervous, snitches bumping about in his stomach, and trying very hard not to think about the sheer scope of what he was involved in.
Heimdall, when he finally reached the dais where he stood guard, looked at him with the barest hint of amusement flickering in his gold eyes, his face otherwise perfectly stoic. Harry smiled weakly at him.
"Muspelheim or Jotunheim first?"
"Muspelheim. They agreed to treat with Asgard first, so it would be polite to also meet with them first." The gatekeeper nodded, and lifted his sword.
Harry sat silently on the big cushion, watching as Surtur read through the treaty carefully, nodding here and there, and after a moment he lifted his head, face inscrutable, and handed it to Ragnhild. She read through it quietly herself, and slowly. He tried not to fidget. When she was done, she looked up at her king thoughtfully. A moment's hesitation, and then she nodded. He nodded back and smiled, and then looked to Harry.
"When do we come to sign?"
The animagus grinned.
He was relieved to find Queen Skadi in better health when he arrived than the last time he saw her. She smiled at him, and was quick to read through the treaty, though not so quick to agree, calling in various other Jotun and discussing it with them in low tones while Harry politely did his best not to eavesdrop.
It took several hours, and she offered to feed him (he refused on the grounds of not wanting to try and choke down raw meat in human form), but finally she sent everyone out, and smiled warmly at him.
"Everything looks to be in order. When and where, Home-ruler?"
Everything after that progressed exceptionally quickly.
While Odin had made it clear that something like an interdimensional peace treaty was a big enough deal that it required some level of ceremony to go along with the signing of it, the part no one had said was that the signing wouldn't be happening in Asgard.
Oh, of course the nature of the Bifrost did in fact require King Surtur and Queen Skadi to come to Asgard before going wherever it was they needed to be to sign it, but-
Well. The preparations and general chaos that had been taking over the palace were not, in fact, because of a need to welcome their guests. Most of it was actually in regards to the celebration to come after the treaty, namely feasting and dancing and the like, as well as a few general upgrades in security to deal with the fact that two potentially hostile members of foreign royalty and their respective guards would be passing through.
Yes, rooms were being prepared for them so they could stay and enjoy said celebrations and have places to crash if they had too much Asgardian mead (Harry had learned the hard way just how strong the stuff was), but it was apparently more of a formality than anything else. No one actually expected them to stay.
Not that anyone had bothered to tell Harry any of that, of course.
So the day the two were to arrive, the animagus found himself standing next to Heimdall and waiting, and generally trying very hard not to let on how confused he was.
He had his brothers and Muhammad with him near the gatekeeper, Tom small and hidden amongst his bracelets, but he'd been informed none of them were actually allowed to come with him to wherever the hell they were going (no one had actually mentioned Tom, and he was willing to bet they didn't realize he was fully sentient- he didn't plan on informing anyone).
Thor and Odin stood a small distance away, on another part of the dais, between it and the long rainbow bridge, with four guards behind them. With them, slightly apart from the royal group, was that same older warrior who had made the initial trip to Muspelheim with them. Ralph? He thought his name was Ralph. It had definitely started with an 'R' at least. He wondered to himself why the man was here when none of the other warriors had been welcome (most of said warriors were back at the other end of the bridge, with some of them in those flying boats here and there hidden around and under it in case of some betrayal).
But it wasn't relevant.
At Odin's nod, Heimdall set about activating the gate, and a moment later King Surtur stood amongst them. He wasn't alone. Ragnhild stood loyally at his right side, as ever, along with another male Eldjotnar to his left. Behind him were two Muspel men. They were all armed. There was a long moment of silence, where the two Kings stood and stared at one another, and then Odin nodded respectfully, and Surtur returned it. Harry saw him looking past him after that, towards the palace and the stolen gold it was made from; the giant looked tense, but didn't say anything about it.
The group from Muspelheim moved to the side some, making room for their Jotun cousins to arrive.
Queen Skadi looked fierce, white markings painted ceremoniously onto the scarification marks on her forehead and cheeks, highlighting them. She wore more clothing than was unusual for a Jotun, a long tunic and a white fur coat so large Harry could have used it as a blanket on his enormous Asgardian bed.
She was alone.
"You did not bring a guard, Sister?" She grinned ferally at Surtur.
"I have no need of a guard, Brother." They stared at each other for a long moment, something charged in the air; the weight of their people's history and what it meant for them to be standing here together hanging in the air between them. "Heh." She looked away from him, breaking the tension and letting her gaze rove over the room until she spotted Harry, ignoring the Allfather entirely to make her way to him. "Home-ruler."
"Queen Skadi." She grinned at him, sharp teeth hinting at the edge of a threat but smile still genuine enough, and he smiled tentatively back. Only then did she turn to Odin.
"I shall travel with this one and his guard. Let us get this over with." Odin's guards stiffened a little at the casual disrespect, but Odin himself looked unbothered.
"You may travel with who you wish, though King Black has no guard."
"Yes he does." Harry blinked and looked to Moo. "I'm his Guard." What the hell? What was he doing? Harry would have hissed at him, but there were too many eyes on them not to present a united front. The twins, thankfully, caught on to that first.
"You're a terrible one though, for the record." George looked amused.
"Always letting him wander off on his own."
"Letting him get into trouble and danger without backup."
"Little brother should fire you, honestly."
"I really should." His tone was long suffering, more from the stunt they were pulling than anything else. Was this something they'd planned ahead of time without telling him? Moo shrugged.
"Usually you don't need me. You can handle yourself in a fight just fine." He paused. "But this time I'm following as I'm meant to." It was a heavily-weighted comment, and Harry wondered at it. There was emotion there he couldn't name, and he didn't think it was all acting. He turned his gaze towards Odin. The Allfather's face was stoic, and he couldn't tell what he thought of all this. Harry had introduced the three of them once as all being his brothers, but he'd never said any of them weren't guards. Technically speaking, the Aesir King had no way of proving Muhammad a liar (at least so long as Heimdall didn't speak up). But the man merely nodded, and didn't argue the point.
"Very well. Shall we begin departing then?"
"It would be wise." King Surtur intoned, and there were silent nods of agreement between the various guards. Heimdall dipped his head in a solemn nod of his own, and readied the Bifrost yet again, quietly informing them all that he would be sending them in groups, with the Muspelheim lot first, then their three, and then the Allfather and his guard. Then he set about doing just that.
Group by group, they all disappeared in swirls of radiant light.
Harry had no real words to describe the place they wound up, but he tried anyways, if only in his own mind, in an effort to wrap his head around it.
The ground almost looked like a mirror, but felt soft where he walked and made no sound. It was a flat, endless plain that perfectly reflected what lay above them; and it was the heavens that garnered the bulk of his attention.
The space above them, filled with stars, at first glance reminded him vaguely of the view into open space you could see from the dais of the bifrost, but with the memory of that place so close at hand the differences were all the more startling.
Ribbons of light, complex clusters of stars, twisted across the sky like glowing rivers, meeting together in a complex pattern and twisting upwards in a larger form towards a far-off distance.. He could see planets nestling in the grooves of them, the spaces between them eerily distorted, as though each one existed in a different place, and he was somehow looking upon them all at once. It was like a broken mirror, the cracks lit aflame and each jagged pane revealing a different image. One of the planets looked shockingly like Earth. It might have been Earth. There was an ethereal sort of beauty to it all that enchanted him more deeply than any spell ever could.
As he stared, the image seemed to twist before his eyes. The rivers of light seemed to gain substance, becoming solid until he found himself looking at something else entirely. There were no words, but the closest thing that came to mind was the sensation of standing in a hollow space below a tree of unfathomable size, looking upwards at the bottoms of its' roots, seeing the bottom of the trunk, but the branches so far above they may as well not have even existed.
'Harry.' He jerked at Tom's voice in his mind, looking away. His breath came fast, and his heart pounded in his chest like he'd been fighting. He felt strange, worn out and energized all at once, like an emotionally exhausting day where you didn't do much physically and had too much caffeine to be really tired even though you were drained inside. The dull beginnings of a headache throbbed behind his temples. He was suddenly aware that he had no idea how long he'd been staring at the sky.
'What the hell is that?'
'What?' The world tree?
'That is the source and center of all life in the universe, Harry,' Tom told him, solemnly, reverently. 'and we have the incredible honor of standing upon its' base.' He swallowed, blinking rapidly and looking down. Now that he eyed it, the floor didn't look quite like the perfect mirror he'd first thought it to be. There were more pinpricks of light in it than above them, too small to be stars but there. As he watched, a swirl of light, weak enough to be barely noticeable, seemed to travel through it like water through a pipe.
Oh, he thought weakly. This wasn't ground, this was one of the rivers, like those above them.
One of the roots.
He swallowed heavily and looked up. Moo was staring upwards, and he could see the lights of Yggdrasil above them reflected in his eyes. His gaze seemed filled with light, eyes almost seeming to glow. He was breathing fast, and the animagus grabbed his arm. The other man jerked and looked away, meeting his gaze. He saw the same mix of awe and unexplainable fear he himself felt written in the Arab's gaze before Muhammad shook himself and schooled his expression.
But he could see the tenseness in his friend's form, the way he held himself like he was ready to fight. Something in Harry told him they didn't belong here, that they were trespassers on holy ground, and he knew instinctively that that feeling was worse for Moo than himself.
"It is even more beautiful than I remembered." He looked over, and found King Surtur standing just a few paces away, head tilted back and eyes closed; like a man standing out in a rainstorm and enjoying the feel of the water. When he opened his eyes they looked like burning embers set deep in his face. "You have not been here before, have you?" He asked Harry, who shook his head silently, some part of him nearly afraid to speak aloud. Surtur smiled kindly at him, and it was the gentlest expression he'd ever seen on the ruling Eldjotnar's face. The look of a very old man looking upon children as they played. "The first time is always overwhelming." He turned his smile on Queen Skadi, who the wizard only just noticed was staring upwards herself, lips parted and face filled with childish awe.
There was no fear in her expression.
"Come." Odin spoke, voice too gentle to be an order, like a father calling for his children to follow him. He walked away from them, his guard following, towards something.
Harry couldn't make it out, but there was a distortion of some sort in the air not too far from where they stood. Looking at it was like looking at someone under a disillusionment charm, or the ground through a heatwave; vaguely wavy and just noticeable enough to believe something was there, but without anything substantial enough to tell you what it was.
He reached out as everyone turned away to follow the Allfather, grabbing Muhammad's hand and squeezing, trying to tell him without words that they would be okay. Moo squeezed back, and bumped against his shoulder as they moved forwards, hesitating a moment before letting go of each other.
He kept his eyes on the thing they were moving towards as they did so, and he saw it become visible, bit by bit.
It was the strangest sight.
It was almost like watching someone complete a painting, each step forward swiping another stroke onto the canvas, revealing more color and detail. A sort of ruins appeared; a doorless archway and a low wall. They were white and unbroken, undamaged, but incomplete. Then there was grass, spreading out from their bases and peppered with small wildflowers. There was more, through the archway, like looking through a window, but he couldn't make out much in the way of detail until after they had passed through it into the place beyond.
Going through the archway was like stepping out into a meadow. Long grass and wildflowers surrounded them, a beautiful multi-colored sunset sky spread out above them, streaked with gentle clouds. The meadow was surrounded by trees of various species; the branches had all tangled together and come down, creating a near-impenetrable wall that seemed to protect the space.
At the center of the meadow, by far the most notable part of the place in which they found themselves, was a yew tree; its bark familiar to him in color. It was big and sprawling, but not so large as to be unusual. In truth, there was nothing in particular about the way it looked that was startling or fantastic or special, but Harry could feel the magic thrumming in it; so bright and so strong that even with distance it buzzed along his skin and made his hair stand on end. His tail curled down against his leg.
Near its base was a small hut, not dissimilar to Hagrid's, but altogether more well put together, with a wide, short well of dark stone next to it. The whole space was surprisingly humble, and yet-
And yet it still felt sacred. The magic of the tree felt like the twisting rivers, the roots, back beyond the arch behind him, and something about the well called out to him, tugging him towards it. He could hear a whisper somewhere, maybe within his own mind, full of secrets and knowledge.
He was walking towards the well before he realized it; might not have realized it at all except that Odin put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
"Patience." He intoned, voice grave but not admonishing. "To look into the Well of Urd is no simple thing, and one must be invited to such a privilege by the Norns." He looked up at him, would have asked, but a new voice interrupted them.
"An invitation he already possesses." He jerked a bit in Odin's grasp, turning to look. An old woman stood before them in the grass, where before there had been no one. She was barefoot and dressed in simple hooded brown robes; hunched a bit, with a white cane helping her keep her balance. Her silver hair was wavy and had been left to fall freely around her kind face. Her eyes were dark and warm and she smiled at them. There was something immeasurably familiar about her. Harry felt as though they'd met before, yet was equally sure it was the first time he'd ever seen her. "You've been very busy little Harry." He froze, unable to respond.
There had been moments, here and there, since he'd gained the Hallows; moments where some manner of understanding and knowledge seemed to come to him from places unknown. His title as King seemed to grant to him certain truths of the universe.
It granted another now, and he dropped instinctively to one knee and bowed; humbling himself in a way he never had before and likely never would again for any other being.
Because this woman was a Norn. A goddess in the very truest definition of the word. He knew it, felt it, all the way down to his bones and the core of his magic. Somehow the knowledge was there, and so he bowed.
She laughed, a hint of delight in her voice.
"Such respect! Oh my, well, you've always been such a good boy. Come now though, on your feet." He hesitated, and then stood. She held a hand out to him. "You wouldn't mind helping an old woman walk now would you?" She asked, and he stepped forward immediately, offering his arm to her. She grabbed it, and hobbled along, him supporting her silently as they went. Her touch felt no different than it would had she been human. Her skin was wrinkled and soft, in the way it often was with the elderly; her hand was warm with life.
Had he not known better, he wouldn't have thought her anything but a perfectly ordinary old woman.
Vaguely he could hear the others following them as she brought him over to the well. The water inside was black and perfectly still, but lights shined within it as they had within the roots of Yggdrasil. Something told him he shouldn't stare too long into that place, and so he turned his attention away. The old Norn studied him a moment, and then smiled again, a hint of approval in her gaze.
"Do you know me child? Do you know my name?" He hadn't thought he did, but his mouth opened and the word came to him with ease.
"Urd." It was the first time he'd spoken aloud since they'd arrived in this place. She nodded.
"That's right dear, although I imagine you don't know how you know do you?" He shook his head, and she chuckled at him. "Well, you're a big boy, you don't need me giving all the answers. There'd be no fun in that." She grinned at him, a hint of mischief in her eyes. "You've done well with all of this business making peace, and I expect you to keep it up. There's more work yet to be done, and the realms could use a Peace-Bringer with a good head on their shoulders. You stop being such a baby about it and go visit your kingdom soon too, you understand?" He nodded, wide-eyed, taking her words for the orders they were. "You'll find most of your answers there I think." She smiled at him, looking like a rather proud old grandmother, and patted the side of his face. "Get this lot settled for me would you? The sooner they've gone and said their vows the sooner they'll be off my lawn." He nodded sharply, and she grinned at him, patting his face one last time. "That's a good boy."
And with that she was gone. She didn't fade and there was no sound, but between one blink and the next she simply wasn't there. He swallowed and looked towards the others. Moo stood close to Queen Skadi, and both looked as shell-shocked as he felt. King Surtur inclined his head to him, Ranghild watching stoically from beside him. Odin's gaze was unreadable. There was silence for a long moment.
"Let us begin." He intoned, and the moment passed.
The rest of it was a bit of a blur for Harry, and later on he wouldn't be able to describe it all with much coherency. Odin spoke out his portion of the vows and cut his hand over the well, making an offering of blood to it. Queen Skadi followed, and then, surprisingly, Ragnhild rather than Surtur.
Queen Ragnhild, it would seem.
Hands were clasped and a physical contract was brought out and signed with blood. Words fell from his own lips, well-practiced and thought out, binding everyone to their word, turning them to oaths that could not be broken. He hardly heard what he spoke; and just like that, it was done.
Harry didn't remember leaving the meadow. He didn't remember the light and magic of the Bifrost coming to take them back to Asgard. He didn't remember much of anything past the signing of the contract, save for Muhammad's hand in his own and someone guiding him into bed.
And the way his magic pulsed and sung inside of him, waves rising and crashing down again; the taste of salt lingering on his tongue.
He'd been worried and stressed over everything for such a long time that it was a strange experience to wake up as he did; feeling nothing but a quiet sort of peace. It was warm in his bed, and somewhat crowded. Muhammad was wrapped along one side of him, arm over his stomach, Loki on the other with a leg thrown over his own. Red hair and snores marked the twins at Loki's back, and the quiet hiss of scales on fabric gave him Tom's place across the pillows behind his head. He lay there blinking silently at the ceiling for a while, studying the arches of gold and dark stones, content not to move.
'It's done then.'
'Yes.' Tom said nothing more for a long moment, and Harry breathed in deeply and sighed. 'You can never go back now you know. You'll be forced to hold your title as King for at least as long as that treaty is in place.'
'I know.' There was a sort of hum in the back of his mind and Harry closed his eyes. If any bit of the tales Tom had told him were true, then the Norns were the beings responsible for at least some part of the creation of the universe, and he had met one.
She hadn't said much, but he figured it wasn't wise to ignore what she had said. He swallowed and opened his eyes again.
'I need to settle things here and make another trip to Midgard, and then you are going to tell me how to get to Niflheim. If one of the Norns thinks so, then it's high-time I paid my Kingdom a visit.' Tom slid across the bedding until he was in sight, and he stared Harry down before nodding.
'As you wish, your Majesty.' Harry closed his eyes again.
It felt like a defeat.
The celebration lasted for several days; all of his Asgardian friends seemed happy to spend those days eating large amounts of food and getting very drunk. Harry spent the first day mostly in bed, with Loki and his brothers and Moo keeping him company. The second day he made his way out to join everyone, and kept to himself in the celebration hall nursing a single tankard of mead. He was left to his own devices for quite some time before he found himself with company. Thor refilled his drink silently, and they both sipped quietly for a few minutes, watching the revelry.
"One would think you would find this occasion more joyous, my friend." He hummed in response. "What troubles you?" He took another sip of his drink and thought about how to answer.
"Just a lot on my mind." It was a non-answer, and Thor was smart enough to know that, but the Aesir didn't press. He just sat with Harry for a while, and waited. The animagus sighed after a while. "It's complicated."
"I did not think it simple." The Thunderer smiled at him, and he huffed in amusement.
"The short version is that... I wasn't entirely stuck in the role of King before." Thor frowned, and he explained. "I was King, but I could have given up my crown, and originally... I had planned to." The god looked surprised. "To be honest, I only gained the title very shortly before I first came here," No need to tell him how shortly. "and I had planned to keep it only long enough to gain an understanding of the situation with your brother. But once I put my word and the power of my title towards something more concrete-" He shrugged, and Thor looked grave. It probably wasn't a good idea on his part to tell the other man about this, but-
Well, he trusted Thor well enough.
"If you were to give up the crown, it could break the faith everyone has placed in this treaty." He looked almost panicked, and in spite of himself Harry found it kind of funny. "It could-"
"I know. That's why I'm staying as King now." The other's mouth shut slowly. "It's just... It's not something I had planned on, and I'm not really sure how to deal with it to be honest. But I have to now, and I will. I'm a man of my word if nothing else. I just..." His shoulders slumped. "I don't know how to rule." Thor studied him in silence for a while, somewhere in the background a cheer went up, and Harry stared silently into his drink.
"My father has been preparing me to take the throne for many years, and if I am honest, I still do not know how to rule." He finally said, and Harry looked at him. "I do not think it is something one can really prepare for. But for what it's worth, my friend," He looked him in the eye. "If you handle your own realm the way you have handled yourself here and on Midgard, I think you will make a fine King indeed." Harry smiled.
"Thank you." He nodded, and then looked a bit nervous.
"Although, ah, Harry?"
"Yes?" He lowered his voice.
"Perhaps you should not tell anyone else about all of this." He gave him a pointed look, and Harry chuckled.
"Probably shouldn't have told you either should I?" Thor grimaced and he laughed again. "Yea I know. Thanks, mate." Thor nodded, and that was that. They changed the subject, speaking a bit more after that. They talked about how the Casket had already been sent off to Jotunheim. Odin had made his apology on the Bifrost when they'd returned to Asgard, though Harry himself had left before hearing it. The Jotuns and Eldjotnar were apparently already preparing, getting ready to make their trips to other realms and set up trade. They talked about the future a bit, about hope, about the Avengers back on Earth and about Jane. Then Thor fell silent and eventually took his leave. Harry continued to sip his drink, and after awhile he got up to slip away. Everyone else was celebrating, and if Thor had noticed his melancholy then he was likely not the only one. It was better if he didn't bring anyone else's mood down.
Or draw any suspicion.
It certainly hadn't been a politically wise choice to confide in Thor, especially without putting up any kind of secrecy spells between them and the rest of a crowded room.
'I did it for you.' He twitched and looked up. Tom slithered down one of the carvings on the wall.
'Spying on me now?'
'Looking out for you.' The serpent hesitated and then grew larger in size, settling on his coils and lifting up his head until he was eye-level with Harry. 'Regardless of our past together and our current circumstances... It would be a lie to say I do not care for your well-being.' He twitched. 'I did not think it wise that you attend this celebration feeling as you do.'
'You didn't try to stop me.'
'I am your servant, not your keeper.' Harry bared his teeth and looked away, disgusted. 'I know you do not care to think of it.'
'Then why bring it up?' His tone was more vicious than he meant it to be, and he took in a sharp breath after, a little surprised at himself. Tom simply watched him calmly.
'Because you are not a child, and running from reality does not change it.' The words were not spoken in his mind unkindly, but part of him wanted to hit the snake for them anyways. Part of him wanted to yell.
But those were the actions of a child, and Tom was right that he wasn't one. Not anymore.
'I know that all of this is difficult for you, but your distaste will not change it. An unfortunate circumstance of life is that we must do our best with what is given to us. I am your servant, even if you do not care to think of me as such. Ultimately the only thing you get to decide there is what sort of Master you will be.' He paused. 'What sort of King you will be.' He added, and Harry closed his eyes.
"I'm trying." He murmured around, and Tom nodded. He hesitated, as though he would say more, but merely nodded again and shrunk, slithering along the hall and leaving the wizard to his thoughts. He stood there a moment, debating if he wanted to head towards his rooms or go hit something on the training ground, and was still standing there when Sif found him.
"Harry!" She was wearing a dress again, dark blue this time, looking lovely and happy. The sight made him smile in spite of himself. She came up to him, tucking a strand of hair behind her ears. He found his gaze lingering on the motion and the way her clothes clung to her hips, and forced himself to look away, blushing a bit. "Everyone is celebrating except for you." He bit his lips and tried to think of an excuse. She smiled kindly. "I suppose it has grown rather loud in there." He slumped a little and nodded, taking the out she'd offered him. She took a step closer, and he found his heartbeat speeding up, wondering to himself if she was going to kiss him again. "If you like, we can go somewhere quieter?" It took him a moment, staring at her incomprehensibly, before the words sunk in.
He'd been very sheltered from these sorts of things for a long time, and he could easily admit that he was somewhat oblivious to them, but he wasn't stupid. There was a lot he didn't know, but he understood enough.
It took him a moment, but he could recognize the invitation she'd just made for what it was. He could recognize, if only just, the sly expression on her face and the way she leaned towards him, the suggestiveness in how she was carrying herself. His heart pounded in his chest and he-
He wasn't sure, not completely, that he should. It felt a little sudden and unexpected but-
He wanted it. It would be a lie to say he didn't.
"Harry!" He jerked away from her instinctively, like he always seemed to do when Moo found them together, like it was something he was trying to hide. He swallowed heavily and looked up at the Arab man as he trotted up to them. Muhammad glanced once at Sif and then dismissed her. "You need to call Bruce back."
"Huh?" He rolled his eyes.
"Bruce called. You left the phone in the room. I told him I'd get you and have you call him back."
"Oh." He hesitated, glancing at Sif. She was staring at Moo, lips thinned, but she turned to him and smiled a little.
"Another time?" He nodded, a little shaky, and she grinned and winked at him, turning to walk away. He stood there a moment watching, until Moo huffed and shoved at his shoulder.
"Come on dumbass he's waiting."
"Oh uh. Yea. Right." He swallowed and followed along, feeling more than a little off kilter.
And relieved, for reasons he couldn't name.
Bruce had invited him down to Earth for the first of what the Avengers apparently intended to be a series of joint training sessions, to get them all knowledgeable and comfortable about the way the others all fought; teach them how to work with and around one another and be a proper team. It was scheduled for two weeks from then, and it was as good an excuse as any to set himself up for another visit on Midgard.
In a way, it was a matter of delaying his intended upcoming trip to Niflheim, but mostly it was just that he needed the comforts of home just then. He wanted a hug from his father, and he wanted to visit Teddy. He wanted to be someplace where he maybe didn't understand everything, but understood enough to be comfortable in his own skin.
There were moments, whole days even, where he felt the foreignness of Asgard keenly. There were days where he was comfortable there, but every so often he would look around himself- At the clothes and the decor and the sky, and feel so deeply out of place. He feared feeling the same when he finally entered the realm over which he apparently held power. He wanted one last taste of home before he went. It wasn't as though he wouldn't be coming back, of course, but still.
So he set about getting his things packed and recalling when he was next supposed to meet with Loki so he could tell him (if the god didn't show up in their rooms sometime before then) when he abruptly found himself interrupted by a guard and a requested audience with the Allfather.
He'd thought, in his own way, that once the treaty had been finalized that Odin would have no further need to speak to him directly. It had been a bit of an unfounded expectation on his part, but just certain enough that he found himself feeling a bit wary as he made his way to the King's Hall; even more so when he realized he was heading to the more formal of the Halls and not the more private areas where he'd grown accustomed to speaking with the older Aesir.
It was a rather formal deviation from the norm, and it put him on-guard.
When he entered the Hall he found the Allfather sat upon his enormous throne, Queen Frigga standing dutifully next to him and the room lined with guards. Definitely a deviation from the norm. He hesitated in the doorway, Tom tightening his grip on his wrist. Had the older King discovered something? Did he know about the conversation with Thor? About Loki's forays outside his cell? About Harry's plans?
'Admit nothing. Just see where this goes.' He took a deep breath, keeping his expression carefully blank, just shy of bored, and approached the throne, footsteps echoing off the walls. He stopped a few paces before the dias the throne sat upon, and the queen smiled disarmingly at him. It made him relax a bit. He couldn't imagine she would smile if this meeting were something unpleasant for him.
"You requested to speak with me, Allfather?" Odin nodded, looking serious but not particularly grave.
"I did." He stood. "Harry Black, King of Niflheim." He paused. "For your efforts in the promotion of peace amongst the realms, Asgard owes you a great debt." Harry shifted on his feet, uncomfortable. "You have granted us a great boon, and tradition dictates that you are owed one in return." He frowned.
"Pardon?" Odin finally smiled.
"You've done much for us, and we seek to repay you. Anything you desire, you may request of me." He opened his mouth to protest. "It is no small thing for this offer to be made, and I would caution you not to make light of it."
'Be careful, Harry.'
'I don't know quite how Asgard does these things, but when similar offers are made amongst pureblood families it is considered quite the insult to refuse.' That gave him pause, and he closed his mouth, thinking.
'What am I meant to ask for?'
'Anything you want. Not something too common, because that might be an insult too, requesting anything you could gain yourself. But not something too extravagant. No need to make them think you're greedy.'
'I don't have anything I want from them.'
'Well you'd best think of something. Something you know they can provide, which you may not be easily able to obtain yourself. A magical item, gold, a dozen horses.' He almost snorted.
'What in Mitera's name would I do with a dozen horses?' He asked incredulously, and Tom chuckled.
'It doesn't have to be that, just something of significance.' His thoughts raced as he stared at Odin, the Allfather and his wife waiting patiently for his answer. He didn't really have anything he wanted, if he were honest. Not much of anything he couldn't get or make on his own at least.
... Except maybe-
"I request custody of the prisoner, Loki." Tom squeezed his wrist, and the two Aesir above him looked surprised, and then grave. There was pain on the queen's face. He couldn't read Odin's expression. For a long moment, he thought he had made a terrible mistake. He thought Odin would refuse him or even yell.
And then the god sighed deeply.
"You have done much for my family." He said quietly. "He has changed much since you came here, and though it speaks of the fool in me, I believe that change has been for the best." He sighed again and closed his eye for a drawn out moment. When he opened it again he looked calm. "Very well. I grant to you your request, though I desire to make one of my own." Harry nodded. "Do not keep him from us." He blinked, taken aback.
"I'd never planned on it. You're his family." He looked them over. "I might take him with me in my travels, but I will always bring him home again." Odin studied him, and when he spoke again he looked sad.
"That is all I can ask."
'See? That wasn't so bad.'
'Not yet maybe, though it speaks of your devil's luck that it wasn't; but it might yet be once Loki learns of it.'
Hoo boy Harry, we need to train you out of that impulsive streak.
Feeling a bit mean ending it here, but it was the place that flowed best to end it. Forgive me!
I'll see all you guys soon. Take care.