They’ve been together from the beginning.
During their first lesson together –it was Potion, Tony remembers- they’d been the only two to answer the teacher’s questions, making the moment into their very first competition. Tony, who had only just discovered the magical world, felt so proud about being a Ravenclaw! The clever ones, the Hat had said, and he’d intended to prove he had his place there.
He’d been a bit disappointed to be separated from Steve, the boy he’d met on the train who had been sorted into Gryffindor, but then he’d been greeted at his table by Bruce, a quiet boy in second year who’d made him feel welcomed right from the start.
He hadn’t noticed Loki, at first, only his brothers. Thor and Balder were already sorted in Gryffindor –second and fourth year, respectively- and very displeased that their little brother was sent to Slytherin.
Tony, as a muggleborn, could have just hated on the know-it-all Slytherin like all the other kids, if Bruce hadn’t known Loki from family reunions.
“We’re both purebloods,” Bruce had shrugged. “So we often meet in social occasions and parties and such. He’s a nice kid. You should give him a chance.”
“What if I don’t want to?” Tony had scowled.
“Too bad, because he’s dining with us tonight.”
And Loki had, and the conversation had been glorious, and they’ve barely left each other’s side –or Bruce’s, for that matter- ever since.
It’s their sixth year now, and they’re hidden away in the Hufflepuff common room, deterring anybody who comes by with nasty looks and threatening wands –they are both known for their genius at spellcasting, although their areas of expertise differ. How they even got the password to a common room that isn’t theirs, they won’t tell. It’s just that there are way too many Ravenclaws still in school (for Christmas, for Merlin’s sake! Aren’t people supposed to go back home for Christmas?) and the Slytherins aren’t fond of Tony. Or Loki, for that matter.
Maybe it’s because of that time they filled the common room with custard. Or that other time they died the whole common room in red and gold. Or that other other time they decided to hang every set of underwear they could steal in the common room. Go figure.
Anyway, they’re both in the Hufflepuff common room, alone, and in the dark.
Loki’s head is in Tony’s lap, and he is running a hand through his friend’s hair, trying to see how long it will be before he manages to wear out the spell keeping it in place. (He saw Loki with his hair free once, and he found the mass of black curls adorably messy on the head of someone that composed. You could say that he’s been trying to see it again ever since, although he will still maintain that the time he pushed Loki into the lake was entirely accidental.)
Tony has no idea what caused this impromptu reunion.
Not, mind you, that it is the first time they meet in a dorm that isn’t theirs or anything! But they don’t usually do it at midnight and half ready to go to bed, Tony in stripped pajamas (what? It’s a gift from Pepper, okay?) and Loki in the ridiculous flannel shirt that pureblood wizards seem to think an acceptable garb.
“Did something happen?” Tony asks, because it’s kind of his job at this point, and also because Loki being that motionless is never really a good sign.
“Nothing unscheduled,” he sighs.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“I’ve always thought he’d go for Sigyn,” Loki says without acknowledging Tony, “or at least Angrboda, but he had to go and pick Amora! I mean, she’s a Slytherin, why would he pick her? He hates Slytherin!”
“Wait, hold the phone a minute!” Tony says, “You’re losing me there! What are you trying to say?”
“I’m not coming back next year.”
Tony stands up so abruptly that he has to repair a bust he accidentally flung to the floor –and that’s without even talking about the brand new bump at the back of Loki’s head, or the string of swear words coming out of his mouth. Ordinarily, Tony would be all for listening to the creative expressions of the wizarding world –six years in and he’s still learning new Merlin-related insults- but now is really not the moment.
“What do you mean, you’re not coming back?”
“My father wants me to marry Amora,” Loki sighs. “I’m not doing that.”
“I—wha—okay, look, I’m as horrified as you are by the prospect, maybe even more so because, honestly, forced marriage in this century? Ugh. But you can’t just drop everything because of that!”
“And what else should I do then?” Loki asks, archly. “Stay here and wait for him to push me into this against my will?”
“But you could be the best wizard of the century!” Tony protests. “Better than Hermione Granger!”
He can feel his heart beat harder, his palm sweating, his fists clenching. Hogwarts wasn’t always easy for him –a muggleborn, constantly referring to mechanics to understand magic, and always corresponding with his muggle half-sister- but through it all there were two constants: Bruce, and Loki. Especially Loki.
It may sound demeaning to Bruce but really it’s not. It’s just that he and Loki… they click. Bruce gets them both, of course, and there’s a spark there, created by friendship and understanding. But with Loki, Tony has fireworks.
The mere idea of not having him by his side anymore is intolerable.
“I can be the best wizard of the century in Durmstrang,” Loki points out, and Tony insists:
“Why?” Loki asks. “Why couldn’t I go away from something I never want to happen?”
“You wouldn’t have to do it even if you stayed!” Tony explodes. “You could play along for the holidays and—”
“And then what?” Loki asks. “And then what?”
“Come with me,” Tony hears himself saying.
“Where?” Loki asks without hesitation, and Tony can finally put a name on what’s been bugging him about Loki, almost since day one.
“Anywhere,” he says. “We could go to all the places you wanted to see. We could go visit the pyramids and the Great Wall of China, we could go sees Dragons and Red Pandas we—hell, we could go to America and do all the roadside attractions and see the world’s biggest ball of yarn once a week if you wanted, and I wouldn’t mind if I saw it with you!” He stops then, takes Loki’s hands in his. “Anything so long as I’m with you.”
There is no light save the silver sheen of moonbeams pooling through the window, and although Tony has seen this thousands of times it feels new.
The common room of Hufflepuff is all curves and old, worn chairs crowding its occupants in a cocoon of softness that calls to cracked hearts and broken smiles. Maybe that’s why they’ve always liked to come here when they need help or comfort. Over time, it has become their secret place, their safe heaven, and although people can still come in, even at this hour, it is still silent enough that they could be alone in the world and it wouldn’t change a single thing.
Thousands of times Tony has seen the ballet of dust in the moonlight, light and ethereal in the clair-obscure of the room, all in black and silver save the green flash of a spell Tony didn’t even realize he was under until now. He takes a breath in and the spell disappears, snuffed out by another ray of light so pale it looks almost white.
And then Tony closes his eyes with the slow motion of a dream, or maybe the dream of a dream, and he feels the dust tingle against his lips, feels the light on his mouth, crisp and warm with the taste of great projects on his tongue. He lets his fingers disappear in the darkness, lets them tangle in the thick maze of it, and he presses closer to the light, tastes his future with more accuracy than before.
“Stay with me,” he whispers in the darkness that smells of apple shampoo.
“Okay,” Loki whispers back.
Around them, everything is silent, as it should be, for a story like theirs is important enough that it doesn’t need to begin with a bang.