The bell above the door jangled and Harry lowered his newspaper. It was a copy of the Daily Prophet and since quite a few of his customers were Muggles it wouldn’t exactly be great to leave it out on the counter – nor was it good customer service to do so. Not that the customer even seemed to notice the smile Harry sent his way. He was preoccupied with something – pale blue eyes clouded with thoughts as he absently ordered a cappuccino.
He was handsome, Harry noticed. Shoulder length, slightly shaggy black hair and thin, delicate features. He sat at what Harry had affectionately christened the ‘Slytherin Desk’. It was the desk Snape had used when he was headmaster, and Harry had rescued it from a scrap-pile and lovingly refurbished it. In fact, most of the furniture in his little café had been rescued from Hogwarts’ many disused rooms. It made the place look haphazard and a little strange – maybe a lot strange, since Luna had helped him paint the walls and the ceiling – but he had to admit even to himself that the place was cozy.
Mr Cappuccino looked comfortable, at least. He looked like he belonged behind that big imposing desk with its secret-filled drawers. Harry had caught sight of customer after customer slipping scraps of paper in there, and it wasn’t that hard to figure out what they were. It was good exercise on his self-restraint not to read them, anyway. He had to keep reminding himself that he had a secret in there too – right down at the bottom of the pile – and that he wouldn’t be happy if a complete stranger read it.
I wish I could be anyone but who I am.
Mr Cappuccino was beginning to inspect his surroundings – apparently he’d just been looking for a warm, dry place to sit; not that Harry blamed him. The weather outside was awful. Small rivers were running in the gutters and the rain didn’t seem about to let up any time soon. Harry saw the man’s fingers twitch towards the desk drawers and bit his lip to try and stop himself from grinning. Apparently he wasn’t the only one who was too curious for his own good.
He crossed the room and cleared his throat softly. Mr Cappuccino jumped slightly and Harry couldn’t quite stop himself from smiling just a little as he announced “your cappuccino, sir” and set the coffee on the desk in front of him.
He was a little glad that Mr Cappuccino hadn’t paid much attention to him before. His pale eyes were so intense. He studied Harry carefully for a moment, his gaze lingering on the scar that marred Harry’s forehead. Harry instinctively raised a hand to flatten his hair over it. He hated that thing and how it identified him to every wizard on the bloody planet – though he was a little surprised that Mr Cappuccino wasn’t the Muggle he’d had him pegged as.
“Is there anything else I can get you?” he asked politely, hoping that the man wouldn’t make much of a fuss over being served by the Boy-Who-Lived. One or two of his magical customers had before and it always left him feeling uncomfortable and a little bit violated.
Mr Cappuccino shook his head. Then he paused, looking at Harry again – at the scar. It wasn’t a reverent look, Harry realised; he was curious.
“Is there anything in these drawers?” he asked after a while.
Harry tilted his head to the side. The guy had a pleasant sounding voice. His accent could have passed for English, but there was something a little bit off about it. He wasn’t local. Definitely not.
He decided to answer. “Secrets, I suppose,” he said. “Only people who need this place are able to find it, and this table –“ he looked down at it fondly. The desk had somehow managed to inherit some of its previous owner’s personality: imposing and private “- this table tends to attract the people with secrets. They leave things, sometimes. I don’t read them. Sometimes curiosity is a bad thing.”
He must have let some of his experience with such things show in his voice because Mr Cappuccino laughed suddenly. It was a lovely sound, and Harry suddenly wanted to hear it again. “What happens when the drawers get full?” he asked.
“They never will,” the boy replied. He wondered what kind of wizard Mr Cappuccino was if he’d never heard of Wizard Space before. Maybe he was a Squib? No, he decided. Most of the Squibs he’d met had seemed hunted or insecure in some way; Mr Cappuccino was almost like Mr Malfoy in the power that he exuded. Fragile and beautiful, but dangerous. He smiled faintly – Ron would probably hate the guy on sight. “I’ll leave you to it. Just call if you need anything else.”
He could feel Mr Cappuccino’s gaze boring into his back as he walked back to his counter. He heard a soft contented sigh from behind him and grinned to himself – it looked like he might have found a regular customer. Maybe.
Only the people who needed his café could find it. He wasn’t sure what kind of person that would make a regular customer. He shot Mr Cappuccino a glance as he sat down, meeting his pale gaze briefly. Probably someone as screwed up as Harry himself was.
“You never see anyone outside of work anymore, Harry. It’s not healthy.”
Hermione sounded concerned, but she still smiled gratefully as he handed her her mug of peppermint tea. Her belly was round with her first child and she looked lovely with it – although looking at her made Harry feel slightly awkward. He would probably be an expectant father by now if he’d followed the path other people had set out for him after the war. Instead he’d found himself here in his shop and in relative solitude.
“I like it,” he told her. “It’s peaceful.”
It’s not a lie either, which helped in the face of Hermione’s unending scrutiny. After Voldemort’s defeat, the one thing he found himself wanting more than anything else in the world was a little place to himself where he wouldn’t be bothered by people and the things that they wanted from him. He’d looked up the spells that made the Room of Requirement what it was and applied them to a little building in a London street, just a three minute walk from Grimmauld Place.
“But Harry, Ron and I shouldn’t have to come here every time we want to see you. We’re your best friends. And what about Ginny?”
“What about her?”
Hermione was incessant in bringing up Ginny every time she saw him for some reason. As far as Harry was concerned, their brief relationship had ended after Dumbledore’s death. Apparently he was wrong, because – as always – Hermione sighed and looked at him pityingly.
“She’s still waiting for you, Harry,” she said.
“We broke up.”
“Temporarily,” she argued, and Harry couldn’t be bothered to argue back. Not when Hermione would never admit that maybe, just maybe, he knew more about his love life than she did.
Not that his love life consisted of much, really. Mr Cappuccino had become the regular Harry had predicted him to be and that was about it. He came in for a few hours every day and they talked and flirted and never went further than that. Harry was tempted, occasionally, to just lean over the desk and kiss him, but he didn’t. Mr Cappuccino – anonymous as he was – was the best company he’d had in months.
He just shrugged and steamed some milk for a hot chocolate for himself.
“Say something,” Hermione demanded.
Harry sighed. “I never asked her to wait.”
“You didn’t need to, Harry. Honestly, when are you going to see that there are people out there that love you?”
Harry opened his mouth to respond – to say that he knew, but honestly, sometimes love felt like smothering – when the bell above the door chimed and Mr Cappuccino entered, unwinding a grey scarf from around his neck. He caught Harry’s eye and nodded, and Harry smiled back as his hands already started to gather what he needed for the order.
“Who is that?” Hermione asked.
“No idea,” Harry replied. “He’s never told me his name.”
She watches him grind the beans and tamp them down in the filter. “You know his order.”
“He’s a regular.”
“And you don’t know who he is? Harry! What if he’s…you know. Dark.”
The thought had crossed his mind before, but that didn’t mean he put any stock in it. The time had passed when you were either a good guy, a Muggle, or a Death Eater. Mr Cappuccino could keep his secrets if that was what he wanted – Harry was not going to pry where he wasn’t wanted.
“Then he’s dark,” he said. She glared at him – he could practically see her hackles raising. “Seriously, Hermione, he’s a nice guy. He orders coffee, sometimes we talk, that’s it.”
“Talk about what?” she asked.
He was tempted to ask who had died and made her his mother, but he but back the reprimand. “Muggle politics, usually.” He shrugged. “I don’t think he’s magical.” That was complete bollocks – Harry was convinced that Mr Cappuccino was magical in some way; he just wasn’t convinced that the guy was a wizard. He passed for a Muggle too well for that.
“Oh.” She sat back slightly and rubbed a hand over her belly. “You could have just said.”
Harry closed his eyes briefly. “Uhuh,” he said. It was the wrong thing to say, because her hand snapped out and grabbed his wrist painfully tight, almost spilling Mr Cappuccino’s cappuccino over them both. Harry froze.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she hissed at him.
“It means,” he hissed back, mindful of their audience, “that the war has been over for years, Hermione. Not everyone you don’t know is a Death Eater or some sort of evil wizard hell-bent on destroying the world.”
Not that, privately, he thinks Mr Cappuccino isn’t the type. Over their last few meetings he’d become more and more dangerous in Harry’s opinion. He was good at hiding it, certainly, but there were moments when he didn’t seem all that sane or even all that human. Moments when it seemed that humans were – and should remain – beneath his notice, as if they were meant for little more than cannon fodder.
Harry’s Gryffindor spirit had died a death when – after he’d martyred himself and destroyed the Dark Lord – the world hadn’t changed in the slightest. That was why he’d mostly left the Wizarding World, after all. If Mr Cappuccino wanted to plot evil plots then that was his business; Harry had had quite enough of saving the world, thank you very much.
Besides, there were other heroes out there that were much better suited to the task.
Hermione’s grip loosened enough for him to pull away without spilling coffee everywhere and he made his way over to the Slytherin Desk where Mr Cappuccino sat waiting for him.
“Sorry for the wait,” Harry said by way of greeting.
Mr Cappuccino waved a hand, excusing it. “Girl trouble?” he asked. There was something cold in his gaze that hadn’t been there in any of his previous visits, and Harry felt his breath catch. Then he laughed, shaking his head.
“No, nothing like that. Hermione’s an old friend from school. That’s my godbaby in there, not my actual –“ the images to go with Mr Cappuccino’s implication cought up with him at last and he wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Ew,” he said. “Just ew.”
Mr Cappuccino grinned at him – teeth white and oddly sharp looking – and his expression defrosted enough for Harry to know that he was forgiven.
“She didn’t hurt you?” he asked.
Harry shook his head. “Surprised me, more like,” he admitted. He glanced back to find Hermione watching them through narrowed eyes. He sighed. As much as he still cared for her, he was becoming less and less tolerant of her company. He wished she would just let him grow up.
“I’d better go,” he said.
“Of course,” Mr Cappuccino replied. “I will be here.”
“This may be the last time you see me for a while,” Mr Cappuccino said. He had already wrapped his scarf around his neck again and slipped back into his coat. He was ready to go, but he didn’t seem to want to. “I have to go away. For business.”
Mr Cappuccino’s business was undefined. He’d spent so much time in Harry’s company over the last few weeks that Harry had started to wonder if he had a job at all. But then, he supposed, evil megalomaniacs had minions to worry about their time management for them. He felt guilty about thinking such things about someone he considered to be a friend, but he couldn’t help it. Mr Cappuccino – after weeks and weeks of close inspection – had more screws loose than Voldemort himself.
Still, though, he didn’t seem all that eager to go. He leaned against the desk and studied the contrast between his long, thin fingers and its green leather covering.
Then he reached up and pulled an envelope from the inside pocket of his jacket. He held it up between them for a moment, and then reached for the drawer. “It’s for you,” he said as he slipped it inside. “Read it if you want to. If not, then let it remain a secret in the company of other secrets.”
Harry took a deep breath and stood. “Thank you,” he said. “For coming here.” He doesn’t say ‘and for leaving a part of you behind’ but the words seem to hang between them anyway. Mr Cappuccino ducks his head shyly, and Harry can’t help but boggle at the amount of issues the man seems to have. “Will you come back?”
It was a stupid question, but he had to ask it.
Mr Cappuccino’s hands clenched briefly into fists. “Yes,” he said.
He left then, and Harry watched him vanish into the crowd of people that swept past his café, never noticing that it was there. His fingers reached blindly for the desk drawer and, opening it, pulled out the envelope on top.
There was no name on the front of it – he hadn’t even told Mr Cappuccino his name, he realised. Instead, there was a lightning bolt the exact same shape as his scar.
The letter was written in strange, spiky letters that Harry had no hope of understanding. He’d made a trip into Diagon Alley for a book on runes – yes, he recognised them from the flash cards Hermione had made him help her revise with – but he book couldn’t help him much. They had been written in a language that most definitely wasn’t one that had been used on earth.
Even so, frustration didn’t stop him from taking the letter out and unfolding it and poring over the mysterious words in the quiet moments when Mr Cappuccino should have been there in person. There was something behind the words that transcended language that kept him going back to it – some kind of unnamed sentiment that frightened Harry as much as it enticed him.
Hermione had made it clear – after snatching the letter from him and trying and failing to translate it herself – that she thought he was losing his mind. That he should be focussing on the ‘real world’ and Ginny’s lingering romantic attachment to him and whatever sort of reality that exists in.
He knew she meant well, but couldn’t bring himself to listen to her. So instead of accepting invitations to the Weasleys’ house and family dinners with heavy hints of marriage as a side order, Harry remained ensconced in his privacy, making the daily walk between Grimmauld Place and his café at his usual times. It was his life, his routine, and he loved it.
But then the routine changed. His walk to work took him past a Muggle electronics store with televisions in the windows. He would sometimes catch snippets of the news on them as he passed, and if it seemed interesting enough then he would buy a Muggle paper from the corner shop next door. But five days after Mr Cappuccino had exited his shop for the last time, there was a crowd outside the store, staring at the televisions in horror.
Harry slowed his pace and came to a halt, bobbing awkwardly on the balls of his feet to try and catch a glimpse of what was going on. The man in front of him shifted, allowing Harry to peer past his shoulder. The screens were showing shaky footage of a battle between superheroes – and a villain. A man in black and green and who Harry recognised immediately. It’s Mr Cappuccino – the man that sat at the Slytherin desk every day for three weeks; who stared at his scar like it held all the secrets of the universe; who brightened Harry’s days by flirting with him on lazy afternoons. He watched as Mr Cappuccino got slammed into the ground by a man dressed in red metal armour and winced. He wasn’t so completely oblivious to Muggles that he didn’t know who Iron Man was - though suddenly he found himself wishing that he was. If he didn’t know, then he might have been able to think that Mr Cappuccino wasn’t a supervillain after all.
An unbearable sadness settled in his chest. He’d never even found out the man’s name.
He spent the day sitting in silence at the Slytherin Desk, with Mr Cappuccino’s letter unfolded on the tabletop in front of him. He’d stared at it so often that he’d somehow managed to imprint the places and the patterns of the letters into his brain without ever finding out what they meant. He’d bought a newspaper that day – The Times – and had pored over the articles that explained the footage he’d seen.
A mysterious man had shown up at a charity ball in Stuttgart and had carved someone’s eye out in front of a room full of people. He’d then gone on to threaten a crowd of people – made them kneel before him in submission as if he was their ruler – before being stopped by Captain America and Iron Man. The newspaper doesn’t seem to know who Mr Cappuccino is either, and that makes Harry feel marginally better about his own ignorance. There’re four runes at the bottom of the letter that might be a name he thinks. His research had told him that they’re laguz, othila, kenaz and isa but what they were supposed to stand for has remained beyond him.
It had crossed his mind to go to the police, to tell them that Mr Cappuccino the supervillain had been a regular at his café for a few weeks before the attack, but he’d pushed the thought aside. The Muggle police weren’t aware of him and he liked it that way – and besides, it would be awkward to explain how he owned a coffee shop that couldn’t actually be found.
And besides, there was a little part of him that didn’t actually want to betray his knowledge – however little it was – of Mr Cappuccino to anyone. He wanted to be able to keep what little memories he had of the man and lock them away tight in the darkest corner of his heart.
Maybe Hermione had been right. He was losing his mind.
There were no customers that day, and eventually Harry grew tired of the silence and the misery that had permeated the air around him. He folded away Mr Cappuccino’s letter and slipped it into his jacket pocket, he picked up his newspaper, and he left. The street outside felt even less hospitable than his café and for a brief moment he regretted his decision to leave. What had started off as a pleasant morning had become a grey and ugly afternoon with a cold breeze and heavy clouds gathering overhead. He shivered as he locked up and pulled his jacket closer around him. The Elder Wand, hidden in its holster, sparked at his unconscious wish for a warming charm. He sighed in relief as heat began to spread through him, and turned to walk home only for his arms to be grabbed.
“You’re coming with us,” a deep voice told him. “I’d suggest you do so quietly.”
Half an hour later, after he’d been dragged onto a giant aircraft carrier in the sky, Harry found out that his assailants were called S.H.I.E.L.D and that they were an elite group of spies and military officials in charge of global security. He’d had no idea of their existence, previously, and wasn’t in the slightest bit reassured to find out about them. Though, he supposed, he had taken the news far better than most wizards would have – they would have had heart attacks at the thought of such advanced technology in the hands of ‘primitive’ Muggles.
But they weren’t just Muggles, he realised. He’d found himself in a room full of misfit heroes – some of whom he was, secretly, a little bit proud to actually be able to recognise. The dark-haired man with a glowing blue circle shining through his T-Shirt was Tony Stark – Iron Man. The blond guy in blue spandex was Captain America. The others he didn’t know. There was a red-haired woman, a man in an eye-patch who seemed to – just about – be the one in charge and who reminded Harry a little of Kingsley Shacklebolt. There was a dark-haired scientist that kept fiddling with the various machines scattered around the room, and there was a blond giant of a man who looked like he was wearing a curtain as a cape. Harry had to bite his lip to stop himself from laughing at the outfit – the Hallows would keep him alive, had rendered him practically immortal, but he wasn’t stupid enough to think there weren’t worse things than death.
They were Muggles, sure, but they were superheroes too. He was in serious trouble.
He coughed slightly, drawing their attention to him, but kept his attention on the guy in the eye-patch. “Why am I here?” he asked.
“Facial recognition software picked up Loki outside your…property several times over the last month,” Eye-patch said.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief that – advanced though they were – they couldn’t get through his wards yet. That would have been really awkward. Some of the things in his café – though well disguised – wouldn’t be good for Muggles to get a hold of. “Loki?” he asked.
Eye-patch gave a signal and a video feed started in the middle of the table. Harry raised an eyebrow. Technology had definitely advanced past Dudley’s old Playstation. Any scepticism vanished when he realised what he was actually seeing. The video was of Mr Cappuccino in some kind of cell. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking absolutely calm. His blue eyes were shut and a few wisps of his hair had fallen in front of his face. Harry bit his lip.
“He never told me his name,” he said softly. But he had, in a way. Laguz, othila, kenaz and isa – L.O.K.I – Loki. Harry felt like a complete moron. He had to resist the urge to smack his forehead off the table.
Curtain shifted angrily. “What did you speak of?” he asked. His voice was deeper than Harry had been expecting and it made him jump slightly.
“Maybe they weren’t speaking,” Stark said, and Harry blushed at the insinuation. He could quite easily hate the guy for being so close to being right. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d almost kissed Mr Cappuccino, Loki, during their brief time together.
Loki. The trickster god of chaos and mischief – who killed the sun god Baldur with an arrow tipped in mistletoe. Cappuccino, two sugars, and a green baize desk filled with secrets. No wonder he’d thought the guy was slightly evil.
He took a deep breath. “The place he was coming to is a café. I own it. I guess he must have liked my coffee.” He was careful not to move his hands, though they desperately wanted to reach for the letter in his pocket to see if the rest of it would be as easy to figure out now that he knew the way to read the name. Harry felt like such an idiot. How could he have given up on cracking it so quickly?
“It’s for you. Read it if you want to.”
Harry should have known then that he wouldn’t be coming back. The sentiment behind the words was a goodbye – a tender one from someone he had barely known.
“We didn’t really know each other,” he said. Not at all, when he really though about it, but Harry thought he might just love Loki anyway.
Stark made a dissatisfied noise. “Lame,” he said.
Harry glared at him, shoving the hair out of his eyes at the same time – he’d been doing that a lot lately; it was time for a haircut – and opened his mouth to retort only to have his face grabbed by Curtain.
He was strong. Very strong, but Harry didn’t stop glaring even as he ran a finger down his scar.
“Sowilo,” Curtain said. He’s was giving Harry a very odd look and that – combined with the fact that no-one ever touched the scar – quelled Harry’s anger somewhat.
He knew that word, as much as it was one. Sowilo was the rune of the sun, and now that it had been brought up, it did look a lot like his scar – like the lightning bolt Loki had addressed his letter to. A surge of something went through Harry’s chest. It might have been relief or something else. Relief, he thought, wouldn’t be so knee-weakeningly strong. Loki hadn’t been staring at his scar because of Voldemort and its magical significance; he’d been staring because he’d recognised it as part of his language; because it meant something to him.
Everyone else in the room was baffled by Curtain’s announcement. Harry took pity on them.
“Cappuccino – I mean Loki – stared at it,” he admitted. “A lot.”
Curtain released his face. “It symbolises victory, in our language. Asgardian.”
Which meant that the guy was a god. It explained so much, Harry thought as he tried to rub some feeling back into the lower half of his face.
“So what, he’s a good luck charm?” Stark asked. “Rub him and a genie pops out?”
Harry didn’t hex him, even though it was tempting – damn the Statute of Secrecy anyway. “May I see him?” he asked instead.
Loki was standing when they guided him into the room. The glass cell he’d been contained in was suspended over something, and Harry didn’t want to find out what would happen if they dropped it. He seemed surprised to see Harry there – and definitely not happy. Not happy at all. The look he gave the S.H.I.E.L.D operatives behind him makes a shiver run up Harry’s spine.
“Loki,” Harry said. It got his attention. He looked suddenly wary as Harry steps closer to the glass – close enough that his breath fogged the surface of it – and the expression reminded Harry of his shy flirting and how nervous he had seemed when he’d left the letter behind. “Loki.” He cracked a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I’ve been calling you ‘Mr Cappuccino’ in my head all this time – you could have told me your name.”
“You didn’t –“ Loki broke off before he could finish his sentence.
“I couldn’t,” Harry told him. “I didn’t know how.” He heard the agents shift behind him, but he touched the glass anyway, tracing the line of Loki’s cheek with his fingertips. He stilled when Loki touched back, aligning their fingers. It was clichéd and silly but Harry’s heart still skipped a beat.
“Human sentiment,” Loki whispered. He seemed almost frightened of something.
“Not part of the plan, I take it,” Harry replied. “Too bad.” He made sure Loki’s eyes are on him when he mouthed it through the glass. I love you. He didn’t want anyone to hear, even though he knew that everything he was doing was being recorded and scrutinised.
How can you fall in love with someone you don’t even know? Hermione would say it was impossible – a combination of lust and empathy – but Harry wasn’t not sure he knew what love was anyway. He just knew that he doesn’t want Loki to be hurt even though he knew that he had to be stopped.
He mouthed it again – I love you I love you I love you – because they both know that he wouldn’t stand in the way of what’s going to happen even if he could. Then he stepped away, leaving Loki standing in a glass prison. Eyepatch was watching them – his single eye narrowed suspiciously.
“You never told me your name either!” Harry turned. Loki was grinning at him. His teeth were as white and shark-like as they always had been and he could see why S.H.I.E.L.D were so afraid of him. There was nothing like sanity in that expression.
“Harry,” he said. “My name’s Harry.” He allowed wistful nostalgia to take him over for a moment and he whispered “just Harry” as if he was still a child. But he wasn’t – if he was a child, he couldn’t have walked away.
“What is he to you?”
It’s Curtain that asked, his voice little more than a growl. Harry shrugged and stared out of the window at the clouds below them. He loved flying more than anything when he was younger, but as soon as he found freedom somewhere else his love for it faded slightly. And the ship was nothing compared to a broomstick.
“He’s my brother,” Curtain continued. He sounded so hurt that it made Harry’s chest ache in sympathy. Loki was loved, he realised, but he’d started this anyway.
“He was a customer,” Harry said. “And a friend of sorts. I think.” He hesitated briefly before he reached into his pocket and drew out the letter. “He gave me this before he left the
last time. He said it was for me but I couldn’t read it no matter how much I tried.”
Curtain took it gently and unfolded it with a similar sort of reverence that Harry himself held for it. He truly loved his brother, Harry realised, and despite everything he would continue to do so.
He watched as Curtain read it, and watched red blossom in the god’s cheeks before it was handed back to him. He tucked it away in his jacket again. “What does it say?” he asked.
“He loves you.”
Harry sighed and turned his attention back out of the window. “I thought it might be something like that,” he said.
He’d always thought that falling in love would be a wonderful, beautiful thing. He hadn’t thought it would be so painful, or that he wouldn’t be able to protect the person he loved from the things that tried to harm them. There was no protecting Loki – not when he needed protecting from himself.
“Do you -?” Curtain sounded awkward.
“Yeah,” Harry admitted. “But it’s not enough, is it.”
Curtain didn’t answer. He didn’t need to.
They weren’t going to let him go anytime soon, so Harry made himself comfortable in a little corner of the ship and let S.H.I.E.L.D go about their jobs around him. He was hungry and tired but he wasn’t exactly keen to get their attention back on him. Not that they didn’t know where he was and what he was up to anyway. There were cameras everywhere.
He’d looked out of the windows earlier and they were flying over the Atlantic. He didn’t much fancy inter-continental apparition, so staying with S.H.I.E.L.D for the time being was something close to a lesser evil, even if they did keep on giving him odd looks. Curtain – or Thor, as he’d turned out to be called – had kept his secret to himself, but that wasn’t enough for Tony Stark to stop contemplating it if the innuendo he dropped every time he spotted Harry was enough to go by.
Harry would have been more irritated by it if he hadn’t caught sight of how awkward Captain America looked every time the topic came up. It was kind of funny, really, so he let Stark’s barbs slide. Besides, that proved to irritate Stark just as much as it had irritated Draco Malfoy back in school.
Rich, arrogant, irritating…the similarities were many.
He remained where he was even when the ship was attacked and Loki was freed. It was tempting, then, to put himself through the pain of apparating long-distance back to London, but he didn’t even though the Elder Wand trembled eagerly against his forearm. He stayed where he was, playing the frightened Muggle civilian, and was rewarded with another glimpse of Loki for his troubles.
Something like regret flickered over Loki’s face as they looked at each other. Harry knew then that he would be left behind, just as he’d been willing to walk away and leave Loki imprisoned by S.H.I.E.L.D three hours before. It was only fair. It was only practical.
He nodded and smiled though he really didn’t feel like it, and Loki vanished down the corridor in a swirl of black and green. Harry leaned back against his chosen wall and briefly closed his eyes. Falling in love, for him, had proved oddly similar to being locked in the cupboard under the stairs – he was left with nothing but self-loathing and tears he had to suppress.
Loki stood chained to his brother, gagged by some metal thing and a distinctly unpleasant look in his eyes. Despite them – mostly – being in civilian clothes, the Avengers had been fairly easy to find. Thor’s curtain-cape would have been enough of a giveaway even if Harry hadn’t cheated and used magic to find them. He tucked the Elder Wand back up his sleeve and jogged over.
“Wait!” he called out.
“The hell?” Stark said, but Thor didn’t move. If anything, he backed off as much as the chains would allow. Harry smiled at him thankfully and then focussed on Loki again. Loki, who looked so lost and bitter and not exactly pleased by Harry’s sudden appearance.
“I wanted to say goodbye,” Harry said, meeting the accusing blue gaze. Loki wanted him to walk away and forget about all of this, he realised. But he couldn’t and Loki was an idiot for even thinking of it. “And I wanted to give you this.” He held up a letter he’d written in the dead of night on his very best parchment with a cursory attempt at legible handwriting.
“Hopefully,” he said as he tucked it into Loki’s armour, “you can read English better than I can read Asgardian, you daft git.”
He couldn’t help but be a little bit glad that Loki couldn’t respond to that. He looked like he wanted to, and even Loki no longer looked angry with him, he could just imagine what he would have said if he could.
He let his hands linger on Loki’s chest before leaning up and pressing a kiss to Loki’s cheek. The gag stopped him from kissing his lips as he’d so often thought of, but he couldn’t let Loki go without kissing him at least once even if it did make him feel a bit ridiculous. He leaned back and brushed the tips of their noses together.
He didn’t need to say the words. Loki knew them as well as he did. Harry stepped back and allowed Thor to move back in. Loki looked regretful and resigned, but hopefully it would be good for him – hopefully he would heal on Asgard and realise that he was loved, even if they never saw each other again.
Loki had wanted Harry to forget, but Harry knew he never would. And with the Hallows, he could wait forever if he had to.