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Then and Now, and Back Again

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What was he doing here?

 

In the garden of the little English neighborhood Loki paused at the door of the cottage like house and breathed in the strange scent of a Midgardian evening.  Nothing had changed. Everything had changed.

 

What was he doing here?

 

When was the last time he had been on Midgard?  In one way, eons; civilizations had rose and fell and rose in the time he had spent away.  Life had taken its tentative first breath before exploding across the blue marble. He had missed so much.  In another way, he had never been here. Or least not yet. There was no New York. No Avengers. No…

 

Loki shook his head.  He shouldn't be here. He knew that.  He could hear Allfather roaring at him already about his ‘mischief making’.  But hadn't he done everything that had been asked of him? Every condition that had been placed on him, he had accepted with nary a complaint.  Every hoop presentented to him, he had jumped through like a trained dog. And this wasn't mischief. This was...something else.

 

He entered the house through a small kitchen.  Dishes had been left in the sink to soak overnight.  A clock chimed from somewhere deep in the house. The smell of soap and pasta mingled in the air.  The house was impossibly still. He shouldn't be here.

 

Out through a narrow corridor he found what would have been a welcoming entryway; the usual mortal knickknacks dotted the walls with pictures of a smiling family waving merrily at a camera. If he had paid a little more attention, he may have seen that they were truly waving not forever caught in mid-motion.  But Loki’s eyes were drawn to the floor where a body lay. The man’s brown eyes were open, frozen in look between determination and fear. The angular jaw had been set into a firm scowl. His glasses were askew and the god felt an urge to straighten them. He shouldn't be here.

 

There was a strange noise from upstairs and Loki walked around the corpse as respectfully as possible, if there is a way to do such a thing, to the staircase.  He could feel the power that had summoned him here as he walked up. There was once (twice?) was a time when mortals would call upon the Gods and ask for their help.  Elaborate symbols and rituals that were supposed to move Asgardians to ride forth and protect them. It had been the duty of the Asgardian royals to keep a close eye on Earth to watch for such an occurrence.  But as gods became part of fairytale lore, being summoned was a rarity. So rare that many gave up watching Earth. Not Loki. He watched. He listened. And even if he came too late for a summon not meant for him, he was here.  But he shouldn't be.

 

There was only one door open when he arrived on the landing.  He had to hold back a gasp. It was a nursery, brightly painted in pastel pinks, blues, and yellows filled to the brim with stuffed animals and toys.  In the center of the room was a large crib. He felt a deep throb of pain at the sight of it. A woman’s body laid in front of it, her red hair draped over her face.  He shouldn't be…

 

A whine.  Loki immediately focused on the crib.  A small infant looked out through the bars, tears sparkling on their cheeks as they let out another little whine.  He was across the room in moments, one hand reaching out to wipe the tears away. Cooing at the infant, Loki looked around the room for something to help sooth them.  He found a blanket on a table nearby with light blue stitches forming the word ‘Harry’.

 

“Harry?  Is that your name, Little Lamb?” the god cooed as he summoned the blanket towards him.  The infant didn't seem surprised by the feat of magic, only reaching out for the fabric and bringing it to their face.  Loki smiled and brushed the back a fringe of black hair from the tiny forehead and gasped.

 

He should have been here sooner.

 

*****

 

Another day, another dire bear.  Thor and the Warriors Three had been sent for to deal with a den of the monsters in the far corner of Asgard by a local Shield Wife.  Well, ‘den’ was a generous description. If two dying old males and a half crazed female counted as a den. Still, it was a break from the formality of palace diplomacy and the battle kept his skills honed.  He stretched as he watched Hogun and Volstagg flirt with the local women loading their horses with the skins of their kill. He had picked out a fine pelt from the kill and already packed it away for his mother to be given upon his return.  He thought about getting a pelt for his spouse, but knowing his Dearest, the animal pelt would only irritate him.

 

“Thor!  Thor!” Fandral rode up beside him on horseback, a raven beating on his shoulder and a letter clutched in his hand.  

 

“Calm yourself!” the prince said with a laugh.  The people of the village who had gathered to watch the troop leave now looked on as the God of Thunder took the reins of the horse from his friend with interest.  “Now what was has caused such alarm?”

 

“We must return.  NOW!” the other man said, his eyes trying to convey the importance of his words.

 

Thor smiled at the people who watched, giving off his usual carefree expression to put them at ease.  “If you insist. And here I was looking forward to a feast!” As the village laughed, he leaned forward to the other man.  “What has happened?” he whispered quietly.

 

“It's Loki.  Your father has put him in confinement.  He was had been to Midgar-"

 

Thor felt his blood run cold.  It was too soon, wasn't it? The Captain is still not found, somewhere buried in ice.  Tony has to be still a child. Bruce…

 

Names and faces flashed in his mind as he called for his horse.  A thousand and one interlocking stories that had yet to even truly begin ran through his head.  He had to act calmly. He had to act like nothing was wrong. He had to act like he had all the time in the world.

 

He didn't.  But that doesn't matter right now.

 

****

 

The throne room was nearly cleared of everyone by the time Thor arrived back at the palace.  Odin sat on his throne looking thunderous and regal as he entered. Frigga stood beside him, her face impassive as Thor knelt to them.

 

“Allfather.  Allmother. I have returned.” He kept his voice steady, trying not to betray his anger and hurt.  By the time he had arrived at the palace, though, the mask he had constructed was slipping.

 

“Both Our children have returned to Us.  How fortunate We are.” The king said dryly.  He laughed without humor at something the queen whispered to him but waved her away. There was a beat of silence before he raised his voice.  “Bring me Loki. The rest of you, leave Us.”

 

The assembled courtiers slowly filed out.  Thor knew that by eventide tomorrow, all of Asgard would know Loki had angered Odin, once again.  There would be those who nod knowingly and say, ‘what does one expect from an Ice Giant? Or from one who uses magic.’  He clenched his jaw and tried to keep from yelling at those people. He had to play his part.

 

There was silence in the hall now.  Thor could only hear his blood rushing in his ears and the gentle tapping of Odin's fingers on his staff.  Occasionally Frigga would move and the elaborate jewelry and crown piece would jingle softly. Finally a door opened and there was the sound of footsteps and...crying?

 

“Allfather, I apologize.  He refuses to let go of-"

 

“That will do.  You may leave.”

 

Thor dared to look at his brother and his spouse.  Loki was wearing a dark cloak which he was wrapping around a bundle in his arms.  His face was red with tears and anger and his hair was in disarray. He sent his adopted father a defiant look before deflating at catching Thor’s blue gaze.  

 

Odin stood gracefully, walking down the dias that the throne sat on.  “I do not ask for much, do I? Or shall my decision to take you in always come back to haunt me.  Answer me. In that other time, did you vex me as much as you do now.”

 

The brunette god flinched but said nothing, only wrapping the cloak around himself tighter.  The mysterious cry came again, and Loki turned his attention to the bundle in alarm and worry.

 

“Loki,” Frigga’s voice was soft and comforting.  Thor immediately felt all the fight leave him, and from the look on Loki’s face, he felt the same way.  “What happened on Midgard?”

 

“A spell.  An old one.  A mortal needed our help.  And they tried to summon us.”  His voice was small as he spoke, gently unwrapping the cloak from the bundle.  A small black mop of hair was revealed and Thor felt his heart catch in his throat.  He didn't need any more information. “He's alone now. His parents...I was too late to save them.”

 

“Convenient, isn't it?  You asking once more for permission to have a child with my son-"

 

Loki’s eyes flashed and he hissed, “My husband.  I asked permission to have a child with MY HUSBAND!  Or have do you regret allowing me that little joy as well?!  You refuse to allow us children! You make me a tawdry little puppet for your reign and chain down your son's authority just bec-"

 

“INTERRUPT ME AGAIN AND I WILL REFUSE EVEN THE RIGHT TO SHARE HIS BED!” Odin roared.  The infant wailed and Loki hushed the little one hurriedly, using his entire body to shelter him.

 

“Allfather!” Allmother’s voice cut through the chaos.  “The infant is frightened. And what cause would Loki have to steal away to Midgard and take an babe from his family.  I am quite sure we could summon Heimdall and he will verify Our Dear One's story.”

 

“But bringing the child here.  What trickery do you have planned?  Making some mortal the heir-"

 

“I wouldn't!”

 

“SILENCE!”

 

The babe wailed even more and Loki rocked it tenderly.  It quieted immediately and a deep ache in Thor’s chest he had been ignoring for so long throbbed unbelievably.

 

The elder god finally softened, his blue eye looking at the scene before him.  Even he could remain unmoved for so long. “Redemption. Responsibility. Love.  I understand your feelings toward Midgard, but you and I both know how fragile this ‘peace’ you have guaranteed us is.  If one thing is out of place...do you remember...”

 

“We were summoned.  Someone needed us. Look,” Loki unwrapped the cloak more, revealing the infant more.  The red face child looked around at the three gods in confusion more than fear. He had large expressive green eyes and just on the forehead, still slightly bleeding and red was a….

 

“My mark!” Thor reached out to the infant.  The lightning bolt mark was flush red and visible.  Even as he reached he could feel a thrum of some strange force.  Something welcoming but something also pushing against him. But still he was drawn.  The baby saw his hand reached out as well, a watery gurgle escaping his lips.

 

“Summoned indeed,” Frigga gasped, her hands at her lips in shock.

 

“His parents are dead.  Whoever killed them may be after the babe as well,” the brunette looked around at the others present helplessly.  “I understand the risk of taking him, but I foresee no ill in caring for him. He will never be my heir. He will never be Thor’s heir.  But can he not be...my child?”

 

“Oh Dearest…”

 

Odin put a hand up to silence his wife and stared down at his adopted child, his eye sparkling with an unshed tear and patient with concern.  “The life of a mortal is a blink of an eye to us, my Loki. You will find this child out of your arms and an adult before most of our young have learned to speak.  Are you prepared for that heartbreak?”

 

“I am used to heartbreak.”

 

Thor felt his own heart nearly shatter at the words.  He stood, causing the room's attention to shift his way, nearly forgetting the usually blusterous god for the quieter one and the baby.  He didn't care. Walking over to Loki and the infant, he shielded the pair with his body. “Allfather, you have no power in this.”

 

“I can force you to put him aside in favor of another spouse.”

 

“You will not.  You know my heart and I know your’s.”

 

“I will send the child away.”

 

Loki cried out.

 

“I will not let you.”

 

“And what do you hope to accomplish.”

 

“Peace.  If such a thing can be gained.”  He risked a glance down at Loki. Their eyes met.  “What does any father want for their child?”

 

****

 

Back in their apartments, the God of Mischief prepared Little Baby Harry for sleep.  A cradle had been found and placed beside their large bed. Loki had seen to making sure soft dolls had been placed nearby and pillows were arranged inside the small bed.  The baby's eyes were already drooping as the god sung an old lullaby to him, nuzzling the top of his head. Thor watched from the other side of the bed, a satisfied smile playing on his face.

 

“You look good as a mother,” he purred.

 

“Well I hope so.  I am to be the mother of your other children someday,” the other replied.  He glanced down at the babe in his arms thoughtfully. “He’s very small.”

 

“He will grow.”

 

“Is he a ‘he’?”

 

“Well once he can speak he can correct us.”

 

Loki laughed, the child letting out a little whine at the noise.  “Hush now, Harry. None of that. You must be getting to bed.”

 

“Harry?”

 

“His name.”

 

Thor frowned.  “He’ll be mocked for a name like that.  What child on Asgard has that name?”

 

“He does.  People must grow to respect it.  And am I loath to change it. People respect me when I am a woman, why not respect a child’s name who is ‘Harry’?”

 

“People fear when you are a woman,” the blond cradled his chin in thought.  “The name I suppose shall do, unless he objects to it when he is older.”

 

“I’m glad you approve.”

 

“Allfather may wish to change it.”

 

“Let him try.”

 

Harry gave out a yawn and snuggled closer into Loki's chest.  The two gave out coos of as the brunette sat down on the bed with the baby.  

 

That first night, the cradle was left untouched as Harry slept in between his two new parents.

 

****

 

“I’m so sorry, ‘Fessor Dumbledore, sir,” the half giant wailed, ringing his hands in frustration and panic.  If Minerva hadn't cast a silencing spell, he would have woken up the entire Muggle neighborhood of Privet Drive.

 

“Hagrid, I need you to calm down,” Albus said in measured tone.  The headmaster only looked slightly disturbed that the Boy Who Lived had gone missing within hours of his parents’ death.  As though it was a mild hitch to his plan. Minerva, for her part was desperately trying not to scream herself hoarse in terror.

 

Missing ?! Missing!” she hissed, sounding like the cat she had spent much of today being.  “Albus-"

 

“‘M SO SORRY-"

 

“Both of you. Be quiet!”

 

“Albus, He may be gone but the Death Eaters-"

 

“They do not have him.”

 

“How do you know?

 

“They do not have him.”

 

“How do you-"

 

Albus fixed her with a piercing blue stare.  “ They do not have him.

 

She bit her lip.  She trusted this man.  She loved this man. But Merlin help her, this was a child.  A now orphan child that nearly all the magical world were celebrating as a hero.  Even now, thousands of people were lighting their glasses and toasting to this child’s name and health.  And they didn't know where that child was.

Chapter Text

A battlefield of corpses and dust.  A graveyard stillness punctuated by screams and tears.  He was alone. He was…

 

“Papa?”

 

Thor’s eyes snapped open at once.  Two emerald large expressive eyes met his blue ones.  A lightning bolt scar was barely visible under the fringe of black hair that framed the small round face of his child.

 

“Papa, you were having a night terror!” Harry informed him in a stage whisper.  He tugged his stuffed doll close to his chest, worrying the gap in his teeth from his recent loss of baby teeth with his tongue.

“Indeed I was,” Thor said, still caught somewhere in that nightmare.  But he leaned out of the bed to the little one at his side, a conspiratorial air to his voice as he whispered, “I dreamt a huge dragon ate you up and I was alone.”

 

Harry gasped.  “A dragon?!”

 

The god nodded solemnly.  “Aye. A very large and monstrous dragon.  With big claws and even larger teeth.”

 

The four year old whimpered.  “You would not let a dragon eat me, would you Papa?”

 

“Never ever.” He reached out and drew the little mortal child to his chest.  Instantly he could feel the nightmares recede and he was once more in the present.  Or at least, this present.

 

A groan came from beside him on the bed, and both father and child looked over to the sleeping figure of the God of Mischief.  Hair askew, mouth slightly open, and shoulders even in sleep far too rigid, he was still the most beautiful sight Thor had ever seen.

 

“Now your Mother, they would use you as bait for the dragon,” Thor raised his voice as Loki stirred awake.

 

“What are you two blathering about this early in the morning?” Loki yawned, eyes barely open as he stretched.

 

“Dragons, Mama!” Harry giggled, crawling forward without hesitation.  Immediately, he was scooped up by the brunette and brought closer.

 

“Dragons?”

 

“Papa had a night terror about a gigantic dragon!  And he said you would feed me to one as bait!”

 

Loki gave Thor a scathing look as the Great God hid behind his child’s back.  “Feed you to a dragon?”

 

Harry nodded confidently, his father suppressing a snicker.

 

“Why would I ever feed my Little Lamb to a dragon?” He asked finally, leaning so he was nose to nose.  “I would be heartbroken if my Little Lamb was gobbled up by a dragon. And besides,” he held up the little child’s wrist to his mouth, “you are far too skinny to be a fitting meal for a dragon.”  He planted a large raspberry kiss on the wrist, relishing the giggles he received in return.

 

Strong arms wrapped around him and pulled him against a firm broad chest.  He let his head fall back, staring up into twinkling blue eyes.

 

“A night terror?”

 

“It's over now.  Do not trouble yourself.”

 

Loki hummed, but both knew the matter was not dropped.  Simply shelved for a time they didn't have a squirming Harry in earshot.  

 

A chime sounded from doorway and a chipper voice called out, “My Princes, are you ready for us?”

 

“No.” Loki grumbled.

 

“Yes,” Thor called.

 

A trio of three servants walked in, carrying a partition screen and several bolts of cloth.  The three bowed to the family on the bed, who nodded back.

 

“Prince Thor, shall we dress you today?” asked one girl, curtseying as she spoke.

 

“Aye!” The Prince in question turned to his spouse.  “How are you feeling today, my Love?”

 

Loki thought for a moment before answering.  “Like a Prince.”

 

“And indeed you are.”  Thor turned to Harry, picking at the sleeve of his sleeping shift in a gesture of anxiety.  “And you, my Lightning Bolt?”

 

“Blue!”

 

Loki smiled at the answer.  Harry had yet to truly grasp, he suspected, what was being asked of him.  The child seemed unfazed by the Loki's own fluctuating gender expression, as was the norm in Asgard, but still.  When Thor had called him ‘my son’, Harry had not blinked an eye and relished the name.  When Frigga’s women had dressed her in Allmother’s jewels and silks, Harry had been absolutely delighted.  These were not markers of anything as far as the couple were concerned, but still they asked every morning.

 

“And blue you shall be!” Thor boomed, bolting out of the bed.  The servants erected the screen and proceeded to undress and change the god as Loki ran his fingers through Harry's black hair.  It was now down past the boys shoulders and needed to be regularly trimmed from being a tangled mess.

 

“And what my Little Blue Lamb, shall we do with your hair today?” Loki asked.  He could feel a the glances and smiles of the servants at his words.

 

The child fidgeted but did not answer.

 

“A braid would look nice.  Especially today.” He reached to a small side table where a brush sat.

 

Harry cried out, “No, Mama!  Let me! Let me try!”

 

Everyone in the room stopped and stared.  Loki caught Thor's eye from over the screen.  “I suppose there's no harm in trying.”

 

He settled back and watched as Harry continued to reach for the brush.  The little one screwed up his face and wiggled his fingers. Everyone held their breath, all eyes on the child and the brush.  

 

The brush remained stubbornly unmoved.  

 

Emerald eyes opened and stared at it.  A lip trembled. A building sob broke from his chest.

 

“O-oh!” One serving girl cried, far too brightly.  “I believe I saw it move.”

 

“I believe I did too!” said another, just as happily.

 

Loki shot them a withering look over Harry's head, but the child had already turned to them with hope and tears sparkling in his eyes.  “Really?”

 

The two hesitantly nodded.

 

“It was a great attempt!” His Father said, all smiles and confidence.

 

The brunette god took the brush and gently maneuvered Harry's head forward, now nearly vibrating with pride.  Anyone in Asgard who stood within five feet of the young one knew there was power in him. Something special for one of Midgard.  But despite practice, prompting, and pleading, this power had yet to really show any signs of manifesting just yet. Harry, with his ever present urgency to please, had begun to insist on trying to ‘practice’.  Nothing had come of it. From trying to turn his hair green to moving a hair brush, nothing had changed.

 

All to the good, Odin would say.  What use would such things be?

 

There was too much pressure on him, Frigga would say.  All those eyes on the boy.

 

He has time, Thor would say.  He's only four summers, to their knowledge.

 

Loki would remain silent.  He knew that from his family, Harry would receive love and support.  But from the rest of Asgard…

 

The judgemental looks from the third servant spoke volumes.

 

****

 

“Please, Father!  Let me go with you!”  Harry, dressed in now in his light blue tunic and leggings, tugged on Thor’s cape.

 

The blonde man shook his head sympathetically.  “Now, now. Your mother and I have business. And you will like playing with the other children.”

 

The boy frowned.  “Can't I stay with Grand’mere’s garden?”

 

The other palace children gaped at the boldness of calling Allmother so informal a title.  They would have to work on that.

 

“Harry,” Loki soothed gently, “we will only be gone for a few hours.  We will be back before you know it.”

 

“Prince Harry,” the gentlewoman of the nursery spoke up finally, coming forward.  “We were just about to play a game. Wouldn't you like to join us?”

 

“Game?” the little mortal asked nervously, his hold on his father loosening.

 

“Oh yes!” the woman nodded.  “Dragon hunter. Does that not sound like a fun game?”

 

“Dragon?” the child turned back to Thor with a guileless expression.  “Like your night terror, Papa. I can learn to fight one to help you!”

 

Thor grimaced through a smile as Loki bit his lip to keep from laughing.  Palace gossip was merciless, and it wouldn't be long before everyone knew.  The Warriors Three would be poking fun at this for years.

 

“A splendid idea, my Little Lamb,” Loki cooed, guiding Harry to the awaiting woman.  He did not want to part with his little one either but they were running out of time .

 

****

 

“We had to let the Tesseract go to Midgard.  Because the One with the Shield-”

 

“Rodgers.”

 

“Yes, that one, had to rescue it.  And Aether-”

 

“Was lost to us, were not born yet.”

 

“Were we?”

 

“Do not start this game again.  My head hurts every time you do.”

 

They both looked out over the large chart they had made years and years ago spread out over a table in the Great Library of Asgard.  Six multi-colored shapes were drawn crudely from their collective memory. They had had to work backwards, as well as forwards. They had had to comb the Asgardian histories at the same time recalling their former times.  It taken centuries of cojowling and some actual threats for them to get Odin to admit where some of these were hidden or lost. Heimdall had helped with tracking their movements on Midgard, but to a point. Stories and rumors of great beings wielding legendary weapons peaked their interest, and usually sent them on quests, usually only to return heroes but empty handed.  For Loki, the process had been difficult. He saw mistakes, fear, and trauma. Even now, looking at the Tesseract and the Mind Stone, even in paint and ink, he felt a wave nausea and guilt was over him.

 

“What about The Eye?” Thor asked, pointing to the green shape.  “We know where that one is.”

 

“Again, will taking it now hinder another story?  What about that Strange Doctor?”

 

“We could give it back to him, couldn’t we?  Say we had been safeguarding it, which would not be a lie.  And after his battle, we ask for it back.”

 

“How do we explain we know of his battle?”

 

“We are gods.”

 

Despite himself, he laughed at that.  “Alright. We will find a way to convince these cultish mortals to give up their trinket, if temporarily.  I also suggest we go looking for this one.” The brunette tapped at the large sheet of paper at the purple stone.  “Maybe finding out more about the whereabouts of the Rabbit and Tree and when they connect with Quinn may be of some use.”

 

“That could be years!”  

 

Loki was just about to chastise his husband for such talk when a servant came running in, nearly out of breath.  He dropped to his knees, trembling before them and the table. “MY PRINCES! PLEASE COME QUICKLY! PRINCE HARRY!”

 

“Harry?!” immediately both were rigid with anxiety.

 

“There was an incident at the nursery,” the servant looked up, his eyes wide.  

 

“An incident?” Loki repeated through his teeth, summoning a sword to his hand.

 

“Is Harry hurt?” Thor asked, putting out a hand to stay his spouse.

 

“No.  I mean- I do not know.  I mean…,” the servant looked up, almost gleeful.  “He flew.”

 

****

 

Stupid Abner, and his stupid sword that hurt Harry’s head.  He rubbed his head on the spot where the wooden toy had struck him.  It still hurt! He wished Mama or Papa was here to kiss and make it better.

 

They had been indeed been playing dragon hunter, like the gentlewoman had said they would be.  Harry had been too small to play a warrior, so he had one of the hostages that the dragon had taken.  He had had to race along with the dragon, linked arm in arm with the other children who were hostages.  It had been a great game until, Abner had ‘vanquished’ (tagged) the dragon with his sword. The hostages all had lined up to receive their customary tap of release from the hero, when Abner, the pig faced dragon slayer had remarked, “I am not going to release this one.  He is not of Asgard and he’s ugly to boot!” He had pointed his sword straight at Harry.

 

Harry had been brave.  He hadn’t cried. He hadn’t even cried.  He had sniffled, but he never looked away from Abner.  

 

The gentlewoman had shook her finger at Abner and told him the rules of the game said he could not decide what hostages get released.  He must tap Harry so they can begin the game again. Abner had screwed up his face in protest before agreeing. He would indeed tap Harry.  And he proceeding to hit Harry with his sword.

 

At that, Harry did indeed cry.  The gentlewoman had been too stunned to do anything at first, allowing the other children in the nursery time to make a new game; Harry Hunting.  It was an awful game. Harry had ran around the entire nursery thrice before the gentlewoman finally came to her senses to try to stop the ‘game’.  But to no avail.

 

There had been an open window.  He could see a tree, a very large and high up tree.  He could see birds in that tree. Birds, when you throw rocks at them or try to hit them with wooden swords, fly up and into trees like that.  If Harry could fly like a bird, he would be in that tree. He could see all of Asgard. He could…

 

It had first felt like he was tripping; there had been the sensation of falling.  He had cried out in alarm as he was launched forward. But then he didn’t fall. He was floating.  He was flying! He was soaring! Soaring out the window, where Abner and the other children were now huddled slack-jawed in awe.  Soaring over the palace training yards, where he could see the Warrior Three jesting with Sif. Soaring over one of the palace gardens, where Allfather was lightly snoozing in the company of Allmother.  Soaring and landing gently on the branch of the tree he had seen and marvelled at.

 

And that was where he had been for the last hour.  He was not scared of the height, strangely. Harry found he rather liked how the wind whipped at this face, and how he could see past the palace to the Rainbow Bridge.  He could see nearly everything!

 

“Harry?”

 

Harry whipped around to the other branch.  Mama crouched on unsteady legs, his face pale and eyes shiny.  Had he been crying?

 

“Mama!” the child cried happily.  “It’s so pretty!” How could Mama be sad when it was so pretty?!

 

“I can see that, Darling,” Loki said, his voice tight with fear.  “And maybe we can come back again. But right now, your Father and I wish you to come down ever so much.”

 

“Abner won’t hit me with his sword?”

 

“I swear to you, if he even thinks about doing that, I will feed him to a dragon.”

 

****

 

Severus hated staff meetings.  Well, that was not true. He loathed staff meetings.  Especially staff meetings about the upcoming school year.  The last three years after ... had been the worst.  The ministry had stepped in and handpicked the last two Defense Against the Dark Arts professors.  The first one had been fired on suspicion of being a Death Eater. They weren’t, but during that time without a friend in a higher place and descent alibi during the war, suspicion landed many people out of work.  Severus had avoided that axe too many times. The second had been a ministry croony pencil pusher through and through. Being a professor was a detour that the little social climber had been prepared to tolerate for a year, due to ‘extreme times’.  This latest one was the most insufferable. The ministry had been shedding the more radical of their numbers, those who could not live and let live with reformed Dark Wizards and Witches. Hence the small mousy woman who had spent the last half hour glaring at him from across the room.

 

The feeling, if he was honest, was mutual.

 

“And finally, while I do believe the Forbidden Forest does offer much in the way of educational opportunities and adventure for young minds, I must express that field trips and excursions are as the name implies prohibited,” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled as spoke, seemingly oblivious any trouble.  “And with that, I do believe this concludes our yearly meeting. One more week until lesson plans are due.”

 

There was a great scooting of chairs as the herd of Hogwarts faculty began to leave.  Almost as an afterthought, Albus called out, “Minerva. Severus. Please stay behind.”

 

Severus sneered at the look of mortification the woman sent Dumbledore at the idea of a former Death Eater being so close to the Great Hero.  She wouldn't last.

 

Minerva and the Potion Master moved to the seats in front of the large desk as the Headmaster banished the tea set that been resting on there.  His expression as he turned to them was grave. This meeting was a monthly event for the last three years. Severus was sure that in the ministry, they had their own versions of this meeting, hemmed in with red tape and bureaucracy.  But if the Ministry of Magic found Harry Potter before the Order of the Phoenix, that would be indeed a miracle.

 

“I have heard nothing from my contacts in France and Germany.  America is being silent, which we now know is typical for them.  I will send another owl, possibly make a trip to New York before term starts, but I would not hold my breath.”  Dumbledore's voice was calm, but almost resigned. The younger man felt a pang of sympathy for the elder. These last three years had not been easy, following every lead.  Turning over every rock. All to come up empty.

 

“My contacts have heard nothing in the usual circles,” Severus said, shifting uncomfortably.  Not a single underworld connection he had had mentioned a child resembling Potter. And it was certainly that would not remain secret for long.  Or at least not this long.

 

“I may have a lead.”  Both men turned and gaped.  During these meetings, Minerva usually remained quiet with her lips pressed into a thin line.  But for the first time during these three years, she had spoken up. She stood, drawing from her robe pocket a large tome, dropping it on the desk.  Picking up urgency, the Scottish woman threw open the book like she was possessed. “This is the roll book of all the students who shall attend Hogwarts.  Once a child in Britain has their first instance of magic, it records their name and address so they may receive their acceptance letter. I've been checking periodically for Potter’s name and finally, this afternoon-"

 

She stopped on a page finally, and triumphantly pointed at the page.  The name Potter, Harry James leapt from the page.  It was like a punch to the gut as well as a breath of relief for Severus.  Childish resentment of the name and his own failures when it came to the boy and his...family...played in his chest.  Bile danced in the back of his throat.

 

“Where is he?” Severus asked, his voice harsh even to his own ears.

 

Minerva went scarlet and tapped the ledger again.  “That...is where I need help.” Next to the name, where most other children had addresses listed, Potter was listed as….

 

“What sort of symbol is that?”

 

“I...don't know.  Yet.”

 

‘Dear Merlin, Lily.  Where on Earth is your son?’

Chapter Text

Thor and Odin watched from the palace balcony as the swordmaster put the small group of children through their paces.  Each child stood before a straw dummy, hitting their respective ‘opponents’ in controlled movements. Occasionally a yell from one student would carry up to the father and son, reminding both of them of their own respective childhoods.  One brunette child in particular was swinging their sword in an artful arc, neatly slashing a large gash into the dummy. The swordmaster made only a grief remark of praise, but Thor felt pride knowing full well if the strawman had indeed been alive, he would be most certainly mortally wounded.

 

“Remarkable skill.  Have they found a preferred weapon?” Odin asked as the brunette paused to have their stance corrected.

 

“She,” the younger father corrected absentmindedly.  Harry had been trying out the pronoun for a fortnight now, mostly following Loki's example Thor suspected, but he was not about to deny his little one a chance to explore.  “And we've been told she excels in short sword, spear, and daggers. While her stance in archery is impeccable, her aim is lackluster. She complains that the targets are out of focus.”

 

“I hear she voices the same complaint with her book tutors.”

 

“Yes, Father.  Loki puts a spell on her each day before her lessons so it will be easier for her, but it cannot be permanent.  Apart from that, she is too small for an axe or hammer. She has voiced interest in the long sword, but it may be passing fancy.  She has trouble in double wielding. Her left arm is weak.”

 

Odin hummed, stroking his chin thoughtfully.  “All with time. But if it concerns you, tie her right hand behind her back for a month and have her learn with the left.”

 

Thor grimaced but nodded.  He was not about to subject Harry to that, but he understood that the old king was trying to be helpful.  In Asgard, all learned the basics of shield and sword, from the simplest merchant to the mightest king. And even now, he felt a soaring pride and a touch of giddy excitement at Harry asking to go on hunt with him and the Warriors Three, but he had to temper it with reality.  A mortal from Midgard, an ordinary mortal from Midgard, would be serious danger even going on a simple hunt. But still, Harry was his child.

 

“I will keep that in mind, Father.”

 

“Anymore incidents?”

 

A snort of laughter.  “Apparently, she doesn't like yellow dresses because Allmother's gift is now able to fit on a doll.  She turned one of her tutor’s staff into a serpent-"

 

“Truly her mother's child.”

 

Father and son shared a chuckle at that.  “She can't control it,” Thor finally admitted, letting a note of worry enter his voice.  “It happens when she is frightened or upset, which is good because she can defend herself, but she can't rely on that.”

 

“She needs to learn to control it.  The older she gets, the more this can do harm to her or others.  You know that.”

 

Thor nodded grimly.  Just another thing to worry about.

 

“How goes you and your sister's...project?”

 

There was the other thing.  “We have convinced the Mortal Mystics, or whatever their name is, to allow us to switch the stone for a fake.  We explained that a great Warrior would come and when they have proven themselves, we will return the stone to that individual.  We can then control the stone's movements. As for the others, we have been in contact with an individual called The Collector. We asked him to give us any information on any and all Infinity Stones in exchange for a prized Asgardian Ram.”

 

“A prized...what?”

 

“We convinced him that the gallbladder of Asgardian lambs are extremely rare and can grant temporary God-like power to those who eat them.”

 

“But...they don't.”

 

“That is correct.”

 

“And what if this, Collector, finds the stones and decides they are a better price than a lamb?”

 

“We offered a herd to his slave girl to inform us instead.”

 

The elder god laughed.  “I suppose this was your sister's plan.”

 

“I would like to think I helped.”

 

“And which of you came up with the plan to have her wear the stone during diplomatic feasts?”

 

“Another fake, Father.  The real one is in your vault.  You can see for yourself,” Thor said, slightly bristling at the rebuke.

 

“It's dangerous to be wearing even a forgery so blatantly,” Odin warned.  “Rumors will circle and who knows who or what will come.”

 

But that was the point.  Word must spread. If Thor and Loki's calculations were correct, the Titan would send a minion to try to retrieve it.  If they could cut down his allies and henchmen, and from them gain information on the other stones, they could defeat him.  And here, in Asgard, they had the advantage.

 

There was one downside, however.

 

The swordmaster had caught sight of Odin and Thor watching and called his charges to turn and bow to their king and prince.  One little brunette bravely waved, a bright smile on her face as she did.

 

They had more to lose if they something attacked here.

 

****

 

“It maybe time for the child to have a proper mount, my Dearest.”

 

Loki frowned and shook her head at the idea.  “She's still so small. A pony is fine.”

 

Frigga smiled knowingly at her daughter.  They were out in a meadow for a ride, as well as testing the Queen's new falcon.  Allmother's ladies were a respectful distance away allowing the two privacy to speak.  Harry had raced ahead on said pony, following the path of the silver and black bird on its journey.  “She's a fine rider, and a small well-tempered mare should do just fine. Besides, I remember another small child who quickly outgrew their pony.”

 

Blushing, the younger watched her child reign in their mount and stare out over the scenery.  It was true that in a few months Harry would need a larger mount, but she had hoped to dissuade the child from asking or even thinking about a horse.  Horses could buck and throw their rider to the ground. For Asgardians, a mild annoyance and pain. For someone of Midgard, life-threatening. Even allowing the little one on a pony had been worrying, no matter how well she took to it or not.  “We will see come the autumn.”

 

“If it troubles you that much, why not let us wait til winter?  We'll make it a Yule gift. Better that than waste my yellow silk again.”

 

“Mother, I'm sorry, she didn-"

 

“It's fine, Dearest!” Frigga laughed, reaching from her horse to pat Loki's shoulder.  “Oh when I was her age I hated purples. My mother insisted I dress in them though. If I could have shrunk them, I would have.  I'm just glad she likes red, or we would have had a scandal on our hands.”

 

They broke out into laughter, the thought ridiculous.  They were interrupted, however, Harry calling to them.

 

Harry was galloping up to them, a larger rough mount chasing after her little pony.  Putting out her arm for falcon to perch and reigning in her mirth and mount, Frigga instantly became the soft spoken queen.

 

The mount was taken up by a mother and child, the former instantly becoming cautious at the realization they were intruding on royal party.

 

“Allmother!  Hail! Princess Loki!  Hail! I knew I was close to the palace, but not this close.”

 

“Only an half an hour ride more, My daughter,” Frigga said.  “You are a soldier's wife, are you not.”

 

“Aye, Allmother.  I was only gone visiting my father over the hills.  He wished to see his namesake.” The woman indicated the very young piggy like boy in front of her in the saddle.

 

“What name is the lad given?”

 

“Abner, Allmother.  He is...was...is in the nursery that Prince- I mean Princess Harry was in.”

 

Loki's eyes narrowed.  Now she recognized the runt.  He had been the one with the gall to hit Harry with his toy.  The boy too must have remembered the day, because he squirmed in obvious discomfort under the god’s gaze.  Out of her periphery, she could see Harry also visibly upset. It may have been three years, but the memory remained.

 

“A fine name for a splendid warrior.  I look forward to hearing the songs they will sing of you, Abner,” Frigga said serenely, unaware of any trouble.

 

“Thank you, Allmother,” Abner mumbled into his chins.

 

“Well,” the mother said, her voice nervous, “we must depart.  My husband is expecting us.”

 

“You have my leave, daughter.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Mother and child rode past, their horse once more breaking out into a gallop once it was far enough away from the royal party, most likely to put some distance between themselves and the past.

 

Not far enough, Loki thought bitterly as she caught sight of Harry looking down and visibly deflated from the encounter.  Not near far enough.

 

****

 

Harry was still upset when they got back to the stables an hour later.  Immediately, once the stable hand had helped her from her horse, she raced away from the rest.  Loki called out for her but she quickly whipped around a corner and was out sight. The older brunette made little in the way of apologies as she neatly leapt from her own mare and raced after the mortal.

 

It didn't take a long time to find her.  She had tucked herself into the corner of an empty horse stall, straw already tangling into her scarlet dress and hair.  Harry was hugging her knees, eyes pressed into them as her long hair made a screen around what was left of her visible face.  Occasionally a little sniff and whimper was made and the shoulders shook, but there than that she made no sound.

 

“My Little Lamb, don't cry,” Loki soothed coming to sit by her child.

 

“I'm not crying,” was the watery response, accompanied by rather large sniff.

 

“You and your Father are too much alike when it comes to lying.  You can't. Now come come, tell me why you are ‘not crying’ in the middle of the stables.  Was it because of that Piggy Abner?”

 

Harry nodded but did not look up.

 

“Oh, Little One, you know he will never hurt you again.  He's still in the nursery. If he even tried to hit you with his wooden sword, why, you have a real one now.  I'm sure that would scare him away.” Loki knew that eventually telling their daughter to threaten her enemies would get back to Thor and she would have to deal with that, but for right now she hoped it would do the trick.

 

It didn't.

 

“It is not that I'm scared of him.  It is because...it's because...he's the same.  He's still the same.”

 

Oh.  Loki felt heart sink at the words.  She should have known that was what was bothering her daughter.  While Abner looked in Midgard terms to be about four or five, he was closer in age to the Frozen soldiers of years past (future?).  Meanwhile, Harry looking her age of seven, was in Asgard terms more an infant than anything else. The three years that had lapsed between the incident in the nursery.  For the pig boy, not even a drop in the bucket of his long lifetime. For the sweet mortal child…

 

“Harry, we have explained to you about time on Midgard and Asgard,” the mother began.

 

“I know,” Harry lifted her head, her face red and tear stained.  “It's just very hard at times.”

 

‘At times?!’ Loki still found being a Frost Giant instead an Asgardian irksome nearly daily.  “I wish I could tell you it will get easier. But I can't honestly tell you that.”

 

“I know,” she said again, rubbing her eye with her knuckle.  “I just wish…sometimes...I knew more about Midgard. Maybe it wouldn't be so hard.  Then I can know...about what I am.”

 

The Goddess of Mischief bit her lip.  “You want to know about Midgard.”

 

A shaky nod.

 

“Britain.”

 

“What?”

 

“Britain.  You are from a place on Midgard called Britain.  Your exact country is England, I believe. Someone from Midgard would refer to you as British or English.  There is a city in England called London. It is known for its fog, tea, and towers.”

 

“England.” Harry repeated the word reverently.  Her tears had stopped and her face was less red.  She seemed to be testing out the word on herself as one would try a new piece of clothing.  “English. I am from England. The Place of Fog. It sounds very cold.”

 

Loki gathered her child into her arms.  “It is a very small country, much like you, my small Lamb. I found you in autumn, when the air was crisp, but I would not say cold.”

 

“Does Papa know anything of Midgard?”

 

“A bit.  I'm sure he will delight you with talk about phones and coffee and…,” her mind drifted off, somewhere between time.

 

“Will he tell me?”

 

“You may ask him this evening, if you wish.”

 

“I do!  Britain.  I am British.  The home of England.”  Again it was said with so much wonder and awe it broke Loki's heart.

 

Once upon a time, there was a man with an iron heart…

 

****

 

Ancient Runes, admittedly, had not been Severus’s strong suit when he was going to school.  Well, at least Norse runes. Latin he had excelled in. Greek had troubled him, but he knew enough to find the answers.  Celtic was more difficult than he had first guessed, and he was still ashamed to admit he had only passed the course by the skin of his teeth.  But Norse runes! They were hardly used in spellcraft, especially in Britain. The few spells that did use them pertained to locating and traveling vast distances, so for one interested in the Dark Arts like himself, it was as useful as learning to pokla.

 

Ironic, if you think about it.

 

It had taken three years to first identify the symbol as a Norse rune.  That had been a three in the morning brainstorm from Minerva, which she was still gloating about.  Then it had been several months of even more library research to find a book to translate the small one scribble that looked like so many other scribbles that brought them down so many deadends.  

 

Which had led them here, to this windswept cliffside in Norway.  For a Muggle tourist, the cliff would only be a breathtaking view and a group of boulders perching on the very top.  For a wizard or witch, an old yet well maintained temple looked out onto a coastline.

 

A temple that preferred to keep their visitors cold and uncomfortable.  Spells were forbidden, so Severus could only pull the thick woolen robe he wore tighter around him and dream of a hot cup of tea back in quarters at Hogwarts.  Minerva had looked just as miserable as he felt, but she had given the seat closest to the fire. A small, sputtering fire, but a fire nonetheless. Albus looked undeterred.  He paced in a slow even way up and down the hall of the temple as they waited to be seen by the head priest. They had not come with the backing or knowledge of the ministry. They had come as quietly as they could.  

 

There was a chiming of bells and the scrapping of the large oak door from the other end of the room.  A small round man came forward, older than the Potion Master, but certainly younger than the Headmaster.  “I am so sorry. We keep a tight schedule and it was time for garden tending.”

 

“Garden tending?” the younger man asked, more to himself than to anyone in particular.

 

“I understand how precious your time is,” Dumbledore said quietly.  “But we are in search of a lost child.”

 

“We've haven't taken in a child for years, Headmaster,” the priest said, stroking his own white beard as he did so.  He seemed to be trying to be giving off the signal he was the one with authority here.

 

“This child has been missing for years.”

 

“Is this not the mark of your Order?  The Order of Frigga?” Minerva asked primly, standing and walking up to the small man as though he was an errant student caught out of bed.  She pulled out the large roll book of Hogwarts students she now kept nearly always with her. It opened immediately to the page, having for the last three years been left on this page for hours or days at a time.

 

Stooping to stare at the book, the priest furrowed his brows.  “Harry Potter? You can't mean-”

 

“Is this your mark?” the woman asked again, a note of irritation entering her voice.  She rapidly tapped the page with her index finger and Severus couldn’t help but feel a small touch of relief that for once he was not under that glare.

 

Biting his thumbnail nervously, the priest bent once more and examined the mark.  “Yes...but no.”

 

“The bloody hell does that mean!?!”  Severus was on his feet at once, wand at the ready and pointed squarely at the little man.  Minerva seemed ready to join him.

 

“Severus,” Albus as always was calm.  “Your wand.”

 

“Please!  This is a sacred place!” The priest clutched his heart in fear.  “I did not mean to come off as so vague. I am sympathetic to your cause.  My sister,” he shook his head near tears, “He Who Must Not Be Named, killed her.  Tortured her children in front of her and left killed her. Her husband lived but after witnessing that…”

 

“Then in memory of your sister,” the elder said quietly, “explain your meaning.”

 

The priest nodded, taking a breath to steady himself as the Potion Master lowered his wand but did not put it away.  “This is indeed the Mark of Frigga, but it is upside down.”

 

Upside down ?”

 

“Wand, Severus.”

 

“I know it sounds like a minor quibble but trust me it means a great deal.  You see, in the time when our order was formed, symbols for the Gods and Goddesses were used as shorthand for travelers who frequented the fjords.  Odin's symbol meant a vigilant king or chieftain watched the territory. Loki's symbol meant the place frequented by thieves or wolves. Hela’s symbol meant the area had recently seen plague or sickness.  When this Order was made, we borrowed such a symbol well-known by travelers and locals and reversed it. So all would know the purpose of our mission.”

 

“And what did the symbol for Frigga mean?”

 

The priest looked as though it was the most obvious answer in the world.  


Safety.

Chapter Text

Harry was not good at standing still for long periods.  He tried, by Heaven did he tried. But standing in front of the palace steps with Allfather and Allmother waiting for the returning warriors was absolute torture.  He wished they were on the balcony. He could tap his foot and wriggle a little without all of Asgard judging him. Instead, he had to squeeze his hands together steadily and try not to sway too much.

 

“Just a little longer, my Dearest.  Be patient,” Allmother whispered, her face a serene mask of regal grace.  

 

Harry's own face was a mask of childish excitement as he whispered back, “Yes, Grand’mere.”  There was a distinct grunt from the king's direction, and the little mortal knew he had spoken a little too loudly.  His Mother liked to say he had his Father's voice; loud and true. His Father liked to say that he could whisper as low as his Mother, but he hadn't found something yet so important to whisper about.  Harry cared not either way. His voice was his, and even when Allfather chastised him for informality, there was always a twinkle in his eye that told the child he had found it endearing.

 

There was a bugle call and a call from the gates.  Distantly, there was a low rumble and the assembly in front of the steps parted quickly as it grew ever louder.  And it did grow louder, into a the distinct clattering and thunderous galloping of hooves. The noise grew and grew, each moment building in everyone's chest.  Finally, bursting through the gate came the returning victorious Princes of Asgard.

 

Thor on his white steed was slightly ahead, scarlet cape fluttering behind him as his silver and blue armor shone in the late afternoon sun.  Loki was only a meter behind, emerald cape draped over his left leg to prevent it from trailing behind him too much. They reigned up at the base of the steps, dismounting in perfect sync, and immediately dropping into a perfect bow.  Following behind them was Lady Sif, an honor to enter so close behind the Princes. She indeed looked extremely pleased with herself as she dismounted and dropped to her own bow behind Thor. Harry chewed the inside of his cheek; Allfather would not like how close she was to the prince.  

 

The Warriors Three rode in, the crowd sending up a gasp at the ugly creature they dragged behind them.  Volstagg let out a loud laugh as one woman swooned into the arms her friends. A great victory indeed!

 

Once the entire group had assembled and  bowed low to the royals, Odin lifted a formal hand in greeting.  “Hail Sons, Daughters, and Children, returning home to Asgard. Let you be welcomed.  And what do you bring with you?”

 

“Allfather,” Thor called, his voice loud and clear, “We Princes of Asgard return victorious from a great battle with Escon the Searcher and the great Ogre of Zoz.  We bring you the Ogre and the helm and hammer of Escon as tribute. Escon has been defeated, but mercifully allowed to live with the grace of Asgard.”

 

The elder looked out, studying the corpse and the items that were brought forward. It took two men to carry the helm and another three to bring the hammer, a strange long warhammer that looked to be missing some type of ornament in the cented.  Most likely lost in the battle, but still, the hammer was a work of beauty befitting the celestial being who had given it up. Odin heartily laughed at the group.

 

“A feast.  One of the finest in all of Asgard.  I CALL FOR A FEAST FOR MY VICTORIOUS SONS.”

 

There was a great cheer from the crowd in agreement.  Once the clamor had died down, Loki called, his voice steady.  “Allfather, during this feast, we must raise our cups in honor of Lady Sif.  It was she who struck the foe first, and it was she unseated the Ogre.”

 

Even with her face looking down, Harry could see the look of smug pride that slid along Sif’s face at the words.  There was also something there. Something else that made him feel uneasy.

 

“Indeed, several toasts and honors to Lady Sif.  I invite you to my own table tonight to share of my own meat.”

 

“If it pleases you as well, Allfather,” Thor spoke up, “if we are to honor heroes, I wish to honor Fandral.”  Said man’s head shot up at mention of his name before quickly ducking back down again. “He saved my Beloved Spouse from a runaway horse.  If not for him, I would be alone here before you.”

 

“And he will have his reward.  Join me, Fandral at my table as well.  In gratitude to saving my child and the spouse of my heir.  NOW!!!” Stamping his staff upon the ground, the king shouted.  “LET US PREPARE FOR THIS FEAST!”

 

There was a great cheer and the crowd surged forward to the returning warriors.  The princes, however, were standing and already walking up the stairs to meet the other members of the royal family.  Lady Sif followed halfway before the blond god turned and said something quietly to her. She looked mildly upfronted, but turned away back to the adorning throng.  

 

The family reconnected with quiet words and subtle touches in public of affection.  They walked together to the open palace doors, waiting until they were firmly shut behind them and most of the servants had retreated to see to the feast.

 

“PAPA!” Harry immediately yelled, jumping into the God of Thunder’s arms.  He squealed and giggled as he was tossed up and whirled around with ease and laughter.

 

“There's my Lightning Bolt!  I knew I had mislaid you somewhere!” Thor boomed, holding the child in his arms effortlessly.

 

“He missed you both daily,” Frigga said.  “Apparently, I do not tell the right stories.”

 

“You will tell me of the Ogre, won't you?!”

 

“You have become a regular palace courtier!  Begging for stories of battles!” Loki sighed in mock exasperation, but his eyes were full of mirth.

 

“Mama, did you trick Escon to give up his helm?  Did you? Tell me!”

 

“My Little Lamb wants stories, when all I want is to sleep for a month.”

 

“Don't worry,” Thor said in a conspiratorial tone.  “I won't let him sleep a moment until you have your fill of stories.”

 

“My Heaven, I'll never sleep again.”

 

Everyone but Odin laughed at that.  The elder god was giving the parents a critical stare.  “Your left arm,” he barked out finally, motioning to his adopted son.  “It's injured.”

 

The brunette shifted the arm with slight discomfort.  “Its healing. The beast was a little faster than I anticipated.”

 

“A runaway horse?”

 

“Broke from the line when we were striking camp.”

 

“You will see a healer at once.”

 

“What became of the animal?”  Frigga asked

 

“It had to be put down.  A good mare. I am sorry, Mother,”

 

Odin hummed softly.  “A healer. Within the hour Loki.”

 

“Yes, Father,” Loki bowed his head in submission.

 

The king nodded, taking his leave in a swirl of robes and regal grace.  Frigga watched him leave before turning to the little family. “You know he worries, Dearest.  He just can't say that aloud.”

 

“I know that,” the frost giant said, a soft smile on his face.

 

The queen took the brunette’s face into her hands, bent his head low, and kissed his forehead.  “Listen to him. Go see a healer, Dearest.”

 

“I will.”

 

The woman turned her other son and grandchild.  “Now, both of you should be getting ready. I have a new blue robe for you, Little One.  And this armor needs a little buffing before the feast.”

 

“We’re being manhandled, my Lightning Bolt,”  Thor gasped, jostling the mortal child.

 

“May I wear the blue dress you gave me, Grand’mere?”

 

“Of course, my little Princess.”

 

“I just want to wear it.  I…” Harry looked embarrassed as he began to fiddle with his fingers.  He preferred the prettier palace clothes than the more masculine choices.  He sometimes felt very sure of who he was. Of what he was. There was other times when he looked in the mirror and he felt confused.  Not sure. He felt like a blank canvas. Not a bad feeling, until someone said ‘boy’ or ‘princess’. The words seemed...lacking when it came to him.  He caught his mother's eye and he gave him a sympathetic look. Something they would certainly talk about later.

 

“And you will wear what you wish,” the blonde announced proudly, carrying the child away to their rooms.

 

****

 

Loki was taking longer with the healers than expected.  The first course of the feast was under way and most of Asgard had toasted to the princes.  Thor had stood there holding his own goblet with his grinning mask before finding a time to slip away.  He paced the adjoining room to the Great Hall, trying not to let his worries get the best of him. A strained shoulder or arm, at worse.  Even the Celestial dolt, for all his bluster of possessing the Power Stone had not done any damage to either of them. Of course he had yet to possess the stone.  His spouse would need potions, probably. He won't be able to sleep on that side for at least a week. He'll order more pillows for them.

 

The door opened.  Thor turned hopefully.  Sif met his gaze with a seductive smile, licking her ruby red lips.  “This feast is for you, and your hiding in here.”

 

“There will be others,” he said dismissively.  “Besides, Loki has yet to return from the healers.”

 

The female warrior waved her hand and the issue away.  “The Frost Giant is probably playing some jest. Probably will find him in the kitchens bewitching the geese.”

 

“I doubt he would do that.”  Even for when Loki was of that nature, interrupting a feast was far below him.

 

“You put too much faith into him.”

 

“He is my brother and my spouse!”

 

“And you can still put him aside for a better option.”  Thor could feel the woman melt against him, pressing her body into him.  She had been wearing a black gown that clung to every subtle curve of her body.  It was barely being kept on by her graceful shoulders. There would be many in Asgard who would spin around and pull the dress off of her to take what she was offering.  There would be many who felt her heat and would feel near immediate lust. The god felt and did neither.

 

“Sif, I would never put Loki aside.  Even if he had not been my intended since I was a child, I would still love him with every core of my being.  No matter the form or lifetime, Loki is mine and I am his. Remove yourself from my person.”

 

She did indeed, with disgust and scoffing, “A Prince of Asgard should be married to one of Asgard.  Not some Frost Giant brat who dabbles in illusions.”

 

“If peace between the realms troubles you that much, there is always battles elsewhere.”

 

“I can give you children!”

 

“As can Loki.  And he has already.”

 

“True sons and daughters of Asgard!  Not half breed things and Midgardian bastards!  I would be loyal. That child is proof of his infidelity to you!  Does it strike you as suspicious he comes back from Midgard with a child black of hair, with green eyes, and magic ?  Can you truly not see what had happened?  Your Great Love opened some Midgard woman’s legs, or opened his for some Midgard man , and brought you the result.  That scar is probably the result of a knife and nothng more!  He is playing you a fool! He is playing Asgard as fools. Mark my words, that child is nothing more than some part of a grand ploy-"

 

ENOUGH! ” Thor whipped around to face the vile woman who was speaking.  There had been a time she had been a dearest friend. But in this time, she spoke ill and manipulated others.  “I will hear no more of your false accusations against my spouse. And if you ever speak ill of Prince Harry again, I will have you cast out of Asgard.  Do I make myself clear, Lady Sif?”

 

She gaped at him.  Not many would turn her down as a wife or bed companion, nor would they ever think of threatening her with banishment.  She had probably voiced these opinions to a chosen few and those chosen few had agreed with her. But Sif recovered quickly, the mask of a courtier going up at once.  “Perfectly, my Prince.”

 

“I hope I am not interrupting.”  Both of them turned to find Loki, his best green and black with gold trimmed robe allowing him to blend in with the shadows.  His emerald eyes keenly looked from one to the other, noting the lack of distance between the two.

 

“Lady Sif was leaving back to the feast.  She is travel wary and delirious. Air and time away has done her some good, though.”  The God of Thunder explained, giving the woman a rope to save herself. Or just enough to hang herself.  Either would be preferable at this point.

 

Sif indeed did see that he was trying to allow her to leave the situation with grace and dignity.  She nodded in a jerky motion, making some noises about leaving back to the celebration, before turning on her heels and leaving.

 

Well, trying to leave.

 

“Lady Sif.” Loki called, his voice dripping with false informality.  “As the one in charge of the horses during the time of an injury, you should know that Allfather has decided to investigate if there was foul play.  You should examine your men...as you were in charge that day.”

 

A mechanical nod was given, and both Princes could see the look of fear that passed over features before exiting, her gown snaking behind her as she did.

 

“There will be no investigation,” Loki sighed once she was gone.  “I cannot prove my suspicions, but as long as I can make her regret her action-”

 

He was cut off by a crashing passionate kiss.  It was like Thor has engulfed him: his arms were around him, keeping in as close as clothes, skin, and bone would allow.  His tongue had forced its way into Loki's mouth. Well force was not the right word; the frost giant had granted entry as soon as he had felt the invader at his lips.  Strong, thick hands had found his way to his backside, kneading him, needing him . Wanting him.  He moaned.  He could drown in Thor.

 

But even gods need to breath.  They broke apart, gasping and flushed with lust.

 

“Should it not be I who feels the need to stake a claim after such an encounter?” Loki rasped, smirking at how uncontrolled his lover looked.

 

“I wanted to show you that her charms and wiles failed.  You are still the king of my heart. The queen of my heart.  Change your shape, form, and identity a thousand little ways my Loki, and you will still mine.  My greatest treasure, my dearest weakness, my precious treasure. And during this time, when you truly are mine, no one will replace you.”

 

“Brother-"

 

“I would do everything again, from then and now, if it meant you were my spouse still.  If you could fight side by side with me still. If you would rule Asgard with me still. If you were the mother of my children still.”

 

Loki tangled his fist into the cape at Thor's shoulder.  His eyes sparkled with unshed tears that threatened to fall.  “Everything I did...then...was to hear those words.”

 

“And I speak them to you now.  So you know that I love you.”

 

“I love you too.  I loved you then. And I will love you again.”

 

Eternally…

 

****

 

Thor watched from the table as Loki charmed a few palace women with small magic tricks.  The brunette was indeed charming and all smiles as he leaned over to show the women their hair pin had transformed into a butterfly.  His lips were still slightly red and kiss bitten, and even the with his collar up, a slight bruise could be seen on his neck. They would have gone further, but there was still the feast and Loki tended to be loud when they made love.  And, more importantly, there was Harry.

 

Harry had spent night tucked in between Frigga and Fandral, giggling at the stories of the latter while being needled by the former to eat more.  Harry's size, slender and short, was atypical of palace children who tended to be rounder or at least taller by his age. It gave him a look of vulnerability that would one day appeal to the Asgardian warrior class for a mate, but right now it gave the royal matriarch anxiety.  After a few courses, though, the child was stuffed and his eyes were already beginning to droop. Normal for all children, regardless of race.

 

The father smiled tenderly as his little one laid their head against one of the celebrated warriors of the realm and yawned, only barely managing the courtesy of covering his mouth when he did so.  Fandral, true to being one of the chivalrous Warriors Three, covered the young Prince with his cloak and continued his conversation as though nothing was amiss.

 

Making his excuses to the others at the table, avoiding Sif’s still watchful eyes, he made his way to the near sleeping child.  “I have come to remove your little leach, Fandral.”

 

Fandral turned from his conversation with few lovely people to stare down at said leach.  “Aw! I've sort of become attached to it!”

 

‘As have I.  As have we all.’  Thor thought fondly.  For all her talk, Sif had not accounted for the fact that most of the realm had fallen head over heels for the little mortal of Midgard.  Even Abner, still in the nursery had become quite loyal to the ‘Found Prince’, title given to Harry by the common folk. He lifted the child gently, he was so light, and cradled him in his arms.  “To bed with you, my Lightning Bolt.”

 

“No,” Harry whined, wriggling weakly.  “A little longer, please Father!”

 

“No, no.  To bed, to dream, and sleep,” he chided, already leaving the dias.  Loki had caught his eye and given the pair a warm mirthful smile. Thor had returned it as still Harry protested through yawns and sleepy snuggling movements.  By the time they were at walking to the apartments of the Princes, the little one had worked themselves under his chin. Thor nuzzled his beard into the top of the black curls.  

 

“Papa,” Harry groaned as they entered the child's room, still wiggling and squirming like a sleepy eel.  

 

“My Lightning Bolt doesn't want to sleep!  Probably doesn't want a story either.”

 

That did the trick.  The boy stilled, green eyes wide and alert looking up at the god.  “A story?”

 

“Yes, a story.”

 

“A story about Midgard?”

 

“Mayhaps.”

 

“A story about the heroes of Midgard?”

 

Thor smiled.  “Which one tonight?  The Man of Iron? Captain?  The Archer?”

 

“Hulk, Papa?”

 

“Ah!  One of the strongest heroes!”

 

“Stronger than you?”

 

“NO!  I mean, no.  Strength is not the only important thing,” Thor laughed at the wide look of shock he was being given.  “You still want a story?”

 

Harry nodded.  The father placed the child on the bed, watching the little one grab a stuffed rabbit doll and bringing it to his chest.

 

Maybe next story time, he should tell him about the rabbit.

 

****

 

The spell to make the register of students address an envelope was simple.  Most second years could master it. But most second years did not have to deal with Ministry of Magic and the Board of Governors of Hogwarts breathing down their necks.

 

After Norway, they had decided to finally do the spell.  Which meant they would have to inform the ministry and the board.  Any time a letter from the register was addressed, both agencies were informed.  Usually this was an unremarkable event, filed away under the sun rising and a goblin complaining about lost gold.  But for a student to have a letter addressed when they were younger than eleven, that was unusual. A child who younger than eleven who had been missing for several years, that was extraordinary.  A child who was younger than eleven who had been missing for several years and also was The Boy Who Lived, that was… a hornets nest waiting to erupt.

 

The ministry had been the first hurdle to jump.  Fudge took great glee in filing suit against the Headmaster, accusing the other of still running the Order of the Phoenix outside of a time of war.  He was, but that wasn't the issue. Of course, Fudge didn't have a lot of political capital to spend for all his bluster. The ministry had spent most of their goodwill electing middle of the row department heads and comforting war survivors with nice little pensions.  Meanwhile, Dumbledore and the Order had been rescuing people before they got into harm's way, actively trying to prevent Pureblood groups from gaining a majority in government, and spent more in the way of charity with his own personal money than Fudge ever dreamed of doing.  And it was also worth noting as the Headmaster of Britain's magical educational institution, he would have invested interest in where one of his possible students was. When all was said and done, the showy trial that had opened with Fudge giving an impassioned speech to the judge ended with a nameless lackey reading a prepared dry statement.

 

The Board of Governors was a different kettle of fish.  Most were Purebloods who had remained ‘objective’, or too cowardly to take a damn side.  A few like Lucius Malfoy claimed they had been bewitched into joining the Dark Lord. Now, during times of peace, they were exacting petty vengeances.  Most to nearly all of the last Defense Against the Dark Arts professors had been there choosing over the Headmaster's objections. Now they claimed that by trying to gain Harry Potter's address, Dumbledore was putting politics over his position.  Unlike Fudge, they hem and haw and block their efforts behind closed doors without the public eye. Nor could Dumbledore take the issue public without proving them right. It had taken time, a lot of convincing, and some blackmail on Severus’s part to finally allow them to agree to it.

 

So here they were.  Two years later. In Dumbledore's office with the book open and envelope whizzing around the room as it waited for a letter to be stuffed inside it that would never come.  It finally stopped, gliding peacefully over to Minerva like a trained puppy. She took it with a trembling hand.

 

She read it.  She coughed. She read it again.  She choked down a guffaw. She read it a third time.  She giggled.

 

This continued for several more times before Severus had had quite enough.  He grabbed the envelope and read it for himself. He nearly burst into hysterics, as well.

 

Harry James Potter, Thorson, Prince of Asgard

The Princes’ Wing near the Gardens

The Palace of Odin, Asgard

Chapter Text

The four years since they had seen the head priest of the Order of Frigga had been reasonably kind to the older man.  He was a little rounder, his beard only tad grayer, his response time when Severus pulled his wand out to threaten him as slow as ever.  Not much had changed.

 

“Severus, please.  The ritual will get nowhere without his help,” Albus said calmly, hardly bothering to look around from where he was tinkering with a small crude altar they had constructed.

 

The Potion Master glared at the little priest but did indeed put his wand away.  They did indeed need the priest, but it constant fumblings, excuses, and delays were wearing thin the already threadbare patience he had.  The last two years of first finding the site for the ritual and then finding all the ingredients for the ritual had been trying on the younger man.  At times, he rather hated the fact the Headmaster put so much trust into him. Teaching hormonal teenagers was hard enough: he didn't need to traipse around Europe looking for obscure wood for an altar or an exotic bird to sacrifice on top of all that.  Minerva kept only on the periphery of their antics this time, so most of these trips had been done alone and mostly on his own galleon. He was not a poor man, a man with his talents never went hungry or truly wanting, but the frequency and distance would put a strain on anyone's purse.  

 

And what were they hoping to gain from this endeavor?  Entrance into Asgard, the mystical realm of the Norse Gods.  Severus snorted in disbelief for probably the millionth time that year alone.  Despite the little priests sincere belief and Minerva's surprising superstition, both men doubted they were actually going to be crossing a Rainbow Bridge once all of this was said and done.  Most likely, an old Norwegian Pureblood had named their rather old estate after that fairytale in hopes of impressing their neighbors. They wouldn't be the first magical folk to do so: one could go to Greece and find people claiming to live in the Temple of Apollo or Athena or what have you, only to be found living in very old ruin that they called a ‘palace’ protected by elaborate wards.  Muggle anthropologists of the nineteenth century had found to their dismay the curses and jinxes that Egyptian wizards had put on their old homes were deadly efficient at keeping away intruders. And who knows the secrets that the African continent was hiding because of one or more communities reluctance to be known to the world. When they did succeed at this little ‘ritual’ they would most likely Harry Potter being raised by two old farts and a house elf.  

 

Befitting the son of James Potter, indeed.

 

Then, once they had gotten to ‘Asgard’, they would have to see what condition the boy was in.  By the sound of the title ‘prince’, Severus suspected the boy was well cared for. But where did the loyalty of his adopted parents lay?  Just because they had kept him hidden didn't not mean they served the Dark. And just because they had cared for the boy did not mean they serve the Light either.  They could find that they were welcomed with open arms, the adopted parents some wannabe members of the Order who had raised another star struck student for Albus to charm into being a cog in his elaborate machine.  Maybe they were a family of neutral hand wringers, probably intent on sending they little ‘prince’ to Beauxbatons instead of Hogwarts. Many parents did, a showy empty gesture of defiance against Dumbledore. Easy enough to convince them to change their minds though; say boo loud enough to cowards, they wet themselves and turn tail.

 

No, the worst scenario was if whoever had raised Potter turned out to be members of the Dark.  If they had decided to send their child to Durmstrang. Well, that was where Severus came in. Taking a child from his adopted parents would probably rank in the top ten awful things he had ever done.  Using a combination of potions and spells to ‘re-educate’ the boy maybe his top five. But no one knew where the child had been. No one would question a boy completely loyal to the Headmaster who had rescued him.  And even if it was discovered, who would blink an eye at a perfectly trained toy soldier for the ever possibly of another Dark Lord. And how they would rush to protect and reward the man who had helped ‘maintain and create’ that little toy soldier.  It may turn his stomach. It may go against every principle he had tried over the years to keep. But in love and war.....

 

“How much longer is this going to take?” Severus growled out.  

 

The little priest was fussing around a cage.  The swan that over a year ago Severus had caught in the middle of Germany, during a New Moon no less, let out a warning hiss and flapped its wings to ward him off.  “A few moments more. The moon must be perfectly aligned.”

 

“In a few moments, that bird will not only the thing dead.”

 

“HONK!” quoth the swan.

 

The priest gulped.

 

Albus looked up into the night sky.  It had taken nearly ten years to get to this June night.  This night in Norway that was near windless, so still, like the world was holding their breath.  Aside from the squabbling men and the swan, there wasn't a sound. Every star in the sky twinkled down at them.  The moon hung full in the sky. It was breathtaking.

 

“I think we began now, if you wish,” the priest said finally to the stillness.

 

“Finally!”

 

The Headmaster nodded, retrieving his wand.  The ritual was simple enough: sacrificing a blessed swan during the New Moon and a blood sacrifice from a virgin.  It was the timing that was the tricky part. When the moon was just over an altar with offerings. Too soon, and it was a lot wasted time and blood.  Too late, and apparently the ‘gods’ punished you with a curse. Either way, they walked away empty handed. They could wait for Potter to turn eleven in a few weeks, but it was a gamble whether the envelope would even get past these intricate wards.

 

Time was of the essence.  The swan honked and hissed as Severus lifted the cage into the altar space.  Silver painted runes surrounded them, carefully drawn by the priest who stood outside the circle with his arms raised to the heavens.

 

We mortals beseech you, all seeing and all knowing Heimdall, Protector of Bifröst and Asgard!  Open the gates of that fair land! Show us the way and allow us safe passage! ”  The priest chanted, walking along the outer rim of the circle.  He made a motion to Severus. The Potion Master nodded and pulled out a silver dagger from his robe pocket.  With a deft hand, a seeker would be envious, he grabbed the still hissing swan's head pulling it through the bars of the cage.  He slit its throat, letting the blood splatter and drip onto the dark ground. The runes began to glow as the priest continued his chant.  “ We mortals beseech you, all seeing and all knowing Heimdall, Protector of Bifröst and Asgard! ”  The little round man had produced his own silver glade as he circled.  The Order of Frigga did not require their members to be virgins or remain celibate after they took their vows, but the head priest had apparently taken that vow himself.  And never, in any curse or spell or potion that required virgin blood did it require the virgin to die. Only monsters, idiots, and very impatient Potion Masters stoop that far.  The priest did what most sensible people did when such a requirement was made; cut his hand deeply, allowing the blood to enter the circle. He even flicked his hand, making the blood droplets fly out and land in the pools of swan blood.  

 

The runes glowed brighter.  The priest was nearly yelling his chant.  All was coming to a fever pitch. And then...nothing.

 

The runes stopped glowing and died out like a wet candle.  The priest stumbled and coughed, covering his mouth with his bloody hand.  They were still under a lovely moon, on a mountain top in Norway, with a swan corpse.

 

“My,” Severus said after a long pause letting the animal's head to drop from his hand, “isn't Asgard lovely this time of year.”

 

“Something went wrong,” the priest ran a shaky hand through his beard, staining it red.  “It should have worked.”

 

“I'll say.  WE SHOULD HAVE NEVER LISTENED TO-"

 

It didn't feel like apparation, where there was a tugging sensation behind the navel as it thrust you through time and space.  It didn't feel like the ever spinning motion of using floo powder. It was like simultaneously falling upward and flying downward.  All while being surrounded by rushing cold air and searing electricity. It had happened too quickly for either of them to scream and now there was the fear that they opened their mouths they would suffocate.  It lasted all of five seconds. It happened for what felt like an eternity.

 

They landed, rather crashed, onto a marble floor.  It's cold solid presence was almost welcome after the ordeal.  Severus could kiss it.

 

He looked around as best he could.  He was in a place of gold, high vaulted ceilings, and…

 

A sword.  A sword pointed directly at his nose.  He followed the gleaming blade to the hilt.  Large dark hands held the hilt. Hands met wrists, which met arms.  Arms that led to a face. A handsome face with strong stern features and silver eyes.

 

“Halt, in the name of Odin and Asgard.”

 

So it had worked.

 

****

 

Severus had had nightmares about being dragged through the streets.  Often it through London or Hogsmeade village. Sometimes it was through his hometown.  Those were the worst nights. A crowd of the dead would chase him to Spinners End where his mother and Lily would be waiting for him, grave dirt still clinging to them as they reached out with rotting hands.  Yet, even in his wildest dreams and nightmares, he had never expected to be paraded through the streets of Asgard.

 

They had been chained and bundled onto horses, their wands taken from them before they had even gotten the chance to bring them out.  These….people….seemed to understand that the pieces of wood were of some importance to the men, because they were placed in a small silver box covered in runes and put in the possession of silver eyed giant who rode before them.  The silver blade that Severus still had on him was also taken away, given to another rider. Without a wand or even the dagger, he felt powerless. This also seemed to be one of those convenient times that Albus was not proficient in wandless magic, playing the stoic but helpless old man.  Then they were off, over indeed a rainbow bridge, under the cover of darkness. To a city of gold, silver, and myth. To a palace that loomed large, larger than Hogwarts.

 

After their ride along the bridge, they had ridden through what appeared to be a medieval city.  A man called out their approach and families spilled out of their homes to gawk at them. Women in cotton and wool dresses had pulled children away from the passing horses.  Men in leather and armor waved at them as they made their way. There was a great call from a horn above them as they rode into a outer courtyard of the palace lit by torches.  Someone who identified themselves as Hogun of the Warriors Three had asked what was going on. He had not said it like that. He had said it like he was stuck in the works of Shakespeare knock-off, but it had been the substance of what he had said.  The man who had lead the party across the bridge, one who identified himself as Heimdall, explained that two of Midgard had found their way. At this point, Albus had spoken up and with his best calm and gentle tone explained that they had meant no harm.  They were only looking for a child.

 

This had seemed to cause a bit of stir.  The one named Hogun had ordered that the ‘intruders from Midgard’ should be kept in the dungeon until Allfather could deal with them come the morrow.  Severus presumed this meant until they died, for else would one assume when they hear they will meet a god in the morning. Hence why he had struggled when they had removed him from the horse and lead him to the cells.  He didn't pay attention to the halls of rich colors and tapestries, or the many suits of armor and leather that lined the halls. At a certain point, maybe when he started screaming profanities, they did him and themselves the courtesy of knocking him out.  

 

When he woke up, he found Albus staring down at him with an annoying humorous twinkle in his eyes.  The cell was white and beige, nothing like what he had imagined from the word dungeon. Well, nothing like the dungeon he lived and worked in back in Hogwarts.  There wasn't even bars on the exit, but there was most definitely some type of magic keeping them inside from the gentle but insistent pulse he felt from the exit.

 

“How can you be in such a good mood?” the Potion Master rasped, sitting up slowly to prevent dizziness.  He noted that his robe had been removed to make a makeshift pillow for his head, most likely the Headmaster’s doing.  A bit of the lingering swan blood had transferred to his cheek during the time he had laid on it. He looked around at the rest of cell, curiously.  There was another cot perpendicular to the one he now occupied. At the far side of the room there was a table with a pewter jug with two matching goblets.  A plate of bread sat between the goblets, already missing a slice.

 

“Because I cleared up a few misunderstandings while you were out, my boy,” Albus said, walking over to the table and pouring something into one of the goblets.  He brought it to Severus, pressing the cup into his still shaking hands. “Water. Drink. You look ready to faint again.”

 

“I did not faint.”  He rubbed the lump on the back of his head.

 

“Drink.  We will be called for soon, I should think.  Apparently, saying we came ‘looking for a child’ worried many that we were going to take ‘a child’ by force.  So I had to clear that up. And you will be happy to note that Allfather is not a euphemism for ‘god’ but is the title given to the king here.”

 

“Who is…”

 

“Odin.”

 

“Who is…”

 

“A god.”

 

“Lovely!” he spat sarcastically.  “Are we going to have an audience with Thor next?!”

 

“I'm told that if all goes well, yes.”

 

****

 

They had to wait a few more hours.  Apparently the royal family had gone for a ride once they woken up that morning and was not set to return until midday.  The plate of bread had been replenished and water jug refilled, but other than that they were still kept in the cell. No word on their wands.  No word on if they were truly prisoners or being kept in the cell as simply a precaution. Severus suspected the latter. There didn't seem to be any malice in their captors, only hostile suspicion.  Albus was his usual charming self with them; grandfatherly smiles and polite unflappable manners. Severus simply went mute, retreating back into his mind, cataloging potion ingredients and revising notes on mental lesson plans for later.  By the time the guards came for them to bring them before ‘Allfather’, the men were composed pillars of strength.

 

They were allowed to fix their appearance before the audience.  Albus simply requested a brush for his hair and beard, not that he needed it.  Severus asked for a brush also and something to scrub his face, as well as a clean robe.  “Mine is covered with swan blood.” The brushes and a basin of water were brought but the robe was never given.  He decided to forego it instead.

 

The throne room was large, twice the size of the Great Hall of Hogwarts.  A good thing too, with all the people standing around. Men and women dressed in multi colored fabrics stood watching as they were led to the steps of large dias by six guards.  Five guards too many really; without their wands what danger did a thin professor and an old man pose? He supposed it was for the spectacle. The crowd seemed to be intrigued, jostling to get a better look at them.  Many turned and whispered to one another, making the whole room sound like a beehive and not a throne room.

 

The head guard made them kneel at the foot of the dias as Heimdall came forward, walking up the stairs and then taking a knee halfway.  Severus did not kneel willingly to many people. He could count on one hand the people he would do so to. But as his eyes lifted to the throne, he felt a primal urge to be low to the ground that kneeling provided like a wolf coming across a stronger alpha.  The back of the mighty throne was a massive crescent moon shaped rune and covered in gilded design work. The long arms of marble and onyx stretched around and slightly downward allowing one to comfortably rest their arms if they so wish. And someone did wish.

 

The man who sat the throne wore brilliant armor and well oiled leather, and a helmet with the horns of a ram or some type of bull.  In his left hand he held a large spear that came to many sharp points. Occasionally the light in the room would catch on the blade and it would acquire a near blue quality to it.  The man wore a gold ornament where a lesser man, or mortal, would wear an eyepatch. He was an older man given his hair and beard were completely white and the lines that etched their way around his face, but there was life and strength in him still.  There was no doubt that he could still wield his spear as well as Severus could wield his wand. The Great Man's face was a stoic mask, his one blue eye staring down with cold interest.

 

Behold Odin upon his throne.

 

“Heimdall, favored son of Asgard and watcher of Bifröst, what have you brought Us today?”

 

“I bring You, Allfather, mortals from Midgard.  They claim to be looking for a child. A particular child.”

 

“A particular child, aye?” the king rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  “For what purpose would you need to come all this way for a child. We are sure you have them in your realm.  Speak and be heard!”

 

“My Grace,” Albus began, “we have come all this way because one child has been missing for quite some time.  We humbly wish to make sure he is alright and to extend an offer to him. And to you, given we believe he enjoys your protection.”

 

Odin tilted his head in interest.  “A missing a child. Indeed, it would worry one.  Tell Us, though. What relation of you are to this child?”  His eye fell on Severus. “Are you the father or uncle this child?”

 

‘Merlin, no!’ Severus thought, but said nothing.

 

“We are not related by blood to him,” the Headmaster explained jovially.  “We did know his parents, though. We belonged to the same community. We were countrymen and chosen kinsmen as it were.”

 

“And you come now for the child.”

 

“He is reaching a certain age that in our community we hold as significant.  We wish to make sure he is able to be given the same opportunity as any child in Britain.  Or Midgard. My apologies, Your Grace.”

 

“And how do you know that the child is here and not elsewhere?  Midgard is as vast as Asgard. And there are other realms between here and there.”

 

“True, but we have a proof that he is here.  If you would allow me to produce it.”

 

The Great King nodded and Albus proceeded to reach into his robe pocket.  There was a few moments of him struggling and rooting within the fabric before withdrawing a small bag of lemon drops.  The old man chuckled and excused himself, asking for a guard's help in holding the treats as he continued to search for his proof.  Severus had to bite back a spiteful bit of laughter at the sight. He knew what the old coot was doing. By all appearances, as he withdrew candy, after knitting magazine, after small useless trinkets, Dumbledore was the eccentric befuddled old grandfather mislaying his spectacles among his clutter.  But within the grand show, which sent many in the room into fits of giggles, there was a subtle threat. What else could be hiding in these robes?

 

Finally the Headmaster found what he was looking for.  He withdrew the pristine envelope and smiled at the guard beside him now overburdened with clutter.  “I am sure I am not allowed to approach, Allfather was it? So you may give this to him for me.”

 

The guard looked at what was being offered, then the collection in his hands, and then up at Odin.  Odin looked unamused and unbothered, and simply nodded at the proceedings. The guard nodded back, passing the items back to Albus, who took each one with gratitude and much enthusiasm.  Hands finally empty, the guard was able to take the envelope from the smiling old man and walk up the dias to the old king.

 

The elder god took the envelope curiously.  He motioned to the guard to return to his post.  One electric blue eye stared down at the slip of paper.  It scanned it several times.

 

“I see.”

 

“Wonderful!” Albus smiled warmly, his own eyes twinkling.  

 

There was a great heavy pause.  The room's eyes were on the king as his eye stared down at the envelope.  

 

Finally Odin's attention returned to the two men at the foot of the dias.  “I shall see this is given to who it belongs. And in the meantime, you shall be Our guest.”  He raised his voice to the guards. “Show them to rooms and give them all the hospitality Asgard has to offer.”

 

****

 

A gilded cage is still a cage.  The apartments may be lovely and had views a vast city hustling and bustling with activity, but guards were posted outside and blocked them from leaving.  Servants came and went with bread, cheeses, fruit, and wine for them, but they never stayed any longer than to come and go with their gifts. Albus and Severus did not touch anything they brought, suspecting poison or something else.  They did take advantage of a chessboard provided, though, mostly to pass time. It was all a way to communicate secretly, as well. Whispering over the board, not a soul blinked an eye at them. If they attempted to listen in, would they be able to understand talk about lesson plans and Quidditch?  

 

But it became quite clear they were not being listened to too closely.  Servants seemed rather intent to do their task of replacing a wine jug than to stop and overhear something.  And the guards spent most of their time outside the rooms and as far away from them as possible. So openly speaking, to an extent, was not impossible.

 

After a few hours, as twilight was beginning to snake a ribbon across the sky, and Severus thought they would go another day with nothing to show for it, someone came for them.  

 

“Allfather wishes to see you at once,” a guard said, entering the room with two servants in toe, his eyes cold and official.

 

“Can I get that clean robe now?” Severus asked.  He motioned to the burgundy stain on his clothes and boots.  “It's beginning to smell.”

 

“Does ‘at once’ mean something different on Midgard?”

 

“I take that as a ‘no’.”

 

“You will take that as ‘at once’.”

 

They were not shown to the throne room, nor did they have the large escort of guards, only two.  The room they were brought to was much smaller but still grand. There was a large dark table with several chairs surrounding it, though no one sat at those chairs.  A full-length wall sized tapestry on the far wall behind the head of the table showed a large intricate tree reaching to the heavens with gnarled roots at its base.

 

Odin stood near the head of the table.  He had forgone the helmet and the armor, wearing a deep rich tanned leather trousers and vest with gray underclothes.  His face was still a grave mask as they entered, his electric blue eye staring at them. The guards bowed and retreated but only just enough to allow the impression of being alone with the king, but just enough to remind one they were being watched.

 

“You come looking for a child,” Odin asked, his voice quieter than when he had spoken in the throne room but still had authority in it.  Something that made one feel the urge to look down in submission. Severus fought to keep looking the god in the face.

 

“We've been looking for nearly ten years,” Dumbledore replied, his voice soft with its own authority allowing some of the wariness of those years seep into his words.

 

“Would you recognize this child if you saw them?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Odin turned slightly and nodded to a guard watching a side door who nodded back.  He turned with clockwork precision on his heels and opened the door, giving a steep bow to the two people who entered.

 

It was like a surreal dream or a warped memory had come to engulf Severus Snape when he saw the child who walked in alongside a serving woman.  There was the same jet black hair from his childhood, but long and plaited into a braid. There was the same face, ears, and knobby knees that he had despised, but softened from youth and her .  It was the eyes though that made his heart clench.  Those impossibly green eyes, wide, curious, and kind.   Her eyes.  In his face.

 

I can't pretend anymore. You've chosen your way, I've chosen mine.

 

There was one facial feature that did not belong to his late childhood bully.  On the child's face, framed by a few stray locks of hair, was a red scar in the shape of a lightning bolt.

 

So...this was the Boy Who Lived.  This was Harry Potter.

Chapter Text

It began with a scream.  

 

Well, a lot screaming actually.  Immediately, both Thor and Loki were out of bed, ready to do battle.  They assumed that their baiting strategy had finally worked and The Titan had sent a minion to come collect one of the stones they had gathered.  Loki sent a copy to check in on Harry, as well as one to scout ahead. He found Harry attempting to be ready for battle as well, undercut by being in bed clothes and tripping in the darkness and his poor vision.

 

“I can help, Mama!” the child protested as the copy soothed them back to bed.

 

“I am sure you can, but right now, it would do my heart so much good if you stay here and safe.”

 

The screaming had abruptly ended before they had even made it out of the wing.  Hogun found them half dressed and with weapons at the ready.

 

“There is no danger, my Princes.  Please return to your quarters,” he informed them calmly.

 

“How do we know this is not a trick?!” Thor snarled, shoulders still taut and set for battle.  “Tell me something only Hogun would know!”

 

“Two nights ago, I found you and Prince Loki mid-"

 

“That is proof enough.” Loki interrupted, putting down his weapon only fractionally and a deep pink staining his pale cheeks.  The copy scout returned and refused with him smoothly. He shook his head. “Heimdall is in the palace.”

 

“Aye.  He brings intruders.”  The other man hesitated, looking at his friends with apprehension.  “The intruders...they are mortals from Midgard.”

 

The two gods exchanged a look.  Away in Harry's room, the copy who had been rubbing the little mortal’s shoulders in comfort involuntarily gripped them in shock.

 

“Mama?” Harry asked nervously.  He knew somewhere else, something had happened that had caused his parent distress.  Whether it was rude word or a stray arrow, he was unsure but it scared him nonetheless.

 

“I am unhurt, Little Lamb.  Never you mind,” the copy said, adopting a smile.  “The trouble has passed and we will be returning to our rooms shortly.  You should go back to sleep.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“Nothing I cannot tell you in the morning.”

 

“But-"

 

“Lay down your head and morning will come.  Then I'll tell you. We can go for a ride.”

 

It had taken some convincing but the child had finally agreed to sleep.  Meanwhile, Thor watched the true Loki pace around the room. They had been told very little about the mortals, only that it was two men.  Which, given the makeup of the Avengers, could really be any number of people. But how? And why now? It wasn't time. It COULDN'T be time.  

 

“They said, ‘it shall be as it is and be as it is not’.  Is this the not? Is it because of Harry? But Stark would be too young, wouldn't he?  They all would be be too young. They would be closer to Harry's age, would they not?” Loki turned to Thor.  He knew more of these mortals than him. He had, during that time, been their ally and friend. Loki had been most certainly not.  He still woke up to flashes of them all staring at him, ready to strike. It still frightened him.

 

“Stark is...would be older than Harry,” the blonde said, watching as the copy slipped back into the room and refused into his spouse.  “How are they?”

 

“Brave and curious.  They want to know in the morning what happened.  And I promised them a ride.”

 

“Let us check with Father in the morning what happened.  It could be a mistake. It could be those Mystics come to ask for their treasure back.”

 

“Strange wouldn't have joined yet, would he?”

 

Thor shrugged.  Anything was possible.

 

They rose and dressed early, Loki leaving a copy to greet and assist Harry with dressing.  The child always preferred his Mother doing their hair to a servant and Loki had a distrust of anyone else touching his little one.  They entered the dressing rooms of Odin and Frigga, both of whom were awake. Frigga was behind a screen in the midst of dressing with the assistance of her women as the king spoke to Sif quietly.

 

Breaking off from the woman, the king turned to his sons.  “I am sure you were told about what occurred last night.”

 

Thor answered, “We know some, Allfather.  We were hoping to learn more from you this morning.”

 

“Midgard intruders, one wreaking of blood found their way here.  The older of the pair told the jailer they have come searching for a child.”

 

Loki felt his heart go cold at the words.  “A child?”

 

“A stolen child,” Sif hissed, her eyes glinting with malice.

 

“If I recall, Daughter, the jailer never said stolen even crossed the man's lips,” a piercing blue eye fell upon the warrior.

 

“My apologies, Allfather.  I merely-"

 

“Spoke out of turn?  It seems to happen often.  Leave, before it happens again.  And remember I showed you mercy and did not have your tongue removed.”  The warrior woman fled, only sparing a suspicious glance at the two Princes.  As soon as she was gone, Odin turned to his adopted son. “My Loki-"

 

“Father, there is no truth to her words!  I didn't-"

 

“Silence,” the order came gently and with no heat.  “I have seen you with the child. If there was wickedness in your taking the child, it was the wickedness of a concerned stranger who acted a little too rashly when helping the helpless.  Where is the child now?”

 

“Still abed.  He heard the uproar last night and wants to be told what happened.  I promised him that, as well as a ride.”

 

Odin nodded.  “Tell him only that two strangers of another realm found their way to Asgard.  I will get the measure of these two in time and what they seek. Now, leave and let your Mother and I break our fast.”

 

Bowing, the sons left, walking back to their own quarters.  Thor could tell Loki was still reeling from the information; his was walk stiff and rigid, expression far away and unseeing.

 

“Loki,” the God of Thunder whispered as they neared their rooms.

 

“Kin,” the word came to the other's lips, “They could Harry's kinsmen.  I never considered...when the summons came and I saw...family who may miss them.  Family who could take them. Oh Heaven.” He slumped against his spouse, tears rolling down his cheeks.  “What kind of monster am I to not even consider…”

 

“Loki!” Thor hugged his beloved spouse close to him, urging the other to look up at him.  Once green met blue, he stroked the others cheek with the pad of his thumb. “You did not think of that because you saw a child in distress.  Anyone who faults you on that has never truly helped a soul. And we do not know if these two are kin of Harry's. They could just as easily be those who killed his family to begin with.”

 

“They could be here to-"

 

“Yes.”

 

“I won't let them!  I don't care about the consequences!  If they even they try to harm my-"

 

“And I will not stop you.  But you need to calm down. Harry needs you now.  Dry your eyes.”

 

Loki shook his head, his fingers locked into a death grip in Thor's tunic.  He indulged the other, leaning down and kissing away the insecurities. But soon they would have to part.

 

Harry needed them.

 

****

 

Harry accepted the story of the two intruders well enough, but his parents could tell their little one burned with curiosity.  They rarely kept things from him: too many secrets lead to too many problems. They all three knew that eventually they would probably tell him everything, even if Odin never expressly gave them permission.

 

“Are we still going riding today?” he asked, in between bites of bread and small kipper fishes.

 

“Slow down and chew.  You are not a barbarian,” Loki scolded, handing a cloth to the child to wipe his face.

 

“Of course we are still going riding.  It's a splendid day for a race,” smiling over his goblet at the delight in the child's face and the look of outrage on his spouse's.

 

“A race?!  Do you mean it?  Can we?!”

 

“Most certainly not!  I know you both! It begins with a race, it ends with you both trying to do tricks and jousting.”

 

“That sounds like someone who has lost the last two races we had.”

 

“That sounds like someone who wishes to sleep alone for a month.”

 

Thor put his hand over his heart like he was feeling a mortal wound, his eyes wide with exaggerated hurt.  “My Love!”

 

“Mama, please!  One race!” Harry pleaded.  The brunette god ignored the plea, turning to his own breakfast.  “Please!”

 

“Love, you and I know you can only ignore him for so long,” the blonde laughed at the sight.

 

“Please!!”

 

Loki sighed.  “One race. But you will be finishing The Epic of Baldir afterward.”

 

“But the runes-"

 

“Either that or a star chart.”  The mortal moaned. The Mother leaned forward and kissed the little one’s forehead as they pouted up at him.  “I know. I'm a monster.”

 

Once breakfast had ended, the family dressed for riding and called for horses to be saddled.  As Thor assisted Harry to his horse, a white stallion rode up beside him.

 

Odin laughed heartily from his mount.  “I heard someone was wishing for a ride today!  I thought I would join you.”

 

“We are going to have a race, Grand'pierre!  Will you join us?” the child asked brightly.

 

“My racing days are behind me, I'm afraid.  But I suppose you will need a sound judge.”

 

Loki rode up on his pomfrey, his eyes widening at the elder.  “Father! A surprise, indeed."

 

“Father has decided to join us for our ride, my Love,” Thor said quickly, petting Harry's horse and passing the reins to his child.

 

“He's going to judge our race!”

 

“Don't squirm, Lightning Bolt.”

 

Thor lead Harry and his horse away, looking back briefly to Loki and Odin.  The other Prince rode closer to the king. “I thought you were going get information from the intruders.”

 

“I will.  Have I never taught you the virtue of patience?”

 

“Maybe once.”  Twice.

 

Harry indeed got his race, and a few others in spite of Loki's protests, which he won soundly.  He was a brilliant rider, with fine balance, composure, and command of Eira, his mare. Pride burned in Thor's chest at the look of triumph on his child's face as he reigned in his horse.  He wished he could stay in this moment forever, laughing in the field with his family.

 

But time moves forward.

 

“May I stay a little longer and help brush out Eira’s mane?” the mortal asked, petting the mare’s tan and white snout.

 

An elegant eyebrow arched at the request.  “Did I not say you had lessons to continue?  That translation will not wait a day longer.”

 

“Papa!”

 

“Listen to your Mother.”

 

Harry groaned, relinquishing the horse into the care of the stable hand reluctantly.

 

“We all have our burdens to bear, child,” Odin said, pulling off his gloves as an attendant brought a basin of water for him to wash his face.  “You would not like the task of sitting upon a throne. Especially today.”

 

“Are you going to deal with the intruders from last night, Grand’pierre?”

 

The blue eye studied the child's curious face before answering.  Most likely to judge how much they knew and should know. Finally, the elder said, “Aye, child.”

 

“Are they dangerous?”

 

“Anyone who invades a home unjustly is dangerous.”

 

Thor could tell that Harry burned with curiosity.  Luckily, Harry knew that when it came to Allfather, one was not to press him for information.  If he wished, he could keep them all in the dark about the two strangers. He could have already had them dispatched as he enjoyed the morning antics with them, and they would not have been the wiser.

 

“Lessons, Harry,” Loki reminded, cutting through the silence that settled as the mortal stared up at the god.  There was always a small fear from that other time about Odin, that Odin would take away his happiness. Whether it be his title, Thor, or Harry, he had visions these treasures being stripped from him.  And again he would be the mischievous Frost Giant brat who all pitied. In this time, though, their father's only fault was a distance that years of ruling and experience had made. Distance that even Harry's boundless love could not heal fully.

 

Harry nodded slowly at the summons, turning back to face his parents.  There was still the need to ask questions burning in his eyes, but for right now, he was satisfied.

 

That made one of them.

 

****

 

Loki and Thor both oversaw Harry's lesson.  Usually, Loki only assisted with anything that dealt with books and Thor with anything that was physical.  But today, both were trying to keep busy and stay with their Little One. Harry didn't object, rather enjoying the distraction.

 

His mother wasn't.  “Tell me, Brother, in what plane of existence can one smell blue.”

 

“Does that not look like the symbol for smell?!”

 

“The ink is obviously smudged.  Here, my Little Lamb, we learn the value of context clues.”

 

“And book maintenance.  How did this book get smudged in the first place?”

 

“It's a very old tome.  Probably just age.”

 

“Or maybe a certain someone who liked to read while eating instead of sword practice smudged it.”

 

“Are you accusing me?”

 

Harry giggled from between them, before letting out a whimper of pain.  Immediately, both parents’ attention was him.

 

“What troubles you, my Lightning Bolt?” Thor asked, bending to stare into the emerald eyes.

 

“It is nothing, Papa.  Just my eyes.”

 

“Has the spell already wore off?” Loki said with disbelief.  “You should have said something sooner.”

 

“No, it just irritates my eyes now.  Everything is still out of focus.”

 

“Your eyesight must have changed.  I suppose we will have to have a healer look them over again,” the father said, running a hand through the black locks.  He deftly avoided the scar. As Harry had gotten older, the lighting bolt mark that had brought the babe to them had become a prickly issue.  The child would occasionally wake with vague nightmares and complaining of pains in the scar. The Prince was also sure there were a few in the palace who voiced their doubts about the scar’s authenticity when it came to Loki's faithfulness quite openly to his little one.  He told Harry not to give such talk credence, as well as comforting him when the nightmares came. The scar, he explained, was proof that Harry came from a line of warriors. He should feel proud of it. Harry had agreed, but still looked uneasy when it was touched.

 

“My Princes,” the family all turned to face a guard, still in court attire and armour, in the doorway of their private apartments.  “Allfather requests your presence in his chambers.”

 

“This lesson has formally come to an end,” the God of Mischief sighed.  He closed the book and handed it to the child. “Put this away and wash your face.  I will not have you going with that smudge of ink on your nose.”

 

As the child rushed off with the book, Thor turned to the guard.  “Does the child have to come, as well?”

 

“Allfather said for all three Princes.  He especially asked for the Found Prince.”

 

The two men exchanged quick nervous glances before settling into a mask of calm indifference as Harry returned.  Loki made a show of inspecting his face for more smudges, a stalling tactic that only comforted him and his spouse.  The child squirmed through the process, objecting that he had cleaned his face. Finally, he let go, knowing that any more time delayed would be noticed.

 

And one cannot keep Allfather waiting.

 

Odin was still in regal armor when they arrived.  Immediately the three knelt, heads bowed in submission.  The elder god looked down at them, his blue eye slightly softening when he came upon the smallest Prince.  “I am sure you were told of the two intruders, Princeling.”

 

Harry nodded.  “Yes, Allfather.”

 

“And were told you anything else?”

 

“No, Allfather.”

 

“Well I will tell you rest now, and you will not speak a word until I am done.”  The child nodded. “The two men are from Midgard,” there was a small gasp but Harry kept his word and said nothing, “they came a long way looking for one thing.  One person. You.”

 

“Are they of my blood,” Harry asked, his voice betraying a bit of hope.  How could one not want to know such a thing?

 

“No.”  The child took the news with grace, through there was a little sadness in his eyes at the words.  “They say they are your countrymen and knew your…,” for a moment the king and grandfather struggled to find words.  “They knew your family. They say they are of your kind.”

 

“Kind?”

 

“Allfather, are you certain of these men’s honesty?  How did they even know Harry was here?” Thor asked.

 

“They knew because of this.”  Odin made a motion to a guard who came forward with a paper made object.  The older two Princes recognized it as the mortal named ‘envelope’. It had, will be, centuries since, until, they had seen it.  It was passed to the child, who held it like a baby bird. The emerald eyes passed over the words in absolute wonder.

 

“Harry James Potter, Thorson, Prince of Asgard.  The Princes’ Wing near the Gardens. The Palace of Odin, Asgard,” he read, his voice halting and slow as many children's voices were when reading aloud.  “Harry James Potter? I don't understand.”

 

“Your name, my Little Lamb,” Loki said quietly, unable to keep his arms from wrapping around the little mortal.  “That is your name. The one your true mother gave you.”

 

Harry looked up at Loki, his eyes bright.  “Did you know?”

 

“Only your first name.  If I knew the rest you would know it.  I would never keep that from you.”

 

“They know the child’s exact location,” Thor said, reading from over Harry's other shoulder.  He didn't touch the child but his presence was enough to sooth. “How can that be? How can they address something to them if they are searching for him?!”

 

“It probably is some type of enchantment.”  The brunette god stood and began to pace. “Based on blood most likely.  What else could it be?”

 

The God of Thunder also stood.  “Did they give reason, Allfather, why they came looking now of all times?”

 

“They say the child is reaching an age that holds meaning in their community in Britain.”

 

“‘A certain age’?  What does that even mean?!”

 

“‘Dear Mister Potter, We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.  Yours sincerely, Minerva McGonagall Deputy Headmistress.’”

 

The three gods looked to the little mortal in surprise.  He had opened the envelope and reading from looked one of several sheets of parchment.  

 

“I’m a….wizard.”

 

****

 

His mother and father looked over the letter and attached parchment carefully after that.  He refused to give up the envelope, though; as much it worried Papa the fact it had his true name was enough to make it special and worth keeping.

 

Harry loved his adopted parents, deeply.  He would and could never replace them. But there was always the thought in his mind that he was never truly their child.  It was no guarded secret that Allfather refused to allow his sons to conceive children together until they had 'proven themselves'. Harry had watched Loki drink a potion once a month for nearly all his life to prevent such an occurrence.  He had also been told since he was old enough to understand the line of succession that he was not an heir to the throne. He could see why. He would most likely die of old age before his Father even gains his first white hair or wrinkle.  He may have been raised in Asgard, be accepted in Asgard, he was not of Asgard.

 

And he did not care about any of that.  He was happy being his parents first child.  They would have others, and they would be wonderful parents.  Because they had been wonderful parents to him. And those children would grow up to rule.  And they would reign long and mercifully. Harry felt this with every fiber of his being. And there was some power he could wield as a throneless Prince, being an advocate for the common people of Asgard.  What he wanted was to be useful to both Asgard and Midgard and to know of the latter. If he could be of some petty use to his homeworld or know just a bit more of that far off place, he may feel at peace.   

 

Loki and Thor were still discussing the letter.  It was more a circular conversation of asking the other about the meaning of a word or phrase and the other agreeing there was more than meets the eye in it.  Harry knew what would happen; eventually one or both would decide that he should be no longer present for this discussion. A discussion he had barely been part of but still.  They would beg Allfather’s permission to take him back to their apartments, which Allfather may grant simply because what use would a child be to such a matter. If Mama took him a copy of him would stay to keep him company, and make sure he didn't try to sneak out.  He would probably say such sweet words to him, insist on reading from his lesson books so he wouldn’t fall too far behind. If Papa had his way, he would probably send him to train with the Warriors Three, hoping the physical activity and companionship would distract him from the letter.

 

Harry James Potter

 

That wasn't useful.  That got him nothing.  That would get everyone nothing.  The men of Midgard most likely would be either executed or sent back to Midgard empty handed.  A just fate, if they were lying about their motives or had come for some ill purpose. But if they weren't, if they only wanted to help.  To teach…

 

School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

 

“Child,” Odin's voice cut through his thoughts.  “What is on your mind?”

 

When had he stood?  When had he walked so close to Allfather?  He wasn't sure. He was sure of very little.  But he was sure of this.

 

“I wish to meet the intruders, Allfather.”

 

That stopped the other Princes from their talks.

 

“Do you now, Princeling?” the elder stroked his chin thoughtfully,  as though considering. But the blue eye looked deep into Harry's he knew they had an accord.

 

“They came to meet me, yes?  I should see them myself. Hear their explanations from their own lips.”

 

“Harry, no!”  Mama was over to him at once, turning him to face him.  “This could very well be a trap!”

 

“What fool would spring a trap in their enemy's home, while they are held in custody of said enemy?” the king asked with a chuckle.

 

“Harry, these men,” Papa's voice was very sad and careful when he spoke, “they could be the ones responsible for your parents’ death.”

 

“I know.”  Harry stroked a thumb over the paper.  “But if they are, shouldn't I be able to look them in the eye?”

 

He could tell his parents had nothing to argue against that statement.  Odin stood, the room coming to attention. “Four hours from now, have the child be ready.  We shall meet in our private dining chamber.”

 

They spent the four hours in near silent activity.  Loki called for a bath to be drawn for Harry, probably only so he and Thor could privately talk.  Harry didn't object, he was not going to be deterred. When he came back to his room he found clothes laid out for him and his mother waiting with a hairbrush.

 

“Do not take this as me being happy with your choice,” Loki said, his voice sounding mildly defeated, “but I will say I am proud of you.”

 

They dressed him in black leggings and a plain white tunic.  Harry had wanted to wear one of his gowns, but his mother had explained that would not be wise.  “If these men do indeed intend to do harm, you will need more freedom of movement.”

 

When it was time to go, Papa stopped him for a moment.  “Remember, you bear my mark my Lightning Bolt. Whether they hurl insults or shower you with flattery, that will always be true.  You are Harry, Son of Thor.”

 

Harry Thorson

 

Harry nodded and hugged him tightly.  He felt a kiss on top of his head and a whispered, “Our Little Brave One,” over his head.  He had to keep going.

 

He knew Loki would find a way to come with him.  Maybe would turn into a small animal, and insist on being held or placed on his shoulder so he could watch the proceedings.  Maybe he would turn simply invisible and walk in after the child, moving objects and stealing things from the mortals. But as Harry waited with him in a side room, the mischievous Frost Giant turned into a serving woman, a smile playing on her lips.

 

“Remember who you were found and raised by.  You are as much Harry, son of Loki, as Thor's.  I will be beside you. If there is ever a moment you are in danger, I will be there.”

 

They had to wait several minutes more, Harry his usual fidgety self and the ‘servant’ pacing as was her want.  Occasionally she would walk by the child and adjust his hair to one side then the other to find what looked more suitable.  Finally the door opened, and a guard appeared.

 

“My Prince,” he said quietly and bowed.  Parent and child exchanged quick glances and then entered.

 

Harry was unsure what he expected from two men from Midgard: he knew very little of the place apart from stories.  But neither man seemed to fit within those parameters. The younger one, the one covered in blood, was tall and thin with black unwashed hair.  His black eyes were staring transfixed Harry. It made him feel uneasy. The other man was older. Much older. His hair and long beard were completely white and his skin was lined with the signs of his age and wisdom.  But his eyes were bright and energetic. They were blue and sparkled like sapphires as they stared down at him. They crinkled a little around the edges as the man smiled.

 

“Hello, Harry,” the man said fondly.  “It is wonderful to finally find you.”

Chapter Text

“Hello, Harry.  It is wonderful to finally find you.”

 

The boy fidgeted some at the words, his eyes sweeping over them once more.  It was probably the closest Little Prince had gotten to anything resembling a commoner in this world.  Severus held back a snort at the thought.

 

“Hello, sir,” Potter said, giving a small quick nod.  

 

“So this is indeed the child you seek?” Odin asked, his eyes still watchful and suspicious.

 

“Yes, this most certainly is,” Albus replied, a cheerful smile on his face, his own eyes never leaving the child's direction.  “Harry, I am sure you have many questions. I am sure we all do. I think it is best if we start simple, don't you?”

 

The boy looked lost as to how to respond, but nodded.

 

“My name is Albus Dumbledore.  Beside, this dour fellow, is Severus Snape.  We are from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  I am unsure if you have been able to receive our letter.”

 

“I have,” Potter said.  He turned slightly to the serving woman whispered something.  The woman smiled, almost tenderly, and withdrew the folds of skirts the letter in question before passing it to her charge.  The boy took the letter like it was fragile and likely to break if held too tightly. He seemed to pause on the envelope for a moment, his thumb running over the words tenderly.

 

‘Already like his Father,” Severus thought distastefully, ‘Arrogant and full of himself.’

 

“I am quite pleased you have gotten your letter,” Albus cut through his thoughts as usual, warmly watching the boy draw out the letter.  “We can answer any questions you may have.”

 

Odin coughed from a little ways away, reminding them of his presence, but said nothing.  Potter shifted a little, taking out the letter once more and looking it over. The boy's mind was a near open book even for those who were not knowledgeable of Legilimency.  There were questions burning inside him, but also an anxiety and uncertainty, most likely caused by them being strangers and coming like thieves in the night. A good healthy distrust never hurt anyone.

 

“If I may begin, sirs,” the boy finally said, “Am I to take from your letter that I am a wizard?”

 

The Headmaster chuckled.  “Yes, Harry. Indeed you are.”

 

“And my….parents?  Were they also….wizards?”

 

“The term we use for female magic folk is witch, and yes your mother and father was a witch and wizard.”

 

“Were they killed because they were magic folk?”

 

That took Severus aback.  He had expected many questions from the boy.  Questions about Hogwarts, magic, who they were, why he was covered in blood.  He had not expected this question. Yet, why wouldn't the boy want to know? The Potion Master did not know what the boy had been told of his original home, but surely they would have told him his parents were dead.  Had they told the boy it was because of his parents’ gifts that they had been killed, as way to control him? Had they simply assumed humans, as was painfully true, were naturally violent and they were just randomly killed?  Or maybe they had not given the boy an explanation. A worse fate; to be left with questions for too long.

 

Dumbledore seemed unsurprised by the question, only saddened.  “No. They were killed by another wizard.”

 

Potter nodded and looked down at the envelope in his hands, stroking the paper thoughtfully with his thumb.  The serving woman near him fidgeted near him, and Severus's eagle eyes observed that for one fraction of a second she seemed to want to reach for the boy.  The boy seemed to find some resolve and opened the envelope. He drew out the letter and the school list.

 

“You say you are from this school.  This ‘Hogwarts’,” Harry said, waving a hand to the paper.

 

“Yes!” Albus shifted gears on a sickle.  The bright happy grandfather was back. “Hogwarts is the oldest educational institutions for wizarding children.  Most children in Britain attend-"

 

“Britain?!”  The emerald eyes grew huge with wonder at the word.  “It's in Britain? Is it in England? In London?!”

 

How surreal it was, to have a child raised in Asgard, the mythical realm of the Norse gods to speak of London as though it was some fantastical place.  Severus almost felt pity. Almost.

 

“Hogwarts, while indeed is in Britain, is in a country called Scotland.  Though, when you get your school supplies we will have to arrange for you to go shopping in London.  Some of the best shops in the world are in London. I know there is a lovely tea shop in Victoria-"

 

“You sound confident that the boy will be leaving with you.  Far too confident,” Odin growled. The Potion Master saw out of the corner of his eye several guards ready their blades.  Even the serving woman seemed ready to fight them, her eyes staring piercingly into his.

 

“I am confident that you will see that the boy needs this opportunity.  I am not about to take him. But as the Headmaster of Hogwarts, a representative of the wizarding community at large, and the executor of the Potters’ estate, it is my duty to make sure Harry's educational needs are met.”

 

“And they cannot be met here?”

 

Albus turned to the king, though only partially, keeping Harry in the conversation even tangentially.  “May I ask you both a question? How old was Harry when he first performed a feat of magic?”

 

“I was four, sir,” the boy said before the elder god could respond.  The boy was already charmed by Albus, it was obvious. Maybe it was the novelty.  Maybe it was being tied to a past he knew little about. Maybe, like James, he liked tweaking the nose of those in authority.  Severus had yet to decide.

 

“Let me guess.  It happened because you were scared, sad, or stressed.”

 

Potter blushed and nodded.

 

“Your point?”  Odin sounded annoyed, but there was an edge of defensiveness.

 

“Most magical children begin to show accidental magic between the ages of two to four.  Since their magic is still growing and maturing, it is unstable. Magic is tied as much to the emotional world of the child to the physical.  It only becomes stable enough to be controlled when the child is ten or eleven. It is why it is around that age that we begin teaching them around that age.”

 

“If what you are saying is true, Harry should have no problem being educated now that he is of age.”

 

Dumbledore shook his head.  “Again it is not that easy. I am sure that even here, in your realm, there are those who can do magic.”

 

Potter looked like he was about to say something was stopped short.  The serving woman’s face went unnaturally calm. Odin's eye narrowed.  

 

‘Yes, there are.’ Severus thought.

 

“I am unsure how magic works here, but in our realm, nearly all must channel their magic through the use of wand.  Each wand is unique and is made of earthly material, that calls to each wizard or witch individually. Once wand and wizard bond, well, the effects are spectacular.  At Hogwarts, we take children who have just been given their wands and teach them the spells and fundamentals of magic. Harry is of Earth, or Midgard as you would say.  His magic is tied there. We will ensure he gets a wand, educate him in not only spellcraft, but my colleague here Professor Snape, shall teach Harry potions.” Snape felt all eyes flick to him in instant before going back to the Headmaster.  “We will teach him the history of his people. As he gets older, he will learn about the creatures of our world and how to read our stars. All this while he will be with peers his own age, learning side by side with them.”

 

“His own age…,” Odin repeated slowly.  That seemed to give him pause.

 

“Naturally!  Everyone starts from the same place.  We do have holiday breaks, winter and summer.  He may return here! He may take time off and visit his relatives!”

 

“Relatives?” Potter repeated the word, his entire body buzzing with excitement.  

 

“Your mother's sister and her family.  I am sure they would be overjoyed to meet you.”

 

The Potion Master nearly bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.  ‘Tuny’ probably would probably indeed be happy to know her nephew was safe and sound, but she probably would never want to see him, let alone have him in her ‘normal’ house.  Both Odin and the serving woman looked uncomfortable at the mention of relatives, almost painfully guilty.

 

“How long will this...education...take?” the king asked.

 

“Seven years.  Until the boy is an adult, or at least according to Wizarding standards.  It begins September first, which is in several months. I confess we came even before you, properly turned eleven, Harry, but we wanted to make sure you were safe and you and your guardians had a say in if you go to Hogwarts.”

 

“So there is a choice, whether or not the child goes with you.”

 

“Absolutely.” Albus’s smile was nearly blinding and his eyes twinkled.  Severus had to admire the gall he possessed. “If you feel you can give Harry a safe wizarding education with children his own age, then by all means.”

 

There was a beat of silence, in which the only sound was the fidgeting of Harry Potter.

 

*****

 

“Did he honestly say that to Father?!” Thor looked flabbergasted at his spouse.

 

Loki nodded.  “Father didn't know what at all to say to that, so he sent them back to their rooms.”

 

“And what did he say once they were gone?”

 

“Simply asked if I had heard them and believed them.”

 

“And do you?”

 

“I…,” the God of Mischief bit his lip.  “I believe they were honest but I feel there is more they are not telling us.  Not telling Harry.”

 

The blonde frowned.  “Not telling? Why wouldn't they tell us or Harry?  Surely if they wish him to come to this school or be part of his homeworld, wouldn't they say everything they could.”

 

“Maybe Harry is too young for information.  Honestly, we do not tell him everything because of his age.  And as for us, we are outsiders. Would you tell them about Thanos?”

 

It had been years since either of them had said the name.  There was no stated rule to avoid it; they simply did. Even as the name was said, Loki's face turned pale as Thor's turned red.

 

“No.”

 

Loki sat down heavily on the bed, his eyes softening.  “They know his date of birth. They say he has an aunt.  Who has a family. There are children like him. His own age.”

 

Thor knelt in front of his spouse, his hands resting on his knees.  “We knew there were others like him. We knew he could have had relatives.  We knew he would one day might-"

 

“Why are you being so damn calm?!”  His emerald eyes were cold as ice as he glared at the other.  “He's my-"

 

“Our.  He's our child.  I do not wish him to go!  I want him to stay! To be here, with us, forever.  But is that best for Harry?” The God of Thunder took a deep breath.  “If you could go and visit Jotunheim-"

 

“Don’t!”  He shook his head.  “That's not fair. I never knew that place.  I do not wish to know that place. Not now. Not then.”

 

“But Harry may feel differently.  Harry does feel differently! He's always wanted to know of Midgard.  You and I know only so much, and nothing of his people. And he does need to be educated, not only of history but on his power.”

 

“They say he needs a wand.  Something of Earth to channel it.”

 

Thor nodded solemnly.  “He will not find that here.  Loki, my love, I know you. You know me.  We both know Harry. I know you will find a way to be nearby for them.  You know I will watch the child myself. And we both know Harry will expect that of us.”

 

Loki sighed heavily and bent forward, pressing his forehead to his husband's.  “When did you become the reasonable one?”

 

“I have my moments.”

 

“I will have to put some conditions on this.  Some spells and arrangements must be made.”

 

“Aye.  I do not let my Lightning Bolt go so freely.”

 

****

 

“You lied to a god.”

 

“Did I lie?”

 

“You misstated the facts to a god.”

 

“Did I?”

 

Severus put his head in hands.  “Eventually, as the boy grows older and if He ever comes back-"

 

“And he will.”

 

“Education is not our only concern here.  We are in a Cold War, I grant you, but we are still in a war!  And with that Stone you've agreed to hide, you think it's going to go unnoticed?  That he's different!?”

 

Albus blissfully smiled in a way that made the Potion Master want to wring his neck.  “I am first and foremost a teacher.”

 

“Do not fucking lie to me or yourself.”  He was on his feet at once. In the darkness of their rooms, in this strange unfamiliar world, there was a feeling of equilibrium that Severus had never felt with the Headmaster.  He knew such a feeling may never happen again, so he was about to seize upon it. “The first moment anyone mentions The Dark Lord and the War and the Potters, you realize they'll see what we are doing.  What YOU are doing. They're warriors by fucking nature!”

 

“They don't know the prophecy.”

 

“THEY DON'T NEED TO!  You don't think a child who survives the killing curse will be something just to a god as to a mortal!”

 

The old man just smiled.  “Tell me, Severus. How did they say they came into possession of the boy?”

 

Severus opened his to mouth to retort but stopped short.  He thought back on all of the past twenty four hours. Every conversation.  Every uttered word. “They never did.”

 

Albus nodded.  “Now tell me; what is the most defining physical feature of Harry Potter?”

 

Lily's eyes . “His scar.”

 

“I suspect that scar was the reason these gods felt compelled to adopt him.  They may feel Harry is under their protection. By magical contract. I am not suggesting that the boy is unloved, or kept only out of obligation, but I am saying-"

 

“They think they are the reason he is alive.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Not prophesy or freak accident or counterspell by Lily.  But their protection.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Severus sagged back into his chair as he absorbed the information.  “So you are going to lie to a god.”

 

“That would be a more accurate statement, yes.”

 

The younger man bit back a sarcastic laugh.  “Jesus Christ, you will be the death of me Albus.”

 

****

 

Harry wasn't swimming in options of people to confide to in Asgard.  Children his age fell into two categories: either infants or children old enough to gossip.  Harry usually didn't care about such things, but he had a feeling Allfather did not want such things spoken about so openly.  But Harry wanted to talk. He needed to talk!

 

Once he and his mother had returned to their apartments, he had been sent straight to bed.  He could tell Loki was pained by the conversation that had taken place and he knew pressing to speak about such things would only pain him further.  So he had waited until the his bedroom was thoroughly shut tight behind the other before leaping out of bed and rushing to the window. He had climbed out of the window several times before.  His father had once threatened to give him a room without a window. This had never happened. Besides, Harry only needed to climb down a few feet to one of the palace’s numerous balconies.

 

The balcony in question overlooked his parents’ garden.  Small and private, unlike the main gardens where Allmother and her ladies held court, the enclosed area was mostly pretty flowers and ferns.  His mother liked reading beside those flowers and his father enjoyed practicing his sword technique away nearby. Harry, hating sitting still for too long, rather enjoyed bringing in hunting hounds and falcons into the garden and ruining the quiet.  Loki did not enjoy animals in the garden and usually made his displease known. But one type of animal was always permitted stay.

 

“Hello, friends!” Harry called as loudly as he dared.  He did not have to wait long. Slowly, with careful leisurely movements several serpentine heads lifted from the undergrowth.  One snake, a long nearly silver in the moonlight female slithered up the vine that grew parallel with the balcony, but dared not come closer.

 

“Hail, Harry of Midgard.  The moon is out. We are trying to hunt and rest.” The female explained, not unkindly.  She was the oldest of the snakes and the mother of most of the brood that remained in the garden.  She had been Loki’s engagement gift to Thor and her mate had been a gift on their wedding day. As shrewd and diplomatic as any courtier, she took her position seriously and looked upon the child of her masters’ as if he was her own hatchling.  But she still had her own brood to consider.

 

“I’m sorry!  I just want to tell someone.  There are men here from Midgard!”  The best thing about telling a snake anything is how unfazed they were.  He may has well told them about a new gown or that he was thinking of dying his hair.  They simply continued to stare. “They knew my family from Midgard!  They have come to teach me magic. Well, I must go to Midgard and learn magic, but they have come to teach me!  They come from a place called Hogwarts-”

 

“What a rude name.”

 

“I think it’s funny!”

 

“So you wish to go?  To Midgard and learn magic?” The female asked.  She studied him a critical eye.

 

“I…,” Harry’s voice failed him.  He did want to go. To learn and to be with people like him.  How could he not want that. But still. “I’m scared.”

 

The worst thing about telling a snake anything is unfazed they were.  The old female did not reply or offer a word of comfort, and her brood went back to the underbrush, leaving the little mortal alone in the Asgardian moonlight.

 

Chapter Text

“Good morning, my Lightning Bolt!”

 

Harry whined and rolled away from the booming voice.  They had slept fitfully, alternating between wistful dreams and nightmares.  Their fear from the night before had blossomed into a near panic. In one nightmare, Odin had sent them to Midgard naked and unarmed.  In that dream, Midgard was a barren dark world where two serpents gobbled up every little morsel that was wandered their way. The dream had concluded with Harry screaming out in vain as one of the giant creatures had began to swallow them whole.

 

“Come now, Harry.  This is unbecoming of a Princeling,” Thor chidded as he came nearer the bed.

 

The child pulled up their blankets over their head and groaned.  “Please, Papa.”

 

“Harry, you have to get up.  Grand’pierre wishes you to be ready.”

 

The breath in Harry's chest went cold.  They were going to send them away! Just give them to strangers!  They felt their eyes become heavy and watery with tears and their shoulders began to shake.

 

“What is all this?” The blonde god was on the other side of the bed in a flash, his voice soft and soothing.  “Harry, speak now. Tell me what is wrong, child.”

 

“Y-you’re s-s-sending m-me away!”

 

“NO!  MY CHILD, NO!”  The blanket was thrown aside and the child in question was lifted into the strong arms of their Father.  “How could you think us so cruel, my Lightning Bolt!?”

 

“A-Allf-father is g-going to send m-me to Midgard un-unarmed!”

 

“Harry, no! Whatever gave you that idea!”

 

“M-must g-go with my-my kind!  M-must con-control my m-m-magic!”

 

“Aye, controlling your gift is important, but so is your happiness.  So is mine and your mother's. Do you think we would ever be happy sending you away?  Especially unarmed and with no way to look after you?”

 

Harry sniffed and rubbed their eye.  “No-no?”

 

“My Little One, answer me truly.  Do you wish to go to this ‘Hogwarts’?”

 

They fidgeted slightly.  “A little. I want to learn.  I want to know my people. My kin.”

 

Thor kissed his forehead tenderly.  “And I want that for you. But I also want you safe.  We are not sending you away forever and nor are we sending you without a way for us to be with you at a moment's notice.”

 

They sniffed again.  “What if Grand’pierre forbids you?”

 

“Your Mother would follow you to Valhalla and back, regardless of what Allfather said.  Besides, he has gone to ensure we speak with these men of Midgard formally. If they wish you to go to this school, they will have to accept our terms. And so will you.”

 

That made Harry straighten their spine.  Their Father rarely spoke of terms lightly.  And in spite of the fear, they were still eager to go on this journey.  They had never gone a hunt alone like the other children their age. Most children by this age had gone and stalked their first boar or deer, bringing the pelt back in triumph.  Harry had looked on in envy as children under the palace’s swordmaster had come to show off their trophies; a tusk or a piece of antler made into jewelry, a belt of hide, or even hoof all shown with relish and smug pride.  Harry, on the other hand, had asked repeatedly for the honor only to be denied. They had been allowed to accompany a hunting party, even participate. But a solo hunt was always out of reach. This was different. This was something far greater.  This was to Midgard.

 

“I will make you and Asgard proud, Papa.”

 

Thor gave out a booming laugh.  “I know you will! I have no doubt!  Now, we must speak about these terms with Allfather and get you ready.  Your mother was beside herself this morning with all this planning, she did not make a copy to assist me or the servants.  So you will have to be patient if I do not know how you like your hair or your favorite tunic.” Their father gave them a critical stare.  “How do you feel today, my Lightning Bolt?”

 

Harry blushed.  “I feel between, Papa.  Is that…”

 

“That is perfectly fine.  Let not soul tell you otherwise.”

 

“My Princes?” A soft voice called from the door.  “Is the Little One ready for us.”

 

Thor placed Harry down in front of small vanity and bowl of water.  They could see the red swelling of their eyes and light tracks of tears that been left.  Quickly, they threw several splashes of water on their face and took several quiet but calming breaths.  No matter what, they were a prince.

 

“I am ready,” they called, turning quickly to face the door.  Their elbow clumsily caught on a brush and goblet on the vanity and clattered to the floor, narrowly missing their feet.  Their hair still stuck up at odd angles, and their sleeping shift was still twisted around their body from tossing and turning in the night.  But still as the servants filed in with the changing screen and bolts of cloth, Harry stood as tall and proud as any of the Warrior Three.

 

Thor could not have been prouder.

 

****

 

In the morning, both Severus and Albus broke down and ate the food that was brought to them.  They hadn't eaten in over twenty four hours, so they were nearly ravenous. Severus for his part, tore off most of a loaf of bread for himself and several hunks of cheese, barely stopping as he ate to breathe.  The Headmaster was a little more dignified, but didn't pause to wipe his beard as he slowly ate hard-boiled eggs. To the credit of the Asgardians, if they had indeed poisoned the food, they had been patient in their efforts.

 

As Severus reached for the other lesser half of bread he had tossed aside, a servant entered in the company of the same guard that had taken them to Odin the night before.  “I beg your pardons, sirs, but I am here to get you ready to meet with the Princes.”

 

Princes.  Plural. Interesting.

 

“Are we not going to finish our conversation with Odin, my apologies, Allfather?” Albus asked sweetly.  

 

The guard looked at the old man with a suspicious glare.  “Allfather has deferred all matters pertaining to Prince Harry to the Princes.”

 

Severus chewed the heel of bread thoughtfully.  So Odin had washed his hands of the issue. All to the good, he supposed.  It meant less of the ceremony if they were to contend with these...gods...when getting Potter.  But this again had left them in sticky predicament. Neither of them knew the royal or political structure of this realm, and even if they were to gain knowledge, they would never be able to manipulate it as they could the Ministry or the Pureblood elites in their's.

 

He swallowed.  “Can I get that clean change of clothes now?  Doubt they want me in this.” He waved a hand over the still filthy robe and trousers.

 

“I may have a few spare robes, but it may take time to prepare them,” the serving woman offered helpfully.  “But I was told to make sure you were ready for this afternoon.”

 

“Oh, you don't have to trouble yourself, my dear,” Dumbledore said reaching into his pocket and drawing out a black and blue robe and trouser set.  He placed it on the table, his mischievous twinkle bright as the servant looked as charmed as any first year.

 

“This entire time.  Not a word. You will be the death of me, Albus.”

 

“You should have asked.”

 

“I-"

 

“Are your theatrics done?”  The guard had not been won over, looking even more critically at the pair of them.  “I still report to Allfather and Prince Thor. I can still see your privileges revoked.”

 

Prince Thor.  Made sense. Especially when it came to Potter's scar.  And this guard worked for both. Interesting. Separate spheres but still interacting.  Again, in terms of a royal family this made perfect sense. It also meant they were being monitored.  Or were the Princes being monitored?

 

“Do you want me to change in front of you, or am I allowed some privacy?”

 

In answer, the serving woman clapped her hands and three more women entered.  Between two of them, they carried a small screen. Enough to conceal but not truly hide the act of changing.  The third carried a bowl of sweet smelling water with two washcloths on either side. They erected the screen on the far side of the room and placed the bowl beside it so it was in reach.  The guard stared pointedly at it.

 

“I'm going.  I'm going,” Severus grabbed the new clothing roughly.  “Don't want offend.” ‘More than we already have apparently.’

 

“Forgive my rudeness,” Albus spoke up, his voice calm and tired trying to play up his age, “but I believe you said Prince Thor?”

 

“Aye, I did.”  It was said matter-of-factly.

 

“Are we to assume that Thor is Odin's, I apologize, Allfather's son?  His biological son, I mean.”

 

“Prince Thor is the heir and natural son of Allfather Odin and Allmother Frigga.  He is a mighty warrior and fair counselor. And one day, he and his spouse shall sit the throne, and their reign will be long and just.”

 

A spouse?  Princes. Plural.

 

“His spouse?”

 

The guard eyed the old man.  “Prince Loki.”

 

Severus nearly tripped on his shoes from behind the screen.  The serving women looked startled as he righted himself. “‘Prince Loki’?  He's...married to a man?!” Wizards, unlike muggles, recognized and allowed gays and lesbians to marry, but there was an unspoken pressure not to.  The community was small and after two wizarding wars, the need for new generations pushed many into heterosexual marriages or at least to submit to surrogacy.  Many, like Albus Dumbledore, remained bachelors as a form of protest against the pressure to be baby creating automatons. That was modern mortal magical society.  But here in this mythical realm of gods…

 

The guard chuckled.  “Prince Loki is not a man.  They are a Prince of Asgard.”

 

They.  Ah.

 

“Excuse my ignorance,” Albus said, his voice sweet and as casual as though he was asking after a distant relative over tea, “but on Earth, my mistake, Midgard, Loki and Thor in our legends are brothers.  Maybe misunderstanding. Maybe mistranslation. Maybe-"

 

“They are siblings,” one of the serving girls chirped.

 

Severus choked on his tongue.  Albus’s face seemed frozen in a blissful smile.

 

“S-siblings?!  They're related?!”

 

“Not by blood.  Prince Loki is from Jotunheim, and the natural born child of King Laufey.  They were given to Allfather's protection and grace as a sign of peace between Asgard and the Ice Giants.  They were granted the title of Prince and to be a prize for Allfather. But Prince Thor asked for his siblings hand as an adolescent, and they wedded, bringing peace within the Nine Realms.”  The guard’s voice waved with patriotic fervor as he concluded the tale. One serving girl dabbed her eye with a silk scarf.

 

“Prince Thor and Prince Loki were always intended to wed!”  One woman said, her matter ruder and less awed than the others.  “If Prince Thor accepted the match. Well I suppose an Ice Giant's cunt warms up as good as any.”

 

“Stop!”  A tiny woman slapped the other.  “Prince Loki loves Prince Thor. And one day, they will have children.  I mean,” she looked nervously around, “natural born.”

 

So Potter was an adopted child in a political marriage.  Nothing unusual; the Ministry may claim that arranged marriages were banned, but the Pureblood elites still brokered the bonding of their children in an effort to keep money, blood, and power in their circles.  

 

As Severus walked from behind the screen, his and Albus’s eyes met.  

 

Tread carefully.  

 

****

 

In that before time, Loki was always...himself.  When Odin had discovered Loki dressing in gowns and among the palace women, he had had them stripped and paraded around the training yard.  What was acceptable for Asgardian populace was not so for a Prince .  Thor had kept silent during the incident, like so many during that time, and another wound was added to his beloved.  Loki presented masculine to appease their Father, and stayed silent about any fluidity they felt. But Thor knew. In New York...in that...time, Thor had seen not only the fear in Loki but the gleam of that said, ‘sister’.  And still he stayed silent, refusing even her to come be recognized by her enemies. When he had brought her back to Asgard gagged, he remembered leaning over and whispering, “Forgive my rudeness, my Lady.” The pained longing and relief that he received was how he began to realize his long buried feelings were returned.

 

But that was then.

 

In this time, Loki had allowed more autonomy in their presentation, to a point.  She was forbidden in wearing anything that could be seen as Ice Giant. She was denied wearing royal purples or scarlets, unless they were gifted to her.  Even her helm, her proud crown, had been denied her during some events so she may appear more gentle.

 

But today was all her design.  Her brown and black leather finely cut leggings and chest piece, cut to showcase every curve (as well as allow for ease of movement).  Her green robe was trimmed with wolf fur, a dire wolf she had slain herself. She had chosen her smaller golden helm, the horns not as long but still impressive and most definitely sharpened.

 

“Subtle, sister.”  He sardonically teased.

 

An elegant eyebrow lifted at him, roaming over his own appearance.  He had chosen to wear his best armor plates for his chest, legs, and arms, polished past the point of silver to almost appear blue.  His arms were bare, allowing one to see his muscular biceps and forearms. He had his usual scarlet cape, and had even brought Mjolnir.

 

“I could say the same to you.”

 

“MAMA!”  Harry ran into the room with their boundless energy, straight to Loki.  His spouse's eyes softened as she reached to run her long fingers through the little mortal’s hair.

 

“My Little Lamb acts as if I was gone for years.  Maybe they are not ready for this adventure.” It was a light jest, but Thor caught the emerald eyes and the look of genuine doubt in them.

 

“No, I can do it!  I can do it, Mama! I want do this!  Papa told me the terms! I accept! I am a Prince, like you!  I need to prove that! For me! For you! For Papa! For…” Harry had worked themselves into quite a state and was shaking slightly as they babbled.

 

“They are just as worried about being sent away as being forbidden to go,” he informed the goddess.

 

Loki bent low to the child so their faces were on an even level.  “I will never force you to go or stay, unless the danger was too great.  Especially when it comes to matters such as this. I know what it means to be kept in the dark.  I know what it means to be...sent away.” Loki grimaced. In this time, Laufey had given his child freely to Asgard, for peace.  The Ice Giant King had never reached out to know his child; occasional gifts during birthdays or when they were married but nothing more.  To Loki, who had never known her true father in either time, it was not a mighty loss as it appeared to her child. She had said as much to Thor a thousand times.  But they both could not explain, or hope to explain, the past to Harry.  Nor was it appropriate for Harry to know.  All they needed now was understanding and love.

 

“I will not force your decision and if you ever regret what you choose, I will allow you to change your mind, but answer me now,” the brunette goddess made the child look her in the eyes.  “Is this what you want? With all the conditions?”

 

“Yes, Mama.  I want to learn. I want to know my people.”

 

“And you will return to Asgard every fortnight, if able?”

 

“Yes, Mama.”

 

“And keep to your studies?  I will not be there to tutor you, and there will be other students.  You must be diligent.”

 

“Yes, Mama.”

 

“And keep yourself fit.  I will not have you return a lazy pig.”

 

“Yes, Mama.”

 

“And-"

 

“Dearest, they're not going today!  Or even on the morrow! You're overwhelming them!”

 

Loki took a deep breath and straightened.  “You are right. But I-"

 

“Worry, yes.  As do I. They'll be fine.” Turning to Harry though, Thor said, “You will mind what your Mother has said.”

 

“Yes, Papa.”

 

“Now, Harry,” Loki drew from her belt a small ring and bent once more to the child, “we wish you to get accustomed to wearing this.  I want you to feel the markings. They are raised so you will not have to strain your eyes.”

 

The child did as they were bid, feeling the ring with their fingers.  They gasped. “They are your mark! And Papa’s!” They gasped once more.  “They move!”

 

“Yes, they do.”

 

“They split in two!”  Harry demonstrated to them, showing one half of the band doing right and the other left.

 

“Yes, my Little Lamb.  When you complete are markings and call to us on Midgard, we will come to your side.  Now, it is only a projection of us. Like the copies I can make, but we will be able to speak, touch, and help you while being here.  It will also help Heimdall find you and bring you back home, if the need arises.”

 

Harry twisted the separating bands of the ring thoughtfully.  “You won't be upset if I call for you excessively?”

 

“Not at all.”

 

“What if I don't call you?  Will you be upset?”

 

“If you keep your word about returning every fortnight, and Heimdall reports you are in no danger, I see nothing wrong.”

 

Thor smiled.  He bent down and kissed Harry's head tenderly.  “You will do us proud,my Lightning Bolt. Now we have other matters to attend to.”  Blue eyes met emerald. “Gods or Princes?”

 

Loki tapped her chin thoughtfully with an elegant long nail.  “Gods, I should think. I want them to know we will not hesitate to protect our Little One.”  Turning back to their child, she said, “We just need you to be your sweet self. We're going to have some fun with these men while we set terms.”

 

“They are my kind, Mama.  Please show them with respect.”  Both parents glowed with pride at Harry's princely request, the way they had set their chin and held still to deliver the words.  It lasted only a moment more before they nervously broke eye contact. “I just don't want them hurt. They knew my...Midgardian family.”

 

“I will not be too cruel with my jests,” Loki assured the young one.  There was a beat of silence before she turned to Thor. “Shall we take our throne, Brother?”

 

The Princes’ throne room was hardly used by them.  Most petitioners went straight to Allfather or sought out speaking to Thor directly.  Loki heard visitors once a moon here, but never as formally as this. The room was much smaller than the actual throne room, with less decorations.  All attention was to be drawn to the throne that was on a raised dais. The throne was made of polished gold, highback with elaborate detailing. Thor had commissioned it to depicting a large group of warriors defeating one large gigantic figure.  A prophecy he and Loki would see come true. Unlike his father's own seat, the throne was made for two to sit. Again, a design choice by Thor. He was not about to rule, even as Prince, without his spouse by his side. Harry had a small bench to the side of the throne, but usually stood where they pleased.  When they had been smaller, the parents would take turn having them in their lap. That time was no longer appropriate.

 

Loki sat first, arranging herself gracefully with one leg over the other and her back in a regal straight posture.  She looked smugly back at him, a daring anyone to remove her. Thor felt himself slightly harden at the look but calmed himself.  He sat on his own seat, Mjolnir at his right hand, legs firmly planted. He made himself appear more relaxed, as though sitting a throne was natural.  Unlike his spouse, it gave him very little pleasure. He felt like an intruder in this seat. An imposter. He squashed the thought.

 

“Fandral,” he called.  The man on the far side of the room saluted.  “Fetch them, will you.”

 

“More authority than that,” his spouse chided.

 

“I leave that to you.”

 

They did not have to wait long.  Fandral returned followed closely by the head palace guard and the two ‘guests’.  One, as described to him before, was very old with a long beard and gentle blue eyes.  The other looked fairly young, not conventionally attractive but not at all a pleasant fellow.  Thor could tell immediately at least that man was taken with the show: his dark eyes went wide as he gazed at them.  

 

At least it worked on one of them.

 

“Hail, visitors,” he called, masking himself in a welcoming smile.  “I hope you are enjoying your accommodations.”

 

“They are quite comfortable,” the old man said, his own smile matching Thor’s.  “I believe we must do our introductions again.” This was directed mostly it seemed to Harry, as though it was a jest between the pair of them.  The Father knew without looking over that Harry had probably smiled broadly back, enjoying the game. “I am-"

 

“Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Yes, I remember.” Loki drawled, her voice mildly impatient. “And the one who seems too busy staring at my chest and spouse's arms is Severus Snape.  I believe he was to teach our child potions.”

 

The man in question shook his head before roughly said, “That is correct.”

 

“Princess.  That is correct, my Princess.  I'll let it go this once but I don't want to correct you again.”

 

Snape nodded.

 

Dumbledore, on the other hand, simply chuckles good-naturedly.  “I see Harry has informed you.”

 

“They didn't need to.”  Loki made a copy of herself, who stood elegantly.  The copy twirled, changing into a serving girl. A serving girl that both Dumbledore and Snape recognized because they appeared shocked.  Well, one looked shocked. The older man appeared more taken back. As the copy returned, the goddess quipped, “Did you think we would have let strangers meet our child without us present?”

 

There was no response.

 

“This also helps us save time,” Thor said.  “You want to teach Harry the magic and history of their people.  We wish this for them as well.”

 

“Excellent!”

 

“Under a few conditions.”

 

Again the old man looked as though his toes had been trodden on.  But only slightly. “I suppose.”

 

“You will agree or leave without.  Those are your options,” Loki cut in.

 

“My spouse and I are anxious parents.  And Harry has never been to Midgard.”

 

“He was born there.”

 

They were raised here.  And as such, they do not know your world.  They only know what I myself know of your country in Midgard.”

 

His world and his country.  They are his as well as ours.”

 

Thor could feel Loki beside him seething, but he pressed on.  “True, it is their's as well.  If Harry chooses to after know that world after their education.   They may find that prefer here.”

 

“I'm sure once Harry makes friends and forms attachments at Hogwarts, he will come to love both worlds.”

 

Loki was drumming her fingers in annoyance.  Thor himself was near the end of his tether.

 

“My Princes,” Snape finally spoke up.  The man had a rich baritone voice and despite his earlier discomfort, he had composed himself to a calm masterly appearance.  “Your child will be in safe hands and will be respected at Hogwarts. And your wishes for them and their education will be honored.  We simply wish to know those conditions and to see if they are in our power.  And to lay out a way to make this transition as...stress free as possible.”

 

Thor hummed.  Loki relaxed. Harry fidgeted.

 

“Let us hear your conditions, if we shall get straight to the nitty gritty,” Dumbledore said, not a trace of acknowledgment of the small battle that had taken place moments before.

 

“They are quite simple,” the God of Thunder explained.

 

“For simple men,” cut in the Goddess of Mischief.

 

“Once we place Harry in your care to go to this school, we wish them to return to us every fortnight for a day or so we they may be among their family.”

 

“And so we may access if they are being cared for properly.”

 

“We also have given Harry the means to call for us if they feel the need.”

 

“Such as they are being threatened.”

 

“You mentioned a winter and summer holiday.  We wish Harry to return here during that time or for most of it.  They may make some friends so we wish them to have a chance to forge these bonds better.”

 

“We will allow Harry to be escorted by one of your...teachers at this school.  We will give them a...less dramatic way for your people to come and go from Asgard.”

 

“So we don't have to kill a bloody swan?” Snape asked sarcastically before adding, “My Princes.”

 

“Why did you have to kill a swan?” Loki asked in amusement, trying to fight off laughter.  Harry beside Thor had gasped at the notion, obviously horrified.

 

“You will most certainly not have to do that again,” Thor said.

 

“All what you have said is reasonable.” Dumbledore spoke with quietly, almost tentatively.  “We too have a few...concerns.”

 

“Are you actually going to put demands on a God?!” the goddess’s voice dripped with contempt.

 

“Not so much demands.  Simply considerations. And they may actually meet your approval.  For instance, we arrived here on the third of June, meaning it is now the fifth, if time works the same here as on Midgard.”  No one refuted him. “Term does not begin until September first.”

 

“These words are unknown to us,” Thor said.  Again Loki's fingers began to drum on her chair.

 

“It means you will be able to enjoy several weeks with Harry more.  It also allows us time to prepare as well. There are his relatives to inform, so we may work out a way to let him meet his aunt and her family.  She has a son about Harry's age.”

 

“Father!  I have a cousin!”  It was the first time Harry had spoken.  The Father could tell how excited they were without having to turn to face them.  “What is their name?”

 

“Dudley.  And your Aunt's name is Petunia.”

 

“Like the flower,” it was said with such reverence.

 

“Your mother was also named after a flower.  Her name was Lily.”

 

“Lily.”  At that Thor did glance at his child.  Their emerald eyes were shiny with unshed tears and distant, as though trying to recall the woman who had died so many years ago.  “Her name was Lily.”

 

****

 

Minerva poured herself half a glass of wine as she examined final exams.  It had been two days with little to no word from Norway. She had received a cryptic letter from the head priest of the Order of Frigga that the ritual had been a success, but to as what that entailed she had no clue.  But she had been told by Albus not to worry if they did not return or send a message for several days. Even weeks. They were going into an unknown situation and it would be critical, especially when keeping the whereabouts of Potter from the Ministry.  Only if it reached July tenth, did Albus reason it would be wise to sound alarm. And in spite of her own misgivings, she was likely to agree. After all, Albus usually right about such matters. And she was a Scot. Scots were not bred to worry needlessly.  

 

There was a knock at the door.  She frowned. It was rather late for one of her students to come asking for help.  She stood and arranged her dressing gown as wells as a simple tartan robe about her person, all while she walked to the door.

 

“Quirrell, Good Heavens, at this hour.  Is everything okay? You're back from your sabbatical!  Is something wrong with your eye?”

 

Quirinus Quirrell stood on her doorstep.  The pale thin man had been gone from the school for nearly a year.  He had left with little notice, wanting to ‘prove himself’, something other than an admittedly mediocre Muggle Studies professor.  His found temporary replacement, Charity Burbage, had quickly surpassed him in performance and love from the students. But here he was, returned home thinner and paler and with a noticeable twitch that made Minerva nervous.  He was also wearing a strange purple turban that clashed with his yellow robe

 

“H-hello M-M-Minerva.  I-I was-s-s hoping y-you were a-awake,” he stuttered.

 

“Dear Merlin, are you alright?”

 

“P-p-p-p-pefectly so.  I-I just h-had a very s-s-s-s-stres-s-s-sfull trip to Albania.  R-r-ran into a-a-a s-s-s-spot of trouble. Y-y-you may r-r-read about it in the p-p-papers tomorrow.”

 

She waved him inside toward an empty chair, which he took gratefully.  “I am glad you are back, Quirinus. We did miss you while you were gone.”

 

“D-did you?”

 

“We did.  Albus always looked forward to your letters and we saved them in the staff room.  Especially the anecdote about the snakes, we all enjoyed that one.” At the mention of ‘snakes’, the man became noticeably green and shifted in his seat.  “Quirinus?”

 

“B-bad m-m-memories.”

 

“I am sorry.  Well you have several weeks to recuperate before the new term begins.  I’m sure Charity can even split classes with you if you would prefer that.”

 

“Ac-Actually I-I w-was w-w-wanting to t-t-talk to you about th-that.  I h-h-heard about Pr-Professor Tyrell-ll.”

 

Minerva sighed.  “Yes, very sad. But at least they are going to a new opportunity and not fired like so many lost to this ‘jinx’.

 

Quirrell leaned forward and the witch got the smell of something that smelled faintly of garlic making her withdraw slightly.  “I-I w-was wondering if-f-f I could put my n-name forward for the p-p-post.”

 

“What?!  Put your name forward?!  B-but I thought you would want to continue with your Muggle Studies lesson plans.  Charity said she used much of your template when she designed her’s these year.” The Headmistress went for her glass of wine and took a large gulp to calm herself.  It wasn’t out of the question, technically. Out of everyone, besides possibly Severus, Quirrell was indeed the most qualified. He was well-educated, well-travelled, and well-connected for the job.  He was a half-blood which would appeal to Albus’s call to bring in new voices, but his family was an old one which would make him more likely to be considered to by the Board of Governors. But Quirrell, was to put it bluntly, not a good teacher.  He had always been on the weak side of discipline meaning most of classes were simply rowdy study halls. Most teachers, ghosts, students, and Peeves walked over him. The Defense of Dark Arts position usually went to someone with a little more charisma, or at least someone who could, if push came to shove, defend the school.  And in this, Quirrell was not at all suited.

 

But still, Minerva thought, he was here.  Not shrinking away from the post in fear or turning it down for a better offer.  True, he could be doing this as means to attention and to advance his career, but she could hardly blame him.  Under Fudge, Muggle-Wizarding Relations was nearly non-existent, and his usual expertise would be under utilized outside of Hogwarts.

 

“I-I w-want to ex-expand my horizons,” he said simply, or as simply as he could.

 

“I suppose that is fair.  Well, while I can pass along your resume to the Board, you will have to wait until Albus returns.  He’s currently away.”

 

“Im-important I-I s-s-suspect.”

 

“Very.”

 

“W-w-well if-f-f you s-s-see him bef-f-fore me, tell him I have very big p-p-plans already for the s-s-school year, w-w-will you?”

Chapter Text

“What time did they say he was going to arrive?” Poppy Pomfrey asked, peering at the clock on the wall.

 

“They,” Severus corrected out of force of habit, “and they said around mid morning.”

 

“They didn't give a certain time?”

 

The Potion Master bit down a comment about the lack of clocks in Asgard, but he caught Albus's eye and he shrugged.

 

Weeks ago, after Albus had told Harry their mother's name and they had been calmed, this small incursion for school supplies had been planned.  The gods had been very dubious about the need for the trip. Loki in particular had voiced the opinion that such things should be given to students by Hogwarts.  How do you explain capitalism to a goddess? Thor had taken issue with the only one pet rule, especially with the very limited pets on offer. He had seemed even more baffled when he had been informed that Harry would not need a horse and that owls were used instead of ravens in the Wizarding community.

 

Once they had reasonable explained the need for getting supplies, the pet policy, and went through another subtle round of Albus and the Gods wrangling over the gender of the child.  The child in question seemed determined to ignore the battle, though Severus had seen their shoulders get uncomfortably rigid at every he, his, or him .  After that, ‘disagreement’, the Headmaster had asked that they allow not only for a shopping trip but a mortal healer to examine them.  

 

That had immediately raised Loki's ire.  She had asked how could they assume that they had harmed Harry or did not care for the child when they were sick.  It was at the point she had threatened them, several copies all with daggers pointed at them and advancing. Quickly, Thor had calmed her and Albus had examined that on Asgard, Harry had most likely not exposed to diseases that most children by his age had been inoculated against.  Besides that, they needed to know if Harry had any underlying medical problems or physical disabilities. The child again had let slip at this point of their poor eyesight, something their parents were already going to send them to healer anyway. Apparently, in Asgard, no one needed or had invented glasses.

 

There had been some more negotiating, now with several Lokis around the room taking various positions.  How Albus could concentrate was inspiring. They're wands had been fetched, only so the Princes could witness some Midgardian magic.  Albus had turned his robe several different colors, something that amused Harry, but only made the several dozen goddesses more angry.  For his part, Severus simply summoned a jug of water and a goblet. More practical and very subtle ‘I'm not here to amuse’ message that seemed to be very appreciated.  

 

Then Albus had produced from his pockets a calendar, which he explained the use of, enchanting to show the current day and time on Midgard.  While the Headmaster and the child marvelled at the face that Asgard and Midgard shared a common time system make up of days, the Potion Master had noted a small flicker of something akin to distress enter the faces of the gods.

 

But that had been weeks ago.  The negotiations had concluded and Albus and Severus had been sent back to Midgard with several items to help with communication and transportation between the realms, which immediately the Headmaster had taken authority of, and assurances that Harry would be allowed to go to Midgard August first for shopping and his exam.  Hence why the Potion Master, Albus, and Madam Pomfrey were all tucked inside this small house hidden in the busy center of London near where The Leaky Cauldron stood. They had arrived technically yesterday, the old Headmaster hoping the gods would send their child down for his birthday. As Severus had predicted, that had not happened; he doubted very much that the parents who had never know their child's true date of birth would let the opportunity to celebrate it slip by.

 

They had all, or at least Albus, Snape, and Minerva had, decided that the best thing was to tell the Ministry and other staff that Potter had been living in a Pure Magical Commune.  Such communities were usually secret, out of Ministry protection, tried to live without any Muggle influence of technology or knowledge. Not out of malice for muggles; most Pure Magical Communes actually were more welcoming to Muggles and had flat out rejected the Dark Lord.  They simply wanted to live as closely tied to their magic as possible. It made was the Wizarding community’s Amish, and it would be the only way to explain why Potter not only knew very little about the Muggle world but also the magical one.

 

“Are you sure they said mid morning?” Poppy asked, tapping her foot impatiently.  She was a no nonsense witch, and like Snape, hated tardiness.

 

“Quite.”  It had been said nearly at spear point.

 

“I'm sure it maybe some trouble with their portkey,” Albus said good naturedly, seemingly reading a knitting magazine.  

 

“A portkey?!  They are having him travel by portkey?!”

 

“They.”

 

“Albus, portkey travel is dangerous by itself but to go alone?!  That is-"

 

BOOM CRACK HISS

 

The three adults jumped and flew to the window of the small garden that had been magically alloted to the house.  Standing amid smoke and lightning stood Harry Potter, an emerald tunic and silver robe settling about them. Their hair was up today, combed back and pinned with a golden piece of jewelry.  They swayed a little where they stood for a moment, their eyes going wide at their surroundings.

 

“That was a portkey?!” Poppy exclaimed as she and Albus rushed into the garden.  Severus couldn't think of a response.

 

“Ah, Harry!  We were worried about you.  Thought you were lost.”

 

The child looked around the garden in wild curiosity, staring up at the buildings that towered overhead, the grayish sky and the aging house that he was being pushed towards.  “Is this Hogwarts?” They asked in a hushed gone, still obviously in shock.

 

“No, no!  This is a house in London that the faculty uses occasionally.”

 

Potter's emerald eyes went wide at the words.  They nearly tripped on the doorstep as they entered the small squat kitchen.  

 

“Did you have a nice birthday yesterday, Harry,” Dumbledore asked as the child began to examine the stove and oven, immediately fiddling with the knobs.  Snape began switching the knobs off right behind him, not yet comfortable with the idea of swatting them.

 

“Father gave me a new saddle and some furs and Mother gave me this pin.  Grand’pierre and Grand’mere held a tourney, but I wasn't able to enter,” they looked up from the sink as they tested the taps.  “Too young.”

 

Poppy caught Severus's eye and mouthed the word, “Joust?”  He shrugged and switched the taps off.

 

“That indeed does sound nice,” the Headmaster chuckled.  “I'm sure you are very excited to see London. Especially Diagon Alley.”

 

“Do they have tea?”

 

“I'm sure you will find the tea at The Leaky Cauldron more than acceptable.”

 

“If the cauldron is cracked, should they not repair it.”

 

Albus laughed heartily as though the brunette had said a joke.  Potter seemed taken aback but smiled nervously.

 

“Now Harry, you know me and Professor Snape,” he waved a hand to Severus who gave them a curt nod.  “This woman, however, you do not. She is the mediwitch of Hogwarts and the healer who will be looking you over today.  Madam Pomfrey, I would like you to meet Harry Potter.”

 

Poppy smiled warmly and nodded her head in acknowledgment.  Harry reached out their hand and took the matron’s into theirs.  They kissed the hands and gently held them. The nurse gave both other men look of shock as the child said, “Hail Madam, Daughter of Pomfrey.”

 

“Madam is her title, Harry, not her name,” Dumbledore corrected.

 

“I knew that,” Harry blushed, obviously more embarrassed at their own ignorance than the gesture.

 

“At any rate, I suspect you would like to get the medical exam over with quite quickly.”  A hurried nod. “Well in that case, I turn you over to Madam Pomfrey.”

 

“Hello, Harry,” the witch said, her voice kind but professional.  “The Headmaster has informed me that you have not been fully vaccinated.  And that you have a little trouble with your eyesight.”

 

They nodded.  “Mother usually places a spell on my eyes that corrects my vision, but it's only temporary and recently my eyes have been getting worse.”

 

“That makes sense.  Eyes are one of the most complicated organs for magic to interact with.  How about we be start with the shots and work our way to the eye exam. I'll be able to give you a temporary pair of glasses for you and send you a more correct pair.”  There was another nod, but slowly and with some confusion. “Can you please remove your robe and roll up your sleeve?”

 

Harry nodded, removed the elegant robe and neatly rolled up the sleeve past their elbow.  They looked quite calm with the proceedings until Poppy brought the syringe. “What is that?”  They asked uneasily.

 

“It's a syringe.  Just the one. Muggles usually need use several to deliver these vaccines, but we have streamlined it.  Well, mostly. You will probably need a second round come October.”

 

“What does it do?”

 

“It helps boost your immune syst-"

 

“It looks very sharp.”

 

“Well it has to get past your skin.”

 

Harry stood immediately, breath coming in short bursts. Their fingers twitched immediately to their right hand to a small ornate ring.

 

Shit!

 

“Harry, this is a perfectly safe and normal procedure,” Albus explained, his voice calm and grandfatherly

 

“It's normal to be stabbed?!”  The child cried incredulously.

 

“Harry,” Poppy spoke, putting the syringe down quickly, “I'm very sorry that scared you.  But, this is a health precaution. For you, and the rest of Hogwarts. For the rest of Britain!  But your comfort is just as valid and important. But this also needs to be done. Would you like a cup of water?”

 

The cup was gotten and given before Harry had time to nod.  They held it, still shaking as they were once again made to sit at the small table.  Poppy waved her wand and several eye charts appeared on the opposite wall. “How about we do the eye exam then, alright?  Please read the letters on the chart on the right from biggest until you can't anymore.”

 

There was a brief moment Severus panicked and thought that Potter would not be able to identity any letter, or worse, simply call their guardians to their aid.  But they began to shakily recite the characters, clumsily and with several errors to their eyesight further along the chart. Poppy all the while nodded behind them, writing on parchment as she went.  

 

“The next chart, Harry.  Can you do that one, while closing your left eye?” she asked.  As Harry began, Severus's eyes nearly fell out of his skull in shock as she injected the syringe quickly into the child's exposed arm and injected the vaccine as casually as she carried out the entire procedure.  “Next chart, but this time I want you to close your right eye.”

 

“I can’t close that one without closing my other one.”

 

“That's quite alright.  Can you cover it for me?”

 

Harry did and continued as Poppy waved her wand in an elaborate series of gestures over them, occasionally waving casually at her parchment to make words appear.

 

“That's alright Harry.  We're done,” she informed them, as they struggled with one line.

 

“D-do you still need to stab me,” they asked, taking a sip of water.

 

“Done,” she waved a hand to show them their arm now decorated by a small adhesive strip.  The mediwitch reached into her apron pockets and pulled out a pair of bottled rimmed glasses.  She tapped them a few times, leaning over the parchment as she did so. “There we go, now put these on and read me the first chart again.”

 

The child blinked as they slid the glasses on, confused and still wary after being told they had been ‘stabbed’ unknowingly.  But once the glasses were on, it was apparent from their face that it was a marked improvement.

 

“You are a splendid healer!” Harry informed Poppy, taking her hand and kissing it again.  “You must bring honor to your family.”

 

“Thank you,” the witch blushed and smiled at the words.

 

“Are we going to this diagonal market now,” Potter asked as they rolled down their sleeve.  They now looked even more like James Potter, it was nearly impossible not to see Severus's late school tormentor.  The face turned to him for a moment and he could not see past the glasses. All he could see was…

 

Who wants to see me take off Snivelly’s pants?

 

He needed a drink.

 

“Indeed you will be heading off to Diagon Alley, as soon as your escort arrives,” Dumbledore's twinkling eyes were blind to the Potion Master’s dilemma.

 

“Escort?” Potter repeated.  They looked confused and slightly hurt.  Already most likely charmed by Albus, they had probably hoped to have more time with him.  But that was all in the plan, wasn't it? The Headmaster would always be there at key moments, not every key moment, but enough so the young wizard would know come to respect and seek out him out.  To idolize him.

 

“I am visiting an old friend of mine, as well as going to the Ministry on some urgent business.  Poppy will be returning to Hogwarts, and well, Professor Snape would not be a fun companion for this task.”  The child glanced at Severus like they tended to agree with that statement. “Now, while we wait, how about you get changed into some Muggle street clothes.  It is typical and expected, since you will be walking through part of Muggle London.”

 

‘And so the child doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.’

 

Severus reached to another side table where a shopping bag from one of the many many Muggle clothing stores and passed it to Harry.  “There is a full outfit in there. It maybe a bit large on you.” He couldn't help but smirk. “Do you need an attendant to help you?”

 

The brunette snatched the bag and gave him a defiant look.  “I am quite capable of dressing myself.” They paused. “Is there a dressing screen?”

 

“You may use the other room,” Dumbledore said, waving a door open to a small side room.

 

As soon as Potter had entered the other room and the door had been closed behind them, Poppy began softly, “He is remarkably healthy for someone who has lived on a Pure Magical Commune.  Most children his age having vitamin disorders, or have complications due to their lack of vaccines. But his tests all functions normal. More than normal. Well cared for.”

 

“They.”  Snape corrected again.

 

“I was fully confident that he was cared for.”

 

“They.”

 

“His-their eyes appear to be my only concern.  You can tell his eyes have had multiple spells placed on them.  Powerful spells. They-he needs to get accustomed to wearing glasses, and quickly.”

 

“They.”

 

“And his scar,” Dumbledore asked.  “Do you have anything to report on his scar.”

 

Snape sighed.  

 

“That part of my report will take some time.  Maybe a few days.”

 

“When you can, Poppy.  Please, it's important.”

 

She nodded as the doorbell rang from the front door.  A cry of alarm came from the other room.

 

“I believe Hagrid is here.”

 

****

 

“Mr. Harry Potter!  In my shop! Isn't this an honor!”  Madam Malkins exclaimed loudly, a trail of what Harry assumed were servants behind her followed.  She was not the first to say the words. She most likely would not be the last. Headmaster Dumbledore had sent him to Diagon Alley in the care of Hagrid, a giant of a man with kind manner about him.  He had been very polite if very excited to meet ‘The Harry Potter’.

 

“Look a lot like yer Father,” he had informed the child, before adding, “all except the eyes.  That’s from yer Mother.”

 

Harry had glowed with the knowledge and had felt reinvigorated to go on this journey.  They still felt ill at ease in the strange short sleeve shirt and the loose yet heavy pair of trousers.  It felt...not their clothes. Surely Midgardian clothing could be better than this?! But they had voiced not a word of discomfort.  The clothing had technically been a gift and for a purpose. And indeed, when they and Hagrid had stepped out into London, not a soul had glanced twice at them.  Well, a few glanced at Hagrid, but Harry suspected that was due to his size.

 

Nothing has really made them anxious until they had entered The Leaky Cauldron, a meetinghouse it seemed.  An inkeep had called to Hagrid, who must have frequented this often, and asked if wanted his usual. The giant had turned down the offer, pointing to Harry and explaining he was on official Hogwarts business escorting ‘young Harry Potter’.

 

The room had gone silent.  People had twisted around to stare.  A few got up from their tables. Then they had all pressed forward as one, reaching for them.  They wanted to ‘shake the hand of the Boy who had Lived’ and ‘see the scar’. There were tearful ‘thank yous’ and proud declarations of ‘wait til they hear who I met today: they won't believe me’.  Harry quickly became overwhelmed. And to Hagrid’s credit, he quickly realized that and began to push the pair of them past the mob, brandishing a pink object over his head.

 

“Shudda kept mah big mouth shut.  Look at yah, shakin like a leaf,” he had said, his beady eyes filled with concern.  “It gets too much, you say sumthin’. Don’ you worry, I'll look out for yah.”

 

And he had kept his word, though it had still been so much.  Not even on Asgard, as one given the title ‘prince’ had Harry been more showered with attention.  What was worse, was people seemed obsessed with their scar. They stared, some pointed, and many reached for it.  They would pull away and Hagrid would growl ‘you lot raised in a barn!’ and they would move past the person. Harry had known their scar was special; it was their Father's mark and it was a sign of protection and favor.  But to these people, it meant something more. Something more important. Something healing. Something...magical.

 

Harry had hoped that once they had begun the process of shopping, the stares and pointing would stop.  It didn't. Shopkeepers seemed to reveal in having them in their shop, calling attention to them. The apothecary owner had nearly grovelled as they tried to give them a gold cauldron in spite of their list.  The bookstore had covered the cost of most of their books, even giving Harry a few extra. A crowd had gathered when they had stopped to examine the store that sold brooms, and Harry's curiosity had fled in favor of panic.  They were almost ready to be done with today. Hagrid had assured them that they were nearly done.

 

“Just robes and wand left.  Then we can stop by the Leaky Cauldron and get a private room.  Bet yah would like some food.”

 

“And tea?”

 

“O’ course!  Yah never had tea?”

 

Harry shook their head.

 

“Then yah can have the whole kettle.”

 

Another reason Harry liked Hagrid was that he immediately picked up on Harry's discomfort at the label of ‘boy’.  He still occasionally called them ‘laddie’ but it was said like they were saying to a favorite relative, that they found they liked it.  Everyone else here on Midgard seemed obsessed with them being a boy. One woman said he should cut his hair, as was the fashion for boys .  One man said that men shouldn't wear jewelry, referring to their hair pin.  They had asked Hagrid about it.

 

“I know loads o’ folks put their hair every which way.  Yah mind yours and they should mind their's.”

 

Madam Malkins was most certainly not minding her’s.  “Just a few school robes and trousers? Are you sure I can't interest you in a flying robe?  They are the latest fashion for boys your age.”

 

“I am sure, thank you.”

 

“The Headmaster sent me an owl and told me you will be needing some Muggle clothing.  I have a Squib associate who has gotten you some of the best in all of London. The best for The Boy who Lived.”

 

They fidgeted.

 

“That hair clip is very...lovely, but I may have another that may suit you.  Something that can show of your-" she reached for their forehead.

 

“Please!” Harry took several steps back, the strange snake-like ribbon that had been measuring them uncoiling from their waist.  Hagrid had left them to ‘get something important’ and they were just about to scream. The tailor and her attendants were giving them odd looks.  “Please. May I...may I take a moment?”

 

The woman’s eyes softened.  “Of course, my dear. I have a few changing rooms in the back, if you would like.”

 

They nodded, walking mechanically after her.  ‘Rooms’ was a generous description. They were small stalls made up of ceiling to floor fabric.  In each was a mirror and small bench. Madam Malkins waved them the furthest back ones. “I will get part of your order while you compose yourself.”  She assured them, before leaving them alone. They quickly closed the curtain and sunk to the floor to ground themselves.

 

They felt their shoulders began to shake and their eyes sting.  They bit their lip to prevent from breaking down completely. By Heaven this was hard!  Part of them wanted to call out their parents; run away and leave Midgard completely alone.  Their kin may be there, and their magic may be based there, but they were could not take it. The looks.  The touching. The ‘boy who lived’. But, still, they did want to stay. These people were obviously not doing any of this out of malice.  They seemed so happy to see them. Overly excited, but still.

 

They felt shaky all over, like their body had begun to run without their permission.  They wanted to run. They wanted to stay. They felt crowded. They felt utterly alone.  Where was Papa?! They couldn't worry Mama. Make Asgard proud. Go home to Asgard. Boy.  No. Wand. Yes. Potion. Yes. Pin. No. Air. No. Tears. Yes. Yes. No. Yesnonyesnoyesnoyesnoyesnoyesnoyesnoye-

 

“Hey.”

 

Harry looked up from their knees they had been hugging.  They wiped their eyes from behind the newly given glasses.  A pair of black shoes had appeared on the other side of the curtain and a young voice was speaking.

 

“Hey,” it said again, unsure and worried.  “You okay?”

 

“Y-yes, I'm alright,” Harry answered.

 

There was a tsking noise. “Doesn't sound like.”  A little more kindly and apologetic, the voice said, “Sorry.  I was in the room next to yours and you sounded like you were having a bad day.”

 

“I am just-" Harry realized they were incapable of telling the other person what was wrong.  If they told the other person they were Harry Potter, the person may feel inclined to come in.  How could they articulate everything? “I am just new to all this.”

 

“Ah.  Muggle-born?”

 

“No.  At least I don't think I am.”

 

“You...you don't know?”

 

“I am adopted.”

 

“Oh.  I'm…,” there was a shuffling of the shoes behind the curtain. “Have you ever been to Diagon Alley before?”

 

“No.”

 

“You have had to go clothes shopping before!”

 

“No.”  They were getting worried again, a waver entering their voice.

 

“Hey!  I'm not making fun of you!  I'm just surprised is all”. The feet shuffled again.  “Do you want me to get someone? Your parents?”

 

Again, they didn't want to admit to being alone.  “No, I'll be alright. There's just...a lot of people.  And they...get very close.”

 

The person hummed.  “Yeah, that would freak me out too.  I'm not bothering you, right?”

 

“No.”

 

The feet shuffled.  “Getting your Hogwarts supplies?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Me too!  I was so excited to get my letter!” the voice became excited before calming itself.  “Sorry. That probably didn't help.”

 

“No, it's nice to meet someone else who is going.”

 

“Yeah.”  The shoe kicked a little.  “Y'know the train can be overwhelming.  To go to Hogwarts.”

 

Harry wasn't sure what a train was but said nothing.

 

“If you get scared or need someone to talk to, you can ride with me.  I'll be in the last car in the next to last compartment. Usually people don't go back there, or at least that's what my Father says.  Can you remember that?”

 

“Last car, in the next to last compartment.”

 

“Right!  My name is-”

 

“DRACO!  Why are you dawdling back here?”  A woman's voice shouted. Harry drew back a little in alarm as the shoes turned around.

 

“Nothing, Mother,” the voice called back.

 

“We have other appointments and shops to visit today.  And the Parkinsons are coming over tonight!”

 

“Yes, Mother.” Draco turned back to the curtain.  “Last car, in the next last compartment. If you aren't there...that's okay.”

 

“DRACO!”

 

“Coming, Mother!”  Quietly to the curtain, “Bye!”  And with that the shoes disappeared, running off to join their mother.

 

Harry was left once more alone in the back of the robe shop.  They nervously crawled forward and peeked through the curtain, trying to catch a glimpse of ‘Draco’.  All they saw was Madam Malkins reappear looking mildly flustered.

 

“Your escort is here and has caused quite a ruckus.  I will have you know, I usually don't allow owls in my shop.  What are you doing on the floor?”

 

“I tripped,” they lied.  They stood and took a deep breath composing themselves for another hour of shopping.   They still needed to get their wand, and Hagrid has promised them tea.

 

Last car, next to last compartment.   

 

“Did you say owls?”

 

****

 

He walked through the abandoned tower like a phantom.  Like just one more in a long list of phantoms. No one spoke to him, or at least no directly.  A thousand different stories were being played out and he was just one part.

 

There was Banner in the arms of Romanov and Barton, his eyes bloodshot and vainly still trying to turn.

 

“If I could have-”

 

“Quiet, babe,” Barton said, kissing the other man, “Don't blame yourself.”

 

A small group of Wakandans were listening to a young girl speak.  She was near shouting, her voice was breaking. Tears ran down her cheeks but still she spoke.  He could not understand her, but when she looked to the stars her voice said her brother's name like a vow.  The group began to chant the name too. Some called the names of other people lost. Too many names.

 

The small raccoon sat by himself, holding a large gun possessively.  He looked at the phantom walking by with daring eyes. “Keep walking asshole,” he growled.  Softer and more hesitant, he added, “I'm sorry. Fuck. Your...my…” He wept.

 

He found Stark and the Captain alone together, Stark holding out his shaking arms.  “I held him. Damnit, Steve I held him.”

 

“I'm sorr-”

 

“WHERE THE FUCK WERE YOU?!”

 

“I'm-”

 

“Don't give me that BULLSHIT!  A kid is dead. Half the universe is dead!”

 

“So is Buc-”

 

“Don't you dare say his name.  Don't you dare say it. We could have defeated that thing together, but you choose your fucking ex over the team!  Over US. Explain that to Peter's aunt...fuck.” The genius hung his head into his hands.  “Is May even alive?”

 

“Please,” Rodgers sounded desperate.  “Let me be here now. Let me help now.  Darling…”

 

Stark shook his head and pulled away, but the Captain remained where he was by his side.

 

Thor left the hall.  He couldn't bare to look at it anymore.  He couldn't bare to see all of the pain. He wanted to go home.  But where was home. Where was Valkyrie? Where were his people. Where was his-

 

He felt himself nearly collapse into the wall. He felt hot tears slide down his face.  

 

His brother.  His companion.  His…

 

“Loki.”  He choked out.  “If you were I would…”

 

“I'm here.”

 

Thor looked up so fast he nearly snapped his neck.  Standing still in the blue leather and cape and with that impossible snarky grin stood the Frost Giant.  He still looked hallow, as he had when Thor had last seen him. He swayed a little as he stood.

 

“You're-”

 

“It was an illusion, Brother.  I wanted to protect you, but I had to protect our people.  I led a group away, to safety.”

 

“You...saved…”

 

“Don't ask so surprised.”

 

“Where are they?” Thor advanced on him, making the other back up.  “How many?”

 

“They…,”  Loki looked suddenly lost again, like he had when Mother…, “I couldn't, my Brother.  I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.”

 

“But you are alive.  You. You.” Before Loki could utter one snarky word, one cutting comment, he had taken the other into his arms and kissed him.  He had wanted to do it for centuries. The resistance fled the other as soon as it reared it's head. Long, elegant arms lifted to so just as long and elegant fingers could wind through his short hair.  He tasted salt and copper on his lips and he didn't care.

 

“Here, at the end, and finally I get everything I want,” Loki laughed bitterly.  “They called their King. King. And not a one uttered a word such as ‘trickster’ or ‘Frost Giant’.  They looked to me as their leader. I was one of them, and they counted me worthy of their trust. And here you are, holding me.  Your lips on mine. There's a hunger in your eye, and it isn't simply lust. Do you see now I could have been your other half? I didn't only want to battle by your side.  I wanted to rule by your side! I wanted to love you. To be with you. But in this time...that will never be.”

 

“But it can be!”  Thor bellowed. He cared little if others heard.  He doubted they would. He doubted they would take solace what was returned to them as he did.  “We shall defeat this Titan! We shall avenge our people! We rebuild Asgard and rule together. We can build a family.  I know you are capable. Your other children. You are still young. Still in your prime. You will give us true born heirs.  We-”

 

“We have lost!”  It came out like a hiss as he was pushed away.  “All what could have been is behind us. They,” he waved a hand to the other chamber where the living were, “will never trust me.  Some of your best fighters are gone. I tried to prevent this...to slow it. But you stopped me. You do not have the forces to fight Thanos.  And to put it simply, you don't have the will. As to being capable of restarting Asgard….The Grandmaster saw an end to that.”

 

“Loki...I didn't-”

 

“Of course you didn't.  What was the point of telling you?!  I never knew that my feelings were returned!  I still frankly don't. You may just want a womb!”

 

“Do you think so little of me?”

 

“No.”  Again, the fight left Loki once more.  “The time has come and gone to stop Thanos.  He has one. And he will continue to win, no matter what.  But,” the God of Mischief came closer, placing a hand on Thor's hand, “there may be a way to prevent it.  And to give us, and everyone, the story they deserve. For a price.”

 

Thor frowned.  “For a price?”

 

A chuckle.  “My Love, all things come at a price.”

 

****

 

Thor awoke with a start.  A hand was on his chest and lips were pressed to his forehead.

 

“My Love?”  Loki's voice sounded concern but still battling with sleep.

 

“A night terror.  A memory.”

 

The brunette rested his head on the blondes shoulder.  “It was about when I found you.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I have been thinking of that too.”

 

“Why,” blues eyes stared through the darkness of their chambers, through all the time they had gone through and all the time they has yet to cross.  “Why do you not suffer these dreams such as me?”

 

Loki shrugged.  “I suppose I am used to being split in two.”

 

“Be serious.”

 

“I do have these dreams.  But I wouldn't call them dreams.”  Thor felt his spouse tremble a little.  He reached, the other withdrew from him.  “I feel those old feelings. I hear those words again.  I see it. I feel it.”

 

“Why do you not tell me these things?”

 

“Penance, I suppose.  I did things that are truly awful.  And in spite of all that, you still loved me.”

 

“I do love you.”

 

“I love you too,” Loki leaned over and kissed him.  Thor felt himself harden, night terror be damned. In that time, in that dream, Loki had been haunted by demons and doubts, almost a shell of his smiling youth.  But here and now, Loki was full of life, his hair soft and body all Thor's for the taking.

 

But there would be time for that later.  The other had withdrawn once more from him, not far, but enough to demonstrate a reluctance.  The God of Thunder reached and stroked his spouses cheek tenderly before leaving the bed.

 

“They're probably asleep,” his spouse called after him, but made no other move to stop him.  

 

He walked on, through the night to the other Prince's quarters.  They weren't far; they were attached to their quarters afterall. He entered, receiving a warning hoot from the corner.  The new snowy white owl had been apparently a gift from a man named Hagrid. She had adjusted to travelling to Asgard quickly, maybe because she was bred to handle magical travel had been the explanation.  She had already taken it seems a liking to her new owner: she had playfully nipped at Harry all through dinner as they fed her meat from their bowl.

 

“Hagrid thought it would be easier to send letters if I had my own owl,” Harry had explained, running their fingers along the white feathers.  “Maybe I can teach her to hunt like a falcon.” Thor smiled at the thought of his Lightning Bolt trying to teach the owl to hunt for them.

 

The rest of the room had been taken over by the mountains of items Harry had returned to Asgard with that evening.  A cauldron was out and with several tools haphazardly strewn around it; the mortal had shown each item to them individually that went along with it.  Piles of books were everywhere: Dumbledore had given Harry a few more before he had left so they could better inform themselves of the history of their world.  Loki had found several books on ‘proper young wizard etiquette’ and had to be convinced not to burn them. There were also a few ‘Muggle’ books that had been sent, again trying to instruct the child.  Thor had made Harry promise to read their school books before they attempted to read any of the rest.

 

The bed was littered with clothing.  Harry's main complaint upon returning, or at least the one they were willing to voice without being prodded, was that Midgardian fashion ranged from dull and uncomfortable to downright silly.  They especially had complained that they had not been able to purchase any of the gowns that the robe merchant apparently sold. Loki and Frigga had promised to send more suitable clothes when it was time to go to school.  Thor doubted Dumbledore would approve, judging from the clothes he had provided. But he didn't much care.

 

Thor stopped in front of the side of the bed of his sleeping child.  He laughed softly. “I should have known.”

 

“I told you, Brother,” Loki’s voice was quiet as he sat on the bed where he had been sitting for hours now, running a hand through the sleeping mortal's hair.  “I am used to being split in two.”

Chapter Text

Harry had spent his last night in Asgard in parents’ bed.  They hadn't really intended to, but as the night wore on and the nerves of going to Hogwarts ate away at them, they had nervously crawled in between Thor and Loki.  Neither had objected. Mama had immediately pulled the blankets up around them and Papa had wrapped a large arm around the pair of them and pulled them close. It had felt warm and safe and made leaving even more bittersweet.

 

The next day, nearly all of Asgard had made an appearance to watch them set out on their journey.  Naturally, not every entrance and exit from the palace and left for school would be marked by such ceremony, but this being the first was indeed special.  Their luggage had been loaded onto a decorated cart and the Warriors Three had been sent to escort them over the Bifrost. Harry had worn their best leathers and emerald robe.  Their hair had been kept loose, a style they had been unsure about until they had done their goodbyes to their Mother.

 

As Harry had done the customary bow to his parents, publicly asking their permission to leave, Loki had drawn out his dagger.  He cut off a lock of his own hair and then he handed the dagger to Thor who had done the same.

 

“Our child, you return to the land of your birth, but know that wherever you go your fate is tied to us.”  The god braided the two locks into Harry's and kissed, sealing them permanently together.

 

“Thank you, Mama,” the mortal whispered.

 

“Be strong, Harry.  We are always there if you need us,” the other whispered back.

 

Papa had broken ceremony and hugged them.  It had been nice, but also embarrassing. Harry knew that many still viewed them as a child who should be in the nursery not going off alone.  But they knew their Father meant well.

 

Saying goodbye to Grand'pierre and Grand'mere had been much more formal.  Grand’mere smiled that small regal smile and brushed their new braid behind their ear.  She gave Harry a gentle kiss on the forehead and wished them luck. Grand'pierre had given them the salute of a warrior leaving for a battle.  He had even given them a highly decorated dagger from his own armory. Harry could already hear his Father's voice telling them to refuse the gift, saying they will not need it.  Their Mother would probably urge them to take it, to show strength to all of Asgard. Harry simply thanked Allfather for the gift and gave it over to Fandral to put with the other luggage.

 

Then Harry had climbed onto Eira, Hedwig perched on their outstretched arm, and began the procession across the Rainbow Bridge.  It was a slow process, mostly because of the baggage train. Also because of the people lining the route. Asgardians, unlike Midgardians however, quickly the Prince alone and knew better than to reach for them.

 

Heimdall was waiting for them when they got to the other side.

 

“Are you ready, my Prince?” he asked, studying the cosmos with his silver eyes.

 

Harry had not been able to think of a response.

 

They arrived in the same small patch of ground that they had landed in on the day of their shopping adventure.  This time only Professor Snape was there to greet them.

 

“I don't know if you have had any food, but their is a stew for you on the stove.  And there should be breakfast for you tomorrow before your train,” the man said, making no move to pick up the trunk or owl cage that was Harry was currently struggling to get a hold of.  

 

Harry decided to deal with the trunk first finally, Hedwig already perched on the open door to the small strange ‘kitchen’.  “Where's Headmaster Dumbledore?”

 

“This is the night before the term begins.  He has very important matters to attend to,” the Potion Master sneered.

 

“Anything to do with what Hagrid retrieved from Gringotts?”

 

“What do you know of that?”

 

“Only that.”

 

Snape's eyes narrowed, but he stooped to pick up the cage and sack on the ground at his feet.  “The Headmaster is preparing a school for another crop of dunderhead students. Whatever you saw is unimportant and should be forgotten about.”

 

Harry said nothing, making a small clucking noise to call Hedwig to them.  If Snape was impressed the only indication was one eyebrow raised.

 

“Someone will be coming by tomorrow to take you to the train.  I will be staying until midnight tonight, so if you have any questions-”

 

“What's a train?”

 

“I believe Dumbledore gave you a book.”

 

“Yes, it said that the Hogwarts Express has been used for nearly 150 years to convey students, but I still don't understand what a train is.”

 

Snape never answered that question, or really any of the others.  Harry got the feeling that he enjoyed Harry didn't know these things, and took great pleasure in leaving them clueless.  How were they to learn potions if this was his teaching strategy. It reminded them of learning how to use a shield: the swordmaster had not explained how to use it before dropping his each student into a group of older children with blunt staffs and forcing them to learn by trial and error.  Harry had had to learn not only to block but listen because of their eyesight. They wondered if they could learn all of their potion knowledge from a book and not bother with the dour man again.

 

After the stew, and the Potion Master explaining that Hedwig would need to remain in her cage until they arrived at Hogwarts, Harry was shown to small bedroom for the night.  They felt an immediate wave of homesickness as they settled on the bed, as well as butterflies of nervousness in their belly. They spent an hour running their finger along the runes of their ring, wondering if it would be inappropriate at call to their parents.  They got up a few times to stare at the bag of totems that would allow them to return to Asgard if need be. They finally settled down and went to sleep.

 

The next morning, they washed and dressed in the small bathing room provided.  Asgard had showers, baths, and privies as Midgard, maybe of different design but crudely the same.  Not really sinks, so Harry had spent half an hour playing with the taps before realizing they should move on.  They dressed in a plain long sleeve shirt, a pair of trousers that Midgardians called ‘jeans’, and a blue ‘jacket’ that was soft and comfortable.  They put their hair back with their hair pin defiantly holding it, their new braid loose and tucked behind their ear. Their morning meal was a strange cold grain feed that the note Snape had left for them called, ‘cereal’.  The Potion Master had explained that most people ate ‘cereal’ in milk or sugar. Harry ate it dry and drank the milk instead. The note also said that the person who take them to the train had a key to the house, and they should not open the door to anyone who knocked.  

 

Time sluggishly slipped by; Harry brought all of their luggage into the front room and slipped Hedwig a bit of the leftover stew that was still on the ‘stove’.  They read a little in one of the numerous books on the history of Midgard that they had received.

 

Finally, as the sun clawed it's way through the window, a key sounded in the lock and the door opened.

 

“No, you will most certainly NOT send your sister a toilet seat from Hogwarts.  If I get an owl from Professor McGonagall on either of you two in the bathroom-”

 

“Read you loud and clear, Mum.”

 

“We'll use the lake!”

 

“Boys!”

 

A small herd of redheads walked into the house on the heels of round pleasant looking woman in simple dress and threadbare sweater.  She caught sight of Harry and smiled, but made no move to touch them or point at their scar.

 

“Ah, you must be Harry.  It is wonderful to meet you.  My name is Molly Weasley and I will be taking you to Kings Cross to catch the train.”

 

Harry stood and bowed slightly.  “Hail Molly...Weasley.” They were trying to tackle names in Midgard.

 

Molly laughed, not meanly.  “Oh you don't have to bow. I know this is must be a scary time, being away from home and getting used to all of this.  Professor Dumbledore explained you grew up in a Pure Magical Commune. My cousin lives on one.”

 

They only nodded, familiar with the story they were to tell.

 

“Now I will introduce you to my children.  You'll be going to Hogwarts with them. Well, not all of them.  Bill and Charlie have graduated and Ginny,” she waved a hand to young child at her side, “had one more year to go.  But still. Ah yes, here is my oldest currently attending, Percy. He was just made Prefect.” A tall boy about fifteen in a square pair of glasses stepped forward and nodded.  

 

“These two troublemakers are third years. This one is Fred and this is George,” she indicated the two identical boys with cocksure grins and mischief in their eyes.

 

“Oi, I'm George not Fred!  And you call us your mother!”

 

“I'm so sorry, Dear.”

 

“I'm only joking.  I am Fred!”

 

Harry giggled.  It was a jest their own Mother would appreciate.  

 

Molly sighed.  “I should have known.  Anyway, this my youngest son, Ron.  He'll be in your year.”

 

Ron was taller than Harry, with short hair and clothes that looked a little too big for him and well used.  He gave the other a small wave which Harry returned nervously.

 

“Everyone, I would like you all to say hello to Harry.  He-”

 

“They.”  Harry interjected.  His Father had told them to be more assertive when it came to their identity.   You can't let people choose for you.  You are who you say you are.  “I like to be referred to as they.”

 

Molly blinked for a moment.  “My apologies, Dear. I should have asked.   They will be coming with us today.”

 

“They is plural,” Percy said, pushing up his glasses.  “I mean you're either a boy or a girl.”

 

“Percy, we used ‘they’ to refer to them before we even met them this morning,” Molly said, hands on her hips.  “You will show them the same courtesy now.”

 

Percy grumbled but said nothing more.

 

“You know if he bothers you, we can replace his Prefect badge with a urinal cake,” one of the twins said.

 

“George!”

 

“Only joking, Mum.”

 

“Mostly.”

 

****

 

“Y-you want me to into that monster!” Harry was about ready to run away.  The huge scarlet monster was letting out smoke as families milled around saying their last goodbyes.  They gripped the trolley they loaded their luggage and Hedwig's cage onto as they stared at the huge...thing.

 

“I'm sorry, Harry, I keep forgetting you wouldn't know what a train is.  Yes, this is how all students get to Hogwarts. It's perfectly safe.” A high pitch whisper screeched.  “Loud, but safe.”

 

Harry took a deep breath.  They could do this.

 

“Hey, Harry.”  They looked over to see Ron beside them, a reassuring smile on their face.  “It'll be okay. I'll be with you. If you want I mean.”

 

“I would like, that actually.”

 

“Oh, Wittle Ronnie already made a friend!” cooed Fred (George?).

 

“Shut up!” Ron tried to swing a punch at the twin but missed as the other dodged cleanly.

 

“BOYS!” Molly raised her voice and tapped her foot.  All three boys in question immediately went quiet and said their apologies.  The mother smiled. “Now, I want you all to behave. No being overly critical,” Percy hummed, “no pranks,” Fred and George looked as innocent as possible, “and look after your new friend.”  Ron nodded.

 

Molly went to each of her sons and gave them a large hug and kiss on the cheek.  Harry felt a sting of jealousy and began to miss their own mother. The redheaded woman then stopped in front of them.  For a moment it appeared like she wanted to give them a hug too, as though she had already integrated them into her brood.  Instead she smiled and ruffled his hair fondly.

 

“Have a nice time at school, Dear.  If you need anything, you can owl me for anything.”

 

“Thank you, Molly,” they said, feeling a mix of grateful the woman didn't push for more contact and the sad at the lost opportunity for a hug.

 

“So Harry,” Ron asked as they entered the train, still trying to distract Harry from the noise that was beginning as the engines warmed up for travel.  “Is there anywhere in particular you feel like sitting? The front of the train maybe full but the middle-”

 

“Last car, in the second to last compartment.”

 

The redhead frowned.  “Thought you've never been on a train before?”

 

“I haven't.  But I know someone there.  I mean, not know. I...someone was very nice to me when I went shopping and I would like to sit with them.”

 

“Oh,” Ron looked taken aback, “I guess I can sit with Fred and George.  Or-”

 

“I thought you were going to be sitting with me?”

 

“You still want that?”

 

“Yes!”  The train gave out another whistle and Harry jumped.

 

“Probably for the best we go to the back,” the boy said, taking the other's hand as easily as if they had been a younger sibling, “less noise.”

 

The last car was nearly deserted of people.  A few older teens were shocked from their kissing as Ron and Harry entered.  One girl was smoking what smelled of tobacco. She glared at them as they passed, blowing a puff of smoke in their face.  The next to last compartment was closed, but through the glass they could see the outline of someone sitting down and staring out the window.

 

“Hey, do you know their name?”

 

“Of course!”

 

“Do they know your’s?”

 

“No.”

 

“Ah.”

 

They entered.  The boy, with silver hair and grayish blue eyes jumped in surprise.

 

“Oh no,” Ron whispered.

 

“Hey,” the blonde said, squaring his shoulders as though he expected a fight, “if you want me to leave I'm not going to. I got here first.”

 

“We don't want you to leave.” Harry felt butterflies in their tummy as they entered the compartment.  With each step the blonde seemed to relax, looking almost shy and abashed. “You are Draco, right?”

 

“Y-yeah.  Do I...know you?”

 

“Yes! I mean no….at the tailor shop in the Alley that is Diagonal.  We met there. You were very nice. And dawdling. Your mother said you were dawdling.”

 

Draco blushed.  “Oh...you're the kid who was crying- I'm sorry did you say ‘Alley that is Diagonal’?”

 

“Yes they did,” Ron said, sliding in beside Harry.

 

“I was not crying!”

 

“You really are bad at lying.”

 

“So you met at Madam Malkins, but you only know his name,” the redhead said.  “And that he dawdles.”

 

He received a blue-gray glare.  “Well, I know who you are. Don't even need to be introduced.  Red hair, hand me down clothes: you're a Weasley.”

 

Blue eyes narrowed right back.  “Well, I know who YOU are too. Blonde hair, snotty attitude: you're a Malfoy.”

 

“Well at least I'm no-”

 

The train whistle gave out a final whistle and the entire train began to screech.  It gave a lurch forward before jerkily beginning to move. Harry gave out a cry and began to panic, their breath coming in short small pants.

 

“Crap,” Ron sat Harry down onto the bench opposite Draco.

 

“What's wrong with him?”

 

“Them.”

 

“Sorry.  What's wrong with them?”

 

“Never been on a train before. Never even seen one before.  They grew up on Pure Magical Commune.”

 

“My uncle and his family live on one.”

 

“I got a cousin-”

 

Another whistle.  Another cry.

 

“Merlin, do they need to blow the whistle that much?”

 

“I should write my Father about this.  I don't think they should. Do you need help with the luggage?” Draco stood and moved to help Ron with the trunks.

 

Ron frowned, obviously unsure if he was about to let a Malfoy help him.  He glanced at Harry who had settled immediately into the seat they had been placed in.  “Yeah.”

 

The blonde helped settle the luggage in an alcove underneath the seats and placed Hedwig's cage beside the brunette.  He reached for Ron's trunk and laughed.

 

“What's so funny, Malfoy?” the redhead growled.

 

“Your patch.  Chudley Cannons.  Should have known you like a team like that.”

 

“Too good for Chudley Cannons?  What team do you like? The Appleby Arrows?”

 

“NO!  What am I, an idiot?  No, my team is the Falmouth Falcons.”

 

Ron considered the other for a moment, as though he was trying to sense if he was being tricked or not.  Draco waved his hand to the opposite alcove where another trunk was being stowed, a patch with two falcons dueling for the letters ‘FF’ could be seen.

 

“At least it isn't the Arrows.”

 

“Who likes the Arrows?!”

 

“One of brothers.  He's a bit of knob though.”

 

“A bit?”

 

The pair laughed as though they had been friends for years.

 

“I-I like falcons.”  They turned at small voice.  The brunette wiped their eyes and nervously adjusted the cage beside them.  “My grandmother raised several.”

 

“Oh, we were talking about the Quidditch team.  Y'know, Bartleby as the keeper. Bender and Kaine as the beaters, though they have been discussing-”

 

“What is a Quidditch team?”

 

Draco and Ron looked at each other in shock.  They made an unspoken vow to one another. To protect and educate the other child no matter what.  And to make sure they never became an Arrows fan.

 

****

 

“I'm still confused about everything.  How can you have a game last that long?”

 

“I'm still confused about how a Pure Magical Commune doesn't play Quidditch,” Ron said, wrapping the Chudley Cannons scarf around him.  He had brought it out partly to show Harry what a quaffle looked like, partly to brag to Draco he had gone to more games than him. Now that was something to write home about: he had seen more Quidditch games than a Malfoy!

 

“Not all Communes believe Quidditch has been ‘untouched’ from Muggles,” Draco explained, not meanly.  “Are you feeling better being on a train?”

 

Harry nodded running a shaky hand through their hair.  

 

The redhead's mouth fell open as the blonde gasped as their eyes fell upon the famous lightning bolt shaped scar.  “Y-you're Harry Potter!”

 

They nodded nervously.  They waited for the pointing, the reaching out, the touches.  Hagrid had told them about how their parents had died and about the ‘Dark Lord’.  People saw them as their savior. As the one that had defeated that great evil. They had done nothing.  They were an infant. It could have been accident. A freak accident. And yet people were going to see them as this ‘boy who lived’.  They were going to-

 

“Harry?”

 

They looked up.  Both Ron and Draco were looking at them with concern.  They hadn't reached for them at all, though they had leaned towards them.  Harry pulled away.

 

“Are you okay?” Ron asked.

 

“I don't want you to touch my s-scar.”

 

“We weren't.”

 

“You weren't?”

 

“No.  But can we see it?  Only if you want.”

 

Harry thought for a moment.  Then, slowly with a nod, they reached up and pushed their fringe back to reveal their scar.

 

“Cool!” Ron grinned.

 

“That's amazing!” Draco said.

 

Harry put down their hair and smiled.  “My Father says I'm his Lightning Bolt.”

 

“My Dad just calls me Duck,” Ron leaned back. “My first time using magic I apparently got into his rubber duck collection and…” At the confused looks from the other two, he waved his hand.  “It doesn't matter.”

 

“My Father just calls me Dray or son.”

 

“That seems harsh.”

 

“My Grandfather thinks he's spoiling me with too much affection, actually.”

 

“Yikes.”

 

“So if you don't know about Quidditch, what do you do for fun?”

 

“Horseback riding and sword play.”

 

“Like, fencing?”

 

Harry nodded, though they still preferred much longer swords than the small precise ones that their Mother called ‘fencing swords’.

 

Draco was about to ask another question when the compartment door opened.  A small sweet elderly woman poked her head in, a smile on her face. “Anything from the trolley, Dearies?”

 

Ron dug around in one pocket and removed several squashed sandwiches.  “I got this. Mom needed to get Ginny lunch after her healer's appointment.”  He blushed and looked out the window, as though determined not to look at the woman.

 

“Trolley?” Harry asked.  The woman just smiled and drew his attention to small push cart filled with several boxes of bright packages and colorful tins.

 

“Do you like sweets, Love,” she asked.

 

“I...never had any,” they explained and looked down at their nerves to avoid the pitying stare he received.

 

“Give me three of everything,” Draco said, pulling out a well-stuffed velvet pouch.  The other two watched as the blonde boy exchanged several gold pieces in return for three mountains of booty.  “Here,” he said once the witch left, dividing up the treasure between the three of them. “Whatever you don't like we can toss.”

 

“You didn't have to do that,” Weasley grumbled, already fiddling with one package.

 

“Give me one of those sandwiches and we'll call it even.”

 

“It isn't some fancy bread or meat.  It's just ham.”

 

Malfoy shrugged and took the sandwich.  “Harry, have you ever had a chocolate frog?”

 

“Why would I eat a frog?”

 

“Oh right.”

 

Again Harry played student to two wiser schoolmasters when it came to candy and the strange trading and collecting of cards.  They gave them most of their Wizard Cards, except Nicolas Flamel which was traded to Ron for a Newt Scamander and two licorice wands.  Most Midgardian treats, they found were rather too sweet, so they ended up only nibbling through their hoard while the boys greedily ate theirs.

 

The little mortal Prince liked his new friends.  Ron was obviously more quick tempered, probably from having to fight with older brothers.  Draco was quieter, but quick tongued. Occasionally their eyes would meet and Harry would feel the weird butterfly feeling again.  They fiddled with the family braid in their hair and listened as the two began to trade horror stories about Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean .

 

The youngest Weasley boy was in the middle of a story about one bean that he was quite sure was steak when the compartment door opened once again.

 

“Have any of you seen a toad?” a girl asked, already dressed in uniform.  Her eyes swept the compartment as she spoke, a deep honeyed brown. She tapped her foot as she waited for a response.

 

“A what?”

 

“A toad.  Neville,” she waved a hand to indicate someone who was not there, “lost his toad, so I decided to help him.  Have you seen it?”

 

Harry pushed a chocolate frog wrapper further away from them, suddenly feeling wary of eating anything that looked toad or frog shaped.

 

“No, we haven't seen it,” Ron said, pulling the package that Harry had given up towards himself.

 

“He's been looking for it everywhere.  Personally, if I were him, I would have put a simple locator charm on it before coming on the train,” the girl again waved her hand, as though it was obvious what she was talking about.

 

“Aren't you a first year too?  We haven't even learned an ounce of magic, and students aren't allowed to practice magic outside Hogwarts until their of age,” Draco’s eyes narrowed.

 

“If you read Hogwarts: A History you would know that first years get a two week practice period before term starts.  And that is extended to a month, if like me, you're Muggle-born. Also the Hogwarts Express is considered Hogwarts property since 1899.”

 

“I have read most of Hog -”

 

“Also,” the girl slipped into the compartment and sat down beside the blonde, “I've been reading up on the assigned books and taking notes.  I've mastered quite a few of the fundamental spells, and I've also made one test potion for coughing fits.”

 

“Amateur.” Draco muttered.

 

“Show off.” Ron mumbled.

 

“I must really be behind,” Harry nervously fidgeted at the thought, once again running a nervous hand through their hair.

 

“You're Harry Potter!” the girl gasped and pulled back.  Harry did as well out of instinct.

 

“Don't touch them!” Ron warned.

 

“I read about you in-”

 

“I really doubt they want to just another thing you studied.”

 

“I'm Hermione Granger,” she thrust out her hand, smiling broadly.

 

“Hail,” Harry greeted nervously.  They took the hand that was offered and kissed it in the customary greeting.  A greeting they were slowly learning was not practiced in Midgard.

 

Hermione blushed and withdrew her hand.  “Um, th-thank you.”

 

“They were raised on a Pure Magical Commune,” Ron smirked slightly.  “Do you know what that is?”

 

“I have read about them in Modern Magical British History , yes I know what they are!” The girl snapped.  She looked over the boy. “Is that a rat in your pocket?”

 

“Oh yeah!”  The boy reached into his pocket and withdrew a rather large and fat gray rat.  “This is Scabbers. He used to be Bill's rat when he went to Hogwarts. Then Percy's.  Percy's saving for an owl or cat so he's mine now. Mom wrote ahead to tell Dumbledore about him.  They don't mind a little rat.”

 

“But they won't allow a horse?”

 

“A what?”

 

“Nevermind.”

 

“And you are?”  Hermione asked, her face very serious.  

 

“Can't get that from a book too?”

 

“I'm Draco Malfoy,” the blonde took her hand and shook it.  

 

She smiled.  “I've read a lot about your family.”

 

“All good I hope.”

 

“Umm…”

 

“Yeah, that's what I thought.  I'll try to make up for the awful stuff.”

 

“What awful stuff?”

 

“Please don't answer them.”

 

“Well, are you going to tell me your name?”

 

“Maybe.  Maybe not.”

 

“His name is Ron Weasley.”

 

“Shut up, Malfoy.”

 

“Well, Ron, you should know that you have a dirt smudge on your nose,” she indicated where with hand.  Hermione stood and adjusted her robe. “Also you three should change into your uniforms now. We're halfway there by my guess.”

 

“Thanks for suggestion,” the boy rolled his blue eyes.

 

“Don't mind him. His team hasn't won a game of Quidditch without cheating in years.”

 

“Cheating!  I should sock-”

 

“I should be going. I'm helping look for a toad.  If you see it, can you catch it and return to me or Neville when we get off?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“You have my word.”

 

“They have never cheated, you're just a sore loser!”

 

Hermione sighed and left, closing the compartment door behind her.

 

“You do have a smudge on your nose,” Harry pointed out.

 

“Shut up, Potter,” Ron said, though he wiped his face with his scarf.

 

****

 

Changing was a little awkward.  Ron had five older brothers and a little sister, and they all lived cramped in their house.  Privacy was treasured but not always expected. Draco didn't seemed to care about changing. Ron got the feeling he had gone to summer retreats like several Pureblood families and had changed with other boys their age.  

 

Harry was a different kettle of fish.  They balked at changing with them in the same room and kept asking if there was a dressing screen.  When they had been assured there was no dressing screen, they asked if they could change alone. The boys agreed and left them alone in the compartment for ten minutes.  Once Harry was dressed they gave the compartment to them to change. They didn't find it too weird for two to dress in the same room.

 

When they returned, they explained, “It's still strange for me to dress so..like this.”

 

“Don't you wear robes on Communes?”

 

“Yes, but usually not this style.  And definitely not with this type of trouser.  These are very uncomfortable.”

 

“Function over fashion.  That's what my Godfather says,” Draco said, settling back into his seat.

 

Harry's mouth opened excitedly like they were about to ask a question when the compartment door opened for a third time.

 

“Oh look boys, it's Dray.”

 

Malfoy stiffened before shrinking onto himself.  In the doorway was three boys: a thin faced boy flanked by either side by two lumps of flesh that passed for human.  The thin faced boy leaned into the room with a sneer.

 

“Aren't you going to say hello, Cousin?”

 

“Go away Knott,” the blonde growled out.

 

“That's rude,” Knott drawled, sliding further into the room.

 

“It's ‘cause he's a squib,” one of the lumps droned.  “Not a proper Malfoy. Not even a proper wizard.”

 

“Go away!  I'll tell my Father-”

 

“Your Father wants us to look out for you, Cousin.  What with your condition .”

 

Draco blushed scarlet, his gray eyes seemed to fill with tears and he turned away.

 

“Look, the squibs crying!”

 

Ron stood, drawing his wand.  “I really think you should leave.”

 

Knott stared around at him and snorted.  “Figures. A squib would associate with a blood traitor.”

 

“I'm warning you.”

 

“What are you going to Weasley?  And who's this little que- OOOOWWW!!!!”

 

Ron stood back in shock.  Harry had stood and quick as a flash had twisted the other boy's arm around behind him and was lifting the still twisted arm over his head, elbow first.  The two lumps were shocked at first before trying to advance toward the attacker. They moved the still whimpering boy as a shield in front of themselves and the others.

 

“I wish you three to leave.  You are upsetting my friend.”

 

“LET ME GOOOOOO!”

 

“Will you leave?”

 

“YEEESSSS!!”

 

Harry nodded and let the boy go.  Knott scrambled around to stare at the person who had held him.  The person in question glared in return. Knott flinched and scrambled out of the compartment.  The lumps warily watched Harry for a moment. They advanced back towards one, and they finally turned tail and ran.

 

Harry's demeanor immediately changed as he they turned back to Draco, their eyes full of concern.  “Are you alright?”

 

Draco took a few shaky breaths.  “Give me a minute.”

 

The brunette nodded and sat down beside the other.

 

“It's not true, you know?” Malfoy said after a few moments.  “I'm not a squib.”

 

“I believe you,” Harry said.  

 

“Thought you would be running a gang like that,” Ron said. He shrank a little at the glare Harry gave him.

 

“Technically, they're supposed to be my friends.”

 

“Friends?”

 

“Technically.”

 

“My family is very well-connected,” it wasn't said like a brag, more of a resigned fact of life.  “And to maintain these connections, I have to ‘friends’ with certain people. Cousin Theodore Knott, his family isn't as rich as mine.  Nor is Crabbe and Goyle's, the trolls he was with. So if their family wants to any of our influence, they have to do good by my parents and by me.”

 

“Doesn't that give you more leverage against them?”

 

He laughed bitterly.  “You would think. But I am...different.  So my parents had to bribe them to be my friend.  I'm sure I can scare them into line myself, but I was hoping for a day without running into them before the feast and being sorted.”  He laughed again. “We all know which house I'm going to end up in.”

 

Ron nodded in understanding.  Harry looked more confused but said nothing.

 

***

 

“Are you okay being in the boy dormitory, Harry?” Ron had whispered as they followed behind Percy into the Gryffindor common room.

 

Harry had hesitantly nodded, not knowing what else they could do.  There was only two options. On Asgard, many palace children who were training to be warriors or other professions slept in dorms.  They were not divided by gender and were watched over by and older child from the next level up. In contrast, all the dorms were divided by gender then by age.

 

At least they weren't alone.  Ron had been sorted into their house, which seemed preordained since all his brothers were Gryffindors as well.  Draco had been placed in Slytherin, something he took with as much dignity as any king took their ctown. The green and silver table had cheered to have him but quickly delegated him to a lonely section of table.  Harry had asked if during the ‘Feast’ (a dubious claim in comparison to feasts on Asgard) they could go sit with them.

 

“Of course not!” Percy had scolded and Harry had spent most of the evening trading stories with Ron and trying to wave to Draco.

 

The boy's dormitory wasn't so bad.  The other boys quickly fell into calling Harry them and they when introduced.  Dean Thomas even complimented their hair pin. They got to meet Neville and his misbehaving toad, Trevor.

 

“Gran says I can have an owl when I'm thirteen.  Or a cat,” the boy had explained, petting the warty familiar fondly.  

 

Harry had smiled but when Neville's back was turned asked Ron what Gran meant.  There were a lot of things they didn't understand and many things they wanted to ask, but as the night wore on and their new friend's eyes became heavy with the need to sleep, they realized most of them would have to wait.

 

They instantly liked their new bed.  The curtains allowed for instant privacy for dressing and reading.  Ron and Seamus had called them ‘fancy’ and Dean and Neville seemed unfazed by them.  Harry loved them. Once they had changed into their sleeping shift, and the boys had changed into their ‘pajamas’, Harry had dove into bed and pulled the curtains closed.  Naturally they had said good night first. Ron had yawned it back. Neville had stuttered it out. Dean was already asleep and Seamus had said simply waved.

 

Once the curtain was closed and they were quite certain everyone else was too absorbed in trying to go to sleep, they lifted their right hand and studied the ring they had been given.  It was their first night in Hogwarts, and they wanted to share everything that had transpired with their parents. But which one to summon? Part of them wanted to summon their Father. After all, the house of Gryffindor sounded like a house of warriors like his Father. It even had his color scarlet.  But again it was the first night. Harry knew technically they were not supposed to have their parents so close at hand. And until they were able to use spells to hide and silence and prevent eavesdropping, they had only one choice. They turned the ring several times until the runes were correctly aligned.

 

“Mama?”

 

“I'm here, Little Lamb.”

 

Sitting on the bed, wearing the his forest green cotton tunic and deep brown leggings was Loki.  He had appeared as though he had always been there, like Harry had blinked and forgotten to process him being there.  Harry rushed forward for a hug, which Loki quickly scooped them into. Before the little mortal could say a word though, they placed a finger on their lips and looked around the new surroundings.  His eyes swept to the curtains, parting them with one of his hands before drawing back.

 

“They did not provide you a private room?” the god asked, waving a hand to create an illusion to give them the privacy to speak at regular volume.

 

“No, Mama.  They put me in the first year dormitory.  The first year boy dormitory.”

 

Loki's eyes flashed with irritation.  “Did that old coot-”

 

“It is alright, Mama.  I don't mind. Everyone is respecting me, and I like being near Ron.”

 

“Ron?”

 

“Ron of the family Weasley.  He's the youngest boy and in my year. He's very nice, though apparently his favorite Cannons of Chudley cheat in Quidditch.”

 

“I see,” Loki said with uncertainty.

 

“He is my friend,” Harry insisted.  “Him and Draco.”

 

“Draco?”

 

“He's in one of the other houses, Slytherin.  His family, the Malfoys, are very well-connected and known in the Wizarding community.  I wish he was in our house.”

 

“House?”

 

****

 

Back on Asgard, Thor listened to only half the conversation play out.  Loki was sitting on their bed, playing out the conversation that was taking place on Midgard.  His eyes were closed, focusing on being solidly there, occasionally stroking the air in front of him as he ran his fingers over their child.

 

“It seems silly to not allow you sit where you please during a feast,” Loki was saying, a small smile on playing on his lips.  Harry would never know that an hour previously, the mouth had been quavering as the God of Mischief had been standing over what had been their crib.  The same fingers that ghosted over their face had shakily ran down the interior.

 

Thor turned to the crib in question.  He could remember the night it had been fetched for them.  He could remember as Harry slowly grew out of it. They then turned it to a place for their child's toys, until that seemed too big as well.

 

The blonde god was sure he and his spouse would have true born children in this time: they had begged for it.  But Harry was special. Harry was their first child. Something unique to both of them. In that other time, Loki had had children away from from him.  Thor could remember the other being sequestered with Frigga and Odin as Loki or the woman he had bedded had given birth. Loki had felt no shame in these deeds.  And no one at the time had shamed him, even when he was the one who had been pregnant. After all, as a Prince, Loki was expected to sow and reap his seed far and wide.  It was expected of Thor as well, but how could you confess to jealousy of your brother's bed companions? When Loki's true heritage had been discovered and his betrayals complete, his bed partners had disavowed him and his children imprisoned.  Or at least the ones he had admitted to.

 

That was then.  In this time, Loki now had the expectations of a royal of two families.  His children were expected to be usher in and cement not only the peace between the realms, but his own rule as Prince.  Which was part of Odin's delay on allowing them to have children of their own. Many in Asgard still Loki and Thor as too young to be Princes.  Allfather had not been crowned until he had his first gray hair, went some songs. But it seemed to be a running theme with Odin, to delay them when it came to being happy.

 

But Thor was determined.  He knew they would have other children.  He looked back as Loki was mimicking the motion of tucking their child to bed.

 

“It also sounds like an amazing start to an adventure.  You should go to sleep now, my Little Lamb. Tomorrow is a better and bigger day.”

Chapter Text

Harry looked around the courtyard as they, Ron, and Draco enjoyed a day outdoors from the castle.  The castle of Hogwarts was indeed large, but not as large as the palace in Asgard. Certainly in many ways taller; most of the towers of the palace were decorative.  It was also more confusing a layout. With moving staircases, portraits with subjects that wandered on a whim, and one unhelpful poltergeist, Hogwarts was certainly disorganized.  Luckily, most first years were in the same boat and most professors took that into consideration.

 

The first few days were not only a series of being lost: it was also filled with the most stares and pointing.  Diagon Alley had much easier than those first few days. The first day of classes, people had twisted around any time they entered a room or their name was called.  They had the mistake on the first day of pulling all their hair back, only to have people stare transfixed at their scar. By midday they put their hair down and developed a habit of looking down when they walk.  Whispers erupted every time they entered a rook or left. They could strain their ears and catch tidbits of conversation about themselves. It made them sick. Ron, Fred, and George quickly put the Gryffindors in line, so they could feel more welcome in their own house.  Percy helped too, but Harry had a feeling that he was part of a different problem. Draco could do very little to curb Slytherin behavior. Like he had suspected, once rested and in Hogwarts, he had been able for the most part make most of the other house listen and respect him.  Crabbe and Goyle, the two lumps, became de facto personal guards at times and Knott usually deferred to Draco in and outside the classroom. But still, it was obvious they didn't necessarily like Draco, and the fact Draco had dug in his heels and refused to give up Ron and especially Harry has his friends made him an outsider when it was in the Slytherin house.  Respected for his educational accomplishments, but quickly dropped when it was convenient.

 

After a few days though, going to school with the famous ‘Harry Potter’ was as routine as anything else.  It was Harry's non-conforming gender that became the next hurdle for many. Most of Gryffindor and even swathes of Slytherin quickly caught on to calling them ‘them/they/person’, with only minor slip ups here and there.  The other houses, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, took to it more and more they came into contact with them. Those who did not, were very vocal. Percy was one, even sending Harry to Madam Pomfrey one day to ‘have gender explained properly.’  Madam Pomfrey had sent Harry back to the dorms with several pamphlets for Percy about gender, sex, and sexuality. He promptly ‘lost’ them. A few Slytherins took to calling them ‘it’ when referring to them.

 

Teachers were mixed bag.  Strangely, it was Snape who seemed the quickest to accept Harry's presentation.  Harry supposed he knew that their Mother and Father had something to do with that.  McGonagall slipped occasionally, but never called attention to it. Flitwick would make a large show of apologizing, which made Harry feel more uncomfortable.  Professor Sprout made a point of calling them always by name, to a ridiculous degree. Other professors simply ignored the suggestion completely. Professor Quirrell when Harry had privately spoken to him about the matter had said in his stuttering way, “Y-you'll gr-grow int-t-to, P-P-Potter.”

 

They honestly didn't think they would.

 

“I can't wait for the flying lesson.  Do you think we'll get to play a game of Quidditch too?” they asked, looking up from their Charms textbook.

 

“I doubt we'll even be able to go beyond three feet off the ground today,” Draco snorted, his own attention on a Potion book.

 

“I've gone loads higher on my Charlie's broom back home,” Ron said, currently reading a comic.

 

“Yeah, well liability.  And Muggle-borns. And Commune raised.”

 

“I've flown!”

 

“On a broom?”

 

“No.  I was four summers and trying to get away from some other children.”

 

“There you go.”

 

“There I go where?”

 

“Hi, Harry!”  Hermione Granger had raced up the three, carrying her usual three books under arm.  “Are you excited about flying lessons?!”

 

“Hail Hermione,” they greeted.  “I am, but Draco doesn't think we'll fly higher than three feet today.”

 

“Probably for the best.  I haven't finished reading up on the history of flying.”

 

“You're doing what now?” Ron looked up from his comic in disbelief.

 

“Oh, I'm just doing this for a bit of fun.  I finished reading Flying over the Archelego: History of Broomsticks and Flying in The British Isles and now I'm reading The Flying Ones: Flight in the South Africa .  I want to write home to my parents about their home country.  I think you will like the first book, Harry. There's a great section on London and Communes.”  She handed a book to Draco. “Also I found that book I mentioned yesterday in class. The one about the uses of glass cauldrons.”

 

“I could have gotten it myself,” Draco grumbled but took the book.  “My Godfather is the Potion Master here.”

 

Hermione seemed undeterred.  “I can't seem to find a book about how to fly-”

 

“You can't read a book how to fly!” Ron had put aside his comic and stood.  “Flying is not something you learn-”

 

“We're going to a class in forty five minutes.”

 

“You practice it.  Feel it. It's something in your blood.  It's...instinct.”

 

“I did on accident when I was four.”

 

“Harry.  Please.”

 

The girl sighed.  “I also came over to speak to you too, Ron.”

 

Ron narrowed his eyes.  “Why?”

 

“Your transfiguration wand work.”

 

“My-”

 

“Your wand work in general needs work.”

 

“I was telling him just that morning,” Draco said sarcastically.  The redhead wheeled around at the blonde. Harry giggled, unable to help it.

 

“Well I just thought, you may want some help.”

 

“‘Help'?”

 

“I could tutor you.”

 

“Listen, Granger, if I wanted your help I would ask for it!”

 

“Fine!” she squared her shoulders and stamped her foot.  “I was only trying to be helpful!”

 

“That's very kind of you, Hermione.”

 

“Harry!  Again, please!”

 

Hermione turned and walked away, not even giving them a proper goodbye.

 

“You should be nicer to her,” Harry said as they watched her leave.  “She's very nice.”

 

“She's a know-it-all, that's what she is,” Ron said, sitting and taking up his comic once more.

 

“Draco knows just as much as she does.”

 

“Draco isn't the teacher's pet.”

 

“Draco is getting worried we're going to miss our flying lesson.”

 

****

 

Madam Hooch was the sort of woman that would have it very well in the barracks of Asgard.  She reminded Harry a little of the swordmaster they had learned under when they were younger.  She had assembled an array of brooms on the ground and told each student to line up beside the broom of their choice.

 

“No matter the house.  Seems silly to divide you,” she said, her arms behind her and feet firmly planted in the ground.  Harry mimicked the stance, something they had been taught to do with their tutors. They had received several odd stares from professors when they had refused to sit until they had been granted permission or directly instructed the first week of classes.  Snape had taken complete advantage, making them stand the entire period. It wasn't til Draco had made Harry ask permission to sit that the Potion Master had given up his game. Madam Hooch by contrast only nodded at Harry and pressed on with the lesson.

 

The lesson had gone well.  The children had been taught several technical names for parts of the broom, many Harry recognized because they came from terms about saddles.  Then they had been made to summon their brooms to their hands. Harry and Draco's had come immediately when called. Ron's had laid on the ground stubbornly until finally smacking him in the face.  Hermione's had pathetically rolled on the ground until Hooch took pity on her and told her to pick it up. The professor was just about to instruct the students on how to hover when there was a cry of alarm from down the line of students.

 

“Longbottom, what on Earth are you doing?  Come down this instant!”

 

Neville Longbottom, a boy who Harry was quite sure was jinxed with bad luck, continued to rise in the air and blubber out apologies.  Several Slytherins laughed and pointed. A few picked up rocks to throw at the poor boy. Hooch quickly made them drop the stones, only to have Neville fall finally from the broom in a sobbing heap.

 

“Now look at me.  Hmm. Hmm. Let me see the arm.  Yep. Broken wrist. Up you go.” The professor helped the sniffling boy up from the ground and turned to the rest of the class.  “The rest of you stay here while I take him to the hospital wing. If I see one broom in the air, that person will be expelled faster than they can say Quidditch.”  She marched away, Neville beside her, whimpering.

 

“Look what we have here,” Knott said, bending down to the grass where Neville had been standing.  “Longbottom must've dropped it.” The boy was holding a small cloudy ball up to the class. All the Gryffindors recognized it; it was Neville's remembrall that he had received just that morning at breakfast.  His grandmother had sent it hoping to help with his poor memory. All she had really done was give him another thing to worry about.

 

“Give it here, Knott,” Ron commanded, putting out his hand for the ball.

 

“I don't think I will,” the other boy drawled, juggling the ball as he spoke.  “I rather like it. I could throw into the lake. Wonder if I can skip it.”

 

“You should give it back to Neville,” Harry said, stepping forward.

 

Knott took a step backwards and looked over towards Draco.  “Tell it I'm only joking.”

 

“They know you aren't.  Just give it Hooch when she comes back.” Draco said.

 

The Slytherin seemed to consider it, holding the small in his hands gently.  The small crisis seemed to have been averted. Harry relaxed a little. Draco blew out a breath in relief.  Ron kicked at a few tufts of grass. Hermione hummed.

 

Knott threw the remembrall.

 

Several girls screamed in alarm.  A few Gryffindor boys advanced on Knott, lead by Ron.

 

Quick as a flash, both Draco and Harry had summoned brooms and mounted them, racing after the ball.  Harry was shocked at how natural it felt to fly. It was like being on Eira, the speed incredible. They were so caught up in the feeling that zipped past the remembrall, letting Draco deftly catch it with his right hand.

 

He held it up to show the rest of the class.  Most of the children applauded; not only was it great that the blonde had saved the trinket, but it was a great show of skill.  Most of the Wizarding children especially could recognize the makings of a great seeker. The catch was simple, base level one in comparison to ones made by professionals, but it was obvious that Draco had not only talent but had practiced before.  

 

Draco flew over the class still holding the remembrall out.  Harry flew to hover beside him, still as naturally astride the broom as Draco.  “Why did you throw it?!”

 

Knott laughed, “It was funny.”

 

“That was a cruel jest,” Harry shouted, “What if it had broken?”

 

“Then it would have been hilarious!”

 

Draco ground his teeth in annoyance.  “Don't you even care about Slytherin!?”

 

The other Slytherin stopped laughing.  “Do I care about Slytherin?!  You are friends with two Gryffindors!  You're a Malfoy, hanging out with Harry Potter and a Weasley!  You're not a proper Slytherin. Barely a proper wizard!”

 

Malfoy's face went white at the words.  The entire class went silent, watching the boy carefully.  Harry wanted to reach out and hug him. They also felt like punching Knott so hard his nose broke.

 

Suddenly, the air around Draco seemed to pulse.  It knocked Harry back a little at the waves of energy coming from the boy.  They steered around to face him, only to find Draco red in the face and near snarling.  Another wave of power came from Malfoy, this time stronger. A few students on the ground felt it and backed up.  A third and far more powerful wave left him and with it a surge of electricity. It zipped through the air and landed at the feet of Knott who jumped back in shock and fear.  The electricity surged and crackled until finally getting focused in Draco's hand. He gave out a cry and there was a burst of light. The remembrall went sailing through the air arching a way into the distance behind them.

 

“Oh no,” Draco moaned weakly watching the ball, his nose beginning to trickle blood.

 

Knott and several Slytherins howled with laughter pointing at the ball go further and further way and begin to arch down toward the ground.  Harry turned their broom around and streaked after the orb, their only concern that far glinting trinket. They arched down on their broom, following the trajectory, reaching their right hand out just as they had seen Draco do.  

 

It felt as natural as breathing.

 

Later when they finally calmed down from being caught by McGonagall and being brought to Oliver Wood, they would not be able to tell their friends exactly the feeling they had felt as they closed their hands around it.

 

****

 

Dear Mom and Dad,

 

I know that Percy has probably been writing you and telling you all about what happened at our flying lesson.  And probably Professor McGonagall. Maybe Theodore Knott’s parents. I want you to know that a lot of that was sort of true.  Sort of.

 

Yes, I did punch Knott.  Not in the nose. I think that was Seamus.  And yes I know it's wrong to punch people. But it's wrong to take things too!  I don't know how much Percy has told you but Knott deserved it!

 

Anyway, what I really wanted to write you about is Harry.  They got onto the Quidditch team. Youngest player ever I think.  Their the new Seeker and they are absolutely amazing. You should have seen them!  I mean, you would think they were born for it. Hermione A classmate of ours said it was probably because of their Dad.  She showed us this huge trophy that their Dad had gotten for being Seeker.  Draco was great too, you can tell he's had lessons. I thought he would be upset that the Slytherins didn't raise a fuss for him to be on the team, but he said he didn't care.  He seemed really happy for Harry though. Kept talking about it, making Harry all twitchy.

 

But why I was writing is Harry doesn't know much about Quidditch still.  (I KNOW!) And I left several Quidditch Quarterlies at home. I thought it would be good to give them some insight.   Hermione The girl from before said she was going to send them home with all these books.  She always had her head in a book!

 

Oh, and can you please send some fudge?  I want to congratulate Harry when they get back from visiting their parents and give some to Draco.  He's still having to visit the Hospital Wing in the evenings after dinner.

 

Love, Ron

 

P.S. Tell Percy to stop calling Harry a boy.  They don't complain but you can tell it bothers them.

 

P.S.S. Tell Fred and George to stop putting toilet signs on my back.

 

P.S.S.S. Make sure Ginny isn't in my room!

 

****

 

Draco rather liked his Godfather Severus.  When he had been very little, he had been granted permission to call him Uncle Sevy.  But as he got older, both his parents and the very serious man had put a stop to that.  He was still allowed to call him Uncle Sev, but only ever in private. Despite the name issue, the usually dour man could be warm and especially kind.  On the rare occasions that he smiled, truly smiled, he seemed to look younger and even handsome. But usually, even when he was being kind and giving Draco support, his lips could only manage a small strange sarcastic sneer.

 

Or as was the case now, Snape's face was a blank unreadable mask.

 

“Come in,” the Godfather said, waving a hand to allow the boy into his personal quarters.  Draco entered the small parlor like room. Unlike the Slytherin common room that was a hallway over, the room was not green and black.  It was actually mostly brown and light tans. Books filled nearly every table, all partially read and stuffed with papers to make the Potion Master's place.  The bookshelves were bursting with books and assorted decorations. The Mastery in Potions Certificate was framed on the mantle above a roaring fireplace, well cared for along with the Mastery of Mental Magic that seemed less loved.  Draco knew that somewhere his Godfather had a mastery in Dark Arts and Defensive Magic, but refused to showcase as long as he was passed over for the Defense against the Dark Arts position time and again. There were a few personal pictures as well.  A young Snape with his mother, standing still in the only Muggle picture he owned. A picture from his Hogwarts day of a group under a banner that read ‘The Slug Club’ with several students all surrounding a portly man who jovially waved out of the picture.  A picture of Snape accepting one of his Masters, one could not be sure which one was placed on the center mantle. On a side table, seeming to be close at hand was a picture of Draco himself, around the age of six, on a broom and hovering with his nervous mother who even in the picture constantly seemed to fuss over him.  Occasionally, his father would enter the frame and adjust the young boy on the seat, only to retreat once more.

 

Snape seemed on this late evening at odds with the cozy surroundings he had made for himself.  He still wore his signature teaching robe and from the red smudges on his fingers, had been in the middle of grading with his famous red ink.

 

“I-I thought he would already be here,” Draco stuttered out, sitting down on an overstuffed sofa.

 

“There was a late night meeting of the school Governors about Quidditch teams.”

 

“About Harry being put on the team.”

 

Snape lifted an eyebrow at him.  “My, aren't we cozy with The One who Lived.”

 

Draco blushed.  “They're my friend.  I don't see anything wrong with that.”

 

“We'll see how you feel after talking with your father.”

 

Almost on cue, the fire in the hearth changed green and Lucius Malfoy strode out of the flames, his usual cane in one hand and hair immaculate even if his traveling robe was covered with soot.  He removed his wand from his cane and waved it over himself, clearing the offending dirt and ash before removing the robe altogether.

 

“Severus,” the elder Malfoy drawled, his gray eyes holding no warmth in seeing his old friend.  “I would like to speak to my son in private.”

 

“In my quarters,” Snape pointed out, not moving.

 

Lucius did not move nor blink at the words, only continuing to stare at him as though the Potion Master could be moved by his eyes alone.

 

Which he could.  “Fine. I can stay in my office for an hour more and continue grading.”

 

“Thank you.”  It was said with little gratitude in the words.

 

As soon as the Potion Master had left the room, deliberately slow and with a slight slam to the door for emphasis, Lucius allowed his eyes to soften and fix on his son.  Lucius Malfoy was not an overly affectionate person: he rarely kissed his wife in public and only quick pecks in and out of private. His wedding album included a few token pictures of him admiring and holding the bride before quickly revealing he had spent most of the day networking with guests.  Like most Pureblood elites, he traveled and spent a lot of time away from home. At home, he sequestered himself in his study and usually dictated to his family as if they were underlings. But still, Lucius was a different breed than most of the Wizarding wealthy. He and his wife didn't sleep in different rooms, and they attended social functions always together and if one could not attend, they simply didn't go.  A far cry of the Parkinsons or Knotts, or even the Blaises, who seemed almost unhappy to spend much time with one another. While like most, their's was an arranged marriage, they seemed content with one another. Maybe not love, it was an unspoken fact that Narcissa was in love with another man whom Draco had never met, but the relationship that was between the two Malfoys was warm and friendly.

 

Lucius was also different when it came to how he raised his son.  Where most Pureblood men placed the care of their pregnant wifes in the hands of healers and never attended the labor, the silver haired blonde had been present throughout.  He and Narcissa had also broke with tradition and only hired a part time nanny, both of them raising Draco more directly. Draco could even remember his father singing lullabies to him, holding him after a nightmare.  It was when his...condition...became more acute did Lucius begin to pull away and become the distant Father. Not out of wanting to: Draco could tell his father regretted the gulf he had created. Even now, he could see his Father want to do more than the small gesture of placing his hands on his shoulders.

 

“I heard what happened.”

 

Draco went scarlet.  “I-”

 

“I know you didn't mean it.  I know that. Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

 

Embarrassed.  He had hoped it would stop happening once he got his wand and came to Hogwarts.  “I'm not hurt. Madam Pomfrey says everyone still has fits of accidental magic until they're about eighteen or twenty.”

 

Lucius looked still concerned.  “There's still time to send you to Beauxbatons, to study in-”

 

“I don't want to go study in France in some special class!  I like it here! I have friends.”

 

“Yes.  I'm well aware of your ‘friends’.”

 

The younger blonde paled and drew back.  He had known that someone would have told his Father about who he had been spending time with.  Uncle Sev probably wrote the first day of potion class when he, Ron, and Harry had found a three person bench in the back.  Maybe Knott had written after Harry had pinned him so expertly. Any number of Slytherins could have written as the weeks wore on and Draco would slip away to see his friends.  Madam Pomfrey would even be a good candidate; Ron and Harry insisted on coming with him the first time he had been sent to the Hospital Wing.

 

“Professor Dumbledore made quite a moving speech about house unity to the Governors this evening.”

 

That was unsuspected.  “Dad! They're my friends!  I'm not-”

 

“A Weasley and the Savior of the Wizarding World.  I've even heard you have been seen with a Mudblood.”

 

The word was said so casually.  Lucius used words like that as flippantly as most people would use the word ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ or ‘British’.  To him, it was was the proper word. The more correct and ‘polite’ word that he said in the company of others was inaccurate and misleading.  He never, though, forced Draco to day it. If Draco said Muggle-born to describe someone, Lucius looked nonplussed. Maybe he assumed it was something that would go away with age.  Maybe he felt Draco deserved the right to make up his own mind about the issue. Maybe he didn't care.

 

“They're my friends,” Draco repeated.  “The Slytherins don't really like me that much.  Knott has seen to that.”

 

“Blaise isn't even your friend?  Or the Parkinson girl?”

 

“Blaise is nice, but he's sucking up to Knott so we don't hang out a lot.”  He could tell the words ‘hang out’ annoyed his Father but he continued. “And Pansy is...weird.”

 

“Our families are in discussion about both your futures.”

 

That explains it.  Pansy had tried to sit next to him in every class and talk to him during the times he took advantage of the common room.  With her future as the next Mrs. Malfoy on the line, she needed to keep her presence in his thoughts.

 

“I like my friends.”

 

“Even Harry Potter?”

 

Draco nervously fidgeted.  “Harry's...really nice.” They were more than nice.  Anyone who spoke to Harry for any period of time quickly found them to be kind, trusting but not altogether naive, intelligent and inquisitive but ignorant of pieces of knowledge that most children their age took for granted, loyal, and with an acute sense of right and wrong.  They didn't necessarily see the world in black and white, simply they were aware that not all acts were done for one reason. They were sweet, but could be assertive when push came to shove. They were strong; including the incident on the train with Knott, Harry had proven that in spite of their short and lean appearance, they could lift not only most of a potions workbench by themselves but also carry several cauldrons.  They were also, at least to Draco, the most beautiful person he had ever met. Though, he was not about to tell Lucius that.

 

“And he is your good friend?”

 

“It's only been a few weeks, but yeah.  Also they go by ‘they’.”

 

“Good.  Keep it that way.”

 

The boy blinked in shock.  “What?”

 

“Keep him or them or whatever as your friend.  If it helps, keep the blood-traitor Weasley and Mudblood close too.”

 

Again Draco blinked.  He had not been expecting this.  He had been expecting an ultimatum to stop seeing anyone from Gryffindor house.  Maybe for Lucius to ‘allow’ him until Christmas to find more suitable friends. But this was almost too good to be true.  “I-”

 

“Dray, do you know what Malfoys are good at?” Draco said nothing.  “We are good at surviving. Playing the field. And finding multiple ways to achieving the same goal.  When one door closes, Malfoys are making a new one. We use everything and person at our disposal to do it.  The next generation of statesmen and leaders in this world will most likely be crowned or close to Harry Potter.  And unlike Knott and the others, you have made yourself quite the nitch to advance.”

 

That made the younger Malfoy frown.  He had not wanted to be friends with Harry just for a future career or to advance his family name.  He had wanted a friend!

 

“Also,” Lucius added, taking his son into arms in a rare physical show of affection, “if it makes you happy to be friends with them, then who am I to stop you.  I wish only the best for you.”

 

Now that made Draco feel spectacular.  Hugs and words of love from his father were treasured and he quickly put the first statement from his mind.  Well, not completely from his mind. He placed it in the category of things he would rather forget and not think about.

 

“Draco,” his Father's voice seemed slightly too conversational, “What do you think of Professor Quirrell?”

 

“Quirrell?  Um, he's nice.  He has a bad stutter so taking notes is hard.  But he seems really smart. We're just going over wand techniques right now.”

 

“Hmmm.  I was thinking of you spending one night a week getting tutored by him.  Privately.”

 

“It's only been a few weeks!  I don't think I need-”

 

“Now, Dray.  What did I just finished telling you?  Malfoys find multiple ways to achieve the same goal.  And we use everything and every person.”

 

****

 

“My child the youngest on a team!”  Thor called loudly from the high table in the dining hall.  Several warriors lifted their goblets and tankards in a toast to the news and there was a smattering of applause.  Most of the Asgardian palace kept to their food, not out of disrespect but out the philosophy of mind oneself.

 

Harry blushed at the fuss their Father was making.  They had returned a few hours ago to Asgard and quickly told the Warriors Three and Lady Sif the news of them being placed on the Quidditch team.  The four, much like their parents, didn't know what Quidditch was but they had caught on to the child's excitement and agreed it was wonderful. They had told their parents after they finally been able to change from the Midgardian ‘jeans’ and ‘t-shirt’ they had arrived in to their more traditional and more comfortable Asgardian court gown.  Now, sitting at the high table across from their Mother and beside their Father with their Grandparents close at hand, they had explained the circumstances that had lead to them being put on the team. They had also discussed Hogwarts in general, trying to reassure mostly Loki that they were indeed learning at the school.

 

Loki, though, seemed just as pleased as Thor at the news.  “So a ‘Seeker’. This position takes great skill?”

 

Harry nodded.  “Ron says that their entire camps or retreats where witches and wizards go to learn and train to be a Seeker and only a tiny number ever really succeed.”

 

“Ah, but my Lightning Bolt has a talent for it!”

 

“Will you able to wear your glasses during the games?  And will your teachers tutor you to make up for the time you miss training and playing?”

 

“They said it would be dangerous for me not to wear my glasses.  My...birth father wore glasses when he was a Seeker. And all of the training and playing happen after school hours.”

 

“I want you to keep to your studies then.  I will command this McGonagall to remove you from the team if you fall behind too far.”

 

“I have to keep up on my lessons.  It's one of the requirements for staying on the team.”

 

Loki nodded approvingly.  “I will say, in spite of how he came to find you, Dumbledore seems to run Hogwarts very well.”

 

“The youngest and the most valuable,” Thor was still marveling at the thought.

 

“I suppose, if you are old enough for them to put you on a team, you are now old enough to join in the tourneys come the summer.”

 

Harry's mouth and fork dropped in shock.  Their Mother had just given them permission to be in the tourneys!  In Asgard, the seasons passed as they did in Midgard: spring gave into summer which lead into autumn and then finally winter.  Each season was also marked by an activity that was overseen by Allfather, though the king usually delegated many aspects to his family.  For instance, autumn was harvest time, with many farmers and merchants coming and going with bounty. It was also a time when the Nine Realms would send tribute or ask for aid, meaning that warriors were also extremely busy.  Winter was the time of the great Yule feast and progress. Mothers would announce they were pregnant or children would be named publicly. Spring was the time of planting and public justice be given. Couples asked for permission to court.  

 

Summer, though.  Summer was tourney season.  Yes, couples asked permission to get married and get divorced from Allfather.  But Harry had always wanted to play in the tourneys. There was the jousts, the archery contests, the melees, and the obstacle courses.  There were competition for metalworking, flower and fabric weaving, and jewelry making. After Yule, it was their favorite time of year. And they had always wanted to enter and not only be an observer but a participant as well.  Last year, two of the palace children who Harry trained with had been allowed to enter the minor leagues. Harry had had the honor of giving out the awards to the minor league and had felt only envy for the winners who they gave flower crowns too.

 

“Do you mean it?  May I be in the tourneys?”

 

“If you do well in your studies and you realize you can't compete in every event, I do not see why not.”

 

Harry laughed in delight and rushed from their seat, around the table to hug their Mother who kissed the top of their head.

 

“We were hoping to tell you come Yule,” Frigga said from where she sat beside her own adopted child.  “I suppose we will have to think of something else to surprise you with.” These last words were said with a mock sigh.

 

“You can give me more hair pins.  Or a gown I can wear in Midgard.” They asked as they made their way back to their seat.

 

“Maybe,” the grandmother teased with a twinkle in her eye.

 

As Harry sat down there was a sudden BANG from the other end of the hall and several guards were led in by Volstagg, a prisoner struggling in the center of them.  Occasionally, the largest of the Warriors Three would call behind him to have the man gagged as the group made their way to the high table.  The royal family kept very quiet as they came forward, affecting a look of disinterest. All except the youngest who could barely contain watching.  It wasn't until Thor spooned another portion of buttered onion and another sliver of venison did the mortal remember to look down at their plate.

 

Volstagg and the guards stopped and knelt at the high stable, at the feet of Odin.  For his part, Odin had not even flinched when the doors had opened. He had beforehand participated in congratulating his grandchild on their accomplishments, though maybe to a lesser degree than the others at the table.  Now he seemed rather fixated on stabbing, cutting, and ripping off pieces of bloody meat while he made the group wait.

 

Finally, tossing a piece of fat to a nearby hound, the elder god growled, “Well, what have you brought Us?”

 

“Hail Allfather,” Volstagg proclaimed loudly.  “A day ago you sent me in search of Magnus, the scoundrel who has been...hurting palace children including his own son.”

 

Allmother lifted her head and turned to the man.  Her face was hard and eyes cold and as sharp as any blade.  “Let Us see the face of the man who hurt Our children.”

 

The large man hesitated, but Allfather turned and nodded not even wiping his chin.  Thor placed a hand on Harry's, a sign of comfort as the child trembled. The energy at the table had decidedly changed.  The group of soldiers parted and two men brought Magnus forward, forcing him to lean forward so the table could see his round face and wispy beard.

 

“Disgusting,” Loki declared, spitting in the prisoners eye.

 

“You will find no mercy in this place from Us,” Frigga declared.

 

“He has spoiled mine and the child's appetite,” Thor said, waving a hand at the now untouched plates.

 

“What did he do?” Harry whispered to no one in particular.

 

Odin waved a hand dismissing the man and the group.  “I will wait until the spring for your proper punishment.  In a few days time I shall pass my judgment. And I will have your wife have the honor of being your executioner.  Though, it would be more fitting to have your victims come of age and take you apart piece by piece.”

 

“Y-you are merciful,” Magnus stuttered out.  He was immediately punched in the gut to silence him.

 

“It is not mercy.  It is the impatience of justice.  To the dungeon.”

 

The group was led by Volstagg through a side door and left the hall.  After a few moments, Odin reached for a goblet and called for another round of mead to all the tables assembled.  Dinner resumed.

 

“Papa,” Harry immediately turned to Thor.  “What happened?”

 

Thor grimaced and gave Loki a questioning look.  Loki returned it was a nervous nod. The God of Thunder nodded.  “That man was one of the men who oversaw the kennels. And you know how palace children love the hounds.”  The mortal nodded. They had most certainly been one. They still did. “When children would come to see the hounds, he would…hurt them.”

 

“‘Hurt them’?”

 

“Harry,” Loki said very quietly, “do you remember when we taught you about the bull and the cow?”

 

Harry blushed.  Like most Asgardian children, they had been taught very young about sex and reproduction.  Yes, it had been and still was embarrassing but the idea of knowing early on meant children would feel more comfortable with their bodies and produce children when they were ready with people they love.

 

“Yes, I remember.”

 

“Well, he would force the children to do such things with him.”

 

“Oh Heaven!” Harry pushed their plate away.  

 

“We had hoped not tell you.  We hoped he would have surrendered once his wife discovered what he had been doing and asked for Allmother's to take her and child into her retinue, but he fled.  We didn't want to make your visit home marked by sadness.”

 

“It's not marked by sadness!  He was caught! He will never hurt another child again, right Grand'pierre?”

 

Odin nodded gruffly, sopping up the leftover juices on his plate with a piece of bread.

 

“I wish there was a way I could help the children though,” the small brunette mused, mostly to themselves.

 

“My Little Lamb, sometimes the best help is just being  present. If you wish, tomorrow you may help your Grandmother with the children in the garden.  She's been watching and playing with them.”

 

“Yes, I would like that.”  Though hopeful they could be of some help, the idea that there was an adult who hurt children disturbed Harry.  They had been somewhat aware of such things, naturally. Allmother's garden was filled with men and women running from toxic and abusive relationships, as well as warriors recovering from battle.  The children who played there were children also in need of healing. The women and men who were part of the queen's entourage were expected to help heal and assist in the comfort of those who sought her out.  One day, it would be Loki's task to carry on such work. Work that Harry slightly envied. They wanted to be like their Father, a strong warrior of Asgard. They wanted to be like their Mother, clever sorcerer.  But they also wished to be like their Grandmother, a shield to the innocent. It was in that vein, at the concerned look their parents were giving them they smiled and asked, “Maybe in the morning, we can go for ride, as well?”

 

Thor and Loki smiled at their child.  How could they deny them?

Chapter Text

A few weeks went by: Harry went to and from ‘the Commune’ to visit their family a few times and went to Quidditch practice.  Quidditch, they quickly found, much like most skills of melee or swordplay, were better learned hands on then explained. They were quick to pick the sport, much to the pleasure of Draco, Ron, and Oliver Wood the rather obsessive Gryffindor captain.  Meanwhile, Draco began once a week getting tutored and or taking tea with Professor Quirrell. The stuttering Professor didn't offer much in the way of advice or company. If it wasn't the insistence of his Father, he probably would have found a way to get out of the obligation.  

 

Ron during the last few weeks had simply been getting in and out of fights with most of the other Slytherins.  One such fight and landed Harry promising a duel with Nott and his cronies. That had been a disaster start to finish.  First, Harry had the concept of a wizarding duel explained to them. Though they still insisted on bringing their dagger given to them by their grandfather, something that impressed and scared both their friends.  Then there had been Draco desperately trying to explain that Nott most likely would not play fair, so instead of the traditional second, Harry should also have a third: himself. In spite of Ron and Harry begging him to stay away, the night of the duel they ran headfirst into the blonde in the location staked out for said duel.  Then there had been Granger. Hermione Granger had followed the two Gryffindors, lecturing them all the way to the trophy room, and then began lecturing Draco when he had been discovered there as well. Ron was just about to try to turn her hair pink, fitting punishment for naggers he declared, when Filch the caretaker had nearly caught them.

 

The quadruple had ran away as fast as their legs could carry them to a locked room where they intended to hide.  That was when they realized the room had been occupied. Occupied by a three-headed ferocious dog, dripping drool from it's massive jaws.  The four screamed and fled, choosing detention over death. Later, Harry would express that they could have probably defeated the monster if they had had a proper wedding.  Either way, the quartet separated once they were away from both sets of danger. This only emboldened Hermione's lecture on the other threes rule breaking. When it was pointed out she too had broken rules, she pointed out it was to try ‘this’.  

 

“I'm going to bed before either of you three think of another idea to get us killed.  Or worse. Expelled!” She declared, turning and walking the rest of the way to the entrance of the Gryffindor common room alone.

 

“She really needs to sort out her priorities,” muttered, as Draco nodded knowingly.

 

The next day, Harry went to each of the other three and asked if they had seen the trap door beneath the dog.  Draco and Ron hadn't. Hermione had, but when told about Hagrid's trip to Gringotts to gather something for Dumbledore, she immediately became both cautious and curious.  Which made her want to speak to Harry. Often.

 

Which led to the current state of things on the last day of October.  Hermione had once again sat down extremely close to Harry and Ron in Charms class.  The Gryffindors were with the Ravenclaws today, so Draco was not present. Hermione, with her neat pile of books, organized quills, and copious notes, had nearly knocked Harry's glasses off several times with her quick hand shooting up to answer nearly every question the diminutive professor asked.  She then, once the class had been given their feathers they had been tasked with levitating, began to once more give Ron and Harry advice on the assignment.

 

“That isn't a proper to flick.  That's too heavy.”

 

“Too heavy?”

 

“Yes.  You want to do something like this.”  She lightly flicked her wrist in demonstration.

 

Ron bashed the air.

 

“Mr. Weasley.  That is not a proper flick at all!  Lighter movements. Have Granger show you.  Excellent form...Potter.”

 

Hermione slid closer and Ron gritted his teeth.  Harry moved on to practicing the words. They had hoped to do it quietly a few times before actually trying with the wand movements, but once again the young witch inserter herself.

 

“You’re putting too much emphasis on the last syllable.  It's leviOsa, not levioSA! Watch.” She picked up her wand and well practiced poise and enunciation, swish and flicked her wrist.  “Wingardium LeviOsa!” Harry's feather lifted from in front of them and began to slowly and gracefully ascend.

 

“Oh my!  Excellent, Miss Granger.  Just marvelous! Five points to Gryffindor!  If you can do that four more times, while I'll say you can move up to pin cushions!  Here's another feather.” Professor Flitwick tittered as he watched the feather.

 

Harry flushed scarlet as Hermione was given a replacement for their feather.  When the new feather was handed to them, they could barely muster the energy to say thank you.  Granger didn't seem to notice, already moving on to ‘assisting’ several more people who had not asked.  By the time class had ended, everyone had successfully lifted a feather into the air. Hermione Granger, had already moved on to single books.

 

“She's awful!  Just awful!” Ron declared to a small group of the students who had been in the Charms class and Draco who had found them in the small courtyard outside.  The days were becoming shorter and colder, but the courtyard was still the frequent meeting point of most Hogwarts students. “She's a teacher's pet!”

 

“She assumes everyone else are incompetent!”  Harry complained.

 

“Worse!  She thinks everyone is stupid!”

 

Draco opened his mouth to say something but thought better of it.

 

“Did you hear her in class though?!”  Ron made his voice higher pitch drew out every vowel, “‘It's leviOsa, not levioSA!’”  He made the last ‘ah’ sound like some sort of barnyard animal braying.

 

The group laughed.  Draco was in near tears of mirth.  Harry too giggled. Ron, encouraged, continued to pretend to lecture the group on everything from knot tying to even breathing.

 

Suddenly, a bushy haired blur rushed through group, nearly making one of the Ravenclaws present drop their book bag.

 

“That was Granger,” Dean Thomas informed the group.

 

“She was crying,” said one girl.

 

The group turned to Ron expectantly.  It was an unspoken and well-enforced rule that if someone made a girl (it had been amended to person on behalf of Harry) cry, they should apologize immediately, if possible.  The redhead bit his lip and scratched his head in embarrassment.

 

“I mean,” he shrugged, “she'll get over it.”

 

“She was crying!” Harry said indignantly.

 

“You were laughing too!” Ron pointed out.

 

“She's in your house,” Draco reasoned, if weakly.

 

“She'll get over it!  Listen, tonight's Halloween.  Right? And there's going to be a huge feast.  Everyone is going. Hall's all decorated. Between now and then we have one more class.  We'll either apologize to her before or after class, or at the feast. And she'll be totally over it by then.”

 

A little reluctantly, but reassured by the other's confidence, everyone agreed.  

 

The next class was History of Magic, the one class that only Harry and Hermione stayed awake and attentive for.  But Hermione wasn't there. Again, Ron insisted everything was going to be alright. It was obvious that Granger was miles ahead in the class and spent most of her time in class ‘clarifying’ her notes.  If there was ever a class to skip, that was the one. Besides; there was still the feast.

 

Feasts at Hogwarts thus far had been underwhelming for Harry.  They were accustomed to feasts with tumblers, dancers, and mummers.  They were used to seeing warriors of all stripes swaggering about in their best leathers and silks, drinking and swearing and throwing goblet after goblet down until a brawl or dance broke out.  They were used Mama playing tricks and laughing as they were played out. They were used to Thor jovially sparring with the Warriors Three until Allmother declared it a drawl. They were used to feasts that could last all night or even several days.

 

That was not the case in Hogwarts.  The Welcoming Feast had been more display of food and pageantry, but other than that, was dull.  Every Sunday a large dinner was prepared and called a ‘feast’ but again was nothing more than additional food.

 

But to Hogwarts’ credit: the Halloween feast was lovely.  Pumpkin carved with twisted smiled floated and bats occasionally screeched down at the students.  The usual strict ‘every house at their own table’ had been forgone, and the tables were a mix of the house colors.  Draco naturally quickly joined the two Gryffindors at their table and the trio became engrossed in their favorite topics: Quidditch.  The world, and the rest of the day, was forgotten.

 

Until…

 

“AHEM!”

 

Three heads lifted and turned to face Lavender Brown.  She, like Harry, Ron, and Hermione, was a Gryffindor. Behind her was assorted other Gryffindor girls and few from other houses.  All of them with their arms crossed in front of them, glaring. Lavender had her hands on her hip, looking down at them with venom.

 

“Having fun, you three?” she asked murderously.

 

“Yes, I suppose,” Harry replied innocently.

 

“You three have a lot of nerve having so much fun when you made Hermione cry like that.”

 

Ron quickly whipped around.  “Oh it's not so-”

 

“She's been crying in the girl's bathroom all night!  She refuses to come down because she said she doesn't have friends.  She thought you lot were her friends. And you did that!”

 

“Oh Heaven!” Harry paled.

 

“Really thought better of you, Potter,” Lavender sniffed.  “Thought you were actually sweet. But still you made a poor girl cry.”

 

Harry looked grief stricken before turning in fury to Ron.  Ron for his part had also paled and looked quite shocked that his words had had such an effect.  Now, though, he looked fearful as two green fiery eyes turned on him.

 

“You said she'll get over it!  She's been crying! We need to go apologize!”

 

“I-”

 

“Harry,” Draco said, trying to calm the other, “She's in the girl's bathroom.  We can't just go walking into the girl's bathroom!”

 

The brunette switched their fury to Malfoy who shrank back.  The girls who had confronted the trio had to admit that Harry was making their job incredibly easy.

 

“We ARE going to apologize!  Tonight!”

 

“But the girl's-”

 

“It's just a privy!  We can ask Lavender to retrieve her out of the room if it offends you, Malfoy!”

 

“Couldn't we wait until after the feast!” Ron whined.

 

“Do not make me force you out of that seat.  You know I can.”

 

Malfoy and Weasley turned to one another.  Between them was the righteous fury of Harry, obviously done with the feast and could not be dissuaded from their goal.  Behind them, a small mob of girls who if they showed anymore hesitation would probably would tear them limb from limb. And there was the fact they had made Hermione cry, something that did way heavy on their conscience.  True, Granger could be annoying and a know it all, but was always willing to help and a backbone of iron that was hard not to admire. Also, to Ron, she was the most fascinating and intelligent person he had ever met. And he had met Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter.

 

“Fine,” Ron said, “but I'm not going into the girl's bathroom.  I draw the line there.”

 

“Ron-”

 

“No, Harry!  I can see no reason why I would need to go into the girl's bathroom!”

 

****

 

“God damn troll.  God damn dog. God damn Quirrell.  God damn Dumbledore.” That had been the litany of curses that Severus Snape had muttering for last two hours or so as he waited for the Headmaster to finish contacting the parents of the four students who had taken down said ‘god damn troll’.

 

Albus and Severus had rightly supposed that Quirrell and his Master would act on Halloween.  It would just be like Tom Riddle to choose the night of his defeat to try to gain back power and a body.  Most of his followers, or least the non-respectable ones took to acts of violence against Muggles or Muggle-borns on Halloween.  The respectable ones simply threw parties and sang old racist songs. But the Dark Lord was nothing if not dramatic.

 

The question had been how Quirrell would divide everyone's attention.  Severus had honestly thought he would start a fire or try to poison several students, creating mass panic.  But a troll was as good a way as any. Dimwitted, easy to mollify, and just as easy to enrage, trolls usually took four or five wizards and witches untrained in trolls to incapacitate.  Even with trained wizards, it would still take two or three of them. The Hogwarts faculty between them had enough experience and expertise to qualify as two semi professional trollhunters.  Add in the fact most of the teachers would be worrying over the little panicking ‘darlings’ and indeed Quirrell might as well have started a fire.

 

Once the panic began, Severus immediately slipped through the staff side door and ran to the third floor corridor.  He could hear the students moving to their common rooms, prefects reassuring younger students that everything will be just fine.  He paced in the shadows restlessly, vaguely wondering if he should have checked on his own house before coming here. Silence came.  Everyone was tucked away. Dumbledore had probably gone to his office to call for trollhunters. Minerva had most likely organized a few of the braver teachers into at least troll spotters, which would most likely began in the dungeon.  Filch had probably went to his little ‘office’ and barricaded himself inside.

 

And finally, Quirrell had arrived.  Tom had chosen poorly when he decided on this vessel.  True, Quirrell was so unassuming and could deflect most suspicion, but he was incompetent in spycraft.  He didn't check the shadows, immediately assuming he was alone. He had also come vastly unprepared to face the monster, Fluffy.  Nearly as quick as Severus had moved to corner him in the room, the coward had raced again near sobbing. Which left Severus and the dog.  An angry snarling dog. With three god damn heads.

 

The Potion Master had been able to kick the head that had grabbed ahold of his leg off without being grabbed by another one and escape.  Bleeding, staggering, and cursing he had limped after Quirrell until he had heard the sound of screams and shouts of children. And in spite of himself, he was a teacher.  He ran towards the noise, rejoining Minerva and Flitwick as they too headed to the noise.

 

What they found was shocking: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Draco Malfoy in the girl's bathroom, standing over the body of the troll.  It was quickly deduced by the adults who had done what; Granger, quick thinking and clever witch that she was, had distracted the troll before getting cornered.  Potter, had leapt up and climbed the creature, using their wand more like a guiding prod or small knife. By the snot still dripping from it, they had probably stuck it up the brute's nose.  Weasley had knocked the thing out, most likely with the wreckage of the bathroom and a levitation charm that was far beyond most first years. The troll then had probably nearly toppled onto Granger and or Malfoy, scaring the blonde boy causing him to use accidental magic and send the thing backwards into the far wall.  And onto an exposed pipe. The troll was dead.

 

Not that the adults were going to tell the students just yet.  Even in the flush of their victory, the four had looked abashed for their rule breaking.  Granger made some excuse for them, that she had tried to look for the troll and the three others had followed to dissuade her.  At several points during her monologue, she referred to them as her friends, a title that with all the unpolished spycraft of a child the three confirmed with small nods and smiles.

 

“I am very disappointed in you, Miss Granger,” Minerva scolded.  Severus was unsure if she was buying the excuse or knew no matter what they probably wouldn't get a satisfying answer.  “This offense, of disobeying the Headmaster and putting yourself and your fellow students in harm's way would usually carry the punishment of the very least detention until the end of year.  For all four of you.” The four flinched. “However, in light of…,” Killing a troll. “I believe an exception can be made. Just one! The four of you will serve a detention with Professor Snape and clean the potions classroom and all it's equipment from top to bottom this Wednesday night.  If it is not done, I suspect Professor Snape will extend my original sentence.” Oh boy .  “I will also award twenty five points to Gryffindor and to Slytherin.”  Her lip and quivered, either about to laugh or scream, “For sheer dumb luck.  I will be contacting all of your parents tonight, also.”

 

Granger looked unsure about the last pronouncement.  She was Muggle-born, and her parents would most likely hear the word ‘troll’ and would be more concerned about their child's safety then the rules.  Malfoy and Weasley looked fearful. Both had mothers who were notorious for their scolding of their children. Narcissa may be a quiet elegant woman, but when it came to Draco she could forget all of Pureblood training.  And Molly...well Severus didn't envy the boy at the moment. Only Potter looked pleased. They seemed to swell with pride and even asked if they could be present, leaving Minerva at loss. The Little Princeling had brought down a troll; they would be covered with laurels and love, and their friends would probably get Howlers.  Typical Potter.

 

Once the children had been sent back to their dorms, Minerva had realized the state Severus was in.  She didn't question why; he was usually doing some mission for Albus so it was right to assume that was what happened.  She tried to persuade him to go to the hospital wing, at least to get the leg bandaged. He had agreed, only to get her to stop badgering him, and limped off.

 

He had gotten to his quarters and immediately flooed Dumbledore.  The Headmaster promised to come through once he was done. And now Severus waited, tending to his own wound with salve, bandages, and an overly full glass of scotch.

 

Finally, the fireplace roared emerald and Dumbledore walked through, almost seemingly untouched by the soot.  The old man winced at the still bloody wrappings on the younger man's leg. “I am sorry, my boy.”

 

“It's fine,” Severus lied.  “Probably should have used a scabbing potion, but I gave my latest batch to Poppy.”

 

“She's informed me that Quirrell refused to be seen after his fainting fit.  She's worried because when she spoke to him he seemed to be in the middle of a panic attack and in great pain.”

 

“He couldn't get past the fucking dog.  Which is good, I suppose.” The barriers between the stone were designed to build on another; if you were able to get past one, you would most likely be so rattled by that challenge that you would fail the next.  “I also suspect He is not happy his plan didn't work.   He's probably punishing Quirrell right now.”

 

“Who, Severus.  Be more specific.”

 

Severus glared.  For the last ten plus years, Albus had been on a campaign to get everyone, especially Snape, to call the Dark Lord by his name.  Snape vehemently declined. Tom or Riddle was the closest he got. But Dumbledore would never get him to call him...by that name.  That name summoned up too many memories. Too many ghosts. He took a gulp of scotch.

 

“They'll try again.  Or they will try to retaliate against Potter directly.  They will try to kill them.”

 

“I can't see Tom doing it without his body,” Albus said with a frown.

 

“Quirrell would do it or try to do it to get back in His good graces,” Severus winced as he put down his leg.  “Mark my words, in the next two weeks, Prince Harry is going to have a threat on their life and we're going to have the ire of the gods upon us.”

 

****

 

Ron Weasley was not stupid.  No, he did not shine academically and he had tendency to act without thinking, but he was most certainly not stupid.  He was brilliant at chess and strategy games. He made observations and could test these observations. He could, if pushed, be patient.

 

Ron had been observing Harry.  After all, Harry was one of his best friends and dorm mate.  He had appointed himself a position of de facto brother to the other child.  And after quite a few months and weeks, Ron had made some observations.

 

Observation 1: Harry didn't seem to know basic geography or history.

 

Like most children raised in Britain, Ron knew some key facts: the British had fought two World Wars, Henry VIII near as many wives, Scotland was to the north of England, and Australia was the only country that was also a continent.  As a child in the wizarding community, he knew that Oliver Cromwell burned was a squib, Arthur was the first proper wizard king, and half of Henry's wives were witches, though none that had a child sit the throne.

 

Harry, didn't seem to any of this.  Ron had caught them with geography books staring at it in wonder like it was the first time they had seen the globe.  They would trace their finger along the names of places, reading them aloud in the same way one read of somewhere fantastical.  In History of Magic, Harry would be transfixed at Professor Binns going on and on about things that most everyone else had already known.  Harry's love of history was so evident, it was why Hermione had felt the need to furnish them with endless books on the subject, which they quickly snapped up immediately.  And yes, while the Communes were isolated and protective, surely they would have been aware that France was a country. Harry had spent three days under the assumption France was city, and finally had to be corrected.

 

Observation 2: Harry never mentioned his adopted Father doing magic.  Nor did they mention anyone using a wand.

 

It was true Harry mentioned their Mother using magic.  Quite frequently and with pride. But, Harry never mentioned magic associated with their father.  Or their Grandfather. In fact, when it came to their Grandfather, they the man seem highly critical of magic.  They mentioned offhand that their Mother was not allowed to use magic in certain contexts, and that their Father did not like such restrictions placed on his spouse.  They would mention their Mother transforming objects, using their magic to send messages, and even changing their appearance, but never their Father.

 

It was also worth noting, Harry never mentioned their Mother's, or even their Father's, wand.  If anything, a wand seemed as much a foreign object as any Muggle-born. Communes were known for prizing wands more than any magical community.  Wands were kept, repaired, and treasured up and until a person died. Unlike the rest of the wizarding community, who buried wands with their owners, wands kept within a family until a hundred years after the person's death when they would be burned in a special ceremony.  Many of the most highly respected people in the Communes, were wand makers. It was a well-known fact. Harry had bought their wand at Ollivander's like nearly every other first year. They're explanation had been it was because Professor Dumbledore said it was what they had to do.  But why? Couldn't Harry have gotten a wand from their family? Ron had his brother's, and he wasn't living in a Magical Commune!

 

Observation 3: Harry went to and was visited by their parents more frequently than any other first year.

 

This was evident to nearly everyone.

 

There were many students at Hogwarts who went home to visit family on weekends.  Usually, they restricted themselves to once a month and usually wrote frequently to them.  Harry went twice a month. They didn't see anything wrong with this, which there wasn't really anything wrong with it.  But it was odd. Ron had accompanied them a few times to beyond the grounds where Mcgonagall saw off students leaving for visits.  The stern woman would either give a student a train ticket, having them go with Hagrid to the station or they she would hand the students assorted portkeys and times.  She would come to Harry and give them always the same thing, a rolled up parchment. A strange portkey. Ron also noticed she never expressly give them a time either, simply handing them the scroll and saying, “Give my best to your family.”

 

Ron was quick to realize that the scroll was not the portkey.  Harry kept the real ones in the dorms in their trunk. Small white little carved figures in a leather bag.  He had caught them occasionally toying with them after hard days such as when people insisted they were a ‘he’ or Snape was particularly cruel or just when they seemed to miss home.  They would quickly put them away and bounce back once Ron had been noticed or engaged them. On the days they would leave for home, they would grab one and take with them. Ron had even see how they used it, holding it out at arm's length and then letting it slip from their fingers before disappearing much like anyone using a portkey.  They would return Sunday evening, all smiles with several more of the carvings which they returned to the satchel.

 

Also, they never wrote to their parents.  Everyone in Hogwarts wrote to their parents.  Each Weasley wrote once or twice week to their parents, mostly to contradict the other siblings’ letters.  Draco wrote three times a week, once to his mother, once to father, and then once to both. Hermione wrote daily, keeping a running account of everything that happened.  Harry wrote not a line. They had the means; Harry their quill and ink at the ready in their book bag. They had an owl, an amazing owl named Hedwig that they were especially proud of.  But the owl was rarely used for letters. Harry had trained the owl to respond to whistles and clicks and even words to retrieve items. At breakfast the owl would fly in with rest and come to her master, and Harry would coo and pet her and feed her fatty pieces of bacon from their plate.  But it seemed Harry never expected her to come with a letter.

 

Maybe that was because their parents came to Hogwarts regularly.  Now this, Ron could never be sure of but he swore they had to. Late at night, when all of the first year dormitory was asleep, he would watch as he pretended to sleep Harry pull the bed curtains.  Then an eerie silence would fall over that bed. Sometimes it lasted twenty minutes. Sometimes an hour. Ron had been curious what was happening, but did his best to think it was none of his business.  Until Halloween night.

 

They had gotten back to their dorms still flush with victory.  Draco had nearly walked into the common room before the Fat Lady reminded him that Gryffindor wasn't his house, ‘though it is refreshing to see house unity and friendship’.  Hermione had bid them good night on the foot of the stairs, looking as though she wanted to hug them both but thinking better of it. The pair of them walked into their dorms to find everyone asleep.  They changed, and went to bed.

 

Well not quite.  Ron simply rolled over, facing away from Harry to process what just happened.  In Harry's view it must have looked as though he had been asleep because he heard the bed curtains rocket close.  There was a moment of rustling in the bed. And then…

 

“Papa?”

 

Harry then proceeded to carry on a one way whisperer conversation, excitedly recounting the fight with the troll and asking if once they returned home they could have ‘a small but proper feast’.  Then they asked if would be alright to speak to their Mother. There must have been some consent, because Harry was then excitedly greeting, “Mama!” before silence.

 

Harry had a way to speak to their parents directly.  No need for an owl, floo, or anything else. Ron didn't know what it meant, but it could come in handy.  Especially now.

 

After the troll incident, the quartet had become quickly invested in the mystery of what ‘Fluffy’ (Ron would forever say this was a stupid name for a three-headed dog) and what it was guarding.  And what Snape was trying to steal. It followed logically in Ron's mind. Snape had disappeared quickly from the feast just as Quirrell came and warned the school of the troll. He had come with the other teachers to find them with the troll, he had been bleeding and limping.  A limp, he had for the next week and half. Ergo, he was after whatever the dog was protecting. Hermione would not believe it; he's a teacher! Draco wouldn't even consider it; he was his godfather! Harry seemed blissfully unconcerned; their parents would never let harm come to them.

 

Then the first Quidditch match.  Harry had performed brilliantly, and caught (well, nearly swallowed) the Snitch.  But during the match, Harry's new broom had bucked and made an effort to throw them off.  Hermione and Ron had quickly discovered Snape jinxing and directing their broom, which Hermione ended with a distraction.  After that, she had changed her opinion of the Potion Master. Draco seemed unable or unwilling to see his godfather as an attempted murderer.  But he had agreed that he could want to hurt Harry. But never kill.

 

Only Harry remained stubbornly unconvinced.

 

“My Father could beat Snape to a pulp, and would do so if anything happened to me.  And my Mother. Well, he would be lucky if he had his skin left.”

 

So here was Ron's problem: his best friend was naive of the world and dependent on parents who were close but still so far away.  Ron had no doubt that Harry's family would storm Hogwarts if something happened. But what if when something happened, it was too late?  What if Harry couldn't contact their parents? What if they…

 

Ron knew it was wrong.  He could hear his own Mother's voice shrill in his ears as she lectured him about theft and snooping.  But he was willing to risk it.

 

During one of Harry's visits to his family, and all the other dorm mates were away, the youngest Weasley boy crept into the dorms to the bed of his friend.  He pulled out the overly large and strangely ornate trunk and opened it. The satchel was clumsily hidden under several of Harry's least favorite clothes, yellow shirt and oversized blue jeans.  Ron took a handful of the carvings before securing the bag once more and putting it in place. He stocked them away in one of his socks and put it as deep as possible in his own trunk.

 

He went back to see Draco and Hermione in the library to study, secure in the knowledge he had done found a way to protect his friend.  He was a step ahead. He had seen the chessboard and found a strategy. On Monday, when Harry returned and they went to Potions, Ron couldn't help but feel a smug satisfaction as the greasy git wrote the agenda on the board.

 

He had a secret weapon.

Chapter Text

Unbeknownst to Ron, Harry did write to their family.  About once a week, and usually several pages worth. But it was not their family in Asgard they were writing.  It was to their aunt whom they wrote.

 

Once they had gotten to Hogwarts, Harry had been eager to write and meet their Mother's family.  They had written a long letter of introduction for themselves. They had gone on and on about their wish to know more about their birth Mother.  Their birth Father, they explained, had apparently no living known relatives, so their hope was to learn as much about her and her world. The first letter had been nearly six pages long, and Harry had included a few drawings as well.

 

There was no response.

 

Harry was not discouraged.  The letter, sent the ‘Muggle’, maybe had not arrived yet.  McGonagall had mentioned when they had given it to her for delivery that such means of sending messages was slow and ‘inelegant’.  Loki when Harry had mentioned to him about the letter had also pointed out that the letter had probably shocked the woman. To have no contact for ten years and then a letter, it was probably very jarring.  

 

“She probably doesn't know what to say, my Little Lamb.”

 

So over the course of the next few letters, Harry asked a series of questions in hope of drawing their aunt to write.  They asked if their Mother had been left or right handed. Had she been born in the spring or fall? When had did she agree to marry their Father?  Was she a studious and quiet child, or had she been loud and brass? Did she too like the color blue? Did she have nightmares? Had she ever made flower crowns?  Could she sing? What did her laugh sound like? Did she grow hair long? Did she also hate the color yellow? What did she call their Father? What made her name Harry, Harry?

 

Still no response.

 

“My Lightning Bolt you are going about this all wrong!”  Thor had admonished when they had voiced their mounting concerns.  “You are asking about something that is painful. You lost a Mother.  But she lost a sister.”

 

Harry felt immediately chastened and began to write exclusively questions directed towards their aunt about herself and her family.  How long was had she been with her husband? How had he courted her? Or had she courted him? Did she have an occupation? What was it?  Did she live in London? Did she like tea? What type of tea? Harry just learned there were many types of tea so they were bursting with curiosity.  Did Petunia have a favorite color? What was it? What of Harry's cousin? Was he a strong boy? Did he make her proud? Did he like tea? When was he born?  When was she married? Had she ever seen Hogwarts? Did her husband call her beloved? Did he hold her hand in his still? Was he gentle? Was she receiving Harry's letters?  Was she still too stunned, too sad to write? Did she simply not know what to write?

 

Soon Harry gave up asking questions.  They had run out of them, for once in their life.  They continued to write, however. Their letters became almost like journal entries, talking about the weather, the pains of going to school, and their own daily struggle with ‘modern’ clothing.  They avoided talking about magic or Asgard, only speaking in the vaguest terms. The mortal let their anxieties flow freely onto the page, hoping that such things would call to their aunt and she would write back to reassure them.

 

Letters were sent.  Fall became winter. And they only received silence.

 

Outside of this small battle, Hogwarts was preparing for a winter holiday that Harry had never heard of.

 

“What is Christmas?”  They had finally asked.

 

This question was met with the usual responses from their friends when it came to such inquiries.  Ron gasped in disbelief. Draco looked stunned. Hermione immediately launched into a well-prepared lecture on what Christmas was, as though she had anticipated the question.

 

Christmas, she explained, was usually associated with the birth of a man named Jesus who was the son of a god.  Which god, apparently Harry was supposed to know. He was to bring peace on Earth and goodwill to mankind. To celebrate his birth and foster this peace and goodwill, people gave their friends, families, and acquaintances gifts.

 

“Not everyone celebrates Christmas because of Jesus.  Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Obviously,” Hermione waved a hand to indicate Harry.

 

“They don't celebrate Christmas on the Commune?” Ron asked.

 

“Half the Purebloods in Hogwarts don't celebrate Christmas!” Draco snorted.  “I mean they do, in public and technically, but they would tell you they prefer Yule.”

 

“Yule?” Harry looked around at that.  “Do you celebrate Yule?”

 

“A mix of Yule and Christmas, I guess.”

 

“My family celebrates Yule.”  They went to explain the tradition, in the best possible terms.  Yule was a celebration of a year ending. The sun fled the sky, so it became darker longer and colder.  It was a time to put wrongs right, and to reaffirm the bonds of peace. Gifts were given to remind one of such bonds and to share the bounties of another year.  Yule logs were kept burning, a home fire for family, old and new friends, and even strangers to warm themselves by. Just the thought of such a fire, with a family gathered round made them incredibly homesick.

 

“Well at least you still get presents!” Ron laughed, and so did the rest of the group.

 

Time moved on.  Trees were hauled in and they were decorated with bright colorful trinkets and lovely ropes of garlands.  Little bunches of twigs and berries were hung in random places all around the castle and the students avoiding passing under them in pairs.  “It's mistletoe. You have to kiss someone underneath mistletoe.”

 

Harry commissioned gifts for their friends.  For Hermione, a journal with Yggdrasil etched on cover.  It was an incomplete drawing of the link between Midgard and Asgard, and Hermione would most likely not ever know the significance, but for a witch as clever as her it would be useful to take notes in.  For Ron, a warrior's talisman. The redhead definitely had the makings of a warrior, with a sharp mind for statics and strength both physically and mentally in good amounts. If he had been the eldest son, Harry would have been tempted to give him a shield or sword sheath, but they hoped this would do.  

 

Draco they had commissioned a small thin silver dagger with a polished leather sheath.  Draco was not a warrior type, not truly. He was a defender, a fighter if need be, but he was not what the palace swordmaster would call ‘battle hardy’.  There were those, like Ron and Thor who were born ready for a battle. They thrived in peace by maintaining it. They thrived in war because they fought in it.  Put a sword in their hands, and the realms would sleep well. Give them a troop to command or some power, and they would do it with grace and dignity. Draco was a wonderful leader, but his was not the warrior's way.  He was a warrior of the mind, a strategic thinker who could plan a battle but most likely not fight in it. One of those who could defend themselves against one person, but not two. And Harry was so worried about Draco's need to defend himself.  It was their constant worry. The blade would be small enough to fit into a pocket without much notice, and sharp enough to cut wool without much effort. They would have teach the blonde how to open the blade without being seen.

 

The holidays grew closer.  Hermione was planning on leaving Hogwarts earlier than most to celebrate with her family.  She had offered to put off the trip to see Harry for the week they were going to remain in school, but they urged her to go.  They let her open her gift in front of them, though apparently it was far too early. She nearly teared up and declared it was too extravagant a gift.  

 

“It's simply a journal,” they said, shrugging off the girl's complaint.

 

Hermione had gotten them two books: Quidditch through the Ages , a book Harry felt she must  have bought in bulk for the two boys in their quartet, and Wizarding and Muggle Fashion: A Cross Cultural History .  Harry absolutely loved it, and spent the next day and half calling Draco and Ron's attention to illustrations of everything from Elizabethan collars to plaid skirts.

 

Draco left a few days later.  His family had a large party planned at his grandfather's winter cabin.  “Toast of the season. Anyone who is anyone has to be there. I absolutely hate it.”

 

“Then why go?”

 

“Grandpapa commands it.  You have understand, he's the head of the family.  Dad runs the businesses and day to day. Mum does the charity work.  But Grandpapa and Grandmama are the brains of the operation.”

 

Harry nodded their understanding as Ron shook his head in disbelief.

 

Again Harry exchanged presents before the other left to go home.  They felt a fluttering of their tummy as Draco ran a finger over the hilt of the blade, his gray eyes wide with wonder.

 

“It's…,” he began to unsheath it.

 

“Sharp, so be careful.  I can lend you a whetstone to keep it that way.”

 

“Harry, this looks expensive.”

 

They shrugged.  They weren't about to say that money really was no concern when it came to their friends.

 

Draco's gift to Harry was a small silver necklace with a rose charm.  They blushed as they fingered the small charm, unsure why.

 

“This is very beautiful.”

 

“I got Hermione one too.  But her charm is a book. It's a friendship necklace.”

 

“Oh,” they blushed more and looked down at the rose.  It felt silly to blush so at a ‘friendship necklace’. Harry quickly developed a habit of fiddling with the charm when they were lost in thought.

 

Soon it was well-nigh to go to celebrate Yule.  Hogwarts had nearly emptied. House tables for once were done away with in favor of one large table where professors and students ate and sat together.   The Weasleys stayed behind, even Percy, who had redoubled his efforts to instruct Harry they were a boy. Ron tried to play off the reason that they had stayed at Hogwarts was because of Harry, not wanting them to be alone.  But the brunette quickly deduced that the family could not afford four train tickets home, and no brother wanted to leave without the others. The Weasley clan sent several owls with presents to and from the castle, one package exclusively for Harry.

 

“Your mother didn't have to get me anything!”  They said as they were handed the brightly covered parcel.

 

“She made something for all of you!  Even Drake. Face the facts, you're all Weasleys now.”

 

The present was a large soft wool blue sweater with a golden ‘H’ on the front.  Harry absolutely loved it.

 

It took some arm twisting to convince Ron to open his present.  “It isn't ti-OW HARRY LET GO OF MY ARM!” When he finally did open it however, his eyes went wide as he marveled at the talisman.

 

“It is for warriors,” Harry explained.  “Only the best.”

 

“How much did this thing cost?!”

 

“Cost?”

 

“Yeah.  How much did you pay?”

 

“What does that matter?”

 

“I don't want you spending all your money on me.  I mean-”

 

“It is my coin.  I spend it how I please.  Please wear it.”

 

“I feel silly,” Ron said, putting on the talisman.  “I just bought you a bundle of chocolate frogs and a subscription to Quidditch Quarterly.”

 

“Really! I was hoping for that!”

 

One more day went by.  Six more days until Harry left.  An even smaller round table had been brought out and used for meals.  Dumbledore wore increasingly more colorful and ridiculous colored robes, telling the remaining students hilarious Christmas anecdotes of years gone past.  Hagrid and Flitwick would randomly break into song and many students would join in. Even Snape had gotten into a strange festive mood, putting out in his office a small figurine set of small figures clustered in what appeared to be a barn.  George explained it was called a Nativity and the baby, the central figure, was the Christ child. Harry nodded but didn't know what to make of this.

 

It was lunchtime, and everyone was gathered together.  Owls flew in delivering the mail, now not just a daily occurrence but three times a day.  Harry was enjoying a warm bowl of soup when a black and gray owl landed in front of them. They stared wide-eyed at it.  They had only received one other owl before this,that containing their broom, the Nimbus 2000. But this owl, bearing the seal of the ‘Muggle to Wizard Post Edinburgh Office’ only had two envelopes in its beak.  Their name, ‘Harry James Potter’ was written on each, one in a heavy print style and the other a hesitant cursive. Harry gaped at the letters.

 

“Um, Harry,” Ron said between mouthfuls of sandwich, “looks like you got mail.”

 

“But I don't know who it is from.”

 

“Well, that's why you take it and read it”

 

They nervously took the envelopes and offered the owl a crust of bread.  The owl seemed perplexed, but took it. They traced the envelopes and their name for a moment before picking one to open.  A small booklet type object slid out, a picture of a round fat man in a red suit jovial and waving on the cover. The words Merry Christmas were in gold typeset over the image.  Harry glanced sideways at Ron who nodded encouragingly.  They opened the little booklet. Two large silver coins fell out onto the table.  The words typed impersonally in the center of the card read, Wishing you a Happy Holiday!  Underneath was the printed name ‘Vernon Dursley’.

 

“Who’s Vernon Dursley?” Ron asked.

 

“I don't know.  Or at least I don't remember if I should I know.  Do you know what these are?” Harry held up the coins for inspection.

 

Ron was shaking his head when a Muggle-born third year two seats over said, “That's Muggle money.  About a pound it looks like.”

 

“It barely feels like a few grams!”

 

“No I mean-”

 

Harry had already moved on the next letter, placing the small booklet to the side.  The second envelope also contained a small booklet, this cover was a small wintery scene of a small wooden cabin trimmed with snow surrounded by a lush green forest.  There were lights in the windows and a sled outside, pulled by two reindeer. Two figures sat in the sled, leaning together as they made their way home. It was beautiful.  It took a lot of effort to look inside and not continue to study the image.

 

Wishing you home for the Holidays.  It was written a lovely script, with an equally lovely signature of ‘Aunt Petunia’.  Included was a small bundle of papers and a photograph of a trio people wearing fine Muggle clothing and matching bright smiles.  The man, a hulk of a man with a large mustache, figured as the centerpiece flanked by a rather large boy and a thin woman. The woman was fair, each hand on the shoulder of the two males.  The boy held the woman's hand but did not touch the man as though he was not permitted to touch him. The man had a look of greedy pleasure in his eyes at such control.

 

“It's from my aunt and her family.” Harry said, flipping the photo over.  On the back, written in the same elegant hand were the words ‘Dursley Family ‘91’.  They took the small bundle of papers and opened it.

 

“It's a Christmas Letter,” Ron explained, reading over their shoulder.  “Lot of people send them to family and friends they don't see all year. Gives a little story about the year and what went on.  Harry? Are you okay?”

 

The small mortal held the letter in their trembling hands as tears threatened to fall.  

 

It was a start.

 

****

 

When they first found the mirror, it had been by accident.  They had been trying to research on the Philosopher's Stone, now able to sneak into the restricted section of the library with their newly given Invisibility Cloak.  They had been unsuccessful and had nearly been caught by Snape and Quirrell. Fleeing and hiding in an abandoned classroom, they had found it. The cloak had slipped off them and out of their grasp as they had come forward to stare at the image of themselves and…

 

A man and woman stood, smiling warmly as they waved behind them.  When they turned, there was no one there. But in the mirror, there they stood.  A man about as tall as Mama, with jet black hair that was wild and stuck up in all angles.  His eyes were brown behind rectangular shaped glasses, glasses that slipped down a nose that was so much like Harry's.  The woman beside him was beautiful, with long dark red hair and familiar green eyes. Her lips were faintly pink and her smile was so large that it felt almost a hug.  Almost. They were wearing clothes in life they would probably never have even seen; Asgardian court robes and gowns. Their heads were crowned with flowers of white and blue and they wore red and gold medallions with the crest of Gryffindor.  Their eyes glowed with pride as they looked back at the little mortal.

 

“Father?”  Harry tentatively whispered.  The man smiled even more broadly and nodded.  “M-mother?” She blew them a kiss.

 

That first night they simply stared at the image, babbling on and on to it about everything, anything, and nothing.  The two figures passed no judgments, gave no indication of surprise shock or even changed their smiling faces. And Harry loved them.  They only left when they heard the caretaker's cat roaming around and they ran away to the dorms.

 

The next morning, they asked if Ron would come with them.  They had to show him something. Ron had agreed, if reluctantly.  That night they retraced Harry's steps quite methodically back to the room, back to the abandoned classroom.  The couple smiled happily at their arrival and waved in greeting.

 

“Do you see them?!” Harry asked excitedly, pulling themselves away from the mirror to look back at the redhead.

 

“See who?  All I see is you.”

 

They frowned.  “Ridiculous. They're right there!”

 

“Who?”

 

“My birth parents!”

 

Ron shook his head.

 

“Here!” Harry moved, pulling Ron in front of the mirror.  “What do you see? Maybe it shows only relatives.”

 

It did not.  To Ron, it showed glorys and honors that even all his brothers together had and probably couldn't achieve.  He studied himself up and down like a proud rooster, even though to Harry he looked like he was admiring his pajamas.  They traded turns looking into the mirror, with each passing round becoming more and more frustrated that the other was taking so long with it.  It nearly came to blows at nearly two in the morning when one of them insisted to a double turn because the other had taken so long on their last turn.  They must have shouted or raised their voices, because once again they heard Filch stomping after them, so they left quickly.

 

At breakfast, Ron declared he was not going back.  “And neither should you. That mirror is probably cursed.”

 

“I won't go back.”

 

“Harry.”

 

“I said, I won't go back.”

 

That night Harry went to the mirror later than previous nights.  They couldn't see the harm in this, seeing their family. They placed their hands over the outstretched hands of their parents’ hands.  All they felt was cold glass. It was like a bittersweet medicine.

 

A thought struck them.

 

They pushed away from the mirror and their hand went immediately to their ring.  They twisted the runes around their finger and then whispered into the air.

 

“Mama?”

 

“My Little Lamb,” Loki was there in a moment settling beside him.  “This is not the sleeping quarters. Where are you? It's very cold and you're not wearing slippers and robes.  You'll catch your death!”

 

They shook their head and pulled their adopted Mother towards the mirror.  “Do you see them Mother? There is some enchantment on this mirror. Do you see them Mama?”

 

The god raised an eyebrow and stared at the mirror and back at the mortal.  “All I see is us, my Darling.”

 

Harry walked out of the line of the mirror, reluctantly, and then asked, “Now what do you see?”

 

Loki again looked skeptically at the child and then the mirror.  He gasped.

 

He walked toward the mirror in wonder, leaning toward it.  One hand grasped the air, as though he was holding something like a pole or staff.  The other flew to his belly before falling to the wayside. The God of Mischief shook his head, closing his eyes.

 

“This is a vile trick.  A curse. What are you showing me?”  His voice was harsh as he spoke.

 

“You don't see them either,” Harry hugged themselves looking at the floor in deepening despair.

 

“‘Them’?”  Loki turned from the mirror.  “What do you see in this...mirror?”

 

“My parents.  My birth parents.  You don't see them?  You do see your birth family?  Do you see glory like Ron?” They pushed past their adopted parent and looked at the mirror.  The couple waved as oblivious of trouble as ever.

 

Loki shook his head frantically, pulling Harry to face him.  “Listen to me. This could be a trick. A cruel enchantment. This mirror could-”

 

Harry twisted the ring and Loki vanished mid sentence.  “Papa?”

 

Just as quickly as their Mother had disappeared, their Father appeared.  “My Lightning Bolt, we do not interrupt your Mother. He is quite beside himself.  Even now he is screaming in my ear to get you away.”

 

“Please Papa!  Do you see?” They turn desperately to the ever smiling faces, almost mocking now in their unchanging way.  “Do you see them?”

 

Thor turns toward the mirror, obviously being obstructed by Loki who had was pulling at his main body back in Asgard.  Finally he looked into mirror.

 

“Do you see them?”

 

Thor smiled broadly.  “I do indeed! I see them!”

 

Harry nearly wept.  “You do?”

 

“Aye.  There's Stark, Rogers, Banner, even Quill...there they all are.  And we've...my Lighting Bolt does this show the future?” The God of Thunder looked back at his child with such joy and laughed in triumph.

 

The small mortal only mournfully shook their head.  How could it show the future? Lily and James Potter dead.

 

“Harry?  Are you alright?  Maybe you should go back to-”

 

They twisted the ring again.  They were once more in the room alone.  Just them. Just them and the mirror.

 

They sat on the cold castle ground and stared at the smiling faces just out of their reach.

 

“Back again, Harry?”

 

Harry jumped and turned.  Behind them, the smiling and calm face of Albus Dumbledore came out from the shadows.  His blue eyes were twinkling in the moonlight streaming in from a window.

 

The moon looked on, as indifferently as the couple in the mirror.

 

****

 

Two days after the ‘mirror incident’, Harry returned to Asgard to spend two weeks of the Yule Holiday at home.  They paraded to the palace much like they had left several months before, with all Asgard in attendance and waving as the baggage train went by.  Hedwig flew overhead and performed small aerial tricks before settling on Harry's outstretched arm. The child did the formal greetings to the king, queen, and their parents with grace and without a hint of acknowledging what had occurred in Midgard.  The four adults did the same, giving the kiss of peace to the child before leading them back to the palace.

 

Once the doors were closed and the servants gone away to put the baggage right, Harry immediately launched into Thor's arms.  Tears streamed down their face and they hiccuped as they wept through their apologies.

 

“You w-were right, Mama,” they said, looking over Thor's shoulder.  “That awful mirror was cursed.”

 

“Oh my Little Lamb,” Loki kissed the mortal's forehead.

 

“Dumbledore said it called the Mirror of Erised.  It shows those who look upon it…,” they trailed off and hugged their Father tighter.  “You will be angry at me.”

 

“We will not.  We are only glad you are safe,” The God of Thunder hushed the mortal, tenderly petting their back and head.

 

“It shows...what one desires the most.  So when Ron looked at it, it showed him outshining his brothers.  And for me…” A sob and a few hiccups followed. The parents hugged their child close.

 

They had suspected that the mirror showed something like one's inner most wishes.  How else could they explain what they saw when they stared into it? For Thor, it had the Avengers: all of them alive and victorious, arm in arm as they waved out at him.  Loki had been there as well, round with child and a small blonde infant on his hip. The Infinity Gauntlet was safely behind glass and empty of stones. Harry had been there as well, smiling broadly as they too waved back at him.  For Loki, the mirror had shown him the Infinity Gauntlet also safely away, but he had been the sole victor. He sat enthroned on the high throne of Asgard, the crown upon his head and his staff in his hand, all of the court singing his praises.  Thor had been on his right, Harry to his left. He had been heavy with child and an infant played at his feet. Truly it was everything he could ever want.

 

“Does it concern you that my desire does not include them ?  That I still desire such power?”  Loki had asked that evening after Harry had gone to bed.

 

“I would be more concerned if your desire did not include wanting the throne.  I know you will not repeat what occurred last time, even though what occurred shall happen again in some other fashion.  And when the time comes, we will rule together. And you will be happy. And we will have true born children.”

 

The next morning, they discovered Harry had come down with a cold.  The little mortal had a fever, chill, aches, a watery cough, and a runny red nose.

 

“A fitting punishment for running around a drafty castle with no proper slippers or robes,” Loki declared, as he smoothed down the blankets of Harry's bed.

 

“I've ruined Yule!” they moaned as they meekly turned in their bed.  “I won't be able to do go the feasts. Or go on the progress!”

 

“The feasts, aye, I think you will miss them,” Thor said with a small smile.  “But if you listen to the healers and your Mother, you should be able to join us on the progress.”

 

“I do not want Mama to miss the feasts.”

 

“I'm sorry, my Little Lamb, you are stuck with me.  And your Father as well. We shall have our own Yule celebration here, with you in our rooms.”

 

Harry struggled to sit up, shivering as they did so.  “You would miss the feasts? For me?”

 

“You act so surprised, you would think we kept you in a cupboard or something.”

 

The next few days the family spent together celebrating Yule, all while Harry was kept warm with furs and thick stockings.  Thor tended to their own Yuletide log and Loki hung garlands all around their room. The parents brought the little one into their personal rooms, making a bedding of soft cushions and pillows for them near the fireplace.  Since the family was not going to the feast, the feast came to them. Allfather sent dishes upon dishes of delicious food to them and Allmother sent mummers to entertain them. They all laughed at a puppet show depicting a silly farmer and his too clever wife and their antics.  There was another play where a prince saved a lovely maiden from a serpent. Harry asked the mummers to perform it once more, which they did smiling at the knowledge they would be paid handsomely for making the Found Prince happy.

 

“I will not have the play a third time,” Thor said once they concluded and looked to the small brunette expectantly.  “Here are some coins for your trouble and let my Lightning Bolt sleep.”

 

“I am not tired, Father!”

 

“At least lay your head down for a moment.”

 

Harry did and indeed fall immediately to sleep.  A few musicians played softly and Thor took Loki into his arms.  They swayed to the music, the taller man humming softly into the younger’s ear.  The brunette blushed but accepted the gesture, feeling at peace in their quarters.

 

Gifts were brought to the family to open and exchange.  Loki had gotten Thor new arm bands of silver with onyx snakes winding their way up the band.  Thor had given Loki a headpiece, a small singlet of gold and jewels that made the other look very much the king he deserved to be.  For both parents, Harry had stitched a small fabric reconstruction of their Father's hammer and Mother's staff crossed together as a suit of arms.  

 

“Grand'mere helped me,” they explained as the parents marvelled at the creation.

 

The parents in turn had given Harry, per their request, new hair pins and gowns, one of which they hoped would be suitable to wear on Midgard.  They received a new hawking glove, black to contrast Hedwig's snowy white feathers. A new bow and a quiver full of arrows was given by their grandparents, and they asked if they could bring it to Hogwarts with them.  The parents agreed. Loki had commissioned a new mirror for their room. “Since you love them so much.” Harry had blushed crimson and Thor had chastised his spouse for teasing his Lightning Bolt. Though, when the mirror was brought for their inspection, Harry seemed to enjoy twirling in front of it like any courtier.

 

More gifts were brought, gifts generically given by the other realms in tribute to the Princes of Asgard.  Swords, jewels, strings of pearls, wines, fabrics, and the like were brought in, appreciated, and then removed.  Occasionally something would catch one of the Prince’s eyes and they would hold onto it. Loki had found a pair of goblets and mead he enjoyed and settled among his newly gained plush cushions as Thor and Harry studied some strange device from some far flung stretch of the realms.  It appeared to be an arrow without a bow. It was supposed to fly and be directed by voice and sound, but both Father and child seemed unable to get it to work.

 

“My Princes,” a servant had once more come into the room, bowing as he addressed them all.  “There are gifts here for Prince Loki. From Jotunheim.”

 

Loki frowned.  It was not strange to receive gifts from Jotunheim, but at times they still troubled him.  A reminder of his foreignness. “Bring them in I suppose.”

 

The servant nodded and gave a small whistle.  The arrow that Thor and Harry had been playing with came to life for a brief moment and embedded itself into the wooden crates that were being carried into the room.  The older brunette sent them a warning look as the two gave apologetic words in return.

 

The first few crates were what Loki usually expected from his birth parents.  Furs, small strange trinkets, spears and weapons, all neatly gathered together.  The next few had more jewelry, belts, and traditional robes and gowns of Jotunheim.

 

“My,” he remarked as he glanced at one entire crate that contained nothing but shoes and sandals, “did Laufey send me an entire wardrobe for Yule.”

 

“My Prince,” the servant said, a touch of unease entering his voice, “this is your inheritance.”

 

“My...what?”

 

Thor was over and beside him at once.  “Speak now. What do you mean?”

 

The servant looked positively terrified.  “My apologies. Prince Loki, but your true born Mother, Fárbauti, has passed.  She left clear instructions that her personal possessions be given to you, her Peace Child.”

 

As he spoke a smaller wooden chest was brought in and brought to the Princes’ feet.  The servants stood awkwardly in the room, milling around the crates and chests. The God of Thunder turned to his brother, expecting him to dismiss them.  To chase them out with a flurry of words and bravado. But the younger man said nothing. All spark had fled him when the small chest had been laid at his feet.

 

“Leave, and trouble us no more with gifts,” he finally ordered.  “I shall expect dinner here in a hour or so.” They fled the room, nearly forgetting to bow as they left.  “My Love?”

 

“Mama?” Harry came forward, still pale and shaky from their cold.

 

“My inheritance.  She wills me her entire wardrobe.  Every item she ever cherished.” Loki knelt in front of the small chest.  He lifted the lid to stare at the contents. “My true born mother was not a queen.  Did you know that?”

 

Thor nodded.  “I remember. She was Laufey’s third wife.”

 

“His favorite wife.  That alone would have gained me a title in his court if I had remained his child.  If I were not a runt.”

 

“Loki-”

 

“She probably was glad to see me go at first.  I wonder if she named me, truly named me before putting me into Odin's arms.”

 

“Please-”

 

“My Little Lamb, do you know what Ice Giants do to weak infants?”

 

“Mama,” Harry was near tears.

 

“They-”

 

“Loki!” Thor reached out and grabbed his spouse's shoulder.  “Enough.”

 

The brunette defiantly glared up at him before softening.  His skin paled and began to become the deep robin eggs blue that was his heritage.  His eyes were scarlet and sorrowful as they stared up at the other. Thor knelt beside Loki, pulling him close.  His skin was ice cold and slightly rougher than his Asgardian appearance, but the blonde kissed his lips tenderly.  “My beautiful treasure,” he whispered to the Frost Giant who blushed violet.

 

“Only to you,” Loki whispered back.  He turned to his child nervously fidgeting nearby.  “I am sorry, my Little Lamb. I was just…”

 

“Upset?”

 

“Yes.  I shall be honest and say I never wanted to know my...true born family.  But I wished to want to know them. And there was always time. But now…”

 

“Maybe King Laufey will come and speak to you.  Send you a token to know him better.”

 

Loki chuckled humorlessly.  “He has my pet.” He withdrew from the small chest a small horned helmet of gold.  He placed it onto of his head and turned to Thor. “Do you recognize this, my Brother?”

 

Thor nodded.  “It is your first crown.  The one you wore before we married.”

 

“I sent it to Laufey as a gift once we were wed.  I wrote and told him he should give it my mother. ‘Let me her she wears an Asgardian crown with as much pride as I did,’ I wrote.  I sent it in this very chest.”

 

“I never heard of her wearing it.”

 

“No.  Because she never wore it.  And I never knew why. I never cared to know why either.  My dearest birth mother, Fárbauti, kept my old crown so near to her that she feared wearing it in public.  She loved me so dearly, her Peace Child she named me, she gave me all her worldly effects. And I still hate her for…”  Loki turned and buried his face Thor's shoulder, weeping gently. Harry looked confused and nervous at their Mother, but the blonde shook his head and sent them back to their small bed.  

 

How could he explain that in another lifetime, his beloved spouse was left to die by the same mother who had lovingly kept his crown?

 

****

 

The two portraits looked down on the conference room like the judging eyes of Old Testament gods.  Tony sipped the glass of wine, hating the taste but not yet brave enough to ask for anything stronger.  A few glances from the other occupants of the room glanced his way and then back to the paintings, as though doing a visual comparison.  He nodded at them and then to the portrait.

 

Here's looking at you, Dad.

 

A door opened.  “Sorry, I'm late.  This weather.” Obadiah Stone walked briskly into the room, carrying several binders in his arms.  He dropped them onto the table with a loud thud. He wiped his bald head of nonexistent sweat. “It's been a shitty two weeks.”

 

That was a gross understatement.  Several heads nodded. A few people dabbed their eyes.  Tony sipped his wine.

 

“I knew Howard and Maria for many many years.  They were my friends. They were my family. I know many here feel the same way.”  No one spoke up to remind Stone that the couple's actual son was in the room. The son most certainly said nothing.  “This was so sudden. This accident. I had a phone call just earlier that day, the day of the accident. Howard was his usual charming self. Told a few old war stories.  You know the ones. Some of them may even be true.” Some around the room laughed. “He spoke some about Maria. Spoke about taking her to Italy for a New Year's trip.”

 

Tony had to hold back a snort.  Howard Stark most certainly did not discuss going to Italy with his wife.  He most likely had barked out something about sending ‘the ball and chain’ on a trip alone so he could paint the town red without her disapproving glare.  Howard and Maria Stark had long ago resigned themselves to living parallel lives from one another, with occasional cross purposes. The former had Stark Industries.  The latter had the New York society scene. That had left their son bouncing around between them. Their brilliant son. Their genius son. Their idiot son. Their fuck up of a son.  Their party all day and night, crash the car, bang models, show up drunk to Sunday dinner son.

 

Tony drained his glass.

 

“Now I know what Howard would say if he was here today.”

 

Who let Tony near my good wine?  Who moved my replicas? Why did you use that portrait of Maria?

 

“He would say, ‘We're all done crying.  It's time to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward, soldier!’”  The conference room erupted into applause, a few approving ‘Here Here!’s could be heard.  “Now I have been over it in the legal department and it's pretty straightforward. All I need is a majority vote and I will assume the position of CEO of Stark Industries.”

 

“Acting CEO.”

 

The room shifted and turned to look at the young man lounging in the office chair.  He put down his glass and leaned across the table to emphasize his point. “Acting CEO.  I've been in touch with a few lawyers myself. My Father's lawyers. You remember them, don't you Stone?  We spoke to them last week.”

 

“I remember Tony.”  Stone looked uncomfortable, but didn't shrink from the truth.  After a few moments, he added, “You said you didn't feel up to taking over the company.”

 

“Now.  I didn't feel up to taking over the company now .  I'm a scientist.”  Someone had the audacity to snort.  “Just a humble MIT grad. Not a head for business.  Not like the late great Howard. Not like the great and very much here now Obadiah Stone.  I need a bit of time to mourn. To learn the business world. To get a lay of the field.”

 

“Take as long as you need, Tony.”

 

“Six months.”

 

The conference room took a collective gasp and peeked back at the older man at the front of the room.  The two portraits looked down indifferently.

 

“Six months.  I'm sure you could take longer if you want or need to.  You're still a kid. Twenty-”

 

“Twenty-one.  I have more R & D experience than three fourths of this room combined.  I have more hands on engineering experience than all of you. I have the computer savvy and know-how for not only the next decade, but hell the next millennium.  And that isn't me being humble, that is what my Father said in his living will video said, which I am allowing you all see this afternoon when you talk to my Father's lawyers.  And there's also one more important fact. I am Tony Stark, Howard Stark's son. This is part of my legacy. You all work for me, whether you like it or not.”

 

Stone stares across the table.  Tony stared back. The older man grinned.

 

“You really are Howard's kid.”

 

“Unfortunately.”