Perfect Illusion

Part the Fifth

Part the Fifth

In the end they found what Loki was looking for.  Smiling to himself, Loki folded them under his arm and then offered Harry lunch at his pleasure.  “You may be too young to be familiar with it, but there’s a pureblood wizard club in London—The Wicked Stepmother.  It’s rather exclusive.  While its sister clubs aren’t as stringent, my membership will gain us entry, or would you prefer—I do not know what Ilvermorny students eat.”

“Pizza probably,” Harry laughed a little.  “But I can have that anytime.”

This brought a pleased curl to Loki’s lips. 

He opened a door that was barely wide enough for a house elf to get through and just kept on pulling wider until there was space enough for both of them to enter a room with portraits of famous American wizards and couches where the elite of American society seemed to be chatting and enjoying hors d’oeuvres that were floating around them. 

Loki led them to a curtain, holding it back for Harry, before presenting a deep blue card.

“Lord Loki,” a willowy witch purred as she looked at the card and registered it in a large book before holding it back.  “Welcome.  Your guest?”

“Anthony Stark, Jr.” 

The witch clearly didn’t recognize him as the son of Tony Stark or someone other than a pureblood because with a flourish of her quill, she led them to a bright room that had floor to ceiling windows and was in the shape of a semicircle.  They were led to a table that was just beside one of the windows that was surprisingly free despite the fact that most of the tables were occupied and—yes, there was the reserved sign that was swept away as Harry’s coat was taken and his chair was held out for him.

Loki looked him over appreciatively, as he was left in his shirtsleeves, cravat, and waistcoat.  The chain of the magical watch hung as the one spot of color other than green on his person.

“Is your excellent father a member?” Loki asked as he took his napkin with a flourish and placed it on his lap.

“No,” Harry refuted.  “Tony wouldn’t like all of this.  He likes to hide in plain sight when he’s not courting the media for whatever reason.”

“I take it he’s a complex wizard,” Loki murmured.

Harry nodded as he took a sip of his water.  “Do you miss Slytherin?  I haven’t really had a chance to yet.  Everything’s been too new.”

Allowing the change in subject, Loki regarded him.  “I do not miss the dorms,” he admitted.  “The camaraderie, surely.  I like to take in the odd Quidditch game.  Do you follow a particular club?”

“Caerphilly,” he admitted.  “Not that seriously.  Some of my dorm mates were mad about their clubs and we had a few posters up that Snape would come take down every few months, but I just prefer playing.”

Then the oddest sensation overcame Harry.  It was as if someone were pulling information from his mind.  He blinked, trying to dispel it, and then it was as if he forgot it had happened at all.

Loki gave him a charming smile.  “Snape was always fair if you didn’t get on his wrong side,” Loki agreed.  “I barely made it through his NEWTs class.—The Quidditch World cup is being held this July.  Perhaps your father will take you.”  The last was said as if through water, as if the words were someone else’s, but as soon as Harry noticed, again the memory was gone.

“Will you be there?” Harry asked, wanting to get off the subject of his father.

“Undoubtedly,” Loki stated, as if he had only decided that moment.  “I already have my tickets.  I’ve had them for two years.”

Harry swallowed.  Well, Tony certainly had enough money.  Loki seemed to, as well.  “I suppose they’ll be somewhere in Europe.”

“They’re in England,” Loki told him as a decanter of some amber liquid was placed on the table and menus with three options were left on their plates.  Firechicken.  Acromantula.  Duck.

“What’s a firechicken?” Harry asked in confusion.

“If you don’t know,” Loki warned kindly, light in his eyes full of mischief, “I wouldn’t recommend getting it.  It might insult your sensibilities.”

“I was almost killed by an Acramantula last June at Hogwarts,” Harry then admitted.  “People eat them?”

“Their eggs,” Loki stated after well-concealed but visible shock was wiped from his face.  “It’s a delicacy.  I understand that Muggles—No Majes—eat fish eggs.”

“Caviar,” Harry informed him.  “Are they any good?  I had duck last night.”  Tony had wanted Chinese takeaway and Harry had agreed as long as it was just the two of them.  Naturally, Tony ordered about fifteen different dishes and Harry had sampled all of them before declaring himself full and dead to the world.

Loki looked up from his menu, clearly decided.  “I quite enjoy them.  I’m torn between that and the firechicken, but I might go with the latter.”

“Just don’t tell me what it is,” Harry begged as he looked up and smiled.  “Thank you—for this.  I didn’t realize how much I had been looking forward to just getting out and away from the adults in my life.”

Laughing Loki asked, “I’m not an adult?”

“That’s not what I meant,” Harry refuted quickly.  “You’re not my father’s age.  You also aren’t in love with him and wanting to get me out of the way.”  His thoughts darkened to Pepper who tried to lure Tony to a private dinner meeting with just the two of them just earlier that week.  Fortunately, Natalie entered and pointed out that Tony only had to sign on the dotted line twice and could go out with Harry for a midnight picnic on the beach instead.

“It must be difficult to be a widower,” Loki murmured.  “Any witch would know that a wizard’s heir takes priority.”  A thought crossed the room.  Any goddess would know that the Great Odin would always favor his Queen and his two princes.

Odin.  Odinson.  Somehow Harry knew these names, but then—just as the thought was there—it was gone.

“Tell her that,” Harry muttered to himself.  “Were your parents in Slytherin?  Mum was in Gryffindor and Dad’s—American.”

“Ravenclaw and Slytherin,” Loki answered as if the answer were well-rehearsed.  “We have a tendency to be rather ambitious.  I’m trying to set up a wizarding bank that’s an alternative to Gringotts.  I have had decent success in Cornwall where some wizards are still distrustful of England in general.”

Harry’s eyebrows shot up.  “I never thought—of course.  I had money in Gringotts but all of it’s here—I suppose.  I told Tony I didn’t want to look at any more financial figures until I’m of age.  He agreed that numbers are for fun and arithmancy.”

“You are skilled in figures?” Loki asked, suddenly sitting forward.  “In maths or in the building of spells?”

They had already given their orders and Loki was pouring tumblers of the amber liquid, which Harry sipped before coughing.  It was like his throat was on fire.  Loki smiled to himself at his reaction.

“I managed my stepfather’s finances since I was eleven,” Harry admitted.  “I forfeited it when I moved here, but I didn’t want any of his money.  I suppose someone else has it.”

Looking pensive, Loki nodded.

Pausing, Harry then admitted, “And then, of course, numbers help you master spells.”  A heady atmosphere filled the air and he tipped his finger up so that his fork lifted ever so slightly, showing how easy it was for Harry to move the piece of silverware, just that he wasn’t going to show off in a crowded restaurant.

Loki’s eyes gleamed as he took another sip from his tumbler.

After their meal, they sat drinking the amber liquid and Loki looked into his tumbler for a long moment.  “I can only guess your age, Monsieur Anthony, but who should I petition to formally court you?”

Harry paused for a long moment.  He had read about courting between wizards and witches in Spungen’s Guide to Pureblood Dynasties, c.1500-present.  There was even a small section about wizards courting other wizards, although it was terribly vague and full of generalities.

“I think,” Harry stated after a moment, “that Dad will kill you.  I think you were a seventh year when I arrived at Hogwarts.”  There was some notion of that in his head, but still it was a bit vague, as if that thought had been put in his head.

Loki quirked an eyebrow at him and smirked.  “I always paid attention to the firsties, but for some reason, I don’t recall anyone like you.—Are Americans a little more—conservative—when it comes to age?”

“I’d imagine.”  Harry swallowed. 

“Is it the distance?” Loki then asked, his eyes probing.  “The fact that I’m a wizard and you either are expected or want to marry a witch?  I understand given your name and being named after your own father that you are the heir and certain obligations must be met—”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Harry interrupted.  “Tony’s fine with me being gay.  He’s happy for me.  His representatives don’t think it’s—prudent—but we Starks tend to do what we want.”  He thought of his parents’ entire affair and the fact that Tony had had nearly a new bedpartner every night for most of Harry’s life when he was living in obscurity in Surrey.

“Then it’s America’s peculiar ideas about propriety?  I assure you distance is no object.  I know you enjoy my company, Monsieur Anthony—”

“Lord Loki,” Harry stated quickly, getting in a word.

“Heed my words,” Loki begged, sitting forward, all elegance as if he were almost from another world.  “I have position.”  A smile cracked on his lips.  “Great position.—I have great personal wealth.  I have a flourishing though fledgling business, which is more of a hobby than anything as I have no real need for the capital it affords me.  I am not in a position where I have to provide heirs as a younger son so—if our courtship progresses—I will have no need to take a wife.  I can offer a magical bonding that I know both the British and American Ministries will recognize.”  His green eyes shone brilliant and somehow Harry knew extinctually that someone else’s blessing was need—but that Loki would get it by whatever means necessary.

“Really?” Harry asked in confusion.  “I know that they don’t allow wizards to marry Muggles here in America.”  That had been an initial point of quandary when Tony had gained custody of him.  The fact that he and Lily had an affair was damning enough, but since it happened in Britain and Lily broke no British wizarding laws, there was only a slight hiccup.  Lily was dead anyway.  She couldn’t be punished and MACUSA would never punish Tony, who had not been one of its citizens, or Harry, who was an innocent child.

“As they should,” Loki stated, which didn’t really surprise Harry.  He had been in Slytherin and if he was somehow connected to one of the four Lords—well.

Harry clenched his jaw.  “I was brought up more liberally,” he stated plainly, his green eyes flashing. 

Loki regarded him for a short moment before nodding.  “Monsieur Anthony—”

“I need to think,” he stated quickly.  “I—I’m only thirteen.  I’m not certain I’m ready for a courtship.  Tony won’t understand even if I decided to give it a go.  He’s—American—and I’m still discovering what it means to be Anthony Stark, Jr.”

“I don’t understand,” Loki admitted.

“No,” Harry agreed.  Sighing, he tried to put it in pureblood terms.  “My mother and her sister were estranged.  She only told Aunt Petunia that my father was named Anthony.  Tony was called away to America and you know what it was like in Britain.”  A pull again in his mind and then Harry instantly forgot.  “I was born, Mum was murdered in the war, Aunt Petunia got me, and Tony was left not knowing what happened to Mum or that I even existed.  It took thirteen years for him to find me and then it was only through luck.  He was here in America.  As soon as he heard—he, of course, contacted my aunt and I moved here.  Now there’s Quodpot and peculiar clothing and press conferences—and I have a dad for the first time in my life.  We’re still trying to figure each other out.”  He didn’t realize he had been looking at his hands until he looked up at Loki was shocking green eyes.

Loki was looking at him calmly.  “The war took many lives, left many children without parents, many parents without children.  I, myself, am alone here on Midgard.”

The name stuck with him.  Harry had heard of ‘Midgard’ before but no one used the term, but then, a sly look appeared on Loki’s face, and the knowledge of the word escaped Harry’s mind completely.

But Loki was undoubtedly a pureblood, Harry realized.  He was in Slytherin.  He was Lord Loki Odinson, and although Harry didn’t quite—nearly—almost recognize the name, it was certainly ancient.  As soon as he realized that Harry’s mother was a Muggleborn and his father wasn’t even magical in the slightest, he would—and the likelihood was high—toss Harry aside like a niffler that could no longer sniff out gold.

That was perhaps another reason why he should never see Lord Loki Odinson after today.  His father was a Muggle.  He’d probably never be able to fake getting into this club without being escorted in.  As James Potter’s supposed heir and the Savior of the Wizarding World, Harry could move about in pureblood society easily, not completely, but nearly.  Now, he was acting as a chameleon.

Something changed in Loki’s face, almost as if he were somehow reading Harry’s mind.  “You’ve decided against me.”

“Natalie will be waiting for me,” Harry said instead, getting up to stand and finding that his chair was pulled out for him.  “She escorted me from Malibu.”

“Then let me see you safely delivered into her hands,” Loki offered as he handed Harry his gloves before taking his own coat and hat.

Loki placed his gloved hand at the small of Harry’s back, which was strangely comforting.  Nothing was said between the two of them as they walked past the three large fireplaces, through the graffitied passageway, and into L.A. Genes.  There was someone new behind the till, but she looked at them as if she wasn’t surprised.  A young man with tattoos, one being of an equilateral cross on his cheek, indicated the front door of the shop.

As soon as Harry stepped out of the store, Natalie was there as if she had some form of warning, and she smiled at him and looked at Loki with curiosity.

“How was lunch, Anthony, Jr.?” she asked.  “We’re parked around the corner.”

“I leave you in the capable hands of Mademoiselle Natalie,” Loki stated, tipping his hat to her before lifting Harry’s hand up between both of his, their eyes held.

The moment ended when a flash went off and someone screamed, “Anthony, Jr.  Is it true that your mother was Tony Stark’s whore?”

“Was she married to James Potter?” someone else shouted.  “Is your name Harry?”

“Merlin!” Harry shuddered and there were strong hands on his shoulder as he was guided through the cameras as Natalie parted the way before them.  Not realizing it was Loki who was holding onto him, Harry had bent his head down below the lapels so that his face was hidden.

The open door to the town car was there and he climbed into it, someone following him in, and then he looked up to see Natalie.

“Harry?” she asked in confusion.

“Anthony Howard,” he responded.  “Mum was a fan of his work on the Manhattan Project.”

Then he realized that there was someone sitting beside him.  He looked over to see that Loki was sitting there, looking at him with his hat upside down on his lap as he was taking off his gloves.  “It seems I do remember you from Slytherin House.”  His voice betrayed nothing.

“Please,” Harry begged.  “You can’t tell anyone.  If they get wind of this in England—that the great Harry Potter debunked to America and isn’t even a Potter—Lord Loki—”

“You’re not a pureblood,” he stated with resignation, however it was almost as if he didn’t quite care and was playing a part.

“No,” Harry agreed.  “I’ll reimburse you for the meal.  I realize this is—unpleasant—but you found a bit of Slytherin in L.A. of all places, at least.”

“Slytherin honor demands that I keep your confidence,” Loki agreed, looking over.  “They’re vultures, the lot of them.  And Muggles.”

The car had been moving and Harry suddenly realized they were on the freeway.  “Er—we have a fireplace at home.  Tony’s going to think you’re Aldric Weathercrest, the youngest son of Nathaniel—”

“Quite,” Loki stated curtly before closing his eyes and taking a deep breath.  “Be honest, Monsieur Anthony—who are you?”

“The son of Lily Potter and a very wealthy Muggle.”  He cringed internally but when Loki turned to him and assessed him for several long moments.  Harry didn’t back down.  What Loki said after a moment honestly surprised Harry.

“Mademoiselle Natalie,” (he didn’t even look at her, his eyes still on Harry) “I require a few private moments with Monsieur Anthony, if he is amenable.”

Natalie glanced between them.  “Anthony, Jr.?”

“It’s okay, Natalie.  Lord Loki is a man of honor.  We’ve known each other for years.”

She set her papers down, pressed a button and the passenger seat at the front of the town car came down and she was able to slip forward before straightening the seat and leaving them in complete privacy.  Harry watched her go for a long moment but then turned back to Loki who was still looking at him.

“Your father,” Loki stated carefully, “will not be amenable to me because he is a Muggle and they—do things differently.”  The word ‘Muggle’ it seemed was almost replaced at the last moment for another word.  “Magic is precious.”

“Yeah,” Harry admitted.

He reached up and his fingertips brushed the edge of Harry’s jaw.  “I think you’re really a pureblood in Muggle clothing.”

“Really?” Harry asked as his eyes closed and his voice got a little breathy.  Why was Loki having such an affect on him?  This was madness.  He felt like his heart had been pulled so many directions the past two months and now he could feel breath against his lips—and he opened eyes to see blue ones so close to his. 

“Tell me to leave and I’ll Apparate away after fixing that Muggle’s memory.”

Harry’s eyes dipped to Loki’s lips for the briefest of moments.  “Is this really allowed?  Spungen’s barely says anything—”

“On my honor as Prince of Midgard,” Loki promised, the words shimmering and shifting away, “as soon as you turn thirteen and with a guardian’s consent.”

“I never want to go back to England,” he murmured. 

“Then I’ll come here,” Loki promised before he closed the distance between them.

Harry breathed in as lips met lips and then he found his fingers, that were still encased in dragonhide gloves, were splayed in Loki’s hair and Harry was pulling Loki closer. 

It was brief, but that’s all it had to be.  Harry sighed when Loki’s lips touched his smooth forehead before his gloves were pulled from his hands and then Harry was resting against Loki as they each looked out the window at the cars moving past them.

When they were getting off the freeway, Harry murmured, “If I wrote letters to Theo Nott and Draco Malfoy, could you owl them from England so they can’t be traced back to here?  I never really got to say goodbye.  I can’t explain, of course, but I can say goodbye.  Maybe I’ll see them one day.”

Loki sighed.  “If you came as my guest to the World Cup—if you can get over your dislike of England for a match—you’ll certainly see Heir Draco.  I read somewhere that Lord Malfoy was in the Top Box with the Minister of Magic.”

Smiling to himself, Harry then laughed.  “Draco will love that.”

Loki looked down at him and let his fingers run through his hair.  Without even meaning to, Harry had come to an understanding with Loki.  He had meant to distract himself with Aldric, or at least try to, but this was so much better—

Tony was in the laboratory when JARVIS informed him that “Master Anthony” had arrived home.  His heart twinging at the thought of his son on a date—his first date—no, Tony reminded himself.  This was a good thing.  Harry needed to not carry the weight of the world on his shoulder.  He needed to know that he was loved, that he could be himself.  A wizard.  A young man.  A man confident in his sexuality or exploring—whatever was happening.

“I detect three heartbeats making their way to the living room,” JARVIS surprisingly informed him.

Tony was already wiping his hands.  Hurrying up, he made his way up to the main house and found Natalie sitting down to the side, going through her papers while Harry was pointing out something about the floo to a young man dressed like—a period drama—and in green.  He even had the hat.

Well, Tony wasn’t going to fault this Aldric Weathercrest for wizarding fashion.

Harry looked over and his face lit up.  “Tony.  I ran into an old schoolmate from Hogwarts.  This is Lord Loki Odinson.”

A little surprised at the title, a shift in his mind as if he should know it and yet suddenly didn’t, Tony nonetheless took it in stride.  “Lord Loki,” he greeted.  “What brings you to California?”

“International publications,” he answered in an elitist tone that was definitely—yeah, snobbish.  This guy was snobbish.  Well, he was a lord, so Tony supposed it all fit.  “I didn’t recognize Monsieur Anthony until we were mobbed by reporters on the Muggle street.”

Tony frowned.  “Natalie?”

She stood.  “They believe that Lily was your—whore—and married to someone named James Potter.  They also think that Anthony Jr. is called ‘Harry,’ which is apparently short for Howard.”

Groaning, Tony looked at his son.  “You all right, kiddo?  I know I’m still not sold on the floo, but if you can use it to get about without having to use the car, as much as I don’t like the idea—”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed.  “I would have insisted but Pepper was here.”

Rolling his eyes, Tony ruffled his hair.  “Natalie and I are talking about how we can do a run around her.  I know how much you dislike Pepper.—Well, thanks for being there, Lord Loki, for Anthony, Jr.—What happened to Aldric?”

Harry bit his lip.  “He stood me up when he found out who you were.”

Tony’s face went blank and then he caught Natalie’s eye and signaled that she should go.  The great thing about Natalie was that she could take the hint.  She’d be off in some other room with her work and not leave until she was dismissed or informed him.  “He did what?” he finally asked. 

Lord Loki stepped forward.  “Perhaps I could speak to you for a moment, Mr. Stark.—I assure you I don’t care that Monsieur Anthony is the son of a common Muggle, although I understand you are quite wealthy.”

Yeah, Tony didn’t like this guy.  He was too uppity.  Not like Lily’s soft British quietness at all. 

Then he saw it, the look that passed between his son and this upstart.  It was knowing and affectionate.  How old was this kid anyway?  He had to be older than sixteen, and Tony had only allowed that because Harry needed the affirmation and, well, Harry had had to grow up sooner than he should have.  Sixteen was the absolute limit, though.

Leading Lord Loki into his private office, he instantly told him, “No.”

“Mr. Stark, I haven’t even broached a subject—” he stated, his face calm and his hands clasped behind his back.

“I saw how you looked at Anthony, Jr.  I don’t approve.  How old are you?”

“Nineteen,” he answered easily, an almost lie in his voice.  “However, in wizarding society, once a young man reaches thirteen—”

“He’s living under my roof,” Tony argued, “under my rules.  I say he can’t date a nineteen year old until he’s sixteen.  And when he’s sixteen, you’ll still be too old.”

“I can understand Monsieur Anthony on a level few can,” he argued.  “We’re both European—we’re both Slytherins—while I’m a pureblood, he lives and acts as a pureblood, which, forgive me, is something you will never understand.  I am the only European pureblood who won’t cut him for having a Muggle father or for being fathered outside of matrimony because I realize there’s something about him that I’ve never seen before.  I will also never betray the fact that he was once Harry Potter and I don’t crave that sort of attention if it gets out.  I didn’t much care for the press this afternoon.”

“Then you’re next to useless,” Tony stated smugly.

“I’m willing to put up with it for Monsieur Anthony.  He told me how he’s advancing in his studies rapidly.  Do you want him to be with a schoolboy with their petty jealousies and who he’ll leave behind intellectually?  I will encourage him and not hold him down.  He may be Tony Stark’s son, and I’m only beginning to realize what this means, but I have a level of distinction in England that many envy.  I am not, as you Muggles may say, a hanger on.  I will only leave if Monsieur Anthony tells me to go—and he hasn’t.  Quite the reverse.”

Tony inwardly cursed.  The kid knew what he wanted when he wanted it.  He was a Stark through and through.  And it seemed he wanted this clown—in green.

Without saying anything, he left the study and—well, he wasn’t sure where Harry went.  “JARVIS?”

“Master Anthony is in the lab working on yet another engine.”

“I’m going to lose that kid to NASCAR,” he muttered to himself before he went down the stairs to the mansion’s laboratory.  He knew that Lord Loki was behind him, he could hear the swish of his outercoat, which he had never taken off, and he punched in the code to the lab.  Turning, he pointed a finger at Lord Loki.  “I need to speak to Anthony, Jr.  I know you have magic and your wand is hidden somewhere—but I will remind you that you are Anthony Jr.’s guest and that, as his father, I need to speak to him.”

Lord Loki tilted his head and backed away. 

Tony went into the lab and realized that NIRVANA was blasting.  He tapped Harry’s sneaker, and Harry rolled out, showing that he had changed into a pair of jeans and a Stark Expo shirt.  He seemed to still be wearing contacts.  Tony would see if he could schedule eye surgery before he had to ship him back to Massachusetts.

“Tell me the story.  The short version.”

“As soon as I saw Lord Loki, I wanted to stand Aldric up.  It’s ridiculous, I know.  But have you ever just felt attraction immediately?  I knew you’d never go for it.”

“So you stood Aldric up,” Tony checked.

“No, he stood me up.  Lord Loki then took me to a pureblood gentleman’s club—come to think there were witches there, too—and I had food that I think is illegal—and when he asked me, my heart stopped, but I thought of all these reasons why not to—”

Tony’s heart sank.  “But none of those reasons seem important enough.”

Harry shook his head.  “He doesn’t care that I have a Muggle father, that I’m famous.  He still considers me a pureblood—and, Tony, I know you don’t get it, but I am a pureblood.  I can be me, all of me.  It’s so—strange.  But have you ever felt that with anyone?”

“Lily,” Tony answered without pause before he leaned forward and kissed Harry’s forehead.  “Come on out and I’ll outline the rules.”

Published by excentrykemuse

Fanfiction artist and self critic.

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