Rated T: Angsty inner monologue ... 'nuff said
Chapter II - Healing Through Inner Monologues
Loki glanced up as he heard the unmistakable clanking of the main dungeon doors opening. His cell was actually rather close to the dungeon stairs, and thanks to some unknown benefactor, (Mother, probably) his cell was more comfortable than he had expected. He had an actual bed, although it was narrow and small, a chair and some books. The entire cell was surrounded by an energy field to contain his magic, but he could perform some bits inside the cell, which was a small mercy. The first day he had been locked up, he had spent most of his time in a healing trance to begin mending the worst of his injuries. Then a healer had come, saying he 'had orders' to check him over. Loki knew that it must be Thor still trying to take care of him, after the way he had nagged that Midgardian doctor into tending his more recent injuries a week ago. Loki was more annoyed than anything, and told the healer where he could go. The middle-aged man went off in a huff and Loki wasn't bothered again. That was some days ago now, and the only contact he'd had was the guard who brought him food twice a day. The food wasn't bad, and he'd certainly had worse, but he didn't have much of an appetite.
Loki was resting on his bed, wincing as some of his other hurts finished healing. His magic was still bruised and torn from a year of abuse and overuse and he was straining it already, healing organ and nerve damage, which was delicate work. Healing in general was difficult, and he was no healer. He was more of a battle-mage, so his own repertoire of healing magic was crude at best. What he did have was experience from the year before, when he had been forced to twist his magic in ways he never had before to keep himself from going insane from pain. His hands were trembling now, but the tremors would die down as the nerves corrected themselves, guided by his magic. All he wanted to do was sleep.
But the dungeon door was clanking and he groaned inwardly. He wasn't sure he had enough energy for an illusion, but he managed it, masking his true form, huddled and trembling with pain and fever on the bed, (it would pass by morning) and portraying himself as he wished he were. His strong, healthy self was sitting in the chair, calmly reading a book. Loki shut his eyes and drifted into his illusion. It was a strange sensation, looking out of eyes that did not really exist. He could feel his true body lying on his right side, huddled under blankets that seemed too thin for his trembling body, feeling his hateful true form throbbing just under his skin, struggling to come forward to protect him from the unnatural heat in his flesh. But he kept it at bay and concentrated on his illusion, and that effort helped him to forget the burning twinges in his nerves and muscles.
It turned out he didn't have a visitor; it was just a group of guards with a line of chained prisoners. They looked ragged, filthy, and sullen, and Loki watched them in boredom, though his illusion calmly ignored them. The men wore scraps of armour and ragged remnants of colourful garments, and from that alone, Loki deduced that they were pirates. Likely they would be either executed or interrogated in the lower dungeons and he would never see them again, so he didn't much care. He was the only permanent resident in this part of the dungeons, and he had a feeling Odin had ordered him placed in a high traffic zone so he didn't have a chance to seduce his fellow inmates. Idiotic, paranoid old man. As if he'd need witless idiots like those to effect his eventual escape. There were a thousand and one ways he had thought up already, and he was only on day five.
Closing his eyes, Loki tried to sleep, knowing that his illusion would dissipate when he dozed off, but content to leave it there for now. It wasn't moving now, not even to turn an illusory page. His doppelganger looked lost in thought, and that would work for the casual observer.
He must have dozed off, because when he jerked awake from a nightmare sometime later, the light in his cell had dimmed automatically and his illusion was gone. He was suffering from pins and needles all over his body and a deep ache in his bones. But he'd lived through worse. This would pass, as all things would. It was perhaps the fundamental truth he had learned at the hands of the Children of Thanos. All things are temporary.
Once he thought his family had loved him.
Is this love? He had asked Agent Romanoff. Or had he? Was it him, or just his voice doing the asking, the mocking, the threatening … Thinking back to his experiences on Midgard, he found himself thrust into a dizzying vortex of would-have, could-have, should-have questions. He did not truly know how he would be as an evil tyrannical overlord, because frankly, such a thing would get boring after a while. He preferred sneaking and spying and pulling strings and laughing when the idiots who followed his beck and call had no idea they were eating out of his hand.
He remembered the tears of hurt and anger standing in the eyes of the red-haired woman who had tricked him into revealing his plan … not that it had done her or any of the mortals any good. He remembered everything he said to her, as he mocked and taunted her with her own helplessness and her childish desire to make up for evil with good, as if one could outweigh the other like different sized weights. But would he truly have broken his Hawk like that? He knew the Maw would have, and enjoyed it. But Loki found needless torture distasteful. He always had. He didn't think he truly would have allowed the Maw to force him to control the Hawk to such an extent. Plus, he had been raised by Frigga to respect women. If he had forced the Hawk to kill the pretty woman who reeked of death, it would have been quick … not slow, intimate, and in every way that would hurt most. And he certainly would not have woken the Hawk to see his good work. He couldn't afford to lose such a man anyway. When that human mage freed the Hawk, it had been a grievous blow: the first of his dominos to fall.
Which got him thinking about this strange conception again.
What was it, anyway? He thought he had loved once … but now, he was pretty sure it was all burned out of him, or that he had never truly learned how to love. But he was too tired to go on beating a dead horse. He couldn't love anymore, and maybe his family had never really loved him either. They were all convenient to each other, but living in close quarters didn't automatically mean that they would all love each other. Thor had liked having him as a back-watcher and a convenient sorcerer he didn't have to pay or bribe or posture over. Frigga had always given him what he thought of as true, unselfish love, but now her love struck him as sentimental and stupid. It was foolish to think she loved him now … when the Loki she had loved was a different person than the Loki he was at this moment. He was grateful she knew nothing of his true weakness, for he would not be able to bear her scorn and disgust.
And then there was Odin.
His relationship with the King he called 'father' had always been complicated. For centuries, he had striven to please the man, to make him proud … but the pride in Odin's gaze had only ever been for one of his sons. Yet, Loki was nothing if not tenacious. He studied law and treaties and strategy while his brother teased Sif and got into trouble with Fandral. He practiced advanced magic until he got it just right while Thor was quarreling with Volstagg and picking fights with Hogun. He observed those in Odin's court to better understand politics and asked questions of everyone while the Golden Prince whiled away his study hours with bored yawns and a belligerent attitude.
He had even bred the greatest horse in all the Nine Realms as a gift for his father, using all of his skill and magic to craft the perfect steed for Odin, All-Father of the Nine Worlds. Yet, though Odin used the steed, he did nothing to stop those stupid rumours Fandral had started, saying that Loki had used his shape-shifting magic to birth the magnificent horse. However ridiculous it sounded, somehow the story stuck and grew to ridiculous proportions. Last he'd heard the story, he'd turned into a mare to seduce a stallion in order to undermine a bet a craftsman had apparently made with Odin. People were so stupid.
Yet, after all he had done, everything he had sacrificed, all the knowledge he now possessed … it wasn't enough. It was never enough. Never in his life had Odin embraced him warmly and told him how proud he was of the man he had become. Never had his exploits been honoured in a noble song or even with a feast, not even the time he saved Thor and an entire battalion from certain death-by-dragon, by nearly sacrificing himself as a distraction. No, it was Thor and the Warriors Three and even Lady Sif who got the credit. Loki was thanked, of course, but briefly and privately and hardly anyone recounted his role in the battle, except the part where he froze the fire-lizard's eyelids shut with a coating of ice. His 'exploits', (or rumours of them) were 'honoured' by bawdy limericks and tavern songs and dark tales that would give even the stoic Hogun nightmares. Loki was ever the overlooked, the dismissed, the liar and trickster of stories whose dark hair and scheming ways signified his evil …
He had long suspected that he had never been meant for the throne after all, despite what the All-Father had said to the contrary. But hearing it so bluntly from the King's mouth today had cut his chest wide open, allowing all the resentment and hatred he had been harbouring for years to bubble forth in a stew of rage and helplessness that just kept chasing itself around and around in his head, getting so much worse over the past year when his entire existence was naught but pain and lies. Why was it so easy for Thor? Everyone loved him, with seemingly no effort on his part. Why was it so hard for Loki? Why did everyone despise him with the same ease that they loved Thor? All he had ever wanted was to be loved. Was that so much to ask?
He knew life was unfair, but it should be a little more fair than it was, he thought.
Loki buried his face in the thin blanket that smelled like his mother's armoire and stifled a pitiful sob. He hadn't truly cried in centuries. The tears wrung from him by the Titan's torturers had not been true weeping, for he had only been reacting biologically to the agony he was enduring. He had not honestly cried out of loss and grief and sorrow since … well, since his little brother Balder died. The stories about that one too, were dark and malicious; casting (who else?) him as the hate-filled villain who plotted the murder of his beautiful younger sibling.
No, Loki admonished himself. Don't go there, don't think of him … But it was too late. Loki sobbed wretchedly, now that he was alone and forgotten and quite safe. There was no one to hear but the other prisoners, maybe, and he always heard their loud cursing and shouting and wailing when they chose to make noise. If they heard his quiet weeping at all, they wouldn't care, and they wouldn't even know who it was that cried alone in the darkness.
Severus lay in a soft, cloud-like bed in what was certainly the biggest bedroom he'd ever been in. He watched the sunlight move across the room and sighed, feeling rather bored, but he was too tired to do much even if there was something to do. He was still healing from the Battle of New York, and on account of his exhausted magical core, the fatigue was persistent and debilitating. He had just woken from another long nap, but he was too comfortable to think about getting up yet.
After finishing his audience with All-Father Odin, he had spent some time in the Houses of Healing, which were attached to Asgard's royal palace. He had been amazed at the bizarre mix of technology and magic that surrounded him here in Asgard. There didn't seem to be a distinction between the two. Magic was commonplace here, although not every Asgardian could actually perform magic. There were runes built into everything, and every rune was powered by the energy from Asgard's core, at least that was how his personal maid-servant explained it to him. There were runes on the taps in the bathroom that worked amazingly like muggle motion-sensing technology, runes for the lights that worked like the touch-lamp Lily's family had in their living room, runes for the heat and cool air that worked when tapped … It was mind-boggling. He couldn't even understand most of the runes, and he had two NEWT degrees in Ancient Runes.
At any rate, although he was kept resting most of the time, he wasn't completely without things to do. He could sit on the balcony which overlooked a magnificent city of gold and white, or he could stop his maid for chats. She was polite and intelligent, and gave off an air of being a girl of seventeen or eighteen, though she gravely informed him she was over six hundred years of age when he asked. Apparently, Asgardians lived a lot longer than humans. He wasn't too surprised, really. After all, humans had stories about Asgard and the Nine Worlds that stretched back two thousand years or more.
He asked for books once, and she smiled strangely before she brought him a couple from the royal library. The wizard understood at once why she had seemed amused at his request. He couldn't read them. His maid then tried to explain how All-Tongue worked, since all the Asgardians he had spoken to so far appeared to be conversing in English. She demonstrated by calling another servant-girl in and speaking only to her. To his surprise, he heard a completely different language come from the maid's lips. She then explained that if she wished for him to understand her, he would hear his own language. That was how All-Tongue worked, and their books were really the same. Foreign languages would be translated by All-Tongue in an Asgardian's head, so they had no need of writing out translations of their tomes. Severus had a few spells in mind that could probably translate the books temporarily, but he was on a strict magic-ban for one month. They had even given him a bracelet to wear that would actively block his magic from being expelled. But as such a thing wasn't considered healthy in the long run, they would take it from him in a week or so when his core wasn't so weak.
The healer who had examined his magical core had clucked her tongue in dismay before she demanded to know what Severus had been doing to abuse his magic that way. Apparently, it was rather damaged and he was lucky to have survived. Severus counted himself lucky indeed, and drily quipped to the doctor that he'd survived worse. The old Asgardian woman hadn't seemed surprised or outraged by his admission. If anything, she seemed resigned. Judging from that reaction, Severus assumed that a lot of Asgardians injured themselves without thinking, if Thor was any indication of what a typical citizen of this realm was like. He was visited by a magical healer here in his rooms once a day to help mend the damage to his magical core and a different healer came for his broken bones and other injuries. But he was healing so fast that he wouldn't need that anymore in a few days.
Sighing, Severus finally kicked off the silky sheet and got out of bed. He swayed dizzily for a second and cursed, having forgotten that he ought to have gotten up slower. When the room stopped spinning and the black fog cleared from his eyes, he limped to the bathroom. He still had to go easy on his right leg; it seemed to be a favoured target when he was fighting. Old curse scars had flared up after Loki hit it with something vicious in the last few minutes of their fight, and the magical healer was working at smoothing over the damage as much as he could. She grumbled about how primitive Midgardian healing magic was when Severus tried to explain how Poppy had fixed it, and the wizard had to agree with her. Asgardian healing was much more advanced than anything humans had come up with, magical or muggle. His arm was already out of its cast, and while still tender and healing, the bone was mended enough that he only had to wear it in a sling if he chose to take a walk or something, accompanied by his faithful maid, of course.
The bathroom attached to his bedroom was very nice, and everything was familiar enough. The tub was sunken into the floor like a pool and was quite easily even bigger than the Prefect's bath at Hogwarts, the toilet looked much like Earth's contraptions of the same name, and the sink, while much bigger than Severus was used to and slightly curved for easier access, was just the same as any bathroom he'd ever been in. There were no knobs or levers for anything, though. It was all runes carved into the wall. When he waved a hand over them, he could feel a slight tingle on his skin right before the magic activated. He had always been sensitive to magical energies, part of the reason he had been so good with Potions and inventing spells. Here on Asgard, he could literally feel the heartbeat of the Realm through his feet.
Stepping back into his bedroom, Severus changed into some fresh clothes, (Asgardian garb was complicated, but remarkably comfortable) and dropped into a chair near the balcony. Lacy white curtains blew gently in the evening breeze and he could see a raven perched on the marble balustrade of the balcony. There always seemed to be a couple of ravens that hung around this particular room and Severus found himself watching them, more out of boredom than anything else. He didn't really like ravens. He didn't like birds in general, actually. But these ravens were not really obnoxious. They came around a few times a day, hopped about, cawed a few times, watched him curiously if he was out on the balcony, and then disappeared. Sometimes they came together and sometimes it was just one, but by now Severus could see that they were a pair. Whether they were mates or just neighbours, he couldn't say. The current raven hopped off the marble railing and stood still, watching him with beady black eyes and grooming its feathers.
"I don't think you'll find anything to eat there, foolish bird," Severus said aloud. It was silly, talking to a bird, but he was bored, and locked up in here, and his maid wouldn't be back until she brought his supper.
The raven cawed at him and flapped its wings as it hopped up on the curved bench that sat off to the side of the balcony.
"I personally don't see why you insist on pestering me every day," Severus told the black bird. "I am not going to start tossing scraps for you as a reward for your persistence."
The raven cawed derisively and gave him a very penetrating look, for a bird anyway.
"No, don't look at me like that," Severus scolded. "I have a heart of stone, and I hate birds. Giving me sad looks isn't going to make an ounce of difference in your plight, raven."
The bird turned and nibbled at its feathers, mussing them before preening them back into place, as sleek and shiny as before if not more so.
Severus sighed and stretched out his feet. His right calf twinged painfully as he stretched it, and he winced as he relaxed the muscles. His healers weren't quite finished healing him, and he wished they'd hurry up and get it done. If it was pain they were worried about, he could handle it. But they were stubborn. And he supposed there was a kind of serene patience that would come to a woman after nearly five thousand years of life. His healer grumbled good-naturedly and let out long-suffering sighs when she went over Severus' dozens of scars, but she was a remarkably patient woman, serene and kind and not overly talkative. Some of the treatments these Asgardian healers were giving him were actually smoothing over his old scars, completely erasing them or at least fading them so that they were unnoticeable. It was a queer kind of relief to know that the faint lines on his back from his father's belt he had carried since he was a child no longer existed. The same went for every other scar he'd still borne from non-magical injuries throughout his life. The magical scars were trickier, but the healers were doing their best to smooth those over as well.
The old healer even claimed they could get rid of the Dark Mark, if Severus wanted it gone.
If he wanted it gone? He had stared into the old woman's serene blue eyes, completely without any words to say. He had carried this mark of shame on his arm since he was seventeen. He regretted it two years later, of course, if not sooner, but he wished he had never made the mistake that allowed the skull and snake to be inked on his flesh in the first place. He couldn't picture himself without it, even though he wanted it gone. But when he'd managed to get his voice back, he'd blurted out something stupid like, "You can do that?"
Severus pulled up the sleeve of his silky black shirt and stared at the black design on his arm. He reached out and traced his fingers lightly over it in morbid fascination. Would he even recognize his arm if these Asgardians managed to take it away? The healers had assured him that they could probably make it disappear, since the Dark Mark acted like a magical wound anyway; one that had scarred over. But Severus still had doubts. The Dark Lord had meant for his mark to be permanent. Surely it wouldn't be so easy. But he knew that he shouldn't worry about it right now. The healers were currently working on the ugly scars on his throat from the snakebite. Since Nagini had been magical, the scars from her fangs had not vanished while the healers were smoothing over the non-magical scars. They were working on his magical scars one at a time to make sure they were healed properly and all that. He was actually impressed at how dedicated these healers were to their work. They truly seemed to take pride in it. Also, he had only ever seen women healers. He hadn't asked the maid about that yet, but he would. Was it a profession that was solely women's work in this world? Or had he simply not seen any male healers yet?
Sighing again, Severus yanked his sleeve back down and looked up. The raven was staring at him again, having finished preening itself. The impression of intelligence in its black eyes was rather creepy. "You are disturbing little creature," Severus muttered at it. "Don't you have a mate somewhere? Are you so bored that you must spend all your time spying on me?"
Getting up from his chair, Severus stepped out onto the balcony. With a squawk, the raven leapt off the bench and flew off, circling down to the courtyards of Asgard's royal palace. Severus watched it go with a frown as he wondered if indeed the raven was spying on him. It could be an animagus, as tales of warriors who could turn into bears had come down from the Norse. But he thought it rather unlikely, since there were actually two different ravens that came around. Maybe there had been something in Norse mythology about ravens, but right now it was slipping his mind. Maybe he could ask his maid if there was anything special about the ravens.
He heard the soft sound of the door to his bedroom opening. His bedroom was only a small part of the spacious quarters he had been given in the guest wing of Asgard's palace. There was another door in the bathroom that led to a common room, and his bedroom door led there as well.
"Sir?" the maid's voice called out. She had tried calling him Master right when she'd been assigned to him, but he'd demanded she call him sir instead if she had to call him something.
"On the balcony, Sigyn," Severus called out.
"Oh good," the girl beamed. "Would you like to change into something more appropriate? You have a visitor."
Severus glanced down at his black shirt and pants. He was barefoot, but he honestly didn't much care. "Who is it?" he asked, missing wizarding garb suddenly. All he would have to do is throw a robe over whatever he happened to be wearing and he was presentable.
"It is Prince Thor, sir," Sigyn answered respectfully. "Would you like a doublet at least?"
"If you think it best," Severus replied with a frown. "I was wearing clothes like this last time we met, though."
"Of course, sir," the girl replied mildly, as she always did, but that annoying air women had of making their own opinions the only one that mattered. Fighting the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose, he sighed and resigned himself to her bullying while she tried to make him look presentable. In another lifetime he might have snapped and snarled at her. But she was genuinely nice and seemed to be growing to like him for some strange reason, and Severus knew it was good to cultivate his allies in this new world. Many people underestimated servants, and Severus had never made that mistake. During his tenure as Headmaster, the Hogwarts elves had proved invaluable in protecting the students. It was on account of those overlooked creatures that not a single student died during that horrific year under the Carrows.
Sigyn opened the wardrobe and drew out a black vest-like garment with silver buttons and decorations and some socks and boots. Reluctantly, he allowed the girl to help him, since she knew the little tricks behind the small silver buttons on the doublet and the boots, and in less than five minutes, she declared him presentable.
The common room outside his bedroom was very large, and he hadn't really used it in the five days he'd been here already. There was a private dining area off to the side, a large sitting area in the middle, another balcony on the right-hand wall, and a shallow fire-pit in the very center of the room. It was in the midst of the sitting area, which was positioned in a sunken spot with steps leading down to the low sofas and sitting cushions. There were benches along the walls, potted plants, torches that were ignited with runes, and some curtains across the balcony. It was a very nice room, but too big and too open for his tastes. The roof was far too high up in his opinion.
Thor had been sitting on one of the low seats near the firepit, but he jumped to his feet when Severus came in. The Prince was dressed more casually than his armor and red cape, but red and gold still seemed to be his royal colors. He smiled broadly, looking genuinely pleased to see the wizard.
"Severus, my friend!" Thor boomed, opening his arms in welcome. "How fare you? The healers tell me you are recovering physically, and far better than they hoped."
"I am well," Severus answered mildly. He sidestepped Thor, not sure if the huge Asgardian was going to drag him into a friendly hug that would rebreak his ribs, and he sat down on one of the low sofas. "I wondered if anyone would visit me at all," he commented as he sat.
"I pray your pardon, my friend," Thor said mournfully, likewise sitting back on the sofa he had claimed. "I have been terribly busy, and directly after I arrived, my Father demanded my presence upon a campaign. A troop of ravagers attacked a trading post on Alfheim, and I was forced to leave without seeing anyone I had wished to. But the Lady Eir in the Houses of Healing assured me that you should make a full recovery. But you are certain you are healing? There is nothing you lack?"
"I am healing very well," Severus answered honestly. "Asgardian medicine is a hundred times better than what we have on Earth; even magical-wise."
"I am glad to hear it!" Thor grinned. "The Healers of the Royal Houses of Healing are none but the greatest in all Asgard, or perhaps in all the Nine Worlds. I knew you were in good hands when I bade them see to you."
Severus coughed uncomfortably. While he had suspected that he was being given special treatment of some kind, hearing that he was actually getting the best medical care in the universe was a little staggering.
"How is your brother?" Severus asked, changing the subject. "Has he been seen by the healers yet?"
"He refuses, apparently," Thor replied soberly, seeming to wilt at the mention of Loki. "But I have spoken to my mother, and she will see that he receives the care he needs."
"I certainly hope he accepts such care," Severus muttered. "What I saw in his mind … I'm amazed he's still in command of his senses, much less alive."
Thor was silent for several seconds, clenching his hands together. "What did you see?" the Prince asked quietly, his blue eyes filled with worry and pain. "I thought he was hiding the worst of his injuries from the Midgardian healer we asked to see him, and here he has refused the healer outright."
"He's a stubborn idiot," Severus sighed and rubbed the bridge of his hooked nose. "But I do not believe it is my place to speak of what I saw in his head. Perhaps I could speak with him while I'm here? I am not certain I am allowed in the dungeons, but if you were to accompany me …"
"I'm afraid that is out of the question," Thor sighed heavily and rubbed his head awkwardly. "Odin … my father is convinced that we ought to leave Loki to himself for a few months, and let him reflect on his deeds."
"But you know as well as I that he is innocent!" Severus snarled. What was wrong with these Asgardians? And he thought the wizarding world was behind the times.
"Indeed," Thor muttered, looking up and away from Severus' face, a sure sign of discomfort. "But he is All-Father here, and his word is law. I am not yet King; to defy him would be foolishness. Besides, Loki is probably glad of the solitude. He certainly was not glad to see me when I took him from your flying craft, back when we first met."
Severus shook his head in disbelief. He said nothing more, as it was apparent that Thor could not be moved. He was over a thousand years old, after all. If one couldn't teach an old dog new tricks, how much harder would it be to teach a young Asgardian new ways of thinking.
"I ordered the guards to make certain Loki is still treated as a prince, not a criminal. So I hope he is comfortable," Thor suddenly said, sounding strangely timid.
"Comfortable in his solitude, to be left with his thoughts and tormented by nightmares and loneliness, you mean," Severus growled. "Tell me, you do not have unspeakable creatures down in your dungeons to guard your prisoners, do you?"
To the wizard's surprise, Thor fixed him with a knowing gaze. His blue eyes blazed as if lit on the inside with electricity. "We do not have Dementors in Asgard," he said quietly.
The wizard deflated a bit and threw a suspicious look at Thor. "How did you know I was speaking of Dementors?"
"Natasha spoke of them," the thunder-god replied solemnly. "It was the description of such vile monsters that convinced me to offer you sanctuary among us. A violent people we may be compared to most of Midgard's inhabitants, but we do not torture our prisoners simply for the sake of suffering."
"Our wizards would say that they do not torture their prisoners either," Severus sneered. "They would tell you that the prisoners in Azkaban deserve to be afflicted with their worst memories and the sensation of miserable cold that accompanies the Dementors. They would say that the incarcerated souls there do not deserve pity or mercy for their crimes."
"And if one is imprisoned unjustly?" Thor demanded. "What then? Would it not be easier to make recompense if all prisoners were treated justly?"
"Exactly," Severus murmured, gazing at the Asgardian through new eyes. He was not as brainless as he seemed at first glance. "But we in the wizarding world have not yet come to that conclusion, I'm afraid. Or at least, we have not in the country I hail from."
Thor nodded; understanding and forgiving in the same gesture. "The Upper Dungeons where Loki now resides are quite comfortable, even by dungeon standards," he said, attempting to assure Severus. "It is dry and of moderate temperature in there, and the prisoners are fed twice a day. Loki will not be abused, I can assure you of that. Regardless of his crimes, he is my brother and I would not suffer him to be hurt in any way."
Severus sighed. "I see … thank you for explaining," he said stiffly. "And … I apologize for assuming the worst about your people before I knew anything."
"I have made similar errors concerning your own people," Thor smiled cheerfully. "Why when I first entered a Midgardian tavern they call a 'Diner' I smashed a mug to the floor when I wished to have more coffee, not knowing that such a gesture would be seen as destructive and crude."
"You smash cups here when you want a refill?" Severus asked drily. "No, never mind; forget I asked that. I have a lot to learn, don't I?"
Thor burst out laughing and (seemingly without thinking) clapped him on the shoulder. Even though he was probably holding back, the blow was strong enough to nearly throw Severus off the sofa and shockwaves of pain rushed through his healing body.
He doubled over with a gasp of pain. "No wonder Loki calls you an oaf," Severus coughed, his eyes watering at the agony throbbing in his muscles and bones. The healers had said he would feel worse before he felt better, like a bruise, and he was certainly feeling the effects in the last couple of days.
"Ah, I'm sorry, my friend!" Thor cried, reaching out, but stopping himself for fear of causing more damage with his attempt at comfort. Which was pretty thoughtful of him, actually. "I truly do not realize my own strength at times," he said mournfully. "Shall I call the healer?"
"No," Severus groaned, reaching up to rub his sore shoulder. "Bruises won't kill me."
"I am sorry," Thor insisted, looking so very sorry and mournful that Severus took pity on him.
"Wait until I am completely healed to do that again," the wizard suggested. "I am much more durable when my whole body isn't throbbing from magical exhaustion."
Thor laughed and almost clapped him on the shoulder again before Severus very obviously shrank back, glowering at the big hand poised to give him a friendly smack. They exchanged a few more pleasantries, until Thor's brow suddenly furrowed and he rubbed one of the gauntlets on his arms. He excused himself and said good-bye before Severus could even wonder about the strange behaviour. In all, it had been a draining experience, and he fell asleep on the sofa before Sigyn woke him and helped him back to bed, despite his protests.
Severus knew he shouldn't be wandering the palace at night, especially with the King already so suspicious of him as it was. But he couldn't sleep and the confines of his room suddenly seemed claustrophobic. He was used to sleeping in the open air or in flimsy huts with paper-thin walls, through which he could hear the hum of traffic, various shouts and cries, and the fighting of alley cats and dogs.
Here, it wasn't exactly too quiet, but the silence was a bit unnerving when one awoke from a nightmare. He had often paced the halls of Hogwarts when dreams drove him from bed in the night, and he was out the door of his quarters before he even fully woke up and remembered where he was. This wasn't his domain, and he could easily get into trouble for this. But the mere thought of returning to bed with the dream still so fresh in his mind made him break out in cold sweat.
So he walked.
Swathed in a dark cloak, his boots making hardly any sound on the flagstones, (he was a master at walking silently) he wandered the halls, discovering places he had never seen and passing those he had already. There were stairways in the palace, and magical lifts too. One had to touch the transport rune while picturing the place he needed to get to, so he could never access a place he had never been to before. It was a smart piece of security, he thought, and he hoped he would be able to see other places soon. He was curious to see if Asgard had Potions laboratories or gardens and he wanted to see the wonder that was Asgard's royal library, even if he couldn't read anything yet. But Sigyn had not been able to take him many places yet since his healing sessions made him so achy and tired. However, tonight, he felt as if a manic energy had grabbed hold of him and wasn't letting go. Up passages and down, passing some patrolling or standing guards who never gave him a second glance once it was clear he was preoccupied, he wandered until his legs trembled with weariness and he almost wanted to return to bed. But he couldn't. It wasn't that he was lost. He never got lost, actually.
But he was a lot lower down than he was when he started. His footsteps slowed and became nearly silent as he approached what looked like a guardroom. There were some chairs, weapons on the walls, and even a cot in the corner. In the center of the large area was a large table with some dice and some ale-mugs atop it; one guard in uniform was dozing at the table, and a large, metal-studded door was standing slightly ajar behind him.
Severus froze and tilted his head curiously. The guard was guarding an open door. While that wasn't quite unusual, the half-open position of the door suggested it should be closed. Common sense whispered at Severus to leave while he still could. His stupid Slytherin curiosity demanded he sneak through and see what was beyond.
It's wide open anyway, his inner snake murmured reasonably. We won't touch the door, and we do need to find out everything we need to about this place.
Don't be stupid, his practical Ravenclaw admonished him. If you make a habit of sneaking around like a Potter, you'll be in trouble like him too and you'll never learn anything locked up in your room like a child.
Why can't you just grow up? Hufflepuff scolded him next. You're not a twelve year old amateur detective anymore. You'll get into more trouble than you know how to handle; isn't that always the case?
I always know how to handle things, inner Slytherin sulked. Eventually.
But maybe something is going on that shouldn't be, his almost-smothered Gryffindor side (saints preserve him) growled self-righteously. Really, he'd been feeding his Gryffindor too much Avengers business lately. He couldn't seem to stop listening to that suspicious little voice that told him to investigate because this looked fishy and if he uncovered something suspicious then maybe Odin would trust him a little more. Slytherin agreed, (shockingly) and only Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff scowled and tapped their feet and folded their arms at him. Spoilsports.
Severus stepped through the doorway.
Chapter two is up! I hope you are all enjoying this new adventure. I had a way different scene than this one written, but I decided it was too boring. Here we have a dash of mystery and a heavy bit of AU fun. What is going on in the dungeons? What is Snape going to find and what'll he do about it? Stay tuned for the next part ... maybe sometime today, since I'll be out all Easter weekend.
Thank you for your reviews! I really love them!
P.S and yes, the ravens are important.