Harry slowly opened his eyes. The brightness was painful and he clenched his eyes shut again. "Where am I?" he asked in confusion. His memories were very hazy. He could remember the Hat yelling Gryffindor. No, no, that was ages ago. He recalled the troll and the little dragon. All of that was very distant. He remembered the spiders. Yes, yes, the spiders. It must be the spiders. But he was quite certain he had escaped the spiders as well. Wasn't there a flying car involved?
"Please do not be alarmed. The feeling of disorientation is quite normal and will soon pass. "
Harry opened his eyes again and frowned. He wasn't in the Hogwarts medical wing. In fact, as far as he could tell he was in a very dark place. There was a very tall and thin man with grey hair next to him. He wore a muggle suit and carried a wooden cane.
"I know you," said Harry suddenly. "You are –" He frowned, struggling to recall his name. "I don't remember."
"I am familiar to all and yet few are able to recognise me, dear Harry."
Harry – that was it!
"Yes, yes, that's my name," he said. "Harry… something."
"Odd," he muttered. "For some reason, the name Freak sounds very familiar as well. Do I have other names?"
"Please, Mr Potter, take a few deep breaths and focus on your breathing," said the tall man. "You were bitten by a basilisk."
"Oh!" Harry suddenly had a flash of an enormous serpent charging towards him. "The serpent in the chamber. Is Ginny okay?"
"She will live," said the man. "As I said, Mr Potter, you were bitten by a basilisk while fighting the memory of Tom Marvolo Riddle."
"Yes, yes, Tom… Voldemort," said Harry, as more memories came springing back. "What's going on? Where are we?"
"Right now, you are lying on the cold stone floor of the Chamber of Secrets," said the man. "Fawkes the phoenix has shed many tears on your wound."
"Death!" Harry suddenly cried out. "You are Death. We have met before."
The tall man looked at him in surprise. "Indeed," he said. "In another lifetime, in another universe, a meeting that is yet to occur but is already ancient."
Harry was confused. How could he have met Death? And what did he mean a meeting that is yet to occur but is already ancient?
"Am I dead?" he asked.
"No," said Death. "Your life as you knew it has ended but you aren't dead."
"Please speak clearly," Harry begged.
"When you were bitten, basilisk venom entered your bloodstream," said Death. "This is one of the most powerful substances in all of reality; representing the ultimate destruction and dissolution of reality. The serpent represents the nothingness from which reality comes into being and into which it will ultimately return, a cycle that repeats endlessly. This venom is potent enough to kill any entity conceived in all of reality save one."
"Aye, the force of life and creation," said Death. "Until the time is at hand for the ultimate dissolution, the essence of the phoenix is stronger than the power of the serpent. Until such time, the venom in your blood will not be able to destroy you, and until such time, the essence of the phoenix will not dissipate from your body, perpetually keeping the destructive force of the venom at bay along with everything else it represents."
"What do you mean?" asked Harry.
"In other words, Mr Potter, you have become immortal," said Death. "Or rather, let's say you have a highly enhanced lifespan, one that will outlast not only this universe but countless other universes, until such time the omniverse returns into the void, and there are very few beings in all of reality with the strength to kill you prior to the natural end to your lifespan."
Harry gasped in shock. "I don't want it. Take it away."
"I am afraid that is not within my power," said Death. "Just as an arrow once released can never be unreleased, you can never not be immortal in this cycle of reality."
"There is something else you aren't telling me," said Harry. "How else have the venom and the tears changed me?"
"Both the venom and the tears have now moved from your bloodstream to your organs, bones and even your magical core," said Death. "You now have the two most powerful substances in reality within you. As you can imagine, that has its own effects. Your blood is more potent than any wand; you will be able to do magic without any other tools. The venom will destroy your weaknesses and the tears will recreate it to a level of perfection. Your senses will be the first to improve – better and sharper than any other creature in this world. Your strength, stamina and speed will become as if permanently charmed by superhuman spells. Your skin will become resistant to blunt force and many ordinary magic spells, remaining the same in appearance but magically reinforced to be tougher than basilisk hide. You will have the fast healing ability of the phoenix. You will be able to travel by fire, although this ability will have to be learnt slowly. You will have the phoenix's ability to inspire others, which together with the serpent's ability to instil fear, will make you a great leader."
"That's it, then?" he said sarcastically, somewhat surprising himself by how easily he was taking this. Was that the serpent inside him that was manifesting? "What now? There must be a reason why Death is taking this much time to discuss these things with me."
Death looked at him indulgently. "Indeed, Mr Potter. A time will come when we will meet again and speak more about the nature of reality. We can leave this discussion until that day. For now, you have a choice. You can return to where you come from. But understand this, nothing will be the same again. You will not have the same life. Your friends will not understand these changes; you will not have the time and space to fully come to terms with who and what you are becoming."
"And the alternative?"
"The alternative is to go to a different world," said Death. "One where you can learn what it means to be immortal amongst others."
Harry hesitated. "I have no reason to go back there. My only surviving family despise me; my friends are young and will get over their loss in time, and in fact, they will have easier lives without the trouble that seems to follow me."
"You must make a decision," said Death. "And remember, once you learn to travel by fire, you can travel between universes. You can return to your home world in the future, once you have come to terms with your new lives. And you will not go alone." He waved his cane and something suddenly materialised out of thin air.
"The Sorting Hat!" Harry gasped.
"I have modified the enchantment on the Hat," said Death. "It now has access to all the material in the Hogwarts library and will now only be able to communicate with you mentally. There is no reason why your magical education should be stunted. Now, make your decision."
Harry nodded. "I have made my decision. I will go to this new world."
The moment he said that, everything around them turned hazy. Whatever was happening to him, one thing he could already feel – the essence of the basilisk and the phoenix was singing in his blood.
"By the stars," he swore when he saw the green coloured lightning from his window. "This is exactly how I dreamt it happen." He walked out of the chamber.
The household was silent. There had been a big feast that night to celebrate the birth of his sons, but now everyone was tired and asleep. Everyone except Elrond Half-Elven. His dreams had kept him awake, as he tried hard to make sense of them. Tarrying long enough to retrieve his sword and an appropriate cloak for riding, he walked out of the house. Within moments, he was riding on a swift white horse towards where the lightning had struck.
The dreams had started several weeks ago, and initially, he had dismissed them as stress-induced delusions rising from his wife's first pregnancy. But no amount of meditation could stop the dreams. Every night, it was always the same. Green lightning, morphing into a terrifying serpent, which encircled a round world – not in threatening manner but as a guardian and protector.
He didn't fully understand the dream, but he hoped this was a gift from the Valar, to show they hadn't fully abandoned middle-earth and those who lingered behind. He slowed down when he approached the site of the lightning. Many miles south of Rivendell along the Bruinen, he came across the crater where the green lightning had struck. Climbing down from his horse, he patted his horse's head a couple of times and said a few words in Sindarin to ensure he didn't wander off.
"Is anyone there?" he enquired before taking a few steps closer. His hand was on the hilt of his sword, ready to face any threat but, in his heart, he didn't expect to fight. To his surprise, he heard a sound. Someone was groaning. And a child, from the sound of the voice. Letting go of his caution, Elrond rushed to the crater and looked down.
A boy was lying on the ground. He was moving and slowly trying to get up. Elrond observed the human child for a few moments. He looked weak and wore something strange on his face over his eyes, but even as the child got up, he threw aside the thing on his face – half in confusion and half in delight. Strands of unkempt black hair emerged from the edges of the pointed black hat on his head.
"Hello," Elrond called out, and the boy turned to him in a flash. "Are you hurt? Do you need a hand?"
The boy stared at him for a few moments and then said something.
"I do not understand," said Elrond. "Do you speak Westron? The Common Speech?" He rather doubted a man child would speak any Elvish language, so didn't bother offering that.
The boy raised a finger to stop Elrond and closed his eyes. He seemed deep in thought for several seconds and then he opened his eyes with a cheerful smile. He then raised his hand and said something in that strange tongue of his.
For a second Elrond wondered if that was the boy's way of greeting Elrond, but then his eyes widened in surprise when a pale luminous light shone from his hand and then the light moved into his mouth and a couple of moments later escaped from his ears.
"Sorry about that," the boy said in perfect Sindarin. "The Hat taught me a temporary translation spell that lets us understand each other."
Elrond gaped at the boy in silence. What was this strange ability that he just witnessed? Was the boy a maia? He shook himself when he saw the boy was shifting uncomfortably under his scrutiny. "I am Elrond, Lord of Rivendell," he said. "Who are you, child? And what brings you to these lands?"
The boy sighed and then he started speaking. "I don't know where to begin or how much to tell you or even if I should. For even as I think about what's happened to me in the last few hours, even I find it difficult to believe. Perhaps, I am still dreaming and all of this is in my head." Hastily, he added as if someone had just reminded him, "my lord."
Elrond smiled at him faintly. "Perhaps, a name would be a good place to begin."
"Of course, sorry," he said. "I am Harry Potter."
"Harry," muttered Elrond, stretching the a-vowel as in card. "I have never heard a name like that before. What kind of name is it?"
Harry hesitated for a moment. Then, he said in a clear voice filled with self-confidence. "It is a wizard's name."
Elrond raised an eyebrow, and as if to prove his claim, the boy raised his hand again and conjured a small sphere of light which floated up and illuminated the area where they were standing. "My eyes belie what my mind would like to believe," said Elrond, and once again he wondered if the boy was sent by the Valar to protect the free people of middle-earth.
"I think I have come from a different universe," said Harry. "He said I needed to learn how to live as an immortal and that's why I am here. I – I don't know what I am supposed to do though."
Elrond remained silent. Every word the boy said raised more questions in his mind. An immortal human child? A different universe? And if that was true, who was this mysterious person that had the power to send someone across universes? But despite all these questions, there was one thing he was beginning to feel very certain about. The boy had a pure heart, if Elrond had any skill in reading such things, and he would help the boy.
"I don't suppose…" he hesitated. "I don't suppose you could point me to the nearest village or town? I don't have any money but I suppose I could find some other way to pay for lodgings."
"Don't be absurd, child," said Elrond. "You will come to the house of Elrond Half-Elven, and however long and fantastic your tale is, we will hear it over breakfast tomorrow morning after we have had some sleep for what's left of the night."
"Thank you, sir," the boy looked at Elrond in pure surprise and gratitude, as if he hadn't expected such an offer.
Celebrian smiled when she saw the human child hold the little elfling. "Gently," she directed him. "One hand to support the head. See how I am holding Elladan."
Harry swallowed uneasily before shifting the position of the crying elfling. "Like this?"
"Perfect," she said. "Now, move him closer to your chest and sway him for a while. And thank you very much for your help, sweet child." The boy had been the first to rush into the elflings' nursery when they cried out in the morning. She still wasn't entirely sure who he was but the concern on his face for her babies and the clear desire to do something – anything – to help was enough to let her give him a chance.
"I see I am not needed here," Elrond remarked as he stepped into the nursery.
"I have a younger replacement for you now, my husband," Celebrian joked back and the boy blushed deeply making them both laugh in amusement.
"Harry, this is my wife Celebrian and my sons Elladan and Elrohir," said Elrond. "Dear, this is Harry Potter. He is the one from my dreams."
"The green lightning," Celebrian muttered and her eyes rose to the lightning-shaped scar on the boy's forehead.
"We haven't yet had a chance to discuss the full story, but I believe Harry has been sent here from a faraway land – perhaps even beyond Valinor – and he has been sent to us for a purpose."
Celebrian's eyes widened. "What purpose?"
"Harry," Elrond turned to him. "Yesterday, you mentioned something about being an immortal. Have you had a chance to think about how much you would like to share with us?"
Harry sighed. He raised his eyes from the peaceful baby in his arms and looked at the baby's parents. "Yes, sir. I am not sure if you will believe any of this, but this is the truth. I come from another universe where I was in a school of magic. Magic is wonderful but it is not without its fair share of danger. One of my friends was enchanted by a dark wizard using an object and was making her release a terrible monster – a serpent that can kill with a mere gaze – to attack the students. I managed to locate her when the dark object forced her into hiding – the dark wizard who was controlling her summoned the serpent to fight me. I managed to slay it but not before it bit me in the process. I should have died, but a phoenix shed tears on my wound. In our universe, the basilisk and the phoenix are the two most powerful forces representing the power of destruction and creation."
"I see," said Elrond. "And you have both within you, in perfect balance. Interesting."
"I woke up in a strange place," said Harry. "Or perhaps it was all in my head…" He was silent for a moment. "He said I could do wandless magic and had become immortal and other changes would also happen to me because of the venom and tears inside me. My eyesight has already improved and I can see and hear better than should be humanly possible. He said I could go back but no one would understand these changes and that I wouldn't be able to learn how to live as an immortal and suffer as I watched my loved ones grow old and die. He suggested I come to this universe instead."
"Whom do you speak of?" asked Celebrian.
Harry hesitated before saying, "Death."
Elrond and Celebrian exchanged glances but didn't say anything out loud.
"I accepted the alternative and then Lord Elrond came upon me," finished Harry, and then turned his attention back at the baby, which was now smiling peacefully in Harry's arms.
"In that case, you have been sent to the right place," said Elrond. "Elves are immortal beings; both Celebrian and I have lived for several thousands of years. "
Harry's eyes widened. "But – but you don't look that old."
Elrond smiled. "That is just how we are, child. Perhaps, you too will stop ageing after a certain point. But the big question now is this: will you stay here as my ward?"
Harry took a deep breath. "I –" He was stunned into silence.
"It is entirely your choice," said Elrond. "You are an intelligent and mature young man and it would give both me and Celebrian a lot of pleasure to have the opportunity to take part in your upbringing."
Celebrian nodded. "Please say yes. I could do with all the help I can get with these little monkeys."
"W-Why?" Harry managed to stammer. His voice was quivering and it was very clear that he was struggling with some deep emotions. "No one has ever wanted me before."
Celebrian gently placed Elladan on the crib and walked towards the stunned human boy. She knelt beside him and kissed his forehead. "Sometimes, you don't need a logical reason to do something. You just do what seems… right." She looked at her husband. "And at this moment, this seems right, my sweet boy."
Elrond walked to them and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Welcome to the House of Elrond Half-Elven, Harry. I suppose we should give you an elven name to mark the occasion." He was silent for a moment. "I name you Galen-Galad, the Green Light, for it was a green light from the sky that brought us together."