As Harry walked into the mines, he lamented the fall of the great kingdom of the dwarves. The twilight halls were destroyed. The ground was littered with corpses and the walls were sprayed in crimson. There was a dark aura of fire and shadow. He raised his hand and several orcs were flung backwards to the wall of the cave and their skulls crushed at the impact. The hallowed halls of the dwarves had completely changed; orcs were everywhere and they had already within a day claimed it as theirs. Part of him felt responsible for gifting them the nifflers - but then he pushed away that thought. He had warned them. Glorfindel had warned them. Many others had warned them. But the dwarves chose not to listen to anyone - they were a determined lot and they would have gotten there on their own - if not now then a few years later.
"Moria, I name thee," Glorfindel uttered, sending three swift arrows to kill the orcs Harry's magic hadn't picked. "The black chasm of death."
Harry nodded, before deflecting the arrows being showered at them back at the orc archers. The abyss resonated within him for now he was truly descending into it. "I can feel it," he said in a low whisper. "It has sensed my magic." He took a deep breath. "I have never felt anything so dark… so powerful." In fact, the only times he had felt a presence more powerful was when Namo and Nienna had been before him.
Harry wasn't the only one who felt the darkness. Even the orcs wavered, and when an orc's shriek came from deep below the mines, the rest of them abandoned their places and ran away in a stampede.
Suddenly, Harry chuckled as they walked through an arched passageway.
"What is so funny?"
"This is not the first time I have descended into the mouth of hell to face an impossible beast with a faithful friend by my side to save another friend," he said. "And you know what: the last time, I was awesome."
"Did your faithful friend survive that last encounter?"
"Yes," said Harry, slowly.
"That is indeed heartening," said Glorfindel, with a sigh of relief.
Harry stepped out of the passageway into the hall. "He survived because he never made it to the beast. He was trapped behind." Harry snapped his fingers and the ceiling between him and Glorfindel collapsed. The cave-in was instantaneous and he could hear Glorfindel's shouts. He looked regretfully at the blocked exit and waited for Glorfindel to stop shouting at him. "I know your valour, my old friend, and I do not mean to insult you. I fear there is only death beyond… with my magic, I can try and find Durin's body and send it up here by the time you clear a path. After that, please take him back to Avalon for the proper rituals. That way - something good may come out of my madness." There was nothing but silence from the other side but Harry could hear Glorfindel's breathing with his heightened hearing. "You have been the best of friends to me, Lord Glorfindel. If you can find it in your heart to do so, please forgive me for this."
He turned around and walked without saying another word. He raised a hand to create a floating sphere of light and cast a tracking charm on it. He wasn't sure the magic would work on a corpse, but it would certainly work on an artefact enchanted by him. "Lead me to the Ravenclaws," he said, praying silently that Durin's corpse still had the gauntlet on it.
He ventured down into the mines behind the floating sphere, which remained always about twenty paced in front of him. The further he went he saw corpses of dwarves and orcs that had been flung across the halls. Slowly and cautiously, he stepped into the great hall of his old friend and felt a dark presence lurking behind one of the passageways. This was it. There was no turning back now.
"I stand alone," he shouted, lacing his voice with magic and power. "Come out, you coward!"
Slowly, fire illuminated from one of the passages and Harry invoked the Flame Freezing Charm, but it was unlike any fire he had seen before. There was something blackening about it, something that obscured even as it burnt bright. And within the fire, Harry saw it. The basilisk whimpered within him as the hideous face of the balrog emerged into the hall. It rose in size, 20 feet tall, eyes red, and a mane of reddish gold flames for hair. Harry raised a hand to send a spell, but to his shock, the balrog snapped a whip of fire which hit the arching spell sent by Harry, disintegrating it halfway between them. The dark fire could counter magic. Harry shuddered as he realised that the best advantage he had was meaningless.
Two dark wings, shadowy and menacing, rose behind the balrog and it charged at Harry in great speed. With swift reflexes, Harry darted to a side passage where the orb of light had gone, using his superhuman speed to avoid the balrog. It was a near miss and the beast followed after him very swiftly, and Harry realised it could match his heightened speed. That would make finding Durin's body more difficult. He rushed through the passage into the next hall and raised his hand to cause another cave-in over the balrog.
The balrog's whip snapped through the stones ripping a hole for it to emerge, while raising his head in fury to let out an unholy shriek. It flung its whip towards Harry, who conjured a powerful shield to stop it. The shield held for barely a moment before being ripped apart by the dark fire, but that moment was enough for Harry to move to safety again, after a quick scan around the hall to find Durin.
"Avada Kedavra!" Harry yelled sending the fearsome green light of the Killing Curse. The light hit the beast and nothing happened. "Crucio!" The red light arched at the balrog who snapped it with his whip. The balrog raised his hand and sent a fast-moving jet of fire at him. Harry waved his hand and debris flew between him and the fire. Even the unblockable spells were unable to hurt the balrog. He had to think of something else, something different, or else the balrog would kill him long before he could find what he was looking for.
With a determined growl, Harry transformed into a griffin and flew towards the balrog, seeking to rip it apart with his great claws. The balrog flayed Harry with his fire-whip. Although the fire didn't hurt him, Harry felt a searing coldness cross through him and his spirit was crushed by feelings of misery and melancholy that nearly overwhelmed his senses. Before Harry could smash against it, the beast raised its great arms and caught Harry from the air and threw him across the hall, smashing pillars and walls as he crashed down a corridor.
The balrog followed him, but Harry had figured something out. Feelings of misery and melancholy. There was a way to fight that. Perhaps, just perhaps, it could work. "Expecto Patronum!" Harry called out, but to his shock, nothing happened. He took a deep breath and focused. He needed a happy memory. He thought of Elya's shrine and the graceful presence of Lady Nienna as she embraced and forgave him for his plunge into darkness. "Expecto Patronum!" he shouted as the balrog's fire came through the corridor, somehow lighting and darkening it at the same time. He was disappointed; only a little wisp of silvery light sprang out of his hand and then vanished.
"Focus!" he yelled at himself and thought of the day Elrond had found him and taken him home as his ward. "Expecto Patronum!" he shouted and, the force of the effort made his knees buckle, and once again only a wisp came out and fizzled away. The balrog walked slowly without exerting itself, as if it saw no need to rush.
Harry lowered his head. He had run out of options. The balrog could counter his magic, his strength, his speed and his Animagus form. There was nothing he could do to stop the beast. But then he raised his head defiantly. Failure was not an option. Ideally, he would have liked to defeat the beast but he couldn't lose sight of his true mission - to save Durin the Deathless.
Harry sent an explosion curse at the ceiling above the balrog and once again, it was buried in rubble. And once again, its whip hissed through the mound of stone and with one strike, the beast was nearly free. But that brief moment had given Harry precious time to rush out of the hall and think of a new strategy.
What magic could defeat such darkness?
In the Chamber of Secrets, he had been lucky. Fawkes the phoenix and the Sword of Gryffindor had been sufficient to defeat the basilisk but what divine intervention would come to his aid this time? None, he decided, now it was just him and the beast. Besides, he wasn't seeking victory, his only aim was to find Durin's corpse and send it up to Glorfindel.
Harry animated the stone statues made by the dwarves, sending them to fight the balrog. Again, all this achieved was delay just a bit longer the progress of the balrog towards him, like a predator stalking a prey he knows is cornered, as it smashed the animated statues down without any effort.
And then Harry came upon it, the Bridge of Khazad Dum at the foot of the Dimrill Stairs. He knew this bridge well. It was 50 feet long and stood over a deep abyss. It was meant to serve as a defence against any enemy who got through the east gate and took the First Hall and the outer passages, and it was in the middle of the bridge that the orb vanished. Harry frowned, he couldn't see any bodies there, but he rushed on to the bridge even as the balrog came into view. With a horrified expression, Harry realised why he hadn't seen or been able to summon Durin's body. The Ravenclaws were there, grabbing a sword, over a pile of ash. The king of dwarves had been burnt alive by the balrog.
And then, he heard a sound. A low rumbling sound he couldn't understand at first and then it grew louder and louder and he realised it. The balrog was laughing, mocking him.
"Nay," said Harry out loud. "You shall not stop me." He raised both hands and cast a summoning charm, "Accio mithril". Perhaps, there was still hope, and finally, he felt for the first time since he entered Moria that fortune smiled at him as mithril came flying towards him from all directions. Durin's body could not be taken to Avalon to be cremated on a mithril hearth, for there was naught left of it but ashes, but he could give what was left of it one here in Khazad Dum - or Moria - as Glorfindel named it. It was the final desperate thing he could think of doing, and fortune was on his side, for Moria was the one place there was no shortage of mithril.
"I commend to you, O Great Lord Aule, of Aman, my friend Durin the Deathless - the Fourth of his Births," said Harry, as he moved the ashes on the makeshift mithril hearse. "I commit his body on this mithril hearth. As dust we begin and end, and therefore, this dust is still very much Durin. By the grace of Eru, may this world once again be graced by the majesty of King Durin the Fifth the king of dwarves." He snapped his fingers and a great big fire was lit, and to Harry's great surprise, there was a great burst of magical energy from the hearth, which knocked him back several feet.
"It worked," he muttered, feeling a wave of exhaustion from the shockwave. He could feel the approach of the balrog. It screamed in fury and hate, for Harry had defied him and reclaimed his prey. It had sought to be Durin's Bane, the slayer of the Deathless, but now Harry had undone all of that. Harry took a deep breath as the balrog approached him on the bridge, only a few feet away, looking down with an air of condescension, as if it felt no need to exert itself in this fight, Harry lowered his head and closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable. The balrog's screech also brought hundreds of orcs back into the cave - as much as they feared being in the balrog's presence, they feared even more defying its summons.
Harry deflated as he felt arrows coming towards him. He could use his magic to save himself from orcs - he could easily destroy all of them - but that would distract him to the point that he would no longer be able to deal with the balrog's onslaught. And that was the balrog's intent. It had tired of the cat and mouse game and wanted to end things swiftly now.
Harry raised a shield as the balrog's fire whip slashed at him and this time his shield gave way immediate. If he tried, he could perhaps delay the inevitable for a bit longer. But to what purpose? Durin was saved, his purpose was fulfilled. But he was not ready to simply die. He could still make a difference. He knew what he had to do. Harry knelt and touched the ground beneath him. The moment he felt the balrog ready to strike, Harry would destroy the bridge, sending the balrog deep below into the endless chasm so Glorfindel would not have to face it. That was the only way he could save his friends from the beast, for if it ever got out of the east gate, none of his friends would ever be safe again. Not even Lothlorien would be able to evade the balrog. And if it went north… Arwen… His heart clenched at the thought of the beast even coming close to Arwen. No, this was the only way, he had to sacrifice himself and take the beast down with him. And strangely, he suddenly felt peaceful at that thought. He had faced the abyss and the only thing he had been concerned about was friendship and love.
But then he heard something else. Or rather someone.
"You will not hurt him, beast of darkness."
Harry felt his heart constrict on hearing the voice from behind him. He opened his eyes and saw her walk past him. Arwen stood as a shield between him and the balrog while Glorfindel was by his side and grabbed him by the shoulder to lift him up. To his amazement, in Glorfindel's free hand was the Sword of Gryffindor - he seemed to have fought his way through the orc hordes to get Arwen safely to Harry. How had the sword come to the elf? But Harry's mind didn't dwell on that as his eyes turned to Arwen and he looked without blinking as she raised her hand, the Galen-Galad was shining brighter than ever before. A green sphere of rippling fire grew out of it and became so big that it completely enveloped Arwen. The beast struck the sphere with his whip but the magic of the Secret Fire was stronger. However, the strain of holding so much power was too much and Arwen's knees buckled. The balrog struck at the sphere again, and then again, and Harry could see Arwen's strength receding rapidly.
The Galen Galad could counter the balrog but Arwen was not strong enough to wield its power for too long.
Harry's face paled at the thought of Arwen at the mercy of the beast. "No," he cried out, feeling fire rise within him. Phoenix fire. Magic alone wasn't sufficient to destroy the balrog; he needed more, he needed true power. He needed to wield the Secret Fire he had wielded only twice before.
The balrog screamed with fury in a deep guttural voice that resonated all through Khazad-Dum. He drew himself to full size, shadow rising above him as wings of hell, and he struck one mighty blow. The green sphere which protected Arwen vanished and the elf turned to Harry with a look of fear on her face. But as she saw him, her expression changed, fear turned into wonder. For Harry was floating in mid-air, green flames covering his entire being just as it had Arwen moments ago, except Harry didn't need any artefact to conjure the flames. He held that power in his soul. And his whole visage looked more than human. The balrog might be an Ainu but at that time Harry was no less than one.
"I wield the Secret Fire which existed before the Great Music began and shall exist long after it is over," Harry said, as he floated towards Arwen. "The Flame Imperishable shall not be extinguished by your dark fire, slave of Morgoth."
The beast shrieked and raised its whip. The dark fire of the balrog was almost upon him but Harry didn't waver. He didn't think to defend. There was no need. He simply listened, to the cracking noise of the flames, to the sound of wind and felt it within him. Like he had once before - in the realm of Tom Bombadil. There was no past, there was no future. There was only this one moment. He took a deep breath and focused solely on one thing. One name, one person, one face. For this one moment.
While he stood mere feet away from the balrog, his mind was steadfast on one single face. And she did not turn away from him this time. The balrog's whip was coming down on them but Harry cared not and he knelt next to Arwen and wrapped his arms around her protectively. She moved closer into his embrace and buried her head against his chest.
The dark flames of the balrog engulfed them, but neither could feel it. It did not affect them. How could it? Harry's body was already in flames which now spread over Arwen. Pure, beautiful, green protective fire covered them both. And then with a surge, the green flames lashed out. The balrog was thrown back several feet.
As the balrog steadied itself, it threw a baleful look of hate, confusion and a hint of fear at Harry. But Harry couldn't see any of that. His mind was blinded by the light that was Arwen and also his love for Arwen.
He smiled when Arwen looked up at him with wide eyes. Cirdan has said to him: You will overcome the dark because of your love for the brilliant light. And now he knew exactly what he had to do. He turned to the balrog, which had steadied itself again. "Expecto Patronum," he said, raising both hands, thinking of nothing but Arwen. From his left hand, a great basilisk made of green and silver flames flew out and coiled around the balrog, extinguishing the dark flames and keeping it secured in its spot. Meanwhile, from his right hand, a green and gold phoenix soared upwards and it sang. Or rather, Harry could hear music, but the balrog shrieked in pain and fear as the phoenix focused itself on the balrog and flew towards it. The moment the phoenix collided against it, there was a blinding explosion.
Harry wrapped his arms around Arwen before the explosion, shielding her. The green flames on his body rose once again, growing in size to create a sphere that was big enough to protect Arwen from the explosion.
"Harry!" Glorfindel's voice came through. He had been kept back by the flames, and he gasped at the sight before him. The balrog lay dead at his friend's feet but Harry was covered in flames, holding Arwen in his arms, both holding each other so tightly one wondered if they would ever let go of the other. "You slew the balrog." He caught the look in Harry's face. "What's happening? Your body is on fire."
"I cannot control it," said Harry, and he sounded like he was speaking with great effort. "It's happening already. It's…" he grunted. "Phoenix fire. It's sending me away."
"Where?" asked Glorfindel.
"I don't know. Somewhere… far beyond," was Harry's answer.
"Take me with you," Arwen begged.
"I would if I knew how," said Harry sincerely, as the pressure built up. "You can see into my heart. You know I speak the truth."
"Then, promise you will come back to me," she said.
"Always," Harry promised. "Now, go. My chamber at the top of the Shining Tower will open to you, sweet Arwen. Go, become the great healer this world needs."
"I love you," she whispered. "I was slow to realise it but i do."
Harry opened his mouth, but Arwen walked into his arms and pressed her lips against his. As the fire grew, once again, Harry reluctantly parted from her. "I will find a way to control this. I will come back to you. Tell… dwarves… it is done… Durin will come back." He cried out as he struggled against the flames. "Listen to me, both of you. I will be back, and you better not have sailed west or I'll –"
Harry vanished in a flash of phoenix fire.
Glorfindel observed from an elevated vantage position on a hill. "Who would have ever thought?" he mused to himself when he saw the combined camp of elves and dwarves. "The twins have done well," he said out loud. "All of elvendom comes together to stand beside you, your majesty."
King Farin, descendant of King Durin IV and father of Durin V, future king of the dwarves, stood by Glorfindel's side. Elladan had come from the south east, a few hours' march away. He led many hundreds of archers from Lothlorien. Elrohir had already arrived with several scores of hippogriff-riders from Greenwood. Erestor commanded the elves of Rivendell and was camped west of the Misty Mountains. The main attack, however, was going to be from the east until the dwarves managed to unlock the western gate. But the reinforcements coming in at that stage would be useful to press home their advantage against the orcs who had settled in Khazad Dum after the balrog had been slayed.
"This will never be forgotten," said the king of the dwarves. "We will need many lifetimes to repay this debt to you."
"It is my honour to fight besides dwarves to reclaim Khazad-Dum," said Glorfindel, surprising even himself with his true feelings on the matter. "Our people have not enjoyed the greatest history of friendship; only brief moments of alliance have shone between long periods of strife and enmity. Today, I seek to rewrite that, in memory of our mutual friend."
"Then, let this be the start of a golden age. Once Khazad-Dum is retaken, you have my word, Lord Elf, that Durin's Folk shall no longer live in isolation, amassing wealth that no one but our select friends get to behold. We will come out to our neighbours and help them in whichever manner we can, like your kin, today, has come to our help without cause or hope for compensation."
"To a golden age, then," said Glorfindel. He was distracted when a hippogriff landed next to him. "What news from the west, Legolas? Have your hippogriff-scouts any news?"
"Tauriel brings news from the west. A friendly army even greater than what we have here stands outside the Western Gate," said Legolas.
"How can that be?" asked Farin in surprise. "No dwarves fled west and our cousins from the mining colony of Erebor are still several days away."
"Your have other allies who come to your aid," said Legolas. "The Free City of Salazar has sent every warrior they had and they camp together with those elves who had stayed behind in Rivendell."
"I am surprised to hear that they outnumber the force we have here," said Glorfindel, with an honest curiousity. "What are you not telling us, Legolas?"
"Salazar does not stand alone," said Legolas. "Prince James of Arnor has come to the aid of the free city. He leads an army of seven thousand men. They await our signal and the opening of the Western Gate."
"Then, there is hope for victory," Farin said breathlessly.
Glorfindel drew the Sword of Gryffindor. It had come to him in his moment of utmost need when all he wanted to do was aid Harry. His complete loyalty to his friend had reached out to the magic of the sword and brought it to his side with which he had destroyed the barrier that Harry had created. That had allowed him to defend Arwen as they went in search of Harry. "We fight in the name of Galen-Galad," said Glorfindel simply. "There is always hope for victory."
"Aye," said Farin, seizing his battle-axe. "Then let us roar like lions and see our enemy flee before us."
Eldacar climbed down from his horse. He had come alone, in disguise as Laefin the out-of-luck merchant. He had been disappointed when he realised the Little Horse tavern had been shut. He was almost tempted to buy it himself and run it for a year or two in disguise. James was taking over affairs of the kingdom from his hands with every passing day, and he couldn't blame the boy. The people loved him, his council respected him, and he himself had to admit James was a better ruler than he had ever been. Just like his parents, he thought, with gut-wrenching feelings of misery.
Ever since his ill-advised attack of Salazar, his people lost faith in him. They had never considered him a strong leader but they had always considered him a good man - one with a noble heart. That attack had lost him that respect. But also because he had lost the Abraxans, which had fast become a symbol of great pride for the people of Arnor. The fall of Numenor had been a great stain in their honour and the fact that they were now a people who flew the skies on great winged-horses was, to them, the beginning of their redemption. But he had lost that. Nobody cared to remember that Harry's presence in Arnor was his doing in the first place. They only remembered the ill he had done, not the good. But could he blame them?
Eldacar had been blinded by hate and anger, and now it was too late for him to make amends. His grandson hadn't even bothered seeking permission from him before taking a great army to defend the western borders of their kingdom. And what was shocking was that not a single advisor or courtier had seen fit to tell him. Gone were the days of intrigue where the smallest servant would have revealed great secrets to curry favour with the weakest lord. Now, they were all prince's men, loyal to James alone, and could he blame them? The prince had in him the best of both his parents. He promised them a golden age, and the people believed he could deliver it, for he was the son of sweet Elya and mighty Harald.
He sighed. Mystical figures were dancing before him. One beckoned him to join her. Under any other circumstances, he would have been captivated by the beauty and mysticism and gladly gone to her side, but his heart was heavy with remorse and guilt. There was no space for anything else. He smiled sadly at them and shook his head regretfully, before turning away from their entrancing dance.
"Forgive me, old friend," said Eldacar, as he walked. "I know you loved her and would not have allowed her to come to harm if it were in your power. I blamed you openly to escape the fact that, truly, it was my weakness and ineptitude that allowed our enemies to dare strike against the line of the king." He lowered his eyes.
He wasn't completely sure why he had decided to listen to the elven lord's suggestion that he take a walk in the Trollshaws. Sure, he had heard tales from the common folk while he stayed in Bree about fairies and other magical creatures who had freed the woods from the trolls and turned it into an enchanted forest. But when the elf mentioned Harry had made a shrine in Elya's honour, how could he not visit?
He was ready to abdicate. The kingdom didn't need him anymore. The people of Salazar never forgave him for threatening to destroy them when all they wished was to rebuild their lives after being savaged by orcs in the north. They saw him as a warmonger and a tyrant, and when the rest of Arnor embraced Salazar with open arms, that view of him became prevalent in other parts of the realm as well. History would not remember him as the man instrumental in building Fornost. No, Harry's words came true. He would forever be remembered as a tyrant.
"But all of that is worth nothing," he muttered. "James is his father's son and will be a far better king than I have been, or my father before me, and that's all that matters. All I seek now is pardon for my sins and salvation for my weary soul."
"You must be joking."
Eldacar's heart skipped a beat. It couldn't be. She was dead.
But then, through the mist, a figure emerged. A very familiar figure. His eyes couldn't be deceiving him, could they? She looked as beautiful as the day she married Harry, and in fact, she was wearing the same dress. But then he saw the look on her face; hate and contempt.
"He was my husband!" she yelled at him. "My everything."
"I am sorry," he said softly, feeling his eyes dampen. "I wasn't thinking right."
"You deprived my son the right to know his father!" she continued.
"I know," he whispered. "I hate myself for it. If I could turn back time…"
"You would do the same all over again," she spat. "That's who you are. A self-absorbed man and a pathetic king." She looked away. "If you had been a better man or a stronger king, I would not have suffered."
"Please stop," he begged her. "Please don't say these words out loud which I have been running away from for so long."
"It is you who should be dead, not me, not Harry."
Suddenly, his eyes blazed with fire. "No, you are not my sweet Elya. You are some enchantress who seeks to blacken the memory of my dear child. No matter what evils I did, she would never wish me dead. Never. She was much too pure of heart than this vile imitation. Leave me alone."
"Alone, yes," laughed Elya's replica. "You are indeed alone, now and forever."
"So be it," said Eldacar, wretchedly. "The elf lord said I'd find peace here, but if I am judged unworthy of it, then I accept this curse. Your words have no more impact on me."
Even as he said those words, the form of Elya vanished before his eyes and the mist from which she had emerged parted, making an opening, and, he could see a green light. But that wasn't all. Many Abraxans were grazing around the green light and when they saw him, they neighed in greeting, as if they had been expecting him for some time.
Like a butterfly attracted to a flower, he found his body moving towards the light.
Elrond sat at the top of the Shining Tower. In his hand was a collection of potion recipes written by Harry but his attention was on Arwen. For hours, his daughter had done naught but brew. She spoke little these days, she no longer wore the Galen-Galad and would tell no one, not even Elrond, where it was hidden. He was deeply concerned.
Once again, Elrond regretted not having interceded more vehemently when he first realised the growing sparks of attraction between Harry and Arwen. It was most certainly not a one-sided thing, although only Elrond and Celebrian could sense Arwen's inner feelings. They knew Arwen was still very young, by elvish standards, and would take much longer than a human to understand and come to terms with the true nature of her feelings, but Elrond hadn't acted, out of selfishness, that perhaps, if left untended, the fledgling romance would die and he would not be faced with the painful prospect of being parted from his daughter in the future. But that had been ill-advised. Perhaps, if he had acted, then he might still be sitting here with Harry, and Arwen would not have lost the spark of life from eyes.
"Your scrutiny is distracting me, father," she said without looking at him, even as she continued to stir the cauldron.
"I apologise." Elrond lowered his head and forced himself to read the words before him. Truly, he was astonished by how Harry's magic had grown over time. He certainly had discussed with Harry about healing potions, but a lot of wondrous things that were possible in Harry's old home were impossible in Middle Earth for lack of essential ingredients. For instance, where were they going to obtain newts or fwoopers or other strange creatures… but if he could believe what he was reading, Harry had been alchemising for decades, since the very first time he was in Greenwood, and came up with similar, if not identical potions, using only ingredients found on Middle Earth.
"A potion to renew broken bones in minutes," Elrond read. "A blood-replenishing draught for severe blood loss." He frowned. "These will be the most useful potions for those injured in the battle."
Arwen continued brewing in silence.
Elrond sighed and walked to her. He placed his arms on her shoulders. "Rest awhile, Arwen," he said. "You haven't slept all night."
"I can't," she said in an emotional voice. "Gildor said the orcs used poisoned arrows and we have only a few hours to save those who were struck. My first attempt at brewing the cure was a failure. I have to do this."
"Your hands are not steady from lack of sleep," said Elrond. "If you truly care about this potion being brewed properly, you will let me finish this. You can start at something new when you have rested."
Arwen hesitated before nodding. She left the stirrer and stood up. She was about to leave but then she turned around and flung her arms around her father in distress as her eyes started watering.
"Oh, my dear child," Elrond felt his heart wrench at his daughter's suffering.
"My grief is irrational, father," she said tearfully. "I know he is alive, I can feel his spirit, so why does my heart cry so, in sorrow and agony?"
"When you love someone so much, even the briefest moment of separation can be an eternity of despair," said Elrond.
"How does one know it is love?" she asked. "How can I be certain?"
"Only you can answer that question," said Elrond. "Trust your heart. Trust your instincts."
"When I felt his anguish at my leaving him, I could think of nothing else but to run to his side and hug him until he smiled again. I tried to convince myself that I didn't feel that but I couldn't - I had to go back to him."
"I did not realise he means so much to you."
Arwen looked at him with sincerity. "He gave me a piece of my soul that I never knew was missing."
"Then, that is truly love," said Elrond, and as she walked away from him to get some rest, he realised when the day came for him to sail west, his daughter would not be with him. With a deep sigh, he set about finishing the potion she had started. With luck, he would just be able to salvage it.
He started in surprise when an imp appeared before him. He still wasn't entirely used to them, but they most certainly made things a lot more convenient and efficient. "Yes, Comet?"
"Friend Gildor says the injured dwarves are ready for their next dose of Calming Draught, Friend Elrond," said the imp.
Elrond's lips twitched. "Are they throwing a tantrum again, then? No matter." He held out a large flask. "Take this to Friend Gildor and ask him to ration three drops to each and make sure no dwarf touches the flask. The last time we allowed a dwarf to handle it, it was laced with liquor, changing the potion into a hallucinogen." After the imp disappeared, he started a second fire to start brewing more Calming Draught. Their supplies were running thin and with so many elves, dwarves and humans being treated in the Shining Tower after the Battle for Khazad-Dum, they would need more. A lot more.
"Come back, Harry," he whispered to no one in particular. "For all of us, but mostly, for her."
Prince James stared at the pyramid in wonder and awe, and once again pride surged within him for his father. He had come together with Brandin of Salazar to behold the great work of Harry that the elves couldn't stop singing praises about and where injured had been taken.
An elf walked towards them and James waved at him. "Lord Elladan," he greeted his uncle.
"Your highness," the elf came to his side. "Two more. This will indeed be the first council of its kind."
"Wait," James was confused. "What do you mean? What council?"
"Many have arrived from all over Middle Earth to the Shining Tower of Avalon," said Elladan. "Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn from Lothlorien, King Farin and his nephews from Khazad Dum, King Thranduil and Prince Legolas from the Woodland Realm and even Lord Cirdan has arrived from the Grey Havens with several dwarves from Clan Longbeard. My father believes such a great gathering has not happened by chance, that a greater power moves us so. All we were lacking were the leaders of men."
"And here we are," said James.
"Aye," said Elladan. "Come, I will show you to your chambers. There is a great feast tonight and the council begins at dawn."
That night, James and Brandin were sandwiched between elves and dwarves. King Farin had challenged James, to see if he could hold his liquor as well as his father. Merely three dwarven meads and James was already struggling.
"There is something in this mead that makes it more potent than it should be." James turned towards the elves. "I shall be sticking to this excellent wine from now."
"Ha! The great lion could drink more when he was but a child!" one of the dwarves added fire to the challenge.
"The great lion's shoes are too big for any man to step into, even his son," said James.
The next morning, everyone was seated in a circle outside the Shining Tower in the island. Lord Elrond sat at the head.
"Friends and kin," he began. "You have all come here to behold the wonder that is the Shining Tower of Avalon, but I believe you have not been gathered here for just that purpose alone. Look around you: never before has there been such great gathering of elves, dwarves and men for a peaceful purpose and not for war against a common enemy. I believe a great change is dawning upon Middle Earth, that a new era is about to begin, a golden age, one where all the free peoples of Middle Earth shall come together in harmony and friendship to build a new world."
"Aye," said Farin. "A golden age, and Durin's Folk will carry their weight and repay elves and men for their blood sacrifice in the Battle for Khazad-Dum." He looked at Elrond. "I can see your people take delight in gazing upon the Shining Tower. By your leave, Lord Elrond, I will have my men build a great settlement between the river and the mountains for your people. One that would rival Imradris itself."
"No," said Elrond, thoughtfully. "Not for elves alone. We are closer together than we have ever been before; why should we not press on this advantage and forge an even stronger friendship? If you would, O King of Khazad-Dum, build a sanctuary for elves, dwarves, men and all other peoples of this land who would seek to live in peace and harmony with us."
Cirdan clapped his hands once in delight. "What a great undertaking!" he exclaimed. "Mayhaps, I shall stop building ships and send my men to assist your folk, King Farin, and truly make this a settlement for all."
"It would be our honour to work besides your people," said Farin.
"I shall lend all the strength and power I have to prepare defences," said Galadriel. "While not as powerful as Harry's, my magic should keep it safe from orcs and wargs."
James spoke out. "Men shall also assist in the building and defence of this great city. What we lack in magic, we will make up with hard-work and numbers."
"So be it," said King Thranduil. "If it is indeed time for all free peoples to come together, the Woodland Realm shall not lag behind." A half-smile crept in through his indifferent mask. "And you, Prince James of Arnor, shall take with you a wagon full of wine from the Woodland Realm. I saw how much you relished it last night and your father always stacked up his enchanted sack with it when he visited."
"Much appreciated and accepted with gratitude," said James. "Although, there shan't be any need for wagons. I am, after all, my father's son and shall make do with a sack as well."
"Then, it is decided," said Elrond. "A settlement shall be built within sight of the Shining Tower, between the Great River and the Misty Mountains, where all the free peoples of Middle Earth shall be welcome to dwell in peace."
"What shall we name it?" asked Legolas, sitting next to his father.
There was a brief silence as many thought of names. Many suggestions were made but none were acceptable to all. Finally, Glorfindel finally made his first contribution at the council "Ringalad," he said, and everyone turned to him. "Meaning, the light's return, to honour this union brought about by the defeat of a creature of darkness." In a quieter voice, he added, "Or, to some, as to me, to remind ourselves that the one who is responsible for this great union has not left us forever, that he will return one day."
"Ringalad," Elrond tried it out. "Yes, it has a certain ring to it."
"It's elvish," Farin grumbled, but then he grinned. "But as elvish names go, it is a mighty fine one."
Harry grimaced. His head felt like all of Khazad Dum had fallen on it, but then his heart started pounding. Arwen had come back to him. She had kissed him. Instantly, Harry focused. He clenched his fists and tried to summon the phoenix fire. He had to go back to her. But nothing happened. He tried again. And then again. And finally when his nose started bleeding from the strain he was putting himself on, he gave up. This wasn't something he could control, not yet, but he would learn.
That was when he started looking around to observe where he was. Everything was so different. Even the air smelled and tasted different. Not in a good or a bad way, just different. But there was also something familiar about the place. Very eerily familiar.
He walked around, observing the landscape. There were snow-covered mountains in the north. Not even half as imposing as the Misty Mountains but nonetheless they painted a magnificent picture. Finally, he came upon the village. Little thatched cottages and shops were all covered in a layer of crisp snow; there were holly wreaths on the doors and strings of enchanted candles hanging in the trees. There was something about the village that felt familiar, as if from a fleeting memory long ago.
Suddenly, he gasped when he saw the name of the town on the signpost. "Hogsmeade," he repeated. Hogsmeade station was where the Hogwarts Express stopped. Could it be that he was back in his home world?
He wasn't quite sure what he felt about that. So many years had passed since he had left earth that he no longer had any connection with it. Besides, what was his old life back here? Abusive relatives, life and death encounters, insane dark lords. He shook his head. There was happiness and fun aspects as well, which he shouldn't forget. The Weasleys, Hermione, Quidditch, Hagrid, Fawkes, Dumbledore.
"Finally," he smiled. "I can learn how to make a flying broom." He frowned. "Or perhaps, something more comfortable, like a flying carpet."
He walked into the village and looked at the shops. Most were closed as it was evening, so he walked into the Hog's Head Inn. It was, after all, the shadier of the pubs in the village and would not turn away someone who looked as out of place in his long elvish robes as Harry. But when he walked in, he saw a familiar face that brought a smile to his face.
"Professor McGonagall," he noted, surprised to see her in a shabby old pub. She turned to him in surprise and a frown, as if she was trying to recognise him. Harry wasn't concerned about that. Although he still looked like someone in his early-20s, his shoulder-length hair and beard would cover any similarities to the 12 year old boy she would have remembered.
"Are you here to interview for the Defence professor job as well?" she asked. "I thought I was done for the day…" She looked at him intently, aware of the commanding aura he projected, the phoenix and the basilisk within him. "But it doesn't hurt… who knows you might actually be competent?"
Harry was about to correct her that he wasn't there for the job but then he paused. Fortune, it appeared, was suddenly smiling down on him. Hogwarts was perhaps the one place where he could learn more about phoenixes; if not in the great library, then from Fawkes the phoenix. Moreover, he had nowhere else to go.
"Yes," he answered. "My theory is a bit rusty, and I was intending to read up before the start of the school year, but do feel free to test me practically. My name is Harry Galad, by the way."
"Stupefy," she had her wand out in a flash and a red beam of magical flew towards Harry. She gasped when Harry simply raised a hand and conjured a shield to block her spell. "You can do wandless magic?"
Harry grimaced. He had forgotten how rare that ability was in this world. "A result of a magical accidental when I was a child," he answered truthfully.
She gave him an impressed look. "That was a promising start," she said. "What is the most advanced defensive spell you can cast?"
Harry frowned thoughtfully. What could he tell her that would raise too many questions and yet get him the job? It had to be something light, something powerful, something impressive. "Not counting wards, the Patronus Charm," he mentioned and took a deep breath as he recalled the balrog. He realised he had gone very still and ignoring McGonagall. "Apologies, can you repeat that? I was caught up with some old memories."
She looked at him curiously. "The Patronus Charm is indeed a very powerful and rare magic that few have been able to master. I doubt even majority of the Aurors can do it. If you can prove your ability to cast it, the job is yours."
Harry smiled as he recalled Arwen's kiss. He sighed blissfully. "Expecto Patronum," he said, expecting the basilisk and the phoenix. But to his surprise, an owl appeared instead. A very familiar owl. "Arwen," he stared at the owl in wonder. The owl looked at him curiously and then flew above his head in a manner very similar to how Arwen used to do, and he knew then that, even though she wasn't actually there with him, she could sense him. The Patronus Charm was a connection between them through the dark corridors between universes.
"You look very surprised," McGonagall noted.
"My form has changed," said Harry. "It used to be something else. Now, it is the animal form of someone very dear to me."
"There is one school of thought that one's Patronus is never truly fixed and varies depending on the needs of the summoner," said McGonagall.
Harry nodded his head slowly. Having access to the library would indeed be very useful. Perhaps, he mused, he could recreate the Sorting Hat also - that would be nice.
She smiled at him. "Welcome to Hogwarts, Professor Galad."