Sunlight warmed the plains of his face, glowing warm even behind his eyelids. Restfulness and an odd sensation suffused him, almost like waking from a drugged sleep. Harry was awake in an instant, eyes wide and staring even before he was aware enough to see through them; but nothing was in that room with him but the sunlight and the furniture, and he breathed a sigh of relief. He had hardly expected their plan to work, but here he was; nestled beneath the light, warm comforter that seemed a representation of his new world, all on its own. Soft and warm, but made of some cloth that kept it from the over-heaviness he would have expected; he had not felt such luxury – well, ever, that he could remember. It was secure here; peaceful, gentle morning sunlight dancing across rich light woods of a dressing closet and a desk.
The carving of the furniture was intricate, and his bed, though a four-poster, was unlike anything he had seen, even at Hogwarts. The place felt every bit as magical as the castle he called home, but it was a different sort of magic. This magic was a living, breathing sort; something that worked in harmony with the world and not outside of it. It was the sort of magic of a new spring day when you forgot everything but the sun on your skin and the brush of the wind; the magic of wordless joy in something simple, of a song that made you cry tears of joy sung in a language you didn't know. Harry breathed it in, and slid out of bed slowly, savoring the movement.
He caught sight of himself in a full-length mirror off to the side, and stared for long minutes. He didn't even look like himself; he was so very much older than the last time he'd really looked in a mirror. Too thin. Too stressed.
He hadn't thought to survive the war, not in years, but he found himself suddenly quite glad that he had done so. The stone floor was cool under his feet, but not cold like the stone of Hogwarts. He moved to the dressing closet, and found himself satisfied that both his old clothes and a few sets of new awaited him. In a decided motion, he slid the wand and holster from his wrist for the first moments in recent memory, and dumped them into the bottom of the wardrobe. He would find a place for them later, but for now, he neither needed nor wanted a weapon near his skin. His second holster joined it a moment later, and a trio of daggers with their strange skin-tight harnesses followed after.
He frowned a moment at the clothes left for him. Tunic and leggings weren't anything he'd ever worn, but wearing wizard's robes for the first time had been more awkward than this could possibly be. He almost tripped himself tugging the leggings on, before deciding to borrow the desk chair for aid, but the shirt and tunic were easy enough. Dressed, he studied himself in the mirror; he was still missing something. The others last night had been wearing weapons, but it was something else that he was missing. Something obvious…
His brain supplied the image a moment later; he was missing a belt.
There wasn't a belt hanging in the wardrobe, nor in either of the deep, empty drawers below it. The desk drawers yielded quill and parchment and ink, but no belt. He frowned at the room around him, before finally noticing that what he'd taken for a wall decoration was actually a set of belts. But they were all far, far too long, and lacked a buckle. Taking one down, he stared at it. It had a metal loop at one end, but nothing to secure the tail of the belt to. And he hadn't been paying enough attention last night to know what to do with it.
Unhappy at the forced choice, he retrieved his own belt from the pile of his clothes. Harry hooked it around his waist, and stared again at his reflection in the mirror. It wasn't quite right, but it would have to do.
Then, a moment later, he decided against it. He wanted to fit in, in this world. He wanted to be one of its people, as much as he could. He grabbed one of the new belts, the shortest one, of a light brown leather and delicately tooled with images that were eagles but somehow looked more like phoenixes to him, and slung it over his shoulder.
Decided, he marched for the door.
Surprisingly, he was met at the other side by a man who looked about his age, looking like he was just about to knock.
They stared at each other a long moment, taking in appearance. Harry noticed the guy was tall and dark-haired, with hair as long as Bill's had been.
"Hi". Harry said, awkwardly. He knew the other guy wouldn't understand him, but he couldn't just say nothing.
A smile and a foreign response met him. Shifting from foot to foot, Harry shrugged his lack of understanding. A long moment passed, and then Harry pointed at himself "Harry."
"Galladin." Said the other, pointing at himself.
"Hello Galladin." Harry said, feeling odd but needing to speak. "I wonder if you could help me figure out my belt?"
Galladin cocked his head to the side, questioning.
Harry held up the belt, gesturing. "I don't really know how to put this on." He said with a helpless shrug, "And mine works completely different," He gestured at his own belt, tugging at it, and hoping the guy got the right message.
Galladin's brows met in a frown, and he asked a question.
Harry sighed. He ran the new belt around his waist, and threaded it through the loop in a copy of his own. Then he pointed between the two, making the motions he would normally make to fasten his belt, and indicating the lack of notches or the pin-thing that would keep the belt on. He gave a pleading look at Galladin, and a helpless shrug, and hoped his companion got the message.
Galladin studied him for a moment more, a strange look on his face. And then he broke, and threw his head back with laughter.
Harry blushed. "Nevermind. I'll just wear mine; it's not important." And he turned to go back into his room. The laughter broke off, and a warm, firm hand on his shoulder stopped him, and turned him back around.
Galladin was still smiling at him, but he shook his head, and then dropped his hand from Harry's shoulder. He reached for his own belt, then, and undid it swiftly, and then carefully demonstrated watching Harry to make sure he was following. He looped the leather through the ring, then tucked it around the belt and tied it into a knot, leaving the remainder to hang freely.
Frowning, Harry tried the same, but he did it wrong the first time, and Gilladin showed him again. Once he had it right, Harry did it an extra time to make sure it wasn't any more complicated than that. Then he unbuckled his old belt, and slid it from his waist. Looking up, he grinned at his new companion.
Galladin grinned back, and gestured off down the hall. It was Harry's turn to look confused. Galladin chuckled, and made eating motions – it took a moment, but Harry finally understood the other man had been sent to fetch him to a meal. Nodding, Harry held up a hand and one finger, hoping the sign for "just a second" was universal. Apparently it was, as Galladin didn't try to stop him when he retreated to his room and chucked the belt back into the wardrobe, and was still waiting when he returned to the corridor.
Delighted to have solved the first problem he'd come across in his new world – and to have nothing more pressing to worry about than whether or not he'd be wearing the right sort of belt – Harry followed the man to Breakfast.
"Good morning, young mage." The king spoke, as Harry entered the dining hall.
Harry about jumped out of his skin. "You can speak my language!" Harry said, surprised.
The man stared at him for a long moment, then tapped the side of his head. Permission for Legillimency again, Harry decided. He sat, first, at the seat indicated, and then nodded, lowering his shields.
A brief rustle through his memories, and then a voice in his mind. No, I fear that I cannot, not fully. I am well-gifted with language, and I studied for many hours the memories I saw in your companion's mind. I hoped a familiar greeting would help to put you at ease.
"It has." Harry said, smiling even as his vision faded between the waking world and his own mind. "Thanks for doing that. It helps. But I really do want to learn your language. I'm, ah, not so good at that sort of thing, though."
We shall teach you. Don't let your friend's eagerness to learn convince you that you are incapable simply because knowledge does not fascinate you as it does she.
"Is Hermione alright?" Harry asked, though for all he knew, she might be in the room with them.
Your friend still sleeps. The journey was much more draining on her magic than yours. Though you have been asleep fully two days, young mage.
"Two days?!" Harry exclaimed. "I – well, I didn't know I was that tired, I guess. Um, thanks for letting me sleep. And letting me stay here. And, er, Hermione. And – is it even breakfast, then?" Harry asked, immediately feeling like an idiot afterwards, as the king chuckled in his mind.
No, do not feel ashamed. It is lunch, in fact, but your rest was much needed. Your friend will wake as well, in time.
That sounded ominous to Harry, and he voiced his concern. "Is she going to sleep that much longer?" The sigh in Harry's mind was sad, and made him wonder how old the king was. The man didn't look old, really, but there was this feeling in his thoughts, that seemed as old as the earth itself.
Not quite that old, young mage.
Harry snorted, and then, weirded out by formal title being used in his head, said "Call me Harry, please. Er, sire."
Call me Elrond, not sire. The voice returned, laughingly. And your friend will sleep only a little longer, perhaps another day. Her worry that she will bring the taint of her old world with her, and the guard she has set in her mind against such, keeps her from resting as deeply as she might.
Harry felt guilty, at that. He hadn't spared a second thought to Hermione's worries; and she was right, often enough.
There is no need to borrow such trouble. Our world has its own darkness, though it has been long since we have battled against it. Live, and enjoy life while you may, Harry.
That made sense. Harry decided he'd say as much to Hermione when she woke.
I wouldn't do that, either. Returned Elrond. Your friend's way is not without merit; we must ever guard our souls against the peril of darkness. But each of us must do what tasks we are given to do. Your tasks are completed, for the moment, and now is your time for rest.
Something within me tells me she must make her own path, Harry, whatever it may be. Rest is for her, yes, but not only rest. Whether she would wish it or not, her soul craves its own work yet, while yours is content.
Harry wasn't exactly sure what that meant. It sounded awfully profound, but at the same time, it didn't make any sense at all.
Elrond's laughter echoed aloud, this time. Never mind, mage Harry. Sit, enjoy your lunch, and have your rest. You have done a great thing, and risked much; and though the world you saved is not our own, we will honor you as your choices and actions deserve. You are free to stay in my house for as long as your will is content here – be it days or months or all the years of your life.
Harry was amazed. Talk about hospitality. "Hermione too?"
Hermione as well.
"One last question, if it's ok." Harry said.
"Why do you keep calling me 'mage'? Not that it really bothers me, or that I'm not really thankful for everything. But… I'm a wizard, at least so far as I know." Harry felt a momentary panic that his magic wouldn't work in this world, but he stuffed it down in wait for his answer.
Ah. That is because we have Wizards here, though very, very few of them. And their skill is much different from your own. Elrond smiled, both in life and in Harry's mind. And your skill works well enough, yet. If your mind magics are not enough to convince you, then test some small magic – but be wary, for while my people are used to some kinds of magic, others may worry them.
Harry nodded, and thought for a moment. His eyes caught sight of a candle in a candleholder on the wall across the room. Slightly nervous, he brought out just a bit of wandless power. The candle lit. Harry relaxed, and then snuffed the flame with magic with almost no effort of his own.
A good choice. The voice confirmed in his mind.
Suddenly excited by what Elrond had said, Harry burst out with "So, these wizards you have – what is it they do that's so different from us?"
"That, we shall see very shortly, and in full." A voice answered him, aloud.
Harry spun in his chair. A man as old as Dumbledore stood behind him, long grey beard and all. Harry almost choked on his grief for his lost mentor, though this man bore him no resemblance. It was a long moment that the figure swam in his vision, that the world seemed to shift about him, before Harry regained mastery of himself.
"Who are you?" He asked, instead, his voice showing little of his distress.
"I am Gandalf, young mage. And I was called here by the pull of the great magic of your travel, and sought council with Elrond while you slept."
"And you're a wizard?" Harry asked.
"Yes. I am, most certainly, a wizard."
"So… " Harry almost stopped himself, wondering if the question was somehow rude, then shrugged. "What can you do?"
Gandalf smiled at him. "Talk to you, for one."
And then Harry realized they'd been conversing in English. His eyes went wide. "Oh. Um, wow. Is that… I mean, did you take a potion or something? I think I remember there being one for knowing other languages."
"Potion?" Gandalf questioned, the word obviously foreign to him. "A draught? No, I took no 'potion'. It is simply one of my skills."
Harry grinned. "Well, I'm glad it is, then. I wasn't really sure I'd be able to learn a new language without someone telling me what the words meant, in my own."
Gandalf smiled at him. "I shall be happy to teach you elvish, among many other things. And I imagine I shall learn much about you, as well. But first, you should eat some lunch."
They were standing outside; Harry, Elrond, Gandalf, and a small company of guards. The guards were at the edges of a large clearing, and the other three stood in the center of it.
Harry hadn't been completely thrilled to be retrieving his wand again so soon, but Elrond was being so nice about everything, that he figured it would have been really childish to refuse. He left all the rest of his equipment in his room, though; in a further removal from his old life, he strapped his wand holster outside of his light shirt, out where anyone who looked could see it. If he'd been able to find a convenient place for it, he wouldn't have worn a holster at all.
"Alright, young Harry. You needn't over-tax yourself, but I'd like a feel for what you're capable of." Gandalf said.
"Um… well, what do you want me to do?" Harry responded.
"I am here to learn what you can do, Harry." Gandalf returned. Then, a moment later. "But you seek guidance; I shall offer what I can. Can you light a fire, as you lit the candle in the dining hall?"
Harry smiled, and holstered his wand. He called blue flame to his hand, and a fist-sized ball burned brightly in the span of a thought.
"Ah. I see. And can you make other things as well – say, as much water, or earth?"
Harry shifted his will, and was holding a handful of earth. He thought a moment before conjuring water, and conjured it in a glass.
Gandalf's eyebrow twitched, lightly, and Harry felt that this was about as much true surprise as the man had shown in a very long time. "I see. So it is not only elements you can create."
"Conjure." Harry corrected, then ducked his head and stared at the ground. Of all the times for his inner Hermione to make itself known. "I didn't mean to correct you, sir."
"Not to worry, my boy. Not to worry; it is, indeed, I who am learning, and you who are teaching, at this moment."
Harry hadn't been called "my boy" since Dumbledore had died. Though Gandalf didn't project an air of "foolish old man", and seemed to go about things with a straightforward practicality, he bore just enough resemblance to Harry's old mentor to be painful. He ruthlessly shoved the ache away, though, and brought his eyes back up. "Alright. What else, then?"
"How big of an item can you make?" Gandalf frowned. "Or, rather, how is this skill limited."
"Well, size is a limit, yeah. But not as much. It sort of depends, too, on whether I'm bringing something here or actually making it."
Gandalf paused, and then conversed for a moment with Elrond. "How do you mean?"
"Well, say you wanted a really big pile of dirt, right here." Harry waved in front of him. "I could put enough dirt in this field to fill the whole thing a couple feet deep, but I'd be bringing it from other places – I could focus it on a single place, or, with something like dirt, I can just sort of put it here, and, I dunno, magic decides where it would come from, or something. Hermione would be able to say exactly how."
"But you said you can create things, as well."
"I can – but I couldn't make nearly that much of anything. I could only make, a single thing comfortably, though size still isn't much of an object for me, although it would be for any other wizard."
"You have more power than is usual, then?"
"Yeah. I, um, the dark wizard I killed. I got some of his power when I was a baby, and most of the rest of it in… well, later."
"So your friend Hermione?"
"She could make things with more detail easier than me, and probably make more things at once, if they were small. Size of the thing you're making takes magical power. Detail takes… well, focus. Knowledge. Smarts. Stuff like that."
"But either of you could make – a chair? A sword? Anything like that."
"Yeah. Sure." Harry smiled, and, in a copy of his bed that morning, he made one appear, in the middle of the field. Right down to the tousled down-like cover.
He didn't miss the sharp intakes of breath from the waiting guards, but they didn't say anything, either. For that much, Harry was grateful.
Elrond and Gandalf merely walked in a circle around it. Elrond exclaimed at something, and Gandalf joined him, they were pointing at the far side of the bed, and speaking back and forth very quickly.
"Harry, could you explain this?" Gandalf asked.
Harry walked around to the far side of the bed, only to discover that, there, the intricate carvings that were across the rest of the bed could no longer be seen. The wood was plain, if still solid. The blanket just … stopped, at the edge of his bed. And the mattress had a normal, modern box-spring below it, that probably wasn't the sort of thing to exist in this time.
Harry blushed. "Oh. Um, well, that's what I meant about complexity."
Gandalf fixed his eyes on Harry, who felt as though he were being looked through instead of at.
"It makes itself after whatever image I hold in my head. If my image is incomplete, or wrong, it'll still make like that."
"What if you were to conjure a living being?" Gandalf said, a quiet fear in his voice.
"Oh! No, no, you can't do that. Well, you can, but it's black magic, and they're not really "living". No, nobody can do that."
Gandalf sighed. "Do not worry so much, Harry. We will not judge you. Though I will admit my relief at what you have said – some magics are too great to be wielded by any being."
Harry only nodded at that. Things like dementors were what happened when wizards tried to make living things.
"So, the smooth wood, and this odd… under-bed; they were in your mind?"
"Yeah. The box spring – that's the thing under the bed – is what we use in my world. I suppose you don't use them here, but I just sort of assumed, even without really thinking about it. Hermione would have done better."
"She does really well with this sort of thing. All of the details seem to just stay in her head at the same time. The first time I tried to make a chair, it didn't have any legs."
Obviously, Gandalf was still thinking of animals, as he winced.
There was a long pause, while he conferred with Elrond.
Harry waited pretty patiently, and, after a bit, banished the bed.
Both of the men jumped a bit, though there was no sharp breath from their watchers, this time.
"Why did you do that?" Gandalf asked, and then, interrupted by a question from Elrond, translated, "And where did it go?"
Harry blinked in surprise. "I don't really know where it went. Nowhere, I guess. And I did that because it's a drain on my magic to leave something like that just sitting."
"Is it? So it uses magic to keep its existence?"
"Yeah, something like that. Hermione'd be better at the theory stuff – and could probably tell you where things go when they're banished. But conjured stuff uses magic for as long as you keep it around. Most wizards and witches –"
Gandalf breathed in sharply.
"What? What did I say? I know I'm not a wizard the way you are, but –"
"No, it isn't that. But please, never refer to 'witches' in this world. The word has an ill meaning."
"Well, then what do you call female wizards?" Harry asked.
Gandalf smiled. "There aren't any."
Harry looked at him, shocked. "Well, then…" He half-choked on his words, but said them anyway. "How do you get more wizards?"
Gandalf laughed. His eyes sparkled, and he broke from his amusement only long enough to translate for a curious Elrond. Who, of course, joined in the laughter.
Harry was blushing horribly, and rather wished he'd kept the bed around, so he could stare at something other than the ground or one of the trying-not-to-smile guards at the perimeter of the field.
"We don't, young mage."
"You, er… don't? Well, then –" Harry broke off, not really wanting to start another round of amusement at his expense, but unwilling to leave the question left unasked. "How did you get here?"
"I? I was not born, Harry, not like you were. I have… for lack of a better way to say it, I and my brothers have always been. There are very few of us – only three have any importance to the world in this age of middle earth."
"Oh." Harry said. "Wow, you're old." Then he clapped a hand over his mouth. He hadn't said anything that stupid in at least… well, at least a couple weeks, anyhow.
"I am, indeed. But that is neither here nor there. The point we were settling was the matter of witches." Gandalf was once more very serious. "Witches, here, are those who use their powers for ill. Your friend, when she awakes, shall be a mage like yourself. And any children either of you have, whom also inherit your power, may take that name as well."
Harry nodded, thinking. "Alright. That makes sense. I'll try not to call her a witch, though it'll be hard."
"I believe you were explaining the relative levels of power needed to maintain a… conjuring."
"Oh, yeah." Harry responded, then, trying to remember what little theory Hermione had drilled into his head in school lessons that seemed as though they'd been an age ago, in that time before the war, Harry began to explain.