Disclaimer: I own the specific crossover plot, nothing more. Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling; Lord of the Rings belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien.
Summary: During the summer after fourth year, Harry makes an innocent wish... which takes him to a different world. He needs to find a way home, but first he has to decide where his home really is... (LOTR/HP)
Recap of the story, thus far: After a little more than 400-years of living in Middle Earth, Harry has come to accept his place among the elves. He has also traveled a great deal, eager to learn of his new world, leaving his foster-family's protective keeping much more often than they'd like. Having visited Minas Tirith in Gondor, the people of Rohan, the town of Bree and others like it, as well as The Shire, Imladris, and even the Black Gate of Mordor, he's become very well-traveled. He even managed to sneakily gain access to Saruman's records and learn some of the Istari arts of Middle Earth that way, but he was forced to leave in a hurry.
Though he resisted it at first, Harry has also fallen in love and married...
And now he's joined the ranks of Gondor's military, going to war against the Easterling tribes in an effort to both learn experience real war and to remember what mortals are like by living amongst them and working with them.
Dedication: To everyone on the TandBA mailing list that waited so long for this, and offered to help with only a little opposition.
Elda Kundu, Kurutar
A Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings Crossover
Part I – A Wizard's Tale
Chapter 4: Turambar – A Mortal, A King & A Friend – Part III
By Jess S
~ * First Gondorian Encampment, Dagorlad – Narvinyë 17, 549 * ~
"How fare the negotiations, my friend?"
Harry sighed as he rose from his respectful bow—ignoring the king's rolling eyes at the purportedly 'unnecessary' gesture of respect in this casual setting—and sank into the chair across from his mortal friend with a grace that would certainly be nonexistent due to his weariness, if it were not already an ingrained habit. "The King of Rhovanion is interested, but wary still. His people have lost much in the recent raids."
"Had he joined forces with us when we first approached him four years ago, his people would have fared better."
"Perhaps," Harry shrugged noncommittally. "But the fact remains that King Vindovia is far more concerned with feeding and sheltering his people then in raising an army. He has to be." 
Turambar was silent for several long moments before he sighed and shook his head. "So what is it you want me to do that you would not suggest in front of your fellow Captains?"
Harry shrugged again; he was pleased that his clever friend had noticed how quiet he'd been at the earlier meeting and come to the correct conclusions on that silence but, he wasn't surprised either. "The Rhovanions have plenty of wood at their disposal, and more then enough hands to scrap it all together. The winter weather has not been too fierce as of late, so they should not have too much trouble ensuring they're sheltered from the worst of the winter's bite in a few weeks time."
"But," Harry nodded, "more then half of the harvest that was supposed to carry them through the winter was destroyed or stolen by the raiders. Over the last few years our men, our enemies and the Rhovanions themselves have hunted the nearby lands all but bare. Many of King Vindovia's people will certainly starve in the coming months."
"Unless we send them aid." Turambar nodded slowly, "For which Vindovia is sure to be most grateful."
"And all the more likely to then raise his army to join ours as soon as the spring planting is completed in a little over three months time."
"Which is when we will need the reinforcements most," Turambar nodded again. Then he sighed before pointing out, "Many of the other Captains won't like it."
"Many of the younger Captains don't care about ending the war as they haven't made history, or similar nonsense, yet. And the older ones that might object would only be doing so out of spite, unreasonably angry with our potential allies for not taking part in a war that was not their own at an earlier point in time."
"The Easterlings were invading their lands, just as they were ours."
"Ah, but the Easterlings had been raiding their lands, and pushing on their borders, for centuries before the Army of Gondor set up camp in them to do war with an old enemy."
"True enough," Turambar sighed, looking down at the disheartening maps they'd been reviewing at the earlier meeting. The Easterlings' new army was more active this time of year then the first army had been, as things had often gone quiet when the weather turned cold and dark. But even these more determined opponents wouldn't risk sending large forces away from shelter and food during the storms that would soon be here. "Was our crop surplus high enough to cover this venture?"
"Yes." Harry immediately confirmed. "As was Rohan's. And, as you know, the Elves have been increasingly open to trade of late."
"So they have," the King nodded again, going quiet for several long moments before nodding firmly. "Make it happen."
~ * Rhovanion Capital – Nénimë 2, 549 * ~
Harry was equal parts grateful and frustrated. Grateful that King Turambar was wise enough to see beyond 'Hadrian's' supposed youth and appoint him leader of the diplomatic envoy to the king of Rhovanion. And frustrated by King Vindovia's mulish expression. Now, he'd be more than happy to ignore the expression if it were not an accurate depiction of thw royal's current mood and mindset; but, unfortunately, it was.
No matter how appealing Turambar's offer was logically, generation-old grudges were not easily set aside, and even less easily overcome. And this king had little interest in sending his men to war with an enemy they regularly drove off anyway. It was apparently a common belief that the Easterlings' recent raids had only worsened because of Gondor's nearby presence, making the long, harsh winter Gondor's fault.
"Surely, Your Majesty, even if your people are not in need of the food we can provide—"
Though everyone knew that this king's people didn't have enough to survive the winter without aid…
"—your people can recover what strength they've lost much more quickly without constant harassment from the East."
"Gondor never cared to help us with the Easterlings before," the 'old' king pointed out for what might well have been the tenth time.
Though Vindovia should probably be respected as an elder of his race, it was hard for one of the Eldar—which was what Harry truly was—to think of a man that hadn't yet seen his seventh decade as 'old,' despite the fact that most of his people referred to him as such. This seemed all the more odd, of course, when he was compared to the long-lived and still youthful king of Gondor, who—thanks to his Dúnedain heritage—was more than twice the age of this gray-haired, bent and wrinkled king.
Though many of the Gondorians that had come with him—most of them nobles and officers—shifted restlessly at the repeated, vaguely insulting complaint, Harry kept his own expression completely neutral and his body calm. He shrugged lightly before replying, "We've already agreed that's so, good king. It doesn't change the fact that we're here now. We need your help and you need ours."
Many of the Rhovanions started bristling at that, but Harry was quick to continue before any could comment.
"And the fact remains that action is in your best interest as well."
After several long, tense moment, Vindovia nodded, his keen hazel eyes still locked with 'Captain Hadrian's' green gaze as he replied.
Unlike most of his court, Vindovia hadn't looked to any of the older officers or the noble-born men when the Gondorian convoy had first come some weeks before. He'd recognized and accepted 'Hadrian' as the leader of the convoy with remarkable ease. Those instincts, and the fact that Vindovia clearly did care for his people, had earned him no small amount of respect in Harry's mind. And even after hours of facing the man's unhelpful stubbornness the Eldar hadn't forgotten that.
"So it would seem," Vindovia at last allowed, ignoring the unhappy grumblings of a few of his advisors. "But there is only so much help we can offer. Or accept."
Harry nodded, already well aware of the Rhovanions honor code and beliefs about balance. It was part of the reason he was in charge of the convoy. It'd only taken Turambar a couple questions to recognize that his strange, right-hand man understood the Rhovanions' ways just as well as—if not better than—Turambar himself did. And most of the other Captains weren't even really aware of cultural differences. But Harry not only knew of it, he understood and respected it.
It only made sense, after all. What you get should be balanced by what you give. That was fair.
"Of course," Harry agreed. "King Turambar knows it would be unreasonable to expect any immediate aid from your people. At least not until after the last frost, perhaps after the planting season is finished or even as late as the harvest itself; but His Majesty believed you might appreciate our help sooner."
To some, it might seem strange to credit King Turambar with all of Harry's own ideas. Ideas that he'd recommended and received approval for. But Turambar was the King of Gondor. He was Gondor. And that was whom Harry was here representing. The ideas of a strange man from nowhere were worthless without royal backing. And it wasn't like he could present his ideas as belonging to a Prince of the Elves.
One of Vindovia's advisors spoke up then, his snotty tone drawing more than a few frowns, "The court does not—"
Harry kept his face neutral even as Vindovia cut his own subject off.
"Gamir," the King of Rhovanion shook his head when his advisor turned to him, then frowned as the somewhat younger man foolishly continued.
"But, My Lord—"
"Enough!" Vindovia glared at the man till his defiance finally wilted, and his eyes turned back to the Gondorian's. "Captain Hadrian, you may tell your king that we would be most grateful for whatever aid Gondor can send us. And that we will respond accordingly, after the harvest."
Harry bowed smoothly, silently sending a subtle wave of silencing magic behind him to prevent any protests his fellow captains might have. He knew the king was speaking truthfully, and that he would honor his word and send troops to help Gondor as soon as he could reasonably allow. "On behalf of Gondor and King Turambar, we thank Your Majesty most gratefully."
"No thanks are necessary, Captain. Though Gondor, of course, has ours as well."
~ * Third Gondorian Encampment, Dagorlad – Víressë 15, 549 * ~
Harry suppressed a wince as the Easterling-prisoner collapsed onto his knees with Gondorian soldiers pushing him down.
The Easterling had been spotted nearly two weeks before during one of the cavalry's frequent patrols of the areas around their encampments. Three of his seven companions had been killed, while three others were also captured. Since then, the four prisoners had been subject to the hospitality of the Third Encampment's Captain, Torres: the young lord-to-be of some southern holding. By the time Turambar had received news of the capture, one of the prisoners had already died during Torres' interrogations, and two more had apparently died while the Royal Council was in route to the Third Encampment.
Only this man still remained, and that was only thanks to the expertise Harry's mother and brother-in-law had seen fit to give him in training and a few secreted spells. Of course, another spell had been to keep Turambar's mind off the fact that Harry had yet more unexpected skills, and a part of him doubted any kind of magic could successfully deter his clever friend's stubbornness and curiosity. Though, to be fair, Turambar had already known that Harry possessed some skills as a healer, and as he supposedly lived near Rivendell and was an Elf-friend, it wasn't something that was too surprising.
At the moment, however, his friend was distracted by their 'guest's' current condition, and he was no more pleased than Harry himself was, though probably for different reasons. While torture in general disturbed Harry, it had a much more predominant place in the world Turambar was raised in. And that was the major difference in their background that led to the difference of opinion. Whereas the necessary evil had played its part in the wars of Middle Earth—especially in the Mortal World, and Gondor, often plagued by Orcs—Harry was raised in the Muggle World of Earth and then by the Elves. Though Hermione's Tome had taught him that the Wizarding World's view of torture wasn't really comparable to the Muggle World's, to the Elves there were few more terrible taboos to break.
After all, the Orc-peoples that plagued their world were once Elf-kind. Before Morgorth Bauglir twisted and destroyed their forms in cruel torture, driving their spirits to depart from their should-be-Immortal coils and leaving their broken bodies behind to become a hideous, hateful and hurtful race of horrifying enemies. To the Eldar, to torture someone was one way of imitating Morgorth, and there were few things more immoral to their people.
Despite his terrible state of being and circumstances, the Easterling was either a testament to a great strength of will or remarkably effective brainwashing as he glared up at Turambar and the surrounding captains.
The King of Gondor didn't bother with any kind of greeting or other pleasantries, instead he just raised an eyebrow at the filthy man, "We would know what your people seek here in Gondor," he opened with, though it was something he already knew from 'Hadrian's' report many months earlier. Still, it was often better to start with what you knew. If the prisoner did talk, starting with something they already knew the answer to would help them read him as he answered. Help them learn how to tell when he was lying and when he was telling the truth.
But, of course, the younger man had no interest in being helpful to them, despite the improvement it might bring to his sorry state. And though his mouth opened in response, it was only to spit at the king.
One of Harry's eyebrows rose at the man's sheer nerve, then he winced as Captain Torres' first lieutenant—Barkley or Barkoff or something like that—immediately struck the man down. He suppressed the urge to intervene, as he'd only just brought the man back from near-death the day before, but had to sigh in relief as Turambar spoke again.
"Hold, Lieutenant Bartoff," the king commanded, and was of course immediately obeyed. His silver eyes looked into their prisoner's dark, hateful glare and after a moment he sighed. "You have nothing to gain from your silence, man. Only further pain." He indicated Lieutenant Bartoff and the other Gondorian soldiers standing nearby, who were all clearly more than willing to continue beating the enemy soldier. After a long moment of silence he asked, "What do you seek here in Gondor?"
It only took a few moments of the prisoner's hateful, defiant silence to break Captain Torres' plainly limited patience. "This one will not speak without further provocation, milord. If I may—"
"If I may, Your Majesty," Harry cut the other captain off quickly, ignoring the hostile glare the competitive man sent his way as Turambar immediately gave Harry his full attention. "My lieutenants and I have had far more success than most with prisoners before; perhaps we would have better luck with him?"
Turambar held his gaze for another long moment, then nodded, while gesturing towards the man. "Of course, Captain Hadrian."
"I wish you luck, Hollin," Captain Torres said, his tone just mild enough to be truthful, but completely contradicted by the hatred in his eyes. "In all the time my men and I, myself, have spent with this one, he has said very little and all of it gibberish." 
Harry tilted his head slightly to the side, one eyebrow rising again as he did so. A horrible feeling forming, and making his tone sharp. "And what has he said?"
Torres's eyebrows snapped together and he sneered, "I just told you, nothing but gibberish."
Harry glanced at the other men around the room, most of whom were Torres's. "Can any of you remember precisely what he has said?"
Torres glared at him, but under the king's sharp gaze he finally waved one of his lieutenant's forward. "Gambrey, you spent the most time with this one, didn't you?"
Lieutenant Gambrey—a middle-aged man with the typical dark hair and eyes set in pale features of the men of Gondor—nodded. "I did, my lord—my lords." He abruptly switched the last addressed from singular to plural, as if only just realizing he should be addressing the room as a whole. Surprising, given that the king was watching as he spoke. But then again Harry couldn't remember Torres calling on this particular lieutenant in front of the other Captains and the king before, either.
"What did he say, exactly?" Harry persisted, not entirely sure why he felt he needed to know but knowing it was generally a bad idea to ignore his instincts.
The lieutenant winced, but obediently attempted to recite what he could recall, "Uh, it was something like 'This aga mistok' and 'Eve' iff I know at ooo ant, ooo no' und'and me, an'vay', I think. Sir."
Harry didn't bother stopping his features from twisting into a grimace, then shot back, "You mean, 'This was a mistake,' and 'Even if I knew what you wanted, you don't understand me, anyway'?" He shook his head in disgust as everyone—including the prisoner—stared at him in shock as one of the harshest of the Eastern dialects clacked out of his mouth with the ease only his many decades of Lord Celeborn's tutelage and continuous tests could bring. "You idiots."
"Captain?" Turambar frowned at him, not in displeasure but an obvious mix of confusion and surprise.
Harry knew he should be addressing the king directly, but decided instead to give way to emotion that he could later blame on his supposed 'youth' and instead focused on Torres who was glaring at him, not taking any pains to conceal just how offended he was on the prisoner's—and prisoners'—behalf. "You tortured this man for days without once attempting to confirm he spoke the Common Tongue? Or having someone on hand that spoke his language so that if he—or any of his unfortunate comrades—did talk you'd know what they were saying?"
"I speak the Eastern Tongue well enough!" Torres snapped back, shaking is head furiously at being rebuked in front of the king by a man who wasn't even his social equal outside of the military. "That's not it!"
"You may understand one of the Eastern Tongues," Harry allowed, nodding at the surprised look that crossed almost all of the mortals' faces at his words. Except for Turambar and a few of the older Captains, most of the men were visibly stunned. "Yes, one. But though the Eastern Tribes—all twenty seven of them, that we know of—are generally united under one to three leaders, they are still separate entities. Among them I know at least eleven different dialects—several of which sound nothing like the others—are spoken. And only members of their very small leadership-caste speak most of the different dialects. The common man might know a few more than his own native one, from other areas his people interact with frequently, but certainly not all of them!" the disguised wizard shook his head again in disgust. "How many of the other men were yelling similar 'gibberish' as you tortured them to death?" Without giving the mortals a chance to respond, he returned his gaze to the king's serious silvery one again. "May I?"
"Certainly," Turambar nodded immediately, the clear displeasure that was ever-so-slightly lining his handsome jaw carefully absent from his voice. "And please extend our apologies."
Harry nodded and glanced at the nearby guards, "Bring him a chair."
To their credit, though they were clearly startled by his command, the guards immediately obeyed. One dragged an unoccupied chair into the center of the circle the officers were seated in while two more grabbed the prisoner by the shoulders and pulled him up off the floor before setting him back down in the chair.
The Easterner, who had been staring at Harry since he'd heard the 'Gondorian' speak his language, didn't really react to the guards actions or his new circumstances. But Harry was pleased to see that the man's eyes didn't look quite as hateful and despondent as they had mere moments before. Now he looked a little—but only a little—hopeful.
The guards moved back a bit; leaving the prisoner a small semblance of freedom, which would be lost if he tried to move at all, but should at least make him feel a little bit better.
Harry leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees and his head lightly atop slightly intertwined fingers. His facial expression was easily schooled into an expression of ever-so-slight compassion over regal neutrality as the prisoner—who couldn't be more than twenty, if that—watched him. "Gondor-King," he inclined his head slightly towards Turambar, though his eyes remained on the watchful captive. "Would like you to know that your extended ill-treatment was not at his orders. Gondor extends its apologies for the misconduct of its junior officers."
After several moments of long, tense silence, the youth nodded, but said nothing.
Not really expecting a reply, Harry remained unbothered as he continued. "We would know why you came here?"
The young man stared at him for several long moments again, before he licked his lips nervously, and then opened his mouth, speaking hesitantly, "Th-There were seven of us."
Harry nodded, not letting the sadness he felt at the youth's hesitation show. "Yes."
"I... I am all that is left?"
Now Harry did let some of that sadness show as he nodded. "Yes."
The young man's eyes squeezed tightly shut in an expression of clear emotional anguish, and his head bowed forward.
"What did he say?" Torres demanded loudly, making the prisoner jump.
Harry shot the Gondorian noble a quick glare. He knew from the way Torres quickly quailed back that Turambar was also glaring at him, so he turned his attention back to the grieving youth. "What is your name?"
~ * First Gondorian Encampment, Dagorlad – Víressë 17, 549 * ~
"Even if this man speaks the truth—"
"His name is Korak, and he does," Harry cut the elder captain off gently. Much as he respected the eldest of the mortal commanders, he was not willing to let that fact be questioned. He shrugged when the other captains looked at him: though Torres and those of his peers that also didn't like 'Hadrian' were, of course, glaring. "If nothing else, the story is too far fetched to be anything other than true."
"Most would say far-fetched tales are more likely to be false," Captain Aldous interjected gently, his pale eyes kind.
'Hadrian' nodded in acceptance, but then raised an eyebrow at the king, "I do not believe I've ever been wrong in matters such as these, your Majesty." In truth, he knew he never had been. Because unlike the other commanders here, who were dependent on their judgment and ability to read people alone as a means of deciding whether someone—especially an enemy who'd been tortured for days on end—was lying, Harry could use Veritaserum and honesty-spells, or even just look right into the mortal's mind and see the truth. What they could only guess, he knew.
"No," Turambar agreed with a nod, "I don't believe you have either." After several long moments of silence, he sighed. "Still, I am reluctant to send one of my best commanders into enemy territory with no guards and only a supposedly-former enemy turned would-be ally as a guide."
"A larger force could draw far too much attention," one of the captains Harry didn't know very well—Lenross, commander of the twenty-third encampment—pointed out.
"But our having killed nearly their entire party of ambassadors is likely to engender the desire for vengeance in some." One of Aldous's lieutenants—whose name Harry couldn't even guess—spoke up.
"Our failure and offense," Harry pointed out quickly, "May only be forgiven by at least several shows of good faith."
"But they'll want us to give up all the territory we've gained!" Torres objected loudly, a seemingly permanent glare-and-scowl fixed on his face. "We—"
"No, they don't want that." Harry interrupted quickly, allowing a clear note of irritation to enter his voice. "They don't have the military power to defend that much land on their own." He met Turambar's eyes again as he continued. "They've already said they're willing to swear allegiance to Gondor, provided they be allowed to live according to their own customs in protected-lands after the war is won. They've said right up front that they're willing to pay the same annual taxes all the holdings of Gondor pay to afford such protections, and that their military forces—and vast network of spies among the Easterling Tribes—will be at Gondor's disposal for as long as it is of use during the war."
"So our would-be-ally—Korak, was it?—claims," the king recognized with another nod. He raised his hand to forestall any more arguments, then after several long moments of silence he sighed and nodded again. "And when will your guide be fit to travel, Captain Hadrian?"
"Hopefully in two weeks time, Majesty, perhaps as little as ten days, depending on his strength of will," Harry replied immediately, his tone confident. For even after just a few decades as a student of both Galadriel and Elrond in the healing arts, he was very proficient at it. Magic helped, of course, when he could use it. But that was only for mending the wounds themselves, righting broken bones and whatnot. Recovering their strength was entirely up to the injured individual after the fact. Though he knew more than a few potions and tonics that could help with that, too.
The king nodded again, "Very well. We shall entrust his care and safety to you. Do what you can to speed his recovery. His people are likely to be worried at the long silence from their ambassadors, and the return of only one of them will not make your negotiations with them easier." Looking around he told the other commanders. "I will hear suggestions on our part in these negotiations over the next week, but Captain Hadrian and Ambassador Korak are not to be bothered. Is that understood?"
As could be expected, a chorus of affirmatives answered the weary king and drew the meeting to a close.
~ * First Gondorian Encampment, Dagorlad – Náríë 10, 549 * ~
'Are you certain this is a wise course of action, ion nîn?'
'As certain as I can ever be, Nana.' Harry shook his head at his Naneth's query even as he let half his attention focus on setting up his writing supplies. 'If the war is to end anytime soon, it must be done.'
'But why not let the young king send someone else? He doesn't even want you to go.'
'I have numerous advantages any other would lack, Nana.'
'Which he knows nothing about.'
'He knows my 'brothers' and I have scouted enemy camps before without being detected. By his assumption on that count, if any stood a chance of completing this mission unscathed it would be us. And the seven Tribes we have as allies can only help us.'
The meeting with the minority-faction of Easterling leaders had gone about as Harry had expected it to. Many had understandably been offended by the cruel end most of their ambassadors had met, but most had also been surprisingly understanding. Apparently many of the elder leaders had expected difficulty in accepting that some of the Easterlings might be willing to join forces with Gondor, and the wisest among them had known that the group they'd sent could have easily been seen as a group of enemy-scouts, which is what had happened. All in all, they were much more forgiving than Harry himself thought he could ever be, and now they were allies of Gondor.
While the majority of their tribes were slowly migrating behind the protection of the Gondorian lines, many of their soldiers were now acting as highly useful spies in the Easterling military camps. Apparently, the Tribes were also still much more divided then they'd believed before. Though the minority of seven Tribes that had come to them were the minority, there were two more factions still warring for supreme power over the Tribes: one in command of eleven Tribes and the other of nine Tribes that roughly equaled the same number of soldiers as a whole. But it was only a matter of time before one prevailed: probably, according to their new allies' elders, through assassination or other such trickery.
Thus, they'd been presented with the opportunity to pick whom they'd be facing in battle within the next few years. The Tribes that had chosen to come to Gondor didn't like either leader at all: apparently both were highly prejudiced against them, mostly because the minority were the scholars and finer craftsmen of the East, whereas the majority that often dominated the tribes were more adequately described as warmongering nomads who had little interest in the arts and philosophies the seven rogue tribes clung to.
But the leader of the nine Tribes—Arat si-Sha—was by all accounts a much better military leader and much more likely to eventually prevail. Apparently the only reason his adversary—Berdan sa-Sern—had more allies was because he had had more familial relations among other tribes. It didn't make much sense to Harry, since it sounded like si-Sha and sa-Sern were actually second-cousins, but as far as Gondor was concerned any dissent among their enemies was a good thing.
The Lady of Light had remained silent for several long moments before she issued her true protests against the task to come. 'You are not an assassin. Nor are the brothers Míriel.'
'I've killed before. Orcs, Goblins, Spiders and, more recently of course, Men.'
'In war, battles and self-defense. Assassination is something else entirely.'
'It is no less necessary.' He rebuked, while taking one of his sharper knives out to carefully sharpen his quill with a few quick strokes, before setting it aside as he sought out an ink well.
'Perhaps. But you were greatly pained by the execution of the defenseless man of the East you disarmed and interrogated before. Do you truly believe you will fare so much better with having to execute a defenseless man with your own hands? Be it by a blade in your hand or the magic you can cast? Because for this to work; this man will have to be taken completely unawares, in the utmost secrecy possible, with no chance to defend himself, yes?'
'It must be done. And it must be done right. Which may or may not be while he's asleep or awake, be it by blade, poison or my magic.' Harry sighed, then shook his head and continued quickly before she could. 'I need to go, Naneth. I want to send a letter to Ránewen before I leave in the morning, so I have to write it now.'
'Very well, ion nîn. Be safe.'
'I will, Nana.' Harry sighed again as he sensed his mother's formidable mental presence retreat. He knew she was only worried for him, and that she was right to be. He didn't expect the coming task to be at all easy. But he'd sworn to see this war through to the end, and he wanted it to end soon. Which meant he had to do something like he was setting out to do tomorrow.
He glanced at the smallest of the trunks that belonged to him, which he knew contained a draught his wife wouldn't be happy to hear him even thinking of brewing, let alone taking. But he may very well need it to get through what he would soon have to do.
Finally ready to actually write, Harry sat down at his makeshift desk and then closed his eyes. He had no doubt that his wife would agree full-heartedly with his mother on this matter. And he didn't want to worry her any more than he already was by being away at war, so where he was headed tomorrow and why certainly shouldn't fit into his letter.
Opening his eyes, he peered intently at the blank parchment, and sighed as he dipped his quill into the ink well and then started to write.
My Dearest Ránewen,
It has only been a few months since our last meeting, and though months generally mean little to the Eldars' frame of mine, I find each one more painful than the last. You may rest assured that I shall have little desire to set out on any adventures such as this for some time to come. Once this one finally ends. When we are together again, I have no intention of being parted from you for any length of time. I may be your constant shadow for quite a while thereafter. You may soon find yourself quite tired of my presence.
If I were to go off to war again, I'm afraid I'd have to take you with me. As I could never do that, obviously I can't go off to war again!
I thought that might make you smile.
I miss your smile. And your laughter.
It's funny the things you end up missing. I knew, of course, that I would miss you. But I didn't think I'd miss that annoying bird that always starts chirping right outside our window long before sunrise. Do you know if anyone has shot him, yet? I hope not. And not because I want to do it, I really do miss the little pest. Though I think you may be right, as the birds are not immortals, this must be a family of birds that all take after their original, annoying ancestor. But I still miss them.
Though obviously nowhere near as much as I miss you.
How are your lessons in Imladris coming? Elrond has said you're progressing well. I'm sure that means you've long since surpassed me. As a student of Elrond—and a wizard—my skills are far beyond most of those at Gondor's disposal, save for those in the White City's House of Healing. Yet you know the healing arts are not really my forte.
Harry stopped as several pairs of feet halted outside his tent. He shook his head and rose, knowing only one man who would visit him that needed bodyguards. "Come in, Your Majesty."
The King shook his head at him as he pushed his way through the tent flap, "Really, my friend. Is it so difficult for you to address me by my given name outside of court and war councils?"
Rising from his unnecessary but polite bow—Turambar didn't know it, but the brief bow he'd always given him was exactly the bow an Elven prince was suppose to offer to a foreign king—Harry shook his head. "No my friend. But royal friends can be so fickle. One must be sure that their spirits are good, before they risk offending them."
Turambar laughed, smiling even as he shook his head, "Perhaps that is wise. Though you would be far safer from my 'fickle' moods if you would only accept some of the titles I've offered you."
"I have no need of them."
"So you say," the King shook his head. "But the life of an aristocrat really isn't all that difficult to adapt to. I'm sure your lady wouldn't mind the few responsibilities she might gain. And no matter how much she prefers the country, I'm sure she wouldn't mind a few visits to court. And I know you would adapt well to any responsibilities you gained."
Harry sighed, "I've already promised I would bring Raina to court after the war."
"You have indeed, and I plan on holding you to it. How fares your lady?"
"Well enough," Harry shrugged. "She returned to her training in the healing arts a short time ago. I know she misses me, but she is amongst friends."
"That is good. I take it you're writing to her again?" the king speculated, silver eyes darting momentarily to the letter Harry was penning before returning to his officer.
"Yes, I promised her frequent correspondence before I left for war." Harry shrugged. "And I always try to keep my word, especially to my wife."
"Very sensible, though I plan to take you up on your offer to train falcons for Gondor after the war. I know many of the men—myself included—envy your weekly letters from home. At the very least, you must train one for me, or my lady will never let me hear the end of it."
Harry chuckled softly, "I would be honored, my friend."
Turambar nodded, "Then I shall speak to you before you leave in the morning. Give my regards to the Lady Raina."
"Raina is not a lady of Gondor," Harry remarked, otherwise ignoring yet another hint at the king's wish to make the captain a nobleman. "But I shall extend your regards nonetheless."
"I'd dearly like to change that, my friend."
"I am aware of that, Your Majesty."
Turambar rolled his eyes, shaking his head slightly as he turned, glancing behind Harry for a moment before meeting his eyes again. "There are times I do wish that Rivendell was not quite so far away from the White City," he shook his head. "Given the apparent generosity of their nature. They've certainly taught you well."
Harry blinked, honestly surprised by the comment. "Th-Thank you, my friend."
The King shook his head, "You've demonstrated on countless occasions that your education is equal or superior to all of my noblemen and captains. I know you claim the elves are generous and love to teach those willing to learn, but you still must have been a very apt pupil."
"I was tutored by the very best scholars my father could find. All of them mortal men, but wise ones." Turambar shook his head. "And I know only a few words in one of the forms of Elvish. Certainly not enough to write a letter to a loved one in the Elves' script." He cocked his head to the side while Harry fought the urges to turn to look at the letter or start swearing. "I take it your lady can read it, as well?"
Slowly Harry nodded, biting back the urge to wince at his mistake. He'd never shown anyone his letters from home before, or left any out. He hadn't thought about the Elvish writing beyond the fact that no one here would be able to read it, thus making him willing to write more. He hadn't given a thought to just how superiorly educated that might make him look to the mortal men that believed him to be a youth of twenty-and-some-odd-years. "Yes, we've been fortunate enough to learn much together."
"So I see," The King nodded, glancing towards the door. "We will go over your plans again in the morning."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Harry offered his customary bow. "Sleep well."
"I shall try, you do the same, Captain Hadrian."
After the far-too observant king had left, taking his guards with him, Harry turned back to his letter, sighing as he saw that it was, indeed—of course—in Elvish. After making a mental note to be more careful in the future, he dismissed the worries from his mind.
He already knew from experience that though the Gondorian king was a very observant, smart and curious fellow, he was also supremely honorable, an excellent judge of character and very loyal to his friends. And 'Captain Hadrian,' no matter how mysterious the king found him, had quickly moved past being an intriguing puzzle in the king's eyes. Now he was more than an enigma that was fun to try and solve, he was also a friend and a very useful officer.
The King was no threat to him.
...Though that didn't mean he was ever going to let his parents find out about this.
~ * Cara Galadhon, Lothlórien – Náríë 30, 549 * ~
By the time Harry had managed to escape Madam Pomfrey to make his way down to the end-of-year feast, the Great Hall was already full. Slytherin had, according to Hermione, won the House Cup for the seventh year in a row, and the Hall was decked out in green and silver, with Slytherin's serpent stretched across a banner that covered the wall behind the High Table.
Harry watched the Great Hall fall silent as his younger self entered.
The nice Wizarding robes—his Hogwarts uniform, spelled clean and fit by Madam Pomfrey a short time before—didn't make him look quite as scrawny and small as he did when he was wearing his cousin's cast-offs. But Harry had always been particularly small and skinny for his age, with knobby knees, a thin face and jet-black hair over bright-green eyes. If not for his fame, and the trouble it seemed to draw him to within the Wizarding world, he wasn't the kind of boy a huge crowd would generally be expected to fall silent for.
Though time hadn't ever seemed to touch him on Arda—something the Eldar had never been able to fully explain to their satisfaction, but had grown to accept and appreciate as it meant Harry was still with them centuries later than he otherwise would have been—that apparently hadn't meant that damage caused by malnutrition and a generally poor upbringing couldn't be corrected. After years under the care of the elves, what damage his upbringing with the Dursleys' had wrought on him had been repaired. He frequently felt a bit short, normally surrounded by the elves, who were all very tall. But Harry now towered over his ten-year-old self by more than a foot. And several of those inches of height were gained here on Arda, not on Earth.
Harry couldn't suppress a small smile as his younger self nervously made his way to the Gryffindor table, taking his seat between Ron and Hermione and trying to ignore the fact that people were standing up to look at him.
The jabbering died away as Dumbledore arrived a moment later, undoubtedly having been just on the other side of the teachers' entrance, awaiting Harry's arrival. Not that young Harry would have jumped to the conclusion, too thankful for the effect the Headmaster's entrance had, as his peers' excited babble died away.
"Another year gone!" Dumbledore called cheerfully, arms spread wide as if to figuratively embrace the whole hall. "And I must trouble you with an old man's wheezing waffle before we sink into our delicious feast. What a year it has been! Hopefully your heads are all a little fuller than they were... you have the whole summer to get them nice and empty before next year starts." He paused to let the appreciative chuckles die down with a nod. "Now, as I understand it, the House Cup here needs awarding and the points stand thus: in fourth place, Gryffindor, with three hundred and twelve points; in third, Hufflepuff, with three hundred and fifty-two; Ravenclaw have four hundred and twenty-six and Slytherin, four hundred and seventy-two."
A storm of cheering and stamping broke out from the Slytherins.
Harry shook his head at the sour look he saw young Harry sending the Slytherin table, fixed on Draco Malfoy, his childhood rival of long ago, who was banging his goblet on the table, a sight Harry could remember sickening his younger self.
And therefore all the more amusing to him now.
To think, there was a time when such a petty grudge was worth so much energy.
"Yes, yes, well done, Slytherin," said Dumbledore. "However, recent events must be taken into account."
Truthfully, Harry felt it wasn't a good move on the Headmaster's part, to put off the awarding of points to so late a date. Harry would even go so far to call it unkind. Perhaps even cruel as the room stilled and the young Slytherins' smiles faded a little.
"Ahem," said Dumbledore. "I have a few last-minute points to dish out. Let me see. Yes... First – to Mr. Ronald Weasley—"
Ron went purple in the face; he looked like a radish with a bad sunburn.
"—for the best-played game of chess Hogwarts has seen in many years, I award Gryffindor house fifty points."
The Gryffindors cheers nearly raised the bewitched ceiling; the stars overhead seemed to quiver. Percy could be heard telling the other Prefects, "My brother, you know! My youngest brother! Got past McGonagall's giant chess set!"
At last there was silence again, and Dumbledore continued. "Second—to Miss Hermione Granger: for use of cool logic in the face of fire, I award Gryffindor house fifty points."
Hermione buried her face in her arms.
Harry could remember suspecting that she had burst into tears, and now he was quite sure of that. Though she often won her house points in class, Hermione Granger wasn't used to being the center of attention in such grand surroundings. Not yet.
Perhaps that was why Dumbledore had wanted to do this this way, to sort of get little Harry and his friends more used to his fame. And to congratulate them on a job well done, of course.
Never mind the fact that, according to Harry's Elvish upbringing, the Philosophers Stone should never have been brought to Hogwarts in the first place. A school for children was a place where children should be protected. Should be safe to learn and prepare for the world they would one day enter. Not a place that came under attack by some of the dangers of that world simply because the Headmaster thought it was a good idea to hide a magical treasure there.
"Third, to Mr. Harry Potter," said Dumbledore, and the room went deathly quiet. "For pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Gryffindor house sixty points."
The din was deafening. Those who could add up while yelling themselves hoarse knew that Gryffindor now had four-hundred and seventy-two points—exactly the same as Slytherin.
Nerve and courage. Harry snorted. Though he had overcome the terror his younger self had initially felt at facing Voldemort, 'outstanding' courage was pushing it a bit.
Though comparing his almost-unknown execution of Quirrell to the duty he'd recently taken on: the outright execution of the Easterling leader, Harry did feel the praise was more worthy to the child that had done what he thought needed to be done. Rather than to the adult that was planning to do what he knew had to be done, as doing so would all but guarantee victory for Gondor in a war that should soon after end.
Dumbledore raised his hand and the room gradually fell silent. "There are all kinds of courage," he continued, smiling. "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr. Neville Longbottom."
That had been a kind act. And a good point for the school's headmaster to make. That it was important to not give into peer pressure if it was pushing you to do the wrong thing.
And Neville had never won so much as a point for Gryffindor before. Not first year. But he did have a bit more confidence when he returned to Hogwarts the next year. Harry remembered that that was when the boy started to bloom in Herbology.
Though, at the time, Harry had just been happy at not only winning the House Cup—plus seeing the horrified and stunned look on Malfoy's face—but also at having the school's attention drawn off him again.
Harry didn't disagree with the points that had been awarded, of course. Just the dramatic effect the Headmaster had aimed for in postponing the process of doing so. At the very least, he could have awarded Ron, Hermione and Neville while Harry was in the hospital room, if he wanted to make a spectacle out of him.
Though his younger self probably wouldn't have appreciated that. By awarding Neville's ten points—the points that had claimed the Cup for Gryffindor—after Harry's own sixty points, his peers had been too caught up in their victory to pay attention to what the points were actually awarded for. For the very reason Harry's arrival had silenced and then excited everyone so much a short while before.
"Which means," Dumbledore called over the storm of applause, for even Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were celebrating the downfall of Slytherin, "a change of decoration is in order." He clapped his hands.
In an instant, the green hangings became scarlet and the silver became gold; the huge Slytherin serpent vanished and towering Gryffindor lion took its place.
Harry smirked a little as he watched Snape shake McGonagall's hand, with a badly forced smile fixed on his face. He had to chuckle as the middle-aged wizard caught his younger self's eye, his sour gaze making it clear that he blamed the boy for his house's downfall, and anything else he could pin on him.
But it hadn't bothered young Harry at all.
It was just one way that life at Hogwarts would undoubtedly be back to normal now, or as normal as it ever was at Hogwarts.
Harry could remember thinking that had been the best evening of Harry's life, better than winning at Quidditch or Christmas or knocking out mountain trolls. A night he would never, ever forget.
Now many nights had come along to top it. Which was one of the reasons he'd gone to so much trouble of saving his pre-Arda memories into Ginny's Altium Globe. Even after he'd managed to make his own Pensieve, he'd kept the Altium separate, except when he wanted to submerge himself in his own memories, as he was now.
That was why his success at creating a Pensieve had thrilled his foster-kin so much. It gave them a way of looking back on their long lives with a luxury the likes of which they'd never known. Though Galadriel's mirror had a similar ability, it wasn't easily controlled, and it was much more thrilling to actually step into the memory, instead of watching it in the Mirror's two-dimensional format.
It was how many of the Galadhrim who'd been born on Middle Earth had actually been able to see Valinor without making the one-way journey themselves. Because there were among the ancient elves those who'd seen the heavenly lands, long ago.
And it was also how his loved ones had come to know some of the world Harry had come from: through the memories he had of it. Few though they were, as the fifteen years of life he'd experienced on Earth was hardly comparable to the decades he'd now lived on Arda. And of those fifteen years, he'd only known the Wizarding world for five of them, anyway.
"An interesting choice, ion nîn."
Harry turned only slightly, unsurprised to see the Lord of the Galadhrim standing there.
His family never let him wander through his pre-Arda memories for too long, and he'd probably been here for a while as he'd just finished making his way through some of the more memorable moments of his first year at Hogwarts. As his sister and her family were hundreds of miles away from the Golden Wood and the Penseive he was currently using, it would either be his wife, his mother or his father that would come after him. And given the possibility that he might be reviewing less pleasant, less innocent memories than any of the ones that he'd had from his childhood, his father was the best choice, no matter how worldly his mother was.
"Adar," he nodded to the silver-haired elf.
"Any particular reason you chose this memory to review?"
Harry shrugged, shaking his head slightly. "Just wanted a change of perspective, I guess."
"You mean you wanted to remember what it was like, to be that innocent?" Celebornmurmured, tilting his head towards the Gryffindor table, where Harry and his friends were digging into the Leaving Feast.
"I suppose." Harry sighed, though he had to smile as he watched the carefree antics of some of the children around the hall.
After several long moments of silent observation, he shook his head and then turned his eyes skyward, rising quickly through the starry ceiling and appearing outside of the Penseive in the small, guarded shelter the Galadhrim had prepared centuries ago for its keeping. A moment later his father appeared next to him and Harry unsheathed his wand, waving it between the Penseive and the Altium Globe to send his childhood memories back into storage.
As the glistening bubbles of innocent times obeyed his command, he looked at his father again. "But there is no going back, is there?"
"To the untainted innocence of our youth?" Celeborn shook his head solemnly. "No, I'm afraid the worlds' do not work that way. We are only meant to be that innocent for all too short, and all too finite, a time." The elf slipped an arm around his son's shoulders to gently pull him away from the door after he'd slipped the once-again full Globe into his pocket. "But growing up does come with some rewards, ion nîn." As they came outside he nodded his head down towards the nearby gardens. One of the gardens Ránewen liked to frequent in her spare time. "One of whom is waiting for you to emerge."
Harry shook his head, smiling slightly in response to the gentle teasing in his father's tone. He nodded as he slipped out of the ancient elf's hold, stepping down to the ladder to begin his descent. He stopped at the top, though, to glance up at his father once more. "Hannon le, Ada."
"Go to your wife, ion nîn." The Lord of the Golden Wood ordered in response, still smiling. And with a similar smile on his face, Harry obeyed.
No matter how dark his thoughts might turn in the very near future, it was hard to remained focused on it while he was surrounded by his loved ones in his home.
~ * Easterling Encampment – Cermië 6, 549 * ~
"You are certain of this?" Harry had asked, one eyebrow rising as he considered the implications of the information Korin, father of Korak, had brought to him.
The mortal had replied in the affirmative, and indeed it appeared he was right. Arat si-Sha, the majority leader of the East had arrived in Berdan sa-Sern's camp just before sundown the day before, and had promptly sat down to supper with his second-cousin. Making Harry's arrival in Gondor's Eastern allies' encampment only a few days before very lucky. It'd allowed him to get to the encampment he was at now within a timeframe that wouldn't make the mortals suspicious. Which was how he came to be watching Gondor's enemies.
Si-Sha was several inches taller than sa-Sern. Their coloring was really the only thing they had in common, and si-Sha had inherited superior looks. Thanks to his considerably more active lifestyle he was in excellent shape while his older cousin was starting to look a little pudgy around the middle. His dark hair was still a shiny, blackest black, while sa-Sern's was starting to gray. Si-Sha's smiles, though a bit guarded, came easily, naturally, while sa-Sern's were clearly forced.
As Harry watched—while under the protection of numerous notice-me-nots, his invisibility cloak and many other cloaking charms—the two cousins discussed terms of a proper alliance against Gondor.
As dire as such an alliance could be if it came to pass, the meeting gave him the opportunity Gondor needed to strike a definitive, crippling blow against their Easterling enemies.
Honestly, Korak had downplayed how broken apart the tribes were. Or, more likely, he'd misunderstood it himself. Si-Sha and sa-Sern had been fighting for control of the tribes. But they would not fight each other.
It was one thing to slay a rival of no—or at least very, very distant—relation in combat. Quite another to harm ones own kin. Something the vast majority of the Easterling people would not be able to accept. And something that si-Sha, at least, would clearly not be willing to do.
Si-Sha was a military leader, who'd won all of his power in battle. His cousin, however, preferred the dubious safety of politics and the carefully concealed conscription of skilled assassins. Of the tribe leaders the two cousins had originally opposed, si-Sha had defeated seven of them in four different battles. Those sa-Sern needed out of his way, which had included the leader Gondor's new allies had favored, had met their ends by poison.
From all of Korin's gathered intelligence si-Sha was certainly the better man. But he was also the superior leader, and the one Gondor did not want to gain control of the Tribes.
Which was apparently very close to happening. If sa-Sern had his way, his cousin would lead the Tribes in the war against Gondor, while sa-Sern kept the peace in the political arena at home. And undoubtedly, si-Sha would meet his end as soon as he'd outlived his usefulness. But for now he was useful, so si-Sha and sa-Sern were shaking hands. Eating supper together. And would be sleeping in the same encampment, under heavy guard.
If Harry could choose, he would much rather kill sa-Sern, as all intelligence indicated he was not a good man. While his cousin was.
But for Gondor to gain anything from the turmoil between these cousins, si-Sha had to die. And Harry had to kill him.
It was fortunate that sa-Sern's assassins had always favored poison. That made his job considerably easier.
Korin had already brought a fairly large supply of a poisonous plant that sa-Sern's assassins heavily favored. The same plant that had been used to take the lives of all sa-Sern's rivals.
But the poison itself wasn't the key part of framing sa-Sern for this. Even killing si-Sha here in sa-Sern's encampment, when he—as his cousin's invited and welcome guest—should be completely safe, wasn't as important as the fact that only sa-Sern knew how to make this poison undetectable to taste.
All Easterling's knew this particular poison's taste. The berries grew all over the Eastern lands, and all the Easterling children were given a very slight taste of the bitter berries so that they would recognize the taste should it ever pollute their water, or find its way into their food. The sharp, bitter flavor was one they all knew, and nearly impossible to miss or mistake. And one that could therefore be treated before it turned fatal. Accidental ingestions of the poison were still prevalent enough, however, that everyone recognized its effects.
The only way a victim could be saved was by recognizing the taste right away and imbibing the antidote for it within moments, maybe minutes, of recognizing their would-be death sentence. Once the more violent symptoms started, it was too late. As soon as one started suffering from tremors and difficulty breathing, which eventually progressed to clammy sweats, red eyes, delirium, vomiting blood and extremely violent convulsions, there wasn't anything anyone could do for them.
An Elven or Wizarding healer could counter it. The Elves had healing magic, potions and techniques that could help a victim ride it out, and so did the Wizards of Earth. But the mortal men, the Easterlings especially as they'd never had diplomatic contact with the Elves, could not save themselves after that terrible point when the poison had begun to take effect.
And sa-Sern—or someone loyal to him—had found a way to make the bitter taste undetectable. A way that didn't involve disguising it with spices and rich flavors that generations of Eastern leaders had learned to avoid for that very reason. No, sa-Sern's people could apparently put the newly concocted version of the poison into plain water, and it would not be noticeable by taste.
How was this accomplished?
Their new allies did not know. They only knew those facts, which apparently were widely known about all sa-Sern's conquests by assassination.
All Harry had to do was make sure si-Sha ingested it. Which would be difficult for anyone else. Si-Sha had come prepared with food-tasters, and had yet to eat or drink anything in the encampment without one of the tasters trying it first.
But Harry was a wizard, so how sa-Sern managed to disguise the poison, and all of si-Sha's food-tasters didn't taste it, didn't matter. He could simply cast a spell to render the poison flavorless after slipping it into si-Sha's water.
So that's what he'd done.
Simply slipped invisibly into si-Sha's well-guarded tent and added the poison to the mortal's canteen. The only water canteen the Easterling-leader ever drank from, which never left his sight, save when he slept in a guarded tent. A spell rendered the liquid tasteless. Another spell—at the demands of his conscious—heightened the poison's effect, so that si-Sha would not need to suffer anymore than necessary, as Harry's spell would make his mind shut down before his body started to suffer through the much more painful final stages of the poison's toxic attack.
And the next day he watched, invisible once again as the man mounted his horse, intent on riding out to check his cousin's troops and begin preparations for the merging of their armies, with the canteen full of deadly drink at his side.
Watched as the rather handsome young man smiled and laughed, joking with some of the soldiers as he led them through some sword forms in the early morning that was rapidly growing hotter and hotter as the summer sun climbed higher and higher into the sky.
Watched as si-Sha called for a short break and moved over to his horse, still joking with some of the soldiers as he took several deep sips from his canteen.
The expected wave of guilt washed over him, momentarily freezing his heart and catching his breath as he watched Arat si-Sha swallow. The secretly lethal liquid flowed down his throat, quenching momentary thirst while starting a much more dangerous attack on his body then the momentary discomfort caused by the sun and exercise.
A gentle, familiar nudge against Harry's mental shields made a deep frown slip over his formerly neutral, frozen face. He shook his head and pushed her back firmly.
He knew full well that he couldn't do anything to keep Lady Galadriel of Lothlórien out of his mind. At least not without calling on his own powers to actually fight, and possibly hurt her. Which he would never do.
But he also knew she would never ignore his explicit wishes. And he had never been more firm in ignoring her.
He focused on building opaque walls up behind his eyes. In his mind.
So that she would not see what he was watching.
She wouldn't see si-Sha suddenly stop, his skin paling as his breath caught and held. As he gasped frantically for air that his burning, swelling throat would not allow passage.
She wouldn't see when he started shaking. As terrible tremors shook every muscle of si-Sha's body and what breath he was able to intake was expelled on choked, tortured screams.
She wouldn't see when si-Sha's body finally stopped convulsing.
As the mortal man's last breath escaped him.
Harry closed his eyes and apparated away. Centuries of practice had made him very apt at the art. Unlike most of the wizards of his world, when he disappeared he didn't make a sound. He was just gone.
And as he'd been invisible the entire time he'd been in the Easterling encampment, his young enemies never knew he was there.
Though this day, these moments, might well haunt his nights far longer then any other thing that'd happened during this war ever would.
~ * First Gondorian Encampment, Dagorlad – Cermië 31, 549 * ~
"Good morrow, my friend."
Harry stopped as the King of Gondor's greeting caught his ears, turning quickly to acknowledge the mortal sovereign. "Good day, yo—"
"Ah!" Turambar held up a hand, and then shook his head at his Captain even as he gestured for him to continue walking with him. "We are not in court or in council, friend. Cease the formalities, please."
"If that is your wish, sir," Harry replied, biting back a smirk as he knew the reply would annoy the royal;, but wasn't disobedient or disrespectful, so the man really couldn't say anything.
Though that didn't stop the king from shooting a mild glare at him.
Shaking his head in silent reply, he tried to redirect the conversation. "I believe you received a message from King Vindovia earlier today?"
It was early yet, but the messenger had undoubtedly ridden for several days to get here and had arrived just after dawn.
Turambar nodded, "Yes. He sends his thanks; apparently the new crop should provide a bountiful yield in the autumn."
"I'm glad to hear that."
Again, the king nodded. He remained quiet for a few moments, walking smoothly down the path—in a way it was always nice walking with the king: though more often then not soldiers would make way for any officer, they always made way for the king—and a short time later he turned to raise an eyebrow at him. "My royal cousin also spoke of you."
Harry raised an eyebrow, "Did he?"
"Yes, very highly," Turambar nodded again. "He was quite impressed by your diplomacy. Even more so after he heard of your successful trip in the East."
Many hadn't expected 'Hadrian' to come back from that mission. And if he hadn't had magic at his disposal, he probably wouldn't have. Not with successful completion of the task. Since just infiltrating the camp undetected would have been difficult, getting near the understandably paranoid leader even more so, and getting out after assassinating said leader should have been impossible. Akin to suicide. Which made his return, with the job complete, all the more surprising. And therefore made the suspicious rumors somewhat understandable. Especially since many of the younger officers—who hadn't been here long enough to grow tired of the war or make a name for themselves as they'd planned to, they—disliked him quite a bit.
"I am, of course, appreciative of his compliments," Harry murmured, bowing his head slightly as he did so. "But I was only doing my job."
"So you have said," Turambar nodded again, wearing a small smile that almost managed to banish some of the lines that had worked their way onto his face throughout the course of the war.
Harry had to suppress a slightly surprised wince as he thought of those lines. Not too long ago, he'd added a few slight wrinkles to the illusion of his own visage and of his wife's cousins, to make it appear as though they were all aging, however slowly.
But Turambar actually was aging. Every one of Harry's mortal friends was. And even if their lives were not ended prematurely in war or by disease or some other misfortune, still none of them would be here in only a century. Even Turambar and all the others with the blood of the Dúnedain flowing through their veins and granting them considerable longevity only had so many decades left.
"Hadrian?" Turambar's concerned voice forced the wizard out of his musings, and Harry had to suppress a wince yet again as he looked up and saw the concern on his mortal friend's face had only made those worrisome wrinkles more obvious.
"I-I apologize, yo—my friend. My mind wandered," He offered halfheartedly.
The King nodded slowly, still looking concerned... and older than Harry liked. "It happens to the best of us," he commented, then continued after a slight pause. "I wonder if you might care to join me for supper tonight? The supply train arrived with an excellent bottle of that Elven wine you ran out of not too long ago."
"And we might as well discuss the Easterners' recent movements some more," Harry nodded firmly, forcing his shoulders to relax as he replied. "Thank you, my friend. I'd be delighted." Then he nodded in the direction he'd been headed before the king hailed him. "I only have a few more jobs—"
"After you've completed your duties, of course," the King nodded slowly. "I will be inviting several of the other Captains, as well. An informal council, if you will." One eyebrow went up as he asked, "Do you think I should invite young Torres? He is here for the night."
Harry nodded, the moody captain checked in with the main encampment frequently throughout the week. But obviously Turambar was asking because of the animosity the young Gondorian tended to display towards 'Hadrian.' The nobleman seemed to feel threatened by Harry. Whether it was simply because the King seemed inclined to trust Hadrian more frequently than most other captains, Hadrian's supposedly common birth or just because Torres was supposedly the closest in age to Hadrian and had more trouble being accepted than Hadrian had had in a very long time, Harry didn't know. And while the young man's competitive animosity and jealousy could frequently be irritating, they were not feelings the elven-raised wizard returned. "I have no objection to Captain Torres' presence, your highness." He shrugged, "He may think of something others would not, and he could learn something."
"If he's willing to," Turambar agreed, grinning slightly as he shook his head. "I don't think you know how rare an individual you are, my friend."
Harry frowned, "Your highness?"
Sharp silver eyes stared at him for a long moment, before the king nodded again. "When I promoted you to Captain, I honestly did not expect you to fit in anywhere near as well as you did. You were a commoner, raised rapidly through the ranks under unusual circumstances." He shook his head, "I thought I'd have to look out for you, but you never seemed to have trouble with command, with any of your duties. And though some troops grumbled at first, after meeting you all were willing to follow your orders without question. This easy acceptance made many of the other young officers, most of whom are noble-born, considerably jealous. They felt threatened by you, and tended to act accordingly. Yet you've never responded to their harassment."
"I came to help fight a war, your highness. Not start brawls for little or no reason." Harry shrugged, a bit uncomfortably. "And most of the officers have gotten better over the years."
"Of course," Turambar nodded again. "After any experience in the field with you, their complaints tend to disappear. Frankly, it's made me quite tempted to just send Torres and some of the others out on some random mission with you. But I've yet to see a good opportunity."
Harry blinked, and then laughed. "I'm not sure throwing a bunch of your officers together for a random assignment would have quite the effect you'd hope for, my friend."
"No, perhaps not," Turambar agreed with a shrug. Then he shook his head, "But I'm keeping you from your duties. Shall I see you shortly after sundown?"
"Of course, your highness."
"Oh, and happy birthday, my friend."
Harry bowed his head in response; honestly that's what he'd been expecting from the very start of the conversation. "Thank you, my friend," he replied, bowing slightly, once again just the right depth for a prince bowing to a foreign king, as Celeborn always insisted. Then he watched as said king nodded and walked away.
He stopped briefly in his tent, to remove a tiny vial from the smallest trunk in his possession and take a tiny sip of the draught within, before re-corking and replacing the half-empty vial and leaving to complete his fore mentioned duties.
Later tonight they would discuss the recent skirmishes with the Easterlings, most of which had been infrequent at best with few troops coming this way. It was starting to look like they may have to advance further eastward to end this war, but until their reinforcements arrived from Rhovanion that probably wasn't the best of ideas. But the Rhovanions had fared well over the last few months, so they'd undoubtedly be arriving in perhaps half-a-dozen weeks, maybe less.
~ * First Gondorian Encampment, Dagorlad – Yavannië 12, 549 * ~
Harry really wasn't quite sure of what to make of Vindarvia, son of Vindovia and Prince of Rhovanion.
The man was only a little older than Captain Torres, but wasn't drawn to the younger officers any more than he was to the older ones. He seemed to tolerate company when it was forced upon him, but never sought it out.
In fact, the only person he seemed to be comfortable conversing with for any length of time was 'Hadrian.' Harry himself! Which he really didn't understand at all.
Though Prince Vindarvia almost always chose to sit himself alongside Hadrian he still rarely initiated conversation. Harry had to start almost every conversation they had. The only difference with this and the way everyone else reacted to the Prince was simply that after other officers dragged conversation out of the youth, he wouldn't sit near them again. Except for Hadrian, who he always sat near if he had the chance.
The only time Vindarvia spoke up at all, really, was during strategy sessions and occasionally in other parts of war council. Otherwise he kept quiet, pretty much only speaking when spoken to.
Harry had to review a bit of Rhovanion history in his head to figure out why Vindovia's heir was so young, and had been saddened to remember that Vindarvia was the youngest of six brothers, but the only son of Vindovia still living. As the youngest of six sons, the man should never have expected to become heir to his father's throne. The fact that he was the future King of Rhovanion despite that, did, perhaps, go a little ways towards explaining his closed-nature.
But then again, Vindovia himself hadn't been that chatty either. He'd spoken for his people during their negotiations, of course. But he'd let everyone else do a lot of talking, too.
And Vindarvia didn't seem to have any trouble commanding his troops. Though he conveyed many commands through hand signals and what verbal commands he gave were always brief, he was always immediately obeyed. And his men were completely loyal to him.
Which was good. Especially since the long-held grudges between the Gondorians and the Rhovanions might, under weaker leaders, have forced their alliance apart. But it wasn't something Vindarvia or Turambar, nor any of Gondor's captains, would ever allow. So it wasn't an issue.
Especially considering the Rhovanions' honor-code. Gondor had helped them find their feet again, so they could be trusted to keep up their end of the bargain. Which, at present, was really just frequently training with Gondor's troops as autumn cooled into winter.
Their assassination of the Eastern military leader had really thrown the East into chaos once more. Though their allies claimed it wouldn't be long before sa-Sern managed to gain control of the mutinous peoples. Or before one of the more militarily-proficient leaders that had been following si-Sha managed to overcome his fallen leader's cousin.
Whatever the case, the final battle would almost certainly take place in the early spring, six months away at least. They could push it sooner, but moving into the East in the late autumn wasn't the wisest of ideas. The cold rains they'd been training in would soon give way to heavy snow. And the Gondorians didn't have magic or technology to help them deal with that.
So, for now, all they could do was finalize their alliance, strategize, and train.
While Harry wondered why King Turambar seemed to find Prince Vindarvia's interest in Gondor's favorite captain so amusing.
Which hadn't been helped, at all, when Turambar decided to publicly reward him for his mission in the East. With a title that he'd been dodging for ages, but couldn't really avoid anymore.
~ * First Gondorian Encampment, Dagorlad – Hísimë 17, 549 * ~
Superior numbers weren't everything in battles and skirmishes, or even in wars, but they certainly helped. And the East seemed to be teeming with zealous soldiers. So the arrival of reinforcements in the form of their Rhovanion allies soon proved to be a very fortunate happenstance.
Their latest skirmishes with the Easterling forces also seemed to indicate that the death of si-Sha had been quite a blow to the East, as the chieftains that'd risen to power in the wake of his fall didn't seem to value real, logical strategies and the like.
Though Gondor knew little else about the multiple chieftains that now held dubious amounts of control over the Eastern Tribes, they did know that sa-Sern wasn't among them, as the man hadn't long survived the apparent dishonorable assassination of his cousin.
Not that that'd really helped their enemies at all. As the leaders they ended up with couldn't really even be called 'second-best.' Or even third or fourth. Because it certainly looked like long-term strategy wasn't something they put too much thought into. No, they just kept throwing soldiers westward. Evidently assuming it was a good way to wear Gondor down.
But the Easterling forces weren't large enough for these encounters with them to be called battles. More like they were sent into suicide skirmishes, as the small forces never stood a chance against the full might of Gondor's army.
And as snow had already started falling earlier in the month, it wouldn't be long before the weather would be as great a threat to these suicide squads as the considerably larger bodies of troops they were attacking were.
In the long run this could, in fact, wear Gondor down. If the Easterlings could afford to keep sending parties westward to certain death, while holding the bulk of their forces in reserve, it could very well be problematic.
Harry had mentioned as much to the war council already, to the agreement of most of the senior officers and Turambar himself. And they'd begun planning accordingly.
But Korin, the official ambassador of their Eastern allies and father of the survivor of their initial embassy, swore that this didn't seem to be a part of the enemies' plans. Not that it seemed like the leaders that were still squabbling for control of the East had any uniform plans towards Gondor at all.
Harry had already surreptitiously used a bit of Legilimency to confirm that Korin was speaking truthfully, but even before he'd done it he'd honestly believed the man was in earnest.
Their Eastern allies truly believed no Eastern army was gathering. So either they'd downplayed just how negatively the other tribes viewed them and their supposed network of spies was essentially worthless, or whoever the people were who were currently in command in the East were just idiots.
Which was fine with Harry; assuming said idiots could be manipulated to Gondor's advantage and hopefully end this war.
"You are certain your people are not suspected?" Harry asked quietly, his eyes unmoving from the Eastern ambassador's dark, slightly wrinkled face.
The man nodded immediately, sighing as Gondor's officers continued to throw ideas back and forth around them. The war council hadn't officially begun. It wouldn't, until after they'd finished their supper. "Yes, Lord Hadrian. As I have said several times already. While the other tribes have no love for mine, more than anything else they think of us as weak. The fools certainly don't think we'd even consider betraying them. They think too little of us to believe us capable of it."
Harry nodded, also sighing in response to the man's statement. "I apologize for my disbelief, friend. But no matter how little training in proper strategy the remaining tribal leaders have, they have to realize that simply sending soldiers westward in small groups such as they've been doing for several weeks now is foolish."
He'd given up on trying to convince the man that 'Hadrian' was not, in fact, a lord. Though, fortunately the man didn't address him as such in the Common Tongue. No, he kept to the newest title Turambar had all but forced upon Hadrian for that.
"It's more than foolish," Korin agreed, taking a long sip of his beer before continuing. "But the leaders that remain aren't, truly, fit to lead. When we claimed the real leaders of the East were si-Sha and sa-Sern, we meant it. What leaders there were to challenge them before had already been dealt with. Had si-Sha's death not seemed so very dishonorable—"
"Sa-Sern would undoubtedly be in command of the East now," Harry cut the man off with a nod. It was something they'd already discussed many times before over the last few weeks.
A slight cough from his opposite side drew Harry's eyes to Prince Vindarvia, who he'd already known had been listening to them for some time already.
"I believe it'd be better for you both to converse in the Common Tongue," Vindovia's heir suggested mildly. "It gives less cause for concern among those of us who are not so fluent in the Eastern dialects."
Harry did not glance around as Vindarvia's comment. He didn't need to. He'd felt the eyes of many of the other officers on them for some time already. Instead, he nodded politely. "My apologies for any discomfort my callousness may've caused you."
"Mine as well," Korin interjected, relaxing slightly when Vindarvia nodded in response.
"Wise advice," Turambar commented lightly from Korin's other side. "I believe I've said something similar before now."
Harry offered a small smile in response. "You did, Your Majesty. That would be why we stopped speaking in Master Korin's language during council meetings. I'm afraid I did not think it mattered if we spoke in his tongue in less formal circumstances."
Turambar shrugged, "Some of the officers may yet take offense. Not that it really matters if they do, with the soldiers' opinions so high in your favor."
Harry nodded again. After his return from the successful assassination of the Eastern leader he'd been very busy with recent skirmishes. And his recent ascension to a Knight of Gondor certainly hadn't helped to discourage the gossips or lessen the younger nobles' jealousy. He'd tried to protest, but technically a knight was not officially part of the aristocracy, and Turambar had been very public about it, so he hadn't really been able to refuse. Any more than the Míriel brother's could refuse their promotion to Captains, not after Turambar had promised not to separate them from their 'brother.'
So now, while still the official leader of his company, he was Sir Hadrian. Which really just meant that he'd gained a title he'd never lose, and the authority that came with it. He hadn't, yet, decided if this was a good thing or not.
On one hand, Turambar was probably trying to get him used to the idea of joining Gondor's aristocracy. On the other, Torres and the other young nobles that'd been so resentful of his influence over the king as a captain were still jealous, but much more careful about how they showed it.
"My queen tells me," Turambar continued lightly, the small smile on his face not quite enough to make Harry truly wary, but it did give him the feeling he wasn't going to like what was coming. "That tales of your deeds have made their way homeward, to the people. Undoubtedly by word of mouth and the supply trains."
Harry nodded, given his continuing rise in the soldier's esteem, it wasn't surprising that they might write home about him in some form or another. "And how much of what made it there is actually true?"
Turambar chuckled, "As gossip goes, many of the tales seem to be fairly accurate. Though, as one might expect, some are a bit exaggerated. I gave my queen leave to clarify much of it with the court. You needn't worry. Lindethiél is quite adept at controlling gossip and the like." He took a sip of his beer before finishing with, "She is looking forward to meeting you."
Ah, there it was. Yet another indirect hint at Turambar's wish to make Hadrian a permanent part of Gondor's royal court.
Harry nodded, "I've already promised to come to court, Your Majesty. Raina and I both will be there. After the war."
"So you have." Gondor's king nodded again, before waving the serving boys over to start clearing the dishes as everyone appeared to have finished. "And I plan on holding you to it."
Harry nodded again, "I'm sure you will."
He wasn't sure why Turambar kept bringing the point up. He knew it wasn't that Turambar lacked any trust in Hadrian's word.
The best thing he could figure was that it was tied to the 'after the war' part. As if discussion of what would transpire after the war's end would bring said end about sooner. Illogical, but emotionally understandable.
"The soldiers have been gossiping quite a bit," Vindarvia commented, his gravelly voice quiet but still somehow carrying over the louder officers' conversation to be easily heard by those his words were meant for.
Harry often forced a similar effect with his own voice using very slight amounts of magic. He didn't know how the Prince of Rhovanion did it.
"Oh?" Turambar inquired, a small smile stretching his lips and making Harry a little wary again while one royal eyebrow rose.
"Sir Hadrian seems to be a common interest among all the soldiers." Vindarvia continued, taking another swallow of his beer before going on.
Harry had to force himself not to spend too much time wondering how the man managed to drink as much as he did. For he was rather sure that man's mug was just refilled for the seventh time, and he still seemed completely somber. As part-Elf and a wizard Harry could easily drink him under the table, but Vindarvia frequently drank twice as much beer as any of the other mortal men, and never appeared even slightly intoxicated. He'd wondered before how Turambar and Vindarvia would fare against each other in a drinking contest. But what Vindarvia was saying was more important than how much he was imbibing, so Harry forced himself to ignore the idle curiosity.
"I, myself, have to wonder at just how well schooled you are, Sir Hadrian"
"As have I," Korin commented quietly. "Your mastery of all our tongues—and, I believe the Elven tongues and the language of the Rohirrim, as well?—is impressive."
"You're a better tactician and politician then any of the men twice your age," Vindarvia continued with a nod, "As well as an able healer, assassin and commander. And I'm sure you have many other useful skills we've yet to see."
"More then enough to stir our curiosities," Turambar agreed with another nod, though his face was now much more serious. "Even without your frequent successes on the battlefield."
Harry looked down for a moment, honestly surprised by just how much the mortals were confronting him with so openly.
Though Turambar had made many a remark in private before, he'd never said as much among others. Undoubtedly well aware of the fact that such conversation would draw the attention of most anyone who happened to be nearby. As it was now, with most of the men in the room lending at least half an ear to the royals' conversation, while keeping up much quieter side-chatter to avoid the appearance of eavesdropping.
Harry shook his head, before looking up to meet Turambar's eyes again. "I don't believe I've ever given Gondor any reason to be suspicious of me, Your Majesty."
Turambar blinked, but then immediately nodded, his smile now a bit contrite. "No, certainly not. But you've given us all plenty to be interested in, my friend."
"Indeed," Captain Aldous offered from the king's opposite side, where the allegedly eldest officer had been listening quietly for some time after the king's attention had turned to them. "There are some, in fact, who've begun to speculate on your heritage."
Harry blinked, almost not wanting to ask, but knowing it really had to be said. "My heritage?"
"Yes. In addition to being so very well-educated and able, Sir Hadrian, you've always had the presence of a leader. You've never had any trouble with command, at all."
Harry shrugged with false nonchalance, "I'm a scholar at heart. And I was lucky enough to have good teachers."
"Your generous elf-friends among them?"
Harry nodded towards the king without skipping a beat as he replied. "Yes."
"Yes, well. Amongst the less-fortunate, common-born men, it's led to a common belief that you are, at least, a lord by birth. Some even think you must be a royal, as you're obviously much better off than most of the noble-born officers amongst us."
Harry couldn't help it. He blinked repeatedly, more than a little disturbed at just how accurate all this gossip about him seemed to be. After a moment he raised an eyebrow, "And where, exactly am I supposed to hail from if I'm a prince?" He nodded to Turambar and then Vindarvia, but his eyes remained on Captain Aldous. "I have not the coloring of the Rohirrim, King Turambar knows all those who can claim kinship to him, as, I'm sure, Prince Vindarvia does as well. And the lone Prince of Arnor has no sons as of yet."
Aldous smiled slightly as he shook his head. "Some hitherto unknown nation, I suppose."
"Or perhaps he's an elf in disguise?" Captain Lenross suggested from Aldous's other side.
The younger captain's tone was one completely of jest, but Harry was surprised by just how hard it was to hold off a flinch under Turambar and Vindarvia's speculative gazes. He forced an eyebrow to rise instead. "An elf?" he shook his head, bringing one hand up to pull his hair back a bit so that one of his ears was fully showing, pointing to its pointless edge. "I think the ears would be rather hard to hide."
"Ah, but the elves are said to have many strange magicks at their disposal," Lenross replied, smirking in evident amusement. "Perhaps even the sort that could help them walk among us unnoticed."
Harry blinked several times at that, deliberately not looking towards the Míriel brothers, who were still conversing with some of the captains who were just a bit too far away to listen in—not that that stopped either elf from doing so—as he did so, before shaking his head. "I suppose you'll have some similar sort of response for every critique I come up with?"
"Oh come now, Hadrian," Turambar shook his head, smiling slightly. "You can't give in that easily! There's no sport there."
This time Harry let his honest response come out, chuckling softly. "Sport, hmm?" He shook his head. "Well, I guess I should point out that both of my brothers came here with me." He nodded towards the Míriels. "Both of my elder brothers," He pointed out, raising an eyebrow as he continued. "If we were nobles, would we not have been raised to follow the eldest? I'd always thought that the popular custom."
Turambar nodded slightly, "It is the custom nowadays, certainly, to favor your firstborn. But if one of the younger children shows more aptitude for, well, anything, I would like to think most parents would be pleased to encourage them to pursue their interests."
"And even if the younger children do not have a greater aptitude for anything, that does not mean they are ignored," Vindarvia shook his head. "Even if some parents are callous enough to not truly care for their offspring, it'd still be considered unwise to place all responsibility on the firstborn and never prepare the younger children for any of the same." After another long sip of his beer the prince continued. "As my family's misfortunes lend credence to. The future is never truly certain."
Harry nodded in agreement. "I suppose that is true." He was quiet for a long moment, out of respect for the emotional reference the prince had made, before he continued. He forced his tone to be almost jesting as he offered with a smile, "Alright then. Why did my brothers and I come to Minas Arnor with little more than the clothes on our backs?"
The royals hadn't really been able to stir up an adequate response to that, but from the looks they continued to send his way—just like everyone else, really—they were still all very interested. But they weren't pushing. For now it was simply a topic of conversation, and he ran with it as such.
It wasn't like he could complain about being in the public's good favor, despite the gossip and speculation. Most people complained when they were the targets of ill will, after all, so doing so for the opposite might seem a bit suspicious.
Of course, the speculation offended the nobles who didn't like him, but Turambar didn't much care for them anyway. The king frequently referred to them as upstarts and/or warmongers, and told his knight to keep his attention on their eastern enemies and let the king worry about politics back home and in the camp. And, as a general rule, Sir Hadrian was happy to. After all, it wasn't his fault that he was the only 'man' the Gondorian king had ever knighted.
His knighting had been a rather unpleasant surprise for him, of course. He'd honestly thought Turambar had given up on the idea of seriously ennobling him, but apparently he hadn't. As the very day the Prince of Rhovanion had arrived King Turambar had decided to spring Hadrian's new title on him. That was when he'd also made both the Míriel twins captains, quickly quieting their protests by promising that they weren't being removed from their 'brother's' command; that was, after all, something Harry's bodyguards-in-disguise had fought fiercely against in the past.
Knighting was rare in Gondor these days, but not unheard of, particularly in times of war. These times counted as such and Hadrian had not only more than earned the recognition, he was so highly favored by public opinion at that point that it was almost a necessity that he be knighted.
An interesting side effect was that the move, combined with Hadrian's already considerable rank in the military, placed him well above the young nobles that'd come for commissions in the army, seeking glory and wealth and the like. None of them had liked it, but they'd been forced to bite their tongues now even more than they'd had to before.
Harry hadn't yet decided if that side effect was a good thing or not. Though if it kept Turambar from following through on any of his crazier ideas—namely the one where he sent all of his commanders on a crazy mission to make them bond or some such nonsense—then Harry supposed he could live with it.
If only Turambar were a little less smug about it, Harry would be less inclined to resent the mortal for the forced promotion. Though it was hard to resent him, really, when he acted so much like a child that'd managed to pull one over his elders and was left bouncing with pride for days after the fact... but then again, maybe Harry was just getting to be a little too sentimental.
~ * Caras Galadhon, Lothlórien – Narvinyë 20, 550 * ~
"What is this?"
Harry glanced up, more than a little surprised at the accusatory note he could hear in his normally calm, sweet-tempered wife's voice. And only decades of lessons in diplomacy, including his most recent experiences of it, kept him from wincing as he saw the small vial she held between her thumb and forefinger. Held just enough to keep from dropping it, but touching it as little as possible. A small container he'd carefully kept out of his loved ones' sights for some time now. Still, he had to look away from the disbelief he could see in Ránewen's eyes.
"Elerossë, what is this?" Ránewen repeated, catching his chin to turn his eyes back towards her own. When he still didn't reply, she continued. Since they both already knew what it was. "Why would you ever brew something like this?"
Harry jerked his chin away from her gentle hand, deftly snatching the damning bottle out of her other hand as he did so, before turning away.
She already knew what it was. She was one of the Elves that had diligently worked their way through Hermione's Tome after Harry had managed to reverse the great compiling spell his brilliant friend had miraculously managed to make just before he'd been sent to this world. Giving the Elves—or at least all the Elves permitted to know of his existence—access to all the books in the Hogwarts library. That collection of magical texts was highly praised in the Wizarding World, and though it really only just scratched the surface when it came to the literature of the magical world back on Earth, it was a fantastic starting point for the Elves to work with, nonetheless.
In less than a decade, Elrond had managed to adapt more than two dozen different Wizarding potions recipes to ones that could be made, and used, here on Middle Earth. Some formulas were useless, as the ingredients just didn't exist here. But many were not all that difficult to adapt if one was willing to exert a little time and effort to figure it out. And Elves in general would probably have an easier time of it than wizards. Because logic wasn't something foreign to them, any more than hard, physical labor was. Plus, time was practically a non-issue to them. His kinsmen thought nothing of trekking through the wilderness to find various herbs and weeds that'd been previously disregarded as useless. They'd rather do the trekking than have a wizard summon it, in fact; even if it ended up being truly and totally useless.
Still, not all the ingredients needed from Earth for some potions had been beyond Harry's reach. He'd had his potions kit already, and not only were the requirements of fourth year fairly extensive, but because of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, Harry had barely used most of the ingredients they'd been required to bring with them. Plus, potions was something he could practice in Muggle areas without attracting the Ministry's ire, so he'd followed Hermione's advice and practiced quite a bit at home the last few summers. This meant he'd had larger kits then was strictly necessary to begin with. Add to that everything they'd covered and experimented with in Herbology class, and Harry had had quite a bit to work with here on Arda. And it hadn't been too difficult to make the many plants take roots here. Not with Galadriel and many other Elves eager to assist him in the task. Most they'd managed naturally, and Galadriel had only brought a little Elven magic to bear on his garden a few times. Others, he'd found Herbology spells in the tome to help along.
When Harry'd first arrived he hadn't really seen the point, but hadn't wanted to disappoint his gracious hosts either. That was now more than four-and-a-half centuries past. And the carefully secluded garden Galadriel and Celeborn had set-up for him was quite impressive now. It was carefully, magically contained to protect the local plants, but Galadriel had experimented quite a bit, too, and had created many new, very useful hybrids along the way.
So there were many useful potions they could make here.
But there were also some his loved ones would certainly disprove of. Like the one Ránewen was demanding answers of right now.
"I needed it," he finally answered.
"Needed it?" Ránewen scoffed, shaking her head. "Elerossë it's—"
"I know it's a dark potion. But some of the dark arts have proved useful." Harry shook his head. "Half the spells I occasionally use to slaughter Orcs are spells the English Ministry of Magic considers dark."
She stared at him for a long moment in disbelief. "That's different," she shook her head. "Elerossë, one of the main ingredients in this—this horrible concoction is venom from a Great Spider."
"Distilled in a very high concentration of alcohol and then even more heavily diluted, yes. It's a powerful paralytic agent." Harry shook his head, "And its one medical professionals in the Wizarding world use when needed—"
"But it's also heavily advised against, Elerossë! For obvious reasons!" Again Ránewen shook her head, her dark hair whipping back and forth with the abrupt motion. Then she sighed, "...Why?"
Harry finally met her eyes again as he repeated, "I needed it."
"You needed a very addictive potion that blocks, or at least heavily dims, the perception of all emotions?"
"Yes," Harry sighed.
He closed his eyes, "I was having trouble focusing on ending the war."
"Trouble focusing?" Ránewen frowned at him, but then realization dawned. "...You felt guilty. For killing the enemy soldiers?"
"No. Not the soldiers. Not really." He shook his head again. "They could at least fight back. It wasn't exactly a fair fight, but they would've killed me if they'd had the chance."
"The leader, then? Whom you volunteered to assassinate?"
"And the boy. The boy most of all, I think. He couldn't have even been twenty."
"Twenty isn't so young in mortal terms, melda nîn." Ránewen sighed, her tone just as melancholy as his own, even as a resolute expression took over her face. "But you didn't kill him. My cousins did. They had to."
"Because of me." Harry shook his head again, looking off into the distance. "He was tied to a tree and heavily drugged. But he was terrified. I can see his face, still."
Now Ránewen's expression became alarmed, "You're not still taking it are you? There have been no great battles as of late and you haven't said anything about—"
"I am," Harry sighed. "I am taking it still. In very, very small doses. It's highly addictive, so I've had to wean myself off it."
"Wean yourself off a poison?"
Another sigh, "Yes."
Ránewen's violet-eyes somehow narrowed further at his abrupt response. After a long moment of silence she nodded, "It's not just that boy's death, is it?" She went on after another moment of silence when Harry didn't answer her. "It's the mortals. It's Gondor's king and all the others who are aging, dying, before your eyes."
Harry let his eyes drop closed, trying to not think about the lines, wrinkles, that he'd deepened in both his and the Míriel's illusionary-faces to make it appear as though they were aging. Lines that were really there on the faces of all his mortal comrades.
The gentle, familiar touch of his wife's hand cupping his cheek and pulling his face back around towards her own made him open his eyes again, to look down upon her beautiful, ageless face. The sight of which he'd never thought would make him wince.
"Everyone warned you of this, Elerossë," Ránewen murmured softly, her initial anger apparently forgotten. "Lord Elrond was most vocal about it, as I recall."
His brother-in-law hadn't kept quiet on this matter at all. But then again he was the one among Harry's Elven kin who'd had to watch as someone very dear to him had had to suffer mortality. That Elros had actually chosen that fate couldn't have made it any easier for Elrond to watch his twin brother waste away and eventually not wake to greet the day.
But that just forced Harry to face another thought that he really didn't want to, as he looked into his beloved wife's eyes.
"When I go back to England, I may be mortal, melda nîn."
Ránewen frowned at him, her brow furrowing slightly. "I know."
"I may not be able to return to Arda afterwards."
"Yes," his wife nodded, still frowning. "That is why I am going with you, of course."
"But I might be mortal there."
It was something they'd discussed before, but it wasn't till he'd watched those wrinkles deepen around Turambar's eyes, till he'd felt the grief at the realization that his mortal friend wouldn't be around all that much longer, that Harry had really realized how awful a situation he would be putting his wife into.
Even if they defeated Voldemort with ease and suffered no serious losses, there was still the very likely chance that they would not be able to return to Arda. And Ránewen would thereafter have to watch as Harry wasted away before her eyes, till he eventually died and left her alone, a lone immortal surrounded by mortals in an alien world.
He'd entertained the thought of seeking out Nicholas Flamel and the Philosopher's Stone, but he was fairly certain the old wizard and his wife had passed on before Harry had even come to Arda. The stone had been destroyed some years earlier—whether it'd been by Harry in the confrontation with Quirrelmort or by Dumbledore and/or Flamel after the fact wasn't really relevant. Assuming the Headmaster had been completely honest with him then, which he had no real reason to doubt, and assuming the Flamels had been just as honest with Dumbledore; the stone had been destroyed to make sure Voldemort couldn't get his hands on it. For the same reason probably the pair probably hadn't left any notes behind on how one might be able to create another Stone after they passed on. So the odds that Harry, who was only an adequate potions brewer at best, would be able to create such a thing so that he might remain by his wife's side while everyone continued to age and die and change around them, was unlikely. Though Ránewen or Elrond might be able to do it…
"I know that, Elerossë." Ránewen sighed, shaking her head slowly as she released his face and instead reached for one of his hands. She pulled it up between him, and traced the wedding band that had resided on it for almost half-a-century now. "It was only forty-eight years ago that I placed this ring on your hand and swore to love you forever, melda nîn. You swore much the same, and promised that my ring would serve as a reminder of that day and our vows forever." She rose up on her toes to place a quick, chaste kiss on his surprised lips, dropping back down again before he could respond. "Surely you haven't forgotten? We haven't yet seen our first century as a couple yet."
Harry shook his head. "Of course I haven't forgotten, melda nîn," he replied, glancing down at the ring that graced her hand, a small smile pushing its way through his ill humor as memories of that wonderful day rose up for a moment. But he shook them away. "But the thought of you trapped in my world, alone, after my death—"
The violet-eyed elleth was shaking her head as she cut him off, "I will not long survive your death, melda nîn." She pre-empted his protests by placing a pausing finger atop his lips as she continued. "I know you hate to hear it, but it is true. You know it is. Elves mate for eternity; our vows do not end with the death of our beloved. And I've said this before, but I'll say it as many times as I need to: It is my choice to be with you, and I would much rather finish one lifetime with you, in your native world, than spend all the ages of Arda alone."
She had said this, or a variation there of, many times before now. Every single time he'd despaired at the thought of her following him to Earth and to death. And that didn't make the thought that she would die from grief after his death any easier to bear.
He was surprised when a small smile suddenly lit her features. "What?"
Ránewen shook her head, chuckling softly. "Do you remember the last time we had this discussion? In Imladris, with Arwen and the twins eavesdropping?"
Harry nodded, though the fact that they'd had this same conversation many times before made many of them blur together, he did remember the time when his niece and nephews had been attempting to spy on them from the bushes of one of the many gardens their mother had cultivated in Imladris. "Yes?" He still didn't quite understand what was funny about that. Yes, their abysmal attempts to go unnoticed while arguing with each other had been pathetically endearing, but that didn't make the serious conversation any less painful.
"I spoke with Arwen not to long ago about that," Ránewen shook her head, still smiling gently. "She brought it up while we were out on a picnic."
"Did she?" the wizard asked, not entirely sure what to make of his niece bringing this up as a topic of conversation with his wife.
"Yes, the dear girl finds all of this quite romantic."
Harry winced. Even if the thought of Arwen ever ending up in the same situation wasn't painful to him, he was sure her father and mother would make it so. As would almost everyone in Elfdom. Arwen was the youngest of them, after all. The last elfling born on Middle Earth, and therefore the treasured little one of the realm.
"I'm fairly sure she hasn't said anything of it to either of her parents, or grandparents." Ránewen reassured him, shaking her head. "This was almost a year and a half ago, after all. I'm sure one of them would've mentioned it by now."
Harry nodded, still frowning at the thought. "That doesn't make the thought of her liking the precariousness of—"
"It isn't the fact that we may die for each other that she finds romantic, Elerossë!" the elleth cut in, surprise clear in her eyes. "It's the fact that we're both quite willing to do so, that impresses her, I think. That we love each other so much."
"Elrond and Celebrían love each other very much, as do—"
"Every elf and elleth couple in Elfdom, undoubtedly," Ránewen nodded, still smiling. "But we're the unique ones. The exciting ones." She shook her head. "You needn't worry over it, melda nîn. The Evenstar isn't about to go wandering around the mortal realms looking for a mortal to fall in love with. Even if she were so inclined and able to escape the protective embrace of her elders, she'd be comparing every man she met to her dear uncle. Whom the vast majority of men simply cannot measure up to."
Harry shook his head, "She wouldn't—"
"And if that isn't enough for your protective-side to accept, she'd also unconsciously be contrasting them against the likes of her father, Glorfindel the Balrog Slayer and all the other impressive male figures in her life. So the odds of her falling for a mortal are not high."
Harry nodded slowly at that, "For Elrond and Celebrían's sakes I hope not."
Still, Arwen at least had the choice of the half-Elven, thanks to her father's ancestry and history. If she chose to love a mortal and bind herself to him, she would actually become mortal and age alongside him till they both reached the end of their lifetime together.
Ránewen would not. She would remain an ageless, flawless immortal while his body withered and eventually gave out. Then it would be her grief at his death that would kill her in some way or another.
"But back to our original conversation," his wife sighed, shaking her head sadly as she undoubtedly picked up on the darkening of his thoughts once again while she laced the fingers of their hands together. "This war will soon be over. Nonetheless, you must talk to me, melda nîn. How else can I help you?"
The wizard nodded, also sighing. "I am sorry, Ránewen." He shook his head. "It was never my intention to cause you any pain."
"I know that," she shook her head as if his comment was entirely ridiculous, giving his hands a light squeeze. Then she sighed, and smirked at him. "Though, with this discovery I'm not sure I'll ever be able to let you go to war by yourself again. I can't seem to take care of you from so far away."
That only made his frown deepen, "I know you say that because you care, melda nîn. But I pray I never see you near a battlefield." He gently brushed a few stray bangs out of her face. "It's not a place for you."
Ránewen sighed again, a single tear somehow slipping past her control and trailing down a pale cheek as she gazed at him, "Nor is it one for you."
Elerossë—Elf-Prince and Wizarding-Boy-Who-Lived—gently brushed the tear away. "Fate seems to think otherwise."
Her hand came up to catch his, her fingers gently entwining with his own again as she spoke. "And our fates are entwined, melda nîn. Our destiny is one and the same."
~ * Gondor's Territory, Dagorlad – Víressë 19, 550 * ~
The fact that the very sensitive hearing of the Elves and one magically-part-Elf seemed to be specially selective was something Harry couldn't help but appreciate in the beyond clamorous environment a battlefield of any sort always became. If not for that, he was rather sure he'd have a migraine shortly after the start of every battle he was unfortunate enough to be in.
For really no one, however rare an actual lucky person may be, could consider a battle a fortunate occurrence. A determinedly optimistic person could probably find something good about any battle, perhaps even one they were loosing, but the prerequisite for loss of life in the very definition of the violent scenario made Harry view it with disfavor.
Still, no matter how highly the Elves valued all life, the concept of pacifism wasn't something they generally held close. They couldn't, really. On Earth there were, perhaps, some places where people could stay safely hidden away from conflicts and thereby be safe to frown upon anything resembling it. But on Arda it simply always came down to kill or be killed. It was something all Elves understood, and so did Harry. To live in this world you had to be willing to protect what was yours, and to defend those you held dear. To do that, violence was sometimes necessary.
Of course, Harry hadn't needed to become involved in Turambar's war in the first place. Not for his family. Or for the Elven people. But he had needed the experience of living with and leading mortals. Because some day he'd have to return to Earth and fulfill his prophesized destiny.
Though there weren't many good things about returning to the world of his birth, either, Harry did know of two. One, he'd be able to see his childhood friends again. Two, he'd hopefully be able to get rid of the Horcrux Voldemort had planted in his forehead.
Harry hadn't been a guest in the Golden Wood for long before Galadriel had noticed the hideous thing. Though it'd taken several years of research with Hermione's Tome to get even the vaguest idea of what the Wizards of Earth considered it. And the Tome, an illegal compilation of supposedly the whole Hogwarts' Library, had barely had any information on the dark subject at all.
Initially, the Elves had plied him with healing elixirs and Elven magicks to try and get rid of the evil thing. But even two of the three Elven rings of power were not able to undo whatever it was that Voldemort had done to create the famous lightning bolt scar that'd been inscribed into Harry's forehead for most of his life.
Not that that was really relevant at the moment, in the heat of battle. A battle that could very well decide the war they'd been suffering through for almost a decade now.
When scouts had come in with news of much larger troop movements among their enemies in late Nénimë, Harry had been relieved. The end of this war was finally coming and would almost certainly be decided in Gondor's favor.
He had, of course, felt at least a bit of foreboding when he'd first crossed the shifting border between the armies and directly into the area that the Easterlings still supposedly controlled because Gondor didn't want to risk troops patrolling it. It was hard not to be at least a little intimidated when one saw a veritable sea of enemy soldiers moving across the snowy plains to form encampments less than a day's ride from Gondor's own encampments. Much closer than the Easterlings had dared to camp for years now.
But it'd meant that the end was finally there. Turambar would finally be able to avenge his father's death and destroy enough of the Easterling forces as a whole—what with the countless suicide missions the idiotic Easterling leaders had tried to send against them already and the barely disciplined mass they were sending against them now—to finally say the war was over and it was time to go home.
Oh, Harry held no illusions. It would be months before they actually got home. They'd need to route out as many of the enemy warriors as possible after the battle, complete the fortifications that'd already been started along this 'border,' and countless other things.
But he was still sure that this would be the last real battle of the war.
Thank the Valar.
Who apparently were either aggrieved by the bloodshed on this field—or maybe just wanted to wash it away—because just as the battle started dying down with shouts of victory going up all around him, it started raining.
Plentiful drops of cold, clean water flew down from the sky to wash away blood and sweat, though adding the discomfort of impairing eyesight a bit and knowing that they'd all have to be extra careful to care for their armor afterwards and make sure none caught pneumonia in the later evening, as it was still only early spring and could still be quite cool after the sun set down below the horizon.
Harry sighed, shaking his head sadly as he eyed all the destruction even as his men—and all the other soldiers all around—cheered for all they were worth. While he wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment that the war's end was a wonderful thing, he couldn't stir up any desire to cheer for the countless corpses and copious amounts of blood cover the field where battle had reigned around him.
The familiar voice drew him out of his darkening musings, and he turned smoothly to offer the perfunctory bow only to be halted halfway through it as the slightly more muscular man seized him in a quick hug, slamming a strong hand onto his back in friendly celebration before withdrawing.
"Your majesty," the disguised immortal offered hesitantly as the smiling king finally released him, nodding as he took a small step back. "You are well?"
"Well?" Turambar repeated, laughing loudly as he shook his head, his arms spread wide again. "Jubilant, is more apt a word! We've won, my friend. The war is over!"
Harry nodded in concurrence, letting a small smile steal his face as he agreed. "Indeed it is."
But apparently his subdued reaction did not satisfy the mortal monarch, as a frown found its way out in response. "Why the long face, Hadrian? I'd thought you'd be no less pleased then I am at the day's victory."
Harry nodded, raising his voice to be heard over the soldiers mounting ovation. "That I am, my friend. I am." At the skeptical look the king was giving him, he sighed. "I am happy to see the war's end, of course." Then he shook his head, "But I fear the high price it came at steals any desire I might otherwise have to celebrate."
It was proof as to why Harry found it so very easy to respect the King of Gondor that his words immediately sobered the sovereign.
"Very true," Turambar agreed with a sigh that would not have been audible to anyone without the great gift the Elves had of being able to focus their sense of hearing when desired. His silvery eyes went over the broken bodies all around them—both of Gondor, its allies and its enemies—men mixed together in the total stillness only death could bring. Most were missing limbs or at the very least leaking liquid-life even as the living started celebrating all around them. But his knight's observation seemed to wake the great king's momentarily overridden sense of duty, as the man brought one dirty hand up to wipe quickly over an almost just-as dirty tunic, before raising it to his mouth and placing two fingers just-so to emit a loud, piercing whistle.
Though the men's merriment was truly thunderous, a clear testament to their joy at the positive turn of events, many still heard the attention-calling sound, and seeing it'd come from the king quickly quieted. This effectively quieted the entire field, as it only took a few moments for the others to quiet as more and more turned to see why their fellows had stopped so suddenly, and quickly followed suit themselves upon finding the answer.
Though Harry wasn't surprised to see that it was really only the western-born men that turned their complete attention to the king. The Rhovanions' and Rohirrim quickly following their comrades examples as they watched their own masters cut through the crowd to stand by Turambar. But their eastern-allies had already taken over the very necessary job of rounding up what remained of their enemies' ruined army.
"Celebration is certainly called for," though loud with Turambar's own well-practiced ability to project, the subtle sonorous Harry wandlessly cast did wonders to carry the king's words to the rest of the army. "But the time for it has not quite come. As our Eastern-born friends are already attending to what remains of our enemies, we must see to our honorably wounded, and to our victorious dead. Find your companies and await your commanders' orders."
Still high from the exhilarating rush of a great victory, the men were not even half as orderly and quick as could normally be expected of them. But they were still seasoned soldiers and accustom to following orders, so they did as they were told and gradually divided into their assigned companies even as their commanders swiftly made their way to the kings for further instructions.
Harry used the opportunity to quickly end the sonorous charm before Turambar found his voice excessively loud when he wasn't trying to be. When most of the captains had arrived, Harry spoke up again. "Captains Lloyd and Zane fell some time ago, your majesty," he reminded his friend, not wanting to wait for two of the missing commanders that would never be coming.
Turambar nodded, "Yes, they were in the initial charge," he recalled, his voice appropriately quieter without Harry's spell or his own projection. "But where are Ogden and Garrett?"
"Captain Ogden fell also, my lord," Captain Steffen spoke up.
"And it was Captain Garrett's company who pursued what remained of the enemy forces," Harry added when no one else seemed to recall the fact. He turned his gaze back to the king as he finished speaking, satisfied at a glance that the Míriel brothers clearly had his own company under control.
"Very well," Turambar nodded again. "Sir Hadrian, take your company to aid our missing captain. Bring them—and any prisoners you can manage—back to us."
"Yes, your Majesty," Harry bowed again, before turning on his heel and making his way over to where his troops were waiting under his lieutenants sharp eyes, even as Turambar began giving further instructions to clean up the mess all around them and truly put an end to the war.
~ * Minas Anor, Gondor – Lótessë 22, 550 * ~
The pale petals that fluttered down upon the returning army had a very subtle fragrance all their own. But it was barely noticeable with the joyous clamor that also filled the air all around the city, and undoubtedly well past its fortified walls. Wide smiles split countless faces as people waived to missed loved ones. Shrieks of delight resounded all around as ladies blew kissed to returned lovers, even as small children craned their necks to see the almost forgotten—or perhaps never seen—faces of fathers, uncles, cousins and brothers.
Harry had no doubt that at the pace their parade had set it would take the better part of the morning for the whole army to make its way into the celebrating city. Which made him all the more glad for the fact that he was near the front of the procession, and that he also knew that Turambar had no plans to address the army or his people until the following morning. Today was reserved entirely for returning to their loved ones.
The sheer bliss all around was heartening to see after so much chaos and bloodshed. Though his own heard ached at the knowledge that his own lady was not here, he knew Ránewen was really only a thought away and he'd been away from his better half's side for much less time then most of the men here could claim.
Still, he had to swallow his own melancholy as he watched Gondor's King seize the fair Lindethiél in a joyous embrace before his lips locked with hers while their grown children and grandchildren smiled wide and the rest of the court received their own loved ones with just barely restrained glee.
"Such a somber face!"
The unexpectedly well-known voice actually made Harry stumble as he dismounted his loyal stallion, all but dropping the reins into a waiting stable boy's hands as he spun around, eyes wide.
"If you're not careful, my love, I shall fear you've been using this war to avoid me!" his wife teased him, her purple eyes sparkling with happiness.
And it was undoubtedly Ránewen who stood there. The necklace he'd carefully enchanted some monthly before around her neck to carefully conceal her heritage by illusion, hiding the natural pale glow all Elves had along with her pointed ears, and an added weak notice-me-not thrown in to conceal just how perfectly beautiful she was. Though that alone wasn't nearly enough to keep her from standing out from the ladies all around, beautifully bedecked in the currently popular fashions. Though he couldn't even guess as to how she might've known the current fashions in Gondor. The notice-me-not did little to conceal her, for she was the full moon among stars by comparison. How he hadn't seen her when Aelan first brought him into the courtyard was just as much a mystery. Analogous to how he hadn't immediately sensed her presence—though from the mischievous look that was mingled with her happiness he suspected she'd been cloaking herself behind mental shields his mother had helped her build.
But really, none of that mattered to him as he followed Turambar's very acceptable example and grabbed his own wife for a long, blissful kiss.
~ * Cara Galadhon, Lothlórien – Cermië 25, 550 * ~
Harry had reviewed this particular memory, and others around it, before. And every time he was more than a little troubled by many of the implications his almost-fifteen-year-old self had missed.
"They'll wake him if they don't shut up!" Bill Weasley whispered nervously from where he was leaning against the wall near young Harry, glancing in between the door to the hospital room and the bed the younger wizard was just starting to stir on.
Harry had giveen up trying to figure out how, exactly, he was able to see this in the penseive, as the memory came from the younger version of himself, who had yet to open his eyes. Celeborn and Elrond had discussed it in some detail, but Galadriel—the one person who had any real expertise in the arts of magical sight—had always kept her opinion on it to herself, smirking all the while.
"What are they shouting about?" Mrs. Weasley whispered back, even more anxious then her eldest. She was hovering between the end of the bed and the door, looking like she was contemplating storming out into the hallway, but was just a litle too anxious to actually do it. "Nothing can have happened, can it?"
Young Harry finally opened his eyes and looked around blearily. For the fourteen-year-old hadn't had his vision corrected and desperately needed the glasses that were not on his face. Someone had taken them off and placed them on the table next to his bed, not that Harry could actually see that.
The two Weasleys kept talking, neither having noticed that the Boy-Who-Lived was awake. Ron and Hermione were also there, sitting near Harry's bed, their eyes darting back and forth between the older Weasleys and the hospital wing door.
"That's Fudge's voice," Mrs. Weasley murmured softly, frowning deeply towards the door. "And that's Minerva McGonagall, isn't it? But what are they arguing about?"
Finally young Harry was awake enough to hear the people running towards the Hospital Wing, too. Which meant that anyone purusing the memory in the pensieve could, also.
Which begged the question on why anyone reviewing the memory in the Penseive could see what the younger Harry could not but couldn't hear what he couldn't, but again it was the kind of thing Harry had given up trying to figure out a long time ago.
"Regrettable, but all the same, Minerva—" Cornelius Fudge was saying loudly.
But Professor McGonagall cut him off. "You never should have brought it inside the castle!" she yelled clearly furious. "When Dumbledore finds out!"
The doors burst open just as Harry sat up, guaranteeing that neither Mrs. Weasley or her son noticed his action as their attention was entirely divereted to the Minister of Magic as he came striding up the ward with the furious Professor McGonagall and an also angry-looking, but much quieter, Professor Snape on his heels. Meanwhile, young Harry managed to find his glasses and slip them on, still unnoticed.
"Where's Dumbledore?" Fudge demanded of Mrs. Weasley when his eyes landed on her.
The Weasley matriarch shook her head angrily, "He's not here," she snapped back. "This is a hospital wing, Minister, don't you think you'd do better to—"
She was cut off by the doors openung again, this time to admit the school's headmaster, who was taking in all the people—particuarlly the very angry ones—with worried eyes.
"What has happened?" the old wizard entreated sharply as he focused on Fudge and McGonagall. "Why are you disturbing these people? Minerva, I'm surprised at you—I asked you to stand guard over Barty Crouch—"
"There is no need to stand guard over him any more, Dumbledore!" she shrieked, glaring at Fudge all the while. "The Minister has seen to that!" She was trembling with fury, her hands balled into fists and angry blotches of color covering her cheeks.
Harry could distinctly remember being a bit amazed at the sight, as he could clearly see his younger self was. He'd never seen the Transfiguration Professor lose control like this, or anything close to it.
It was Snape, however, who actually clued everyone into what was going on, in a low but clearly angry voice. "When we told Mr. Fudge that we had caught the Death Eater responsible for tonight's events, he seemed to feel his personal safety was in question. He insisted on summoning a Dementor to accompany him into the castle. He brought it up to the office where Barty Crouch—"
"I told him you wouldn't agree, Dumbledore!" McGonagall cut in, her face a storm cloud with anger lighting her eyes like lightning. "I told him you would never allow Dementors to set foot in the castle, but—"
"My dear woman!" Fudge roared, also looking angrier then young Harry had ever seen him. "As Minister for Magic, it is my decision whether I wish to bring protection with me when I interview a possibly dangerous—"
But Professor McGongall's voice drowned out Fudge's with ease.
"The moment that—that thing entered the room," she was trembling as she pointed at Fudge, now screaming her words, "it swooped down on Crouch and—and—"
Even having already known what'd happened before dropping into this particular memory again, the mention of the Dementor's Kiss never failed to freeze Harry's gut for a moment in sheer horror.
His time among the Elves, with their histories, beliefs and customs, certainly didn't help in that regard. The closest comparison that could be made to the Dementor's Kiss here on Arda was the creation of Orcs in ancient times.
And even that wasn't quite as terrible as the idea of a monstrous being that could suck someone's soul out of their mouth; surely a fate worse than death.
Yes, the ancient Elves who'd had the misfortune to fall into Morgoth's hands had suffered a truly terrible fate. They were enslaved and tortured, eventually twisted into wickid footsoldiers for evil, undoubtedly made specifically to spite Eru Illuvatar's creations.
But at least those Elves had an escape. Though their bodies were horribly befouled to become Orcs, their souls were not touched. Because Elves could leave their body at will, and escape to the Halls of Mandos.
Yes, their deaths were terrible, but at least they could die.
The victims of Dementors didn't have that same luxury. Harry had wondered if an Elf would be able to escape a Dementor by fleeing to Mandos, or not. But he knew men couldn't.
While an Elf could leave their body before death and in so doing cause their death, mortals had to die before their souls could, supposedly, go anywhere. So when a Dementor went to Kiss them, their soul was there for the taking. Waiting to be sucked out and devoured.
It terrified Harry to wonder if a mortal's soul experienced anything after death. If all the souls Dementors' stole were kept inside the Dementor forever, in a kind of eternal torment.
The Hogwarts library said very little about Dementors. And most of it Harry had known before coming here, thanks to Remus and Hermione. So Hermione's Tome hadn't proved too useful in that regard. It couldn't answer his questions.
He wasn't sure if he should be bothered by that or not.
On one hand, he wanted to know.
On the other, he really didn't.
"Why he killed them?"
Fudge's loud blustering drew Harry out of his thoughts, and he was a bit surprised to see he really hadn't missed more than a few moments.
"Well, that's no mystery, is it? He was a raving lunatic! From what Minerva and Severus have told me, he seems to have thought he was doing it all on You-Know-Who's instructions!"
"Lord Voldemort was giving him instructions, Cornelius," Dumbledore said, his quiet voice somehow easily cutting into the Minister's diatribe. "Those people's deaths were mere by-products of a plan to restore Voldemort to full strength again. The plan succeeded. Voldemort has been restored to his body."
Fudge was blinking dazedly as he stared at Dumbledore. He looked like someone had just swung a heavy weight into his face. Clearly he was having more than a little trouble believing what he was hearing, as he soon made clear. "You—You-Know-Who ... returned? Preposterous!" he sputtered loudly, still goggling at the older wizard. "Come now, Dumbledore—"
"As Minerva and Severus have doubtlessly told you," Dumbledore cut in again, his voice no louder than before, but still more then enough to stop Fudge for the moment. "We heard Barty Crouch confess. Under the influence of Veritaserum, he told us how he was smuggled out of Azkaban, and how Voldemort—learning of his continued existence from Bertha Jorkins—went to free him from his father, and used him to capture Harry. The plan worked, I tell you. Crouch has helped Voldemort return."
"See here, Dumbledore," Fudge started saying, a smile beginning to cross his face.
Young Harry looked astonished.
Harry, on the other hand, was disgusted.
"You—You can't seriously believe that. You-Know-Who—back? Come now, come now... certainly, Crouch may have believed himself to be acting upon You-Know-Who's orders—but to take the words of a lunatic like that..."
Harry could easily see that the Minister was trying to spin everything already.
Though, to be fair, hindsight is twenty-twenty and he had all of the Daily Prophets that he'd neglected to read in their entirety the following summer, and had found himself infuriated by them the moment he actually took a good look at them.
The smear complaint the Minister had launched against both Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter, himself, was as ridiculous as it was despicable.
And it was here that all of it, obviously, started. Here where Fudge decided to embrace the example set by peacocks and ignore all the warnings he was being given and stick his head in the sand, not wanting to deal with the terrible times that were coming. Apparently not intelligent enough to realize that whether he wanted to face the troubles that were to come or not, those troubles would still come and the Wizarding World would still have to deal with them.
What Harry hadn't yet been able to decide, as he kept changing his mind on the matter, was whether or not Fudge had, upon hearing whatever initially he'd been told about Crouch Jr., if he hadn't already decided he didn't like how it looked and, in order to truly cover it up and be able to spin it however he liked, brought the Dementor along not as protection: but as an executioner.
From one side, the idea of bringing a Dementor along as any kind of protection was really rather ridiculous. But, then again, this was the same Minister that though surrounding Hogwarts with hundreds of Dementors was a good way to protect them from one wizard.
From the other side, also, was the fact that Harry wasn't really sure Fudge was smart enough to realize he needed Barty Crouch Jr. dead if he wanted to cover up Voldemort's return...
"When Harry touched the Triwizard Cup tonight, he was transported straight to Voldemort," Dumbledore replied steadily. "He witnessed Lord Voldemort's rebirth. I will explain it all to you if you will step up to my office." The Headmaster glanced over towards Harry then, and saw he was awake, but shook his head. "I am afraid I cannot permit you to question Harry tonight."
Fudge was still smiling that horrendous little smile as he also glanced at Harry, but then looked back at Dumbledore. "You are… are prepared to take Harry's word on this, are you, Dumbledore?"
There was a moment's silence, which was broken by Sirius growling. It'd surprised Harry, because he hadn't realized Sirius was still there. But the Grim-like Animagus was crouched by Harry's bed, and his hackles were raised as he bared his teeth at Fudge.
"Certainly I believe Harry," Dumbledore replied, his eyes now blazing. "I heard Crouch's confession, and I heard Harry's account of what happened after he touched the Triwizard Cup; the two stories make sense, they explain everything that has happened since Bertha Jorkins disappeared last summer."
Fudge glanced at young Harry again, still smiling, before speaking again. "You are prepared to believe that You-Know-Who has returned, on the word of a lunatic murder, and a boy who... well..." He shot Harry another look, and realization visibly dawned on the young wizard's face.
"You've been reading Rita Skeeter, Mr. Fudge," young Harry murmured quietly, making Ron, Hermione, Bill and Mrs. Weasley all jump in surprise. They hadn't realized he was awake.
And no matter how many times he watched this memory, it never ceased to amaze Harry; how young he sounded.
Fudge reddened slightly, but a defiant and obstinate look came over his face. "And if I have?" he demanded, before looking back at Dumbledore again. "If I have discovered that you've been keeping certain facts about the boy very quiet? A Parselmouth, eh? And having funny turns all over the place—"
"I assume that you are referring to the pains Harry has experienced in his scar?" Dumbledore cut in, his voice still quiet, but decidedly cold.
"You admit that he has been having those pains, then?" Fudge answered quickly, his smile more a smirk now. "Headaches? Nightmares? Possibly—hallucinations?"
"Listen to me, Cornelius," Dumbledore took a step towards the Minister, and like earlier in the day, he seemed to radiate that indefinable sense of power that Harry had felt after Dumbledore had Stunned Crouch Jr. "Harry is as sane as you or I. I believe it hurts him when Voldemort is close by, or feeling particularly murderous."
Fudge had taken a half step back from Dumbledore, but he was obstinate. "You'll forgive me, Dumbledore, but I've never heard of a curse scar acting as an alarm before—"
"Look, I saw Voldemort come back!" teenage Harry shouted, unwisely interrupting and drawing further attention to himself. He tried to get out of bed again, but Mrs. Weasley forced him back. "I saw the Death Eaters! I can give you their names! Lucius Malfoy—"
Snape made a sudden movement, but as the teenage Boy-Who-Lived looked at him, the Potions Master's eyes flew to Fudge.
"Malfoy was cleared!" Fudge objected, visibly affronted. "A very old family—donations to excellent causes—"
As if any of that actually mattered; but plainly to Fudge it really did. A sad thing, when money mattered so much more than morals to a man in such a high place of authority.
"Also cleared! Now working for the Ministry!"
"You are merely repeating the names of those who were acquitted of being Death Eaters thirteen years ago!" Fudge angrily announced, his smirk now a sneer. "You could have found those names in old reports of the trials! For heavens' sake, Dumbledore—the boy was full of some crackpot story at the end of last year, too—his tales are getting taller, and you're still swallowing them—the boy can talk to snakes, Dumbledore, and you still think he's trustworthy?"
"You fool!" Professor McGonagall cried. "Cedric Diggory! Mr. Crouch! These deaths were not the random works of a lunatic!"
"I see no evidence to the contrary!" Fudge shouted, his anger now matching hers, so much so his face was turning purple. "It seems to me that you are determined to start a panic that will destabilize everything we have worked for these last thirteen years!"
Harry could still remember how astonished he'd felt. He'd previously thought of Fudge as little more than a pompous, blustering, but commonly kind figure. So the short, angry wizard was an astonishing sight.
Made all the worse that Fudge was the Minister of Magic, who was refusing, point-blank, to accept the prospect of disruption to his comfortable and ordered world. Refusing to believe that Voldemort could have risen again; and thereby leaving the world open to and utterly unprepared for the psychopath's future attacks.
"Voldemort has returned," Dumbledore repeated, coldly calm. "If you accept that fact straight away, Fudge, and take the necessary measures, we may still be able to save the situation. The first and most essential step is to remove Azkaban from the control of the Dementors—"
"Preposterous!" shouted Fudge again—
A familiar hand slipping into his own distracted Harry, and he turned to find his wife shaking her head as she took in the scene.
"Personally," Ránewen sighed, "I think a better first step would be to destroy all the Dementors. What good would just removing those monsters do? And where would you remove them to?"
Harry shook his head. "I'm not sure the Wizarding World has ever really found a way to destroy Dementors, melda nîn. Though I do agree."
Then, not really wanting to subject his wife to this continued scene—though she'd seen it a number of times before—Harry looked skyward and his magic pulled them out of the Penseive's grip.
"What drew you to that memory, verno nîn?" Ránewen asked curiously. "You only just returned from one war, why look to the start of another one?" (my husband)
Harry shrugged as he drew the memory out of the Penseive and directed it back to the Altium Globe. "One day I will have to return to that world. And my parents think that that war will still be waiting for me. We're not sure if I will have missed anything or not—if time moves differently between our worlds or if I would merely land there centuries after everyone I knew that has died, in a world with Voldemort in power and whatnot."
"Firmaidrim is your nemesis, yes, but he was born mortal." 
Firmaidrim was what all the elves who knew of Elerossë's native world and nemesis called Voldemort. It was, technically the name the madman had chosen for himself, taken into the Elves' tongue, with the added prefix of 'dark' added on, as was only suitable. Though why exactly the mortal wizard had chosen to create a name for himself that meant 'flight from death' Harry didn't quite understand. If the wizards of Earth were a little more educated it wasn't something that should have enhanced the dark wizard's fearsome reputation. But, then again, he'd already noticed that logic and its like didn't really seem to have too strong a hold on the wizards of Earth.
"As was I, melda nîn." Harry pointed out, continuing quickly before she could say anything. "But we are rather sure that his Horcruxes make him immortal, in a way."
Ránewen sighed, nodding in unhappy agreement. "Yes, I know." Then she cocked her to the side slightly, giving him a look of clear consideration. "The Minister's actions bother you as well."
Harry nodded, frowning severely. "Of course Fudge's actions bother me!" he shook his head. "Though I really can't decide if the man is deliberately malignant or just stupid."
"The battle lines being drawn in that confrontation alone are rather obvious," his wife agreed.
"Even without knowledge of his future campaign against Dumbledore and myself in the media." Harry nodded again, before sighing. "Though I can't help but wonder if he was honestly planning something like this even before he'd spoken to the Headmaster." At his wife's slightly confused look, he elaborated. "Doesn't it seem strange that Fudge would choose a Dementor, of all things, as a bodyguard? Rather than an Auror or two?"
Ránewen nodded slowly again, realization quickly dawning. "He would have been relatively well informed of who he was going to meet and why. You think he wanted the Dementor to… kill the prisoner. To silence him."
"That is what's crossed my mind more then once while watching this," Harry snorted. "But I really might be giving the man too much credit. Given that he thought a host of Dementors would make good guards for the school just the year before, when Sirius was believed to have been after me, he might actually think Dementors make good guards." Then he shook his head. "It's just, every one else I talked to about Dementors was almost terrified of them. And understandably so."
Once more, Ránewen nodded her concurrence, before sighing softly. "And if his intentions were deliberately malicious on this occasion, rather then the actions of an imbecile—"
"I have to wonder if the Dementors that attacked me at the end of the school year weren't ordered to do so, if they had the chance." He rubbed his brow as the beginnings of a headache began to make itself known. "Though the information available to us on Dementors, in Hermione's Tome are limited, the section on just how they came to serve the Ministry makes it rather clear that they are really slaves to the wills of whomever there Master is. Which, at this point, is supposed to be the Minister of Magic."
"So you think that Minister Fudge might be loyal to Firmaidrim?"
"Or he's forwarding his own agenda, or yet another madman's plots, or he's just an idiot." Harry sighed as he shook his head again. "We won't really know till I get back to England, I suppose."
Ránewen nodded again, before moving a step closer to enclose him in a tight embrace, gently pulling his lips down to her own for several quick, chaste kisses. She pulled away before he could deepen the kiss, but one of her arms remained around his waist while her opposite hand slipped from the back of his head down to his shoulder in a comforting grip. "Then there really is no reason to be spending so many hours worrying over it, is there?" Her hand left his shoulder so she could place one finger on his lips to prevent his protests. "It's late, and you're tired. Come to bed, verno nîn." (my husband)
And like a good husband, Harry obediently followed as she dragged him easily out of the clearing and back to their telain. His birth-world could wait a while longer.
~ * Minas Anor, Gondor – Cermië 29, 550 * ~
"I still can't believe I agreed to do this."
Harry glanced at his wife, one eyebrow rising. "I thought you liked Turambar and Lindethiél?"
"Well, yes, but what if he doesn't like me?"
The disguised-prince blinked, "He seemed to like you well enough. As I recall, he actually hugged you in front of at least half his court when he met you. Starting rumors that you were a long-lost sister of some sort," he shook his head. "A memory that still rather amazes me. Especially since Turambar stated in his last letter that those rumors are getting more and more outrageous. One would think Gondor would know Princess Mirima has always been his only sibling."
Ránewen shook her head. "But everyone was so happy with the war's ending then, what if he decides he doesn't like me now? Mortals can be so very fickle! And the twins said there must be something wrong with my amulet, since some of the rumors said I had to be of Elven-descent! What—"
Harry stopped her by placing a gentle finger over her lips. He shook his head and withdrew his hand, smiling even as she kept frowning. "You don't have anything to worry about, melda nîn. Turambar will love you. I've yet to meet anyone who does not adore you once they get to know you. You're far too likable for that. You're among the most compassionate, fun and smart people I've ever met." Then he gently tapped her chin, shaking his head at her second worry. "And I made your amulet with far more care then I ever put into my own or the twins. It's not my fault that beauty such as yours cannot be concealed. You will draw admirers wherever you go. I know this. And so long as they accept that you're taken, I care not. But my magic will not fail you."
Ránewen looked down, before sighing. "I know, melda nîn. I'm sorry—"
"Don't be," he cut in gently, shaking his head as he dutifully pulled her cloak out of the massive wardrobe that had come with the impressive set of rooms that had been provided for them and gently swung it around her shoulders before neatly bringing the clasps together with the easiness of long practice. "We weren't here for very long before, and I admit I did frequently pull us into the background and left at the first opportunity."
"Veryan said you usually do that," Ránewen commented lightly. "Try to hide in the background, I mean."
Harry sighed, "I certainly tried. But Turambar rarely let me."
Ránewen laughed, bringing up another change he had to make to her amulet as the musical sound was a beautiful sound that was very distinctly associated with the first-born. "Yes, Voronwë told me that, too." She shook her head, her own nervousness apparently forgotten in the face of his slight annoyance. "But really, melda nîn, does it surprise you that a good leader would be able to recognize another leader?"
"Well," Harry blinked again, then shook his head. "No, but—"
"But nothing." Ránewen interrupted him, placing a gentle hand over his mouth to force silence as she smiled at him. "It was a part of you even before you became a son to Galadriel and Celeborn. Before you became a prince of Elfdom. You were always born to lead. And when you entered Turambar's life, even in disguise, you were a gifted prince."
Harry sighed, shaking his head. "But it wasn't really what I came here to learn."
"Oh no?" Ránewen raised an eyebrow now, shaking her head in bemusement. "Come now, melda nîn. You can't honestly be telling me that you expect to be a mere foot soldier in the fight against Firmaidrim."
"I suppose not." Harry agreed, shaking his head. "I certainly won't be a child whenever the Valar deem it the time to return me. Nor would they bother for a lowly soldier, I suppose."
"I don't doubt it. And no matter how much it hurts us to watch you bear the burdens of destiny, we will not ask you to forsake your native world."
Harry shook his head in sad agreement; this wasn't a new conversation at all. Before he could reply a knock on the main door to their chambers drew their attention.
"Yes?" Harry called as he made his way into the common area, his wife a few steps behind him. "Come in."
The maid that pushed the thick door open just far enough for her to slide herself in couldn't have been more then fourteen-years-old. But she was probably working hard for money her family needed, and in this society she'd soon be married herself, so Harry kindly ignored the blush that lit her cheeks as he smiled kindly as her.
"Clara, isn't it?" he asked, to receive a rapid nod in response.
"Y-Yes, milord, milady." The maid curtsied a bit deeper then was officially required, before continuing. "The-The King invites you, Sir Hadrian, and the Lady Raina, to dine with the royal family this evening, if you are not too tired from your long journey."
Harry shook his head, suppressing the urge to sigh at the overt formalities that he was sure were deliberate on Turambar's part. "Thank you, Clara. Please tell His Majesty that Raina and I would delighted."
"Yes, my lord—"
This time Harry did stop her. "I am not a lord of Gondor, Clara. You needn't address me as such."
The young woman was clearly horrified by the very idea, as her hazel eyes all too clearly depicted as she bobbed another curtsy while shaking her head frantically. In fact, she was shaking her head so much that she distinctly wobbled through the curtsy, almost toppling over. "My lor—Sir Hadrian is champion of the realm!" then she blushed. "I mean no disrespect, my lord, but—"
But Harry really didn't want to hear it. "Never mind, Clara. Please take my response to the King."
A look of clear relief replaced her earlier mortification as she bobbed another, slightly less shaky curtsy. "Yes, my lord. Thank you, my lord."
Ránewen waited until the young woman had closed the door to the hall behind her before giggling softly. "Champion of the realm, hmm?"
Harry shook his head, groaning softly. "I'm not sure I want to know just what stories Turambar's been spreading in my absence."
Now his wife laughed, "Well, you are the only 'man' a King of Gondor has knighted in nearly a century," she shook her head. "King Turambar may be many things, but a fool is not one of them. Knighthood was the perfect way around your not wanting to be ennobled in his service."
"Yes, I suppose it was," Harry agreed, still frowning. "He knows it, too. He's been quite smug about it every time it comes up. I swear he specifically did it to get around my not wanting to become a landed-peer of the realm." He shook his head when his wife laughed again. "I shouldn't think you'd find this so funny. My being the so-called 'Champion of the Realm' almost certainly means I will have to spend quite a bit more time here after I've finished my term of military service."
Ránewen shrugged, "Yes, melda nîn. I know that. But then I think I know you better then you know yourself," now she was smirking. "You weren't going to merely abandon your mortal friend after the war ended. Not when he's really become a friend to you. I'd expected we would be returning to Minas Arnor frequently throughout the duration of Turambar's reign."
Harry blinked at her for several seconds, and then shook his head, grinning a little. "I suppose you do know me better then I know myself, melda nîn." Then he frowned, "But I thought you didn't want me to—"
"I want you to be happy, verno nîn." His wife cut him off, her amethyst eyes serious as she locked gazes with his. "I would not stop you from visiting and looking after your friend for what time you can." Then she smirked. "Though I certainly expect to be well compensated for my sacrifices."
Harry's smile in response was almost a smirk as he moved over to her and gently grasped her waist. "I think I can manage that," he murmured, before leaning down for a kiss.
The pair froze, their lips almost touching, before they both drew back a little with a sigh, shooting equally disgruntled looks towards the door to the hall.
Harry stepped back, releasing his wife—as damn Gondorian propriety demanded—before calling out, "Yes?" he suppressed a wince as he saw the amused glance his wife sent him even that he, too, heard the barely-there annoyance in his voice.
Young Clara stepped just barely into the room again, her face as red as a tomato as she bobbed another curtsy. "A-Apologies, my lord, my lady. I-I for-forgot to inform you th-that the r-royal family will be dining in the lesser dining hall, starting shortly after the next bell. H-Her Majesty, the Queen, hopes that will not be t-too inconvenient?"
Harry deliberately didn't look at his wife as he suppressed an amused smile. "Please tell Her Majesty that that will be fine, Clara. And that we look forward to it."
"Yes, my lord!" Clara curtsied yet again, before backing quickly into the hall, closing the door only just slowly enough to avoid it obviously slamming shut.
"Well," Ránewen was definitely smirking now. "That doesn't give us all that much time to get ready, does it?" She glanced at him, shaking her head as she sighed. "Pity."
He glared at her as she glided quickly out of the main chambers and into the slightly smaller bed room that was intended to be her private sanctum. Then, with a sigh, he too turned to head for his wardrobe and get ready for supper.
~ * Cara Galadhon, Lothlórien – Cermië 1, 551 * ~
Harry was smiling as he apparated into the Golden Wood, his home. The ease of repeated practice had him ready for the form that slammed into him and captured him in a vice grip, so this time he didn't even stumble as he caught his wife. Though he did raise an eyebrow at her. "Come now, melda nîn. I've barely been gone a month."
"So you didn't miss me then?" Ránewen frowned at him.
Her husband rolled his eyes as he shook his head, giving her form a gentle squeeze. "No, no. Of course I missed you, melda nîn. I'm just not sure—Actually, no. I think I'll stop that thought there and just say that I did, of course, miss you." He looked up and smiled widely as he saw all the others that were waiting for him also, though he'd expected them just as much as he expected the amused, indulgent smiles they were wearing. "We've missed all of you," he added, nodding to indicate the amused Míriel twins that had side-along apparated with him before gesturing to all the family members that'd gathered to await their arrival as nearby servants drew their horses away.
His sister's whole family was here, but they held back out of respect to his parents. His wife released him, stepping back with an amused grin as his mother approached to hug him.
"And we missed you, ion nîn." Galadriel spoke softly, though everyone in the clearing could hear her quite clearly. After a moment's embrace, she moved back and looked down into his eyes. Though his time with the Elves had more then repaired the damage years of malnutrition had caused, his foster-mother and most other elves were still taller than him. Ránewen was unusually short for an elleth, though even she would be considered tall among mortals. "Your tenure in Gondor's service is complete now?"
Harry nodded, though it was hardly something he needed to confirm for any here. He suspected many of them had been keeping closer track then he had. "Yes, our ten years of service are now done," he shook his head. "King Turambar offered further promotions in the army—"
"Or the court!" Veryan interjected, grinning even as his identical twin also spoke up with the same look on his face.
"As an advisor or a lord!"
"But," Harry deliberately continued as if neither had spoken. "He was expecting our refusals. I agreed to keep in contact with carrier-falcons, though."
Galadriel nodded approvingly. "We expected no less. Welcome home, ion nîn."
"Hannon le, Naneth," the wizard returned, bowing his head slightly as she tilted her own head down to place a kiss on his brow.
Finally the Lady of Light released him, giving her husband a chance to clasp his forearm in the typical greeting of Elvish warriors, offering a proud nod of approval before releasing him to his sister's affectionate assault. After everyone had had the opportunity to offer their own greetings, Lord Celeborn indicated the exit of the clearing which led to a public area of Caras Galadhon. "Now come, ion nîn, there are quite a few more people who would like to welcome you home."
"Adar!" Harry groaned before continuing with his complaint, "I distinctly recall agreeing to a small dinner. Not a celebration."
Lord Celeborn was actually grinning. "As a prince of Elfdom, ion nîn, you cannot rightly deny your people the pleasure of welcoming you home!"
"It would be very bad form," Ránewen interjected with a grin as she looped her arm through his and then gently tugged him out of the clearing with her.
~ * Minas Anor, Gondor – Urimë 29, 553 * ~
Harry shook his head as he took in the sad procession. Narthía, wife of Gondor's previous king, Rómendacil, and mother to the reigning King Turambar, had succumbed to old age just a few days prior and the entire nation was now in mourning with the royal family.
The deaths of their Dúnedain-descended rulers always came as a shock to the poor people of Gondor. Though most of the mortals of Gondor were long-lived, it was really only the upper classes that reaped the obvious benefits of their natural longevity. As a result, the royals especially seemed almost immortal to their subjects.
Narthía had wed Rómendacil one-hundred-sixty-three years ago, when she was sixteen; which was very young for one of the Dúnedain, but love had its way in this case. Most of the common people mourning her death now were not old enough to have witnessed her wedding; many of them grew up with her as their beloved queen. Though some of them were old enough to remember the time her father-in-law ruled. Still, at just shy of her eighteenth-decade, Narthía had been a constant, an accepted icon of the royal family. And now she was gone.
Harry had to swallow back the darker thoughts that such ideas brought to mind. That if time passed on Earth at the same rate that it did on Middle Earth, if Celeborn, Elrond and Galadriel were wrong in their assumptions that the Valar would not allow him to be sent back centuries too late, then when he returned he would know no one. If almost five-hundred years had gone by on Earth, even if Voldemort hadn't won, and if none of his friends had died fighting without him, they'd still have died of long age long before now.
He almost felt bad for thinking it, but Harry couldn't help but think that at least Narthía didn't die before the war ended. At least Turambar had had these last three years with his mother, and all the years before the war as well. Harry, himself, hadn't really known his birth mother. Though Galadriel had certainly stepped belatedly into the role quite admirably, and Mrs. Weasley had almost acted like a mother for him on Earth, Harry couldn't help but regret the fact that he'd never really known either of his birth parents. Because they'd died for him. Protecting him.
"Sir Hadrian, Lady Raina," Queen Lindethiél nodded to both of them, barely moving from the position she'd held at her husband's side for the last hour, where the royals received regrets from well-wishers. "Thank you for coming. I hope you found your apartments suitable?"
"We did, Your Majesty, as always. Thank you." Harry bowed to the mortal monarchs, his graceful wife's arm never leaving his own as she dropped a poised curtsy and rose from it with enviable ease. He looked up into his friend's eyes, finding the depression and numbness he'd almost expected there; though the silver pools still held the intelligent glint he was used to seeing. "We deeply regret your loss and wish you all the best that can be hoped for you, your Majesty, and all of your family."
"Thank you, Sir Hadrian," Turambar nodded to him, making several of the courtiers that were standing nearby start, while the queen smiled slightly as she gently squeezed her husband's forearm. The king hadn't spoken to most of the people that had come before Harry and his wife, so that he'd choose to speak now surprised many. Though his wife and son didn't look at all surprised.
"I understand that Princess Alinniel's wedding is not going to be postponed?" Ránewen spoke up, the Elven musicality of her gentle voice just-barely masked by Harry's magical amulet of concealment.
"No indeed, Lady Raina," Crown Prince Atanatar confirmed with a nod as small smile stole both his face and most of the other royals. "Most of my father's advisors' thought it best that the happy occasion not be delayed, which I know my sister appreciates."
Princess Alanara, Atanatar's wife, spoke up also then. "It was also the Queen-Mother's will that her mourning-period not delay Alinniel's day of joy. Though she knew we would miss her, she felt Alinniel has waited long enough for the next step of her life."
Alinniel had just entered her thirty-fifth year. Turambar had become exceedingly over-protective of his youngest after his second daughter, Alethiel, had died in childbirth. Then the war had started and the vast majority of Gondor's finest had become tied up in it. So it wasn't any wonder that the princess was marrying so late in life, though as one of the Dúnedain she still had plenty of her life left to live and didn't look a day over twenty, if that.
"You will be staying for the wedding?" the king spoke up again.
"We would be delighted, Your Majesty," Ránewen replied before her husband could say anything, offering a smile that was small—considerate of the current occasion—but conveyed her pleasure with the idea well. "So long as it isn't an inconvenience, considering the increased party size?"
While not every noble in Gondor expected to receive an invitation to the wedding of the king's youngest child, all that could leave their lands had chosen to come for the Queen-Mother's funeral. And as they were already here, they indubitably expected to be welcome at the princess's wedding.
"Welcome friends, particularly those who were deliberately invited, could certainly not be turned away," Queen Lindethiél's small smile was almost teasing now.
"Then we look forward to the happy day," Harry bowed again, waiting for his wife to finish her graceful curtsy before he finished with, "and again, I can't fully express our sorrow at your loss."
"Thank you, my friend," Turambar nodded to him again.
Their eyes remained locked for just a moment, before Harry turned to lead his wife away and the royals' attention was brought to the courtier who'd been fidgeting behind them for several minutes.
~ * Cara Galadhon, Lothlórien – Yavannië 18, 554 * ~
"I hadn't thought we were being all that bothersome, ion nîn." Galadriel's voice was almost entirely neutral, but her son knew his mother didn't really want him to leave again.
It hadn't been that long since he'd returned from war, after all.
Especially in the eyes of the Elves.
But Harry needed to get away from his hovering—though well-meaning—family, and the nosy Galadhrim in general. So he and Ránewen were now bound for the Shire, with the Míriel twins, of course, along for the ride.
He'd feel bad about dragging the twins away from their home so soon after returning again, if they hadn't already assured him that they were quite happy to be off on another adventure. They were relatively young Elves, after all, and not yet inclined towards the pursuits of intellect that more thoroughly entertained the older Eldar.
Harry gently pulled his mother into a hug, offering a small smile up towards her eyes. "You haven't been, Nana. Not really." He chuckled as he pulled back. "No more than usual, at least."
Galadriel raised an eyebrow at him, but he saw the almost-smile that pulled at her lips.
"Oh, don't try to pretend you don't know what I mean, Nana. With your gift, you know more of what goes on in this world—especially in these woods—then anyone else. Whether you've been actively keeping a close eye on me or not is relatively irrelevant."
"I suppose that is true," Galadriel allowed with a sigh. "How long shall you be gone this time, ion nîn?"
"I can't say I rightly know, Nana." Harry shrugged, then raised an eyebrow at her. "And you can't really fret too much about it. It's not like I'm going off to war again, after all." He shook his head. "Honestly, I'm not sure why Veryan and Voronwë are so keen on going. They're more likely to find combat along the Golden Wood's borders than the Shire's."
"By Eru, I hope so." Celebrían sighed, then continued before her son could reply. "You know, most of the Galadhrim may begin to find your…inability to remain for a time in one place worrisome."
Harry sighed, shaking his head. "It wasn't too long ago that you told me yourself, Nana, that it isn't unusual for the 'young.'"
"Yes," Galadriel agreed. "But you are also their prince. And among the Elves you are still young. Your sister's children are among the few Elves with fewer years than you. The twins haven't yet reached their fifth century and Arwen just entered her third." She shook her head. "This want to wander seems to be something young males are apt to, given my grandchildren as a tool for comparison."
Harry nodded even as he focused on tying off one of the last bags they'd be taking with them from Lothlórien, before shrinking it with a wave of his wand and stowing it away with many other miniaturized pieces of luggage in the small travel sack he carried on his belt. "Elrohir and Elladan do seem interested in what exists outside of the Elven realms on Middle Earth."
"Your sister hopes you might be willing to show it to them?"
Celebrían had hinted as much almost a dozen times now.
"She doesn't want them traveling alone, and Imladris doesn't really have the guards to spare." He shook his head. "I'm surprised she hasn't asked you and Ada for bodyguards."
Galadriel shook her head. "She doesn't want someone guarding them, restraining their curiosity and the like. She wants someone guiding them. Given your own travels in the lands of men and dwarves, you are undoubtedly the best choice for that task."
"Perhaps I am," he agreed with a shrug, then shook his head. "It would be a good present for their five-hundredth birthday, would it not?"
The Lady of Light smiled, "It would indeed. Would you like me to—"
"I will let Celebrían and Elrond know myself, some time soon. And I'd prefer to surprise the twins."
"And an enjoyable surprise it will be for them, I'm sure," Celeborn offered as he entered the room, coming up alongside his wife as he favored their son with a warm smile. "Your horses are ready and the brothers Míriel await you."
Harry nodded in response, "Hannon le, Ada."
The Elf-Lord looked around the room, "You seem to have everything well enough in hand here. Save the fact that your lady seems to be missing?"
Harry glanced towards the closed bedroom door, and after a moment all three could hear the sounds of someone rummaging around inside. "She should be ready soon, I believe." Then he winced, "I'm honestly not quite sure of what she's doing, though. And the last time I asked she glared at me," he dropped down into one of the nearby chairs, gesturing to some of the nearby seats for his parents to do the same. "So I am content to wait here."
Celeborn chuckled, "That is probably wise, ion nîn."
Galadriel rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. "I will see if she needs any help, then."
~ * Harry's House, The Shire – Súlìmë 23, 555 * ~
"Would it not be easier to simply decline Turambar's request?"
Harry snorted, shaking his head at his amused wife's soft words. "Hardly. He'd probably just come fetch us in person to drag us back to court with him."
Ránewen laughed, the musical sound that was intrinsic to her face filling their warm cottage while her twilight-hued eyes sparkled. "You jest, melda nîn." She shook her head, "As the king of all Gondor, Turambar certainly would not have the time."
Harry shook his head again. "He'd make it. Or he'd at least wear out all of the messenger birds I've given him, sending them back and forth until I agree to come."
"Ah, so it is for the poor falcons that you are tinkering with your medallions again?"
"If it pleases you to think that, you're welcome to." Harry replied, frowning as he reworked one of the runes on his medallion. A moment later, hoping he'd gotten it right, he called his magic up from his core and sent it flowing into the small metal emblem, empowering the runes of power he'd carefully etched into the surface.
It never ceased to amaze him how much time it took to work with runes. Especially the final part—when he gave the patterns their power. For what had felt like a moment to him, had clearly been nearly an hour because his wife had only started cooking a short while before he'd started working on his emblem, but he knew from the pleasant aroma that hung on the air and the clinking of fine Elven china as she set the table a short ways away that dinner was almost ready now.
With a small smile, Harry pointed towards the kitchen and snapped his fingers, his magic easily following his command and finishing the table as his wife stepped back to let his spell take over.
"Finished, then?" Ránewen asked lightly, that subtle note of amusement still there, and obviously unbothered by his inattention during the casting.
She wasn't the least bit surprised that he'd become so wrapped up in his work without a moment's notice, and then back to her some time later with no mention of the passing time. But then again, she had been married to him for almost fifty years now. Not quite a landmark among the elves, but still a respectable amount of time.
And his medallions were very elaborate works. Illusions to both sight, sound and touch. Not to mention the notice-me-not rune that kept the medallions themselves from being seen. The combination of all the runes, carefully balancing each other on the small surface but poignant with active power, undoubtedly should take much more time to empower than any single rune or spell could.
"I hope so," Harry confessed, slipping his medallion on and sighing as he felt the illusion take form around him. The additions he'd inscribed obviously made the illusion much more complex, so it wasn't surprising that it took the illusion several moments to complete itself. But once it did, he could sense the spell was solidly formed and complete. Rising, he turned to his wife with one eyebrow raised, "Well? How do I look?"
He blinked when first surprise overtook his wife's lovely face, only to quickly melt into amusement as she broke down laughing.
It took Ránewen several seconds to collect herself. "Melda nîn, I think, perhaps, you should eat your dinner and get a good night's sleep before you begin working on my medallion."
"Why?" Harry frowned.
"If you think adding a beard and making my hair white will make me look suitably older—I assure you, you are going to Gondor alone this time."
Harry blinked, frowning as he deftly conjured up a mirror and inspected his reflection. "Perhaps it is a bit much?"
"Most of Gondor assumes that we are, at most, approaching our forth decade. Not our eighth. And you are not giving me a beard."
Harry rolled his eyes, but his wife continued before he could respond.
"Now come sit, I'll have our dinner out in a moment. And you are not to summon it to bring it faster. You may summon the twins, though."
Then she was moving off to the nearby kitchen again with efficient steps even as her husband obediently moved towards the table, taking his medallion off and tossing to towards his work table as he went.
Maybe basing the depiction of advanced age on his memories of Dumbledore's smiling face was a bit unwise. But he didn't think he'd looked that bad!
~ * Harry's House, The Shire – Nárië 17, 562 * ~
"Thank yee, milady!"
"You're very welcome, my dears. But do try to be a little more careful, won't you? Ránewen smiled as she waived to the departing hobbit children. While her husband had essentially won their right to live among the hobbits by protecting them from the servants of Sauron, both of them had also earned their place by their skills with the healing arts. She was quite used to hobbits in need of help coming to her for it, even in Elerossë's absence. She rarely went to Gondor's capital with him if he intended to stay for only a short time and planned to be busy with military or political meetings the whole time.
"Yes milady!" the youthful response came back, though the little ones were already running off to get into some other mischief.
Ránewen particularly liked playing with the hobbit children. Little ones were so precious to the Elves as a society—understandably so. She'd like nothing more than to try for her own, though she knew they couldn't. They'd decided on that before their wedding.
Or, Ránewen had decided on it, really, as Elerossë would undoubtedly bow to her wishes if she but asked.
But she knew what it was like to grow up without parents, just like Harry did at first. And unlike her prince, she hadn't been truly adopted after her mother and father were killed by Orcs, along with most of their traveling party. She'd been past her first century at the time, but that hadn't lessened the pain or horror of witnessing and remembering that terrible event.
Her people had of course ensured that she wanted for nothing that was in their power to give after that. Yet no one could give her parents back to her.
The memory of that aching, unfulfillable wish was what kept her for asking her husband for a little one. Because they had no way of knowing how long they'd have with their child, and making the decision to leave them behind with their people or take them to a world where they might at the very least have to watch their father die of old age, or at worse watch both their parents die defending the mortal wizards, was unendurable.
Once Harry had fulfilled his destiny, children could be in their future. Certainly if they were able to return to Arda afterwards.
If they couldn't, Ránewen didn't know if she would ask for children then; not when she knew her husband would have but a century, maybe a little more, and she'd die of grief soon after his death. Leaving their immortal children trapped in a mortal world…
Ránewen shook her head as she closed the cottage door behind her, heading towards the kitchen to make tea.
This was one of the usual turns her thoughts tended to take in her beloved's absence, despite her very best efforts to remain focused on pleasanter reflections.
As she passed Elerossë's work desk, she paused, and shook her head fondly. She always tried to ignore the little amounts of clutter her husband tended to leave in his wake—his thoughts often flying from one idea to another to quickly to remember to clean up all the time. If she left the clutter, he'd clean it up before it ever reached objectionable levels of disarray and disorder. Yet whenever he wasn't here for hours on end, fiddling with something or other, she always gravitated to this desk and started organizing, cleaning, or both.
Once everything was organized again, her eyes strayed to the high shelf where she knew Elerossë's wand lay inside the special box he designed to keep it in when he didn't need to use it. Which he hardly every did; he claimed magic was easier on Arda than he remember it being on Earth, that the world itself was teeming with so much magic that he rarely needed to focus his own inner powers anymore.
Maybe that was partially true; after all, the same environmental magic he was referring to was what some Elves called upon to perform the much lesser magicks they were known for. But they couldn't do anything like Elerossë could do with it, so most were pretty sure there had to be more to it. Perhaps practice and constant use made performing magic without a wand easier, or maybe Elerossë just subconsciously came to understand his magic better, and that was what made it easier and easier.
Whatever the case, her husband rarely chose to risk taking his wand anywhere if he didn't think he'd need it. He didn't have to, since he could just apparate home in a jump or two to get it if he was actually performing something powerful or precise enough to demand it. Since he was playing an aging mortal soldier-turned-knight in Gondor, not the wizard or elf prince he was, that of course hadn't come even close to happening. And the wand had too much sentimental value to him to risk unnecessarily.
It was also a comfort to Ránewen as she opened the box, smiling as she felt the dormant power within— Elerossë's magic—hum in welcome. Running her finger along the smooth surface—Elerossë polished it at least every other week—she couldn't help but giggle lightly as the inaudible hum grew louder, and the familiar magic wash through her in a warm, still welcoming wave.
Some of the books in the library made from Hermione's Tome claimed wands could owe loyalty to only one witch or wizard. Ránewen could understand how that was true, but her husband's wand had always welcomed her. Always served as a slight bit of comfort in his absence.
'I do hope to see you again, soon, melda nîn,' Ránewen thought sighing softly, before gasping as she felt a jerk behind her navel, which she recognized a moment later as the activation of a portkey. Her husband hated the things, though he'd gotten better at landing with time, and occasionally deigned to use them. It didn't help that among the graceful Elves his best efforts tended to look a little clumsy nonetheless. Recognizing she was nearing the destination—though she still didn't understand how she came to be traveling by portkey—Ránewen braced slightly for landing.
Her would-be graceful landing was spoiled by the fact that there was someone standing right where the portkey took her.
It took her less than a second to recognize her husband's form as she landed on top of him and he both rolled a little with the fall and at the same time managed to catch her while he was at it. Harry may not be quite as graceful as most elves, but he had very fast reflexes.
"Ow… melda nîn?" he pushed them both up into a sitting with one arm, the other still holding her to him so that she ended up sitting in his lap as he stared at her with wide eyes, which looked a little odd since he was currently in his 'mortal' disguise. "What are you doing here? What happened? Are you alright?"
Ránewen shook her head in confusion, before frowning down at the wand that was now clutched in her hands. "I…I touched your wand," she cocked her head to the side slightly as she met his gaze again ponderingly. "Did you make it a portkey?"
He blinked at her. "My wand, a portkey? I…I wouldn't think that'd be possible… well, maybe, if I could do it wandlessly. But making good portkeys is one of the things I need my wand for, so I'm not sure how I'd manage it." Then he blinked again. "Why did you need my wand, anyway?"
Ránewen blushed slightly, looking down again. "I, um. I missed you."
Elerossë's affectionate chuckle reverberated through his body a little, as he withdrew his arm from around her waist to reach up and catch her chin and turn her face towards his own again. "I've missed you, too." He admitted, before placing a gentle kiss on her lips.
Ránewen frowned when he withdrew after a mere peck. "Not that much, apparently," she huffed.
He laughed, shaking his head. "Oh no, I've missed you very much. But 'Sir Hadrian' can't very well be caught with an unknown elf that resembles his wife in his lap, lips locked in a kiss in the middle of the hallway, can he?"
Ránewen blinked, only then noticing that they were in of a—thankfully deserted—hallway. "Oh…no. That wouldn't be wise. We should—"
"Wizard here, melda nîn, remember?" her husband interrupted her, as he wrapped his arm around her waist again to keep her from rising as she'd started to try. Then she was again hit by the familiar sensation of a type of magical transportation, though she was much more familiar with side-along apparition, since that was how her husband usually took her to far off places if they were making quick trips.
A moment later they landed on a much softer surface than the castle floor, and Ránewen only needed a glance to confirm that they were in the bed they usually shared when they stayed in Gondor's capital. She raised an eyebrow at him, "Shouldn't we be discussing how I got here, verno nîn?" (my husband)
"I haven't seen you in almost a month, so I can't really say I care all that much about how you came to be in my lap, vesse nîn." (my wife)
Ránewen laughed, smiling as she leaned over to press another kiss to his lips. This one lasted a lot longer than the previous, but this time she was the one that drew back with a grin as her husband groaned. "Work before play, melda nîn."
"I've been working," he complained, but didn't try to stop her as she slipped off his lap. Instead, he raised an eyebrow as she turned to face him and held his wand out to him.
"So, why did it bring me here?"
He accepted the much-loved item with a sigh, scrutinizing it carefully, before he shook his head. "There's nothing wrong with it, melda nîn. And it's not a portkey."
"But it brought me here, and it felt just like a portkey…"
"Hmm," Elerossë nodded, still staring at his wand for several moments, before realization visibly dawned on his face. "When you were holding it, did you say anything?"
Ránewen frowned, shaking her head. "No, I was just…" she blinked. "I was just thinking about how much I wanted to see you. It read my mind?"
"No, wands don't really do that. They don't read 'thoughts,' but desire and intent." Elerossë shook his head slowly. "But from what I've read, that only works for magical folk…"
Ránewen blinked when he suddenly flipped the wand around and held one end out to her, "What—"
She shook her head, "Why, I'm not a witch. It must just be because it's yours—"
"Probably, in part. But elves are magical, too. We've both been taught Elven magic. We've just never thought about seeing how much of my magic you could use." He raised the wand a little again, "Let's see."
Hesitantly, she obeyed slowly, glancing around one she held the wand with the lightest grip possible. "What do you want me to do?"
Elerossë shrugged, "Start with something easy, I guess." He waived his hand and a feather appeared next to him. "Levitate that, you know the spell."
While Elerossë didn't need to audibly cast, he tended to do it to avoid startling people too badly most of the time. And the first charm he'd learned had featured in several scenes from his first year of school that she'd watched, most with equal parts amusement and horror.
Forcing herself to not bite her lip in nervousness, Ránewen mimicked the wand motion she'd seen him learn from Hogwarts' tiniest teacher and enunciated, "Wing-gar-dium Levi-o-sa!"
The feather floated up into the air obediently, and immediately plummeted when she dropped the wand in surprise.
"Bravo!" Elerossë applauded her, smiling as her stunned gaze returned to him while he reached down to pick up his wand again, turning to set in on the bedside table as he continued. "Looks like we'll be studying more magic for a while."
Ránewen nodded mutely, still a little stunned.
"Now, you caught—well, I guess I caught you—as I was returning from bidding my host farewell after sending the twins off with the horses. I won't be collecting them till sometime tomorrow, as they wanted to ride a bit. So, let's go home."
That made her smile as she slid her hand into his, and let him apparate them away again. This was a magical aspect of her marriage that she was well used to, after all. Still, even though she was still a bit amazed that she could perform the magic of Elerossë's people, she was a little excited, too.
~ * Cara Galadhon, Lothlórien – Cermië 31, 583 * ~
Harry was beyond thankful for his family and friends here on Middle Earth, and it were times like this that highlighted why.
He had come a long way from the little boy who drew images of birthday cakes on a dirty floor for his birthday. He'd also surpassed the boy-who-lived, who'd eagerly anticipated the flock of owls that assailed his home the night before his birthday each year after he started at Hogwarts.
Now a whole city celebrated the day of his birth, which was strangely enough even called the same thing by the people of Gondor. Among the Eldar his birthday was the thirty-first of Cermië, but the people of Gondor called the same month July and all the other months of the year bore the same, English names he'd initially grown up with. How exactly that happened he had no idea. Though it was a logic-puzzle his father and brother-in-law, along with many of the other more scholarly-types among the Elves-in-the-know, enjoyed.
"Aur onnad meren a le!" some of the Galadhrim were properly singing.
"Aur onnad meren a le!" others were shouting, joyously.
"Aur onnad meren a Elerossë!"
With hundreds of people surrounding him, the cacophony of noise should have been horrific. But the musicality of the Elves and the sheer delight infused in the very air all around them kept it the wonderful occasion it ought to be.
"Aur onnad meren a le!" 
So Harry was smiling widely as he welcomed the kiss his wife brought to him at the end of the song.
Among the Elves it was more then a little impractical to celebrate every year, of course. But Elerossë was the Galadhrim's prince and the beginning of his fifth century was something that should, of course, be commemorated.
Though it did, still, rather amaze him that the song sung was the Elvish adaptation of 'happy birthday' from his own world. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate it. It was more that it surprised him that the Elves didn't have a happy birthday song of their own before he came. Given that they had songs for just about everything else, and even celebrated with cakes and presents just like the mortals both of Earth and Middle Earth did, it just made it seem a bit peculiar to him.
Not that he'd ever tell any of them that...
~ * Cara Galadhon, Lothlórien –Lótessë 31, 608 * ~
"We don't have to, you know," Harry murmured into his wife's hair, before pressing a soft kiss into it as she sank a little further back into his embrace.
"One of us says that every year, melda nîn." Her anticipated reply came. "And every year, the other must make them see reason."
"We both want children."
"And if it were about what we wanted, we wouldn't have started taking this potion on the eve of our tenth anniversary; ninety years ago." Ránewen sighed sadly as she turned in his arms to rest her cheek on his shoulder. "But this isn't about us. It's about the children we want to give only the best to."
"And having grown up without parents ourselves—"
"You much more so than I, melda nîn."
Harry nodded, "Neither one of us are willing to bring them into a world we might abandon them in—be it on Arda or Earth."
Ránewen nodded slightly. "The next argument is that we could give them the choice to come with us."
"To a world they might find themselves alone amongst mortals after a century or two. Unless they find mortal matches."
"And die of grief as I shall, should you die."
Harry winced. "Yes."
"Or they might choose to remain here, amongst our people, to travel to Valinor when the time for the Elves departure comes."
"Possibly giving up the chance to ever see either of us again."
"Just as you, embracing immortality here, may be given up the chance to see your birth parents after mortal death."
"Yes." Harry sighed, now resting his head slightly atop hers. "And that is assuming I'm not called back sometime soon. If you try to follow me while carrying our child, both of you could die."
"And we cannot ask our children to choose how they may die before they reach adulthood themselves." Ránewen sighed, and Harry felt her eyelashes brush across his chin as she closed her eyes. "Even then, it would feel wrong."
A few moments later, the elleth sighed. "Is it ready?"
Harry didn't need to glance at the potion pot to know the answer; it'd lost all of its color a short while before, and he'd added the last ingredient then, completing it. He always made this potion, though she was the better brewer, he never let her make this process anymore painful for herself. "Yes."
Ránewen nodded carefully, before drawing back enough to lock gazes with his. "Then let's get this over with."
~ * Harry's House, the Shire – Narvinyë 11, 650 * ~
"Elerossë, she really wants to learn—"
"I am not teaching my nephews magic."
Ránewen blinked, then raised an eyebrow. "I never said anything about the Gwenyn."
"No," Harry agreed with a nod, even as he very deliberately kept his eyes locked on the rune pattern he was sketching. "You just want to teach their little sister magic, which will make the pair of them demand teaching, citing fairness."
His wife chuckled. "I'm not saying we teach them anything that'll purposely help with their pranks—"
"Good, then we've nothing more to discuss."
"Elerossë!" she laughed, even as she shook her head. "There's much more they could learn from you, and use magic for, that does not include pranking."
Harry finally turned his eyes from his work to raise an eyebrow at her. "You do remember the memories I showed you of the Weasley family, yes?"
"And do you really think either Mr. or Mrs. Weasley ever deliberately ever taught their twins magic for pranking?"
"Well, Mr. Weasley might have—"
"And risked his wife's wrath? I really doubt it."
"He encouraged them on the car—"
"Until she hit him and he noticed she was scowling at him."
"There isn't a book for prank spells in the library from Hermione's Tome."
"No, I'm sure Hermione made a point of not including those, if they were part of the Hogwarts' collection to begin with." Harry shook his head. "But magic can be used for a great deal, melda nîn, as you know. And a clever mind can turn it to pranks very, very easily."
"…The Gwenyn have never hurt anyone."
Harry sighed, "And I'm not worried they would. I adore and have faith in all of my sister's children.. I am, however, worried about how my sister, brother-in-law and all of their advisors—Glorfindel and Erestor especially—would react to them learning magic."
Ránewen shook her head. "You've allowed all the Galadhrim—and all others who know our secrets, though they are relatively few, as of yet—to study the books from your world. You taught Master Gelmir how to craft wands, and several other elves already have them."
"And if asked, he won't make wands for any of the elflings without their parents and grandparents explicit permission. And neither will I." Harry sighed. "I know better than to try and order you not to, but please talk to Celebrían about it before you try anything with Arwen. She might like to learn with her daughter, also. As may Elrond."
After a moment his wife nodded her agreement. "Be iest lîn."
~ * Caras Galadhon, Lothlórien, Urimë 11, 667 TA * ~
"Elerossë?" Ránewen's quiet inquiry broke the heavy silence that hung around the terrace. As dawn was hours away it was still dark, and most of the Galadhrim were asleep, as were most of the Golden Wood's fauna. "Are you all right?"
Harry didn't answer fro several moments, staring off into the distance as his wife came up and wrapped her arms around him from behind. After a moment he sighed and turned around to return her embrace. "...I always knew he'd die some day, Ránewen. I just..." he shook his head with another sigh. "I guess I didn't expect it to be so soon."
Ránewen shook her head, sending her long dark hair swishing back and forth even as the breeze caught a few strands that weren't restrained by the slender braids she'd woven around her crown to control the long locks. "We never do, melda nîn. Their lives are so very short... and Turambar was well into his when you met him."
"I know," Harry shook his head again, "Elrond warned me, you know."
The gentle, sad smile on Ránewen's face was just a bit reproachful as she replied, "I believe many of us did, melda nîn. I know I did."
"Yes, but he was much more... persistent." Harry shook his head slowly from side to side as his focus remained introspective for several long moments. Then he sighed again and offered a small, sad smile. "Well, I guess I'm learning what I wanted to... I'm not happy about it, of course, but... there it is."
Ránewen sighed, "Poor melda nîn," she murmured, her embrace tightening for a moment as she laid her head down on his shoulder. "Would that you did not have such a destiny before you. I hate to see you in pain."
"It is a part of who I am."
"And perhaps the only reason we ever met, I know," Ránewen shook her head. "That doesn't help."
Harry chuckled softly, breathing in the faint, soothing scent of lavender and violets that he knew came from the shampoo and conditioner Ránewen had used on her hair for centuries. "No, it doesn't."
"You should go to him now, melda nîn." Ránewen murmured, her voice even softer than before, barely a whisper. "You'll regret it...forever, if you don't."
"I know..." Harry nodded, his voice just as soft. "I know..." he repeated with another heavy sigh. After a few moments he withdrew slightly to meet her violet eyes again. "Will you come with me?" he asked, before quickly shaking his head and saying, "You don't have to, of course. In fact, you prob—"
He was cut off by his wife's warm, soft lips covering his own.
After several moments with their lips locked together in almost desperate passion, Ránewen drew back to quietly say, "I'm coming."
"Hannon le..." Harry replied just as quietly, before leaning down to kiss her once more.
~ * Valinor, Arda, Yavannië 3, 667 TA * ~
Vairë, the Vala commonly known as 'The Weaver,' past through her husband's halls on ethereally silent feet, nodding to the spirits that bowed to acknowledge her, but not choosing to actually stop for any discussions. She had a specific reason for being here now. Set on her course, it took her little time to find the lord of the Halls of Mandos, the title for which Námo had become more commonly known.
"My Lady," the dark figure acknowledged her before she said anything, though he did not turn away from the shimmering pool he was gazing into. One of the many ways he could view Middle Earth without actually going there.
"My Lord," Vairë nodded as she came up alongside him and also looked down into that pool, though she already knew what she would see. She had woven this fate at his behest, after all. Though that particular weaving would not join the many others that had preceded it—which were draped all around the walls of this massive hall—until the events it defined had come to pass.
After several long moments of silence, the 'Judge of the Dead' spoke again. "Have Manwë's eyes turned to the mortal lands once more?"
Vairë's infinite gaze turned towards him, then back to the pool he was still watching so devotedly. "Surely you do not believe he would send me to fetch you, if he had."
"No," Mandos actually sighed. "No, I do not suppose he would."
"He shall, of course, remember the world outside of Aman eventually." Vaire shook her head. "Some of the others have noticed the abrupt decline in pilgrims from the mortal lands. But it is the general opinion that most of the Elves still there will remain until the last possible moment."
"Or beyond it, yes." Mandos nodded. "We shall see fewer still, until then. Though the years are short to us. And we will certainly see none of those whom the recent events have touched."
"No. Young Elerossë's world and all it adds to Middle Earth certainly does fascinate them. Even devices like their Penseives would be considered invaluable treasures to all here. As they are now, across The Seas."
"The addition of the leaders from the Elves still trapped on Earth was an interesting touch."
"That you did not request, I know. But though they are not our Elves, I believed they deserved the chance to leave the mortal world, nonetheless."
"They did have a chance in their world itself."
"A very brief one, yes. But considering their long-lives, like ours, a span of a few years is hardly adequate time for making such a life-altering decision."
"Yet you would offer them the same decision, now?"
"They've had several millennia to lament not leaving, or not. If they truly wish to come to Aman, as many seem to, they will."
Mandos cocked his head to the side slightly, finally turning his dark gaze down towards her. "You have not woven their fate?"
"Stolen their choice?" Vairë shook her head. "No. Of course not. You know I never would, Námo." She sighed, "I always leave choices."
Mandos's gaze returned to the pool even as he nodded. "Yes. Yes, you do."
Several more long moments of silence passed between and around them as they gazed into the pool. Then the weaver of Arda's Fate spoke again.
"Our kin's abandonment of Middle Earth troubles you so much, my love. You are Manwë's chief advisor, and yet you say nothing. Why n—"
"You have asked this question before, dear heart."
Vairë sighed, "Your answer has yet to satisfy me."
"You have my sincerest apologies."
"Had we paid attention to Middle Earth sooner, Aulë's treacherous assistant might never have risen to power as a Dark Lord there. Númenor might have been spared its cruel fate, had we shielded the young ones from Melkor's treachery."
Now Mandos actually chuckled, shaking his head slightly, still gazing into the pool. "And what of free will?"
"They should still have it, of course," Vairë shook her head, frowning deeply. "But had they any contact with us, any kind of acknowledgement beyond the taboo of never setting foot on these shores, they might never have chosen to sail against us."
"That is possible," Mandos agreed, nodding again. "As you certainly know."
"Yet still you will not speak to Manwë?"
"I have spoken to him. Many times. As has the fair Varda."
Vairë started in surprise, "Varda still cares for Middle Earth?" She shook her head. "She's never said..."
"Varda rarely speaks her mind in public, as you well know. But she sees all that passes beneath her stars and all Elves—even those that have yet to make the Westward journey—are her prized children."
"Ah," Vairë nodded in understanding. "That makes sense, then... though she has not seemed to be in ill spirits as of late."
"She undoubtedly feels she has no need to be. That the Elves of Middle Earth will make their final voyage soon enough and there is currently no great trouble in the mortal lands. Not since Sauron's ring was cut from his hand."
Vairë nodded, then chuckled slightly. "I do find it interesting that the Dark Lord that troubles Elerossë's childhood home sought to create so similar a device, though he made many more of them."
"The so-called Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes are not Sauron's Ring of Power."
"No," Vairë agreed easily, shrugging. "But they are a fair adaptation, considering the mage that made them is mortal and had far less time to accomplish the same feat that Sauron sought to."
Mandos sighed, "Perhaps."
"I should think you'd find it rather flattering, old friend," a familiar voice declared as its owner entered the room.
Vairë and Mandos both turned to greet the Master of Visions and Dreams with nods.
"Irmo, welcome," Vairë offered a warm smile for her husband's fellow Fëanturi, or spirit-master.
"Good day; Vairë, Námo," the Vala that was also often referred to by his primary dwelling place—the wondrous gardens of Lórien, for which the Golden Wood of Lothlórien was aspiring called-nodded in return. But his silvery-white eyes never met theirs, for now—as was his norm—his gaze was turned towards his realm.
"What brings you to my halls, old friend?" Mandos asked, tilting his dark head to the side in curiosity.
"Visions of interest," Lórien replied, moving closer to the pool to look into it himself. "This one is a master of his own destiny, to be sure. Yet you did not feel he had enough to choose from in his own world?"
Mandos sighed, "He was orphaned when he was little more than an infant. And he survived a curse that, until then, served as an equivalent for my touch in that violent world."
"He was hailed a hero, for Tom Riddle's first great defeat, but then abandoned by his supposed people, and condemned to a childhood surrounded by hate and fear." Vairë added, no small amount of anger leaking into her voice.
But the other Valar understood.
The Elves were oh-so protective of their precious young, partially because children came so rarely to their kind.
In contrast, the Valar could have no children of their own. Instead, they watched over the lesser races forged by the will of Ilúvatar, treating them as though they were their own as much as possible. Though in recent millennia, most of the Valar had focused any paternal feelings they had on the First Born exclusively, as they could remain with them outside of the mortal world. Still, the idea of neglecting and harming a child—be it with fists or with words and looks—horrified them.
"So you sought to give him a better childhood," Lórien nodded, a smile stealing a corner of his mouth. "And the chance to meet his soul mate, as well?"
"With all that is expected from him in his life, is it not fair that he be allowed that mercy?"
Lórien nodded in response to the Weaver's query. "Certainly. Though the only thing I have ever questioned in Ilúvatar's will is why the meetings of soul mates are not guaranteed."
"Why some are born in entirely different worlds, never to meet till possibly after their death? And others are born in the same world, but too far apart—by time or just space—to ever meet?" Mandos shook his head in agreement. "The question has troubled all of us, I'm sure."
"Though the mortals adapt better than most," Lórien commented after a moment of quiet. "Their gift of choice gives them the ability to adapt and the gift of death, by limiting their life-span, forces them to." The Dreamer shook his head. "Had you left him untouched, he would have eventually found happiness of a sort."
"I should hope so," Vairë nodded, sighing. "But that is no reason to avoid giving him a better option."
"I suppose not," Lórien allowed with another nod. He watched the pool for several more seconds before adding, "His choice to reacquaint himself with mortality was an interesting one."
"And a necessary one," Mandos added. "Much as it hurts him now."
"Better he learns the lesson here than return to Earth and face the deaths of all his childhood friends, in the war or just to time's relentless passage."
"You could undo that fate entirely," Lórien suggested.
"And risk war with those that govern his world? No," Mandos shook his head. "Young Elerossë's fate is tied to his native world far too tightly for me to risk challenging it without Manwë's approval. And Manwë has no interest in the mortals of our world, so I doubt he'll care for those outside our dimension at all."
"Neither can live while the other survives," Vairë murmured, her eyes sad.
"But shall he return after his task is done?" Lórien asked, looking between the shadowed pair.
"That choice will be his, and his alone." Vairë shook her head, "For now, he must contend with a dear friend's unavoidable, natural death."
~ * Minas Anor, Gondor, Yavannië 3, 667 TA * ~
Harry watched his old friend sadly as he sat down next to him on a bench overlooking the fortified white city, with the Pelennor Fields and Osgiliath in the distance.
Though Turambar, as one of the Dúnedain, was much longer-lived than most men, his time was certainly coming.
His once midnight-black hair had first gone gray with age and was now as white as snow.
His skin still bore some of the golden glow of good health he'd always had in his youth, but it was paler now and marred by wrinkles. Not so many wrinkles as most old men had, thanks again to his Elven ancestor, but he had some around his eyes, mouth and forehead nonetheless.
Over the last decade arthritis had set into his joints, stealing most of his grace and speed.
A little over a year ago his vision had started to fail. It had been fading for some years beforehand, but now he could not even read without the aid of the glass 'Hadrian' had given him or a servant or kinsman to do it for him.
Harry had helped all he could. He'd pleaded with both Galadriel and Elrond for Elven remedies and draughts to slow the old king's decline and lessen his pain. He'd snuck what magic and Wizarding potions he could in as well, even going so far as to make a seeing-eyeglass for him to read with should he wish to.
Harry had needed quite a bit of magic for that. Some to make sure the single mithril framed glass-lens would fit comfortably, be the right prescription for him, never break, or scratch, or fog... It hadn't been easy to explain. He'd managed to get out of doing so by saying that it was an invention by one of the people of the Golden Wood, a Galadhrim named Elerossë, who Turambar then of course assumed was an elf.
But even with all the help he continued to give, Turambar's end was still coming. They could all see it, no matter how much they didn't want to. And now he really knew why Elrond was so reluctant to associate with his brother's descendants. If Turambar and his children and grandchildren were a reasonable standard to judge their line by, then the descendants of the Line of Kings were truly the very best of their race. To watch these children grow into adults of such great character... and then watch them fade, to watch their aging bodies fail them... It hurt. Truly and deeply.
Harry was glad, though, that Turambar's mind remained whole and healthy. At least he knew when they spoke that his friend was still there, even if he couldn't meet his eyes without the glass in one.
"Would that I had your grace, my friend," Turambar murmured with a small smile, his eyes turned out towards the horizon, where the sun was slowly setting. His voice was not quite as deep and strong as it once was, worn by decades of use and the many illnesses that had plagued his old form over the last few years.
"Hmm?" Harry replied, frowning slightly. It had always troubled him that he hadn't been able to share more of himself–and his true history–with this very good friend. And Turambar hadn't made it easy, though he'd never made any outright demands. Just observed, and listened, and occasionally asked very insightful questions.
"You've aged far more gracefully than I, as I imagine my older forefathers must have done before our Elven heritage became so diluted," Turambar shook his head with a sigh, which abruptly turned into a harsh, hacking cough. He accepted the goblet of water Harry handed him with a small nod of thanks before drinking deeply and calming his throat. "...Thank you."
"You're welcome, my friend," Harry returned softly, choosing not to comment on Turambar's reference to 'Hadrian's' supposed heritage. It was the best theory available to the wise old king, and the closest he could get to the truth. And it was true, in a way. "Have you been taking the potions and draughts I gave you?"
"Of course," Turambar replied with a small smile. "Lothenélla never lets me forget. She took over when my Lindethiél died... They do help with the pain, especially on long days. Thank you again."
"You need not thank me. It's what friends do for friends, after all."
Turambar smiled, shaking his head. "And yet you're the only friend I know that would do such a thing without expecting anything in return. Even my kin expect rewards or at least recognition from time to time. Yet you never do. Never have."
"I am content as I am."
"I do wish you'd at least accept a real title and an actual position on my council. I'd like to have you there to help Atanatar when he takes the throne."
"I will help Atanatar, as I can, of course."
"But not in any official capacity? It would be very easy to make an old knight into a high councilor."
"As a friend I will be happy to help and he need only write to me by falcon whenever he needs or wants to. If it was good enough for you, my friend, it should be for your son, as well," Harry pointed out, with one eyebrow raised.
"Perhaps," Turambar sighed. "But you were at my side through most of the war, when I first became king. It's different."
"Yes, Atanatar doesn't have a war to worry about. And he is eighty years older than you were when you took the throne."
"True, true... But you will help him, as much as you're able?" Turambar asked, his unaided eyes somehow focused directly on Harry's eyes, as though he was seeing that which he could not clearly see by sheer willpower. "And watch over the others for as long as you're able?"
Harry nodded slowly. "I will watch over your children, and your grandchildren, my friend, as though they were my own."
Turambar's answering smile was somehow both grateful and sad all at once. "Thank you, my friend." Then he shook his head. "It is a great pity you and Raina were never able to have little ones. Both of you are so good with mine; I know you would be wonderful with your own."
"We would have liked that," Harry sighed, not offering any other words on the subject as he always avoided actually lying to his old friend as much as possible.
"Yet you feel secure in your futures, even with no son or daughter to care for you?"
Harry nodded, bemused at another question the old king had asked many times before. Yet another attempt at talking him into accepting a title. But he always said no. He didn't need any more titles, after all. Over the years though, the persistent struggle had become something of a game between them. "Quite, thank you," he replied, before turning slightly at the sound of approaching footsteps. He bowed his head with a smile when he saw his friend's great-granddaughter drawing near.
"Grandfather?" the young princess called hesitantly, one hand on her brow to try and tame the long dark locks that were being caught by the wind while her warm silver eyes focused on Turambar.
Turambar also turned, any surprise he felt at her appearance well-hidden as a delighted smile lit up his features. "Lothenélla, good evening. Come to watch the sunset?"
"No, grandfather," the teenager shook her head, a small frown crossing her comely features as she held up a bag she'd been carrying on her shoulder moments before. "I brought you your medicine. You know you're supposed to take some of it at sundown."
Turambar nodded, though he shot a glance in Harry's direction with an eyebrow raised, his expression clearly seeing, 'you see what I mean?' even as he moved over a little more on the bench he'd claim to give her room. "Come sit with us, my dear. And yes, yes, I'll take my medicine. But there isn't any reason you can't enjoy the sunset with us."
"I-I don't want to intru—"
"Please join us, Princess Lothenélla," Harry interrupted, also gesturing to the seat his friend had insisted on. "I haven't seen you in years," he murmured with a wide smile, shaking his head. "And my, how you've grown! You must have suitors by the dozen now."
"Th-Thank you, my lord," the eighteen-year-old replied, her face reddening in evident embarrassment as she finally took the seat beside her grandfather. She looked Harry over for several moments before shaking her head, her expression puzzled. "I'm u-usually very good with faces, my lord, but I'm afraid I don't recall yours."
Harry laughed lightly, smiling as he replied. "You'd only just turned six the last time I spoke with you. Though I've visited a few times since then, I'm afraid I never had the pleasure of your acquaintance more recently." Then he shrugged, "And besides that I am only a retired captain and knight who went to war with your father's grandfather, long before you were born. I certainly wouldn't expect you to recognize me."
The princess's gaze became curious, "You fought against the East, sir?"
Now, Turambar laughed shortly before Harry could answer. "Fought! Sir Hadrian practically won the war for us, if all the stories you hear these days are true. And several aren't too far off."
Harry frowned at him, "Your leadership was far more important to the war effort than any of the contributions I made, Your Majesty."
"So you've said," Turambar nods, his old eyes gazing off into the distance. "So you've said." Then he shook his head. "But sometimes I wonder. So many things blend together, you know. What stands out the most are your acts of valor and the like."
"You're Sir Hadrian?" Princess Lothenélla asked, pretty eyes wide as she stared at him.
"Yes," Harry bowed his head slightly in acquiescence, before chuckling. "Though I suppose my bowed, aged form isn't what these 'stories' your grandfather speaks of would have you expect?" he shakes his head, continuing before she can respond. "I doubt any of those stories are really worth the time it takes for them to be told."
"Now, now, my dear Lindethiél kept the gossip-mongers from getting too carried away, way back when." Turambar objected, though he was smiling. "And Atanatar's Alanara seems to be quite good at it, too."
"I'm sure she is, though your queen left impressive shoes to fill," Harry bowed his head again. "Still, they couldn't hear every rendition of the tales spun after the war. And time can only have made those tales longer and less precise."
Turambar shrugged, "Perhaps," he allowed. "I can't really object much. Can't say I've heard many stories as of late." Then he raised his eyebrow at his great-granddaughter. "Perhaps you could tell us of what we've been missing, Lothenélla?"
The girl blinked, but then nodded, smiling. "I'd love to, grandfather. After you've taken your medicine," she indicated the bag she'd brought with her again.
Turambar sighed, but he was smiling. "If I must..."
~ * Caras Galadhon, Lothlorien, Narquelië 31, 667 TA * ~
"To Minas Anor, mellon nin," Harry ordered, before he threw the falcon up in the air, and then watched it fly towards Gondor's capital.
"Our condolences, melda nin?" Ranewen murmured as she wrapped one of his arms around her waist.
Harry nodded, but didn't otherwise respond, still watching the carrier falcon fly away.
"He lived a great life. How much he is missed, and will be missed, is a reflection of that undeniable fact."
Again, he didn't respond, though the bird was by now out of his sight.
"We can go to the funderal?"
After another second's silence, Harry shook his head. "No," he sighed. "We're supposedly old enough now that making such a trip in so short a time shouldn't be possible. If we did, we'd have to stay in Gondor longer, and King Atanatar would spend every available opportunity picking up where his father left off."
"Trying to convince you to join his council, you mean?"
"And you don't think you'd be able to say no."
"I have to." Harry sighed. "Even while Turambar's body is lying in state."
Ranewen was quiet for several moments, before she sighed. "I am sorry, melda nin."
"As am I." Harry nodded, then shook his head. "But I'm not sorry for what I learned."
"I'll work harder at remembering. Men aren't elves—they're different in so many ways. But there's good in them to. They're worth fighting for."
"Just as the mortals in your world are."
They stood there for several minutes, gazing into the distance where whisps of clouds were slowly starting to merge into possible more ominous formations.
Eventually, Ranewen placed a kiss on his cheek, "I'll get supper started."
Harry nodded, still gazing off into the distance at the clouds as she moved back into the tellain. The clouds reminded him of Turambar's eyes the last several years; his friend's silver gaze had gotten cloudier and cloudier as his body weakened and his strength waned. It was a little hard to believe that the fit young man he'd gone off to war with years before was the same one that'd sat with him watching the sunset not long before. Hard to believe, save for the bright mind that'd still been there.
Been there then.
Because the old King of Gondor had died in his sleep three days before.
Turambar was dead.
Harry closed his eyes, bowing his head as he murmured, "Hiro hon hîdh ab 'wanath." After at least a minute of silence, he finally opened his eyes again, looking in the direction Minas Anor lay. "Goodbye, my friend." 
Then he turned and walked inside the telain.
End of Chapter 4: Turambar – A Mortal, A King & A Friend – Part III.
Note's from within chapter:
 Honestly, I couldn't find much on the Kingdom of Rhovanion, so a lot of what's in here is made up. I kind of blended Rohan with Gondor and figured a few Eastern traditions might have blended in a little too. I named the King "Vindovia" because his descendents would be the canon characters: King Vidugavia, Princess/Queen Vindumavi and Prince Vinitharya (or Eldacar).
 If you refer back to Chapter 2—or you can just take my word for it—Hollin is where 'the sons of Hames'; 'Hadrian, Hama, and Herall' are supposedly from. A distant northern region of Gondor, near Rivendell, which therefore easily serves as a good origin for Harry and the Míriel' brothers' aliases. Captain Torres refers to Harry as 'Hollin' because he's not a friend: so he wouldn't refer to him by his given name and he didn't want to show him the respect of referring to him by his military rank, a Captain, primarily because Torres is noble-born and doesn't like that he shares ranks with a supposedly common-born man who's obviously higher in the king's favor (and justifiably so).
 Firmaidrim – The Elves name for Voldemort. I created it using the prefixes and suffixes for Elven names as listed on . How accurate is it and the information there? I honestly have no idea... But since the Elves seem to give a name or two to everyone and everything in their world, I figured they'd have their own names for the wizards and witches of Earth, which we'll see more of (much) later probably.
 *Elvish taken from ().
Aur onnad meren a le!
Aur onnad meren a le!
Aur onnad meren a Elerossë!
Aur onnad meren a le!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to Elerossë!
Happy birthday to you!
 "Hiro hon hîdh ab 'wanath." – This is the same prayer Legolas said when he thought Merry and Pippin were dead in Two Towers, only altered slightly so that it refers to only one person, "he" not "they." Translated, it means; "Let him find peace after death." (URL: /gwaith/movie_)
Narvinyë = January
Nénimë = February
Víressë = April
Náríë = June
Nana = Mom/Mommy/Mama/etc.
Naneth = Mother
ion nîn = my son
Adar = Father
Ada = Dad/Daddy/etc.
Cermië = July
Yavannië = September
Hísimë = November
Lótessë = May
melda nîn = my love
verno nîn = my husband
vesse nîn = my wife
Hannon le = thank you
Urimë = August
Narquelië = October
Author's Note: *sigh* Well, there you have it. Turambar's part in Harry's life is over… geesh that took forever. I'm not sure if subconsciously I just didn't want to kill him or what, but you wouldn't believe how many times I sat staring at the cursor blinking at me on the computer screen, trying to write, and coming up with absolutely nothing. I had ideas, of course. I always have ideas. I just couldn't write them! *Shudders* I hate that feeling!
And now, as odd as this may sound; reviews really do help me write this story. Almost every scene in this chapter old got written after I received a good review that somehow encouraged (or guilted) me into writing more. And no, these aren't the one-to-two sentence—or worse—one-to-two word reviews that essentially say: "Write more!" or "Update now!" Those have about the same effect as people adding my story to their favorites list, etc. A momentary; 'ah, someone's actually reading this. I wonder what they think of it and why won't they tell me?' Then, they're gone from my mind.
The really good reviews can put me in a good mood; and get me writing, for days.
I WANT to finish this story.
I WANT to finish all my stories.
But life frequently gets in the way, along with evil, evil writers blocks. So when I don't get reviews for a story, the odds are I won't pay to much attention to it unless my muses come alive on their own. The more time between updates usually means my muses aren't operating correctly and I need encouragement to get me to actually spend some of my time writing fan fics rather than just reading some.
Anyway, I hope everyone liked this chapter.
Again, sorry for the horrendously long wait. :-(
Bye for now! ^_^
~ Jess S
NEXT: Chapter 5: Call of the Sea & The Ship Kings - Part 1.