*I know I took longer to update this time - sorry about that. I dragged "Fellowship" off of my bookshelf to reread "The Council of Elrond" to make sure that I didn't mess anything up in this new chapter, and ended up rereading the entire book *sheepish grin*. Bookworms unite! ;-)
Harry liked being held by Legolas best of all. More than flying, even. It granted the same heart-pounding adrenaline that flying did, that same exhilaration, but it provided additional things that flying did not: warmth, comfort, security - all things that Harry had been missing out on his whole life and didn't know he had needed, really, until he'd found it.
It was a bit of novelty to have somebody for himself. Somebody made for him, belonging to him and strictly to him. Not someone he had to share, the way he did both of his best friends with each other.
Legolas was his to hug and kiss whenever the mood struck him, which was a little beyond a novelty, really, it was extraordinary. Not that he'd voice those thoughts anytime soon. His mind was going beyond mere soppiness and all of the way to Jane Austin-type romanticism, which just wouldn't do, he was still a man, damn it, even if his soulmate, er fiancé now, Harry supposed, brought out his softer side.
Oh if Ron and Hermione could see him now; as he and Legolas stood locked in an embrace, glorifying in their recent declarations of love, neither inclined to move… he'd never hear the bloody end of it. Hermione would think it cute, and start quoting Barrett-Browning poems on 'how do I love thee and counting the ways', and Ron would wonder when it was that Harry had started to channel the personalities of Parvati and Lavender.
But then, Ron had always had too many brothers for his own good. There was far too much testosterone in the Burrow – any romantic nature Ron might have developed naturally on his own had to have been exorcised out of him by the age of one. Hermione would have to beat it back into him throughout the course of their relationship and, knowing her, probably would.
Harry didn't regret his decision to stay in Middle Earth for a second, but a part of him wished he could introduced his friends to Legolas and vice versa. He knew that they would have liked him. Legolas could have charmed even the most hardened of hearts – he would have had even Snape eating out of the palm of his hands, had Snape still been alive, and assuming Snape had the emotional capacity to do any emotion beyond dour and lovelorn.
"I have something for you," Legolas stated, pulling back out of Harry's reach to search through his leather carrying sack for something.
Harry had to admit his interest was piqued. Whatever it was that Legolas had for him had to have come with them from Mirkwood, and Harry couldn't imagine why Legolas had waited till this moment to cough whatever it was up.
Legolas smiled at him nervously as he pulled out a folded bit of cloth, which he slowly unraveled to reveal two silver rings, which, to Harry's eternal gratitude, did not look or emote possession. One never knew with jewelry these days.
"These are betrothal rings," Legolas explained softly, "elven betrothals last a year, at which point we exchange these rings for wedding rings the day of our marriage."
Harry felt his heart rate pick up exponentially, and knew that this was it, the crowning moment of all relationships where things became official and friends and family started picking out the china. On second thought Harry was glad his friends weren't present, he didn't bloody need china, he just needed Legolas… might as well embrace his inner Jane Austin and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning now and be done with it; he was smitten to a nonsensical degree.
And while Harry fully intended to wear his ring proudly, he still couldn't help but rib Legolas, just a little…
"Am I really that easy that you knew to bring those with you all the way to Rivendell expecting my consent?" Harry asked, sending his soulmate a wide grin to show he was teasing.
"Easy?," the blond elf snorted, shooting Harry an incredulous look, "You call what I had to do to get you to agree to marry me easy?! Just the opposite, in fact. You, my dear soulmate, are the most difficult, stubborn, exasperating…"
"You say the nicest things," Harry interrupted sardonically, quoting the common party-line while his grin grew wider, "but really, there is no need for incessant flattery, I was going to marry you anyway. By the way Legolas, you should take a look in a lake and tell me whose reflection you see there."
Legolas looked like he didn't know whether to laugh or huff, so he settled instead for shaking his head, and smiling sheepishly at Harry.
"How I was lucky enough to capture you no longer matters," Legolas continued, "I have you now and I intend to keep you in my heart for always. I've waited nearly 3000 years for you, and I can't wait a second longer. Wear my ring, Harry, and one year from now, no matter where we are or what we are doing, I am going to marry you, and we are going to consummate our relationship the way we both want."
There were so many quips that Harry could respond with to that, ranging from a year being the longest case of foreplay in existence, to dying from sexual repression before reaching that year mark, but strangely he felt all need for sarcasm die before reaching his lips, and instead simply nodded his head, swallowed against the lump in his throat, and watched as Legolas put on his own ring, and moved to place Harry's ring on his finger.
The cold metal felt alien on, cold, heavy and requisite, but the feeling of elation that Harry received while looking at it was beyond comprehension.
It was official then. Harry Potter was engaged.
Harry figured he had to start thanking the Valar for things now, too, because despite the pending war, what they had given him was beyond anything Harry could possibly do in return.
The council of beings that Lord Elrond had called together to discuss the fate of the ring looked like the staff table at Hogwarts, with various races of beings sitting stoically together ranging in all shapes and sizes.
It was the hobbits, however, who caught Harry's attention the most, both because he couldn't wait to personally meet Frodo, who he assumed to be the younger, forlorn one with the haunted look in his eyes… eyes that Harry knew mirrored his own just months prior, and because they were the only beings, save the dwarfs, who were shorter than Harry.
After being around the almost ridiculously tall elves the most since his arrival in Middle Earth, and meeting the almost equally tall Gandalf and Aragorn, Harry was beginning to get a bit of a complex. He was average sized, thank you kindly, average – no shame in that, but apparently, despite its title, there was no middle anything in Middle Earth. Everything was either tall or short, soppy or possessed, good or evil, gorgeous, or gorgeous deficient…
Aragorn was a prime example of that. Harry loved Legolas more than he thought he'd ever be capable of loving anybody, and thought his soulmate beautiful beyond the telling of it, both outside and in, but that didn't mean he was either blind or dead. Aragorn was truly a fine specimen of manhood if Harry ever saw one. He could see immediately why the lady Arwen was so taken with him. And as a gay man he felt his qualifications for judging such things were pretty much up to par.
When Legolas had introduced the two of them, just prior to the council meeting, Harry had got a little, just a tad mind, tongue-tied. Which had caused the nearby Gandalf to chuckle in obvious amusement, Aragorn to blush, and Legolas to glare at him and grab Harry's hand tightly to tug him more firmly to the elf's side.
It was then that Harry discovered that a jealous Legolas was just as sexy as a feral, warrior Legolas, and a soppy, tender Legolas. Pretty much all of Legolas' incarnations were brilliant, and Harry told him so to lessen the jealousy burning brightly in Legolas eyes. Luckily it had worked and it would be something that Harry would remember to bring up in the future should he find anyone else in Middle Earth remotely attractive and manage to get himself tongue-tied again.
Until then he had to force himself to listen once more while the fate of another world was discussed, and the future of he, his soulmate, the poor, haunted Frodo, and whoever else wanted to join them, decided.
Elrond, who was much more somber and wise than Harry had pictured him in his head prior to meeting him, was explaining the history of the ring. Which the more Harry heard, the more he knew for a fact that the ring was a horcrux - there wasn't any doubt. The Dark Lord Sauron had crafted the ring using a bit of his soul, no other magic that Harry had ever encountered or heard of could grant an inanimate object that much power over the minds of others.
During Elrond's rather interesting tale, two dwarfs, one older and one younger, who Harry had yet to meet but that kept glaring at Legolas in a way that was thoroughly starting to piss Harry off, stood up and starting talking about someone they called a Dark Rider visiting them. This Dark Rider had offered them prestigious positions of power should they side with Sauron and offer up some information regarding hobbits.
Apparently Sauron had his own set of Death Eaters. Just great. Harry supposed all Dark Lords everywhere couldn't really be that effective if they didn't have minions, it must be a prestigious thing among them… 'my minions tempt dwarfs with promises of power'… 'oh yeah, will my minion named Renfield, eats bugs, top that'.
But that thought was cut short as another tall guy, who was only adding to Harry's complex about the tallness of everyone here who wasn't a hobbit, a dwarf, or a Harry, stood and spoke of smoke coming from a place called Mount Doom, which Harry could only assume was a bad thing if this guy, who Gandalf had told him prior to the meeting was called Boromir, thought it important enough to stand up and announce.
Mount Doom? They had a mountain here called Mount Doom? Honestly, who would name a place Doom? If it were Harry, even if a place were foreboding, he'd call it something non-menacing, like Mount Cheer or Mount Happy. Mount Doom sounded exactly like the type of place to attract the forest fires that seemed to be burning there just by sheer karma from the name.
Boromir went on to explain about his town being attacked and some dream he and his brother shared, before Aragon stood and talked about a broken sword, and Boromir asked who the hell Aragorn thought he was, and Elrond told Boromir just who Aragorn was, which was royalty and Boromir's superior, and the whole thing was more entertaining than the television that Dudley used to bow before the alter of… at least from Harry's perspective, though if was obvious that everyone else thought the situation rather serious. Harry just wished that he had popcorn. One just couldn't make this stuff up off the cuff.
Harry kind of drifted a bit after that, half listening to Gandalf going through self-reprimanding over wasting time with some evil guy named Saruman when he should have been studying up on the ring more thoroughly, followed by Aragon trying to assuage Gandalf's guilt by saying it was all of their faults, and Harry thought it rather nice that everyone was sharing the love around here. The wizarding world had been quick to point fingers, and quicker to bury their heads in the sand when it came to facing up to repercussions, except for those few who battled by Harry's side in the Battle of Hogwarts and actively fought against the repression of Voldemort's regime before that.
Finally there was reference to that Gollum guy who had escaped from Legolas' men, er elves, in the Mirkwood forest, because they were kind enough to allow him to walk around instead of toiling away in a dungeon cell. Harry shot Legolas a smile at the kindness they had shown this Gollum creature, only to have the moment ruined by the elder dwarf speaking up about his own imprisonment by Legolas' dear ol' dad.
'You locked some Dwarfs in a dungeon?' Harry mouthed to his soulmate, giving him a half-reprimanding, half-teasing look.
"It was Ada's idea, not mine, I stayed well out of the way during the entire situation," Legolas whispered under his breath, looking a bit cross at the reminder of the clearly traumatic experience.
"Remind me to never piss your father off, ever," Harry whispered back, causing Legolas to chuckle softly under his breath.
Both dwarfs glared mightily at Legolas' amusement, and Harry just shrugged his shoulders at them as if to say 'get over it, it's of the past' and laid his head on his soulmate's shoulder in a sign of solidarity. Legolas turned and pressed a small kiss on Harry's head, before turning his attention back to the discussion at hand, which revolved around this aforementioned Saruman guy betraying them all in a Peter Pettigrew type manner. Harry could only figure that he must have been the one that Gandalf had referred to when he mentioned that one of the Istari had gone bad.
That bloody figured, too. There always had to be at least one.
It was decided not long after that the ring had to be destroyed in some volcano called Mordor, also called Doom, which pretty much cleared up the question of why it was brought up that the mountain was smoking, though the Boromir guy looked a bit put out by the prospect of destroying the ring there, and Harry made a mental note to keep a close eye on that one… he was reminding Harry of Ron under the influence of Voldemort's locket.
Who would take the ring to said volcano, which Harry guessed was the Middle Earth equivalent of Vesuvius, only more deadly, was a bit of debate among the group, though Harry knew, as Gandalf had told him, that the bearer of the ring was pretty much a forgone conclusion.
"I will take the ring," a soft voice proclaimed, "though I do not know the way."
All heads turned towards the small, brave hobbit, and Harry eyed him with a swell of growing compassion. He knew first hand the toll that this experience was going to take on the little guy, and that any innocence he still held would soon be lost. Harry vowed then and there to ease the weight off of Frodo as much as he could, like Hermione had done for him. It looked like Frodo had close friends in the other Hobbits who had journeyed with him, but as Harry had learned, one could never have enough moral support when dealing with true evil.
Frodo reminded Harry too much of himself.
Once the meeting was over, and everyone got up to leave, Harry eyed the ring laying innocently on a podium.
The ring glittered at him, shining gold, and promised him, deep in the corners of his mind, unparalleled power and greatness should Harry pick it up and put it on.
"Ri-ight," Harry told the ring, "I once turned down a Dark Lord who offered me power and he did it with a lot more finesse than you. And in case that wasn't a clear enough answer, that means you can take your power and shove it where…"
'But I can help you achieve great things. Whatever it is you want out of life, I can bring that to you,' the ring promised further, glittering extra sparkly in the sun.
Harry had always been able to resist the imperious curse and it pissed him off, thoroughly, when anything, especially horcruxes, entered his mind against his will. This ring was so going down.
"Like I need you to get what I want out of life," Harry snorted, sending the ring a glare for good measure, before continuing to taunt it. "We are going to destroy you, you know. And when we do there is going to be a wild party to celebrate, in fact, I myself will transfigure some firewhiskey to contribute to the festivities. There's going to be food, and music, and Legolas and I are going to have wild sex to exemplify our joy."
"Harry," the mortified voice of his soulmate called out, and Harry turned to find all parties, who Harry had thought had been departing, looking at him incredulously.
Legolas, normally so unperturbed, was a rather bright shade of puce. Harry thought it a good color on him, but then, most colors were.
Elrond and Gandalf shared a knowing look, each hiding a smile.
Aragorn was more open in his emotional expression, chuckling softly and throwing Legolas a wink.
"The elf is annoying, but the mate is pretty entertaining," Harry heard the dwarf called Gimli tell his father, as they turned to leave, both clearly amused.
But best of all was the small smile that Frodo sent to him, his eyes briefly free of burden.
Harry sheepishly smiled back.
Author's notes: This is the last full chapter to this fic, although there will be an epilogue. I do have a sequel planned called "Embracing Fate" that will continue with the events from the LotR trilogy told from Harry's perspective, which means expect sarcasm and tons of it. ;-)
ArwendeImladris and Jukka, there is a shout-out to both of you in this chapter. Walter Dash, there is a shout-out to you as well. Let's see if you can find them…
Thank you, everyone, who has been so wonderful, and supportive with your comments. It is greatly appreciated. I carried your warmth and encouragement with me with each progressive chapter that I wrote. You guys and gals are awesome beyond the telling of it! *hugs*