Chapter 23 - Dinner Time and Glorfindel

This time dinner was not in a private room and Ellas hesitantly followed Estel – who had come to find him after his bath – into the Great Hall. Lord Elrond was already seated at the raised table; Lord Glorfindel to his left, his twin sons to his right. They were not the only elves at this table – there were others, whose names Harry didn't know, but some of them, he wagered, he had seen before when he'd had breakfast.

Harry carefully settled himself beside one of the twins, flanked by Estel on his left. He half-expected Lord Elrond to make a speech, like Dumbledore at the start of term, and ask Ellas to stand up and introduce himself, like the new teachers did.

Fortunately, this was not the case, and although he could tell that some of the elves glanced at him, no-one was staring at him outright. So Harry dared to let his eyes roam the hall form this new, higher perspective. With a small hint of surprise he realised that quite a few of the elves looked familiar. His emerald eyes met those of the elf he had worked beside in the garden that day and he hesitantly returned the man's warm smile with a smile of his own.

Slightly more comfortable now, Ellas turned away from the elves in the hall and glanced at Estel whose gentle smile seemed to have been waiting for him.

"Is all well, little one?"

After a small, thoughtful pause, Harry nodded and with it released a breath he hadn't realised he was holding. Yes, this wasn't so bad. 'This isn't Hogwarts, after all and these… elves aren't going to be gawking at my scar. I'm just a child here.'

With that thought he looked around the hall again, noticing that he was the only child there. In fact, he didn't remember seeing any other children around.

What if he was the only kid here?

One the one hand, that could be a relief. He wouldn't be expected to play with any other kids and pretend he was like them. Harry had never really learned how to be a child, after all, he hadn't had any friends to play with the first time around – unless you counted Harry hunting as a game – so he wouldn't know how to act around other kids anyway.

But on the other hand…

If there were no other children here and he was the only one… they would pay more attention to him. And Harry really didn't really like attention.

He preferred to be ignored, he was used to that from his time with the Dursleys. But in the wizarding world, where people had noticed him… it was to put him on a pedestal or to insult him. To praise him for something he never felt he deserved praise for, or to slander him with lies. The only time that he had ever genuinely enjoyed the lime-light was when he was playing Quidditch; because that was something he could do as Harry, not as Harry Potter, something he was good at and something he enjoyed doing for himself and no-one else. All the attention he received for being Harry Potter, the boy-who-lived was something he would rather have done without.

As the only child here, would they be watching his every move as closely as the wizarding world had watched him? Or would they ignore him, dismiss him as an unimportant child. An unwanted, unwelcome orphan?

Harry shook his head clear of these thoughts. No, Estel had told him he wasn't unwelcome here, and Harry believed him. Everyone had been kind to him so far. And Estel's brothers treated him like an other pair of twins had also treated him.

Ellas's emerald eyes moved to the twin beside him – he still couldn't tell the two apart – and the elf cocked his head at him and raised an eyebrow. Harry mirrored the dark-haired elf and the elf repaid him with a bright smile and ruffled his hair.

"Is the food not to your liking, Ellas?"

A small hint of concern coloured his voice and Harry looked down at his plate in surprise, he had been so occupied with his thoughts that he hadn't touched his food yet.

Soft, gentle laughter by his side made him blink up at the twin next to him who had obviously noticed his surprised expression. "Eat, little one," he was gently encouraged, and Harry finally started eating, his thoughts still on both pairs of twins.

These twins were different than the Weasley twins: they were elves and Harry didn't quite get what that meant yet – even though he was one himself – but he did understand that they were different from humans in many ways. He remembered how he felt things far more clearly and felt very in tune with nature while he was sitting in that tree with Elladan and Elrohir.

Still, it was more than just their race that differed; Harry had caught a glimpse of them as elven lords; as the sons of Lord Elrond and people of importance. The Weasley's were far from privileged; they were a simple family, but a loving and welcoming one.

With these differences in race and circumstance the differences between them should be enormous. And yet, in Harry's mind they still seemed so much alike. Not only because of their mischievous attitude at times - Elrohir and Elladan teased him, Estel or each other in a way that was a lot like Fred and George - but also, especially, because of how they treated him. Harry hadn't been as close to the Weasley twins as he was with Ron or Hermione, but the twosome understood him just as well as his two best friends despite not knowing everything that they did. Fred and George had always watched out for him, had taken him under their wing and always, always treated him as family. Not like his Aunt and Uncle, but real family.

Elrohir and Elladan might be completely different but in the end, it felt the same. And because of that, more than anything else, Harry could believe that this would never be like living with the Dursleys, or being watched carefully for any misstep by the masses of the wizarding world.

Estel, Elrohir and Elladan, genuinely cared for him, like the Weasley's had always cared for him. Whether he was the only kid here or not, it wouldn't really matter to them, at least. Harry was sure of it.

He leaned backwards in his chair, so that he could see the blond elf-lord with whom he had also spent quite a bit of time. Lord Glorfindel met his gaze immediately and Harry blushed and looked down at his plate, feeling caught. There was something about the elf-lord that made him feel tiny in comparison – an instinct that told him that this elf was powerful and strong. But Ellas knew that he was also kind and had never been truly afraid of him. Lord Glorfindel, and Lord Elrond as well, seemed to be genuinely concerned for him and his well-being. And although their scrutiny made him uncomfortable at times, he was also grateful that they cared.

It had only been a few weeks since his arrival in this world – and already he had friends. And here in Imladris he was welcome.

He nodded to himself, strengthening his resolve to let go of the fears that plagued him and to believe that this much was true.

It had been true for Hogwarts as well, of course. He had made his first friends on the train, had been welcomed at Hogwarts and there had been professors, like McGonagall and Dumbledore who had cared about him and his well-being. And yet, the wizarding world had turned out to have its darker sides as well. Harry wasn't foolish enough to believe that this world was free of those things. But during his years in the wizarding world, during the war and everything he had experienced – all the horrors he had seen and the people and things he had lost along the way – his friends, his make-shift family and that welcome had always been enough.

It would be enough for him here as well.

Dinner in the great Hall was a long affair - no-one seemed to be in a hurry to go anywhere.

After Ellas had, mostly quietly, eaten his fill, Estel carefully drew him out of his thoughts and into a light-hearted conversation. The elven twins joined in and regaled him with a few tales from Estel's own childhood here. Something niggled at the back of his mind when he listened to these stories, but the elves' merciless teasing and the protests or dry remarks that Estel fired back in response distracted him from considering it further.

They must have sat in the Great Hall for hours, even after Harry stopped eating, before Estel finally insisted that those were quite enough stories for today and led Ellas back to his room.

That evening, Glorfindel felt restless. He had spoken to Elrond about the elfling's behaviour today. They agreed that it was troubling that one so young would take it upon himself to do so many tasks. They would quietly spread the word to ensure that Ellas did not exhaust himself by doing far more than he should.

Glorfindel was sure that after today, no elf would allow little Ellas to do too many chores again – they would be keeping an eye on him and, if needed, they might trick him into taking a long break with them, perhaps drawing him back into games or conversation. The elves of Imladris could be canny, if need be – especially after having lived with the twins. And having recently been around young Estel, they knew far better how to treat a child than most of their kin in other places.

Still, having a solution did not change the situation.

For there was something in Ellas' manner that worried him, and more than that, there was also something troubling him about the things the child had said – and the things he would not say.

With his thoughts so turned to the elfling, it was no wonder that, while his mind was so occupied, his feet guided him to the little one's room.

Blinking back into awareness, he carefully opened the door so that it made not the slightest of noise.

The little elf on the bed hadn't noticed his entrance and continued his slumber, but there was one in the room who was awake and aware and instantly turned his attention to him.

Estel was seated in one of the two chairs at the window and gestured to the other. Curious as to what brought the man to this room he silently glided over to the chair, where they would be far enough away not to bother the child's slumber, but close enough for his elven eyes to be able to see the little one clearly.

"Why do you keep vigil over our young Ellas, Estel? Has something happened?" the elf asked of his friend, keeping his tone soft so that it would not disturb the sleeping child.

The man smiled and shook his head; "Nay. I meant only to stay with Ellas for a moment before retiring, but it seems I have stayed later than was my intent."

Glorfindel nodded and turned his gaze to the elfling. He could see that the boy was once more garbed in the same large shirt that he had seen the little one in during his arrival in Rivendell, as well as the day after. The cloak that had often accompanied it lay draped over the elfling's pillow and on it Ellas had rested his head.

"He seems quite attached to those clothes. The cloak is Thurston's, is it not? And the shirt, it seems belonged to one of your Dúnedain as well… He must miss them." Glorfindel surmised with a compassionate smile. As he spent a few more moments watching the little one, his smile turned to a thoughtful frown. "What of his own attire, though? Did you throw it away? Did it contain no clues as to where Ellas had come from?"

Aragorn shook his head, his brow creasing slightly; "Halbarad told me that the child was bare. He had nothing with him but his little seashell…"

The Dúnedan turned to the elven lord, intent on telling Glorfindel how Thurston and later Halbarad had given him these articles of clothing and how they had provided the young elfling with a more fitting attire in Bree when he noticed something odd in his old friend's stance. His mouth closed again on its own accord as he took in the frozen form of the fabled elf-lord that he had never been able to catch of guard in all his youth in Rivendell. Along with his adoptive father and Erestor, Glorfindel had always seemed one of the most all-knowing of elves. And out of all the elves he had met, the golden lord had proven the most unflappable. Despite young Estel's endeavours (aided by his brothers) he had never been able to truly surprise the elven lord.

He had never seen Glorfindel as he was now, frozen in place. The powerful stare that Glorfindel directed at Ellas unnerved him greatly, for there was an emotion in it that went beyond simple worry or even fear.

The silence between them stretched while Aragorn tried to discern the cause and meaning of the elf's sudden intensity.

The Balrog-Slayer was on some level aware of the worry he was causing his friend, but did not allow his attention to drift from the small form, so innocently sleeping beneath their gazes. The young face was free of any fear or toil; 't was as peaceful as a child's face should be and proved that all was well. And yet…

His sharp elven mind could not help but go over everything he knew of the little one; it went from this tiny new piece of information, to the child's withdrawn manner to the first conversation they had held in this very room. And then there was the troubling, instinctive feeling that had been pressing on him for some time, telling him that there was something wrong with the entire situation – with the fact that an elfling had been found, though none had ever been reported as lost… or celebrated as born.

The little one had nothing with him but the little seashell, Aragorn had said just now…

"I found it when I came here" the soft voice of the elfling whispered in his mind

Lord Elrond's voice questioned this; "When you came where, little one?"

"I don't know, just…here."

Glorfindel keenly remembered how uncomfortable the child had been with these questions. What if it was more than just shyness…? The child had told them that he was on the shore before wandering the woods of Eryn Vorn, after which the Dunedain found them… but before that…?

"And before you were on the shore, child, where were you then?"

"I don't know."

"How so, child? Do you not remember?"

"I remember, but I don't know where I was" there was both uncertainty and hesitancy in the little one's voice.

"Can you tell me what it looked like where you were?"

The shake of the little one's head as he fidgeted uncomfortably beneath their gazes.

An inkling started in his thoughts but he would not allow it to take hold. Surely it could not have been… No! Ellas was but an elfling, so young, so innocent…

The child had stared down at his seashell; "I'm sorry". Such helplessness in his soft voice…

And Aragorn said that the Dúnedain had found him unclothed, lost and alone with no-one in sight. No people, be they elves, men or even dwarves. No settlements or travellers. Alone and unclothed… Glorfindel could almost remember the breeze that softly passed over him, the feel of the grass on his bare skin as he lay on his back, alone…

'No!' he told himself firmly, there was no reason to think that Ellas had gone through any such thing.

"Glorfindel…?" came the soft but worried voice of the man by his side. The elven lord turned his attention to Estel, uncommonly thankful for the interruption of his thoughts. "Are you… well?"

He gave a sharp nod; "Of course, Estel. Forgive me, I was but lost in thought." With one last glance at the elfling he silently left the room, escaping the painful memories that had been stirred in his mind.

In all his years, he had heard of no other who had experienced what he had, there was certainly no reason to think that such a young one had… No… No reason at all.

A.N. So yeah, this story is not abandoned! And it will not be… but don't expect it to be finished any time soon. This story is being very contrary – it won't do what it's told and I'm having a hard time getting it where I want it to go.

Still, though it might take me ages to update it at times I will finish it! You'll just need the patience of an elf to actually get to the end.