CHAPTER 10: CONNECTIONS
A/N (4/6/12): Pikachumomma and I are delighted to post the newest chapter in this fic. We are sending big smiles and hugs to those who have encouraged us and who enjoy this story, and thank you most sincerely. To the two readers who feel cheated because this isn't 100% Harry & Glory, we never said it was. The summary even says so. Still, there's enough to go around! To the two or three snarks who have decided that "this sucks"; well, take your toys and go home, because someone clearly needs a nap. To the several thousand others who read regularly and have marked this as a Favorite, and the dozens of faithful reviewers who like our story – see those snarks over there? SIC 'EM!
(mmmmm …. Naaapp….. Wow, kids are really stupid to fight against such things, aren't they? Cuz being a grown-up is so much fun – all that control we have over our own lives, getting to spend money wherever we want, eat without penalty, nobody bosses us around ….!)
Blessed Be, y'all. Happy Reading!
Slowly and gracefully, the Elves of Lothlorien and their delightful new resident Istaris gathered for dinner in the serenely beautiful, open-air dining pavilion. Overhead, the intricately interwoven branches of numerous living trees spread a canopy of green above the lovely dining tables. In the Woods of Lothlorien, such was the magic of the Elves that no harsh weather was ever inflicted upon the residential center. Gentle, nurturing rains fell late at night or in the early rays of dawn. Winter did not belong in the heart of these Woods. Only the surrender of the Lightest Race of Arda to the darken tides would change these circumstances.
But such was not a concern tonight, nor, so far as many of the Elves who had met and even served with the newest residents of Arda believed, would such sorrow ever come. Not now that the Demon Team and his kin were here. And thus, this evening meal again wore the seeming of a celebration, as hope that had been gently re-kindled began to flame bright and strong in the hearts of those who had given all hope to mankind, and kept none for themselves.
Tonight, as tens of thousands of nights before, Lord Celeborn strode regally in to the pavilion, dignified and handsome, blue eyes the color of seawater moving observantly around his people and ensuring that all was well. Apart from the beautiful owl that glided silently above the heads of those already gathered to alight upon the Lord's outstretched arm with an unnecessary, deliberate flutter of wings as if to announce her presence, nothing else marked this occasion as being obviously different from so many others. And yet? …. and yet…
The people of these Woods knew Celeborn well. They loved their Lord with a loyalty and affection that was not often felt for those who rule. Amongst the Elves, certainly Lord Elrond of Rivendell shared with Celeborn the special love their people had for their leader, but it was rare even amongst this long-lived race. Certainly, King Thranduillion had never known such power, nor did he merit it. In truth, it was a point of sarcastic amusement amongst those not of the Mirkwood that their leader was so weak, so insecure, so petty, as to insist his people call him 'King', when in truth, his rule was not even a third so large as Mithlond, the sea port known as the Grey Havens. To be a 'King' of Mirkwood, amongst the Elves, was akin to being a 'King' of a small city. Compared to either Lord Elrond or Lord Celeborn, for whom a royal appellation was unnecessary, 'King' Thranduillion was as a bantam rooster compared to one of the Great Eagles. Only Thranduillion's royal lineage allowed him such conceits. And that elf would never know the love and respect of his people that both Elrond and Celeborn shared.
For this reason, despite his usual demeanor of quiet composure and friendly reserve, most of those dining that evening at the community gardens saw within their beloved Lord a new light – in his eyes and in his step – that could not help but lighten their own hearts, as well. News of the Lady Galadriel's departure had begun to spread, first through the alarmed cries of the Lady's personal attendants. Marchwarden Haldir and Lady Ithilwen quickly intervened and clarified at least some of the truth regarding the Lady's departure. Although most of those present were much too mannerly to discuss what they had heard whilst their Lord was present, enough had been learned that most knew the gist. Even the bare bones of the truth were shocking in the extreme. To learn that their tempestuous Lady of the Woods, known far and wide for her mind powers, love of trouble and shallow concern for her own people (compared to her nonexistent concern for other peoples), was not full Elven was astonishing. Despite all the conflict and the pain their Lady had caused, all had believed her to be the epitome of an Elven elleth. Her flightiness was attributed to her power, one not shared by any other of their race, and was believed to have made her unstable. Now, it was rumored that Galadriel's powers had come to her through her non-Elven mother, one of the Valar in the White Lands. Of course, it was well known that Galadriel's father was Noldor, but it only now began to occur to the People that none had ever really discussed much of the Lady's parentage. Now, in retrospect, it was clear that meddling by the Valar had caused that effect, as such a long-lived race had essentially talked every possible topic to death and then some. To have completely overlooked the parentage of the most recognizable of all the elleths was not possible without godly intervention. For now, their outrage waited in the shadows while the Lothloriens processed the more immediate truths of the day – that Galadriel had been half-Valar, that she had not been the natural truemate of their beloved Lord Celeborn, that their Lord had been the beneficiary (victim!) of a bond falsified by the goddess who birthed Galadriel, that the Valar had seen their error and acknowledged their debt to Celeborn and released him, finally, from the bond.
That Galadriel was gone to the White Lands with her mother, to never play with and plague the People again.
That Celeborn was free.
It was this last fact that kept most of the Lothloriens from inundating the Valar with furious prayers and petitions for revenge, for balance, for at least an accounting of Galadriel's actions throughout the thousands of years in which she abused her gifts and tormented the very people she had claimed as her own. Those words would come, certainly, but for now the People waited. Because, no matter how much they had suffered, even unto the deaths of their loved ones, it was Lord Celeborn who had first claim for vengeance. It was he who had suffered the most, and it was he who had sacrificed himself endlessly to secure the wellbeing of his people and the containment of the Lady.
As always, it was to Celeborn the people of the Woods looked for guidance and information, and in his bearing, they saw a deeply-weary soul lightened by the loss of the burdensome Lady, and uplifted by some act or information that was, for now, a mystery to all but a few. And as the weight lifted from their Lord's shoulders, so did it seem to lift from the hearts of the People, and even from the world itself.
New life was a-dawning for the ancient Race of Elves.
CLEANSING THE PAIN
As Celeborn seated himself at the head of the long table, he greeted the guests of his table with a warm smile. He had expected – indeed, demanded – the absence of his second heir Legolas and his truemates (who would soon be declared as Celeborn's first-heirs) Eredhion and Sidhenidon. Those three needed to recover, to regain their confidence and affirm their bond now that it had become what it should have been originally. He had heard how wounded young Legolas had been the night prior to their arrival here in his Woods, when his twin truemates had stayed the night reconnecting with their siblings. The redhaired Istaris had done nothing wrong, except in light of the newness of their bond and the fragility of their Elven mate. Understanding now how even their beginning-bond had already been somewhat unbalanced, it was more remarkable that Legolas had forgiven them, than that he had been hurt in the first place. Although Celeborn was certain that Legolas would remain the submissive in that triad, he was equally certain that Legolas would now have the confidence and faith in his truemates that would allow him to show his own vast strength. In truth, Legolas reminded Celeborn of himself, many millennia ago, when he was just two or three thousand years old and the world was still a place of uncertainty and wonder. Magical power in the care of young Legolas, whose gentle nature and compassion were balanced against a strong will regarding right, wrong and personal responsibility, was magic well-placed, indeed.
Now, as he joined in light conversations with those who did grace his table this night, Celeborn felt that there was once again something new in the world. He had felt this yesterday, of course, and ever since the arrival of the Istari-warriors. Even while still tethered to Galadriel, Celeborn had delighted in the interest and curiosity that these newcomers brought to his people and himself. But now, knowing that he sat at a table that suddenly held not just his friends, new and old, but his family, and that among these people was his soulmate (a phrase that helped him separate this new mate from his false 'truemate'), put Celeborn in a frame of mind he had not occupied in dozens of centuries. He felt happiness and anticipation and anxiety – all emotions he had thought long lost to him, beneath the weight and growing dullness of an herves and a world that had held none but dark surprises for him.
To his immediate right was Marcaunon, then Glorfindel. Celeborn knew that the choice to seat Marcaunon next to him was deliberate, and declared that young man's unflagging support for Celeborn. It was a subtlety that the ancient elf would not have thought belonged in the capabilities of such a young human, and yet he had clearly seen that it was Marcaunon who directed the seating and Glorfindel who acceded.
Next to Glorfindel was Ithilwen, and then, of course, Haldir. While Celeborn cherished his oldest friend Glorfindel deeply, it was for now the latter two who held his interest and gratitude. They had managed to release the most sensitive of the information surrounding Galadriel, the Valar and himself, without causing what he had thought would be inevitable outrage. Instead, his people seemed thoughtful and observant, watching with hope in their own eyes to see that which was certainly in Celeborn's. He was truly, deeply happy for Haldir, knowing how much the Marchwarden adored his young mate. It was like watching springtime come to an ancient grove, where the new blossoms woke the old trees and they celebrated life together. Such was Haldir, with Ithilwen. Furthermore, considering that young Istari's Sight, Celeborn felt that Arda would not suffer for the loss of far-sight and second-sight. If one could even count low enough to tally a loss from those rare instances where he could wrest all information from Galadriel regarding what she saw in her basin. He had already learned that Ithilwen shared what she gleaned with her family, and that there were at least a few people who could correctly interpret her words during such times. He suspected that Haldir would soon be her foremost translator. Furthermore, there were hints dropped by the new Lady of Sight that Gimli, son of Gloin, also shared some gift of Sight, although he knew not in what measure or direction that gift laid. He suspected that this was the main cause for Galadriel's antipathy for the dwarf, if he shared her gift in some measure and was able to prevent her incessant 'peeking' into the minds of Gimli or those he protected.
On Celeborn's immediate left was Gimli, the most recent subject of his thoughts. Once, he certainly would have prefaced that, even in his own mind, as 'the dwarf, Gimli', but now the redbearded father figure to Legolas was simply Gimli – likable, affable, fierce, protective, paternal and very much a worthy person to count as friend or ally.
Next to Gimli sat Taorin, the Elven warrior best known amongst his people for his lack of facility on the ground and his astonishing grace amongst the trees. He had accompanied the warriors sent to Helm's Deep due to his remarkable ability to scout overhead, unseen and unheard amongst the branches and leaves of any forested area. Taorin and Gimli had become fast friends, sharing an almost filial bond much like that of Glorfindel and Celeborn. Although it was not usual to have a tree-scout seated at the table of the Lord, with the Lady gone, there were none who objected. Certainly, Celeborn saw it as just another welcome change.
And there, seated on the last two chairs to the left of Taorin, farthest away from Celeborn, were the subjects of Celeborn's most intense interest: Istaris Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. Not a twitch of muscle nor glance of eye betrayed Celeborn, but virtually the elf's entire being was focused on studying these two, unmated men.
One of them was Celeborn's truemate. But which one?
Knowing that it would be best to appoint one more Lothlorien to be as fully informed on these most recent events as were his new family and old friends, thus providing another source for accurate information to his curious people, Celeborn sent for Daugion to join them. When the experienced warrior arrived, Celeborn simply gestured him to sit next to Taorin, moving the two at the end to shift down one. The Lord grinned slightly at Lord Sirius's obvious discomfiture at finding himself on the end of the table, in what was traditionally the Lady's seat, but set the man's mind at rest by saying, "We have much to explain, and it is best that we get to it. It would cause more havoc to place Daugion in that seat, believe me, Master Sirius. For now, please disregard the usual formalities of manners and seating, and let us simply share a meal and conversation." He held the embarrassed gray gaze until Sirius dropped his eyes in resignation, nodding slightly and aiming a sideways glare at his oldest friend when Remus politely offered him his displaced glass, eyes twinkling.
After raising his arm so that the beautiful Hedwig could waddle up it and settle onto her living perch in the form of 'her' potted tree that was to remain permanently next to the Lord's chair, the meal commenced.
From then on, the diners at the Lord's Table shared deep attention and quiet conversation as Harry, Celeborn and Glorfindel informed them of the earlier events with the Valar. Neither they, nor those carefully listening from nearby tables, expressed anything but happiness for Legolas and the Devils. The shock about Galadriel had been tempered by the advance spread of the news by Haldir and Ithilwen. Nothing was mentioned regarding the existence of Celeborn's actual truemate, much less that he was one of the father-Istaris. Glorfindel, who was narrating, left that topic at the point where Galadriel was removed and Celeborn was freed. Feeling the weight of another's gaze upon him, Celeborn glanced up and found himself the focus of two sets of sympathetic eyes – one amber and one smoke. Narrowing his own eyes slightly in rejection of pity, he was surprised to find that both Remus and Sirius merely seemed to grow more understanding, as if they were each intimately familiar with the task of bearing with as much dignity as possible the weight of an undeserved burden – and the utter disorientation that comes when the burden is removed. Looking more closely into the steady gazes of the Demon's fathers, Celeborn acknowledged that both of these men did, indeed, know how adrift and excited and intimidated and utterly bereft he felt at this moment.
Either man would make a wonderful mate and partner. But which was he? Celeborn wished, in retrospect, that he had caused Daugion to sit between the two newest human Istaris. He hoped that even a small distance between the two would allow his raging bondtide to lash in one direction or the other. Instead, due to their proximity to each other, Celeborn could only sit in torment and wonder, knowing only that the bondtide surged in their direction and hoping he could contain his own actions enough so as to conduct this – courting? – with some circumspection. The longer the meal continued, however, the greater was the Lord's impulse to simply seize each in a kiss and let the bondtide free to make his claim in the most public manner possible. He resisted, with the mithril will that he had honed through numerous millennia, and spent the rest of the meal simply watching the two men as discreetly as possible.
Celeborn would be delighted with either male. Despite their long familiarity with each other and a shared sense of 'maraudership' and paternal care for the 'children', these two men were markedly different from each other and vastly different from anyone else Celeborn had ever met.
Remus was all warm, comfortable safety. He was physically strong, with an affable, attractive face from which amber eyes glowed. There was a definite feral edge to the man that declared him the 'alpha' of his pack, as Marcaunon had just this morning explained was the best analogy to define the way in which a wolven – known to the Terrans as a werewolf – saw his family and friends. Despite the edge of danger, Remus most reminded Celeborn of the warm, sweet candies made from the running sap of the winter trees. Even his amber eyes would soften to taffy when the man's heart was full. There was a vast, comfortable intellect hidden in those amber depths – this was a man who would live in a library, given the chance, emerging only to spend time with his beloved family or to protect the pack. Remus was like one of the great, strong trees of the Golden Woods: stable, strong, faithful, sheltering and possessed of a deep, quiet knowledge that was immensely comforting. Such a man would be a remarkable change in Celeborn's life, which had been defined by the elder elf's struggle to contain the flightiness, shallowness, instability and short attention span of Galadriel. Celeborn suspected that such a man as a lover would be loving, sometimes mischievous, always strong and safe, and occasionally with an edge of wild nature and the call of the moon lending a pagan quality to their bed. Furthermore, Celeborn believed that Remus Lupin, as an alpha, would be the taker more than the taken, a prospect that, although exciting in a way, caused a curl of rebellion to roll through Celeborn. His beddings with Galadriel were always unsatisfying, knowing that he was a distraction for the elleth rather than her focus. Her own disinterest had given her too much power even in their bed, as he tried too hard to keep her aroused and serve her needs. It had gone against his nature, because at heart, Celeborn was a Lord. Although generous of spirit and willing to compromise, it was not in Celeborn's nature to submit, not even to the pressure that came from trying to keep his Lady entertained. It did not sit well with him. Although, he very much doubted that Remus Lupin, even in a dominant mating position, would be anything less than fully attentive to and concentrated on his partner. And, frankly, the very idea of having as a mate someone who mirrored Celeborn's fidelity and loyalty, who would provide for Celeborn the occasional place to lay down the weight of Lordship, who would stand beside him and share his own strength and certainty, made a very tempting image to the exhausted Lord.
Then, too, there was Sirius, physical opposite to Remus in every way. Sirius was slim, graceful and deadly, like an Elven dagger. His features were well-crafted and beautiful. Long, straight black hair with hard-earned streaks of silver often escaped the bands used to tie it, as if, like its owner, even the man's hair had too much energy and will to remain confined. Mischief ran rampant throughout the man, sparkling in his smoky eyes and snapping off his energetic hands. His laugh was ready and infectious, his smile bright and delightful. And yet, there was an incisive intelligence within those distinctive, gray eyes. There was a depth of character to the man, an immense capacity for love and intense loyalty, that fairly radiated to those with the ability to see it, as all elves had. And Celeborn had heard some of the tale of Sirius's life, including his hellish imprisonment and incredible escape, his determined survival in the face of all obstacles, his refusal to surrender to overwhelming pain and torment, his defiance of everyone and everything he had ever known as he fought to get to his godson's side and protect the children he and Remus considered their own. Not once had Celeborn heard Sirius ever refer to his own dark past, and yet the scars of it showed in the steel of the man's spine and the man's ability to empathize with others who were in pain. If Sirius were his mate, Celeborn's life would be changed irrevocably, as he had no doubt that Sirius Black would bring laughter and inventiveness to every aspect of life, and yet would provide his mate with the unshakeable certainty that nothing and no one would ever tear Sirius Black from his side. Fidelity was of no question; the man's strength of character fairly shone from his very skin. He, too, would be a wonderful mate.
And their marriage bed would be – incredible. The very idea of running his hands through the long, shining curls of silken black, of possessing those teasing lips and watching smoky gray eyes darken to slate, of rolling that slim, lithe body beneath him ….
Quickly drawing in a shuddering breath beneath the cover of taking a long drink from his soda-water, Celeborn forced himself back under control. In truth, Celeborn was glad he did not have to choose, that the choice was made for him already. Given the promise in the god's eyes, Celeborn believed that both of these men had a wonderful future and mate ahead of them – but which of them belonged with Celeborn?
In truth, based on what the god had said, Celeborn thought he knew his mate already. While Remus would make a delightful mate and Celeborn would be certain of happiness, it was Sirius Black who most captured his imagination. And, given the god's comment that he would have been Galadriel's truemate had she been full-elven, that seemed to solidify his certainty. He suspected it was Galadriel's elven half that provided the impishness, the gaiety, the laughter – even the inability to not poke at people and events just to see what they would do. Those were the small traits that had allowed Celeborn to not hate his wife. And those traits, Sirius Black owned in tremendous volume, along with so many others that held Celeborn's attention with no effort at all.
"…born? Celeborn?" Celeborn heard his name being called faintly and brought his wandering mind back to the present, far from those sinful thoughts of debauchery.
"I was just telling Remus about your wonderful library, and it occurs to me that perhaps you wouldn't mind if our history enthusiast took a look." Marcaunon answered. He had a knowing half-grin on his face, but the look in his emerald eye was sympathetic and understanding. Celeborn immediately realized that Glorfindel's mate had found a way to separate his two fathers so that the Lothlorien Lord would be able to follow the bondtide to his truemate. Deeply appreciative, Celeborn allowed a smile to warm his own eyes as he nodded in agreement, thankful that Marcaunon was obviously his ally in this.
"Of course, that would be fine," Celeborn agreed, "Would you like a guide, Master Remus, or will simple instruction suffice?" He smiled gently into amber eyes, briefly puzzled at the worry he read in them as Remus rose to walk to his chair. Within seconds, there was enough distance between the two that Celeborn knew for certain who his mate was, and had to close his eyes to seize control of his own urges.
He jumped in surprise when a demanding finger suddenly tapped his nose, and opened his eyes to stare shocked at the close proximity of worried amber eyes. Remus grinned briefly, belying his own worry, and said in a low, teasing voice, "You seemed distracted. Given the pheromones you're suddenly emitting, I can imagine why. I doubt I need to say this, my friend, but if you hurt him, I promise what you suffered with that crazy bitch ex of yours will seem like several millennia of purest paradise compared to what I do to you. Understand?"
Remus did not flinch or look away while Celeborn searched his eyes for any signs of trouble or hurt over the fact that Remus was, apparently, the only unbonded member of his family now. Satisfied, Celeborn offered him a solemn smile and said quietly, "He must first agree, of course, but the very idea of harming one I treasure so much is anathema to me. Should that happen, I would plead with you to take vengeance for him. I swear it." His steady gaze was searched by sharp amber eyes, before a ready smile broke out on the friendly face of Remus Lupin.
"Welcome to the family, Celeborn," was all Remus said. Given the man's long friendship with and deep understanding of Sirius Black, Celeborn read his welcome as reassurance, and nodded back.
After providing Remus with general directions to his private library, Celeborn watched as the amber eyes darted worriedly toward Marcaunon. His own, assessing gaze turned to the young man after Remus departed, saying to Celeborn, "I believe I can find it just fine. Thank you for this. If all goes as it normally does when I find a library, expect me – err, well, actually, you'll probably have to send someone for me when you need me next." His sheepish grin was amused as the werewolf ambled away from the pavilion and headed down the indicated path toward his version of nirvana.
As the others rose to leave the dinner table, it occurred to Celeborn that no one seemed to be suffering from any grief or sorrow regarding Galadriel, despite the fact that their Lady had departed forever, without farewells, mere hours ago. He wondered if the Valar had some hand in this, but in truth, the general air of relief and growing relaxation amongst his people convinced him otherwise. He was both happy and saddened that they did not grieve. Despite her excesses, Galadriel had been amongst them for as many millennia as he had been. It felt improper that no ceremony was planned, no loss was felt. It felt as if all of his own effort was no longer of value, as if all it had taken was the blink of a god's eye and suddenly, everything was perfectly fine. Lost in dark thought, Celeborn did not notice that the pavilion had emptied of people, including the slow, reluctantly departing figure of Sirius Black, nor did he sense the one who joined him until a warm hand suddenly rested over his clenched fist.
Startled, he stared at the hand before he allowed himself to look up and see its owner. Somehow, he was surprised to find himself looking upon the luminous face of Lady Ithilwen. And then he felt silly, because, of all the people he knew, who else would have known his pain-that-wasn't?
She smiled sadly at him, and rubbed her hand comfortingly over his still-clenched fist. "You grieve … that you do not grieve. You mourn for your people, that they do not mourn. You care for Galadriel, because she would not care. What you are left with is loss … of your innocence … of your hope … of your newness … of the tremendous, unrelenting work that you put forth all your long life on the one, truly hopeless aspect of your vast years. You feel cheated, somehow, that it was this easy, that all it took was a few minutes of the Valar's attention and you could have been spared millennias' worth of pain and strain and heartache." She watched with deep empathy as Celeborn's throat worked painfully as he tried to swallow the growing lump in it, as he tried to clench his jaw against the sudden unsteadiness of profound emotion, and her own eyes filled with tears that overflowed as he lost the battle for self-control and lowered his head into shaking hands to weep.
He did not weep as Elves were meant to. He cried. It was not beautiful and serene. There were no silver tears rolling silently down delicate skin. There were no soft, musical sobs. This was a harsh, horrible rending of the Lord's spirit. This was not a gentle purging of sorrow; this was emotional amputation. This was raw pain, expressing itself in aching, tearing moans and furious growls and wrenching gasps. Tears poured from swollen, reddened eyes that were tightly clenched. Snot was halted by a hurriedly grabbed napkin, and strong, dignified shoulders bowed and shuddered beneath the weight of the rage and loss and denial and sorrow the Lord had tried to carry. Too much agony erupted in too brief a time from too small a form to contain it all, and the result was ugly and awful and traumatic.
It was so intense, in fact, that the Lord did not even notice the horror of apparation, as Ithilwen transported them directly into his private rooms in his talan, there to be met by Haldir, who did not hesitate to pull Celeborn down with him to the floor and wrap him in a tight, comforting embrace. There, on the floor of Celeborn's lonely bedroom, Haldir rocked the Lord of Lothlorien in his arms and held him secure within the storm of pain that come upon him so suddenly.
Later, when he had calmed, Haldir and Ithilwen placed Celeborn into the deep, hot bath Ithilwen had drawn for him, settling in with him to bathe and comfort him, heating the water further with magic as it began to cool, adding healing oils and scented herbs into the waters to draw the ache from long-clenched muscles and to open and soothe the sinuses and tear ducts abused by the emotional storm. Celeborn was vaguely aware of the naked skin and comforting warmth that surrounded him, and the soothing hands that soaped and massaged him. Long bereft of physical touch, he was distantly embarrassed as his body reacted to the smooth glide of hands on his skin, but was soothed again by the deep voice in his ear and the reassuring strength of the smooth, naked chest against which he was urged to recline as he was comforted and accepted and reassured by two, loving companions. He had no responsibilities here; gentle hands and voices moved him as they would, and he simply complied. He closed his eyes and turned his head to listen to the strong, steady thump of a heart beneath his ear. Strong, calloused hands caressed his chest and stomach, and silky, delicate hands ran long, soothing lines down his legs. Obeying the gentle directions, Celeborn allowed his legs to fall open and, for once, allowed himself to be cared for and nurtured, and allowed someone else to be strong. And they were. Strong chest behind him, strong thighs on either side of his, and soft legs atop his knees. Strong hands on his hard shaft guided it into a soft, warm mouth that sank down upon it. Strong, knowing hands stroked his shaft and fondled his testicles as a hot, slick mouth surrounded and suckled him and soft hair tickled his thighs and groin. His weak attempt to regain solitude, to fight against the rising tide of pleasure, was defeated by the safety of the muscled arms around his chest and stomach that lifted him slightly, and the one muscled arm that held him pressed bonelessly to a powerful chest as the other stole down his body, to stroke between his buttocks and press one strong, thick, oiled finger gently into his heated core. Fierce suction and a slick, agile tongue around his cock worked in harmony with gentle hands rolling his sac and the strong, calloused finger that stroked deep within his center, spreading his cheeks for added tension as that talented finger crooked knowingly and pressed unerringly against Celeborn's prostate.
Unable to resist, still barely aware, Celeborn arched his strong neck and pressed his head, mouth gaping open and gasping for air, back against the chest and arm that sheltered him, held securely against the powerful body of his Marchwarden as the elf and his mate brought their Lord to long-denied fulfillment. Long spasms of pleasure sent Celeborn's essence pulsing into Ithilwen's willing mouth, aided in intensity by Haldir's strong, talented finger stroking and caressing deep within his Lord. Daring, luminous eyes locked with Haldir's as Ithilwen suckled the pulsing cock in her mouth, watching her mate's eyes darkening in lust as they joined in soothing and delighting Celeborn, taking him past his grief and to a place where relaxation is impossible to resist and healing begins.
Dimly, Celeborn was aware of Haldir's hard cock pulsing hot jets of essence against his buttocks, aided by the encouraging strokes of Ithilwen's hand as she buried the other between her own legs and brought herself to ecstasy, as well. Their cries and gasps seemed somehow appropriate to Celeborn, welcomed by him in this rare moment of truest comfort and friendship.
Briefly soaped and rinsed again, Celeborn's eyes were already closing as he was lifted from the tub and dried magically, then carried by a naked Haldir to his bed and settled upon the silken sheets. After a brief hesitation, in which apparently his weakly seeking hand even as he drifted further toward sleep was adequate argument, he was joined by two sleek, naked forms. Strong, powerful Haldir pulled Celeborn into his arms and settled the exhausted Lord upon his chest, as sleek, soothing Ithilwen wrapped herself against his back and ran gentle, caressing circles of silken hands on Celeborn's stomach. Finally drifting into fullest, deepest sleep, Celeborn was aware of the fact that he had never, in his long, long life, felt so beloved.
Having entered from the side deck of the talan, a lithe form was gracefully perched on the windowsill, gentle, as gray eyes filled with understanding and a small amount of jealousy watched over the three in the Lord's bed … one more line of protection between the Lord and his pain.
The next morning could have been painfully awkward, if not for the lighthearted and delightful teasing of Ithilwen and a simple, straightforward hug of reassurance from Haldir. They had acted out of love and concern for Celeborn, as his dear friends. If needs be, they would do so again, although, as Haldir dryly observed, they would probably have to involve bindings of some kind and be forced to work harder to ambush him next time, as he now knew what they were capable of. Celeborn had just stared for a moment, half in and half out of his leggings, then sank down onto the bed and laughed somewhat helplessly.
He had wanted something new in his life. He had not expected to become the prey and prize in the newly-invented game of commando-comfort sex!
He hadn't realized he had muttered this thought aloud until Ithilwen cheerfully offered, "But just imagine the training exercises! Haldir's forces will never before have been so skilled!" Haldir added laughingly, "Nor quite so plentiful! I can see the recruitment lines now."
Shaking his head as his friends continued to tease, Celeborn gently nudged a helpful Luna back over to Haldir so that he could sort out his own leggings without any more 'accidental' slips of that mischievous hand. Finally dressed, despite Luna's faux-pout that forced a smirking Haldir to growlingly remind her just to whom she belonged, Celeborn turned bemusedly back toward the dining pavilion to join the others for breakfast. Usually, he and Galadriel had shared the morning meal in their rooms, but change was upon him and Celeborn was determined to embrace it.
During breakfast, they were joined by a blushing Legolas and a fiercely protective pair of Devils. It was evident that the new boundaries of their bond had been tested – repeatedly. Celeborn had ordered that the long table be exchanged for a large, round one, much to Sirius's relief, although the gray-eyed man laughed when Celeborn rolled his eyes at first sight of the taller, more ornate chair that was obviously set aside for the Lord. He was pleased, though, with Hedwig's tree.
Understandably, Celeborn had insisted that Legolas sit near him, although Eredhion and Sidhenidon insisted with equal fervor that they sit on either side of their elven mate. Still, Celeborn was able to talk with his second-heir and – although they still did not know it – his soon-to-be-named first-heirs, and was greatly reassured at Legolas' accepting, matter-of-fact manner regarding his new status as the first Elven Istari. The others listened carefully as Legolas described what he knew so far.
"I can feel the magic, humming all around me. My mates said that they did not feel it as I do until they gained their Elemental abilities, but I suppose as an Elf I would feel it as simply another aspect of the natural world, to which we are already connected," he explained, steadfastly pushing aside the second helping of toast urged on him by Sidhenidon. "I do know how to manage the power, and how to guide it. It's like breathing or blinking, I needn't think about it at all, although I have much to learn about the possibilities. However, although I am certain I could produce something offensive or defensive magically if I had to, I have no urge to do so." He hesitated, obviously mulling over how much he wanted to say.
Celeborn caught his slightly shadowed gaze and smiled gently at him, watching with pleasure as the younger elf's gaze lightened to the soft blue he knew so well. "You needn't say anything you don't wish to, Legolas. I imagine this is intensely personal to you, especially as it is so new."
Legolas could not help but raise his eyebrows in surprise. Thranduillion would have been interrogating him the second he opened his eyes. Nothing would have been allowed to remain private. Had he needed it, here was yet another bit of proof that Celeborn was sincere when he said that Legolas did not serve him. It was this gentle acceptance that gave Legolas the courage to continue speaking. Meeting Celeborn's eyes and refusing to look at anyone else, Legolas drew a deep breath and said cautiously, "I… may … believe that my abilities lay more along the course of … healing, my Lord."
He was very aware of the indrawn breaths from the eavesdroppers behind and around him, but kept his gaze locked on Celeborn. Magical healing was something believed to belong only to the Valar. With the news of Galadriel's true heritage, and the terrible wrongs done to Celeborn by the very same gods that had birthed the Lady, Legolas was very afraid that this revelation may be the one to cause Celeborn to retreat from him.
As if he could see clearly into Legolas worried heart, Celeborn's gaze immediately softened and he leaned forward and gripped Legolas clenched fist in his own, warm hand. Seawater eyes held tightly to the gaze from sky blue eyes and did not waver as Celeborn said with quiet conviction, "Legolas, if you have the gift of healing, it will be nothing but a blessing to our people. Howsoever your magic reveals itself or not, you are a blessing to us and to me. Do not for an instant allow yourself to worry over such things. I brought you into my home and family when you were no more magical than any other elf; and I saw you then as extraordinary. Anything you achieve beyond that is merely proof of my own good judgment." It took a moment for them to realize that the smirking Lord had just complimented himself, but the resulting wave of laughter dispersed the tension that had arisen with this newest revelation.
On the other side of the table, Sirius Black smiled slightly, eyes thoughtful, as he watched the gentle interplay between his newest son, Legolas, and the Elven Lord who was occupying most of Sirius's thoughts since they had first arrived in Lothlorien. From the moment he and Remus approached the dining pavilion, escorted by Gimli and Taorin (who, in response to Gimli's own Sight, had been waiting just yards from where their portal opened), Sirius had found himself inexplicably drawn to the tall, dignified Lord of this Realm. To Sirius, Celeborn stood out amidst a veritable sea of beautiful, graceful, dignified people. He had been crushed to learn that Celeborn had a truemate, and had taken malicious enjoyment from the tales of the Lady's punishment at the 'hands' of her Lord. Sirius was particularly incensed when he learned what her actions had been against his own children, and it was only Celeborn's steady regard upon him that silenced Sirius' need to crush the bitch with his darkest magic. He would have done it in a heartbeat, but knowing that Celeborn was truemated – although he couldn't stand the thought of it – stopped him. Hurting Galadriel would have hurt Celeborn, and so Sirius had restrained himself and directed his emotions into instigating a prank war with the twins. (Hah! As if he really hadn't known that Harry had messed with the pitcher's weight somehow! No matter how good the kid got, Sirius would always be the Master Marauder.)
Facing Celeborn across the breakfast table this morning had been difficult for Sirius. He had watched the dignified Elven Lord over dinner last night, had seen the elf's fierce struggle for self-control as the meal wore on and Galadriel was barely mentioned and in no way mourned. Sirius had his own wealth of experience with sudden freedom from a crushing, unfair burden that had been forced upon him. At the time, everyone had acted like it was best to not talk about it, as if he hadn't really just spent over a decade in horror being tortured for crimes he did not commit. No one except Harry and Remus even mentioned Azkaban, as if avoiding the topic eliminated his awful association with that darkness. Very few people had even apologized for believing the worst of him, and none who mattered (barring Remus and, oddly, the Hogwart's Librarian) had admitted, much less apologized for, their failure to take action on his behalf at least in the interests of true justice. Only Harry and Remus, and later Luna, Fred and George, had truly tried to share his burden and to soothe his pain.
He had still managed to destroy a fair portion of Remus's woods, though, when the dam final broke and his ugliest emotions rushed through.
Last night, Sirius had watched Celeborn enduring the same thing. The Lord's raw pain and outrage seemed to be set up on a mirror spell, reflecting back to Sirius even as Celeborn slowly lost control. Sirius had not wanted to leave when all the others did. He realized Celeborn barely even knew him, but there was no way in hell Sirius was leaving the Lord alone to deal with pain like that. Only Haldir's firm hand on his back, urging him away down the path, and the solemn pledge in little Luna's eyes as she turned back to Celeborn, earned the gray-eyed wizard's cooperation. He didn't go far, though. The second Haldir left Sirius at his talan steps, Sirius tagged him and then followed the tag until he found himself perched high up on a side deck of one of the topmost talan's, clearly the home of the royals if the guards and elaborate architecture were anything to go by. Casting a blend-me and a notice-me-not, Sirius had quietly approached the open window and observed the care with which Haldir and Luna treated Celeborn. From the window, he could see into the bathing room and witnessed the gentleness with which the two caressed and comforted the grieving Lord. He did not consider himself a voyeur; he was not there for prurient reasons and Luna had known he was present, as she knew most things. Had she disapproved, he would have been removed; Sirius had no illusions about his own power compared to one of the Demon Team. His own tears had spilled in benediction for the three, and when they laid down together in the bed and Haldir and Luna had wrapped reassuringly around the exhausted Celeborn, luminous blue eyes had met solemn gray and a promise was made. Thus, Luna had allowed herself to join her mate and their friend in vulnerable sleep, trusting to the vigilance of her Marauder father to ensure their safety through the night.
Sirius had spent the night deep in thought and memory, systematically dealing with his own pain – new and old – and forcing himself to see Galadriel as Celeborn did. Somehow, Sirius knew that he was connected to the dignified Elven Lord, and it was crucial that he genuinely understand what the elf felt – even when it was distasteful to do so. Sirius really did not want to feel compassion and pity for the cold-hearted Lady, regardless of the reasons for her disassociated emotions with her own people and husband. Still, it was vital for Celeborn's wellbeing that someone other than Luna and Haldir understand the reserved Lord, and so Sirius went after this bone like any other that he was determined to have, until he had successfully uncovered and explored it and recognized it from a personal perspective. Once that was done, he had been vastly relieved to spend the remaining hours until dawn replaying the adventures of the Marauders in preparation for the coming prank war. He especially enjoyed thinking about their "grand" departure from the dinner table once the gauntlet had been taken up. He had heard that Legolas' reaction had been priceless.
Even now, eyes focused on the still tense form of the Devils' mate, Sirius could not help but snicker quite a bit at himself and the boys. He had been doing so ever since he and the twins left the table, when he realized how they had basically all flounced away like a bunch of drag queens. It was hard to get used to not wearing cloaks, especially when you wore them all the time and had gotten really accustomed to walking in a way that made them flare and billow around you. When you did that without the cloak, you mostly looked like you had a wedgie you were hoping to shake loose. He had heard about Legolas' giggle fit and found himself just that much fonder of the little one. In fact, he had just thought of the perfect way to make the little elf feel better.
"Hey, Legolas!" Startled, the young elf looked over at him, eyes narrowing suspiciously at Sirius's mischievous grin. "I've got something for you!" Without pausing, Sirius called forth the memory of his and the twins' swishy departure and sent it over the table in a large, projection memory, then sat back and enjoyed the show as a wide-eyed Legolas stared at the scene of his magnificently masculine demons mincing away like pissy fashionistas. Watching Legolas gulp a deep breath and freeze, trying desperately to hold to his dignity, before slowly dissolving into the adorable giggles that Sirius had heard about from a chuckling Remus, was completely worth a replay of his own flaming getaway.
Even more so when Sirius caught sight of the warm, approving gaze Celeborn sent him, as Legolas' tension and worry evaporated in the lightheartedness Sirius had intentionally evoked. Sirius was honestly surprised; he figured most of the people around would have taken his actions as just another burst of mischief, which would have been perfectly fine with Sirius. But apparently, Celeborn saw right through to the heart of his motivations, and approved. Caught in the clear, sea-green gaze, Sirius's thoughts flashed back to his observations of the night before, and how those eyes had darkened to the color of a stormy sea beneath the passion the Lord experienced as Luna's mouth suckled that incredible cock while Haldir held Celeborn's straining body tightly against his gleaming chest. Sirius could feel how aroused he had become, watching Celeborn move and writhe as the Marchwarden finger-fucked him. Feeling his cock harden beneath the memories and the warm, seawater gaze of the Elven Lord, for the first time Sirius could ever remember (at least since he passed puberty), he dropped his eyes in confusion and blushed. Blushed! Mortified, he cast an ice-air spell at his genitals, ignoring the sudden pain as he pushed his chair back and stood, summoning his inner-Marauder like a shield and sent a challenging glare at the twins, who were watching their little elf with complete enchantment as Legolas giggled away. Activating the trigger on his trap, he said with a devilish grin (because, 'Siriusly', he had totally owned the devilish-grin thing long before the freckle-faces ever found their alter-egos), "This prank war started yesterday. I gave you enough of a pity-break, and for my compassion I declare this is now a timed challenge. It ends at midnight, and Celeborn, Taorin, Daugion and Gimli are the judges – with Hedwig as the tiebreaker. Tick tock, little imps, step up or lie down and show throat."
With that, he swept away, very carefully not swishing a non-existent cloak, and cackled mockingly as, back at the table, Fred and George suddenly found themselves wearing bright red leotards, complete with arrow-tipped tail, small pointy ears, tiny little horns, hair in two adorable ponytails tied high on each side of their heads with bright pink bows - and wearing bright white diapers. Even as they stared at each other in complete shock, small explosions erupted from the seat of their diapers, which immediately expanded and drooped slightly beneath a sudden load complete with a noxious puff of green smoke that trailed behind them, and a childish voice giggled and announced, "Baby devils made a doo-doo!"
The stunned silence at the table slowly shattered beneath the frantic head-shaking of Legolas, who had both hands pressed tightly over his mouth as his shoulders began to shake with the attempt to keep control. He lost the battle when he saw the horrified disgust on the faces of his devils. Closing his eyes did NOT help, as the rank odor was a more than adequate reminder. Unable to stop himself, Legolas finally pushed his chair back and dove for Celeborn, seeking the Lord's protection from his outraged mates as the little elf surrendered to a truly spectacular fit of giggles.
For his part, Celeborn had one arm protectively around Legolas – which was pretty much all that was keeping the elf upright - and one hand pressed firmly against his own mouth, but even as he bit his lip and slowly shook his head in denial, he lost the battle and erupted into full-throated laughter. As if he had released everyone else, laughter erupted from the gathered elves and the few Istaris present. It doubled as the twins, unable to cancel the spell or to apparate, had to walk away with attempted dignity, which was already impossible without the second eruption from their diapers that resulted in the two have to waddle beneath the weight of the "doo-doo". It didn't help that the twins started snickering halfway out of the pavilion, either.
They had to give it to the old man; he really knew his shit.
HEART TO HEART
As the newly-recovered breakfast companions began to depart, following the guidance of Remus Lupin as he hurried off again to the Lord's Library, Celeborn noted Remus' concerned glance back at Marcaunon. Throughout breakfast, even before the prank war re-ignited, they had noticed that something had been – off—with the young Istari. During the descriptions of the events in the Devils' bedroom, Marcaunon had seemed much too controlled. Even Sirius' opening salvo against the twins had not earned the type of laughter one might have expected from Marcaunon. It was definitely worrisome.
Celeborn watched Glorfindel have a private discussion with his mate, and observed with concern the agitation in his old friend as Glorfindel finally nodded reluctantly and walked over to Celeborn as Marcaunon slipped away. He instinctively reached out a long arm and rested his comforting hand on Glorfindel's shoulder as soon as the warrior was within range.
"Based on your shock over the goblins two days ago, Marcaunon is concerned that perhaps we may have missed sharing important information with you. He would like me to catch you up to speed on our 'adventures' while he takes a little time by the river to think," Glorfindel tried to keep his tone even but his frustration must have slipped through as Celeborn merely nodded in agreement and replied levelly, "I believe the best place for you to 'catch me up to speed', as you will, is at the gazing gazebo." He did not need to mention that the gazebo was a favorite place to sit and look upon the beautiful waters of the Golden River.
Glorfindel hesitated for a moment before nodding, gesturing for Celeborn to precede him. The two lords left for the gazebo knowing that their sharp sight and hearing would enable them to keep watch on Marcaunon - just in case.
Harry was sitting by a small stream that fed off of the Golden River, watching the colorful fish play and swim as his mind wandered back to his childhood. Despite everything, he had been doing well in containing the memories within the basilisk he had built into his occlumentic defenses. The most skilled in the mind arts succeeded in creating elaborate mindscapes in which they housed their memories, established mental defenses and offenses, and often sought succor within as they meditated. Because he had needed to look at each memory before he could safely put it where it belonged within his mind, Harry had not felt the need to look at the basilisk for a long time now. He had left it blind; that just seemed fitting, considering how blind everyone was to his childhood. He simply gave each memory to the basilisk to consume, allowing their pain and poison to make the basilisk progressively deadlier. The fact that she served as his best offensive mindweapon was no accident. One bite from her, and anyone invading his mind would be shrieking in horror and pain. The only reason he had dealt with Galadriel differently was because he could tell that she was genuinely unaware of how vile her actions were.
Now, of course, he understood why she was so removed from the pain of her people. Still, he had scared her, and he definitely found that smirkworthy.
The smirk on his face faded as he heard once again a mental echo from his past. It was Thranduillion's fault. Hearing Legolas' father call him "BOY" in a voice and manner eerily similar to Vernon had triggered a wave of rage from deep within Harry's soul. He felt that the punishment meted out to the so-called 'king' was justified, and kinder than he deserved. In truth, he would have had no qualms about simply executing the bastard, but he wanted Thranduillion to suffer for his actions against his own son. Given what Harry knew about that type of person, it was a fair bet that Thranduillion's execution was not all that far off, and would be earned through the elf's own actions to regain power or control over Legolas – particularly considering the most recent events, which will have dramatically increased Legolas' desirability to the greedy ruler of the Mirkwood.
But that was the future. Right now, Harry was left to try to deal with the residue of rage and the memories it had summoned. He would have managed it, but the near-destruction of his family due to the Valar's ineptitude and the machinations of the goddess reminded him almost unbearably of Dumbledore as he played with lives as if it were all just a grand game for his amusement.
He had tried so very hard to contain his emotions and keep his mask firmly in place, but the rage and hatred shrieking from the memories of his past were overwhelming him. He had to take some time to meditate and occlude again, for everyone's sake. His herven had wanted to protest when Harry asked to be alone for a while, but could not resist the pleading eyes Harry had turned upon him. When Glory relented, albeit unhappily, Harry had suggested he take time with Celeborn to ensure the Lord was up to speed on all that had been and would be happening. He hoped they might also devise tentative plans for group discussion. He felt badly about the fact that he had to deny his Glorious mate's protectiveness over Harry this one time, but there was no enemy to fight here, except the demons that dug festering wounds into his soul. No matter how much Glory wanted to help, these were enemies that could only be defeated from within, by the strength of one's own will. He had spoken the truth, though, when he reassured his herven that the elf's love and care gave him sharper weapons against the darkness within.
And so, Harry sat on the riverbank, lost in painful memories, until he heard a twig deliberately being cracked beneath a careful foot and sensed someone silently sitting down next to him. Even without his ability to sense auras, Harry would have known his companion was his youngest (figuratively) brother, Legolas.
Neither looked at the other. Instead, they sat in silence together for several moments, gazing meditatively at the water. Eventually, Harry offered a quiet greeting.
"Le suillon, Legolas."
"Le suillon, Marcaunon."
"Man mathach? Any unanticipated problems?" Harry asked, concerned for the young elf.
"Better than I had anticipated, truthfully," came the wry response. Legolas' eyes remained fixed on the hypnotic rush of water.
"And have you had your talk with Celeborn yet?"
"Lau. Not yet, my mates have been quite – adamant - about staying near me," Legolas replied with a small blush.
Harry chuckled a bit. "I can well imagine. It seems since you first caught sight of us, your life has been pure turmoil." The chuckle was belied by the somber look in the emerald eyes that glanced over to him.
"Harry … I regret nothing. I have never been happier than I am at this moment. I am blessed to have you all in my life." Legolas' earnestness was almost painfully sincere, and a deep knot of guilt began to untwist within Harry. Although …
"Legolas, my brother. We are blessed to have you, as well. I feel badly for our actions; we had no sooner pledged to welcome and protect you as a brother than we hurt your feelings. I am so sorry, Legolas. We …I… never meant to cause you distress when we stayed out your first night. We were thoughtless and foolish. Neither had we known about, nor even considered, the flaw in the Valar's plans," Harry responded almost pleadingly, guilt and regret remaining heavy in his heart.
"Oh, Harry! Please, don't. It wasn't anyone's fault! I hold nothing against any of you, Marcaunon. Especially not the folly of the first night! Not even I am usually so sensitive; I can only think it was the newness of the bond and … well, just everything, all piled up and confusing me. I'm afraid you have discovered one of my worst failings; it is very hard for me to believe it when someone says they care about me and welcome me. But I swear I understood why you all stayed out, that you needed to ground yourself within the familiar once more. I had no valid reason to react as I did, but I couldn't seem to help it. My father has always said that my emotions are a weakness, a flaw. He was right, too. And now, with magic, I wish ….. no, I don't just wish, I need to be …. stronger," Legolas ended helplessly.
"You have it all confused, Legolas. Blame Thranduillion; I know I do!" Harry cast a sidelong glance at his companion, pleased at the quirk of lips that had been downturned and pinched together. "You are remarkably strong, Legolas, and quite brave, as well. Never doubt that. It took courage to join the Fellowship, and emotional strength to carry on when the hobbits had been taken. It took a strong heart and sense of self for the Elven son of the most bigoted 'king' around to befriend and bond with a Dwarf. It took an amazing feat of personal strength to stand firm when facing your former father, and to not waiver when the barbs in his insults scraped over some of your private fears. And the very idea of you thinking less of yourself for the role you held in an upside-down bond shocks me. Not being able to withstand all the power being sent into you was most emphatically not your fault. That was lack of thought on the part off the Valar themselves. If you question yourself about that, then you must also question the gods. Actually, question them first; they deserve it. Legolas, the fact that you are handling the situation quite well and not freaking out proves your strength of character," Harry told him, looking the elf straight in the eye. His voice was quiet and powerful, and the look on his face was purest respect.
Legolas was beginning to understand the devotion his mates felt for this young man. Beyond Harry's obvious strength and prowess, beneath the exterior that changed to reflect the situation, was a heart of pure love and sincerity and honor. Legolas could well understand why his mates reacted as they did to a simple word of praise from the emerald-eyed Istari.
Lost in thought, they again lapsed into silence. Although Harry would like to have labeled his thoughts as contemplative, he was certain it was closer to brooding as he once again wrestled with memories from childhood. Legolas, too, was struggling with those issues, and was debating about talking to his 'older' brother' about their childhoods and their magic. He knew from Ithilwen's tale that Marcaunon's abuse had been extensive. For the most part, Legolas had dealt with a plethora of verbal abuse, mostly degenerating to the odd slap here and there on 'special' occasions. It was only as Legolas got older that the slaps turned to closed-fist assaults, given from Thranduillion anytime the elf realized that Legolas saw him clearly and did not like what he saw.
"Marcaunon?" he finally ventured hesitantly.
"Yes, Legolas?" Harry's immediate response gave Legolas courage.
"In your opinion, why do people – especially caregivers – abuse children and people like us?" Legolas asked, expertly skipping a stone across the dancing water. He figured he would get through the hardest part first.
There was a stretch of silence and Legolas feared Marcaunon wouldn't answer. He was slowly learning, however, that Marcaunon would always answer, even if it was only to explain why he could not.
"There are a lot of theories about abuse. Some say that abusers are just continuing a pattern their own parents started. Some say it's about power, or poor self-image, or fear. I'm not sure what I believe in general, although maybe Thranduillion was intimidated by your pure soul. You have the capacity to capture the love of the people, something I doubt that bastard ever had. People would accept your rule because they love you and you love them. That would definitely give you the ability to usurp Thranduillion, especially since he had to name you his heir because of his so-called 'kingliness'. A Lord has the right to pass power and authority down through his own blood without regard for who is most directly-related, or through another qualification he deems vital – like honor. Because of that, he doesn't actually have to name an heir; he can just name the guidelines and rules by which a group of electors would select his successor. But a king has no choice; his heir is his nearest blood relative. So, there you were – perfect, and his heir by his own law. He had to keep you oppressed, or you would have seized the throne sooner rather than later." He saw out of the corner of his eye Legolas' move of denial, and answered the unspoken rebuttal, "And you would have. If you saw him mistreating his people, you would have taken the throne regardless of whether or not you wanted it." He smiled slightly as Legolas glared out over the water, admitting at least to himself that Harry was right.
"He probably also saw you as a tool, maybe a means to political or financial power. The one thing he never saw you as, and please know I am not trying to hurt you, little brother, is his son. He didn't wanta son, because having a child makes a person the older generation. For a conceited dick like Thranduillion, you basically represented everything that could take away his power, wealth, status and authority."
Legolas was openly staring at Harry now, fascinated at the glimpse into a powerful intellect that was often missed beneath the flashier aspects of Harry's persona. Unruffled by his inspection, Harry simply continued his train of thought. "As for why I was abused, I could give a bunch of reasons, and they would all be right, and they would all be wrong. I think the vaguest but most correct answer is the one that fits – I had to become a certain type of person, to fulfill the prophecies made about me. I wouldn't have done that if I'd been treated well or honorably by most people. In the end, as the song goes, 'though I may not know the answers, I can finally say I'm free, and if the questions lead me here, then I am who I was born to be'."
Once again, Legolas was speechless, lost in admiration over this remarkable man. Eventually, he shook himself out of his contemplation and asked quietly, "Does it get easier?"
Harry's smile was slightly bitter, but comforting in its honesty. "In time and with love, yes. But, occasionally, there are moments when it comes back."
"Is this one of those times?"
After a long, tightly-constrained sigh, "Yeah."
Legolas stared at the grass Harry was picking and tearing apart restlessly, feeling a strong affinity for the quiet young man sitting next to him. He had probably personally devastated an entire field of grass throughout his own lifetime of nervous plucking and shredding. "Am I disturbing you, Harry? Would you prefer to be alone right now?"
"No, Legolas; it's fine. It's true I sought solitude, but I always have time for family."
Legolas nodded slightly, trying to accustom himself to that concept. Celeborn had expressed it several times. His mates said it constantly. Gimli, naturally, had proven it to him time and again. And now, Harry was saying it, as matter-of-factly as he had discussed his own abuse. For some reason, it was Harry who made him believe it. "Could I talk with you again, sometime, if I have one of those times when it comes back hard?"
The reply was simple and immediate, and immensely believable. "Of course, little brother."
"I need to work with you and Ithilwen and the others, too, with my powers. I know much already, and I have you to thank for that." He grinned at Harry's offhand wave of dismissal, as if the man had not actually challenged the gods on behalf of an elf he barely knew. "I do, however, think I need some training with regard to how to fit my abilities into a battle scenario."
Harry glanced around them, looking oddly alert for some reason, then said teasingly, "I would be honored, Legolas, but for now you had best go find those Devils. Considering the state I last saw them, they will be out for vengeance. Lothlorien has survived millennia, but I'm not sure it will survive the Devils in a fit of pique. If it goes too long, I would expect the Golden Woods to, at the very least, become rainbow-colored."
Legolas chuckled and rose to his feet, dusting off his hands and the seat of his leggings as he waved an almost jaunty farewell to Harry and went off to find his mates. Once he was gone, Harry called out sardonically, "You can come out now, Glory and Celeborn."
Although Celeborn looked somewhat sheepish as they stepped out from the shadows of the trees in which they had been waiting, Glory merely moved forward swiftly to pull his beloved to his feet and hold him close. He would never be ashamed of his concern for his herven. Pulling back slightly, he inspected Harry's face carefully, looking for something he would not define. Finally, satisfied, he tugged his little mate back against his chest and held him close, looking out over the water.
Standing next to them, for some reason comfortable with these two even though he should have felt like the odd man out, Celeborn tossed a rock across the water and murmured thoughtfully, "Someday, Harry, I would like for you to sing that song for me."
Harry just nodded, and allowed the overwhelming reassurance of these two powerful elves to soothe the ragged remains of his anxiety.
THE WOLVEN AND THE ARCHIVIST
As urged by Harry, Legolas was looking for his mates. He had just entered one of the little side gardens when he startled back at the sight of a huge black wolfhound trotting away with what seemed to be a fiendish grin. Furrowing his brow, Legolas walked cautiously in the opposite direction of the snickering dog to find his mates trussed up high in a tree. They were no longer wearing the baby-devil costumes, for which Legolas' nose was endlessly grateful. Their present attire wasn't a vast improvement visually, however.
There they were, two massive, masculine warrior wizards, suspended from the tree by impossibly fine golden threads and wearing pink and yellow tutus. Delicate, feminine little collars were chained around their necks, attached to little pink leashes tauntingly hooked over an open branch. Even his simple Elven sight allowed Legolas to see that it would be easier to take down the tree than to unhook a leash. On their muscular upper backs were dainty, glittering insect wings that fluttered frantically with their agitation. Their corded, muscular thighs were coated in lovely aqua glitter that sparkled lightly in the mid-day sun. From this angle, Legolas could look directly up their tutus, and, quite frankly, their massive packages clad in see-through pink lace was just horribly wrong in all possible ways. Not even Legolas was turned on.
Taking a moment to get his voice firmly under control, Legolas sternly controlled his urge to once again dissolve into hysterical giggles and, ignoring his mates' urgent head-shaking, questioned calmly, "Loves? Dare I ask….?"
Fred glared down at him and, judging by his clenched jaw muscles, seemed to be concentrating very hard on keeping his mouth closed. George's willpower was apparently weaker, as he couldn't contain himself and immediately began to sing in a sweet, childlike voice, "We are the fairies of the Woods! We spread our love around! And when we fly and flutter by, our shadows kiss the ground!"
Legolas stared in horrified fascination as the glittering wings began to buzz wildly, twirling his mates in an erratic, stomach-twisting pattern. All Legolas could think was that it was a good thing his mates were accustomed to daring aerial maneuvers, or Legolas would even now be decorated with the remnants of their breakfasts.
Once they had settled into a flat hover, Legolas allowed his gaze to return to them as he said with careful control over his quavering voice, "I'm fairly certain I know how to fix this, but I need to make sure I don't make it worse. Wait until I find some witnesses – I mean, help! – preferably, help who can use that memory-projection spell from this morning!" he muttered to himself, before smiling encouragingly up at the lace-covered genitals and chirped, "I won't be long! Um …. Hee-hee-hee! I'm sorry, loves, but – HANG IN THERE!"
Ignoring their frantic gestures –Who knew? The middle finger thing was universal, apparently! - and renewed aerial hysteria, Legolas turned on his heel and marched away, forcefully controlling his own giggles until he was far enough away to laugh freely.
Remus's first experience in Celeborn's library had only whetted his appetite for the magnificent place. Despite his concerns over Harry, Remus had sternly ordered himself to trust his son's care to Glorfindel and sent himself back to the library rather than remain in the area and risk surrendering to his own parental urges. Certainly, he would continue to be needed as his children's father, but Glorfindel was Harry's mate, and there simply could not be a more dedicated and loving person for Remus's emerald-eyed son than the ancient warrior.
Turning his thoughts to the library that awaited him, Remus's anticipation rose the closer he got. Although he had learned much of Middle Earth's history from his cubs during the week before their departure, their summary could not possibly cover the depth and breadth of the rich vitality of several millennia worth of various races interacting on this strikingly beautiful world. Besides, any bibliophile knows that there is just something special about reading history from a book or a scroll written from someone's personal perspective.
In his hurry, Remus barreled right into the small figure he saw just a moment too late, although his quick reactions did allow him to catch the person and control the fall to the ground. Briefly pausing to process what had happened, Remus found himself slowly and appreciatively appraising the absolutely exquisite elf who sprawled gracefully on the grass at his feet. The dark-haired beauty on the ground before him was a small, delicate-looking male with beautiful, catlike, violet eyes and rosy pink cheeks. Remus stared until the remarkable eyes gained a slightly embarrassed look and dropped somewhat shyly, causing Remus's eyes to follow the violet gaze downward. That was when the wolven's amber gaze focused intently on the delectable mouth with the most tempting bottom lip Remus had ever seen or imagined. White teeth nibbled nervously on that lip, finally waking Remus from his daze and causing him to offer a strong, gentlemanly hand to assist the siren to his feet.
Rising gracefully with Remus's aid, the elf standing in front of him barely reached the bottom of Remus's jaw. His delicate figure and delicious scent were sending Moony into overdrive. 'Down, boy!' Remus sternly ordered his wolf, and turned his full attention on the vision before him.
"I am terribly sorry about that," Remus apologized. "I wasn't looking where I was going. Are you all right?" He couldn't help but smile at the ruffled look of irritation the delightful little elf wore.
Having forced his rampant blush to recede, the elf frowned up at him and answered with a hint of annoyance in his smooth, musical voice, "I am fine, thank you. I wasn't precisely watching my own path, either. If you'll excuse me? Have a pleasant day." It was clear from his dismissive tone that the little elf was now done with this encounter.
Unfortunately for him, Remus was not. More important, neither was Moony. He stepped easily into the elf's path, again stopping him, albeit not quite so profoundly this second time. Undeterred by the irritated glare aimed up at him, Remus smiled charmingly down into the lovely face and watched an unwilling flush rise in the porcelain cheeks. "My name is Remus Lupin. I'm one of the new arrivals. Perhaps I can escort you to your destination?"
Violet-blue eyes stared coldly at him, in determined denial of the blush coloring his cheeks. After several seconds of silence in which Remus made it clear with his smiling patience that he was not going to step aside, the little elf huffed in irritation and said sharply, "My name is Erestor. I'm Lord Elrond's archivist and assistant at Rivendell. And I am quite familiar with Lothlorien and do not require an escort."
His coldness had no impact at all on the charming, amber-eyed Istari smiling at him. 'How was that possible?' Erestor huffed to himself. He could scare any elf with just a glance, and yet here was a human who wasn't in the least intimidated.
Remus's smile broadened in amusement as he asked, "I didn't presume you needed one. I merely asked if I could serve as one. If you don't mind, may I ask where you were heading?"
"You may," Erestor answered coolly, violet eyes openly assessing the unusual man standing in his way.
Remus laughed - a true, free, appreciative laugh - and asked agreeably, "And where were you heading, my dear Erestor?"
Cursing the fact that he had blushed again at the endearment, Erestor replied shortly, "To the library. Now excuse me." He moved to step around the tawny-haired man and almost stamped his foot in aggravation when Remus simply turned to walk alongside, offering his arm in the manner of a true gentleman despite Erestor's petulance.
"It seems we were destined to meet today, lovely Erestor. I was returning to the library when we collided. Although I'm delighted at the new acquaintanceship, I would have chosen a less forceful introduction for your sake, had I only known," Remus smiled, tilting his head downward to look more fully into the lovely face that tipped up at him curiously.
After a few paces, Erestor grudgingly accepted Remus's arm, stating sharply, "I have come to the conclusion that it is better to work with you and keep my balance."
He was at a loss for a snappy retort when Remus replied with delicate threat, "I assure you, little one, I will be doing my level best to keep you as off-balance as possible."
Erestor finally settled for ignoring the last comment, and instead asked why Remus was going to the library in the first place. They began a light discussion about their mutual scholarly interests. Remus's passion for history surprised Erestor, a fact which amused Remus, which in turn flustered Erestor. Remus watched with delight as an increasingly flushed Erestor stammered, "It wasn't an insult to your intellect; it's just that most people who profess an interest in me aren't of a scholarly mind… Not that you've said you're interested in me, of course … Not that I'm hinting I want you to be, or that I am … you …. It … I …. w-we …!" He finally stuttered to a halt when Remus suddenly loomed close to him, faces mere inches apart, and lowered his head to press his mouth to a delicate, leaf-shaped ear and whisper, "I am most definitely interested in you, beautiful little scholar. And you…," he dropped a tiny kiss on the shell of Erestor's ear, "… are definitely….," this time a longer kiss was pressed to the delicate jaw, "… delightfully …," now a gentle, sweet kiss in the corner of Erestor's tempting mouth, "… off-balance!" he ended huskily, staring directly down into wide, violet eyes and savoring the lightly increased breathing and gently parted mouth. Remus lowered his head slowly, giving Erestor enough time to back away. Instead, the delectable little face tilted upwards slightly, lifting to meet him with the barest brush of lips before …
Erestor startled back, quickly retreating a few steps and looking somewhat shaken at his own, out of character behavior. After a moment, he turned and glared up at the handsome, tawny man who was watching a younger elf approach and said accusingly, "Papa Remy, is it?"
He wasn't prepared for the dashing grin Remus sent over to him, nor for the strong arm that reached over to wrap around his slim shoulders and draw him closely against a warm, powerful body. Erestor was once again at a momentary loss for words, surprised at the way the odd, casual clothing disguised the man's muscular build. Remus simply dropped a quick kiss on the tip of Erestor's nose and said gently, "I am not mated – yet. Legolas is one of the children of my heart and my pack. He is my cub."
Erestor then recognized the elf who had called out to his bewildering companion and flushed fiercely to be found in this compromising position. He was grateful to Legolas for his discretion when the younger elf merely nodded a greeting to him before turning fully to Remus and hurriedly explaining.
It sounded like complete gobbledegook to Erestor, but to his surprise, Remus merely nodded resignedly, an amused smile quirking the sensuous lips, and asked, "Would you like to accompany us to rescue my cubs? I promise, it's a sight you won't soon forget!"
Nodding a befuddled agreement, Erestor frowned slightly as he asked about the term Remus had used. "Cub?"
Remus smiled gently down at him, and again pressed a kiss upon Erestor, this time on the frown line between his eyebrows. He seemed completely unconcerned with the proprieties of the situation. "Ahh, well, as you may or may not know, we who have recently arrived to Lothlorien are all Istari, and we are all shape-changers, although I also carry some of the living spirit and character of the animal I change into. If you're ever accosted by a very friendly, handsome timber wolf, don't be afraid, it's just me as Moony. You'll be able to tell because of my eyes; the eyes of an animagus – shapechanger – do not change significantly from one form to the other."
He nodded approvingly as Erestor quoted as if to himself, "I thought to flee, but my fears o'erthrow, as 'twas true 'tis the eyes that carry the soul."
As if they had all the time in the world, Remus shifted his weight comfortably, somehow luring Erestor to lean even more daringly against the strong body. He looked thoughtful for a moment, as if searching his memory, then said, "On my home world, there is an expression that 'the eyes are the windows to the soul'. I have not been on Arda long enough to read much of native literature; is what you quoted a well-known expression? You said it with marked feeling, as if it were deeply personal to you." Sharp amber eyes watched him, noting every miniscule sign that betrayed Erestor's discomfiture.
Briefly struggling to regain his balance despite Remus' polite refusal to release him, he avoided Remus's knowing gleam and muttered irritably, "Yes, yes, I understand. Off-balance." He glared upward at the charming smile, just certain that there was a wealth of smugness hidden behind it, and snapped, "The idea is probably commonly held, but the quote was from my own writings. Satisfied?"
Remus leaned down, his masculinity very pronounced as his soft shirt tightened around surprising biceps and strong shoulders. Amber eyes looked smilingly into violet as Remus growled gently, "Satisfied? Not even close, little archivist, but it is definitely one of my dearest goals." He rewarded Erestor's increased breathing and dilated eyes with another, teasing kiss on the corner of that tempting mouth before straightening to his full height and returning to the original question. "Because of my wolf, I call the children of my heart 'my cubs'. My heart-brother, who changes into a large wolfhound, calls them his pups."
Urging them back onto the path, he allowed Erestor to walk along in silence for several paces, none of them hurrying to go to the twins' rescue. In fact, Legolas seemed to be deliberately strolling slowly, as if relishing the delay. At Remus's inquiring brow, he said only, "I am not in the mood for a prank war today. Perhaps this will teach them a lesson." He grinned at Remus's hearty laughter.
Wrapped within Remus's sheltering arm and willfully ignoring his own bewildering behavior, Erestor spoke up. "But why is Legolas your 'cub'?"
Remus smiled proudly at the now delicately-flushing Legolas. "This handsome young elf is mated to my twin cubs and is therefore also my cub," Remus explained as they reached Legolas. "Where are they, cub?"
Legolas merely pointed up in the tree where the Devils were still suspended, looking remarkably like Vikings in drag, and said with deadpan irony, "They're my mates. I'm so very proud. Really."
Following the pointing finger upward, Erestor's mouth dropped open in shocked revulsion, before the humor of the situation began to seize him and he clenched his jaw firmly against the fist he pressed against it.
Remus had no such reservations, uttering a bark of laughter as he gazed upward. His inevitable question was halted, however, when Legolas leaped towards him and pressed a strong hand firmly against his mouth as he glared at Remus and hissed threateningly, "You don't want to do that. I don't want you to do that. Do NOT ask them a thing. Just please can you undo it? I was willing to try, but I'm tired and want a nap very badly and I'm frankly a bit annoyed by this whole situation."
Smirking in pride at the show of assertion by Legolas, Remus simply nodded and began flicking his wand, easily undoing the spells and enchantments while mentally congratulating his marauder brother. Really, this was truly one of his better pranks, although this morning's was pensieve-worthy. As he dismantled the spellwork, Remus was very aware of his violet-eyed beauty's close attention and wide-eyed wonder.
Nicely nude and glitter-free, the twins dropped to their feet as their wings disappeared. Erestor stared, open-mouthed, at the naked masculinity standing with double the visual joy right in front of him. "Thanks, Moony!" Sidhenidon yelled out before scooping Legolas into his arms. Eredhion looked Erestor up and down before winking at the delicate elf and saying cheekily to his father, "Definitely a keeper, Papa! Have fun!" before the energetic duo, exasperated elf firmly in hand, raced back to their talan.
Chuckling, Remus watched them in amusement as he genially muttered, "Cubs!" Watching him, Erestor gulped as the tawny-eyed man suddenly turned and captured him in a sharp, amber stare. "So, you got an appreciative eyeful of my nicely naked twins, lovely one. And I notice you did not look away." He smiled predatorily down at the now flushed and stuttering Erestor, who finally huffed indignantly and snapped, "I have every right to look when an attractive naked man appears in front of me! I defy you not to do the same!"
He sputtered into silence when the gleaming-eyed wolven gave him a heated appraisal and asked temptingly, "Is that an offer? Because, I assure you, lovely elf, I would not be turning you down, nor would I be looking away."
Unable to summon a suitably scathing answer, Erestor simply lifted his chin haughtily and turned hurriedly back toward the library. He did not object when Remus once again tugged him against his side and wrapped a warm, strong arm around his shoulder as they walked together. They were almost at the Library when Remus asked casually, "So, who are the two elves following you?"
Erestor stumbled slightly and asked suspiciously, "Following me?"
"Mmm-hmmm. They're staying in the branches for the most part. They have a different base layer scent but identical core scent. Must be twins, like my devils, although the verdancy of their scent definitely declares them as elven," Remus explained, discreetly sniffing the air.
Despite being fascinated and deeply impressed with the information Remus had just provided about his own abilities, Erestor still glowered as he bit out with deep sarcasm, "Perfect. How delightful. They are Lord Elrond's twins, the Rivendell Pranksters. I told Celeborn that I didn't need guards! I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. One stalker king, and suddenly I have dozens of big brothers everywhere. It would have been more useful when I was avoiding the vigorous attentions of the scouts when they decided I needed to toughen up and learn hand-to-hand combat through the joy of ambush."
Remus looked darkly down at the grumbling beauty on his arm, but decided to wait a little before getting the entire story from the skilled Elven bodyguards currently slipping through the treetops. Apart from planning a few memorable lessons for the scouts in question, if Erestor was in danger, Remus wanted to know about it. He needed to be certain he killed the correct person, after all.
It didn't even occur to him to question his sudden, fierce protectiveness. He and Moony were in complete agreement: Erestor was theirs. The courting was only a formality – a delightful one, but not crucial to the inevitable conclusion. Long courtship, or none at all – Erestor was now Remus's to protect.
The mystery stalker would soon learn that truth the hard way.
As would the scouts.
A guffawing Sirius stumbled back to his lodging, wiping gleeful tears from his eyes. He had truly outdone himself today! Even better, little Legolas had dissolved into laughter twice that he knew of, and all due to Sirius's efforts. If there was one truism by which Sirius lived, it would be: 'If you can laugh, you'll live.'
More than once, that was all that had kept Sirius alive, one painful, wrenching chuckle at a time.
Even as he chortled, Sirius once again found his thoughts wandering to the handsome, dignified Lord Celeborn. He could not help it; the Elven Lord drew him in every possible way. Out of respect for the tremendous changes happening in the Lord's life, Sirius had tried very hard to curb his desires. Despite his near-voyeuristic guarding of the night before, Sirius had no intention of being one of the inevitable string of lovers that Celeborn was sure to have, now that he was freed of old Glady's choke-chain.
Given what he had learned of the half-elleth, Sirius refused to grant the former Lady the respect of a name that meant 'maiden crowned by a radiant garland'. That bitch was no freaking maiden, and the only thing she deserved to be crowned by was a lot blunter and heavier than a 'radiant garland'! No, 'old Gladys' would do nicely, if he had to refer to her at all.
From what he had heard about old Gladys the Goddess, Sirius felt even more respect for the person he knew Celeborn to be. By every account, the Elven Lord had earned his right to sow wild oats, even during his marriage and most certainly now that it was over. He had learned that, despite Gladys's blatant promiscuity, Celeborn had only very rarely taken lovers and had always been honorable and honest with those few who graced his bed. In another lifetime, Sirius would have immediately met the handsome Lord's interested appraisal with a bawdy tumble and at least a few wild nights.
But not now. Not when Sirius felt a much more profound interest dawning within himself for the Elf he had met just two days ago. How was this even possible? From the stories of all the other family members – 'istaris', he chuckled wryly – who had arrived no more than two weeks ago, every single one of them had gone from zero to mated with the speed of fiendfyre! Merlin, Sirius was even dreaming about Celeborn – dreams that had him waking up sticky and uncomfortable and glad he could cast scourgify now, as opposed to his fourteen-year-old self who could not do magic outside of school and was left to the mercy of Kreacher, who reported every sticky emission to the insane Walburga. Those were some memories he really wished the Dementors had managed to purge.
Fucking perverts. An entire species who lived by voyeurism, spending most of their time picking through – not the 'happy' memories that prick Dumbledore had proclaimed was their preference – but the memories of sex, the dirtier the better. They were disgusting creatures, unable to get their own hard-ons so they mind-raped humans and stole theirs. He could just imagine what one of them would do with the memory of Sirius's actions last night, while he peeked unwillingly and guarded the sensual healing that Haldir and Luna had so lovingly coaxed from Celeborn.
Mumbling to himself, exasperated at his inability to stay focused on anything other than the handsome Lord of Lothlorien, Sirius suddenly found himself tripping over … nothing? … and landing forcefully in the very strong arms of the subject of his recent wet dreams.
Staring in complete shock at the masculine, handsome face mere inches from his own, Sirius Black watched Celeborn's expression turn distinctly wicked and felt a strong hand stroke through his hair and firmly clasp the back of his head. His thoughts went completely blank as Celeborn's hand guided Sirius's head to tilt slightly before gentling in the black and silver tresses. Without sparing a single thought for his recent certainty that he would not simply dally with the sexy Elven Lord, Sirius only managed a needy whimper as he was pulled firmly against a lightly-sculpted, powerful chest and his mouth was taken expertly by the warm, mobile, talented lips and tongue of Lord Celeborn of the Golden Woods.
Celeborn walked with Harry and Glory as far as the Gazing Gazebo, before he ventured on in search of someone that brought a delightful smile of anticipation to the Lord's normally reserved face. As soon as Celeborn left Harry and Glory alone, Glorfindel had wrapped his arms around his headstrong mate, sighing in fond exasperation as he rested his chin on the wild, black hair.
"Why,herven, do you insist on doing things alone? If you had truly wanted to be alone, I would have given that to you without argument. You forget our bond, beloved; I know full well you did not want solitude, but rather silence. I would have gladly sat with you and held you, or simply kept you company, while you worked through your troubled thoughts, tithen pen. Le melon, herven.Le melon!There is no reason that you need to do it all alone," Glorfindel pressed a gentle kiss to Harry's brow, holding him closely and willing his own warmth into the slightly-shivering body in his arms.
Harry buried his face beneath Glorfindel's chin, snuffling against the warm skin and allowing the familiar scent of the deepest forest and clean, cool air that to him would forever mean Glorfindel to soothe and comfort him. They stood in comfortable silence, soaking in each other's warmth and love while Glorfindel's strong, gentle hands rubbed soothing patterns across Harry's toned back. The elf concentrated on sending loving, healing comfort through his hands, hoping to ease the phantom pains that doubtless still troubled his little warrior through the myriad scars that riddled and marked his beautiful back. Glorfindel knew full well that recent events had stirred Harry's oldest, darkest memories, and his soul raged against those vile people who had tortured and tormented a small, innocent child in the name of 'normalcy'. Stroking patiently against the shudders that plagued his beloved, Glorfindel decided to take advantage of Ragnok's offer of aid. He was going to send the vicious warriors who called Harry their Lord against the Dursleys.
He was certain, given even a brief explanation for his request, that their vengeance would be beautiful.
Lost in dark thoughts, Glorfindel blinked when Harry finally stirred and spoke. "You're right, Glory. I'm sorry. I'm just not used to letting anyone near when I get like that. I always kept even the twins and Luna-girl away. I couldn't be sure that I wouldn't lash out from a memory, and as close as we are, they wouldn't know what to do. I didn't take our bond into account, mi aglar herven. I'm just very accustomed to doing things – especially the deeply personal things - on my own."
He peeked up through his thick black lashes at his gloriously masculine husband, as always finding himself distracted by the strength of his attraction to Glorfindel even as he tried to stay mentally on track. He saw the upward quirk of one sensuous, delicious-looking lip as Glorfindel caught the sensuality slipping through their bond, and dropped his gaze determinedly so he could finish their conversation.
"I do want you with me, Glory, especially during the times when I try hardest to push you away. It's just habit; a pure, knee-jerk reaction to protect the people I love most from what scares me the most – my memories and, if I'm being honest, myself. I have enough darkness and power living together within me to do some major damage if I don't keep a balance, Glory. I know you've seen that. I know that I need your help, mi herven.I just forget to ask, or even that I can ask. Merlin, even when I found my family, I was still the one leading, the one making the decisions. I'm not used to this, to having someone I can depend upon so completely. It's a pure wonder to me, that my mate has such a rich personal history and is such a powerful person that he can do more than just help me through some of the hard times, but can carry me through it if I need it or ask. Gods, Glory, just knowing you're still here, that you haven't left me and that you still love me no matter what you learn about me helps me to overcome my demons." His eyes were wet as Harry pressed against his husband, allowing himself to cling a little even as his Demon persona scoffed at the weakness. Burrowing more comfortably into the warm, musky skin of Glorfindel's neck, Harry mentally flipped Demon off and closed his eyes to savor the safety and protectiveness of the moment.
"You know that I understand, tithen pen. I don't need an apology from you; only your promise to keep trying to let me in, and your forgiveness, because I promise you that I will force myself in if you close up again. I will never forget that you had been so alone, beloved, but you must remember that such is no longer the case," Glory murmured tenderly against the silky hair. "Promise me that you won't intentionally shut me out, and that if you do, you will forgive me when I tear down the walls to get to you." His tone, while gentle, was uncompromising. Glorfindel truly did understand all of the twists and turns that complicated Marcaunon's actions and choices, but he was not giving any ground on this issue. He would not allow his mate to hide from him.
In later years, they would remember this as one of the defining moments of their bondhood and marriage. This was perhaps the first time that Glorfindel had deliberately flexed his muscles as the dominant in their mating. He would not allow his herven to choose when Glory would be in his life and when he would not, and he would not grant his beloved a loophole through which Marcaunon might excuse his instinctive avoidance of others when emotions grew intense. Despite his tenderness and love for his little mate, Lord Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower was the singlemost revered warrior of the People and First Commander of the Elven Forces. He was, in every way, a dominant male. This was one of the times when, despite his own power and authority, Harry would have to learn and accept the fact that, in this marriage, Glorfindel was unquestionably alpha.
Harry was silent for several heartbeats, struggling between his automatic rebellion against being told what to do and his instinctive desire to, as Remy might say, show throat and submit. He felt a growl low in his throat, a desire to challenge Glorfindel for dominance, which was promptly silenced when the gentle hand on his back seized his hair in a tight grip and pulled backward, forcing Harry to expose his throat to a heated, hazel gaze. He struggled against the implacable hold, feeling terribly vulnerable and, to his own horror, increasingly aroused. Glorfindel kept him immobile, refusing to soften his grip or his attitude, and watched impassively as his young mate's learned behavior battled against his deepest instincts. Only when Harry finally submitted, dropping his hands back onto Glorfindel's chest and trying to relax despite his own sense of desperate vulnerability, did Glorfindel soften. The golden-haired warrior lowered his head and nuzzled gently, approvingly, against his smaller mate's face, purring reassuringly, before dropping lower and licking a long, sensuous path over the exposed throat and vulnerable trachea and artery. Feeling Harry sigh and lean into the caress, Glorfindel immediately rewarded his little mate by relaxing his grip on the beautiful hair and soothingly massaging the bruised scalp, coasting long swipes of his tongue and soft, sucking kisses over the sensitive skin of a pale, trembling throat. They had made progress today, and both deserved a reward.
Not resisting as he was lowered onto the cool stone floor of the gazebo, surrounded and hidden by a tall carpet of long stalks of sweetgrass and delicate wildflowers, Harry shivered as his clothes were gently removed by his hazel-eyed mate and tried to give voice to his worries. "I will try, Glory, you know I will. But I may need prodding sometimes," Harry confessed, burying his head deeper in his mate's chest. He willingly acceded to his strong mate's every direction and caress, whimpering at the hot suction of his nipples and moaning into the skilled fingers that stretched him and caused shocks of pleasure to flash through his undulating, naked body. Glorfindel hovered over Harry, strong arms resting on either side of his little mate's tousled head, and grinned wickedly down into the adorable, flushed face, watching intently as sharp, white teeth nibbled a plump bottom lip as Harry tried to contain a mewl of need. Seizing Harry's mouth with his own and sending his tongue sweeping inside, dueling the tongue that met his and defeating it easily, Glorfindel ran his silken-steel erection between Harry's buttocks and positioned the drooling tip directly on his beloved's slightly-stretched, needy rosebud. With another wicked grin at his emerald-eyed mate, Glorfindel said with mocking chivalry, "Allow me, beloved. Prepare to be prodded!" and plunged his huge, hard, weeping cock forcefully into his mate's body. Feeling the tight heat stretch around him, he did not slow or pause for Harry to adjust, even as his little mate arched his back in an urgent attempt to do so. Instead, he sent himself deep into the passage that belonged to him only and did not stop until his heavy sac was resting snugly against his mate's buttocks. He felt Harry's ecstasy through the bond, and knew that his own dominance and the slight pain he had given his mate upon his forceful entrance deep within the body he cherished had heightened Harry's arousal almost unbearably. Such was the nature of a dominance-mating, which is precisely what these moments were. There were other times for making love, for tenderness and patience and long, slow torment. They were not now.
This was a dominant mate claiming his submissive, no matter how much Marcaunon might squirm away from the term itself as applied to him.
This was about ownership and control.
Thrusting hard into the beautiful body that bowed and flexed beneath him, ecstatic words of love and praise and submission pouring from that perfect mouth beneath his own, Glorfindel did not coax his mate to fulfillment. He seized his mate, and forced orgasm upon him.
And then he did it again.
And once again.
Finally, when Harry's exhausted, trembling body lay limp and shivering beneath his own, when the only tension remaining in that lovely, submissive form was in the beautiful cock that gave in to the last bit of climactic pleasure that Glorfindel demanded as his final tithe to the truest nature of their bond, only then did Glorfindel allow himself to tip over the edge along with his wrung-out mate and carry him protectively through Harry's last orgasm of the day while the powerful ecstasy that seized the warrior elf sent him into repeated, intense spasms of liquid pleasure that pulsed deep within his little mate's body and triumphantly established dominance.
Too exhausted to move, Harry did not dare to – nor care to – contest the claim.
ASYLUM OR EXODUS?
Deep in the night, when the sky was so black it could have been velvet and decorated with a brilliant dusting of stars that would have done any diamond proud, Harry pulled his exhausted body from the protective arms of his mate and slipped out of their bed. He could have summoned water, but the quivering in his muscles had caused a leg cramp and he resigned himself to walking it off while finding something to soothe his parched throat. Glancing fondly down at the sleeping form of his beloved warrior, Harry tried to keep his own erotic respect from leaking down the bond. Honestly, the elf was quite arrogant enough without knowing for certain how thoroughly he had established his claim on Harry!
Slowly pacing to stretch out his leg muscles, Harry spotted several pieces of correspondence on the dresser and suddenly recalled the unopened letters that had crossed the portal with Sirius and Remus. Momentarily indecisive, he finally sighed in resignation and decided that it wouldn't hurt to open them now; he was already feeling quite awake.
Sitting at Glorfindel's desk, Harry cracked the seals and read the letters one by one. Several minutes later saw him still sitting at the desk, staring in shock at the letters now open and spread out on the desk top like so many supplicants.
The first was from the Lost Tribe, specifically from Ragnok, answering the questions he and his family had asked and providing a list of questions and concerns for Harry to consider in turn.
The next was a bit of a shock. It was written in the straightforward handwriting of his and his siblings' favorite professor, Pomona Sprout. She was asking after them, wondering if they were doing well and did they need anything. She hoped they would give her permission to visit, and if so, would they allow her to bring her apprentice, Neville Longbottom. She didn't say much about Longbottom, except to comment that he had suffered at the hands of the manipulative Order and its leader, adding that she wished that Longbottom had been less shy and had tried harder to talk with Harry. She noted that Longbottom had apparently looked up to him, and had shared long talks with her about their mutual desire to escape completely from the Wizarding World. They wished to talk with the Demon Team about the possibility of establishing something like a private island or isolated country for those who wished to start again someplace safe, to build a land worth living in and protecting.
The third letter was an even bigger shock for Harry. Of all possible people, it was from Blaise Zabini and Theodore Nott, asking for asylum from the Wizarding world. They explained that all neutral parties were being hounded and were probably going to be either forced to swear vows of obedience to the present Ministry or be arrested and sent to Azkaban as potential insurgents. They each swore on their magic and blood, with the strength of the vow echoing through the blood-drawn rune on the parchment, that they had never supported the Dark Lord, nor had they supported Dumbledore. All they had wanted was to live in peace and survive. Now, even those simple goals had become unlikely in the world of Terra, despite the massive political and economic work done by Harry's family to improve it. They also hinted that they knew of numerous others who would gladly join them, wherever shelter with Harry and the Demon Team was to be offered, and would lend their strengths to Harry's family in support of peace and safety and a chance to live free.
The fourth was a group effort. It was written primarily in the neat, precise handwriting of Irma Pince, the Hogwarts Librarian. She explained that she and 'some others' had heard whispers that Harry and his family may have found a place where simple, non-political magical people, be they squibs or creatures or full witches and wizards, could live and work together in relative peace. She briefly described her own wishes, and added that she and her 'beau' had been trying to escape from the control of Dumbledore and the Ministry for decades now, and while their world was improving for some, their own situation was growing ever more bleak. She asked Harry for help, and pledged any possible aid she and the other signers of this letter could offer in exchange. She did not plead, nor did the others. They just stated their cases, in a sort of last-ditch, hopeless effort that wrung his soul as he read it.
The other writers of the letter were just as surprising to Harry. Argus Filch, the dour, angry squib who served as Hogwarts' maintenance man, explained that he had been forcibly bound by the Ministry to the school because he had just enough magic as a squib to cause trouble if he left the Wizarding World. It was a lifetime of servitude at Hogwarts or be hunted as a fugitive until his magic was bound. His only comfort in his purgatory was his 'lady friend', Irma Pince.
The last writer of this group letter was the brusque, vigorous flying instructor, Rolanda Hooch. She declared that she was 'done' with the Wizarding World and power-hungry people. That Irma had urged her to put her bid in on this letter, but that either way, she was disappearing as soon as possible. If Harry had anything to offer, she would pay for it as best she could with her own abilities but refused to kiss his or anyone else's ass or to be told what she had to believe. If that was his goal, he could take a flying leap off the Astronomy Tower, without his broom.
Harry had to laugh that she signed her name "Respectfully, Rolanda Hooch." He appreciated the irony.
His shock must have travelled through their bond, as Harry felt his beloved's hand cupping his face, tilting it upward so that Harry could see the worried look marring Glorfindel's handsome face. He just stared back helplessly, gesturing vaguely at the letters, and shook his head in bewilderment as he sank willingly into Glorfindel's strong, comforting arms. Tucking his head firmly into 'his' spot beneath his warrior's chin, Harry closed his brilliant green eyes and sighed in resignation.
"Why is it always ME?"
A/N: By the way, I have a fic rec for you. I just discovered "The Truth of Blood" by Rokkis. It's a Harry Potter/True Blood slash with an unusual pairing. I asked her, and she told me she has five more chapters ready to publish, although further updates will be slow. I just really enjoyed the story, and her writing, and want to share it with y'all. Happy Reading!