Okay, so there hasn't been an update for a while. A good week and four months. I'm sorry about that, I really am. But I'm in my final year of school, and Real Life has hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only that, but what time I have for writing is often taken up by one of the numerous other projects I'm working on. Never fear, this story will not be abandoned. I will reiterate that I have the finale written up. I'm just filling in the gaps.
This chapter is Emrys/Miriel centric, though not to the exclusion of other characters, and is a mix of light comedy and emotional angst.
For the sake of myself and my readers, I imagine Emrys as a young, blonde, short haired and more powerfully built Cary Elwes (Westley in The Princess Bride. Yes, this will be noted) with light green eyes and Eirian as Sophia Bush (look her up) with chestnut brown hair and light green eyes. Theoretically, I would describe Miriel as a grey eyed, wavy haired Ellen Page, with slightly sharper cheekbones and features, but in all honesty, I've had a very hard time pinning her down. The closest I've really found is a watercolour painting of a Silimarillion character called Anairë by an artist called liga-marta, except Miriel is maybe a bit more fiery and darker haired... the hell with it. I'll be at this all day. Imagine her how you wish.
Also, I've been totting up the character list, including the next generation and the next generation's kids. I concluded that the cast list is probably going to be in three figures by the time this series is done. And the ficverse is so ambitiously large that one of my correspondents commented that it alone earned me a place in Slytherin. God damn it.
By the way, for all fans of James and Harry, look up a new oneshot on my profile. It's a short fic called 'Conviction', written from James' POV, in which James dwells on his baby son and on what he would do for his family.
"Are Emrys and Miriel still arguing?" Harry asked Ron, who shrugged. Miriel had arrived the day before, and after being dragged on a girl's day out, ostensibly to get to know one another, despite knowing each other quite well already –complete with shopping - by Ginny, Hermione and Eirian, settled in.
Maglor had not immediately recognised her, therefore he had automatically hit on her. This led to everyone desperately trying to persuade Emrys not to hit Maglor, Emrys sulking on the ceiling thereafter and Miriel glowering at him for being insecure, then passionately kissing him upside down. With all that, her and Emrys' constant bickering, which only abated when they were making doe eyes at one another or making out, the chaos had yet to stop. Mr Weasley was the only one who was totally serene in dealing with all this, merely saying that after raising seven children, this was all fairly mundane.
"Not sure. I took Maglor's advice and…" Ron trailed off in horror.
"What did he tell you to do?" Harry asked, lips twitching slightly.
"Lock them in the shed and silence it," Ron whispered, having suddenly realised why this was a Very Bad Idea.
Harry started snickering, and walked outside. Ron heard him cancel the locking charm, then he walked back in. Shushing Ron, he called up the stairs, "Eirian, your brother's in the shed. He's got something he wants to show you!"
"Thanks Harry," Eirian said, and she walked down the stairs and sighed. "This had better be good," she muttered.
Harry, somehow keeping a straight face, said seriously, "I got the impression that it was quite serious. Urgent even."
Eirian nodded her thanks and strode out. Harry, grinning widely, counted down from ten. By the time he reached one, Eirian opened the shed door, and three simultaneous yelps of shock and horror could be heard.
"What do you think?" Harry asked in between roars of laughter. "Straight up kissing, kissing and some groping, half-naked kissing and groping or full on sex?"
"Half naked kissing and some groping," Maglor said, walking in with a smirk that Ron was sure that he had bequeathed to Ginny, George and Bill via their genetics. "The trousers would have been off in another minute."
"HARRY!" Eirian and Miriel suddenly shrieked in unison.
"… aaaaannd now I'll be leaving," Harry said, making his way towards the backdoor. "Exit wizard, stage left, pursued by two women much more frightening than any bear," he added, disapparating with a crack.
A couple of moments after he left, Miriel came storming in, wavy hair practically a black halo of fury, grey eyes flashing with all the threat of a large hurricane. Ron felt like a small village that was lucky enough to be on the outlying edge of it. Her shirt and jeans – both intriguingly tight, particularly the latter, which meant that Emrys had been having trouble keeping his gaze above her waistline all day – were somewhat rumpled, and when she looked around sharply, looking for Harry, he noticed that her bra was missing. Clearly Eirian had caught them in medias res.
"Where?" she hissed. There was no doubt who she was asking about.
"Disapparated," Ron said, as Eirian came in, half annoyed, half amused, judging by her expression. Emrys followed, looking horribly embarrassed. "He didn't say where he was going."
Miriel muttered something obscene in Sindarin under her breath, causing Maglor's eyes to widen in surprise. "Damn," she muttered.
"Come on Miriel," Eirian said, sounding slightly amused. "I'm sure we can come up with suitable payback, between the three of us."
Ron and Maglor exchanged a look. Harry was in trouble.
Later that evening, at the Burrow
Ron and Maglor kept an eye on Miriel and Eirian, who were covertly giggling and whispering. Emrys was nowhere to be seen. As Harry kissed Ginny, and the two of them stumbled upstairs, Miriel and Eirian watched, suddenly silent. The door to their room shut. Eirian seemed to be counting under her breath, then carefully whistled a series of notes. Around thirty seconds later, Emrys came in, an enormous grin on his face, and lobbed a camera to his sister.
"The lake?" Miriel asked.
"The lake," Emrys said, grinning like mad. "They made one hell of a splash. Then the giant squid threw them out. And it is all on camera."
"What did you do?" Ron asked, already half knowing the answer, as Maglor, Sirius and George began to laugh like mad, and Mr and Mrs Weasley shared an amused look.
"Between us, we came up with a revenge plan. I created the portkey to Hogwarts, about ten feet above the lake – not too far from the bank, Emrys and Miriel came up with the idea in between sneaking off to kiss, then Emrys took the photos," Eirian said cheerfully, as the two teens blushed. "And Miriel came up with another suggestion… well, that would be spoiling."
Five minutes later, the floo turned green and Professor McGonagall stepped through. "Sorry for intruding, Molly, Arthur," she said, then looked at the guilty threesome. "Are you three the reason that Mr Potter and Miss Weasley are currently naked but for a couple of blankets and some spare nightgowns in the hospital wing?"
"Are they all right?" Emrys asked, looking rather guilty.
"At worst, they caught a bit of a chill," Professor McGonagall said. "And Madame Pomfrey is giving them cold remedies. She seemed to spend longest chatting to Miss Weasley in private, since she seemed rather worried about her stomach. Presumably she accidentally drank some of the lake water. Once the all clear was given, Miss Weasley seemed most annoyed, but Mister Potter seemed to have been expecting it."
"That's good," Miriel said, slightly relieved, as Eirian and Mrs Weasley shared a knowing look.
Professor McGonagall's lips twitched. "Hagrid told me he'd never heard so much creative cursing in all sorts of languages in his entire life as they staggered out of the lake, naked as the day they were born. Apparently Fang reacted enthusiastically to Mr Potter, knocking him over, much to Mr Potter's displeasure."
"Will you stay for dinner, Minerva?" Molly asked.
"No thank you, Molly," Professor McGonagall replied. "I have a few students to deal with. I will send Mr Potter and Miss Weasley through shortly. Oh, and Mr Ap Derfel, I think I should mention that during your brief stay at the castle this afternoon, your politeness and most particularly, your display of wandless magic to catch a wayward first year on a broom gained much approval. Your strapping up of his arm with your shirt, then shirtlessly taking him to the hospital wing thereafter earned you no shortage of admirers among the older female students," She added, smirking. "A group of them were sighing over your 'awesome muscles', 'gorgeous eyes', 'lovely smile', 'magical power' and 'adorable accent' as I walked past."
Emrys grinned smugly, then smiled at Miriel who had raised an eyebrow at him and said, "I'm flattered by the attention, Professor, but I'm spoken for."
"I can see," she said dryly. "Oh, and Miss Ap Derfel, your casting of the Portus charm was spot on. Professor Flitwick was most impressed."
Eirian blushed at the praise and smiled. "Thank you Professor. Please pass on my thanks for the compliment."
"I shall," Professor McGonagall said, rolling her eyes at Maglor as he winked suggestively at her. "No, Maglor," she said firmly. "Once was enough."
Everyone stared at Maglor as she left.
"What?" he said.
"You. And McGonagall," Ron said flatly.
"Minerva is like a fine wine. She only improves with age," Maglor said serenely. He would have said more, before Eirian interjected.
"Please, no details," she said.
"Seconded, Harry muttered in heartfelt agreement as he walked through the fire, followed by Ginny.
"Motion carried," finished Hermione.
"Spoilsports," Maglor complained.
Harry then glared at three smirking architects of his and Ginny's impromptu Hogwarts visit. But said nothing. He'd earned it. The same could not be said of Ginny.
"Emrys, Eirian and Miriel," Ginny said softly, with frigid calm. All three gulped. Harry was scary when he was angry. Ginny was terrifying. "Why exactly did you drop me and Harry in the Lake?"
"He set Emrys and I up to be caught… kissing in the shed by Eirian," Miriel said, blushing slightly.
Ginny's head swivelled like the gun turret on a Challenger tank, pointing at Harry, who raised his hands in defence.
"Ron was the one who locked them in there in the first place," he said quickly, shifting the blame.
The gun turret glare moved to Ron, who shifted his feet nervously. "Ronald Bilious Weasley," Ginny said, voice cold and deadly. "Why did you lock them in the shed?"
Ron gulped as a cold sweat developed. "Well Gin, Maglor suggested that I do it so they could work out some issues."
Everyone turned to look at the space that very conspicuously no longer contained Maglor. Ginny turned to look at all five of those she admonished. They wilted under her glare.
"I am going to find Maglor and kick his arse," Ginny said calmly. "You will all behave nicely while I am gone. Is that clear?"
"Yes Ginny," they chorused hurriedly. Ginny swept out.
"She is so like mum sometimes that it's frightening," Ron commented shakily. Then he gulped as his mother narrowed her eyes at him.
"It was like being in the presence of one of the Nine," Hermione said smirking at her husband's terror.
"The Witch King of Angmar wishes he was that scary," Harry said faintly. "The Patronus charm doesn't work on her. It did on him. Ergo, she is more terrifying."
"Harry," Mrs Weasley said, "While Ginny's off hunting Maglor, I want to talk to you about the reception."
Everyone muffled laughter as Harry looked absolutely horrified and started looking for an escape route.
"And the rings," Mrs Weasley blithely continued. "I'm a little puzzled. Why are they silver, dear, not gold?"
Harry smiled. "They're not normal silver. They're made of something called Mithril, or 'true silver'. It is to silver what gold is to brass," he replied. Then his face darkened. "And when we were in Middle Earth… the One Ring was a simple gold band. You could say that I have more than a few unpleasant associations with gold rings after spending several months in close proximity to an evil one that was messing with the heads of I and my friends."
"Oh," Mrs Weasley said, blinking. "I see."
Harry smirked. "It does help that Mithril is the next best thing to indestructible –"
"So help me, if the next words out of your mouth are anything along the lines of 'just like our love', I will smack you about the head for excessive sappiness," Emrys warned. Harry glowered at him briefly.
"Seconded," Eirian said, earning a glower of her own.
"Motion carried," Ron said, earning another glower.
"Oh, by the way," Mr Weasley said, pulling out a new, dark blue bra from his pocket. "I found this in the shed. Anyone care to explain?" he asked, lips twitching in amusement.
Emrys and Miriel both blushed crimson red in unison, and Eirian and Ron started snickering helplessly.
Sirius walked in and stared at the dangling bra. "Arthur mate," he said slowly. "Hate to disappoint you, but that doesn't look like your size. And the colour is all wrong for you."
"Since when were you an expert on bras?" Ron asked.
Sirius grinned and opened his mouth. Harry interrupted him. "Ron, it's best if you just don't ask questions that you don't want to know the answers to. Especially if the rest of us don't want the answers either."
"I remember picking that one out," Ginny said, glancing at Miriel. "It suits her very nicely."
Emrys nodded vigorously, then blushed as everyone started snickering at him.
"I think Emrys likes it on, but prefers it off," Harry teased.
Emrys blushed even further. Miriel snuggled onto his lap.
"You realise that she isn't wearing a bra right now?" Sirius asked, in a well-practiced tone of apparent innocence and total shit stirring.
Emrys attained tones of red previously unseen on the human face.
Miriel made a purring noise and straddled him. She smirked. "He knows," she said, smirking. "And he's enjoying it." She rolled her hips slightly. Emrys squeaked.
"I didn't know they made them so forward in Gondor," Mrs Weasley said in surprise. "I always thought it was very mediaeval."
"She is among friends who aren't minded to care, so she is more relaxed about such things," Maglor said quietly, having snuck back in. "And not only is she serious about him – for all that he may have difficulty seeing it – and she sees that it makes him do amusing things, she has also taken to the culture of this world like a duck to water." He chuckled. "Many in Gondor would be scandalised by such behaviour. But the Lady Miriel seems to be quite the exception to most rules."
He suddenly frowned as Miriel leaned in and nuzzled Emrys' jaw. "Oh dear," he said quietly, as Emrys' expression changed. He abruptly stood up, plonked Miriel down, then left in a blur, leaving a gust of wind in his wake.
"Emrys?" Miriel asked, simultaneously hurt and puzzled, making to follow him. Hermione stopped her.
"Give him some time," she said quietly.
"You're going too fast. Right now, that boy doesn't really know which way is up," Hermione said gently. "You're scaring him."
"He's scared you're going to use him then drop him like a toy you've got bored of," Maglor said.
"What? How could he –"
"Very easily. Miriel, aside from his sister," Maglor said, gesturing at Eirian, who was staying studiously silent. "He's never had anyone love him. He's barely had any friends. He's barely ever had truly close contact with someone other than her who wasn't looking to hurt him, one way or another. And most nobles would do exactly that – pick a pretty commoner off the streets, carry on with them for a while, then drop them when they got bored." Miriel opened her mouth to protest, then closed it.
"It does happen, often even," she admitted, but when she looked up, her eyes were fiery. "But not with me," she snapped. "Never with me."
"I'm sure it doesn't. We know that," Maglor said, voice calm and reasonable. "You know that. Emrys probably knows it, intellectually. But he still has a nagging fear, deep down, that you'll use him and lose him. All he's really known before is disappointment. What makes it worse is that he is far less worldly than you are. Before the War of the Ring, all he knew was his little village in Dunland. Now he's been thrown into two worlds much bigger than anything he ever imagined."
"Why is that?" Mrs Weasley asked quietly.
"He's half Dunlending, half Rohirric," Maglor said grimly. "While things are improving now, not so long ago Dunlendings and Rohirrim generally regarded each other the same way wizards like Lucius Malfoy used to regard werewolves, and little better than most of the Free Peoples regard orcs. You see, the Dunlendings were displaced around seven hundred years ago from the rich lands of what was then Calenardhon, now Rohan. They were consigned to the relatively poor lands of modern Dunland by the ancestors of the Rohirrim, who regarded them as lesser. The Dunlendings came to hate the Rohirrim and the two have raided back and forth ever since. But despite the peace agreements after the War of the Ring, the Dunlendings persist in calling Rohan, Lloegyr, their 'lost lands'. Neither side forgets."
Eirian took up the narrative. "It was on one of these raids our mother was taken. She and my father fell in love, and you can guess what happened next. But many regarded her as alien and something beneath them. Emrys' most common childhood nickname was 'half-breed', closely followed by 'son of a bitch'." She sighed. "After my father died, I did what I could to mitigate it… but I was barely able to make sure that when someone broke his bones, it didn't go bad, what with having to worry about keeping us both fed and watered. As for myself… well, men generally looked at my looks first and my heritage second. That was an advantage at times and a curse at others."
Mrs Weasley gasped. "The poor boy," she whispered.
"The Fellowship were the first real friends he had, the first ones who didn't care about whether he was half Dunlending or what," she continued quietly. She looked at Harry. "He looks up to you, you know. He sees as the big brother he never had." She smiled crookedly as Harry blinked in surprise. "It helps that if your hair and eyes were just a little lighter, you could be part of the family."
"Suppose I could," Harry said, shrugging in mild amusement. "Shall I go and find him?" he asked.
Maglor shook his head as Eirian stood. "I will. He needs a friend right now, someone male to vent at who can give him the needed advice. And not wanting to sound arrogant, but that's me," Maglor said, leaving.
"It's astonishing how he can change, isn't it?" Sirius said. "One moment, he's a mad, cackling prankster, the next a charming ladies' man, the next a wise old sage."
"It's because he's all three. He's a man who wears many masks," Hermione observed.
"And he's bloody mental. What? It's true," Ron said, dodging a swipe from Hermione.
"It's completely tactless, Ronald," Hermione hissed.
"But you don't deny he's right," Harry said. "Maglor's nuts. But the same nuts as I am. As nuts as anyone who survived a war and lost people they cared about. He lost more than most. We all cope in our ways." His words had a certain finality about them.
"Very true, Harry," Mr Weasley said quietly. "Very true indeed."
Ginny walked in and huffed a sigh. "Has anyone seen Maglor?"
"Emrys is having an emotional crisis, Maglor's helping him work through it," Harry said. "We'd appreciate it if you delayed his well-deserved hexing."
"Insecurity. He's having trouble getting over the fear that Miriel might get bored of him and leave him," Harry said.
"That's stupid," Ginny said.
"We know that. He's still trying to get it into his head. Aside from Eirian, us, Theodred, Eomer and the Fellowship, he's never really had people who care about him. He keeps expecting people to let him down," Harry said. "He's been burned often enough that he's having trouble opening up."
"You manage it," Ginny pointed out.
"Emrys is not me," Harry replied. "And he has had a harder life than I have. He never had Hogwarts, he never really had family and friends like this, Eirian aside." He smiled sourly. "Besides. I shut myself off from the world for a good four years in Middle Earth. Only Aragorn could really reach me, him and Theodred. Then Boromir, of course. He and the rest of the Fellowship helped me open up again. But sometimes, it just feels easier to hide. And once that starts, it's hard to stop. Especially when you have difficulties feeling that people actually want you for who you really are, not just what your name is and what you've done. Right now, Miriel's done a fine job of coaxing him out of his shell and getting him to open up, but that… that scared him." He glanced at Miriel. "Maglor was right. You pushed him too far, too fast."
Ron whistled. "That's… pretty impressive analysis."
Harry smiled slightly. "Not really. It's just that looking at Emrys is sometimes just like looking in a mirror."
Miriel looked like there were tears gathering in her eyes. "I… I was just…" she began, looking vulnerable for a change.
"We know," Eirian said gently. "But Emrys is new to the game you're playing. Give him time."
Miriel nodded slowly, cuffing away the tears in her eyes.
"Relationships can be a real bitch at times," Ginny said, slipping an arm around the younger girl's shoulders. Sometimes, she thought, it was very easy to forget that Miriel, with her cool confidence, poise, temper and wit, was only eighteen years old.
"Sorry. But it's true," she said, getting nods from everyone in the room.
There was silence. Then George cleared his throat. "Well, isn't this wonderfully depressing. Aren't we supposed to be preparing for a wedding?"
Mrs Weasley jumped and nodded. "Why yes, of course, thank you George dear," she said, turning on Harry, who quailed. "Harry, we need to fit you for the Groom's robes. Then there's the menu to confirm, the reception to arrange…"
Harry whimpered. His expression suggested horrors uncounted were about to be visited on him. The rest did what any true friends would: crack up laughing at his expense.
To explain, Emrys is quite happy to kiss and fool around with Miriel, and he, like almost any red blooded teenager, wants to jump his beloved's bones so very badly. If his hormones got away from him, he would. But he overthinks things, and gets scared that he's just a boy-toy to her (he isn't. He really isn't). Irrational, yes, but he has much trust not to really trust anyone and even more reason to wonder why the hell someone like Miriel (well bred, clever, beautiful, talented, witty, second in line after her father to inherit one of the most powerful lordships in Gondor after Dol Amroth and therefore likely expected to make a politically advantageous marriage) would want with someone like him (uncultured, scruffy, ill bred, semi-educated, unworldly, strange and generally ill-regarded by his peers). As Hermione said, he's young. He's seventeen, turning eighteen. His world has been turned upside down in the last year or so. He's changed. Big time. He's still finding his feet, and he isn't really ready to play the flirty, sexy game that Miriel is.