Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Ten years ago, just after the war had ended, everything was settling down, and the world was turning right side up again, Harry Potter disappeared. Hermione had lost all hope of seeing her friend, when who should show up uninvited to her wedding party but two beautiful strangers with an interesting tale to tell. What path did Harry take that led him so far away from the wizarding world? And now that he is back, is he here to stay?
Pairings: Harry/Legolas; Hermione/ Ron
* The Long Road *
Hermione dropped down into her seat, discreetly fanning herself while applying a wordless Cooling Charm. It felt so hot in here; then again, dancing usually did that to you. She felt like she hadn't had a moment to sit down yet all day, and thinking back on the last several hours, she realised she was quite accurate in that assessment. This had to be the first time she had been able to take a rest since she had gotten up at the crack of dawn this morning to Ginny and Luna practically breaking down her door to help her get ready.
"Is this seat taken, love?"
Hermione looked up into a familiar freckled face that was just as flushed as hers, if not more. With a teasing smile she nodded to the redhead and allowed him to pull his chair closer to hers.
"You danced wonderfully, Mr Weasley," she complimented with her best teacher-tone, one which she had had much practise in of late since taking up the position of Transfiguration Professor.
"Well," he began, drawing out the word suggestively, and Hermione was sure she was about to hear just how much he liked her talking to him like that. But before he could finish his first utterance, Hermione was distracted by the sudden appearance of an old childhood friend, though she used the term 'friend' a bit loosely. Ron's words were halted as the small blonde woman leaned forward and gave Hermione a hug, which Hermione politely returned, all the while gushing at what a beautiful bride Hermione made.
If her mother hadn't forced the issue, Hermione wouldn't have invited Jodie at all, but Hermione's mum had insisted that she have someone on the guest list besides themselves who was not a witch or wizard. Hermione had tried to point out that considering it was a magical wedding, she had very good reason for not inviting any other Muggles, but unfortunately her well-structured argument had fallen on deaf ears.
"And that was such a gorgeous song, 'Mione," Jodie said, again, a bit too enthusiastically for Hermione's tastes. Hermione smiled tightly. Old 'friend' or not, she should know by now that Hermione was not fond of nicknames at all. Only two people had ever been allowed to shorten her name and get away with it, and one of them happened to be the man, her husband, sitting right next to her. The other was not here. But Hermione couldn't blame that on him really, seeing as he had been missing from the wizarding world, as well as the Muggle one, for the past ten years now. He was also part of the reason for why she and her husband had chosen that particular song for their opening dance.
Being a Muggle, Jodie would be more familiar with it than any of the wizarding folk here, who rarely listened to anything so mundane from the other half of the world. But that didn't mean she knew the deeper meaning behind it, or what it meant to her and Ron. No one really knew outside of the couple.
Hermione shot a knowing look to her husband, and replied, "Yes, it really is lovely." Even Ron had choked up when Hermione had finally made him sit down and listen to the words. It reminded her of life after the war, life during the war, hunting for pieces of Voldemort's soul, and dealing with things few grown wizards would have been prepared for, let alone three 17-year-old wizards-in-training. It reminded her of all they had lost, of how far they had come since then, and most importantly, it reminded her of Harry. Even though he had disappeared without a trace from their lives years ago. But Ron was still here with her and could share her loss.
She still wished she knew what had happened to him, but his disappearance would likely remain a mystery 'til their dying day. Even after years and years of searching beyond what was deemed healthy by any account, Hermione could only come to the conclusion that Harry was no longer anywhere on Earth.
She smiled as Ron discreetly reached under the table and took her hand in his, brushing his thumb soothingly across the back of her hand. She didn't know where she would be without him. Harry's loss had been one too many at a time when they had all been so certain that the worst was over, making his the hardest loss to deal with of them all.
So wrapped up in her musings, Hermione almost missed what her friend said next, amidst the blatant flattery and usual wedding praises and conversation.
"And did you see that couple who came out to dance halfway through the song?" She smiled. "Probably not, you two were so wrapped up in each other. But… ", she paused for a moment and her eyes glazed over as she stared out into space for a moment, lost in her recent memories. "They were exquisite. At first I thought they were just friends, two guys dancing for fun and all, but then – The way they moved…I don't think anybody else can call what they're doing dancing because that was real dancing there.
"I thought for sure they must be at the wrong party, even out of all these strangely dressed guests they're by far the strangest, but I figured you must know them, they were staring right at you two practically the entire time."
Hermione shot her friend a confused look. What in the world was she on about?
"Look," Jodie pointed to a couple on the other side of the room, standing apart from the crowd and watching the proceedings with polite interest. One was blond, about 182 cm, his waist-length hair was braided partially away from his face, elegantly so, and he was wearing a deep green and blue tunic cut to his form that looked like neither wizard nor Muggle wear, but it certainly fit him all the same. His partner was a tad shorter, but he held himself as though he didn't notice the difference. Deep black hair, the same length as the blond's, was done up in a similar style, also accenting his sharp features, the same as his partner. His light green and blue tunic was of similar make, but what caught Hermione as most startling was how well it highlighted his eyes. Even from across the room she could see the dazzling emerald colour.
They were certainly nobody she knew, and for fairly good reason she doubted they were anyone from Ron's side of the family. She would guess them to be someone's plus one, but it was obvious that they were with each other. Though they weren't touching, the way they stood so close together and exuded this obvious comfort just from being in each other's company, not to mention that Jodie had mentioned she had seen them dancing intimately together, made it clear that they had come on their own. So who were they?
As though summoned by her thoughts, as one, the couple turned to stare right at her.
Locking gazes, she found that she couldn't look away even if she had wanted to. Something was telling her that she should know the brunette. But surely she would have remembered being acquainted with such a gorgeous man, right?
After several seconds, maybe minutes, had passed, the brunette finally looked away, and Hermione thought she saw disappointment in his expression. Was he expecting her to recognise him as well? Hermione stared on, already tensing to stand up, when without even a word exchanged the couple suddenly turned away and headed towards the exit.
Barely looking where she was going, Hermione vaulted from her seat and dashed across the hall as quickly as she could manage in her dress. She registered Ron and Jodie calling after her, but ignored them for the moment. She found that she needed to talk with the beautiful couple and find out who they were; it was like a strong compulsion was goading her forward, pushing her feet onwards.
But by the time she reached the entrance to the outside, they were gone.
The tent flap was slightly sticky in her hands as she lifted it up and slipped out into the night. She peered through the dark, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious guests, and strained her ears for a snatch of sound that would alert her to their location.
She walked on a bit further, ignoring the fact that her white robes were getting soaked at the hem; the Imperturbable Charm only covered the tent, and the grass she cautiously trekked across was outside its reach. Slowly, the sounds of celebration within the tent grew more and more muffled the farther away she walked until they were but a gentle whisper in the distance. And still she caught neither sight nor sound of the two strangers.
You're being silly, Hermione, she chastised herself. They are wizards, no doubt, of course they have Apparated away by now. And yet, intuition kept her from dropping her search as a lost cause and going back in for another dance with her husband.
Instead, she steeled herself and took a deep breath, before calling out, somewhat desperately, "Is anywhere out here?"
The chirping of the crickets was her only answer, followed by a brush of summer wind across her flushed face. She was beginning to feel stupid standing out there and yelling at seemingly nothing, when the sound of light footsteps on the grass caught her attention and she turned to see the blond man walking slowly towards her.
"I believe a congratulations is in order to the lovely bride," he said; his voice was smooth and cultured with a slight lilt to it that gave Hermione the impression that English wasn't his chosen tongue.
Smiling, a little uncertainly, in thanks at the well wishes, Hermione felt a bit at a loss at what to say next. A stretch of silence passed, but the stranger did not seem unnerved by it in the least; he continued to stare politely at her with a waiting smile.
"Do I know you?" She finally asked. "Or do you know the Weasleys at all?"
The man seemed to find this funny and his smile widened as though sharing a private joke. "Only through tales, and many though they are, they do not do you justice, I see."
"You know of us?" Perhaps that wasn't so odd; all of Wizarding Britain knew of the famous Golden Trio who had been on a secret, dangerous mission out in the wilderness that final year before coming to Hogwarts to defeat Voldemort once and for all. The fact that the details of their 'mission' were still unknown, an open secret so to speak, made it all the more juicier gossip, adding to their fame and acclaimed prowess. But Hermione had been sure that only guests, mainly friends and family, had known when and where the Weasley-Granger Wedding would take place tonight. And besides, this man didn't seem like a reporter, or a zealous fan.
"You two were quite frankly all that I heard about for quite awhile. Your adventures throughout your wizarding schooling were intriguing, to say the least. And I consider myself lucky to have gotten a first-hand account," he said lightly before a small frown marred his features. "Though it still pains me to think of what harsh trials you were forced through at such a young age." The man shook his head. "I admire all three of you for your bravery and strength of heart, but more importantly the powerful bonds of friendship you forged as a result. Indeed, those are the most important things of all."
'…Books and cleverness… There are more important things; friendship and bravery…'
Though it had been nearly 17 years since, Hermione could still hear her eleven year-old-self saying those words to Harry as though it were yesterday. But what did this stranger, who had yet to tell her his name even though he obviously knew who she was, have anything to do with that? He shouldn't know these things; only she and Harry ever knew about that particular moment.
Continuing in the wake of her silence, the man bowed his head solemnly to her and said, "I must thank you for your friendship most of all, though. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was your influence that made him into the amazing man he is today."
He didn't need to say who 'he' was; the man could only be referring to one person.
"Harry." Hermione's voice caught in her throat, tears immediately springing to her eyes as her hands clutched at her chest. "You know Harry? Is he – do you – I mean –please, sir." If he knew something, if Harry was still alive…
Legolas looked at her with compassion in his eyes, and she could see years and years of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding reflected within, well beyond his obviously young years. His eyes reminded her of Harry's in a way. They also gave the impression that if anyone knew what had happened to Harry, this man would.
Slowly, he turned his head and called softly over his shoulder, "Tolo, Mell nîn!" (Come, my dear)
Hermione looked out into the dark behind the fair stranger, but she could see nothing. Where had his partner vanished off to without a sound? Did he know Harry as well? And what language had the man just spoken? What had he said?
Suddenly realising the precarious situation she was in with two strangers whose intent was completely unknown to her, Hermione reached down to her waist, where she had stashed her wand among the folds of her wedding robes. Before she could decide what her next move would be, though, a second voice spoke up.
"I'm here." Suddenly the brunette from earlier was at his partner's side, standing at ease as though he had been there all along; it was a little disconcerting. But more importantly, this close up and in the dim light spilling from the open tent behind them, Hermione realised what it was about those emerald eyes that had made her breath catch in her throat earlier.
Those were Harry's eyes.
Stepping from behind the blond to stand directly in front of Hermione, he looked at her unwaveringly for a moment before saying, "I know I don't have an invitation, but I figured being the best friend, and all, I didn't need one." He gave her one of his roguish, lopsided grins, and then she knew beyond any doubt.
"Harry?" Hermione breathed out weakly.
Rightly interpreting her thoughts, Harry held out his arms for her to rush into with a force that would have bowled anyone else over. But not Harry. He caught her deftly and absorbed her weight, hugging her back just as fiercely as she squeezed him.
"I missed you," she breathed softly, crying uncontrollably into his shoulder. There was no possible way he could have heard her, but a moment later he responded, all the same.
"I've missed you too. You have no idea."
Harry's face was pressed into her crown as he held her close; Hermione could tell that he had certainly developed more muscle since she had last seen him, and she felt so safe and calm enveloped in his strong hold. But right now she didn't care about any of that, she just wanted to hold her best friend and never let go for fear that he would disappear from her sight again like he had ten years ago.
"I didn't mean to interrupt your wedding," Harry finally said, his words slightly muffled by her hair. "I – I just wanted to see you again." He swallowed and lessened his hold in order to look down at her properly, smiling a pained, sorrowful smile. "You look beautiful, Hermione, you really do." He reached up and cupped her face in his palm before leaning forward and pressing a sweet kiss to her forehead.
"Don't be ridiculous," Hermione said with a small sniff, once she had been able to find her voice again. "This is the best wedding present I could ever possibly hope to get." She laid her hands on both of his arms and pushed him away a bit so that she could take a proper look at him.
He looked so…different.
Not sure how to ask exactly, she felt the words tumbling out of her mouth with the same intuitive sense of rightness as when she answered a question correctly, automatically, without even thinking about it. "What are you?"
"Always to the point, 'Mione. Haven't changed," Harry said with a fond grin and a low chuckle. "To answer your question, though, I'm an elf. Not related in any way to house-elves, by the way," he added offhandedly, obviously amused by her look of utter shock and confusion.
After a pause, where he allowed the information to slowly sink in and her thoughts to rapidly categorise this new information with everything she had ever read about elves and human transformations, he asked, "Did you ever read Lord of the Rings as a child?"
Hermione nodded. They had been one of her favourite collections as a little girl before she had known for a fact that magic was real and she was a witch.
"Of course you have," Harry muttered, looking away as he shook his head in what she identified as exasperation and slight anger, though mostly self-directed. "I knew you would have been a better pick than me."
"Harry, what are you talking about?" she demanded. This was all too confusing. "Where have you been? How can you be an elf? And what does Tolkien have anything to do with all this?"
"Everything," Harry said as though he had just answered all her questions in one fell swoop. But before she could protest and ask any more, Harry turned to the side and beckoned his partner to step closer. "Hermione, meet my consort, Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Mirkwood, from Middle Earth."
Alright, here is my little pet-project I felt like doing. The idea just sprung up out of nowhere and I'll do my best to keep up with it. Hope you can all enjoy it.