Falling to Stranger Charms
I Can See No Way
Legolas jumped down from his perch high up in a sequoia and leapt from branch to branch, quietly making his way to the ground. After sitting up there for hours, he had finally caught sight of his target and nothing was going to distract him from that goal.
He held no sword, nor was his trademark bow and quiver strapped to his back, but with all the stealth and grace of his elvish heritage, Legolas followed his prey as though he were on a hunt. This was a hunt of a different kind, though; a quest of curiosity, watchfulness, and fascination.
Careful not to alert his quarry, Legolas fell into step half a league behind the wizard.
The wizard in question was known by many names, though none were his given one. But of all the names bestowed upon him by the Free Peoples of Middle Earth, Legolas had personally dubbed him Ederynion 'the Wanderer'.
Little else was known of this mysterious man other than the fact that he was the only wizard in this part of Mirkwood. He was a wandering enigma, who had appeared out of nowhere several decades ago deep in the thickets of Mirkwood. None of the elven seers had foreseen his coming and none of the elders had known what to make of the strange man from another land.
In his early years there, when Ederynion, or Esselóra as many other Mirkwood elves called him, was not sitting at communal meals, kindly answering the elves' many questions and asking just as many of his own, he was often seen roaming the surrounding woods, lost in deep thought – a habit which none of the elves would ever consider disturbing. But it was not long after learning about Arda and its vast history that the wizard decided to set off and explore the wonders of Middle-Earth for himself, letting his feet take him where they would.
Throughout recent years, the wizard seemed to be on one endless adventure, never staying in the same place for too long. And upon each return to Mirkwood, for he always found his way back to the place he had first appeared, he would have such amazing stories to tell. Upon a bit of a coaxing and cajoling, tell them he did, which led him to continue to be the talk of the talan, so to speak, among many of the Woodland elves, long after his presence had become a welcome familiarity.
It was to Legolas' relief, though, that Ederynion always returned to Mirkwood, whether for a few weeks, months, or years. Legolas liked to think that the woodland realm would forever be the elusive man's home. He could not bear to think what would happen if one day the wizard left and never came back. Or worse, left this world altogether due to powers and fates beyond what Legolas or his people had ever been able to truly comprehend.
For Legolas, always curiously watching, could see something in Ederynion that no one else seemed to have detected. Not surprisingly, though, as it was a trait Legolas had been sure only belonged to his people, not wizards from other worlds. So why would such a thing even be expected?
As he watched the wizard walk deeper into the woods on a cool summer afternoon, moving farther and farther out through the thick underbrush, almost out of even Legolas' sight, he knew one thing without any doubt: the wizard was fading. And if Legolas waited too long to act, he would never see him again.
But he could not let that happen, for Ederynion had caught Legolas' eye from the moment they first met and the elf hadn't been inclined to look away since.
So he followed, and he watched, and he worried, but he knew he couldn't stay in the shadows forever if he was to help the wizard fight this sickness of the soul. Soon, Legolas would catch up with Ederynion, ensnare him in conversation like a spider to a fly, baiting him with the sweetest of honey and kindest of words, and then spin the wizard into his web until Ederynion no longer wanted to be let go. Legolas would show Ederynion how much he meant to Legolas and how he would do anything to make him stay. Until staying was the only option in the man's mind.
I would give all this and heaven too,
I would give it all if only for a moment,
That I could just understand
It had been twelve years since the Final Battle at Hogwarts, and four years since Harry had left the Auror corps and sequestered himself out in the countryside, doing his best to forget everything about the Boy-Who-Lived-to-Overcome-Every-Obstacle-Thrown-at -Him.
He was 30 for Merlin's sake, how could he still even be seen as a boy?
After much contemplation, Harry had come to the decision that his best option was to fade out, disappear, and essentially become a non-entity in the wizarding world. Let them put his name in books and print stories about him in the press, but he would not be present to act as the celebratory face of their hero, nor let them parade him around for the wizarding world's enjoyment. He was thoroughly done with that part of his life and he wanted no reminder, thank you very much. If he said no to condoning an official Harry Potter Day, did they really think he still wanted parades in his honour and to make grandiose speeches to simpering sycophants?
They were the crazy ones, not him.
So in true Slytherin fashion, he had run from it all; hung in his hat and called it a day. Those annoying reporters and fans weren't coming anywhere near him anymore. They could take pictures of lookalikes and print outlandish, made-up stories about him that none but the true Daily Prophet fanatics would believe. He didn't care anymore.
Now, what with his wards and Auror training, he was sure his attempts at anonymity were finally secured in stone. None but Ron and Hermione knew how to get to his place, and Harry only ventured out as himself for the occasional get together at the Weasleys; otherwise, he went out in disguise.
He wasn't a complete hermit, though neither did he see the need in going out for pointless jaunts for the sake of being with people. And he wouldn't blame this little quirk on the Dursleys or Dumbledore, or even Voldemort, it was just who he was, who he always had wanted to let himself be. And he was happy, as he repeatedly told his friends upon each and every visit.
He was perfectly content just sitting at his kitchen window, looking out on the rolling fields of heather and scraggly, misshapen trees in his back garden. In fact, it was what he was currently doing when a small elf owl penetrated his wards and came to tap at the glass.
None but a select few owls could make it past the barriers he put up, so Harry did little hesitate to open the window, let the small bird through, and alleviate it of its heavy burden. Clutched in the bird's talons was an oddly shaped package, just as tall and wide as the bird, and probably just as heavy too. He absently wondered why the sender would choose this type of bird to make such a big delivery, but quickly brushed it aside as unimportant.
The owl promptly dropped its bundle on the table, right atop Harry's morning paper. And without even waiting for a reply, it took off again through the window the moment Harry picked up the package in his hands.
The paper was thick and rather ordinary. Harry could feel no malign power coming from it, at least none that he could detect, and he knew his detection skills to be quite superb. Cautious all the same, Harry got out his wand and carefully unwrapped the package, wondering whom it could be from. If it were from Ron or Hermione, or any of his Hogwart's classmates, his friends' distinct handwriting would have been all over it, all of them being well aware of Harry's 'paranoia', as they liked to call it. (But Harry knew that he wasn't being paranoid if it was a well-known fact that both crazy and dangerous people were out there trying to get to him. He was just being realistic and sensible. Any sane person would agree.)
But this package had no writing on it whatsoever, no name of sender or receiver. If Harry wasn't the only one out here and didn't have such powerful wards around his place, he would have wondered if the package was even for him and if the owl had not gotten lost somehow.
Curious, to say the least, he let the item roll out on the table before him, breakfast completely forgotten at this point. Wand clutched tightly in his hand and pointed at the table, he braced himself for what would come next.
It was a mirror.
A simple mirror by glance, but Harry had had enough experience with simple looking objects that held great, unsuspecting power inside to just brush it aside as nothing – himself being the first example of unsuspecting, mindboggling power that came to mind (just saying). Still, nothing within him could seem to prevent his free hand from wrapping around the gilded handle and bringing the reflecting glass to his face.
Something more like a magnetic pull than a call of magic tugged at his hand to draw the polished metal closer to his nose, and he felt powerless against the urge.
It took but a second of peering into the foggy sheen of the glass for the effect to take hold, for the inexplicable tug to be felt behind his navel and his whole body to be pulled abruptly from the chair in his simple kitchen and into the mirror itself.
Where the other side led to he had but a moment to wonder, but all that was left of Harry Potter in the wizarding world a moment later was a half-eaten crumpet and plate of scrambled eggs, a crumpled up Daily Prophet, and an innocent-looking antique mirror, now laying cracked and broken on the floor.
It would take a good couple of days for his friends to notice his gaping absence and come to investigate for themselves. But by that point it was too late; the wizarding world was never to see the likes of Harry Potter again.
A looking glass so shiny and new,
How quickly the glamour fades.
I start spinning, slipping out of time,
Was that the wrong pill to take?
This was much too uncomfortable to be death, Harry thought as he awoke to a pain in his back and legs. Opening his eyes, he found himself to be scrunched up in a very uncomfortable position, high up in a tree.
Lots of trees in fact, growing so closely together that they blocked out all sunlight and plunged the forest in a never-ending dusk. There was a mark of darkness about the place too, not unlike that felt in the Forbidden Forest on Hogwart's grounds. Dark things lived in these trees, Harry could tell, but also like the Forbidden Forest, Harry hoped there was some friendly creatures around as well that would be willing to help him and tell him where in the world he was.
Around him he could hear birds of all different kinds chirping tunes unfamiliar to him, he could smell the fresh scent of recently fallen rain in the air, and hear the sound of errant droplets falling from leaf to leaf. Another sweet, cloying smell permeated his senses and the only thing he could think to attribute it to would be the carpet of moss covering the tree he currently resided in. Or rather, was stuffed into.
He almost dared not move for fear of falling from who-knew-how-high a height. But caution, no matter how improved over the years, had never been his strong suit. With a cringe at that thought, he remembered the mysterious, missing mirror that had brought him here. He probably should have exercised a bit more caution in that situation than he'd had. Both Hermione and Mrs Weasley were so going to have his head when he found his way out of this god-forsaken forest. Who knew if he was even still in England?
But without further ado, as he was undoubtedly a man of action – and let no one ever doubt it –he slowly shifted in his position until he was semi-sitting between two closely growing branches, and craned his neck to see down below.
Squinting, he cursed as he saw just how high up he actually was; the ground was but a blurry brown and green speck beneath him, and the only other things that surrounded him were other trees; very old, thick, moss-covered trees.
Deciding that he was definitely not dead at least, as what kind of cosmic joke was this supposed to be, Harry did the only thing he could think to do at the moment. He started climbing his way down to the ground, slowly but surely.
He would let instinct and magic take over the rest, as he had little else to rely on in this strange place all by himself. Thank God his wand hadn't been damaged in the trip, but it would have been nice if he'd had his Firebolt at a time like this too. Luck, however, was surprisingly not favouring him at the moment.
As he slowly cut a path for himself through the briars, ferns, fell branches, and other thick undergrowth, his stomach growled mutinously and he remembered he'd not finished breakfast before being spirited away.
He hoped he would find somewhere with other people sometime soon. And when he did and he found his way home, the tosser who had sent him that mirror was going to pay.
But I like to think at least things can't get any worse
"Another pear, Esselóra? " (Nameless) A black haired elf with light grey-green eyes smiled politely at Harry, kindly offering yet another piece of fruit to Harry's already growing plate. Harry smiled in turn and nodded his thanks, feeling wary of refusing anything from the elves at this point.
Coming upon a cave full of beautiful, human-like creatures in this light-forsaken forest who had soon identified themselves as elves, not of the house elf variety, had been Harry's first clue that he was out of Britain. Way out. As in, probably out of the wizarding world and away from all things related to Earth as well.
He was very far from home, so far that he had basically gone from being in the 21st century to the 12th, where everything was made out of wood or stone. No plastics or any kind of synthetic materials for this lot, who apparently were nothing if not rigid traditionalists. They just didn't do change if they could help, was the basics of what Harry had gathered so far. And with neither electricity nor magic, Harry frankly wondered how they did it at all.
But considering the beauty and fine craftsmanship the elves surrounded themselves with – this dining area, the great hall he had first been taken to, and the elaborately decorated corridors he'd come across on his way here being just a few examples – he had to admit that if he had to be lost in another world, there were much worst places to be. Never let anyone say his life was not interesting, even if luck was not always in his favour.
However his immediate feelings of despair and loss at the realisation that he was in a foreign world with no known way back were assuaged by the very presence of the elves, who made him feel welcome and calm. But even so, never having been away from his own world before, literally speaking – so his whole headfirst, blind leap into the wizarding world at age 11 didn't count – he was flying by the seat of his pants.
The only thing he could come up with for the moment was to not get worked up over something he obviously couldn't change right now, and try to fit in as best he could. He would later do all the research needed to figure out as much as possible about this strange world he had soon come to know as Middle-Earth. This was just another puzzle that needed to be worked out. Just another challenge Harry would have to struggle through.
So, for the moment he would be as open with the elves as was plausible. As far as he knew, he had nowhere else to go, and was entirely reliant on their kindness, goodwill, and interest in him for the moment to survive. At any rate, it was best not to upset the locals and play nice.
As soon as the pear was cut and on his plate, and his glass was refilled with cool and refreshing water right from the stream that cut through the caves, the next set of questions began. Harry had already gone through half of what he could remember from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at their request, as well as explained the basics of the wizarding schooling system in Great Britain. But once he'd mentioned the Hogwart's Express, his audience's attentions had immediately switched tracks, all pun intended, and now he was doing his best to explain modes of transportation not on horseback and muggle inventions.
So far, what Harry could say of the elves of Mirkwood, the forest Harry had found himself in, was that they were very nice, very hospitable, and very curious. (Also a little silly at times, if he dare say, breaking into random bursts of song and poetry when the moment caught them, but he soon found out that that was just their way. And who wouldn't be a bit off their rocker after living for as long as they had? Thousands of years it turned out. Immortality indeed!)
"And everyone comes to this school of yours with sticks like that?" Another elf, a female with long black hair and muted blue eyes pointed to the eleven inch 'stick' poking out of Harry's pocket.
"Yeah, uh, basically." Harry nodded and fingered the edge of his holly and phoenix feather wand while several of the surrounding elves leant forward for a closer look. The warmth that flowed into Harry's fingers at the contact bolstered his spirits a bit, despite the exhaustion that was creeping through his body, weighing down his eyelids, pulling at his shoulders, and making every muscle in his body ache. Slightly heartened at the sudden warmth of magic flowing through him, he turned his head to field the next question.
"Where does one acquire such a powerful little stick as that?" Another female elf – or was it the same one as before – nodded her head reverently to his wand, her face alight with wonder and unmitigated curiosity. In fact, all the elves had been looking at Harry as though he was Father Christmas come with a bagful of toys for them. It was different than being looked at as the saviour of the whole world, and Harry didn't feel as irritated by it, though he would be lying to himself if he said he wasn't a little intimidated by all this attention from a room of beautiful, handsome, and regal beings. All because Harry was a secret, a nameless puzzle hiding a wealth of information about an entire other world.
And elves, Harry had quickly come to learn, loved both secrets and puzzles above all else.
Not wanting to disappoint his enchanted and thoroughly captivated audience, Harry began his tale of his first trip to Diagon Alley and Ollivander's.
So far, in between dodging the issue of his name and answering the elves' many endless questions about his home and magic, Harry had been able to glean a bit of information about Middle-Earth as well. For one, there were few wizards in this world, yet magic was a common concept among the entire Middle-Earth population.
Another little odd titbit of information that was glaringly obvious given his current company was that elves of the high, august variety existed, among many other kinds of fantastical, creepy, scary, and awe-inspiring creatures. It seemed that this world was made up of magical creatures; even most of the men in this world had some elvish blood in their veins from past ancestors.
Luckily, the elves were as eager to share information about their world as they were to learn about Harry's. Though it did make him feel like a huge slab of meat out on display – well that would be the case if elves even ate meat. But he also, surprisingly, felt a sort of calm being in the presence of so many magnificent and majestic creatures, who had done nothing but show him the very best of elven hospitality and compassion.
"So all wizards of your kind are dressed as oddly as you?" This question was posed by a male elf, somewhat younger than the rest of the crowd, Harry could little tell, if the admonishing looks and shake of heads from the others was anything to go by. But no one interrupted or rephrased the question better, making Harry think that even if they hadn't spoken it aloud, everyone there had been wondering about the state of his dress.
But just as he answered the basics of wizarding fashion compared to Muggle style, and how wizards were kept apart from the non-magical population, another question sprang up.
"Then your people are a bit like the Dúnedain, fair sir, only with magic?" Harry wracked his brain for what they could possibly be referring to. Unfortunately, translation spells only went so far, so he made yet another mental note to learn the language and culture, and then fashion himself some new clothes here. He supposed he could get used to that fine, airy material the elves wrapped themselves in. He doubted he would be able to achieve the same ethereal, elegant look, but it sure looked comfortable.
Eventually, Harry cleared his plate, his stomach now full with the fruits of the forest, and his head aching from all the constant brainteasers put to it. But even though he longed for nothing more than a dark room and soft bed to lie down on, the inquiry was far from over. Elves did not sleep in the strictest sense, so while he was their complacent prisoner, neither would Harry.
By that point, the conversation had come back full circle to how he had landed himself here in the first place – to paraphrase the elves' flowing, flowery language.
The best he had been able to come up with during his long, arduous walk through the woods, wondering where he was, how he could get home, when he would be attacked by some big, scary creature, and if people even existed anywhere around here, was that an enemy had obviously found a way to get through his wards and send him the package.
He suspected an old Voldemort supporter had unwittingly parcelled off the cursed object, hoping to rid the world of Harry Potter once and for all in a last-ditch revenge attempt. He doubted the hypothetical deluded son-of-a-convicted-Death-Eater had known the true extent of their prank; the mirror probably having been an unlabelled dark object lying around the house, or manor, which said culprit had most likely stumbled upon one day.
Harry could just imagine it.
'What do I do with this junky mirror-thing, Mother,' the young-Draco-Malfoy-look-alike asked, pointing to a dusty mirror on a cement floor, surrounded by other dusty, dark-looking objects.
'I'm not sure, dear. No one in the family has ever been able to figure out what it does. Who knows which twisted ancestor it came from.' The Narcissa-look-alike, disgusted sneer and all as Harry had seen her at the World Cup, waved her hand carelessly as she swept out of the room, holding a dainty handkerchief to her nose.
'Send it to an enemy or something; just don't leave it lying around here. Merlin knows the Ministry has bled us dry for the tiniest of things since your father's imprisonment, and we don't need to give them any more reason to continue,' she snapped. As her back rounded the corner and her deep purple dress robes brushed over the floors, Harry imagined she cursed his name under her breath.
Back in the hypothetical room, the Malfoy-look-alike was grinning with untamed glee. 'Curse Harry Potter indeed. This will teach you to put my father back in Azkaban.'
It was all very likely, Harry thought. Wouldn't surprise him in the least if that were indeed how it all went down. But he didn't share that scenario with his captive audience. It was probably better to wait before he gave them reason to think him certifiably insane.
Silently cursing himself thoroughly for falling prey to such a simple ploy, Harry simply told the elves that he suspected an old enemy had sent him a cursed object, which had allowed him to cross worlds, bringing him here to be in such lovely company. Smooth.
But now that his presence here had been somewhat explained, the issue of his name popped up again as well. Not so smooth.
The fact was he just didn't think he wanted to be known as Harry Potter in this world, realising that he wouldn't be getting back home any time soon. Harry Potter was the reluctant, jaded hero of the wizarding world who couldn't be killed. Voldemort had found this last part out the hard way, and may the pieces of his soul still rot in whatever void they ended up.
As the silence stretched on, his audience leaning forward ever so slightly to hear the so far elusive answer, Harry started fidgeting in his seat. He wasn't sure how to answer them, knowing full well how rude he was being, without insulting their hospitality and kindness further by outright refusing them.
Finally, an older looking elf from a bit farther down the table on Harry's right spoke up. "Ah, I see the wizard wants to leave his name from his old world behind." All heads to turned to look from the elf who had spoken to the nameless wizard, who sat frozen under the sudden intensified scrutiny as the audience seemed to digest the elder's words. "A wise choice, child. Sometimes it is better just to move on."
Harry gulped. He didn't like the way the old elf's eyes seemed to look right through him in very creepy, Dumbledore-like fashion. He nodded gravely, not trusting himself to open his mouth.
The elf smiled mysteriously at him then, and Harry was more than a bit surprised to note that the rest of the elves stayed silent as he spoke, respectfully giving him the floor.
"You wish to remain nameless, then? To continue to be known as Esselóra?"
Esselóra. Nameless. He did like the sound of that, though it had started out as a joke at the beginning of the night when he continued to fail to provide a name. It was perfect for him.
"Yes. I do."
I wish to remain nameless
And live without shame
'Cause what's in a name,
I still remain the same
It had been sixty years since Esselóra's arrival in Mirkwood and he looked like he had just traversed inter-world dimensions via mirror yesterday. By now he had more than just an inkling that being the owner of the Elder wand, true Cloak of Invisibility, and the Resurrecting Stone, even if he know longer had any of them in his possession, was worth more than the legends said.
Not that any of it mattered, though; there was more than one way to pass on, he had learnt it from reading much on the history of the elves. He didn't know if his apparent immortality had anything to do with the elves and their connection to the Valar, or if he had gotten in on that connection somehow, but he felt himself exhibiting what he could only speculate to be all the symptoms of fading. He could feel himself slowly disappearing. He didn't know how else to describe it.
Well, that wasn't true. Surprisingly, he had had the odd feeling described to him very well years ago by another wizard of Middle-Earth, with whom Harry had had the good fortune to get to know early on in his first few years here.
Harry remembered travelling to Imlardis years ago to see the Last Homely House before Lord Elrond departed for the Undying Lands. He had stayed to see the birth of his grandson Eldarion and assure that his only daughter Arwen was happy in the White City of Gondor. But soon he would be leaving for good, never to return.
Harry, curious to meet this well-spoken of leader of elves, had come for a short audience and ended up staying for much longer than he'd originally expected. Rivendell was beautiful. The moment Harry had walked down through the valley and set eyes on it, his breath had been caught in his chest, and Harry hadn't been able to catch it again since.
He had stayed in the wizard Gandalf's company for weeks on end, talking of the similarities and differences between their magics, the stories of the Last War of the Rings, and the tales of Gandalf's own travels during his long time on Middle-Earth, among other things.
But there was one thing, though, that had stuck with Harry as particularly poignant even years later, staying as sharp in his memory as though it had just been laid there. And that was Gandalf's recollection of a conversation he'd had with Bilbo before the hobbit had bequeathed the One Ring to his nephew Frodo. The old wizard had a surprisingly good memory and whenever Gandalf told a story Harry felt like he was watching a play being performed or a book being read aloud by a master storyteller.
At the time, he and Gandalf had been sitting in one of the many courtyards of Rivendell, basking in the afternoon sun. The topic of conversation, however, was far from light and frivolous. Gandalf had breached the topic of what heavy burden was obviously weighing his friend down. The old wizard had noticed a change in the young man's countenance and was expressing honest concern for Harry's health.
The two had not been friends for all that long, but Harry had felt the instant connection upon first meeting Gandalf, making Harry feel like he was confiding in a grandfatherly Dumbledore figure that he had known for years. It was this illusion, this instinctive trust that had Harry confessing his increased feelings of listlessness, irrelevance, and something he couldn't quite place.
"It's like I am being pulled in all different directions, and I don't want to go towards any of them, yet at the same time I feel restless, like I should be somewhere. Somewhere else." Harry shook his head. He knew he didn't make sense, it was one of the many reasons he usually refrained from sharing his feelings and all that unnecessary drivel. Talking about it very rarely helped, despite what Hermione had liked him to believe.
He especially missed his friends at times like this, though he knew that these listless, restless feelings had started way before he'd found himself in Middle-Earth.
Gandalf, though, looked contemplative instead of confused. "You know, that reminds of something Bilbo once told me. Before the Quest of the Ring." Pausing, Gandalf pulled his pipe from his mouth, smacked his lips together, and then looked over to check for Harry's undivided attention before relaying Bilbo's words in weary, theatrical tones.
"I am old, Gandalf. I don't look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts… I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread... I need a change, or something."
Harry was floored for a moment. That was it. That was exactly it. Butter scraped over too much bread. He guessed the analogy of food had probably come easiest to the hobbit, but that didn't make it any less true for Harry as well.
A change, that was what Harry needed. Or something. He felt just as confused as Bilbo, and just as frustrated no doubt. But unlike Bilbo, he had no evil, Horcrux of a ring to blame it on. His Horcrux was gone and the problem had started after the fact. And every year since he had felt himself being scraped that little bit further, no matter what he did, how he changed, and he felt like he had no one to blame but himself.
He had stayed in the caves of Mirkwood, slept under the leaves of Lorien, climbed the Lonely Mountains, wandered the halls of Rivendell, traversed the mighty city streets of Gondor, and kept company with the men of Rohan in the Golden Halls of Meduseld after a day of riding through the Riddermark. He had been all around, seen the wonders of Middle-Earth from every race – elves to dwarves, men to hobbits – and had found nothing wanting.
So why could he not find it in himself to make a home somewhere here in Middle-Earth and settle down, be happy? After all, it wasn't as though he had a choice in the matter. Ten years and he had not seen hide nor hair of the mirror, and he doubted he ever would. Eternity, however, was something he could see quite clearly now; a combined result of the mirror's and this world's magic, as well as the magic of the Deathly Hallows, no doubt. He could feel it in his heart of hearts.
Voldemort couldn't take him from the wizarding world, but a silly mirror had been able to do the trick no problem. It was ridiculous. And so fell the great Harry Potter and all his attempts at living out a quiet, anonymous life till death. For it seemed that Death would never be coming for him again, at least not in the typical way.
Giving up on his thoughts running in maddening circles, Harry looked back up at Gandalf and let his head slump back in defeat.
"I sacrificed so much for one world, and then I just didn't know what to do with myself anymore. Nothing made sense, I had no purpose, and everything I'd done had become twisted by the very people I'd set out to save.
"And then I suddenly find myself here one day, all alone, no past or connection to this world, and again, no purpose. I don't know what I'm doing here and I don't know if I want to leave or not because I don't know if I want to go back to the wizarding world or not." Harry had briefly told Gandalf his tale earlier, and was glad for the fact so he didn't sound completely insane as he blathered on, not finding it in himself to be able to stop.
"Maybe I want another adventure, maybe I don't. I'm just not sure. I keep searching for something but then I think maybe I'm looking for the opposite of adventure; a home, a home I can call mine and never want to leave." Harry shrugged and shook his head. "I just don't know anything anymore. I don't think I ever did, but at least before I had something of a raison d'être. Now…" he trailed off and let loose a sigh; he was just rambling now and Gandalf didn't need to listen to that. Shutting his mouth for good this time, he waited for Gandalf to speak and hopefully move them beyond the subject of Harry's mixed up life and confused mental state.
"Happiness," Gandalf finally said, after several prolonged moments of contemplative silence, "Is whatever you wish to make of it. I think you can find a home anywhere once you lose your foolish notions of finding perfection in a world, and instead decide to make your own happy ending; find somewhere to set your roots down, and stay. That's all there is to it."
Flabbergasted for a moment by Gandalf's unexpected reply, Harry sat looking unseeingly out on Elrond's inner gardens.
He was fairly sure he understood the gist of what the White Wizard was saying, but that didn't make implementing the idea any easier. As far as Harry was concerned, they were just fancy words of wise old men who preferred to speak in riddles and strange tongues than plain, easy English, or Westron, or whatever the language was called here. It was certainly not as simple as all that.
But Harry felt a little comforted all the same, sitting in the following silence while the old wizard puffed at his pipe meditatively. Harry would be sad to see the man go when he and Lord Elrond finally departed for the Undying Lands. But at least one of them would be going home.
No more dreaming like a girl so in love, so in love with the wrong world
Legolas was always watching.
Ederynion may have liked to travel, but he always came back to Mirkwood. And while the wizard was 'home' and chose to walk among the dense forestland, Legolas was not far behind.
Ederynion had long since left the cavern halls of Thranduil for a place of his own among the trees of the forest, but he had not ventured far from the caves. And Legolas always knew where to find him.
Though the wizard was exceptionally silent and stealthy for a son of man, it was no secret that he could usually be found spending his days trekking through the thick growth that was the forests of Northern Mirkwood, whistling a foreign, yet forlorn sounding tune, and revelling in the solitude that he found amongst the greens.
But the real reason that Legolas could always find him actually had more to do with the special connection he had with the wizard, one which others could only guess at.
Unlike what many mortals believed, elves did not have predestined mates, so to speak. There was not necessarily one set person for them and no other would ever do. The romantic notion of soul mates had probably been birthed from the common knowledge that elves only married for love. And considering their immortality, the love had to be deep and everlasting to survive eternity. Unlike mortal men, no elven marriage was ever sustained out of necessity or politics or monetary needs.
Once an elf chose their mate, they were together till the end of time itself and after. As such, elves were very empathic creatures; one could simply not live for thousands of years with the same people and nature and not develop such skills. And one thing that elves were quite good at was reading an individual's essence.
Elves with similar souls got along quite well, while elves of contrasting essences tended to avoid each other at all costs, in an effort to avoid longstanding feuds that could last forever amongst those with immortal lifespans. Some might describe them as a cold race, but Legolas knew his people to be practical and wise. There was good reason there were few real wars among elves.
But though Legolas may not have lived as long as some of his brethren, there was one thing he knew to be unmistakable; Ederynion's essence matched his in every way possible. It was incredible, inconceivable even, but true. From that point of realisation, in Legolas' mind, there was no way that he could ever be happy with any other.
That spark of understanding and recognition had come to life the moment Legolas had first met the wizard, the day Ederynion had come to Mirkwood. And Legolas remembered it well.
"Caunen, caunen, come quick, your father has called for you to come to the Council Hall as swift as your feet can carry you. We have a visitor." (My prince)
Legolas had just nocked an arrow, but at the sound of approach he lowered his bow and turned to acknowledge one of his father's personal servants, Arcastar.
How perplexing, for he had just kept company with his father for midday meal only two hours before coming down to the field to practice. What visitor could possibly have caused such a commotion for his father to summon him like this so soon that it could not wait for Legolas to return? It could not be someone he knew or Arcastar would have mentioned them by name, unless it was some kind of surprise. But Legolas had been too old for surprises for over a thousand years now.
"A visitor you say?"
"Yes, the whole court has gathered to see. He appears to be a curunir." (wizard)
Legolas cocked an eyebrow. A wizard? "Like Mithrandir?"
Arcastar shook his head. "We are not sure. He speaks no language known to Middle-Earth. But I know little else as your father called you to come to his side mere turnings of a leaf after the visitor was ushered into his halls."
Not wasting another second, Legolas quickly put away the equipment and made for the cavern entrance.
Walking quickly down the brightly lit halls to the main chamber with Arcastar several steps behind him, Legolas became aware of a new, unsettling energy in the air of which he wasn't quite sure what to make. He quickened his pace in response, while subconsciously fingering the long knife at his belt, eager to find out what was causing such commotion in his home.
Surely this wizard wasn't a danger if he had already been welcomed into the king's halls so readily. And yet, Legolas couldn't be sure of anything anymore after seeing the corruption of Saruman and the fall of the forests in Isengard. He hoped this wizard had not already deceived the whole court of Mirkwood with similar trickery and guile.
As he rounded the corner, his breath caught in his throat at the sound of a new, unfamiliar voice speaking in strange, unintelligible words rising above the murmuring racket of conversation.
"How did you do that," Legolas heard his father exclaim in awe, almost stopping Legolas in his tracks. There were few things that caught his father off guard at his age, and even fewer people. Legolas' suspicions increased and he reached down to loosen his knife from its hold for easier access should he need it right away when he met this peculiar wizard.
A moment later, the new voice replied in Sindarin with weary amusement. "There are few things that magic cannot do, and luckily, picking up a new language quickly is not one of them."
The room came into view just as the stranger was finishing speaking and Legolas' eyes lit upon a man in his late twenties, with messy black hair, glasses, and the oddest material of clothing Legolas had ever seen covering him like a long tunic or dress. Before he could gaze any longer though, his father caught sight of him and beckoned him forward. Legolas did not need further prompting, he stepped through the gathered crowd and flitted to his father's side.
"Legolas, my son, come meet our young stranger who has just arrived." Legolas' father ushered him closer with an excited smile and clasped a hand on Legolas' shoulder. "We have only just been able to speak properly with him, and he has not yet offered any name, but come and hear what he has to say. He is a wizard like Mithrandir."
The man standing in front of the king's throne looked weary, travel worn, and more than a little lost, but Legolas could tell he was trying his best not to let it show. He didn't look very threatening, or like he had any hidden agendas; in fact, Legolas felt a strange attraction to the man. He felt like he wanted to protect him from harm and keep him close at his side at all times.
What kind of strange workings were these? Yet Legolas did not feel frightened by them in the least.
Still, there was no doubt in Legolas' mind that he was a wizard; he could feel the deep, natural power coming from the man from where he stood a foot away, recognise the assured fearlessness of a seasoned warrior. And clutched loosely in the wizard's right hand, hanging by his side, was a short, smooth stick of dark, polished wood that he held with an odd sort of confidence that made Legolas wonder. Was that the equivalent of Mithrandir's staff? Surely not. It was so tiny. What power could it possibly channel?
Shaking those thoughts away for the moment, as it would be rude to ask such questions straight off before properly introducing oneself, Legolas stepped forward and placed his hand over his heart. "A star shines upon the hour of our meeting." Legolas offered a wide, friendly smile, hoping to put the wizard at ease. "On behalf of the elves of Mirkwood, I welcome you."
The wizard just stared at him with a steady, unreadable gaze for a long moment and Legolas felt himself beginning to blush.
"Thank you," the man finally snapped out of his daze and spoke with slight uncertainty in his voice, though his face remained blank and impassive.
Legolas watched as he jerkily bowed forward and nodded at the same time, a small smile on his face, while copying Legolas and putting his stick-holding hand over his heart.
They stood staring at each other for a moment, and for once, Legolas was at a loss for words. Then his father, who either did not notice the pregnant pause and slightly awkward silence or was choosing to help end it, stepped forward and opened his arms wide.
"Young Istar, blessing from the Valar, this is my son, Prince Legolas of Mirkwood." He gave a look then to Legolas, silently berating his son for his sudden loss of manners –forgetting to even introduce himself properly! How embarrassing.
Legolas had the grace to look ashamed, though as he looked back at the amused face of the newcomer, who was watching the silent interaction between father and son, Legolas remembered why he had lost his voice in the first place. There was something about the wizard, Legolas couldn't quite place it yet, that had his mouth drying up, his palms clamming, and his head pounding with the sound of blood rushing through his ears. He had never had such a reaction like this to anyone before.
"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, King Thranduil and Prince Legolas. I am honoured to be welcomed into your halls. It – you have a lovely home, erm, forest, caves here. It is truly a remarkable place." He bit the inside of his lip and Legolas could see the tips of his ears begin to redden, but did his best not to smile in amusement at the wizard's stumbling.
King Thranduil smiled at the praise, though, and Legolas could tell his father was already warming up to the stranger. Which reminded him, they still had no name with which to call him. Just as Legolas was about to ask, the Istar spoke again.
"Forgive me, though." He bowed his head in contrition. "But I am afraid this title of Istar you have given me is not mine to accept. I fear that by, er, magical means I have landed in another world entirely, where your, uh, brand of magic and, erm, Istari, if that is how you refer to wizards in this world, could be very different from my own."
His declaration was met with stunned silence. A wizard not of the Maiar? Not from the Valar? It was unheard of!
Whispers broke out around the room, a mixture of anxious confusion and curious interest.
Legolas, though, immediately noticed the worried, guarded look on the stranger's face in reaction to his people's unease. It looked as though he was just waiting for Legolas or his father to kick the young wizard out for being different, for not belonging in this world.
But was that not all the more reason to make him feel welcome in this new, unknown land?
In a burst of compassion, which shocked him in its vehemence and passion, Legolas hurried to assure the stranger, opening his mouth before he even knew what he was going to say.
"Regardless of where you're from, young wizard, you are welcome here in the halls of Mirkwood." And just like that, the whispers ceased and all the elves rushed forward to converge on the young man at once, asking question about his strange world, his magic, and many other things.
Obviously flustered, the man barely had time to respond to one question before twelve others were asked. But Legolas could do little else to help as the crowd ushered the young man from the Council Halls and into the dining area to feed him an early supper. The man certainly looked like he could use a good meal.
Eventually, after all had been well fed and a tiny portion of the elves' curiosity had been slaked, many hours had passed and the wizard looked fit to fall over at any minute. He had just found himself in a new world, been accosted by practically the entire population of the Mirkwood elves, and been given a curious, new elvish name that seemed to fit him well. Legolas was surprised he hadn't just passed out at the table long before now.
Taking pity on the man, Legolas bid the hall a good night and dragged the wizard, now christened Esselóra, away from the crowd to his new chambers.
Esselóra gave a grateful smile to Legolas as he was led through the maze of white marble hallways, spiral staircases, sharp turns, and heavy, wooden doors with elaborate carvings etched into every surface. But otherwise they did not speak, a sort of tense, awkward silence filling in between them despite the wizard's half-awake state.
"Thank you for welcoming me here and allowing me to stay," Esselóra said with sincerity. "Your people are most kind and generous, most especially you and your father." His speech faltered then and a worried look similar to before when he'd been sure he was about to be kicked out came over his face. "I really appreciate your hospitality; but I won't overstay my welcome. Once I get some more information about this world and find out where I am and where I can go – maybe there's a wizarding establishment around here, or something – then I will be out of your hair as soon as possible, I promise."
Legolas stopped, they had reached the wizard's rooms, but that wasn't the only reason he halted his steps and turned to look at Esselóra.
"Out of my hair? Why on Arda would I, or any of my people, want that?"
Esselóra opened his mouth to explain no doubt, but no sound came forth. His features dropped again and he seemed to realise that he had inadvertently insulted Legolas, and looked ready to start apologising. But Legolas beat him to it.
"You are the most exciting thing that has happened in Mirkwood since I came back from the War as one of the Nine Walkers. The fact that my father has taken quite a shine to you is extraordinary in itself. You are most assuredly welcome to stay for as long as you wish, for we elves are very curious beings and you, being the mystery you are, certainly have the entire attention of Mirkwood now." Legolas smiled, but it soon faded to a frown when he saw the scowl that had briefly flitted across Esselóra's face.
"What is wrong, Esselóra? Was it something I said?"
The wizard shook his head, but turned away from Legolas towards the door they had stopped in front of. He waited a moment and then whispered something unintelligible, even to Legolas' ears.
Acting on instinct, Legolas reached out a hand and placed it gently on Esselóra's shoulder.
Instantly, the world fell into sharp relief and Legolas' whole world constricted onto the raven haired, green-eyed man and the colourful aura he had around him; an aura so very new, and yet so very familiar.
"Ai!," Legolas exclaimed softly, quickly sucking in his breath on instinct and freezing in place.
Esselóra, who had apparently felt nothing from the contact, nonchalantly shrugged out of Legolas' hold and turned back towards him to say, "Thank you again. I hope I will be seeing you again in the morning?"
Legolas nodded quickly, averting his eyes to refrain from staring too long in amazement; he knew from recent experience that it made mortal men uncomfortable. But he had never met anyone like this wizard before, even he and Estel, who was his very good friend, did not have this same connection. And he barely knew this man!
Not paying attention, Legolas barely heard Esselóra as he bade him goodnight and went inside his appointed rooms.
Snapping out of his stupor once the door snapped shut in his face, Legolas stood there staring at nothing for several moments after. He listened to the sounds of water being turned on and what he guessed to be a bath filling. He stood listening for an unknown stretch of time, his palm still tingling from the contact, and the image of his matching aura still flashing behind his mind's eye.
It seemed too amazing to be true. Too extraordinary. This man, this nameless wizard had to have been brought here to Mirkwood for a reason. Despite Esselóra's insistence that he had been cursed and brought here by mistake, Legolas knew there to be no such thing as mistakes. This was Fate, a spot of good fortune hiding beneath the guise of an evil, mysterious mirror, much like the quest to destroy the One Ring had been.
The wise elf took the bad with the good, and Legolas was determined for Esselóra to see the good in all this, for that's exactly what Legolas would be.
And for that matter, no companion of his would remain nameless. Legolas would give him a new name, one just as suiting and befitting of the circumstance from which he was brought here. Thinking for a moment while staring determinedly at the thick oak door in front of him, as though if he looked hard enough he could see through it to the beautiful man hiding inside, he eventually came upon the perfect one. From out of the trees he came to walk right into Legolas' home and heart, so Ederynion he would be.
"Ederynion," he tried out on his lips with smile. That would do. He would have to tell the wizard of his new name come morning when he came to fetch him for the first meal.
Before finally taking his leave, long after the candle light had been extinguished from under the door, Legolas bowed his head and whispered softly, "Ederynion, I will wait all eternity for the day you'll swear to be mine."
A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes,I screamed aloud, as it tore through them, and now it's left me blind
Harry walked beneath the shaded cover of trees as old as this world.
It was peaceful; the very summer air wrapped around him like a warm blanket, imbibing his senses with the comforting, jovial surge of vitality and life springing anew, year after year with rejoiced vigour. It was a smell, a friendly heat, a soft, crooning voice; the forest passed through him in ways he could not describe with the common tongue. Even elven words failed him sometimes, and he knew he was not alone in this predicament. The nature of the forest was still a mystery to all elves, though dearly loved and cared for by the people of Mirkwood.
But Harry knew that even as he let himself be lost in the summer haze of the trees that he was not truly alone. Despite his continued feeling of aching loneliness that he could only allow himself to forget marginally when he walked across the soft loam of the earth, he knew that in the strictest sense of the word, he was not in complete isolation.
One elf was always following his steps. In particular, a prince, Prince Legolas Greenleaf of Mirkwood.
It did not worry Harry, for he trusted the elves. And even though it had been decades since any of them had let their eyes linger over his face in unadulterated curiosity, he knew that many still questioned his presence, how he had come to be here those many years ago, and why it was that he returned to Mirkwood year after year when the rest of Middle-Earth had already welcomed him so heartily into their homes. He had his choice of pick to live anywhere he chose, even among other men or other elves, and yet it was here he always returned.
It was understandably no surprise to Harry that an elf, the most curious of creatures on Middle-Earth, could not let a puzzle go unsolved while it continued to roam in his homeland, so he continued to tolerate the prince's watchful eye and wait for him to come forth on his own.
Harry had grown used to his presence in a way. Though they had not spoken past polite conversation when Harry deigned to enter the halls of King Thranduil, Harry had grown accustomed to the silence that was Prince Legolas' distant company whenever Harry ventured forth among the trees.
Still, some days he would admit, that he would not be opposed to a stimulating conversation from the fair-haired elf. Each day that passed he could feel his skin becoming thinner and thinner and his very soul being stretched too tight for his body to hold.
Butter scraped over too much bread, indeed.
He wondered how much longer he would linger in this world. For despite his immortality, he knew that like the elves, he too would fade from Middle-Earth from the loneliness and grief weighing him down, dragging at his spirit with despondence. But though he appeared to be as immortal as the elves, Harry was not sure what would become of him after his body had faded away from the land of the living.
Honestly, he did not want to think about it, for it only served to depress him all the more and hasten the process.
It had been several decades since Gandalf's departure, and though Harry had replayed the man's words in his head countless times, he had still not found the answer to the riddle. Harry didn't know what decisions he could make that would lead to his happiness for he still felt so very much apart from this entire world of Middle-Earth in many ways. How could he find happiness in a world he had yet to accept as his own?
Part of him still hoped to find the cursed mirror so that he could go home, yet he knew that life in the wizarding world had moved on, aged on without him, just as he had once wanted. Hermione's voice rang in his head, 'be careful what you wish for,' but he ignored it. His friends must have moved on without him too. And though he was glad for that it didn't lessen the sting of knowing that they'd probably found their little bit of happiness without him and he was still searching for what looked to be the rest of his immortal life – which had no end in itself, obviously.
He did not know what bothered him more, that he would no longer have a place in his old world if he were to return or that he could not find it in himself to accept Middle-Earth as his new home.
If possible, Harry felt even more jaded and cynical now than he had when he left the wizarding world, and he hadn't had any prophecies hanging over his head, or a dark lord to kill in Middle-Earth. This world was post-Dark Lord, Harry having come just in time – which was a first with his abysmal luck.
At least in the wizarding world he had had Hermione and Ron, though. Here he was on friendly terms with most peoples of all races, but he desperately missed that special connection he had with his friends. Their absence further served to bury that knife that was his loneliness all the more deeper into his soul.
With a sigh, Harry stopped next to an ancient trunk that had fallen on its side years ago, and pulled himself up to rest on the moss-covered expanse, folding his legs to the side and letting his head lean back on his shoulders to soak up the little patch of sunlight falling there. As he settled down, a hummingbird flitted to his side and poked its long beak at his shoulder in innocent curiosity before darting backwards and dancing away.
The forest was beautiful, welcoming, and comforting – shocking to him, as he had never been much of a nature buff before landing himself in Middle-Earth – but it was a far cry from human contact. Or elf contact for that matter. He knew it was mostly his fault though, as he had been pulling away from those around him lately, preferring to keep to the trees and wildlife than dare the communal halls. Being out here was safer.
He did not think he was meant to belong anywhere or with anyone here, he had lost his chance on Earth, and trying to fool himself that he had a chance here was pointless.
But then why did it seem that the more he pulled away from the world, the more alone he felt? He knew he was not a genius like Hermione, but neither was he stupid. Far from it.
At that moment, he made a decision. He did not want to sit here alone any longer. If he was going to fade from this world from loneliness in a hundred years, a decade perhaps, he would not do it a coward, shying away from people because he deemed it more comfortable to keep his distance.
Harry peered into the woods, located the silent elf half hidden behind the thick trunk of an elm and several ostrich ferns as tall as a man, and called softly, "Would you not take a moment to come and sit with me for a spell, dear prince, or do stalkers of Mirkwood prefer to always keep hidden in the shadows?"
Harry was finally calling his shadow forth to explain himself. He hoped he had something good to say; Harry could so use some good entertainment to brighten up his day.