"Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?" ... "I think the answer is that a circle has no beginning." - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
"Are you sure you want to come out here ?"
Harry gave a sigh of relief as he stepped out into the sunlight, enjoying the gentle warmth on his skin. If he had been confined inside any longer, he would have become as pale as Legolas. As if sensing his thoughts, said elf eyed him with concern.
Harry didn't hesitate as he stepped into the gardens.
Wreckage from the battle had been hastily cleaned, but evidence still remained in the forms of broken tulip stems and flattened bushes. A black spot marred the ground not far from where Harry stood. Nothing green remained where the basilisk venom had melted the ring.
Harry cast a critical eye over the flower beds; the weight of a basilisk had irreversibly destroyed a few of them, but others would regrow in the spring.
"I like it out here, even now. The flowers suffered too, but they can't leave; they can only rebuild."
A small yellow bud caught his eye, and Harry crouched down. The dandelion's leaves had been trampled and one had been torn in half, but already the resilient weed had started to grow another flower in the few days since the fight.
Harry pulled out the broken leaf; it would only hinder the plant's regrowth. Another flower caught his eye and he carefully pruned that one as well.
"I see what you mean," Legolas said, as he crouched down to help. By unspoken agreement, the two slowly worked their way around the garden until the sun had set low in the sky.
They finally reached the other side of the garden as shadows stretched languidly across the garden like a lazy cat that had just woken up. All that remained was a small pear tree, which had half of its limbs ripped cruelly away, making it look oddly lopsided.
Working shoulder-to-shoulder, Harry could feel the heat of the day radiating off of Legolas. As he reached above the elf to twist off a bent twig dangling off of the branch, Legolas turned to pluck off a smashed pear from its stem. This brought his face dangerously close to Harry's. For a suspended moment, the two simply looked at each other without speaking, though Harry could see pain churning behind Legolas' eyes.
" Arimelda ." The elf's voice shook with suppressed emotion. "I ask for forgiveness, knowing I will never forgive myself. You could have died out here yet I would not have noticed." Legolas let the fruit drop ungracefully onto the ground as he brought his hands up to cup Harry's face gently in his palm.
"There is nothing to forgive, for you were not yourself. It is a choice I would make time and time again, no matter the years that pass," said Harry, knowing that he would be around for a long time indeed.
The air felt warm, despite the cool evening breeze. Harry could not tear his eyes away Legolas's as soon as he could defy the inexorable pull of gravity. They were planets, locked into orbit around each other in a suspended state. Seconds passed that felt like eons until Harry's patience could last no longer; he closed the gap between their lips with a gasp that was stifled by an impatient, hurried kiss. Harry's back hit the tree and his heart stuttered as Legolas pressed his body fully against his.
That was, of course, when the King and Queen discovered them in their evening stroll.
"Good evening, friends," King Aragorn said in a dry voice, as Harry and Legolas leaped apart. "I am glad to see that you both are feeling better."
Harry flushed, grateful for the low light.
"Indeed we are," Legolas responded as he turned to face both monarchs. He did not completely extricate himself though; his arm slid down to wrap about Harry's lower back, pulling Harry securely by his side. "The smell of flowers seems to encourage a natural exuberance; I seem to recall the two of you were also in fine spirits here a fortnight ago."
"Only here?" The Queen laughed, a cheerful sound that sounded like small chimes. "But we must stop teasing, or Erestor will blush."
It was only then that Harry noticed a third party, standing slightly to the side of the King and Queen. The elf did not seem capable of blushing; he gave a short nod but otherwise, no muscle twitched on that stern, unblinking face.
"I am relieved to see you both healed," Erestor said. "King Thranduil has already suffered such loss; I worried what this news might have brought him."
Harry felt Legolas stiffen beside him.
"You plan to see my father?"
"Though the journey is long, it would be even longer if I were to visit the elven realms separately after this trip. I plan to leave within the fortnight and will be speaking with King Thranduil in two month's time. Is there anything you would like me to convey? Or perhaps you would like to accompany me?"
Though Legolas's grip around his waist remained firm, Harry could feel the pressure slacken slightly and the elf gave a soft sigh.
"I suppose I have been away for longer than anticipated. Please, tell my father that I will return soon."
Erestor smiled in satisfaction, but Harry felt a jolt of unease. The spark that had rekindled under the pear tree was still fragile and he had hoped to slowly nurture it in Gondor. Now he saw that the auspices of peace held a hidden threat: a return to normalcy also meant a return to the expectations and burdens that Legolas carried with him.
As if reading his thoughts, Legolas squeezed his hand and slowly turned to face Harry as the others continued their evening stroll.
"He always makes me feel as though I am an elfling." Legolas said ruefully and he sighed. The elf looked around at the garden wistfully. "Though I spoke hastily, I also spoke true; I do feel the need to return to my people, if only briefly. Yet it need not be rushed: I want both of us to be in full health before the journey. That is, if you would join me?"
Harry hesitated. There was only one choice, really; it wasn't as if Harry had any other pressing matters. Yet that in itself posed a problem: he didn't have a purpose anymore. Cast adrift in a new world with an endless lifetime stretched before him, Harry worried about what the future would bring. It was a daunting prospect.
The thoughts led to another worry, quietly buried in Harry's heart. Harry liked Legolas. Maybe even like, liked, if he gave himself the chance. But how could he knowingly open his heart, when Legolas would die like any of the others, while Harry would live on, well past the lives of men and elves. He wasn't sure if his heart could bear it.
The silence stretched out taut between them and Harry realized he had been silent for too long.
"I'm sorry, I -"
"I would like you to come. In case I haven't made that clear."
Legolas's words rushed out on top of Harry's and the elf looked at him with a hint of nervousness and anticipation.
"I would like to join you."
Harry could deal with his internal crisis later. However, something must have flickered on his face, because Legolas leaned in closer to look at him with concern.
"Have I misunderstood your intentions?" Legolas asked in a low voice.
"No! No. It's just… well, you remember that I said I'm a different kind of ithron?"
"Yes, though you may also recall that I said no two ithron are alike. There are too few of them to risk mixing them up."
"Yes. Well." Harry thought it was exceedingly strange – and concerning – that there were fewer than ten wizards in the whole of Middle Earth but he shelved that thought for another day. "I learned something else about my powers the other day when I turned into the basilisk. It confirmed a hunch of mine, that I… that is to say I am…"
Harry paused to collect himself. He had never said these thoughts out loud before, hardly daring to say them in the privacy of his own mind. "I think I might live forever and I don't know how to handle that."
Bile rose up in his throat and choked any remaining words he might have said. But Harry didn't have words anyway; his mind had gone static like an out-of-tune radio station, with occasional crackling as his thoughts collided into each other before winking out under the oppressive terror that had flooded his mind. He had no idea what Legolas might say: what he could say after such a statement.
"And?" Legolas asked, seemingly nonchalant at the fact that Harry might be immortal.
The word trickled slowly through his panicking brain. Legolas snapped into focus as Harry's mind finally understood the word.
"What do you mean, and?" Harry said, turning to look accusingly at Legolas. "It's inconceivable! How will I be able to watch everyone pass on to the next great adventure, while I'm here, purposeless and heartsick? I don't know if I can stand it."
Hot tears started to surface and Harry squeezed his eyes shut in anger to keep them from being seen.
Legolas gave an aborted laugh.
"You… you featherbrained bird!"
His hands clamped down on Harry's shoulders almost painfully, and the elf looked as if he wasn't sure to hug or shake Harry. "This is why you should live with the elves. You would not be an oddity there. Harry, arimelda, we are immortal."
His words shocked Harry to the core. "You are? Truly?"
"I thought you knew. While mortals are welcome in elven halls, my kin and brethren ignore most mortal affairs for how fleetingly they appear and then vanish. You would not fear the quick passage of time if you stayed at an Elven house. Of course, I will continue to travel and visit Gimli, Aragorn, and other friends I have made in my journey. And I will likely visit their children and their children's children. But I will do so knowing that there are others – my whole race – who will still be there against the passage of time."
Legolas smiled at him, eyes soft in a way Harry now knew – really knew – that the elf understood.
"Oh," Harry said eloquently. There didn't seem much more he could say. His heart was too full to speak. Other immortals? Not just Legolas, but a whole race? They weren't wizards and witches, but he would never find his way back to Earth – he had accepted this over the last year. But to find a community that might understand him, and think him normal; he had never dared to hope for as much. There was only one thing to do.
Harry threw his arms around Legolas and pressed him against the half-demolished pear tree. The trunk creaked warningly under their combined weight, but Harry did not heed it. His world narrowed until his face was so close to Legolas's that all he could see was the starlight reflecting off of the elf's eyes. As Legolas's eyes shuttered, Harry closed that tempting gap with a searing kiss.