Disclaimer: I own no rights to Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.
AN: Some speech is taken directly from Lord of the Rings.
Chapter Three – The Ring Goes…
Harry sat before he was invited to in the hall he had snuck from not so long ago. Elrond had shown him back there after he had dismissed the council upon Merith's arrival looking for Harry. The Elf had been clearly embarrassed that he had allowed Harry to slip away, but Harry had assured him that he had snuck away from far more powerful men than him. Harry still wasn't sure whether Merith had taken that as an insult or not.
Gandalf arrived to the hall just as Harry was sitting at one of the long tables. In one hand, he carried a wooden staff, and in the other, he carried Harry's. Harry stood immediately as he approached. If there was one thing he disliked most, it was others with power handling Sisera. He wanted to demand his staff back or simply just take it, but he held his tongue unwilling to appear rude when Gandalf was likely just returning her to him, which did indeed seem to be the case.
"An interesting staff," Gandalf complimented as he handed Sisera to Harry.
Harry ran his hand over the smooth ivory surface feeling safe with the connection they shared. "Yes," he agreed, but did not elaborate more. If Gandalf wanted to know more about his staff, he could ask Strider – Aragorn, he mentally corrected – or any of the Hobbits, for what they knew was all he was willing to share on the subject. Harry sat back down, again not waiting for an invitation.
Elrond and Gandalf shared a bemused glance with each other and then sat as well. Elrond at the head of the table and Gandalf across from Harry. Harry placed his staff to lie visibly on the table. He would have just ordered her to her snake form, but decided against it for now. He looked between the Elf and older Wizard expectantly. He wasn't quite sure where to begin. There was much to tell, but there was also much he felt that he should keep secret about himself, and at the same time if either of them could help him they might need the details. It was rather unnerving to Harry to be on such unfamiliar ground, as it were. The last time he'd felt this… blind, was when he'd lost his sight.
"Aragorn indicated that you could not see when they came upon you. That must have been inconvenient," Gandalf stated lightly.
Harry stilled a heartbeat at the odd coincidence that they had just been thinking on similar lines. He considered that the Wizard had been reading his thoughts, but squashed that idea. Severus and he had never been able to make Harry's mind impenetrable. Harry was absolute rubbish at Occlumency in a large part thanks the Horcrux that had resided inside his head for almost two decades, but he could certainly tell when someone was rummaging through his head.
Harry found himself smirking instead at the man's wording. It was part question. It rather reminded him of Dumbledore, but again, if the older Wizard wanted to know more he could ask his questions to those he'd already told. It wasn't that Harry was unwilling to repeat himself, only he was wary of saying much of anything of his weaknesses to any man he knew little of and as unassuming as Gandalf appeared to be, he wasn't going to just take him at face value. Dumbledore after all, had always looked frail, when he was one of the most powerful wizards in the world.
"Yes," Harry finally agreed. "It was inconvenient."
Elrond met Gandalf's eyes again for a moment before he looked back at Harry. "May I ask how you happened to be on that particular road when Aragorn came upon you?" he asked.
Harry's smirk stayed on his lips. Elrond may be asking how he'd been on that road, but Harry was sure that what he was really asking was, why. Harry chose to answer the question spoken and not the actual one, as he didn't really have an answer for that yet.
"I'd say you just did, and I would answer, but that is a mystery," Harry said with a small smile, which faded some at his next careful words. "I can't honestly say I know how I happen to be there. Only that magic and I believe time was involved," he said cryptically.
"Time?" asked Elrond.
Harry nodded. "Time," he repeated.
"Are you indicating that you are from the future?" Gandalf questioned slowly.
Harry thought about that for a moment and then shrugged. "I can't say that I am or not, though I'm not sure it's a matter of when I'm from, but more importantly, where I'm from, and that is very far from here. I can say with certainty that it is not a place that I can walk or ride, or even fly to."
"You are not of this world," Elrond summarized, not looking surprised though he did glance at Gandalf meaningfully.
Harry hesitated, but then nodded. He hadn't thought that they'd catch on so fast. Had something like this happened before? Did people from other dimensions pop in regularly for tea? Harry was about to snort at his own thoughts, but then perked up a bit. If it had happened before, did they know how to send him back? Harry was about to ask when Gandalf rose looking troubled. Elrond too looked bothered.
"It is not something that I could have fathomed and their purpose I cannot say," Gandalf said, though he did not seem to be speaking to either of them as he paced beside the table. Harry could only frown in confusion.
"If it is their will that he should be here, then he must have a purpose," Elrond stated, glancing at Harry.
Gandalf nodded and then looked at Harry piercingly. "What is your purpose, Harry the Black?"
Harry looked between the two, somewhat taken-a-back. "Umm, my purpose?" he asked slowly. "I suppose my purpose is to find a way home. It is why I came here, to seek your help, if you can give it."
Elrond and Gandalf met eyes again and Harry had the feeling that his answer wasn't something that either of them was expecting, if the questioning look they shared with one another was any indication.
"Look, I'm not sure what you expected me to say right then. I arrived here directly from a…" Harry hated the word, but it was what it was, "From a suicide mission. I had little notion that I would survive, and had never even conceived that I would end up in another world entirely. If I'm supposed to have some purpose here, I'm… well, I'm blind to it. I just – I want to find a way home; that is all."
Gandalf and Elrond stared at him, in clear contemplation and it as just as Gandalf was going to say something, that Aragorn and two Elves, Harry recognized from the council entered into the hall.
"Forgive us Ada," one of the two Elves said respectfully. "We have decided who is to go and are setting out shortly."
Elrond stood as he nodded. He turned to Harry. "We will continue this discussion another time, but for now, Merith will show you back to your room," he said and then left with the three, Gandalf following behind them.
Harry stared after them, wondering on their abrupt departure. He looked to Merith who'd just come back into the hall. "I don't suppose I can get some food?" he asked of the elf.
A ring is a simple thing; made of precious metals, molded and fit to size, and polished to shine with a glimmer in the dimmest light. Some rings mean more than others. Some hold a promise, some a vow, and still some are symbolic of things far greater than the mortal realm. Twenty rings were created with a purpose; three went to the elves, the most noble and long lived of races; seven to the dwarves, whose mountains held the mysteries of the world; and nine to the race of men, whose kings had lived and died and faded into history. And then there was the one ring, the last ring, created to bind all rings together and give the wearer the power to doom the world. Or so said Gandalf.
Harry had been sitting and thinking on the little porch attached to his rooms when Gandalf had entered without so much as a knock on the door that was already open anyway. He'd asked – in a way that there was no mistaking it to be anything but an order – for Harry to come with him. He wanted to show Harry what he thought was part of his purpose. Harry had little else to do but follow, so he did.
Now he was currently staring at this One Ring, sitting harmlessly in Frodo's hand. The story hadn't made much sense to Harry as Gandalf had unfolded it for him, but now, looking at the ring up close, really feeling it's power calling to him, it all made perfect sense. Harry was no stranger to objects with power, the Wizarding world had its fair share of them, but this object, this One Ring, scared him just as much as the thought of ever using the three Deathly Hollows combined.
Harry prided himself on being strong willed. At the age of eleven, he'd resisted the urge to find and lose himself in the Mirror of Erised. At the age of twelve, he'd faced a fully-grown basilisk and not even contemplated leaving Ginny to save his own life. At thirteen, he'd conjured a Patronus, even as the Dementors forced him to relive some of his worst memories, he'd still found the strength to push them aside and bring forth happy thoughts and save him and godfather's lives. When he was fourteen, he'd fought against the Imperious Curse, a curse so strong, it was unforgivable, and it had only taken him one try to overcome it. At the age of fifteen, his will had been tested many times over, but it was being possessed by Voldemort that had really been the challenge. Being able to push the Dark Lord from his mind was evidence enough that his will was ironclad. Since then his will had been tested many times over, but his resolve to push forward, to not be swayed by fear, greed, envy, hate, all of the negative emotions that had the potential to turn him into the next dark lord, had stayed strong.
Now this ring was in front of him and just as had happened at the Council, he felt the urge to take it, keep it for his own, and worst of all, use it. And he could use it, he had the power to do so, and who could really stop him? Gandalf certainly wasn't powerful enough. Harry felt his hand reach out to Frodo's, saw the scarred fingers of his left hand twitch with the anticipation of having it slipped on. He could almost feel the cool metal around his index finger.
Frodo looked up at him uncertainly and then slowly pulled back his hand. Gandalf touched Harry's shoulder firmly and Harry forced himself to take a step back. He looked away from the ring and took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He took another step back. Harry was certain that if Gandalf hadn't been there, he would have taken the ring from Frodo. And as he took another step away, Harry reassessed his thoughts that this object was like a Horcrux, because this ring was nothing like a Horcrux. It was far more powerful. The pieces of Voldemort's soul were almost pitiful in comparison.
Harry turned away from Frodo, who had hidden the ring again, and faced Gandalf. "I'm sorry, excuse me," he said with forced politeness and then left the room.
Once Harry was outside in the cool evening air, he felt more himself. Whatever hold the ring was forcing onto him was gone and he couldn't believe the effect it'd had on him. Not even Voldemort's locket that Hermione, Ron, and he had carried around for months had changed his whole personality as much as the ring was trying to do. This tiny object terrified him. And what scared him more, was what he could do with it. The thought that the ring could possibly get him home briefly entered his mind, but Harry shoved it aside viciously. He wasn't going to start thinking like that. The ring needed to be destroyed and it was very clear that he would not be the one to do it. But he would still help Frodo in any way he could, he just had to not set eyes on the ring again.
"I have felt spells that don't match the power of that ring. How can Frodo so calmly hold it? Certainly, it must be affecting him in some way?" Harry asked Gandalf as he heard him walk up beside him.
"Hobbits are remarkable people. They neither hold the greed of men, the superiority of the elves, nor the stubbornness of the dwarves. They want nothing, yet they have little. And I think for these traits alone, Frodo will be the one to destroy the ring." Gandalf sounded earnest, as if this was what he really believed.
Harry wasn't so sure in that belief. Maybe the ring wasn't affecting Frodo yet, but that didn't mean it wouldn't over time. He could only hope that Frodo could destroy the ring first. "I'd like to go with Frodo to destroy the ring," Harry said softly before finally turning to look Gandalf in the eyes. "If I can't destroy it myself, I'd at least like to see it destroyed first hand. And maybe that's my purpose."
Gandalf stared back at him almost blankly and Harry wondered if the old wizard was debating whether or not it was wise to have Harry go with Frodo when he'd had such a strong reaction to the ring. Harry wondered if it was wise for him to go anywhere the ring was going, but he knew he had to see it destroyed for his own piece of mind.
"Those who are to journey with Frodo are not yet known, though I will consider your request," Gandalf said in reply. "But what of your ambition to return home?" he asked.
Harry shrugged. "You had said on our walk over here, that you know of no way for me to go home," he said keeping the disappointment he felt out of his voice. "Eventually I will find a way," he said stubbornly. "Until then, I might as well be useful."
"Your purpose could be to see the ring destroyed, or it could lie elsewhere in Middle-Earth. Only time can tell us. But until then, Lord Elrond has welcomed you as his guest and you may stay until you decide to leave, or with Frodo, if that is to be your path," Gandalf said kindly. "I only ask that you keep away from the ring. Do not ask to see it again, and do not let Frodo show it to you."
Harry shook his head. "You don't have to tell me twice. I have stared into darkness and it has stared into me too many times for me to count. I have no desire to be that close to it again, in whatever form it takes."
Gandalf nodded and then smiled. "Well, what say you we head for dinner? From what I hear, you have a small group waiting to thank you for saving their lives. It's bound to be quite the celebration."
Harry cringed slightly when Gandalf turned his back. He was hoping to stay away from the spotlight while he was in this strange world, but it seemed that as Hermione had once told him, he was born to stand out no matter what world he was in. She of course had meant the Wizarding and Muggle worlds…
Over the following weeks, Harry spent much of his time with the Hobbits. He had of course been introduced to Bilbo, Frodo's uncle, who had arrived in Rivendell long before them. The old Hobbit had been both a source of entertainment and a friend during his stay. Bilbo was a storyteller. He'd had many stories to tell both about his own adventures and about past adventures taken by others. Harry had come to learn a lot about Middle-Earth from him. And Bilbo Baggins, seemed to have accepted him irrevocably, unlike others Harry had encountered thus far.
It had now been two months. Two months since Harry had woken in Rivendell. Two months since Lord Elrond had chosen Frodo to take the ring to its end. Two months since Harry had found out there was likely no way for him to get home. For those two months, Harry had felt displaced. He was welcomed cautiously by the Elves and even more so by the Hobbits, but he never felt as if he belonged, even while sitting and listening to Bilbo weave his tales. And that was because he didn't belong. He was a trespasser in this land and he knew it.
Growing up, he'd never felt like he belonged among the ordinary, normal people, as his aunt and uncle liked to boast. Even after he'd found out about being a wizard, he'd always felt like he was the strange one, the freak, according to his relatives. But here, he felt like he was the normal one, stuck in an extraordinary world. Magic was so different here. Those that Harry had first thought had little magic, proved to be even more magical then some of the creatures Harry had come across in his life. It was a hidden magic, a unique magic, but still magic.
Nevertheless, it wasn't magic enough to get him home and what was worse, Gandalf didn't seem inclined to help him. Whether or not he couldn't or wouldn't help him, Harry wasn't sure at this point. He did know that Gandalf and Elrond both seemed to believe that he had been sent here, as Gandalf had, by the Valar, whoever they were. He'd not really gotten a straight answer on that one. But he'd gleaned from Bilbo's stories that they were spoken of as if they were some sort of gods. Harry had only shaken his head unable to wrap his mind around the thought that he had been plucked out of his dimension by some Middle-Earthen gods for some purpose that only Harry could guess at. Harry was sticking to his theory of a faulty time turner. That at least gave him the small hope of returning home someday.
"Harry the Black," a voice Harry recognized belonging to the Lady Arwen spoke up behind him. Harry turned slightly. "You had been called to council today," she said lightly as she came to stand beside him.
Harry looked back out over the now frozen valley that edged Rivendell. He'd come to this spot often in the past two months, if only for some time alone to think, but for the most part to get away from the eyes that seemed to watch his every move while he was in the city. He didn't know if they didn't trust him, or if they were simply just curious, but he hadn't had so many eyes following him since he was a student at Hogwarts. It was uncomfortable.
"I'm sorry, I forgot," Harry said casually. In fact, he hadn't forgotten, he just didn't feel the need to be there. "Gandalf isn't angry with me I hope," Harry half asked, and half didn't care either way. He had been getting restless to find someone else who could possibly get him home for some time now, but Gandalf hadn't even suggested anyone who could help him, though he was beginning to suspect that there was someone, and Gandalf was just unwilling to say whom.
Arwen turned from looking over the land. "Do you not know?" she asked.
"Do I not know what?" Harry questioned, glancing at her.
"The Fellowship has left Rivendell. It has been five days since."
Harry quickly turned fully toward her. "They left?" he asked. "Why didn't anyone tell me they were leaving?" He said angrily and then swiftly started back towards the city, Arwen following.
"I know not, Harry, I thought you knew they had gone," Arwen said, sounding slightly distressed.
"If I had known, I would have gone with them!" He said over his shoulder as he moved swiftly through the streets.
He arrived to the hall the council was being held in that day, in very little time. There were quite a few in the council today, but Harry only sought one person out, and he practically threw himself to get across the hall to the Elf. And would have thrown himself at the Elf lord altogether if not for the sight of the guards that reminded him to keep his anger in check, and he reminded himself, he was a guest here.
"Elrond!" Harry did let himself shout in frustration though as he approached. "Why didn't anyone inform me that Frodo and the others were leaving?"
Elrond stood calmly as Harry stopped a few feet from him. "Gandalf felt that you should stay here," he said simply. "He knew you would have followed if you were informed that they were leaving."
"Damn right I would have followed!" Harry all but growled. "In fact I am following," he said decisively, and then turned on his heel and started to leave the hall. Two of the Elvin guards stepped into his path however. "Move," Harry said darkly.
"They will not," Elrond said with a hint of command in his voice.
Harry turned back and stood up to his full height. It wasn't nearly as impressive as Elrond's or even Aragorn's, but he let his magic flair ever so slightly, and he knew it made him seem taller. He didn't hold his staff, it was back in his room, and he didn't pull any weapons, but even still, he could see the wariness grow on the faces around him.
"Lord Elrond, do not think to hold me against my will. Far stronger beings than you have tried and failed, and it cost them dearly." Harry spoke truthfully. "I have welcomed your hospitality, and I wish not to harm you or your people, but I will act in my own defense and with no mercy."
Elrond stared hard at him. Harry had given little of his past to anyone during his stay. The small bits he'd shared with the Hobbits and Aragorn on the road being most of it. He had kept his abilities to himself so as not to make those here fear him and act defensively because of their fear, but he wasn't sure if his unwillingness to show his true character was going to work in his favor here or not. Elrond was hard to judge.
"Then you leave me no choice," Elrond finally said with a hard edge to his voice. "Let him leave," he ordered and the guards behind Harry stepped aside. Harry was actually rather shocked by that announcement, he hadn't expected it. "But know, Harry the Black, that they are five days ahead of you and are moving swiftly. You will not catch up with them of this I am certain."
"You may be certain, but I'm not. I have to at least try," Harry stated and turned to leave the hall. The Elves present stood and watched him go.
Harry really didn't know why he needed to follow the Fellowship as Arwen had called it. He just felt as if he needed to help Frodo in any way he could, and he couldn't do it, sitting around here. Maybe his purpose was after all to follow Frodo. He walked swiftly back to his rooms. He was annoyed with himself that he hadn't noticed when they had left, or that they had been gone for so long. He should have noticed. He hadn't seen any of the Hobbits, but Frodo's uncle, in days. Not seeing Gandalf on a daily basis was commonplace, or even Aragorn, but not the Hobbits.
Harry wondered who else had gone with Frodo as he retrieved Sisera from his room. She was his only possession that wasn't hidden within his robes. He did contemplate entreating the Elves for supplies for his journey, but he didn't want to waste any time. He still had the water skin that Aragorn had given him, and he could find food in the wild well enough, he was a Wizard after all.
Harry did make one stop on his way out of Rivendell, however, and that was to say goodbye to Bilbo. Harry knocked on the doorframe to alert the studiously writing Hobbit of his presence. "I'm leaving to follow Frodo, I wanted to say goodbye before I left."
Bilbo looked up from his writing. "I am saddened to see you go, Black Wizard." Harry smirked at the title; he'd yet to get Bilbo to call him simply Harry. "But I am heartened that you are following Frodo. He will welcome your help."
"I only wish Gandalf agreed and informed me when they were leaving. I hope to see you again one day, but I'm uncertain of the road ahead," Harry said truthfully. He really had no idea what was in store for his future.
"I'm sure it will be an interesting road, and if we do see one another again, Black Wizard, I expect a story or two."
Harry smiled at the Hobbit. "And you shall have one or two. Goodbye Bilbo."
"Farewell, Harry," Bilbo said and Harry startled before shaking his head in amusement and then he left.
Harry was just on the edge of Rivendell when Arwen came running up to him. "I had hoped I would catch you before you were gone. My father would not help you, for he feels you should not go, but I am of a different mind."
She thrust what looked like a thin shaved wooden log at him, which hung on a leather cord. When Harry took it, he found that it was very light and there was a lid. He opened it and pulled out a rolled up stack of parchments. He unrolled them. "Maps," Harry said, looking up at her in surprise.
"They will be missed, I am sure, but that is the planned route of the Fellowship. Do not lose them or let them fall into evil hands," she said seriously.
Harry rolled them back up with great care and slid them back into the hallowed log; he hid it within the folds of his robes, inside one of his hidden and expanded pockets. "I won't, and thank you," he said sincerely.
Arwen whispered something in Elfish that Harry didn't understand and then leaned forward and kissed his cheek. "Be safe, Harry the Black," she said and then turned and left him.
Harry watched her go for a moment and then turned and walked on. He had a long road ahead of him, and he knew it was going to be some time before he caught up with the others, but he was hopeful that he would catch up. He was one on foot, and they were many. As swiftly as they might be moving, it was also going to be slow going as they tried to stay hidden.
It had been just over two weeks since Harry had set out from Rivendell, and he was sorely tempted to find that horse that had saved him from the black rider and taken him to Rivendell. His feet hurt, he was hungry, though not as hungry as he could be, and Sisera was being not so helpful company. Every time they stopped to rest, she insisted that they turn back. Harry had just begun to cave to her suggestions when he'd seen the light on the side of the mountain.
It was a wonder that Harry had seen it at all. He could make out the heavy clouds of what was likely a terrible storm hanging over the mountains; even as far off as he was, and he knew that snow was likely falling heavily there. The only reason the light had caught his attention at all was because it wasn't only bright, but he had felt it even as far away as he was.
It had most certainly been created by magic and as it was in the direction that the Fellowship was likely to have gone, according to the maps, Harry could only assume it was Gandalf who'd created it. It gave Harry new hope that he would catch up with them. He debated a line of site Apparation, but then shook his head of the idea. He could see the light, yes, but he had no idea what the terrain was like up there. He could end up further up the mountain, or even fall to his death.
Harry pulled out and looked at his gifted maps. In the dark, with only the light of a tiny blue bell flame hanging over his shoulder, he traced his finger down the detailed drawing of the mountain range he was at the base off. He wasn't going to be able to go the way they were, and still have any hope of catching up with them. He'd only lag behind further, especially if the weather persisted.
There was a pass though, through the mountains, at the Gap of Rohan, according to the map. If he went that way, making a few jumps with Apparation, and assuming he didn't run into anything untoward along the way, he'd likely get to the other side before the Fellowship, or shortly thereafter at any rate. Why they hadn't just gone that way to begin with was a mystery. But Harry wasn't travelling with a group and a too brave Hobbit, who carried the One Ring, so that was likely part of it.
Debating camping where he was for the night and starting off again fresh in the morning, Harry looked around the area. It wasn't a bad place to stop, but something prickled the back of Harry's neck and it wasn't the magic from Gandalf's spell. Something was watching him, but there wasn't anything he could see. Harry kept on walking in the dark.
Harry only walked for an hour more before his tired body reminded him that he was pushing himself. He found a sheltered group of trees and made camp. He remembered just before sleep claimed him to set up a repelling charm to keep anyone from stumbling across him in his vulnerability.
AN: My only excuse is time has not been on my side.