Elrond liked to think he was a reasonable Half-Elf, but dead relatives telling him how to raise his children made him want to scream and throw things.
"You were warned," Fëanor said rebukingly from where he was half-hidden in the shadows. (Elrond was convinced he lurked in shadows just because he liked being dramatic. He was invisible to almost every being on Middle-earth; it wasn't that he needed to hide.) "Since she reached adulthood you've heard nothing but 'She looks just like Lúthien!' and 'She's Lúthien reborn!' One would think you would have the sense to keep her as far away from Aftercomers as you could, but no, you went and fostered entire generations of them!"
"I can't tell if you're defending me or not," Arwen muttered, giving her great-uncle a glare that made her look much more like Galadriel than Lúthien.
Elrond gritted his teeth. One would think that after a lifetime of Fëanor (often literally) looking over his shoulder, he'd be used to this sort of thing. One would think wrong.
It began when Elrond was six. He and Elros had lived with the Fëanorians for several months when they noticed that one of the Elves in the fortress seemed to be... well, invisible. To everyone who wasn't them, that was. The Elf was always around Maedhros or Maglor. When Maglor was playing his harp, the Elf was there. When Maedhros' wounds bothered him more than usual, the Elf would sit next to him and murmur something into his ear. (One night Elrond had gotten close enough to hear what he said. He had repeated "I'm sorry, Nelyo" over and over.) But neither Maglor or Maedhros took any notice of him.
"Do you see him too?" Elrond asked Elros, just to make sure it wasn't his imagination.
"Of course," Elros replied in the voice he used every time his twin said something he thought stupid.
"Do you see him?" Elrond asked Maglor that night, when Maglor was tucking the twins into bed while Maedhros and the Elf hovered in the doorway.
"Who?" Maglor looked in every direction but the right one.
"Him." Elrond pointed at the Elf, who stared at him as if he was a difficult mathematical equation.
"...Do you mean Maedhros?"
Elrond gave up.
Maedhros and Maglor left. The strange Elf stayed.
"Can both of you see me?" he asked, giving both Elflings a frighteningly intense stare. (It was just like the look Maedhros gave them when the cookies mysteriously disappeared.)
"Yes," Elros answered. "Why can't they?"
The Elf didn't seem to hear the question. "Lúthien saw me," he was muttering to himself. "So did Dior. Now these children. It must be the Maia's blood."
"Who are you?" Elrond asked curiously.
In later years, Elrond would look back and think that was the moment his life truly changed. He still didn't know if it had changed for the better.
Celebrían was gone. Celebrían was gone, Arwen had locked herself in her room, Elladan and Elrohir had run off to kill Orcs, and there was nothing Elrond could do.
Then a sword landed on his desk. He looked up to see Fëanor glaring at him impatiently.
"Well?" his great-uncle demanded. "The twins are waiting at the gate. Are you coming with us or not?"
A houseless spirit should not be able to wield weapons or kill Orcs. But this was Fëanor, who had spent much of his life and all of his death doing the impossible. The wonder was he left any Orcs for them to kill.
The first time Elrond met Gandalf, the wizard stopped in the middle of a sentence and stared at something behind Elrond.
"Olórin." Fëanor managed to inject a remarkable amount of disdain into that one word. "There are a few things I want to say about the Valar's way of dealing with Morgoth."
The unfortunate side-effect of a dead relative following one around was that there was no way to block him out. Elrond had tried. He had locked doors, climbed trees, and run as far away as possible. It was no use. If Fëanor wanted to find him, Fëanor found him. (He'd asked how, once, and received a three-hour-long lecture that encompassed previously unknown areas of metaphysics, the nature of the universe, and the nature of Elven fëa.)
"Isildur had the Ring, and you let him keep it?"
"What did you expect me to do?" he snapped, glaring up at Fëanor. (And up, and up, since Maedhros had clearly not gotten his height from Nerdanel.) "Make him give it up?"
"Of course. And if he didn't give it up, take it from him."
Under normal circumstances Elrond at least tried to reason with Fëanor. But Gil-Galad was dead, Círdan and Galadriel were arguing over who should be High King, and Isildur had the Ring. These were not normal circumstances. "Take the Ring from the king of Gondor, who can declare war on us at a minute's notice. You think that's a good idea?"
"It's a better idea than letting a Man keep Sauron's Ring!"
Months later, a messenger arrived with news of Isildur's death. He was almost drowned out by Fëanor shouting, "I TOLD YOU SO!"
It was Fëanor who told him of Maedhros' death. Before even a whisper reached Gil-Galad of Maedhros and Maglor's fates, Fëanor appeared in front of Elrond. The half-mad light that normally shone in his eyes was dimmed, replaced with a look of grief that shocked Elrond with its intensity.
He knew what had happened before Fëanor spoke.
"Gandalf told me my uncle's fëa refused to go to the Halls, and is instead haunting Imladris."
It was too much to hope Galadriel could be kept in the dark about Fëanor's presence. Elrond just wished she'd waited to confront him instead of interrupting his breakfast with Celebrían.
Celebrían looked from her husband to her mother and back again. "What?"
"Hello, Nerwen," Fëanor said, appearing behind the Lady of Lórien. If he wanted to startle her (of course he did. He was Fëanor and she was Galadriel. No more needed to be said.) he was disappointed. She had many powers, but she was neither a Maia nor descended from one. She couldn't see or hear him. "Did you tire of counting trees with your Moriquendë in your little forest?"
"He's here, isn't he." Galadriel tapped a foot against the floor and looked mildly disapproving. (Which meant, with her, that she was furious.) "And from the look on your face, he's said something about me."
Elrond closed his eyes and wished for a less eventful life.
When Fëanor saw Celebrimbor's body, his scream almost deafened Elrond.
Afterwards Elrond was never quite sure what had happened, but he knew Fëanor disappeared and Sauron's armies began to fight among themselves. When the battle was over there were many more dead Orcs than anyone expected.
And when Celebrimbor was buried with the other fallen Elves, Fëanor stood beside the grave all night.
Fëanor had no intention of letting Maglor wander Middle-earth until the end of time. Neither had Elrond. So Gil-Galad should not have been surprised when Elrond disappeared one day on "urgent business" and added that he might be accompanied by a friend when he returned.
Gil-Galad held that he had a perfect right to be surprised when Elrond returned with a Kinslayer in tow and announced that said Kinslayer was staying with him.
"Remind me never to let you out of my sight again," the High King told his herald. "The Fëanorians aren't popular. If word of this gets out..."
"I know," Elrond said, after a pause in which he seemed to be listening to something Gil-Galad couldn't hear. "That's why Maglor's coming with me to Imladris."
"There are Dwarves in the fountain," Fëanor remarked.
Elrond was too busy listening to Lindir to realise what he'd said. Then they rounded the corner and it became all too clear, because there were Dwarves in the fountain.
"Celegorm used to do that," Fëanor said as the Dwarves shouted and splashed each other. "Nothing we did could make him stop until Caranthir put dye in the water."
Elrond choked. "We are not putting dye in the fountains!"
"My lord?" Lindir asked, staring at him blankly.
"Never mind." Elrond felt the beginnings of a headache. "Where's Gandalf? I want a word with him."
"I believe he's flirting with Nerwen," Fëanor said in a far-too-innocent tone.
Flirting with— Elrond shut his eyes. There were times he truly wondered if he was the only adult in Middle-earth.
When Elrond sailed, Maglor went with him. Fëanor did not. He said it was because spending an entire voyage in Galadriel's company would result in another Kinslaying.
Elrond's desire to see Celebrían again was somewhat spoilt by the knowledge he was leaving Fëanor and the twins in Middle-earth, where they would be unsupervised for perhaps years at a time.
He prayed Middle-earth would still exist when the three of them finally sailed.
"...The Elves were terrified when they saw Oromë. Morgoth's foul creatures had hunted them, you see, and they thought Oromë was a new kind of Orc."
Elrond was past the twins' door and half-way down the hall when he realised what he'd seen and heard. He promptly went back and peered around the door. No, he wasn't mistaken. Fëanor really was sitting on the floor with Elladan and Elrohir in front of him, and he really was telling them of Oromë finding the first Elves.
Maglor didn't bat an eyelash when his foster-son came to him with the news that his long-dead father was babysitting the twins.
"He did that when we were children too," Maglor said, a faraway look in his eyes. "Every night we'd gather in Nelyo's room and Atar would tell us stories."
From that day on, Elrond could be sure that Fëanor spent some part of every day watching the twins.
It occurred to him, when he woke one morning to find they'd built a mechanical cake-mixer out of a broom, a mop, and Gandalf's hat, that this might not always be a good thing.
"So these are Hobbits." Fëanor tilted his head to the side and studied Frodo and Sam. "Now I've seen them, I don't believe that theory about them being small Men. Might they be the result of Men marrying some other species? Something similar to Beorn's people, perhaps? Or are they an entirely separate species? This bears further investigation."
"By all means, investigate if you must," Gandalf grumbled, "but not when the fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance!"
Fëanor waved a hand dismissively. "The fate of Middle-earth wouldn't hang in the balance if your masters could do their job properly. Now, if you let me have a look at that Ring—"
"Over my dead body!" Elrond and Gandalf shouted together.
The question of what Fëanor was and how he was here had often been raised. It was usually the twins who raised it. They seemed endlessly fascinated by Imladris's oddest resident.
"When houseless spirits are mentioned at all, every text says they are invisible, malicious, and usually forget who they once were," Elladan said, as he had said many times before.
Elrond focused on the book before him and did his best to ignore the rest of the discussion. He had heard it all before. It would quickly descend into Fëanor proclaiming the authors of those texts were "unworthy of the title of scholar" and going on a long spiel about how they knew nothing about the subjects they wrote about.
"Maybe you're just an exception to the rule," Elrohir said before Fëanor could speak. "If we had another houseless spirit—"
Elrond's head snapped up. "You will not find another houseless spirit! I forbid it!"
"But Father, if we could—"
That was the last Elrond heard of that idea of Elrohir's. He prayed that meant they'd thought better of it. He was not telling Galadriel that her grandsons had been possessed by houseless spirits. Ever.
Elros's heirs couldn't see Fëanor. He had many theories on why this was, with the most likely being "Their Maiarin ancestry is too distant". But whatever the reason was, the fact remained that as far as generations of his foster-sons were concerned, Elrond and his children had a habit of talking to thin air.
"But I don't see anyone!" Estel protested when Elladan told him they were speaking to a friend.
"Of course you don't," Elrohir said with a perfectly straight face. "He doesn't show himself to silly little boys who can't spell and fall asleep during lessons."
In the ensuing argument, Estel forgot about the twins' "invisible friend".
"It is a gift! A—"
"What shoddy workmanship."
Elrond closed his eyes and prayed for patience. It wasn't enough that the Ring was already affecting Boromir; now Fëanor had to make his opinion known.
"Now that I see it clearly, I am appalled," Fëanor continued, leaning on the back of an oblivious Erestor's chair and looking at the Ring in disgust. "It is so poorly made that a set of enchantments are necessary just to keep it from breaking apart under the weight of all its other spells, and yet another spell is needed to keep it in the shape of a ring. Sauron should have known better than to make a ring of gold."
The consequence of speaking to someone invisible to everyone except your family was that you didn't always remember not to speak to them in front of other people.
"Be quiet!" Elrond snapped.
Everything went very quiet.
On the bright side, at least Boromir had shut up.
Elrond took a deep breath and thought a few very unkind things about dead Elves who wouldn't stay dead. "The Ring must be destroyed."
"I can destroy the spells on it. It would be more difficult than if I had a body, and I would need someone to help," Fëanor sounded greatly disgruntled at having to admit he would need help, "but I could turn it against Sauron."
There were many things Elrond could say to that. He could say none of them here, in front of representatives of every race, so he did the next best thing. He pretended no one had spoken. This was easier than he expected, since Gimli had just taken it upon himself to destroy a perfectly good axe.
"The Ring cannot be destroyed by any craft that we here possess."
"It must be taken deep into Mordor..."
"...to the fires—"
"Elrond!" This time Fëanor ensured he could not be ignored by abandoning Erestor's chair to stand in front of Elrond's. "I have already told you—"
"If you think we'll let you anywhere near the Ring, your madness has gotten worse over the Ages!" Gandalf huffed.
Under other circumstances, Elrond would have been glad of the Wizard's support. (Eru knew he needed all the support he could get when Fëanor had an idea.) But as far as everyone around them was concerned, Gandalf had just made an unprovoked remark which everyone would think was aimed at them.
The silence that fell this time was even more uncomfortable than the silence that fell when Elrond had apparently shouted at Boromir.
"To clear up any misconceptions," Erestor spoke up suddenly, "Gandalf was not speaking to any of you. For the past Age Imladris has been haunted by a dead Elf with some terrible ideas and worse timing."
Elrond and Fëanor looked at each other. Then as one, they turned to Erestor.
The chief counsellor returned Elrond's look with an unamused one of his own. "Did you think it was a secret?"
When Elrond sailed, Fëanor did not go with him. As long as the twins remained, he stayed with them. When they finally sailed, he left with them.
And when they arrived in Valinor, the Valar found themselves with a bit of a problem on their hands.
"At least he hasn't started another rebellion," Manwë said, with an air of forced optimism and a glance towards Tirion, where Fëanor and Finrod were passive-aggressively discussing Dwarven workmanship.
"Yet," Varda corrected. "He hasn't started another rebellion yet."