AN: Thank you to those who submitted pairing ideas! It's amazing how popular Legolas is, though there were plenty of you crying out for some love for Boromir as well. I also have to say that my sense of equality is miffed that no one suggested Gimli; really, no one wanted to witness the fun-times that would occur in a Gimli/Harry? Are we all really so fearful of hair that we automatically disregard the dwarves as potential love interests? I'm sure there's at least one weirdo out there that has a kink for beards; why has no one written that story yet?

To those who said it (although it might have been one person and I read it several times by mistake), I agree that Boromir gets a bad rep for succumbing to the Ring when it was using his sense of honour and his duty to his country against him; I often feel irritated when talking to my friends about LoTR and inevitably one rags on him.

Thank you to the darlings that left me veritable essays as reviews. They always leave a smile on my face, especially when they give me ideas on how to better lay out the story.

Also, to the person that said that they didn't care for the way my Harry 'bashed' herself: I don't know how you behave when you do something you think extremely stupid on top of retrospectively coming up with better solutions to the problem you bungled up, but I personally wallow in the misery my own stupidity wrought me. This is how all my friends and family do as well, loudly exclaiming over how blind they were before, so I just assumed that such behaviour was understandable in a teenage girl. Harry, even in canon, is well known to put himself down, especially during the summer after Sirius' death, so I didn't even consider the possibility that I was laying on a bit too thick. It was not my intention to bash any character, Harry especially since I love Harry quite a bit.

A prompt to get your creative juices flowing: Harry attending a strategy meeting before the battle of Helmsdeep. Theoden and Eomer being their medieval monarchic selves. What happens?

Chapter Nine: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye.

Loitering outside the hollow tree the Fellowship had been using as their sleeping quarters, a sort of hazy cloud lifted from Harry's thoughts, as if she was waking from a light doze. It was the oddest thing, that sense of vagueness. It was as if she had been dreaming all along but didn't remember laying down to sleep to begin with. The dreaminess of it all made the passing of their time spent in Lothlorien seem both unendingly long but also unsatisfyingly short, though she did remember counting the stretching days as she sat under the boughs of the mallorn trees. Now, for all her waiting, she couldn't recall how long they had been there. It was exceedingly perplexing.

Something else that was perplexing was the assemblage of elves seeing them off, bearing gifts, courtesy of the Lord and Lady, for each of them. As she took in the looks on their faces – genuinely beaming with happiness at being able to provide the Fellowship with some extra comfort on the impending journey – She decided that it would be more unkind than modest to tell them that she already had a magic cloak. Certainly, if she were to say that a cloak she already had was one that could make her entirely invisibly, rather than one that worked much like a disillusionment charm, as the elven cloaks did, it would just be ungrateful.

So she had accepted it, adorned it, and found that it fit her perfectly in addition to being quite warm and comfortable. She and most of others had been surprised to learn that the cloaks had been made to each of their exact measurements. Harry didn't bother to ask how the elves had worked that out; she assumed their excellent eyesight was the explanation, and left it at that.

Finally, it was time to leave and the elves seeing them off led them toward their boats. As they walked, Harry positioned herself in the place between Merry and Pippin, which was unfortunate because that put her in front Boromir, and she would have liked to observe the man. Sadly, it could not be helped because the two hobbits had asked her to walk with them, and she couldn't very well say no if only because refusing would hurt their feelings.

They trailed amongst their serene escorts, each feeling the sadness that their time in the Golden Wood had come to an end. For a while they had been in peace. The burdens they carried had not niggled at them half as strongly, and new friendships and understandings had formed.

Yes, they were each saddened to leave, Harry especially, because it meant she would soon be leaving the Fellowship behind. Just the night before, Boromir had stated his intention to go back to Minas Tirith, to see to his father, and Harry knew that she would have to follow. Every person in the Fellowship had look confused when Harry had said she wanted to go with him, thinking it very odd since they had thought that she would be seeing the Ring to Mordor with them.

Harry had used the excuse of needing to see more of Middle Earth, and that going with Boromir might be her only chance. The only people who hadn't said anything to that were Galadriel and Celeborn.

As the Fellowship watched the crystal-clear water trickle through the little stone fountain, Harry's least favourite person in Middle Earth strolled across the lawn toward them. Harry had time only to give a mental sneer at Haldir before she spotted something on the elf's shoulder that caused her to abandon any nasty thoughts she had been harbouring.

"Hedwig!" she cried in delight, not even bothering to question how chummy the owl was looking with the elf.

Hedwig, hearing Harry's voice, abandoned Haldir's arm without hesitation and flapped her wings until Harry finally caught her and cuddled her friend gently against her chest. She wasn't in the least bit surprised by the rush of relief and joy that filled her at the sight of Hedwig; she was Harry's only bit of home here.

Haldir greeted almost everyone with obvious delight. "I have returned from the Northern Fences, and am sent to be your guide again. The Dimrill Dale is full of vapour and clouds of smoke, and the mountains are troubled. There are noises in the deeps of the earth. If any of you had thought of returning northwards to your homes you would not have been able to pass that way."

He stopped before Harry and cocked his head in a curious manner. "Your owl found my post and stayed all of a month with me," he admitted, his lips twisting in what looked like a reluctant smile. "She is a remarkable bird, courageous and bold, and so very intelligent. I now see why you value her. She made an excellent sentry. Even Orophin has admitted to it. She watched over us in the night."

Harry felt all the tension drain out of her after hearing that. She had been sure Haldir would have said something derogatory; it had surprised her that he hadn't.

The elf reached over and gently stroked Hedwig's snowy head. "I shall miss her night music."

Harry nodded, understanding how easy it was to become fond of Hedwig. Resolving to put away her resentment, she said, "I'll send a letter some time." In response to Haldir's frown of bewilderment, she added, "Hedwig is a messenger owl."

Haldir inclined his head gracefully. A grudging, temporary truce had been non-verbally established.

They walked onwards for ten miles with Haldir leading them through the gentle, green slopes of Caras Galadhon, until finally, after passing through a literal wall of grass, they reached their final destination. Across the river's bank, Harry could see that no more mallorn trees grew. Instead, ordinary trees had taken their place. A group of elves were standing in a few white boats, floating on the water. Harry noted with satisfaction that the boats were packed provisions.

In addition to the generous amount of traveling provisions was rope, the same sort that the ladder Harry had climbed on her first venture into Lothlorien had been made from, as well as the rope she had crossed the rushing river with. They were lightweight and silvery. The elves explained that no one sane could travel far without a rope, especially one that wasn't of elven make. Then they and Sam got into a short and bewildering discussion on its physical properties.

Harry was strongly reminded of Professor Sprout's Herbology class.

Then, they set off.

Aragorn, Frodo, and Sam were in one boat; Boromir, Merry, and Pippin in another; in the third were Legolas, Gimli, and Harry. Harry would have liked to share a boat with Pippin and Merry, but since he and the hobbits couldn't hope to know how to paddle or steer the craft, especially with the Silverlode's swift current, they had to make do.

It was as they turned a sharp bend in the river that music was heard, floating gently with the breeze. They saw three large swan-like boats by the river's banks. In the boats were Celeborn, decked out in kingly style, a crown of white gold adorning his blonde head and Galadriel, strumming a harp and singing more beautifully than even Legolas could. On the land behind the boats were yet more elves, standing regally at attention.

Aragorn drew his boat alongside Galadriel's swan. "We have come to bid our last farewell," she said, "And to speed you with blessings from our land."

"Though you have been our guests," said Celeborn, "you have not eaten with us, and we bid you, therefore, to a parting feast, here between the flowing waters that will bear you far from Lorien."

Everyone was very agreeable to this suggestion, and soon found themselves out of the boats and eating a delicious feast of fruit, bread, salad, venison and other meats, and drinking sweet, cold water out of large, golden jugs.

Harry tipped five jugs of the water into her drinking flask, feeling proud that she remembered that there would be no fresh water in the wilderness. She received a couple of strange looks from the elves sitting nearest to her – most likely wondering where all the water had gone to – but she paid them no attention. Continuing with her new found realization of how little luxury there was in the wild, Harry spooned servings from the platters in front of her into bowls from her tent and dropped them into her food pouch as her fellow feasters looked on in fascination, though they tried to be covert.

Though she still had a lot of the food Dumbledore had given her left, it was good to know she had even more now. Besides, if their journey turned out to be even longer than she already suspected it would be, it would not be particularly pleasant to hunt for her food, or to eat Sam's sausages, or to chew the lembas bread day in day out, no matter how good it tasted.

After the feast, they gathered on the grass in a circle, with Celeborn and Galadriel seating themselves on two small chairs. "Before you go," said Galadriel, "I have brought in gifts which the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim now offer you in memory of Lothlorien." Then she called them each to come forward.

Aragorn received a sheath for his sword and a stone of some sort that he pinned at once to his shirt. Boromir acquired a belt made of gold; Merry and Pippin got belts as well except theirs were way smaller and silvery green in colour with little leaf designs.

Harry, gratefully though not without hesitation, accepted an elven sword, all shining blade and gilded hilt. Now, what to do with it? She didn't have experience in wielding swords beyond the stint in her second year with the basilisk. She did acknowledge though, that the fact that she had a large, pointy object that others knew to be potentially dangerous made up for the lingering concern over whether she would end up doing herself more harm than to enemies. Besides, how hard could it be anyway? The pointy end goes in the other guy; that's all that really mattered.

Harry and the Lady Galadriel shared a subtle glance as Harry looked over her sword, Harry looking on in speculation, Galadriel in amused respect. Ever since the day Harry had spent the afternoon with the elf queen, she had been the recipient of the questionable amusement of Galadriel. Harry still had absolutely no idea what had happened to bring it on; they had been discussing the differences between Middle Earth and the world Harry was from when Galadriel had paused mid sentence while explaining the history of the elves in a manner that fascinated her, that made Harry think of Ron accusing her of turning into a girl just like Hermione.

Galadriel's eyes had widened ever so slightly, and she had given Harry a once-over, as if she had realized something she hadn't noticed before. When questioned, the lady only laughed, saying it was nothing really. However, it was obviously not nothing, seeing as whatever the something was, Galadriel had yet to stop being amused by it.

Harry resolved to figure the puzzle out at her soonest convenience, so probably much later, after the Ring was taken care of. But she would still figure it out, that she swore to herself as she inclined her head to the king and queen in gratitude and made way for the next person in line.

Legolas became the delighted owner of a brand new bow and a quiver of arrows, such as the ones the Lothlorien elves used. Sam obtained a box of dirt for whatever reason, and Gimli, to the surprise of all, asked only for a lock of hair from Galadriel's golden head. She gave him three – a big deal, apparently.

Lastly, to Frodo, the elf queen gave . . . something. Harry didn't know what it was, only that it looked like water trapped in a fancy glass phial, but she did recognize that it was something important; something magical.

After that it was really time to leave. The Fellowship boarded their light, elven boats and made their way down the river once more, the farewelling tunes of the elves following in their wake.

Four days later, they still traveled along the river Anduin, now finding themselves in a virtually treeless land, and Harry swore to herself that she would never get on a boat again unless she absolutely had to. Four miserable days of cramped limbs and sea-sickness took away any enjoyment she might have gotten from the lovely scenery and peaceful air.

Harry had tried, a couple of times in the past nights, to talk to Boromir, as per Galadriel's orders, but it was growing apparent that the man either thought she was daft or mad, with the way he developed a look of such petulance after Harry told him the story about Ginny's experience with Tom Riddle's diary, and how the book had started controlling her bit by bit, eventually almost killing her. Harry had not tried to explain more after that, in case she bungled everything to an even worse degree. On the plus side, though, she now had time to think of a less transparent example to use, as she suspected that was why Boromir had gotten so crabby in the first place.

Four more days passed. The surrounding country had changed yet again, this time harbouring a forest of lush trees. On the night of the eighth day from their departure from Lothlorien, Aragorn decided they had to move on earlier instead of waiting for the morning. In Aragorn's boat, at the front of the group, Sam was appointed as the watchman on the look out for protruding rocks. It was around midnight when Sam finally spotted something. A few very large, very sharp somethings that would splinter their boats easily if they paddled in that direction.

Aragorn shouted a warning to them to start paddling to the banks as fast and as hard as they could. It wasn't easy with the way the current had picked up, and there were only so many paddles to a boat. Frodo, Sam, and Aragorn wouldn't have made it at all if Harry hadn't shielded their boat right before it crashed into the rocks.

On the bank, no one had time to feel relief from their near escape of a watery death before a volley of arrows came at them, made even harder to see in of the night gloom. One nearly pierced Frodo, but was repelled back immediately. Without further thought, everyone threw themselves to the ground.

"Yrch!" spat Legolas, looking furious.

"Orcs," Gimli translated, looking just as outraged.

More arrows flew overhead. Across the bank, on the other side, Harry could make out black shapes scattering here and there. Shrill, guttural cries sounded in the blackness.

Suddenly, Legolas jumped up and grabbed his new bow, glowing and looking very much like the male veela Harry had originally thought he had been in the dark. He stood at the edge of the bank, his bow strung, searching furiously for any mark to shoot at.

A dark gloom overcame them then. Something enormous and black had blocked out the moon, fending off its light. Harry saw Frodo clutch his chest as if in pain. She herself felt a coldness curl around senses and she shivered unconsciously, remembering Gandalf telling her about the Dementor-like wraiths. She tightened her grip on her wand, and let her gaze search the skies.

"Elbereth Gilthoniel," Legolas sighed, and looked up. Even as he did so, Harry could just make out a large, winged creature. The voices across the river grew louder as it approached.

Swiftly, Legolas positioned his bow at the sky and let loose an arrow. It must have hit whatever winged creature was there because there was a harsh, croaking scream, and a thundering thump. After that, Harry could no longer hear orc voices anymore, or see any arrows pierce the night. The unsettling coldness had disappeared along with the creature's death.

They weren't attacked anymore that night, not the next day when they took off again. Harry had seen something unbelievable, though. Something she had not thought a medieval world would have the – to put it bluntly – brains, or technology to build. That's what she gets for being dismissive of seemingly backwards people. She knew that they were not to be underestimated.

Two large kings on either side of the wide river had stood tall and proud, their hands positioned in either a "Stop, you're not welcome" or a "Ho there, friend!" gesture. Aragorn had called it the Argornath, and explained that they were his kin. Harry had been utterly amazed at the grandeur, depth of history, and meaning of such colossal monuments. Merciful Merlin, the time and effort that must have been put into them! Nothing she had ever seen before could to compare to it.

Aragorn continued to lead them onwards for another ten miles until they reached the end of the river, coming upon a huge waterfall. By its banks they finally clambered out, lugging their supplies behind them. Harry had never been more glad to stretch her legs, and she was certain she wasn't the only one with a sore bum; she spotted Gimli grouching moodily and massaging his rear-end.

Harry sunk down on the ground next to Pippin, moaning at the shot of pain the action gave her. Resolutely, she gamely tried to ignored her aches, and helped Sam unpack the lunch supplies.

Gimli was still grouching after Sam had a nice meal going, this time at Aragorn. "Oh, yes?" he said in a way that made Harry think it wasn't supposed to be interpreted as a question. "We just go through Emyn Muil. An impassable labyrinth of razor, sharp rocks. And after that, it gets even better! Festering, stinking marshlands, as far as the eyes can see."

Pippin froze in mid-chew.

"That is our road," said Aragorn with a touch of impatience. "I suggest you get some rest and recover your strength Master Dwarf."

Gimli sputtered. "Recover my . . .? Pohh!" He chucked his axe on the ground.

Pippin and Harry sniggered.

Just then, Merry, who had been sent off to collect firewood, came back. He looked around the camp, the bundle of twigs still in his arms. "Where's Frodo?" he asked Aragorn.

Sam sat up from the tree he'd been leaning on, looking around wildly. By the expression on Aragorn's face as he looked towards the shield that was propped innocently against a tree, Harry did not need to ask whom else had disappeared. In alarm, she jumped up, surprising everyone with her hasty action. "Merlin!" she cried, and dashed off into the trees, ignoring Aragorn's earnest cry behind him.

After less than a minute of running wildly, Harry realised she was running in no particular direction, and that she would never find Frodo and Boromir if she did not at least pick a direction. If only Hedwig hadn't gone hunting; harry could have used her eyes eyes. Maybe she should have waited for Aragorn? The man knew how to track footprints. If only she could . . . Harry gasped at the realization of such an obvious solution.

Quickly, she drew her wand and placed it flat on her palm. "Point me, Boromir."

It spun wildly for a moment until it froze, pointing to her right, telling her that she hadn't even been going in the right direction. Swearing creatively, Harry wheeled around and full out sprinted across the ground. She only hoped she was not too late, and that Boromir hadn't managed to catch up to Frodo yet.

As she closed in on her target, she could hear the unmistakable sounds of swords clanging. Of all the damned things! A battle was taking place, with Boromir right in the middle, and Harry was not there to protect him!

She burst into the clearing only seconds later but halted to a full stop at the sight before her. She couldn't fully comprehend the sight in front of her eyes. Orcs, but yet not orcs. Huge orcs; even uglier than ordinary ones, running towards Boromir, who was deflecting jabs in every direction from wicked looking swords that came at him. Behind him, and safe for the moment, stood Merry and Pippin, watching in silent horror.

Boromir raised his horn to his lips and blew, the sound echoing through the hills.

It was then that Harry snapped to action, viable plans churning around in her head. She knew it would useless to try the sun spell, as these new breed of orcs were clearly not at all bothered by the sun. She briefly considered using the Killing Curse but immediately discarded the idea before the thought was even fully formed in her mind, knowing that for all that it would be supremely effective, she wasn't capable of such a spell. Working through instinct, she flung over-powered defensive spells at every moving target she saw.

So Harry found herself leaping into the fray a few meters away from Boromir, lashing out with a veritable tidal wave of stunners, knock-backs, immobilizers, full-body binds, and disarmers like a madwoman. Orcs were lifted off their feet and blasted into trees; swords were ripped out of claw-like hands by an invisible force, and flung dangerously about; blackened bodies stiffened in permanent surprise before falling over . . . It was chaos! Utter bizarre chaos that no one, not the orcs, Boromir, Merry, Pippin, nor even Harry could work out.

"STAB THEM!" Harry shouted to Merry and Pippin, indicating the orc that lay frozen. "THEY AREN'T DEAD! JUST KNOCKED OUT!"

They looked at her as though they had only just realised she was a wizard.

"WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?" she roared at them, flinging another orc backwards onto the sword of his comrade.

They jumped and nodded, moving quickly with their swords raised. The hobbits made short work of the helpless orcs while Harry and Boromir continued to fight, keeping the remaining orcs from reaching the hobbits. The creatures just didn't know what to make of Harry. A few of them, wisely, kept their distance – not that it helped much, because her spells could cover great distances – and others, stupidly, moved to attack her, only to get a stunner for their efforts – and a sword in their backs soon after, courtesy of a hobbit.

Harry was so involved in fighting the orcs that she missed the thick, black arrow launch itself straight into Boromir's right arm. She could not, however, miss the hiss of pain that erupted from the Gondorian's mouth, or the clatter of the sword as it fell from his grasp, the pain in his arm being too great to hold it up, or either it had damaged some nerves.

Harry whirled, scanning her surroundings. There were about a dozen orcs left that weren't dead, but now, after seeing what Harry had done to their brethren, they were loath to approach her or Boromir. Finally, she spotted the offending orc that had shot the arrow. It was just about the ugliest looking thing she had ever seen.

"Get the Halflings!" it shouted. "Kill the brat!"

It had to repeat itself once more since the orcs, still looking warily at Harry, didn't move to follow the order at first. They finally did move, just as the head orc strung another arrow. Harry tossed out Freezing Jinxes, slowing two arrows down, before quickly casting a shield at Boromir. She only just made it; the arrow had been continued on to its target, but it only pinged harmlessly to the side as it struck the shield charm.

The head orc roared in confused frustration, and Boromir offered Harry a grateful look.

As Harry turned back to the battle, she discovered that she had taken too long in assisting Boromir. She found herself with a face full of smelly orc as one of them plowed into her, dragging her down, crushing her with its heavy body, and causing her wand to go flying.

CRACK!

"AAAAGH!" Harry shouted hoarsely as she landed awkwardly on her left ankle, breaking it.

The orc moved wildly above her, smothering her with its weight. Harry could feel its putrid breath on her face, and she struggled frantically, bucking and hitting and clawing, but nothing could get it off.

It cackled unpleasantly. "I'm gunna strangle you and put yer 'ead on a pike!" it told her before wrapping its filthy hands around her neck.

Harry gasped desperately, clawing at the hands choking her.

Then the orc stiffened. Guttural, gasping sounds came from its mouth before it keeled over, right on top of Harry. Above them stood a panting Boromir, sword clutched tightly in his left hand. In his right was Harry's wand. He placed a booted foot on the orc's back and pushed. The body flopped beside her, very dead.

"Thanks," Harry rasped, rubbing at the now tender flesh of her throat.

Boromir inclined his head. "Can you stand?"

Harry leaned her head to the side in consideration. "If I had help – WATCH OUT!"

Boromir performed a sort of ducking pirouette just as Harry snatched her wand up. But this time she was too late. A second arrow hit Boromir right in the upper-chest area. The man opened his mouth but no sound came out. He stared at Harry, blinking uncomprehendingly.

Harry looked on in horror. No, he couldn't die! She couldn't have failed! Boromir had to live!

But how could they have forgotten about the head orc?

The world around Harry watched in utter silence as the creature now ran toward them in seeming triumph. She could only look on her fallen charge with stricken horror. It didn't register in her mind that all the other orcs were long gone and that Merry and Pippin were missing. It didn't register that Boromir could be dying at this very moment. It didn't register when Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas skidded into the clearing. All Harry could think on was the despair that filled her. That she had failed once again in protecting a friend, and that that friend was going to die – because of her.

A painful groan that escaped Boromir's bloodied lips snapped her out of her frozen state.

"EVERTE STATUM!" She shouted, putting all of her anger and confusion and loathing she had into that one spell. The orc, now having arrived two feet away from Harry, flew back at break-neck speed instantly, in a flash of brilliant red light, blasting twenty meters across the clearing before crashing into a mound of boulders. It laid still, its neck positioned at an unnatural angle.

It was dead.

Harry turned hastily to Boromir just as Aragorn ran over to them, coming to a halt by the other man's side. She pulled closer to the bleeding body, tears of desperation burning the back of her eyes. Legolas and Gimli kept a few feet away.

"They took the little ones," said Boromir, a tremble in his voice.

"Stay still," Aragorn told him. He gently prodded the arrow shafts that stuck morbidly out of Boromir's body. Boromir winced at the motion but did not protest.

"H-he's not going to . . . is he? " Harry couldn't bring herself to actually voice the word.

Aragorn threw her a cursory glance. "If we can remove the arrows in time, he might yet live."

"It is all right, young wizard," rasped Boromir, his face turning awfully pale. "If I go, at least I know I have fought for a noble cause." His breathing grew ragged.

"Legolas!" Aragorn shouted. The elf was there immediately. "Gimli." The dwarf soon followed. "I will need you to hold him down."

They both nodded grimly.

Suddenly, Boromir clutched Aragorn's shoulder. "Where is Frodo?"

Aragorn searched Boromir with an understanding gaze. "I let Frodo go," he whispered.

"Then you did what I could not!"

Aragorn looked down briefly, then moved to grasp the arrows.

"Leave it!" Boromir implored. "It is over. I deserve it!"

Aragorn frowned, not understanding.

"I tried to take the ring from Frodo," Boromir admitted, sobbing. "Forgive me. I did not see."

Harry's heart clenched at the confession. She was doing such a piss poor job at her mission! Her charge was in mortal peril and now she was finding out that she hadn't even been able to keep Boromir from going after the ring. If only the powers that be chose someone different to be Boromir's salvation; he deserved a lot better than Harry and her blundering.

"No, Boromir," Aragorn disagreed. "You fought bravely. You have regained your honour."

Boromir continued to pant horribly, and Harry could not believe what she was witnessing. They were talking as if – no! Boromir couldn't die like this. It was too demeaning of a death. If Madam Promfrey was there, the arrows would be out already, the wounds completely healed, and the Gondorian resting in a comfortable sleep. It couldn't end this way. It just couldn't!

Aragorn motioned to Gimli and Legolas with a nod of his head, still clutching Boromir's hand. Gimli slumped down across the man's chest while Legolas sat on his legs.

Aragorn's hand curled around the arrow in Boromir's chest. "I will count thrice," he said and Boromir nodded wildly. Aragorn took a deep breath –

"Wait," Harry protested. They were just going to yank it out? But that would be slow and dangerous! What if the head caught on something on the way? He could bleed to death. It was inhumane. If Madame Pomfrey – but she wasn't here, so maybe Harry could – ?

Aragorn shook his head, not looking at her. "Harry, it must be done, and must be done quickly!"

"I know," Harry agreed, what she needed to do quickly coming to mind. "But there's another way. A less painful way. A better way."

This got their attention. Aragorn asked, "What way?"

"I could – that is, it might be better if I . . . I just need to look through a book of mine. It won't take even half a minute. Is that too long?"

Aragorn gaped, but it was Boromir that answered. "Search," he croaked.

"Right," Harry nodded. Then she went through the motions of unshrinking her trunk, rummaging around until she found Standard Book of Spells: Grade Five, and flipping the pages until she located the healing charm she was searching for. Harry had never attempted this charm before, mostly because it hadn't been required of her to learn, but recently because she never had cause to practice it.

The Flesh Knitting Charm, (Incantation: Manderus Clapsia) can be used for healing major flesh wounds. However, it is not recommended for OWL Level as the caster requires a considerable amount of concentration on his or her part, due to the fact that an unfocussed mind will result in the wounds opening even more, causing the patient to bleed to death . . .

Well, she had finished her OWLS a few months ago so it stood to reason that it was perfectly safe for her to use this spell. She just needed to clear her mind and be focused. Right, she could do that. What did it matter that 'clearing her mind' was the exact same thing Snape had harped on about to her during their Occlumency lessons?

Harry closed her eyes and determinedly tried to think of nothing. She didn't know if it was working or not, but when she opened her eyes again, Harry was filled with a familiar determination that made her feel it was possible to accomplish anything.

"I'm ready," she said to Aragorn, crawling even closer next to Boromir, and trying to ignore the sharp, twisting pain in her ankle.

"We will continue to hold him," said Legolas. Gimli grunted his concurrence.

Harry gave them a grateful nod. "Alright," she breathed. "Alright. It has to be done quickly. Okay. Okay. Accio arrow!"

Boromir jerked violently – Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli holding on – as the shaft whooshed out of his left shoulder with a horrible squelching noise that made Harry sick and into her waiting hand. "Sorry," she whispered as she tossed the arrow away reflexively before weaved her wand through the air above the wound. "Manderus Clapsia," she mumbled with what she hoped sounded like conviction.

A soft blue light shimmered out of her wand, smelling faintly of mint. It enveloped Boromir's shoulder completely, pulsing from light blue to a darker shade in time with his heartbeat. As the light faded and vanish, so did the wound.

Harry wanted to sigh in relief as well as jump for joy. She had saved her friend's life on top of finally preforming proper magic on her first go at a new spell. A mindlessly giddy part of her wondered if this was how Hermione felt every time she stepped into a classroom.

Boromir looked astonished, as though he had thought anything Harry could have done would have been for naught. He flexed his arm experimentally. "Nothing," he breathed. "There is no pain."

Aragorn grinned and clasped Harry's shoulder. "You have done well, young Istar."

Harry beamed her joy, feeling proud that she had gained Aragorn's approval. Then she made quick work of the other wound, which, fortunately, was not as serious. When Harry had finished, Boromir was almost as good as new, except that he was dead tired and could hardly stand on his feet.

Harry sat in an awkward position at the foot of everyone's legs. As a slightly swaying Boromir was being held up between Legolas and Gimli, exhaustion settled on Harry, making her mind a bit fuzzy. She felt almost drunk.

Aragorn knelt down by Harry, examining her foot.

"Ah!" she gasped when Aragorn prodded a particularly painful area.

"I am sorry." Aragorn stared at her. "Can you not heal yourself using magic?"

Harry felt a trickle of sweat course down the side of her cheek. Of all the times to not be of any use! "No," she said tightly. "I don't know how to mend broken bones."

Aragorn looked grim. "I shall have to set your ankle. It will be painful."

Harry nodded. She knew a bone-setting spell, but for the life of her, she couldn't remember the incantation. "Do it."

"Gimli!" Aragorn called.

The dwarf extracted his arm from around Boromir's waist, leaving Legolas with job of keeping him up, and seized hold of Harry's arms, clutching them tightly to his side. "It'll be right, boy-o," he gruffed, his eyes surprisingly warm.

Aragorn grasped a gentle hold of Harry's ankle and nodded, silently asking for permission. Harry nodded back. Aragorn executed a sharp twist.

"AAAAAAAAAHHH!" The exclamation of pain tore itself from behind Harry's clenched teeth and she fell back, panting in blinding pain and exhaustion. She didn't even notice when Gimli released her arms.

"Gimli, hand me Harry's sword."

Harry felt hands on the belt at her waist and heard a scraping noise as her sword was removed from its sheath. "What are you doing?" she asked Aragorn weakly.

"Your ankle needs support to mend. The sword will be that support," he explained. "I will need cloth."

Aragorn shrugged out of his Lothlorien cloak. Harry saw he was about to cut it up. "No! I have plenty of shirts in my trunk. And maybe we should find a sturdy stick instead? We might need that sword at some point."

Aragorn nodded his agreement, sending Gimli off to hack up a thin tree branch, and moved to search through Harry's trunk, finally producing one of Dudley's checked elephant shirts. Harry's head flopped back in exhaustion, now almost completely drained. She heard slicing, tearing sounds. Seconds later, she felt the smoothness of a shaved stick against her bare ankle and leg, then the warmth of cloth surrounding it. She hadn't even realised until then that Aragorn must have taken her shoe off.

The next second, she was being prodded to full awareness.

"We must leave Harry," said Aragorn, looming over her. "Could you make your crate small again?"

Harry nodded, lifted her trembling wand arm, and tapped the trunk."Substrictus Minimus."

Then she was being lifted in strong arms and carried gently away. She didn't notice where, nor did she really care. She was feeling quite comfortable, despite the pain in her ankle, so comfortable that she stopped fighting her exhaustion and succumbed to a much needed sleep.

Harry awoke just as Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas were packing away equipment onto the elven boats. Boromir was lying next to her, resting in a light doze. Harry herself did not feel that she had slept for a terribly long time.

Aragorn came to squat in front of her, tossing his hair with a jerk of his head. "Good, you have woken. Here." He handed Harry her miniature trunk, then pointed to Legolas and Gimli. "We three will follow the Uruk-hai that have captured Merry and Pippin. We have decided that you and Boromir shall stay here. He is too worn in body to follow now, and you have a broken limb. You will look after each other. He will see to you once he has rested aplenty. When you are well and able again, you will travel to Minas Tirith with Boromir. This Boromir has agreed to, even though he would have liked to follow in the Uruks path and finish the battle he had started."

Harry just stared, not knowing what to think. "Um," she said finally, after getting an absolutely brilliant idea. "I suppose this'll be a good time to mention I have some Invigoration Draught in my pouch."

Aragorn looked curious. "What sort of draught did you say?"

"Invigoration Draught. Maybe some Pepper-Up Potion as well. They'll give you a boost of energy; Pepper-Up even cures minor sicknesses. If we give some to Boromir, he can go with – "

Aragorn shook his head. "What of you, then? No, he cannot – "

"But I can come too!" The ranger stared at her as though he thought she was completely insane, looking pointedly at her broken ankle. "I mean, I can fly! I have a broom."

Aragorn's expression cleared. Then he grinned, chuckling. "So you do. I had forgotten." He stood up. "We shall go together then. You shall give Boromir the spice potion, and trail after the orcs on your . . . broom." He shook his head in bemusement, his eyes trailing over Harry's form. "A very strange wizard has come upon us. But a very valuable one as well."

"Aragorn," Harry asked after realizing something. "Where are Frodo and Sam?"

The man's expression darkened. "They are on the eastern shore. They are left to themselves now."

"What!"

"They follow their own path," Aragorn explained patiently. "They must, else the ring tempts another to its cause."

Harry nodded in understanding. A hoot sounded from the space above them. He and Aragorn looked up to see Hedwig perched in the tree. She smiled sadly, suddenly knowing what she had to do.

"Come here, lovey," she beckoned to Hedwig and the owl fluttered down on the ground next to her. Harry removed the food pouch from her belt, then enlarged her trunk and pulled out a bottle of ink, one quill, and a few parchments.

Aragorn came to squat beside her once more, staring with unabashed interest. "What do are you doing?"

Harry stared hopefully at the ranger, before presenting him with a corner of the parchment, as well as a quill and ink bottle. "I'm going to give Frodo and Sam a barrel's worth of food and drink, as well as a way to communicate with us. Could you write a short letter explaining to them what it's all for, and that Hedwig can be used to deliver post to me, or to whomever they want?"

If Aragorn was stunned or amazed by Harry's request, he didn't show it. Instead, he set about doing what Harry had asked him to. When Aragorn finished, Harry took back the quill and ink bottle, and the rest of the remaining parchment, and tipped it into the pouch. This, along with Aragorn's letter, she tied to each of Hedwig's legs.

Harry placed Hedwig on her forearm, wondering if she'd every see her faithful companion again. Then she scolded herself for being melodramatic; if any nasty business went down, Hedwig would be the most likely to survive it. "Take this to Frodo and Sam, Hedwig. Stay with them always, unless they need to send us a message. Protect them like you would protect me, okay?"

Hedwig hooted softly and nipped Harry's nose with her beak before she launched off, nearly scraping Legolas's head as she passed the riverbank. Fortunately for him, the elf ducked in the last second. Gimli was chuckling.

"That was a very noble thing you did, Harry," said Aragorn quietly.

"I suppose so," Harry agreed.

Aragorn stood once more. "Come, we must wake Boromir."

Twenty minutes later they were all ready to leave, Boromir having just drunk the Pepper-Up and proclaiming he had never felt so hearty in his life. Harry still sat, palming her Firebolt, which lay across her lap. It was time to go.

Boromir and Gimli grasped each of her arms and hefted her up so that she stood awkwardly, balancing precariously on one leg. Harry positioned her broom so that it rested under her bottom before nodding at them to let her go. As they eased their grips, she kicked off softly from the ground.

Even Legolas could not contain his amazement at finally seeing for himself a broomstick that hovered waist-height in the air and a person seated upon it as if it were a horse.

"Ready when you are," Harry grinned cheekily before SWOOSH!

The Firebolt had the capability to accelerate at one hundred and ten miles per hour. It was likely that her companions had never seen anything go that fast, and they jumped back in shocked surprise as she suddenly launched herself almost vertically into the air. In a few seconds, Harry could not even make them out anymore.

She peered down at the landscape. She was really too far up to see anything, let alone a party of ant-like orcs that must have traveled some way by now. She would have to go back down.

Harry descended at an incline. She would have preferred to travel down in a Wronski Feint, but she didn't think her ankle could take the pressure of the wind. Harry lowered the broom until she just skimmed the topmost branches of the trees. Some meters below her stood Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Boromir.

"Most impressive, child!" called Gimli. "Now we have an advantage over the Uruk-Hai." The rest murmured in agreement.

"Indeed, you can scout ahead. Now, let us hunt some orc!" Aragorn cried before running up the slope.

The rest, including Harry, followed.