Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or The Hobbit. They belong to J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien, respectively. This is an amateur attempt, one which I am not making any profit over.
A/N: Thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter. I am overwhelmed by your continued support.
I admit this chapter was difficult to write – how would Harry see Gandalf through both a child's and a wizard's eyes? What would he feel from him? What would Gandalf? Yet how to put it all together in a Little Harry sort of style . . .
Not long to go now!
Chapter 15: Boy Meets Wizard
Harry had fallen asleep to gentle elvish voices and the smell of roast chicken in his nostrils, but it was the smell of bread with warm milk and honey that woke him up – that, and grass!
Harry rubbed his eyes and spat out a blade of grass, looking about. Elves moved here and there, shining in the dim light, warming milk or toasting slices of chunky bread in pans over small flames. They smiled or winked at Harry when catching his eye and Harry waved back shyly, still unused to the attention he seemed to garner from everyone in Mirkwood. He stretched and yawned, scratching his head. The air was fresh in the morning and Harry inhaled it, loving the lack of musty cupboard-ness.
Somebody had put a blanket on him during the night and, because there was still a slight chill in the air, Harry kept it with him as he stood and made his way into the bushes. Later, as he stomped towards the eating area, where platefuls of breakfast sat waiting mouth-wateringly, he noted a curious shape with its back turned to him sitting at the largest table opposite Mirdhel.
Harry slowed, staring.
The shape was faintly hunched, dressed in grey robes and had long messy white hair and beard, but that was not what caught Harry's attention; it was the large crooked hat, pointed at the tip. This, more than anything else about the figure, seemed somehow to ring with truth and rightness, as though . . . as though Harry had dreamt about it once, or something very like it. His stomach swooped with a strange feeling of excitement and familiarity – he wanted to own a hat just like that one! It felt right somehow.
A familiar weight suddenly settled under his arms and he was lifted up, turned and placed against a warm chest.
"Legolas!" Harry beamed delightedly and hugged the elf around his neck tightly. He buried his nose into Mr Legolas's neck and breathed in one of his favourite smells – elf! "When did you get here?"
Mr Legolas laughed heartily and ruffled up his hair. "Last night. I have missed you, Galenmir."
"Mm-hmm," Harry agreed, nose still pressed into the spring-smelling neck. Mr Legolas began to walk towards the tables then, but Harry hardly felt the movement – when elves walked it was as though they never touched the ground! There were other elves already eating at the tables, but when Mr Legolas deposited Harry on the bench, he noticed a familiar face sitting in amongst them, and he was so pleased that he almost forgot about the person sitting right across from him.
"Mr Baggins!" Harry exclaimed. "You're back."
"Indeed," said Mr Baggins, lifting his goblet in greeting. "And you are looking much better than last I saw, my lad. Not as bruised – and much fuller, too!"
Harry beamed, happy that his friend was all right, though he had expected to see hairy beards and different coloured hoods along with him. "But where are the dwarves?"
A warm, deep, but highly pleasant voice cut in. "They stayed to help rebuild their home, such as it now is."
In the second Harry looked towards the voice, whose owner sat across from him, he found out all he needed to know about the person.
'He has warm eyes.' That was the first thing Harry thought. And they were slightly hidden by the pipe-smoke that wafted about the elderly face, but that could not take away from the majesty of them – nor of the feeling Harry received as he looked into them. There was that same feeling of familiarity, yes, but there was also something different. Something other. But he was too young to examine this feeling at the moment. Somehow, though, Harry knew that this person could be trusted and that this person had come to help him. He knew who this person was. He could feel who this person was.
"It's nice to meet you, Mr Sour-man," said Harry.
There was a hearty burst of not unkind laughter from all of the elves nearby, including Mr Legolas and Mirdhel, who had just joined them.
Harry realised his blunder immediately. "I-I mean . . .er . . . Mr Sarrrru-man," he said, rolling the 'r' much as King Thranduil had done.
The elves laughed again, as did the wizard – in fact, he was chuckling so heartily that a bit of pipe-smoke got stuck in his throat and he had to clear it more than a few times, using several large, wet coughs to do so and in the end accepted a goblet of water from an elf walking past with a large tray of breakfast.
Harry was feeling very put out by this point. What was so funny?
"Ah, Harry!" said Mr Legolas, taking his fingers and squeezing them gently between his own, and once again Harry was astounded at just how little and pudgy his hand looked when compared to Mr Legolas's. "Gandalf is not Saruman, nor is Saruman Gandalf – but they are both wizards!"
'Oh,' Harry thought stupidly. He heard an elf whisper, "'Sour-man?'" somewhere further along the table and another mumbled, "Most apt," and laughed again, which made him feel extra stupid, but also pleased at the same time because it was impossible not to be, with elves laughing.
"Sorry, Mr Gandalf," Harry said, looking at the wizard.
The warm blue eyes crinkled even more at the corners. "All is fine, young Harry Potter; in fact, it is better than fine, now that we are speaking at last. I have a few questions for you, dear child. Come here to me."
Harry blinked, because the wizard had patted the seat right next to him. Harry looked up at Mr Legolas and Mirdhel.
They nodded and smiled and Mr Legolas gave his hand one last squeeze before releasing it gently.
Stomach jumping with nerves, Harry slid off the bench and around the table. When he shuffled back on to the bench next to Mr Gandalf, he instantly smelled pipe, but also fresh grass and earth and things that the wind picked up – flowers, bark, even metal. These smells were very pleasant all together . . . . and they gave him a different feeling than Harry got from the elves – the elves felt like happiness and nature. Mr Gandalf felt like . . . warmth. And trust. Quite without knowing it, Harry's stomach had stopped jumping.
Mr Gandalf looked at him from beneath narrowed brows, the stare penetrating but not unkind, and Harry wasn't uncomfortable. "How do you fare this fine morning, young one?"
Harry thought for a moment, scrunching up his face. "Hungry," he said honestly.
There were titters from nearby elves, but they were outshone by Mr Gandalf's hearty chuckling. "If hungry you are, then of course you shall eat! Only then shall we talk. Agreed?"
After a pleasant breakfast of bread soaked in milk, where he caught up with Mr Legolas and Mr Baggins, and where Mr Gandalf seemed to stare every so often at him and frown, puff on his pipe, then nod to himself, Harry was beginning to feel excited. Oddly, even though Mr Gandalf had stared at him, Harry hadn't felt nervous. He did feel a warm sort of swoop in his stomach when Mr Gandalf cleared his throat and leaned towards him, though, but Harry thought this had more to do with his feeling restless for an unknown reason – as if he had an itch somewhere that needed scratching.
"I need you to tell me your entire life story, Harry," said Mr Gandalf, expression kind. "However odd it may seem or, indeed, however normal it may seem to you. I need you to be truthful also. Do you agree?" he said at last.
Harry nodded. He had known he would have to tell it at some point – Mirkwood forest was very different to the Dursley's house in Privet Drive and, just like Harry hadn't known that elves and goblins and giant spiders existed, the elves hadn't known that Privet Drive existed, either. Or London.
So Harry began his story. He started from his earliest memory of Dudley punching him in the face and moved on from there. Occasionally Mr Gandalf would stop Harry to ask questions about perfectly ordinary things, like what a car crash was, and then what a car was, eyebrows disappearing into his hat with Harry's explanation, then frowning confusedly when Harry tried to explain that, yes, it was very much like a carriage without horses, but that you needed to fill it with petrol and, no, it wasn't alive. "What is pet-rull?" Mr Gandalf asked, and Harry explained that petrol came from the petrol station out of long black pumps and that Uncle Vernon had to pay for it inside the store, which Harry only ever saw from the outside as he was never allowed out of the car.
The elves seemed bewildered at this and looked to Mr Gandalf to explain but, in the face of all their curious gazes, he only harrumphed, shrugged a little, and gestured for Harry to continue.
When Harry came to the part in his story when Aunt Petunia realised he needed glasses, Mr Gandalf asked if he could examine Harry's. He muttered and mumbled over the lenses, put them up against his face and let out a small, "Ah!" He also pointed out the "exquisite craftsmanship" of the metal, with Mr Bilbo, Legolas, Mirdhel and (by that point) several nosy elves nodding in awe and agreement. He also got Harry to take off a shoe and held it up in the air, aahing over the bright green laces and making appreciative noises when squeezing the heel. "It is soft," he said to the elves. "And it bounces." Then Dudley's old, worn-out shoe was passed around, examined, prodded and even, to Harry's horror and embarrassment, smelled delicately by the last elf, who then passed it back around and commented that it was "most definitely not leather, nor from the hide of any animal."
"It's old," Harry grumbled, yanking the shoe back on his foot. "It used to belong to Dudley." He went on with his story at Gandalf's urging, including all the times he had done magic, especially including the time just before he had come to Mirkwood forest, when Dudley and his gang had been chasing him and he had somehow ended up on the roof of the school building. By this point everyone was quiet now, listening intently to Harry's story. "I'd tried to jump behind the bins, but I suppose the wind must have caught me in mid-jump, because the next thing I knew I was on the roof. I think that's what happened when I came here."
"What do you mean, lad?" asked Mr Baggins, his voice kind.
"Well, Dudley found the stick beside Uncle Vernon's rubbish bin, and tried to hit me with it. I ran away from him. I ran and I ran and I ran until . . . somehow. . . we were here, in the forest. Then Dudley tried picking up the stick and it stung him so I picked it up but it didn't sting me. And when we met the elves later it stung Idrhelion too when he tried to pick it up!"
Harry peeked up at Mr Gandalf to see his reaction, but the wizard looked very calm.
"Harry's stick, please, Caldur," nodded Mr Gandalf to an elf sitting opposite. From out of his lap the elf drew forth a long bundle wrapped in red cloth and Harry blinked in delight.
"My stick!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, I had asked Caldur to retrieve it from the treasury earlier while you slumbered, as the Elvenking is now busy greeting a new guest." Mr Gandalf reached over and placed the stick on the table before him. He then unwrapped and picked it up extremely quickly, but did not drop it again.
"It's not hurting you," Harry whispered in awe. "It's because you're a wizard, isn't it? And because you think I might . . . be . . . ?" he trailed off, unsure.
But Mr Gandalf only smiled. "We shall see. You mentioned not being able to wilfully control your magic. Try using this."
He handed the stick to Harry, who held it reverently. He'd forgotten how big it was. Half his height and quite knobby. Just like any old stick, really. But it wasn't. It was his stick. "What should I do?" he whispered.
Mr Gandalf drew a puff and gestured with his pipe. "What you tried to do before, when practising," he said.
What I tried to do before? He'd tried to turn one thing into another. Harry thought. Then stared at the bowl of boiled eggs in front of him. He pointed his stick in their direction and thought again.
There were startled exclamations, and several elves nearest to Harry, not including Legolas and Mirdhel (though they looked quite surprised), uttered cries of shock or leapt out of their seats in awe and confusion, but Harry could only beam in thrilled achievement.
He had done it!
In place of the boiled eggs there now sat six chirping chicks, all yellow and fluffy and clearly extremely hungry judging by the noise they were making. A couple had even escaped the bowl and were running here and there all over the table, knocking into goblets and cheeping pitifully (they could even be heard over the still-shocked mutterings of nearby elves, mostly those who hadn't seen Harry perform magic before).
"My goodness!" said Mr Baggins in alarm, leaning back, wide eyes following the scattered chicks as they scrambled quickly about. "And to think I ate two already!"
This thought must have crossed the elves' too, because several of them looked vaguely uncomfortable and a few even glanced down as though to make sure there was nothing jumping around in their stomachs.
Mr Gandalf, however, was delighted. "Extraordinary! And so direct. It is much different to my own yet, somehow, it feels much the same also." This last part he mumbled to himself. Then he looked once more at Harry. "Change them back now, if you please, young wizard."
Harry didn't particularly want to (they would die!) and it must have shown on his face.
Mr Gandalf's eyes were kind. "Do not despair," he said.
Harry reluctantly pointed his stick in the general direction of the chicks and thought.
But Mr Gandalf didn't seem too concerned. In fact, he looked as though he'd just received the answer to a particularly hard question. "Never-mind, never-mind! Let them be!" he said to those elves that had gotten over their shock and were trying to catch the chicks. One elf even mumbled to another, as he scooped up a ball of chirping fluff, "Is this what you meant by the table episode, Thalion?"
Eventually all the chicks were caught and placed in a basket. An elf would take it to one of the hen houses later and they would be looked after until they grew up. But the chickens must have been too exciting for the elves this early in the morning (or perhaps it was just time to pack up) because they started stacking bowls, throwing leaf litter over the cold fire rings and moving away the smaller tables and benches to the other side of the glade very quickly. These they covered with forest (leaves, moss, shrubs, dirt) until they were hidden so well that Harry couldn't tell if they were there anymore or not. Elves were good at disguising things.
Mr Baggins moved to sit beside them soon enough, joining Harry, his two favourite elves and Mr Gandalf. All the elves had left by this point, helping to pack and stack, so that only their little group remained at the main table, the chicken incident not forgotten judging by the song that had just started up.
"Your cousin," said Mr Gandalf eventually, after the first verse about 'scrambled chooks' was well underway. "He disappeared."
Harry nodded. There was no point trying to pretend Dudley hadn't disappeared, as everyone knew, even Mr Baggins, who saw it all happen!
"Where do you think he went?" asked the wizard.
"I think . . . to Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia's," Harry said determinedly, glancing at Legolas and Mirdhel, who smiled at him. "That's what I was thinking when he disappeared. I wanted him to go home so he wouldn't bother me anymore."
"And," said Mr Gandalf, "Your Uncle's home is in Surrey, do I have that right? In the land of Ing?" Mr Gandalf saw the puzzled expression on Harry's face, because he clarified. "Ing-land?"
"Yes," Harry nodded. "The country of England, in the country of Europe – I mean, the continental of Europe (that's what we learned in school) – which is on Earth."
Mr Gandalf exchanged glances with Mr Legolas, Mirdhel and Mr Bilbo.
"What is it, sir?" Harry said, heart suddenly thumping. He did not like grim look on Mr Gandalf's face.
But Mr Gandalf stared into the distance, then seemed to shake himself off. "Almost done, then," he said. He reached beside himself and picked up a very long, gnarly brown staff with a crystal on the top. "I want you to take this, my lad, and tell me if you feel anything."
Mr Gandalf passed the staff onto Harry, who had to take it with both hands as it was so big. Still, Mr Gandalf held the end of it until Harry had placed it into his lap. And Harry was glad that he did, because he'd almost dropped it upon feeling the tingling in the palms of his hands and the tips of his fingers.
"Is it supposed to tickle?" asked Harry curiously and Mr Gandalf smiled.
"I would have been very surprised had you not felt anything."
"Er," Harry said.
"Had you felt anything with your stick?" said Mr Gandalf.
Harry blinked. "Actually . . . no, sir. It feels like an ordinary stick. What does that mean?" he asked, looking up at the wizard, who only smiled kindly. Mr Gandalf then drew out a pebble from his under his robe. It was grey, with bits of white flecks in it. He handed it to Harry, who took it and stared. "Er . . ." he said again.
"This is a magical stone, young Harry," Mr Gandalf explained, and Harry held it with a lot more care after hearing that. "I want you to point it at . . . oh . . . that!" Mr Gandalf gestured towards Harry's empty bowl. "Try to change it into a hat!"
Mr Legolas and Mirdhel gave him murmurs of encouragement when he looked towards them again, so Harry tried to change the bowl into a hat.
Mr Gandalf clapped his hands once after Harry had managed it. "As expected!" he beamed. "And without aide, either!"
Harry did not understand; the pebble had done all the work.
Gandalf leaned towards him, the comforting smell of warmth and smoke enveloping him. "Did you feel anything when you held the stone?"
"No," said Harry.
"There you have it!" said Gandalf, straightening up and sharing a glance with the elves opposite him.
"Er. . ." said Harry, not getting it.
"Oh, I understand!" said Mr Baggins, blinking. "The stick holds no power, and neither does the stone. They were only powerful because Harry wanted it so – because he believed it to be so!"
Mr Gandalf nodded. "Indeed. In all this time Harry thought his little staff held power – and he only believed that the stone was thus because I told him so. This is also why he could not return the chicks back to their original state – he simply had no desire to! The real strength lies within Harry himself, not the tools that he wields." Gandalf looked right at Harry when he said the last bit, but Harry was too confused (and annoyed at himself) to notice.
"So – so all those times the stick burned everyone . . . it was just me?" he finished lamely.
"Not on purpose," said Mr Baggins, consolingly.
This did not make Harry feel any better. He looked down at the pebble in his palm. Then at the stick he'd placed on the table. There really was nothing special to them. Just garden mulch, really. Unlike Mr Gandalf's staff – it had a crystal!
His stomach sank to his toes. He'd been so stupid all this time! He had wished and wished for his stick. He'd thought it special. He'd thought it his. Something Dudley couldn't touch. Instead. . .
His reverie was broken by a gentle hand on his shoulder and he looked up at its owner with wide eyes. Mr Gandalf made a small noise in the back of his throat. "You have to believe in your own abilities, young Istar," he said gently, but in an urging sort of tone. "You must learn to trust in yourself and in your magic, for you are very powerful! I am still somewhat uncertain as to how powerful or, indeed, how – but I am beginning to suspect something, based on your story, and feel it also. I trust that the truth, or some of it, will reveal itself when Saruman and I take council together, for there are some things only the wizards and our most trusted companions need to know."
"You have not changed, Mithrandir, you still speak in riddles!" Mr Legolas said good-naturedly.
Harry was still confused, but somehow he felt a lot better, and not just because Mr Baggins and Mirdhel looked confused also. He also felt restless again, but he had no idea why.
"I told you earlier, 'do not despair'"," said Gandalf. He placed a large, gnarled hand on Harry's head. "Trust in yourself. After all have you not been using magic whilst talking with your little snake friend? You did not need your stick for that! Indeed, you did not even have to think about it! And are you not also using magic whilst speaking with all of us? You did not know these tongues before you came here, is that not so?"
Harry started. That was true! Then he had a thought. "How did you know about Draedan?"
"Because I was told," said Mr Gandalf. "I should very much like to be introduced to him, also, if I may."
"I'd like to," said Harry brightly. "But he's sleeping now, in the archery forest. I left him there yesterday afternoon. He gets grumpy if he doesn't get his way, and hisses a lot. He likes to go off on his own a lot, too. But he's fat and lazy now as he's just had his meal."
Mr Gandalf blinked at him slowly and drew puff. "Indeed," he mumbled around the pipe.
"May I ask a question, Mr Gandalf?" asked Harry.
"Of course you may," said Mr Gandalf, smiling kindly at Harry.
"Thank you," said Harry. "Can you speak to snakes? Only, I sort of think you can because you're a wizard and you called me a wizard and, well . . ." he trailed off as Mr Gandalf stared in bemusement.
He brushed Harry's nose with the tip of a finger. "Do you know, Harry my lad, I just might be able to. And now I must ask something of you!"
Harry nodded tentatively, though his stomach was jumping once again with that feeling of restlessness.
"I must ask you to call me Gandalf. No mister and no sir. There is no honorific necessary between us, Harry lad, for I will not have it!"
Harry nodded. He could do that. There was just something about Mist–Gandalf that made Harry think he was everyone's friend. As though ... as though he was supposed to be. As if that was what he was here for. Harry liked him immensely, and he could see that everyone else did, too. Because it didn't seem right to call Gandalf anything other than Gandalf, even though he was a grownup and someone Harry had only just met.
It didn't matter that he was a wizard – he was a friend first.
Harry rather hoped he could be Gandalf's friend. He wouldn't mind it at all, really. In fact ... he had the ridiculous urge to hug the old man and he realised he'd been having this feeling ever since he had met Gandalf. That was why he had felt so safe in his presence, but excited at the same time. It was why he had felt so restless. To him, Gandalf felt safe and familiar and comfortable, yes, but Harry had never hugged a stranger before and had never felt the urge to do so before either.
He didn't give into this urge, but it really was very difficult. Instead, he smiled up at the wizard and assured him that, from now on, Harry would call him Gandalf.
For those who asked about The Black Wizard, go to my profile page. I have not written a new chapter for the story itself, but I have written a oneshot: There's Always a Price for Murder. I urge you to read the warnings first, though.