Hermione stood before him, her finger outstretched as she scolded. "Won't you hurry Harry? We can't wait forever!"
He tried to reply, but she was falling forward from a suddenly great height. Her body shifting and Hedwig was above him, hooting eagerly. She wanted a treat, but he didn't have any. Maybe Butterbur did, though.
"A moment Hedwig," he tried to say, "just a moment!"
But she wouldn't stay. She was flying away, into the woods. He followed after her and an arrow struck his arm. Legolas glared before releasing another.
"But wait-" the shaft thudded into his arm without pain.
"You failed, Harry Potter," said a voice. Frodo shifted from the shadows, his arms weighed down by chains. "Why didn't you save me Harry? I thought you cared-"
"But I do!"
"ENOUGH!" screamed Legolas, only it wasn't Legolas, but Aragorn instead. He looked enraged, his black hair thrown about. "You're nothing but a pitiful orphan. Who could ever love you? How could you think I'd care?"
He whimpered and nine shadows crept around him, each sneering and jeering at him-
"Harry!" He awoke suddenly, gasping as he sat up. His body felt cold and hot, and his head thundering and ears ringing loudly.
"What-" He looked around at a few worried faces, and some quite relieved. He recalled the events from earlier and couldn't contain his fears. "Is Frodo alright?"
He watched Aragorn scowl and bit his lip in worry. Had something happened? Was his friend okay? Did the hobbit-
"I am well enough," replied a voice, and Harry knew it at once as the ring-bearing hobbit. He grinned, feeling a weight drop from his shoulders. "Thanks in part to you and Legolas, as well as Aragorn and Boromir. It was you we worried for, a rock hit your head."
"Indeed," replied Gandalf, "and the rocks have locked us in without kindling and with very little water. Now that you are awake, we should begin again our journey." The fellowship nodded and did so, all the while Harry pondered on his dream, walking near the back and towards the darkness. They walked a long while, stopping to rest at times when they grew weary. With the eternal darkness, Harry's internal clock seemed to dissolve, he had no idea how long they wandered beneath the high, though sometimes low, wrought ceilings.
"What troubles you, young wizard?" He looked up at the voice, to find Legolas beside him, the elf's keen eyes masked in darkness. "You've wandered since we entered like that of the dead, or rather a walking sleep."
Harry frowned and did not reply at once.
"I was thinking of my home," he finally said, his voice a low whisper. "But it hardly matters now. My home is gone." The elf looked at him curiously, as though he didn't understand, but nodded all the same. Harry ignored it and continued to walk, listening to the low moaning echoes as he moved through the darkness.
"I have no memory of this place at all!" stated Gandalf in frustration as he stood beneath a large stone archway. Harry sighed and sat down, listening to them all talk and argue, to weary to care. They had walked for what seemed forever guided only by a distant light on Gandalf's staff.
A door at the side of the arch opened to a wide circular chamber where they all entered easily. Merry and Pippin both tried to rush and enter, eager to rest, but Harry waited patiently on the narrow floor outside hardly bothered by the height. After Gandalf, he followed behind Legolas and before Boromir. The tall man seemed quite disheartened by the mine's blackness.
"One of you might have fallen in and still be wondering when you were going to strike the bottom," chastened Aragorn to Merry. "Let the guide go first while you have one."
"This seems to be a guardroom made for the watching of the three tunnels," said Gimli, and Harry noticed then the open well in the center. "That well was plainly a well for the guards' use, covered with a stone lid. But the lid is broken and we must all take care in the dark."
Harry agreed and stayed far away, fearful and at the same time curious. He watched with half an eye as Pippin approached the opening, obviously just as inquisitive. Harry had only just laid one of his elven blankets on the floor when he heard a sound echo about, like a kerplunk of something hitting water, but seemed to magnify in the cavernous area.
Harry pulled out his wand immediately and pushed himself against the wall on instinct. A flame danced brightly in his mind's eye as he waited for the enemy to appear. He mightn't have bothered though, for it turned out Pippin had dropped a rock into the well to measure it's depth.
"Fool of a Took!" growled the wizard. "This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party. Throw yourself in next time and then you will no longer be so much of a nuisance. Now be quiet!"
They were all silent for a few minutes when a sound from out of the deep moved through the air. A soft tapping, like that of faint knocks: tom-tap, tap-tom. They stopped, and when the echoes died away, they repeated again: tap-tom, tom-tap, tap-tap, tom. They sounded disquietingly like signals, almost. But after a moment, the sounds died away and did not begin again.
"That was the sound of a hammer or I have never heard one," said Gimli.
"Yes, and I do not like it," said Gandalf. He went on to talk more, about monsters of the deep and creature's he would prefer kept in sleep. Harry didn't listen to hard, his mind far more preoccupied with the fearful drumming he had heard. It burned a whisper in his soul that refused to quiet. Eventually, he fell in a restless sleep and dreamed of great drums and a monster in the shadows.
Harry froze in the darkness, a feeling of unease washing over him. Something was watching them. He made to sit up, but a hand kept him firmly rooted on the stony, cold ground. His heart sped and his mind whirled with possibilities.
"Do not move," hissed Aragorn. Harry stiffened but made no other movement, holding his breath as he waited. After a moment, the hand on his shoulder removed itself and Harry figured it safe to sit up. He looked around the darkness before turning towards the ranger.
"What was it?" he asked, his stomach tight and uneasy.
"Gollum," said the man in a low voice. "Gandalf believes he has been following us for some time. He wants the ring. Best to not lower your guard." Harry nodded and held tightly to the wand he had made. Not nearly as powerful as his old one, but a wand all the same.
"Are you afraid, Aragorn?" He knew it was probably a stupid question, everyone was afraid sometimes, hadn't Arwen tried to tell him? But he wanted to know all the same. Aragorn was greater than any man or elf or dwarf or hobbit that Harry new, he could fight the Nazgul without even a tremble. He dove forward after the giant squid when it picked up Frodo without even a pause. He was strong and great. Greater than the hope everyone put in Harry back at home.
"Yes," said Aragorn, "are not we all? But sleep now Harry, we have a long walk and many more dangers than the creeping Gollum." But Harry had one last question he refused to let go unanswered. One that had silently haunted him since he'd almost heard him utter it.
"Aragorn," Harry asked very quietly. The man turned towards him, eyes shadowed by the almost withered fire. "Back in Rivendell, you had almost said something. Will you tell me now, what you meant?"
The reaction was immediate as the Ranger blushed crimson and turned away slightly. Harry did not remove his tired gaze.
"I... I had wondered... Well, rather, when this ordeal is over, and should I have survived I will wed lady Arwen." Harry nodded stunned, not surprised by the words, but the forwardness of the man. When had he become so open? And what had this to do with Harry? "I have spoken with Arwen, of course, and we have come to an accord. Should we both survive, I would like for you to become our son."
Stunned, Harry could only stare.
"I need not you answer now," cut in the man, obviously think Harry's silence and shock a decline. "In fact, I would much rather you wait and think on it. Sleep now Harry, you have a long while to answer. Sleep now, Gandalf shall keep us safe."
And Harry did, falling asleep numbly against the cold ground once more with only his soft elven blanket to keep him warm and the slow realization of Aragorn's words.
Harry awoke once more, though this time to the sound of a soft voice hissing near him. Turning slightly, he could hear the slight rasping voice of a stranger. Turning carefully, so as to not venture too near the hole in the middle, Harry managed to make out the one-sided conversation of the person that did not rouse the others.
"Hungssy... Uselesssss sssof-ssins. They ssssellllsss of ravelsss and sssweass... Hungsssy so hungssy..." Leaning forward, Harry moved his hand as silently as possible against the floor. The voice hissed immediately, warningly.
"Who are you?" asked Harry, his voice as low as he dared, so low, in fact, he could not hear it except the echo of words he knew he'd spoken.
"Youusss ssspppeasss?" cried the voice unnaturally loud. Harry tried not to wince at the sound. Why had the others yet to waken, or Gandalf to turn? Surely he'd noticed this intruder already? "I issss Sssseeeisssssooo..."
"Sayso?" Harry asked, the "s" sound a bit longer than normal. "I'm Harry. Why are you here?"
"I lisss heerrreee..." trailed Sayso. "I isss hungry, doo youss hasss a rat?"
Harry felt sick, why would he have a rat? Surely the stranger didn't intend to eat it? But if not why would she, for Harry was sure it was a she, ask? And why could he not yet see her through the light of the fire? Why had Gandalf not joined him?
"Ah, then I mussss gossss, I amm hungsssyyy. Goodbye Hasssy"
"Goodbye Sayso," Harry whispered, listening to the voice go and yet still unable to see the body, except the light sliver of dark green. Once more Harry tried for sleep.
It was Gandalf who roused them from sleep. He had sat and watched through the night, though Harry could hardly tell the difference with only night about him, and had found the way. Harry chuckled at his reasoning, despite the strange looks he received from the fellowship; the middle did not feel well, the left smelled rank, and so they took the right, the only other option.
The passage they chose went upwards in great spiraling curves, much like the way to Dumbledore's office. And as it grew higher, it became wider and more lofty. There were no cracks when the road straightened, and no side doors or openings to other galleries. Gandalf lead them faster than before and Harry had to half-run to keep up.
When he felt on the edge of exhaustion, they stopped. Harry would have happily fallen asleep right their if not for the frigid breeze that made his arms and legs burn with chill. They all huddled in a corner of the cavernous cave then, Harry crushed between Sam and Legolas and Gimli.
It was hardly comfortable, what with the dwarf metal pressing into his thigh and the elf hair in his eyes. Sam also had a tendency to roll in his sleep, grabbing Harry's arm to cuddle with it. However, it was warm and sometimes cause for merriment, as when Gimli broke out in song, singing of Durin who walked alone and some other nonsense.
It gave Harry reason to laugh, and he smiled slightly as he fell asleep, listening to talk of some substance called Mithril and it's beauty.
They awoke for breakfast and make quick haste to begin again as they finished eating. No one wished to spend another night in the darkness of Moria, Harry especially. The place gave him chills, reminding him of the Chamber of secrets.
"Harry," asked Merry then, while they were packing. "What did you finally decide to make your wand with? You still hadn't found a substance when we'd left, if I recall correctly."
Harry blushed brightly as attention fell on him once more. Gandalf, it seemed, already knew, for he grinned foolishly before going back to work, putting up pans and other things. Harry wondered once more just how much the man seemed to know and yet did not let on.
"My original wand was Holly with a phoenix feather. I've had the Holly ready for ages, but the hairs just didn't work. And since I don't think there are phoenixes here, I've been using hairs. Only none would work. Finally, when you'd all left, I found three strands on my bedside table." Here the young wizard looked up, and only then, did he notice that Aragorn was slightly red as well. Blinking, he wondered why.
"Ah!" cried Gandalf with obvious relief, "then you found it, eh? I knew the Lady Arwen could be trusted with such a task! Indeed, did I not say she could?"
"Indeed you did," mumbled Aragorn. And only then, did Harry notice that he was missing a good section of hair. Far more than three pieces. "Let us go though, before our hunger assails us once more!"
They followed Gandalf, then, deeper into the mines until they came unto a chamber to the side, where a bright light flooded the area, as though raining from the ceiling. In the middle of a dusty floor, a large box of stone stood, the bones of the dead surrounding it's empty confines.
"It looks like a tomb," muttered Frodo who bent forward to examine with a morbid curiosity. Harry managed to glimpse what looked like runes etched into the stone. They were crude and very linear, but beautiful all the same.
"These are Daeron's Runes, such as were used of old in Moria," said Gandalf. "Here is written in the tongues of Men and dwarves:
BALIN SON OF FUNDIN
LORD OF MORIA
"He is dead then," said Frodo. "I feared it was so." Gimli cast his hood over his face.
The company of the ring stood silently beside the tomb of Balin. Harry did not know the man, or rather the dwarf, but he felt his heart clench for him all the same. He understood the pain of loss, he had lost his family when he was little, less than a year old, murdered at the hand of the Dark Lord Voldemort. He wanted to comfort Gimli, but knew the dwarf would hardly appreciate the effort.
Gandalf lifted a leather bound book covered with dust from a corner of the room. He read it carefully, Frodo and Gimli on either side. When an eternity seemed to end, he looked up at last.
"It seems to be a record of the fortunes of Balin's folk," he said. "I guess that it began with their coming to Dimrill Dale nigh on thirty years ago: the pages seem to have numbers referring to the years after their arrival. The top page is marked one—three, so at least two are missing from the beginning. Listen to this!"
Gandalf read aloud the words of the records, or diary. Harry listened to the death of the Lord of Moria and the coming of orcs. He had just heard the words of being trapped when his scar began to prickle. Something was wrong. He tried to tell Legolas, but the elf seemed to ignore him, in favor of the story. He turned to Aragorn then.
"Aragorn!" he whispered loudly, tugging on the man's sleeve insistently. Something terrible was stirring, he could almost taste it. The blue eyes turned towards him in concern. "Aragorn, shouldn't we be going? Balin is dead, but we will be too if we don't hurry. Aragorn, something bad is coming."
The ranger frowned, and shook his head.
"We will leave in a moment, when the account is read."
"In a moment, Harry."
He nodded, albeit reluctantly. He didn't like the feeling in his gut. They needed to hurry!
"...and then, drums, drums in the deep. I wonder what that means. The last thing written is in a trailing scrawl of elf letters. They are coming. There is nothing more." Gandalf paused and stood in a moment thought. Harry wished he wouldn't.
"We cannot get out," muttered Gimli. "It is well for us that the water has sunken a little, and that the watcher was sleeping down at the southern end."
Gandalf spoke a little before he finally decided to leave. Harry breathed a sigh of relief as he did. The quicker he got out of the black mines, the happier he would be. The place was to reminisce of the chamber of secrets, only much less lit.
"Come now, back to the hall!"
He had barely said the words when a loud shout echoed through the depths of Moria, and a deep drum began to beat along with a raging horn. There was the sound of many feet and answering calls further on. Harry felt his gut sink.
"They are coming!" cried Legolas.
"We cannot get out!" shouted Gimli. Harry shrugged off the leather from his back and pulled out the heavy sword. He pulled the sheath back on and slipped the wand into his tunic, wrapping it tightly against his arm.
Doom, Doom, came the drum beats that shook the walls.
"Slam the doors and wedge them shut!" shouted Aragorn. "And keep your packs on as long as you can: we may get a chance to cut our way out yet."
"No!" said Gandalf. "We must not get shut in. Keep the East door ajar! We will go that way if we get a chance."
Harry swallowed his fear and moved between the hobbits and the door. He would protect them with his life, as the others of the fellowship had sworn to do. He would prove his worth and show Aragorn he wasn't some pathetic child.
Resting the blade at the stone between his feet, he saw Aragorn pull his own sword, Andúril, from it's sheath.
The door pushed open slightly and an ugly, scaly muscled arm pushed through, the green hand groping while a smooth foot entered as well below. Boromir rushed forward, his sword coming down in an eager arc with much strength. It clang as it met the outstretched limb, glanced off, and fell away from arm chipped. Frodo sprang forward just then.
"The Shire!" he shouted, stabbing his own blue blade into the foot which quickly retreated. Black blood dripped from the blade and smoked on the floor. Boromir pushed against the door and it shut once more.
"One for the Shire!" cried Aragorn. "The hobbit's bite is deep! You have a good sword, Frodo son of Drogo!"
The doors beat again and finally sprang open, releasing many orcs into the room. Harry sprang into action, dodging a blow that would have killed him and hacking the creature with the sword he could barely pick up. When the blade only half killed the creature, Harry released it with a hand and pointed his arm.
"Incendio!" he shouted, the fire jumped through the air and burned into the creature, killing it instantly.
He turned to move to another when a pain shot through his shoulder.
An orc blade had lodged itself in Harry's arm, he lifted his hands to the creature's face and watched with a muted fascination as it burned away and turned to dust. The monster fell to the floor dead as well.
Then, in a dizzying flash and pause, Gandalf was shouting to leave. Sam was bleeding from his head. The orcs were pulling back. The light was painful and bright. The blood was falling fast. An orc chieftain raced through, defying both Boromir and Aragorn.
Harry saw him face Frodo and felt the fire burn again. He pulled at it, dragging it up. He didn't bother to say the words, his mind to groggy. The pain to great. His eyes flashed and the orc split in fire, but not before hammering Frodo with spear in his right side.
He had failed. Frodo fell back and Sam leaped forward with a cry, shattering the spear. Aragorn leaped forward and finished the orc as he dragged Frodo out. Harry pulled himself up.
"Now!" shouted Gandalf. "Now is the last chance! Run for it!"
Merry and Pippin were ushered before the ranger. Legolas had to all but drag Gimli from the room despite the peril, where he wished to continue the fight. Harry pressed against the rear, his sword back in it's sheath, though he was unsure how he managed it.
As they ran down the flights of stairs, Harry bandaged his wound, trying to stop the flow. No one had yet to notice though. They waited at the bottom when Gandalf appeared. Harry hadn't realized they'd left him. Frodo was walking by Aragorn, well alive despite his paleness.
"You will have to do without light-" he heard Gandalf say, and wanted to help, but could not find the strength. He laid against a stone pillar and gasped. A pain in his head was coming again, more agonizing with each beat of the drum.
They stumbled after the wizard then, chasing through the dark. The beating of the drums still came, but it was muffled now, and sounded far away. Finally they rested, and Aragorn looked to Frodo as Gimli looked to Gandalf. Harry looked to his arm, and tore another sleeve to help stop the bleeding. A cold numbness had already taken the arm and his eyes were becoming the slightest bit dizzy.
He didn't bother to listen to their conversations, closing them from his mind.
"Are you hurt?" asked a voice. He looked up to see Legolas staring down at him. He tried to say no, but couldn't find the breath.
"A small wound," he ground out, though he knew it a lie. He couldn't afford to slow them down. He puffed slightly, "I... I think-"
He could say no more, he felt the bile in his throat. The elf was kneeling now, his keen eyes sharp, even in the dark.
" Can... make light... if-" He puffed again, his mouth dry.
"You are hurt then," spoke Legolas, he lifted Harry's sleeve, and Harry heard his breath hitch. "This is hardly small, aistari." The elf looked ready to say something but Harry managed to stop him, grabbing his hand.
"No..." he whispered. "Must... hurry..."
The elf looked reluctant but nodded. He gave Harry a sip of water and they began their journey again, this time with Legolas helping him to run as they went. Arrows sped overhead, one bouncing off Frodo, the other piercing Gandalf's hat.
Harry saw Legolas pause, as they crossed the bridge over the huge black chasm, and string an arrow, however it fell from his fingers.
"Ai! Ai!" wailed the elf. "A Balrog! A Balrog is come!"
"Durin's Bane!" cried Gimli, dropping his axe and covering his face.
"A Balrog! Now I understand," said Gandalf as he leaned against his staff wearily. "What misfortune has befallen us! I am already weary."
Harry looked at the fiery demon and felt an unbidden rage build. How dare it use fire to destroy! How dare it stop the company! He heard Gandalf tell everyone to fly, but did not. He stood behind Aragorn and Boromir at the end of the narrow straight. Drawing up his strength to did as he had learned to as he tried to master the fire.
"You can not pass!" shouted Gandalf. "I am a servant of the secret fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You can not pass! The dark fire will not avail you dark flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You can not pass!"
Harry drew against the fire as well, feeling the phoenix song fill him. It encouraged him, numbing the pain in his shoulder and comforting his soul. It gave him fervor and strengthened the fire that had sparked within him. He didn't understand it, and he did. He stepped past Aragorn and Boromir, ignoring their cries and lifting his hands. His body seemed to move without him, as though he were but a puppet, as though he were but the words of an action.
He stared into the monster beyond Gandalf and began to pull at the fire that surrounded the Balrog. The dark flames burned as they came to him. An icy pain that reeked of evil. Harry ignored it and pulled more, drawing in the nasty fire as he went, and holding it above his head as he had with the flame from Rivendell.
The Balrog seemed to notice this and grew enraged. It charged, and he could hear Aragorn and Boromir behind him, shouting words. Harry ignored it all, dragging in the dark fire was his only purpose. He would succeed. He must.
"You shall not pass!"
The fire was falling away, the Balrog defeated. He gasped for breath and felt his head and eyes spin. A light was filling his mind, the song of the phoenix budding through his soul.
Harry swayed against his feet and fell, sideways along the bridge. A hand grabbed his own, just as he'd almost tumbled into the darkness.
His unfocused eyes saw Aragorn holding tightly, the shaded blue black with fear. He understood then, understood it all. How he had come, why. He had not been called, as others had guessed, but send. The rip caused by opposites. The burn of his own fire played fiercely against the Balrog's dark call; the same way the Basalisk and the phoenix's magic had disturbed each other.
Gandalf was tumbling downwards into the abyss. In a moment, Harry knew he would join them. He smiled at Aragorn, he was saying something. Something far and distant.
"Don't let go..."
But he couldn't. He slipped away, staring at the face etched in fear and horror. He watched it until the world turned black. He watched it as it screamed.
He awoke slowly.
Pain, unbearable shifting pain stormed through his chest and arms, dancing on the bones and stabbing his head. Harry Potter doubted any part of him that didn't hurt. Flickering the emerald eyes slowly open, he stared at the Blackened ceiling, clear and distinct, though broken and fragmented.
He lifted his head at a cold laugh, feeling the cold sword hilt in his hand and warm blood around it. Looking over, he saw the figure Tom Riddle standing confidentially beside Ginny, his handsome face twisted in shock.
"What! But how? How is it possible you-"
Harry pulled himself upwards, dragging the sword with him as he rose despite the pain.
"Damn you" He whispered in elvish, the words coming to him even as he bore the large sword high above his head. He plunged it down, feeling it vibrate and burn with fire as it ripped through the diary. "Die!"
The memory shrieked in pain, and Harry collapsed beside Ginny, watching as the ink began to leak away, leaving a black trail in it's wake. He was too late.
Ginny was dead.
The numbness that had spread through him over time, broke like glass. He bent of the little girl and screamed. It wasn't fair! It wasn't right! She didn't deserve it, Riddle had used her! Killed her!
But no, whispered another part of his mind. He had killed her.
He was too late.
He suddenly pulled away, wiping away the mud and tears from his face as he looked on at the still pale Ginny, her red hair falling around to frame his face as brown eyes blinked slowly, in confusion and fear.
"You're okay..." He gushed, feeling foolish and relieved at the same time. He crushed her in a hug of his own. "I thought... I thought you dead..."
She looked even paler when he pulled away but said nothing. Fawkes the Phoenix flew to them and led them away where they met Ron and Professor Lockhart, who had accidentally erased his own memory with Ron's broken wand. All four left the Chamber of secrets, holding onto Fawkes' majestic tale as he pulled them up the long tunnel to safety.
Then, in Professor Dumbledore's office, he met with Mr. And Mrs. Weasley. They all talked so long, Harry could hardly listen, could hardly feel. He remembered the faces, the balrog and the fire; and, as he recited the almost forgotten journey to the chamber, he was faced with an unexpected decision.
"You battled the basilisk and passed out, Harry?" inquired Dumbledore, his twinkling eyes seeming to wither. "What then?"
Should he tell the headmaster about his appearance at Bree? The seeming realistic chase through the wilderness with Strider and the four hobbits? The battle atop Weathertop and the flight for the ford? Should he tell of the elven city, filled with strange immortal creatures and their counsel? The lord of the Rings and the fellowship? His being left behind and his willful chase to help? His ability to wield fire as he helped Gandalf face the monster of the deep?
But none of it had really happened, had it? His arm was not sliced in half, his clothes were not elvish, though they should have been. And he didn't still have the wand he had created. He'd been delusional, obviously.
"I..." He paused, remembering Aragorn's horrified face as Harry descended off the bridge near where Gandalf too had stood—the silent scream as he descended "And then I had a dream." He smiled slightly, remembering Bob and Butterbur, Aragorn and Gandalf, Frodo and Sam, Pippin and Merry, Elladan and Elrohir, and so many others. "It was so very long and quite real... But... just a dream."
With a heavy sigh, Harry told the rest of the story and listened to the headmaster speak. Lucius Malfoy interrupted and Harry managed to free Dobby th house elf. After a long day he finally went to sleep. Even then, he could not escape Aragorn's fearful gaze and that last, distant promise. He doubted he ever would.
A/N: Thank you all for reading this. If you would please, be so kind as to leave a review at the end, I should be very much indebted to you indeed! If there is, or is not, a sequel, I shall not know for some time. Thank you all, once more, for reading, and for those of you have complimented the story, I thank as well.