Blood, Bricks and Mortar.
Hagrid heaved one of his huge boxes onto the table and lifted off the lid. He then did the same with the second box. To Harry's surprise, they were full of weapons. The first was chock-full with arrows, the second with awkwardly shaped daggers and flints. He also laid down his two best cross-bars on the table alongside them.
Legolas reached for one of the arrows and ran one of his thin hands down its length.
"This is good work, Hagrid," he said approvingly.
"S'easy once you showed me how to do it," Hagrid shrugged.
Aragorn too was inspecting the weapons Hagrid had made. "You've done well to get these made in so short a time," he replied, fingering a dagger. "I fear we'll have use of them. There are enough here for the five of us," he said, looking at Legolas, Gimli, Merry and Pippin. "But what of the others in the castle?"
"You forget that this is a castle of wizards, Aragorn," Gandalf answered him. "They don't need weapons when they have magic."
"Even you carry a sword, Gandalf," Aragorn protested. "And I would fear few with a weapon in their hands more than you, for all your magic. I would feel more confident if the elders at least held more than a wand."
"This castle is better protected by those wands than you could ever imagine, Aragorn. Even the youngest ones in the castle can perform a hex well enough to stop an Orc. Let them defend themselves as they wish."
"Will everyone be expected to fight, Dumbledore?" Harry asked, speaking up for the first time.
"I hope not, Harry," Dumbledore replied. "All the younger children are to remain hidden in the castle, but I have told our older students they may have to defend themselves. But I do not believe that Voldemort will try and destroy the school – or its pupils. It's the ring he wants. And there's no sense in him being all powerful if he's got rid of everyone else, is there?"
"He may not want everyone slain, but you can't say the same about those Orcs," Gimli said matter-of-factly, not noticing Aragorn's frown of warning. "They're trained to kill whatever stands in their way." Then, seeing the look on Harry's face and Gandalf's unblinking stare, he quickly back-tracked. "That is… eh, that normally they'd kill anything standing in their way, but I'm sure they've never come across so many wizards in their lives… so I'm sure they won't… anyway," he added more cheerfully, "the five of us will kill any Orc that tries to get into the castle," he added confidently, nodding round at his companions.
As Gimli's words died away, Harry was struck by the silence. It wasn't just that no one in the room was speaking, it was outside too. The wind that had been blowing merrily down the chimney and around the eaves of the castle had fallen away and with it had gone the faint rustle of trees from the forest. Legolas, who stood by the window and was looking out into the dusk spoke softly to all of them as he said;
"They are here."
Harry ran to the window and looked out. He saw in the distance a row of lights flickering on and off in the distance. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom outside, he recognised that the lights were torches and that they were being held by dark, tall creatures, heavily armoured and carrying swords and other weapons. Harry felt his heart paralyse with fear as he recognised that the dark line of warriors was moving swiftly towards the castle. They're coming.
Harry turned away at that point, and by doing so, missed the moment when the fighting warriors parted and a tall, thin person in wizard robes walked calmly through the ranks. He was followed by a shorter, balding wizard who was looking around nervously. Voldemort, along with Wormtail at his side, was ready to take control of his army.
Everything seemed to happen all at once. Legolas, Gimli, Merry and Pippin ran out of the room to take up their positions for the battle. Dumbledore and Gandalf spoke together briefly in low voices, then swept from the room together.
As he walked past him, Dumbledore placed a comforting hand on Harry's shoulder and squeezed gently.
"You must go deep inside the castle, Harry, and don't worry, we will protect you. But you must stay inside the castle."
Before Harry could ask anymore questions, Dumbledore had gone and only Aragorn remained with him. He stared up at the great man, who looked fierce in his battle attire. Harry was comforted by the determined look in his eyes. It was good to have a man like Aragorn on your side. You certainly wouldn't want to be fighting against him.
"Don't you have to get into position or something?" Harry asked, nodding through the window at the Orcs, still marching towards the castle.
"This is my position," Aragorn said simply.
"Huh?" was Harry's intelligent response.
"I made a promise to Frodo," Aragorn said softly. "I promised to protect him because he is the ring-bearer. He must do what I, and many others, cannot. Now he is hidden inside this castle and trusts in you, Harry Potter to keep him safe. Therefore it is my job to keep you safe, so that I may keep my promise. I pledge myself to protect you, Harry, throughout this battle and from the wizard Voldemort. I will do everything in my power to keep you – and Frodo and Sam – safe from harm."
"Oh, er, thanks," Harry said awkwardly. He felt a hundred times better to have Aragorn as a personal bodyguard whilst Hogwarts was under siege. But he wasn't sure what a person was supposed to say in a situation like this.
Luckily, Aragorn was all business. Grabbing several weapons from the table and thrusting one large-ish dagger into Harry's hands, he said, "We must get further inside the castle."
So Harry and Aragorn left as well, and the great hall was empty again.
"I must be mad," Ron muttered to himself as he, Hermione, Neville, Fred, George and Lee Jordan tiptoed single file along one of Hogwarts great corridors.
"Sshh, Ron," Hermione hissed. "Someone'll hear us."
"Yeah, maybe one of those seven-foot tall warriors out there with the big swords and crossbows," Ron replied sarcastically. "Oh, that's right, I forgot, we're looking for them."
"Ron," Hermione whispered crossly, "you know why we're here. Now do you want to help Harry or not?"
"Of course I do."
"I just wish you hadn't let the others come along," Hermione pondered, glancing down the line at Neville, Lee and the twins. "Two of us would've fitted under the invisibility cloak. It would've made getting out of here a lot easier."
"If McGonagall sees us we're in trouble," she heard George say from the back. "What's the hold-up up there?"
"I can't hear anything," Ron said to Hermione, listening out for the sounds of a teacher. "Let's move."
One by one the students made their way down the great staircase quickly and quietly. For once, the moving stairs did not impede them but slipped neatly into place as if they knew the seriousness of the situation. When they reached the empty hall, the six paused as Ron took out the Marauder's map from beneath his robes.
"I can't see Harry," he said, peering at the map. "Hang on a sec – there's something weird here." He handed the map to Hermione. "Look at that."
Hermione glanced down at the map. Just as she thought she caught sight of Harry's name, the map blurred over. Legolas and the others from Middle Earth were not on the map at all.
"It must be Dumbledore's magic," she said at last. "He and Gandalf must be using some powerful charms – it's even affected the Marauder's Map."
"So what do we do now?" Ron asked. "Harry could be anywhere."
"Well," Hermione thought for a moment. "We'll have to find another way to help. There must be something we can do. Hogwarts is under attack."
"She's right," Fred nodded. "This is our school and I'm not going to let those filthy creatures run all over it. Or You-Know-Who!"
"Well said, Fred," George agreed and Lee Jordan nodded too. "What do you say, Neville?"
"I want to help too," Neville piped up, nervously.
Hermione nodded. "Good. Then I suggest we find Legolas and the others and see if we can help them. He and Gimli were in charge of the battle I think. They must be around the front of the castle."
"Legolas?" Ron questioned, halting the others in their tracks as they prepared to act on Hermione's plan. "Oh, you would want to find him."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Hermione asked, irritated by Ron's tone.
"Nothing," Ron shrugged, "it's just interesting how quickly you've given up trying to find Harry. But I guess if it means you can get closer to your new friend…"
"Oh, Ron, grow up!" Hermione sighed in exasperation. "Maybe I want to find Legolas for no other reason than because I think we can help him. What's the alternative? Go and find Dumbledore? Somehow I don't think he'd be too pleased to see us at the moment."
As they spoke, an enormous roar erupted from outside and the sound of clashing metal and flying arrows ricocheted around the castle.
"Listen, if you two could finish your lover's quarrel some other time, that'd be great," George said hurriedly. "I don't think now's quite the time."
As they spoke, the sound of a window smashing punctured the air. As one, they all ran through the entrance hall to the front of the castle, just in time to see Gimli lunge his axe into the centre of an enormous warrior figure.
"Urgh," Fred grimaced, taking half a step back. "That's grim."
Taking a good look around, Hermione saw Gimli, Merry and Pippin all in the middle of the fighting. Merry and Pippin, despite their size, seemed to have the upper hand in their battles, being quick enough and small enough to escape the clumsy blows of the Uruk-Hai. Gimli, meanwhile, was taking down one after another with a ferocious roar each time. She couldn't see Legolas, but from the accurately-placed arrows sticking out of various bodies on the ground, she knew he had to be nearby.
"What do we do, Hermione?" Neville called out, his eyes as round as saucers at the carnage in front of him.
"Curse them, Neville!" she called back. "Anything that will stop them; even jelly-legs! It doesn't matter."
Hermione glanced over at Ron who nodded determinedly. Both of them took out their wands at the same moment and shouted "Petrificus Totalus". Immediately two Uruk-Hai, who had been about to lunge a tree in the direction of the castle door went rigid and fell to the ground with a crash. Gimli the dwarf made a grunt of approval as he saw the warriors fall.
Spurred on by their success, all of the Hogwarts lot started shooting curses out in every direction. Ron, Hermione and Neville stuck to stunning spells, but Fred, George and Lee saw no reason not to practise their best joke curses, and soon the battlefield was covered with Uruk-Hai dancing around or covered with boils or sprouting hair.
"Why don't they come nearer?" Ron hissed at Hermione when he could get within talking distance. "They're just lining up to be knocked right down."
Hermione looked and saw that Ron was right. The huge army of Orcs and goblins always stayed at least 15m from the castle itself, allowing those defending it to have a good shot at whomever they wished.
"I don't think they can get nearer, Ron," Hermione guessed, watching closely as Gimli battled with one Uruk-Hai who seemed to take a step back every time Gimli lured him closer to the castle. "It must be Dumbledore again – the castle is protected. Harry and Frodo must be inside. Hey, everyone!" Hermione called out, trying to get the attention of the other students. Stay near to the castle – they can't come too close. Stand by the walls and you'll be safer."
"Yeah, it's just the arrows and heavy flying objects you've got to watch," Ron added, ducking as a large toadstool sailed over his head.
The others nodded, all except Neville, who, Hermione realised to her horror, had ventured far out beyond the safety zone. He couldn't have heard her warning and was close to being surrounded by Orc.
"Oh no!" she cried out. She glanced around her for help. "Ron, look! It's Neville – he's too far away. He's going to get hurt."
"Hi Neville! Come back!" Ron shouted loudly, but it was no good.
Neville was charging valiantly forwards, shouting out the stunning charm in a high, urgent voice in the direction of every warrior he saw. He was not aiming particularly well, either, and several charms were being reflected off shields or armour. Hermione flinched as she watched Neville narrowly miss being hit by one of his own rebounded spells. Well away from the castle now, he was still knocking down Uruk-hai but they had started to surround him and soon he was trapped in the middle of a group of angry, roaring creatures.
There was a slight pause before Neville looked around him and realised the situation. The Uruk-hai were moving towards him, forming a tighter and tighter circle. Neville looked back and saw the panicked faces of Ron and Hermione staring back at him from the safety of the school walls. In his hand, the grip on his wand grew weaker as the sweat made his palms slippery. He swallowed, and felt his chest tighten and constrict with fear. Closing his eyes tightly, Neville held out his arm and got himself ready…
"AAAaaggghhhrrr, rrrooaarrggghhh!" An enormous roar erupted from nearby and Neville felt a gust of wind go over him. Opening one eye, he saw a gap where two Uruks had been stood just moments before and saw another gap appear as Gimli downed a third. He just had time to sigh with relief before one of the remaining Uruk-hai grabbed him and lifted him off the ground.
Gimli immediately ran to his aid but was impeded by several more warriors who got in the way. When he finally reached Neville, he raised his axe, only for the Uruk holding the boy to fall to the ground, with Neville landing somewhere nearby.
"Ahhrr, Legolas! That one was mine!" Gimli cried, glancing with distaste at the felled Orc, who had an arrow in his neck.
Hermione and Ron, who had been watching the whole episode breathlessly, glanced up in the direction of Gimli's shout and saw Legolas above them, stood upon the castle wall, bow aloft with an enormous box of arrows beside him.
"Then you should be quicker next time!" Legolas shouted back down to Gimli. "And move a little to the left."
Gimli stepped to the side as another arrow from Legolas' bow whistled past him and hit an Orc behind him.
"Elves! Always showing off," Gimli grunted. "Come along now, lad," he added, helping Neville to his feet. "Get back to your friends, we need you to keep knocking these Uruk-hai down. I will admit that those wands of yours are mighty impressive weapons."
Somewhere towards the back of the Uruk-hai, Voldemort stood in perfect stillness, with a quivering, jittery Wormtail at his side.
"Tell me, why can our warriors get no nearer to the castle?" he asked, softly hissing. "And tell me, Wormtail, how a small group of children and animals can stop these creatures that were made for death and destruction?"
"I don't know, my Lord," Wormtail answered nervously. "Maybe these people from the other world are stronger than we thought."
"No," Voldemort shook his head patiently, with a thin, lifeless smile that scared Wormtail more than all the Orcs put together. "No, it is not that ramshackle band of do-gooders. Only magic can be stopping the Uruk-hai breaking through. There is some force preventing them reaching the castle. This is Dumbledore's work."
"Yes. Which means the ring is inside. We must get into the castle!" Voldemort was suddenly shouting, his voice trembling with rage. "And yet a whole army cannot do it! There must be another way…"
"I think there is, my Lord," Wormtail said calmly. For once, his brain seemed to be working and he knew his master would be pleased with what he had to say. "There is another way into the castle – a secret passage. It goes deep underneath the ground and may not be protected by Dumbledore's spell."
Voldemort turned slowly around, his great height dwarfing Wormtail.
"A secret passage?" he repeated very slowly.
"Yes, Master," Wormtail answered, less assuredly. "That would be some help to us, wouldn't it?"
Voldemort paused for a moment before slowly nodding his head. "Yes, Wormtail, yes, I believe it will."
To be continued… Please read/review