The Return of the Elves

Chapter Ten: Wandering Under the Moonlight

‘The war has begun,’ Harry declared, coming to a stop, and surveying the crowded Room of Requirement. So many things happened in this room over the years, and he found himself recalling the memories of fifth year when Hermione started Dumbledore’s Army. A small smile tugged at his mouth, but it did not reach his eyes; there were more pressing matters at hand now than evoking memories he would never get back. Harry started pacing again while he spoke, ‘Professor Dumbledore feels it is now imperative we start the DA up again, and this is what this gathering is about. This year will be longer, the sessions more intense, and there will be no rest until I am satisfied with the work presented,’ he decreed seriously, posing no dispute with his proclamation.

Hermione placed her hand gently on his arm. She knew it was tough for him, and she knew he was finding it difficult to cope with what was happening. She lowered her eyes in thought for a moment, before raising them again, and she found Legolas’ eyes from where he was standing with the Elves at the back of the room. Finding herself lost in the azure abyss, she almost forgot she was about to speak. Somehow, she managed to pull her eyes away from him.

She looked around at the sea of faces; some she recognised, and others she had scarcely seen or never seen before and sighed. Half of them were so young… they should not have any involvement in this war. ‘As everyone knows, Voldemort attacked Diagon Alley in the afternoon last week. Legolas has enlisted the help of the Elves to aid us in the impending war,’ she said, a note of despondency in her tone.

‘Before we begin, I will run through the different types of training you will all receive while in the DA. I will also mention this is on top of the training Professor Dumbledore has planned for everyone,’ Harry said, and he beckoned Ron over, taking a piece of parchment from him, and scanning it before lecturing the crowd again. ‘The three main phases of training will be Offence, Defence, and Miscellaneous. This will be laid out in the physical and magical sense, and everyone will receive a schedule with who will be doing what and when. When training begins, we are looking to focus primarily on defence before moving onto offence. For the physical side of this we have Legolas and Haldir who will be helping teach defence with hand-to-hand weapons,’ he enlightened, noticing the hand of a 5th year Slytherin go up.

He gestured for the girl to speak, ‘Why are we going to be using Muggle weapons?’ she asked with a note of repulsion in her tone.

Harry sighed, but it was Ron who spoke, ‘Because You-Know-Who’s band of merry men are going to be using Muggle weapons. We need to prepare for whatever he will throw at us.’ Not one person questioned his testimonial. The girl fell silent instead, electing to look at her feet in mortification.

Harry nodded at Ron in thanks, before continuing, ‘The Order has generously offered to help teach magical defensive and offensive techniques used by the Chekov Garde. They will also be teaching techniques they learned through years of Auror training. Professor Moody will oversee the training,’ he paused, motioning to Moody who was standing in a corner nodding in agreement.

‘Aye and I will not stand for failure,’ he growled, and the students looked at him with dread.

‘Gently, Moody,’ Lupin snickered from next to him.

Moody ignored him. ‘Finish up, boy,’ he called to Harry who nodded.

‘Well, this ends the introduction meeting. I expect to see you all back here tomorrow evening after dinner. On the board, next to the door, is a notebook. I want all those who want this extra training to put their names down in there,’ Harry concluded, turning away from the crowd, and Ron patted him on the back.

Legolas notched an arrow to his bow, firing it quickly at Haldir who cut it in two with his sword in a clean swipe, grinning at his companion. ‘A lethal move. If I were not quick enough, the arrow would have killed me,’ Haldir told the crowd of students who were keen on taking up Archery.

‘That is something you will learn once you have honed your skills,’ Legolas added while Haldir picked up his bow, and notched an arrow, firing it at Legolas who adroitly side-stepped it. ‘Speed and agility are two skills needed to dodge an arrow. Amid battle, it will be a lot more difficult. There will be many enemies, some of which will be Elves,’ Legolas warned them, unsheathing his daggers. ‘Daggers are an option for stopping a few arrows. You must also prepare for some getting through,’ he told them, and his eyes found Hermione standing off to one side working on her technique with daggers with a dark-haired Elf.

Haldir, observing this, signalled for the students to join him up on the stage where he proceeded to teach them Archery while Legolas moved over towards Hermione. Professor McGonagall had some of the students gather sticks from the border of the Forbidden Forest, and she spent the entire day transfiguring a vast arrangement of bows and arrows for the students.

Everyone stopped when Dumbledore entered the room, looking around proudly at all the students. He made his way to Harry who was teaching some first year’s defensive spells they wouldn’t usually learn until fourth or fifth year, and they were struggling. ‘How goes the DA?’ he asked him quietly, watching another group of first years over with Ron, learning how to disarm their opponent.

Harry sighed. ‘As well as we can expect. The first years are faring well, but some of the spells are too advanced for them. Professor, should they even be fighting in this war? I mean, wouldn’t they be better off in the dungeons and kept safe, or taught the basics of healing or something? I just don’t think we should allow them to fight…’ he trailed off, watching a young first-year Slytherin girl disarm her friend, and he smiled because the display reminded him of when Hermione did the same thing. He glanced at his best friend, seeing her looking at the girl before she smiled at him, and he knew she was thinking the same thing, but the smile did not reach her eyes, and he couldn’t blame her. They were all terrified of what was to come.

Dumbledore placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. ‘Unfortunately, we are unable to choose who fights for our side, Harry. If I had a choice, I would send you all to a haven until this war is over. I will give it some thought and see if I can get the first years onto medical training instead of in the danger zone,’ he offered.

Harry nodded, feeling a bit better. ‘They are just students, sir. We all are. We are scarcely capable of anything at this stage. I know any deaths in the war will be on my conscience because I am the leader of the DA. Whatever happens to these students is my responsibility. I don’t think I could cope if any of them died,’ Harry divulged to him, not meeting his eyes.

Dumbledore nodded. ‘I know how you feel, Harry. This war will affect everyone, but there is nothing we can do to prevent it,’ he answered wretchedly, and Harry sighed, nodding his head.

Dumbledore left Harry to continue, walking over to Legolas and Haldir, and they immediately straightened when he stopped next to them. ‘Albus,’ Haldir greeted, and Legolas nodded his acknowledgement.

‘How are things coming along?’ Dumbledore enquired of them, watching the students firing arrows up on the stage.

‘The students are quick learners. A lot of them are Muggleborn or Half-blood and took Archery as a hobby, making our work easier, but the others are keen to learn,’ Legolas told him, and Haldir stepped up onto the platform to help a first-year girl get into the correct stance to shoot an arrow.

‘Good, but we need to step it up a bit. There are more reports of attacks all over the country, mainly in the smaller towns and villages. I am beginning to fear the worst, Legolas. They are coming,’ he told him forlornly.

Legolas nodded. ‘We will try and speed things up, sir,’ he responded with determination, indicating to Haldir who nodded. He started teaching the group how to shoot at moving targets, and Flitwick helped by charming the marks to move about the room at different speeds.

‘We have been training for a month now, but I fear Voldemort is closing in on the final attack. I think the other attacks are merely fore-warnings,’ Dumbledore clarified.

‘I believe so, sir,’ he answered, and with a nod, Dumbledore left the room to go and write up a fiercer training schedule.

Legolas closed his eyes, the wind caressing his face, and he pulled his horse into a gallop across the grounds of Hogwarts. Another rider fell into step beside him, and he did not need to look to know it was Haldir, but a grin did find its way onto his lips. When they stopped next to the Black Lake, they turned towards a vast group of students running in their direction.

‘They are doing well,’ Haldir whispered, stroking his horse.

‘Yes, they are starting to keep up,’ Legolas mused, watching the first students come to a stop, collapsing to the ground in exhaustion.

‘I am not sure if this is cruel,’ Haldir said absently, watching a boy grasping a tree to keep himself standing.

‘This is part of the training schedule Alastor set up, and so we must follow it. This will increase their physical prowess, and it will help with speed and agility as well. Most of them are in good shape already, and they are keen to try,’ he whispered.

Hermione, Harry, and Ron walked over to them after catching their breaths. ‘That was brutal,’ Ron muttered, jogging on the spot to keep the adrenaline flowing in case Legolas and Haldir wanted them to continue.

Harry chuckled. ‘Well, we have to get used to it. While training under Dumbledore’s schedule, we are not in the position to protest. This is not the DA, so we can’t stand around watching everyone else train,’ he said to his friend, and Hermione laughed when they tackled each other to the ground.

It was nice to see them messing around at a time like this; it gave her a sense of peace knowing it wouldn’t all be doom and gloom. Plus, seeing Harry laughing and smiling was something she hadn’t seen at all in the last few months they had been training, and it was beginning to worry her.

She just hoped Harry would pull through…

Draco splashed cold water on his face, looking in the mirror only to see a stranger looking back. He didn’t want this life; he wanted to be out with the others, training and helping the right side. Instead, he was stuck on a side where he would be a slave to a lunatic until he died or someone murdered him.

He wasn’t keen on his options, but what other choice did he have?

He felt tears sting his eyes and tried so hard to fight them back, but there was no use. He messed his own life up by agreeing with his Father’s views when he was a kid, and now he was paying for it. He had no one to blame, but himself.

He heard the door open, and before he could hide, someone stopped short, and he looked in the mirror to see Granger staring at him in astonishment. Her eyes softened when she grasped something was troubling him, and she walked over to him. He refused to meet her eyes when she stopped next to him, but she didn’t say anything, only placing a gentle hand on his back, and Draco couldn’t hold it in any longer. He collapsed to the ground in tears, and Hermione pulled him into her arms.

They stayed like this until Draco pulled back, feeling ashamed. ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered raucously.

Hermione shook her head. ‘What for?’ she asked.

‘Everything,’ he answered, looking at her, and she could see the genuineness of his statement.

Hermione smiled. ‘I forgive you,’ she whispered, taking his hand.

Draco felt a smile tug at his lips, but it was promptly replaced by an angry sneer when he thought of what he was to face in the coming days. ‘I never wanted any of this…’ he muttered, trailing off, and rubbing his eyes.

‘Never wanted what?’

‘This life… I don’t want to be one of them,’ he responded brokenly, his voice cracking again.

‘Then don’t be,’ Hermione offered, stroking his blonde hair.

Draco shook his head. ‘It’s not something I can just run from. This isn’t a life choice, Hermione,’ he said, and his use of her first name stunned her, but she shook it off when he continued, ‘I grew up on that side. They say blood is thicker than water, right?’ he said, looking at her with blank eyes.

She felt like she wanted to wrap this boy in cotton wool and hide him from those who would seek to hurt him. She had never seen Draco Malfoy in this light, and it struck a chord in her. ‘Let me help you,’ she whispered, taking his hand and helping him stand.

‘How?’ he asked her, wiping off the dust from his trousers.

‘We’ll speak to Dumbledore. He can protect you, Draco. Just give him a chance,’ she reasoned, but Draco looked hesitant, so she tried again. ‘It’s the only way, and I’ll talk Harry and Ron into accepting you into the DA. Then you can get the same treatment and training as everyone else,’ she offered.

Draco sighed, running a hand through his hair, before nodding grudgingly. ‘You think Potter and Weasley will be up for letting me in?’ he asked her, an apprehensive expression appearing on his face.

‘If they don’t, I’ll train you myself,’ she promised.

He nodded, allowing her to pull him into another hug. ‘Thank you,’ he whispered, and she nodded, wondering how in Merlin’s name they had come to be in this position. This war was doing mysterious things to their world…

Harry stood proudly on the stage, gazing out at the brave faces crowded into the Room of Requirement. They had all trained so hard over the last few months and December was almost upon them. He decided it was best to disband the DA until after it was over unless they chose to come and train themselves.

‘This has been a hard year for you all, but I can stand here and say I am proud of all the work you have all put into the training. Thank you all for your hard work and commitment to this cause. Even though the school work and Dumbledore’s training schedule was hard enough without the DA adding to the tension, but you have all done so well. I say on behalf of the Professors as well, we are all pleased with the progress,’ Harry announced, smiling at everyone in the room. He looked down at his watch, clapping his hands. ‘Well, it is time for dinner, so I will leave it here. Also, just to make you all aware this room is open to anyone who wants to get in some training if they want to. It will not be getting locked up, so you are all free to come and go as you please,’ he established, and stepped down off the stage, moving over to Ron and Hermione.

‘We’re proud of you mate,’ Ron said, clapping him on the back, and Hermione smiled.

‘Come on, let’s get out of here,’ Harry said, leading his two friends from the room, and they headed down to the Great Hall, passing a large group of Elves on the way.

Draco took a seat at the Slytherin table, waiting for Dumbledore to make his grand entrance, and announce dinner. The Great Hall became boisterous with conversations filled with useless titbits of information. Always the same narrow people, the same tedious chatter. These days he was beginning to feel like he was standing on the brink of a great abyss... Not one of these people would pull him back from falling. He could not think of anyone who cared, or would even notice if he disappeared.

His eyes fell then on Hermione, and for a moment he fancied himself the thought maybe she would notice. She had been kind to him over the last month or so, and wondered if he could class her as an acquaintance now he accepted their truce. She had not mentioned the incident in Myrtle’s bathroom to anyone, so maybe he could even trust her. Draco shook the thought away almost immediately, averting his eyes from her. There was no way in hell Potter and Weasley would accept the two of them being friends. It would never happen. With a sigh, Draco focused on the members of his own house, resigning himself to being stuck in a life he never wanted…

Indeed, his happiness would be short-lived.

War had begun.

Hermione stared out at the vast array of stars, glad that the clouds never obscured them from the Astronomy Tower, and she pondered if Dumbledore placed a spell, so the stars were always visible from this vantage.

She sighed, their beauty could not erase the knowledge of what was going on in the world. The war was already beginning to take its toll on the Wizarding World. She knew the times ahead were going to be challenging for everyone, especially Harry. Leaning her elbows on the wall, she speculated when things became so demanding. The days were all blurring together, with all the new training getting pushed forward while the school workload was getting higher and harder. It was getting tougher to cope with it all on top of what was happening outside the safety of Hogwarts.

Hermione turned upon hearing the door open and raised her wand out of habit, but she lowered it immediately, realising it was Legolas. ‘Sorry, I wasn’t expecting anyone,’ she mumbled, stowing her wand back into her sleeve.

Legolas smiled. ‘I guess not. Would you mind if I joined you?’ he asked softly.

Hermione shook her head. ‘No, of course not,’ she answered, feeling somewhat nervous. She hadn’t been alone with Legolas since the last time they were on the Astronomy Tower, but that wasn’t a leisurely meeting.

Legolas nodded, coming to stand next to her. ‘It has come to my attention the training will be intensifying as of the day after tomorrow,’ he advised her, turning to glance at her.

She sighed. ‘More work,’ she muttered, glaring out at the stars, but she could not be annoyed at Dumbledore for pushing them to the extreme. He was just looking out for their best interests.

Legolas stared out at the stars, wondering if what he was about to speak to Hermione about was untimely, but he needed to get it off his chest. Now he was with her; he was reluctant to hear her answers. He knew what he felt for the girl was wrong, and there was no way the two of them could ever be something more. Even thinking it was laughable.

He took a moment to look at her, the way the breeze blew her soft curls back from her face, and the way her eyes reflected the twinkling stars, and his breath caught in his throat. She was beautiful, and denying it would be foolish. It was strange to him now, how one minute he knew his world was fading into a distant past he would never get back. Then she came along, saving him from drowning in the depths of the memories gnawing at him. She looked at him then, a small smile forming on her lips, and he found he couldn’t pull his gaze away from her.

Hermione turned to find Legolas staring at her, and this startled her, but she hid it well, wondering why he was looking at her. She could tell he wanted to say something to her, but it was apparent he did not quite know what to say. She knew it would take a lot of trust on his part to be open with her. She could tell something in the past hurt him profoundly, which was why he distrusted mortals now.

Her feelings confused her; she had never been one to just fall for someone. Being a stickler for the rules, she never dreamed she would ever feel anything for a Professor, and she looked away from him, breaking the spell, and questioned just how long they were staring at each other for. Her cheeks flushed in humiliation. Glancing at him, she could see he was carefully looking anywhere, but at her now, and her embarrassment grew in tenfold.

Legolas felt like a fool; he should not have been staring at her like that, and now he felt like he may have made her feel uncomfortable. He mistook his feelings for wanting to protect the girl and to be there for her. Though he was not going to question this need to shelter her, he knew it was more than this. He realised now when glancing at her again; she needed him… just as much as he needed her. There was something, more than just mere friendship brewing there, and he knew there was no denying it anymore.

Legolas fought the urge to wrap his arms around her when she shivered, pulling her robes tighter around herself. The days were getting colder now December was approaching, and the trees were becoming bare of leaves, falling to lie on the ground. There was a thin layer of frost glistening and glittering in the light of the moon on the ground.

He looked out towards the vast expanse of the Forbidden Forest, and to the mountains in the distance, before turning back to look at Hermione. ‘We should head in, you look cold,’ he advised with a small sigh, not wanting to go inside just yet.

Hermione nodded dreamily. ‘Just a little longer,’ she whispered, looking up at the stars, and there was something in her tone he could not fathom. When she lay her head on his shoulder, it stunned him, and he was suddenly terrified. Had she guessed how he was feeling? She moved away, noticing he tensed. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said quickly, shaking her head.

He was careful not to show any emotion, but he knew for a split second his expression gave him away, but he smiled. ‘Do not worry about it, Hermione,’ he said quietly, receiving a small smile back, and she leaned her head back on his shoulder. This time he relaxed, but his thoughts were erratic. He was concerned about what the implications of this may mean.

He forced himself not to think about it. It was taking everything for him not to reach over and run his hands through her soft hair. No one ever said the future would be easy, but he thought they both saw the glimmer of a dream somewhere in the sky. The tiniest spark of hope they could change their fate. Who could say?

The moment had now come and gone.

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