Chapter Eleven: Going through the Motions
It was late, but one light still burned in the Gryffindor Common Room where Harry lay sprawled on the couch scowling at his training schedule. Harry smiled wryly, not too long ago he was confident of his place in the world, and then he found out he was a wizard predestined to kill another, more powerful, wizard. Things made sense to him before that.
It must have been nice.
He stood up, walking over to the window, and looking out over the frost covered grounds of Hogwarts. He knew there was no chance he was going to sleep; his nerves were too rattled. He looked down at the dog-eared notebook in his hand, before tossing it onto the table with a thud. He had been on edge all day, and his scar was tingling, which did not help matters. Voldemort had gone silent, and he itched to know what he was planning next.
Legolas closed the door to his room, thinking for a moment about what happened on the Astronomy Tower. He knew it was risky letting Hermione get close, but he was not sure about whether he had the strength to keep her at arm’s length anymore.
He sighed, pulling a worn bag from under his bed. It was of cracked leather; its brass studs tarnished beyond polishing. In places, the black leather took on a copper colour with age. He opened the bag on the bed, but he was not sure what moved him to reach for it. Flitting from one night to the next like a ray of shifting darkness, he lived so much from moment to moment his motives were sometimes obscure to him.
Lifting a fragile ribbon out of the bag, he lay it on one pale hand, scarcely breathing for fear its brittle fabric would tumble into dust. Only a blush of the original tints remained, but he knew it had once been a deep blue colour. It belonged to Arwen, and she loved to braid it into her long curly hair. He was a little surprised at the emotion it still brought out in him. It seemed like a fragile ghost of a long-dead joy. He replaced it carefully into the bag, wondering what possessed him to take it out again in the first place. It was probably his feelings for Hermione…
She reminded him so much of Arwen it alarmed him.
Though the night was warm, eddies of cold air rolled off him, and in the moonlight, his face looked ashen. His footsteps were silent but left a trail on the frosted grass, and he went to the edge of the Forbidden Forest where an iron fence threw barred shadows against the grass. Dumbledore set up these bars in case Voldemort decided to attack from the Forbidden Forest, a reasonable precaution. A huge oak stood at the edge of the black lake, its mighty roots heaving the rocks drunkenly askew.
Haldir inhaled the scent of mildew clinging to the ancient tree. He often visited this group of old trees since coming to Hogwarts, fascinated by the way the big oak made the ground heave and buckle. The moon shone bright like a spotlight overhead, and his shadow leapt to meet him while he walked. Suddenly, he sensed he was not alone, and he grew still, quietening his breathing altogether. The night breeze brought a familiar scent of perfume to his delicate nostrils, which quivered while he tried to recall where he first smelled it.
Slipping swiftly from shadow to shadow, Haldir leapt up into a nearby tree, peeking through the branches to the grounds of Hogwarts. A solitary figure stood some yards from him, head tilted to the right while she gazed out at the Black Lake, and Haldir knew she had not spotted him. She would only see a shadow in the overreaching oak tree, so he knew she would not see him spying on her.
The girl turned around, looking at him a long time like she was a deer caught in the glare of his gaze. Either the moon or some deep emotion drained her face of colour, and her blonde hair looked silken and unsubstantial.
Haldir knew her at once... it was Luna.
He wondered why she was wandering the grounds at such a late hour, and his interest peaked. It took him several moments to comprehend she had not seen him, though she seemed to be looking right at him and wondered what caught her attention.
Suddenly, she turned and walked away towards the gravel path leading to the courtyard, and Haldir leapt down from the tree, landing softly on the grass, before following her.
Hours passed into the early dawn and, finding he could not sleep, Legolas left his room. He was opting to go for a walk and clear his head when he found Hermione in the common room asleep on the couch. He tried to control the unexpected emotions welling within him at seeing her peaceful countenance.
He longed to run his hands through her smooth hair, and caress her pale ivory cheek, but he tried, desperately, to ignore those feelings. The lesson he learned came back to him violently – love is dangerous. Love almost destroyed him and caused him to be virulent and regretful for a long time. He stared at Hermione while she slept on the couch. He found a haven in Hogwarts he never dared dream of thanks to Dumbledore, but he felt he would have to leave it when the war was over…
Legolas watched the last sliver of the suns disc slip above the horizon. It is good to be loved, he told himself, his eyes finding Hermione’s peaceful form again, it can be profitable, but falling in love is bad. Living in darkness, as he did, it was better to let minutes’ slip away. It was better to cling to nothing when nothing mattered anymore. It was in his best interest to not fall in love, especially not with a human girl.
A dismal conviction caught hold of him: He was doomed.
‘We have more reports of attacks. He is edging closer to Hogsmeade,’ Dumbledore divulged, looking around at the Order, the Auror’s, and the Minister.
‘What should we do, Albus?’ McGonagall asked him fearfully. ‘These children are not ready to fight in this war, let alone defend themselves,’ she added, gesturing out to the grounds where a large group of students were having a snowball fight.
‘Training will continue,’ he told McGonagall who nodded. ‘If it is all right with you, Minister, can some members of the Chekov Garde position themselves around Hogwarts to give it some extra security?’ Dumbledore asked him.
The Minister nodded, ‘Of course, Albus.’
‘Thank you,’ he said sincerely. ‘As for the rest of us, we just need to continue as we are and it is only a matter of waiting,’ he advised, receiving nods in the affirmative, and he turned to Lupin. ‘Has there been any further news?’
‘I have not heard anything, but the attacks are getting more random, which leads me to believe he is trying to confuse us,’ he answered thoughtfully.
Dumbledore nodded. ‘Yes, that is what I think as well. I believe he is trying to lead us into a false sense of security before he strikes. We will be ready for him,’ Dumbledore promised, looking around at all the faces cramped into the tiny office.
Hermione walked into the Room of Requirement, and it changed instantly to suit her needs. The room was dark when she made her way to the middle of the seemingly empty room. A figure stepped out of the shadows dressed in black robes, the hood obscuring their face, and she positioned herself into a fighting stance, nodding to another figure leaning against the wall.
He pushed himself off the wall, joining her in the middle of the room. ‘So, is this the usual training we will be getting if I’m accepted?’ Draco asked her, pulling his wand out.
‘This is what we will be doing once training starts back up,’ she answered, spinning her wand in her hand.
Draco nodded. ‘You know, the real thing will be a lot more intense. Don’t think one target will do,’ he said thoughtfully, and as if his words were a command, more cloaked figures appeared to stand behind the original one. ‘Now, that’s more like it,’ he grinned at her.
She rolled her eyes. ‘Let’s do this,’ she muttered, running towards the figures.
‘As you wish,’ he whispered, the grin becoming a smirk, and Draco closed his eyes, feeling the rise of the old familiar feeling. He hated it. He welcomed it. Opening his eyes, he took off at a run towards the figures, firing off spells while he went.
Hermione ducked a green beam of light, rolling across the ground, before getting to her feet and firing a stunner at the figure. He dodged it, firing another spell at her, which she did not recognise. She watched while Draco neatly sidestepped the yellow beam like this was a regular thing.
Watching his fluid movements for a moment, Hermione realised she had never seen Draco like this. He must have had a lot of training when he was younger. He did not seem to fear anything, yet she knew he did. He was as confident in a conflict like he was merely taking a stroll through the corridors, and the multitude of spells aimed towards him didn’t faze him. He dodged them, firing his own casually, and she was impressed, but this was not the time to be thinking about it, returning fire with her spells.
Haldir leaned against the wall in the courtyard watching the scene before him. Luna Lovegood was a fascinating creature, and he wondered if she was even mortal. A small smile made its way onto his face while he watched her speaking and whistling to the birds drawn to her.
‘You are curious about me,’ came her soft voice, and she turned to smile at him.
‘You have the grace of an Elf,’ Haldir answered, moving to stand next to her.
Luna smiled. ‘I should hope so,’ she whispered, looking up at him through her long eyelashes.
Haldir felt he was losing the train of his thought while he looked into her eyes, but he jerked himself back to attention, realising what she said. ‘Wait… you…’ he trailed off, looking into her sapphire eyes. She shushed him, touching his cheek with the back of her hand, before leaning up and pressing her lips to his in a gentle kiss. When he opened his eyes, she was walking back into the school building, leaving Haldir wondering what she meant.
A few days passed, and the students of Hogwarts discovered the Hogsmeade weekend was still going on, much to their shock. Some filed out towards the coaches while others, who were walking to the village, moved towards the gates. A large group of neatly dressed soldiers marched their way into the castle with their eyes focused ahead of them. Their uniform was dark green with red trims, and there were badges of all sorts sewed onto their breast and arms.
‘The Chekov Garde,’ Hermione whispered while she, Harry, Ron, and Neville watched them.
‘Things must be getting serious,’ Harry answered, watching the soldiers disappear into the building.
From the other side of the courtyard, Legolas watched their procession in slight awe. They looked powerful, and he felt more relief knowing the castle was on high security. He was part of the security for Hogsmeade along with Haldir and some of the Auror’s, and he turned to walk towards the gates, hearing a flutter of wings when he passed under a low tree. ‘Arwen!’ he exclaimed involuntarily, and closed his eyes, feeling like a fool. Sometimes he had the eerie sense she was still around even though millennia had passed since she faded. A flickering candle or a sudden noise would make him turn around expecting to see her.
He shook his head, walking over to where Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Neville were talking, and they looked up when he approached. ‘Hi, Legolas,’ Harry acknowledged while the others nodded, and Hermione smiled at him shyly.
‘Are you all going to the village?’ he asked them, carefully avoiding looking at Hermione.
‘Yes, we’re just waiting on Ginny, and Luna,’ Ron answered, putting his hands in his pockets.
‘Good, it will be safer to travel in numbers,’ Legolas answered, and for a moment he allowed himself a fleeting glance at Hermione who looked back curiously. Then he addressed them all again, ‘I will see you all down there no doubt,’ he said, and with a nod, he walked over to where Haldir was speaking to a group of Elves.
Hermione frowned at his sudden departure, wondering if she had done something wrong. In the morning sun, his eyes looked bluer, and they were full of an emotion she could not place. She watched the Elves move gracefully towards the dirt road leading to Hogsmeade village, wondering if he was trying to forget about her or if he was just avoiding her. She could understand to a degree… he was a Professor, and she was his student.
Luna and Ginny finally joined them, and the six friends made their way down to the village of Hogsmeade. They opted to have a drink in the Three Broomsticks before moving on to look at the other shops. Ron went up to the bar with Neville to get them a round of Butterbeer’s, while the other four sat talking in hushed tones about the upcoming battle.
‘I don’t think we have long,’ Harry was saying, stabbing his napkin with his knife. ‘I have a feeling he is going to attack soon. I can feel it,’ he told them.
‘Your scar?’ Ginny asked him, grabbing his hand to stop him from damaging the napkin further.
‘It has been tingling for days now. I think he’s planning something horrible,’ Harry answered, reaching up to trace his scar.
‘Well, let’s not think about it for the moment. This may be the last Hogsmeade weekend we will be able to enjoy for a while. Once training begins again we won’t have any free time,’ Neville reasoned, sitting back down between Luna and Hermione, while Ron sat next to Harry on the opposite side.
Harry nodded. ‘Yeah, you’re right, Nev. I’m just not sure what to make of the quiet. I mean there were attacks left, right, and centre, and then they just stopped, and he went all quiet,’ he shook his head. ‘I have to wonder what he’s planning, and why he’s trying to throw us off,’ he added thoughtfully.
Hermione looked down at her napkin, folding it in half, and then again, until she had a perfect square, while wondering the same thing herself. Was Voldemort planning on attacking somewhere crucial like the Ministry? She decided it was maybe not the best to try to figure out how the lunatic’s mind worked. She was not sure she even wanted to know where he was going to attack next.
Her mind wandered further, tracing a pattern on her napkin with a fork. Legolas’ eyes were hauntingly beautiful; she had never seen eyes quite like his. He did not say much, but those eyes were drenched with feeling today, and she wondered what caused the sudden open expression of emotion.
Her mind turned to another predicament she found herself in the middle of, and she glanced around at her friends wondering if they would ever accept Draco into the DA. He was getting the regular training like everyone else, Dumbledore was making everyone take it, but she wanted him to join the DA. She knew he was keen on taking the extra training, and she knew he would be an excellent addition. While she looked at her friends again, wondering how best to speak to them about it, she decided now was not the best time. Then again, when would the best time be? She thought it had come and gone, and the trouble with Harry and Ron was they could not appreciate somebody who was not in Gryffindor. They had a hard time accepting Hufflepuff’s and Ravenclaw’s at the best of times. It took them a while to accept Luna, and so a Slytherin would be a great achievement if they allowed Draco into the DA.
She looked up when the door to the pub opened and Legolas walked in, his eyes searching the room until he found their table in the corner. She looked at him curiously, and he tilted his head, making his way past their table to the back of the pub where a fire was lit to banish the cold. She watched him join Haldir at the fireplace, not even realising he was there, but she was curious to see Luna was looking at her lap and smiling. Hermione looked back at the two Elves to see them laughing about something. She did not think she had ever seen Legolas laugh, his eyes lit up when he laughed, and the way the fire flickered, causing shadows to fall on his face made him look almost ethereal and hauntingly beautiful.
She could not help it; she stood up from her seat under the pretence of going to the bathroom, when she only wanted to be closer to Legolas. She did not know what possessed her, but when she walked past them, she could feel his piercing gaze on her. When she went into the bathroom, she went straight to the sink, splashing cold water on her face. She looked in the mirror, finding a pale, dull girl staring back at her, and shook her head, before heading back out fully expecting Legolas and Haldir to have left.
Legolas looked up, like he sensed her presence, and watched her leave the bathroom, and his breath caught in his throat. The fire made her seem unreal, like he could reach out only to have her blow away like dust. She drew closer; her gaze holding his almost hypnotically. Legolas wanted to kiss her, but the wild pounding in his temples told him he would be better off not touching her at all. A rush of excitement made his stomach feel tight.
Recently, his long life had become intensely interesting.