Chapter Twelve: Fade to Black
It was nice to be somewhere familiar, which felt and smelled like home, giving a sense of security and peace. This is what Harry felt every time he walked into the kitchen at the Burrow, where Mrs Weasley would wrap him in one of her famous bone-breaking hugs, which made him feel like he was a member of the family.
A veil of tension fell on the home of the Weasley’s, and they knew deep down this place was only as safe as any other was. Some houses which were raided and destroyed were better protected than theirs was, and they knew they were a prime target considering their ties to Harry. They did not show it, they were a strong family, but inside the worry overwhelmed them.
Harry looked around the kitchen with a smile; home, sweet home. Something in the night felt like a door opening, an echo of the past, an old monster snapping its eyes open in the depths of his brain. Closing his eyes forced him to look at the darkness inside, wondering just how safe they were there, but he tried not to think about it while the days drew on, and soon Christmas was upon them.
The morning was filled with cheer, and they played games, had a snowball fight in the late afternoon, and Harry felt like things were normal, and there was not the impending doom hanging over their heads. He almost felt like a kid again, without the weight of the world on his shoulders. He sat on the sidelines, watching Fred and George charm piles of snowballs to hurtle towards their opponents. They decided to go girls vs boys and, so far, the girls were winning so the twins, naturally, decided to cheat.
‘OI! Quit cheating!’ Ginny shouted, pelting a snowball at George, who ducked it casually.
‘Stop winning then!’ George shouted back, sending a snowball her way, and hitting her on the arm.
Growling, Ginny leapt out of her hiding place and sprinted towards George, tackling him to the ground. While they rolled around laughing, and play fighting, Harry smiled with them. He would not have minded having a good time himself; it was just he had practically forgotten how.
He didn’t look up when Hermione sat down next to him, resting her head on his shoulder. ‘It will be over soon, you’ll see,’ she whispered to him, and all he could do was nod, hoping beyond hope it would be. Hermione watched Harry get up, deciding to turn in for the night, but she stayed where she was. Everyone else went in, leaving her to sit on the bench by herself. Ron made to stay, but Ginny grabbed his arm and Hermione was thankful she sensed her need to be alone.
She watched the sun go down behind the horizon; the sky was heavy with a veil of foreboding, and she could almost sense something was going to happen. While she stared out at the stars appearing in the darkening sky, she felt a strange nervousness like there was going to be an attack, or something worse was going to happen. She could not pinpoint what it was, and a chill breeze raised goose bumps on her arms. She headed inside before the snow fell.
Over the next few hours, they all played games while snow fell like ash from post-apocalyptic skies, but this was outside. She could not erase the worried frown she could feel forming between her brows.
Hermione woke with a start when tremors shook the house, and she blearily looked out the window to see flickering, wondering what was causing it. Something exploded outside, hurtling debris towards the house, and she registered the shouts of everyone in the Burrow and jumped out of bed, wand in hand.
She ran downstairs to find the Weasley’s and Harry firing spells into the night, aiming for perpetrators who could not be seen through the snow falling thickly to the ground. Hermione felt tears come to her eyes when a spell caused an explosion at the top of the house where she had been sleeping. She felt something terrible was going to happen, but now it was happening, it terrified her. She thought she was prepared for something like this, but there are only personal apocalypses.
Nothing is a cliché when it is happening to you.
Hermione went over to Harry; he looked horrible, and she could not blame him, but he was relieved to see she was okay. ‘They are after me; this is my fault. I can’t run from this, I will only end up wasting time,’ he told her, firing a spell through the window.
‘Harry, you can’t blame yourself for this,’ she said, firing a spell out the window.
‘This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t come here,’ he told her despondently.
‘Harry, stop it, we’ll talk about this later!’ she shouted, moving away from him, firing spells.
Legolas and Haldir looked around at the devastation the Burrow had become. Dumbledore walked past them with Lupin and Moody, moving towards the family who were shaking with grief. Molly and Arthur were with Fred at St Mungo’s because he was seriously injured during the fight. The others stayed behind to speak to Dumbledore and sort through the wreckage. They were all apprehensive about staying in case the Death Eaters returned to finish them off.
Dumbledore stopped in front of them. ‘This was merely a warning. I must apologise, I should have made you all aware the Burrow may have been one of his primary targets,’ he told them, his tone remorseful.
‘You couldn’t have known, Albus. We all knew our home was a target,’ Bill said from where he was tying a makeshift bandage around Fleur’s arm. A nasty spell hit her, leaving a wide gash across the top of her arm, just missing her shoulder.
‘Even so, more precautionary measures are needed to ensure this does not happen again,’ Dumbledore answered, looking around. ‘Where is Harry?’ he questioned, realising the boy was missing.
‘He took off about an hour ago, told us he wanted to be alone. Can’t blame him, he thinks it’s his fault this happened. We tried to convince him it would have occurred regardless of whether we knew him or not. Being in the Order would have made us prime targets anyway,’ George answered earnestly, shaking his head. He was concerned about Fred, and everyone could see this. Usually, he would have cracked some joke about the situation to try to make light of it, but they were quashed.
Dumbledore nodded, walking over to where Hermione and Ron were sitting on a piece of rubble resembling what used to be a bench. ‘Are you both okay?’ he asked them when he reached them.
Hermione was crying, and Ron just looked annoyed. ‘Yeah, we’re alright, but are we safe to stay here when we’re out in the open like this?’ Ron enquired of him.
Dumbledore shook his head. ‘No, I want you all to leave here, and go to Grimmauld Place, or return to Hogwarts. This place is no longer safe,’ he instructed them, and they nodded.
From the other end of what used to be the garden, Legolas watched Ron help Hermione to her feet, and she leaned heavily against him. It was a sure sign she was hurt in the battle, and he felt rage well inside him. Voldemort thought he could get to everyone by taking Harry out of the picture and leaving Dumbledore to take the fall for it. All he got was a lot of attention from his adversaries.
Everything started out as black and white, but somewhere down the road, the line became blurred. The colours started to run, got smudged, and grey. At the start, Legolas was aware of what he needed to do, but now he was helpless. It was not a feeling he was accustomed to.
‘We have some good news,’ Dumbledore said with a small smile, and clasped his hands together, looking at the crowd of people standing in the Room of Requirement over the top of his half-moon spectacles. ‘It has come to my attention we have found more Elves, and they have aligned themselves with our cause,’ he announced with a smile.
Legolas looked up with a hopeful expression, and he could not help the smile which broke out on his face at this news. Who found them, and where? He was curious, but when these thoughts went through his mind, the door opened, and Tonks led a medium sized group of about 40-50 Elves into the room.
Legolas looked at the faces of the Elves desperately to see if there were any he recognised, but this was a vain endeavour. He was just comforted in the knowledge there were more out there, and he moved to stand next to Harry who was leaning against the wall with his eyes closed. There was deep emotion etched into his face, and he looked older than he was at this moment. Legolas found himself reminded agonisingly of Aragorn and the burden he had to bare before taking up his rightful place as the King of Gondor, but he shook his head to rid those memories away, unsure why he was reminiscing about his memories so often as of late.
When Dumbledore wrapped the meeting up, Legolas and Haldir moved to speak to the newcomers, and it shocked them when they did find a familiar face amongst them. ‘Amalia!’ the two Elves yelled in astonishment, moving towards her.
She smiled, caressing their cheeks softly. ‘Legolas, Haldir, I am so pleased to see you both,’ she said in greeting, but her smile faded when she looked at Haldir. ‘My Brother, I did not see you in Valinor. I had dreaded you faded into nothing,’ she said forlornly, pulling Haldir into a tight hug, which he returned.
‘No, I did not fade. Legolas and I were prohibited from doing so,’ Haldir responded, and the ache of what they suffered came back to him.
She looked at them in surprise. ‘How so?’ she asked them, her eyes lingering on Legolas for a moment longer than compulsory.
‘The last ship to Valinor sailed without us, and we found ourselves wandering in forests for millennia. We only recently took up a proposition to help Dumbledore,’ Haldir explained to her.
Her eyes flashed. ‘If I had known, I would have stayed in Middle Earth. Now, I fear something abysmal has happened. Valinor released us, and the Valar have vanished, and we do not know what happened, but the Moriquendi Elves attacked us. A short while later, the ships appeared to take us back to the land of Men, and we lost our communication with the Valar,’ she explicated, looking around at the Elves she came with.
‘They vanished?’ Legolas asked in amazement. ‘I originally thought they released us from our penance,’ Legolas whispered before turning to Haldir. ‘So, therefore we were released. What I do not understand is why they left us in the first place. Haldir and I did nothing to anger the Valar, yet they abandoned us in Middle Earth to walk concealed amongst mortals. We were unable to fade from existence,’ he whispered dolefully.
Amalia shook her golden tresses out, before responding, ‘I do not have the answer you seek, Legolas,’ she said, looking into his eyes intensely.
Legolas felt uncomfortable now he had gotten over she was here. Haldir’s Sister always held a flame for him, but he never reciprocated it. He felt relief when she walked away with Haldir to become reacquainted with him. Luckily for himself, he did not have any siblings and was not torn apart from anyone except his parents.
He found himself looking over at Hermione where she was sitting with a first-year girl, talking to her softly.
He did not notice when someone came to stand next to him, until a wise old voice spoke, ‘You have to take a good long look at yourself, Legolas. There is always something in the most profound reaches of our hearts. Something buried or something forgotten. Remember it, whatever it is, must be what you are looking for,’ Dumbledore said cryptically, before walking off. Legolas frowned, wondering what he meant by those words. Dumbledore stopped at the door, turning to everyone in the room. ‘Before all returns to nothingness, there is a task which must be done…’ he declared before leaving, and this left everyone confused by the implications of what his statement could mean.
Legolas was fighting a battle with himself he knew he could not win. He avoided Hermione for the past few days, and when training started back up, it made things easier still. He was trying so hard to erase her angry expressions from his mind but found himself yearning to bring her smile back, but he knew he could not, and he probably would not. In time, she would get over it, and move on to someone her age; someone mortal who could give her the happiness he never could.
He leaned against a tree looking out at the Black Lake, thinking about everything he had seen and gone through over the years of nomadic travelling with Haldir. He never imagined anything would make him feel alive again, but then sometimes something good does come out of one’s suffering. Something he thought he did not deserve in a million years, but it gave him a reason to carry on for the past few months. He comprehended then with shock, Hermione had become his reason for living…
He closed his eyes despondently; she was beautiful, and he almost hated her for making him feel this way.
The past was a puzzle, like a broken mirror, and when he tried to piece it together, he cut himself. The image would keep shifting, and he knew he was changing with it, and this knowledge almost destroyed him, and nearly drove him mad. Now, it set him free, and he understood with a precision, which almost blinded him, there were some things in life mortals and immortals cannot choose: How one feels for another.
He was pushing Hermione away even though she was the only thing keeping him going, and the growing bond between them was alarming him, but only because he was afraid of losing her. This was bound to happen anyway if he kept pushing her away like he was.
Legolas shook his head, finding he was going around in circles.
They were almost ready; he could feel it. Harry had never felt prouder in his entire life than he did now. When training started back up, Dumbledore pulled the first years out, training them in Healing so they would not be on the front line, and this made Harry feel a whole lot better about the situation, but he thought it was still unfair all these kids had to fight.
He watched them cast spells, ducking when a few flew in his direction and watched others learn how to fight with Muggle weapons. He stopped at a more advanced group learning the ways of the Chekov Garde, and it stunned him to find a lot of them seemed to have a knack for picking up the techniques quickly.
Harry wished this wasn’t happening though. Sometimes he wished he had never been born, and he hated the past almost as much as he detested the thought of the impending doom awaiting him in his future…
He moved over to where Hermione and Ron were having a mock fight with swords, and he stopped because Ron was flirting with Hermione, and she was looking uncomfortable. He saw the way she looked at Legolas and deliberated on what was going on between them. He was not concerned because it was up to her even if the set-up did seem a little peculiar.
He grimaced at his red-headed best friend, speculating how he did not see the looks Hermione gave Legolas. How could it be mistaken? She had never looked at a guy this way before, like she was lost in an ocean of passion. He watched Hermione look over at Legolas, her eyes softening, and he glanced at Ron who looked like a knife was twisting in his back when he saw the genuine affection in her eyes. He wisely made his expression blank when she turned back to him to hide his frame of mind.
Harry shook his head at this; Ron was going to get hurt if he kept acting like this. Harry knew Ron’s feelings were haunting him, keeping him up at night, and Harry knew the appetites of ghosts. They craved for vengeance. Not wanting to think about it anymore, Harry moved on with the thought of having a quiet word with his red-headed best friend about Hermione.
Hermione, who was oblivious to the way Ron felt about her, swung her sword down hard, clashing with his and knocking him back somewhat. She grinned when he got back into a fighting stance, and swung his sword at her, and she dodged it. Ron spun towards her, grabbing her around the waist, and Hermione looked at him in astonishment while he used his free hand to pry the sword from her hand gently. ‘I win,’ he whispered, looking down at her.
Hermione smiled back, trying to fight the sudden feeling of dread welling inside her at the look he was giving her and laughed timidly. ‘You win,’ she replied, making to move out of his arms, but he pulled her back towards him. ‘Ron?’ she whispered questioningly.
‘I love you, Hermione, I always have,’ he whispered, leaning down and pressing his lips to hers, and she was too shocked to move, and certainly did not respond. Something just felt out of place; something was missing. The spark, where butterflies buzz around annoyingly in your stomach, and you want nothing more than to pull that person close, and all around you everything else fades into darkness. The moment of clarity where you realise the person in your arms is the only person you should be kissing, and the only one you should be with…
Hermione did not feel any of these feelings with Ron.
He eventually pulled away, and she found her voice. ‘I’m sorry Ron, I don’t feel that way about you anymore. I used to, but…’ she trailed off, taking in his wounded expression, and closed her eyes.
Ron let her go, feeling like an idiot. ‘I lost my chance, I guess,’ he mumbled, walking away miserably.
Hermione felt terrible, but it was for the best. She had to be honest with him before he thought she might feel the same way about him, because she didn’t want to lose him as a friend. She turned around, her eyes searching the crowd for Legolas, but she could not see him anywhere, and she wondered if he saw what happened…
Sighing, Hermione picked up hers and Ron’s swords, placing them back on the rack with the others. When she made her way towards Harry, she could hear raised voices and wondered who was arguing. She moved people out of the way to find Harry and Ron squaring up to Draco. ‘What’s going on?’ she questioned, reaching them.
‘This loser thinks he can just waltz in here and announce he’s joining the DA,’ Harry stated heatedly, standing to his full height, and glaring at the blonde Slytherin.
‘You can bugger off if you think you’ll be welcome here,’ Ron shouted, his hand wrapped tightly around his wand causing his knuckles to turn white.
Draco took a step forward. ‘I suppose you’re going to make me,’ he said threateningly.
Hermione had enough, stepping between Draco and Ron before a fight could break out. ‘Stay back, Draco, you’re only going to aggravate him,’ she told him, and he did what she asked.
Ron, observing the use of Draco’s first name and how quickly he listened to her, put two and two together, and got the wrong end of the stick. ‘You and him!?’ he roared furiously.
Hermione looked at him in confusion, before it hit her what he meant. ‘No, Ron, I can explain-’ she started to say, but he cut her off.
‘No, there’s no need, I’m not blind!’ he shouted, pushing past her and Draco, slamming the door behind him when he left.
Hermione looked at Harry beseechingly, but it was Draco who spoke, ‘This is not what it looks like,’ he said, gesturing between himself and Hermione. ‘We formed a truce, nothing more. It was easier this way,’ he told him.
It stunned Harry to see he was almost pleading for him to believe him, and he frowned at him, before looking at Hermione who looked horrified at the thought he would think she would do something like that. He looked between them again, before sighing, and he nodded. ‘I believe you,’ he muttered, looking at Draco. ‘It doesn’t mean I accept you into the DA, or you’re even welcome here. There’s no way Ron would stay in the DA if you joined, Malfoy,’ Harry told him, and Draco’s shoulders slumped, but he nodded in understanding.
‘Can you speak to Ron about this?’ Hermione asked him.
Harry nodded. ‘I suppose I better fix the damage before he does or says something he’ll regret,’ he muttered, leaving the room.
Hermione looked at Draco. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she whispered, feeling tears form in her eyes.
Draco shrugged. ‘It’s not your fault. I shouldn’t have come barging in here guns blazing,’ he told her with a smile.
Hermione felt herself smile up at him. ‘Well, guess this means I’ll be teaching you in secret,’ she promised, and he nodded, his grin widening.
Weeks passed by, and Hermione found Draco was a quick learner, and it was not taking him long to catch up to where everyone else was. He was nervous though, this much she could tell, and she was not surprised. He was trying to delay his Father with receiving his Dark Mark, but there were only so many times he could throw Lucius off before he became suspicious.
She told Harry she would be training Draco in private, and though he was not thrilled about it, he promised he would not say anything to Ron. As for Ron, he became fouler towards Draco, and he downright ignored Hermione completely. Hermione shook her head, if he found out she was spending so much time with Draco, he would have a fit. She felt like she was walking into a trap and she felt guilty like she was about to get caught. There were so many times she left the room a few minutes after Draco, and Harry or Ron were walking along the corridor. Harry always just sighed, knowing what was going on, but Ron would glower at her and carry on walking. Fraternising with the enemy, she had stepped over the edge. The cartoon moment when gravity waits for the coyote to realise his mistake before the plunge. This was how she felt now.
She leaned insouciantly on the wall in the courtyard, looking out at the Black Lake, and the Forbidden Forest beyond which swallowed up the rest of the land, almost obscuring the mountains from view from this vantage. She sighed, and her thoughts turned to Legolas; she had not seen him properly in a while, and every time she tried to talk to him, he always seemed to be busy, or would find an excuse not to talk to her.
Unbeknown to her, the reason for her recent thoughts stopped a few metres from where she was standing. He had enough of running and hiding, of trying to deny his feelings. He knew his feelings were strong, and no matter how many times he tried to erase the thought he may love the girl from his mind, it was no use. His past was continually torturing him, trapped by the weight of the chains confining him. The thought she was maybe offering him a way of forgetting followed this.
He felt he had a chance at redemption, as small a chance as it seemed.
Suddenly she turned, not moving from her position for fear he would run from her, and he looked away from those dejected eyes, just catching a glimpse of her made him feel weak at the knees. A strange desire he hardly fathomed seemed to ring in his blood, and he wanted to draw her close to him, but at the same time, the thought terrified him. He shook himself, looking at her to find she was looking back out at the Black Lake, and in spite of himself, he found himself drawn to her. He saw her standing there looking so lonely and saddened, and he felt an ache of longing. She was different from the rest of the students and touched some deep chord inside him.
She looked up again, catching his eyes, and Legolas precipitously found himself imagining the cool and windy plain of death. He trembled and looked away, remaining with the knowledge if something did happen she would die in due course, and he did not want to think about it.
She pushed off the wall, moving over to him, but this time, Legolas stood his ground, not rushing away as he would normally. He noticed there were no choices anymore, and this was becoming clearer to him as the days passed by in a blur. The days were growing muddled, the date itself was becoming a mystery to him, and he was just taking it when it came. He could not change what happened, and he felt maybe it was better off this way. Too much had happened over the last few months, and now he was fixing the rift between Hermione and himself. He knew Harry and Ronald would never appreciate or accept it if they found out, but when he looked at Hermione to find her already looking at him with those haunting eyes, he knew he could not go back.
Going back would mean letting her go…
Legolas marvelled for just a moment, wondering whether he finally reached a crossroad in his path, one which was smooth, instead of the bumps and jagged rocks he became accustomed to, stopping him from achieving his goal. With Hermione everything seemed so natural to obtain, everything was within reach, and he found he did not want this feeling to end.
She looked up at him. ‘Are you going to ignore me again?’ she asked, her voice a whisper like she feared he would disappear again.
‘No,’ he answered instantaneously.
She nodded. ‘So, what now?’ she asked him.
He could not reply, because this was what he was afraid of, acknowledging the feelings which were there, but neither of them voiced. Instead, he reached for her hand, entwining it in his own larger one, and it stirred a hope in her she did not dare concede even to herself. They stood in silence, and Legolas felt tension crackle between them, like lightning skipping along an electric wire. Hermione’s unpremeditated interference in his life caused a disturbance in his mind; schizophrenia. He felt excitement at the thought of doing something he knew was wrong, but with it, there was an anxiety the evils in his past were close behind.
His lips touched hers in a gentle kiss acknowledging everything both of them were feeling without the need for words. Legolas apprehended Hermione touched his heart in a dark place he didn’t share with anyone else, and he realised he would be a fool to let her go now.