A/N: Hello. More story.


The Shadow of Angmar

Chapter 2: A Shadow Walked


Harry awoke the next morning with his familiar start. The old pain that had woken him each morning in the dungeons of Carn Dûm seemed doomed to echo forever in his mind. For a moment his mind recoiled from consciousness as it had done for near the entire year he'd spent in this world. Consciousness brought pain, anguish and impotent rage.

It took him a moment to remember that he was no longer held in those squalid dungeons. He slept now under the creaking bows of naked trees. He felt the free air surge through his lungs and rejoiced in the soft loam beneath him. The air carried welcome scents to his nose, the smoke and smell of food over a fire energised him as few things could. He soon pushed his dark thoughts away and slowly willed himself upright despite much protest of his still battered and weakened body.

He saw his camp was being shared by another, a woman of lithe grace who was sat a short distance away tending carefully to a fire. It took his lethargic mind a few seconds to piece together the events of the night before. The attack by Wargs, the appearance of his mysterious benefactor, his potion, the fire.

He felt the barest trickle of something long unknown within him, hope. The fire and explosion he had produced was no mundane reaction, of that he could be sure. Some portion of the magic of his home still existed here and he had some way of accessing it. That knowledge ran through him like a thunderbolt and he found himself staring blankly into space as a little part of the black despair that had been his existence for so very long was burned off by that spark of hope.

The Elf, Daewen, his memory supplied, was prodding at a fire nearby and he got his first true look at her now in the lethargic light of the early morning. From behind he could see that she was very slender and in her ornate and beautiful armour of green and silver. Had it not been for her long dark hair he might have taken her for a man from what he could see. He made an effort to organise his thoughts to more constructive purposes.

He still wasn't sure what he thought of the Elves. They spoke to something within him, something unpleasant. He could easily see why Men and Orcs disliked them so strongly. Every Elf Harry had thus far seen had something of an air about them of superiority. As if they were doing the world a favour by their merest presence. It was not something he liked. Their effortless grace and eternal beauty chafed too, and he could not puzzle out why that was.

He discarded those thoughts, they oozed greed and jealousy in his mind and he could feel they were not his own, not truly. He was grateful his imprisonment had been ended when it was, he feared that much longer in the dungeons of Carn Dûm might have left him unable to differentiate between those thoughts.

Yet still there was something that itched at the back of his mind even as he sought to ignore it. He would be hard pressed to explain it, a lingering wrongness in the feeling of the world about him. He could not quite place it. He knew woodlands well enough and the woods he had travelled were no different upon the surface of it.

Still he felt something just wasn't quite right. The faintest brush of an unseen breeze upon his skin. It was not only the Elves he found himself wary of, but everything in this world. He put that too down to the influence of the Witch King, but the uneasiness stayed with him anyway.

"You are awake," said Daewen as she turned to look at him as she noticed his movements. Her voice was soft and lilting, as beautiful as a tree in autumn it was sad and yet vibrant. Pale and flawless skin stood out starkly against her dark hair and her eyes were a deep grey that shone with years unspoken.

Harry cleared his throat roughly and he saw her flinch at the gurgling sound it made. "Yes. Awake long?" he asked.

She shook her head smoothly and her hair shimmered like a shadowed pool in the early morning light. "I did not return to sleep, we Elves require little," she explained, something that was unknown to Harry. He wondered just how little they required. He had so very much to learn about this place and the people within. "Mount Gundabad is not many leagues to the East, the Wargs will have come from there. I would not have us be caught by them again, I fear we would not survive a second time."

"Want to go. East," said Harry, and he grunted in annoyance at his own halting speech. "Across mountains."

"Why should you want that?" she asked with brows furrowed in confusion. "I know very little of the eastern lands of Middle-earth but I know they have long been shrouded in darkness."

That was something Harry already knew after his time in Angmar. He felt it was a risk worth taking. He needed to discover what magic had been used to bring him here and how it had done so if he was to reverse it. Most of the sorcerers involved in his summoning and the blood and sacrificial magic they used came from the East. That was all Harry knew, and so that was what he would act upon.

"Need to learn magic," he said shortly. He immediately realised his mistake when an angry look came upon Daewen's fair face.

"When challenged by Prince Eärnur did you not say you would not seek out the darkness?" she demanded tightly though Harry was gratified to see that she did not reach for a weapon.

He raised his hands in a placating gesture and tried to calm her. His frustrating command of Westron left much to be desired. He could feel the words and the sentences out there but as he reached out to grasp them they would slip through the fingers of his mind like smoke. "Learn what magic," he said in hasty explanation. "How I came here."

Her anger cooled just a little and she seemed to understand his desire. "Would it not be wiser to rest and recover your strength first?" she asked.

Harry nearly growled in irritation, how could he explain to her the need he felt to return home. Every day for a year he'd felt it slip further away, he'd felt his memories of Hermione and Ron all the others get just a little more distant. By now he could barely remember their faces. Ron had slowly become little more than a vague ginger and Hermione just an impression of frizzy brown hair and that huffing noise she'd make whenever Harry did or said something stupid.

He missed them, and everything else more than anything. The fear of death was nothing, he'd walked into the Forbidden Forest to save them. He'd never completed that task though, Voldemort still lived. He was prepared to walk through fire and death for them and yet here he was stuck a universe away. He finally had the ability to look for a way home and his new companion wanted him to get comfortable?

"No," he said flatly. "Need to return."

She met his eyes for a long moment and Harry wondered what her reaction would be. Eventually her eyes softened and she seemed to accept his decision.

"If you must go East then I would not cross the Hithaeglir so close to Mount Gundabad," she said as she return her attention to the fire and poked experimentally at the meat that was still cooking over it. "There are passes, safer ones, a week or more to the south."

He knew that she would surely have a better knowledge of the ways of this world than he and that it would be wise to heed her words. Nevertheless he'd always had a need to understand, if he was to survive long enough here to return home then surely he would need to learn all he could.

"Mount Gundabad?" he asked her, the name had a curious sound to it.

"Long ago it was a Dwarf kingdom," said Daewen patiently. "It was taken by Orcs long before I was conceived, more than three thousand of your years ago. Now it is a hive of Goblins and Wargs, a scourge on all the North." She prodded again at the cooking meat and this time was satisfied. She passed some to Harry in a small bowl covered with intricate carvings that were thinner than a hair and swept beautiful patterns unbroken through the pale wood.

Harry carefully filed this information away as he took the food. "Thank you. Dwarves?"

A look of distaste flitted across her face as if the thought was an unpleasant one. "A short, hairy and uncouth race. Their greatest Kingdom in this age is Moria to the south of here, on occasion they visit Rivendell for trade though it has been more than one hundred years since I saw one of their kind. There is has long been bad blood between their people and mine."

Harry listened in interest to her information and prompted her to continue when she paused.

"Their greed and lust for gold caused the downfall of Doriath in the first age," she explained briefly, her voice disparaging. "They care for little else than their own hoards. Those few I have met."

He nodded in understanding and likened them to the Goblins of his home. Should he ever come into contact with them he would be sure to treat them with all the care he could manage.

A question had been lingering in his mind for some time now. He knew that Elves could live through a vast span of years while seemingly untouched by them. His companion made casual references to spans of years far greater than he's expect from one who looked so young.

"How old are you?" he asked, only belatedly realising how blunt and rude it would surely sound.

Daewen evidently did not mind it, instead she laughed, a clear and pleasing sound that chased some of the early morning gloom away. "My people do not usually ask such questions," she said with a smile, though it seemed a little brittle. Harry could see she could not decide where to look, her eyes would flit to his face and retreat again. She found his appearance unsettling. "But it is my understanding that Men are as fascinated with the age of Elves as Elves are with the youth of Men. Lets see, I was begat in the 1123rd year of the Third Age, that would make me now 851 I think. But what of you, I find myself unable to estimate your age." She looked sorrowful then and met his eyes as if asking his forgiveness.

He grimaced, he knew what was coming. "I am eighteen," he admitted.

She gasped in shock and horror and her eyes ran over his still emaciated form. His dark hair mostly burned off or ripped out during his torture and many of his teeth broken or missing. "Such, terrible hardship," she said softly. "I, I do not have the words in Westron to express it. Ingem would be the word in our tongue, yet even that does not do your suffering justice."

Harry waved her sorrow off as it was of no value to him. Regret would not undo the past. "Could Elves help?" he asked. Much as he desired nothing more than to get home perhaps if all Elves were like Daewen he might have been better remaining with them for just long enough to regain his strength, no matter how much his pride rebelled at the idea.

Daewen shifted uneasily and wouldn't meet his eyes. "Some of your hurts would fade under the protections of the Elves," she said evasively. "Others would not, much of your appearance is permanent, I fear."

That was unwelcome, if not unexpected, news. Harry would either have to look elsewhere, an unlikely possibility as the Elves were known even among the Orcs to have the foremost skill in the healing arts. He knew it was possible to heal himself completely with potions, though. He merely had to deduce the concoctions that would work. Ultimately, though, his appearance was not the greatest of his concerns.

He had little enough understanding of how he'd come to be here that he held out small hope that his injuries may melt away upon his return, like a forgotten nightmare. They presented an inconvenience in his travels and even his own meagre vanity was repulsed by the visage he saw in the clear pools and rivers upon his path. One thing he was sure of was the ability of magic to reverse the damage.

"No. I can fix," he told her in the hope that he might lessen her sorrow and misplaced guilt.

"You should eat," she said as she pointed at the still untouched food in his hands. "Elves may be able to survive for long without food but I do not believe it is so for Men."

He began to slowly eat the meat he'd been given. As his teeth were in such a terrible state he had to rip small pieces off with his fingers and swallow them near whole. Chewing was a painful and fruitless endeavour.

"You lead me to pass?" he asked between two small bites.

She inclined her head gently. "I will, the northernmost pass I would attempt runs to the south of the Langwell river. I would much rather we take the High Pass near Imladris but that way would take us over the Ettenmoors."

He had a limited knowledge of the Ettenmoors, a home of Orcs and Trolls within the borders of Angmar and the reason why he had not travelled south until now. He knew nothing of Imladris.

"Imladris?" he asked, the word rolling strangely off his tongue, it had a fair lilt to it that was ill-served by a mouth so accustomed to the harsh tones of the Black Speech.

"Rivendell in Westron, the domain of Master Elrond, my home," she said and Harry could see a faraway glitter in her eyes.

"You want to return?" Harry asked. He understood the yearning for home all too well.

"Master Elrond would receive you kindly," she said, neatly avoiding his question. "If there is any upon Middle-earth that could help you it would be he. He is one of the wisest and most learned of our kin who yet remains here." Her words held a respect that bordered on awe, Harry was intrigued.

"Magic?" he said in interest. If there was a source of learning for magic outside of the dangerous East he would turn down the hospitality of the Elves so readily.

She shook her head. "Not of the type known to you," she said and her brows furrowed. "Westron has only a single word for magic, yet the enchantments woven about Imladris are as different from those of the Witch King as day is from night. I do not know much of it, yet I know Master Elrond is more learned in such things than any other save perhaps the Istari."

Had circumstances been otherwise Harry would have gladly gone with her to investigate the magic of her Imladris. In his year of imprisonment he had come to understand a little of the magic of the Witch King. In many ways it seemed to echo his own and yet it was wholly damaging in nature. There were no minor spells for levitation or healing, instead all were aimed at destruction and corruption.

If the Elves had their own brand of magic then it meant that surely magic went further than that shown by the followers of the Witch King. His mind was brought back to the mention of 'istari', that was the second time he'd heard that term.

"Istari?"

"They are Wizards in Westron, they wear the appearance of old Men," she explained briefly. "Mithrandir and Curunír are the two I know of, another resides in the southern reaches of Mirkwood east of the mountains but he is rarely mentioned, a man of nature now who has little to do with the outside world. I was told that there were once five."

That was a strange choice of words. "Wear appearance?" he asked.

Daewen nodded though she looked rather unsure. "Their guise has not changed in all the years I have lived. They are not Men in lifespan but they also are not Elvish in appearance. Perhaps Master Elrond or Círdan of the Havens would know more."

Mithrandir, Curunír, Círdan, Harry felt his head beginning to spin with the weight of names being thrust upon him. It reminded him of late night study sessions for History of Magic. He decided then that he had questioned her far enough for now. She would be leading him for more than a week. He would have time to find out more from her throughout the rest of their journey. He forced down one last morsel of the meal he'd been handed and he knew that any more would be a fool's errand.

"I'm done. We should go," he said as he stood up a little unsurely.

Daewen took his bowl from him and set about striking her tiny camp. It took mere seconds for Elves travelled light and it had been set lightly so that she could easily keep following him should he break his own camp unexpectedly.

Soon they were on their way. Daewen usually walked ahead to ensure they were not walking into any danger. So silent were her footfalls that Harry would strain to hear her and be sure that she was some great distance ahead when suddenly she would materialise from the undergrowth like a shadow.

As each day passed Harry gained in strength and they were able to go farther and faster. His Elven guardian always ensured he was well fed and led well clear of any danger upon their journey.

He also learned a great deal from her. Her woodcraft greatly exceeded his own and she had knowledge of some of the strange plants that Harry had never seen before. Each day was marked by Harry's laboured progress through the thin woodland and low scrubland to which the woods gave way.

"How is it you can walk so silently," he asked her one day after once again being caught unawares by her feather-light footfalls.

"Elves are light on their feet," she said simply. It was all the answer she could give and she seemed to feel that it was wholly sufficient as an answer.

Harry did not think the same. Looking upon her he was sure she was no doubt light but her ability to walk over fallen leaves and loam without disturbing them in her passage was impossible. He suspected that there was much more to the Elves of Middle-earth than met the eye.

They reached the low foothills that heralded the entrance to the Langwell Pass not six days after the Warg attack. Harry took many opportunities to harvest potions ingredients for future experiments and Daewen regarded them with guarded interest. The exploding cauldron he had managed to produce so quickly was unlike anything she had seen, it was not often an Elf was surprised by a Man.

In turn Harry had taken what chances he could to learn from Daewen. She knew much of the ancient history of the Elves and around the fire of nights she would sing of Beren and Lúthien or tell him tales of the travels of Eärendil the Mariner. Harry listened to her beautiful voice, which rang with more melodies than he thought possible. The details of the stories were usually beyond him as it seemed to be a great procession of names and heroes of whom he had never heard.

When it came to the world around them as it was now he found her to be frustratingly sheltered and she had very few satisfying answers for him. The Elves of Rivendell were not wholly cut off from the world but they lived on its most extreme edges.

"Would that we had not been so distant in recent years," she lamented one evening. "Arthedain might yet have stood and you may have never been brought here or subjected to the torture of Angmar."

Once again Harry heard that sinuous voice in his mind whispering cruel words to him. It was the Elves fault, it said. Had they not been so aloof, so arrogant in their superiority he would never have had to suffer.

"Why did you not help them?" he asked her as he tried to understand the thought processes of the Elves.

"You must understand what it means to us," she said sadly. "To become close to others, to fight and bleed together and then to watch them wither before us and then depart for evermore."

"So you just stayed safe in your hidden valley?" he asked doubtfully. He could not understand that attitude. "While others were dying outside?"

"We fought before," she said. "There have been many battles between Angmar and the Elves yet always we retreated once the battle was won. Many among us wished to do more and yet we could not fight the might of Angmar alone. Perhaps we should have tried." Her sad eyes rested on him once again.

"What is done is done," he said firmly. "There is nothing we can do about it now." Even then the voice returned and muttered stinging darkness into his mind.

He ignored it. It had been a presence within his thoughts for so long that he could now leave it starved of attention or consideration. Surely it would soon wither and his mind would be wholly his own again.

The climb into the mountains was hard and slow. Harry's beaten body may not longer be in the dire state it had been but the mountain pass was ever steep and perilous. The cool autumn air gave gained a chill and the unrestrained wind became an ever present companion.

A thin path snaked high into the weathered peaks and below it the cliffs dropped away harshly into the bubbling streams below. Scree and loose gravel slipped underfoot and made the going more perilous still. The one small comfort was that no rains fell upon them in the first few days.

Daewen almost seemed to glide up the path, so light and sure were her footfalls. While Harry would constantly misstep and slip back as scree came loose beneath his feet she could walk over the loose surface as easy as a level floor.

Each time Harry stumbled she would quickly return to him and he would wave her off in frustration. He grew steadily more annoyed with himself over the climb. Before his long imprisonment in the dungeons of Carn Dûm his body had been the one thing that he could rely upon. His reactions, balance and coordination had been among the very best. Now he felt like an uncoordinated child attempting to make their first steps.

Daewen's presence was a constant reminder of his own weakness and shortcomings as it seemed she moved through the world utterly uninfluenced by it while Harry struggled every step. He found himself both looking forward to and dreading the time when they would break paths.

"I would lead you across the mountains and no farther," she said one night after she'd been silent for a time. "I fear you have a long journey ahead of you yet and I would return to my home at Imladris before the winter sets in.

"I have little enough knowledge of the lands beyond the Hithaeglir as it is," she continued. "While my heart grows heavy at the thought of leaving you without a companion on this quest I have long been absent from my home and I would see it again if I may. Your journey stretches before you, across many leagues and years; I cannot join you in it."

Harry could not argue with that though part of him wished he would. He had spent so very long alone and did not wish to return to it. Yet he also felt that his ultimate journey would take him a lonely path. He wished to return home, nothing more. No-one would follow him.

"I won't ask more of you." His speech was still somewhat stilted but long the days of talking and listening to his companion had resulted in a much improved ability than he's had upon his release. He was grateful to her for that, and many other things. "You have been a great aid. I owe you. I will repay you."

"Repay me by living," she said, her voice level and heartfelt. Her eyes rose to meet his, the one part of him her gaze could linger upon without flinching away. Even after so much time near him he knew she still found his battered body painful to look upon. "When you have healed, as you say you so surely will, I would see you visit Imladris. It would ease my mind to know you have put this suffering behind you."

"If I get a chance, I will," said Harry. He did not want to commit to such a promise in light of his wish to return home. If he was given option to go then he knew he would take it in a heartbeat.

As their journey continued the path over the high mountains became both colder and wetter and Harry found his clothes poorly suited. The Hithaeglir were well named, in Westron they were the Misty Mountains and the cloying mist soon began to chill Harry to his bones. He pushed onwards through the pale fog that lay heavy over the mountaintops and did what he could to ignore the shaking of his body as it fought for warmth.

He regained the unhealthy pallor that he had only begun to throw off and his hinds and feet became heavy and leaden in the cold. His feet dragged across the loose earth and rock of their mountain path. Whenever he saw Daewen look at him in concern he would feel the slightest surge of frustration and that weakly sputtering fire would warm him for a few steps further. Never far enough.

He began thinking of the ingredients of the Pepperup potion wistfully. He had little chance of coming across a bicorn for the central ingredient however. He felt frustration again at the world in which he now found himself. He had half the ingredients for a great many potions and yet he had not the central ingredients that would give them their purpose.

As he was considering what he might be able to accomplish with those ingredients he did have he was rejoined by Daewen as she returned from scouting further ahead. As soon as she drew level with him she whipped off the long dark robe she often wore over her light armour. Harry growled in frustration as she moved to lay it over his shoulders, he could not afford to be so weak. An Elf of all things was keeping him alive and fed. He shrugged off her aid and stalked into the lee of the high cliff along which they were walking. It provided little enough protection from the cloying mists but Harry gratefully received it.

He cast around in the shade of the mountain and across the rocky path for a suitable cauldron for his craft. Anger welled within him at his helplessness, there was no feeling he loathed more. He would cast it off by demonstrating his strength to himself.

Mixing a potion while cold was rare but not totally unheard of. In those potions the heat had to come from the ingredients themselves, the potion would heat from within as they were added and mixed within the base. It was something covered only within NEWT level texts and Harry had had only a single opportunity to make such a potion during his time at Hogwarts. He was not sure he knew the specifics of the process well enough to decouple the warmth of the mixture from a warming effect within the resulting potion.

In this instance, however, that was not a significant concern. He intended to make a warming potion of some kind, it may not be as effective as the Pepperup potion but he was sure he could achieve some limited success. If the warmth he used to heat the potion bled into the result then it would hopefully only strengthen the effect. At least, that was what he hoped.

He turned out the small bag that Daewen had given to him to store his ingredients. There was quite a selection but again there was nothing with and inherent or powerful magic. Harry decided he would not give up and he began sorting through the ingredients as Daewen sat beside him silently. He was grateful that she did not ask what he was doing, he was not sure how he would have answered.

Aconite would serve as a base, he decided but he needed to counteract its harmful effects. He looked again at the options and settled on a few daisies. Daisies would always work to reduce harmful effects, the pure white and spring association was always a good indication of that.

His concoction of course had no warmth within it and so both ingredients sat there unresponsive. He needed to encourage a conflict, something daisies did not do. His choice of ingredients was limited but he settled on the edible mushrooms Daewen had brought to him the day before. By combining edible and inedible aconite the potion would conflict within itself and a small amount of heat would come through. All it needed now was for those ingredients to be forced together and held there, to that end he added a little knotgrass to pull them together. Using a stone he roughly ground them together until he could feel the warmth rising from it.

He then began deliberately stirring it with a thin pine branch he'd picked up on their journey. He hoped that the tendency of pine to be unreactive in potioncraft would mean it wouldn't distort the mixture too much. One half turn to the left, another to the right, he repeated the actions again and again and finally it bubbled into life.

Daewen looked on in interest, he taken some time to explain to her the art of brewing in general terms during their travelling together. She had also seen a few details of what he had done during the Warg attack but had not yet truly seen him in action and she gasped when the cold mixture of water and plants came to a warm boil on the frigid rocks of the Misty Mountains.

With the heat now sustaining the mixture Harry added a few more ingredients. He painstakingly balanced the heat with temperance and benevolent plants as he didn't want to cause an explosion this time. By carefully coaxing the mixture towards warmth and health he hoped it would work at least somewhat like a Pepperup. It should at the least avoid the impressive explosion he'd produced a week earlier.

Finally, after adding a single small slug to ensure a slow release and stirring carefully until the liquid became a pleasant orange yellow colour he decided that he would get no better. He waited for a moment for the potion to cool enough that it would not scald him and lowered his head to suck it from the hollow.

A hand caught his shoulder and stopped him. He looked up at Daewen and saw concern in her eyes.

"You would just drink that?" she asked with clear incredulity. "After all that I just watched you add to it?"

"Once complete, potion ingredients lose their properties," Harry explained what he understood of the theory. He remembered the many medicinal potions he'd consumed over his years at Hogwarts. "Still tastes terrible."

Then, without any further discussion he lowered his head to the mixture and sucked it up carefully. He was right in one thing at least, it tasted very much like the foul mixture it was. He sat back after taking a deep sip and waited nervously for the result.

Daewen was eyeing him carefully as he sat back. He could almost see her mind working as she tried to decide how she should act. In the end she remained silent and was willing to wait to see the results that came, if any.

Slowly, very slowly Harry felt a deep warmth tingle at his toes, like the feeling of standing in a hot bath after a cold day. The sensation spread upwards slowly and deepened more and the tiredness and stiffness in him limbs lifted as the ice that had seemed to run through his veins was melted and swept away. He soon felt as if he'd been sitting outside on a warm summer's day and he felt invigorated by the friendly heat.

He heard a gasp from Daewen. "You have lost your deathly pallor," she said in wonder, "this strange mixture worked?"

He smiled in grim triumph, for now that he'd taken the first small step he could see the path stretched out before him. It was no great victory in truth but it showed that he was not yet defeated. He could recover and he would find a way home in time, even if it took him years. Harry Potter would never be known for giving up.

"It worked," he confirmed to Daewen as he enjoyed the moment. "It warmed me as it should. I hope it will last a few hours. We should move on while it lasts."

"Would you teach me how it works?" she asked as they both stood again. "Such things as you did here are not beyond the knowledge of Elves but your method is utterly unknown."

"I would," said Harry readily, after all even with the dark voice playing upon the depths of his mind he knew she'd been nothing but aid to him. "But it takes years. And I am no master."

"Then tell me what you may in our short time," she argued gently. "We will have time and little enough to talk of in it. I hold an interest in healing, though I am not near so learned as Master Elrond. I am sure even he would he would find your craft of great interest."

He saw little reason to deny her. The Elves had helped him and Daewen herself had come through peril to protect him. He had no fear that the knowledge could be used against him for he doubted they would get all that far in their research from what little he could pass on. It would repay her in a small way for her kindness.

"Very well," he said finally as he hastily tried to form a description that she might understand. "I will explain the basics as we walk. First you must understand my type of magic. The foundation of it is meaning."

His stilted short sentences were not given to lengthy explanations of the fundamentals of magic as he understood it. Beside him Daewen glanced across in confusion at his pronouncement.

"That is not how we view magic," she said unsurely.

"I think my magic and yours are different," Harry allowed. "The magic of the King of Angmar was corruptive. It dominated and subverted. That is not how I understand my magic.

"It was a few years ago I learned this. My old teacher mentioned it once. I researched it. It feels right. In everything there is a story. In every action, in every plant, in every rock. They have their own personalities, meanings. You probably know this. A rock is unyielding. A tree is reborn each year. Those are not literal truths." He was now getting into his stride, it seemed the long year in the dungeons of Carn Dûm fell away and he remembered his lessons with Dumbledore when a passing remark from the old man had held such revelation for Harry. "A spell hears that story. Adds to it. It is a symbiosis."

"The voices of trees are not alien to the Elves," Daewen admitted as she obviously tried to come to terms with his words. "Yet I have never heard of them being talked of in relation to the magic of Morgoth's worshippers or the enchantments of the Elves. We hear some small portion of them and we can speak to our own story, the song of our life, but we cannot change the song of something else. To comprehend the song of even a single tree is a labour of years and it is not something we Elves do much any longer. I have never heard of a Man who could hear such things."

Harry was not yet done. "Potions use that story. A plant is not just a plant. It is life. It is death. It is food, or it is poison. It might be pure, or it might be corrupt. It might flourish in the warmth, or in the cold. Those are parts of its story. A potion is about weaving them together. If you get it right you can do almost anything."

"Even after watching you at work I find it hard to imagine," said Daewen. "You say you can hear these stories, the meanings? Of all things? Did you listen to the 'potion'?"

"I cannot at least," said Harry with a regretful shake of his head. "You have to know them. We learned them over centuries. Thousands of people. Trial and error for the most part."

"It still seems strange to me," she admitted. "But I have never had cause nor opportunity to discuss the workings of magic or enchantment with another. Much of our own healing craft is reliant on the Healing Leaf, Athelas. I do not know much of the depths of our herb lore."

"The concept is strange," said Harry understandingly. "It is a personal theory. My mentor, Dumbledore, seemed to think of magic that way. He never really put it into words."

"Perhaps you should discuss it with one more learned than I," said Daewen in disappointment. "I am sure Master Elrond or the Istari would find your words clearer in purpose."

"Perhaps," he agreed, he would still travel into the East in search of his magic. Part of him rebelled at the thought of presenting himself to these other wizards while in such a position of weakness. "How would I find them?"

"Master Elrond resides always in Imladris unless something of great importance draws him forth. Mithrandir wanders far and wide across the land," she said. "He rarely stays in one place over-long, though he visits Rivendell every few years to hear the counsel of Master Elrond and others. Curunír is only rarely to be found in the West. He has long resided in the East where he aids the Men there in resisting the servants of Darkness. Should your path take you there he would perhaps be easiest to find."

Harry nodded to that though he had little intention to search for the Wizards in truth. Only if he found himself unable to progress would he go to them and then he would only go to them as an equal. Few made a real effort to help those they felt below them.

"You obviously respect Master Elrond a lot," he said eventually. "You speak of him often."

"Of all the Eldar east of the sea Master Elrond is perhaps the greatest," she said quickly. "He is as wise as any of the Istari and he sees further than any save perhaps the Lady Galadriel. He is a warrior of greatest renown, even next to Lord Glorfindel whom you have met. Despite that is he is as kind as summer after a long and bitter winter. His daughter is the evenstar of our people and one whom I treasure as a friend."

The wonder in her voice rung true as Harry listened. He almost decided then and there to return to Imladris in search of Elrond but something within him told him that his path ran yet East, not South.

"Maybe I will meet him one day," he allowed after a little thought. "He sounds like a great man."

"I think you and he would find much common ground," she said with another smile.

It took another six days to cross the mountain pass into the valley of the Langwell and Harry was grateful that the hard journey across the mountains was at an end. His strength was returning rapidly and his body no longer looked so terrible to behold.

He took the opportunity to wash himself in the frigid waters of the bubbling stream and he felt human for the first time in more than a year. No longer was his body covered in filth or his mind shrouded in darkness. His body still bore stark reminders of his past, the mixture of pale or angry scars and his broken teeth were still obvious to behold but he now looked like a survivor rather than a casualty.

Daewen noticed his rapid healing and felt moved to comment upon it. "I did not think Men healed with the same speed as the Eldar and yet you are already putting the hardships behind you in body, at least."

"My people heal much faster than normal men," Harry agreed. It had been one of the aspects of magic he had meant to investigate before he'd been forced into hiding. "I believe something in our magic speeds it up."

"Perhaps there is something of the Eldar within you," she mused. "It may explain something more of your abilities. What span of years can your people expect to live?"

"Those without magic live perhaps seventy or eighty years," said Harry helpfully. "Those with magic can live perhaps twice that, occasionally more."

"It sounds much like you have the extended lifespans of those Men who came to Middle-earth from Númenor in the Western Sea," she said in interest. "They may expect to live a similar span of years to your own people yet they do not have any magic of which I know."

Harry could not see any connection between his own people and the Men of Middle-earth, they were, after all, separated by the gulf between worlds. He couldn't help but idly wonder what would happen should one of those Men be born with magic, would they live even longer? He did not know, but he knew these questions would likely stay with him long after he returned home.

It finally came time for them to part ways in the eastern foothills of the Misty Mountains after near two weeks of travel together. Harry found himself saddened to be sundered from the only person to whom he'd truly talked in more than a year.

They stood awkwardly upon the banks of the clear Langwell as it burbled its way towards the plains below and Harry found he wasn't sure what to say.

"I. You've. Thank you," he said finally. "You have done more for me than you know." He realised he didn't know what gestures Elves used for such partings and so he bowed his head in thanks.

Daewen grasped his upper arm in a friendly gesture of solidarity. "Your thanks are well received, but unnecessary, Harry Potter," she said and Harry could almost feel the sentiment behind it. "I would name you friend, and there are no debts between friends."

He mirrored her gesture. "I will remember it still. Go well, Daewen."

They broke apart and Daewen reached for one of her blades which she then presented to Harry, much to his astonishment.

"I cannot take this," he said quietly as he looked at the beautiful weapon. He knew he might need to defend himself out in the wilds but it just felt wrong to take the Elven blade. It was as if the beauty of the blade reminded him of his own ugly appearance.

"It is but a dagger," she said reasonably. "Camaenor will be able to forge me another and I think it will see you better than it would me. Your journey is long and it will not be easy."

He reached out and grasped the short blade by its fine sweeping handle. "Are you sure?" he asked. "You must have had it for so long."

She smiled fondly and nodded. "Near six hundred years," she said as her eyes looked over the blade again before releasing it to his hold. "It was granted to me after the Siege of Imladris. It will serve you well."

Harry pulled the short yet flawless weapon from its beautifully simple sheath and marvelled at it. He did not know much of blades but even he could appreciate the craftsmanship that had gone into the dagger. The metal of the blade shone clear silver in the sun and Harry thought it could outdo even the Sword of Gryffindor in appearance.

"Use it well, Harry Potter," Daewen said at last, she lowered her head. "Na lû e-govaned vîn."

It was one of the phrases of Elvish she had taught him on their travels. Even had he not recognised the words as those of a fond farewell the sentiment was clear enough. "Galu, Daewen," he responded a little thickly. Another word of Elvish, a simple goodbye.

Then he turned and so did she and both stepped out upon the path that they hoped would bear them home. Harry looked ahead and saw the wide sweeping plains of the vale of the Anduin. He had many more miles to travel. But they would not weigh so heavily upon him now for he knew he had at least one friend in this world.


A/N: Daewen will crop up again in future but Harry must find his own place in Middle-earth. I'm not covering the Middle-earth stuff in my author's notes this time round as Harry has no idea either so I like leaving it unspoken for the most part. Daewen's a little annoying as she doesn't talk to Men much so she has a habit of referring to people and places by their elven names which may cause some confusion. All in good fun, eh?

Also, thanks to everyone who reviewed. I'm hoping I can live up to the very high expectations.