Chapter Two - Meeting Three Nice Fellows

Left it was.

Harry had cast a few charms on his clothes and shoes to keep him more comfortable during his trek. The journey didn't look that long. If luck was on his side he might be at the river by nightfall and breakfast tomorrow would already be offered by Kreacher. But the problem was he didn't want to just apparate around. That way he might miss someone who could help him and he had to admit it, a friendly face would be welcome right about now.

Besides, now that he was paying attention, it seemed that whenever he was apparating he went through that mist. The one he had seen when he 'phased'. The mist felt odd and odd magic wasn't likely to be nice magic. His gut also told him to be wary and he had learnt long ago to listen to that.

"I miss my broom," he sighed and wiped perspiration from his forehead. Then he realized that he didn't need to walk. Not that he wanted to start designing brooms here in the middle of nowhere and without the precision of a wand but McGonagall had taught them how to transfigure animals since his third year in school and he thought himself somewhat proficient when it came to using magic.

Half an hour later Harry was running his fingers through his hair and tugging it aggravated. This wasn't supposed to be that hard. He just wanted a horse with a friendly temper. Or a small pony.

He had found a big block of wood, transfigured it even bigger and then started to change it into a living animal. And he had gotten – well, something. Maybe he should've concentrated a bit better because the thing in front of him resembled more a boar than a horse. But it did have four legs and seemed to be pretty fast. Harry flicked his hand at the thing and changed it into a small rock, before it even got the chance to materialize till the end.

His second attempt resulted in much the same. He must have missed something during that transfiguration lecture. Or then he had just forgotten it, after all it had been three or so years since he last was in school. What he really thought was wrong here was the magic itself. He had never really thought about his connection with it but while he used to feel magic that was filled with life and eager to hear him, here it was all very different. There was plenty of magic, he could sense that but it just wasn't the same and maybe that was making all his spells go wonky. Magic here felt… old. Powerful. It was like magic earlier had felt like melted chocolate, tasty and warm and flowy. But now here it felt rather more like a steaming cup of hot chocolate with whip cream and a cherry on top. Very much different but still the basics were the same. It was all very frustrating.

"I really, really wish Hermione was here," he sighed once again.

Nevertheless, Harry decided that riding on the thing might prove to be better than walking so it was worth a try.

"I shall call you – Krull," he said proudly. It was, after all, his beast with four legs that didn't look like a horse.

Half an hour later, had someone been around to see it, they would've seen something that might've made them question their sanity but would've been amusing the same. Something that looked like a grey sack of potatoes jumping up and down on the back of a huge brown boar was speeding onwards. The screaming and shouting coming from the potatoes would've been particularly hilarious.

~o~

Harry felt sorry for his feet, screw that, he felt sorry for himself. He had not done this much walking around since his seventh year and their lets-annoy-Voldemort camping trip. He looked back once more; the tower wasn't getting any smaller. Maybe there was an evil spell in this place that prevented you from getting anywhere or then he needed to get into shape. He sat gingerly on the ground to rest. Being a child did not help his endurance at all. Small steps and all that.

Krull had not been one of his best ideas, riding it had been an idea that should've been scrapped the moment it entered his head. The beast was happily digging the ground thirty feet from him. Odd how sedate it was when no one was riding it or trying to kick it and curse it or just closer than ten feet over all. Vicious beast.

Harry took his shoes off and rubbed his feet. He was sure he had blisters after the three hours of walking he had done since his riding incident. Not to mention the bruises his behind had from that brief but fast ride or would have if he hadn't healed them but they still counted. He could still feel them! Perhaps boots would be better suited for long journeying and apparating was starting to feel even better idea. If he skipped a genial wizard or two, so what. He could always find more.

At least he did enjoy the peace and the scenery here. He looked around and had to admit the landscape still took his breath away. Everything was so full of life, even magic felt more powerful. This place put Hogwarts to shame. Not to mention that back in Britain everybody knew him and someone was always around to the point that he felt like suffocating. The worst was when he saw how much he reminded people of the past. True, they did remember he did good things and they were always so awed when meeting him but they also remembered all the suffering and losses.

He was treated like public property. He had learnt to live with it but not like it. Even muggle world wasn't an escape ever since the whole knighting ceremony that both ministries had apparently insisted. Kingsley had blabbed about co-working with muggles and how it would help right the wrongs of the past or some drivel like that. A Potter would of course be a suitable example. It was expected really. Many, many things were expected of him.

Harry sighed. He really needed a holiday but there always seemed to be something important to do. And where would he go? Last time he had visited a muggle cinema, he had had to sign twenty autographs and in the middle of the movie someone had pinched him from behind. When he visited Diagon Alley, there were always reporters and well-wishers around in hordes ten minutes after he was spotted. He was always forced to leave or have aurors arrive to escort him from shop to shop which was ridiculous. Cameras were flashing, people shouting stupid questions and the next few weeks the papers would once again be filled with idiotic speculation and stories about what he had done, bought, talked about. When he had visited France, the idea had been that no one would expect him to be there and in the first day he had been invited to three different balls and been flocked with owls when one of the mail wards had crashed on foreign soil. That had been a hoot.

While he couldn't say he liked all aspects of his life but it was tolerable. He had his own house, too much gold in Gringotts, a house-elf to cook pretty good breakfasts and he had his friends. But sometimes it felt like a prison he was unable to escape. He just wanted to be – Harry. That was pretty much what he had always wanted. And being here, free and unbothered, he just felt he had almost forgotten who Harry really was.

"I'm not getting all maudlin about my life now," he muttered and got up. He would find a solution to all of it in time. As well as figure what had gone wrong with his height. He just hoped, really hoped that he had not gone back in time or something such rot. Tempus charm was not co-operating.

"Come on Krull, let's get moving again," he called and looked for the boar while walking. Thus he tripped on a stone and landed painfully on the ground. Krull passed him by while he was lying there spread-eagle and spitting out grass and he could've sworn the beast was laughing.

~o~

The day was slowly turning into evening and Harry had reached few trees. The whole country was more uneven than he had first believed but small details from so far away hadn't been clear and he obviously had been wrong in his calculations of distance. His boar was happily wondering around the small forest, it was probably the best place for it to stay. Harry was having a break and munching on an apple and contemplating on how he could speed up his journey.

That was when he noticed something moving far away. He had noticed it earlier but thought it was nothing but a few boulders or bushes or big bears or something. Now, he could clearly see someone moving closer to him. They were still far away but they were definitely people.

Harry smiled eagerly and had to push down his first instinct to shout out to them. Wouldn't do to give the first impression that he was totally crazy.

Ten minutes later his eagerness had shifted to wariness. There were three figures walking towards him on two legs but it was beginning to seem like they weren't actually human. And not that he had anything against magical beings or most beasts but he could already feel anxiety setting in and his magic gathering. That was never a good sign and he had learnt to trust his magic. Despite the odd behavior of it in this place, he had no reason to doubt it in this. He was man enough to admit that there was some truth in the old saying of better being safe than sorry. Or as Hermione liked to call it 'subverting his Gryffindor tendencies'.

Harry hid behind a bush and followed the three approaching figures carefully. The bush was small but now his new size was an advantage. Something told him it was beneficial to his health not to confront them straight away. Or maybe it was the huge axe the tallest of the three was waving around.

They approached with good speed, obviously more used to hiking than he was. Carefully Harry waited until they were close enough for a listening charm. He hoped they weren't wizards and if they were that they wouldn't take it personally.

"búbhosh kha'z pisna..." was all Harry heard before the one on the left hit the talker on the head. That lead to some scuffling and it seemed they all carried axes. How fun. After a bit of an argument the trio stayed quiet and simply marched on, the last one obviously sulking.

Harry disillusioned himself and sneaked away from his bush. He was crawling on the ground, trying to get closer. He didn't recognize the language so he really had only one way to go, seeing he couldn't just let them walk away either. They were the first things on two legs he'd seen the whole day. He sneaked on their path and waited for them to walk pass him. It would be easy to stun them that way. Harry shook his head. What a slytherin he'd make.

The closer they got, the more nervous he became. He had never seen anyone who looked like them. Not even hags. They were ugly in every sense of the word. Flat faces, almost no nose, sharp looking teeth and green filth seemed to cling on their skin and teeth. Broad shoulders covered in armor that looked very much like what he had left behind in the tower. He was suddenly really relieved that he had woken before these fellows got there.

Harry's plans went south when not twenty feet from him the tallest one began sniffing.

"Tark!" It barked and then turned its head and continued sniffing suspiciously in Harry's direction.

Harry's instincts rouse to the surface and he muttered an old plea to air, for the wind to gather around him and to tie his scent around himself. This was a lot like dealing with werewolves during the war. His magic was ready at his fingertips and coiled inside him, ready to strike. They were standing very close and he had to admit, they looked much more dangerous than a bunch of death eaters.

The two alongside the leader seemed confused and looked around themselves nervously. When they didn't see anything, they began to act up.

"Khuuz na!" The other whined and angered the leader who growled while still staying alert and searching. When the last one started barking as well, the leader turned to them and that was when Harry struck.

A wide, angry red beam shot from him towards the trio and only one had time to look surprised before they all crumbled to the ground stunned. Harry dispelled the charms around him and walked towards the creatures while his magic made sure they were out and stayed so. A few extra stunners never hurt him and he doubted it would do so to these three trolls either.

He grabbed the leader's head and made a face. He could feel his fingers getting sticky and smelly. It really didn't even feel like skin, more like burnt leather. Wanting the moment to be as short as possible, he forced the eyes open a bit, concentrated on focusing his magic and pushing it towards his enemy's mind.

It was nothing like reading a human. This creature's mind was dark, so very dark and primal. There was hunger and rage. The thing wanted to eat human flesh, wanted to taste it – again. There was a flash of a man, fighting and the uruk, for that was what the beast called itself and others of its race, approached the man from behind. The man never saw the attack coming and he, the uruk, bit into the man's neck. Like some vampire it growled and when the man crumbled to the ground, it cried out victory.

Harry pushed onwards, now purposely avoiding any even remotely active thoughts or memories. Snape's words echoed in his own head, 'A mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at your leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of the skulls, to be perused by any invader.' But Snape was talking about learnt legilimency, not Harry kind. Harry wasn't sure if what he was doing could even be called legilimency, no one had ever taught him that. But this worked for him. More focused, he brushed aside things he didn't want to see and let his magic gather around the uruk's mind.

It felt like he was swimming in oil but he knew what he was looking for. Flashes of mountains and rivers passed his mind. What they were called and where to find them. Geography, roads, oceans, where this creature belonged and the roots of his race, his enemies and animals he had knowledge of. It was a pretty grim world and no matter how Harry searched there was nothing familiar there. No London, no Britain, nothing of the world as he knew it to be.

He looked after conversations with others as his next focus, how to spell and name things. How to talk the – black speech of Mordor, that the uruk used the most. He also learnt some parts of the common tongue as well. Harry went after the language parts and sort of duplicated those into his own mind. It felt odd, as it would with any strange language from anyone's head, not to mention this beast. And it wasn't perfect of course. He grunted and pressed further. He had seen men and wanted to know what the uruk knew about them.

Harry heard the orc under him whine and realized he himself was sweating. He was taking too much. He had stayed there too long. He had to stop. With effort he let go, staggering back and sinking into the ground, breathing heavily and fighting against the nausea. This type of legilimency was never easy and he had never done it to a non-human. The whole mindscape had been utterly different, the way of thinking so far from his own that he had hard time clearing his head.

He found himself wanting to kill the orcs for he now knew what they were but he felt that if he gave into that desire now, it would further tie the new thoughts and knowledge into him. And if he knew one thing, it was that he did not want to be like these things.

Focusing on his own will, he pushed his magic into all three of the orcs and snarled, "Obliviate!" He wanted to totally disperse the last half an hour from their minds so that there would be nothing for anyone to gather or them to remember. After that he flipped his stick, wanting the comfort of something familiar in his hand, and one of the uruks was standing up. Harry had a pretty good idea that the two others who were lying on the ground would draw hasty conclusions of who had knocked them down and he just didn't care if the following fight would end any of their lives. Ennervating them and hastily apparating as far as he could see he left them behind. They were none the wiser of a visiting wizard.

After appearing behind a huge boulder, the orcs far behind, Harry sunk to the ground and breathed deeply.

"I guess Kansas is a bye-bye," he rasped and laughed. This then turned to half a sob. "Where the hell am I?"