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Lost to Darkness

Chapter Text

The sound of frantic footsteps, almost a dozen pairs, followed Cassidy as she raced up the spiral staircase, climbing higher and higher into an area that she was unfamiliar with. Her breath came in pants and she clutched her precious wand tight in her fist. She could feel the pressure of the anti-apparition wards and knew that it would be no use to even attempt to do so. 

As her heartbeat sped up and her pursuers neared, she took comfort in the knowledge that her mission was a success... that the Fletkins were now far from Malfoy Manner and beyond the grasp of the Death Eaters. Within the next twenty minutes, they would reach the portkey that she hid for them and it would wise them straight to the Order headquarters. The husband and wife would be reunited with their 6 year old daughter and they would be able to tell Dumbledore who in the Ministry Voldemort already had under his thumb. 

The information was invaluable, but the risk of breaking someone out of Malfoy Manner was far too great for a large scale Order operation. And thus, Cassidy volunteered, making an offer the Dumbledore couldn't refuse. Now however, it seemed that his hesitancies around the mission were right as they so often were. 

If Cassidy was being completely honest with herself however, she would likely admit that she very well knew that this was the most likely outcome, perhaps the best one that she would hope for. She succeeded in the mission and that was what matters... her own life would end and it would help Dumbledore, the Order, and Harry. They would defeat Voldemort and her tiny, insignificant life would be a part of that. 

"Give it up child," a voice, smooth as silk with all the aristocracy of Pureblood breeding hissed from below her. It was the master of the house projecting his voice through his manor. It must have been a crew of his underlings pursuing her. 

Above her, she saw a wooden trap door and raised her wand without a second thought, 

"Alohamora," she triumphantly watched the door swing open. Leaping upwards and grasping at the sides of the trapdoor, she pulled herself upwards and slammed the wood shut. "Duro, Protego." She quickly turned the door to stone and layered on a protection spell, hoping to buy a little time. 

She looked up and saw that it was no use. Grey stone surrounded her on all sides save a small window slit. She franticly felt along the cold wall and found no chink, no break in the magic. She was utterly trapped. 

Below her, she heard the death eaters reaching the door, throwing curses and hexes against it, the stone door rattled and shook.

There was nowhere to go. 

Taking a deep breath, Cassidy found herself calmer than she thought that she would be. She knew that she was to die soon. The thought was a scary one, but death meant rest. It meant that she would no longer have to sneak out of classes to attend covert meetings, she would no longer have to watch her back for hexes thrown out of nowhere, it meant that she would no longer live her life in fear of a Dark Lord destroying the world that her parents died to protect. 

Ever since that night when she hid in a closet as ordered by her parents, watching as the crew of vile Death Eaters in their ghastly masks used crucio on her parents over and over again, trying to wring the secrets of how to get into Hogwarts from them, ever since that night where she watched her parents die and their bodies turned to burning ash, not even leaving her with a chance to bury them, she knew that this is how it would end. She knew that she would die with a wand in her hand, fighting the beings who killed her family, attempting to bring some semblance of peace back to the land. 

She took another deep breath. The rattling was becoming louder and the Death Eaters were growing impatient. Cassidy weigher her options quickly in her head; if they got thought that door, then she would be captured and tortured. She was a member of the Order of the Phoenix and she knew far too much. She liked to think that she was strong, that she could resist the torture until the Order was able to stage another rescue mission. But, she knew that that was unlikely. Everyone broke under crucio, they broke and told, they broke and went mad, or they broke and died. No matter what though, they broke. 

Her other option was simple. 

It was sad, but it was necessary. 

For the greater good, as Dumbledore said when he sent her out. 

For the greater good, as she said in part of her pledge when joining the order.

For the greater good, as her parents said that night when they made her swear upon her magic that she would remain hidden in the closet, under the shielding of dozens of protective spells. 

Now, it was for the greater good that she would die. 

Taking one last, long look at the moon from the tiny window in the turret where she stood, she watched as the grey clouds parted as if offering her her last chance to see the sky. It was the sky where she felt most free upon the back of a thestral or hypogriff, and it was like the sky was saying goodbye. 

She held up her wand, her beloved companion that she had been inseparable from since the age of eleven. The wood was warm in her hands and seemed to hum with power and grief. She was ready. 

Pointing her wand at the floor directly below her feed, directly above where the Death Eaters pounded, she closed her eyes and felt every fiber of magic in her. She reached deep within herself and pulled each ounce of magic flowing through her veins, any scraps of power that she held... she called on all of it. Pushing as much of it as she could into her wand she cried out a spell with more power than any spell she ever cast in her life. 

"Confringo Maxima!" she cried. 

The floor below her exploded, blasting apart into a ball of fire. Stone and steel flew in every direction, the entire top of the turret was blown to cannon fodder as the spell did its work. 

All twelve Death Eaters that pursued Cassidy were destroyed, blow to bits so small, the Malfoy's would be finding hints of their flesh fertilizing their grounds for generations to come. And Cassidy, well her body was lost to the breeze, turned to ash by being the epicenter of the spell. Her ashes floated across the sky, rising up to join the clouds of the coming storm. 

The Order of the Phoenix would mourn. 

She was another martyr.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Whoosh

It is a funny thing, how sound seems always to be the first sense to return. 

For Cassidy- it was the sound of wind whistling through trees that awoke her. 

I'm awake, was the first bleary thought in Cassidy's increasingly confused mind.

She had imagined death many times before. One does not watch their parents die at the age of 12 or join a secret armory facing a Dark Lord without seriously pondering death at some point in time. She always imagined it distinctly different from this though. As a realist, she never held out too much hope that it would be peaceful and painless, such was the fate meant for those wise enough to steer away from Albus Dumbledore- she did not blame the wizard, no, but she was a realist. Cassidy knew that her death would be violent, likely painful, and after that... well, such is a hard thing to place. 

The entire affair of the Dark Lord's return and the rising war fully dispelled any beliefs in muggle religion from her mind. No god would ever allow such an abomination to return a second time. Instead of an afterlife, Cassidy always imagined that death would eventually bring nothingness, peace. She thought that her body would decompose and that every element that once made up her form would break apart and return back to the earth, maybe in her more romantic moments she imagined that her soul would travel high into the sky, would dance among the clouds and fly further towards the moon or the sun. 

She never imagined it to feel like a cool wind tugging at her hair, chilling her damp cloths. 

With a sudden, lurching gasp, Cassidy's mind processed the sound of wind, the feeling of the damp earth, and the scent of a rich forest. She sat up, eyes flying open, hand clutching tightly around her wand to remind herself that it was still there. 

She swung her head around, taking in the sights of everything that she never imagined she would find on the other end of that Blasting Curse. 

The wind was indeed whistling a long tune as it blew around the towering trees. Taking her time, Cassidy slowly stood, leaning on one great trunk for support. She looked down at herself, "take stock of yourself first, you must always know your own body, your own mind, what you can and cannot do," she recalled the carefully spoken words as she observed herself in the same clothing that she had set out for the mission in: black jeans, a grey turtleneck, and a black cloak. She was dressed for steal and to blend in among the purebloods if she had to. Her clothing was all covered in a thing layer of mud, and her hair was slowly falling out of its tight braid. She cast a quick examination charm over herself and found that she was surprisingly in good health save a few cuts and scrapes that she received while breaking into Malfoy Manor. Casting a quick cleaning charm, her cloak and underclothes were back to their warm and insulating selves, no more caked in mud. 

"Observe your surroundings, what do you face?" she turned and looked around once more, this time at the forest which she appeared to have miraculously landed in. It was not the Forbidden Forest on the grounds of Hogwarts, a place she knew all too well. Nor was it the forest which Malfoy Manor backed up to. In fact, if Cassidy was the betting sort then she would have staked her first edition copy of Potions, a Complete Text on the fact that it was not a forest in England at all. If she were the type to jump to instinctual conclusions, then she would have claimed that it was no forest on Earth. 

She would save the latter though for much, much later. 

Waving her wand to find the cardinal directions, Cassidy took up walking north, hoping that if she walked long enough then she would find something of use. The air was cold, but her clock held several layers of warming charms that kept the chill away. Her dragon hide boots, spelled to prevent footsteps from making a sound, treaded upon dead leaves without a single crinkle. Reaching under her cloak, Cassidy found the small pouch tied to her belt still secure. She wrapped a hand around it, squeezing it for a moment to take comfort in knowing that she still had it. She had gone into that Manner equipped for absolutely anything. 

As she walked further and further into the forest however, Cassidy's suspicion grew. There was no sign of life, not the chirp of a cricket nor the song of a bird. There was also a strange magic to the forest. It was not the bizarrely unique magic of the Forbidden Forest, which many thought of as dark but was in fact simply different, a place where Cassidy always felt strongly at home. No, this magic was ticklish, like it was trying to slip between Cassidy's defenses as she moved North, like it was up to something. 

"Homino Revelio," she whispered, wand aloft. She watched the little light fly from her wand tip, floating through the air before dissipating. There were no humans in the forest. 

She continued onward, and eventually, she heard it. 

Something was following her. 

She wasn't sure exactly what it was, but she knew by its movements and her previous spell that it certainly wasn't human. The way the things trailed her, hoping from tree to tree with only the slightest hint of a rustle reminded her far too much of the acromantula of the Forbidden Forest. She continued to walk, feigning unawareness while her wand arm tensed slightly. She did exactly as she had been trained in all those years practicing the art of dueling. She exhaled deeply, searched internally to check every joint in her body, and then cleared her mind. She was conscious of every step that she took, every change in the breeze, and every rustle above her head.

More than one, her mind supplied as she realized that the rustling was coming from both in front and behind her. A scuttling in the trees above her head made her cognizant of even more. They had her completely surrounded on all sides, maybe a dozen of them. They moved far faster than a human ever could, they lept from the trees like beasts. 

She increased her walking speed and they increased theirs, she wasn't sure if they knew that she was aware of them yet, but they would figure it out eventually. There were maybe a dozen of them, too close to the number of Death Eaters chasing Cassidy for her to feel in any was secure. 

A though came to her, what if he sent me here? The terrible thought sent her tentative hope crashing down. What if she did not succeed in killing herself and the Death Eaters, but was captured? What if Voldemort tiered of his usual methods of crucio and so sent Cassidy into an illusion of his own making to twist the secrets from her a different way? He won't succeed, she thought with a firm sense of determination. 

Just as that thought came to mind, the one who had been walking in front of Cassidy stilled. It was waiting for her, expecting her to walk right into its trap. She was patient, walking forward as if there was no care in the world until she was less than four feet away from where she knew the creature stood. At the last moment, she whipped out her wand, pointing it directly front of her and cried out,

"Expelliarmus," she cried, causing the creature before her to be stop backwards, "Protego," she added, spinning in a circle around herself to create a bubbled shield. It was just in time too as six more figures stepped out from all sides. Cassidy could hear the slight rustle of more beings in the treetops readjusting their positions. 

The fires were all tall and straight, long, gleaming hair that would put Lucious Malfoy to shame cascaded down their backs, braided in delicate patterns. While their slim forms and sooth faces made Cassidy first assume them to be female, she quickly noticed that most had features far too angular to no be male. They were dressed in garb of greys, greens, and browns that blended perfectly with the forest, and each one present had a wooden bow with an arrow knocked and pointed directly at Cassidy. A quick scan with her wand informed her that there was no magic in the arrows. A child's charm could repel such silly things. She almost laughed. 

The figure that she threw back, lept to its feet and, upon finding their bow missing from their hands, wretched a sword from its scabbard and leveled the blade at Cassidy. When it got a foot away from her, the blade bounded lightly off her charm. She again did her best to hold back her laughter. 

"Who are you witch, and what business have you in the Golden Wood?" he spoke haughtily in the tone of one used to being obeyed. As he spoke however, Cassidy could not help but notice that his ears were of a delicate point. Like the others his hair was straight, skin fair. Cassidy marveled at the thought that these beings may be in some way related to Veelas, but steeled herself once again as she remembered that this was likely all a trick, an absurd fantasy that would cause her to let her guard down. 

"What are you creatures? Are you the dependents of Veela?" she asked. Though she was surrounded, it was obvious that if these creatures did have magic than it was very little. 

"Insolent woman," he hissed in anger. Apparently pretty boy doesn't like people asking him questions. "Isn't it obvious that we are elvenkind. You are trespassing in the Golden Wood and bearing dark magic."

"Elves... you guys are elves?"

"Is that not what I said?"

Cassidy took a moment to let that sink in. These tall, fair beings with beauty unlike anything that she witnessed before... were elves. A rather amusing image of Dobby, with his large flopping ears and bulging eyes, dressed in a find green and brown tunic bearing and elegantly carved bow popped into her mind and her attempts to stave off laughter failed miserably. Cassidy doubled over, laughing so hard that she feared she would drop her wand. Imagine house elves running around Hogwarts "stop, you beez trespassing in da Goldeeen Woods." Cassidy wouldn't stop her mirth, the image of the sweet house elves running about in forests, after days of darkness and despair, leading up to a mission promising certain death... she couldn't remember the last time that she laughed. 

"How dare you mock the Firstborn," his authoritative voice was enough to draw Cassidy from her humor induced stupor.

"Sorry bud... I just can't help it," she coughed lightly to stem any remaining laughs before adjusting her cloak around herself, smoothing it out. "As for your question, I was not aware that I was trespassing, nor that the woods where we stand were known as the 'Golden Wood,' I am lost. How I arrive here I do not know, but I appeared somewhere about two hours from where your party started to follow me." The blond figure appeared to ignore her insulation that he was caught, but continued on none the less. 

"Who are you that casts spells and walks without a sound?"

"Cassidy Oleander, Ravenclaw and proud Mudblood. And who are you?"

"I am Haldir, Marchwarden of Lothlorien. The land which you are encroaching upon."

"Well, if Lothlorien is indeed in my current direction, then I believe that I shall continue walking this way for I am quite curious. You may follow along as you wish. Good day Haldir, Marchwarden of Lothlorien." With that, Cassidy continued walking forward, smirking lightly in satisfaction as her protego charm bumped Haldier out of the way. The elf remained stuck in place for a moment as if in shock before racing forward and blocking Cassidy's path once more. 

"You cannot continue for your kind are not allowed in Caras Galadhon," he interjected. 

"I care not. I mean you and your kin no harm, but you mustn't try to stop me. I am hungry, tiered, and very very lost. A moment ago I was about to die fighting a Dark Lord's minions and now I'm in a forest of unfriendly elves. It has been a rather harsh week and I think from now on I will go where it pleases me."

With her words the elf in front of her seems to deflate a little, asking her to stop for a moment so that he could consult with the others. She nodded in acquiesce as he stepped to the side and began a whispered conversations with another trio of elves. They spoke in a beautiful and mystic language which sounded an awful lot like singing to Cassidy as she contemplated her situation. If Voldemort was trying to trick her, then he was certainly showing more creativity than she ever imagined he could posses. However, if he wanted to trick her, wouldn't it be in a way that she didn't expect? Pretty elves with little magic might just cause her to let her guard down enough for him to slip into her mind. 

"You have not caused harm to the woods or us though you have had many an opportunity," when Haldir spoke, there was a distinct frown on his face as if the other had come to a conclusion that differed from his own. "Thus, we shall escort you to Caras Galadhon and there you shall be judged by Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn. In return you will remain with us at all times and not harm a single elf or mallorn."

Cassidy shrugged and agreed to the terms, taking down her protego when it was obvious that they had no more intentions of skewering her with their arrows. Most of the party melted back into the treetops, but a few remained to walk on the ground with Cassidy. She would have assumed that they were purposely leading her astray, but something about the elves seemed so intrinsically honest that she decided that she could at least trust them to hold up their end of the bargain. 

As they walked fro several more hours, Cassidy found herself growing parched and thus searched her small waist satchel until she found her water bottle. She watched eyes of the elf next to her grow impossibly wide as the pulled the large bottle from the tiny bag. 

"It's a simple spell," she shrugged. "The same one that all the school trunks have."

The elf gave her a puzzled look and a light smile. From up ahead where he was leading the group, Haldir called over his shoulder without looking back,

"He does not speak Common."

"My apologies," she smiled lightly and turned to the gentle looking elf. "Cassidy," she spoke her name slowly, palm pressed against her chest. 

"Rumil," he replied, a light twinkle in his eyes. He made a few gestures, pointing to himself and Haldir several times. 

"Brothers?" she asked, slowly making the connection. 

"Yes, he is my youngest brother," Haldir replied. 

"Well Rumil, it is lowly to meet you," she smirked lightly. 

They lapsed into silence once more until the sun was nearly set. Haldir paused at the base of a giant tree before turning to his brother and instructing him in that strangely musical language. His brother responded and the Marchwarded clambered up the tree as if he were some sort of bowtrukel. 

"Showoff," Cassidy hissed under her breath. Rumil, from beside her, laughed in understanding as she watched the elder elf disappear into the branches. A few moments later, the same elf reappeared with a long, thin rope in hand. 

"We will sleep in the flet tonight, I will assist you upwards," the broad elf explained, arm out as if asking Cassidy to take home of him. She looked unimpressedly at the long, thin rope disappearing into the boughs of the tree. 

"You want me to let you pull me up there?" she asked. 

"I can assure you that you will not fall. Dangerous things may stalk the forest at night, we are safest in the trees."

"I'm assuming there is some sort of platform up there?"

"Yes."

"Okay, then I'll meet you at the top," Cassidy smirked and enjoyed the expression of shock on their faces as she apparated to the platform in the tree. 

When she arrived, there were already a few elf on the platform setting up their bedrolls. They all instantly had their hands on their weapons in shock, but none drew them as they eyes the young girl warily. Before long, with Haldir and Rumil were scrambling over the edge of the platform obvious still slightly in shock. 

"What was that?" Haldir hissed. 

"Relax," she held up her hands placatingly. "I'm seventeen, I've got my apparition license."

Haldir merely snapped something to the other elves who instantly all seemed very occupied with something else. Someone handed Cassidy a bedroll which she took with a gracious smile. Haldir then stepped over and moved her closer to the trunk of the tree, away from the platform's edge and the other elves. He then conspicuously set his own bedroll between Cassidy and the other elves. 

The witch rolled her eyes and transfigured her bedroll into an actual bed, smiling in amusement as Rumil openly gaped at her work. Haldir merely barked out another command causing the younger elf to blush and turn away. Cassidy ignored the exchange. 

"How much longer until we arrive in Caras... ga-"

"Caras Galadhon," he supplied quickly, not making eyes contact with Cassidy as he swept the surroundings. "We should arrive early tomorrow afternoon."

"If you're worried about safety, then I can place a protection charm around us tonight."

"That is not necessary," he said tightly.

"Suit yourself," Cassidy relied lightly. But, before she went to sleep that night, she did indeed place a protection charm around her bed.

She was still wary and her mind was still swimming. One moment she was blasting herself to nothingness and the next, she was here among beautiful elves in a forest of giant trees. She dearly hoped that Voldemort was not somehow behind it all, but she was not naive enough to believe such hope. 

So instead, she ran through her mental defenses, reaffirming her occlumency and checking that there were no kinks in the shielding of her mind. Occlumency was one of the first things that she was taught as a child learning to control her magic. She could do it with or without a wand, and any Legilimens would receive a nasty surprise trying to invade her sanctum. 

Satisfied that she was safe as one could be when possibly in a Dark Lord created illusion, Cassidy fell into a fitful slumber, dreaming of the war and what may become of it. She served her part. She could only hope that Dumbledore and the Order would continue to prevail.

 

 

Chapter Text

The next morning was much of the same with Cassidy transfiguring her bed back into a sleeping roll which she handed to a rather nervous looking elf. She assured him that the roll would not suddenly transfigure back while he carried it, but declined her offer to make it lighter. Haldir then informed her that the weight was not a problem among elves, whatever that meant. 

She apparated back to the ground whilst the elves climbed in their impossibly graceful manner and the small group set off. Just as before, most of the elves flew through the trees while Haldir, Rumil, and another who Haldir refereed to as Orophin walked with her. Apparently the tall blond elf had two brothers. I wonder if all elves look like that, she contemplated with a silent smile on her lips.

The forest around them seemed to grow in life and vibrancy as they proceeded, trees of massive proportion and golden vines draped downward. Cassidy found that she couldn't help but marvel at the beauty around her. Not even Professor Sprout's magical greenhouses where all the castle's potion ingredients could compare to these woods which grew wild and strong. She couldn't stop herself from enchanting a passing flower to float from its vine and land delicately in her hair. She of course did not do so without encouraging another blossom to grow on the same vine. 

"How did you do that?" Haldir asked, though his tone sounded more like an accusation. 

"It was a simple summons and a growing charm... I did not harm to tree, look," she pointed to the new blossom as brilliant as the one now shining in her hair. "Another grows just the same."

"These Mallorn trees are sacred," he hissed. 

"Yes, and so I did not harm them."

Orophin whispered something to Haldir and the two engaged in a small argument in their tongue. Cassidy could not hold back a chuckle at the scene. Apparently, no matter where she was, brothers would be brothers. 

The group walked for several more miles, at one point crossing a rather treacherous looking river which Cassidy once more simply apparated across, before they came the edge of a city. At this point, Haldir turned to her and spoke. Even Orophin and the happy Rumil looked grave. 

"You are about to enter Caras Galadhon, the heart of Elvendom on Middle Earth."

"Yes," she pointedly ignored the "Middle" and decided that such was something to worry about in the future. 

"This city is a sanctuary and its protection is my duty. If you seek to harm any in this place I will end you without a thought. Do you understand?"

"I wish no harm upon you or your kin," Cassidy spoke earnestly, dearly hoping that she had indeed found herself somehow in another world and not in a delusion made by Voldemort. She would hate to have to destroy this beautiful place if it were indeed a false vision. 

Haldir seemed to take her answer as satisfactory and thus led her into the city. Cassidy gasped in shock. It was a city build vertically into the trees. The towering giants, larger than the redwoods she once saw on a family vacation, rose up into the sky with hundreds of steps winding around each one, leading to homes build like masterful treehouses. Sunlight rained down through he leaves casting a golden glow over the landscape and hundreds of elves, each as beautiful as the other, walked up stairs and across perilously narrow bridges without a fear in the world. 

It was wonderful. 

The feeling of Haldir pushing lightly on her shoulder brought Cassidy back down to earth and set the sinking fear in her stomach that perhaps this was indeed a dream, for what world- what race could be so beautiful. She was left to her ponderings as Haldir nudged her to a massive staircase leading so high up, that Cassidy could barely spot the platform that it lead to. She frowned at the expansive staircase, lacking railings as is the case at Hogwarts, and had her wand half lifted with the intention of apparating to the top. 

A rather severe glare from Haldir stopped her. 

Thus, Cassidy, Haldir, and his two brothers walked the long trek up the stairs. Up and up they went, Cassidy finding herself eventually out of breath while the elves seemed entirely unaffected by their climb. At several moments, Cassidy had the briefest curiosity as to if the elves ever fell and what they would do if she were to suddenly trip. Unlike the Hogwarts castle, she could not feel any magical barrier to stop a fall from the steps. 

Finally, after what seemed like and eternity, they stopped at the top. Haldir and his brothers immediately dropped to a low bow, kneeling on the floor with their fists against their chests whilst Haldir spoke rapidly, but firmly in their language. Cassidy did not know what he said, but she was certain that she could distinctly hear her name come up. 

Cassidy looked upwards and saw and woman more stunning and beautiful then she had ever seen before with shining hair and glowing eyes. Beside her stood a man with hair as white as hers, but with the slightest sheen of pure white silver in it. The two wore metal circlets around their heads and Cassidy instantly knew that they were the ones in charge of this beautiful kingdom. She briefly glanced down at Haldir and noticed a rather pointed glare that seemed to be commanding her to bow. She did not. The days of bowing in magical England were long gone, the only one who still demanded such supplication was Voldemort himself. She would never bow to those who seek power. 

"Rumil, Orophin, thank you for your assistance. You are dismissed," she spoke warmly and Cassidy couldn't help but notice that even her voice was beautiful. "You are certainly a strange one, miss Cassidy of Oleander," she spoke her name with a slight accent, but Cassidy grinned in response. 

"And so are you, Lady Galadriel," she smirked. Although she could feel Haldir tense behind her, Lady Galadriel merely laughed, her voice light and like the tinkling of a bell. 

"And bold you are too, now tell me child," her face was still gentle, but her tone turned to one with strength behind it. "How does one so young come to bear such power? You have been accused of Dark Magic, though I sense no darkness emanating from you." 

"My magic is not dark," Cassidy corrected, a hint of annoyance in her tone. "It is merely magic. I can see that wherever I am your kin do not have much, if any, but where I am from it is rather common among my kin."

"And where are you from?"

"That, I fear, bears a longer explanation."

"Perhaps, I can shorten this exchange," she smiled warmly. 

Cassidy was puzzled for a moment before she felt it, it was like the power of a natural born Legilimens, warmer and softer than the harsh pry of one trained crudely in the art form, but it was an intrusion nonetheless. Cassidy's instincts immediately kicked in, slamming a wall down to block of her mind, offering nothing that a black pit of endless darkness that the inexperienced could easily become lost in. Then, her mind strode forward in that manner that she had been trained, a sharp state of her energy pushed into the stacking mind, tearing through it like a knife through flesh. 

She heard a gasp and looked up, immediately ceasing her counterattack as Lady Galadriel held a hand to her forehead, falling backwards and being caught by her husband. Instantly Haldir had a blade pointed at Cassidy's neck and Cassidy held her wand aloft in warning. Although Haldir did not know what exactly her wand did, he had been thrown back by it once and was aware that it held some sort of power. It was a standoff. 

Galadriel and Celeborn were speaking quietly to one another in their musical language and Cassidy was itching to find a reference book where she could pinpoint a translation spell. It was quite obvious that the silver haired lord was both concerned for the wellbeing of his wife, and rather angry at Cassidy. She would assume that he did not trust her which was just fine as she did not trust them. A world where elves appeared to have no magic, fight with crude swords and bows, yet their leader was a Legilimens... it was far too suspicious to Cassidy. 

It was a brilliant plan really- create a fantasy world where Cassidy would let her guard down, get her to trust these beautiful beings and make her want them to trust her. And then, have one of them "check" her mind, thus gaining access to all her knowledge of the Order. It was brilliant. A rather intricate illusion, but Voldemort had always held more power than any witch or wizard gave him credit for and thus it was only logical that he would be capable of more than she would initially imagine. 

If Cassidy had to tear this illusion down by the seams then so be it. 

She would not betray her friends. 

"If you wish to access my mind then you will have to try harder than that you servant of the Dark One," she hissed in anger. 

"How dare you attack our Lady and make such accusations," Haldir roared, blade tip digging closer. 

"If you do not back up with that blade this instant then so help me I will blast you back," she hissed at him. Her voice was dangerously low and she was furious. 

"You would not dare..."

"Expelliarmus," she cried out with enough force to send his blade tumbling off the edge of the treehouse's platform and knocking him over. "Now stay down or I will stupefy you."

The guards at the entrance had their hands on their blades and looked as if they were about to make a move when Galadriel held out her hand, calling something in their language that made them pause and return to their posts. 

"I believe we must all calm down a moment," she spoke lightly, gripping her head in pain. "It seems we have several misunderstandings."

"My Lady-"

"I am alright Haldir," she spoke soothingly to both her husband and the Marchwarden before turning to Cassidy. "I have lived a many good years, child of Oleander, but never have I encountered a mortal with the power to push me from their mind, nor one who can attack with merely their consciousness."

"Where I am from, the gift of legilimens, of mind searching, is not quite uncommon. We are at war and we must learn to protect our minds and the secrets they contain." She kept hr explanation brief, anger and distrust evident in her voice. 

"You are rather young to be at war, child."

"I am of age, 17 as of this year."

"Even among Man that is considered young," the silver haired Lord, Celeborn, spoke. 

"Perhaps it it, but there isn't much of a choice when facing a Dark Lord."

"Tell me child, do you hail from Middle Earth?" Her voice was genuine, but Cassidy released a bark of laughter. 

"No, no I do not. I tried to apparate home, but as that did not work I am under one of two assumptions."

"And such are?" Celeborn questioned. 

"I am either in an entirely different world when I should be dead," at those words Cassidy could hear a slight inhale from behind her. "Or, what is more likely, I was captured and this is all an illusion by he-who-shall-not-be-named meant to gain access to my mind as he has apparently grown tired of his usual methods of torture."

"Cassidy, I can assure you that we are not a form of torture, you are indeed on Middle Earth. What would prove such to you?"

Cassidy considered for a moment, thinking of all the things that could possibly be faked, anything that he would be able to recreate. Then, and idea dawned on her, a rather unpleasant but hopeful one. 

"I would access one of your minds and search through it for memories... memories of love," she spoke slowly, considering her words with care. "Many things can be falsely formed, but true love, joy, grief, and loss cannot be faked, especially not by one as dark as he. If you are truly creatures of good, if this place and this world is real, then I will be able to find it in one of those memories."

"And if you think us false illusions?" Galadriel asked.

"Then I will burn this place to the ground until he gives up and pulls me from this fantasy to kill me." She spoke without pause. She had resigned herself to death in that tower when she chose to blow herself up. She would not hesitate now. 

Cassidy heard a sharp inhale of breath behind her, it appeared that Haldir did not approve. 

"Then you shall search my mind," Lord Celeborn spoke, stepping forward. I shall show you the memories of my daughter, my joy at her birth, my despair at her torment, and my sorrow as she left these shores for another. 

"My Lord, I would advise against..."

"It is all right Haldir," Celeborn spoke firmly. He then approached Cassidy, carefully bending to one knee so that she could better look into his eyes for he was much taller than the young girl. 

"Take care with an Eldar mind," Galadriel warned. "We are creatures of eternity and our minds are as vast as the star filled sky in comparison to the mortal's consciousness."

Cassidy nodded, still slightly amazed at the lengths that these beings, if they were indeed real, were willing to go to in order to convince her that they were real. 

"If there is something that you do not wish for me to see, then create a door and I promise that I will not open it," she spoke carefully and he nodded. 

Cassidy took great care in fortifying her own defenses as a mind once opened is far more easily accessed. Then, she tightened her grip on her wand and dove inward. 

She felt his consciousness around her like the folds of an icy blanket- all encompassing and cold. His mind did indeed remind Cassidy of a sky filled with emptiness and bright specks of light. She gently moved forward until she found the memory that he was pushing to the surface. The first memory was bright and gleeful, she eagerly slipped in and watched as Celeborn, by all appearances the same though his eyes told of greater youth, cradling a newborn babe. The child was pale skinned and held the delicately pointed ears of the elves, with bright blue eyes and shining gold hairs, curling lightly against her scalp. She instantly knew that the radiant bundle was a girl as she felt the warmth and affection rolling off of Celeborn in waves as he then handed the child over to Galadriel who looked far too beautiful for right after giving brith. But, the joy was so genuine, Cassidy found herself smiling as she share the memory. 

She then retreated from that one and moved to another, this time the memory held the haze surrounding it that those memories which one tried to forget so often do. She pushed past the old cobwebs and entered it, finding herself as Celeborn, racing through the halls of some unknown building where large, arching windows opened to reveal graceful waterfalls, but her-his eyes were not on the windows. They were on a door which he threw open only to find a delicate form cringing on a bed. She was beautiful, blond and blue eye- Cassidy instantly knew that it was the same child as from before. She was a chid no more though and her eyes were wild with terror. 

"Celebrian," she heard herself- Celeborn, gasp. 

He collapsed to his knees beside her bed as she sobbed softly, trying to reach out to seek comfort from her father, but fear preventing her from doing so. She could feel the stab of pain that Celeborn felt, the naming guilt of self accusations proclaiming himself to be a terrible failure of a father. She felt his utter devastation and helplessness. Then, she found herself looking deeper into the fair maiden on the bed and saw a glowing ember- her soul, growing dimmer. The mind she was in let out a great moan of grief before she pulled backwards. 

She then retreated from the mind, she had seen enough. 

When she fulled pulled herself from the mind of the silver-haired Lord, she found his face as impassive as ever, but she could still sense the lingerings of grief. She looked deep into his eyes, this time only at the surface level, and quietly spoke,

"I am sorry."

He nodded wordlessly and stood, instantly slipping his hand into his wife's as if to draw comfort from her. Galadriel looked deeply into his eyes and the two shared a silent conversation before he nodded and she smiled sadly, turning to Cassidy. 

"Do you believe us to be truthful now?"

"Yes," as Cassidy spoke, she wiped a tear that she had not noticed falling from her eye. "No being of darkness and evil could fake... or even create such a memory. I am very very far from home."

"I sense that you would still be reluctant to allow me access to your mind," Galadriel spoke after a slight pause. Cassidy shook her head. 

"My training... it is of the sort that one does not easily push aside. I fear that I cannot handle an intrusion without attacking in turn. But," and idea struck Cassidy, "I could show you if you have a pensieve. It is a place where one can view memories, usually a stone basin enchanted with old magic."

"My mirror perhaps?" Galadriel then gestured to follow, waving Haldir to come as well. The group slowly made their way back down the endless set of stairs. Cassidy marled slightly at how Galadriel waled so gracefully in her long gown, never tripping on the hem even once. 

The air was growing cool and Cassidy tugged her clock closer around her shoulders, noticing how the elves did not mind the chill in the air, Galadriel even walking barefoot across the damp earth. She did however notice how Celeborn gave a very pointed look at her boots, watching as she walked soundlessly. 

The place where they ended their walk was not what Cassidy was expecting. It was an open area with a large, stone basin in the center. Cassidy felt the familiar warmth of magic which this land seemed to lack and was thus drawn closer to it. The object which Galadriel described as her "mirror" was indeed a pensieve, a rather old one, but beautiful and powerful. 

Cassidy carefully explained the process of what she what she was about to do: how she would pull forth memories from her mind, and all they would have to do with them, would be to lean into the pensieve and they would find themselves in her memories. She reluctantly promised to enter with them as they would need a guide. She would be dumping quite a few memories in there. 

Cassidy placed her wand tip to her forehead, pulling forth a stream of silver thread that she dropped into the swirling water. She did this again and again, pulling forth the memories of her parents first explaining that her mother was a witch, of her summers spent at the dueling dojo in Japan after her temper proved to set off her magic unexpectedly, a brief glimpse of Hogwarts before the darkness set in, of Voldemort rising, an attack of Death Eaters, her on missions for the Order, and finally- she would show them her last memory of her world, of her breaking the prisoners out of Malfoy Manner, fleeing upwards and upon finding no escape, destroying herself int he process. 

Once she was done, she placed her hands on the rim of the cool pensieve stone, watching as Galadriel, Celeborn, and even Haldir after some beckoning did the same. Then, all four plunged forward. For a moment they were trapped in the swirling gyre of her memories, but Cassidy pointed in a direction and they all swam towards it; it was her first memory. This they did for each one, watching the events play out and learning enough about her world and her powers to understand why she was so confused, why she was so untrusting.

During one of the memories, she watched as the stoic Marchwarden turned his head, averting his gaze from the Death Eater performing the crucio on a 4th year student whose parents once fought in the first Wizarding War. That memory ended with Cassidy, Tonks, and Moody breaking up the meeting and rescuing the child, but he would be sent to St. Mungos where he never fully recovered from the effects- the students at school all thought that he moved. 

Finally, when they finished watching the floor explode from below Cassidy, when they felt the burn of fire cascading around them and watched as her world went from a fiery engulf to dark, they were yanked out by Cassidy. Sometimes those inexperienced in reading a pensieve were easily trapped within the gyre of memories. 

An audible silence fell over the group, all attempting to process what they had just witnessed. As usual, Galadriel- the strange elf reminded Cassidy a bit of her friend Luna, Luna Lovegood who never seemed perturbed- was the first to speak. 

"You have been through many trials, more than one should in a lifetime, but especially for one so young. There is much for us to speak of, but that can wait. It is so oft for us elves to forget how mortal tire. Haldir, please guide Cassidy to a guess flet and return to complete your report. Eat, rest, and we call speak on the morrow, Cassidy of Oleander."

Cassidy nodded her head lightly in acknowledgment before following Haldir through the city and up another flight of endless stairs. She was absolutely determined to begin appareting again the second he turned his back. But, as with the walk to Caras Galadhon, the blond elf remained silent. He only spoke once they reached the small house which Cassidy assumed would be temporarily hers. In one corner a large washtub was already filled with steaming water and a fluffy towel sat next to it. A nightgown, hairbrush, slippers were set on a small vanity while a hot plate of what Cassidy could only assume to be dinner was situated on the table nearest the door. What drew Cassidy's eyes most however, was the large and rather plush looking bed. Transfiguration had never quite been her strong suite and the transfigured bed that she slept on the night before was really a lumpy mess. That bed looked like heaven.

"These are to be your accommodations until our Lady sees so fit. If you require anything then you may pull this bell," he gestured to a long, thin rope hanging near the door. "And a maid will come to assist you. Otherwise, you are our guest here, but I would advise against wandering."

The unspoken "I do not trust you and thus will be watching you" was quite clear, but Cassidy had no intentions of wandering that night. Though she was immensely curious about these strange elves, she was not stupid enough to get caught mysteriously lurking around their capital city at night. She thanked Haldir with a genuine smile and watched him nod in acknowledgment before leaving. he still obviously did not trust her, but seemed a bit warmer after watching her memories. I suppose watching someone die does that to a person, she mused. 

Cassidy went about a nightly routine slowly and automatically: eating, bathing, spelling her hair dry, and dressing. She eventually found herself setting at the edge of her bed, trying to will herself to simply collapse into the plush sheets and sleep.

But, a force of sorrow beyond her will crept in and instead she wept.

She wept for her parents, killed when she was a child. 

She wept for her friends, never to know what became of her. 

She wept for the Order, with not enough witches and wizards to fight Voldemort.

And she wept for her world, dancing on the very precipice between good and evil: filled with hatred, ignorance, blame, and suffering. It was her home, and she may never see it again. 

 

***

From several trees over, a shadow fell across a tree branch. An elf was crouching low, silent as a windless night, listening to the sounds of a mortal girl's anguished tears. The figure listed for several moments before standing and disappearing into the night. 

 

 

Chapter Text

"My Lady," Haldir bowed his head as he reentered the receiving room of Lady Galadriel. His Lord was sitting, by all appearances extremely worn from the trials of the evening. 

"You wonder why we yielded so much to gain the trust of a child of Man," Galadriel looked straight through Haldir as she spoke.

"It is not my position to question..."

"Yet you wonder all the same."

"Yes," Haldir admitted with a resigned sigh. "I must confess, my Lady, to first grant her access to Caras Galadhon was more than I expected, but then to allow her to..." he trailed off, still in shock from all that had occurred. When the messenger arrived to alert him that Lady Galadriel requested that he bring the young girl to the city and to see her, he had been in shock. Yet, at the same time, he doubted that his wardens would be capable of pushing her away. Such would likely require the assistance of Lady Galadriel and her ring. 

"What I did was necessary, and I did so gladly," Celeborn cut in, sanding so that he could be aside his wife. 

"This young girl holds more power than we have ever encountered," Galadriel paused in thought. "The raw energy coursing through her alone is enough to bring down the Witch King, I recon even battle Sauron himself."

"My Lady," Haldir's mouth fell open in shock. "You cannot possibly-"

"Have you ever seen one throw a weapon so easily without even touching the other? She bears power beyond our understanding. I have already called for Mithrandir, but we must be cautious until he arrives."

"She is dangerous."

"What makes you say so?" Galadriel's words were tinged with a slight smile, that smile that Haldir was well aware of being an indicator for her knowing more than she was saying. 

"We don't even know what she can do... and she threatened to burn Lothlorien to ash. Do you think she was lying?"

"Not one word."

"Then she is dangerous."

"Perhaps," Celeborn cut into the conversation. "However she was- is frightened. You saw her memories as well, you know that her world too faces a Dark Lord bent on destruction. She was expecting death or torture... finding herself alive she assumed the latter to be her situation."

"She will need a guide while she is staying here," Galadriel held that scheming smile dancing on her lips again. "Inform Orophin that he will be taking over your duties at the boarders for the time being, you are to be her guide and guardian whilst she remains in our city."

Knowing better than to protest, Haldir merely bowed his head and waited until he was dismissed. A gentle nod from his Lady was all it took for him to turn and leave, heading home to the flet he shared with his brothers when they were not on patrol. It was a thing of simple construction, the wood was smoothed by the many years that they had spent traversing across the deck. The sides of the flet held large, open windows that let the natural light- both of sun and stars, into the house. Haldir smiled upon the sight of warm light emanating through the windows and the sound of cups and plates clattering, indicating that his brothers were readying their evening meal. The second Haldir made it through the door though, he was bombarded with questions. 

"Who is she?"

"Is she staying?"

"What did Lady Galdriel find?"

"Is she single?"

"Rumil," Haldir roared in outrage. "How dare you?! She is a child, a mortal, and a witch!"

"She is... interesting," he replied with a sly smile.

"That is enough," Orophin, for once taking Haldir's side, stepped in. "Even for you Rumil, that is enough."

Haldir sighed and plopped rather ungracefully into his chair. His brothers of course noticed how he did not shed his sword belt, but declined to comment on it as he quickly launched into an explanation of what had occurred after the two were dismissed. Both brothers leaned in and listened eagerly as Haldir recounted how the child attacked Lady Galadriel's mind, threw his sword, and threatened to burn their home to the ground. He then went on to explaining how Lord Celeborn allowed her to search his mind, and how she in turn showed them her memories. When they pushed for him to tell them of the memories he saw, Haldir was only willing to share her history, that magic was far more prevalent in her world, and that she too was fighting a Dark Lord. He would not however, recount the horrors that she showed them, the images of torture, the sounds of screams and the scents of burning flesh that no child should know. Those thoughts he locked away. 

After satisfying his brothers' curiosity, Haldir informed them that Orophin would be taking over his duties and that his responsibility was now to guard the young girl. Rumil frowned slightly at this, but did not protest. For all Rumil's foibles, he knew that when orders came from Lady Galadriel herself, they were not to be protested. 

 Finished with his brothers’ questions, Haldir shoveled down a quick dinner and dragged himself to his room where he retired. The moon was high and he could hear the voices of his kin singing a joyful song of the coming autumn festival. The moon would soon be full and they would all be blessed by her beauty. Haldir dearly hoped that the mortal child would be gone before then.

 

***
“Miss Oleander," a light voice stirred Cassidy from her sleep. 

For a moment upon waking, she forgot where she was, what happened. However, as soon as she felt the linen sheets on the bed and noticed the alarming amount of sunlight shining from the window, she knew that all which had occurred the day before did indeed happen- it wasn’t a dream. 

“Just a moment,” she called back to the voice that she didn’t recognize. Cassidy day up on the bed, stretching her limbs and yawning. She was still in that phase of just waking where absolutely anything was perfectly normal, even wearing a nightgown in a treehouse. She needed her morning tea.

Shuffling slowly over to the door, wand still ever in hand, Cassidy pulled it open to reveal another stunningly beautiful elf. This one was obviously feminine and had golden hair cascading down her back. She wore a simple, yet elegant dress of light green and her smile was simply brilliant. Cassidy openly faked for a moment before composing herself, are they all this beautiful? She couldn’t help but question such a thing.

“Miss Oleander,” she spoke slowly, taking great care with her words. “Tea for your morning as Lady Galadriel requested for you. Master Haldir will be here shortly to- guide you. Do you require assistance?”

Cassidy took the tray of fragrant tea eagerly and smiled at the elf. She was obviously unused to English and had likely rehearsed her speech several times before knocking on Cassidy’s door. She appreciated the effort.

“Thank you,” Cassidy spoke slowly, hoping that the elf would understand. “I am grateful for the tea, and I will not require assistance in readying.” 

The elf nodded and walked away while Cassidy drew the door shut and placed the tray on a little wood table in the “flet.” She carefully poured herself a cup of tea and placed a warming charm on the pot so that she could go back to it later. She then set about scourgifying her clothes so that she could change back into them. There was a dress that appeared to have been roughly tailored to her size on the tray of tea, but she chose to ignore it and instead favored her clothing from the previous night. Besides, the air was chilly and her own clothing was already adorned with warming charms. 

Shortly after she finished changing and taming her hair with a comb, a knock on her door sounded. It was a much firmer and more precise knock, one that she instantly knew would be the stoic Marchwarden. Cassidy schooled her features. These elves were strange indeed, but she had spent many a nights in the Forbidden Forest amongst the races who lived there. Each time she eventually won their trust. This time however, she was hesitant, she didn't know if she wanted to follow her instincts of curiosity... or simply make a run for the hills and a bit of peace. 

"Hello Haldir-" she paused upon opening the door and seeing the elf dressed differently from the previous day. Instead of his uniform, he was wearing what Cassidy could only assume to be normal attire for the elves: a dark grey tunic, green leggings, and soft brown leather boots and belt. "I heard that you are supposed to be my "guide" today?"

"Yes," his tone being decently less excited than Cassidy's. "There are few in Caras Galadhon who are fluent in Common and who my Lady trusts with... watching you."

"Ah, so you're my baby-sitter then? Here to make sure I don't fall out of a tree?" There was a spike of bitterness in her words. Cassidy had spent the last several years of her life fighting Death Eaters in a war to determine the fates of all magical and muggle beings alike. She was no child. 

"I am here to make sure that you don't "burn this forest to the ground" as you so pleasantly suggested," he hissed his words, making Cassidy flinch internally. 

Yah... about that, her mind recalled her words form the night before. But, she would not apologize. She was not sorry for her threats or her actions. She could have thrown a stunning spell on every elf in that tree, she could have obviated them all, but she did not. For that, she believed that she was more than patient with them. 

"Listen, thanks for the hospitality and all-" Cassidy was beginning to realize that they did not get off to the best start, and this elf seemed the type to take first impressions far too seriously. "But it's obvious that I'm not welcome here and I'm in the middle of an existential crisis so I really can't deal with this now. If you'd point me in the direction of the nearest magical settlement then I'll be on my way."

"My Lady has asked that you stay a while whilst we fetch Mithrandir, one of the greatest wizards alive. There are few with such powers and thus being so, there is no "magical settlement" for me to point you to. Come, you are to dine with myself and my brothers this morning."

Cassidy nodded at his icy tone and followed him, closing the door behind her. A slight spark of hope however began to glow in her chest, the Lady was calling a wizard... there were some of her kind in this world. She watched as Haldir strode purposefully ahead, crossing several bridges and leaping up sever more sets of stairs. Cassidy determined that enough was enough, and simply apparated up them. As before, Haldir frowned deeply at this but said nothing. 

He's just jealous, she thought smugly, smirking at him after she beat him to the top of the staircase yet again. 

They eventually arrived at a lovely looking flet and were greeted by Orophin, the other elf who escorted Cassidy to the city. He smiled warmly at her and welcomed her in broken English. She returned his greeting and upon his stepping back to allow her entrance, was swept up by Rumil who held out his arm to escort her with a dashing smile. She laughed in response and pretended not to hear the frustrated noice that Haldir made from behind them. 

Rumil pulled out a seat for her, and pushed it in gently. He then skipped to his place across the table and sat, waiting for his brothers who were still arguing in their musical tongue at the door to join them. He granted Cassidy a conspiring wink and slid a wooden fork onto the chair at the head of the table. Cassidy couldn't help but giggle slightly as he schooled his features into a perfectly innocent smile right as Haldir and Orophin arrived at the table. Orophin appeared to be perfectly calm, but Haldir was practically fuming. Orophin took his seat next to Rumil, and Haldir pulled out his chair and sat down viciously, only to leap up in alarm. 

He glared at Rumil and shouted something which Cassidy could only assume to be some rather unpleasant words before Orophin interjected with a rather resigned tone of voice. Once the two brothers were calm, he turned to Cassidy and offered an apologetic smile,

"Sorry- they can, are" he paused, thinking on his words. "Difficult?"

"I couldn't agree more," Cassidy smiled, once more admiring their effort to communicate with her. 

"Orophin has not traveled as much as I and thus his Common is rather crude, but he is learning," the still slightly fuming Haldir spoke as he viciously stabbed a piece of fruit with his for. Cassidy had the distinct impression that he was imagining a face on that pear slice. Now whether that face was hers or Rumil's, she did not know. 

They all lapsed into silence for several more minutes and Cassidy was uncertain if they were always this quiet with one another, if it was the awkwardness of her arrival, or the inconvenience of the language barrier which prevented speech, but she was beginning to grow annoyed. She could feel three sets of eyes watching her: Haldir with suspicion, Orophin with mild curiosity, and Rumil with an open and mischievous smile. Eventually, she decided that someone aught to try something. 

"So Haldir, babysitter of mine, what's on the agenda for today?" The elf stiffened and both of his brothers turned to look at him expectingly. Although they did not understand what she said, they certainly heard her mention their brother's name. 

"We do not have an agenda set for Lady Galadriel asked only for you to feel free to explore and do what you will with your time whilst waiting for Mithrandir," he replied. 

"Well if you have a library of some sort, I'd love to find a good sample of your writing so that I can rig up a translation spell."

"You think you have a way to learn our language?" Haldir's voice was laced with suspicion. 

"I have a few books of my own with me, so I think I could figure something out."

Haldir turned and spoke with his brothers for a few minutes, another argument obviously took place and Cassidy watched it all with mild amusement. I think they might have the Weasly's beat on dysfunctional family disagreements, she mused silently to herself. 

"I shall escort you to the library." He spoke with a sort of firm finality that made it seem that she had asked him to sacrifice a goat or something for her. 

The rest of the meal lapsed into silence with Rumil occasionally speaking towards Cassidy in what she assumed was a question. Each time he turned to Haldir expectantly, but the elder brother always shook his head, unwilling to translate. None of this seemed to damper the younger's enthusiasm though as he simply continued to pose his questions. 

When they left the flet to travel to the library, Cassidy could not help but notice how fond she had become of the youngest brother. His ever cheerful attitude, smiles, and secret winks as he further irritated his older brother had allowed her to forget about her longing for home during their meal. It was only a short period of time, but it was a relief none the less.

But, now they were heading to the library. Cassidy dearly hoped that the library would be a large one as she was eager to learn the language of these elves, and perhaps even a bit about the strange world that she had fallen into. The Hogwarts library was one of her absolute most favorite places in the world, and Cassidy longed for the warmth of a dusty place with shelves and shelves of velvety parchment, just waiting for someone to pry them open and learn their secrets. Besides, would she even be a proper Ravenclaw if she arrived in a strange land amount a brand new species, and didn't bother to examine their literature or learn their language?

 

***

Somewhere, near the northern banks of the Celebrant, a Wizard was idly ambling along in a small, wooden cart. His large draft horse pulling the creaky thing was slow, but in a pleasant mood and thus walking amicably. The wizard was smoking pipeweed and humming a pleasant tune as he enjoyed the gentle rustle of the nearby river and the easy breeze blowing through his beard. He would have been happy to continue ambling aimlessly for quite some time if it had not been for the elf riding towards him at great speed.

"Mithrandir," the elf called out, keen elven eyes allowing him to have seen the wizard well in advance.

"Hanon-le," the wizard called back, a good natured wave to accompany the traditional elvish greeting. 

"Hanon-le, Mithrandir," he lept from his horse who, like a true elvish steed, remained still as his rider dismounted. The elf then bowed with a fist to his chest, turning to look up at the great wizard. "My Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn humbly request your assistance in an urgent matter." He then pulled from a pocket of his tunic a roll of parchment bearing a green wax seal of the Mallorn leaf- the seal of Lothlorien.

"Hmmm," the wizard grunted, more to himself than the elf who was speaking to him. "All you creatures are always in such a hurry. Is every matter urgent?" He then began patting the pockets of his robe speaking to himself once more. "Now where are my glasses..."

The elf was then set to truly test his patience as he waited for the wizard to find his glasses so that he could read the note, and hopefully provide him with a response that he could deliver back to his Lady. As the wizard continued to search his pockets, the elf could not help but glance the sun and wonder if he would be returning with a response before the stars were out. 

"Nope... those are old Bill's spectacles... oooh, that's where my spare pipe went," he continued to mumble as he searched his robes. 

The elf let out an audible sigh and stroked his horses neck whispering to him that he could leave to take a drink in the stream and graze upon the nearby grass. It would likely be some time before he got a proper response from the wizard.

"Oh, there's my old pocket watch... I wondered where that one had gone off too..."

 

 

Chapter Text

"Haldir," a brunet elf called out just as they were leaving Haldir's flet. 

Haldir returned a greeting and the two elves instantly became engrossed in conversation. Although Cassidy couldn't understand what they were saying, she could tell that their discussion was relatively serious. She could also tell that they were talking about her by the way they kept "subtly" glancing in her direction. 

After the conversation progressed for a while, the other elf gave Haldir a light shove in Cassidy's direction. He frowned briefly at the other elf before turning his attention to Cassidy. 

"Lady Cassidy, my companion here," he gestured towards the other elf who smiled warmly. "Would desire that I assist in this morning's training of our Galadhrim. I informed him that I cannot for I am escorting you this day, and he asked if you would care to join."

"That sounds like a lot of fun!" Cassidy lept at the chance to learn something new about these elves. "What are the Galadhrim?"

"The Galadhrim are the elite soldiers who protect Lothlorien's boarders from intruders."

"So your group of elves with the pointy things from yesterday?" Cassidy couldn't help but tease him about the incident. Really, these elves certainly were full of themselves. They reminded Cassidy a bit too much of those older pureblood families. 

"Yes."

"Well, I'm always up for observing new things. Lead the way."

Haldir's companion, who introduced himself as Iallor, guided the pair through a series of winding routes. Much to Cassidy's annoyance, these ones were twisted and they often ended at a place where she did not expect, thus making it impossible for her to apparate. She soon found herself growing mild out of breath as the elves walked on with ease. 

Eventually, they reached a rather large clearing where a group of elves, all dressed in identical grey, brown, and green tunics and leggings stood in a loose formation, stretching and checking weapons. As soon as they saw Haldir and Iallor however, they all snapped smartly to attention. Cassidy watched in fascination as Haldir barked a series of orders to them, resulting in them all breaking off to do what Cassidy could only assume to be some sort of drill. 

Throughout the training, Cassidy couldn't help but be fascinated by the drills that they ran through, the ease and grace with which they moved. Now Cassidy had always considered herself a pretty efficient tree climber, but those elves flew up the trees, barely rustling a single leaf. Oh how Cassidy envied their skills. 

As the practice grew later, a few of the elves set up targets and began to practice archery. Once again they were incredibly efficient, far more accurate than the centers of the Forbidden Forest, and they shot with such precision that Cassidy began to wonder if the elves had more magic than they realized. Her pondering however were interrupted when Iallor wandered over with a bow, offering it to Cassidy with a smile. She could tell by his eyes that he was trying to be kind, but she merely smiled sheepishly and pushed it away. 

"Sorry, but I tried archery once when I was nine at summer camp. Let's just say that I'm pretty sure the camp instilled a new policy after after that."

"Most of these Galadhrim have trained with a bow since they were only seventy years old. It is best for you to not bother. Besides, an elvish bow is far too heavy for you to carry," Haldir pointed out.

"Seventy... how old are you?" Cassidy let the sting slide and her attention was immediately drawn towards the blond elf who was still speaking slowly in his language as she corrected another elf's impeccable form. 

"I stopped counting some time ago..." he hesitated as he titled his head slightly in thought. "I would approximate somewhere around 2,500 years. We elves live much longer than fleeting mortal."

Cassidy decided to let the frankly lame insult slide. She had heard far worse. After pondering over his age however, she suddenly found herself in a rush to scramble through her bag and find a paper and quill. She immediately began jotting down notes on everything she had observed thus far on elvish culture. She was placing them right next to centaurs and merfolk in her journal. She became so engrossed in her activities that she did not notice that an elf, Iallor again, was attempting to speak to her. She finally looked up when he placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. He was gesturing over to the elves practicing archery and speaking slowly, obviously attempting to get some point across. Cassidy looked over to Haldir who spoke to Iallor and then eventually translated after an audible sigh.

"He wishes to know if you would like to try as you seemed very interested in watching. He offered to fetch an elfling's bow and to move a target closer. I informed him that such was unnecessary as even an elfling's bow requires more strength than you have in your blood."

In your blood, the words flew through Cassidy's mind and rage began to take over. When she presented with magic to her squib mother and muggle father, they embraced her with joy and were happy to team up with her aunt in introducing her to the magical world. They thought that it would be a fantastic place for her and where thrilled with the prospect of her attending Hogwarts. Sure some of the children, mainly the Slytherin, teased her for her family, but she was able to ignore them, her mother would remind her that it wasn't her blood that made up who she was, it was her mind. 

Then, her parents died, murdered by Death Eaters in front of her and she was left to lie with her Aunt and Uncle. Somehow, the teasings got worse after that and students were more than willing to mock her dead parents. She had spent years defending her blood, defending her magic. Now, this stupid, arrogant, elitist elf was insulting her blood. These creatures with less magic than the merfolk in the Hogwarts Lake. I'll show him strength, she thought. 

She was stuck in some nutty world with hardly any magic, and she was found by a bunch of blond pricks that might has well have been Malfoys. She couldn't speak their language, and the only one who could understand her was a pompous arse. 

Then, without thinking things through quite as much as she usually did. She stood up and stormed her way over to Haldir, drawing her wand in the process. 

"You think I lack strength?!" she hissed. At this point, all the elves in the clearing had stopped practicing and were instead watching the proceedings rather keenly. "Is that what you think? This little girl, this mortal who is oh so young compared to you elves is incapable?"

"I merely stated a fact," he replied cooly. 

"Is is because of my blood?" 

"Your kin are inferior."

Your kin are inferior, those words wrung through her head. Oh she had heard those words so many times before. 

Cassidy laughed. She then raised her wand, pointing it to the furthest target. She leveled her gaze, the target was far, probably too far for a mortal to hit with a gun, but she was dueling champion. 

"Bombarda," she watched with satisfaction as the target was blow far back, exploding in so that nothing was left but a few bits of floating straw. The elves looked at her in shock, but she wasn't finished yet. "Flipendo duo," she cried at the next target, watching as it flew through the air, flipping as it went until it was stopped by hitting a tree so loudly, splinters flew. The elves were shifting nervously, some gripping their bows a little too tightly. Cassidy looked to Haldir and saw his grimace. It wasn't enough. She then looked towards the closest target, still a good 200 meters away. She grinned, almost manically as she had reached that peak of intersection between rage and power when all sense seems to fly away. "Lacarnum Inflamarae," her last spell sent a ball of fire towards the target which, being made of straw, promptly burst into flames. She laughed as the flames flew upwards, crackling and burning. As she smelled the smoke and ash, she remembered her night in Malfoy manor. Instead of fear, for a brief moment she felt joy, she remembered how good that spell felt, the only time she ever called upon so much of her magic at once... oh it was like nothing anyone could ever imagine. 

Immediately the elves scrambled into action, Haldir was barking out orders and for once, Cassidy saw what they looked like when frantic. 

"What's the big fuss about..."

"The trees," Haldir shouted, venom dripping from his tongue. "The Mallorn trees, they will..."

"Aqua Eructo," a jet of water shot out from Cassidy's wand before Haldir could finish his sentence, quickly dousing the flame. "It was a simple inflamarae... it's not like it was gonna light the forest on fire," she grumbled the last part half heartedly, realizing how foolish she had acted. 

When she looked up, Cassidy noticed that the elves were all giving her looks of unease. Even Iallor, who had tried so hard to be kind to her, was standing a decent distance, hand tight on his sheathed sword. The high of anger and injustice that she had been riding fell and she found herself feeling utterly lost. Looking around at the fear and uncertainty, she found that she herself was feeling much of that. 

"It... it was just a little joke," she whispered. "I'm sorry."

With that, she fled. Where to she didn't know, but she was running, racing through the forest contemplating how much she just screwed up. Every summer, every summer since turning ten she spent behind the doors of the dueling dojo, practicing her self control and mastering her emotions. After all that time, all those years, she lets the tiniest bit slip and terrifies everyone around her. I didn't even screw up the spells! She thought. I was in complete control, no mishaps or magical misfires. Indeed, her little stunt would have been nothing at Hogwarts. All the spells except her last one could easily be performed by a fourth year, or even really a talented third year. Even her last one wasn't that impressive for a seventh year during these times of war. 

These elves though of her as weak, but feared her magic. They were the worst of purebloods and muggles combined.

She continued to stumble through the dark, feet dragging along the ground as she pushed away branches and cast extra warming charms over her clothes. She clutched her wand tightly and held it to her chest, listening for any other sounds of the forest. She was lost. Very very very lost and alone. 

That night, just as Cassidy found herself utterly lost and alone in the dark, a figure startled her by leaping from the trees to land directly in front of her. She had her wand out and a blasting spell at the tip of her tongue before she recognized the shape. 

"Rumil?" she questioned. 

"Yes... hellow?" he spoke slowly with his best attempt at English. 

"I'm assuming you've heard about what I did. Come to kick me out of the forest?" she asked with a sigh.

Rumil, not understanding her, tilted his head to the side. He then smiled gently and beckoned her to follow him and the pair walked until they reached the little flet that was supposed to be Cassidy's temporary home. Haldir was standing outside it with his arms crossed and a rather angry expression on his face. Rumil walked ahead and spoke a few words to Haldir in a hushed tone. They made several glances over to Cassidy before Rumil turned to walk away, giving Cassidy one last smile. 

"Thank you," she called to his retreating form. Haldir, thankfully, translated both Cassidy and Rumil's reply of "it was no bother."

"Listen-" she began. But, he held up his hand. 

"It is past, it is forgotten. We go to the library tomorrow. There is food in your kitchen for tonight. I bid you a good evening Lady Cassidy."

With that, he walked away into the night.

Cassidy then found herself stumbling inside. If she was following any sense of normalcy or logic, then she really should have been crying her eyes out. Instead, she was just tired. Soon enough, she was asleep, still wearing her clothes from the day.

***

 

"It's beautiful," Cassidy marveled in awe as she walked through the massive library. Besides a polite greeting that morning, Haldir had hardly spoken to her, but he seemed to be pretending that the incident the day before didn't happen. Cassidy was content to act the same.

Like everything else in Lothlorian, the library was built high in the trees. The elves were obvious cautious of nature however as they hadn't cut any main branches from the trees, instead they built their sprawling library into the very canopy of the trees. Massive glass panes formed skylights in the being, allowing golden sunlight to filter into the open, cavernous space. The book shelves were arranged in a spiral radiating from the center, creating what felt like a maze of towering volumes of books. I must have found heaven.

"This is the heart of all information of the elven realms," Haldir spoke ever solemnly behind her. "It holds many precious and irreplaceable volumes, most older than mortal civilizations. They are meant to be handled with delicate hands. Take care."

"Humph," Cassidy frowned lightly at the insinuation that Haldir made. "Excuse you, I happen to be one of Madam Pince's favorite students... and she doesn't like many." Cassidy spoke with a huff before casting a simple searching charm that the aforementioned librarian had taught her. The spell was able to quickly locate a rather large dictionary which would be a perfect reference for her spell. She then used accio to summon the book, much to Haldir's displeasure, but she ignored his glare and took the book over to a large desk situated off to the side. 

From the corner of her eye, Cassidy could tell that Haldir was following her like a shadow, but she did her best to ignore him as there was no way that he was going to ruin her fun. There was nothing that Cassidy loved more than this, searching through texts, flipping page after page, book after book in search of hidden knowledge. She reached for her wrist and unclasped her charm bracelet. The delicate, though deceptively strong, silver chain held what appeared to be a series of book shaped charms. Sorting through them, Cassidy found the three most likely to provide answers and unclipped them from her chain. She then placed the charms on the desk and waved her wand above them. 

"Engorgio," she spoke softly on instinct as she was in a library, but the spell worked like a charm and the three charms became three full sized books. 

"How..." Haldir began.

"I'm very protective of my book collection, and you never know when you'll need a reference," Cassidy explained absentmindedly, already flipping through the pages. "It's really a simple shrinking charm. I did it myself so I have to remember to renew it every few weeks, but it keeps my books close so it's definitely worth it."

Haldir lapsed into silence and for once, Cassidy was grateful for it. Despite what Haldir said the night before, she had not forgiven him and she was quite certain that he had not forgiven her. But, she had work to do, she became engrossed in her research, pulling forth a piece of parchment and a quill so that she could make notes, she began cross referencing her texts and pulling together the spell- actually, the potion that she would need to make. The potion was a tricky one as it involved not only a foreign language that no witch or wizard had a record of, but also a completely different species. Such would be a large challenge, but Cassidy was enjoying herself far too much. 

Once several hours had passed and she had made a mess of scribbles on her notes, she closed the books with a satisfied smile, shrinking her own volumes and re-clipping them to her charm bracelet before picking up the library book and tucking it under her arm. 

"We're gonna need to head outside for this one. To create a charm that allows me to understand your language, I'm gonna need to brew a potion and that involves lighting a fire."

"You cannot light a fire in Caras Galadhon," Haldir replied. He had obviously no forgotten about the incident from the previous day.

"Relax, I'll keep it under control. If I can apparate up and down your stupid stairs then I'm sure I can prevent a forest fire from a tiny potion set."

Haldir considered for a moment before nodding stiffly and guiding Cassidy to an open platform a decent ways away from the library. Cassidy then dug through her bag and pulled out her portable potion cauldron and all the ingredients that she needed for the spell. It was a good thing that she was always an over planner. Cassidy pretty much had an entire potions laboratory in her bag at all times. On never knows when they will need such things. 

"Let's see... lacewing flies, everspeak peppers, mandrake extract," she ignored the look of horror on Haldir's face then the latter ingredient let out a high pitched shriek upon her opening the vial. "Veela blood, billywig venom, crushed ashflake... and one more thing..." Cassidy turned to Haldir, a sweet smile on her face. "There's one more ingredient that I need..."

"Yes?" A look of suspicion crossed Haldir's face. 

"Well, as this potion is rather complex... the best stabilizing agent that will also ensure that it is fully effective is... well a strand of hair of a being who understands both languages."

Haldir's expression became horrified and Cassidy swore that she could see him reel back slightly. So I was right, all these elves have long silky hair because they're obsessed with it, she thought to herself. 

"Are you asking for a strand of my hair?" Haldir's question sounded more like an accusation, but Cassidy nodded nonetheless. 

"Well technically, it's a "piece" of a being who speaks both tongues... so an ear or something could do," she shrugged and her smile grew wide as the look of horror spread through Haldir. The elf lifted one hand to his ear and took a half step back. But, when his other hand strayed to his sword, Cassidy tucked her wand back into its sleeve holster and held her hands up placatingly. "I kid, I kid. Jeez, you gotta relax bud, it was a joke. I just need one strand of hair. If you're so protective of whats on your head, then you can run on home and grab a piece off your hairbrush."

"What you ask for... it is not something to take lightly," he hissed.

"Listen, if your hair is sacred or something, then I'm sorry, but I need a piece for the translation spell to work. It'll be consumed in the spell so it's not like I'm gonna be keeping it as some weird talisman, and I promise there are easier ways to put a spell on someone then with their hair."

Haldir looked reproachful for another moment, but after considering his options he must have deemed it worth giving up a strand of hair so that he could stop playing translator. He reached towards the back of his skull, tugging lightly. He then drew forth his hand and offered upon an open palm, a single strand of long, blond hair. 

Cassidy took the offering carefully and smiled lightly at Haldir before setting it down next to her ingredients. Now came her second favorite part of potions. Her first was of course the research into the potion, but her second was most certainly this. She lit the cauldron and rechecked her ingredients, she was ready.

She began working in a methodical flurry: crushing seeds, measuring out liquids, slicing and dicing, pouring her ingredients in precisely the right order. She mumbled quietly to herself as she worked, having gotten into the habit long ago. Professor Snape always considered it annoying, but even that old grouch could not help but be mildly impresses with her skills... Professor Snape... Cassidy tried not to think of him much these days. 

"Always add the Dragon blood to the potion after the mandrake extract... then lacewing..." she counted each stir, careful to not overwork the spell. At the last moment, she dropped in the hair and watched as the potion turned from its light pink color to a warm, golden tinged green. Cassidy then reached into her bag and pulled forth a piece of pure, untainted crystal- the perfect vessel for holding magic. 

She stirred the potion one last time to create a tiny whirlpool which she dropped the crystal into, watching form the corner of her eye as Haldir leaned in mystified as the green potion seemed to be sucked into the crystal, chaining it from its off white color to a brilliant green, shining like the leaves fo Lothlorien's precious Mallorn trees. 

The spell was complete. 

Plucking the already cool crystal from the cauldron, Cassidy set up a simple spell to wrap a little piece of wire around it, forming a pendent which she then hung on a chain around her neck. She noted how Haldir purposefully did not make a comment on he several other crystals, all of various colors, hanging there. 

She looked up to the sky and found that it was almost evening. She had spent so long working on her potion, she had missed lunch. She did have a tendency of getting lost in her work. For a moment, Cassidy regretted that she made Haldir miss lunch, but judging by the way he still stood in the exact same spot he was planted in when they first arrived, Cassidy guessed that he was doing just fine. 

"So... how's my Sindarin?" she asked with a smile. Haldir looked taken aback for a moment. 

"You speak adequately," he said upon composing himself. But, the look that he first gave her was all that Cassidy needed to know.

She had succeeded. 

 

***

 

"We should make it to the city by first light," the elf spoke with more excitement than he strictly should. He had not expected the wizard to move so rapidly after reading the letter. 

"Yes, well a wizard can move with haste when necessary," Gandalf pointed out. His little pony was indeed moving with rather rapid speed. "So tell me, have you met this "witch" who Lady Galadriel writes of?"

"Briefly, I was among the party that apprehended her upon her entrance to Lothlorien. She bears a strange stick, much smaller than your staff, and wields magic with ease."

"Hmmm... what kind?"

"It did not seem dark, but powerful. She also seems to have a mortal's temper."

"Sounds like the beginning of an adventure," Gandalf smiled lightly. 

They were indeed close to the city, soon he would be meeting with Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn. They had much to discuss.  

 

Chapter Text

"Lembas, eat and dress. We go to see Lady Galadriel immediately," Cassidy took a minute to blink blearily, her spell translating the elven language faster than her foggy morning mind could comprehend. 

She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, opened them, and took in the scene. 

Haldir was standing at her door holing out a small, leaf wrapped parcel. He was dressed in a similar outfit as the day before, and looked bright and alert as if he had been up for hour. Cassidy rolled her eyes past the broad shouldered elf and glanced at the sky. 

"It's still dark," were the first words that she could muster. 

"The sun will rise within the hour, you have slept for four. Eat, dress." He replied crisply. 

Cassidy's mind wandered to the night before. She had joined Haldir's family for dinner as usual, but Rumil had insisted that they celebrate Cassidy's newfound language abilities and his and orophin's imminent return to the boarder guard. Now, if Cassidy thought that Rumil was fun before she could understand him... he was an absolute riot when she could. The younger elf was a merciless flirt and spent most of the night recounting tales from the family- mainly Haldir's, youth. At one point, he went into a very detailed explanation how when Haldir was but an elfling, he snuck out of their parents' flet and into a feast that the Lord and Lady were hosting to welcome a company of delegates from Greenwood the Great. Midway through Lady Galadriel's welcome speech, tiny Haldir marched up to the high table and declared quite loudly in a rather awed voice "you're vewy pwitty." At that particular story, Haldir shot his brother a glare that was particularly murderous, but Cassidy barely noticed through her tears of laughter. 

It really was a brilliant night, but then, then he broke out the wine. 

Cassidy would swear that she only had one, maybe two... okay maybe three sips of the fruity cordial, but Merlin was that wine strong. After her first sip she could hardly recall the rest of the night. There was a vague memory of Rumil and Haldir breaking out into a heated argument resulting in Orophin guiding Cassidy back to her flet- but she couldn't be certain. 

An impatient cough brought Cassidy back to reality. 

"Off we go then," she grumbled, taking the parcel and slamming the door on Haldir's face. Once alone, she quickly located a sobering potion in her bag to wipe away the fog of the previous night's wine. She always kept them in stock and that morning was particularly grateful for the habit. Of course, while she had technically started drinking a "bit young," but she also joined a war while being a "bit young" so really it wasn't the worst of her habbits. She grimaced slightly at the bitter taste, but sighed in relief as the pounding in her head quieted. 

Upon inspecting the leaf wrapped parcel, she found a strange cake that seemed to fill her up with one bite, so she dropped the rest of the handy food into her expanding pouch. She then set about cleaning her clothes as she found that she was wearing the same outfit as the night previously, supporting her hypothesis about being guided back home by Orophin. She then tugged a brush through her hair for a few seconds before giving up and returning to swing the door open. Haldir was in the exact same spot. It was like he didn't even move an inch. 

"Will you please wear one of the gowns brought to you, we are to be seeing the Lady Galadriel," he glared disapprovingly at her choice in attire. 

"Why? Is it because you want me to look pwitty like her?" She asked, a smirk dancing on her lips. She was feeling much more alert after the sobering potion. Haldir's face turned bright red and he merely turned and began to walk in the direction of the large receiving room that Cassidy was originally brought to upon entering the city. 

They walked in silence and as they walked, Cassidy's nerves began to grow. What if she wishes to speak to me about the archery incident? Cassidy wondered, bitting her lip slightly in nervousness. Such wasn't one of her best moments and the elves were exceedingly picky about their trees. Oh how Cassidy wished that she could simply enjoy her time exploring this strange world. It was so different, so unique... there was so much to learn. 

Instead of exploring or asking questions however, she was stuck inside her own head, driving herself mad with worry. She completed her mission, but what about their war? What will they do without me? We've lost so many...

Cassidy knew that she had to find some way back to her world. There's always a way... always. 

Her ponderings were cut short as they soon reached the base of the stairs to that grand reviving room. By that point Cassidy was far too nervous to go with her usual snark and so dutifully walked up the long and winding staircase. Part of her wondered how Lady Galadriel and the other female elves made it up and down those stairs so often without failing. 

When they reached the top, Haldir knocked dutifully on the door and Cassidy found herself fidgeting. She heard the light and sweet voice of Lady Galadriel beckoning Cassidy in, and Haldir merely opened the door and gestured for her to enter. So, she entered the room alone, hearing the door shut behind her. Haldir, it seemed, would be waiting outside while she spoke with the lady of the woods. Cassidy put on her most pleasant face, inhaled deeply, and walked forward with confidence. I've faced Death Eaters and Dark Lords... what's a couple of elves?

When she came upon Lady Galadriel however, she was surprised to see her sitting at a table with Lord Celeborn and another figure who Cassidy did no know. Her instincts immediately kicked in and she ran her eyes over the rather tall, old man to asses his threat. He was indeed old, hunched over and bearing a grey beard. His clothes were in shambles and he had the most ridiculous pointed hat that screamed "old world wizard." Although his clothes had plant of spots capable of hiding a wand, his hand did not hover over any of them, nor did he favor a particular side... thus he was a wizard with experience in war or at lease dueling. He also seemed to bear a strange staff of knotted wood, perhaps some powerful magical object. 

What comforted Cassidy most however, was the aura around him. She could feel the magic flowing off of him in waves. The elves and the woods all held the lingering feeling of magic, like the kind that comes from creatures made from, but not of, magic. This man however, this wizard had that all encompassing pulse of magic which ebbed and flowed with each breath. He was a wizard through and through. 

"Ahhh," he spoke slowly and with a warm smile breaking across his face. "So you must be miss Cassidy Oleander. The Lady Galadriel has spoken quite a bit about you. From what I've heard... you say you are a wizard?" Cassidy was instantly drawn to the wizard's eyes. She had stood in the presence of many powerful witches and wizards before, and she knew that sharpness in his gaze. He was strong despite his appearance. 

"Witch actually," she grinned and the moldy scandalized look that crossed the face of the Lord Celeborn. "I'll assume by the less than pleasant language that your Marchwarden used when we met in the woods that 'witch' carries some negative connotations around here... but where I'm from we call men with magic wizards and women with magic witches. I'm a witch."

"And I am a Wizard, Gandalf the Grey as I am known to men, of the race of Istari, wielder of the secret fire, and messenger of the Valar for the Free Peoples of Middle Earth," Gandalf spoke, a hint of a challenge in his voice. Okay, Cassidy thought wryly. If you wish for information, then two can play that game.

"And I am Cassidy Oleander," she replied, standing straight and announcing herself as pureblood were so fond of. "Sixth year Ravenclaw Witch of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Captain of the Mahoutokoro Competition Dueling Team, and proud Mudblood."

"Do you carry a staff young witch?"

"Do you carry a wand?"

They stared at each other for several moments, sizing each other up before Gandalf lifted the staff by his side, raising it to the sky and muttering a word in a language that Cassidy was not familiar with, shooting sparks at the clouds. She raised her eyebrows, unimpressed by his little sparklers. 

"Wingarium leviosa," she whispered pulling out her wand and pointing it at the table the three elders were drinking tea at. Cassidy watched with delight as the table lifted, the teacups flying even higher and dancing lightly with each flick of her wand. She played around with them for several moments before placing them back down gently and casting a wordless warming charm on the tea, allowing Gandalf to take a sip of the newly warmed brew. The old wizard smiled. 

"Did I pass your test?" Cassidy smirked. She knew exactly what he was doing. "You know though... if you wanted to see me use magic, you just had to ask. I'm obviously no muggle."

"From what I hear," he spoke in an amicable tone. "You hold the ability to search minds."

"I am more skilled in occlemancy than legilimens, but I have trained in both."

"Unique skills."

"Unfortunately necessary where I'm from." 

"Ahhh, yes," his expression turned turned grim. "The Lady Galadriel and Lord Celebron have explained the things you showed them. Your world is troubled."

"Deeply so... and that is why I was wondering if you could help me find a way back."

The room fell silent and Cassidy swore that she could hear a pin drop. Both Gandalf and Celeborn instantly seemed to be immensely interested in looking anywhere but Cassidy's eyes. The girl turned to lady Galadriel who looked at her in pity. 

"I consulted with Gandalf all night. He is among the most powerful and wise beings to walk Middle Earth and we fear that there is no way for you to return to your world," she spoke gently, her soothing and melodic voice did little however to ease the sharp stab of pain in Cassidy's chest. "I am sorry child, but it seems that you died in your world. One can not return to where they died, daughter of Oleander."

"But... if I'm dead... then how am I here?" she asked. 

"We can only assume that the Valar sent you here. And perhaps, they sent you with a purpose." Gandalf stepped forward once more, ignoring a pointed glare from Lady Galadriel. "In your world you may consider yourself a student, but in Middle Earth, wizards are few and your powers are great. We too are in a war against a Dark Lord of great magic and evil."

"I... listen..." Cassidy's mind was whirling. I can never... never go back? My Aunt and Uncle... my classmates... oh Merlin what about the Order? Everything she ever knew was slipping away. 

"I understand that you are upset," Gandalf continued. "But there is much stirring here in Middle Earth and you must have arrived with a purpose that-"

"Mithrandir," Galadriel's tone was scandalized. "She is a child, even by Edain standards."

"You said yourself, she's fought in a war before. She's-"

"Died," Cassidy corrected. "I fought and died in one war, a war for my world. I don't know anything about this one."

"We are facing a Dark Lord more powerful than any you've ever known-"

"Oh I doubt it," Cassidy cut him off. She found the grip on her wand tightening, the memories of Malfoy Manor no longer seemed so joyous, now they were terrifying. She died- she really truly died and would never see anyone she loved, ever again. She died for the same cause as her parents and those she cared about were stuck without her, fighting Voldemort. Now this wizard wanted her to fight another war. 

"You are upset, I understand. But, now is not the time-"

"Enough," Galadriel interrupted Gandalf. "She is a child who has just learned of her own death, give her a few moments before you begin recruiting her."

"Did you not hear me my Lady?" Gandalf turned his attention back to Lady Galadriel, leaving Cassidy to attempt to gather her bearings on her own. "It is back! He is rising again."

"And so you ask a child to go to war for you?!"

"She is no child!" Gandalf yelled and suddenly pointed his staff at Cassidy, sending a beam of what appeared to be some sort of fire in her direction. On instinct she raised up her wand and wordlessly deflected the spell, sending the fire careening out through the window. 

"I may not be a child," Cassidy finally spoke up. "But this is not my war. I have been preparing for and fighting a war since I was twelve. I died for a war. I am done." 

She began to back up slowly for now she saw the truth in this wizard. His eyes masked a storm quickly surfacing and she could fear the anger of his magic crackling around him. Part of Cassidy wanted to compare this Gandalf to Dumbledoor, an aged and powerful wizard recruiting an army against evil. But, one thing that she always admired about Dumbledore was his temper. He was always controlled, always collected. This wizard had a temper to rival hers and she could feel it brewing in the air. He didn't actually know her capabilities and yet he was willing to toss her into a war that she knew nothing about. She was no Gryffindor, she never made such decisions without thought. In truth, she didn't even know if she was standing on the right side of such war. 

"The fate of Middle Earth may depend on your actions," he spoke gravely, Cassidy could hear the power in his voice. 

"I think that is quite enough, Mithrandir," Lord Celeborn spoke up. It seemed that even he thought that Gandalf was placing too much pressure on Cassidy. 

"My child," Galadriel addressed Cassidy. "You have no obligations towards us. You may leave and perhaps we can speak again once tempers have cooled."

"Mark my words," Gandalf said. "You are needed in this war."

Without further acknowledging anyone in the room, Cassidy fled. Distantly, she could hear Haldir calling for her, but she was running and before she knew it, apparating further away. She could feel tears streaming down her face as she realized how true Lady Galadriel's words were... she was dead. And there was nothing she could do to return to her world. She found her internal monologue running wild as she wandered through a less inhabited section of the woods.

I'm stuck in "Middle Earth" where a temperamental Dumbledore is trying to recruit me into another war! Her mind turned her grief into anger, just as it did when per parents died, for anger burns and scorches while grief crushes the soul. She could deal with the fire, she was always good at dealing with fire. But, she couldn’t afford to crumble.  

She did however ponder her options. While traveling with the wizard Gandalf, the closest to her kin, was her initial plan, plans change. Cassidy wasn’t wiling or ready to engage in another war. She didn’t know enough about the word, the creatures, or the conflict and learning about a war from a general bent on recruitment was never a viable option. If she was gonna be stuck in this world, then she wanted time to adjust. She needed time to get her bearings and maybe, just maybe, lead a normal and insignificant life. She was tiered of prophesies and grand plans- being the child of several minor ones she constantly felt the the pressure weighing down on her and she could never imagine what life was like for Harry who had his destiny proclaimed to the world.

Now, the part of her that wanted to mourn, she crushed that ruthlessly. She just couldn’t deal with the loss of everything, everyone, and all the things she fought for. She was never the best at optimism, so she decided that her best option would be to ignore all memories of her past. She knew that it would come back to haunt her, but she could worry about her soul crushing depression once she found some sort of stability far away from the elves who were scared of her powers, and the wizard who wanted to use them.

Making up her mind, Cassidy apparated back to her flet and gathered up all the supplies that she left. She then found her way to the kitchens and discovered an entire stack of those lovely leaf wrapped bowls. She smiled in triumph at her discovery as she carefully packed them away. Food was the only thing she wouldn’t be able to make out of the contents of her pouch and despite her excellent scores in herbology, she doubted that she would be able to find enough roots and berries to survive.

Before she left the kitchen, Cassidy had a brief moment of guilt for stealing the food. However, she figured that at the end of the day it really couldn’t be that much and the kitchen was huge. It obviously either served Lady Galadriel’s court or a significant portion of the capital city’s population. Plus, Cassidy got the feeling that Lady Galadriel wouldn’t mind her grabbing some food to keep from going hungry. 

Cassidy then apparated to the library where she snuck in and searched form maps of the landscape. A couple spells and speed reading charms later, she found several suitable maps of the area and carefully used a replication spell to copy them onto pieces of her own parchment. She longed to grab a few more tomes to learn more about the cultures of Middle Earth, but she drew the line at stealing books from a library.

With her newly pilfered supplies, Cassidy was ready to leave. She apparated back to her flet one last time so she could leave a note for Haldir. The Marchwarden was obviously unhappy about being given babysitting duty over her, but he had been her guide while she was in the strange elven society and she would’ve felt guilty about running away without letting him know. She carefully tamed her chicken scratch as she apologized for leaving without notice, however she explained that she needed some time to see this new world that she was dropped into and to come to terms with the loss of her world. She didn’t bother to put Gandalf’s name in the letter and she figured that Haldir would certainly show it to Lady Galadriel who would have to understand. She just wasn’t ready to start another fight. 

And so, Cassidy took one last look around the cozy flet high up in the trees before she left, a small, plain crystal on a pendant atop her note as a goodbye gift. She gazed at the treetop house and had a strange moment of sadness. She had only stayed there for a few nights, but somehow the little flet seemed like somewhat of a home. Yet, it was time to set off. Cassidy was only comfortable with apparating to the edge of the city where she took off into the woods.

Picking a direction that looked nice, Cassidy decided to travel North. With no destination in mind and no tasks to complete, she decided that she was on an adventure. She hadn’t the faintest clue where it would take her, but she was going.

Casisdy looked over her shoulder one last time, observing the way the freshly risen sun cast warm yellow light down through the golden tree leaves. The elves of Lothlorien were a beautiful and unique species, but their fear of her magic couldn’t allow her to stay. No, she needed to find either a fresh start where she could hide her magic, or beings who would simply accept her for it. Such was a rare thing, but... she had a whole world to explore.

 

 

Chapter Text

"You've wandered rather far.... Haldir will be furious," a light and musical voice chimed from somewhere to Cassidy's right. In an instant she turned, wand held aloft in warning as she scanned the treeline. 

"Who are you?" she demanded. 

"Easy," the voice sounded closer and then a slim figure emerged from the brush. She was an elf, an elf with dark hair and fair skin. For a moment, Cassidy was transfixed as the elf was likely the most beautiful creature that she had ever seen, fairer somehow than all the veela she had met before. "I am Arwen, granddaughter of Lady Galadriel, daughter of Lord Elrond of Imaldris."

"You're her granddaughter?" Cassidy couldn't help but gape slightly. Although both shared an extreme, nearly uncomfortable, level of beauty, Arwen's midnight black hair and grey eyes were complete opposites to Galadriel's golden locks and crystal eyes.

Instead of being offended at Cassidy's tone however, Arwen merely laughed. 

"Ah, I see that you have noticed my Adar's Noldor ancestry. It seems that his blood won out," she smiled lightly and walked closer, unafraid of Cassidy's wand. 

"Why are you following me?" Cassidy asked in elvish this time, testing if it would throw her off or surprise her.

"I was merely curious," she shrugged as she spoke, not perturbed at all by Cassidy's language skills. "I know that it was Haldir who was set to guide you, and you seemed to have purposely abandoned him."

"Did I? Ooops." You could hear the sarcasm thick in Cassidy's voice.

"I should lecture you not to do so..." a mischievous smirk crossed Arwen's lips. "But, I must admit that Grandfather assigned him as my guard when I first arrived in Lothlorien... and I cannot count the number of times I slipped from him. Still... he will be worried." 

"He shouldn't make it so easy then." Once again, Arwen laughed at Cassidy's words and she found the sound of Arwen's laughter to be nearly infectious. 

"Perhaps he should not. We women are far more resourceful than the males often believe."

This words seemed to be the perfect peacemaking terms as Cassidy felt tension slipping from her form. Years of training taught her to quickly measure the make of a being. She could sense no darkness in this elf. After a quick glance over of Arwen, Cassidy deemed her rather safe. She was only wearing a light, close fitting dress with draping sleeves. On her head was a thin circlet, much like Galadriel's, but she walked barefoot and had no apparent weapons. With caution ever in her mind, Cassidy slowly lowered her wand.

"I don't believe we were ever introduced," she switched her voice to an easy candor. "I'm Cassidy Oleander, witch and... not from around here."

"Yes, I've heard of you and your plight... I am sorry."

Cassidy shrugged in response. She was doing her best to ignore it

"What's past is prologue..." she smiled at the thought of the muggle author she was so fond of. "I don't think that saying has ever been more relevant than now."

"Wise words indeed," the two had fallen into step beside each other, between Cassidy's spelled boots and Arwen's elven grace, there was not a sound where their feet fell. "Where are you going?"

"Will you try to stop me?"

"Only if you plan on marching straight to Mordor... however seeing as you travel North, I doubt such to be your plan. Where do you travel?" There was genuine curiosity in Arwen's voice and Cassidy's weakness was always curiosity. 

"I'm not sure. My whole life- whole world is gone. I need to explore and learn more about this one before I make any choices."

"A wise decision indeed... but can't you learn in Lothlorien?"

"Perhaps... if there were not a meddlesome wizard who reminds me too much of one I know- knew before."

"Ah, yes Gandalf," Arwen smiled gently. The birds in the tress were singing and Cassidy could not recall a time in the past few years when she had felt as at ease around a stranger. "He means well... he is just frightened. He was sent to Middle Earth to protect it and, though he will not admit it, he is frightened of failing. My Grandmother however would never force you to fight against your will."

"No, but she would cajole me with sweet words, promises, and guilt."

Arwen fell silent, though did not protest Cassidy's statement. 

"Will I hear from you again?"

Cassidy paused in thought. She could feel the faint glow of elvish power fading and knew that very soon she would be stepping out of he bounds of the magical realm. She turned to Arwen and took one last look at the beautiful elf maiden who could have easily been older than Dumbledore. 

"I would like to say that my intentions are to find some lonely cabin where I can study the creatures and magic of this world in eternal solitude, but I suspect that such an idyllic life is merely a fantasy. If luck from my past life followed me here... then I suppose that trouble will find me and who knows what will occur."

"Then please, accept this gift to aide your passage," Arwen whistled gently and a beautiful mare bearing a thin saddle and bitless bridle approached. She was dappled grey and her wide brown eyes stared into Cassidy's soul. "I suppose you can ride?"

"Well if I can ride a thestral then I think that I can manage," she smiled, allowing the mare to sniff her hand curiously.

"Her name is Gwedal, wind foot. May she carry you forward to greater fortunes than your past." Arwen paused in thought for a moment more. Then, she reached into a pouch tied across her own belt and pulled forth a necklace with a green leaf pendant. "This is the symbol of Lothlorien. Wherever you go, elvenkind will know you to be a friend."

Arwen stepped back, hand to over her heart as she bowed. Cassidy returned the gesture before tucking the necklace into her pocket and mounting Gwedal who nickered in delight as they walked off together. The day was passing quickly, and the sun was still high in the sky when Cassidy decided to eat her lunch while traveling. She reached into the saddle bags that had been tied to Gwedal, pondering as she did how Arwen had planned this, and pleasantly found several small sacks of dried meats, berries, and hard cheeses carefully wrapped up. There was also a flask with a tiny note tied to it, instructing her to add just a few drops to her water skin to aide in healing and strength. 

She tucked all the items away into the safety of her pouch and nibbled on a hunk of cheese and handful of dried berries as she rode. Gwedal was a wonderfully accepting horse, far gentler than a thestral and more obedient than a hypogriff. The horse certainly had a mind of her own, but she took no problem with Cassidy picking their route or asking her to speed up or slow down. 

As she rode, she dug out the necklace that was given to her, turning it over in her palm she found the jewel leaf to perfectly resemble the leaves of the Mallorn trees surrounding them. The necklace was a masterful craft and Cassidy could feel the slightest hints of magical residue clinging to it, like someone had once used a spark of magic in creating the leaf's impossible sparkle. Satisfied that it was not cursed or otherwise burdened with other magic, Cassidy clasped the necklace gently around her throat and allowed for the pendant to fall beneath her shirt. 

Oh how she wished that she could've lingered for a bit longer in the elven realm. An entirely new species, an anomaly compared to her experiences with elves. They lived for centuries, moved with magical grace, and were an incredibly complex society. If only they had not been in the process of recruiting for a war, she would've been content to stay and study their society for quite some time.

Nevertheless, she continued on her journey.

Cassidy had spent the majority of her adolescents in dormitories. During the school year, she attended Hogwarts and lived with he other Ravenclaws, during winter holidays she had a brief respite at her Aunt and Uncle's house, and during the summer she lived in the dormitories of Mahoutokoro as she studied with their dueling team. She was constantly surrounded by people who oftentimes made an extra effort to smother her. While she loved them and appreciated their efforts to lessen the loss of her parents, it could be overwhelming at times. 

For the first time in her recent memory, she was truly alone.

It was just her and Gwedal, wandering the wilds, camping beneath the stars, and cooking her food on an open fire. The horse was an amicable companion, never complaining or getting bored as Cassidy rambled on and on over her latest discovery. And boy did she have a lot of discoveries. 

Middle Earth was a treasure trove of new plants and creatures. She catalogued no fewer than two dozen species that she had never seen before in her life. On top of that, she had few problems with muggles. The majority that she did see appeared to be of the rougher lot- men with scraggly beards and bearing overly large swords. They seemed to be the sort that one would imagine in a fairytale as highway men and rouges. Deciding that it was in her best interest to avoid them, a simple notice-me-not charm was all it took to keep them away. She didn't even need Harry's invisibility cloak. 

This beautiful and peaceful way of living, traveling on the open road and cataloging her findings like New Scamander, one of her personal heroes, did was a delight. The joys she experienced while traveling allowed for her to push aside memories of the war; dreamless sleep potions also helping in a similar manner. 

It was perfect... and of course... it wasn't meant to last. 

On one particular night, the sun happened to fall from the sky a bit faster than Cassidy predicted. Of course, this could have had something to do with her engrossment in observing a mating display between two "Crickadees" as she had named the large, magical insects about the same size and bearing the same song as chickadees. It was actually Gwedal who reminded her that they should get moving with a gentle nudge to her shoulder. 

Cassidy reluctantly complied with the horse and hopped astride her back, intent on riding a but further to the base of a small hill that she had spotted the day before. She figured that such would give her a bit more shelter as the bit of tarp that she was constantly transfiguring into a tent was beginning to wear thin due to the heavy handed magic she was placing on it. 

The night was rather warm and the sky was sparkling as if it were filled with diamonds. The sounds of the night were ticking away with chirps and hoots of all sorts of creatures, some so very new to Cassidy. 

As she neared however, she heard a rather loud commotion. Curiosity overtaking any sense of self preservation, she wandered closer, confident that her notice-me-not charm would keep her safe.

At the base of the very hill that she was intending on camping at was a small campsite already set up, a cheery fire with a rabbit half roasted was situated next to a neatly laid out bedroll. It would've been an idyllic scene had it not been for the fourteen brutish creatures slowly circling a man bearing a sword. 

Cassidy repressed the urge to shudder as she stared at the massive, hulking creatures. While she was certainly not one to judge a book by its cover, she could feel the vileness coming off those creatures. They were not merely ugly of visage, but hints of dark magic could be felt in them. Bulging muscles, tallow gray skin, and crude weapons of clubs and rusted spears made Cassidy assume that they were some stunted relative of trolls. 

The man who they were circling however appeared to be an average muggle. He held his sword loosely in his grip and had his eyes constantly scanning the creatures. He held himself with the ease of a tried warrior- every muscle relaxed and yet tense at the same moment. 

Now in her time wandering Middle Earth, Cassidy witnessed her fair share of violence. Men, especially of the more primitive variety, inevitably fought with men. She had ample evidence that the phrase "honor among thieves" was mute and that that roving bandits constantly picked fights with other roving bandits. However, this man didn't seem like any roving bandit. His bearing was too proud- not the stuck up Slytherin "pure blood" proud, but the stupidly brave Gryffindor "I do what's right" proud. 

Most strange about that man however, was despite the fact that her charm seemed to be working perfectly on the creatures who completely missed her rather close presence, the man spotted her. 

Grey eyes locked onto hers and she knew instantly that somehow, she had been spotted.

Before she could flee, Cassidy was drawn into the intensity of the man's gaze. However, instead of shouting for help, instead of drawing the attention of the creatures to her in order to get them off of him, the man flicked his eyes to the side. Confusion spread through Cassidy and must have been evident on her face as the man then subtly and sharply jerked his chin upwards.

He's telling me to run, it finally clicked in Cassidy's mind. 

This man, this man who she had never met before... he saw through her charm and instead of requesting help, was telling her to flee. He wanted for her to be safe and he knew that the creatures, increasing in their snarling and inching closer to him, were going to kill him. Despite that, he was telling her to leave and save herself.

With that act of courage, Cassidy's mind was made up. She could worry about obliviating the man later.

Drawing forth her wand from her sleeve holster, Cassidy murmured pointed it tip at the nearest creature and let out a familiar and almost soothing spell. 

"Stupefy," she cried out, watching with satisfaction as the creature froze in place and the man stared at her in mild shock. 

Her satisfaction soon diminished as the creature seemed to shake off her spell far quicker than it should have. She immediately went into full attack mode, breathing deeply and centering herself. 

"Impedimenta," her wand flickered with life as she moved to protect her immediate area. "Confringo, confringo," she cast the blasting charm left and right, satisfied by the way the creatures' weapons bursted into flames, quickly consuming the hulking beasts holding them. From the corner of her eye, she could see the man slashing at the beasts with his sword, spilling black blood and taking down more than she honestly expected a muggle to be capable of. 

In a matter of minutes, all the creatures were dead. A foul stench filled the air and Cassidy mournfully realized that by killing all of the creatures, she had no living subject left to study. With a rather put out sigh, she turned to face the muggle who she would now have to obliviate. 

When she faced him however, he was not white faced or quaking as she expected, but instead seemed rather calm- almost curious. Before she had a chance to lift her wand, he spoke. 

"Are you a wizard?"

"Witch."

"Do you know Gandalf?"

... Cassidy froze. If this man knew Gandalf... then he was no ordinary muggle. 

"I'll take your hesitancy as a yes," his voice became less suspicious and adopted a warmer air. "I understand that he can have that effect on people. I'm called Strider. And you are?"

"Cassidy. And what kind of name is Strider?"

He man chuckled and wiped both his sword and hands on the grass, rolled up his bedroll, retrieved his dinner, hefted a sack onto his back, and kicked out the fire. 

"Lumos," she casted a small ball of light at the end of her wand. 

"Well that seems handy," he chuckled lightly as he rose and walked slowly towards Cassidy. "I don't know about you, but I hold no intention of sleeping amidst the orc carcasses. Would you care to join me in finding a new campsite?"

Part of Cassidy knew that this was a bad idea, that if he was a friend of Gandalf, then that meant that he was likely every bit as much trouble as the old wizard. But, despite her best instincts, Cassidy was also incredibly curious. Plus, despite her joys in solitude, several weeks with only a horse for companionship did get a bit lonely. In the end, she determined that she still had the advantage of magic. If the muggle tried anything, she was more than prepared to handle it. 

"Alright, but since I saved your life, you're sharing that rabbit."

"Sounds fair enough," he said with a nod of his head as the pair walked on until they could no longer smell the orcs. 

The man, Strider, immediately set about setting up the pre-gathered firewood from his last campsite which Cassidy easily lit. He then set up his bedroll whilst Cassidy pulled out her own, determining it best that she didn't transfigure the tarp needlessly as there was very little wind to chill her. Once those tasks were done and the rabbit was once gain roasting over the fire, there was nothing more to hide behind. 

Strider sat across the fire from her as his face turned serious. 

"So, what is a witch doing wandering the Anduin at night?"