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When in doubt, jump in head first

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There was a flash of light. Blinding in it’s brightness, it threw the dank stone walls into sharp relief and deposited a figure into the centre of the cave. When it vanished, the shadows swooped back to their rightful places, cloaking the girl who had appeared in darkness. She sprung to her feet, ebony-black hair swinging in it’s braid as her head whipped back and forth, surveying the room. Emerald green eyes, similar to fractured glass in their sharpness, searched for threats. Finding none the girl relaxed fractionally, and loosened the rein on her curiosity.

She was in a cave, and the most noticeable thing was the horrible smell. A delicate button nose wrinkled, trying to block out the stench that permeated the cave. It smelled worse than the dungbombs that kept getting let off near her room.

The girl pulled out a wooden stick from her boot. It was just longer than her forearm, Mallorn wood etched with patterns of power and protection. As it was swept through the air, it let out a wave of freesia-scented air, and the girl released the breath she’d been holding.

She searched the cave walls for an exit, a door, a passage. She could not pop from the inside to the outside of the cave without knowing first the appearance of the outside, so could not escape using that method. Fingers trailed along the walls and eyes looked for an exit hiding beneath the floor, yet nothing was found.

There were quite a few weapons around the room, interspersed in piles of gold and jewellery. Stuffing some of the gold coins and finer-looking jewellery in a pouch she had fastened round her neck, she meandered over to the largest supply of weapons. I'm only taking stuff because I need it, she defended weakly, but she knew the real reason was quite different.

The girl reached for a sheath at random, pulling away cobwebs and inspecting the sword. It was a long and narrow blade, and the balance was astonishingly good. The hilt fit perfectly in her hands, and under her fingers the sword sang of the warriors who wielded it, and the battles it had fought in. The sheath was leather, but in the dim light the designs were unclear. She strapped it to her waist, and the set of two dozen throwing knives next to it were quickly attached to her arms and legs, hidden under her clothing and the charm she had put upon everything she picked up.

The girl re-appropriated some more weapons, particularly happy with the bow she had found. The string had deteriorated, however the bow itself was fine, as well as the sheath of arrows with it. She yanked a strand of hair from her braid, numb to the pain, and waved her stick over it. The hair grew in length and sturdiness, until it was a bowstring, which was quickly strung. The quiver also had the wand waved over it, though the effects were not immediately visible.

She had also pilfered quite a bit of jewellery, shoving most into her pouch to sell later. A pendant was looped around her neck, though, simply because she admired the green jewel in the centre of the tree, and she might as well keep something frivolous for herself

The girl also had found a few outfits, and looking at her own clothes, quickly changed. Charms were cast to clean and mend the clothes, and shrink them to fit her as well. Overall, she had re-purposed a blouse that was cream under the grime, trousers and boots and a chest guard made of leather, and a money belt she could use to fool attackers.

After an hour (though she could not be sure, she had no way to tell the time), the small amount of light outside seemed to brighten, and the girl suspected the sun was rising. She stood under one of the small rays of light streaming into the cave, and sighed in bliss as it touched her face. Drinking it in, she rotated on the spot, content. She soon went to continue her examination.

Suddenly, a large crack wrent the air, and the girl, who had been examining the quality of a deep purple cloak, jumped. Unsheathing her new sword and lifting her stick, she stood prepared to fight.

A few minutes passed, and nothing happened. Lowering her weapons, the girl continued her perusal of the hoard, pulling the soft cloak onto her shoulders. She had just decided to try and open one of the barrels when she heard voices from beyond the cave.

Straining her ears, the girl was able to make out a few snatches of conversation. Enough to realise the people outside were searching for a key. Pulling out her stick and sword, she took a moment to look around the cave, to see if there was any danger she had somehow missed. There was none she could find, however, so the girl took a deep breath, before calling out.

“Hello? Is anyone out there?” Her voice came out breathy and near silent, yet the voices outside, which had been getting louder, became quiet. She stood, berating herself for revealing her presence (they could be Death Eaters for all you know!), when there was a great creaking and groaning, and a section of the wall previously ordinary swung inward like a door.

The girl retreated to the shadows behind the wall as a tall man walked in. He was made taller by the pointed hat on his head, and the heights of the others who accompanied him; the tallest was nearly two head shorter than the other, for goodness sake. The tall man and one of the shorter ones were arguing.

“—I say I heard something in here—”

“And I say we search the Troll horde for supplies.” Troll horde? “If there is another troll in here we can kill it. Now, get looking for food.” With that, the group spread out.

There were cries of success as a couple of the men pried open the lids of the barrels (that she had been meaning to open) to reveal dried meats and ale. They started rolling them out, lightly talking about how they’d be able to eat a filling meal. Another few had started filling a chest with gold, saying “It would be a shame to leave it lying about” and digging a hole to bury it in.

The short man had picked up some swords she had passed by, content with her blade, while the one with the pointed hat was also looking about the cave.

“It smells quite pleasant for a Troll horde,” he said, suspicion lightly colouring his tone. The other didn't listen.

“These swords were made by no troll,” he said to the tall one.

“Nor were they made by any smith of Man,” he replied, picking up a second sword and drawing it from it sheath to see the blade. “They were made in Gondolin by the High Elves of First Age.” The other made to put his sword down in disgust, while the girl’s mind was turning over this information.

I suppose my blade is of the same make, she thought, but what does he mean, High Elves? And the First Age, what’s that about? She refocused on the pair when the taller began speaking again.

“You could not wish for a finer blade,” he said, seemingly annoyed with the other man, who reluctantly picked the sword back up. They began to make their way out of the cave, when the girl sneezed.

Shit, was the only thing she could think, before she was bodily lifted by the short man, and thrown in the dirt outside the cave. Blinking to adjust her eyes to the light, she saw she was surrounded by a larger group of men then that that had entered the cave. All had beards and facial hair done in elaborate braids and styles, except one who looked very young, and another that was a head shorter than any of the others and had a riot of curls. Most of them had swords or battle axes pointed at her.

“Why were you in that cave?” asked the tall one, leaning on his staff. The others were also looking at her interestedly. She decided to stick to the truth, and took a deep breath of fresh air before replying.

“I don’t know; one minute I was just heading to to wash up, next I'm lying on the floor of a cave,” most of them seemed mollified by her answer, though the one who had been disgusted by the sword in the cave still looked suspicious. She also couldn't forget her manners; years of them being nearly beaten into her made that nigh impossible, “Thank you by the way, for getting me out of there.”

The man with the hat (and now she could see his outfit, that was way too much grey for one person) had moved to give the really short man a really short sword (fitting, she supposed), and was talking with him. The others had started to discuss what to do with her.

“Something’s coming,” yelled the man who’d been disgusted by the sword (and she really needed a name for him), and most of the men ran into the bushes. The tall and really short man also ran off, leaving the girl behind. Huffing, she followed, because she was not letting her only hope at getting anywhere leave her behind.

Catching up with them, she starred in no small amount of shock as a man rode up on a sled pulled by rabbits. “Thieves! Fire! Murder!” he yelled as he slowed to a stop, eyes darting and wild.

“Ah, Radagast the Brown,” said the man with the pointed hat (ok, as soon as possible she was getting everyone's names, if only to stop referring to them by stupidly long characteristics). “What ever are you doing here?” he continued, and as the two slowly walked a bit of a ways away, the short men split up to talk amongst themselves. The girl crouched to the ground next to the rather large and rather frightened rabbits.

“Ah, shh, shh,” she tried to calm them, using a soothing tone of voice and stroking the lead one softly. “Shh, you’re ok, you’re ok. Why don’t you tell me your names?” The girl just kept repeating platitudes, and asking small questions, and slowly, slowly, they calmed. Soon, she had a lapful of rabbits, and was giggling, noticing but deciding to dismiss the eyes she could feel on her (she could also hear the scratching of a quill). “Bella sit down,” she said, trying to get as many on her lap as she could at one time.

“I've never seen them act like that near a human before,” Radagast (one name down, 15 more to go) said. Apparently the two had returned. The girl sprung from her seat like a spark from a fire — that is to say, haphazardly and ending up on the ground.

“Sorry,” she said to the dirt, though she wasn't really. She would treasure this opportunity for as long as she could: it was one of the few moments she’d had where she could be happy without fear of repercussions. Wait, what did he mean, human? Like she was one. She snorted: as if.

“Oh no my dear, it’s not a bad thing,” he reassured her, “In fact, it’s wonderful! To find a human who is so in tune with nature—” Radagast was cut short by the sound of a howl in the distance. It was a chilling sound, renting the air and ripping apart the tentative calm that the group had been in before. It reminded her of a werewolf’s howl, the few times she had heard it.

“W–was that a wolf?” questioned the shortest man, quaking in terror, “Are there — are there wolves out there?”

“Wolves,” one of the dwarves spoke up (she really was kicking herself for not realising it sooner — humans weren't that short unless they were children. Thank goodness she hadn't called any of them men out loud, because that would nearly be worse than cutting off one of their beards. She still didn't know what the shortest one was, though). He also had on a stupid looking hat. “No, that’s no wolf.”

Suddenly, a wolf jumped from a nearby crag onto a dwarf, but it couldn't be a wolf, because no wolf was that large, nor had jaws pulled in such a permanent snarl. Before it could do anything, an arrow was sent from another dwarf, and a third killed it as it tried to stand.

“Warg-Scouts!” hello again, Mr. I-Don’t-Like-Elvish-Blades, “An Orc Pack must not be far behind.” The girl didn't know what Orcs were, but the very word sent chills down her spine and her entire body seemed to scream “WRONG!”

The man in grey (and he wasn't a man. Neither he nor Radagast were human now she’d had time to study them) started to talk to the lead dwarf (she’d have to be blind and deaf to not realise), but Radagast went over to the girl.

“I’d like to talk to you,” he said, and when she looked at him in disbelief (they were about to be attacked by Wargs), he quickly added, “Once you get to Rivendell. We can talk then.” She slowly nodded, and that seemed to be the confirmation he needed. The not-a-man spoke to the rest of the group.

“I’ll draw them off,” Radagast said boldly, and the girl felt her heart clench for him, even though they had had spoken only twice, and she had only said a single word the entire time.

“These are Gundabad Wargs, they will outrun you,” said the other not-a-man, and that was worry in his tone, she was sure. Radagast only smirked.

“These are Rhosgobel Rabbits; I’d like to see them try.”

Chapter Text

The dwarves started to get ready to move, and the girl went to the not-a-man on the sled, pausing to stroke the back of each Rabbit, murmuring their name and wishing them speed. “So,” she started, once she got to him, “You’ll be our distraction. You better not miss our talk,” she said, stubbornly not looking at him.

He had a wistful smile on his face, “Of course, my dear, of course. Now, I think Gandalf wants to talk to you.” I suppose that must be the other not-a-man, she thought, and nodded once at Radagast before going to talk to the figure in grey.

“Ah,” he said, when she tapped his elbow, “Yes. Now you must accompany us. Not even the cruelest man would leave a child alone in the Wilds when an Orc Pack is on the move.” The girl thought that was perfectly reasonable. Mr I-Don’t-Like-Elvish-Blades did not, apparently.

“She will only slow us down,” he spoke over her, to her annoyance.

“Now Thorin,” he said (yes, one more name for the collection), “We cannot leave her behind.” The dwarf still looked like he wanted to argue, but acquiesced with a grunted “Don’t get us killed”.

“Come and get me! Ha ha!” Radagast could be heard in the distance, taunting the Orc Pack and leading away the Wargs as Gandalf lead the group of 15 across the stretch of rocky flatland. They darted from rock to rock, pressing themselves against the boulders when the not-a-man would whiz nearby on his sled.

“Ori no!” cried Thorin, and grabbed a dwarf she supposed was named Ori. He looked shocked as not two seconds later Radagast drove by on his sled, trailed closely by the Orc Pack.

Her lungs were starting to burn when they next stopped, but became ice cold as she heard the sound of snuffling behind her. An Orc and Warg had broken off from the main pack, and was now standing directly above their heads. She froze, not daring to even move as the sounds of shuffling got louder and louder. I don’t want to die, she thought. She mentally slapped herself: you can be pessimistic later, brain.

Thorin made a sign of protest at the beardless dwarf (and how horrible that must be), but it was too late, he had turned and shot an arrow at them. Both fell in front of them, wounded, and were quickly killed by some other Dwarves. However, neither had died quietly.

There was silence on the plains.

“Run, run!” cried Gandalf, and the spell was broken. The yips and snarls of Wargs were behind them and in front of them and all around them. The haunting cries of their masters carried on the wind, their harsh words grating on her ears. The group had abandoned all pretences of stealth, and were fleeing after Gandalf as fast as their feet could carry them.

The girl was running as fast as she could, but still keeping an eye out for any danger to the Company. That is why, when Ori was cornered by a Warg and rider, she saw and leapt atop it’s back. Knife already in hand, she slit it’s throat and jumped in front of the dwarf to protect him from the riderless and very angry Warg.

“Run,” she said, and without looking to see if he followed her instructions, dove for the Warg. She dipped and ducked it’s snapping jaws, darting around the creature like she was dancing. Seeing her opportunity, she slid under it's belly, slicing open it’s stomach with her knife, then rose from the ground as it dropped dead behind her.

Ori was watching her in awe. “Come on!” she snapped, and grabbed his arms, pulling him to the others. They had made it to a rock, and the Orc Pack was closing in on the group. Gandalf has disappeared, but the girl could Feel him beneath the rock … hang on, beneath the rock?

“Where’s Gandalf?” asked a dwarf. At least they had noticed too.

“He’s abandoned us!” cried another. Ori pulled out a slingshot (a slingshot, really?) and started aiming at the Orcs. The beardless dwarf was shooting arrows, which were more effective than the slingshot.

“Stand your ground,” yelled Thorin, ready to fight. Gandalf popped up from behind the rock.

“This way, you fools,” he said, and started chivvying the dwarves down the hole he had popped out of. The girl stayed behind, shoving the others down the hole until only Thorin and the beardless dwarf remained.

“Kíli, run!” Thorin said, and the other dwarf turned, only to have a Warg leap on him. She ran towards him, unsheathing her hunting knives (she had taken a lot from that cave) and decapitating the Warg before it could do more than breathe in the direction of the dwarf.

“Thanks,” said Kíli, but she was already pulling him towards the other dwarf, and once they got there, pushed both in. There was a squawk of indignation as they fell, though she couldn’t tell which dwarf it came from. Out of the hole came the sound of one crying “She pushed me!” (and she’d worry about his bruised ego later) as she stared at the approaching Orcs, then jumped down the hole herself.

Landing in a roll, the girl stood up to the faces of more than a few astonished dwarves. She pushed past them to the back of the tunnel, and only paused a moment when the sound of a hunting horn was heard. An Orc fell down the tunnel, an arrow embedded in it’s chest. Thorin pulled it out to examine it, and scowled when he recognised it.

“Elves,” he spat, and she continued to end of the cavern, where there was the beginning of a path.

“I cannot see where the pathway leads. Do we follow it?” asked a dwarf with tattoos on the top of his bald head. She looked back to see what the others would do; she was going to follow it whether they did or not, (seriously, why wouldn't you when behind there are Orcs?). Besides, she had to meet Radagast in Rivendell.

“Follow it of course!” cried the dwarf with the stupid hat, and Gandalf murmured an agreement. The group started moving, and the girl fell to the back of the group, staying silent when the not-a-man cast his roving eyes on her. There was a bit of a hold-up when a dwarf with ginger beard and a bit of a stomach got stuck in the narrow passage, but she simply walked up to him and shoved him through the gap, taking care to not let him or any of his hair be harmed.

The group finally got to the top of a valley. She let the air wash over her, and the feeling of relaxation it brought had her feeling boneless. A dwarf pulled her back from where she was swaying near the edge of the cliff, and she profusely thanked him. If she kept acting like a sappy fool, she was going to get pushed off the cliff by the dwarves. The girl was also confused by the city nestling in the valley; she had never seen or heard of it before. It was worrying, because she prided herself on being intelligent, and it was obvious Imraldis/Rivendell was well-known.

As the group began to descend, she caught the tail-end of an argument between Thorin and Gandalf. The dwarf was being openly hostile, and the not-a-man was getting more and more annoyed.

“If we are to be successful,” Gandalf was saying, “This will need to be handled with tact and respect. Which is why you will leave the talking to me.” She hid her giggles behind her hand, and when the two turned questioningly, her face was blank.

Crossing the bridge to get into the city, there was no small amount of awe coming from parts of the group. The dwarves seemed to be discussing the craftsmanship of the buildings, but she was more interested in their personalities. Because these building were … not alive, maybe, but conscious. Like Hogwarts, she thought. The girl nodded respectfully to the two statues on either side of the bridge, and ignored the marble eyes on her in favour of joining the others.

The dwarves were murmuring amongst themselves distrustfully, while Gandalf was greeted by someone he called Lindir (and apparently Gandalf is also called Mithrandir) … who certainly wasn't human. She supposed he must be an elf, because Thorin's expression was the same as it was in the cave looking at the swords.

“We heard you had crossed into the Valley,” Lindir said, though his voice sounded more melodious than it had earlier.

“I must speak with Lord Elrond,” said Gandalf, and the girl could almost feel more elves entering the valley, though when she turned there was no one in sight (yet).

“My Lord Elrond is not here,” answered Lindir, and his voice had lost the musical quality. Horns could be heard, and the group turned to join her looking across the bridge to the group of elves crossing it.

Ready weapons!” called Thorin, and his voice had a guttural undertone, “Hold ranks!” he added, and his voice had lost the note. The dwarves bunched in a circle, shoving her and the little man to the centre, and pointing their weapons outward. She was annoyed at being shoved to the middle for protection, and when the Lindir's eyes caught her own, she mouthed ‘Can you believe this?’.

He was saved from answering by her sight being cut off as the elves on horses started circling the company, heightening her annoyance: she was only part of this group by chance, and only because she had to meet up with Radagast.

“Gandalf,” said the elf who had separated himself from the others. Gandalf bowed.

“Lord Elrond,” he said, answering the girl’s unspoken question of who he was. When he spoke again, his voice had gained the musical quality Lindir's had had earlier, “My friend! Where have you been?”

Elrond replied in the same way, “We were hunting Orcs that had come up from the South. We slew a number near the Hidden Pass,” the elf then dismounted, and hugged the not-a-man, “Strange for them to come so close to our borders. Something or someone must have drawn them near.” His voice had become normal again, and he lifted up a sword (she had seen an Orc holding it earlier), then handed it to Lindir.

Gandalf looked slightly sheepish. “Ah, that may have been us,” he said, and he too had returned to a normal tone of voice. Elrond had turned to talk to Thorin.

“Welcome Thorin, son of Thrain,” he said, and after a bit Thorin insulted the elf, who turned to Lindir. “Light the fires, bring forth the wine. We must feed our guests,” he said, and his voice had gotten the musical quality again.

“What’s he saying?” asked a dwarf, “Is he offering insult?” The girl was confused, and even more so as the rest of the dwarves began to ready their weapons.

“But he’s offering you food,” she said, “How is that an insult?” The dwarves had started to discuss this, while the girl found herself the subject of quite a few assessing looks.

“And who is this Gandalf?” asked Elrond. She was a bit miffed at being talked above, but Gandalf answered for her.

“I don’t know,” he said, “We found in a Troll cave, but before we could ask her anything we were fleeing from Orcs.”

“So you don’t know why a human no one has met before knows Sindarin?” Elrond questioned again. This time the girl interrupted.

“Sindarin? What’s that?” she asked, but before she got an answer, the dwarves had separated.

“Well then, in that case, lead on,” the same dwarf who had been offended said. The group was led away, and the other eves broke off in groups of two or three, talking about her like she couldn't even understand them. She stood in the centre of the courtyard, unsure of what to do.

“Come with me,” said Lindir, beckoning her closer, “I am to deliver you to the Lady Arwen, who will help you bathe before supper.” She couldn't really find it in herself to be offended she had just been told she smelled, so just followed along behind the elf.

“So,” the girl started, “Why is everyone talking about me?” she asked, and Lindir seemed to sigh. “Sorry, sorry, it doesn't matter,” she quickly backtracked, wary. The elf, who before had been resigned, now seemed confused.

“Everyone is wondering why a human girl knows the language of the elves, when the only humans who do are the Dúnedain,” he answered, surprising her. “Why should you need to apologise for such a question?” he then asked, and she quickly retreated.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she tried to laugh it off, then, when he still looked curious, changed the subject. “It makes me wonder why they’re all gossiping about me in … was it Sindarin? In Sindarin when they know I can understand them.”

Lindir laughed, “That is a good question. I think it’s because they are so used to outsiders not knowing what they are saying they forgot you do.” She laughed as well.

They got to a door, and Lindir knocked on it, “Lady Arwen,” he called, “Your father needs you to help with his guest.” The girl awkwardly stood to the side, and when the door opened, became even more so.

The lady in the doorway was beautiful. Like the first star on the evening horizon, she drew your eyes. Her delicate face was framed by long, dark brown hair. Lindir had started speaking again.

“This is …” he said, then trailed off, “You never did say your name, did you?” he asked, and the girl froze in place. Lindir tried to carry on, “Your name?” he asked her, and was gifted with a sigh.

“I do…” she trailed off. Lindir coughed.

“Sorry, what was that?” he asked her. Arwen stood to the side, looking worried.

“I said, I don…” she trailed off once more. Lindir now was starting to look slightly annoyed, while Arwen was looking on in interest.

“I'm sorry, you’ll have to speak up.” he said, with a bite of impatience.

“I don’t have one! I never got one, ok?” yelled the girl, then immediately retreated into herself, scolding herself for her outburst. She was also confused by it: she was a quiet person, and it didn't make any sense for her to yell. After a minute of silence, she looked up questioningly.

Lindir looked shocked, almost like he was in pain, while Arwen’s face held an emotion she couldn’t place, though her eyes were starting to fill with tears. “Don’t worry,” she quickly tried to reassure the two, “It doesn't really matter.” She missed the look Arwen and Lindir exchanged, but couldn't miss when she suddenly an armful of crying elleth. Lindir had put his arms round her as well.

“Are you ok? Did you hurt yourself, what’s wrong?” she asked Arwen, whose sobbing redoubled. She could also feel Lindir starting to shake behind her. She looked around for someone who could help her figure out what happened, and caught sight of Elrond at the end of the hallway. The two also exchanged a look, though this was one of confusion. The elf Lord walked up to the trio.

“Whatever is the matter, dear one?” he asked Arwen, who detached herself from the girl and sobbed into her father’s chest. Meanwhile, Lindir was holding on so tightly it seemed he was never going to let go.

“She was never named, father,” said Arwen, and when Elrond looked to Lindir, got a nod.

“Said it doesn't matter,” he said, and Elrond's face became grave. When he was met by a confused stare from the girl in Lindir's arms, he explained.

“In our culture, indeed, in nearly every culture, a name is what defines you. What you are, how you will be remembered, it is all part of your name,” he said, while Arwen nodded in his arms. “Since your parents never gave you one, I guess we'll have to,” he finished. The girl’s eyes were wide: she hadn't realised what a big thing a name was. She said as much.

“Everything should have a name,” said Lindir above her head, “Even if the only thing that knows it is what it belongs to, it has a name.” It was obvious to the girl that there would be no discussion.

“How about Laelynn,” said Arwen from her father's arms, “Flower of hope, in the language of the Kings of Old,” she continued. The other two agreed.

“Do you like this name,” said Elrond, and the girl quickly agreed.

“Laelynn,” she tested the name on her tongue, and the three nodded.

“Do you like it?” asked Arwen.

“I love it,” answered the newly-christened Laelynn in awe. She had never had a name before, and this one was hers; no one else's, hers.

“Now let’s get you to the baths, so you can join the rest of us at dinner.” The two women walked off in the direction of the bath house, and Arwen seemed much more cheery. The elves left behind shared a look, and walked together in search of Gandalf; how much did he know about the mystery girl exactly.

It turned out he knew even less than they did.

Chapter Text

“No,” said Lynn, looking at the dress laid out on the bed, “Absolutely not.”

“Why ever not?” asked Arwen, holding up the dress. It was a silky white, with black edging on the sleeves and bodice. The skirt reached the floor, and the flared sleeves nearly did as well. It was a beautiful dress, but …

“It’s just not practical,” she said, and elaborated at the other woman’s confused look, “I couldn't fight or even move quickly in that. It’s a beautiful dress, just not for me.”

“Well, what would you rather wear?” asked the elleth, holding the dress up to herself.

“You know the clothes I arrived in,” she said, and received a nod from Arwen, “Do you have anything like that?”

“We can definitely get something like that,” she said, “Do you think this would fit me?” she held up the dress.

“That would be wonderful,” she replied, “I think it would fit you, try it on. Also, where did my weapons go? I’d just feel safer with one, if you don’t mind,” Lynn asked.

“All your belongings are at the foot of the bed,” said Arwen, pulling the dress over her head, “This looks alright, doesn't it?”

“Arwen, you look lovely,” she said, “I could just wear these right? They’re clean.” She held up her clothes, which actually weren't that bad.

“If you really wanted,” she answered, twirling in front of the mirror, “Are you sure I look alright?”

“Oh that’s good,” she picked up her wand and subtly cast a charm on them. It sank into the clothes, cleaning and repairing them, and giving them a light scent of citrus. “Arwen, you look beautiful. If someone disagrees, they must be dumb and blind.” The elleth’s face relaxed slightly, “I'm going to wear these, is that ok?” she said, holding up her clothing.

“I’m never going to get you in a dress, am I?” she asked, but nodded. Laelynn sadly smiled.

“No,” she said pulling on her boots, and slipping her tree pendant on, “You’re not.” She extended an arm, “Shall we?” Laughing, Arwen took her arm, and together the two went to the terrace where Elrond would be serving his guests.

When they arrived, the dwarves had already begun to eat. Laelynn detached herself from Arwen, and joined them, shooing the woman to her father’s table when she looked like she would join her.

“Hello again,” she said to the company, having taken the empty seat at the end of the table, “We didn’t meet in the best of circumstances, I’m afraid, but I’d like to remedy that. I'm Laelynn,” and how wonderful that felt on her tongue, “It’s nice to meet you.”

Elrond examined the sword Thorin had taken from the Troll horde. “This is Orcrist, the goblin-cleaver. Made by my kin of the First Age, I hope it serves you well.” Thorin took it with a nod, while Arwen looked on in interest. He then picked up the sword Gandalf had chosen, “And this is Glamdring the foe-hammer. It was the sword of the King of Gondolin, made to fight the goblins of the First Age.”

“What about Laelynn’s sword, Ada?” asked Arwen, and as one the four turned to look at the girl. She was laughing at a joke Kíli had just told, cheeks flushed and eyes bright. At Elrond’s nod, his daughter called, “Laelynn, my father will be able to tell you the origin of your sword,” and the girl stood up to go over to them.

“I didn't know she had taken anything from the cave,” said Gandalf.

“Well I was in there for at least an hour,” the girl in question replied, “So forgive me if I was bored,” she turned to Elrond, “You can tell me about my sword?” she asked, and got a nod. She unsheathed it, and Elrond’s eyes widened.

“This is the sword of the High Lady of Gondolin,” he spoke in awe, “It’s name has been lost to time, but it’s achievements are plentiful and well-known. May this sword serve you well,” he said to a now blushing Laelynn.

“Thank you,” she said, and went to to join the others for a loss of what else to do.

“Where did you come by these?” asked Elrond

“On the Great East Road,” answered Gandalf.

“And what were you doing there?” asked the elf Lord. No one replied.

The meal ended on a tense note. Once it had finished, the dwarves retired to the quarters provided for them, apart from Thorin, Balin and Bilbo, who joined Gandalf and Elrond. Arwen also left, said she had been invited to a friend’s house. It was all she had talked about in the bath. Yeah, elves have giant communal bathtubs, apparently. They were quite nice.

Elves had begun to start clearing up the table. “Let me help with that,” she said, picking up an empty platter. She turned, and was greeted by a shocked pair of hazelnut eyes.

“Oh no, it wouldn’t be proper for the guest to help us with the cleaning,” the ellon said, gently tugging the platter from her hands. His blond hair was flashing in the last rays of the setting sun.

“Well I can’t sit here doing nothing as you work in front of me,” she said, grabbing the platter right back. “It can even just be passing on a message, but let me help somehow.” The elf looked like he wanted to protest, but seeing the determination in her expressive green eyes, sighed.

“Alright,” he said, and ignored her muted cry of satisfaction, “Can you go to the kitchens and tell Alassiel we will be serving an over abundance of meat for the duration of your company’s stay?” He tugged the platter from her hands again, and quickly passed to another elf before she noticed it’s disappearance

She snapped a sloppy salute, “Of course I can. And they’re actually not my company: they found me in a Troll horde, and then we were chased here by an Orc pack, so I don’t actually know them.” The poor ellon looked overwhelmed by her impromptu speech, “So yeah, I can tell the kitchens to make a lot of meat. Oh yeah, what’s your name?” she asked.

“... Thalion,” he said after a pause.

“Thank you, Thalion, for giving me something to do,” she said, rushing down the corridor. The elf was left staring after her in bewilderment. After a moment she came back into view. “Uhh, which way’s the kitchen?” she called, and he indulgently smiled before answering.

“Down the stairs as far as you can go, then at the end of the hall,” he called, and she was off again. He shared a look with Daeron, before both returned to their duties: it had been a while since there had been children in Rivendell, apart from Estel, and they were going to savour it while it lasted (even though she was undoubtedly older than the Dúnedain child). For there was no doubt Mithrandir was going to loop her into his crazy quest with the dwarves. It was what he did, after all.

Rushing down the stairs, Laelynn smiled at the elves she passed, calling “Hello’s” and “‘Scuse me”s to them as she passed. They would look back in fond exasperation at the sight of a child racing through the halls, then continue with their tasks. Bursting through the kitchen doors, all activity seemed to stop as the ellons and elleths took in the sight of a girl bent double trying to catch her breath.

“Which … one of you … is Alassiel?” she asked in short gasps, still fighting for air.

“I am,” said a elleth who was plating a large raspberry-lemon tart. She finished, then went over to talk to her. Laelynn had caught her breath by that point.

“Thalion told me to tell you that you’ll be serving an over abundance of meat for the duration of the dwarves stay,” she said quickly, and the kitchen erupted in a flurry of movement. Elves rushed past each other, checking pantries and starting to prepare meat for breakfast. Laelynn stood in the middle of the organised chaos, watching with wide eyes; she was certain someone was going to trip over something and break their neck.

“Did he say anything else,” an ellon asked her. He too seemed shocked by the choreography in front of him.

“No sorry,” she said, “If I see him do you want me to tell him something?” The elf seemed to be building up to something, but with a sigh he deflated.

“No, never mind,” he said. They stood for a moment before he remembered himself, “Do you need anything?” he asked her. Her cheeks flushed bright red.

“Um, could you tell mewhereI’mstaying,” she said in a rush. The elf’s dark green eyes twinkled with suppressed mirth.

“Of course. If you would follow me,” he said smoothly, voice not betraying the amusement he felt.

“Thanks again Sadron,” said Laelynn. She had learned the elf’s name as he lead her through the halls, pointing out interesting features and telling her their history. She decided bit to tell him it was really quite easy to see if you looked for it.

“It was my pleasure,” he said. He looked like he wanted to say more, but kept his silence and turned to leave. She stared at his retreating back in confusion.

“Huh,” she said, then opened the door to the suite her room was in. Laelynn expected she could just go to her bed and flop, but it seemed it wasn’t to be just yet.

In the central section of the rooms was the company of dwarves, who were rowdily singing and dancing. Sausages and other meats were being cooked above a fire, which when she looked closer, was made out of broken furniture from their rooms. Off to the side was Lindir, with a wholly uncomfortable expression.

She sidled up to him. “What have I missed?” She asked, and was rewards by a long-suffering sigh.

It’s these dwarves,” he said, and his voice had gained that musi— that Sindarin sound. “They've taken the furniture and burned it. If they wanted firewood they just could have asked. And the furniture is —” whatever the furniture was would remain unknown, because at that moment, the table Bombur had been sitting on collapsed under his weight.

Lindir’s face became ashen as the dwarves let out a cry of laughter, and Laelynn patted his arm in sympathy. “Ay, it’s Laelynn!” At least she did until she was pulled into the group by Fíli. “Where’ve you been?” He asked.

“Umm,” she said, trying to think of how to answer. By now, she had been dragged to the centre of the group.

“Go on, tell us,” cried Kíli, face alight with anticipation.

“I was helping,” she finally said. They all looked like they wanted her to elaborate, but were (thankfully) distracted by the reappearance of Thorin, Balin, and Bilbo. The group of dwarves waited for him to speak.

“We will stay here for eight days,” he said. The dwarves were both happy (to be off the road, she thought) and disappointed.

“I don’t like green food,” said Ori morosely, and the rest of the dwarves were nodding. She smiled.

“Good thing the kitchens are making meat dishes,” Laelynn sang quietly. She was heard by half the dwarves; the others had broken into a loud raucous song.

“What do you mean, Miss Laelynn?” asked Glóin, and she gave a start at being heard.

“Oh, um,” she stuttered, aware of the eyes on her, “You know how I said I was helping earlier,” she started, and received nods from the group of dwarves, “Well, I had to get a message to the kitchens, which was to make a lot of meat for your stay.” The dwarves let out a cry of joy, and she slipped past, intending to go to her room.

“Goodnight,” she murmured to Lindir as she passed, and shut the door abruptly behind her. She only was able to strip off her clothing and pull on the nightgown at the foot of the bed before sleep claimed her.

Chapter Text

Laelynn woke the next morning in a bed far more comfortable than her own. Silken sheets pooled around her waist as she sat up, confusing her even more. “Wha…” she started, before remembering. She slumped in the bed: she would have to find a way to get back to Hogwarts. It had been nice, being gone, but if she was away for too long… well, she wouldn't be missed, but she really should get back.

She got out of the bed, the light-blue nightgown she had been given swirling round her ankles. The sun was just rising, and she took a moment to appreciate it. Then she pulled the covers down, to remake the bed, when she saw it: a patch of red.

“Dammit!” she swore softly, aware that not many people were going to be awake, “Fuck fuck fucking fuck you have to be kidding me.” Of course she would repay her hosts by bleeding onto their sheets. It had definitely gotten onto her nightgown as well. She stripped the bed, leaving the clean linens at the foot of the it she dragged the stained sheets into the attached bathroom.

She paused a moment, blown away by the sheer opulence of the room (why were there three sinks? Who needs three sinks?), but quickly shook herself free of her stupor and started for the sink in the middle. The water ran icy cold, and she scrubbed at the stain on the sheet, trying to get most of the blood out. As she scratched at the sheet, trying in vain to get the worst of it out, Laelynn tried to think of a way she could ask for some pads.

Giving up her cleaning attempt as a bad job, she went back to the bedroom, throwing the stained sheet into a corner. Pulling off the silken nightgown, she saw her suspicions were wrong; there was no large patch of blood on the pale blue silk like she feared.

There was a knock on the door, and she started at the noise. “Laelynn?” it was Arwen, “Can I come in?” she asked.

“Yeah, just a sec,” she called, pulling back on the nightgown and going to the door to open it. She saw the daughter of Elrond standing to the side of the door, a pile of clothes in her arms, and stepped out of the way to make room for the elf. She stepped in and frowned at the pile of wet sheets.

“What happened?” she asked, and the other’s face flushed.

“It’s my time of the month,” she said hesitantly, “And I bled on the sheets. I'm really sorry.” The ground between her feet was very interesting; the tiles had a nature pattern. She was admiring the intricate petals of a yellow flower when Arwen tapped her shoulder.

“Do you have any supplies?” she asked, and received a shake of the head. “No? Well, I can give you some cloths for the blood flow,” she continued, acknowledging the gratitude shining in Laelynn’s eyes with a nod of her head. “I’ll be right back, and I'll bring you the recipe and some packs of Travelling Tea.”

When Arwen shut the door behind her, she looked around the room for where she had dumped her clothes the night before (they were under a chair at the foot of the bed).

“I can’t thank you enough,” she said when Arwen returned with the promised cloths and a sheet of thin parchment. On it were the instructions for a herbal tea, and most if the ingredients were easy to find plant. Only the raspberry leaf might be difficult in the winter.

“It stops your bleeding, and also prevents pregnancy,” Arwen said, as she passed her some tea bags, “Once this month’s is done, you drink a cup every morning at breakfast, and each bag can be reused three times before it loses efficiency. Do it for six months, then you have to wait two weeks before beginning again. You’ll have a bleeding then, and a heavy one at that, but it’s dangerous if you don’t stop.”

“This is really useful, thank you,” Laelynn replied, placing the tea bags on the dresser by the door, “But why is it called ‘travel tea’?”

“Think nothing of it,” was the reply. “It’s called Travelling Tea,” the elleth stressed the word she had gotten wrong, “Because it’s mostly used when you have to travel. All sorts of horrible creatures can find you if you’re bleeding.” That made sense.

Arwen started to talk again, “I have some clothes similar to the ones you wore yesterday for you,” she said, pointing to the pile of clothes she had brought with her earlier. “Go wash up and get changed, I’ll be here when you’re done,” she said, and Laelynn chose an outfit at random.

“Thanks again, she said, disappearing into the bathroom, “Do you think after this we could see your father?” she asked after a bit, and received a “Yes, of course” in return.

Fully dressed, she and Arwen exited her room as she strapped a dagger to her thigh. When they reached the open area, the girls looked at the results of the night before. The fire had burned out, leaving a heap of charred wood in the centre of the room, and the dwarves… The dwarves had dragged all their mattresses out of their rooms, and were sleeping on them in a large pile.

Laelynn thought they looked more peaceful asleep. Dori and Nori were wrapped protectively around their brother, while Fíli and Kíli had latched onto Thorin. The dwarf had both arms wrapped around the two, making a cute picture.

The two stood there until Laelynn remembered they had been heading to see Arwen’s father. Together the left through the double doors, nodding to the elves who were carrying trays of food in the opposite direction. Laelynn grabbed a couple buns of one of the trays, grinning at the elf carrying it. Her grin got even wider when she saw it was Thalion, who only shook his head ruefully at her in return. She handed half of the buns to Arwen, her grin threatening to split her face when the elleth took them with a small laugh.

It only took a few minutes to arrive at Lord Elrond’s quarters with Arwen leading. More than a few times she had had to pull the other girl away from a wrong turn, smiling at the her petulant expression. Together they entered the rooms, to find them empty. However, voices filtered in through the open door to the balcony, and turning the corner they found Gandalf in discussion with Elrond, while a blond elf with her back to them stared out across the valley.

Laelynn coughed to get their attention, and the three turned as one to face the two in the doorway. Her attention was caught by the blond elf; she was beautiful, her deep blue eyes like the pools of crystal water she had seen in the Forest. She noticed the three were looking at her expectantly, and flushed a brilliant red.

“Was there something you needed?” asked Elrond, and she stuttered for a moment before replying.

“Um, y–yes, there was,” she started, before finding her voice. “I can’t thank you enough for your hospitality, I really am incredibly grateful, but I need to get back to Hogwarts soon.” Arwen’s face fell, while the others had understanding, but confused looks on their faces.

“I understand,” said Elrond, “but I'm afraid I don’t know where this ‘Hogwarts’ is.” Now Laelynn was the one with a confused look.

“How can you not know,” she asked, “You must have at least heard of it,” she continued, but was only greeted with a shake of the head. They had moved from the balcony to Elrond’s study, and on the wall were a bunch of… “Can you get me a map?” she asked, “I’ll be able to show you where it is, or at least the general area.”


Arwen grabbed a scroll from a high-up shelf, “Here,” she said, unravelling it and laying it flat upon Elrond’s desk. Laelynn looked at it in shock.

“What’s this supposed to be?” she asked, dumbfounded. Maybe it was a joke. It had to be a joke.

“A map of Arda,” replied Elrond, “Is it not to your liking?” She couldn't breathe. She couldn't. Breathe. It took Gandalf thumping her back to get her to inhale, and even then, it was haggard and rattling.

“W–w–where’s London?” she asked, “Where’s Scotland? Where is this supposed to be?” Her voice was getting higher and louder, until she was literally squeaking at the last word.

“As Lord Elrond said,” said the blond one, “It is a map of Arda, where you are now.” Her voice had a note Laelynn couldn’t place. “Are you quite all right child?” she asked, and her voice still held that note of concern. Concern. How odd.

“But where’s — where’s—” she stuttered and stumbled on the words. Where’s home she wanted to say, but that wouldn't be true. She had no home.

“I know not of any ‘Lindon’ or ‘Scotlond’,” said Gandalf, accidentally mispronouncing their names, “If they are actual places, then they certainly aren’t on this world.” Gandalf’s blasé words hung in the air, dragging everyone's attention, even Gandalf’s. It’s because they must be true, thought Laelynn, what else could be the explanation?

“I believe,” she swallowed the lump that had settled in her throat, and started again, “I believe Gandalf is right; I have, somehow, travelled between worlds.” Like his, her words hung heavily in the air. She knew them to be true, even though part of her was screaming there must be another explanation, anything would make more sense than this.

“But how is that possible?” asked Arwen, who had recovered first. Elrond and the blond woman were exchanging doubtful glances, while Gandalf looked stunned that his casual words might have a ring of truth to them. Laelynn, meanwhile, felt like she was dreaming, disconnected from her surroundings.

“I do not know, my dear,” Gandalf replied to Arwen’s question, “I do not know.”

“Preposterous, Gandalf,” said Elrond, “It simply isn’t possible…” As the group descended into argument over whether or not the girl had really come from another world, Laelynn stood stock still, not even noticing when Gandalf waved his hand so close to her it nearly hit her face. Only when Elrond was about to speak again did she finally slam back into reality.

“Can I get back?” she asked in a strangled voice, and the room had gone silent when she spoke, “Please,” she continued, “Please, is there any way for me to get back?” Her voice broke on the last word, and she did as well, crumpling into herself. She fell to the floor, and like her, tears began falling down her face.

Please,” she kept repeating, mumbling through the taste of salt water on her lips. As Arwen gathered her into her arms, pressing the young one close, the others began to discuss different options, any earlier arguments forgotten. While the elleth clutched the sobbing girl, she was forcefully reminded of the other’s youth. The girl couldn’t be more than 15, and that was much too young, she thought. Much too young.

“I believe the Arkenstone was used by the dwarves as a way to get to mines unreachable from the surface,” said Gandalf, “Maybe it could be used to get her back to her home.”

“Yes, but there is the small matter that it’s currently in the claws of a dragon,” replied Elrond, sarcasm rife in his tone. To the girl on the floor, however, their words were gibberish for all she could tell.

Dry your tears,” came a voice in Laelynn’s head, and she immediately stiffened, drawing her defences around her mind.

Who are you?” she asked it, looking around the room.

I am Galadriel, Lady of the Golden Wood,” replied the voice, and the blond elf was nodding at her. So that’s her name…

Yes,” she said, a hint of a laugh in her tone, and Laelynn drew her shields even tighter. “Unfortunately, while admirable, your shields are useless against me,” she spoke again.

Can I ask what you are doing in my head?” she hesitantly questioned the blond elleth, who smiled at her.

You can ask,” she responded with a smile, “But you may not receive an answer. However, I will tell you; I only want to see if this Hogwarts is known by a different name here, to determine whether you truly have travelled worlds.”

Laelynn, seeing nothing wrong with the request, thought of the castle. She thought about how it looked in the day; sun shining onto neatly trimmed lawns, glistening on the surface of the lake while the Giant Squid idly waved his tentacles across the water. Or at night, when the stars were blocked by the great building — unless you sat on the roof, where there was an unimpeded view of the night sky, brilliant and magnificent.

She thought about the Quidditch games; flyers racing around on broomsticks while Lee Jordan commentated. Students cheering and hollering for their favourite team, the noise loud enough that she could hear it from the window of the room she was training in that day, wishing she could be outside like the others—

Quickly she thought of the Great Hall; food set out on golden platters: roasts and other meats, dripping in their sauces, or all the different desserts, a multitude of colours. Above, the enchanted ceiling reflecting the weather, from bright blue skies and the shining sun, to overcast clouds, grey and murky, rolling like a boiling pot, to snow in the winter, lazily falling but never reaching them at their tables.

Thinking of snow had her thinking of winter at Hogwarts; 12 Christmas trees in a row at the back of the Great Hall, groaning under the weight of hundreds of magical ornaments. And the Menorah the Jewish students who stayed over always set up (always set up by themselves, whispered a nasty voice in her head. Laelynn politely told it to fuck off) in an abandoned classroom, it’s eight candles flickering in the draft when the door was opened, but never went out. The flames were always different colours, jewel tones lighting the walls and the faces of the students around it. She had always been welcomed to their celebrations, unlike at the Christmas ones, where she had always been turned away, shunned by—

No. She thought even faster of lessons, pointedly not focusing on Galadriel’s reactions. Transfiguration with McGonagall, changing hairpins into hats and teacups into turtles. Harsh and fair was always used to describe the professor, though she had yet to see it, as she was and had always been prejudiced against the Slytherins, and Laelynn herself—

Charms (she swiftly changed track) with Professor Flitwick, one of the few teachers who actually treated her decently. Learning how to make wine from water and feathers float, his lessons were always fun, though she wished they had been taught more on charming objects, self-study wasn’t always easy, and she needed to know how to protect her belongings from—

Potions, with surly Professor Snape, who would look at her perfect Calming Draught, and give her a sniff and say “passable” (which was high praise for any non-Slytherin to hear), or teach them how to make potions that could be used against a persons worst enemy, which meant they were usually slipped into her food and drink to embarrass her—

Herbology, Arithmancy, History of Magic (which she actually found interesting when she found books not written biased to wizards), Ancient Runes — faster and faster her thoughts flew, and with them some of her experiences outside of lessons—

She tried not to think of the bad, instead focusing on the (indubitably smaller) good; Hagrid inviting her over for tea, and actually listening to her when she spoke (which happened once in a blue moon with everyone else, so she savoured it). When she would cry about being bullied and teased (before she realised it upset him, and stopped as she didn’t want her friend to be sad because of her), he was there, wiping away her tears with his enormous handkerchief. “Don’ fret,” he would say, “They just can’ see wha’ I can: a beau’iful girl who’s the smar’est in her generation.” And he would poke her stomach, to get her to giggle, and she would smile again.

Or Luna; little Luna Lovegood,who was always there to talk, or just let her sit in silence while she rambled on about Nargles and Wrackspurts — not caring that no one but Laelynn believed her, even when they were easy to spot for anyone who would try. The poor girl was bullied nearly as bad as she was, but both had perfected the act of not caring when they did, so much so it felt like they would just fall apart some days (but couldn't, never could, not where everyone could see, and taunt and laugh and jeer and hurt).

Anthony, Neville, Daphne, Percy, those first few years before he had to leave (though they still sent each other letters), she tried to only think of the good things, like the House Elves in the kitchen, who let her bake when she was sad and showed her the Come and Go Room. But her list of good things was awfully short, and with nothing she could think she hadn't thunk before, her thoughts strayed to the bad;

“Hey Freak, aren't you going home for Christmas?” yelled a black-haired boy from the doorway of the castle, blocking her way inside. Green eyes filled with loathing and mirth in equal measure shone from behind a pair of circular glasses, “Of course you’re not, you don’t have one! No one wants a freak like you around!” he sneered, and walked away. The girl stood there, stunned, before running back the way she came, to a stone hut at the edge of a forest, tears falling in her wake.


“You bitch, you beat my score on the Charms test!” was shouted by a girl with unruly brown hair and large front teeth, “I'm  the smartest witch of our generation,” a demonic grin flashed across her features, “And I know just how to show you!” She crushed a sheet of paper in her fist, the ‘O’ written in bright red ink standing out on the cream-coloured paper stained by lines of black text. Outside the wind howled, rattling the windows, as the brown-haired girl lit the balled-up paper on fire.

In a crowded courtyard, a jet of light hit her in the back, and Laelynn fell to the stones by a dried up fountain. Boils sprouting all over her body, and immediately started to burst in the late June sun. An old man in flowing red robes walked past, and she cried out “Professor Dumbledore, please!” But he just kept walking, studiously not looking at the girl on the floor. The laughter of the other students was loud, their ties shining in the sun; silver and green, blue and bronze, yellow and black, red and gold, every House of Hogwarts was present at her humiliation, but the most abundant were those who wore fire round their neck. The boy with the messy black hair was being congratulated as he basked in the applause.

“Freak, Freak, Freak!” was chanted by a trio of children; one boy with shocking red hair, one was the girl with frizzy brown hair, and the other was the bespectacled boy. Their eyes gleamed as they menacingly advanced on the girl in the corner.

“That’s not my name,” was whispered by the girl, tongue darting out to lick cracked lips. She raised her arms to shield her head as they got closer and closer.

“Well what is it then?” jeered the red-haired boy, his friends mimicking him. Laelynn was silent, and the boy let out a laugh, harsh and grating. “You can’t say,” he said gleefully, eyes bright and terrifying, “Because you don’t have one!” he finished, to uproarious laughter. At the end of the corridor a figure in tartan robes and a green pointed hat passed, and looked upon the three figures with their wands raised. Her eyes caught those of the girl, who mouthed ‘help’, pleading for her to help. But she stood there, only interfering when the three had already cast their spells.

“What are you doing?” she asked, though it was obvious she knew, and didn't care. “It’s a rule: no casting spells in the corridors,” she continued, emphasising the last three words, and anyone who heard her speak could tell she was giving them a message.

“Five points from Ravenclaw,” she said to the girl on the floor, “You’re missing your tie.” The three beamed at her, and the brunnette on the held up the tie she had summoned from her as soon as the Professor had yelled for them to stop. She motioned for them to follow her, and the four left the corridor, leaving the girl behind in a heap of pain. Her eyes shone with unshed tears (which would never fall), and a whimper escaped her unintentionally.

She was not found for four hours and twenty-three minutes.

(Even then it was on accident.)

On and on the memories came, until with a shuddering gasp, Laelynn’s eyes fluttered shut and she fell limp against Arwen. As she and her father carried her out of the room (and Gandalf held open the door), Galadriel stood in the middle of the study, shocked and horrified.

Gandalf was still in the doorway, waiting for her. “Did you find anything?” he asked. “Is she really not of this world?” He re-entered the room, letting the door swing shut behind him.

Galadriel shut her eyes. “No, she is not,” she said, while tears started to fall from beneath closed lids, “But I wonder; would keeping her here be so bad, when hardly any good waits for her upon return?”

Chapter Text

When Laelynn awoke, it was to the feel of silk soft sheets beneath her. As she wondered how she ended up in the new room, she focused on how the setting sun made patterns on the wall across from her. I wonder, she thought, and took a sniff. Hospital smell. Apparently even magical elven healing rooms weren’t immune to it. She wondered why she was in the elven hospital room, and sat up to get a better look at her surroundings.

Her head started to spin, and an ellon with nut brown hair entered the room. Behind him trailed Galadriel, worry creasing the planes of her face. Her unasked question died on her lips as the memories from Elrond’s study returned to her, and she fell back onto the bed.

“You shouldn't be getting up,” cried the brunette, hurrying to her bedside, “Lie down. Can you tell me what you’re feeling?” he asked, and it took Laelynn a moment to form her reply.

“Slow,” she said, “And my head feels like there’s someone inside, hammering on my skull.” The elf tsked.

“I was afraid of that,” he said, lowering his voice (for which she was very grateful), “You’ll need to stay in bed for the rest of today.”

Her face fell, “I'm actually feeling a lot better,” she said, moving to get up, “I certainly don’t need any bed rest,” she tried to get up, but was hit by a dizzy spell. When it had finished, the elf was looking at her with a critical eye.

“Really?” he asked sceptically, “I highly doubt that. Look,” he sighed, when Laelynn gave a dejected huff, and slumped back onto the bed, “If you don’t move from that bed at all, you can leave in two days, if it won’t agitate your injuries.”

She supposed it was the best she would get. “What are my injuries?” she questioned. Galadriel was still standing in the doorway.

“Only a slight concussion,” said the elf puttering around her bed, “You should be fine come in a couple of days. I’ll just tell the kitchens you’re awake,” he said, “They can make a meal for you that you’ll be able to keep down.” He exited the room, and the tension increased tenfold as Galadriel left the entrance of the room to talk to Laelynn.

“I must apologise,” she immediately said, once the other elf had left, “It was not my intention to cause you such distress.”

“Umm, ok?” replied the girl, unsure of how to respond. “Nothing bad happened to you, did it,” she asked after a minute or two of silence. Galadriel got a rueful smile.

“Even now, when you yourself are in a bed in the healing chamber, you’re asking about my health,” she said sadly, “I am fine, little one.”

“I'm not short,” muttered the girl in the bed, and received a laugh in return, “I'm not.” The doors to the wing opened a second time.

“Laelynn!” Arwen was in the doorway, following the elf who was bringing in the food. The ellon who had arrived with Galadriel trailed behind the two of them. “Are you alright?” asked the elleth, running to the bed. She slowed her pace to a walk when she saw who was sitting by it’s side.

The girl in the bed grinned, “I'm fine, Arwen,” she said, turning her attention the the other new arrival.

“I heard you were injured,” said Thalion, hazelnut eyes showing badly concealed worry. “Will you be alright?”

Laelynn gave him a small smile, “I’m fine, don’t worry. Besides, you brought food, and getting knocked out makes me hungry.” The group around the bed laughed, and Galadriel stood.

“I am afraid I must take my leave,” she said to the group, and exited the room, goodbye’s being called out after her. Lindir dipped his head to Galadriel respectfully as she passed, and hurried to the bed.

“Hi Lindir,” Laelynn joyfully called to him, “Come join us!”

“I'm actually supposed to be somewhere else,” he answered with a regretful shake of his head, “I just came to see if you were alright.”

“Aww, you do care,” she grinned at him, “At least take a cake with you: you need to eat more, you’re far too thin.” Laelynn’s face, which before had been rosy-cheeked as her green eyes sparkled with mirth, became ashen grey, and her eyes turned haunted.

“Are you alright?” asked Thalion, who had already taken a few of the confections from the tray he’d brought and wrapped them in a napkin for Lindir.

Laelynn raised a hand to her mouth in horror, “I sound like Molly Weasley,” she breathed gustily, “I sound like Molly Weasley .” The others didn't know who this ‘Molly Weasley’ was, but immediately took it upon themselves to distract her.

Soon enough, she was laughing at how Lindir had reacted to the fact Thalion had already given him all the cakes he liked. Her eye caught Arwen’s, and the two grinned at each other. I wonder who’s going to get their head out of their arse first , she thought, as Lindir finally took the package.



A few hours later, once everyone had left, Laelynn sat in the bed, wide awake. She had slept most of the day, and consequently wasn't tired. She daren't get out of the bed though; being confined to it for even one day was far too long.

She thought of what she had learned in Elrond’s study, and wondered what she was going to do. Well, she thought sarcastically, If I ever get back to my world, it would look great on a résumé. Travelled to another world when she was 15, she could see it now.

Except… except, she wouldn't have a résumé, would she? Laelynn cast her thoughts to the day she had eavesdropped (technically she wasn't eavesdropping. It’s not her fault they were talking about her across the room full of people, in quiet tones… ok fine, she had eavesdropped) on James Potter and Dumbledore. They had been talking about her, though, so it was totally justified.

“Professor Dumbledore!” said James Potter in a happy voice, “Fancy seeing you here.”

“Well my dear boy, you did invite me,” replied the man, his really white beard glowing in the light from the candles. Mister James looks like he knows how silly his words were, thought the girl sitting in the corner, with a book in her hand. All the other kids were playing with the boy-who-lived, who was basking (it was a word she had found a week ago, and thought it was exactly what he was doing) in the attention. She had tried to play as well, but had been pushed away by a pair of boys.

“He doesn't want to play with you,” said one of the five-year-olds.

“No one does!” said his redheaded companion, and the two had laughed. She had gone to the corner, pulling on the hem of the blue dress (she thought it was very pretty) she had been given for the party. It was the fourth ami… annen… year after the defeat of Vold-e-mort (and why did everyone call him You-Know-Who. She didn’t know who, and it had taken her three months reading nearly every book in the Potter Library to find out). When Mister Percy saw her, he had given her a book and a small smile, saying how he “didn’t like these things either”. It looked like a cool book, but she would rather listen to Mister James and Mister Dumbdoor talk.

I actually wanted to talk to you about something,” said Mister James, and the two adults went over to a corner far away from hers. Mister Dumbdoor waved his knobbly (knobbly, knobbly, knobbly) wand and cast a Silencing Charm. She pouted (she learned that word a month ago, from Mister Remus when Harry wanted more ice-cream, and kept asking when Mister Remus told him no). She really wanted to hear this! The girl thought about hearing what they were saying really really hard. There was a tingly feeling in her tummy, and suddenly she could hear them like they were standing next to her! Mister James was speaking.

“—how can she,” and she knew he was talking about her, because his voice had gone all funny like it usually did, “Defeat the Dark Lord?” She had never defeated a Dark Lord before! Maybe if she did it, people would like her.

Mister James kept talking, “She just goes out to the woods all the time, to ‘talk’.” The girl smiled; Pansy was going to have babies soon, and the porcupine had said she wanted her to bless them. She had never blessed anything before, and was trying to find what you say when you bless babies (after looking for a long time and not finding anything, she had decided to tell each baby porcupine she loved them and wanted them to be happy. She thought it would work fine).

“We both know that isn't possible,” said Mister Dumbdoor, and she frowned. It totally was! “There are no intelligent creatures on the grounds of Potter Manor.” That was a lie! Mister Dumbdoor was being dumb: there were loads of smart creatures in the Forest, and when she crossed the stream with the tingly water, there were centaurs! She decided not to tell them Mister Dumbdoor thought they were stupid; they would be the unhappy where their faces turned red and they sometimes yelled bad words. They had told her not to repeat the bad words, though.

“Exactly!” said Mister James, “Or she just sits in the Library with a book in front of her.” The girl thought about the Potter Library; how it took up three floor, and you had to use ladders to get to some of the book, and the cool secret room with really old books and comfy chairs. It was really dusty in there. “Even though nearly all the time she isn’t even able to read them!” Mister James continued, and she felt red-face unhappy, except her face didn’t turn red, and she didn’t say the bad words; she could read all the books she looked at, and if she didn’t understand a word, Dipsy told her what the dictionary said.

“What do you mean by that, my dear boy?” asked Mister Dumbdoor. Yeah, what do you mean by that? she thought, crossing her arms.

“You said she would be the same as Harry in every way when we started,” said Mister James, and the girl could see Mister Dumbdoor nodding. What had they started? “Well, Harry is just starting to learn how to read,” he said. Was he? She stayed away from Harry, because Misses Lily told her to, so didn’t know he was starting to learn how to read. Maybe they could read together, and be Reading-Buddies!

Mister Dumbdoor made the ‘ah’ noise, but not the ‘I'm scared’ one, the ‘I get it’ one. “I see,” he said. She didn't, “You’re right, she’s only just going to start knowing how to read as well.” Mister Dumbdoor lied a lot! She knew how to read really well, and told stories she had memorised (she learned that word a year ago, and found she was really good at remembering things. She hardly ever forgot anything she didn't want to) to her forest-friends. The centaurs really liked when she told them stories, and sometimes they even told her centaur-stories. She promised them she would never forget the stories, and then they would ruffle her hair and say “I know little one”. That would always make her stomp her foot and say “I'm not short!” Because she wasn't short! The centaurs would only laugh, and tell her everyone was short to them.

“Hello, Lily-flower,” said Mister James, and the girl saw Misses Lily had joined them. Mister James kissed her cheek, “I was just about to ask Professor Dumbledore what we should do with her.” The three adults started to look for her, and she quickly looked away. She didn't want to look like she was staring at them. She turned to see if they had stopped looking, and found all of them looking at her. She waved, and they turned away. The girl frowned; they could have waved back!

“What about her?” asked Misses Lily. Mister James spoke again.

“Professor Dumbledore says we should start training her to defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” That was another weird name for Vold-e-mort. You just said he shouldn't be named, but you just called him a name! Adults have no sense at all.

“I don’t think that would work at all,” said Misses Lily, “She’s mentally retarded Professor, hasn't got a drop of sense.” The girl in the corner felt like crying; that was a really mean word to call someone. If someone had a mental disability, you didn't say mean things about them, it was rude and mean and not nice! Mentally disabled or ill people had feelings too, and those words could really hurt! Flopsy (Dipsy's second cousin on her mother’s side) had ADHD, and all the house-elves would keep him from being seen by Mister James and Misses Lily. Not because he was shameful, but because they didn't want him to be hurt by their cruel words.

“Would you rather have Harry do it?” asked Mister Dumbdoor, and Mister James and Misses Lily started saying no a lot. “She may be retarded,” said Mister Dumbdoor (and he was really dumb if he thought saying mean words was ok), “But she only needs to kill Voldemort, and when she dies in the conflict, well, it won’t be a loss.” She nearly sat on the floor, except it would get her new dress dirty, and her new dress was the nicest thing she owned. Mister James and Misses Lily would care, she told herself, but that was proven wrong as the two nodded.

“And when she dies, her magical power would go to Harry,” said Misses Lily slowly. Mister James started nodding.

“And when that happens, the magical residue would look like it was left by Harry, and he would be even more of a hero!” said Mister James excitedly. The girl felt like sobbing. Dipsy and the other house-elves would care, she thought stubbornly, and all my forest-friends, like the centaurs, and Pansy.

“So it’s settled,” said Mister Dumbdoor, “Once she and Harry turn six, we will begin to train her. Harry, of course, will have to receive something similar.” Maybe they could be training-buddies. Maybe—

“You will not teach my son about the dark things of the world!” said Misses Lily strongly.

“Of course not, Lily-flower,” said Mister James, “Professor Dumbledore, this has been very informative, thank you.”

“It has been a pleasure, James, Lily, but I’m afraid I must be getting back.” Mister Dumbdoor waved his wand again, and the tingly feeling in her tummy disappeared, but she was still able to hear them.

As he passed her, the old man looked at the book she was holding, “And what are you reading?” he asked in a fake-happy voice. Since he used a fake-happy voice, and was saying mean things about people like Flopsy, she decided to pretend to be as dumb as him.

“Oh, I'm not reading it,” she said, and she wasn't lying, not really. She hadn't read it, just held it, “It’s Mister Percy’s book.” With really really good timing, Mister Percy showed up.

“Can I have my book back please?” he asked her nicely, “I'm sorry to take it from you, but I'm getting dreadfully bored.”

“Not a problem Mister Percy,” she said, and handed him the book. He took it with a puzzle-face.

“No need to call me mister,” he said, then turned to Mister Dumbdoor, “Hello Professor.” Mis— Percy wandered away, already flipping through his book to find his page. The girl quietly slipped away, to the table with the food on it. She really wanted to try the red wobbly stuff.


Laelynn emerged from the memory with a sigh. The ‘red wobbly stuff’, as she had then called it, had been launched at her by the Weasley twins (she wasn't sure if it was accidental or not), and she had fled to her room in tears. Although, the next day Dipsy had shown up and taught her how to clean her clothes, so it wasn't so bad.

Like Dumbledore had said, as soon as she and Harry turned six, she was in training nearly everyday. It had continued until Hogwarts, and even then, every day something (for example, Quidditch matches) happened, she would be inside training. She had only gotten to go to Hogsmead because it would look strange if Harry Potter’s ‘twin sister’ didn't go to the wizarding village with everyone else.

The point was, she was going to die fighting Voldemort. It was her job, to kill him, and once she had done it she would die. She knew there was nothing she could do; in a book in the Potter Library, it spoke of how beings like her had one purpose, and when that purpose was fulfilled, they ceased to be.

A few weeks ago — hell, a few days ago — she wouldn't have minded, perfectly content to die like they wanted. After all, there wasn't any other option; either she died, or everyone else did. But a few days ago, she was perfectly content to be nameless, too.

“I will no longer be a puppet,” she spoke to the empty room, her whisper as loud as clanging brass bells in the silence of the room. “I will walk my own path,” she continued, as her eyes shone as bright as the jewel they resembled. “I will be my own person,” she finished, and her hair, black as the ink she used to write, lay spread across her pillow as she fell asleep.

If anyone had been there to listen, they would have heard the sound of scissors. Snip, snip, snip, they sounded three times before quiet blanketed the room again. The puppet’s strings had been cut, and no amount of repairing would ever fix them.

Chapter Text

It had taken four days after she had woken up to be cleared by the healer. Laelynn had tried to escape as often as she could, but he literally appeared out of nowhere, every time, and chivvied her back to the bed. Once she had been cleared, though, she’d jumped out of the bed and ran for the door, shouting “Freedom!” as she left. The ellon had only watched her go, then turned to make the bed.

She ran through the halls, taking little note of her surroundings. However, it meant that when she finally stopped, Laelynn didn’t have clue where she was. To her left was a mural of a large, shadowy figure, reaching for the person on the ground in front of it. The figure was holding the hilt of a blade in front of them, in a weak defence.

To her right was a stone statue of a woman, in her arms a flat surface. It was covered by a cloth, and on the cloth … she got closer. On the cloth were the shards of a sword. The piece attached to the hilt looked remarkably like the one from the mural, and a glance behind her showed that, yes, it was the same blade.

“Are you alright miss?” pipped up an inquisitive voice, and Laelynn turned to see a short boy standing next to her, bright blue eyes shining curiously. She jumped, startled.

“How’d you get so close?” she asked him, and received a half-shrug in return.

“I dunno,” he said carefully, “I guess I'm just a quiet person.” He changed the topic, his interest rekindled, “Those are the Shards of Narsil,” he said cheerfully, pointing at the sword pieces on the statue. “It belonged to Isildur; he’s the man in the picture there,” he said, and pointed to the mural on the wall.

“Who are you?” she asked him, “I wasn't aware there were children in Rivendell.”

“Oh, there aren't,” he responded, “I'm Estel, the only kid in the Last Homely House,” he said proudly.

“But what about me?” she asked him, feeling mischievous, “Aren't I a kid too?” The poor boy’s eyes widened.

“No!” he gasped, mouth forming a perfect little ‘o’, “You’re much too tall to be a kid.”

“Thank you!” she said happily. At least someone thought she was tall. “Now,” she said, struck by a whimsical urge, “Young Master Estel,” he giggled at the long unnecessary title, “Would you be ever so kind as to escort me to the gardens? I'm afraid I've become quite lost.”

The child played along, “Of course, Lady…” he trailed off.

“Laelynn,” she supplied.

“... Lady Laelynn,” he continued, extending his arm, “Allow me to show you the way.” She giggled, and the two skipped away, leaving the shards of the blade behind them.

“Thank you,” she called as he was dragged away by his mother, who wore a rueful smile. Estel waved in return, before the two round a corner, blocking her view of them. The two had made it to the gardens, before the child’s mother had appeared, berating him for skipping his lessons.

Laelynn wandered the gardens, admiring the arrangements of the flora and fauna, and stopping to smell a flower or two. Some elves were trimming a bush with large red flowers, and she decided to swoop in and take one to put in her hair. Cackling, she rushed away with her spoils, and the gardeners only watched her go in confusion.

The sounds of laughter and yelling reached her, and curious she followed the noise, while tucking the flower behind her ear. As she rounded a corner, she immediately wished she hadn't. There, in a fountain by the fall, the dwarves were bathing. All of them. Bathing. Which meant they were butt naked. She immediately covered her eyes with her hands, trying to back away.

“Ay, Laelynn,” called a dwarf (and it was probably Kíli), “Care to join us?” Now she knew it was Kíli, and if she took her hands away from her eyes, she would probably — definitely — see him waggling his eyebrows.

“I'm good, thanks,” she yelled back, still trying to get the fuck away from the buck-ass nude dwarves. Laelynn finally found the way she had come, and stumbled down it, ignoring the whoops from behind her.

She didn't remove her hands until she literally walked into someone, and even then they had to pried from her face. “Are you quite alright?” asked Radagast, and the girl (upon realising who he was) promptly wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug.

“You’re ok,” she said gladly. No, she wasn't crying; there was just a speck of– of– she just wasn't, ok?

“Of course I am,” he said, seemingly content to stand there being crushed by her, “Now why don’t you tell me what happened while I was gone?” he asked, “For example; why are you running through the gardens with your eyes covered?”

“The dwarves were bathing in a fountain,” she said rapidly, and not-a-man laughed.

“They will tend to try and do anything to make the elves uncomfortable,” he replied. The two walked in the garden, talking. Laelynn told Radagast everything, from how she was from another world, to her favourite flavour of ice cream (she had been shocked when she learned there was no ice cream in Arda), to how she wasn't even human, and what that had brought her. He listened, and in return he told her about himself; living in the Greenwood (which was becoming known as ‘Mirkwood’), his role taking care of all the animals and plants there, and how he and Gandalf were also not men, but Istari.

“So you two are wizards?” asked the girl, sitting on a bench at the side of the path. A tree was growing next to it, its branches providing shade in the mid-afternoon sun.

“If you’re going to be concise, then yes,” said Radagast, making the crystal on the edge of his staff glow.

“Would I be classified as an Istari?” asked Laelynn, pulling her wand from her boot and twirling it between her fingers. Purple sparks flew from the end. Radagast began to answer, but before he could, she began to talk again. “You do know you have something,” she said, wiping the side of her face, “Around there, right?”

The Istari put his hand to his own face, and felt the dried bird droppings that had accumulated. “No,” he answered, “I was entirely unaware of it.” He made no move to clear it off, though, once he had learned about it. “People underestimate me, since I act the way I do,” he said, in reply to her questioning look. She nodded in understanding; she used that act as well.

“So tell me about how you knew Bella’s name earlier?” he asked, and they began to talk again, Laelynn explaining how she had the curious ability to be able to recognise and speak many many languages, and the conversation moved to other topics. Only when a firefly landed on the tip of her nose did they finish speaking, because the girl stopped asking about Radagast’s other friends to stare at the lightning bug in surprise.

“I believe,” said the Brown Wizard, standing up and extending an arm to her, “You should be getting back to your rooms.” he started to push her towards the staircase that went straight to her bed, but she resisted.

“Will you be here tomorrow?” she asked him. He looked forlorn.

“I can’t promise,” Radagast said, “You know the Greenwood needs me, after all.” The moon retreated from behind a cloud, and shone upon the now hugging duo. Laelynn was just a bit taller than the Istari, but felt safe and protected in his arms.

“Even if you’re leaving at the worst time, you have to tell me so i can say goodbye.” Laelynn stated into his shoulder. he chuckled deeply, the reverberations vibrating through him.

“I promise,” he said warmly, and the two detached. She turned and left, thinking about her strange and sudden friendship with the Wizard. They had only spoken twice the last time they saw each other, yet now were thicker than thieves.

“Good luck, child,” said the Wizard quietly once she had gone. His voice hardly more than a whisper on the breeze. “Good luck,” he turned, and left in a different direction.

The next morning Radagast did have to leave (and he did say goodbye to her at the edge of the bridge the group had crossed), and after Laelynn wandered the grounds. She was moping, the departure of her new and unexpected friend hitting her harder than she thought it would. Makes sense though, she decided, after all, he is one of the only people in this world who has listened to me.

Gandalf found her by where she had seen the dwarves the day before (and hadn't they teased her about that at breakfast. However, they weren't being malicious or cruel, and five minutes later had gone on to tease Kíli about her rejecting him). The weren't in the fountain though, and for that she was grateful; she really didn't want a repeat.

“Ah, Laelynn,” he started, “Just the woman I was looking for.” he paused, then continued in a slightly different tone of voice (not Sindarin though. She was getting better at figuring out when people were speaking it), “I believe I have found a solution to your … problem.” He paused, to let her collect herself, and for that Laelynn was grateful. Her thoughts had started whirling, trying to figure out the probability of what he said being true, and observing Gandalf to see if he was lying.

“…what?” she finally asked, after a minute of silence. Gandalf looked slightly annoyed.

“I said, I may have a way for you to return to your home.” She decided to listen, see if his idea had any merit. Besides, no one else had showed up with a solution, viable or not. “There is a stone the dwarves have, the ‘Arkenstone’, they call it. It was used in the past to transport miners in and out of caves unreachable from the surface, so they could get to the jewels or precious metals inside. My thought was—”

“—it may be able to get me back,” Laelynn finished for him. “I dunno Gandalf, are you sure it will work?” she asked dubiously.

“No,” he replied immediately, “But I think it’s better than what you've been able to come up with.” He had her there. Elrond had come to her while she was stuck in bed, and told her he didn't know any way to get her to her home, but she was always welcome at Rivendell. Galadriel had said the same, and had extended an invitation to a place called Lothlórien when she had visited a second time. She had also said she would get an elf called Thranduil to look out for her in Mirkwood, but if she went it would be up to her to explain her position.

“Where is this ‘Arkenstone’?” she asked him, and he looked indubitably smug.

“In the mountain of Erebor, although you will have to explain to the king what it can do,” Gandalf replied. “His father was unable to tell him the secret before he died, and only a few others know it’s power.”

“And?” she asked. Gandalf wasn't telling her something, she knew it.

“The current king will explain,” he deflected. “Now, the company of dwarves you are staying with are going to the mountain themselves. When they leave, I want you to join them. Just say I sent you.”

Before she could ask anything else, Gandalf left, saying he needed to talk with ‘Saruman’ about something, who she knew was the head of the White Council thanks to Radagast. “Wait,” she called after him, “Come back! Gandalf, I haven’t agreed to this! GANDALF!” The wizard poked his head back through the doorway he had left through.

“What?” he asked with a shit-eating grin, “I'm sorry, Laelynn, I do need to go.” He left again, and the girl just stood there for a moment, before hurrying after him. When she got to where he had been, he was already gone.

Fuck you, Gandalf, she thought, going to find Arwen; if she was going on an adventure, she’d need loads more. She hated to say it, but it was true; she didn’t have a better option. Fuck you.

Chapter Text

Laelynn wandered around, looking for the elleth. She wasn't where Lindir had taken her to first meet her (though she may be in the wrong area: all the hallways looked the same). She then decided to speak to her when she next saw her, and started looking for the library. She hadn’t had a chance to see it yet, and wanted to before leaving. After all, Thorin had said they would be staying for eight days, and this was the sixth.

A few minutes later, Laelynn realised she didn't actually know where the library was. She stood in the corridor, stumped, until she saw an elf walking the other way. “Excuse me,” she called, walking towards them. It was Sadron, she realised, upon closer examination. He looked at her, surprised. “Oh, hey Sadron.”

“Hello Laelynn,” he replied, “Are you alright? That is to say, you look a bit lost.” Her cheeks flushed red.

“Do you know where the library is?” she asked, trying not to think about her horrible sense of direction.

“Up those stairs,” he pointed behind him, “Until you see the statue of the woman holding a stone flower; it’s at the end of that hall. The Lady Arwen is also there,” he added, “she’s waiting for you.” Oh good, she thought, I can ask for more tea now. She was about to leave, when Sadron put a hand on her arm, “I have to warn you, one of those,” his lip curled unpleasantly, “Dwarves is in there.”

“Why do you need to warn me?” she asked him. She tried to shake off his hand, but it tightened around her arm.

“Just stay away from it, alright,” he said, grip getting tighter with every word he spoke, “Promise me.”

“You’re hurting me,” cried Laelynn, wrenching his arm from him. He looked shocked for a moment, before his eyes hardened.

“I apologise,” he said stiffly, “But I need your word you will stay away from it.” Sadron locked gazes with her, and her heart gained another crack as she realised he thought he had her best interests at heart.

“I'm sorry,” she said, “But I can’t give you that.” The ellon’s entire demeanour changed. Whereas before he had been, if a bit intense, nice enough, he was now cold, standoffish even.

“I see,” he said curtly, “If you excuse me, I must be going.” Sadron strode off, leaving behind a confused (but resigned) Laelynn. Why would he warn me against dwarves? she wondered, even though she already knew the answer. Is it too hard to not hate someone just because of prejudices? she wondered with a sigh. Still, she supposed it was for the best, him going away; she didn't tolerate racists, and that’s exactly what Sadron was. But, as she walked up the steps, Laelynn still let herself mourn the budding friendship they had started.

Entering the library, Laelynn, for a long time, just stood there staring at the shelves in front of her. I think this is bigger than the Hogwarts library, she thought in awe, eyes flicking from shelf to shelf. Only when an elf politely asked her to move did she remember she was in there for a reason.

She walked around, picking up more than a few books that had caught her eye (gotta love history — at least when it wasn't taught by Binns), while looking for Arwen. Finally, her eye caught the sight of her friend sitting near one of the long windows, and she started moving towards her. She was chatting with a dwarf, and as she got closer, she realised it was Ori.

“Hello Arwen, Ori,” she said, nudging a chair with her foot towards them. The dwarf jumped, while the elleth merely laughed.

“Hello Laelynn,” She replied warmly, a smile tugging her lips, “I've been looking for you.”

“About that,” said the girl, “Why did you chose the library, of all places to meet?”

“Your stories showed you like to read,” answered Arwen, taking a book off the tall stack Laelynn was carrying with a smile, “But I can see this wasn't the case.”

“Oh yes,” Laelynn replied sarcastically, putting her stack of books on the table, “I'm just carrying these around for fun.” She collapsed into the chair she had pushed over. Ori was watching the exchange with wide eyes.

“Besides,” Arwen continued, “The company is rather nice.” Poor Ori sat there with his ears bright red.

“I– I wouldn't say that,” Ori stuttered quietly. Arwen frowned.

“Oh please, Ori, you’re wonderful company,” she said, and Laelynn nodded in agreement.

“She’s right, Ori, you can’t deny it,” she stated, then turned to Arwen, “I suppose you know why I wanted to talk to you.”

The elf nodded, “I've put enough tea for 6 months in your room,” she said to the girl, “You can gather or buy the plants needed to make more, I don’t doubt. Also, there is a large quantity of waybread with it, for your journey. Laelynn was honoured: the elf had told the qualities of Lembas to her (during her stay in the healing rooms), and how it was only given to those deemed worthy of it (she had tried some Arwen had sneaked her. It was nice).

“Oh, thank you Arwen,” she said, trying desperately to she how grateful she was. The elleth seemed to get the message.

After that, the original occupants of the table had continued their discussion, inviting the newcomer to join them. Any elf who had passed their table would have been shocked to see an elf, a dwarf, and (what looked like) a child of man having an engaging debate. They would have been even more surprised to find the three were discussing how one would travel between worlds (Laelynn kept the knowledge of what Gandalf told her in her pocket, unwilling to share it while she was uncertain it would work).

Two days later, Lord Elrond disappeared after dinner, Thorin and Balin following while Bilbo and Gandalf brought up the rear. The other dwarves didn’t seem to notice, or if they did, they didn’t mind.

Laelynn thought back over the last couple of days; she had joined Arwen and Ori in the library since she had gone to find the elleth. She had found that while the dwarf was a quiet reader, the elf would yell at the book she was reading when something happened in it (she did it too, but only when she was alone). More than once, an elf had come to chastise them, only to find her and Ori looking at Arwen with indulgent smiles, while the elf loudly scolded the book in front of her.

Emerging from her memories, she found the dwarves had left to go back to their rooms, while elves were clearing the tables. Arwen was waiting in the doorway for her, ready to lead her to her room in case she got lost (She knew it was a legitimate concern, but would it kill Arwen to stop taking the mickey?).

Laelynn spotted Thalion, and slipped over to him. The ellon stiffened in surprise as she snaked her arms around him for a backwards hug. “What…” he started, before realising who was behind him. The elf gave a reluctant sigh, and turned to face her. “What brought this on?” he asked her.

“I don’t know when I’m leaving,” she said into his chest. The other elves in the room kept throwing the pair small smiles. “This is my goodbye,” she finished, and continued to hug him. Thalion sighed, and hugged her back.

“You have to come back and visit,” he told her, holding her at arms length. Laelynn met his eyes and nodded. “Good,” he said, and crushed her to his chest again.

“Now,” he said after a moment, “I think the Lady Arwen is waiting for you.” The girl detached herself from him and skipped to the door. The elf in the doorway extended her hand, and together the two left the room.

Daeron looked at him, “Mithrandir better bring that girl back,” he said, before handing Thalion a half-eaten bowl of soup. His friend was right, he decided, Mithrandir better bring Rivendell’s loth anel back in one piece, or more than one elf  wouldn’t be happy.

“What did you mean, you don’t know when you’re leaving?” asked Arwen as Laelynn walked next to her, “Aren't you staying here?”

Laelynn looked sadly back at the elleth as she ascended the stairs, “Arwen, it’s been wonderful here,” she said, walking backwards, “But I need to get back to my world.” She was lying to herself, and she knew it; she could stay in Rivendell, or Middle Earth, and never worry about her old life again. No one would miss her, and if some did, they would heal.

But she couldn't. Harry Potter was in no way equipped to fight the Dork Lord (whenever she said Voldemort, it freaked people out; some reacted violently. She adapted), and she wouldn’t leave the few friends she had for dead.

Arwen seemed to have recovered from her brief spell of silence. “But where will you go?” she asked, as they came up to the door to the guest rooms.

“Gandalf said the dwarves may have a way,” she replied, “It’s better than anything else I've heard.”

“You have to come back before you go,” the daughter of Elrond replied, “Promise me.”

Laelynn laughed, “If I can, I will,” she said, “But if I can’t, Gandalf will pass on my message, alright?”

Arwen smiled through the tears in her eyes, “Alright,” she agreed, then gathered the smaller girl into her arms. “Be safe, Laelynn.” she said.

“Of course, my friend. Tell Lindir goodbye for me, please,” she asked, then a wicked smile curved her lips, “And tell him Sadron will snap up Thalion unless he actually gets his arse in gear, would you?” Arwen laughed, the tinkling sound ringing through the deserted corridor.

“Of course,” she echoed, and they embraced again.

“I’ll miss you,” Laelynn said, once they’d separated.

“And I, you,” replied Arwen, “Goodbye, my friend.” She retreated down the corridor, and when she looked beck, Laelynn still by the door. The girl pressed her right fist to her chest, and bowed slightly to the elleth. She gave a watery chuckle, and returned the gesture to the retreating figure, who smile and entered the Guest Wing behind her.

The dwarves were asleep on their pile in the centre of the common. Laelynn nodded to Bifur, the only one awake, who nodded in reply. She entered the room, and looked at the bed; all she wanted to do was sleep.

But before she could sleep, she had to pack. Joy.

Laelynn sat on the bed cross-legged, grabbing one of the travelling bags she had been given (courtesy of Arwen) her way. Pulling out her wand, she cast an Undetectable Extension Charm on the bag, absently noticing how her magic came much easier. Casting a Feather-Light Charm, she realised her wand felt much more in tune with her magic as well.

Laelynn amused herself, casting different spells at her bags as she packed, until a few hours later she heard the sounds of movement outside her door. Looking out the window, she saw how high the crescent moon had risen. Once she concentrated, she realised it was just the dwarves packing to leave, and went back to packing, to find she had finished.

Just the dwarves… packing… She slapped her forehead in frustration. Those dwarves packing are the ones you have to travel with, dipshit, she scolded herself, as she pulled on her cloak and picked up her bag. To anyone but her, it would look like it only held a day’s worth of food and water, as well as a change of clothes and a baker’s dozen of tea bags filled with Travelling Tea (the rest she kept in her pouch). In reality, it held nearly everything, but only what she could replace.

Slipping her pack onto her back, Laelynn exited her room to find the dwarves had already left. Cursing under her breath, she ran towards the bridge they had crossed, only sparing a moment to wonder why she was suddenly so good at directions. You can worry later, now run, she told herself, and forced the thought from her mind. After all, dwarves were fast, and she wasn’t going to be left behind.

Reaching the bridge, Laelynn took a moment to catch her breath, and looked up to the outcropping she had first seen the valley from. Walking in a line were all 13 dwarves, and the Hobbit (she had learned his race at dinner that first night) — but no Gandalf. Where is he? she thought, eyes scanning the group, he can’t expect me to join their group without him, can he?

At that moment, Bilbo turned (probably for a last look at Rivendell), and she ducked behind one of the statues. No way was she getting caught by them without the wizard. She’d follow behind, and if they needed help she’d help them, but before that she was staying far away. Besides, if they caught her before Gandalf showed up, she’d be shipped back to Rivendell before she could say Quidditch.

Because in Arda, according to the books Laelynn had read, women were supposed to stay at home (after reading that, the attendant had to come shush her because she was swearing so loudly. Arwen wasn't any help, doubled-over laughing, while Ori looked shocked and impressed at her language). And if one of those dwarves was stupid enough to try and send her back to Rivendell because she was female, she’d stick her sword so far up their arse they’d taste the hilt.

Peering round, Laelynn realised the dwarves had left the valley, and thanked the statue before hankering up the path after them. Once standing on the outcrop, she looked back over Imraldis, only now awakening as the Sun started to grace the sky, and sent a silent goodbye to the Last Homely House. A shiver of wind blew along the path, sweeping through her hair and blowing it out behind her, and she knew it was Rivendell saying goodbye in return.

Laelynn turned, and continued up the mountain.

Chapter Text

On the first day after leaving Rivendell, Laelynn decided following the dwarves was fairly easy; they were louder than a herd of rampaging hippogriffs (and didn't that bring back memories).

On the second day she decided that, while they did take care to hide evidence of their camp sites, they were no match for her skills (at least some of her lessons were being put to good use. She didn't think she’d ever have to barter with royalty). It was a good thing she wasn't some assassin sent to kill them, or they’d be dead five times over in their first day of travel.

On the third day Laelynn decided that the scenery was rather boring, and that she was thankful her fires let out no smoke. That evening she tried to puzzle out her new sense of direction. Before her stay in Rivendell, she would never have know Thorin (because who else would be leading?) kept aiming the group ahead too far to the South to reach the pass it was obvious he was aiming for. She found no answer that night.

On the fourth day, she saw Gandalf walking a few leagues away. He hadn't noticed her, and was instead keeping his eyes on the dwarves and Bilbo. That utter arse, she repeatedly thought through the day, when it became obvious Gandalf wasn't joining the group yet.

On the fifth day, Laelynn lost sight of Gandalf, but didn't worry too much. After all, she thought with a mouthful of bread, he is an Istari. That day was also the day she dreamed for the first time in Middle Earth, and even then it was only snatches of scenes;

A group of people sitting round a table (the Order of the Phoenix, her brain supplied, recognising some from a photo she had seen), all talking loudly over each other—

Percy screaming at his mother and father, red in the face, a trunk held in one hand. A second later the door to their kitchen slammed shut, his family watching it with wide eyes—

Harry Potter and Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger standing in front of Dumbledore as he explained something (“He still lives,” she heard him say), an expression of shocked horror on each face—

Severus Snape kneeling in front of a man with snakelike features, and eyes red as blood with slitted pupils. “My Lord,” he said, extending his left arm, sleeve bared to show a pulsating black mark (a snake protruding from a grinning skull) on his forearm—

Three people, standing around a table, playing a game, which changed with every moment, from chess to cards to dice. Then, as one, all three turned to stare straight at her. “Soon,” said one, “Soon”—

Laelynn's eyes flew open, her breath coming in short gasps as she tried to process what she’d seen. Her fire was still blazing as high as it had when she’d lit it, the bluebell flames showing no sign of going out, and the warmth emanating from it gave her a chance to gather her wits.

What, she thought, was that supposed to be? Because in her heart, Laelynn knew that each and every thing she’d seen had been true, the same way she knew the fire was hot and anything that could be eaten by the youngest Weasley, would. But why, she wondered, how do I know this, I've never seen anything like that before. But like with her new sense of direction (Thorin was a fucking idiot, the Misty Mountains were that way), the answer eluded her.

A week later she woke to find a Warg snarling at her from across the clearing. Quick as lightning, she grabbed a dagger from her boot and sprung at it. The Warg, not expecting her action, hesitated a moment, but that was all Laelynn needed to slit it’s throat.

She decided to skin the beast, as it’s snow-white fur was warm and would make a good cape. She cleaned her knife in the grass, and set about her task. She first cast a spell to get rid of all the fluids in it’s body, then took her knife and carefully cut a line down it’s chest.

As Laelynn worked, the sky turned from the dusky purple preceding sunrise to a brilliant orange, interspersed with streaks of red and gold. By the time the sun was starting to chase away the night, any remaining stars winking out of sight, she had fashioned (with abundant use of magic) a fine cape, which would be useful for the coming colder nights.

While she had been sewing, Laelynn had heard the dwarves wake and pack up their camp, but stayed focused on her task: she could easily catch up, after all. Storing the coat in her pouch (it’s not like she needed it now), Laelynn pulled out a tea bag and started to brew her morning cuppa. While the taste was slightly bitter, it was a small sacrifice if it meant her periods stopped. Unfortunately, the Wizarding World had no equivalent to birth control pills (the only way to keep from having children was a spell), and no pounds sterling meant she couldn't get Muggle ones.

Laelynn finished her brewing, and decided that she wouldn't chance eating the meat, not if there was a chance it wasn't safe for consumption. However, meat wasn't the only thing left on the carcass…

Another five days passed, until Laelynn suddenly found herself waking one morning to find a cloud only a few metres above her; they had made it into the Misty Mountains. Avoiding the Company’s attention was harder now, as there were no places to hide if roaming eyes looked to the path behind, but it was still easy to duck behind the curve of the path, or even cast a quick Disillusionment charm.

Then the rain started.

It was miserable. Only the copious use of Impervious and drying charms kept Laelynn and her things from being soaked to the bone, and even then, she had shoved her new Warg cape into her pouch to protect it. However, she still felt the chill of the wind, and sympathised with the dwarves, because if it was nasty with just the wind, then the added rain must be torture. Not to mention, their inability to make a fire for lack of dry wood. The path had become slippery, and more than once she had nearly fallen off trying to stay out of sight. Despite all this, it wasn't till the third day of the storm when things became… interesting.

The lightning had started. Before it was just wind and rain (which were horrible enough on their own), but with lightning added to the mix… Laelynn could only hope no one was struck off the mountain. The dark — even in the day — meant she had to stay closer to the group to see them, which heightened her chances at getting caught.

The path crumbled beneath the very feet of one of the group, and he was only saved by the fast actions of one of the others. Laelynn let her arm drop, but kept her wand in her hand, holding fast to it to lessen the chance of the wind or rain tearing it from her hands.

Someone shouted something to another, but both party’s voice’s were lost on the wind. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a large boulder heading for the cliff face, and had only a second to brace herself before it hit the mountain. Rocks rained down on the group and Laelynn, and one glanced off her arm. The unmistakable crack of a broken bone filled the air, and as the dwarves tried to find who was hurt, Laelynn could only be glad she’d stashed all her things in her pouch: if she hadn't, her pack would've probably fallen into the gorge, and she might've been dragged along with it.

Laelynn shoved the pain to the back of her mind (she could deal with it later; Moody had given her much worse when he finally agreed to train her — through nothing Madam Pomfrey couldn't fix — and made her continue), and looked across the divide.

What she saw nearly had her tumbling off the edge anyway; it was a vaguely humanoid figure, at least as tall as the mountain at her back, and looked to be made of rocks. “Stone Giants,” had filtered through the rain earlier, and she supposed this must be one of them. It was reaching back, as if to throw something… a rock sailed towards the mountain, and in response the rock behind her shifted. What the hell, her mind screamed, but she shoved that thought away; she could deal with it later.

“Kíli!” screamed a dwarf, as the rock behind her shifted apart, becoming legs for another one of the creatures, “Grab my hand!” The anguish in that voice had Laelynn realising Fíli must be calling for his brother, as the group was split down the middle. She struggled towards the group, letting her spells drop to free her energy. She reached them as the leg the other group were on slammed into the mountainside. All of them tumbled off it, and looked in horror towards their companions (none of them had realised she was there yet. In another situation it might have been funny), who were being forced away as the giant moved.

Laelynn was holding on for dear life, both to her wand and the rock beneath her, as the giants began fighting. She didn't even notice when another giant beheaded theirs, but she sure as hell did when they went crashing into the face of the mountain. The group, by some twist of fate, didn't end up smeared against the rocks, but landed in a heap on the path below. The mountain shook as the dead giant hit the bottom of the chasm, and the tremor was enough to send Laelynn falling off the path.

She grabbed for a handhold, and tasted blood as she bit her tongue trying not to scream. Oh yeah, her arm was fucking broken. Bilbo, also jostled by the shaking of the mountain, rolled off the path as well. She shot out her other arm to catch him, while maintaining her iron grip on her wand.

“Who…” he started, but the mountain trembled again, and Laelynn had to readjust her grip, something that made her arm scream in agony. She grunted in pain, but grit her teeth against any other noises threatening to slip out.

“Where’s Bilbo?” a panicked voice drifted over the cliff edge, “Where’s our hobbit?” She was pretty sure it was Bofur.

“There!” cried another voice, and two dwarves jumped for them. Laelynn gave a cry as her hand failed for a moment, and she and Bilbo fell a bit more down the mountain before she could grab another handhold. Looking up, she saw more than a few dwarves were shocked at seeing her (decidedly feminine) features. Men (well, technically dwarves, but still).

“Stop staring and help!” she screamed at them, only slightly out of frustration. Her arm had been yanked by the second fall, and Bilbo's weight wasn't helping. That shocked them to action, and as many dwarves as possible were hanging off the path to get the pair. She swung Bilbo up to someone’s waiting arms, and with her other arm free, pulled herself up, still hanging onto her wand. She would honestly be surprised if it was not cracked, given how tightly she was holding it.

“Laelynn?” asked Bilbo, shocked, and she put her wand back into her holster before giving him a tired smile.

“Hey there, Bilbo,” she said, tipping an imaginary hat demurely, “Fancy seeing you here.”

Dwalin and Thorin were talking in low voices, until the King under the Mountain burst out angrily, “He’s been lost ever since he left home.” It was obvious they were talking about Bilbo, and Laelynn frowned slightly as the hobbit got a dejected expression. She had become a bit affectionate towards him while watching their camp, sympathising when the leader of their illustrious company was treating him with cool disdain.

The rest of the dwarves had finally seemed to realise who she was. “Laelynn?” Kíli echoed Bilbo (he even used the same shocked tone), and the girl felt every eye look at her again, taking in that yes, this was the girl they found three weeks ago. She wiggled her fingers in a little wave.

“In the flesh,” she said. Thorin looked ready to interrogate her then and there, but Balin decided to employ some common sense and objected.

“We have to find shelter!” he cried over the wind, and Thorin looked over the group. Bilbo looked half-drowned, and the rest, while not as badly soaked, appeared farther from dry then Kneazles from Crups. They started moving then, looking for some crack or crevice to shelter in. Fíli and Kíli came back from where they’d scouted ahead, to lead them to a dry cave they’d found. Thorin and Dwalin were reluctant to enter, stating caves in the mountains were hardly unoccupied, but acquiesced when Bilbo gave a violent sneeze

The dwarves spread out around the cave, dumping weapons on the sandy floor, and Bilbo sunk to the ground in a corner. Still in shock from falling off a mountain, she thought, standing in the entrance. Laelynn made to go to an empty space at the edge of the cave, when her arm glanced off the entrance to the cave. A hiss of pain escaped her, and she drew her arm back to her side, cradling it against her body as she remembered (again), that the bone was broken.

Looking up, she saw Óin walking towards her, while Ori, Fíli, Kíli, and Bilbo watched. The others were still settling in, though Dori kept sending his brother worried looks when the younger’s back was turned.

“Now lass,” began the healer, still advancing, “Mind telling me what happened to yer arm?”

“Not much to tell, really,” she said slightly louder than she normally would, holding her arm out to the dwarf, “The giants were throwing rocks, one hit my arm.” Óin tsked as he inspected her outstretched limb from all angles.

“It’s a clean break,” he said, going to get his medical kit, “But if I don’t set the bone, it’ll heal wrong.” He frowned, then poked her arm. Laelynn grit her teeth, but held back her retort; she was not the healer with years of experience. “In fact,” he started slowly, “It’s already started. We’re going to have to re break the bone.” She winced, as did the dwarves who had had to have a bone re broken themselves.

“Best get it over with, Master Óin,” Laelynn sighed, pulling back the sleeve of her shirt. Óin handed her a strip of wood, then motioned for Dwalin to join him.

“What’s this for?” she asked, turning it over in her hands.

“You bite it instead of your tongue,” Dwalin said bluntly, moving to stand behind her. The other dwarves were watching the action unfold. Those that had gone through the procedure had expressions of sympathy, while those lucky enough not to looked on curiously. She took the wood and put it between her teeth.

“Ready?” Óin asked, and before she could say no, he had already broken her arm. Her scream of shock was muffled by the block in her mouth, and she threw a furious glare at the dwarf, who simply continued on, unconcerned. He started shifting the bones, and Laelynn really wished someone would talk or something, because the sound of her bones being realigned? On her scale of horrible noises, the crunching, grinding noise of bones shifting was worse Lockheart’s pompous self-adoration, but better than Molly Weasley’s banshee screech. Slightly.

Five minutes later, Óin had finally finished. “Yeh alright lassie?” he asked, pulling out some bandages from his pack. Three minutes in, most of those watching had left out of boredom, and gone to light a fire. Thorin had stopped them though, so they were sitting in a huddle to stay warm.

“Just fine,” she said, moving to make her arm easier to wrap. He grunted his thanks, and the two sat in silence as the rest of those watching left to scrounge some food from their packs. All but Bilbo.

“I do apologise if I hurt your arm,” he said once Óin finished splinting it, “Hanging onto it, I mean.” He looked so sad and contrite, Laelynn couldn’t be angry at him (not that she was in the first place).

“No worries, Master Baggins,” she replied, shooting him a grin, “You were hanging off the uninjured one, no harm done.” He didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t look ready to throw himself off the mountain anymore, either. Fíli and Kíli had listened to their conversation, and were shooting her awed looks.

“You mean you hung off that mountain—” Kíli started.

“—using your broken arm?” Fíli finished (she was reminded forcefully of the Weasley Twins). The two boys seemed awestruck, and Laelynn supposed hanging off a mountain with a broken arm was pretty awe-worthy.

“I s’pose did,” she answered. She turned, and was faced with the unrelenting stare of Thorin from across the cave. She stared right back, and after ten seconds off meeting his eyes, Fíli and Kíli started looking at her in awe again. A couple of the other dwarves (namely Balin and Dwalin) looked slightly annoyed at her defiance to their king, yet at the same time slightly respectful of her ability to do so.

He started after their staring contest reached a minute, “How long have you been following us?” he demanded.

“Until Gandalf gets here, I’m not saying anything,” she replied. Thorin sputtered for a moment, before his eyes hardened into blue chips of ice. He glared at her for a moment longer, before spinning round and stalking off as far as he could in the cave, coat billowing behind him.

The others tried to get her to talk, but it only took a few fruitless attempts before they left the topic alone. After a dinner of crackers and cheese (Nori had given her some of his, despite her protests, and to take some of her own food out after would have been rude), Thorin gave Bofur the watch duty, and told them to turn for the night.

Laelynn was woken by a stabbing pain in her arm, and sighed as she felt the effects of Skelegrow once again. She’d taken some after climbing into the blankets she’d been given (seriously, if they would just let her get to her pouch before offering all these things), and fallen into a fitful sleep; the dreams had continued, as they had every night since the first.

She’d actually been able to find some things out about what had happened while she’d been gone (if the dreams were true, which she was entirely sure they were). As far as she could tell, Voldemort had regained a body, Dumbledore had reinstated the Order of the Phoenix and told the Golden Trio about it, and Snape was once again spying.

She’d also found Percy had left his family (though for what reason, she didn't know), Cornelius Fudge had made his Under Secretary the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, said Under Secretary was a bigoted racist twat, and that Dipsy and the other House Elves were the only ones who had realised she was gone. The small Elf was continuously bawling, and every time she saw her Laelynn felt incredibly guilty about stray thoughts of staying on Middle Earth.

But she hadn't been able to find anything more on those three people from the first night. They didn't always show up, but when they did, they were playing their ever-changing game. And the one would always look up and say ‘soon’. It was driving her up the metaphorical wall, and across the ceiling as well.

Trying to distract herself from the pain in her arm, Laelynn let her eyes wander around the cave, taking in the sleeping dwarves. They all looked so much more peaceful in sleep than in waking, but were just as loud. Their soft snores cut through the silence of the cave, broken only by the rain outside.

Her eyes caught on Thorin, who was awake and staring at her. She met his eyes, quirking her brow in a question. Before he could answer, Bofur’s whispered voice flitted over to them, and both strained to listen.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he questioned. Laelynn, lifting her head a fraction, saw Bilbo standing by the mouth of the cave. He must be trying to leave, she thought, which was confirmed a moment later.

“Back to Rivendell,” he said, staring at the dwarf. Laelynn ducked her head down a bit, but raised it a second later. Thorin’s eyes were on her questioningly, and she knew it must be more difficult for him, seeing as he had only his ears to rely upon.

“No, no,” whispered Bofur, moving to stand in front of the hobbit, “Ye can’t turn back now. You’re part of th…” She couldn't hear what he said next, but his voice became louder again, “You’re one o’ us.” Ah. Bilbo was doubting his place in the Company.

“I’m not though, am I?” he replied, no longer whispering but still speaking quietly. Bofur must have made some sort of face, because Bilbo’s voice softened faintly, “Thorin said I should've never have come, and he was right.” Laelynn took a second to glare at the dwarf, who at least looked a tad contrite.

The hobbit tapped his walking stick on the floor twice, and turned to the cave entrance. Bofur spoke with a tine of understanding, “You’re homesick,” he said, then nodded his head, “I understand.”

“No you don’t!” Bilbo exploded in a whisper, “None of you do — you’re dwarves.” He pointed at the miner, “You– you’re used to– to this life, to living on the road, never settling, not belonging anywhere!” His voice had gotten a tiny bit louder by the end, and Thorin looked offended and angry. Bilbo got a shamefaced expression, “I am sorry, I didn't…” he started, but trailed off; apologies would just be worthless after what he said, and he knew it.

The tension in Bofur’s shoulders lessened a little, and he seemed to steel himself for his next words, “No, you’re right,” he said, then turned to look at the slumbering dwarves, “We don’t belong anywhere.” Thorin looked at the ground, a thousand emotions swirling in his eyes, and Laelynn looked at him in concern. “I wish you all the luck in the world,” the dwarf said, and moved to clasp Bilbo’s shoulder, “I really do.”

Bilbo moved to leave, when Bofur pointed at his waist, “What’s that?” he asked, and even from as far as she was Laelynn could see the blue light coming from Bilbo’s scabbard. She sucked in a breath and dove for her sword.

A great creaking and groaning of machinery rumbled through the cave, and don the centre of the floor a crack started to widen. “Wake up! Wake up!” yelled Thorin, having realised what was going on. But he was too late. The dwarves tumbled down the widening crevice; Laelynn tried in vain to keep out of it, but it was all for naught, as she too fell into the great black tunnel.

The sides of the mechanism came together again, and sand fell from hidden machinery. When all movement had ceased, the cave was in exactly the same condition as the dwarves had found it; abandoned.

Chapter Text

Staring at the pustule-filled, deformed face of the King Goblin, Laelynn decided that when she next saw Gandalf, she was going to rip his fucking beard off. That motherfucker was probably lounging around at the end of the mountain, waiting for the group. He’d be waiting for a long fucking time if some miracle didn’t  show up and save them.

After falling down the tunnel under the cave (and hadn’t that been fun), the group had been captured by a load of Goblins (nothing like the ones at Gringotts; these ones were definitely not bankers). Their weapons had been stolen from them, and only a Confundus had them skipping her wand and knives. She had been too late for her sword, and it was sitting on the top of the pile of weapons being dragged along in one of the carts.

She’d grabbed Bilbo and shoved him to the middle of the group, along with Fíli, Kíli and Ori, so he was protected on all sides by the other dwarves and herself. They had been taken over rickety bridges and wooden platforms to a large cavern, where the Great Goblin lounged on his throne (he had to be him: who else would sit on a throne made of bones?).

He jumped off his throne (seriously, eww) and stomped over to the dwarves, crushing a number of smaller goblins underfoot. He sprayed spittle as he began to speak, “Who would be so bold as to come armed into my kingdom?” he questioned, “Spies? Thieves? Assassins?” his voice increased in pitch with every word he spoke, until he was screeching into the silence that pervaded the cavern.

“Dwarves, Your Malevolence,” said a small goblin in front of Laelynn, “A small child of some sort.” She could feel Bilbo bristling behind her, but the goblin spoke again, “And a female.” She scowled, and kicked it in the back, which gained her a screech of pain, but the damage had already been done.

“Oho oho, a female, you say?” asked the Great Goblin. He leaned forward until he was nose to nose with her, and Laelynn was using every ounce of self-control she had to not start retching at his stench. “Yes, definitely a female. Oh, we’ll have fun with her, boys,” he said, and there was a great cheer from the goblins perched around the cavern. He backed away, and turned to the goblin, who was still rubbing it’s back.

“We found them on the Front Porch,” it said, correctly divining what it’s leader wanted to know.

“What are you waiting for?” he cried, “Search them! Every crack, every crevice!” The goblins surrounding them took to their task with glee, grabbing anything and everything from the group. Óin’s hearing trumpet was crushed underfoot by a goblin, and others were dumping their packs out on the platform they were on (she was forever grateful she kept all her stuff in her pouch). A large number of things Laelynn remembered seeing in Rivendell fell out of one pack, and more than a few eyes turned to a sheepish-looking Nori.

“Jus’ a couple of keepsakes,” he stated at Dori’s incredulous look. The Great Goblin had turned to stare at them again, after throwing one of the candelabras into the gloom of the cave.

“What are you doing in these parts?” he asked. No one answered, and he tried a different tack. “If they won’t talk, we’ll make them squawk,” he shouted gleefully, and received a clamour of agreement from the goblins perched on the walls. “Bring out the Mangler!” he yelled, “Bring out the Bone-Breaker!” His eyes gained an unholy light, “We’ll start with the female,” he cried, pointing at her.

“‘The female’ has a name,” Laelynn muttered petulantly, but her voice was lost in the din the goblins were making.

“Wait!” cried Thorin, stepping forward and pushing her back. She scowled at his back as the King Goblin peered closely at the dwarf. She wasn’t completely defenseless; the goblins had, again, missed her knives and her wand, and she wasn’t above stabbing one in the back if she could.

“Look who it is,” the Great Goblin was saying, “Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror; King under the Mountain,” he gave a greatly exaggerated bow. Thorin looked distinctly unamused. “But I’m forgetting,” he continued, “You don’t have a mountain. And you’re not a king. Which makes you,” he paused unpleasantly, “Nobody, really.” From the way he was standing ramrod straight, Laelynn was certain Thorin was glaring at the Great Goblin. He wasn’t the only one; many of the dwarves looked outraged at the slight on their leader.

The Great Goblin leaned in close to Thorin, “I know someone who would pay a pretty price for your head,” he said, and grinned nastily as he stood up again. “Just the head, nothing attached.” The goblins around them were getting excited, moving and chittering. Thorin’s glare was getting stronger with every word the pestilent creature spoke. “Perhaps you know who I speak of,” he continued, “A Pale Orc astride a White Warg,” he paused, seemingly thinking, “At least, it was white until a few weeks ago ago.”

Laelynn started in surprise, thoughts racing. Was the Warg she killed the Pale Orc’s? It made sense, she supposed, as she’d never seen another Warg like that one. Granted, her knowledge of Wargs was limited, but in the library at Rivendell there had been books saying how White Wargs were incredibly rare to see.

“Azog the Defiler was destroyed,” said Thorin, voice choked with emotion, “He was slain in battle long ago.” To Laelynn, it looked like the dwarf was trying to convince himself what he said was true.

“So you think his defiling days are done, do you?” the Great Goblin said lowly, then began to laugh. It was a wheezy chuckle, and terrified Laelynn more than anything he had said earlier. “Send word to the Pale Orc,” he said to a tiny goblin sitting in a basket. It scribbled onto a slate it was holding, “Tell him I have found his prize.” The goblin cackled and swung away into the darkness.

From the walls of the cavern, goblins emerged, dragging torture machines on their shoulders. The Great Goblin was singing a horrible tune, about how they would be beaten and battered and all number of unpleasant things. The goblins around them were even more excited now, jumping around and getting ropes ready. A group of three descended on Laelynn, and only the quick actions of Bofur kept her from their ministrations (for the moment).

A goblin was looking at their weapons, and had picked up Thorin’s blade. Laelynn had only a second to brace herself before a large shriek rang through the cavern. The Great Goblin was trampling goblins underfoot as he tried to get as far from it as physically possible.

“I know that sword!” he shrieked in terror, “It is Biter, the blade that slashed a thousand goblin necks!” The little piece-of-shit goblin that had talked to the Great goblin had corralled his fellows, and was directing them to whip the group with ropes. She winced as it dug into her skin of her face, and knew that in less than a day she’d have a nice line of welts across her cheek. If you survive that long, that is, she thought. Bilbo, she saw, had ducked out of sight of the goblins, and reached the pile of swords.

“Slash them!” yelled the Great Goblin, waving his arms around, “Beat them! Kill them! Kill them all!” he was becoming more and more hysterical, “Cut off his head!” A small goblin pulled a bone dagger from his belt, and jumped on top of Thorin. He raised it preparing to strike, when Bilbo tackled it from the side, his sword in his hands. They grappled for the blade, but another goblin took the first’s place, raising it’s blade to kill Thorin. Laelynn turned back to the goblin attacking her with it’s rope, and wished that her death would be quick.

A blinding white light filled the cavern, muting the screeches of the goblins and knocking everyone to the floor. Many goblins were blown off the platform, including the one Bilbo was holding tight to. Her heart clenched, and she silently grieved for the hobbit. Nearly all the torches had been blown out as well, casting the cave into a deeper darkness then before the bright light. A figure was walking towards the group, sword drawn, hat standing tall upon his head.

Gandalf — that motherfucker.

“Take up arms!” he said slowly, the eye of every dwarf and goblin upon him. “Fight,” he said, then repeated it in a much louder tone, “Fight!”

The wizard had spurred the dwarves to hope, and fight they did. Laelynn reached the pile of weapons, and started dispersing them amongst the dwarves, grabbing her own sword as she did so. Gandalf was fighting as well, swinging his sword and staff around, killing any goblin who came near him. She unsheathed her sword, and immediately put it to use decapitating the piece-of-shit goblin. A small smile graced her features.

“He wields the Beater,” cried the Great Goblin, cowering at the edge of the platform, “Bright as daylight!”

The dwarves were fighting viciously, often teaming up to do the maximum amount of damage to the hordes of goblins. “Thorin!” someone cried, and the King turned to deflect a blow from the Great Goblin with enough force to send him (and a number of goblins behind him) falling off the platform.

“Follow me!” yelled Gandalf, swinging his sword at any goblin fool enough to go near him, “Quickly!” One by one, the group finished their fight and joined the wizard, and once all were in attendance they sprinted across the bridges of Goblin Town.

“Quickly!” Gandalf yelled again, as hundreds of goblins chased after the group, shrieking and snarling. Running towards them came more goblins, and Dwalin looked around for a second.

“Post!” he yelled, and some of the dwarves cut the ropes to one of the guardrails. Dwalin picked up the front, “Charge!” he cried, and they ran forwards, using the post to knock goblins off the bridge, clearing the way for them to run. Laelynn swung her sword at a goblin, knocking him off the path and onto a bridge below. It broke, sending him and the other goblins on it into the gloom.

She didn’t know how long they’d been running, killing goblins, trying to stay alive. The monotony would be broken when she had to fight a particularly skilled opponent, or the dwarves pulled off a maneuver that by all means should have been anatomically impossible.

They reached a dead end, and Gandalf cut the ropes to the platform, allowing it to swing over to the side of the gap. Laelynn glanced behind her, at the mass of limbs that was the goblins chasing them, and her already low to begin with hope fell even lower. How were they going to get out of this?

Gandalf was leading them to an exit, she knew it. Now all they had to do was stay alive until they reached it, and pray that it was daytime outside. The goblins started to fall behind, and they reached a bridge devoid of anything. Laelynn almost relaxed for a split-second, before the Great Goblin burst through the planks of wood. Damn. Why couldn’t he have died?

Goblins piled up on both sides of the bridge, meaning there was no chance of escape that way. Gandalf pushed the dwarves behind him as he moved to face the putrid creature.

“You thought you could escape me?” the Great Goblin cried, swinging his mace and pushing Gandalf back a few steps. “What are you going to now, Wizard?” he questioned, making Gandalf’s title seem like an insult. From where he had fallen against the dwarves, Gandalf scowled, then lunged forward, poking the Great Goblin in the eye.

He howled in pain, flailing around, and when he turned to face Gandalf again, the Wizard sliced open his stomach. “That’ll do it,” he said, surprised. Gandalf sung his sword again, slicing the Great Goblin’s throat and killing him instantly. The body toppled to the bridge, which swayed alarmingly.

“Gandalf…” Laelynn started hesitantly. The bridge cracked down the middle, and the section with the goblins stayed in place, while their section fell into the pit below. Sliding down the walls of the cave, Laelynn held tight to the wood beneath  her while swearing loudly. Most of the other dwarves were also terrified out of their minds, but the ones that still could hear her over the rush of wind in their ears were looking at her with a mixture of awe and respect.

They crash-landed at the bottom of the pit, and Laelynn quickly removed herself from the rubble along with Gandalf. “Well that coulda been worse,” said Bofur, his accent coming through strongly. The corpse of the Great Goblin suddenly slammed onto the wreckage, and many of the dwarves cried out in pain. Laelynn stifled her small grin.

“You’ve got ta be joking,” said Dwalin, pushing the large arm off him and Thorin. The dwarves mostly got themselves out (with a lot of grumbling), before Kíli cried out.

“Gandalf!” he shouted, looking up. Laelynn did as well, then immediately wished she hadn’t: thousands of goblins were crawling down the wall of the chasm they’d fallen into. The wizard looked over the dwarves, still struggling in the rubble.

“Only one thing will save us now,” he cried, as those free of the rubble pulled out the dwarves still trapped, “Daylight!” Laelynn could only hope it was day outside, or it wasn’t cloudy or some shit. They ran, weaving through the tunnels, until up ahead Laelynn saw a crack through which light was streaming through. She squinted at it, eyes watering at the light after who knew how long in darkness, and took little note of the laboured breathing coming from a side path: if it was a goblin, it would have already attacked.

They burst out of the crack in the mountainside, averting their eyes from the sun, shining above a forest in the distance (Mirkwood, her mind whispered). The group tumbled and trampled down the hilly slope, jumping and leaping over boulders and tree roots.

They reached a clearing and paused to catch their breath. Gasping for air, bent double and panting from exhaustion, the dwarves hardly moved as Gandalf counted them.

“Seven eight nine,” he muttered, also struggling for breath, “Óin, Glóin, that’s eleven…” He ended up with a total of thirteen, “Where’s Bilbo?” he cried, “Where’s our hobbit?”

Laelynn struggled to swallow the lump that rose in her throat, unbidden. “When you arrived,” she started, and Gandalf’s eyes snapped to her, “He was fighting a goblin.” The Wizard’s face paled. “I saw them fall off the platform,” she swallowed again, “I think he didn’t survive.” There, she said it. There was silence, a moment of mourning for the hobbit. Even Thorin bowed his head.

“No, he did,” chirped a voice from the side of the clearing, and as one the group turned to see Bilbo Baggins standing there, tucking something into his pocket. Fíli and Kíli gave yells of delight and tackled the hobbit. Gandalf was looking at him, or more specifically, his pocket, with narrowed eyes. Laelynn had retreated to the edge of the group, and was trying to clean the black blood off her blade. You need a name, she thought, resheathing it, I think I’ll call you Reaper.

“What happened doesn’t matter,” Thorin was saying, “What matters is why he came back.” The leaves on the trees surrounding them whispered as a light breeze flew through the clearing, while Bilbo and Thorin kept their gaze locked.

“I know you doubt me,” the hobbit began, “And yes, I often think of Bag End,” he gave a little shrug, “I miss my books. And my armchair, and my garden. It’s where I belong, it’s home. “That’s why I came back,” he continued, “‘Cause you don’t have one,” he looked around the semicircle of dwarves, “A home.” His eyes went back to Thorin, “It was taken from you. But I will help you get it back, if I can.” Thorin looked away, as he and the other dwarves thought about what the hobbit had said. Gandalf was looking on with pride in his eyes.

“I’ll help as well,” Laelynn said, after waiting for the moment to pass. The dwarves’ heads swivelled round to look at her, where she was leaning against a tree, arms folded in nonchalance.

“Yes, you,” said Thorin, “Now Gandalf is here, explain.” She moved closer to the company, away from the fringes of the trees, and sat on a conveniently-placed boulder.

“To answer your question,” Laelynn started, “I’ve been following you since Rivendell.” There was an uproar of noise, some of them yelling it wasn’t possible, they’d’ve spotted her, and others (most noticeably Fíli and Kíli) wanting to know how she’d done it.

“Why?” asked Thorin, and the voices of  the other dwarves quieted as they leaned in to hear her answer.

“What a broad question.” Laelynn laughed, “Why was I following you? Why am I here? Why do we breathe air instead of water, like fish?” Gandalf decided that then was his moment to shine.

“I asked her to join your company,” he said, drawing the attention to him.

“You thought I would take a woman with us to Erebor?” Thorin asked, deadly soft. Laelynn bristled, but (barely) kept a hold of her temper. “No Gandalf, it is too dangerous.” That hold on her temper? It was this close to snapping.

“But Thorin—” began Gandalf, but Thorin cut him off.

“No!” he said, “I will not endanger her nor my company. Take her back to Rivendell, Gandalf.” She may have been able to keep her temper in check, if Thorin had not talked about her like she was an object Gandalf could stick in his pocket and tote around Middle Earth. Unfortunately for him, he did, and Laelynn saw red. Later she would probably regret it, but she was so fucking tired of people treating her differently because of something she couldn’t control; her gender, her brains, her body, it didn’t matter. Her wand shot into her hand, and Laelynn stood up, the flames of her temper shining in her eyes. Ori and Bilbo, the only two not focusing on the steadily heating argument between Thorin and Gandalf, tried to calm her down, but she was done.

A large sweep of her wand around the clearing had all noise ceasing. Gandalf and Thorin, who had been nearly screaming at each other, were now silent clutching their throats in shock. The other dwarves also seemed to realise their voices were gone (except Ori and Bilbo, who had the sense to stay quiet). One by one, the dwarves turned to see her standing tall on the rock, wand in hand and eyes aflame.

She stepped to the ground, and slowly walked towards Thorin. Laelynn stared at him, nose to nose, before speaking in a low voice that carried around the silence of the clearing. “Do not,” she hissed, “Ever presume that because I am a woman, I am weak, I am powerless, I am lesser than you.” Another wave of her wand cancelled the spell, and the company celebrated the return of their voices by asking her questions all at once.

Gandalf intervened after a moment. “Enough,” he cried, and did… something. She didn’t know what, but one minute there was an old man leaning on his staff, the next, an ancient being of immense power, “If I say Laelynn is coming with us, then with us she will come.” And suddenly he wasn’t a great Wizard anymore, wasn’t more powerful than anything she’d ever seen; he was just Gandalf, their old man and guide across Middle Earth.

“Plus,” he added as an afterthought, “I have promised to try and get her home, and I am not one to renege on a promise.” His piece said, he leaned on his staff, content to watch the action unfold.

“What he mean, he promised to take you home?” asked Ori, before Dori shushed him and pulled his brother behind him. She was treated to the distrustful glare of an overprotective family member. Laelynn sighed, before reclaiming her seat on the boulder.

“What Gandalf means,” she replied, “Is what he said; he promised to try and give me a way home.” She sat on the rock, waiting for the inevitable question. When it finally came, it came from someone unexpected.

“Where is your home then?” asked Thorin. She wondered how to explain (and how would she explain? How could she explain that she had no home, not in the way they thought). But she was definitely was going to explain; no fucking way was she going to be the next Albus Dumbledore, keeping her secrets so close to her chest she never told anyone anything.

“I come from another world, Thorin Oakenshield, and I’m trying to get back to it,” she said. It only took a moment, then—


“Do you take us for fools?”

“Ha! Like I’d ever believe something like that!”

Laelynn sighed, and crossed her legs under her. She rolled her wand around in her hand, waiting for them to quiet down. After all, what use were explanations when the one doing the explaining wasn’t being listened to.

Ori, still slightly hidden behind his brother, gained a look of dawning comprehension. As Dori turned, because the exclamations of outrage were quickly becoming slights on the other dwarves, his younger brother shifted away. As his brother quietly walked towards her, Laelynn felt Nori’s eyes flitting from her to Ori, and sent what she hoped was a reassuring smile, lifting her hands to show she meant no harm. His eyes stayed on her though, even as his brother leaned against the rock next to her.

“Is this why the Lady Arwen wanted to research the idea of travel between universes?” he asked her quietly. She turned to him, a small sad smile on her face, and nodded. Ori straightened and walked back to the group of dwarves, a determined look on his features. Gandalf had managed to quiet the group, and keep the argument from turning into a full-fledged brawl.

“This is no lie,” he said, moving to stand by Laelynn, “She really is from another world.” Gandalf was going to say more, but a hand on his arm had him turning to see Laelynn shaking her head.

“It’s alright Gandalf,” she said, “If they don’t believe me, they don’t. Nothing I can do about it.” A lesson she had learned through experience, but true nonetheless. The wizard acquiesced, though still stood by her side. She stared at him for a moment, before turning back to the others. While most of them still had expressions of disbelief, a few seemed to have accepted it as truth. Ori, Kíli and Bilbo seemed slightly more open to the idea, while Fíli seemed to be stuck between denial and acceptance.

Laelynn stared at the King under the Mountain, and Thorin stared back, a brow raised in question. “You think I’m crazy,” she bluntly stated, and there was a nod of agreement from more than one dwarrow, “Fine. However, the fact remains that the solution to my problem lies in that mountain.”

“And what is that solution?” questioned Thorin.

“Gandalf said there was this rock… stone… thing that miners used to get into caves they couldn’t reach. He thought it might be able to get me back,” she answered. “Gandalf said,” she defended at his incredulous look, pointing to the wizard.

Thorin huffed. “And does this rock-stone-thing have a name, pray tell?” he asked scathingly. Bofur, meanwhile, looked like he was just about to remember something. Laelynn hmmed.

“I know the name was something to do with Indiana Jones,” she muttered, trying to remember. ‘Who’ was mouthed by Thorin at Gandalf. The wizard merely shrugged.

“‘Temple of Doom’? No,” she murmured to herself, “‘Raiders of the Ark’… Ark! That’s it!” Laelynn exultantly cried, startling a couple of the dwarves, “It’s the ‘Arkstone’.”

Thorin gave a full-body wince, his expression pained. “Why would the Arkenstone help?” he asked the wizard, stressing the name of the Arkenstone. (“I got ‘ark’ right,” Laelynn muttered petulantly).

“It could transport ye places,” Bofur answered instead, and rolled his eyes at the surprised looks he got. “I’m a miner,” he defended, “Some o’ the Ereborians I worked with talked abou’ this gem that could get them to the hardest to reach mines.” He turned to Laelynn, “I’m not going ta say I believe you, but if you were tryin’ ta travel to another world, that’d be the way to do it.”

Something warmed in Laelynn’s heart, a small blossom of affection for the miner. She tried to send him a thank you with her eyes, when he next looked at her, and he seemed to get the message if the slight softening of his gaze was anything to go by. Óin and Bifur appeared to be considering Bofur’s words, and Fíli looked like he had joined his brother in believing her. A small tear welled in her eye, and she blinked it away furiously.

“What was that you did earlier?” asked Kíli, moving towards her.

“With the silence and everything,” continued Fíli, joining his brother. Laelynn studied the two, the way they actually looked interested in what she was going to say. She rolled her wand in her palm, the last light of the sun disappearing in the trees behind her.

Waving her wand, a small trail of silver sparks flew out the tip. “Magic,” she said with a grin, cackling inside at the dumbfounded expressions of most of the company.

Then a howl ripped through the air.

“Out of the frying pan…” began Thorin, adjusting his grip on his sword.

“…And into the fire,” finished Gandalf, “Run. RUN!”

Chapter Text

They tumbled and slipped down the slope. Laelynn gasped as she tripped, and a Warg sailed over her head, landing and turning on her with a snarl. It ran at Bilbo, who held up his sword and looked shocked as the creature ran headlong into the waiting blade.

It fell to it’s side, dead, Bilbo’s sword still buried in it’s forehead. She ran past him, slicing the throat of one of the Wargs who was foolish to come close to her. They reached the edge of the tree line, and Laelynn shuttered to a stop when she saw the drop below.

“Into the trees!” yelled Gandalf, already halfway up the pine at the edge of the cliff. She took a running leap at the nearest tree, and pulled herself up onto the lowest branch. She climbed higher, until the branch under her feet gave a small creak of protest. “Come on, climb! Bilbo, climb!” The wizard continued to yell, and Laelynn turned to see the hobbit still trying to remove his sword from the Warg’s skull. She moved her sword to her left hand and pulled out her wand.

“Relashio,” she called, and a jet of purple light flew from her wand, releasing the sword from the skull. Bilbo stumbled back and nearly dropped his sword, then looked around for the other dwarves, who were mostly up the tree at that point.

Dwalin (still on the ground) picked him up and threw him to Kíli above, eliciting a strangled yelp of protest from the hobbit. He then swung himself up into the tree just as the first Wargs entered the now-empty space.

The circled the bases of the trees, and Laelynn swallowed down the fear she felt, pushing it behind her shields. An orc rode in on one of the Wargs, the mangy brown creature whining under his weight. His pale skin was crisscrossed with scars in precise pattern, and an iron claw was stuck in the stump of his left elbow.

“Azog?” Thorin breathed in shock from a tree near her. So this is the Pale Orc, she thought.

A cruel smile snaked across the creature’s thin lips. “Do you smell it?” he rasped, his voice sending a chill through her bones as he spoke a tongue so foul she would never repeat it, “The scent of fear?” He paced on his Warg, the small amount of moonlight glittering off his pale skin, before he spoke again, “I remember your father reeked of it, Thorin son of Thrain.”

Laelynn's mind wandered back to the conversation she’d had with Gandalf nearly a month ago, when he’d said the Thorin hadn't been told the secret of the stone before his father was killed. Seeing the look of helpless disbelief on his face, she wondered if there was more to it then the old king dying suddenly. Azog lifted his claw and pointed it at Thorin. “That one is mine,” he snarled, “Kill the others!”

The other Wargs streamed forward at his command, faster and thicker than blood from a wound. The ran at the trees, and the great pines protested the assault with creaks and groans. Laelynn clung to her branch as the tree shook, the wood beneath her feet cracking. The snarls of the Wargs and the snapping of their jaws filled the air, while Azog looked on with unholy glee.

There was a cry from the tree farthest from the edge, and she turned to watch in horror as the roots wrenched themselves out of the soil. Dry earth flew into the air as the tree fell against the one next to it. Which fell against the one next to it.

Like a row of dominoes the trees fell, and Laelynn’s shrieks joined the yells of the dwarves and the snarls of the Wargs in the air. The company was jumping off their trees as they fell, and as the roots of her own began to leave their home in the earth, she steeled herself. The smooth wood of her wand in one hand, the soft leather pommel of her sword in the other, Laelynn jumped to the branches of the tree next to hers, where the entire group now hung from branches, staring at the orcs.

A blur of light flew past her left ear, and Laelynn turned to see Gandalf passing out flaming pine cones to the others. Looking to the ground again, she saw how affected the Wargs were by the flames. “Incendio!” she yelled, and a stream of fire flew from her wand to the ground, catching easily on the dry brush. The Wargs were yelping, trying to avoid the attack, and many retreated with their fur on fire.

Suddenly, the tree’s roots began to break free of the earth, and the great pine started to fall off the cliff edge. The cries of the dwarves, which before had been victorious, were now startled and surprised. “Arresto Momentum,” she cried, wand pointed at the trunk. The tree slowed in its fall, and stopped parallel to the ground.

Laelynn stumbled and fell back onto the tree trunk, only wrapping her arms around a branch saved her from falling. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Ori lose his grip and fall, and twisting to see him, she saw he’d managed to grab hold of Dori’s foot and was hanging on for dear life. The eldest Ri brother lost his grip on the branch, and only Gandalf’s quick action saved the two from certain death.

The fires they had lit (which seemed like such a good idea at the time) were creeping closer and closer to the trunk. The Aguamenti charm was on her lips, when Thorin pulled himself up from the branch next to her, glaring at Azog. Laelynn shared a look with Bilbo across from, and saw her own disbelief mirrored there. He stood up himself, and took her sword and wand so that she could stand up as well.

Taking them back, she turned to see Thorin running at Azog. The orc was smiling cruelly, and as Thorin approached he reared his Warg and jumped at him. The King under the Mountain was clipped by the beast and fell to the ground, winded. Azog swung round, and his Warg clamped its jaws around Thorin, shaking him, before tossing him to the ground.

“No!” yelled Dwalin, moving to help. His branch broke under him as he tried to stand, and he was forced to hang on and watch helplessly. Bilbo had already moved forward to help Thorin while she stood transfixed by the scene before her. The cries of Dori and Ori behind her had Laelynn tighten her grip on her wand.

“Wingardium Leviosa,” she turned and said, swishing her wand and flicking it at Ori. The scribe gave a shout of surprise as he felt himself being lifted into the air and placed on the trunk in front of Gandalf, and his brother reacted the same way. She worked as quickly as she could, moving to get every member of the company onto the tree trunk.

When her task was complete, Laelynn turned to see Bilbo standing guard over Thorin’s fallen figure. The hobbit was ineffectually swinging his sword at three advancing Wargs, trying to keep them away from Thorin. Dwalin ran forward with a cry, the other dwarves following his lead. Laelynn shrugged to herself before hefting her sword in one hand, wand in the other and joining them.

She ran to join Bilbo while the other dwarves took care of the rest of the orcs. He had run at Azog, only to be tossed aside by the Warg like a rag doll. His sword had skittered away, and he was defenceless against the advancing beast. Laelynn ran forward and leapt with a cry, swinging her sword in a deadly arc.

The head of Azog’s Warg bounced along the ground, rolling to a stop next to Thorin. The Defiler’s face twisted with hate. “So,” he snarled at her, “This is the brat my scouts said joined the dwarves. Whatever they may have promised you, the only thing you will get is death.” Oh shit, she thought, as Azog gestured for a nearby Warg to attack her. The beast growled at her, teeth snapping as it slowly advanced—

The Warg had vanished. Laelynn looked on in befuddlement, and gasped as she saw Eagles of Manwë carrying Wargs and orcs to the edge of the cliff and dropping them. She had read about the Great Eagles in Rivendell, and how they had kept orcs and goblins from Gondolin during the First Age.

Her thoughts were interrupted as one of the Eagles picked her up in its claws. Laelynn shrieked in alarm as she was dropped over the empty space past the cliff edge, and only stopped when she landed on the back of another Eagle. Turning back, she saw the other members of the company getting the same treatment she had. Only when she counted all 15 did she face forward again, and loosen her hold on feathers she hadn’t realised she was holding.

On the back of the Eagle, with the rising sun just shining on her face, Laelynn felt more at peace then she could ever remember being. She stretched out her arms to either side, sighing in contentment at the feeling of wind blowing past her. In her world, her chances at flying had been few and far between, so much so that she could count each instance on her fingers and still have a hand to spare.

“Thorin,” cried someone (she thought it was Fíli), breaking the quiet. Turning, she saw a deathly still figure being carried by an Eagle. The great bird had also managed to pick up his sword, she noticed.

They landed not much later, on a large rock shaped like a bear. She couldn’t tell whether or not it was carved to look like one, or if it had occurred naturally. “Thank you,” Laelynn said to the bird that had carried her once she slid off. “And farewell, wherever you fare, till your eyries receive you at your journey’s end.” The book in Rivendell had listed the correct farewell to give one of the great beings, and she now used it to express her thanks.

The Eagle seemed a bit surprised that she knew the correct farewell (though she couldn’t be sure. Expressions are very difficult to make out on the faces of birds), but replied in turn. “May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,” they said, and soared into the wide open sky.

The other Eagles disposed of their passengers on the rock, and glided into the air once more. Thorin was placed carefully on the rock, Orcrist falling to his side. Gandalf moved closer to Thorin, and muttered as he gently moved his hand over the dwarf. Laelynn joined the crowd around the two, and gasped as she saw the state Thorin was in. His armor had been pierced by the Warg’s jaws, and the torn flesh was bleeding sluggishly. But before her eyes, the wounds started to heal slowly, and Laelynn sucked in a silent breath as she watched Gandalf work.

What felt like hours later (though it couldn’t have been more than half a minute) Thorin’s eyes fluttered open, and Gandalf sagged against his staff in relief (though it could also have been fatigue). “The Halfling?” he breathed out the question, and the crowd around Thorin backed away a bit to give him a chance to sit up. Bilbo stood by Gandalf’s side, watching Thorin with open worry in his eyes.

Thorin struggled to his feet (Dwalin and Kíli helped him up, and once he was standing he shook them off), and turned to Bilbo. “You,” he growled, “What were you doing; you nearly got yourself killed.” The relieved atmosphere of moments earlier had vanished, “Did I not say you would be a burden?” he questioned rhetorically, walking towards the hobbit, “Did I not say you had no place among us?”

Poor Bilbo was trying to stutter out an answer. Laelynn was ready to tear the dwarf a new one; king or not, he was being a right dick to Bilbo. Thorin stood in front of the hobbit, and stared down at him. “I have never been so wrong in all my life,” he said suddenly, and hugged Bilbo.

...Wait what?

The dwarves cheered, and Gandalf smiled at the two. As Thorin released Bilbo from his hold, he looked into the distance. Bilbo followed his gaze, “Is that…” he began, and the group moved to the top  of the rock. Laelynn saw in the distance a solitary peak, while behind it the sky was awash with pink and gold.

“Erebor,” said Gandalf, leaning on his staff, “Last of the great dwarven kingdoms of Middle Earth. Laelynn looked around the company, and many of their faces held undisguised longing. Fíli and Kíli and Ori didn’t have that same look of bittersweet remembrance, but one of anticipation.

“Our home,” breathed Thorin.

A bird twittered as it flew past, doing a graceful loop before continuing its journey towards Erebor. “The birds are returning to the Mountain,” said Óin, adjusting his ear trumpet.

“We’ll take it as a good omen,” said Thorin, still looking at the Mountain with a smile on his face.

“You’re right,” Bilbo agreed, “I do believe the worst is behind us.”

As Bilbo finished speaking, Laelynn silently groaned and resisted the urge to bury her head in her hands. You’ve jinxed now, she thought sadly, and I was so looking forward to peaceful times ahead.

Chapter Text

Thorin wanted to continue to the mountain immediately, but Óin grabbed him and told him to sit down now, you were thrown around by a Warg. He was able to convince the healer to at least descend from the rock first, and it was not without a bit of grumbling that the Company tried to find a way to get down.

“While I’m not ungrateful for their help,” said Laelynn to Bilbo as they searched for a path, “I do wish the Eagles had dropped us somewhere a bit more convenient.”

The hobbit gave her a resigned smile in return. “Well,” he said pragmatically, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” They continued to look, until Bilbo saw a small path. It was small and narrow, and some parts had crumbled away, but it was the only path they could find. Going back to Thorin, they informed him of their discovery.

“Maybe the wizard could fix it,” muttered Óin loudly as he moved to help Thorin stand. As Gandalf explained to the healer that he couldn’t just ‘fix the path’, Laelynn slapped a hand to her forehead. She moved back to where Bilbo had seen the path, ignoring the hobbit’s questions. The wizard might not be able to fix the path, but she was certainly able.

“Reparo,” she intoned, waving her wand in a circular motion. The dwarves watched as the path fixed itself, stones and rocks melding together so securely there was no trace of a join or seam. Laelynn re sheathed her wand and started to walk down the rock face.

“Aren’t you coming?” she turned and asked, before continuing. Gandalf giggled (Laelynn was as freaked out as everyone else) as he walked after her, and the dwarves trailed behind him looking at the rock under their feet with distrust.

“S’not natural,” Dwalin muttered to his brother as they walked, “Stone shouldn't join together like metal.” Despite the doubts of the dwarves, the rock path didn’t crumble into nothingness and let them fall to their deaths, though it was still a relief to be on solid ground once more.

“Where are we going now Gandalf?” asked Bilbo once they sequestered themselves in a cave at the foot of the Carrock (as Laelynn had learned it was called).

“I mean to take you to the house of a friend of mine,” replied Gandalf, taking out his pipe and lighting it. He blew a smoke ring, then a smaller one that flew through the middle of the larger, before continuing. “After that, I will accompany you to the edge of Mirkwood. There is where I will leave you, as I have come far further on this quest than I meant to originally.”

His statement raised a lot of protest from the dwarves and Bilbo, while Laelynn sat off to the side on a rock and scraped some mud from the heel of her boot with her knife. “Enough!” roared Gandalf, effectively shutting up the dwarves, “There is a job I must complete, and you will do well to travel without me for a while.”

He would not be moved on the matter, no matter how much the dwarves protested. Laelynn sighed (and she did seem to be doing a lot of that lately) and stood up, moving to start a fire as the dwarves were too busy arguing with Gandalf (again). She cast the spell for bluebell flames, and began pulling some dried meats (if her stay in Rivendell had taught her anything, it was vegetables were a big ‘no’ for dwarves) from her neck pouch.

No one noticed until after Gandalf had shut down every argument the dwarves could come up with to convince him to stay, when Thorin barked an order for Óin and Glóin to start a fire, and his nephews to get something to eat. They stared at her in shock, and she rolled her eyes. “Someone had to actually set up camp while you badgered Gandalf about staying,” Laelynn said defensively, “You don’t have to eat if you don’t want to.”

That had the Dwarves descending on the food she had, and Laelynn was happy to pass most of them to Bombur to distribute. She sat down next to the fire, and stared into the flames as she let her thoughts wander. No sleep since the night in the cave meant she had no clue what was happening in her world, and the thought of going back only to find a pile of dead bodies frightened her. Though really, said a voice in her head, where on earth do you get these ideas? They’re probably just fine, so stop moping.

Once the dwarves realised she’d gotten all the meat from her pouch, it was all she could do to plead exhaustion and promise to answer the next day. Although, despite her tiredness, when the dwarves were settling down to rest she cast more than a few cushioning and warming charms by them, and only sent small smiles to the few dwarves who sent her a grateful look. She snuggled into a sleeping roll, and hoped that whatever dreams she had would quell her fears.

It took them a week to get to the house of Gandalf’s friend. True to her word, she’d explained the spellwork on her pouch as best she could. The two princes had been fascinated, and Ori had sat to the side, scribbling away in a journal he had. Though, letting them hold it was a mistake, as the pouch had been passed around every member of the camp, each of whom just had to try it out — to see if it was a hoax or not, obviously. Laelynn only got it back a full day after letting go of it, and she hurriedly placed it around her neck away from sticky fingers.

As the week passed, Laelynn found herself becoming acquaintances with some of the dwarves. Fíli and Kíli would talk to her as they walked, wanting to know as much about her world as they could. Ori would walk nearby when they did this, scribbling everything she said in a journal he had. When she asked why he had it, he gave her an indulgent smile. “I’m the scribe,” he had replied, “If I’m not writing everything down, what should I be doing?”

When it was time to set up camp, she found her bluebell fires popular, as they didn’t need fuel and didn’t let off any smoke. She would sit by the fire with her dinner, and more often than not Bifur would join her. Most of the time they would sit in companionable silence, yet sometimes his cousins would join them and on those nights they would converse more than the occasional hand gesture or eye roll (usually at one of the princes’ antics).

Gandalf had warned them immediately against hunting for any sort of meat while in Beorn’s lands (because that was the name of his friend), as the man was a skin-changer.

“What’s a skin-changer?” Bilbo had questioned, wheezing a bit as he tried to keep up with the strides of the much taller wizard.

“As the name suggests, it is a man who can change his skin,” the wizard had answered, once again smoking on his pipe. “Beorn sometimes takes the form of a great black bear, and other times that of a man.”

“Like an animagus?” Laelynn had asked, moving closer. Gandalf had looked at her with a confused expression. “A person who can change into an animal at will,” she’d elaborated. The wizard’s expression had cleared.

“Slightly like that, yes,” he’d said, and they’d continued walking.

When they reached Beorn’s house, it was surrounded by a tall thorny hedge. Even the tip of Gandalf’s hat didn’t clear the top of it as he paused to speak. “Now,” he said authoritatively, “You wait here, then come in pairs every five minutes. I leave it up to you to choose your pairs, but one of you will be last along. Come along Bilbo, Laelynn, there is gate along here somewhere.”

With that he started walking, leaving the girl and the hobbit to scramble after him while the dwarves divided themselves into pairs. They entered via a low wooden gate, and started walking to the house in the middle of the clearing. Bilbo seemed entranced by the place, while Laelynn looked around with slightly widened eyes as a blackbird flew towards the house.

Gandalf strode to the house, and standing on the steps was a giant of a man (Laelynn immediately thought of Hagrid), his ebony face surrounded by thick black hair and beard, and golden eyes framed by crow's feet.

“So these are the intruders,” he said to the bird, who was on his shoulder, before laughing a deep, rolling laugh. “They don’t look dangerous,” he rumbled, before jumping off the step and walking to the trio.

“Who are you?” he growled, all traces of levity gone. I thought he was a friend, she thought, as Gandalf straightened to his full height and pulled Bilbo out from where he was trying to hide in the wizard’s robes.

“I am Gandalf the Grey,” he said, the stone in his staff glowing for a moment.

“Never heard of him,” grumbled Beorn. Gandalf looked taken aback, and it was all Laelynn could do not to start laughing (Bilbo seemed to have the same problem). A few giggles did escape though, which brought the attention of the man onto her. “And who and what might you two be?” he asked. Gandalf looked like he was going to answer for them, so she quickly shot a stinging hex in his direction. The wizard jumped and scowled at her, but she only grinned angelically before turning back to Beorn (who was chuckled unrepentantly even as Gandalf glared at him).

“I’m Laelynn,” she said, and when it was obvious Bilbo wasn’t going to answer she did it for him, “And this here is my friend Bilbo, a hobbit from the Shire.” Bilbo bowed to Beorn, whose eyes twinkled with laughter.

Gandalf took that moment to slide back into the conversation, “My travelling companions were waylaid by goblins while travelling over the Misty Mountains.”

Beorn had an expression of interest on his face. “Tell me more,” he said, and Gandalf launched into a tale about the company’s journey, starting at a meeting at Bilbo’s home. The story was intersected by the arrival of the dwarves, whom Beorn didn’t seem to mind that much in favour of hearing the rest of the story.

It was this way Laelynn learned of the dwarves’ journey before she met them (though if she was being honest once she was showed up in the tale she stopped paying attention).

By the time Gandalf had finished the story every dwarf had arrived. Beorn laughed at the deception. “A fine tale,” he said, “The best I’ve heard in a long while. For that, you at least deserve dinner and a place to rest for a while.”

The group relievedly tromped into Beorn’s home, and at the sheer size of everything made Laelynn pause for a moment. The furnishings were mostly wood, and the dining table Beorn led them to was low and long and took up the entire room it was in.

They sat themselves down at the table, and from the kitchen dogs on their hind legs entered. Carrying platters of food in their paws (she didn’t even want to think about the logistics of it), they set the table, then joined them at it. On Laelynn’s left was a greyhound, while on her right there was a sheep. She just pulled in her elbows and ate. The dwarves and Bilbo looked a bit more uncomfortable, and Ori was squeaking whenever his elbow brushed against the ram net to him.

After the meal was over, Beorn had some of his animals bring in blankets for the company to sleep on. “I will see you in the morning,” he said in his rumbling voice, standing near the door, “Do not leave the house until the dawn.” Laelynn wanted to ask why, but one look at the seriousness of his expression had her biting down her question. He left then, shutting the door behind him with a muted thud.

The dwarves broke off into groups, settling by the fire and pulling things out of their pockets to play with. Gandalf had pulled out his pipe and was blowing smoke rings with Bilbo. Most of them didn’t stay rings for long, the wizard turning them into ships and butterflies and all sorts of unrelated things and sending them through Bilbo’s own smoke rings (Laelynn thought he was only doing it to show off, or to get the hobbit to pout. It was probably both).

Some of the dwarves were pulling out instruments, and soon they were singing quietly. Laelynn felt calm and content as she sat by the fire, listening to the deep timbres of the dwarves voices. The songs had varied topics, but the tone of the songs were kept the same: low and soulful, lulling her into a doze.

“Laelynn?” asked Ori. She blinked and looked around, noticing how quiet it was without the music. Ori was still looking at her expectantly.

“Could you repeat that?” she asked him, a small stain of red on her cheeks showing her embarrassment at missing the question.

“I asked if you would sing us a song,” the dwarf said, looking at her with hopeful eyes. If she looked at the others, Laelynn knew she would see the same expression in some of their eyes. Her blush spread from her cheeks to cover her entire face, and Laelynn wanted to hide her head in her hands.

She didn’t sing in front of people. She was part of the Hogwart’s choir, but that was a group, where she blended in and wasn’t noticeable. But… Ori’s face seemed to fall further with every second she didn’t answer, his large brown eyes starting to water. She wondered idly how his brothers were ever able to say no to him.

“Alright,” she said, straightening, “Just a warning, my singing voice is terrible.” Her last-ditch effort to get out of it was met by a few chuckles, but these melted away in light of anticipation. Laelynn hmmed, trying to think of a song she could sing, and immediately thought of the song Professor Flitwick had had them learn at the end of term. It was not a happy tune, but the other songs she knew by heart didn’t work without a group (and sometimes an accompanying toad choir). Clearing her throat, she began to sing, letting herself get lost in the haunting melody.

Carry my soul into the night
May the stars light my way
I glory in the sight
As darkness takes the day

Ferte in noctem animam meam
Illustrent stellae viam meam
Aspectu illo glorior
Dum capit nox diem

Cantate vitae canticum
Sine dolore actae
Dicite eis quos amabam
Me nunquam obliturum

Sing a song, a song of life
Lived without regret
Tell the ones, the ones I loved
I never will forget

Never will forget.”

There was silence when Laelynn finished. The jovial mood from earlier had gone, and she knew she was the cause. Standing, she uttered a soft goodnight before letting her feet take her to her small bed, aware but uncaring of the eyes on her back.

As she lay on her side and let her thoughts drift, the dwarves began to sing again. Gone were the ballads from earlier; Thorin was singing a lament, and Laelynn let herself drift to sleep on the tales of prosperous dwarves and the ravages of dragon fire.

Chapter Text

They stayed in Beorn's house for a week, a week which they used to heal and rest. Beorn was a gracious host, letting them use any and all of his supplies that they found necessary.

Laelynn spent the majority of her time in Beorn's vast gardens, walking through the flowers and using the time to think. Sometimes Bilbo joined her, and he would compare some of Beorn's flowers to specimens of the Shire. In turn, Laelynn would compare both examples to the ones she had studied in Herbology, using her wand to create an image of the plant or sometimes even a physical copy. These she would give to Bilbo, who graciously accepted them.

After Beorn brought back the Warg pelts and orc heads, however, Bilbo spent his days inside with Thoin, as the King under the Mountain had been assigned bed rest by Óin and was not allowed to leave or there would be words. Once Bilbo started spending his days indoors, Laelynn walked alone, and while her dreams still showed her scenes from her world (Voldemort was doing nothing, and people other than Dipsy had noticed she was gone. It was only Luna and Neville, but it filled her with happiness to realise the only reason they hadn't found out earlier was due to being out of the country. Although, Luna had probably known since May and was only now making a fuss because she wanted to), she found herself barely thinking of them during the daylight hours.

She also spent time with some of the dwarves. Bombur was perfectly happy to trade recipes with her (she couldn't wait to try making some of them and surprising Dipsy with her new culinary prowess), while Bofur would sing bawdy songs, and seemed incredibly impressed when she responded with some in turn. Bifur was happy to join her walking around the garden, listening as she talked about meaningless things and helped her gather some herbs for both her's and Óin's medical kits.

Fíli and Kíli still pestered her for stories of her world, with Ori dutifully taking notes. They had managed to start getting her to tell them about her time at Hogwarts, and while there were bad times (she would always be on Madam Pince's shit-list for her first year naïvety), she always told them stories about the good (Percy's face when he saw what she got him for his birthday was priceless).

Dori and Nori had both come to her (separately) to make sure she wasn't a threat to their brother. When she had been able to assuage their fears, though, they had talked often. She would listen to Glóin's stories about his wife and son, and the burly dwarf was overjoyed when he realised she was actually listening, instead of merely nodding at the right moments.

Dwalin was willing to spar with her, giving her advice that even her best teachers didn't know simply because he was used to using a sword, and Balin was teaching her about the history of the dwarves (at least, what he could tell her). When Laelynn learned that there was a goddamn dragon in Erebor, she stormed to where Gandalf was sitting with Beorn, grabbed him by his beard, and explained in no uncertain terms that the next time he wanted her to do something he better include small details like fucking dragons. Beorn laughed at the way Gandalf kept rubbing his chin once she had left, and would chuckle whenever she shot Gandaf venomous looks after.

By the end of the week, though, Thorin was healed and ready to brave the Mirkwood.

"Master Beorn," he said the evening of the seventh day, after the dogs had taken away dinner. "We thank you for your hospitality," he said, "And would have one more favour to ask of you; give us some supplies for our journey through Mirkwood." Laelynn hid her wince at his plea (more of an order, really), and turned to Beorn to see if he would give them supplies.

He wouldn't.

"No," he said, and moved to leave the room. Gandalf sat stunned for a second, before moving swiftly to catch Beorn's elbow.

"Can you not find it in your heart to help us?" he asked, pitching his voice to appeal to the man. Beorn looked the wizard up and down, taking in the raggedy grey clothes and tall hat before shaking his head.

"No," he repeated, again moving to leave, "I have given you food and shelter for a week, and have kept those orc scouts who have tracked you here from reporting to their master." He looked at the table, and the dwarves and Bilbo and Laelynn looking back at him, then turned away and started again towards the door. Gandalf sat back down, pulling his hat from his head and twisting it in his hands.

Laelynn stood up, an idea rapidly forming. "Wait," she called to the retreating Beorn. He stopped, then turned around, his eyes telling her to make her point quickly. She swallowed, then spoke again, stuttering slightly. "Y–you let us stay here because of Gandalf's story, right?" A terse nod. "Well, what if we told you another story? Could we have some supplies then?"

Beorn was still staring at her. Laelynn stood firm, unwavering even under his intense gaze. Gandalf had stopped twisting his hat, and the group at the table were watching the two silently.

Then Beorn gave a great, booming laugh, and gestured for her to follow him. Laelynn did so, and from behind her there was the sounds of shuffling footsteps as the dwarves followed. The man sat in front of the fire, and stretched his feet in front of him. He pointed at a cushion near his feet for her to sit, and Laelynn quickly made her way over. She saw the rest of the company enter the room and find places to sit themselves. Gandalf entered last with a small scowl twisting his lips, but his face quickly cleared.

Before she could wonder what that was about, Beorn was speaking again. "So little birdie," he started (he had been calling her that all week and she still didn't know why). "You'll give me a story in exchange for supplies?" he asked, and she swallowed the lump in throat before answering. She was going to have to tell them all anyway, why not now?

"Yes," she answered, "I tell you my story, and in return you give us supplies — and a way to Mirkwood." She was being bold, she knew it. But if they didn't get to the woods quickly, well… (once they were in the forest, they would be safe, simply because no one was crazy enough to follow them there. Which raised the question of their own sanity, and hers for following them there, but she tried not to think about that if she could help it)

Beorn knew she was being bold too, and his booming laugh ran through the house again. "Yes," he agreed, his laugh still twinkling through his eyes, "And ponies to take you to Mirkwood." At this point the levity fled from his eyes, chased away by the primal power now residing in them. Laelynn was forcibly reminded that though he sometimes wore the skin of a man, Beorn was raw animalistic power and she would do well to remember that. "But no farther," he said, and she nodded in accord.

"We'll release them at the forest's edge," Laelynn agreed. There was a noise of protest from Thorin, which was followed by the sound of wood hitting flesh. Gandalf leaned on his staff innocently while Thorin glared at him, but the dwarven king remained silent. Everyone in the room was watching her curiously, and she wondered where to start. Well, the best place to begin is the beginning.

"I come from another world," Laelynn stated. "This you all know, but what you don't know is what my world is like.

"You have your men and elves and dwarves — and hobbits." She grinned at Bilbo. "And many, many more, I'm sure. In my world there are also thousands of species and peoples, but the easiest way to classify them is whether or not they have magic. I am part of the group who has magic," Laelynn let a small smirk slpi onto her features. They would get the joke after. "But the majority of people are those who don't.

"There are some magical people who believe themselves to be better because of this. Not because they are the smaller group," she hastened to explain, "But because they were gifted with magic when others weren't.

"Some twenty five years ago, a man who believed himself better than the people without magic, the 'Muggles', began to gather followers. Some joined for power, others out of fear, yet jon they did, and soon this man had a massive army at his disposal. He was once Tom Riddle, but as he delved deeper and deeper in Dark Magic, losing any and all of his humanity, he took a new name: Voldemort.

"Voldemort and his 'Death Eaters' attacked muggles for sport, torturing, killing, and raping their victims. They also attacked magicals they deemed 'impure', because their parents were muggles, or they were not entirely human, or another reason.

"Some tried to oppose him; the Order of the Phoenix was the resistance group led by Albus Dumbledore, that did the most in the fight along with the Aurors." Balin had a look of veiled curiosity in his eyes. "I suppose the equivalent to Aurors here would be Guardsmen," Laelynn answered the unspoken question, and more than one face cleared in understanding.

"But it wasn't enough." She spoke gravely. "The Light were losing, the Order's reluctance to use lethal spells and the Aurors being infiltrated meant that any resistance to Voldemort was failing." The room was silent, everyone hooked on her words.

"But then something happened that no one could have expected," Laelynn continued. "A prophecy was delivered to Albus Dumbledore while he interviewed a Seer for the position of Divination teacher." She took a breath.

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark them as his equal, but they will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…"

Laelynn took a moment to compose herself before continuing. "There were two children that fit the prophecy: Neville Longbottom—" she shot a silencing spell at the Durin princes automatically, smirking a bit when their attempt at sniggering turned to panic at their inability to make a sound, "—and Harry Potter.

"But Voldemort had heard the first two lines of the prophecy, and was determined to destroy the threat to his power. Dumbledore told both families of the prophecy and had them go into hiding.

"It wasn't enough. Voldemort found the Potter's house when Lily and James were at an Order meeting, and killed the watcher for young Harry. He then turned his wand on the child and cast the Killing Curse." There were horrified gasps, and the room leant forward towards her. Laelynn continued in a quieter voice.

"It didn't work," she said, and this time the gasps were of surprise. "No one knows how or why, but Voldemort's Killing Curse rebounded and hit him instead. He fled that night, nothing more than a wraith, and Harry was left with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead and lauded as a hero.

"Dumbledore told the Potter's they would need to train their son, but he underestimated something." Laelynn paused; did she keep with the cool detachability, or tell the dwarves the story in its entirety.

"What did he underestimate?" Ori asked after her silence became too long for Fíli and Kíli, who started poking him. She absentmindedly lifted the charm as she continued.

"The love a mother can have for her child, and the lengths she will go to protect them," she said with a bittersweet smile. "Lily refused, and instead offered a solution that meant their son didn't have to fight in a war at all." She hesitated a moment. No, she decided, not yet.

"Her solution was to create a magical twin for Harry, so he could have a normal childhood. The twin would be put through training to defeat Voldemort upon his eventual return, while Harry could be a regular boy and not need to worry about fighting the Dark Lord.

"So Harry grew up adored by everyone for ridding them of the menace that was Voldemort. A holiday was even named in his honour. Lily and James loved their son, giving him everything he could ever want and more."

"But what about the twin?" Bilbo broke in, "What happened to them?" Laelynn paused for another moment before continuing.

"You know how difficult James and Lily would find it to send off either of their children to fight a madman, yes?" Many of the group nodded at her question, except for Beorn, who had figured it out and was giving her a small smile. "So they decided they would only have one child. The twin was treated like they didn't exist by Lily and James, so the hurt they would feel later wouldn't be so bad. After all," she pointed out with a self-deprecating smile, "It's much harder to feel grief for someone you hardly know than, say, your child."

Laelynn continued before anyone could interrupt her. "Lily and James treated the twin indifferently, and on the rare occasion they spoke, were always distant. Of course, their son picked up on the behaviour of his parents, and Harry started to dislike the person who lived with them. And to someone who had always got what they wanted, having a person to pin blame on was perfect for when he did something he knew his parents wouldn't approve of.

"To answer your question, Bilbo, the twin was trained extensively from the age of six to the time they started school at eleven, in a variety of subjects. However, most of their lessons focused on fighting, weaponry, and defense, as well as magical spells. These lessons continued at the school, but not as intense as they'd been before.

"Meanwhile, Harry was adored at school. He and his friends were given special treatment due to him being 'Saviour of the Wizarding World', and used this to their advantage. He continued blaming his twin for any trouble he and his friends caused. When they were pulled into plots to resurrect Voldemort by the man's followers, he had his twin do the fighting, then took the credit when adults arrived on the scene."

"In the two's first year there, the Headmaster hid a priceless magical object in the school, in an attempt to lure the wraith of Voldemort out of hiding. Harry and his friends suspected the wrong person, while the twin focused on the real threat. They fought him while protecting Harry, and when the teachers arrived to help, the thief was dead and the twin was unconscious. By the time they awoke, Harry had told the story in his favour and claimed the credit."

No one interrupted eager to hear more, although many of the dwarves were wondering why Laelynn only referred to the twin in neutral terms. "Second Year," she continued, "One of the Dark Lord's supporters who had managed to escape capture slipped a powerful magical object to an innocent girl. She was possessed by a shade of Voldemort and made to command a powerful magical beast to kill those Voldemort thought unworthy. Harry and his twin both heard the beast speaking throughout the school year, and once the twin realised what the beast was, dragged their twin and Harry's friend to go rescue the girl. All three went to the beast's chambers, but when faced with the creature the two boys ran and hid, while the twin faced the creature and the shade of Voldemort alone. They defeated the creature and shade, saving the girl, but when the four found the adults, Harry and his friend's tale were believed, despite the protests of the girl."

She was skimming, she knew she was, but Laelynn only wanted to tell enough to make it interesting. If any of the dwarves (maybe not Nori or Dwalin; those two respected boundaries) caught on she would be bombarded with questions, questions she'd rather not answer at all.

"The third year at school was shadowed by the escape of a deranged madwoman from the Wizarding Prison, the first ever to do so. She was Voldemort's right hand at the height of his power, and many people suffered a fate worse than death at the end of her wand." She smirked a bit before she spoke again. "Despite the risk she posed, Harry never met her, and the security around the castle was lifted for their fourth year.

"Then, after their quietest year at school, the twin vanished. Two weeks later, Voldemort rose once again." Fíli and Kíli gave over-dramatic gasps at the news, while many of the other dwarves talked over each other loudly on whether or not she was telling the truth ("'Vanquished' means dead!" "No it doesn't, it means defeated!" "Can we let Laelynn finish her story?" — Ori, she thought fondly upon hearing this)

Laelynn stood up in the chaos (even Gandalf was arguing now), and looked at Beorn. She quirked a brow in silent question, hoping that what she had given was enough of a payment for the supplies she knew they wouldn't survive the Mirkwood without.

And the bear-man inclined his head in the faintest shadow of a nod, yet a nod it clearly was. He caught her wrist in his hand as she made to leave, and gave her hand a gentle squeeze of reassurance. She looked at him, questioning once more, and saw understanding in his golden eyes. Tears pricked in her own, and she let her hand slip from his grasp (after giving a squeeze of her own in thanks): she needed some time on her own after revealing that much of her past (because while, statistically speaking, she'd only told them a fraction — not even a fraction, a fraction of a fraction — of her life, it was more than she'd shared in one go before. And didn't that reveal something about her?).

"Laelynn!" called Ori, and her retreat to Beorn's garden was cut off at his voice. She turned to see the dwarves all staring at her. "Where are you going?"

"Out," she answered, purposefully ignoring the unasked why.

"Aren't you going to finish your story?" asked Kíli.

"I don't know the rest of it." She shrugged, and Fíli gave an over-exaggerated wail.

"But we won't survive if we don't hear the rest," he moaned. The others seemed to share his sentiment, and seeing the support he had from the others, the flaxen-haired dwarf pleaded with her once more. "At least tell us what happened to the twin," he said, widening his eyes and making his lower lip tremble pitifully. She wasn't going to tell them, she'd already made up her mind not to tell them, she'd revealed too much about herself as it was.

"I arrived here," Laelynn replied. Well, she thought dryly, that wasn't supposed to happen. I blame Fíli. She took her chance to escape into the balmy July evening, leaving dropped jaws and startled gasps in her wake. Laelynn smiled as no attempt was made to follow her, despite the questions she knew they must have.

I seem to have acquired a flair for dramatics, she realised, but didn't let it bother her as she lay in the garden. The long grass tickled her arms and the bottom of her feet, but she couldn't bring herself to move. Laelynn watched the fireflies dance in the air above her, and let herself relax for what she knew would be the last time she could until they were past the Mirkwood.

Chapter Text

True to his word, the next morning Beorn had ponies (and a horse each for her and Gandalf) ready for the company. There were also many large packs of food strapped to the animals, and more in backpacks for the dwarves to carry once they got to the trees.

As they pulled their belongings onto the ponies, as well as onto the extra pack horse Beorn let them use, Laelynn thought about what it would be like travelling with the dwarves now. She hoped that nothing would change, because for one of the only times in her life she was making friends, and they didn't treat her like Harry Potter's stupid sister. But that was a desperate hope; they would treat her differently no matter what she wished.

"Hey Laelynn," came a call from the others, and the girl turned to find everyone else already on their mounts. "Ready to go?" Kíli asked, speaking again.

"Yeah, if you don't hurry up we'll leave you here," Fíli joked. She swung herself up onto the horse, saddle bags already packed and girth already tightened. Gently digging her heels into the side of the horse, she made her way to join the back of the group, and as one they made their way out of Beorn's garden.

Laelynn turned to wave goodbye to the bear man, but found him already out of sight as they passed through the gate in the large hedge surrounding the garden. After Gandalf and Thorin spent a few minutes discussing the way they would go, the group eased the ponies into a trot, and the rest of the day was spent travelling.

After seven days of riding, they had reached Mirkwood. The trees rose in front of them like a wall, stretching as far as Laelynn could see north and south. The only break she could find in the tree line was where the path twisted out of sight. Dark, twisting boughs stretched across the path, too, and all the trees were hunched, with grey-so-grey-it's-black coloured wood and sinister-looking branches.

Overall it was very dark and ominous, and every cell in her body was telling her to leave, leave right now, this is fucking terrifying, go go GO GO

"Nori, Bofur, start unloading the horses." Thorin's voice cut across her thoughts. "We enter while we still have light, try and get as much ground behind us as we can today." Laelynn slowly slipped off her horse, walking forward toward the dark embrace of the trees almost against her will.

"Gandalf," she called, the wizard starting to move into the forest. "Gandalf," she tried again, "I really need to speak with you." She continued to follow him down the path until they were under the shadow of the trees, yet still in view of the dwarves. "Surely you can't mean for us to go through this place Gandalf." She tugged on his sleeve. "This forest is sick—"

Gandalf (who she suspected hadn't been listening) used his staff to push aside a plant growing over a rock to the side of the path. On it was painted a red eye.

Laelynn stumbled back, gasping in pain as her chest tightened and the image of a giant flaming eye invaded her mind for a split second. She pushed herself away from the rock, even as Gandalf let the plant fall back on top of it.

"What—" She tried again. "What was that?" Laelynn asked as they exited the trees.

"A symbol of a great evil," Gandalf replied. "Not mine, I need it!" he called to Bofur, who was starting to untie the horse. The others had already been untied and were racing back in the direction of Beorn's house. The dwarf startled, and handed the reins to Gandalf as the wizard swung himself onto the horse in a display of agility she'd thought beyond the old man.

"You're not leaving us!" Bilbo cried, a sentiment echoed by many of the dwarves.

"I've already told you I have things that need attending to," he said. "Now more than ever, I must go."

Thorin scowled up at the wizard. "How will we make it through Mirkwood without a wizard?" he asked.

"Laelynn has magic aplenty," the wizard replied, and the girl in question startled at the stare of many of the dwarves. "Wait for me in Dale," he continued. "Do not enter the mountain without me."

"This place will get inside your head," he then said, addressing the group. "You must not let it, and whatever you do, do not leave the path." Gandalf started to gallop away, and the company watched him go. When he reached the ridge of the hill, Laelynn saw him stop and look back. "Stay on the path!" His voice carried along the wind, and the wizard disappeared from sight.

"Come on." Thorin turned towards the forest. "We must make it to Erebor by Durin's Day."

The dwarves started along the path into the woods, but Laelynn stayed watching the horizon for a moment. She was almost sure she could se– there! A bear was standing on its hind legs at the crest of the hill, the ponies they had ridden clustered around it. She raised a hand in farewell.

"Laelynn!" She turned to see Nori watching her, the other dwarves already nearly out of sight. "Yer gonna be left behind if you don't get moving." She turned to see Beorn again, but the bear-man had vanished. With a nod of thanks to Nori, she ran to catch up with the others.

Laelynn could sum up the trip through Mirkwood in one word;  eurghhhhhhhh .

At first they'd tried to light a fire at night, but when that brought countless eyes watching them sleep, they'd not tried again. Laelynn found herself having to warm her Travelling Tea with a heating charm (which she hoped didn't decrease the potency) after that, the idea of the eyes returning too terrible to think about.

They'd also tried to hunt some of the animals. Kíli lost nearly all his arrows trying to hit a squirrel (and only got them back after Laelynn thought to summon them), and when they'd cooked it an acrid oily smoke had rose from the meat, which tasted disgusting. As a whole they decided to not eat anything else from the forest.

After the first week it became harder and harder to tell time, with the tree's thick branches hiding the sun from sight more and more, until one day they woke up to find the blackness around them hadn't changed from when they'd fallen asleep.

Of course, once they'd been in the forest for more than one week, but not two, definitely not two weeks, the hallucinations Gandalf had warned them of started.

'Look there, can't you see it?' and 'Lemme go, lemme go, it's right there!' became common phrases as many of the company fell prey to images from their subconscious. Laelynn had thought herself spared after three (at least, she thought it was three) days had gone by and she'd not seen anything unusual peering out from behind a tree. She'd been wrong.

That night she'd fallen asleep uneasily, but once unconscious was gripped tightly in a dream unlike any that had come before.

Seven men stood in a semicircle, each wearing dark robes that covered everything but their face. However, the only skin that could be seen was the chins poking out from beneath skull-shaped masks of silver. In front of them was a high backed chair, the occupant Laelynn could not see from her position behind and to the right of it. The only light came from the fire crackling in a hearth to the left of the chair, and by its light she could see a bony pale-white hand idly twirling a wand between their fingers.

"Gibbon, you say the Order is in a panic?" questioned the figure in the chair, and the way the voice silkily hissed their s's and caressed the end of the question left Laelynn in no doubt who it was.

"Yes, my Lord," replied a man at the edge of the semicircle; Gibbon. "The times they have fought against us during this past week they have been distracted, the elder Potter's and their friend's most of all."

"Excellent work," Voldemort said, and waved his pale hand towards the end of the room. "You are dismissed. Continue collecting intel on the Order of the Phoenix, especially on the boy."

"My Lord?" Another member of the circle half stepped forward toward the chair, but a hiss by Laelynn's feet made her stop dead. The woman immediately shrunk back from the snake at Voldemort's feet as it hissed again.

"Yes, Jugson? What do you find so important to say that you must interrupt me?" Jugson was obviously nervous, but stood firm and spoke without fear in her voice.

"My Lord, I only wondered whether Gibbon was to collect intel on the boy's twin as well." Her piece said, Jugson once more bowed her head in deference to her Lord.

Voldemort's voice was sharper and colder than the Scottish winter winds. "What twin?"

"Yes," Jugson said, still staring at the floor. The other members of the half-circle were silent. "The boy's twin sister. The one who doesn't like fame and refuses to share her first name with anyone, not even the few friends she has."

"There was no second child that Halloween night," Voldemort mused, seemingly to himself, and the Death Eaters in front of him collectively winced. "Malfoy," he barked, coming out of his trance, and the man in the centre of the semicircle snapped to attention. "Describe her."

"As Jugson said; she prefers to stay out of the spotlight," Malfoy said calmly, and there was a wordless hiss of annoyance from the chair. "Though," the man hastened to add, "I have seen her through the eyes of my son." A note of pride had entered his voice, though he quickly got back to the task at hand.

"She is alike to her brother in nearly every way. Only through her feminine features and the fact their hair is different lengths can you tell them apart." Voldemort stared intently at Malfoy, laughed, high and cold and cruel.

"Oh," and his voice danced with mirth, "I never expected you to do this, Albus." The Death Eaters stood silent, watching their master warily. THe Dark Lord continued to laugh for a while longer, until he suddenly stopped.

"Bring her to me," he commanded the seven.

"My Lord?" questioned Malfoy hesitantly.

"The Potter girl. Find her and capture her." Voldemort's voice was still laced with the remains of his laugh. "I want her alive and unharmed," he continued, and some of the members of the semicircle bowed their heads in shame. "Leave me."

The Death Eaters fled, moving as quickly as they could to the door without running. When the room had finally cleared Voldemort spoke once more.

"I never would have thought that old fool would use a Dark Ritual to defeat me, Nagini." He turned to look at his snake, and the room faded away around his blood-red eyes, Voldemort's laugh still echoing into the blackness.

Laelynn thrashed in her bedroll, Voldemort's laugh still echoing through her head. The shouts of the dwarves dimly registered on the edge of her awareness, but she couldn't make out what they were saying. All she could hear was the strains of his laughter, all she could see was his eyes, a stain on the back of her eyelids.

Hands were placed on her shoulders, and Laelynn could hear someone screaming. Her body was roughly shaken, and she could hear her name being repeated.

She sat up and forced open her eyes, and could barely see Glóin shaking her, and the others behind him looking worried. Laelynn realised her mouth was open, and shut it with a snap. The scream cut off, and the silence of the forest seemed to stretch and fill the space left behind.

Glóin squeezed her shoulders. "Ye alright?" he asked. Laelynn tried to answer, say she was fine, but the word caught in her throat. She tried again, but 'I'm okay' stuck as well.

"No," she admitted, in barely more than a whisper. She started trembling as she thought back to her dream and what it meant.

Voldemort was looking for her.

Voldemort was looking for her.

He knew what she was. He knew how she had become so. He probably knew how to unmake her. He probably knew how to make her his. And she would be powerless to stop it.

He wouldn't find her though.

But he knew she had friends. He would take them to get to her. He would take Neville and Luna and Percy and Anthony and Daphne and Hagrid and torture them for information, information on where she was, information they didn't have.

She felt a wetness on her cheek, and pressed her fingers to it. There were tears. Huh.

As if that was a sign, the tears started to fall in earnest. A choked sob escaped her throat.

The pressure of an arm on her shoulders had her look up, to see Glóin had moved to sit beside her; the others still stood in front of her.

"Have a good lon' cry," Glóin said, pulling her into his side. She let him, desperate for something to focus on other than her thoughts. While tears dripped down her cheeks and the hollow feeling in the back of her throat slowly went away, he rubbed her arm, a comforting presence.

She didn't know how long she'd been crying, but she eventually emerged from Glóin's side, throat thick. He wiped away a tear with his broad thumb, and Laelynn flushed upon seeing everyone was still watching her.

"S– sorry." She stuttered over the word. "Just had a bad dream."

Glóin squeezed her shoulder again. "We've all had night terrors, lassie," he said. "I've sat wi' Gimli, an' my father sat with me. Don' you worry now, I got ye." There were grunts of agreement as the other peeled off one by one to try and get more sleep, and each time someone left they squeezed her hand or ruffled her hair before tromping off.

Glóin sat by her, just holding her to his side. Laelynn relaxed, letting someone give her the love of a parent that she'd yearned for as long as she could remember.

They stayed awake until the others rose, and the group was off once more.


Maybe one month had gone by since they'd entered the forest when they reached the river. Beorn had warned them about it, back in his house, but even without his warning they wouldn't have wanted to touch the water; it was an oily black, almost like tar instead of water, and there were no plants at it's edge. Mist hung thickly over the water, and the rushing one would expect to hear from running water was absent, and in the gloom of the forest the group had only realised they'd reached the water when Ori nearly fell in. Only his brother's quick hands kept him from being drenched.

They all stood on the path, observing the river before them. Many of the dwarves had wary looks on their faces, while Bilbo looked sick. There was a dull roar in Laelynn's ears that grew louder with every moment she stared transfixed at the water in front of her.

"Bilbo, you have the keenest eyes," Thorin said from his place at the front, breaking the trance most of the company seemed to have fallen under. "Can you see a boat on the opposite shore?" Bilbo peered into the gloom, his sight helped by the slight lightening of the darkness around them thanks to the branches not being as thick over the river.

"I can just see a jetty on the other shore, and there's a boat tied to the right of it," Bilbo said slowly, squinting across the water. The older dwarves made noises of disbelief, but the princes and Ori and Laelynn squinted through the mist. Bilbo only tapped the side of his head, a wry grin on his face. "Hobbit eyes are much better, it seems, at seeing through thick fog than their dwarven counterparts."

"I can see a dark shape on the bank." Laelynn drew the words out slowly, not quite sure if she was merely seeing another hallucination. After her dream, more often than not she would see gleaming red eyes with slitted pupils in the dark, or another image from the dreams that now came every night.

"That would be the boat," Bilbo replied.

"Laelynn, can't you use some of that magic to bring the boat to us?" Dori asked, his eyes searching fruitlessly through the gloom. Her wand was removed from her holster, and she let its comforting warmth reassure her for a moment before casting the spell.

"Accio boat," Laelynn stated. There was a loud splash, jarring in the quiet of the wood, and soon enough a rickety boat came into view. She released her spell once the brow touched the jetty, and the craft was quickly secured.

"Doesn't look very sturdy." Kíli was looking at the boat dubiously, and Laelynn found herself agreeing with the younger Durin.

"I wonder…" She trailed off, and put a hand on Bofur's shoulder as he started to climb into the thing. "Thorin," Laelynn called, and he turned to her from where he was talking with Bilbo with his customary scowl. She was beginning to think that was his default expression.

"What?" he groused out, obviously unhappy at being interrupted. Hmm, she'd have to think on that later…

"Beorn told us to not touch the water, right?"

"Under no circumstances," he agreed.

"Well," she continued, "There's a large risk of someone falling in if we take the boat." This was said matter-of-factly, and Bilbo gave a full body shudder behind Thorin.

"That's a risk we have to take," he replied, but curiosity laced his tone. "Do you suggest something different?"

"I have an idea that would remove that risk," Laelynn said. Her hand tightened around her wand, and a pulse of warmth shot through her. "I may not be able to do it though, and if I can I'll be tired for a while."

"What is it?" cried Óin loudly, "Spit it out already!" Laelynn took a deep breath.

"I may be able to transfigure that boat into a bridge."

Thorin seemed to be considering her proposal, while some of the others looked doubtful. "Could you do this?" he finally asked her, and a hush fell on the group as they waited for her answer. Laelynn swallowed.

"Probably," she finally said, "I'm pretty sure I can pull it off."

"I'd trust a bridge over that dingy old thing," Kíli piped up from beside his brother. "Looks like it'll fall apart sometime on the next decade, and I can't believe 13 dwarves, a human and a hobbit will help any."

Thorin came to a decision soon after.

"We let Laelynn make her bridge," he said, and Fíli let out a whoop. His cheeks reddened after everyone turned to him, and Kíli cackled as his brother got even redder. "But," Thorin continued, "If this doesn't work, will you be able to change it back into a boat?" Ah, she thought, constituency plan.

"Yeah, just let me have rest first," she answered, and Thorin nodded his approval.

The dwarves stood farther back on the path, watching the witch work. Laelynn stood at the edge of the dock, feet planted apart and shoulders back. Her wand was in her hand and her breathing was steady.

"'There were once three brothers who were traveling along a lonely, winding road at twilight.'" The words were said under her breath, and a small grin slipped between her teeth before she focused once more. Let's hope no hooded figures block our path.

Raising her wand, Laelynn visualised herself sending energy down her wand and out the end, and that energy changing the wood of the boat, joining it together into one solid block, and that block stretching and lengthening into the rough shape of a bridge. She visualised the ends burrowing down underground on both sides of the river, past the layers of sick soil deep down to the bedrock of the earth, where it latched with ferocity and drew from the strength of the earth, so that it would never falter or break. She visualised the bridge becoming more refined, with rails on the side and patterns growing in the wood, and the dark colour that nearly matched the water siphoning away to reveal the light wood underneath and the wood continuing to grow in the future, still a living thing.

All this and more she kept in her mind, and pulling all her energy through to her hand, and then to wand, she aimed at the boat and her mouth formed the two words that would bring the image in her head to life.

"Pons Lacuna," she whispered, and shut her eyes, pushing her energy through her wand, putting her all into making sure this bridge would be safe.

When she could give no more, Laelynn finally let her arm drop. The rest of her followed almost immediately, dropping to the ground unconscious, and did not notice the white stag that leapt over her and bounded down the newly-formed bridge.

Chapter Text

She was... moving? She couldn't see anything, her eyes wouldn't open, and she was pretty sure she should be worried about this. But it felt like she was on a ship, with the boat rocking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth (or was she in someone's arms, being carried along as they moved ever forward?). The shush-shush of the waves against the side of the ship soothed her (or was it leaves brushed out of the way by heavy boots?).

Laelynn slipped away again.


When she finally escaped the grasp of sleep, Laelynn found herself lying on the stone of the path, the dwarves crowding above her. Past them she could see the large leafy branches of the foliage, and on the trunks of nearby trees spider webs were visible… wait.

"Why can I see you?" Her voice rasped as she spoke through cracked lips, and with a groan she pulled herself into a sitting position. Most of the others shuffled back, though Óin and Kíli stood by her, and the elderly dwarf immediately started inspecting her eyes.

"We just want to make sure you're alright," Kíli speedily explained, as Óin lifted his finger in front of her face. Laelynn followed it with her eyes, even as she kept asking questions.

"Did we make it across the river?" she wondered, however a quickly glance at her surroundings and the quietly chatting dwarves answered that question: she didn't recognise the forest at all. "Scratch that; how long have I been out?"

He opened his mouth to answer, but Óin cut across him. "What do you think she needs?" he asked the youngest dwarf, and Kíli thought a moment before answering.

"An infusion of Nilla's Fan and bed rest would help most," answered Kíli promptly, and Óin grunted in approval.

"Good," he replied, before turning back to Laelynn. "Now," he said, "What happened to you?"

"Magical exhaustion, I think," Laelynn responded, using the opportunity to stretch her arms and legs in front of her.

"And how would you treat it?" Óin asked, gesturing behind him. Ori came over, a pen already in his hand, and started scrawling down notes.

"It's only survived 38 percent of the time, but rest and a diet rich in carbohydrates is usually prescribed," she replied from memory. "Also, survivors are advised not to use their magic, to allow their reserves to refill and to prevent their magic levels from falling even further, thereby risking death." The Hospital Wing was incredibly boring, and Madame Pomfrey had happily lent her some books to read through after her third attempt at sneaking out. Besides, some of the books were very interesting, and she'd entertained the idea of being a Healer more than once.

"You got that?" Óin asked Ori, bringing Laelynn back from her thoughts. He nodded. "However," the older dwarf frowned, "We can't do any of that now." The healer then went to join his brother, leaving a baffled Laelynn to be helped up by Kíli.

"What? Why not?" She turned to Kíli, and poked him in the chest. "You never said how long I was asleep. Or why I can see you. And what was all that about?"

Kíli helped her up, while Ori, who had come over, did remarkably well not laughing at the bewildered expression on the other's at Laelynn's rapid-fire questions.

"None of us know how long it's been since the river," he answered, and Laelynn grimaced. He hurried on at her look on her face. "But I think it's been about a week and a half. As for that, well," he shifted on his feet, looking slightly embarrassed. "Óin's been training me as a healer since I reached 70."

"Because he was getting tired of fixing us up every other day," Fíli called as he came over to join them, grabbing his brother in a hug and ruffling his hair up. "It's good to see you up," he said to her as an afterthought, while his brother squirmed in his hold.

"Fíli," he whined, startling a laugh out of Laelynn, while Ori smiled faintly at the antics of the two princes. "Anyway," he said from his brother's arms, "We don't have any Nilla's Fan on us, or food and water for that matter."

"Nothing?" Laelynn asked, shocked.

"Yup," Fíli said faux-cheerfully, finally releasing his brother. Kíli immediately sprung away and brushed his hair down, scowling. "For at least two days now. That brings us to the current problem."

"There's a light through the trees," Ori piped up, speaking for the first time. "Thorin and the others have been wondering whether or not we should go beg for food."

"That's why I came over," Fíli said, jerking his head back at the other dwarves. "They've decided to go beg."

"But Beorn and Gandalf both told us not to leave the path," Laelynn said, frowning. She started walking towards the rest of the dwarves.

"Laelynn, you just told us you need rest!" Kíli yelped, hurrying after her.

"I'm perfectly fine, don't worry," she replied, then blinked in surprise. She shouldn't be fine. She should be struggling to stay awake, not walking around like nobody's business.

I wonder, she thought, before focusing on her Occlumency shields. Her shields were unique in the Wizarding World, because instead of clearing her mind and building barriers with the strength of her mind to Occlude, she instead let all her thoughts race around her head, baffling any attacker who might be able to get in. And her shields, instead of being connected to the strength of her mind, were connected to her magic. They would always stay, her shields, only strengthening or weakening depending on how much magic was being pushed into them, but never truly breaking because they were made of her magic, and if she had no magic within her she would be dead.

However, to make shields of the mind with magic, one must first be able to locate their magical core. So Laelynn followed the trails of magic from the edges of her mind, down to her centre, where her core rested. It was there she received a shock.

When she had last revamped her shields, before she had arrived in Arda, her magic had a soft gold colour. Now, however, it was a brilliant shining white, so harsh she nearly couldn't look at it. And instead of the low levels she was expecting after her stunt with the bridge, Laelynn was shocked to find her reserves were nearly full.

A touch on her arm broke her concentration, and she blinked at Kíli. "What?" she asked.

"You just spaced out," he replied, Fíli and Ori nodding behind him. His hand was warm on her arm, grounding her, and she squeezed his shoulder in thanks.

"I'm good now," she said, starting to walk again, "Just testing something."

They reached the group, who were all packed up. Thorin in particular seemed especially anxious to start. Someone had had the great idea of them all holding onto a rope, to keep the group together, and they all grabbed hold.

"Just so we're clear," Laelynn said, as Thorin started walking into the trees, "I think this is a terrible idea."

"I told you, I told  you ," Laelynn repeated, as they were frogmarched through the woods. After getting nearly eaten by giant spiders (and she had hoped  so  hard she'd never see acromantula again), and explaining to Óin that  I don't know why, but my reserves are fine and I'm going to continue using my magic to stay alive , Laelynn was ready to sleep for a year, but  no . That's when the elves — the wonderfully  useless  elves (would it have been  too  much of a bother to help with the acromantula?) — arrived, their beautifully clean uniforms helping them blend in with the foliage, and their silky  clean  hair shining in the lights some of the elves were carrying. Laelynn recognised that she probably still had spider venom coursing through her veins, and that venom was probably why she was so loopy, but she also recognised that it had been at least a month since she'd had a proper bath (cleaning and freshening charms can only go so far), and she  really  wanted one.

Now, all their belongings were being carried by the guards, their arms full of weaponry and empty sacks (her stomach growled lowly, and Laelynn sighed). She hadn't had time to place a notice-me-not charm on any of her weapons, as the elves had taken everything from them except their clothes.

So, marching through the woods as they were, she'd taken it upon herself to remind the dwarves of her earlier doubts. "'Let's go into the forest,' they said. 'It'll be fun,' they said. 'There'll be food,' they said," she grumbled, kicking petulantly at the dirt of the forest floor as they were led through the trees. "Well it wasn't fun: there was no food, and this is the second time I've had to deal with acromantula. That's two times too many!"

"To be fair, we never said it would be fun," said Kíli pleasantly from further down the line.

"Oh shut up," Laelynn replied. The elves had even taken the pouch from her neck, and Glóin's locket, which was pretty rude. Looking up at their captors, she thought the red-haired one was hiding a smile, and grinned at her feet despite herself.

Glancing up again, she started to take note of the elves features, looking for the differences from the ones in Rivendell. It was subtle, but it was there. These elves had narrow noses, and their features were slightly harsher, more angular, as opposed to the softer features of the Rivendell elves and Galadriel. Maybe it was because these elves had to deal with the spiders, and whatever evils had cropped up, while the other elves had more relaxed, relatively safer homes.

"Spiders!" The cry jolted Laelynn from her thoughts, and the hushed silence that had fallen on the group was broken as at once the elves had their weapons in hand, prepared for the eight-legged menaces. She and the dwarves were shoved into the centre of the ring the elves made, and only when she heard Bofur ask Nori if he knew what the elves had said did she realise they hadn't spoken English.

A group of spiders descended on the group, small enough that it was obvious they were stragglers from the nest the dwarves had been caught by, but large enough that even the elves holding their belongings had to drop them and join the fray to help their comrades.

Many of the dwarves were moaning about not being able to fight, and Nori and Bofur were now whispering together, occasionally gesturing to the dropped weapons. However, neither of them were able to do anything, as their things had been dropped farther away than any of the group could reach, and even if it had been close enough the elves and spiders were fighting pretty much on top of the pile (which drew more than a few complaints as weapons were stepped on), so it was inaccessible.

It was why, when one of the elves was pushed towards her things, Laelynn wasn't bothered too much. However, that changed as soon as the elf was shoved back by the spider, and his foot landed on her wand holster instead of the clear patch of ground behind it, and a loud snap rang above the sounds of fighting.

No, was all she could think. No NO NO.

Laelynn didn't even register the wave of magical energy that swept through the melee, instantly killing the spiders and knocking both elves and dwarves off their feet so she was the only one standing. Laelynn's face was ashen, as the others made it to their feet and silently took in the dead arachnids.

This was not happening.

A lone tear slipped down her face.

She'd check her holster and her wand would be perfectly fine.

She slowly sank to her knees.

Without a wand, she couldn't do magic, and without her magic she'd be useless to the dwarves, and she'd never make it back because they wouldn't take a useless female on their quest.

She was hyperventilating.

Even if she did get back to her own world no one would take her seriously if she couldn't do magic, and she'd be ridiculed and taunted and bullied worse than she already was, and they'd make her kill Voldemort and she'd probably die doing it, and if she didn't they'd probably just kill her anyway.

Laelynn slipped unconscious.

Chapter Text

She woke up to see a ceiling above her. That alone told her that the elves had managed to beat the acromantula and get them to… wherever they were. Though how, she couldn't remember; the last thing she could recall was seeing Nori and Bofur talking.

Sitting up, Laelynn took note of her surroundings; she was lying on a shelf, hewn from the rock, and by her feet was a bucket. She turned on her side to see the entrance to her cell (for it had to be a cell as the door was iron bars), and beyond that more cells, though she couldn't see their inhabitants.

Laelynn shook her head gently, and tried to remember what happened. One by one the memories started to return, and Laelynn fell back in shock.

She'd hoped it was a dream (or rather a nightmare), something brought on by the spider venom. But it was real. Laelynn groaned in despair, before sitting up and leaning against the wall. Now her wand was broken, there was no hope of being allowed to continue: the dwarves would soon find out she couldn't access her magic and wouldn't want anything to do with her.

And they'd be right. She was useless. Laelynn could fight well without magic, but the dwarves had plenty of fighters already. She could cook (barely), but they had Bombur. She could sew, but who brought a seamstress to fight a dragon? No, she was useless to them. No one wanted a woman on a quest, after all.

They would probably leave her in Laketown, assuming they ever got out of this place. But what then? The dwarves and the Arkenstone were her best bet at getting back to her world. Without them Laelynn was stranded.

She could try and make a life for herself here. If she was honest, a not insignificant part of her wanted to do that. Stay here, in Middle Earth, and continue to bond with the friends she had already made. No one here saw her as Harry Potter's less-important twin sister, just as Laelynn, and it was… freeing. Maybe set up a small shop, where she could sew clothes and repair dresses. Or she could train people in sword fighting, archery, even knife throwing. Granted, a lot of people would refuse to be trained by a woman, but she would get enough to pay for food at least.

But she couldn't. Not while Voldemort was still alive, and her friends back in her world were in danger. She owed it to them, at least, if nobody else.

A sigh left her lips. Laelynn knew she had to defeat Voldemort (because if she left Harry to do it he'd fail), but now she was going to try and survive the fight, what would she do after? She could be a healer, but she wouldn't be able to deal with treating her classmates, classmates that most likely tormented her back in school.

Laelynn shelved the problem to think on later, and stood up, stretching her arms above her head. She walked to the door of her cell and peered through the bars. From where she was, she could see nine of the others, and (once they noticed she was up) could hear the rest nearby.

"Laelynn!" many of them yelled, relieved, and her smile seemed too wide for her face. They cared about her enough to be relieved she was up. Maybe she was wrong. She tried to play it off and leaned against the door casually.

"'Sup," she called. The dwarves she could see all looked confused at the word, and Laelynn hid a grin behind her hand. Before one of them could ask her what she meant, the jangling of keys echoed down the corridor. They were all silent as Thorin came into view, followed closely by an elven guard. He was placed in a cell near Balin's, and the two immediately started whispering. Laelynn caught "starving in the woods" and "nothing about the worm", and surmised that Thorin hadn't told whoever he was with what they were doing.

The elf stopped in front of her cell, and Laelynn had to tilt her head back to see his face. He unlocked the door and opened it, and she left the cell at his prompting. The guard then prodded her towards the end of the hall.

"So…" she started, looking around, "Nice place you got here." Because it was. As she had been unconscious on the trip into the dungeon, Laelynn hadn't been able to appreciate the stunning architecture. But she could now, and as she saw columns spiralling up to a ceiling she couldn't see and the stairs they were currently taking had leaves etched into the sides she had to consciously keep her mouth shut.

There was no banister though, same as Rivendell. Laelynn supposed it looked cool, but the lack of anything to keep her from falling was disconcerting to say the least.

The guard made no move to suggest he'd heard her, but she was certain he'd been smiling a second before she'd turned around. Laelynn commented on the decor as they walked (at one point she'd been so engrossed in a mural she'd nearly fallen off the edge of one of the dangerous stairways and was saved only by the quick action of the guard). By the time the two had reached the throne room, the guard had a small smile on his face, and Laelynn counted it as a win. A win for what she had no idea, but it was a win.

They entered a large room through some equally large doors, and at the end of long walkway Laelynn could see a large throne with antlers sprouting from the top of it. Beside the throne she saw two of the elves who had captured them in the forest. The blond one who'd taken Glóin's locket, and the red-haired one who'd grinned at her and Kíli's banter. On the throne was the Elvenking, an elaborate crown on his head. His robes were eerily similar to the ones Luna wore to the Yule Ball, and Laelynn grinned as she realised it was just like Luna to have the same robes as a king from another world.

A throat clearing made Laelynn realise they had stopped in front of the throne, and she was now staring at the Elvenking. Embarrassed, she ducked her head, and she swore one of the elves at the side of the throne was sniggering. She looked at them, but both had perfectly calm expressions.

"So," the Elvenking started, "This is the human travelling with a pack of dwarves." His manner of speaking reminded her of Snape, the way he drew out certain words, and Laelynn shuddered at the image of Snape in the robes the Elvenking was wearing. He stood and walked towards her, stopping close enough that she wanted to take a step back so she could see him properly.

"Tell me," the Elvenking continued, "Do you know who I am?" She briefly considered saying 'no', but felt it would only make him annoyed.

"You're the King," she said, hoping he couldn't tell she was guessing. To be fair, though, who else was she supposed to think he was?

"Thranduil Oropherion, Elvenking of the Greenwood," he replied, adding a lot more prestige to the title than she had. At least she got his name out of it.

Wait, Thranduil? Thranduil as in the Thranduil Galadriel had said she'd have look out for her if she was ever in Mirkwood? That Thranduil? Thranduil seemed oblivious to her racing thoughts: he just stared at her waiting for a reaction.

Laelynn finally found her voice again. "As in the Thranduil Galadriel said she'd have look out for me?" she asked.

Whatever he'd been expecting, this was not it. Thranduil's mouth dropped open, and behind him the other two elves had near identical shocked expressions. He soon shut his mouth with a snap, and took a large step back, before beginning to pace.

"So you are the child Galadriel told me to look out for?" he said, not even looking at her. Laelynn felt herself getting annoyed.

"Yeah, like I just said," Laelynn snapped, crossing her arms. Thranduil's mouth dropped open again, and his eyebrows darted to his hairline. The red-haired elf by the throne grinned widely, while a small smile graced the blond one's lips. Both vanished the moment Thranduil turned around to look at them.

"Galadriel told me nothing more than to look out for you," he said, facing the throne. "However, she said you would explain why I should take the trouble. So explain: why should I help you after I found you consorting with dwarves?"

"You might want to sit down," Laelynn told him, "It's a long story." Thranduil gestured for a servant to bring in some chairs, before sitting on his throne. Once the two chairs had been delivered, he dismissed everyone but the two elves, who took the chairs. Laelynn sat on the floor cross-legged, and grabbed her feet before leaning forward.

"So I'm not actually from this world," Laelynn started, and for the next hour or so she explained how she had arrived, and how she and the others had gotten to this point in their journey, and how she was travelling with them to get herself back to her own world. She didn't mention the plan to steal from the dragon, or the quest to get to Erebor though. Thorin had told Balin he hadn't said anything, and she wasn't going to be the one to sell out the dwarves.

Thranduil kept his face expressionless throughout her tale, but Laelynn noticed the two elves to the side of him were much freer in their emotions. They reacted in all the right places, and by the end were staring at her with a hint of respect.

"So that's why I'd really appreciate it if you'd let us go on our way with some provisions," she finished. Thranduil had a thoughtful expression on his face, while the two elves were talking lowly to each other.

"An amusing tale, certainly," Thranduil finally said, and a feeling of foreboding was starting in Laelynn's gut. She shifted on the floor, not wanting to have to look up to Thranduil, but her leg had fallen asleep. "However I'll ask again: why should I help you?"

And there it was. While she desperately wracked her brains for something she could say, Laelynn spared a half second to appreciate that Thranduil was the most Slytherin person she'd met on Middle Earth so far.

"The spirit of goodwill?" she offered weakly, before sighing at Thranduil's distinctly unimpressed look. At least the two other elves in the room seemed at least slightly outraged by the way Thranduil was acting. Why were they there anyway?

Laelynn forcefully pulled her train of thought back to what else she could offer the elf in front of her. Pulling herself off the ground, she hissed as blood rushed back into her leg, and looked up at Thranduil as she tried to get feeling into it. "Can I check my things, see if you'd like anything there?"

Thranduil merely stood from his throne fluidly, and Laelynn noticed the other two elves stand up as well, though not quite as gracefully as Thranduil. He walked past her down the long walkway, the blond elf going to walk with him while the redhead walked behind Laelynn like the guard from earlier had.

They made their way out of the throne room, and the group made it's way to where she presumed their supplies were being kept. Laelynn tried to remember the path, but gave it up as a bad job once she saw the same decorative mural twice. They were obviously taking the long way so she would be unable to find her way quickly.

Thranduil and the blond elf stopped suddenly in front of a pair of doors with a tree etched onto them. Laelynn nearly ran into them, only managing not to by a hair's breadth. The blond elf opened the doors, and the four walked inside. Laelynn gasped at the amount of stuff in the room, but soon focused on the things to the right of the door. Because there were the things of her and the dwarves. Not Bilbo's, though. His small sword was missing.

The blond elf cleared his throat, and Laelynn went over to her belongings. She brought the pouch, wand holster and weapons, and laid them on the floor in front of her, before looking up at the elves.

The redhead picked up her bow and arrows, studying them, while the other picked up her sword. "Father," he said in Sindarin, and Laelynn could have slapped herself for not noticing the similarities in their faces. "This is a Gondolian blade."

"Indeed," replied Thranduil, studying it. "Where did you get this blade?" he asked her in English, and Laelynn realised she'd forgotten to mention her linguistic skills. Not that she was going to now.

"A Troll hoard," she said. Her eyes were on the holster. Maybe the crack had just been a dream, and she would release her wand to find it whole. Yeah, no. She could only have passed out because of one thing (she skilfully ignored the voice of Óin in her head, shouting about magical exhaustion), and that thing was her wand breaking.

Reaching for it, she ignored the elves as the redhead and blond elves started pulling things out of her pouch. She did notice the dwarves had taken the food she'd had while she was unconscious for the first time, and was happy they didn't have to starve for longer than necessary. She should get some food in her, actually, since she hadn't eaten for a week and a half. She didn't feel hungry though. Maybe the elves had some sort of magic food they'd given her while unconscious. Either way, she'd eat as soon as possible.

Releasing the wand, Laelynn sighed again as the two halves of her once-beautiful wand rolled away from each other. It was true then: her wand was broken, and there were no wand makers to fix it.

Wait, rolled away? She picked up the two halves of her wand carefully. When wands broke, the two halves of wood would be held together by the core. She'd seen it herself when Ronald Weasley had broken his in Second Year, before he'd decided the best way to fix it was Spellotape. So why had her wand separated completely?

Peering closely at the broken ends, Laelynn was interrupted in her examination when Thranduil spoke. "I shall accept the sword as payment for yourself to go free, and will have my people escort you to the edge of the forest," he said. Laelynn turned and looked at him.

"What about the others?" Laelynn asked.

Thranduil's lip curled. "Those dwarves shall stay here until they tell me their purpose for travelling East." So she could go free, but the dwarves would have to stay here. Maybe she could make some magical item, and give that to him in return for the dwarves getting to go free.

Except she couldn't. Because her wand had broke. Would it be worth it? Her leaving while the dwarves stayed here? No, it wouldn't. Excluding the fact that they were her friends (well, she hoped they were), they were the only ones who knew how to get into the mountain, and in the mountain was her ticket out of this world.

"Well then," Laelynn said finally, "I guess I'll be keeping that sword."

Thranduil frowned and left the room, after telling his son and the redhead to replace everything as they'd found it before returning her to her cell. Seeing the expressions of dismay on the two's faces, she waited until they had started to put things back in the pouch in the order they took them out in before interrupting.

"If you want you can just shove it all in there," Laelynn suggested, twisting the pieces of her wands over each other. She wanted to study it in more depth before drawing any conclusions. Because what she thought had happened couldn't have happened. Right?

"What?" the blond elf asked, pausing in the process of putting the cloak back in her pouch.

"Well it is my bag, and it's not like I'll mind," Laelynn replied. She had always hated menial tasks, and this was certainly one of them. The blond looked hesitant, but the redhead sighed in relief and shoved a handful of objects into the pouch. When the blond made no move to help, the redhead sighed again, this time in exasperation.

"Legolas, you heard her," she said, putting still more stuff back into the pouch. Laelynn idly wondered how much stuff she had put in there, at one point or another.

"My father –" Legolas started to say, sounding worried.

"Your father won't be able to tell," the redhead interrupted him, shoving another couple of items into the pouch. "He hasn't had anyone look through these things, and he probably won't have anyone do it now."

"Alright," Legolas sighed, sounding like he often folded to the redhead. "Tauriel, do you know what this is?" He changed the topic, holding up the cloak.

"A cloak?" Tauriel replied dryly, holding up the pouch; the cloak was the only thing not in it.

"A cloak made from a white Warg's pelt," Legolas said, shaking it slightly for emphasis.

"So?" Tauriel said, still holding up the pouch. Laelynn was pretty sure they'd forgotten she was there.

"So, the only known white Warg in this decade –" Legolas' voice was betraying his excitement, even as Tauriel grabbed the cloak and shoved it in the pouch, before putting everything back where Laelynn had grabbed it from.

"Is Azog's," Tauriel finished automatically, before her eyes widened and she looked at Legolas. He looked smug she'd finally figured it out, and as one the two turned to look at Laelynn. Her eyes were also wide: she hadn't realised the Warg had been Azog's.

"Where'd you get this?" asked Tauriel.

"I made it," Laelynn replied, still shocked. "I was attacked by the Warg and killed it, then thought the pelt would make a nice cloak."

The two elves looked at her, then at each other, before they took her back to her cell. The hall to the dungeons was close to the storage area, and Laelynn took note as they took a left to get to the dwarves block of cells.

As Tauriel locked the door, with Legolas next to her glaring at the dwarves, she glanced past it to Laelynn's hands, which still held the halves of her wand.

Laelynn shoved her hands behind her back, but it was too late: Tauriel had seen. Laelynn looked beseechingly at her, widening her eyes. Tauriel finished locking the door before meeting her eyes, then, after a nerve-wracking second, deliberately turned to Legolas and the two left.

Laelynn was shocked. She was certain that Tauriel would have taken the wand halves. But she hadn't. Laelynn wondered what it was supposed to mean, before pushing the matter out of her mind in favour of looking at her wand.

Peering at the snapped section of her wand confirmed what she'd suspected, and Laelynn had to sit on the floor as the weight of it hit her.

Laelynn had taken time to find out about wands after Ollivander hadn't told her what the core of her's was. She hadn't found an explanation, but she had found the core of a wizards wand was what channelled the magic. The wood was there to provide firm housing for the wand, and help improve the accuracy of spells cast.

So she also knew that, without a core, her magic had had to travel through her wand on its own. Which, overall, meant she didn't need a wand to cast magic.

"Laelynn?" Someone asked, and she looked up to see the dwarves staring at her. The dwarves, they wouldn't get rid of her now. She could still cast magic, still be useful, they'd keep her around, and let her use the Arkenstone.

"Yes?" she replied.

"What did they want with you?" Thorin asked. His eyes were hard, and she wondered what he thought the elves wanted.

"I don't actually know," she said, "I think they wanted to know why I was travelling with you, but they never said."

"What did you tell them of our quest," Thorin said.

"Nothing, actually," Laelynn said, raising an eyebrow at his suspicious face. She held up her wand halves again, wondering if she was right. She could shoot a spell at — what? Her? One of the dwarves? No, that wouldn't work. But what about something a bit more passive.

Placing the broken ends of the wand together, so that the only evidence of the break was a crack in the wood, Laelynn held the wand in her fist. "Reparo," she said, her eyes fixed on the wood. A bright glow came through the gaps between her fingers, stopping a moment later.

Laelynn opened her fist slowly. A single piece of wood lay on her palm. "Oh," she said softly, as Balin asked if she was alright. Laelynn could almost hear Bilbo's voice, asking why she could do this when she had said wizards needed wands to do magic.

Except she couldn't hear Bilbo's voice. And, come to think of it, hadn't seen him in any of the cells.

"Where's Bilbo?" Her mouth was open, but she wasn't the one who'd asked. Thorin turned in his cell like he'd be able to see him in the stone behind him. "Where's our hobbit?" Thorin asked again, face pressed to the bars like Bilbo might suddenly appear in front of him. The others looked around them as well, but no one could find him.

Chapter Text

Laelynn held the piece of leather she used to tie her braid off, her ebony hair falling in her face. During her time in Middle Earth, it had grown from the bottom of her shoulders to her waist. She would have cut it long before now, except travelling with dwarves had made her disinclined to try: short hair or beard for a dwarf usually signified mourning, and Laelynn didn't want to deal with the pitying looks that would arise if she did.

She focused again on the band of leather, thought about how it felt in her hand, and tried again. "Wingardium Leviosa," she muttered. The strip of leather started to rise slowly above her palm. Laelynn grinned, before she her thoughts again travelled to the lesson where she'd learned the charm. How Hermione Granger had tried to help Ron Weasley with it, and how that had set off a chain of events culminating in Hermione becoming one of her brother's closest friends.

Of course, hanging out with Harry Potter, it became inevitable she'd pick up some of his views, and adding onto to her already-narrow views, Granger had become one of her worst tormentors.

The smack of the leather against the stone brought her out of her musings, and Laelynn sighed as once again her memories had caused her to lose focus. She turned her attention inwards, thought about locking the names 'Harry', 'Ron' and 'Hermione' in a tightly-sealed room, with all the memories that accompanied them, then thought about shrinking the key and pocketing it.

Laelynn opened her eyes and picked up the leather band, resting it on her palm again. She thought of the incantation, and was pleased when no memories drew her attention away.

Focusing back on the band, she was shocked to find it no longer resting on her palm, but hovering at eye-level. Well, it was as good a time as any to make a start on non-verbal spells.

Laelynn focused on the power of the spell, how it travelled away from her core and down though her arm. She thought about how it felt coming through her palm and could nearly see it supporting the band. Ever so slowly, she blocked the flow of power, like a dam in a river. The leather band started sinking slowly, coming to a stop and hovering just above her palm. Laelynn then held it for a minute more, before she cancelled the spell. The band softly dropped into her hand.

Looking up, she saw most of the dwarves were watching her practising, and softly smiled. They had been in the dungeons of the palace for two weeks now, and her practising her spells wandlessly was one of the only forms of entertainment.

Laelynn glanced at Óin and adopted a pleading expression when she saw his frown. He shook his head, arms crossed, and she sighed. Once she had started practising spells without a wand, Óin had immediately made her promise not to overexert herself. While Laelynn thought she was the one who would know her boundaries best, she had agreed in order to get him off her case.

Her only solace was that Wingardium Leviosa was the last charm she was had decided to attempt in her repertoire, due to the memories that came with it. Tomorrow, she'd try her hand at combining spells: there was something alluring about the idea of being able to hold a fireball (and throwing it, though that would come later).

As she started to braid her hair back, the other dwarves began to talk among themselves. "Wonder what time it is?" asked Bofur from around the corner, his voice carrying. Laelynn tied off her braid, and tried to discretely cast a Tempus charm. Óin's loud reprimand nearly drowned out Ori's despondent voice.

"We'll never reach the mountain, will we?" he asked. She frowned, though the prospect was looking more and more likely the longer they stayed.

"Not stuck in there you're not," said a new voice, and Laelynn spun her head round so fast her neck cricked. She took no notice of her discomfort, however, because there, standing in front of Thorin's cell, was a familiar hobbit, holding a familiar ring of keys.

"Bilbo," she yelled delightedly, a cry echoed by most of the other dwarves.

"Quiet," he shushed, "There are still guards nearby." He unlocked the door to Thorin's cell, before turning to Balin's. Behind him, Thorin was watching him in surprise. He only moved when Bilbo chivvied him out of the cell.

"Bilbo!" Laelynn hissed at him, and he twisted to look at her as he relocked Thorin's cell. "Let me out next, I can get all our things."

"How will you keep from being seen?" he asked her, though he moved towards her anyway.

"Magic," she replied, nearly jumping out of the cell. "Where should I meet you?"

"Go to the wine cellar," Bilbo said quietly as he locked her cell again. "We'll have someone watching for you."

As Bilbo went to release the others, Laelynn rapped her head with her knuckles, focusing on being invisible. A gasp of shock told her it had worked, and she walked toward the hallway Tauriel and Legolas had brought her back through, casting silencing and Notice-Me-Not charms as she went.

Laelynn crept past the guards at the end of the corridor, who didn't show any sign of know what was happening, and made it to the main halls before she stopped in surprise.

Elves were rushing through the halls. Some had large sprigs of plant life, while others held clean linens, and still more carefully navigated with large trays piled high with food. Laelynn took great care to keep to the walls and out of their way, nearly stepping on one elleth's toes as she darted through the fray. She didn't look back to see if she'd been noticed, however, instead opening the door of the room their things were in and slipping inside.

She nearly removed her charms, before noticing the room had another occupant. Laelynn cursed silently as she crept towards a blond ellon kneeling by her things. As she got closer, Laelynn could see the elf was Legolas, and her silent cursing got a bit more creative.

When she was close enough to touch him, Laelynn saw the white Warg cloak in his hands. Apparently he had decided to study it while the rest of the palace was busy preparing. But she knew that no matter how entranced he seemed with the cloak, Legolas would notice if things began moving on their own.

"Sorry," she muttered, aiming her hand at Legolas. "Stupefy," she whispered (because while she might have decided on an early start to silent casting, she had literally decided on it around ten-ish minutes ago). A jet of red light hit him in the back, and Laelynn winced as he dropped to the floor, landing in a way that looked quite painful. She levitated him off the weapons and placing him out of the way.

Laelynn grabbed her small pouch, pulling open the mouth as wide as she could before levitating the others' weapons into it. Stuffing her knives in the pouch, Laelynn Summoned the rest of her weapons. She had to jump out of the way as her sword nearly skewered her, doing an odd roll to avoid dying painfully, and when the time came she roughly shoved it into her pouch with relish.

As she turned to leave, a glimpse of white fur caught her eye. She'd forgotten to put her Warg cloak in her pouch. Looking past it to Legolas, Laelynn made a split-second decision and placed it next to him. He'd get more use out of it than she would, anyway.

Laelynn snuck back into the hallway, did another impromptu dance across the hallway, and darted past the elven guards to the dungeons. When she came to it the cell block was empty, and Laelynn smirked at the thought of the guard's faces when they came to check on their prisoners.

She continued on to the lower levels of the palace, keeping out of the way of anyone she saw passing. At the very bottom of the palace (at least, there were no more stairs), Laelynn saw Bilbo peering around one of the doorways. She snuck over to him and tapped his shoulder, removing her silencing and Disillusionment charms.

He stiffened, before turning and gesturing for her to follow. They entered a large cellar, the walls lined with barrels, and stacked on the floor were a baker's dozen of barrels Laelynn guessed were empty. "The dwarves are all in those barrels, I've sealed them as best I could," whispered Bilbo, pointing at the barrels in the centre of the room. Laelynn nodded. "However, there aren't any more barrels, and even if there were…" he trailed off.

"I wouldn't fit," she finished for him, before patting his shoulder. "No worries, Bilbo. Do you have any other ideas?"

Before he could answer, the sound of voices drifted in from the open door. Laelynn exchanged a wide-eyed look with Bilbo, before rapidly recasting her charms. By the time she looked back at Bilbo, he'd disappeared.

Not a moment too soon, as a pair of singing elves came through the door and forced Laelynn to press against the barrels to avoid their swinging arms as they danced around the room. "These are the barrels?" asked one of them in Sindarin, breaking the flow of the song.

"That they are," replied the second, "And the sooner we get them on their way, the sooner we can get back to the feast." The one who spoke first pulled a lever, and the floor fell out from under her. The last thing Laelynn saw was the two dancing out of the room, before the floor (ceiling?) resealed itself, and she plunged into the underground river.

Dark. Dark and cold. She couldn't breathe. Water was pressing in on all sides, and she kicked up.

Laelynn surfaced from the fast-flowing water, choking in a lungful of air. It was black above the water as well, and she felt her breathing speed up. The only sound was the rushing of the water echoing off the cave's walls. Laelynn blindly grabbed for one of the barrels she felt passing, but her hands couldn't find any purchase.

"Laelynn!" a voice called, and she felt a small hand grab hold of her sleeve. Bilbo. He was trying to pull her to a different barrel, and Laelynn forced her legs to move. They grabbed the rope on the side of the barrel, and Laelynn let her legs go limp. "Are you alright?" Bilbo asked her, and she shook her head before realising he couldn't see her.

"No," Laelynn said, "I'm definitely not ok."

"Why not?" Bilbo asked, but Laelynn didn't answer. There was a change in the sound of the rushing water, a change Laelynn recognised.

"Hold on tight to me," she said to Bilbo. She could feel his small hands fist in her shirt, and tightened her grip on the barrel. The water on her legs disappeared, and Laelynn screamed as they went over the underground waterfall.

The two of them dropped into the water at the bottom. Laelynn forced herself to get them to the surface, her legs kicking haphazardly. Her head broke the water and Laelynn sputtered out some water. Bilbo's hands readjusted their grip, and she sighed silently in relief.

She clung on to the barrel silently, focusing on keeping her breathing steady. In, out. In, out. In. Out.

"I think," said Bilbo an indeterminable amount of time later, "That we're about to leave these caves." Laelynn felt her heart lift at his words, and a small smile plucked at her lips as Bilbo was proven correct. The air around them changed, the closed-in feel of the cave making way for the open air of the forest.

Trees began to appear in the gloom, along the bank. Their branches dipped down to caress the water, and more than once Laelynn had to push one out of her face. She lifted a hand to remove her Disillusion, before letting it drop. She was already visible. Her loss of focus in the underground river must have automatically dropped it.

Neither Laelynn nor Bilbo spoke as the barrels floated downriver. At one point the current ebbed, and she helped the now-visible Bilbo get on top their barrel, before climbing on herself. After a minute or two, the calm disappeared as the current picked up again, and they rode the barrel out of the woods.

The air became much cleaner once they exited the trees. Laelynn felt her shoulders relax as the woods were left behind them, and in front of her Bilbo relaxed his grip on the barrel.

A tree had fallen by the side of the river at some point, as moss had already started to anchor it's trunk to the ground, and by the cover of it's roots Laelynn could see the ashes of a camp-fire. It's branches protruded far into the river, and the barrels came to a halt in its clutches, the water freely flowing underneath.

Laelynn realised Bilbo had begun shivering, and tapped his shoulder, focusing on the taste of the Potter House Elves' apple pie, and the feel of warm butterbeer slipping down her throat.

"T– thanks," stuttered Bilbo, his hands steadying as the warming charm took effect.

"No problem," she replied, casting the charm on herself.

"Shall we head to shore?" Laelynn asked Bilbo, as it became apparent that the barrels weren't going to move any further. He nodded, and she slipped off their barrel. A propulsion charm had them speeding to shore, and Bilbo helped her drag the barrel onto the shore. He then forced the lid off the barrel, and Thorin tumbled out. Laelynn started summoning the barrels carefully, and as each one made it to shore Bilbo opened them up.

All the barrels made it to land eventually, and Laelynn helped Bilbo open the last few. She was pleased to note none of the dwarves had died. In fact, Fíli and Kíli came out more or less smiling. "I hope I never smell apples again," Fíli said as his barrel opened. "My barrel was full of it, and to be cold and hungry while only able to smell apples was miserable. I could eat anything in the world right now — except an apple."

Laelynn grinned at his words, before Kíli dragged him away to try and get their uncle moving. It took a while, but the dwarves all made it up eventually. Balin and Thorin started discussing ways to get to the mountain, while Dwalin walked over to Laelynn and Ori. She was helping him get the straw off his back.

"See those?" Dwalin asked, pointing to some mountains on the Eastern horizon. Laelynn nodded, and Dwalin grasped Ori's hand, pointing it at the mountains. He made a small ah noise. "Those are the Iron Hills. It's another dwarven settlement, and Thorin's cousin, Dain, is King there."

"I see," she said. The clouds shifted, and Laelynn raised a hand to shield her eyes. Ori took a few steps forward, squinting at the mountains. A few rocks clattered down the tree trunk, and Laelynn spun round to look. Something was– there! A man with a bow and arrow, aiming at– Dwalin grabbed a branch and leapt in front of Ori, before beginning to charge the man.

The man shoot an arrow at the branch, stopping Dwalin in his tracks, before shooting a rock out of Kíli's hand. "Do it again, and you're dead," said the man, before pointing his bow at Laelynn. She slowly lowered the rock she was holding, tossing it behind her into the river. As she did so, a barge moored downriver caught her eye.

"Are you from Laketown?" she asked, struck by an idea.

"So what if I am," said the man, and the string of the bow tightened.

"That barge wouldn't be for hire, would it?" asked Balin, who seemed to have the same idea as Laelynn.

"Why should I help you?" he said.

"Those boots have seen better days," replied Balin evenly. The man started loading the empty barrels onto his barge, a frown on his face. "That coat, too. You've got hungry mouths at home, I bet. How many?"

"A boy and two girls," replied the man, a small smile on his face.

"They must be wonderful," said Laelynn.

"Aye, they are," he replied, the smile still on his face.

"Enough with the niceties," interrupted Dwalin, scowling, "Will ye take us or not?"

"What's your hurry?" the man asked. Dwalin began to answer, but Laelynn sneezed. She ducked her head as the two turned to look at her, before sneezing again.

"Sorry," she gasped out, before sneezing a third time. Óin started walking towards her. "Oh no," she said, backing away as Óin moved towards her. "No no no. I'm fine." A pair of arms grabbed her around the middle. Damn, she'd forgotten about Kíli. "I swear, I'm perfectly fine."

"Don't look it," Kíli replied, dragging her to Óin. "She's caught a chill from the water," Kíli said, and Laelynn wrestled away from him.

"I have not!" she tried to say, but what came out was another sneeze. Damn. Óin hmmed non-committally, before performing his own examination.

"You'd be right," he said to Kíli, who beamed. "Get her on the barge, and wrap her in something dry." Laelynn turned. It seemed the man was taking them to Laketown, as he was collecting up the barrels with a scowl as the dwarves boarded the barge.

Chapter Text

Laelynn sat with her back to the wall of the barge, watching as the man skilfully navigated through the mist. Bard, she reminded herself. Bilbo had asked his name as she got on the barge, and if she was inclined to listen, well…

"Laelynn." Speaking of Bilbo. She looked up, then immediately averted her gaze as she saw the determined look in Bilbo's light green eyes. "Laelynn," he repeated, and she sighed, meeting his gaze once more.

"Yes, Bilbo?" she asked, pretending she had no idea why he was in front of her. He frowned.

"What was that in the river?" he asked. Laelynn flinched. It was obvious which section of the river he was referring to, and she didn't want to talk about it. Deny, deny, deny. She opened her mouth to ask what he was talking about.

Her eyes met Bilbo's, and the words died in her throat. He looked so concerned for her, and another sigh escaped her lips. Laelynn gestured for him to sit down, closing her mouth and crossing her legs. She placed her hands in her lap, twisting the hem of her tunic as she tried to find a place to begin.

"You remember what I said happened at the end of my second year, right?" she asked him. Bilbo nodded slowly, his brow furrowed.

"You and your brother had to save a girl from a…" He paused, a small frown creasing his face. "Basil-lisp?"

Laelynn laughed. She couldn't help it, and the sound cut through the quiet the mist covering the lake had brought. She saw more than one head turn in their direction, and the tips of Bilbo's ears turned red. She stopped herself, covering her mouth with a hand to hide her grin, and sat up. "Basilisk, Bilbo," she told him, "It's a Basilisk. But yes, that's what happened. We went in, saved the girl, and Harry got all the credit." And here was the bit she'd glossed over the first time.

"What I didn't tell you was why none of the adults believed Ginny Weasley when she protested on my behalf." She swallowed, her levity gone. "Next to the 'Boy-Who-Lived', she would already be less likely to be believed, but as I wasn't there to back it up none of the adults listened."

"Why weren't you there?" Bilbo asked, leaning forward and asking the expected question.

"I was still in the Chamber of Secrets, Bilbo." She pushed a strand of hair, still slightly damp from the river, behind her ear. It had fallen out of her braid, and had fallen in front of her face.

"What?" asked Kíli, he and his brother coming to her and Bilbo. "Why?" Laelynn leant back, letting her head thunk solidly against the side of the barge. She stayed like that for a moment, before pulling her head back up and starting to explain.

"You know I fought the Basilisk and Harry and Ron stayed behind?" she said. The three nodded. "What I didn't mention was when I stabbed the snake, it thrashed around and flung me into the wall of a… side chamber, I guess? I must have passed out, because when I stood up again, there was a dead snake blocking the exit."

Bilbo, Fíli and Kíli were listening to her raptly, and behind them she could see some of the others trying to listen in unobtrusively. Laelynn pushed the strand of hair back behind her ear again.

"Nobody answered when I called for help," she continued, "And Basilisk hide is notoriously resistant to spells, so I couldn't charm it out of the way. I tried to push it out of the way…" she chuckled ruefully. "I couldn't push something bigger than this barge now, let alone at twelve. I'd just given up on moving the carcass, when the light disappeared." She could remember it so clearly: the damp smell of mould, pressing down on her senses, the sound of rushing water, a black so dark she couldn't see her hands in front of her, and a dull hopelessness, like the damp chill of the chamber, settling so deeply in her bones she'd been certain it would never get out. Her voice dropped to a whisper. "There was a point where I became convinced I'd never get out."

She swallowed the lump that had risen in her throat and continued. "There was a river, in the side chamber, that I found after falling in it. It wasn't very deep, but was fast-flowing and cold. I realised it had to come out somewhere, so I just let it sweep me away.

"It did take me out of the chamber, like I thought it would. But there was a bit, where… where I…" Her tongue felt heavy in her mouth, and the syllables refused to form, and her teeth seemed determined from letting the words out.

"Where you got stuck," Bilbo said. Laelynn closed her eyes and nodded. The back of her eyelids were a sharp contrast to the muted white mist around the barge, harsh and black. She could almost imagine the water lapping against the boat was the water of that river, loud and rushing until it wasn't, was the barest trickle, and the pressure built behind her —

Laelynn pushed herself away from the side of the barge and stood up abruptly, cutting off whatever question Fíli was going to ask. Her eyes snapped open, and she walked to the front of the barge, swiping a hand across her eyes roughly.

Laelynn watched the mist from the front of the barge, watched as large rocks appeared as if from nowhere, disappearing into the mist just as easily. She imagined a mist like that in her head, settling over her memories and hiding them from view, dulling their sharp edges and softening them. Bard looked over as she stood beside him, but said nothing and let her quietly watch as rock formations continued to appear out of the mist.

"What was this?" Laelynn asked softly a while later, her hand stretched out in front of her like she could touch one of the pillars, before it dropped to her side.

"Esgaroth, long ago" Bard said, equally as quiet. "The dragon would come down from the mountain when he first arrived, and look for sustenance. The last time…" He trailed off and gestured to the ruins. Laelynn nodded, watching as another large pillar emerged from the mist. "We built a new town," he said a minute later, and twisted the steering column to the left. "Closer to the centre of the lake. The past is in the past."

The set of his shoulders dissuaded her from more questions, even though he looked far too young to have even seen the dragon, and they stood in silence once more.

"Watch it!" called Dwalin angrily a while later, as Bard narrowly navigated the barge past one of the ruins, barely missing scraping the edge against the rock. "What're you trying to do, drown us?"

"Believe me, Master Dwarf, if I wanted to drown you I would not do it here." Laelynn was the only one who could see the slight upward tilt of Bard's lips, and a small smile crept across her own face despite herself.

"I've had enough of this lippy lakeman," Dwalin muttered to Thorin, and Laelynn frowned. "I say we just throw him overboard and be done with it."

"You will do no such thing," she said sharply, twisting round. She stalked up to him and stabbed a finger in his broad chest. "Bard is nice enough to take us across the lake, and you will at least give him the courtesy of not plotting mutiny."

Laelynn crossed her arms and stared at him. Dwalin held her stare evenly, but finally relented. "I still don't like him," he said, and Laelynn let herself relax a bit.

"You don't have to like him, we just have to pay him," said Balin coming up to her and Dwalin and placing a hand on his brother's arm. "Cough up, everyone."

The dwarves started checking their pockets, and Laelynn turned to Balin as she realised she had missed what they'd negotiated from Bard earlier. "What exactly are we paying Bard for?" she asked, pulling her pouch from her neck.

"Food, supplies, weapons, and to smuggle us into Laketown," said Thorin from where he stared into the mist as if searching for something. Laelynn raised her hand like she was waiting for one of the Professors to call on her, then waved it in front of Thorin's face.

"Thorin, we don't need weapons," she said. Thorin opened his mouth to protest, and from the corner of her eye she could see Bard start at her sentence, but ignored it for the moment. "I have our weapons," Laelynn continued, cutting off Thorin. He opened his mouth again, his forehead creased in anger, before what she said registered in his brain.

"What?" he asked, and she held up her pouch. Thorin's forehead smoothed in understanding, as she shoved an arm in the bag to root around for coins. Bard had turned to her when she said she had weapons, and his jaw dropped as her arm disappeared in the small pouch.

"How?" Bard asked, his voice strangled. He started to walk closer, but the barge began to tilt towards one of the pillars without his guidance. He grabbed the steering column, but kept looking back over to her. Laelynn finally grasped a few of the coins she had, and passed them to Balin.

"Thorin," she hissed, and he turned to her from where he had continued looking out at the mist. "What can I say?" she asked, jerking her head towards Bard. Thorin, thankfully, understood immediately.

"We're heading to the Iron Hills, and you are to be a bride to my cousin Dain," he said, before turning to look out over the mists again. Laelynn gaped at his back, before scowling at Balin, who was still standing next to her. He raised his hands defensively.

"We needed an explanation as to why we had a woman travelling with us," he said rapidly, "And we didn't know if you wanted your history told to anyone." Laelynn sighed.

"I don't really care who knows," she said, before turning in Bard's direction. "But tell Thorin we will be having words," she added darkly, and had the satisfaction of seeing Thorin shiver before she walked to Bard, already pulling her thoughts into order for yet another explanation.

"Quick, give me the money." Bard broke the silence on the barge, which had fallen into an uneasy quiet. His eyes flickered from each of the dwarves to Bilbo to Laelynn, before he pushed the steering column, and the barge turned to the left.

"When we get our supplies, and not before," Thorin said coldly, moving from his place watching the still water. Laelynn scowled, before turning her back on everyone and staring out at the water.

"There are guards up ahead," Bard said, leading the barge into a narrow alcove that smelt of fish. Laelynn reached out a hand and touched one of the rocks that made the wall of the alcove, letting it rest on the cool, damp surface. "If you value your freedom, do as I say."

Laelynn pulled her hand back off the rock, but didn't lower it. "Bard?" she asked, not turning around.

"Yes?" he said, and something heavy landed on the deck of the barge.

"How are you going to keep us from being seen by the guards?"

Bard explained his plan, and as she turned around, Laelynn saw Ori lose the colour in his face. She frowned. "No offence, Bard," she said, "But what's to keep the guards from confiscating the fish?" Her eyes raked over the barrel of fish he'd already gotten on board. "Or even just dumping it in the lake?" Many of the dwarves looked apprehensive at that, peering over the barge sides to the unforgiving water below. Bilbo's eyes had widened, and he had grabbed on of the ropes of the barge tightly.

"Well," Bard frowned, "What do you suggest, then?"

Laelynn let a smile cross her face. She waggled her fingers, harmless white sparks falling from her fingers and landing on the deck, and let her smile stretch into a full-blown smirk.

Chapter Text

"Who're you? You need papers to get in here," said a tired-looking man, walking to the barge as it pulled up to the city gate. Laelynn held her breath as the man squinted at the barge, pushing more power into the Disillusionment and Silencing charms on her and the rest of the Company. "Oh, it's you Bard," the man said, a wan smile lifting his lips.

Bard inclined his head. "Percy," he replied, his voice sounding much deeper after the wheezing voice of Percy. Bard handed him a sheaf of paper he pulled from under his heavy overcoat, that was water-stained and curled at the edges.

Laelynn thought of her own Percy, of his horn-rimmed glasses, meticulously clean robes, and disarming sense of humour that more than once had had her sitting up in bed scowling as she finally got the joke. A Percy so different to the one in front of her, with his salt-stained tunic and dull blond hair, and the air of tired resignation that surrounded him.

"Anything to declare?" he asked, bringing Laelynn back to the present.

"Only that I am cold and tired and want to go home," replied Bard in a long-suffering tone. Laelynn shifted at his words, before stilling and silently berating herself: it wasn't like Disillusionment charms made them completely invisible, and her moving around didn't help it any.

Percy grinned. "You and me both," he said, passing Bard back the papers. "Everything seems in order. You'll tell the children hello for me?"

"I always do," said Bard, and pushed off into the town proper as the gates swung silently open.

Laketown, Laelynn knew from the books in Rivendell, had been built on the water. After Erebor was destroyed by Smaug, many of the survivors in Dale migrated from the foot of the mountain to the lake. They joined the people of Esgaroth, and when the dragon last come down, they'd helped rebuild the town far enough from the shore the dragon would have some trouble getting to them.

The reading she'd done in no way prepared Laelynn for what was in front of her.

The houses pressed up against each other like books on an over-packed shelf, sprawling over each other until you couldn't tell where one ended and the next began. Some had rooms that jutted out over the water of the canals, criss-crossed with bridges that Bard expertly guided his barge past. Other still had a small dock in front of the door, with boats tied to water-worn posts that hardly rose above the sodden walkways. The boats themselves were a myriad of different shapes and sizes, but all has the same tired look to them as the rest of the city.

Laelynn frowned. Now she looked properly, she could the peeling paint and worn edges of the town and the people in it. Something at odds to what one would expect from a city Thranduil paid to take their wine barrels, presumably to be refilled. Judging from the amount of barrels, and the fact Laelynn had gotten the distinct impression Thranduil was someone who paid handsomely for his things, something was wrong.

A flurry of snow blew past the barge, obscuring her view of the dilapidated houses and distracting her. Laelynn stuck her tongue out to catch one of the falling snowflakes, and shivered as the wind blew some of the snow down the neck of her shirt. She'd have to get some more sturdy clothes soon, because it had to be at least September, if not October by now.

Bard manoeuvred his barge into a dock next to a large warehouse, then pulled a hidden lever in the side of the barge. Notified beforehand, Laelynn and the dwarves weren't startled when the side of the barge seemed to fall away, and the deck tilted allowing the empty barrels to roll off the vessel. They just readjusted their footing and kept out of the way. Bard chit-chatted with the men now pulling the barrels out of the water for a few moments, before saying his goodbyes and taking to the channels of Laketown once more.

The rest of the ride went by silently, the snow masking any small sounds that might have come from the town. Bard pulled into a small dock by one of the narrow wooden houses, the barge hitting side of the side of the dock with a soft thud. He slowly started tying things to the deck, and, per the plan, Laelynn and the dwarves quickly shuffled off the barge and onto the wooden walkway in front of the house. Bard finished securing his barge and opened the door of his house, before doubling back to the barge like he'd forgotten something.

They rapidly made their way into the house, Laelynn the last one in, before Bard himself entered and shut the door, sliding the deadbolt shut with a solid clunk.

Laelynn took the chance to observe the house while she still could, before her sight was blocked by dwarven bodies. They were standing in a moderately-sized room, sparsely furnished but each piece functional and well loved. Through a doorway she could see a kitchen, with dried meats and root vegetables hanging from the ceiling and a large wooden workspace in the centre. At the back of the room was another door, this one closed, that Laelynn assumed led to a bedroom or bathroom.

Bard made his way around the room, closing shutters and drawing curtains, every once in a while stopping like he'd run into something. Most likely he'd bumped into one of the dwarves. He ended up by a small window near the kitchen of the house, and after a glance outside, sharply yanked a curtain across it.

"Da?" asked a high, young voice from behind her, and Laelynn turned to see a thin face peering out from behind the door, curiosity shining in their eyes. Bard's face relaxed, the hard lines on his face fading into a tired smile as he turned to look at her.

"Tilda," he said warmly, then held up a hand when she started to open the door wider. "Wait a moment, darling." He paused, maybe wondering how to phrase it, before sighing quietly. "Where are Sigrid and Bain?" he asked instead.

Tilda pouted. "They're working on their letters," she said, slowly inching open the door.

"Tilda," warned Bard, his tone hard, and the door stopped. He sighed again, and shook his head. "I'm not going to ask why you aren't working on yours as well, but can you get the others please? There's something I need to tell you."

Tilda nodded quickly, darting back behind the door to presumably get her siblings. "Get out of the way," Bard hissed sharply. They all shuffled back, any grumbles silenced the the spell.

The door opened again and Tilda entered the room, pulling along an older boy with hair that reminded her of Neville's. Behind them followed an older girl, with a fond and exasperated expression Laelynn thought was more suitable on a mother's face than someone who looked to be her own age.

"Father?" she asked, and Bard walked towards them, before kneeling in front of Tilda.

"Sigrid, Bain, Tilda," he said, eyes moving to look at each child as he spoke. "You must keep this secret," he continued, "You must."

"We will, Da," said Bain, nodding furiously. Sigrid and Tilda also nodded. "But what must we keep secret?" he asked.

Bard leant forward and kissed Tilda's forehead. He ruffled Bain's hair as he straightened up, and fondly stoked Sigrid's cheek with the pad of his thumb, a softness in his eyes. Laelynn could see Sigrid's eyes following him worriedly as he turned around. "You can become visible now," said Bard.

Laelynn ended the Disillusionment charm first, then the silencing spell. She could hear the three gasp as the baker's dozen of dwarves, plus a hobbit and human, became visible. As the dwarves started shaking themselves off and checking to make sure all their limbs were still attached, Laelynn could dimly hear Sigrid demanding an explanation from Bard, and him quietly murmuring a reply.

She brushed at her damp shoulders, trying in vain to push off the snow she hadn't noticed land on it earlier. She shivered, holding her hands just above her shoulders and using a gentle heating charm to dry out the cloth. She saw many of the dwarves conversing loudly with each other, and surreptitiously cast a silencing charm at the walls of the house. Bard was still explaining things to his children, Thorin and Balin standing nearby to clarify. At least, she suspected that was Balin's purpose for being there. She supposed Thorin just wanted to look intimidating.

Another shiver ran through her, and Laelynn frowned softly. Looping the cord of her pouch off her neck, and pulling out her purple cloak, she shook it out and stared at it critically. With one or two questionable stains and the hem frayed and torn in certain places, it was a far cry from the near pristine article she had found so long ago in the Troll Horde. Still, they gave it character, she decided, and happily swung it over her shoulders. She sighed softly in relief as the ever present chill in the air was somewhat blocked, and a quick warming charm on the fabric felt even better.

Laelynn looked up, taking stock of where everyone had settled. Many of the dwarves had formed their family groups, though some such as Dwalin and Ori were sitting together talking quietly. Óin was explaining something to Kíli, and by the way he was listening intently Laelynn suspected Óin was telling him something about healing.

Balin and Thorin had spread an old map across a table, and were staring at it intently. She ambled over to them, stepping deftly to the side as Bain sprinted past her to the kitchen. She heard Sigrid sigh softly behind her, and twisted to flash her a grin. Startled, she gave her a hesitant smile back, and Laelynn's grin widened before she continued to Thorin and Balin.

"So what's the plan," she said, turning her head to try and see the map the right way round. The main focus was the mountain, though Laelynn wanted to laugh at the fact someone had found it necessary to illustrate a dragon in red above it. Is there a dragon in this mountain? I never knew.

Balin turned to her, Thorin still engrossed in the map. "We plan to travel along the river," he said quietly. "We should make it with time to spare to find the door."

"Door?" she asked, leaning further over the map and twisting a strand of hair round her finger. There was a small symbol inked on the side of the mountain, which she supposed was a marker for where it was, but Thorin rolled the map up before she could get a proper look at it.

"'The last light of Durin's Day shall shine upon the keyhole'," he recited in a low voice, tapping the map before tucking it in an inner pocket if his coat. "We must make it to the mountain by Durin's Day, or all hope is lost."

Laelynn frowned. "Why can't we take the front door?" she said quietly, tucking her hair behind her ear. "Wait, dragon, never mind." She shook her head, and the strand of hair fell in front of her face again. She crossed her eyes to look at it, before blinking and tucking it behind her ear.

Bard walked into the room with Bain (and she hadn't even realised he had left; her situational awareness needed some work), a lumpy package in his arms. She followed him into the kitchen, aware of the dwarves following behind her. Bilbo had gotten a blanket from somewhere, and had wrapped himself firmly in it. Laelynn turned so he wouldn't see her smile, though her smile faded as saw what was in the package.

"What is this?" asked Thorin, his disgust evident. She thought he was being a bit harsh: all things considered, with how poor this town was it was a near-miracle they could even scrounge up these makeshift weapons. Though, with how attuned to metalwork and detail the dwarves were, she supposed the slapdash craftsmanship must be gnawing at them.

"Pike hook," said Bard, "From an old harpoon." He pointed to another weapon, one that looked more like a lump of metal on a stick than anything else. "We call this a crowbill, fashioned from a smithy's hammer. Bit heavy, I grant, but better than nothing at all."

"We paid for weapons," said Glóin, throwing the weapon he'd picked up back onto the table. The other dwarves followed suit.

"It's the best outside of the armoury," Bard said stiffly. "Anything iron-forged is there under lock and key." Dwalin and Thorin exchanged looks, painfully obvious in what they wanted to do, and Laelynn sighed loudly. She put her head in her hands, before taking a deep breath and straightening up. The others were watching her silently, and in the doorway she could see Bard's children looking on with wide eyes.

She sighed again, before speaking. "Thorin," she said as patiently as she could. Bard twitched, but she ignored it. "Do you remember what I told you on the barge?" Thorin opened his mouth to answer. "Don't answer that." He closed his mouth with a snap, a scowl painting his features.

Laelynn pulled her pouch off her neck, and tossed it to Thorin. "All your stuff's in there," she said, pulling her cloak around herself. "Please don't pull it all out at once, there's not enough room."

She turned, leaving the room, and took a seat on the couch in the main room before carefully removing her boots. Waterlogged and starting to smell of mold, the river had not been kind to them. Laelynn closed her eyes, giving herself a moment. Two moments. She opened her eyes again, and set to work fixing her boots. Her cloak might have character, but it was dry, and optional, so the tears weren't that big of an issue. From the other room there was a cry of relief, as she supposed a specific object was found. Laelynn didn't know, she'd just taken everything.

She cast a low-level heating charm on the left boot, then the right, evaporating the moisture from the leather with ease. Then was a weak Scourgify, to clear out whatever mold might have already settled, and a Tergeo on the outsides to clear away the water stains. They already looked much nicer, and Laelynn hmmed as she slipped them on, before pulling them off and softening the inner soles.

There was the ghost of a breath on her face, and Laelynn looked up to see Tilda only a wand's length away. "Uh, hello," she said, pulling on her left boot. Tilda blinked, before silently reaching forward and very gently poking Laelynn's cheek. She did it again. Laelynn sat still under her ministrations, figuring she'd get an explanation eventually.

"Tilda," Sigrid gasped, and pulled her away. Tilda blinked up at her. "What were you doing?"

"She's the one who the bag belongs to," said Tilda simply, pulling at the hem of her dress. "And I saw her just now doing something to her boots to dry them really fast. I wanted to know what she is."

"Tilda," Sigrid gasped again, scandalised. A smile crossed Laelynn's face.

"No, it's alright," she said, cutting off whatever reprimand Sigrid was going to give. "She's right to think I'm not a normal human." At their confused looks she clarified. "That is to say, I'm not from the race of Men."

Sigrid slowly sunk onto a chair nearby, as Tilda's eyes went wide. There was a clunk as Bain, who had just come from the kitchen doorway, dropped an apple. It rolled to a stop at Laelynn's feet, and she picked it up. She tossed it to him as he sat on the arm of the couch, and he caught it deftly.

She inclined her head for Bain to join them, and tried to explain it as concisely as she could. "I'm from another world," she said, "And on my world lots of people can use magic. I was created to protect my–" She twisted the boot in her hand roughly "–brother, but a couple months ago I just appeared in Middle Earth." It had only been a few months, but it felt like so much more. "I've been trying to get back ever since."

"Magic?" asked Sigrid.

Laelynn smirked, holding up her other boot. She then cupped it in her hands and focused. With a slight shimmer in the air around it, and a soft pop, the boot in her hands had turned into a small mouse. "Magic," she repeated smugly into the silence.

In the other room, there was a roar of voices, and the mouse let out a frightened squeak and leapt from her cupped hands. Laelynn grabbed for it, but it leapt over her hands, and scurried under the hands of Sigrid and Tilda as well, who bumped heads for their efforts. Bain leapt for it, landing painfully, but the muffled squeak told her he'd been successful.

"Thank you," she said gratefully, hurrying from the couch to kneel by Bain. She quickly cast Finite, and he rose with a confused expression, revealing a slightly-squashed boot.

"What an odd feeling," he said, rising. She supposed he'd been talking about the mouse reverting back to a boot beneath him.

Laelynn pulled her boot on, then looked up to see some of the dwarves standing in the kitchen doorway. "What's all this then?" asked Bombur, hands gripped tightly around his large soup ladle.

"Just some magical mishaps," said Laelynn, waving her hand and standing. "Though I might ask you what that racket was."

Bofur, stood next to Bombur, adjusted his hat nervously. Laelynn's eyes narrowed: Bofur never let his anxiety show, especially not to strangers like Bard's children. "Well, there was an argument," he said reluctantly.

"And?" Laelynn asked, a sense of dread pooling in her stomach.

"Thorin and the others have gone to the Master of Laketown, to ask for more supplies." Glóin said, when Bofur didn't answer. "Bard tried to stop them, saying something about the dragon's wrath, but Thorin wouldn't listen."

Laelynn swore violently, making Sigrid cover Tilda's ears and frown at her. She tried for an apologetic smile, but it came out more a grimace. Did Thorin not realise Bard's concerns were valid? If they failed and the dragon killed them (though she was really hoping that wouldn't happen), it's next target would be Laketown. And if by some miracle they survived to see the dragon attack Laketown, the survivors would come streaming to the mountain. After one hundred and fifty years, give or take, she doubted there would be enough in the mountain for her and the dwarves, let alone however Laketown refugees.

Or they might seek aid from Mirkwood, and the Elvenking would be more than happy to attack the mountain for the townsfolk after their stunt in escaping from the dungeons. They might not even attack, just come and ask for reparations, but she couldn't see Thorin, or even Glóin, letting any of the elves have some of their treasure. Perhaps Kíli would be more amiable, but the only way he'd have control over the treasure was if both Thorin and Fíli died, which was not an option she was hoping would happen.

If nothing else, couldn't anyone else in their party see how derelict the town was, with the logical culprit being the Master. For goodness sake, Bard had barrels of fish hidden in the rocks around town. If there was nothing strange about that in Middle Earth, she was going to bite off her own foot, and throw it at somebody. Probably Thorin. Dwalin would understand.

"Where's the Master's house?" she asked, pushing past the others to grab her pouch from the kitchen table. There were quite a few items strewn around the room, and Laelynn swore again before using a quick Accio to summon the items into the mouth of the bag. Could no one be bothered to put her things back?

Turning, she saw Bombur, Bofur, and Glóin staring at her, and behind them Sigrid, Bain, and Tilda watching silently. "Come on," she said, pulling her cloak more tightly around herself. "We need to keep Thorin from dooming us all."

Chapter Text

Dashing along the wooden walkways of Laketown, Laelynn hoped against hope that they weren't too late. That Thorin hadn't told the Master about the quest, or even worse the townsfolk. The townsfolk that would happily blame the dwarves when the dragon made its way down the river and burnt them alive. If, she scolded herself, if the dragon makes it to the town.

Bain and Tilda were running ahead of her, leading the way, while Bombur, Bofur, Glóin, and Sigrid followed. They made quite a sight, leaping over narrower channels, and taking steps three at a time, but Laelynn deliberately forgot the gawping townsfolk, the chill on the wind coming from the north, the flurries of snow sneaking down her shirt. There was only Bain and Tilda in front of her, and the laboured breathing of the dwarves and Sigrid behind her.

The sun was sinking in the sky as they ran, until their only light was the moon's, and even then sometimes only its reflection on the lake would light their way. She though she heard a snatch of song on the air, but pushed it from her mind. Just these last few bridges, and they would be at the Master's hall. Bain and Tilda stopped suddenly, making Laelynn do an awkward twirl to avoid running straight into them.

The twirl's momentum carried her straight into the square outside the hall, where there was a large mass of people. Somehow, enough people moved out of her way that by the time she stopped she was at the front of the crowd and able to see everything.

Thorin was stood on the steps in front of the hall, with the other dwarves around him. Bilbo was stood at his right, and Dwalin at his left, while the rest made an intimidating mass. A man she supposed was the Master stood in the doorway of the hall, oozing wealth and opulence in a way that made her lip curl. Bard was stood in front of the crowd of townspeople, his face crushed. Laelynn heard the tune from earlier, and felt hot tears fill her eyes as the words became clear.

"The king beneath the mountain,
The king of carven stone,
The lord of silver fountains,
Shall come into his own!"

Her eyes caught Bard's, and she flinched at the pleaded question in his eyes. "I'm sorry," she mouthed, and he turned away. Her tears began to fall, and she looked at Thorin again, her view blurred. His face was so happy, as the townspeople celebrated, and Laelynn cried even more as she realised he didn't even think he could fail.


A quartet of people were standing in front of a large oak desk. The figure sat behind it was an old man, his posture stooped and aged but his bright blue eyes sharp and intelligent.

"You say she still hasn't shown up?" asked Dumbledore calmly, taking a sip from the teacup in front of him. Two of the people in the group winced, very carefully not looking at the other members of their party.

A dark-haired man scowled, his features twisting in rage. Beside him, a woman with blood-red hair's lip curled, anger and disgust painted on her features. Mister James and Miss Lily, sang a small voice in her head, and Laelynn wanted to laugh: they had all changed since the last time she'd called them that, but in her head they could never be anything more than Mister James and Miss Lily. She supposed it was for the best, but sometimes it would be nice to have had parents.

"No," spat Lily. "We haven't been able to find a trace of her."

"It's like she's disappeared off the face of the planet," said one of the other men. Sirius Black. He'd never really done anything to her opinion of him, and neither had Remus Lupin. The only thing Laelynn could remember about them was that he and Lupin were Harry's godfathers.

"Well she can't have done that," said James. "The goblins would notify me as Pater Familias if she'd died, or where she is on earth if it's outside Britain."

"Have they?" asked Dumbledore, and James' scowl deepened.

"No," he grumbled. "They just smile and say she's doing 'what she must'." He shivered. "Have you ever seen a goblin smile? Bloody terrifying, it is."

"What she 'must be doing' is being here," Lily burst out angrily, her teeth bared. "She should be here, training to defeat Voldemort, or even better doing it." Lupin and Black shifted uncomfortably, but said nothing. Cowards. "Then we wouldn't have to fight the bloody Death Eaters, losing five members for every one of theirs, and Harry could sleep easy at night knowing he wouldn't wake up one morning to find James and I dead."

Her chest was heaving by the end, and Dumbledore leant back in his chair, tea forgotten. His brows were bunching in deep thought, and the four other adults shifted as the silence stretched longer and longer.

Dumbledore sighed as he leant forwards once more. "I believe," he began, in the tone of a person who knows the information they have is terrible but needs to say it anyway, "That we have exhausted our options. I thought Voldemort would wish to keep a low profile, lull the public into false security and discredit me while amassing an army. I was incorrect, as the Diagon Massacre so painfully and bloodily proved to us."

All four of the other adults winced this time. Laelynn wondered what happened, though the name hinted at a disaster she wasn't sure she wanted to know about. "Yes," Dumbledore continued, "A very costly mistake. That is why I suggest, as we have not found the girl after a month of searching, that we look to alternatives."

Lily gasped, her hands covering her mouth as tears began to form in her eyes. "No," she said quietly. "No, no, no!" Her voice had risen to a scream by the end. "You promised! You swore he would never have to fight, you promised!" Lily's legs gave out under her, and she collapsed onto James, who had been standing in shock as soon as the implications had become clear. "You promised." Lily repeated brokenly.

"Harry," said James, and in a word he encompassed all the pain and fear and anger and guilt that was on his face.

"I am sorry," said Dumbledore quietly. "But it is the only way. As we cannot find the girl, he is our only hope."

Laelynn stumbled backwards, but behind her was nothing, and suddenly in front of her was nothing too, and she was falling into a blackness that surrounded her, until she was consumed by shadows.

Laelynn rocketed up in the bed she'd been given, gasping. She pushed back the heavy coverlet off and staggered to the window, throwing back the velvet curtains.

The glass was cool to the touch, and she eagerly pressed her face to it. The stars were the only light, the fire having burned down sometime ago and only the heat of the coals remained. In the starlight her large, four poster bed, and the rest of the furniture, was reduced to a dark, hulking mass. Laelynn shifted her head on the glass, letting the coolness seep into her skin, and turned away from her room.

She felt flushed, and she guessed if she could see it her face would be a deep red. Sweat was beading on her forehead, and as she raised a hand to wipe it away she brushed against a clasp.

Laelynn had Transfigured the silken chemise she'd been given into a pair of sturdy, woollen pyjamas the day she'd gotten it, a decision she had not regretted. Especially times like now, as she unlatched the window and climbed onto the ledge outside it.

Her bare feet tingled as she stepped into the snow that had accumulated on the window ledge, and Laelynn silently shut the window behind her, locking it with a thought. It was simple to climb up the detailing on the side of the hall to the roof, and it was only a few seconds after that she was settled in a small nook where the roof made a right angle.

Laelynn pulled her feet under her, casting a warming charm on them to prevent frostbite. Wrapping her arms around her knees, she tried to think back to her dream. She'd known the five people in it… and the same was true of the setting…

The dim picture of the Headmaster's office came to her, and the people in it gained faces she'd know anywhere. Lily and James, and Sirius and Remus, and Dumbledore. A scowl painted her features, and she unconsciously bared her teeth. There was someone she'd never mind not seeing again. They'd been talking about… something. She couldn't recall it, and even as she grabbed for the details they slipped away like smoke.

They had been talking about a search for something… a search for her, it must be. And there had been another thing, something about Voldemort…

The words 'Diagon Alley Massacre' rose from the smoke, and Laelynn flinched back, even as she had no idea why. But that wasn't it. Lily had cried at something else… to do with Harry… something vital… Laelynn tried to think of something that would make Lily cry about her son, but the only thing she could think of was… was Harry having to fight.

And Harry would only have to fight when she died. That was how was, how it had always been. Something bad happened, she fought, Harry took the credit, rinse and repeat. The only reason he should have to fight while she was alive was if she couldn't. But she could fight, she was healthy and ready to, and with her new grasp on magic, she was a force to be reckoned with, if she could be stopped at all.

But she couldn't fight, could she? Not here, stuck in Arda. Not here, helping a group of dwarves fight a dragon for a mountain home. Not even fight, but steal from, which was even harder, and if she could be stopped by anything it was definitely an enraged dragon. It didn't even have to be a dragon, more often than not she was stopped by Dwalin in a practise duel, or even by a gaggle of chattering old women in the Laketown marketplace taking up the entire street. Thinking she was unbeatable lead to overconfidence, which lead to being beaten or even death.

Laelynn held up a hand, examining it under the eerie blue of the starlight. Scarred and calloused, but still usable. In fact, it was better for its marks, as it meant it was used to hard work, and possessed a measure of skill.

Just like her.

And who said she had to go fight for Harry? Dumbledore? James and Lily? They certainly couldn't make her do anything here, and even at– on her own world, they didn't really have any control over her. If nothing else, they wouldn't have control over her anymore.

Because she wasn't 'that Potter girl' or 'the Boy-Who-Lived's twin' anymore. She was Laelynn and Laelynn was her, and no one could take that away.

Laelynn sat in silence, watching as the town began to wake. Smoke streamed from fires long before the sun rose, and the birdsong was joined by a chorus of voices, from the market and houses and boats. Like it had every morning since they'd arrived in Laketown, just as every night she would wake early and find solace from her dreams on the roof. Though this dream was the first she couldn't remember clearly, and it frightened her more than she wanted to admit, even to herself.

When the first bell was rung, its brass toll ringing across the town, Laelynn stood, dusting the snow off her trousers and reapplying the heating charm to her bare feet. It was little effort to shimmy into her room, unlatching the window with a touch, and make up the bed. The Master had servants to tend to the household, but she knew no one would be able to tell whether her or one of them had made up her room, and if she could make one of their lives easier, she would.

It was quick work to pull off her pyjamas and pull on her clothes, as well as the new woollen sweater and scarf she had been gifted, and the woollen socks as well. She double-checked the room, and after pulling an arrow out from under an ottoman was satisfied she had all her belongings. She didn't trust the Master not to send someone searching through her belongings, and it took little effort to keep them on her person and out of his greedy hands.

Opening the window, Laelynn adjusted the clasp of her cloak before stepping onto the ledge. Instead of climbing upwards, this time she slid partway down the pillar before twisting round it to walk along a window ledge on the next side of the building, a floor lower than her room. She Transfigured the glass into a fist sized rock, then slipped silently through the small opening to stand on a ceiling beam. Transfiguring the rock back into glass, she crept along the beam until she was above a spot in front of the centre of the table.

After an uncomfortable interaction (read: sexual harassment) by a greasy man who claimed to be the Master's most trusted advisor, she'd explored different ways of entering the Dining Hall apart from the stairs. And, she mused, as she dropped down in front a tense Thorin who responded by nearly up-ending the table, the reactions to it were hilarious.

The Dining Hall filled quickly, the dwarves all clustering at the opposite end of the table from the Master and his associates. Laelynn sat in the centre, legs crossed underneath her, stuffing more food into a bag then she ate (a bag which she then distributed from in the Market, to whichever children were sent there to play by their parents).

A servant placed a cup of boiling water by her plate, and Laelynn thanked the man before dropping one of the portions of Travelling Tea into it. Sometimes she wondered what the time in Mirkwood had done to her cycle, as she hadn't bled during her time in the dungeons. She supposed it must have happened while she was unconscious (though the dwarves certainly weren't saying anything). Recalling Arwen's words about it being a bad one, Laelynn was glad she had been out for it.

"Laelynn," called Thorin as she got up to leave. Laelynn turned, a half-smile playing at her lips as she took note of the grumble in his voice: he was obviously thinking of her entrance that morning.

"Yes?" she asked, walking backwards to the door.

"We leave at midday. We will not wait."

"Noted," she called, spinning around and dashing through the door. The morning sun felt fresh on her face, and once she'd tossed a loaf of bread to the guards outside the door, Laelynn ran to the Market with a smile on her face.

Chapter Text

"Goodbye," Laelynn called, waving at the people of Laketown from her place on the boat. After swinging by the Market, she'd stopped by Bard's house to say goodbye to him and his children. She had gotten to chatting with Sigrid, though, and had to sprint through the town to catch the boat when Bard had reminded her of the time. She'd only just made it, taking a running leap for the boat as it pulled slowly from the dock.

Once she was on their boat picked up the pace as it pulled out of Laketown. Laelynn was skittish as they made steady progress across the calm surface of the Long Lake, her fingers beating a tattoo on the side of the boat. At one point in the day Óin had made Dwalin pull her down from where she had climbed the mast and was perched precariously at the top, as Bilbo was having conniptions. She'd defended her actions as cheerful whimsy, keeping her unease to herself, but in respect to Bilbo kept her feet planted firmly on the deck for the rest of the day.

The sun had only just began to set when they reached the mouth of the River Running, coming down from the mountain. They set up camp at the lake's edge, Glóin stoking the fire in well enough that it flared up at once, and the chill of the evening was chased away.

They continued this way for a week, until the bargemen the Master of Laketown had insisted they take to 'guide' them refused to go any further.

"Can we at least take the boat?" Laelynn asked.

The eldest of the three bargemen sighed, before glaring at the Lonely Mountain. The sun threw the steel-grey rock into sharp relief, the harsh edges casting deep shadows onto the mountainside. From their position on the river, they had been able to catch glimpses of the dark and yawning entrance, like a gaping mouth at the foot of the mountain. Now it was hidden by the raised slopes of the riverbank, and it was almost worse than when she could see it. At least then, she knew the dragon hadn't slunk out of the entrance to devour them where they stood

"Even if you didn't mind leaving us for whatever's waiting on the banks," the bargeman began, "From this point the river becomes too narrow to sail up in a craft this size."

Laelynn winced before nodding, and as the dwarves started to pull the supplies from the boat, she and Bilbo took inventory. Clearing the boats only took a few minutes, and once the barge men were sailing back down the river Thorin turned to Laelynn.

"I would like to speak in private with you," he told her, before walking away from the others. Laelynn shared a confused look with Bilbo, before leaving him to help with the supplies and running after Thorin.

"Is there a reason for this, or…" Laelynn trailed off, once they were a fair distance from the others. Thorin wasn't looking at her, but instead the mountain.

"Yes," he said, still looking at the mountain. "I have wondered since I first heard your words how you will use the Arkenstone to go to your home."

Laelynn started. She did need the Arkenstone, didn't she? "I honestly have no clue how it works," she told Thorin. "Gandalf just said I could use it to travel to my world." Speaking of… "Didn't Gandalf say we shouldn't enter the Mountain without him, anyway?"

Thorin finally turned to her, his eyes harsh and unforgiving. "That stone represents my right to rule," he said lowly, "If your passage home poses a threat to that stone, I am bound to stop you from doing anything to it." Laelynn felt her mouth drop open.

"So a pretty rock is more important than getting a lost soul home," she said furiously, her voice as low as Thorin's. "Boo-fucking-hoo. I'm going ho– back to my world, and no dwarf will stop me."

Thorin's eyes burned with anger, but he seemed to deliberately be keeping it in check. "But why don't you stay here?" he asked, and there was genuine curiosity in his voice. "Why do you pretend to want to go back to your world? You've often said how unappreciated you are there, and just now you kept yourself from referring to it as your home."

He was acting from genuine concern, she knew, but Laelynn was finding it hard to listen. "Because, Thorin Oakenshield," she said, placing emphasis on his taken name. He stiffened. "I might not like it there, but I have a duty to protect it. If not the Wizarding World, then at least the Muggles, who don't deserve to have Voldemort unleashed on them." Which was what would happen, if no one stopped him. He would attack the Muggles until there were none left. Somewhere along the line they would inevitably find out about magic and wizards, and they would fight back. If she didn't go back soon, she despaired of even finding a world to return to.

Laelynn pushed Thorin's words about her stopping herself from saying 'home'. That was something she look at later, maybe in the middle of the night when the tears that invariably came with it wouldn't be seen.

"I think," she said quietly, "You, of all people, should know what it's like to have a duty to your people."

Thorin bodily flinched. "We will leave discussions of your way home until Gandalf arrives," Thorin finally said, and Laelynn let him take the out.

Fíli walked up to them, holding three large travel packs. "Uncle, Laelynn," he said, looking at both of them in concern. "We are waiting on you." He held up the bags, and Thorin and Laelynn exchanged glances, before each taking a pack. Laelynn walked quickly back to camp, letting Thorin and Fíli talk without her presence.

"What was that about then?" asked Kíli, falling into step beside her as she kept walking. Laelynn plastered a smile on her face, hoping it didn't look as fake as it felt.

"This and that," she said. "Gandalf. The Arkenstone. Me getting back." Kíli, to her relief, didn't press, and as they all began to head for the Mountain walked by her side, a silent support. After an hour of walking, she started chatting with him, and pretended not to notice his relief.

Within half an hour they were teasing each other, and when Thorin turned to look back at her loud laughter, Laelynn gave him a winning smile. She did it again when he was dragged over by Fíli (who was complaining that they kept offering him apples) before grabbing Kíli's hand and running with him to hide by Dwalin.

About a week after leaving the river, Laelynn lay in her bedroll, staring at the fire as the dwarves snored around her. They got closer to the mountain everyday, but even as Laelynn anticipated their arrival, she also dreaded it: arriving at the mountain would mean she was that much closer to the end of her own journey.

Would mean she was that much closer to going back home.

Because as much as she hated to admit it to herself, that's what it was: home. In the clearing in the Forbidden Forest that had become her escape, and the nook in the Library that Madam Pince couldn't get to, hidden high up in the shelves, and the junction on the roof where she could sit and chat with anyone else who'd made it up there, or the other junction she went to when she wanted to be alone.

Laelynn missed her family. She missed Percy's sharp humour and solid reassurance and stiff formality, and Neville's quiet confidence and infectious grin and the way his hair forever was falling in his face; she missed Hagrid's bear hugs and teas at four and his unbridled enthusiasm when he'd show her his latest creature. She missed Luna's quizzical nature and whimsical air and understanding compassion, and Daphne's passion for her beliefs and sparkling levity and the way she could spin a lie so skilfully McGonagall could only purse her lips before walking away.

She missed sneaking into the Kitchens in the middle of the night for High Tea, and the stillness of the Ravenclaw Common Room when it was completely deserted, and the way the Giant Squid's tentacles would lazily breach the surface of the lake in the the middle of June, sunlight glinting off its slippery skin. Laelynn missed the magic of Hogwarts saturating the air, and treading hidden paths in the woods surrounding Potter Manor, and bony hugs from Dipsy (even if she hadn't one in years).

Laelynn missed her home.

A grunt from one of the dwarves had her start, before she rolled over again to look out into the night. There was nothing she could see, the fire robbing her of her eyesight for a minute, and even after. Laelynn twisted in her bedroll so she faced the stars, and her eyes quickly found the constellations four years of Astronomy had taught her. It had shocked her, the first time she'd looked up at night sky only to see a familiar sight, but now it grounded her, and the pain in her chest from thinking of her home eased ever so slightly.

But what of Middle Earth?

Her time here had been some of the best in her short life. She was allowed to be her own person here, and she loved it. She'd gotten used to spending her time with the dwarves and Bilbo, and honestly didn't know what she'd do when they weren't there.

Go to one of her family, she guessed. It wasn't like she was bereft of friends in her own world.

One part of her just wished they could all live in one world together, but she quashed it down. There was a limit to how selfish she would let herself be, and Laelynn knew that no one on Arda would be able to deal with the pollution of her world. And on the other side of the equation, it wouldn't be fair to ask her chosen family to abandon their own livelihoods and other friends and their own families. Or if everyone in each world came, that would bring everything she was trying to escape. Not to mention Voldemort would undoubtedly try and take over Arda, and just no.

So did she stay? Or did she go? Laelynn rolled over in her bedroll again, and tried to push the issue aside. There was no point in fussing over it when she wasn't even sure if using the Arkenstone would even work. Besides, there was the small matter of the dragon currently residing in the mountain, guarding the Arkenstone along with the rest of the treasure.

Laelynn tried to push thoughts from Smaug from her mind, and soon after fell into an uneasy sleep.


The next day they reached the foot of the mountain.

Looming above them it was a humbling sight, the distant shrieks of ravens the only sound shattering the silence that had befallen the group. The dwarves who were old enough to remember Erebor before the dragon were looking at the mountain with a sort of bittersweet disbelief, like it wasn't quite connecting that after so many years they had returned.

The younger dwarves, who had been raised on stories of the might of Erebor, were gazing around themselves in awe. Ori had pulled out a sheaf of parchment from somewhere, and was hurriedly writing things down; Laelynn could see part of a sketch, one of the Front Gate from the ledge they had slept on, before Ori shifted the pages and it was hidden from view.

Bilbo was craning his neck to look up at the huge stone dwarf sentinels, carved into the rock of the mountain so they looked not unsimilar to one of the Hogwarts ghosts gliding out of the castle walls; Laelynn stepped back a bit to fully admire their enormity.

Some loose rock was shifted by her foot, and clattered down a steep incline behind her. Laelynn yelped, turning and stepping back quickly from the edge. The rocks had tumbled down into a valley, across which she could see a town nestled in the rock. She wondered for a moment who would want to live in the shadow of Smaug, before the clouds shifted, and she could see the houses she had assumed were whole were in fact broken and crumbling.

Laelynn turned from what must have been Dale, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, before moving to rejoin the dwarves. "The sun is just reaching it's zenith," Thorin was saying, before pulling out his map and tapping it. "Come, we must find the hidden door before the sun sets."

She walked with Balin as the rest of the Company began to start searching, and as he tapped the ground with a walking stick he'd found earlier in the week, Laelynn used a low-level scanning charm to survey the mountainside.

"Why is it so important we find the door today?" she asked, after they had searched for a while in relative silence. Balin glanced towards Thorin, who was talking with Bilbo, before answering.

"According to the map," he said, "The keyhole will only be visible in the last light of Durin's Day. If we cannot find it today, we will have to wait another year before we can attempt to enter the mountain again." His tone was measured but not dull, and Laelynn found herself thinking idly that being taught lessons by Balin would be preferable to some of her own teachers.

Laelynn frowned as her scan continued to tell her there was nothing but rock around them. "What is Durin's Day, exactly?" she asked Balin, keen to prevent herself from wallowing in despair that they would never find the door. Not to mention she was simply curious as well.

"Durin's Day is the name we give a rare phenomenon," Balin began. "In our calendar, the New Year begins on the first day of the last moon of autumn. When both the sun and the moon can be seen together in the sky, we call it Durin's Day."

Laelynn gave a quiet noise of understanding, turning from the mountain to look up at the sky. It was clear at the moment, but barely; even as she watched, she could see clouds trawling across the sky.

"The date changes," Balin continued, and Laelynn turned back to him. "As it's dependent on the moon, but this year it falls on…" he trailed off pensively; Laelynn looked at him curiously. "By the old Dale-men's calendar, I suppose it would be the 31st of October."

Laelynn froze. The 31st of October. Today. Exactly fourteen years ago Harry defeated Voldemort, freeing the Wizarding World from his cruelty. Of course, it was only temporarily, because if her encounters with him hadn't proved it, her vision back in Mirkwood definitely had. Voldemort was alive, and terrorising the Wizarding World, and now more than ever she had to get back to defeat him. Part of it she knew was her refusal to leave him alive and able to hurt her family, but another part Laelynn tried not to think much about was screaming that this was her purpose in life.

Balin was looking at her concernedly, his bushy white eyebrows drawn together. "Are you quite alright?" he asked her. Laelynn was saved from trying to answer by Bilbo's voice cutting her off.

"Up here!" he cried, and she could see him Fíli and Kíli waving their hands around at the foot of the large dwarf statue. Laelynn looked at Balin happily, and she could see a smile blooming on his face as they ran to Bilbo and the princes.

"Well done," said Thorin as he came to the three. "Well done."

"Where is it?" Laelynn asked, glancing around.

"Here," said Kíli, and he and Fíli began to climb up the detailing on the side of the statue of the dwarf. Laelynn gaped for a moment, before she tracked their path up the side of the statue and saw how it would reach the mountain proper. She groaned, before steeling her shoulders and beginning to climb.

It took them a good while to climb up the mountain, and the wind picking up didn't help them any, trying its hardest to blow them off the mountain. The wind brought with it clouds, and when she wasn't focusing on keeping herself and anyone else from falling off the mountain, Laelynn could see Thorin glancing at the sky worriedly.

By the head of the dwarf statue there was a small ledge, big enough to fit them on, but not enough to see from the foot of the mountain. "This must be it," Laelynn heard Thorin tell Balin quietly, before turning to face the rest of them as they entered the clearing. Thorin said no words, but simply held up the key and let the cheers of the group echo around the clearing.

Dwalin took the lead, striding up to the rock wall of the mountain and beginning to search for a keyhole. The rest of the dwarves joined him, while Laelynn walked to look out at the clouds in the sky. They had been thick, but were getting sparser, enough so she could partially see the sun and the moon but neither at the same time. She frowned at the clouds: they were too slow.

Behind her she could hear frantic noises as the dwarves beat against the rock fruitlessly. Nori was complaining he couldn't hear, and the rest were attempting to better down the door. She could tell it wouldn't work, even as an axe shard whizzed past her head, forcing her to duck.

"Shut up!" she roared at them, and to her surprise they stopped. Thorin turned to her, anger burning in his eyes, but Laelynn ignored him for the moment. He could be angry if this didn't work, but that was unlikely. "Get out of the way, she barked, pushing Fíli and Kíli to the side of the clearing. "How will the light shine upon the keyhole if your shadows are blocking it?"

The dwarves quickly did as she ordered, and Laelynn moved so she wasn't in the way of the wall, but so she could still see the clouds. She closed her eyes and raised her hands, and around her she could feel the wind picking up. Not fast enough, not fast enough. She thought of Scottish gales rattling the windowpanes, and of the sound the trees made when the wind would push them down nearly flat. Laelynn felt the wind grow stronger around her and thought of the clouds she wanted to get rid of, how they would be torn apart like wet parchment. Laelynn pushed, and she felt the wind die down around her despite still feeling it in her magic.

Eyes still closed, Laelynn felt instead of saw the sky get lighter, and only when she heard a dull knocking behind her did she open her eyes and turn around.

The clearing had been stripped, any loose rock blown away by the wind. The dwarves looked rather bedraggled, and for many their hair had been blown out of place. Bilbo especially, his riotous curls falling messily around his face, though Balin's once-pristine beard was now pointing in every direction.

"The key, Thorin," Laelynn called, when it became obvious he had forgotten exactly what the wind had been for. Thorin jumped, before holding up the key, and placing it into the keyhole that had been revealed by the thrush. A thrush who was now looking quite windswept, and Laelynn quietly apologised to it as it flew past her.

Thorin turned the key and the group could hear the shifting groan of the rock, before it was silent. Thorin pushed firmly at the door, and with a hiss of escaping air, the door swung inwards, opening.

Their journey had come to an end; happy Harry Potter Day indeed.

Chapter Text

The majesty of the entrance only lasted until a putrid stench rolled from the open door. Laelynn ducked away, wrinkling her nose and contemplating whether or not to cast a bubblehead charm. The rest of the dwarves seemed to be unaffected by the smell, but Laelynn could see Bilbo covering his lower face with a handkerchief. She wanted to cast a spell to clear the air, but hesitated, unsure if dragons on Middle Earth were as sensitive to magic as their counterparts on her own world. Also, after doing elemental magic on such a scale as she had, it was probably better for her to conserve her strength, no matter how fine she felt.

"Master Baggins, it is time," said Thorin into the awed silence. Bilbo visibly steeled himself to enter the mountain, his small shoulders tensing underneath his bedraggled red jacket. Laelynn walked up to him as Balin began to speak in a low tone with Thorin, Dwalin standing beside them.

"You alright?" she asked him, resting a hand on his shoulder and squeezing it gently. Bilbo shuddered gently, but Laelynn could feel him settling himself under her hand, squaring his shoulders.

"I will be fine," he told her. "It can't be worse than Elevenses with the Sackville-Bagginses, after all." Laelynn laughed, the sound startled out of her at Bilbo's dry humour, and he smiled gently at her before removing her hand from his shoulder. Laelynn sniffed, and angrily wiped her eyes with her sleeve. "I'll be alright," he told her again, awkwardly patting her elbow.

"Just come back safe," Laelynn said, watching with wet eyes as he nodded, then walked down the passage with Thorin and Balin, until he was out of sight. Kíli tapped her arm after a moment, and she wiped her eyes a second time as she turned to him.

"He'll be fine," he said, gripping her shoulder and giving it a reassuring squeeze. Laelynn smiled at him weakly, but let him drag her away from the tunnel entrance. Kíli pulled a pair of dice from a pocket. "Why don't I teach you a game?" he said, holding them up, and Laelynn's smile widened as she settled on the floor next to him. Fíli turned up soon after, dragging Ori with him, which in turn had Dwalin and Dori following. Nori had showed up when Kíli pulled out the dice, and was trying to get the rest of the Company to get on their game with varying degrees of success.

It was a simple enough game, once she got the hang of it: the aim was to bump off all your opponent's counters, while protecting your own at the same time. The grid could be drawn in the dirt, and a Colour-Changing charm made the pieces easier to keep track of. The dice gave you the number of spaces you could move, and often Kíli used a move he had 'conveniently' forgotten to mention until then. She pouted whenever he did, but Fíli had laughed and bumped her shoulder, and Nori had a grin playing at his lips when she looked at him. Even Thorin was watching out of the corner of his eye, smiling softly at Kíli whenever he took a piece of hers.

A roar echoed from the passage, accompanied by the scent of smoke, and the jovial atmosphere vanished in an instant. The only sound was the heavy breathing of the dwarves. There was a cry from someone — it might have been her — before everyone sprinted down the passage. Laelynn was barely aware of Bombur and Dori and Balin lagging behind before they were out of sight. Laelynn only thought of the dwarves ahead of her, the low roof of the passage making her have to crouch as she ran, the feel of her bow in her hand, an arrow notched and ready to draw in an instant.

Then suddenly she could stand straight; she was teetering over the edge of a platform, saved from falling only by a hand catching her shirt and yanking her back. Laelynn breathed out heavily, drawing back her arrow and aiming at the dragon.

But there was no dragon in sight, only a scaled, spiked tail slinking out a large doorway. A chilling laugh was echoing through the room, reverberating in her very bones and making her shake. Laelynn quickly righted herself and aimed at the tail, but it was too late: Smaug had vanished.

"Bilbo!" roared Thorin next to her, worry making his voice crack. Laelynn desperately scanned the room for Bilbo, but there was nothing, only the piles of gold and jewels. She began to shake, her bow and arrows falling from now nerveless fingers. He couldn't be dead; he promised. He promised.

Laelynn fell to her knees, taking no notice of the treasure of Erebor. She would give it all to have Bilbo back; no jewel or pale gold could compare to the rich warmth of a friend, especially one as good as Bilbo. Tears gathered in her eyes, fracturing her view into a thousand facets of gold, and Laelynn began to sob quietly as Thorin raged beside her. "Find him!" he shouted, madly digging in the gold. "We must find Bilbo!" He stood up wildly and spun around, ignoring the mountains of gold in favour of looking for Bilbo.

"Thorin!" someone shouted, and Laelynn's snapped up. That had sounded like–

"Bilbo!" she cried, as he appeared over the ridge of one of the mountains of gold. She scrambled up, almost tripping over herself as she stumbled down the steps towards Bilbo. Thorin had ran to Bilbo as soon as he appeared, and was holding him at arm's length and looking for damage as Laelynn approached.

"Are you unharmed?" Thorin asked, still critically inspecting Bilbo. Laelynn pushed past him to sweep Bilbo into a hug, and started crying again as he returned it. Thorin grumbled behind her, but Laelynn couldn't find it in herself to care: Bilbo was alive.

"I'm perfectly fine, Thorin," Bilbo said, patting her back before gently extracting himself. Laelynn wiped her eyes as Bilbo hugged Thorin, who tensed momentarily before returning it.

"But where's the dragon?" asked Nori, and Laelynn shuddered, twisting in her seat in the gold to look out over the rest of the treasure, as if her eyes could draw out Smaug from where he was hidden. The rest of the company were spread out, looking at the treasure, but at Nori's words gathered together, weapons out and on guard.

Bombur, Dori and Balin walked out of the passage then, gently covered in rock dust and their arms full of supplies. Bombur was trembling, and while Dori and Balin were still, their eyes were wide with fright. Laelynn immediately scrambled down the pile of gold to help, and as she took some of Bombur's load squeezed his shoulder gently. The three dwarves were quickly drawn into the group, the others forming a circle around them, and Thorin quietly asked what had happened.

"Smaug," said Balin shakily, his eyes still wide. Laelynn sucked in a breath. "We thought to bring our supplies into the mountain when we heard the roar, in case of injuries. We had barely brought the last bag into the passage when Bombur spotted Smaug coming around the mountain." The group as a whole gasped, and Bifur put a reassuring arm around Bombur's shoulders.

"Bombur and I began to move our things further in," Balin continued, voice growing stronger. "While Dori shut the door to the mountainside." Nori knocked shoulders with Dori, while Ori took his hand and squeezed it. "It was dark as pitch with the door shut, and we could feel him battering the mountainside from where we had taken cover." Balin closed his eyes, before turning to Thorin with a defeated expression. "When it finally stopped, we turned the corner to see the doorway had collapsed."


The company split up soon after, to explore the treasure while Smaug was gone. Laelynn walked between the mountains of gold, awed by the sheer amount. And the jewels! Oh, how they sparkled and shone in the light. A glint caught her eye and she ran to it, gently sweeping aside the coins covering it to reveal a delicate crown of bronze. Laelynn gasped softly, holding it up to study. There were small jewels decorating the edges, and as it came into the light they were revealed to be a brilliant blue. Sapphires, maybe?

A lively tune began to drift across the room, and Laelynn peered round one of the gold mountains to see Fíli and Kíli playing a pair of harps they had found. She bet they were magical harps, due to the richness of the music being played. But rich music was what these rich halls deserved, and Laelynn happily clapped a beat, placing the crown on her head to free her hands.

After a while (though Laelynn couldn't tell you how long), Bilbo walked around the group and began to chivvy them towards an exit. "Come on," he hissed, "What happens if Smaug returns to catch you playing in his gold? I shouldn't like to think what would happen."

There was quite a bit of protest, but Thorin began to make his way to the exit with Bilbo, and not wanting to be left behind, the rest of the Company quickly picked themselves up and ran after the two, many still clutching whatever they had been looking at. As they exited the Treasury, Laelynn cast one, longing look back, before trudging after the rest of the group into the kingdom proper.

It was hauntingly beautiful.

The ceilings were nearly invisible, as high up as they were, and the walls were covered in geometric patterns, some she recognised from the clothing of the others, others she had never seen before. The stone itself was carved in such a way when it was hit by the light of the torch Glóin had fashioned, it nearly shone. Laelynn found her jaw dropping often, at the skill that must have been needed to make such beautiful decoration, and at the decoration itself.

But haunting, too, as they passed through halls covered in dust, obviously untouched for decades. In the way the dragon's presence near clung to the stone, like a stubborn second skin, setting them all on edge. Claw marks marred the walls, and in many of the passages they passed by, white bones gleamed in the light. Each time they passed one of those passages, the mood of the group sombered, until by the time they had reached the entrance to the West Guardroom, there was none of the levity from the Treasury.

Thorin stepped past a discarded door, the warped wood groaning its misery as his foot brushed against it. They all froze, eyes darting back towards the way they'd came, and Thorin paused. However, when there was no response, no shift in the air that suggested Smaug was coming for them, the group relaxed as much as they were able.

One by one, they stepped into the West Guardroom, careful to avoid the door. As they filled the room, Laelynn delicately averted her eyes from the skeletons on the floor, letting them rest peacefully without her gawking. She saw Thorin raise a trembling hand to the caved-in exit, his eyes bright with unshed tears, but dark with grief.

"Maybe some of them were able to make it out?" Laelynn offered, half-raising her hand to touch his shoulder, before lowering it as he turned to her. "You thought it a viable escape route, during the dragon's attack. Perhaps it only caved when he entered the mountain." Though her reasoning was weak, Thorin seemed to take heart in her words, his shoulders rising from their hunch and his eyes lightening.

"Perhaps," he said, inclining his head; Laelynn tried for a reassuring smile. Nori walked past them to the wall of rock, pulled out a silver spoon, and beginning to tap the rock.

"Oi, stop your yapping," he called, voice low but carrying in the cramped space. The others, who had been quietly speaking with each other, silenced with the exception of Dori, who began sputtering until Ori moved from his place next to Dwalin to gently touch his arm. Dori shut up immediately. Laelynn grinned, and Nori resumed tapping the rock after shaking his head.

It took a minute for Nori to test the rock. He turned back to Thorin, and the silence gained an anticipatory edge.

He shook his head. "It's no good," muttered Nori, and the group deflated. "If the rock was any smaller maybe–" Laelynn started to step forwards, an offer to help on her lips. "–but even then, they've become load-bearing." Laelynn dropped back, the confident smile that had started to form extinguishing like a candle flame. Thorin's face fell, frown lines sinking into their grooves on his forehead.

Bilbo walked to Thorin and began whispering with him, as the rest of the Company slowly began to filter back out of the West Guardroom. Laelynn walked out with her spine stiff, her wand clenched in her hands. That was it then. The only exit any of them wanted to use was blocked, and she doubted any of them wanted to chance the front gate, not when they couldn't know where the dragon was.

Thorin strode out of the West Guardroom, a sense of purpose to his steps that automatically had the rest of them turning to look at him. He smiled, its edge knifelike, before striding down the hallway the opposite direction they had come from. They followed him, Bilbo nearly trotting to walk next to Thorin's brisk stride, and Laelynn noticed the air was getting… cleaner. They rounded another corner, and Laelynn began to walk faster as the air became noticeably cleaner. Another corner, and she started to run.

She wasn't the only one. As they got closer to their destination, Thorin wasn't leading the group so much as running with the pack. The boots of the dwarves were slapping against the stone floors, Laelynn's own scuffing rising above the rest, and only Bilbo's steps were silent. One more corner and– there!

Glimmers of moonlight fell across the hall, basting the group in shades of silver as they collectively slowed to a stop. The hall continued on, but what Laelynn was more concerned with was the large balcony to their right: only large columns separated it from the hall, and looking further she could see only a low rail separated it from what must be a great height. Laelynn barely noticed the others moving with her as she slowly stepped onto the balcony.

The air was sharper here, the chill of winter riding an even chiller wind, but it was fresh, more fresh than anything inside the mountain, and Laelynn relished the bite of it against her cheek. She stepped farther forward, and her foot brushed a chunk of rubble. Laelynn frowned, her eyes quickly sweeping the balcony. Her cursory glance revealed that it was not as perfect as first seemed: large sections of the rail, and in some cases the balcony itself were torn away, and underneath all their feet was rubble. On one of the worn balustrades a raven was perched, and Thorin was quietly conversing with it.

Laelynn roughly pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes, counted to three, and looked again at the edge of the balcony. Thorin was still there, as was the raven. She sighed, adding it to the list of Things That Shouldn't Be Possible Yet Here We Are; the only creatures she knew of able to speak to humans were Acromantula and Jarveys, but the bird was obviously neither. Thorin spoke to the bird a few moments longer, before it flew away, a dark silhouette against the darker sky.

Except… the sky wasn't as dark as it first seemed: there was a red glow in the distance, lightening it. Laelynn walked to Bilbo, who was sitting at the end of the balcony, his head in his hands. "You ok?" she asked him.

Bilbo jolted terribly, twisting to face her with a squeak. "Wha– oh. Yes, I'm fine," he said. Laelynn frowned, but the horizon caught her eye again.

"Do you suppose that's the sunrise?" she asked him, pointing with two fingers towards the red glow. Bilbo turned to look, squinting.

"I…" he hesitated. "Thorin?" he called instead. Thorin turned, walking over with a pensive frown on his face. "Which side of the mountain are we on?" Bilbo asked, his voice shaking slightly.

"The south side," Thorin answered. Bilbo's face lost all colour. He swayed on his feet, and Laelynn quickly held him steady.

"Bilbo!" she cried, "What is it?"

He swallowed roughly, and his eyes met hers before sweeping past to the horizon. "That's not the sunrise," he said, eyes moving to meet Thorin's. "It's Smaug. Laketown is burning."

Chapter Text

A stunned silence followed Bilbo's words. Laelynn stared at him, eyes wide and mouth open. It wouldn't… she couldn't… no.

"We have to–" she started, "–to go– to get– Laketown– Bard–." Her mouth didn't seem to be working, nor her legs, because she wanted to be moving, running back into the mountain to find a door, not standing here, Bilbo's concerned hand on her arm. Bilbo? No: it was too big.

Laelynn turned on her heel, feeling like she was moving through treacle, to look back. Thorin's eyes met hers, remembered sadness darkening them. "There is no use," he said solemnly. "We are too far away to have any effect."

"No," Laelynn half-snarled, wrenching her arm away. "There has to be something I can do. I can't just not do anything." She saw sympathetic looks on the others, and tears fractured her vision. "I can't," she repeated, her voice breaking.

A few people patted her shoulder, and even Thorin seemed not to hold her snarling against her, but it didn't help. Laelynn stared at the distance, Laketown hidden by the gentle hills at the head of the Long Lake. She couldn't stand and do nothing; it went against her entire being. Her purpose for so long had been to fight other people's battles, and now she didn't know how to do anything else.

Her magic wasn't even of use, an overwhelming tiredness deadening her limbs and her ears and her eyes, until she could only see the quiet glow of Laketown burning, so far away, and could do nothing.

"We will take in whatever refugees find their way here." Laelynn turned, dragging her sleeve across her face, to see Thorin talking to Fíli, a hand resting on his shoulder. "I promise you," continued Thorin, and Laelynn felt something in her chest loosen. Kíli walked up to his brother, and squeezed his hand tightly, murmuring something she couldn't hear.

"There's a ledge," Dwalin said, and she turned to see him standing next to Ori. But when he spoke, he was addressing them all. "By the Front Gate. We could see what's happening from there."

There was a short silence as they digested Dwalin's words, and Laelynn felt herself moving almost before Thorin started to lead them to the Front Gate. She had to see. Had to know.

Thorin led them through what must have been the market when the mountain was thriving. Its empty stalls tugged at Laelynn's eyes, making her shiver. When they reached the Front Gate, large stone doors torn from their hinges were lying broken on either side. There was a pause, where the members of the company old enough to remember looked at them sadly; Laelynn turned away from a boot peeking out from under one of the doors. Then the spell was broken, and they spilled out of the entrance.

Like before, Laelynn didn't notice the stuffiness of the mountain until she was out. But now the air outside felt thick and heavy, the glow from Laketown more visible even as they clambered the rock Dwalin led them to, until they could see the town.

It was like Bilbo said: Laketown was burning.

It's salt-stained houses were burning: orange, red, gold, flickering towards the dark sky. Another tongue of flames rolled down, and Laelynn shuddered as she realised just how large Smaug was; his girth blocked the stars even more than the smoke could, and the only glimpses of him she could catch were a gold-crusted underbelly, a wing fanning the flames.

She glanced to her sides, seeing varying degrees of horror on their faces. Horror that must surely be present on her own. Thorin stood next to Bilbo, guilt and pain present in the maelstrom of emotions that flickered across his face. Bilbo looked even worse, guilt slathered heavily on his face. She knew why the guilt was there, knew she had as much a right to it as any of them, and cautiously put a hand hand on Thorin's shoulder. When he turned to her, she inclined her head in Bilbo's direction, pulling back her arm. He understood, and his own arm snaked around Bilbo's shoulders. He jumped, startled, but didn't remove it.

Laelynn turned to the lake once more, as Smaug took another pass over the town, flames spreading even further. If only she could have stopped him! But she hadn't, wasn't fast enough, and now Smaug was there, burning the town that had taken them in.

She found herself wondering what would happen next; when Smaug came back, back to where they stood. Waiting. Watching. It would take only moments for him to burn them to a crisp. All they could do was wait.

Laelynn set her feet firmly. No. They could– they would do more than that. When Smaug came back up the mountain, he would pay.

The ground rumbled under her feet, and she looked up sharply. The sky had lightened while she was thinking, the sky now painted in pale shades of pink and gold. Laketown still burned, but– she looked again: there was no dragon in sight.

"It fell," Bilbo said, a note of hope in his voice. Hesitant, but there. Laelynn looked to Laketown again: hesitant, but there. There were still flames licking into the sky, but now there was no dragon for them to paint red. Just the dawn, and the sun rose even as they watched. Laketown was safe.

A weight in Laelynn's chest loosened. She took a deep breath, appreciating finally the air outside the mountain, as the dwarves began celebrating. Thorin had a small smile growing on his face as he seemed to realise what the dragon's death meant. Laelynn's gaze travelled past him, to the mountain, looking less… ominous, now the dragon lay at the bottom of the Long Lake. In fact, with the sun painting it's slopes a dusty pink, the mountain didn't look dangerous at all.

After a few more minutes, it seemed by mutual consent that the group turned to head back into the mountain. After all, there was still much to do to get the mountain liveable again. Laelynn heard Thorin muttering to Dwalin about the Arkenstone; oh yes, and Thorin was looking for that stone.

A thought, dancing at the edge of her mind, caught her attention as they walked back to the Treasury. But even as she focused on it, it twisted out of reach. There was something important about the Arkenstone, something she needed to remember, but after a few frustrating minutes chasing it, Laelynn let it go. She would remember it eventually, and as they walked into the Treasury there were far more important things to take up her attention.

A gem caught the torchlight, twinkling innocently as a hand reached out to grab it. Laelynn studied the large ruby, twisting it this way and that as it glittered cheerfully. It was quite large, and would look absolutely stunning in a necklace. She could almost feel the envious stares of people like Mrs Potter, and smirked.

But… Gryffindor colours. Ugh. She tossed the jewel uncaringly to her left.

It had been… oh, about two, three weeks since Smaug had died. There was all the talk about cleaning up the rooms and the rest of the mountain, of course, but really. It was much easier to just sleep in their bedrolls: after all, that gave them more time to explore the Treasury.

It was far larger than she'd first thought: there was gold yes, and jewels, but hidden between them were swords, shields, harps and other instruments, jewellery and other bodily decorations far beyond count. She'd found a chess set the day before, the board made of the finest, purest silver and gold, it's pieces beautiful black and white diamonds. She smiled even now, thinking of the expression Weasley would make when he saw it.

Because he would see it. Laelynn had remembered easily enough what she wanted the Arkenstone for, and was just waiting for Thorin to find it. After all, it would be a waste of her time to look for it as well, not when she could be collecting pieces worthy of her instead. It was just a matter of taking it from him, and that was easy enough with her magic. She would be gone before he even realised, well on her way to her world before any of them could react.

It would be child's play after that to find Voldemort, with her skills. She would make him beg for mercy, for daring to threaten her and her own. Him and those fools who followed him. It would only take a moment, and Voldemort wouldn't threaten anyone, ever again.

Then when the Potters came for her, she would fight. Laelynn would make them rue deciding she wasn't good enough for their love. Her, who fought basilisks and Wargs, who didn't run from danger but towards it, her who was far more pure than any of them, being made from magic herself? Oh yes, it would be a cold day in hell before the Potters would make her do anything again. Them and anyone who had been cruel to her, taunted her, believed her perfect, pretty 'brother'.

A hand touched her shoulder, and Laelynn turned to see Bilbo looking at her, concerned. Ah yes, Bilbo. She would be sad to leave him behind, even with his odd attitude to the Treasury's glorious collection. Him, and Bombur and Fíli and Kíli. The four of them stayed by the bedrolls, entering the Treasury only to retrieve the rest of them for supper. Which it must be be now.

"Right, right, supper and all that," she said lazily, releasing the coins in her grip and getting to her feet, a task made difficult by the weight of the jewellery decorating her. Bilbo still looked concerned, but she waved him towards Thorin, searching a few mounds over. Laelynn strode languidly out of the Treasury, a smirk still playing around her lips.

Soon, Thorin would find the Arkenstone, and soon, she would gain her rightful respect; her friends would sure be in for a shock when she returned.

Thorin strode up next to Laelynn a week or so later, decked in resplendent robes. Bilbo followed behind, alternating between wringing his hands and playing with something in his waistcoat pocket.

"Laelynn," he said, bowing his head in the most cursory of nods. Laelynn waved him away, more interested in the silver-tipped quills in front of her — except she had never seen silver so pure and pale before.

"Mithril-tipped quills," said Thorin, looking past her. "A fine set, certainly, and worth more than all the jewels you wear combined." Her head slowly rose to look at him, and Thorin smirked as he found himself the focus of her attention.

He tilted his head. "Although they're of no use to me, I have no doubt that you would find them useful to own," Thorin said. "In fact, I'll happily gift them to you, in exchange for a favour, of course."

"Oh, of course," Laelynn replied easily. He would ask for something she'd find easy, no doubt, and it saved her the trouble of stealing them away later. "What did you have in mind?" She stood up properly and stretched, before following as Thorin led her out of the depths of the Treasury.

"I suspect it would be easy for you to strengthen our defences, would it not?" he asked, leaving the Treasury. Bilbo walked swiftly alongside him, a frown on his face. Laelynn nodded, already thinking of what she could do. "So it would be no trouble for you to strengthen the Front Gate."

"None at all," she replied, rubbing her hands together as they left the warmth of the inner mountain. "A good thought to have, Thorin."

"It's thanks to Bilbo I thought of this at all," he said as they entered the Market.

Bilbo scowled. "Don't say that Thorin Oakenshield," he said angrily. "You know as well as I that I was merely mentioning the smoke seen on the horizon."

"Yes, smoke from campfires," Thorin replied. "I have little doubt Thranduil and his ilk are coming, thinking they can steal the treasure of the dwarves!"

"I told you," Bilbo cried, exasperated, "No one plans to steal from the mountain!"

"As I told you, Master Baggins, that you don't know Thranduil. Not like I do."

They reached the Front Gate, Kíli and Fíli slouched against a wall on guard. The two straightened as Thorin approached.

"No one's been sighted, Uncle," said Fíli. Kíli nodded in agreement.

Thorin smiled fondly. "Good," he said to them, before turning to her. "Laelynn?"

Laelynn grinned in reply, the fresh air blowing her hair back from her face. It was almost like it was clearing away cobwebs, and her grin widened as better spells came to mind. Raising her arms, Laelynn pictured clearly what she wanted to happen: the torn and twisted doors shuddered, stone dust flying in great clouds as they broke apart.

Thorin had started forward angrily, when Bilbo put a hand on his arm. "Wait," he said softly.

Her arms still raised, Laelynn began to direct the newly-formed chunks of rock into the doorway. Setting them in place was effortless, and their angular forms meant they fitted together neatly. Protected from the wind, Laelynn punched look-out holes along a neatly-made stairway to the top. A gesture turned what remained of the broken doors into an almost fluid dust, which sealed up the cracks and crevasses until a final wave of her hand shifted the rock, melding together until there was no hope for an attacking enemy to breach it.

The eyes of the others were wide, but none wider than Bilbo's. he almost looked… despairing? Laelynn decided it wasn't worth bothering with, as Thorin began examining her work; there was a set of quills that were hers.