Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Harry looked over as the door opened and smiled as he recognised the man entering the Prancing Pony. Most of Bree’s inhabitants kept their distance from the Rangers but they made him feel safe for some reason. He ducked into the kitchen and re-emerged with Strider’s usual meal and drink, placing them on the small table before the Ranger who gave him a nod and a few coins. Harry smiled back, shoving his hair out of his eyes as he went to put the money away. It was early and therefore fairly empty other than a few people staying in the rooms above. Harry moved around the room, cleaning tables and generally trying to make the place look clean. He figured without resorting to magic though it would never truly look clean, no matter how much he scrubbed. And he was reluctant to resort to magic; the last thing he wanted was to stand out more than he did.
“That’s an interesting tune.” He nearly hexed Strider when the Ranger spoke, spinning around to face him, cleaning cloth in hand.
“Sir?” He had only heard the man speak once before, the first time they met over a year before when Strider had passed through the town.
“The tune you were humming.” He answered, lighting his pipe and Harry blinked, unaware he had been humming.
Harry ducked his head and shrugged. “Something a friend used to sing.” He had never really been very good at singing the school song.
Strider watched him, hearing the sadness in his voice as the younger man went back to work. He was a hard worker, Strider had never seen him do anything but work when he was in Bree. He was very young and yet his eyes…..they reminded him of the eyes of a Ranger, old before their time. He wondered what tragedy had brought him to Bree for he was not native to the town. In fact he had never heard an accent quite like his before. In these times strangers were people to be wary of and yet……this one did not give him any feeling of wariness, despite the fact he always wore black and kept to the sides when the inn was full. Sure enough as darkness fell and the inn filled the young man withdrew, serving quietly, eyes on the ground.
Harry glanced over at the door when he noticed his employer talking to a small group….and small was right. A group of young hobbits and not locals. Form what he had overheard hobbits weren’t ones for travel and there was something………..darkness hung over one of them and it made his skin crawl.
He quickly served them the food they had ordered and retreated from the main room into the kitchen for a quick drink and then outside for air, leaning against the wall as he breathed deeply. Whatever that feeling was coming from was worse than any Horcrux. Hearing a commotion he ducked back inside to see the Hobbits vanishing up the stairs quickly and the rooms’ occupants muttering about things.
Harry jerked awake, looking around wildly for danger, magic gathering under his skin as he got up and dressed silently. He quickly unwrapped a bundle and settled Gryffindor’s sword at his hip before slipping from his small room at the back of the inn. With the ease of someone used to sneaking through castle passages he made his way through the inn before breaking into a run as he heard a cry of terror. He ran up the stairs to see the black figures in the broken doorway and Strider standing with his sword drawn, protecting the hobbits that had arrived earlier. These figures felt purely evil and Harry didn’t hesitate, his Patronus leaping among them and causing them to screech as they scattered.
Aragorn stared in awe as he saw the young kitchen hand standing in the hallway, green eyes hard and his hand extended, a sword belted at his side. One of the Wraiths lunged and the man ducked away, pulling his sword to counter attack. Aragorn shook his surprise off and went back to the fight, not sure what to think of the silver stag protecting the hobbits. One of the Wraith’s screamed and Aragorn glanced to see the other human pulling his sword from its side. That Wraith quickly fled and the others were less eager to engage the young man. Aragorn grabbed a smouldering torch and thrust it at another and the lot fled.
Harry sheathed his sword and let Prongs fade, panting slightly in exhaustion. In the two years he’d been in Middle Earth he hadn’t had to fight much after the first few months lost in the wilds. “Anyone hurt?” He called, moving closer to the room and finding himself under the wide eyed stared of the hobbits. He gave them a small smiled and then looked at Strider. “Those things haven’t gone far, you need to go. Now.” Harry told him, sensing the creatures outside the town.
Aragorn frowned but nodded and urged the hobbits to gather their things. Their saviour vanished and Aragorn led them from the inn only to find him outside, strapping supplies to a pony. “Who are you?” He asked and green eyes stared at him, in over a year he had never actually heard the others name.
“Hadrian Black. Here.” Hadrian thrust the reins at him and began herding the hobbits through the silent town. Aragorn pulled the pony along, not sure what to think of Hadrian but for now they could use the help. Instead of taking them to the gates he led them to a small gap in the towns walls and then out into the wilderness. Hadrian led them at a fast pace until he eventual stopped, eyes closed as he breathed deeply. “Lost them for now.” He commented and then grabbed a water skin, drinking deeply. “What were those things?” He demanded, turning to Aragorn. Aragorn stared back, not sure what to think of him. He had helped them but for what reason? Was he a servant of the Enemy sent to find Frodo and take the Ring? He could not be Istari, could he?
“Ring Wraith’s. Servants of the Enemy.” He finally answered only for Hadrian to roll his eyes at him.
“Well that tells me nothing.” He muttered before stretching. “You better keep moving. They’re heading East at the moment. Good luck.”
“You’re leaving?” One of the hobbits demanded.
“You should be able to avoid them in the wilderness easily enough and get to wherever you are headed master hobbit.” Hadrian answered.
“But……” Another started only to trail off.
“Whatever you carry, they want it desperately. Do not let them get it.” he warned the dark haired hobbit whose hand went to a small pocket, hiding something behind his hand and Harry knew whatever it was, it was the source of evil he could feel. “Good luck Strider, I hope to see you again at the Prancing Pony.” He turned to leave only to stop when Strider’s hand clamped down on his shoulder.
“You know what Frodo carries?” He demanded and Hadrian shook his head.
“Only that it is great evil and makes my skin crawl.”
“You do not hear its call?” Aragorn pushed and Hadrian again shook his head. He had been tempted all his life and had never given in. He may not be strictly a Light Wizard after the war but he was not Dark either. “What was that light back at the inn?”
Hadrian swallowed, nervous, but answered. “Magic.”
“You are unlike any Wizard I have ever seen.” Aragorn eyed him warily. “How old are you?”
“Nineteen? You’re younger than us!” One of the as yet unnamed hobbits exclaimed and Hadrian smiled slightly. “You should come to Rivendell with us. Gandalf will be there!”
“Thank you but I should get back.”
“Do you have family in Bree?” Frodo asked and they all saw the flash of pain in his eyes.
“My family died long ago.” He admitted softly.
“Pippin may be right; you should come with us Black Wizard.” Aragorn stated, he would feel better if he could keep an eye on him and if he were an enemy Gandalf and Elrond could deal with him.
Hadrian blinked at the title, hesitating but the hobbits swarmed him cheerfully, tugging him on and he gave in. A part of him craving companionship again.
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