Chapter 24 : Invisibility
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“What have you done?” Frodo cried as Harry reentered their small room, flanked by two of Faramir’s men. The two Hobbits were sitting alert and awake, likely because the sound of Gollum’s keening voice had echoed down the tunnels of the cave. Harry felt a twinge of regret as he met Frodo’s piercing gaze. Rarely did he feel unsure about his actions; he always felt that he acted for the right reasons. But what he had just done to Gollum…
He explained himself as best as he could, describing the walk down to the pool, the way Faramir has threatened to shoot Gollum, the way he had assisted in the creature’s capture. Without words he tried to convey the thoughts that were swirling in his mind. I didn’t have a choice. There was no other way…
Sam looked troubled, but nodded briefly in hesitant agreement. Frodo, however, put his head in his hands in apparent despair.
“He was our only hope of getting where we needed to go,” he murmured. “What do we do now?”
What indeed, Harry wondered. He peered outside their room. Sentries were posted perhaps fifteen feet down the tunnel – safe enough for them to discuss strategy in low voices, but still well-guarded.
“We’ll need to run for it,” he said slowly.
“What?” Frodo asked, jerking his head up.
Harry hung his head. “I tried to gain Faramir’s trust. I think that’s what I was trying to do when I helped him capture Gollum. But...unless we tell him the truth, he won’t just let us go. He knows we’re hiding something, and he’ll find out sooner or later.” As he said this, Gollum’s voice echoed shrilly through the air.
“And Gollum?” Frodo asked.
“We’ll have to figure that one out as we go,” Harry said. “I know we can’t go anywhere without him.”
Sam whispered, “Harry, there are guards everywhere! We’d not make it past the first pair, not even Frodo or me, not even with the Lórien cloaks!” Even as he said this, he was stowing the few items they had removed from their packs, expression hopeful.
“But they’re not expecting us to be invisible,” Harry grinned.
“No!” Frodo’s eyes widened as he clutched at the Ring. “No, He’ll see, you can’t mean – ”
“I didn’t, I didn’t!” Harry rushed on. He knelt by his pack and drew out the flowing folds of the Invisibility Cloak. “Remember?” Looking at Frodo, he reached out and pulled the Hobbit’s hand away from the chain.
Take the Ring, you have your wand. No need to kill, just Stun them and slip away under your Cloak, invisible…all-powerful!
Sam was shaking him by the shoulders. Coming back to himself, Harry blinked and saw that Frodo had recoiled and was now standing. He felt tainted, almost as he had felt when Voldemort invaded his mind.
“It’s getting stronger.” he said quietly to Frodo. As the Hobbit nodded, he continued, “Well, let’s get out of here, then, and get it destroyed as soon as possible.”
He was whispering instructions to Frodo and Sam when he heard Gollum’s voice cry out loudly, then go quiet. The silence that ensued was unsettling.
“I think they’ve found us out,” he whispered. Sure enough, he could hear a pair of booted feet rushing through the tunnel, sound growing closer with each passing second. “We’ll have to move fast.”
Quickly he leaned out of the room, his wand drawn. "Immotica!” he whispered. As the first ball of blue light sped down the tunnel, he cast another Freeze Charm at the second guard before hurriedly shoving his wand into his boot. In mere seconds Faramir came striding down the tunnel, but was too hurried to notice the unnatural stillness of his men. His eyes were alight with purpose as he pushed Harry aside and drew his sword, pointing it at Frodo. The Hobbit backed into the wall, cornered.
“A merry chase you thought to lead me, but I have the answer to this riddle at last. Here I have you, three of you against my host of Men…”
With the point of his sword he delicately drew out the chain that shone at Frodo’s neck.
“And the Ring of Power right here, in my grasp.”
Frodo looked wildly at Harry, breathing heavily with the exertion of fighting the Ring. In the space of a second, a memory surfaced, and Harry was staring up at Faramir down the length of the blade, its point precariously balanced at his neck. He felt the struggle, the rising anger…
He wrenched himself out of that memory and whipped out his wand, speaking the jinx as loudly as he dared. “Petrificus Totalus! ”
The sword slipped from Faramir’s grip as he succumbed to the Body-bind curse, eyes wide in astonishment. Sam had the presence of mind to pull the weapon aside as Faramir fell.
Harry knelt at the other Man’s side. “I’m sorry I had to do that. But you must understand that we intend to destroy it. Your brother gave his life fighting to make that happen. I promise, we will either destroy it or die trying. You have to understand that. Please.”
Faramir looked at him unblinkingly, but Harry saw anger, surprise, and comprehension dawning in his grey eyes. With a final apology, Harry Stunned Faramir and undid the Body-bind. Sam laid the sword in a far corner of the cave, clearly visible.
“Quickly!” Harry gestured for Frodo and Sam to stand close to him and swept the Invisibility Cloak to conceal all of them. The Cloak was more than large enough; after all, it concealed Harry, Ron, and Hermione up to now, only showing their feet and ankles if they weren’t careful, and the two Hobbits were much smaller. Moving as silently as they could, they exited the small chamber and crept past the guards, whose eyes alone betrayed their surprise at their sudden inability to move.
The Lórien cloaks may have allowed them to blend with the shadows, but the Invisibility Cloak was completely impenetrable. The Hobbits could pad along so silently only the keenest Elven ears could hear them. Silently Harry thanked whatever talented Elf had put together his boots; they were well-built and had withstood the most severe abuse Harry had ever put his footwear through, yet their soles were soft and silent against the cave floor. It was as though they had disappeared.
He checked to make sure that the passage was deserted before murmuring to the Hobbits, “This way. I remember the way to the water; Gollum can’t be far from there…and they must have our things as well…”
They crept up the passage, straining their ears and listening for any sort of commotion. Their time was limited; Harry dimly recalled that without use of the Rennervate spell, the Stunned victim would remain unconscious for about twenty minutes. Three of those precious minutes had already slipped away, and they were still trying to find the right room…
Thankfully, Gollum chose that moment to whimper. Frodo caught Harry’s eye and tilted his head to indicate the correct direction; Harry nodded and tapped Sam’s shoulder to get his attention. The three of them shuffled more quickly to the source of the sound.
The torchlight here was slightly brighter than in the passageways. Three men stood along the rocky walls of the chamber, watching impassively as Gollum moaned and whined piteously to himself. Harry gripped the Hobbits’ shoulders to stop them from rushing forward as he surveyed the room. How was he to knock out these three soldiers without attracting the attention of any more of Faramir’s men? As his eyes slid along the walls, he found his answer: there, opposite Gollum, were the packs and weapons he and the Hobbits had been carrying before they were captured. The staff Galadriel had given him was among them, the small gold-inscribed sphere glinting in the dim light. He formulated a plan in seconds. Gesturing to the Hobbits, he indicated that they should hide in the shadows outside the chamber. Then, still shrouded in the Cloak, he crept back into the chamber.
Gollum went very still as Harry tiptoed to the center of the room. The emaciated creature turned around, his pale eyes fixed directly on the spot where Harry now stood, invisible.
Harry had been hoping for the cover of Gollum’s cries, but now he had no choice; the three men in the chamber were frowning down at Gollum, puzzled by the sudden change in his behavior. Whipping the Cloak off, he said, “Accio staff! ”, and felt the wood of the staff turn instantly warm under his fingers. Kneeling, he felt the power surging from his hand to the staff, felt it rushing to the sphere, felt the magic obey the direction of his focused mind.
Barely a second after he knelt, Harry felt an invisible force sail outward from the sphere over his head, knocking all three soldiers unconscious as it hit them in the face. Gollum, still crouched on the floor, had avoided the spell. For a moment, Harry met Gollum’s narrowed eyes, too lightheaded from using his staff to move. Then Gollum launched himself at Harry’s throat. It was only by rolling to the side and brandishing his wand that Harry was able to avoid being throttled.
“Cruel tall one tricksed us, betrayed us!” Gollum hissed, flexing his fingers.
“I’m sorry, Gollum, but I had to make sure – ”
“Poor poor Sméagol, Master left him,” he sniffed. “So Sméagol went to find Master and fat Hobbit and the tall one, but the tall one tricksed him!”
“Shut up, will you, I saved your life!” Harry said through gritted teeth. “We need to get out of here.”
“Sméagol!” came Frodo’s voice. Turning, Harry saw the two Hobbits hurrying into the room. Sam rushed toward the packs and swords against the wall, buckling everything back on. Harry rose to retrieve his own pack, leaning slightly on his staff, wand clutched in his other hand. He heard Frodo continue to talk to Gollum, “Master is here, I am sorry we left but we had no choice, we were captured! We need to find a way out, Sméagol. Do you know the way out?”
Gollum’s eyes glowed as he nodded slowly. “Sméagol knowsss, yesss he does, but there are soldierses all round…”
“Harry, will your Cloak cover four?” Frodo asked in a hushed voice as he buckled on his sword, Sting.
Harry disliked the idea of being huddled so close to Gollum under the Invisibility Cloak, but what choice did he have? They were wasting precious time; the Freezing Charms and Stunner would begin to wear off soon.
“I think so,” he said. He crouched as he turned to Gollum, who was still glaring at him from the floor. “I didn’t mean for them to hurt you. But you say I betrayed you, and I say that you betrayed the three of us by revealing our mission. We’re square. Can I trust you not to harm me?”
For a moment, Gollum’s eyes flicked to the wand in Harry’s hand, perhaps remembering the power that had been unleashed against him. A malevolent glow lit those eyes for a moment – was it anger? Harry didn’t feel that he could genuinely apologize, not after Gollum’s betrayal. But then Gollum met Harry’s gaze and hissed, “Yesss. Sméagol promises not to harm tall one.”
“Very well, then.” Harry rose, tucked his wand away, and swung the Invisibility Cloak over his head. “Come on, the three of you – we need to be fast but quiet. I know you can manage.”
They were huddled closely under the Cloak’s protection – Gollum was altogether too close for Harry’s comfort, and, it appeared, for Sam’s. But what choice did they have?
“Lead the way, Sméagol,” Frodo said softly.
Harry was still not certain whether Faramir would let them go without a search. Their very lives were now in Gollum’s hands. But he wasn’t really leading them to freedom; no, freedom was found in life at the Shire, based on Sam’s description, or in the tranquility of Rivendell, or in the mystery of Lórien. They were now bound to complete their task, and it was not until it was over that they would be free. And even then – briefly Harry thought of Ron and Hermione. Were they all right? Would any of them ever return to their time?
Take the Ring, have all the power you need.
There it was again, that infernal voice! With a huge effort he managed to ignore it, but he could not quite quell a growing tide of fear. Sam, with his innocence – and perhaps his nature as a Hobbit – seemed somewhat more immune to the Ring’s call. But Harry remembered how Boromir had tried to overpower Frodo and take the Ring for his own. Boromir was of the race of Men, and from what he understood, Men were contemptible for their weakness. How much longer could he, Harry, hold out against the Ring?
His three companions were staring up at him expectantly, and he knew that he had appeared altogether lost in thought. Harry drew a shaking breath and repeated, “Yes. Lead the way.”
The sooner they escaped, the sooner they could continue their quest. And the sooner the Ring was destroyed, the sooner Harry would be able to fully trust himself once more.