Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings or any of the characters. All rights belong to J. K. Rowling, Tolkien and WB.
Summary: After seven years old Harry Potter was nearly beaten to death by his uncle, he is found by a little creature with hairy feet.
Prequel: An Unexpected Home
Chapter 1: The Journey Home
(Harry Potter: Aged 7)
Turning from his aching back onto his stomach, seven year old Harry Potter buried his face into the scratching grass that had dried to harsh straw over the past few weeks of summer, to muffle the sobs he could not suppress any longer. Hot streams of tears ran down his cheeks and he hid his face deeper into the dry underground. His uncle hated crying and his cousin, Dudley never cried: he was also a good boy and that was why Dudley was loved and got presents and sweets - and he not.
Soon his body began to feel tired from the long hours of working under the sun in the garden and the little sleep he had caught up, and his sobs died down to silent whimpers as his eyes began to droop, when suddenly something touched his shoulder. He instinctively rolled into a ball, but his arms were just too heavy to once more come up to protect his head. Panic rose inside of him as he lay trembling on the grass and awaited the first blow, for surely his uncle must have heard him cry after all, but the painful touch never came.
Instead, a soft voice reached his ears and the hand on his shoulder was also too light to be the fleshy paw.
“Hush laddie, are you alright? Come on, turn around, and let me have a look at you.”
The hand nudged him to once more turn onto his back and Harry did so, even though his back was by now throbbing wherever his uncle’s belt had hit him earlier, but the voice just sounded so friendly, it made him hope that this person might like him and be nice to him.
“Oh my, goodness gracious! You are a right mess, what monster did that to you?” the friendly voice asked, but it sounded a bit harsher now, however it still was not frightening.
“My uncle,” Harry mumbled silently as he tried to blink his eyes open, but his head hurt and the turning had made him dizzy. “But uncle Vernon isn’t a monster. I am just a worthless freak” he told the blurry figure that was hovering above him.
“That uncle of yours is the worthless freak,” muttered the man, and yes, Harry could finally see that it was a man, although a very small one, because he had blinked all the tears from his eyes. Too tired and exhausted to say anything else, Harry simply watched him as a strange sound could be heard and a piece of cloth was wrapped around his pounding head.
The man truly looked nice, and funny. He had friendly, shining amber orbs and a mop of honey colored curls on his head, which his aunt Petunia would probably want to trim like she always wanted to do with his own hair. He also had round, apple cheeks and, to Harry’s huge surprise, pointy ears, but that was surely his tiredness speaking, for only fairies had pointy ears, and fairies, like anything else magical did not exist; he had learned that lesson with the help of a cane.
“You know what,” the man suddenly said, making Harry jump a little. He quickly focused on the nice stranger again, that was after all what adults expected when they talked to you.
“You will not stay here for a minute longer! Oh Yavanna, give me strength so that I do not throttle…”
“And where should I stay?” Harry interrupted him, suddenly feeling confused by the foreign name. The stranger focused his amber colored eyes on him and replied: “With me, of course. Can you stand up?”
Harry’s heart missed a beat and his eyes widened his disbelief. Had he heard correctly, did this nice person truly want to take him home? Him, a worthless freak and freeloader? Quickly, he tried to sit up before the man could change his mind, but when he pushed himself up, the world around him started spinning again, more violently than earlier even, and he fell back onto the grass. Hot tears gathered once more in his eyes as he realized that he would not be able to follow the man and that he would have to stay with his uncle and aunt.
“Oh my, don’t worry, we will get you home” the voice said, and before Harry could realize what was happening, he was lifted up. The motion jolted some of his wounds and he whimpered, but he bit his lip and tried to stay as silent as possible, afraid that the stranger would leave him behind if he said a wrong word.
The man gave the hedge that was protecting the back of the garden a quick glance and then declared: “Well, we cannot take that way back. The front gate will have to do,” and then he started walking.
Harry instinctively buried his face into the man’s soft jacket as they walked past his aunt and uncle’s bedroom window and only dared to look up again when he was sure that they had to be a good distance away from the garden.
He was carried down the main street of Little Whinging by now, which made him slightly nervous, but the houses to their left and right still lay in darkness and no one was in sight.
“By the way,” the man spoke up again after a few minutes, “My name is Master Baggins, but you can call me Bilbo. What is your name, little fellow?”
“Harry… Harry Potter,” he answered tiredly, his eyes beginning to droop once more. However, he tried to stay awake as Bilbo crossed the street and turned left to enter the playground.
If he had been more awake, Harry might have wondered why Bilbo was carrying him across the playground, as nothing but an old, unkempt hedge was at its end, but as it was, he was barely conscious at this point and only jolted awake somewhat as he was carried through said hedge and found himself suddenly in a forest he had never seen before. The trees looked very old and stretched high into the sky. Even though no wind was whispering, they seemed to move with a non-existent breeze. Some of them even seemed to whisper silently as they passed them, and Harry could not take his eyes from them.
They walked for a few more minutes until the forest finally seemed to grow sparse and eventually they stepped out onto a broad path. The path led up to a small village with strange, small houses and neat gardens. The paths were broad there as well, and some of the huge trees stood to the side of them. Somehow, the village reminded Harry of a picture of a garden-gnome city he had once seen in one of his cousin’s picture books.
“Are you garden-gnomes?” he asked as Bilbo carried him past dark windows and sparsely flickering lanterns.
No,” his small rescuer chuckled, “we are Hobbits, not garden-gnomes, why would you think that?”
Harry for a second chewed on his bottom lip, unsure whether he should be honest or if Bilbo would be angry, but in the end he timidly explained: “Because your city looks just like the garden-gnome city in my Cousin Dudley’s picture book. What are Hobbits?”
“Hobbits are a bit like humans, only we are smaller and have larger feet,” Bilbo chuckled, making Harry look down at his large feet; they really were gigantic and very hairy.
“We can also be very nimble and sneaky if we want to be. We also love everything that lives or grows in nature and a well cooked meal. Have you already eaten this evening?”
Harry shook his head; his last meal had been two or three days ago.
“Well then, I am glad that I still have a portion of chicken soup on the stove,” Bilbo smiled at him.
Harry noticed that they were climbing up a small hill now, which led to another small house that had apparently been built into the earth.
“This, Harry, is Bag End, your new home.”
“It’s cute,” Harry giggled in response, and then realized what he had done and flushed a bright shade of red.
“You can call it cute, I do not mind, even though my dear old father might turn in his grave,” the small man told him.
They had soon reached the small house, which had a round door like all the others they had passed, only much more beautiful. Bilbo pushed it open and he was carefully carried inside. The house was just as beautiful from the inside as it had been from the outside. Dark red and honey-colored wood reflected the light softly from a silently crackling fireplace, giving the house a warm and peaceful atmosphere. Old-fashioned furniture, which reinforced the first impression of homeliness, stood in every corner, and where the walls could have been free, many bookshelves occupied the spaces.
“Would you like to take a bath first?” Harry was drawn out of his examination of the house. He quickly shook his head; he was too tired for a bath. “I just want to go to bed,” he answered.
“Then I will help you change into some fresh clothes and bring you some soup.”
Harry was carried through a door on the right and into a dark room, and was placed onto the softest bed he had ever laid upon; not even his relative’s bed had felt so soft whenever he had changed the sheets. The moon shone brightly through a window that was as round as the front door had been, and a moment later a candle flickered to life.
“I will fetch the soup and a set of my pajamas; get some rest,” Bilbo told him and Harry didn’t need to be told twice. The bed was so warm and cozy and the light danced so comfortingly around him that his rescuer was barely out of the door when his eyes fell shut. However, all too soon he was softly shaken awake again.
“Come on, little one, sit up a bit so that I can get you out of these filthy…” his t-shirt was pulled up, but then Bilbo froze in his movement.
Knowing what must have disturbed the small man, Harry fidgeted nervously, before telling him: “I know I look ugly, Mister Bilbo.”
“What?” Bilbo asked, seeming a bit confused.
“I said,” repeated Harry anxiously, “that I know that I am ugly,” he lowered his eyes in shame, he didn’t wish to make his nice rescuer feel uncomfortable, but when he felt the Hobbit’s gaze on him, he looked back up, only to flinch at the stern expression.
“Harry Potter, I will not hear such untrue words from you again, you are not ugly, you are a cute young boy with the most brilliant eyes I have ever seen, and my shock applied not to you, but to what your horrible uncle did to you.... Oh I truly could poison his soup!”
Confused, Harry asked “Why would you poison my uncle?” he could not understand why someone would want to hurt such a proper and normal man.
“Because,” Bilbo told him, and Harry’s eyes widened as he could see sadness on his soft features, “an uncle should love and care for his nephew and not beat him. But your life will get better now; let’s get your wounds cleaned.”
Bilbo motioned to a middle sized bowl on the nightstand, which stood next to a smaller one that smelled deliciously of soup. His shirt was finally removed and his trousers swiftly followed. Bilbo warned him that it could hurt to clean the wounds, but Harry knew that already, having done it himself enough times. He had learned early on that dirty wounds would only grow even more painful and sometimes even burning hot. So he just nodded and ground his teeth together as the Hobbit started on his back, then moved to his arms, legs and finally the bruise on his forehead, before wrapping everything with clean bandages.
“Now, do you need some help with the soup?” he was asked. Not answering, Harry glanced over to the bowl. He really didn’t want to be even more of a burden than he already was, but when he tried to lift his arm to pick the soup up himself, the limb shook so much that he had to drop it again and nodded after all; he would just have to make it up once he had recovered.
It took him a long time to eat the broth as he felt more and more tired by the minute, and despite the soup being the tastiest thing he had ever eaten, Harry eventually fell asleep in the midst of being fed.
ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ
It had been sheer coincidence that he had wandered to the border of Hobbiton and strode into the world of men, or maybe his Took side whispering into his ear to go on a little adventure like he liked to do from time to time. It definitely had been his mother, Belladonna Took’s blood that had made him sneak into that garden when he had heard silent sobs and whimpers, and he was glad to have done so.
What kind of horrible creature hurt a child like that? And this evening had clearly not been the first time if the fading bruises and badly healed scars were anything to go by; it was despicable, really!
Oh how he wished to poison that violent uncle the boy had mentioned. Hobbits were by far not a violent folk, but hearing little Harry call himself a “worthless, ugly freak” had made him wish for the first time to be as tall as his great ancestor Bullroarer Took, and throttle this ‘Uncle Vernon’.
But no, Harry needed him now and for many more years to come; never would the child return to that horrible, horrible place.
Sighing again, he pulled the heavy duvet higher over the small boy’s body, mentally cringing about how thin he was; malnourished, probably.
It had taken him not even a second of thought to take the boy home with him, he had always enjoyed children, but as he had never married he also had never been blessed with a family of his own, so the decision had be easy enough. He would show Harry what a proper family would be like and drive that ridiculous notion that he was a freak out of his little head.
Picking the two bowls and Harry’s bloody clothes up, he silently left his bedroom, changed into a set of pajamas as well and settled down on his comfy sofa, where he slept until the late morning sun finally awoke him. It took him a minute to remember why he was sleeping on the couch, but when he did so, he quickly stood up and put a pot of milk onto his stove for Harry to drink during breakfast. Having that done, he fetched his favorite dressing gown from his bathroom (it was the one with the many colorful squares in crazy-quilt-optic) and went to wake his new ward.
However, when he arrived at the boy’s bedside he instantly saw that the situation had worsen overnight; Harry’s forehead was drenched with sweat and he was breathing heavily, the wounds must have gotten infected after all.
Cursing, he shook the thin shoulder, first softly and then a little more harshly when Harry didn’t wake up. With another curse about that idiot uncle, he hastily left the bedroom, pulled his shoes on and forgot all about his current state of dress and left Bag End; Harry needed a healer and he knew exactly whom to fetch.
Ten minutes later he came to a halt in front of the Gamgee’s home, a bit out of breath as he had run the whole distance. He knocked, rather loudly and almost impolitely for a Hobbit, and waited impatiently. To his relief the one he had come here for opened the door after only a few seconds.
“Good morning, Master Bilbo, what a surprise so near to lunch, has something happened?”
“I hope so, dear Bell. I took a little boy in last night, but he has developed a horrible fever, I fear some of his wounds have gotten infected,” Bilbo told her quickly, barely managing from taking the poor mother of four children by the hand and pulling her along.
Bell’s eyes widened and she raised her hand to her mouth. “Infected wounds? You have taken a child in?” she echoed, clearly shocked.
“Yes, yes, I told you so, but please come now!” Bilbo all but pleaded and Bell suddenly grew serious and gave him a quick nod.
“Wait a second, I will just fetch my basket with the healing-supplies…” she trailed off and disappeared back inside her home, only to appear a few minutes later, now with a heavy basket hanging on her left arm as they hurriedly left.
“What exactly happened, Master Bilbo? I need to know more details if I am to treat the boy to the best of my abilities,” she asked as they ran down the path Bilbo had come from only a few minutes earlier.
“His name is Harry and I found him injured in a garden as I paid the city of men a visit yesterday,” he began to explain. “Apparently his uncle has beaten him; the man must have done so regularly if his skin is any indication.”
“Oh my!” Bell replied and began to run even faster. Bilbo by now had difficulties to keep up with her, but the strong woman was probably very fit with so many small children to look after.
They finally reached Bag End and Bilbo pushed the door open before showing her the way to his bedroom, where Harry lay still, panting under the duvet.
“Oh Yavanna!” Bell exclaimed and rushed past him, pulling the blanket off.
“You have tried to clean the wounds?” she asked with a look at the wide bandages that were peeking out from under the too large pajamas.
Bilbo simply nodded.
“Help me to get him out of this,” the wife of his good friend Gaffer Gamgee commanded, and he quickly hurried to her side.
Soon Harry lay naked in front of them and Bell was shaking her head in a mixture of sadness and disbelief.
“How can anyone do something like this to a child?” she whispered, before becoming professional again. “I have to clean these wounds with something antiseptic, you should hold him down in case he awakes, it will hurt a lot.”
Bilbo paled, but he nodded and sat down next to his small ward.
ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ
“Shh Harry, everything will be fine. Your wound grew infected and I had to call for a healer, she has to clean your wounds again so that your fever can go down.”
Only then did Harry notice that the hand on his cheek felt unusually cold in comparison to his own skin, even though he was shaking.
“It hurts,” he sobbed, unable to keep the tears at bay.
“I know, my lad, I know,” Bilbo told him and began to comb through his unruly locks. It was such an unfamiliar but soothing gesture that he soon felt the pain of his wounds dim as he concentrated on that loving motion. It still hurt, but the gesture and his tired body soon lulled him back to sleep, and for the next few hours he knew no more.
When he awoke the next time he felt much better. The morning sun was just crawling over the horizon, but he felt well rested. He sat up carefully, his body still feeling slightly sore, but he would not let himself be hindered by that. He felt well enough again, and it was still very early; he wanted to get to work and make Bilbo feel proud and happy that he had taken him in.
He stood up, but nearly stumbled over his long pajama-bottoms legs. Frowning down at them, he bent to roll them up, before finally leaving the bedroom as silently as possible. It didn’t take him long to find the kitchen, and after a bit of searching he found everything he needed for the moment; the pot of coffee, a pot to heated water, a bucket and a rag. The kitchen was really tidy, there were no dirty dishes, but he thought that he could still clean the floor, the counters and the shelves.
So he quickly filled water into the pot and put it onto the stove. He had once read about a stove that was heated by wood, and he found a tool to stroke the fire again (he had also seen it in the same book from before) and then started to clean the kitchen. He began with polishing the counter, even though it already looked so tidy, but he had always thought that in his aunt’s kitchen as well, and she had still always insisted that he should clean the room every day. When he was finished with that, he turned to clean the boards of the shelves he could reach (which were all with the exception of the highest ones as everything was so small in the nice Hobbit’s house).
He was just closing the last cupboard door, when the pot on the stove started to whistle. Hurrying over, he quickly lifted the pot up and carried it over to the counter where he had placed a wooden slide earlier, so as to not destroy the tabletop, and then he started to search for a one of those manual coffee filters he had once seen at Aunt Marge’s as Bilbo clearly did not own a modern coffee maker. The next ten minutes he spent searching and was already starting to fear that he would not be able to make Bilbo any coffee after all, when he finally found one of those old, old glass cans where something textured like a wire-net was put inside, which could be pushed down with a thin rod. Having found the coffee powder during his search, he quickly put a few spoons full into the glass pot before pouring the hot water over it.
Proud with his achievements so far, Harry collected milk, sugar, a delicate cup with matching saucer, a small spoon, and placed everything together with the coffee can onto a wooden tray that had found neatly in the small space between counter and wall and carried it over to the kitchen table, unsure if he should take it to Bilbo or leave it on the table. But then he noticed that there was still no food between all of the items, and suddenly feeling a heavy stone of dread falling into his stomach, he turned back to the stove. Unconsciously, his left hand had wandered to his right, where a rather thick scar had formed after a splash of hot fat had hit him a few months ago. Shivering, he bit down onto his bottom lip, suppressing the fear he was feeling ever since that accident, but it had hurt so much.
Bracing himself, he had to remind himself of all the things that Mr. Bilbo Baggins had done for him, took a deep breath of air and turned to the small pantry that was separated from the kitchen by a small, round door in the far left corner. He found the bacon quickly, it was just in his line of sight, and he went back to the stove with it, where he put the package down to get a pan. He was just bending down to open the cupboard where he had seen pots and pans earlier, when a voice was heard, making him jump in surprise.
“Harry? What are you doing in the kitchen so early?”
Harry quickly tried to scramble out of the cupboard, hitting his head in the process, and turned nervously to Bilbo. Had he done something wrong by preparing coffee? Was Mr. Bilbo one of those people who didn’t like others in their kitchen? He felt his hands starting to shake, afraid that he had done something bad, but when he finally found the courage to look up, he only saw a mixture of curiosity and worry on the Hobbit’s face.
“I… made breakfast for you… er… I mean coffee, the bacon and eggs are not ready yet…” he answered, stumbling over his own words.
To his horror, Bilbo’s eyes darkened. “You are still far too young to use a stove on your own,” the small creature started to admonish him. Panic rose in Harry as pictures of Bilbo taking him back to Number 4 Privet Drive popped up in front of his inner eye and he flinched.
“Please, I am sorry, I swear, nothing is broken!” he exclaimed fearfully, but the Hobbit’s eyes grew only darker.
“I am not worried about my stove, material things like that can be replaced if need should arise, but you could seriously injure yourself; that is why I want you to promise me that you will never use it without my permission again.”
Harry’s eyes widened as the words chased away his fears. Suddenly, he felt totally embarrassed and averted his eyes as his cheeks grew hot in shame. It felt so odd that somebody was actually worrying about him, and it was such a strange concept. Never before had someone cared so much about him.
An arm drew him against a warm, soft chest and Harry’s heart started to flutter in joy as he finally realized that Bilbo truly cared about him.
Burying his face deep into the soft embrace, Harry finally nodded and said “I promise I will not use the stove without permission again. I just wanted...”
“Good, my lad,” Bilbo replied, before adding: “And now sit down, I will make you some hot chocolate and a pancake for breakfast.”
Nodding again, Harry trotted over to the kitchen table and climbed onto one of the chairs.
“Did you cook for your family?” Bilbo asked as he turned around on his chair.
“Yes, I had to make breakfast and dinner, but aunt Petunia prepared lunch; she said I don’t have enough talent in the kitchen to cook a real meal.”
Bilbo scoffed, but Harry didn’t really understand what the Hobbit meant with the noise, however, before he could ask, his host continued: “Did you like cooking? We Hobbits love cooking, it is our biggest passion. If you want, I could teach you how to cook meals that would make your aunt pale with jealousy,” the small man snickered.
“You would do that?” Harry asked excitedly; cooking had always been his favorite duty in his relatives’ house, despite the incident with the frying pan. It had hurt when his aunt had told him she would never teach him how to cook correctly, because he was not good enough. However, remembering her cruel words, his face fell as sadness spread in his chest. “But what if she was right and I am useless in the kitchen?” He asked worriedly, but Bilbo only waved him off as he came over with a mug of delicious smelling hot chocolate.
“After what I have seen, you will grow into a fine cook. You are still very young and thus it is just natural that you still struggle with some things in the kitchen, but I will teach you everything I know. If you would like, I will raise you into the most respectable Hobbit Hobbiton has ever seen.
That made Harry smile broadly again. “Do you think I can be a good Hobbit, just like you?” He asked eagerly. His smile only brightened when he saw Bilbo nod “Of course, if you study hard.”
A plate with two large pancakes and a pot of strawberry marmalade was placed in front of him. “And now eat up, there is work in the garden for me to do and we have to find something for you to play with first,” Bilbo told him.
“I can help you with that!” Harry exclaimed. He was bouncing on his chair, so excited was he to have found something with which he could truly help the Hobbit.
“Sure, sure, if you would like to, little one,” the little man ruffled his hair, before getting to his feet.
Bilbo led him outside into the most beautiful garden he had ever seen. Even his aunt’s beloved roses could not compare to the beauty of the colorful flowers, blossoming trees and bushes Bilbo now showed him.
“And these, my lad, are my new Peaches, I only planted them this spring,” the Hobbit told him pridefully, but Harry didn’t mind. In contrast to his nasty aunt, Bilbo had many reasons to be proud of his garden.
“You must know,” the small Hobbit continued, his voice dropping to a silent whisper, “until now my cousin’s ugly wife Lobelia Sackville-Baggins held the title for the ‘Best Peaches in the Shire’, but this year, I am planning on taking the title away from her. Not that I am usually an envious person; and it is not about envy with her anyway, but Lobelia she is… she is… well you will get to know her soon enough, I think. She is curious like a thieving magpie and just as slight-handed!”
Bilbo had talked himself into a little rage and was puffing up his chest agitatedly, but for some reason, Harry didn’t find himself afraid, like he would have been with his uncle. Instead, a giggle made its way up from his chest and he had to quickly thrust his small fist into his mouth to stifle the sound; after all, he didn’t wish to insult his caretaker’s relatives, even though Bilbo himself did not seem overly fond of them himself. In fact, the Hobbit had noticed his predicament and waved him off: “You may laugh if you feel like it. Laughter is good for the soul and heart, and after what I have seen yesterday, I believe you have a lot of laughter to catch up on. But now, tell me what you already know about garden-work.”
He didn’t need to think about it for long, and with the help of his fingers, he counted off what Petunia had taught him:
“I know how to clean flower-beds after the winter. I know how to plant flowers and seedlings. I also know how to water them correctly and I can recognize weeds,” he said nearly as proudly as Bilbo had been a moment earlier.
“My, my, that is a lot you already know. Well then, do you want to show me your skills? I have prepared some Strawberry Seedlings and finished cleaning out an old flower-bed which had not been used since the days of my dearly departed father.”
Quickly, Harry nodded. He had never planted strawberries, but he was sure that it would not be that different from planting roses. He really wanted to show the nice Hobbit that he could be a huge help around the garden and house.
Only then, when he followed Bilbo deeper into the garden, did he notice in what an odd house he had ended up. It looked more like a small hill, completely covered with luscious, green grass. Only a chimney that stuck out straight a bit to the right and the nice, round windows he had already noticed earlier, indicated that it was a house at all, but after blinking a few times in wonder, a wide smile stretched his lips. He liked the house, regardless of how odd it looked to him. Many things had looked odd to his family as well, and he had found them normal enough, and Bilbo wasn’t a human after all, so maybe that was just the way Hobbits liked to live? Besides, the hole looked just as cozy from the outside, as it had from the inside, in his opinion.
Noticing that Bilbo was by now a few paces ahead, he quickly skipped after him, but had to slow down when the well beaten path thinned to nothing more than a small, brown band in front of him.
Soon he could see the flower-bed Bilbo had mentioned, but the Hobbit led him over to something resembling a bump on the side of the hill-house. There was another round door, but it was smaller than the shiny green one which he could remember only faintly.
“This is my garden shed. You can use anything you need, but I want you to ask me first if you plan on taking one of the garden shears. I don’t want to have to call Bell back because you had managed to cut a finger off,” his caretaker teased, before handing him a small bucket with a shovel and a hand-rake. Bilbo himself picked up an old apple crate, which was full of small seedlings, Harry could see.
“Did you see the flower-bed we passed earlier?” Bilbo asked, and as he nodded, the Hobbit added “then lead the way.
As they reached the flower-bed, Bilbo motioned for him to get started. And so he dutifully kneeled down next to the Hobbit and began to dig the first small hole. To his joy, Bilbo hummed contently as he put the first seedling into the ground and covered it carefully, before using his fingers to measure the space to where he would put the next plant. He continued like that for the next ten minutes or so, always taking care that he planted the strawberries in a regular pattern. The easy work, the warm sun, the singing of the birds and the silent companionship soon relaxed his body and mind, so much so that he startled quite violently when Bilbo suddenly interrupted him. The shovel flew out of his hands as he flinched and a bird trilled angrily at him, but to his relief, the Hobbit only chuckled.
“You are a good gardener,” Bilbo praised him, once he had caught their breath again. But you know, this is not the ‘Miss Shire Beauty Competition’ of the ‘Summer Festival’. It is perfectly fine if the strawberries are not planted with exactly the same space between them.”
Blushing, Harry nodded, but as soon as he continued, he found himself repeating the measuring motions his aunt had beaten into him thoroughly with the help of a stick. Aware now that Bilbo had criticized him on his methods, he began to glance over to the Hobbit every other second, which the clever Hobbit, of course, noticed as well soon. He winced as Bilbo gave a long sigh.
“Whatever method your family had used,” he muttered in a bitter and angry voice, “it clearly has worked frightening well and I am sure that I would not like any method that would help you forget what they have taught you.”
Harry wasn’t quite sure what the Hobbit had meant. Was Bilbo angry with him? Should he try harder to plant the seedlings a bit more disorderly? But before he could implement his plan, Bilbo interrupted his train of thought: “Don’t worry, lad, it’s not your fault. It’s the fault of those despicable family members of yours. You continue just the way you are the most comfortable with. If you need me, I will be in the front garden; the roses need a slight trimming. I fear a few of the smaller sprouts have not survived the winter.”
With that, Bilbo left and Harry let out a sigh of relief. As he watched the nice Hobbit go, he wondered how he could have believed for even a second that Bilbo could be angry with him. If he didn’t know better, he would have guessed that the Hobbit couldn’t be anything but friendly even if he tried. But he had seen Bilbo angry; angry at his relatives, no less. It still made him wonder whether he was maybe dreaming. Nobody had ever sided with him or called his family despicable. Somehow, that memory made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It was such a nice experience to have someone on ‘his’ side for once.
Smiling to himself, he turned back to his strawberries, and after he had finished with those, he started to clean the flower-beds in this abandoned part of the garden. Without noticing, he forgot about the time while doing his work; and so he was quite surprised (and a bit disappointed) when Bilbo called him in for lunch. He found everything already made and ready in the cozy kitchen. He had wanted to help Bilbo and learn a bit more about cooking. However, he consoled himself by reminding himself that he would hopefully have many more opportunities to cook with the Hobbit in the future.
The potato pancakes with applesauce Bilbo had prepared turned out to be the most delicious thing he had ever tasted, however, his stomach was so small and shrunken from the many years of only bread and water, that he couldn’t manage more than one and a half, which clearly made Bilbo upset and worried.
“Oh, I am starting to hate those people more and more by the hour. But don’t worry my boy,” the Hobbit reassured him (but to Harry it rather sounded more as if he needed to reassure himself) “we will get you to a healthy weight. Just wait and see, soon you will eat at least six of those.”
To be honest, Harry wasn’t sure if he believed that he would ever be able to eat so much, but he just grinned back at his caretaker and licked some of the slightly sour applesauce from where it had dropped down onto his thumb.
A yawn escaped him and he blinked his suddenly tired eyes.
“I see someone is in need of a nap. That reminds me, I have yet to ask you how old you are,” Bilbo chuckled and collected their plates, before taking them over to his basin.
“I am Seven,” he answered proudly. “I am a big boy and I don’t need naps anymore. I never needed any.”
Fortunately, he didn’t see the frown that flashed over the Hobbits features.
“Well, I believe everybody needs a nap once in a while. I myself like to fall asleep in my favorite armchair in front of the fireplace in the winter and on my father’s old bench in the summer. There is nothing wrong with being tired after having worked hard.”
“But I really am not tired. I can do the dishes for you,” he quickly protested. Bilbo had already cooked for him and he felt bad for not having helped one bit. After all, the Hobbit had shared his food with him.”
“Oh no, no way my boy. You can go to your room and rest for a while, or take the sofa, but I will not have you fall over in one of my flower-beds.”
Knowing that tone of voice (adults used it when they were not in the mood to argue); Harry slid from his chair and toddled over to the sofa. He thought that he would just lie down and feign sleep for a few minutes, before telling Bilbo that he had rested enough. He climbed onto the plushy piece of furniture and lay down. After he had pulled a soft, woolen blanket up to his chin, he closed his eyes, still intent of standing up in ten minutes at the latest, however, it took sleep only a few seconds to claim him.
ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ
How could he have been so lazy? Because the Hobbit was much nicer than his family had ever been was not a reason to slack off. In fact, he should probably do even more to show his gratitude, after all, without Bilbo he still wouldn’t know what it felt like to have a full belly and sleep in a soft bed.
Nodding to himself, he left the living room and crossed the hallway, intent on going back into the garden, when his caretaker’s voice stopped him mid-step:
“Harry, is that you?”
The Hobbit’s voice came from a room at the end of the hallway, where the door stood slightly ajar.
“Yes, it’s me;” he called back, about to continue on his way, when the door swung open and Bilbo appeared in the doorway with a worried frown on his face.
“Are you sure you have slept enough? Your nap did not even last a full hour.”
Shifting a little, Harry lowered his gaze to his bare feet; he didn’t know how what answer. Never before had someone thought about him so much. It was so strange that he felt the heat rise into his cheeks. Fortunately the Hobbit continued with a smile and he didn’t have to answer.
“So, where were you heading off to?”
“To the garden,” he answered honestly. “I haven’t finished my work there yet.”
The frown instantly returned onto the Hobbit’s face, and not for the first time, Harry found himself suddenly wondering if he had done something wrong.
“The garden is not a duty you have to finish. If you want to help me with the plants, that is fine, but you are still a child, and children need some free time to just play as well.”
This thought now truly overwhelmed Harry, who until now had never had more than a few minutes to play with his cousin’s broken soldiers.
“Tell me, what do you like to play with in your free time? I am not sure whether I have much to offer for today, but tomorrow we can go to the market and buy you a few toys,” Bilbo continued and looked expectantly at him. Suddenly feeling stupid and overburdened with the situation, Harry did the first thing that came to his mind; he turned on his heels and ran to his room, where he banged the door shut and crawled under the blanket to hide himself away.
Tears began to run down his cheeks and he pushed his face into the soft mattress, which was quickly getting wet beneath him. It was as if he was just realizing how much of a freak he truly was. Bilbo only meant well with him, and he didn’t even know how to play properly. Who would want to keep such a child?
A knock was heard and he froze. Maybe, if he kept really quiet and didn’t move, Bilbo wouldn’t notice him. But only a moment later, a weight settled down next to him and a hand started to stroke the covers he was hiding under.
“Do you like stories? I have many different ones in my library. You could choose one and I would be glad to read it out to you,” Bilbo's soft voice sounded a little muffled through the thick comforter, but he still felt so embarrassed that he could not answer. Instead, he turned onto his side, so that his back faced the Hobbit and curled into an even tighter ball, hoping that Bilbo might forget that he was there, or maybe think that he had fallen asleep and leave, but the Hobbit would have none of that:
“Harry, your life so far has been horrible. And whatever the aftereffects of those circumstances are, they are not your fault. I have many nieces and nephews and know many different games and free-time activity; together we will find things you like. I know you enjoy cooking and gardening, I enjoy those things too, but everybody needs a hobby to just get their mind off of things.”
That offer actually made Harry perk up with curiosity, so much so, that he abruptly stopped sniffling. Many games? That sounded like fun, so with his embarrassment all of the sudden forgotten, he wiped his face with his right sleeve, before sticking his head out from under the covers.
“What kind of games?” he asked curiously, and Bilbo’s face brightened with a smile of relief.
“Many different things. We could play hide-and-seek, catch, rope jumping, can smashing, I can read a book out to you, teach you how to crochet your own self-made cuddly toy, we could draw something, write a story or poem.”
Harry’s eyes widened at the amount of suggestions. Never had he ever known that there were so many things one could do in their free time. He wanted to try each one of them, but one suggestion had stuck especially strongly in his mind:
“I can have a cuddly toy?”
“Of course you can, otherwise I wouldn’t have offered it,” Bilbo teased and flipped the tip of Harry’s nose, before asking “Now, I have some books with examples for cuddly toys. Would you like to accompany me to my library and choose one?”
Nodding, Harry crawled out from under the blanket and climbed out of bed. “Have you crocheted a cuddly toy before?” he asked as he followed Bilbo out of the room and automatically took the Hobbit’s hand, without even realizing what he was doing.
Bilbo, a little surprised about the trust Harry was so quickly developing after the ordeal he had lived through, needed a moment to process the question, but then smiled down at him.
“I have crocheted many toys for the fauntelings of the Shire,” he answered, but Harry echoed, clearly confused: “Fauntelings?”
“That is what we call our children,” he explained and pushed the door to his library open. Harry followed him silently, his bright, green eyes now wide like saucers with amazement. His aunt and uncle had not owned a single book, and his cousin had even tried to burn his school books once, saying that they were boring and keeping him from playing, but he had always liked his text books and the few he had managed to read in the school library during the lunch break, at least, until Dudley had found out where he always disappeared to and had started to chase him away from the cozy room.
A colorful cover suddenly appeared under his nose, chasing away the bad memories.
“Here you go,” said Bilbo. “Take your time, I will go into the living room and search for some wool.”
Nodding excitedly, Harry just flopped down on the floor, placed the heavy book in front of him and opened it to the first page. For the next few minutes, he browsed through the pages and took in the many different animals. There were teddy bears, cats and dogs, a few different horses, a mouse, a hamster, a rabbit, an owl, a sparrow and a falcon. He was slowly getting worried that he would not be able to decide on one and cause even more problems for his caretaker, when he turned to the last picture and was greeted by a red illustration of a dragon.
Grinning, he jumped up with the book clutched to his chest and ran out of the library and down the hallway to the living room.
“Bilbo, Bilbo, can we make a dragon?” He exclaimed as he jumped onto the sofa, letting the book fall open in his lap.
“No teddy bear for you?” Bilbo smiled and came over with a small basket full of colorful wool. Shaking his head, he turned the pages until the picture of the dragon lay open once again before pointing at it excitedly.
“Nope, I want to have this dragon. Do you have red wool?”
The Hobbit rummaged through his basket and pulled a small ball of yarn out. It was dyed a bright, fiery red, but not much was left. Seeing his ward’s disappointment, he quickly said:
“We could crochet a colorful dragon, with all your favorite colors, this way it would be uniquely yours.”
Sighing in relief when Harry’s face brightened again, he placed the basket in the small boy’s lap and took the book in exchange. He had crocheted many different animals, but never before a dragon. Fauntelings were not the type of children who wanted to cuddle with a small version of those great beasts, and their mother’s would definitely not approve such a choice anyway.
Fortunately, he found that the basics were the same as with every other toy he had made so far; a round belly, five different sized sausages for legs and tails and the head. Choosing a middle-sized hook from his side table and forming a sling with the red wool, he started with the dragon.
Soon his ward’s eyes were intensely fixed on him, so intensely in fact, that he automatically started to explain what he was doing.
For the next few minutes Harry was captivated by the regular movements and calm explanations of the Hobbit, but all too soon he found himself getting restless. He wanted to try crocheting himself, after all the dragon was supposed to become his first, and also self-made cuddly toy, but he also was aware that Bilbo could do it much quicker and probably make it look much nicer as well. However, he must have shown something on his face, because he was suddenly asked:
“Do you want to try it yourself?”
Bilbo was holding the small piece of needlework and hook out to him and after only a moment of hesitation, he couldn’t hold himself back any longer and took it eagerly.
“Now, you wrap the yarn around your fingers like this...and take the hook in your right. Or are you left handed?” Bilbo explained and showed him how exactly to grab the items.
Shaking his head, he answered: “No, I am ambi… ambiduck…” frowning, he tried to remember the term his teacher had once used, after she had seen him switch his pen from his right to his left.”
“Ambidextrous?” Bilbo asked, astonished. Ambidexterity was a rare phenomenon in Middle Earth. Some even said it was an ability only the wizards and Valar possessed, but then again, the boy did not come from their world.
He actually was still not quite sure in what kind of world he had landed the night he had found Harry, but he somehow knew that it had not been Arda.
“Yes,” Harry smiled and began to mimic his previous movements with astonishing precision for someone so young and without any previous experience with needlework.
Feeling pride for the little boy swell inside of him, he just leaned back and watched his ward for some time. When the red wool was used up, he showed him how to proceed with the next color and just like that, the afternoon passed in comfortable silence, only disturbed from the child’s occasional questions.
Harry had finished the head and body, and Bilbo was starting to believe that the boy would finish his whole plush toy today, when his ward suddenly started yawning and rubbing his eyes. Looking over to his window, he noticed with surprise that it had to be early evening already, and after all the excitement, and considering that Harry had been sick until this morning, it was not surprising that he was already getting tired.
“I think you have done enough for today. Would you like to help me prepare a quick dinner?” Bilbo actually couldn’t believe that he had just forgotten the afternoon tea, and Harry would definitely not be awake for supper, so he would at least prepare something hearty for dinner.
His ward looked disappointed for a moment, but then, as if giving the child a nudge, his stomach growled hungrily and Harry nodded, before placing the recently finished dragon-belly to the side.
Not knowing what to make for dinner, he led the way to his pantry and asked: “So, what would you like to eat this evening.”
He watched his ward’s eyes widen for the umpteenth time that day, and a painful pang went through his heart as he realized that this was most likely the first time someone was asking the sweet boy what he would like to have for dinner.
Patiently, he waited as Harry’s eyes wandered around, and after a while the boy pointed at a small chain of sausages and then to a jar of stewed apples.
“One of those, and this for desert,” he said, and then added a bit more silently and clearly embarrassed: “please?”
Bilbo just smiled at him and reached for the items, before also selecting a loaf of bread to go with the sausages.
Preparing the dinner was a quick affair. He gave Harry the plates and cutlery to spread on the table, and only 15 minutes later they sat across from each other, looking at their food.
“This smells so delicious,” Harry sighed and actually licked his lips. He still couldn’t believe all the food he was allowed to eat. Almost reverently, he pierced one sausage onto his fork and carefully bit a small piece off; immediately the delicious, hearty taste exploded on his tongue. Forgetting all the manners his aunt had beaten into him, he ravished his meal within minutes. The bread with the fresh butter tasted almost as delicious as the meat, so did the lightly sweetened tea Bilbo had placed next to his plate.
“Now, let me get you a new nightshirt and then it is off to bed for you,” Bilbo told him when they were finished, even before he could offer to help clean the table. Actually being too tired to argue (his eyes were drooping as he looked at his empty plate), he just nodded, slid off the chair, and went to the bathroom. As he stood in front of the dressing table with the bowl of fresh water, he suddenly realized that he would not have to crawl into a cupboard and cower under a thin sheet. Suddenly his motions quickened, as he found himself really looking forward (and not only because he was tired beyond exhaustion) to go to bed for the first time he could remember in his life.
When he left the bath a few moments later, he saw Bilbo entering his bedroom with a clean nightshirt draped over his arm. He changed quickly and was startled, when the cover was gently placed over him, before a soft kiss was pressed to his cheek.
“Sleep well my boy,” Bilbo whispered, but Harry had already drifted off with a happy smile on his face.
ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ
And it was a good thing, because Harry was still young and young boys needed their rest just as much as old Hobbits, and he also needed to write a letter to Gerontious Took, his grandfather and longest holder of the title of ‘Thain’ their race knew about, because he had decided that he would adopt Harry. He knew the Hobbit community had laws about adoption, but with Harry not only being no relative of his, but also from a whole different folk, he wanted to consort with the head of his family. Besides, he had always liked his grandfather and liked to use any excuse to contact him. Not that Gerontious ever minded; it was an open secret that he was the old patriarch’s favorite grandchild.
So after one last look over at the sleeping boy, he left for his study, where he sat down behind his desk, pulled some paper from the drawer and picked up his favorite quill.
“Dear Grandfather Gerontious,” he began his letter.
“I am writing you with regards to a delicate matter, or maybe it would be more accurate to say, with regards to a delicate request. Three days it has been, since I found while on one of my nightly walks, a little human boy of seven years of age. He was badly beaten and starved and I did not hesitate when I took him with me. I hope you will understand and approve, when I tell you that I do not plan on sending the boy back to his abusive relatives. I assume his parents have died, because he was living with his aunt and uncle, who clearly have no love left for the poor child, and never mentioned any other family members.
Harry, that is his name, is a sweet and considerate boy and the wish of providing him with a stable, caring and loving home has grown in my heart. Therefore I request your help concerning the legal side of an official adoption.
Your grandson Bilbo.”
He read over the short note that had grown much longer than expected once more, before sealing it with his favorite red wax and adding his grandfather’s address. He put it into his letterbox so that the postman would collect his letter first thing in the morning (and hopefully takes it to Gerontious that same day).
ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ ЄIЭ
“Hello Harry, did you sleep well?” he asked with a smile and placed his book to the side, however, for some reason, that only earned him a frown.
“I… just… wanted to tell you that I am going back into the garden, or… should I do something else…”
“What?” he asked a bit distractedly, his mind still halfway in the book he had been enjoying, so he needed a moment to realize what the boy was saying.
“Oh no,” he shook his head once the words had registered. “It is very late already and little boys need their proper sleep.”
“But… I haven’t been able to finish….” the child started, clearly distressed, so with a sigh he leaned forwards, picked him up and put the small raven onto his lap.
“Listen, you are still a child and children shouldn’t concern themselves with advanced duties. The only thing a child needs to do is eat well, sleep enough and be happy. If garden work makes you happy, then you can always help me, but not when you are clearly tired and rather want to go back to your warm bed. The flowers will still be there tomorrow.” And with that, he rose to his feet and carried his new ward into his bedroom.
“Now, be a good boy and sleep.”
“I’ll be a good boy if I sleep?” Harry asked in confusion.
“Yes, and an even better one if you sleep in tomorrow. You were awake far too early today. So no rising before the sun is properly up. And now, sleep well.”
Bilbo tucked the child in, whose eyes were already closing as he did so. With a small and slightly sad smile he shook his head. This lad really needed someone to look after him. Hopefully his grandfather would answer his letter soon.