Present Day - After the Battle of Five Armies
It had taken the Company of Thorin Oakenshield seven months to journey from Hobbiton to Erebor.
For a grief-stricken Hawthorn Baggins, sometimes called Bilbo thanks to many games of ‘adventure’ as a wee lass, loaded down with things she found she couldn't bear to part with, it took an entire year.
She had lingered with Beron, the skinchanger delighting in her company and taking the opportunity to fill her stomach with food. He was sad to see her go, but Hawthorn couldn’t help but promise to visit one day. A promise she wasn’t entirely sure she could keep, but perhaps she would be able to journey to Erebor once more before her death.
She took the journey over the Misty Mountains slowly as to avoid Thunder Battles and in the end, she spent an entire month in Rivendell as an honored guest. Of course, the last half of her journey saw her taking even more souvenirs from the old troll hoard she had received Sting from.
( Where Thorin took up Orcrist for the first time… )
Considering that Nori and Gloin currently have the entire treasury of Erebor and their new status as Lords to distract them for the foreseeable future, Hawthorn didn’t think the thief would mind if she was the one to take their... deposit. Not that she would do anything with her earned riches, save put them somewhere to remember the story behind her acquisition of coins and the gold.
( To remember not all heroes are true and good until the end. To remember that not all stories end in happiness. )
They'll have a place in a chest in her study, on her mantle or hanging from the wall, along with all the other memories she’s collected from her journey.
( she doesn’t think about the bead braided in her hair. She keeps the sudden knowing that she’ll never be able to cut her hair short again.)
(Never be a ‘respectable’ hobbit of the Shire again. Not in a conventional sense, when she had traveled with her dwarrows and seen so much, when she had changed so much. When her version of ‘respectable’ was no longer the same as it had once been.)
She’s got an old, rusted Dwarven shield, an elven bow with a quiver full of arrows that Tauriel gifted to her, along with a rather crude Orc blade, all on bound on her back. Of course, her traveling pack is now filled with good, expensive gear, including a rain slick and provisions. Balin and Dwalin both outfitting her with the appropriate things for long travels.
Especially considering she had lost most of her things in the escape from Thranduil’s dungeons.
The hurt and sorrow are still heavy on her heart when she finally reaches Bree. She ditches on staying for the night as a part of her is wearied from the long journey, even as another part dreads returning to the life she once knew.
In the end, she allows herself the chance to rest before she has to deal with her relations and the gossiping that will surely begin as soon as she is sighted. She knows it will be especially horrid because she was an unwed female that had left with thirteen male dwarrow. (She doesn’t care. She would choose them again, would always choose them. They had earned her loyalty more than she could put into words.)
(They had taught her of honor, and love, of heartbreak, and joy, of loss and family.)
She lays in a comfortable bed, nothing like Rivendale, but enough that she drifts to sleep quickly.
Her dreams are filled with memories, both cherished and heartbreaking. There is warmth in there, Kili and Fili’s laughter, the stern scolding of Thorin, even as his eyes shone with amusement at their games. They're all there, healthy and whole, alive in the vivid haze of a dream.
There's movement, a flash of something , a sound- otherworldly and ethereal- something that she cannot put a name to, and she wakes with wet lashes and tear stained cheeks.
She lays there for a moment and breathes.
It hurts and quite frankly, there is nothing to distract her from her grief. she gets up, because if she spends a minute longer in the quiet, her mind is going to wander to places she’s trying to ignore. Her bill is already settled and she’s quite used to only three meals a day by now so she sets off.
The sun is just peeking over the horizon when Bag End comes into view. Hawthorn’s heart eases at the familiar, comforting sight of her smial. There's no one in view as she walks up to her front door. No neighbors out to see her arrival since her rather abrupt and memorable departure.
She grasps the knob and turns it open, quietly stepping inside, pulling the freshly painted door closed behind her with a small click.
She doesn’t notice the absence of a certain mark that, perhaps, began her quest that has now come to an end. It had been so long after all.
What she does notice is how her home is perfectly cleaned up, with no signs of the mess her dwarrows made on the night of their introduction. There's no mud on the floor, her things are perfectly arranged, exactly where they should be and it’s as if nothing has happened.
The tears are not unexpected, but Hawthorn ignores them with now practiced ease- she has cried much in the last weeks of her journey with The Company - and turns her attention to unpacking her traveling pack.
She is gentle and careful with her belongings as she pulls them free, uncaring for the clothing that has become so tarnished with dirt and time, but ever so cautious with the items of sentimental value. The gifts she had been given before she left the great Halls of Erebor where she had seen her friend go mad, faced a dragon and braved an army-
Bilbo- Hawthorn breathes.
She is home.
In the place that has only known her as Hawthorn Baggins, confirmed spinster, the Baggins of Bag End, not as Bilbo, expert burglar and a member of the Company of Thorin Oakenshield.
No, to them ‘Bilbo’ if they had heard the name at all was simply the wild imaginings of a fauntling lass who played with her Took cousins. Cousins that had told her ‘girls could not go on adventures’ and so she had tossed her curls and declared ‘Then I will be Bilbo, and he can go on any adventure he likes!’.
Her eyes close as she focuses on the leather in she hands. It had been a gift from Ori, the leather bound journal, blank pages inside waiting for Hawthorn to fill them with her thoughts and memories. She thought she might just use it to record her story- all that had happened to her and her Company.
Perhaps sharing her story- even if it was only in words and never spoken- would help.
(And if hers was the only story that would remember those brave dwarrows who answered the call of their King when they had nothing, written in a language that could be read by all, she would ensure history remembered them well. )
A drop of water landed on the bound leather and Hawthorn startled. She was crying again, she realized as she pressed a hand to her cheek. She allowed herself a moment to indulge before she set her face and straightened up.
She was not going to break out in random weeping fits, not while she had work to do. She should start by cooking a meal, by cleaning her nicknacks before deciding where to put them. There was plenty of things for her to be busy with and she was going to get right on it!
With a firm nod to herself, Hawthorn put away the book, rose to her feet and set off towards the pantry.
First, she needed to see what was left, and from there, a list would be made.
Only, that didn’t work out quite as well as it was supposed to. To her astonishment, her pantry was filled to the brim with food! Meats and pies, cheeses and vegetables! As if it had never been emptied at all!
In fact, Hawthorn was almost absolutely sure that the bottle of wine she had served to Gandalf was now completely full instead of halfway drained!
The hobbit lass stood there, gaping at this completely unexpected situation.
“I don’t understand,” she whispers to herself, her eyes wide at the sight in front of her.
For a crazy moment, Hawthorn wonders who had been inside her home. There is no other explanation she can come to that makes sense. Why else would her home be free of dust and the ware of time, her pantry full as if she had just gone to the market, and everything so fresh and aired out?
And yet, she must dismiss that notion, for she can see that there is nothing in her home that had been shifted from where she had placed them last. There are no signs of others inhabiting her smial in a long-term way. No clothes, no dishes, no dirt or signs that were not her own. It’s as if she never left.
Her smial was spotless and clean, just as she always liked to keep it. Just as it had been before a troop of dwarrows had crashed into her life.
Hawthorn knows, as sure as the sky is blue, if no one else had touched her home in her absence, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins would have tried her hand. Especially in the face of an absence so long as her own had been. And yet, as she darts over to her cupboards, all her silver spoons and her mother’s china are exactly where they should be.
Her stomach grumbles, reminding her that she still hasn’t eaten, so Hawthorn quietly puts the impossibilities in the back of her mind and goes to make her breakfast. She needs a nice, hot cup of chamomile tea.
She can handle putting the rest of her things away after she has fed and watered herself.
The sun continues to rise in the sky and when she finishes her breakfast, Hawthorn can hear as the birds launch into song and as her neighbors begin to start their day.
She puts her dishes up, her mind still stumbling over the oddities of her smial, before she shoves that away because for a moment she could have sworn Sting was glowing blue. It’s in the living room, propped again her pack and she stares at it from her kitchen.
It’s not glowing.
Her heart slows down from its rapid beat and Hawthorn takes a shaky breath. She reaches down for her stiff wire brush and puts this incident out of her mind, just like all the others and heads for her collections of weapons.
She starts with the shield, the one she picked up in the ruins of Dale almost half a year ago now. She sits on her floor and pulls the rusty angular shield into her lap and...pauses.
How does one go about cleaning a shield? Especially one that suffered such ware as this one? It had served her well in the half-year she had carried it, and she would not like to ruin it beyond repair in an attempt to save it.
( She cannot forget the open delight on Kili’s face and the gruff approval from Dwalin at the sight she made when she proudly showed them what she found. Thorin-)
She stops, refuses to continue down that moment and hesitates for a moment, staring at the shield as the memories swell from the back of her mind. She breathes.
She sets the shield to the side, and instead picks up the orc blade. She has no idea what the blade had been made of, but just from her time spent with her dwarrows she knows it is not of any quality metal. Still, it had served her well enough, and she had earned the blade from a battle she fought in and won.
She would care for it well enough, starting with cleaning and sharpening it. Dwalin and Nori both would have her head if she let a weapon in her care dull from disuse.
(A sharp blade is important, lad- er, lass! It can be the difference between life and death for you and those in your care! Come here, give me your letter opener and let me show you how to care for it.)
She tucked the memories of nights spent learning from the dwarrows around her away, instead setting her mind on putting those lessons to use. She vaguely wishes someone thought to mention how to take care of a shield, but so much had happened, and they had insisted on teaching her things like weapon care and how to handle the weapon properly thornbush, before you cut off someone’s nose .
Her time passes mostly pleasantly in a mindless haze of repeated motions, but eventually, she stops her task of sharpening the blade and stands. Her shoulders ache and her hands are cramping. She dithers about the house, fixing herself a small snack before she decides to clean up.
She’s still wearing her travel-stained clothes and she smells terrible.
Her hair is longer, with two braids half-hidden in it’s curly mass, but she manages to keep them intact through her scrubbing. ( The bead glimmers in the sunlight and her heart aches.)
When she’s clean and smelling of her shampoos and mostly dry apart from her hair, she goes to her closet. She’s thinner than she was. Her arms are sporting a visible line of muscle, although small, it’s more than she’s ever had in her life. Her stomach isn’t softly padded with curves, rather it’s flat and Hawthorn finds herself a mirror to stare at her body.
Her eyes prickle with tears because all of her lovely softness that she had once boasted of on her frame is mostly gone. There’s a stranger standing in her mirror. One who fought for her life and for the lives of people she loves and Hawthorn…
She’s not sure about the person she is now. The woman who holds herself high with squared shoulders and braced legs. The one who has terrible scars and a thin body which barely has any softness to it. The one who thought she saw her blade glowing blue to remind her of orcs nearby.
( The woman Thorin had looked at with soft eyes and upturned lips-)
She’s proud , really, truly, deeply proud in all she’s done, but it’s left marks on her that will linger and remind her of those who didn’t survive as she did.
A sob tears its way through her lips with surprising force. She bends forward at the stabbing pain because she had forgotten how badly grief hurts . It’s been decades since her parents died and most of the following month was just a haze and this somehow feels so much worse .
Thorin is dead. Kili is dead, Fili is dead .
Her knees hit her wooden floors and her towel is draped around her shoulders and her hair drips water and she can’t bring herself to care.
She once held dreams of marrying, like any other Hobbit lass. Only she was too bright, too bold and she never found a man like her father. A man like Bungo Baggins who took one look at the wild Took daughter, Belladonna and fell hopelessly in love.
And then there was Thorin. No time was ever right and while they had their moments, their relationship could barely be called a friendship. After the discovery that she was a woman, rather than a man, Thorin grew equally harsh and protective over her. There were times, such as when Hawthorn broke them out of Thranduil’s dungeon in which she knew that she held Thorin’s absolute trust.
There were other times when he was angry at her, furious for something she did or didn’t do and she didn’t understand. He would throw her failings and shortcomings in her face and then turn to stalk off somewhere away from everyone, as if he couldn’t stand the sight of her.
She saw the way he looked at her! The way the tips of his ears had been red when he gifted her the mithril shirt. Was it all a dream on her part? A fantasy for the one man who had shown a sliver of interest in her in years?
A quiet wail replaced her sobs as she tried to get her emotions under control. There was too many things, there was too much.
How was she supposed to function when she was like this? When she had lost so much? She had found family with her drarrows, but then it had been taken from her. They were gone and she was all that was left. Some of her dwarrows lived, but how could she face them when she had held their King as he died, had found their heirs twisted together in death as if they had tried to protect the other?
(- and failed )
How could she have stayed in Erebor when memories of war and loss hovered around every corner? Where Dain the Ironfoot was to be crowned King Under the Mountain?
She tried to breathe. It was difficult, her lungs and heart closing and clenching in a vice. She ignored the shudders that traveled through her body. Ignored the chill of her damp hair against her back, the hard press of wood against her knees.
She just tried to breathe past the gaping hole in her chest where the line of Durin had once resided. Where the laughter and play of its heirs had echoed, where Thorin had once resided with all the confusing feelings she carried for him and would never be able to explore now.
When the ache of her body finally broke through her sobs, when she had no more tears to shed in that moment, her eyes aching and her chest tight, she stood.
She stood and stared at her clothes in the closet, her heart squeezing. Dresses in every shade of color, lined with lace stared back, reminding her of days long past where she was a ‘respectable hobbit’ and so wore the clothes expected of her.
The day Gandalf had come to her, she had been in pants and a loose shirt only because she had been planning to do garden work. No lass wanted their skirts stained with dirt and grass, not to mention that garden work was so much easier when she wasn’t impaired by skirts and a corset.
Now she looked at these dresses and ached. She was so innocent then. Innocent and young and naive. And she did not want to wear them now. Not when her mind kept thinking how the folds and frills would get in her way if and when she needed to fight.
These Hobbit dresses were not like the ones she had worn gifted to her by Elves or Dwarves. It was proper to wear layers of fabric for a Hobbit. Elves had thin, breathable material with pockets secreted away in the folds of the material. Proper Hobbit dresses did not have hidden places for weapons of varying shape and length, nor did they have the proper cut along the waist and legs for long strides and an easy range of motion should a fight break out.
She near broke out into hives just thinking about restricting herself in that way, ever again.
She dug past the dresses, aiming for the garden clothes she kept in the back of her closet. She pulled on her binder, and trousers followed by a tunic that had once been her father’s. She would need to change her wardrobe entirely.
She wouldn’t be able to wear constricting dresses not meant for warriors like she had once done without having a panic attack, She supposed it was good that she taken that deposit with her after all. Perhaps she would get some use out of it, if her own not insignificant funds proved to not be enough.
Granted, with her two year absence, regardless of who had taken care of her smial, there was bound to be expenses that needed to be paid. Her tennents’ buildings might repair requires or the like. She owed someone payment for the food in her pantry and for the upkeep of her properties and really, why was she still dithering over the past when there were already things piling up that she had to take care of.
Hawthorn kept her head high, confused by the confusion surrounding herself in the Shire. They knew she had left on an ‘ adventure’ - horror, shock, disbelief and someone declaring how they knew it was only a matter of time! Yet...there was nothing? They were aware she had gone storming after a troop of dwarrows, so why did they all act as if she had changed overnight?
As if she had finally broke? She was broken yes, had been cracked and scared by her ventures, but she was not entirely shattered . Not yet.
She ignored the whispers surrounding her, ignored the demands of her neighbors, the scoffs and ridicule that followed in her footsteps. She was proud of her scars, of her survival and so what if in the process if gaining them, of living , she had gained a few habits and likes the Shire saw as nonsense and insanity,
She would live, and it would help her be comfortable in her skin.
Her path was set to a small building near the marketplace and when she walked through the door, she couldn’t help the bright smile that stretched her face at the sight of her favorite cousin on her father’s side. He accepted her hug with equal delight.
“What have you come to see me for, Hawthorn?” He asked even as a bit of worry pinched his expression as he held her at arm’s length.
A part of her warmed at the concern and affection she saw in his gaze and she quickly explained.
Drogo Baggins was an excellent tailor, just as she remembered, and he easily agreed to make her part of a new, less proper wardrobe. It was not the entire wardrobe she would need, but she would not put all the work on her beloved cousin who seemed the only Hobbit besides Primula to treat her normally despite the odd look he had given her upon her arrival at his door.
She wondered absently when the lad would actually marry Primula Brandybuck. As Primula’s best friend and cousin, Hawthorn was absolutely sure Drogo would be perfect for her. They were an adorable couple.
Drogo chose that moment to interrupt her visions of marital bliss between her two favorite cousins.
“I know I saw you last week, Hawthorn, but you appear to have- what I mean is- are you okay?”
Hawthorn looked at Drogo in surprise. Perhaps she misheard? Bright blue eyes were focused on her face and there was a frown pulling at his lips.
“I’m okay, Drogo,” Hawthorn said, unable to fully hide the weariness in her voice even as she turned over the beginning of his question.
The frown deepened and her cousin did not looked convinced.
“You’ve lost weight in the short period of time since I’ve seen you last, you look exhausted and I know very well your hands had at least half of those scars on them.”
Hawthorn starred in mute shock. She had been gone two years , how could Drogo consider that ‘a short period of time’? Her anger abruptly flared and she could feel her lips peeling back before a sudden thought struck her with all the force of troll.
“Drogo,” Hawthorn asked slowly, her gaze fixated on her cousin, “What is the date today? The exact day, month and year?”
Bless his heart, he only hesitated a second before he told her.
She laughed, made an excuse over how her head was in the clouds, mentioned other errands she had to run and swiftly made her exit. He called after her, his concern for her evident, but she brushed him off with a laugh. She kept a steady pace all the way back to her smial, until her door, still smelling of fresh paint and without the sign she remembered putting in place how had she not seen that , was between her and the outside world.
Thirteen days before she called ‘good morning’ to an old man dressed in gray.
Her back hit the door, her legs gave out and she slid down to the floor. Her breath came in stutters and her hands were shaking against her mouth and a hysterical laugh escaped from her throat.
Two years of her life.
Two years of the best and the worst moments of her entire life . Gone. Erased as if they never were.
Erased part from her.
Could she believe that? Had she a choice ? Drogo did not play undeserved pranks, and it explained so much of the Shire’s reaction. If they had no context to her sudden change, no wonder they had acted as they did, staring and gossiping as she walked past.
To them she had suddenly changed practically overnight.
And if this was so...if she had somehow traveled back in time then…
She sucked in a breath, sharp like glass shards.
If she had gone back to before than the Line of Durin lived .
Fili, Kili... Thorin .
They would visit her soon, would come to her door lead by a wizard to ask her to rob a dragon.
An absent part of her, in the very back of her mind realized she was hyperventilating. It did nothing to help with the sudden world shaking realization she had come to, but it did have her shifting, Dwalin’s voice in the back of her head echoing, “ It’ll pass lass, just put your head between your knees and match my breathing. There’s a good lass, in...hold….out….Come now. Breathe with me.”
She forced her head down, folding easily in half, and made her breathing slow, trying to match it with the remembered rhythm of Dwalin’s.
When she felt she could breathe without strain and struggle, she managed to lean back against the frame of her door- which was unmarked now that she was paying attention by Yavanna - and breathe.
She gathered her legs underneath her, wiping her tears with the palm of her hands and lightly slapped her cheeks. She firmed her mouth and set her teeth and took a confident step forward.
There was work to be done.
Hawthorn scrambled once she realized where and more importantly when she seemed to be. She had no idea how it had happened, or what she should do in response to it, but…
It she truly was in the past, as she was beginning to believe she was, she would be better prepared for what was to come. That meant dealing with her smial and clothing, repacking her travel pack, stocking up on the herbs and mixtures Oin had insisted she learn to better care for herself, and dealing with a Will.
She was of the belief she had somehow traveled back in time and by the Green Lady, she would change things if that was so. That meant she had no idea if she would make it back to her smial. She would see the Line of Durin live to reclaim their Kingdom properly .
She refused to fail in that endeavor, and so she would ensure her things were well taken care of before she went anywhere. Bag End would be left to Drogo and Primula for standing so steadfastly at her side, even now when they had every reason to believe her mad. She knew they would care for her home in all the ways she would want it cared for. Would cherish her mother’s china, polish her silver spoons and silverware, and tend to her prize-winning garden…
Yes, if Hawthorn was going to leave her home in anyone’s hands, it would be both of her favorite cousins.
Her wardrobe was updated carefully through Drogo and purchasing around the Shire. They might not travel often , but that did not mean that Hobbits did not carry traveling clothes, that they did not make them in case they were needed, or that merchants did not sell their wares. Hobbits remembered the Great Wandering, even if they hoped never to leave their homes again. They knew a possibility was there and prepared for that.
Her Took blood was especially helpful in her efforts to restock and make sure she had everything she may need. She had been a Baggins for too long and thus her preparations for travel was something that many were expecting.
The winter that froze the Brandywine was a tragedy. But not like the tragedy of the end of Hawthorn’s adventure.
The Fell Winter was harsh, yes, people died to the cold, to lack of food and some to the wolves as her mother did, however; she had faced worse horrors than that. She had overcome the terrors from that Winter, and she would overcome the horrors from what was to come.
Hawthorn was unsure if she should mention her situation to Gandalf. Or even to Lord Elrond?
Would they think her mad?
(She thought herself mad sometimes-)
How did one go about informing anyone that they were from the future? Would the elves have even heard of time travel happening? Would Gandalf? If she did tell them, would she make matters worse in her attempts to help? Would they believe her?
So many questions and no answers to be had.
Her behavior was, of course, noticed by her family. By Primula, who told the Old Took, Hawthorn's Grandfather. Thain of the Shire, the closest equivalent Hobbits had to a King. When he called of course Hawthorn would answer him. She was daughter to his favorite daughter and he doted on her. She adored him herself, listening with a curious ear to tales of his youth when she was but a fauntling.
“Grandfather,” she smiled brightly at the greying Took, genuinely happy, and he grinned back, the look of his smile still boyish and energetic despite his age.
“I’ve told you a thousand times child, to call me Grandpapa, haven’t I?”
She grinned at the sound of the well worn argument, relaxing the tension in her shoulders and leaning closer to his stooped form, offering her arms for a hug.
“I’m afraid it must be one thousand and one Grandfather. I have missed you,” she said softly, gently tightening her grip on him as her eyes softened on his beloved features.
She watched her grandfather’s brows furrow for a moment, sharp green eyes that her mother and herself had inherited staring into her own. Two years since she had last laid eyes on him.
“I saw you not two days ago child. You know this.”
Her eyes widened as, indeed, the vague memory of a visit with her grandfather shortly before leaving on her adventure came to the forefront of her memories. She watched those still sharp, cunning eyes watch her startle, the delayed shock and following realization, the subtle play of emotion over her face, and whatever he saw…he drew his own conclusions.
“Or perhaps,” he agreed, his voice pondering and curious, “it has been longer for you?”
Until the day she passed from Middle-Earth and went to the Green Lands of Yavanna, Hawthorn would never know how or why her grandfather came to that conclusion. Why he looked at her and had seen the age where all others failed. Even when she considered their stories, what she would learn from him, she would never be certain what it was about her face that lead her grandfather to the conclusion he drew.
Tears sprang to her eyes as a weight lifted from her shoulders.
“Grandpapa, I-” Hawthorn’s voice hitched and she found herself staring at the concern on his old weathered face- she never called him grandpapa except in extremely emotional situations- before a sob escaped her control. His arms came around her and she slumped forward.
“My child, what ails you so?” his voice was shocked, and his hold was strong and steady. Hawthorn found herself relaxing in it as she had always done.
“Grandpapa, I don’t know what’s going on,” her voice broke and she burrowed into him before continuing, “I was coming home from an adventure and then just… something happened , and now I am here. I am here, before I ever left, like nothing of the last two years I have been gone has happened. No one knows what happened to me, I don’t know what happened to me. I have memories that have not yet come to pass , I have mourned those who are not yet dead, and I have lost and gained so much Grandpapa. How am I to handle what has happened when I cannot explain it? I feel I am going mad. ”
The arms around her form tightened before her grandfather’s voice washed over her trembling form. “Oh my rose, no,” he rocked her in his lap like she was but a fauntling “no, you are not mad.”
Hawthorn lifted her face from his shoulder, tears leaking from her eyes and nose red and stuffed “Grandpapa?”
“We of the Took Line did not share our stories with those outside our family, but I have heard the like of this before. You know your great-grand Uncle, yes? The one called Bullroarer. You remember his story?”
Hawthorn was not sure why she was being asked of Uncle Bandobras, but she answered all the same “Everyone knows of Bullroarer Took, Grandpapa.”
“Ah yes,” he agreed with a spark of Took mischief in his eyes. “They know of him , but they do not know him. They do not know his history, not as we of his Line do. Not as the oral histories of he and his life have been passed from mother to daughter and father to son.”
Hawthorn leaned back, to better look her grandfather in the eye. “What story?” she asked, curious and willing to listen to anything her grandfather thought could help her.
“Bullroarer Took was seen as a hero of the Battle of Greenfields. What most do not know, is that Bandobras Took woke a month before the battle, remembering a smoking ruin of his once home. He told his family, when he woke, prepared as much as he could manage for the coming battle. And when they day came, he was assured that he had done as much as he could, had arranged everything he was able get his hands on to better protect his people.”
Gerontius paused to take in the expression on his granddaughter’s face. The dawning understanding and relief.
“It was this act that earned the Took Line the right to be Thrain and we have held it in our line since. He prevented what he called The Calamity of Greenfields. Stopped his family and friends from dying. He fought and bled for it, but he lived at the end of this battle, and so did those he had seen die. It was rumored that the thirty days he had travel back held some significance to it, but Bullroarer did not say.”
The smial is silent, and if Hawthorn’s grip on her grandfather is too tight he says nothing of it. And if she has stopped breathing, well who could blame her?
She was not mad. There were others who had done as she had. Who had woken with second chances on the horizon, who had prevented deaths .
“Breathe, little rose.” her grandfather’s voice is stern, and the pat to her back between her shoulders is strong “Breathe, and tell me of your adventure. Tell me of the years none but you remember.”
So Hawthorn does . It is a relief without words, as she speaks of things that have not yet come to pass. Of her gains in family, love and friendship. Of her losses, and battles, of blood and darkness. She spoke of learning some of the customs of her dwarrow, of the braids and beads in her hair and what they meant to her and the race of dwarves. Of watching her family go mad, and her desperate gamble to save them all.
She spoke of the way they threatened her, but also of the Battle of Five Armies, and holding Thorin in her lap as he gasped for breath. How she had listened to his last words to her- that if more people valued home over gold, the world would be a merrier place- and how he had apologised to her while he choked on his own lifeblood.
By the time she finished the sky had darkened from afternoon, and she is crying into her grandfather’s shirt.
He holds her like she is the most precious of beings, and croons softly to her, old lullabies he had sang to her mother and so she had sang for Hawthorn. Slowly, painfully, she pulls the cracked pieces of her soul back together in his lap, and he lets her. He holds her and grounds her in the now, rather than her memories.
And when she can breathe again, Grandfather Took looks down at her and smiles.
“I am proud of you my rose. So very proud, and I know your mother would have been too. As for your dwarrows, I will help you ready to save them, and…” he pauses, “I believe we may have the remains of one of the Line of Durin if this,” he touches the bead in her hair, gentle and steady, “is truly the Crest of their House.”
Hawthorn’s breath stalls, feeling as if she had just been kicked in the chest, and her question comes out breathy and shocked, “What?”
Her grandfather stands and moved to his bookshelves, reaching towards the older books, and opening one to pull free a portrait, old with time past but well cared for.
“This is the face of a dwarf whose House he refused to share, though he called himself Frerin. We found him- your grandmother and I- while traveling outside the Shire. We did not know what happened to him, and he did not have the strength to share much beyond that he was in a battle and had escaped his captors.”
He brought the portrait closer to her and Hawthorn found herself holding her breath.
“He was grievously injured, but we brought him home and tried to heal him all the same. He carried beads that looked much like the clasps you carry in your hair now. He was a bright soul. Laughing and happy, even till the end though he wondered of the fate of his House and friends.”
He handed her the portrait and Hawthorn’s held breath rushed from her lungs. A dwarf done in simple black and white, a glimmer of mischief in his eyes and the darker strokes of his beads. Oh , but he looked so like Fili and Thorin both. She could see the marks of their shared ancestry in that face.
“What color was his hair?” She found herself asking, and though she already knew the answer she continued with, “and his eyes?”
“His eyes were the blue of a clear summer sky, warm and welcoming, and his hair as golden as the ripened wheat. He was a bright lad, and we mourned that we could not save him, in the end. He is buried here, on our land with the weapons we found him with.”
“And his beads?”
Grandpapa smiles and presented her with the back of the portrait, the frame of which, he slid out to reveal four beads in various metals and colors nestled in soft fabric.
Hawthorn stared in awe at the very familiar bead that proclaimed the wearer to be a prince of the line of Durin and she could help but lift her hand to allow her fingers to brush delicately over the mithril bead etched with Durin’s crest.
She recognized one of the others as a bead of Mourning, very similar to the one she sported hidden in her own mess of tawny curls. She was unsure what the other two were, but she felt that perhaps, she didn’t need to know.
“You know,” Grandfather remarked in the silence, “You met him several times before his death.”
Hawthorn’s head snapped up in absolute shock.
“W- what ?”
Gerontius hummed, a sad smile playing on his lips. He stood and pulled a loose sheet book from his bookshelf, and handed it to her with sympathy in his gaze. She opened it carefully, only to gasp in shock. It was a sketch book, filled with drawings in simple charcoal, but they were of her. Tiny, fauntling her, with mud smeared on her face and playing outside, with pressed flowers and bird feathers scattered throughout the pages. There was a lock of golden hair and a shard of a pretty blue stone that sparkled in the light.
“You were but a faulting,” Grandpapa said softly, ”but you were fascinated with his beads, always tugging at his braids. Frerin took quite a liking to you as well, little rose, as you were one of the only fauntlings brave enough to approach him and play. He said you reminded him of happier times.”
And oh, wasn’t that a punch to the gut, to find out she had met Thorin’’s dearly missed younger brother and hadn’t even remembered it. Even now, as she strained to remember, she could not place to many details. She remembered a warm tone of voice, not even the voice itself, though she remembered it had been deep. She remembered a blurriest of images, when she strained, of golden hair braided and swinging in her face as he dipped down so she could reach.
She continued through the sketchbook, faded memories becoming clearer with each turn of a page. Her breath catches as she finds sketches of her sitting in Frerin’s lap tugging on his braids and her head thrown back laughing. There were more still of her sitting in front of the dwarrow prince and he put tiny braids in her curls, and even one near the back of her done up in dwarven finery a little note above it titling that picture ‘Princess Thorn’.
Her laughter was more a sob, as that memory climbed its way from the depths of her mind. She had been pouting that she didn’t fit in his clothes. He had promised to draw her ‘like a proper dwarf princess’. Her hand covered her mouth as the memory hit her with the sudden force of a cave troll’s club.
And near the end of the sketchbook, she found a sketch that was not of the herself, or the Shire, or her family, but of his , for that could be no other but a younger Thorin staring up out of the page. When she turned the next page, for a moment she thought it was another drawing of Thorin, but the dwarf staring at her from the paper was softer, feminine and Hawthorn could only assume that was Dis. The second to last held pictures of couples. She thought the picture on the top half of that page was of his parents- Thorin’s parents -, older and distinguished dwarves, almost as if he had sketched a royal portrait.
It was not so stuffy as Hawthorn had seen of royal portraits, for it was very obvious this pair of dwarves loved each other, not looking out of the page as the others had been, but at each other. A little further down she could see Dis with an unknown male dwarf their foreheads pressed together and smiles on their faces. Dis and her husband? Perhaps betrothed at the time of the picture?
And the last picture, when she turned the page was a stab to her heart.
This picture was not just one, but a collage of three fauntling dwarves- dwarflings- obviously Thorin, Frerin, and Dis in happier times. Pictures of the three tumbling, wrestling and running. Playing and smiling at each other.
It ached in her, somewhere to know that she had met someone she would love to know now, and could not place much of anything. She lifted her eyes, watering and upset at this newest turn.
“Would you…” she paused, almost uncertain before longing won out. “Would you tell me of him? What you remember, and what I have forgotten?”
Her Grandfather smiled, and even if she knew she should have been preparing for the journey and battles to come, Hawthorn found she could not make herself do so. This was a worthy pursuit of her time, and though her heart ached she could not stop her smile as she etched every memory her grandfather would share with her into her mind, her fingers playing over the beads in her hands.
10 Days to Arrival
Hawthorn woke slowly as warm sunlight creeped across her face, directly into her closed eyes. She gave a soft, disgruntled sound and rolled over. Her sheets smell like sunflowers and the clean scent of trees and for a moment, she frowns.
When hanging out the laundry to dry, it always comes back slightly stiff and always smelling like a fresh breeze. But she uses different scents on each wash and her sheets should be smelling of mint instead of sunflowers.
Grudgingly, but aware of several discrepancies, Hawthorn sits up and manages to drag her eyes open. She ends up staring at the sight in front of her, uncomprehendingly because surely what she’s seeing isn’t real? A couple seconds tick by before the silence is broken is a hastily stifled giggle.
Four tiny, adorable baby Hobbits are sitting at the foot of the vaguely familiar bed she’s occupying. All of them have curly hair and faces still chubby with baby fat. There are bright grins with missing teeth and fixated gazes.
Hawthorn stares just a bit harder and comtemplates face planting back in the lovely fluffy pillows. She knows that baby Hobbits are not to be underestimated. One sign of weakness and it’s over . Surely, there’s a plan she’s got somewhere tucked away that will have her winning?
She riddled a dragon, politicked with the Elven King, with a human who would be King of Dale! There must be something she can do or say that ends with her returning to the comfort of blessed sleep?
“Auntie ‘Awthorn, what you doing?”
Great Green Lady, it’s already too late. A question has been asked. They will never be satisfied without an answer. Inwardly, Hawthorn despairs and sobs in glee at that pronunciation of her name in babish tones.
No. She must remain strong. This will call for referral of herself in third person- something she swore she’d never do after Gollum...but desperate times, desperate measures and all.
Hawthorn takes a deep breath and leans over, gesturing the fauntlings closer.
“I will tell you a secret, little cabbage,” she whispers softly sending a swift prayer to Yavanna and another to Mahal for good measure.
To her delight, the bait is taken. Eyes widen in surprise and excitement and four tiny, adorable baby Hobbit quickly scramble closer.
“A secret? What kind of secret?” One little brave lass asks, bright green eyes set in a pretty face and framed by thick black curls.
“The best kind,” she says as she leans back and snuggles deeper into the covers.
Only, she lays on her stomach and points out the window where the sun has risen and the early risers have already had their breakfasts. She points dramatically as four tiny bodies tuck themselves next to her.
“I was waiting for the fairies. ”
In the end, Hawthorn has won her battle. The outcome was better than anticipated, as she now has four Hobbits cuddled into her, each one smelling of the sweet scent only babies and young children seem to possess.
If it makes her heart ache for one of her own…
...well, who is there to tell?
It’s close to lunch when she finally bids her farewells and turns her feet to Bag End. When she sets off though, it’s with a sketchbook tucked firmly under her arm.
9 Days To Arrival
Hawthorn sighed, looking over the parchment she had just signed. Everything appeared to be in order. Should anything happen to her, Grandfather would ensure her Will was carried out. While she was gone on her adventure, Drogo and Primula would take care of her smial in her absence, and should she pass they would keep it. They would not live in her home while she was away, rather they would keep the home clean and aired out.
Hawthorn hoped to one day return to her smial, even if it was just so she could pack her belongings away for a trip to Erebor. She knew herself well enough to know, now that she had seen them die, she would never be able to leave her dwarves behind again. She had seen a world without them. She would not see it again.
No, if she survived, and was permitted she would stay with them, as they had once offered to her.
So she would ensure her home looked after, and after the date she had originally been set to return home, if she had not sent word, her Will would be enacted.
She prayed for Yavanna’s Blessings on her journey, for herself and her Company both.
7 Days To Arrival
She blessed the Took connections regularly as she prepared. She had not realized what a boon sat before her in the time Before. The Took were a House well known to be full of ‘wild’ and ‘adventurous’ hobbits, and as such they had the resources and connections to prepare for adventures and travel in a short amount of time.
Her pack had been restocked with clothing meant to handle the wear and tear of the rough travel, with dried packages of soap and cleansing supplies. Her cousins had come with premade herb mixtures and stocks of the plants used to make the mixtures in the first place. Not to mention packets of herbs and spices for cooking.
Hawthorn made absolutely sure to include her rain slick.
Granted, she still had the well built up traveling pack from her spontaneous and confusing jump to the past, but there were dwarven runes and Elvish designs prominently displayed on the material. Not to mention that stain of Orc’s blood and quite frankly, something to emphasize the culture differences between Hobbits and Dwarves would be welcome.
5 Days To Arrival
It was one this day that Hawthorn started cooking. She pulled every bit of useful knowledge from her memories and made sure to include everyone’s favorites, plus a few Hobbit original recipes.
Most of her information came from those awful days spent in Mirkwood, slowly starving (-just like she had in the Fell Winter-) as they attempted to find a path out . Hawthorn had been delighted to sing the praises of her most famous dishes, a great many none of her dwarrow had ever heard of.
Considering that with this headstart on her cooking, they would be treated to a bounteous dinner feast and she would be able to squeeze a breakfast buffet before their departure.
She felt a smirk curl her lips.
1 Day To Arrival
The day before Gandalf would wander up to her smial, Hawthorn intended to spend the day with Primula. Fortunately for her, both Primula and Drogo were together. Unfortunately for aforementioned friends of her, they were attempting to be together alone.
Hawthorn could not let them be though. She was leaving tomorrow and her journey to Erebor would take her a solid year. There was no telling exactly how long it would be before she would be able to make the return trip, especially as she had plans to make sure the Battle of Five Armies turned out much better this time around.
Luckily, Primula, Yavanna bless her scarily perceptive self, noticed something about her and easily consented to her presence. Thus the last day Hawthorn had of this simple, repetitive lifestyle was spent happily with her two best friends and favorite cousins. One on each of her parent’s sides.
It was only when she returned home, after dodging both the subtle inquiries and the blunt questions, that Hawthorn allowed herself one last surge of emotion. One last round of crying before she washed her face, set everything in order and prayed one last prayer to both Yavanna and Mahal.
Tomorrow is the day.
Day Of Arrival
She followed the routine in her past to the letter.
And here she sat, smoking a pipe of Old Toby and waiting for a flash of gray to walk up the lane.
She was going to be sick.
Her chest was tight, her throat wanted to close, her hands shook, and her eyes flashed over her surroundings constantly. She tried to hide it of course, but she could not convince herself of her state, even if she could lie to an observer.
She had told herself she was in the past, and everything she had seen so far confirmed that fact, but she was not quite sure she believed it, even now. Even with her Grandfather’s stories of the Took House. Even with the proof of Hobbiton and all the inhabitants reactions, with the multiple confirmations of the date.
She wasn’t sure.
But today was the day she would confirm everything. Today would make for certain if she lived in the past or not. One could not fake the dead coming back to life, and if Fili and Kili came to her door, she would know without doubt that she could change everything .
So she sat in front of her door, took deep lungfuls of Old Toby, and tried to breathe past the lump in her throat.
And just when she thought she would need to move, to get up and do something - anything- lest she go mad waiting, she caught sight of that flash of gray. Her breath caught for a moment and then she exhaled shakily.
“Good Morning.” she called as Gandalf the Gray approached her door.
“Do you wish me good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”
Her stomach turns at the familiar questions, the instant irritation but a fleeting emotion instead of a lingering feeling. She was quite familiar with sarcasm, but Gandalf was truly a level above her. Blessed Green, but it was happening just as she remembered-
“All of them at once, I suppose.” Hawthorn responds mostly from memory and for the exact same reason.
The sooner he left, the better. She was not prepared for this. She was absolutely not ready for any of this. She had thought she was ready- had prepared as much as she could. Sitting here and now as she was, she’s come to the conclusion that nothing could have prepared her for the sheer depth of feeling that would hit her in this moment. She fought back the urge to hyperventilate, using the tobacco she pulled deeply from to calm herself.
If this was her reaction when she came face to face with only Gandalf how was she going to handle the dwarrow? How on Yavanna’s green Middle-Earth was she going to handle Fili and Kili? How was she going to handle Thorin?
She goes through the conversation exactly as before. Only, instead of irritation and apaling rudeness, equal to Gandalf’s own manners, or lack of thereof, she flees into her house resisting the urge to cry.
The first knock reverberates through her home.
The food has been set out, her pack sits hidden away in her bedroom closet, she’s pulled out a chest for weapons to be placed, and she is still not ready.
Her heart is galloping in her chest, and every inhale is a struggle. Every exhale shakes.
She knows it’s the warrior, who was so protective of his own. Who insisted on being the first into any unknown situation, and the last to leave it. He was here.
He did not know her. She would be considered a threat. She had not earned his regard- she was not ‘Thornbush’ to him, not yet - and he would treat her accordingly.
Her hands trembled as she approached her door, calling “ Coming! ” to stop him pounding on the wood a second time. She was dressed in the likeness of a male hobbit, just as she had done the last time. (Granted last time had not been on purpose as she had just finished her garden work and sat down for supper when the dwarrow began to arrive-)
It was safer to travel the road as a male, and would provide her time to earn regard and respect from the Company. She knew that dwarves did not hold to the same gender roles as most other races, but she also knew that females were so rare to their race they would coddle and baby her if she had not proven herself to be a passable warrior to them before they discovered what she was. And now, now after the Before, she was passable if she was not the best. (She cringes every time she remembers how she once swung her Sting around so carelessly.)
It would be a point in her favor to show her scars. Most were littered over her hands and her arms. There were several on her legs and a couple on her head, although most were hidden by her hair. On the other hand, when she had first met the Company of Thorin Oakenshield, she was wearing one of her father’s old shirts. The knock at the door had startled her enough that she grabbed the first two things she reached for. Which was a pair of her gardening trousers and a masculine coat that she had no idea where it had come from.
She was dressed much the same, only she was sans the original coat, her hair was still in braids and her sleeves were pushed halfway up her forearms. The scars on her hands a some of the ones to mark her arms were visible.
She wished she had more time to prepare herself, even as she knew no time in all of Middle-Earth could have prepared her for this.
She took a deep breath at the door, straightening her posture and closing her eyes for a moment. When she had taken three deep breaths, she pulled the door open, meeting the narrowed and suspicious eyes of the dwarrow on the other side of her door.
“Good evening, Master Dwarf. Bilbo Baggins at your service,” she bowed, keeping her gaze up and focused on the warrior in front of her, “Gandalf told me you were coming,” which he had done no such thing, but Hawthorn would keep that to herself.
Her introduction had also cut off his own, and unlike last time, he now had an invitation into her own, instead of just walking in.
Dwalin was taken aback. Not that it showed on his face of course, but Hawthorn had spent enough time with him that she knew he was. He dipped forward, his eyes always on her person, trailing quickly over the scars on her arms, and the way she held herself before it seemed he remembered his manners.
He bowed, keeping his eyes on her face.
“Dwalin, at yours.”
“If you would remove your boots by the door, I would appreciate it. I would rather not need to clean anything before we set off tomorrow. And the chest just there is for your weapons should you choose to leave them. If you should not, I ask you not to pull them at the table, and to refrain from breaking anything in my home.”
Hawthorn knew better than to make the warrior feel he had to leave his weapons behind, just as she knew even if he did leave the axes in the chest he had at least ten hidden blades on his person anyway.
He paused again, an eyebrow ticking up his forehead, but Hawthorn- Bilbo, she reminded herself, she was to be Bilbo for now until they discovered her gender a second time- was gratified to see him bend and begin to remove his boots.
She smiled at him. “When you are done, I have a bit of food set out for you to enjoy. There should be enough for everyone.”
She moved towards the kitchen, and once she passed out of his sight, she leaned heavily on the wall for support.
He was so… Hawthorn wasn’t sure how to put it. This Dwalin was more... youthful in the sense that he did not bare the loss of his chosen family, the reality of his greatest fear and failure. He had lost his home, his livelihood, almost everything to Smaug of course, but he had still had his family. He had succeeded in keeping Thorin and Dis safe.
Still had Thorin and Fili and Kili. Still had the whole Company, unbroken and whole.
This Dwalin was not so close to the Company yet as he would become, but…
Well, Hawthorn well remembered Dwalin’s face and baring when he discovered- when she had been the one to tell him- that Thorin had perished. That Fili and Kili had died together. That Dis was the only remaining Durin to survive.
This Dwalin bore none of that weight. None of those scars. It was a mighty difference from the silent and grim-faced warrior she’d last seen as she departed Erebor. That Dwalin had looked old and weary, grief stricken and had barely bothered to hide it. It was painful now that she could see how he was affected, like a kick to the gut, and Hawthorn struggled to keep her breathing even.
She heard as the heavy footfalls of the dwarrow approached her kitchen and she straightened finding her own seat at her table on silent feet. She watched as Dwalin entered her kitchen, and felt her lips attempt to pull into a smile as the gruff male came to a sharp stop at the sight of her table loaded down with food.
She well remembered the pain of hunger , of the struggle they would come across on this journey. She had no hesitation in wiping her pantry clear for these dwarrow for a proper Hobbit Feast. The last time it had been a surprise to have them, and nothing had been ready. This time she knew exactly who was coming to her door, knew their favorites, and loved them so , even if they did not yet know her. She would feed them well, see them happy, and if she could start here- start with a full meal for all of them- well that was just a Hobbit thing to do wasn’t it?
“Help yourself Master Dwalin. I hope it should be enough for thirteen hungry dwarves.” She finally broke the silence as Dwalin stood frozen in front of her door.
His eyes jerked to her, seated at the head of the table. She knew it was the first time any of the thirteen dwarves to come into her home would be eating a full meal in a long time. They had all saved and worked to be ready for this quest, she knew. They had not been able to buy so much food like this, had not had a proper home cooked meal in months.
“It...it should be plenty, laddi- Master Baggins….” a moment passes in silence, and dark, wary eyes pinned her in her seat before he slid forward and towards a seat by the pumpkin cakes she knew were his favorite. She smiled slightly dipping her head.
“I am pleased to hear that, Master Dwalin. It would be dreadfully rude if a Hobbit’s guests left their table hungry.”
The wary, almost suspicious look in his eyes faded. Dwalin understood that by her words, she had indicated that this was a cultural thing for Hobbits which put his mind at rest. Hawthorn deliberately suppressed the delighted smirk from curling her lips.
She had the utter pleasure of watching the warrior dig into his food, and upon trying her pumpkin cakes, freeze in place. She knew from the way his eyes widened and the way he pulled the plate closer to himself when he thought she was not looking, that he intended to keep them to to himself. Which was probably the highest level of silent compliment she would get from him, being a complete stranger and the woman he was of the opinion was a burglar.
She had once promised to make her pumpkin cakes for the dwarrow who taught her to fight, and while she had never quite managed it in the Before, she was glad to do it now even if Dwalin himself did not yet have the promise from her. Now, he wouldn’t have to wait and there was no wondering if he would even survive to eat her pumpkin cakes.
She stilled at the knock on her door, lifting her head. Five minutes. Five minutes on the dot. Her head tilted. She bloody well knew it! Oh, that wizard !
He had done the same to her as he had once done to Beorn! Sending in the dwarves one and two at a time so that she would be overwhelmed by numbers and not so likely to react with banishing them from her home! He could not win her over with a story as he had done with the Great Bear, so he had chosen to rely on the Hobbit Folks ingrained manners! She had thought as much from the moment Gandalf had presented his plan back then.
To have it confirmed though!
Gandalf would find himself without his favored red wine for this.
Hawthorn turned an entirely mild facial expression to stare at Dwalin, who to his credit, noticed immediately and rightly knew she was upset. She felt slightly guilty at the way he tensed clearly on defense, but she assured herself that it was the wizard who would earn the brunt of her ire.
“Would you, by happenstance, know why it has been exactly five minutes after your arrival that someone else knocks on my door?”
Dwalin’s shoulders squared and his back straightened before he answered, his voice rough and his tone even.
“As I am a warrior, I was considered the best option to arrive first to a stranger’s house. My brother Balin, is much more diplomatic, and he was selected after in case my presence was unnecessary.”
A twisted truth , Bilbo knew. He was not chosen so much as he had insisted . Dwalin would go first, judge her ( not that they knew she was female ), and then Balin to smooth over any offence Dwalin may have caused. It was the reason Fili and Kili had not come first, as they were curious enough to do so. They were heirs of the Lonely Mountain, and more than that, dear to the dwarrow in front of her, and Dwalin would cut his own beard before he allowed them to face strangers or danger alone where he could help it.
It was a good strategy and Hawthorn could not help the flur of anger in her chest that this would even be considered necessary. Still, she sighed and rose from her seat, and made for her front door.
She clung to that little burr of anger to keep the hurt that swelled as Dwalin called her stranger. He who had dubbed her Ùhùrud-Namad - Battle Sister and ‘Thornbush’ both.
“Such precautions are not necessary in this case and extremely offensive to a Hobbit, as you are implying that I would allow harm to come to you under my roof, but I applaud the care you show for your companions. I am aware that it is not always the case, and your caution may well be needed elsewhere.”
Hawthorn didn’t pause to see Dwalin’s reaction, as she slipped around into her entryway and wrapped her fingers around the door latch. One quick tug resulted in the white lined, weather worn and creased face of Balin to come perfectly into view.
She really couldn’t be blamed for the pause that allowed him to take the upper hand.
“Balin,” said he as he spread his arms wide and bowed, “at your service,” he concluded before quickly straightening to stare expectantly at her.
She smiled pleasantly, revealing her teeth in a deliberate way that made Balin’s eyes narrow ever so slightly as he examined her.
“Ah, Bilbo Baggins. A pleasure to meet you, do come in. I’ve been told there were thirteen of you, however; I do wonder where the other eleven have gotten to.”
Hawthorn tilted her head, blinking wide innocent eyes- not too wide to bring to mind one of the fairer sex of course- at the dwarf, and glancing briefly over his shoulder into the darkness of the Shire.
“Where have they gone off to?” she raised her voice deliberately to be heard some distance away, “As it is very rude to keep a host waiting, when they have gone through all the trouble of preparing a worthy meal for them.”
Balin blinked at her, shifting his weight for a moment as he regarded her with consideration.
“Well,” he tilted his head, shrewdly gazing at her, “that is very true, and seeing as our host has called for us…” he tuned, a sharp ringing whistle echoing over the fields. A moment of silence and stillness passed before, out of the darkness, shapes seemed to peel away from the walls.
Neither Gandalf nor Thorin were among them.
Hawthorn wondered if they realized each and every one of them had been stalked through the Shire by at least two Bounders. She decided not to mention it, standing still to block their entrance to her home. She had to force herself to focus past the blinding stabbing pain of seeing Fili and Kili in the group. Instead she smiled just a bit, polite and welcoming.
“You are welcomed in my home, all of you, though it does appear that one of your,” and oh but it ached to stop the instinctive ‘our’ that wanted to escape her lips, “number is missing. In any case- I ask the same of you that I asked of Master Dwalin. Please remove your boots before entering, as I would not like to clean my home before I leave it. Should you choose to leave your weapons behind they may be put there,” she gestured to the wooden chest that did indeed hold Dwalin’s axes.
She knew it to be a nonverbal sign for the company that Dwalin found no danger in the home. Their vaguely defensive stances eased into something more relaxed.
“But should you take them with you, do not pull them at the dinner table, and please do not break anything. Some of the items in this house are valuable to me, for they are all I have of my House.”
She saw a flicker of confusion at the last word and clarified, “All I have of my mother and father’s treasures that were passed down from those that came before.”
The confusion cleared and when she stepped aside she was pleased to see the dwarrow introducing themselves before they began to enter her home.
Balin remained to the side as Kili bounded up, Fili close behind. Their introduction was much the same, only this time, Hawthorn hesitated before returning the gesture, her gaze fixated on the golden braids of the eldest Durin Heir. Her staring was noticed and she couldn’t help but wince as the tension in Kili returned.
“I apologize,” Hawthorn said softly, “You remind me greatly of someone I once cherished, when I was a fauntling. It has been many years since his death…” her voice trailed off and she cleared her throat.
“Bilbo Baggins at your service, please, be welcome into my home.”
Kili, ever fearless and reckless headed in without hesitation, reaching back to tug his elder brother along. After them, Bifur and Bofur stepped up and oh . Hawthorn was not okay with this at all . The introductions passed in an almost haze, Bombur, Gloin, Oin, Nori, Dori and Ori - all of them, save Thorin. Each of them pausing to remove their boots and more obvious weapons.
Hawthorn inwardly cheered at the continued integrity of her belongings.
Balin was the last to enter, giving her a nod of acknowledgement and she followed him in.
When she maneuvered her way through the Company to the kitchen, she noticed that Dwalin stood in the doorframe, one hand holding the plate of pumpkin cakes. The other hand was wrapped around a short stack, bringing them to his mouth. Her lips twitched. That was quite a compliment from the dwarf, that he would take the cakes with him when he was greeting his family and not risk leaving them to be devoured. Of the group, Dwalin and Balin were the two most likely to use proper manners when it was not actually required.
“Balin!” the dwarf called gleefully, and she suddenly remembered this was the first time the brothers had seen each other in some time.
Gandalf had been the one to bring them all to the Shire, and they had arrived separately with no time for proper greetings before they had come to her.
The elder dwarf finished setting his more obvious weapons- namely his mace-er, sword-mace? Mace-sword?- and some of the larger daggers- beside his brother’s axes. She watched their greeting, wincing a little as they slammed their heads together. There was a quick flurry of words in Khuzdul exchanged between them in low voices- she was certain she was not meant to hear it, but a Hobbit’s ears were the most sensitive of Middle-Earth.
She politely ignored their personal greetings, instead leading the others past them and towards the dining room.
“Come now, while the food is still warm,” she said, discreetly disappearing back into the kitchen for one of the pots still lingering on the stove.
She almost laughed aloud as she watched Dwalin, without missing a beat, lift the plate of pumpkin cakes out of Kili and Fili’s reach as they walked passed. The affronted look on Fili’s face was no match for the sheer disappointment that befell Kili’s expression. The dark haired archer briefly wilted before his attention was diverted by Hawthorn’s return, carrying a steaming pot.
“I almost forgot about the pot roast stew,” she said cheerfully, deftly squeezing the hot cookware into an open spot on the table.
She paused an instant to smile at Ori, who tentatively returned the gesture, before looking to see the youngest Durin’s reaction. There was open faced delight painted on Kili’s face, especially when she revealed a bow overflowing with fresh yeast rolls. Those she didn’t even need to place on the table as youngest dwarf rapidly made his way to her side and held his hands out in silent supplication.
Hawthorn arched an eyebrow.
“Those do not appear to be clean hands, Master Kili.”
Kili pauses, and panic steals over his face before his eyes wildly dart about, trying to find a sink. Hawthorn steps to the side and sweeps her arm to the side towards her kitchen.
“The sink is to the right of the doorway-”
Hawthorn is interrupted by a bright, beaming grin, so familiar her heart skips a beat. “Thank you Master Boggins!”
And oh , but she has missed his mangling of her name. A purposeful testing of her temperament, and later a joke and endearment. Her eyebrow twitches anyway and mischief shines in dark eyes.
Kili quickly vanishes into her kitchen and the sound of running water quickly follows. Hawthorn turns her gaze to the gathered dwarrow, some with food in their hands and others rapidly chewing and smiles.
“There are bathrooms down the hall, the first two doors on both the left and the right if you require freshening up,” she says and inwardly cheers as blessed, sensible Ori is the first to leave, tugging both her brothers behind her.
Kili reappears and Fili goes in after him as the others, one by one, the rest of the Company abandon their plates to wash their hands. Bilbo smiled, soft and warm at his back, as she faced away from the faces of the Company and they could not see. Her heart was both torn open and healed at the sight of her boys. She loved them absolutely , and to find them dead on the field had torn something in her. Thorin had been a loss beyond words, but to also have lost Fili and Kili that same day?
She very nearly had followed after them.
She was a Hobbit. A Hobbit in love, and like a plant, she needed the love and care of those around her to flourish. Love of family, and friends, of lovers. Hobbits thrived with large families, with social gatherings.
It was why Hobbits had such excellent parties so often, why they socialized so much. It was like a plants water and sunlight. Hobbits were not a species that trusted outside their own kind easily, though it often appeared otherwise because they were so polite. (Never mistake politeness or kindness for weakness , Hawthorn-)
Hobbits did not choose their spouses lightly, and were loyal until death took them to Yavanna’s Fields. While friends and extended family could be the ‘water’ Hobbits needed, their, as the dwarrows would call it, One and their children, their siblings. were to be their Sunlight.
For Hawthorn to lose, not only Thorin who her heart had chosen before she knew to stop it, but then Fili and Kili who had become as dear to her as if they were her own...
Elves called it Fading, but Hobbits referred to it as the Drought.
The Drought had taken her hard and fast, and it was only that she was so close to the Company, that she considered them brothers, that had saved her. The Company and Gandalf, who had worked hard and carefully to tend to her as she suffered her losses despite also suffering that same loss.
Their stubborn determination that they would lose no others, that attitude and certainty is what saw her recover. She had told them she would return to the Shire, but she had always planned to come back. Not to Erebor, she could not have, but Dale… She thought Dale was a place she could have settled to be close to her family.
Once she had settled things here.
Now...now she was here again, and in the past, and they all lived , her suns , her lights they all stood strong and together before her. Her breath shook.
Her heart ached with it, as she sucked in breath after breath, barely keeping herself from a panic attack. She felt on the very tipping point of one, and she wonders if she would be able to even handle seeing Thorin again. Thorin who would not know her. Did not know her, would treat her badly, as he thought her a burden until she proved herself.
Her eyes drop and catch on the new-old scars crawling over her arms. She had pushed her sleeves up, almost unconsciously, but as she stares at the marred skin, her hands reach out to push them back down.
Would the marks of her survival help or hinder her in this? Would he see them as marks of survival? Or marks that she was not strong enough to protect herself? She knew Hobbits were underestimated, and often forgotten by the other races. Halflings were rumors and stories not widely believed. Once, she did not care. Now, the use of that word made her grit her teeth.
She whirled to her table, finding her seat and grounding herself with the sights and smells of the food, with the familiar sounds of the dwarves just out of sight. She did not know, but she would not find out until he arrived. She could put if to the side for now and simply enjoy that her dwarves were here and alive that they did not bare the scars of the Battle of Five Armies.
And as the tromping boots of twelve dwarves came back to her kitchen, she wiped the sorrow, the agony , off her face, lifting her head in a welcoming smile.
One day at a time, Hawthorn, you can do this.
Just take one thing at a time.
There was a heavy knock at the door.
Hawthorn stilled .
It was the heaviest of efforts that saw her turning to the door.
“Is that him, then?” she asked, and was almost not even aware of her own voice so far away did it sound to her ears.
“I suspect so, lad.”
Balin’s voice is steady, and Hawthorn wishes she could cling to it. Cling to anything that would hold her steady in the face of this.
Her door has never looked so dangerous to her before. She pushes herself to her feet, and her body weighs nearly three times its weight. She pauses a moment in her doorway, eyes closing and praying to the Green Lady for strength.
Give me the roots of an ancient oak my Lady, for I do not know how I will weather this storm.
Her shoulders roll for a moment and she straightens herself up. Every inhale is strength bleeding into her bones, every exhale is her worries on the wind. She is an oak, an ancient oak, and she would hold steady .
Like the earth, like the land. She had been scorched into ash, but this was a time of regrowth.
Hawthorn pushes the door open, and her eyes drift up and up-
It is a relief to see him there, and still a disappointment as she had braced for another’s face. The nagging irritation momentarily overwhelms her panic and her tone is accusatory.
“Oh, you , confounded wizard!”
Gandalf’s eyes glimmer in good humor, even as he shuffled discreetly back, out of the range of her feet and for one absurd moment, Hawthorn is tempted to dart forward to kick at his shins anyway. She strangles the impulse because it’s not as if Gandalf had any hand in the time travelling.
“Bilbo Baggins,” he returns the greeting, supporting her falsehood about her gender, and Bilbo is greatful. And annoyed because it was extremely unpleasant to deal with this the first time around and she had very nearly grabbed a knife and- well, that’s in the past, now isn’t it? Or her future in this case, perhaps.
“You fool of a wizard, you meant to overwhelm me with dwarves! Tall, impolite dwarves with axes and swords, and there was scarcely a word to me! That was a rather rude way of introductions I would say! There might not have been enough food, ” Bilbo nearly wails in the end, honestly distressed.
To her satisfaction, Gandalf winces and looks properly chastised. And well he should! Imagine- a Hobbit without enough food for her guests! A Baggins of Bag End without a proper meal for her Company!
“Ah. Do forgive a wizard his joys, young Bilbo.”
She folds her arms over her chest, and stares thunderously up at him for a moment before her face finally softens in amusement.
“Ah, my old friend I would forgive you much even if it was just for my mother’s sake. I would see that you took your boots off at the door however; I will not be cleaning up messes before we leave on the morrow. Should you leave your great staff with the other weapons that would be appreciated, though I offer you the same courtesy I offered the dwarves in my dining hall- if you wish to take your weapon to my kitchen do not pull it at the table!”
Gandalf stared at her in surprise for a moment before he threw his head back to laugh.
“Ah, my dear Bilbo! The very image of your mother, I see! You seem to have everything well under control, as I should have expected from Belladonna Took’s child. I shall take my shoes off and leave my staff, as I’m sure Master Oakenshield will do as well.”
It was well enough that Bilbo had already stepped aside for Gandalf to duck his way inside, for if she had been in front of the door when he spoke of the companion he led up her path, she would have frozen. Well that she had already been out of the way, as she could not have been able to pry her feet from the floor as he followed behind the wizard.
“Ah,” she head her voice from a great distance. If Fili and Kili had rent great holes in her heart even as they healed them by living again, seeing Thorin….
Thorin her Great Sun living and whole, breathing and just as she remembered him-
Oh, but that had shredded her very heart from her chest!
How would she ever put it back to rights again, she wondered, when the very sight of him tore at her so?
“This must be the missing thirteenth member of the Company. Well met, Master Oakenshield, Bilbo Baggins at your service.”
Bless her Baggins grandmother and her ruthless ingraining of manners. The lessons were so firmly set there was no escaping them. Otherwise Bilbo would not have been able to speak past the lump in her throat, for her mind had frozen on the sight of a whole and hale Thorin Oakenshield. He wasn’t even glaring at her and oh.
He moved closer and there was that expression on his face and there was that look in his eyes and he opened his mouth and Hawthorn holds her breath.
“You look like Frerin,” Hawthorn Baggins says rather abruptly and watches as Thorin’s face leeches of all color.
For a single shining moment, the King Under the Mountain stands absolutely speechless and utterly shocked in front of her. Her jerks in place, a subtle but obvious thing to her, as if she had punched him hard enough to break that dwarven nose. From behind her, there’s a cacophony of short, harsh gasps and the sound of several things being dropped. The Baggins in her is screaming about propriety and manners and oh goodness gracious me, Great Lady, what did I do?
The Took is firmly in control so Bilbo barrels on. She’d already stuck her foot in it, there was no way she could have stopped there anyway at this point.
“I mean, you look like Frerin would have looked if he dyed his hair and still lived because you’re older, but the beads in your hair look about the same, even if they’re a bit different and I thought it was just a coincidence that Fili looked so much like him, line of Durin and all, but you look almost exactly like what I remember, because I was just a faulting and he died not long after- after- oh dear ,” says Bilbo in tones of horror, trying desperately to stop talking because this is not how she wanted this to go.
She’s babbling, but she can’t stop herself. It pours from her mouth like the water from a fall, and she can feel her body tensing. A cold sweat breaks out on the back of her neck and she finds herself blinking rapidly because her eyes might be misting. She senses the crowding of the Company at her back, and it wreaks havoc on her instincts, as part of her trusts these dwarves with everything , but she also knows that to them she is a stranger that speaks of a long dead and dearly beloved Prince.
Her hands go to her lips, and blinking harder only lets the misting eyes to drip a few tears to her cheeks.
“Oh, I am sorry. I am sorry, you remind me so him and he was beloved by me. I do not mean to- I did not mean to say that, I did not think to-” she pulls in a hash breath, closing her eyes and pulling in hard breaths, forcibly control her reaction. “Forgive me, Master Oakenshield, it appears my mouth has run away with me.”
Thorin’s face twists in that subtle way it had taken her so long to learn the first time around, and she knows she has grieved him, even as his eyes lighten a bit with a darkened hope.
She remembers in Erebor, after the dragon and before the gold lust, how they had taken care of the bodies at the front gate. She remembers the soft voice Thorin used when he began to tell her of his brother, his golden haired brother who Fili resembled, and how he knew Frerin was dead, but a body had never been found. For all Thorin and Dis knew, Frerin had rotted in a ditch somewhere, his bones would never be found, never be returned to the stone as their culture and traditions required.
“No- No, Master Baggins, you are correct. Frerin was my younger brother. I did not think to hear him spoken of here when I have known him to be long dead. How do you know him?”
Bilbo pulls in a deep breath at the emotion that she can see Thorin visibly fighting off. His face is carved from stone but his shoulders are tense and his hands are curled into fists by his sides. There is something vulnerable and pleading in the lines of his face and it hurts. It hurts like Fili screaming Kili’s name and Dwalin repeating Thorin’s name over and over -
“My grandparents,” she begins, because she cannot deny him this , anymore than she could ask the sun to set in the east, “they found him after a great battle. He always refused to share what battle we had found him from. All my grandparents could learn was that he escaped his captor and collapsed outside the Shire where they found him and brought him to their home.”
She swallows hard at the way blue eyes darken at the word captor , before she continues softly, “I was a fauntling at the time, staying that summer with my grandparents as my parents had business outside the Shire and could not look after a fauntling on the roads. I would not discover until later that Frerin had suffered an internal injury we could not save him from. He lived a while after we pulled him from the lands around the Shire, but he could not travel and knew he had a short time left in the world.”
Bilbo lifted her head, shoulders back and straightening her spine. Her eyes met Thorin’s solidly as she spoke of his younger brother.
“He was a beautiful soul, kind, clever and mischievous even all the way up until the end. He had infinite patience for the curious and playful fauntlings who demanded stories of far away, and who were not aware of his wounds until much later,” she says with the barest edges of grief coloring her voice, before she carries on with a fond smile, “I was his favorite, always able to coax one more story, or to get him to agree to allow me to stay for just a little longer. He had all the steadiness of the Great Trees, and a will as relentless as river rapids. I remember sitting in his lap and tugging on braids, asking a thousand and one questions.”
Hawthorn’s smile is bittersweet as she stares into the steadily paling skin and ever tightening eyes of Thorin. She doesn’t mention the absolute silence behind her apart from the Company’s breathing, nor does she allow her gaze to stray to his shaking hands.
“He answered what he could of them, told me some of the meanings for his braids and beads. Told me he had siblings, though not who for he never named his House to my own, even though I asked most insistently.”
At the mention of beads, her hands lift to her hair, fingers sliding in to pull out a single four strand braid, the end weighted down by a onyx bead. Thorin takes a sharp breath as he recognizes a symbol of mourning and his hands reach up for her braid. He pauses, his gaze shifting to hers and she only holds it up in acceptance. He is entirely gentle as his callous fingers grasp the tiny bead in her hair.
She has another braid, only that one ends with a clasp of simple gold, declaring her to have gained the friendship of the line of Durin. She hesitates for a moment, debating on if she should show that one too, but blue eyes shift beyond her braid still in his hand and she knows he’s already spotted it. He doesn’t reach for it though. It’s still buried in her hair and dwarrow are careful about consent and permission and she has given him only leave for one braid.
She doesn’t speak, as he seems to come back to his usual stoic and grim self as he takes a single step back from her personal space.
“Your grandparents,” Thorin says, his voice gruff and tight, “Where do they live? I would like to speak with them.”
Bilbo smiles, a soft and sad thing.
“It is late this night, and they would not be awake at this hour, but I would be glad to bring you to see them on the morrow. And your brother,” she adds, because she knows Thorin would not ask, “we are not familiar with your culture, but we honored what we could of his traditions- those that he shared with us. Frein lies buried in stone, and clad in the armor we found him in, cleaned and fixed as we could make it, his sword clasped in hand. The Thrain of the Shire spoke over him, what he knew of him in life and asked that the Green Lady deliver his soul safely to her husband.”
Thorin looks like his heart has been ripped from his chest and then bludgeoned over the head and Hawthorn takes in a breath that isn’t as steady as she’d like it to be. She continues on, because this is important . Thorin has precious little happiness as it is. This , she can give him.
“He was a marvelous artist, your brother. He liked to draw the Shire while he was here, and the fauntlings that came to see him. Now that I look upon you, I recognize your face in some of his work. Your and what I gather is his- your - sister, are predominantly featured. I have- As I said, I was a favorite fauntling of his, and so when he- I received a sketchbook of his.”
Even though she stutters over the secret of her identity and the subject of Frerin’s death, she doesn’t hesitate to stride to the side, heading for the bookshelf where she left it. She tucked it away on one of the higher shelves, so she stretches to pull the handbound book she had taken from her grandfather’s home. Her hands tighten almost involuntarily around the smooth leather before she turns to face Thorin.
He’s followed her out of her entryway and she can very clearly see the entire company lingering just in her line of sight. Fili and Kili stand at the front and she looks away because there’s a fragile quality to their expression, like one hard strike of a hammer may shatter them.
“I did not think we would ever see his House in the Shire, so I believed that none would ever know he rested here. I thought that my family would be the only one to remember him, for we did not know who to ask about the brave dwarf who had passed in my grandfather’s halls.”
She brought the book closer to Thorin, and carefully opened it to the ‘Princess Thorn’ picture. It was the smallest of noises, the most subtle catch in his breath that escaped him, but Hobbit ears were not idly called sharp, and so she heard the sound of pain Thorin made at the sight of his brother’s familiar hand.
“That’s Hawthorn, the Thain’s favorite granddaughter. Frerin called her ‘ little princess ’, but this is not what I wanted to show you, Master Oakenshield,” she pulled her objective from behind that page, tucked safely away from prying eyes and held up a Durin Blue ribbon edged in gold the exact shade of Fili’s hair. Rather, Frerin’s.
She heard the entire Company draw in sharp, stuttering breaths. She caught the passing shapes from the corner of her eyes and she knew it was Fili and Kili who now stood at her sides, although still a short distance away.
She had threaded the the ribbon through the bead and clasp of mithril set with sapphire, diamonds and engraved with an elegant hand with the Crown of Seven Stars, that declared Frerin a direct heir and Prince of the Line of Durin, before carefully knotting the ends of it off.
“I thought to hold on to this in memory, but as you are his brother, I suspect you will hold these more dear than I ever will. These are the one bead and the clasp he treasured best, so it was the one I kept. Grandfather holds the rest of them.”
Hawthorn turned the page to reveal a much younger Thorin, drawn with a smile on his face and a training sword in his hands and laid the ribbon across the paper. She extended it to Thorin, who stood for a moment, still as stone.
His hands didn’t shake, but the overwhelming emotion was shown in his eyes far more vividly than she first realized. She had taken the air from his lungs with a sudden unlooked for pain, and yet...His eyes had brightened somewhat, despite the pain of it. It was as if she had lanced and infected wound- painful but healing all the same. He was gentle as his hands folded over the ribbon lifting it to his eyes.
“Aye,” he whispered hoarsely, “these are dear, more than you would know, Master Baggins. My thanks, for you have done me a great service I did not think could ever be done.”
(Bilbo remembers a night surrounded in bodies of long dead dwarves, and the whispered terror he had shared that he never knew what became of his brother’s body. How he had mourned that he could not be sure his body would be encased in stone and shielded from those who would tear and ruin him. She has assuaged him of that fear in this moment, and it makes her warm despite the sorrow of the moment.)
Hawthorn draws herself up and turns sharply to the rest of the Company still lingering. She sees Oin with his horn to his ear, with frustration on his face and knows Gloin will fill him in later, but for now…
She claps her hands and when almost everyone’s attention returns to her, she gestures to the kitchen.
“I don’t know what you’ve heard of Hobbit hosts, but it’s an insult if the food at the table goes cold! Discussions should take place after dinner has been eaten and the dishes cleared away, honestly, I cooked for a Hobbit’s appetite, perhaps I should have cooked for a Man’s?”
It’s a very obvious deflection in order to give Thorin and his sister-sons some privacy and Bilbo thanks Yavanna herself that it works. Dwalin stands at the front and she only has to level him a stern look before he turns on his heel and uses his bulk to herd the rest of the Company back towards the food. She inwardly cheers when she chances a quick look over her shoulder to see Thorin pressing his forehead against Kili’s before he pushes them after her.
Their eyes catch, peridot green and Durin blue and Hawthorn’s traitorous heart skips a beat and her cheeks color. She slips in through a gap between Nori and Bifur and pops out in front. While she arranged herself at the front of the table, she left the other end open for Thorin.
“Now! Tell me,” she smiles at the group of dear, dear , dwarves in front of her. And if there is a deep sorrow not only in their eyes, but in her own, well no one mentions it to anyone else, “has everyone found something to their liking at my table? No one has any allergies do they? I would rather no one suffers any issues on my carelessness!”
Bombur, Malah bless that dwarf , answers easily from his place on the left side of the table, in front of her Uncle Nightshade’s prize winning dumpling stew.
“No lad, we don’t have any allergies, thank the Maker. And I most certainly find I love this dumpling stew! It is the best I have found outside my own mother’s!”
Bilbo blushed outright and smiled happily.
“Well!” Her grin widened. “That is quite the compliment Master Bombur, that I would rival a mother’s beloved recipe! And the rest of you? I should hope I do not only please one of my company tonight!”
Various answers came across the table, each of the dwarves mentioning a dish or three they were found of. She always knew their favorites though, for they horded them close to their plates, and she had seen Bombur lash out twice with a spoon to smack hands away from the pot of dumpling stew in front of him, same as she had seen Dwalin stab a fork into her table, missing Nori’s fingers by the barest of centimeters when he reached for a pumpkin cake.
Hawthorn’s eye twitched and she smiled because Dwalin stabbed her table. Her table that her father carved for her mother.
“Dwalin,” said Bilbo pleasantly, “Refrain from damaging my father’s first courting gift to my mother.”
All the dwarves froze at the table. She knew well how they treasured the first courting gifts they gave to their Ones. She had been told in halting tones in the Before that dwarves only ever loved once , wholey and utterly, with everything that they were when it came to their significant others. It was not that they could not love others, but that they loved their One with the intensity their Mahal had meant for them to have in Creation. Dwarves felt their emotions more intensely than Bilbo knew what to do with, to be honest.
Anger was rage , happiness was euphoria, sadness was an all consuming grief. Loyalty was a live thing in their breasts, a friend until the Unmaking.
So when they chose it was an all consuming and forever choice.
Dwalin gently and carefully pulled her silver fork from the sanded wood of the table and quietly offered his apologies, which Hawthorn accepted easily.
Her smile softened and she couldn’t help but remember. The story behind that was rather amusing as when Bungo Baggins had presented it to Belladonna Took, she had stared in silence for a full thirty seconds before haltingly asking where she was supposed to put it. That was when he lead her to Bag End. That was when her mother said yes.
Thorin, when he finally joined the table only faltered the slightest of steps at the sight of all the food. She remembered well shared stories of starving, of going without so his family could have more. This was likely more food than any of the Company had seen in a long while. She well remembered the pain of the Fell Winter and starving herself, where the Shire was empty of all its colors and was instead filled with silence, with nothing alluding to the once bright and brilliant place. It had been a struggle every hour of the day until the Ranger, the Dunedain had slaughtered enough wolves and brought food to help them through the unnatural winter.
She knew that agony.
If she could prevent it for anyone she would do so, but especially for those she cared for.
Bilbo pretended not to see the way Thorin’s eyes widened when he tried her honey roast peaches, but it was a struggle to not start laughing when he washed it down with the mug of honey mead that had mysteriously appeared at his elbow. His eyes lit with a challenging light, and he attempted to subtly pull the entire plate of peaches in front of him even as she heard him growl- actually growl deep in his throat- when Bofur tried to touch the mead.
Oh, but he was not so subtle as he would believe. Still, she made no mention of it, and pretended to be quite oblivious to dwarves hoarding their favorite dishes like they were gold. Instead she refilled plates where she could, and brought out her good ale and meads.
She would need her pantry empty of perishables before she left after all.
The meal passed pleasantly, with conversation of a wide range of topics and roars of laughter as everyone ate their fill. Ori- blessed, sweet Ori - was the first to approach her, a familiar, “I’m sorry Master Baggins, but where should I put my plate?” escaping her lips.
“Oh!” Bilbo starts from her spot, rising from her seat to quickly direct Ori to the kitchen, with instructions to simply leave her plate in the sink and her silverware in the bowl to the side. She’s already washed everything, save for the dinnerware and serving dishes in use so cleanup shouldn’t take very long.
“Please, every time I hear you call me that, I turn around to look for my father. I would appreciate it if you would simply call me Bilbo,” Hawthorn paused, and though she does not expect all of them to take her up on the offer, she offers all the same to the Company at her table. “I would have you all call me such. But now that we have been fed and watered, I would like a fuller explanation, Gandalf Greyhame! What exactly is it that you wish me to do ? Yes, an adventure to help these dwarves, but with what? What would you have me do?”
She already knows, of course, but she prepares to pretend everything she’s about to be told is terrifying and fascinating and that’s there’s enough Baggins in her to make her hesitate.
She suspects she’ll hold out until breakfast to tell them that there wasn’t any question in her joining them.
( Not that they know Bilbo Baggins is anything but a soft Hobbit lad. )
She closes her door after settling the dwarves down where she could fit them, and leans heavily on her bedroom door.
She had reworked the Contract a bit with Balin, and earned a bit of respect for it from him, she thought, and she had not fainted this time so they could not hold that over her head at least.
But still...now that she is hidden behind her door and the thick walls of her room, Hawthorn lets her face crumble .
Oh, Oh but her sun , her moon and stars and the water of her life live . All of them. Her beloved family, her G airdín . It lived and grew and breathed again. She had seen it wither. Watched it die sections at a time, and infect the still living parts with the loss of the others. She refused to see it again.
She wouldn’t survive it. That sort of loss a second time. She knew herself, and to lose the Line of Durin again would shatter her beyond healing. Just seeing them, standing there…
Seeing the Company of Thorin Oakenshield whole and breathing-
It was agony and joy, happiness and rage, laughter and sadness rolled into one giant mess of emotions.
She had no idea how to handle any of them. It had been a struggle to make it through dinner. A struggle she had no idea how she had pulled through.
How was she supposed to make it through the rest of the journey if she barely made it a few hours without wanting to cry?
And yet...she had laughed in those few hours and meant it. She had smiled, warm and joyous, in a way she hadn’t since the Battle of Five Armies. Even as her heart had bled, it had healed in their presence. And she would not leave them.
She cried, hard and silent on the floor, her back pressed to the door. She’d have to get it out of her system now, because this journey of hers demanded the best from her. If she wanted to ensure the Line of Durin could rule their Kingdom properly she’d have to be in top form.
That next morning went much different then Bilbo remembered the first first time. To begin with- she was up before the rest of the Company. She had a breakfast to prepare, and they would all be going to visit the Thain, her Grandfather, for Frerin. It was old habit now that had her feet soundless as she walked past the doors leading to the dwarves rooms. She was almost as quiet as she whirled through the kitchen, pulling pre prepared dishes out to heat, while making even more.
She was thankful she had arranged everything with her Grandfather and family that day she had told Grandpapa about being from the future. Her Took relations knew to address her as ‘Bilbo’ and were expecting the entire Company to drop by after breakfast. She was thankful the little ones knew the Rules about Adventures when it came to females of their House.
Generally, all females of the House of Took would dress and act a male when going far distances with unknown people. It was safer, when Hobbits were so much smaller than Big Folk. They would know to call her ‘Bilbo’ when- not if, but when- they saw her.
She smiled to herself a little. She quite looked forward to seeing the Company with fauntlings, even if the reason they were going to her Grandfather’s was a sad one. She wondered who would handle the little ones best of the group absently as she flicked her wrist effortlessly to flip the pancake even as the other hand seasoned the eggs in another pan.
She hummed absently, her ears open to the sounds of her home, waiting patiently. She knew the scents of food would summon the others even as she began to lay out the plates on her table.
Dwalin was, of course, the first to enter her domain, pausing in the frame of the door as Bilbo absently whirled in front of him to press a hot plate of pumpkin pancakes into his hands.
“Here you are Master Dwalin,” Hawthorn said before quickly turning back to her stove.
She knew better than to draw attention to the fact she had make those pancakes specifically for the dwarf and instead carrying on as if nothing was unusual about this.
“I’m not quite finished in here, but please, enjoy the food laid out for breakfast before we leave!”
There was a moment of silence, and she could see the flicker of thought in Dwalin’s eyes before he asked, “Can I help with anything?”
Bilbo smiled up at the warrior, pleased to have made a good impression much sooner than she had Before.
“I’m afraid most of the cooking is done, so it’s just heating several dishes before I serve them, but if you would like to help bring some of the plates to the table, I would welcome the extra hands.!”
Thankfully, every Hobbit Hole had quite large kitchens, and Bag End especially. It was so large in fact, that most often when special occasions took place Bilbo saw no harm in opening it for use to her neighbors. It was part of the reason Bilbo’s relatives seemed to think Bag End was too big for a lass who showed no signs of wanting to marry. She would not hand the home her father had built for her mother to anyone but her cousins however. She hoped they would fill the halls with laughter and the small patter of feet on wooden floors where she had not. She knew they would appreciate the magnitude of the gift she offered them if everything worked out as she hoped.
( There would always be the whispers of the tragedy of Belladonna Took and Bungo Baggins, who were expected to have many children, but, in the end, Hawthorn was their only child )
Bilbo cared not, however, as she simply handed some of the larger, heavier plates to Dwalin and carried more behind him. Fili and Kili sat at her table, grinning up at her even as Kili held up his hands and called out cheerfully, “I remembered Mr. Boggins! My hands are clean as could be this time.”
She huffed through her nose, lips tugging upward at the edges even as she called sternly, “ Baggins , Master Kili, or perhaps I shall simply confuse your name myself!”
The humor in her voice took any sting out of her words and Kili responded as she knew he would: with smiles and bright laughter.
The dwarves slowly trickled back into her kitchen, and she noticed immediately that Nori had ‘helped’ himself to some of her silver as he came through the door to her kitchen. It wasn’t anything obvious of course, but Nori had been the one to train her in the art of thieving. It had been an attempt to help her after everything, before she left Dale to come back home. He’d jokingly told her that if she could ‘rob a dragon’ she’d best learn to steal properly, especially with a title like ‘Expert Burglar.’
The legendary burglar who stole from Smaug himself, Nori had exclaimed with a sly grin, the Hobbit lass who cannot even properly pick a pocket? You’d die of the shame, lass!
She’d taken him up on it in an attempt to distract herself from the reality of her situation, pouring her entire focus into Nori’s lessons. He’d been teaching her on the quest itself of course, playing games and such to help her improve, but this had been a more focused set of lessons. The Company themselves had allowed her to test her skills on them, and so she was rather good at it by the time she left. She’d been almost as proud as Nori himself when she managed to take Dwalin’s coin purse without his notice.
She set the food down and light and sneaky as any Hobbit, she carefully slipped her own silver out of Nori’s pockets and into her own. She’d only managed to take things from Nori back in the Before without his notice two or three times, but he didn’t notice when she reclaimed her silverware this time. She figured it was because he didn’t expect it of her at all.
Silly dwarf. They were here because Gandalf said a burglar was required and the dwarven thief of the Company wasn’t even on guard . Hawthorn decided she was grievously offended and resolved to gloat about this feat later.
She understood the advantages of coming when unexpected- Balin had been very thorough when he showed her how to look at her surroundings and pick out things about their inhabitants. Looking at Bag End as it was now, she would come across as a spoiled and soft hobbit, no matter that it was not true.
Her belongings and the layout painted her as a Lord who had not suffered a day in his life. The Shire itself did not help the image, with all the plump and soft looking Hobbits around her, with the plentiful foods and rolling green hills. The supposed lack of warriors when they looked around themselves, and the openness of the layout itself.
(They had never seen the Shire roused to fight as she had in the Fell Winter. They had never seen how the ‘openness’ of the Shire with its trees and plants, with the bushes and paths were the playground of Hobbits. Never seen how Hobbits could disappear, silent and deadly where they chose into those plants. They were a soft people compared to others, but this did not make them weak )
She knew they would notice the signs around her of the warrior she was now- the weapons throughout the home, the traveling gear well worn and cared for despite the new pack, the scars on her arms and her thinner frame when compared to others of her kind. It was at complete odds with the delicate lace doilies and quality clothes that were not made to take wear and tear.
They would not know what to make of these mixed signals, but still. Nori was very good at what he did- and why wouldn’t he be when it was his thieving skills, his natural spymaster tendencies that had kept his brother and sister alive in hard times- and while he had no true reason to expect Bilbo to be able to take her things back from him without notice, that he was so sure of this fact he was not even a little on guard as he must have been for her to succeed...
She would never ever let him live this down.
She almost wanted to laugh as she slid the last spoon into her own pocket without breaking stride, slipping plates in front of dwarrow as they filed into her kitchen. It was reminiscent of the games she had played with Nori before on the quest, where they would compete to steal things off the others and swap them around.
She very carefully did not make any special movements or motions as she settled buttermilk pancakes topped with the honey roasted peaches Thorin had guarded zealously from reaching hands the night before in front of him. She had forgone the syrups for his plate and instead drizzled the whole thing with more honey.
She knew he’d be silently thrilled about it anyway.
She was going to have a horrible time not spoiling the Company where she could get away with it, she knew. She’d seen them suffer too often, had suffered beside them, and seen them die to not do so where she could.
This time she was going with all her packets of herbs and spices and her bow so she would be able to cook much better meals than travel rations. She would also not hesitate to stop to pick things for the dinner pot as well as her healing herbs on their way as she did last time.
Kili would be thrilled to have another archer in the Company too, as it was such an ‘elven’ thing to use not many dwarves were able to shoot at all. She wondered absently if he’d like to practice with her, so she could adjust to his style and compliment him in the battlefield. She’d never-
Well, by the time she had learned archery properly from Tauriel, Kili had already- Kili was gone and she had never been able to share in the art with him. It had become her own way of remembering him in the Before. That she would have the chance to play a game of arrows with the little prince was a joy, even as it hurt to remember what had never had the chance to be.
She smirked lightly to herself as she pondered some of the elven exercises she could try with him to improve his bowmanship. Kili was self taught as most of the archers of Erebor had perished in Smaug’s initial attack, and he would certainly benefit from instruction no matter how well he had done with no one to help him. It had been an adventure for her to be certain, and she would enjoy being able to complain about the exercises with someone that understood her even if she was to be his teacher in them.
Bilbo straightened herself out after she had finished cleaning the mess from breakfast. Ori was a darling, and had helped her by drying as Bilbo washed. She’d tried to tell Ori not to worry about it, but the dwarrowdam had refused to hear of not helping after two such filling meals. Especially as they had left her to the dinner dishes the night before.
They ended up having an entirely pleasant conversation on the various methods of making ink and how they looked on the different kinds of parchment and vellum. They discussed quill types, and the pros and cons of using colored ink versus a solid black. Hawthorn was delighted at the happy light in Ori’s eyes as she gushed about a dwarven ink that incorporated gold flakes into the mixing process and lasted for centuries looking as if it had just dried.
Bilbo hadn’t even thought to ask the company for help with them, partly because she remembered the last time they had her dishes in hand, tossing them back and forth and singing at the top of their lungs, and partly because she hadn’t wanted to bother them with it after such a long time traveling on the road. She’d settled with thanking Ori when it became obvious she wouldn't be swayed from her choice, and settled to enjoy the scribe's company instead.
She’d rebraided her hair, checked on the rest of her silver and valuables before she made sure to catch Nori’s eyes. When he was looking right at her, she very deliberately reached into her own pockets and put all the silverware he had taken back into their proper places with a subtle smirk.
She had the absolute pleasure of watching his face blank out for a moment, before his eyes widened the slightest of margins, and he subtly checked his own pockets for her missing spoons. She nearly laughed aloud as he discovered he no longer had them.
She lifted an eyebrow at him instead, and his spine straightened under her gaze as he lifted an acknowledging eyebrow back, the light of challenge in his eyes. Oh, she knew that look. It appeared their game would begin much earlier on this road then the last.
Not yet, though. Not yet, when she was to take them to her Grandfather, and the grave of one of their own.
She grabbed her pack on the way out the door, strapping Sting into place, staring hard at the shield she had picked up. Part of her wanted to take it, but she had no real experience with the thing. On top of that, her agility and speed were her best skills, so to take it would slow her down. It would be more of an issue than an asset to her in this case, where she would need every advantage she could have.
She would leave it. Her hands were gentle over the shield as she lifted it from its place against the wall and turned towards the mantle. She jerked, the shield slipping from her hands as she came face to face with Thorin standing just behind her.
She jerked her feet back, barely missing the shield landing on her toes, and gasped in surprise at his unexpected appearance.
She inwardly cursed at the breathless, feminine quality to her voice, and prayed her reaction would be overlooked. She had heard Kili’s voice go very high during the quest and surely the dwarrow would think nothing of her more female mannerisms.
He was staring at her, and although the suspicion and wariness had virtually vanished, his eyes still narrowed as he looked at her. It was- softer though. As if he was merely curious as he looked over her and then to the shield at her feet. There was surprise in his expression before that eased.
“It is a dwarven made shield,” Thorin said, his voice rumbled over the room, and Bilbo nodded once in agreement, not trusting her voice in that moment. “Was it Frerin’s?”
She took a breath, blinking at him at the way his voice lightened at his brother’s name.
“No,” she shook her head, a swift denial, “it was something I picked up in the middle of an orc attack in the ruins of some city of Man I was traveling through.”
She bent to retrieve the shield and lifted it again, meeting his eyes and struggling not to remember them as she’d last seen them, blue glazed and faded of life against a backdrop of bloodied snow.
“It saved my life, and the life of my friend. When the battle was over, I could not leave it there, in the ruins after that. I brought it home with me, even though I was not sure how to take care of it. It seemed wrong, somehow, to leave this in ruins after it had done me such a great service.”
She closed her mouth with a sharp click, reminding herself to breathe.
Thorin was still staring at her, with that puzzling look in his face and she could feel her heartbeat speeding up before his gaze finally dropped. He lifted his hand to wave it at the shield in her arms.
“How did you manage to clean it?”
Dear Yavanna, why is Thorin initiating casual conversation?
“Oh! Well-” Bilbo cleared her throat, mentally commanding herself not to fidget, “I used a spatula to scrape off most of the dirt, moss and bits of blood and flesh. Vinegar for the metals, which work much better than I had originally hoped.”
Why did I tell him about the bits of blood and flesh?!
Hawthorn inwardly wailed in mortification.
Thankfully, Thorin’s only visible reaction was a minute raise of a brow. He then nodded his head and gestured vaguely towards the shield.
Bilbo stared uncomprehendingly at the Dwarven King for a moment before she started.
“Oh, yes! Of course, it belonged to your people first!”
She thrust out the shield and Thorin took it from her carefully, spinning it over in his hands, then tracing the lines of metal embedded in the wood. The lines around his eyes and mouth deepened and blue eyes darkened in sorrow.
“It is a Longbeard shield. One of my Clan,” he said quietly as calloused fingers followed the flow of metal in the wood.
“ Oh ,” Hawthorn breathed in surprise and dismay, “I didn’t- I meant no disrespect, Master Oakenshield, I can return it if-”
“No, Master Baggins, that is not necessary,” Thorin interrupted, surprisingly gracious and understanding considering his more familiar rage about the belongings of his people in any other hands save dwarrow.
Her breath hitched in a sudden surge of emotion because this- this was trust Thorin was giving so easily to her. A part of her was honestly and genuinely touched, but another screamed in fury because how dare he , after all she did in the Before, everything she sacrificed it took months for him to show even half this level of regard. And yet now she had somehow earned it with a single night?
Oh, oh but she was furious, and touched, and she wanted to rage at him, scream all her whys and how could you, I trusted you , all the demands for explanations and reassurances she would not betray this trust, but-
But she couldn’t. Not when she remembered the madness that had haunted his eyes in the last days she had seen him, and then the death that had followed that. Not when she loved this stubborn, stupid , loyal fool of of a King. She couldn’t- she could not bring her anger to bare when he looked at her like that, with his eyes warm in the way they had been when he first started to trust her.
She pulled in a shaking breath, and instead, she lowered her eyes to the shield cradled gently in his hands
“I- Master Oakenshield, if you would like to take it with you, I would be thankful. I am a fighter that relies on speed and agility more than brute force and strength. I would rather this saw use instead of decorating my mantle. Seeing as it is a shield of your House- er Clan, is it were, I think it would be fitting for you to have it.”
She paused, and softly, but utterly certain, she continued more quietly, “And I think I would like to see something of your family returned to your Kingdom. It seems fitting to me.”
Ah, Yavanna bless it.
Thorin looked like she’d just bashed him over the head and simultaneously told him the dragon was dead. His eyes were wide and his mouth was gaping open and Hawthorn winced and unconsciously shuffled back a few steps.
She whirled away from those eyes of his, striding from her living room and towards her front door. She paused when, as she cleared the doorframe and headed for the exit, she came across Dwalin, Balin, and Nori standing in her path. They were watching her with considering eyes. Eyes that warmed as they looked at her, and over her shoulder towards Thorin.
There was a blooming flower of respect beginning to take root in their eyes, and she was very nearly overwhelmed. She didn’t understand why.
What had she done that saw that respect given to her so much earlier than the Before?
She knew she had made quite a different impression this time around, but so different that they would look at her like that when it took her near death multiple times before she had seen a hint of the same last time?
She shoved her turbulent emotions to the side, and straightened her spine, her shoulders falling back as her head lifted. She could deal with those emotions later .
“We have an adventure to embark on gentlemen, and I would hate to upset my Grandfather’s schedule. Shall we go?”
The dwarrow in front of her stepped to the side, and she breezed past, shifting her pack just to have something to do with her hands. They had the ponies needed waiting outside, as Bilbo had seen that taken care of in the days before the Company arrived. Hamfast had delivered them to her this morning. Once the dwarrow had passed, she locked her door behind them, carefully not looking at any of them.
She usually wouldn’t have bothered with the lock, as most Hobbits would never dream to enter a home uninvited, but she had had more time to think on her decision this time. It was not a rush out the door and dart down the hills. She knew some of her relatives wanted Bag End from her, and she would ensure that Lobelia Sackville-Baggins at the very least was barred from entering without the keys. Keys that would go to Dogo and Prim.
She easily approached the pony that had carried her the last time she’d gone out her door. She much prefered to walk, even now, her feet connected to the Green Lady’s lands, but she was much better now than she had been the first time. Her hands were gentle as she ran her palm over Myrtle’s velvety nose.
“Hey there, girl.”
Her voice was just as gentle as she pulled her pack from her back and settled everything in its proper place before she swung herself up into the saddle. She blinked as she realized she was being watched, and quickly pulled her eyes to the front as she noticed Thorin had taken the shield with him.
She waited as the dwarrow and dwarrowdam pulled themselves into place, Gandalf already waiting for them at the end of the Row. Once everyone had been settled on their mounts, their attention naturally swung to her so she took the lead calling,
“Grandfather’s is this way.”
She wondered absently if the dwarves realized exactly how many more Hobbits there were, then the few dozen they were seeing today. That she was with them ( The Baggins of Bag End ) gave them a bit of credibility, trust so to speak, and so less were prone to hiding from their view. Bounders still tracked them across the Shire, but nowhere near as many as the night before (The Thain’s favorite Granddaughter trusted them enough to ride with them, and lead them to her Grandfather, they had an appointment didn’t you know?) .
Even accounting for the fact that they had arrived rather late in the day, it was supper time and many fauntlings would have been playing in yards as they waited for dinner to finish up, while other adults would have been chatting to neighbors through windows, or on porches.
Thorin, having arrived later than all the others, was truly the only dwarrow that really had any excuse to not see any Hobbit. No self-respecting Hobbit would miss Supper after all, but even still he had been stalked by three Bounders that she could spot from her door alone.
She would hold this over their heads forever , once this mess was over, if she survived this second attempt at the impossible.
Bilbo lead a solemn procession towards her Grandfather’s smial. For the most part, at least. Thorin and Balin were in the midst of a hushed and drawn out conversation and Ori was rapidly sketching in her journal, her gaze darting furiously from side to side. Both of her brothers were looking at her in fond exasperation, but Nori was much more discreet. The thief also kept his eyes moving, lingering in the shadows cast by the rising sun.
When Bilbo turns down the lane the ends at the House of the Old Took, the Thain of the Shire, calls of greetings quickly rang out and she returned them cheerfully. There was considerably less wariness and suspicion in the eyes of the Tooks that were milling about and the fauntlings didn’t have any problems pointing and staring at the lines of dwarrow, awe and curiosity visible in their gazes.
Bilbo keeps her attention focused forward, but she sees Bifur handing out a handful of carved wooden figures to the delight of the fauntlings. There is laughter in the air, but the rest of the dwarrow fall silent and Thorin is especially tense.
They follow her when she dismounts, thirteen dwarves landing on the stone paved walkway that leads the the Took Smial.
She is quiet as she approaches the great dark soil door. She glances back at her dwarrow, and then lifts a hand. She is thankful that Grandfather had warned her relatives that she was bringing the House of their mystery dwarrow to see his resting place. It ensured that none of her more forward or boisterous relatives were out and about to bother her Company or gawk at dwarrow being in their home. A measure of privacy, a extension of respect for a family receiving closure. She also suspects that her Grandfather remembers her story, and her confession that these dwarrow were hers , were family in her eyes.
She knocks, three short raps.
The door is answered only a moment later, revealing an old and lined face. Hawthorn dips into a bow with a warm, “Grandfather.”
He returns her smile with affection, greeting her with a simple, “Bilbo.”
He shifts to gaze over her shoulder to the dwarrow behind her, his eyes soft as he locks gazes with the Dwarven King for a moment in silence before he speaks to them
“You must be the family of Frerin. Come in.”
Bilbo steps through the door when it looks like Thorin is unable to make himself move. Balin is by his side, a hand pressing against his elbow, in silent support. Dwalin is a solid presence at his back, and she pretends not to see when Dwalin pressed a palm to Thorin’s back. The rest of the Company follow the lead of their King, even though Thorin looks as if he is carved from the stone of his mountain.
“Come,” she says, reaching a hand towards him, barely managing to change the familiar ‘Thorin’ into a proper address for visiting royalty, one who has not yet given her leave to use his name, “Master Oakenshield.”
He doesn’t move for another moment, before he reaches for her hand. Hawthorn finds herself actually surprised at it, having remembered only a few seconds before that Thorin had no reason to accept the invitation she had offered. Still, though she is not sure why he has done so, she is thankful as her hand closes over the King’s and she pulls him through her Grandfather’s door.
Balin and Dwalin are close on his heels, and she is grateful to see each of the dwarrow pause to clean their feet on the mat before stepping inside. Her grandfather’s voice is steady and calm as he addresses the group behind her.
“I am glad to see you here. We were not sure Frerin would ever be found by his House as we knew not who to send word to,” the Thain says, making his way to the back of the house, before his voice drops lower and he speaks almost apologetically. “We had almost lost hope any would ever come.”
Thorin takes a deep, almost shuddering breath, but he finally seems to find his voice as he responds, his voice steady, “Master Baggins tells me that you and yours returned Frerin to stone, though you knew little of our customs. I would like to thank you for looking after him, and taking care of his body when I- we- my Clan - could not.”
He stops and the rest of the company follows. He bows his head, willingly and in respect for what her grandfather has done for his brother, and Hawthorn fights to hide her reaction at the sight of it.
Thorin is proud , she knows, so to see him bow at all is…
She is watching him and she sees him mean it , to watch his head dip forward and low rather than a barely there nod… Her throat wants to close up, her breath is stuck in her chest, and her lungs feel as if they are being filled too quickly with air. He is not even aware yet that her Grandfather is the Thain. As far as he knows, he is bowing his head to a common hobbit.
Before he had looked at her, regarded her entire race as if they were a soft, honorless people who cared only for the finer things in life. They did not respect her ways, her traditions, not until she recklessly risked her life for theirs but now-
There is genuine gratitude, a real respect for her and her people and there is a softness to his eyes when he looks at her and oh , it fills her heart with warmth.
When Thorin raises his head, Hawthorn cannot help the startled lurch when she sees the sheen of tears in Durin blue eyes.
“ Thank you .”
Gerontius only smiles and lays a wrinkled hand carefully on the Dwarven King’s shoulder and says nothing.
Bilbo clears her throat as Thorin’s expression wavers and quickly takes a step back, behind her grandfather, reaching out to open the door that leads to Frerin’s resting place. She steps back and allows the Thain to step through first. It takes a moment, but Thorin follows quickly enough, Balin and Dwalin on his heel. Bilbo notices that the rest of the Company hesitates.
Thorin apparently does as well as he comes to an abrupt stop and turns on his heel. He stares at the lines of faces, solemn and respectful. The lines in his face ease and he speaks, his voice hoarse but firm.
“I- my brother deserves a vergil, one worthy of a prince of the line of Durin, but there is not- I cannot provide such at this time, but-”
Thorin pauses before he continues in a softer tone.
“I would be honored if those who faithfully answered my call would stand beside me before his resting place.”
It takes a still and silent moment before the dwarrow begin to file out the door and follow behind their King. Their faces are all carved from stone, but Hawthorn knows her dwarves. She can see the sorrow, the empathy, and the honor each feels as they come towards Frerin’s tomb.
Amidst the greenery, the garden, shrubbery, and the wooden decorations is a mound of carved stone tucked away in niche beneath a grand oak tree. Thorin’s breath stutters at the sight and his steps briefly falter. But he recovers and continues until he stands in front of the stone, staring at the broken string of Khuzdul carved into the stone. There are fresh flowers in vivid shades of blue and gold at the foot of the grave.
His hand reaches out and gently traces the prominent symbols carved in in the middle, the ones that make up his brother’s name. There is a twisting, flowing script surrounding the dwarven words which gives an oddness to the grave. The stone slabs have not been properly carved and the level of skill in used to chisel out the designs is nothing to marvel over.
Yet Thorin merely bows his head and presses it against Frerin’s resting place. His shoulders are pulled up tightly and both Balin and Dwalin stand at his sides with sorrow and muted joy in their faces.
Hawthorn knows these dwarrow do not know any of her customs yet, have not yet asked her for the information, so she provides it. She steps up to the mound of carved stone, with its intricate carvings (aside from the careful but still clumsy bit of Khuzdul which none in the Shire had known how to carve properly) of plant life and Old Hobbitish blessings and prayers.
She leans forward, pressing her forehead to the stone for a moment, sending a prayer to Yavanna and Mahal both, before she speaks, her voice soft but wavering with emotion as she explains.
“We were not certain what a dwarrow would have carved upon his resting place- beyond what few Frerin spoke of, though we knew that,” she paused, trailing her hands over the Khuzdul on the stone, “your own words would be present. We had never tried to carve your language before, so it is not our best work, but…” she breathes for a moment, trying to ignore the soft stuttering breath of her dwarfs behind her frame.
“We were not sure what to carve in the custom of his own people, so used our ways to ask Our Lady Yavanna to guide him to Her Lord Husband.”
She lifts her head from where she had pressed it into the stone, keeping her eyes on the stone to give her Company the privacy to grieve silently. She trails her hands over the stone, stopping at each flower and word as she explains their meanings to the dwarrow behind her.
“Each of the flowers on the stone has a particular meaning to Hobbits, and the words are in our language. The words are asking for Frerin, son of Thrain, son of Thror to be blessed, to find safe passage into the Halls of his people. They ask our Mother, Queen of the Earth, to guide his steps to his Father, The Craftsman. They speak of restfulness, and ease, well wishes and desires for what his life in Mahal’s Halls would be.”
She pulls in a breath, and can feel the Line of Durin and the Company are close to her back as they lean forward to track her movements as she points out phrases and explains. She pretends not to hear each catch in breath, or soft noise of pain, the unmistakable sound of a choked sob, instead continuing as she begins to point out the flowers and tell their meanings.
“These we gift to Frerin, as they told of who he was to us as a person. They are flowers representing loyalty, protectiveness, joy, laughter. They represent fierceness and gentleness both, playfulness, innocence, and goodness. And here-” She moves her hand to the next trail of flowers on the stone, “these are the wishes for him of those left behind. These represent peace, protection, joy, love, welcome, family, hope and home.”
She stops for a moment- she can’t not- there are tears - her dwarves are crying, quietly, silently and Thorin is shaking but there is a muted joy and it hurts to see and in the Before- she didn’t know. None of them ever knew, Thorin died not knowing -
Hawthorn firmly and instantly shoves that piece painful knowledge down in the depths of her mind and clears her throat before continuing with her explanation. He did not know- she did not know- Before but they all know now and she will give them this. She can give them this, and for all that it hurts her, it is also a great joy to provide this knowledge to them.
When she finishes, when she’s spoken every meaning, every mark, on Frerin’s stone, she moves instead to the ring of stacked stones that sit around his tomb.
“And here…these were our attempt to honor what he was. He was a dwarf, and we knew that your kind treasured gems and jewels for what they could become. We are hobbits, made by The Green Lady, and we do not treasure this particular wealth of the earth in the same what that you do. We treasure greenery. Life in the lands, trees and plants- nature’s wealth. Still- we had no gems, nor any jewels to give him.”
The look that Hawthorn gives her dwarrow is half apologetic even as her grandfather pats her back in silent support. But she reaches down to pick up a stone that is a deep shade of blue and turns it over in her hands, showing the way the sunlight glints and shines off its surface.
“So we found the most beautiful stones we could. Those polished by the river or the world to shine as your wealth would, those that were beautiful in our eyes. We chose stones- as we knew that dwarrow treasured this too- that were in the colors Frerin favored, blues and golds, and in green for the Shire where he had been returned to the stone. We framed his resting place with them, and we have kept these stones polished and shimmering in the sun for as long as he has rested here.”
She is silent for a few moments before she turns her attention to the few uncut gems that rest among the stones, or have been worked into Frerin’s grave. They are recent additions, for the small bit of treasure she had taken with her from Erebor before she was sent back. None bore the mark of Erebor, for she would not be able to explain how she had anything from their mountain, but she had not hesitated a moment when she learned of the grave housed on her Grandfather’s land.
This was a worthy use of her wealth, and she wishes again she had known of this Before.
“These,” she speaks, her voice wavering and soft as she reacts to the emotion of her dwarrow, “were my doing. When I was old enough to travel, I chose to go…I suppose you could call it treasure hunting. Frerin deserved to have the treasures of his people around him, so I made sure that there were at least some here with him, even if I could not get him many. Sapphires and emeralds, golden citrine...I searched for uncut gems, so that he may have some to craft with in Mahal’s Halls. And here...this one.”
She reached towards the center of the ring of stones and gems, where a large onyx had been framed to pull attention to it rested.
“I knew that onyx was a mark of mourning to your people, and so I placed this here, in the very heart of his tomb, so that all who came to us from his people would know to mourn him as we did.”
She finally straightens her spine, and turns to face her Company. It takes every bit of her self control not to flinch at the tear tracks the trail down the dwarrows’ faces, and she makes no move to hide her own as she finishes softly, a vague note of apology in her voice.
“We did not have much, but we gave him what we could.”
It is silent as Hawthorn stops speaking, before Thorin fills it with a quivering voice, level as he can make it.
“You have given enough. It is more than my Clan had ever hoped for. More than we dared to dream for Frerin, who we believed lost in the battle. He was-” Thorin pulls in a shaking breath, “You cared for him in his last days, saw to his comfort, and then his rest. He is entombed in stone, his body whole, with marks of mourning and well wishes surrounding him. You went out of your way to represent our people in what you did for him, even when you knew little, and gave him every blessing you could in your ways.”
Thorin rises to his feet, throwing back his shoulders and straightening his spine before he turns to look at her. Here, and Hawthorn’s breath catches at the sight of it, her throat closing and a vice over her lungs and heart, Thorin bows .
Deeply, and full of meaning he bows at his waist.
A King to an equal, expressing his eternal respect and overwhelming gratitude .
Her King, though he knows it not, and he is bowing to herself and her Grandfather. To hobbits, those that he us unaware match his social status in their ways.
Thorin who is so very proud and stubborn. Thorin who doesn’t hesitate to bark commands, expecting them to be followed, who was so used to disappointment he tended to expect the worst of everyone , and reacted to them as if they had already shown him their worst. Who was so very demanding of those he associated with, but always the most demanding of himself . Her King who was so very proud, so used to being the support of his people and kin that he never seemed sure how to ask for his own help. Thorin who loved his nephews with every breath in his body, the Dwarven King who made a way and provided for his people with his blood, sweat and tears. Thorin who hugged her to him, as if she was precious and beloved and said, how wrong I was.
And Hawthorn’s eyes widen even as tears continue to fall, as one by one, each of her dwarves, all thirteen of them, follow the lead of their King, and bow.
She finds herself leaning back into her Grandfather’s hand at her back for support, utterly shocked at the sight, her eyes darting from one head to the next. Her next inhale shakes and stutters in her throat, and she blindly reaches for her Grandfather’s other hand. She needs something steady to hold onto in the face of this.
She knows that almost every dwarrow here is of royalty, and has been raised expecting others to treat them as such, each of them proud and powerful figures in their own ways. She had never expected to see any of them bow to anyone apart from Thorin. And she had certainly never expected Thorin to bow at all.
Hawthorn isn’t sure what she should have done in that moment. Thrown herself before Thorin and shoved him into a standing position? Bowed back? Stood there staring and her hands fluttering from place to place in a futile attempt to do something ?
She wasn’t sure- and as Snapdragon Took- one of the Tuckborough Bounders that patrolled the edge of Tookland- came flying through the door and hollered sharply, “ Thain Took! ”, she wasn’t sure what she would have eventually settled on.
No, as Snapdragon rushed through the door, and the dwarrow snapped up and turned to face the hobbit that had interrupted the moment, Hawthorn felt old instincts taking over. All of Tookland knew her Grandfather had very important visitors over at this moment, knew not to interrupt unless it was important.
And yet, Snapdragon was here, yelling for the Thain anyway , which meant something had happened. Something bad, or big, and important. Her mind flashed back to the changes she made in the short time she had been in the past. There were one or two things, this could be.
Regardless, there was urgency and a sliver of panic in the Bounder’s voice. She had attained her instincts over the course of the Before, in battle and blood and tears. Hawthorn found herself falling back on those instincts now as she stepped forward and demanded, “What happened?”
She didn’t even notice that she’d responded before her Grandfather, reacting without thought. Neither did she notice Gerontius’ easy acceptance of assumption of authority.
She was the only one.
Snapdragon turned to stare at her, and then back to her Grandfather, who nodded once, firmly and without hesitation, before she responded to the curt order for information.
“Do you remember the incident you had at the Prancing Pony last week?” There was distaste and satisfaction on the Bounder’s face, as she gestured emphatically with her hands.
Hawthorn felt her lips curling back without thought, a sneer crossing her face as she nodded sharply once. “Yes.”
She was unaware of the dwarrow straightening up at her tone and look, of how they were watching her for cues about the situation. She didn’t notice as they responded to the subtle look of hostility around her, tensing and settling into more solid battle stances. Balin was the only one who carefully glanced from the old, wizened Hobbit and the manner of uniform the interrupting lass wore and carefully moved closer to his King.
Hawthorn did not allow her attention to wander far away enough for her to take note of this. Her mind was awhirl with thoughts on the matter, instincts from Before awake and bleeding into her reactions. Her dwarrow responding to her was natural in this state, as they had done on the Quest for months Before. It didn’t even cross her mind that this was not the Before, and so the dwarrow reacting to her should have been a thing to note.
Snapdragon made a sharp gesture towards the door she had burst in from.
“Those three Men are harrassing people down at the Marketplace. They are armed with swords and Mistress Loralie Proudfoot said they stank of old beer.”
Hawthorn felt her face slide into hard lines. She took a single step forward, before she paused and whirled around. Her grandfather stood there, decidedly neutral and patiently waiting for her to speak. Hawthorn couldn’t help the quick glance at the Company. Balin was staring at her in that way that said he was figuring things out and she inwardly winced. Regardless, there was a matter she needed to attend to.
“Thain Took, I apologize for drawing trouble into Tuckborough. As it was my reactions that lead to this, I will take the responsibility of dealing with this incident.”
Gerontius nodded, a slight smile curving his lips.
“Of course, Bilbo. I would not expect any less of you. Do send me a letter when you can, as I expect you will be leaving shortly afterwards, yes?”
Bilbo nodded sharply, turning swiftly on her heel and making for the door, Bounder Took following easily in her footsteps. She halted abruptly before stepping through the doorway and turned to face the Thain and her Company, a sheepish expression on her face. Anger still glittered in her eyes, but the tension in her shoulders eased.
“Master Oakenshield, you are welcome to stay here or to come with me. The Bounders will escort you to me if you decide to stay a time longer, so it’s not an issue,” Bilbo paused and smiled brightly at Gerontius Took and lifted a hand.
“Bye, Grandpapa, I’m off on an adventure!”
Bilbo vanished swiftly into the Smial, her grandfather’s laughter ringing in her ears as Bounder Took snickered lightly by her side. It was only a moment of lightheartedness before Snapdragon quickly snapped to attention and begin to fill her in on all the details.
“There are three Men, they all have swords, although not of a good quality. One has a bow and quiver of arrows. Chef Bounder Thaddeus stayed behind to keep a watch on them. As far as I know, they’ve only been verbally aggressive, wary of actually laying hands on one of us.”
There was a noise behind them and when they whirled around Bilbo was pleased to see Nori, Dwalin, Bombur and Bifur hurrying after the two Hobbits.
“Thorin says to keep watch over our Company Burglar,” Dwalin said gruffly from his towering heights.
Hawthorn’s heart skipped a beat and she viciously beat down any outward reaction to that familiar title even as Snapdragon gazed up at the hulking mass of muscled dwarf in appreciation.
“Of course,” Bilbo said, pivoting around and continuing on their way, this time followed by heavily armed dwarrow.
She carefully breathed through her emotional response to how Dwalin had addressed her. She knew the significance of the ‘our’ in that sentence in a way she had not noticed Before. Before they had called her ‘the’ company burglar until she had proven herself with Azog- only then had the address shifted to ‘our’. She was included and welcome into the Company, and that address showed it in a subtle way. A way that struck straight at her heart.
She closed her eyes for a moment, breathing deeply, before she shifted her focus back to the situation at hand.
The dwarrow following behind her would definitely help with the intimidation factor. Dwalin was terrifying to any race. And Bilbo knew that Nori would have no hesitation in sliding up to someone and putting a dagger through their ribs, easy as you please. Bombur was a gentle soul, but he could be a deadly foe, and she knew quite a few were intimidated just because of his size alone. Bifur on the other hand had a wild look to him, like a badger, and he would fight just as fiercely as one when needed. That didn't even take the effect the axe in his head had on people.
Hawthorn strode forward, her back straight and shoulders back. She didn’t have her Sting with her, but she had a few daggers secreted way as Nori and Fili had once shown her. It had become habit to arm herself in that way even when she was headed somewhere that nothing should have happened. In the last weeks in Hobbiton it was only this subtle way of arming herself that had kept her steady. She found she panicked if she wasn’t armed in some way now.
She couldn’t carry Sting with her wherever she went, but this she could do. If these men decided to be violent she would defend herself. With that exactly same amount of mercy and care they intended for her.
Nori kept his eyes peeled and his attention focused around him as they walked through the Shire. He knew the others had looked at the architecture of the place and scoffed about defenses, but Nori was a thief. He knew a good layout for slipping over roofs and into shadows when he saw it.
That fact had made him a bit nervous at first, as had the utter lack of inhabitants that he could find. Those he had seen were...soft. Plump and worried, and nervous, and nothing worth a second look beyond what he may be able to take from them to help his Company on their journey. Nori hadn’t expected much of anything in regards to their soon to be Burglar. If this was where he lived, and if what he had seen so far were anything to judge by, this Burglar would be soft, weak, a liability to himself and his family.
Nori was not pleased by that.
This was his family’s lives on the line, and any risk to them had Nori rather happy to slide his knives into lethal places to deal with the problem.
Then he met the lad they were to take with them.
Nori’s instincts hadn’t sat up like that since the day he had first run into Balin. The older dwarrow wasn’t as obviously intimidating as his brother, but he was the more dangerous of the two. It was just in a more subtle way. Most took one look at his place as Advisor to the King- though Thorin would insist he was not King until the Mountain had been claimed- and thought him old and comfortable in his place. Nori was not most and he remembered that Balin had seen and survived war. That Balin was the one who had approached Nori for help keeping their King alive from those who sought to strike from the shadows.
Balin was the snake you didn’t see until it’s fangs had already clamped over your throat.
This lad...he was genuine in a way that Nori didn’t often see, but he bore scars. Not just the physical ones he had caught glimpses of, but also scars on his mind. He had seen battle, and danger, was worn in a way none of the other Hobbits that Nori had seen were. He was thinner, more aware of his surroundings in a battle sense.
Nori found himself both soothed and wary at that contradiction to the rest of his race. Perhaps Gandalf had known what he was doing this once? Perhaps he had known this one hobbit was here, and knew he would be able to help Thorin and his company? On the other hand... what had made this hobbit so different than the others?
Why was Bilbo Baggins the way that he was?
Nori’s instincts prickled .
Still...this hobbit had treated them well, was ernest in the face of them, was genuinely pleasant, and had done the Line of Durin a great service.
Nori would not forget these things even as he watched the lad. They had an entire journey to learn about each other after all.