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An Unexpected Home

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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings or any of the characters. All rights belong to J. K. Rowling, Tolkien and WB.

Summary: After seven years old Harry Potter was nearly beaten to death by his uncle, he is found by a little creature with hairy feet.

 

Prequel: An Unexpected Home

 

Commercial Photography

Chapter 1: The Journey Home
(Harry Potter: Aged 7)

It hurt, it hurt so much. There was not a spot on his body that was not burning with pain, but he wouldn’t cry. Crying would mean that his uncle would wake up and come down again and make him hurt even more. And besides, it had been his own fault, because he had been too loud when he had stood up at around 3 in the morning to water aunt Petunia’s flowers; uncle Vernon had said so, and uncle Vernon was an adult, and adults always were right.

 

Turning from his aching back onto his stomach, seven year old Harry Potter buried his face into the scratching grass that had dried to harsh straw over the past few weeks of summer, to muffle the sobs he could not suppress any longer. Hot streams of tears ran down his cheeks and he hid his face deeper into the dry underground. His uncle hated crying and his cousin, Dudley never cried: he was also a good boy and that was why Dudley was loved and got presents and sweets - and he not.

 

Soon his body began to feel tired from the long hours of working under the sun in the garden and the little sleep he had caught up, and his sobs died down to silent whimpers as his eyes began to droop, when suddenly something touched his shoulder. He instinctively rolled into a ball, but his arms were just too heavy to once more come up to protect his head. Panic rose inside of him as he lay trembling on the grass and awaited the first blow, for surely his uncle must have heard him cry after all, but the painful touch never came.

 

Instead, a soft voice reached his ears and the hand on his shoulder was also too light to be the fleshy paw.
“Hush laddie, are you alright? Come on, turn around, and let me have a look at you.”
The hand nudged him to once more turn onto his back and Harry did so, even though his back was by now throbbing wherever his uncle’s belt had hit him earlier, but the voice just sounded so friendly, it made him hope that this person might like him and be nice to him.

 

“Oh my, goodness gracious! You are a right mess, what monster did that to you?” the friendly voice asked, but it sounded a bit harsher now, however it still was not frightening.
“My uncle,” Harry mumbled silently as he tried to blink his eyes open, but his head hurt and the turning had made him dizzy. “But uncle Vernon isn’t a monster. I am just a worthless freak” he told the blurry figure that was hovering above him.

 

“That uncle of yours is the worthless freak,” muttered the man, and yes, Harry could finally see that it was a man, although a very small one, because he had blinked all the tears from his eyes. Too tired and exhausted to say anything else, Harry simply watched him as a strange sound could be heard and a piece of cloth was wrapped around his pounding head.

 

The man truly looked nice, and funny. He had friendly, shining amber orbs and a mop of honey colored curls on his head, which his aunt Petunia would probably want to trim like she always wanted to do with his own hair. He also had round, apple cheeks and, to Harry’s huge surprise, pointy ears, but that was surely his tiredness speaking, for only fairies had pointy ears, and fairies, like anything else magical did not exist; he had learned that lesson with the help of a cane.

 

“You know what,” the man suddenly said, making Harry jump a little. He quickly focused on the nice stranger again, that was after all what adults expected when they talked to you.
“You will not stay here for a minute longer! Oh Yavanna, give me strength so that I do not throttle…”
“And where should I stay?” Harry interrupted him, suddenly feeling confused by the foreign name. The stranger focused his amber colored eyes on him and replied: “With me, of course. Can you stand up?”

 

Harry’s heart missed a beat and his eyes widened his disbelief. Had he heard correctly, did this nice person truly want to take him home? Him, a worthless freak and freeloader? Quickly, he tried to sit up before the man could change his mind, but when he pushed himself up, the world around him started spinning again, more violently than earlier even, and he fell back onto the grass. Hot tears gathered once more in his eyes as he realized that he would not be able to follow the man and that he would have to stay with his uncle and aunt.

 

“Oh my, don’t worry, we will get you home” the voice said, and before Harry could realize what was happening, he was lifted up. The motion jolted some of his wounds and he whimpered, but he bit his lip and tried to stay as silent as possible, afraid that the stranger would leave him behind if he said a wrong word.

 

The man gave the hedge that was protecting the back of the garden a quick glance and then declared: “Well, we cannot take that way back. The front gate will have to do,” and then he started walking.

 

Harry instinctively buried his face into the man’s soft jacket as they walked past his aunt and uncle’s bedroom window and only dared to look up again when he was sure that they had to be a good distance away from the garden.

 

He was carried down the main street of Little Whinging by now, which made him slightly nervous, but the houses to their left and right still lay in darkness and no one was in sight.
“By the way,” the man spoke up again after a few minutes, “My name is Master Baggins, but you can call me Bilbo. What is your name, little fellow?”
“Harry… Harry Potter,” he answered tiredly, his eyes beginning to droop once more. However, he tried to stay awake as Bilbo crossed the street and turned left to enter the playground.

 

If he had been more awake, Harry might have wondered why Bilbo was carrying him across the playground, as nothing but an old, unkempt hedge was at its end, but as it was, he was barely conscious at this point and only jolted awake somewhat as he was carried through said hedge and found himself suddenly in a forest he had never seen before. The trees looked very old and stretched high into the sky. Even though no wind was whispering, they seemed to move with a non-existent breeze. Some of them even seemed to whisper silently as they passed them, and Harry could not take his eyes from them.

 

They walked for a few more minutes until the forest finally seemed to grow sparse and eventually they stepped out onto a broad path. The path led up to a small village with strange, small houses and neat gardens. The paths were broad there as well, and some of the huge trees stood to the side of them. Somehow, the village reminded Harry of a picture of a garden-gnome city he had once seen in one of his cousin’s picture books.

 

“Are you garden-gnomes?” he asked as Bilbo carried him past dark windows and sparsely flickering lanterns.
No,” his small rescuer chuckled, “we are Hobbits, not garden-gnomes, why would you think that?”
Harry for a second chewed on his bottom lip, unsure whether he should be honest or if Bilbo would be angry, but in the end he timidly explained: “Because your city looks just like the garden-gnome city in my Cousin Dudley’s picture book. What are Hobbits?”

 

“Hobbits are a bit like humans, only we are smaller and have larger feet,” Bilbo chuckled, making Harry look down at his large feet; they really were gigantic and very hairy.
“We can also be very nimble and sneaky if we want to be. We also love everything that lives or grows in nature and a well cooked meal. Have you already eaten this evening?”
Harry shook his head; his last meal had been two or three days ago.
“Well then, I am glad that I still have a portion of chicken soup on the stove,” Bilbo smiled at him.

 

Harry noticed that they were climbing up a small hill now, which led to another small house that had apparently been built into the earth.
“This, Harry, is Bag End, your new home.”
“It’s cute,” Harry giggled in response, and then realized what he had done and flushed a bright shade of red.
“You can call it cute, I do not mind, even though my dear old father might turn in his grave,” the small man told him.

 

They had soon reached the small house, which had a round door like all the others they had passed, only much more beautiful. Bilbo pushed it open and he was carefully carried inside. The house was just as beautiful from the inside as it had been from the outside. Dark red and honey-colored wood reflected the light softly from a silently crackling fireplace, giving the house a warm and peaceful atmosphere. Old-fashioned furniture, which reinforced the first impression of homeliness, stood in every corner, and where the walls could have been free, many bookshelves occupied the spaces.

 

“Would you like to take a bath first?” Harry was drawn out of his examination of the house. He quickly shook his head; he was too tired for a bath. “I just want to go to bed,” he answered.
“Then I will help you change into some fresh clothes and bring you some soup.”

Harry was carried through a door on the right and into a dark room, and was placed onto the softest bed he had ever laid upon; not even his relative’s bed had felt so soft whenever he had changed the sheets. The moon shone brightly through a window that was as round as the front door had been, and a moment later a candle flickered to life.

 

“I will fetch the soup and a set of my pajamas; get some rest,” Bilbo told him and Harry didn’t need to be told twice. The bed was so warm and cozy and the light danced so comfortingly around him that his rescuer was barely out of the door when his eyes fell shut. However, all too soon he was softly shaken awake again.

 

“Come on, little one, sit up a bit so that I can get you out of these filthy…” his t-shirt was pulled up, but then Bilbo froze in his movement.
Knowing what must have disturbed the small man, Harry fidgeted nervously, before telling him: “I know I look ugly, Mister Bilbo.”
“What?” Bilbo asked, seeming a bit confused.
“I said,” repeated Harry anxiously, “that I know that I am ugly,” he lowered his eyes in shame, he didn’t wish to make his nice rescuer feel uncomfortable, but when he felt the Hobbit’s gaze on him, he looked back up, only to flinch at the stern expression.
“Harry Potter, I will not hear such untrue words from you again, you are not ugly, you are a cute young boy with the most brilliant eyes I have ever seen, and my shock applied not to you, but to what your horrible uncle did to you.... Oh I truly could poison his soup!”

 

Confused, Harry asked “Why would you poison my uncle?” he could not understand why someone would want to hurt such a proper and normal man.
“Because,” Bilbo told him, and Harry’s eyes widened as he could see sadness on his soft features, “an uncle should love and care for his nephew and not beat him. But your life will get better now; let’s get your wounds cleaned.”

 

Bilbo motioned to a middle sized bowl on the nightstand, which stood next to a smaller one that smelled deliciously of soup. His shirt was finally removed and his trousers swiftly followed. Bilbo warned him that it could hurt to clean the wounds, but Harry knew that already, having done it himself enough times. He had learned early on that dirty wounds would only grow even more painful and sometimes even burning hot. So he just nodded and ground his teeth together as the Hobbit started on his back, then moved to his arms, legs and finally the bruise on his forehead, before wrapping everything with clean bandages.

 

“Now, do you need some help with the soup?” he was asked. Not answering, Harry glanced over to the bowl. He really didn’t want to be even more of a burden than he already was, but when he tried to lift his arm to pick the soup up himself, the limb shook so much that he had to drop it again and nodded after all; he would just have to make it up once he had recovered.

 

It took him a long time to eat the broth as he felt more and more tired by the minute, and despite the soup being the tastiest thing he had ever eaten, Harry eventually fell asleep in the midst of being fed.

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Bilbo placed the bowl down with a sigh and watched his new ward for a long time. When he had taken his coat to go on a midnight-walk due to lacking tiredness this evening, he had not thought that he would return as the guardian of a small, human boy of maybe… well the child looked around 5 years old, but his demeanor had been that of an older child.

 

It had been sheer coincidence that he had wandered to the border of Hobbiton and strode into the world of men, or maybe his Took side whispering into his ear to go on a little adventure like he liked to do from time to time. It definitely had been his mother, Belladonna Took’s blood that had made him sneak into that garden when he had heard silent sobs and whimpers, and he was glad to have done so.

 

What kind of horrible creature hurt a child like that? And this evening had clearly not been the first time if the fading bruises and badly healed scars were anything to go by; it was despicable, really!
Oh how he wished to poison that violent uncle the boy had mentioned. Hobbits were by far not a violent folk, but hearing little Harry call himself a “worthless, ugly freak” had made him wish for the first time to be as tall as his great ancestor Bullroarer Took, and throttle this ‘Uncle Vernon’.

 

But no, Harry needed him now and for many more years to come; never would the child return to that horrible, horrible place.
Sighing again, he pulled the heavy duvet higher over the small boy’s body, mentally cringing about how thin he was; malnourished, probably.

 

It had taken him not even a second of thought to take the boy home with him, he had always enjoyed children, but as he had never married he also had never been blessed with a family of his own, so the decision had be easy enough. He would show Harry what a proper family would be like and drive that ridiculous notion that he was a freak out of his little head.

 

Picking the two bowls and Harry’s bloody clothes up, he silently left his bedroom, changed into a set of pajamas as well and settled down on his comfy sofa, where he slept until the late morning sun finally awoke him. It took him a minute to remember why he was sleeping on the couch, but when he did so, he quickly stood up and put a pot of milk onto his stove for Harry to drink during breakfast. Having that done, he fetched his favorite dressing gown from his bathroom (it was the one with the many colorful squares in crazy-quilt-optic) and went to wake his new ward.

 

However, when he arrived at the boy’s bedside he instantly saw that the situation had worsen overnight; Harry’s forehead was drenched with sweat and he was breathing heavily, the wounds must have gotten infected after all.
Cursing, he shook the thin shoulder, first softly and then a little more harshly when Harry didn’t wake up. With another curse about that idiot uncle, he hastily left the bedroom, pulled his shoes on and forgot all about his current state of dress and left Bag End; Harry needed a healer and he knew exactly whom to fetch.

 

Ten minutes later he came to a halt in front of the Gamgee’s home, a bit out of breath as he had run the whole distance. He knocked, rather loudly and almost impolitely for a Hobbit, and waited impatiently. To his relief the one he had come here for opened the door after only a few seconds.

 

“Good morning, Master Bilbo, what a surprise so near to lunch, has something happened?”
“I hope so, dear Bell. I took a little boy in last night, but he has developed a horrible fever, I fear some of his wounds have gotten infected,” Bilbo told her quickly, barely managing from taking the poor mother of four children by the hand and pulling her along.
Bell’s eyes widened and she raised her hand to her mouth. “Infected wounds? You have taken a child in?” she echoed, clearly shocked.
“Yes, yes, I told you so, but please come now!” Bilbo all but pleaded and Bell suddenly grew serious and gave him a quick nod.
“Wait a second, I will just fetch my basket with the healing-supplies…” she trailed off and disappeared back inside her home, only to appear a few minutes later, now with a heavy basket hanging on her left arm as they hurriedly left.

 

“What exactly happened, Master Bilbo? I need to know more details if I am to treat the boy to the best of my abilities,” she asked as they ran down the path Bilbo had come from only a few minutes earlier.
“His name is Harry and I found him injured in a garden as I paid the city of men a visit yesterday,” he began to explain. “Apparently his uncle has beaten him; the man must have done so regularly if his skin is any indication.”
“Oh my!” Bell replied and began to run even faster. Bilbo by now had difficulties to keep up with her, but the strong woman was probably very fit with so many small children to look after.

 

They finally reached Bag End and Bilbo pushed the door open before showing her the way to his bedroom, where Harry lay still, panting under the duvet.
“Oh Yavanna!” Bell exclaimed and rushed past him, pulling the blanket off.
“You have tried to clean the wounds?” she asked with a look at the wide bandages that were peeking out from under the too large pajamas.
Bilbo simply nodded.
“Help me to get him out of this,” the wife of his good friend Gaffer Gamgee commanded, and he quickly hurried to her side.

 

Soon Harry lay naked in front of them and Bell was shaking her head in a mixture of sadness and disbelief.
“How can anyone do something like this to a child?” she whispered, before becoming professional again. “I have to clean these wounds with something antiseptic, you should hold him down in case he awakes, it will hurt a lot.”

 

Bilbo paled, but he nodded and sat down next to his small ward.

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It was to a burning hot pain that Harry awoke the next time. For a moment he thought that he had only dreamed about meeting the nice Hobbit with the name of Bilbo, but then a soft hand was touching against his cheek and a familiar voice tried to soothe him.

 

“Shh Harry, everything will be fine. Your wound grew infected and I had to call for a healer, she has to clean your wounds again so that your fever can go down.”
Only then did Harry notice that the hand on his cheek felt unusually cold in comparison to his own skin, even though he was shaking.

 

“It hurts,” he sobbed, unable to keep the tears at bay.
“I know, my lad, I know,” Bilbo told him and began to comb through his unruly locks. It was such an unfamiliar but soothing gesture that he soon felt the pain of his wounds dim as he concentrated on that loving motion. It still hurt, but the gesture and his tired body soon lulled him back to sleep, and for the next few hours he knew no more.

 

When he awoke the next time he felt much better. The morning sun was just crawling over the horizon, but he felt well rested. He sat up carefully, his body still feeling slightly sore, but he would not let himself be hindered by that. He felt well enough again, and it was still very early; he wanted to get to work and make Bilbo feel proud and happy that he had taken him in.

 

He stood up, but nearly stumbled over his long pajama-bottoms legs. Frowning down at them, he bent to roll them up, before finally leaving the bedroom as silently as possible. It didn’t take him long to find the kitchen, and after a bit of searching he found everything he needed for the moment; the pot of coffee, a pot to heated water, a bucket and a rag. The kitchen was really tidy, there were no dirty dishes, but he thought that he could still clean the floor, the counters and the shelves.

 

So he quickly filled water into the pot and put it onto the stove. He had once read about a stove that was heated by wood, and he found a tool to stroke the fire again (he had also seen it in the same book from before) and then started to clean the kitchen. He began with polishing the counter, even though it already looked so tidy, but he had always thought that in his aunt’s kitchen as well, and she had still always insisted that he should clean the room every day. When he was finished with that, he turned to clean the boards of the shelves he could reach (which were all with the exception of the highest ones as everything was so small in the nice Hobbit’s house).

 

He was just closing the last cupboard door, when the pot on the stove started to whistle. Hurrying over, he quickly lifted the pot up and carried it over to the counter where he had placed a wooden slide earlier, so as to not destroy the tabletop, and then he started to search for a one of those manual coffee filters he had once seen at Aunt Marge’s as Bilbo clearly did not own a modern coffee maker. The next ten minutes he spent searching and was already starting to fear that he would not be able to make Bilbo any coffee after all, when he finally found one of those old, old glass cans where something textured like a wire-net was put inside, which could be pushed down with a thin rod. Having found the coffee powder during his search, he quickly put a few spoons full into the glass pot before pouring the hot water over it.

 

Proud with his achievements so far, Harry collected milk, sugar, a delicate cup with matching saucer, a small spoon, and placed everything together with the coffee can onto a wooden tray that had found neatly in the small space between counter and wall and carried it over to the kitchen table, unsure if he should take it to Bilbo or leave it on the table. But then he noticed that there was still no food between all of the items, and suddenly feeling a heavy stone of dread falling into his stomach, he turned back to the stove. Unconsciously, his left hand had wandered to his right, where a rather thick scar had formed after a splash of hot fat had hit him a few months ago. Shivering, he bit down onto his bottom lip, suppressing the fear he was feeling ever since that accident, but it had hurt so much.

 

Bracing himself, he had to remind himself of all the things that Mr. Bilbo Baggins had done for him, took a deep breath of air and turned to the small pantry that was separated from the kitchen by a small, round door in the far left corner. He found the bacon quickly, it was just in his line of sight, and he went back to the stove with it, where he put the package down to get a pan. He was just bending down to open the cupboard where he had seen pots and pans earlier, when a voice was heard, making him jump in surprise.

 

“Harry? What are you doing in the kitchen so early?”
Harry quickly tried to scramble out of the cupboard, hitting his head in the process, and turned nervously to Bilbo. Had he done something wrong by preparing coffee? Was Mr. Bilbo one of those people who didn’t like others in their kitchen? He felt his hands starting to shake, afraid that he had done something bad, but when he finally found the courage to look up, he only saw a mixture of curiosity and worry on the Hobbit’s face.

 

“I… made breakfast for you… er… I mean coffee, the bacon and eggs are not ready yet…” he answered, stumbling over his own words.
To his horror, Bilbo’s eyes darkened. “You are still far too young to use a stove on your own,” the small creature started to admonish him. Panic rose in Harry as pictures of Bilbo taking him back to Number 4 Privet Drive popped up in front of his inner eye and he flinched.

 

“Please, I am sorry, I swear, nothing is broken!” he exclaimed fearfully, but the Hobbit’s eyes grew only darker.
“I am not worried about my stove, material things like that can be replaced if need should arise, but you could seriously injure yourself; that is why I want you to promise me that you will never use it without my permission again.”
Harry’s eyes widened as the words chased away his fears. Suddenly, he felt totally embarrassed and averted his eyes as his cheeks grew hot in shame. It felt so odd that somebody was actually worrying about him, and it was such a strange concept. Never before had someone cared so much about him.

 

An arm drew him against a warm, soft chest and Harry’s heart started to flutter in joy as he finally realized that Bilbo truly cared about him.
Burying his face deep into the soft embrace, Harry finally nodded and said “I promise I will not use the stove without permission again. I just wanted...”
“Good, my lad,” Bilbo replied, before adding: “And now sit down, I will make you some hot chocolate and a pancake for breakfast.”

 

Nodding again, Harry trotted over to the kitchen table and climbed onto one of the chairs.
“Did you cook for your family?” Bilbo asked as he turned around on his chair.
“Yes, I had to make breakfast and dinner, but aunt Petunia prepared lunch; she said I don’t have enough talent in the kitchen to cook a real meal.”
Bilbo scoffed, but Harry didn’t really understand what the Hobbit meant with the noise, however, before he could ask, his host continued: “Did you like cooking? We Hobbits love cooking, it is our biggest passion. If you want, I could teach you how to cook meals that would make your aunt pale with jealousy,” the small man snickered.

 

“You would do that?” Harry asked excitedly; cooking had always been his favorite duty in his relatives’ house, despite the incident with the frying pan. It had hurt when his aunt had told him she would never teach him how to cook correctly, because he was not good enough. However, remembering her cruel words, his face fell as sadness spread in his chest. “But what if she was right and I am useless in the kitchen?” He asked worriedly, but Bilbo only waved him off as he came over with a mug of delicious smelling hot chocolate.
“After what I have seen, you will grow into a fine cook. You are still very young and thus it is just natural that you still struggle with some things in the kitchen, but I will teach you everything I know. If you would like, I will raise you into the most respectable Hobbit Hobbiton has ever seen.

 

That made Harry smile broadly again. “Do you think I can be a good Hobbit, just like you?” He asked eagerly. His smile only brightened when he saw Bilbo nod “Of course, if you study hard.”
A plate with two large pancakes and a pot of strawberry marmalade was placed in front of him. “And now eat up, there is work in the garden for me to do and we have to find something for you to play with first,” Bilbo told him.
“I can help you with that!” Harry exclaimed. He was bouncing on his chair, so excited was he to have found something with which he could truly help the Hobbit.
“Sure, sure, if you would like to, little one,” the little man ruffled his hair, before getting to his feet.

 

Bilbo led him outside into the most beautiful garden he had ever seen. Even his aunt’s beloved roses could not compare to the beauty of the colorful flowers, blossoming trees and bushes Bilbo now showed him.
“And these, my lad, are my new Peaches, I only planted them this spring,” the Hobbit told him pridefully, but Harry didn’t mind. In contrast to his nasty aunt, Bilbo had many reasons to be proud of his garden.
“You must know,” the small Hobbit continued, his voice dropping to a silent whisper, “until now my cousin’s ugly wife Lobelia Sackville-Baggins held the title for the ‘Best Peaches in the Shire’, but this year, I am planning on taking the title away from her. Not that I am usually an envious person; and it is not about envy with her anyway, but Lobelia she is… she is… well you will get to know her soon enough, I think. She is curious like a thieving magpie and just as slight-handed!”

 

Bilbo had talked himself into a little rage and was puffing up his chest agitatedly, but for some reason, Harry didn’t find himself afraid, like he would have been with his uncle. Instead, a giggle made its way up from his chest and he had to quickly thrust his small fist into his mouth to stifle the sound; after all, he didn’t wish to insult his caretaker’s relatives, even though Bilbo himself did not seem overly fond of them himself. In fact, the Hobbit had noticed his predicament and waved him off: “You may laugh if you feel like it. Laughter is good for the soul and heart, and after what I have seen yesterday, I believe you have a lot of laughter to catch up on. But now, tell me what you already know about garden-work.”

 

He didn’t need to think about it for long, and with the help of his fingers, he counted off what Petunia had taught him:
“I know how to clean flower-beds after the winter. I know how to plant flowers and seedlings. I also know how to water them correctly and I can recognize weeds,” he said nearly as proudly as Bilbo had been a moment earlier.

 

“My, my, that is a lot you already know. Well then, do you want to show me your skills? I have prepared some Strawberry Seedlings and finished cleaning out an old flower-bed which had not been used since the days of my dearly departed father.”

 

Quickly, Harry nodded. He had never planted strawberries, but he was sure that it would not be that different from planting roses. He really wanted to show the nice Hobbit that he could be a huge help around the garden and house.

 

Only then, when he followed Bilbo deeper into the garden, did he notice in what an odd house he had ended up. It looked more like a small hill, completely covered with luscious, green grass. Only a chimney that stuck out straight a bit to the right and the nice, round windows he had already noticed earlier, indicated that it was a house at all, but after blinking a few times in wonder, a wide smile stretched his lips. He liked the house, regardless of how odd it looked to him. Many things had looked odd to his family as well, and he had found them normal enough, and Bilbo wasn’t a human after all, so maybe that was just the way Hobbits liked to live? Besides, the hole looked just as cozy from the outside, as it had from the inside, in his opinion.

 

Noticing that Bilbo was by now a few paces ahead, he quickly skipped after him, but had to slow down when the well beaten path thinned to nothing more than a small, brown band in front of him.

 

Soon he could see the flower-bed Bilbo had mentioned, but the Hobbit led him over to something resembling a bump on the side of the hill-house. There was another round door, but it was smaller than the shiny green one which he could remember only faintly.

 

“This is my garden shed. You can use anything you need, but I want you to ask me first if you plan on taking one of the garden shears. I don’t want to have to call Bell back because you had managed to cut a finger off,” his caretaker teased, before handing him a small bucket with a shovel and a hand-rake. Bilbo himself picked up an old apple crate, which was full of small seedlings, Harry could see.

 

“Did you see the flower-bed we passed earlier?” Bilbo asked, and as he nodded, the Hobbit added “then lead the way.

 

As they reached the flower-bed, Bilbo motioned for him to get started. And so he dutifully kneeled down next to the Hobbit and began to dig the first small hole. To his joy, Bilbo hummed contently as he put the first seedling into the ground and covered it carefully, before using his fingers to measure the space to where he would put the next plant. He continued like that for the next ten minutes or so, always taking care that he planted the strawberries in a regular pattern. The easy work, the warm sun, the singing of the birds and the silent companionship soon relaxed his body and mind, so much so that he startled quite violently when Bilbo suddenly interrupted him. The shovel flew out of his hands as he flinched and a bird trilled angrily at him, but to his relief, the Hobbit only chuckled.

 

“You are a good gardener,” Bilbo praised him, once he had caught their breath again. But you know, this is not the ‘Miss Shire Beauty Competition’ of the ‘Summer Festival’. It is perfectly fine if the strawberries are not planted with exactly the same space between them.”

 

Blushing, Harry nodded, but as soon as he continued, he found himself repeating the measuring motions his aunt had beaten into him thoroughly with the help of a stick. Aware now that Bilbo had criticized him on his methods, he began to glance over to the Hobbit every other second, which the clever Hobbit, of course, noticed as well soon. He winced as Bilbo gave a long sigh.

 

“Whatever method your family had used,” he muttered in a bitter and angry voice, “it clearly has worked frightening well and I am sure that I would not like any method that would help you forget what they have taught you.”

 

Harry wasn’t quite sure what the Hobbit had meant. Was Bilbo angry with him? Should he try harder to plant the seedlings a bit more disorderly? But before he could implement his plan, Bilbo interrupted his train of thought: “Don’t worry, lad, it’s not your fault. It’s the fault of those despicable family members of yours. You continue just the way you are the most comfortable with. If you need me, I will be in the front garden; the roses need a slight trimming. I fear a few of the smaller sprouts have not survived the winter.”

 

With that, Bilbo left and Harry let out a sigh of relief. As he watched the nice Hobbit go, he wondered how he could have believed for even a second that Bilbo could be angry with him. If he didn’t know better, he would have guessed that the Hobbit couldn’t be anything but friendly even if he tried. But he had seen Bilbo angry; angry at his relatives, no less. It still made him wonder whether he was maybe dreaming. Nobody had ever sided with him or called his family despicable. Somehow, that memory made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It was such a nice experience to have someone on ‘his’ side for once.

 

Smiling to himself, he turned back to his strawberries, and after he had finished with those, he started to clean the flower-beds in this abandoned part of the garden. Without noticing, he forgot about the time while doing his work; and so he was quite surprised (and a bit disappointed) when Bilbo called him in for lunch. He found everything already made and ready in the cozy kitchen. He had wanted to help Bilbo and learn a bit more about cooking. However, he consoled himself by reminding himself that he would hopefully have many more opportunities to cook with the Hobbit in the future.

 

The potato pancakes with applesauce Bilbo had prepared turned out to be the most delicious thing he had ever tasted, however, his stomach was so small and shrunken from the many years of only bread and water, that he couldn’t manage more than one and a half, which clearly made Bilbo upset and worried.

 

“Oh, I am starting to hate those people more and more by the hour. But don’t worry my boy,” the Hobbit reassured him (but to Harry it rather sounded more as if he needed to reassure himself) “we will get you to a healthy weight. Just wait and see, soon you will eat at least six of those.”

 

To be honest, Harry wasn’t sure if he believed that he would ever be able to eat so much, but he just grinned back at his caretaker and licked some of the slightly sour applesauce from where it had dropped down onto his thumb.

 

A yawn escaped him and he blinked his suddenly tired eyes.
“I see someone is in need of a nap. That reminds me, I have yet to ask you how old you are,” Bilbo chuckled and collected their plates, before taking them over to his basin.
“I am Seven,” he answered proudly. “I am a big boy and I don’t need naps anymore. I never needed any.”
Fortunately, he didn’t see the frown that flashed over the Hobbits features.
“Well, I believe everybody needs a nap once in a while. I myself like to fall asleep in my favorite armchair in front of the fireplace in the winter and on my father’s old bench in the summer. There is nothing wrong with being tired after having worked hard.”
“But I really am not tired. I can do the dishes for you,” he quickly protested. Bilbo had already cooked for him and he felt bad for not having helped one bit. After all, the Hobbit had shared his food with him.”
“Oh no, no way my boy. You can go to your room and rest for a while, or take the sofa, but I will not have you fall over in one of my flower-beds.”

 

Knowing that tone of voice (adults used it when they were not in the mood to argue); Harry slid from his chair and toddled over to the sofa. He thought that he would just lie down and feign sleep for a few minutes, before telling Bilbo that he had rested enough. He climbed onto the plushy piece of furniture and lay down. After he had pulled a soft, woolen blanket up to his chin, he closed his eyes, still intent of standing up in ten minutes at the latest, however, it took sleep only a few seconds to claim him.

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When he woke up again, it took him a couple of minutes to realize that he had fallen asleep despite his promise to not do so and instead continue to help Bilbo. He was warm, lying on something soft and his stomach was full. But when he finally realized what had happened, he bolted up into a sitting position. A wave of disappointment overcame him and he angrily kicked the cozy blanket off and jumped up.

 

How could he have been so lazy? Because the Hobbit was much nicer than his family had ever been was not a reason to slack off. In fact, he should probably do even more to show his gratitude, after all, without Bilbo he still wouldn’t know what it felt like to have a full belly and sleep in a soft bed.

 

Nodding to himself, he left the living room and crossed the hallway, intent on going back into the garden, when his caretaker’s voice stopped him mid-step:

 

“Harry, is that you?”
The Hobbit’s voice came from a room at the end of the hallway, where the door stood slightly ajar.
“Yes, it’s me;” he called back, about to continue on his way, when the door swung open and Bilbo appeared in the doorway with a worried frown on his face.
“Are you sure you have slept enough? Your nap did not even last a full hour.”

 

Shifting a little, Harry lowered his gaze to his bare feet; he didn’t know how what answer. Never before had someone thought about him so much. It was so strange that he felt the heat rise into his cheeks. Fortunately the Hobbit continued with a smile and he didn’t have to answer.

 

“So, where were you heading off to?”
“To the garden,” he answered honestly. “I haven’t finished my work there yet.”
The frown instantly returned onto the Hobbit’s face, and not for the first time, Harry found himself suddenly wondering if he had done something wrong.
“The garden is not a duty you have to finish. If you want to help me with the plants, that is fine, but you are still a child, and children need some free time to just play as well.”

 

This thought now truly overwhelmed Harry, who until now had never had more than a few minutes to play with his cousin’s broken soldiers.
“Tell me, what do you like to play with in your free time? I am not sure whether I have much to offer for today, but tomorrow we can go to the market and buy you a few toys,” Bilbo continued and looked expectantly at him. Suddenly feeling stupid and overburdened with the situation, Harry did the first thing that came to his mind; he turned on his heels and ran to his room, where he banged the door shut and crawled under the blanket to hide himself away.

 

Tears began to run down his cheeks and he pushed his face into the soft mattress, which was quickly getting wet beneath him. It was as if he was just realizing how much of a freak he truly was. Bilbo only meant well with him, and he didn’t even know how to play properly. Who would want to keep such a child?

 

A knock was heard and he froze. Maybe, if he kept really quiet and didn’t move, Bilbo wouldn’t notice him. But only a moment later, a weight settled down next to him and a hand started to stroke the covers he was hiding under.
“Do you like stories? I have many different ones in my library. You could choose one and I would be glad to read it out to you,” Bilbo's soft voice sounded a little muffled through the thick comforter, but he still felt so embarrassed that he could not answer. Instead, he turned onto his side, so that his back faced the Hobbit and curled into an even tighter ball, hoping that Bilbo might forget that he was there, or maybe think that he had fallen asleep and leave, but the Hobbit would have none of that:

 

“Harry, your life so far has been horrible. And whatever the aftereffects of those circumstances are, they are not your fault. I have many nieces and nephews and know many different games and free-time activity; together we will find things you like. I know you enjoy cooking and gardening, I enjoy those things too, but everybody needs a hobby to just get their mind off of things.”

 

That offer actually made Harry perk up with curiosity, so much so, that he abruptly stopped sniffling. Many games? That sounded like fun, so with his embarrassment all of the sudden forgotten, he wiped his face with his right sleeve, before sticking his head out from under the covers.
“What kind of games?” he asked curiously, and Bilbo’s face brightened with a smile of relief.

 

“Many different things. We could play hide-and-seek, catch, rope jumping, can smashing, I can read a book out to you, teach you how to crochet your own self-made cuddly toy, we could draw something, write a story or poem.”

 

Harry’s eyes widened at the amount of suggestions. Never had he ever known that there were so many things one could do in their free time. He wanted to try each one of them, but one suggestion had stuck especially strongly in his mind:
“I can have a cuddly toy?”

 

“Of course you can, otherwise I wouldn’t have offered it,” Bilbo teased and flipped the tip of Harry’s nose, before asking “Now, I have some books with examples for cuddly toys. Would you like to accompany me to my library and choose one?”

 

Nodding, Harry crawled out from under the blanket and climbed out of bed. “Have you crocheted a cuddly toy before?” he asked as he followed Bilbo out of the room and automatically took the Hobbit’s hand, without even realizing what he was doing.

 

Bilbo, a little surprised about the trust Harry was so quickly developing after the ordeal he had lived through, needed a moment to process the question, but then smiled down at him.
“I have crocheted many toys for the fauntelings of the Shire,” he answered, but Harry echoed, clearly confused: “Fauntelings?”
“That is what we call our children,” he explained and pushed the door to his library open. Harry followed him silently, his bright, green eyes now wide like saucers with amazement. His aunt and uncle had not owned a single book, and his cousin had even tried to burn his school books once, saying that they were boring and keeping him from playing, but he had always liked his text books and the few he had managed to read in the school library during the lunch break, at least, until Dudley had found out where he always disappeared to and had started to chase him away from the cozy room.

 

A colorful cover suddenly appeared under his nose, chasing away the bad memories.
“Here you go,” said Bilbo. “Take your time, I will go into the living room and search for some wool.”

 

Nodding excitedly, Harry just flopped down on the floor, placed the heavy book in front of him and opened it to the first page. For the next few minutes, he browsed through the pages and took in the many different animals. There were teddy bears, cats and dogs, a few different horses, a mouse, a hamster, a rabbit, an owl, a sparrow and a falcon. He was slowly getting worried that he would not be able to decide on one and cause even more problems for his caretaker, when he turned to the last picture and was greeted by a red illustration of a dragon.

 

Grinning, he jumped up with the book clutched to his chest and ran out of the library and down the hallway to the living room.

 

“Bilbo, Bilbo, can we make a dragon?” He exclaimed as he jumped onto the sofa, letting the book fall open in his lap.
“No teddy bear for you?” Bilbo smiled and came over with a small basket full of colorful wool. Shaking his head, he turned the pages until the picture of the dragon lay open once again before pointing at it excitedly.
“Nope, I want to have this dragon. Do you have red wool?”
The Hobbit rummaged through his basket and pulled a small ball of yarn out. It was dyed a bright, fiery red, but not much was left. Seeing his ward’s disappointment, he quickly said:

 

“We could crochet a colorful dragon, with all your favorite colors, this way it would be uniquely yours.”
Sighing in relief when Harry’s face brightened again, he placed the basket in the small boy’s lap and took the book in exchange. He had crocheted many different animals, but never before a dragon. Fauntelings were not the type of children who wanted to cuddle with a small version of those great beasts, and their mother’s would definitely not approve such a choice anyway.

 

Fortunately, he found that the basics were the same as with every other toy he had made so far; a round belly, five different sized sausages for legs and tails and the head. Choosing a middle-sized hook from his side table and forming a sling with the red wool, he started with the dragon.

 

Soon his ward’s eyes were intensely fixed on him, so intensely in fact, that he automatically started to explain what he was doing.
For the next few minutes Harry was captivated by the regular movements and calm explanations of the Hobbit, but all too soon he found himself getting restless. He wanted to try crocheting himself, after all the dragon was supposed to become his first, and also self-made cuddly toy, but he also was aware that Bilbo could do it much quicker and probably make it look much nicer as well. However, he must have shown something on his face, because he was suddenly asked:

“Do you want to try it yourself?”
Bilbo was holding the small piece of needlework and hook out to him and after only a moment of hesitation, he couldn’t hold himself back any longer and took it eagerly.

 

“Now, you wrap the yarn around your fingers like this...and take the hook in your right. Or are you left handed?” Bilbo explained and showed him how exactly to grab the items.
Shaking his head, he answered: “No, I am ambi… ambiduck…” frowning, he tried to remember the term his teacher had once used, after she had seen him switch his pen from his right to his left.”
“Ambidextrous?” Bilbo asked, astonished. Ambidexterity was a rare phenomenon in Middle Earth. Some even said it was an ability only the wizards and Valar possessed, but then again, the boy did not come from their world.

 

He actually was still not quite sure in what kind of world he had landed the night he had found Harry, but he somehow knew that it had not been Arda.

 

“Yes,” Harry smiled and began to mimic his previous movements with astonishing precision for someone so young and without any previous experience with needlework.

 

Feeling pride for the little boy swell inside of him, he just leaned back and watched his ward for some time. When the red wool was used up, he showed him how to proceed with the next color and just like that, the afternoon passed in comfortable silence, only disturbed from the child’s occasional questions.

 

Harry had finished the head and body, and Bilbo was starting to believe that the boy would finish his whole plush toy today, when his ward suddenly started yawning and rubbing his eyes. Looking over to his window, he noticed with surprise that it had to be early evening already, and after all the excitement, and considering that Harry had been sick until this morning, it was not surprising that he was already getting tired.

 

“I think you have done enough for today. Would you like to help me prepare a quick dinner?” Bilbo actually couldn’t believe that he had just forgotten the afternoon tea, and Harry would definitely not be awake for supper, so he would at least prepare something hearty for dinner.

 

His ward looked disappointed for a moment, but then, as if giving the child a nudge, his stomach growled hungrily and Harry nodded, before placing the recently finished dragon-belly to the side.

 

Not knowing what to make for dinner, he led the way to his pantry and asked: “So, what would you like to eat this evening.”
He watched his ward’s eyes widen for the umpteenth time that day, and a painful pang went through his heart as he realized that this was most likely the first time someone was asking the sweet boy what he would like to have for dinner.

 

Patiently, he waited as Harry’s eyes wandered around, and after a while the boy pointed at a small chain of sausages and then to a jar of stewed apples.
“One of those, and this for desert,” he said, and then added a bit more silently and clearly embarrassed: “please?”

 

Bilbo just smiled at him and reached for the items, before also selecting a loaf of bread to go with the sausages.

 

Preparing the dinner was a quick affair. He gave Harry the plates and cutlery to spread on the table, and only 15 minutes later they sat across from each other, looking at their food.

 

“This smells so delicious,” Harry sighed and actually licked his lips. He still couldn’t believe all the food he was allowed to eat. Almost reverently, he pierced one sausage onto his fork and carefully bit a small piece off; immediately the delicious, hearty taste exploded on his tongue. Forgetting all the manners his aunt had beaten into him, he ravished his meal within minutes. The bread with the fresh butter tasted almost as delicious as the meat, so did the lightly sweetened tea Bilbo had placed next to his plate.

 

“Now, let me get you a new nightshirt and then it is off to bed for you,” Bilbo told him when they were finished, even before he could offer to help clean the table. Actually being too tired to argue (his eyes were drooping as he looked at his empty plate), he just nodded, slid off the chair, and went to the bathroom. As he stood in front of the dressing table with the bowl of fresh water, he suddenly realized that he would not have to crawl into a cupboard and cower under a thin sheet. Suddenly his motions quickened, as he found himself really looking forward (and not only because he was tired beyond exhaustion) to go to bed for the first time he could remember in his life.

 

When he left the bath a few moments later, he saw Bilbo entering his bedroom with a clean nightshirt draped over his arm. He changed quickly and was startled, when the cover was gently placed over him, before a soft kiss was pressed to his cheek.
“Sleep well my boy,” Bilbo whispered, but Harry had already drifted off with a happy smile on his face.

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Bilbo chuckled silently to himself as he entered the living room about five minutes later. He had almost been sure that he would find Harry sitting stubbornly with his crossed arms on his sofa, forcing his eyes to stay open stubbornly with all his might. After all, he had seen the stubborn expression in those bright, vibrant green eyes and knew that look from his many nieces and nephews, but apparently his ward had been even more tired than expected.

 

And it was a good thing, because Harry was still young and young boys needed their rest just as much as old Hobbits, and he also needed to write a letter to Gerontious Took, his grandfather and longest holder of the title of ‘Thain’ their race knew about, because he had decided that he would adopt Harry. He knew the Hobbit community had laws about adoption, but with Harry not only being no relative of his, but also from a whole different folk, he wanted to consort with the head of his family. Besides, he had always liked his grandfather and liked to use any excuse to contact him. Not that Gerontious ever minded; it was an open secret that he was the old patriarch’s favorite grandchild.

 

So after one last look over at the sleeping boy, he left for his study, where he sat down behind his desk, pulled some paper from the drawer and picked up his favorite quill.

 

“Dear Grandfather Gerontious,” he began his letter.

 

“I am writing you with regards to a delicate matter, or maybe it would be more accurate to say, with regards to a delicate request. Three days it has been, since I found while on one of my nightly walks, a little human boy of seven years of age. He was badly beaten and starved and I did not hesitate when I took him with me. I hope you will understand and approve, when I tell you that I do not plan on sending the boy back to his abusive relatives. I assume his parents have died, because he was living with his aunt and uncle, who clearly have no love left for the poor child, and never mentioned any other family members.

 

Harry, that is his name, is a sweet and considerate boy and the wish of providing him with a stable, caring and loving home has grown in my heart. Therefore I request your help concerning the legal side of an official adoption.

 

With love,
Your grandson Bilbo.”

 

He read over the short note that had grown much longer than expected once more, before sealing it with his favorite red wax and adding his grandfather’s address. He put it into his letterbox so that the postman would collect his letter first thing in the morning (and hopefully takes it to Gerontious that same day).

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The next one and a half hours were spent reading a new book he had just bought last week, until a timid voice interrupted him so quietly and carefully, that he had nearly missed it.

 

“Hello Harry, did you sleep well?” he asked with a smile and placed his book to the side, however, for some reason, that only earned him a frown.
“I… just… wanted to tell you that I am going back into the garden, or… should I do something else…”

 

“What?” he asked a bit distractedly, his mind still halfway in the book he had been enjoying, so he needed a moment to realize what the boy was saying.
“Oh no,” he shook his head once the words had registered. “It is very late already and little boys need their proper sleep.”

 

“But… I haven’t been able to finish….” the child started, clearly distressed, so with a sigh he leaned forwards, picked him up and put the small raven onto his lap.
“Listen, you are still a child and children shouldn’t concern themselves with advanced duties. The only thing a child needs to do is eat well, sleep enough and be happy. If garden work makes you happy, then you can always help me, but not when you are clearly tired and rather want to go back to your warm bed. The flowers will still be there tomorrow.” And with that, he rose to his feet and carried his new ward into his bedroom.

 

“Now, be a good boy and sleep.”
“I’ll be a good boy if I sleep?” Harry asked in confusion.
“Yes, and an even better one if you sleep in tomorrow. You were awake far too early today. So no rising before the sun is properly up. And now, sleep well.”

 

Bilbo tucked the child in, whose eyes were already closing as he did so. With a small and slightly sad smile he shook his head. This lad really needed someone to look after him. Hopefully his grandfather would answer his letter soon.

Chapter Text

When Harry came into the kitchen the next morning, he was slightly disappointed to see that the table was already set with plates, bowls and cups. He knew his uncle Bilbo didn’t want him to help as much as the Dursley’s had demanded, but the Hobbit was just so kind that he wanted to help him.

“Don’t pout like that, Harry,” Bilbo’s voice came from the direction of the garden door. Looking around, Harry saw that the Hobbit was just coming from outside, a bowl of fresh strawberries in one hand.
“You can help me again tomorrow,” he continued and placed the bowl next to the other goods on the table “but today we have to hurry, we have a busy day ahead.”

“A busy day ahead?” Echoed Harry, still a bit too tired to follow his uncle. While he had been drilled to wake up early to do chores every day, he was totally unused to having to react verbally to anything more than a direct order.

“Yes, my grandfather Gerontious , the Ohm of Hobbiton, has sent me a letter this morning. He wants to meet you and get to know you,” his uncle explained, but Harry’s mind was stuck on the one strange word he didn’t know:
“What is an Ohm?”

Bilbo chuckled, ruffled his hair and picked him up before placing him on one of the kitchen chairs.
“Ohm is the word for mayor here in Hobbiton. Do you know what a mayor is?”
Harry thought quickly about it and nodded: “The mayor is like the chef of the kitchens. He is also at fault when something goes wrong…”

Bilbo’s eyebrows lifted in confusion. Why the first explanation was definitely good enough for a boy of Harry’s age, he wondered where the child had picked up the last part. However, he decided that he wouldn’t ask. By all the contact his soon-to-be-adoptive-son had been allowed to have in the past, the answer would probably his aunt or uncle and he really didn’t want to hear more horrible stories about those people so early in the morning. So instead, he simply gave his ward a warm smile and served him some honey-sweetened porridge.

He contently watched as Harry devoured his meal, although, the boy was finished far too quickly for his liking. He had not even eaten half of it, but then again, it was no wonder after years of starvation.

“I have placed a shirt for you onto the ottoman by the sofa, it will be too large, but better than those rags those people clothed you in,” he told the child once he was finished and about to begin cleaning up the table. That was another thing he had to work on, Harry was not a slave and he had not taken the boy in to gain cheap labor.

If Harry wanted to help in the garden, or even with cooking, he could do that. Bilbo himself enjoyed these activities but cleaning after oneself was an activity small boys shouldn’t be aware of yet.

Nodding, Harry walked out of the kitchen and into the living room, where he found a sky blue button-down shirt lying neatly folded on the ottoman, just as Bilbo had told him. Picking it up, he noticed that it was supposed to have short sleeves, but they were falling down to his knuckles as he pulled it on.

“Well, that is far larger on you than I expected,” he heard his uncle sigh, but as he turned around the Hobbit was already disappearing down his long hallway, only to return a minute later with a beautiful, brown belt in his hands.

“Come here, we will just have to transform the shirt into a tunic for now and look for something to wear on our way back later.”

Harry obediently stepped closer and lifted his arms to let Bilbo put the belt around his waist, and soon he was not looking as if he was drowning in an oversized shirt any longer.

“Now, how fit are you on your feet? It is quite a distance to grandfather Gerontious’ house. He lives in Tookborough in the Westfarthings, but I could ask the Gamgees if they would lend us their pony… or maybe we could see if there is a carriage driving there rather than walking.”

Harry shook his head, he didn’t tire easily and he had never been on a real walk; he hadn’t been allowed to go to the park or anything.

“Let us go then,” Bilbo smiled and held out a hand which he took, after quickly grabbing his stuffed dragon, which he had finished the day before with Bilbo’s help.

The next thirty minutes felt like a dream. When he had been brought to Bag End, he had been too tired to notice much of the village and it had been dark anyway, so he hadn’t realized how beautiful Hobbiton was. It looked like a place out of a fairytale. The houses all looked like little hills, covered with grass and flowers. Sometimes something resembling a roof could be seen shielding the front door, but other than those and the windows, they were all built into the earth.

Pretty, colorful gardens lined the small road they were following, and sometimes he even saw a few farm animals, like sheep, cows, goats, ducks or chicken.

The other Hobbits all eyed him with open curiosity. Some greeted Bilbo, and if they did so, his uncle introduced him as well. The stares grew more as they crossed a market place and he instinctively stepped closer to the Hobbit, trying to hide in his neat jacket, which Bilbo allowed him to do. However, he couldn’t stop sneaking peeks, especially after he had noticed the many children running around happily.

He had never been allowed to play with other kids, but maybe now he would be able to make some friends.

Once they had left the market behind, the houses grew sparser and fields marked the landscape. Now and then something resembling a Hobbit version of a farmhouse could be seen in the distance. They were mostly long and flat, with only one floor, as if Hobbits just didn’t care for any sort of heights.

After a while, Bilbo asked him if he wasn’t feeling tired yet, but he wasn’t, and so they continued. Finally, his uncle led him up to an even smaller path to one of the flat houses that looked even bigger and more luxurious than the rest of them. He automatically straightened up.

“That is a huge house!” he exclaimed, his eyes wide as saucers.
Bilbo chuckled. “It is. The Tooks are one of the richest families here in the Shire. Many ‘Thains’ have come from their families.”
“Thains?” Harry asked and his uncle nodded. “They are our burgermasters or magistrates,” he explained.
“So it’s another word for Ohm?” he asked, trying to understand.
His uncle nodded. “You could say so,” and with that, he knocked at the shining front door.

“Coming!” A cheerful, female voice sounded from the inside and a few seconds later a small, round hobbit lady with graying curls, a warm smile, bright blue eyes, and rosy apple cheeks opened them.

“Oh Bilbo, it’s you already! You are very early,” she greeted, sounding a bit disapproving at the last part.
“Yes, yes, I am sorry, grandmother May.”
“You should know by now that punctuality is not polite for a hobbit. Give your hosts ten or fifteen more minutes to prepare. You should know how much we hate to hurry.”
The Hobbit lady stepped to the side and proceeded to wave them in. Harry, a bit frightened by the stern attitude, grabbed Bilbo’s hand and stepped closer to the Hobbit as he was let inside, hoping that that the lady wouldn’t notice him.

But of course, she did. As soon as he had stepped inside and the door had closed behind him, she stepped forwards and eyed him intensely, her hands on her hips.

“And you must be Harry,” she finally said and to Harry’s relief a broad, friendly smile bloomed on her face. “A pleasure to meet you,” she added, holding a hand out, however, when he hesitated to take it, she suddenly pulled him into a bone crushing hug. Startled, he didn’t dare to move, however, the lady didn’t seem to notice it.

“Oh Bilbo, what a sweet child. I certainly understand your need to help him. look how shy he is… and how thin. That is not a proper weight for a hobbit.”

“Grandmother May, you are scaring him,” Bilbo quickly interjected, having seen his ward’s wide, shocked eyes. He pulled the child from her grasp and gave him a reassuring smile.

“Harry, this is May, my Grandmother. She might seem a bit overwhelming at times, but she means well,” he introduced, before turning to his grandmother again, telling her: “Besides, he is not a hobbit. Humans tend to be more slender than our folks. However, you are certainly right that he needs to fatten up a little, so I hope you have prepared elevenses?”

“Of course I have. Just go ahead, I will check what is keeping your grandfather busy again,” she announced and bustled off.

With the excited Hobbit gone, Harry finally dared to look around. He was standing in a huge hallway, one of those one usually finds in farmhouses. The stone floor was covered by a thick, red and auburn patterned ruck and the walls were lined with dark wooden chests and shelves on which flower vases on doilies resided. The furniture was richly ornamented with carvings, so was the huge mirror in its wooden frame that hung to his right.

Bilbo meanwhile, was taking his jacket off and hanging it onto a claw-footed coat rack.
“Let’s go ahead to the parlor, Harry. I am sure you will already find some cakes there,” he told him and went to a door with a glass panel at the end of the hallway. The door led to another, smaller corridor, which was mainly empty aside from a few family portraits hanging on the paneled walls.

“Here we are,” his uncle announced, once they had stepped through another door. The parlor was a cozy, middle-sized room. A huge fireplace was embedded to his left, there was a huge dining table surrounded by thickly cushioned chairs and even more shelves with bouquets of flowers. Harry instantly felt comfortable and relaxed as his eyes wandered over the interior. Finally, he spotted the many plates on said table, and true to the hobbit’s words, they were filled with all kinds of cakes and pastries.

They looked so delicious, that, despite still feeling quite full, he found himself drawn closer and closer to the delectable desserts.

Suddenly he was grabbed under the arms and lifted onto one of the soft chairs.
“What would you like to try first?” his uncle questioned him and sat down as well.

Harry’s eyes had already zoned in onto a golden tart that was glistening with the sprinkled sugar in the sunlight which fell through the window when he suddenly remembered that they were only visitors and that it would be impolite to start while their hosts were not there yet.

“Nothing… I am fine,” he said, while he was subconsciously licking his lips.
“That is why you are eying the treacle tart like a starved lion,” his uncle chuckled, cut a piece of the tart off and put it onto the small plate.
“But your grandmother and grandfather aren’t here yet!” he exclaimed, shocked and a bit frightened of what would happen when the other hobbits noticed that he had started without them.

Despite living with Bilbo for over three days now, the education the Dursley’s had beaten into him, was too engraved to have it forgotten or overcome already, so he just shook his head quickly.

However, Bilbo didn’t seem to realize his worry, because he just picked his plate up. Suddenly panicking, Harry snatched the fine china from his hands and exclaimed: “No!” before pressing it to his chest like a frightened animal.

“This is one of those rules of your old family, isn’t it?” Bilbo sight, finally noticing what was happening. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only one as a deep and old voice questioned: “What is the matter, Bilbo?”

Squeaking in surprise, Harry let go of the plate and whipped his head around. However, he only got a quick glimpse at the old hobbit standing in the doorway, as a loud shattering sound made him look back again.

“Oh my!” Gerontious exclaimed as Harry jumped to his feet and began frantically to pick up the sharp shards, cutting his fingers in the progress.

Bilbo’s mind finally caught up with the situation and he quickly grabbed the small hands.

“Harry, stop! We will fetch a dustpan and clean it up, no harm done.”
“But the plate… I have to… I have to…” he began panicked, the only thought in his mind that he had to fix his mistake so that he wouldn’t be thrown out of the nice hobbit’s home.

Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light, blinding him momentarily, and when his vision cleared again, the shattered plate in front of him was whole again.

“By Yavannna!” Bilbo exclaimed, shocked by what had just happened in front of his eyes, but seeing the panic return to his charge’s green orbs, he quickly lifted the child up and sat down with him.

“Now, now, calm down. You haven’t done anything wrong, you just fixed the plate. I am sure there is a good explanation for it, so shush.”

“what kind of explanation?” Harry sniffled as his uncle’s voice echoed through his head, calling him a freak.

“Well…” Bilbo began hesitantly because he actually had no idea. So he glanced over to his grandfather, who fortunately came to his rescue.
“There are many different beings in this world. We can ask Yavanna to reveal any blessing you may have received from the Valar during your adoption ceremony. Don’t worry, it is not that uncommon that the highest gift a person with their favor.”

“The Valor?” Harry questioned in a small voice.
“Yes, the Valor, Harry. They are powerful beings, who helped the creator to craft our world. Have you never heard about them?” Bilbo wondered out loud and remembered that the human town he had found the boy in, had actually looked rather odd. Nothing like the descriptions he had read about Minas Tirith or other cities of men.

“They won’t have blessed me,” Harry mumbled, burying his face into his uncle’s shoulder. “I am just a freak.
Bilbo exchanged a long look with his grandfather, who finally cleared his throat and said:
“Let’s eat first, I can hear your grandmother coming down with your favorite apple tart. She got up especially early today to bake it for you,” he smiled softly and sat down opposite of him, just when his grandmother arrived, carrying a huge plate in her hands.

“Here you go my dear,” she said and put it down in front of him, but then halted as she moved to straighten again and saw Harry having fell asleep on Bilbo’s shoulder.

“Is he tired? I hope he is not sick!” She questioned silently, careful to not wake the small boy.
“Just tired,” Bilbo soothed her, deciding to not mention a secret. May could get quite agitated when children were sad or not feeling well. His grandfather gave a short nod in approval, and they all began to eat elevenses.

Three-quarters of an hour, two slices of apple pie, one piece of treacle tat and several cookies later, Bilbo leaned back in his seat. Harry was still fast asleep on his lap and he thought, that it maybe was better like this.

“You wrote that you found this child and wish to adopt him. That he came from a bad family. I certainly can see that” Gerontious finally broached the topic for which he had come for.

“I will leave you two to your business and pack some cake for harry. Do you know his favorites?” His grandmother rose to her feet, looking at him questionably.
“He was drawn to the treacle tart,” Bilbo told his grandmother with a thankful smile and waited for her to bustle out with the cake before answering his grandfather.

“You are right. I found him beaten and starved in some human garden when I was out for a midnight walk. He must have been badly treated for a long time. Bell says he is too small for a human child his age and he has scars everywhere,” he told grimly.

Gerontious nodded sadly. “It is not our way to steal children, but I believe in this case the word rescue might be more appropriate. I certainly am not against your request, neither are the other elders I talked to last night. If Yavanna accepts him as one of her own, he may stay,”
“Thank you, grandpa,” Bilbo smiled and reached for his tea.

“Have you any plans for the adoption ceremony yet?” His grandfather questioned after a moment of comfortable silence. Their relationship had always been like this, calm and soothing. Sometimes they could sit on the bench in front of his house next to each other for hours without saying a word, just enjoying the silence and the garden to their feet.

“I want it to be a big event,” he told him.
Gerontious lifted his eyebrows curiously.
“I plan on inviting every neighbor and big family of all the farthings of Hobbiton so that Harry can get to know all the children. I don’t think he had many friends in his life so far, but he is such a nice and lovable child. He deserves all the friends he can find.”

“Then this is how it shall be. I am sure May will be happy to take care of the invitations, so that you only have to concern yourself about the food anymore,” Gerontious, nodded and then smiled. “I always knew you had what it takes to be a good father.”
“Now I only need to find what takes to be a good husband,” Bilbo joked and reached for another cooky. He was quite full, he surely was, but his grandmother’s baking was just too good to resist. Maybe he would only have a little snack for lunch so. Some fish and potatoes should be enough.

“you better get the kid back home and start with your preparations. It will be no easy feat to host and fed all those hobbits you are planning to invite,” Gerontious finally said and rose to his feet.

“You are right, I should go,” Bilbo sighed and began to comb through Harry's hair to wake him up.
“Little one, you have to get up, we need to go home and prepare your Adoption ceremony,” he called softly so to not scare the sensible child.
“My adoption…” Harry began to mumble, his big, green eyes blinking open. “So, you got the permission?”
“Hmm,” Bilbo hummed a little bewildered by the question.

He placed Harry on his own feet again and handed him his cuddly dragon “Here, you dropped him earlier. Let’s say our goodbyes to my grandparents and then go back home. I believe May has packed some of the treacle tarts for you.”

Harry’s eyes lit up, but then dulled a second later. “But I behaved so badly,” he mumbled, his head and shoulders drooping.
“Nonsense, you just were nervous and that is just fine. Just make sure to thank her properly and everything will be forgotten,” Bilbo retorted sternly, hoping by repeating it enough times, those kinds of convictions would soon disappear from his charge’s mind.

“I’ll do that!” Harry exclaimed, and then turned around to hold a hand out to Gerontious. “Thank you for allowing uncle Bilbo to adopt me and a good day,” he said cheerfully.”
Smiling behind the boys back, Bilbo said his goodbyes as well, before they went back to the hallway. Gerontious called for May and soon they were on their way back home, loaded with had to be every piece of leftover from the elevenses.

 

Harry’s spirit lifted further, although, Bilbo noticed, that he continued to stick rather close to him the rest of the day, even though his brooding over lists of needed items for the ceremony could not have been interesting. Therefore, he decided, to bring Harry to bed a bit earlier and spent some time with him, the boy clearly needed the attention right now.

“Would you like to hear a bed-time story?” He questioned, sitting down at the edge of his charges bed.
Harry’S eyes brightened and he nodded eagerly.
“I thought I could tell you the story of Eru Illuvatar, seeing that you don’t know much about our culture.”
“Is it a nice story?” the child questioned, pulling his blanket up and pressing his dragon closer to his chest.
“It is. It is a story about creation, beauty, and miracles.”

 

Bilbo waited for Harry to nod again, before he scooted fully onto the bed as well, drew the child into his arms and began to tell:
“Our world, Arda, was created by the great Creator Eru Illuvatar. He created the Ainur, or Valar, how they are often called and together with them, he intoned the great music from which everything came,” he began the story his own mother had told him at least a hundred times as a little faunteling.

“After much time had gone by, our planet was created, but it was still bare and empty of life. However, Illuvatar held many visions in his heart and the Ainur saw them and helped their creator to fulfill them. Each of them preferred a different theme of the vision and music and so it happened, that Manwe gave us the sky with its winds and birds the most and Ulmo, the water and all it encompasses; the rain, the snow and the mist. And Manwe and Ulmo became friends and partners, working together to intervene the melody of the water and wind. Manwe’s love, however, guards over the stars and she knows all the regions of Arda. Her name is Varda or Elbereth in the Elvish tongue and the elves love her like no one else.

The elves, just like the men, were the first children of Ardar, Illuvatar himself gave them their life. It was the Ainur Aule who created the dwarves and they as well were adopted by the great Creator, turning them from the cold, unmoving stone into living beings. Because Illuartar is a kind and wise Lord, who can see and cherish his children’s accomplishments just as much as his own.”

“And who do you hobbits believe in?” Harry interrupted him, curiosity shining in his eyes.
Smiling, Bilbo continued:
“We hobbits adore Yavanna the most. Lean like a cypress tree and clad in dresses woven from greenery. She loves everything growing and blossoming. She is the giver of fruits. She gifted us the bushes were berries grow upon and the trees that hold apples and cherries. Yavanna is the wife of Aule and the second noblest next to Varda. She protects us and our gardens and we praise her every year in our sowing and harvesting feast.”

Seeing that Harry’s eyes were beginning to droop, Bilbo ended the story and pressed a soft kiss to the boy’s forehead. There was much more to tell about Arda, their world, the elves, men and dwarves and of course, his own folk, the hobbits.

However, for today the kid clearly couldn’t take in any more. It had been a long and exciting day for the little rave, with many ups and downs. Tugging his soon-to-be-son in, he left the bedroom silently and dosed the light, before retreating into his study. He still had a lot to plan.

 

xxxxxx

The next days were busy but Bilbo’s planning progressed smoothly. The large field south of his smial was prepared by the Gamgees, putting tents and xxx with banners up and three days after his talk with his grandfather, cards started to arrive in Hobbiton. They came from as far as Bree, making some hobit’s grumble about dealing locally, but Bilbo overflooded all local farmers, butchers, bakeries, and taverns with so many orders, that those complaints quieted down quickly.

His grandmother May only added to it one Monday morning, by bringing so many invitations to the post office that the post office of Hobbitton and xxx was blocked and the one of Bywater snowed under.

He snickered as all those pointed hinting of neighbors, who apparently had been worried that they would not be invited were silenced and they were questioned to step in as voluntary assistant postmen to carry all the letters. Some of them even bringing their own invitation to their mailbox. May truly had taken his wish to heart to invite every neighbor and big family of Hobbiton and then there were all those relatives, aunts, uncles, nephews and cousins once, twice and thrice removed who could not be forgotten as well.

Bell and a company of her close friends helped him with baking up a storm of pastries, cakes, tarts, biscuits, and cookies, storing everything away before they continued to prepare soups, breads, and other delicacies.

 

A hobbit feast usually lasted the whole day and night and continued even sometimes into the next day, when enough leftovers were still on the tables.

Harry watched all this with big eyes and barely concealed curiosity and excitement.
Bilbo tried to include him as much as possible and give him the feeling that he was truly of great help to them. He knew it was important for the boy’s self esteem and the army of Hobbit ladies and lasses seemed to realize that as well, because they always welcomed him with bright smiles and at least two cookies or three, until it got to the point were Harry began to secretly store them in his room in a cooky jar so to not disappoint them.

XXXXX

It was one morning a few days later, that Bilbo, sitting still a bit tired at his breakfast table, enjoying the coup of tea he had gotten used to drinking in peace before waking up his charge who became more and more lively with every day that his gaze wandered to his calendar and he noticed with horror that the adoption ceremony was only eleven days away.

Jumping to his feet, he rushed into his charge’s bedroom and hastily shook him.
“Uncle Bilbo? What’s wrong?” the boy mumbled tired, still half asleep and his eyes barely open.
“Get up, we have a lot to do today. We need to get to the seamstress and flower shop! By Yavannar! How could I have forgotten about the seamstress and your flower crown!” He exclaimed, making Harry only more confused.
“So we will not be baking more bread today?” He questioned, slowly coming to his senses and rubbing his eyes.
“No, Bell and her friends will have to manage without us. You can not step in front of Yavanna without a proper vesture and a flower crown!”

He helped the little boy out of bed and gave him a fresh shirt, before running back into the kitchen to prepare a quick meal. Bacon and eggs would have to suffice this morning.
He was just finished when his charged shuffled in, his cuddly dragon as usual in one of his hands.

Bilbo was truly happy that Harry loved the toy so much, even though he had to admit it was quite simple. He also was glad that the little raven had started to relax a bit and did not wake up at the crack of dawn any longer, although, he would never be a late sleeper.

 

“Bacon and eggs?” Harry questioned, having not gotten those things for breakfast since he had arrived in Hobbiton.
“Yes, quite simple, I know, but I fear we don’t have time for anything more extravagant today,” he said and sat down as well. For a few moments, Harry ate in silence, still growing more awake with the minute. Finally blinked and looked up, as if just remembering something and questioned: “Uncle Bilbo, what is a seamstress?”
“A seamstress is someone who tailors clothes. Like my shirts and trousers.”
“So, I will get my own cloth now?”
“You will get a ceremonial vesture and a few shirts and trousers for now, but I will buy you more once the hectic of the ceremony has settled down.”

“I am finished,” Harry said ten minutes later. His portions had increased, but in Bilbo’s opinion, he was still not eating enough. Fortunately, he would be adopted by a Hobbit, that meant seven meals a day to get his weight back to a healthy level.

“Well then, let’s leave,” he said and they left his house. Just like a few days earlier, they walked down Bagshot Row, however, once at the foot of the small hill, he took a slightly different turn, which would lead him directly to Hobbiton’s market place, were also the seamstress and flower shop was located.

“Will I get short trousers like you, uncle Bilbo?” Harry questioned as they once again walked past gardens and fields.
“Yes, of course, you will be a hobbit soon,” Bilbo retorted, making him giggle.
“Do you know already which color you would like for your shirts?” He questioned and watched as the little boy began pondering the question quite seriously. Finally, he said: “I like red and green like the grass in your garden!”

Bilbo wrinkled his nose, however, he quickly smoothed his expression over when his little charged turned to smile up at him. Red was not at all a color Hobbits favorite, they could be happy if the seamstress had any red fabric at all. But maybe he could talk him into a nice shade of blue. Blue like the sky and the water, Hobbits liked that much better.

They reached the marketplace 15 minutes later and even though they were quite early, it was quite busy already. Harry watched in awe as Hobbit ladies examined and picked out the best vegetables and fruits while little children, even smaller than he himself, had gathered around stalls that sold cakes and sweets, begging for a cooky or bonbon.

he had never seen so many people in one place, his family having him never taken further than the garden, and so he felt quite overwhelmed and shuffled closer to Bilbo, taking his hand.

“Don't worry, they won’t run you over. Hobbits are used to avoid little fauntelings like you,” Bilbo told him and then let to the edge of the marketplace, where the stalls adjoined at some of those flat Hobbit houses.

Harry could see the sign of a blacksmith and a baker and one sign with a needle and a threat drawn onto the wooden surface. He supposed that was where he would get his new clothes. However, when he entered, he frowned as he saw no rows with clothes at all, only a huge shelf with different colored fabric behind a counter and a footstool and mannequin standing to the side.

An old Hobbit lady was just busy sorting new piles of fabric into the correct places but turned around when she heard the silent chimb of the bell above her door.

“Mr. Baggins, good morning. And may I ask, who might that be?” She questioned, even though, Bilbo knew that she must have heard about Harry by now. every Hobbit had and besides, she was invited with the rest of the Proudfoot family.

“Good morning Mss Proudfoot. This is Harry, my soon-to-be son if Yavanna allows. We are here to get him a ceremonial robe fitted and maybe also trousers or two and a few shirts.”

“Well then, let’s get you onto the footstool, little man. I will measure you quickly and then you can pick out the colors for your new wardrobe.”

Seeing that Harry looked quite nervous, Bilbo guided him over and lifted him onto the little stool, smiling at him reassuringly.
“Mss Proudfoot will only measure the length of your arms and legs and the girth of your chest and waist so that she can tailor for you clothes that fit well and not fall down your bony backside, he joked and squeezed the small hand.

“Oh.. ok…” Harry nodded and smiled shyly at the elderly lady.

Bilbo could see how nervous he was at the close physical contact, but slowly he relaxed as he realized that Mss Proudfoot was indeed not going to hurt him and soon the measuring was over. He helped the little boy down from the footstool again and let him over to the front desk, from which they would have a good look at the assortment of fabrics.

“Now, what colors would you like me to use for your clothes?” the Hobbit lady asked, coming over as well after having put her notes to the side.

“He would like to have greens and reds,” Bilbo told her, as Harry didn’t look as if he would answer himself, considering that he had buried his face into his cuddly dragon.

“Reds? Oh my… let me go to my back room, I think I may have some red velvet still over there,” she said and bustled off.
It was as Bilbo had feared, red just wasn't a hobbit color and as Mss Proudfoot returned a few minutes later, the red turned out to be more of an auburn than anything else.

“Do you like the color, Harry? Or would you like Mrs. Proudfoot to look for something else?” He questioned anyway and Harry actually glanced up shortly, before he nodded. Bilbo suspected that he mainly did so, to get out of the store more quickly, but it was fine with him. Maybe at some point, Harry would not be so frightened anymore and then he could always take him shopping a second time.

“Well then, we will take something in this color, but maybe only a nice waistcoat and a light yellow and light blue shirt to go with it,” he told the seamstress, before turning to the many shades of green which occupied nearly three rows on the shelves.

Twenty Minutes later, he and Harry left the store. In the end, he had ordered much more than originally planned, but he had the money anyway and no other close family members to spend it on. However, he had told Mss Proudfoot that one set of clothes and the ceremonial vesture would be enough to have ready in eleven days.

The market had emptied out a bit and therefore, they hadn't to wait long as they arrived at the stall of Ms Boffin. Of course, the young Hobbit less also had a shop close by, having inherited it from her aunt, however, on Market days they would find nobody there.

“Good Morning Mr Bilbo,” Acacia Boffin greeted cheerfully as he and Harry stepped in front of her and Harry even dared to look up at her.
“Oh my, what a cutie,” Acacia gushed, pulled a single, orange gerbera from a huge vase and handed it to the little boy. “Here you go. It’s for your room to make it more bright and homy,” she explained, before turning back to Bilbo, asking: “Here for the flower crown?”
“Yes, indeed,” Bilbo nodded and began to look around.

There were some flowers that went into every flower crown, flowers like Baby’s Breath who stood for festivity, or Daisies which symbolized innocence and loyal love. But each parent picked out a few flowers which would express wishes they held for their child’s future. Of course, Harry was getting an adoption ceremony, not a naming feast, but the symbolism and meaning to the hobbit community was the same. In a sense, an adoption ceremony was nothing else than a naming ceremony which was held by a hobbit and a child who was not parentally connected.

 

“I have thought about the flowers I want Harry’s crown to contain,” Bilbo began, pulling a folded piece of parchment from his pocket.
“There are of course a few I should not leave out, like dandelions for happiness, forsythia for a good nature, the children flower gardenia and finally lily of the valley because yes, even for a long term bachelor like me, I feel that he has completed my life, given me something I could not have comprehended before.”

Acacia nodded in understanding. All the flowers he had listed were part of every flower crown so far anyway.
“But I would also like you to add heather, so that all his wishes may come true, he truly deserves such a blessing from Yavanna after the life he has lived so far. Crocus so that he may always be cheerful and never abused again. Bluebell, just in case some of the foul nature of his relatives linger in some hidden part of his soul, they will keep him human. Then bittersweet, because everybody should be strong enough to always say the truth and alstromeria and delphinium to build the strength of his character up and give him some self-confidence.

“That are some odd choices you have there Mr Bilbo,” Acacia blinked at him. That Hobbit lass certainly had no issue to speak the truth.
“Why?” A small voice suddenly questioned and Bilbo chuckled. “Delphinium stands for boldness and alstomeria for aspiration, two character traits which are not very respected among Hobbits.”

Harry frowned, clearly confused. “Why give them to me then?”
“Because you are so quiet and timid, that a bit of those character trades will not make you into a rude person, only help you along the path of your life,” he explained and Harry nodded, even though he still lucked confused. Ruffling the boy’s unruly mob of black hair, he turned back to Acacia and told her: “Just sent the bill over to my house and I will bring you the money once I can breathe again. Preparing an adoption ceremony truly is a time-consuming matter.”
The hobbit chuckled and nodded: “Only if one is planning a feast like you are, Mr. Bilbo,” she teased, before taking the list of flowers he held out for her.

“I will do my best,” she promised.
“Thank you. Have a good day,” Bilbo said his goodbye, before turning back to the market.
“So, is there something else you need or would like to have or just look at?” he questioned his charge, adding: “Mss Bolger has the best honey cakes in the whole Shire. Shall we get one for tea?”

He waited patiently as Harry once again began to ponder his question seriously, finally, he said: “We should go to a cobbler. My old trainers will look not good for the dress for the ceremony.”
Utterly bewildered, Bilbo blinked a moment at the boy, then looked down on him and noticed that, yes indeed, the child was wearing shoes. “I fear there is no cobbler in Hobbiton. You see, we hobbits don’t wear shoes. It’s stifling and keeps us from feeling the ground beneath us.”

Just like he had before, Harry looked down as well, going through the exact same process of realization.
“Oh… so should I go without shoes then?” he questioned.
“You could definitively try it but only if it does not hurt your feet,” Bilbo smiled and watched in amusement as the child flopped down where he stood and pulled his shoes off.
“Now I am a hobbit as well!” he exclaimed and jumped up again.
Chuckling, Bilbo took the discarded pair of shoes, just in case and turned to MrBBrownlock's stall.
“Let’s get some honey cakes and go back home. I bet Bell could do with our help.

XXXXX

On the day of the ceremony, Bilbo got up extra early. He prepared a nice, filling breakfast for Harry, consisting of yogurt with honey, nuts and fruits and then laid out the vesture he would be wearing.
The ceremonial vesture had arrived only the day earlier, rather late for his taste but it was beautiful. Made from the crispest white silk he had ever seen, with many flower embroideries in green, golden, blue, purple and even red. Mss Proudfoot seemed to have remembered Harry’s liking of the color and added it to the traditional ones.

He then dressed in his best pair of trousers, shirt, and waistcoat, before waking Harry. It took the boy a moment to realize what day it was, but then all sleepiness vanished from his face and he jumped up in excitement.

“Today is the day!” He exclaimed, running over to the chair where Bilbo had placed the gown.
“Wait, breakfast first today, not that you get any stains onto the vesture. I am not sure if Yavanna would like to see marmalade smudges on her clothes,” he told him and ushered him into the kitchen.

Harry’s eyes grew wide as he saw the array of delicacies. There were the two last pieces of treacle tart and the honey cake from the market, fruits, three different kinds of sweetened oatmeal, pancakes and much, much more.

Harry ate from everything a little, which added up to a fair amount for him and Bilbo hummed in happiness as he saw that his little charge slowly could manage bigger portions. He then sent Harry into the bathroom to take the bath he had prepared.

The ceremony would be held at twelve so that the guests would be able to have a quick snack for elevenses first and lunch could be served afterward around 1, which meant they still had time to prepare.

Of course, in the end, they were cutting it close, with all the prepared food items needing to be carried out to the field and the deliveries from the various taverns and neighbors needing to be looked over, but in the end Harry stood dressed in front of him at 5 to eleven, which meant the ceremony would only be delated by 15 minutes, which, as his grandmother had just recently remembered him so kindly, was common hobbit curtsy.

 

“You look beautiful,” he commented and tried to smooth over his charges' hair. And it was true. Harry was surely a pretty boy. Cute as well, like every child, was, but he had a unique beauty around him, which was only enhanced by the pretty vesture and the colorful flower crown that stood in stark contrast to his raven black hair.

Harry blushed and nervously took his hand. “Will we go now?” he questioned, sounding just as anxious as he looked.
“Yes, do you still remember the procedure?” Bilbo asked, partly for making sure Harry still remembered and to distract the boy.
“First we go to the south field. Then, when your grandpa calls us up, we will step onto the podium. You will ask her for her blessing and then I have to ask her as well… and give her my flower offering,” he added as Bilbo pressed a small bouquet of baby’s breath and lilies of the valley into his hand.

“Correct, Bilbo nodded, opening his round front door. They walked down Bagshot Row and as soon as the southern field came into view, they could see the many hobbits that had already arrived and were still arriving. There was a busy and joyous chattering coming from them, like a swarm of eager bees. As they greeted neighbors, friends and family members.

Looking down, Bilbo saw that Harry was staring at the scene with wide, nervous eyes.
“I think they all came. Don’t worry, I will be at your side the whole time,” he tried to reassure the little raven, but it didn’t seem to calm him much.

Bilbo wondered if all children of men were this anxious, or if it just had to do with Harry’s horrible childhood because hobbit children certainly were more open and outgoing. When they finally arrived at the edge of the field, most of the guests had found a seat and were now eagerly awaiting the beginning of the ceremony. Bilbo let Harry around the border, unseen from curious eyes behind thick, green bushes until they were standing behind the podium, where his grandfather was already waiting.

“Good, good, we can start then,” Gerontious, nodded and waved at Harry, who even dared to wave back and mumbled something about May and delicious cakes.
“I’ll make sure to tell her,” his grandfather chuckled, seemingly having caught Harry’s attention in the unseverable mumbling. But then again, His grandfather had raised four children and was much more experienced than him.

He watched as Gerontious climbed the small staircase and the disappeared from sighed, however, his words could still be heard clearly.

“Welcome my dear hobbits to this joyous occasion on this beautiful summer’s morning!” He greeted and loud applause and cheers rose. Harry found it a bit odd, it remembered him more of a game show at the TV than a ceremony, but he didn’t dare say anything and anyway, the hobbits seemed far more cheerful than any people he had gotten to know so far, so he thought that it kind of fit.

“A fortnight ago my dear grandson Bilbo found a small, sad boy on one of his midnight strolls and moved by his sad fate, he decided to take him home. In these two weeks since, the boy, Harry, has proven to be a kindhearted, polite and loveable child, just as every faunteling is, even though he is not. This is why today he will request Yavanna to add this little boy into our hobbit community and give him the child as a son in all but blood so that little Harry may have a bright and cheerful future and experience all the love this world and our village has to offer!”

A second round of applause and shouts of “Hear! Hear!” sounded.

“PLease, as the ceremony will now proceed, send your own pray up to Yavanna, so that she may look kindly onto his request,” Gerontious concluded and Bilbo took Harry by his hand to lead him onto the podium as well. The little boy’s eyes had grown even wider, however, he did seem XXX to actually protest or try to stay behind.

The podium was roofed by a flower archway and in the middle stood the old, stone statue of Yavanna hobbits believed to have been made by one of their talented ancestors, despite that one, meddling wizard insisting that its style was more reminiscent of the elves from the first age. A wooden, beautiful ornamented tray stood in front of it and two huge faces with greenery to each side.

That was, where Bilbo let Harry too, turning their backs towards the audience. He motioned for Harry to kneel down, before doing the same next to him.
“Dear Mistress Yavanna, kindest of all the Ainnur, protector of your beloved children and giver of everything that thrives in the earth. This humble Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, Son of Bungo Baggins and the formidable Belladonna Took calls upon you so that you may bless my wish to adopt this child I brought in front of you, into the folds of my family. So that his future shall be bright and full of love. Allow us, to take him into our community as another faunteling and help us guide him on his path.” He recited the first part of his prayer, ending it by throwing an apple branch onto the wooden tray as a symbol for acceptance. He then nudged Harry, who blinked at him once in confusion, but then began to recite his own petition.

 

“Dear Yavanna, my name is Harry and…” he began his voice shaky and barely audible but Bilbo had no doubt that it would reach the green lady.
“...and two weeks ago Bilbo found me. I was feeling so bad and hurt, but he took me with him. He is so nice, the nicest person… er… hobbit I have ever met. He cooks the most delicious porridge and soup and bakes the best cookies and I feel so much better now. So please allow me to stay with him. I would be so happy…” he ended.

Bilbo smiled at him with pride. His little charge had written his prayer all by himself, refusing any help, declaring that the green lady would know if he cheated and not bless his adoption. It was far from the traditional prey a stand-in usually recited for the child, which mostly, in the few occasions an adoption had been needed in the shire at all, had been little babes still, unable to speak for themselves.

Harry leaned forward and placed his own small bouquet of flowers onto the tray, he stayed seated, however, knowing that a second part would follow, however, first it was Gerontious turn to address the audience again. It was a good thing as well because some of the more eager hobbits and faunteling already moved to get up and applause.

 

“Usually, the Adoption Ceremony would end here,” he began loudly so that he would be heard even over the rustling of skirts and children’s chatter. As expected, the all fell silent politely again, although with rather confused expressions on their faces.

“However, when my grandson and little Harry visited my dear wife and me last week, something incredible happened. Something maybe only my dear late daughter has ever witnessed in her life, having been close friends…”

It was then that Gerontious broke off as loud gasped and supprised explanations could be heard.

Confused, Bilbo began to look around, not knowing what had the hobbit community in such an uproar all of the sudden, however, he couldn’t see anything. But then, he noticed that Harry was trying to hide behind his legs and some of the guests were pointing at him. Turning around, his eyes widened in shock.
“By Yavanna!” he exclaimed, staring at the flower crown which suddenly was in full bloom. Never in his life, had he ever seen such a sign from the green lady. Not at any naming ceremony nor wedding. But this could not be any clearer and no other force than the green lady herself could have done this miracle. Smiling, he wrapped Harry into his arms, Yavanna had accepted their bond and agreed to make Harry one of her own.

“Am I in trouble?” Harry’s timid voice was barely audible from where it got muffled in his shirt.
“No, you are not. Yavanna just accepted our offerings,” he exclaimed and hugged the little boy a bit tighter.
“She did?” he questioned and Bilbo, to show what he meant, let go of him again, lifted the crown from the raven mob of hair and showed it to Harry.
“You see its blooming now. Only the green lady could have done this. This is a clear sign. You don’t need to worry.”

Harry’s eyes widened then as well before his face split into a broad smile. It was certainly the happiest Bilbo had seen him so far. As his new son reached out for his crown, he handed it back, before they both turned to look at Gerontious again, who cleared his throat and tried to find the right words.

“As I was saying,” Gerontious picked his speech up again, “Something peculiar happened, which let us to the belief, that the blessing of the Ainnur lay upon this child.”
“What happened?” A curious faunteling in the second row called out and chuckling, Gerontious told: “Harry here repaired a broken plate by will alone. There is no visible mark left that show that it was ever destroyed.”

A second round of gasped followed and the word wizardry could be heard. Certainly, wizards held a respectful position in Arda, however, Hobbits mostly found them meddlesome and bothering. Disturber of peace they had named the one that sometimes had come by when Belladonna had still been alive. She had been the only one who actually befriend the strange, tall grey man with the pointy hat.

It was quite clear to Bilbo that the other hobbits didn’t know how to react to the news that the child who had just been adopted into their community may possibly be a wizard. It was also very hard to associate the little boy with the meddling traveler only the older generation still knew.

In the end they all just watched quietly and curiously as Bilbo let Harry to the statue and motioned for him to kneel again, while he kept standing behind him.
“Green Lady, please hear me again. I come forth for the child you entrusted to me and who showed signs of unusual gifts. Please reveal to us the fate of this boy, so that we may guide him to the best of our abilities!”

This time everybody was waiting with bated breath. As strange as the thought of having a wizard among them was, they all had been witnesses to the interest the green lady apparently had in the child. However, nothing was apparently happening- until, all of a sudden, Harry gasped and clutched his chest.

Bilbo quickly turned him around and tried to prey the small hands away as the boy’s breathing got more ragged, however, he was momentarily blinded by the brightest light he had ever seen which seemed to come out of Harry’s chest.

 

Behind him, he could hear frightened and excited exclamations, but he paid it no mind.
“Harry, are you hurt?” He questioned, sounding stupid to his own ears.

“My chest is burning,” he sniffed, tears falling from his eyes. “It hurts!”
“Hush, I am sure it will end soon…” Bilbo tried to soothe both of them, but he felt utterly helpless. His son was crying of pain in front of him and he could do nothing more and wonder why the Valor hurt him like this. Had they not listen as he told them about his charge’s horrible past? Did he not ask with the flower offerings for a happy future without pain?

 

He wrapped his arms around the little raven, however, he had to close his eyes as the light brightened to an unbearable level. He could even see it through his closed eyelids. Then the light began to subside and a moment later he dared to open ´them again.

The light seemed to have burned away the color of Harry’s vesture, however, he was still pressing his hands to his chest, so Bilbo couldn’t see any more.

“Let me see,” he requested and pried the shaking hands carefully away- he kind of feared what he would find beneath considering the damage on the shirt. However, as his eyes finally landed on Harry’s bare chest, he could only blink. The skin was unblemished. There were no thick scars and boils as usual on burned skin. Instead, just between his protruding collarbones in a triangle, there sat three rather large, brilliant orbs, filled with the most mesmerizing light that could ever have existed.

Carefully, he touched one of them, but it was cool to the touch. And then his eyes wandered to the runic inscription circling the gems (which he couldn’t decipher) and the one hovering above them all like a crown.

He gasped again, feeling as if he did so for the hundred times this morning.
“By all the Ainur, this is Illuvatar’s mark!”
“Shush!” His grandfather’s voice sounded suddenly next to him. “You better keep that quiet. It might be too much to handle for them. You know, we hobbits are simple folk. Too much magic and most of us will be scared.”

Bilbo nodded and tried to salvage the rest of Harry’s shirt. The little boy was still crying, although, more out of fright than anything else, Bilbo believed. Not that he couldn’t understand. He would be frightened as well if something like this were happening to him.

Gerontious turned back to the audios, trying to get a grab onto the situation:
“My my if that was no clear sign of acceptance? Let us celebrate this beautiful day and the new member of our village! The feast is waiting for us!”

They sighed in relief as the hobbits cheered again, fortunately, most of them were not known for hurting their heads over misteryious signs and runes for long and they all rose to storm the buffet.

“Welcome to the family, Mr. Harry Baggins,” Gerontious gratulated the child as soon as all seats had cleared and they had some privacy.

“Harry Baggins?” Harry questions, his eyes once again wide.
“Yes, of course, you are a Baggins now,” the old hobbit confirmed.
“Did you hear that?” exclaimed Harry, turning excitedly around to his new father. “I am a Baggins now. Just like you!”
“I know, Harry,” Bilbo chuckled and ruffled the boy's hair. “Does your chest still hurt?”
Harry shook his head. “It only feels warm now… and tingly.”
“Tingly?” Geronchioed echoed.
“Yes,” he nodded seriously. “As is someone is tickling my chest from the inside with feathers.”

“Well, that’s not that bad. And maybe a slice of cake will help, what do you think?” Bilbo suggested, stirring Harry into the direction. The buffet was a long line of tables, basically bending in two under the weight of the delicious meals and drinks. Despite the many guests, the number scattered quite equally and they didn't have to wait long until they could fill their plates. Or rather, Bilbo filled their plates, as Harry was standing a bit to the side, still nervous about the huge crowd.

He chooses a bit of all the boy’s favorites and also gathered a huge bowl of soup for them to share.

 

“Let’s search for a table,” he said, once he had gotten everything and had returned to Harry. “Would you like to sit with Gerontious and May?” he questioned, thinking that some familiar faces would be good for now. Also, the tables were quite long and other hobbits would probably sit there as well.

harry nodded and began to look for the elderly hobbits, finding them long before Bilbo did.
“There they are!” He said pointing a little to the right. As expected, the table was already quite crowded, the Gamgees having chosen this place as well.

“This Harry is Bell’s family. Her husband Hamfast and her children Daisy, May, Marigold, Hamson, Halfred, and Samwise.”
Harry waved at the shyly and the children immediately held out a collection of the same flower out to him. All but one. Samwise, the youngest son, seemed to be even shyer than Harry and tried to hide in the skirts of his mother.

“Oh Sam, there is no need to be affrighted. That is only Harry, the boy I told you about.” At these words, sam carefully glanced up and after a moment of watching Harry like a deer caught in a headlight, he held his own flower out as well.

Harry smiled at him brightly, instantly liking the silent boy, but then turned to Bilbo questioningly, showing him the small bouquet he now held.

“That are irises, they stand for friendship. Bell’s children tell you that they want to get to know you better and become your friends,” he explained.

“Thanks, i want to be your friend as well!” Harry suddenly turned back around, smiling a bit wider, however, his expression grew grave the next moment.
“But I don’t have a flower to give you,” he mumbled and looked down onto his bare feet.

“That doesn’t matter,” Bell spoke up. “It’s a tradition that children hand these irises over at a naming feast. They each got some at they own naming ceremony as well. We dried them and now they hang as a lucky charm in their bedrooms. If you want, you can come over one day and take a look.”

Harry hesitated a moment but then nodded.

His somber mood was quickly forgotten when the hobbit children decided that they had eaten enough and pulled him over to the middle of the meadow where a lot of young lasses and lads were dancing already.

 

“But I don’t know any of the dances!” Harry protested, feeling a mixture of excitement over having finally made some friends, sadness that he couldn’t join in their fun and embarrassment over having to tell them.

 

“No need to worry. Mum says I am the best dancer in Hobbiton! I will teach you in no time! Halfred announced with puffed out chest and soon Jarry was taught the Quick Skip and various other dances by a group of excited children as more and more joined the original group as the evening progressed.

 

He took to the dancing like a fish to water. Harry had always been a cheerful child that loved activity and thus dancing was the perfect thing for him. No one knew it yet, but a few years, for now, he would find out that his talents for sports stretched further than just dancing.

 

XXXXXXXX

 

“Bilbo,” the voice of Bell suddenly sounded behind him, and he turned around. His cheerful mood dropped a little as he saw her approach with a slight frown.
“How can I help you, Bell?” he questioned as she had reached him.
“I think you should take your son home. I saw him a bit to the side, looking as if he will fall asleep where he stands any minute,” she told him and one corner of her mouth quirked into an amused smile.

 

“Is it so late already?” Bilbo questioned, looking around for the town clock, but it was so dark by now, that it wasn’t visible anymore.
“It is certainly past midnight,” Bell informed him. “I know that because its that time May and Marigold get tired at parties as well, despite how they proclaim that they are still fit enough. I brought them back home a while ago.

“Thank you, I will go and get him,” Bilbo thanked her, pressed her his untouched glass of meet into her hands and went to look for his little charge.

As Bell had told him, he found Harry a bit off from the crowd of dancing hobbits, close to the podium, looking almost dead to the world.
“Let’s get you into bed,” he told him and lifted him up into his arms as the faunteling swayed on his feet.

harry let his head fall onto Bilbo’s shoulder instantly and the Hobbit began to walk the short distance to his smial. On his way across the meadow, many a hobbit and faunteling wished Harry a good night, but Harry barely responded, so Bilbo thanked each of them and promised the children that Harry would come out to play the next days.

Once back in his smial, he carried Harry into his bedroom, sat him down on the thick mattress and quickly changed his vesture into a nightshirt. However, as he tucked the boy in and kissed him goodnight, he noticed that Harry was beginning to burn up. His bad conscience instantly spoke up. He should have realized that Harry’s weakened body would not be able to handle a night as long as this one had been yet. He should have brought him home at least an hour ago, better even two, but he had not realized it.

“Sleep well. I will leave your and my bedroom door open. So, if you feel unwell, just call and I will come,” he told his charge and decided to quickly fetch a cold cloth and put it onto Harry’s forehead. Hopefully, it would help lower the fever so that the boy would feel fine again by the time morning came.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: The Journey Continues...

 

“Hallo Harry, I am back. Has everything gone well?”

Harry looked over his shoulder from where he was standing at the changing table and smiled as he saw Bell waving at him.
“Yeah, everything is fine. I am just changing Marigold,” he told her while turning around and swiftly, with practiced movements, tying the cloth nappy together.

“Oh, I am so sorry that you had to do that, but since we changed her diet to more solid meals she is going every evening around this time. I had hoped to be back in time to spare you this… it’s not quite pleasant.”

Grinning, Harry shook his head and picked the baby with the golden curls up.
“It’s fine, I don’t mind. You know I love children,” he told her and went to lay the younger of the two Gamgee girls back down in her crib.

“I know, and it still amazes me. All hobbits have a love for children, but it still doesn't mean that the hobbit men are eager to change diapers. They rather spoil them with cookies their wives have baked earlier,” Bell told him with a crooked smirk.

 

Harry liked the middle-aged Hobbit lady, with her sharp wit and cutting tongue, although she was rather different from the mothers of any other of his friends.

 

“Bilbo bakes as well, you know,” he said, feeling as if he had to defend the honor of the male hobbits, to which he counted himself at least partly.
“Well, he is a long term bachelor, he has to. Especially since he had gotten a son,” Bell pointed out as they left the nursery. “You have a good tutor in him, I hope you know that.”
“I do,” Harry nodded, following her out into the sitting room. Hamfast was nowhere in sight, but Harry assumed that he had gone down to the cellar to retrieve a late snack.

 

“And I don’t mind looking after the girls or changing her diapers. But you know what I would appreciate?” He questioned with a grin and Bell quirked an eyebrow.
“No, but I am sure you are going to tell me,” she said.
“I would be happy if you don’t cook carrots on the days I watch them, because it's bloody impossible to get them into Marigold.”
Bell sighed as if reminded of long-suffering. “I don’t know what the child has against carrots. It such a delicious vegetable. But she hates them.”
“Yes, and my presence doesn’t make her any more inclined to eat them,” he grinned and stood up.

 

“Anyway, I will be going now. It is rather late and I promised Bilbo to help him with the preparations for the Summer feast in the morning.”
“You do that, have a good night and thank you again. Do you mind if I just stay in my armchair and not escort you to the door? The day has been rather long,” Bell asked, waving at him.

 

“I will just close the door behind me,” Harry told her, waving as well.

 

As he left the smial and walked the short distance to his uncle’s house, he pondered how his life had changed during the last three and a half years. He was only ten but tended to do this a lot, the neighbors always joked that was Bilbo’s influence because that Hobbit couldn’t stop thinking about strange things as well.

 

He barely could believe how frightened of the hobbits he had been in the beginning, even though he remembered it still quite clearly. However, since his adoption ceremony, much had changed. He had become the closest friends with Sam and to his uncles (not very serious) displeasure, also with Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took.

Truth to be told, he could kind of understand his uncle, whenever Merry and Pippin were involved, they landed in the xxx kind of trouble, but those two were also the best friends anybody could wish for. Thes always stood together, even when it came to punishments for their mischieve. They never tried to run away and frame him. Neither did Sam, although, he never truly deserved any of the chores they had to do. Samwise was always the one who tried (and failed) to talk them out of their ideas. He was also the one always saying “in for a penny in for a pound.”

 

His friendship with the latter had developed more slowly than the one with the two trouble magnets. Sam had been even shyer than he in the beginning, but Harry had come over to his family’s smial as promised after his adoption ceremony the very next day (and quite surprised a still sleepy Bell) and even more often after they had found out his talent for dealing with children.

 

By now he was a well known and accepted member of the hobbit community and especially young parents liked to ask him to babysit their children once in time to get a little break. He often got a few pence, a cake or a bag of cookies in return, even though he didn’t demand any payment. He liked caring for the little fauntelings and would have done so even without it.

 

Having arrived at the green door of his home, he stepped inside and onto the foot mat and took the small brush from the side table to brush his feet (or more precisely, his scales) clean off the dirt.

 

That was something else that had changed. Since they had called upon Yavannna to reveal the secrets of his nature, he had slowly begun to turn into… well, they actually didn't know that yet.

It had all started with the fever after the party, which had grown really bad during the night and neither Bilbo nor Bell had been able to get it down for a few hours. The next morning, however, after he had awoken feeling refreshed and fine, he had noticed that golden and bronze scales had appeared on his feet.

 

Bilbo had tried to stay as calm as he had been able, although, in retrospect, Harry knew he had been shocked and worried. It had been the topic in Hobbiton for a whole week and curious flaunting of every age had come up to Bagshot Row to get a look at him and his strange feet.

 

However, it had been Pippin who had just looked at them one day, shrugged and said: “I don’t understand what the fuss is about. Just brush them as we do with the hair on our feet. I don’t see the differences.”

 

Ever since then he had developed the habit to take care of them like a hobbit took care of his feet, although he tended to polish and not brush them most of the time. Amazingly, the hobbits had understood the concept and suddenly his scales had become nothing more than a bit odd-looking version of feet hair and he had grown just as proud of them as hobbit were about their curly.

 

By now he could control the amount of skin they covered. They could spread as far as almost a full body armor, leaving only his face and stomach bare or retrieve them to the point where he almost looked like the human child he should have been.

 

But that was not all that had changed about him. One morning he had awoken with a heavy and thick mane of black hair, that fell to the pits of his knees. For some reason, he was about as possessive and vain about his hair as he was about his feet. He liked to braid them back in a single or two separate braids and used a fair amount of time each week to do so. He always started with his braid at the top of his head, braiding them in a french braid style. Sometimes, when the fancy struck them, he even weaved a bronze ribbon into them.

 

Of course, he liked to wear them open and just flowing as well, but they tended to get into the way with his daily work and even more horrible had been the few times after playing with his friends, after which he had returned home with half the forest knotted into them.

 

His uncle had needed hours to get all the small branches and leaves out and it had hurt a lot.

 

Then there had been the fever, after which he had thought nothing had changed about him, only to realize that Bilbo could not understand a word he was saying. For three days straight he had talked some “quite scary sounding gibberish”. That was at least how Bilbo had described it. Fortunately, that phase had ended in the third evening and never repeats itself.

 

He walked further into the house, but couldn’t find his uncle in either of the main rooms. Therefore, he went into the kitchen and from there out into the garden. As expected, Bilbo was sitting on his favorite bench, looking out over the garden and smoking a pipe.

 

“Let me try?” He asked with a grin as he sat down.
Like usual when he asked that question, Bilbo retorted: “You are still far too young, Mister. You can try some pipeweed when you turn 25.”

 

Smoking was something every hobbit did, at least, every male hobbit. He only had seen a few lesses carrying a pipe around so far, even though it wasn’t frowned upon. Getting a pipe for once 25th birthday, was also a point of pride, as parents expressed their acceptance that their foundlings were growing into an adult slowly but surely.

 

Off age, however, a hobbit only came with 33, which was rather late in Harry’s opinion.
For Bilbo, he knew, this topic was quite bothersome as he knew that Harry would most likely age differently, but in which way, if he would need longer or shorter to reach adulthood, he could not yet say.

 

Although Bilbo had the suspicion that Harry aged far quicker than any human or hobbit child, he was quite mature for his age. It reminded him a lot of the aging process of elves, who grew and wisened a lot in their first few years until their bodies stopped to change at all. But then again, for an elf or even a human, Harry was still incredibly small, not taller than his friends Merry, Pippin, and Sam.

 

“I guess I better go to bed then,” Harry announced, feeling suddenly exhausted to his bones. He knew this feeling and knew what it meant. another wave of fever was coming and when it did, he better would be better off in bed.

 

His uncle blinked once, clearly confused by his sudden change of mind and looked at him. After only a second his gaze shifted and he sight, Bilbo just knew him too well.
“You do that, my lad,” he said gravely. “Shall I let you sleep in tomorrow?”
Harry shook his head. He mostly felt fine the morning after a fever and he had promised to meet up with his friends.

 

His uncle gave him a disapproving look but nodded nonetheless. Harry knew the hobbit believed he should rest more than he did after one of his growth spurts.
“Sleep well, uncle,” he said, before turning around and walking back inside. Once in his room, he quickly changed into his nightshirt and crawled under his warm duvet.

 

He didn’t fear to fall asleep. he had gone without problems through enough fevers to not affright of them. Therefore, he simply closed his eyes and waited for sleep to claim him.

________________________________________________________________________

 

When Harry awoke next, he felt unusually disorientated. His body was clammy, his mind was muddled and he still felt hot. He had never before woken during one of his fevers and didn’t quite comprehend it at that moment. All he knew, was that his duvet and room felt suffocating. He needed fresh air and to cool down. He needed to feel the wind under his wings…

 

Therefore, he pushed his blanket to the side and got out of bed. With shaky legs, but sure of his path, he walked down the dark hallway, his sharp predator eyes, easily spotting the manny chests, cabinets and antique chairs his uncle had decoratively placed along the walls.

 

“Harry, is that you?” Bilbo’s voice sounded as he turned into the kitchen and walked to the back door, however, he ignored him, too intent on his goal. He could already feel how nice it would be to feel the cool breath of the nightly winds, to take up into the sky and watch the world grow smaller and smaller beneath him until everything was nothing more than small spots beneath him.

 

It was close to dawn, the perfect time for hunting and his body yearned for fresh, warm meat. deer where manifold in the shire, he was sure it would be an easy hunt.

 

He pushed the back door open, stepped into the dark night and looked up to the slender moon and glistening stars. There was a heaviness in the air as if Varda herself was watching him, so he bowed in respect, before straightening again and returned his eyes to the sky.

 

With his gaze locked on the silver moon, he spread his wings, the appendages ripping painlessly from his back, as the rest of his body began to change as well. Even before his transformation was completed, he pushed himself up from the ground, knowing that his uncle's garden would be too small to accommodate his larger form.

 

Higherandhigherherose, the feeling exhilarating. It was as if he was coming home. The wind dancing around his nostrils smelled of Manwe, their lord and a deep, rumbling voice seemed to welcomingly whisper in his ears. Mahal, he thought.

 

But then his mind drifted away, focused on the landscape below him as his instincts took over. He flew over to outskirts of the forest and began to circle the small gatherings of trees until he found what he was looking for; a herd of deer.

 

On silent wings, he followed them until they settled down in a clearing. With precision, he dove down. As the animals noticed him, it was already too late. His claws sank into the back of a large stack, killing him instantly.

 

He lifted his prey easily and flew over to the next meadow, where he proudly examined his first kill for a moment. The stack was quite huge. Finally, he began to devour it. Once he had picked it clean, he rose again, now feeling much heavier as before. And tired.

 

He landed in front of his house, shrinking back to his human form as he did so. A sudden all-consuming tiredness overcame him. His vision went in and out focus and he could feel his consciousness slipping away. His first transformation had been exhausted.

 

The last thing he saw before the world went black, was his uncle Bilbo rushing out of their smial.

 

________________________________________________________________________

 

Harry awoke to a warm hand combing through his hair. His body and head felt heavy and for a second, he just enjoyed the feeling and tried to remember why he felt as if farmer Maggot’s horse cart had run him over, however, all he could recall was a strange dream.

 

“A dragon, hu? You gave me quite the scare.”
Frowning, Harry wondered how his uncle could know about his strange dream and blinked his eyes open. The world seemed awfully bright, the colors too intense and all outlines too sharp. He could see tiny dust flakes dance in a breeze that should be invisible but was not and every wrinkle in Bilbo’s slowly aging face.

 

“Eru’s ways are truly wonderouse.” Bilbo smiled softly at him, before leaning back into his chair and continuing. “By the way, I hid that awful corpus for you,next time, please dig the grave yourself, my back isn't as good anymore as it once was and I hardly could let the poor stack ly to be found by some unfortunate hobbit or hobbit less who would surely have gotten the scare of their life.

 

Slowly a realization made it through Harry. His eyes widened and he sat up with a shocked gasp.
“That… wasn’t a dream? I truly turned into a dragon?”
“Well, at least we finally know what creature you are. Although, I have to admit that I never heard about dragons having the ability to transform into humans,” his uncle answered offhandedly, before getting to his feet.
“Do you have a wish for breakfast? I have not yet prepared anything.”

 

The answer meat popped up in Harry’s head, but he quickly stopped himself before he could voice it out loud and instead questioned: “Do we still have a piece of May’s cheesecake?”
“Yes, I put the last slice away for you,” Bilbo winked and left his room.

 

Normally, his uncle was adamant about not eating sweets in the morning, as it was the most important meal of the day, but whenever Harry has had one of his episodes, he let him pick whatever he wanted.

 

“Because that was worse than any cold I have ever seen and you deserve a little pampering,” the hobbit had said once and Harry had never dared to argue, not when it meant cakes and cookies for first breakfast. Or second, in this case, he noted as his eyes wandered over to the tall grandfather clock that stood next to his door.

 

Looking down on his scale-covered legs, Harry decided to just pull one of his tunics over and then left his bedroom as well. The style made him look a lot like an elf, Bilbo had once said, although, like an elf on a warpath, considering his scaled body underneath. Of course, he could subtract them, but within the years,k the scales had become more and more a part of him and he tended to feel naked without them by now.

“Do you want me to inform your friends that you will not be able to help with the preparations for the summer festival today?” Bilbo questioned as he entered the kitchen a minute later.

 

Shaking his head, Harry sat down in his usual spot. He felt quite fine by now and was sure after he had eaten something, he would feel even better. Besides, he had looked forward to this day for the entire month and didn’t want to miss it now.

 

His uncle sighed but nodded anyway as he placed the last large slice of cheesecake in front of him.
“But I want you back for elevenses. You need some energy after that night. Transforming into a beast as huge as a dragon can not have been easy.” He potted around for some minutes, preparing himself the fourth cup of tea this morning before he joined his adoptive son at the table.

 

Harry, glancing up from his westfarthing plate, could immediately see that something was on his uncle’s mind.
“You don’t have to worry,” he mumbled, feeling a bit ashamed that he didn’t take Bilbo’s worries more seriously. The Hobbit had done so much for him, had given him a whole new life and he thanked it by mocking his concern.

 

But Bilbo merely shook his head.
“That’s not it, lad, I am not worried. Not truly anyway. I know that it was Eru who blessed you with that dragon power, for whichever reason. But I was just thinking... My mother, Belladonna, used to tell me stories about an old friend of hers. An elven lord, known as the keeper of knowledge. I am considering sending him a letter. Maybe he had some information about dragons. It surely would be helpful, just so that you can know what else to expect.

 

Harry fidgetted nervously on his seat. He knew Dragons were generally not very well regarded in middle earth.
“Will you tell him that I am not evil?” he questioned hesitatingly.
“Of course. I will describe in detail what has happened, and how Eru revealed your inheritance to us. That should be enough for anyone to see that you are not one of those evil, gold hoarding creatures,” Bilbo sniffed and reached for one of the cookies that layin a beautiful bowl on the table.

 

“O...Ok,” Harry agreed, but the last piece of cake in his mouth and stood up. He was already rather late and would have to run down to the little river where he was supposed to meet with Merry, and Sam, if he still wanted to arrive in time.

 

________________________________________________________________________

 

Walking down Backshot Row, Harry tried not to think about the last night. He was quite glad that his day was packed and he wouldn’t have much time to think about what had happened. He wasn’t quite sure how to feel about his inheritance. Bilbo was right of course, Eru had made him what he was, but the fact remained that he was a dragon. A fire-spitting, taller-than-a-house dragon. That sounded kind of frightening to his ears.

 

At least he didn’t feel any different.

 

He turned around the last corner and immediately spotted his three friends sitting under the huge tree that formed the center of the party field. As usually, memories of his adoption flooded his mind. It was still one of his fondest memories, even though he had made many more good memories in the years since he had been taken in by Bilbo.

“Merry, Pippin, Sam!” He called out and waved excitedly.

 

To his surprise, Samwise jumped to his feet and came running over.

 

“Master Harry! Master Harry! You will never believe me what I have seen this night!” His friend began excitedly. Immediately, it made an uneasy feeling rise in his stomach.

 

“A dragon Master Harry! A real, greater-than-a-house dragon!”

 

“Yes, yes,” Merry interrupted their friend. “And it flew like a shadow over River’s Field,” he snorted, but Harry could only avert his eyes sheepishly.

 

He wasn’t quite sure what to tell his friends. He didn’t want to lie to them. He hated lying, but could he tell them the truth?

 

However, even as he was still pondering the question, Pippin must have noticed something, because he suddenly exclaimed: “By Eru, don’t tell me you have seen something as well?”

 

Harry’s head snapped up and he felt a blush rising to his cheeks.
“He has, Pippin, he has!” Merry pointed out unnecessarily and began to jump up and down like a small hobbit lad. “Was he truly as big as Sam says?”

Shrugging his shoulders, Harry seared for the right words. He wanted to tell them and he thought, that his friends had been great with his oddities so far. They had helped him a lot accepting what he was. So they truly deserved his honesty.

 

“Oh, spit it out! Why so tight-lipped!” Pippin demanded and Sam added, “If you have seen what I have seen, it is only right and fair to tell them so that they stop laughing about me!”

 

Lifting his hands in defeat, Harry gave in. “I haven’t exactly seen the dragon…”
Sam’s face fell, so he quickly continued: “Because… well… the dragon was me.”

 

For a short moment, stunned silence rang between them and Harry could only hold his breath and hope that he hadn’t just lost his best friends.

 

“You were…” Pippin began,
“...the dragon?” Merry finished, their eyes flickering up and down his body until they settled on his scaled arms and legs.

 

Feeling suddenly very embarrassed, he quickly subtracted them.

 

“Oh you don’t, Master Harry!” Sam suddenly exclaimed.
Blinking, Harry looked up to his friend, who continued: “We knew all along that you are not a hobbit or a human! None of us ever believed that elven- or fairy- rumor your uncle spread. We joked about it sometimes, didn’t we?”

 

Merry and Pippin nodded.
“He is right. Who has ever seen an elf with scales?” Merry shrugged.
“Or a fairy? They would fall from the skies!” Pippin laughed.

 

Relieve washed through Harry like a warm river and he let out a breath he hadn’t been aware he had been holding.

 

“So, you are not scared?”

 

Now all three of them laughed.
“It’s you, Harry. Why should we? The old Ohm is scarier!”
“Will you transform for us?” Pippin suddenly asked, surprising him.
“Um…” he began uncertainly. He wasn’t sure if that would be a wise idea in the middle of Hobbiton. “Better not.”

 

His friends looked disappointed for a moment but then sighed.
“You are probably right. The Ohm would get a heart attack if he saw a dragon. Lucky that you didn’t transform during day time,” Merry nodded wisely.

 

Feeling that a change of topic was in order, Harry cleared his throat and asked: “So, how far along are the preparations?”

 

“They haven’t even really started yet. You know how Hobbits are. They love their peaceful mornings.”

 

“Then we can still choose what we want to do,” Harry grinned and looked around, not quite sure what he felt up to. He was still tired and feeling slightly sore. He hoped it wouldn’t be always like this.

 

“Oh, I know!” Pippin exclaimed. “We can go check if Farmer Maggot will bring some of his mushrooms!”

 

Sam snorted, but Harry could see that Merry was all for it and before he knew it, he was dragged along Sam further down the road that let out of Hobbiton.

 

“Maybe we can test if they are any good?” Pippin hummed excitedly while they were.

 

“Prepare for stable duties, Mr. Harry,” Sam muttered next to him and Harry had to silently agree. Still, as always the two of them followed the unwise ideas of their friends and trotted along the forest path.

After about 20 minutes Pippin grew bored because he began to sing:

Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go,
But under a tall tree I will lie,
And let the clouds go sailing by. *

 

It took them almost an hour to get to Maggot’s farm, but finally, they crouched down behind a hedge at the edge of the hobbit’s courtyard.

 

“He has gathered a whole basket!” Merry whispered rather loudly.
“But his dogs are guarding it,” Pippin pointed out. “How are their names again?”

Wincing, Harry eyed the three great beasts, they were known to be vicious.

“Grip, Fang, and Wolf,” Sam answered unhappily.
“Well, maybe we could,” Pippin started, shifted slightly and a small twig broke beneath his feet. The sound echoed loudly in the silence of the morning.

 

The ears of the dogs immediately perked up and Harry winced as a low growl vibrated through the forest.
“Not good!” Sam winced, but it was too late.

 

The beasts had gotten to their feet and were now sniffing the air searchingly.
“We better go now,” Harry hissed and pulled on Pipin’s jacket.
“But what is with the mushrooms?”
“You can try them later, I think Harry is right,” Merry agreed with him and they began to retreat up the hill they had come from.

 

However, the dogs had apparently found their trace, because they were now following them in a frightening straight line.

 

“We better run!” Sam hissed and they quickened their pace, which of course made much more noises that sneaking. Soon Grip, Fang, and Wolf were hot on their heels, chasing them up the hill.

 

“Can’t you transform and fly us out of here?” Merry asked, his voice quavering.
“No! I am too big for the forest! Besides, I would rather be hunted down by dogs them by a mop of scared hobbits!”

 

“We hobbits aren’t that scary!” Pippin hissed offendedly.
“Then you never have been scolded by uncle Bilbo!” Harry hissed back and tried to run even quicker as he heard the dogs closing in on them.

 

“Look out!” Merry suddenly shouted in front of him. He quickly tried to stop, but Sam slammed right into his back and before he knew what was happening, he was falling down the steep end of the hill.

 

For the first time, he was truly glad for his scales as he rolled over roots, rocks, and branches. He finally came uncomfortably to a halt on a pointy rock. He just wanted to push himself up, when Pippin and Sam landed with a dull oomph on his back, knocking the air out of his lungs. For a split second he wondered where the strange happenings were when he needed them.

 

“At least we got rid of the dogs! They don’t dare to follow us down here!” Merry announced who was standing already.
“Great,” Harry grumbled and sighed in relief as Sam finally got to his feet and the weight on his back lessened.

 

“And even better!” he heard Pippin say, from where he still lay on top of him. “Mushrooms!”

 

“Really?” Sam and Merry questioned excitedly and Harry sighed in resignation. Hobbits were just all the same in the end. But at least it made Pippin finally get up from his back, to gather some of the delicacies, of course.

 

“Let’s bring them to your uncle, Harry. He can cook well and my mum will pull my ears when she learns I was at Maggot’s. She thinks that all mushrooms belong to him.”

 

Harry didn’t point out that, as the owner of the fields and this part of the forest, the mushrooms indeed belonged to the farmer and just nodded, glad that they would return home.

 

When they finally reached the party field again it was bustling with Hobbits. However, they passed it quickly and continued up the road until they reached Bag End.

 

Bilbo was in his kitchen as they entered. His sharp eyes immediately zeroed in on the arm full of mushrooms Merry, Pippin and Sam were carrying and he threw them a disapproving look.

 

“I thought you lads wanted to help with the preparations and not steal from Farmer Maggot?”

 

“Oh, we didn’t steal from him,” Pippin began wisely.
“We found them in the forest, not even close to his farm, right Sam?” Merry continued.
Sam nodded obediently. “He is right, Mr. Bilbo.”

 

“I don’t believe a single word you say!” Bilbo said sternly, but then snorted and added: “Put them on the counter, I will fry them for you tomorrow. Maybe with some home made dumplings?”

 

His friends cheered and Harry watched how they dumped the content of their arms in the sink.

 

“but now off you go!” Bilbo shooed them out. “You have promised to help at the field so helping you will!”

 

“And what are you doing to help,” Mr. Bilbo?” Merry asked cheekily, earning himself another glare.
“Baking cookies! Baker Proudfoot is busy enough with all the bread we will need!”

 

The left the smial, Merry and Pippin already planning to sneak back in an hour or two to nick some cookies and finally began to help for ernest.

 

As it turned out they were kept much too busy to go nick anything in the next couple of hours. Harry secretly had the suspicion that Bilbo had asked Bell to keep an eye on them because the hobbit lady gave them one task after the other.

 

Not that he could blame his uncle, he had seen the four bags of flour in the hallway, he was baking up a storm and wanted some peace for that.

 

________________________________________________________________________

 

As usually with Hobbit festivals, suddenly all tables stood, the buffet was arranged and lanterns light.

Harry returned to Bag End and changed into one of his finest tunics before he walked with his uncle down to the Party Field.

 

“I am so glad Hamfast lend me his horse wagon to bring all those cookies down, it would have taken me the whole evening surely otherwise!” Bilbo told him with a tired sounding sigh, but his eyes were awake and sparkling and he had a little, happy jump in his steps.

 

“How were your preparations?”

 

Turning his head and glaring at his uncle, Harry questioned: “Busy. Did you tell Bell to watch us?”
His uncle blushed and averted his eyes.
“Don’t worry, I can understand,” he told Bilbo, just as they arrived at the Field.

 

The band of hobbits was already playing and a couple of young hobbit lasses and lads dancing.

 

“Let’s join your friends,” Bilbo proposed and headed for a table were already Merry, Pippin and Sam with his parents and sibling sitting.

 

Nodding, Harry followed his uncle over to the buffet where they filled a plate each before they carried it over to the crowded table.

 

“Hey Harry, good you could make it,” Merry piped up teasingly.
“Yeah, you took so long, we were worried you would stay at home after all,” Pippin added.
Rolling his eyes, Harry picked up his fork. “You can’t be here that much longer. Besides, I had to help uncle Bilbo to load the horse wagon or you would have no cookies now.” He pointed at the three chocolate and caramel cookies on his friend's plates, before starting to eat himself.

 

“If it is so, you are excused,” Merry said graciously before biting into one of them.
“Oh thank you so much Mr. Brandybuck. So have we missed anything interesting yet?”

 

“Well,” his friend began thoughtfully “it is still too early for any beer or met induced embarrassments. But Lobelia arrived in an extraordinarily audacious dress made from green net lace. I think it is supposed to resemble the grass in spring, but she looks more like an exploded frog.”

 

“Yes, my dear cousin’s wife always had a unique fashion sense,” Bilbo sighed heavily, but Harry looked around to see if he could catch a glimpse of the lass’ newest dress. Unfortunately, there were far too many hobbits on the field and it was getting too dark already.

 

His attention was redirected when he spotted Marigold waving at him with a drool-soaked cooky in her chubby fist.
“Hmm, that looks delicious. Are cookies better than carrots?” he questioned her and earned himself a happy giggle.

 

“How can you be so at ease with girls?” Sam asked him, his face scrunched up in confusion.
Harry just shrugged. “They are just hobbits as well.”
“No, they are not,” his friend argued.
“What else are they then?”
Sam’s face scrunched up even more. “They are lasses. Hobbit lasses. Not hobbits.”

 

“Oh Sam, that’s quite enough. Lasses are hobbits as well. Be glad for it or you wouldn’t be sitting here eating cookies right now,” Bells voice sounded scoldingly above the hubbub.
Sam glared at her, but Harry just snickered. “She is right you know. And girls aren’t that bad.”

 

“You will make a fine husband one day,” Bell smiled and turned back to her twins, however, with that, the conversation was not over.

 

“If you think so, Harry, you might be delighted to hear that one of my cousins, tulip Brandybuck, has discovered a liking for you,” Merry piped in, gesturing at a table behind Harry.

 

Turning around, he caught sight of a young, brown-haired hobbit lass in a sky blue dress sitting there and watching him intently. As soon as she noticed that he was looking back, she flushed and almost fell from her bench.

 

Merry and Pippin began laughing, but Harry felt far too awkward to laugh with them.

 

“Well, I thought you like girls?” Pippin teased.
“I do, but…” he began, flushing now as well.
“But…?” Merry prompted and Harry found himself forced to admit: “But not that way. Aren’t we far too young anyway?” he added quickly, ducking his head.
“Says the most mature of us,” Pippin snickered, before petting him reassuringly on his shoulder. “Don’t worry. At least not as long as she doesn’t send you a gift basket or flowers.”

 

Blushing even more, Harry nearly choked on his lemonade.

 

“Now, now. Don’t scare him, boys,” Bilbo rescued him. “Harry is right, you are still far too young to think seriously about courtship. Ms. Tulip might feel a slight infatuation, but there is no need to encourage her.”

 

“You could always dance with one of the twins,” Bell winked and Harry grinned back at her.
“Will do that later.”

Marigold kicked her short legs happily and waved his cooky at him again.

 

“Before you go seducing Samwise’s baby sister, let’s go have some fun!” Pippin piped suddenly up and pulled him up on his arm.
“I heard the old Hornblower brought a howl barrel of the best Longbottom pipe-weed and I finally want to try some!”

 

“But you are not 25 yet!” Harry protested, not liking that idea at all.

 

The smoke of the weed had always itched his lungs, so despite its pleasant smell, he didn’t like it at all. Only when he could smell it faintly on his uncle’s waistcoats did he find it soothing.

“Don’t be such a spoil-sport!” Merry chided him and dragged him along. “Every young Hobbit tries pipeweed before they are officially allowed to!”
“But I don’t want to! I really think this is… Sam, help me, please?” He turned to his most level-headed friend, but to his horror, Sam looked for once just as excited as Merry and Pippin did.
“Mr. Harry, I think you might be a bit sensitive right now. It’s only pipeweed, what should happen? We cannot even get drunk from it.”

 

They pushed him down behind an old willow tree that stood close to the small river that bordered onto the party field.

 

“Wait here,” Pippin announced, “I will quickly go and get us a portion of the pipeweed.”

 

Harry watched desperately as his friend vanished between the high grass to sneak up on the barrel of Longbottom's finest.
“But how are we supposed to smoke it? We don’t even have a pipe,” he tried one last approach looking up to his remaining two friends.

 

“No problem,” Merry waved him off and pulled a very old looking pipe from one of his pockets. It had golden ornamentations along the handle, which he found very beautiful, but knew hobbits would generally consider atrocious.

 

Hobbit generally preferred the simple things and pleasures of life, and he mostly did so as well. He had no eye for heavy gems and such, but he had a weakness for gold, which probably shouldn’t surprise him as he had heard many tales about the love of dragons for the shiny metal.

 

“Don’t worry, I brought this. It belonged to my great, great, great grandfather the eccentric Gormadoc Brandybuck. It recently came back to us as a Mathom. Nobody will miss it,” Merry told him with a broad grin.

 

Resigning himself to his fate, Harry sighed inwardly. Maybe he would be lucky and Pippin would get caught. Unfortunately, luck was not with him today. Pippin returned only a minute later, tiny flakes of strong-smelling leaves falling out of his full pockets.

“I got it!” He announced and stretched his hand out for the old pipe. “I will claim the first drag,” he added as he stuffed the pipe fuller than Harry had ever seen Bilbo do. Sam handed him his tinderbox and the pipe was soon lit.

 

Grinning, Pippin placed the mouthpiece at his lips and inhaled deeply. He sighed happily and released a big cloud of light grey smoke that wafted around their heads.

 

It instantly made Harry’s nose and lungs itch, the sensation seemingly traveling from his head deep into his chest. With watery eyes, he tried to wave the smoke away as the need to cough formed in his lungs.

 

The pipe was passed to Sam and another cloud of smoke joined the first one. The uncomfortable itching in his chest grew stronger and grew to strangely warm pressure in his lungs as finally, Merry released his lung-full.

 

“Your turn,” Merry said and tried to give him the pipe, but he only shook his head violently.
“No thanks,” he croaked out, trying to keep the pressure inside his chest. There was a still unfamiliar instinct whispering in his ear that if he didn’t, the outcome would not be pleasant.

 

“Don’t be shy, it tastes, really good, not like the stuff the tall folk is rumored to smoke,” Pippin encouraged him, but Harry only shook his head again.

 

“Mr. Harry, it truly is nothing bad,” Sam added. “the taste is soft and only slightly tart. There even is an underlying sweetness to it, like tart honey.”

 

He shook his head a third time, determined to stay his ground against his friends for once. However, to his grown horror, Merry announced, well, then we need to convince you differently.”

 

Before he knew what was happening, Merry took him into a headlock and pushed the pipe to his lips. Harry tried to press his lips as tightly together as he was able to, but Merry only said:

 

“We can not let you live without this great experience,” and pushed the mouthpiece through with force.

 

Shocked, Harry inhaled instinctively, but instead of nice, cool air filling his lungs, the thick, warm smoke entered. The itching and pressure grew to an unbearable level. What once was pleasantly warm, grew seeing hot and sparks seemed to erupt in his chest.

 

Suddenly knowing what was about to happen, Harry pulled violently away from his friends, just in time before the heat exploded out of him.

 

A jet of fire shot from his mouth, searing the side of the willow tree and the bushes that stood close to it. Shrieks could be heard from the party field as the fire burned a lane through the greenery and grass, spilling so far onto the field that the dancing hobbits could feel the heat brushing their bare feet.

 

He could hear voices shouting, wondering what had happened. He wanted to stand up and flee, hide somewhere, but he was still coughing, trying to regain his breath.
Suddenly three pairs of feet rushed past him. His friend’s voices were drowned out in the hubbub as he finally got some cool night air into his lungs.

 

Sitting up, he looked around frantically, expecting to see angry hobbits storming up to him, but nothing happened. HÍnstead, as his heart rate slowed down, the agitated voices grew silent again and a moment later even the cheerful music of the band started up again.

 

Relieved washed through him, but just as he thought that his secret was safe, the bushes in front of him moved. He tried to get up, but his legs were still shaking from the shock and then Bilbo appeared, falling next to him.

 

“Oh Harry, what happened?” His uncle asked, pulling him onto his lap and combing through his sick, raven hair.

 

However, he was too shaken to given an answer. Instead, he just buried his face into his uncle's soft shirt and held on tightly.

 

He felt so embarrassed and frightened by his nature. Why had he never considered that he would be able to spy fire? That he held such a horrible and destructive power?
What if the other hobbits ever found out what he was capable of? Not every hobbit in the shire was as open-minded as Merry, Pippin, and Sam. And not every Hobbit had an adventurous streak like his uncle Bilbo.

 

“Hush,” his uncle’s voice sounded soothing and the gentle hand wandered from his mop of hair to his back.

 

Footsteps sounded again and then there was Sam’s voice.
“We are so sorry, Mr. Bilbo.”
“Well,” his uncle retorted, “if you are, then you might explain to me what exactly happened.”

 

There was a short, heavy silence, but then he heard Pippin:
“I… heard about the barrel of Longbottom’s finest the old Hornblower brought. I wanted to finally try it out and Sam and Merry liked the idea as well.”

 

For a split second the silence returned, but then Merry continued: “Harry didn’t want to from the beginning, but we… I… thought it would be such a shame if he didn’t. So I…”

 

It was clear that Merry was unable to finish his tale, too ashamed by now himself.

 

“You forced him to try?” Bilbo questioned sternly.

“Yes,” was the mumbled reply from all three of his friends.

 

His uncle sighed heavily before he asked: “Has Harry told you about this night?”

 

“You mean the dragon thing?” Sam inquired, sounding once again almost excited.

 

“So if he has told you about his dragon nature, why has none of you ever thought that it might be dangerous to give something to inhale to a creature that produces fire in their lungs?”

 

Glancing up at those words, harry saw his friends wince and look down shamefully.

 

“We didn’t realize…” Merry began to mumble, but Bilbo interrupted him:
“Have you thought that Harry would be the only dragon in middle earth that couldn’t spit fire? Or that he is no real dragon in this form? That those scales are only for ornamentation, maybe?”

 

The silence finally returned, his friends looking properly scolded, however, Bilbo it became apparent that Bilbo was not yet finished when he said:

 

“I will speak to your parents first thing in the morning. Normally I am not the type of hobbit who cannot laugh about young lads like you getting into some mischevious, but you have disregarded a clear no from one of your friends. I will tell them what you did and that Harry had an allergic reaction to the pipeweed and you will stick to that story as well, is that understood?”

 

“Yes, Mr. Bilbo,” his friends mumbled.

 

Feeling heavy gazes rest upon him, Harry finally managed to separate from his uncle. His friends stood there, looking crestfallen.

 

“We are sorry, Harry,” they said and Harry could see they meant it.
“It’s ok, you couldn't have known,” he told them, wanting to cheer them up a little, but they all just shook their heads violently.

 

“Your uncle is right. We should have respected your wishes, Mr. Harry,” Sam said and Merry added, “and known that it would be dangerous.”

 

They said their goodbyes, before vanishing back to the hatch to the party field.

 

“Let’s get you back home, lad,” Bilbo said and helped him up. “Can you walk?”
Nodding, Harry held onto his uncle’s hand tightly and they took the same way the other hobbits had walked only seconds earlier.

 

Harry was somewhat surprised to see that the summer festival was still in full swing. But then again, he supposed not much time had passed since his accident.

 

Most hobbits ignored them, too busy with chatting, laughing, dancing, eating and drinking to even notice them passing by. However, they shortly excused themselves by Bell and Hamfast, who looked surprised but wished them a restful night.

 

As they left the party field and walked up Bagshot Row, the cool air and increasing quietness calmed Harry down further.

 

“I know they didn’t mean it, my boy,” Bilbo said after a while. “But what they were very dangerous and very disrespectful. Even a Took and a Brandybuck have to learn some good manners. There will be none of my cookies for them for the next month. ”

 

Harry managed to snicker weakly at his uncle’s words. He didn’t like that his friends were in so much trouble, but he liked that his uncle cared enough to protect him like this. Even after years, he had not forgotten his former life at the Dursleys.

They finally reached Bag End and Bilbo pushed the unlocked door open. The fire from the kitchen and living room spilled a soft light into the hallway, making the hobbit hole look warm and comfortable.

 

“Shall we have a little night-cap?” Bilbo asked with a smile and led the way into their kitchen. However, as they entered, they froze in surprise at the rather tall shadow sitting on the kitchen table that regarded them with round, yellow eyes.

 

“An owl,” Bilbo said, bewildered.
But that wasn’t what had captured Harry’s attention. “Is that a letter at his leg, uncle Bilbo?”

 

The End

 

 

*This little poem belongs to J.R.R.Tolkien. I claim no ownership.