Bilbo’s childhood was not quite the same as most Hobbits’ childhood. While he was the son of Bungo Baggins, one of the most respectable Gentlehobbits to ever walk the Shire, this was also the Hobbit who, despite being a respectable Baggins, married one Belladonna Took. Now the Tooks were not exactly what one would call a fine example of Shire values. They were troublemakers, the whole lot of them, even those who had left their tween years behind. And Belladonna very much lived up to her Took name. She read and told stories from faraway places - but unlike others of her kin, she wasn’t content to only experience the world from her chair at home. She wandered around, though she was sure not to stray too far from her beloved shire and family. She once even accompanied her father’s old friend Gandalf to visit the Elves of Rivendell. Growing up, the stories she told of that place were some of Bilbo’s favourites. Learning the language of the Elves from her rivalled his joy of learning to cook from his father.
She promised him, that once he had celebrated his Maturity, they’d travel together, and she’d take him to visit The Last Homely House.
A promise to her only child she was never meant to fulfill.
It started innocently enough, even though it would change Bilbo’s life and that of many others in the Shire irrevocably. Soft snowflakes fell from the sky, covering the world like powdered sugar and stealing away all the harsh edges.
Even though Bilbo liked to show that he wasn’t a child anymore - he was 21 already! - that didn’t stop him from running around the snow with the others, fauntlings and tweens alike, waging snowball fights, building forts and figures out of snow and hurtling down hills on sleighs. Each evening he came home, his cheeks red, his feet cold and his grin stretched wide. He’d huddle down in a blanket in front of the fire, a mug of hot chocolate in his hands and listen to his parents bicker or tell him a story.
But the snow kept falling, and the winds grew stronger and the weather grew colder. His parents’ faces grew more and more worried and they barely ever left Bag End anymore.
Many fell ill, with Smials not built to withstand a winter like this, and food getting scarcer and scarcer. His parents headed out whenever the storms abated, trying to help out others, helping to care for the sick, to fortify homes.
Bungo Baggins had built Bag End to be the most impressive Smial in all of Hobbiton, he knew a thing or two on how to improve a home. Even if now it was not luxury that was the goal. Not even cosiness. Just survival.
Yul had passed. They had tried to make it as cosy as possible, with what they had, and it was a bright spot in this time of cold and darkness. It was not the festivities of years prior, but Bilbo and his parents sang songs and laughed together. Bungo blew smoke rings on his favourite pipe and promised to help Bilbo carve a pipe of his very own in time for his maturity. Belladonna told stories, some that were traditional on Yul, some that seemed wild and wonderful and that even Bilbo had never heard before.
It was an evening of joy and of warmth.
A week later Bungo fell ill. He passed three weeks later.
Belladonna cried and cried until her tears had run dry and then she stared into the white beyond their windows.
Bilbo felt numb and didn’t know what to do.
The Brandywine River had long since frozen over. Amongst everything else that was going on this did not take up much of the Hobbits’ attention.
Not until the first wolves started to cross over. Not until the Orcs followed. The Rangers came after them, lending their help to the Shire. But not before many had already fallen defending their home to their deaths.
Not before Belladonna Baggins stepped in front of her son, bashing the beasts head in with one of the ornate fireplace pokers Bungo had gifted her for their tenth anniversary. She bled out into the pristine white snow, the wolf lying not far, her son cradling her in his arms as his tears mingled with her blood, his desperate sobs swallowed by the howl of the wind and the distant howl of wolves.
Even the longest winter must pass. The snow and storms grew less and less, the air grew warmer. The ground began to thaw and Bilbo could finally lay his beloved parents to rest. He buried them together, intertwined in death as they had been in life. He buried them with Bungo’s favourite pipe. He buried them with his mother’s story book.
He held a small leather bound recipe book in one hand, and a book with sketches of his mother’s travels in the other. He didn’t look at the lovingly drawn picture of an Elven home, and remembered all the promises given and all the promises broken.