Fate be Changed
Reborn as a Hobbit, Willowyn Proudfoot isn't about to let a doughy potato like Bilbo Baggins get himself killed on Gandalf's hairbrained idea of an adventure. She's taking his place. For better or worse.
Canon-divergance (in kind of a BIG way in places), fem!Hobbit!Harry, allusions to History and Culture not covered in the films (I did research for this motherfucker and I'm going to damn well show it off), mentioned slash only
PROLOGUE – Concerning a little Hobbit Lass
War leaves it's trail
in moonlight so pale,
it's shadows they flow
in rivers, in rivers
so put on my mask
I'll go where they ask
so I might once again see the
Roses of May
(Rose of May – Lyrics written and owned by Erutan/katethegreat19)
"Bodo! Bodo, look! My first daughter!"
"Dodo, stop shouting or you'll wake her!"
"Oh, sorry Holly-dear."
"I know you are, dear-heart, but she's only just gotten off to sleep," his haggard looking tired wife scolded from her bed, his mother and sisters bustling importantly around the bed, stripping and changing the soiled sheets, helping his wife into a new nightdress and generally settling the new mother.
It was a wonder. No, it truly was. Married for thirty years and finally a child, a little Hobbit of his own. And probably the last one to his name he thought sadly, going to his exhausted wife's side as Linda, Bodo's wife-to-be, a handsome young lass from the Baggins family, helped her drink from a wooden cup of water. He had nearly lost them both today. The birth had been furthest from easy and he himself often felt close to tears as his beloved's wailing cries of pain pierced through the earthen walls to shred his ears and heart to ribbons. They had been trying since their wedding day for younglings, and now, now, they had finally been blessed but...
"How are you, Apple?" he asked his wife softly, gently reaching out to smooth her rose curls from her sweaty face.
"Tired, sore..." she trailed off before a fierce smile cross her lips, "But happy. We have her. Our little girl," she whispered, shifting a little to stare at the tiny elfin face sleeping quietly in her father's arms.
"We have her."
"Willowyn Proudfoot! You get your backside back in this hole this instant young lady!" Dodo Proudfoot bellowed after his daughter as she streaked across the fields, far too far away to hear his angry bellow as he spotted Linda's younger cousin, his sunshiny-brown curls catching the light as his daughter's earthy dark brown joined him, the pair of them running towards the East Farthing woods.
He sighed in aggravation as he picked up the pretty forget-me-not blue dress that his mother, Blossom, had specifically taken in and hemmed for his little girl. It seemed as if she had waited until they were busy, shucked the dress, and slipped out the door in his brother's old shirt and breeches.
What was he going to do with her?
Holly, the Apple of his eye, only laughed when he shamefacedly slunk into her bedchamber and informed her of their daughter's latest escapade. The birth of their little girl had hit her health hard, and most often of a day, his sweet Holly could not find the strength to get out of bed.
"My ancestor's blood is strong," she giggled weakly and Dodo could only sigh and kiss her forehead in resignation.
Holly Took, tallest of her siblings, had mourned bitterly over her height as no boy would want to wed a girl so tall or with feet so bare of hair, but Dodo took one look at the lass with hair the colour of red roses, and eyes like grass and instantly fell head over heels in love and utter foolishness. He made the trek from the Shire to Tuckborough at every opportunity in his best green coat, with the brightest of yellow flowers he could find to give to her, blushing and stuttering that as lovely as they were, they weren't a patch on her and would she care for a walk? Almost every day he would come with a flower and an invitation, and every day, Holly Took felt herself fall a little more in love with the boy whose feet were so big he tripped over himself, with dark earth brown hair like the dirt of the garden she loved, and a wide dimpled smile that lit up the world around her.
"I just worry. It isn't lady-like, and certainly not respectable," he lamented softly as he stroked the skin on the back of her hand under his thumb.
"Oh pish. They're children. Let them play," she told him with a dismissive sniff and Dodo could do nothing but nod and agree.
"Do I have to?" the little red headed girl whined, eyeing the other with a look of poorly concealed revulsion.
Willowyn watched Old Mrs Brandybuck usher her granddaughter over to her, "Yes Berry, you do. Now behave yourself and play nicely," she ordered her granddaughter before turning and briskly marching off to go and coordinate her younger siblings and children.
She was a lovely looking thing, thick curly red hair, freckles that framed her cheeks prettily, and cinnamon brown eyes that looked closer to sunset-gold when the light caught them. She wore a velvet dress of pale pink with white lace on the hem and neck and large poofy sleeves, her feet were small and dainty and properly fluffed of hair for a Lass and her hands were clean and her nails were trimmed. She would have been even more lovely if her expression weren't closer to that of someone who had smelt fermented cow-dung under their nose.
"...Berry Bolger, at your... service," the girl forced out with a stilted curtsey.
"...Willowyn Proudfoot. Good evening," she stated in return with a graceful curtsey of her green dress that had the little girl blinking in surprise.
"Owyn! Owyn!" Beryl's face twisted in even further disapproval as a gaggle of boys tumbled to the ground in front of the other girl. Bilbo at the fore, his round face shining in excitement, "Old Took's telling stories over by the oak-tree!" he gushed.
"What kind?" the girl asked as she completely turned away from Berry.
"About Bandobras Took, the Bullroarer, who ran into the Goblin hordes and smashed the Goblin King!" he exclaimed, flapping his arms as the girl's face practically lit up with excitement.
"Let's go!" she squeaked and all at once, the boys, Bilbo, and the girl who hiked her skirts up almost indecently, all scrambled off towards old Took. Leaving Berry behind to sneer at the girl's retreating back in disgust.
"She's so tall, no one'll want her for a wife."
"They match her feet. Did you see them? They've gotten bigger! How is that even possible?"
"I'm quite sure I have no idea, but it's quite beyond the pale isn't it? I would feel sorry for her but with the way she's been acting since her dear-mother died is highly unseemly."
"Oh don't start pitying the thing. She's always been like this. Running off into the forest with the Baggins lad, looking for elves and worms and mud, coming back with pockets full of creepy crawlies and a head full of twigs and dirt. She hasn't changed one jot since her childhood. Where as Bilbo Baggins has nicely begun to settle down, now that is a respectable young Hobbit lad. It's him I feel for. Ever since her father threw her out, she's been living with him."
"Oh my! They aren't – you know – "
"What? Oh goodness no! Wild as he was, Mister Baggin is far too respectable for that kind of behaviour. No. I went over there for afternoon tea just a few days ago, they sleep in separate rooms with locks on the door. A smart precautionary measure, I feel. Even if Master Baggins is of the gentle-Hobbitly sort, that girl most certainly isn't."
Titters of amusement and agreement filled the little Hobbit hole.
And in the kitchen, leaning against the table with a cup of tea in hand and a stony look on her face, was the subject of conversation, stood opposite was her friend Grundo Chubb looking absolutely horrified, a stick of cheese raised halfway to his mouth from where he had been raiding the pantry and quite unaware of what his guest had been overhearing in the living room until he returned.
She quietly set her teacup down, and pushed away from the table.
"Do you think that's why the boys are all flocking to her? Because she's easy?" one of the girls hush-hushed in the other room.
Grundo's face went green with horror and Willowyn laid a hand on his shoulder, horrified blue eyes turned to her as the conversation in the other room continued, casting doubts as to her honour, respectability, though thankfully not her parentage – otherwise she would had to have smashed the teapot over the speaker's head, whether there was still hot tea in the pot or not. She shook her head and smiled kindly to her friend before silently leaving via the back door.
The next time she saw Grundo, he turned his face away, miserable and guilty, and hurried on without stopping to say hello.
Willowyn Proudfoot sat at the grave of her mother, gently replanting the flowers and herbs that she knew the woman loved. It had been ten years since her passing and she missed the woman a little more every day, with every snide passing comment, with every scornful glance at the pub, and considering glance shot her way in the dark on her way home.
It would have been funny if it weren't so sad.
The more things changed, the more they stayed the same.
In one life, she was hated by her family and the local community for being different, for being a freak. In this one, it was exactly the same but by now, she just didn't care anymore. These hobbits... These plump, merry, soft, amazing, thoughtless, ignorant, hurtful, humble, kind, human Hobbits. She sighed quietly.
"I wish you were here, mother," she whispered, fingertips grazing the top of the gravestone. It was dark, twilight on a fullmoon, she would not be disturbed in the graveyard, the only time she kept to herself in order to speak with her mother without glares and eavesdropping. "You and Bilbo were the only things keeping me here. Even father's turned on me, thrown me out, cursed me, glared at me. I cannot change who I am, and nor will I try. I'm sorry mother. I tried. I tried to be the Lady you asked me to be. But I can't."
Not when she could smell blood and fire in her nose. Not when she dreamt of castles falling and wizards fighting. Not when she dreamt of a dawn stained scarlet and the blood-smeared dead at her feet.
Dreams of a boy called Harry Potter, shards of a life no longer her own, like splinters in her brain that were painful until she dislodged them. Until she watched and accepted and assimilated them. She was not Harry Potter. Harry Potter was not Willowyn Proudfoot.
Harry Potter was an echo of what she once was. His time had passed, but his voice remained. His heart remained. Beating and feeling in her chest.
That kind heart that tempered her fury. That silenced her sharp, hurtful tongue.
Laughter echoed up from the village and she sighed, leaning forward to kiss the stone, "I will come back again," she promised before getting to her feet and flitting away in the darkness to avoid those merry Hobbits returning from the pub.
And from behind an oak-tree, Bilbo Baggins slid down the bark and into the roots, his stomach full of lead and glass.
How could he have ever believed those horrible rumours?
She hated hunting in the dark, especially when it was raining, but she didn't want to go back to the Shire right now, and she was right on the trail of a herd of deer. They had a half-lame female that would do well for both her and Bilbo if she could down it and get it back to the Hole. Which brought her to crouching behind a bramble thicket, her little home-made bow and arrow set. It had taken a great deal of time and some careful work in order to make it so that her bow wouldn't be useless in the rain, but she would have to dry it properly when she got back otherwise the wood would crack.
It was then that she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. Someone was watching her.
Huddled as she was in her heavy woollen cloak, her ears peeled for sound, she heard it – somehow – over the crashing rain and distant rumble of thunder. The sound of water striking on metal.
To the left.
She heard the shifting of leaves coming closer and lunged to the side, rolling into a kneeling position – bringing her arrow to bear, aimed directly at the hooded figure's throat. Or where she estimated this Big Folk's throat was.
"Stop! Or I'll shoot you in the damn face!" she snarled. Thankfully, they did stop, they even held their hands up, freely showing they had no weapons in hand. Her gaze narrowed. "What are you doing here?" she demanded coolly, politely shifting her arrow just enough that he could see it was no longer aimed at his head, but it was still up, and drawn, the only concession she was going to make was that.
"Hunting for dinner," came the response, male, gruff, older than her she was willing to bet.
"Big Folk don't come to these parts. I don't believe you, stranger. The truth, please," she requested coldly, shifting the arrow back to his face. She didn't know why, but she got the impression of amusement from him and narrowed her gaze.
"A Hobbit? You're the only kind that call us Big Folk," he observed. "I am Halbarad, current head of the Rangers protecting this area. And yes, I really was hunting for dinner. Though, the deer have long since run away now."
Her mind flew through options quickly, "If you're here for the protection of the area, why haven't any of us heard about it? Does the Thain even know?" she demanded sharply.
The Man laughed, "Such a suspicious little Hobbit!" he exclaimed, "I would approve if I weren't being held at arrow-point! Yes, Master Took is indeed quite aware of our presence. We stay out of sight for the peace of mind of you Little Folk, have no fear young Master, we mean no harm," he assured her.
And slowly, very slowly, she lowered her bow, relaxing the draw.
"I'm Willowyn. I... am sorry for my impoliteness."
He laughed again, dropping his arms, but making no move to draw a blade, "Quite. As I said, I would approve had it not been me held at arrow-point. As I am no longer in danger of such, I am free to applaud your precaution Little One."
She flushed, thankful for the heavy darkness and hood that hid it from his gaze.
Her first impression of the Rangers was that they were a surly lot, prone to long bouts of moodiness and silence, sitting in the dark and smoking. Halbarad was kind enough to let her remain with them until the rain tapered off, even share in some stew from earlier hunting expeditions and let her bed-down in an unoccupied corner of the camp, not far from him. She slept easily, but not lightly.
The next morning disproved her idea that they were moody and surly, apparently Rangers just didn't like being stuck out in the wet and the cold, used to it was they were regardless. They were actually fairly cheerful and friendly as they clustered around the camp-fire, frying up eggs and bacon and oatmeal porridge. Awkwardly, as they had been kind enough to give her shelter for the night, Willowyn set herself to aiding them in little ways that she could. Fetching more firewood, washing the dirty dishes that she found, even watching the pot and ladling out some bowls when the cook asked her to keep an eye on things briefly.
Halbarad could only grin when he came out and found her. It seemed as if the young Lass had managed to fit right in with their company in her own quiet little way, he could already tell his Rangers were both curious but also indulgent of the Halfling that trailed through their camp, occasionally with firewood in arm, or clean dishes. In the daylight, he could identify the Lass as not yet even thirty, twenty five, twenty three perhaps, but nowhere near of age. And his eyes weren't the only set that realised they were looking at a little Lass instead of a lad. His clue had been her name, the others found their eyes lingering on her much longer hair and gentle face. He hadn't been expecting her to be so sweet in appearance when she threatened him at arrow-point, shaking like a leaf in that storm with leaves plastered up one side of her sodden wet cloak. She had looked about as threatening as a soggy kitten.
"So this is the Proudfoot girl," Baradal observed softly, mug in hand, watching the girl slap greedy hands with a ladle and scold the laughing Rangers away from the breakfast pot.
"You know of her?" Halbarad asked curiously. Of all of them, Baradal was the one who paid the most attention to the local gossip and comings and goings of their Little Lambs.
He nodded, "She's considered a leper amongst them. Disreputable. Unlady-like," he grunted, taking a long draught of his bitter tea. "We'll be seeing her more often," he warned.
Halbarad chuckled, "That would not be so bad."
He wasn't wrong.
After that first meeting, she would show up again and again, sometimes happy, sometimes not. Sometimes she would stay only for a night, sometimes for several days.
She came to know each and every one of the Rangers by name, hear their tales, learn their likes and dislikes, the weapons they specialised in, and the places they'd seen.
They even taught her how to fight and got her a blade of her own, they called it a dagger, but in her hands it looked like a short-sword. She took to it like a duck to water, much to the hard-bitten mens' delight. The women teaching her little tricks like how to better bind her breasts, plants and herbs that would hide her scent, stop her monthly menses, and ways of putting a man on his back in under a second if he thought to touch her inappropriately.
Halbarad found it both amazing and hilarious that the tough Rangers of the North were now wrapped around the little finger of a Hobbit Lass who wanted nothing more than to be accepted, by her own kin, or by them. She just wished for a place to belong. And they did their best to provide and were rewarded with blinding smiles reserved just for them.
"Marriage, Bilbo? Really?" Willowyn asked doubtfully as she ladled out bowls of steaming hot porridge for their breakfast. She set them down on the table and gently tilted his chin up, checking his eyes, "Your pupils look fine. I can't feel any kind of fever..." she combed her fingers through his hair and Bilbo flushed hard, realising she was looking for injuries.
"I haven't hit my head, Willowyn!" he snapped as she released him.
"Well, excuse me," she huffed as she sat down, "But I can't think of any other reason for you to take leave of your senses like that."
"I haven't taken leave of my senses!" Bilbo flared unhappily as she dug into her food. "It's just... Everyone is speaking ill of you, and I don't like it. You're my dearest friend, and I worry," he explained as he dug into his own bowl. Perfectly seasoned with a pinch of cinnamon and a dollop of honey, wonderful. If there was one lady-like thing that Willowyn excelled at, it was cooking. It was perhaps her one saving grace amidst the feminine arts that Bilbo was actively aware of.
"Let them talk," the girl stated flatly, so flatly, that had he been anyone else, Bilbo may have actually believed that their words did not upset her. But they did, they cut her deeply and he damn well knew it.
"No," the plump Hobbit grumped, frowning, "I will not." He set his spoon down and caught her free wrist, she paused, spoon raised to her mouth and he was struck, yet again, by the fact that she was a lovely looking creature. Had she been more lady-like, there wouldn't be a Hobbit in the Shire who did not envy her, or wish to court her. Hair the colour of fresh tilled earth, eyes like grass, skin pale as milk, a gentle oval shaped face, delicately pointed ears, and dainty hands. But her fondness for mens' clothing, her lack of care for her hair and nails, the size of her feet, and her height, not to mention the wildness of her, they just... "It does not have to be permanent, if you do not wish it. But..."
She smiled, a trifle bitterly, "But should I ever cease my foolishness and become a proper Hobbit lass, no lad will ever wish to wed me with those horrid rumours? How they will forever haunt my steps? And the Baggins name will afford me some protection from that backlash? Your respectability, to counter my disreputableness?" she summed up easily. He nodded earnestly. She was his dearest friend, none of the ladies in the Shire had caught his eye and he knew, down to his very bones, he would likely remain a bachelor for life. But if he married his bestfriend, he could protect her from the worst, and when she settled down, he would have himself a wife who knew him, his quirks and flaws, and was perfectly able to work around them and accept them if she hadn't already.
"And what has Hamfast said about this?" she asked softly.
Bilbo paused, he... he hadn't been aware she knew about that.
He blushed, "He says it is a grand idea," he muttered, "That he would have offered you himself if Bell hadn't been promised to him."
She laughed and lifted his hand, kissing his knuckles, "You two are far too kind for the likes of Bell Goodchild and myself. I wish you both all the luck in the world," she told him sweetly, squeezing his fingers as he blushed, horribly pleased with her easy acceptance and support of his very secret relationship with Hamfast Gamgee. A relationship that not even his wife-to-be, Bell, knew of.
"Will you..." Bilbo trailed off, unwilling to say 'let me take care of you', because he knew, that out of the two of them, Willowyn was the one who was most able to take care of herself. The one able to go out into the world and face it with clear eyes and survive by herself. Bilbo had waited until she turned thirty-five before asking, just in case it was her intention to leave as soon as she came of age, but she hadn't, so he could only assume she desired to stay in the Shire.
She sighed and squeezed his fingers, "Very well. Just... Lobellia is not invited, understand?" she asked firmly, green eyes glinting hard.
Bilbo nodded in relief. Any excuse to keep the foul young woman as far away as possible was a good one as far as he was concerned.
Gossip came and went.
Talk of how 'That Proudfoot Girl' was starving herself with a scant three meals a day (for attention, the whispers said) came and went with only Bilbo and Hamfast to worry themselves.
Birthdays happened, and Willowyn's continued to be the least attended of any celebration in the village, her invitations to and from others mysteriously lost in the post while Bilbo's arrived unharmed and on time.
Hamfast and Bell married with Willowyn doing her level very best to be as lady-like and polite as possible so as not to embarrass or ruin the couple's special day. She presented them both with their own gifts, not usually done at a wedding but she wanted them to know she cared for them dearly. An embroidered bed-cover of buttercups and daisies that she made herself for Bell, and a set of gardener's tools for Hamfast that Halbarad was kind enough to buy at her request when next he stopped in Bree – she paid for it herself, he just carried it back for her. She kept her tongue and her smile even as snide whispers followed her back, even as mouths hung open in disbelief to see her so prettied up and well-behaved. Hobbits congratulating Bilbo on 'taming the shrew' who shook his head and frowned at them. After the wedding she went straight back to the way she was and all they could do was sigh, shake their heads, and pat Bilbo on the shoulder as if commiserating with him. As if he actually cared that she wasn't lady-like.
And apart from one incident, in the afternoon, when she came back and caught Bilbo and Hamfast in the act, things were calm and quiet and the same as they always were (even though for a month afterwards Hamfast would go pink whenever he saw her and Bilbo was completely unable to look her in the eye – all she'd done was say "Oh don't mind me, I'll be back out in a second" before grabbing a cloak and slipping away).
Then one evening, buck over one shoulder, two days of successful hunting with the Rangers behind her, and a smile on her face, she came home to every light in the burrow blazing.
"Bilbo?" she called as she shouldered the door open, "Bilbo, could you get the bucket from the larder set up? Have I got - "
And stopped mid-sentence at the sight of a Dwarf in her front hall, armed to the teeth with freshly sharpened blades.
Prologue done. Next chapter will see the beginning of 'The Unexpected Journey'. To warn my lovely readers, I'm taking from both book and film but predominantly from the film as I have better access to it and it's easier to work off.
Links to drawings and Illustrations of Willow will be put on my facebook and Tumblr soon (when I can find my blood scanner cable).