Just a wee bit of winter fluff.

DISCLAIMER: Professor Tolkien's wonderful characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night



"Mr. Frodo, come look at this!" Sam gasped.

Frodo hurried to where Sam bent over a branch lightly dusted with snow, gazing raptly through a small metal tube. Years ago, in one of his trades with the Dwarves, Bilbo had exchanged a basket filled with savory breads and cakes for one of these clever devices. Utilized by the Dwarves to inspect gems and crystals for flaws, the hobbits delighted in the magnifying tube's less practical uses -- seeing with astonishing clarity the barbs on a fly's leg, or perhaps the exquisite detail of a feather's irridescent structure.

"Oh Sam," Frodo breathed, taking his turn with the instrument. "How beautiful!" He marveled at the delicate crystalline forms, each seemingly unique.

"Aren't they lovely, sir? D'you think it's some kind of elf magic?" Sam whispered. "We may be the first ones ever to see snowflakes up close like this."

"Very possibly," Frodo smiled at the excited lad, handing back the tube. "It can be our secret. Let's see how many shapes we can find!"

The boys were very late for tea that afternoon, their cheeks and noses flushed with cold. And they couldn't keep their secret for long, excitedly dragging May, and Daisy, and even the Gaffer and Bilbo outside, so they could peer through the tube and see the magnified crystals for themselves. But the lads' most enduring discovery that winter turned out to be something more lasting and precious than any fragile snowflake. It appeared that friendship -- like magic -- could sometimes be found in the least expected places. You had only to look for it.