Ori never sees much of Nori growing up. Well, he does, up until a certain point. And after that, the occasions when he sees Nori are few and far between, and he has a feeling that it's only because he made him promise that he comes back at all. There are plenty of times he comes back but he doesn't let himself be seen. Dori will go to the kitchen first thing in the morning and there'll be a small round bag of silver on the table, propped up with a new pot of rare ink for Ori and perhaps a roll of fine cloth for himself. The money will help to keep them going for another well; while Dori's cloth and tea shop brings in money, there are times when it is all too tight and they have to scrimp and save all they can. In that way it is perhaps a blessing that Nori has left home. It's one less mouth to feed, a bit more on young Ori's plate to keep him going as he grows.
It's well known that Dori does not approve of his brother's choice of profession, but no one can deny that Nori is good at his job. He's sly and quick, and most of the times his victims don't even know he's taken anything until he's long gone and they are left to curse their ill fortune. Yes, sometimes he gets caught, but every time he escapes with little effort, leaving jailers in wonder at just how he got out this time. Most have given up hope of ever catching the wily dwarf, although he's well aware that Dain of the Iron Hills has a bounty on his head, but that just increases the thrill of it and sometimes he'll let them catch a glimpse of him just to rile them up.
Ori always looks forward to his brother's visits. He loves both of them dearly, but he has to admit, sometimes Dori can get a tad overwhelming in his mothering and at times Ori wonders what it would be like to sneak off with Nori next chance he got. In the end though, he can never pluck up the courage, and besides, any time he would go to ask, Dori is lingering, scowling at Nori as if it's not clear just how much he disapproves. Nori laughs it off, ruffling the younger's hair with a twinkle in his eye and telling him tales of his many escapades while the elder snorts and shakes his head, tutting all the while. Those are the times of course when Nori decides he will hang around long enough.
Sometimes, he is forced to stay, whether it is because there is someone looking for him or through injury, and no matter how much Dori chides him, he will not turn his brother away when he is in need and will hide him from the authorities if he has to, just to protect him. Because, Aule damn it, he's already failed him enough times and he's going to try his hardest not to let it happen again. The worst time was only a few years after he had left originally, and Ori is just about to go to bed when a few quiet thuds are heard at the door.
When it's opened, the middle child of Fitora nearly falls through the door, his red hair matted with dried blood and fresh blood, and his face is covered in bruises, and Ori has never seen anything like it and he's scared. Ever the worrier, Dori leaps into action, pulling Nori over to the armchair and looking him over, and then he's asking Ori to go and fetch Oin, because while he knows how to treat a wound (they all do these days, better to be safe than sorry), he fears that his brother may not let him know about all his injuries, and he is not going to risk such a thing.
Later, Ori is allowed back into the living room, and now Nori is bandaged and sleeping by the fire, a blanket tucked up around his shoulders. Dori is leaning against the fireplace, and it's easy to see how stressed he is, but also relieved that while Nori is battered and bruised, he will recover and bounce back to health, just as he always does. When he turns around, he can't help but smile as he notices that Ori has clambered up beside his thieving brother, curling up contently on his lap and has fallen asleep with one hand locked tightly around an auburn braid.
The next day Ori awakes and is disappointed to see that he's back in his own bed and for a moment his heart sinks, believing that once again Nori has left without even saying goodbye. His fears are alleviated however as he pads down towards the kitchen and can hear the raised voices. A sure sign that his older brother is still at home and that he and Dori are doing what they do best together. Arguing. Peeking around the doorframe, he sees that Nori is pacing back and forth, looking considerably better than he had before, and Dori is sitting at the table, lecturing him again on why he should turn to a more honest trade. The redhead will have none of it, refusing point blank and pointing out snidely how it was better for everyone. Two mouths to feed, but three incomes.
Nori, needless to say, was not impressed by his brother's naivety. Could he not see how much better this was for all of them? This way, they would be able to get by and he wouldn't have to sit and watch his family starve to death alongside him. He didn't want that. No, this way they would have enough money for food and a bit to set aside for when they needed something or deserved a treat. So he argues back at Dori, only stopping when he notices the shadow in the doorframe and suddenly Ori is there, hugging him tightly, and this is the reason he comes home. He and Dori bicker like an old married couple and are probably better off apart, but Ori needs to see him, and he needs to make sure that the kid is growing up alright and he's getting everything he needs and wants. It's what he promised ma, and it's the least that he can do when he's managed to fail them in every other way. Ori looks up to him, sees him as this heroic figure, but he's not. He's spilt innocent blood before, and he regrets it of course, but it's part of the job. And by now, he's hardened to it, putting his mind to other things. Even still, there's times when it strikes too close and he hides alone to cry, trying to forget the boy that reminds him of Ori, or the cheerful older man who is so much like Dori was for a while.
His first kill came when he was in his sixties, and to this day, he doesn't regret it. There are only two people who know what happened, and both will take the secret to their graves. Those people are Nori himself, and Thorin Oakenshield. The victim? His own father. The family has always been looked down upon a bit, each of the boys with different fathers. Dori's had been a great warrior, felled in battle, and Ori's had been a quiet dwarf, more interested in poetry and music than jewels, but who had been taken by illness and the harsh cold only a few winters after the youngest's birth. Both good men. But then there was Nori's father. A drunkard and burly man, Korth had taken advantage of their mother, and had no qualms about knocking around his own son once he had arrived. Nori took it, he didn't say anything, suffering in silence, even after their mother had perished and the three of them were left to care for themselves, and Ori was little more than a babe. So when Nori finds little Ori quivering in the corner, with a bruise blossoming on his pale cheek, he knows exactly who to look for, his whole body filling with rage. He tells Ori to go to Dori's shop and to stay there, and he himself finds his father. He holds nothing back, finally releasing all of his anger as he drags him out, because while he will take the hits, no one is allowed to threaten his brothers. Anyone who does will meet the sharp end of his knife and regret his decisions.
Ori does as he is told, running as fast as his little legs can carry him through the market, and he isn't even looking where he is going, worry coursing through him. He doesn't stop until he runs straight into a pair of legs and, with bottom lip wobbling, he shakily looks up into the stern face of Thorin Oakenshield. With that, he promptly bursts into tears, leaving the older dwarf wondering what he ever did to upset the dwarrow so much.
"Ori? Whatever is wrong?" he asks as he kneels beside the trembling dwarfling, placing a reassuring hand on his back. The lad is only a year older than his oldest nephew, but he's smaller and Thorin is almost afraid that he will break.
"Nori…his papa hit me…so he told me to go to Dori…that he had something to do…" he manages to choke out and he pulls his hand away from his cheek, letting the exiled king see the black and blue mark spreading across the pale skin. And he knows, realisation dawning in his eyes. Turning quickly, he orders Dwalin to take the small boy to his brother, and immediately sets off to the house of the brothers, wondering what he might find.
When he arrives, the front door is wide open and Nori is standing by the fire, gazing into it and cleaning a knife idly, but his gaze is distant and troubled at the same time. Slowly, Thorin crosses over to him, wary and knowing that he may still react in a hostile manner. Once he feels he is in no danger, he places a large hand on Nori's shoulder and remembers how young he really is.
"Where is he, Nori?"
The other dwarf pauses, and anyone could see the turmoil in his mind, asking himself if he should tell the truth, or lie. He is good at lying, but he knows that the dwarf king will be able to catch him out.
"Far down the river by now, I should say…I…I had to stop him…he hurt Ori…." He makes to try and explain, but Thorin cuts him off, a sort of quiet understanding in his eyes. Korth had been a worry for him, with his aggressive and hostile nature, and in a way, he is relieved, even though he knows he should not be.
"You did what you had to. It is perhaps not the best way it could have been dealt with, but it is done now. The past cannot be changed-"
"I will not tell Dori, if that is what worries you. I will tell no one. I swear, in Durin's name, I will tell none of what has occurred here. That is your secret, your burden to bear. But know this, Nori, son of Fitora. Had I been in your place, had it been my own brother that had been beaten, I would have done the exact same thing."
It is not something he would usually admit, but he knows that it is what the young dwarf needs to hear, his eyes widening in surprise before they quickly become masked once more, and it pains him to see one so young so full of troubles. Quietly, Nori nods, looking back down into the fire.
"He won't hurt anyone anymore."
The next morning, Nori is gone.