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Sacrament

by CRB and Ladyhawk Baggins

6 November 1419sr continuing...

Frodo bathed and then dressed in the set of Elven-made travel clothes Sam had set out for him. He was grateful for them, for there was no clothing at Bag End except what had belonged to Lotho. He knew none of his old wardrobe at Crickhollow would fit him now. His existing clothing would need to be altered, which would take far less time than waiting for new ones to be made.

His mind was so full of plans he felt a bit like a child being turned round and round in a game while wearing a blindfold.

He was suddenly in Ithilien, captured by Faramir’s soldiers.

Your choice of words was not wise, the darkness insinuated. And you delude yourself. Her affections are not meant for you. She has her heart set on another... her father said it. And even were it not so, she knows now you failed in your Quest. Samwise told her. You failed, and it cannot be undone.

“No.” Frodo sat down on the edge of the bed. “No. Gandalf said I did not fail,” he murmured under his breath. Why was this happening now? How easily that voice infiltrated his thoughts! He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind; to think on the Creator. ‘This will allow Ilúvatar entrance into your soul,’ Gandalf had said. He took deep breaths and held them.

“Mr. Frodo?” Sam had knocked and was poking his head around the door. “They’ve got supper for you out here -- I know you‘re in a hurry, sir.”

“I’m coming this instant, Sam, thank you,” Frodo replied, and shook his head a little to clear it just that much more. His hair was still damp. It would have to do. He didn’t care.

After a very quick supper, finished off with two helpings of Lily’s seed cake, Frodo put on his coat and cloak as well as a scarf. He didn’t really think he’d need it, but if Lily didn’t bundle up enough, she could use it...

At Will’s door, he paused a moment. Summer, it smelled like summer. Honeysuckle? It wasn’t in bloom this time of year, was it? He turned his head, looking for the source and realized his Elven-cloak smelled of honeysuckle. His breath caught. The scent was Lily’s.

He knocked precisely one hour after having seen her. Hal was the one who opened it.

“Frodo, come in! Good evening to you!”

“Good evening, Hal.”

Hal was a rather round hobbit with very red cheeks. He was friendly and open, and somewhat loud. I wonder if Lily prefers that, Frodo thought.

His mind wandered, his thoughts tumbling like a too-swift stream. I am so much more quiet ...but I cannot be other than what I am... He realized he did not truly know what sort of hobbit Lily preferred; he wondered again what the other hobbit was like, the one her father had spoken of before his death. Frodo tried to put such thoughts out of his mind. The voice might return. He made himself think of happier things, and Lily came instantly back into his mind. I am so glad she agreed to walk with me... she seemed happy to...

Frodo still had one ear open to Hal, who had gone on a bit about the weather; then he saw Lily descending the stairs in a simple woolen vest and skirts of dark forest green and a chemise -- what was that colour? Cream. Her hair, a darker reddish auburn in the warm yellow light of the fireplace, stood out against her chemise. He sighed. When she was anywhere within sight, he could see only her. It was like a spell. If only Gandalf had been able to help him protect her. He remembered he should pray for her protection, and did so at that moment. He came back to himself and to Hal, picking up the conversation as best he could.

“Do we really need the rain, then?” Frodo asked. “I’ve been away so long, I don’t really know...”

But he did not finish his thought. He was completely distracted, looking up again at Lily, then back at Hal.

“I trust Daisy is feeling well, and fine?” he managed.

Hal smiled to himself; he knew he’d lost Frodo’s attention when Lily entered the room, but he was amused rather than upset. Lily had distracted hobbit lads for years.

“That she is, thank you, Frodo. She’s more than a bit uncomfortable at times, but the midwife said she’s done well, all along. The aches and pains are very normal. She’s upstairs, resting in bed now.”

Lily joined them at the door. Frodo found her eyes and smiled at her. His heart felt lighter in her presence, just as before; just as it always did. He tried to remember what Hal just finished saying.

“They are? The aches and pains are normal?” Frodo was actually intensely interested in this topic, especially as he knew nothing at all about it -- but Lily was here, beside him.

She answered for Hal. “Oh, Frodo, the babe was moving so often, just a week ago, before Da and I came to visit Will...”

Frodo ventured tentatively, “You said the child was moving -- has it stopped moving? Is that -- bad?”

His earnest seriousness made her giggle, and she smiled at him.

“It’s perfectly fine,” she assured him. “It only means he is now lying in the proper place for a healthy birth. He can’t move around as much. So the midwife says.” She smiled again, but Frodo was not yet satisfied.

“But how do you know it is a ‘he’?”

“Oh, none of us knows for sure. We just get these feelings. We all think it will be a lad.”

“I would like to tell you what I think, but I -- would rather tell you when we are out walking.” Frodo wondered if his thoughts on such things really mattered; he knew so little about them.

Lily fetched her coat and a cloak off the coat rack on the wall. She was not like some lasses Frodo had seen -- he admitted to himself he had not really observed that many -- who took a long time to prepare. She was bundled well.

“May we go?” she asked.

“Yes. Hal, I will have her back to you” -- he turned to look at her face -- “I’m not sure when... but I know you have an early start in the morning. I will keep that in mind.”

“Good night then, Frodo.” Hal extended his hand to Frodo and they shook hands, Frodo making a very conscious effort not to appear discomfited at all by his missing finger. Hal did not seem to notice it.

“Thank you again for all you’ve done for us. I doubt we’ll see you in the morning. We wish you well. Please know you’re welcome in our home at Deephallow any time.”

Frodo blushed red at Hal’s words. “Thank you, Hal. Please greet Daisy on my behalf. I’ll see Will often now; I can get news about the child from him. I will pray for a healthy delivery.”

After a brief pause, Frodo could not resist saying what he had been thinking.

“I believe it will be a 'she'.”

Frodo smiled at Hal, and turning back to Lily, he escorted her out the door, down the porch steps, and into the darkened lane. Hal, still wearing a faintly bemused expression at Frodo's comment, shut the door behind them.

“Are you warm enough, Lily?”

“I think so, yes, so far... why do you think the babe might be a lass, Frodo?”

“I don’t know. Just as you said, it’s only a feeling. It’s strong though.” He smiled at her. “I’ve got to slow down my pace! Look, you must take nearly two steps for every one of mine!

“I walk so much faster now,” he continued, “since -- since the Quest. It became a habit. We could never have kept up with Aragorn and Boromir, or Legolas, otherwise. Gandalf, I think, would have taken a slower pace...”

It felt good to be able to mention his friends, now that she was aware of much of what took place on the Quest. He almost went on to say their speed was due to being pursued, and was glad he did not. There was no sense in upsetting her needlessly. Sam’s short version of the story -- for he knew that’s what it had been -- was perfectly adequate, even desired. I would have given too many details, he thought. Sam said she was upset as it was; very upset, and Sam had told them only the barest story.

“Frodo? Can we slow down a bit?” she laughed. Her breath was showing on the air, like his.

“Oh, after all that talk -- I’m still walking too fast. I will need to learn how to do so many things over again...”

He slowed his step, as his voice changed. “I’m sorry, Lily.”

Frodo thought of a way for them to keep the same pace. Before he could change his mind, and while they were still walking, he reached for her hand.

It took far more courage than he ever imagined. He swallowed hard; his eyes closed at the first touch of her fingers against his. She did not pull away. He blinked, facing straight ahead, still somewhat afraid.

Lily finished it, lacing her fingers into his. He gasped softly, and tried to hide the strength of his reaction. His heart began to race.

They stopped walking at the same moment, but could not immediately look at one another.

Frodo tried to find words for this singular moment. There was nothing else like it; nothing. He felt a surge of well-being, of joy, at her touch.

When he looked at Lily, she was still facing ahead. She too was breathing differently, and it had nothing to do with the walk they were taking. Her lips were parted in slight surprise.

Then she turned to face him, her eyes serious; she needed to understand. She found the answer in his eyes. He looked slightly fearful, and hopeful at the same time; the hopefulness outshone the fear.

She looked away after a moment, but her face had given away her feelings. Frodo knew Lily was pleased, and he sighed once, deeply.

Lily was indeed joyous; and was grateful Frodo had not been looking at her when their hands met a few moments ago, for along with the joy came weakness. She must hide this from him somehow, if she could... She wondered if Ilúvatar heard small prayers of gratitude, or only very important prayers? Long prayers?

They continued their walk in silence for a while, happy in each other’s company.

“Thank you for the seed cake,” Frodo said at last. “It was wonderful. I ate two pieces, and indeed that is rare for me.”

Lily’s eyes lit up as she looked over at him. “Oh, I am so glad! -- Frodo! Your hair is still damp! Look at you! You will catch your death of cold!” She began to reach her free hand up to touch his hair as they walked, then pulled back. He did not miss the gesture.

“I’ll be fine,” he assured her. “You must remember -- no, of course you don’t remember!” he laughed. “While on the Quest, we took a wash whenever and wherever we could manage. We left in late September a year ago, and traveled until -- till March 25th. It was fall and then winter and a very cold early spring... the water was always so cold; we were chilled to the bone, but we did become used to it. How, I do not know,” he laughed again, only for a moment, and then suddenly his tone became thoughtful.

“Everything I do now, everything, has been coloured by the Quest. Everything that happened changed us. I must have been asleep before the Quest. I thought I was living, and I’m sure I was... but now the simplest of things is a great luxury to the four of us... a real bath is an enormous luxury -- warm water! Hot water! We only heated water for cooking, and even then it was only in the smallest amounts. I think, of the nine, only we hobbits took things so for granted, though. Our lives were so easy here...”

Lily became thoughtful as well. “Frodo, why isn’t anyone in the villages honouring you, you and Sam especially? There aren’t even many thanking you for what you did. Why is that? I know Merry and Pippin are seen a bit as heroes...”

“... and they are. They fought bravely, many times. Merry nearly lost his life, and Pippin was injured, too, looking into a palantír...” His voice became quiet.

Lily wondered what a palantir was, but let it go. “Oh, yes, I believe you, Frodo... but why are you and Sam not being noticed more? Sam told us that only Merry and Pippin, Gandalf and Rose and I knew the details, but it’s as if no one else in the Shire knows about anything at all of what you did...”

“They don’t. No one would believe us if we told them all that happened. At times, we can hardly believe it ourselves.”

He looked, unseeing, at his right hand. Lily was beginning to understand how hard the reality of the Quest was, even to Frodo, who had lived it.

“It’s just -- too hard to tell,” he went on. “They think we were off on a mystery excursion, a pleasure trip, and the main reason they’re making a fuss over Merry and Pip is their armor and their swords. I doubt they will ever really know. I shall try to write it all down, someday. That would be good. Then at least their children will know of it. The folk of the Shire should know what took place.”

Their hands were warm, fingers still locked together. Their hearts felt lighter for it, and hope did not seem so distant.

---------

They had walked halfway to Hobbiton before they realized how far they had gone.

“I suppose we should be turning back,” Frodo said.

“I suppose.” She could not hide the resignation in her voice. “Frodo? How is it now at Bag End? You and Sam worked all day there -- am I right?”

“Before I answer, stop for just a moment. You need this scarf more than I. You’re shivering.”

He had not stopped to think that he would need both his hands to remove the scarf. They shared a smile between them as Lily released his hand.

As he gently wrapped the softness of the scarf around her neck, she searched his eyes, and then noticed -- she felt sure it was for the first time -- the generous, gentle curve of his lips.

Where have I been? Lily thought to herself, resisting the desire to trace them with her finger. With an effort, she kept her hands at her sides. Why have I not noticed them before?

Of course, she thought. She looked up at Frodo’s eyes as he continued to arrange the scarf around her neck. Of course; those eyes... it's no wonder I have not yet been able to take in the rest of his beautiful face...

There was so little time now. She wanted to memorize as much of him as she could. They were leaving in the morning, and she did not know when she would see him again.

Frodo saw sadness creep into her eyes as he finished.

“There,” he smiled.

The lamb’s wool was warm from having been on him, and Lily’s eyes closed for a moment as the warmth comforted her, from without and from within.

When she opened her eyes again she tried to hide the beginnings of the tears she felt. Frodo took her hand again, and again she closed her eyes.

This is all I ever wanted, she thought to herself. Am I asking for too much? To be near him like this, forever?

“Frodo, are we allowed to pray for ourselves? Or only for others?”

Her question seemed to come from nowhere.

“Yes, Gandalf said we may pray for ourselves. Sometimes, we need only ask. We may not always get just what we ask for; but I was told Ilúvatar gives us that which we need most. He knows what is best for us. He did create us, after all.”

He smiled for Lily, hoping to cheer her, but her sadness was clearer with each passing moment. She was leaving in the morning. He could not think about it, or his own sadness would become evident to her. She had enough on her mind.

He began to walk again -- the cold was deepening -- and she did not resist. They fell back into the easy rhythm of their walk. Frodo had found a pace with which Lily was comfortable.

Lily was still thinking about his answer. "I think I understand. I shall have to give it a try," she ventured, "and see what I may receive." She smiled as bravely as she could manage.

Frodo suddenly understood what Lily was going to pray for. Yet it took courage to speak of it, to risk being wrong.

“I am sure we shall see each other again, Lily. We shall,” he repeated, and realized he was trying to reassure himself as well as Lily. He saw the hope shining in her eyes. He had not been wrong. He was moved, and found it hard to speak.

“You -- you were asking about the work we accomplished today?”

“Yes.” Lily’s heart leapt at his assurance, and now she struggled to concentrate on the new direction of their conversation.

In his relief, Frodo threw himself into talk of his home.

“So much needs doing there! I am sure it will be weeks before the place is presentable. I hardly knew where to start; it was in such disarray. One room was as good as another, so we started working in the fourth guest bedroom at the very back of the hole. Sam and I managed to get three rooms sorted out and cleaned today. He also helped me tally all the leaf, ale, and foods in the cellar. It’s floor to ceiling full of hoarded stores. I talked to Farmer Cotton at supper tonight. He’s sending up a small army of pony-carts tomorrow to collect it all,” he laughed. “He’s kept up with the news, and has a good idea of who needs what in the Shire. He’s perfect for this job -- he has trusted friends in each of the Farthings. But if I know Tom, he’ll favor Hobbiton and Bywater first.”

He stopped talking long enough to look at her. Lily was smiling.

“Is the scarf keeping you warm enough? You seem more comfortable now.”

“Yes, thank you so much for it; I am warmer.” Without thinking, she squeezed his hand. Frodo blinked again in surprise, and had to catch his breath before speaking.

"I -- I still need a carpenter in there, and the sooner the better. Actually, I am truly eager to have #3, on the Row rebuilt as soon as may be. It’s Sam’s home -- his gaffer’s home... really I want all three smials on the Row rebuilt, but #3 first... and the water pump in the kitchen needs repair, as does the outside pump...”

He slowed and then stopped, turning to her, still holding her hand.

“Samwise tells me your brother is a fine carpenter, with a crew he can call upon for larger jobs. Do you know if he has the time to work on the Row? It’s a gift to Sam’s father, and I’ll be covering the expenses for the other two smials as well, so Will needn’t worry about payment. I just want it all as it was.”

Lily tried to speak. “I -- yes, I, Will is very talented and able. I feel sure he could do the work, and without delay. There has been no work here, no real work, for months without end... Will would be overjoyed... Frodo, this is a very generous thing you are doing!”

Frodo’s smile could only be called mysterious. “Someday, ask me to tell you the story of Bilbo and Smaug and the Dwarves... and the Elf-King.”

Something about his enigmatic expression made Lily recall, for a brief instant, their talk at the Bywater Fair. “Shall we walk again?” he offered.

Lily was still a little shaken. “Yes, of course!” Frodo started up the conversation again as if he hadn’t just told her he’d be having three whole smials rebuilt as gifts.

“I’ll be moving all my furniture back from Crickhollow...”

“Crickhollow? Your belongings aren’t in Bag End?”

“Well, no. I sold the place just before... before going on the Quest, and moved a good deal of my furniture to a home in Crickhollow.”

“Why did you sell it? Is it all right for me to ask?” She wondered why he ever sold the hole to someone else, for she sensed he loved the place very much.

“I needed to make it look like I was leaving the Shire for legitimate reasons. Moving house to Crickhollow was a good way to accomplish that end. I simply let everyone think Bag End had gotten too big for one hobbit. It seems the ruse worked. And if Lobelia had not returned the smial to me yesterday morning as we got her out of the prison at Michel Delving, I’d have had to buy it back from her, if in fact she would even agree to sell it at all.”

“How wonderful that she gave it back to you! But I wonder why? And who was storing all the best leaf and ale there?”

Frodo decided, for the moment, to answer her second question. “The stores had been collected there by -- Saruman, and his workers.”

“Who is Sar- Saruman? That doesn’t sound hobbitish at all.”

“He wasn’t a hobbit, Lily. He was a wizard, and a very great one, at that.”

Lily stopped and turned to him, but did not release his hand. “Wait, I remember Sam mentioned Saruman -- the same one? A wizard? Like Gandalf?”

Frodo sighed and looked straight ahead. “Yes.”

“But -- but why? Why would he be at Bag End?”

“To hurt me as much as he possibly could by harming the home I love so dearly. His aim was to ruin as much of the Shire as he could.”

Lily shuddered. “Frodo! I -- Sam said he was evil, but I thought wizards were good... like Gandalf seems to be?”

She was taken aback by the swift intensity of his gaze. She saw it soften instantly, as he met her eyes again.

“Gandalf doesn’t only seem to be good; he is good, Lily,” Frodo asserted. “I’m sorry I was upset for a moment; I cannot expect you to know all of this... and there is so much to know.

“Saruman had been the greatest of all the wizards; and he was good in the beginning. He was the head of his order, and Gandalf's mentor. But he sought power, and finally the Dark Lord enslaved him to his will. He was lost, after that.”

“He wanted to hurt you even now? After the Ring was -- was destroyed? Why did he not give up?”

Frodo looked away. “Power corrupted him. He was no longer himself. His soul belonged to Sauron... to the Dark Lord. He was lost to the good.”

“You speak of him always in the past. Is he gone, then?”

Frodo sighed heavily. After a long moment, he looked back to her. “Yes.”

“How? If he was a powerful wizard?”

“Do you really want to know? It is not pleasant, Lily.”

She nodded, despite her fear.

“He was murdered in front of Bag End three days ago -- after the battle...”

Lily covered her mouth with her hand.

“...in the afternoon. We were there, the four of us, along with Farmer Cotton and some others. We saw it happen. One of his own slaves took his life. Before he was killed, he told us that Lotho, the hobbit who was living there, had been murdered within its walls. Lotho was Lobelia’s son. That is why she has given Bag End back to me.” He paused. There was no reason to tell her Wormtongue had been killed there as well.

“I had to have it blessed, or truly I could never have set foot in it again.”

Lily began to weep, softly.

“I’m sorry, Lily. I know it is hard to hear.”

She looked up into his eyes for a moment.

“Nothing I ever hear will be as hard as the things I heard from Samwise -- that you were stabbed and beaten, stung -- ” She cried harder, and tried to stop, but could not.

“Lily! Look at me!” Without thinking, as if it were natural and familiar, he put his free hand under her chin and gently raised her head so she could see his face. Her own was streaked with tears, and when she looked up into his eyes, Frodo was amazed by what he saw there. He did not dare put a word to it; not yet. It was stronger than anything he had expected to see. He had to concentrate very hard even to form a thought, much less to speak.

“I am all right now, Lily. That -- that was in the past.”

“Frodo...” She was sobbing, and could only get the words out between gulps of cold air. “You are not all right. You are soul-sick. I have seen it; I can see it now. You are not well. The darkness you carry... I wish I could help you!”

What could he say to comfort her?

“You have already helped me, Lily. You saved my life that day.”

It took her a moment to understand what he said. She tried to breathe more evenly and to suppress the sobs as best she could.

“What? I saved your life? How?” She searched his eyes, eager for something to quiet her troubled heart.

“You told me the night before the battle to take care of myself. I would never have put the mithril shirt on that morning if you had not cared -- ”

“Mithril... mithril... the hard shirt, the one that saved you from the spear in the cave? The one Samwise told us about?”

What a comfort it was for her to know and understand! He would thank Sam again, as soon as he could, for telling Lily and Rose the story...

“Yes, the very same. Saruman tried to -- kill me in front of Bag End, but his knifepoint was turned aside by the mithril. I had something like a dream that same night, but I don’t believe it was a dream; I was fully awake. Ilúvatar spoke to me, and I was afraid, very afraid, at first. He said to me, not once but twice: “Lily saved your life.’ And then He said --”

Frodo wondered if he should go on. He wanted to tell Lily the rest of what Ilúvatar had said; that perhaps his life being spared on that day meant he was to go on living, but he refrained. This was too much to tell her, all at once.

“Oh, Frodo!” she exclaimed, the mixture of distress and relief plain in her voice. Then she held a hand to her brow, closing her eyes.

“No,” she whispered, but Frodo heard her. “No, I don't want to faint...”

He needed to act. He had no idea what he was doing, or even whether it might harm rather than help, but he needed to try.

“Lily, listen to my voice. Take deep breaths. I don’t want you to faint, either. Look at me. Breathe out. You’re only breathing in, not out -- ! Breathe out. Slowly. Slow down...”

At the very moment he feared she would succumb to the faint, she coughed.

“Good, very good. Calm yourself.” He knew by now a faint would not do her great harm, but it was becoming very cold, and he did not know how long it might take to revive her. “Good. You are doing well. Keep your eyes closed and just breathe. Not too fast. Calmly. There -- there.”

She seemed steadier yet, but something about her eyes, when she opened them again... she looked ill. And now, he felt the best he had felt since the last time he was with her, near her. It was very, very strange. There was clearly a connection between the two. His heart sank. Gandalf was right; he should not stay too close to her for too long.

He prayed silently, and hard. ‘Please make her well, give her strength, and health.’ She closed her eyes again.

After many, many long moments -- perhaps minutes; he could not be sure -- she opened her eyes and they were clear, although some tears remained. But she no longer appeared to be ill.

“Thanks be to Ilúvatar,” he said aloud. “You look much better. How do you feel?”

“Better -- better!” she assured him. She seemed surprised. “I feel refreshed. How did it happen?”

“I am uncertain, though I think it may have been the prayer. However it happened, I am grateful,” Frodo replied.

“Oh... I don’t know what to think or say. I feel better than I have since the night before -- before the battle...”

“I am glad.” Frodo took a very deep breath. “Please, Lily, much as we would like to talk all night, it is too cold now. We need to get you home to Will’s.”

“Oh... perhaps you are right,” she sighed.

“Can you walk?”

“Yes, I think so. Yes.”

---------

When they reached the lane at last, Frodo stopped her a few steps away from the door to Will’s house.

They were still hand in hand. He turned to face her. She was a picture of sorrow. The desire to touch her face and ease her sadness was so strong that he raised his hand to do so. He caught himself and lowered his hand.

“Lily, we must say goodbye now. We will see each other again, I am sure. I need to be -- careful for you. I think... I feel sure that when we are near each other for too long, it causes you to become ill.” He left out the other half of what happened at those times; the fact that each time he was with her, he felt more healed... more well, and whole. He was ashamed and puzzled by this; but at least, for the time being, she felt better, and he would be content with that.

She saw his brow furrow.

“Lily, do you remember that I held you just after you saw your father at the battle -- after he died...”

“No, I cannot remember; I’m sorry.” It seemed to her his eyes were a darker shade of blue, with only the quarter-moon and stars to shed their light on them.

“You ran into my arms; you were in grief. I was able for a short time to speak to you, but very soon, you were asleep, on your feet...”

“I was?”

Frodo smiled at the memory of it. “Yes, you were. And you were lovely.”

Her eyes grew wide. It was the first time he had spoken to her this way.

He was afraid, but his need overcame his fear. “I was able to hold you once -- and you seemed content for a while in my arms. Since you feel much better now, and since it was an answer to a prayer... Perhaps Ilúvatar is smiling on us tonight? ... Please, may I hold you again? It brought me so much joy that day.”

Lily nodded. He opened his arms, and had no sooner done so than she was against him, their arms around each other. He held her tightly, and felt tears of his own spring to his eyes, joy and sorrow mixed together. She wanted to be held by him...

I will not put a name to this feeling, he thought. He sighed against her hair, and breathed in a sweet, light fragrance... honeysuckle. His cloak held faint traces of it now, as well. It must be a favourite of hers. He smiled to himself as she nestled her head against him. It was difficult to think clearly...

But this will never do, he thought. How can I ever be with her if I make her ill by my very presence?

His thoughts drifted back to the day of the battle, when she had fallen asleep against him...

A faint sensation of panic rose within him. He knew it now -- Lily had not fallen asleep that day only because she was tired. Indeed, it had seemed unusual for her to be so relaxed in his presence. Even accounting for her lack of sleep the night before, she should not have fallen completely asleep...

No... no. The darkness! He had held her too close, for too long, not knowing--

Frodo closed his eyes as the full realization of his error became terribly clear. What have I done to her?

Gradually, and sadly, Frodo released his hold on Lily. He allowed his hands to rest for a moment on her shoulders, and only lightly caressed her arms as he held her a moment longer. He must let her go, now. Before it happened to her again.

Lily reluctantly took a small step back away from him, unaware of his thoughts, although she sensed his sadness. She missed his warmth, and shivered.

"Lily, you really must go inside where it is warm. You will need rest for your journey home tomorrow."

She stared at the top button of his waistcoat and nodded. She did not want to look into those eyes again if it meant saying goodbye.

Frodo carefully let his hands travel down her arms, to lightly grasp her hands in his. For her part, Lily held his hands tightly.

As he raised her hands to his lips, Lily followed with her gaze, until their eyes locked over the top of her hands as he held them. His were warm, and the warmth opened a path within her, through to her soul and her heart. Frodo lightly kissed the back of one hand and then the other.

His words were out before his mind was aware of them. He realized they came from his heart, and he smiled as he spoke, both for Lily and himself.

"Lily Burrows, I shall see you again...” His voice softened, “I shall miss you."

Lily's breath caught in her throat. She held his gaze and nodded. She shivered again, and the spell was broken.

Frodo released one hand but kept the other, as he walked her to the door. He opened it for her. She took one step in and looked back, into his eyes. He held her eyes with his as he kissed the back of her hand once more.

"Farewell only, Lily. I pray you will have a safe journey home."

"Farewell only, Frodo. I cannot say goodbye."

He released her hand and gazed into her eyes a moment longer. Lily made to remove the scarf, and Frodo shook his head. She clutched it tightly. They shut the door together.