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Might Have Beens  by Larner

Written for the LOTR Community "Fanon Buster" challenge.  For Lily Baggins and Lily the Hobbit for their birthdays.

Devilling Lobelia

            As Otho Sackville-Baggins entered his home he could hear his wife sobbing in the first parlor.  Immediately alarmed for Lobelia’s well-being, he dropped his hat and parcels on the bench for the hall tree and hurried down the entrance hall to where she sat, her face in her apron, weeping.  “My sweet one!” he exclaimed.  “What in Middle Earth is the matter?”  Then, as a suspicion began to grow, his expression hardened.  “It’s that Primula Brandybuck Baggins again, isn’t it?  What did she do this time?”

            Lobelia wiped her face as she sought to control her tears.  “Oh, oh, oh, Otho!  Yes, it’s Primula!  Isn’t it always—always Primula?  Why doesn’t she like me?  What did I ever do to her?  She always treats me so badly, and does everything she can to wrong-foot me and to make me appear a terrible person, and—and especially in front of your Cousin Bilbo!”

            “She is a devious witch,” Otho agreed.  “But what was it this time?”

            Lobelia gave a delicate hiccup as she straightened in her chair and placed her hands in her lap, clutching tightly onto the apron.  She sniffed, and sought to describe her experience with Drogo Baggins’s wife.  “Well, first, she came into the silver smith’s shop while Lodo was showing me the most exquisite ladle you can imagine.  Oh, Otho, it is absolutely the most beautiful thing!  He says it is the finest of Dwarvish work, and I do believe that’s true.  So, so----”  She paused to blow her nose and wipe her eyes again.  “Well, she interrupted us, as if I weren’t there at all, asking him if he had any silver pins for her sewing.  She said that they must be two inches long, two inches exactly, as if to be any shorter or longer would make some significant difference.  He left the ladle on the counter and brought out a box of the wretched things, but she insisted they weren’t the right size, so he brought out a ruler to show her they were.  But if she didn’t insist that as they proved to be an eighth of an inch too long they simply wouldn’t do!  So he went into the back room to find a different box, one he said he’d purchased from Needlehole.  When he came back there was the measuring to do all over again, only this time they were just a smidgen too short.  And while we waited for him to find a third box she trod all over my foot and never acted as if she realized I was there at all!

            “Finally I gave up and tried to leave, but he came out right then with another box of pins, and asked if I wanted to purchase the ladle, and I told him I would return later when he wasn’t busy with another customer.  Only the ladle was gone, gone from the counter, I mean.  He immediately insisted on searching my umbrella, and if he didn’t find the missing ladle inside it!  She put it there, Primula did—I’m certain of it!  She did it while he was busy with the pins and I was trying to keep from being where she’d step on my feet as she waited impatiently!  She has most of Hobbiton convinced I’m the worst sort of sneak-thief!”

            Her lip trembled as she remembered the indignity of being found with the ladle inside her umbrella and the unspoken accusation that she must have placed it there herself. Finally she went on, as bravely as she could.  “I told him to take it, as I didn’t have enough money to pay, not until I’d spoken with you to see if we could afford it.  He put it back inside the carton in which it was kept, looking at me with a most suspicious eye the whole time, and told me that he’d misquoted the price, giving me an amount now a whole silver more than he’d said the first time, and he bade me good day as if I were some lout of a child who’d wandered into his shop instead of one who has always paid a fair price for what I purchase from him.  I left feeling as if the whole of the village were looking at me with equal suspicion, and while I was seeking to compose myself, she came out and acted totally surprised and pleased to see me there.  You’d never know that only moments before she’d been treading on my foot as if it were part of the tile from the floor to Lodo’s shop!  She took me by the arm and led me into the Ivy Leaf, gushing the whole time as if we were bosom companions.  You’d think that we’d been planning for a week at least to take our lunch together there!  And, of course, Bilbo was there, and she steered me right into him, jostling me into him on purpose!  We both fell down, Bilbo and I did, and she was bustling about as if she were trying to help us to rise, but all the while continuing to push me against Bilbo.  And when he was finally able to stand up, if his watch wasn’t missing!  And guess where it was found?  In my umbrella again, of course!”

            “I’ve told you before, my love, not to carry that umbrella out in public.”

            She lifted hurt eyes to his.  “But I love it so and am so proud of it, Otho.  It’s the one thing that Bilbo Baggins ever gave me that was of any value whatsoever, for he gave it to me before Primula began poisoning his mind against me.”

            “And every time she comes near you while you carry it something small and valuable belonging to someone else ends up inside it.  She uses it to make you look like a thief, my dear.”

            Her shame and frustration were palpable.  “She’s done this for years, ever since Drogo married her and brought her here from Buckland, and you know as well as I do that I never stole those spoons of Bilbo’s while he was gone!  It’s just not fair that she can always get away with this treatment of me, just because she’s so small and pretty and has everyone convinced that she’s the sweetest Hobbitess in the whole of the West-farthing!  And now every time someone misplaces something they always look at me as if I had something to do with its disappearance.  I tell you, Otho, that I cannot take much more of this!”

            He frowned.  “And it was her father who convinced mine to declare Bilbo dead and to move us into Bag End and sell off those things of his we didn’t wish to keep.  I’ve always suspected old Nat Boffin stole those spoons during the public viewing of the items for sale before the auction started, but it was Drogo who first convinced Bilbo that you were the one to take them.”

            She nodded miserably.  “I just do not know what to do.  She makes me ashamed to show my face anywhere in Hobbiton or the region of the Hill.  Perhaps we should leave Hobbiton and settle in the South-farthing.  At least she’s not had the chance to convince everyone there that I’m a thief or plotting against everyone else, and there I don’t always run into those who look at me with suspicion.”

            Otho sighed.  “I fear that you are correct, sweetling.  Perhaps we’d do well to settle near Hardbottle.  You have a good many kin there, at least, people who won’t always be throwing Primula’s nasty gossip about you in your face.”

            She looked up hopefully at him, and for the first time since he’d come in gave a watery smile.  “You do take such good care of me, Otho my dear one!”


            “Drogo?  Are you here?  I am home, and I had a most entertaining morning!”

            Drogo Baggins looked up from the thick slice of currant cake he’d just cut for himself.  “Entertaining?  Have you been devilling Lobelia again, then?”

            “Oh, yes, but she is so very easy to devil!”  She untied the strings to her bonnet and set it on the wall shelf.  “I managed to slip the most ostentatious ladle you have ever seen from the counter in Lodo’s shop into her umbrella, and now he is convinced that she’d planned to steal off with it.  Oh, and I managed to step on her foot at least six times, pretending she wasn’t there.  And I have Lodo all frustrated that none of his silver pins will suit me!  It was great fun.  Did you leave some of the currant cake for me, dearling?”

            He waved vaguely in the direction of the second larder.  “The second cake is still there, not to mention what’s left here on the tea table.”

            She inspected the slim wedge of cake remaining on the serving plate and sniffed.  “There’s little enough of this one left.  I’ll bring out the other one, then.  Anyway, as I was leaving Lodo’s shop, who do I almost run into but dear Lobelia, standing there like a lost soul.  So I had a wonderful thought—why not make her look bad again in front of Bilbo?  You remember he told us yesterday that he was to meet with Farmer Strawflower and Old Noakes at the Ivy Leaf for luncheon to discuss his farm shares with them?  Well, I took Lobelia by that meaty arm of hers and drug her there, sweet-talking her as if I couldn’t wait to share a meal with her.  And there was dear Bilbo with his back turned to us, just in the perfect position for me to run him over with Lobelia!  Oh, but it was delightful to see how surprised and upset both of them were!  I managed to slip Bilbo’s watch out of his pocket and into that umbrella of hers, and now he’s convinced she fell over him on purpose so as to try to take it!  I so love that umbrella, Drogo.  It’s so handy to slip things into!”

            He shook his head in admiration.  “You do such things so well, Primula.  I salute you for your skill as a pocket dipper!”

            She smiled.  “Odovacar Bolger taught me the way of it, and I’ll always be grateful he did.  But I am intent on driving a permanent wedge between Bilbo and the Sackville-Bagginses.  Otho may be his proper heir according to Shire law and custom, but I intend that you and I inherit Bag End once he’s gone.  I will be Mistress of the Hill after Bilbo’s dead, not that foolish Lobelia Bracegirdle Sackville-Baggins, and those silver spoons I stole right out from under her overlarge nose will return to Bag End with us!”

            And with a satisfied smirk, she picked up the remaining slice of currant cake and began neatly nibbling at it as she pondered her next step in making certain the very thought of Lobelia and Otho would cause Bilbo’s stomach to go sour.

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