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Thanks so much, everyone! *hugs the wonderful readers* Very Important Things happen in this chapter, and I hope no one is disappointed... :D
I'd like to dedicate this chapter to the lovely Marigold and her fiancé. Best of wishes to the both of you, I know you'll make each other very happy. :)
April, 1427 S.R.
* * *
Bellamanta approached Diamond’s bedroom carrying a laundry basket that was halfway full. The bedroom door was ajar, which usually indicated that its resident was elsewhere. Bellamanta used her foot to push the door open the rest of the way and stepped inside the somewhat cluttered room, then put the basket on the bed and set about collecting the discarded clothing that was scattered about.
Soon she had tossed the last dress into the basket; one sleeve hung over the edge, and directly below it on the bed was an envelope.
Something about this envelope caught Bellamanta’s attention, and she picked it up tentatively. But her conscience took great offense to this invasion of her daughter’s privacy, and she was just about to set the envelope back down when she noticed the return address.
Buckland? Who does she know in Buckland?
Before she could think to stop herself, Bellamanta pulled the letter out of the envelope and stared at it fretfully. Surely… surely, just reading the signature would do no harm?
Feeling a strange sense of foreboding, she slowly unfolded the letter and set her gaze on the very bottom corner. She saw the name, and she saw the closing line that was written just above it.
She could do no more than skim the rest of the letter; her hands were shaking far too much to hold the parchment steady for very long. But she’d gathered enough from what she did read, enough to put her in a frantic state. She tore about the room, pulling open each drawer, blinking back tears as she sought other letters. All the while she cursed Peregrin Took for every word he had written to Diamond; but mainly she cursed herself, for her ignorance, for becoming so detached from her daughter, for her unwillingness to see the truth.
Not long after, Bellamanta found herself in the doorway of her husband’s study, clutching several envelopes nearly identical to the one she had first discovered.
“Feldi,” she said in a hushed, frightened tone. Feldigram looked up in surprise and worry.
“What is it?”
Instead of replying, Bellamanta simply approached his desk, setting the envelopes in front of him before bursting into tears.
* * *
Diamond peered into her father’s study. “You wanted to see me, Dad?”
Feldigram glanced up at her, his expression unreadable. “Yes, Diamond. Sit down.”
She did so, her apprehension growing. Something about his terse voice sent a slight chill up her spine.
He didn’t speak for some time, his silence serving to heighten her anxiety. She recalled the faces of her family members as they had watched her make her way to Feldigram’s study. Some had been surprised, some piteous, and some even held what she thought was suspicion. Then there had been the look on her mother’s face as she told Diamond that her father wanted to speak with her. Bellamanta had looked… betrayed.
“Dad?” she prompted nervously.
Feldigram threw down the quill he had been writing with and reached into a drawer. “You know, Diamond, you have been able to read for, what, almost a year now? And yet I still have not witnessed your skills in the matter.” He pulled out a folded piece of parchment and tossed it onto the desk in front of her. His face was dark and his voice low. “Perhaps you could demonstrate for me - an oral reading.”
She picked up the parchment with shaking fingers. She unfolded it, immediately recognizing Pippin’s handwriting; the sight of his script had for so long filled her with immeasurable joy, but now it made her heart freeze.
She looked up at her father, her eyes wide with fear. Finding no other words to say, she simply began in a hushed voice: “I can explain.”
“I certainly hope so!” Feldigram rose to his feet, and though his stature – being only slightly greater than that of an average hobbit his age – didn’t often intimidate anyone, at that moment he seem almost menacing to Diamond. “And this isn’t the only one I’ve seen.” She looked up at him sharply, but he went on: “No, I’ve seen many others. Talking about how he makes plans to visit you here! Is it true? Has this lad been seeing you behind my back?”
Trembling violently, she could only stare down at her lap and nod.
He threw his hands up in the air and made a sound of disgust, turning away. “Unbelievable! Out of everyone living under this hill, you were the last person I expected this sort of thing from. Ashamed and appalled don’t even begin to cover what I’m feeling about you right now!”
Still unable to meet his gaze, Diamond replied, “You… you’re acting as though I’ve betrayed the family in some way.”
“Haven’t you?” he retorted, wheeling around to face her. “Running off in the middle of the night to consort with some… some miscreant!”
Without thinking, Diamond stood abruptly and declared, “He’s not a miscreant, Father!”
“No, no, you’re right, he’s not.” Feldigram placed his hands on the desk and brought his face close to hers. “He’s the son of the Thain!” he hissed. “You can’t just carry on some sort of dalliance with the Took’s heir!”
“Dalliance?” she repeated incredulously, tears welling up in her eyes. “Don’t you understand? I love him. This isn’t just a silly infatuation!” She lowered her voice to a desperate whisper. “Don’t you trust me?”
He sighed deeply, looking away. “Of course I trust you,” he said softly.
“But you don’t trust Pippin,” she said, filling in what he hadn’t wished to speak.
“Why should I?” he replied, looking back at her. “Unless… Diamond, have you told him about your… your infertility?”
A feeling of dread welling up in the pit of her stomach, Diamond said, “Yes.” Emotionally overwhelmed, she fell back into the chair and buried her face in her hands as her body shook with sobs.
Feldigram knelt in front of his daughter, placing a hand on her knee. “I’m sorry, Diamond. But Peregrin Took is the heir to the Thainship, and he thereby needs heirs of his own… heirs that you cannot give him.” He took her hands away from her face and placed his hand under her chin. “Whatever you and Peregrin might have together, it cannot end well. He knows this, Diamond, and it’s wrong of him to keep it from you.” She started to protest, but Feldigram shushed her gently. “I am truly sorry that you had to go through this. But I don’t want you getting hurt for his sake.”
He stood then, taking a deep breath. “I am going to tell Peregrin Took that he is not to see you anymore. It’s for your own good, Diamond.”
Without replying, Diamond stood suddenly and rushed out of the room. She ran through the smial until she came to her room, throwing the door shut behind her and locking it. She then walked slowly to her bed and collapsed onto it, sobbing into her pillow.
* * *
Pippin dismounted his pony with a heavy sigh, glad to have his feet on the ground after the long ride from Buckland to Long Cleeve. The journey that had once been quite easy for him was starting to seem more arduous as time went by, as each day without Diamond became more difficult to bear.
That evening he was positively aching to have her back in his arms, and his heart raced with the anticipation of seeing her again. But when he reached the grove there was no sign of her; strange, considering she had always been there to greet him before.
He began to pace about the grove, but a voice from the trees made him stop dead in his tracks.
“I thought I’d find you here.” Pippin whirled around to find Diamond’s brother, Fildigrim, emerging from the shadows of the trees like a ghost. “Diamond said you would be coming tonight.”
“Where is she?” Pippin demanded.
“In her room. Where she’s stayed for the past two days.” As Fildigrim stepped closer, Pippin could see that the younger hobbit’s face was contorted with barely-suppressed rage. “Because of you, I might add.”
“What happened?” asked Pippin fearfully. “Is she all right?”
“What happened was that my parents found out about those little meetings that the two of you have been carrying on this past year. I take it that the whole thing was your idea?”
Pippin bristled, his nostrils flaring. He walked up to Fildigrim so that they were less than a foot apart; and though Fildigrim was taller than most hobbits, being a descendant of Bandobras Took, he still was forced to look up at Pippin. “Yes. And I would never have gone through with it if I had thought that Diamond did not feel the same as I.”
Fildigrim shoved an accusing finger at him. “You made her go against her family’s wishes, made her do something foolish that she would have never considered before you shoved your way into her life!”
“How dare you?” said Pippin in a low and furious voice. “To think that I care about Diamond any less than you do. You have no idea what Diamond and I have together, you have no idea how much I love her. And no brother, no father, nothing is going to keep me away from her!”
With that, he turned and marched purposefully towards the smials. Bewilderment overcoming his previous anger, Fildigrim called after him, “You really love her, don’t you?”
Pippin slackened his pace for a moment as he turned to glare at Fildigrim. “Is it that hard to believe that someone could love her so much?”
Fildigrim’s face softened at last. “No. No, I suppose it isn’t.”
* * *
Pippin hurried over to the window he knew belonged to Diamond’s bedroom. Peering in, he saw an image that made his heart wrench. Diamond was curled up on the bed, her shoulders shaking slightly, her face buried in her hands.
He rapped his knuckles against the window. “Diamond!”
Her head shot up, her eyes wide. By the time she started to get out of bed, Pippin had already pulled the window open and was climbing inside her room. She hurried over to help him, and when he had both his feet on the floor, the two hobbits embraced each other tightly.
“Pippin,” she sobbed into his chest.
He held her close and kissed the top of her head. “Oh, Diamond, I’m so sorry.”
She sobbed again, collapsing against him so that he had to hold her even tighter lest she fall. He blinked rapidly, determined to hold back his own tears; he needed to be strong for Diamond.
Pulling back slightly so that he could kiss her brow, Pippin then bent and swept her into his arms. He carried her to the bed, setting her down and wrapping his arms around her shoulders. He buried his face in her hair, breathing deep the scent of her that he always longed for. It suddenly became more difficult to fight his tears.
“I don’t think I can do this anymore, Pippin,” she whispered mournfully. “I want so much to be with you, but…”
“I know,” he replied softly, his throat constricted.
“I wish things weren’t so complicated,” she said, tightly gripping his shirt as though afraid he would disappear if she let go. “I wish we could just run away and get married and not have to worry about what anyone thought of us being in love. It isn’t fair. We love each other, that should be all that matters.” She pressed her face against his chest, taking a deep, shuddering breath. “I just wish we could be together.”
Pippin squeezed her shoulder suddenly. “Why can’t we?” he whispered. Diamond looked up at him with furrowed brows, and he continued: “Why can’t we just run away and get married?”
“What are you saying?” she gasped.
Pressing his forehead to hers, Pippin took her hands and held them tightly as he gazed into her eyes. “Come away with me. Marry me, Diamond.”
Her eyes widened, and at first her face lit up with joy. But that joy quickly dissipated, and she squeezed her eyes shut, turning away.
Pippin faltered for a moment. “Diamond?”
She responded in a voice so soft that he had to strain his ears to hear. “I can’t.”
His grip on her hands became limp, looking as though she had struck him across the face. “But… but I thought you wanted to get married!”
“Oh, I do! Pippin, I would love nothing more than to marry you, but…”
He brought his hand to her face, his voice quavering with desperation. “But what? Please, Diamond, just tell me!”
She reluctantly met his gaze, looking tired and defeated. “You’re the son of the Thain, Pippin. You need to have heirs, and that’s…” She lowered her head as more tears flowed down her face. “That’s something I can’t give you.”
He tilted her chin so that she again met his gaze. The gentle certainty in his voice left no room for doubt. “I don’t care, Diamond. I don’t care.” He pressed his forehead to hers, brushing his lips lightly against her cheek before continuing. “We shouldn’t give up hope, because your infertility isn’t certain. But I am certain that if I don’t marry you, I will regret it for the rest of my life.”
Diamond leaned forward slowly and wrapped her arms around his shoulders; for a moment she buried herself in his presence, forcing from her mind thoughts of all that stood against them. Silent tears fell onto his shirt as she whispered into his ear, “Yes.”
He furrowed his brows. “What?”
She pulled back suddenly, a determined look coming to her tear-streaked face. “Yes, I’ll come away with you. I’ll marry you.”
There was a brief moment where he could only stare at her in wonderment. But then he leaned in and caught her lips in a passionate kiss; he moved forward and embraced her, nearly falling over on top of her in his sudden euphoria.
Whenever Pippin had kissed her before, he had always made sure to hold his passion in check so that he was never too rough with her. But all fear dissolved in that moment, and he kissed her as though he would never be able to stop. Amidst it all, Diamond made a noise that was somewhere between a moan and a sob, but she did not attempt to pull away. She gave in completely to the kiss, and the pair quickly surrendered themselves to love and longing.
She broke away long enough to murmur his name, more tears falling down her face so that Pippin could taste them on her soft lips. He brought one hand up to her cheek, cupping it while he ran gentle kisses up the paths where her tears had flowed. She wrapped her arms around his neck, tangling her fingers in his hair as he brushed his lips against her skin.
He leaned in and kissed her again, just as lovingly as before; only this time he opened his mouth slightly and used his tongue to carefully force apart her lips. Diamond inhaled sharply, but she did not shrink away from this contact, and soon her tongue met his as her hands tightened their grip on his shirt.
She whimpered softly, straining to get closer to him, gasping and weeping in a torrent of emotion. He lay both his hands flat on her back, holding her firmly against him. They separated only for brief seconds to reverently whisper each other’s names.
This could have gone on for quite some time, Pippin realized, and with a great effort he slowly pulled away and spoke, “Can you be ready to leave tonight?”
Rather breathless, Diamond simply nodded and stood, swiftly walking over to her armoire and pulling it open. She reached in and grabbed a small traveling satchel, which she immediately set about stuffing full of clothes. After a moment, she turned to him and said, “I won’t be able to bring very much.”
“That’s all right,” said Pippin, standing to join her. “I can buy you some more clothes in Buckland.”
She smiled at him. “You’ve done too much for me already, Pippin.”
He returned the smile, wrapping his arms around her waist and kissing her temple. “And I will gladly do more in years to come, my wife.”
Her smile widened in response, but as she started to return to her packing, there came a hasty knock at the door.
“Diamond, it’s Opal - may I come in?”
Diamond hurried over to the door, gesturing for Pippin to step back. She opened the door a few inches and peered out cautiously. “What is it, Opal?”
“Fildigrim told me that Peregrin Took had shown up outside,” came her sister’s anxious reply. “Have you--”
Before Opal could finish, Diamond had pulled her inside and quickly closed the door behind her. Opal gasped upon seeing Pippin standing there in her sister’s room.
“Opal, I need you to do something for me,” Diamond interrupted. “It’s very important.”
But Opal was not watching Diamond; her gaze was fixed on the other hobbit in the room. She was regarding Pippin suspiciously, almost resentfully. Seeing this, Diamond slowly moved to stand beside him, taking his hand. “Opal,” she said imploringly.
Tears filled Opal’s eyes as she spoke in a small, trembling voice, sounding more like a young child rather than an older sister just out of her tweens. “Are you leaving?”
Diamond came forward suddenly and embraced Opal, her heart racing furiously as she clung to her sister, thinking about all she would be leaving behind.
“I have to,” she whispered at last.
Opal sucked in a shuddering breath, taking a moment to steady herself before responding, her morose voice slightly muffled from where her face was pressed to Diamond’s shoulder. “Well Diamond, I’ve always wanted you to be happy, and if this is the only way, I suppose I can’t object.”
Diamond squeezed her shoulders and whispered, “Thank you.”
When Diamond pulled away, Opal nodded and said, “I’ll think of something. I’ll tell everyone that you just want to be alone for a few days. I can pretend to bring you food and such. I think I’ll be able to hold everyone off for two or three days, but I can’t promise much after that.”
Diamond gave Opal’s hand a squeeze before stepping back and picking up the satchel containing what clothes she had managed to collect. As she and Pippin moved towards the window, Pippin looked back at Opal and said, “Thank you for doing this.”
“Take care of her,” she said sadly.
Pippin nodded. “I will.”
Within moments, the two hobbits had both climbed through the window and out of sight.
* * *
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