Severus sat just a tad bit straighter at the sound of Frodo's voice. Relief washed over him in waves as he stared at the boy before him.
Frodo was still dreadfully pale and weak. There was still a soft haze deep in his eyes, but he was alive.
However, before Severus could answer his question himself, Gandalf had already taken the liberty to answer, smoking his pipe as he went. The earlier conversation was almost forgotten, but was waiting to be retouched upon at a later time.
"You are in the house of Elrond, and it is ten o'clock in the morning on October the twenty-fourth, if you want to know," the old wizard said, watching Frodo with sharp eyes.
Almost instantly, Frodo seems to sag in relief at the sound of such a familiar voice and cried out the wizard's name. Then, Frodo's tired eyes rest upon Severus who looked only slightly more refreshed than himself, but he smiled nonetheless.
Gandalf smiled at them both. " Yes, I'm here and you're lucky to be here, too. A few more hours and you would have been beyond our aid. You have some strength in you, my dear Hobbit."
Severus listened intensively to Gandalf. While he was momentarily dispelled by his own health, Severus did not hear much of Frodo's condition other than the few words the others had told him. It was clear that he was well, but to know that he was soon slipping beyond their grasp had left a deep chill inside his chest. He had vowed to protect the young hobbit and he had almost failed. He would have to take greater precautions in the future.
By now, Frodo had already sat up and was staring at Gandalf with a questioning look, but not before sending a quick glance towards Severus. It was too quick for him to catch and he did not dare look into the mind of the hobbit.
At last, after Frodo had clutched the white sheets over and over again, he found his courage. "What happened, Gandalf? Why didn't you meet us?"
It was a good question and one that Severus did not have the pleasure of asking himself, but he wanted to hear an answer all the same. Gandalf, however, took a dreadfully long inhale on his pipe but he did not speak. Gathering his thoughts, Severus was sure, but it was plainly obvious that he would not give a direct answer and was merely picking his words carefully. Perhaps it was too dangerous or dreadful for Frodo to hear after waking so soon, but Severus was not so sure that he would be able to a clear response from the older wizard either.
"I am sorry Frodo," he said simply, a glaze almost taking over his eyes as he seemed to drift away. "I was delayed."
And as he suspected, that was all that the man said. He did not dare elaborate or provide any additional information to the trouble that he had undergone or faced. He simply left it at that.
Severus frowned even more at the lack of information, but he was far too used to old wizards not telling him everything. However, Frodo did not appear to be the same and he looked almost anxious, torn from demanding an explanation but also to remain silent.
After a painfully dreadful silence with nothing but the soft coursing of a waterful and the birds singing, it seemed that neither Frodo or Severus could quite take the silence much longer.
"Gandalf!" cried Frodo at last, snapping him out of his train of thoughts.
Almost instantly, Gandalf had blinked away whatever thoughts had overtaken him and smiled tightly back at the hobbit.
"It is nothing Frodo..." replied Gandalf simply, but Severus knew better. But before either of them could comment or grill him for answers, the door to Frodo's room had opened and Sam nearly ran to Frodo's side once he had seen that the other hobbit was up and well.
A ghost of a smile tugged at Severus's lips as he watched Sam's face bloom with joy.
"Frodo! Frodo!" Sam cried with equal parts of relief and delight. "Bless you, you're awake!"
Frodo smiled at his friendly gleefully and tightly held onto the other's hand. It was relieving for both of them as they sized each other up and finding that the other was well and taken cared for. Years of friendship allowed no words to pass between each other. It was quite intimate for Severus and he found himself looking away with a soft cough.
"Sam has hardly left your side," interrupted Gandalf. "Or you for that matter."
Severus raised a delicate brow at Sam who flushed embarrassed, but he was well aware of it from the gossip Pippin and Marry told him earlier. Sam had taken it upon himself to watch Frodo until someone had forced him out or to take message. But instead of resting or eating as he should have done, he then made his way to Severus's temporary quarters and talked to Severus about all the mischief that Pippin and Merry had gone into. The others told him that Sam would sometimes come into his rooms in the night and begged Severus to awaken and if not he would tell him his woes and fears about Frodo, about the Ring, about Gandalf, and himself.
Rarely had any of the hobbits taken counsel with him at the Shire, but it had happened before. Though it was quite limited in numbers, Sam had confessed that he trusted his judgment and experience- however, he did not wish to disturb the man for he was quite frightening. But since Severus was asleep and lost in the darkness, Sam had come seeking his aid even though he could not fully give it.
Severus supposed that he simply needed someone to talk to and while he was sure that Pippin or Merry was more than willing to offer a listening ear, Sam had still chosen to seek Severus even though he could provide no words or comfort.
He had not realized how close or how much these hobbits had come to trust him during his time in the Shire. Such loyalty and trust were neither found in Slytherin nor with him in particular. It was odd in its own way he supposed, but he found himself feeling something he could not place.
"We were worried about both of you-weren't we, Mr. Gandalf?" said Sam interrupting Severus's train of thought.
Gandalf nodded his head before taking another smoke. "Yes. But by the skills of Lord Elrond, both of you were beginning to mend."
By then, however, the other two hobbits had finally made their way towards their room and rushed to their dear cousin's side as they greeted him the same manner that they had greeted Severus earlier.
They were far more ecstatic and hugged Frodo carefully as he was still healing. Gandalf and Severus watched them both, amused, and let them be as they must have waited a long time for dear Frodo to wake up.
It wasn't until much later that a servant had come and had told them that dinner was to be served in a few.
The Hobbits instantly surrounded Frodo and tried to help him stand as best he could- Frodo had insisted to Severus and Gandalf that he was fine and after a quick checkup by Severus he was allowed to leave his bed.
Sam held half of his weight while Merry held the other. They half led and dragged Frodo to the parlor from before, but under the watchful gaze of Severus. Pippin, on the other hand, continued to talk and sing of his delights of Frodo doing well and for the glorious food that they would eat later tonight. It was all joyous, but Severus knew that they did not have much time to enjoy it.
The hall of Elrond's house was filled with folk: Elves for the most part, though there were a few guests of other sorts. Elrond, as was his custom, sat in a great chair at the end of the long table upon the dais; and next to him on the one side sat Glorfindel, on the other side sat Gandalf.
With a quick glance to Gandalf and Lord Elrond who were talking in hush whispers, he knew that they would need to answer to danger's call once more, but he decided to allow the hobbits a moment of bliss.
In the middle of the table, against the woven cloths upon the wall, there was a chair under a canopy, and there sat the woman from before: Lady Arwen. It was the first time that Frodo has seen her and Severus could easily see the amazement in his eyes.
Her bright eyes had found Frodo first and she smiled warmly at him, but her eyes soon traveled to Severus where she offered him a bright smile- almost as if she was glad to find him here in her humble home and seated at her father's table. And while he became less focus on his looks over the years, he could not help but feel some level of self-consciousness as he found that the other folk, so high and fair that shared the table with him, seemed to find him as interesting as every other elf he had come across.
He felt greatly out of place in a way he did not understand. They did not hide their glances or their whispers, making it plainly obvious that they were talking about him. Though he tried his best to not show that it bothered him and had instead made sure that the other hobbits acted on their best behavior as they were sitting here not as a right but as an honor and should treat it as such.
Similar to Frodo, Severus did not speak much and had instead decided to listen, but he did indulge in a conversation or two.
At length, the feast came to an end. Elrond and Arwen rose and went down the hall, and the company followed them in due order. The doors were thrown open, and they went across a wide passage and through other doors and came into a further hall. In it were no tables, but a bright fire was burning in a great hearth between the carven pillars upon either side. Frodo found himself walking with Gandalf.
''This is the Hall of Fire,'' said the wizard. ''Here you will hear many songs and tales-if you can keep awake. But except on high days, it usually stands empty and quiet, and people come here who wish for peace, and thought. There is always a fire here, all the year round, but there is little other light.''
As Elrond entered and went towards the seat prepared for him, elvish minstrels began to make sweet music. Slowly the hall filled, and Frodo looked with delight upon the many fair faces that were gathered together; the golden firelight played upon them and shimmered in their hair.
But Severus did not mind them and had instead decided to sit near the ledge where the waterfall was in full sight along with moon and stars. It was not chilly nor warm, it just was. But there was a breeze from the north that brushed through Severus's hair and kissed his skin gently.
Memories of his past had resurfaced. Nights at Hogwarts were very similar to this. He would often take nightly strolls/patrols when he had trouble sleeping or needed time to think when he was busy during the day.
Those nights were always cool and he found the silence of the castle to both be odd and comforting. The small ripple of the Lake reminded him that another world lived below those waters. And as he watched the current meet the shore and the moon's lights shimmered against the waves, he felt a small boost of tranquility and comfort.
He used to come here during his time when he was a schoolboy then and he never was able to stop the habit as an adult. But near the end of the war when he was headmaster, they were no longer comforts that he could indulge in. He no longer had the time to find his peace of mind and instead roamed the halls to send students to their rooms least they get punished or stay in his rooms finding ways to destroy the Horcruxes and help Potter on his journey.
"Master Snape," said a voice behind him, snapping Severus out of wayward thoughts.
Elrond had come forward and stood behind Severus. He was watching the stars much like the centaurs did with a faraway look, though he knew that the elf's attention was very much on him.
"Lord Elrond," he greeted. By now Severus has noticed the hobbits were resting by the fire near Gandalf as he smoked his pipe and told them stories. They were relaxing until it was time for them to go to bed in the next couple of hours. Though Severus could already see Sam falling to sleep as he leaned his head against Frodo's good shoulder.
"A word, if you please?" asked Elrond as he gestured downwards toward the courtyard.
Severus barely thought to answer as he already found himself standing diligently and following the elven Lord down the marble staircase.
They walked silently for a long while, passing by a few guards and other elven folks that greeted their Lord and himself- not without glancing towards his person.
"I hear all kind of news from over the mountains and out of the south, though I hardly ever hear news from the Shire. I was quite surprised to find that the Ring has been hidden for so long, locked away by simple Hobbiton folk. However, it would seem that the ring was not the only thing hidden. A Wizard had mysteriously found his way right along the time that the ring was founded again."
Severus had opened his mouth to defend himself but Lord Elrond simply laughed and waved his worries away. "No, no, no. I do not blame you for the disturbance. I am sure the ring would have been founded anyway. I merely wished that Gandalf had found it sooner, but the reason why I had I come to you was not to discuss the ring- there will be plenty of time for that in the morrow- but to discuss why you are here.'
"I am sure that you have noticed many things that are quite odd. Your age and magic being just a few of them. Very interesting indeed. I have never felt magic quite like yours and I doubt that I or anyone else ever will. It is unique and not part of this world so you can say that you are too. Gandalf had not said much, but I have lived many lifetimes and I know many things, but I have never once encountered a situation quite like yours."
They continued to walk until they reached what was seemingly a dead end of rock and vines, but Lord Elrond continued to move with no hesitation and walked passed the vines and trees in their path to a clearing- a secret path near the banks of the waterfall and mountain.
There was only the rushing of water and the soft glow of the moon. The smell of flowers and water was fresh and Severus found himself relaxing. But they did not speak and they continued to walk until Lord Elrond sat on a makeshift stone bench right under the moonlight. The man seemed to glow heavenly like the stars.
"I had a vision just a night before your arrival. I was warned that there were dangers at Weathertop. And I had another one, many years ago, in the forest just beyond the reaches of the Shire. I saw a glow so vibrant and young, pulsing like the beat of the earth. For a long moment, everything had gone still and I sensed great magic arise, but along with it came pain and death. Once the glow had subsided, I found a man sleeping in tattered black robes, pale and tired. The earth had seemed to welcome him and moved for the man's comfort. I did not know who you were and the vision had begun to fade. When I had awakened, I knew not your name or where you came from, but I knew who you were. You were a warrior with great skill and power- one that would be a great ally against Sauron. But I had also known that you were in desperate need of peace that you had long since been denied. There was a cloud that surrounded you and there continues to be one today. A darkness still takes hold of you- your grief, your regret, your anger, and sadness had followed you here and it seems that it continues to remain strong.'
"I saw your entrance into this world, but that was as far as my vision allowed me to see. I did not send someone for you because if you were here there was a path you were destined to take and it was up to you to choose. I only knew that I would help you on your path when it was time for us to meet. Imagine my surprise when I met the man not only from my vision but the same man that Gandalf spoke very highly of, come in medical need."
Both Severus and Lord Elrond remained silent as they continued their stroll passed the gardens and into a small forest just before the end of their borders. Clearing his throat, Severus looked to Lord Elrond for answers.
"And this?" he questioned as he gestured to his chest, neither removing or showing the pendant that laid there. "Do you know what it is or why I have it?"
Lord Elrond remained silent, looking thoughtfully at him before sighing and gazing upwards as if seeking guidance from the stars above.
"The white gem like a star that lays upon you is a gift from the world. It can represent many things, but I cannot tell you what they are. It is for you to find on this journey and for you to decided what to do with it once you have your answers."
Severus sighed. "You will not tell me much more will you?"
Lord Elrond laugh. "No. I shall not. You may seek further answer from friends allies along the way to answer your questions, but only you can seek the answer deep inside you. We are only here to guide you."
They remained in silence, enjoying the night until it was late in the evening and it was time for them to go.
After Severus had returned, he and Frodo took a stroll with Gandalf has he elaborated all that had happened during the time that they were both ill. He answered more questions, as vague as they were, and talk about the splinter ledged into Frodo's flesh that was only found and removed the night before. It had sparked a lot of worry for all of them, but the matter had been fixed and there was nothing that they could do about it now, reasoned Gandalf. However, after Frodo was lastly set off to bed, Gandalf had told him that the wound never go away and it would remain with him for the rest of his life.
The additional information did not sit well inside Severus, but with hard hold for comfort on his shoulder, Gandalf had sent him off as well for the night.
The next morning after a quick breakfast, Severus and Frodo had taken a small stroll by the garden. Gandalf had told them last night that there was to be a meeting with representatives across the land to discuss ring and the plans that they shall take. Severus knew that Frodo was nervous. He was a bit more clumsy and fidgety than usual and he did not possess that calm grace that he often associated with the boy.
It was still early in the morning and the sun had barely set itself a quarter the way up into the sky. The trees, flowers, and grass glimmered from the morning dew- the smell of water and earth was fresh and strong. it was along this way under some small discussion did they find a small old hobbit sitting by the edge. It was Bilbo Baggins.
Frodo nearly froze at the sight but quickly rushed towards Bilbo's side with glee. Severus stood to the side as he watched them from afar embrace each other.
However, Frodo did not forget him and had sent him a glance. Severus nodded his head and watched as both made their way to Bilbo's room.
He knew that Frodo needed this moment alone with Bilbo and while he would like to share pleasantries with the old hobbit himself, he knew that he would have time for such things later. He had instead decided to continue his stroll since they have to wait for a few more men and elves to arrive for the meeting.
It was all the same to Severus and he did not think that he should be present for it or Frodo for that matter, but they were both requested by Lord Elrond and Gandalf. It was only fitting that those that brought the ring should be present to see where it will go after them. But neither Sam's nor Pippin's nor Merry's presence was requested. And while he did not wish for them to be there anyway, he knew that they would find a way to listen in. They were a lot sneakier than he gives them credit for.
Still, he should take it upon himself to scold them but he could not find it inside his heart to do it and instead kept to his musing until he came across the front gate where riders began to pool in. Many were men and some were elves and other dwarves. he did not know any of them, but he was sure that he would soon find out.