Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lord of the Rings belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Author's Warning: major AU. Absolutely non-canon.
Buttercup's hair grew thick and gold. Mommy wouldn't let her cut it and she most often wore it in a braid down her back, to keep it out of the way, but when it was loose and unbound, it hung nearly to her knees and shone “like a dragon's hoard in the Sun,” said Daddy.
She tried to be a good hobbit girl, to be gentle and do as she was told, to help around the house and watch Meriadoc when Esmerelda needed her to. But it was hard, because she would look out the window and see the bright blue sky and the green and gold fields, and her feet would itch with the urge to go out and run through the grass, between the trees. She felt cooped up when she was inside, felt a yearning to be out and doing something, felt all the days of being a good girl building up in her heart and head until she thought she would explode like a firework
She held it back for as long as she could, for nearly a year, in fact, but then, one day, she really couldn't help herself, and she sneaked out of the Hall and into the wood and ran until all the wind left her lungs and all the feeling of being stifled drained out of her arms and then it turned out that she didn't know where she was.
Daddy had told her many times that the Old Forest wasn't a place for a child. He'd told her the story of all that time ago, when the trees in the Old Forest still moved and had even once come down to attack the High Hay, and of other, stranger things that lived in the dark.
The other children were frightened of those woods, and spoke of a place called Withywindle where no one ever went and was generally said to be queer. Buttercup didn't know much about it, because people were generally unwilling to speak about these kinds of things in front of her, though she didn't understand why, and she thought maybe that was why she wasn't scared at all.
The trees were big and dark. The ground was dank and moist, not completely unpleasant to walk on, and the trees seemed to sway and whisper even when there was no wind. Buttercup moved as quietly as she could, making herself small among the roots and trunks, but she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. Her feet left no footprints, she was careful not to brush anything, but she couldn't ignore the idea that someone or something was following her, even though she didn't see anything, no matter how quickly she turned or how fast she walked, or how, several times, she hid herself behind something, and made herself as still as possible.
She knew she must be far away. She couldn't see or hear anything that was familiar, and she could hear and see farther than anyone else, child or grown-up, that she knew. There were lots of things that were strange about her—she was stronger than she looked, for one, and had to be careful not to break things. At first she thought this was normal, and didn't say anything about it because she didn't want to ask nonsensical questions. But then one day she watched Daddy and Saradoc working hard together to lift something she had just the other day moved easily and by herself to the side to get at the shelf behind it, and that was how she knew that this was just one more peculiar thing about her that was different, and then she didn't say anything because she didn't want to be different.
Now she stood and listened as hard as she could, and, somewhere over the noises of the leaves, the trees, and the whispers, she heard a sound as of people talking.
Buttercup followed her ears, and came to a place where the wood broke apart into a small clearing. She approached it as carefully as she could, even getting on her hands and knees, and when she was behind a tree close to the edge of the space, she stopped and listened, but the voices kept talking, low and quiet so that she couldn't make out more than every word out of five, and then she peered around the trunk and over the roots.
There were three of them. They were dark-haired and fair-skinned, and wore leather and boots like woodsmen. They were cloaked and carried a bow and a sword each, and they stood close together while they whispered.
They were Big People.
Something stirred in her head, something old and mostly forgotten that was like an heirloom creaking and spilling dust as she lifted it up, and she remembered two faces that she hadn't seen in years, two girls, brown- and black-haired.
“—shall be gone for a while,” one of the Big People was whispering. His voice was low and deep. “I intend to go into Rivendell, as I would have gone three years ago, if matters had not called me directly here from the east—”
She felt so strange. She saw the two girls, as clearly as if they stood in front of her, and other things stirred behind them, other faces, other memories. Her fingers touched a root in the dirt, and she looked down to see that her fingers, which just before had been barely touching the small blue flowers in the shadow of the root, were now curled over the reaching barkflesh, and the blue flowers were crushed under her hand. Her hands looked so peculiar, bigger than they had ever looked before, and her clothes were so tight, as if she'd grown even since she'd put them on, so tight she could hardly breathe. Her feet felt bare and cold, her whole body felt free and loose and awkward all at once, and she sat up on her knees because it was suddenly so hard to breathe, except now she saw that her head came above the roots she'd been hiding behind, where before they had been taller than her even when she was standing— “'Ware!”
She looked up. The three Big People had turned, their bows in their hands, and they were staring at her. She realized she could see them clearly, that her head came above the highest root, and they could see her as easily as she saw them. She saw jaws drop, saw clearly one man's face, his gray eyes and dark hair.
“A girl,” one of the other Big People said, and then she'd turned and was running. “Wait!”
she heard shouted behind her, but she ran anyway, as fast as she could, and it seemed to her that she was going very fast, faster than she'd ever run before, and when she dared to glance behind, just as she entered again the thickness of the trees, she saw a figure standing where she'd been, a Man, his hood thrown back, the gray-eyed, black-haired man, staring after her as she fled.
She ran without thinking, without thought. Leaves brushed at her faces, branches reached for her, but her feet moved of their own, her soft, small feet that hurt when she walked over a stone, and she ran until all the breath left her body and the trees grew smaller and less threatening, and then she collapsed in a heap at the foot of a hill, ringed with blue flowers, from the top of which she'd seen the roofs of Brandy Hall.
When Buttercup opened her eyes again, her feet had stopped hurting. She sat up and looked down at herself, but everything seemed all right. Her hands and feet were as they should be, as they had been that morning. Her dress was stained with dew and grass, and some of the sewing had burst, but she'd been running very hard. Mommy would scold her.
Buttercup didn't want to think about the clearing, about the Big People. She even decided that it was possible that she hadn't been anywhere near Big People at all, but had fallen asleep after her run, right there at the foot of the hill.
She stood, brushed herself off, and made her way home, where Mommy scolded her for not telling anyone she was going out to play, and didn't think at all of the gray eyes that lingered, unnoticed, somewhere in her thoughts.