Chapter 44 : Titania's Request
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Seelie Court, Fae Realm:
Severus groaned in pleasure as Sarai's hands worked out a kink in his shoulders and neck. His lover's strong fingers were as adept at massage as they were at wielding a sword, a fact he was extremely grateful for, especially as he grew older. The stress of the TriWizard Tournament and the battle following had left him really feeling every year of his thirty-five years. This was the first time since the end of term that he had a chance to truly relax, without being beset by invitations from students or visits from relatives.
Titania's gift couldn't have come at a more opportune time. He missed Sarai dreadfully, and counted every minute he spent with her as doubly precious, a gift without price. Now, submerged up to his neck in the steamy waters of an underground healing spring, one of the few that all the fae in the Summer Realm had access to at the palace, Severus could finally release all of the tension he had been feeling. The healing waters of the spring were legendary, when a fae or a mortal with fae blood bathed in them, all their wounds, physical and magical, were healed instantly. It also removed curses and cured most illnesses, even that of iron poisoning. Mixed in a potion and drunk, it cured most mental illnesses as well.
The Hidden Grotto, as it was called, was a well-kept secret among the Seelie Court, and only those with a pass from the Queen could even get past the wards. Sarai had two such passes, one for herself and one for Severus, and she used them tonight so they could both enjoy the pleasure of one another's company without interruption.
After they had danced and talked awhile with Phil and Julie, both of whom congratulated them upon their betrothal, Sarai led Severus down the secret way to the grotto and together they undressed and swam in the steaming water. Severus was astonished at the power of the pool, all of his aches and lingering weariness melted away.
"Incredible!" he had exclaimed. "I feel reborn!"
"And so you are, Sev. The water will remove any taint of the dark magic from your body and remake you as you were born, pure and unstained," Sarai told him. "I am also told that it can, if you bathe in it enough, remove the ravages of time as well."
"You mean, it's similar to a Fountain of Youth?"
"In a way. It has powerful healing properties, which is one reason the palace was built here. I have bathed in the pool many times after a battle and it has always restored me quickly to fighting form. It is a blessing, and also our greatest secret. Did the Unseelie, our Winter cousins, know of its existence, they would fight endlessly to claim it, and we would never know peace. And so we are very careful to ensure that it stays that way. Those who use the pool are bound to never speak of it to anyone. I hope that doesn't bother you."
"Not at all. I can see why you have that stricture in place." Severus said, leaning back into her embrace. "You have magic fingers, Sarai."
She laughed. "Not like yours, beloved." Her hands finished working out the knot, then she began to trail fiery kisses down his neck and shoulder.
He turned his head and their mouths met in a breath-stealing kiss. Sarai could almost always manage to arouse him with the merest touch, and this time was no exception. Desire spiked through him and he took her in his arms. "I have missed you almost past bearing, my heart," he said inbetween kisses. If the water had not already been steaming, it would surely have done so given the passion between them.
"I know. And I have counted the hours until this revel, when I knew I should see you again. Oh, Sev, I am so delighted that Titania has released me from my contract. I love my cousin and her family, there is no greater honor than to protect them, but I do so long for a life of my own, without obligation. And now, at long last, I can have it." Her hands glided over him teasingly. "Finally, I can lay down my sword and be your wife, as we both dreamed long ago, when you became the Heir to Prince Manor."
He gazed into her brilliant green eyes and said softly, "Would you truly give up your sword for me? After all these centuries?"
"Yes. I am a warrior, yes, but I am also a woman. The warrior has taken precedence for over half my life. Now it is time for the woman to flourish." She licked her lips and smiled lasciviously. "I have achieved that which every soldier desires, Severus."
"What's that?" he asked lazily.
"To come home and retire in peace." Sarai answered simply. "Married to the man of my choice." She wrapped herself about him. "Do you know how rare that is, Sev? I am a member of the royal house, a distant one, but nevertheless . . .and such as I am are rarely allowed to follow their heart rather than their family's dictates. I am extremely lucky to have Titania upon the throne, who understands me. If Oberon were ruling, our match would never be. I would have to exile myself in order to be with you."
"Thank the fates that isn't so." Severus said fervently.
"I feel sorry for my younger cousins, however. Especially little Nesmay." Sarai said feelingly. "I know that Oberon is angling for a match between her and that revolting Winter prince Jarillion. He thinks to form an alliance and get rid of an unwanted burden at the same time."
"Because she was born of rape? Or because she is Tom Riddle's daughter?"
"Both, I suppose. Though normally we don't stigmatize a child born thus, as it is no fault of theirs. But Oberon . . .he was close to Aislinn, and when she died . . .I don't think he ever forgave himself for not bringing her defiler to justice. I think he turns his anger upon Nesmay because she was the cause of Aislinn dying, though Aislinn was halfway to the starry realm anyhow, she was so sunk in depression. I think she lived only to bear her child and then went willingly into the arms of the Great Ones. She would never have been a proper mother to the child."
Severus, his suspicions confirmed, asked then, "And Nesmay? She seemed a bright and inquisitive girl, if cheeky and outspoken."
Sarai chuckled. "That she is! She keeps the household on their toes. Drives Oberon insane. He expects her to be obedient and grateful to him for deigning to notice her every so often, like his own son is. But Nesmay has all of her mother's spirit and none of her malleability. I think she gets her rebelliousness from her human father."
"Yes. Riddle was definitely a rebel." Severus said grimly. "Has she inherited his temper as well?"
Slowly, Sarai nodded. "Yes, but Aislinn had a temper too. Oberon tends to forget that, but I remember it, since we were close in age and tended to fight on occasion. Aislinn could be a spoiled brat sometimes, she was the family pet. But for all her faults, I loved her dearly. It was a great blow when she faded and died. The betrayal of her lover was too much for her to take. She lived long enough to bless and acknowledge the child, then she died."
"She did not name her own baby?"
Sarai shook her head. "No. Nesmayallindra was given her name by the queen. Titania named her after an ancient ruler of the Highstar line. Her name means "A Beautiful Memory". She resembles her mother a great deal, another reason I think Oberon cannot stand her. He would have abandoned her in the mortal realm, had not Aislinn claimed her and Titania made her a ward of the crown. They have had many an argument over the child, especially now."
"Because of the betrothal?"
"Partly. But mostly because Nesmay has inherited more than her father's rebellious streak. She has also inherited his magic, and to Oberon that is a sign that she does not belong in the Seelie Court."
"She has witch's magic?"
"Yes, poor thing. It emerged last year and she cannot seem to master it. It's yet another thing to set her apart from her fae kin."
"As if being a bastard is not bad enough," muttered Severus. "I was surprised that she knew of her . . .heritage."
"She couldn't avoid knowing. There are no greater gossips than the fae. Titania told her the truth when she was around eight of your human years, rather than let her find out by some unscrupulous tongue waggling."
"What a terrible burden to place upon a child."
"Yes. But what's done is done."
They began to make slow languid love, half in and out of the pool, believing themselves safe from prying eyes for an hour or so more.
However, their idyll was rudely interrupted by a shimmerling blinking into the air overhead.
:My Lord Prince, please forgive the intrusion. But Her Majesty bids me summon you to her private study, she wishes to speak with you about a matter of utmost importance.:
"Bloody hell!" swore the Potions Master. But he reluctantly disentangled himself from Sarai, knowing better than to ignore a royal command. He turned to Sarai. "Forgive me, Sarai."
"There is nothing to forgive. The queen would not have summoned you if it weren't imperative. Go, and I shall see you anon."
He dried himself off with a towel and magically dressed himself, making sure he was presentable before following the patient shimmerling from the grotto to where Titania waited.
Sarai swam across the pool, she still had another half-hour left before she needed to return to duty, and wished that her cousin had waited before issuing those orders. There was never a dull moment at court, no matter what.
Nesmay fidgeted in her seat, until Titania bid her to quit acting like she was five again, then she froze.
Titania sat composed and calm, waiting patiently for Severus to arrive. Two of her Blades remained silent and still behind her, their faces perfect masks of inscrutability.
When Severus arrived, some ten minutes later, he performed a low bow and said apologetically, "Forgive my tardiness, Your Majesty. But when you called I was . . .otherwise occupied."
Nesmay tittered uncontrollably, her vivid imagination sending her pictures of just what the mortal and her cousin Sarai had been doing to occupy themselves. She clamped her hand over her mouth to no avail.
"Nesmayallindra!" Titania rebuked quietly.
The girl stifled her unseemly mirth immediately.
Severus flushed, even though he knew the fae were not like humans when it came to bedsport. They were very accepting of it and saw it as nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed over. Fidelity was not something most fae aspired to, and often took lovers even after being married. To them, lovemaking was fun and to be indulged in often. Unless the participant was unwilling. Rape was a crime in the Summer Kingdom the same as in the mortal realm. But Sarai had been willing and thus Severus shouldn't have been embarrassed. Neither of the bodyguards had batted an eyelash. Yet he was embarrassed, because a too perceptive girl knew what he'd been about.
"Forgive my granddaughter, my Lord Prince. She is young and often forgets what manners I taught her," the queen said, frowning at Nesmay, who blushed and studied her feet.
"My sons often have the same problem," Severus said.
Titania nearly smiled at that. "I can well imagine. Severus Snape, Lord Prince, might I introduce my youngest granddaughter, Nesmayallindra Highstar?"
Nesmay rose and curtsied, holding out her hand. "Well met again, my lord."
"Again?" Titania queried.
"We met during the presentation, Your Grace," the girl explained. "And I also spoke with his sons, Harry and Draco, and showed them about the hall."
Titania looked pleased. "That was well done, child. May I assume that you enjoyed being in their company?"
Nesmay nodded. "Yes, I liked them ever so much better than that icicle prince, Jarillion." She made a face. "Your Grace, must I marry that boor? He makes my skin crawl. I'd sooner marry an orc."
Titania sighed. "Were we not in need of an alliance . . ."
"Then have Uncle Oberon marry off Malchiar to one of Maeve's daughters. She has three, after all." Nesmay said, her amber eyes flashing. "Why does it have to be me who is sacrificed? It's not fair!"
"Nesmayallindra, I have not yet agreed to a betrothal. Now calm yourself." Titania ordered.
Nesmay blushed and resolved to remain in control of her emotions henceforth. Only mortals displayed such explosive bursts of temper. I may be half-mortal, but that doesn't mean I need to act like it.
"Please be seated, Severus Snape," the queen gestured to a chair that had materialized across from her. "The reason I have asked you here is because I have a request that only you can fulfill."
Severus looked at her expectantly. Ah, here it comes. There is always a price with the fae. "And just what would that be, Your Majesty?"
"As you are no doubt aware, my granddaughter is a half-blood. She has inherited much of my blood, including her beloved mother's features and her ability to cast glamourie. Yet there is much of her father too. She has recently begun displaying fits of mortal magic, strong ones, and there are no tutors among us who can teach her the proper control."
"I can learn control on my own, Gran!" Nesmay burst out. Then she clamped her mouth shut. So much for maintaining her emotional state.
Titania held up a hand. "No, child, you cannot. That is becoming more obvious every day."
As if to illustrate her point, a book flew off the shelf behind Nesmay's head and thumped to the ground. It was followed by a pretty egg-shaped crystal.
Nesmay ground her teeth together and muttered, "Damn it!"
"Incidences of accidental magic, as we call it, are common among children with magic's gift," Severus told them. "But when they are eleven, we begin to teach them how to control the gift through use of a wand and strict monitoring. Most are sent away to a special school called Hogwarts. But some do opt out of that and are tutored by their parents at home."
"Good. Sarai tells me you were such a teacher back in the mortal realm."
"Yes, I taught potions at Hogwarts, but also defense to my sons privately."
"Would you say you are a good teacher?"
Severus looked rather uncomfortable. "I like to think so. I am a strict teacher, however. I have exacting standards."
"That is to be expected. Those who are masters are often so. Nesmayallindra's unexpected magic caught us all off-guard. I had assumed that her fae magic would remain dominant, but instead her mortal magic seems to war with her fae heritage. I fear that if she does not learn control, it may destroy her."
"Gran, I'm fine!"
"You most certainly are not, youngling!" snapped her grandmother. "Do not even attempt to pretend you are! Last time you quarreled with Malchiar you nearly blew him into the Unseelie Realm."
"Served him right. Machiar's an ass."
Titania's lips twitched, though she did not smile. "That's as may be, granddaughter. Nevertheless, the fact remains that you must learn how to control your magic, before you accidentally kill someone. You are a danger otherwise, especially to yourself."
"Only if you make me mad," Nesmay sulked.
"Enough, child! You are in need of a tutor, and a tutor you shall have." Titania said in a voice that brooked no disagreement. "If you are willing to take on such a headstrong impudent student, Severus?"
Severus hesitated. He knew he could technically refuse Titania's request, but he feared if he did so, the queen might become angry and make trouble between him and Sarai. He did not want the betrothal extended any longer. He wasn't exactly thrilled to take on a new student, but his conscience was nudging him. He had an obligation to teach a young witch or wizard control over his or her powers, it was something he had sworn to uphold when he became a professor. He could feel the magic surging about the room, wild and untamed, and all of it emanating from the girl with the hedgehog hair. The queen was right. Nesmay desperately needed to learn control over her wild gift.
"I shall do as you ask, Your Grace."
Titania gave him a small smile. "Well said, Lord Prince. Normally, I would have you tutor her at her place of residence, Graystone Manor, but I think it would benefit you both if you were to have her come and stay with you at Prince Manor for the rest of the summer."
Severus had been expecting that proviso. Indeed, he would have suggested it himself if Titania had not. On his own ground, which bore only half the fae magic, he could more easily influence and control Nesmay's outbursts. Prince Manor was built to contain accidental magic from half-bloods.
Nesmay, however, was shocked speechless.
For about twenty seconds.
"No! I won't go! You can't make me!"
Titania merely raised an eyebrow. "You forget yourself, child," she said frostily. "Would you defy your queen, Nesmayallindra Highstar?"
Their eyes locked, stormy amber with inflexible emerald.
The silent confrontation lasted about a minute and a half.
Then Nesmay lowered her gaze to the floor. "As you command, my queen." She said, the words leaving a bitter taste in her mouth, like a draft of wormwood.
"It is for the best, granddaughter. You need refuge from court as well as a decent tutor."
I could get that at Graystone, the girl thought rebelliously. There is no need to exile me to the mortal realm for a season. My home is here, not with humans. I'm fae! But she knew better than to voice any more of her opinion. Titania did not have limitless patience, and her words had the force of a royal command. Nesmay had no wish to spend her last few hours in the palace as a statue or a frog, which had been the fate of some of Titania's subjects who had recklessly defied her dictates. Fae justice could be swift and merciless, and not even her favorite granddaughter was immune from it.
"You have till the end of the night to pack, child. I suggest you ask one of the brownies or nisses to assist you." Titania said.
"As it please Your Grace, but I can do it myself," Nesmay said, coldly formal. If her grandmother wished to exile her to the mortal realm, such was her prerogative, but that didn't mean Nesmay had to like it. Silently, she cursed her mortal sire for having passed on his magic. She could have done without it. It was nothing but a bloody nuisance!
"Suit yourself, pricklepatch," the queen returned, using her old nickname for the girl.
Nesmay felt her ears grow hot. The queen only called her that when she was behaving badly, pricking people with her temper. It was a name only family knew about. She glared at the tall human sorcerer, daring him to laugh.
But Severus remained unruffled. "Your Majesty, if you need to, I shall sign a contract with you agreeing to teach your granddaughter."
"Is that standard protocol?"
"Some prefer it."
Titania snapped her fingers and a piece of fine parchment appeared along with a purple quill. "You may write your terms upon here. I have only one condition. That you treat Nesmayallindra like you would your sons, giving her affection and discipline in equal measure."
"Agreed." Severus picked up the quill and began to write out swiftly the usual terms in his school contract. Once he was done, he signed it with a flourish. Then Titania read it over and she signed it as well.
Finally, she turned to Nesmay. "You may read the contract, Nesmayallindra."
Nesmay took it and read it, though as a minor she could not sign her consent, until she was of age, such decisions as this were her guardian's responsibility. The contract seemed straightforward and Nesmay didn't think it would be too bad. At least Severus didn't seem to loathe her on sight, like her last tutor Klaus Ironhand had. So maybe she would get through this. "All right," she said, subdued. She handed the document back to the queen.
Titania took her hand and gave it a squeeze. "Remember, it is but till summer's end. Mind you obey your new tutor and do not disgrace yourself."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Nesmay dipped her head in a brief bow. "I shall try. May I be excused? I will need time to pack."
"Go on with you!" Titania waved her away.
Nesmay curtsied briefly to both her queen and the man who would be her new teacher, then made her way out of the room on cat's feet. Her heart was heavy within her. Even though it was not forever, she still felt like an exile. Conflicting emotions warred within her, and as she made her way down the hallway to her suite, several paintings fell off the wall and broke and a tapestry shredded itself to bits.
Severus didn't know it yet, but he would have his work cut out for him trying to subdue the rebellious young fae's magic without breaking her spirit.
Well, here it is, the chapter you've been waiting for!
Is Sev up to the task? You'll find out soon enough.
This has been a rough week for me, I've had my sister visit from Virginia and while it was nice, it was also exhausting and then I had my cousin die of cancer and had to attend a funeral. So please be kind and leave me some uplifting reviews, I really need them.
I have also updated Irresistible Chemistry, as well as Moon Fire last week, for those of you who didn't know. Please R & R them too! Thanks as always!
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