Chapter 47 : Trouble's Shadow
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Severus glowered at the young man. "I seem to recall you two having an altercation just before Nesmay lashed out at you, young Abelard. What did you say to her to make her angry enough to try and hex you with her new wand?"
Abelard flushed guiltily. "All I said was that I was surprised she had the kingwood choose her, that wood was once only used for royalty, and she was hardly of royal blood. Then she tried to feed me some cock and bull line about how she was royalty on her mother's side." Abelard laughed mockingly. "Like I'd ever believe that! I called her a liar and then she attacked me. You really need to teach the brat some manners."
Severus scowled at the other wizard. The arrogant little puppy had some nerve, telling him how to raise his ward! "You need a good dose of manners as well, young man. For your information, calling her a liar was the worst insult you could give her, since she is the granddaughter of the Summer Queen, Titania Highstar of Faerie. No fae or half-fae can speak an untruth. Not that it excuses in any way her behavior, but don't act like you were blameless, boy. You are as much to blame for this disaster as she is, so quit with the innocent act."
Ollivander spun on his nephew, shock and anger etched upon his features. "That little girl is a relative of the Queen of the Seelie?" he coughed. Severus nodded in confirmation.
"Uncle, that's got to be a lie!" Abelard cried. "She didn't look anything like a princess. And she sure as hell didn't act like it."
"What would you know about how a princess looks and acts, you stupid oaf!" Ollivander shouted. "Didn't I tell you to watch your tongue around the customers? Didn't I?" He came and shook his fist in his nephew's face. "Why can't you ever listen to me, you insolent whelp? Now look what you've cost me!"
"Uncle Lucian, it wasn't my fault!" Abelard yelled.
"Don't you lie to me!" Ollivander ordered, and suddenly a stout stick was in his hand, and he began whacking his nephew about the shoulders.
Abelard yelped and cowered, trying to evade the older man's blows, but Ollivander was quicker than he looked, and he chased the obnoxious apprentice across the street, hollering, "I should have done this a long time ago, you wretched puppy!"
Several of the witches and wizards who had gathered to see what had happened to the wand shop clapped and muttered, "It's about time Ollivander put him in his place."
Severus had to agree, and would have stayed to watch the rather amusing spectacle if he hadn't been so concerned over Nesmay. He asked the crowd if they had seen a girl with purple hair like a hedgehog's run past their store recently. But none of them had, which suggested that maybe Nesmay was using glamour to disguise herself. He swore under his breath and set off to find her, telling Ollivander he would be back to settle the debt and help him.
Meanwhile, back in Quality Quidditch Supplies, Harry and Draco had just met up with Ron, Fred, and George, who were also there to admire the sleek new broom up for sale. It was called Cyclone 2010 and it looked totally amazing.
"Merlin, but what I wouldn't give to own that!" Ron said, staring up at the sleek silvery broom in envy and longing. "It's gorgeous. Isn't it, Harry?"
"Yes. It's almost as good as my Firebolt." Harry said loyally.
"It blows my broom away," said Ron.
"Ours too!" said the twins.
They spent twenty minutes admiring the broom and then Ron drew Harry a little way's away and whispered, "Wait till you hear what went on at the Burrow this past week. Percy came home all full of himself, and he made the big mistake of trying to convince me that I shouldn't be friends with you anymore since you were the son of Severus Snape. I told him where to get off, all right, the arse! Mum heard us fighting and she came in to stop it and heard what Percy said, about you being the worthless son of a queer arrogant sod and how my being your friend was unacceptable."
"What a bloody berk!"
"I know, Harry! Mum went ten kinds of red and I thought she was going to have a stroke, she marched right up to Percy and yelled in his face that he had no right to speak so about you and she was ashamed of him and demanded he write an apology letter to you right away. And when he wouldn't, she took him by the ear, plunked him on a kitchen chair and snapped, "Percival, don't make me Stick you to a chair!" Then she went and lectured him about being a bigot and judging a wizard by his House or the cut of his robes and I swear, Harry, if he'd been younger she would have taken her spoon to his backside."
"He said something similar to me at school, while the tournament was going on," Harry told Ron grimly. "He cornered me on the stairs in Gryffindor Tower and said how since I was the son of a Slytherin I wasn't fit to associate with you and to leave you be."
"He did? Why didn't you tell me? I would've told him to stick it up his arse," Ron said indignantly. "He can't tell me who to be friends with!"
"I guess it slipped my mind, what with everything else going on," Harry said. "I haven't received any letter yet from Percy."
"That's 'cause Mum didn't like the first one he wrote and is making him do it over." Ron said, smirking.
"Percy's always been—" began George.
"—an arrogant ass," finished Fred.
"I couldn't agree more," Draco put in. "No offense, but I've never liked him, even before I became Harry's brother. He was always acting like a pompous ass."
"Look who's talking." Ron bristled slightly. He knew what Draco said was true, Percy was a pompous ass, but Percy was also family.
"Hey, it was expected for me to act like a pompous ass. Lucius drummed that into me before I could crawl. What's your brother's excuse?"
"Brain damage," George said.
"Fell off the bed when he was a baby and it knocked the sense right out of him," Ron explained, grinning. It was an old family joke.
Harry checked his watch. An hour and fifteen minutes had gone by. "Draco, we'd better get going. We're supposed to meet Dad and Nesmay at the wand shop."
"That's the fae cousin you told me about in your letter?" Ron clarified.
"Yeah. She's kind of wild," Harry said.
Draco rolled his eyes. "That's like saying a dragon is kind of dangerous."
They bid goodbye to the Weasleys and headed up the street towards Ollivanders.
They had not even gone two feet beyond the Quidditch store when Nesmay appeared out of nowhere and slammed full tilt into Harry.
"What the—Nesmay, what's the matter?" Harry asked, taking the slender fae girl by the shoulders and gripping her hard. He managed to keep his balance and not fall on his arse by sheer luck.
Nesmay stared up at him, her golden eyes full of fear and anger. "Let me go!" She struggled in his grip. "Harry, let me go!"
"Why? What happened? Did you get your wand?"
She felt her right hand jerk up and she waved the wand in front of his face. "Here! See? Here's my wand, and I wish I'd never gotten it. Nothing's changed!" she half-sobbed. "I'm still dangerous, I blew up Ollivander's shop and now your father's going to kill me!"
"You blew up Ollivanders?" Draco gasped, staring at her with a mixture of awe and horror.
"How did that happen?" Harry asked gently.
"It . . .his stupid nephew called me a liar and I just . . .he'd been sneering at me the whole time . . .and when he said that I . . .just lost it. I didn't mean to make the whole roof collapse . . ." she looked from Draco back to Harry, misery written in her features.
Draco held up a hand. "Hey, point that wand away from me, if you don't mind. I'd rather not end up in pieces."
Two things happened then.
Nesmay started to cry and Harry socked him one in the arm.
"Draco, sometimes you can be a real prick," Harry growled. "Now look what you've done."
"I wasn't serious . . .well, not really." Draco said sulkily.
Harry patted Nesmay on the back. "Nesmay, it's all right."
She shook her head. "No, it's not. He's never going to forgive me for this. Never!"
"You mean Dad? Or Ollivander?" Harry asked.
Nesmay didn't answer.
"Probably both," Draco said. "Ollivander's got to be having a fit by now. And who knows with Dad . . ." He shuddered. He didn't envy Nesmay, for Severus' temper was legendary, especially when his sons did something to publically embarrass him. And even Harry and he had never done something as terrible as blow up a shop in Diagon Alley. Merlin help her, but her hands will never be the same after all the laundry she'll be doing the whole summer!
Nesmay had stepped back and freed herself from Harry, mostly. Harry still had a hand on her shoulder when Severus rounded the corner and saw them.
All three children went pale when they saw the look in the Potion Master's eyes.
Nesmay squeaked and backed up into Harry. Draco thought about conjuring a shovel and digging a hole to hide in until Severus' fury had spent itself. And Harry felt a cold shiver of fear run down his spine. But then he stepped in front of Nesmay, some protective instinct rousing within him.
Severus slowed when he caught sight of them, and relief fluttered through him when he saw that Nesmay was unhurt, but the tender feeling was soon eclipsed by anger. Merlin blast the girl, but she almost got us all killed! And ruined poor Ollivander's livelihood. Oh, how I want to shake her till her teeth fall out. Or wallop the daylights out of her backside. Gritting his teeth, he stalked towards them.
To their credit, the three stood their ground and did not flee.
Severus might have appreciated their courage if he hadn't been so very angry. "Don't you ever run away like that again, Nesmay!" he growled, feeling his own magic crackle and hiss in response to his temper. "Do you have any concept what your little outburst has done? Do you?"
"Yes, Amarsi," she answered from behind Harry.
"Harry, move out of my way!" he snapped.
"No, Dad," Harry said, a slight quiver in his voice. "You don't want to do this now."
"What the blazes? What do you mean, I don't want to do this now?"
Harry gulped, for he had never seen Severus like this before, not even when he'd been caught after drinking the green beer. But he faced his father squarely, ignoring the quiver in his knees. "I mean you don't want to punish Nesmay when you're angry. You need to calm down, Dad."
Draco marveled at his brother's sheer courage . . .and sheer stupidity. There were times when he wondered if Harry had any sense of self-preservation at all. Only a fool challenged Severus in a temper. A fool . . .or his son, who knew that his father would suffer pangs of guilt were he allowed to let his temper rule him. So Draco said, "How bad was the damage, Dad? Was it . . .all destroyed?"
"No, but it's definitely going to take weeks maybe months to fix it and the wands that were damaged." Severus answered, still glaring at Nesmay. "I would have thought you had more courage than this, young lady, to hide behind your cousin."
"Dad, you're scaring her," Harry said.
Severus fought down the urge to cuff his insolent son. How dare he interfere with his discipline of his ward? The girl was out of control, she deserved to be frightened, apparently she had not learned her lesson even after doing chores for half the day, since after one bloody insult she flew off the handle. "Give me your wand, Nesmayallindra," he ordered. "You can't be trusted with it right now."
Nesmay looked at him pleadingly and then tossed him her wand.
Severus caught it neatly. His longing to strangle and spank her at the same time was slowly leaving him. He took a deep breath, fighting to regain his splintered control. He looked down at Harry and suddenly wondered just how he must have looked for his son to suddenly become Sir Galahad and think of his own father as a threat. Was he really that intimidating when he was angry?
He took a slight step back and said, "We need to go home now. I shall owl Ollivander and work out a payment schedule for the damages. Or something else." He indicated that they should all grasp his sleeves, or each other, because he had to Apparate them all back to the Lonely Moor and the Endless Mist.
Once they had done so, he concentrated and then they vanished.
Home again, Severus felt the familiar soothing touch of the land and his temper quieted somewhat. Enough so he ordered Nesmay to her room and then retreated to his study instead of raising a hand to her. But it was a close thing, and he didn't realize how close until he saw the relief in Harry's green eyes just before he spun about and went through the study door.
He walked to the desk and sat down, Harry's words echoing in his head. You don't want to punish when you're angry . . .you need to calm down . . .Severus took a deep breath. In order to be calm, he had to find his center, find the core of his being where he felt safe and surrounded by the glistening walls of his power, power he'd worked hard to tame, that had not come easily to heel either when he was an adolescent. But I mastered it, and so must she. Except I don't think she's even trying. She is trouble's shadow and I am failing her as a teacher. His perfectionist soul cringed at the admission, but it was the truth. What had happened today should not have occurred. I should have sent her from the shop as soon as the wand had chosen. I should have been watching that little creep Abelard more closely. I should have taken the wand and put it away . . .
He stared at the kingwood wand atop his desk and thought about how the whole story would be in the bloody papers tomorrow, and then everyone would see what a failure he was as a teacher. Even Longbottom melting cauldrons hadn't been this bad. And he wondered for the first time if Titania had not played a cruel joke on him, saddling him with such a student, who flouted his authority with no thought of the consequences. But maybe the consequences just hadn't been harsh enough. Nearly dying of magical drain wasn't harsh enough? His conscience mocked him silently.
Severus, you seem troubled. Might I ask what is going on? A quiet voice spoke in his mind, accompanied by an otherworldly chill.
The Potions Master looked up and saw his ancestor, the first half-blood Prince, standing before him in all his ghostly majesty. Unlike the majority of ghosts at Hogwarts, Sev Prince was not translucent, he appeared exactly as he had in life, save for a wavering about the edges of his form. Severus suspected it had to do with his being a Guardian of the manor, that the ghost drew upon the land's power, and could manifest as almost solid. He had seen the ghost a handful of times since becoming Heir and whenever the elder Prince came to him, it was important.
"My Lord Prince," he greeted respectfully.
The ghost flashed him a lopsided smile. Sev, he corrected with infinite patience. Someday I am going to break you of that formality, young Snape, and have you address me as a friend or relative should. Titles are for guests and strangers, you are neither, Severus. Now tell me what is bothering you. I haven't seen you this agitated since last year, when your son was having those terrible nightmares.
"You knew about them?"
Of course. I didn't come to you then because the shimmerling was handling it. Had she not appeared and been saved, then I would have come and offered what help I could. But usually it is best if the living solve their own problems. The ghost took a seat in midair, one eyebrow cocked.
Severus hesitated. He hated admitting his shortcomings, especially to one he admired.
We all make mistakes, Severus. I made plenty of them as a youth. I still do. Sev Prince encouraged. Talk to me. Maybe I can help.
Severus heaved a sigh. "Very well. Doubtless you know about my new addition to the household . . .?"
Lady Nesmayallindra Highstar, Titania's unwanted bastard granddaughter, who carries the blood of Tom Riddle in her veins, and has inherited his magic as well as fae glamour. Aye, I feel her presence in the astral, like a thunderstorm waiting to break.
"A thunderstorm. An apt description. The storm has broken however, figuratively and literally." Severus told the ghost what had occurred since Nesmay's arrival and the latest debacle with the wandshop. He even admitted how he had been in such a temper that his own son felt she needed protection from his wrath.
Sometimes our children save us from ourselves, the Prince ghost said. Your son knows you very well, to so dare your wrath.
"No student, not even Harry at his most impulsive, has ever made me so angry . . .if he hadn't been there I . . .don't know what I would have done . . .no, I do know what I would have done . . .the same thing my father did to me as a child . . .Merlin help me . . . I am not fit to teach her, my Lord. If I cannot control my own temper around her, how the bloody blazes can I teach her to control hers and her magic? Titania warned me it would be difficult, but I never expected this!"
You feel overwhelmed. You were unprepared when you agreed to Titania's offer. And so was she. From what I've observed, that little girl has a lot of anger and resentment bottled up within her. Her family has not treated her well, and now she feels as if they have gotten rid of her. Tossed her away into the mortal realm and have done with her. So she rebels. I myself don't know half as much about wizard magic as I ought to, since I only inherited the fae magics, but isn't strong emotion often a trigger for your sort of power?
"Yes. But the wand helps focus that uncontrolled power. Except in Nesmay's case."
Sev Prince chuckled. She does have a temper. Like her mother. And her father as well. Perhaps you need to start at the very beginning, Severus. Teach her how to control that temper and then work on her magic.
"I . . .yes, I should have thought of that before. What an idiot I am!"
Don't be so hard on yourself. Sometimes you are too close to a matter to see all the alternatives. That's why it helps to have a friend's perspective. Here is something else I picked up from her. She believes that you will grow to hate her eventually and treat her accordingly.
"Hate her? I don't hate her, I'm just . . .angry and disappointed and frustrated with her . . .exceedingly so, but I don't hate her. Why does she think that way?"
You'll have to ask her that, Severus. I only know glimpses that I catch from her thoughts. My suggestion to you is to go and talk with her before you issue any kind of punishment. Sometimes in order to fix a problem you need to go back to the past.
"Speaking of punishments . . .how should I handle this? My first impulse was to haul her over my knee and wallop the daylights out of her, but perhaps that's not such a good idea . . ."
No. Never punish in anger, for you only end up regretting it later. My father made that mistake with me. Sev Prince said ruefully. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you only use corporal punishment as a last resort, yes? A wise decision. It is too easy to lose control using that method all the time, and then you become what you fear the most. Your abusive father and grandfather.
"That is why I hardly everuse it."
And when you do, you detest yourself for it, said the ghost. The fae are like you in that way, Severus. As a child, I received a single thrashing, and that my father regretted till the day he died. But that's not important now. A good punishment should make a child learn from her mistakes. As a parent, I always tried to do that. Here is what I think you ought to do . . .
Severus listened to his ancestor's advice, and found it to be excellent. He tended to forget that the ghost, who usually appeared as a young man, had also once been a parent. Sev Prince also had the experience of centuries to draw on, rather than the paltry thirteen or so years Severus had.
"Thank you. I hadn't thought of that."
Anytime, Sev. You don't have to bear every burden alone, you know. I'm here to help and give advice. All you need to do is stuff your pride behind your teeth, my fine serpent, and ask. Family helps family.
"I shall try and remember that. I am not used to asking for help . . .I was taught to rely on myself . . ."
Ah, the old Prince independence. I fear I have my share of it, laughed the ghost. Nevertheless, I am here whenever you need to talk about anything. But now you need to speak with your wild child, Severus. I believe she has disregarded your instructions and gone to hide in an oak tree.
"She what?" Severus sputtered. "Bloody hell!" He rose to his feet and hurried out of the study.
Nesmay could not bear the closed in feeling of her room any longer. She had been waiting for Severus to come up and give her hell for an hour, and the waiting was driving her insane. She felt like a prisoner waiting for the axe to fall, or the whip, or whatever her teacher had chosen to punish her with. She had heard all the stories told in whispers among her cousins about how brutally mortals punished their children, whipping them black and blue, leaving them to starve in closets. She had not really believed them, until Ironhand had told her that he had seen such things for himself, the last time he had walked upon mortal soil, though he had not told her that had been centuries ago. Seeing Snape's face this afternoon, she had been sure she was going to end up beaten to death. But Harry had saved her, she hoped he would not get in trouble for it.
She was sorry she had caused so much trouble for her cousins, sorry that she was nothing more than worthless half-breed, born to be trouble's shadow, as Ironhand and Oberon had always told her. There is an evil in you, girl, a darkness you have inherited from your tainted mortal father. I can see it in you, just as Lord Oberon said. Someday you shall turn to the dark, far better the Queen had sent you to dwell in the Winter Court, amid others of your kind, rather than saddle herself with you. You, pitiful half-breed, who isn't worth the effort it takes to pound manners and learning into your stubborn skull.
She had hated Ironhand for saying such things, but lately she wondered if he hadn't been right. This witch's magic she had inherited seemed all destructive, the most inoffensive thing she had done was make a light. And then she had gone and blown up an entire shop full of wands, the very thing that wizards needed to practice their craft. She suspected she might have blown up their Minister's palace and it wouldn't have been considered half so bad. What kind of witch did that, even by accident?
A dark witch. One destined to destroy people. She hugged herself about her middle, feeling tears prickle her eyes. Uncle Oberon was right. I don't belong with the royal family, or any family. I don't know why Grandmother didn't ship me off to Maeve at birth, or drown me like a vicious boggart. I need to get away. It won't matter if I run, Cousin Severus won't want me around anymore, not after this.
Feeling utterly wretched and longing to return home, she climbed out her window. She ran as far as she could towards the woods, then tried to call a Gate, the way she had seen her older relatives do. But she had spent her mortal magic, and she had never learned to use her fae magic to summon Gates yet. Her attempt failed, and left her gasping and in pain. She sank to her knees beneath a large oak tree, sobbing, her face pressed against the rough bark.
Some instinct of self-preservation urged her to climb the tree, and after a moment she did so, easily as a squirrel, for she was naturally agile. Soon she was ensconced in the oak's sheltering branches, a glamour of Unseeing woven tight about her. You're safe now. Nothing will find you.
But once again she was wrong.
Some ten minutes after she had climbed the oak, she heard light footsteps coming across the grass, and a familiar silky voice calling her name.
She remained utterly still and silent, yet somehow he found her anyway.
He peered up into the tree branches and called, "Nesmay, I know you're up there. I can feel you through the earth bond. Come down, we need to talk."
Nesmay snorted. Talk, ha! Does he think I'm stupid? I know perfectly well what he wants to do with me, and it doesn't involve talking at all. She remained where she was, still holding the veil over herself, though she was feeling more and more exhausted.
Severus could feel her magic dwindling through the bond. "Nesmay, if you won't come down, at least drop your shields. You've drained your magic again, don't make it worse by using more magic."
Still no response.
"Dammit, girl, do you want to kill yourself?"
"No, but I'm not stupid either. If I cancel the veil, then you'll use magic to pull me out of the tree and whip me."
Severus sighed, reigning in his temper. "Child, I promise I won't use magic upon you. Just release the veil. You can stay in the tree if you feel better. Just drop the veil."
She hesitated. "You're angry. I can tell."
"Yes, but I'm not going to hit you."
"All right." She dismissed the veil and was now visible among the foliage.
"Better," Severus looked up at her. "What are you doing here instead of in your room?"
"I need air and light, not to be trapped in four walls," she told him.
Severus seated himself at the base of the tree. He had not realized he had frightened her so badly that she felt the need to hide from him. You idiot, Snape! Now look at the mess you've created. "I see. As I said, I wish to talk with you, both about today's mishap and a few other things. I fear that I have rushed you into training, throwing too much at you too soon. What is it that makes you so angry, child? Is it me? Or something else?"
"What do you care about it?" she snapped, suddenly made bold by the fact that he could not reach her. The resentment had been festering within her for days and now it burst. "You were hired to take me off my grandmother's hands. I know she said it was a favor, but no favor the Queen asks comes without a price. She wanted me out of the way, far from her court, so that I did not disrupt the nobles with my . . .half-breed presence," she sneered bitterly. "She knows Oberon hates me, and he's her heir, she has to keep him sweet. And what am I but a half-breed bastard, the shame of her House? She sent me here to be rid of me! Deny that if you can, Master Sorcerer!" Her breath was catching now, as she struggled to keep from sobbing, rejection squeezing her heart until it bled from the pain.
He heard the pain in the ragged edges of her voice and he could not help but respond to it. Severus Prince had been right. She felt she was an outcast, unwanted and unloved. Just as a certain Slytherin had felt at that age. "Nesmay, I do not think your grandmother intended this to be an exile. She wished to help you, and she felt that it was best for you if you came here so that you could learn how to control your magic. I don't believe she is ashamed of you. Is being here so unpleasant?"
"No, but . . .she didn't even ask me! She just commanded, because then I couldn't refuse. She hardly ever lets me come to court, not that I really care but . . .my cousins come and go as they please and I . . .I have to be invited. Otherwise, I stay at Graystone, hidden away like a crazy old maid!"
"I would say that perhaps the Queen wishes you to be away from all the gossip and backstabbing that goes on there. It's no place for a young impressionable lady. I happen to agree with that. I would not permit my sons at court either, not till they were of age and able to make sound decisions. She is concerned for your welfare, as any grandmother would be."
"I don't believe you!" she sniffled. "Oberon always said it was my fault that my mother died, and she was Gran's favorite daughter. So why wouldn't she want me gone from her realm?"
"Your uncle is a bloody idiot, to condemn you for something that was not your fault!" Severus said angrily. "I always thought the fae cherished all their children, no matter if they were full or half-bloods. I suppose there are exceptions to everything, however. But not in Titania's case. Child, I believe she loves you because you are her last living link to the daughter she lost. But if you want proof, write to her and ask her to confirm what I said."
"What if she won't answer me?" the girl asked in a small voice.
"You will never know unless you write to her." Severus urged, thinking angrily that Titania could have saved him a great deal of heartache if she had bothered to discuss her reasons for sending Nesmay to Prince Manor before they departed.
"I suppose so. But she still wanted to betroth me to that scummy Prince Jarillion. Why would she do that unless she believes what Oberon always said about me?"
"What did Oberon say about you?" Severus asked warily. He had a feeling he wasn't going to like what she said.
"That I'm evil and bound to come to a bad end. That's why I belong in Winter instead of Summer. So that the evil that lives in me won't taint my family. That I am my father's daughter in all ways. When my witch power started showing itself, do you know what he said to me? He said, so I was right, and the bastard shows her true colors. And that's what you believe too, isn't it? You think I'm evil just like him!"
"I do not. That is ridiculous, Nesmay. You may be Tom Riddle's daughter by blood, but you are nothing like him, child."
"How do you know that? How do you know?"
"Because I served Voldemort once. I was a spy, and I stood at his right hand and saw him destroy with his magic. He almost killed my son when he was a baby. I know the face of evil, Nesmay. And you do not wear it, nor can you inherit it. Your father made his own choice to travel the dark path. He chose to become a tyrant. Evil is a choice, Nesmay. A choice you do not have to make."
He could hear her weeping softly. He cursed her callus uncle in his head. His blind stupidity and hate had nearly ruined the girl.
"I-I don't want to be like him," she cried, tears dripping down her face. "But my magic . . .every time I use it I end up destroying something . . .I can't help it . . ."
"You can, young lady. You have the will to do so. Your magic reacts to your emotions. Learn to control your temper and you will master your magic. Like I did."
"You're not just saying that?"
"No. I swear it upon my wand." Severus told her firmly. "Come down from there, my lady. I do not like having conversations with trees. And there is still the matter of your explosion of Ollivanders to discuss."
She poked her head out of the branches. "I'm sorry. But if that puke-faced troll hadn't called me a liar, I wouldn't have lost my temper."
"That is no excuse. Have you never been called such before by your cousins? Yes, it is insulting, but there was no reason for you to try and fry the boy. There is an old saying among my people—sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me. Unless you allow them to. Consider the source, a spoiled brat, and then disregard it, because he's nothing more than a yappy pain-in-the-arse who deserves a good licking."
She almost smiled at him. His wit was rapier-sharp, but it reminded her of her grandmother's. "Am I in trouble?"
"What do you think?" he asked, standing up and crossing his arms over his chest. "You destroyed a man's living with your temper, young lady. Years of work. Do you not think that you owe some recompense?"
She nodded reluctantly. She just wished said restitution would not be coming out of her hide.
"It will do you no good to stay up there. The consequences shall be the same now as later. Better to face them now and have done with it, my lady."
She looked into his eyes then, and saw that the rage that had possessed him before was absent. What she saw in them was determination, and she had the feeling that he would stay under the tree all night until she gave in. The Princes were known for their stubbornness. "I'm not a lady, sir. Uncle Oberon says—"
"Do not quote anything that pompous jackass says to me. You have the blood of queens and kings in your veins, Nesmayallindra and that makes you a lady in my book. Even if you don't always behave like one."
Her eyes went misty with tears. He was the only one who had ever given her the honorific, in all of the queen's court, she had been the forgotten misfit, born on the wrong side of the blanket, sired by a wicked mortal. She had never been accepted at court, not even by the queen. Only Severus truly accepted her, all of her, she realized with a burst of gratitude. "You do me too much honor, my Lord Prince."
Severus snorted. "Thank me later. Well?"
Nesmay made up her mind. She didn't care if he did beat her black and blue. As her teacher and her relative, he had that right. She was a lady, she could handle the consequences. She walked back to the trunk of the oak and slid down it as quickly as she had gone up, her feet touching the ground in five minutes.
Severus watched in astonishment. The girl climbed like a bloody squirrel!
Nesmay turned around, holding a slender branch in her hands. She took a breath and said evenly, "I'm ready, sir. Just . . .please don't beat me too hard." She thrust the switch at him.
Severus had intended to put a hand on her shoulder, he had been reaching out to touch her when she turned about and handed him the stick. His hand closed reflexively over it before he realized what he was about. Then he stared at it in revulsion. "You wish me to beat you?"
"No, but . . .isn't that how you mortals punish children who misbehave?" she asked, honestly puzzled.
"Who told you that?" he demanded sharply.
"My tutor, Master Ironhand, said all mortals punish their children thus. That it was customary here."
"Some parents may use such methods," Severus said, glaring down at the switch. "I never have. Nor will I ever." He longed to go and find that damned tutor of hers and beat him black and blue, the lying bugger.
"I'm not afraid, sir. You can't be any worse than Ironhand."
"He beat you?"
She nodded. "Many times. He said it was the only discipline someone like me understood."
"Titania knew of this?"
"No, sir. Not at first. Not till Uncle Oberon bragged to her one day that Ironhand's discipline was the only thing keeping me in line. Then the next day Ironhand was gone, and there was a new dwarf fountain in the queen's garden. Uncle Oberon was furious. He called me a spoiled rotten brat and said someday Gran would rue the day she raised me. After that, I had no tutor. Until you."
"Sounds like your grandmother didn't agree with him. Neither do I." Severus promptly broke the switch in half. "The only thing a switch is good for is kindling for a fire. And I have enough of that." He tossed the pieces away.
"You're not going to beat me?"
"For the love of Merlin, child, no! I might be an intimidating bastard, but I don't beat my students. Or my children."
"Not even when they blow up wand shops?"
"Not even then." He smiled wolfishly. "I have something much worse than a beating in mind for you, my temperamental lady. Something which I pray will finally teach you a lesson about controlling your temper and understanding your magic."
"Are you going to hex me then?"
Severus' eyes blazed. "Did the rotten bastard do that to you also?"
"No. For he had not the craft. But my uncle often threatened to." She gazed up at him with wide gold eyes, then she lowered her eyes to the ground.
"I will neither beat nor hex you. First, I will give you lessons in meditation. They are extremely boring and tedious, just ask my sons. You will most likely be bored to tears, but that's too bad. Meditation is the key to controlling that temper of yours. You will have lessons every night. Then we shall return to Diagon Alley and you shall give Lucian Ollivander a formal apology and offer him your services in repairing his wands and his shop. You shall work for him for four hours every afternoon until his shop has been restored, the whole summer if necessary. He is a master wandmaker, and perhaps learning how to make wands will help you to focus your magic better. Making wands is very time consuming, and should keep you occupied enough to keep you out of mischief. I shall make sure Abelard stays away from you, now quit looking at me like that. And last, you will also be doing the laundry here at the manor, without magic, for scaring me half to death when you disappeared like that. Never ever run away like that again, do you understand?" He reached out and shook her hard, until her teeth chattered.
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry I made you worry."
"You damn well ought to be." He growled.
"But I didn't think you'd care if I was gone, after what I did, I thought you'd be glad to see the back of me."
"You thought—you foolish little witch-child—if I had wanted to see the back of you, I would have booted you out the door myself! If I didn't care about you, I wouldn't have wasted all this time talking to you, now would I?"
Then he hugged her.
Nesmay was so shocked that she froze. Then the sensation of his arms holding her close registered in her brain and she buried her face in his soft robes and began to cry. She cried for a long time, nestled against him, unable to resist the comfort he offered, even if she thought she didn't deserve it. "Forgive me?"
"Yes, yes, you're forgiven." He patted her back rather awkwardly, and ruffled her spiked hair. "There now, you silly hedgehog princess. If I'd wanted a bath I'd have jumped into the pond."
His words had the desired effect upon her—they made her stop crying and snicker instead. "Hedgehog princess? Is that what you think of me?"
He coughed, embarrassed. "Yes, if you must know. Your hair reminds me of a hedgehog's quills and you have the same prickly nature."
"But I'm not a princess."
He glowered at her. "Are we back to that again? You are if I say you are, and there's an end to it."
She grinned up at him, her familiar mischievous smile. "And shall I take your word over my uncle's, though he is a prince and you're not?"
"Of course you should. And I am a Prince too, and don't you forget it. Besides, he's an arrogant jackass that needs a bridle put on his tongue."
"Here. Blow your nose, a lady shouldn't drip like a leaky faucet." He handed her a handkerchief.
She obeyed, honking like a foghorn.
"Blessed Merlin!" he sputtered. "Has no one ever taught you any manners?"
"They tried, sir. It didn't take too well." Her lips quivered.
"May Merlin be merciful!"
"Having second thoughts?" she teased.
"Second, third, and fourth ones," he shot back. "But don't get any ideas, young lady. You're stuck with me for the rest of the summer." He shook a finger at her.
She sighed. "Really? Because I was rather hoping that—"
"You could escape my endless chores by hiding out in the forest?"
"—I could stay longer," she finished. "Because I rather like it here, even if you are a terrible nasty grouch."
She danced out of reach, giggling. "But then, so are most ebony mambas when you scare them awake," she said impudently, naming a kind of fae snake, one that had a deadly bite but was also extremely loyal to those it called friends. Then she scampered across the grass towards the manor.
Severus shook his head and muttered, "Impudent brat! I ought to tan her hide for that. Whoever said girls were easier to raise than boys was out of their bloody mind. Why am I always the one saddled with the mouthy needy students?"
Because, Severus Snape, you are the one who understands them best, answered Prince Manor's Guardian.
"Humph!" was all Severus said, before striding rapidly across the lawn to the house, a half-smile quirking up the side of his mouth. There wasn't much to say to refute that statement, so Snape simply kept silent.
And prayed that the manor would survive his hedgehog princess's growing pains.
I would just like to thank everyone who has reviewed, read, and favorited this story. You are all awesome!
That said, I want to let you know it might be awhile till I update again, because I have to finish working on another story, But For A Dog before October, since it's going to be a present for my sister for her birthday. I apologize for the delay and hope you'll understand. In the meantime, you could read But For A Dog if you'd like, it's posted on fanfiction dot net under my penname Snapegirlkmf.
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