Chapter 62 : The Healing of Harms
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I know it's been forever and a day since I last updated, but health issues with my mother and father have prevented me from writing last week and then my Aunt Rose passed away two days ago. She was a lovely lady and I shall miss her deeply. She lived to the ripe old age of 88. She could always make me laugh, she taught me how to dance the tarantella, and the meaning of several words in Italian that my father would never explain . . .above all she taught me how to live life with a smile. . . and eat dessert before breakfast. So I dedicate this chapter to her. Grazie, Zia Rosa!
The Healing of Harms
*the title of this chapter I borrowed from C.S. Lewis' masterpiece the Chronicles of Narnia, I believe this chapter title was used in The Silver Chair or perhaps The Horse and His Boy.*
Draco, Harry, Severus, and Sarai all followed the monarch of the Seelie out of the throne room and through a long twisty passage down to the Pool of Restoration. The walls of the passage were made of a soft golden stone, that had small chips of a glittery dust that twinkled faintly when the light from the glow globes struck it. Titania and the Snape family were surrounded by the Queen's Blades, marching both before and behind them, wary and on alert since the betrayal of Oberon and Malchiar had been revealed.
Sarai also watched out of the corner of her eye, though she was reasonably sure that none would dare attack Titania after seeing how she had dealt with her own kin in regards to their collaboration with Jarillion. Still, better safe than sorry. She looked at Harry, who looked pale and wan. The Captain hoped that the two boys would benefit from a session or two in the magical waters and some healing magic from Titania's personal physicians. Clearly, the dark magic had taken its toll on both youngsters.
Abruptly, Draco turned to her and asked, in barely a whisper, "Sarai, will the pool remove the dark taint from us?"
Slowly, she nodded. "Yes, the magical waters are made for cleansing you of any ailment, physical or magical, they restore and refresh your magical core, and should neutralize the effects of the dark spells. Your father knows well the value of the pool, he has used it before when he attended the revel and it removed his Dark Mark."
"You and Harry will feel much better after a long soak," Severus confirmed, gently shepherding Harry along with a hand upon his shoulder. "How's the headache, Harry?"
"Not that great," his son answered honestly. It felt like a goblin was bowling strikes behind his eyeballs. The constant throbbing pressure was making him queasy as well. He felt terribly exhausted, worn to a sliver, as if he had been playing multiple Quidditch matches back to back without rest, or enduring one of Sarai's grueling practice bouts for two days straight.
Soon they came to a large set of square double doors with the rune for water in the fae language upon them. One of the guards set his hand to the door and it swung open, he then led the way through it. Beyond the door was a huge cavern of limestone, smoothed by magic, and in the center of the room were two large hot springs. Steam rose from the water, making the air moist and warm.
To either side of the great doors were various alcoves with cushioned benches and cubbies in them, and two larger curtained partitions with shelves full of towels and cabinets of lotions, unguents, and salves for the skin, hair, face, and feet. It was almost like a spa. Multicolored lights illuminated the ceiling and each of the pools. There was a strange scent in the air, a mix of fruit, flowers, and an odd metallic odor. It was not unpleasant, merely odd, and both boys wrinkled their noses at it.
Three tall Seelie wearing shimmery silver robes, one female with long reddish hair and sapphire eyes, and two males, one dark and one with platinum hair that reminded Harry a bit of Lucius, came over to greet the royal entourage. They all bowed and said, "Your Majesty, a messenger informed us you were coming here with guests, how may we serve you?"
Titania made a beckoning motion for them to straighten, then said softly, "Healers Auriane, Morrowindl, and Kellin, may I present Lord Severus Snape, the Heir to Prince Manor, and his sons, Draco and Harry. These are the children who were stolen by Jarillion of the Unseelie and held prisoner in his fortress for many weeks along with my granddaughter. While they were there, he forced them to use dark magic, an unspeakable atrocity. I wish you to examine them and Sarai here, and make certain they are cleansed of the dark taint and their magic replenished. Also, the boys complain of headaches and say they were victims of a compulsion, please see if there are traces still lingering and erase them."
"It shall be done, my queen," said Healer Auriane. She looked the guests up and down, a smile lighting her face, which was ageless like all the fae, she could have been twenty or forty or even centuries older. "Welcome to the Grotto of Renewal, also known as the Hidden Grotto. Please step forward and accept our welcome cup." As she spoke, a plain silver goblet appeared in her hands as well as her colleague's.
Harry approached her hesitantly, his green eyes uncertain. He took the cup she handed him, then asked, "This isn't . . . wine or summerdew, is it? Because I'm not allowed to drink alcohol."
Auriane chuckled. "No, youngling. Such drinks are for feasts and not for children. This cup contains water from the spring that runs through this grotto. Drink and be refreshed."
Harry put the cup to his lips and swallowed, noticing out of the corner of his eye Draco and Severus doing the same, and probably Sarai also, though he couldn't see her. The water hit his tongue like a cool draft of lemonade on a hot summer afternoon, quenching his sudden dry throat and sliding down it. As soon as it hit his stomach he felt the queasiness vanish as if he'd drunk one of Snape's Stomach Soothers. The feeling of soothing warmth spread throughout his body and all the nagging aches and cramps in his legs and back faded away. He felt wonderfully alive and his hands and fingers tingled slightly as a rush of energy flowed through his veins.
He looked over at his brother and father and saw that they too looked refreshed and their skin had taken on a healthy glow. Some of the worry lines had smoothed out on Severus' forehead and Draco's hair seemed to have grown brighter, taking on an otherworldly hue.
"I feel great!" Draco cried, astonished.
"I am much less tired now than I was." Snape admitted.
"Me too," Harry said excitedly.
Auriane nodded. "A draught of the spring water can renew your energy somewhat and banish fatigue and minor aches and pains. But now I would ask you to hold this crystal in your hands," she withdrew a large clear crystal from a pouch, it was the size of an ostrich egg and handed it to Harry. "This is a drawing crystal, when I speak a command word, it shall draw all of the residue of dark magic from you. As it does so, it will become darker in hue. You may experience a pulling sensation but it will not hurt."
She tapped the crystal and spoke a word in the fae tongue.
Harry felt the crystal warm beneath his hands. It began to glow softly, then he felt an odd sensation, as of something tugging at him from deep inside. He saw strands of a dark pulsing energy begin to swirl inside the crystal, faster and faster. The crystal began to become a smoky grayish violet. Ten minutes later it was dark as onyx, and felt icy to the touch. It hadn't hurt, but it did make him feel strangely hollow, like a pumpkin with the insides scooped out.
"Is it supposed to look like that?" Harry asked.
"Yes, child. It has done its job well." She had Harry drop the crystal into a velvet drawstring pouch. Then she chanted a word and the bag lit up with green fire and disintegrated. "So no one can use the dark magic gathered therein for any purpose. How do you feel, Harry?"
Harry considered. "Sort of strange. Like there's something missing inside of me. But it's not really uncomfortable."
"What you feel is the absence of dark magic," she said quietly. "Stand still, please. I need to lay my hands upon you to see if you need healing anywhere else." Her hands, which were long-fingered and pale and cool, closed over his own.
She closed her eyes and concentrated, and Harry felt a feeling of peace flow through him. It was followed by a gentle pulse of healing magic which traveled up to his head and made his headache lessen. After a few moments she removed her hands and said, "I have mended as much as I can for now. You may soak in the Pool of Restoration for twenty minutes. The waters will cleanse and renew you in both body and spirit, young Prince."
She gestured to the steaming pool.
"Actually, it's Snape," corrected the young scion. "My family name is Snape, like my dad." He eyed the pool consideringly. "Just how hot is that? Looks like I could bake in it."
Auriane smiled. "You could, if that is how hot you want it. The temperature of the pool adjusts to suit your wishes, Harry Snape. Go on then, get in."
Harry blushed hotly as he realized she expected him to just strip naked in front of her and even Titania, who was standing off to one side conversing with Sarai. "Err . . . Healer . . . I don't . . .umm . . .but it's not the . . . err . . .custom with my people to bathe with women . . .I-I mean . . ."
Kellin gave a quiet laugh. "Mortals! You haven't anything Healer Brightwing hasn't seen before, silly boy! And you're a bit young to catch her interest in any other way."
Harry was getting redder and redder by the moment.
To his surprise, Auriane did not laugh at him, but instead frowned at her fellow Healer. "Hush, Kellin! Young mortals are often shy. Will this help?" She gestured and a sort of floating screen appeared around half the pool.
"Th-thank you!" stuttered Harry gratefully. And he ran behind the screen to undress.
Draco, who had been examined by Morrowindl, soon joined him.
They stepped into the pool together, finding that there were stairs of a sort formed naturally out of the rock. Harry was prepared to be shocked by the heat, but found that instead of boiling, the temperature was pleasantly warm, just like a hot tub would have been. Harry swam out to the center of the pool and allowed himself to relax and float in the water, which smelled of cinnamon and mint.
"Ah, this feels so good!" Draco said, basking happily in the warm water. "I can feel all my muscles just unwind. Know what I mean?"
"Uh-huh," Harry murmured. He looked to see if Severus was in the pool also, but saw him still standing next to the pool, speaking quietly to the Healers. "I wonder how Nesmay's doing?"
"Hopefully she got to go in here like us," Draco said. He floated on his back. "I could live in here, Harry. It's so brilliant!"
Harry splashed and swam in the water, it made him feel all tingly and energized, as if he had swallowed a Vigor Elixir. It had healed the welts left by Jarillion's belt so thoroughly that no trace remained, and he could feel it slowly penetrating the hollow place left within him, filling it with light and peace and pure golden magic.
He dove under the water and swam to the bottom of the pool, it was only about ten feet deep, then he popped up behind the lazing Draco and flipped his brother over.
Draco yelled and floundered for a moment before getting his bearings. "Harry, you wretch! You're going to pay for that one!"
He chased Harry about the pool.
The adults watched the two boys frolic with tolerant and half-amused expressions on their faces. Severus thought it was good to see them playing again, like the teenagers they were. It gave him hope that they would make a full recovery. Until Healer Auriane said gravely, "My lord Snape, I have some . . . unsettling news to tell you. When I examined your son for any kind of dark influences, I noticed that there were . . .wounds upon his psyche. Raw wounds of the sort that can only be made when a mind has fought a powerful compulsion. Your son is very strong willed and resistant to such magics, as is any fae, but even we can be broken. What that blackguard Jarillion—may bloodworms gnaw his bowels—did in trying to subjugate him is like a kind of rape. But a rape of the mind. Harry is badly wounded, his inner psyche torn and shredded, that is why he has complained of such crippling headaches. When he tore himself free of the compulsion, he damaged his mind, it was akin to a trapped animal gnawing its foot off to escape."
Severus stared at her, dismay and a cold fear sweeping through him. "Can you mend it, Healer? I was told that you were the best in realm at healing those marked by the darkness."
"I noticed something similar when I examined your other son, Draco," added Healer Morrowindl. "But the damage to him was not as extensive as what Auriane described."
"Such damage done to ones so young . . . it will require a long time to mend . . . and I cannot guarantee there will not be some scarring upon their minds." Auriane said honestly.
"Do the best you can, Healer. That's all that I ask." Severus said quietly. "If only I had been quicker . . ." he shut his eyes, shaking his head, awash in guilt and regret and shame.
He felt a gentle touch upon his sleeve and turned.
Titania was looking at him knowingly. "And if only I had seen how my own son allowed his hatred and bitterness to consume him, none of this would have occurred. Do not blame yourself, Lord Snape. Most of the blame lies with me, for being too indulgent as a parent. But he was my firstborn and . . . I fear I spoiled him. I knew he harbored an unkind prejudice against Aislinn's daughter, but I thought with time he would grow to accept the girl and to love her as the last living link to his sister. I should have known better. He is much like his father, rigid and unbending and believes that his way is the only way." She smiled, a sad bitter smile. "But that is finished now. You have my deepest regrets that such harm came to your children due to my kin's foolish actions. I would like to see what I may do to alleviate their pain. As matriarch of the fae I possess certain skills in the mind arts. If I may, I can suppress some of their worst memories of their time in the dark prince's fortress, which may help the healing process. Fear not, Severus Snape, what was broken shall be made whole."
"I . . .thank you, Majesty," Severus said, knowing just how hard it had been for the proud monarch to admit to him her shortcomings. "How is Nesmay doing?"
"She too has been mangled by that beast's manipulation and will require time to heal as well. She was tainted by the dark, though not as badly as she feared. But it is her guilt and fear that prevent her from healing as she ought. She sleeps now, but even in sleep she fights the healing potions and runes. She believes she is unworthy of being saved. I fear for her, Severus. If she were fully fae, and her spirit so filled with harm, she might well cause herself to die. We have been known to die of grief or guilt before."
Severus' eyebrows rose. "But Nesmay isn't a full fae. She's half-human."
"And you humans stubbornly cling to life despite the odds." Titania said. "She gets her willfulness from her father. Although, her mother was no shrinking violet."
"I would not think any daughter of yours could be that," Severus remarked.
"Aislinn would have cherished her daughter, had she lived. But the birth was terribly difficult, Nesmayallindra was bigger than a fae infant, and turned about the wrong way. It took all of my daughter's strength both physically and magically to bring her into the world, and once it was done she had nothing left to sustain herself. She died soon after blessing the baby. I have lost enough children in my lifetime. I do not wish to lose another," the fae queen said passionately, sounding much like any other parent would faced with a terribly injured child.
"Your Majesty, if I may make a suggestion?" Sarai asked.
Titania turned to her. "You may, old friend."
"Perhaps it would do her good to talk to Severus, Harry, and Draco when she wakes up? She has become very close to them during these past few weeks, it may help her better than any healing rune or potion."
Titania considered. "Yes, Sarai, you are right. The child might quit blaming herself if someone besides her grandmother tells her to. A cousin's word sometimes carries more weight. I shall inform you when she next awakens so you may visit her. Right now she is asleep, or so Healer Andrean assured me before I sat in judgment."
Soon the twenty minutes was up, and Healers Morrowindl and Kellin came over to the pool and called to Harry and Draco to come out. They held robes woven of spider silk for the boys to wear, Harry's was a deep green and Draco's sky blue.
Draco whistled in appreciation after drying off with a very soft bath sheet. "Merlin! This robe is first rate, better even than the one I used to have at Malfoy Manor. It's almost like wearing nothing at all, it's that comfortable. What's it made from?" He examined the silken robe with interest.
"It's made from the spun silk of the mirkelian (pronounced meer-KELL-ee-anne)," answered Kellin. "The giant spiders that dwell in the caves of the Deep Wood. The queen has a pact with them, they give us their silk in exchange for a monthly gift of sasara leaves, which increases their lifespan and silk production."
Draco's eyes grew wide. "Giant spiders? You mean acromantulas?"
"No, youngling. Acromantulas are meat eaters, and dangerous to mortal and fae alike. The mirkelian are eaters of fruits and plants and are non-aggressive, unless threatened. We of the Seelie court have been harvesting their silk for our clothing for time out of mind. It is light, airy, and unconfining, though my wife tells me the fabric tends to be difficult to sew. But once sewn, it is also difficult to damage, unless you happen to get cut open by a sword or arrow and it's resistant to stains."
"I wish I had a whole wardrobe of this stuff," said Draco longingly.
"There is only one problem, young Draco," Kellin smirked. "It's not made to stand up to a mortal winter."
"Oh. But it's great for the summer." Draco said.
"I am sure the queen will not mind parting with some clothing, seeing as you saved her granddaughter from that slinking coward Jarillion," said Morrowindl, practically spitting as he spoke the Winter prince's name. "Come, boys. The queen wishes to do some Mind Healing upon you, as she is strongest in that area."
Harry halted, frowning. "But, sir . . . I thought the water was going to cure us. My headache's almost gone."
"But not all the way gone, is it?" Morrowindl questioned gently. "Your mind, young Snape, was badly damaged by your struggle with Jarillion. It is often so with compulsion spells, especially when used upon children, which is abomination. Her Majesty wishes to try and alleviate some of the pain by helping banish some of your worst memories of your time with Jarillion."
"Like a Memory Charm?" Harry was puzzled. "I thought the fae didn't believe in them. Smidgen told me so."
"You are correct. The queen will not remove your memories, just . . . make them inaccessible to your conscious and dreaming mind. So your mind can heal without being reminded every night and day how it was torn asunder."
"Oh. I think I understand." Harry said. He wasn't sure he liked the idea of Titania being able to see his thoughts, but then again, he didn't want to live through crippling flashbacks and anxiety attacks again, the way he had last summer.
So he followed the Healer over to where the queen waited for them, seated upon a cushioned bench.
"Hello, Harry. Hello, Draco."
Both boys bowed to her and would have knelt as well, but she halted that with a gesture. "There is no need to bend your knee here, we are not in the throne room. Here, you are my family, and such gestures are not necessary away from the public eye. I trust that the Healers have explained what I will try to do for you? Yes? Good. Have I your permission to begin?"
"Uh . . . Your Majesty? Are you going to . . . read my mind somehow?" Harry asked uneasily.
"No. Not in the sense that you mean. I will scan only for those memories of Jarillion and his dark compulsion. I will not go deeply into your mind, only enough to find them. It would help if you could think about them, I know this is a painful subject, but it shall go quicker if you could aid me . . ."
Harry swallowed. "Yes, Your Majesty. I'll . . .I'll try."
Titania reached out and placed her hands on either side of Harry's head. "Look at me, child. Into my eyes. Yes . . . very good!"
Her voice took on a hypnotic quality and Harry found himself growing very sleepy, very relaxed, his eyes started to droop, even as he struggled to remain awake and remember the awful feeling when Jarillion smashed through his will and took over his mind . . .
Some fifteen minutes later, Titania withdrew from Harry's mind. There were tears upon both their cheeks, but the queen had been successful. "There! 'Tis done, child. I have repaired the worst of the damage. Though you may still have a few flashbacks and even a nightmare or two. Unfortunately, even I cannot totally remove all the damage done. You ought to speak with Inularian, and allow her to walk your dreams, she may banish them better than even I."
Harry nodded, staring at the queen, who still had tear tracks down her perfect porcelain skin. "Don't . . .don't cry . . ." he whispered, lifting a hand to wipe his own cheeks.
Titania gave him a wry grin. "Ah, Harry. Those tears are for you, in repressing your memories, I absorbed some of your pain and fear, and no child should ever have to feel such agony." She unselfconsciously blotted her eyes with a small lacy handkerchief. "How do you feel now?"
"Better. Thank you, Your Grace."
"It is I who owe you, Harry Snape, for protecting my granddaughter in the den of the beast." She inclined her head to him. "Go, child, and see your father. He has been most concerned for you."
Harry slipped off the bench and went over to Severus, and Draco took his place.
Like Harry, Draco too was nervous, but Titania soon put him at ease. "I shall not pry into your private thoughts and memories, little dragon. I shall search only for those concerning that scoundrel Jarillion and his attempt to break you to his will. Only that, and no more. Now . . . look at me, child."
Draco felt an odd kind of pressure in his head, and then he was floating somewhere very peaceful.
Severus was listening intently to the instructions Healer Auriane was giving him, about continuing the boys' treatment at home. She was going to give him several bottles of the restorative water, one dose to be taken at bedtime, and also said they should eat plenty of merlinnas and wholesome foods and get plenty of rest. She also said that once a week they needed to return to the grotto to swim in the pool, until the end of the summer. She suggested that Smidgen monitor the two boys' dreams as well.
When Harry approached him, he placed an arm about his son and continued to listen. Once the Healer was through, he turned to his son and asked how he felt now.
"Loads better, Dad. You really ought to try swimming in that pool. I feel like a whole new person."
Severus' fingers tightened upon his son, pulling him close. "That's good, Harry. I know exactly how that pool feels, as I've used it more than once."
"Back in the days when I spied for the Order. Only the Pool of Restoration could erase the dark taint on me after I attended a Death Eater meeting. Sarai showed me them once I told her what I truly did for a living, besides teaching."
"Oh. It's really awesome!" his son declared.
"I'll be using it soon." Severus said, though he didn't mention he would probably be with Sarai when he did so.
Harry yawned. For some reason he felt very sleepy.
Pretty soon Draco joined them, and Severus hugged him too and asked how he felt.
"Good, but tired," Draco answered.
"That's as it should be," Auriane laughed.
Sarai rose and offered to show them to the guest rooms on the third floor of the palace. That was where they had stayed last time, after the royal hunt.
But Titania told her they were to be placed in the family wing, next to the room Nesmay was in, and so Sarai and a small escort of Blades led the way to the opulent family wing, where a single suite was the size of three rooms in the Dursley house.
Harry and Draco didn't take the time to admire their surroundings, however. They were beginning to feel the effects of so much healing and fell asleep as soon as they lay down upon their beds. A few of the Blades remained to guard their door, while Sarai returned to the grotto to take a dip in the pool with her betrothed, scouring away all the stress and exhaustion of battle.
Nesmay surfaced from the realm of dreams feeling somewhere between being stomped on by a giant and floating upon a cloud. She knew the floating feeling was because of the potion the Healers had given her just before she had fallen asleep, it was a pain reliever. The other feeling was a result of overspending her magic yet again. She struggled up from the mists of oblivion into reality, opening her eyes and looking about her.
She recognized her surroundings, this was her room in the palace, and there upon the small oak nightstand rested her wand. The sight of the familiar kingwood wand relieved her immensely. Though she wondered if she were still worthy of carrying it. Even more surprising was the fact that Titania was sitting beside her, her ageless serene face now creased with a furrow between her brows and her eyes were bright with something Nesmay had never thought to see in them—concern and worry.
"Nesmayallindra, you're awake! At last!" Titania exclaimed. She immediately reached over and put her hand on her granddaughter's forehead. "Good. Your fever has broken, which means you're coming out of the spell shock. How do you feel?"
Nesmay attempted to sit up and winced. The back of her neck felt like someone had banged her head against a wall repeatedly. "Like I've kicked about by a dragon and a giant playing hurley."
Titania helped her sit up, propping Nesmay up with several thick pillows. "How's that?"
"A lot better. How long have I been asleep?"
"Not nearly enough to cure what ails you, child," Titania said quietly. "Do you realize what almost happened to you, Nesmayallindra? You nearly drained yourself to nothing. You almost followed your mother to the next world."
To her astonishment, Nesmay saw tears in her indomitable grandmother's eyes. Could Titania be crying? Over her? "Grandmother? Why are you crying?"
"Why am I . . .?" Titania repeated. "Am I not allowed to weep over nearly losing my grandchild? Do you think me so coldhearted as all that?"
"You care then? About what happens to me?"
"Always, Nesmayallindra. How could you ever think otherwise?"
"Because . . . you sent me away. To Prince Manor, to live with mortals. I thought . . . you were ashamed of me, that you wanted to be rid of me. Uncle Oberon told me often enough that a half-breed shouldn't associate with royalty, that I was a mistake who ought to be put away somewhere that I couldn't disgrace the family . . ."
"Stop!" Titania ordered. "No more! Oberon was wrong, child. About everything, and he . . . he betrayed his family in the worst way."
Nesmay gaped at her, for this was the first time she had ever heard Titania criticize her heir. And there was something hard and fierce about the fae queen when she spoke about her son. Nesmay trembled a little. "What do you mean, Gran?" Then she recalled Jarillion's promise to reveal the traitor within the Seelie court and she gasped. Surely not . . .
"I mean that your uncle, my heir, betrayed you by giving you up to Jarillion. He admitted as much during the hearing that I held while you were sleeping. He and your cousin Malchiar went behind my back and dealt in secret with the Winter prince, arranging your kidnapping."
Nesmay felt as though she had been stabbed. "I always knew he never liked me . . . he was always yelling at me and threatening to curse me and make me sorry I was so impudent, but I never . . . I never knew he hated me so much . . .Malchiar either . . ." Her fingers tightened upon the blanket. "What did I ever do to make them hate me so much . . .?"
"Oh, little one. What happened was not your fault. Oberon's prejudice against you was none of your doing. You did nothing wrong." Titania said, moving abruptly to sit beside her stricken granddaughter.
"Except be born and kill my mother."
"Nesmayallindra! Never say that! Your mother might have died giving you life, but she never regretted that for an instant. She loved you from the first moment she saw you. I know, I was there. Your life is a gift, child. Never doubt it." Suddenly she put her arms about Nesmay and held her. "Oberon was cruel to ever suggest otherwise. But you need never worry about him again. I have banished him forever from my court, he is no longer a member of this family."
"You mean . . . you've exiled him? For how long?"
"Yes. Their names are to be stricken from our lineage, for they have done the unforgivable and deliberately harmed a child of their blood, and royal blood at that. I have no son named Oberon. Or grandson named Malchiar. They are dead to me. As I am dead to them. They will not remember their lives as fae royalty, for I shall not have a civil war in my realm, where brother fights sister for my throne after I am gone. They shall live and die in the mortal world, kin wrecked."
"You did that . . . for me?"
"Yes. It was justice, and you are deserving of it, Nesmayallindra. Half-human you may be, but you are still my grandchild, and not even kin are above the laws of this realm."
Nesmay blinked hard, then whispered, "Then . . . I guess Severus was right. You really do love me." Sudden tears streaked her face.
"As much as I ever loved Aislinn," Titania whispered, hugging Nesmay closer. "Through you, she lives still. For that, and for all that you are and will become, I love you."
Nesmay clung to her, unable to speak, her throat clogged with sobs. Finally she said, "But Gran . . . I almost became a dark witch . . . Jarillion . . . he almost made me like . . . my father."
"Almost doesn't count. You fought him, didn't you? He coerced you down the dark road, you did not follow willingly. That does not make you a dark witch, only a victim of a wicked sorcerer. You could never be like your father, Nesmayallindra. You have not the selfish heart and arrogance that he did. When he came to me long ago, he did so for himself, he wanted power for his own sake, and he knew not how to love. You may have half his blood, but you are none of his spirit. Severus told me how you showed mercy to Jarillion there in his fortress, that you did not allow revenge to overwhelm you and make you a killer. Thomas Riddle would have never done that. Revenge was his lifeblood. But you, my dear one, are your mother's daughter. You walked the line and stayed the course, like a true Highstar. And I am proud to call you a member of my family."
"I love you, Gran."
Then she began to cry, because she had never expected to be forgiven, and it was the only thing that made any sense right then.
Titania said nothing, merely held her close, thanking all the Powers That Be that Nesmay was home safe.
Nesmay returned to her room from the grotto, wearing a lavender spidersilk robe and slippers, escorted by one of the Queen's Blades. She had bathed in the restorative waters of the pool and felt almost like herself again. Her talk with Titania had restored some vital part of her, a part that had been lost somewhere in Jarillion's dark fortress, and now she felt more at home here than she had ever done. But perhaps that was due to the simple fact that Oberon and Malchiar were no longer around to make her life miserable.
Running her fingers through her shirt hair to make it stand up in its trademark spikes, Nesmay pushed open the door to her room.
"Wait, my lady," ordered the guard, and entered before her, making certain it was safe.
Nesmay rolled her eyes, unaccustomed to such protocol, but remained outside in the hall until the guard told her it was safe. She walked into her room . . . and saw Harry and Draco lounging upon the divan in the sitting room.
"Hey, Nessie," Draco greeted, smiling.
"Draco! Harry!" she exclaimed, smiling back. "Mileena didn't tell me I had visitors." Then she added, "Don't call me Nessie."
"Can I help it if that name fits you?" Draco asked aggravatingly.
"Ignore him," Harry said, giving Draco a poke in the ribs. "He lives to be annoying."
"Like someone else I could name," his brother snorted. He eyed Nesmay up and down. "Where were you? Thought you were stuck in bed."
"I was, until my Healer decided I need to go down and marinate myself in the grotto," Nesmay told him. She crossed the room and hugged both boys. "Have you been there?"
"Yeah. Your grandmother took us right after she kicked Oberon and his son's arse out of Faerie," Harry said.
"What happened to Jarillion? He was exiled too, right?"
"Oh, yeah. His mother, Queen Maeve, disowned him straight off, and then he was made a slave and had his magic removed for good," Draco told her.
"A slave? To whom?"
"Baba Yaga, otherwise known as Gloriana, Queen of Exiles, your other aunt," Harry said.
Nesmay's jaw dropped. "You mean, Gran's other sister? Where did she come from?"
"She helped Dad and Sarai through the Endless Waste," answered Draco, and he then told her everything that had happened since she had passed out in Severus' arms.
"What a brilliant punishment! The high and mighty prince of Winter is now nothing but a lowly potscrubber . . .and one with no magic to boot! I can't say I'm sorry." Nesmay gloated.
"Neither can we. How are you, Nesmay?" Harry asked seriously.
"I'm . . .all right. I guess. I don't feel so . . . filthy anymore, if that's what you're getting at." She eyed him in return. "You two look like princes now, in those clothes. I almost didn't recognize you." She teased. "How are you feeling?"
"Much better than we were when we came out of Jarillion's keep," Draco said honestly. "That pool of yours is incredible. We need to find one and transport it to Hogwarts."
"I don't think they exist in your world, or if they do, they're hidden," Nesmay said. She peered at Draco worriedly. "You sure you're okay? Because people placed under a compulsion like that usually don't bounce back so quickly . . ."
"What can I say? I'm amazing . . .Ow! Damn it, Harry!" He turned and glared at his sibling.
"What he means is we've been cleansed of the dark taint, but we still need sessions with a Healer and more with the pool," Harry put in. "But we're going to be all right eventually," he added upon seeing Nesmay pale.
She dropped her gaze to her slippers, her hands twisting about each other. "I'm sorry. If it wasn't for me . . . you wouldn't have ever gotten hurt like that . . ."
"That's bat dung, and you know it," Harry said suddenly, his green eyes flashing. "Don't go blaming yourself for my choice. Or Draco's. We knew when we started that kicking Jarhead's arse wasn't going to be easy. But we did what we had to, and that's all there is to it. Considering what he was, we're damn lucky we came out as well as we did. And that's thanks to you, Nesmayallindra. We all saved each other, remember?"
"Because nobody messes with a Snape . . . or a Malfoy, and gets to brag about it," Draco added. "Now quit feeling sorry for yourself and act like a princess, okay?"
Nesmay lifted her head and glared daggers at him. "You know, Draco, if you weren't my relative I'd do something horrible to you."
"I know. But at least you're not moping now." He drawled. Then he ducked the slipper she threw at him.
"Quarreling already, I see," remarked Severus from the doorway.
Nesmay squeaked and turned around. "Err . . . it wasn't what it looked like, Severus."
Snape just raised an eyebrow. "On the contrary, Nesmayallindra, I believe it was exactly what it looked like." Then he beckoned to her with a finger. "Come here."
She eyed him warily. "Am I in trouble? Because he started it."
Severus just looked at her, not saying anything.
Nesmay bit her lip, then she walked over to him, head up, willing to take his censor unflinchingly.
Severus waited until she was in front of him before he took her by the shoulders, shook her gently, and said, "Don't ever scare me like that again, young lady!" Then he pulled her into his arms.
She buried her face in his tunic, murmuring what sounded like an apology.
"Hush," he growled lovingly, ruffling her spiked hair. "I'm saving my lecture for later, when you're fully healed and won't escape it by passing out. Right now, we're due in your grandmother's private chambers for a late supper, so best make yourself presentable. Afterwards, there's something I need to discuss with you."
She lifted her head from his shirt. "Like what?"
"That's for me to know and you to wonder."
She made a face at him. "You're awful."
"Many of my students would agree with you," he said, unfazed.
"Now I'm going to drive myself crazy," she pouted.
"Perhaps then you'll manage to stay out of trouble."
"Sure she will," Draco laughed, then stopped when Severus gave him a warning glare.
Nesmay gazed pleadingly up at her mentor. "How about a hint? Just a tiny one."
"Learn patience, Nesmayallindra." He returned, unperturbed. Then he bent and gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Welcome back, hedgehog princess. Now hurry and dress, you don't keep royalty waiting, even if you are her favorite granddaughter."
Nesmay grinned up at him, the old sparkle back in her eyes. Then she promptly ordered all of them out of the room.
What is the important thing Severus wishes to discuss with Nesmay?
A crate of butterbeer for whoever guesses correctly! Please review!
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