Asta had plain quarters in the Amazonian tower.
The floor was white marble, the walls white and free of pictures or decorations. One wall had a door; across from it the opposing wall had a small window to let light in.
A short bookcase was tucked away under the window and an old rocking chair sat nearby. A small purple fire burned in a white stone box mounted on the wall. It was opposite a small bed that sported a jolly yellow blanket.
Asta was sitting in her chair reading a historical text about the war with the Brotherhood; trying desperately not to think about the Shard and its hidden portal when there was a light knock at her door.
She rose from the ancient chair and it creaked noisily. She shot it a wary look, as if it would collapse in a heap before her eyes. It didn’t. Good, the enchantment was holding nicely.
Asta knew very well that chairs weren’t supposed to last 600+ years, but this was her favorite chair and she hated to see it go.
She dropped her book on her bed as she passed it and opened her door.
“Well, this is a surprise!” Asta’s eyebrows went up when she saw who was. “Is there more news about the Shard?”
Sophia and Nyssa were standing in her doorway. Nyssa looked furious and Sophia looked highly amused.
“Is there something wrong?” Asta’s eyes widened.
Nyssa opened her mouth, but Sophia laid a hand on the younger woman’s plump arm and her mouth snapped shut.
“No, dear,” Sophia said quickly. “But something has arrived for you.”
“Arrived for me?” Asta looked confused. “From whom? I don’t know anyone. Why would anyone send me something?”
“I have my suspicions,” Sophia said with a twinkle in her eye.
Asta followed the women down through the tower. The living quarters were near the top of the tower, under the astronomy laboratory and observation deck. Past that there were personal offices and teaching areas. The library and communications sections were below that before they reached the common area on the ground floor.
Asta followed the women: Sophia hobbling along, Nyssa stalking through the tower, towards the big doors that opened to the drawbridge. Small huddles of Amazonian women and girls seemed to be giggling and whispering to each other.
Alexandra gave Asta a wink as she passed by. Asta frowned in confusion.
She felt profoundly uncomfortable. She had never quite fit in as well as she would have liked and the other Amazons made her nervous at times. It was why she spent a lot of time in her room.
Was this some sort of a joke? She had never fully understood human humor.
Sophia waved her wand and the heavy door leading outside slowly began to slide open. Nyssa tapped her foot impatiently and gave Sophia a look that told Asta that whatever they were doing, she thought it a waste of time. Sophia beckoned to Asta and the younger woman followed. The three women stepped out into the light of the afternoon and Asta blinked at what stood before her.
There was a silver dragon the size of a small dog staring at her. It wore a small blue tag bearing Asta’s name in a swirly green hand. She looked at Sophia and then back to the dragon.
A clockwork key on the top of its head started turning and a sweet, lilting tune came from the dragon.
There was a soft sigh behind her. Asta turned to see a dozen Amazonian heads poking out of the tower, watching the little dragon.
Nyssa started grumbling.
The dragon did a small pirouette and small hinges creaked as its chest opened. A single rose carved from dark wood inched towards her on the end of an accordion hinged extender.
“Absolutely not!” Nyssa thundered. “She’s far too young!”
“It looks as if your young man is a historian.” Sophia said with a small chuckle and not a little pride in her voice. “A fine choice.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Asta said tentatively.
“You see!” Nyssa clapped her hands together. “That settles it! She has no idea what she’s getting into! The whole thing is preposterous to begin with! I will write to that Nicolai at once to have him reign in his little heathens!”
“Oh, hush.” Sophia said making a sour face. “The acceptance of the rose signifies a courtship, not a wedding.”
“He probably does not even know what his boys are up to!” Nyssa continued on as if Sophia hadn’t spoken.
“We can go talk to the Priestess if there’s any doubt to his intentions,” Sophia reasoned. “She will talk to their Priest. It is the way of things and it is not ours to change.”
Nyssa was still huffing. Small black tendrils of hair had snaked loose of the carefully arranged piles of hair on her head, making her look like she had been struck by lightening.
“Mikhail wants to court me?” The tips of Asta’s hair glowed blue.
“You see, Nyssa.” Sophia tried to calm down Nyssa with a reassuring tone to her voice. “She knows who it has come from.”
“But we don’t know what desire means to her,” Nyssa insisted. “Was she drawn to sex? To the scent of blood? The combination of the two? Say she lets this boy court her and she kills him accidentally? Where will our negotiations be then? I say ‘NO’ Sophia. It is just too dangerous!”
“We will let the Priestess decide.” Sophia said firmly. “And there will be no more discussion on the matter until then.”
Nyssa scowled but was silent.
“He likes me.” Asta said. “That’s why I chose him at the ceremony.”
“What, dear?” Sophia asked softly.
“He smelled different from the others and he kept watching me.” Asta said as she looked at the small dragon. “Like when Severus looks at Hermione.”
“Pheromones.” Nyssa groaned.
“If her response was triggered from pheromones then she’s of age to mate,” Sophia pointed out.
“I’m over a thousand years old.” Asta said without taking her eyes off of the little silver dragon. “It is probably time for me to become a woman.”
Nyssa and Asta looked at each other with worry.
Hermione and Severus held hands on their couch, their opposite hands resting on the Shard. Their eyes took on the same crystalline look of it.
As they took their hands off it, Severus took a deep breath. “Well, that was most informative.”
“So you saw the vision?” Hermione said excitedly.
“I think you should share this with Dumbledore.” Severus said slowly.
“Yes, of course.” Hermione hurriedly tucked it away in the tan leather pouch she concealed it in and placed it back around her neck.
Severus examined his wife’s face. “You know, most people just dream of marrying a woman with a face like a goddess.”
Hermione made a rude face at him.
“Whoever would have thought I would get Medusa?” Severus reached out and tweaked one of Hermione’s curls.
“How very Slytherin of you,” Hermione said with a grin.
“Touché.” Severus leaned over and kissed her cheek.
Hermione tentatively knocked on the Headmaster’s office door. She hastily wondered if she should have made an appointment with him.
The headmaster sat behind his heavy desk looking over scrolls.
“Madame Snape, what a pleasant surprise.” He smiled and folded his hands over his paperwork.”
“I’m sorry if I disturbed you-“ Hermione started, but Dumbledore just waved her worries away with a flip of his hand.
“Not at all. I was just going over some reports the Governors sent for me to look at. You’d think they didn’t understand it takes money to run a school.”
Hermione chuckled. At least it was nice to know part of the world was back to normal.
“Severus thought you should see this, Professor.” Hermione said as she took the shard from around her neck. “It shows a bit of its history, but we should be sitting down before activating it.”
“Well, I am grateful for the distraction.” Dumbledore rose to his feet and gestured for Hermione to sit on an overstuffed burgundy loveseat.
She sank into the soft curves of the seat and waited for Dumbledore to settle in next to her. He smiled at her expectantly and waited for her to present the Shard.
“We do have to join hands.” Hermione explained as she held out her hand. The Shard sitting was sitting in her palm. Dumbledore covered the Shard with his hand and closed it gently over hers.
Hermione stood near Dumbledore as he watched the memory trapped within the Shard play out.
When it was done Dumbledore tipped it into her hand and he looked weary as he took his gold wire rimmed spectacles off and polished them on the sleeve of his robes.
“You do know what a gift that Shard is, Hermione?” Dumbledore asked as he set them back upon his nose.
“Nope.” Hermione brushed him off with a wave of her hand. “Gaudy thing. I was thinking about tossing it up at the next Hogsmede swap meet.”
The silver chain glinted in the candlelight as Hermione gestured with the Shard in her hand.
“Your husbands’ bad habits are beginning to rub off on you, Madame Snape.” Dumbledore looked as if he were fiercely trying not to smile.
Hermione snorted and Dumbledore allowed himself a quirk of his lips.
“I assure you I guard the Shard at all times.” Hermione hastily told Dumbledore. “I never take it off unless we’re examining it.”
“I know that.” Dumbledore said patiently. “That is what I am alluding to.”
“You think it may not be good for me even though our tests found nothing.” Hermione sighed.
“I think any tests done on advanced magical technology are inconclusive until proven otherwise.” Dumbledore looked at her over the tops of his glasses. “Before we could identify genes, they were still there. Before we could prove the world was round it still was.”
“Good point.” Hermione relented. She looked at Dumbledore sadly. “This is where you tell me you’re going to make sure it’s in a safe location, right?”
“No.” Dumbledore assured Hermione. “This is where I tell you to make sure it’s in a safe location. I would suggest you get a vault at Gringotts. The goblins are more than adequate for guarding such a thing, but if you let them know what they were guarding it would do much for wizard – goblin relations.”
Hermione pursed her lips as she thought upon this for a moment.
“Well, you should think about it.” Dumbledore patted her on the knee and she knew she was being dismissed.
“I will.” Hermione put the Shard back around her neck. “But I think that’s probably a very good idea.”
Hermione saw herself out of Dumbledore’s office and started the walk back to the quarters she shared with Severus.
She heard the familiar sound of a wet brush on stone and wasn’t surprised to see Mr. Filch scrubbing away at a wall when she turned a corner.
Hermione stopped to read what had been scrawled on the stone wall: Who are you when no one is watching?
Foe some reason Hermione felt a chill go up her spine.
“Has there been much graffiti lately, Mr. Filch?” Hermione asked politely.
“More writing on walls, that’s for sure.” Filch growled as he dipped his brush with long. Stiff brown bristles into the bucket of soapy water near him.
“The next time it happens, please notify me.” Hermione said brusquely as she waved her wand and the words disappeared under the power of her Cleaning Charm.
“Yes, Madame Snape.” Filch allowed the corners of his mouth to twitch at the wall cleaning. “As soon as I find them.”
Hermione felt uneasy about cryptic graffiti on the walls of the school. If anything he’d at least seek her out next time in the hopes she’d clean the wall for him.
Filch gathered up his cleaning supplies and hobbled down the corridor in the direction that Hermione had come from.
Hermione hurried back to her quarters. For some reason she didn’t feel quite as safe anymore.