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She Flies By Her Own Wings

Chapter Text

The sharp clicking of heels on stone tile echoed off the empty walls of the hallway with increasing intensity before the owner threw open the double doors leading to their bedchambers with such force that the doors bounced off the tall frame.

"Klein! Did you see me! I did it, I beat Father's Arma Gigas." Weiss' crystal blue eyes shined with happiness as she was ushered into her room by her loyal butler.

"Oh course, Miss Schnee! I wouldn't have missed it for the world." Klein's eyes sparkled gold in pride before the iris' shifted to a lighter brown. "Although I will admit to watching your duel from the South balcony, to remain out of sight of your father, your fight was rather impressive to watch." The butler chuckled while he gently closed the solid oak door shut behind him, locking the door out of habit for anytime Weiss wished to speak ill of the Master of the house.

Klein was a slightly overweight man with balding brown hair and a large mustache. Positive and jovial, the older man, dressed in a black and blue trimmed butler's uniform, had been the head butler for the Schnee manner for as long as she could remember. Never too far away with a steaming mug of coffee, or a cheeky remark about her father to ease the tension after a long day, Klein Sieben was Weiss' most trusted companion. That is, besides Winter, her sister who had left for the Atlas military academy five years ago.

Weiss nodded her thanks at the action and quickly walked to the adjoined bathroom for a damp washcloth to rinse the blood out of her left eye. Luckily while the cut was deep and a bit jagged, it had missed the vital organ.

"I don't blame you, Klein. I shudder to think what Father would have done if he knew we had an audience. I was just happy for the opportunity to prove myself to him once and for all that I am ready to go to Beacon." Her voice was a bit muffled, having closed the bathroom's door.

Once the worst of the injury was cleaned, Weiss changed into a silk button top and matching pants. Not her usual sleeping attire, but it would be necessary for the physical examination that was sure to follow. Weiss stepped out of the private bathroom with a rare smile on her lips as she rushed over to place Myrtenaster away in its case, which was resting on the large vanity that stood against the North facing wall. The excited Heiress ran a caressing hand down the gilded hilt of her beloved weapon before closing the lid shut and locking it in place. She made a mental note to take the time to polish the blade and replace the low Dust vials tomorrow.

Sure enough, as soon as Weiss turned to face him, her butler had retrieved a first-aid kit from the closet and was gesturing for her to approach him towards the center of the room.

"Yes. Again, well done!" Klein's mustache twitched as he narrowed his golden eyes at the younger woman's petite frame. "But we can celebrate your victory after we look you over for injuries. You know the drill, Miss Schnee… Arms out and hold them still for me if you can please, I want to check your ribs."

"Very well, go on then." Weiss sighed in resignation, but nodded her consent as she stepped away from her large vanity and held her arms straight out, used to the routine exchange that was taking place between them.

When Weiss had first started her Huntress training under her fencing tutors and Winter, her older sister had insisted Weiss complete regular physical exams after each practice bout to make sure nothing had been strained or broken. Having helped raise all the Schnee siblings, Winter entrusted Klein to make sure Weiss continued with the practice once Winter had left for the academy. Although Winter's fears were unfounded as Weiss often had trouble saying 'no' to the kind older gentleman.

Thus with feather light fingers, Klein's gloved finger tips prodded along each of Weiss' ribs checking for any cracks or bruising since the girl's Aura had shattered enough for her face to receive a fresh cut over her left eye during the fight. The butler's gaze was unobtrusive and warm as Klein repeated his actions on her other side, humming to himself in satisfaction that nothing was severely damaged. Any scratches or bruising from the fight should eventually heal on its own once Weiss' Aura recovered.

Klein asked Weiss to perform very simple movements with her arms, testing her mobility and range of motion, as well as flexibility, since Weiss had taken such drastic hit from the Arma Gigas. She bent over and easily touched her toes before straightening up and twisting her torso to either side. Weiss smirked to herself as her muscles burned from the strain of her training, but otherwise showed no sign of damage taken from her latest duel.

After bending her knees and shaking out her ankles and wrists, Weiss allowed Klein to run his gloved fingers along her spin over her silk shirt, his hands stopping well above her lower lumbar vertebrae before the balding man stepped away.

"Everything seems to be in order, Miss Schnee. Now for the, ah… other limbs. We can never be too careful." Klein chuckled to try to help lighten the mood after such a request forced Weiss to bow her head in shame.

"Right…" The word left Weiss' mouth in a whisper as she slowly unbuttoned her silk top with shaking hands, this process never having become easier for the young Huntress-to-be. Allowing the silk to drop around her elbows, her arms clutched over her chest that was hidden by a light blue tank top.

Her slender arms developed goose bumps as the fair skin of her back was exposed to the chilly air along with two grotesque appendages that had been previously hidden under silken cloth. The wings, if that is what they could be called, were completely stripped of feathers so that only soft fluffy down and a few semiplumes were all that was left to cover the pebbled flesh. Without the long first and secondary feathers needed for flight, Weiss' wings were able to be tightly bound together against her back. And with her wings bound, her combat gear's bolero was normally thick enough to hide the extra limbs that protruded just below pale shoulder blades.

Weiss bit her lip to keep them from trembling as Klein carefully unclasped the soft leather belts that made up the harness that kept the flightless appendages tightly in place. With practiced hands, the trusted butler helped Weiss stretch each pale limb, carefully bending each joint to check for damage. A quiet sigh left the Heiress as her wings began twitching with the added blood circulation that was increased down to the very tips of her hidden extremities.

"How - how bad is it, Klein?" Weiss' voice shook, feeling both vulnerable and exposed asking for the older man to help. But who else could she turn to? No one else that she knew of suffered from her particular… deformity. And since Klein had been there from the beginning, Weiss only felt comfortable asking for his help with maintaining her secret from the rest of her family.

Klein clucked his tongue against his teeth as he spread Weiss' right wing out further and prodded a particularly dense patch of the miniscule white feathers that had clumped together at the joint. "It seems that your little demonstration tonight did not jostle anything too badly. As for the new growth, nothing that a quick preening can't fix."

Klein let go of the girl's small wing, where it dropped uselessly to her side, the dystrophic muscles unable to bear its own weight.

"Would you mind helping me again? Just with any of them that seem to be developing?" Weiss cleared her throat, straining to find her voice in her moment of vulnerability. "The feathers are hard to reach when they are so small."

"Of course, Miss Schnee." Klein smiled warmly at the young woman, and although she could not see it, she could hear the warmth and affection laced in his words. "You've got a particularly stubborn secondary that's showing again. Shall I take care of it for you?"

"Please…"

Weiss closed her eyes, feeling a slight sting from her injured left eyelid at the movement. She was soon lost to the memories that washed over her upon feeling Klein's gentle menstruations as he plucked away any stray flight feathers that were making their presence known once more.

[-][-][-]

The first time Weiss became aware of her monstrous deformity, she was only nine years old. The day had started just like it had always done over the last few years. The morning hours were filled with etiquette classes along with private piano and singing lessons, interspersed between her sessions from private tutors from sun up until sun down.

And of course, the rigorous fencing lessons in all three styles of the sport, both Winter and herself took part in. Weiss found the private sessions with her fencing instructor to be fun as well as rewarding, although she believed Winter took them for some other purpose she had yet to tell her beloved little sister. Weiss cherished the hours she spent learning the craft from her tutor and with her sister, Winter an expert in slashing style of Sabre, while Weiss herself favored the flourishes and graceful lunges that came from Foil and Éppée.

But 'fun' was a concept barely tolerated in the Schnee household, due to the ever watchful eyes of her strict father. So Weiss embraced the joys of swordsmanship, if only for the purpose of maintaining an excellent physique.

Now late in the evening, Weiss had changed into a new formal frock before taking a seat at the long dining room table. Her father, Jacques Schnee, sat at the head of the table with his son and wife on his right side and Winter and Weiss seated to the left.

Klein stood off to the side while the footman served dinner prepared by the kitchen staff, the butler's watchful gaze a constant presence at each meal in case the family had need of his services.

It was as the salad course was finished and being cleared away from the staff that Weiss began to squirm in her seat. The decorated oak chair beneath her squeaked as Weiss attempted to reach her back with her fingertips, and at the failed attempt, began rubbing her tender shoulders against the wooden backrest.

Jacques' eyes narrowed, his fork lowering from his mouth, as he watched his second daughter's peculiar behavior. Not noticing she was being watched, Weiss reached around with short limbs to scratch at her back and groaned when she fingers were unable to reach the bothersome spots.

"Weiss! What are you doing?" Her father's tone was enough to stop her from rubbing her back against her chair.

"My back itches! It hurts really bad right here and here!" Weiss pointed with a delicate hand at her shoulder blades, her back shifting restlessly as she attempted to reach for the sore spots in vain.

Weiss glanced at her sister for help who only shook her head slightly, Winter's eyebrows creased gently as she focused on her suffering sister without lending any assistance to Weiss' strife. Meanwhile, when pointing to her back, Weiss noticed that her mother's knuckles on her wine glass turned white, but that was the only noticeable difference to Willow Schnee's otherwise more aloof observation.

Jacques eyes narrowed before he sighed deeply, pinching the brim of his nose in irritation. "Will you stop that insufferable movement?"

"I can't!" Weiss' voice came out in a high pitched cry, her ears burning from embarrassment, unshed tears stinging in her eyes. "It itches too much…"

"You will stop at once!" Jacques slammed his palm down on the table with enough force that the silverware rattled.

Winter's eyebrow twitched, the eldest sibling in the room having grown accustomed to her father's outbursts, while Weiss jumped in her seat.

Whitley's young eyes had widened at the action, his fork lowering from his grubby little palm from the mash potatoes that he was attempting to eat. His crystal blue eyes flickered between his father and his squirming sister. Shrugging to himself, Whitley looked away and tried (and failed) to pierce the flesh of the steak with the tongs of his polished silver utensil. Noticing his struggle, Klein rushed forward to help the youngest Schnee cut his steak for him.

"Such action is beneath a Schnee. Really, at the dinner table at all places? Have your etiquette lessons taught you anything?" Jacques sneered at his youngest daughter. Weiss' pale cheeks burned in embarrassment.

"Jacques, there is no need to shout." Willow spoke up, as she reached for the wine bottle to refill her glass. "Klein, will you mind getting me the anti-inflammatory salve after dinner? I believe my daughter might have gained a slight rash from her new dress."

"Mother!" Weiss' shout of protest was quickly cut off.

"Silence, Weiss. Your father is right. While you are still young, your actions here tonight are uncouth. Klein will see to your back after dinner." Willow finished, leaving no room for debate.

"Of course, Mistress Schnee." The ever-present butler bowed his head in response as Weiss frowned, crossing her arms in her seat in an attempt to ignore the urge to scratch at her back.

After what felt like hours to the young girl, Weiss was excused from dinner before she was ushered to her bedroom by the caring older gentlemen. With practiced hands, Klein was able to soothe the worse of her irritation with a basic medicinal cream.

For the next few days, the medicine seemed to be healing the rash until one morning, Willow was awoken from her chambers by Weiss' screaming.

Upon hearing his daughter's cries, Jacques had simply yelled for Klein to see to Weiss ordering Willow to return to bed. But his wife ignored his demands as she rushed to see what had caused her daughter's distress. Willow was greeted at Weiss' bedroom door by Klein, her trusted companion's light brown eyes were wide and alert having heard the pleas for help too. When the two adults entered the moonlit room, they were not prepared for the sight that awaited them.

Weiss' queen sized bed was torn apart as the sheets had been ripped away in a way that only someone with the strength of a nine year old could muster. But the shocking, as well as truly revolting sight, was the normally clean white silk linen was splattered crimson with blood.

Willow quickly rushed to the bedside table to turn on a lamp that revealed that amongst the blooded sheets were small pieces of feathers that were too dark and matted with blood to have come from Weiss' intact pillows.

A pained wail came from the far side of the bed, Klein and Willow rushing around the large structure to gasp at Weiss who was curled on the wooden floor in a fetal position.

Weiss' eyes were wide and glazed over with shock, her skin paler than the sheets that lay at her feet. Her white silk nightgown was stained crimson and torn away at her shoulder so that what was left of the cloth covered her modesty, but could do nothing to hide the grotesque sight that was her back. Bloody stumps of raw flesh protruded from beneath gore-coated shoulder blades, the forming limbs covered in small developing feathers. What looked like dozens of scratch marks were formed at the base of each frail appendage, drying blood beneath neatly cut fingernails.

"Weiss has wings…?" Klein whispered into the dark as he stood frozen in shock at the sight while Willow dropped to her knees to hold up her daughter's head. "Oh, oh my gods..."

"Klein! Get the medical kit from the hallway closet and get back here as soon as you can! But make sure you aren't followed. No one can know." Willow gestured to her bleeding daughter, her eyes wide and pleading with the other man.

Willow's voice snapped him back into reality, having been lost in his spiraling thoughts. With a quick nod, Klein slipped out the door without another word.

"Weiss! Darling, can you hear me?"

Her mother's frantically rushed words seemed to echo in Weiss' ear, her body fighting through shock and sensory overload to focus on Willow's voice.

"Mother? What's - what's happening to me?" Weiss murmured with half lidded eyes, her voice slurred from exhaustion.

Klein rushed back into the room and quickly helped her mother strip Weiss' body of the bloody sheets and ruined sleep gown. With a nod from her mother, Klein lifted Weiss' barely conscious form into his arms as he rushed her into the adjoining bathroom. Willow stepped ahead and drew a hot bath. Once the water was warm enough, the butler gently laid the smaller girl into the water.

Klein turned his attention back to the medical kit to create antibacterial swabs as Willow's gentle menstruations washed away both the fresh and dried gore, as well as stray feathers from her daughter's back.

Weiss, being young and afraid of her situation, was unable to focus on the hushed conversation that was being held between the adults as her mother rinsed away the red tinted water from Weiss' naked form and dabbed at her scratch marks with the alcohol laden swabs. Only a few words could be heard over the rushing of blood that roared in the frightened girl's ears, her adrenaline spiking causing her mind to become foggy and unfocused.

"How did… happen?"

"I never thought… timing was off… suspected."

"What… want to do?

"Have to… bind them with…"

Weiss blinked her eyes, trying to get them to focus once more. Once her vision cleared, her mind was able to pay attention to the semi-private conversation that will still taking place around her.

Klein scratched his head, his mustache twitching as he pondered over their situation. "It will take me a few hours to gather the proper materials, but I can make something for her to hide her wings by tonight."

Willow's face was pale in the fluorescent light in the bathroom, but at the man's words some color seeped back into her gaunt cheeks. "Good, do what you must."

"Mistress Schnee, does Jacques know?" Klein gestured to Weiss who was having stray feathers plucked off her shoulders by her mother, the woman not giving any thought to her actions as the larger formed feathers were stripped away without mercy.

Willow's eyes hardened as she stared at their butler, her jaw taunt as she spoke through gritted teeth. "If I am asking you to do this for me, what do you think?"

Klein paled slightly before bowing quickly and washing his hands in the sink. "Of course… I will leave at once to gather the supplies."

"... And Klein?"

He turned back, half of his body already out the door.

"Thank you." Willow whispered, her words holding enough weight to catch the attention of Weiss from the bathtub.

"Anything for you." Klein confessed as he gazed at the distraught woman and her shaking daughter. The butler had always remained loyal to the women of the Schnee household. Tonight proved no different.

The door clicked shut behind him, leaving Willow alone with her daughter for the first time that night.

A few minutes later, Weiss was helped to her feet as Willow padded down her body with a fluffy blue towel. Willow refused to answer any of Weiss' questions as her mother placed bandages along her back and helped her into fresh underwear and silk top and pants. Weiss was given a few pills to help with the growing pains before she was ordered to sit back down on her bed as they waited for Klein's return.

For the next two hours, Willow stayed in Weiss' bedroom as her daughter's continuous questions fell on deaf ears.

"Just tell me what's going on?!" Weiss' voice cracked, her throat becoming raw from the hours of useless questioning.

"Weiss, not now." Willow's response was clipped short, as though it strained her to answer.

"But, Mother!"

Willow sighed, and in that moment, Weiss saw her mother as the older woman she had become. The lines that graced Willow's face were deep, wrinkles and frown lines obtained from years of living in a household with a man who showed her no love.

"I promise to tell you when you're older. But not now." Willow's voice was quiet as she refused to look her daughter in the eye.

They sat in silence on the edge of Weiss' bed, waiting for their trusted employee to return.

"Okay…" Weiss heard herself agreeing to her mother's wishes even though her mind was still filled with only more questions. But at long last, Weiss stayed silent as it was understood that she would get no more answers tonight.

A soft knock was heard at the door before Klein's balding head could be seen poking into the door.

"Mistress Schnee?" His whispered words echoed in the otherwise empty room.

"Bless the gods, Klein. You're here." Willow spoke as she stood up and greeted the other man. "Do you have it?"

"Yes, but I only had time to come up with a basic design for tonight. I'll need more time to create a more comfortable fitting structure for Miss Schnee." Klein nodded at the younger girl in question.

"Thank you, Klein." Willow gave him a tired smile before she turned to face her apprehensive daughter. "Darling, come here please."

Weiss did as she was told, her light blue eyes examining the black leather contraption that was clutched in their butler's hands.

"What is that?" She pointed to the harness, her light blue eyes weary.

"Something that will help you." Klein spoke gently as he knelt down and gestured for Weiss to face away from him while she took off her sleep shirt. "Just tell me if it gets too tight."

With calm tones and soft touches, the older man helped secure her developing wings into the leather harness. The contraption was an easy enough design to wear. It was comprised of soft leather belts that circled both limbs individually at the shoulder blades and further down their length, while two separate belts crisscrossed holding the tender wings in place against her back. These added belts looped over her shoulders and across her upper chest, as well as on her lower rib cage to hold them in place as they would grow.

"Mother, why do I have to wear this – this thing?! It hurts and rubs on my skin." Weiss whined as she hunched her shoulders, feeling the soft leather rub awkwardly into her tender flesh.

"Weiss, you must wear this harness at all times to hide your wings." Willow bent down on her knees so that her face was inches from her daughter's. In the moonlight that filtered through the curtains, the young girl looked almost identical to her mother.

Almost.

"This will have to be our little secret, darling." Willow squeezed Weiss' hands as she lowered her voice to a stage whisper; well aware that the only person in the room that would be able to hear was Klein as both of her other children were in their own separate bedchambers for the night. Meanwhile, her ambitious and driven husband, no doubt, was catching up for lost time in his office in the West wing of the mansion.

Weiss' bright eyes widened in childlike innocence, her curiosity displayed by the almost comically raising of her snow white eyebrows.

"But why does it have to be a secret, Mother?" Weiss whispered, her voice pleading for answers.

A shadow of some sort of emotion flickered across her mother's face, too fast for the young Heiress to see clearly and far too complex for her young mind to understand. "Because I love you. And I don't want anything to happen to you." Willow reached out to lightly grasp at Weiss' shoulders, her light blue eyes boring into her daughter's in seriousness. "You need to trust your mother on this. Do you understand?"

"Okay…" Weiss whispered, her small head nodding in agreement.

"Thank you, darling." Willow let out a sigh of relief that went unheard by her daughter as she hugged Weiss close to her chest, being mindful of the girl's newly bound wings.

"I love you."

It would be the last time those words would leave Willow's lips without the loving words twisted and warped by the taint of an alcohol muddled mind. For less than a week later was Weiss' tenth birthday. And what should have been a joyous occasion was squandered by angry outbursts from her parents and a confession of greed over love that would only confirm what the women of the Schnee household already knew to be true, but never wished to hear spoken.

As a result, Willow drank her life away. Two years later, Winter left for the Atlas Military Academy with a personal invitation from General Ironwood himself. Her younger brother, Whitley, ignored Weiss for the next few years as he continued his studies with private tutors in the first floor library.

Jacques locked himself away in his office as he cursed his workers, the filthy Faunus rebels, and anyone else who he blamed for his bad luck and loss of profit. It was no secret that under her father's ownership, her family's company fell into more shady practices and held deals behind closed doors. The Schnee Dust Company's stocks dropped to an all time low as approval ratings fell with each year her father ran her family's company.

And Weiss –

Weiss was alone.

[-][-][-]

Weiss was brought back to present as Klein finished his gentle preening of loose feathers and deposited the small pile of white down on the vanity's table. A lone feather, much longer than the rest, was placed at the top of the pile.

A few minutes later and Weiss' newly plucked wings were secured back into their leather harness, the belts tightened around her shoulders and back once more. Weiss carefully slide her silk sleep shirt back over the bound wings, the tender limbs protesting at the movement and the restriction of the belts. Once everything was back in place, Weiss sat down on the edge of her bed with a heavy sigh, the adrenaline from her fight having long since worn off making the Huntress-to-be feel exhausted and sore.

Working in comfortable silence, Klein reached inside the first-aid kit and prepared a gauze swab with disinfectant to dab at her cuts and scrapes that lingered from her fight. A second one had been prepared by the butler for Weiss to dab at her stinging eyelid, which she held to the injured site with a sigh of relief after the initial burn of the alcohol.

Letting the man tend to her other wounds, the Heiress reached over to the pile of discarded feathers for the larger fragment of plumage that lay at the top. Weiss held out the secondary feather, which is essential for flight, which had been jabbing painfully into her side as it stubbornly grew in the tight confines of her binding.

One side was mottled browns with spots of tan and black, the other was lighter like cream, with horizontal bands of chocolate brown which adorned both surfaces that seemed to stare mockingly back at her in the dim lighting of her room.

Weiss twirled the lone flight feather between the pads of her fingertips in thought.

"A barn owl, right?" She asked, her voice echoing in the small confines of her bedroom.

Klein hummed in agreement, holding out a hand for the feather to dispose of later. "So it would seem. Clever animals, owls…"

Weiss placed the lone feather into his hand, her crystal blue eyes meeting his own as she cocked her head slightly to the side. Her lips turned down into a slight frown as her brow crinkled in thought. "You would tell me if you knew anything about this, right Klein?"

Klein turned away to sweep the rest of the discarded feather pile into him palm, quickly tucking in the evidence into a pocket to be thrown away later out of sight from the rest of the household. Patting his pocket twice in reassurance, her friend and mentor spun around and knelt so that his head was level with her own. Gently, Klein reached out with two gloved hands and clasped Weiss' hand, giving her a light squeeze.

"I'm afraid I can't give you the answers you are looking for, my little snowflake." His mustache twitched before a bittersweet smile graced his features. Reaching with his right hand, Klein pulled out a large silver pocket watch, the Schnee crest inlaid in the front in white gold.

"It's getting late, Miss Schnee. You should think about getting some rest before you start packing for your move to Beacon Acade…"

He was interrupted from his next line of thought by the sound of sniffling coming from the bed. A quick glance showed that the young Heiress was hunched over, her arms wrapped around her small frame as tears flowed freely down haughty cheeks.

"Oh, what's wrong?" Klein's brown eyebrows knitted together in concern.

Weiss took a shuddering breath, but was unable to stop crying. "I - I don't even know why I'm crying. I've wanted to leave here for so long. But now that I can finally go, I don't know if I'll make it."

"As a Huntress?" He asked gently.

"As Weiss Schnee…' Weiss took in a shuddering breath, feeling tears fall down her cheeks as she spoke. "You and Winter taught me that as long as I believe in myself, I can do anything. And you were right! I did it... I finally stood up to Father. So why am I so miserable?"

The butler hummed in understanding. "There's an old saying in Atlas: That everyone is entitled to their own sorrow, for the heart has no metrics or form of measure. And all of it… irreplaceable." Klein paused to let Weiss soak in his words, before taking a deep breath and continuing in a calm voice. "It's alright to be sad… Healthy even, now and again. Your actions were admirable, but they will be seen as an act of defiance against your father. I believe that you are feeling both relieved and sorrow at what has transpired tonight. You may have won the battle, Miss Schnee, but I am afraid that you have yet to fight the war."

"I'm scared… Of what Father might do if he - if…" Weiss held her head in her hands as her body shook with sobs.

Being sure not to scare the young Heiress, Klein sat down on the bed and reached out to lay a comforting hand on her shoulder. Weiss turned and wrapped her slender arms around the lower back of her older friend and mentor, not caring that her tears were now staining the black vest of his uniform.

Klein held her tightly as she sobbed, so that when he next spoke it was in slow and steady tones as to not shout in the ivory-haired girl's sensitive ears. "You need not concern yourself on the 'what if's. Keep your head up and believe in yourself, because I know you can do anything you put your mind to. I believe tonight's events prove just that.

"I just don't want to be alone anymore…" Weiss' whispers were muffled as her face was still flush with his chest. The butler gently pushed her away just enough to lift up her chin and hand her an embroidered handkerchief.

"And you won't be." Klein murmured as Weiss used the scrap of silk to dab at her red-rimmed eyes. "When you go off to Beacon you will make new friendships that will last a lifetime."

"How can you be sure?" Weiss sniffed as she shifted on the bed, her bound wings aching from the tight confines of the harness. "I'm a Schnee. No one wants to be friends with someone like me. I'm cold and I'm difficult at best to be around… Not to mention a - a…" Weiss' words went unspoken, but both people knew what was left unsaid.

"Because I know you. And under that cold exterior you Schnee women like to put on, I know there's my little snowflake." Klein reached out to tap the tip of Weiss' nose in affection, an action he had done since she was a toddler.

Weiss let out a watery chuckle before she took a deep breath and gripped his silk handkerchief with new resolve. Tonight was the first step in many to get away from her Father's influence and watchful gaze. Once she was away at Beacon, things had to be better.

Anywhere was better than here with Him.

"Thank you, Klein."

"You are most certainly welcome." Klein's brown eyes shifted to golden-yellow with warmth as Weiss gave him a watery smile.

After a few seconds of comfortable silence as Weiss regained her composer, her mentor cleared his throat, catching her attention once more. "One last thing before you go…"

"What is it?" Weiss asked, her voice laced with concern.

"Promise me, that under no circumstances will you tell anyone about your wings. You cannot confide in your new friends, not even your teammates. Because if word gets back to Atlas and your father…" Klein eyes shift color to a deep crimson, his voice changing to reflect the darker tone.

"I can kiss being Heiress to the Schnee Dust Company goodbye." Weiss spat out bitterly, knowing full well that she would never reveal her secret to anyone outside this room.

"I pray that is the only thing that would come from it." Klein's gruff voice echoed around ominously in the large room.

Weiss sat in silence, as the weight of his words washed over her. A shiver crawled its way up her back at the grave omen.

Klein blinked rapidly, his eyes changing from red to light brown once more as a smile graced his features. "Now enough about this nonsense, we need to discuss your eye. Can you see alright, is there any lasting damage done to it?"

"I think it's fine, I'll just have a nasty cut now." Weiss blinked her eyes rapidly and was happy to note that while her eyelids stung from the action, her vision was perfectly clear – the darkly lit room's features as focused and bright to her as if all the lights in the mansion had been turned on. Ever since she was little, Weiss never had trouble seeing in the dark. Perhaps it was her white Aura that acted as a beacon against the surrounding darkness… The alternative was simply unacceptable.

Klein frowned as he gently prodded around her eye with antibacterial gauze. "Yes, although I am afraid that it's deep enough to scar. Luckily, we have an Aura booster salve that should do the trick."

"No!" Weiss shouted, her voice echoing in her chambers.

Klein raised his eyebrows in surprise, his hands hovering over the medical kit.

Weiss mentally berated herself for her outburst. But if anyone would understand it would be him. "I - I mean, no thank you. We can use strips to hold the sides together but I'll let my Aura heal it naturally."

"But, Miss Schnee… Without the salve, it will most certainly scar."

"That's the hope." Weiss smiled, standing up from her bed to face the large oval mirror that hung above her vanity. "It's my first scar as a Huntress. I want everyone to see it and know how far I've come and how far I've still have yet to go."

"Very well, for what it's worth. I think it will be a rather dashing look on you. A scar worthy of a fine Huntress. You'll be batting off all the suitors at Beacon with your rugged good looks." Klein winked playfully at the slightly blushing Heiress.

"Klein!" She lightly slapped at his arm as he chuckled at her flustered appearance.

And yet even with her reproachful actions, Weiss beamed at his words as she felt her heart pump with adrenaline for the second time that night as she was filled with anticipation for the future. The fresh injury that adorned her face marred her otherwise perfect features, the jagged line of scar tissue that was sure to form a reminder of what she was fighting for.

To an outsider this night may seem like one small act of defiance. But to Weiss, this was the start of a greater purpose. Weiss was no longer the perfect daughter that her father so greatly took pride in parading around Atlas like a porcelain doll.

But Weiss was not something to be kept – a prize possession to be put on display.

Weiss Schnee was no longer unbreakable.

Rather she was the one breaking free. Shattering the mirror that held her from her true potential as a Huntress.

With the cut slashing over her crystal blue eye, and her wings hidden away under her nightshirt, she smiled at her likeness. For the first time in many years, Weiss looked into the mirror and was pleased with what she saw in the reflection.