Hrafn's mirror-phone was on silent, but he felt it vibrate when he got a hext. It was from Cerise. Faybelle had shown up, unlocked the Booking Glass, and they were on their way. He knew he shouldn't, but Hrafn drifted over to the open side of the ruined Headmaster's Office, where he and Nevermore had landed not so long ago, and began hopefully searching the skies for his friends.
Nevermore joined him there not long after.
His mother was distracted with packing still, but that probably wouldn't last much longer. Not if he stayed where he was, not if he kept on paying any amount of attention to anything other than The Evil Queen.
"... and we'll need some dragon tears, a little dark fairy dust, my dark robe – oh! And my other dark robe," she happily listed as she piled things into the arms of the impossibly obedient body of Snow White.
The woman herself was currently occupying the body of a snake in a terrarium on a shelf, along with most of the other school staff. Headmaster Grimm and Professor Rumplestiltskin were both frogs. The Evil Stepsisters were snails. Giles Grimm was a lizard. Madame Yaga and Professor Piper were both mice. So on it went.
"Almost finished packing!" the Evil Queen called over, and then noticed. "Why are you doing that?"
"Doing what?" Hrafn asked.
"Staring ominously into the distance," his mother clarified. "What are you looking for?"
"Nothing. I was thinking about Dad, actually," Hrafn deflected, and now that he'd said it, he was thinking about his father. "Do you think he'd be proud, or disappointed in me?" he asked, and reached a hand up to feel the pointed spikes of the crown his mother had conjured onto his head.
For a long, tense moment, the Evil Queen said nothing. Did nothing. Her husband was a touchy subject for the Evil Queen. As much as Hrafn's parents loved each other – and he knew they did, despite everything – there really was no telling the Evil Queen's reaction to the Good King being mentioned in her presence.
A person had better chances at guessing which side of a flipped coin would land face-up.
"Whether your father would be proud of you or not doesn't matter," the Evil Queen finally decided, a scowl on her face. "You're on the path to become evil now, dear."
"Yes, Mother," Hrafn said with a sigh. "I know."
"Prove it," the Evil Queen demanded suddenly, and shot a bolt of magic at another wall. Rather than destroying the wall, it coalesced into a swirling magical portal. "Toss Snow White and those teachers into the void," she commanded.
"Could I start with a frog that's actually a frog, and work my way up to a person that's been turned into one?" Hrafn requested with a flinch and a grimace.
"No," the Evil Queen answered bluntly. "You've been doing very well in your Villainy classes, Hrafn. Don't start flinching now that we're moving on from theory to practicals."
"And the fact that I like some of my teachers?" Hrafn asked. "Some of these teachers?" he emphasised pointedly, with a gesture to the terrariums that held Madame Yaga and Professor Piper in particular. He had, after all, managed to get his favourite teacher out before he was turned into any more of an animal than he already was.
The Evil Queen sighed and rolled her eyes, as though greatly put upon.
"Must every step we take with your education towards evil be a negotiation?" she demanded with a frustrated sigh. "If," she began, "I allow you to release one teacher, then you must throw another into the void."
Hrafn started doing quick calculations in his head. He could release Madame Yaga, and then he'd have her magical ability on side to help him capture his mother. He could release Professor Piper, and he might be able to control his mother with some Melodic Manipulation. He could -
"But you must throw Snow White into the void first," the Evil Queen decreed, "before I allow you to release anyone."
Hrafn's hopeful plans crashed to a screeching halt. He wasn't friends with Apple. He didn't much care about Snow White one way or the other. He couldn't do it though. Not even those he considered enemies were acceptable collateral damage when his mother decreed their harm. Never mind people who he was, at best, indifferent towards.
He threw a blasting spell at his mother. The same spell that Courtly had used when she'd been trying to overthrow the Queen of Hearts in Wonderland, in fact. Without the incantation though. It really wouldn't be sensible to give the Evil Queen that much warning of incoming attack.
The gathering of magical fire in his hand, and the motion to throw it, turned out to be quite warning enough. She blocked it.
"Nice try, birdie," she said with a dark chuckle as she dismissed Hrafn's spell, "but I'm much more powerful than you!" she said, magenta fire gathering over her own hand. At least the magical portal leading to a void of her creation was no longer an issue.
Hrafn couldn't catch his mother's magic in his hand and dismiss it, but she had given him enough time to raise a shield spell between them, which her blasting spell exploded upon, leaving him unharmed if blinking spots out of his eyes from the clash of purple and magenta magic. He wasn't entirely sure that he'd have said the Evil Queen was more powerful than he was, but she was definitely more experienced. He hadn't had nearly as much time as she had, to obtain such perfect control over her magic.
"I know you're just doing this to save all your little friends out there," the Evil Queen said, her voice reverberating with depth and darkness as she floated on her magic over the smoke, and created a barrier around Hrafn.
Nevermore made herself as big as she could get, and spread her wings, a growling, protective guardian between Hrafn and the Evil Queen.
With a gesture shrouded in pink flames, the Evil Queen put a collar around Nevermore's neck, and dragged her away to anchor her near the edge with thick, heavy cables.
Nevermore yelped in pain.
"Nevermore!" Hrafn called after her, concerned more for his dragon than for himself in that moment. He was unharmed, after all.
"You may not be evil now, Hrafn," the Evil Queen said as she stalked over to him, in full view now that the smoke from the explosion caused by their colliding spells had cleared. "But mark my words. You. Will. Learn!" she declared, magenta fireballs of magic held up in both hands as she loomed threateningly over him from the other side of her own magical barrier.
Just then, there was a draconic screech that was too distant to be Nevermore, or any of the four boy dragons that the Evil Queen had magicked under her control. Mother and son both turned to see what it was.
"Huh," Hrafn said softly when he recognised the dragon that was in the lead. "Someone must have managed to wake up Apple."
"Yes," the Evil Queen agreed thoughtfully as she stalked over to the edge of the crumbling floor and destroyed wall. "And it seems somebody showed her how to use the Booking Glass."
Faybelle wasn't keeping a low profile then. Hrafn couldn't quite see clearly who was riding the dragons, trapped away from the edge as he was. He could just see the dragons themselves, and had to guess based on who he knew their riders were.
"You!" the Evil Queen said, and it had the tone of realisation and accusation. "You were behind this. You played on Faybelle's jealousies and tricked her into joining your friends," she accused, turning back to Hrafn and looming over him again.
Hrafn really wanted that last growth-spurt to kick in. Failing that, he was pretty sure that if his mother was forced to wear shoes without heels, then he'd at least the same height. Well, hair not included. His mother's hair style added a couple more feet.
"You manipulative little chip off the old glass slipper," she said, suddenly pleased as she swanned away and vanished her skirts in favour of her dragon-riding wear. "It takes a truly wicked mind to concoct a scheme like that. Oh, you have so much potential!" she crowed. The Evil Queen had one last parting shot. "It's too bad I have to go destroy your friends now," she said with a sigh and a smirk. "Spell you later!"
Hrafn watched his mother jump off the edge, just the same way Snow White had at that Dragon Sport demonstration. Only this time it was Flaxen that rose with the Evil Queen on his back. He frowned as he watched them go, just for a moment, and then set to freeing himself from his mother's containment spell.
"Hrafn, please help us!" Giles the Lizard called from his terrarium.
"He can't do it," Headmaster Grimm the Frog denied. "He doesn't have the strength."
"You underestimate me, Headmaster," Hrafn said as he broke through the barrier, and got rid of his mother's fashion choices while he was at it. It felt really good to have that make up off his face, and his own dragon-proof armour back on. "You underestimate me a rather lot," he added before he ran over to Nevermore and freed her from his mother's horrible shackle.
It was time to join the fight.
Hrafn and Nevermore trailed Basil first, which was easy since Maddie had just bonked him on the head with a fire extinguisher. After that, they flew past Melody and Blondie (the latter of whom was reporting from dragon-back) and went after Merlot and Spice, freeing each of them from the ice covering their heads as well his mother's spells. One at a time, of course. The two red-accented dragons had been chasing Legend, and apparently Darling had brought her dragon to the rescue. There would be no way to free Flaxen while the Evil Queen was riding him. For now though, the only dragon still a danger to Hrafn's friends was Flaxen. That meant that no one had to worry about distracting the other dragons, defending the school, or any of that. They were all able to devote their attention just to hassling the Evil Queen.
"No!" Apple's distressed cry echoed through the skies.
Hrafn and Nevermore headed for her, and more to the point, for the Evil Queen.
"Now I'm going to let all your friends see what it's like to spend one hundred years in the mirror realm, starting with you!" the Evil Queen declared, Booking Glass in hand, as she used it to point at Apple. "Capture -"
Hrafn's spell ripped it out of his mother's hand before she could finish, earning a frustrated scowl that became an almost-proud smirk when she realised just who had cast the spell.
"Somebody's been practising!" she said, using a sort of sing-song tone that could have been proud or mocking. Considering who it was, probably both at the same time.
Either way, Hrafn and Nevermore were too intent on the falling Booking Glass to give his mother's words much attention. They shot down, their sharp angle slicing between Evil Queen and Apple White. With a grunt of victory, Hrafn caught the mirror. Now he just had to catch his mother, and it would all be over and done with. Happily Ever After.
No warning. No hesitation.
"Capture my mother," Hrafn ordered, Booking Glass held firmly and pointed at the Evil Queen, and just a little bit of his magic added for extra oomph, so that the power of the Booking Glass could cut through any shield spell she might conjure up to save herself from being returned to the Mirror Realm.
"No!" her cry echoed and reverberated as she was dragged in, but Hrafn had caught her enough by surprise that she went, unable to fight it.
Hrafn breathed a sigh of relief, and directed Nevermore to carry him up to Flaxen. He wanted to make sure that his mother's spell on the dragon was dissipated with her capture. It might not have automatically happened. The school was still floating a mile up in the air. He was going to need to fix that. Neither Farrah nor Faybelle were really equipped to undo that kind of damage, not with their kinds of magic, and they were the next-strongest students after him, magically speaking.
For all that fixing things of this magnitude was normally something left to adults, Madame Yaga was the most magically powerful and knowledgeable among the staff, with the Brothers Grimm a couple of yard-sticks behind. But none of them were in any position to do the fixing this time. Besides, it was his mother's handiwork. He felt a little obligated.
"Is it over?" Apple asked.
"Almost," Hrafn answered, and he scanned the skies for Melody and Blondie. When he spotted them, he directed Nevermore to take him up to where they were circling with the mirror-pad recording the live action. "Blondie!" he called, and waved for her attention.
"Hrafn! Has the Evil Queen been captured?" Blondie called back.
"Yeah! Can you use your mirror-cast to tell everybody in the school to hang on to something? I'm gonna put the school back to rights!"
Just as Hrafn landed Nevermore after returning the school to ground-level and repairing all the damage his mother had caused, a modest but well-polished dark-blue car pulled up in front of Ever After High, and a man with a greying beard and bright blue eyes stepped out of it.
"Hrafn!" the blue-eyed man called.
Hrafn turned sharply in the saddle, and his eyes widened in his face when he saw who was calling his name.
"Dad!" he answered, and hurriedly dismounted before running over. He just about crashed into his father when he reached him, wrapping his arms tightly and gratefully around the Good King, as his father easily returned the embrace. Hrafn felt strong arms give his shoulders a warm squeeze.
"I saw the mirror-casts," the Good King said softly, "and I got here as fast as I could. Are you alright?"
"I am now," Hrafn promised. "She's trapped in the mirror realm again. We're all safe. I even just finished fixing up the school," he added.
"I saw the school being fixed," the Good King acknowledged with a proud smile. "It was very impressive, and I'm proud of you."
"You... you are?" Hrafn asked, and jerked back to look into his father's face, surprised.
"Why wouldn't I be?" the Good King asked with a fond chuckle.
"You said you saw the mirror-casts," Hrafn said, "I figured that meant the one where I, well..."
"Let your mother think she'd won?" the Good King suggested archly. "I know you've been enjoying your Villainy classes, Hrafn, but I also know that you enjoy them because they challenge you mentally. Not because you enjoy the thought of making other people suffer at all."
"Mother called me a manipulative little chip off the old glass slipper," Hrafn admitted. "I owe Faybelle an apology for that."
"And you'll give it, but your mother never did understand that being Good wasn't always the same as being Nice. Being Good means sometimes making the tough choices, even when you know that no matter what you do, your choices will hurt someone. So, yes," the Good King said, and pulled Hrafn back into a warm hug. "I'm proud of you. You did Good, son."
"Well, since I'm here, I suppose I should say hello to Milton and Giles, and I should definitely meet some of your friends, hm?" the Good King suggested.
"Sounds great, Dad," he agreed.
"Ah, well, there's Milton and Giles now," the Good King said as he scanned the crowd. "I'll go get the pleasantries out of the way, you go tell your friends I'd like to meet them, and I'll find you wherever Nevermore is."
Hrafn nodded agreement, and with one last hug, father and son parted.
Hrafn had intended to grab as many of his friends as he could. The simple explanation of my dad showed up and wants to meet my friends would definitely have them coming along without any protest. He'd told his friends who both of his parents were, after all, and while Maddie had been quite right to say "Yay, the Evil Queen's here – said no one ever!", the Good King was a different matter.
Before he got far in looking for them though, Cerise found him. She greeted him thoroughly too, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and kissing him where everybody could see.
"Wow," Hrafn said, a little breathless, when they parted. At some point during that kiss, his arms had wrapped around Cerise's waist and lifted her just a tiny bit off the ground. "Hi."
"Hi," Cerise answered back. "So, do you think you kept your promise?"
"I might have been a little bit reckless?" Hrafn suggested thoughtfully, "but it was a calculated kind of reckless. I was as careful as I could be."
"Alright then," Cerise allowed. "Let's not need to fight any more Evil Queens too soon though, okay?"
"I'll do my best," Hrafn agreed happily. "How about meeting Good Kings, though?"
"What?" Cerise asked, and blinked her big grey eyes up at him.
"My dad saw Blondie's mirror-cast, got here as fast as he could, even without me calling him for backup," Hrafn said with a smile. "He wants to meet my friends. I think he should definitely meet my girlfriend, hmm?"
"Oh my fairy godmother..." Cerise said as her arms slid down from around Hrafn's neck and shoulders so that her palms rested on his chest.
~And They Lived Happily Ever After~
Thanks to Chaos Babe who wrote this bit, which with their permission, I'm tacking onto the end of the chapter so that everyone can read it. It makes me wish I had thought to do this. Truly brilliant. Thanks again, Chaos Babe! – all following, word for word, what Chaos Babe sent me:
Not going to lie, I have this scene bunny floating in my head of Apple, awakened years after all her friends are aged and gone:
She turned the pages of the Yearbook listlessly, tears pooling at each 'perfect' picture she encountered. There was nothing in these pages to show who they'd been. Darling wasn't the fierce yet kind White Knight, just another vapid Charming Princess. Her fingers trembled as she clutched the last page. This was all she had left of her friends and classmates. Apple didn't know why she had thought this would help. She'd ruined everything trying for a Happily Ever After, and she didn't even have true memories left of them left. Her eyes slipped closed as she turned the final page. They blinked open again in surprise when her finger bumped into another page.
She slammed a hand to her mouth, tears spilling down her cheeks. Dexter was midfall into the pond, Hafrn yelping as he was dragged down. Page after page of pictures she'd never wanted to include, every person's true character shining through. Her heart pounded in her chest as she traced her finger down her own face, blackened by some hexplosion in Potions.
"Oh, Hafrn," she whispered. "You always fixed what I messed up."