"Here we are," her father announces, and the girl finds herself flinching out of instinct as his grand voice echoes through the near-empty house. "Home sweet home."

Weiss stands stock-still, wishing she had something to clutch tightly in her fists. But she'd been quickly relieved of all her luggage the moment she'd stepped off the Schnee's private airship. She doesn't know what unnerves her more—the fact that all of her belongings can be gathered in a few bags or that those bags have been taken from her.

"You'll find your quarters untouched," her father goes on, continuing to stride forward while Weiss lingers in the entryway. Her eyes narrow at the lie. Untouched, as if. She knows her room has been routinely searched for any sort of contraband since she was a child.

He glances over his shoulder at her, clearly bothered by her lifelessness, and Weiss calls upon her decade's worth of etiquette classes.

"Thank you, Father," she says graciously, offering him a demure curtsey. (Rule: Never leave Father waiting.) The worst of her injuries had been treated aboard the ship, but she's still decidedly uneasy. Schnee Manor had always been her home simply by default, but the familiar stone walls and grand chandeliers prompt only a nervous swallow.

"Is Winter home?" she asks, glancing around for any sign of her sister's presence. She sees only pristine marble floors, ornate columns, expertly carved sculptures, and imposing portraits of the three remaining Schnees. Weiss' icy gaze traces her own portrait with a slight frown. Is that truly what she looks like?

"You sister's whereabouts are none of your concern," her father tells her, and Weiss snaps her gaze back to him, alarmed at the malice that coats his words. The Schnee patriarch turns to look his daughter, and she feels her hand instinctively twitch toward Myrtenaster's hilt, only to close around empty air.

Oh, of course. Her father had confiscated her weapon as well. Wonderful.

"Father, I—" Weiss tries to mollify his temper, but he cuts her off brutally.

"Do not speak," he orders sharply. (Rule: Never challenge Father's orders.) "Why did you never return my calls, Weiss? What were you doing with the Schnee Dust Company files last spring?" Weiss' eyes go wide and he barks a laugh. "You thought, perhaps, that I was unaware? Your skills in duplicity are almost as poor as your swordplay."

His cruel words bring Weiss' icy blood to boil, and she narrows her eyes.

"My swordplay has nothing to do with this," she hisses, emboldened by her anger.

"Do not speak!" her father repeats, louder this time, and Weiss swallows her argument with a bowed head. Her father's anger is cold and fierce and he wields it like a club. She watches him carefully, awaiting his next move.

"The only stroke of luck in all of this has been that blasted Grimm invasion," he goes on, and Weiss physically bites her tongue to stay herself even as her temper flares out fiercely. Luck? People had died! (Rule: Never voice your opinions.)

"I've been wanting to remove you from that school for ages," he explains, eyeing her outraged expression. He looks utterly unbothered by it, and turns away to resume his pacing across the great room. "But, naturally, an extraction like that would draw attention, so I had to bide my time."

Weiss bristles at his words. "Remove me?" she demands. "You swore to me—!"

"I swore I would allow you the opportunity to attend a Hunter's academy," her father interrupts. His eyes flash like cold fire as he stares her down. "I never said anything about you sharing a team with a Faunus."

He twists the word until it sounds like a profanity—a disease.

Eyes like the sun flash before Weiss' mind's eye, and she keeps her expression carefully schooled. She needs to tread carefully—she is getting dangerously close to hazardous topics. (Rule: Never broach the topic of Faunus.)

She may not be skilled in deceit, but she is a Schnee. She will not bow out of a battle of wits easily.

"I have no control over my teammates," she explains shortly, watching his expression carefully. "That was not my choice."

Nor is it a choice she regrets—not any longer, anyway.

Her father laughs, and Weiss' lips curl with distaste at the noise.

"You are a Schnee, Weiss," he tells her, spreading his arms wide as he turns to face her. "We make our own choices."

She bristles at his comment—his favorite comment. Her father had always been fond of her comparing her to Schnees, as if she herself did not also bear the family name. She knows perfectly well it's a simple psychological tactic to make her feel disconnected and uneasy, but this knowledge does not guard her from the disquiet it brings.

Mother hadn't been a good Schnee either, her subconscious whispers to her. And look what happened to her.

Weiss' eyes flash to the trio of family portraits, trying and failing to forget a time when there had been a fourth. (Rule: Never speak about Mother.)

"So that's it then?" she asks, daring to put a whisper of steel in her words. "I'll never return to Beacon?" Her stomach rolls at the thought, but she digs in her heels and keeps her mask of calm questioning.

"Never," he answers, and the world goes vertigo—pushing and pulling her at the same time as she scrambles to keep herself together.

"Ah," is all she can come up with, her voice wavering just enough to make her scowl. (Rule: Never show weakness.) She hastens to come up with more to say. "I, uh, assume you've spoken to the Headmaster about this? I imagine there will be a fair amount of paperwork—"

Her father scoffs, turning to give her a glare just short of a slap. Her cheek tingles slightly just looking at it, but she forces herself to meet his gaze all the same.

"Don't you understand, Weiss? Your school is no longer. Beacon has fallen, your Headmaster is as good as dead, and there is no reason for you to return to Vale, ever."

Weiss swallows, trying to reign in her anger for the sake of her charade of diplomacy. "Father," she begins, as patiently as she can—an emotion she's dully aware has and doubtlessly never will come easily to her. "I can't simply abandon—"

"Enough!" he finally shouts, and Weiss doesn't think she'll ever not be afraid of that tone. "You are never leaving Atlas again! If you continue to press the issue, then you will be lucky to leave this house!"

Weiss' breath catches as his words incite a burst of frigid irascibility. A prisoner? Here? In Schnee Manor? She nearly chokes at the prospect.

"My team needs me!" Weiss insists, desperation provoking her words. She knows she should have stopped talking quite a long time ago—truthfully, she really shouldn't have started speaking at all—but she can't leave things like this. (Rule: Never pick a fight with Father.)

He sneers down at her. "Your team is dead, Weiss! The Xiao Long girl will never throw another punch, the Faunus ran away like the damnable coward she is, and your dear partner has doubtlessly been quarantined by her idiotic father!"

Rage—a blistering, biting kind of anger—settles in her bones, but she keeps herself well in check. (Rule: Never show your true emotions.) She lifts her chin, assessing him as calmly as she can.

"Very well. Where can I find my blade?" she asks him, her voice all cold professionalism.

Her father snorts with mirth. "Nowhere," he answers, turning his back on her. "Now quit this room and leave me be."

Her eyes spark with anger, her oath of composure vanishing in a moment. "That's my weapon," she hisses, scowling at his broad back. "Mother left it for me. You have no right—!"

He turns on her—face like an impending avalanche, eyes like thundersnow—and the elegant silver ring on his right hand glints in the light as he sweeps out his arm.

Weiss' wide eyes track the movement, and her jaw locks itself as the elegant heiress folds in on herself, breath trapped in her chest, heart crawling up her throat as she flinches away from the sight—the sight of that very hand lashing against her face—drawing a shuddering gasp as her eyes shut themselves against the memories burned into her skin.

She holds herself with the stillness of an ice sculpture until she hears a low chuckle, and snaps her eyes open to see her father assessing her with the cruel eyes of the Schnees.

"You forget, Weiss," he tells her, how voice heavy with things they don't say, not even in their own household. "The heart is a muscle too. It learns. It does not forget."

He drops his hand, and Weiss' body nearly goes boneless with relief.

"You will write to whatever authority remains at Beacon," he tells her, and Weiss knows this is her final chance to escape unscathed. "You will make up whatever story you wish. I don't care. You will renounce your teammates—in fact, you should blame them." He runs a hand across his jaw, and Weiss' stomach flips as his ring catches the light once more.

"Tell them you refuse to be paired with the daughters of blatant infidelity and a thing that hardly deserves the honor of a name, let alone a team."

The room is quiet for three heartbeats, and then Weiss can keep her peace no longer.

"No!" the word is a scream, and her denial rings throughout the great house. "I will not betray the trust of the only people I make promises to!"

Her words hang in the air—heavy with emotion and meaning, nearly buckling under the weight of her own shameless honesty—and her father arches an uninspired brow.

(Rule: Never raise your voice in Father's presence.)

"Mind yourself, Weiss," her father cautions, eyeing her. "You are playing with fire."

The statement knocks the wind from her chest—because he's right. He's absolutely right. She—Weiss Schnee, the heiress of the coldest company on the continent, the Ice Princess, the Snow Angel, the girl who bore a snowflake across her back like a badge of honor and with hair like a snowfall and eyes like a blizzard—is playing with fire.

The thought sends heat surging through her, scorching her cold blood and burning her from the inside out. Her heart crashes in her chest with flaming heartbeats, and her hands shake with the ferocity of her newfound fire.

"You can't keep me here," she whispers, her voice is low and it burns. "I'll find a way to leave. I'll find my way back to them."

Her words positively boil with hostility, and her father flings her a look of stark coldness.

"You will deeply regret any such attempts," he vows to her.

She swallows hard. "You," she begins—her words shake but she swallows and starts again, steadied by the fire signing in her veins—"You have no idea what I have become. You haven't the slightest clue as to the things I have seen—you don't understand how those things changed me."

She stares him down—the Schnee heiress, alight with a blazing ferocity. "My world is no longer so small that you can keep me tucked in a corner."

Her battle reflexes see the hand—the hand, his hand—before the rest of her is even aware of what is happening. The ring shines as his palm crashes against her cheek, and the sting of pain sets upon her immediately. The force of his assault knocks her off balance, and she staggers a bit, biting back a curse.

The sound of the slap echoes dully in the room, and Weiss fights the urge to clap a hand to the injury, instead righting herself, blinking at the pain that radiates from the side of her face, knowing full-well it's coloring bright red, like a fever. It feels like all the others.

They stare at each other. A man cut from ice with nothing but a frozen hunk of emptiness in his chest and a girl nursing a small fire in her heart.

"You are so like your mother, I may vomit," he murmurs, before he turns to leave.

Weiss sniffs disdainfully at the comment, marching away in the opposite direction, her face still stinging.

She is playing with fire, and her father will burn for the pain he has caused.

(Rule: Never underestimate the Schnees.)

Ho boy. Let's all take a breath, shall we?

Firstly, I would like to point out that the Schnees are obviously, canonically, fucked up. Winter was only in like, three episodes and in one of them she actually hit Weiss. And yet apparently they have an okay relationship? I don't even know. That's fucked up. Also the line: "That made for a very…difficult childhood."

Regardless, this takes place after the Volume 3 finale. Weiss returns home only to realize she actually fucking hates this place and wants to leave.

I really, really like doing character studies of the Schnees.

I wrote this in like thirty minutes I'm sorry I'm all dark and dreary because of Nevermore