Rating: General Audiences
Word Count: 4427
Summary: Based on the original story of The Snow Queen, Hans and Elsa meet as children and fall in love as adolescents, but a mirror with the power of erasing memories is tearing them apart.
Their first meeting would be the perfect start of this fairytale. She was five and he was seven. It was her parents’ first diplomatic visit to the Southern Isles, and they were engaged in a long, boring political meeting with the king and queen of the kingdom. Her two-year-old sister Anna slept in Gerda’s lap while Elsa sneaked into the balcony. The night air was chilly, and she pulled her wool shawl tighter around her. She waved her hand in the air, conjuring some snowflakes.
“How do you do that?”
She spun around to find an auburn-haired boy watching her from the other side of the balcony. He looked a few years older than her, and even in the dark she didn’t miss the hint of mischief in his dark green eyes.
“I can always do that,” Elsa giggled, waving her hand in the air again, conjuring more snowflakes.
“Wow…” The older boy laughed as a few of the snowflakes landed on his dark red hair. “It’s amazing!”
“Thank you,” she said, turning a deep shade of pink.
“I’m Prince Hans of the Southern Isles,” the boy introduced himself, and gazed at her curiously. “Can you do that again? I mean, it is so beautiful…”
“I’m Princess Elsa of Arendelle,” Elsa introduced herself. “And yes, I can do it again.”
Elsa really began to like the young prince. No one had ever complemented her like this before. Her parents told her to conceal her power in public. But giggling, she waved her hand in the air innocently as her fingers made swirls and patterns around the sky.
Elsa felt the older boy scooting closer to her as the snow began falling all over them. Her parents were busy in the ballroom, and so were his twelve older brothers. None of them came to search for these two socially awkward children cheering over some very unusual play.
“Can I show you something, too?” Hans said when the snow stopped falling.
“Yeah!” Elsa was more than happy to get out of the boundaries of the castle. After being stuck with grim-faced adults all day long, his offer sounded really interesting.
Hans took her hand and led her to his tree house. It was dimly lit by a single candle on an old table. The only other furnishings were a chair and a large, flat wooden box. She looked out the window and breathed in the splendor of the valley and hills decked out in bright hawthorn, cherry, and bluebells; then she turned back to inspect the little room. Her gaze slid to the white-painted box, and she looked back at the young prince who was watching her anxiously from the corner of the room.
“Can I see that?” Elsa pointed at the box.
“Do you like it?” Hans asked her shyly.
“Yes. What’s inside?”
This was surely new for the young prince. For years, none of his twelve big brothers had ever asked him to play with any of them. He always played alone. He had always wanted to have friends, especially one like Elsa—not fragile or delicate, but untamed and curious. She was a lot like him, he realized. So he led her to his treasure chest and reached down to brush the grime and dust off the lid. It was heavy, so Elsa came to help, and together they pushed it open, revealing the treasures inside. There were two wooden swords, three pirate hats, and a white seashell with a pink interior.
Hans picked up the seashell from the chest, and held it near Elsa’s ear. “Listen to it.”
Elsa took it from him and listened to the muted roaring of the sea. Placing it aside, she looked into the emerald eyes of her new friend and grinned. “I like it.”
“Really?” He blushed furiously as he caught her eyes.
“Yes!” She giggled childishly, of course, conjuring a snowball and throwing towards him.
Hans picked up his wooden sword and chased after her. Elsa froze the wooden floor behind her, making him slip and slide on the ice. She walked near him, ready to throw another snowball in his face, but he tripped her and they both started to fall. The two children collapsed on the frozen floor together, laughing until their ribs hurt.
After that day, they promised to keep in touch. Each and every month, a white pigeon journeyed to the Southern Isles carrying a letter from the oldest princess of Arendelle, and a brown pigeon reached Arendelle with a letter from the youngest prince of the Southern Isles. With each letter he sent a red rose from his royal garden, and she frosted each one and kept them in a safe place. She marked her letters with a tiny snowflake. His letters smelt of roses, hers of winter’s fresh snow.
It became a habit for both of them. She never stopped writing, even when she was shut out from the rest of the world after Anna’s accident, after she started having to wear gloves. He never forgot to reply, even when his brothers began to pretend he was invisible after his father’s death.
They continued to write to each other, even after their worlds fell apart.
Their second meeting was like one of the classic love stories. She was thirteen and he was fifteen. It was the coronation party of King Magnus of the Southern Isles, and the royal family of Arendelle was invited. Anna was in Corona, visiting their uncle and aunt, so Elsa was chosen to go with her parents. It was her first journey to the outside world since the accident.
It was very embarrassing when Hans asked her for a dance. She had been turning down everyone throughout the party, and she didn’t want to make a scene by accepting his invitation.
“I don’t dance,” she replied politely, tucking her gloved hands firmly into her lap, carefully hiding herself from the hunting eyes of the princes.
Her answer made his eyebrow arch. Elsa felt a chill running down her spine when she finally heard his husky adolescent voice.
“It’s a lovely evening, Elsa.” He grinned mischievously, eyeing the princes in the ballroom trying hard to impress the crown princess of Arendelle. “If you want to escape from them, would you like to go for a walk with me?”
“Walk?” she repeated, stunned by the discovery that he was evidently as aware of what she was doing as she had been aware of him nearby, sitting at the table.
“It’s dark outside,” she said mindlessly, searching his impressive features as he arose and walked over to her chair. As he stood there, towering over her, his handsome face indicated that he was ready to go anywhere with her.
Finally Elsa excused herself from Gerda and joined Hans in the garden. It was the middle of the summer, and the royal garden was full of lovely blooming roses; even he smelt of roses, she thought. The night air felt chilly as they walked, and she moved closer to him for warmth. When he tucked his gloved hand into hers, she didn’t pull away, and he felt startlingly warm against her cold skin.
She tilted her head to have a clear look at him. He had grown taller in the last few years, and his shoulders became broader. His face had lost its baby fat, and there was a slight hint of facial hair along his smooth jaw. He didn’t look like a boy anymore, Elsa realized suddenly and shyly— instead, he looked like a man.
“You’ve grown up a lot,” she said after several minutes, looking up at his green eyes. When he didn’t reply, she cast about for something else to say and inadvertently voiced her thoughts. “You’ve grown a beard.”
Her words made him throw back his head in laughter. “This is not a beard, Elsa. They are called sideburns.”
“Oh,” Elsa replied shyly, a blush creeping to her cheeks. “Are you going to grow mustaches, too? I mean, that will make you to look a bit older.”
“Do you like mustaches?” Hans gazed down at the petite girl with much amusement.
She had grown up a lot in these years. She had silky hair the color of silver, and soft dewy skin. Every time he had seen her during this past year, she seemed to have grown prettier, her skin fairer, her eyes bluer. She was no more than five feet tall, barely reaching his shoulder, but in a pretty blue skirt and a matching high-necked blouse, she had the figure of a petite goddess, with long shapely legs, a sweet hint of growing breasts, and a tiny waist. She also had a way of looking at him that made him feel mesmerized. His gaze slid from her russet eyelashes to the gentle swell of her chest, pausing to contemplate the curve of her smooth cheek and the softness of her lips…
“You’ve grown a lot, too, Elsa.” he whispered, “You’ve grown really beautiful.”
Elsa had noticed him glancing at her bosom, and she felt a strange urge to cover herself, so she crossed her arms over her chest and threw him a stern look. “I don’t believe it. I wish I had more freckles like Anna. I’m like a colorless lily beside her,” she pouted.
“You aren’t!” Hans looked stung, but then caught her arm and began leading her to the castle. “Let me show you, Princess.”
He urged her along the secret passages of the castle Isles, through secret doors, until they reached an old dusty room. Hans led her inside. The room was dimly lit with a single candle at a corner, and in the middle stood a full length mirror.
“This is my grandmother’s mirror. This is called Mirror of Erased,” Hans whispered, taking her near it. “This mirror makes you forget your sorrows.”
“Look,” he whispered, resting his chin on her shoulder.
She followed his line of vision and looked into the mirror. But she couldn’t see herself. Instead, she saw a dark shadow, a snow-covered land, and a frozen statue that strangely resembled Anna. She felt frost gathering around her fingers inside her gloves. Frightened, she tilted her head, gazing into his gorgeous eyes. He was so close. His breath brushed her cool skin, and though the light was dim, she could almost count every freckle on his cheeks.
“Do you know what I see there?” His voice was intense.
A kiss! He was going to kiss her, Elsa realized, and all her joy and anticipation collapsed beneath the weight of fear. She lifted her gaze from his lips to his gleaming green eyes. “No, Hans…” she tried to protest, taking a step back.
“Why not, Elsa?” He looked hurt.
“Because…” She felt frost spreading from her feet, freezing the ground beneath her. “Go away, Hans.” Tears were threatening to fall from her eyes; she choked as she tried to stop herself from crying. “I’ll hurt you.”
“No, you won’t.” He took another step closer. “I trust you.”
“No…” Elsa took another step back, tripping over the base of the mirror. The mirror teetered and then landed on the ground, breaking into thousands of pieces that flew everywhere around her. She saw a glass shard flying towards Hans, and let out a scream. He gasped in pain and collapsed on the floor, holding his chest.
Elsa rushed beside him. Cupping his chin, she asked if he was alright. But when she looked into his eyes, she gasped. There was no sign of recognition, only a strange vacant look.
“Hans…” she cried in concern, but he simply pushed her away and rose from the ground.
He left the room without looking back.
After her return to Arendelle, she sent letter after letter asking for his forgiveness. She wrote to him when her parents died, she wrote to him after Anna knocked on her door, but he never wrote back. Month after month she waited, and waited, but none of her messenger pigeons returned from the Southern Isles, except one—the bird with broken wings. But this time there was no rose with the letter; instead, there was an arrow bearing the name of Prince Hans of the Southern Isles.
That night she frosted all the roses in the garden, and ordered Kai to cut down all of them. Because roses reminded her of him.
The third time Elsa saw him, she was twenty-one and he was twenty-three, and it was not at all a fairytale meeting.
It was the day she was crowned queen, and Prince Hans came to her kingdom as the representative of the Southern Isles. He had changed so much that she barely recognized him, and truth be told, she was a little hurt by the change. He danced all night with her sister while, as queen, she engaged herself in boring conversations with the dignitaries.
From the corner of her eyes, Elsa followed his every move. His smile had become measured, his voice calculated, and even when he laughed with Anna, his attitude seemed feigned. He looked entirely different from the awkward boy whom she remembered. She could only watch numbly when Anna came to her, happily pulling her handsome companion along.
“This is Prince Hans of the Southern Isles,” Anna chirped joyously, unaware of their previous encounters, “and we are going to be married.”
Queen Elsa was taken aback with the announcement. Her eyes met his when he bowed respectfully and said, “Your majesty!”
His tone was princely and his clothes were princely, but his eyes glinted like the devil’s. He didn’t show any sign of recognition when their eyes met, and she wondered if he was hiding it intentionally. As Anna continued bubbling about their future plans, Elsa watched the way Hans acted toward her sister. It seemed so false, so unreal.
“So Hans, we can invite all of your brothers,” Anna giggled. “They can stay with us.”
“Absolutely,” Hans agreed, and his eyes caught Elsa’s, a cold glare behind his sweet mask. “What do you think, your majesty?” And then he grinned.
She figured it was just some ploy to get her to be more agreeable towards Anna’s request. Elsa saw right through him, from the start.
She didn’t know this man. And neither did Anna.
“You can’t marry someone you’ve just met,” Queen Elsa firmly told her sister.
“Why not?” Anna reacted angrily. “Why do you always want to shut the world out?” She reached for her, taking one of Elsa’s gloves in the process.
Elsa grabbed for it, but Anna refused to return the glove. This triggered more angry shouting between the sisters, unleashing Elsa’s power in murderous rage. Icicles grew all around her as she waved her bare hand in the air.
“Monster,” the duke of Weselton whispered.
Anna gasped, and others staggered back in shock. So did Hans. Elsa could only see burning hatred in his green eyes, instead of admiration. Fairytales never truly existed, she realized. In reality, princesses turned into evil dragons and princes never came to their rescue.
Their fourth meeting was sad and desperate, like a love song gone wrong.
She was no longer Queen Elsa. She had turned into the snow queen and set aside her Arendelle clothes, replacing them with snow and frost. She had built an ice palace, isolating herself from the rest of the world. But even so, things continued to go wrong. She set off an eternal winter, froze Anna’s heart accidentally, and was at the verge of murdering one of the duke’s men.
And then he came. Her prince. Prince Hans of the Southern Isles.
“Don’t be the monster they fear you are,” he told her, brimming with intelligence and a brutal honesty that weakened her to the point of almost fainting.
He held his hand out, as if to take her in and wipe away all her sadness, and for a moment she saw a glimpse of the young boy who played pirates with her. She knew it was really not romantic at all, not truly, after years upon years of fear and hurt. Not when she was the monster from the books and he was definitely no hero.
And yet, later, when she lost all consciousness underneath the weight of a fallen ice chandelier, he was the one who decided to look after her. He took her senseless body into his arms and carried her back to her kingdom. He locked her in the dungeon, spreading a blanket over her to keep her warm. Elsa wondered why he did that when his heart was full of hatred and vengeance.
So when he came to visit her, she asked why he had saved her.
“I can’t just let them kill you,” he answered in a soft voice.
For a moment, Elsa searched his green eyes, looking for the boy she once played with, once laughed with. She searched for the mischievous teenager who led her into underground passageways only to kiss her. But she found none; instead she met a stranger. Her stirring of hope faded when he spoke his next words.
“Stop the winter, bring back summer.”
Once again she saw the cold prince with a mask. But clinging to a naiveté she didn’t know she still possessed, she said, “Then please get Anna.”
The last of her hope vanished when he declared in his cold, poised voice, “Anna has not returned.”
There was no hint of sadness or grief for his lost fiancée; clearly he had never really loved Anna. Elsa’s heart yearned to save her sister from the clutches of the devil, but she had turned into a devil herself.
She didn’t want to go, yet she pleaded for the sake of saving her people, “Then please let me go. I’m a danger to Arendelle.”
His lips twisted into the most devilish grin she had ever seen. “I’ll see what I can do.”
He left without looking back, shutting the prison door behind him.
The fifth time she saw him, it was the end of the world.
He was swinging his sword above her head, ready to strike her neck. Everything went wrong, absolutely everything. The stories, she knew, were unpredictable at times, but never had she pictured a hero turned villain and sisters frozen in ice.
Afterwards she became the heroine of her own story and thawed Anna’s frozen heart, and the traitor was punched into the fjord by her sister. But still she couldn’t believe he was the same man who had once led her to his treehouse, showed her his treasure chest, and told her that she was beautiful. Her eyes had met his when the guards chained him and dragged him off to the deepest dungeon where she was once locked up by him. Memories still burned in her mind, and she still searched for the love she had lost.
Their last meeting could have been their happily ever after.
Queen Elsa visited the prisoner in the dungeon, carrying all the feelings locked inside her heart. She stood at an appropriate distance from him, and gazed at the man who had once belonged to the royalty. His clothes were worn, his hair was dirty. When she looked into his green eyes, searching for any sign of remorse, to her disappointment she didn’t find any. Instead, she saw a strange haunted look that almost burned her soul.
“Your majesty,” Prince Hans greeted her with a wry smile on his face. “What brings you here?” He lurked out of the shadows, his voice dripping sarcasm. “To show me mercy? I never beg for mercy.”
She was taken aback by the lack of guilt in his tone. Didn’t this man have any heart? But she maintained her queenly composure and said, “I’m here to tell you, Prince Hans, that you are being sent back to your brothers for trial.”
“I know.” He shook his head absently.
The vacant look in his eyes sent a chill through the queen’s spine. It reminded her of the stare he had given her on the night she refused him. For a moment she continued gazing at his face, searching for some trace of the boy she had lost. For a moment she forgot all the grudges she held against him, forgot that she was a queen and he was a traitor, and took a step closer to him.
“Why did you want to kill me?” she whispered.
“Because I hate you,” he replied curtly.
His tone made her cringe, but she held her ground, remembering the time when she had been about to kill a man, and Hans had lifted his hand to save her. Gazing deep into his vacant eyes, she whispered, “Do you really want to kill me?”
“Why?” Tears gathered at the corners of her eyes, for the snow queen was practically desperate to find the reason why she had lost the love of the man she once admired. “Why Hans, why do you hate me? Give me a reason. I know you from when we were children. You’re not like this.”
“I…” he seethed, but her proximity triggered something in him, because he paused for a second and shook his head as if having second thoughts. “I don’t know.”
“Why don’t you know?” Elsa stepped closer to him and grabbed his lapels. “I know you never wanted to kill me. I saw your eyes when you stopped the duke’s men from killing me.”
She knew she wasn’t acting like a queen anymore, but she didn’t care. She needed to know. Frozen tears welled up from her eyes and fell on his shirt as she continued shaking him harder and harder. “Why Hans, why? You are not the boy I knew. Why you have changed? Why can you not remember me? Why can you not remember the love we shared? What is wrong with you?”
Her tears were soaking the front of his shirt, and snowflakes gathered over his heart. She didn’t know what came over her. Suddenly she pulled him down in a kiss. She pressed her lips against him forcefully, desperate to find the love she had lost.
But he didn’t kiss her back. He didn’t hug her when she cried. In her arms he felt like…wood.
Angrily, she pulled back and shoved him away. “Anna was right. Your heart is frozen.”
She slapped him hard. He didn’t protest, he didn’t strike her back. Instead, he continued watching her with those strange, emotionless green eyes. She stormed out of the prison cell angrily, feeling humiliated for kissing him and wasting her tears on a traitor. Nothing could thaw the twisted heart of the prince. Her love was lost forever.
She ordered the guards to escort the prisoner to the ship waiting for him. Elsa watched them obeying her orders as they entered his cell and hauled him out. Their eyes met again when the guards chained him.
A small sarcastic smile laced his lips. For a moment, Elsa thought she could see the old Hans in his eyes—young and afraid, lovely and tender. She searched his face and found a strange sadness there. The same sadness that had belonged to the young prince she once knew.
“I do remember your love, but it is too late,” he said.
Then, as the guards began leading him towards the port where a ship waited to carry him home, Hans smiled warmly at her for the first time since their meeting; it was the warmest smile she had seen on his face in ages. There were no more masks, no more pretenses—only sadness at their parting, only remorse for his evil deeds. It almost reflected the young prince she had fallen in love with a long time ago.
“Farewell, your majesty.”
She didn’t answer him, but simply watched him go. She didn’t stop him; she didn’t call him back. Why now? Why? All the years she had searched for her lost love—why did she have to find him again, only when it was time to say goodbye?
Her gaze slid to a shiny object lying at her feet. A broken shard from the Mirror of Erased, the mirror which had power to erase all memories of love from human hearts. It reflected all the good things, but twisted human hearts in the worst possible way. He’d had this piece of mirror inside him for too long…but why now had he suddenly remembered her love for him?
Love will thaw. Maybe Anna was right.
Gingerly she picked up the mirror shard from the floor, and gazed at the horizon where the ship sailed away with him—a broken, twisted, lost prince, with only a memory of love. Her love. Unconsciously, a sigh escaped from her lips.
It was too late now.
Or maybe it wasn’t.
Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at http://archiveofourown.org/works/3991639.