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Author Notes:

I disclaim the one or two lyrics/lines which are borrowed from Frozen directly, instead of being adapted for this fic. I think you'll know them when you read them.

BYOM (Bring Your Own Music) and please enjoy!

Elsa jumped as a knock sounded on her door, sending the shower of magic she'd been aiming at one of her glasses of water in a completely different direction from the one she'd intended. What in the world—

"Elsa?" called Anna's voice plaintively from the hallway. "Do you want to build a snowman? Come on, let's go and play!"

Inside the room, Elsa groaned under her breath, examining the bit of wall her powers had buckled with cold and ice. "Oh, Anna, please, I almost had it then!" she hissed, too softly for her sister to hear. "How can I practice when you're always in the way?"

"I know we both have lessons," Anna went on, her piping tones hopeful, "but I'm done with mine, and I want to play with you! Do you want to build a snowman?" Her voice took on a trace of wistfulness. "It doesn't have to be a snowman…"

About to order Anna to go away, Elsa bit her tongue, remembering the third test her mother had set for her. "Yes, I do," she called back instead, and opened the door just a fraction to smile down at Anna's eager face. "Go get your snow things on, all right?"

"So how was your time outside with Anna?" Gunther asked his older child, smiling at her rosy cheeks and rumpled hair. "Did your powers trouble you at all?"

"A little bit, but I remembered what you and Mama said. Sister first, Snow Queen second. And we did have fun." Elsa climbed eagerly into the chair her father had placed beside his desk, peering at the map he had laid ready for their lesson. "Am I learning about geography today?"

"A queen must know as much as she can about her neighbors and trading partners, to stay on good terms with them and avoid insulting them by accident." Gunther laid a finger on a brightly colored patch of land south of Arendelle. "For instance, this particular city-state is not pronounced the way you might think it is…"

Rubbing her hands together, Elsa summoned up her magic, a much easier task than it had been almost eighteen months before, when she'd had her accident with Anna. Her powers, as the eldest troll had warned her, were only growing stronger as she got older.

But I'm growing stronger too, and smarter, with everything I'm learning from Papa and Mama, and with all the practice I'm doing.

And right now, I need to do a little more of it.

"All right, it's time to build a snowman," she murmured to herself, turning rapidly to locate the glasses her mother had hidden throughout her room. "Freeze all the water I can find—eek!" She dodged as one of her ice blasts hit the mirror instead and ricocheted directly back at her. "The trouble is, it's very easy to make a mistake when you have so much on your mind…"

With a sigh, she looked over at Brigitta. "How do you do it, Mother?" she asked.

Brigitta held out a hand, beckoning Elsa to her side. "I smile," she said, dropping a kiss onto Elsa's braided hair, "and remember that when times are hard, all we can do is try." After embracing Elsa once more, she held her daughter at arm's length. "And it's time for you to try again."

"Are you sure?" Elsa swallowed at her mother's firm nod. "Well, all right."

Glancing up, she found the first glass of water on a high shelf, and pointed her finger at it, freezing it solid. One. Her eyes tracked sideways to find the second hidden in an alcove above her bed. Two. The third peeped out from behind the same mirror which had almost sent her own magic back into her face a few moments before. Three…

As she turned in place, Elsa's world narrowed to the simple need to find her targets and hit them solidly, harming nothing else in the process. It wasn't until she'd successfully accounted for nine of them that she looked towards her mother again.

Her eyes widened as she saw the tenth glass of water, balanced on Brigitta's palm.

Gathering her courage, she met her mother's eyes and set a finger on the very surface of the water, calling up the most delicate spike of magic she had ever attempted.

The liquid contents of the glass crystalized neatly from the top to the bottom in an instant, leaving the glass itself unbroken.

"Ten," said Brigitta, setting down the glass of ice and showing Elsa her unmarked palm. "And not a speck of harm done by any of them." She smiled as Elsa stared at her own hands, hope and excitement surging up in her chest. "Depending on what your father says, you and your sister may be having a little talk very soon…"

"This puzzle will help you keep your focus, even when your mind wants to be scattered," Gunther told Elsa, laying out the seven variously-shaped tiles on the surface of his desk. "We will start with some easy shapes, and move on to the more difficult ones, but remember, sometimes you may have to think creatively." He smiled. "An important skill for any king or queen to learn. Now, let us begin. Assemble these into a large square for me…"

Elsa mastered the first few challenges easily, but as the figures her father traced out on his slate became more and more complicated, she started muttering to herself, tugging at the end of her braid, and sketching in frost on the desktop to try out her ideas.

"And what she is not doing," Brigitta noted quietly to her husband, as they watched their daughter from the other end of the room, "is making things explode, freeze solid, or grow terrifyingly large icicles. Which is what she used to do when she became frustrated."

"Go on, say it." Gunther sighed. "I know you, and you will never be happy until you say it."

Brigitta smiled and kissed his cheek. "I told you so." The words emerged with a little chuckle threading through them. "Do you think she is ready yet?"

"Very soon." Gunther nodded as Elsa flipped one of the tiles over, exhaling sharply in triumph. "When she can work on these puzzles, and others like them, for three days in a row without any unfortunate incidents, then yes, I think we can say she is ready for her first steps back…"

"Anna?" Elsa poked her head around her sister's bedroom door, and smiled to see the eager expression on Anna's face as she jumped to her feet. "Do you have a minute?"

"Of course!" Anna bounced into the hallway, hugging Elsa tight as soon as she passed through the door. The height difference between them now that they were six and nine years old, Elsa realized with some surprise, was less than it had been when they were four and seven. "Are you feeling better? I know you weren't very well last week, you had to go back to your room all of a sudden to lie down…"

"Well, that's some of what I have to talk to you about." Elsa sighed. "Anna, come with me," she said, setting off down the hallway, Anna keeping pace beside her. "I'll show you a secret I have kept inside…" Anna looked appropriately intrigued by the mention of a secret, and Elsa swallowed her smile as she went on. "It's why I sometimes don't have much to say. Why just the other day I ran away to hide." She glanced over at her sister. "Did that hurt you?"

Anna shrugged. "Some," she said guardedly.

"I'm sorry." Elsa slid her hand into Anna's and squeezed it gently as they turned into the throne room. "But you'll understand when I show my gift to you…"

"Gift?" Anna frowned. "Elsa, what gift?"

Elsa cupped her hands in front of her. "Watch," she said, and concentrated, as she'd learned to do when she was contemplating her puzzle pieces and the larger shape she needed to fit them inside. The magic leaped to answer, sparkling in her palm, swirling around her fingers, until with a toss she flung it free, to fill the room with mounds of snow and bring more sprinkling down from the rafters. Anna's hands flew up to her mouth as she stared first one way, then another, her eyes filled with wonder and amazement.

"Do you want to build a snowman?" Elsa asked, grinning at Anna.

Anna twirled in three circles under the falling snow, then flung her hands out wide, tipping her head back. "Yes," she caroled, "I do!"

Laughing, the sisters ran into each other's arms.

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Author Notes:

You'll have to imagine the big, triumphant musical ending here. And yes, certain parts of this dialogue are indeed written so that they can go to a particular melody from Frozen. What did you expect?

It looks like this is going to be another story of short, plentiful chapters. I'm sure you're all horribly disappointed.

Next time: we find out where Elsa's powers came from in the first place!

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