Rating: PG for mild language and innuendo
Feedback: Yes, thank you.
Spoilers: For Deathly Hallows
Distribution: The Blackberry Patch and . If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Ron is still bored in book seven, so Hermione winds up telling him a fairy story about a strange albino girl and seven short guys. A sequel of sorts to Cinder-What-the-Hell?-a.
Author's note: The version of Snow White I'm using is an amalgam from different sources, but all the facets of it do show up in the traditional stories.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by J. K. Rowling, a wonderful author whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
"I'm bored," Ron said to no one in particular.
"Oh, what a horrible tragedy," Hermione replied in a deadpan voice. "Muggle-borns are being rounded up, You-Know-Who has all of Britain under his thumb, none of us has seen our families in months, and, worst of all, Ronald Weasley is bored! The world must be coming to an end!"
In spite of himself, Harry snorted in laughter, and Ron, who a moment before had looked like he might be about to start a quarrel, seemed to see the humor in the situation and grinned apologetically.
"I know all that," Ron said. "But admit it, Hermione, moving from one spot to another, setting up and taking down wards, scrounging for food, well… evading the Death Eaters isn't quite as exciting as some might think."
"Let's hope it stays as dull as possible," Hermione said, closing her book. "For us, excitement means torture, imprisonment, and probably death."
"No need to be so optimistic," Harry said, trying to sound like he was teasing, but he knew she was right, and so did Ron judging by his uncomfortable look.
The months on the run were taking a toll on all of them. News was a catch-as-you-can affair, and they were constantly concerned about their friends and loved ones, any of whom could conveniently "disappear" if the Ministry decided it was in their best interest. The horcrux was no closer to being destroyed than it had been when they'd taken it from old toad face, and while Harry supposed the snake must be with Voldemort, he didn't want to face him until the other horcruxes were eliminated. None of them had the foggiest notion where the other ones might be, though.
"Anything helpful in there?" Harry asked Hermione, knowing the answer.
"No," she said, stuffing the book back into her beaded purse where it joined the rest of Hermione's provisions. "Granted, considering it's the third time I've looked, I should have known better than to…"
"I want a story," Ron interrupted abruptly.
Harry blinked in surprise.
"You're joking," Hermione said, raising an eyebrow.
"No," Ron assured her. "I liked the one you told about the shoe-crazed prince and the foot lopping step-mother."
"Cinderella," Hermione corrected him automatically.
"Yeah, her," Ron said. "You mentioned some other one about snow and gnomes, I think?"
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?" Harry asked.
"That's the one," Ron said, nodding.
"I thought you said Cinderella was weird and violent?" Hermione said.
"Yeah, well, it is," Ron said. "That's why I like it."
"That's comforting," Harry said with a grin. "Another couple months out here and you'll start lopping off toes to keep yourself from boredom."
"Ha," Ron said archly. "Really, Hermione, what about it, eh? Give us a story?"
"Well…," Hermione began hesitantly, "oh, I suppose so."
Harry and Ron each turned their full attention to her. Frankly, Harry was rather curious about this one himself. The Dursleys had made quite a point of keeping fairytales far away from Harry, going so far as to write his teachers when he was younger, demanding they not tell any stories about magic in class due to their "religious opposition to the occult in schools." Granted, the only religion he was aware of the Dursleys practicing was Uncle Vernon worshipping the state of his lawn, but most of the teachers agreed to their demands so there wouldn't be a fuss. Still, he'd passed a movie poster once for Snow White, and before Aunt Petunia had hurried him across the street and away from it, he'd just had time to wonder what the forbidden story might be about.
"Once upon a time," Hermione began.
"Which means this happened a long time ago," Ron said knowledgably.
"Yes," Hermione said with a sigh, acknowledging he'd learned his lesson, "there lived a king who had a beautiful little daughter, but his wife died not long after the girl was born. The king decided that his child needed a mother, so..."
"Hang on there, Hermione," Ron said. "You're telling the wrong story!"
"No, I'm not," Hermione said crossly. "You don't even know Snow White, so how could you know if I was starting out wrong!"
"Because you're telling Cinder-what's-her-face again!" Ron said. "There's a little girl, and the mother dies, and the father remarries so she'll have a mother."
"Snow White starts the same way," Hermione said, "though I admit I can see how it would confuse you."
"They start the same way?" Ron asked. "Well, that's unoriginal. Next thing you know, her dad'll die and it'll turn out the step-mother's evil."
"Well," Hermione said, making a face, "you're not wrong."
"You're kidding me?" Ron said, laughing. "Geez, Hermione, the bloke in the first story should have warned the one in the second story, shouldn't he?"
"But the first one was already dead," Harry pointed out reasonably.
"Yeah, but his ghost could've come back and given him a few pointers," Ron insisted.
"Only wizards can become ghosts, though," Harry said. "I asked Nick that once, and since these two were both Muggles…"
"Oh, I suppose we can let it go," Ron said. "Hey, I just realized something! There is a difference! Cinderella's father was just a nobleman, and this one's a king! So they're not complete twins, are they!"
"Well done, Ronald," Hermione said icily. "Are you quite finished now?"
"Ehm, I suppose so," Ron said, looking a little abashed.
"Good," she said. "Now, you were right. The king did die, and it turned out that the new queen was a horrible person."
"What about the two ugly step-daughters?" Ron asked.
"She didn't have any," Hermione said, sighing. "You see, it's not entirely the same."
"I guess not," Ron said. "Okay, keep going."
Hermione took a deep breath, and for a moment Harry thought her head might explode, but her voice was calm when she began again.
"The queen was very beautiful, and she had a magic mirror," Hermione said. "Each day, she would go to the mirror and ask 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest one of all?'"
"That's asking for trouble, that is," Ron said with a look at Harry. "Even Fleur wouldn't have the knackers to do that."
"And each day the mirror answered that the queen was the most beautiful woman in the world," Hermione continued.
"Oh," Ron said, a little disappointed. "Well, I suppose if she already knew what the answer was going to be, it wouldn't be so risky. What if she'd had a bad hair day though?"
"What?" Hermione said.
"Even really gorgeous girls can have an off day," he said knowledgably. "I mean, what if she'd got a great huge spot on the end of her nose? What if she was down with the flu and looked disgusting? What if she hadn't slept the night before and had huge circles under her eyes and was a right mess?"
"I guess even then she was still the most beautiful," Hermione said with a shrug.
"Veela," Ron said to Harry, nodding. "Has to be. Only explanation. I like the talking mirror, though; at least that's realistic."
"Anyway," Hermione said, throwing them both a look even though Harry really hadn't interrupted, "the queen's one worry was that the little princess would one day grow to be more beautiful than the queen herself. Because of that, she dressed her in rags and made her one of the scullery maids."
"That sounds familiar," Ron said with a sly grin. "Wonder if she and Cinderweeper ever hung about together."
"Okay, so there are a few similarities," Hermione said, "but most of them stop there. You see, one day, the queen looked in the mirror and asked her usual question, and she got back a different answer."
"Ha!" Ron said triumphantly. "I knew that was a dumb thing to do!"
"The mirror said that the most beautiful woman in the world was now Snow White," Hermione said.
"Wait, what's a Snow White?" Ron asked.
"Not what, who," Hermione said with what Harry had to admit was a super-human amount of patience.
"For pity's sake, that's the girl's name?" Ron said, agog. "Poor kid. She must have got beat up in school regularly. That's worse than the disease one."
"I guess I sort of skipped that part," Hermione said. "The little princess was called Snow White because her skin was as white as snow and her hair was as black as ebony and her lips were as red as blood."
"Well, considering they could have named her Blood Red," Ron said, "she didn't fair so bad."
"Be a good name for a pirate, though," Harry said.
"Hey, yeah!" Ron said excitedly. "Blood Red, the scourge of the seas! Now there's the makings of a story, Hermione."
"What is it about boys and pirates?" she said with a shake of her head, though Harry noticed she did seem sort of intrigued.
"Anyway, that's kind of a weird description," Ron said. "White skin, black hair, and red lips… what about her eyes?"
"They don't mention them. You see, the point is they're all death colors," Hermione explained.
"Death colors?" Ron said, frowning.
"Yes," Hermione said. "Black, blood red, and abnormally white skin, they all have a connotation of death about them."
"You sure you haven't read that Beetle story about the hallows one too many times?" Harry asked.
"No, really, that's the whole point of it, the symbolism underlines the concepts of… oh, forget it," she said. "It won't make sense unless you know the whole story. The queen was furious that her step-daughter was more beautiful than herself, so she called her woodsman."
"Her woodsman? What's a woodsman?" Ron asked.
"Well… I suppose he'd be sort of like Hagrid," Hermione said thoughtfully.
"Odd thing to do. I figured she'd go get her hair done and buy a smart new outfit or summat," he said with a shrug. "How's that going to fix the problem?"
"She told the woodsman to kill Snow White," Hermione said.
"Blimey, Hermione!" Ron gasped. "Okay, in the bad step-mother category, the award goes to Snow White's over Cinderella's, hands down!"
"I've got to admit," Harry said, "she does make Aunt Petunia look pretty good by comparison. At least she never specifically tried to murder me. Not that I think she'd have been all that sad to see it happen."
"She's awful," Hermione agreed. "The queen could tell the woodsman didn't want to kill her, so she gave him a box, and she said by the end of the day he had to return it to her with the princess's heart inside it or else she'd have him killed."
"That's… that's disgusting," Ron said. "You're sure they tell these stories to kids?"
"Yes," Hermione said. "They do seem a little… barbaric, don't they?"
"Okay, so, what happened?" Ron said, and Harry realized that Ron was leaning in closer in interest, and with a small start, that he was as well.
"The woodsman took Snow White deep into the forest to pick wildflowers, but he couldn't bring himself to kill her. Instead, he told her that the queen wanted her murdered and that she should run away into the forest and hide, never to return. Snow White, terrified, ran into the forest, and then the woodsman killed a wild boar and put its heart in the box to fool the queen."
"I like him," Ron said, nodding approvingly. "He seems like a decent fellow."
"Yeah, that's probably about what Hagrid would do, though he'd try to find some way out of killing the boar if he could," Harry agreed.
"The woodsman is rather nice, isn't he?" Hermione said, tipping her head to one side. "I wonder… that could be a sign of anti-monarchy rebellion buried in the text, making the common man the moral voice in the story over the vanity of the queen and her blasé, inhuman request to kill the scullery maid…"
"Huh?" Ron said.
"Uhm, Hermione?" Harry said.
"Of course, the scullery maid is actually royalty as well, so it may be less rebellious and merely be backing up the social order by saying that the right of power should have gone to the blood relation of the dead monarch rather than usurped by a married in-law," Hermione continued to herself.
"Usurped?" Ron asked, completely confused.
"Yeah, that's interesting, but what happened next?" Harry said impatiently.
"Oh, sorry, bit of a tangent," Hermione said as though she had just remembered they were there. "Anyway, Snow White ran deep into the forest, much deeper than she'd ever been before…"
"And got eaten by a bear?" Ron asked.
"No, she stumbled upon a little cottage," Hermione said.
"That was lucky," Harry said.
"She knocked on the door, but no one answered, and since she was dying of hunger, she opened the door and went in. The house was in complete disarray: plates stacked in the sink, dirty clothes laying about in piles, cobwebs all over everything in sight, even mice and birds making nests in the rafters," Hermione went on.
"Sounds a bit like my bedroom before Mum made me clean it for the wedding," Ron said.
Both Harry and Hermione laughed, and for a moment Harry remembered the few days at the Burrow, and even with the incessant chores and Mrs. Weasley doing everything she could to thwart their plans to leave, it still seemed like a glimpse into paradise. As he thought back to those minutes in Ginny's room (and wondered just what would have happened if Ron had only managed to stay away a while longer and not blunder in unannounced), it seemed like he was remembering someone else's summer. Melancholy gripped him for a moment, but Hermione continued her story and he tried to pay attention to her and not the empty ache around his heart that happened whenever he thought of Ginny.
"Snow White assumed the house was abandoned, so she started to clean it," Hermione said.
"I thought you said she was starving to death," Ron said. "What, she's about to pass out from lack of food, then thinks, 'No, I'd rather do a bit of dusting first'?"
"Maybe she found some food in a cupboard or something first," Hermione said. "Just… accept it, Ron."
"Whatever," he said, shrugging. "The starving albino girl decided to clean the house."
Hermione sighed yet again, then went on.
"She worked all the rest of the day until nightfall; then, after she had cleaned and straightened and washed and dusted until the whole cottage was in perfect order…"
"Fast worker, that Snow is," Ron said to Harry.
"…she was tired…"
"I should say so!" Ron agreed.
"…so she went upstairs to lie down. She found seven little beds there, and cried out in surprise. 'Oh!' she said, "Why, there must have been seven children who lived here!'"
"I suppose it's a pretty logical assumption," Harry said.
"But she was so tired that she lay down across the seven beds and fell fast asleep," Hermione said. "What she didn't know was that the owners of the house were on their way home right at that moment. The house was home to seven dwarfs, brothers, who worked in a diamond mine."
"Sounds pretty lucrative," Ron said. "Why didn't they just hire a maid with all that dosh?"
"It was the middle of the enchanted forest, Ron. Who were they going to hire, a squirrel?" Harry said teasingly.
"Actually, the forest animals supposedly did help Snow White clean up," Hermione admitted.
"Hmm… sounds a bit too much like the Imperius curse for my taste," Ron said. "Are you sure Snow White was a Muggle?"
"Yes, Ron, she was a Muggle," Hermione said. "She was just so naturally good-natured and kind and gentle that the animals did whatever she wanted them to do."
"Weird," Ron said. "You reckon if I started paying a bit of attention to the gnomes back home, gave them a few breadcrumbs or whatnot, they'd clean my room for me?"
"It's a story," Hermione said, her voice rising in frustration and making her sound remarkably like Mrs. Weasley. "Clean your own room!"
"Right," Ron said, then muttered something could barely hear about Muggle stories and a complete lack of useful advice.
"The seven dwarfs were frightened when they saw the state of their house," Hermione said.
"Horrors! Burglars who like to tidy up!" Ron said in a falsetto.
"Carefully, they crept upstairs and found the beautiful princess asleep in their beds," Hermione said, then paused expectantly for a few seconds. "Alright, go on. Make the joke."
"What joke?" Ron asked.
"Aren't you going to say something like, 'Gosh, wish I'd find a gorgeous princess asleep in my bed!'?" she said innocently.
"Well, it flashed across my mind, I admit, but I thought I'd hold my tongue," Ron said with an air of great maturity. "Now that you've said it, though, I feel loads better. Thanks!"
"Snow White woke up to see the seven dwarfs peering standing there, and she was shocked," Hermione said quite clearly, though Harry could see a muscle in her jaw pulsing.
"Hey, how'd she know they were dwarfs?" Ron interrupted. "In fact, how'd the Muggle writer know there was any such thing?"
"Muggles have a few stories about dwarfs, but they get some of the details mixed up, like their working in a diamond mine. That's really more a goblin-type thing to do," Hermione said.
"So, sort of like the fairy godmother in the other one," Ron said. "They almost get it, but not quite."
"Pretty much," Hermione said. "Anyway, Snow White told them her story and offered to do housework and cooking and sewing for the dwarfs in return for a home and a safe place far away from the queen, and they agreed."
"Is that the end of the story?" Ron asked.
"No, Snow White's troubles were only beginning," Hermione said. "You see, when the woodsman presented the boar heart to her, telling her it was Snow White's, the queen was very, very pleased, so pleased that she quite forgot about her mirror for several weeks, secure in the knowledge that she was the fairest in the whole world. But one day, just for the pleasure of hearing what the mirror would say, she asked the mirror again, "Who's the fairest of them all?" and the mirror still said it was Snow White."
"The mirror is a bit of a blab, isn't it?" Ron said.
"The queen was furious, and she showed the mirror the heart in its box…"
"She still had that thing weeks later? Ew, that's gross," Harry said, grimacing.
"…and the mirror told her it was a boar's heart," Hermione finished.
"I'm guessing that didn't go well for the woodsman," Ron said.
"Actually, he never really gets mentioned again," Hermione said. "I suppose he was okay."
"Doesn't seem likely," Ron said, "but I hope you're right."
"The queen was so furious that she went to her secret lair and took down her spellbook," Hermione continued.
"Wait, spellbook? The queen's a witch?" Ron said, looking scandalized.
"Yes," Hermione said. "It turns out she was, and like the witches in most Muggle fairy tales, she was evil."
"That's unfair, that is," Ron said, looking insulted.
"I agree, for what it's worth," Hermione said, "but it's still an important part of the story. You see, the queen wanted to get rid of Snow White, but she didn't want to just kill her directly, though I'm not really sure why. So she disguised herself as an ugly old peasant woman…"
"Ugly? I thought the queen was all for beauty above everything else," Harry said.
"I don't think she intended the change to be permanent," Hermione primly.
"Probably polyjuice potion then, or else she was a metamorph like Tonks," Ron said.
"Maybe," Hermione agreed with a nod.
Harry wondered to himself how Tonks was doing. She'd be pretty far along now. He hoped Lupin had come to his sense and returned to her. He sighed quietly but said nothing, not wanting to disrupt the evening's fun.
"Then she decided to make a poisoned apple," Hermione went on. "Just one bite would make the princess fall into a sleep so deep that everyone would think she was dead."
"Doesn't that sound like the draught of living death?" Ron suggested.
"You know, it really does sound like it, doesn't it? But there was one important difference: an antidote. The only way to wake the person would be love's first kiss," Hermione explained, "but since the queen assumed the dwarfs would bury Snow White alive and therefore kill her, she thought there was no chance of that."
"I should hope not. Who'd go around kissing a dead girl?" Ron said squeamishly.
"The dwarfs left for work as usual the next day," Hermione plowed on as though trying to avoid an unpleasant question, "and after they were gone, the old peddler woman who was really the queen in disguise showed up with a basket of apples. Snow White thought she'd never seen more beautiful apples than the ones in the peddler's basket. The peddler woman said that since Snow White was so very beautiful, she'd give her an apple for free."
"Never trust free samples," Ron said, shaking his head. "I tried a free sample of the house mead at the Leaky Cauldron once. I thought my tongue was going to curl up and fall off."
"Say, though," Harry said, "when you think about it, the queen was telling the truth. She really was giving her a free apple because Snow White was beautiful. She just left off the bit about wanting her dead."
"I suppose," Hermione said. "Interesting… she won't lie to her or directly kill her. It almost seems like she took an Unbreakable Vow not to lie to her or harm her, but she was trying to find ways around it."
"Could be," Ron said. "She'd technically be following the rules, and that's what counts with those things."
"So Snow White ate the apple?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Hermione said, "and she fell into a very deep sleep, so deep that no one could tell she was breathing or her heart was beating. When the dwarfs came home from the mine that night and found her, they thought she was dead and blamed themselves for not keeping her safe from the queen."
"Wasn't their fault," Ron said defensively. "She had ought to know better than to go taking free samples of suspicious fruit off of old hags when someone's trying to kill her."
"Actually, in one version, she comes off really stupid," Hermione said. "The same old lady came back three times, the first time with a cursed necklace and the second with a cursed comb. The dwarfs saved her those times, but they didn't catch on with the apple."
"She let her in three different times? Yeah, that's a brain trust right there," Harry said, but Ron looked thoughtful.
"Hermione," he said slowly, "that necklace… it didn't happen to be made of opals by any chance, did it?"
"Not that I know of," Hermione said, then gasped. "Oh, Ron, you don't think that it was the one that Malfoy used to try to kill Dumbledore?!"
"That thing had been around a long time," Ron said carefully. "Sometimes there's some truth in these old tales."
"Maybe," Hermione said, shuddering. "That's… that's just creepy."
"What happened when the dwarfs thought Snow White was dead?" Harry asked, trying not to think of poor Katie Bell rising in the air amid the torrents of drifting white snow… which he had to admit was rather ironic, come to think of it.
"The dwarfs were deeply saddened by Snow White's 'death,' but she was so beautiful that they couldn't bear to put her in the ground," Hermione said. "Instead, they made a coffin out of glass and kept it in front of the cottage."
"They what?" Ron asked, his face screwed up into an expression of patent disbelief.
"Oh, come off it. You already know most of these stories are at least a little mental. Is it really the strangest thing you've heard so far?" Hermione said testily.
"They're keeping a dead girl in a glass coffin in front of their house. Yes, Hermione, that is the strangest thing I've heard," Ron said firmly.
"It is kind of weird," Harry agreed. "I mean, really, after all, wouldn't she start to rot?"
"Maybe they were planning on using her as a tourist attraction for as long as they could. You know, 'Come see the hot dead girl in a box! Two sickles a peek!'" Ron said, and while Harry laughed, he shut up quickly at the look from Hermione.
"She wasn't decaying because she wasn't dead," Hermione explained in a tone that would have done McGonagall proud.
"She was stuck in a glass box with no water, food, or air," Ron countered. "She wouldn't be alive for long."
"I don't know! Maybe the stupid apple kept her alive or something!" Hermione nearly screamed. "Just…"
"… go with it, yeah, I know," Ron said. "So what happened to not-quite-dead albino box girl?"
"For a while, nothing, though the dwarfs put fresh flowers around her every day," Hermione said.
"Because the flowers would die off, but the girl in the box with no oxygen was ginger peachy," Ron mumbled very quietly to Harry, who was glad to see Hermione was pretending not to hear.
"Then, one day, a prince from a neighboring kingdom rode through the forest on his house and happened upon the cottage. He took one look at Snow White and fell madly in love with her," Hermione said.
"No," Ron said.
"Huh?" both Hermione and Harry chorused together.
"No, he didn't," Ron said like a man trying to hold on to the last vestiges of his sanity. "He did not fall in love with a girl he thought was dead. I mean, okay, falling in love with a ghost I could see, maybe, possibly, if a fellow was really desperate and stranded on a desert island, but a corpse? That's sick. There has to be something else to it."
"That's the way the story goes," Hermione said with a put-upon sigh. "He falls in love with the beautiful corpse."
"You know, actually, that is pretty bizarre," Harry admitted.
"Well, he did, and he had the dwarfs lift the top off the coffin because he wanted to kiss her," Hermione said.
"I think I'm gonna throw up," Ron said, turning green. "Crikey, that's disgusting."
"No sooner did he kiss her than she woke up and fell madly in love with him," Hermione said, and though Harry didn't quite understand and he knew she'd deny it firmly, she did look just a bit starry-eyed.
"Kind of an easy bird, isn't she?" Ron said, still making a face. "And the prince, was he upset that his dream girl unfortunately turned out to have the massive drawback of a pulse?"
"Well, in a different version…," Hermione started.
"How many versions of this demented story are there?" Ron asked, alarmed.
"I don't know. In one version he just asks the dwarfs if he can take the coffin, and the lid slips and knocks the piece of poisoned apple out of her mouth, and that wakes her up," she said.
"That's only nominally better," Ron groused. "What was he planning on doing with the coffin? Set it on his coffee table as an objet d'art?"
"That's a less disturbing image than the one that came to my mind," Harry said, feeling a bit ill himself.
"Don't go there," Ron said quickly. "I'd actually like to have sex one day, and I think that image might make me permanently unable to."
Hermione was about as pink as she could get at this point, but she bravely finished up, "and they road off to his castle where they were married and lived happily ever after. The end."
"What about the evil, crazy queen witch?" Ron asked.
"Oh, right," Hermione added as an afterthought. "They invited her to the wedding."
"That was big of them," Harry said.
"Not really. They made her dance in red hot iron shoes until she fell down dead," Hermione explained.
"Yeah, charming kids' stories your lot have got," Ron said. "What about the dwarfs?"
"I don't know. Nothing really mentions them again. I guess they went back to diamond mining," Hermione said.
"Yeah, and collecting wandering princess with an insatiable craving for apples and a penchant for falling down in mock-death," Ron said. "Not too many openings in that field though."
"Why do I bother?" Hermione complained aloud.
"She should have married the woodsman. That would have made so much more sense."
Harry laughed again. As strange and dark as these Muggle stories might be, his own life was a lot stranger and darker by far just now, and it was these moments, the ones where he and his friends could be themselves, joking and bickering and acting like seventeen-year-olds instead of warriors against darkness, that made him remember what it was he was fighting for.