Rating: a mild PG-13 for some inferences
Feedback: Yes, thank you.
Spoilers: Through book seven
Distribution: The Blackberry Patch and . If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Hermione tells Ron and Harry the story of Sleeping Beauty to pass the time on their wanderings.
Author's Note: Third in a series of Hermione-told Muggle fairytales.
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.
"Hermione, I…," Ron began the following night, but she interrupted him before he could finish.
"You want a story, right?" she said without looking up from the book she was reading. Harry thought that it suspiciously resembled Hogwarts: A History, which meant she was probably in one of her more homesick moods. "And the answer is no."
"Actually, I was going to say I was wondering if we had any of that trail mix left," Ron said, trying to act very dignified.
"You ate the last of it at lunch," she said.
"Oh," he replied, and Harry saw him pause for a moment as though weighing his options. "Well then, if there's nothing to eat, how about another Muggle story?"
"I just told you no," Hermione said, an edge to her voice.
"Why not?" Harry joined in. "They pass the time well enough."
"Because you lot always end up making them sound so ridiculous!" she said, closing the book with a snap.
"Well, yeah. That's because they are," Ron said with a shrug. "It doesn't mean they aren't entertaining."
"But they're treasured childhood memories for millions of people, and you should grant them the simple respect of…," she began.
"They chop off feet and go dancing in glass shoes and kiss girls in glass coffins," Ron said. "I mean, come on, Hermione. That's just odd is what it is. Also, I only just noticed there was glass in both of them: the slipper and the coffin. Do all Muggle fairytales have glass in them."
"No," she said coldly.
"Be funny if they did," Ron said to Harry. "Oh, come on, Hermione! It's either this or I start imitating Celestina Warbeck again."
"Please, no," Harry jumped in at once. "Hermione, anything but that."
"Oh, all right!" Hermione said in frustration, a temperament that Harry suspected was beginning to become the norm for all of them on the mostly fruitless horcrux hunt. "I'll tell you the story of the Sleeping Beauty."
"You did that one," Ron said at once.
"If you're referring to Snow White and her poison apple induced sleep, no, I did not," Hermione said. "It's just another one of those weird similarities."
"Lot of those, aren't there?" he said, nodding knowingly to Harry. "Does this one have an evil step-mother in it, too?"
"No, for once," Hermione said, looking a little calmer. "The parents are both fairly nice in this one."
"Well, bully for them!" Ron said. "It's about time! So, get on with it. 'Upon a once time…'"
"Once upon a time," Hermione corrected him, bur resigning herself to another story, "there lived a king and a queen who very much wanted a child."
"You ever notice now often royalty are in these things?" Ron said to Harry. "Kind of like Pureblood bias, isn't it?"
"At last, the queen finally gave birth to a baby girl, and the whole kingdom rejoiced," Hermione said.
"Why?" Ron asked.
"Why what?" Hermione asked, confused. Harry had to admit he couldn't quite see the question Ron was asking either.
"Why was the kingdom so chuffed if it turned out to be only a girl? Don't the kings usually want boys?" Ron asked.
Harry cautiously moved several inches farther away from Ron as Hermione's glare was so intense her eyes actually appeared to crackle.
"Uh, Ron," Harry muttered quietly, "if I were you and I ever wanted to eat again, I think I'd rephrase that."
"I don't even like her cooking," he whispered back.
"Yeah, well, I don't think you'll be able to do all that much chewing of any food ever again if she jinxes all the teeth out of your mouth."
"What I mean is, don't the royal families usually get more celebratory over a male heir… not that it's right or kind or-or-or anything other than the male-obsessed patriarchy indulging in misogynistic prejudice?" Ron said.
Harry stared at him, stunned he knew half of the words in the last bit and suspecting strongly that they'd either come out of the book Fred and George had given him or he'd memorized one of Hermione's speeches, but he also noted that Hermione's coloring wasn't quite so beet red as before.
"I suppose that's true," she said. "It was very, very wrong of them, but yes, generally the kingdom would have celebrated more over a male heir than a daughter. Thankfully, the father in this story wasn't Henry VIII and the mother didn't wind up being poor Queen Catherine of Aragon."
"Who?" Ron asked.
"He was a Muggle king of England," Harry told him. "He divorced his first wife because she had a girl instead of a boy."
"Well, that was rotten of him," Ron said.
"And he killed the second for the same reason, and the third died, and the fourth he annulled, and the fifth he had beheaded, and the sixth, well, she managed to outlive him," Hermione explained.
"Are you pulling my leg? How many wives did the nutter marry?" Ron said.
"Just the six," Harry assured him.
"Oh, just six. Well, that's all right then," Ron said rolling his eyes. "Muggles are mad, I'm telling ya."
"At any rate, the king and queen in the story were perfectly happy to have a little girl, and everyone in the kingdom was pleased, and a great party was thrown to celebrate her christening," Hermione said.
"Sounds like a good idea," Ron said amiably enough.
"They invited all the important people for miles around, and each person, when dinner began, was presented with a box of jewels and gold and silver and pearls, and in turn each person gave the little princess a gift," Hermione went on.
"Blimey, that's what I call a party," Ron said. "I'm glad Fleur didn't hear this one before the wedding or we might have been having more expensive favors at the tables than those color-coordinated picture frames."
Hermione sighed, but continued.
"This is where the story changes a bit depending on who tells it. In one version, the king and queen invite three fairies to be the princess's godmothers; and in another, seven; while another has twelve," Hermione explained.
"Now that's just stupid!" Ron said loudly. "I said before with that cinder girl that having one fairy godmother was asking for trouble, but three?! Or worse yet, a round dozen?! That's just… that's child abuse is what it is! Poor wee thing is going to wind up cursed six ways from Tuesday by the time she's sixteen."
"Actually, you're half right and half wrong. You see, she actually should have had one more fairy godmother, but the queen knew that this particular fairy was evil, so she neglected to send her an invitation, hoping she just wouldn't notice," Hermione said.
"That's bad," Ron said. "Also, stupid, but I already knew that bit. Never get a fairy angry at you, and nothing gets them angrier than missing a party, let alone one with cases of free diamonds being handed out."
"Well, the royal couple learned that the hard way. The fairies who were there each presented the little princess with gifts. In the version where there were three fairies, one gives her beauty and the other a wonderful singing voice."
"Odd gifts," Ron said with a shrug.
"Not really," Harry chimed in. "I mean, if her parents could just give away truckloads of gems, she really didn't need anything money could buy, did she?"
"I suppose," Ron agreed. "What about the other versions, the ones with seven and twelve fairies? What'd they give her?"
Hermione scrunched up her features, trying to remember.
"I know one of them was wit, and another was good health," she said firmly. "I think one was virtue. But I can't remember the others."
"Beauty, a singing voice, wit, health, virtue," Ron counted off on his fingers. "That's five, with seven more to go. Maybe luck?"
"Good weather whenever she wanted to go out?" Harry suggested.
"Freedom from spots?" Ron said.
"Robes that were always the height of fashion?"
"Excelling at sports, of course," Ron agreed, nodding seriously.
"Not being smelly!"
"Never having static cling!"
"The ability to wear those shoes girls cram their feet into without getting blisters and bruises!"
"Her own holiday!"
"Her own direct line to Father Christmas!"
"Never getting stuck in a lift with a Malfoy!"
Hermione just glared at the two as they fell into hysterical laughter.
"Or maybe she just wouldn't have to tell fairytales to two adolescent boys while they got lost in their own little jokes," she sniffed indignantly while they rolled on the floor in laughter.
"Oh, come on, Hermione," Ron said when he had breath enough to speak again. "We're just having a lark. Lighten up a bit."
Hermione looked pointedly in the opposite direction.
"Seriously, Hermione, wouldn't you want to be able to wear those torture devices girls call shoes without getting bunions?" Ron said, grinning.
"I think wit would be more useful," she said, though Harry could almost swear he heard her mumble "damn right" very quietly.
"So, on with the story, then," Ron said. "The twelve fairies gave their gifts, then what?"
"Actually, only the first eleven did—or two, or six, depending on the version—when the evil fairy broke into the hall, flames shooting from her magic staff and fury blazing in her eyes," Hermione said.
"Okay, now that's an accurate depiction of a fairy," Ron said, nodding in satisfaction.
"The fairy said she too had a gift to give the princess, as was her right," Hermione said, using what Harry recognized as her most eerie sounding voice. "She said that the little girl would indeed possess all the graces and favors the others had bestowed on her, but then, at sunset on her sixteenth birthday, she would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall down dead."
Harry looked at Ron. Ron looked at Harry.
"What's a spindle?" Ron asked.
"Oh," Hermione said, her assumed character of doom falling away. "Ehm, do you know what a spinning wheel is?"
"It's a wheel that spins, obviously," Ron said confidently before adding in a less secure voice, "right?"
"Well, not quite," Hermione said as kindly as she could.
"I've seen them," Harry said. "They look like a big wheel, and Muggles used to use them to turn wool or flax into yarn or thread by spinning it. Then they weave it into cloth."
"Oh," Ron said. "Weird. So a spindle's part of that?"
"Yes," Hermione said. "It looks sort of like a big spike that Muggles wind the wool around, and on a spinning wheel it's made of wood or metal."
"Doesn't that seem sort of a random way to kill somebody?" Ron said. "I mean, really. The evil fairy could have just had her fall downstairs or get run through with a sword or get some horrible disease or get thrown off a tower…"
Harry shot Ron a hurt look, and Ron realized at once his mistake.
"Sorry, mate. Didn't mean to bring up bad memories," Ron apologized, embarrassed.
"It's alright," Harry said, trying to ignore the serious moment in the midst of the fun, though there was a pulling around his heart and the image of Dumbledore falling was too clear before him. "You're right, though."
"Yes," Hermione said. "It is odd, I agree. I suppose it's just that—"
But she stopped mid-sentence and started blushing like mad, which made Ron give her a curious look.
"Just that what?" he urged her.
"Well, a spindle is rather… ehh, you know, ah, phallic, I suppose," she mumbled, barely audible.
"It's what?" Ron asked, confused.
"Oh for pity's sake! Harry, you explain it to him!" Hermione said as she got up and hurriedly gathered the dishes from dinner and put them in the tent's tiny sink.
Ron gave him a look, and Harry glanced meaningfully downward. Ron squinted for a moment, then a look of stunned comprehension dawned.
"Oh," he gulped, turning a deep red. "I get it. I guess it is sort of shaped like that, innit?"
"Some sort of lunatic wrote these stories," Harry said.
"Yeah, a big old perverted one," Ron said. "I'm never going to be able to look at a spindle the same way again."
"You didn't even know what one was," Harry countered, and he couldn't help grinning.
"Yeah, but if I ever do," Ron said with a shudder.
"Are you done yet?" called Hermione in a much higher voice than usual from the tiny kitchen.
"I think the story's scarred Ron enough for at least a decade of continued celibacy," Harry retorted, and Ron hit him over the head with one of the musty throw pillows from the couch.
"So, when we left off, the evil fairy had said that her gift was the princess's death, and then she disappeared in a puff of brimstone-scented smoke," Hermione said.
"Rotten gift, that," Ron said.
"Quite, but there was still one good fairy who hadn't given her gift yet. She couldn't completely undo the damage the evil fairy had caused, but she could modify the wish a little bit," Hermione said.
"Well, that's better," Harry said.
"The fairy changed the wish, saying that the princess must indeed prick her finger on a spinning wheel's spindle, but she wouldn't die. Instead, she'd just fall asleep," Hermione explained, though it's possible she stuttered a bit over the word spindle.
"That's not a bad change up, all things considered," Ron said, nodding pleasantly.
"But there was a catch," Hermione added.
"Isn't there always with fairies. What was it?" Ron asked.
"She was going to sleep for one hundred years and wouldn't awake until love's first kiss woke her," Hermione said.
"Hold it!" Ron said loudly. "Is she jabbing herself on a spinning wheel or eating another one of those poisoned apples! Hermione, these stories all copy one another!"
"I know it's similar to what happened to Snow White—," Hermione began.
"It's the exact same antidote! They ought to just shove a bezoar down her throat and be done with it. Worked well enough for me," Ron said indignantly.
"Maybe it would have worked at that," Hermione said, and Harry could tell she was really mulling this over. "The apple was poisoned, after all, and a bezoar does work on most of them, and I suppose the spindle probably would have been a kind of poison as well, so judging by the theories Professor Slughorn mentioned in Potions, that's actually a valid hypothesis."
"Thank you," Ron said, bowing slightly.
"Except, of course, that these are stories, not real spells, and the whole point is that the cure is supposed to be romantic," Hermione finished.
"I still say they should have given her a bezoar and been done with it," Ron said, obviously pouting.
"The king and queen, while they were pleased that the fairy had been able to lift the threat of death from their daughter, did not want her to sleep a hundred years," Hermione continued, "so they passed a royal decree stating that every spinning wheel in the kingdom was to be burned."
"Seems logical enough," Ron said.
"Of course, the problem with this was that no one in the whole kingdom was able to have new cloth to make clothes since there was no thread or yarn to make it from," Hermione said. "Everyone looked quite ragged after a few years, yet the king insisted they not import cloth or anything else from a foreign kingdom since, by chance, a spinning wheel might be sent as well."
"Know who I can't help thinking of?" Ron said, grimacing.
"Who?" Hermione asked.
"Pansy Parkinson. She'd go mad without a new robe every third day," he said, shuddering, "and I'd bet she'd be worse than any evil fairy in a huff."
"Really," Hermione said smoothly. "And here I thought Lavender would have been the one most likely to throw a fit."
Ron looked distinctly uncomfortable, but Harry had to give him credit for realizing the wisdom of holding his tongue. Maybe that book really had taught him something about how to handle girls.
"One day, nearly sixteen years later, the king and queen were besieged by the people to trade for new cloth. Fearing a riot, the royal couple agreed to do so on the condition that they themselves go to the nearest kingdom to trade for material, ensuring no new spinning wheel would enter the kingdom," Hermione said.
"That sounds relatively reasonable," Ron said.
"You didn't catch one of the details," Harry said. "It's almost sixteen years later. The curse should take effect soon."
"Good point," Ron said. "Okay, maybe they should have waited a bit longer."
"The king and queen set out for the other kingdom, intent upon returning home long before the princess's birthday, but a series of accidents befell them: carriage wheels that broke, fog so dense the driver lost his way, a blizzard in mid-July, all sorts of things that they knew must be the work of the evil fairy," Hermione said.
"And they wound up not getting back for her birthday?" Ron said knowingly.
"Exactly," Hermione said. "Near sunset on the day of her sixteenth birthday, the princess was playing in the castle and came upon a door she had never seen before. Behind it was a stairway that went up, up into a tall tower, and there, sitting in the room, was a strange thing she had never seen before, though it was in fact a spinning wheel that had been forgotten about long ago," Hermione said.
"See, now if her parents had just used a Summoning charm, there wouldn't have been a problem," Ron said.
"The point is they're Muggles, Ron," Hermione spoke slowly. "They can't do things like that."
"It must be a really inconvenient life, being a Muggle," Ron said sympathetically. "I guess it's better they don't know what they're missing."
"Anyway, the princess picked up the spindle and pricked her finger on it, and immediately she fell fast asleep," Hermione said. "The king and queen arrived home almost at the same time, and when the people realized the princess was missing, they searched high and low until they found her, but no one could wake her. The king and queen realized that she would sleep for a century, and were deeply saddened to know they would never see their daughter again."
Harry noticed that Hermione's eyes were suspiciously watery, and he soon realized why. It was the same position her own parents would have been in if she died and she hadn't modified their memories so they would have no knowledge of her existence. She paused, looking down at her hands for a moment, doing her best to collect herself and continue, but to Harry's surprise Ron seemed to have figured out what the trouble was and was sitting next to her.
"It's okay," he said, putting an arm around her. "When this is done, they'll remember you, and it'll be fine. You did the right thing by them, Hermione."
Harry watched her look up at him and give him a shaky smile, and he couldn't help wondering where Ginny was right now, if she might need Harry and he wasn't there to put an arm around her in support, letting her know she wasn't alone. He sighed, and the noise seemed to break the silence in the room.
"Yes, well, the good fairies intervened again, and they decided it was best to put everyone in the castle to sleep again, even the horses and dogs. One version says that the king and queen didn't sleep, though, because they needed to continue ruling the kingdom, and they left the castle, never to return," Hermione said, then quickly added, "but other ones say they slept for a hundred years too, just like their daughter."
"That's better, anyway," Ron said, his tone rather kinder than usual, and Harry noted his arm was still around her shoulders. "What happened next?"
"No sooner was everyone asleep than a forest of rose bushes as tall as the tallest trees in a deep forest sprang up around the whole castle, walling it in on all sides to protect it from any unwanted visitors who might have tried to harm the inhabitants," Hermione said. "The thorn bushes had great, enormous thorns, sharp as daggers and long as a man's arm. Many men tried to enter the forest of rose bushes, but none of them survived, and their impaled bodies were picked to pieces by ravens."
"Charming," Ron said. "Those thorns kind of remind me of the spindle in the first bit."
"I suppose there is a resemblance," Hermione said, getting the slightly glassy-eyed look that always meant she'd hit upon a train of thought that intrigued but that both Harry and Ron weren't equipped to understand. "There could be an underlying theory that if both the spindle and the thorns draw blood, then there could be parallels in terms of the symbolic imagery of the… ehm…"
She stopped dead as though just remembering the other two were in the room, and she for some reason decided to move her seat from where she was to the empty chair across the way, leaving Ron with his arm across a vacant spot. She cleared her throat and went on.
"In any case, the bushes kept out all intruders, and the people and animals of the palace slept on, undisturbed, for a whole century," Hermione said, gamely going on.
"The place had to be a wreck by then," Ron said. "Didn't somebody at least come in once in a while to dust off the princess?"
"No," Hermione said. "Everything remained unchanged, so she wouldn't have got dusty."
"You can't stop dust," Ron said. "Mum would have kittens, a full century worth of dust through a whole castle."
"You can willingly suspend disbelief enough to have a whole castle full of people sleep for a hundred years without a comment, but the lack of dust bothers you?" Hermione said, blinking.
"Well, yeah," Ron said. "Give 'em all a good cursing and sleeping a hundred years is possible, I suppose, but if there's a spell to keep off dust and dirt and grime and the lot, that'd be a multi-million galleon spell. That's a lot harder to believe."
"At the end of a century, a prince happened by and heard the story of the sleeping beauty in the castle," Hermione said.
"Wait, you forgot something important!" Ron interrupted suddenly.
"What, may I ask, is that?" Hermione said with the air of martyr.
"What's her name?" Ron asked. "The sleeping beauty, I mean."
"Oh, well, some versions don't give her a name at all, but a few call her Talia, and then there's Briar Rose or Aurora," Hermione said.
"As names in these things go, she was pretty lucky," he said, looking surprised. "I was expecting something like Snorella or Naptaker or Pajamabelle."
Hermione and Harry gave twin snorts of laughter.
"Pajamabelle?" Harry said, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed so hard his face had hurt.
"Yeah, well, it'd be par for the fairytale course, wouldn't it? Say, does the prince have a name, by any chance?" Ron asked.
"Usually, no, but a few call him Florimund," Hermione admitted.
"See?" Ron said victoriously to Harry. "Florimund. How'd you like to be the bloke stuck with that name? I mean, it wouldn't be so bad if it was hers, but really, that's just cruel. So poor Prince Flora shows up and snogs her."
"Roughly. The forest of rose thorns parted for him, and he went to the tallest tower and found her asleep—" Hermione said.
"—and completely covered in dust, cobwebs and assorted filth—" Ron put in.
"—and, in the more polite versions, he kisses her and she wakes up," she said.
"More polite?" Ron said curiously.
"Let's just say that in the other version it's actually the birth of their twins that wakes her up," Hermione said, grimacing in distaste.
"I'm starting to think the Dursleys didn't really do me that much of a disservice not letting me read these. I had enough nightmares about that green light," Harry said, shuddering.
"Let me guess, after the kiss, because I'm not even thinking about that other one or the way Muggles apparently have a thing for dead or unconscious girls, she wakes up, the rest of the castle comes back to life, and the princess and Flora get married and live happily ever after?" Ron said, sounding sure of himself.
"Well… yes and no," Hermione said.
"Because this one's just bloody insane," Ron said, crestfallen.
"Some of the stories stop there and end just as you said, but there's another one where they do get married, but the prince doesn't tell anyone because his parents are awful and he's afraid they'd hurt her. So they have a secret marriage, and the princess has two children: a girl and a boy. Once the prince's father died and the prince became king, he called for his wife and children to live at the palace, convinced she'd be safe under his protection," Hermione said.
"I'm guessing that didn't work out well," Ron said.
"Not really. The new king went away to war, and while he was gone the old queen, who was part ogre, wanted to eat the children for dinner," Hermione said, and Ron's jaw dropped.
"Nice story," he said. "Tell me, does your lot have any bedtime stories that don't have cannibalism, maiming people, or other creepy things?"
"Ha ha," she said flatly. "In any case, when the queen sent the cook to kidnap the children from their mother, he secretly hid them in his cottage with his wife, and instead he cooked a pair of lambs and tricked her into thinking they were her grandchildren. He ran into more of a problem when she wanted to eat the princess, though, but he got her safely to his cottage in the woods and replaced her with a deer instead."
"Sounds like Snow White's woodsman," Ron said thoughtfully.
"He does rather, doesn't he," Hermione agreed. "If you ask me, I'd say he's the real hero in this version. All the prince did was walk through a forest that opened up for him and kiss a girl."
"I like him," Ron said firmly. "He and the woodsman, maybe they were brothers or something."
"Oh, I suppose," Hermione said. "Anyway, everything went well until one day the queen unexpectedly visited the cook's cottage and heard the children crying inside, and she discovered her daughter-in-law and grandchildren were still alive. She ordered a great cauldron brought to the spot and filled it with poisonous serpents and scorpions and was going to throw the man and his wife into it along with the princess and her children."
"Coulda been worse," Ron muttered. "At least it wasn't spiders."
"But at the last moment, the prince, returning home from the war, stopped at the cottage on his way back to the castle because he saw a commotion there. When the old queen saw him, she was standing beside the cauldron, just ready to throw the princess in, but she was so surprised that she slipped and fell in herself. That was the end of the old queen, and the rest of them lived happily ever after," Hermione finished.
Ron and Harry stared at each other.
"Okay, so what happened to the evil fairy from the beginning?" Ron asked.
"Nothing," Hermione said. "She just went on being evil."
"Nothing," Ron repeated, shaking his head. "That's unsatisfying, that is."
"Well, I'm sorry that it didn't live up to your expectations," Hermione said primly.
"Oh, it did," Ron said quickly. "I figured it'd be mental, and it really was."
"Not half," Harry agreed. "Pajamabella and Prince Flora: a match made in Muggle heaven."
All three of them laughed as rain began to fall on the roof of the tent and the wind howled. For this one night at least, the cold remained outside, and they were just teenagers, nothing more.