Our Last Night
Disclaimer: Everything you love about this story isn't mine… but I'm going to keep writing anyway in hopes that you'll like the tales I weave as much as the characters that make them. Oh, and the parts of this that Mr. Evans is going to be 'reading' to the girls… yeah, that's straight out of my own copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales. But it's ok to use it – publishing laws only protect for 100 years or so, and I'm giving due credit. If you're curious, I'd be happy to send you the link for all the legal documents that state I'm still in the right. However, I hope you'll give me a break, it was just the first two paragraphs of the fairy tale and they made for such an adorable little opening… don't you agree?
Author's Note: It's not as though I needed to branch out into another genre. Keep in mind this is my first try so please play nice with the review button, yes? Also, the first chapter starts out a bit slow. Stick with it, loves; I promise this story will be lovely.
She'd never noticed how well she could remember even the smallest details until many years later; it was the way that her father had looked at her when he read her the story, so familiar. She had been nothing more than a small child with fly-away strands of hair falling apart from long auburn plaits that fell past her shoulders and an ample sprinkling of delicate freckles across her nose… she was still only a little girl when that story was read to her so often. Her father, as smart as anyone she'd ever known and tall and merry and absolutely wonderful; he'd sit on the edge of her bed, right beside her, and wrap his arms around her while she rested her head against his chest. And he would hold the book in front of them both as he read the story so that his lovely golden-haired daughter could see the black and white script, though she was no less capable of reading it without him by her side.
Lily had heard the story so many times that she could have told it completely from her memory. It had always been a favorite bedtime story of hers when she had been younger.
There seemed a magical way that, even now, the story was somehow able to bring her back to the happier times of her childhood. Not that Lily had had an unhappy childhood; it wasn't by any stretch of the truth that such a statement could even be considered when one thought of her upbringing… but when their father had read the story to the both of his lovely young daughters it was during a time that Lily's older sister, Petunia, had still been her best friend. In those days they had shared a room; two twin beds separated by a small table with a lamp in between. Pentunia's toys were stored in a special box at the end of her bed and Lily had one of her own; though it was the way of the world that the vibrant young red-head was more interested in the treasures that were her sister's than those that were her own.
Sadly enough, it was the last night that she'd shared that room with Petunia that their father's bed-night story to his daughters seemed to be the most vivid in Lily's mind. It was the night before she'd received her letter from Hogwarts and only the seventh night in a row that both of the girls had requested for their father to tell them a bedtime story. You see, he'd not been asked for such trivial things from his daughters as bed-night stories in a rather long time. But it was in that same year that a rather terrible string of storms loomed constantly over Surrey, where the Evans family had made their home. So it was to ease his daughters' troubled minds that he agreed to grant their requests to be told a story to help them fall asleep.
"Oh, Lily, dear," Mr. Evans smiled as he took the book that she had offered to him. It was bound in a hard cover, purple, and the spine had definitely seen its better days. But one ought to suppose that it was the wear of love, rather than a lack of care, that had brought the familiar book to its current condition. Their father smiled as he shifted his weight so that both Lily and Petunia, who had moved over to Lily's bed from her own, could be near enough to see the words on the page if she so chose. His voice was somewhat nostalgic when he finally continued, "This book was rather your favorite, loves, when you were both little girls."
"It was only Lily's favorite, father!" Petunia protested, settling comfortably onto the foot of Lily's bed, having decided upon comfort rather than crowding so she could read along. Mr. Evans had taken up his old post on the edge of the bed near Lily. He had his arm wrapped around her slight form and she had her head resting on his shoulder, looking at the pages as he opened the book. The raven-haired sister spoke up again, "My favorite was always Cinderella."
"Tuney is right, poppy!" Lily chimed in with a smile on her face. "But we read Cinderella last night."
Mr. Evans smiled at both of his daughters and turned the first few pages until he reached the beginning of the story. His voice was calm as he began, "Ahh, here we are… The king once had a wife with golden hair who was so beautiful that none on earth could be found equal to her. It happened that she fell ill, and as soon as she knew she must die, she sent for the King and said to him, "After my death I know you will marry another wife; but you must promise me that, however beautiful she may be, if she is not as beautiful as I am and has not golden hair like mine you will not marry her." The King had no sooner given his promise than she closed her eyes and died."
Lily smiled, taking a deep breath and curling up to her father as she settled in for the remainder of the story. Petunia shifted her weight so that she was lying on her stomach. Her dark ebony hair was falling in rather messy curls across her face, which was held in her hands as she rested on her elbows.
Mr. Evans continued as though he hadn't paused for even a moment to admire his beautiful daughters, "For a long time he refused to be comforted, and thought it was impossible he could ever take another wife. At length, his counselors came to him, and said, "A king should not remain unmarried; we ought to have a queen." So he at last consented, and the messengers were sent far and wide to find a bride whose beauty should equal that of the dead queen. But none was to be found in the whole world; for even when equally beautiful they had not golden hair.
"But what of the princess, poppy!" Lily pleaded, her bright emerald eyes shining up at the man reading the story.
"I was just coming to that part, love!" Mr. Evans smiled and continued, "Now, the King had a daughter who was quite as beautiful as her dead mother, and had also golden hair. She had all this while been growing up, and very soon the King noticed how exactly she resembled her dead mother. So he sent for his counselors, and said to them, "I will marry my daughter; she is the image of my dead wife and no other bride can be found to enable me to keep my promise to her." When the counselors heard this, they were dreadfully shocked, and said, "It is forbidden for a father to marry his daughter; nothing but evil could spring from such a sin, and the kingdom will be ruined." When the King's daughter heard of the father's proposition she was greatly alarmed, the more so as she saw how resolved he was to carry out his intention."
"She ran away, didn't she father?" Petunia exclaimed from her place on the bed. Her eyes were as blue as a most brilliant summer sky and they sparkled up at both her father and her sister as she asked her question. They were eyes that might have put even the brightest, twinkling stars to shame; for when the girls were younger, it was obvious to anyone who looked at the pair to determine that Petunia was definitely the prettier of the two. But Lily's was a beauty that could only be grown into, for no child with red hair and emerald eyes can ever admit that growing up with such striking features is easy. But Petunia wasn't finished with her query as she continued, "She asks the moon witch for three dresses, right? A dress as golden as the sun, another as silvery as the moon, and a third to glitter like the stars!"
"Well… yes, darling," her father answered. But even as he tried to continue reading the tale he was interrupted by his youngest daughter.
"Actually, she asks her father for those things. And don't forget that she asked for a mantle to be made for her. Every animal in the kingdom was supposed to sacrifice a piece of his fur for it!" Lily reminded, smiling down at her older sister.
"The tasks were supposed to be impossible to complete but the king managed to complete them all anyway," Petunia chimed in, her own way of agreeing with Lily's gentle correction to her false statement.
"My favorite part is when she packs all of the dresses and all of her treasures into a tiny acorn!" Lily agreed as the two sisters seemed to be content to relaying the story back and forth between themselves. The lovely raven-haired girl looked up at her younger sister as Lily's voice became quite dramatic as she added, "And runs away to meet her charming prince."
"I wonder if you two darlings need for your father to finish that story at all," a smiling Mrs. Evans peered through the doorway and took a moment to enjoy the image of her family in front of her. Her brilliant auburn hair was still fastened neatly in a loose braid that fell delicately over her shoulders. She had already changed into her night-dress, though her hair and make-up were yet to be removed before she would actually climb into her own bed. But such was the routine every evening and Mrs. Evans quickly crossed the threshold to kiss both Lily and Petunia on the foreheads before continuing, "It sounds like the two of you could tell it to him from just your memories!"
"Oh, but we absolutely could, mother!" Petunia exclaimed as she climbed off of the foot of Lily's bed and made her way sleepily to her own.
Mr. Evans gently lifted Lily into his arms and unfolded a corner of her bed linens before laying her gently back into her bed. He smoothed a few strands of her hair before kissing the top of her head and watching her settle the rest of the way into her pillows. She seemed irritated that her story was not going to be finished that evening, but her lovely emerald eyes were betraying how tired she actually felt. Mr. Evans turned to Petunia, who had crawled under her own covers and kissed her head, as well.
While Lily and Petunia settled under their soft linens, Mr. Evans wrapped his arm around his wife's waist and whispered, "Goodnight my lovely little flowers."
He turned off the light switch so that the room became dark and paused for just a moment at the threshold of the room, peering at his two little girls before turning to look at a beaming Mrs. Evans. Petunia's eyes were already closed and she seemed completely content to let herself drift gently off to sleep. But as soon as Mr. Evans closed the door, Lily's hand was on the light switch for the lamp on their bedside table. Her voice was soft as she pleaded with her older sister, "Please, Petunia! Won't you finish telling me the rest of the story?"
The older girl rolled over so that her back was turned to her younger sister. It seemed as though she had already fallen asleep and Lily was about to give up on her and turn off the light when she finally responded, "What is there left to tell, Lily? The princess disguises herself as an ugly urchin and runs away. The next morning a prince's hunting party finds her in a right mess. Feeling sorry, they take her back to the castle and she works as a servant in the kitchens."
"But that isn't how the story ends, Tuney!" Lily pleaded, sitting up in the bed and tossing a stuffed teddy bear onto the bed beside hers.
With a sigh, Petunia sat up in her own bed and took the teddy bear into her arms, hugging him gently and kissing him on the nose, as though apologizing for the nerve of her younger sister to just toss him about the room as she had. Biting her lower lip, Petunia noticed the pleading look in Lily's eyes and shook her head, giving in, "Well, the prince's father throws a ball in hopes the prince will meet his future wife. The disguised princess asks for permission to watch the ladies dressed for the ball but instead sneaks away and dresses herself in one of the beautiful dresses and goes herself to dance with the prince."
"But she runs away from him eventually, doesn't she?" Lily's eyes lit up as she asked the question. Somewhere in between her sister's words, the auburn haired child had leaned back into her pillows, but she was still staring at her older sister as though nothing in the world was more interesting than what she had to say.
"Yes, Lily!" Petunia hissed, her impatience showing. It was clear that the eldest of the two Evans wanted to get her rest. "Won't you please let me just tell the story already?"
Petunia continued, "The prince was rather sad she had managed to get away so he left the ball early and demanded dinner in his room. The head cook, who had granted the princess permission to leave in the first place, was busy preparing food for all of the guests and ordered the princess make his meal instead. She slipped one of her golden treasures into his beer and when he found it, he demanded to know who had put it there. The princess was brought before him but she had already changed out of her pretty clothes and looked just a servant girl."
"But that isn't how it ends yet, is it, Petunia?" Lily's voice was pleading to hear the end, though she, herself, knew it by heart.
"No, it isn't," Petunia said, stifling a yawn as she laid her head on her pillow and turned off the light. "There are two more balls after that. But at the last one, she forgot to take off her pretty dress when she ran away. When the prince demanded to know who put a gold trinket in his beer, the princess is brought before him and she is the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Then he marries her and they live happily ever after."
Lily smiled and added, "I love the way this story ends." But there was no answer from the bed beside hers. It was an indication that there would be no further conversation between the two Evans girls for that evening. But Lily was content as she closed her eyes and snuggled into her pillow.