A/N: Tumblr prompt from ifyousaysodearie: 'His hoary hand gripped her' - not sure if this is what they had in mind, but this is what came out.
Ever since she was captured and dragged as a captive before her own father.
She'd left this place a hero in a golden ball-gown; she returned in a dirty, ragged blue dress, a broken-hearted prisoner in her family home.
She struggled with the manacles around her wrists: they were heavy, and chafed her skin leaving red, sore rings that never healed. The motion hurt too much to continue, the chains swung and slapped against bruised, mottled purple and pale pink skin.
The clerics were all too vigilant in their work.
She'd never spoken his name: they took this as a sign of her weakness. They taunted her, beat her until she couldn't see beyond the pain in her limbs, and yet they couldn't break that one, final wall.
She didn't think of him.
Not even on the worst days, when it rained and even the sunlight couldn't brighten her new prison cell. She refused to indulge in thoughts of him. Of his bright, delighted grin; his glittering gold-grey skin; the memory of every innocuous word he ever said to her, stored carefully away like precious stones in the back of her mind.
(Some said that just to say his name aloud was to summon him; she was the one woman who could be certain he'd never answer)
But other days, they didn't come. She was allowed to sit on the stripped mattress of her bed, and stare at the shelves that once held her books; the cabinets now empty of her childhood toys and trinkets.
Some days she dreamed of escape. Of jumping from the high tower, knowing as she did that no impact with the cold, hard Earth could be worse than the clerics' own devices.
But her chains weighed her down. As did the heart she'd given away, and the pride she still felt in her own spine, in the dark recesses of her mind where she was still allowed free reign.
It was sunny today, and she tortured herself: she stared out of the window.
She could swear she could see his face in the woodlands in the distance, smirking at her.
When they threw the door open, she didn't move. Her face went blank, cold, and emotionless: maybe, if they thought her mad or dumb, then they would treat her kindly. Maybe they'd believe her finally broken, and leave her to rot in peace. Then she'd let the memories come. Then she'd let him out of his box, and they'd run the halls of her shattered mind together.
But Belle wasn't insane, no matter how blissful such a state sounded in her darkest moments.
There was no kindness on her father's face when he came for her. His hoary hand grabbed her arm, hauling her to stand in the centre of the room. She wanted to scream, and fight, to claw her way to freedom and curse his name.
(To plead and beg the last love she had left to let her keep breathing)
A woman, the woman, the Queen, appeared in the doorway. Her father's hand clamped around Belle's forearm; his fingertips dug into her skin hard enough to leave a bruise.
"Ah," she said, her voice like silk and honey, as she sidled closer, "Yes, it's as bad as you said." She lifted Belle's chin, and to anyone else it could look gentle and motherly. But her fingernails were claws, biting into Belle's skin, and there was no tenderness in her gaze. "Remember me, princess?" she asked, just loud enough for Belle to hear.
"Yes." Belle ground out through gritted teeth, her face twisted into the ugliest glare she could manage.
The Queen just chuckled, pleased with her hatred, and straightened. "She has been corrupted: she is the demon's whore now, no longer your daughter."
"What can I do?" Belle is disgusted by the pleading, pathetic whine of her father's voice. To think this man was once everything.
"Leave her to me." The Queen smiled, and it was like the end of the world, "I'll see to it that she is purified."
That last word reverberated around Belle's skull.
As the Queen's hand grasped her own (cold and hard, almost skeletal, like holding the hand of a statue), she felt the world fall apart as magic took hold.
When they landed, beside the Queen's carriage at the gates, terror overcame Belle for the first time in her life. She screamed, long and loud and as hard as she could, "Rumpelstiltskin!"
(Because, sometimes, the rumours are true)
The Queen just laughed, and hauled her into the carriage.
Her smile fell from her face when she saw the man sitting there, legs crossed and smile wide, even as his eyes blazed.
"Going somewhere, dearie?"
A/N2:This had a miserable ending... then I got my offer from the University of Edinburgh (and the squeals of joy were heard for miles around) and suddenly happy words started coming. So thank them for the lack of unremitting misery and hopelessness.