You find her staring at the wall on which her mirror used to rest. You keep a respectable distance, mostly out of habit, although your old roles have fallen away and she stays hidden, alive, a ward under your thumb. It doesn't feel like that — she's not under your control, and that's not why she's alive. It feels like you're protecting her.

The thing you remember the clearest, as her fingers wrap around yours, is how she looked when they found you after the fall of your fathers reign. She looked as she did now — surprised, hurt, and a little relieved. When the huntsman said that you had to drive the blade in, and wait for the revealing of the soul that came with death, you didn't think he really meant it in such a way. Yet, as she slumped onto your hand, grasping and pulling your hand and the knife from her gut, you did see her soul. And all you could do was feel immense sadness and regret.

Surprisingly, it wasn't the first time you felt sorrow for her. You felt sorrow many times, often when she would come to your cell late at night when she thought you were asleep. The iron bars would edge open, always quietly, and you were always fearful for your life. She never touched you. She could have easily killed you; she could have done so when they found you the first time, or in the many years of your imprisonment. She didn't. Queen Ravenna only sat and watched. Once when you dared look at her, her eyes shone in the dark. Always, you could feel the warmth of her arm near your back as she sat. She never stayed long — a few minutes at most.

As Ravenna slumped, fell, you saw the absolute fear in her eyes. No, not fear. Terror. The way someone feels terrified when they know they're at the mercy of another. Your mother used to say that you had a beauty that would make you a good queen one day; now you know that the beauty she spoke of was compassion. You couldn't drop the knife, not yet, and because of that she cowered against the altar of her vanity. At your mercy, this woman was at your mercy. She had murdered your family, taken away all that you had left in the world, and yet you wanted to cry for the fear in her eyes. Like that wounded bird, you only wanted to heal her.

Her ragged breathing was enough to break your heart. You hadn't wanted it to be like this. You'd had to defeat her some way, and there really was no other way than to kill the evil inside of this woman. To break the spell bound so long ago. You wanted to apologize. All you could do was deny her the thing she needed to stay young forever, hand hovering near her leg like someone afraid to touch a wounded beast.

The vulnerability splayed in front of you made you feel helpless. You could do nothing to tame the wounded animal staring at you. The moment she lay there dying, defeated, you realized the person she had been long ago had been lost to a spell that bound her to vanity. No one would believe you when you said it wasn't her fault. She wouldn't believe you if you'd said you were sorry.

At some point her dazzling eyes slipped shut. You thought at first that she was dead, then surprised yourself by panicking. You didn't want her to be dead. Moving forward, you gathered her in your arms and found this incredibly powerful person to be frail, a feather's worth of weight. Touching her neck, you felt a weak pulse there, whispering that life still clung to her bones. Her skin's age slowly disappeared in those next anxious moments. She breathed — shallow — but she still breathed. Her wound sealed itself. You knew that you had broken the spell, but not what was to come after it.

The men wanted you to kill her. End her life once and for all — after all, didn't her crimes outweigh the value of her life? Not just the crimes against your kingdom, but countless others over time. You had never been so glad as you were then to be queen. Your word was law, and she was not to be harmed anymore. She had paid for her crimes and been dethroned. It did not matter if she was dead or alive — the disease she'd spread across your kingdom would recede and the land would heal.

William couldn't understand, nor could his father or the huntsman. You didn't expect them to. This was why your mother had foreseen you as a queen who was worthy of that role, because of your ability to care for those who were abandoned.

Servants brought her to your chambers, clothed in her own bedclothes. You wouldn't rid the castle or what were now your chambers of her things. They were hers. The only thing you wanted, obviously, was the crown. You weren't a dress kind of girl anyway. You much preferred the be seen as the queen who had fought and would fight alongside not only soldiers, but huntsmen as well. As she lay in her bed, or rather your bed now, unconscious but alive, she looked as she had in your youth. In some ways, you feared that you'd only imagined the great battle and the great victory for your people. The telltale crease of her brow, the distress in her expression as she slept, assured you otherwise.

"I'm sorry," you whispered that first night. You were sorry for many things, but mostly for her pain, and for the burden that came with being bound to vanity. You hoped it would get better for her now, somehow. When you lay down next to her, exhausted, you could feel her occasional breathing. Many questions lingered in your mind, but they would have to be settled after you'd both recovered from the long, long war you'd both been trapped in for years.


The healers checked on her daily at your request; they seemed afraid at first to even touch her, for fear that she'd suddenly wake and fling them both against the wall. You began to heal your kingdom a little each day — fulfilling requests, sending sentries and supplies to villages who had been suffering over the time of Ravenna's reign. It was still a little odd when everyone called you queen. The handmaidens sometimes inquired as to why you wouldn't wear a gown, or even the crown, and you only explained that it wasn't about the clothes you wore — it was about putting your kingdom first and healing old wounds. A gown wouldn't make you a queen.

Ravenna didn't stir for those first three days, and you only left her side in the afternoons, when you made your appearance in the throne room and addressed issues with advisors and villagers alike. It was decision after decision, prioritizing the needs of the people. Whenever you returned to your room, saw her sleeping figure in your bed, you felt a quiet relief.

At some point, your guards realized they would be dismissed the moment you reentered the room, and would quietly bow their heads and take their leave. By the fifth day, it was routine. As they left, you listened for the closing of those great doors and sat next to her. Studying her face, you reached out delicately and touched her brow, moved a strand of that golden hair away from her cheekbone. She looked beautiful this way, and yet troubled always. The healers didn't know how to make her wake up, and neither did you.

"I don't hate you. I used to, when I was much younger. I'd hated you because of the pain you'd caused me, all that you'd taken from me. Then, .. I suppose I just began feeling sorry for you." You spoke without knowing why, the words coming quietly as you pulled your hand from her hair. "This is stupid, I know you can't hear me. The healers don't know how to bring you back, and frankly neither do I. Maybe when you wake up you'll only want to kill me. Maybe I've been foolish to keep you here."

It's when she stirred that you jumped back, alarmed. You half expected to be hurt, and sank against the wall a moment. Her head tilted away from you, but you could see the muscles of her jaw tensing. A quiet groan of pain broke the long-standing silence, and you swallowed. It took you a good amount of time before you inched forward, carefully approaching the bedside again. She sounded in a different kind of pain. It wasn't just physical agony, but it sounded heavy with sorrow.

"Ravenna," you spoke again, before the thought even passed through your mind.

She was obviously startled to hear your voice because she turned her head to look at you with the same fear she had the day the battle had come to an end. Ravenna's mobility seemed to be slow to wake, because it took her a little effort to sit up and cower away from you.

You shook your head immediately, distressed, "N-no, I'm not … I'm not going to hurt you," you wanted her to understand, wanted her to know she was safe. "I'm not, I promise."

Confusion passed over her face briefly before she seemed to be in pain again. She was clutching her chest and trying to pull away from you as you moved to her side at the bed. You caught her hands, felt them pull against your grip, and realized it was her heart that was hurting. Perhaps the magic that had kept her young was wearing off. The loss of her immortality was causing her pain, real physical pain.

"Please, Ravenna," you begged, pleaded for her to stop pulling herself away from your grasp. "Let me help."

Ferocity sparked in her eyes, but it was a moment later that she doubled over, crumpling forward and clutching her chest. A kind of deep agonized cry was strangled from her throat, "God above," she spoke for the first time since the day of battle and you realized you missed the power of that voice.

She was helpless to pull away now, so you wrapped an arm around her back and felt the warmth of her against your grasp. With your left hand, you reached up gently to cover her hand, fingers slipping between the knuckles of hers to feel what she was feeling. Her heart was racing irregularly, pacing itself. It was then you realized her heart was learning how to beat again — on its own, without the help of any magic.

"Shh," you breathed as she clutched your hand, nails digging into your palm. "Breathe. Breathe. I think it's your heart."

A pained sound slipped from her gritted teeth and you could only hold onto her. You don't know how much time passed before her muscles slackened and her heart seemed to be beating normally again. Suddenly, with her panting and your arm wrapped around her, rubbing her back continuously, you realized how inappropriate this was, or rather would have been. Slowly you brushed her sweat-dampened hair and forced her to look at you. Those green eyes, still powerful and intense, waited for some kind of punishment. You only brushed the fabric of your sleeve over her sweat-beaded forehead.

"Sleep," you commanded, and to your surprise she slowly lay down, rolled to her side. Eventually she began to breathe slower, until you recognized the familiar rhythm of sleep.


You find her staring at the wall on which her mirror used to rest. You keep a respectable distance, mostly out of habit, although your old roles have fallen away and she stays hidden, alive, a ward under your thumb. It doesn't feel like that — she's not under your control, and that's not why she's alive. It feels like you're protecting her.

She's looking at where the banner now hangs, her arms folded across her chest. The way her shoulders tense tells you that she knows you're there. You wait, oddly enough, for her permission to enter the room. You're the queen, she's the warder, but you still wait for her permission.

"A queen should never wait to be acknowledged," her voice is soft, but powerful. It is the hypnotic sound you remember, and have grown to look forward to. She rarely speaks, but when she does it feels as if every fiber of you is straining to hear every last syllable.

You step forward slowly, knowing this is her way of giving permission, and smile in a lopsided way, "A queen should never let someone else tell her what she should do." It's the first admission between the two of you that you are standing on equal footing (in a very strange manner). "Are you feeling well?"

"Well enough." Even as a warder, even at the mercy of your rule, she is closed off. She seems hard to reach, even though she stands a mere stride away from you. Her back is still turned to you. Your eyes trail the curve of her shoulderblade underneath her clothing, and you find yourself wondering if she will ever wear her gowns again.

"I'm glad."

"You're a fool," she murmurs, but it lacks any venom. There's no danger in her words, nor any conviction. "To keep me safe like a prized possession. I pose threat to you."

"Not anymore. We both know that." You stand your ground, firm and quiet. You wait for a response but there is none. You reach forward, carefully, and as you make contact with her shoulder she flinches enough for you to notice, sucking air in between her teeth. Feeling scolded, you lower your hand.

She laughs, bitterly, "The next I know, you'll be telling me you feel sorry for me, and all the pain I have lived through."

"I'm not sorry for you. I feel great sorrow for you, and great compassion."

"It is the same."

"It's quite different, Ravenna," you murmur, lowering your eyes. "I care for you. When I was young, you said you felt we were bound. Even now, I feel we are bound. Beyond the chains of your spell, I feel we are bound by some fate."

She's silent at this, and when you reach forward this time, she doesn't flinch. Your fingers rest on the skin of her shoulder for only a moment before you pull them away. You figure that's an accomplishment, even if she continues to stand there as if you'd never touched her at all.

You still feel the magic, the spark of life in that one bit of contact. You don't ask her why she returns to your bed that night, but you're glad to fall asleep to the sound of her breathing. The queen and the warder, fates bound together somehow, and you think what the kingdom would think to know that the former Queen Ravenna, and Snow White, share a bed in your father's castle.


The first day she puts on a gown, your breath is taken away. The sheer power of her presence causes you to gasp in a barely audible manner, and you have to remind yourself that you're at a dinner with courtiers who are very much paying attention to you. You avert your eyes as she takes a seat next to you, crownless and shamed. You want to comfort her; you can see that she's tense and afraid. Her eyes sometimes flick toward you, and you can only nervously look away and resume posturing yourself like a queen. If anything, it is the scent of lilacs that catches your attention as she stands up with the others before you leave the table.

You thank everyone, watch the courtiers file out through the main hall, and find her moving into the room that once held the mirror.

"You look beautiful," you say before the words really sink in. It surprises both of you, because she looks over her shoulder at you with a crease of her brow. You think she turns a quiet crimson, but convince yourself otherwise. "I'm glad that you came to dinner. I know it must be difficult. The kingdom cries out for justice still, but I refuse them the pleasure. And I refuse you the punishment you seek."

"To what end?"

"I don't know, Ravenna. I think that queens must not always have the answers, and if I'm being honest, I don't have them," you want to explain how it felt to see her terrified of you the day you broke the spell. You want to explain that it feels good to have her in your chamber every night, sleeping in the same bed as you. You want to explain that you can't take anything away from her, and that you don't want to. "You were always more beautiful than anyone I've ever seen," you say quietly, and laugh to yourself. "Which seems strange, considering all you've done to take the beauty of others."

"You speak of appearances, which we both know have been deceiving." She turns to you for the first time, and her eyes search you. She moves forward, gracefully, gown passing over the cold stones. She looks stunning, and you feel entranced. "Can you honestly say, Snow White, that you think me to be a good person?"

You can't answer that, and it shames you. You drop your eyes to the floor. She laughs in that bitter way.

"Finally, some honesty. Tell me, Queen," the word sounds strange coming from her, and even stranger that she's addressing you by the title, "why is it you keep me, seek me out? I tried to kill you, and yet you stay at my feet like a pet hound," these words are meant to entice you into anger, and you won't give her the satisfaction. It is in the way she steps even closer to you, reaches forward and wraps her fingers around your neck that makes you realize she could still hurt you if she wanted. Yet, she releases her grip as soon as she looks into your eyes.

You don't have the answers for her. Instead, you feel your heart racing. It thrums dangerously fast against your ribs and you turn on heel. You don't think you could've gotten to your chambers any faster had you tried.

She returns later, when it's dark, inexplicably. You didn't think she'd come tonight. She could sleep in any of the other empty chambers, but still she slips beneath the heavy silk covers beside you. For a moment, you swear you feel a hand hover just near your arm, but the feeling passes and you fall asleep not long after.


The first time she really smiles, you realize you're in love with her the way so many others have been. You're being tended to by your handmaidens and she's sitting in the window, looking on as if she would rather be tending to a crop. She's wearing one of your favorite gowns, and she looks up just as one of the handmaidens is fussing over the fit of your hunting outfit.

"My Queen, if I may, you really should attempt to look a bit more feminine — " you're kind to your servants, so sometimes they say things like this, and as you roll your eyes you realize Ravenna is watching you, head cocked to the side. At first, she smirks at you, and the thrill of having her attention is enough to make your skin grow flush with warmth. You feel the handmaid begin to style your hair — fruitlessly — and you blow away a strand and slap away the handmaid's hands from your head.

Ravenna smiles. A real smile. Brilliantly white and shining, her eyes glowing with a kind of abandon you've never seen directed at you. And you know you're in love with her. All you can do is look dumbly back at her, and be grateful for every second she seems to be unable to look away from you.

Later that night, she laughs when you run into the wardrobe, cursing at your candle going out. It makes your heart flutter and your skin ache. You can see her watching you, and suddenly you feel things you didn't realize you could feel. It is only when she falls asleep that you stop trembling.


She kisses you late one night, when you're sitting alone in your chambers, dining before the fire. You'd taken to eating alone recently, and Ravenna usually eats with you. The servants had just taken away the dishes, and you'd stood up to grab something — you can't remember what — when you feel her hand reach out to catch yours. Her fingers grasp your wrist with a kind of determination, and you don't understand why she seems to be pulling you to her. The intensity of her eyes seemed too much for your heart to handle, and suddenly your breath is gone when you realize what her intentions are. Ravenna's lips brush against your own, delicately (more than you thought her capable of) and in a way that causes you to stumble forward, nearly onto her. You don't think the kiss lasts longer than a second, but you breathe against her lips, brow furrowed in askance and your eyes closed. Part of you is afraid she's about to disappear.

She doesn't. You open your eyes and she's staring at you in a way that makes emotion flood every vessel in your body. It goes without any words. She kisses you again, firmer this time, and when you whimper, she seems satisfied. As you pull away, you grasp her hand and press it to your mouth, repeatedly. She seems to become emotional at this, her eyebrows creasing as she bites her lip. You know how she felt about love — it ruins people. It ruined kingdoms, both at her hand and before she had the power to ruin anything.

You kiss her hand again, then pull her up. She still stands taller than you, but your fingers find the back of her neck and urge her lips to yours. This time you kiss her. It's firm and insistent, and it's a promise.

That night she sleeps right beside you, and you spend the night memorizing the shadows of her throat with your fingertips. Perhaps this is it, this is how you were meant to be bound.