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Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this story, and I don't intend to.
Challenge & Summary: Challenge FM #3: People think Sirius is vain, just because he's good-looking. But when Hufflepuff Guilderoy Lockhart suggests a "Fairest of Them All" competition, Sirius wants nothing to do with it... until SOMEONE ELSE puts his name in the running. Lockhart will do anything to win, Sirius will do anything to lose, and Remus would do anything at all to get out of being the final judge, if only he could. Should include the line: "I can wear a bag over my head if I want to! Think of it as a new fashion!" if possible - you decide who says it! The princess is gone, the prince is under a curse, and the knight does not know how to save him.
Author Notes: My challenge was, "People think ... who says it!" After several attempts to obey the letter and spirit of the challenge, I gave up and just obeyed the letter. This is definitely not a humor fic; I also never managed to get the quote in. To whoever wrote this challenge: I apologize, and I hope you like this fic even if it's very different from what you intended.
Once there was a boy, a boy like a prince, who lived in an enormous castle of a house filled with servants and old portraits from the past. He was a very small boy and he was lonely. He was afraid of the old elf who could walk very quietly and appear anywhere, and he was afraid of his mother, the queen, who became angry when she knew that he was afraid. His father the king was often away and his brother, the little prince, took the queen's side because he did not want her to be angry with him as well. The little prince was even more afraid than his brother.
The elder prince had one great friend, his cousin the princess who lived across the waters and far away. When he went to see her she would find his favorite books in the library and they would read them outside, under the blossoming apple tree. The prince would rest his head on the princess's lap as she read to him and listen to the wind as it sang through the forest.
Once there was a knight, who fought his first battle as a very small boy and still bore the scar. He had lost to a great wolf, and swore that in the battles to come he would fight utnil he no longer had any strength. As the knight grew older he realized that no one can fight alone. He needed a loyal friend who would be at his side and help him when he felt himself grow weak.
He found at school three friends, and he searched for the one who would be his greatest and most loyal friend of all.
The princess had two sisters, one dark and one fair-haired. They did not read to the prince or play with him on the hills; he saw them only at dinner, where they were nearly as quiet and still as statues. The prince could tell that his mother the queen was fond of the two sisters, and that made him fear them and run when he saw them coming.
One summer across the waters and far away was the most magnificent summer of all. The prince and the princess took a small boat to an island, and had enormous picnics there. The princess taught the prince how to ride a hippogriff, and the two of them flew over the mountains and into the clouds. When the prince was afraid he thought about the princess, and how when they were together he felt strong and brave. She was at his side and helped him when he felt himself grow weak. She was his greatest and most loyal friend.
When he was to go home at the end of the summer she held him close, and told him to swear that he would remember her always. He thought the request strange, but vowed never to forget her. As the carriage pulled away he looked back and saw that she had tears in her eyes.
The autumn turned cold very quickly, and the prince watched the leaves fall from the tree outside his bedroom window. He knew that the leaves were dead. The portraits whispered to each other and the old elf was often at the queen’s side. The king was rarely at home and the little prince had a new governess. The prince felt lonelier than he ever had before.
The knight grew distracted. He felt safe with his friends, and he forgot that when he grew up to be a man he would have to fight battles again. The old wizard who was in charge of the school was fond of the knight, and he worked hard to keep the problems of the outside world away from him.
Love is a joy and love is a struggle, and when the knight fell in love he remembered once again that no one can fight alone. His lover the prince was brave and bold, willing to charge ahead to conquer the perils that befell them – but there were things in his heart that the knight could not discover, for a curse had fallen upon the prince when he was a young boy. The things in the prince’s heart were his deepest secrets, and they were shut away. The knight and the prince never spoke of them, but sometimes a distant look came into the prince’s eyes and the knight knew that his beloved was not free of the mysterious curse. He did not know how to save him.
Winter arrived and the two sisters came to the prince’s castle. They were nearly women now, with swift eyes and haughty manners. When the prince begged to see the princess they said, “She has left you. She is no longer your family and she has gone away forever.”
”Where has she gone?” the prince cried.
”She has betrayed you,” said the sisters. “She has found a common and unworthy man and married him. He is her family now and you are nothing.”
The prince ran to his bedroom and began to cry, tears flowing quickly as he thought of their summers with the trees and hills. Had the princess wanted him to remember her because she wanted him to suffer? he wondered. He could not forget her though the thought of her pierced his heart.
”Never,” said the prince to the knight, “never tell me I am beautiful.”
Once there was a handsome fool, whom fortune had determined to humble. In the dark reaches of the school where the old wizard taught, the handsome fool found three mirrors, beams of light that seized his fancy. We provide what all shall need, said the engraved letters at their base.
The handsome fool thought himself very fine and fair, but in the school were other boys who were thought as splendid as he. “I need to know that I am the best!” said the handsome fool to himself. “If it is what I need, then the mirror shall provide it for me, and soon I shall be known as the fairest of them all!”
And so he announced to the other boys in the school that there would be a contest, a contest in which the magic mirrors would determine who was the fairest of them all. Most of them laughed, but a boy from the house of the badger, the house that the handsome fool also belonged to, thought that he would try. The list of competitors was hung in the great hall for all to see.
The boy from the house of the badger was very beautiful, but the handsome fool knew that the prince was his main rival. Yet the prince scorned the contest and stayed far away. “I need to know that I am more handsome than he is!” cried the fool. “If the mirrors do not see him and judge me his superior, I shall not rest!” He took his quill and wrote the prince’s name on the list.
The school believed that the prince himself had put it there, for they thought that anyone so stunning must be vain by nature. The handsome fool showed the list to the mirrors and they said, “All must come.”
When the prince discovered what the fool had done he was determined to fight him, but the knight was afraid of the anger in his lover and begged him to leave the fool in peace. Because of their love the prince agreed, but he planned secretly to be gone from the school on the day of the contest. He would steal a beast from the gamekeeper and go far away until all had ended.
Meanwhile the fool preened in front of his ordinary mirror and spent all his money on fine soaps and a lavish robe. He did not go to his classes and instead spent the time bathing and sleeping to ease the shallow lines upon his face. The old wizard sent him word that he was to be punished, but the handsome fool did not appear for his penalty. Nothing mattered to him but his own visions of glory.
The prince cried over the princess until he fell asleep, and it was soon afterwards that the curse came upon him.
The dark sister had evil and rage in her heart, and she came into the prince’s bed and worked her malice upon him. She made him look upon himself as an unclean soul, and his body brought to him a shame that kept him silent and wounded. His mind in its terror thought that the princess had seen something horrifying inside of him, and because of that she had fled. He saw himself as one marked with sin, a being cast apart from the others of the world.
When he grew older and went away to school, he could not sleep without the memories returning to him. On his first visit home he stole from his father’s study a magical sieve to hold his pain as he slept. Each night he took the pain from his mind once his friends had gone to sleep and put it in the sieve. The sieve he hid under some loose boards in the floor, and lest his friends should discover it during the day, the prince woke early each morning to return the pain to his tortured mind.
As the day of the contest drew nearer the prince slept fitfully, even with his anguished memories out of his head. He ate only when the knight and their other friends forced him to, and he sat on the roof staring at the stars until he was made to go to bed.
The knight knew that the curse was strengthening its hold upon his beloved. He watched him every moment he could, hoping for a sign of how he might lift its spell. Many times he thought to seek advice from the old wizard, but if the prince were to find out it would cause a deep chasm between them.
With so much worry in his heart, the knight slept as restlessly as the prince. One night he could not sleep at all, though he had retired to bed early in hopes of some rest. He heard his friends call the prince down from the roof, and from the corner of his half-closed eye he saw the prince prepare for bed. Their friends murmured sleepily and soon were in a heavy slumber.
The knight was about to speak to the prince, when he saw him crouch down upon the floor and pull back the carpet. Underneath were some loose boards, which he pried up and set aside. Silently, the prince took out the magic sieve and as the knight watched, he pulled with his wand the pain from his mind and put it in the sieve. It glimmered softly, a dark silver trail.
The prince replaced all he had moved and went to bed; when the knight was certain he was asleep he slipped from his bed and withdrew the sieve from its hiding place. He was afraid but the thought of his prince in danger frightened him more, and so with all the courage he possessed, the knight leaned over and let himself fall into the memory.
When the gamekeeper’s roosters crowed the next morning, the sieve was empty.
We provide what all shall need.
Even without the curse upon him, the prince had faint memories of its strength and had not forgotten the night that it came to him. He knew that the knight had taken it. He saw the anguish in the knight’s eyes and he knew that his lover had taken the curse to bear.
He could not let himself touch the knight now. He was afraid of the curse, afraid of the damage it could bring to his beloved and most of all afraid that the knight would no longer love him now that he had seen the taint that had marked him forever, the taint that the dark sister had brought – or the inherent taint, a part of his malformed soul, that she had exposed.
We provide what all shall need.
They stood before the mirrors, the three, the fool, the prince, and the boy from the house of the badger. The prince felt sickened. His plans had failed and he had not been able to escape.
The handsome fool stepped closer to the mirrors, their light illuminating his golden curls. In the silence and the still he asked, “Tell us, oh mirrors, which of us is the fairest of them all.”
From the first mirror came a high and lilting voice like a panpipe. “It is you to whom that title belongs.”
The handsome fool laughed haughtily; the prince exhaled with relief. “There it is, for all to hear,” the fool said. “We can leave now, now that I know for certain what I always have!”
But the boy from the house of the badger was not satisfied. “Wait,” he said immediately, “only one of the mirrors has spoken. What do the other mirrors think?”
With this new thought on his mind the fool could not leave, and he said to the second mirror, “Tell us, oh mirror, which of us is the fairest of them all.”
From the second mirror came a rich and melodious voice like a cello. “It is this second boy to whom that title belongs.”
The fool was outraged. The prince smiled to himself. He hoped that the boy from the house of the badger would win the contest, as he did not want the title for himself and wished nothing but ill on the handsome fool.
”What!” the fool exclaimed, when his mouth had stopped hanging open in indignation and he was able to speak again. “Him? Look at him! There is a spot on his chin and his nose is too small! He looks as though he has not combed his hair! There is nothing, nothing to even suggest that he is fairer than I am!”
The mirrors were silent.
The fool turned to the third mirror. “You had better settle this, and settle it for good. Tell us, oh mirror, which of us is the fairest of them all?”
From the third mirror came a calm and gentle voice like the middle keys of a piano. “It is this third boy to whom that title belongs.” The fool let out a sound of utter frustration. The boy from the house of the badger laughed. The prince stared in shock and amazement, for the voice of the third mirror was one he knew well indeed. It was the voice of the princess.
”It seems we have a tie,” said the first mirror to its counterparts. “Someone must break it if this matter is to be resolved.”
”Yes yes,” replied the second mirror, “someone must break it. But who shall do so?”
The third mirror spoke. “Let this fourth boy be the final judge.”
The handsome fool spun around and searched in vain for another boy hiding in the shadows of the room. “There is no one else here!”
”This fourth boy,” said the third mirror, “who is standing in the corner under his friend’s invisibility cloak.”
The prince turned to see the knight pulling off the cloak from over his head. Before he could speak to him the knight said to the mirrors, “Please, have someone else be the final judge.”
”Oh no,” said the mirrors, “it is you to whom that honor goes.”
”Please,” said the knight. There was a note of desperation in his voice. “Anyone else. I can’t judge this.”
The mirrors did not speak again.
”Oh, go ahead,” said the fool to the knight. “You have to pick or else we’ll never get out of here. Only – “ here he tilted back his head and looked the knight in the eye “ – make sure you choose whoever really is the fairest.”
The knight’s hands trembled; he closed his eyes. “I can’t.”
”Go on, do it!” shouted the boy from the house of the badger.
”I promised,” said the knight.
”Oh, I don’t care,” exclaimed the fool. “Choose the winner!”
The knight opened his eyes. He took a deep breath. He took a step closer to his prince and said, “You.”
With a shriek, the handsome fool stormed out, the boy from the house of the badger following. The knight stared at the prince for a moment and then rushed forward to clasp him in his arms.
”I’m sorry,” he murmured, kissing the prince’s lips and eyelids, his own lips warm and wet. “I’m sorry, you told me never to say it, and I tried, I did. But I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I had to tell you the truth. She never ruined you. She tried and she hurt you, but she couldn’t take your beauty from you.”
”I don’t know,” said the prince – his voice said what he was only now able to say – “I don’t know how to feel whole anymore.”
The knight held him close.
”You will,” said a voice from the other side of the room.
It was the princess.
”I never,” she said, “ever wanted to leave you. You were the only one of them I loved, in the end. But I didn’t know how to save you. It was only with the most devoted kind of love that I was able to save myself.
”He arrived when I felt that I couldn’t take it any longer, and he loved parts of me that I couldn’t even bring myself to love. For the first time I began to see how my life could be different. A courage began to grow within me and became so large that I knew I had to leave or I would die, in spirit if not in body. When we married we were both risking our lives, but I knew that I would rather perish with him by my side than inside that house, unhappy and alone. He did not bear my curse. He helped me to lessen its power.
”You must give the memories back to my cousin,” she said to the knight. “He cannot fight them alone, nor can you take his burden from you and bear it yourself. The two of you must battle it together, for in doing so you will both grow stronger in your spirits and stronger in your love. My sister tried to fight her curse alone – our curse, the curse that my father brought to his three daughters – and it destroyed what was good in her. She knows of nothing now but rage and despair. What remains of her soul is weak.
”You shall not share her fate,” the princess said. “Your love has conquered before and shall continue to conquer all that you face together.”
There were many things to conquer in the years to come.
War broke out and divided families; such was its force of devastation that for a time it divided the prince and the knight. They reunited as warriors scarred by the years alone, men turned old before their time. Their two friends had fallen in the war, one to weakness and the other to death. To survive the prince and the knight had had to hide themselves from the world, in their different ways, and it took some time for them to reveal their souls to each other again.
Each month the knight battled the great wolf once more, and each day the prince fought his feelings of anger and sadness. The dark sister had joined with one more malicious than she, and the prince and the knight struggled to overcome them, alongside the princess’s daughter and the son of the friend who had fallen to death.
It was true, yes, that the prince fell to death himself, at the hand of the dark sister. But all her magic and all her rage could still not destroy his beauty, or his soul. He lived on in the heart of the knight, their bonds of devotion stronger than the bonds of death. He was the knight’s loyal friend and the knight kept his vow, fighting until he no longer had any strength in his body. When he joined the prince in death their souls lived on, both beyond the veil and in the minds of those who had known them.
Once there was a boy, a boy like a prince, who became a man filled with passion and fidelity. Once there was a knight, who was great in his quiet way. Once a writer wrote their tale, from its start and to its end.
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