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Chapter 1: Cursed
Seven years ago on a blustery December night, a stooped old woman picked her way through the snow and ice along a slippery overgrown lane. With shoulders hunched under a heavy array of tattered, moth-eaten shawls wound around her forehead and pointed chin, she began to sink through the banks of snow further and further, until her knees were soon skimming the drifting white mass and she could no longer see her way forward.
The old woman’s knobby knees and poor eyesight were no match for the harsh weather, and after panicking for a good quarter hour over whether she was going to die in a horrendous blizzard so unnatural on this side of Wauning, she spotted a dozen pinpricks of light glowing like beacons of welcome through the snow-swirled haze.
A massive black castle with spiky turrets and crumbling towers stood jagged against the ominous dark sky, snow clouds swooping low into the fog. This dwelling had been erected in the middle of a steep valley between two purple mountains with forest all around, and a great shining lake mirrored the castle’s lit windows like blazing fire, orange flames dancing across the black capped waves.
Warmth! Hope trembled through the old woman from the top of her matted gray head to the tips of her toes in their thin, worn slippers. Her only nemesis in the world was cold; it sapped her energy and disabled all of her powers. But no matter now – with a sanctuary nearby such as this one, which was bound to hold at least fifteen fireplaces on the ground floor alone, she would be able to summon her strength once more and perhaps have a bite to eat if a servant or two still stirred at this hour.
The prospect of regaining her powers, the powers now dormant in her magical blood, cheered her so much that she didn’t mind tumbling down the hill three times in her effort to descend into the valley. Her left pinky toe may have been frostbitten, and her cheeks beaten red and raw with the lashing wind, but her eyes were bright and full of life. Bless this inhabitance! She inwardly vowed to reward whoever lived in the castle simply for existing and giving her the opportunity to nest in its warmth for a few minutes while she recovered.
Anything they desire will be theirs, she swore. She could bestow luck, wealth, and beauty in a cinch. Of course, being a sorceress who was capable of providing these gifts proved cumbersome most of the time, and therefore she found herself usually hiding under a disguise such as she did tonight, as to avoid straggling Muggle beggars who threw themselves at her feet.
Sometimes it was quite inconvenient to be a fairy sorceress, especially in winter. Her sisters used to tease her mercilessly about being afflicted with such a weakness, as normal fairies from the cursed city she grew up in met their match with rain rather than temperature; but she supposed it had been less problematic during the flood ten years prior when the rest of her sisters clung to the rafters for fear of being wet, and she could conjure a boat out of thin air and drop smugly inside, floating down the Oaupe River amidst their terrified screams.
Her thin lips pressed into a leer upon remembering, and she crept steadily closer to the colossal castle and its intricately carved arched doorway flocked with stone gargoyles. Very soon she would be able to escape this wretched night and disappear south in the blink of an eye, something she should have done long before the weather turned foul. It was very reckless, absurdly foolish, to stay in this country so late in the season, tempting fate to bathe the world in frost and ice. What was she thinking, sticking around so long? If her sister Marietta could only see her now, she would be laughing her head off.
The old witch was glowering with her unpleasant thoughts for company, feeling ludicrous and ashamed, and she attempted to arrange her mouth into something like a smile before she raised her mottled left hand to knock. Small imprints in a burnished plaque read Malfoy Manor. The knocker was smooth and brass in the shape of a grizzly bear’s head, and through his open mouth she could see a wooden slot opening just a fraction, and one deep blue eye.
“What do you want?” replied a brisk male voice.
“Please, sir,” she spoke to the bear head knocker in a croaky tremor. “It is terribly cold and I only want to warm myself by your fire for a few minutes.”
“I have no fire,” he responded in an impassive tone.
“A little shelter from the wind, then?” she inquired. “I promise it will be no trouble. Just for a few minutes, and then I’ll be out of your hair.”
“I have no room for you.” He was quiet for a while, and hearing that she had not receded, said, “Go away.”
The witch grew frustrated. She had not anticipated this. “You do not understand!” she called, trying to smother the budding rage. “My name is Circe. Open the door. Open the door at once or else suffer my wrath!”
The door flew open to reveal a haughty-looking young man. He had a fair, handsome face framed with a curtain of white-blond hair and he was lifting his jaw away from her in a mocking sneer, holding a burning lamp high above the pair of them. “Suffer your wrath, ancient one?” he replied in a dangerously low voice. “I do not fear walking corpses. Get away from me before I set the dogs on you.”
The witch leaned around him to see a luminous fire roaring in its grate, and elsewhere through the cavernous depths there seeped the tantalizing aroma of roasted pheasant and spiced apple tart. “Allow me houseroom and a meal,” she demanded, “or you will sincerely regret it.” She knew that he was going to refuse, but her goal was to keep him talking. The longer he stood there with the lamp swinging between them, the longer she could bask in its slender rays of heat.
“I will give you nothing,” he spat. “Get out of my sight.”
She had already absorbed enough heat emanating from the small fire flickering in his lamp to replenish her magic, however, and her age turned back the pages into youth before his eyes. Her spine straightened, her skin smoothed, and the thin film of cataracts over her eyes cleared away. Her heavy wrappings fell apart to reveal a mane of auburn hair and green irises that were startlingly round and glittering, narrowed in their reproach.
The young man’s mouth fell open and he withdrew. “But you are a witch!” he stammered accusingly. He then took note of her strange eye color. “As well as a fairy. You aren’t an old Muggle at all.” Indeed, there was something so disturbingly unnatural about her that gave him the feeling that she wasn't any ordinary witch, either.
The sorceress drew herself to her full height, channeling her darkest magic that was inwardly churning higher and deeper with increasing disgust. “You have judged me from my outward appearance and denied me any mercy, and your punishment will operate accordingly. Henceforward, you will be cursed to this castle. You will never cross its threshold, and the spell is such that your staff will suffer along with you as well until you can fulfill my challenges.”
The young man merely stared at her, his eyes widening in bewilderment as a crease developed in his forehead. “Your physical appearance will mirror your soul,” she continued, “and no one will be able to love you so long as you are this blackened and beastly inside. Your conscience is stained, and so will be your beauty." She examined him shrewdly, tapping her chin in thought. "Until you find someone who is capable of loving you in all of your disdainful arrogance, and you can freely love in return, everyone who inhabits this castle will become its slaves.”
She vanished in the wake of her curse, and the young man staggered back into the foyer, the invisible barrier not even permitting him to stand in his own doorway. Every flame in the massive house snuffed into darkness and the air grew steadily thicker as though in a stagnant fog; upstairs the small staff ran shrieking through the pitch black corridors, stiffened by the rebounding spell that echoed from every surface and knowing at once, like a knife to the chest, that there was no hope of ever being relinquished from such a spell if it depended on their young master falling into something as vulnerable and inferior as love; and furthermore, of ever hoping that anyone could so much as tolerate a person as selfish and arrogant as Lucius Malfoy.
A/N: Hello there! Something I would like to say about this novel is that it will be more fairy-tale than modern. In coming chapters, although it will be 1974, the story is going to be twisted into a different kind of world - very AU - so that it is more classically fairy-tale like. You will see many different fairy tale stories woven throughout the story, some more subtle than others. Narcissa Black will be the Rapunzel, the Snow White, the Cinderella, etc.
Anything you already recognize can be credited to Rowling and authors of the very, very old and original fairy tales - unfortunately, there are so many versions and many of the origins are unknown, so this crediting is a bit vague. But I do not own Beauty and the Beast, Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, or any other fairy tale themes you see featured in this story.