FIC: "A Fire in the Deep" for sealcat Recipient: sealcat Author: ??? Title: A Fire in the Deep Rating: PG-13 Pairings: Grey Lady/Bloody Baron Word Count: ~1500 Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *None*. Summary: Helena Ravenclaw was going to be wise and free. Wasn't she? Author's Notes: Many thanks to the magnificent mod and to my brilliant betas, B & P. Dear Sealcat, I enjoyed writing for you very much – I hope you find the story to your liking.
She grew like a flower might grow, face turned towards the bright, fathomless mass of knowledge the way a fragile plant might yearningly strain upwards to the sun. She basked in the glory of every new discovery, tasted the warmth of every spell learned, of every gesture trained to perfection, just like a delicate rose might lap up the elixir of life with every touch of powerful, tender sunbeams.
Thoughts spurred her to action, and thoughts whirled inside her head without ever stopping; they pulsed in her mind and echoed in her heart, one reckless, loud – organised, deadly – beautiful, beautiful storm of ever-changing thoughts. Her dreams and emotions opened up to welcome their clever sting, just like forest flowers willing to seduce a swarm of wild bees.
And even as she grew – a girl-child, a woman-child – so eager for knowledge, imbibing everything she saw or heard like a sponge; even as she grew – a witch-child, a daughter of wisdom – she wished she could run faster, reach further, and snatch the precious jewel of truth from eternity's grasp.
Oh, she could be better, so much better than all the elders, she thought; she would be sharper, wiser, mightier than anyone. She would surpass her own mother in skill and judgment; her mind would contain things even Rowena Ravenclaw could not comprehend.
Oh, would that she could grow taller, as tall as the tallest tree, and capture the whisper of the wind in her leaves; would that she could reach further, further, as far as the tendrils of fragrant smoke sprawled on a Beltane night – she would touch the cold of the mountain peaks and the silence of the ancient forests, and the savage depth of the ocean waters as old as time; would that she could be free and fly skyward, quick as a bird, and pierce the all-knowing sun with her beak.
She needed more, she yearned for more; the knowledge was there, so tantalising, so abundant, spread like a feast where she could not reach. The world was there, its secrets without measure, and she wished to be free to unveil each and every one, to conjure keys to all the locks, to be free, free, bathing in knowledge as if it were sunlight on Solstice day.
And her long black hair would float in the wind, and the wind would whisper in her ear; and her soft, knowing hands would reach to caress hill slopes and river shores, and the earth would be pliant under her touch like a lover's body; and she would bring her lips to every lush, potent flower, and kiss away its magic as if it were a moan in the night.
Oh, would that she could be free, and crown herself with the wisdom of the world, the jewel of truth rightfully shining in her forehead.
But alas, she was but a girl in the tower, eternal apprentice in the fortress of magic. Her mother – her mother and the other three – oh, they kept all the keys, depriving her of the heady wine of knowledge within and without. Her gaolers, they locked her up in the castle where magic was might, and never allowed her to penetrate the source of power, never let her learn what she wished to learn. Her agile mind withered like a spring bloom, and only one thought kept it alive, one thought, black and fierce like a raven: be free.
But where to find the key to her prison?
This cruel riddle made her grow frantic and frail, consumed as she was by her desire for answers to a thousand hidden questions, for the magic burning at her very fingertips. At times, she could almost see it: the door to freedom, beyond it, the path to knowledge, beyond it, the endless pit of eternity, blazing with impossible truths in all their splendour.
Where was the key?
What was the key?
Who was the key?
Why, the beast who guarded the rose.
The idea grew inside her like a foetus.
With each day, escape appeared more probable, the possibilities as countless as the hungry gazes the dark man gave her. Were she to gather his stifled sighs like beads on a string, the imaginary rosary would last her until the world's dying day.
His longing was written on his face with the shadows of sleepless nights. He kept vigil, day after day. A watchful dog. A loyal slave.
A lonely, dispossessed, bleeding soul who had followed the four Founders through fire and hell. A lost man won over by Godric's courage and Salazar's cunning, by Helga's beauty and Rowena's wit. For magic and wonder, for wealth and freedom – for the sake of the impossible, he had given into temptation. So many years ago, he had pledged his life, his word, and his sword to the four greatest (deceitful, ruthless, greedy) magicians to be found. And now he always stood beside them, a step behind, a haunting shadow soaked in blood and terror, as desperately needed as he was carelessly despised.
For what do name and bearing mean to those who make the skies open, to those who make the rivers chant? Even though he was splattered with the blood of their enemies; even though he had talked and bribed their way into getting these lands from the Muggle King's men, he was nothing but a slave, gullible and weak. Tempted into a life of servitude by a promise of vengeance and gold, and a night of being allowed to hear the song of the stars. Nothing but a rash, possessive man who believed in miracles.
A man of passion.
Destined to be a slave.
Why not her slave then? Why not her slave?
He was the dragon who guarded her tower.
Her key to freedom.
Her route to escape.
He hoarded her like a dragon might, mindful of his orders and his obvious, ridiculous love.
He could be used.
He could be deceived.
The dragon could be seduced.
With each passing moon, her conviction grew stronger. She suspected – no, she knew – that freedom was but a kiss away. For a generous handful of tenderness, the hellhound would sell his masters. For her, he would betray them and rip out their throats.
At night, she tossed and turned, weighing her smiles for tomorrow like a stingy merchant. And during the day, she spun the web of sticky kindness and soft words, a docile girl, a lady at the spinning-wheel.
A black spider laying her ephemeral, deadly trap.
She would not have conceived the idea of escape had it not been for the way his burning eyes lingered on her small, delicate hands; had it not been for the edge of hunger in his raspy voice when he spoke to her, habitually low and measured, a courtier and a murderer.
She saw his love, twisted and frightened, ugly like a crippled, unwanted child, and she knew.
Oh, she would swear she could already taste freedom, fresh and bittersweet, at the tip of her tongue!
(That shy, miserable love, she would take it, that horrid little creature, and clasp it to her breast; and it would rejoice, wild and stupid, not knowing the difference between a mother's gentle touch and the cold, bony hands of death; and she would wean that foul, toothy love, feed it her poison – sweetest milk – and croon and tell a tale. And tell a lie.)
He would be hers, utterly, completely.
And the doors would open, and the world would open, and she would run barefoot among the ringing stars.
She could make him do it.
She heard it in the charged silence of the castle. In the rhythm of his breathing. In the beat of his heart.
In the rustle of his cloak behind her bolted door.
His scorching lust had set fire to her tormented mind, and now it blazed, visions of freedom and opportunity rising and collapsing like the flames of Fiendfyre.
Free. Free. Free.
Free like the wind. Free like the stars.
Free like the fire in the deep of the night.
Free to steal the truth from the heart of the world.
She would come to him in the hour before dusk, cleaving the sea of his loneliness in a ship of desire, and she would make him hear the song of the stars in her keening cries, and her frenzied kisses would weigh more than gold, and her sweat would be sweeter than the blood of his enemies.