Snow White used to imagine the Queen coming to talk to her.
In the beginning, when she was just a child, small and scared, she wanted her to show up, be as kind as she was beautiful, and tell her it was all a mistake, explain all the bad things away and take her away from the cold and dreary cell.
Obviously, she never did.
Later she imagined their conversations different, dreamt of shouting at her, yelling at her all the hate and resentment and pain her years alone in the cell had caused her.
But the Queen never came even close to her prison.
In the last year she was imprisoned her imagined conversations changed again. Now she wanted to look into Ravenna's eyes and ask her what happened to her. What made her the woman she was, what removed her heart from the beauty of her face.
Beauty which she now suspected had a great price, judging from the stolen years her occasional fellow prisoners showed. What did paying that kind of a price year after year, maybe decade after decade do to a woman?
Was she a scared girl once, too? Did she play with her brother without a worry? Did she have a mother and father who loved her and wished the best for her? Did her mother whisper a wish when expecting her which gave her the blessing of her looks?
Did she ever love Snow White's father, even a bit? Did she even view him as a man, or just as someone – something – to use on her way to the throne? She imagined asking her why she herself was still alive, tried to imagine her answers, her theories changing from day to day, mood to mood.
Sometimes she dreamt of Ravenna, of them talking, of living with her as a stepmother, of ruling the land with her, of touching her. She dreamt of her more often than her own mother, her father, William.
Sometimes she wanted to ask Finn about her when he stayed outside her door, looking in, never saying a word, but she didn't want to give him the gift of her words, to grant him the power of requiring something from him.
When the chance to escape arose she didn't hesitate to take it, not once, but when she ran away she did think of Ravenna, of all those conversations they'd had in her head, and missed the chance of them ever becoming real.
Ravenna never forgot about the Princess in the tower. She thought of her every day, thought about going to see her, to talk to her.
She still remembered the earnest admiration in the eyes of a girl, the innocent trust towards the stranger her father was about to marry. Had she herself ever been that innocent, that open?
She wondered if that innocent gaze was the reason she was still alive. Ravenna knew the value of resources, and realised she was saving the girl for a purpose. What that purpose was she didn't know yet, her Mirror Counsel silent in that regard.
Maybe she would drink her youth one day, to prolong her own. Maybe she would require her presence to renew the land, the sacred bloodline of the kingdom's rulers their safeguard against famine. But for now, the lean years made it easier to rule the weakened land.
She knew they would move on one day, she and Finn, as they had so often before, leaving a kingdom after kingdom in ruins, a dead land filled with legends of the Wicked Queen.
Maybe she would go back to one of them, one day, when they had rebuilt, restored their wealth. Maybe she would still haul Snow White with her when she did.
She dreamt of the girl, of the look in her eyes, and upon wakening considered going to see the girl, but she never did. She knew Finn visited her often but resisted the temptation of looking in on her through his eyes.
She did not know if it was fear, but told herself it was lack of interest.
She paid the price of her inattention when the Mirror told her the girl had grown into a woman whose beauty had surpassed her own. Ravenna's strength was in her beauty, her power tied directly to her visage, and she knew the purpose at last.
If she felt a pang of regret in the knowledge of Snow White's inevitable demise, well, she wouldn't even recognise the feeling herself.