“So follow me into the dark
Break up a piece of your heart”
~ “Sway With Me,” Saweetie & GALXARA, “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)”
Here it is. The Harlivy/Jane Eyre AU you never asked for.
Pamela Du-Barry Isley (middle surname from “Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass”) is orphaned in her infancy and adopted by her closest maternal relatives, against their will. In her childhood, she displays unladylike intelligence and a strange affinity for plants and poisons, leading to her relatives to ship her off to Wayne Institution – a very strict charity school, overseen by the abusive Mr. Woodrue.
Woodrue is experimenting with plants and toxins, poisoning the staff and students of the institute as part of the testing process. This goes on for some time as Pamela starts her lessons – though still an outcast, she manages to make her first friend there, a talented young songstress named Dinah Lance (Black Canary). Shortly, the poisoning gets worse and more noticeable, leading to many children at the school falling gravely ill – including Dinah. Many die.
As things escalate, Pamela is able to use her own mastery of plants to help her teachers defeat Woodrue, reveal his plans and subdue him, ushering in new leadership for the facility and earning her a trust that she’d never experienced before.
Conditions at Wayne Institution improve with Woodrue gone. Most of the children choose to stay, having nowhere else to go, though some – like Dinah – are taken away by remaining, concerned family members. Pamela misses her dearly, but still thrives in the redeemed environment she helped create.
When she graduates, she chooses to stay on and become a teacher at the institution herself, but soon finds her spirit stagnating within such a familiar, formerly traumatic environment. Bored, uncomfortable and curious, she chooses to apply for a new position – perhaps looking to leave her poisonous past behind her and make use of what else she’d learned in her formative years. She leaves Wayne Institution for the mysterious Arkham Hall, having been accepted as governess to the ward living there, a Miss Cassandra Cain (the Black Bat, formerly Batgirl II, as she is in the film “Birds of Prey”). Pamela is received by the person who hired her – Ms. Queenie (“Harley Quinn” 2013-2016), who she is surprised to learn is not the mistress of the Hall. It’s true mistress is one Ms. Harleen Quinzel, an eccentric aristocrat who is not often at home, but has taken responsibility for Miss Cain after coming across her on one of her many adventures. The expansive home is cared for by a large staff (Harley’s tenants, of”Harley Quinn” 2013-2016), despite its vacancy, including a shady, rough character named Tony Delfini (“Harley Quinn” 2013-2016) who seems to have mysterious, vague tasks and keeps mostly to himself.
Though stubborn and mistrustful, Pamela’s young pupil takes to her eventually, and she begins her new life in this strange place. She learns to get along with the varying staff well enough, making a good friend in Queenie, at least. Miss Cain comes to respect her and heed her lessons well. Most days pass peacefully, though sometimes Pamela can hear strange, echoing laughter from above her quarters, and no one seems to know where it comes from…
Then one day, in winter, running an errand to the nearby township on Queenie’s behalf, Pamela comes across a strange rider on a horse rushing from town to Arkham Hall. It is a woman, dressed in nobleman’s attire in deep reds and blacks, two blonde pigtails poking out from beneath an elegant top hat. Very strangely, a collared hyena follows obediently after her. As Pamela sits to rest on the side of the road, the rider pays her no heed, but in their haste the horse slips on a patch of ice, causing it to stumble and the rider to fall off. Reflexively, Ivy pulls her mastery of plants forward, a nearby patch of ivy shooting up to wrap around the horse’s legs and break its fall. She finds the act pulling herself to her feet, ending up with an armful of crimson-clad aristocrat.
The woman laughs, and kisses her on the cheek, causing Pamela to put her down in embarrassment as the hyena snaps around her heels. The woman calls them off, calling them Bruce, and proceeds to compare Pamela to a faerie creature for what happened with the ivy. She gets back on her horse and departs without a proper introduction, telling Pamela she’ll see her around – and calling her by the name of ‘Ivy’ in the process.
Confused, unsettled, but charmed, Pamela completes her errand and heads back home to Arkham Hall. She is surprised to find the hyena Bruce waiting there, and Queenie bustling around at the bidding of the Hall’s newly-returned mistress. Pamela quickly puts two and two together, realizing that the strange woman on the road was indeed Miss Harleen Quinzel. Taking time to decide what to do, she returns to tutoring Cassandra, and is not surprised when they are both summoned to Ms. Quinzel’s presence after dinner.
She finds Ms. Quinzel’s banter with Cassandra antagonistic but loving, and Ms. Quinzel herself just as odd as Queenie had described. She continues to call her Ivy, not bothering to explain it to anyone else, and goes out of her way to learn about her and her circumstances. They are immediately, and obviously, taken to each other – but mindful of the social distance between them, Pamela tries to maintain her emotional distance. Still, as Ms. Quinzel stays at Arkham, their friendship can’t help but grow. In their private moments, she gives herself one allowance – if her employer/friend insists on calling her Ivy, she must be given leave to call her Harley. ‘Harley’ heartily agrees.
Though their growing friendship brings new life into her daily life, strange things begin to happen in the Hall. The chaotic laughter gets worse – and one night, an intruder in heard wandering through the halls, leading to Harley’s bedcurtains being set on fire. Having been roused by the laughter and the noise in the hallways, Pamela wakes in time to find the arson out and wake Harley, saving her from certain death. Harley is touched by her rescue, causing her to cross a boundary and nearly kiss Pamela, but is strangely unconcerned as to how the fire started. After thanking her, and nearly kissing her, she bids her friend to go back to bed and trust that all will be taken care of. Pamela obeys, but is still worried, and inwardly concerned about the growing feelings between them.
The next day, Pamela wakes to find that Harley has gone travelling again, leaving only the explanation that she had set her own bedcurtains aflame by accident and making no mention of Pamela having saved her. Perturbed, she suspects Tony of having something to do with the attack, though the man ignores her any time she tries to confront him. The days return to how they were before Harley’s arrival, but Pamela cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong, nor the love that has started to bloom within her.
Then, suddenly, Harley returns – with a massive entourage of friends and adoptive family (her roller derby team and Gang of Harleys from “Harley Quinn” 2013-2016, her group of adoptive parents from Mama’s Drag club, from “Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass,” and her crew from DC Universe’s “Harley Quinn” – Clayface, King Shark, Dr. Psycho and Sy Borgman). This includes a young aristocrat named Mason Macabre, travelling with his mother (“Harley Quinn” 2013-2016).
From the moment they enter the Hall, Harley is clearly cozying up to Mason – leading to Pamela asking about him. Queenie explains that they’re old friends, rumored to be considering a courtship. Many people in their society would approve of the match, in order to settle Harley down. Pamela is struck with disappointment at the idea, though she enjoys seeing Harley happy and resolves to be happy for her if this is what she truly wants. Meanwhile, Harley insists on having Pamela attend their evening gatherings though her attention is in full demand of her friends – especially Mason – and whenever they are caught alone together, the spark of something more than friendship still remains.
Despite the hopelessness of their situation, especially in the face of Mason’s affection for Harley and rumors of their engagement, Pamela has to admit that she is in love with Harleen Quinzel.
She is given a brief respite from the stress of this revelation when she is summoned back to her childhood home, as the hateful Aunt who had sent her to Wayne Institution is passing away. This Aunt still loathes her, but wishes to unbridle her own conscience by revealing a lie – when Pamela was still at the charity school, a relation of her father’s had written to claim her, and the bitter woman had told him that Pamela had died of the poisoning there. Enraged, Pamela leaves, returning to Arkham Hall with the intention to write her lost relative and correct the misunderstanding as soon as possible.
She finds Harley waiting for her, renewing that spark of hope and love within her, but everyone seems so certain of Harley’s impending engagement that she forces her own wishes down again. The evening gatherings and excursions continue as they did before, including one night, a visit from another, unexpected friend – one Miss Duella Kane Dent (the Joker’s Daughter), here for business with Harley. Harley reacts badly to the news of her arrival, confiding this only in Pamela. T
hat night, when all are asleep, a ruckus and scream of pain are heard from the same direction the chaotic laughter comes from. After settling her wakened guests, Harley secretly asks Pamela to accompany her – in silence, speaking to no one they encounter. She is taken to a small room at the very top floor, with a door leading into another room beyond it. Miss Dent is there, gravely injured by a stab wound to her shoulder. Pamela is given the task of caring for Miss Dent while Harley goes into the second room, then comes back to leave again and fetch a doctor. The doctor comes and goes, then they usher Miss Dent out as quietly as possible, telling no one else of the incident. Harley asks Pamela not to ask her about it, either – clearly distressed – and out of her love, she obliges.
Soon the party of Harley’s friends and kin disperses. The Macabres seem especially amused to bid Pamela farewell, but she pays them no heed. Once they have gone, Harley asks Pamela to walk with her, and begins talking openly of her impending marriage to Mason. Crushed, but still wishing for Harley’s happiness above her own, Pamela congratulates her – until Harley expresses that Cassandra will need to be sent to boarding school, and she will have to find new employment elsewhere. Pamela riles at this, finally snapping and calling Harley out on the cruelty of her affections to Mason in the face of what’s between them – to which Harley laughs, revealing that her romance with Mason was exaggerated to test Pamela’s feelings.
She confesses her love to her, and asks her to marry her. Though unbelieving at first, and still very irritated by the deception, Pamela admits she feels the same and agrees. She tries to ask Harley about the strange events in the Hall, now knowing that she will also be its mistress, and Harley promises to tell her the truth about them after they are married a year and a day.
Preparations for the wedding begin, and though most of the staff – including Queenie – are surprised at this turn of events, they all come around to be happy for Pamela. That is, except for Tony, who remains as mysterious and distant as ever. The strange laughter continues, and the night before the wedding is to take place, someone breaks into Pamela’s room, puts on her veil and then slashes it to pieces. She spends the rest of the night in Cassandra’s quarters, unsettled and curious. Harley is equally shaken the next morning when she hears of the attack, which leads her to usher Pamela to the chapel all the faster. Pamela finds all of this even stranger, and almost calls the wedding off – wanting, again, to confront her love about the odd events in their home. She is saved from having to do that herself, however, as Miss Dent reappears at the chapel – with a solicitor, Renee Montoya, hired by Pamela’s lost uncle. They reveal the existence of an impediment to the union – Harleen Quinzel has a spouse yet living. Mr. John “Joker” Kane (from “Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass”), brother to Miss Dent, a madman who has been locked up in Arkham Hall under the care of Tony, hidden away from all sight and knowledge of anyone in society.
Harley sadly accepts that her deception has been revealed, and takes Pamela, Miss Dent, Ms. Montoya and the chapel priest to meet Joker, thus revealing the truth in full and clearing Pamela’s name of all wrongdoing. His is the laughter that Pamela has heard throughout her entire time at Arkham, he lit Harley’s bed on fire, attacked Miss Dent when she last visited, and broke into Pamela’s room to destroy her veil. He is as mad as they say, cackling unceasingly and attacking Harley as soon as they enter, his room being the small chamber Pamela had visited so near to before. Harley stays behind to help Tony restrain him, while Miss Dent, the priest, and Ms. Montoya usher Pamela back to safety. She insists she can take care of herself, though she does not wish to stay and continue to see the evidence of Harley’s betrayal. Ms. Montoya says she will be happy to relay to Pamela’s uncle that she is clear of all guilt in the matter, and leaves.
That day and into the evening, Pamela shuts herself up in her room, trying to contain her heartbreak and rage. She could accept if Harley loved another, but to have been lied to and tricked into nearly marrying her when she was already tied to someone else is too much. Not to mention the danger Harley put her in, by not telling her about the Joker in the first place.
When she finally emerges, unwilling to see anyone – but thirsty and weak, Harley is waiting for her. She tries to apologize, and explains that she was tricked into her marriage with the Joker when they were both young. He appeared charming, and caring at first, interested in her without any manipulation. In truth, her own parents had arranged for the match – and helped his family hide his madness – in the interest of tying their fortunes together. It wasn’t until after they’d taken their vows that she realized the truth, by way of his increasing abuse to her and erratic, insane, controlling behavior. In a short matter of time both of their parents had passed on, leaving her alone with him.
They had been living in his family’s estate, far away in another country, so upon her parents’ death she chose to bring him back to Arkham, shut him up here, and resume her life among this area’s society – where her marriage was unknown. She had not intended Pamela, her beloved Ivy, any shame or injury by the deception – she only wanted to truly love and be loved by someone who was really her equal, who intended her no harm and did not try to control her.
Pamela understands, and chooses to forgive her right away, but riles again when Harley suggests they run away together – go to another of her family’s estates across the continent, where her marriage to the Joker is not public knowledge, and proceed with their marriage as planned. Her heart breaking even more, Pamela realizes she cannot do this – the lie would catch up with them, and she would have no peace until it did. Sadly, she refuses, and bids Harley farewell as Harley sobbingly protests and begs her to stay.
She steals away at the crack of dawn, taking only the barest of what she needs. Running as far as she can on foot, she catches a carriage nearby and takes it as far as her money will allow – exiting at a crossroads, she find that she’s forgotten her luggage on the coach after it has already gone. Destitute and lost to any human connection, Pamela turns to the bosom of the nearby moors – the fields, the plants there. For three days and three nights she seeks their refuge, reconnecting with her power over plants for the first time since she saved Harley on the road, and in ways she hadn’t explored since her time at Wayne Institution. The very sunlight sustains her, as it does them. She finds she needs no human shelter, no human sustenance. This practice re-empowers her, and softens her sorrow at her lost love.
She is discovered, however, by a travelling scientist who happens to pass a sanctuary she is creating on the moors. His name is Charles Brown (Kite Man, DC Universe’s “Harley Quinn”) – though she tries to run from him, he recognizes Pamela’s abilities as akin to the sciences he’s studying, and invites her home. Her unexpected loneliness crashing down around her, she agrees, if only to distract herself from Harley’s memory. She is taken to Moor House, where she meets Mr. Brown’s adopted sisters, Helena Bertinelli Brown (the Huntress) and Selina Kyle Brown (Catwoman). They take to Pamela immediately, sharing with her about their own unique skills, and with them she begins to find the family she never had as a child.
This turns out to be more true than she expected – a series of letters from Ms. Montoya to Mr. Brown reveal that a distant relation of theirs has died, leaving behind a fortune with no one to inherit it since his intended heir went missing. This relative turns out to be Pamela’s lost uncle, and she is the missing heir. Though having given the Browns a false name to protect herself from Harley’s searching for her, once this news is revealed, she tells Mr. Brown and his sisters the truth. After reflection, she also chooses to split her newly inherited fortune between the four of them – her rekindled connection with nature has given her shelter and sustenance beyond anything human money could provide, so she has no need of such a massive sum, and splits it up to secure independence for herself and her newly discovered kin.
Meanwhile, day by day Mr. Brown has been more and more taken with Pamela, and is sure that she can aid him in his goals to learn more about people with strange powers. Their status as relatives being a distant one, he finds this no impediment to a romance with her, and begins trying to court her – eventually proposing. Though she has come to care for him in her own way, she refuses his advances, still in love with Harley and wanting nothing of any new love if it comes with such pain. Still, Mr. Brown implores her, planning for them both to leave the area and travel the world in search of more people with gifts like hers. The idea of being able to help others with the same powers, especially children who may be as confused and shunned as she was, appeals to her – so eventually she agrees to go with him, on the condition that they go as friends, not in marriage. He grows angry, and insists this cannot be. They argue about it for many days, finally reaching a point where Pamela – exhausted, lonely, and hopeless for Harley – nearly begins to consider it.
However, just as she is about to concede – reaching within to try to really see what she wants – she senses Harley reaching out to her, desperate and pained. Though she has been trying to deny her feelings for months – she answers back, in her heart, that she will return.
She leaves the next day for Arkham Hall, intending to just make sure that Harley is safe. She finds it a scorched ruin.
A visit to the nearby town reveals that Harley’s marriage to the Joker became common knowledge, and in shame, she dismissed most of her staff, sent Cassandra to boarding school and shut herself up in the manor with Queenie and Tony to care for her psychotic spouse and mourn Pamela’s loss. The Joker’s violence and abuse did not ease, finally leading to another night of arson. This time, he was successful, and though Queenie and Tony got out, Harley was caught in the fire trying to save him, still. He jumped to his death off the roof as it burned around him, and Harley was trapped under a fallen beam as she finally tried to escape. She was lucky, to have fallen in a place that was spared the worst damage, but she still lost her sight and the use of one of her arms. Enraged at her own failure, she retired herself to a smaller manor nearby – Ferndean – and shut herself even further away, with only Queenie as her helper – though Tony still visits without her permission. Local opinion blames Pamela’s departure for her fall from grace, for although she had doomed herself by her marriage to the Joker far before Pamela Du-Barry Isley’s arrival at Arkham, she herself had never been considered mad until she fell under ‘that plant witch’s’ spell.
Resisting the urge to call more vines to strangle those that gave her this information, Pamela rushes to Ferndean Manor at once, desperate to see Harley for herself. She finds her there as described – nearly broken, mostly alone, with only Queenie and Bruce for company. Queenie receives Pamela with grateful relief, telling her that Harley searched for her after she ran away, with a manic fury unlike any she’d ever shown before. She only really gave up after the Joker’s last attack, and now held little hope for her future. Pamela goes to Harley in quiet, trying to judge for herself what to do – and Harley, though blind, realizes at once who it is that has returned to her. That familiar light of chaos and energy returns to her at once, as she clings to her lost love desperately, having been sure that she had somehow died out in the world, wherever she went. Pamela reassures her, but gives her no promises, even as she helps Queenie care for their fallen mistress that day and into the next.
Finally alone with her, then, Harley gives Pamela her own account of what happened to the Joker and Arkham Hall, and Pamela tells Harley all that she has learned of herself and the connections – and family – she made at Moor House. Immediately suspicious of Pamela’s account of Mr. Brown, Harley needles her Ivy about him, assuming they must have fallen in love and gotten engaged. Pamela almost lets her believe that, then reveals the truth – that he did propose, but she refused him.
They find they both still love each other as much as they did before all fell apart, and Harley wastes no time in proposing again. This time, with full knowledge and thus full equality, Pamela accepts. They marry quickly, in a smaller, quieter ceremony than originally planned, and set about making Ferndean their home as Harley continues to recover. She never regains use of her one injured arm, but begins to regain her sight under Pamela’s mastery of plants. They bring in more staff, bring Cassandra home from school, and begin to have visitors as soon as Harley feels able – including Miss Bertinelli Brown and Miss Kyle Brown, though Mr. Brown declines the invitation.
Together, they find peace and acceptance, and live happily to the end of their days.
“You are no ruin…no lightning struck tree: you are green and vigorous. Plants will grow about you, your roots, whether you ask them or not, because they take delight in your bountiful shadow; and as they grow they will lean towards you, and wind round you, because your strength offers them so safe a prop.”
~ Jane to Rochester before his second proposal, “Jane Eyre”
So this grabbed hold of my imagination and stomped all over my creativity until manifested, golly. As you know, I love Harley and Ivy, and I love Jane Eyre, and I am delighted at how well this all fits.
This was extremely fun to draw and write. And though probably unexpected, I hope you enjoyed it too!