A/N: A kind of 'what if' oneshot: Basically, what if Anna was the older sister, and Elsa was younger? Started writing this thing last year actually, but only recently decided to finish it.
Disclaimer: Owned by Disney. Not me.
- Variant -
The chapel was filled with the soft light of late afternoon, making the interior look brighter and cheerier than she ever thought possible. Funny, how the mind had a way of warping things in memory; she could only recall gloomy Sunday mornings spent seated on the hard wooden pews, trying very hard to listen but getting a bit lost, what with all the Latin.
Thankfully, the coronation ceremony was much easier to follow; she listened with a keen awareness, spine tingling with nervousness and anticipation.
"Worthy Queen of greatness," the choir sang. Her hands shook. "The heart of gold shines,
We crown thee with hope, love, and faith
Beautiful, stony land, home Arendelle
Follow the Queen of light."
The resonating echo of their voices lingered for several long minutes, and it seemed like an eternity before the Bishop turned and collected the orb and scepter.
She released a shaky breath.
Calm down, calm down, she told herself. The Bishop turned back.
That was her cue.
She exhaled slowly, and reached forward, hesitating only slightly as her hands hovered over the golden relics.
Woo, okay, calm down, you've got this.With a sudden burst of confidence, she scooped them up (carefully, very, very carefully) and turned to face the assembled dignitaries, ambassadors, subjects.
"As she holds the holy properties, and is crowned in this holy place," the Bishop spoke out. She swallowed her remaining fear and forced herself to smile. "I present to you, Queen Anna of Arendelle."
She was twenty-one years old, and she did not want to be queen.
She much preferred being 'Princess Anna,' free to wander the gardens and shirk responsibilities and sneak dessert from the kitchen without repercussion. (Well, okay; there was always usually some repercussion, because Gerda always usually caught her.)
But fate was cruel. (When she was younger, she'd heard one of the servants use that expression; she'd had to consult a book in the library to decipher what they'd meant.) She was firstborn; she would be crowned when the time came. But honestly, she hadn't been all that upset about it, growing up. It had been an annoyance, sure. Something that was mildly bothersome, but not imminent enough to warrant any actual worry.
But then their parents died.
And suddenly Anna was no longer 'Princess Anna,' she was 'Going-to-be-Queen-When-She-Came-of-Age' Anna.
She hated it.
Elsa was the one who should have been born first; she was far better at comporting herself than Anna, in spite of the fact that she was three years younger. Elsa, her mysterious younger sibling, who had once been her best friend and then, seemingly without reason or explanation, just…stopped being her best friend. Being her sister, even. All she'd get was a polite nod over dinner, or a few muttered words at a chance meeting in the halls.
Anna didn't understand it—still didn't understand it, but…if this queen thing had one silver lining…it was the fact that things were going to change, very, very soon.
(She still didn't really want to be queen, though.)
Her smile wasn't as forced throughout the rest of the afternoon and early evening, the prospect of a party brightening her spirits considerably. Arendelle had not hosted an event of this size since...
Anna tried to think, scrunching her face momentarily in concentration. An attendant told her not to furrow her brow so, it would encourage wrinkles.
Anna kept right on furrowing. She was queen, after all, she could furrow if she wanted to.
Thirteen years, Anna decided. That sounded about right; the visits from ambassadors had died off after she turned eight.
"They're about to announce you, Majesty," the same attendant interrupted her musings. It took Anna a minute to realize she was addressing her. She was still used to 'highness' or an informal 'miss.'
"Uh, right, okay." She replied, fisting her hands and then, somewhat compulsively, smoothing her skirt. "Is…I mean, is Elsa out there?" She asked. She hoped her voice didn't sound too desperate.
"…No, your Majesty," the attendant answered after poking her head out and surveying the ballroom. "But, her highness is usually announced after your Majesty…so…not to worry?" the attendant finished awkwardly, her attempt to cheer the young queen falling a bit flat. Anna appreciated the effort, and said as much. It wasn't the attendant's fault that her sister was…was…
She wasn't sure what Elsa was, really. A ghost. It seemed like the most accurate description. When the foreign dignitaries had first begun to arrive, some had expressed mild surprise at the discovery that there were two princesses of Arendelle.
"A younger sister?" The French ambassador had been especially shocked. "I carried on correspondence with the late king for years…he never mentioned a second daughter."
Huh. Funny, that.
Mama had tried to explain it to her, once. Anna was a perceptive child, endlessly curious and quite determined, so Elsa's retreat had not only been noted, it had been tirelessly investigated.
"Your sister…she's just not…she's not feeling well, dear. That's all."
"…Yes. In a way."
"I don't understand…"
"You will someday," was all Mama had said, planting a quick kiss atop her head and running a hand through her perpetually messy red hair. "Goodness, Anna, what are we going to do with you?"
When she was little, it had been said with amusement.
When she was older, it was said with clear dismay.
"Anna, what am I going to do with you?" Her father would grumble when she would yet again miss her lesson with Master Olmstaad. "You can't keep neglecting your responsibilities—"
"Papa, I already apologized," Anna interrupted, a frown on her face as she huffed somewhat angrily. A tuft of hair fluttered out of her face, only to fall back a second later. "It won't happen again—"
"You said that last time, and the time before," Agdar pinched the bridge of his prominent nose. "This can't continue. You're going to be queen—"
"Someday," Anna hurried to add, not liking the implication that it would happen soon. Something in her father's tone suggested as much.
He gave her a grim look.
"But you don't know when that someday will be." He told her.
Again, there was something unpleasant in his tone and, she couldn't help it, she started to get a bit upset. Cried a little.
Agdar's expression immediately softened as he realized he'd scared his oldest daughter, and hurried forward to wrap her in a tight hug. "I'm sorry, Anna, of course I don't mean…Hopefully, 'someday' will be very far off." He said softly, stroking her hair. She nodded into his coat, sputtering briefly when she accidentally brushed up against a medal. It poked her in the nose.
"Sorry," she sniffed noisily. (Not very ladylike, but oh well.) "I mean, not for the medal—well, also for the medal, I guess, but for missing my lesson—"
"It's fine." It really wasn't, but Anna was happy that Papa seemed willing to forgive this incident. "But…no horseback riding for a week."
"Uggggh." Anna couldn't help the groan that followed. She slumped dramatically in her chair as her father returned to his desk. "A whole week?"
"Two, if you continue to whine so." That changed her tune. She closed her mouth and pulled herself into an upright position, eliciting a chuckle from Agdar. "Now that's more like it. Better for your posture, as well." He said. She nodded absently, and wondered if she was dismissed. When she stood, her father didn't seem to protest.
She was about to leave, when she had a thought.
"Papa…" she began carefully, not entirely sure how she ought to go about this. "I uh…I mean…what are our…" she trailed off, train of thought stalling. After a moment, she started again. "The laws on inheritance."
"Yes?" He didn't look up from his work. "What about them?"
"Are…I mean…how exactly…?"
"You know how it works, Anna, you've covered it in your lessons." He paused, and raised an eyebrow. "Unless you've skipped other lessons I'm not aware of?"
"Who, me? Nope, no, not at all. But anyways, back to my question, I'm not…I know how they work, but like…could they be changed?"
"…I suppose they could," Agdar's tone was thoughtful. He'd put down his pen, and was now regarding her with open curiosity. "But there isn't really a need. Are you worried about something? Are you—"
"Could…I mean, hypothetically, couldn't…maybe…the heir apparent like…maybe…possibly…give that…'heir apparent-ness' to the…heir…pre…sumptive?" Her volume decreased steadily, in direct proportion to the look of outright shock on her father's face. By the time she finished, he was all but gaping. "NevermindforgetIsaidanythingI'msorryI'msorryI'm—"
"Anna," her father said, quiet and yet…somehow very loud. Was that possible? Or was that just how it sounded in her mind? "Anna, listen. Your sister…she cannot be queen. Do you understand?"
"…What? I don't—"
"Do you understand?"
And she still didn't.
"Your Majesty? Your…Miss."
"Wha—oh! Oh. Right, going!"
She had only missed Kai's announcing her by like, five seconds. Tops. But she still felt the need to jog to the dais, which maybe wasn't the smartest idea, given her floor length gown. Fortunately, Kai was standing by, ready to catch her, and move her back to the preapproved spot just in front of the thrones, which she overshot a little, in her haste to get out there.
She smiled at the older man in an effort to convey her thanks. He said nothing in return—propriety, and all that—but she caught the faintest trace of a smirk as he stepped back and cleared his throat, preparing for another announcement.
And that was when she turned and actually looked at the crowd. And…
It was…a lot of people. More than had attended the actual coronation ceremony in the small stave church up the hill. Her prior nervousness returned. She suddenly didn't know how to hold herself, where to put her hands, what sort of expression she should be wearing. It was at that point she desperately wished she'd paid better attention during her sessions with Master Olmstaad—she had a feeling he probably covered this.
Don't screw this up, Anna. Don't screw this up—
A small bit of movement caught her attention. Her gaze darted to the right just in time to catch a young woman—maybe her age, maybe a bit older—waving shyly. She looked just as nervous as Anna felt.
And Anna hesitated, unsure whether or not it was okay for her to wave back, but it would be rude not to, right? She offered a tentative wave in return, and the woman beamed. Like Anna had made her entire night, or something.
The knot in her stomach loosened some, and where once she saw a sea of unfamiliar strangers, she now saw individuals. Some yawning, some milling, some watching her and Kai with earnest.
They're just people, she decided, taking a deep breath. And you like people. So…this isn't so scary. Or…not as scary as you think it is.
She stood up a little straighter, and listened as Kai's voice rose above the familiar notes of the official fanfare.
"Princess Elsa of Arendelle!"
He gestured wide and Anna watched as hundreds of pairs of eyes followed his movement, waiting for the other royal sister to make an appearance.
Anna found herself staring as well. She knew it was foolish to hope—Elsa hadn't even shown up to their parents' funeral—but maybe, since they only really had each other now…
She held her breath, counting the long seconds of silence that stretched on after the final trumpet blast. One. Two. Three…
Five seconds late. Just like Anna. Except her younger sister did not jog over to the thrones, nor did she overshoot her mark and need Kai's assistance in standing where she was supposed to. Instead, she walked, head held high, with more grace and poise than Anna could ever hope to muster, hands clasped before her, expression distant but not quite cold—regal, Anna realized. Like how you should probably look right now.
Her younger sister came to a stop at her right, turning to face the crowd just as Anna had done minutes prior. Had she not been watching, Anna was certain she would've missed the almost imperceptible intake of breath and flicker of fear that crossed Elsa's features. But standing right beside her, it wasn't hard to catch. The expression was quickly smoothed beneath a mask of polite interest, though, as she nodded towards the guests.
There was a final round of applause before the music started up again, inviting those in attendance to return to the center of the ballroom to dance. Not that Anna was paying attention. She was too busy trying to decide when was the last time she'd actually seen her sister. Up close.
She's…taller. Anna thought. It was hard, comparing height, when standing on opposite sides of the hall. Also hard to notice the little details, like the way Elsa's features were starting to resemble Mama's, the older she got. Anna…well. Anna always felt like she didn't take after either of her parents—maybe Papa, in terms of coloring. But it was Elsa who was the obvious blend of the two—aside from the rather striking pale blonde hair.
She was scrutinizing the light smattering of freckles on the bridge of her sister's nose when her sister actually noticed the close examination, and leaned back slightly, one dark brow raised in question.
"…Hi?" it was an unsure greeting, spoken softly, with just a hint of confused amusement.
Anna blinked, and realized she'd been staring.
"Hi…? Oh. Oh! Hi me. Right, yeah, hi—um. Hi." She replied, only slightly flustered.
"What…what were you looking at?" Elsa asked.
"I—nothing!" Anna said quickly, noting the concern in Elsa's tone. "Nothing. Just, um. You look taller. Not that you looked short before, I mean, taller like, since the last time I saw you—not that I haven't seen you! I mean, we see each other every night at dinner but it's like, across fifty feet of table so—"
And Elsa laughed.
Laughed. Her sister. Her hasn't-said-five-words-to-her-in-just-as-many-weeks, always-quiet, skulking-around-the-castle, avoiding-her-company sister was laughing. And smiling. And clearly enjoying herself.
"Thank you," she grinned, and part of Anna wanted to be mad. Part of Anna wanted to be upset at the fact that Elsa was so often absent from her life, seemingly by choice, and here she was, as if the past thirteen years hadn't happened.
But she couldn't bring herself to be upset.
Because she was here with her sister, and the gates were open, and things were going to be different.
"Are you crying?" Elsa suddenly asked, alarmed. Anna blinked away the traitorous tears. Don't ruin the moment!
"What? No! I'm just…um. It's warm in here, is all."
"Hey, do you smell that?" It was as much a distraction as it was a genuine question. Elsa tilted her head to one side, puzzled, before indulging her elder sister and sniffing (quietly and delicately, unlike Anna herself, who couldn't manage the action without being loud and obvious. She was pretty sure she drew a few horrified stares but whatever.)
Both thought for a moment, and then simultaneously:
They stared at each other for a beat before dissolving into giggles, only to hurriedly sober up as Kai approached, a short, grey-haired gentleman in tow.
"The Duke of Weasel Town," Kai introduced him.
"Weselton." The man immediately corrected through gritted teeth. "The Duke of Weselton, your Majesty."
Anna had to hide her snicker behind a fake cough. Elsa shot her a sly grin—she wasn't fooled, but fortunately the Duke was.
"As your closest partner in trade, it seems only fitting that I offer you your first dance as queen," he said, finishing off the statement with…it might've been a dance move, or it might've been some sort of fit. Regardless, it ended with a deep bow, and the man's hairpiece all but falling off of his head.
It took quite a few fake coughs from both sisters to hide their laughter.
"Ahem. Uh. Thank you, but—"
"My sister would love to dance with you," Elsa interjected. Anna's head whipped around. What—? And there it was, that sly little grin—more of a smirk at this point, as the Duke hauled Anna onto the dance floor. Oh, that little stinker.
The dance was a harrowing affair, the Duke stepping on her foot a total of five times between attempts to not-so-subtly determine why the gates were closed all those years ago.
Anna answered his inquiries honestly; she didn't know why they'd been closed.
He seemed suspicious—Anna didn't blame him. What kind of queen was she, that she didn't know the reason for her kingdom's seemingly self-imposed isolation? But the music ended before he could try and wheedle any further details.
She limped back over to the dais, not surprised to find her younger sister chuckling at her expense.
"Well, he was certainly…spritely," she chose her word carefully. Anna nodded, resisting the urge to reach down and rub her sore foot.
"Yeah, especially for a man in heels."
"Sorry," Elsa's apology was tinged with amusement.
"It's okay. It's not like I was using that foot, or anything,"
"Are you alright?"
"Yes! Yeah," Anna rushed to assure her. "I'm—I've never been better, actually. This is…this is so nice," she sighed contentedly. "Right? This is really—it's just—nice."
"It is," Elsa agreed, smile almost…wistful.
"Wish it could be like this all the time," Anna said.
And it spoke to how new a development this 'queen' thing was, that it took Anna a full minute to realize her sentiment was no longer just 'wishful thinking.'
"Wait…what am I saying—I…it is going to be like this all the time," she laughed at her own error. She expected Elsa to laugh with her.
Instead, her sister was regarding her with…not quite horror, exactly, but something close to it.
"…What do you mean, 'what?'" Anna asked, confused by Elsa's reaction. Had she said something wrong? "The gates are going to stay open, Elsa. I'm not about to close them again. So…so this," she gestured between the two of them, and then to the crowd, "this is…how it's going to be."
"No, no Anna, you can't do that—"
"Of course I—"
"You can't," Elsa repeated desperately, taking a step back. And Anna didn't understand. She hadn't understood thirteen years ago, why Elsa withdrew from her, from her parents. She hadn't understood her sister's 'illness,' hadn't understood her parents' insistence of keeping the gates closed, of refusing to tell her anything, keeping her in the dark.
And she was angry. At herself. At her parents. At Elsa.
"Why, Elsa?" She asked, not caring that her anger and confusion was on full display for any and all to see. "Just explain it to me and—" but her sister was already retreating. Pulling away from Anna, heading towards the crowd, no doubt intent on slipping away and running off to hide in her room. Withdrawing yet again. "No, no. Wait—" Anna surged forward, reaching out for Elsa's hand and only managing to grab her glove. It slid off her slender hand, the fabric surprisingly cool, in spite of the warmth of the ballroom.
"Give me back my glove!" Elsa demanded, whirling. When Anna didn't give it to her right away, she wrapped her arms around her torso, hunching in on herself, eyes darting towards the guests. People were starting to stare.
"Not until you just tell me what's going on!" Anna snapped, grip tightening around the glove.
"You wouldn't understand—"
"Wouldn't understand what? Why you shut me out? Why you shut the world out?" she followed after her, absently noting the way the crowd parted and the sudden hush that had fallen over the room.
"Stop, Anna," it was a command that sounded more like a plea.
"What are you so afraid of, Elsa?" Anna ignored her sister's obvious discomfort. "What is wrong with you?"
"I said STOP." Elsa cried, turning, arm stretched out as if to physically ward Anna off. And it worked…in a sense.
Because with the gesture came a sudden gust of wind and an arc of jagged icicles that seemed to spring up from the polished floorboards. But of course, they had not originated from the floorboards.
They'd come from Elsa.
Who was breathing raggedly and leaning heavily against the door, eyes wide with outright terror. Anna's gaze lingered on the spikes of ice, brain sluggishly trying to comprehend what had just happened.
But her sister was already gone, running from the ballroom, down the hall, headed…well. 'Anywhere but here,' if Anna had to wager a guess. And, ignoring the concerned shouts of the guards and guests, she gripped her skirts and struggled past the icy barrier, taking off after her.
"Wait!" She shouted, somewhat surprised at how fast Elsa was, for someone who spent so much time indoors. But then, she no doubt had adrenaline on her side. Anna might have been able to run a bit faster, if not for the fact that she was still struggling to make sense of everything.
Ice powers. Okay. Ice powers. Yeah that…that explains a few things.
She followed the trail of startled servants, dismayed to discover that her sister was headed towards the courtyard, as opposed to their rooms, or the library. She forced herself to run faster—she lost a shoe, and her hair had come loose from its meticulous bun, strands whipping wildly about her face. None of it mattered, of course. Her only concern was catching up with Elsa.
And she did, just as she reached the steps outside.
A large crowd had gathered in the castle courtyard—those who had not been invited to attend the ball, but who still wished to join in the celebration. She suspected they had, at some point, been absolutely thrilled to be within the newly opened castle gates.
Now they were openly gaping at Elsa, who was backed against one of the courtyard fountains, the spray of water suspended overhead in an elegant, frozen arc.
"Elsa!" Anna cried, rushing forward.
"Please, just…just stay away!" Elsa begged, trying and failing to put as much distance between herself and…everyone else, it seemed. She raised her hands, expression raw and pleading.
Anna ignored her.
A bolt of…of what? Blue…magic? was Elsa's desire to keep them back made manifest, leaping forward and turning the cobblestones beneath Anna's feet slick with ice. People screamed, and Anna lost her footing, tumbling forward—
Until a pair of strong hands caught her.
"Your Majesty," a reverent voice reached her ear as whoever it was who had caught her hauled her upright. But she didn't have time for formalities, or slipping on ice, or…or anything, because Elsa…
She blinked, startled to find that her sister was no longer standing beside the fountain. In fact, her sister was nowhere to be seen.
"Your Majesty, are you alright?"
"I'm…I'm fine," she lied. Or half lied. She wasn't alright, but then, at least she finally had some answers. She turned to face the man who had prevented what could have been a rather nasty fall. "Thank you...um…"
The man dropped into a low bow.
"Hans," he said. "Prince Hans of the Southern Isles."
"Hang on, you mean to tell me left your kingdom in the hands of a man you just met this evening?"
"Yes. Pay attention."
The fluff factor is decidedly lower on this one, so hopefully it ended up being a nice change of pace! Or maybe not? Either way, hope it was an enjoyable read, and review or not, either is cool. Thanks for reading! :)
(Ah, yes. If you're not a fan of lengthy waits between updates, I recommend checking out my tumblr, I've got more writing over there. :D )