Fairy Tale Robbery
James groaned. "The Cinderella?"
"It's our best bet," said Sirius, shrugging. "Unless you've got something else to propose."
"I hate The Cinderella," he said, and kicked the leg of the table. "Why? Why, why, why?"
"Stop whining, Prongs, you sound like a child," Remus grunted. He didn't look up from whatever program he was running on the desktop, and the glare James shot him went unobserved.
"I'm always the Cinderella, though," said James. "Why can't Padfoot do it?"
"You're always going on about how much better looking you are than I am," he pointed out, "and Lord knows the Cinderella needs a nice face."
"Yeah, but his personality is shit," said Remus.
Sirius nodded. "That's true, I am shit."
"Absolutely unconvincing for 'love at first sight' cons."
"The only 'Prince' that would have him would need to be even more conceited than he is."
"Very full of myself, I am."
"Shut up," James snapped, disgusted with their repartee. Honestly, those two just wanted to see him suffer. He knew it. Wasn't he the ringleader of this group, at least once upon a time?
Damn it, this was why he shouldn't let Sirius make any of the decisions. Not ever.
"We could always do The Frog Prince," Peter suggested in the corner, taking his attention from the myriad of spy gadgets he was fiddling with on his work bench. "Prongs can pull that one off just as well."
"Thank you, Wormtail," James said. "We could do The Frog Prince. I make a fantastic prince."
"Two problems with that," said Remus. "First off, all day affair instead of in and out, and the exit plan doesn't account for outside interference. Second, it doesn't gather all the essentials into one area. It's a singular con, not useful for crowd distraction."
"It could be made into a crowd distraction," he argued.
"What, by drawing everyone's attention? Like The Cinderella does?"
"That would make it The Cinderella, then."
James ran his fingers through his hair. "Bloody buggering hell."
"Sorry, Prongs, it's all we've got for this," Sirius said.
He sighed. "Fucking—fine. Who's the 'Prince' mark?"
Sirius opened the file they'd received from the Order not two hours ago. "Meet Miss Lily Evans."
James stared at the photo. "No," he said, his stomach dropping. "We're robbing the royals?"
The Cinderella con was relatively easy, as far as cons went. The main idea of The Cinderella was distraction. Show up in a flashy car, in a flashy outfit, with a face and personality to go with. Draw the attention of the "Prince" of the room and catch everyone's eye…leaving the thieves to do their work in peace. Then at the end of the heist, the "Cinderella" would check their watch and suddenly, they had to go, it was after midnight or whatever time their curfew happened to be.
Of course, it was important that the so called "Prince" mark was not the actual person being robbed. A memorable face paired with a robbery shortly after led to unwanted flags in law enforcement circles. No, the "Prince" was usually the darling of the room, someone to whom the "King" and/or "Queen" (the actual person or persons losing precious items) would be paying close attention.
Usually, the royalty terms were code names, but this time the "King" and "Queen" in question were actual the actual King and Queen…and the "Prince" was practically a real princess.
James couldn't count the number of misgivings he had about this heist.
His merry foursome of thieves (the Marauders to their clients) had worked with the Order of the Phoenix for nearly two years now. Established upon the Loxley ideal of "rob from the rich, give to the poor" by the well-meaning if crooked founder Albus Dumbledore, the Order targeted only upper class citizens who denied their wealth to the homeless and in-need and…redistributed accordingly.
That in itself was fine by James. In addition to protection from the law for their services, his crew got a decent enough cut—enough to live comfortably—and they could carry on with the thrill of a good heist with none of the guilt.
(Not that James had ever felt much guilt about stealing. After all, he'd never taken from someone who would seriously miss what was stolen. A few tens of thousands from a millionaire didn't rack his conscious. That might have made him a bad person, but that was alright.)
But the royals?
The security would be tighter than anything he'd ever known, for one, and for another, who in their right mind would steal from a sovereign? That screamed insanity no matter how you looked at it. Whoever was bold enough to steal—and get away with it—would be the center of a manhunt so wide in scope that fleeing to the Bermuda Triangle wouldn't be enough.
In theory it sounded fantastic, but James was supposed to be a responsible sort of thief these days. What on earth was Dumbledore thinking when he marked the royals as targets?
Well, he knew James couldn't say no. The man had a rather…particular hold on James that was impossible to wiggle out from, try as he might from time to time.
He flipped open the folder Remus had procured for him.
"Miss Lily Rosetta Evans," he read, and couldn't help but to snort in amusement. Honestly, with a name like that and those good girl looks, and all the adorable little philanthropy projects she reportedly took up… James could easily picture what sort of girl Lily Evans was. She'd be easy to charm, no doubt about that.
"I can't believe you," Petunia hissed. "Vandalism? Vandalism?" she repeated herself, as if Lily had somehow not heard her.
"It wasn't vandalism," said Lily. "Creative demonstrating, really. It's artistic!"
"I don't think calling our Prime Minister fascist trash is artistic."
Her sister said it in such a way that the each syllable proudly stood out on its own. Art Tis Tic. Petunia had a strange talent for making syllables much more robust than they ought to be when she was angry.
"He is a fascist, Tuney," Lily said. "Not to mention draconian, racist, homophobic, virulently misogynistic—"
"Yes, I caught all that from your artwork."
Lily sighed and crossed her arms. "Listen, the Registration Bill passes in two weeks unless Parliament vetoes it. Without public support, they'll all just follow Riddle along like lambs to the slaughter. Someone has to get the word out."
Her sister went an awful shade of puce, a color Lily was almost certain had originated in her husband.
"That is not the way we do things."
"That's not the way you do things," Lily countered. "You might have married into the royal family, but I'm a free agent. I'm just the sister-in-law."
Petuna spun on her heel and began pacing. "What you do affects not only yourself, but also me, and what affects me also effects Vernon. Do you think he's interested in giving a statement about the Registration Bill? Do you think it even matters? We're a figurehead monarchy!"
"That doesn't mean you can't use your position to do some real good!" Lily said hotly. "People pay attention to your family! What you do is followed by everyone in the country, whether or not they care about politics."
"Exactly," she snapped. She looked Lily dead in the eye. "They care about fashion, or whether or not I'm pregnant. They care about our chinaware collection. What the citizens of this country do not care about is whether or not we have an opinion about the current state of affairs."
"You could make them care."
"I don't want to."
Lily let out an "ergghhh!" that ripped out between her teeth and tore at her throat. "What is the point of you?" she demanded of her sister.
"I'll leak a photo placing you at another location during the act of vandalism," Petunia mused. "Henrietta should be able to make at least one tabloid pick that up. Perhaps you planning a garden party—I don't believe anyone but the staff saw you in that chartreuse sundress last Wednesday, and they all know to keep quiet when it comes to you."
"I don't want you to—"
"And you'd better not go spouting off your political views at the ball tomorrow night," she said over Lily. "If I hear even one word of your ideology during our fundraiser for that housing eviction I'll cut you off completely. No more fundings for your nonprofits."
Lily bit her tongue.
Getting cut off from her own bank account was one thing, but she funded several after-school programs for children that relied on her.
Damn Petunia for knowing exactly where leverage her. Damn her for being cold enough to follow through with it, too.
"Fine," she said, her teeth gritted tightly. "No politics. I can do that."
There were other things she could do to get back at Petunia, after all.
James checked his tux again, smoothing out any wrinkles the mic under his shirt had possibly revealed. He had to look smart, sharp, and straight out of a men's fashion advertisement. James might spend most of his time in jeans and a t-shirt, but he knew how to dress for success despite himself.
"You read me?" he said.
Remus' voice crackled in his ear. "Read you loud and clear, Prongs."
"Fantastic. Excellent work, Wormtail."
"I'd like to adjust your comm," Peter said worriedly from the corner of the room. He scurried over to James and reached toward his face. "I can see it from a 47° angle—if security sees it, they'll know something's going on."
He sighed. "Have at it, then."
Peter fiddled about for a long moment, his clammy fingers poking and prodding places in James' ear that James would rather not have fingers anywhere near.
"All better?" he asked.
"Hmm." Peter considered him, walking around him and moving from his tiptoes into a crouch. "It's hidden well enough now, but you should really look into the TS180 model that came out recently. Virtually undetectable. My contacts say they're the best update to comm software yet."
"I'll consider it," James said. It wasn't entirely a lie. "If we get a good enough cut from the Order I'll put the budget towards it."
Peter looked excited, which was enough for James. He left the gadgets to Peter, who'd spent his entire life fiddling with electronics, and trusted that as long as he kept Peter happy, he'd do what James asked.
Loyalty was easy to buy with Peter.
The pair of them left the lobby bathroom and headed out to the stretch town car parked in front of their hotel. Sirius was waiting, hat in hand, the perfect image of a driver with his shoulder-length hair pulled into a respectable knot at the nape of his neck and not a hint of his usual mischievous smile.
"Sir," he said to James, and nodded to Peter.
"How are we today?" James asked casually. Are we fully prepared?
"Lovely evening, sir, if I do say so myself," Sirius told him as he opened the door for James and Peter to climb in. Everything's set.
Remus waited inside the town car, looking every inch the secretary they'd decided he would portray. He'd even donned a pair of glasses which made him look sharper. He looked up when James and Peter slid in across from him.
"Oh, no," he said over the slam of the door. "No, that won't do. Prongs, you've got to sit next to me."
"I can't," James said. "I can't be sitting next to my secretary. That's not how it's done."
"Just for a moment, at least," Remus huffed irritably. "We've got to tuck Wormtail under the seat before Padfoot starts driving."
Both James and Peter leapt up, James being extra careful of his tuxedo.
The bench they'd been sitting on opened up by pulling up the seat cushions, which were so comfortable one would never suspect they were attached to a lid. Peter climbed inside and lay down as if he were being put to rest in a coffin. James shut the lid and sat back down, patting the cushion.
"Alright in there?"
James and Remus nodded at each other just as Sirius pulled into the London traffic.
Lily tugged at her skirt.
It ballooned out in layers upon layers of tulle and fabrics, a fluffy monstrosity that made her look like a cartoon princess, and not the pretty Disney kind. She couldn't even drop her hands down at her sides because it stuck out so much.
Petunia had insisted upon the dress.
Lily had been fitted for three, and this was the one she liked the least so naturally her sister had landed upon it during her final say.
So, despite her protests, Lily had been poked and prodded and trussed up within an inch of her life.
She glared at her reflection that was so obviously not her, and then glanced at the clock. There was still a good half hour before Lily had to be down in the ballroom.
An awfully mischievous idea struck her.
Lily pulled open the door into the hallway. "Susan," she said pleasantly to the maid waiting outside her dressing room, "I wonder if you could do me a favor."
The driveway was clogged with limousines and town cars when Sirius pulled in front of the palace. They had to wait twenty minutes before Sirius could park in front of the entryway, and by that point James was almost fidgeting with irritation.
It took a lot to make James fidget.
"Calm down," Remus said sternly. "You're acting like an amateur."
"I hate this," James muttered, just as the car door opened.
Sirius peered inside the car. "Sir? We've arrived."
James plastered on a charming smile and stepped out of the town car, saying loudly, "Expect me by one o'clock at the latest."
"Very good, sir," said Sirius, while Remus nodded.
James gave them both a slightly smug grin and turned to strut up to the doorway.
Thank fucking god there weren't any paparazzi taking photos. Once James had needed to call off an entire heist because of the flashing cameras surrounding the building, and he'd paid out of pocket to recompense Dumbledore. That was a nightmare.
He reached for his right cufflink, looking as though he were merely fine tuning his appearance, when really he was shutting off the comm link.
This was the reason he hated the Cinderella.
"Lord James Potter, Earl of Godric's Hollow," he said to the security team barring him from the palace doors. "I'm on the list."
"You really shouldn't, miss," Susan said for the tenth time. All the same, she was taking out the last ugly pearl pin from Lily's hair with unwavering hands.
"Come off it, Susan, you know I looked awful."
"The Queen won't be pleased."
Lily scoffed. "Is she ever? Now, I want it in a bob, if you would be so kind."
"And those diamond earrings of Petunia's."
Susan gasped. "Oh, no. Miss Lily, please think about this."
"I have thought about it," said Lily. "Petunia said no politics, and I agreed. No politics. None whatsoever."
"This is a bad idea."
"On the contrary," Lily replied. "This is a good idea. It's just bad behavior."
The blokes didn't know about James' lineage.
They always assumed he used an alias to get into parties, and James didn't exactly dissuade them from those thoughts. He never outright lied, but he couldn't deny it was dishonest.
But how in good conscious could James run a group of misfits who robbed from the rich and stole from the poor if he happened to be one of the rich? Or, if not exactly rich, at least one of the well-off and titled nobility, a true blue blood. It was alright for Sirius, he was cut off from his family funds. James had…resources.
Those resources had led Dumbledore to track him down and blackmail the Marauders into the Order.
It wasn't as if James hoarded his wealth. He paid his taxes—generously—and contributed to the wellbeing of Godric's Hollow. Zero percent homeless, with the projects given extra funding. He loved his village and kept it thriving. He wasn't a greedy sort.
James scanned the room for that signature red hair, just as he'd been doing (as surreptitiously as possible) for the last fifteen minutes.
Either Lily Evans was extraordinarily late, or she wasn't coming.
If she wasn't coming, the entire con was in jeopardy.
"Do you see her yet?" Remus asked through the calm.
James lifted his champagne flute to his lips. "No," he murmured. Despite his talents in ventriloquism, one could never be too careful when talking to the apparent air.
"Prongs, if she doesn't show—"
"I know, already," he muttered. "Just give it a few…"
There was a ripple of murmuring throughout the room and James cast his eyes around to see the source of the (relative) excitement.
"I think I see her," James said, pushing past his surprise.
"What do you mean, you think?"
"She's…a bit different than I'd expected."
Lily wondered if there would be headlines tomorrow. Queen's Sister Sheds Her Good Girl Image or something inane like that. Not that she could see any cameras or obvious journalists in the mass of elites, but she wouldn't put it past these people to gossip.
She stepped out onto the ballroom floor, vindictively enjoying the eyes upon her. She knew her midnight blue dress had their full attention.
The neck was high and came up into a collar around her neck, a long window for her cleavage stretching down almost to her sternum and revealing that she was not, in fact, wearing a bra, though if anyone had thought so after looking at the back (or lack thereof) of her dress they were likely very stupid.
The skirt hugged her hips just tight enough to show she wasn't wearing any knickers, either, flaring out at her knees in an asymmetrical cut and ending just high enough to show off her fantastic stiletto heels.
If she were anyone else, she'd want to shag her.
Lily wasn't the sort of person to show herself off like this, usually, but so far she was soaking in the distant horror she felt coming off Petunia in waves. Vernon was probably ignoring her with a fervor rather than display his embarrassment at her behavior.
But if Petunia had any complaints, well, Lily could guarantee that anybody looking at her right now was absolutely not thinking about politics.
I tried uploading this a couple of weeks ago but something went wonky. In any case, due to certain ~reasons~ I've decided not to make this a tumblr-only fic. Cover art generously provided by thearcherballet. Hope you enjoy!