A Right Royal Mix-up
I know, I know, I should be working on Tears of Flame, but I have written myself into a plot hole and need to figure out how I'm going to manage to climb out of it. So I started this fic, a royal AU fic – I love them! Lily's Quest, by Naia, is my favourite – you should read it. Anyhoo, Lily is a tourist with her best friend in the country of Beaumarre, when she is asked to fill in for a runaway princess – at her engagement party! Tell me what you think.
Disclaimer – I own none of the characters you recognise. The plot is based on 'The Princess Gets Engaged' by Tracy Sinclair. Oh, and the Arabella Figg thing annoys me – she is too old to be Lily's best friend! Ariadne Figg is her daughter, niece, cousin, sister, whatever floats your boat. Well, here comes the fic!
"Can you believe it? Tomorrow at this time we'll be sunning ourselves on the Riviera!" Lily Evan's green eyes sparkled with anticipation as she closed her suitcase. "This is going to be the best vacation ever. The whole country of Beaumarre will be celebrating the engagement of Princess Gabrielle, and we'll be there to see all the excitement."
"I hope we catch a glimpse of her," Lily's friend and roommate, Ariadne Figg, remarked. "They say the royals floo by themselves around town and shop in local stores like normal citizens."
"I guess that's because Beaumarre is such a small country. The people feel they really know their royal family."
"The rest of the world does, too, thanks to Gabrielle." Ariadne grinned. "What will Witch Weekly do without her? They have her involved with a new celebrity every week. I wonder if she'll be satisfied with just one man."
"Are you kidding? Prince James is gorgeous! I was always partial to that lean, dangerous-looking type."
"I don't know about dangerous, but he's certainly athletic – if he's hopped in and out of as many beds as Witch Weekly says. The prince has had his share of publicity too."
"Those scruffy magazines always exaggerate things. I doubt that he's as promiscuous as their stories make out," Lily said dismissively. "Naturally he dates a lot, and it's easy to see why all the women are wild about him. Who wouldn't be? He's dreamy looking – in addition to being the heir apparent to the throne of Grandalia. Prince James is the most eligible bachelor in Europe."
"He and Princess Gabrielle will make a stunning couple," Ariadne admitted.
"I can't wait to see them together." Lily sighed happily. "Wasn't it nice of Minister Truman to get us tickets to the engagement ball? They must be awfully hard to come by."
Lily and Ariadne were translators for the British Ministry of Magic, in the Department of International Co-operation. It was stimulating work, and since both women were fluent in several languages, they got to meet interesting people from all over the world. When either of them travelled to foreign countries, they were often given extra little courtesies without even asking for them.
"I suppose the Minister and his wife will be at the engagement party, too," Ariadne remarked. "Maybe he'll introduce us to the princess. Do us English have to curtsey?"
"I don't know," Lily answered. "But I'm more interested in meeting the prince."
"What good will it do you? He won't have eyes for anyone but the princess. She's pretty spectacular, too."
"Big deal. Take away that long, silky copper hair, big emerald eyes and gorgeous figure, and what do you have?" Lily joked.
"Us!" Ariadne laughed.
"We might not be princesses, but we get our share of guys," Lily protested.
That was an understatement. Both women had more dates than they could handle. Lily was the more classically beautiful of the two. Her features were delicate, even patrician, but she radiated warmth and friendliness. A mass of sun-streaked, auburn curls framed a heart-shaped face notable for thickly fringed green eyes and flawless skin. Even without her smashing figure, Lily would have been outstanding.
The two girls made good foils for each other. Ariadne was a blue-eyed tawny blond with a sprinkling of freckles across her upturned nose. She was pretty rather than beautiful, with an out-going personality that drew people to her.
"I'm not complaining," Ariadne said. "I'll admit we have quantity, but so far we haven't attracted a prince."
"Well, if we can't have him, I'm glad he picked somebody like the princess. They were made for each other."
Beaumarre was everything Lily and Ariadne had hoped for. From their brooms, they could see verdant trees and shrubbery covering the landscape. The hills above the harbour were also dotted with pastel villas that overlooked white sand beaches and blue water topped with little white caps.
The palace was set among spacious grounds in the middle of Bienville, the capital city. The pink rococo building was impressive when they got a better look at it during their descent. The palace was surrounded by lush green lawns and brilliant flowerbeds. Guarding the front portals were sentries in colourful uniforms. From the air they looked like toy soldiers.
"I could get used to living in a place like that," Ariadne remarked, peering down from her broom, which swerved dangerously. "Just think of having all that closet space!"
"I wonder how many bedrooms there are," Lily said. "If the Montrechets are ever strapped for cash, they could turn the palace into a posh hotel."
"Money isn't one of their problems. Some of these small kingdoms are all show and no dough, but not this one. They're rolling in it, and so are the Potters, the royal family of Grandalia," Ariadne said as they landed in an empty field outside the city. "Gabrielle doesn't have to worry that Prince James is marrying her for her money."
"It's nice that they can afford to marry for love." Slinging her tote bag over her shoulder, Lily picked up her broom and followed after her friend, heading for Bienville.
They had chosen to stay in a small Muggle bed-and-breakfast. Bienville had several large, glitzy hotels, as well as inns and motels exclusively for magical folk, but those were the same the world over. Lily and Ariadne wanted to get more of a feel for the country and its people.
Maison du Soleil was exactly what they were looking for. There were only eight rooms, each furnished with a haphazard assortment of things, as if from an old aunt's attic – one who hated to throw things away. There were real and faux antiques mixed with mismatched lamps and overstuffed chairs covered in splashy prints.
The two young women were charmed by the funky atmosphere, and by the proprietress. Madame Fouchard looked like something from a Toulouse-Lautrec painting. She was probably middle-aged, but her face was elaborately made up and her hair was pulled back in an elaborate arrangement of coifs and curls.
When they checked in she asked them to have coffee with her after they unpacked.
"Isn't she marvellous?" Ariadne asked as they swiftly hung up their clothes in a closet with a curtain instead of a door.
"A real character," Lily agreed. "We certainly lucked out. I'll bet she knows every place of interest in Bienville. Bring a parchment and quill so we can make notes."
Madame Fouchard was waiting impatiently for them in the parlour, but it soon became apparent that she was more interested about talking about the other guests than the places to see in Bienville. They were forced to hear about the older couple who were very affable, and the young honeymooners who weren't.
"Most of my guests like to gather for breakfast in the morning, or a glass of wine at the end of the day, but not the Cavanaughs. I ask you, what is the point of travelling if you keep to yourselves all the time?"
Lily and Ariadne exchanged an amused glance. "I guess that's the purpose of a honeymoon," Lily murmured.
"Nonsense! They can carry on when they get home."
"Yes, well, maybe you can tell us what we should do while we're here," Ariadne suggested, changing the subject.
"All of the best shops are along the Rue de Havre, but the prices!" Madame rolled her eyes. "Be prepared to pay dearly."
"We weren't really interested in shopping," Lily said. "What we had in mind was sight-seeing. Do you have any suggestions?"
"I suppose you could go to the historical museum and the aquarium. They attract a lot of tourists. But do at lest stop in at Celeste's. She has the most gorgeous gowns! The Princess Gabrielle is a steady customer."
"We heard the royal family patronises local shops," Ariadne said. "Have you ever seen the princess?"
"Oh, my, yes. Many times. She wanders around town constantly."
"Doesn't she have a bodyguard or something?"
"Heavens, no! Gabrielle doesn't like to have anybody keeping tabs on her. Her older brother, Prince Louis, is the same way, although I must say, he's more discreet about his carryings-on. Of course, he has to be, since he's the heir to the throne. Those two have given their father more than a few grey hairs."
"I hope we catch a glimpse of them while we're here," Lily remarked.
"You won't see Louis," Madame Fouchard told her. "He's in America at an international trade conference." Lily and Megan exchanged knowing glances. They knew the prince was at a summit of magical leaders. Lily turned back to Madame Fouchard.
"He can't be too much of a playboy if the king trusts him with an important mission like that."
"Louis takes his responsibilities seriously, contrary to what the foreign press would have you believe. He's young yet, so it's natural for him to sow a few wild oats. But he'll settle down when the time comes. Gabrielle, though. Now there's a different matter. Prince James will have a hard time keeping that one in the castle."
"I don't imagine it will be a problem," Ariadne said. "He's gorgeous!"
"Gabrielle has her pick of handsome men – film stars, dukes and earls, movie producers." The older woman enumerated them proudly. "Her last one was Sirius Black. I think he's some kind of sports star." Again, Lily's gaze flickered to Ariadne. Sirius Black was in fact a very famous Quidditch player.
"Wasn't that the affair that ended with a big argument in a night-club?" Ariadne was a big reader of celebrity magazines.
Madame shrugged. It ended several times. They fought, they made up. They're two of a kind, both with a temper."
"That's a recipe for disaster," Lily commented. "Two people who are both used to adulation. Can you imagine what would have happened if they'd gotten married?"
"It wouldn't have worked, but I can see why they're attracted to each other – besides the obvious," Ariadne said. "I'll bet Gabrielle's other boyfriends let her walk all over them. And Jacques is always surrounded by adoring groupies. He and Gabrielle must have found it refreshing to finally meet someone who would stand up to them."
"Prince James won't be any pushover, either," Lily declared. "He has that strong jaw-line and no-nonsense way of looking straight at the camera. Gabrielle probably fell in love with him because he's as macho as Jacques, but with more suitability."
"It's going to be a beautiful wedding." Ariadne sighed happily. "Maybe we'll see the princess around town, shopping for her trousseau."
"I don't think she's in Bienville at the moment," Madame said. "Gabrielle was supposed to award the trophy to the winner of the Beaumarre Yacht Races at their annual award dinner last night. But according to this morning's newspaper, they had to get somebody else to substitute for her."
"Even if she were here, she'd scarcely buy her trousseau in Madam Malkin's like other people," Lily told Ariadne. "I'm sure everything is being specially made for her."
"That's true, but you can see the king and his daughter before the private engagement party at the end of the week," Madame said. "King Claude will appear on the balcony of the palace with Gabrielle and Prince James. He will greet the people and make the formal announcement. Then champagne will be served and everybody will be free to stroll around the grounds until five o'clock. I have been there on many state occasions and I never tire of the spectacle. You girls are in for a rare treat."
Lily and Ariadne murmured something appropriate. They didn't want to tell the older woman that they were invited to the engagement ball, since she – a native of Beaumarre – obviously wasn't.
"You are so fortunate to be in Bienville at this auspicious moment in our history," Madame continued.
"Well, actually, we planned it that way," Lily said. "We heard rumours of the engagement even before it was confirmed, so we had time to schedule our holiday to coincide with the announcement."
"How could you know ahead of time?"
"We work at the... ummm... at the United Nations as translators," Ariadne explained, shooting a warning glance at Lily for divulging too much information. "We hear all kinds of inside stuff."
"Ah, so that is why your accent is so perfect! If you had not told me differently, I would have thought you were both French."
"Thank you." Lily smiled. "That's a nice compliment."
"It is the truth. You could tell anyone you were born here and nobody would question it. Are your parents French? Perhaps you speak the language at home."
"Unfortunately my parents died in an accident several years ago," Lily said. In fact, they had been killed by You-Know-Who, back in Lily's fifth year at Hogwarts. "But they and my grandparents were all born in England."
"Mine too," Ariadne said.
"Do you speak any other languages as fluently as French?" Madame persisted.
She questioned them minutely about their backgrounds, their positions with the 'United Nations', even their personal lives. Luckily, as Lily was Muggle-born and Ariadne a half-blood, the girls were able to talk their way out of potential trouble most of the time.
"Girls as pretty as you two should have husbands. You must have had many proposals, yes?"
"I guess we've had our share, but we're in no hurry," Ariadne told her. "Women today have lots more options than marriage."
"What foolishness! There is nothing like a man to warm your bed at night."
Lily grinned. "A flannel nightie will do the same thing, and you can use it to wash the car when you get tired of it."
"Joke if you like, but you'll change your tune when the right man comes along," the older woman said complacently.
After they'd left to go sightseeing, Ariadne said, "The sad thing is, she really believes a man is the solution to everything."
"If there's a man out there like that, I'd be interested in meeting him," Lily said.
"If you do, see if he has a friend for me." Ariadne laughed.
Well, there you go, hope you liked it! Next chapter – James's views on the engagement…
BILLY THE FISH IS A VERY FINE FISH AND A VERY FINE FISH IS HE!!!