Disclaimer: The only things that are mine are the plot, the places and any characters not featured in the Harry Potter books. Trust me - I'd be rich and eating lots of chocolate if I owned anything else. Unfortunately, everything except the above belongs to J. K. Rowling.
Lily looked down at the piece of paper in front of her. Still in shock from what she had just written, she wandered over to the window to organize her thoughts. Looking back at the letter, Lily remembered what she had just read;
Dear Miss Lily Amelia Olivia Harvard - Edna ,
Due to the sad loss of your uncle, Theodore Malcovich Harvard - Edna, the country of Hallmark welcomes you as the new Duchess of Caprice. This title has been given to you as you are the last born of the Harvard - Edna line, this being because your uncle has no other heir living today.
An imperial car will be waiting for you outside of the Whitehouse Children's Home at three o'clock on Saturday the nineteenth of April. Please be ready to leave at this time.
Hallmark Imperial Court.
Lily had never known her parents, she'd also never known that a person could have that many names. She had lived in Whitehouse Children's Home all of her life, but now she an uncle had appeared out of thin air.
"Me." She said, looking out at the cars and apartments of Hedgerow Road. "A duchess? And where the hell is Hallmark, there's no such place. ?"
Someone's got to be having me on, Lily thought as she walked down the stairs. A hard football landed straight in the middle of Lily's head, almost knocking her off her feet.
"Soz." Chanted a group of little boys, each one looking as though they had purposefully rubbed dirt into their clothes.
"Yeah, whatever." Lily answered not paying attention. That was the thing at Whitehouse, everything was so crowded and doubled up. Lily knew they kept more children at Whitehouse than any other Home in that part of the country. But that was exactly the point, it was home.
She turned a corner and walked into the kitchen. Dean glanced up from his mixing bowl. Dean Sabby was the cook at Whitehouse, he wasn't very good but neither were most things at Whitehouse. You just had to get on with it. Dean was only a few years older than Lily, so he counted himself as a friend and she did the same.
He kept looking at her before she spoke to him.
"What?!" She snapped. Lily really wasn't warming to the idea of being a duchess.
"Nothing." Dean replied as he carried on mixing. "Just you've got a frown on your face and a letter in your hand. You haven't done anything wrong at school, have yer?"
"No." She sighed, dropping into a chair. Dean walked over with a spoon in his hand and sat opposite her.
"Anything you want to talk about, kid?"
Lily sighed again. How was she going to explain that she was a duchess of somewhere she didn't even know existed? Handing Dean the letter, she sat in silence until he had finished reading.
"Duchess of Caprice, eh?" He said with a grin. She nodded and silently cursed him for looking so amused. "Say, Lil, do you even know where Hallmark is?"
She groaned. "That's just it! Hallmark is supposed to be some sort of logo, isn't it? Not a country!"
Dean looked at her. Her hair was dark brown and thinned out at the bottom. Lily's face was thin too, and her bushy hair could seem like a mane in the morning. She was pale as well, and Dean knew she couldn't walk in heels. And when it came to dresses, you either shared a dress here or had trousers. No, Dean definitely couldn't see anything remotely duchess about her on the outside.
Yet when it came to her nature, there always had been something special about her. There was just that feeling if you'd done something wrong, you'd be disappointing her. Dean couldn't put his finger on it, but she had always had that extra something that no-one else could get.
"Dean?" Lily said, waving a hand across his face. "Dean? Hello?"
He realized he had been staring for some time now. Shaking his head, he looked at her. "You know Lil, I would quite enjoy being friends with a duchess. We could have tea on the lawn, and oh! Lil, you have to get a butler! You could call him Jeeves, you know, like the adverts and…"
It was a fair act on Lily's behalf that earned Dean a slap on the cheek.
"You're acting like an idiot!" She said while Dean started rubbing his red face. "You don't honestly think I'm going, do you? And I thought you were the smart one."
"You're the idiot Lil. Come on, we're talking chance of a lifetime! No more getting someone else's laundry, No more stupid kids locking you out before you get home from school, no more embarrassing walks through the village with those bright yellow plastic coats…aw, Lil, you're gonna love it!"
Lily walked over to the window while he spoke. Outside was a bleak little garden, but there were also beaming children having fun and playing with each other. There were the boys who had kicked the football on her head, a little mute girl called Jenna was refereeing the match. A couple of girls were sat on a blanket doing each others hair, and some Indian boys were playing hide and seek behind the shed. It wasn't much, never had been, but it was home.
"I can't just leave, Dean."
"You can always come back. It's not like you're running away like that Oliver." Dean said. Lily smiled in her mind, she remembered the blonde haired blue eyed boy who ran from Whitehouse years ago. It was ages since then, and no one had ever found him. The head social worker, Alice, often said she'd never have him back. Yet Lily had seen for herself the tears in Alice's eyes when she found out he'd gone.
"Come on Lily. This is the type of stuff that kids everywhere dream would happen to them. And now it's happened to you. Go on, what have you got to lose? If anything, you'll be gaining more than any of this lot will ever have." Dean continued.
"I'm sure they'd love to hear you say that." She replied with a smirk.
"Yeah well, it's your decision. But, think of it like this, you've got the chance to do anything you want now."
"This is like some sort fairy-tale, isn't it?" Lily said, laughing.
"Yeah. Now go catch a dream, Cinderella." He said, giving her a hug. "And if you meet any princesses out there, you know my number."
Lily couldn't help but laugh at him. Taking a final glance at the letter, she left the kitchen and made for the door. Just as Lily placed a hand on the doorknob, A soft voice stopped her.
"Where do you think you're going, Miss?" The head social worker at Whitehouse, Alice McKenzie, was an Irish woman who had spent her whole life around children. Everyone knew she had a couple of disastrous marriages under her belt, but that still didn't stop her patronizing the older ones about their social lives.
"Just going out, Alice." She saw a look of oh-no-you're-not appear on Alice's face. "I'll be back in an hour, promise. I just got to go to the library."
"Do you really think I was born yesterday, Lily? Come off it, I know you young people. Walking around like you own the place, having your little 'friendships' with boys off the estate. I'm, not stupid."
Another rant, Lily thought. There was no stopping Alice now, she'd be like this for hours at a time.
"And another thing, you lot are always on about you're so responsible but I still have to pick your clothes up off the floor…"
"I won't be gone long, Alice. And I am going to the library, see." Lily showed Alice a thin card with her name on it.
"Well, I shall check with Mrs. Bellman whether she's seen you or not."
"Fine." Lily said as she raced through the door. Better to be out of breath at the end of the road than get caught in another Alice rant at the young teenagers of the estate.
Lily picked up the pace as she passed the gates of the estate. Having been an orphan all her life, Lily had often thought about living with the people of the estate. Most children at Whitehouse thought of running away; many bragged about the days they had spent on the streets, though few had actually run away. Only Remus had ever done it. Ahhh, Remus Lupin, another one of the Whitehouse lot. He had been a strange child, his father only left him because he couldn't provide for him - there had never been any doubt of the love he felt for his son. Yet Mr.
Lupin had never come back for his son. Ahhh, poor Remus…
"It's Lily, ain't it?" A voice broke into her thoughts. She turned and a boy grabbed her arm. Struggling away she cried, "What's the matter with you? " Before pushing him away.
"Hey, hey. There's no need for that." She stopped and stood still. His accent vanished in a second. He circled her for a bit, watching her all the time.
"Alice let you out then, suppose?"
"How do you know her?!" Lily snapped at him. She was feeling a bit vulnerable with him going round and round all the time.
"Suppose she's forgotten all about me. Most of them have. Best that way, suppose…"
"Remus?" Lily said, feeling her shoulders relax.
"Never thought I'd see you again, Lily. So…how you been." He asked. His blonde hair was slightly darker and his eyes had gone from blue to amber, but other than that he was the same Remus.
"Um…yeah…I guess I've been okay." She said, not really knowing what to say.
"Good, good." He said. Remus stared at her for a moment. "So, where you headed?"
He snorted with laughter. "What, that crazy old woman's living room?" She nodded. "Why? Come on, all that's there are a couple of old textbooks."
"I know. That's why I'm going." She carried on walking. Running in front of her Remus studied her face for a moment.
"What, you doing a project or somthin'? You do know that there are arcades right down the next street?"
They carried on in silence. Remus didn't leave and just hung his head so that his long hair would cover his face. Lily didn't look at him, she just stared straight ahead.
"Anything I can help with? I'm pretty good at geography at school."
"You go to school?!" She said. It was a miracle he'd even got clothes, never mind education.
She looked at him. "Unless you know where Hallmark is, I don't know what you can do."
"Hallmark?" He said staring right into her eyes. Lily nodded. He thought for a moment.
"Hallmark, small country. Somewhere between France, Spain and here."
Lily looked at him. She smiled, the last person she would expect to meet held the answer to her questions. Well, one of them anyway.
"What's it like? Do you know?" She asked.
"Well, I've never been there myself, but one of the teachers up at Park Grammar lives next door to me. He knows. Apparently, it's quite hot most of the year but when it snows, it snows. Could you imagine that eh? Proper summers, proper winters. Sounds like a great place don't it?"
"Yeah." Lily said, thinking. "It does sound great."
It was two o'clock on Saturday the fourteenth of April. As expected, Lily was as nervous as it was possible to be. It didn't help matters that Dean had slipped out the fact she was a duchess to everyone at dinner yesterday. Ever since, a few of the boys had been calling her "your majesty" and bowing every time they saw her. The girls were no better. Lily couldn't count how many times one of them had run up to her and whispered, "Can I be a duchess next?" or "I'll take your place if you want. It's no big deal."
Yet it didn't matter how many times Lily laughed at the younger ones and their jokes, or how much Dean had encouraged her, Lily still couldn't think of a single way in which she could fill the hole in her heart that the letter had torn. Most of her was excited and a bit nervous, but Lily knew it was going to be hard stepping away from everything that was normal to her.
For Lily, three o'clock came all too soon. As written, the car wasn't late or early, it arrived on the stroke of the clock in the hallway. Alice went to the door, straightening her pinafore and skirt as she went.
With a warm smile, Dean retreated to the kitchen and left Lily and Alice in the hallway.
When the door was opened, Lily saw a tall, thin man with a red moustache that ended at least a couple of inches away from his high cheekbones. He was a pale man with veins on his hands, and Lily couldn't help feeling a little scared. He wore a dark blue suit with a white hat, Lily couldn't help thinking that he looked like the captain of a boat.
"Good afternoon." He nodded towards Alice. "I am Gregory Patterdale, here to accompany Miss Harvard-Edna to her new home."
Alice looked startled for a moment. "Yes, well, Mr.…Patterdale. You can't expect me to just let Lily go. I mean, do you have the certificates and paperwork and such? I have responsibilities, you know…"
Gregory Patterdale seemed to be taken aback by Alice's ranting. Nevertheless, he soon stood firm. "I assure you, Madam, all paperwork and certificates have been followed through. Now, if you have no further objections, I would like to proceed with Miss Harvard-Edna's journey."
Alice just looked at him again. She sighed and shook her head, it wasn't usual for Alice to lose an argument.
"Let me just make a call." She said before turning away. "Please, make yourself comfortable. You could be here for a while."
And, just like that, she left Gregory Patterdale and Lily alone together. Gregory smiled at her before speaking. "Beautiful county, Caprice. Lovely waterside views, lot's of space. And the people are nice there too."
"It's just weird. I've never heard of Hallmark before."
"Well now, that is a surprise. Our country dates back thousands of centuries. One of the earliest civilizations."
Lily stepped close. "I'm afraid I never was very good at history."
Once again, Patterdale smiled. "You will learn to be much more than good, in Hallmark. Trust me, you'll be fine out there."
Lily smiled at the odd man before her. If they were all like this in Hallmark, it would make moving so much easier. Alice then returned and, after sighing again, she looked at Gregory.
"Fine. She can go."
"Thank you. Miss Harvard-Edna, I trust you've said your farewells? Good. Now, if you would follow me to the Imperial Car I should be very much grateful."
The Imperial Car was not how Lily had expected it. A long black limo awaited her, with small flags on the bonnet and boot. The flags were made up of red and white triangles with the picture of an eagle and two swords crossed underneath it. A few words could be recognized around the area of the flag.
"Dormus Bonner Tyne?" Lily said, squinting at the fluttering pieces of cloth.
"Yes." Gregory informed her. "Honour, Triumph, United. It's ancient Hallmarkian, hardly anyone uses it anymore. However, the royalty of Hallmark like to keep some things traditional."
He opened the door of the Imperial Car. Inside were white leather seats and fur rugs on the floor. Lily hardly dared to step into it without taking off her shoes. Gregory saw her reaction, so he nodded encouragingly at her. Once inside, all Lily think could about was Hallmark.
"What will I have to do when I get there?" She asked.
"Well, first things first. You'll be taken to the Diamond Palace, which is in the Imperial City, on the West coast of Hallmark. Caprice is about half an hours carriage drive from the Imperial City. You will notice that cars are only used out of the country. Carts and horses are our modes of transport. Cleaner for everyone that way. You do know how to ride?"
Lily shook her head. None of the children at the Home knew how to ride, the garden wasn't exactly big enough for a pony and neither were their pockets.
"You'll learn that too. What an experience this is going to be!" Gregory seemed very pleased with himself, but he leaned over to Lily and said. "I know full names are used in Hallmark, but you can call me Greg."
Lily smiled warmly. He held out his hand to her and she shook it, saying; "I'm Lily."
After a long drive and many hours of talking to Greg, Lily had finally arrived in the Imperial City. She had noticed that the poorer people lived further away from the city, but didn't mention it. They had changed from car to carriage upon entering the city and now, as Lily stepped out, she could see why it gave the whole place an extra style that nowhere else could fully achieve.
Fancy and expensive shops were everywhere and they had passed a huge lake on the way. The streets were cobbled and all of the buildings looked old, but a pretty sort of old. They were nothing compared to the Diamond Palace, though.
Lily had learned on the journey that there were four Hallmarkian Palaces; the Diamond Palace was in the West, the Emerald Palace was in the North, the Ruby Palace was in the South of the country and in the East was the Sapphire Palace.
"Gemstones." Greg had said. "Are one of the best trades in Hallmark. Each area is known for that particular stone. Common sense would give the names of the palaces."
Lily could see why. The Diamond Palace was like a huge white mansion, it's giant stone steps led to a set of guarded doors. Inside, pastel and tinted colours roamed the walls along with fantastic paintings. The floor was a giant mosaic that had pictures of the flag of Hallmark and famous stories printed on it.
Butlers and guards lurked around every corner and Lily was sure she would get lost in the labyrinth of rooms.
Greg left her in one enormous room that was filled with wardrobes and drawers. Lily was about to run out of the doorway when a croaky voice stopped her.
"There you are! I was wondering. Thought someone was playing a joke when they gave me two days notice. Two days! I can tell you, I have been like a little humming bird all through the night."
A little, grey haired woman appeared. She was wearing a red skirt and a white shirt with a pair of big round glasses that magnified her eyes. Whoever she was, thought Lily, she seems happy to see me. That can't be bad.
"Well. Let me have a look at you." She said, so Lily turned around very quickly. "Oh. Ah. It seems you are not used to being a clothes horse, dear. Now, I know the butler had a suitcase of some kind that was yours, but you won't be needing that. Not with me around." The old lady took a step towards Lily before saying. "I'm Mrs. Kelly. I'm the designer here. Now then, I know your size, seen it before on the duchess of Mace. I've got a few dresses for you to try on, see what you think."
Lily looked startled. A dress? She'd never worn one before in her life. The woman couldn't be serious.
Apparently, she was.
"Don't be frightened dear, I know what a time you've had of growing up. At least you won't be as spoilt as some of the others. I wouldn't worry dear, you've seen the women in the streets. Dresses. Every one of them wearing a dress. You'll find them one of your most worn clothes. Now come on, try these."
Mrs. Kelly held up at least four dresses from the wardrobes in the room. It took almost two hours for Mrs. Kelly to decide what Lily looked best in. In the end, she chose a white dress with a flowing skirt that had a blue lace at the bottom. The sleeves of the top half were long and triangular at the ends and they were also blue. The two final accessories were a blue belt and necklace with blue diamonds in the shape of a swan.
"This must have cost a fortune." Lilly said, staring at herself in a mirror. Her hair had been brushed and curled slightly at the ends so it just tickled her face. She looked better than she ever done in her life.
"You're a duchess, dear, " Mrs. Kelly giggled at her expression. "and of Caprice too. Beautiful place, it is. Though I suppose you'll be staying here for the night."
Lily looked outside and saw the ebony sky with shining stars dotted here and there.
"It is beautiful here too." She said. Mrs. Kelly looked at her watch, then threw her hands to her face in disbelief.
"Look! Look at the time! You're expected in the ballroom at half past six and it's almost ten past!"
"What?! I never knew I was expected in a ballroom."
"Well you can't very well dance if you've no one to go with and… what? What do you mean you didn't know? Didn't they tell you?"
"Tell me what?"
"Never mind. Just, oh, just hang on one sec. I've got it!" She scurried out of the room and then came back with Greg who looked very calm even though Mrs. Kelly seemed so mad that she was almost frothing at the mouth.
After Mrs. Kelly had argued with Greg about whether they were expecting her or not, Greg began to whisper so quietly that only Mrs. Kelly could hear him properly.
"Look at her Kelly. Don't you think Prince James will adore her?"
"Now don't you go playing matchmaker Gregory or I'll…"
" No, no, no. Of course I won't. I'm just saying that she's a girl, he's a boy…"
"Exactly. She's a girl, not a woman. He's a boy, not a man. Don't go messing around with young people, it'll do you no good. And I like her, don't mess up what could be a good friendship between them both."
"Exactly. Think what this could do for her."
"I'm not budging on this one. You'll have nothing to do with her and the prince's friendship, do you hear? Nothing."
"No. If you think they should be in love then that's your opinion. If either one asks you for it you give it. But only then. Now take her along to her room. Tomorrow the royals will introduce her as one of them but not tonight."
"Will she dance?"
"Tonight? No - tomorrow she will. After she's been taught to dance."
Lily began to feel anxious. She didn't have a clue what they were talking about as the pair were still whispering, but she was certain it was about her. Soon though, Greg took Lily's arm and led her to her room.
It was huge, at least as big as the Home, and there was hundreds of things that Lily had never thought that she would ever get. Wardrobes of beautiful dresses, a gigantic king-sized bed with the Hallmarkian flag stitched across it and chests and chests of clothes and toys and gifts. On one of the walls, there was a large portrait of a beautiful women with long golden hair and a gold locket shone from the neck.
"I'll leave you now, Duchess. Ring the bell beside your bed if you need assistance in anything." Greg pardoned himself, and he shut the door behind him and turned to see the face of Prince James staring at him.
There was no doubt that the prince was a handsome person. His hair was as black as night and his shoulders broadening slightly. His smile could make any Hallmarkian girl faint, but not many saw it anymore.
"Why were you in my mothers room, Greg?" The prince asked. He wasn't angry, just curious. "And who were you talking to?"
Greg ignored the final question and said; "Prince James, why aren't you downstairs at the ball?"
"I just…just don't feel like it. Who were you talking to?"
"A beautiful young woman."
"Why is she in that room?"
"All the other party guests have the other rooms. And the Duchess of Caprice should have something better than mere party guests."