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The Prince's Bride

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Asteria led her father-in-law into the room where her son lay sulking on his bed. "I'll leave you two alone" she said, closing the door behind her. There was an awkward silence.

"So, Scorp. How's things?"

Scorpius turned a face covered in brightly coloured spots towards his grandfather and frowned. "How do you think?"

"Look I know it's hard on you, but it's only for a week, two at most. They can treat spattergroit quite easily now and you don't even have to stand naked in a barrel full of eels' eyes."

Scorpius frowned again. "Look Grandpa, why are you here?"

"Your mother thought you needed cheering up."

"Well, you're making a right pig's ear of it so far."

"Less of the snark, young man." Lucius pulled a book from out of his robes. "How about I read you a story?"

"What do you think I am, a little kid. I'll be starting Hogwarts in September."

"I know, but bear with me. It was always one of my favourites. It's got pirates and giants and high adventure."

"Oh all right. Just get on with it."

Lucius opened the book and began reading...

The Prince's Bride.

Long ago in the Kingdom of Twosickle there lived a Prince who's name was Sevvy, but whom everyone called Buttercup. Sevvy never knew why they did this and no one would ever tell him, so eventually he just came to accept it. He was a striking young man with sleek dark hair and piercing black eyes, and was generally considered to be, if not the handsomest, then certainly the most eligible in the Kingdom.

Sevvy grew up on his family's country estate. He spent his time learning how to brew potions since there were few neighbours and little else to do. His closest companion was Miony, the girl who worked on the farm. She was a lively girl with wild hair and a wild spirit, and she doted on Sevvy. For his part he enjoyed nothing as much as being in her company and constantly found reasons for the two of them to be together.

"Farm girl," he would say. "Fetch me some hippogryph milk."

And she would reply, "As you wish." Then she would go off to fetch it for him, coming back covered in cuts and bruises and with a pitcher of fresh milk.

Or he might say. "Farm girl, stir my cauldron while I consult my potions book."

"As you wish." And she would take over stirring the potion, ignoring the choking fumes, while he admired her technique.

Then he would say. "Farm girl, walk with me and carry my basket while I go to fetch ingredients."

"As you wish." And they would spend many hours walking together across the hills and meadows, stopping only for him to gather the occasional flower or for her to wrest some small part of anatomy from an unwilling creature.

Again he might say. "Farm girl—"

"Can't we skip this, Grandpa? It's getting repetitive."

"You're right, Scorp. God knows what the author was thinking when he wrote this bit, but it does get better. I promise." Lucius flicked through half a dozen pages. "OK, try this."

Then, on Sevvy's sixteenth birthday, he realised that for all these years Miony had been doing whatever he asked of her because she loved him and, when he thought about it he loved her back. So after lunch he called her over to him. "Farm girl," he began. "Will you marry me?"

"As you... What?"

"I asked if you would marry me?"

"Oh Sevvy, there's nothing I would like more, but you are a Prince and I am but a lowly farm girl."

Sevvy was crestfallen.

"I know," said Miony. "I'll disguise myself as a cabin boy and go to sea. And when I've made my fortune I'll come back and we can be married."

"But what of the Dread Pirate Rowlings? They say no ship is safe while she sails the Seven Seas."

"I fear no pirate. My mind is made up. Goodbye Sevvy, my love, I sail at dawn."

Two months later news came that the ship Miony had sailed on had been taken by the Dread Pirate Rowlings and all hands were lost.

"So that's it? End of story?"

"No, it's only just beginning. Listen."

Some years later, when he was twenty-one, Sevvy's mother came to him with some news. Agents of the Crown had spotted him when they were hunting in the area and taken word back to the Old Queen, who had decided to marry him. Having already lost the love of his life, Sevvy reluctantly agreed.

So it was that Sevvy was taken to the capital and, after a parade through the streets so that the people could get their first look at him, to the Old Queen's castle. Dumbledick, the Old Queen himself, stood at the gates to welcome him."

"Hang on, if Sevvy's supposed to marry the queen, how come she's a man?"

"Well sometimes... that is... why don't you ask your father? All you need to know is that Dumbledick was a right old queen and no mistake."

That night, while Sevvy lay in his luxury bed trying to get to sleep, he heard a noise from the balcony outside. Quickly donning his robe over his pyjamas he went to investigate.

"Is anybody there?" He asked softly, only to be answered by two large arms grabbing him from behind while a second attacker pulled a dark hood or bag over his head. A final kidnapper administered a light but perfectly aimed tap on the back of his head and he lost consciousness.