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The Prince and the Horseman

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♘♔♘♔♘

“Sir, His Royal Highness wishes to see you.”

“Yes, in a minute.” Draco waves off his squire, examining the new fencing swords that arrived fresh this morning.

“Please, Your Grace,” Squire Dobby’s voice wavers. “Your father said he must speak with you urgently.”

“Fine,” Draco sighs, reluctantly leaving the swords behind and heading to the throne room.

Draco takes his time walking down the long hall, despite Dobby’s nervous hand wringing. When he finally arrives his father already looks cross, sitting impatiently with his mother standing at his side.

“Your Royal Highness.” Draco gives a half-hearted bow, offering his mother a much warmer smile.

“Leave us.” King Lucius scowls at the timid squire, the jittery young man bowing deeply and hurriedly scurrying away.

“You wanted to speak with me?”

“Yes, yes.” King Lucius beckons Draco over. “As you may already know, His Royal Highness Prince Ronald of Bolide will be arriving soon for his visit to our kingdom. I want to make certain you are ready for his arrival and on your very best behaviour. It’s crucial your marriage negotiations go smoothly.”

“That Weasley prince?” Draco scoffs. “Must I marry him?”

“Watch your tone,” Lucius warns. “Of course you’ll marry him. I expect you to be very charming and convincing in your interactions.”

“But you hate the Weasleys,” Draco protests. “Why should I be forced to marry one of their many wayward children?”

“Dear,” Queen Narcissa quickly cuts in. “You can’t listen to every little remark your father says. It’s very important for the integrity of our kingdom that we make an alliance with the Weasleys and the Bolide Kingdom. Please, be open minded when they arrive.”

“Yes, Mother,” Draco replies sullenly.

“You’re dismissed,” Lucius commands tightly, waving his hand towards the door.

Draco walks out the door, starting to close it quietly behind him when he hears his father’s angry voice.

“—ridiculous that we have to house those filthy Weasleys.”

“You shouldn’t speak so rudely of them, we are in great need of their status.”

“They may be pure royal blood but their poverty is still abominable.”

“They are well-liked throughout the realm and we must get on with them.” Queen Narcissa’s voice is stern and final.

“I don’t like it one bit,” King Lucius mutters. “I would gladly turn them away.”

“And that my dear,” Queen Narcissa murmurs, “is why I am Queen and in charge of these matters.”

Draco closes the door and turns away, resentment flooding through his veins. Why should he be forced to marry someone his father so clearly abhors? He’s tired of all the politics and games of court and longs for the more innocent times of his youth. Some fresh air would certainly do him some good and he brightens at the prospect of getting away for a bit.

Scorpius, his perfect and well-loved horse, is already saddled and ready when he arrives at the stables. With a happy smile, he mounts his steed and rides off onto the lush, forested trail. It’s a bright summer’s day and the warm breeze is invigorating as Draco rides deeper into the woods. Scorpius gallops brilliantly along the packed earth, his speed increasing with little direction from Draco.

Scorpius always seems to be able to read Draco’s mind. Ever since he received the horse as a gift on his eleventh birthday, the two were bonded irrevocably. He’s shared so many moments, painful and joyful, with his beloved horse and finds the magnificent white steed to be his closest companion. Growing up rather sheltered in the castle, Draco hasn’t had many opportunities to meet people and make friends. His only companions tend to be the grooms in his employ. With Scorpius, he’s found a true confidant; a creature to share his worries and innermost feelings with.

They ride for some time before Draco comes upon a lovely oak tree, its long limbs stretching and creating perfect shade from the bright sun. He climbs off his horse and ties him to a nearby post, resting against the trunk and closing his eyes. The warm air and serene surroundings lull him into a restful sleep.

When he opens his eyes a short time later, panic immediately fills Draco’s senses. He jumps to his feet and looks around anxiously but finds no sign of his prized steed.

“Scorpius!” Draco calls out, circling the nearby area. “Scorpius, where are you?”

Draco spends nearly an hour tracking through the woods but to no avail; he can’t seem to find any sign of where Scorpius has gone. His horse has been known to sneak off before but he usually returns before nightfall. The sun slowly sets over the horizon and dusk creeps in, long shadows spreading throughout the woods. Draco yearns to find his horse but knows he must return home before the entire castle sends out a search party. He walks along the dirt trail for a few minutes before he comes across a young peasant on a chestnut mare.

“You, there,” Draco calls out. “Give me your horse.”

Large brown eyes widen with excitement and the young boy with mousy-brown hair immediately jumps off his horse.

“Oh, Prince Draco, Your Highness!” The peasant bows down on hands and knees. “What an honour to be in your presence. I am humbled to provide you with my horse.”

“Yes, wonderful,” Draco mutters distractedly as he mounts the horse. “I’ll return it when I can.”

“Oh, please, take your time, Your Highness.” The peasant shouts as Draco rides away. “Just wait until I tell my brother Dennis about this!”

♘♔♘♔♘

“Boy,” Lord Dursley hollers across the garden. “Make sure you pick only the best of the harvest this time. I won’t be eating any subpar potatoes tonight!”

“Yes, Sir,” Harry mumbles as he dodges a flustered servant, eyes rimmed red from her recent scolding by Lady Dursley.

The entire place is in chaos today, the Dursleys snapping at all the servants (and Harry) as they complete their work for the day. Rumour has it that Prince Ronald and his royal entourage will be passing through the village and the entire household is in a tizzy with preparation. Harry, personally, couldn’t care less about any attentions a royal family might offer. Not that he would be presented if they were to stop and greet the Dursleys in any case. Harry might be a relation to Lady Dursley, but the family makes no secret of their disdain of him, treating him worse than the servants they employ.

Harry watches Lord Dursley march back into the cottage and, after a quick look around, sneaks off to the stables. He’s greeted by the friendly snorts of Lily and James, his two favourite horses.

“Did you two miss me?” Harry smiles warmly as he offers them both an apple hidden beneath his tunic.

The stables are the only place Harry feels true solace; a welcome escape from the vicious commands of his cold family. He’s always had a way with animals, but when Harry was young and witnessed the birth of the foals, James and then Lily, it was love at first sight. Their mother, poor Minerva, was constantly breeding and Lord Dursley was furious when James was born less than perfect. They tried again the next year and Lily was born, though once again she did not meet their strict requirements. The Dursleys had been ready to quickly get rid of the foals but Harry pleaded with them, offering to do all the extra work and train them into fine work horses. Lord Dursley reluctantly agreed and Lily and James have been dear friends to him ever since. He takes special pride in how well they’ve grown up, riding them whenever he has free time (even if he’s forced to use the makeshift bridles he crafted himself).

Harry reaches for a brush when he hears a loud crashing sound outside followed by the cry of a young woman. He rushes out and catches sight of a small white and grey horse, galloping right towards the stables.

“Whoa, there.” Harry raises his arms to the oncoming horse, voice soothing and calm. “Shh, it’s alright. Just stay right there.”

The wild horse rears back but then settles, dark eyes peering at Harry curiously as it digs at the ground.

“Easy boy.” Harry reaches out and gently pats his side. “That’s a good boy.”

“Pigwidgeon!” A beautiful girl comes running towards them both. “Stop running off! I’m so sorry about that, my horse is a bit wild. Thank you for stopping him.”

“Of course, Milady.”

“I’m Ginevra, er—Princess Ginevra.” The princess wrinkles her nose. “But please, call me Ginny.”

Princess Ginevra; he’s heard of her before from his uncle, Lord Dursley. He never imagined such beauty before. The princess is pale and lightly freckled, wearing a deep plum gown that flows elegantly to the ground. Her hair is vibrant in the sunshine, bright red with strands of gold glimmering in the light.

She looks exactly like his mother in the few paintings he’s seen of her. A beautiful princess, indeed, but certainly not a love interest. Harry has no desire to court his late mother.

“That’s quite impressive.” A prince, likely one of the many brothers Harry has heard about, emerges from between the trees. “I’ve never seen anyone take command of Pig like that. My sister’s horse is a handful, she can barely tame him herself. And yet I get stuck with this ancient family horse, Errol.” The Prince affectionately pats his horse. “Poor thing can hardly manage a trot.”

“Your Royal Highness.” Harry immediately drops to his knee.

“Please.” The Prince holds his hand up. “You can just call me Ron. Your horse handling skills are magnificent. Do you work in the village?”

“No, Your Grace.” Harry blushes at his praise. “I just work here for my aunt and uncle.”

“Boy! Harry!” Lord Dursley yells from the side of the cottage. “Where did you get off to? The boots need polishing and you won’t be getting a crumb of dinner until they’re all done!”

Harry cringes as he watches Prince Ron frown and turn towards the wayward shouting. A moment later Lord Dursley appears, scowling and face bright red. He quickly catches sight of the prince, however, and his expression immediately changes into a pleasant smile.

“Your Royal Highness!” Lord Dursley bows. “Petunia, get out here and bring Dudley!” He turns his attention back to the prince. “What an honour to have you visit our humble abode. Will you stay for dinner?”

“I think not,” Prince Ron says tightly.

“Yes, dear?” Lady Dursley shuffles forward with a miserable looking Dudley in tow. Her face brightens when she catches sight of the prince. “Oh my! Welcome, Your Grace. Please do stay for some wine.”

“We really must be on our way,” Princess Ginny interjects with a forced smile.

“Yes,” Prince Ron agrees. “But we would like to take your nephew, Harry, with us. We are in need of a skilled Master of the Horse since our last one, Sir Hagrid retired. That is, as long as you accept, Harry?”

“Of course.” Harry’s heart swells with excitement.

“Harry?” Lady Dursley’s face pinches with confusion. “I would much sooner offer my lovely boy, Dudley, to be your personal groom.”

“I’ll have to politely decline,” Prince Ron quickly responds, eyeing Harry’s petulant-looking cousin with distaste.

“Now wait a minute—” Lord Dursley steps forward, mouth twisting angrily.

“We will, of course, compensate you accordingly,” Prince Ron interrupts.

“Well, you best be going then.” Lord Dursley roughly claps Harry on the back.

“Well, that all worked out rather well, don’t you think?” Ron turns towards Princess Ginevra, a broad smile spreading across his face. “Now we don’t have to hold interviews for a new Master of the Horse. I guess we’re lucky Pig has such a wild spirit.”

“Very convenient indeed,” the princess agrees.

“Do you need some time to gather your belongings?” Prince Ron asks, turning his attention back to Harry.

“I, er—I don’t have any,” Harry admits. “But I’d love to bring my horses with me.”

“Of course.” Ron nods. “We’ll set up camp for the night a few miles outside the village. Please saddle your steeds and join the party on the road.”

“Thank you.” Harry’s face breaks out into a smile as he ignores the disbelieving looks on his family’s faces.

“We’re glad to have you, Harry,” Ron replies warmly before turning his horse and heading back to the road.

“Very glad,” Princess Ginny agrees, mounting her horse. “Our brother Charlie was looking after our horses for a while until we could hire a new Master of the Horse, but now he’s off traveling in search of bigger beasts.” Princess Ginny lowers her voice and leans forward. “Dragons, so he says, as if they exist.”

She giggles softly and rides off to join the party on the road. Harry quickly retrieves James and Lily from the stables along with a few worn essentials. He finds himself unable to remove the smile that remains firmly planted on his face. How could he have known when he awoke today that he would meet such kind, appreciative people, royal or not? He gives one last look at the cottage, the memories of neglect and cruelty over the years pushed aside as he rides towards his new life.

♘♔♘♔♘

Draco moodily stabs at his food, his nerves on edge as he waits to be dismissed and head off in search of Scorpius. He glances down the table, watching his father slowly carve into an apple and wonders how much longer this meal can go on. Breakfast is a tedious affair and while normally Blaise is one of his few grooms he can actually stomach to be around, he’s in no mood to listen to the young man’s rambling today.

“Your mother just employed some new ladies in waiting.” Blaise pops a slice of a peach into his mouth. “Very lovely ladies indeed and so friendly.”

“Is that so?” Draco struggles not to roll his eyes.

“Oh yes.” Blaise’s grin is all teeth. “Lady Pansy was very receptive to my late night call, even while the other ladies all murmured in shock about my presence. She was very grateful for the special attention and did such a fine job of expressing her gratitude.”

Draco’s stomach rolls at the implied visual. He nods along but pushes his plate away, his appetite all but gone.

“Breakfast is over.” King Lucius dabs his mouth with a silk napkin before standing. “You may all be on your way.”

Finally! Draco jumps to his feet, bowing half-heartedly as the court fills with the sound of chairs scraping. It’s time to do a proper search and find that wayward horse of his.

♘♔♘♔♘

Harry wakes up and is momentarily startled by his surroundings, confused by the soft sleeping pad beneath his body and the sound of gentle, peaceful chirping. Normally Harry wakes right at dawn to the sound of Lord Dursley hollering at him to start breakfast, his back aching from the worn out sleeping mat shoved in his cramped corner beneath the staircase. Harry blearily blinks away the last remnants of sleep, taking in the bright crimson tent stretching above him and the rich scent of fresh meat being smoked just outside.

Yesterday comes rushing back and Harry’s heart pounds with unfiltered joy. Only yesterday afternoon he was busy working away in the Dursleys' garden, fighting to make it through another tedious and arduous day with very little hope for the future. It feels like a fairy tale, that he was so luckily discovered by the gracious Prince Ronald and taken into his employ. In fact, despite having just woken up, Harry feels as if he is still dreaming, his new surroundings so very different and much more wonderful than anything he has ever experienced before.

All of the Weasley household traveling with them have been extremely kind and Harry was quick to learn that everyone is treated with equal respect, regardless of their position. Harry stands and stretches, yawning widely before opening the flaps to his tent (his very own tent!).

The sun is just rising over the horizon but the cooks are already up and busy, collecting herbs and adding them to a simmering pot over a crackling fire. Soft pink light filters through the treetops, the campground glowing steadily with increasing brightness. The area is scattered with numerous tents, vibrant reds, oranges and golds of different sizes placed here and there. The campsite is not exactly the most opulent vision Harry has ever imagined but it’s much more grand than anything he has ever seen. There is something so comforting as well and Harry can’t help but feel that he is instantly at home.

“Alright, Harry?”

“Prince Ronald.” Harry drops to one knee.

“Enough of that,” the prince mutters, pulling Harry back up to his feet. “I told you, call me Ron. Did you sleep well?”

“Yes,” Harry gushes. “I don’t think I’ve ever slept so well in my entire life.”

“Good, I’m glad to hear it.” Ron grabs an apple from inside his vest and takes a large bite. “We are all so happy to have you with us but I do hope you don’t mind that we practically bought you from your family. That wasn’t the intention at all.”

“Of course not!” Harry protests sincerely. “Had I any money of my own I would have gladly paid you to take me away. I’m very pleased to be part of your household.”

“I’m happy to hear it, Harry. You saved us quite a bit, really. We were nearly forced to hire a Master of the Horse from the market for much more inflated prices.” Ron’s voice lowers and a hint of a embarrassment enters it. “Finances have been a little tight these past few years, what with the damage our Kingdom took during the Death Wars. We will pay as much as we can afford but we do promise your food and lodgings will always be taken care of.”

“Please, Sir, have no worries about that. My parents fought in the Death Wars and I know how much the Bolide Kingdom has done to protect the realm. We are all in your debt.”

Prince Ron flushes bright red but he just shakes his head and puts his arm around Harry.

“I think you and I will be fast friends, Harry.” Ron steers him towards the makeshift stables. “But enough of this serious talk. I think I’d like to go on a hunt this morning, will you prepare Errol for me?”

“Of course.”

Harry begins to saddle the ancient horse, petting him affectionately as the steed snorts in greeting. Ron hops on and waves a friendly farewell before riding off into the woods, followed by several of his grooms. Harry turns back to the stables, excited to begin his duties when he notices a horse he hadn’t seen the night before cautiously make his way to the group of other horses.

“Hey there boy.” Harry walks towards the new horse slowly. “Where did you come from?”

The horse snorts gently, shaking his head before poking his nose at the trough of oats. The horse is a magnificent steed, admittedly finer than any of the other horses in the camp. He is pure white, with a glossy mane and the most ornate saddle Harry has ever laid his eyes on.

“Hungry, are you? Alright, you stay here and I’ll go get some more food for you.” Harry smiles at the gorgeous horse. “But make sure you share with the others.”

The rest of the camp is starting to wake and Harry warmly greets people as they scurry around and begin their morning duties. Something tells Harry he is going to be very happy here.

♘♔♘♔♘

Draco rides along the forest path for a while until he comes across a campsite, the set up somewhat lavish and clearly hosting nobility. He dismounts the borrowed horse and makes his way into the camp, certain they may have some information. A flash of white catches his eye and he starts when he realises it’s Scorpius, grouped with a few other horses, joyfully munching on some oats. He races over, heart in his throat, as his fingers scramble to untie him.

“What are you doing?”

Draco twirls around and finds a young stable boy watching him suspiciously.

“I’m taking my horse back,” Draco retorts icily. “Really, I should be asking what you’re doing with my horse.”

“He came into our camp early this morning, hungry and lost… How am I to know you’re not a common horse thief?”

“A common thief?” Draco sputters. “Don’t you know who I am?”

“Should I?” the boy asks blandly.

“I am his Royal Highness, Prince Draco of Aurora.”

“Oh.” The insolent stable boy bows slightly. “Yes, I suppose I’ve heard of you.”

Draco all but growls at him before returning his attention to his horse.

“Come on, Scorpius.”

“Scorpius?” the boy scoffs. “Interesting name.”

“It is a beautiful name that rightly reflects my royal family and history,” Draco responds haughtily. “Dare I ask what those beasts are called?”

“Lily and James.” The boy scowls, gesturing to his horses.

“Rather common names.” Draco smirks righteously.

“They’re named after my parents. They were war heroes.”

“Is that so?” Draco asks disbelievingly.

“Yes.” The boy’s face flushes, his bright green eyes filling with resentment. “They fought in the Death Wars and helped bring about the defeat of Emperor Voldemort. Not that you would know much about that.”

“What are you implying?” Draco’s vision begins to darken in anger.

“We all know the Queen’s very own sister, Bellatrix the Mad Queen, abandoned the throne to join Emperor Voldemort and become a knight of the Death Eaters. The Aurora Kingdom was sure to stay out of the Death Wars after that, never truly choosing a side.”

“You don’t know anything about my family or my kingdom,” Draco growls.

“I’ve heard enough from my prince.”

“Your prince? You’re in the Aurora Kingdom, I’m your prince!”

“I work for Prince Ron,” he retorts proudly.

“What would a lowly, impoverished prince like him know?”

“The Weasleys and Bolide Kingdom are only in financial duress because of their sacrifices during the Death Wars.”

“It’s no matter to me,” Draco brushes off, tired of arguing with a lowly stable boy. He loosens the rope and frees his horse. “Come now, Scorpius.”

Scorpius, however, refuses to budge and instead anxiously digs at the ground.

“You’re aggravating him.” The boy moves closer and reaches a hand out to pet Scorpius.

“Don’t touch him,” Draco snarls. “He’s my horse and I know him far better than you. You’re the one who’s unnerving him.”

Scorpius snorts moodily, backing away from both of the arguing boys.

“Scorpius, let’s go home,” Draco commands shortly, increasingly becoming frustrated with the incorrigible boy.

“He’s not even properly saddled, at least let me re-fasten it for you.”

“I know what I’m doing!”

Scorpius snorts anxiously, pawing even more aggressively at the ground as Draco moves to saddle his horse.

“Shh, it’s alright.” The boy comes over and soothingly pets Scorpius. “You’re okay.”

Scorpius, to Draco’s surprise, instantly calms, neighing softly and gently shaking his head.

“How did you do that?” Draco asks suspiciously.

“Do what?”

“Get him to calm down so easily,” Draco retorts moodily.

“Oh.” The boy shrugs abashedly. “I don’t know exactly. I just have a way with horses. I’ve been working with them my whole life.”

“Interesting.” Draco eyes the boy curiously. “What’s your name?”

“Harry, Harry Potter. I’m the Master of the Horse for Prince Ron and his royal party.”

“You seem to know your way around horses rather well.” Draco is reluctantly impressed. It seems he is not a mere stable boy after all.

“Well, Harry.” Draco extends his hand, family ring gleaming in the light and begging to be kissed. “How would you like to work for a much more established prince?”

“I think I can tell the right sort of princes for myself, thank you very much.”

The blood drains from Draco’s face, his hand embarrassingly still lingering untouched in front of him. He angrily pulls it away and stands tall.

“Why would I want a dirty, non-royal blooded servant anyway,” Draco sneers. “Come on, Scorpius, let’s go!”

Draco pulls on Scorpius’s reins but is shocked to find his horse will not budge. Humiliation floods through Draco after a few more pulls and Scorpius still refuses to move an inch.

“It seems your horse doesn’t want to go.” Harry’s voice drips with humour and Draco has to take a deep, calming breath to not lash out. Harry sighs and steps forward. “Look, our party is expected to arrive at the castle tomorrow. Instead of distressing your horse even more, why don’t you allow him stay here and I’ll bring him back with us tomorrow.”

“Traitor,” Draco hisses lowly to Scorpius but his horse merely nudges his nose against Draco’s shoulder before returning to his oats. Draco turns his attention back to Harry. “Fine, but if there is one scratch on him you will be in a world of trouble. I promise, my father will hear all about it!”

♘♔♘♔♘

"Brutish, condescending prat," Harry mutters under his breath, angrily brushing Lily's mane.

Lily releases a disgruntled snort and Harry apologizes abashedly as he strokes her more gently.

"Alright, Harry?"

"Your Grace." Harry bows as Prince Ron returns from his morning hunt, dismounting and handing his reins to Harry.

"Please, I must insist again that you call me Ron."

Sorry, your High—Ron." Harry blushes.

Ron brushes off his apology, eyes widening when he catches sight of Scorpius.

"Where did that horse come from?"

"Oh, that's Scorpius. He came into our camp early in the morning. He's Prince Draco's horse."

"Prince Draco?" Ron's voice fills with disdain.

"Yes, you just missed him."

"Am I ever glad of that. I'll have to see plenty of him soon enough, unfortunately. If my kingdom’s wellbeing didn't depend on it, I certainly would not even think to consider a betrothal with him."

"He did seem a bit… arrogant."

"I'm not surprised." Ron rolls his eyes. "My father’s told me horrid tales about the Malfoys, especially about King Lucius. Rumour has it that he supported Emperor Voldemort back when he was a mere Lord in the Quasar Kingdom. It was only when the Death Eaters were losing power and Emperor Voldemort was sure to fall that he snuck off to the Aurora Kingdom and begged Queen Narcissa for protection."

"That's terrible," Harry remarks, shocked by the information.

"You're telling me. I imagine the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Was Prince Draco really that bad?"

"Worse," Harry grumbles.

"What about his looks, though?"

Harry thinks back of when he first stumbled upon the Prince untying his horse. The white-blond hair glowing in the bright light of day, the ethereal pale skin stretched over elegant, long limbs. The sharp cheekbones and warmth in his eyes as he lovingly gazed at his horse. He looked absolutely beautiful.

"Nothing special."

Ron shrugs distractedly, looking around the camp and frowning as he rubs his stomach. "Do you think they’ll be serving lunch soon? I'm ravenous."

♘♔♘♔♘

Draco sighs in impatience, shifting listlessly in his chair while the Weasley household is announced. His father had him wear his finest attire and the material is heavy and hot in the crowded Great Hall. Thinking of his father causes Draco to grind his teeth, angrily remembering their conversation last night. The King was of no use when Draco complained of Prince Ron’s new Master of the Horse and how insolent the boy was. King Lucius merely brushed Draco off and offered to buy him a new horse; as if that were the point! Even more importantly, as if Scorpius could ever be bought.

“Are you comfortable, Your Grace?” Lady Astoria touches his shoulder lightly, her long hair falling across her face.

“Yes, quite,” Draco mutters, waving her away.

His mother’s ladies in waiting love to fawn over him, though he’s never displayed an ounce of interest in any of them. He can’t help but feel immensely relieved that his parents have agreed to pass the throne to his cousin Duke Edward after Draco. Young Teddy will make a fine King some day and Draco shudders at the thought of having to sire a child with any of the women at court—really any woman at all. Not that marrying blindly for alliance is all that better, but at least his betrothed is male, even if he is a poor ginger from a faraway kingdom.

“Do you think Lady Millicent would enjoy a visit to her chambers tonight?” Blaise leers, leaning over to whisper in Draco’s ear.

“I’m sure she’d enjoy it,” Draco replies wryly. “Her reputation, however, might not be so fond.”

Draco straightens in his chair as the fanfare plays, introducing the royal family. Princess Ginevra enters the hall, long silky hair streaming past her. She’s wearing a royal blue gown, her pale skin illuminated by the rich colour.

“Wow, she’s…” Blaise gapes stupidly at the princess. “Wow.”

Draco rolls his eyes at his groom, gaze scanning the rest of the room until they land on the servants table. Seated awkwardly at the end is Harry Potter, looking utterly out of place. His mouth is ajar as he looks about the hall with wide eyes; it’s clear he’s never been to court before and is amazed at the opulence of the room. Draco can’t help but swell with pride; he is quite fond of the Great Hall with its long, ornate tables and expansive twilight mural on the ceiling. Harry rubs at his face and smears a streak of dirt further along his cheek. Such a peasant. Harry, as if reading his thoughts, looks over and their eyes lock before he scowls and looks away.

Prince Ronald enters, walking stiffly in ill-fitted garb. Draco stands to greet him, clasping hands and eyes watering as the ginger prince squeezes tightly. Draco returns the pressure, glaring at his less than desirable betrothed until his mother clears her throat and they both release each other’s hands.

“Welcome, Prince Ronald and Princess Ginevra, to our kingdom. We are so pleased to have our most beloved allies staying with us.” Queen Narcissa raises her glass, the rest of the court following her example. “To the Bolide Kingdom and what hopefully will become a very long friendship.”

The court cheers and Draco plops back into his chair, quickly downing his entire glass of wine before gesturing for Dobby to refill his goblet. He sips the second glass a bit slower, ignoring the warning glance his mother shoots him.

Draco’s eyes lock again with Harry's across the Great Hall, finding him already looking over. My horse?, he mouths silently. Harry merely waves his hand dismissively and returns his attention to the plate of food in front of him. Draco quietly seethes, stabbing his food violently and finishing off another glass of wine.

The conversation is tiresome and Draco allows it to wash over him, steadily ignoring his mother’s attempts to socialize. When the fruit and cheese is brought out, Draco turns to Squire Dobby and orders him to summon Harry over to the table.

Harry takes his time walking over, mouth fixed stubbornly in a set line.

“Your Royal Highness?”

"Well, how is my horse?"

"He's quite well, Your Grace. Scorpius is flourishing with the other horses."

"Other horses? He should be in his own private stable.”

"He seems quite happy, Your Grace. In any case, it's good for him to be around other horses. He shouldn't be kept in solitude all the time."

"He has me," Draco huffs.

"You can't be his only friend," Harry retorts wryly.

Draco goes very still, anger and embarrassment rising in his chest.

"You may take your leave," Draco commands.

"Your Royal Highness." Harry bows stiffly, quickly walking away.

♘♔♘♔♘

“I don’t understand why there must be a welcoming ball,” Ron groans, sorting through his wardrobe. “I don’t know any of the dances.”

“Didn’t you have any balls in your kingdom?” Harry asks.

“Not really.” Ron shrugs, pulling out a horrendous looking tunic. “We mostly had feasts and left it at that. Really delicious feasts though, one of the many perks of having a large farming community. Are there many balls here?”

“A few.” Harry eyes the equally flamboyant breeches laid next to the garish tunic. “I only know a couple of the more formal dances, but I’m not very good at performing them.”

“Hmm,” Ron hums distractedly, grimacing when he pulls out a worn shirt with frayed lace cuffs.

“I’m sorry, Your Grace, but what is that?”

“That would be my outfit for this evening. My mother insisted I pack this formal dance wear.”

“It’s very... bright.” Harry tries but fails to stifle a laugh.

“Yes, well.” Ron blushes furiously. “It belonged to my older brother back when this style was still in fashion. We can’t very well afford to wear all the latest garments like the nobles in this kingdom.”

“Of course.” Harry sobers up. “I apologize.”

“No need.” Ron’s face lights up in mischief, a wry smile spreading across his lips. “My mother sent several garments and you’ll be needing formal dance wear as you’ll be accompanying me to the ball.”

Harry’s mouth opens in horror before they both burst into laughter, sorting through the chest of out-dated clothes in search of the least offensive garment.

A few hours later and Harry follows Prince Ron and Princess Ginny into the ballroom, eyes wide as he takes in the transformed Great Hall. The castle reeks of opulence—and it’s normally something Harry would not be impressed by—but the Great Hall is a place of true beauty. Numerous candles light the room, creating a soft and welcoming glow throughout the hall. The long oak tables have all been moved to the side, revealing smooth dark stone adorned with rich velvet. The high ceilings glitter with painted stars and shooting comets, so artfully crafted it appears as if they are moving. There is a large table overflowing with fresh fruit, steaming loaves of bread, and an assortment of dried meats. Ron’s eyes light up when he catches sight of the food table and he quickly excuses himself as he scurries over.

Princess Ginny gives Harry an apologetic smile when one of Prince Draco’s grooms rushes over and offers his arm, whisking her away to a more secluded area. Harry bows as she departs, wondering if he can’t find a bit of wine and a quiet corner for himself when he spots Prince Draco. He stands by a large window, the moonlight streaming in and highlighting his pale hair. He’s wearing a deep forest green tunic with silver accents, the metallic shine bringing out the slate colour of his eyes. His breeches are a deep brown, so dark they nearly look black, fitted very tightly around his slender, long legs. The dark colours make his pale skin glow in the dim light of the hall and Harry finds himself swallowing roughly and forcing his eyes to look away.

“Welcome all to our very special royal ball.” Queen Narcissa stands from her throne and claps her hands together. “We would like to begin the festivities with an Estampie dance.”

Harry backs away into the shadows as the many nobles step forward and line up for the dance. He’s startled when a hand grabs his arm and squeezes tightly.

“You know this dance, don’t you?” Ron asks nervously around a mouth full of food.

“Er, I do, but I’m not very good at it.”

“Be a friend and stand in for me, will you?” Ron pushes Harry forward before he can properly respond. “I really appreciate it!”

Harry nods his head reluctantly and steps forward, wiping his sweaty palms against the side of his breeches. He groans in dismay when he finds himself directly facing Prince Draco.

“Well.” Prince Draco smirks, eyeing Harry up and down. “That’s very charming attire you’ve chosen for tonight.”

Harry scowls in response, bowing slightly as the music starts up. He carefully moves with the crowd, counting in his head as he tries desperately to recall all the steps. Prince Draco is ridiculously graceful with his moves, clapping and hopping with poise as he passes by Harry.

“I think you may want to ask your so very beloved prince to re-teach you this dance,” Prince Draco murmurs quietly as their hands touch and they move in together. “And perhaps he should hire a new tailor. I’d be happy to lend him mine during his stay, if only to protect my own eyes.”

“Your Grace, could it be that your breeches are fastened a bit too tightly?” Harry asks as they clap together and switch positions. “It appears there may be something wedged inside your royal arse.”

The music ends and Harry bows quickly, rushing off with a barely suppressed grin, leaving a shocked, gaping Prince on the dance floor.

♘♔♘♔♘

Damn that insufferable peasant! Harry is utterly intolerable with his crude manners, his unbearable disrespect, stupid good looks and ridiculously bright green eyes. Draco has never had anyone speak to him in such ways, especially someone so far below his rank, and he hates the way it makes him feel so flustered and yet intrigued.

Harry’s abhorrent behaviour at the ball last night should have filled Draco with righteous anger but instead he’s consumed with nervous energy. Draco spent a majority of breakfast this morning glaring at the Stable Master, fighting to grab the insolent boy’s attention, even for a moment. Harry steadily ignored him though, his full lips stretching into a smile as he chatted amiably with the other servants, eyes lighting up when they came across the vast array of food.

Draco’s heart swelled, in spite of himself, at the sight of Harry’s flushed cheeks as he excitedly grabbed at the warm biscuits, loading his plate high with blackened sausages. His face soon became a mess, stubborn crumbs clinging to the side of his mouth causing Draco to roll his eyes at the boy’s uncouth nature. Harry finally glanced in his direction and, instead of sneering like he had intended, Draco wound up raising his hand to his mouth, signalling to Harry the mess he left behind. Harry narrowed his eyes in confusion before realisation dawned and he abruptly scrubbed his face clean. Damn him for looking so endearing when he flashed Draco a grateful smile and turned his attention back to the fawning servants.

Both the Weasley and Malfoy servants seem enamoured with the newest hire and Draco can’t help the curl of envy that twists in his stomach. Prince Ron may have discovered Harry, wasting his talent away in some undistinguished cottage, but this is Draco’s court and he’s loathe to find others clamouring over themselves for Harry’s attention.

Draco can’t deny he’s fascinated by the Master of the Horse, drawn to his clever tongue and wild dark hair. He yearns to know him a bit better, discover how far Harry can be pushed before he lashes out, before his handsome face turns bright red with anger. Draco has always been a bit possessive and he has to face the truth of the matter: he wants the stubborn boy for himself. Well, that’s no matter; Draco is a prince and he can have whatever he likes.

Draco knows he lives in the most affluent kingdom in all the realm and as a result he may be a bit spoiled. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that! Why should the most elegant and extravagant gifts not be given to him if they are so readily accessible? Growing up with such wealth has given Draco very fine taste and a rather discernible eye; he’s an expert in all arenas of high quality.

Draco carefully collects a few nice jewels, gifts from previous name days and holidays and calls Dobby to his room. He can’t help but feel a brief pang of guilt—these gifts should likely be given to his supposed betrothed, Prince Ron—and yet Draco can’t force his heart where it will not go. He adores his mother, and generally respects his father, and knows he must do what is best for the kingdom. However, he cannot bring himself to further court that wayward prince with his clumsy manners and terrible coarseness. He doesn’t have the same fire, that spark Draco is drawn to in Harry. Besides, what harm is there in sending a few gifts to Prince Ron’s Master of the Horse? It’s not as if Draco is proposing, it’s just a little flirtation that’s all. Draco takes comfort in convincing himself he is doing no wrong here, even as the doubts continue to claw deep inside. His squire arrives in a flourish, nodding vigorously with large glassy eyes when Draco commands him to deliver the gifts directly to Harry Potter.

Draco feels rather satisfied a bit later as he sits in on a meeting with Lord Chamberlain Severus and his parents, thinking of how pleased Harry will be to receive such fine gifts. It’s unlikely Harry has ever seen such opulent jewels in person, let alone been told they are all for him.

“Excuse me, Sir.” Dobby shuffles into the room, the ornate box gripped tightly between his hands. “I was told to return these to Your Grace.”

“What?” Draco jumps to his feet in disbelief. “He returned them?”

“What’s this?” King Lucius rises and walks over to his son and the cowering squire. “How dare Prince Ronald reject gifts from his betrothed.”

“They weren’t given to Prince Ronald,” Draco remarks sullenly.

“What do you mean?” King Lucius asks tightly.

“They were for his Master of the Horse, Harry Potter.”

“Harry Potter? That peasant boy?” Lucius growls lowly. “What were you thinking?”

“I was trying to court him, Sir.” Draco replies defiantly.

“No. Absolutely not.” Lucius angrily snatches the box from Dobby. “That boy has no royal blood and he is entirely unsuitable as a potential match for you.”

“He has some royal blood on his father’s side,” Draco protests. “James Potter, a knight of the Order of the Phoenix and a war hero. Perhaps you’ve heard of him father?”

“How dare you—”

“That’s enough.” Queen Narcissa rises and moves between them, turning towards Draco. “My dear, while I have no issue with this Potter boy’s royal blood or lack thereof, you hardly know him. This could just be a passing fancy and it’s so very important to our kingdom that this visit with the Weasleys goes well. Will you please at least give Prince Ronald a fair chance and consider him?”

Draco huffs angrily and looks between the stony face of his father and the warm, pleading face of his mother before nodding reluctantly.

♘♔♘♔♘

Harry holds the the small golden sphere in his palm, fingers tracing the delicate wings attached to the side. It’s rather magnificent, really, but he’d rather not receive anything from that spoiled Prince Draco. Unfortunately the squire ran off immediately after delivering the item, giving Harry no time to refuse the gift.

“You have a suitor already?” Ron enters the room and peers over Harry’s shoulder, examining the intricate golden sphere in his hands.

Harry’s face flushes and he quickly shoves the gift back into the crushed velvet pouch it came in. His stomach turns with guilt, filled with shame about receiving gifts (though he’s been successful in returning all the others) from his Prince’s—and more so his best friend’s—betrothed.

“It’s nothing. Just some spoiled noble brat.”

“Ah,” Ron sighs. “There are a lot of those in this kingdom. Shall we venture down to the kitchens for a late-night snack? I’m still rather hungry and I’ve sweet talked some of the cooks into preparing a little food for me.”

“You go ahead. I think I’ll just go for a walk and explore the castle a bit.”

Ron nods and exits the room, Harry following a moment afterwards and climbing the stairs in the opposite direction. He’s still not quite used to staying in a castle and being surrounded by such wealth and finds these nightly walks help clear his head a bit.

Unable to sleep last night, he went to visit the stables and was startled to see Prince Draco out in the side yard, riding Scorpius along the dirt-packed path. Harry had assumed everyone would have been in bed at that hour, especially the prince, but Prince Draco seemed fully alert as he trotted along. He rode beautifully, there was no denying it. Harry’s breath had caught in his throat as he watched Prince Draco murmur in Scorpius's ear, petting him affectionately as they rode along in wide circles. The two were such a vision in the darkness of night, the moon glowing brightly in the dark sky, reflecting vividly against the white of Scorpius’s coat and the paleness of Draco’s hair. Draco was all elegance when he jumped off his horse, walking swiftly away and, to Harry’s surprise, Scorpius easily followed, untethered and all.

Their bond is clearly deeper than Harry first surmised and he feels a stab of guilt for perhaps rushing too quickly to judge the prince. He’s still a spoiled prat, of course, but it’s clear he truly loves his horse.

Harry pushes those thoughts away and continues to climb a few more stairs, passing gleaming suits of armour and rather realistic portraits until he reaches his destination. He could use some time to meditate alone and luckily for him, he recently discovered the castle has its very own astronomy tower. The glorious room offers large, towering windows that give a breath-taking view of the land and expansive sky above.

When he walks through the arched opening, however, he’s disheartened to find that he’s not alone. Prince Draco stands by one of the windows, sharply turning around when he hears Harry enter.

“Harry.” Prince Draco states in surprise.

“What are you doing here?” Harry’s heart rises in his throat, not quite prepared to converse with the young man he was just thinking about.

“It is my castle.” Prince Draco narrows his eyes and crosses his arms in front of his chest. “Why have you returned all my gifts?”

“I don’t want them.”

“You’re very lucky you know,” Prince Draco drawls and moves towards Harry. “Most people would be greatly honoured to receive attentions from a Prince like myself.”

“I’m not very interested in how everyone else might feel.”

Prince Draco grinds his teeth and steps closer. “I find your disrespect very offensive.”

“My disrespect?” Harry asks incredulously. “Well I find myself very offended by your attentions.”

“Excuse me?” Prince Draco’s eyes flash angrily.

“It’s clear you just want me like any other desired possession. Something shiny and fancy for you to own. Just like how you treat your poor horse; like another prized possession. It’s no wonder Scorpius likes me better than you.” The words are cruel, and Harry knows in his heart they aren’t true but something about the prince seems to bring out Harry’s wildest emotions.

“He does not!” Draco steps forward and grabs Harry’s shoulders. “And Scorpius is not an object to me, take it back.”

“Make me,” Harry snarls in response.

Prince Draco’s grip tightens and his fingers dig into Harry’s arms, shoving him against the cold, stone wall. Harry’s hands press against his chest, panting angrily as he tries to push him away. The prince is shaking with fury, his face flushed and mouth twisted in a scowl. Harry shoves forward only to be pushed back again by Prince Draco, his head connecting with the hard wall. Prince Draco’s face is an inch away from his, his breath warm as he exhales raggedly and leans forward. Harry’s eyes widen as he watches the prince’s face soften ever so slightly, his tight grip loosening. Prince Draco’s lips are right above his, nearly touching and for a moment Harry’s eyes flutter closed, head tilting up towards the prince before he’s snapped out of his daze. Harry quickly pushes him away, shoving past him and racing out of the tower. His heart beats rapidly against his chest and he doesn’t slow down until he reaches his room again, leaning against the closed door and lightly touching his lips with his fingers.

♘♔♘♔♘

The sun shines brightly in the cloudless sky, a gentle summer breeze blowing through the crowds. It’s perfect weather for the jousting match but Draco is unable to concentrate on the proceedings below. His mind goes back to that thwarted kiss from the other night, furious that Harry would have the audacity to run away from him. Perhaps disappointed is a better word for it, at the very least it seems to describe the hollow feeling in his chest as he tries to catch Harry’s attention and fails to do so. Harry is busy attending to the horses and wilfully refuses to look in Draco’s direction as he sits on the dais.

Draco forces himself to look away and instead watches the two knights as they charge towards each other. He had expected to see Prince Ronald enter the tournament today in order to impress him but was surprised to find the other prince sitting out the festivities. Instead, it is Princess Ginevra who is being saddled up, her flowing red locks tied back in a long plait behind her. She trots over on her horse and extend her lance, Blaise nearly tripping over himself as he ties a ribbon around it.

Her form is impressive and she quickly rises through the ranks, knocking several of Draco’s best knights off their horses. It’s a shame Draco is not interested in women; Princess Ginevra would have made a far better match than the boring, tiresome Prince Ronald.

The princess’s lance shatters against Knight Goyle and she pulls back her visor, grinning at the cheering crowd as she rides a victory lap over the grounds. Draco’s eyes are once again drawn to Harry and they share a small exchange of smiles before Harry flushes and looks away, racing over to the princess to help her dismount.

“She’s magnificent,” Blaise sighs. “Don’t you think?”

“Yes,” Draco agrees, eyes trained on Harry and the way his messy hair falls in front of his face. “Absolutely magnificent.”

♘♔♘♔♘

Harry is feeling rather restless after the jousting tournament. Although he’s been working long hours in the sun, he finds himself unable to sleep and decides to visit the stables. Despite the lovely accommodations and soft, plush bed, Harry feels most at home with the other horses. He checks on the foals first, making sure their stables are clean before he heads over to the royal horses.

He stops short, however, when he hears a soft voice murmuring in the foremost corner.

“Are you truly comfortable here, Scorpius?” Prince Draco lovingly brushes his horse. “Don’t you miss your private stable?”

Scorpius neighs softly in reply and Draco smiles in return.

“No, I suppose you do seem happy here. I’m a bit envious, really. How nice it must be to be surrounded by new friends, meanwhile I’m constantly bombarded by scheming people who either are employed by my family or wish to gain some royal favour. It’s a bit lonely, actually…”

Draco remains silent for a few moments and Harry finds himself frozen, torn between leaving and giving Draco his privacy and listening in for a bit longer.

“Of course I have you.” Draco’s voice sounds suspiciously rough, as if he’s holding back tears. “You’ll always be my dearest friend. But, maybe Harry is right. It might not be all too healthy for you to be my only friend.”

Harry tries to back away, guilt for eavesdropping on this private moment flooding through him, but he hits a shelf and a loud rattling sound fills the quiet stable.

“Who’s there?” Draco turns around, eyes rimmed red. “Harry?”

“Er, sorry.” Harry raises his hands in apology. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”

“Were you listening in on me?” Draco asks angrily, his face flushing in embarrassment.

“I didn’t mean to,” Harry protests. “I just—”

“How dare you?” Draco charges towards him furiously. “What gives you the right to spy on a Prince? I should have you tortured for this!”

“Tortured?” Harry’s voice fills with disgust. “That’s ridiculous, you’re being unreasonable.”

“No, you’re the one who has lost all sight of reason,” Draco spits, shoving Harry against the shelf.

Harry growls in return, anger and frustration clouding his vision as he pushes Draco away with more force than expected. Draco’s eyes widen in surprise and he falls backwards, hands scrabbling for purchase as he lands roughly against the sharp edge of an overturned plough.

“Prince Draco!” Harry calls out as Draco thuds against the floor. “No, no, no… Draco! Please, somebody help!”

Harry falls to his knees, alarms screaming in his head as he desperately grabs at Draco’s torn tunic. It’s so dark in the stable, the flickering candlelight casting long shadows on Draco’s still form, Harry can hardly see where the sharp tool has dug into his flesh. He can see the blood though, deep crimson staining Draco’s fine clothes, spreading along his chest and pooling into hollow of his neck. The thick, dark blood is stark against the prince’s pale skin and Harry continues to press down on the wounds in horror, anything to stop the steady bleeding.

“What happened?” Lord Chamberlain Severus rushes into the stable, pushing Harry aside. He gasps when he finds Prince Draco lying on the floor in a pool of blood. He turns to Harry, scowling severely. “Leave, now!”

Harry staggers back, and all but runs out of the stables, heart in his throat and body trembling in shock. He makes it back to his room and splashes cold water over his face, scrubbing the blood from his hands while he shivers violently. What has he done?

♘♔♘♔♘

“This seems to be healing quite well,” Physician Pomfrey remarks, applying an herb salve over Draco’s chest before rewrapping the wounds with linen.

“That pain has mostly subsided,” Draco agrees, re-doing the clasps on his tunic.

“I advise you continue to take this tincture for the next several days to prevent any risk of infection, though.”

Pomfrey hands over a small vial and gathers the rest of her instruments, bowing before she exits the room.

It’s been nearly a week since the incident and Draco has hardly seen Harry within the castle. Occasionally he will catch sight of him from a distance during meals in the Great Hall, but the two have mostly avoided each other.

He knows he should feel angry at Harry for injuring him—his father was certainly furious when he caught sight of his wounds. King Lucius demanded to know who was responsible but Draco quickly reassured him, insisting it was a self inflicted injury while taking a late night ride across the grounds. Draco isn’t entirely sure why he felt the need to protect Harry, but nonetheless he did. Instead of sharing his father’s fury, Draco is only filled with hurt, sadly wondering why Harry hates him so much he would try to practically kill him.

Draco walks solemnly down the hall from his room, toying with the heirloom locket he had planned on gifting Harry before their encounter in the stables. The ornate locket has been passed down from his ancestor Salazar, a jewelled serpentine crafted from emeralds embedded in the center of the heavy gold pendant. It’s a beautiful piece of jewellery, one Draco was certain Harry would be incapable of refusing.

“Wow.” Blaise whistles as he emerges from a doorway and joins Draco. “That is quite a stunning locket.”

“It is, isn’t it?”

“I wish I had something as nice as that to present to Princess Ginevra,” Blaise sighs. “She appears to like me well enough, but my usual charms don’t seem to have quite the same effect on her as the other ladies in court.”

“That’s a good thing,” Draco chuckles. “Trust me.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Blaise agrees good-naturedly.

“Here, take it.” Draco presses the locket into Blaise’s palm.

“Your Grace,” Blaise protests. “I couldn't.”

“You can,” Draco asserts. “I don’t think I’ll be needing it anymore.”

Blaise bows deeply, grinning widely as his fingers curl around the pendant. Draco watches him rush off joyfully, swallowing the lump of resentment rising in his throat. Uncomplicated infatuation and happy simplicity are just not in the stars for a royal prince.

♘♔♘♔♘

“Now that was a very good meal.” Ron pats his stomach appreciatively as they climb the stairs to their rooms. “Don’t you think the meat was wonderfully tender?”

“I suppose so,” Harry replies distractedly. He hasn’t had much of an appetite since that night in the stables with Prince Draco. His heart clenches painfully with guilt whenever he catches sight of the prince, shame and some unknown fear preventing him from approaching Prince Draco and properly apologizing.

“Is everything alright, Harry?” Ron frowns with concern. “Something seems to be bothering you lately.”

“I—” Harry considers confessing everything to Ron, clearing his conscious and his heart but something holds him back. Despite their swift friendship, Harry can’t find the courage to tell him the truth. “I just haven’t been sleeping well.”

“Should we get you a better sleeping pad? I don’t think we’ll be able to afford new ones until after we finalize the treaty here but I am sure we can move some things around.”

“No, Your Grace.” Harry flushes at Ron’s offer, overcome with the kindness the prince has shown him. “My sleeping pad is excellent, as are the accommodations here at the castle. I’m extremely content.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Ron throws an arm around Harry, pulling him close. “We haven’t known each other all that long, but you’re highly valued, Harry. Not just for your immense skill with the horses, but as a friend. I’m happy to have met you.”

“Same here.” Harry playfully knocks back against Ron. It should be strange to be so familiar with royalty, but Harry can’t help but view Prince Ron as merely a friend—his best friend.

“Well, I better get some good rest tonight.” Ron stretches as they approach his room. “Tomorrow I’ll have to sign all the official marriage contracts and treaties.”

“So soon?” Harry stutters out, the warmth from their previous conversation abruptly chased away.

“So it would seem,” Ron replies. “I suppose there is always the wedding night to look forward to. Despite his horrid personality, Prince Draco is rather pretty.”

Envy curls in Harry’s stomach at the thought of Prince Draco and Ron sharing a bed and he has to dig his nails into his palms to keep quiet. Guilt immediately washes over him as Harry reminds himself this it is Ron who is betrothed to Prince Draco, not him.

“Goodnight, Your Grace.”

“Night, Harry. Sleep well.” Ron smiles brightly before entering his room and closing the door.

Harry considers going to his room but decides some fresh air will do him good. He hasn’t been able to sleep very well, anyway, ever since his last encounter with Prince Draco. Whenever Harry closes his eyes he sees Draco’s lifeless body, lying in a pool of his own blood, mouth gaping uselessly as he stares at the ceiling. It’s been torture, battling the nightmarish images as well as the uncomfortable and undeniable feelings growing inside him.

Harry didn’t expect to start caring for the spoiled prince, but somewhere along the way the snobbish brat got under his skin and took permanent residence. Harry is starting to realise he may have judged the prince a little harshly; just because their upbringings were wildly different does not mean the two have nothing in common.

Harry arrives at the stables and is surprised to find that Scorpius is missing from his usual spot. He locates a young stable boy who informs him Draco came by earlier and took Scorpius for an evening ride to the lake. Harry quickly saddles James and rides out onto the grounds before he can even think better of it, steering his horse towards the Great Lake.

♘♔♘♔♘

Draco sits at the edge of the lake, idly tossing stones into the smooth surface, watching as the water breaks and ripples at the contact. The sun has fallen behind the horizon and everything is soaked in hues of blue, dusk spreading its reach across the land. Night has not quite taken a claim yet to the surroundings and Draco stretches back to observe the rapidly darkening sky.

“Your Grace?”

Draco sits up suddenly, nervously rising to his feet as he sees Harry trot over on his horse.

“Have you come to finish the job?” Draco asks bitterly, regretting his harsh words when he sees a flash of pain across Harry’s face.

“Prince Draco.” Harry dismounts from his horse, voice filled with sincerity. “I’m so sorry.”

“For trying to kill me?” Draco inquires softly.

“I wasn’t trying to kill you,” Harry protests fiercely. “I didn’t even mean to hurt you. I was just angry and we were arguing and I panicked.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Draco sighs.

“Are you still in a lot of pain?” Harry takes a step closer, face twisted in concern.

“I’m mostly healed now,” Draco replies opening the top of his tunic and revealing faint white scars over his collarbone.

Harry gasps softly, moving closer and tracing the raised lines with his fingertips. Draco shivers in response, the touch sending pleasant chills down his spine. Harry blushes and hastily pulls his hand away, taking a step back.

“So…” He trails off, turning to look over at the lake.

“Yes?”

“Are you really going to marry Prince Ron?”

“I don’t have a choice,” Draco mutters, crossing his arms. “I have my kingdom to think about. And besides, my first choice rejected me anyway.” Draco turns to Harry and looks at him pointedly.

“You weren’t serious,” Harry objects stubbornly. “It was all a game to you.”

“I was entirely serious.” Draco steps closer to Harry, peering deep into his eyes. “My intentions were—are—utterly sincere.”

Harry chews his lip nervously but makes no move to back away from Draco. Draco closes the distance, leaning down to capture Harry’s mouth in a kiss. There is a moment of terrible dread when Draco feels nothing, but then Harry is returning the kiss, the gentlest of pressure against Draco’s lips. Draco’s hands sink into Harry’s hair, surprised to find the inky waves softer than he would have thought. Harry tilts his head and opens his mouth on a small gasp, allowing Draco to slip his tongue inside. Harry’s mouth is warm, wet and welcoming and Draco’s toes curl in pleasure. Harry tentatively slides his tongue against Draco’s, the timidity surprisingly sending waves of arousal through Draco’s body.

“Your Grace,” Harry moans against his mouth.

“Draco,” he insists, mouth moving over Harry’s jaw and neck. “Call me Draco.”

“Draco,” Harry pants, arms tightening around Draco and pulling him closer.

Draco moves his body against Harry’s, heat pooling in his stomach when he feels a hard length pressed against his thigh. His own cock throbs in sympathy, trapped in the confines of his breeches and he adjusts their bodies until it slides against Harry’s answering hardness.

“Oh,” Harry gasps, head falling back as Draco continues to suck and bite at the exposed flesh.

Draco pulls away, ignoring Harry’s disappointed whine, before grabbing him by the waist and pulling him to the ground. They tumble together and Harry releases a beautiful laugh before his mouth is once again covered by Draco’s. Harry’s fingers work on the fastenings of his tunic, shoving at the material until his hands reach the warm skin beneath. Draco shudders under Harry’s touch, arching against the hands that map out every inch of Draco’s chest.

Draco reaches out and cups the straining erection in Harry’s trousers, delighting in the heady groan Harry makes at his touch. He undoes the ties and pulls Harry’s thick cock free. He’s never touched another’s prick besides his own before and Draco suddenly feels nervous, afraid he’ll do this all wrong. Harry, however, moans and writhes beside him, bucking his hips towards Draco’s hands.

Draco curls his hand tightly around Harry’s hot cock, tugging him firmly and watching a bead of pre-come form at the tip. He’s doing this, Draco is causing Harry to make desperate sounds and arch into his touch. The realisation is thrilling and Draco kisses Harry deeply as he increases the speed of his strokes, swallowing all of Harry’s moans. Harry tenses next to him, body shuddering and cock pulsing in his hand as his release spills from him and onto Draco’s fingers.

Harry collapses onto the ground with a satisfied sigh and Draco wipes the stickiness from his hand onto the grass.

“Can I…?” Harry asks shyly, gesturing to the vivid bulge in Draco’s breeches.

“Please,” Draco murmurs, gasping when Harry pulls his throbbing cock free and into his calloused hand.

The cool summer air feels soothing against the heat of his cock and Harry grips the base tightly as he shuffles closer. He lowers his face towards Draco’s groin and Draco feels a moment of blinding envy as he wonders how many people Harry has done this with. Harry brings his mouth to the tip of Draco’s dripping prick before he pauses.

“I—I don’t know if I’ll be any good.” Harry’s lips brush against the swollen head, a faint blush spreading across his cheeks. “I’ve never done this before.”

Draco feels a wave of relief wash over him, his prick twitching against Harry’s mouth at the confession.

“You don’t have to—”

“No,” Harry interrupts, eyes dark with desire. “I want to.”

Draco surrenders to the sensations as Harry’s lips wrap around him, his cock enveloped in the wet warmth of Harry’s mouth.

“Yes, yes,” Draco groans, fingers digging into the earth as Harry bobs up and down the length of his cock.

He can feel himself losing control, the pleasure filling his senses and threatening to turn him inside out. His thighs tremble and his bollocks tighten, Harry’s talented tongue swirling around him.

“Harry!” Draco cries out, “I’m going to—”

“Yes,” Harry mumbles around his cock. “Do it.”

Draco arches off the ground, white hot pleasure overflowing as he comes down Harry’s throat. Harry swallows most it, coughing roughly as he pulls back and wipes his mouth. He smiles sheepishly as Draco reaches out and pulls Harry down beside him.

“That was—”

“Good, really good.” Harry’s voice is delightfully rough, his lips swollen and red.

“I would say better than good.” Draco turns to face Harry, fingers threading through his wild locks. Harry returns Draco’s smile warmly, before it slowly fades, his eyes filling with distress.

“I have to go.” Harry pushes himself up and quickly refastens his clothing.

“What’s wrong?” Draco redoes his breeches, worriedly watching Harry’s frantic scrambling.

“We shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have done that.” Harry’s voice fills with emotion. “Prince Ron was the first person ever to show me any kindness and I turn around and betray him like this.”

“Wait, Harry—”

“I’m so sorry, Draco.” Harry stares at Draco longingly before mounting his horse. “Goodbye, Your Grace.”

Draco opens his mouth to call Harry back, but he’s already riding off, galloping back towards the castle. Draco collapses back to the ground and buries his head into his hands. Dusk finally surrenders to night and Draco remains there long after the stars rise into the sky.

♘♔♘♔♘

“Today’s the big day.” Ron fastens his belt tightly above his hips. “I just have to go over the treaty and contract with my advisors first, but then it’s time for the big, public spectacle.”

“You must be excited,” Harry mutters dejectedly, heart heavy with guilt and misery.

“Hardly,” Ron scoffs. “But one has to do what they must.”

“Listen, Your Grace.” Harry clears his throats and steels his nerves. “There is something I have to tell you, about Prince Draco…”

“What about that prat?”

“He’s not a prat!” Harry flushes at Ron’s raises brow. “What I mean is, he’s not all that bad. I think you’ll really come to care for him eventually. But I have to tell you that I—that we—”

“Yes?”

“I’m terribly sorry, Your Highness, Ron, but, you see—”

“Sir?” Squire Dobby enters the room and bows deeply. “Your advisors are waiting for you.”

“Sorry, Harry,” Ron apologizes, his face studying Harry intently. “I have to go. We can talk more about this later. I’ll see you in the Great Hall for the signing ceremony.”

Ron rushes out the door and follows Dobby, leaving Harry behind to wallow in his conflicted thoughts.

An hour later and he is summoned to the Great Hall, the papers all drafted and ready to be signed. His heart clenches painfully when he catches sight of Prince Draco, standing uncertainly by his throne. Draco’s emotions are clearly written on his face when he spots Harry, nearly swaying towards him before catching himself.

Harry hardly hears the words Queen Narcissa speaks, the sour looking King Lucius nodding here and there but otherwise remaining mute on his throne. Ron signs with a flourish, oddly shooting Harry a secret grin before Draco follows with his signature. Draco is a perfect picture of misery and Harry’s vision darkens as he watches them both melt wax to press their royal seals into the parchment. Hysteria bubbles up in Harry’s throat and before he knows it, he’s leaping up and rushing towards them.

“Wait!” Harry shouts, the entire court turning their attention to him. “I can’t let you do this, either of you. I—I want to be with you, Draco. I can’t watch you promise yourself to someone else. And Ron, I’m sorry, so sorry but I—”

Ron holds up his hand to silence Harry and the entire court breaks out into hushed whispers and murmurs.

“You don’t have to say anything Harry and there is no need to apologize. I made some last minute changes to the contract.”

Ron holds the papers out and Harry’s mouth drops open in shock as he sees his name in place of Ron’s.

“I’m not completely dense, you know.” Ron favours Harry with a playful wink.

♘♔♘♔♘

Draco’s hands shake as he watches the scene unfold before him, looking down at the contract in front of him and avidly reading it closely. It does have Harry’s name in place of Prince Ronald’s; how did he not notice it before?

“Harry.” Draco rushes forward and and grasps Harry’s hands in his. “I care for you, truly care you. I don’t view you as a possession or as a prize that I want and must have. Although, I do want you.” Draco blushes but presses on. “If you’d have me, I promise to treat you with the utmost respect you deserve, to cherish you and…” Draco trails off, belatedly realising the entire court is listening in.

“Draco,” Harry murmurs, eyes shining with emotion.

Draco leans forward and presses his lips against Harry’s, drowning in that lovely soft and pliable mouth. Harry returns the kiss with fervour, lips curving into a smile as the court erupts in cheers.

“This is preposterous,” King Lucius shouts over the crowd. “I absolutely forbid this disgraceful relationship of my son, the future king, with a mere peasant. In fact—”

“Severus,” Narcissa sharply interrupts. “Will you please take my husband and remove him to the other room. Give him a bottle of wine and do keep him there while the rest of us toast the happy couple.”

The Lord Chamberlain nods his head and drags a still sputtering King Lucius out of the room. Draco turns to Queen Narcissa, face lighting up with joy.

“Do you truly mean it, Mother?”

“Of course.” She smiles affectionately at Draco. “You’re my only child and I want you to be happy dear. I am certain Prince Ron and I can still craft a treaty to build an alliance between our kingdoms.”

“Certainly.” Ron nods in agreement.

“Now, let us all toast the lovely couple.” Narcissa raises her glass.

Harry joyfully laughs against Draco’s lips as they kiss again amongst the cheers of the court.

♘♔♘♔♘

“And you’re sure it’s alright?”

“Of course, Harry.” Ron pats him affectionately on the back as his steward attaches the last chest to the carriage. “You were the best Master of the Horse we’ve ever had, even for this brief while, but we’ll manage.”

“Thank you, Ron. For everything. You’re a true friend.”

“Hey,” Ron protests, “it’s not goodbye forever. We’ll see each other often. Now that Ginny’s staying here to join the Holyhead jousting team—and let’s face it, to spend more time with Blaise—I’ll be visiting all the time.”

“You’re right.” Harry grins broadly.

“And I expect you to come and visit me. I think you’d really enjoying seeing the fields and agriculture.”

“Really?” Prince Draco appears, voice full of mirth. “A royal farmland?”

Ron scowls but Harry quickly shoots Draco a look and the prince sighs and puts on a tight smile.

“Of course Harry and I will be happy to come visit the Bolide Kingdom.”

Ron nods his head, mounting his horse and leading his party down the main castle road. Harry waves, bittersweet emotions twisting in his stomach.

“Come on, let’s go inside.”

Draco presses a kiss to Harry’s temple, slinging his arm around his shoulder and guiding him inside the gates. Harry looks back one last time at the retreating Weasley party before resting his head on Draco’s shoulder and following him inside.

♘♔♘♔♘

Two Months Later

Harry brushes James’s mane, gazing out the stable door at the setting autumn sun.

“How is James today?” Draco comes behind Harry and snakes his arms around him, resting his chin on Harry’s shoulder.

“Definitely less jealous,” Harry responds, leaning back into Draco’s embrace. “Albus and him were even playing together earlier.”

“I’m surprised Albus took a break from preening over Scorpius. Those two are always together, flirting like little love birds.”

As if they were listening in, Albus and Scorpius trot over, neighing softly and nudging their noses against their owners.

“I think these two want to go for a ride.” Draco laughs. “Should we saddle them up?”

“One step ahead of you.” Harry smiles, grabbing their saddles from the wall and quickly fastening them. “Thank you, again, for your lovely gift. Albus is incredibly beautiful.” James, nearby, snorts and digs at the ground. “Of course not more beautiful than you, James.”

Draco shakes his head affectionately, mounting Scorpius and leading him outside.

“Come on.” Draco turns back and watches Harry artfully mount his horse.

He isn’t sure how he stumbled upon such luck that day he met Harry, but Draco wouldn’t trade this for all the riches in the land. The sky glows red with the setting sun, crisp autumn air whipping about them as they gallop towards the woods. Draco’s heart fills with joy and love and he rides happily towards a bright and shining future.

~fin~