The Prince

Chapter One

I dread market days. As far back as I can remember I have always hated the market, even when I didn't have to work it. The smells the horses leave behind, the muddy streets and the crowds, I just can't stand it. I really don't see the appeal it has to other people. Sure the shops are fun to browse in, but when you have no money to buy anything, it starts to get old. When I see all the happy people, couples walking hand in hand, children laughing with their parents, and friends running around playing childish games, it just makes me feel lonely. Plus market days mean more work, and that is something I really could do without.

Market days are twice a week. Remus and I have to haul all the goods down the five-mile path to get to the village, and with only two people, it's quite a struggle. Remus tells me it was different when my father was alive. My father knew how to run the farm, knew how to run a business. Not like my stepfather, who doesn't know corn from shit. We have alot of money troubles now.

If it weren't for Snape it wouldn't be so much work on market days. If he wasn't here, maybe I would enjoy the market a little more. But I don't know what would have been, because he is here. He likes to remind me of that a few times a day.

Our booth is set up towards the edge of town, not a very good spot at all. It was cheaper than the other places towards the center though, and Snape doesn't like to waste money. That or he doesn't know any better. I'm going for a combination of both.

"Set that down carefully Draco, you don't want to bruise the fruit,"

I nodded and eased the box onto the floor and begin to unpack it. I see Remus out of the corner of my eye do the same with the corn. It's always the same routine. Load up the boxes in the cart, drag the cart ourselves to the village (our horse slipped his shoe a while ago, and Snape refuses to pay for a refitting), unload, sell for a few hours, pack up and head back home. Sometimes my life is so monotonous I could scream.

"It looks like it's going to be a slow day again, Draco. You can go and visit Hermione if you want,"

I smile, Remus is so thoughtful like that. As much as I want to, I shake my head no, "I'd love to, but I don't want to leave you here by yourself,"

He waved a hand at me dismissively, "Nonsense, go see your friend, I'll be fine,"

"Well if your sure..."

Hermione lives with her mistress at the healer's. Once there was a time when she lived at the manor with me, back in the days before Snape became master. Before Snape managed to ruin our entire estate, Hermione had been a servant there with her parents. We became fast friends, and we grew up together. She was taken on as an apprentice after my mother's death. She loved her job, it suited her, but I didn't get to see her as often as I'd like.

The building shuddered a little when I slammed the door too hard. Inside was much better, I decided, away from all those people. I suppose I'm a little claustraphobic, I don't like being crowded. It must have something to do with Snape locking me in the dungeons when I was bad. The strong smell of something I don't recgonize fills my nose. The walls in here are covered with bottles of medicene and sketches of the human anatomy. How they find out about what the insides of humans look like I don't want to know.

"Hello, how may I....Oh hello Draco!" she smiles at me widely, her professionalism forgotten.

"Hello Hermione. How have you been?" I smile at her. She instantly goes off into a tirade of the week she's had.

" We've been extremely busy. It seems everyone is sick this time of year. That and people keep coming in here asking for night creams to rid themselves of wrinkles and lotions to make their skin softer. I keep telling them we are not that kind of place, you come here for medicene not magic potions. If they want stuff like that go to the apothecary. But they still keep coming! I don't know what to do!"

"Why do they want that stuff for anyway?"

She looks at me exasperately, "Honestly Draco, can't you at least try to keep up with the gossip? How could you not have heard about the balls that King James is throwing for his son?"

Balls? Oh yes I remember now. King James and Queen Lily love their son Harry very much. They have never made him do anything he didn't want to, never forced anything on him. Until now. Now they want him to get married before the end of the month. Since Prince Harry refused an arranged marriage, King James came up with this brilliant plan to have a few balls in Harry's honor so that he could choose a spouse. Notice I say spouse instead of bride. That is because rumor has it that Prince Harry is bisexual. Doesn't want to disappoint anyone I guess.

"Of course I knew about that! Who doesn't? I just didn't know it was coming up so soon."

She sighed, "I just don't know about you Draco. But God, wouldn't you like to go to one of those things? Even you must admit that Prince Harry is extremely dashing. Wouldn't it be wonderful to go to the ball and have the Prince fall madly in love with you and sweep you away into his castle forever and ever?"

She had a wistful expression on her face, "Yes it would be. It's such a shame that you only have eyes for dear Ronald, isn't it 'Mione?"

She blushed and mumbled something that sounded like "oh yes Ron of course." I hate to be the one to bring her back to earth, but be practical please. As if the Prince would ever consider looking at anyone so low down on the social ladder. Big, arrogant, rich, smug bastard.

At least thats how I imagine he would be, if I ever met him. I had only seen him from a distance, town girls flocking all over him. He with that ever present smile of his. Hermione does have a point though, I thought. He is exceptionally handsome, with his messy black hair you just itch to run your hands through, and his eyes...I look at my own reflection in a mirror on the wall. And we're back to earth now. I have dirt on my face, and my hair, while usually white blonde, looks almost light brown it's so dirty. As if the Prince would even throw me a coin if I was a begger on the street.

"So how are things with that man of yours? When are you going to introduce us? Its rather rude you know, I am your best friend, and I think your best friend should know who you are courting. Does he have a wierd deformity? Is that why your so reluctant for me to meet him? He's got a crooked nose doesn't he? Or maybe he..."

"He does not have a deformity! He is perfectly...perfect," she interrupted me, blushing."I'll introduce you next chance I get. And for Merlins sake we're not even...I mean I'm not even sure if he..."

I enjoy watch her blush and fight for the right words. God, Snape must be rubbing off on me. I'll be nice and change the subject.

"So when is this ball taking place anyway?" I ask nonchalantly, picking imaginary dust off my sleeve.

She looks at me curiously,"The first one is tonight. Why do you want to know?"

"Well," I say, running a hand thoughtfully through my hair, "I was thinking I might go,"

At first I think I've killed her, because she doesn't say anything, just stands there gaping like a fish. Wait for it...wait for it...

"WHAT?" she yelled incredulously, "What are you talking about you can't go!"

"Why not? Isn't everyone invited?"

"Well yes," she said sputtering, "But we're servants Draco not high class society members,"

"So I'll borrow something to wear from Vincent or Goyle. No one will know I'm a servant,"

"Draco don't even kid about that," she's getting red in the face now, "You know the penalty for servants who dress above their stations..."

"I just want to look!" I plead with her, "I just will go in and no one will notice me. I'll stay for two minutes I swear! I just want to see whats it like and then I'll leave!"

She's silent for a while so I know she's thinking about it. I really don't have to have her permission, but I hate doing things Hermione doesn't approve of, plus I sort of want her to come with me.

"Alright Draco," YES! She gave in! "But PROMISE to stay only for a minute!"

"Why don't you come with me to make sure I uphold that promise?"

She sputters, "No, Draco, I CAN'T! Ron will be there, he will surely recognize me. Just try to remember every detail so you can tell me all about it."

I grin cheekily at her, "It's a deal 'Mione. Merlin I've got to get back to Remus. I'll try to stop by tomorrow if I get the chance."

She looks disappointed, but quickly hides it and waves, "Bye Draco,"

I step out of the shop, into the smelly streets. Going to the ball will be risky, if I get caught they will most likely hang me. Well that makes it all the more interesting doesn't it? Besides I really don't have anything to live for, death will only mean freedom from Snape. Lost in thought, I round the corner, and barrel into something hard.

"Oof! God! Watch where your going you daft cow!"

"Sorry," I heard a voice above me mumble, "Here let me help you,"

"No thanks I got it,"I say sarcastically and look up. Look up right into the face of our dearly beloved Prince, Harry Potter.

"Oh shit," I sputter, "I mean, forgive me Your Highness, it was completely my fault. I'm such a clumsy oaf,"

He starts laughing halfway through my apology for calling him, the Prince, a daft cow. Note to self, look at who it is before you start with the insults. He casually walks away, calling over his shoulder "Don't worry about it." I'm momentarily stunned.

Yeah, get off the ground Draco, remember the horse droppings.

That afternoon when Remus and I got back from town, I set to work getting ready to go to the ball. Snape and his two sons were already gone, wanted to get there really early I suppose. I washed myself in the river so that my hair was once again its silky brightness and I dressed myself in one of Greg's older formal wear. There was no way I'd fit into the newer things, there was a reason I call him Goyle. I'd just have to settle with being slightly out of style. Oh well, no one was going to see me anyway.

A little after sundown I started out. I would be a little late, but I didn't want to be early and make an entrance. I had the plan all laid out: sneak in, look around a few minutes, get my ass out of there and head over to Hermione's for a while to tell her about it.

The castle looked gorgeous at night. Its towers were reflected by the moon, and I could see lights from the windows and a soft string of music met my ears. It was a beautiful night, I was almost content to just stay outside for a while and skip the ball altogether. I started for the entrance before I lost my nerve.

Even the entry hall was beautiful. Soft candles and white lily's (in honor of our beloved Queen I'm certain) adorned hall. I could hear people now, lots of people. Now that I thought about it, being in a small room full of people probably wasn't the best idea. I forced myself to venture inward, if Hermione was going to live vicariously through me, I had to at least have something to tell her about.

The entry hall was obviously the appetizer. The ballroom was gorgeous. The beautiful crystal chandelier and the flowers and the candles and all the people in their beautiful clothes dancing around in a whirl of colors. The smells of food and perfume, it was all lovely. As I predicted nobody noticed me enter, all were to entranced in the magic of the evening, the seduction of the music. I felt a little pang in my heart to know that I could never truly be apart of this. Suddenly it was much to hot in here, and the smells and heat were stifling, and the colors dizzying.

I saw doors that I assumed led out to the terrace. I made my way over to it.Yes, just as I predicted. However, the terrace seemed to be the chosen place for couples to...erm...get to know eachother a little better. I went down to the gardens instead.

Wow. If it were possible, I loved the gardens more than I loved the party. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. The flowers and the moonlight and the fountain in the center, and the smells worked and it was open and quiet and....I sighed. I went over and laid down on the fountain. The water was never this clear at the river at home. Shows just what being wealthy will get you.

Not that I was always poor. I was well off when my parents were alive. I never knew my dad, he died soon after I was born. My mother was my best friend for a long time, and then she got remarried. To Snape. Snape brought pain and two torturous little sons into the household. If it weren't for Snape, my mother wouldn't have died. She died giving birth to Snape's child. I was eight.

After that everything went down hill. The servants were sold off, one by one, to cover our debts. Without the servants the farm disintegrated, until I too was eventually forced into servitude, for Merlin forbid Snapes precious son's do anything that resembles work. It was just me and Remus now.

I broke the waters surface with my fingertips, watching the ripples spread out from my fingers. I knew I had outstayed my allotted time, but I just couldn't make myself move from this spot. If I moved I would have to face reality, and I wanted to stay in this fantasy a little while longer.

"Not enjoying the ball, are you?"

The voice startled me so bad that I gasped and toppled over straight into the fountain.

I came up sputtering. The owner of the voice looked horrified and a little amused. Wait a second, thats....!

"Oh gosh, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to startle you! I just...here let me..."

I sat stunned as Prince Harry fussed over me, pulling me out of the water as if I weighed nothing, setting me down on the side and trying to squeeze out some of the excess water and drying my face with his shirt. Did he not recognize me from this afternoon? Apparently not of he would have been calling the guards for my arrest.

I snap out of my daze, "Wha...no no its fine really don't bother. It was my fault I was always a little clumsy."

"Oh Merlin, I feel terrible, at least let me call the guards to get you some dry clothes."

"NO!" I panicked, "Er, no that won't be necessary. I assure you I am fine."

He nods, accepting it. I ran a hand through my hair and I could feel it stick up funny. There was a hint of a smile on the Prince's face, but I chose to ignore it.

"Well, now that I have been humiliated in front of royalty my night is complete, so if you'll excuse me..." I make for the castle walls.

"Uh, the door is that way," he points, as if to make one.

"Well I can't very well go back in there like this now can I," I ask him, feigning stupidity. He's an idiot, I know where the bloody door is. "So I'm going to climb the wall,"

He looks at me as if I'm insane. Which I suppose I am. "Aren't you worried about your dignity or your clothes or something?"

I look at him strangely, what is up with this guy? "Erm, no, why would I care about that? Could you give me a hand here please? I forget sometimes how short I am,"

I'm trying to be calm here. I'm not sure if its working. If I were a nobleman I wouldn't be intimidated by the Prince, but I'm not sure if most nobles ask for a leg up so they can climb a wall to escape a ball in his honor either. Oh well, too late now.

"Of course," he says coming over to me. He cups his hands and I step on it and push off his shoulder. Maybe he didn't know how heavy I was but in any case I lost my balance. With a cry I fell, only to be caught by his strong arms.

I am suddenly aware of how wet I am, and how handsome the Prince is, and the way his arms caught me. His lips are inches from mine, I can feel his breath on my lips. I blush, thankful thats it nighttime and he can't see it.

"Sorry," he whispers, why is he whispering? "Lets try that again."

We succeed this time. I'm about to disappear over the wall when he calls out to me.

"I'm really sorry about the fountain," he says shuffling his feet.

"Don't worry about it, I've had worse experiences," I turn to leave again.

"Are you coming to the next ball?" He calls out suddenly.

Am I coming to the next ball? Does that mean that he wants to see me again or something? My heart skips a beat at that thought. But could I risk it? My stepfamily would be there, they would recognize me instantly...but the Prince is so handsome and adorable, I have to say it...

"Yes, will I see you there?" I ask, trying to sound as if I don't care, but Merlin I do.

"Definately," he grins.

I give him a half smile, and my head disappears below the wall.

"Oi!" he called to me again. I pull myself back up. This was getting to be rather annoying.

"Uh, whats your name?" he blurted out quickly.

I hesitated, should I tell him my real name? What the hell, I've done everything else tonight. "Draco," I breathed," My name is Draco."

"Harry,"

"I know."

I burst into Hermione's room as soon as she answered the door. She squinted at me with sleep covered eyes.

"Draco? Whats..."

"You," I said stepping into the room," Are not going to believe what just happened."