Draco Malfoy stormed down the elaborate marble hallway, deaf to the furious yells of his father. He jumped up his staircase, three steps at a time, walked right into his room, and slammed his double doors so harshly that the two scowling portraits of him hanging on the sides of the doorframe shuddered and fell to the floor with a clatter.

Ignoring the two portraits, Lucius snarled as the doors shut in his face.

"DRACO!" he yelled. "Open these doors immediately!"

He pounded on the locked doors viscously, but Draco merely smirked to himself as he ignored the demands. He sat on one of his comfortable sofas, ripping off his boots and throwing them to the floor. He tore off his cloak and shirt and threw them at the boots so that they lay there in a crumpled heap. He glared furiously at himself in a large mirror as he tore out his hair tie, letting his nearly white hair fall into his face, flushed with anger.


Draco stood up, picked up one of the boots, and hurled it at the door with a heavy thud. "GO TO HELL, YOU BASTARD!" he howled.

"I will NOT let you embarrass me today Draco, under NO circumstances will I allow you to do that," Draco heard the muffled seething on the other side of the door. He tossed his hair tie onto his sofa and proceeded to take off his pants. With a shake of his head and a glare, he decided that all he needed right then was a long, hot bath.

"I know you hear me," Lucius was saying angrily. "All right, decide to be the difficult, spoiled brat you are. I'll proceed with the deal without you."

Draco had the doors open in a flash, not caring that he was half naked. He spat after his father, who was half turned away and ready to leave. "Damn you to hell! I refuse, I absolutely refuse – "

"You can refuse all you like," Lucius marched right up to his son and glared down at him. Hadn't there been servants watching fearfully, you can be damned sure that Lucius would have beaten the boy. "But that does not change the fact that you will marry this girl, whether you like it or not. Believe it or not, Draco, this world does not revolve around your wants and desires." He turned away, whipping Draco with one last glare of hatred and anger. He wiped the spittle off of his cheek with a handkerchief, sparing the group of cowering servants only a half of a glance, and strode away.

Draco glared after his father's back, wondering whether he should follow him, but deciding against it. Wiping his chin, he realized that some of the servants had advanced and were timidly asking if Draco needed anything. He ordered them to fix him a hot bath and to bring in a beautiful girl and boy from the harems, each with a bottle of wine.

It truly was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the skies were a forget-me-not blue, the birds were twittering happily, and the people! The people of the market square might as well have been in a musical, singing a merry song and dancing amongst themselves, arms hooked and grins wide.

Well, everyone was happy… save one boy. Harry James Potter was his name, and he was brooding darkly, as most young adults do out of habit. As he pushed his way through the crowd in the market, there seemed to be a shadow or some sort of cloud that hung over him. Had he been walking in a meadow of flowers, the flowers he walked over might have turned to ashes under his feet.

He stopped at the bread stand. A squat old lady was sitting underneath her makeshift tent, fanning herself and chewing on a plant. Her friend was sitting beside her, and was leaning forward. She was yapping away, obviously enjoying a good piece of gossip. They were both flushed from the heat of the oven not even a few feet away from them.

"Excuse me for a moment, Violet," the fat lady said as she got off her bench and waddled closer to the counter. A grin suddenly appeared on her face. "Why, if it isn't tall, dark, and handsome. Come over here, Violet, look at this young boy and tell me that if he would only smile once in a while, he would be the most handsome boy in town."

Violet peered closer and smirked. "Oh, he most definitely is one fine looker – makes me want to go back to my younger years. I bet you would look even better without those glasses," she beamed. "What's wrong with him?" she inquired of the fat lady when she realized that Harry didn't seem amused – he was impatient, if anything.

The fat lady had turned to get some bread off of a shelf. She knew Harry's exact order, seeing that he came there once a week on the same day at the same time for the same five bags of plain bread. She was wrapping the golden bread in plastic and shoving them into brown bags. "Oh, nothing is wrong with him, Violet. He's just shy, that's what I say to everyone that asks about him," she grinned at him as she handed him the bread. "And boy, do people ask about you." She raised an eyebrow at him. "A lot of people want to know why a handsome young lad like you is always alone…"

She paused dramatically, as if inviting Harry to answer the question. The only thing he did was shrug, however. He handed her the coins and nodded at the ladies, gratefully leaving.

He didn't seem to be fazed at all over the newly discovered information that strangers watched him and asked about him. No, instead he had gone back to his dark brooding. Now he would have to walk all the way back to the forest. He wasn't looking forward to the two hour walk back. The cloud seemed to grow darker. He was eighteen – an adult! – and yet he couldn't even go on any proper missions. No, he was the delivery boy, and that was all.

"Not yet, Harry," Remus would say gently.

"You'll get your chance," Tonks would say earnestly.

"Patience is virtue," Kingsley would advise wisely.

Harry glared as he kicked a stone away. He had been waiting patiently since he was ten years old! He was training for eight years! He was ready! Even Bill, Fred, and George agreed with him! He scowled. Why couldn't Ron or Ginny do the deliveries?

Something collided with his shoulder. He fell back. His back hit a stone wall, his head burst with pain. The bread dropped to the floor as his hands flew up to the back of his head. He tried to still his dizzy vision. He shook his head and dropped to his knees to pick up his bread, his glasses that fell – but his hands touched something else. It felt like a smooth stone. He found his glasses and shoved them back on his face. He stood up; peering at the red, smooth stone in his hand –


Harry froze. He dropped the stone and turned, but it was too late. The royal guards – green and silver sashes around their black uniform – were running towards him, rapiers unsheathed.