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Finding the Perfect Mate For Your Heir

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Title: Finding the Perfect Mate for Your Heir
Author: Makoto Sagara
Series: Harry Potter
Archive: the usual suspects (ffnet, affnet, Foreverfandom, my site, mediaminer, makochanupdates on LJ, thehexfiles, hpfandom, and the harrydraco community on LJ); anywhere else, ask first.
Pairing: Draco/Harry (eventual), Lucius/Narcissa, others
Rating: PG
Word count: 11,141
Warnings: Slash, ooc, angst, language, humour, AU, het
Disclaimers: I don’t own Harry Potter and his friends. They belong to a list of people, including the wonderful JKR, Warner Bros, Scholastic Publishing, Raincoat Books, and others. I’m only borrowing them for entertainment purposes.
Summary: Lord Lucius invites young people from all over King Albus’s realm to vie for the hand of his only child. Draco only has eyes for the young Lord Potter.

Author’s Notes: I got the idea for this after reading a couple of other fairy tale based stories. I couldn’t find one based on “The Princess and the Pea,” so this was born. Enjoy! I want to say thanks to Jokes for the awesome beta job and her encouragement of my insanity! And thanks to Forever for her help during the initial planning stage!

~**~~**~~**~~**~

Once upon a time, there was a lord with only one child, a boy. Lord Lucius loved his son above all others. Draco was the apple of his eye, and his mother, Lady Narcissa, doted upon him as well. As little Lord Draco’s sixteenth birthday—June 5th—approached, his parents began to think about who would be the perfect match for their beloved son. They consulted with the court advisor and potion maker, Severus the Snarky. “I say that we throw a ball and let Draco pick out who catches his eye,” Narcissa said, her head full of romantic visions and future grandchildren.

“Narcissa, that is no way to pick a future spouse,” Lucius drawled irritably. He adored his wife, but she was so preoccupied with the wedding preparations and grandchildren to come that she wasn’t paying enough attention to the actual logistics of getting their son married off. “What is your advice, Severus?”

“I say that you have everyone eligible over for a week or so and while they are here you can measure them separately and as a group,” the dark-haired, hook-nosed man snapped. “Then, you pick the best out of them all. Do it quickly. I have a potion on the boil and if it should burn, you will both rue the day you had me come to this hellish place!”

“Actually, dear, that might not be a bad idea,” Narcissa responded, giving their old and trusted friend a quick kiss on his sallow cheek, which he promptly wiped off  with a glare that could have peeled paint. “That way, Draco could also weigh in on the choice of his future partner.”

Lord Lucius clasped his hands under his chin as he thought over the idea. It had its own merit, to be sure, but would this be the best way to pick the perfect addition to their family circle? “What criteria would you say would be most important to actually choosing the correct person, Severus?”

The dark-haired man paced before his friend and employer’s throne—there really was no other word for the chair, even if Lucius was not king and only a lord of the realm—and began thinking out loud. “Intelligence, to be sure, is extremely necessary. Draco could not stand someone with no brains.”

“Yes, well, he or she would need some intelligence to assist my son with his duties once Narcissa and I have passed,” Lucius responded thoughtfully.

“They must possess some grace,” his wife added. “How would they be able to go to court and deal with everyone else if they lacked proper etiquette?”

“I would like someone who could withstand Draco’s fits of temper,” Lucius said. “He or she would need to be able to divert his attention to things more important than his wardrobe and riding.”

“I think he would appreciate it if they had some beauty,” Severus said uncharacteristically. He was the boy’s godfather and had some clue as to what went on his godson’s fluffy, handsome little brain, even if the boy’s parents had absolutely none. “He’s vain and cannot stand those with physical deficiencies.”

“Well, yes, that is important, but not the most vital thing for his future spouse to have,” Narcissa said. “I would like for him to be in love, but I suppose that is not entirely necessary either.”

“Love is perhaps the least important thing in this entire matter, my wife,” Lucius said with a fond smile for his beautiful and graceful spouse. “But, you are right. It would make the whole process easier if Draco and the other person were in love. Our son would be more inclined to actually go through with the plan.”

“We should start this soon, my lord,” Severus said, ignoring the sappy looks that Lucius and Narcissa were exchanging. “Draco shall be sixteen soon, and he will only be more difficult the longer we drag this out.”

“Yes, you are right, Severus,” Lucius responded. “Let us begin sending out the announcements as soon as possible.”

~**~~**~~**~~**~

Draco Malfoy was the very picture of perfection, if he did say so himself. He stood well over six foot tall, and he wasn’t yet sixteen. His white-blond hair fell in loose, graceful waves down to his shoulders. His grey eyes were clear and bright. His face looked as if it was carved from marble, aside from his full, kissable, pink lips. And his body was a vision of perfectly toned muscles gained from riding and fencing. He dared even the new Lord Potter to be as perfect as he was—slayer of the Dread Lord Voldemort or not.

His parents, he knew, were set to begin planning the rest of his life as the local lord after his father’s passing. They’d consulted with his godfather Severus the Snarky about what to do. They’d sent out invitations to all eligible young men and women in the kingdom and today was the day that they would begin to arrive after two weeks of preparations around the castle grounds.

He was happy that he would have the opportunity to assist in the decision, for Draco knew that that was not always the case. His parents, for example, had been betrothed when they were but in the cradle by his grandparents. However, his parents had seen that they were lucky in being so perfectly matched and decided that they would probably not get as lucky if they attempted to betroth him to someone. And now, since it was nearing his sixteenth birthday, it was time for him to begin focusing on his duties, and marriage was a big obstacle to be tackled.

A knock on the door to his private boudoir made him regretfully turn from the mirror to acknowledge the interruption. “Yes?” he drawled, letting amusement lace his voice.

“My lord Draco, the lords and ladies have begun to arrive and your parents are requesting your presence down in the entrance hall,” Flint, his personal valet, said as the door opened quietly.

“Yes, tell them I shall be down in a minute,” Draco replied, turning back to his mirror. “I have a few minor adjustments to make before I’m ready.”

“Yes, milord,” Flint said as he closed the door behind him silently.

“Time to make the men swoon and the women faint at my beauty and envious of my obvious intelligence,” Draco said to the mirror, smoothing his hair down one last time before going to join his parents.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

All in all, about twenty young adults—ten men and ten women—responded to the invitations. Draco looked them over with a bored air until his sharp, grey eyes fell upon one particular male. He was about five-foot-nine-inches, with short, black hair, and piercing green eyes. There was a scar above his right eye in the form of a lightning bolt that his unruly hair didn’t quite cover. He had a cute, button nose and plump, red lips. It was none other than Lord Harry Potter.

I’ve died and gone to the great beyond. God has heard my prayers, as naughty as they’ve been, and has seen fit to send me the greatest hero in the kingdom. I don’t care what my parents think. I will have Lord Potter beside me at the end of this. He stared harder at the other man and was rewarded with the most endearingly lopsided grin. He’s as handsome as those gossiping trollops from the capital claim.

A sharp elbow to his sternum had the young lordling glaring daggers at his godfather. “Yes?” he hissed in irritation.

“Draco, you must address our guests,” Narcissa whispered softly before turning to face the crowd assembled. “And please remember to not drool all over your shoes while staring at Lord Potter. It is bad manners and discouraging for the other guests if you choose on looks alone, my darling.”

Draco wanted to say something nasty to his mother, but he was again arrested by those lovely green eyes of the handsome conqueror in the back of the group. He faintly heard Severus snickering at him, but he wisely chose to ignore that. He gave the assembled gathering a winning smile and then spoke. “Welcome to Malfoy Castle, honoured guests,” Draco said grandly. “I am Draco Malfoy.” He turned towards his mother, who gave her most winning smile in return. “This is my mother, Lady Narcissa, and my father, Lord Lucius, is to her right. I don’t know what they’ve told you about why you’re here, but I hope that you enjoy your stay.”

The church clock struck six. “Ah, I suppose it is now time for supper,” Lucius said, shooting his son a dark look. “If you will all follow me, we will enjoy a sumptuous feast that the chef has prepared for your arrival."

~**~~**~~**~~**~

The first two were eliminated during dinner.

Not that anyone was complaining. Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle were both apish in appearance with manners to suit. They dribbled soup down the front of their clothes, talked with their mouths full of mangled food, and sent Draco looks that made everyone at the table ill-at-ease. It was no hardship on anyone to see them go. They were heard hurling weak and pathetic insults at Severus as he took his pleasure in escorting them out of the castle and lambasting them up one side of the courtyard and down the other.

Really, Sev, you’re too predictable, Draco thought as he watched as his godfather practically had the two apes frog-marched out of the castle grounds by the guards. However, his amusement of the situation was short lived.

“Strange that your parents should think to even try to marry you off, Malfoy,” a voice sneered behind him. He turned to find a tall, lanky, freckled, and rather annoyingly familiar redhead glaring daggers at him. As usual when they were forced to meet, the poorer noble was attired in clothes that had been in fashion a few decades before and had definitely seen better days. “Don’t they know that all of respectable society has written you off as a self-absorbed, obnoxious little sod, especially since you made that embarrassing scene at the royal court last Christmas?”

“Ah, Ronald Weasley,” Draco drawled, attempting to be amicable. His mother would have his head if he was anything but polite to the guests, regardless of whom they were or what they said to him. “It is so lovely to see you again.”

“You can bin the attempts at civility, Malfoy,” Weasley snarled. “They won’t work with me. But, tell me, has your father forgiven you for the trouble you made for him at court?”

Draco felt his forced smile relax into a smirk at the other man’s open hostility and invitation for regular behaviour. “So, would you like to tell me why you and your dear sister, Ginevra, are here at this time since you both find my charms so repugnant?”

“It wasn’t my decision, of that you can be sure,” the redhead shot back. “Mother heard that Lord Harry Potter had been sent an invitation and she was determined to have both of us here.”

“Oh, it is nice that your mother is trying to build up the family fortune once again by capitalising on a possible union with the newest member of the noble class,” Draco said acidly. “I’ll be sure to let Lord Potter know of your active interest in his many…charms.”

“Oh, Draco, you don’t want to do that,” another familiar said behind him, but this one was shrill and female. He sighed and turned to see Ronald’s younger sister standing there in a ratty, tatted gown that was two sizes too large for her. “Now, now, what would your parents say if I accused you of doing something to me because Lord Potter and I were talking?”

“They’d call you a lying, despicable sack of poor trash, you harpy,” Draco said merrily.

“Ah, but I don’t really need them to believe me, now do I?” she asked sweetly as she batted her big, brown eyes coquettishly, making Draco’s right eye twitch in irritation and his stomach heave in disgust. “It only takes one person to believe me to have a rumour spread, yes?”

“That’s a good one, Gin,” Weasley said, clapping his sister on the shoulder roughly and knocking her off-balance. She nearly fell forward on her face before she caught herself on her brother’s arm. “How about we go mix and mingle with everyone else?”

“Lovely idea, Ronald,” she simpered pathetically as her brother continued to congratulate her on her perceived barb.

Draco watched the two despicable redheads walk away with a sneer that could have peeled the paint from the walls of their glorified hovel. (He’d learned it from Severus as a child.) He knew that the Weasleys had only been invited because all marriageable nobles around his age had been. The chit was barely fifteen and already showing signs of being well-ridden. Her parents would be lucky if they could get her married off to anyone—Lord Potter would be a miracle—before she turned up in the family way with no spouse at hand. Of course, in less charitable thoughts, Draco thought it was nothing less than what Ginevra Weasley deserved if she ended up with child and the father was none other than her wretched older brother. He’d heard those rumours as well.

“Well, they’re a lovely pair, aren’t they?” someone with an unfamiliar, but smooth, baritone voice asked. Draco spun around quickly to see the sexily mussed mop of hair belonging to Lord Harry Potter. “It’s a sad thing too, because I’ve met their older twin brothers.”

“Oh, you’ve met Fred and George Weasley at the king’s court, have you?” Draco asked simply. He was utterly floored by the other man’s presence alone and he was certain that he was probably drooling all over Lord Potter as he stared into the pretty green eyes the other sported. “What are they like?”

“Well, if you’re into redheads, they are rather attractive, but I found them a bit too much, really. Fun and great to be around, to be sure, but they made me feel a bit crowded. I was never bored with them, but I was never alone either,” the dark-haired man said. “Pity it seems they inherited all the charm in their family.”

“My father has met the two oldest sons,” Draco replied. “He says that William and Charles are perfectly charming and delightful.”

“Oh?” One dark eyebrow shot up in amusement. “And why is it that they’re not here?”

“Ah, well, William is married to my mother’s second cousin, so he’s a little out of the question, and Charles is out on a mission for King Albus. It’s said that he’s hunting dragons at this time. Otherwise, I’d be happy to have him join this group, even if he is a little older than the rest of our guests.”

“What a pity,” Lord Potter said silkily. “I’ll have to tell them exactly what they missed while they were otherwise employed, now won’t I?”

The saliva in Draco’s mouth dried and he could have sworn that his tongue had glued itself to the roof of his mouth. The green eyes that he had found so mesmerizing before were boring into his brain and making his knees utterly weak. “Yes, it is,” he croaked after a few minutes of fighting with his senses. “However, I hope that you will enjoy your time here.”

“Oh, I believe I shall, Draco Malfoy,” Lord Potter whispered before walking away with a smug smile gracing his pretty, red lips.

Dear Lord in Heaven, please, please, I’ve never asked for much before, but if you could possibly find it in your power to give me him, I would be eternally grateful and obedient. To both of you, Draco thought before he had to go lock himself in his room for a few minutes.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

The next was eliminated early the next morning.

The sun was just peeking over the horizon when a loud boom shook the whole castle, down to its very foundation. Draco—having been startled awake by the explosion—jumped out of bed quickly and grabbed his dressing gown. He ran out into the hallway to find his parents and godfather. They would know what was going on, and if they didn’t, they’d make sure to discover what the disturbance was fast. The first person he ran into, however, was Lord Potter. Quite literally, to his utter embarrassment.

The handsome, young lordling was bare-chested and his unruly hair was even more tousled. His green eyes, however, were sharp and he appeared ready to attack anyone who got in his way. “Ah, Lord Draco, I see that I’m not the only one who was woken up by the noise.”

“Are you joking, Lord Potter?” Draco asked, trying to run a hand through his less-than-perfect hair. No doubt I look affright, he thought miserably, cursing his mother for putting the other man so close to his chambers for something like this to occur. “I’m certain that the whole castle is now awake.”

The sound of sharp and heavy footsteps made Draco turn to peer down the hall, where he saw his father and godfather tromping, looking less than pleased. “What is the meaning of this?” Lucius snarled at his son.

“I’m sure that I have no clue,” Draco responded, feeling defensive with his father being so abrasive. “The explosion woke me up and I came out to investigate.”

“There appears to be smoke coming from the guest tower that Lord Nott asked to be placed in,” Severus said irritably. “Perhaps we would do well to check in on him?”

Both blond men blinked at the tall, thin man before nodding. Lucius led the group of cross men to the tower’s door, where smoke could be seen escaping from under the crack. “It appears you are correct, Severus,” Lucius said.

“What is it that Nott does that would cause an explosion?” Potter asked, causing the others to turn and stare at him.

“I don’t rightly recall,” Draco answered after a moment’s hesitation. Why did I not notice that he was following us this way? “I believe that he fancies himself a sort of inventor. If I remember correctly, he said something at dinner about working with something called “natural gas,” but I thought he was making a crude joke to impress the Ladies Greengrass and ignored the rest of his insane babbling.”

“Well, Draco, since you are so acquainted with Lord Nott,” Lucius said coldly, “I suggest that you go up there and find out what the Devil it is he thinks he’s doing waking the entire castle before sunrise?”

Knowing that arguing would do no good—and only embarrass him in front of the sexy, half-naked Lord Potter—Draco opened the door, only to be immediately engulfed in thick, black smoke that sent him into a coughing fit. A warm hand on his back through the thin dressing gown steeled his nerves, and Draco began to carefully pick his way up the surprisingly cool, stone stairs. As he got closer to the top of the tower, his tender feet met with sharp bits of debris that only grew steadily more abundant and larger in size as he went along. He could see where parts of the walls had become blackened and broken upon reaching the very precipice. However, what he did not hear or see was Lord Nott.

“Lord Theodore,” Draco called out carefully, staying low where the air appeared to be cleaner. “Hello? Are you all right?” He side-stepped a gaping hole in the floor and looked down into the room below. That was where he found the other man’s body. “Dear God!”

Not only had the young inventor blown up the guest tower’s top floor and the roof, but it appeared as if Theodore Nott had managed to kill himself. His relatively handsome body was covered in burn marks and blood and he was missing his right arm. Randomly, Draco recalled that he’d used his right hand to feed himself at dinner the night before.

His stomach roiled and he dashed down the stairs as quickly as he could, avoiding the landing that held the room with the body. He stopped only when he crashed into Lord Potter’s chest yet again. “He’s dead. The fool managed to blow up the entire top floor and has killed himself.”

“The Devil take him!” Lucius yelled. “This is a fine start to the week.”

“I will call the priest, Lord Lucius,” Severus said, sounding somewhat calm and distant as he took charge of the situation. “Draco, go back to your room. Lord Potter, would you escort him?”

“And what would you have me do, Severus?” Lucius asked icily. Draco shivered at that tone from his father. He usually only heard it when he was about to order the execution of some transgressor.

“You, milord, will be having servants sent to clean up this mess and calming down our other guests,” his advisor answered. “Now, out of the way, you two dunderheads,” he shot at the two young men. “Go back to your beds and try and get a bit more sleep.”

Draco stared at his godfather in disbelief. Did he actually think that Draco could go back to sleep after finding the mangled corpse of one of his would-be suitors? Obviously Sev has been inhaling the fumes from his potions a bit too much lately. There’s no way on God’s green Earth that that would be possible!

“Lord Draco,” Lord Potter said, his deep and rich voice pulling Draco from his hysterical thoughts quickly. “Please let me escort you to your rooms so that we may at least dress properly. I’m sure you don’t want any of the ladies to see you in such a state.”

The blond blinked slowly before looking down at his dressing gown and over at Lord Potter’s bare—and perfectly muscled—chest. He was suddenly struck with the thought that he didn’t want anyone else to see either of them like this, especially not Lord Potter. “Yes, I believe that’s probably for the best,” he answered, brushing passed his godfather and father, not waiting to see if the other young man was following him. Sure footsteps proved that he didn’t have to worry about it.

All too soon, they arrived at the door to Draco’s suite and he turned to find the other man staring at him with an odd expression on his face. “What?” he asked.

“It’s nothing, Lord Draco.”

“Please, call me Draco. I’m no lord yet,” the blond said, flashing a small smile.

“Then I insist that you call me Harry,” the raven-haired man said, holding out his hand for Draco to shake.

Draco, however, did one better and raised the other man’s hand up to his lips, placing a light kiss of the back before looking up into amused, green eyes. “As you wish, Harry; however, I would still like to know what you find so interesting.”

“Everyone that I have ever heard talk of you before now has always said that you were an exact replica of your father, but I’m finding that that is not the case, Draco. You appear to be much more human than Lord Lucius.”

“Well, that should be all to the good for you, yes?” Draco asked, raising a single, pale eyebrow.

“That has yet to be seen,” Harry replied. “I shall let you get dressed before the others arrive.” He cocked his head to the side and sighed. Footsteps and feminine voices could be heard approaching them. “Which appears to be quite soon, I’m afraid.”                                                                                                                                                             

“If you’ll excuse me,” Draco said, slinking into his bedroom. Part of him secretly wished for Harry to join him, but he knew that it was unlikely that the young lord would do something so brash. I can’t decide if that’s to his credit or detriment. I’m certain that Mother will find that he is at least gallant easier since his family name is newly recovered nobility. He couldn’t help but smile as he remembered the way that Lord Potter’s eyes had rested heavily upon his barely covered body. It certainly is nice to know that he finds me attractive, however. It will make the rest of this all too easy.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

The rest of the day found three potential suitors heading back home, very much alive.

The first was Lord Seamus Finnegan, an Irishman. It was just after breakfast when the rogue began hitting on both of Draco’s parents. Narcissa stared at the man as if he was a bug before turning to discuss something with Ginevra Weasley and Pansy Parkinson with feigned interest. Lucius, on the other hand, flushed a dangerous shade of red before ordering Finnegan from his castle—by sword point.

The second offender was Daphne Greengrass, the elder of two pretty sisters. She was found trying to snog the face off of Blaise Zabini. For his part, Zabini was trying to push the girl off of his personage. Sadly for Daphne, it was Severus who found her behaving so outrageously. While the surly man was telling her to pack her things and leave the property, she began flirting with him quite shamelessly. It was Draco, Harry, Astoria (Daphne’s sister), Pansy (who’d taken to trying to drape herself bodily against Draco at every turn), Adrian Pucey, Ron and Ginevra who found her before Severus murdered her.

Unfortunately, the lovely Astoria, who had become only second to Harry in Draco’s estimation, decided to leave as well.

Zabini was saved by Severus’s testimony that the boy had been trying to escape the harlot. However, Draco had already written him off, despite his vast fortune and easy smiles.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

At the end of the first full day of having Malfoy Castle filled with teenaged persons, Narcissa turned to her husband. “What do you think of the rest of the candidates, my lord?”

“I think that I shall be sad that Astoria Greengrass decided to return home with her strumpet of a sister,” Lucius snarled as he pulled off his brocaded jacket. “She was sweet, pretty, and well-mannered.”

“Yes, I agree, my husband, but she wasn’t quite as intelligent as I was hoping for,” Narcissa said with a heavy sigh. “And, just think, if Draco had chosen her, we’d be forced to host her wretched sister many times a year for holidays.”

“Hm, yes, that would be a drawback,” he said as he drew his nightshirt over his head. “It’s a damn shame that Nott went and blew himself up. His father was a handsome enough bloke, and the boy was smart by all accounts.”

“Obviously, he wasn’t that smart, if he blew himself up before the first day of the celebration could begin.” When Lucius joined her in their large bed, she curled up against his side. “I’m not sad to see that horrid Irishman gone either.”

No one from that island is to darken our doorstep again. And I will be writing to his parents about his absolute lack of manners.”

“I agree. Besides, Draco seems taken by Lord Potter,” Narcissa said, smothering a yawn quickly.

“I did notice that. You should see that he doesn’t make a spectacle of himself with that boy and I will speak to Severus about him in the morning.”

“Good idea, dear. Sleep well.”

“The same to you.” Lucius gave his wife a quick buss to the cheek before they both fell into exhausted slumber.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

The next two days continued along with relative peace. None of the candidates were eliminated, sadly. So, Draco found himself on the third day still surrounded by…He stopped and counted, only coming up with ten out of the fourteen candidates that were left. He looked around the gaming room to find the two Weasley children whispering to one another, their disgusting ginger heads too close to each other for his stomach’s comfort. Hermione Granger was absorbed in a book she’d discovered in Lucius’s library. Lord Potter was determinedly not looking over at the group around Draco, wearing a scowl that was surely the downfall of the Dread Lord Voldemort.

“Really,” Pansy Parkinson said in a snide, but shrill voice that had grated on Draco’s nerves since the first day. “I thought that the amazing hero, Lord Harry Potter, would be more…personable. He’s rather common and ugly.” Draco and a few others blinked at her in surprise. She gave a sickly sweet smile, obviously thinking that she had found a group that shared her outrageous opinion. “I mean, look at that scowl. Who wants to be close to a man who does nothing but look as if he could kill you with his bare hands?”

I do, you daft cow, Draco thought viciously, allowing the girl the room to hang herself with her own words. If you think that one day you’ll replace my mother as lady of this castle, you’ve been sniffing Sev’s potion fumes as well.

“And when I attempted to talk to him last night after dinner, he was so curt and he actually pushed me away from him,” Pansy whinged pitifully as she batted her brown eyes at Draco pathetically. “Can you believe that?”

The other girls in the group around Draco all murmured half-heartedly that it was a shame that Lord Potter would behave in such a way. The young men all rolled their eyes at her shamelessly ridiculous behaviour. Just then, Draco and Lord Potter locked eyes, and the darker featured man smiled. Draco slowly returned his smile, feeling for the first time since their private conversation on the first day that he could somehow make it through this process without murdering everyone around him.

“What do you think, Lord Draco?” Pansy asked as she attached herself to Draco’s arm like a limpet. Almost immediately, Lord Potter’s scowl reappeared and he broke eye contact with Draco.

The blond blinked lazy, steely grey eyes at the girl plastered to him for a few minutes, trying to think of ways that he could have her drawn and quartered legally. “I think that you should remove yourself from off of my personage before I have the guards escort you to your room and send a letter to your parents telling them that they should consider sacking whoever was responsible for your etiquette training, as they seem to have done a shoddy job of the whole process.”

The dark-haired girl gaped at him, reminding him strongly of a goldfish out of water, and her hold lessened enough for him to move away from her without having to resort to any violence. He quickly made his way to his father’s study, where Severus and Lucius were locked into a deep discussion. “Excuse me, Father, Severus, I don’t wish to interrupt, but I have something to speak to you about.”

“What is it, son?” Lucius asked as he and Severus turned to face the young blond. He was practically foaming at the mouth with anger. The only other time they’d seen him like this was at the court of King Albus when that problem occurred.

“I want her gone.”

“To whom are you referring, Draco?” Severus asked, sounding almost amused. “There are quite a few ‘hers’ running around here as of late.”

“Parkinson,” Draco barked, forgetting his manners in his annoyance. “She’s disgusting; always hanging off of me like I’m some piece of furniture and spouting off her preposterous opinions as if anyone cared. I want her gone, Sev, as soon as possible.”

“Ah, yes, young Lady Parkinson,” Lucius said with a slight curl of his thin lips. “I remember her mother at the same age. Most unseemly how she always draped herself over whomever she had her eye on. Is her daughter much the same way?”

Draco didn’t answer his father. Instead, he just stared at his sire and godfather as they exchanged looks that said so much. Eventually, Severus nodded in defeat, ire at his patron and godson visible in his dark eyes. “I shall see to the removal of young Parkinson, Draco, but you must tell her why she is being asked to leave.”

“You mean besides the fact that she’s stupid, lazy, shrill, and uncouth? I can’t fathom that anyone else will question as to why she’s being sent back to her sire and dam.”

Lucius had to bite back a tiny laugh and instead settled on a smirk. “You speak as if she were a horse.”

“Oh, no, she’s not that useful, Father,” Draco said, laughter making his grey eyes shine silver. “I’d say she was more of the bovine type anyway.”

~**~~**~~**~~**~

Just like that, another of Draco’s would-be suitors found themselves leaving Malfoy Castle, unsatisfied. If the young lord took pleasure in tossing out the young lady’s things, it is only what he felt she deserved. Soon after Pansy Parkinson’s leave-taking, Blaise Zabini found himself running out of the castle as quickly as possible, his servants following closely behind him, sans his belongings. What was his sin? Lord Lucius had found the boy trying to hit on his lady wife as she left confessional. Zabini happened to be the second young man leaving Malfoy Castle at sword point.

With the number of suitors down to twelve, it became rather obvious to the others that Lord Draco and Lord Potter were exchanging loaded looks every time their eyes met. Narcissa began to plan and plot the marriage ceremony in private. Lucius had made it known that he had been rather partial to Astoria Greengrass and that no one else could hold a candle to the young, blonde girl who had so hastily left with her whorish sister. A few days after the departure of both Blaise Zabini and Pansy Parkinson, Ladies Hermione Granger, Morag MacDougal and Hannah Abbott and Sirs Wayne Hopkins and Oliver Wood all left of their own free will. Lady Granger said that she wasn’t interested in marrying, as it would take time away from her research. Lady MacDougal and Lady Abbott separately were overheard stating that they had no desire to compete with the famous Lord Potter for Lord Draco’s attentions, as there was no way for them to fairly fight against the young hero’s obvious charms. Oliver told Severus—through his strong burr—that he was much more interested in hunting down Lady MacDougal for his bride than putting up with being ignored by a spoiled little English brat. Sir Wayne said that he was going after Lady Abbott as his bride, since Lord Draco was already decided on someone other than himself.

It was with an overwhelming sense of disgust that Lucius examined the last of the suitors—Lord Harry Potter, Ronald and Ginevra Weasley, Sir Adrian Pucey, and Ladies Penelope Clearwater, Lisa Turpin and Katie Bell.

Out of the ladies, the only one who even came close to the exacting standards that all of the Malfoys and Severus agreed upon was Lisa Turpin. Penelope was beautiful and smart, but she had no grace. Katherine was pretty and graceful, but she did not have enough intelligence to make Lucius think nice things about her. Ginevra Weasley was right out—as a Weasley, he would never find her beautiful. Besides, the girl had inherited her mother’s habit of having a sharp tongue and the inability to keep her inelegant opinions to herself. That was discounting the many rumors circulating about her and her brother Ronald as well. Lisa was a pretty blonde with excellent manners and enough brains to discuss Severus’s work with the snarky man without having him trying to have her dragged away by the castle guards.

The gentlemen were a different story. Ronald Weasley was never going to be picked. Besides, the dolt was found stalking Katherine Bell at every turn. It became so bad that Lucius and Severus were only too happy to have him and his waspish younger sister removed from Malfoy Castle forever with no explanation.

Poor Katherine was eliminated by Draco himself. When the number of potentials reached but a handful, Lucius started arranging for Draco to spend a whole day with them. The pretty young woman went first, but by the time dinner was announced, she was in tears. It took a few moments for Narcissa to discover that Draco had dismissed her rather viciously, saying that he’d rather marry the cow maid, who was wittier than Katie would ever be.

The next day, Penelope and Draco went out to visit with the subjects of Lord Lucius’s lands—subjects that would one day answer to Draco and his spouse. It was then that Penelope insulted the mayor of the nearest village and told the man’s wife that she was a hideously fat troll. While Draco agreed that the woman was less than fetching with her fifth pregnancy in seven years, he was appalled that the girl would actually say such a thing. Needless to say that after Draco had informed her of her major faux-pas that Penelope wasted no time in returning to her parents.

Finally, it was down to the last three, and Draco was ecstatic to see that Lord Harry Potter was one of the finalists.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

It had been a week since Malfoy Castle had been invaded by silly and preposterous teenagers. Sadly, Severus was forced to count his godson as one of the greatest offenders. While normally the dark-haired man was rather fond of Draco, he was currently contemplating how far he could run after killing the young blond and his little cohorts before Lucius caught up to him and had him gutted in front of the entire court. Severus figured it wouldn’t be very far since he wasn’t fond of exercise and spent most of his time brewing potions in the southern tower.

Thankfully, the amount of prospective suitors had been cut down from twenty to three in that week. Soon, Severus would only have to deal with Draco and one other teen. From the looks of things, it was going to be young Lord Potter. That bit of information irked him to no end. He remembered the wretched boy’s father and mother. Lily had been an absolutely beautiful and smart girl, with an easy grace and sharp wit. James Potter had been foolhardy and loved to show off. It had been a sad day for the kingdom when the Dread Lord Voldemort had murdered the elder Potters en route to the capital, but young Harry had been saved and reared by godfather, Lord Sirius Black.

From all accounts, Harry Potter had had a very normal life after his parents’ murder until he reached the age of fifteen, when he was noticed by King Albus as the last of the Potters. To make matters worse, he was named as the Black family heir at the same time, making his fortune that to rival the Malfoy coffers.

Of course the boy took after his horrible, impetuous father and hunted down Voldemort, killing him in a spectacular show of skill and prowess for someone so young. Obviously Lord Black had made sure that his godson was well equipped to exact his revenge. He’d been given all of the lands and rights that belonged to the Potter line and what little property the madman had owned before his defeat.

As far as power, grace, and beauty, Draco could do no better, but Severus doubted very much that the boy had any of Lily’s intelligence. The hook-nosed man longed for dinner to hurry up and arrive so that Lucius could devise a way to get rid of the insufferable brat. Then, things would go back to what passed for normal around Malfoy Castle and he could continue with his research, uninterrupted.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

Draco was delighted to find that his mother had seated Harry next to him for dinner. Across the table sat Lady Lisa and Sir Adrian while Severus sat directly across from him, on his father’s left side, and his mother sat at the foot of the table. All in all, it was a rather intimate setting. It would have been even better if he could’ve just gotten rid of the two teens who were staring at him as if he was a dish that the servants had forgotten to place on the table for their enjoyment. He reckoned that after the week he’d had he should have been used to the stares, but they still unsettled him.

It was only the hand that occasionally brushed his leg that kept him seated and rather complacent. However, it wasn’t to last, since his father had decided to move the rest of the selection process along.

“Well, we are now down to you three after a long and trying week,” Lucius said carefully before taking a long pull from his wine goblet. “I would like to thank you all for your patience and intelligence in lasting so long with the many varied temperaments in my household.”

“Lord Lucius, you and your lady wife have been gracious hosts and I find Severus’s brand of humour bracing, but warranted,” Sir Adrian said grandly.

“Oh, and the grounds and countryside surrounding the castle are absolutely breathtaking,” Lady Lisa added with a disgusting simper.

“I find that Lord Draco’s company is pleasant and easy,” Lord Potter replied as his hand once again brushed against Draco’s thigh teasingly. “And I agree that Severus’s humour is…unique and humbling. I find that I enjoy it.”

Draco grabbed Harry’s hand and squeezed it affectionately. He really hoped that this dinner went well, as he wanted so very much to stay with him. He gave a slight smile—even as his face broke out into a fetching blush—when the squeeze was returned. “I must say that I have never had such an experience as this and hope that I never will again.”

“Wisely put, my son,” Lucius said smoothly before looking down the length of the table at his wife. “Narcissa, dear, what do you say about giving our guests a final test to determine which would be the most suited for our only child?”

“What did you have in mind, my lord?” Narcissa asked meekly. It was the hard glint in her eyes that let Draco know that whatever his father suggested now had only made her determined to have Harry win, as that would make Draco happiest. At least, that’s what Draco hoped that wolfish smirk that hovered at the edges of his mother’s mouth meant.

That’s what it had always meant in the past, but since their trip to the capital where he’d kicked that girl out of his room, she’d been oddly distant.

“You all have probably heard by now the story of the North Tower.” When all of the guests nodded, Lucius continued. “Wonderful; that should save me some time explaining then. My last challenge to you three will require you to show that you can withstand unpleasantness at any cost. No doubt that you have all noticed that Draco’s temper is mercurial at best and tempestuous at the very least. Do not fool yourself into thinking that he will change once you have married him. It is very unlikely. His mother assures me of this.” Narcissa smiled while all the other’s laughed politely at the lord’s joke. “Now, what I propose is that you spend the night in the North Tower, one at a time, and then you will report in the morning what is it that is keeping my builders from finishing the repairs.”

Draco’s three would-be suitors were silent. The blond looked over at Harry, to find that the dark-haired hero had turned thoughtful. “Excuse me, Lord Lucius,” the younger lord said, breaking the eerie silence with his rich voice. “I may be incorrect—”

“Big surprise there,” Severus muttered under his breath from across the table.

“—but that seems like a problem one would contact a priest regarding,” Harry continued, acting as if he’d never been interrupted.

“Yes, Lord Potter, and if it should prove necessary, I will waste no time in doing so,” Lucius said condescendingly. Draco glared daggers at his father for his rude tone but was dismissed out of hand by the older man. “I would like to know if it is needed at this point in time.”

“There is the possibility of it being some brigand, my lord,” Sir Adrian said stupidly. Draco turned his hateful look to the knight, who shrank back satisfactorily.

“I sincerely doubt that, Sir Adrian,” Severus said in a scathing tone. “If it were a brigand or ne’er-do-well, as you have so moronically suggested, they would have made a move to remove objects from the main part of the house. As that is not the case, I do believe we can rule out that suggestion.”

“Could it be some homeless vagrant?” Lady Lisa suggested brightly. “Not necessarily someone out to loot and plunder your valuables, but a person using the ruined tower as shelter during the cold nights?”

“That is a possibility as well,” Lord Lucius answered kindly. The girl flushed prettily before turning her big, doe-like, brown eyes on Draco adoringly—he had to bury the desire to practically snarl at the stupid female.

A tap on his thigh made him turn to look at the man sitting next to him. Lord Potter shook his dark head minutely before flashing Draco a smile that he couldn’t help but return. He could feel his mother’s sharp, blue eyes trying to bore a hole through his head in her eagerness, but the light striking those lovely verdant eyes of the man at his side was captivating. However, it was the unexpected and extremely painful kick from Severus that had him clearing his throat and flushing in embarrassment.

“Yes,” Lucius said icily, his grey eyes narrowed slits as he stared at Lord Potter as if he was dirt on the bottom of one of his slippers. “I have devised that you should spend the night in the North Tower, alone. How you handle yourself under these circumstances will determine your suitableness for my son.”

Draco took the opportunity to look at the faces of the two young people on the other side of the table. Sir Adrian looked confident and calm, but Lady Lisa appeared apprehensive. She was worrying her bottom lip in a most disturbing fashion. Draco was surprised that she hadn’t drawn blood yet. He decided to play into the girl’s insecurity and see if he could get her eliminated before his father’s stupid little test. “Is there something wrong, milady?” he asked saccharinely.

Lisa started, her brown eyes nearly tearing up. “Oh, no, there’s nothing wrong, milord,” she responded shakily. “I’m perfectly fine.” She attempted to turn her attention back to her dinner, but Draco noticed that she didn’t eat anything else during the meal.

That was almost too easy, he thought viciously, letting his own hand brush against Lord Harry’s extremely muscular, hose-clad thigh happily. If she makes it passed breakfast, I’ll eat my own doublet.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

The next morning, three had become two. As Draco came down from his room to the library, his father shoved a piece of parchment in his face. He looked into his father’s face and saw that his sire was completely irate. “I can assume that that is from Lady Lisa Turpin, explaining that she’s leaving then?” he asked calmly.

“I knew you weren’t a stupid, boy, Draco,” Lord Lucius drawled. It was only the way the lines pinched the area around his eyes that gave away how very upset he was. “Perhaps now you’ll tell me why the best candidate for your partner just left this morning, practically in tears, while leaving us with the boy-hero and the moron?”

“Because I had no intention of ever agreeing to marry some little chit who is afraid to spend the evening in the tower where Lord Nott blew himself sky-high,” Draco answered truthfully.

“And it had nothing to do with the fact that you and Lord Potter have practically been fornicating with your eyes from the first moment you saw one another.”

“Father, really, how plebeian,” Draco drawled lazily, mimicking his father’s nonchalance. “While I find Lord Potter attractive and a very skilled conversationalist, I would never do something as crass as ignore our other guests for his sake.”

“See that you don’t, Draco.” Lucius looked over his son with a sharp eye. “You will spend the day with Sir Adrian, until he takes his turn in the tower tonight. Lord Potter will spend the day with your mother and Severus. If he can survive a full day of their attentions, I will reconsider my opinion of him.”

“Thank you, Father,” Draco said with a brilliant smile. Despite his father’s orders, he had no doubt of Lord Harry’s ability to win over Severus. Narcissa was already in his corner. In two days’ time, Draco could be engaged to marry the handsome young lord that he desired. And deserved.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

“So, Lord Harry,” Narcissa said as the young man escorted her through the castle gardens, “how are you enjoying your stay with us so far?”

“I must admit that when I received the invitation from your husband that I thought that I’d be leaving after the first day, but I find myself rather taken with Draco,” the dark-haired man said casually.

The noblewoman felt herself relax. If he could openly admit his attraction to her child, then he would make an excellent addition to their family circle. “And have you had the opportunity to speak with my husband and our advisor Severus?”

“My godfather and parents were acquainted with Severus Snape, milady,” Lord Potter said diplomatically. “Unfortunately, Sirius never had much nice to say about him, aside from the fact that he was brilliant at potion-making.”

“Yes, well, my cousin Sirius has always had a problem with tact,” she said with a smile. “That practically makes you and my son family already. Does that fact bother you?”

“Why should it? From what I understand about the nobility, we’re all related in some way or fashion anyway. The only way to avoid being married to a third cousin or a great-great-great aunt is to marry one of the hoi polloi.”

Narcissa chuckled ruefully. “Yes, that is the sad truth of the matter, I’m afraid, but I’m glad to see that you have no problem with the situation.” They continued their walk in silence for a few minutes. “I would like to discuss your defeat of the Dread Lord, if you don’t mind?”

“What would you like to know, Lady Narcissa?” While the boy’s tone was polite and charming, she could see the life and joy drain from his brilliant emerald eyes. For the first time in her life, Narcissa found herself feeling sorry for someone she wasn’t related to or responsible for as a steward for their safety.

“Was it difficult? Ending it all, I mean. He had filled your life since the murder of your parents, from what I understand.”

“Truthfully, that was the easy part. One minute, he was alive, trying to bribe me into joining him in a campaign of terror. The next, my sword was coated in his blood and his head was disconnected from his body.” He stopped and she looked over to see his face had turned a sickly greenish-white. “I’m sorry. I should have remembered to whom I was speaking.”

“Please, do not trouble yourself about that, but I do value your gallant attempt to spare me the details. I’m no shrinking violet, I assure you.”

Harry laughed. “I never thought that, milady. I figured that Draco had to inherit that from one of his parents.” He gave her a conspiratorial wink that sent her into a fit of girlish giggles.

“I do believe that we are going to be very good friends, Lord Potter,” she said, directing their steps back towards the castle.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

When it was time to go to bed that evening, everyone had gathered at the bottom of the North tower’s staircase. Draco was glad to finally be rid of the annoying and stupid Sir Adrian. He didn’t care if the moron managed to pass whatever test his father and godfather had set up for his two suitors. There was no way in Hell that he would ever be marrying Adrian Pucey. He’d rather stay celibate and go to a monastery first.

After spending an entire late spring day with the man, Draco could tell you everything about his life. He liked to talk about himself. Nonstop. And at great volume. The very fact that Lucius had forced his only child to actually entertain the idiot is what kept Draco from killing the man many times over. Although, at times, it was a very close thing.

Sadly, it wasn’t as if Sir Adrian wasn’t attractive, because he was. He towered over Draco and Lucius, who were extremely tall themselves. He had long, dark brown hair that contained a slight curl and large hazel eyes. His facial structure was a bit…common, but if he kept his mouth shut, his cupid’s-bow lips drew one’s eyes to the lovely flesh. It also helped that he was every bit as muscular as Lord Potter, but with broader shoulders and thicker thighs. However, he had absolutely no sense of fashion or proper decorum.

Towards mid-afternoon, Draco had convinced the knight to have a demonstration of his fighting skills out in the courtyard with the guardsmen. It was amusing to see the man trounced over and over by men paid by Lord Lucius. The dolt blamed it on Draco’s attractiveness distracting him, much to the amusement of the guards. Draco’s fencing instructor had come along at some point and shook his head.

“Well, Sir Adrian, you’ve yet to prove your skills in the arena, but Lord Draco is an excellent fencer himself,” the small and dark man shouted. “Care to test yourself against him?”

“I don’t fence,” Sir Adrian said with a sneer. “I have to be able to don a full suit of armor. Fencing’s no good in plate mail.”

“True, only a true master of the sword could accomplish that,” the instructor replied, stroking his impressive handle-bar mustachios. “Lord Draco, I haven’t seen you at all this week for your lessons.”

“I apologise, Master Rodrigo,” Draco said with a slight smile. “I have been otherwise detained.”

“Yes, I have seen the other suitors. I must say that I much prefer the other.”

Draco felt the corners of his mouth tip up into a self-satisfied smile. “As do I.” The blond turned to look at one of his favourite people in the castle. “When this is all over, I shall bring Harry to come meet you. I am sure that he would appreciate having an adequate instructor in the art of fencing.”

The Spaniard bowed, a smile making his dark face light up. “I look forward to seeing you both, Lord Draco.” He turned to look at the knight and snorted derisively as the clunky man was swatted by the sword master hard on his broad back. “Tonight is his test, yes?”

“Yes,” Draco answered wearily. “And it cannot come soon enough.”

The rest of the day was spent with Sir Adrian trying to show his superior skills at the physical aspects of wrestling, archery, and hand-to-hand combat. Draco was utterly bored by the end of the first hour; although, when the wrestling began, he did watch aptly, until the castle’s best wrestler, Sir Caiden, nearly pulled Sir Adrian’s arm off. After that, Draco decided that he was more than willing to read a book or to watch the paint on the villager’s huts dry than be anywhere near the dull and tiresome Sir Adrian Pucey.

So, as the castle household—including Sir Rodrigo, for some reason—bid the knight a good night, Draco felt relieved beyond measure. It also didn’t hurt that he was finally able to see Lord Harry again. The dark-haired man gave him a knee-weakening smile and a wink that made his selfish heart pound rapidly. When Harry tipped his head in the direction of Severus, Draco was confused, until his mother came and took his arm.

“My love, I must say that I enjoyed my time with Lord Harry very much. Your father will be sorely disappointed if he believes that I will assist him in attempting to find fault with the man,” Narcissa said quietly. “Now, I do believe that Lord Harry is trying to get you to speak with your godfather. They spent the afternoon together, and Severus will be an adequate ally against your father.”

“Of course, Mother,” Draco replied, still obviously very confounded by the strange turn of events. When his mother released him to join his father for the rest of the evening, Draco approached his surly godfather. The Lord’s advisor was scowling. “Is there something the matter, Severus?”

“Ah, Draco, come with me to my lab,” Severus said carefully. “I have something that I’d like to discuss with you, but there’s a potion that needs to be stirred.” He took off in the direction of his personal work rooms, and Draco followed at a sedate pace, still wondering what his godfather wanted to speak to him about. No sooner had the door closed behind the young lordling when Severus began with what was on his mind. “I spent the afternoon with your Lord Potter,” he said snidely as he stirred a rather pungent concoction in his cauldron.

“Oh? And how did that go?” Draco asked as he took a seat by the windows.

“He’s nowhere near as arrogant as I remember his father and godfather being,” the potion maker said carefully. “It seems that he has inherited some of his late mother’s intelligence.”

“He’s also very powerful, Severus.”

“Yes, yes, and that is important to you, I know.” Severus turned around to stare at his godson very carefully. “He has won over your mother, which is no easy task.”

“It sounds as if he’s managed to make you not hate him, which should have been a tremendous task,” Draco replied. “Besides, if I wanted power, I’d marry that bore, Sir Adrian.”

Severus snorted. “If you subjected us to that dolt’s presence as your spouse, I would leave Malfoy Castle and seek employment somewhere else.”

“You could always work for King Albus. I heard he has that fat man, Slughorn, brewing his poultices for him.”

“Please, as if I would lower myself to work for that doddering, old fool.”

“Careful, Severus, that’s treason there.”

“So, you are determined to have Lord Potter as your spouse, I take it?” Severus asked, smoothly changing the subject.

“If you know the answer, why ask?”

“Because, if I am to help you with this stupidity, I must know if you are absolutely sure about your choice.”

“Yes, Severus, I am.”

“Fine. I will speak to Lucius tomorrow while Sir Adrian is boring your honoured mother to death.”

~**~~**~~**~~**~

The next morning came and everyone gathered for breakfast. “How did you sleep, Sir Adrian?” Lord Lucius asked carefully. He appeared to be waiting for the answer on pins and needles.

“Like a baby, milord,” the knight said, not noticing how his answer made the blond man frown petulantly. “The bed that you had sent to the tower was extremely comfortable.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Lucius said coldly. Carefully, he turned all conversation to his wife and old friend, ignoring the knight’s presence.

Draco couldn’t help but smile at the blatant dismissal by his father. This day is all but won already, he thought. When Lord Harry’s fingers brushed his arm, his smile grew wider. And I plan on enjoying it.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

The day had been spent wonderfully in the company of Lord Harry. Draco had taken the man to see Master Rodrigo, who was only too excited to begin teaching the famous Lord Potter fencing. After they both promised to return soon for instruction, they went for a ride through the surrounding countryside. Draco showed him the nearest peasants and the fields that produced the wheat, flax and oats that were sent throughout the kingdom.

When Draco introduced Lord Potter to the heads of the villages, they nearly fell over themselves to make a good impression on the young hero. Harry, for his part, was genial and seemed interested in everything that they had to say to him. However, when anyone attempted to compliment him or thank him for slaying Voldemort, he easily deflected the person and asked a question about the local trade. It was quite touching to see how humble he appeared to be.

He is absolutely perfect. That Father cannot see it is disheartening, but I think that between Mother, Severus and me, he can be made to see reason. Draco smiled warmly as he continued watching Harry talk to an adorable little girl, who tugged on Harry’s jacket demandingly. If he cannot recognise that he’s the only one who does not like Harry, then I’m sure that King Albus will have much to say to my father.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

When the time to part for the evening came, Draco surprised everyone by kissing the back of Lord Harry’s hand once more. Narcissa seemed to be pleasantly surprised. Severus’s scowl was no more pronounced than normal. Sir Adrian looked as if Draco had smacked him across the face—a tempting idea, Draco thought smugly—and Lucius appeared as if he wasn’t anywhere near as angry as he would have been but the night before. Harry gave Draco a sexy little grin that made the blond have to struggle not to follow him up into the tower, his parents and their guest be damned!

Reluctantly, Draco parted from Harry. Morning couldn’t come soon enough in his opinion.

~**~~**~~**~~**~

When the sun had barely crested over the horizon, Draco was awake and anxious, finding him the first down to breakfast. He paced back and forth in the vast dining room, waiting for the rest of the castle’s inhabitants to join him. Slowly, the rest of the family party and Sir Adrian—who looked very despondent, not that Draco noticed—entered the room. After about twenty minutes, Lucius called a servant to go fetch Lord Potter from the North tower. With a trembling frame, the young girl nodded and left to follow her lord’s order.

Twenty minutes later, Lord Potter entered the dining room. At least, Draco thought it was Lord Harry. Gone was all of the usual confidence and cheerfulness that Draco had grown used to in the past ten days of his acquaintance with the other man. He had dark bruises around his dull, lifeless green eyes and he appeared to be haunted.

“How did you sleep, Lord Potter?” Lucius asked viciously.

“Not at all,” Harry responded, covering his mouth before he yawned. “You’ve a ghost in that tower. It appears to be the late Lord Nott.”

Lucius scowled. “I will have the priest come and take care of it then. Congratulations on solving the case, Lord Potter.”

“Thank you, Lord Lucius,” Harry said around another yawn. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’m a little too tired to have breakfast.” Lucius waved him off.

Draco waited until his father was distracted with telling Sir Adrian that he was not going to be marrying Draco—ever—before he snuck off to speak with Harry. The other man was stumbling down the halls, one hand drifting along the stonework as he walked. The blond wasted no time in catching up with him and offering him help back to his room. “How did you figure it out, Harry?”

“It was easy once I was all alone. Nott couldn’t stand to be alone. And he wasn’t too fond of Pucey sleeping through his attempts to communicate.”

“Did he tell you what he was working on?” Draco asked while he felt his excitement growing that a ghost was actually in his family home, even for a little while.

“Not that I really understood it all, but he was trying to harness something he called natural gas out of cracks in the ground. Said something about it being closer to mountains than plains,” Harry muttered sleepily while they entered the hallway that lead to where Draco and Harry’s room were located.

“Then he was an idiot to try something like here. Malfoy Castle is in Wiltshire. There are no mountains here.”

“Yeah, Nott said that he came here because he heard you were handsome and rich. He figured he could use some of your money to fund his experimentations near the border with Scotland after he convinced you to marry him,” Harry growled. “He was really sad that he died before he had the chance to even talk to you, but was glad that it wasn’t Pucey who was closer to getting you, since he said that the other man was a moron.”

“Well, at least Nott wasn’t a complete idiot,” Draco whispered as he helped Harry into his room and bed. “Get some sleep, Harry. You’re going to need it for later.”

“Lookin’ forward to it,” Harry muttered before closing his eyes and falling into a deep sleep.

Draco watched him rest peacefully before he turned around to make his demand of his father. Then, he would tell his mother that she could contact her cousin Sirius and begin plotting the wedding she’d been thinking of for over a week now. Severus would just have to get used to the thought of Harry living at the castle with them permanently.

~ Finite ~