Draco kept his head bowed, ignoring the footsteps approaching his cage. He’d been beaten again the night before, and he was tired of fighting. He didn’t want to be sold, but he couldn’t survive another beating, another day without food. Maybe he could escape more easily with a master, because he wasn’t getting away from the slave trainers. And he really couldn’t survive there any longer.
To his surprise, the footsteps stopped outside his cage. “This one hasn’t been broken yet,” the head of the slave trainers, whose name Draco had never been permitted, explained. “Oh, he’ll be respectful, but he’s extremely well-educated, and he enjoys proving himself smarter than the clients. He also tries to run. He’s the only slave we have on hand that conforms to pour specific actions, but you would have to keep a close watch on him.”
“Slave,” demanded a light, cultured voice with the accents of the neighbouring country of Gryffindor, “look at me.”
Draco gritted his teeth and raised his head, as ordered. The obedience broke something inside of him, some scrap of his pride, but he obeyed. “Yes, my Lord?” he asked, tone carefully void of anything save respect. To his surprise, he recognised his potential buyer: Seamus Finnigan, former personal servant to the Gryffindor Prince that no one ever saw.
“I’ll buy him,” Finnigan said, smirking. “How would you recommend he travel? We have a fair way to go. We’re travelling by carriage.”
“This one?” the trainer asked incredulously. “Chain him up and toss him in the baggage compartment. He’s sturdy.”
He scowled, and his pride objected to being spoken about like he wasn’t there, reforming despite his awkward situation. Still, he didn’t protest or fight when he was pulled from his cage and chained up like a dangerous animal. Which, he supposed, he was. The last thing he saw before the carriage’s baggage compartment was closed with him inside was Finnigan’s smirking face. “How the mighty have fallen.” The compartment slammed shut.
Draco sneered, even though he was locked in the dark and no one could see. Of all the people who could have bought him, it had to be his old enemy. The only thing worse would have been being purchased by one of his friends.
The ride wasn’t comfortable for the blonde slave by any stretch of the imagination. He was jolted all over the tiny compartment, and chained as he was, he couldn’t brace himself. By the time the carriage stopped hours later, the damage his last beating had done to his delicate body had been severely worsened.
He was barely clinging to consciousness when Finnigan opened the compartment. “You’re a gift for a friend of mine. Behave for him, or I’ll come back and beat you worse than your trainers ever did. Clear?”
“Of course, Finnigan,” Draco whispered.
Guards approached and lifted the slave, carrying him into the Manor and dropping him at the feet of a dark haired lord. He looked up hazily, and fainted.
He woke to the feeling of the chains being removed.
“Oh, good, you’re awake,” the Lord murmured from behind his awkward sprawl. “Hold still, please. I’ve almost got these off of you.”
Draco stilled immediately. He wanted the chains off. But when they were, he was immediately lifted in his new master’s arms.
“If I’ve told Seamus once, I’ve told him a hundred times that I hate slavery,” he muttered. “I’ll get you cleaned up, just stay still.”
“Because you’re a mess, frankly. And don’t call me ‘master’. Now hush. You can’t be comfortable.”
The slave stayed very tense. His experience with the people who owned him had not been good, but he obeyed. To his shock, he was placed in a warm tub of water, and his master, whom he didn’t even know, washed him gently, careful of the bruises, cuts, and welts that covered his body.
The cuts were bandaged carefully, salve rubbed into welts and bruises, before he was dressed in a soft silk robe and settled in a chair. He tried to get to his feet, to show the proper respect to the man he now belonged to, but the Lord pushed him back into the chair.
“Don’t worry about whatever etiquette you’ve been taught. You’re hurt, and I hate the idea of slavery. Stay seated. What’s your name?”
The blonde scowled. “I have no name, only what you give me.”
“Please don’t. You’re your own person. If you don’t want me to use your real name, choose one you’re comfortable with.”
“I am. . .” he hesitated. “My name is Draco.”
“Like the former Prince of Slytherin?”
The slave bowed his head. “I was the Prince of Slytherin. I fell a long way to be a slave.”
The Lord nodded. “All right, Draco. My name is Harry, like every other fifth person in the world.” He smiled reassuringly.
“Am I to call you that?”
“I would prefer it. I will be uncomfortable if you act like a traditional slave.”
“I really, really think slavery is wrong. I don’t know how you became a slave, but it doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t have lost your freedom.”
“You can’t free me.”
“I know the laws.”
“So what will my duties be?” Draco asked reluctantly.
“Nothing you object to. For the moment, I want you to rest and heal. I’ll take care of you until you’re well again. What happened to you?”
“I refused to be a traditional slave, so I was beaten frequently by the trainers. Then your friend brought me here, chained as you saw, in the baggage compartment of the carriage. I haven’t bee permitted food in several days. I’m not when I’m beaten. I’m not very strong because of that, so I got hurt more easily.” He hated explaining his how weaknesses, hated admitting he couldn’t defend himself from free people, because as a slave, he was less than them. But he was this lord’s slave now, and he couldn’t not answer.
“I’m glad you aren’t broken. You won’t be beaten for being yourself here.”
“I’m going to pick you up again, so I can take you to bed. Then I’ll bring you something to eat, and you’ll rest and eat until you’re well again.”
“For what price?” the slave asked cautiously.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m a slave. People don’t do things for me. If they want thing from me, they demand. I have to obey. They don’t have to buy my cooperation. I’m trying to tell you that you don’t have to be nice to me. The fact that you are means to me that you have an ulterior motive, because people aren’t kind to slaves.”
“I want you to feel better and be happy here. I’m not going to treat you like a slave. I’d prefer to treat you like a friend. May I help you?”
He was still surprised when the Lord, his master, picked him up. He was even more surprised when he was settled in what appeared to be Harry’s own bed. He hadn’t been treated this well since he’d been a prince. That had been nine years ago, when he’d been fifteen. Then he’d known how to handle the treatment. He didn’t know how now. He couldn’t, not as a slave.
“I don’t understand.”
“I hope you’ll understand when you’re feeling better, then.”
“I hate being a slave.”
“I can’t say I blame you. It must be especially hard after having been a prince.”
He was confined to the bed for a week except when the Lord bathed him. To his complete shock, his master took care of him without the aid of servants. He was permitted to eat and sleep as much as he wanted, a luxury he hadn’t had since he’d become a slave. And he ever woke up without seeing his master in the room with him, keeping an eye on him.
The last day that he was bedridden, he was more awake, and he and the Lord spoke over supper, mostly about what he could expect now as a slave in the Manor.
“I haven’t gotten you much new clothing. I didn’t know what you’d like. I did, and please don’t take this the wrong way, get you livery, that of both a slave and a servant. You are not required, in any way, to wear it, but I thought you should have it.”
“Why servants’ livery?”
“I--it’s more comfortable than a slave’s. I also sent for a tailor to come tomorrow to make you clothes of your choice.”
“Will he make clothes for a slave?”
“Yes. Gryffindor isn’t Slytherin.”
“I see that. Slaves in Slytherin aren’t given half as many privileges.”
“Some slaves in Gryffindor aren’t. But you live with me, so you’ll be treated well.”
“What do you want me to do for you?”
“I’d appreciate it if you’d keep me company. I get lonely here. There aren’t very many servant in the Manor, and they’re all very busy. I’d like it if we could be friends. I want someone I can talk to, ride with, practice fencing with.”
“Didn’t your friend warn you I have habit of trying to run? You don’t want me, a slave; you want a noble visitor.”
“I’ve been saying since you got here that I don’t like slavery. Why do you object to being treated well?”
“Because it’s a lie. I’m not a noble guest, I’m not the prince I used to be, and I’m not something a Lord wants to be friends with. I’m a slave, the lowest of the low. I’m property. I cannot get used to being treated well. You’ll sell me or something, and I’ll have to relearn how to act like a slave again. I’ve broken my pride enough to obey once. To do it again would break me.”
“I swear to you that I’ll never sell you. I swear it, Draco. You’ll belong to me for as long as you’re a slave. And at the worst, I’ll treat you like a personal servant at court. Not like a slave. You can get used to living well again.”
“And you won’t guard me, prevent me from running?”
“If you want to run away, I won’t stop you. I may chase you until you’re off my estate and ask you not to go, but I won’t stop you. You will, however, probably be more comfortable here than as a runaway. You won’t be able to get the slave’s collar off yourself, so wherever you go, you’ll be treated like a slave. Even your supporters in Slytherin will see the collar before they see their prince.”
“If I’d gotten away, I would have hidden my collar until they were back in the habit of obeying me.”
“Try to stay for a little while. Please. See if you can be happy here. I can’t make you a prince again, but I’ve already said I’ll treat you as a companion, which means as nobility. You technically have the lowest rank in the Manor; you’re the only slave here. I can tell the servants to take care of you. I can ask them to listen to you. I cannot force them to obey you; you are still a slave. But they’re good people. They’ll treat you fairly and only give you orders if they need to, not out of spite.”
“And what about you? How will you treat me? When will you give me orders?”
“I’ll treat you as a companion. I may give you orders if we go to court, but only then, and it’s only a possibility. Other than that, I’ll ask, not order.”
“You’ll ask a slave.”
“I’ll ask a man I hope will be a friend. Do you think you’re well enough to get up? Are you still hurting?”
“The welts from the whip are still tender. So are the deeper cuts, but for the most part, I’m healed.”
“You won’t get more welts. Not for me or mine.”
“I’d believe you if I could. I belonged to the slave-trainers for eight years, in training for five of them, and to slave merchants before that. I lived in a small cage, and I was beaten or whipped on an almost nightly basis.”
“You’re stronger than I am. I couldn’t have done it.”
“You can do what you have to. I lost my virginity when I was fifteen, pleasuring one of the merchants in exchange for food, missing a beating, and a night out of the small cage I lived in.”
“Why didn’t you run then?”
“I tried. I got caught two days later. I don’t know how I survived the punishment. I guess it was only because I wasn’t worth anything dead or crippled.”
“They couldn’t sell you then. Let’s get you up.”
Draco slowly got out of the bed. He expected to be shown to a servant’s room and left to his own devices if he was lucky. Instead, he was shown the Manor by his master. He was given a room down the hall from his master’s. It was a lord’s room, richly appointed, and a tailor waited within, with orders to make him anything he wanted.
He settled in quickly, learning to actually enjoy his master’s company as he spent almost every second with the other man. When noble visitors came, Draco was introduced. It was acknowledged that he was a slave, but the visitors, seeing how he was treated by the Lord of the Manor, avoided treating him like one.
Slightly under a year after he’d first come to Harry, the day before his birthday, a message arrived for the lord. Harry grinned and told Draco, “I’m going to court for the first time since I was a child. I’m sorry to dismiss you so abruptly today, but I need to make some arrangements. I’ll discuss some . . . altered circumstances . . . with you in the morning.”
Draco nodded, masking his _expression, and left the room. He went immediately to his own, resting his head in his hands. He’d known this would happen. “Altered circumstances” meant he’d have to be a slave. The comfortable friendship he’d shared with his owner wouldn’t last. He couldn’t do it. He’d gotten accustomed to being treated well.
He’d run. He wouldn’t be able to accept the orders from Harry. And he’d seen the slave’s livery hanging in his wardrobes, though he’d never had to wear it. He couldn’t wear it around his owner. He wanted the lord to see him at his best, not with all his scars exposed to the world. He wanted Harry to see his beauty, not the abuse he’d suffered as a slave.
He didn’t sleep that night, too upset and nervous. He couldn’t afford to be caught, not this time. He chose his clothing carefully, to cover his collar and hide the scars, and at dawn, he was ready.
He was permitted to go walking alone on the grounds, and he took advantage of that. Harry’s lands extended far into the forest, and that was the way he went, thinking he could lose any pursuit in the trees.
It wasn’t long before he heard someone behind him, on horseback. He broke into a run. They weren’t supposed to notice he was gone so soon! He could only hear one person behind him, but that didn’t mean there weren’t more.
He hesitated. That was Harry’s voice. He didn’t understand why the lord was chasing him. Was it possible his owner had meant it when he’d told Draco he wouldn’t stop the slave from running?
“Draco, please, just let me talk to you! Just ten minutes. If you still want to run, I won’t stop you.”
“You don’t have guards waiting to catch me?” Draco called cautiously.
“I swear that I don’t. I just want to give you your birthday present. If I’d thought you’d run, I’d have given it to you last night.”
Draco reluctantly walked back through the trees, trying to straighten his clothes, his run having messed them up. He hesitated, seeing Harry.
“Draco, I swear that I won’t hurt you! I told you I wouldn’t stop you from running. I can’t come to you. You have to trust me enough to come to me. I haven’t hurt for the entire year you’ve belonged to me. I’ve treated you like a person of the nobility, and I hope you’ll like your present. Please, don’t be afraid.”
The slave raised his chin and stepped out of the trees. He walked over to his owner’s horse. “I won’t apologise for trying to run.”
“I don’t expect it.” He handed the blonde a sheet of paper with the King’s seal on it.
Draco opened it. “Freedom?” he asked quietly, uncertainly. “For service to the Prince of Gryffindor? I‘ve never met the Prince of Gryffindor” He looked up when the horse fidgeted to see Harry looking uncomfortable.
“Yes, you have.”
“The only people I’ve really met have been Lord Finnigan, Lady Granger, and . . .” He paused, pieces fitting together. “And you.”
“Yes, me. I’m the elusive Gryffindor Prince, and I freed you. I turn twenty-five next month and will be of age to take over from the regent currently ruling for me. I have to get to court, but there’s a letter for you in your bedroom. The Manor is yours. The reason I dismissed you so abruptly yesterday, and I’m sorry about that, was to explain to the staff that you’re the Lord of the Manor now.” He dismounted. “Hold still, please.”
Draco froze as he felt the collar being removed. “Ten years as a slave. It’s over?”
“Yes. I wish you well, Lord Draco.”
The former slave stared after the man who had owned him and freed him before going back to the Manor, looking immediately for the letter.
I’m sorry I didn’t get to tell you this in person, but you’re not here and I’m in a hurry. I’m writing this very quickly so that I can catch you before you get off the estate.
You’re free now. I can even get try Slytherin back from Voldemort for you, but there’s a price for that--the Councillors insisted. I’m sorry. I am to be crowned on July 31st and given a Queen on the same day. I can give you only that month to consider my proposal. I’m sorry. I’m explaining this poorly. If you got Slytherin back, you wouldn’t be the only ruler. You wouldn’t even get to be the King. You’d be the Queen, but you would rule. You’d rule both Slytherin and Gryffindor as the Queen. If you want to rule again, you’d have to marry me. An heir would not be an issue. The reason I was such a reclusive Prince was more than just a fear of assassination. I’m not fully human, and I had to be trained to deal with that.
If you agree to this, come to court some time before my wedding, and you’ll be whom I wed. I do like you, Draco, and I could easily love you, love the person you sometimes, more and more frequently as you got used to me, showed me behind the mask of the slave.
Regardless of what you choose, you are free. You’re a Lord. The Manor is yours, and I hope you enjoy it. Make the best of your life now, Draco, whatever you choose.
Harry, Prince of Gryffindor
Draco stared at the letter in astonishment. A chance to rule again was more than he could have hoped for. Even if he’d gotten back to his supporters in Slytherin and had been able to hide his slavery, it would have been a long time before they’d won, if they ever had. He was sure he wouldn’t have been able to hide his collar for that long.
But did he want to get married to Harry? A man who’d owned him? Could he handle being a Queen instead of a King?
He debated with himself for a week, finally making himself sick. The servants took care of him, but when he was healthy enough to think again, the process made longer by his years as a poorly treated slave, it was a day before the coronation. Heedless of his convalescence, he took a horse and rode hard for the capital, not needing a map, feeling the way he had to go. He rode through the night, desperate to get there, hardly knowing his own answer.
He got to the capital to find everyone already in the church.
Harry stood at the alter opposite the young Lady Ginny Weasley. He kept his eyes focused on the priest, finally coming to terms with the fact that Draco hadn’t come. He heard the traditional question posed to his bride to be and turned to look at her, seeing her mouth open, but the voice that answered wasn’t hers.
“She doesn’t,” someone called from the church doors. “I do.”
Harry looked back and saw the dishevelled blonde he’d given up on leaning against the door, and he smiled. “Then join me, my Queen.”