Harry threw down his tailor made sports coat and flung himself into the velvet club chair. A sigh of relief escaping his lips. As he had finally made it back to his suite in the palace.
"I take it your morning went well?" Hermione barely peered up from her book.
"It was a nightmare," Harry closed his eyes rubbing his temples, "there was about sixteen royal officials and press and staff watching our every move."
"I know," Hermione snapped shut the book she was reading, "I tried to speak with the Queen alone and have a 'girls' chat, not a chance on your life!"
"Well," Draco entered with a flourish, "you need to slum it with the servants and staff here, they know all the goss."
"Really?" Hermione looked sceptical.
"Truly," Draco couldn't stay still, his physique buzzing with energy, "the staff are invisible to the royals."
"So…" Hermione asked.
"Oh I have absolutely nothing on my parents but I just have scandalous news," Draco mocked a fainting motion.
"You're in a good mood," Hermione observed.
"He had a shag," Harry laughed, causing Hermione to blush.
"Draco!" She whispered fiercely.
Draco threw his hands up, "we needed to get information, any means necessary."
Harry laughed and rolled his eyes, "so what information did you get?"
"It's really foul actually," he glanced at Hermione, "Hermione will probably start a campaign against it but according to the law if the Princess can't find an appropriate suitor her father can approve the next highest power of the Kingdom to wed her."
"That's unfair!" Hermione protested.
"Especially when the next highest power is the Head Guard, Vlad, that old guy!"
"How disgusting! He looks to be the same age as the King, how can a father allow this?" Hermione was outraged.
Draco rolled his eyes, "calm down Hermione, she's a princess with all the wealth in the world you can't feel too sorry for her."
"Money isn't everything Draco," Hermione's eyes flashed.
"Settle petal," he grinned, "I haven't even got to the best part."
"You're sick," she shook her head disapprovingly.
"The Princesses maid Reed didn't think so," Draco winked at Harry, "Reed seems to think that the Princess has already chosen a suitor."
"She has?" Harry tried to act nonchalant but found his heart beginning to beat faster.
"Apparently ever since the Princess met this young man she hasn't stopped thinking about him and has been asking the staff to look out for him in the marketplace," Draco's mouth curved into a sly smile.
"Who on earth is it?" Hermione asked.
"A simple candle shop owner she met named Dante," Draco finished off theatrically.
Harry felt heat flood his body as Hermione's eyes flew to him.
"Harry," she said urgently, "you need to write to her immediately, if she is waiting for you to return and has to marry that old man…"
Harry found his voice, "err…yes of course…I'll write saying I had to go back to London, she knew I was from there."
"Maybe Harry wants to pursue her?" Draco offered still grinning.
"Unfortunately the Princess thinks he is a poor man named Dante and not Harry Potter," Hermione replied tightly.
"He could have a quick shag," Draco winked.
"We are here on behalf of the Order not here to shag," Hermione said pointedly.
"It's alright," Harry said diffusing the impending fight, "Draco she's a princess not a maid, it'd be a lot more difficult. I'll go write to the Princess as Dante and send it from marketplace to avoid any suspicion."
Eager to get away from Draco and Hermione's bickering Harry made his way to the royal gardens. The sun was beginning to set and a brilliant show of purples, oranges and golds were streaked across the sky. Harry could feel the warmth from the sun slowly slipping away, he heard a voice, a rushed whisper and ducked behind a large wisteria tree.
"I really appreciate this Basi," the voice whispered.
"You know I would do anything for you," came a whispered reply.
Harry peered out from behind the wisteria and was inches from Princess Samira's face.
"Your grace!" She curtseyed, her face flushing.
Maybe she wasn't pining for Dante after all? She looked guilty but quickly regained herself.
"Your highness," he bowed.
"What are you doing out here?" She asked.
"I have some business to attend to in the marketplace."
Whatever she had been feeling before dropped and she laughed, "you can't just walk out of the Palace your Grace." She sized him up, her eyes glinting in the quickly disappearing streaks of sun, "we'll help you attend to your business if you promise not to speak of myself and Basi leaving?"
"Deal," Harry shook on it and felt a surprising stab of annoyance, he had no business in the marketplace if the Princess was so obviously not waiting for Dante to return but he had committed this far and there was no turning back.
Basi was a weedy young man with large eyebrows, a bald head and glasses, his eyes were kind and gentle and Harry couldn't help but feel a tug of envy towards the man.
Harry followed the pair to a dense copse of trees shielding a weathered brick wall. It was the first surface in the entire Palace Harry had seen that wasn't polished or expensive.
"This is the staff entry, Royals aren't meant to leave the palace unauthorised," the Princess explained, she draped a dark brown cloak over her expensive clothes and handed one to Harry.
"We need to fit in," she winked.
"Where exactly are we going?"
"Just follow us and keep your head down," she pressed one of the bricks with her wand and the wall melted away, "are you ready?"
The world felt wonderfully open and vast outside the palace walls. Harry couldn't believe how free he felt to simply be outside and unwatched by royal officials. He followed the Princess and Basi down several back alley ways, the standard of living and condition of townspeople grew more decrepit as they walked further from the palace.
Finally they arrived at a mud brick home on the corner of a bedraggled street with a battered well nearby. Beggars and unkempt children huddled around one another and stared warily at Harry and the newcomers.
"Absolutely no magic unless there are dire circumstances," the Princess warned in a hushed voice.
"Understood, I can meet you back here in fifteen minutes?" Harry offered.
The Princess looked to Basi who nodded, "see you soon and please be careful."
Harry nodded and watch the pair head towards the house on the corner, he didn't have much choice but to move along and not draw attention to himself. Harry was careful to walk a simple route so he could return quickly, the darker the sky grew the darker the people of Marwah became.
Harry found a public rooftop where townspeople congregated, it was congested and noisy but there were dusty brown owls that delivered letters. Quickly he attached the letter to a large owl and he watched the bird make it's way to the palace. Dodging the crowd he hurried back down to the ground floor.
Call it intuition or just sheer curiosity but Harry stopped in his tracks when he heard a rumbling laugh. It made the hair on his neck stand up, he edged closer to the heavy wooden door where the laughter had come from.
"How does the Princess like the Duke?" A different voice purred.
"Unfortunately they seemed to hit it off," it was the laughing voice, cold and familiar.
"I suppose she is desperate."
"I'll get rid of him," the cold voice replied.
"I wish we could get rid of her."
"All in good time, we are so close now and you have been so patient my love and you will make a beautiful Queen."
"Can you stay a bit longer?"
"Not tonight my love, I have already been gone too long."
"You know sometimes I think you're just using me!" The voice shrieked and Harry's heart leapt into his mouth, his blood froze like ice in his veins.
Why was Ginny in Marwah?
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