AU! He is handsome duke with a mysterious past. She is a beautiful countess with no shilling in her name. He has sworn off love for good, she has vowed never to marry at all. If fate decides to put...
Charles Hudson knew that being a butler was not simple.
When he was hired 5 years ago, he was prepared to face any lord or lady who possessed cruelty of different kinds.
Harry Potter came as a surprise.
"Lord Black, has come to pay you a visit, Your Grace."
The young man didn't even look up from what he was reading.
No surprises there.
"Show him in."
"Right away, sir." Hudson nodded.
"I'll be leaving for the Seymour's Masquerade Ball at dawn. Have my valet put together something for me before then."
"Very good, sir. I'll advise Atkins right away." Still no other response. "Would that be all, Your Grace?"
He turned around, noticing the heavy draperies around the room before finally making his way out.
All those talk yet no trace of human feelings.
Aside from boredom and contempt...
Even after 5 years of service, it was still odd, but no longer surprising.
It was probably because the young duke was just who he is.
A 25 year-old orphan having the title as the 9th Duke of Godric's Hollow...
Young as he was, though, there was something in his eyes that told Hudson, there was more to Harry than what one could actually see.
It had been his first day as the butler when Hudson first laid eyes on him. He had been all prepared to meet his employer, only to find out that he was not there to be met.
When Harry did walk in a few hours later, Hudson was in for a shock.
Dressed in those awful street clothes, Harry's manners had been brusque and his speech unscrupulous. Hudson had taken a dislike at him instantly.
But it vanished.
All because he knew Harry had a very reasonably excuse.
He didn't know he was a duke.
When Sirius Black told him who he really was, his staggered expression confirmed Hudson's theory.
Kept in the shadows his entire life, Harry had no idea how to go about being the most powerful man in the entire Gryffindor estate.
His innocence, however, was diminished with Sirius and Remus' guidance.
Before long, Harry's wealth was multiplying, and he was slowly, but steadily reviving the estate.
After 5 years of brilliant and conscientious work, he had managed to extend his lands and properties to massive heights, bought two more houses, hired more employees and purchased the best horses from Tattersalls to raise and breed.
His massive good looks, title and wealth were exactly what society desired to consider him the most eligible bachelor in London.
And that they did!
Never had there been a bachelor more celebrated than he.
He was constantly invited to parties, weddings, all the soirees you could think of. He was admired by the ladies, and awed by gentlemen.
But even after all the accomplishments, Harry Potter's life was deficient.
He barely had friends visiting. There were those who pay him social calls, but it was either they had underlying motives, or they were just not whom he needed.
The only people who seemed to care about him were his godfather and his family, but they were often out of town.
The closest thing he ever had to a female companion was his maids.
And everything from his attire down to the curtains in his home reeked of misery.
Though, Hudson didn't possess the real reason for Harry's disposition, he was convinced it had something to do with the broken and missing pieces of the young lad's past.
Somehow, he knew that everything would be all right when Harry Potter was whole again.
But that would only happen if he found someone to put him back together.
And right now, Hudson was not so certain that the Duke of Godric's Hollow wanted to love.
Or, if he did, perhaps he believed he had no right.
Inside his office, Harry rested his head on his hands, bored and weary as he had been all day.
Aside from his exhaustion from having to solve a haulage that had gone awry with one of his ships, one of his servants had fallen sick and a doctor had said she had a virus. Very mild case, not alarming, although slightly contagious.
The last thing he wanted was to have an epidemic spread in his entire estate, so he had to isolate her from the rest of his staff.
The depressing thing was, he couldn't sleep on his problems. Even if the Seymour's Masquerade Ball was the last thing he wanted to appear in, he couldn't miss it.
The Seymour's were a longtime family friend of his parents, and he would be quite the austere person Sirius was telling him he was turning out to be if he didn't come.
It wouldn't be so bad. But he knew his disguise would not prevent the domineering mamas of the single ladies from trying
to catch his attention all evening.
Turning down hearts was not a favorite pastime, but it seemed it was all he could do lately. And that was the last thing he wanted to end the night doing.
The door burst open.
"What do you want?" Harry asked gruffly, pushing back his chair.
Sirius approached his godson with a semi-plastered smile on his face.
"How have you been this past few months?"
Noting the broadsheet lying passive on the edge of his desk, Sirius sat down. "I wouldn't consider succeeding in a business merger as just `the same', my boy."
"There's no difference."
"That's not what I heard." A pause and a knowing look came upon his face. He looked more amused than annoyed with his godson's responses. "Surely, the ton has heard about it. And are now more than eager to remove you in next year's marriage market?"
"So what else is new?"
"But you do know that the longer you evade them, the more they become fervent to go after you"
"Yes, but there's nothing I can do."
"Unless there is already a woman in your mind. That would make them see reason."
"The only woman in my mind as of this moment is Grace."
"Don't get so excited, Sirius. She's my maid." He clarified. "My very sick maid."
"No, you are." Harry shook his head. "She, on the other hand, has some kind of virus. And now, I have to deal with that if it starts spreading throughout the goddamn place."
"You did that on purpose, didn't you?"
"Throw in the name so I would get excited about you actually thinking about a woman."
"No, I didn't."
"And I suppose that your stalling after saying `Grace' was just you."
"You're reading too much on that, Sirius. You're getting a bit paranoid."
"Actually, I'm not. I don't understand you." Sirius idly tapped his hand with his glove as he searched Harry's face. After awhile, he muttered. "You're...inexplicable."
"I am not."
"And why is that?"
"I'm very clear."
Sirius scoffed. "How can you be when I can't even explain your behavior?"
"Are you a psychologist?"
"Good, because you wouldn't last a day. If I were your patient, I'd rather kill myself before I let you get in my head."
"Yeah, I've become the ultimate humorist. It has always been a dream." He linked his hands together. "It's about time you get yours, Sirius - whatever it is."
"I want to know what's going on in that stubborn head of yours."
"A hopeless psychic, then?"
"I'm warning you..."
"Sorry, but I don't have the time for lousy fortune-tellers as well." He smirked.
"I swear if you don't stop this, you'll regret it."
"If you want to look like you really mean to carry out a threat, you shouldn't look amused."
Tired of playing verbal chess with his godfather, Harry shoved himself away from his desk and stood up. "Look, Sirius. I am not in the perfect state for idle chitchat. I'll be leaving in a couple of hours."
"Where are you going? If you're so tired, why leave?"
"The Seymours will have a masquerade ball. I'm sure you got invited to that one as well."
Sirius looked thoughtful. It had been a long while since he actually went to a ball. It had been too long as well since he had read any invitation sent to him.
"Perhaps. But Alicia insists on staying at home and I have no complaints." Sirius said.
"I can't see why you can't go alone. It's not at all out of the ordinary." Harry said.
"I'm rather fond of being special. Anyway, Elizabeth's at home." Sirius said, referring to his daughter who got married 7 years ago. "With Jonathan and Conner."
"How is Conner, by the way?" Harry asked.
"Your godson is doing great." There was a twinkle in Sirius' eye. "He's learned the rules of the ton and has been talking of marriage ever since he arrived. He's even more eager than you, you know."
Harry rolled his eyes and not for one minute did he believe that a 6 year-old will be talking about such things. It was just a ploy that Sirius used for him to talk about settling down.
"I suppose telling you no would not convince you to shut up?"
"You have a duty." Sirius pointed out for the hundredth time. He stood up and walked over to the cabinet where Harry's brandy had been minding its own business.
He laid out two glasses and poured the content in them until they were both a quarter empty.
He handed the wineglass to his godson and sipped from his own, waiting for Harry to respond. When he didn't, Sirius sighed heavily. "You have a duty to beget heirs so your lineage wouldn't die down."
"The hell I care." Harry muttered bitterly, turning to face the window.
"If you have to have a grudge against a family, let it be the Dursleys, you fool!" He bit out venomously, impatient with the constant offense and rejection of Harry towards his family title.
"I am not going to argue about that. But for my parents to actually entrust me to those...those filthy excuse for relatives? My God, don't expect me to erect statues for them!"
"The line of the Potters is a respectable one and it doesn't deserve to be discarded. Your parents never wanted you to end up in such a situation. They're not stupid."
"But they weren't smart either, not if they thought anybody could be trusted with that much money, being wagged around with the family name."
"But Petunia was your mother's sister. Nobody expected what happened."
"Neither did anybody do anything about it, did they?"
Sirius sighed. "No explanation will ever be good enough for you, will there?"
"You'll just keep blaming them so you would have an excuse for your hatred towards the Potters."
"I don't blame them. It just so happens that you are expecting me to love them. May I remind you that I didn't grow up with my parents? So it is a little hard to love people whom I didn't even know."
"Be that as it may, you must believe that they loved you. And I know, even though you disagree, that you love them as well. That heart of yours just does not want to admit it."
"You can try looking, but you'll be wasting your time."
"Because there's no love in your heart?"
"No, because I don't have one."
"Stop begrudging yourself, boy." Sirius said, shaking his head. "James and Lily sacrificed their lives for you. They left you with everything you own so you could have a good life, even without them."
"What made you think it would have made a difference if they were alive."
"They need to be thanked, Harry, not spited at."
"What? They would hear me if I did?"
"You are impossible!"
"I do not have the notion that I am disgracing the name of my family, Sirius." Harry clarified. "In fact, I am uplifting it. I am excellent in what I do and will continue doing it for the next fifty years or so. What's there to be afraid of?"
"Immortality. It's about letting that proud family name become a legend that will last until the next century."
"My family does not need physical existence to last."
"Yes, it does." Sirius countered strongly.
"Consider it as some sort of tradition." Sirius replied evasively.
"It is not what I want."
"It is not about what you want. It is something you must do."
"I will not be coerced into doing something I am against." Harry shook his head. "My freedom is not worth giving up for some self-centered chit who would just throw away the money I worked hard for."
"Is that what this is about? You don't want to share your wealth?"
"No. That's not it."
"Then what is?"
"It is none of your goddamn business."
"Of course it's my business. For what else did your parents choose me as your godparent? I'm here to see to your best interests. And right now, getting married would probably be the best of them."
"My best interests do not revolve around marriage." Harry shook his head and looked at his godfather with piercing green eyes.
"Every time you come here, you always have that in mind. Get married. Go to this ball, look for a lady." He wiped his face
with his hands. "You sound like a broken record. Too broken it can't be fixed. And that's what annoys the hell out of me. You won't stop until I get married. But I won't get married so you won't stop. God forbid! Do you know that each time you tell me that, I am this close to yanking my hair out so you would have something to think about aside from marriage?!"
Sirius only chuckled.
"And for the record, I don't think it really matters if you don't get to fulfill one of my best interests. There are so many others you could choose from."
"Happiness is what I want for you."
"It doesn't mean that just because you're happy with Alicia, I would also have that kind of relationship with my wife." Harry responded. Then, as if getting burned even just by the thought, he added. "Should I ever get married..."
"So you're saying you don't want to get married just because of the risk of not being happy or loved?"
"Love?" Harry scoffed. "Pathetic."
Sirius looked at him coolly. "You are capable of loving."
"Polly Smith was proof of that." He whispered somberly, gauging Harry's reaction.
Sure enough, the lad's expression changed by the mere mention of the name.
Sirius felt him stiffen.
Harry clenched and unclenched his fists.
"I was capable." He bitted out. "Not anymore."
"That was what? 9 years ago..."
"I don't give a damn." He cursed. "Nothing can make me forget."
"It wasn't meant to happen."
"It doesn't make a difference if it was or wasn't meant to happen!" Harry bit out. "What matters is that it did."
"You're really stupid, do you know that?!"
"Yeah. Shocking discovery, isn't it?" Harry said sarcastically.
"Life is full of crap, Harry. But you can't go around expecting things to happen the way you want them to. It doesn't work that way."
"You're just saying that because you want me to get married. Ha! Tough case. I won't."
"No, I'm not. I want to help you. You're caught in the past. It's making you miserable. Don't you see? You have to move on."
"Moving on means forgetting. I can't."
"You can't or you won't? You're just punishing yourself for nothing."
"I can never live a happy life knowing that the people who mattered to me had been robbed of the chance to be."
"And you think they'd be happy you're stuck with them?"
Sirius could only hear Harry's sharp, ragged breathing.
When he came here this morning, he never meant for any of this to happen. He was just going to ask Harry about his merger and leave it at that. But then, he noticed the time flying by.
Something had to be done before it was too late.
Unfortunately, Harry was not cooperating.
The boy had closed his eyes, sweat was staring to pool on his head.
"Harry, I only..."
"Can we stop this? I'm tired."
Harry barely caught Sirius' eyes when he glanced over his shoulder, but something about the mysterious and painful glint in there told Sirius that Harry had really had enough.
And Sirius knew better than to continue.
Finally, he nodded.
If Harry's past had something to do with his current repugnance to marriage or to anything that had to with his life now, then so be it.
The boy was young.
He was scarred.
Shattered and messed-up.
Although Sirius had tried hard for the last 5 years to fix him, Harry won't let anyone see his vulnerable side.
And he understood the boy.
So, he was willing to give him time.
Even though that was what they were running out of.
He'll step back.
That was easy.
But he sure as hell won't wait until everyone else who mattered, suffer to see Harry happily married...or even just settled, for that matter.
He'll see to that.
But Sirius will make sure he was not aware of it.
THis story is an AU. It doesn't really have magic in it, but I'm still thinking about it. It is set during the 19th century England, when dukes and earls and such nobility existed. Anyway, tell me what you think..and review. Thanks!