Part the Second—
And the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe, with loss of Eden.
—Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I
“No,” a voice said firmly, pulling Harry from his slumber. “I’m sorry but until they awaken, no one—and I mean no one—will speak to either of them without either my express permission or Ernie’s. I don’t care who you are.”
Harry knew that voice, it sounded so familiar.
“On whose authority?” It was said gruffly and was definitely feminine, but Harry didn’t recognize this voice at all.
The first voice huffed angrily. “On the authority of the House of Hufflepuff. Lord and Mr. Black are members of our house,” the voice hissed angrily. “They need their sleep and they will get it. Does Madam Pomfrey know you’re trying to disturb her patients?”
There was a shuffle.
“I thought so,” the voice said, sounding smug. Male. It was someone male, someone who knew Ernie well, another Hufflepuff. He’d never quite realized it before this year, but no one was as loyal as a Hufflepuff could be. “In fact, I know for a fact that in the Muggle world you need a signed permission form to actually see a patient unless you’re next of kin. And the next of kin for both the Blacks is behind the partition. Yes—I know you’re Muggles,” he answered the unasked question. “I may be a Muggle-born but I can easily tell the difference.”
Harry pulled himself out of sleep a little bit more and, opening his tired eyes, saw Octavian lying halfway across his chest, a thin arm wrapping possessively around him.
“Non,” Octavian murmured in his sleep, nuzzling closer to Harry’s warmth. “Stay, mon Henri Jacques.”
The voices rose from outside the partition again, causing Octavian to whimper.
Really, Harry thought, this was a hospital and his husband needed his rest. This was absolutely ridiculous. Octavian had seen his brother murder someone else, he had to be emotionally exhausted at the very least, and although Harry knew little about male pregnancies he knew that it was easier to lose the child to miscarriage and he wouldn’t let anything—and he meant anything—cause any harm to either of them, including some loud Muggles who apparently wanted to speak to him for some unimportant reason.
“I’ll be right back,” he whispered against Octavian’s hair, gently pulling himself from his husband’s grasp.
Octavian’s favorite sleeping ensemble was torn in several places and Harry sighed. He’d have to make amends and find Octavian something new to wear. Perhaps his Quidditch jersey would serve, he thought with a predatory glint in his eyes. Harry knew he’d absolutely adore seeing Octavian wearing it.
“Justin Finch-Fletchley,” the first voice was now saying as Harry straightened his clothes.
He sighed out in recognition. Of course. Justin. He hadn’t really spoken much to Justin over the past year. He preferred the company of his closest friends Ernie Macmillan and Hannah Abbott, but both of them were rather protective of Octavian. His husband, also, was a pureblood traditionalist and preferred not to interact with Muggle-borns unless he had to. He was kind to them, considerate, but he didn’t form strong bonds with any of them. His best friends were a pureblood from one of the staunch families, Caspar Summers, and a rather sophisticated and intelligent half-blood who was raised by two magical parents, Aidan Whitby. Nevertheless, it made a certain kind of sense.
“Second son of the Earl of Wintersthorpe,” Justin continued as Harry walked around the corner, his arms folded angrily at the intruders who were disrupting Octavian’s sleep.
Harry was momentarily shocked. “I had no idea, Justin,” he admitted, preferring not to look at Mr. and Mrs. Granger who were standing angrily in front of him. They were clearly trying to make their way into the enclosure, but Justin was standing in their way with his wand drawn and ready.
Justin Finch-Fletchley turned to him, his brown eyes startled to see him standing there. “Dammit,” he swore. “I was hoping that you and Octavian would sleep. You need it, I’m sure.”
Harry smiled at him quietly. “Octavian is fortunately still asleep,” he glared ominously at the Grangers, “but he was beginning to awaken.—Now, what was so important that my husband was denied his rest? This is a hospital, Dr. Granger.”
Mrs. Granger opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, Octavian called out sleepily, “Henri? Draco?”
Harry could hear the desperation in Octavian’s tone, and without looking back he reentered the room and saw Octavian sitting wide-eyed on the bed.
“Henri Jacques, tu es ici,” he breathed out and Harry gently took Octavian in his arms. “J’avais si peur. J’ai rêvé—J’ai rêvé—” His voice trailed off and Harry stroked his hand through Octavian’s tangled hair.
“Shh, je suis ici, mon Octavian. I am well; Draco is well. Romola is well and unharmed.”
“Romola?” Octavian breathed, confused, and Harry looked down into his wide dark eyes.
“Romola,” Harry repeated, resting his hand on Octavian’s flat abdomen. “Why didn’t you tell me about the potion, Octavian? I would have been more careful.”
Octavian bit his lip nervously and his eyes began to water. “D’accord. I should ‘ave known. You do not want ‘er—not yet.”
“Non,” Harry refuted, and he desperately drew Octavian into a soft kiss, brushing his tongue against his soft, honey-flavored lips. “No. Of course I want her. I just worry—you’re so young. You’re not even fifteen.”
Octavian stretched upward, pulling his body closer to Harry’s and kissed the line of his jaw softly. “Je suis désolé. Je t’aime.”
“Je t’aime aussi.”
Harry deepened the kiss, his tongue slipping into the confines of Octavian’s mouth, and he delighted in the quiet gasps he drew from him. Small hands fluttered against Harry’s cheeks, pressing, flickering, trying to grasp and yet to move as Octavian melted into the gentle expression of love.
At the back of Harry’s mind, he realized he could still hear the Grangers arguing with Justin.
“N’es-tu pas fâché?” Octavian asked gently as they finally pulled away, breathing heavily and staring into each other’s eyes.
“I could never be angry,” Harry swore, running his hand affectionately across Octavian’s high cheekbone. “I could never regret having a child with you, mon mari. You’re everything—and now Romola is my everything as well.”
“I said ‘no,’” Justin’s voice cut in angrily and Harry sighed against Octavian’s lips. “This is a hospital and the Earl Black and his husband are not to be disturbed.”
“Who is the Earl Black?” Dr. Granger—well, Hermione’s father; both of her parents were dentists, after all—hissed angrily. “I need to see Harry Potter immediately.”
“What is ‘appening?” Octavian asked quietly, his hands finally resting on the neckline of Harry’s shirt, tugging him closer so that he could not escape.
“The Grangers—they’re being rather insistent about seeing me. Hermione—she died last night.”
Octavian sucked in a harsh breath. “Anyone else?”
“The Earl Black is Harry Potter. He’s inherited a title,” Justin explained calmly.
“And what of this husband you keep on referring to? Such a thing can’t possibly be legal,” Mrs.—Dr.—Granger was now saying angrily. “Hermione never said a thing about it, and, well, it was as plain as day that Harry must have fancied her.”
Octavian’s black eyes flashed even darker.
Harry kissed him gently, noticing that his lips were pressed into a slight pout. Octavian’s lips were far too delicious in Harry’s opinion. “I’ll go take care of it.”
“Mon mari. Mine,” Octavian growled with a slight possessiveness as Harry laid him comfortably, or as comfortably as possible, on the hospital bed.
Harry gently traced the betrothal and wedding rings on Octavian’s left hand. “Always yours,” he agreed before he slipped through the curtain again.
The scene was much as it was before, but now he noticed that a small girl with bushy brown hair was sitting beside Hermione Granger’s bed. She was so young, perhaps no more than thirteen, not even Octavian’s age, and she had such a lost expression on her face. She had to be a relation of some sort, even a sister, but in all of the years Harry had known Hermione he had never heard her mention anyone in her family except for her parents in passing.
He drew his eyes away from the sad scene and rested them on the Grangers again.
Harry noticed that they looked rather frazzled, as if they had just arrived, their clothes thrown hastily on. Their eyes were devoid of any expression except for intense anger and he could clearly see the tear tracks on Hermione’s father’s worn and aged face.
“Justin,” he said quietly. “Would you mind sitting with Octavian? I don’t want him to be alone. What time is it anyway?”
“A little after six in the morning.”
Harry withheld a groan and only nodded. “Thanks.”
“Harry,” Mrs. Granger was now saying. “How the hell did this happen?”
“Perhaps we should take this outside,” he suggested calmly despite the fact that he was full of tumultuous emotions, primarily worry for Octavian and irritation that the Grangers would disturb him when his husband was a patient. “There are patients here after all.”
Without waiting for a response, Harry quickly walked out the doors and waited until the Drs. Granger followed him out again.
“Surely a professor has told you what has happened,” he began icily, leaning tiredly up against the wall. It had been after two, he estimated, by the time he fell asleep. He barely had gotten four hours of rest and, despite the fact that he was a teenager, he needed more sleep than that.
Mr. Granger hastily cut in. “Yes. McGonagall did. She said that terrorists—Death Dealers—“
“Death Eaters,” Harry corrected.
Hermione’s father nodded absently. He had rather large front teeth like Hermione once had, Harry noted absently, another pang of loss coursing through him for a short moment.
“Death Eaters, then—infiltrated the school and that fighting broke out. She said that it appeared Hermione was killed with a slashing hex.”
Harry closed his eyes briefly, trying not to imagine how painful that must have been. Hermione Granger would have slowly bled to death.
“But, well, you’re always with her on her ‘adventures,’” Mrs. Granger put in, an odd hint of both hope and disapproval in her voice. “You would have seen—“
“I haven’t spoken with your daughter for nearly a month,” he admitted, crossing his arms over his chest. “In fact, I told her quite plainly before Christmas that I no longer considered her a friend. I assume she would have told you.”
The Grangers exchanged a perplexed look.
“What exactly do you mean?” Mr. Granger hissed angrily at Harry, but he stood his ground.
“I will not speak ill of the dead and you’ll probably hear more than enough from prejudiced individuals. Ask Ronald Weasley, but he’s in mourning for his sister.”
“So you weren’t there at all?”
“I was with my husband and my brother-in-law,” Harry said, a hint of defensiveness in his voice. “Octavian and his safety is my first priority.”
“How could you do it?” Mrs. Granger whispered brokenly. “I—you’ve saved so many—why not our little girl? How could you?” she almost shrieked.
Harry’s temper flared angrily. “I am not the world’s keeper. It is not my job or duty to save everyone. I’m human, Mrs. Granger—or do you believe the crap that because I’m the Chosen One or the Boy-Who-Lived you have some right to how I live my life? Who I choose to protect?”
He could see the truth in the mourning woman’s eyes. It was exactly what she thought.
“You went and saved Ginny Weasley when you were only a second year.”
“Yes, and now she’s also no more than a corpse, and before you say anything I saved Hermione from a troll our first year.”
“She was my first born,” Mrs. Granger wailed and her husband clutched her to him, his eyes dead and unseeing.
Harry took a steadying breath. “Yes.”
“You could have saved her.”
“No, I couldn’t have. What would you do?” He stared her in the eyes. “If you found yourself in a warzone would you make certain your family was safe or traipse after someone who tried to end your marriage at every possible turn because she believed she was better than your spouse? What would you do?”
He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked anywhere but at the Grangers. It was ridiculous that they expected him, a sixteen-year-old, to save their daughter. If they wanted her safe, they should have impressed upon her to run when Death Eaters were swarming the school or just have pulled her from Hogwarts as they had threatened. He didn’t understand it. How could they buy into the entire idea that he held all the answers, that he should know, protect, do the impossible and make sure everyone got out alive?
“It’s your fault,” Mrs. Granger brokenly accused, and Harry turned dead green eyes on her.
“No, it’s Hermione’s—or, better yet, it’s whoever cast the Slashing Hex on her. I was in no way involved, or do you expect me to end world hunger as well?”
Mr. Granger gaped at him.
“You have a living child,” Harry said brokenly, remembering the girl sitting by Hermione Granger’s bed, “or at least I think you do. Live for her and keep her safe, and tell her that Hermione died a hero protecting what she believed in, but don’t go blaming me just because you’re angry or feel guilty. And if you ever disturb my husband’s recovery again, I will hex you into next week.”
Harry turned to go, but was startled when a small hand rested on his arm and the worried eyes of Astoria Greengrass looked up at him. He hadn’t heard her approach, and he could see just how frightened and exhausted she was; she had probably been scouring the castle all night.
“I can’t find Draco,” she whispered, ignoring the Grangers. “Have you seen him?”
“Draco Malfoy?” Mr. Granger hissed in disbelief.
Harry paid him no mind. “Yes. He’s well, he’s alive, but he had to leave with the intruders.” He looked into her eyes meaningfully and she gasped, tears coming to her eyes.
Gently he took her into his arms and let her cling to him in desperation.
“Just wait—you’ll be my sister-in-law yet.”
She pulled away again and looked up at him in astonishment. “How—?”
“It’s complicated and I can’t talk about it here,” he said, tilting his head toward the Grangers, who were looking an odd combination of angry and upset as they took in Harry and Astoria. “But I can tell you that before he left, he asked Octavian to tell you that he’s in love with you. He wanted you to know—before everything.”
“He—he actually said it?”
“Heard him with my own ears,” he teased her and was pleased when he saw a small smile tug on her lips. They were much paler than usual and the bottom one had almost been bitten raw.
“Why are there Muggles here?”
The Grangers, Harry could see from the corner of his eye, looked affronted.
“They’re Hermione Granger’s parents. She died along with a few others.”
“Anyone of our set?” Astoria asked worriedly, pushing her wayward strawberry blonde curls hastily away from her face. She looked almost wild, not remotely put together as she usually was.
“Our set?” Harry laughed. “I didn’t know we had ‘a set.’”
“What is the girl bloody going on about?” Harry heard Mr. Granger gripe.
“Harry, if we all survive this war, we will be married to two brothers. Of course we’re ‘a set,’ along with Daphne and one or two others. We’ll be having tea parties at Malfoy Manor while our children play on the lawn.”
“You’re speaking rather openly about this,” Harry said, surprised.
“Yes, well, it’s all in the family, and now that Dumbledore has been murdered, it’s only a matter of time before Azkaban no longer holds all of its prisoners, Harry. You’ve legitimized Octavian, Lord Malfoy will recognize him within a matter of months. It won’t matter that he’s an escaped criminal. All of society will open to him and it will be acknowledged. No one—not even Granger if she were still alive or Ginny Weasley—will be able to say or threaten anything against you.”
“Ginny’s dead,” Harry admitted quietly and Astoria gave a small nod in response.
“Anthony Goldstein” —Astoria sucked in a breath; it appears she had been friends with the older Ravenclaw— “Zacharias Smith. I think I noticed Marietta Edgecomb.”
“Chang won’t be happy,” Astoria murmured and Harry shrugged.
“Probably not. Weren’t they best friends?”
Harry hummed in the back of his throat, thinking, and slipped an arm reassuringly around Astoria when her grip loosened. He could feel her shivering, probably from lack of sleep and the worry.
“Daphne? She’s all right?”
Astoria nodded hesitantly. “She’s sleeping right now, but I couldn’t sleep without knowing—Draco—“ Her breath hitched in a sob. “Oh my gods. It all makes sense. All of these months, the worry, why he was pushing me away, why he was so sick and talking to Moaning Myrtle of all things.” Her dark brown eyes flashed up to Harry. “I’ve been driving myself crazy with jealousy because I knew he was confiding in an insane ghost—and it was this, all the time—how—why—“
“Later,” Harry calmed her, rubbing small circles on her back as she began to silently cry against his shoulder again. “Later.” He searched his mind for something to cheer her up, something to put everything in perspective.
The door from the infirmary opened and the small girl Harry noticed before walked out, her watery blue eyes belying her sadness despite how calm she appeared. “Mum? Dad?” she whispered, looking at her parents.
“Elissa,” Mr. Granger sighed and pulled her into a close embrace.
Astoria stiffened in Harry’s embrace. “There are unaccompanied Muggles at Hogwarts,” she whispered desperately, the horror evident in her tone.
“They’re people, Astoria,” Harry chided gently.
“I know,” she took a deep breath, “they’re just not our people. They ruin our way of life—if they didn’t—this war wouldn’t even be happening.”
“How dare you,” Mrs. Granger hissed as she detached herself from her husband. “It’s people like you that got our Hermione killed.”
“People like me?” Astoria said hollowly back. “Don’t be ridiculous. She got herself killed when she refused to accept a legal marriage and kept on deriding Octavian Black for being illegitimate and being loved by another man. It was disgusting to watch.”
“She would never—“
“She did,” Astoria countered. “She had some horrible idea that she could force Harry away from Octavian and into Ginny Weasley’s arms. Granger’s lucky she didn’t say anything too slanderous otherwise she would have been forced into a public apology like Weasley or taken to court for everything she—and both of you—had.”
“Astoria,” Harry said quietly, thinking he would get a headache if this were to continue. “Please. I haven’t slept and I don’t want to think about anything other than the fact that Octavian is safe.”
“Of course,” she apologized, squeezing his hand gently.
“You might be getting an invitation to a wedding on the first of August,” he said quickly, too quickly, trying to change the subject. “Draco might be invited.”
“Isn’t it a bit late for invitations?”
Harry nodded, remembering all of the etiquette books he had read about pureblood society, that he was still reading. It was too late. At least three months notice should be given so that the guests could properly plan, save the date, purchase the required gift. He was barely giving Astoria and Daphne a month.
“It’s Fleur Delacour’s wedding to Bill Weasley. She wants Octavian to be in the wedding party now that Ginny’s—“
Astoria nodded in understanding.
“I asked that you and Daphne be invited. I think it would help Octavian given the fact that the Weasleys, before all this, were completely against our marriage.”
She sighed. “He’s legitimized.”
“Yes, but Granger convinced them that he was making me go Dark.”
She rolled her eyes before kissing him gently on the cheek. “Well, brother. I’m certain Octavian needs you,” and with one last lingering and disapproving look at the Grangers, she left, her step slightly lighter and her back as erect as ever, showing her good breeding even in her distress and fatigue.
“Who was that?” Mr. Granger asked after a few moments.
He turned and looked at the tired man and gave him a hesitant smile. “Astoria Greengrass. She’s a very good friend of the House of Black, and within a few years she’ll be my sister-in-law, unless I’m very much mistaken.”
“Hermione never mentioned her.”
“No, I expect she wouldn’t have.” Harry glanced down at the girl, who was sobbing without tears. She must have spent them all already. “Hermione never said she had a sister.”
Haunted brown eyes met Harry’s. “Her name is Elissa.”
Harry nodded and after a moment’s pause, he walked back into the hospital doors, never to see the Grangers again.
He glanced out the window and saw that the sun was quietly rising over the Forbidden Forest and took a deep breath.
It was so beautiful, and despite the dead bodies littered around the room, covered in white sheets so that they looked like shades, everything was fine. He and Octavian would leave on the Hogwarts Express within a few days and disappear behind the impenetrable wards of number twelve Grimmauld Place. Fortunately, before his death, Dumbledore had done what Harry demanded and recast the Fidelius Charm with Harry as the secret keeper. Winky was already in place there and he’d already told Octavian where they lived so that if something horrible should happen, he still had some place to live, some place to hide.
He’d have to make a Last Will and Testament, he realized morbidly as the pink-tinged sky slowly turned into a brilliant orange. As his husband, Octavian stood to inherit everything, but he’d soon come into the full Potter inheritance on his seventeenth birthday, and he needed make certain Romola and any other children they might have were well provided for.
Starting in August, he would open an education fund for Romola, a trust like he had, to be used at her discretion as soon as she began schooling.
He looked around the room again, at the aged stones that he was so familiar with. Harry doubted he and Octavian would be sending their children to Hogwarts now that they were leaving for good within a few days. The place had been so dear to him, his haven, but it had turned into a quiet and torturous purgatory over the past few years. All of the good memories faded away into pain, desperation, and betrayal, the only redeeming feature being that if it hadn’t been for Hogwarts, he never would have met his beautiful Octavian.
As the sun continued to rise, he let his mind wander, thinking of their little Romola. Three weeks. She had been conceived three weeks ago, just about the time that Harry had whisked Octavian away to Little Whinging and made love to him for the first time in an ornate Muggle hotel. Perhaps just a bit after that, but still. So soon into their more intimate relations.
He bit his lip. Each time they had made love, he had wished for a family with Octavian one day and now—now—he had been granted his dearest wish. Octavian was his and safe, and their first child was on the way. Despite the death that surrounded him everything was perfect. And he would be damned if anyone—be it Voldemort, Death Eaters, the Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry for Magic, or even former friends—dared to take it away from him.
French to English.
Henri Jacques, tu es ici. Henri Jacques, you are here.
J’avais si peur. J’ai rêvé—J’ai rêvé— I was so scared. I dreamed—I dreamed—
Je suis ici, mon Octavian. I am here, my Octavian.
D’accord. All right.
Je suis désolé. Je t’aime. I am sorry. I love you.
Je t’aime aussi. I love you, too.
N’es-tu pas fâché? You are not angry?
Mon mari. My husband.