Part the Seventh—
The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it, but in another country, as he said, bore a bright golden flow’r, but not in this soil.
A week after Harry sent Hedwig to Lord Prince, he was beginning to wonder what had happened to his beloved owl.
Lucrece, he noticed, was refusing to mention the affair at all, and Octavian became quieter and quieter, the closer it came for him to leave for France.
“I will stay,” he whispered quietly one night as he was draped across Harry’s chest. “With you.”
“You can’t go back to Hogwarts,” Harry argued, his hand running through Octavian’s hair. “I won’t have you anywhere near the Carrows.”
“Draco will be there, you will be,” Octavian protested, snuggling closer.
Harry’s hand stilled. “I’m taking the year off,” he admitted. “Things need to be done.”
“But it is zee law,” Octavian whispered in astonishment, turning so his wide black eyes gazed imploringly at Harry. “You cannot break zee law.”
“It’s fine,” Harry murmured, touching a worry line between Octavian’s eyebrows. “I will be fine.”
“What about if zey bring you up on charges?” Octavian mumbled, but he was once again lying across Harry, his breathing evening out and becoming deeper as he approached sleep.
A small smile formed on Harry’s lip, thinking of his beautiful, pregnant husband. “Sleep,” Harry soothed, “you need it.”
Harry walked into the drawing room and found his eyes lingering on the Black family tapestry that Winky had managed to scrub to the point that it looked almost new. She had even taken her clever fingers and a needle and thread to the scorch marks and filled them in. They still looked awkward, easily discernible as not part of the original tapestry, but he had wanted to honor Sirius and Andromeda Tonks—and the others—and this was a small way.
He had found his own name, under his father’s, whose mother had been a Black, and Octavian’s likeness had been proudly stitched beside him with magic, a smiling face innocent and handsome. Octavian Prince of the House of Malfoy. Everything was as it should be.
Lucrece was sitting by the window, a book in her hand as she quietly read. Neither acknowledged each other. They were strangers, Harry realized, and only Octavian connected them. Octavian loved each of them dearly, and Harry quietly hated Lucrece for not being able to bring herself to love her son in return.
“Henri Jacques,” Octavian called, surprise in his voice, as he entered the room. He looked between his mother and his husband, the same soft confusion on his face that had lined it for a week, but then ran up to Harry. “Une invitation.”
“And are we accepting it?” Harry gently asked, a hand snaking around his husband as Octavian leaned up to kiss him gently.
“Mais, oui,” Octavian murmured, and held out the invitation. He glanced worriedly over at his mother as Harry’s eyes skimmed over the letter.
The letter was beautifully penned, difficult to read, and an invitation to lunch that just included himself and Octavian—from Troy Prince.
“Je ne comprends pas,” Octavian admitted. “I’ve known his name for years. ‘Ow could I not? But now ‘e invites us ze day after tomorrow—mais—pourquoi?”
Harry leaned down and gently kissed Octavian’s lips that had turned down in a slight frown and smiled. “When you were visiting your father I wrote and sent an announcement of our marriage, as is proper. I’m certain that he wishes to know you.”
“But ‘e does not know me,” Octavian countered, his black eyes sparkling.
“Je sais,” Harry agreed, “but he might, one day.”
Lucrece looked over at them and stood regally, coming over and gently tucking Octavian’s hair behind his ear in one of the small forms of affection she permitted herself. “Your grandfather,” she glanced at Harry in question and at his nod continued, “is a good man. He never knew what became of me, probably still doesn’t, dear one. He always wanted grandchildren, a male heir. Give him a chance, mon petit.”
Octavian’s gaze held hers and after several long moments, he nodded.
She smiled. “That is well then. One of your wizard coats, I think, will suit. I don’t think you should be so formal as you are family after all.” Lucrece looked between them appraisingly. “I’ll also have Winky bake up his favorite pie as a gift, I think,” and with those words she swept from the room in a rustle of brocade robes.
While Harry and Octavian were at Fleur and Bill’s wedding, Lucrece had gone to Diagon Alley for the first time in over a decade and, with the allowance Harry had given her, had purchased four new household robes that were fit for receiving company, and another formal pair if she were ever in need of them. Harry had been surprised when the bill had come as she had spent so little at Twilfitt and Tattings, choosing what suited her best and simpler stitching and no magical fabrics or cloths. Whatever her upbringing, she was now a witch of exquisite and yet inexpensive taste, and Harry doubted she would even make a small dent in his finances.
“What if ‘e doesn’t like me?” Octavian whispered worriedly, his dark eyes now focused on Harry. His golden hair fell around his face beautifully and he was dressed in simple house robes, which he favored when they weren’t in public. Today, Harry noticed, he was wearing a sky blue that offset his hair.
“He will love you,” Harry assured him, “otherwise he has horrible taste, and as both you and your mother don’t suffer from such a defect—“
Octavian laughed gaily and drew Harry down for a soft kiss. “Merci, Henri Jacques.”
“De rien,” he murmured in return before claiming Octavian’s soft lips once again.
The morning they were to meet Troy Prince, Harry looked closely at the invitation and his eyebrows shot up. “I have no idea where this is,” he admitted at the breakfast table. Lucrece was wearing her simplest set of robes, her brown hair swept up on top of her head in one of the styles he had noticed recently around Diagon Alley. He supposed it was the latest pureblood fashion, though he really didn’t know. It made her, though, look even more striking and eye-catching than she already was, accentuating her cheekbones and large black eyes. He hadn’t thought it was possible, but her beauty kept on astounding him.
Octavian took the invitation and looked it over. “Belle Reve. It’s in Diagon Alley, non?”
Lucrece’s eyes widened and she shook her head elegantly. “Non, Octavian Nür,” she answered crisply in French. “C’est un club privé—pour des messieurs. Il est à Londres Moldu pas loin du Leaky Cauldron.”
“I didn’t know they had private gentleman’s clubs,” Harry mused, accepting a large cup of coffee from Winky. Octavian eyed it longingly, though Harry knew Winky would no longer let him have any. Caffeine, she claimed, was harmful to the baby, and they had both learned that her word was law in their home. “It makes sense though. They have them for Muggles.”
Lucrece stared at him openly, and Harry blushed.
“Did I mistranslate?” he asked worriedly, glancing between Octavian and his mother-in-law.
“Non,” Octavian assured him. “I just do not believe Maman knew your French was zat good.”
“A mistake I shall not make again,” she agreed as she finished off her croissant. ”Ta compréhension est remarquable.”
“Merci, Lucrece,” he murmured.
Lucrece came and found them just before lunchtime as they were to meet Lord Prince for a late meal, and took over their bedroom, going through their clothes and trying to find exactly what would suit the occasion.
She and Octavian began chatting in French far too quickly for Harry although he would catch snippets as they discussed colors and fabrics before Octavian was once again wearing the gold Asian-style wizard coat he had worn to Slughorn’s Christmas party, which Lucrece put a cooling charm on. As soon as he was dressed, Winky had led him away, talking about his hair and then Harry and Lucrece were alone, neither quite looking each other in the eye.
“Promise me,” Lucrece murmured as she picked out a forest green coat, one that Harry had never worn, which had silver and pale blue trim. It was the simplest of all his wizard coats and yet had been the most expensive as it was made of Acramantula silk. “Promise me that you will make my father acknowledge him. Octavian deserves this.” Her black eyes met Harry’s and he saw the quiet desperation and just a tinge of affection in them.
He nodded once to show that he understood.
“Father can be quite stubborn,” she continued, choosing a simple and light black long-sleeved shirt that wouldn’t be too warm and would allow his skin to breathe. He’d purchased it with the coat as it had the same stitching along the collar and the sleeves, and would be displayed once he put on the coat. “He will love Octavian—how can he not?—but one can never tell when he is shocked or confused.”
“You have my word,” he agreed quietly, and she nodded once before mentioning finding a camera so they could take pictures for Romola’s first book—another wizarding tradition, it seemed.
Harry and Octavian took a cab to Charing Cross before exiting it, walking along the busy Muggle street and following the directions Lucrece had previously given them. Harry was carrying the pie, which Winky had lovingly prepared, all the time squeaking about how good and thoughtful her family was. It turned out that Troy Prince had a fondness for Gooseberry Pie with a special type of sugar crust, that Lucrece had confided she had often made for him over the summers before she had been forced to leave for France.
“We can leave whenever you want,” Harry assured him, “if it becomes too much or you just wish to go.”
Octavian nodded nervously. His hair, which now came slightly past his shoulders when dry and even longer when wet, had been brushed so many times that it shone like a dark gold, the summer sunlight glinting off of it and giving him an unearthly look. “Je sais, Henri Jacques. But I ‘ave always wished to meet ‘im and now I ‘ave la chance.”
Belle Reve was just a few blocks from the Leaky Cauldron and was hidden between an upscale cigar shop and an expensive boutique. It was a beautiful Tudor building and was out of place compared to all of the other shops, but it somehow seemed fitting that it should be so outdated and yet elegant—just as many of the richest wizards were themselves.
Octavian sucked in a breath, staring at the building in awe. “Papa est un membre. Désolé, il était un membre. Je n’ai jamais été à l’intérieur, je n’ai jamais pu avant.”
“Well, now you can.”
Octavian glanced over at him, a small smile on his face. “Perhaps after Romola is born,” he teased quietly, “you will be a member—so you can escape us.”
“Hardly,” Harry responded seriously. “I would never want to escape either of you. Winky, perhaps, but never you.”
The inside was dark, oak panels everywhere Harry could see with rich upholstery covered furniture and candles floating near the ceiling to give the room an unearthly glow. There was a small desk to the side and an aging wizard, dressed resplendently in cerulean robes, looked at them curiously before bowing deeply.
“Messieurs,” he intoned deeply. “What may I do for you?”
“We are meeting Lord Prince for a late luncheon,” Harry answered simply when Octavian had nervously squeezed his hand.
The wizard nodded and looked in the book before him, his eyebrows rising as he read something, before looking closely at Harry, his eyes picking up on the tale-tell scar on his forehead, before glancing over to Octavian. “Of course. He’s in the dining room, Lord Black, Mr. Black.” He held his arm toward the stairs. “The second floor, gentlemen.”
Harry nodded his thanks and they began to climb the stairs. The first floor was filled with several armchairs where several wizard gentleman were reading the paper and drinking brandy, a few of them arguing or playing wizard chess. It had the same dark tones as the floor below, and Harry recognized a few higher placed ministry employees and even Amos Diggory.
The second floor was one large open room filled with well-spaced tables with comfortable chairs. Unlike the two previous floors it had large windows that were strange for a Tudor house, which let in the early afternoon light. The maitre d’ looked them over appreciatively, his eyes lingering on the signet rings on Harry’s hand, before he led them to a secluded table once Harry informed them whom they were there to see.
“Lord Prince,” the maitre d’ greeted and Harry saw an older gentleman sitting in a comfy armchair, his back to them. His hair was long and a speckled gray, tied back elegantly at the base of his head, and he was wearing a black wizard coat with no embellishment. “Your guests.”
Troy Prince turned, revealing a strong profile and deep black eyes, so similar to Octavian’s. His gaze was cool and assessing and yet when his eyes alighted on Octavian and took in his black eyes, a small smile formed on his lips.
“Octavian,” he greeted as he stood and then he was hugging his grandson firmly, tears forming in the corner of his eyes. “My little grandson.” He pulled away again, smiling gently. “You look nothing like my son, your Uncle Octavian, but I think the name suits you.”
“Merci,” Octavian murmured and Lord Prince’s eyes widened slightly.
“Tue s français,” he murmured. “I had no idea. Your father then, I assume, is French?”
Octavian shook his head as Lord Prince ushered him to the chair beside his and Harry slipped into the free seat, looking contentedly between Octavian and his grandfather.
“Non,” he admitted. “Papa is English, but I was born and raised in France.”
Lord Prince frowned, his strong shoulders leaning back in contemplation against the chair. “I assumed—I assumed when I got your announcement that your mother eloped to France and that’s where she disappeared to. So much happened that night, we thought her dead—” His voice trailed off and his jaw set as his black, expressive eyes filled with sadness.
Octavian opened his mouth to respond but quickly shut it, looking to Harry for assistance.
“Right,” Harry murmured to himself and leaned forward, not noticing that the servers were bringing the first course, which he supposed must have been already ordered before they had arrived. “Lucrece was attacked that night and couldn’t return. Do you—do you remember your nephew?” He glanced at Octavian who nodded at the unspoken question.
Lord Prince looked at him curiously. “Eileen’s boy,” he said coldly, sitting up straight and picking up his salad fork, urging Octavian to do the same when he didn’t immediately begin eating. “Growing boys should eat, Octavian.—I haven’t spoken to Eileen since the day she married that Muggle. She’s my half sister, forty years younger than I am, strangely enough, but still. He was reported dead recently, and he was damn foolish enough to get caught murdering Dumbledore, not that the old coot necessarily didn’t deserve it, but a Prince would never commit such folly in front of witnesses.”
Octavian paled slightly and Harry found himself swallowing his water painfully, the cold liquid burning his throat.
“Yes,” Harry finally agreed carefully, picking at his salad. “Well, the night that Lucrece went missing—“
“The one your parents were killed, yes,” Lord Prince agreed. “Never knew the Potters myself. We didn’t move in the same circles, you understand, though I see you are now the Lord Black—and married my grandson when he was only fourteen,” Lord Prince growled. “If there weren’t so many witnesses and if it might not upset Octavian, I would lop off your head right here—without magic. Damn irresponsible thing to do, marrying so young. I only let that Rosier boy engage himself to Lucrece because he agreed to wait until she was twenty-one, and I knew that he would curse anyone who so much as looked at her with more than just friendship.”
Octavian quickly reached out and covered Lord Prince’s free hand in his own. “Grandpère,” he said softly. “Henri Jacques is ‘onorable and I wished to marry ‘im. ‘Ee legitimized me.”
Lord Prince’s eyes swung onto Octavian, who was sitting and looking down sadly at his folded hands. “How is that even possible unless—unless your sire was married to a Black. You are Octavian Black now, are you not? That little half-blood never married anyone, let alone a Black—and you look nothing like the greasy pretender.”
“Greasy pretender?” Harry asked in confusion, nudging Octavian’s knee with his own before hooking their feet together.
Octavian glanced up at him, smiling softly.
“Snape. Severus. Eileen thought that if she gave him a proper Prince name that I might recognize him before your grandmother and I had your mother and then our Octavian. Then when Octavian died in his third year, Eileen thought we might again. Snape even came to me after Lucrece disappeared and offered himself as my heir,” he spat quietly, his eyes tracing Octavian’s quiet face and flickering every so often to Harry. “I refused him, of course. I wouldn’t care if all three of the legendary kings lined up against me and took my life and the only way I could save it is by recognizing that half-blood. Even after your grandmother died, I knew I wasn’t too old to have an heir, though now that there’s you, my little grandson—“ His black eyes softened again and he cupped Octavian’s cheek, coaxing him to look up at him.
“You have your mother’s nose,” he whispered, “and my late wife Dionysia’s hair. You look remarkably like her, Octavian, more than either of my children ever did.”
The two continued to look at each other openly, and Harry smiled to himself.
After several moments, Lord Prince finally pulled away and focused his stern eyes on Harry. “Now, tell me what the pretender had to do with all of this.”
“He was out that night with Octavian’s father, as was Lucrece. He—he cast the Imperius Curse, and—“
Lord Prince nodded in understanding. “Line theft and rape. No wonder Lucrece disappeared.” He turned back to Octavian. “Your father did right by your mother?”
“Oui,” he murmured, “until Maman ran away. She still ‘ates Papa, but it was not ‘is fault.”
“Knowing her she was stubborn and wouldn’t even tell him her name,” he sighed out in exasperation, taking a large sip of his wine. “She was always like that. The Prince failing, as it were. We make everyone sing to our tune and never the other way around.”
Octavian laughed quietly and Harry’s eyes widened.
“Aye, I see he’s done it to you too, Lord Black.” He looked at Octavian proudly. “A Prince through and through. Now, what of this mysterious father of yours?”
“Octavian’s fully recognized,” Harry offered. “There was a bit of delay because Lord Malfoy was in Azkaban—“
“Lucius Malfoy?” he roared in shock, and Octavian sat back in his chair slightly. “That half-blood did that to my little girl and the Marquis Malfoy?”
Several heads turned toward them in interest, but Lord Prince didn’t seem to notice, his entire attention on his grandson and Harry.
“Thank the gods his head was served on a platter,” he said angrily. “They say the Dark Lord did it. One of the smartest things he’s done through this whole political mess.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed, “it was rather inspired, and a wonderful if graphic gift to the Houses of Malfoy and Black.”
Lord Prince eyed him coolly before looking once more at his grandson. “I’m sorry you had to see that,” he murmured, offering quiet support.
Octavian looked up and smiled slightly. “It was a surprise,” he admitted, “but as I got to see Papa, I did not mind, and I was glad zat ‘e was finally gone—zat ‘e could not do ze same to me as ‘e did to Maman.”
“Of course,” Lord Prince intoned before gesturing over the server to bring their next course. “So here you are, Octavian, caught in the middle of this damned business.”
“I am neutral,” he explained. “Both Henri Jacques and ze Dark Lord know this.”
“Henri Jacques, is it?” he grumbled. “Yes, well, they may know it, but I’m sure that at least the Dark Lord would try to take advantage of it somehow.” He eyed Harry accusingly, and Harry knew he was suspected of doing the same. “What angle does he look at your marriage? Unless this is a marriage of secrets.”
“No secrets,” Harry said firmly. “I keep nothing from Octavian.”
“Yes, but does my grandson keep secrets from you?” Lord Prince mused as he finished his glass of wine.
Harry set his jaw.
“Il n’y a aucun secret,” Octavian refuted angrily. “Do not speak of mon mari in such a way, Grandpère.”
“And you have the Malfoy fire,” Lord Prince observed gleefully. When Octavian continued to stare at him accusingly, he added, “And I won’t say another word about your gallant husband. Just getting the lay of the land since I wasn’t able to properly thrash the boy before your marriage as any sane grandfather would do.”
“Draco Malfoy already threatened my life if I should hurt him,” Harry casually observed, feeling far out of his depth, but knowing he had to keep a cool head.
“Well,” Lord Prince growled. “At least young Malfoy has a head on his shoulders. Now—what does the Dark Lord think, Octavian?”
Octavian looked at him skeptically, and took a sip of water. “I—I am seen as a good influence on Henri Jacques,” he admitted after a long pause. “Zey believe I can neutralize ‘im with my thoughts on ze old ways.”
“Yes,” Lord Prince agreed speculatively. “I see where they could get that impression.”
Harry nodded his head in acknowledgement and Lord Prince laughed openly, his face crinkling happily and the sound echoing throughout the room. “My gods, Octavian, you have that husband of yours completely tamed, if I do say so myself. I think he just might do.” He glanced over Harry’s wizard coat, lingering on the shoulders and the matching undershirt. “Yes, and he has a title and power. Perfect for my heir and the future Lord Prince, I should think. Thank the gods—I was afraid I was going to have to marry in the next few years or so and no one could ever replace Dionysia, young Octavian. No one ever should.”
“Non,” Octavian agreed. “I could not imagine anyone beside my Henri Jacques.” Their eyes met and Harry could see Octavian’s quiet happiness in his black eyes, quieter than Lord Prince’s and yet still full of unbridled emotion.
After lunch, Lord Prince paraded Octavian throughout Belle Reve, introducing him to colleagues and important persons, while Harry followed a few steps behind, smiling proudly at the way Octavian gracefully responded to everyone’s pointed questions given the publicity of their courtship and marriage. Marcus Flint, surprisingly, was there, and he smirked at Harry, asking him to give “the elder Miss Greengrass” his regards if he should happen to see her before the school year began. A few patrons had looked him up and down, startled when they recognized his legendary scar, but few had bad enough manners to address him when they had not been introduced, and it was early evening before Harry and Octavian finally escaped, leaving Lord Prince with promises of staying in touch, and the gift of pie, which had brought tears once again to his eyes.
Harry had swept Octavian out of the gentleman’s club, their fingers intertwined, and they walked along the Thames for half an hour before Octavian declared his desire to rest his feet at home.
“Je t’aime,” Octavian murmured later that night as he sank himself deeply onto Harry, gasping as the sensations overtook both of them. Their expensive coats were thrown about the room, their shoes kicked off anywhere and their trousers draped over random pieces of furniture.
Harry looked up at Octavian who sat astride him, a look of bliss on his face, before repeating them quietly, knowing that they were the truest words he could ever utter: “Je t’aime aussi.”
French to English.
Je ne comprends pas. I don’t understand.
Mon petit. My little one.
De rien. It’s nothing.
Belle Reve. “Beau Rêve” in French means “Beautiful Dream.” It’s also the name of the house in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
C’est un club privé—pour des messieurs. Il est à Londres Moldu pas loin du Leaky Cauldron. It is a private club—for gentlemen. It is in Muggle London near the Leaky Cauldron.
Ta compréhension est remarquable. Your understanding is remarkable.
Papa est un membre. Désolé, il était un membre. Je n’ai jamais été à l’intérieur, je n’ai jamais pu avant. Father is a member. Sorry, he was a member. I was never inside before, I was never able to.
Tu es français. You are French.
Il n’y a aucun secret. I do not have secrets.