Part the Eighth—
Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth.
The owl, when it arrived, was magnificent. Octavian was lying on his stomach on their bed, his tarot cards spread out in front of him as he was calmly laying a the Celtic cross spread. The knight of cups rested in the center covered with the nine of swords. The nine of pentacles rested on the right, the distant past if Harry remembered correctly, and then the reversed star on the left. Judgment fell beneath and strength rose above, a figure petting a beautiful red lion. To the side rested four cards, bottom from top—the reversed five of swords, the king of cups, charismatic and majestic, the magician reversed, and then finally the last card sitting on top, the ace of wands, as always, their beautiful little girl. Harry looked at the spread from across the room, noticing the small crease between Octavian’s eyebrows as he studied it carefully and made sense of what the fates were telling him, before the flapping of wings brought his attention to the owl.
“Is that Draco’s owl?” he mused to himself before quickly getting up from his place near the hearth where he was attempting to read an old tome.
Octavian glanced up, his eyes belying his confusion, before a small smile broke on his face at the sight of the eagle owl. “Mais oui,” he murmured as he quickly got up, the cards skewing slightly.
“Must be good then,” Harry remarked as he let the proud avian into the room, where it swooped at Octavian before landing proudly on his outstretched arm, presenting the letter tied to his leg.
“Peut être,” Octavian murmured as he unfurled the note, before he looked up at Harry in surprise. “It’s from tante Narcisse.”
“Really?” Harry walked forward and, snaking his hand around Octavian’s waist, looked over his shoulder and saw Narcissa’s elegant script. “So it is.”
“Maman sera malheureuse,” Octavian remarked before handing it to Harry, who took it and scanned it.
Narcissa, it seemed, wished to escort Octavian to Beauxbatons so that he would have the full protection of the Malfoy name as he traveled internationally.
“I didn’t know the international Floo was being watched,” Harry murmured in shock when he saw the plans of taking a magical train from King’s Cross a few days before the first of September.
“Oui. I read about it in the Daily Prophet,” Octavian remarked absently. “Ze new ministry put it in effect to watch ze Death Eaters. C’est un mensonge.”
Harry snorted in agreement. “They’re probably trying to watch non-Death Eater citizens,” he agreed. “Thank the gods Hermione isn’t alive to see it all,” he half-whispered, not even realizing he had said anything until Octavian’s arms came around him from behind.
“Oui. It is not a world she would ‘ave liked.”
Harry laughed softly. “She probably would have been urging me to do more, to free everyone as soon as possible and go on constantly about the injustices of the world.” His voice was tainted with resigned sadness, and Octavian pressed a light kiss to the back of his neck.
“You ‘ave too much sur tes épaules. Mon Henri Jacques, mon héros.”
Soft kisses skated across his neck and then he was turned around and soft lips claimed his own achingly slowly as Octavian poured trust and warmth into the quiet, understated action. He held Harry closely, lovingly, his hands cradling his face as he pressed upward.
“Mon Henri Jacques,” he repeated reverently as he backed toward the bed before swiping his tarot cards from the bed blindly.
“Octavian,” Harry murmured, surprised, but then Octavian was crawling backward onto the bed, a come hither look in his black, expressive eyes, and Harry was arching forward and on top of him. As their lips met again in a soft, comforting kiss, their tongues lazily intertwining in an act of everlasting love and not of passion, Harry moaned at the overwhelming affection pouring from his husband, happy to lose himself in his sweet touches.
“Romola s’ennuiera de son père,” Octavian sighed afterward as his head rested against Harry’s bare chest, Harry’s hands moving soothingly through his hair.
“Son père s’ennuiera de Romola et de son papa,” Harry whispered back in the falling light of evening.
Octavian looked up, his chin resting lightly on his hand, his eyes imploring. “Let me stay,” he begged. “What if I should lose you?”
Harry paused and then rubbed away a solitary tear that slid down Octavian’s cheek. “You won’t lose me.”
“Tu ne sias pas cela!” Octavian snapped, and Harry stilled in surprise.
“Nothing—nothing, Octavian—will take me from you,” Harry reassured him firmly, and yet still tears formed in his dark eyes before he looked away again, resting his head against Harry’s chest as he faced away, hiding his distraught expression from Harry’s eyes.
“My place as your ‘usband is by your side,” he murmured brokenly.
“I know,” Harry whispered, looking at the small ornate clock on the mantle. “I know, Octavian, but I need you and Romola safe—for now.”
“You wish to destroy ze dark lord,” Octavian said tiredly, resignation in his voice. “What if you—if—“
“I won’t,” Harry assured him, sitting up carefully and drawing Octavian carefully into his arms.
At first Octavian resisted, but then he allowed himself to be held, his face buried in Harry’s shoulder as his golden hair fell about him.
“Ne prononce pas le nom de cet home!” Octavian hissed viciously, Harry once again caught by surprise.
“Dumbledore,” Harry repeated, “he meant for me to die,” he confessed. He could feel Octavian begin to shiver, but he held him tightly, running his hand up Octavian’s spine. “He meant for it to happen—but I won’t let that happen, I swear to you. I will do everything to make this world safe for you and our children—and I will come out alive. I won’t lose you, Octavian!” He pulled Octavian up and looked desperately into Octavian’s tear-stained face. “I won’t lose you now that I have you. Not even death can take me away.”
“And if Death comes? If les trois rois mages gather and whisper zat you must go?”
Harry looked at Octavian briefly in confusion, before he kissed his soft lips gently. “Death has tried to claim me before, and yet I lived,” he assured Octavian, hugging him closely to him.
“Ce n’était pas La Mort,” Octavian murmured, “ou les trois rois mages.”
Harry sighed, running his hand up Octavian’s spine until it cradled the back of his head. “Nothing could take me from you,” he assured Octavian again. “I love you too much. My Octavian, my future Lord Prince.”
Octavian laughed softly. “Papa est un marquis.”
Harry groaned. “I’m surrounded by marquises everywhere I turn.”
“Et une petite Princesse,” Octavian reminded him tiredly.
Harry smiled to himself. “Our princess,” he agreed, as he lay Octavian down on the bed, kissing his nose lightly before running his hands down his sides, his lips following as he kissed Octavian’s still-smooth stomach, where their daughter rested, still so small. “Your Papa,” he murmured, “is very beautiful,” he told her. “And your daddy loves him very much—and your daddy loves you more than the entire world.”
Octavian sighed in contentment. “Daddy,” he laughed as Harry’s nose grazed his hipbone before he began kissing his stomach again reverently.
“Well, she has two fathers,” Harry reasoned between soft kisses and gentle caresses. “One French and one English.”
“C’est vrai. Deux pères.”
“Deux pères—un Prince et un comte.”
Despite trying to allay Octavian’s worries, Harry still felt the tension in the air as 27 August approached. Octavian would often watch him whenever he was reading or scraping together notes on possible ways to research or approach the problem of Voldemort’s immortality. He wrote everything in his chicken scrawl, making it deliberately difficult to read, as well as a bizarre form of short hand that he was inventing as he went along, as he didn’t want Octavian to worry or for Lucrece to read them if he happened to forget them somewhere.
La Princesse was quiet and reserved. She rarely showed Octavian affection, which quietly angered Harry although he would never say anything to his husband as she would accommodate his preferences or his needs. She had taken over making his favorite honey-milk from Winky and would lay out all of his vitamins for him before every meal, although Harry doubted that Octavian was fully aware of this. She even accompanied him to Diagon Alley to a small specialty book shop so he could get his school books and insisted on tailoring his new robes herself, saying she didn’t trust English seamstresses to not snag silk however talented they were in magically altering the thicker Hogwarts robes.
The three of them were in the sitting room late one morning, when he heard his husband and mother-in-law quietly whispering to each other, but he thought little of it until her melodic voice said incredulously, “Aunt Narcissa?”
Harry looked up from the Quidditch book he had been reading, and saw that her lips were spread tightly and her eyes flashed blacker than usual.
“Since when has she been Aunt Narcissa?”
“Pardon, Maman,” Octavian murmured, glancing at Harry who looked back at him reassuringly. “Elle est un Black.”
“I know—but she is not your aunt,” she stated firmly.
“Elle est une tante par mariage,” Octavian disagreed quietly.
“Yes,” Harry quickly agreed. “Or rather a cousin.” He glanced over at the tapestry and squinted at it. “She’s my second cousin through my father.”
Lucrece closed her eyes as if in pain before opening them several moments later. “Be that as it may, I would prefer it if you did not refer to her as such.”
“She—asked me to,” Octavian responded, lifting his chin slightly in defiance. “She is my aunt—as is Bellatrix.”
“And is Bellatrix Lestrange escorting you to France?” she bit out, pulling herself up regally. Her dark green brocade robes fell around her elegantly, giving her the air of a powerful and determined woman.
“Non. Ze French authorities might arrest her.”
“Of course. But they wouldn’t arrest your Aunt Narcissa.”
Octavian blushed and looked away.
Tension filled the room as Lucrece drew in a long breath and then carefully smoothed out the skirt of her robes. “I suppose that man is the architect of all of this,” she said carefully after several long moments.
“Naturellement. Papa m’aime.”
A look of pain crossed her face before she composed herself. Octavian was staring at the tapestry where his name was connected to Harry’s. “I am your mother.”
“She is my—step-mother,” Octavian answered carefully. “No one will touch ‘er ‘ere—or in France. I will be safe and protected, Maman.”
Lucrece sucked in a breath and her eyes flashed toward Harry. “What does your husband think?” she asked Octavian, her eyes flickering once again toward her son before resting imperiously on Harry. “Surely she must despise you for even existing.”
“Lucrece,” Harry warned darkly, his eyes alighting on her for a moment before looking worriedly at Octavian.
Octavian was looking away, tears in his eyes, chewing at his bottom lips, refusing to meet anyone’s gaze.
“That was uncalled for.”
She held his eyes for a brief moment and then looked away again. “Of course. This is your home,” she agreed graciously, though he could hear a tinge of resignation in her voice.
“Yes,” he agreed, “but this is your home, as well. Narcissa is a woman of her word and she is fond of Octavian. I wouldn’t trust him to her if she were not.”
“How can you be certain?” she asked with a hint of jealousy in her black eyes. “How can you know?”
Harry hesitated, glancing at Octavian a moment, before looking Lucrece straight in the eyes. “I know because she looks at Octavian almost with as much affection as she does Draco. I know because Draco is her entire world, and she would never do anything to cause him pain even if she wished to.”
“He shouldn’t even be attending Beauxbatons,” she stated as if it were an obvious fact. “Princes have always gone to Hogwarts.”
“I wouldn’t put my husband anywhere near the Carrows,” Harry answered passionately.
“And yet you would put him in the hands of the wife of a convicted Death Eater.”
“Incroyable!” Octavian countered, rising carefully to his feet. “Tu dis ceci maintenant!”
“Octavian Nür,” she chided, but he swept past her.
“On le decide,” he whispered back furiously and then he slammed the door behind him.
Harry blinked a few times and then looked back at his book, thinking it was probably better to give Octavian a few moments and to possibly do damage control. He had been quietly reading books on pregnancy on the sly and was surprised by just how much Octavian’s moods were altered. He knew it was minor considering some of the horror stories he read, but usually Octavian was clearheaded and he never raised his voice. Now, however, Harry could never quite predict what infuriating situation would tip him over the edge.
He glanced at Lucrece from the corner of his eye and saw that she was casually reading the Daily Prophet, although her eyes didn’t appear to be moving.
“At the very least,” he began quietly, and watched as her shoulders tensed, “no one who holds a modicum of fear or respect for Voldemort will touch him, for fear of inciting me into an open act of defiance.”
“You’re playing with my grandchild’s life,” she replied, emotion barely coloring her voice.
Harry closed his eyes in pain. Grandchild—not child. A child of her line that did not look like her rapist—a child who would not be stained with illegitimacy and tar her with the same brush—a child who would not send her into a Muggle-infested village in poverty. Someone who might look more like her line, with its dark hair and black eyes. Harry could give that to the child’s genes—erase the Malfoy influence.
Her hands shook slightly and she put the paper aside. “They,” she hissed, “do not deserve another scion of their house.”
“He’s legitimized,” Harry responded, closing his book and setting it on a small table next to his chair. “He’s already a scion of the house of Malfoy.”
“And you gave it to them—and there will never be a child of the house of Rosier!” Her eyes flashed dangerously, and Harry swallowed at the pent up emotions hidden behind them. “Don’t think I haven’t seen that ring that appeared on his finger!”
Harry’s brows furrowed as he thought back, until he remembered the small box that had appeared by the side of the bed with a platinum signet ring, and he sighed. It had been a gift from Octavian’s father for his fifteenth birthday along with Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. It was an understated ring, designating him as an heir to the House of Malfoy, but not the first in line.
“He also wears the Prince heir ring,” Harry tried to point out reasonably.
She looked away guiltily, and Harry sighed. “Lucrece,” he murmured as he approached her carefully. “Do not punish Octavian or Draco or Narcissa for others’ sins.”
“Why? They punish me for his.”
“Society punished you,” he reasoned carefully. “He never punished you. You punished him and took away Octavian—and I know you didn’t want him. Why did you do it?” He appraised her carefully, taking in her upswept hair and the line of her beautiful and pale neck. “You could have had Octavian and walked away. If you’d gone to France or Italy and done it right, you could have been a magical widow.”
She glanced at him incredulously.
“I know it can be done as long as you have enough money,” he whispered, thinking back to all of the etiquette books he had read, of the in-depth footnotes that hinted at tarred pasts that no one would dare mention in society as it was all done properly. “And he would have given you enough money.”
Her black eyes met his, and he read no regret in them, only hard-won pride and steeled determination, traits of the Prince family he was now realizing.
“I see,” he murmured and stood carefully. “It’s settled, Lucrece. At least for the sake of the child, don’t bring it up. Octavian is struggling with hormones and light morning sickness. He doesn’t need stress added to it.”
She started visibly and then picked up her paper. “The nutritional supplements should have taken care of that.”
His hand resting on the doorknob, Harry stilled for a moment and turned his head so that he could see Lucrece from his peripheral vision. “It does, but some foods still make him feel dizzy,” he murmured before sweeping out of the room, leaving Lucrece with her thoughts.
Lucrece kept mainly to her room for the rest of the week, not even coming out for meals or even emerging to say goodbye on the windswept Thursday morning when Octavian was to leave. Winky had carefully packed his trunk and Prospère was sitting regally in his cage.
“Je ne veux pas te laisser, Henri Jacques,” he murmured in between soft kisses that Harry rained over his face, holding him closely as they waited for their taxi to arrive to take them to King’s Cross.
“Je sais. But you will be back for Christmas.” He pressed his hand against Octavian’s stomach, feeling the slight hardening there meant to protect their unborn child.
“I will miss a term anyway,” Octavian wheedled, his large black eyes staring up at Harry imploringly.
“I know,” Harry agreed, “and we’re getting you a tutor over next year so you’ll only be a year behind.” They had thought a lot about how exactly Octavian would take time off. Eventually it was decided that he would stay home after Christmas for a year and a half, as he refused to leave Romola always in the care of house elves, and would get a tutor so he could take the O.W.L.s at his leisure, and then go back for a final year with tutoring so he wouldn’t have to be away from Romola for too long. Octavian was staunchly of the opinion that children should have active parents and not just house-elves looking after them.
Harry would have a tutor for his final year sometime and either would take his examinations a year late or, at worst, with Octavian. He wouldn’t go back to Hogwarts—not after everything, and he wasn’t certain when he would be allowed out of the country. He also wanted to spend as much time with Octavian and Romola as possible. They were his family—his life with his parents little more than photographs in an album, a taunting hope that he’d never before been able to remember or grasp. Nothing—not Voldemort, not Lucrece, not his education—would take that away from him.
With a soft ‘pop!’ Winky appeared in front of them in a starched and pressed pillowcase and a small handbag where all of her meager belongings—she wouldn’t accept anything from Harry except for her right to the linen closet for a uniform and bedding—were packed. Harry had decided that if he couldn’t be with Octavian, then at least Winky could properly look after him and be able to take care of his every need as his pregnancy progressed. Madame Maxine had been very accommodating when Harry had written to her in July, explaining the international situation and his own inability to attend as well as Octavian’s ‘delicate condition.’ She had written back enthusiastically, ensuring Octavian’s wellbeing and safety as well as specially arranging his schedule to be as untaxing as possible as well as propose various alternate course options so that he could practice his potions and spell work without harming their unborn child.
“It is timeses,” Winky reminded them, before disappearing again.
The taxi drive passed in a blur of colors and soft caresses, tear-stained kisses and promises whispered too softly for either of them to really hear them properly.
Narcissa and Draco were waiting in King’s Cross, dressed impeccably as Muggles and drawing attention from the passing travelers. Draco quickly came forward and took the trunk, rolling it away to give Harry and Octavian a few minutes of privacy before they crossed through the magical barrier. Harry stared at it longingly for a moment, knowing that he couldn’t walk through it as an international train was set to leave from there, and it could be taken as an attempt to escape.
“Please,” Octavian murmured once last time, and Harry only kissed him softly, feeling his heart constrict painfully in his chest. “Please, Henri Jacques.”
“I’ll try to have everything in order when you get back,” he murmured desperately, splaying his hand once again on Octavian’s abdomen in a protective and possessive gesture. This was his love, his husband, his daughter—and he had to send them away while he quietly worked on a way to free the world of Voldemort. His precious Octavian couldn’t be caught up in it for his own safety. He couldn’t know specifics in case the Dark Lord demanded them of him or insisted on a penance if Harry appeared less than neutral.
Harry leaned forward again, claiming Octavian’s soft lips, breathing in the taste of honey-milk and the scent of firefly light.
“Qui pendra soin de toi?” Octavian said desperately, grasping the sides of Harry’s lightweight coat. “Qui?”
“Octavian,” Harry sighed, knowing that there was no answer he could give. He was sending Winky away with Octavian. “I’ve lived this long—and I can cook.” He shrugged and tried to give Octavian a smile, but he knew it was lopsided and weak, hardly convincing when Octavian needed to get on a train within the next ten minutes.
“But it is my ‘onor, my privilige, Henri Jacques, as your ‘usband.” Tears formed in the corner of his eyes, making them appear like liquid obsidian, and Harry kissed Octavian carefully again.
“Yes,” Harry agreed, trying to reign in his own emotions as he took in Octavian’s heartbroken face. “And it is my honor and privilige to protect you, keep you and ours safe. Please, Octavian,” he begged, resting their foreheads together. “I need you safe. Please.”
Their fingers tangled together and then Harry was kissing Octavian’s palm desperately, feeling the shivers that raced up his husband’s arms as he gasped at the sensation.
“Je rêverai de toi.”
“Every night,” Harry agreed, and with one last kiss Octavian was walking away, glancing back every few moments until with a blink of an eye he had disappeared from view.
Harry stood, staring at the barrier, and didn’t even take note of the many witches and wizards who crossed through it, their faces lined with worry as they murmured about the latest Muggle Registration Act the ministry had put in place or the whispers of change in the air. A few looked up and locked eyes with Harry, but he didn’t see, his mind focused on what was just beyond the platform, of the train that would take Octavian away.
He wasn’t certain how long he stood there, unmoving, until he felt a hand resting tentatively on his shoulder, pulling him from his thoughts.
“Octavian’s onboard with Mother,” Draco said quietly, his gray eyes true and imploring. “The train has departed and he is safe—from all of this.”
“Safe,” Harry agreed, the word sounding hollow to his own ears. Gathering all his strength, he slowly turned away and looked at his brother-in-law. His skin was no longer grey-tinged and while there was still the trace of worry about his pointed features, there was a quiet happiness in his eyes with a myriad of other emotions Harry couldn’t quite read.
A day later when Harry was looking over the front page of the Daily Prophet at breakfast, the seat beside him noticeably empty, he closed his eyes painfully for a moment and then shoved it away. There was a large photograph of him walking with Malfoy away from the platform, and a blaring headline about his association with anti-Muggleborn Activists.
Throwing the paper in the fire, he watched the red flames burn the words away, and yet still they haunted him in his whispering and empty home.
French to English.
Maman sera malheureuse. Mother will be unhappy.
C’est un mensonge. It is all a lie.
Mon Henri Jacques, mon héros. My Henri Jacques, my hero.
Romola s’ennuiera de son père. Romola will miss her father.
Son père s’ennuiera de Romola et de son papa. Her father will miss Romola and her Papa.
Tu ne sais pas cela! You do not know that!
Ne prononce pas le nom de cet homme! Do not speak the name of that man!
Les trois rois mages. The three kings.
Ce n’était pas La Mort … ou les trois rois mages. It was not Death … or the three kings.
Papa est un marquis. Father is a marquis.
Et une petite Princesse. And a little Princess.
C’est vrai. Deux pères. That’s true. Two fathers.
Deux pères—un Prince et un comte. Two fathers—a Prince and an earl.
Elle est une tante par mariage. She is an aunt by marriage.
Naturellement. Papa m’aime. Naturally. Father loves me.
Tu dis ceci maintenant! You say this now!
On le decide. It is decided.
Je ne veux pas te laisser, Henri Jacques. I do not want to leave, Henri Jacques.
Qui prendra soin de toi? Who will take care of you?
Je rêverai de toi. I will dream of you.