Part the Fourteenth—
O fairest flower! no sooner blown but blasted, soft silken primrose fading timelessly.
—Milton, “Ode on the Death of a Fair Infant”
“Fuck!” Harry shouted, grabbing Octavian around the waist and conjuring a mattress there on the floor, resting him on it carefully. “Winky!” he called and with a pop she was beside him.
“Whats is—Master Octy!” she shrieked.
Everything seemed to slow down as soon as Lucrece arrived, whispering words softly to Octavian and informing Harry that if they moved him the child would die and it had to be done right there.
“What?” Harry gasped, staring at her as Justin, who had appeared, and then rushed toward the Black library for a large tome, a medical text that he flipped through too rapidly, dust everywhere, before turning to a section that detailed how to perform a magical Cesarian-section.
Harry vomited as soon as he saw the diagrams, Winky whisking the sick away, handing Harry a large glass of firewhiskey to calm his nerves.
It seemed like Octavian was already on his third glass to ease the pain as they didn’t have any potions strong enough to dull the pain.
The surgery was bloody and Harry had to set his jaw at the pain he was causing Octavian with every swipe of his wand as meticulously cut through him, careful not to hurt their child. He wouldn’t let Justin do it, as much as he trusted the former member of Dumbledore’s Army, he wouldn’t willingly hand over Octavian or their child’s life to anyone other than a trained healer, and they were short one. He also knew that he performed well under pressure, and this was the greatest pressure of his life.
Lucrece had laid Octavian’s head in her lap, sponging him down and having him sip more whiskey as Harry worked diligently, Winky fetching everything he ordered as Justin read to him the directions carefully in a clear, strong voice that Harry could barely hear in his fear—it seemed to echo in and out of his consciousness, but still he was able to follow it, knowing that if he didn’t Romola or Octavian might be lost—and neither option was remotely acceptable.
It took hours, moving into the early hours of Yule, and still they worked on, ignoring their fatigue as they fought for Octavian and Romola’s young lives until, finally, Harry was able to pull his daughter from his husband’s womb, handing her quickly to Winky for care as he tried to staunch the bleeding with spells he had never heard of let alone performed.
“Take her to St. Mungo’s and tell them we’re coming,” he ordered Winky. “Don’t let her out of your sight and if anyone other than a healer tries to take her, kill them.”
Justin gasped beside him, but Harry didn’t care, knowing that Romola was important.
Romola was quickly swaddled and with a quiet popping noise, she was gone and Harry was once again focused on only Octavian, closing him up as best he could.
“Dammit, he could get an infection,” Harry said angrily as he healed the last bit, and immediately took Octavian into his arms, rushing out the door so that he could Apparate directly to St. Mungo’s, praying that he wouldn’t splinch either of them.
Octavian was immediately rushed off, his blood still on Harry’s hands, but Harry didn’t care, threatening a healer’s life if he didn’t come find him immediately if something happened before going in search of his precious little girl. It wasn’t until hours later that he could bring her to Octavian, who looked on with potion-hazed eyes, his arms held out impatiently for their daughter despite the pain he must have been in.
“She’s healthy. We got her out just in time,” Harry murmured as he came up and kissed Octavian lovingly on the forehead, thankful when he didn’t move away, but instead leaned into the touch.
“What ‘appened?” he asked, his eyes looking up at Harry briefly, unable to focus.
“The stress caused you to go into early labor,” Harry explained. “I’m sorry we fought. I would never endanger you or Romola—and I’ll find another solution. He’ll never step foot near any of us, I swear.”
Octavian smiled weakly, tears of joy and exhaustion in his eyes. “Merci, mon Henri Jacques. Elle est très belle, oui?”
“Oui,” Harry agreed, taking her from Octavian when he became too tired.
It was over a week before they were able to return to the Firefly Jar. The Malfoys and Lord Prince were practically in residence at St. Mungo’s and a godparent ceremony was quickly and quietly arranged, Draco and Saffron Fawcett serving as godparents to Lord Prince’s pleasure and Harry’s chagrin. He was determined that Neville Longbottom would be godfather to their next child, unless Octavian was absolutely against it. Neville and either Astoria or Daphne would be a strange though fitting combination.
Harry was a bit surprised when both Marcus Flint and Viktor Krum stopped in just a day apart from one another to see him and Octavian and check on little Romola. Krum said nothing, merely nodding to both of them as Octavian was asleep before quickly leaving again. Flint, though, had stayed for nearly an hour, talking quietly to Octavian about Quidditch, and what it was like having Draco on the Slytherin team.
Bemusedly, Harry watched on, and shared a secret smile with Daphne who had already been visiting Octavian at the time.
“Krum here yesterday, Flint today,” Harry mused aloud, cradling Romola in his arms. “I think they’re both trying to see you, Daphne, since you refuse to go out with either of them over the holiday.”
“I haven’t seen my sister in months,” Daphne whispered back, amusement shining out of her brown eyes. “And it’s good to keep them guessing.”
“You mean it’s good to keep Flint guessing,” Harry teased her.
Daphne blushed, turning away to look at Flint and Octavian. “Well, yes. I can’t let him get away with the indignity of taking me to Hogsmeade while dating half-rate singers and models in London during the school year, now can I? What sort of witch would I be if I married him after all that without making him work a little for it first?”
“Hell hath no fury…” Harry muttered under his breath to Romola, laughing quietly when Daphne looked at him in confusion.
When Harry finally brought Octavian and Romola home, the house was decorated for Yule, despite the holiday having already passed, and Winky had outdone herself. Harry, Octavian and Romola celebrated quietly in their bedroom, a small tree having been brought up and the presents arranged beneath it.
Harry even had Winky bring up the clock and unveiled it for Octavian, who smiled happily over it and reached out to stroke the wood lovingly, delighting in how all three arrows—for the three members of their small family—pointed to “Home” as it should be.
Octavian wouldn’t hear of Romola being placed in the nursery even though it was just next door, not even if Winky were watching Romola, and the crib was brought into the master bedroom so that Octavian could personally watch over their daughter. He would spend hours just sitting in a rocking chair in the drawing room or their bedchamber, rocking her and staring into her bright green eyes.
At night Harry would hold Octavian tightly against him, kissing the arch of his neck quietly as he slept, placing a silencing charm around his husband so he could get his rest while looking after Romola himself. She was everything Harry could have hoped for. Despite the color of her eyes, she looked so much like his beloved Octavian and she held his heart in her tiny fist as soon as he saw her. Harry never realized his heart could hold anymore overwhelming love after he had fallen so completely for Octavian, but he found his love expanding and including their perfect little girl, who he silently promised himself would have all the love and affection neither he nor Octavian ever had.
He probably wouldn’t have noticed Daphne returning after the holidays if he hadn’t had to give Astoria the secret of the house’s location. He had left Romola in Octavian’s capable hands, kissing him gently and sweetly, before rushing off to the café which served as their meeting place. Astoria was pale, though still pretty, and there were dark circles under her blue eyes that showed her distress.
“Is it that horrible even for purebloods?” Harry murmured to Daphne as Astoria entered the taxi.
Daphne could only nod, worry shining out of her blue eyes.
It was the first night everyone gathered in the kitchen for supper since Octavian gave birth, little Romola in a carrier in between Harry and Octavian where they could easily play with her or tickle her feet if she wanted attention. Winky flickered happily between everyone, serving up dish after dish.
Octavian barely ate, still finding it difficult after all the potions he had to take at St. Mungo’s, but Harry gently urged him on, stroking his arm across Romola, trying to show him how much he was loved.
“I have happy news,” Astoria announced, forcing a half smile, just before pudding was served. “Two items, in fact. Which do you want first?”
“What are the choices?” Daphne teased, trying to lighten her sister’s mood, worry etched on her face at Astoria’s changed behavior.
“There’s happy-interesting,” Astoria qualified, glancing at Octavian, “about a certain Hufflepuff or happy-you-all-knew-it-was-going to happen about me.”
“Happy-interesting,” Octavian immediately chirped, leaning forward. “’Oo is it about?”
“Your friend Aidan Whitby. I found out just by chance, but it turns out that he’s dating a good friend of yours, Harry.”
Harry glanced up, surprise on his face. “Which one?”
Justin choked on the pumpkin juice he was drinking. Harry glanced at him and saw the unasked question.
“Neville’s not dating another Hufflepuff, say Hannah Abbott? We heard that might be a possibility.”
Astoria shook her head, her strawberry-blonde curls falling about her face. “No. I never heard anything about that,” she confessed, “but I walked in on Whitby and Longbottom twice last month—once in a broom cupboard.” She smiled in amusement. “I asked around—“
“Of course you did,” Daphne said calmly, as if it were common for Astoria to try to ferret out romantic details about other couples.
“—and learned from your friend Summers, who sends his greetings, by the way, that they had been seeing each other since the beginning of last month and it appeared to be serious.”
“Je suis heureux,” Octavian remarked, looking down at Romola and picking up a small toy to shake in front of her face so she could try and grab it, gurgling happily. “Aidan needs ‘appiness, anything. ‘Is Maman is in Azkaban.”
Harry looked at him, shocked and upset at the news.
“She is Muggle-born,” Octavian admitted, sadness pouring from his eyes.
Harry reached up and stroked his cheek gently, catching the solitary falling tear and kissing Octavian’s fears gently away. Neither really noticed when Astoria finally announced her engagement to Draco, although they smiled and said the right things, complimenting the engagement ring although Harry noticed it was a newer Malfoy ring from the Tudor period, reminding him of the first time he had met the young witch when he was picking out Octavian’s betrothal band.
Their lower legs pressed against each other and that night, after Harry had put Romola down to sleep, he held Octavian close, kissing him achingly slowly, letting him know without words that he was there, that he loved, that he cared, and that Harry would never leave him.
It was another fortnight before Harry felt comfortable leaving both Romola and Octavian during the day, slipping into the library where he found Daphne and Justin researching. Taking a deep breath, he sat down and cleared his throat. “I think I’ve found a way to defeat him,” he confessed, and they both looked up quickly, Justin from his old medical text and Daphne from another thick letter from Viktor Krum. Harry couldn’t help but remember the letters Krum would send Hermione during their fifth year, and yet they never seemed so frequent, so in depth, so thick, and on parchment that was lined with goldleaf of all extravagances. He wondered briefly at the significance of it all—and hoped that Daphne wouldn’t break his heart.
“Well, what is it?” Justin demanded, sitting up on his knees and clearly excited.
“The three kings,” he confessed. “I kept on hearing references to them and then—just before Octavian gave birth—“ he swallowed at the painful memories, thankful he had miraculously been able to save their lives and survive Lucius Malfoy’s wrath when he learned what had happened. “Just before the birth, Octavian told me more of the magical legend.”
Daphne gasped. “Of course. I had always thought it was just that, a myth, but it must somehow be based on fact.”
“Wait,” Justin commanded, holding up his hands. “The three kings from the Christmas story?”
Daphne scoffed. “The kings never would have given the three gifts to a Muggle child, no matter how important. They are all natural enemies so their gifts are rarely if ever combined, and even if you got them all in the same place, no one living knows the ritual.”
Harry sighed, rubbing his scar in exasperation. “There must be a record if the legend exists. Who are the kings anyway?”
“Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar,” Justin answered as if it were obvious.
Daphne looked at him suspiciously.
“Muggles know this. They’re three magi who came from the East. They saw Christ’s birth foretold in the stars and traveled for a year to find him, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
“They weren’t human and they weren’t magi,” Daphne countered. “They were three magical races—no one’s certain which. They’re somehow intimately connected to the artifacts which can either give or take away death when combined with the ritual words.” She looked at Justin appraisingly. “That would explain where the myth that that Muggle rose from the dead came from. If the three artifacts joined and the ritual words cast upon him, he would never have been able to die. Of course, that would mean that he would still be alive and on earth unless he was given death later through the three magical substances.” She shrugged.
Justin glared at her angrily. “I do not insult your pureblood beliefs, I would ask you not to insult mine.”
Daphne looked affronted. “I’m not insulting. Your Muggle religion stole the idea of an ancient magical ritual. It is older than Latin—in a language long dead if rumors are to be believed. So many have gone on the quest—more so than on the wild goose chase for the Deathly Hallows—but none have been able to combine the three.”
Justin opened his mouth to retort, but Harry managed to cut him off. “Right. We need to find out everything about these kings—Justin, please just suspend your disbelief. If this originally was a magical ritual and the magi learned of it, then it would be a fitting gift,” he placated.
Daphne rolled her eyes and set aside her letter, going to the shelves.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury would be appalled,” Justin murmured, and Harry quietly agreed.
After several weeks, they still had found next to nothing in the Black library and had been forced to resort to their own imaginations. Octavian was taking a nap and so Harry had Romola in her carrier with him in the library, letting her grasp his pinky finger as he looked over a piece of parchment.
“Leprechauns,” Justin said immediately, startling Harry, “or Goblins, come to think of it. They both use gold in modern times—more than anyone else.”
Daphne agreed and took up the quill and parchment as Harry was unable to write and noted it down. “We’ll have to narrow it down, of course,” she agreed, “but either choice sounds likely for gold.”
“There’s been a minor takeover at Gringotts and there are now Death Eaters in charge,” Harry reminded them, “and some goblins are in hiding. It might be difficult to find one alone, let alone a leader who will gift us with the gold.”
Justin grimaced, the serious look looking out of place on his usually friendly face. “Right. Frankincense.” He picked up a discarded book and skimmed it. “It’s a perfume used as incense or to anoint kings and priests. Used often during Biblical times in Israel,” he added with a smug grin at Daphne.
She promptly ignored it.
“We should start there,” Harry said carefully. “Are there any priest-like magical creatures?” he asked, looking through a copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with one hand, the other being sucked on by Romola.
“Beings,” Daphne corrected. “Only a sentient being would guard one of the artifacts.”
“Hmm,” Justin said, not listening, his nose still buried in the book he had read from. “Prophets often used it to anoint kings,” he noted and Harry looked up, stunned.
Prophets, telling the future, globes of prophecies and star charts—“Centaurs,” he breathed. “It must be centaurs, certainly.”
Daphne and Justin both looked at him shocked. Romola hiccoughed, bringing a proud smile to Harry’s face as he glanced down at her lovingly.
“That is a—possibility,” Daphne admitted quietly, setting down her quill. “There’s so little we know about them. How could we possibly get confirmation?”
Justin looked at her hopelessly, shrugging his shoulders in defeat. “I know nothing but the basic information.”
“I’ll think of something,” Harry said softly, knowing that he must, if he were to keep Octavian and Romola safe. He looked back down at his perfect little girl, at her bright green eyes that were so like his, like his mother’s, and smiled. She already had him wrapped around her little finger like a true Prince.
The informal meeting broke up when Winky appeared to tell Harry that Octavian was looking for Romola, and with a smile to Daphne and Justin, he quickly lifted the carrier and carried a dozing Romola back up to his bedchamber where he knew Octavian would still be resting, even if he were awake.
“Zere you are,” Octavian greeted sleepily when Harry entered, holding his arms out for Romola.
Harry set down the carrier and carefully lifted her out, supporting her head in his hand and placed her in Octavian’s arms, fussing with the blanket to keep her warm and content.
“’As she eaten?”
“Not yet,” Harry conceded, sitting down on the bed and watching the scene in front of him. He doubted he would ever see anything that brought him more peace than the sight of his husband with their child. “I’ve been down with her in the library, and she was happy to just suck on my fingers every once in awhile.”
“Romola,” Octavian sighed affectionately, touching his nose to her small, perfect one. “What are we to do with you?—Où est Maman?”
Harry stilled, uncertain what to respond. “Out, again,” he said finally, barely meeting Octavian’s dark glance. “I don’t know where.”
Octavian sighed. “Elle est très—très—“
“She only came to ze ‘ospital once, and zat was when everyone else was gone. She stayed for cinq minutes before leaving again. I do not think she ‘as even ‘eld Romola once as far as I can tell. Even when she is ‘ere it is as if she were not.” Tears formed in his eyes and he leaned down to kiss Romola’s head gently. “Doesn’t she want ‘er granddaughter?”
“Of course she—“ Harry began, knowing that it was a lie. “I don’t know. I just don’t know, Octavian.”
“She does not look like a Malfoy,” he whispered desperately, his eyes seeking out Harry. “She does not—and still she—“
“I know. Je sais,” Harry agreed, wrapping an arm around Octavian protectively and allowing him to lean against him for comfort. “I know, my darling.”
Lucrece barely showed her face for the next week and Harry realized something needed to be done. Justin spent more time with Octavian and Romola, delighting in fixing bottles for Romola personally or fetching them when Winky was out buying groceries. Daphne looked at Romola affectionately whenever they were in the same room, but privately told Harry she was terrified of hurting her after she had seen her cousin drop his little brother when she was only four. Her little cousin had died from the injuries, and she wanted to be safe rather than have such a horrible tragedy on her conscience.
Astoria, who had no such memory, immediately became the doting aunt. When she wasn’t writing long letters to Draco—Harry learned that she was supposedly attending Beauxbatons for the rest of the year as was Daphne; their mother, it turned out, was French so they were able to avoid the compulsory attendance at Hogwarts with the right connections—she was cooing over Romola or happily sewing blankets or onesies in lavender and blue. She didn’t ask why Harry, Justin and Daphne would lock themselves in the library, instead keeping Octavian company or bustling about the house.
“You need to go out to dinner with him if you want him to propose,” Harry heard Astoria say to her sister as she was cooing over Romola one afternoon. “Otherwise, when will he get the chance?”
“Yes, well,” Daphne said with a small smile. “We have difficulty staying away from each other—and I am supposedly at Beauxbatons.”
Astoria scoffed. “As if Marcus didn’t know you were staying in Muggle England; and if you can’t stay away from each other, why are you here?”
Daphne rolled her eyes and kissed Romola on the forehead. “You’ll understand when you’re a bit older, Astoria. But right now, I’m quietly defending my honor in the proper ways.”
Astoria’s eyes widened and Harry couldn’t help but chuckle, loving the friends he was beginning to call family.
Lucrece’s behavior, in contrast, stood out like a sore thumb. The more days that passed, the more distant she became. She wasn’t even affectionate to Octavian when she saw him at the occasional meal and wouldn’t really look at Romola at all. She went through the motions at first of making blankets and preparing, but as soon as Romola was born, she acted as if she didn’t have a son or a granddaughter. It made Harry sick just to watch it, and he despaired when he had to rock Octavian to sleep every night as he quietly cried out his pain. Something had to change.
Knowing that Lord Prince was more aware of the kings than anyone else Harry knew and also Lucrece’s father, he wrote him a quick note at the end of January, inviting him to visit Octavian and stay for a private dinner as he had a few matters he wished to discuss with him. Octavian was happy with the idea, saying how much he wanted his grandpère to see Romola again and have access to their home, and he made certain that Lucrece would be out of the house as he knew that Lord Prince always seemed hesitant at the idea of meeting his long lost beloved daughter. Daphne, Astoria and Justin were all confined to their rooms for the afternoon, as they were either legally supposed to be out of the country or in the Muggle world, and Astoria laughed gaily at the subterfuge, saying that they had a nice parlor on the guest floor that they could easily employ.
Harry met his grandfather-in-law at the corner of Grimmauld Place and led him past the dilapidated houses.
“I don’t think I like it,” Lord Prince confessed, “my grandson and heir living here.”
“The Muggles can’t find us,” Harry assured him, “and we rarely even use the front door. It’s an old Black property and we’ve been fixing it up.”
“Aye,” he agreed tersely as Harry shoved the paper into his hand with the location of the house.
Harry had never seen a grizzled man fuss over a baby as much as Lord Prince did Romola. He sat himself down at the edge of the bed where Octavian was resting and took the child into his arms, cooing and tickling her, telling her stories about her great-uncle Octavian and her great-grandmother Dionysia, whom he was certain she would take after.
Octavian nodded off, smiling, and so they carried Romola carefully downstairs to the drawing room where their dinner was waiting.
“Now, what’s so important that you let me through Fidelius,” Lord Prince said after eating his appetizer. He ignored the brandy laid out for them, his eyes black and serious although they constantly wandered over to Romola.
“Two things, both perhaps unpleasant. My mother-in-law and then, well, whatever you know about the kings.”
Lord Prince’s eyebrows shot up and his jaw clenched. “The kings first,” he decided. “There is a ritual of three—it came into the Muggle world as a nativity legend.”
“Yes, I know,” Harry agreed. “Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
Lord Prince looked at him shrewdly. “I can guess what you’re up to,” he said after a long pause. “I don’t like it and it’s dangerous, but it’s understandable considering you now have a daughter. We want to give our children everything—even the impossible.” He took a long sip of water and set it back down on the table again. “I’m a bit of a connoisseur of magical myths, so you’re in luck. Goblins, centaurs, and finally vampires.”
“Vampires?” Harry gasped, remembering Sanguini.
“Yes,” Lord Prince growled. “Not a pleasant lot—especially with their proclivities. I would not have anyone go into such a madhouse. If they give you anything it will either be for sex or blood, and I’d never recommend giving a vampire either. Still, if you’re serious, I’ll help in what way I can.”
“Thank you,” Harry breathed in relief, though a shiver of horror was running through him at the thought of giving a vampire his blood as sex was out of the question.
“And Lucrece is making a nonsense of herself, you say,” Lord Prince continued as their appetizers disappeared and their main meal—a roast duck—appeared with clean plates and utensils. He carved the duck quickly and expertly, watching Harry carefully. “Demmed wench. Always was too spoiled by half, but we saw no harm in it at the time, Dionysia and I, especially after we lost our Octavian. What’s she doing?”
“She’s never been affectionate to Octavian, but she did her duty to him considering—and Octavian adores her.”
Lord Prince made a gruff noise at the back of his throat, perhaps in agreement. He waved his fork for Harry to continue.
“She spends most of her time out somewhere or in her room. Since the birth, she barely looks at Octavian and has stopped doing anything remotely affectionate or motherly. She hasn’t held Romola once and—I have no idea what’s going on. It’s upsetting Octavian. We promised to give her a home, but she’s doing more harm than anything.”
Lord Prince sighed. “Sadly I’m not surprised. She’s selfish underneath everything. It’s the only reason why she wouldn’t come home after that bit of unpleasantness, I’d imagine, why she wouldn’t trust in that Rosier boy to still love her and want her when he thought she walked in fairy-dusted valleys. He went mad with grief when she disappeared and then cruel when he thought that she was taken from him. I’d say she’s more responsible for his death than those aurors that killed him when he was resisting arrest.” He looked at Harry calculatingly. “Foist her on Malfoy. I dare say he’d be pleased and he must have an apartment or cottage she could live in. Somewhere out of the way that she can’t connect with him—at least immediately. Everyone will be happy. She’ll be away from Octavian, you’ll have her out of the way, and that demmed Malfoy would be able to give into his masochistic urges where that wench is concerned.”
If Lord Prince hadn’t been so serious, Harry would have laughed openly, but fortunately Romola awoke from a short doze at that moment, crying and wanting a bottle.
French to English.
Elle est très belle, oui? She is very pretty, yes?
Je suis heureux. I am happy.
Où est Maman? Where is Mother?
Elle est très—très— She is very—very—
Cinq minutes. Five minutes.