HK15 of 25 files

Part the Fifteenth—
The oracles are dumb, no voice or hideous hum runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.
—Milton, “Hymn”

Harry crept back into his bedroom with Romola in his arms, unwilling to disturb Octavian after Lord Prince had left for the night.  He had already written a long letter to Lucius Malfoy, detailing the situation and suggesting Lord Prince’s solution, hoping that he would both agree to it and keep it secret.  He knew he would have to tell Octavian and Lucrece, which would be unpleasant at best, but it would be better in the end.  Lucrece would still have access to the Firefly Jar and could come and see Octavian and Romola as often as she wished—not that Harry thought she would.

Carefully, he placed Romola in her beautiful crib, kissing her forehead gently and whispering words of love to her.  She was the prettiest baby in the world, so perfect, so fragile and so small, and all his and Octavian’s.  He wanted to lay the world at her feet, make it so she would never want for anything, and shower her with all the love her little perfect heart could hold.

“Come to bed, Henri Jacques,” Octavian murmured, rolling over, his eyes nothing more than shining black slits in the half-light the jars of blue and yellow fireflies created.  “I need my pillow.”

Harry laughed softly and, kissing Romola’s forehead one more time, he began stripping out of his robes and slipped into a discarded pair of sleeping trousers and a t-shirt.  Octavian was curled in on himself, his plaid pajama bottoms peeking out above the blankets, and Harry swept him into his arms, nestling Octavian’s head beneath his chin.

Octavian sighed out in contentment, snuggling closer.  “Parfait.”  He drifted off to sleep, but Harry remained awake, his mind focusing on centaurs and vampires and fear for what the future held.

Lucrece had shown no visible sign when Harry told her a week later that he had arranged a cottage for her in Wiltshire that would be more comfortable for her.  Her black eyes shone in mirth, making Harry feel visibly ill, and within two days she was packed and gone.  She didn’t even bother saying goodbye to her son, and Harry had to hold Octavian all night long as he cried desperately onto his shoulder, begging Harry to tell him what he had done wrong—why his mother could never be happy with him, why she couldn’t even love Romola just a little.  Harry had whispered sweet nothings into Octavian’s hair and pressed gentle kisses across his eyelids, but in the end he could offer no insight.  Lucrece, it seemed, was just incapable of love—and it was her son who suffered for it.

Astoria had stepped in and become more of an aunt to little Romola than she already was, taking up the mantle Lucrece had never worn and documenting every small aspect of Romola’s first few weeks of life.  She had managed to go into Muggle London to purchase a camera and then had Winky go and get the potion that would turn photographs into magical ones, and was constantly taking photographs of Romola’s “firsts” and many of Octavian and Harry with their daughter. 

Wanting to give Romola every small scrap of his own childhood he could find, Harry briefly braved Gringotts and searched his vault, finally finding The Tales of Beedle the Bard hidden away, and at night had started reading the stories to Romola, pausing briefly one night over “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” thinking of his own invisibility cloak.

“We need to go to Hogwarts, I think,” Daphne admitted about a week later, blinking her eyes rapidly from the flash of Astoria’s camera.  She had Romola in the crook of one arm—it was the first time she had held the baby although she insisted several people be close by just in case—as she turned the pages of an old book on centaurs with her free hand.  “It’s the only colony I know of and one of the largest in Europe.”

Harry sighed.  “I was afraid you’d say that.  I suppose we could just infiltrate the castle.”  He glanced at Justin who was shifting uncomfortably.  “You should probably stay here, though.  I don’t want the Carrows capturing you, Justin.”

“Understandable,” he breathed out.  “I don’t much fancying going to Azkaban anyway.”

Harry offered him a small smile.  “I doubt the mysterious ‘Ivy’ would appreciate it either.”

Justin blushed.  “Lady Ivy,” he mumbled, causing Harry to smile fondly at his friend. 

Daphne cleared her throat.  “Lady Ivy aside,” she teased, “we have to get into the Forbidden Forest and find the centaurs and then somehow gain their cooperation.  They’re rather hostile to humans.”

Harry grimaced.  “Bane’s the leader.  An unpleasant fellow.  I doubt we’d have anything he’d want.”

“I wouldn’t be so certain of that,” Justin countered, getting up from his customary sprawled position on the floor.  “Centaurs are prophets of a source.  Astrologers.”

Harry frowned, thinking of Firenze, one of the divination professors.  He was a rather handsome centaur with silver-blond hair—and someone Octavian had remarked was “intelligent,” “wise,” and “gorgeous.”  Harry shivered just at the memory.  It had been a few days after they had moved into the Firefly Jar and Octavian was reading his tarot cards, chattering about the differences between Professors Trelawney and Firenze, and was remarking how much he would miss the latter.  Harry rarely felt jealousy, but ever since then he liked to pretend that the “gorgeous” centaur didn’t exist so he wouldn’t have to think about Octavian’s innocent attraction to him.

“Harry, are you listening?” Daphne called and he looked up, realizing that he had been scowling at a spot on the wall.

“Right.  Sorry, I’m listening.”  He turned to Justin. “They’re astrologers,” he prompted.

Justin frowned at him.  “You really don’t like centaurs, do you?”

“I don’t like ‘gorgeous’ ones who are wise in the ways of the world and divination.”

Daphne furrowed her eyebrows and looked down at Romola who was gurgling up at her, one tiny fist waving in the air.  “Octavian didn’t marry his professor, and it’s usual for students to fancy them at some point.”

“Everyone fancied Firenze,” Justin agreed.  “Little Rose Zeller wouldn’t stop going on about him.”

“I suppose you’re right.  Hermione,” his voice cracked despite himself, “fancied Lockhart, though she fortunately got over that.”

“Exactly,” Justin said.  “It’s sad there aren’t many spry lady professors, if you catch my drift.”

“Sinistra’s—elegant,” Harry admitted, remembering the forty-year-old Astronomy professor who was now Headmistress.

“You’re blushing,” Daphne teased.  “Perhaps Octavian should be worried.”

“Hardly,” Harry countered as he carefully took Romola from Daphne, noticing how she looked strained from the added weight.  It was an art form, holding a baby.  “So, what do we have that Bane and the other centaurs could possibly want?”

“The prophecy,” Justin supplied, “from your own lips.”

Harry stilled and looked at Justin in an entirely new light.  “I never would have thought of that.”

“Of course not,” Daphne drawled in a bored tone.  “That’s why you have us.”  She tucked a strand of strawberry-blonde hair behind her ear.  “How do you suggest we get an audience?”

“Firenze should know,” Harry offered, biting his own tongue.  “If we can get into Hogwarts, which should be relatively easy, he’ll be able to tell us how to find the centaurs in the Forbidden Forest—and then we just hope.”

Daphne sighed.  “This is going to be complicated, isn’t it?”

“Most likely,” Harry agreed, turning back to Romola who was watching him with wide green eyes.  They were turning slightly gray as she aged and Harry wondered if they would become the Black gray colored eyes.

Tu ne me dis pas où tu vas,” Octavian whispered the next morning as he and Harry ate breakfast in their room.  It had become a bit of a tradition since Romola was born.  Octavian was still recovering from the difficult birth, his body slowly healing, and Harry liked a slower start to the day as he would often wake up several times a night to deal with a fussing Romola.  They would sit in bed with a tray that Winky would bring up and feed Romola, setting her sometimes between them in a bassinet with one of her favorite toys.

“Octavian,” Harry soothed, reaching out for his husband who looked back sadly at him.

Pourquoi pas?”

“I want you to be safe—to be neutral as you desire to be.  If you don’t know then you remain both.”

Octavian sighed.  “What if you do not come back?”  He carefully took a sip of cocoa.

“I will come back from this,” Harry promised.  “Trust me, Octavian.  I have a cover story that is easily believable.”

“If you say so, Henri Jacques,” Octavian answered dejectedly.  “I will trust you as you are mon mari—but if you do not return I will never speak to you again.”

Harry laughed at Octavian’s serious warning, leaning in and kissing Octavian sweetly.  “I’ll always come back to you.  Wild horses couldn’t keep me away, mon amour.”

“Zat is because I am all you can think about.  We Princes are like zat.”

“Don’t I know it,” Harry agreed huskily and he lifted Octavian into his arms, Romola still resting carefully beside them in her bassinet.

Octavian gasped, his eyes wide as his legs immediately straddled Harry.  “What are you—“ he began to ask, but Harry claimed his delectable lips, nibbling on the bottom one, eliciting a moan from his husband.

Harry pressed Octavian closely against him, delighting the feel of Octavian’s arousal pressed against his stomach, and growled in the back of his throat, his tongue slithering out of his mouth and claiming Octavian’s gently and possessively.  Octavian keened against him and Harry clasped his buttocks, pulling him even closer to him so he could feel his nearly flat stomach against him.  He knew Octavian was self-conscious about it, but Harry still found his husband undeniably beautiful and sexy, even as he healed, his stomach still slightly swollen from the womb that had held their precious daughter.

“Hold that thought,” Harry promised, leaving a gentle kiss on Octavian’s plump lips as he leaned back.  “And trust me—there is no way I could not come home when I still need to pleasure you as you deserve.”

“But last time—“

“You were heavily pregnant and we had an argument,” Harry countered, understanding Octavian’s feelings.  “Je veux seulement te goûter.

Octavian shivered with want, and Harry smiled against his golden hair.

Slipping into Hogwarts was easier than Harry had initially thought it would be.  He and Daphne had Apparated near Hogsmeade in their Hogwarts robes, Daphne’s hair cut to her chin in a bob and charmed auburn and Harry’s scar covered with a glamour while he wore dark brown contacts that improved his eyesight.  He had brushed his hair and used so much gel on it that it appeared straighter than it usually did and he barely recognized himself in the mirror.  They broke into the Shrieking Shack as Honeyduke’s was closed for repairs, and Harry led Daphne through the tunnel that led to the Womping Willow.

“This explains so much,” she whispered and then startled when they crawled out of the passageway—Harry had pressed the gnarled knot to stop the willow’s homicidal activities. 

“It should be around lunch,” Harry noted when they entered the castle, a loud sound of murmuring voices coming from the Great Hall.

Daphne nodded.  “Classroom Eleven, was it?”


They stealthily slipped down the halls, encountering no one, and knocked softly on the classroom door and were fortunately admitted a few moments after.

It was as Harry remembered it, a forest within a room within a castle.  He stared at the figure of Firenze, strong and tall and handsome—everything that Harry thought he was not.  He knew it was irrational to be jealous.  He had Octavian’s love and he would never love or desire another, but part of him feared what would happen to his beloved husband if he did not make it out of this war, if something went wrong and the horcrux killed him or he was somehow captured and murdered. 

He knew he was protected by both sides, being both the Boy-Who-Lived and savior to the light and the son-in-law of a high-ranked Death Eater, but still the niggling and irrational fear gripped him.  He would never want Octavian to live a loveless life if he were gone—but still he could not bear the thought of him potentially wanting someone else, of Romola calling someone else her ‘Daddy’ instead of him, of another man making love to the love of his life.

Life was so fleeting.  He’d always known it, had escaped death, but with almost losing both Octavian and Romola at once late in December, he realized just how fleeting it was—Octavian could so easily be taken from him and he from Octavian.  It was terrifying.

“Harry Potter,” Firenze greeted, recognizing him immediately.  “Mars is burning brightly in the heavens.”

“I was afraid you’d say that,” Harry admitted quietly, looking into inhumanly beautiful green eyes.

“I would ask how that talented husband of yours is, but I fear this is not a social visit,” Firenze admitted, pawing the earthen ground anxiously. 

Harry lifted his lips in a half-smile at the thought of his husband, though Firenze was one of the last people—creatures—beings—that he wanted to discuss Octavian with.  “He’s well and keeping up with his studies in Divination,” Harry responded politely.  He glanced at Daphne and noticed the twinkling mirth in her eyes.  He scowled at her which only made her smile and turn away.

Composing herself, Daphne looked back at Firenze.  “We are seeking an item—an item we believe the colony of centaurs in the forest might possess,” she explained, blushing when he looked directly at her.

“I see.  I fear we centaurs have nothing that would interest humans.”

“Not necessarily,” Harry countered, finding his stride in the conversation.  “We also have something we believe the colony might be interested in in return.”

“It would have to be knowledge,” Firenze said, turning and trotting to a stream.  He waded in so that his hooves were covered in water and sighed happily.  “What is this item?  They may not have it and they do not like humans in their forest.”

Daphne and Harry exchanged a glance and Daphne stepped forward.  “The frankincense of the centaurs,” she whispered, her words barely louder than the breeze that somehow moved magically about the room.

Firenze’s tail flicked in aggravation and he turned, pinning Daphne with his harsh gaze.  “You ask too much, human foal.”

“Mars is bright,” Harry argued.  “It grows brighter and brighter, doesn’t it?  We only want to return the heavens to their previous peace.”

The centaur reared back in frustration.  “You do not know of what you speak, Harry Potter.”

“Perhaps not fully,” he agreed, “but I do know that war is coming and seek to end it.  It should have remained that way but he did not remain dead—and the frankincense will help us in that.”

“Centaurs do not interfere in the ways of men.”

Daphne looked crestfallen at his statement.

“Firenze!  I know you don’t think this way,” Harry said angrily.  “You sound more like Bane, who kicked you out of the forest, than yourself.  We can argue this later in the forest—but do they have it?”

His nostrils flared angrily.  “You do not know what you ask.”

Harry looked down at his clenched fists by his sides and forced himself to physically relax.  “I have a child,” he admitted, his eyes catching Firenze’s.  “A little girl.  I do not want Mars to shine brightly when she is my age.  I know exactly what it is I am asking.”

Firenze pawed the ground and shifted uneasily in place, clearly thinking.  “The frankincense is split up between the colonies in the world.  Three vials exist in Europe, another two in Africa, four in the Americas and another four in Asia.  One remains in Australia,” he began to explain.

Daphne looked terrified.

“One of these vials is indeed within the Forbidden Forest and for your purposes you will only need a few precious drops.  They will be costly.”

Harry breathed out, not realizing that he had been holding his breath, his lungs aching from the strain.  “Thank you, Professor.  How do I find the colony?”

“Go deep enough into the forest and the colony will find you,” Firenze whispered, regret in his voice, and then he trotted away, the meeting clearly finished.

When they left the room a long line of students was waiting, and Harry’s eyes widened as he recognized the fifth year students, Caspar Summers among them.  His hair was a deep purple, his eyes a light brown, and he instantly pierced Harry with his gaze.

As Harry and Daphne walked past, his hand shot out and grabbed his sleeve, a strange desperate bravery shining out of his eyes.

“Hello,” he murmured, and Harry stopped, confused.

“How—?” Harry asked stupidly, confused at being recognized when even had difficulty distinguishing his own reflection as his own.

Caspar laughed.  “I’m a Black and a Metamorphmagus.  I can recognize myself in the mirror whenever I look.  Why wouldn’t I be able to recognize you?”

“Caspar,” Harry warned, not wanting him to say his name or tell anyone that he was, in fact, Harry Potter.  It was better if his visit to Hogwarts was unknown so no one could even possibly discover what he was attempting to do.  It was dangerous enough as it was with Voldemort turning a blind eye because of his apparent neutrality and marriage to Octavian.

He rolled his eyes.  “Of course. That goes without saying,” Caspar said brashly as if it were obvious and Harry didn’t even need to ask.  “I was wondering if you could give my friend a message.”

Harry looked at him strangely, wondering why he just didn’t write a letter to Octavian.

Daphne pulled the back of his robes discreetly.  “We really need to get to class,” she murmured, telling him that they really should go. 

It would be best if they appeared to be going to Care of Magical Creatures before class actually began.  He wondered if Hagrid was teaching it.

“Promise me you’ll give him the message exactly as I give it to you,” Caspar continued, his eyes shining. 

Harry nodded quickly as he was pressed for time, muttering “I promise” when Caspar tugged his sleeve harshly.  Then, before he could realize what was happening, Caspar had stood on his toes and grasped the back of his neck and kissed him softly on the lips. 

“Just like that,” he murmured, kissing a stunned Harry again before letting go.

Harry could only stare at him, but a tug from Daphne forced him to turn and dream-walk out of the school, rushing across the lawns toward the Forbidden Forest.

“Caspar Summer just kissed me,” he said in a confused daze, looking at Daphne whose jaw was clenched.

She nodded.

“And he wants me to kiss my husband for him.”

“Unfortunately, and you did give your word.  Put it from your mind until later.  It’s probably just Summers fancying Octavian—they were close friends, were they not?”

“Best mates,” Harry confirmed, feeling even more uncomfortable at the message. 

The forest was dark even in daylight, and Harry pulled out his wand, ready for anything that might attack—including an acromantula.  They walked for what seemed like hours, stumbling over thick roots and turning at the slightest rustle of leaves or underbrush.  They barely spoke, instead their eyes and ears alert for the sound of hooves they wished to hear.

When the sound of running horses finally came it must have been well past dinner.

Harry quickly slipped his wand in his pocket, raising his hands to show that he meant no ill will, and saw Daphne do the same from the corner of his eye.  “I wish to speak to Bane,” he said clearly, not allowing his voice to quake although over a dozen centaurs had arrows pointed at his head.

“Why would we listen to a human?” one asked, his hair the color of the sun that he must never see in the dark forest.

Harry swallowed and looked the centaur directly in the eye.  “I come to offer a prophecy that might not be read in the stars.”

“And you want—?” another, Magorian if Harry remembered correctly, scoffed.

“A few drops of the centaur frankincense,” Harry whispered, keeping eye contact with Bane to show that he was sincere.

He and Daphne were immediately blindfolded, the swaths of rough cloth never removed from his eyes when Harry negotiated with Bane for the precious drops of frankincense.

“How can we know that the prophecy you tell is true?” he demanded and Harry felt a spear pressed in between his shoulders.

“I will swear on anything you desire, something that is dear to me.  I heard the beginning of it from a prophecy orb and the rest from a memory from the one it was told to.  It regards the war wizards are currently fighting—it involves myself and—and the Dark Lord,” his voice faltered in fear, his bravery resting quietly in his heart although he knew that if he said the wrong word, he might not return home to his loving Octavian’s arms.

“What do you hold most dear?” Bane whispered in his ear, causing a shiver of revulsion to sweep down Harry’s spine. “Something helpless.  Something that if I took it from you, your heart would bleed.  Something innocent and unprotected except for the protection you give it.”

His throat went dry.  “My daughter,” he rasped, answering truthfully.  “My little girl.”  Nothing was dearer than her innocent life, so young, less than a month old and so much of the world to discover.  She depended entirely on him and Octavian, was so helpless, so small.

Tears dripped down his eyes at the words and he heard Daphne gasp beside him at his honest confession.

“I see you weep, human,” Bane growled, his voice hard.  “You speak the truth.”

In a deadened voice, Harry whispered the prophecy to those around him, the prophecy which Dumbledore had kept secret for so long, had wanted to keep completely from the hold of other creatures, other men, and now Harry was giving it to those he could not see, trusting them to give him their frankincense when he was finished and not put an arrow through his heart.  It was almost ironic.  First he had told Hermione and Ron, then when Hermione was dead Justin and Daphne.  Octavian didn’t know.  He never wanted his husband to hold that burden, didn’t want it in his mind in case the Dark Lord somehow learned of it and ripped it from his young mind.  

“Who spoke it and when?” Bane demanded again, this time from behind Harry somewhere.

“Professor Trelawney gave it shortly before I was born in July of 1980.  It was her first of two prophecies that I know of.  The second she spoke to me.”

“And what of the second?”

Harry’s throat constricted.  “It came true that very night.  I saw it happen.”

He heard hooves trampling around him, pawing at the ground, bodies shifting and the swish of horsetails, and then a small glass vial was pressed in his hand.

“The human colony or the human school?” a centaur gruffly asked as Harry felt himself pulled roughly to his feet, the vial clasped tightly in his hand.  Hogsmeade or Hogwarts.  It was a simple choice.

“The human colony,” Harry answered, not wanting to see Hogwarts again, see the dead look in some students’s eyes from their treatment at the hands of the Carrows, the place that had once been his home but had soured the previous year under Dumbledore’s brash actions and unyielding heart. 

They walked for hours, he could hear Daphne’s human steps beside him, until the blindfold was pulled unceremoniously from his eyes and he was pushed toward the sleeping town of Hogsmeade.  “Daphne?” he gasped and saw her on the ground, her hands having caught her in a fall, and a man leaning over her, a grim look on his face.

“Marcus,” she whispered, looking up at the figure, and Harry suddenly stilled, looking at the back of Marcus Flint.  “What are you—How are you—?”

“You cut your hair,” he murmured, helping her from the ground and brushing her auburn-charmed hair away from her eyes. 

They stood staring at each other for several moments and Harry, shifted, clearly uncomfortable, but not wanting to disturb the two lovers.  He knew the look in Daphne’s eyes—Octavian looked at him in that way.

“I told you when I gave you that charmed bracelet that if you ever needed me, I would be here,” Flint was now saying, his large hands cupping Daphne’s face.  “I felt your worry and fear, and I came but couldn’t find you.”

“I—I’m sorry,” Daphne whispered brokenly, looking away.  “I should have taken it off—I didn’t want to worry—“

Flint hushed her with a harsh kiss and Daphne, surprised, stood still for a long moment before she melted into his embrace, her arms curling around his neck. 

Harry turned away, his eyes scanning the darkness and thankful that there was no one else to see them.

“I want to worry,” Flint was now whispering, but Harry didn’t turn, his ears however pricking at the conversation.  “I’ve always worried, Daphne, since you first tried out for the Slytherin team your third year—“

Daphne scoffed quietly.  “You gave it to a bloody prat.  I was the better flier.”

“Perhaps,” Flint conceded, warmth in his voice, which surprised Harry.  He’d never heard him show any emotion other than sternness or aloof coldness.  “Future brides should remain safely on the ground, however, Daphne, and I wouldn’t have mine up in the air.”

Harry’s eyebrows shot up and, despite himself, he turned back to the couple.  Daphne was smiling in Flint’s arms despite that—admission he’d just made—and Flint was clasping her to him possessively.  Well, it did go in line with pureblood courtship, Harry thought.  Protection.  Even if Daphne was thirteen at the time and Flint, well, eighteen or nineteen, if memory served.  Sometimes Harry thought he’d never understand the old ways.

Flint reached up and trailed a firm finger down Daphne’s cheek.  “You’re still beautiful,” he murmured, leaning in to kiss her gently before pulling away.  “Take care of her,” he demanded, looking Harry in the eye, and he nodded once.

Then, with a last longing look at Daphne and a pop of Apparation, Flint was gone, leaving a stunned and smiling Daphne behind.

“Do you have it?” she asked anxiously after a few moments, coming toward Harry, and they both looked at the glass vial in his hand.

“Yes,” Harry whispered with his own smile.  “I think so.”

With another crack of Apparition they were both gone, Harry leaving Hogwarts for the last time in his life.

French to English.

Parfait.  Perfect.

Tu ne me dis pas où tu vas.  You won’t tell me where you’re going.

Pourquoi pas? Why not?

Je veux seulement te goûter. I only want to taste you.

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