Part the Eighteenth—
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, irrecoverably dark, total eclipse without all hope of day!
—Milton, “Samson Agonistes”
It wasn’t until mid-April that Lord Prince was finally able to tell Harry that he had an open invitation to a nest of Vampires in Cornwall.
“You’re only allowed in because of one called Sanguini,” Lord Prince quietly informed him and Harry felt a shiver run down his back. “He’s aware of what you’re after.”
Harry swallowed painfully. They were in the lower nursery with little Romola who was crawling around happily with her plushtoy Snidget called “Snidge.” Octavian thought it was the most ridiculous toy, claiming that a dragon or a hippogriff would be more appropriate, not a nearly extinct bird that used to be used in Quidditch Games. Harry had argued that Romola came from a long line of Quidditch players and should learn to appreciate that the life of a small bird was more important than a game.
Octavian hadn’t been able to argue with that logic and had instead kissed Harry gently before walking off teasingly to give Romola a bath.
His husband had become a minx when he finally realized that Harry always wanted him no matter their arguments or stretch marks.
“When?” Harry asked, his throat dry. He knew what could easily happen at the nest. He knew what he would see.
Lord Prince’s face turned grim. “Tomorrow. You’ll have to wear—“ he shrugged and tilted his head toward a bag he had brought.
Harry stared at it, unseeing, and then carefully nodded.
“There’s a Portkey inside as well. It will activate at noon exactly. Be ready—and you cannot bring your wand, one of the demmed conditions. Vampires can be a paranoid group if ever I saw one.”
His eyes flashed green in fear as he looked at his grandfather-in-law. “No wand,” he repeated.
Lord Prince nodded and held out his hand.
Harry, however, remained unmoving. “I will give it to Octavian tomorrow,” he finally said, uncertain how he felt about the brief flicker of disappointment on Lord Prince’s face.
He felt momentarily unsettled, though decided it was because he was going into Hades wandless the next day.
“You can see yourself out,” he whispered a moment later and then, not looking at the bag in the corner that contained what he was to wear, he took the stairs from the sitting room up to his and Octavian’s floor.
He knew that Daphne and Justin were probably waiting for him, but he didn’t care. He had less than a day with his husband and child before the unthinkable might happen, and he wouldn’t spend a moment out of their presences if it could at all be avoided.
“Henri Jacques?” Octavian asked in confusion when Harry opened the nursery door and walked through. He was sitting in a rocking chair in the corner, Harry placing Romola in his arms.
She had grown in the last few months, her eyes settling into the green Harry inherited from his mother and soft wisps of golden hair growing on her small head. Romola always took such interest in the world around her, her green eyes wide in wonder when either Harry or Octavian would perform a small spell in front of her, clapping at the colors they would sometimes conjure for her amusement. She would be a scholar one day, Harry thought proudly. She had the natural curiosity that could serve her in that way—his beautiful little girl.
“I have to take a short trip tomorrow,” Harry whispered as he closed the door carefully behind him.
The room was a bright yellow and he watched the painted hippogriffs, dragons, and unicorns dance about the edges of the room. It was a small, simple piece of magic but it could keep Romola occupied for hours in her crib while Octavian read one of his schoolbooks.
“Unfortunately,” Harry sighed, coming up and kissing Octavian’s upturned lips gently. He could never grow tired of such small and simple forms of affection. “I thought I would take the afternoon off and be with my family.”
Octavian bit his lip in worry and Harry kissed him again, careful not to upset Romola. “Zen perhaps we should let Winky watch la petite fille?” Octavian suggested quietly and Harry grinned at him.
“How long will she be asleep?”
“Un heure, je pense.”
A few minutes later, Harry was resting against the bed, watching as Octavian carefully undressed in front of him. As Octavian leaned forward to kiss him, Harry carefully traced the many scars on his torso from the time he was stoned in his childhood, worshipping them carefully and showing Octavian that all of him was beautiful. He didn’t want to lose this at all and he knew that if Sanguini took more than blood from him, he very well could.
“Shh,” Octavian murmured, straddling Harry carefully and running his fingers lightly over the scar from the basilisk bite. “Come back to me.”
Harry looked up at him in confusion.
“Tes pensées sont ailleurs,” he whispered soothingly.
“Pardon,” Harry responded, leaning up and kissing Octavian deeply. “I was thinking of the first time I saw these.” He traced a particularly noticeable scar carefully and Octavian flinched away.
“Tu ne penses pas que je suis beau,” he said in resignation and quickly grabbed for a sheet to cover himself up.
“Octavian,” Harry said in alarm, partially sitting up and wrapping an arm protectively around his waist, keeping him from fleeing. “Tu sais que je pense que tu es beau.”
“You cannot,” Octavian countered, his black eyes wide and full of emotion. “It ‘as been months and I still do not ‘ave my body back—ze one I ‘ad before Romole and I was already scarred.”
“Shh,” Harry soothed, leaning up and kissing Octavian deeply, forcing his lips open gently with his tongue and snaking his tongue into his mouth. “You are—and will always be—the most beautiful person on this earth to me. Nothing can change that.”
Carefully he rolled them over so that Octavian was on his back, his golden hair spread out on the pillow.
“Tu es beau, mon Octavian,” Harry assured him carefully, capturing his lips once again. “Mon petit ami, mon amour, mon fiancé, mon mari, le père de ma fille.”
He felt Octavian relax beneath him and pulled away the sheet and carefully kissed down his neck and shoulders, paying special attention to his many scars, tracing them lovingly as he thought of everything his husband had been through in his childhood, everything that he was able to stop now that they were married and Octavian was fully legitimized and recognized by his father.
Octavian tugged on his hair, drawing him up for a deep, overpowering kiss filled with honey flavored milk, and Harry lost himself in his husband’s arms.
He left Octavian sleeping just before noon the next day. Octavian had clung to him, perhaps sensing Harry’s anxieties and fears, and Harry had once again made love to him carefully and reverently, praying that the next few hours would change absolutely nothing except get him closer to finally defeating Voldemort once and for all.
He walked into the sitting room and saw Astoria playing with Romola in her playpen. “Ma fille,” he greeted, and Romola looked up at his voice, her green eyes shining brilliantly and a smile on her face.
“Harry,” Astoria greeted, getting up from her seat on the floor, her dust rose robes falling around her ankles in a flurry of velvet. “What are you wearing?”
Harry grimaced. He was wearing almost nothing at all. The bag had held a pair of white cotton trousers that were easily see-through and a whisp of a top that was meant to be alluring and sexual more than anything else. He looked either like a sex slave or some form of imperial concubine. It was horrifying. “Don’t ask. Please,” he begged, kneeling down and picking up Romola carefully with his hands. “Salut, ma belle. Ça va?”
She gurgled at him and one of her small hands came up to try and grasp his left cheek.
He smiled lovingly down at her. Kissing her gently on the forehead, he closed his eyes and inhaled her fresh baby scent, committing it to memory.
“Harry?” Astoria asked worriedly and Harry carefully opened his eyes, glancing back at her before returning his attention to his smiling daughter who was now tugging on his ear.
“Sorry, Astoria. I have to go somewhere and I just wanted to say goodbye to my little girl.”
He was doing this for his daughter, he reminded himself, for her and for any other children who would follow. Kissing her gently one last time he set her back down within the playpen and picked up Snidge and placed it in her waiting hands. “Daddy will be home soon,” he promised her seriously, and she looked back at him with smiling green eyes. “Papa is upstairs and will be down very soon to see his beautiful little girl.”
“Safe trip,” Astoria murmured as he got to his feet, kissing his cheek gently. “And for the love of the gods, put a cloak on, brother. Draco would have a heart attack if news of your—outfit—made it back to him.”
Harry chuckled lightly though he felt little mirth. “I’m sure he would—and no one will be seeing me this way,” he assured her, although it was a lie. Sanguini would see him like this; Sanguini wanted him dressed like this. The very thought sent a shiver of disgust through him which he had to suppress.
Giving one last half-hearted wave to Romola who was chewing on Snidge, he walked out of the room, the small dagger that would serve as portkey clutched in his hand. He wondered if he was meant to bleed himself with it or if it was the equivalent of a suicide pill for either vampires or wizarding society. He didn’t like either thought.
“You look pale,” Daphne murmured when he entered the library. She was sitting at one of the desks and appeared to be writing a letter to Krum yet again. Her left hand, Harry noticed, was bare of any jewelry. It could either mean that she hadn’t made a decision or she had and it was in Flint’s favor.
“And cold,” Justin added from the floor, his face stern. “I’m still doing research on Gringotts. It’s our best bet to get to the last of the king’s gifts, and since the Goblins are no longer in control—“
“It’s probably hidden there somewhere,” Harry said grimacing, “and whoever’s running it will probably be unaware of it.”
“Sadly,” Justin agreed. He eyed the dagger. “Are you certain you want to do this?”
“I don’t,” Harry whispered, “but I will. We’ve come this far and Sanguini wants me—strangely enough.”
Daphne snorted elegantly, setting down her quill. “You are a handsome and a powerful human figure.”
“Vampires don’t care for such things,” Justin argued back. “No one knows what makes a human Beloved. They are so rare. Just—don’t accept any gift he gives you that you could somehow wear.”
Harry looked at him curiously.
“If he gives you a necklace, refuse it,” Justin continued carefully. “It will somehow mark you as Beloved and by accepting it, you accept your position as his eternal mate. He would not hurt you but your blood and your—sex—would belong to him. He would kill anyone who took you from him or anyone you touched—including Octavian although you’re married.”
“That’s barbaric,” Harry whispered, but Justin only shrugged.
“They view marriage as a human construct to be disregarded.” Justin glanced at the clock. “It’s two minutes to noon.”
“Right. Of course.” He took a deep breath. “My ‘Last Will and Testament’ is in my bedside table. The key to it is hidden in my trunk in a special compartment. If I’m not back in a week—“
Justin grimaced and nodded. He reached out and carefully squeezed Harry’s shoulder. “Come back. He won’t be the same without you.”
The clock ticked the hour and then, with a pull to his naval, the library of the Firefly Jar was gone.
The air was hot and heavy and wherever Harry looked he could see almost nothing. There was solid earth beneath his feet and the cold feel of a cavern wall against his left hand when he reached out, but still he saw nothing but the flicker of dim lights above and the occasional flash of something moving in the pit beneath him.
The dagger fell from his fingers as his hands immediately reached up for the diaphanous shirt he wore and tugged at it. Although the fabric was light and barely there, it was still too much, still too warm, and he felt like it was suffocating him as he took in a deep breath, the air filling his lungs painfully in the infernal heat.
Then he realized it—it wasn’t quiet but instead there were movements, the gentle slap of skin against skin that he had become so familiar with during his marriage to Octavian. It was soft, subtle, and yet it reverberated throughout the darkened cavern as if there were an orgy of bodies all engrossed in the act of sexual pleasure.
He could feel bile rise in his throat, but swallowed it down, ignoring the smell of sweat and come that now permeated his senses. It was disgusting.
“Sanguini?” he murmured, his hand pressed against the jagged rock of the cavern wall, his eyes searching the darkness and seeing only an illuminated thigh, a child’s hand raised up and spasming with pleasure or pain, the glint of eyes and then the sight of blood dripping from a gleaming limb.
He turned and vomited, unable to watch the scene beneath him although it was almost completely dark.
The heat came in around him and sweat began to trickle down his spine, soaking his shirt and causing it to cling to his warm skin. As he spat the sickening taste form his mouth, he ran a hand through his thick hair and pulled it away from his forehead, needing a respite from the unbearable heat.
The rich soil moved beneath his bare toes, giving off some coolness, and yet it wasn’t enough. His throat spasmed again in the heat and he swallowed painfully, wondering how the children could breathe in this environment before turning his mind from them again, tears coming to his eyes.
Children. He could hear their gasps, their soft moans, their childlike pleas before they were cut off again and always, always, the slap of skin against skin as they were fed off of. This truly was hell on earth.
A cold hand darted out from the darkness and caressed his nearly exposed chest, tweaking his left nipple, taking him by surprise. Harry gasped as he pulled away against the cavern wall that raked against his back.
“You’re old,” a female voice murmured, curious, alluring, and yet utterly deadly. Harry felt a body press against him, full breasts against his chest barely covered with a similar material, and yet the skin was cold as death beneath it. A hand snaked down his abdomen so quickly he could barely register it and then the freezing appendage was pressed into his trousers, grasping his limp cock almost painfully. “Aw,” the voice purred, terrifying him. “No one’s come to play with you.”
Harry swallowed. “I’m here to see Sanguini,” he rasped, the cloying heat pressing against him despite the cool body that was fondling him.
The vampiress snapped at him, a fingernail raking down his cheek and drawing blood as her cool tongue darted out and licked it up smoothly, disgusting him.
He was utterly trapped between her and the wall, her strength making her immovable and the hold on his member painful and too tight.
“I could give you more fun,” she cooed at him, laving at his ear as he tried to unsuccessfully shy away. “That old bag of bones hasn’t given you enough pleasure.” Her grip around him tightened and he arched toward her, trying to ease the pain. “See there,” she said satisfactorily. “Come now, not-so-little boy. Come to my bed and into the arms of the other children.”
Harry’s hands pushed at her shoulders, trying to get her to leave but she only laughed deeply into his ear before biting his earlobe painfully, sucking on it in a horrible parody of a lover’s teasing caress.
Octavian, his mind begged, but he knew he couldn’t say that here. “Sanguini,” he said sternly, turning his face away and enduring the onslaught on his senses.
She growled, squeezing his cock again which was still painfully unaroused. Rubbing herself against him obscenely, she pulled away, tightening her grip on him briefly so that he gasped at the pain.
“That’s the problem when you grow up,” she said sadly, kissing him softly once before completely backing away. “You gain preferences and sexuality. Pity.”
Then as quickly as she had come, she had flitted away, Harry staring after her in the darkness. With a sudden flash of inspiration, Harry realized what the dagger was for.
Falling to his knees he searched with his hands for the glint of steel until his dirtied fingers met with the handle. He sighed in relief and carefully rose to his feet, using the cavern wall for support, not caring as it ripped his skin apart.
Another hand, pale and cold, darted out from the darkness and Harry quickly unsheathed the dagger, flashing it in front of him in warning. The hand was undeterred and came up to stroke his cheek in a lover’s caress. He slashed out at the arm and yet the hand moved quickly, a dark seductive chuckle following.
“Lord Black.” The words were whispered, indistinct among the sounds of children coming, of the slap of skin in the unbearable heat, in the stench of sweat and blood.
“Sanguini,” Harry greeted, reluctantly lowering the dagger. “I believe you were expecting me.”
“Of course, Beloved,” Sanguini purred, the hand coming again and a thumb stroking his lower lip until it pushed harshly into his mouth. “Ah, so warm. I miss the warmth of life the most, I think.”
The hand clasped his jaw while the thumb pushed deeper and Harry begrudgingly accepted it, not wanting to halt negotiations for the king’s gift before they’d even begun.
“You are most alluring, more alluring than I remembered.” The thumb was pulled out of his mouth with an obscene popping sound and cold lips forcefully replaced them, the hold on his jaw sharp and painful as a second hand gripped his thigh.
Harry tried to pull away, pushing against Sanguini’s body, but it was once again useless. He was too heavy, too strong, and with every shove, Sanguini pressed himself closely against Harry, his aching arousal sliding against Harry’s abdomen as he bucked desperately.
Without a thought, Harry lifted the hand with the knife still pressed in it, but Sanguini was quicker, his hand darting out and snapping Harry’s wrist back with a sickening crack. The weapon fell from his loose fingers, his wrist aching and clearly broken.
Still, the onslaught continued, Sanguini’s grip bruising and painful, and all Harry could focus on was the tongue that was now shoved between his teeth, exploring painfully. His breath caught in his chest, burning from the unbearable and moist heat and his lack of air, the smell of blood in the air frightening Harry. Sanguini moved like a man possessed, trapping him effectively and with every thrust Harry’s back collided painfully with the rough wall until Sanguini stiffened and Harry felt the man’s essence pour against his stomach.
Sanguini pulled his mouth away and Harry gasped for breath, unable to move from his position as the vampire’s grip hadn’t lessened.
“So disappointing,” Sanguini murmured with another bruising kiss. “You’re still soft.” He bucked his hips against Harry to emphasize his point.
Harry grimaced. “I’m a married man.”
“I have heard of this human marriage,” Sanguini conceded, pulling away but never releasing his hold. “So plebeian—so strange. How can either of you know what it is to be Beloved unless one has lived for many centuries and taken others before?”
Harry shivered at the cold assessment, causing Sanguini to laugh, leaning in and kissing Harry’s unresponsive lips again.
“Yes, I know,” Sanguini replied brusquely, angrily. “It is unseemly to extract a price for being Beloved.”
“I have a Beloved,” Harry whispered his eyes wet with tears. He licked his lips and realized that he had been crying throughout the ordeal and felt silent sobs wrack his body.
“Stubborn to a fault,” Sanguini mused, one hand coming down to Harry’s stomach and his own cooling come. “You will not let me enter you, I think, for the vampire myrrh.”
“No,” Harry responded, his voice firm.
“I do not like force,” Sanguini continued as if he hadn’t heard. “Perhaps I am spoiled. The children—they never refuse.”
Harry closed his eyes and looked away although he could not see Sanguini except for the unearthly whites of his eyes.
“Very well. I will take your life’s blood and you will return to me once every ten years to do the same,” Sanguini snapped; he brought his fingers coated with his essence up to Harry’s lips and smeared the sickly liquid across them.
Harry felt sick to his stomach and had to stop himself from gagging as the finger entered his mouth again, salty and unnatural.
“Do we have an accord, my Beloved?” Sanguini whispered against his ear, raking his fangs against it, sending a shiver of horror through Harry.
He nodded, not wanting to say the words.
Fortunately, it was enough for Sanguini. Perhaps, Harry thought desperately, he could find a way out of it as he never verbally agreed. He was certain that Daphne could figure it out—in many ways she was cleverer than Hermione could ever be, and with Justin’s knowledge of vampiric traditions…
A cold hand that burned him grasped Harry’s hip momentarily before slipping under his shirt, skating up toward his abused nipple.
“I promise you’ll enjoy this,” Sanguini cooed, but Harry didn’t believe him—he knew it would only bring him more pain and humiliation.
Without another warning, fangs sank into his cheek, marring it and Harry gasped as he felt his blood begin to drain from his face, wondering at the cruelty of it. Sanguini pulled him close, drinking intently, and Harry’s body became a wave of sensation as his nerves exploded at the onslaught.
“There now,” Sanguini murmured as he pulled away, running his blood-stained tongue across the arch of his nose and under his glasses so that Harry had to close his eyes. “It is a great honor to be Beloved.”
Harry tried to speak but he felt sluggish and his jaw had seized completely shut.
Sanguini’s hand tweaked his nipple again and then he felt the thin diaphanous shirt being ripped open, exposing his chest to the cloying heat again. “So many scars,” Sanguini whispered, but Harry couldn’t quite understand the words again.
Another shot of pain and pleasure wrenched through him as Sanguini bit his chest and then he could feel his blood being sucked from his veins, his nerves screaming as the hand moved down from his chest and down into his cotton trousers again, grasping the base of his limp member that didn’t even twitch at the sensation.
Sanguini growled angrily and tugged, but nothing happened. He sucked harshly at the wound, yet still Harry’s body didn’t give a pleasurable response. It only broke into a cold sweat from the heat that overwhelmed his senses as his eyes rolled back into his head.
“Bastardo! Non sarete mai caro!” he screeched as he pulled his fangs harshly away, tearing the skin on Harry’s torso. The cool hand released his sore cock and Harry felt himself fall to the ground in a heap, the cool earth welcoming him. He heard Sanguini spit on him in disgust before pressing a small pot angrily into his hand. With another twist in his gut Harry was gone, his eyes closing as he traveled through space and shutting out the pain that throbbed through him.
French to English.
À demain? Tomorrow?
La petite fille. The little girl.
Un heure, je pense. An hour, I think.
Tes pensées sont ailleurs. Your thoughts are elsewhere.
Tu ne penses pas que je suis beau. You do not think that I am beautiful.
Tu sais que je pense que tu es beau. You know that I think that you’re beautiful.
Tu es beau, mon Octavian. You are beautiful, my Octavian.
Mon petit ami, mon amour, mon fiancé, mon mari, le père de ma fille. My boyfriend, my love, my fiancé, my husband, the father of my daughter.
Salut, ma belle. Ça va? Hello, my beautiful one. How are you?
Italian to English.
Bastardo! Non sarete mai caro! Bastard! You are not my beloved!