Part the Nineteenth—
Some natural tears they dropp’d, but wip’d them soon; the world was all before them.
—Milton, Paradise Lost, Book XII
Harry awoke elsewhere, cool and wet, a cloth pressed against his jaw that still felt sore and pained.
“’Old still,” Octavian said calmly, his voice just above a whisper. “You are injured.”
Harry shivered at the hurt in his voice and opened his swollen eyes carefully, his vision taking several moments to adjust to the dim light of the master bathroom at the Firefly Jar. “Octavian?” he murmured, a smile forming on his sore lips. He felt like he had been brutally kissed against his will—
As the memories rushed back to him, he sat up quickly, ignoring the pain that coursed through his body. He looked at Octavian wildly who stared back impassively.
“How did I get here?” he asked worriedly, focusing on his body and all the pain, praying that Sanguini hadn’t broken his word once he had passed out and entered him. He could feel the gashes in his back, the pain in his cheek where he had been bitten and his jaw where he had been harshly kissed. His member ached from the constant and punishing squeezing and his chest seared from the final bite, but that was it. He breathed in relief. “Oh thank the gods.”
“Pourquoi?” Octavian questioned, his voice measured and giving nothing away as to his emotions. His black eyes though were hollow, gazing at Harry desperately.
“He didn’t—he didn’t rape me,” Harry said carefully.
Octavian dropped the bar of soap that he was lathering the washcloth with into the water and looked at Harry with shock before the tension in his shoulders left. “Merci les deiux. Merci.”
Harry looked at him in confusion, but was thoroughly though gently kissed. He lay passively in the bath, not having the energy to playfully battle with Octavian in the kiss, but Octavian seemed content in the gentle dominance, the claim on Harry. “What?” Harry asked, stunned, when Octavian pulled away and picked up the washcloth again.
“You arrived in le foyer covered in le sperme and injured. I did not know what to think and Daphne and Justin would not say a thing. C’était cruel de leur part. I did not know if you were attacked or if—or if it ‘ad been willing on your part.”
Harry looked at Octavian incredulously, but Octavian leaned forward and carefully kissed him again.
“Astoria a dit que tu es parti dans ce costume ridicule—et tu n’as jamais dit un mot.”
A tear fell against Harry’s cheek and he carefully reached up and stroked Octavian’s soft cheek. “You are my husband,” he murmured in assurance. “I would never do anything of the kind of my own will. I swear to you.”
Octavian nodded, his black eyes downcast, and leaned away again, carefully washing Harry’s arm. “I ‘ealed your wrist,” he stated matter-of-factly, his voice quavering.
“You will not tell me?” Octavian asked hesitantly and Harry looked up at him quickly, seeing the hurt in his eyes.
“Les vampires,” he whispered after a long moment, reaching out and clasping Octavian’s chin carefully in his wet fingers. “They are the most despicable creatures I’ve ever come across.”
Octavian shivered. “I will not ask—why,” he replied carefully. “I know zere are some things I cannot know for my safety, but I would not like you to go back zere again. Pour moi et Romola, Henri Jacques.”
“Je le jure,” Harry responded without hesitation, remembering Sanguini’s last words in Italian and understanding his meaning and his disgust at Harry’s lack of reaction to the feeding. “Never again.”
Harry laid his head back and closed his eyes, losing himself in exhaustion and Octavian’s careful ministrations of his wounds.
“The jar?” Harry asked when the water turned cold although he had no inclination to move. He liked it when Octavian doted on him. It made him feel wanted and loved, not that he ever had any doubt.
“Daphne took it. C’était l’odeur de la mort.”
Harry laughed quietly. “I don’t doubt it.”
“Yes, well, I ‘ave Winky airing le foyer. It is not ‘ealthy for Romola.”
Harry opened his eyes and regarded Octavian. “Of course not. I’m sorry.” He reached up and touched Octavian’s cheek, delighting when his husband leaned into the caress. He was glad he was so easily forgiven for the perceived transgression. “How is she?”
“Well. ‘Appy. Astoria spoils ‘er, je pense.” A smile quirked Octavian’s lips.
“She is practically her aunt.”
“Oui. Draco writes me every other day making certain I am treating ‘is fiancée well—as if zere could be any doubt. Still, she is ze next Lady Malfoy,” he murmured, his voice holding a tint of sadness.
“Octavian?” Harry asked, sitting up slightly in the clawed bathtub and grimacing at the pain that shot up his back.
“C’est Maman. Papa ‘as never said it, but I think ‘e wishes she were ‘is Lady Malfoy, comprends-tu?”
Harry nodded absently and sighed. “Yes, I think you are right. He loves Narcissa Malfoy but not as a man loves a woman—or a man loves another man.”
Octavian slipped his hand in the water and squeezed Harry’s fingers, and they shared a knowing though contented smile.
“It is wrong of me, I know, but sometimes I wish Tante Narcisse died in childbirth. Zen, whatever ‘appened zat night, Papa could ‘ave married Maman and mon enfance—“
“—would have been different, I know.” Harry squeezed Octavian’s fingers beneath the water in comfort.
Octavian hastily brushed away the tears forming in his eyes with the hand holding the washcloth. “Ce son des sottises et un rêve.”
“Peut-être,” Harry agreed. “But there’s nothing wrong with dreaming.”
“Even when I wish a good woman dead for my own ‘appiness?” He pulled his fingers away from Harry’s hand but stretched forward, lightly brushing the back of his fingers against Harry’s abused member. “I am sorry you were ‘urt.”
“I’m safe now,” Harry responded, ducking his head to try to look into Octavian’s eyes. “Safe in my husband’s care.”
“It is where you belong.” He dipped the washcloth back into the water and ran it across Harry’s chest. The water trickled down his stomach, soothing his ache. When Octavian reached lower, Harry stole a gentle kiss before leaning back again, falling asleep under his husband’s careful administrations.
Harry didn’t leave his bedroom for nearly two weeks, instead forced to have bedrest until Octavian was satisfied. Only Winky and little Romola were allowed in and he spent most of his time with his little girl, whom he showered with affection. He loved her happy expressions and how she scrunched up her little nose when she was hungry.
Octavian spent several hours a day just watching their interactions fondly, a smile on his face.
Every night he would come to bed and kiss Harry lingeringly and then turn away again, snapping that Harry needed his rest when he wanted to touch Octavian, which was becoming a quiet torture to Harry. He knew what he could handle, but Octavian wouldn’t listen to him, instead insisting that all the wounds heal first. Unfortunately, they were impervious to magical healing as they were infused with vampire venom. Harry groaned when he first heard this.
He decided right then and there if he ever saw Sanguini again, he might stake him through the heart as easily as breathing.
After a fortnight Harry was finally allowed out of bed and in the library where Daphne showed him the embalming jar and that it was authentic. “Lord Prince looked at it,” she admitted quietly. “Now all we need is the third gift.” She looked at Justin expectantly, but he wouldn’t meet her gaze.
Harry glanced between the two of them. “What did I miss?”
“Nothing,” Daphne said too quickly, going back to a desk where one of her latest letters from Krum was piled.
Justin rolled his eyes, and took out a copy of the Daily Prophet. “We’re trying to figure out how this made headlines.”
Harry took the paper and looked at it. There was a large picture of Viktor Krum and Daphne from Bill and Fleur’s wedding. They were dancing together, a small smile on Daphne’s face and a smug look on Viktor’s. He glanced up at the headlines and then paled in confusion. “You’re marrying Krum?”
“No, I’m not,” Daphne sighed. “I haven’t given an answer and somehow—somehow—this came out yesterday. Now I’m being swamped with owls from everyone I’ve ever known asking me if it’s true.” She sat down tiredly next to a stack of letters, which were on a separate desk away from Krum’s messages, that Harry just now noticed.
“Her parents sent her a Howler for not informing them before she leaked it to the press.”
“—which I didn’t,” Daphne added tiredly, pushing her hair roughly behind both ears in annoyance.
“No, of course not,” Harry admitted, walking over to Daphne and squeezing her shoulder affectionately.
She gave him a small smile in thanks.
“Well, I’m assuming no one on your end knew except for us.”
“And Madame Prince,” Justin added, but Harry shrugged.
“It’s not her style,” Harry said, and it wasn’t. Whatever her many faults, Lucrece was the soul of discretion. She lived a private life and, if she were to leak this, she would have gone to a more conservative or a French paper. Also, she knew about Flint and wouldn’t hurt Daphne’s chances with him. It made no sense. “Krum,” he finally thought aloud, “or a friend of his.”
Daphne rested her elbow on the desk and put her head in her hand in an unladylike gesture of defeat. “Yes. There’s absolutely no other explanation.”
Harry turned to Justin, who looked back stonily at him. The thought, obviously, had occurred to him as well.
“Did he know about Flint?”
“He was aware that I was being courted by someone else,” Daphne hedged, her voice low and sad.
“And Daphne hadn’t accepted his proposal—“ Justin added.
“—I didn’t refuse either,” she responded wearily, her large blue eyes sad.
There was a pause for several long moments. “Right,” Harry said, coming to a decision and going and sitting down at the only desk not covered with Daphne’s letters. He picked up a quill and put it to a piece of parchment. “As your future brother-in-law’s brother-in-law,” he scrunched his face at the convoluted relationship, “and close friend, I’ll take care of it.”
“What are you—?” Justin began to ask, but Daphne quickly got up from her chair and ran to Harry, embracing him.
“Thank you,” she whispered in his ear, tears trickling down into Harry’s hair. “Thank you.”
Harry paused and covered her hands with his own. “I’ll clear it up with the papers, your parents, and Flint—and I’ll make it so Krum prints a formal apology and denial in all British, French, and Bulgarian papers if he wants even a hope of contacting you again. Don’t write him anything until it happens,” he instructed Daphne, taking a leaf out of Draco Malfoy’s book on how he handled the Ginny situation the previous year. “Everything will be all right.”
Daphne squeezed him tightly and then released him, content to write his letters and throwing her own half-written note to Krum in the fire.
Harry set his jaw, dipping his quill again and beginning. No one, not even a internationally famous Quidditch player would bully Daphne into a marriage she didn’t want or ruin her reputation by having her seem to go back on her word. It just wasn’t done—and was ungentlemanly for a pureblood. He really hadn’t expected it of Krum, and really hoped a confidante had slipped up instead of the article being malicious on Krum’s part.
The four letters were quickly written and sealed with his official crest and, borrowing Prospère, Daphne’s owl and even the great avian that belonged to Krum himself that had been waiting for Daphne’s response, he sent them out immediately within an hour of the original conversation.
“Well, that’s done,” he remarked with a sigh, happy when there was a soft knock on the door and Octavian entered with a squirming Romola. Harry broke into a wide smile. “How is my beautiful little girl?” he asked Octavian, having eyes only for his family.
Daphne smiled brilliantly at Romola before going back to her task; she was bundling up the letters from her “well-wishers,” which Harry as her defender would deal with over the next day or so after penning a simple statement that he would copy magically.
“Elle veux son père,” Octavian murmured as he placed her in Harry’s arms. “She’s spoiled now.”
“Hardly,” Harry replied affectionately, leaning up and kissing Octavian. He then turned to a giggling Romola and gave her several butterfly kisses, causing her hands to squirm in delight.
“All children should be spoilt,” Harry countered, carefully shifting her until he was holding Romola in only one arm and bringing up his hand to wiggle her foot back and forth. “She’s going to be such a heartbreaker,” he predicted.
“Oui,” Octavian agreed. “Zen again, so is son père.”
“Heartbreaker, am I?” Harry asked, laughing. “Who’s heart have I broken? Yours is still safe in my keeping.”
Octavian looked at him sadly, but said nothing, instead turning back to Romola and caressing her cheek gently with her finger. “Elle est un cadeau.”
“Oui,” Harry agreed, kissing her forehead gently. “A precious gift from the gods.”
The sound of a book gently being closed reminded Harry that they were not alone in the library. “Did you see yesterday’s paper?” he asked Octavian, who looked up surprised.
“Non,” he admitted. “I ‘ave not looked at it in a long time. Zey are always writing of ze changes in ze Ministry, and it is depressing.”
Justin handed over the paper.
“Krum’s being dealt with,” Harry informed Octavian as he watched his husband scan the article. He turned to Daphne, “Why didn’t your father—?” he began to ask hesitantly, and she nodded in understanding.
“The Howler was a bit—explosive,” she said carefully. “Justin managed to cast a silencer before it started screaming, but, well, it turns out that Krum is unsuitable because he dated Granger back in our fourth year, and Father was explicit that I shouldn’t contact him ever again. Mother sent a message, fortunately, just asking me to give Father a week to cool down, and I thought it would be for the best.” She slumped back in her chair. “It was just a mess and with Draco at Hogwarts—“
Harry nodded. “The Carrows are probably checking the mail.” It would make getting an owl to him quickly difficult, as there would be a time lag, given the volume of mail coming into Hogwarts.
“It was all just so sudden and overwhelming,” Daphne admitted quietly, showing her weakness. “Astoria is confused because, well, I never really told her about my preference for Marcus. She’s had her heart set on Krum since the wedding—not that it’s anyone’s fault but mine. I should have told her, but with Hogwarts being so stressful on her, and her own fears about Draco not proposing or changing his mind—“
“Draco would never—“ Octavian began to protest, setting aside the paper and sitting down in a comfortable armchair, looking imperious and like the lord of the manor in his wizard coat.
“I know,” Daphne said with a small smile. “Still, Astoria worried. It’s only natural considering he dated Pansy while he was in love with her.—So, she doesn’t know.” She shrugged elegantly. “I know people consider me emotionless. I’m cold to all but my closest friends and family, so all she knew was that Flint was half-courting me while I was at Hogwarts, but I didn’t give him any encouragement at the time, and I was just so happy at the wedding to be admired and not be a third wheel to my little sister. So embarrassing,” she huffed.
Justin grinned at her from his sprawled position on the floor.
“Viktor’s also the better match,” she mused aloud, a deprecating smile on her lips, “despite having dated Granger of all people.”
“Well, let us ‘ope zat Marcus Flint gets ze message and does not keep our Daphne waiting,” Octavian teased, and everyone burst out into laughter.
“We’re going to have to break into Gringotts,” Justin announced a few days later. Daphne was off whispering with Astoria—a letter had arrived from Flint earlier and the contents had made Daphne smile and blush—so it was only the two of them in the library. “The king’s gift must be there—it’s just a matter of where.”
Harry sighed. “Well, at least Lord Prince said he would be able to get us the ritual’s words later next week.” He tried to sound happy, but wasn’t quite able to manage it.
“Are you sure you trust him?” Justin asked carefully, looking at him with his light brown eyes. “We hardly know the man. I haven’t even met him.”
“You’re a Muggle-born on the run from the Ministry,” Harry countered, “and he has Octavian’s interests at heart.”
“Octavian’s interests and yours aren’t necessarily the same thing,” Justin mumbled to himself, but Harry chose not to respond. “You don’t—“ Justin paused, looking over a small book he was reading. “You don’t suppose that the goblin king would be—well—er—the Goblin King, do you?”
Harry screwed up his eyes and looked at Justin in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“It’s just, hear me out,” Justin said, sitting up and folding his legs beneath him on the floor. “I was telling Romola stories the other day—“ (Harry couldn’t help but smile at this) “—and was rather missing being able to watch television and remembered a film. Labyrinth.”
Harry’s eyes scrunched up. “Never saw it,” Harry said carefully, wondering where this was going.
Justin sighed. “It’s a cult classic. David Bowie.”
“The singer,” Harry elaborated.
“Yeah, and he played Jareth, the Goblin King.”
Waiting for a few moments, Harry turned the idea in his mind. “This, though, is a Muggle film.”
“Yes,” Justin agreed, looking back at the book, which turned out to be a small volume of children’s stories. “However, the story of the three kings giving gifts is also a ‘Muggle story,’ as Daphne would say. After the gifts are given, Jesus even survives when King Herod tries to have him killed and then survives his own crucifixion, in a way, later in life. If there’s an actual wizard truth in that, why not in this film?”
Harry nodded in understanding. “Makes sense, I suppose. However, we’ve never learned about a Goblin King in History of Magic. Surely one would have come up sometime before the O.W.L.s, don’t you think?”
Justin deflated. “I didn’t think about it like that. It’s just—there’s so much gold in Gringotts. Without an inside presence of some king—and it would have to be a goblin and the ones with principles are all on the run—then how are we supposed to know where to go once we’ve actually broken in?”
Harry stilled, thinking for a moment.
“Harry?” Justin asked, but Harry quickly held up his hand, silently asking for Justin to wait several moments.
“Gold,” he whispered excitedly and then rushed out of the room. “Give me a moment!” he shouted back, tearing up the stairs to his room.
He carefully opened the door, but saw that the room was empty. Octavian must have taken Romola down to the kitchen or the drawing room. The day before Winky had helped them make chocolate chip cookies—most of the batter wound up on the floor or on Romola, but she had been happy and gurgling as much as she ever did, and Octavian had given Harry chocolate filled kisses that made his heart soar.
He ran over to the bedside table and pulled out his money pouch, filled with galleons, sickles, and knuts, before tearing out of the room once again.
“What was that about?” Justin asked when Harry came back in the room. Justin was carefully putting away a few volumes, the children’s storybook still left out on the floor.
“Gold,” Harry said. “The goblins’ gift is gold and they give it out to wizards as money. It’s hiding in plain sight.”
Justin’s eyes widened and he hurried over as Harry drew out the first galleon. It was a thin coin made of solid gold with the carefully inscribed insignia of the bank, a treasure chest.
“We need a magnifying glass,” Justin said, going to the large desk in the corner and searching through the many drawers.
“It’s not just a chest, I think,” Justin replied, exclaiming triumphantly when he found a rusted magnifying glass. “Merlin, this thing is ancient.”
“It’s the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black,” Harry deadpanned, a slight smile to his lips. “Of course it’s ancient.”
Justin brought it over and they placed the galleon on a desk, carefully looking at the coin through the glass. “Ah, there!” Justin said happily, pointing to the chest. “Do you see it? There’s a small vial and then a pot next to the treasure chest.”
“Frankincense and Myrrh,” Harry breathed. “Oh, they’re clever.”
“Terribly clever,” Justin agreed. “There’s only been one recorded case of someone breaking into Gringotts and making it out alive. The average person would just assume that the bank had the final gift and then would be trapped in a vault or eaten by dragons when they tried to steal it—and it would be in the thief’s pocket all along!”
Harry quietly agreed. Setting down the magnifying glass, he turned and sank into an armchair. “Now all we need is the ritual, and we’ll have that soon enough.”
“How do I look?” Daphne asked anxiously that evening, wearing a lavender Muggle dress and high heels. She had come into the drawing room where Harry sat on the couch, Octavian’s head in his lap, and their daughter resting in her bassinet on the floor. Justin was over in a corner, although he kept on glancing toward the telephone room, as if expecting Ivy to call.
Harry looked up at her and smiled. “Beautiful,” he told her truthfully, a smile on his face. Octavian said nothing and, looking down, Harry saw that he had nodded off into sleep. His smile softened at the sight.
“You’ll knock him dead,” Justin agreed, as Astoria came up behind her sister, grinning.
Astoria looked healthier than a few short months ago. She was well-rested and smile constantly lingered on her lips, her brown eyes shining in mirth.
“Is tonight the night?” Harry asked, and Daphne nodded, blushing. “Well, then, Miss Greengrass,” he nodded to her formally from his position on the couch. “I wish you prosperity and every future happiness. And tell Flint I’ll skin him alive without magic if he so much as makes you cry.”
Daphne laughed prettily and curtsied in return, bowing her head formally. “I thank you, Lord Black,” she intoned, “and don’t worry, I’ll tell him. Poor Marcus won’t know what to do, especially when Draco offers his own threat.”
“It’s what brothers and brothers-in-law do,” Justin remarked, his dark eyes flashing. “Ivy’s seven-year-old brother has threatened me three times already, and Ivy and I aren’t even engaged. I take it as a sign that I’m doing the right thing.”
Harry and Justin shared an amused smile.
With final farewells and promises to tell them everything in the morning if she got back too late, Daphne was out the front door, and the household, happy and content, knew that if all went well, Daphne would finally get the love she deserved.
That night, when Romola had been quietly put down to sleep, Harry came into his bedroom and found Octavian wearing only his Quiddtich jersey, his pack of tarot cards in his hand, the beginnings of a three card spread lying across the counterpane. The past, the Ace of Wands, a small fairy child sitting on the back of an owl, their little Romola. The present, the Five of Cups Reversed, was a woman in a red cloak walking through a dreamland, a small dog sitting by her side.
The firefly light danced across Octavian’s thin wrist as he pulled out the final card, turning it over carefully and looking at it.
A frown marred his beautiful face as he carefully set it down—the Tower.
“Not again,” he whispered desperately, his fingers gently tracing the cards. “Mes dieux, please not again—not Henri Jacques.”
Harry carefully moved forward through the shadows and gently touched the side of Octavian’s cheek, causing him to glance up with tear-filled eyes.
“Henri,” he began desperately, but Harry silenced him with a gentle kiss, not wanting to know the future.
All he wanted was the present, to feel Octavian against him, to be pressed within him. He desperately wanted another child, but it was too soon, he told himself mentally as Octavian melted against him, his hands pushing the tarot cards away and off the bed.
Their future was unlimited.
French to English.
Merci les dieux. Merci. Thank the gods. Thank you.
Le foyer. The foyer.
Le sperme. Sperm.
C’était cruel de leur part. It was cruel of them.
Astoria a dit que tu es parti dans ce costume ridicule—et tu n’as jamais dit un mot. Astoria said that you left in a ridiculous outfit—and you never said a thing.
Pour moi et Romola, Henri Jacques. For me and Romola, Henri Jacques.
Je le jure. I swear.
C’était l’odeur de la mort. It smelled of death.
Comprends-tu? Do you understand?
Mon enfance. My childhood.
Ce sont des sottises et un rêve. It’s nonsense and a dream.
Elle veux son père. She wants her father.
Elle est un cadeau. She is a gift.