Methought I saw my late espousèd saint brought to me like Alcestis from the grave.
—Milton, “On His Deceased Wife”
It was cold out for the last day of July. Octavian sat in the sitting room of Malfoy Manor, looking out the window at his two children who were playing on the lawn despite the cool weather. Romola was so beautiful with Octavian’s golden hair and Henri Jacque’s bright, green eyes. She was eleven years old and going to Beauxbatons that autumn, and he wasn’t certain what he would do without her. Octavian knew that he still had his second child that Henri Jacques had given him—a beautiful boy only a year younger than Romola with black hair and startling ice blue eyes. His features were all Octavian’s and yet he had to wear small glasses on his pert little nose, just like his father once had.
Romola could attend Hogwarts, he knew. The Dark Lord had been gone for years—little more than a whisper since the day Octavian found Harry in the library, cloaked only in wolf’s fur. Hogwarts was safe now—yet still Octavian could not bring himself to send his children there, not when it had brought him so much pain as a child.
Henri Jacques, his heart murmured and he mourned for a moment before forcing himself to put the familiar pain away. Today should be a day of joy, he reminded himself. Today was the day his Henri Jacques would have turned twenty-eight. Still, Octavian wore black as he always did. He was always richly dressed, in black trousers and shining black shoes. His assortment of wizard coats were always finely cut and in the latest style, made of the deepest color of midnight with black stitching. On his left hand he wore the strange ring that he had found in his beloved Henri Jacques’ hand that horrible morning so many years ago. Sometimes he felt like he could hear Henri Jacques whispering to him, telling him of his everlasting love, that he was sorry, that he was still present and watching him, loving him. It was enough for him; it had to be enough.
His children often remarked on it with their sweet voices lisping their French, but he only smiled at them, never answering. They had never known their other father so they could not mourn as he did.
His beloved husband had given him two beautiful children, and like a Prince Octavian knew he could never love again. Love had died when Henri Jacques had slipped from his bed only to be found dead the next morning in the library, that strange ring in his hand. It had been horrifying, truly horrifying. Octavian still could barely remember it, the shock at seeing his husband’s mangled body, his scar cut open and blood covering his beautiful lips too much to leave anything but the haziest impressions on his mind.
Grandpère—a man he would now only call Lord Prince—had led him away and arranged everything. Octavian had only been able to kiss Henri Jacques’s cold lips once more before his coffin was closed for the last time, placed in the earth in Godric’s Hollow where his parents also rested for eternity.
There his heart lay with his husband in the soil, although he could still conjure affection for their two beautiful children. Henri Jacques had given them to him, had gifted Octavian with Hadrian Nür with his dying breaths. He must have wished little Hadrian into existence, perhaps knowing he might not escape the ritual unscathed after he had heard Octavian read Romola the story of the three unearthly kings, and their gifts that took instead of gave. Still Hadrian was a precious gift, the final act of their love that Octavian knew would never die even with his last breath. His beautiful and unearthly little Lord Black. When he turned eleven, Octavian would give him Henri Jacques’s invisibility cloak—but until then—until then—
Octavian closed his eyes. Until then. Some nights when the world became too painful Octavian would pull it out and wrap himself in the silvery folds and lose himself, pretending that if he didn’t exist in a world where Henri Jacques no longer breathed, then it wouldn’t hurt as much.
How Octavian now hated his grandpère. He had learned from Daphne that he had been the source of their information on where the artifacts were kept and his own grandfather had foolishly confessed that he had wondered if a price would be taken. He had banished him from the Firefly Jar, whose secret passed to Octavian upon his husband’s death, and he had never allowed his grandfather into his presence again.
Romola and Hadrian didn’t need a great-grandfather who effectively murdered their ‘Daddy.’ No one needed a man like that in their life.
Their lives were happy, complete. They rarely left the Firefly Jar, the home which Henri Jacques had provided for them. It was all they needed, and they were safe under the Fidelius Charm that lingered. Reporters couldn’t find them there, and they only left for Malfoy Manor or for a month every summer in France near where Octavian had grown up. They were leaving tomorrow.
He watched as Astoria walked out with her little son’s hand in hers. Draco had named him Scorpius Hyperion, the name of a Black, named for the stars. It suited him with his white-blond hair and gray eyes. He was as fine a nephew as Octavian could ever hope. He knew Henri Jacques would have adored him almost as much as their own children.
A tear trickled down his cheek and he swiped it aside. Now was not a time for grieving when he had been in mourning for over ten years. These were his last months with Romola before he sent her away to Beauxbatons.
He tapped his wand against his thigh as a physical reminder. Not today. He couldn’t mourn today; today should be a day of joy. His Henri Jacques was twenty-eight although he lay cold in his grave.
Another slap of the wand against his leg. The wand was a strange piece. At Henri Jacques’s death, Octavian had been infuriated and Draco was the first to find him, this wand of elder in his hand. Octavian couldn’t remember what he’d said to him, but Draco’s arms around him in comfort had been too much, and Octavian had lashed out at his brother whose eyes showed remorse and grief. They had battled and Octavian knew that Draco didn’t really fight him. It didn’t matter—all Octavian had needed was for his magic to be released so he could free his hurt and anger just a bit.
The elder wand had only worked for Octavian since that day and, as a final gift to his beloved Henri Jacques, Octavian had buried his first wand, the wand that said he should love greatly and love only once, with his husband.
It was a silent message. Octavian could only hope that Henri Jacques would be able to understand it from the beyond.
Romola ran across the lawn toward Daphne Flint, who was round with pregnancy. Marcus would stop by later to kiss his wife deeply in front of the children, before whisking her away in a special magical car. He as rather vigilant about her health and refused to let her Floo or Apparate while carrying their first child. Marcus only smiled for her, though his features would soften among the extended family.
A soft smile came to Octavian’s face at the sight of his daughter. He remembered being eleven, frightened, on the Hogwarts Express. That was the day he had first met his Papa, the time he had first laid eyes on the love of his life. Henri Jacques was what he called himself, and Octavian had thought of him as that even though it was another three years before he quite realized that Henri was the famous Harry Potter.
Romola’s life would be starting soon, her life away from him, his beautiful French rose. It was as it should be. In another year Hadrian would be following her, and Octavian would be left in the Firefly Jar without lightning bugs and the memory of his husband’s sweet and passionate kisses. Occasionally Hadrian’s godfather—Aidan Longbottom—along with his husband might come visit, but still the house would be dark and empty. Still, that was as it should be now that Henri Jacques was gone.
No, Princes could never love again, not when their hearts had passed on. It would be decades before he joined his Henri Jacques, yet still in the dead of night he could sometimes feel him linger as if he were close and watching, loving him, waiting just beyond perception. He never judged and was there for only the briefest of moments before being gone. It was a true blessing, knowing that his husband had passed on and yet had somehow transcended death to whisper love to him when he felt the most lost, the most alone.
Octavian had kept his promise from all those years ago. He would not leave their two children to be unloved and parentless. They would remain, the flecks of light in his darkness, and in the night he would dream of Henri Jacques making sweet love to him although he always woke up wanting and alone.
It was the curse of his grandpère, of his maman who once loved a boy that she would not trust, of his papa who still lived on, watching over his children and grandchildren happily with his beautiful and devoted wife on his arm. It was his inheritance and Octavian accepted it. He only prayed that Henri Jacques’s children would not feel such pain.
The smell of earth and treacle tart wafted over him and the merest hint of a breeze’s kiss brushed across his lips. He parted them obligingly, tasting the sweetness he had not known in so many years, sighing when the presence left him.
For the briefest of moments he wished—wished with all his heart—that he would once again be with his Henri Jacques, that he had lingered, that his life had never been claimed, and a feeling of peace and of a prayer answered washed over him.
The clock on the mantle stilled for several long moments, silent, but Octavian did not notice, even when breath failed to enter his lungs, although they did not burn.
He turned his eyes back outdoors to his children, seeing Henri Jacques in them.
A smile lifted across his lips, tainted with loss and love.
All was as it should be.
This is the second installment of the Fireflies Verse.
The prequel (and the original chaptered fanfic) is entitled “Of Princes and Fireflies.” It is the first of my works (and not the last) to feature Octavian Nür Prince.
Cen has always had the intention to make this a trilogy (and multiple unfinished versions attest to this desire she has had since 2009).