Part the Third—
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.
—Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene ii
Sighing, Harry Potter closed his eyes and pretended to fall asleep, knowing that his drawn curtains weren’t going to serve as much as a deterrent to his friends. It was a few months into his sixth year, and already Harry wished that he were anywhere else but here. Even the Slytherin dungeons would be preferable, he thought wryly to himself. He knew he was safe behind the ancient walls, but he was sick of being coddled and told what to do everywhere he turned.
Even his best friends had become more of a hindrance than a comfort. Hermione, with her constant rattling on ‘being safe’ and ‘following the rules’ seemed to forget that it had been her idea the year before to start an illegal school club, just so she (as well as everyone else, of course) could do better in Defense Against the Dark Arts. O.W.L. scores were everything. And she would even ‘cheat’ to do well, dragging everyone along behind her, even if Harry hadn’t wanted to do it.
At least that was a blessing. He had liked it, but that didn’t mean Hermione’s original plan hadn’t been completely selfish on her part, although she hid it well behind a veneer of concern for others and the upcoming war.
Now this year when he had the one up on her finally in something, he was ‘breaking the rules’ and ‘cheating.’ Whenever she saw him walking around with the half-blood prince’s Potions book, an almost Slytherin sneer would grace her features. ‘Ill-gotten gains,’ she had whispered earlier that day when Slughorn had applauded him once again for a particularly fine cauldron of the Draught of Living Death. ‘He could never do it on his own.’
Really, Harry thought to himself, all he was doing was following directions—superior directions, yes, but directions in the book nonetheless. He would be cheating if he didn’t make the potion himself or stole someone else’s potion and claimed it was his own. Professor Slughorn never said they had to use the exact directions in the book. Harry just had a superior source of information.
Of course, he would never actually say that to Hermione’s face in fear of a lecture.
Ron at least thought it was brilliant. Then again, over the past few years, he had proven that although he was a great mate, Harry could never really trust him with much of anything. After Ron had walked out on him over the Goblet of Fire, everything had changed, although Harry had gone along with it and pretended their friendship had returned to what it had been.
His friendship with Hermione had been strained even longer than that, ever since the train ride at the beginning of their third year when the French wizard ran into their compartment. He could never quite look at her the same way, even when she stood by him during the Tournament. It just wasn’t the same. He had seen a terribly cruel streak in her, which never quite left his thoughts.
Sometimes he wondered if his whole life was a half-truth, a lie. There was no longer the black and white everyone around him believed in. It was all shades of gray, as cliché as that sounded to Harry.
“I wish I knew who the Prince was,” Harry had lamented earlier that evening.
Hermione had sniffed. “Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?”
Ron had looked at her, dumbfounded, before turning back to his half-finished Charms essay. His writing was overly large and there was far too much space between lines. He also still had three feet to go and it looked as if there wasn’t possibly anything else he could say about the Bubblehead Charm.
Hermione didn’t offer anything else on the subject of the Prince, but instead sat primly in her gold armchair with a large tome on her lap. Harry briefly wondered how she managed to keep dust off herself.
“All right, Hermione,” Harry replied, exasperated. He was trying to keep the tension out of his voice. “Who is the Prince then?”
She preened. Ron stared at her dumbly and Harry repressed a snort. Really, she looked almost like a peacock, except not as colorful—or pretty. “Well, I would assume he is some relation to the fourth-year.” Her words were icy, and she spat ‘fourth-year’ as if the student had done something cruel to her. Harry briefly wondered what could have evoked such a response from her, before he realized that he just didn’t care.
Ron swung his leg restlessly over the arm of the sofa he was sitting on.
“Fourth-year?” Harry inquired.
Hermione hummed in the back of her throat. “Really, Harry, do you ever pay attention to the Sortings?”
At the comment, Harry’s face darkened. “If he’s a fourth-year, then I wasn’t there, Hermione, and neither were you. McGonagall called us away. Surely you remember that?” His tone was clipped and he turned his attention back to his Advanced Potions text, not wanting to look at the annoying witch anymore.
How could he forget that particular Hogwarts feast after he had almost fainted on the train when the Dementors had come into their train compartment? He remembered looking about the table hoping the French first-year might be among the new students, but hadn’t seen him. He had managed to catch a few glimpses of his honey blond hair in the halls over the past few years, but had never come across him again. He’d been rather elusive and although Harry still didn’t know why, he felt like he was missing something almost important in his life. It was a peculiar gut instinct to have, but he really couldn’t do anything about it. He didn’t even know the student’s name—and he would be damned if he asked Hermione considering her response to the boy when they first met.
How had he not noticed how bossy Hermione had gotten over the years? Perhaps it had started back in that compartment with the French student. She had been rude and uncaring to the first-year, who was obviously feeling alone and out-of-place.
He had still been shivering from the memories the Dementors had conjured for him, and Harry knew that they must have been worse than his own hellish vision of his mother’s murder for the foreign wizard to have been weeping and murmuring to himself in fear.
Hermione’s bossiness might have been endearing when she and Harry had first become friends, but with each passing year and the dangers they found themselves in, it just got worse and worse. Now it was almost as if he was suffocating—and Hermione was the one holding the pillow over his head. He just wanted to be himself, to be left alone. He was sick of being ‘the Chosen One’ or ‘the Boy-Who-Lived.’ It was all rubbish. Protection was not the same as smothering and not letting him take a step out of line.
Clearly, someone needed to buy Hermione a dictionary. She obviously hadn’t absorbed the information properly in second-year when she read the large one in the Hogwarts Library cover-to-cover to, as she had primly said, to expand her vocabulary.
He snorted at the memory.
Maybe for Christmas he would buy her a pocket version so she could keep it in her robe pocket at all times, and then he could just refer her to it when she was being overbearing.
Of course, she would only huff at him and roll her eyes, muttering about something or other.
He never could win with her, could he?
Sometimes he wondered if it was even worth it.
Yes, he had to remind himself. Yes it is.
Somehow, though, that didn’t quite seem to be true anymore.
Hermione was glaring daggers at him. Harry couldn’t bring himself to care.
“Are you going to tell us or not?” His tone was low and he didn’t even bother looking over at her, his eyes squinting down at the Prince’s tight handwriting.
She huffed. “Well, if you’re going to be like that—”
Harry sighed. Fine then, he mentally decided. If she wouldn’t tell him, then he would simply have to find out on his own.
The next day Harry managed to skillfully avoid Hermione in the common room and tracked down Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil—the resident gossips of his year. Hermione had glared at him all through breakfast and lunch, but Harry had pointedly ignored her, instead reading the Prince’s notes on some spell he appeared to have invented for his enemies. He really had to try that out sometime.
Perhaps on Malfoy. . . .
“Lavender, Parvati,” he said nervously as he came up to them, trying to smile a bit. Smiling was good, he reminded himself. It seemed friendly. “I wonder if you could help me with something.”
Lavender giggled before nodding. “Sure, Harry, what do you need?”
“Well, you two seem to be the resident source of information on everyone and I was wondering—” He hesitated and glanced around the room, double-checking that no one was listening.
“Ooh,” Parvati put in, “do you have a crush on a girl?”
“W-what?” Harry stammered, looking at her with wide eyes.
Both girls giggled. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Harry. Anyone we know?” Lavender leaned in conspiratorially.
“Please tell me it’s not Granger,” Parvati said.
“N-no! Of course not.” Harry desperately tried not to think of Hermione in that way. It just seemed wrong. And Ron might kill him, come to think of it.
“Is it someone else in Gryffindor then? Romilda Vane, maybe?” Parvati asked with a smile. “She really likes you, you know.”
“O-oh really?” Harry responded, remembering the pretty yet pushy fourth-year. He didn’t really care for her, though, and wished that she would stop giggling whenever she tried to talk to him.
“Yes,” Lavender enthused. “She’s really nice.”
Harry nodded absently. “That’s not what I wanted to ask you, though.”
The two girls seemed mildly disappointed but nonetheless waited for him to continue. Harry guessed they really did like to gossip about people’s love lives. Hermione often complained about it.
“Um, I’m trying to track down a student. A fourth-year, surname of Prince?”
Lavender looked thoughtful.
“A boy?” Parvati asked.
“Um, maybe,” Harry shrugged. “I need to ask him about a relative of his, and I have no idea who he is or what house he’s in or anything.”
“Oh,” Parvati replied before brightening up and turning to Lavender. “It’s him isn’t it?”
Lavender nodded enthusiastically.
“Yes, I thought so. Pansy was talking about him over the summer. Such a disgrace.”
Harry’s eyebrows rose. Pansy? As in Pansy Parkinson? He knew Parvati and Lavender were purebloods, but he didn’t know that Parvati was friends enough with Parkinson to call the Slytherin by her first name. He guessed pureblood society was a little bit insular.
“Prince is a disgrace?” he asked.
Parvati nodded. “Yes, such a scandal. We don’t really talk about it, though. Well, not about the sire.”
Harry looked confused and Lavender quickly explained. “Octavian Prince. He’s the only son of Lucrece Prince. The Princes are a very prominent family, of course.” She sighed, her eyes glazed slightly, as if that said it all.
Harry simply nodded.
“Anyway, she—well—we think she seduced a married wizard. Another pureblood, actually, and had Octavian. She fled the country, of course. No way around it.”
“They say,” Parvati picked up, leaning forward conspiratorially, her voice hushed, “that la Princesse, as they called her, tried to get him—” Harry assumed she meant the pureblood wizard involved and he was briefly thankful that he was not a pureblood; this was far too complicated in his opinion, “—to divorce his dear wife and marry her instead.”
Harry’s eyebrows scrunched together. This stuff actually happened outside of Aunt Petunia’s favorite soap operas?
Lavender pulled at his sleeve and forced him to sit between her and Parvati in a secluded corner—the better to gossip in, Harry supposed.
“Um,” he said, hoping to get some information about the Princes out of the two Gryffindor girls, “so I take it he didn’t divorce his wife?” He blushed. He couldn’t believe he was actually discussing this—actually gossiping with Parvati and Lavender.
Lavender giggled, causing Harry to blush even more when a few girls around him actually turned to look, Ginny among them. Her red mane fell around her shoulders and her large brown eyes gazed curiously at the unlikely trio.
“No, he didn’t!” Lavender exclaimed, giving the three of them even more attention. “How could he? I mean, divorce is legal, I suppose, but there hasn’t been a pureblood divorce since . . .” She paused, looking over at her best friend.
“I think there was one in Germany in the late 1800s,” she supplied.
“The Straussburg case?”
“Well, that doesn’t count then, since Straussburg was transfigured permanently into a woman. Accidental spell magic when he was trying to invent something-or-other.” She sighed dramatically. “Half-bloods rarely divorce, as well. There’s a case once every few decades, but it’s always hushed up. Muggle-borns, well . . .” She trailed off with a significant look.
Harry found himself interested despite himself. He had no idea that wizards didn’t actually divorce.
Lavender and Parvati were looking at him questioningly, and Harry realized he was supposed to speak as the resident authority, having been raised by Muggles and all. “Divorce is common among Muggles,” he said sagely, trying to sound like he was not gossiping considering the fact that Ginny was staring at him openly.
“That must be it then,” Parvati giggled.
“So she left the country and then gave birth to Prince?”
“Yes,” Lavender affirmed as she began to play with the ends of her hair. “No one heard anything of her until Prince came his first year in rags.”
“They weren’t rags, Lav,” Parvati interrupted. “Nothing worse than the Weasleys wear.” She gave her friend a pointed look and Lavender blushed. “In fact, a bit nicer. He had a new wand and everything.”
Harry wondered what he was missing.
“It’s such a scandal. His legitimate sibling is even here. Can you imagine having to look at such an abomination?” Lavender’s nose scrunched in disgust before she continued. “No one’s really certain what happened, of course. Lucrece hasn’t been seen in fifteen years and no one would ask him about it. His poor wife! She’s so lovely, such wonderful sense of fashion.”
Parvati nodded in agreement, and looked like she was going to gossip a bit more. “But that’s not the best part.”
“There’s more?” Harry asked, already feeling slightly green. He knew that a large part of the common room was listening to them and he couldn’t believe that anyone would call someone an abomination. It sounded like something the Dursleys would say, if they had the vocabulary. Which they obviously didn’t.
Harry suddenly became very thankful that Hermione appeared to be in the library and wouldn’t be able to lay in on him for having this conversation. Ron was strangely not in the common room either. He was probably sleeping in the dorms, he realized, before returning his attention to his companions.
“Yes,” Parvati said. “He comes from a long line of Slytherins. Everyone, and I mean everyone, on both sides have been in Slytherin.”
“And he’s a Hufflepuff,” Harry supplied.
“It gets better,” Lavender said excitedly, grabbing Harry’s hand. “Within twenty-four hours, the gifts started to arrive.”
She nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, gifts. From him.”
Harry looked to Parvati for confirmation and she nodded solemnly.
“He was discreet, of course. Never used any of his family owls or even his personal familiar that he uses when contacting his legitimate son,” she and Parvati exchanged a knowing look, “but one he must have purchased specifically for Prince. Very rare. A masked owl.”
He nodded, allowing her to continue.
“The first day he followed the pureblood tradition.”
Harry looked at her confused. “The pureblood tradition?”
Parvati looked at him sadly. “He’s an orphan, Lav.”
“Oh! Of course. How silly of me. I’m sorry, Harry, of course you wouldn’t know, especially as Ron doesn’t follow the old ways. . .” A dreamy look crossed her face before she quickly turned back to Harry. “Anyway, it’s tradition the first morning after a sorting for wizards to send their children their Hogwarts tie and badges, as well as any extra robes they may require. Oh, and the scarves as well. Muggle-borns get them from the house-elves. You must have, too,” she said somewhat thoughtfully.
“Odd tradition,” Harry remarked.
“Not really,” Parvati explained, “if you think about it. It’s a show of approval from the families. If they don’t approve, they will publicly not send the tie and scarf. That only occasionally happens as families like to at least show a solid front, but it does happen.”
“So Prince’s dad—”
“Yes,” Lavender replied. “No one knows how he found out about the Sorting or how he knew who Octavian even was, but first thing in the morning that owl came in and brought Prince several sets of Hufflepuff ties, badges, and scarves.”
“That’s not all,” Parvati cut in. “It also brought a shrunken trunk full of wizarding robes, shoes, even a set of decent Muggle clothes.”
“Prince lives somewhere in France or something among Muggles, so he needs to blend in,” Lavender supplied. “La Princesse would never associate with Muggles any other way.”
“Prince just opened the trunk at the Hufflepuff table and there were even brand new spell books and an expensive cauldron. He must have gotten the list from someone and his measurements from Madam Malkin.”
“The trunk was top of the line,” Lavender sighed, “had his name crafted in magical ivory along the top and everything.”
“Octavian Nür Prince,” Parvati sighed. “If only he were legitimate.”
Lavender snorted. “You’re two years older!”
Parvati looked affronted. “So? That’s not that uncommon.”
“Well, he’s practically been legitimated. He always sent a letter to Prince every single Monday without fail, often with an allowance on the first of every month or a small gift. They say he even set up a trust fund. Everyone speculated that it was only a matter of time before he took Prince away from la Princesse. There would be nothing she could do against him. She has no rights in pureblood society and if his wife does not object—”
“I don’t see how she could have. Of course, the heir hates his guts. Then again, so do most purebloods. If la Princesse was powerful enough to seduce him just imagine what her son will be able to do, especially with his sire’s money and charm.”
A silence settled over the three of them as Harry tried to take this all in. The magical world seemed to be even more bigoted than the Muggle the older he got.
“The Beauxbatons students all knew of him, of course,” Parvati said with some authority, having briefly dated a student at the end of their fourth year.
“Ooh, what did Armand tell you?”
Parvati sniffed. “Only that la Princesse receives several offers of marriage from both wizards and Muggles every year and turns them all down. They’re poorer than the Weasleys, believe it or not, and the Muggles wonder why she doesn’t sell herself. They already call her a whore and Prince a Changeling-child, or some such nonsense. It seems that everyone in France expects Prince to become just as much of a whore as his mother—if not more so.”
“He is pretty enough, and I doubt he’d mind bending—”
Harry’s head snapped toward her, his jaw clenched in anger. “How can you possibly say that about him? He’s what? Fourteen?”
Those who were not-so-discreetly eavesdropping on them jumped at his biting tone.
‘Muggles,’ Parvati mouthed over Harry’s shoulder to her friend, who only nodded.
“Sorry, Harry, just speculation. So you want to find Prince, do you?” she asked sweetly.
Harry bit down on his tongue, feeling blood pool in his mouth. He just couldn’t believe what they had just said—what they had been saying.
Lavender looked at her watch and Parvati slipped away. “It’s half an hour until the end of class,” she said to no one in particular as Parvati ran back into the room.
“Got it!” she exclaimed, her breathing slightly labored. “Fifth period, fourth-year Hufflepuffs,” she mumbled, flipping through a bright pink book in her hands before she pointed at something happily. “Just finishing up with Charms and then he has a free period before Transfiguration with the Slytherins.”
“If you head down there, you should be able to catch him in between.”
Harry nodded, his jaw still set. “What does he look like then?” he asked.
Parvati stared at him with surprise. “You don’t know? He looks so much like his legitimate brother. . .”
“No, I don’t,” he replied, fighting the urge to roll his eyes. Would he have asked if he already knew?
“Oh!” Lavender squeaked. “Um. Goes up to about your nose. Hufflepuff.”
Harry looked at her dumbly, knowing that description could apply to several fourth-year Hufflepuffs.
“French accent,” Parvati supplied and Harry’s eyes lit up in recognition. Could Prince be the first-year that had come into his compartment, chased by a Dementor?
“Black eyes?” he asked. “Blond hair?”
“That’s the one!” Lavender said. “He’s far too innocent as well. If his father hadn’t immediately taken an interest, he’d probably have been in the hospital wing through most of his time here at Hogwarts.”
Harry nodded. “Better go catch him then,” he muttered before swiping up his Advanced Potions book and heading out of the portrait hole. He couldn’t believe how horrible Parvati and Lavender were being and how everyone was just listening to them. Is that how wizards really treated children they had who weren’t conceived in a marriage? He knew the magical world was stuck in the 1600s but this really was going too far.
He hurried down a flight of stairs, ignoring the portraits whose eyes were following his movements. When he finally reached the fourth floor corridor, he checked his watch and saw that he had about three minutes before the class let out.
“Octavian,” he whispered, letting the word fall from his tongue, smiling softly to himself. Three years—three whole years since he had seen that frightened yet adorable first-year back on the Hogwarts Express.
How could people be so cruel to him—he who had done nothing but be born? He was a wizard and clearly a pureblood. British society should have opened its arms to him and yet, instead, he was trampled upon and belittled behind his back.
Thank the gods that Octavian’s father had been able to do something for him, although Harry knew from personal experience with the Dursleys that a defender only helped so far.
If Octavian was the boy, he thought he was, Harry knew that he deserved more than this.
Harry banged his head against the stone behind him, wondering how he could have been so blind. How had he not heard of the resident pariah? How could he have been so caught up in his own struggles that he didn’t notice Octavian’s pain?
He had seen how horribly Hermione had treated him all those years ago, before any of them knew who he was. He had promised himself that he would make sure it didn’t happen to the French student again, especially if he turned up in Gryffindor, and he had broken that silent promise to himself.
His throat closed in anger and disgust at the thought of his Muggle-born friend. Now he knew why she sounded like she loathed the fourth-year. If it had anything to do with his legitimacy, Harry knew he wouldn’t be able to hold in his temper at her hypocritical ways. He doubted their tenuous friendship would actually survive that.
A magical bell rang out through the halls, and students began to flow out of the classrooms.
Harry pushed himself off the wall and scanned the Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors, looking for the telltale honey blond hair. Within moments, the students had all exited and Harry hadn’t seen a sign of Octavian. His presence had garnered some reaction from a handful of Gryffindor girls—including a giggling Romilda Vane and her posse of friends—and oddly a Hufflepuff boy with dark blue hair—Harry briefly wondered if he had some form of creature blood in him or was a Metamorphmagus like Tonks.
He sighed and, turning to go, stopped when he heard voices coming from what he had assumed was an empty classroom.
“Bravo, Mr. Prince, as always,” Flitwick’s high voice said. “I haven’t seen such excellent charm work from a student your age in several decades, if I do say so myself.”
“Thank you, sir,” was the response.
Harry smiled to himself at the quiet French accent. It was less pronounced than he remembered it, the “th” no longer a pure “z” but instead a cross between the two sounds. It suited Octavian, he thought. He approached the door quietly and leaned against the frame, taking in the sight before him.
Octavian had grown in the last few years and now was only a few inches shorter than Harry. His wavy hair fell softly to his shoulders, but was pulled back in a leather strap, and looked oddly masculine on him. His features were more defined and he held his slim figure regally as if he belonged in that room despite what anyone might have to say about it, although his blushes and shy glances toward the Charms professor betrayed his modesty.
“Not at all, not at all!” Flitwick was happily saying. “The praise is well deserved.”
Octavian, whose back was partially turned to Harry, blushed.
“You are too modest, Mr. Prince,” Flitwick sighed as he began to buzz around the room, putting cushions away.
Ah, Summoning Charms, Harry thought.
Flitwick’s voice dropped and he gently touched Octavian’s hand in companionship. “Your father would be proud of you, Mr. Prince. Very proud.”
Octavian looked away, out the window, his shoulders rigid.
“I have,” Flitwick began hesitantly, “been making discreet inquiries on your behalf, although you had not asked me to.”
Octavian’s head snapped back toward the professor, a silent question passing between them.
“No, I have not involved Professor Dumbledore. I would never betray such a trust, Mr. Prince, and we both know that he would do everything in his power to stop you from visiting your father.”
He nodded. “Any progress, zen?”
“I am currently corresponding with Pius Thicknesse, the new Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. It is proving a bit difficult at this stage as you are not—” He hesitated and Octavian only nodded.
“There is hope, however. He appears sympathetic and he hasn’t granted access yet to any other members of your father’s family.”
They both looked out the window, silence settling over them. Harry knew he was intruding, but he couldn’t help but watch, transfixed. Everything about Octavian hinted at a gentle strength. He was both unassuming and innocent, and yet his very presence filled the room they were standing in.
“Yes, your father would be very proud. Is very proud, I know,” Flitwick began again on a lighter subject. “I spoke to him briefly last spring and his face lit up when I told him of your progress. You could be a spell-caster. In fact, I daresay you will surpass my previous most talented student in skill, if you keep this up. She was very talented, of course, but she lacked the imagination you possess. Never created a charm quite as original as you are now, even when she was taking her N.E.W.T.s!”
Octavian said nothing in response, but merely listened to his professor’s chatter.
Harry, though, couldn’t resist making his presence known. With a slight smile on his face, he asked, “And who was that, Professor Flitwick?”
The small Charms professor and his student turned to him in surprise and Harry was pleased to notice a slight smile playing on Octavian’s lips, although his black eyes betrayed his confusion at Harry’s presence.
“Ah, Mr. Potter!” Flitwick exclaimed. “I was speaking of your mother, the wonderful and talented Lily Evans.”
Harry couldn’t help but smile. “I had heard from Mr. Ollivander and Professor Slughorn that she was gifted in Charms as well as Potions.”
“That she was,” Flitwick grinned happily, before his face clouded. “And what can I do for you, Mr. Potter?”
“Oh!” Harry said, blushing for some reason. “I was actually hoping to speak to Octavian.” He glanced at the younger wizard, who looked startled at his pronouncement. “Is that all right?”
Octavian nodded distractedly. “Of course, Henri Jacques,” he responded, using the name Harry had spoken so many years ago on the Hogwarts Express.
Flitwick smiled at them indulgently. “Henri Jacques,” he repeated in flawless French. “I think I like it, Mr. Potter.” He turned again to Octavian. “No need to rush on your next extracurricular project. You did, after all, hand in this one a full fortnight early!”
“Of course, Professor. A bientôt.”
He stepped out of the room after Harry and followed him down the hall. “I ‘ave not seen you, Henri, for several years. To what do I owe zis pleasure?” His eyes were innocent and teasing, and Harry relaxed into the half-forgotten friendship.
“I-It’s embarrassing, really. I had to put up with two gossips to even find out you were in Hufflepuff!”
Octavian’s face clouded, but he only nodded. “Of course. You wish to know of my fazzer, zen?” His voice sounded clipped. “Perhaps you should ask his ‘eir, Henri. ‘E knows much more zan I.”
Harry gently grabbed Octavian’s arm in alarm. “No-no, that’s not it at all. I don’t even know who your father is.” Octavian looked surprised at this, but Harry just continued, “And I don’t think it’s any of my business or anyone else’s for that matter. Bitches,” he muttered under his breath, thinking not only of Lavender and Parvati, but Hermione and her ridiculous prejudice against Octavian as well.
“Merci,” Octavian whispered, his soft gaze meeting Harry’s open expression.
“I didn’t even know you were Octavian Prince until I was given your description.”
Octavian looked confused.
“You see,” Harry quickly began, his hand still resting on Octavian’s arm, “I found this book. A Potions book, actually, and it belonged to someone who calls himself ‘the half-blood Prince’ of all things.”
A shiver ran down Octavian’s spine, but he nodded. “Yes, I know of ‘im. ‘E is not spoken of. ‘E ‘urt Maman—”
Harry looked at him in shock. “He hurt your mother?” he parroted, wanting confirmation.
Octavian only looked over his shoulder and said nothing.
“I-I’m sorry,” Harry whispered. “I did not wish to bring up bad memories.” He knew he hated it whenever anyone spoke of Sirius even in passing, and Octavian had a similar lost look on his face that Harry sometimes saw when he looked in the mirror.
“C’est la vie,” Octavian said almost to himself before looking again at Harry. “We do not mention ‘is name.”
“I understand, of course. I hope your mother is all right.”
Octavian looked sadly at him before shaking his head slightly. “No, I do not think she is,” he admitted softly. “But it ‘appened before I was born, so I ‘ave not known any differently.” He gazed past Harry’s shoulder before smiling once again. “Is zat all, Henri Jacques?”
Harry half-smiled in response. “I like it when you call me Henri Jacques,” he admitted quietly. “It’s much better than Harry.”
“You do not like ‘Arry?”
He shook his head. “When I was little, yes. I was just Harry, nothing special. Now, though, I’m the Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, and Merlin knows what other titles. I rather wish my name was anything other than Harry Potter at this point.”
Octavian nodded in understanding. “I ‘ave also wished ze same—for myself,” he added hastily. “Zen again, I ‘ave never been just Octavian, as you say. But zen I remember zat Princes are strong and for ‘oom I was named, and I am proud despite ze whispers.” His black eyes flashed conspiratorially.
“Really?” Harry asked; his interest peaked. “I’ve always wondered where Mum got ‘Harry.’ Who were you named for?”
“Two people. Maman’s younger brozzer, Octavian Prince, ‘oo died when ‘e was at ‘Ogwarts. ‘E fell off ‘is broom during a storm. Et mon papa. It is a translation of ‘is name into la langue des Arabes.”
Harry stopped near an alcove and leaned against the wall, his eyes taking in the boy before him. “I’m sorry I haven’t managed to find you before this,” he apologized softly.
Octavian looked at him kindly.
“I hoped you would be Gryffindor, but then I thought perhaps it was better you were not because of Hermione.” His voice turned sour.
“‘Ermes?” Octavian inquired, a twinkle in his eyes.
“The girl in the compartment with us. The one who accused your father of being a pureblood extremist.”
The Hufflepuff laughed quietly. “Papa is a pureblood extremist, as you say.”
Harry’s eyes flashed. “It doesn’t matter. She had no right,” he said with conviction. “We haven’t been as close as she would want since then. It’s gotten to the point where I almost don’t want to talk to her at all anymore.”
Octavian looked at him steadily before dropping his expensive satchel to the floor and leaning against the wall beside Harry. “And your ozzer friend? The pureblood, oui?”
Harry shook his head. He couldn’t believe he was actually pouring out his inner thoughts to this younger boy, but something about him caused Harry to trust him, to actually want to trust him. He didn’t pry, didn’t judge. Octavian just was—quiet and solemn and respectful. He was strong in a way Harry doubted he ever could be.
“Je ne sais pas,” Harry admitted in French, his accent slightly clumsy from disuse, but Octavian still smiled brightly at the sound of his native tongue.
“‘Ow I miss Français when I am ‘ere at ‘Ogwarts,” he lilted, closing his eyes in bliss from the simple pleasure.
Harry stared at him dumbly, struck by the simple beauty of the boy. “I’m sorry that I’m not fluent then.”
Octavian laughed softly. “Ce n’est pas important, Henri Jacques. It is enough zat you would speak in it at all.”
A comfortable silence settled between them and Harry couldn’t take his eyes away from his companion.
“Why do you stare at me, Henri Jacques?” Octavian finally asked, his eyes still closed, but a trace of sadness lingered in his voice.
Harry startled at the question and blushed. “I-I,” he stuttered before clearing his throat and blushing self-consciously. “Pardonnez-moi, Octavian. Je suis désolé.”
“Of course, Henri.” He smiled as he opened his eyes and trained them on Harry. “You were my first friend at ‘Ogwarts. ‘Ow can I not forgive you?” He bit his lower lip shyly, waiting for Harry’s response, which was a brilliant smile that reached his sparkling eyes.
After a few moments when they just looked at each other, Harry glanced away, before smiling once again. “So, how do you like Hufflepuff?” he inquired.
“I think it is ze best ‘ouse for me,” Octavian confessed. “Maman was angry, of course, but it could not be ‘elped.” He shrugged. “Cedric,” He glanced warily at Harry who only nodded for him to continue, “took me under ‘is wing, and made sure zat no one in ze ‘ouse insulted or degraded me. Fortunately, all ze purebloods are more open-minded in ‘Ufflepuff.”
“I’m glad. I’ve discovered Gryffindor can be a bit—closed minded, to say the least. Yellow suits you.”
Octavian blushed and, biting his lip again, he looked away. “Yes. Most of my robes are eizzer gold or bleu.”
Harry laughed happily. “I don’t think I own any robes except for the ones I wore to the Yule Ball.” He scrunched up his nose at the memory of that particular social torture.
“Zey were vert, non?”
The Gryffindor looked up, startled. “Y-yes, they were. How did you know?”
“I ‘ave my ways,” Octavian said mysteriously.
“You’re a little devious for a Hufflepuff,” Harry teased, brushing the back of his hand against Octavian’s impulsively.
Octavian stilled and waited to see what Harry would do next, but the Gryffindor only smiled sheepishly before looking down at his hands. Biting his lower lip, Octavian hesitated before whispering, “You are a bit—timide—for a Gryffindor, I think.”
Harry looked up at him in confusion.
Sighing, Octavian asked. “What do you want, Henri Jacques?” He paused before adding, “I am not easy as zey say—”
“No!” Harry exclaimed. “No, I never thought—I—I-I don’t know what I’m saying.” He blushed scarlet, looking down again. “Je ne comprends pas, Octavian. Pardonnez-moi.”
Octavian waited tensely and then, with a final sigh, picked up his book bag and slung it onto his shoulder. “Au revoir,” he said softly and turned to walk away, but Harry reached out and grabbed his arm gently. Octavian turned back to look at him, shocked.
“I didn’t mean to offend you. I would never do that to you,” he begged, his eyes shining earnestly.
Octavian only nodded and Harry carefully released his forearm.
Thoughts swirled through Harry’s mind, confusing him. He couldn’t take his eyes away from the beautiful and innocent boy before him. The slope of his neck that peeked out of his starched collar entranced Harry for some reason, and his high cheekbones just begged for Harry’s fingers to brush against them.
What was he thinking? What was wrong with him?
Why had he ghosted his hand against Octavian’s—a boy who was insulted and called a whore by everyone and who most likely trusted less readily than even Harry, who was naturally wary of affection?
He wanted to curse himself for almost pushing Octavian away. He wanted to be Octavian’s friend—he wanted—his mind whirled. He could not define the ache in his chest that had taken hold so quickly, but he just knew that he wanted and he couldn’t let this beautiful and broken creature walk away from him.
“H-have lunch with me tomorrow,” he said quickly, blushing again.
Octavian only looked at him, completely shocked. “Pardon?”
“Lunch. Tomorrow. You and me. Great Hall.” He paused and looked thoughtful. “Hufflepuff table might be better what with Lavender and Parvati—the local gossip hags of Gryffindor.” He shuddered at the thought of the two other sixth-years. Something must be seriously wrong with them to delight that much in other people’s misfortune.
Octavian gave Harry a confused look. “I don’t understand,” he said quietly.
Harry looked at him sheepishly before blushing. “Please?” his voice was soft and half-begging.
“I-If you wish,” Octavian stammered, a soft blush highlighting his cheeks.
“Okay then.” Harry now bit his lower lip before slowly reaching out and brushing Octavian’s cheek with the tips of his fingers. He breathed out in contentment. It was even softer than he imagined. “Tomorrow then.”
“À demain,” Octavian lilted before he turned and made his way down toward the Hufflepuff Basement, leaving a dazed and slightly shocked Harry Potter in his wake.
French to English Translations.
La Princesse. The Princess.
A bientôt. Goodbye.
Merci. Thank you.
C’est la vie. Such is life.
Et mon papa. And my father.
La langue des Arabes. The language of the Arabs (i.e. Arabic).
Je ne sais pas. I don’t know.
Ce n’est pas important, Henri Jacques. It is not important, Henri Jacques.
Pardonnez-moi, Octavian. Je suis désolé. Excuse me, Octavian. I am sorry.
Vert, non? Green, no?
Je ne comprends pas, Octavian. Pardonez-moi. I don’t understand it, Octavian. Forgive me.
Au revoir. Goodbye.
À demain. Tomorrow.