Part the Seventh—
But that I am forbid to tell the secrets of my prison house, I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood.
—Hamlet, Act I, scene v
Unfortunately, the next two weeks didn’t seem to get any better for Harry. Hermione was barely speaking to him, which Harry frankly didn’t mind, and Ron was just confused. During Herbology when he was fighting vines with a death grip, he kept on muttering “poof” and “Prince” and “pureblood” under his breath. Harry wondered how many other words with “p” he was going to come up with. Harry spent most of his meals at the Hufflepuff table with Octavian and his friends, Neville even joining them occasionally.
Katie still hadn’t returned from St. Mungo’s and eventually, Harry was forced to replace her with Dean Thomas, who was overjoyed. Quidditch practices ran smoothly, at least for the three Chasers, but Ron kept on losing self-confidence and kept on bungling the goals. Whenever Harry tried to talk to him about him, encourage him even, he would just snap his head off.
“Why don’t you go back to your bastard Hufflepuff?” he would demand, and Harry frankly didn’t care anymore. After one particular practice, he even threatened to take Ron off the team if he couldn’t get his nerves in order, best mate or no.
Harry thought it couldn’t get any worse at that point, but of course it did. When he and Ron had been going through a deserted passageway back to Gryffindor Tower, they had walked in on Ginny and Dean in a rather intimate embrace.
Harry looked at them blandly. His first thought was that he wished he could be snogging Octavian like that. It had been a week since Harry had chastely kissed him outside of Dumbledore’s office, and Octavian had become really quiet afterwards. He still smiled sweetly at Harry and called him “Henri Jacques,” but he was rarely alone with him. Either Caspar or Aidan were with him and even once when Harry had snuck out of the castle to watch Octavian just stand at the edge of the forest surrounded by fireflies, Ernie Macmillan had been nearby, reading his copy of Advanced Potion-Making.
It was getting ridiculous in Harry’s opinion. If something didn’t change soon he’d have to apologize—which he didn’t want to do because he could never be sorry he had kissed Octavian, only that it appeared to have bothered him—or corner either Ernie or Hannah and ask what was wrong.
Harry’s second thought was that it looked less awkward than he felt when he had snogged Cho the year before. At least Ginny wasn’t crying, he thought clinically.
“Oi!” Ron called out, breaking Ginny and Dean apart.
The conversation just devolved from there. When Ginny had stated that Hermione had snogged Krum two years before and that Harry had snogged Cho and was snogging ‘that Hufflepuff’—Harry didn’t know whether to be indignant at Ginny’s treatment of him or the fact that he wasn’t actually snogging Octavian—Ron completely snapped.
Ginny, at that point, was storming down the corridor. When Ron sent a second nasty hex at her, Harry only managed to push him enough so that his aim missed and hit a tapestry instead, rending it in two.
Afterwards, Ron began to give Hermione the cold shoulder and she was no longer just snappy at Harry but at Ron, as well. Harry barely noticed as he spent most of his time away from his two best friends.
The next morning he sat down heavily next to Octavian and smiled slightly, but Octavian was in deep discussion with Caspar.
“I do not know what to do,” he confessed in a low voice.
“I’d think it was obvious,” Caspar scoffed before nodding to Harry in greeting.
“Let’s look at this objectively.” He waved his hand in front of Harry, who blinked at him. “Gorgeous boyfriend who’s mad about you and hasn’t said a word when you’ve gone all pureblood maiden on him when you insist on being chaperoned after he barely kissed you.”
Harry’s eyebrows shot up. “Is that what happened?” He looked at Octavian, startled. “Je suis désolé, Octavian. I didn’t realize—I wouldn’t have if I’d known—I—oh Merlin. Please tell me you don’t feel uncomfortable around me—I won’t kiss you again unless you ask me to—I promise.” He was blushing a deep red and stammering, but all he could think about was that he really had upset Octavian.
He’s only fourteen, he reminded himself. Maybe he wasn’t ready, or it was some form of pureblood tradition he didn’t know about. Could it possibly be the same as when Harry had first brushed his hand against Octavian’s? Did Octavian think Harry thought he was ‘easy’?
As soon as breakfast was over, he was going to run to the library and find a book on pureblood etiquette and tradition. He refused to make such an error like that again.
Caspar stared at him, mouth open in shock. Shutting it quickly, he turned to Octavian who was blushing, but had entwined his fingers with Harry’s again. “And he’s sweet and cares about your feelings,” he added. “Or, we have a half-sibling who has hexed you on several occasions and ignores you the rest of the time. Though ever since you’ve been dating Harry he’s been looking at you almost with respect, oddly enough.”
Harry was confused, but just squeezed Octavian’s hand lightly.
“Based on this, whose Quidditch team does it make the most sense to support this Saturday?”
Harry gulped. He forgot that Octavian’s half-brother and father were both Slytherins. Did Octavian really support Slytherin usually? He shook himself internally. This was about family, Harry reminded himself, and if he had any family still living, he would probably do the same.
He smiled, trying to look like Octavian supporting Slytherin didn’t make him feel ill.
“If you want to support your half-brother’s house, I understand,” Harry said softly before grabbing his pumpkin juice.
“Make that really sweet and far too understanding,” Caspar said in his ‘public’ voice.
Harry laughed deprecatingly at himself. “Well, whatever you decide, know I’ll be supporting Hufflepuff—except when I play them, of course. Then I’ll be forced to try and catch the Snitch before your Seeker.”
“You wish!” Justin Finch-Fletchley called and Harry only laughed.
“Vous ne seriez pas fâché?” Octavian asked quietly, his black eyes looking imploringly at Harry.
He shook his head. The next moment, soft lips were pressed fleetingly against his and Octavian was smiling happily at him. “Merci, merci, mon Henri Jacques,” he said softly, clutching Harry’s hand tightly in his. “Je vous adore.”
Caspar sighed dramatically but Harry didn’t pay him any notice. Instead, he felt a fluttering in his stomach and could only whisper back, “Je t’adore, aussi,” before turning to his morning oatmeal.
“You know, Octavian,” Harry mentioned before he left the table to go to the library, “you can address me informally. I am, after all, ton petit ami.”
Harry spent far longer in the etiquette section than he initially intended. He had no idea there were so many books on the subject. He had a good half hour before class, however, so he sat down and began to read through the titles. Still, he had absolutely no idea.
Looking around the library, he saw that Madam Pince was eyeing him critically and he swallowed convulsively. He wasn’t going to ask her then.
Hermione was sitting primly at a table with a heavy book, but Harry wasn’t going to ask her for advice either. He’d just get berated about dating Octavian—or any boy. It turned out that Hermione’s mother came from a strict Roman Catholic background of all things, and Hermione had been raised with grandparents and cousins who believed that homosexuality was a sin. She didn’t think Harry was a homosexual, of course. He was simply confused by Octavian, who was ‘unsuitable.’
That left only one other student—a Slytherin girl who Harry thought was named Daphne Greengrass. Harry sighed. Well, if anyone knew then surely she would.
Approaching her cautiously, he cleared his throat. She glanced up with deep brown eyes, her strawberry blonde hair falling around her pretty face. “Yes?” she inquired.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but—er—”
She sighed. “Just say whatever it is you wanted to say, Potter.” Her tone was clipped and, though soft, was clear as a chime, causing both Hermione and Madam Pince to look up at them.
“I was hoping you might be able to recommend a good book on, well, pureblood courting etiquette and maybe pureblood traditions. The old ways, specifically.”
Greengrass eyed him speculatively before nodding. Setting her own book aside, she stood gracefully and indicated that he should follow her. “I take it this is in reference to your relationship with Prince?”
“Er—yes,” he said, following behind her.
The pair stopped in front of the appropriate shelf and Greengrass dropped to her knees. “A noble endeavor, especially considering your new status as heir to the House of Black.” She scanned the titles before pulling out a thin but pristine book and setting it down. “How detailed do you want your reference on the old ways in today’s culture?” she inquired, still scanning the shelves. She paused briefly before taking out a thick tome that Harry noticed was entitled Spungen’s Guide to Pureblood Dynasties in Magical Great Britain, 706-present. “You’ll need this and it’s self updating. I would recommend purchasing your own copy. It’s invaluable.”
Harry nodded and then answered her previous question. “Perhaps a beginner’s guide at first, might work. I need to know the basics as quickly as possible before getting more in depth.”
“It would not do to commit a faux pas,” Greengrass agreed before hesitating over a book. “Do you know if Prince follows French or English tradition?”
“Continental then,” she said, skipping down a few rows and then deciding on a book of about three hundred pages. She cleared her throat and looked up at Harry. “It is customary for a gentleman to offer his hand,” she said softly and he quickly did, helping her to stand, before he scooped the books off the floor. “That should do at present. I would be—happy to offer my assistance at a later date if you require further titles.” She hesitated. “Send an owl at any time.” Without even a nod in farewell, she swept away from him and sat down again at her seat.
Harry blinked after her before quickly making his way to Madam Pince, who looked at him shrewdly over her spectacles.
Before he could leave the library, however, Hermione was following him. “Harry,” she said testily, “what were you doing in the etiquette section.”
“Just looking up a few things,” he answered distractedly.
“On the old ways?” she accused as they made their way to Herbology.
“Perhaps,” he responded.
“Really, Harry, you shouldn’t—”
“Shouldn’t what, Hermione?” he asked icily, turning on her. “Shouldn’t learn about my boyfriend’s beliefs and traditions? Shouldn’t respect Octavian? Shouldn’t what?”
She turned white.
“I thought so,” he added before leaving her in the mist to find her own way.
Quidditch practice, if it was possible, got even worse over the next few days. The night before the match, Ron had bungled it up so badly he offered to resign after the match, and Harry almost accepted except he knew that McLaggen wasn’t a team player.
Something had to be done, he realized that night before he went to sleep. He glanced over to his bedside table where the half-blood Prince’s Potion book was sitting and grinning as an idea hit him. He fell asleep to dreams of ten thousand fireflies dancing around him and Octavian as he softly kissed his boyfriend.
Harry was not in a good mood the next morning when he entered the Great Hall to sounds of cheers. Ron’s self-confidence had reached an all-time low and Harry wished more than anything that he could be sitting with Octavian instead of having to listen to Ron. It cheered him slightly to see Caspar and Aidan wearing Gryffindor red and he laughed in appreciation when he saw that Octavian had decided to wear Hufflepuff yellow instead of outright choosing to support either team.
Malfoy, oddly enough, had bowed out of the game and a replacement was taking over, and a reserve Chaser was playing for another team member. Harry was slightly confused about why Malfoy would ever choose not to play Quidditch, but decided not to think about it, and instead pretended to pour Felix Felicis into Ron’s morning pumpkin juice.
The false slight of hand, which he made sure Hermione saw, helped ensure a Gryffindor victory once Harry was able to catch the Snitch. When Hermione accused Harry of it later, in the locker rooms, however, Ron was quick to storm out, passing Octavian and almost knocking him to the ground.
“Out of my way!” Ron muttered under his breath, causing Octavian to pale considerably.
“S-Sorry,” he responded before pressing himself against the door. He turned his attention to Harry and smiled slightly. “Félicitations, Henri Jacques,” he said quietly, allowing Harry to wrap him in a warm embrace. “I knew you would catch the Snitch.”
Hermione pointedly looked anywhere but at them before quickly leaving, but Harry ignored that.
“You’re wearing yellow.” Harry smiled into Octavian’s hair.
“Oui, I realized zat Caspar was correct. I ‘ave a gorgeous petit ami as well as a ‘alf-brozzer.”
“I’m gorgeous, am I?” Harry teased, pulling Octavian down until they were both sitting on a bench.
“It is ze truth, non?” Octavian laughed. “I ‘ave ze most ‘andsome petit ami at ‘Ogwarts.”
Harry shook his head. “I’m afraid you’re wrong. I know that I have the handsomest boyfriend. Yours must come in second place.”
Octavian blushed slightly. “I—I am sorry,” he murmured, looking away.
“For what? There’s nothing—”
“No, zere is. I—Caspar was right again. When you kissed me, I-I should ‘ave told you zat I was frightened. I did not—Maman—I—” His voice began to choke and Harry watched desperately as Octavian began to shiver, although it was quite warm in the changing rooms.
Harry watched quietly for a moment before he couldn’t bear it any longer. Gently, he pulled Octavian toward him until he was crying against Harry’s chest. This was nothing like when Cho had cried. Then he had been confused and had hated it, not because she was upset but because—well, just because. Now his heart felt like it was breaking and he knew he never wanted Octavian to cry again and would do everything in his power to make sure it didn’t happen again.
“What is it?” he asked desperately. “What’s wrong? Please, Octavian, tell me.”
“J’avais peur,” Octavian admitted quietly, trying to take deep breaths as Harry ran his hand up and down his back soothingly.
“Pourquoi? Je ne comprends pas pourquoi,” Harry murmured.
“It—it is a long story,” Octavian admitted.
“I have time.”
Octavian pulled away. “But what about la fête?”
Harry shrugged. “It will be going on for hours. And you are more important, Octavian.” He rested his forehead against his boyfriend’s. “Surely you must know that.”
Octavian shivered and then nodded slightly. “It was not Papa’s fault,” he began.
Harry nodded, not quite understanding, but willing to listen to anything Octavian would tell him.
“It was ze night—ze night You Know ‘Oo disappeared. Or ze night after, peut-être. Everyone was celebrating in England. And—‘ow to explain.” He chewed on his lip nervously, his black eyes looking imploringly at Harry. “Maman was in love with someone—it does not matter ‘oo. Ze name means nothing to me. She was very traditional. She would not allow ‘im to kiss ‘er, not until zey were engaged. She was out on the street with everyone. Zere were parties all across England, did you know?”
Harry shook his head.
“Everyone was ‘appy, but—it—” Tears began to stream down his face but he tried to control his shaking. “‘Ee was not. ‘Ee,” he looked up plaintively at Harry. “You know I will tell you only ze truth, non? I would not lie.”
“Of course not, Octavian,” Harry assured him. “You can tell me anything.”
“I found zis out later, but ‘e,” he spat out the word, “ze ‘alf-blood Prince as you call ‘im, ‘e loved ‘er. ‘Ee ‘ad a Muggle father and lived nearby and zey, well, zey knew each other as children. Zis is all family ‘istory. It is known, zough not outside, I zink. Comprends-tu?”
“Je comprend. The half-blood Prince loved your mother?”
Octavian shook his head. “Non. He loved a witch with Muggle parents. C’était une hantise.” He took a deep breath. “He was a follower of You-Know-’Oo, but she—she married someone else and zey were against zem.
“Zat night, ze night zat you lived, she died. Your mother died. ‘Ee loved ‘er and she died.”
Harry sucked in a breath and looked into Octavian’s truthful eyes. “He was in love with my mother?”
Octavian nodded. “‘Ee always ‘ated ‘imself. ‘Ated ze Princes for letting ‘is mother marry a Muggle. ‘Ated his father for being a Muggle. ‘Ated ‘imself for being neither pure nor completely not. So ‘e punished—‘e punished Maman. She was alive and in love and a Prince and my father,” he sobbed, “my father was an old friend of ‘is from ‘Ogwarts and-and a Death Eater.” He looked up at Harry, shaking.
Harry reached out for him and buried his face in Octavian’s hair. “I don’t care, Octavian. I don’t care what your father was. It changes nothing—I—Je t’aime. Nothing can change that,” he swore.
Octavian clutched Harry to him and wept, but Harry didn’t care. This was his Octavian in his arms, the boy he had fallen in love with in only two weeks, the wizard who was both so fragile and yet so strong. He never looked when others whispered about him and still went about his day—excelling in almost everything he touched with a sweet smile on his face. Merlin, how Harry loved him and he wondered how he had ever lived without him before October, and how he could have been so stupid as to not search for him for three whole years.
“Je t’aime, je t’aime,” he repeated quietly again and again until Octavian’s tears quieted and he lay trustingly against Harry’s chest. Harry tenderly brushed the tears from his eyes with the pads of his thumbs and kissed Octavian’s hair until the he completely quieted.
“‘Ee,” Octavian continued tentatively, “‘e was skilled in ze Dark Arts and ‘e followed Maman and Papa. ‘Ee did not know what ‘e would do. ‘Ee thought zey were to celebrate or something. Je ne sais pas. Papa does not speak of it and Maman only did once—she was angry, you see, when she discovered zat Papa was providing for me. ‘Ee—Maman’s cousin—‘e cast ze Unforgivable on Papa. Ze Imperius Curse.” Octavian looked away, his voice completely dead as he recounted the horror. “It was Maman’s first kiss and ‘e, ‘e made my father ‘urt ‘er and—and forced ‘im to violer ‘er.”
“Violer?” Harry asked softly against Octavian’s hair.
“Euh—I do not know ‘ow to say.”
Harry swallowed and looked down at the floor. “Did the half-blood Prince make your father r-rape your mother?”
Octavian looked at him questioningly, not understanding the word.
“R-r-rape,” Harry explained, “forced him to have sex with her against their wills.”
Tears streamed down Octavian’s already red face and he nodded. “Papa does not know it was ‘im ‘oo did it. ‘Ee—Maman’s cousin—told me years later when ‘e was yelling at me. ‘Ee said I would be une putain just like Maman. I do not like ‘im.”
“Fuck,” Harry breathed before he clutched Octavian to him possessively. “That’s how you were conceived.”
“Oui. And so I was—peur—afraid when you kissed me. All I could think was zat it was not you and zat it might get worse. I know you wouldn’t—I just—I was afraid zat ‘e might force you like ‘e forced Papa. You ‘ave ‘is book. Je suis ridicule, je sais.”
“You are not ridiculous,” Harry said forcefully, kissing Octavian’s forehead. “I would never willingly do anything to hurt you. I love you, Octavian. I would not hurt you. I’ll get rid of the book. Tomorrow, if you like.”
Octavian shook his head. “Non. It ‘elps you.”
“I don’t care—I’ll copy the Potion notes and only the Potion notes, if you want, but I’ll get rid of it. Gods, he should be in Azkaban for what he has done.”
Octavian only bit his lip.
“I’ll never kiss you against your will, I promise. I’d never make you uncomfortable. I’ll do anything to make you comfortable—to allow you to trust me,” Harry whispered desperately.
Tentatively, Octavian reached up and ran his hand behind Harry’s neck, into his hair. He reached up and brushed his lips against Harry’s chastely before pulling away again.
At the touch of their lips, Harry closed his eyes, awed by the trust Octavian was showing in him.
“I like it when you kiss me like zat,” Octavian whispered and Harry opened his eyes to see Octavian was looking at him.
He nodded dumbly, unable to form coherent words.
“‘Ee failed, zough. Maman’s cousin. Partially, at least.”
Harry looked at him, confused.
“Papa, when ‘e realized what ‘e ‘ad done, ‘e was ‘orrified. ‘Ee realized zat Maman was a pureblood, zough ‘e did not know ‘er name. ‘Ee took ‘er to a family property and cared for ‘er ‘imself every morning and ‘ad ‘ouse-elves watch ‘er. ‘Ee knew if ‘er family knew, she would be on ze streets. ‘Ee could not ‘ave zat and, je ne sais pas pourquoi, but ‘e fell in love wiz ‘er. She ‘ated ‘im zough. She was cold, cruel, zough I do not think ‘e would ‘ave touched her. ‘Ee tried to explain, but Maman would not listen. She was têtu She could not marry ze wizard she loved now. ‘Ee would never ‘ave her. When she found out about me—she left. Papa wanted me and she did not—but she wanted to punish ‘im for la viol. Now I am illegitimate and she still does not want me.” He paused. “I ‘ave never told anyone zat,” he admitted quietly.
Octavian looked up at him with expressive eyes and Harry made sure there was no sign of rejection on his face. Octavian ran his hand down Harry’s arm until he held the larger hand in his own. Picking it up, he inspected it in the half-light, first the palm, which he traced cautiously, and then he flipped it over to see the back of Harry’s hand.
“Mes dieux,” he exclaimed as he brought it up closer to him. “‘I must not tell lies,’” he read, astonished. “Umbridge?” he asked solemnly.
Harry nodded, embarrassed. “Y-Yes.”
“She did not care for me either, because I am un bâtard.”
“You are not a bastard,” Harry spat. “I know everyone says it, but you’re not, Octavian. They just don’t—they’re bastards and cruel.”
Octavian smiled weakly. “I know, Henri Jacques. You are my defender.” He traced the scars gently. “It was quite—bizarre—but after a detention with ‘er. My ‘alf-brother found out and ‘e, well, ‘e was not pleased. ‘Ee made certain zat Papa knew and it stopped.” His black eyes glinted at the memory. “‘Ee was my defender zen, zough ‘e ‘as never said a kind word to me.”
Harry squeezed his hand but said nothing.
“Why zis sentence, Henri Jacques?”
“She insisted I was lying about Vol—”
He stopped, astonished, when Octavian brought the hand to his lips and kissed the scar tenderly.
“Mon Henri Jacques,” Octavian whispered before grasping Harry’s face gently and pulling him down for several soft kisses.
Harry sighed in happiness. This was where he belonged, he decided, in Octavian’s arms. And he knew that, more than anything, he would do everything he could to never leave them again.
French to English Translation.
Je suis désolé. I’m sorry.
Vous ne seriez pas fâché? You would not be angry?
Merci, merci, mon Henri Jacques. Thank you, thank you, my Henri Jacques.
Je vous adore. I adore you.
Je t’adore, aussi. I adore you, as well. (Harry uses the familiar form of “you” where Octavian still uses the more formal form.)
Ton petit ami. Your boyfriend.
Félicitations, Henri Jacques. Congratulations, Henri Jacques.
J’avais peur. I was afraid.
Pourquoi? Je ne comprends pas pourquoi. Why? I don’t understand why.
La fête. The party.
Comprends-tu? Do you understand? (Octavian, like Harry asksed him, is now using the familiar form and will continue to use it)
Je comprends. I understand.
C’était une hantise. It was an obsession.
Je t’aime. I love you/I’m in love with you.
Violer. To violate, to rape.
Une putain. A whore.
Je suis ridicule, je sais. I am silly, I know.
Je ne sais pas pourquoi. I do not know why.
La viol. The violation, the rape.
Mes dieux. My gods.
Un bâtard. A bastard.