Part the Eighth—
Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit and lost without deserving.
—Othello, Act II, scene iii
When Harry finally made it back to Gryffindor Tower, he didn’t notice that neither Hermione nor Ron were there celebrating. Romilda Vane immediately accosted him, congratulating him on his miraculous save, and smiling at him coquettishly. She offered to get him a drink, but he quickly refused it and made his way over to Ginny.
“Should I even ask?” he inquired, glancing around the common room and grabbing a pasty and Butterbeer.
Harry noticed that Arnold the Puffskein was sitting happily on her shoulder and Crookshanks was purring at her feet, his expressive eyes never leaving the pink ball of fur. Cats never changed, it seemed.
“Where Hermione and Ron went. They had a bit of a—fight—in the changing rooms. I don’t think they’re talking now.”
“You’re back late,” Ginny noted.
Harry nodded. “I was with Octavian.”
She grimaced. “For three hours?”
Harry looked at her, surprised, before glancing at the clock above the mantle. It had been three hours, he realized, and only one of them had been taken up with talking. He grinned widely, thoroughly pleased with himself.
He, Harry James Potter, had spent two full hours holding his boyfriend and softly kissing him. It wasn’t like the snogging session he had witnessed Dean and Ginny engaging in, but it was so much better—because Octavian had trusted him enough to let Harry gently love him.
“Well, don’t you look pleased,” Ginny said sarcastically. “You and the hypocrite both, then, have been snogging to your hearts’ content.”
Harry looked up, startled. “Ron and Hermione have been snogging?” he asked, thoroughly and utterly confused. He couldn’t think of anyone else Ron would be snogging. He had realized that his unprovoked anger against Hermione must be because he was jealous—and since he wasn’t angry at Harry snogging Cho Chang (though he was rude when it came to Octavian, but that was to be expected)—Harry had realized he was angry because someone else had snogged Hermione.
Ginny snorted. “No. Lavender Brown of all people.”
He blinked. “Er—all right. Wasn’t expecting that.”
“Neither was Hermione. She went off somewhere. Maybe you should go find her,” she hinted.
Harry shook his head. “We’re not talking really, and I have a few letters I need to send.”
“Letters?” she asked incredulously. “We just won a Quidditch match, you’re gone for hours, and then you want to send letters?”
“Yes, Ginny, letters.” They were far more important than a party, he thought.
With a flip of her hair, Ginny stalked off, airily saying that she had to go find Dean and Harry escaped the party with a stash of pasties and Butterbeer to go hide in his dorm room. The half-blood Prince’s copy of Advanced Potion-Making sat innocently on his bedside table and he glared at it accusingly. He hated the Prince and he was getting rid of that book as soon as he could find a way to properly destroy, he decided, although Octavian had said that he wouldn’t mind if Harry copied out the Potions instructions.
“‘Ee is a genius at potions, if nothing else,” he had whispered softly against Harry’s lips before nipping at the top one playfully, blushing as he pulled away before entering the Hufflepuff common room, Harry growling at the loss of Octavian in his arms to nip back.
He opened his trunk and took out parchment and a quill, and quickly wrote a rush order to Flourish and Blotts for a new copy. He set aside the required number of Galleons. All he had to do was choose an appropriate school owl as Hedwig had much more important missives to deliver.
Sighing, he took out a new piece of parchment. After staring at it for several moments, he decided it would just be better to write it. It wouldn’t be perfect and his name would surely see that it was at least considered. “To Mr. Pius Thicknesse—”
He wrote in his scratchy scrawl, before plunging onward with a petition for Octavian Prince to be given access to Azkaban so that he could visit his beloved father. After signing his name with a flourish he paused and, remembering what Octavian had said about his half-brother protecting him the year before, he added that he hoped the petition would also be considered for Octavian Prince’s legitimate sibling.
He was thankful now that Daphne Greengrass had chosen a book for him that had a chapter about illegitimacy and how to refer to it. He could not acknowledge Octavian’s father as his “father” but rather must identify him as his “sire” as the relationship was not formally recognized. Octavian’s half-brother was “the sire’s heir” and the wife could never be referred to on parchment, but only alluded to as a “close family member,” as her husband’s shame was not permitted to touch her.
It was all terribly complicated and archaic, but he was determined to do this correctly.
His final letter was to Gringotts, requesting the Black and Potter signet rings for the Head of the Household as well as descriptions of betrothal rings from both magical lines. He almost decided to wait on sending his letter to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement so that he could seal it with his signet, as was proper, but decided that speed was of the essence and instead sealed all the letters with silver wax and a seal with the simple initials “HJP” that he had commissioned his third year. Now he was glad he had. The letter to Gringotts he also sealed with a drop of his blood, to verify his identity, staining the off-white parchment.
Gathering up the letters, he snuck down the stairs and around the edges of the common room and slipped out of the portrait hole. As he passed the fifth floor corridor, he was surprised to see Draco Malfoy lingering in the corridor. He shook his head, briefly wondering about it, before he continued on his way.
As he made his way up to the owlery, he could hear not only the ruffles of feathers, but also the sound of silent crying. Pausing, he gathered his breath and entered—determined to give whoever was in there the privacy they wanted—but only after he sent the letters.
“S-sorry,” he greeted reflexively and was surprised to see Hermione curled up in a corner. “H-Hermione?”
She turned her head away, and he did the same, feeling uncomfortable. It appeared that she had seen Ron and Lavender snogging then, just as Ginny had.
“I’ll be gone in a few minutes,” he whispered in the silence before he made his way to Hedwig. “Hi, girl,” he greeted. “I have a special letter for you and I wouldn’t trust it to anyone else.” He took out his missives and found the one to Pius Thicknesse and presented it to her. “I need you to deliver it into his hands and his hands only. Not a secretary. Not an assistant. If you’re given trouble, show them the back where I’ve written my name, okay, girl?”
She preened her feathers and he fed her an owl treat before he petted her softly.
“Don’t bite Mr. Thicknesse, though,” he ordered softly. “You can bite anyone else, just not him. This is important, okay, girl?”
Hedwig cooed at him and held out her leg where he attached the letter before she flew off into the evening.
“M-Mr. Th-Thick-n-nesse?” Hermione asked, pulling herself up and drying her eyes forcefully. “The H-Head of the D-Department of Magical Law Enforcem-ment?” She took a deep breath and looked at him squarely in the eyes.
“Yes,” he answered succinctly before making his way over to the school owls. “All right, I need two reliable owls—” A beautiful masked owl landed on his shoulder with a hoot. He looked up and recognized Prospère, Octavian’s owl, who was holding out his leg patiently. Harry laughed. “You want to take it for me, then?” he asked and the owl hooted in response. “Are you certain Octavian won’t mind?”
The owl, however, didn’t move.
“This is for President Ragnok of Gringotts. It is for his hands, but you may give it to a personal secretary. Do not allow a human to read it. Wait until he tells you that you can leave, unless you have to get back to our favorite Hufflepuff, of course.” He smiled at the beautiful owl and tied the letter to his leg, and then gave him an owl treat. The owl ruffled his feathers and then soared out the window after Hedwig.
After choosing another owl, he gave his directions for Flourish and Blotts and, asking the owl to be careful with the bag of Sickles, watched it fly out into the darkness as well.
Hermione stood, impassively staring at him. “Why are you writing to Mr. Thicknesse, Harry?” she asked coldly as she followed him out of the owlery.
“I had an urgent petition for him.”
“It’s not like you to petition the Ministry,” she noted.
“Not in the past, no, but now I have a reason and I don’t mind my name going on file for this particular cause.”
“And what cause is that?”
He turned to him. “Why? All you have to know is it’s important enough for me to owl the Head of the D.M.L.E. on a Saturday. Isn’t that enough, Hermione?”
She huffed at him. “We’re friends, Harry, friends tell—”
“Then why were you crying?” he demanded.
Hermione’s lips trembled, but she didn’t answer.
“That’s what I thought,” he answered before hurrying away, determined to catch the tail end of the party if he could.
“Harry,” she pleaded. She had obviously followed him. “This isn’t about Prince, is it?”
“What if it is? What business of yours is my relationship with my boyfriend?”
“Why won’t you listen to me?” she half begged. “His father is a Death Eater.”
“Octavian is not,” Harry bit back. “He firmly believes in neutrality and doesn’t even think that purebloods and children should be involved.”
Hermione scoffed. “How idealistic of your pureblood extremist. I suppose he thinks we should just let the war fight itself out around us? How rich coming from someone who thinks he has the right to oppress Muggle-borns.”
“He’s the one who’s oppressed, Hermione, and you’re one of the prejudiced people who happily does it!” he shouted, before disappearing behind a tapestry and leaving Hermione in his wake.
On Tuesday morning, Harry sat down at the Hufflepuff table, as was now his habit, and grinned when he felt a smaller hand pressing against his arm. He turned, smiling at his boyfriend.
“Bonjour, Henri Jacques,” he greeted. “I ‘ad ze most interesting conversation with a portrait last night.”
Aidan bit back a laugh. “That’s an understatement,” he commented, smiling at Caspar who, Harry noticed, had turned the tips of his hair a bright blue. He wondered briefly if all Metamorphagi favored oddly colored hair or if it was Black family trait.
“And what did this portrait say?” he asked teasingly.
“‘Ee wanted to welcome me to ‘is family as ‘e believed zat I was to marry ‘is descendant quite soon. It is interesting, non?”
Harry, who had just taken a long drink from his pumpkin juice, gagged on it and felt it bubbling up through his nose.
Everyone around them began to laugh but Octavian continued on innocently. “‘Ee was ‘Eadmaster at ‘Ogwarts, did you know? Il avait du charme. ‘Ee gave me advice on ‘ow to fix your ‘ouse in London for you and said zat l’elfe de la maison would simply adore me. It was nice of ‘im, non?”
“Yes, Phineas Nigellus Black, my great-great-grandfather, who is going to find his portrait suddenly lost in the basement,” Harry said darkly.
Octavian’s black eyes twinkled at him and Harry could only chuckle.
“Happy with yourself?”
“Of course. You should know better zen to confide in portraits,” Octavian teased before kissing Harry lightly and turning back to his breakfast.
Harry could only shake his head in exasperation.
Later at breakfast, a thick parchment from Thicknesse arrived and Harry carefully stowed it in his bag, wanting to read it later in privacy as he was uncertain of the contents. He had almost given up hope that his signet rings would arrive, when Hedwig flew in regally and settled herself happily on his shoulder, a letter and a small package tied to her leg.
“Hello, girl,” he greeted, feeding her a bit of bacon before he untied her parcel. “Did you have a nice flight to London?”
He set the package down and opened the letter, which informed him that both of his signet rings were included as were detailed descriptions of several Black and Potter betrothal rings for both wizards and witches. In addition, there were a few recommendations and even intricate illustrations of the rings Ragnok thought were best suited for the betrothed of the Head of the Family.
Octavian looked at the package in interest but said nothing, discussing a Transfiguration assignment with Aidan instead.
“Open it,” Harry whispered in his ear when he caught Octavian eyeing it again.
“Are you certain?” he lilted and Harry only nodded.
Reverently, he picked up the package and slowly unwrapped it to reveal two small boxes, one with the Potter Family Crest and the second with the Black insignia.
“Are these—?” he began before hastily opening them and staring in astonishment at the two rings, each imposing yet tasteful and crafted out of platinum. They were polished until they gleamed in the morning light, although they were clearly several centuries old. “Ils sont merveilleux!” Octavian breathed as he closely inspected them. “But why?”
“They are my right and I knew it would make you happy if I followed the traditions,” he admitted quietly, so that only Octavian could hear him.
Octavian smiled up at him. “May I put zem on you?”
“Of course,” Harry responded and he smiled when Octavian reverently took each in his hand and slid them onto Harry’s ring and index fingers on his right hand. Harry could only hope that soon he would be doing the same for Octavian with his betrothal ring.
Hermione was no longer speaking to Ron and Ron wasn’t talking to Hermione. Harry only spoke to Hermione when necessary and Ron hardly at all since he was always snogging Lavender Brown in public places. Hermione followed Harry around whenever he was in the library, which was rather often when he wasn’t with Octavian as he was busy researching different ways to legitimize Octavian if his father wasn’t released from Azkaban.
Hermione, in an attempt to “save their friendship,” was currently prattling on about Slughorn’s Christmas Party the next night. “I haven’t been invited, of course,” she said deprecatingly to Harry, but he wasn’t really listening. “But Cormac asked me and I thought it would anger Ron—”
“Cormac McLaggen?” Harry asked suddenly.
“Yes. He was ever so sweet when he asked and what with Ron running about with that—that—”
“McLaggen was sweet?”
“Sweeter than Zacharias Smith when he asked last week. He didn’t bother to give me roses or anything. Just cornered me after Transfiguration.”
“Hmm,” Harry responded noncommittally.
Hermione didn’t seem to notice. “You know, you should really ask someone soon. I heard Romilda Vane and some of her friends talking about slipping you a love potion of all things. They’re all hoping you’ll ask one of them.”
Harry’s head snapped up. “I have a date.”
Hermione huffed and stared accusingly at Harry’s signet rings. She, of course, hadn’t approved, but he knew she never would. She thought he was being corrupted. He thought that she was just as bigoted as the Death Eaters when it came down to it.
“Really, Harry, this—experiment—of yours has gone on long enough,” she stated. “You’ve had your fun—dated the son of a whore—”
“He is not the son of a whore,” Harry growled dangerously and his eyes snapped wide when he noticed that Octavian was standing nearby, shock written across his face. He smiled apologetically at him before turning back to Hermione, who was becoming less and less of a friend every day. “He is the son of a woman, just like you are the daughter of a woman. Or are you calling your own mother a whore?”
“My parents are legally married,” she stated primly. “His are not.”
“That’s only because your mother was a shrew who probably nagged your father until he couldn’t say ‘no’!” he whispered darkly, the words snapping Octavian out of his alarm.
She sniffed. “It does not matter anyway. You must take someone—Professor Slughorn would never allow him to attend. What do you think I should wear? I thought about the dress I wore to the Yule Ball, but it’s been seen and I have these pretty silver robes that I got from Madam Malkin’s. What do you think?”
“Henri Jacques,” Octavian greeted, effectively cutting Hermione off. He kissed Harry lightly before turning to Hermione. “Granger.”
She didn’t answer.
“You are going to Slughorn’s Party, zen? I am surprised.” His black eyes glinted and he pulled out a chair next to Harry.
“Oh, why? I’ve been lucky enough to be invited.”
“Of course,” Octavian whispered. “Slughorn invited me as well. I am merely astonished zat le professeur would invite someone of inferior birth—the child of Muggles. ‘Ee is a more liberal man zan I believed.”
Harry entwined their fingers knowing the rebuke was completely deserved. Octavian had not accused, had not stated that she was beneath him, only that society considered Muggle-borns lesser because of their origins. The bite was beneath the words.
Hermione looked up at Octavian and stared.
“I should have known,” she said deliberately at a long pause. “You are just as prejudiced as Draco Malfoy.”
Harry looked at her confused.
“You even look like the ferret scum.”
Octavian stilled and his jaw clenched. “It is to be expected,” he finally whispered although Harry could feel his hand gently shaking in his own. “After all, zose ‘oo are pure of blood are, after all, related to one another, at least through le mariage.” He squeezed Harry’s hand and then stood before walking quietly out of the library, nodding briefly to Susan Bones on his way out.
Harry quickly shoved his books into his bag. “How could you?” he hissed.
“How could I?” Hermione asked, whispering angrily. “How could he?”
“You started it,” he accused. “You always start it with your ignorant prejudices.”
“He’s a pureblood extremist.”
“He’s a goddamn traditionalist, Granger. He is not a Death Eater,” he snapped.
“They say his father is.”
“So what?” Harry demanded, slinging his bag over his shoulder. “I’m the son of a bully and a woman who possibly turned her childhood friend into a monster worse than even Voldemort.” He swallowed back his guilt at his mother’s small involvement in the half-blood Prince’s actions, but he couldn’t disassociate her completely.
“W-What are you talking about?” she asked, startled.
“You think I’d ever tell you a goddamn thing after that? It’s over, Granger,” he said loudly enough for a few people to hear. “Our friendship should have ended three years ago, you hypocrite.”
“Harry,” she pleaded, reaching for him.
“Don’t touch me,” he snapped softly before striding out of the library, his eyes briefly meeting Draco Malfoy’s as he passed the Slytherin.
Without even thinking about it, Harry ran down the halls until he exited the castle, looking about the grounds for a head of honey blond hair. Octavian was out of sight, but Harry knew he was probably near the Forbidden Forest, especially if the fireflies were out.
“Octavian!” he called out as he rounded a bend and saw his boyfriend standing among hundreds of red and green lightning bugs. He dropped his bag on the frozen ground, not caring as he heard his inkbottles clinking against each other. Nothing was important to him except Octavian.
Harry came up behind him and just watched in wonder as small lights danced magically around Octavian.
“J’adore des lucioles,” he admitted quietly. “Zey always are so ‘appy, so small, and zey never sleep even when les petits magiciens should.”
Harry smiled softly and wrapped his arms around Octavian’s waist from behind. “They’re beautiful,” he concurred. “All brightness and purity—like my Octavian.”
Octavian smiled weakly and turned in Harry’s arms, his face covered in teardrops that reflected the glow from the fireflies.
“You are too beautiful,” Harry whispered, entranced, as he ran his fingers along the lines of Octavian’s face. Octavian closed his eyes as Harry dried his tears with ghosting fingers. “I know it’s been assumed,” Harry said softly, “but will you go to Slughorn’s Christmas Party with me tomorrow night?”
Octavian’s eyes slowly fluttered open and he smiled in response. “Shall we go in our wizard coats and cause a sensation or ze traditional robes?”
Harry laughed softly. “I believe the invitation said ‘party wear.’”
Octavian looked thoughtful. “Ze coats, zen. You look, as ze English say, dashing in yours.”
“I do?” Harry smirked before resting his forehead gently against Octavian’s. “Je t’aime tellement.”
Octavian sighed happily. “Je t’aime, aussi, Henri Jacques.”
Harry opened his eyes, startled, and found himself looking into Octavian’s eyes. “No one’s ever loved me before,” he found himself admitting softly.
“Well, zat is no longer ze case,” Octavian assured him shyly. “I love you now and I do not think I will stop.” He bit his lip, but Harry could see a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
“Can—” Harry began tentatively before gathering his courage. “Can I kiss you?”
“But Henri Jacques,” Octavian replied, slightly confused, “you already kiss me. You do not ‘ave to ask. Not anymore.”
“I know,” Harry sighed, “but I meant—can I—I—” He was at a loss as to how to explain what he wanted without using the word “snog.” That just seemed wrong. One did not snog Octavian Nür Prince—one—did something more refined that was incredibly like snogging—
As if sensing his desires, Octavian stood on his toes and gently kissed Harry before running his tongue against Harry’s bottom lip hesitantly. “Like zat?” he asked huskily as he pulled away slightly.
“Yes, just like that,” Harry responded before dipping his head and claiming Octavian’s waiting lips again.
Octavian whimpered as he felt Harry’s lips part against his and a smooth tongue gracefully moving against his lips, begging for entrance. Without question, his lips parted and Harry’s tongue snaked in among the smooth planes of Octavian’s mouth, causing both boys to moan when their tongues began to entwine.
Harry felt like he was drowning in the sweet pleasure and sighed when Octavian pressed himself tightly into Harry’s arms. Sensations coursed through him and he could feel Octavian’s fingers twining into his hair, willing his knees not to collapse beneath him.
How could anything be so perfect as this one moment between them, the salty taste of tears still fresh on his lips as Harry drank in his taste?
Octavian mewed as Harry nipped against his upper lip, teasing him, before strong hands found their way to his waistband and slid smoothly up his back, the starch of his shirt suddenly fluttering against his skin in the cold December air.
Harry laughed happily into Octavian’s mouth as Octavian further deepened the kiss, moaning quietly as he arched into Harry’s every touch. Octavian further tilted Harry’s head downward and, with a rush of boldness, plunged his own tongue into his boyfriend’s mouth, sucking gently until he had to pull away, gasping for breath.
Harry groaned at the loss of contact and held Octavian to him tightly as they both steadied their breathing.
“It is no wonder zat Caspar ‘as been teasing me for not—‘ow does ‘e say—snogging you every chance I get, Henri Jacques.”
Harry laughed into Octavian’s hair before gently kissing him again. “I love you so much,” he confessed before claiming the soft lips again in a crushing kiss.
“And I you, Henri Jacques,” Octavian whispered.
Not as much as I love you, Harry thought into the dimming afternoon light. Not as much as I love you. . . .
French to English Translations.
Bonjour, Henri Jacques. Good morning, Henri Jacques.
Il avait du charme. He was charming.
L’elfe de la maison. The house-elf.
Ils sont merveilleux! They are marvelous!
Le professeur. The professor.
Le mariage. Marriage.
J’adore des lucioles. I adore the fireflies.
Les petits magiciens. The small magicians.
Je t’aime tellement. I love you so much.
Je t’aime, aussi, Henri Jacques. I love you, too, Henri Jacques.