Part the Eleventh—
But earthly happier is the rose distill’d than that, which, withering on the virgin thorn, grows, lives, and dies, in single blessedness.
—A Midsummer Night’s Dreams, Act I, scene i
Harry fell out of a fireplace much to the surprise of the patrons of the Leaky Cauldron. In short order, he had a room with a large bed for the rest of his holiday, and had set it up to be both cozy and warm. Prospère was still resting from both his flight and the journey through the Floo Network, sitting happily on top of the talking mirror. Harry quickly sent off a note to Octavian, telling him about his change of location, though not the reason, and thanking him profusely for his gift, before sending it off with one of the Inn’s post owls.
The following afternoon found him sitting on the bed, cross-legged, reading The Darker Side of Protective Charms and stealing glances at the betrothal ring he hoped to slip very soon on Octavian’s hand. It was one of the older Black pieces, a simple platinum band etched with Old Norse runes for variants of the words ‘dark’ and ‘black.’ It glowed in the darkness with a protective light that was nearly a millennium old.
Astoria Greengrass had instantly favored it. “It would suit. It is ancient and noble—like Prince’s impeccable bloodline demands. You would be showing him you respect the past—the old ways—tradition—that pureblood culture is superior to all others.”
Harry had looked at her.
“Surely you know that’s what traditionalism signifies?” she had laughed prettily. Quietly, she admitted, “Most of us could only hope of receiving a ring this powerful and this old. Wizards now favor newer rings from the late Tudor period and, although lovely, they could not hold a candle to this piece of our tradition.”
The ring was unlike all of the other Black betrothal rings—but Harry thought it was perfect. It was understated, magically powerful, and exuded possession and protection over the wearer.
Octavian was his, and Harry would make sure that every witch and wizard—Octavian included—knew it without a doubt.
A quiet knock startled him from his musings and he quickly closed the box that housed the betrothal ring and slid it under his pillow. Prospère hooted from the mirror and Harry quickly made for the door, opening it to reveal a hesitant—
“Octavian?” Harry breathed, a smile spreading over his face and reaching his eyes.
Before Octavian could speak, Harry was pulling him into the room, taking his trunk from his grasp and pressing Octavian gently against the back of the now-closed door.
“You’re here,” he murmured as he stared into black eyes that made his stomach churn.
Raising his hand to Octavian’s cheek, he cupped his fiancé’s face gently before claiming the soft lips with a quiet desperation that spoke of their separation. Octavian moaned into Harry’s mouth, and Harry drank in every gentle exhalation of breath as he explored Octavian’s mouth, delighting in the familiar taste of warm milk with a new added hint of sea spray and cocoa.
“What are you doing here?” he gasped as he gently pulled away, his face resting in the crook of Octavian’s neck.
Octavian sighed before pushing Harry away, confusing him.
“Let us sit down, oui?” he began hesitantly.
“Octavian, what’s wrong?” Harry asked as he reverently put the large tome on the bedside table.
“Maman, elle. . .” He paused. “She likes you very much but when she saw your present, she—it was not pleasant. She tried to burn ze papers but zey seem to ‘ave indestructible spells on zem. Zen she was unpleasant and said—‘ateful things. I did not wish to stay.” He looked up worriedly at Harry. “Should I not ‘ave come, Henri Jacques?”
“No,” Harry assured him, kissing him again. His smooth lips were so addictive. “No, you definitely should always come.”
Octavian smiled brilliantly and lay down, pulling Harry down on top of him.
“Is this all right?” Harry asked worriedly not wanting to frighten his fiancé.
“Oui. You make me feel safe, mon Henri Jacques.”
Harry smiled. “I’m glad,” he murmured against Octavian’s lips before claiming them again. He couldn’t contain the moan in the back of his throat as Octavian tentatively claimed his mouth, reveling in the heat of a tongue tangling with his.
It had never been like this with Cho—not even remotely, just that one horrid kiss. One soft brush of Octavian’s lips against his own sent his blood straight to his groin, taking over his mind completely until all he could do was sense—taste—touch.
With trembling hands, he pushed the deep blue and gold robes from Octavian’s shoulders. “Are you fond of this shirt?” Harry murmured as he fingered the buttons, his lips never leaving his fiancé’s.
“Je ne sais pas,” Octavian moaned, clearly not remembering much of anything except that he was on a soft bed and Harry was above him, kissing his lips and mouth with both passion and gentleness.
Harry smirked. “D’accord.” He pulled firmly against the shirt, ripping the top two buttons from it.
Octavian didn’t seem to notice. His hands were roving up Harry’s chest, pushing against the charcoal gray turtleneck he was wearing.
As dusk began to overtake the sky, Octavian began to stir in Harry’s embrace. They were lying comfortably in each other’s arms, limbs intertwined; the only thing separating them was their trousers. “Don’t go,” Harry begged against Octavian’s hair. “Stay here—with me—until we go back. Please.”
Octavian looked up at him confused. “But it is not proper,” he whispered.
“It is proper,” Harry argued before untangling one arm and slipping his hand beneath his pillow. Pulling out the small jewelry box, he opened it clumsily with one hand and took out the betrothal ring, Octavian staring at it with awe. “My fiancé,” he whispered reverently as he slipped the ring on Octavian’s small hand. “My beloved. My betrothed.”
The ring hummed and glowed slightly brighter as the ritual was completed.
They lay in silence, Octavian’s gaze never leaving his betrothal ring and Harry smiled softly to himself.
“Stay with me?” he asked again.
Octavian’s black eyes looked up into his and he smiled. “Of course, Henri Jacques. Je t’aime.”
By the end of the week, Harry doubted he would be able to sleep without Octavian once they returned to Hogwarts. Although they had fallen asleep in each other’s arms once before, Octavian had blushed when he first came out of their small water closet, dressed in flannel pajama bottoms and a long sleeved black shirt. His hair was drawn back in a loose ponytail and Harry had to suppress the urge to laugh when he noticed the honey blond strands were confined in what looked like a Muggle hair band.
“Wow,” Harry stated, awed. “You look fit even in flannel.”
Octavian had quirked an eyebrow at him. “Fit?”
“Er,” Harry blushed. “Attractive.”
“Ah, well zen, zat is quite all right,” Octavian teased, crawling beneath the sheets and into Harry’s waiting arms.
He brought his left hand up to his face to brush a strand out of his dark eyes.
“Do you like it?” Harry asked, biting his lip.
“Je l’adore.” Octavian kissed him softly. “What does it say?”
“It’s West Saxon, at least according to the annals.” He grasped Octavian’s hand and brought it close so he could see the engravings without his glasses. “There, that one,” he pointed, “says Blac. It means ‘black,’ obviously, but also ‘shining, bright’ and I think ‘pale’ oddly enough. And then this one means darkness. Can’t remember what it actually says,” he said squinting before turning Octavian’s hand over. “Then finally Niht.” He attempted to pronounce it and clearly failed as Octavian started laughing quietly behind them. “I never took German,” Harry mumbled. “It means ‘night.’”
“Black, dark, night,” Octavian repeated.
Harry’s stomach fluttered at the sound of Octavian’s harsh “r” that he had come to adore.
“Yes, though you are anything but those things.”
Octavian looked up, confused.
“Nür,” Harry explained. “Bill said it meant ‘light’ in Arabic. Why did your mother choose it? Did you have some connection with the Middle East?”
“Non,” Octavian shook his head. “Nothing like zat. I was named for mon Papa. ‘Is name means ‘light’ and ‘brightness.’”
Harry smiled. “Well, it’s perfect for you.”
“Even zough I ‘ave black eyes, Lord Black?” Octavian laughed quietly before snuggling deeper into Harry’s embrace.
“Even if you have black eyes. Your hair, after all, is the color of sunshine.”
“And yours,” Octavian replied, drifting off into slumber, “is like ze darkest and most beautiful night, Henri Jacques.”
Harry kissed his honey colored hair as he listened to Octavian’s breathing slowly even out.
When they arrived back at Hogwarts via the Floo, Professor McGonagall looked startled. “Mr. Potter!” she exclaimed, eyeing Octavian. “Why aren’t you with the Weasleys?”
“Oh, I didn’t spend Ch—Yule with them,” Harry responded, brushing the ash off himself.
She looked at him, confused. “That is quite out of order, Mr. Potter,” she said, taking a small black book from a drawer and opening it. She hummed in the back of her throat as she riffled through the pages and finally stopped. “I have it written down quite clearly that you were to spend the holidays with the Weasleys.”
Harry looked at her, astonished. Since when had she been keeping track of his every movement? Why? Had Dumbledore put her up to this?
“Pardonnez-moi,” Octavian said quietly. “‘Owever, I was unaware zat it was ‘Ogwarts policy to keep track of its students location over ze ‘olidays and zen to question zem on it when zey return.”
McGonagall’s eyes narrowed at him and her mouth thinned into a hard line, accentuating the crows’ feet around her lips. “Professor Dumbledore will not be pleased,” she told Harry.
His green eyes hardened and although he wanted to look away, he didn’t. “I thought I was an orphan, professor.”
“You are, Mr. Potter.”
He glanced at Octavian, still unused to talking about pureblood law and etiquette. Whenever he did at the Burrow, someone would jump down his throat and he would be accused of something.
Octavian smiled at him slightly, giving him all the strength he needed.
“As an orphan with Muggle—guardians, Professor Dumbledore and any other wizard including representatives of the Ministry of Magic have no say over my movement or location when I am not at Hogwarts,” he recited, hoping he’d gotten it all right. All of the legal jargon still confused him at times.
Octavian squeezed his hand to reassure him, causing warmth to spread from his hand.
“Mr. Potter, you know perfectly well—”
“I was perfectly safe as I am standing here in front of you. Is there anything else?”
McGonagall’s eyes looked pinched and she put down her little book, leaving it open to the page she had been looking at. “Be assured, Mr. Potter, I will be contacting the Weasleys.”
“I’m sure you will. Why don’t I save you the trouble? We had an argument over a Charms book that was given to me for Yule. They wanted to confiscate it simply because they didn’t approve of protective spells. The Minister of Magic was even a witness to the fight, so you can ask him.”
She blinked several times recently. “And this book?”
“It was my present to ‘im, professeur,” Octavian answered. “It was copied and illuminated by scribes at La Conciergerie.”
McGonagall stared at them both in complete shock. Trying to regain her composure and failing, she pulled out a crumpled copy of the Daily Prophet and rested it on her desk. Taking a deep breath, she looked up at Harry, completely ignoring Octavian once again. “I was going to ask if you wanted to take action against the Prophet and other papers concerning the false allegations that you are engaged to a wizard who has no name.”
Octavian stiffened at the insult and Harry just stared at her in horror.
Traditionally, Octavian would not have been given any surname at all, instead just being known as Octavian Nür. He wouldn’t be given the courtesy of a given name if he had any friends or a surname at all, and was considered only a few steps above a house-elf in magical terms. Where ‘Mudbloods’ had autonomy at least in the Muggle world and thus were granted it in the magical one, Octavian would have no standing in either unless his sire recognized him and his sire’s extended family raised him.
It was only because of a controversial law in 1807 that coincided with the Muggle Slave Trade Act that illegitimate children were permitted to carry their mothers’ maiden names at all and legally permitted to work for wages as well as marry legitimate purebloods and half-bloods. Their children were also given automatic legitimacy in these relationships.
‘Illegitimates,’ Harry knew, rarely did marry, though, and when they did, it was usually to Muggle-borns who disliked the injustice of it all. There were a few known cases of ‘Illegitimates’ wedding Muggles and leaving the wizarding world entirely, but that was primarily before the nineteenth century. They, though, rarely moved out of poverty unless they became the mistress or concubine to a pureblood.
He knew that by marrying and legitimizing Octavian through old traditions, he was nonetheless doing what no one had ever managed before. Ever since the announcement in the Daily Prophet, speculation had been running rampant in various wizarding publications. Harry was being lauded as a hero for saving Octavian from a fate worse than death by the more liberal Quibbler, while the more traditional paper Clairvoyance showed him as a rising pureblood Lord who was cementing his position through his marriage to the “currently unrecognized scion of two of England’s noblest lines.”
That he was using pureblood means to legitimize Octavian was taken as further proof, as well as an itemized list of his purchases at Twilfitt and Tattings which, Harry suspected, Octavian had sent in, if his impish smile was anything to go by.
McGonagall, though, apparently did not agree with Clairvoyance and instead was holding the Prophet and glaring at it with disdain. A rather good shot of Harry and Octavian having ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s a few days previous took up most of the first page, and the paper had even paid for color printing so that Octavian’s blue and purple coat contrasted perfectly with Harry’s more traditional and somber black garment.
The entire situation with McGonagall was disgusting to Harry.
He loved Octavian with every fiber of his being and he couldn’t bear the thought that even McGonagall—even-tempered and fair McGonagall—held such ingrained prejudices against him.
Harry clasped his hand protectively around Octavian’s waist. “I would hardly call an announcement I myself sent in a false allegation. We’re also betrothed, professor, not engaged.”
McGonagall opened her mouth but appeared to have lost her voice. A betrothal was unheard of outside of pureblood circles and even then, it was rare. Only the head of a family or possibly the heir could enter a betrothal in which one of the magical family heirloom rings was given to the fiancée in trust. With the acceptance of the ring on both sides of the family—which then activated the ring’s magic—the marriage could be completed at any time with the exchange of family wedding bands and an oath to magic. All Harry and Octavian would need was a broom closet and the rings and they would be legally and magically married until one of them died.
The fire behind the students glowed green and they quickly stepped out of the way to see Blaise Zabini unfold himself elegantly, a small trunk under one arm. “Professor,” he greeted before turning to the others. “Lord Black, Black.” He nodded to each of them in turn.
Octavian started before glancing down at his betrothal ring, and bit his lip.
Harry grinned at Zabini. He knew Octavian had been worried no one would follow that particular tradition. It had gone out of style in the twelve hundreds when someone’s betrothed was only given their husband’s name upon marriage, not upon the customary betrothal.
“Zabini,” Harry greeted and Octavian nodded.
“That reminds me,” he said conversationally, heading for the door and opening it, waiting for Harry who was of higher rank to pass through. He looked at Blaise, surprised, but nonetheless led Octavian out of McGonagall’s study.
“This matter is not yet over, Mr. Potter!” McGonagall cried after him, but he didn’t listen.
Blaise continued. “I have an invitation for both of you.” He reached into an inside pocket of his deep black wizard coat with blue embroidery and pulled out a small white envelope. “It’s from a member of the House of Black,” he informed them and Harry took it and placed it in his own pocket.
“Thank you, Zabini.”
Octavian had immediately taken him to the Hufflepuff dormitories. “You are not going back zere if I can ‘elp it.” he responded to Harry’s confused look after Blaise had walked away. “I do not want zat woman near you.”
Harry smiled at him and kissed his hair softly. “Then lead on, Mr. Black,” he teased.
Hufflepuff House embraced Harry with open arms. Caspar had gotten a petition up among the other fourth-years, allowing Harry to spend his evenings in the Hufflepuff dormitory. Octavian’s bed had been moved to the corner near a circular window that looked out across the Black Lake and using some handy charms, they had erected a few partitions that had long lasting Silencing Spells on them so that Harry and Octavian could have a modicum of privacy.
A few upper years got into the fun when Octavian attacked Harry’s trunk and took out all of his school uniforms.
“It’s tradition,” Ernie Macmillan informed him as he watched Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott looking over his red and gold ties.
“What’s tradition?” he asked, fearfully.
“Whenever someone marries—or becomes betrothed, in this case—to a Hufflepuff, they become an honorary member of the House. We’ve had Sprout sign off on it and everything.”
“Wh-What?” Harry asked nervously as Justin Finch-Fletchley exclaimed “Convertio Hufflepuffem” with a predatory gleam to his eyes. His tie remained unchanged for a moment before it shivered. The red bled out of it, leaving a midnight black while the gold dimmed into a warm yellow.
“All better,” a third-year named Rose Zeller said in satisfaction.
More students were pouring into the dormitory with bottles of Butterbeer and various sweets. “Conversion party!” a seventh-year exclaimed happily.
“We haven’t had a Conversion party since the 1920s,” Ernie explained over the excited chatter around them. “Now. Let’s talk about Quidditch.”
“Q-Quidditch?” Harry watched in half-horror as his badge was transformed and then his cloak was altered so that it had a yellow, instead of a red, lining.
“Cadwallader!” Ernie called and a stocky looking seventh-year managed to tear his eyes away from the Gryffindor scarf he had been about to curse—er, spell.
“Macmillan,” he greeted before his expression took on a predatory look as he eyed Harry up and down.
“I was just talking to Harry about Quidditch.”
Harry gulped nervously as Cadwallader growled in the back of his throat.
“Excellent,” he said darkly, brushing his ginger hair from his dark brown eyes. “You’ve been causing my team a lot of problems over the years, Potter.”
“Er,” Harry began to answer.
“You were Captain of the Gryffindor team, right?”
“Were?” Harry asked in disbelief.
“Sorry, Harry,” Ernie responded, not sounding sorry at all. “You’re a Hufflepuff now. Helga Hufflepuff’s own great-granddaughter was the first to have a party thrown for her and her Ravenclaw husband. The then Head of House decided to appropriate him and it’s been a tradition ever since. Sorry, mate, but you’re no longer a Gryffindor. The points you’ve earned throughout the year will be transferred to Hufflepuff before the day is out.”
“I’d gladly have you as Seeker,” Cadwallader put in. “We need to beat those Gryffindors. I can have you lined up for Captain and everything next year.”
“Right,” Harry said, nodding his head, still in disbelief that this was actually happening. How was this happening again?
Harry opened his mouth to object but then Octavian looked over at him with a brilliant smile on his face and Harry found he could not quite remember what he was going to object to anymore.
Octavian was excited later that evening in the Hufflepuff common room, which was a lot warmer than the Gryffindor Tower, which sometimes had odd drafts, when he saw the sign up for Apparition lessons.
“Tu es éligible,” he informed Harry before sitting down beside him. “I wrote down your name.”
Harry smiled at him fondly. “I can see you now, ordering about the house-elves and making sure I eat enough in ten years.”
“As you should. Is it not my place to look after my ‘usband?”
Harry was reading about the Fidelius Charm, which was considered a darker form of magic as it could potentially mutilate a soul in which the secret was hidden.
“And who will take care of you?” Harry asked, kissing him softly.
“Why, zat would be my own ‘usband. ‘Ee does an excellent job.” He played with the betrothal ring on his finger and smiled secretly to himself.
“I should meet this husband of yours at some point,” Harry said loftily.
“Oui, je conviens. You can meet ‘im when you next look in a mirror.”
Harry laughed openly. “Is this husband of yours trapped in a mirror then or does he just live there?”
Octavian shook his head in amusement. Harry looked at him pensively for a few moments.
“My house-elf, Kreacher, sent me maggots for Christmas.”
Octavian looked up, shocked, his nose scrunched up in shock. “Les larves?”
“Yes. I think he’d like you, you are a pureblood after all, but I don’t think I want him anywhere near you.” He took a sip of a Butterbeer he had been given earlier. “He’s working currently at Hogwarts, but. . .”
“I want you safe,” Harry stated firmly, “cared for if I have to go into hiding because of the war. How do you feel about house-elves in general?”
Octavian looked at him, utterly perplexed. “I do not know. I ‘ave never ‘ad one, zough Maman ‘ad one as a nanny when she was petite.”
Harry nodded before closing the book and running it back up to the dorm.
“Henri Jacques?” Octavian questioned as Harry came bounding back through the tunnel.
Harry grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the portrait hole, which was a still life painting of a weeping willow that was actually crying.
“Where are we going?” Octavian asked as he followed Harry down the hallway until they reached the kitchen entrance. “As-tu faim?”
Shaking his head, Harry tickled the pear and slipped through, Octavian following him, still confused. As it was late at night, the kitchen was relatively deserted as many house-elves were about the castle, cleaning it or doing whatever house-elves actually did.
“Ah, Winky,” Harry said, spotting the small house-elf who was sitting in a pool of blankets near one of the stoves. Butterbeer bottles littered her little nest. He crouched down beside her and the little elf looked at him piteously.
“What is Harry Potter wanting with poor Winky, sir?” she hiccupped and Harry shook his head.
Octavian approached warily before sitting on the floor beside Harry.
“I was wondering if you’d like a new family,” Harry asked hesitantly.
Winky’s eyes went wide and she patted down her messy brown hair on the top of her odd little head. “You is getting Winky a new family?” she asked happily.
“Yes, if you want. You’d have to stop drinking Butterbeer, however, and stay sober.” A thoughtful look crossed his face. “Are you good with children?”
Octavian’s eyes widened, but he kept silent.
“There is children at new family?” Winky asked excitedly, getting up on her tiny little legs. Her large tennis ball eyes looked at him happily, glazing over slightly to an even deeper brown.
“Not yet,” Octavian said as he blushed softly. “Maybe in five years?” He looked at Harry in question and Harry beamed back at him.
Winky’s floppy ears dropped a little but she still looked ecstatic. “Winky is good with little wizards. Winky is looking after Master Barty when he is born.”
“Excellent,” Harry said. “Do you have any questions?”
“I is wanting to meet my new family.”
“Er,” Harry paused before Octavian rested his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “It would be us. We’re getting married soon and we’d like a good house-elf who could look after our children and our house. Our house is a bit in shambles, I’m afraid; you’d have a lot of work before summer—that is, if you wanted us as your family. The Blacks, that is. We’re the Blacks, now.” Harry knew he was rambling slightly but the look of adoration on Winky’s face was almost frightening.
“Winky works with Kreacher elf?” she asked hesitantly.
“No! Kreacher will probably remain here until he dies. He’s the elf of the old Black family. We want to start anew.”
She nodded her head fervently. “Who is being Master Lord Black’s fiancé?” The elf looked at Octavian expectantly.
“You know, Winky, you can call me ‘Harry.’”
“Master Harry. Who is other master, Master Harry?”
Harry sighed, knowing he wouldn’t be able to get the little elf to call him anything else.
“Octavian Prince. Or Octavian Black according to the old ways.”
“Master Oct-Octie,” Winky tried to pronounce.
Octavian smiled at her kindly. “It’s nice to meet you, Winky.”
“Master Octie is so kind to poor Winky!” she beamed. “Winky never drinks Butterbeer again. Winky promises Master Harry and Master Octie.”
She bowed low, her ears scraping the blankets beneath her and a bubblegum pink light enveloped her and bound her to the two wizards before her.
“Winky is now Black elf,” she stated happily, clapping her hands together. “Where is Black house? Winky makes it all pretty.”
“Er—it’s under Fidelius,” Harry admitted.
Octavian looked at him, shocked. “Your ‘ome is under the Fidelius Charm?”
“It was before I inherited it.”
“You is all right. If you is seeing house and knowing house, Winky is seeing house,” she explained dutifully.
“Oh, right.” He looked through his pockets and pulled out a spare bit of parchment. “I’ll write you a letter so that no one questions you.” He stood up and went to a nearby table, which Winky quickly began to fill with various pastries along with an old quill and a bottle of ink.
“Oh, Winky,” Harry said absently. “If you could, when you get there, could you try to remove the house-elf heads from the wall?”
Octavian looked at him, shocked.
“Mrs. Black might have been insane and it was a—tradition. If it’s too much, though, I’ll try to deal with them myself.”
“Blacks is using Sticking charms?” she asked, her ears flopping.
“Er-yes. We can’t get them down, or any of the screaming portraits.”
“Winky is good elf. Winky is happy elf,” she chirped in her squeaky voice. “Winky is happy I is having a family and I is fixing nasty portraits for Master Harry and his Octie.”
Harry shook his head affectionately before Octavian slid in beside him.
“Merci, Henri Jacques,” he whispered against Harry’s cheek as Harry began to scribble something.
“For what?” he asked, amused.
“For loving me.”
French to English Translations.
Maman, elle. . . Mother, she . . .
Je ne sais pas. I don’t know.
D’accord. Okay/All right.
Je l’adore. I adore it.
Pardonnez-moi. Excuse me (Octavian is using the formal form to address McGonagall as she is a professor).
Tu es éligible. You are eligible.
Oui, je conviens. Yes, I agree.
Les larves? Maggots?
As-tu faim? Are you hungry?