Part the Nineteenth—
In nature’s infinite book of secrecy, A little I can read.
—Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, scene ii
Octavian’s hand rested on his abdomen lightly as he sat in the half-light of his makeshift room. Harry would be there soon, he realized this, and he needed to know either way. He’d been wondering for weeks know, praying to the old gods that he was mistaken. How could he have been so careless as to not control his thoughts properly? It was up to him; he was the only one who knew of the potion . . . he would be the one responsible . . . .
He took out his pack of tarot cards and caressed them lovingly. A three card spread, he decided. He’d find out from a three card spread, he needed to see the future—his family’s future.
Past. Present. Future.
Clarity. Fog. Darkness.
Shuffling the cards, he glanced over to the jar beside the bed and he smiled slightly despite himself. Harry had gone out the night before and collected green fireflies, saying it was in honor of Octavian’s older brother.
He sighed, his thoughts drifting to his brother before he turned over the first card that had already been in his hands.
The past. The lovers. He sighed in relief; it was the right way up.
The familiar figures were holding each other, firefly-like fairies dancing around them, illuminating their love. It fit them perfectly, he thought. Him and his Henri Jacques.
He paused before picking up the second card and turning it over meticulously, placing it beside the other.
The present. His eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
A tower stood out on the card, a gnarled white tree beside it. Magical figures fell from it, most of them upside down and almost comedic in their pain. A cloud looked down on the scene, a bolt of lightning in a jagged line that reminded him of his husband’s scar cursing the top of the tower from which everyone was fleeing.
The sky was a burnt orange, the cloud almost an angry gray of smoke, the tower burning, burning, being destroyed. Birds flew around it, watching, escaping, he didn’t know.
The card was haunting and yet beautiful. He stroked it with his fingers, trying to discern its meaning, the message it was trying to give him.
The lightning-struck tower. He shivered. Disruption—reversal of fortune—loss.
This was the present, his present, now, this moment. How could it be happening? He was sitting here peacefully on his bed, waiting for his Henri Jacques to come to him and love him like he did every night. Could his realizing the truth be a reversal of fortune? A disruption?
He picked up the next card and held it, unrevealed in his hand.
The word floated across his mind and he shivered in horror. Was he going to lose his little girl—his beautiful Romola Luce Black before she was even born? Was he going to lose his husband after only having such a short time together? It was too soon, too little time, his mind screamed. He loved Harry far too much. Their lives hadn’t even become yet, they were both so young, the war hanging over them like a cloud, both sides tearing at them until they remained alone in the center of the chaos, not untouched.
His mind spun wildly as he ran over all of his thoughts as he had been laying the spread.
Past. Present. Future.
Husband. Brother. Child.
He sucked in his breath harshly as he remembered exactly who had been thinking of when he picked up The Lightning-Struck Tower.
He looked out the window and froze in horror as he gazed out at the Astronomy Tower. An ugly green skull hung in the sky. He knew that mark, although he had never before seen it, and he gulped.
It was done then. War had come to Hogwarts; the walls of their fortress had been breached in the last few minutes.
He dropped his deck and it fell across the covers as he quickly made to grab his wand. He needed to find Harry and his brother—it was imperative that his husband be safe and that he protect his brother from the machinations of this war as much as possible. They were the only two people he had (excluding his father), who cared for him even a little, and he would not lose his brother so soon after he had finally found him.
He opened the drawer beside his bed and took out the small vial that Harry had given him so long ago for his safety. The potion glowed gold in the dim light—Liquid Luck—Felix Felicis. He might need it tonight to keep his beloved husband, brother, and child safe. He unstopped the bottle and took a small sip, feeling it slide down his throat and giving him a giddy feeling before the gravity of the situation sobered him again.
He closed the drawer harshly and the glass jar wobbled on it, green lights that mocked the monstrous dark mark flickering through the room, casting ghostlike patterns against the wall. Octavian barely noticed.
He launched himself off the bed almost blindly, his side hitting the small table again. The jar swung wildly, crashing against the stone walls, shards of glass flying through the room and small green lightning bugs escaping into the room. They danced around the destruction, glowing and flickering, giving Octavian a headache as he tried to calm his thoughts.
Fireflies. Les lucioles. No time. No time. No time.
The earth was turning too quickly—time was passing.
Quickly rushing to Harry’s trunk, he grasped his husband’s invisibility cloak, dropping the final card in the spread that he had been clutching reflexively. He hardly noticed except that his hand needed to be free. He needed that cloak; he needed Harry hidden and safe if Death Eaters were in Hogwarts.
His love must be safe. His father’s name would hopefully protect him, but nothing would save Harry if he were seen.
The ace of wands fell into the trunk, unseen, as Octavian rushed out of the dormitory, green lights blinking although no one was left to see them.
“Trust me,” a voice whispered into Harry’s ear in a deserted classroom as an invisibility cloak was swept over his form.
“Octavian?” he asked, his wand clutched in his fist. “Thank the gods you’re safe.”
Octavian leaned forward and kissed the area where he knew Harry’s lips were concealed. “Stay safe for me, Henri Jacques,” he murmured before turning away and rushing out of the room.
Harry stared dumbly after him before quickly sprinting out of the room. All around him, curses were being fired between Death Eaters and members of the Order of the Phoenix, who had mysteriously appeared, and a few members of Dumbledore’s Army.
He didn’t care—he didn’t see. All he knew was that he had been walking through the halls when chaos erupted and all he wanted to do was find his husband and keep him safe.
He was Octavian’s husband, his protector, he was all that mattered, and Octavian had come out of the safety of the Hufflepuff Basement and then rushed out into the foray of the fighting.
A large blond Death Eater hurled a curse toward Octavian, but he ducked it easily.
“Look at me!” he commanded, a slight arrogant tinge to his voice and the Death Eater strangely stopped. “You can see ‘oose son I am, non? I doubt your Lord would be pleased if you kill me, even if my father is out of favor at ze moment.”
Harry stood immobile at the command Octavian demanded and was shocked when the Death Eater nodded to him. “You seek Malfoy?”
“He is at the top of the tower—on a task given him by our Lord.”
Octavian’s jaw set and without thinking, he raised his wand and deflected a curse that had been sent his way by Ginny Weasley. He swung his wand around and wordlessly immobilized her but did nothing else. “I thank you,” he said quietly before he rushed into the melee again.
Harry took out his wand and flicked it toward Ginny, ending the enchantment with a whispered word before sprinting down the hall again.
Octavian expertly ducked the curses cast toward him and Harry smiled, realizing that he must have taken Felix Felicis. He was slowed down as he had to actively dodge the spells cast around him, but fortunately his labored breathing and footsteps were covered by the sounds of the battle raging around him.
He kept Octavian’s tousled hair in sight easily, catching an occasional flash of blue plaid of his favorite pajama bottoms.
Octavian rushed up the stairs to the tallest tower, his wand still in his hand as he swore in French, and Harry followed closely behind him. Octavian stopped in the doorway and took a few steps forward, but tensed when he heard Harry behind him.
“Merde,” he gasped before pointing his wand perfectly at Harry’s invisible form and immobilized him against a stone wall. “Je t’aime,” he whispered into the night before taking a step forward, his face illuminated in the harsh green glow of the Dark Mark. “Forgive me for interrupting,” he greeted politely before bowing in an archaic pureblood ritual.
The figures on the parapet froze and Harry’s eyes widened as he saw a disarmed Dumbledore pressed against the far wall, his face covered in perspiration, his every breath labored.
Draco Malfoy stood, his wand pointing shakily toward the Headmaster, and four Death Eaters stood around him, egging him on. Harry recognized the lithe form of Bellatrix Lestrange near Malfoy and thought one of the figures might have been Fenrir Greyback.
Bellatrix instantly turned and looked at Octavian in confusion. “I do not believe we have been introduced. State who you are.”
Octavian smiled slightly but Harry could see the tension in his shoulders. “Octavian Nür Black,” he said quietly.
“A Black?” she said astonished. “I didn’t know there was another one.” She waltzed forward casually as if this were a social gathering—to her, Harry thought it might be—and took in his features. “You don’t look like a Black,” she murmured, taking his face in her hands and peering into his eyes.
Harry shuddered in revulsion but the spell that held him was too strong. He could still feel his phoenix feather wand in his hand, but he couldn’t aim it or even speak the words to make sure the bitch no longer touched his husband.
“Octavian,” Malfoy warned, taking his eyes off of Dumbledore briefly to look at the younger boy. “This is not the place for you.”
“Draco,” Octavian said firmly, pronouncing the name reverently, almost in French instead of in English. “Papa would want someone to be with you,” he explained quietly.
Bellatrix looked between the two curiously. “And who is your ‘papa,’ little one?” The question wasn’t cruel as when Hermione had first said something similar almost four years ago. “You are a pureblood, surely.”
Octavian bowed his head. “Of course. I am pure of blood, as ze English would say, Madame.”
“Who is your father? Regulus? No, you’re too young. Sirius, then. The blood traitor. Fortunately he had no hand in raising a Black heir.”
Octavian laughed softly. “No, neither. Zey are mes cousins, as I imagine you are.” He looked at her critically. “Forgive my lack of certainties, Madame.”
She shrugged prettily. “It is nothing, petit.” Her accent was flawless. “Bellatrix Black Lestrange.” She held out her hand and Octavian took it in his own, raising it to just beneath his lips before releasing it.
“A pleasure, Madame.”
“As much as I am enjoying this—family reunion,” Dumbledore stated.
Bellatrix pointed her wand at him and hissed, “Silencio.” She glared at him before turning back to Octavian with a soft smile. “Who is your father then, petit?”
“It is not spoken.” He bowed his head and she looked at him appraisingly.
“You know my nephew?”
“Bellatrix,” one of the Death Eaters—a woman—hissed.
“We have plenty of time, Alecto. The battle is still raging and Dumbledore is practically in his grave. Well, Monsieur Black?”
“Oui, Madame Lestrange.”
“Then go about your business. I am sorry that we disturbed your sleep.” Her eyes raked over his form, causing Harry to shiver, although it was obvious she was only looking for family resemblance.
“Ce n’est pas important.—Draco. What are you doing?”
He sighed before looking at Octavian. “He said he would kill my parents if I didn’t,” he confessed quietly and Octavian stiffened.
“Ze Dark Lord?”
“Yes, Octavian, the Dark Lord.”
Octavian let out a breath. “Is it certain?”
“Yes.” Malfoy’s hands were shaking and Octavian reached out and grabbed his wand hand, steadying it.
Harry watched, heartbroken, as he saw his husband’s small frame wracked in silent sobs. His mind was in shock, not fully processing the information, not understanding why Octavian would be crying for the fate of a family he was related to distantly.
“Zen it shall be done. Henri will not be pleased, je pense.” He glanced away toward the door where Harry was still covered and immobilized, his black eyes begging for understanding. “I would not want zis for you—either of you, Draco.”
“He is safe?”
Octavian nodded. “Of course. I would not put mon mari in danger if I could ‘elp it.”
Draco smiled. “He’s stubborn.”
“‘Ee would ‘ave to be,” Octavian laughed despite the gravity of the situation. “‘Ee chose to marry me, after all, and I am not zat easy to pursue.”
Bellatrix’s head snapped up at the turn of the conversation. She had been circling Dumbledore with a predatory glint in her eyes, taunting him quietly. “You are married? A Black by marriage then?”
Octavian nodded. “Oui.”
“Interesting,” she purred, her finger tracing Dumbledore’s cheek. “Another unknown Black.”
“I actually ‘ave une demande for your Lord, if I may make a ‘umble petition to my lady. I assume you will see ‘im soon?”
“A request?” a large man who looked oddly like Alecto wheezed. Perhaps they were siblings?
“Oui. My cousin—a ‘alf-blood of ze worst sort—is son disciple.”
Malfoy looked at him, confused, but Octavian paid little attention.
“Continue, Monsieur Black,” Bellatrix stated magnanimously, almost as if she were holding court at this bizarre death scene.
“Ze night after ze Dark Lord fell, ‘e was out with my sire on ze streets. I will allow you to get ze reasons for ‘is actions for yourself, but ‘e cast La Malédiction Imperius on Papa and forced ‘im to—what is ze word—r-r-rape ma maman.” He breathed in heavily, tears clearly shining in his eyes. “Zey are both purebloods and I was conceived although Papa was married. I would wish mon cousin to be punished for what ‘e ‘as done.”
Bellatrix gasped. “You are certain?”
“‘Ee basically confessed to me and I know from Papa ‘e was under ze curse, Madame.”
She shivered in revulsion, her hair reflecting the green light of the dark mark. “Our Lord despises such treachery. How old was your mother, child?”
“Elle avait seize ans. At ze time she was in love and engaged to an Evan Rosier.”
She nodded and Malfoy looked between them, completely aghast at the revelation.
“All these years,” he whispered into the night, though Harry could hear him clearly, “all these years I thought he betrayed Mother and yet this was done to all of us. Line theft and rape. How is this half-blood not in Azkaban?”
Bellatrix snapped her head toward him. “What are you saying?”
“A name,” Draco demanded, quickly casting a body bind hex on Dumbledore before lowering his wand. “I need the name of that worthless half-blood.”
Harry’s eyes scanned between the two of them and he would have gasped if he could make a sound. He saw the same high cheekbones, the hair that was so similar—one platinum, the other a honey blond. They each had the same aristocratic features, the same stature. Their lips were almost identical and they each held themselves with the same build that would aid either in dueling or in the position of Seeker or Chaser, though Octavian didn’t play.
It had been right before him all year and he had never allowed himself to see the resemblance. Their eyes were even shaped exactly the same, one a glowing silver and the other a harsh black.
Astoria’s words rushed back to him. The confession about ‘her friend,’ the person who had loved her like a brother and who was her dearest friend—the wizard who she had fallen in love with. The injury, the recklessness, she mentioned, must have been the Buckbeak incident.
He could see Malfoy—his brother-in-law—shocked and feeling hurt, putting on bravado and getting himself injured. He could only lash out at Octavian, the brother he had always wanted so much, and probably couldn’t vocalize his hurt toward his father, so he put all of his anger and retribution toward a creature that had hurt him when he was already low.
Octavian bit his lip and looked away. “Do not make me say it,” he whispered, “but you know ‘im. ‘Ee is ‘ere—at ‘Ogwarts. Look at my eyes. ‘Ee ‘as ze same.”
Malfoy stepped forward and grabbed Octavian’s shoulders, searching his gaze before his eyes narrowed in recognition. “I swear Snape will pay for what he has done, even if I have to kill him myself.”
Harry tensed as the words left Malfoy’s mouth and he began to shudder, his violent reaction breaking slightly through the powerful spell. How dare that man do that to his husband’s mother? He had never felt such rage in his life.
“Why hasn’t your husband—?” Malfoy questioned.
“‘Ee does not know ze name. Dumbledore is manipulative, you know, and I did not want to add any more pressure as I got ‘im away from ze ‘Eadmaster. I also did not wish for ‘im to think less of me. And—”
“Octavian,” Malfoy sighed before embracing him lightly. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you. He could never think less of you.”
“What else, little one?” Bellatrix questioned before dropping a kiss on his forehead. “What else, my nephew?”
“‘Ee—’e did it because your lord killed ze woman ‘e was in love wiz.”
Bellatrix’s eyes darkened. “That Mudblood? Lily Potter?” she questioned.
Malfoy sucked in his breath. “No wonder you never told him,” he murmured.
Bellatrix snapped her gaze toward Draco, a question in her dark eyes.
Rushed footsteps hurried up toward them and Bellatrix’s eyes glittered dangerously. “Not one word about this,” she ordered, making eye contact with the other Death Eaters just before Snape blasted through the door.
“Ah, Severus,” Bellatrix cooed. “So good of you to join us.” She turned back toward the Headmaster, lifting the Silencing Spell. “Any last words?”
“Severus,” he wheezed out, the sound haunting Harry’s mind. There was no remorse though in his eyes, no astonishment at the revelation of what Snape had done to La Princesse, and then Harry realized—he had known what had happened and allowed Snape to stay, permitting a rapist to teach children, to emotionally torture Octavian through his school years. He had stood aside and watched, watched and waited, hating Octavian because he was illegitimate while keeping the snake that had done it as a pet.
Snape’s black eyes flitted about the green bathed scene, landing on Dumbledore.
“Severus, please,” he begged.
A new gleam of conviction shone out of Draco’s gaze and he released his younger brother before pointing his wand at Dumbledore as Snape stepped forward. “This is for our father,” he whispered.
“Draco—” Snape gasped, but Malfoy didn’t listen.
“Avada Kedavra,” he cried out, a brilliant green burst of light erupting from the tip of his wand and sending Dumbledore—his eyes wide and his heart still—over the edge of the tower to the grounds below.
“Hurry,” Bellatrix gasped, pushing the other Death Eaters toward the door, her eyes alighting briefly on Octavian. “Come, little one, I’m sure your father would like to see you.”
Octavian shook his head and pulled away. “My place is with my ‘usband.”
Her eyes softened slightly. “Of course,” she said before rushing out the door behind Snape.
“Tell Astoria that I love her despite what I now am,” Malfoy whispered before hurrying after them, one last look cast toward his brother. “Hurry before they come!” he shouted, but Octavian stood, stock-still, the only movement was a flick of his wrist to release Harry from his invisible bindings.
Harry sprang to life and instantly clasped Octavian to him as his legs gave out. “I’ve got you, you’re safe,” he whispered as he kissed his lips softly. “Don’t say anything. I’ll keep you safe.”
He took out his wand and, grimacing, whispered a minor hex to cut Octavian’s arm so that it looked like he had been injured. “Snape killed Dumbledore,” he whispered into Octavian’s ear. “Repeat after me: Snape killed Dumbledore.”
“Snape a tué Dumbledore,” he said in French, reverting to his native language in shock.
“Bien, Octavian. Bien. Je t’aime. Tu es si brave, mon mari.”
He began slicing their clothes, leaving behind cuts that could have been darker curses that had grazed them.
“Henri Jacques,” Octavian murmured before slipping into a shock induced sleep, and Harry smiled down at him before picking him up in his arms after casting a Weightless Charm on him. He adjusted the cloak around them, and then quickly rushed down the stairs.
A silent chaos met his eyes and he saw the damage the Death Eaters had left in their wake. Large chunks of the walls were missing and several students lay unconscious in his path. He barely noticed even as he stepped over Ginny’s prone form. All that mattered was his unconscious husband in his arms.
Harry didn’t care that Lucius Malfoy was Octavian’s father—that Octavian had permitted Draco to kill Dumbledore—that Snape was La Princesse’s cousin.
The mystery was solved, he thought bitterly to himself. Snape was the half-blood Prince.
It was nothing, though, compared to the pride that swelled within him and the endless love that beat through his veins for the small yet brave wizard he had married.
He rushed into the hospital wing to the sound of confused voices and didn’t even care when he bumped into Ron Weasley as he set Octavian on an empty bed.
Ron whirled around, anger written on his face, but he stopped dead when Harry pushed the invisibility cloak off of himself so he could better see to his husband.
“Madam Pomfrey!” he called. “I think he’s gone into shock!”
The matron rushed over, she was seeing to her patient on the next bed who appeared to be a mangled Bill Weasley and looked over Octavian anxiously. “What happened?”
“We were at the top of the tower. There were Death Eaters—we couldn’t do anything. Dumbledore,” he swallowed, pushing out the lie, “Dumbledore’s dead. We saw Snape kill Dumbledore.”
She looked up, shocked, before nodding. After running several diagnostic spells, she glanced up at Harry and quickly cast a Privacy Charm. “It’s the pregnancy. He’s gone into a magical sleep to protect the baby. It’s a natural defense. He needs rest, especially since he’s only about three weeks along. His body’s still adjusting.”
Harry stared at her, his mouth open. “Octavian’s pregnant? How’s that possible?”
“I would assume from the intercourse you and your husband have likely been engaging in,” she replied as she set about healing the small cuts Harry had inflicted. “He’s lucky he wasn’t hit with anything worse.”
Harry clutched Octavian’s hand and sat down in a chair that Madam Pomfrey seamlessly conjured when she noticed Harry was about to sit on nothing at all.
“Didn’t he need to take a potion to get pregnant?”
She clucked her tongue. “He does. He requested one shortly after you were both married, Mr. Potter. I thought you knew.”
He shook his head, the shock still clear on his face. “It’s all my fault,” he murmured. “I wished for a child every time I made love to him. Of course he would have gotten a potion—it’s the appropriate thing for a pureblood to do.”
Madam Pomfrey’s eyes softened and she patted him on the shoulder. “He would have wanted the child as well if he took it, Mr. Potter. Protect him and your child with your life.”
“Of course. Always,” he murmured before leaning forward and kissing Octavian’s hand. “He’s everything.”
“As it should be.”
She lowered the spell as the still body of Hermione Granger was brought in. Harry looked at it dispassionately, barely registering that his former friend had died in the battle. About ten minutes later, Ginny’s body was brought in to Ron’s renewed distress. Bill simply lay with his eyes staring unseeing at the ceiling.
Harry leaned over and stroked Octavian’s face reverently, marveling at his courage. If he knew that he was carrying their child and still braved Death Eaters to support his brother and keep both of them safe, he was truly amazing.
Harry didn’t care when Mr. and Mrs. Weasley came in with Fleur, the latter of which instantly rushed over to Bill and began to nurse him lovingly. She briefly looked up and their eyes met and she nodded in greeting, a look of relief in her eyes as she noticed that Octavian was breathing.
She quickly cast a Silencing Charm over the four of them, drowning out the sound of Mrs. Weasley’s wails as she wept over the death of her only daughter.
Nothing mattered, to either of them, except that the ones they loved were safe and well.
As soon as Octavian could travel, he would whisk him away to Grimmauld Place and the impenetrable wards and keep him and little Romola safe. Nothing could harm those he loved most and with a Malfoy child, even the Dark Lord would probably be forced to second guess any action taken against his family.
More tragedy would come, but they would remain steadfast.
The world slowly continued to turn beneath their feet.
French to English Translations.
Les lucioles. Fireflies.
Mes cousins. My cousins.
Petit. Little one.
Ce n’est pas important. It is not important.
Je pense. I think.
Mon mari. My husband.
Une demande. A request.
Son disciple. His follower.
La Malédiction Imperius. The Imperius Curse.
Elle avait seize ans. She was sixteen.
Snape a tué Dumbledore. Snape killed Dumbledore.
Bien, Octavian. Bien. Je t’aime. Tu es si brave, mon mari. Good, Octavian. Good. I love you. You are so brave, my husband.