His childhood is shrouded in night. Even in the brightest daylight, the darkness of the palace reminds him of his place. The strongest memories he has are of endless weeds they bring into the palace for him to kill. He remembers the simultaneous satisfaction and horror when he watches one shrivel up into black dust beneath his fingers.
The weeds progress to moss and moss progresses to flowers, and flowers progress to flies and spiders. Eventually, they have him killing rats and mice. By then, the satisfaction has long gone, but he hides his feelings. William and Georgiana seem to have no issue, but he wondered if they shared his sentiments.
Nonetheless, he bears it for the first seventeen or so years. Holding his tongue at every turn, he plays his part and balances the black crown on his head every day of his life.
When he looks at Oscar in the stands, the pallor of his skin against the black of the stall is what jumps out the most at him. The gold sewn into the cuffs of his blood-stained clothes is all Henry can think about. Just a few stitches cause the entire crowd to jeer. His father has had to forbid anyone from bringing stones to throw at the poor boy.
He isn't surprised to hear the jury declare Oscar guilty—the man did explicitly confess to treason, after all—but when the judge declares that he was to receive capital punishment, Henry could have sworn that he turns as pale as Oscar does.
He makes a promise to himself to leave that night.
He leaves on a flight booked with his grandfather's money, wearing black clothes bought for him on his grandfather's orders, and a wallet of money that is not truly his in his pocket.
More than once he considers turning around and returning. What is he doing? There will be a period of confusion in the morning as the people try to find out what had happened, but past that? How much grief will he give his parents once the truth came to light?
Every time, he pulls back the sleeve of his coat and stares at the splash of blood—Oscar's blood—against the white cuff of his shirt.
And Henry keeps on walking.
As he steps out of the airport into the Scottish air, he looks up at the trees, as the leaves begin to die in the autumn. One wouldn't know it from the leaves swirling in the air as they fall. Back at home, the leaves turned instantly to black; something about the inherent magic of the place caused it to be so.
He catches a leaf in his hand as it falls, and marvels at the burnt orange it has become, before slipping it into his pocket. It'll decay soon enough, either naturally or by the fact that it's in close proximity to him and his reserve of magic automatically influences it for the worse.
When he goes to tuck it into his wallet, he finds it has disintegrated, but Henry smiles nonetheless.
This is the beginning of a brand new life.
His money does not last him long, and Henry left all his cards on the desk when he left. He intended to turn his back on his family forever, and a paper trail was the best way to ensure that they'd bring him home, kicking and screaming.
He spends three days sitting on a street with an old tin can in front of him, gaining twelve pounds for his effort, before Henry looks up the address for the local soup kitchen in a waterlogged copy of the Yellow Pages.
He goes to the kitchen the next day and fills in an application to volunteer. It won't make him any money, but it'll keep a roof over his head during the day, and it does him a world of good to think that he'll, at last, bring at least a little joy to another's life for the first time.
Henry takes a look at the dead tulips on the windowsill of Faulkner's, the small cafe that he had been frequenting for several months now.
He's revived things before. In fact, Henry's always found that he's been far better at reversing death than he is at causing it. He's had to keep this a secret from Will and Georgia, of course, but there's a certain pleasure to be found in rebellion.
At first, he'd only revived the things that the masters had brought for him to kill, but he'd quickly stopped doing that. Reviving them means that he'd only have to kill them again, and Henry thinks that the world is far too cruel enough already to put any organism through that sort of stress. He's never had many opportunities to be kind, but Henry figures that if he's been forced to kill something, the kindest thing he can do is to let it rest in peace.
There has been the odd occasion where Henry's been called upon to reverse an unjust death, but those times are few and far between. He was fifteen, the last time, and Henry doesn't know if he has it in him to do it again. Revival always puts his health in a little bit of a crisis, but Henry's just had lunch. Hopefully, the process won't sap his energy too much.
He stares straight at the dead tulips on the windowsill, letting the magic flow through his bloodstream and directing it straight toward the target. He whispers the words under his breath to keep anyone from noticing. If this goes wrong, and there's a very real chance that it will, then Henry wants to be as inconspicuous as possible.
Henry looks up.
It's funny really. After looking at those brown, withered flowers for so long, Henry would have thought that to see them any other way would make them stand out like nothing else.
And yet, as he stares at the green leaves, sitting pride of place and illuminated by the sunlight, Henry can't help but think that they fit in with the little cafe more than anything else in the world.
"Excuse me? Do you know where this should go?"
Henry looks up. A man in a blue windbreaker is standing there, holding out a volunteer form. Henry turns and points at the door behind him, then went back to dicing carrots. His voice, Henry notes.
"In there. I believe that Mrs Samson's in, but if she's not, leave on the blue desk by the window and she'll find it sure enough."
The man smiles. "Thanks. Do you work here full time?" Henry nods. His volunteer days are long gone. "I suppose that if this works out, I'll be seeing a bit more of you. I'm Frédéric, by the way. Studying Law at the university." Frédéric offers his hand, and Henry shook it.
"Henry," he replies. "And yes, I think we will."
As he watches Frédéric walk away in that blue jacket of his, Henry smiles to himself. This'll be a wild partnership indeed.
Henry stirs a little more blue paint into the mixture, turning it even darker. He prefers not to use dark colours, but sometimes the circumstances beg for it. A night sky can hardly be painted in turquoise, after all.
The scene depicted is the view from his bedroom window. He was kept inside a lot, as a child, but he was allowed the window open at least. The twilight created long after the sun had gone is his warmest memory from home, if he can even call it that now.
It doesn't suit the life he's begun to build, but he can't help himself. He's painted the night so many times, thinking that each painting would be his last; that he'll get the darkness out of his system eventually. He hasn't gotten rid of it yet, but he's getting there.
Perhaps later he'll dot in the stars, but for now, Henry remains at the small coffee table, swirling indigo paint into the blues and blacks on the page. Once it dries he'll hide it in the case in the attic, like the rest of them.
Frédéric will never know of his weaknesses.
"Remind me again why you insist on painting every room in the house a different colour?" asks Frédéric.
"Because," Henry replies, "when I came to Scotland, I promised myself I'd make my life the brightest it could possibly be. You don't know what my life before this was like, but I assure you; I never want to go back there again."
Frédéric hugs him from behind. "I won't ask. You have your past and I have mine, mon coeur. But honestly, does it really have to be that shade of purple?"
Henry laughs. "If you don't like it, you don't have to come into the room. I don't expect I'll let you in here much anyway, with all the art supplies strewn around."
Frédéric smiles, before dipping his brush back into the pot of violet paint. Henry kisses him on the cheek, before doing the same.
It isn't what he had imagined when he'd come, but Henry wouldn't have wished for anything else in the world.
Being an artist, Henry has come to learn that a colour can mean different things to different people, and he's certainly no exception.
Looking around, he notes the light that streams in through the window and casts a golden haze over the room. He notes the glint of the gold logo on the burgundy covers of the passports on the mantelpiece - one his, one Frédéric's. He notes the light bouncing off the chip in the credit card he's set up by himself, for once. And he notes the way the wedding band on his finger makes his heart grow warm.
Being surrounded by so much gold make Henry smile. He supposes it would; his mother was Acothran, after all, but he's taken the colour and wrapped his life in it. Sure, he and Frédéric have plenty of money now.
But no amount of money could have replaced the fire in his soul. He's built this. Not his family. Not his grandfather's crown, or influence. He has.
These were golden days indeed.