See first chapter for disclaimers/warnings/summaries. Link to TBDH Forum is in my profile. This chapter was betaed by the wonderful brissygirl to provide a smoother reading experience. All remaining mistakes are my own.

RECAP:Harry and Co. are watching the first day introductions to the hunt with the Deveraines in a shared viewing box. The Royal Introductions have just passed and the clan cheifs are up next. Harry is excited for the new changes and faces as the Hunt is now in full swing. .

"…And now that you have all been patient enough, we thank you for the warm reception and we open the floor to the clan chiefs. Please give them the same warmth of welcome that you have afforded us. Thank you very much!" Princess Dawne rose and began to clap. The other Royals immediately followed, rising to their feet and leading the building roar of applause.

The cheers continued as the clan chiefs filed out from the corners of the auditorium with their respective families. There was not as showy opening as the Royals, but it was still quite lovely to look at. They filed out in the same order as the Deveraine Circle had presented themselves, the traditional presentation of the Gheyos, followed by the Pareya, the Betas and Alphas, with the Submissives at the rear. The Clan heads were bedecked in gilded robes and their Circles were similarly outfitted in gorgeous dresswear of complimenting colors.

They filed into ordered ranks, presenting an official front for the public eye, each Circle forming an actual circle, creating a lovely visual effect as they organized according to clan.

When the clan chiefs filed through, Harry paid special attention to the Air division, searching the ranks for Lewis. He finally caught sight of him at the far end in mid-Circle rank, due to his Pareya status, with a pale-faced Alpha and a very short curly-haired Submissive with an almost doll-like appearance with her porcelain features and delicate movements. Lewis looked calm and collected, walking with his head held high and between two other dark-haired, pale-faced Pareya.

"Lewis!" Harry announced to himself. He wondered if he would have a chance to meet Lewis's Circle and whether they would like him. Bahn's Circle had accepted him after they'd spent a few hours together and most likely because of Bahn, Theo and Ilsa. He hoped these new potential relatives would accept him on his own. He could stand on his own, thank you very much, and silently determined to make the best of things whenever the opportunity arose.

Theo made a face at his comment, but did not otherwise protest. "Where?" He asked, grumpily.

Harry rolled his eyes, but pointed.

Charlie followed Harry's line of sight and found the Peverell Pareya a second later. He wondered at the grim expression on the older dragel's face, but did not mention it. Perhaps there was something else that he could not see. Nearly everyone present held themselves in careful check as if showing too much emotion might give them away as actual friendly beings. They certainly looked collected and professional, but in the same instance, not at all like some of the more expressive fire dragels.

His lips twitched faintly and he nudged Theo. His Alpha turned expectantly and Charlie shifted over one seat, patting the newly vacated spot. Theo smiled and then leaned over and whispered something in Harry's ear. A moment later, a very absent-minded Harry changed seats, his attention still fixed on the clan chiefs and their Circles below.

Charlie settled his arm around Harry's shoulders and smiled when he felt Harry relax into the touch. Harry felt cooler to the touch than he remembered, prompting Charlie to push a touch of his warmth over. That was unusual, but perhaps it was a Submissive thing. He couldn't remember Harry ever being this cool to the touch, but then again, he hadn't exactly had many opportunities to be touching the brunet. For the moment, he would just have to find a minute to ask Harry about Ebony. "Looking for anyone else, besides Lewis?"

Harry shook his head, cheerfully. "No. I see Lewis. I don't know anyone else so I couldn't—wait, is that Shayla?" He pointed to where the Air clan's Chief stood with a very familiar young figure to his right. He would recognize that shock of white-blonde hair anywhere. The slender, waif-like Submissive stood proudly beside her father, shoulders thrown back, head held high. "Is it?" He turned to look at Soula for confirmation.

"Most likely," Soula wrinkled her nose and twitched faintly as if it pained her to sit still. "She's always fussing about having to be presented, but she's next in line you know. Looks pretty. I didn't know she'd decided to wear that after all." She made a face at the new outfit her friend was wearing—an entirely different ensemble from the one she'd been wearing earlier that morning. This one showed off status in the way of golden accents and light, wispy fabric meant to accentuate her fair figure.

"Next in line for what?" Harry looked from Shayla back to Soula. He felt like he was missing something there, but all he could tell was that something was different. Shayla looked almost like a living statue at this distance, solemn and beautiful in her own way. Maybe a bit wispier than earlier. For a moment, he almost fancied that he could feel the tremendous power stored inside of her, the same fierce energy he'd felt that previous afternoon on the beach. He shook that thought from his head a moment later, because common sense meant that it was impossible. Instead, he tried to focus on what Soula was explaining for him.

"Like Mum," Soula said. "Mum's the Earth heiress, didn't you know? It means that she's next in line if something happens to the earth's clan chief. Shay's the Air one. Every elemental clan has an heir and because the ruling families occasionally duel for rights, it's only the strongest families that hold clan power." She shrugged. "If something were to happen to Mum—Arielle forbid—I would be next in line. She's gifted me that title, which would make me Soula Gorgens." The brunette shuddered. "I should hope that I wouldn't have to carry that name though. It sounds like I'm some sort of hulking—ow, Ariki!" She turned to punch her older brother, relenting with a pout when he presented her with a tray of snacks. "I wasn't going to say whatever you thought I was."

"I'll believe that after I've heard it." Ariki said, dryly. "Here, take some and pass it down to Harry," Ariki handed over a tray of neatly arranged snacks consisting of tasty finger foods. "And keep looking in front or you'll miss things. This is your first Hunt too, you know."

Harry nodded at that. He continued to scan the groups, searching for anything that might look the least bit familiar. He thought about the other creatures present in Nevarah and wondered why there was nothing to represent them. He had seen and felt the presence of other creature types, but it seemed that only the dragels were acknowledged in this welcoming ceremony. He took a few salted cracker-sandwiches from the snack tray and licked his fingers when he'd finished.

Soula's words registered and Harry snapped around to stare at Ilsa. He wanted to ask why she was there, since, logically, it seemed as if she shouldn't. If Shayla was presenting as an heiress, that should mean that Ilsa ought to be down there as well. Gold eyes lazily flickered over to him and a gleam of amusement made itself known as if silently daring him to ask her.

Harry felt a warm fuzzy feeling filter over him and he pressed his lips together, fighting back a smile as he turned back to the front. It was a nice feeling to be included in a private joke. He'd almost forgotten what it felt like. He gave a slight wriggle just to feel Charlie's arm readjust itself and Theo's calming rub. A moment later, something warm tapped on his lip and he automatically opened his mouth to find himself chewing on a savory dumpling. Eyebrows rose upwards in curiosity and appreciation.

Charlie chuckled softly, "Tastes good?"

Harry nodded, momentarily distracted by the tasty treat to forget the mesmerizing event taking place in the arena below. "What is it?" He looked over at Charlie and then down at his lap in hopes of seeing the tidbit that hadn't been on the snack tray.

"Theo introduced me to it, actually," Charlie hummed. He held out another one from a paper tray balanced on one knee. "It's called…"

"Shouldn't you leave?" Bahn asked, playing with the mandarin collar of Ilsa's dress armor. She looked positively stunning in her form-fitting attire with gleaming metal accents in all the right places. He found himself hoping that perhaps she'd be up for company tonight. Not that his other Bonded wouldn't happily oblige, but he'd missed her and he wanted more time with her, to be closer in any way she was willing to have him. His fingers splayed over the shiny, smooth surface and he could sense the magic thrumming just beneath it. She was wearing a hefty band of protections woven through the entire thing. He wondered if they were natural or if she'd added them herself. He poked her lightly when she didn't answer his original question.

Ilsa grunted in answer.

"Sometime about now?" Bhindi suggested, stretching over to nuzzle her twin's shoulder and settling for resting her head on it instead. She'd been sticking close to him since the argument that morning. Her own dragel instincts were stretched thin and she was short-tempered and irritated, with the faintest hint of want for her Alpha that would hopefully arrive by evening. She bit back a scowl at Bahn's subtlety. Ilsa could be dense sometimes. "Preferably before they call you out about it." The Gheyo merely glared at her. Bhindi sighed. "Ilsa." There was a hint of disapproval in her voice, but she was too tired to really bother to add more emphasis to it.

"Let her alone, lovey." Delani reached over to pull Bhindi to her side, cuddling the submissive close to her and offering a kiss in reward for her immediate attention. Bhindi whined in answer, but settled down when prompted, sneaking a soft-lipped nuzzle along the Alpha's chin, a not-quite apology just because she felt like it. Delani smiled indulgently and rested her chin atop Bhindi's head as she directed her gaze back to the Gheyo in question. "Ilsa?"

The Gheyo Ace had her eyes squeezed shut, her lips moving with no sound passing through. Aracle's lips twitched faintly and he shifted from his seat over by Takar and Okahn to come and stand behind his lover. "Ils?" He prompted, reaching over to nudge Bahn to join his twin. After a moment, Bahn shifted over and out of the way, a look of understanding dawning in his pale silver eyes.

"He'll kill me," came Ilsa's soft moan. "I'll be very, very dead, Aracle."

"I will very generously not remind you that you should have considered that before larking off," Aracle teased. "Don't worry, I'm sure he'll revive you for the Champion's Walk. He wouldn't let you miss that for all the realms beneath our-" One golden eye popped open and Ilsa glared up at him. The Rheyo chuckled and tipped her head back to kiss her softly from behind. "He loves you, you know." He murmured against the corner of her mouth. "You are his favorite. I'm sure he'll make it painless. It can't be that bad, can it?"

"I wasn't larking off!" She snapped.

"Mm-hm." Aracle hummed. He stole another kiss. "He's your father. I'm sure he's missed you. Haven't you missed him?"

The other eye popped open and Ilsa reached up. With a quick movement, she flipped him over the seat and into her lap, one hand holding his head steady on her lap, the rest of him sprawled out on the empty space where their Submissives had lounged a moment before. Her other hand was quite deliberately wrapped around his throat. He held up his hands in mock surrender, not fighting the hold or returning the glower.

For a moment, everyone seemed to have frozen in place, Ilsa's fighting aura thrumming about the edges, barely restrained for polite company.

The announcer's voice drew their attention. "…and so I present to you, my daughter, the current reigning Earth Champion of the Blood Titles, Lady Ilsa Gorgens. I have yet to see her since her return, but I am quite proud to announce her entrance. My lords and ladies, I give you Blood Wraith."

Ilsa froze, eyes wide, shoulders hunched forward. She was the perfect picture of misery and reluctance bundled into one precious package. Her fingers flexed, then loosened, her entire body settling into a posture of forced relaxation—a trick that only a well-trained Gheyo could manage.

Aracle turned his head to the side, testing her grip on his neck and judging it slack enough before he slipped off her lap and shifted to kneel on the floor before her. He caught her hands in his and kissed the scarred palms before he rose and pulled her reluctant form up to stand alongside him. The fact that she let him pull her up, spoke volumes. "Go." He whispered against her cheek. "He's calling you, so go. He's your father. Don't make it any more of an issue than it needs to me. You're back. We missed you. He missed you. Everything is alright now. You'll be fine. Make us all proud."

Ilsa made a distressed sound in the back of her throat. The Deveraine Gheyos all shifted in nervous accordance.

Aracle clicked his tongue against his teeth, capturing her attention once more. "Don't you dare lose yourself in that twisted little mind of yours. Listen to me. You are amazing. You are loved. Go out there and own that title. You've worked very hard for it."

"Go and come back," Bahn added his own postscript. Worry lined his face and a hint of it showed on Bhindi's irritated face as she looked at the byplay between her Bonded, but did not dare speak with Delani's arm draped over her shoulders.

"It's not that simple," Ilsa muttered. "And I have never been his favorite, Aracle. He doesn't have favorites." She winced when he curled one hand around her waist and made sure to dig his fingers under the edge of her dress armor. "Let's not think of favorites, really. This is already an issue."

"There isn't any issue unless you want it to be there," Aracle scolded. "Stop it."

"I'm not doing anything. I'm serious. I haven't-"

"Oretta," Theo began, also beginning to look worried for the first time.

Aracle pinched the side of her neck and she bristled, faintly at the physical reprimand. "If you need more time, I can-"

"No. Don't." She gave a faint shake of her head. "I couldn't ask you to do that whether you would do it or not. I've made my bed and I will have to lie on it." She sucked in a breath. "Even if it kills me. This is no one's fault or problem, but my own. Please do not trouble yourself on my behalf and I probably will not be back until the evening, so do not trouble yourself with worrying about me. I'll come whenever I can." Gold eyes fluxed to pure black and her lips curled back in a snarl. "…Ergen!" There was a flash of gold and white and she vanished.

Harry squirmed in his seat. He'd felt a whisper of that powerful magic wash over him and he also felt her deep sense of regret and longing mushed into one big pulse of emotion. This empathy thing was sorting itself out in painstaking microbits of clarity and magic. He wished it wouldn't take so long, but he was vaguely beginning to appreciate the depth behind it. There was nothing in her face that had given away the feelings that her magic had readily shared with him. He looked from where she'd stood to the giant floating screen that showed an empty stage. She would be fine, he hoped. He also hoped that she would remember to ask her father about the pesky Merrow spell, he would like to have it off, as soon as she could manage it.

Her arrival drew a round of applause. In a flash of the same golden-white magic, Ilsa had disappeared from their little enclosure and reappeared in her full Gheyo glory on the main stage. Her broad wings stretched out behind her in elegant fashion, even as the whispered ripple of dissent filtered through the audience.

Theo's grip on Harry flexed faintly and Harry turned to gauge his expression. "Theo?" He asked. He'd seen her wings earlier when they'd all registered and heard the discussion between her Bonded in regards to her terribly scarred and heavily plated appearance. Now, he could see that there had been actual slits carved into the wings that showed as oval gaps when she arched them forward. He most certainly hadn't seen that before and it stirred an uneasy feeling in his gut. He knew how sensitive his own wings were and then the ordeal with Charlie's own hyper-sensitive ones, the very thought of something being sharp enough to pierce them was painful even in passing.

There was an angry hiss from behind him and Harry started, feeling his magic shifting restlessly inside of him. Empathy aside, it was making his fight or flight response a bit too pronounced. The day was barely half over and he already wanted to be back home and away from the fuss. His nerves were strung too far out and too thin for this sort of additional stress. Hovering on the borderline of wanting to run or fight was exhausting.

"Easy, little one," Loren half-growled. His voice was rough with a rasp as if his dragel-morph was more dragel than human and his eyes had shifted completely from round-orbs to the expected cat-eyed pupils. He had taken up a position behind Charlie, but between his Bonded and the door. He seemed more at ease with Charlie, than either Harry or Theo, most likely on account of the shared element. His sharp-eyed gaze had flickered over to Harry more than once after witnessing his cat-like reflexes in regards to the Fire Royal's introduction.

Harry understood the set up a second later when he caught sight of a furious Greta, whose eyes had gone completely violet. Her hands were clenched into fists and the expression on her face promised pain to the first individual she encountered. Loren and Edor had shuffled back, taking care not to touch her, but looking equally uneasy themselves. They knew very well the price she'd paid for the scars she now bore.

Bahn gave a soft whine, successfully redirecting Greta's attention, as he shrunk back against Callistair who had moved closer to the growing confrontation. The battle mage opted to stand behind Bahn, resting one hand reassuringly on his shoulder. "I'm sure she had her reasons, Greta." Bahn said. There was a furrow in his brow and worry in his eyes. "Is it really that bad?"

"You don't know what they have to do to get wings like that," Greta snapped. Her arms had been folded across her chest and now they hung at her sides, hands twitching and flexing as if she'd like to be wrapping them around Ilsa's throat and not the careful arms of Loren and Edor, who were close enough to physically intercept her so she could not rush onto the stage. "That's not just bad, it's worse. Do you have any idea what she had to do to earn those? And I say earn them, even though they are despicable badges."

"That's enough," Delani said, firmly. "It was her choice, I'm sure she had a choice or a reason for choosing that option. We can discuss it later, if it is that troubling. You're 'porting out for a title of your own, aren't you? Compose yourself before venturing out there. You can take it out of her hide later—that's between you two, but I won't have you throwing your temper out because you can. We've had enough of that to last us a lifetime—all of us."

Greta growled in answer.

Aracle rumbled softly in his throat, drawing her attention to him. He weathered her angry glare until it softened into a look of betrayal and hurt. "I'm sure she would have told you on her own, given enough time." He murmured, holding out an arm. "Come."

She shook her head, remaining where she was. But when he came up and slipped an arm around her shoulders, she did not protest. They stood together, a picture of misery and companionship and then she leaned into him, her hands coming up to hold the lapels of his dress shirt as she buried her face in his neck. His other arm came up to curve around her and it only took a second before he hugged her tight.

"Theo?" Harry nudged his Alpha. He wanted to know more about this. In fact, he was starting to find himself wondering just how much there was to know about Gheyos. He would like to find a few of his own, but it seemed like that was a complicated process that no one was open to sharing about. He hoped he could ask Theo about it tonight, maybe, perhaps that was what was wrong with Wikhn—he'd crossed some unknown boundary and the Fae hadn't known how to explain it.

"Her wings," Theo murmured. "To have them carved like that—well, it's her choice, but it's not advised." He bit his lip. "She must have been wearing glamour for quite some time, because I hadn't realized they were that bad. There's a great deal of blood and magic involved with the ritual required for it and it's rather painful. Very painful. It's not something that most Gheyos would do. Those that have, usually never speak of it. I hope—I hope it was worth it for her. I can't begin to imagine what would have made her choose that." His voice was so low that Harry strained to hear it, but he understood the reason for it when he realized that every one of the Deveraine Gheyos had gone unusually still.

Ilsa's lone figure filled the small stage that had formed in front of the royal platform. She nodded sharply to the Earth clan's chief—her father—and spoke the spell that amplified her voice for the next introduction. "Thank you for the welcome. I am glad to return. The years have been kinder than they could have been." Her wings stretched out, the dull scars showing up quite plainly. "And I welcome to the stage the Shadow's champion and blood title, Lord Hadrian Maruk. I give you the Blood Raven."

The masked Gheyo beside Lord Cunningham started faintly, then in a wisp of blackness 'ported directly over to the stage to stand to Ilsa's right. He offered a sweeping bow to the crowd at large and then strode forward. The Gheyos eyed each other for a moment, sizing up at a glance, then offered stiff bows of polite courtesy.

In turn, Hadrian spoke next. "Thank you." He said to Ilsa, before facing the crowd. "It is my pleasure to bring to the stage the Air champion and blood title, Lady Paielda, Blood Whisper."

Dahlia's sponsor materialized on stage beside her fellow champions and offered the required acknowledgment. She smiled and nodded at the starting cheers that her arrival brought. "Thank you kindly. I invite to the stage the Storm champion and blood title, Lady Greta Deveraine, Blood Rayne."

Harry turned in time to see Greta disappear in similar fashion to Ilsa and reappear on the stage. She looked every inch as regal as her Bonded soulmate and she offered her own greetings to her fellow champions. "Two titles?" Harry nudged Theo. He was starting to have a feeling that his luck was rather strange.

From the obvious respect and show given to the champions, he could now understand the need for the Deveraines to present themselves as a united front with so many of them in such high positions. It struck him as unusual to realize that the high ranks and powerful family ties seemed to be a very big deal, but then again that was no different from the high-born wizarding families and all of their posturing. He thought his luck was showing some inkling of itself here, because to have found himself an Alpha with a clan heiress for a mentor, who was soulbonded to a Gheyo with a blood title—well, that seemed like pure luck.

That particular train of thought made him smile as Harry connected the rest of the dots in his head. Theo was his in every sense of all possible meanings and with Theo, came Ilsa. The same strong woman who had somehow managed to adopt him as well. She would be behind them both from now on, he knew that with the same certainty that he'd known that Theo was right for him. He didn't stop the appreciative purr that slipped out from his throat.

Theo half-smiled at the sound and his question. He chirred softly in answer, more instinct than conscious response. "It's very rare, but yes."

"Not that rare," Bahn interjected from his cuddle spot near Aracle. "I mean, it could be, but it really depends on the Gheyo and how badly they want the title. Greta didn't hold a blood title until she started sparring with Ilsa. I think they challenged each other to the point where they were simply the best in their respective categories and no one has dared challenge them for the titles since. No one wants to fight a clan heiress and well, Greta spars with Ilsa, so that automatically speaks to her talent and skill." He managed a small smile of pride. "I am very proud of them."

Harry nodded. He wondered if the rest of the elemental champions were all women. He couldn't help noticing that the masked shadow fellow was the only man present. Hadrian…the name curled through his mind and he frowned, wondering what the point of the mask was. All the other champions were mask-less and it seemed like a pointless bit of frivolity, even if it did give him a somewhat usual air. Then again, Hadrian had been introduced as a personal hired Gheyo belonging to Lord Cunningham. Harry wondered what Lord Cunningham had to offer or at least, what was the price of hiring an unbonded Gheyo. It was a nice mask, at least, the more he stared at it, the more it seemed to grow on him, even if it did seem pointless.

"…and so I present the Fire champion and blood title, High Noble Zandian, Blood Flame." Greta cried.

A burst of blue-green flame appeared to show a muscular figure with flaming blue-green hair and a cocky smile. He took an exaggerated bow to the sudden rising cheers and then greeted his fellow champions with a friendly smile. He shook hands with Hadrian and Lady Pai, nodding to Ilsa and Greta.

"Lords and Ladies, your champions!" The announcer cried. "Show your appreciation!"

"There's no one for the Merrows," Harry frowned, clapping anyway with the roar of applause that had started up at the announcer's prompt. "Why?"

Theo looked to Delani, knowing the Alpha would have a more sensible answer on spur of the moment.

The older dragel shot him an amused look but answered anyway. "The Merrow keep to themselves, Harry. They have a champion, but they do not surface unless they are summoned. They hold the blood title of Crimson Tide, because, of course, they must be different from us. It doesn't mean they are any less powerful than the others though."

Harry puzzled that through and then managed a laugh with a shake of his head. That sounded just like the Merrow. He was glad to know they were included though.

"And, in case you were wondering, yes, it is a man." Delani added, a faint twinkle in her eye. "I'm told he's a lovely specimen as the Merrow absolutely do not tolerate scars of any sort. They count it as a personal affront and it is quite a badge of honor to hold a blood title with no outward marks to show for it. He wears a pendant of proof. In case you were wondering, we know this because the few times they have surfaced, we have documented it in our historical texts, complete with artistic rendering. If you should visit the library—make time to take him, Theo—then look it up in the archives. It's quite a lovely experience."

Harry nodded, turning back to the stage. His mind was busy sorting through the information and tucking away bits and pieces for later perusal. He found his eyes straying back to the masked Hadrian. He wondered what the Gheyo looked like beneath the mask and then he wondered if the fellow ever took it off. Then again, Hadrian looked as if he were a rather high-ranking Gheyo and Harry hadn't seen many Shadow Gheyos at all to dispute that fact. He mused some more, then set the thoughts aside. He would think about Gheyos later.

Another detail registered then and Harry frowned. "Where's Shadow?"

"Bruen." Charlie supplied, with a chuckle. He pointed up to the padded corner of the viewing box where the children were happily taking turns cuddling the Nytura and feeding him snacks. Shadow was enjoying himself as he was petted, pampered and generally fussed over.

Alma and Bu hovered protectively nearby, their attention divided between the welcome ceremony and their children's playtime. Sueh had her arms full of two napping little ones, a head pillowed on each shoulder, the slack faces innocent in sleep. Bruen was sitting cross-legged on the soft floor blanket and feeding the Nytura little pieces of salted jerky from his snack plate, while gently stroking the prettily scaled body. He looked up, as if at the sound of his name and offered a very faint smile, before returning his attention to the quietly chirping Shadow.

Satisfied, Harry smiled and turned back to watch the rest of the fun.

The clan chiefs announced special entertainment acts from their favored dragels and dragel Circles, presenting musicians, dancers, shows of magic and recitations of their historical texts in rhythmical poetry. The morning introductions for the high nobles were now complete and the second tier of nobility would begin in a short while. Overall, it was quite the lavish celebration with plenty of pomp and circumstance.

Harry waited eagerly for the Kalzik's presentation, but was disappointed to see that they were only turned out in ordered ranks—he could pick out Quinn's blond hair anywhere, it seemed—and not a formal introduction. As he listened, he could hear that the names had not yet reached that portion of the alphabet and reasoned that was why the Kalziks hadn't taken center stage. He had the impression from Quinn that they were quite important and that his mother favored some element of theatrics. He wondered what they would do, but resigned himself to waiting until the next day—surely it would be worth the wait.

Of course, if Quinn was in it, Harry was sure it would be worth the wait. He had to admit that Quinn had looked quite nice in his traditional Indian wear, the colorful dupatta wrapped around his scarred neck had reminded Harry of their first moments in the Healer Clinic and how Quinn had held him in gentle arms, applying a healing cream that had done wonders for him. Harry could still see Quinn's bright, multi-colored scales in his mind's eye and he wondered how rare it was, as he'd only seen up two colors at a time, blended together amongst the dragels. Quinn had four.

Pushing that line of thought out of his head for later, Harry tried to focus on the change in schedule. He had assumed they would be spending the entire day sitting up in the viewing box in the stand, but apparently only the morning half of the day was reserved for official introductions. The afternoon was free with additional entertainment and lesser noble introductions took up the evening portion of things.

Harry made a mental note to ask Bahn about some sort of official schedule or pattern, as he didn't want to miss out on anything important and because he wanted to see as much as possible. He had wondered why the elaborate displays were so necessary, when he realized that other dragels in the neighboring viewing boxes were already whispering among themselves and trading comments back and forth as to which dragels would be suitable bonding material.

It made him swallow hard to be rid of the forming lump in his throat and he pushed those troublesome thoughts away for later. He wasn't sure how he would handle the entire courting business as it seemed to be more trouble than it was worth. His only interest—Wikhn—hadn't turned out quite so nicely and then of course, there had been Alec, not that Merrow would have spared him a second glance, but he was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed. Splitting the day up into halves was a very good idea.

A break was given sometime between the noble introductions for the noon meal and general mingling between the newly introduced dragels and the ones already present. At this point, all additional creatures were allowed to join the festivities and here, Harry discovered, was the rich subculture of otherworldly creatures. He'd already known there were werewolves, thanks to Kyle's werewolf girlfriend, he'd scented them for sure when they'd walked through Nevarah, but he was now aware all of a sudden, that there were more of them around and they weren't shy about it.

He was reminded of Remus for a moment and that brought pained thoughts of Sirius and then Cedric followed and for a moment, Harry was lost in his own private little world of regret. He was able to shake himself out of it when he saw Theo angling towards his way and he found a smile just in time for Theo to envelope him in a strong hug, complete with a kiss to the cheek. He let his cheek rest against one warm shoulder and waited a moment to hear what Theo wanted.

When Theo didn't say anything, he twisted around to look up at his Alpha's face.

"I don't need anything, treasure." Theo kissed the tip of Harry's nose, a smile touching his face. "You just had the 'please give me a hug' look on your face and I absolutely could not resist."

Harry blinked up at him, feeling his face warm as the expected blush began. He didn't pull away though, because the hug was more than welcome. The rise of murmured voices had them turning as one to see what was happening next. The Deveraines had decided on a picnic lunch of sorts and now as they were preparing to leave, apparently there were several dragels waiting just outside of their personal viewing box.

"Harry-love, it's for you." Bahn gave a little jerk of his head. "Come."

Theo gave Harry a little push and he half-stumbled forward, resisting the urge to scowl as he came up behind Bahn and swallowed hard at the sight of the line of well-dressed young men and women, each of them with familiar colored cards in hand.


Harry gulped.

Bahn nudged him, a knowing look in his dancing silver eyes. "If I were hunting, this would be the perfect way to start the first day." He said. "Go on, accept them. They've come all this way just to see you."

"I don't really want to-" Harry began, feeling his palms beginning to grow sweaty and his stomach setting itself up for an instant rebellion. He didn't have the first clue how to handle this many potential suitors, he'd accepted the fact that he might have a few suitors, but it hadn't occurred to him that a few might have translated into a few dozen or so. This was more than he'd ever prepared himself for and they all appeared to be hopeful and polite. It would pain him to have to personally reject each invitation at this point and he wasn't sure that he wanted to accept anything, much less deal with the hassle of rejecting them.

"Accept them now and simply say thank you, sort through them later and burn what you don't want." Bahn peered up at him from beneath lowered lashes. "Please tell me that Theo has at least spoken to you of favors and what to do with them?"

Harry squirmed beneath that look and then gave a quick nod. Theo had explained—he just hadn't mentioned how quickly things would happen. A tiny thought niggled at the back of his head and he wondered how many of them were seeking him out because of his dragel morph as a Silverwing dragon.

"Absolutely wonderful." Bahn pronounced. "Go accept them. Now, please. They'll block the walkway if they stand there like that for much longer."

With that final thought in mind, Harry stepped out into the corridor and found himself barely able to smile at the friendly and interested looks that came his way. Nerves threatened to well up and he forcefully pushed them away. He had faced more terrifying things than a long line of potential suitors. Perhaps.

The first dragel to step forward had a tiny sparkling stud embedded in the left side of his nose, his eyes lined with kohl, highlighting the fact that they were a rich, vivid green. "Good day to you," he bowed formally. "May I gift you this favor? You may respond in your own time." He held out a folded square of green paper—the same color as his eyes—with a white wax seal on the front.

Automatically, Harry reached out to take it. He felt the faintest hum of magic woven throughout it and knew this was what made the favors what they were. "Thank you." He said, unsure of what else to add.

That seemed to be the right answer though, because the green-eyed young man bowed again and started off on his way, the next suitor in line moving up. This fellow had two-toned hair, much like Terius and Ilsa, with rich chocolate-strands mingling with pale blond ones. He had bushy eyebrows and very fine hands that presented his favor to Harry, a pale-blue specimen with a red wax seal. "May I gift you this favor?" He asked, politely. "You are welcome to respond however you so desire."

"Thank you." Harry said. He accepted the square and tucked it on top of the first.

The fellow nodded once more and started off, showing the next suitor—a young woman with a waterfall braid of lovely red hair that fell just to her hips. She offered a tiny curtsy. "Good day to you. I would like to gift you this favor, if you would accept? You may respond whenever you like."

And Harry found himself nodding as he said "thank you" and she moved off, the next one moving up. He licked his lips. This would probably take a little while.

It did take some time, but not as much as he'd thought. By the time he'd weathered through the entire proposal line, as he'd come to call it, Harry found himself with a colorful armful of favors and absolutely no idea as to what to do with them. Bahn solved that issue at once, by shrinking them into a manageable package and banishing them back to the guesthouse. He'd ignored Harry's protests and reminded him that the favors did not have to be answered straight away and he had all the time in the realms to sort through them. When he'd protested, Bahn had smacked him over the head and reminded him that there was a polite waiting period between receiving and declining said favors, unless he really didn't like someone. A too hasty rejection could fall under the category of social faux pas and that was the last thing that Harry needed.

With that neatly sorted out of the way for him, Harry found himself swept up in the easy warmth and flow of the Deveraines as they moved on with their picnic plans, including him, Theo and Charlie. The picnic lunch of sorts was to be eaten outside at the high banks overlooking the Merrow Waters and so they all trooped out to find a suitable spot.

The giant picnic blanket was set somewhat under the shade as Callistair grew a tiny pebble into a smooth, curved rock that cast a shadow over one section of the blanket and provided a nice tanning spot for a happy Loren, who immediately brought his wings out, a rich red and orange scaled display with hints of shimmering gold at the tips. He settled down contentedly on the high edge of the conjured rock, lying on his stomach, his head pillowed on his arms. Bhindi had taken him a few bites of sandwiches and a small glass of juice that she'd fed him, before he'd refused in lieu of a nap. She patted his stomach, stroked his wings and then kissed his forehead, before leaving him alone. He'd purred through the entire moment, soaking up his Submissive's exclusive attention.

Harry found himself wanting Charlie to bring his wings out, after seeing that happy display of red and orange and he'd reclined in the shade of his Beta's navy-hued ones. It was a good shade and Charlie was an even better pillow. There was the faintest thread of urgency curling around him, but he pushed it away. He would hunt, just not that…very minute. He'd always wondered what it would be like to enjoy a fun family-oriented picnic. Something that wasn't as pristine or painful as one of Aunt Petunia and Dudley's sort of excursions.

This was certainly much better—well, if he ignored the fact that nearly every Pareya present was fretting over the fact that he was too thin and not eating enough. Bahn had finally called them off, fighting a smile the whole time as he directed them over to the children and promised that Harry would have enough to eat.

Theo had been too busy trying not to laugh, while Charlie had gamely accepted the new additions to his own plate, surprisingly able to pack it all away. Harry eventually crawled between the two of them and settled down for a nap, enjoying the shared warmth, the outdoor breeze and letting the light conversation drift over him.

Bahn allowed Harry the luxury of a short nap before Bhindi left at the request of some noble circle to pay her respects. The moment his twin was safely out of earshot, Bahn immediately cozied up to his Alpha, a look of pure mischief on his face. It took Delani an entire minute for the look to register and when it did, she schooled her expression into something of resignation.

"What exactly am I about to be dragged into?" She asked, wryly. She handed off her drinking glass to Sueh and straightened up to reach over and pull Bahn into her lap.

He nuzzled her chin, the innocent smile still visible as he settled down in the embrace, but didn't relax. She let him rest there for a moment, then leaned back, bracing on her hands and waiting for him to start. "It's been hours," he began, playing with the tips of his braids by tracing the outline of the embroidery on her dresswear. "Hours and hours."

Delani thunked her chin atop his head. "Hours and hours, eh?" She repeated. "It probably seems that way to her."

"Can we? Can't we?" Bahn wriggled, his energy seeming to have finally returned. "We should, just to be sure. For moral support."

"Moral support?" Delani echoed again. "I am not sure I even want to know what kind of things are circling around in that head of yours to arrive at such a skewed conclusion, but if you'd like to go, you know you need only to ask nicely."

Bahn beamed up at her and looped his arms around her neck. "May I," he kissed her left cheek. "Go and visit," he kissed her right cheek, "the clan chiefs?"

Delani leaned back just out of reach. "And?" She prompted, one eyebrow arched. She'd apparently had this sort of conversation before.

Bahn's eyes fairly sparkled. "And rescue Ilsa?"

"You may," Delani said. She straightened up and carefully threaded one hand through his elaborate hairstyle to hold him steady for the delightful kiss that followed. He blinked owlishly up at her when she finally pulled away. "I take it we're all going?"

"Don't want to, love," Sueh reappeared at her side, handing down the empty glass she'd whisked away moments before. "The children want to see the water carnival and I wanted to visit the gem market. The girls are coming with me for a turn at the hot springs. If you don't necessarily need us there for all of that important posturing and whatnot, I'd just as soon leave you lot to your own devices."

"You don't want to come with me?" Bahn's lips curved into a near pout, but his soft grey eyes were careful and assessing in their look.

Sueh scrunched up her face and gave a definite shake of her head. "It makes my skin crawl," she said. "I'd avoid it, if you didn't mind. I don't particularly care to be making nice with them, just yet."

Bahn nodded, understanding something that wasn't outright said. He smiled up at her when she kissed one fingertip and touched it to his nose.

"Don't stress yourself out, alright? You're free to move around as you like and please use some of your magic, at least half of it, before the day is over." Sueh said.

There was another nod from Bahn and then he turned from his Bonded to look at a curious Theo and Charlie, with Harry nestled between them. "Would you like to meet the Clan Chiefs?" The hopeful look in his face and the strangely even tone in his voice hinted that it was more than a mere suggestion.

Harry looked between Theo and Charlie, to receive a nod from each of them. He tempered the urge to shrug and nodded. "Is there anything I should do?"

"Do?" Bahn let himself be lifted to his feet by Takar and held still while his Beta cast several diagnostic charms over him. "You need only to be yourself, Harry. In fact, if there were ever a time and place to be yourself, I would say it is here." He twisted around to look at Takar. "What does it say?"

"It says you are having too much fun at other people's expense," Takar said, dryly. He slung an arm around Bahn's shoulders and gave it a slight squeeze. "It also says you need to eat a little more fruit and some more blood before tonight. The babes are fine, everything else is alright."

Bahn wrinkled his nose. "Very well." He called out a farewell to his Bonded and beckoned to Harry.

"Exactly how are we rescuing Ilsa?" Takar wanted to know. "Won't we make things worse?"

"Things are often worse before they are better," Bahn said, cheerfully. "Don't worry about it."

The Beta rubbed his forehead and sighed. "Now I'm worried." He muttered.

Delani elbowed him as she quickened her pace to be walking directly in sync with Bahn. Nara, the advisor among their Bonded, had also joined them for the excursion. Their submissive was happily making his way towards the guarded living quarters on the outside of the giant auditorium. It wasn't terribly fancy on the outside, but it stood proudly, a large, white stone building, with the traditional square sides, in full view just out of reach of the grand entrance and just within several rows of armed Gheyos keeping watch.

As they drew nearer, Bahn slowed his steps and fussed a bit with his hair and face. By the time they had reached the Gheyo-lined walkway, he'd shifted back to walk just slightly behind Delani and Nara, one hand brushing against Takar as he went. Harry could feel the sudden shift from curious interest to carefully concealed apprehension.

They reached tall wrought gates that towered several feet overhead with spiraled, pointed tips. There were six tall, thoroughly scarred Gheyos, two lounging on the ground, two leaning on the respective gate posts and the final two standing at attention. Delani didn't seem to be the least bit bothered as she strode forward and held up her wrist, showing off a white braided cord and a golden charm that seemed to be the Deveraine coat of arms.

After a second, the lock on the gates clicked open and the doors swung inward, admitting them to the guard lined walkway that led up to the main door. Head held high, Delani made her way up to the front door where she tapped the silver button beside the door and walked straight on in as the door swung open.

Harry found himself standing in a large, high-ceiling foyer with Bahn beside him, pale grey eyes searching his face as if to see whether it was alright to continue. Harry offered an encouraging smile and it served its intended purpose, because Bahn brightened almost at once and started off—this time pulling Harry along with him.

Bahn seemed to know where he was going and Delani favored him with an indulgent look every now and then as Bahn trotted along beside her, always a half-step ahead, but never further. Harry found himself taking in the pure white décor with accents of navy blue and little else. The entire lower floor seemed to be spotless with no personal touches present.

At the end of each hallway, a Gheyo was stationed with a white half-column of wood that served as a stool, blending into the white walls of the building. The sound of voices filtered through the air, rising and falling as if there were people present, but Harry didn't catch a single glimpse of them nor could he sense them.

"They're not here yet," Bahn explained, catching his eye at one point. "They're on the upper floors. That's where we're headed. This is the receiving floor."

"Upper floors," Harry said. "And we're heading there?"

"Oh no, they have to send someone for us," Bahn grinned. "They'll probably send Greta, because-"

"Because Ilsa is a big 'fraidy cat." Greta's bored voice came from behind them and Bahn's smile grew wider.

He turned around and their entire little group followed his direction, turning to see a mildly disgruntled Greta moving towards them from the opposite end of the hallway from where they'd just been. "Greta," Bahn said. He went forward, making a sound of irritation when she greeted him with a mere nod. He pulled on her arm the moment he was close enough to do so.

The storm Gheyo huffed in answer and bent down to let him kiss her cheek. Her brow furrowed at once, seemingly in response to the whispered question in her ear. "I don't know," she said, at last, straightening up. "I wasn't there."

Delani's eyebrows arched upwards. "I would ask where you were, but something tells me that it isn't something I need to know. I thought you were with Ilsa. Have you seen her? How is she?"

"Getting what she deserves." Greta sighed. "Are you all heading up?" The question was half-muttered as she ran a hand through her short crop of hair and then looked back down the hallway. "Of course you're all heading up. I suppose I don't have to warn anyone to be nice and on their best behavior?"

"I'm always on my best behavior." Bahn flashed his most charming smile and nudged Harry, subtly. "Aren't we, Harry?"

Somehow, Harry found himself smiling. He didn't answer, but Greta didn't seem to be waiting for an answer. She simply gave a little jerk of her head and summoned a ball of violet-white magic at her fingertips. It crackled to life and her portal sprang to life beneath their feet.

By the time Harry processed that, they were standing in a new room, a sitting room of sorts, decorated in rich burgundies and browns with golden accents and he felt as if his hair was standing on end.

"Greta!" Bahn frowned. "You didn't have to do that." He held a hand to his head and his expression had changed. He threw an apologetic look at Harry. "Here, let me do that." He reached over with his free hand and a spark of soft-white light leapt between them, attempting to smooth Harry's new spiky-haired look. "Static," he explained, at Harry's perplexed look. "Storm element, remember?"

Ilsa noticed them first. She was sitting on a small black settee, dressed in a long formal robe instead of her Gheyo dresswear, there were hints of golden hairpins in her two-tone hair and her hands sported several fat golden, bejeweled rings. She was leaning over the low table before the settee poring over what appeared to be seating charts, taking a bite out of a miniature spinach-and cheese tart.

Golden eyes grew wide at once with something akin to shock, then pure relief as she crammed the rest of the tart in her mouth and propped to her feet, ruining the image of ladylike elegance. "Bahn, loveling, light of my life and love of my soul—you have impeccable timing."

Bahn happily went to her, accepting the proper hug of appreciation and looking around her side for the tray of tarts. His pale grey eyes had dimmed faintly as he took in the room's interior and he stroked her arm, holding her for a moment longer than necessary. She relaxed almost at once under his touch and turned to survey their little group, her eyes and smile landing on Harry.

"I see he dragged you lot out with him," her eyes flickered to Delani and then to Nara. She hesitated, as if she'd like to say more, then turned on her heel and pivoted to face the distinguished looking fellow who had taken up the other side of the settee. He was halfway to her, the tray of tarts in hand. A look of exasperation replaced the tentative worry on her face as Ilsa pushed away the hand offering the tart. "Father, I'm stuffed! Really, I can't eat anything more. I swear I am fine. You do not have to-"

"You didn't look the least bit fine," the man protested. He allowed her to push his hand away and pretended not to notice when Bahn snitched two tarts right off the tray. "You looked pale, thin and as if you hadn't slept in weeks, let alone months. Then there were your wings."

Ilsa gave a theatrical wince. "Yes. My wings. We went over that part already. My ears are still blistered. Can we please move on?" She sent a light swat to Bahn's questing hands once more. "Don't be greedy."

"It's for Harry," Bahn said, innocently. He'd already eaten his first two and decided they were worth sharing. He handed over one of the flaky pastries to Harry and happily filled his own mouth, looking expectantly to Ilsa's father.

He heaved a sigh and relinquished the tray to Ilsa's hands, watching as she crossed over to set it down atop the table and it's neatly arranged papers. "We still have to finish those-" he began.

"And please do pardon his terrible manners," Ilsa waved them over. "Come in and sit down." She shot a look to him and he twisted his hands together for a moment, brow furrowed. She threw up her hands in the air. "Fine. What do you want me to do?"

There was a long moment of silence and then he sighed. "You know I cannot help my instincts and I know that yours aren't any better either."

Ilsa bit her lip for a moment, then moved to stand by his side where she accepted a one-armed hug and after a faint wave of golden light was pushed over her, she pulled away. Her golden-eyed gaze fixed on Harry next and she linked her arm through her father's. "Harry, I'd like you to meet my father, Thomas. He is my birth father—otherwise known as my Sire, in Nevarean terms—and I did speak to him about your run in with the-" her voice trailed off as Thomas took a step forward, his intense honey-gold eyes fixed on Harry's shorter form.

"You are Harry?" He asked. The honey-gold eyes swept over the brunet from head to toe. He was taller than Ilsa by a whole head and shoulders, standing even taller, thanks to well-worn, heeled boots. He radiated quiet strength and deliberate authority, a sharpness touching his weathered face as he focused solely on Harry.

Harry stepped forward, deciding on a half-bow, keeping his eyes up. "Yes sir—mph!"

The rest of his greeting was cut off when Thomas simply pulled him into a hug every bit as warm and bone-crushing as one of Ilsa's. "Call me Thomas, my titles are only for those who need it." He folded his taller frame over Harry's and breathed softly into the mess of dark hair. "Welcome to Nevarah, little one. Ilsa tells me you have suffered the misfortune of bearing Merrow spellwork?"

Harry sucked in a breath as he was released, finding it a little more difficult than he would have liked. Something about Thomas reminded him of Aracle and the way the Rheyo had greeted him upon finding out of his displacement in a traditional dragel upbringing. He could tell that the older dragel was powerful—Merlin, there was magic practically dripping off of the man—but there was something more beneath it, a detail he couldn't quite yet put his finger on. "Something like that," he said. "I—it was an accident. I thought he was drowning, so I jumped in and well."

Thomas chuckled, a sound of understanding rather than pity. "Merrow have a way of making us do things that we normally would not." He looked over Harry's head. "I take it you are the Alpha," he looked to Theo. "And that would make you the Beta?" His gaze flickered quickly to Charlie and then back to Harry for confirmation.

"Yes. My Alpha, Theo," Harry tilted his head to the right. "And Charlie, our Beta." A sudden spark of inspiration hit him and Harry offered another bow, one he'd given before to Bahn in the kitchen of the borrowed guesthouse for something he hadn't thought he would need to use again. "The House of Nott has no quarrel with yours. I extend our hospitality and goodwill towards you and yours. May this be the start of a prosperous friendship between us." He completed the bow with his right hand fisted over his heart and one foot slightly behind the other.

Eyebrows arched upwards in appreciation and understanding. "I see you have kept good company," Thomas said. He looked briefly to Bahn and then copied Harry's posture, bowing deeply from the waist. "The Noble Clan of the Gorgens recognizes you as a friend. We are honored to be offered your friendship and we extend our own and all that it entails. My Circle has no quarrel with yours and so I extend our well wishes. Please accept my hospitality."

The fact that he'd just been offered a peaceful reception by nearly the entire Earthen clan had Harry scrambling to process and accept the sudden change in dynamics. There had been no question as to his sincerity or as to whether would be a suitable candidate for such an offer. Instead, there'd simply been a knowing look in those eyes and a spark of magic to seal the oath sworn between them. Harry felt a touch of warmth decorating his face as he nodded. "I accepted—we accept." He corrected, quickly. "Thank you very much."

"Please think nothing of it." He stepped aside, gesturing for them to start forward. "Good day to you as well, Lord Deveraine."

"I was beginning to think I'd committed some paltry offence." Bahn sniffed. "I sincerely hope you haven't smothered Ilsa to desperation, because it is I who will have to deal with her."

Harry felt his jaw drop at the casual tone and the very serious underlying air as the elfin submissive sailed past to choose a spot on one of the settees. As far as he knew of dragel politics and interactions, Thomas was the equivalent of the Father-In-Law. Ilsa's face had taken on a decidedly pink hue, but before she could speak, the rest of the Deveraines spoke up.

"You will excuse my Submissive on the grounds that being pregnant tends to twist his good humors," Delani said, smoothly. "It is good to see you again, Thomas. How are you and yours?" She stepped forward to grasp his forearms and they exchanged polite kisses to each cheek.

"They are well, thank you." Thomas said. "Busying themselves somewhere with pointless details that do not require precise handling, but apparently I have somehow managed to scare them off for the time being, leaving-"

"Space for you and our favorite troublemaker?" Nara quipped. She ignored Ilsa's glare and took her turn exchanging greetings with the clan chief in the same manner as Delani had. "Forgive us for showing up unannounced. I hope you two have had time to visit."

"You came in small numbers, I am grateful." Thomas said. He greeted Takar with a nod, the same to Theo and Charlie, gesturing for them to come further into the room and make themselves comfortable.

"Too much time to visit." Ilsa snapped, clearly uncomfortable with being the sole recipient of her Father's attention. "I am perfectly fine. There is nothing wrong with me."

"Of course. There is only a few holes in your wings and perhaps in your head, maybe a few screws loose?" Thomas said, matter-of-factly. "Honestly, Ilsa. You make me worry so. Will you never think of the consequences of your actions?"

"I think about them on a daily, if not hourly basis. We are not having this conversation again." Ilsa threw a look in his direction and folded her arms over her chest. "They also didn't come here to hear you lecture me—of which, I might add, you have already done. Can we please move on?"

"If you like," Thomas said, placidly. "Do make yourselves comfortable and ignore my daughter's temper. She seems to be operating in fits and bursts of it today. I wager you are here either for Ilsa or to see of what she asked of me?"

"Harry's spell," Theo said, speaking up for the first time. He'd noticed Thomas's careful greeting of him and realized the reason for it a moment later. It made him smile warmly to temper his following request. "If there's anything at all you can do for Harry, we'd be quite indebted to you for your expertise."

"There's plenty, actually." Thomas's smile settled into an easy curve and he seemed to relax imperceptibly. "My status affords me quite a bit of freedom in terms of making results happen. I would like to discuss the actual terms for what I am capable of doing, so that we do not inadvertently cause Harry any distress, physical, mental or otherwise." He paused. "Would you care for some tea? This might take a while," he held up his right hand, golden eyes lightening to a near yellow, before he snapped his fingers once. A full tea service with the appropriate number of dishes and matching refreshments replaced the paper clutter on the low table and the tray of spinach tarts disappeared.

Bahn made a disgruntled sound, but hushed when Delani pulled him over to her side. He nibbled on the last tart in his hand and cuddled close, content for the moment. He would not interrupt the following conversation if it wasn't necessary and as he'd already made his point, he knew that Thomas would understanding.

"Wonderful. Now, I'd like to start with hearing just what happened to gain you this spell, if you wouldn't mind?" Thomas asked. He had summoned the spinach-and-cheese tray back, allowing himself to remain in Bahn's temporary good graces. He now leaned forward to pour tea for all of his guests. The sleeves on his official robes rode up slightly, revealing Bonding marks on each arm from the wrist and further up, disappearing from sight.

It was at that precise moment that Harry made the connection his brain had puzzled over just moments before, the same realization that Theo had also discovered. Clan Chief Thomas Gorgen was a Submissive.


The shadow at the corner of his field of vision was enough of a warning for Terius to lose all control over his carefully contained Pareyic instincts. As a fully-functioning adult and somewhat acquainted with his students from Hogwarts, Terius logically knew that he should not leave Hermione on her own.

As a stressed out, exhausted Bonded Pareya with a pregnant Submissive not within his current line of sight, Terius was on his feet and moving out of the room and heading for the outer hall where he could still feel Severus's presence. The distinct chill in the air forced him to walk slowly and carefully, as pure fear registered in terms of what he was feeling.

This presence was no good. This presence meant danger. He would have to trust the enchantments he'd cast over Hermione—enchantments that he hadn't cast over Draco, Calida or Severus, because they were too stubborn to let him. So Terius hurried. He was out of their living quarters and bursting through the front door just as a few of the neon pink feathers floated to the floor from his arm.

He collided face-to-chest with Severus and looked up to see the fierce look on his Alpha's face shifting to something reflecting vague perplexion before evening out to be entirely expressionless. "Terius," Severus began.

"Move now." Terius pushed the magical power at his disposal into the words that left his lips, weighting them with the natural, inherent musical tinge that ensured Severus would be forced to listen to him.

"Terius?" Calida wearily poked her head around the corner of the hallway leading down to the transportation rooms. She had apparently sensed his sudden and dramatic change in attitude and magic, because she took one look at him and then jerked around. "Draco!"

Draco appeared a second later, looking sulky and defiant, a feat in itself when his pale grey eyes lit on Terius, who currently had a hand fisted in the collar of Severus's dress robes. "Terius?"

"I want to visit my mother," Terius snapped, with more patience than he honestly had to spare. He turned as best as he could manage and started forward. He froze when the approaching wave of magic stretched out to him and he charged forward, pulling on Severus as he did so. The hand around his Alpha's collar switched to be a vise-grip on Severus's skinny wrist. With his feathered hand, Terius flapped it at both Draco and Calida, herding them forward and towards the transportation room. "Later. Not now. Move!" He barked out, punctuating each of his words with a deliberate pulse of protective magic, silencing all potential protests with the authority granted to him as a Pareya.

They tumbled into the transportation room, just as the magical wave reached them. Terius gave a low-pitched whine and dropped to a crouch, his pink-feathered arm hanging limply as his eyes burned with pure white fire. "Arielle forgive me," he murmured. "Temptrificus Orus."

Draco's frantic, close-lipped protest died away in the rush of loud, defensive magic that burst to life in a pillar of pure whiteness, just as soft wisps of shadow magic passed through the walls and shattered the hastily cast defense. It had nothing to latch onto, however, because Terius had been quick enough and the portal completed itself just as the second wave of magic rippled through the building floor, the unpleasant aftershock blowing all the closed doors open and shattering anything that trembled.

A/N: Hurray, it's a NEW CHAPTER! lol. Hey guys! My apologies for the long wait. I am now officially graduated with double honors (whew!), see the Chatterbox thread in the forums, if you'd like more details. Review responses are currently unfinished for ch 84, but I figured y'all would like to see the new chapter sometime this year. :P I'll try to get those up this weekend, perhaps. Merry Christmas to you and yours-may the year ahead bring more fantastic chapters for this fic adn of course, many other good things. ~Scion

REVIEW RESPONSES are in the FORUM for Ch 84. Copy and paste to get there, click on the appropriate chapter number and scroll down to find your review and my reply. Replace the (heresadot) with actual dots as FF eats all urls. Live link is on my profile.

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Theo-(with Charlie, Harry and Deveraines)

Charlie-(with Theo, Harry and Deveraines)

Harry-(with Theo, Charlie and Deveraines)

Deveraine Circle members-(Bahn, Delani, Takar and Nara-with Harry and Co. All others are off doing their own thing.)

Deveraine Children: Introductions over, with friends.

Kalziks: With their family Circle.

Lewis Peverell : With his Bonded Circle.