Harry settled himself and he felt better being on his back and he stroked the bump softly and slowly, soothing the baby within and hopefully his stomach too. Damn raging hormones making him as sick as a dog. He sighed and calmed himself, it was all for his baby.
The bed dipped as Nasta climbed in on the other side of Max, Draco in front of him so that he was on the other edge of the bed, so he could get out quickly if he needed to, to help Harry if he had any sickness or vomiting in the night.
Max was right, Harry thought to himself as he watched all four of his mates drift off while he was stroking his bump to sooth his stomach…he really did have the greatest mates in the entire world.
Chapter One Hundred-Fourteen – Courtroom Crisis
As Harry came up to twelve weeks pregnant, and the court case was coming to its inevitable end, things in the courtroom took a very nasty turn and the accusations against him were coming thicker, faster and harsher. Everything he'd ever done, from being accused of dying his teacher's hair blue, to climbing school buildings, to scaring neighbours and every accusation of criminal damage that Dudley had committed but he had been blamed for, it was all brought up in court. He tried to defend against all he could, as best as he could, but the stress was getting to him as he hit his fourth consecutive day in court this week and the Dursley's lawyer, Mister Chorley, was getting him more confused and more muddled by jumping from accusation to accusations, from showing evidence and reading out witness reports and Harry was so confused by the rapid changes of topic that he was getting mixed-up and upset. He did blame his hormones for how easily he was getting emotional, as he was feeling teary lately, but now was not the time to let his hormones, his emotions, win. He needed to remember the three Cs that Draco had taught him in preparation for this trial, be calm, confident and concise. Unfortunately he felt neither calm, nor confident and he was too muddled up, almost to the point of panic, to be concise, or even vaguely clear in the words that he spoke.
Richard tried to soothe him and calm him while they were on their little breaks, and on the longer one that they had for lunch too, but sometimes it just wasn't enough and the brutal attacks in the courtroom undid every soothing word that Richard had spoken to him.
Harry hated it and despite Richard's assurances that the Jury would see and know what the Dursley's lawyer was doing, Harry wasn't so sure, they were only members of the public after all, what if they didn't see that Mister Chorley was speaking so quickly, was flinging accusation on top of accusation in order to confuse him? What if they didn't realise what he was doing and only saw Harry stuttering and stumbling over all of his answers? Or thought that every time he asked for a question to be repeated, listening to Mister Chorley tut and scoff, that he was just stalling for time to think of a suitable answer?
He couldn't stand the stress, he couldn't stand the agonising pressure. He didn't want to do this anymore, but there was nothing to be done about it now, he had agreed to be put through a cross-examination and now he had to stand by that decision. He couldn't just decide halfway through it that he no longer wanted to do it.
It was so, so difficult though, he wasn't used to this and he kept getting muddled up and he'd answer yes when he meant no and he would get confused and he would contradict himself, and Mister Chorley would savagely use it to his advantage when Harry needed to correct himself, asking him which story was true, which version of his tale would he like to use, painting him out to be a liar, putting in little quips that reminded the Jury that he had to contradict himself often, or that he kept changing his answer or his mind about what had 'supposedly' happened and how he was obviously so traumatised by such events that he couldn't even remember the details, but it wasn't true, he was just confused, feeling rushed and pressured, he was panicked and almost breathless and he was getting disorientated and lost. He was ruining his own trial, his own chance at justice and that thought almost broke him.
"Harry." Richard called out. Harry looked up at him, startled, almost having forgotten that he was even there. "Take a breath please, Harry, you're going red."
Harry sucked in a deep breath and his head stopped spinning, the room came back into focus and he realised that he was hyperventilating.
"If I could please insist that the honourable gentleman to my right stops throwing my client into a panic attack." Richard said with a firm bite to his words.
"Perhaps if your client had kept his made up, wild stories straight he would be able to answer the questions posed to him."
"Perhaps if you posed your questions in an understandable manner then he would be able to." Richard said back mildly. "Even I'm getting confused about some of the things you are asking after, and how rapidly you're asking them."
Harry saw what Richard was doing, not only clearing things up with the Jury, but giving him some time to catch his breath and calm down. He had needed this moment and he was much calmer, and able to breathe properly, when Mister Chorley harrumphed and turned back to him.
Harry tried to keep his head this time, he tried to keep breathing evenly and he refused to allow the lawyer to muddle him or confuse him, or force him to rush his answers either. He remembered to take a breath, he remembered to reply slowly, in a more concise manner. He remembered Draco's three Cs. It came easier to him now that he was actually thinking and breathing. He was still stressed, he was still pressured, but he was dealing with it better now that he had had a moment to calm down. He was grateful to Richard for that.
Blaise had to stare at the little face in front of his own for several heartbeats before the name came to him.
"Braiden, eat your peas, please." He said encouragingly.
"Okay, Daddy." Braiden replied, smiling at him, before moving his spoon to his untouched pile of peas.
It was getting easier, he was getting less headaches and he hadn't said the wrong name for a while now, even if it did take him several seconds sometimes for the name to come to mind. He was recovering, he was getting better. And his mates all celebrated his small achievements with him, even if it was just a day without a headache, or putting a name to a face a little quicker than the day before.
He still had appointments to keep with Healer Aeneas Narkissos Odell, the specialist neurological Healer at Saint Mungos, but even he was impressed with his progress and how well he was recovering. It had to be because he was a Dracken, and not just an ordinary wizard.
"Daddy, I've eated my peas."
Blaise looked and he took a breath. He'd just had this name, he knew it! He knew he did.
"Well done. Good boy…Braiden!" He called out happily, the name coming to him after another few moments.
He turned back to his little daughter, one of the twins, to spoon bluish-purple goo into her mouth. She had been sat there with her mouth open, waiting patiently for him to notice her and prod the spoon back into her mouth. Eva…her name was Eva.
"Sorry, baby girl. Daddy got distracted."
"Dada." Eva burbled, before sitting forward with her mouth open, trying to reach the spoon.
Blaise moved it to her mouth quickly, watching a she took the lumpy goo from the tiny spoon and chewed on it. Whatever the goo was, Max had made it with cooked vegetables and a hand blender. The girls really did love his colourful, vegetable mush.
"Daddy, I'm done." One baby called out to him and he once again took his eyes from Eva to look at a new face. He flitted through names, trying to fit one to the face.
"One moment, Regan." He said calmly.
"Down! Down!" Another implored him impatiently.
"In a moment…" He drew a complete blank and cursed himself. He wasn't entirely on his own, Draco was here, but he was in the other room feeding Leolin, who had been very fussy and had needed a quiet moment away from the others.
Max was in work until four and Nasta had been called to an emergency at the Welsh dragon reserve as a female dragon had started killing her hatchlings and the reserve had called in all hands on deck to save as many of the hatchlings as they could. Nasta would be back as soon as he could, he'd said. Harry was away too, he was back in court and they all hated it. He was going for a scan now that weekend and they all hoped that the baby's heart rate had come down to a more average rate, none of them liked that Harry was so stressed at the moment that it was affecting the baby.
Blaise knew though that Harry was still very stressed and pressured, in the courtroom especially, and there was nothing that any of them could do about it. They tried to keep him relaxed and happy at home, but there was only so much they could do when he was facing court every day with the end of the trial approaching. This week would be the last of the trial, if everything went according to plan that was, and then Harry would be free, but he wouldn't truly relax until the Jury delivered their verdict. Blaise just hoped that after all of it was done and those monsters went to prison, that Harry could relax and let go of the stress that he felt, and that it wasn't too late for the baby to reverse the accelerated heart rate.
"How are you doing?" Draco asked, coming into the kitchen sans Leolin.
"Leolin? He's down for the count, I put him in the bassinet. Are you okay out here?"
"Yes, I think…Braiden and…Calix! I think they're done." He said, happy with himself for putting a name to the little face grinning cheekily at him.
"I think they are. Come on."
Draco got the pack of baby wipes that they kept in the kitchen for after meal cleaning and he wiped down both boys, one at a time, before hefting them down from their booster seats.
Blaise went back to feeding the goo to Eva and he smiled, very pleased with himself. He was still having some problems with names, but his memories were coming back to him slowly and now it only took a moment of thinking before he put a name to a face. He was getting much better and though frustrating, it was just something that he had to deal with, complaining and grumbling about it never made him feel any better and it didn't help his recovery in the slightest, he just had to get on with it.
Once they'd gotten lunch out of the way, Blaise cleaned up the kitchen while Draco went to play with the kids a little. He joined them once he was done and he sat on the floor, this time he kept…he kept Calix in his view, as the little monster liked to smash toys into his head and he couldn't afford to go to bed with a headache reliever now and leave Draco on his own. The blond would never cope with all eight of them alone. Well…seven. Leolin didn't count now as he was fast asleep. Hopefully the kids would all go down for their naps too, nice and easy so that he could have a bit of a rest. He hadn't even had time to have a coffee at all in the last three hours and he was gagging for one.
A little girl came and occupied his lap, a penguin coming with her and it took him only a moment to remember her name.
"Daddy, ee ana, ee baska."
"I'm sure you speak Welsh like your Daddy Nasta." Blaise told her. "Maybe she's mumbling in Welsh?"
"Daddy Ast." Tegan repeated, looking around for the man in question, frowning when she didn't see him.
Draco chuckled. "I have thought of that before, but I'm sure Nasta would have noticed and mentioned it to us if she were. It's just her own little language that only Harry seems to understand."
"He is the only one of us to speak Parseltongue, maybe that's why he can understand her."
The both of them laughed at that, knowing that it wasn't true. She was just a special little girl and she had her own words for things. She would learn, she already was, and soon her little language would fall away, like all baby gibberish did, until then they had to continue to guess at what she was saying.
Thankfully the kids all started dropping off, starting with the younger twin girls and then Regan, then Braiden and Farren, who had had a rather unsettled night, and their Calix was the last to drop off, which was nothing unusual. Draco was the one to carry them up to their nursery as they dropped off one by one and Blaise took the time to grab a coffee, a much needed coffee as he inhaled the deep, rich scent of it slowly, deeply, savouring it and he sighed happily. He'd needed this.
"Got mine?" Draco asked with a smirk as he came into the kitchen to join him.
Blaise reached behind himself and picked up Draco's mug of tea, handing it over.
"Come on, let's go and sit in the living room, Leolin's still in there and its cleaner."
"I needed this break." Blaise laughed.
"You and me both." Draco agreed. "They're getting quite the handful now that they're all almost two."
"Just three more months and we'll have six two year olds running around. I really think we are crazy sometimes."
"I'm sure of it now." Draco agreed, sitting down on a settee.
Blaise chose to sit beside him, curling up his legs and resting against his mate with his coffee.
"One big, happy family." Blaise chuckled. "With serious emphasis on big. I can't believe we're getting our ninth child in the New Year."
"The baby could come before the New Year. It'll be viable from November onwards."
"Oh, I hope Harry doesn't leave us on our own for Christmas and the quintuplets' birthday." Blaise moaned.
"I would if I were him." Draco laughed. "Out in my nest alone, in the peace and quiet, doing nothing but primping and preening, waiting for the baby to come."
Blaise snorted with laughter. "When you put it like that then it's almost a certainty that he will. I think I would too with all the excitement and noise that Christmas will bring and with those five turning two as well, then with Eva and Ave turning a year old in January. I wouldn't put it past him to stay in his nest for those two months to miss out on all the drama and hectic noise."
Draco laughed and squeezed him with the arm around his shoulders and down his chest.
"He wouldn't want to miss any of that hectic madness, though." Blaise sighed. "We want the quiet, but he welcomes the noise and the mess and the stress. He's definitely a weird one."
Draco chuckled. "He is, but then aren't we all? I might need to keep things clean and neat, but I'm fine with the noise."
"I'm fine with the mess, I just need some quiet time now and then." Blaise laughed. "Maybe we are all weird, in our own ways, but we all fit together. We complement each other."
"Except for Max, he's weird in a lot of ways."
Blaise laughed at that, trying to muffle himself so that he didn't disturb Leolin.
"He does make us laugh every day." Blaise allowed once he'd stopped laughing.
Draco smiled then, as he thought about it. "Yes he does. I suppose it does take a special person to be able to do that."
"Very special." Blaise agreed.
They lapsed into silence, just enjoying their small break while they had it, as it would only last an hour or so.
After their first cups of tea and coffee, they had a second together and they once again basked in the glorious silence of a quiet, peaceful house.
"How are you feeling?" Draco asked him several minutes of peace later.
Blaise considered the question and sipped on his coffee as he thought.
"It's been a good day." He answered softly. "I haven't had too many lapses and I'm getting quicker at putting names to faces. Sometimes I know a name, but I fumble it and I can't get it out of my mouth, on other times I just go blank and can't think at all, but I am getting better."
"I never meant to hurt you." Draco said sadly.
Blaise smiled. "I know you didn't. When we go feral, there's nothing anyone can do about it. I know you didn't mean to hurt any of us, that's why you're still here with us. We've forgiven you, and Harry and I will recover in time. We're getting better day by day and one day we'll wake up and realise that we're fully healed and this incident can be fully put behind us at last."
"I'm so happy that you're all so forgiving. I was devastated when I came back to myself and realised what I'd done to those I love. Those anger management classes really helped too. Now it's just the therapy to get through."
"I'm doing well with that too." Blaise said with a smile. "I'm going to be signed off soon."
"Truly?" Draco asked happily.
Blaise nodded. "Another lesson or two and I'll be signed off. Nasta too, I would imagine. Harry has a lot to talk out, so he might be the last. His Mind Healer is involved now as well and he's finally getting the support that he needs."
Their conversation was cut short when the floo flared. They knew it could only be one of their three missing mates, so they weren't surprised when Nasta came back, covered in dirt, soot and filth. He had a raw and weeping burn on his arm and another one on his bare side, right down to his hip. The one on his arm was actually dripping with a clear fluid…blood plasma. The one on his side was singed at the edges of the wound, as if he had been barbequed.
"Damn it, Nasta, can't you stop getting burnt?" Draco demanded. "Harry is going to lose his shit when he sees you."
"I'm going to shower now and try and hide it until he's settled." Nasta sighed. "I had to save those hatchlings though, they're newly born and they don't deserve to be eaten by their own Mother because the fools at that reserve didn't feed her because she was up in the mountains. I swear I take a short break to support my family and that place goes to seed."
"I'll find Max's burn salve. It's a shame he's not here to apply it too, I don't know what to do." Blaise said.
"I've watched him enough times, I can do it myself." Nasta insisted. "Are the kids all napping?"
Draco nodded. "Yes. They went off easily and we even got Farren to sleep, though that's likely because of his broken sleep last night."
"Do you want tea too?" Draco asked after looking at him for a short while.
"When I get out of the shower." Nasta said, accepting the tub of burn salve that Max made especially for him from Blaise and he went off to the downstairs bathroom, just outside the living room to clean himself up and cover his burns.
He hadn't told his mates that he had another one on his leg too, a burn which was chafing and smarting under his jeans. He should have gotten changed into his flame-retardant dragonhide clothes that he wore as a uniform while at the reserve, but he hadn't been thinking about himself when he'd gotten the message about the rampaging female eating her own hatchlings.
He hissed as the water hit his abused skin, trying to ignore the stinging pain as he used his hand to gingerly clean himself off. He didn't use any cloths or soaps, just his hand and the water. That hurt enough and he sucked in air through his teeth.
He didn't dawdle, once he was clean enough he got out and patted himself dry, taking care with the raw, weeping sores. He hated getting injured at work, not least because it worried his mates senseless, but because it damn well hurt. He dabbed the burn salve onto his burnt skin and tried not to cry at the pain of it as he covered the skinless wounds. As it was it did bring tears to his eyes.
Safe in the knowledge that the kids were all asleep, he padded naked up to their bedroom to get into a pair of small shorts. He had said that he would hide this from Harry until he was more settled, but the only way he could think to do that was to remove himself from the house. Perhaps if he went up to his attic office and claimed to have paperwork to do, which wasn't entirely a lie, he did have some paperwork to finish off, but he would much rather lie in bed and let his body heal. He hated that taking his mate's blood wouldn't heal injuries caused by dragons.
He went back down the stairs and he saw Blaise and Draco clock the paste covered area on his leg.
"You repaired your jeans over the burn." Blaise said tightly, his face pinched with worry.
"I'm fine, Caru." He said tiredly. "I think I'm going to go up to the attic though, to give Harry a chance to relax first when he comes home. I am sorry to leave you with the kids."
"It's alright, you need to heal." Draco told him, handing over a mug of green tea. The first sip made him feel much better. "We've got the kids covered. Max will be home soon, Harry too, so we'll be fine on our own for a while. I will take Max aside if Harry is home first and I'll send him to go look at you. Just in case. We'll call you when Harry is nice and relaxed."
"Thank you, Cariad." Nasta said, taking his mug, giving Leolin a soft touch as he walked past the bassinet, and he removed himself to his attic office.
He hoped that Max didn't lay into him too hard, he was feeling very tired now and he wasn't up to an argument. He hoped too that Harry remained calm and that he went back to being relaxed as soon as Nasta reassured him that he was going to be fine by tomorrow morning, as always. Harry truly didn't need the added stress of this, but he hadn't done it on purpose and it'd had to be done if those little hatchlings had had any hope of surviving their Mother's ravenous hunger. He just hoped that he could convince his protective mates of that too, that he'd had no choice but to save those hatchlings, as he couldn't have allowed them to be eaten in front of him, regardless of the risk to himself, but despite that, he still had not gotten himself injured on purpose and he hoped that his mates realised as such, he hated that he was the cause of their worry, that he could be the cause of Harry's stress increasing. He would work to settle them down now that he was feeling better and his burns had been tended.
It was going to be a very long day. This was going to be his last day in court, and so he had agreed to stay here, on the stand, until it was finally over. Unfortunately this meant that he probably wasn't going to get home before four O'clock. He had only seen his babies once today, that morning, when he'd eaten breakfast with them and then gone to get himself dressed and ready for court.
He'd left the house at nine, gone to Richard and Myron's, though Ashleigh was there now as well, and she'd managed to push more tea and a piece of toast on him while Richard rushed about and made sure that he had everything that he needed in his work case while Myron called him a disorganised sloth. Apparently Richard had been 'overenthusiastic' in his joy at having Ashleigh back home and he hadn't packed his case last night, like he usually did.
They followed their normal routine now, Richard would take his arm and carefully Apparate them to the narrow alleyway, they would walk out onto the street and go to their little café to order a coffee to go, Harry would have a decaf coffee now that he was pregnant, and maybe a muffin or a fruit tart if he was hungry still. They would reach the courthouse for half past and then Harry would sit on a smooth, polished bench that made him feel like he would go sprawling every time he shifted even slightly and they would wait for their case to be called at ten sharp.
It was two in the afternoon now, his babies would be down for their afternoon naps, if they had decided to sleep that was. Farren usually skipped his naps, he always had done, and Calix was impossible to get to sleep and he wouldn't stay asleep for long either as he was afraid that he would miss something while he slept. He hated not knowing how his own children were. He didn't like being away from them for the whole day, only seeing them at breakfast and then coming home to them having their dinners. Today was going to be worse if it carried on into the late afternoon. He probably wouldn't get home much before their bath times. The thought made him want to cry, but he sucked it up and he calmed himself down. This wasn't the place to show such weakness.
"Now, Mister Potter, we have a statement here from a Miss Marjorie Dursley, your Aunt."
Harry wanted to deny that she was in anyway related to him vehemently, but he instead sat quietly, watching the lawyer as if waiting for him to continue. He was once again glad for the drop of calming draught that Max had given to him that morning, even if the taste had had him almost running for the toilet to be sick.
"She insists that you were a terror, a delinquent who put a massive strain on her brother, Mister Dursley, and his wife. She says that you were rude, ungrateful and, I quote directly 'a bad egg'."
Harry waited for the lawyer to continue, but it seemed that he was waiting for some sort of reaction from him.
"What is your question?" Harry asked politely, after almost a full minute of silence.
"Would you agree with this assessment of your character, Mister Potter?"
"Of course not." He replied. "Though she would call me all of those things and worse whenever she came to visit."
"Why was that if it wasn't true?" Mister Chorley asked in a silky way that reminded Harry of Snape at his most cruel in the classroom.
"For the same reason that the neighbours believed it, because they'd been told a pack of lies about me every day and no one took the time to find out the truth. No one wanted to get to know me as a person and instead of seeing what was actually in front of them, they believed the lies told about me. Marge only came around for one week every summer when I was a teenager, it was the only week in the year that I saw her and she saw me in person, everything else she heard was from them, over the phone."
"Why would they lie to your Aunt about you?"
Harry took in an extra deep breath and he swallowed hard. It hurt his throat. "They lied to everyone about me, making me out to be emotionally disturbed, a delinquent, a criminal. Someone who others wouldn't want to be near. It was a way to stop people getting close to me, to stop them from wanting to get to know me so that they wouldn't see the cuts or bruises, the too large clothing or the trainers that were falling apart. It stopped anyone from seeing how unhappy I was with my home situation. Once they had told their lies, no one wanted to come near that odd Potter boy, they avoided me, they averted their gaze from me, they were blind to me and how I was suffering. It was perfect really, how easily those lies covered their abusive actions, it created a way for them to continue hurting me without anyone noticing, because once you've been labelled as a criminal, as mentally subnormal, no one wants to notice you."
There were low murmurs and Mister Chorley looked nervously to the Jury before snapping his head back to Harry. If he'd thought for one minute that Harry was a weak pushover because he'd been abused, then he was so very wrong. He had four loving, supportive mates waiting for him at home to help him through this. He had amazing in-laws who were willing to treat him as if he was their own son. He was stronger now, more secure, happier. He could do this. He could put his past behind him with the conclusion of this court case, he could finally heal and he wanted that more than anything. He wanted to move forward, to look to his future, and soon, very soon, as short as a day or two according to Richard, he would have that freedom.
"Your Aunt insists that you were always rude to her and would smirk and sneer."
"That is generally what one does when their dead parents are being insulted." Harry replied quickly. "She even accused my Father of being a drunk driver and of killing himself and my Mother in a car accident. That was the lie that they told everyone about my parents, trying to discredit them and myself in the process. I didn't even know how my own parents had died until I was eleven years old. They weren't killed in a car crash at all, they were murdered by a madman who also tried to kill me."
"Is that why you were so disturbed as a child? Is that why you had all those nightmares? Not because my clients were ever unkind to you, but because you had survived such a horrible attack that had killed your parents."
"I was fifteen months old when that happened, would you expect me to remember anything that had happened? As I said, I had no idea how they had died until I was eleven and I was told the truth of it by someone else. Until then I had believed the story that they told everyone else, that they'd died in a car crash." Harry said a little savagely. "I was not a disturbed child, I was abused and I was having nightmares because I was being forced to live with the people who continually hurt me, padlocked into a room that I couldn't get out of. It was worse than being a prisoner, because at least prison cells have toilets and their prisoners are fed three times a day. That's more than I ever got. Some days were so bad that I started rationing what little food I was given, making a cache of bread slices or overripe fruit and only allowing myself to eat a quarter of it, despite how starved I was, just in case the next day I got nothing. There were times when I wasn't even let out of that tiny room for days on end. That got so bad that sometimes I was forced to urinate in a corner of that locked room like an animal because they refused to let me out, not even when I banged on the door and shouted that I needed to use the bathroom! They just ignored me and left me in that room."
"May I petition for a short break to give my client a moment?" Richard asked, standing.
"I will allow this." The Judge said.
Harry only realised then that he couldn't see, that his vision was blurred and he was crying. Richard came to get him and gently led him out of the room and to another one just down the hall. As soon as the door was closed Harry found himself wrapped up in a tight hug.
"It's alright, sweetheart." Richard soothed him, stroking his head and his back, holding him close with one arm around his back.
Harry cried harder and he shook his head. "It's not. It's not okay, none of this is okay. I shouldn't have been treated like that. It shouldn't have happened and I just want to know why. Why did they treat me like that? Why did they hate me so much that they abused me? Why?"
Richard just held him closer and let him cry, getting out all of the bad feelings and the hurt before they had to go back into the courtroom.
It took Harry long minutes to settle himself down, to get a hold of himself again after his crying fit. He felt lighter, better, once he was done. Though he was sure that he looked a right mess. Richard took out a handkerchief and mopped up his face for him, smiling at him gently.
"Are we feeling better?" He asked gently.
Harry nodded. "I can't believe I just blurted all of that out. I just…I was just fed up and it all came out on its own."
"It was the truth, and here, we don't have the luxury of keeping dignity or false modesty. It does us no good to keep back facts through embarrassment. I know it's hard to say such things, but the court needs to hear them. They need to know everything that you've been through."
Harry nodded again. "I know, but it doesn't make it any easier to say. I don't like this, I really don't."
"It's our last day, sweetie. I know it's hard, but you only ever have to do this once and today is our last day in court. You will never have to do this again, you will never be questioned about it again. We'll get through this last session now, a few more hours, that's all, and then you can go home and never worry about being on the stand again, being questioned or cross-examined ever again and in a few days we will get the verdict and then you will never, ever have to come back. It will all be over and you won't even have to think about this court case ever again. Just a few more hours, sweetheart, I know that you can do it."
Harry smiled then, brushing his eyes once more. "Thank you."
"Think nothing of it, son. Now, are you ready to get back in there?"
"Am I allowed to go to the bathroom first?"
"Of course, come on. You can splash your face with a bit of water too, it'll help cool you down."
"And get rid of the puffiness around my eyes that I'm sure is there." Harry agreed.
Richard smiled sadly. "It won't be much longer, Harry. He won't have a lot left to cover now. A few more hours and I'll tell those boys to spoil you rotten myself. Have you been able to eat any of your chocolate?"
"A fair bit of it." Harry smiled as they reached the toilets and Harry went to relieve himself.
"Nasta hasn't started fretting over it?"
"I think he's just glad that I'm actually eating something, I went through those few days of feeling so sick that I couldn't eat and I could see that they were all worried, so he's not been so bad lately. I've been on a bit of a health kick too and that has certainly put me in his good books, so he's more lenient with me and my treats."
"Oh, now this I've heard about." Richard said, laughing. "Eating Nasta out of his fruits. Did it start with your little revenge plot?"
"It did actually." Harry laughed, coming out of the stall and going to wash his hands. "The baby got a taste for fruit after that little revenge plot and now I'm on a health kick, interspaced with what I'm calling treat days where all I eat is junk."
"Max called us and he updated us about you and your health kick. Myron was very approving."
"I'm sure the baby's Nasta's, just from the health kick." Harry giggled. "I've already told him that it's his fault. Not that he cares, I think he's rather proud about it."
Harry cupped his hands under the tap and he splashed some of the water onto his face and he checked himself in the mirror after he'd dried his face with a wad of toilet tissue, making sure that all of the water was cleaned up and that no tissue was stuck to his face.
"Come on, Harry. Let's get back to the court and get through this last push. If you need another break, just signal to me and I'll call a break. The Judge won't say no to you."
"I just feel like I'm dragging it out more by going for breaks all the time."
"You're not. If you need a moment then you need a moment and there's nothing that anyone can do about it."
Harry nodded and he took a deep breath to steel himself. "Okay, I'm ready." He said. "Let's get this over with. I need cuddles after this."
"Baby or mate?" Richard teased.
Harry chuckled. "Both." He insisted.
They made it back to the courtroom door and Harry took another several deep breaths and then he nodded again. He followed Richard back into the courtroom and when Richard sat at the table, he carried on and slipped back onto the stand, his shoulders back and his head held high. He had nothing to be ashamed of, he had been a child, unable to defend or protect himself. He had no reason to be embarrassed over what he had suffered through at the hands of those people, none whatsoever. It had not been his fault, it had been theirs for treating him as they had, as less than an animal and they were not going to get away with it. Not now that he had set his mind to receiving the justice he deserved.
Dain watched worriedly as Kailen paced and raged in their manor home, looking at the letter from Eitri with furious eyes.
"That he dares use Leolin against us, Dain!" Kailen seethed. "I have told them that I do not want the position. I do not want it, so he threatens and blackmails us with our own family!"
"He is desperate, Kailen. The new laws are…"
"I don't care how desperate he is, Dain! To threaten me, me!"
"Think instead how Trefor would have felt." Dain said calmly, watching as just the name of their Fae calmed Kailen down and stopped his pacing mid-stride. "How would you feel if he had been here and he was subject to these law changes? How do you think he would have felt about them?"
Kailen grit his teeth. "He would have hated them. I hate them, of course I do! But that isn't the point, Dain, he has threatened us with the loss of the only family that we have left!"
"Eitri's methods are…drastic, I admit, but his letter speaks true. You are the only hope the Faes have, Kailen. No one else can be trusted, but I trust you. He trusts you."
"Why don't you do it?!" Kailen demanded, though they both knew the answer.
"I'm an Unseelie, Kailen. I'm not well liked because I prefer to keep myself to myself and all my business private. You were always more sociable, it was always you and Trefor going out to the drinking house and to see shows, interacting with the citizens. I would prefer to stay at home with a book, or in the gardens by myself and if I was to go out, the both of you usually had to drag me reluctantly. I've never been much of a people person, Kailen and you know it. I would not win enough votes."
"I've never wanted this responsibility, Dain. I don't want to do it."
"I know that you don't, Kailen, you have more than made your feelings and thoughts clear on the matter, but you are not being given a choice. Can you really say goodbye to Aneirin, Idris and Nerys? To Nasta and Sanex now that we've met them and they are talking to us? Could you really turn your back on the first Faerie to be born into our line since Karin?"
"You know that I couldn't." Kailen growled, spinning on his heel and setting off his pacing again. "That doesn't mean that I enjoy being blackmailed, Dain! Surely there is someone else who would be better suited to the position, one who actually wants it?!"
"Kailen, you know that there is not. We can't pretend anymore that this situation is not dire. We have to assume the worst now. Sindri is not improving, it has been two moon turns already and he has not gotten any better. Someone needs to be ready to slip into his place and we cannot allow it to be Donella or Alston."
"Alston would never get voted in." Kailen scoffed.
"He has been asking the citizens for support. Of course it is in bad taste while Sindri still lives, but he is getting others thinking of where their support might lie if the worst does happen. We can send as many messages to the gods through the sacred elder trees all we like, but unless the Healers can do anything, then Sindri will not recover from this illness. We cannot let anyone take over the court who would do harm to our family."
"Eitri would not dare harm…"
"I am not speaking of Eitri, Kailen." Dain cut in sharply. "What would happen to us if Donella, or Alston, got the head position?"
"We would be executed as traitors to the court." Kailen sighed, knowing it to be true.
"So we would lose our lives and our family, but worse than that, Kailen. What would happen to Leolin then? They would try to take that babe from his own family and keep him here, he would be raised by strangers, perhaps ill-treated because of who his parents are, or should I say what they are, much like young Ezrah. He could die as a result of the upheaval."
Kailen sat down then, heavily, and he put his head into his hands.
"They would never get to Leolin." Kailen tried.
"But what sort of life would he have being an outcast of his own family's City? He would never be able to come here, he would never see the graves of his family, he'd never be able to live here, and if anything went wrong and Harry and Nasta needed information, or a Healer, they wouldn't be able to get it. Leolin would never get to see the house of worship or be inducted into the faith, he'd never find a Faerie partner to settle with, would you put him through that? Even without Eitri's threats to tell Harry and Nasta, we would have still had to do something, Kailen, because if they win, Leolin would be lost to our City and we would be lost to him."
"I'm not good enough to do it, Dain." Kailen fretted.
"You are, dear heart." Dain soothed. "You are one of the very best Valkyries in this entire City! You are kind and caring, to both Valkyries and Faes and that is what is needed. You are the most like Sindri in thought and action, you need to carry on his work in his absence."
Kailen swallowed. "But what if I try and I fail?"
"It can never truly be a failure if you have tried and given your all." Dain told him sagely.
Kailen sighed, his shoulders slumping. "I have no choice." He said simply. "I am truly being held at sword point to do something I do not want to. I might even fail to achieve the objective of this farce and then what? Will Eitri carry out his little threats to tell Harry and Nasta?"
"You are well liked, Kailen." Dain soothed.
"I don't have what it takes to lead a City!" Kailen said.
"You're more capable than you think." Dain told him.
"I don't want to do this, Dain."
"I know, my dearest, I would do it if I could, in your place, but I am not well liked, it is the nature of the Unseelie. You're brighter, and yes, you snap and snipe at times, but only at those who deserve it. You are more liked than I am, you are more sociable, more caring. The people will respond to you, Kailen, in a way that I could not achieve. I will help you, of course. We have supported one another for how many centuries now? I would never think of abandoning you at this time, dear heart. You are my everything."
Kailen smiled then. "I have no choice. I cannot lose my family so soon after reconnecting with them. Not Harry and Nasta, not Maximilius, Draco or Blaise, not Aneirin or Sanex, Idris or Nerys. Hywel and Dai have been in contact recently and even Nesta's husband, Urien is curious to meet us. Leolin will need us too, we cannot lose them, or allow them to lose their link to our City. I have to do it, but I am so glad to hear that you will stay beside me through this."
"I love you, Kailen, I have for many centuries now, I would not leave you to go through this alone, and neither will Eitri."
Kailen's hand clenched tight at just the thought of the golden headed Fae.
"You may not like his methods, Kailen, but it needed to be you and no one else, he is intelligent enough to have realised that. He is putting all of his support in you, he would vote for you, and for Eitri to show that level of trust in anyone, why, you should be honoured." Dain teased.
Kailen snorted softly in laughter. "I do not want his trust to be misplaced in me, I could yet fail. You know that not everyone is adverse to this devolvement back into the old way of life and the older generations outnumber the younger."
"Kailen, trust that you can do this." Dain said, reaching forward and taking the hands of the man he loved so fiercely. "I know that you can do this, believe it yourself. I will help you, our friends will help you and we can make Warren your personal guard if you wish. He has ever been a friend to us both. You will be cared for and protected and we will still support and love you, but you need to do this, for our City, for our family…for Leolin."
Kailen sighed and his head dropped as he looked at his hands in Dain's.
"I have no choice but to do as instructed. I cannot lose our family, but if you ever leave me to struggle through on our own, I will exile you to the furthest reaches of this planet that I can find."
Dain laughed and pulled Kailen forward so that he could kiss him.
"I would never leave you to struggle through alone. We have been through far too much, dearest heart. I would never forgive myself if I abandoned you to this workload, this pressure, alone."
Kailen nodded. "I will still pray that Sindri recovers, but in the meantime, we must plan, Dain. As you said, Donella cannot take the head of the court using the words of Talfryn and we cannot ever allow Alston to take the head of the court. If no one else is willing to step up to do what is right, then we have to, for the sake of the Faes and our Leolin, who Eitri correctly points out in his letter could be a Fae himself. We had an Unseelie Fae for a son, the combination runs in our blood and Leolin could turn out to be a Fae himself. We cannot allow these laws to continue passing unopposed when our own grandson could be subject to such laws in the future."
"Harry and Nasta would never allow him to come here with the City in such a state. Eitri is right again with such observations."
Kailen swallowed heavily and he took in a deep breath. "I will do it, but I will need you by my side, Dain. I am more sociable, but I never know what to say in such situations."
"I will never leave you, dear heart."
Kailen smiled then. "I love you Dain Talarin."
Dain chuckled. "And I love you Kailen Aldaren."
Things were changing so rapidly, it was almost too quickly to process for them. As Faeries they were more used to doing things nice and slow, this rapid change of terrible events and even worse laws being passed through the courts, it was too much to take in and their City was changing too much, far too quickly.
It was very unsettling, more so for their Fae citizens, who were now back to being oppressed and silenced after enjoying their freedom and their rights. They knew that Eitri in particular had been attacked several times already since Sindri's illness had become widely known. A dozen other Faes had reported similar treatment and now many of them were too afraid to leave their homes, but even there their Valkyrie Fathers and brothers were oppressing them, in some cases at least. It was time for this to stop, once and for all.
Kailen would take the head of the court, if he was voted in by the citizens of course, which he would be as in Dain's opinion there was no one better for the position, and he would make safe the City for all citizens, Dain was sure of it, no matter their gender or denomination, for as long as he could. Kailen was five hundred and three now, he had the potential to live for another two hundred years or so. Then they would have to find another who would look after all citizens, not just the Valkyries, and not just the Faes either, but both denominations and all citizens of all ages, Faes and Valkyries, Seelies and Unseelies, males and females of all combinations. It was only right, and it was needed. He just wasn't too happy that it had to be Kailen, who did not want to do it, but he understood the reasoning behind such blackmailing and coercion on Eitri's part, and despite disliking it, neither he nor Kailen would be able to hold it against the golden Fae. He was very young, he was scared and he had been attacked numerous times already, he just wanted to be safe in his own home, in his own City, and he truly trusted Kailen to keep him safe, enough so that he would back Kailen and put his vote to him. It truly was a high honour from the reclusive, distrustful Fae and despite the underhanded way that Eitri had gone about this whole thing, Dain did understand his thinking and why he'd done it. He would be able to forgive Eitri for this, because he believed in Kailen and he loved his family, and because he understood why Eitri had felt the need to do as such. He was five hundred and sixty-five, he had lived for a long time, he knew such desperation that drove Eitri to threaten his friends, he had hoped that it would not be needed, but Kailen had needed a push. Dain agreed with Eitri full heartedly, there was no one else that they could trust to carry on Sindri's great work. It had to be Kailen, it had just taken Kailen a while to understand that as well as the rest of them.
It was coming up to four in the afternoon and Harry was well and truly fed up and completely drained. He'd had two more small breaks in another room with Richard because of emotional breakdowns and he had a headache from his tears. He just wanted to go home and cuddle with his mates, but he was still on the stand, still being accused of being a liar and a delinquent, from the Masons, to Marge, to some of Dudley's old friends, the rat like Piers Polkiss and big, blond, stupid Gordon.
"Now, tell me again why you had these big, intimidating men threaten my clients in a train station?" Mister Chorley asked.
"They were friends of my parents. They found out that I was being locked up in my bedroom when they came to get me on the second of August nineteen-ninety-five and I told them why and a little of what had been happening to me. They convinced me to pursue a criminal court case against them when I was too scared to do so and unsure about everything. It has been really intimidating being here, telling the life I lived through to strangers, but it's also the right thing to do, because those people deserve to go to prison for what they did to me. It won't make up for the horrors that I was put through, nothing can ever erase those memories or make up for what I suffered through during the time I was with them, but seeing them punished for what they did is a start, and it will help me gain closure on that part of my life. A part that should have been fun and happy and filled with laughter and adventure and the innocent wonder of all children, but for me, it was a daily nightmare of being scared and abused. Thanks to those people I never had a childhood. All the things I should have experienced, I never got to. I spent my earliest years locked in a cupboard, I was forced to do chores that were not only beyond my ability, but were also dangerous. As I got older, and too big for the cupboard, I was moved into Dudley's second bedroom and I got locked into that instead. As I got older I started being hit more often, I got less food and more time confined in my room. They were supposed to look after me and keep me safe, and I don't know why they didn't do that, I don't know why they took one look at me, a fifteen month old baby, and locked me in a cupboard. I never knew why they hated me so much or why I was abused and mistreated. Why? Why did you do that to me? What could I have possibly done that warranted that sort of treatment from you?" He pleaded with the silent, pale faced Dursleys. "What did I do as a fifteen month old orphan that made you want to hurt me and lock me away?"
Harry brushed more tears away, but he no longer cared about crying. He had cried more times on the stand in the last four days than he had throughout the entire trial. It really was brutal and emotional and being three months pregnant didn't help in the slightest.
"That was not what I asked you, Mister Potter." The lawyer told him, trying to salvage what he could of what was left of this case. "I asked why you set a dozen men onto my clients in a train station, now answer the question."
"I believed I had." Harry sniffed, trying to regain control of himself. "They were friends of my parents and they found out about the abuse I was suffering through. I would also like to point out that there were three of them, not a dozen, and one of them was a woman. I never asked them to talk to the Dursleys. I never wanted anyone to know such awful, humiliating things about me, but they found out anyway and I had to tell them something, so I let them know a small bit about my home life, that I was locked in my room for days at a time and they didn't like that I was being treated in such a way. I imagine it must be a terrible thing, to find out that a child you know is being mistreated and abused by their own family. They warned the Dursleys off and I never went back to that house. Instead I was taken away and I wish I had said something years before, when I was still a kid, but I was too scared to say anything. I was sure that other people knew what was happening and just didn't care. I thought that they knew about it, that they could see what was happening, and that no one cared. I wish now, looking back, that I had been able to gather the courage to say something sooner, but I was a child and I didn't know any better and I kept begging that it would stop, that I would be treated as their own son was, that I would be loved and it…it never happened. When I was sixteen, I realised that nothing would change, they were always going to treat me terribly, they were always going to abuse and hurt me, so I left. I knew that I would have to see them again in court, but since I left them that day in the train station, after I'd come home from school, I hadn't seen them until the start of this case."
Harry stared at the lawyer, daring him to say that he hadn't answered the question this time. He was fixated on that incident in the train station, as if being spoken to by Mrs Weasley, Max and Nasta about the terrible treatment he had endured somehow made up for everything that they had done to him over a decade and a half. It didn't. It didn't even come close.
"If you are done with my client." Richard cut in after a rather lengthy pause.
The lawyer looked at Richard, then to Harry, then to his clients. He seemed to shrink and Harry knew what was coming. He had utterly failed in his attempt to get the Dursley's a lower, more lenient sentence and he knew that he had failed.
"No further questions, Your Honour." Mister Chorley said heavily and Harry almost sunk into his seat with a sighed breath of utter relief. It was now after four O'clock, he couldn't wait to go home.
Richard gestured to him and Harry stood and he left the stand, going back to Richard and sitting back in the chair at the table. He all but ignored the closing words, then the Judge telling the Jury to go away and deliberate on their verdict based on the evidence that they had seen in the courtroom.
Not too long after that they were dismissed and Harry wanted to cheer so badly that he ducked his head to prevent it. Richard packed up so quickly that there was no way that he had packed anything in his case away nicely, or in any semblance of order. He stood and Harry stood with him and Richard placed a hand on his shoulder and steered him out.
"I bet this feels good." Richard said as he led him out into the daylight.
"So good." Harry said happily. "I hate that it's half four now. I've almost missed out on the entire of my babies being awake! They go to bed at six and Leolin, Eva and Ave will already be asleep."
"We'll get you home now, Harry." Richard said gently. "I know it isn't ideal and not what you'd want to be doing, but it's all over now. You only have to come back to hear the sentencing, and even then you don't have to go, I could come back and tell you."
Harry shook his head. "No, I came through all of that. I've done the hardest parts, I'm not going to hide away from the easy bit."
Richard snorted and smiled. "Sometimes the verdict can be the worst part, or certainly the most nerve-wracking. No one would dare say anything if you wanted to skip it."
"I would be nervous if I was there or not, at least if I was there it would be several minutes less fretting as I'd hear it immediately, directly and I wouldn't have to wait for anyone to come back and tell me. I want to see this through to the end, no matter how nerve-wracking."
Richard nodded and pulled him into a sideways hug as they walked.
"How about a treat? Do you want a muffin or a coffee to take home with you?"
Harry thought about it, but he shook his head. "I'm too tense to eat, I think. I just want to hug all of my babies and kiss each of my mates. I want to go home and know that I never have to do that ever again. I want to sit on my settee, with my honey tea and relax for what will feel like months."
Richard smiled and they walked right past the café. "Whatever you want now, Harry. It's time for you to relax and know that you never have to do that again. You can relax until the verdict is announced, and then it will finally be over for good."
Harry heaved a huge sigh and he smiled. "I feel lighter already."
Richard held him tightly as he side-Apparated him back home. Harry almost bounded up the porch steps and he got out his key from his pocket and he opened the large front door, Richard laughing behind him.
"Harry, is that you, Bello?" Blaise called out.
"Who else?" Harry replied. "How are you? Where are you?"
"Living room." Blaise called out and Harry backtracked, going down the left hand corridor and to the smaller living room.
"Where are the kids?" Harry asked, looking around for any of his babies, he even peeked into Leolin's bassinet, only to find that it was empty.
"They've been fed and now Draco is doing the last of the baths. It's been a hell of a day. Come sit down, I'll get you tea and we can swap stories. Would you like one, Richard?"
"Only a small one, son. Myron will want me home in time for dinner. He hates eating alone and Ashleigh had to spend overnight at the hospital. She is improving greatly, but they won't let her out full time until they sign her off."
"I'm so glad that she's getting better. She was so excited to see Eva and Ave." Harry smiled as Blaise went to go make the tea.
"She didn't stop gushing about them all day." Richard laughed.
"Hopefully she'll be better in time for Christmas, or the quintuplets' birthday at least. I'd like her there."
"We're actually hoping for before that." Richard said with a wide smile. "She's improved so much in the last few weeks that we're all hopeful that she'll be home before her birthday."
"Really?" Harry asked. "That's great!"
"Yeah, we're trying not to get our hopes up, but it really is coming to the end of her rehab now. She's so much better for it too. She's more like the vibrant young woman who attracted me and Myron in the first place. The woman who would tease Myron until he was red in the face and laugh with me as we rolled around the floor with our kids. We've missed her so much, we just…we never really realised that she'd slipped away from us until she'd gone and couldn't come back. It was so subtle, across so many years, that we only realised that she wasn't herself when she got the help she needed and the woman she once was came back out. These last several weeks with her have been amazing."
"I'm so happy for all of you, and I'm very proud of Ashleigh for all the work she's done to get herself back to how she should be. I'm so glad."
"Here you go." Blaise said, coming back in several minutes later with a tray of tea.
"Where are Max and Nasta?" Harry asked. "Why aren't they helping? Or at least down here keeping you company?"
Blaise sighed. "Please stay calm, but the both of them were injured in work."
"How? Nasta wasn't even in work today, what happened to him?" Harry asked, trying to keep his voice nice and even, trying to keep calm and not give in to his fear that wanted him to go run around looking for his mates. He was sure if he weren't so emotionally drained and exhausted after his last day on the stand, and his last day in court, then he would have immediately leapt up and gone to chew out both of his mates.
"Max had a cauldron blow up in his face and Nasta got called into an emergency and he has the usual burns from the rampaging dragons. He's put the burn salve on himself and he'll be fine by tomorrow, as he normally is. Max went to peek in on him, and to score some blood, and he says that Nasta will be fine by tomorrow. Max is resting from his ordeal, but the blood cleaned him right up, he'll be fine with a little more rest."
"Where is he?" Richard asked. "I believe you, I just want to check on him."
"The both of them are up in bed, Max dragged Nasta there as soon as he came home, but don't worry, they really aren't up for anything at the moment. They're both in pyjamas and resting, keeping one another company."
"I'll go and check on them. Drink some tea, Harry. You've earnt a rest and you've done so well." Richard told him.
Richard was worried as he climbed the stairs to the first floor, but not so worried that he was going to go feral or go tearing through his sons' home to find Max. He knocked on the door to the master suite and he walked into the massive bedroom. It truly was a masterpiece in design, size and comfort. Richard was completely jealous and he smiled to himself.
The two boys were sat up in bed together, both looking as miserable as an old crone.
"I heard you boys had an unfortunate day." He teased as he walked in and he went straight to his baby, looking at his bruised face.
"Is Harry home? He doesn't know about this, does he?" Nasta asked, looking so worried.
"He is home and he does know, yes. He asked where you both were as soon as he got through the door. Blaise couldn't lie."
"How is he?" Nasta asked, sitting upright and moving to get out of the bed.
"Stay where you are if you like your balls being attached to your body. Harry's fine. He's calm and he's relaxing with tea."
"He…he's really alright?" Max asked.
"Well, he's not alright with you both injuring yourselves, of course not, but there's not much he can do about it as both of you knuckleheads insist on having dangerous jobs and injuring yourselves in said jobs. Truly though I think today was incredibly hard on him and he's just emotionally drained. He cried a lot today in court. He did so well, he was amazing, but there were a lot of tears and we needed to stop for several breaks, which is why we're back so late. Thankfully the case is over now, it's just the verdict, so please, try and look after yourselves a bit more and pamper the shit out of that boy. He's going to be nervous enough, dreading the wait until the verdict, without you two idiots going and getting yourselves blown up or incinerated."
"I didn't ask to have a cauldron blown up in my face." Max huffed.
"I know, neither of you asked for it, but still, all Harry wanted when he got home was a hug from all of his babies and a kiss from his mates. He can't have either as half the kids are already in bed asleep and two of his mates are laid up in bed, injured."
"We can still walk and move about, it's just, you know, a little painful." Max shrugged. "I'll go give him a massive hug and a kiss now. I'm only bruised and I won't put the bruise salve on until I go to sleep."
"I'm fine too. Max checked me over and the burn salve is making everything feel much better."
Richard looked at the three patches of bright orange paste and he shivered. "It looks nasty."
"I'll be healed by the morning." Nasta insisted. "I saved eight hatchlings today, from their own mother. I did my job and I won't apologise for it. Of course I wish I hadn't gotten hurt, the pain almost brings tears to my eyes and I hate worrying my mates when they see the burns, but I won't give up a job I love, nor the fulfilment I feel from doing such a thankless job and looking after the dragons, just because it's dangerous and I get hurt sometimes."
"It still looks nasty." Richard chuckled.
Nasta ignored him and he slid from the bed, being careful not to smear any of the orange paste on top of the duvet as he moved.
"Hold up, I'm coming too." Max insisted. "We were only up here to give him a chance to relax and unwind a little after the court case, but if he knows, it seems terrible to keep him in his misery. He'll only be torturing himself with mental images."
Richard followed the two boys down and he hoped that Harry stayed nice and calm. For his own sake more than anything, his unborn child had dealt with enough stress in recent months, without his own mates adding on top of it.
"Are you both okay?" Richard heard Harry ask in a small, uncertain voice and he sighed. So much for him not stressing so much.
"We're going to be fine, Harry." Max said, sitting on one side of his submissive. "These bruises will clear up in a few days."
"You know these burns will be gone by morning." Nasta added gently, sitting the other side of Harry.
"I know, but that doesn't mean that I like seeing either of you injured. Just like you hate seeing me hurt and in pain after I've given birth. You know I need to do it and go through it, but none of you like it."
Max sighed heavily. "That's true enough. I am sorry that this happened now, of all times. It just makes it worse that both of us got injured on the same day, your last day in court too."
Harry nodded, but he smiled too and he reached forward and gently cupped Max's chin, trying to avoid the bruises, as he led his mate into a deep, but rather chaste kiss. He turned and he did the same to Nasta and then he heaved out a huge sigh and sunk down into the chair, suddenly looking much more exhausted than he'd been before. Richard really felt for him in that moment.
"What even happened?" Harry asked then, looking at them both.
"The idiots I've left at the reserve didn't feed one of the hatchling mother's because they never saw her. Instead of leaving her food near her hatchling nest, they assumed she was catching her own food in the mountains and didn't bother. She got so hungry that she started eating her own hatchlings. They're just lucky that she never started eating them. I was called into the emergency, trying to save as many of the hatchlings as possible and calm down the crazed dragon. We threw nine sheep carcasses in a pile to distract her and then saved as many of the hatchlings as we could. Out of the fifteen hatchlings she had, we saved eight of them, just over half." Nasta sighed unhappily. "If only they'd been more thoughtful and left just a sheep or a cow for her near her site. I've put all of them on probation anyway, for their serious lack of judgement."
"I was dealing with an outbreak of measles in Scotland, I had several recently signed off newbies with me. The one idiot was jealous that I'd told the girl next to him that her potion was perfect, so he threw in extra ingredients when she wasn't looking, I saw what he did and I moved immediately to haul the poor woman away before she got injured without knowing anything about it, and I did what I was supposed to do, I put a containment ward on the contents of the cauldron as usual, only the entire cauldron went flying, exploded into pieces which then hit me in the face. I got some deep cuts that taking some of Nasta's blood cleared up, these bruises were a million times worse before then too, but a bit of bruise salve and a few days and I'll be back to my gorgeous self again. I did not put the idiot who did such things in my lab on probation, I fired him on the spot and put the incident down in his Potions journal for all other employers to see. Such juvenile behaviour has no place in a dangerous, professional lab in my opinion."
"I'm glad he's gone and can't hurt you, or other people, again." Harry said, hugging Max.
"Don't you worry about me, love. I'm a tough nut and it'll take more than an idiot trying to sabotage his peers to take me out."
"Just be careful, the both of you."
Richard laughed. "I have a feeling that this was them being careful." He said.
Harry chuckled with him, putting a smile back on his face and Richard was glad to see it.
"Right, you boys look after him now. He did incredibly well for his last day on the stand. Give him everything he wants, and I mean everything." Richard demanded.
Harry properly laughed then and Richard winked at him.
"I'm going to go keep my own mate company, he really hates eating alone."
"Say hi to Dad from me." Max said.
"Course I will. Love you, Max, try not to make yourself even more hideous than you already were."
"Oi! I'm fucking stunning!" Max shouted back and Richard laughed, taking a handful of floo powder and throwing it into the grate.
"You wish you were! Unfortunately you're from your Dad's genes, not mine, so you can never be as good looking as I am!"
Richard flooed away to the shouts of his oldest son and he arrived at home laughing.
"Are you alright?" Myron asked, hurrying out of his little study that connected right to the front room as he heard him.
"Max is far too easy to wind up, he gets that from you." Richard said. Myron rolled his eyes and his tense shoulders dropped and relaxed. "He says hi."
"How was court? Is Harry alright?"
Richard fake gasped. "You care more for him than our own son!" He accused.
Myron sighed, as if put upon. "Harry is mated to Max. He is our son. Now how is he?"
"Stressed and emotionally drained." Richard said, letting go of his laughter and becoming serious for a moment. "He did so well, but a lot of emotions came out today and he's exhausted. It took us so long because he really wanted today to be his last, and we had to keep stopping for breaks, just so he could take a moment and clean up his tears. It was terrible, that vile boob, Chorley, kept trying to confuse him. He was speaking so fast during the morning, and changing topics so rapidly, that I could barely keep up, let alone our poor Harry. He had an anxiety attack I think, right there in court, so I demanded a break and took him for a sit down and a cuddle. All so that bastard could try and get those monsters a more lenient sentence, he drove our Harry to tears and into panicking so much that he started babbling and he stopped breathing, I had to remind him to take a breath."
Myron's huge fist clenched and Richard could see the exerted control on his top dominant not to go seek out Mister Chorley and cave in his face.
"Is Harry alright now that it's over?"
"It's not over just yet, My. He's fretting over the verdict, as we knew that he would. I just hope it doesn't take the Jury too long to review the evidence and reach a decision. There is a lot of evidence though, I would imagine we're looking at three to four days at least, and that's if they all agree that they're guilty, which of course they should. Those monsters have guilt written all over them."
"We'll go and see him tomorrow, love. Take his mind off of things by visiting our grandchildren."
"Speaking of children, Nasta and Max were both injured in work, which isn't helping Harry's stress levels."
"Injured how?!" Myron demanded with a growl.
"Nasta almost got himself incinerated. He had three nice, big weeping burns covered in burn salve on his body and our idiot son almost got his head blown off by another idiot who he was working with who thought it acceptable to sabotage someone else's work. Max dived in to save the woman who'd been sabotaged, but the cauldron blew up into a hundred pieces and struck Max's face and shoulders. Some blood and he was fine, he's just bruised up like a neglected apple."
Myron's head turned so quick towards him that Richard fancied that he'd heard his mate's neck crack. He smiled and wandered into their kitchen.
"A neglected apple? You are comparing our son's injuries to an apple."
"A very bruised apple." Richard nodded.
Myron laughed then and Richard grinned. He loved that sound so much.
"How does Chinese sound?" He asked as he took the menu from the side of the fridge. "It's getting late and I really can't be bothered to muddle through cooking anything. I want to relax with you and let someone else deal with the cooking."
"Sure." Myron agreed. "Do you want your usual?" He asked, even as he picked up the phone and started dialling the number he knew off the top of his head. Of course his amazing mate knew the number for their favourite Chinese restaurant off by heart, he was just that amazing.
"Absolutely. Get me a side of Peking ribs too, I'm feeling in the mood to sink my teeth into meat and bone."
"Do you want me to go hunt instead?" Myron asked, covering the mouthpiece of the phone.
Richard hummed. "No. Chinese tonight, tomorrow we can both hunt."
Myron nodded and went back to ordering their meal. It had been a long, busy day. Richard just wanted to relax and bask in the knowledge that he had done all that he could for Harry, his beautiful, youngest son. There was no way on this Earth that after that trial that the Dursleys were getting out of prison, he had done right by Harry, he had helped him to recover and put aside his past by standing next to him and getting him justice for all the horrors he had suffered through, now if only he could pass some of his confidence over to Harry and put an end to his agonising misery over the verdict, then they would both be much happier, and their Harry would be a lot less stressed. Just a few more days, that was all it would take, just a few more days and it would all be over for good and Harry would finally be able to move on with his life and let go of all the past hurt. It wouldn't be long now, but he was sure that it would feel like an eternity for Harry as he waited for his justice to be served…as he finally got the closure he deserved.
Harry sighed as he tried not to think about his aching bladder. He was back in the hospital for his twelve week scan and he already knew that he had failed to remove all stress from his life and he knew that Healer Almus would not be pleased, but with the court case it was incredibly difficult for him not to stress over it and now that it was over and there was nothing else that he could do about it, only sit and wait for the Jury to deliberate and then deliver their verdict, he was even more stressed now than when he'd been on the stand.
At least Max's face had healed up and Nasta's burns had been completely healed by the next morning, he didn't even have any burn scars. The both of them were sat with him in the waiting room, Blaise and Draco were too, all of them anxious, just waiting for his name to be called.
They were actually in luck and almost dead on their appointment time, just a minute over, his name was called and he leapt up as if he'd been electrocuted. He was so highly strung at the moment that he couldn't help it.
He groped for a hand and found Blaise's first, he held on tight and Blaise squeezed his hand back, trying to comfort him as they walked into Healer Almus' room and Harry set to taking off his shirt and getting some help up onto the examination bed.
"How have you been, Harry?" The Healer asked him, looking him over visually, before waving his wand over him and jotting down the readings with his other hand.
"Alright." He said simply.
"No trips, slips or falls?"
"Any pain or discomfort?"
"How is the morning sickness now? Did you take all of the potions I gave you?"
"It's eased off a bit now." Harry answered. "I have four of the potions left." He said, looking to Max for confirmation. Max nodded.
"So you've been eating and drinking a bit more?"
"A lot more." Harry chuckled.
"Good, your weight has picked back up again after those few days of being unable to eat, so the potions have done their job. Now, how have you been stress wise?"
Harry grimaced at that question and he ducked his head. "Not great, I'll admit. The court case finished on Thursday, but…but now I'm awaiting the verdict, which should be out early next week."
Healer Almus sighed heavily. "Right then, let's check on baby."
Harry was having another wand scan, as again Healer Almus didn't want to dig a transducer into his healing belly, so he laid his wand on the small bump and Harry tried not to move, knowing that it would send the wand tumbling to the floor if he did.
A short phrase in Latin later and Harry's heart swelled with love as he saw his growing baby once more. Their thunderer had certainly grown since Harry had had his eight week scan too, a month ago now.
"Well, as you can perhaps see, baby has grown well since your first scan. I can't see any danger signs or anything that would make me think that baby is in distress. So that's good."
Harry was smitten as he looked at the moving baby.
"Have you been feeding your submissive your fluids?" Healer Almus demanded of his four mates while he examined the baby.
"Of course." Max replied, affronted. As always he was the one, out of all of his mates, who took such accusations of not feeding him properly to heart. "He takes what he wants, when he wants it. We couldn't stop him even if we tried."
Healer Almus nodded. "I have no idea how that part of the pregnancy works, I just know that he needs one particular, or even all of your fluids to keep the baby healthy."
"He'll bite us if he needs blood. He did it the other day." Draco said. "We were cuddling and he just turned and bit into my arm. We're used to it by now."
Harry chuckled. "I've told you all, the Dracken takes over when I want fluids, I have no warning myself. At least blood is all I want off of you…for now." He added ominously.
Healer Almus snorted in amusement before moving around the image. The baby moved and Harry got a shock as he caught sight of his baby for all of a moment.
"That was what I thought it was, wasn't it?" He asked excitedly.
"What did you see?" Blaise asked curiously.
Healer Almus laughed. "That was exactly what you thought it was. Congratulations fellas, you're getting a boy."
"You saw him displaying?" Max asked excitedly and Harry and Healer Almus both nodded.
"Clearly and proudly, for all of a heartbeat." Harry chuckled, looking on with love as his new son squirmed within him.
"One moment is all it takes." Healer Almus told him. "But speaking of heartbeat's, let's see if his has come down at all."
It was this that Harry was most nervous of and he reached back out to take a hand. He got Max this time and he held onto that huge hand tightly.
The fast whooshing that he knew was baby's heartbeat filled the room loudly. Harry was devastated to hear that it was almost one continuous sound, it hadn't slowed down at all, if anything it had increased.
Healer Almus sighed. "Baby's heartrate has increased, we expect this for the second trimester, but baby's heartbeat is now one hundred and seventy-three beats per minute. It has increased since I last saw you."
"What does it mean? Is the baby okay?"
"Baby is okay, but likely feeling the effects of your stress. You don't have any swelling of the legs or ankles, do you Harry?"
"I…no. I've only ever had it in the last trimester, usually in the week or so before I nest." Harry answered.
Healer Almus nodded and he took his wand back from his belly, breaking the link so the picture of the baby vanished, and he waved his wand several more times.
"Everything seems fine, you're perfectly healthy, but try for some more sleep. I know saying that while you already have eight babies at home is a laughable concept, but at least try for a nap during the day. It will help your stress too."
Harry nodded. "He will be alright, won't he?"
"We will monitor you very closely for any changes now. I want to see you in two weeks, not four, just to make sure that baby is doing better."
Harry nodded and he allowed Max to help him sit up.
"Baby is a good size, nothing is wrong with him at all, only that elevated heartrate, you don't seem to be suffering with any conditions, or gestational diabetes, so I'm happy about that. Just carry on as you are, Harry, I know sleeping a bit more will be difficult for you and I know you're going to be stressed for a few more days at least, but just try to relax a little and aim to laugh every day, laughter really does help remove stress."
Harry nodded his understanding as Nasta helped him to get his shirt back on.
"Thank you, Healer Almus." Nasta said for him.
"My pleasure, boys. You look after him and keep him happy, you hear me? That baby's heartrate needs to come down."
The five of them all nodded and Harry slipped from the examination bed. He held Nasta's hand this time and they all said their goodbyes and left for home again, a new stack of photos coming with them.
"I can't believe we have a boy and only you saw it." Max chuckled.
Harry smiled. "I couldn't take my eyes from him, that's why I saw him. I really hope that once the verdict has been given his heart rate will go down to normal."
"Don't think about it, Bello." Blaise told him. "We'll get you home now and you can rest up and just watch while those kids run everyone ragged."
Harry laughed. "I just can't wait to announce that we have a boy on the way."
"I'm so proud of you." Blaise said gently.
Harry smiled and pulled Blaise into a soft kiss. "I love you, Blaise. I love all of you."
"We love you too, Caru." Nasta said.
The hospital didn't seem as busy this afternoon and Harry was glad as he just wanted to get home. There was barely a queue at the fire banks for the floo and Harry went through with Max this time, now that there wasn't a reason to keep him back to check on his birthday surprise.
He sighed happily as he landed in his own home and he immediately went through the two corridors to the kitchen, and then on to the family room, where Myron, Richard and Ashleigh were watching over the kids. Harry hadn't felt the slightest hint of apprehension at leaving his children with Ashleigh, not like when she had still been ill, from before she'd gone into the medical rehab centre.
"No problems?" He asked mildly, moving to scoop up Regan, who had run to him as soon as he saw him.
"Only Calix, he tried hitting me." Richard said. "We practiced what you'd told us, he went into time out for a minute and a half."
Harry nodded. "He is playing up a lot lately, but you did good, that's what we would have done."
"How was the scan?"
Harry shook his head as he sat down, Blaise coming to sit beside him.
"The baby's heart rate is still really high, it's gone up since the last time." He said worriedly. "I need to rest more now, and sleep more, but I'm hoping that after the verdict that my stress levels will go down and will stop affecting the baby."
"Here, have some tea." Max said. He hadn't come into the family room with him, instead he'd immediately started making tea for everyone. Harry got his first.
"Can I tell them?" Max asked excitedly as he handed out more tea.
Harry laughed and waved his hand. "Go on then. Give them the news."
"I take it this is good news from your tone?" Myron asked, Leolin looking like a tiny doll in his massive arms. Their Faerie baby was fast asleep…with the Harry doll clutched to his chest.
"We're having a boy!" Max burst out, his chest thrown out happily.
"He was displaying?" Ashleigh asked excitedly.
Harry laughed. "For a moment, as he shifted position. I was smitten with his image, so I was staring at him, but the others were looking elsewhere, so I was the only one who saw it…well, Healer Almus saw it too, so he could officially confirm it. We are definitely having just one baby, and he's a boy."
"Congratulations on your new boy." Myron said with a smile.
Harry beamed. "I'm glad he's growing, but I need to stop the stressing."
"It won't be long, sweetheart." Richard told him. "A few more days and you will know their fate and all of this will be over."
Harry nodded and he took in a huge breath and held it for a moment, before slowly letting it out. He took a gulp of tea and sighed. It was going to be difficult, but there was nothing that he wouldn't do for his baby. He would do as Healer Almus had suggested. He would try to stop his worrying, he would try to relax more and sleep more. Nothing was going to harm his baby, not even himself. He would try his hardest now to keep things calm and relaxed. He was still fretting over the Jury's verdict, he couldn't help that, but during the next few days while they waited, he could try and do his utmost to keep everything else calm. He would sleep more, he would sit down and relax more, he would try to curb his thoughts or fretting over the court case. His unborn son needed him to do as such and Harry had always done everything that was best for his babies. He took in another deep breath. He could do this, for his little thunderer, he could do almost anything.
A/N: So, I am finally feeling good again and, though being back in work is absolutely exhausting, especially in the last few weeks, I'm finally getting back to normal and I believe all this awful illness is finally behind me at last.
I've been on a Spartacus kick for the last few weeks too, of the Starz series version, and those of you on my Facebook page will know exactly how reluctant I was to break that stride, I've added approximately 60,000 words to that fic in just two weeks, which is phenomenal. As a result of that this new fic should be posted up in 2018, I expect it to be 15 chapters long, or there abouts, of which I already have 11 chapters over 130,000 words currently. It is going to be the first of three planned fics and I'm really looking forward to sharing it with those of you who are interested in reading it.
A/N 2: Since writing and preparing this chapter my beloved cat, Jethro, has been diagnosed with end stage heart disease. He's only six so it has come as a huge shock and it is incredibly distressing to watch him as he is now, post-op and with irreversible damage to his heart after he collapsed on the kitchen floor, out of the blue six days ago. The vets don't know how long he has, but the prognosis isn't good. The focus is now on his quality of life, rather than quantity. He is at home with me currently, and he's stable for now, which is all I can ask for, he's on a lot of medication and I have to monitor his breathing every few hours, so I'm not getting much sleep and I'm emotionally drained as I prepare to say goodbye, prematurely, to my beloved boy. I will likely be able to update chapter 115 as well, as that is completed too and Jethro is stable and doing as well as can be expected in his condition, but if anything at all happens, then fanfiction will not be a priority and I might go quiet for some time depending on how well I deal with my grief once he does inevitably pass from this incurable disease that is wasting him away in front of me.
StarLight Massacre. X