Harry smiled and he nodded. Over a month Leolin had been fighting and the Faeries themselves had said how rare that was, he took that as a good sign that Leolin would survive this damnable virus and he was not going to let anyone rip that hope away from him, it was all that was keeping him clinging to his sanity and he knew that even if Leolin was released from the hospital, it would be a long while before he was fully recovered, if he ever did fully recover, but he didn't care what it took or if he had to look after Leolin for the rest of his life, he damn well would and he'd do it without complaint and with a happy smile, just as long as he still had his Leolin.
Chapter Eighty-Six – Preservation
Blaise's nineteenth birthday on the twelfth of October couldn't have been more sombre. With Leolin in the hospital, Blaise didn't want to celebrate and the last thing that he wanted was a party. Marianna was very downcast as well, she gave Blaise his gift, as they all had, but they could all see how much Blaise did not want the fuss or the attention as he dispassionately unwrapped books and clothes and gave a polite, yet distant expression of gratitude that he obviously didn't truly feel.
None of them felt like sex, none of them wanted to celebrate, but it was unfair to Blaise, so they tried to be happy for him, but he didn't want any of those things either, so it just made the lot of them miserable, just like they'd been for Max's thirty-second birthday on the nineteenth of September.
Blaise didn't let Marianna stay for long, in fact he all but told her to leave when quarter to nine in the morning came and their usual visiting time for Leolin approached.
Alexander was there to look after the five other babies and though Marianna had said that she didn't mind staying to help, Blaise said something harsh in French and she all but fled from their home, almost in tears. Harry had tried to wheedle what he'd said out of Blaise as unfortunately Nasta had not been in the room to translate, but something on Blaise's face told him that he hadn't wanted Nasta to hear what he'd said and he refused to tell them.
They'd been called in the middle of the night, only one of a handful of times that it had happened over the last six weeks, to rush straight to the hospital. They'd had to leave Max at home with their other sleeping babies and it was unfair and heartbreaking to leave one of them at home while they were urgently rushed to the hospital for what could be Leolin's final hours.
Leolin had thankfully been stabilised and they'd come home in the early hours to update an anxious, worried Max before climbing back into bed for an hour or two of sleep before they'd been awoken by their other children who wanted their breakfasts, so Blaise had already been in a bad mood before his birthday had actually really started.
Leolin was doing better that morning, he was on a ventilator again, but he'd taken a half ounce more milk than he had the morning before and despite the horrifying dash to the hospital at two in the morning, he was looking better. They knew though the danger that lurked below, Leolin had been fighting so hard and for so long now and he still had the virus, the danger now was that he would just give up, that he would become so tired that he couldn't fight any more and the virus took him over completely and his tiny body gave in.
Harry was shaking violently as he arrived in Leolin's room, touching a tiny, wired up hand that was chalk white, translucent and dry and flaky. He sat in the chair silently and with no fighting or fuss. Everything else just seemed so inconsequential when he sat next to Leolin. Arguing was pointless, fighting was ridiculous, shouting was unneeded…nothing else mattered next to Leolin, who fought for every beat his heart took. He wasn't even taking his own breaths today as the ventilator expanded and compressed his chest artificially, breathing evenly and deeply for him.
For three hours they sat in the hushed room with him, and in that time he didn't wake once. He was going longer and longer between waking up, he spent several hours asleep and only ten or so minutes awake now before he slept again. Worry didn't even begin to cover what Harry was feeling, the black cloud that was hanging over him, making him feel like the end was coming ever closer for his son…he tried not to think about it, but the thoughts pressed in anyway, unwanted and all encompassing.
They were kicked out at midday as Leolin went for his daily X-rays and Harry prayed that this time there was some improvement, any improvement, just a tiny little ray of hope to break the black clouds that were gathering thicker and thicker by the day.
At three months pregnant now, Harry's morning sickness had hit him with full force, but he didn't suffer as badly as he had with Braiden or the quintuplets, he didn't know if it was because he just wasn't eating enough or if this pregnancy was just better than the others, but he was thankful that he only felt queasy in the mornings until he'd eaten a few ginger newts to settle himself, though sometimes if he ate something with a powerful taste or smelt something with a strong odour then he would vomit in the afternoons or evenings, but he was holding his stomach better than he'd been able to before.
Blaise's birthday ended miserably and Harry felt terrible for that, but Leolin's condition had worsened and the frustration and the anger had swelled to breaking point. Blaise had finally snapped and shouted at them that he didn't want to celebrate or receive any well wishes and that the one thing that he wanted was his son out of the hospital and no one could give that to him. He shouted that he didn't want books or clothes, that he didn't want to receive any sort of gift while Leolin was a hairsbreadth away from death, which made them all feel dejected and miserable.
Harry had cried then, softly and silently at first and then huge, body wracking sobs from a combination of pregnancy hormones, the stress and worry over Leolin, the anguish of being told that his little son had worsened yet again and having someone, anyone, shouting at him for any reason at all and he had just crumbled.
He had clutched at Blaise tightly and cried onto him, much to said man's distress and guilt; Harry had surprised his mates with his outburst as they hadn't been expecting it. He had been strong, silent and stoic these past few days, but the effort had cost him dearly and now being shouted at, not even personally, but just hearing someone shouting, had snapped his resolve and welled up his emotions and he couldn't stop crying as he buried himself in Blaise's robes and released all the emotions he had had pent up through his cutting tears.
He was aware that he was being held tight, that he had more than one person holding him as he stood, drained and sniffling with a sopping wet face. He didn't release his tight hold on Blaise.
"I'm sorry, Innamorato, so sorry." Blaise murmured. "I didn't mean to shout, I never wanted to upset you. We're all going through a terrible time; I know…I'm so sorry. Perdonami per favore."
Harry rested on Blaise and let his mate hold him, his weak body quivering and Blaise realised the danger as he swept Harry up into his arms and sat with him on the settee, Harry securely in his lap where he couldn't fall.
"I got you a cup of tea." Max said a bit uncertainly, as if he didn't know if Harry would drink it or throw it in his face, cup and all.
Harry wrapped his hands around it and sipped. He didn't care anymore if there was a calming draught in it or not. He didn't care about anything anymore.
"Are you okay?" Draco asked softly.
Harry nodded slowly, he felt detached from himself.
"I know you wanted me to have a good birthday, but I just can't enjoy myself, Prezioso, I just can't. I'm sorry."
"It's not that." Harry croaked out bitterly. "It's everything, Leolin getting worse, the pregnancy, everyone's stress and then I heard shouting, it didn't matter if it was at me or not, you could have been shouting at the table and I would have reacted the same, it just broke something in me and I couldn't stop the flood of emotions."
"That's okay, getting it all out is good." Nasta said petting his hair lovingly. "Do you want an early night?"
Harry just nodded. No fighting, it would do no good. Nasta may have made a pretence of asking him, but he knew that if he refused then Nasta would have insisted and he'd end up in bed anyway. It was easier to save all of his strength and energy for Leolin.
Harry had assumed that it would be just him going to bed, it was only ten in the night and they would use his pregnancy against him, but when he was tucked up in the bed and covered over and just dozing lightly…his mates slid into the bed with him after they'd changed and gone through the motions of cleaning themselves. It seemed that they all needed an early night after the early start yesterday and the broken sleep coupled with the highly stressful day.
His lovers held him tightly and threw arms under and over one another, moving legs to fit in and get comfortable and they moved with one another until they were all pressed close and holding one another, but were comfortable enough to sleep where they were without any errant elbows or knees digging into anyone else or any loss of circulation to any limbs.
Harry fell asleep quickly and easily when they were all still and settled, exhausted after such an emotionally draining day and lulled to darkness by the soft, even breathing and strong heartbeats that surrounded him.
The five of them didn't see or hear from Myron or Richard for the next week and they never seemed to be home when Max floo called them, which put pressure on Aneirin and Marianna to be there to watch the five babies around their work commitments while they went and visited with Leolin, though neither of them made any sort of murmur or complaint.
The five of them all assumed that it was something to do with Amelle and her nest, that perhaps something had happened that needed them to floo over to America to be there for her and Caesar, but when they turned up at midday on the twenty-first of October, they were both exhausted but very happy.
"Ashleigh went to see a mind Healer." Myron informed them proudly, his chest practically exploding from how puffed up he was. "She's been checked into a hospital, but she's finally realised that she doesn't want to lose her entire family. Her Father, Thomas, is incredibly disappointed in her, but it was her Uncle Todd's horror at what she'd done that finally got through to her. He's the only other Dracken currently alive in Ashleigh's family and having him on board with us really gave Ashleigh the boot she needed to sort herself out."
"It took her long enough." Richard grumbled. "It only took both of our sons and all of our daughters taking her from their birth certificates and the man who helped ground her in childhood showing his abhorrence of her actions, but maybe now she can become the woman that we both fell in love with again."
"Even Alayla took Mum from her birth certificate?" Max asked surprised. He had shared with them that he didn't think his youngest sister would ever go through with the plan, even if it wasn't her real birth certificate.
Myron nodded. "She was crying as much as your Mother was, but she did it. I think that along with not being able to be here for Leolin and losing all of her children and the knowledge that she wouldn't be able to see any new babies as Amelle has now nested with her newest grandchild… it was the last straw for her and she agreed to talk to a mind Healer, who made her see that she really did need the help. Four days later she was packing a suitcase to go to the hospital. I'm so proud of her. Perhaps now you would reconsider putting your Mother back on your birth certificate, where it belongs?"
"How is Amelle?" Harry asked as the tense silence stretched on for long minutes, Max saying nothing.
"Still nesting." Richard nodded, looking uncomfortable and upset that Max had refused to say anything on the birth certificate matter. "She's doing well from what Caesar said, she's eating well and she's preening, she almost killed one of her brothers, but she's ready to give birth any day now."
"I hope Ashleigh gets better." Harry said softly.
"She's been frantic over Leolin being in the hospital, I had to forbid her from flooing over to see you. I didn't think you needed it." Myron said eagerly, as if he wanted Max to see how much his Mother had changed.
Harry nodded. "You're right of course; the last thing I want is anyone demanding to see Leolin when I have such limited time with him myself and being clamoured is the last thing that I need. He's getting worse and worse."
Myron closed his eyes and let out a sharp breath. "How bad is it?"
"Bad." Max said breaking his own silence now that the topic was back on Leolin, though his face crumpled with worry and fear with the topic change. "He's so weak from continually fighting that he hasn't been off the ventilator in nine days. He hardly ever wakes up anymore and he's drinking less and less. We've been called in the middle of the night more times this last week than the last month he's been in the hospital."
"He will get through this." Harry said, but even to his own ears he sounded defeated, clutching at straws and he closed his eyes against the world. His arms ached to hold Leolin again, he hadn't been able to pick him up in two weeks and he was feeling the strain of it now more than ever.
"I am so sorry, Harry." Myron said strongly.
"He's not dead!" Harry burst out. "Not yet."
Myron looked taken aback at his sudden exclamation, but he nodded respectfully.
"I need lemon." Harry sniffled.
His mates looked at him as though he'd announced his intentions to go on a skiing holiday to Switzerland.
"I need lemon!" He shouted at them and Max's face scrunched up in confusion, but he went into his kitchen and came back a few minutes later with a glass of lemonade.
"Thank you." Harry said as he drained the glass.
"Was that…was that a craving? You want lemon flavoured things?" Draco asked.
Harry frowned. "I think so. I want something else too, but I don't know what."
Harry was distracted by his disturbed, unhappy son as Braiden woke up early from his nap. He'd barely been down for half an hour and it was beginning to show as his happy, sweet boy had turned into a short tempered, grouchy grump.
Harry cradled him to his chest, even as Braiden cried and fought him off, almost making himself sick with his tears.
"Pass him here, love, you don't need him playing up in your condition." Draco offered but Harry shook his head as he clamped Braiden tightly to himself.
"I've got him." Harry said sadly as he listened to Braiden crying and grizzling against his chest, his fists clenched and his feet kicking, Harry had thankfully turned him to the side so he was kicking at the air and not kicking at his pregnant belly.
He sat down and shushed Braiden gently, rocking him on his lap. It didn't take long before he was calm and sniffling against Harry's shirt.
"Mama." He whimpered softly.
"I know, sweetheart, everything's turned upside down and you don't know what's going on, but this will all be over soon, I promise and then everything will be back to normal and you'll have me and your Daddies here all day with you."
"Mama." Braiden repeated softly, cuddling in tight, his body sagging as he drifted off to sleep, tear tracks still wet on his face.
Stuck on the settee and with nowhere to go for a couple of hours, Harry drifted off to sleep along with Braiden while his mates spoke softly with one another and with Myron and Richard.
The next few days crawled by at a snail's pace and Harry was stunned when he flooed home from the hospital on the twenty-eighth to find Amelle sat happily on his settee, Caesar flapping around her like a caricature vulture asking if she needed or wanted anything. She steadfastly ignored him.
"Amelle!" Harry said happily surprised as he moved to greet her and the newborn baby that she was holding in her arms.
His mates who flooed in behind him were just as surprised to see her as he was as they turned and greeted Amelle and Caesar.
"I thought that this might help you, just a little." Amelle said tiredly as she handed Harry her newborn baby.
Harry cuddled up next to Amelle on the settee and looked at the absolutely beautiful baby in his arms; he could tell immediately that the baby was already a few days old though.
"When did you…?"
"The twenty-fourth, the early hours." Amelle answered. "Six pounds and one ounce, nineteen inches and with very healthy lungs."
Harry's face paled and he felt light headed.
"Oh…oh I'm so sorry! I didn't mean it like that, I swear. I just didn't think." Amelle said thoroughly embarrassed and abashed.
"I…I know, it's okay." Harry said with a dry mouth. He swallowed painfully.
"Did you have a boy or a girl?" Max asked, breaking the mounting tension.
"A little girl. Beatrice. Beatrice Rose." Amelle said quietly, looking unsurely to Harry.
"That's a lovely name." Harry forced himself to smile. "Eleonora and Beatrice. Is Nora excited to be a big sister?"
"I think she is." Caesar said with a smile as he dangled Nora, upside down, in front of their faces. She was screeching in happiness.
"Caesar!" Amelle said panicked, snatching her daughter from the air and cradling her tightly.
Harry laid a hand on her arm. "It's okay." He soothed. "I know it seems scary, but it's not. Max does it to the kids all the time, they're okay, they actually like it! I think they take after him in the brains department."
That made Amelle laugh softly and her arms loosened around Eleonora until she was holding and supporting her daughter on her lap and not clutching at her. Caesar mouthed 'thank you' behind Amelle's head and Harry smiled tiredly.
"How's Leolin?" Myron asked.
Harry's mouth dropped into an anguished grimace. He shook his head. "He's gotten even worse. He's…he's listless, his eyes are dull and he doesn't recognise us, not even me. It's like…like he's looking right through me!" Harry said, his voice cracking as he sobbed. "It's like he's given up and he's just waiting to die. He's suffering and there's nothing that I can do."
Amelle patted his back as he cuddled with her newborn daughter, Beatrice. The little girl made a soft noise and wriggled in his arms, one arm flopping back jerkily as she tried to move, her head twisting to face his chest.
Harry took her tiny little hand and tucked it back into her blanket and after a soft press of his lips to a plump cheek, Harry handed her back to Amelle, he had a feeling that Beatrice was hungry and Amelle breastfed her children, he so didn't want a baby trying to latch onto his nipples in search of milk.
He excused himself to go into the kitchen. He made tea, making a whole pot just for himself, drizzling in some honey and squeezing the juice of a whole lemon into it. His craving for lemon had not abated in the slightest.
He opened the cupboard to pull down the guest mugs and he spied a box of Oxo cubes. He had the instant and insane urge to put one in his mouth. He bit his lip and looked through the kitchen door and into the hallway…no one was there and he could hear everyone talking softly in the living room, cooing over baby Beatrice and praising Amelle.
He barely noticed that his hand had been closed around the box before he'd even fully decided he that was going to pop one into his mouth. Just to try it of course.
He unwrapped the foil around the little cube and he licked it. His tongue tingled at the salty taste. He popped the whole thing into his mouth and let it crumble and melt on his tongue as he broke it up against the roof of his mouth. He shivered and he took out several more and put them in his pocket before he replaced the box and got out more cups. He made up the tea and took it back into the living room, handing out the tea to everyone.
He sat down to drink his own tea, but he didn't realise that he was unwrapping another Oxo cube until Draco drew attention to it.
"What in the name of Merlin are you eating?" He asked.
Harry blinked as everyone turned to look at him. He blushed and lowered his hands to his lap.
"That's an Oxo cube, why the hell are you eating Oxo cubes?!" Max asked aghast. "They taste vile."
Harry frowned and lifted the cube to his mouth and flicked his tongue over it. That shiver at the salty taste happened again and he pressed against one corner to make it crumble into his mouth, the granules making his tongue tingle and caused his mouth to fill with saliva.
"I want it." Harry said softly. "I need it."
"You're craving Oxo cubes? Of all things to crave. They're not even food!" Max argued.
"They're edible." Nasta conceded.
"Barely! They're used to flavour stuff and make gravy, not to eat on their own!"
"Lasciare mio piccolo amante essere!" Blaise demanded, sitting himself next to Harry and pulling him into a kiss. "Ti amo, Harry. Mio diletto."
"What did he say?" Draco asked as he frowned at Blaise and then looked questioningly to Nasta as their family translator.
"He told Max to leave his little lover alone and then told Harry that he loved him and that he was his beloved." Nasta said with a smile.
"Ti amo, Blaise." Harry smiled as he popped the cube into his mouth and let it melt on his tongue.
"Do I need to get in extra Oxo cubes now as well as lemons?" Max asked him, defeated.
Harry nodded. "Please. It's what I've been craving. The missing one that I couldn't work out."
"They have no nutritional value! How can you be craving them? What can you be craving from them?"
Harry shrugged. "I just want them." He replied simply.
Their guests left them at three in the afternoon, when Healer Cole flooed them and told them that they couldn't go back for their afternoon visit. He didn't say much more, only that Leolin needed to go for more tests and that he needed to get back.
Harry felt himself just stop and stick where he was, his thoughts wouldn't move, he felt floaty and robotic as he moved around stoically, waiting for that dreaded floo call to tell them that Leolin had passed on, but he refused to think about it, he held strong for Leolin, sent him all the strength that he could spare and as a result of his worry and stress and the exhaustion that he felt, he collapsed.
He woke up with a cool hand on his cheek to the horrified, concerned face of Draco, who was shouting for Nasta, who was there what seemed like a second later, making Harry's world spin at the sudden appearance, even though he was already lying flat on his back, and causing his head to sear and pulsate in pain originating from the back of his skull and pounding behind his eyes, white washing his vision.
"Harry? What happened, Draco?!"
"I don't know, I came up to use the bathroom and found him in a heap on the floor!" Draco replied.
"Harry, can you hear us?"
"Yes." He replied quietly, barely above a whisper, trying to sit up, but a huge hand that could only be Max's pressed him back to the floor and held him there to prevent him from trying to move again.
"What happened, love?" Draco asked him panicked.
"I…I don't know." He said as he pressed a hand to his head.
"Did you hit your head? Do you have any pain?" Blaise asked him.
"I…the back of my head hurts." He admitted, still a bit out of it.
Max's other hand, the one that wasn't pressing him to the carpet, slipped around to finger the back of his head. He hissed.
"You've got a hell of a bump, love. Can you try and sit up?"
"Maybe if you took your hand from my shoulder." Harry teased weakly.
He was eased up and his vision deteriorated into white star bursts. He reached out and groped blindly for something to hold onto and he found a bicep. He dug his fingers and his nails in to anchor himself, but hands were suddenly supporting him from all sides.
"I collapsed." He said with a groan. He wasn't going to get another moment of peace for the rest of this pregnancy thanks to this incident.
"Were you hungry, thirsty, tired?" Nasta questioned gently.
"I…I don't know." He said as he pressed a hand to his temple, trying to ease the throb of pain behind them. "I was thinking about Leolin and the next I knew Draco was above me shouting for you."
"Were you dizzy?" Max asked, checking his pulse with his fingers pressed into his wrist.
"I was when I woke up; I don't think I was before I collapsed. I don't remember."
"Blaise, go and get a glass of water for him, please." Nasta instructed and Blaise rushed away.
Harry was eased to his feet and Nasta held him tightly around his back at his upper rib cage with one hand, just under his armpit and his other arm rested across his stomach to hold his hip, prepared in case Harry fell forwards or backwards. He looked as worried as Harry had ever seen him, stressed too. Tired, paler than usual and the pressure of being the top dominant in these circumstances was showing through clearly, but he was still strong and calm, the voice of reason and he always knew what to do, a rock in the turbulent sea.
"Think for me, Harry, please, this is important, we need to find out why you collapsed so that we can prevent it from happening again, especially with these two." Nasta said seriously, laying a hand over Harry's belly, which had 'popped' in the last week and he was finally showing, just enough for his mates to have something to cup in their palms.
"I…I've been tired lately." Harry said, which he knew was an understatement; all of them were exhausted and emotionally drained.
"You've been getting a good amount of sleep, even if some of those hours were due to the influence of potions." Draco said worriedly.
"Not that kind of tired." Harry said with a sigh. "I've been exhausted, mentally, physically, emotionally, I'm tired of this and I just want it to be better."
"Come on, let's get you…"
"If you say bed I'm going to hit you." Harry said weakly.
"To the settee then, but you are lying down." Nasta finished sternly.
Harry didn't fight, he just gave in with a sigh and he let Nasta carry him down the stairs and into the living room, tucking him up on the settee with a blanket. Blaise handed him a glass of water.
Harry drank deeply and he actually felt so much better for it, he drained the entire pint glass in half a minute. He couldn't remember the last time he'd drank something and he looked at Nasta sheepishly.
"What?" His top dominant asked curiously. "You have that look on your face again, the one where you want to apologise, but don't want to tell me what's wrong."
"I can't remember the last time I had something to drink." He admitted with a wry frown.
Nasta sighed. "Blaise, bring in the jug of water please."
Blaise was already halfway out of the door.
"I'm sorry, I just didn't realise…it didn't seem important." He said, lowering his head to the cushion.
"You need to take better care of yourself…you will take better care of yourself, or I'll have no choice but to do it for you." Nasta said seriously.
Harry nodded. "I just…I've eaten, I had toast this morning and Max made me a sandwich and I did eat that…I just forgot to drink anything with it."
"You had juice with breakfast." Draco said. "But I don't think you drank all of it, we were running late for the hospital."
"I'm sorry." Harry sighed.
"Get some rest, sleep if you want, but stay there and drink some more water." Nasta said sternly and Harry rolled his eyes behind Nasta's back as he stood and turned away. "I saw that!"
"You did not!" Harry complained.
"I can see you in the mirror."
Harry looked up at the mirror over the fireplace and groaned at Nasta's smirk. He pulled the blanket over his head and of course, that entertained his babies, who were scattered on the floor with a sea of toys and they clapped and gurgled at him.
Harry popped his head out of the blankets and seeing Regan startle like Harry had burst a balloon or something had him laughing. Braiden giggled and clapped his hands at him.
"Peep-o!" He called out to them before ducking his head back under the blanket.
"You're supposed to be resting, not playing." Draco told him.
"I am resting. I'm lying down aren't I?" Harry challenged as he played peek-a-boo with his babies. Regan startled every single time Harry's head popped up from under the blanket.
"He's such a scaredy cat!" Max laughed. "Where's that Jack-in-the-box?"
Max then went to search through an entire spare room that was filled with toys, all the birthday and Christmas presents, for the errant Jack-in-the-box that had been given to Braiden last Christmas as Blaise set up the camcorder with a smirk.
Max came back into the living room with it and his grin was a mile wide as he sat the box in front of Regan.
"If he cries, you're dealing with it." Harry told him seriously.
Farren, who was sat near Regan, shuffled over to watch as Max encouraged Regan to open the lid of the box, which would trigger the soft puppet inside to spring out.
The two boys watched in avid attention as Regan peeled open the lid, Blaise recording their reactions for future blackmail material, not that he'd tell Harry as such.
The lid opened and the puppet on the spring leapt out and Regan startled so badly that he toppled backwards, but Farren's reaction was the one that surprised them the most. He hadn't startled or leapt back, jumped or even cried out in surprise, his first instinct had been to lash out and he slapped the puppet hard as it leapt out of the box, catching it in the air and hitting it to the floor.
The three of them burst out laughing and Harry felt like he couldn't breathe through his laughter.
"Tell me you got that on camera!" He demanded of Blaise, struggling to speak through his laughter.
Blaise nodded. "Oh yeah, I got it." He laughed back.
"What is going on? Harry, you're supposed to be resting!"
"Farren…Farren!" Harry choked out on his laughter.
Nasta misunderstood and picked up an angrily chattering Farren, sniffing him for injuries.
"He's…is he actually angry? What happened?" Draco asked as he had followed Nasta back into the living room.
"He does not like the Jack-in-the-box." Max laughed. "Watch."
Max set the box back up and took Farren from Nasta, sitting him in front of it. He opened the lid himself and once again as the puppet sprang out, Farren lashed out to hit it and slapped it to the floor.
"I'm not sure I like us encouraging him to be violent." Harry said after he'd calmed down and wiped away his laughter tears.
"It's not violence per se." Nasta said, looking at Farren carefully. "I think it's the fight or flight instinct…most people would be inclined to startle and jump back, his instinct is to fight it."
"I don't like that either." Harry frowned.
"It may save his life one day, Cariad. If Farren turns out to be a submissive Dracken I'll eat my left testicle. He'll need those instincts to survive the meetings and all the better if those instincts are honed and leaning more towards fight. His hand-eye coordination is amazing for his age too!"
Harry licked his lips and picked Farren up and rested him on his chest. Farren had grown taller and heavier than all his other sac siblings and he was closing in on Braiden quickly. He was gaining three to four pounds a month and he'd grown four inches since Harry had checked last month, he wasn't crawling much and he wasn't even trying to stand, so where the three other quintuplets and Braiden were rushing around, crawling, climbing, their weights were levelling out and they were gaining a pound or so a month, but Farren was content to continue letting himself grow and gain weight.
"Oh you're getting heavy." Harry huffed and then waved away Max who tried to take Farren away from him. "You take away my baby and you're a dead man." He threatened with a slightly hiss.
Harry cuddled up with Farren and they both took a nap, at least until Farren started whining for food and woke Harry up from his little nap. Max happily gave them a snack of scrambled eggs and bread, but the smell of the eggs had Harry rushing for the downstairs bathroom, even if he hadn't moved from the settee and Max was feeding the kids in kitchen, he could smell it as strongly as if Max was waving them under his nose.
Draco came with him, but if it was one thing Draco had a problem with, it was vomit. He winced every time Harry heaved and he flinched when the vomit hit the water of the toilet.
"Just go away, Draco, you're making it worse." Harry groaned. "I want tea, go and make me tea. Put lemon in it. Lots of lemon."
Draco nodded and left him, all but running from the bathroom, seemingly without noticing that Harry was upset with him.
Nasta came in just a minute later. Him, Harry liked having around when he was being sick and as those big, strong hands moved him into a better position and rubbed firm circles on his back, brushing his hair away from his sweaty forehead, he felt better. He made Harry feel calmer, made him feel cared for and that was why Harry trusted him as his top dominant. Nasta cared and he was calm in a crisis.
Nasta sorted him out, helped him wash out his mouth and then settled him back onto the settee; his promised cup of tea from Draco was on the coffee table.
"Was that…?" Nasta asked.
"The smell of the eggs." Harry grimaced. "It just sent me running."
Nasta nodded as he handed Harry his tea. He lay his hand on Harry's belly softly.
"It seems these two are giving you the run around."
"Not really. It's not too bad actually; remember the morning sickness with Braiden? I thought I'd never be able to eat anything again and the pain and discomfort with the quintuplets is nothing compared to this, but then this time during my last pregnancy I was just a week or two from going into sudden labour with them, that pain was bad. This is okay…manageable."
Nasta smiled just as the floo flared to life and out stepped someone that Harry had given up the hope of seeing.
Remus Lupin was cradling a little boy to his chest, Harry's heart about stopped. His supposed Godson would be six months old already and Harry hadn't seen him once before now. His hair was bright green, like blended peas.
Nasta stood from the settee and deliberated with himself, trying to tear himself in half, did he stand in front of a pregnant Harry who had just been very sick, or the door that led to his children? He chose Harry, trusting that Max, Blaise and Draco, who were feeding the children in the kitchen, would be sufficient to protect them.
"I…I couldn't say all that I needed to in a letter, I had to see you face to face." Remus said nervously, breaking the stunned silence.
Harry blinked. "And bringing your son is going to achieve what? Act as a shield or a deterrent to prevent us from attacking?"
"I just thought that you'd like to finally meet him." Remus said mildly. "I'm not here to fight and hopefully no one will attack anyone."
"Pass him here then. It's you I'm angry with, not him."
Nasta took the little boy from Remus and handed him carefully to Harry, who smiled at the little boy, who grinned back. He already had five teeth that he could see, for a six month old that was impressive.
"His name is Edward, after Tonks' Father, but to us he's just Teddy." Remus said and he didn't seem to know where to put his hands now that they were empty of his son.
"Hello Teddy, how are you?" Harry asked happily and he watched as those blue eyes changed to completely match his own. He laughed. "I think he likes me."
He turned Teddy to show Nasta and Remus that Teddy's eyes were now the same deep, dark green that his own were. They clashed terribly with his green hair.
"He likes taking the colours from everything around him; he made himself look like a tree when Dora took him through the forest around our home the other day. Greyish-brown skin like bark, two tonal orange and brown hair like the leaves."
"That must be hell to hide. How do you stop him from doing it in public without using magic on him?" Harry asked concernedly.
"We can't take him out into the Muggle world, not until he has a bit of control over what he's doing and has more understanding of why he can't do it around Muggles. Have you taken your children into the Muggle world?"
Harry nodded. "Max goes to the supermarket every two weeks, he usually takes at least two babies with him and he alternates them depending on their mood really. Why are you here?"
Remus looked at the floor, before looking back up determinedly. "To explain myself."
"I don't think there is anything to explain, I think I understand perfectly." Harry said icily.
"Who are you talking…to. Oh." Max said curiously as he came into the living room with a coughing Calix on his arm.
"I read that two of your children were in St Mungos, I don't put much stock in the Daily Prophet, but that cough doesn't sound good."
"Calix is alright now, but he was in the hospital and he was readmitted shortly after he was released when it became apparent that he wasn't getting any better, but it's just his cough now. Leolin…Leolin hasn't come out of the hospital yet. Eight weeks and counting."
"I am so sorry, Harry." Remus said sadly. "Do the Healers know what caused it?"
"Calix contracted Bronchiolitis, he passed it to Leolin before we…before I could separate them and they were both hospitalised. None of the other four got it, just my two youngest, weaker babies."
"I don't think it's fair to say that they're both weak, Harry."
"I didn't mean it like that." Harry insisted. "But neither of them were breathing at birth, they were both premature and now they both get lung infections…it can't be a coincidence!"
"Why can't it?" Remus asked him simply.
"Why not any of the others? Why just Calix and Leolin?"
"Perhaps all of your children had the virus, but the four older children were able to fight it off."
"Then Calix and Leolin are weaker."
"They're fighting, Harry, if they were weak, they wouldn't be fighting, weaker they may be, but not weak."
"Leolin…he's…I think he's starting to give up." Harry said softly. "Every day he's getting worse, more listless, more pale, more exhausted…he sleeps for almost twenty hours a day now."
"Perhaps he just needs something to remind him to keep fighting. Maybe he doesn't want to see his Mother and Fathers so pale and tired and stressed themselves, maybe he wants what he's used to and not this pale, worried and forced shell."
Nasta let out a warning growl, but Harry placed a hand on his arm.
"Not with children in the room, love." He said softly. "Do you really think we're making Leolin give in quicker?"
"It can't hurt to try, Harry. Get more sleep, eat more, try and be happy around him without being forced, I know that will be difficult, nearly impossible given the circumstances, but he will be able to read that your attitude is forced and he won't know why and it'll upset him. I've been reading a lot of baby behavioural books and anything that I can get my hands on really since Teddy was conceived."
"We haven't been able to see him this afternoon." Harry said sadly. "He took another bad turn."
"I'm sorry to hear that, I am."
"Where have you been?" Blaise demanded angrily. "Do you know how upset you've made Harry?"
Harry looked to see him stood beside Max, Braiden and Regan in his arms. Draco was behind him again, framed in the doorway with Tegan in his arms.
"I came to explain." Remus told him.
"I don't hear much explaining." Draco said sarcastically.
"All of you sit down." Harry ordered. "I feel weird being the only one sat down and Nasta won't let me get up."
"This is Teddy, Remus' son."
"Your Godson, if you still want him to be." Remus said quietly.
"Of course I do." Harry said softly, pressing a kiss to Teddy's cheek and watching him burble happily. "I never gave my children Godparents, I didn't see the point. I don't plan on dying and the chances of all five of us being killed together is slim and if we are, our children will go to family…together of course. I would burst out of my grave in angry vengeance if they were all split up from one another."
"You are pregnant again?" Remus asked, spying the bump as he took the armchair behind him as his mates sat on the settee, Max sitting on the floor with the babies as they crawled over one another to reach their toys.
Harry sighed and nodded. "I conceived on the twentieth of July. I'm due in February and currently I'm three months pregnant with twins. We don't know the gender yet."
"Gender? Singular. Identical twins." Remus said in quick succession.
Harry nodded. "Two babies, one placenta. They're identical, as if I needed any more stress, I get two babies that are going to be identical to one another and knowing my luck, they will end up being like Fred and George! Which reminds me, I haven't told Mrs Weasley yet."
"We'll send an owl to her tomorrow." Nasta nodded. "Hedwig has been a little restless lately; she's attacking Esmeralda and Jasmine."
"She likes Saracen." Harry chuckled, giving a look to Draco, who rolled his eyes.
"I do not want to referee the sex lives of our owls, it's not my fault that I liked the male eagle owl the most and you have a female owl and Max has two female owls!"
"If he gets all three of them pregnant…" Blaise warned.
"We can sell the eggs to the bloody owl emporium." Draco said folding his arms over his chest.
Harry laughed and shook his head. "Let's just leave them to it for now, the attic is their domain."
"We're getting off track." Blaise pointed out, glaring at Remus. "You have upset my submissive mate; you've ignored him, hurt him, now you come into our home and expect us to just accept you?"
"Let him explain, Blaise." Nasta said softly.
Remus licked his lips and sat forward in the chair. "I was…I was selfish. I'm a very selfish man, I've come to realise this. I was selfish when I left Harry at only fifteen months old because I couldn't bear to look at him and see James. I use my…condition as an excuse to wallow in misery and then I use that self-created misery to do things for myself. I've held Dora at arm's length for months and then I gave in to her and I became possessive. Nothing else really mattered except for her, I forgot about you, Harry and I know that sounds terrible, but I swore that I wouldn't lie to you when I came to explain everything to you and that's the truth. You were happy and well cared for, you had your mates and your children, so once again my selfish side came out and I thought of myself, of what I wanted…it didn't even occur to me to invite you to the wedding. I convinced myself that you'd be too busy, that you wouldn't want to come, so I never asked and for that I'm sorry. Dora is helping me become a better man, a better person and she's making me realise exactly how selfish I am."
"And Teddy?" Harry asked softly. "Why didn't you tell me about Teddy? Not even a note that Tonks was pregnant, you just sprung it all on me at once!"
"Again, because I'm a selfish man. I wanted to keep it to myself, just for me. I told Tonks that I'd sent out the owls to everyone, including you, when I hadn't. She was my Wife, she had my child growing inside her, I didn't want anyone else to know. I didn't want anyone taking her attention away from me, I wanted it to be our secret and I honestly didn't think anyone would mind me taking that time to just be there for the both of them. I realise now how very wrong I was."
"Why didn't you tell me this when I sent you a letter asking?" Harry demanded.
"It wasn't…it wasn't something that could be said in a letter, Harry and I was busy with Teddy and with Dora. Andy has been around every day too to help Dora, I love her, but she is definitely not blessed with any homemaking skills. I can do that easily enough, but with Teddy too and juggling the full moon and the aftermath of it as well, it's difficult."
"Tonks is back in work." Harry said as he realised what Remus was saying between the lines. "You've been at home with Teddy all day."
Remus looked a bit startled and he nodded. "Being who I am…I can't actually find work, Tonks is the one who works, I'm a house-husband."
"It's not too bad." Harry said with a small smile. "Though I have nothing to complain about, I get to play with my babies all day and sit on my arse being fed by hand by my loving partners."
Max snorted and shook his head.
"Max does all of the cooking." Harry said, poking the back of Max's head with his socked toes. "Nasta keeps everything clean and tidy, Blaise is job hunting to provide for us and me and Draco are being lazy Lords of the family."
That got him a laugh from everyone and he smiled, glad that the tension was gone. He had more than enough tension to deal with without anyone adding to it.
"So all of this…everything that's happened, is because you're selfish?" Nasta asked seriously.
Remus nodded. "I didn't understand why anyone would be upset that I'd kept it to myself…I know now, Dora has very much made me see the error of my ways, she was disgusted that I hadn't told you about anything, Harry. She wanted to come today, probably to make sure that I actually came, but she's in work all week, she told me to send her best to you for the baby in the hospital. The Daily Prophet still doesn't know the names or genders of your children, so we didn't know which two were admitted or why, the Prophet is just speculating, there was a different reason in every article, though they have stopped all mentions of you or the children."
"It's going to stay that way too." Harry sniffed. "Lucius and Myron are suing them."
"I had heard that too. I very much enjoy the Quibbler." He said with a sly smile.
Harry smiled too. He remembered the article about Sirius, he'd enjoyed the Quibbler since then too and that one of his good friends was the editor, or co-editor rather, just made him enjoy it all the more and it gave Hedwig something to do now that they'd cancelled their Daily Prophet subscription in protest of their treatment by the media, maybe now, after the lawsuit had been successful, he'd pick it back up, he knew that Draco liked being kept in the loop, but their house was so filled with magazines it was a wonder that they could move.
Nasta got subscriptions from all over the place, monthly subscriptions to Magical Menageries, Creatures Criteria, Flying Beauties: A Monthly Journal for Dragon Handlers, Linguistics for the Logical Wizard and Flames, Claws and Scales as well as The World News newspaper which came every morning. Max had a monthly subscription to The Practical Potioneer that Esmeralda dealt with along with several medical journals and a subscription to The Daily Dose, a magazine for Healers and pharmacists and Blaise had his own subscription for an Arithmancy magazine; Theory of Numerology, which Harry used to swat at the occasional fly and he stole some of Nasta's linguistic magazines on occasion too. Draco only had two subscriptions, one for Finical Finances and the second for Magical Business Growth. They had so many magazines that Harry wondered where the hell they found the time to read any of them, as he never actually saw his lovers reading them, but they then turned around and quoted from them. More than once he'd wondered if his mates shared a time tuner behind his back.
"I thought you liked me, I thought that you cared for me." Harry said softly as the silence stretched awkwardly. "Why wouldn't you want to tell me?"
"I didn't want to tell anyone." Remus said uncomfortably. "It was selfish of me, I know. I am sorry, Harry, I didn't…it wasn't my intention to hurt anyone with my actions, but I always seem to be doing just that, intentional or not."
"Max, I think we need tea." Harry said with a sigh. "Lots of tea. Does Teddy need anything?"
Remus shook his head. "I fed him just before we left the house."
"Is he okay to move around?"
"He's crawling." Remus said with a nod.
Harry placed Teddy carefully on the floor and watched as he moved around slowly, exploring and touching everything in this new environment, a bit wary of the five babies playing with a pile of toys, but unlike Remus, Teddy took the plunge and crawled over to them and sat down, just on the edge of the pile of toys and the circle the five babies made.
Harry watched with pride and love as Braiden looked up and saw him, he tilted his head curiously and looked to Harry.
"Mama?" He questioned and pointed to Teddy.
"That is Teddy, Braiden love, be nice to him he's only little."
Braiden grinned as if he understood and he picked up a plastic, musical ball and handed it over to Teddy, who screeched happily and grabbed it between both hands, the ball jingling merrily as its buttons were pressed by Teddy's clenching hands.
Max came back in with the tray of tea and he served Harry first and the smell of lemon was so powerful that Harry's mouth was watering before he'd brought the cup up to his lips for the first sip.
"This is perfect; you have to make it like this all the time." Harry said.
"Tomorrow you'll want more or less." Max teased him with a wry smile.
"I know, but today, this is perfect."
Harry settled down and watched as Max played the host, serving Remus his tea, though he was a bit stiff on the conversation. He sighed, this was by no means the end of things, he knew that, but he hoped, that at least in his case, it was a step in the right direction.
Remus had told him before that he was a selfish man; Harry hadn't blamed him for that. He hadn't blamed Remus for leaving him with the Dursley's as a baby because of his resemblance to his Father, but this, this was one in the same…Remus hadn't told him, or anyone it seemed, that he'd gotten Tonks pregnant because he wanted to keep it to himself. It actually made him wonder if it was a werewolf trait, a bit like the submissive Dracken's need to keep the species of newborn babies to themselves, just for a little while, even though everyone around them, including their mates, were dying to know if the baby was a Dracken or not.
He sighed, it was going to be a long road for everyone involved to walk, but if they kept together and kept going, then they could make that walk together and he hoped that at the end of it, they didn't head off in separate directions.
Wednesday the eighteenth of November marked his seventeenth week of pregnancy, he and Remus were exchanging owls and he brought Teddy over every Saturday for a playdate, but it was slow going and they were still a little stilted and awkward around one another. Harry couldn't just forget that Remus hadn't wanted to tell him about his marriage and baby just because he hadn't wanted to, but he sucked it up, Remus hadn't told him about it, he had self admittedly been selfish and now Harry had to get over it. What was done was done and couldn't be changed, so they had to put it behind them and move on. If only his mates were as easy to convince, but none of that mattered to him at that moment, as the eighteenth held such a huge surprise that Harry almost cried.
"Are you sure?" He warbled out as he clutched Leolin to his chest, free of wires as of three days ago and off the ventilator for the last two weeks.
"Yes, we feel that he's strong enough now that he's finally managed to fight off the virus with the aid of certain spells and some mild potions. He's doing well, his vitals have picked up over the last few weeks, he's eating more and he's got some colour back to his cheeks, we're happy to let him go home with you."
Harry was so happy and so relieved that he started crying as he cradled Leolin to his heart.
"Ma." His baby said softly, making Harry cry all the more.
"Yes love, you get to come back home with us." Harry sobbed out through his happy tears.
Draco wrapped his arms around Harry's waist tight and rested his chin on Harry's shoulder.
"I'm so happy." Harry cried out. "Thank you so much for everything you've done for him, thank you for saving his life, you're both miracle workers!"
"If there is anything that we can do." Max said sincerely.
"I just can't wait to sleep in a proper bed." Healer Cole said with a smile and a hand to his back. "Those transfigured beds aren't good for my eighty-six year old back."
"I'm spending a week in bed with my Wife." Healer Almus said with a naughty grin that made him look ten years younger and infinitely less tired. "We've both accumulated three weeks holiday with all the hours we've pulled."
"We'd be incredibly happy to send you both and your families to the Maldives." Harry said seriously. "After everything that you've done for us, I'd send you both for the year."
"We were doing our jobs, Harry; we've come to love this little guy, grumpy scowls and all." Healer Almus told him as he took Leolin's hand and waved it gently.
"We still want to do this for you." Nasta said just as seriously. "You deserve the break."
"They aren't going to accept, just buy them non-refundable tickets and shove it in their hands." Max said. "But before that, let's get Leolin home. I've kept his bedding freshly laundered for the last several weeks ready for when he came home."
"You can't do…!" Healer Almus started in shock, but Nasta cut him off.
"Our son means the world to us and you have inarguably saved his life and made him healthy and strong enough to be able to come home with us today, we owe you more than a holiday, but as I cannot give you my beating heart, our submissive has decided to give you a break away from this hospital, I will allow this as we take our son home for the first time in almost eleven weeks, we owe you more than we could ever give you, let us do this for you to show how very grateful we are."
"We do this for every patient." Healer Cole said sternly. "We were doing our jobs."
"How often do you spend every single moment of your time, for eleven straight weeks, monitoring a patient in quarantine for twenty-four hours a day just to keep him alive?" Draco asked them seriously.
"I admit that this has been a rather unusual situation and Leolin has needed a continuous level of upmost care, but it is still our jobs to look after him and we get paid to do so."
"You have lived in this hospital, in this room and the office next door, for eleven weeks while you've been caring and nursing our vulnerable son back to health and strength, if anyone deserves a holiday it's you both." Harry said firmly. "So we will send you and your families on holiday, we'll send your tickets to your partners if we must, but it's our gift to you both for the dedication that you've shown our son."
Healer Cole shook his head. "Get him home, I'm sure you have family waiting patiently to see him again."
Harry nodded and he was escorted out of the hospital room. They didn't have anything to help them get Leolin home, no blankets, no carrycot to keep him safe, Harry contented himself with Nasta's strong, solidly muscled arms wrapped around him and Leolin tight, their son between them as Nasta protected them both through the floo network until they reached their home.
Harry peered tearily at Myron, Richard, Alexander and Aneirin who were sat talking softly.
"You were gone for barely an hour; Leolin hasn't taken another turn has he?" Richard asked with a sad look.
"Why are you crying, Harry?" Aneirin asked with a sort of soft horror.
"I'm so happy." Harry said with a sniff and Nasta broke away from him and Harry showed Leolin to the four men, his golden eyes back to their previous vibrancy and he let out a soft burbling giggle as he recognised where he was.
"You were allowed to bring him home?" Myron said stunned, even as he leapt up and came to hover over Leolin.
"Yes, the Healers said that the virus has passed through him and he's back to good health, he's eating again, he's got the colour back into his face, now we just have to keep him this way." Harry said determinedly.
"I'll go and grab his bassinet, he must have missed it after so long in that hospital issued bassinet." Max said, more for something to do as they all knew that there was no way that Harry was letting Leolin go.
Harry sat down in the middle of the settee so that he could have people sat on both sides to see his little baby.
"I must go and tell Kimberly." Alexander said excitedly. "It's wonderful to see him home."
Harry couldn't let Leolin go, even when he was urged to by his mates so that they could have a cuddle. He apologised and told them that he couldn't let him go and they understood, they sighed and grumbled, but they understood.
"You need sleep yourself, so you will put him down for bed, he needs his sleep." Nasta said sternly.
Harry nodded. "I just…I need to hold him for a bit."
"Ma." Leolin said sleepily.
"I'm so happy that he recognises me again." Harry said softly as he pressed his cheek to Leolin's.
"Let him sleep, Harry." Max said as he shook Leolin's tiny duvet into its cover. "He should be napping right about now."
"Leolin cat naps through the day, you know that he doesn't keep to the same schedule as the others." Harry said.
"I thought we were trying to keep him on a regular schedule so that he felt less anxious about changes."
"After being in that hospital room for eleven weeks, I think he needs a bit of doing what he wants to do for a little bit. He's happy to be back here, can't you see that?"
"Don't push him too hard, Harry, he needs rest and recuperation now."
Harry nodded. "I know, of course I know that. I just want to hold him."
Leolin raised a hand to Harry's face and pressed a tiny hand against his chin and he babbled softly. Harry grinned at him.
"I'm so happy you're home."
"Ma." He agreed softly before he pulled his hand back and the first knuckle went into his little mouth as he sucked on it.
Harry held him as he fell asleep and only then did he let everyone have a hold of him before Nasta tucked him up in his bassinet, obsessively smoothing out his duvet and making sure that it was tucked in around Leolin's body.
"Cysga'n dawel." He said to Leolin softly and laid a soft kiss on his cheek. "Rwy'n dy garu di."
"What did you say to him?" Harry asked when Nasta came to sit next to him.
"I told him to sleep tight and that I loved him." Nasta replied, a bit gruffly.
Harry twisted his body to rest up against Nasta and he cuddled in tight.
"I love you." Harry said softly.
Nasta smiled down at him and kissed his forehead. "I love you too, Cariad."
"I think today is the best day I've had all year." He said in a whisper.
Nasta nodded. "I know what you mean, we've had a lot of trials and obstacles to get over this year and more to come in the next year, but we will get over them together, I will always be here for you, Harry, for all of us. I love you all too much."
Harry smiled to himself and he rested his head over Nasta's heartbeat. The strong, even thud under his ear helped relax him and sooth him and before he knew what was happening, he'd been lulled into sleep, his first, deep and peaceful sleep for many months.
They had a stream of visitors over the next two days and Harry was happy to welcome Amelle back into his home as he let her cuddle his son as he cradled Beatrice.
"How are you little Bea?" He asked softly as those baby blue eyes traced every inch of his face.
"Is little bumblebee a Dracken?" Max asked Amelle curiously. "Or are you doing a Harry and keeping it to yourself for several months first?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Of course she's keeping it to herself; Beatrice is not even four weeks old yet."
Amelle smiled a bit uncertainly, as if she didn't know how long she was supposed to be keeping the secret for.
Harry went and laid his hand on her forearm.
"You keep it a secret for as long as you feel you need to." He said seriously. "It's something personal to you, let Caesar beg and wind himself up, but only tell others when you want to."
Amelle grinned at him and nudged him with her shoulder.
"When have you got to go back to the hospital?" She asked.
Harry grimaced. "Soon. I've had more than enough of that hospital." Harry laid a hand over his pregnant belly. "I'll be glad when these two are born, but not any when soon, I don't want another panic like I did with the quintuplets."
Amelle smiled in sympathy and nodded. "I understand why you don't want any more premature babies; you must have been so frightened."
"It was terrifying." Harry admitted with a nod. "My second ever pregnancy, it was with five babies and I had no clue what was happening to me."
"Sanex said he heard the rip from across the room."
Harry nodded. "Yeah, it took a few moments for me to take in the pain of that and several more before I realised what had happened."
"Was it very painful?"
"The worst." Harry said with a grimace. "I don't remember much, I went feral very quickly afterward and the memories come in random bursts, but I do remember the first incision…all the amniotic fluid just came gushing out and because my sac was already ripped, Farren just fell through very soon after, tearing the edges of the incision I'd made because I didn't have time to make it any bigger before he fell out of me. I made myself almost sick with worry during the first few days after I'd given birth when I thought back to what might have happened if I'd caught his head or back with a claw, he was so close to my abdomen, if he'd been in any other position…" Harry shook his head, dislodging those thoughts quickly. "No, I pushed away those thoughts quickly afterward, but I wouldn't wish that sort of labour on anyone."
"I hope I never have a pregnancy like that, I'm paranoid as it is with just singletons."
"Hopefully these two will be happy to stay where they are for a few months more." Harry said happily, patting his belly.
"Have you found of if they're girls or boys?" Amelle asked. "I kept up my end of the deal; you need to boost the female numbers as well."
Harry laughed. "That's very true, but no, we still have no idea, the one is spooning the other, who has their legs pulled in tight to their chest. Still no gender, but I have another scan soon, so maybe we'll find out on this next scan."
"My hope is that you have two girls." Amelle said with a sly smile. "If only to boost our numbers over the boys of the family."
"You've gone and said it now, watch; I'll turn around and have identical twin boys." Harry teased. "It won't be so bad to have boys I suppose, as long as they're healthy, I don't care." He said sombrely as he looked over his shoulder to Leolin.
Amelle pulled him into a hug and took Beatrice from his arms. "Leolin is strong, he has too much of you in him, take the advice you gave to me…he got through it, he's fine, let him enjoy his life without smothering his every move. It's difficult, Merlin I know that, but you have coached me through my urges, now let others help you, don't smother him for this, enjoy him, but let him run free and enjoy himself."
Harry let out all the breath in his body and pulled a fresh one into his lungs. He nodded sharply.
"I know, the urge to just clamp him into my arms and never let him go is insane, though."
"As you taught me, breathe through the urge, let it come and then let it pass, ignore it."
Harry nodded again and breathed harshly. He kept doing it until the urge to crush Leolin to his heart abated.
"Thank you, I just…I don't want to leave him; it's his first night home."
"I understand." Amelle said with a knowing smile.
Harry said goodbye to the stream of guests as five in the afternoon approached and he settled himself by the head of the bassinet, which was beside the settee, he refrained from touching a sleeping Leolin as he kept his hands busy by playing his hands over his pregnant belly and contenting himself with the small shifts of movement from within. His twins were strong and were growing well, he was very happy with them and he couldn't wait until they were born and he could hold them in his arms. He knew that his mates were excited about it too, but then to a dominant Dracken, babies were a sign of fertility and prowess, so they happily gloated to one another over it. He was sure that part of the Dracken meetings in May was so the dominants could gloat about how many more babies they had and the submissives could rub other submissives faces in their perfect newborns, it made him snort in incredulity when he saw it happening at the meetings.
"I'm not like that." He assured his belly and the babies within. "You two can run around and cause terror all you like and I'll look on proudly and tell everyone within hearing distance that you're mine, my little twins. Just stay put for a little longer, okay? I don't want another sudden labour and you have to wait to at least January before you come. I'm busy in December."
Harry smiled as he dropped his head back against the arm of the settee and rested; his hands still stroking and rubbing circles on his belly.
Things levelled out for all of them as the days went by, everything slipped into an easy routine to encompass everything, they settled and they carried on, worried and fearful though they were, they took everything one day at a time and there was no lack of hugs and kisses.
As November slipped by them, they had news from Ashleigh at the hospital that she was settled in and Myron and Richard visited her often and relayed information to the family. She was doing well, she was seeing mind Healers daily and she had unlimited support at all hours of the day and night.
She had sent him a personal, heartfelt letter as part of her recovery programme outlining what she had done wrong, how she had felt and how she had gone about showing those feelings in the wrong way, but most of all, she had finally apologised to him in a way that Harry believed was actually real and sincere and not a bluff just so that she could come to see the babies. He had sent her back his own letter, a letter that he had poured over for hours over several days to express his own emotions and thoughts and how she had made him feel with her actions, but he wished her well at the end of it and told her that he hoped that she found what she needed from the Healers and he assured her that when she got a clean bill of health and came home, there were grandbabies waiting for their Grandma Ashleigh.
Richard's fiftieth birthday on the twenty-seventh of November was much more lively than the three birthdays that had come before it, Max and Blaise had had their birthdays ruined and Ashleigh's fiftieth birthday on the fourth of November was not only ruined by Leolin in the hospital, but by her being in the hospital herself. Myron and Richard had gotten to visit her, but she hadn't come out of the hospital for the day, which she insisted was for the best.
At four months pregnant, Harry was taking things a bit easier than he normally would have and he was finding it difficult to pick up his children, especially Braiden and Farren, as his back was in agony every time he bent down to pick them up. But he grimaced through it regardless, though Nasta complained about it and the effects on his pregnancy, but Harry tuned him out, he steadfastly refused to stop holding and hugging his children just because his pregnant belly was in the way or his back was twinging uncomfortably.
"I wish that you would just take it easy." Max sighed as Braiden clamoured at Harry's feet for attention, going up on his knees and reaching up for him and naturally Harry bent right over and picked him up, a brief flash of pain marring his expression from the pressure on his spine.
"I am taking it easy." Harry said as he straightened up and cuddled Braiden to his chest.
"I don't like seeing or knowing that you're in pain." Max replied with a worried look.
"It's honestly not as bad as you think."
"Don't lie to me, Harry; we can see the pain on your face as you bend to pick them up."
Harry groaned in aggravation. "Seriously, Max, I'm fine; one of the twins is lying back to back with me, that's all."
"How do you know?"
"Because I can damn well feel it!" Harry replied, placing his hand over his belly. "One is head down, back to my belly; the other is head up, back to my back."
"So…you're saying that our twins are in the sixty-nine position?" Max said with a grin.
Harry blinked at the sudden turn of the conversation and then he huffed and turned away, hiding his smile from Max.
"I can't deal with you in this mood."
"Just because you're gagging for it but find it too uncomfortable to have sex." Max teased him. "We could do the sixty-nine you know…a bit of mutual release for both of us, I reckon I could get you off first."
Harry looked over just in time to see Max waggle his eyebrows and he couldn't help laughing.
"Later." Harry said with a smile. "We'll go to bed an hour or so earlier and we can have some fun, but for now, it's almost dinner time and these little guys are getting hungry."
Max groaned. "There's my cue to leave you and your luscious, edible body and go into the kitchen to make food."
Harry laughed and shook his head. "I'll come with you; just let me get the rest of these hungry babies."
"Just herd them towards the kitchen." Max waved away.
"They're not sheep!" Harry said sternly.
"No, but you can't carry them all and you already have Braiden." Max said, even as he stooped to pick up Calix and Tegan. "Come on you two, into the kitchen."
Harry was shocked to see Max nudge Regan and Farren with his foot.
"Don't do that!" He said aghast.
"It's just to get them moving!" Max defended as Farren and Regan started crawling, being directed by Max's soft nudges towards the kitchen, Regan infinitely faster than Farren, who was unhappy to be forced to move.
They reached the kitchen and Harry set Braiden down in his highchair and secured him in.
"Don't get them!" Max burst out as Harry went to bend down to pick up Regan. "Take Calix and let me get those two."
Harry sighed and took Calix from Max, kissing him softly and setting him in another highchair as Max bent and scooped up Farren easily, setting him in his chair and clipping him in before bending back over to pick up Regan.
Harry sat down in a chair and entertained the five babies as Max heated up the food that he'd made for them yesterday afternoon.
"Did you remember to send your letter off to Remus after your nap?" Max asked as he dished up the babies dinner onto little plastic plates.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, he's still being careful around me with what he says and he's keeping me updated of every move that Teddy makes to try and make it up to me for not telling me about him in the first place, but Tonks has been sending me letters too, I just want her to stop apologising, it wasn't her fault and married or not, she shouldn't have to apologise for him and besides the point, Remus already apologised, I'm getting sick of hearing 'sorry'." He complained as he took a plate from Max and started feeding Calix.
Blaise walked into the kitchen, his best robes already being yanked off and Harry knew immediately that his job search hadn't gone well. He hadn't had a good interview since the one that he had ran out of when Calix and Leolin had first been admitted to the hospital.
"Are you…?" He started but Blaise cut him off harshly.
"Hey!" Max said angrily. "You do not get to take your bad mood out on us! I don't care how bad a day you've had or how bad you feel, we're your partners, your mates, you do not treat us like shit because we do not deserve it."
Blaise flumped into a chair and slumped over the table.
"It's just all the same!" He complained. "No one want's a newly graduated student and they all want someone with more experience! How am I supposed to get more experience if no one will give me a chance in the first place?!"
Harry had no idea what to say and he felt terrible for his partner.
"It took me getting an apprenticeship before I could get a job." Max said casually. "From eighteen to twenty, when I actually got my apprenticeship, I could not find a single job. I even applied to clean out the owl shit in a postal office and I was declined. You need to keep at it, Blaise, or you need to find an apprenticeship."
"Do you think I could?" Blaise asked a little uncertainly. "Get an apprenticeship that is."
"Of course you can." Harry said. "You're incredibly intelligent and you know what you're doing, Blaise. Find what you want to do and then get yourself into an apprenticeship."
"I know what I want to do." Blaise said tentatively. "I just don't know how to go about doing it."
"Then do it yourself." Max encouraged. "If you know what you want to do, take the plunge and open your own business."
"No one will want to do business with a nineteen year old with no training or experience!" Blaise cried out in distress.
"Not with that attitude they won't." Harry said with a frown. "Max is right, if you want to do it and you know you want to do it, us four will support you, Blaise, of course we will. Set up your own business, we'll find you a place to operate from, we'll have it advertised…if you want to do it, love, we'll make it happen."
Blaise actually looked teary and Harry forced himself to stand up to go to him and hug him.
"We love you, Blaise." Harry said softly. "If this is something that you want to do, do it and we'll be right behind you all the way."
"Damn right, what Harry said. Sort out what you need, get everything in order before you set up, talk to my Dad if you need help, he has a business from my Granddad, they can both help you if you need it. My Grandfather set that business up on his own, from absolutely nothing. My great-great-great Grandfather set his business up from his garden shed. It can be done if you have the right attitude and a lot of determination, you can do it, Blaise."
"Thank you." Blaise said softly.
"Do you feel better?" Harry asked gently.
Blaise nodded. "I'll see what I can do, I'll talk to Myron and Alexander, maybe Aneirin too and see what they think and I'll look at my finances to see if it's doable."
"I said before that we will support you, that includes financially." Harry said firmly.
Blaise shook his head. "No, the last thing I want to do is to haemorrhage money from our family when we have babies and more on the way, I won't do that, if I can't afford to do it myself, then I'll put it on the backburner and I'll wait until I can afford to do it."
"Go talk to my Dad then, he doesn't work weekends and my Dad Richard is probably driving him ballistic since it was his birthday two days ago. He still gets as excited as a kid at Christmas."
"You don't mind?" Blaise asked as he looked at the babies who were finishing off their dessert of peeled, stewed plums.
"Of course not, we'll finish these off now; we'll bathe them and then tuck them up into their cots with a story."
Harry looked across to the baby monitor that he was carrying around.
"He had his dinner early, he ate two full ounces of milk before he fell asleep, I think he'll be asleep now until at least ten or eleven."
Blaise nodded. "Then I'll be back as soon as I can. Thank you, both of you!"
Blaise rushed back out as quickly as he'd come home, shrugging his robes back on as he went and Harry shared a look with Max. They both started laughing before taking muslin cloths to the babies' hands and faces and getting them out of their highchairs and ready to have their baths.
Two hours later Harry and Max were cuddled up together and were watching the end of a TV programme when Draco flooed home and joined them. He'd gone to visit his parents and he looked happy and content with himself, Harry was so happy that Draco was finally coming to terms with himself and coming to enjoy his life. It made him happy and he snuggled into Draco and Max and continued watching the TV programme until it finally went off and two minutes after that Nasta flooed home covered in dirt and dragon dung, but he was grinning tiredly.
"How can you be so happy when you smell so rancid?" Draco demanded with a wrinkled nose.
"He's a Dragonologist, it's what they do." Max said with a grin, mentioning proudly Nasta's very recent promotion from senior dragon handler to Dragonologist.
"What, roll around in dragon shit and then compare with one another?" Harry teased.
"Exactly!" Max said with a laugh.
Nasta rolled his eyes, but he was too happy to take their teasing to heart.
"I'm going for a quick shower, I'll be back soon." He told them instead.
"The babies are all asleep, use the downstairs bathroom." Harry all but ordered and Nasta smiled at him and nodded.
True to his word, Nasta was back not twenty minutes later, clean and pink, still a little damp, but still happy, though he was much more tired than he'd been before. He squeezed onto the settee with the four of them and it was only then that he seemed to realise that someone was missing and the tension poured into his muscles as he sat upright again.
"Where is Blaise? He should have been home by now."
"I was thinking that too." Draco added. "Has he gone to wallow upstairs?"
"No, he came home at five and then he went to see my Dad." Max said, pushing Nasta back against the settee.
"His job hunting was unsuccessful?" Draco asked.
Harry nodded. "Yes, the same story, they want someone with more experience, but the only way he can get that experience is by working, so he's stuck really, so we suggested that he set up his own business. He's gone to talk to Myron about the idea."
Nasta pondered on that and he nodded. "I'm sure that we could support him through that."
"We already offered, but he refused and said that if he couldn't afford it himself, he would wait for a few years."
"The whole point of being in a mateship is to support one another." Draco said with a sneer. "I have more than enough money to support a business venture and I'm sure that Father would be interested in it as well."
"Together all of us can support Blaise and have enough for everything that we need." Nasta said. "I can't believe that he would be worried about money when we love him so much. It's like he's shutting himself off, shutting off his finances for just himself when he should take into account all of our finances, we can support him opening his own business."
"He said he didn't want to take our money when we have babies." Harry said as he rested a hand over his growing belly.
"Ridiculous." Nasta scoffed. "We have more than enough." He said.
Draco nodded. "We do. I check all of our finances regularly, as my Father taught me to do when I was very young, and we have more than enough for anything and everything that we want to do. I'm not saying we go on lavish holidays every month or go on shopping sprees for things that we don't even need, because then we'll eat away at all of our savings, but if Blaise wishes to start his own business, we can do that easily. It's an investment; he will start paying back into our funds as soon as he's set up."
"I'll speak to him later, or even tomorrow." Nasta said as he sat back with a groan. "Until then, I want to cwtch up with my mates and I want to enjoy my evening. Today was hard work; those juveniles are getting a handful."
Harry readily got onto that idea and with a heart heavy with worry and concern over Blaise, over Leolin, over his pregnancy, over everything…he snuggled into Draco's muscular bulk and he settled down to watch a film with three of his four mates, even if Draco did complain over the Muggle entertainment and insisted that everything would have been so much easier if they used magic, which Max pointed out wasn't the point of the film and that Muggles didn't know that magic was real.
Draco just huffed and Harry pressed his head over that strong heartbeat and smiled. He loved that Draco still didn't understand some of the Muggle terminology and nuances, he loved all of Draco's little quirks and as one large hand came to rest over his pregnant belly, rubbing against it softly, Harry fell into a light doze surrounded by his mates, lying on Draco with the blond's hands on his baby bump and the sounds of the TV playing in the background. He couldn't wait for nineteen-ninety-nine to start and he hoped that the New Year brought him some good news, because this year had been nothing but bad news after bad news and though things were slowly improving, they were by no means fixed just yet.
A/N: Almost to the New Year! Which means one thing really, or two things, a fresh start and E and A are finally nearly here! I'm definitely revealing the gender in the next chapter and I'm planning on them being born in the chapter after, so we have one/two chapters more to go before they're born, so if you want to guess at genders, paternity or names, you go right ahead because they'll be here very soon! I'm so excited.
Another reason to be so excited. We reached 11,000 reviews! This massive milestone is something I never thought I'd reach, not even in pretty little daydreams, so thank you to each and every single reviewer who has given me feedback in any way, shape or form, if it wasn't for every single one of you, I never would have reached this milestone, thank you, all of you!
Zathina: No. The submissive would choose one of the identical twins and then she'd have a heat period and bond to the dominant, the Dracken would then need another dominant so she would go back to the meetings, but the Dracken in her would immediately look over the other identical twin as the Dracken side would smell the blood connection. Dracken's reject any and all blood relations of their dominants as unsuitable mates; they want to collect the very best genes they can, not take two mates from the same gene pool. So if she picked one dominant, that dominant's brothers, sisters, Uncles, Aunts, all family members would be discounted and have no hope of ever being picked, even if they're identical twins, in fact it would be worse if they were identical twins…they'd have the same genes, not good for a Dracken who wants as many different groups of genes as possible.
Guest: Severus died in his sleep at the end of chapter seventy-six.
FireNecromancer: Theodric's biological Father was Myron. As for the bite, it's something all dominant Drackens can do, but as it's usually the top dominant who dishes out the punishments, he is the one most likely to do the biting, unless he isn't there, then it falls to the second dominant in the hierarchy, in this case Max. But they all have calming pheromones which work not only on their submissive, but on their other dominants as well and it works on the kids too.
fictionfan: The list for the babies and their birth years is on my facebook page lovelie.
www dot facebook dot com/notes/starlight-mass/babies-rise-of-the-drackens-scaled-bits/479748755446358
starkidqueen: I actually had a debate about your question on my facebook. I feel that yes, you're right, his patronus would have changed due to his circumstances, I think his new patronus would be a dragon, to reflect his Dracken inheritance and to match his love for his four Dracken mates.
DarkFasha564: No, no! It's the end of the clump of sad chapters, not the end of the fic, that's a long way off still. No, I just meant that it was the conclusion to Leolin's fate. I hope this chapter cleared up a few of your other questions too.
I hope you've enjoyed reading, don't forget to play at guessing for the identical twins, they'll be born soon and I'll see you lovelies very soon,
StarLight Massacre. X