The Rise of the Drackens

Harry comes into a very unexpected inheritance. He is a creature both rare and very dangerous, a creature that is black listed by the British Ministry. So now he must avoid detection at all costs, whilst choosing his life partners and dealing with impending pregnancy at just sixteen. With danger coming not just from the Ministry but even other creatures, what was he supposed to do?

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127. Chapter One Hundred-Twelve – Cross-Examination

There was only one thing, in Harry's humble opinion, that was worse than being stuck in an early September heat wave while pregnant, and that was being stuffed into a formal suit and stuck in a stuffy court room too.

He was on the stand as well, defending himself from the questions and allegations of the Dursleys' lawyer, Mister Chorley. He wanted to go back a week, when he was lounging around in his garden, dipping in a swimming pool when he got too hot, playing with his babies, laughing with his mates.

"Mister Potter, is it true that you would scream as loudly as you could at night to deliberately wake your relatives?" The lawyer asked him.

Harry took a moment to take a breath. "No." He answered simply. "I suffered from vivid nightmares which did leave me screaming. It was never deliberate and I never knew that I was doing it until…until I was woken up by Vernon dragging me from the bed."

"So you deliberately sabotaged their sleep so that they would be constantly exhausted?"

"No, there was nothing deliberate about it." Harry said, trying to keep his own temper. He had never been more grateful that Richard had told Max to slip him a few drops of calming draught with breakfast.

"But you did wake them up and disturb their sleep on a nightly basis?"

Harry took another moment to breathe deeply and he thought quickly about a way to get the truth out in this word trap of a muddle without the truth getting lost in misleading answers. Draco had told him to never agree with the opposition lawyer, to think about the question and the answer first and in this situation, he couldn't just agree with the man as it would look bad on him, not the Dursleys, or at least that was the theory behind the action.

"Because of the nightmares I suffered with, yes." He answered calmly, manoeuvring himself out of the trap nicely.

"Do you have any evidence that you had any nightmares at all? Or is it just on your say so?" The man asked in a drawling tone that perfectly conveyed disbelief and scepticism, but Harry could see his eyes, he could see the frustration behind them.

"Objection, my client is in therapy and the reports of such have been clearly displayed to this court. It is clearly stated in the reports, that this court has seen, that Harry has needed sleep therapy for nightmares as signed off by a trusted, well known therapist." Richard burst out, less angry and more firm and stern. He was more like a smaller version of Myron and that made Harry smile, to know that Richard was obviously emulating his stubborn husband and mate while in the courtroom.

Everything was quiet for a moment and then Mister Chorley cleared his throat.

"My clients were sleep deprived and on edge. Mister Potter kept them awake all night, screaming."

"He was psychologically injured and was suffering from nightmares that kept him awake also." Richard defended. "He was just as exhausted, if not more so, and he was a frightened boy! He needed therapy at that time that wasn't given to him or even sought after. He was a fourteen year old so traumatised from his situation that he was having screaming nightmares night after night and nothing was done about it, no help was given to him, no help was sought after and my client was left to suffer through on his own."

"The entire household was suffering from the actions of Mister Potter." Mister Chorley said evenly.

Harry remained calm as much as he could, once again thankful for the calming draught. He had made a promise to himself that he would answer all the questions posed to him if he could, and not devolve into the incriminating silences as the Dursleys had done, and he would try to remain calm, helped along by the calming draught.

"You were a very disturbed child, weren't you, Mister Potter?" The lawyer said with a considering look to him, as if he could see the delinquency on his skin. "We have a statement from a Mister and Missus Mason."

Harry inhaled deeply at hearing that. How could he explain that that had all been Dobby's fault without saying anything about magic or making himself seem like a lying psychopath?

"They say that they met you once, you would have been twelve, Mister Potter, do you remember?"

"Yes, it was actually my twelfth birthday and I was told to stay in my bedroom and not come down for dinner." Harry said firmly. He saw immediately that his addition had knocked the lawyer off his stride, if only for a moment.

"I…Mister Mason said that you had thrown an extravagant dessert, that your Aunt had spent all afternoon making, to the floor, smashing the dish and sending the dessert all over the floor, walls and counters. You were introduced as very disturbed and easily upset by strangers."

"Of course that was what they said." Harry replied. "They lied to everyone about me, saying I went to a school for criminals and that I was a disturbed delinquent and I wasn't. What actually happened was I was so hungry that I went looking for food, I tried to be quiet so as not to disturb their dinner party, so that I wasn't caught and punished for taking food that I wasn't allowed to have, and I tried to take something small from the fruit bowl behind the pudding and I accidentally knocked it off with my elbow. I was only trying to get an apple because I hadn't eaten all day or the day before."

"That is a lie!" Vernon burst out, his face the familiar shade of puce that Harry remembered, and hated, from his childhood. He flinched automatically, unable to stop it, even as his heart jumped in his chest. He could almost feel the colour draining from his face…this was not good for the baby at all.

"Silence in the court." The Judge demanded harshly. "Mister Potter, are you alright to carry on?"

Harry looked at the Judge, but he had to quickly break eye contact from those stern eyes. He nodded mutely and looked back at his hands.

"Missus Mason then said that an owl swooped into the house and dropped a letter on her head. Would this have been the pet owl of yours that you had perhaps set upon your relatives dinner guests to ruin their evening?"

Harry swallowed and shook his head. "It…it was a friend's owl." He stuttered.

"Are you being untruthful? Because it sounds like you are, Mister Potter."

Harry shook his head, but he was. It had been a Ministry owl telling him that he'd received a formal warning from the Improper Use of Magic office for his use of a hover charm in the presence of Muggles. He couldn't actually say as such though, not in a Muggle courtroom.

"My…my owl is…she's a snowy owl. That one would have been a…a barn owl. The Masons can…can confirm the colour." Harry warbled his way through, his heart pounding in his chest. His hand touched his belly gently as he worried about his baby, who was already affected by his stressing.

"May I suggest a break for lunch?" Richard put in calmly. "My client clearly needs a moment after being terrified out of his wits by Mister Dursley's outburst."

"Yes, this is agreeable." The Judge agreed. "We will convene back here in one hour."

Harry stood and hurried to Richard, who had already packed away his papers and without any further words, he put an arm around his shoulders and led him straight out of the courtroom, out of the building and into the sweltering air.

"Are you okay?" Richard asked him seriously.

Harry nodded. "Yes, I just…I…"

"It's okay, take a moment, let's go grab some lunch and a cold drink and you can gather yourself there. You're going to be fine. I'd never let anyone hurt you."

Harry nodded. He knew that. He more than knew that, but it didn't stop him from reverting back to his childhood, when he was confronted with Vernon's purple or puce coloured face shoved into his own, maybe pulling on his hair or throwing him into his cupboard, shouting at him, telling him that he couldn't have anything to eat for a week.

"Come on, sweetness. Do you want a vegetable wrap? Tomato pasta? Or maybe a nice big burger with fries and onion rings?"

That brought a small smile out. "A burger, please."

"Beef or chicken, precious?"

That made Harry smile more. "Beef, please."

"Lemonade too?"

Harry nodded. They reached a free table in the café and Richard helped him take his suit jacket off and sat him down.

"Okay, you settle yourself for a moment and I'll be right back, I'm just over here though and nothing will hurt you."

Harry sighed and looked down at his hands. He hadn't wanted to become non-verbal, he knew from watching the Dursleys that it was worse, but he had been unable to get the words out and when he had, he'd stuttered, something that Richard and Draco had told him to try not to do. He'd agreed to be cross-examined when it hadn't strictly been necessary. Richard had had enough evidence to convict the Dursleys without him even having to be there. But he'd wanted to be there. He'd wanted to testify and he'd agreed to subject himself to cross-examination, all because it would help get the Dursleys a longer sentence.

It was brutal, however. He didn't want to be called a liar, he didn't want to be shouted at in the middle of a sentence. He didn't want to look over at the Dursleys as he recounted all of the horrible ways that they'd hurt him as a child and young teenager. It didn't feel right having to defend all of the 'acts of delinquency' that the Dursleys were accusing him of when they knew full well that he wasn't the cause, or at least not directly involved. Of course they knew nothing about Dobby, the house-elf had vanished before they'd seen him, so of course it had looked like he'd smashed the dessert on purpose, but he hadn't and they knew that the barn owl had been from the Ministry of Magic, not his own owl personally, they knew that Hedwig was a snowy owl and that she hadn't been involved. He just didn't understand why they were lying to try and discredit him when they knew that they were the ones in the wrong for treating him, a mere child, in the way that they had.

They hadn't even tried to defend half of the things that they'd done to him over the years, they'd just resorted to silence and refusing to answer the questions directed at them and that was just worse somehow, as if they were robbing him of a part of his healing. Why had they hated him so much? Why had they hated magic so much? Was it truly because they were jealous, or was it something else? Perhaps something rooted in the past that he was just caught up in, or were they truly so petty and small minded that anything different, that anything out of the ordinary, had to be squashed down, hidden or even culled. He didn't know, and if the Dursleys carried on with their silences and on the same vein of not answering any questions directed at them, then he was never going to know, especially not now that Richard's time questioning them was over. It looked like he'd never get the peace and the closure that he deserved from all of this…he just wanted to know why.

Richard came back and he settled an iced glass of lemonade in front of him with a small, gentle touch to his shoulder.

"Thank you."

"You've done so well, Harry. So very well."

"I lost my thread of conversation, you said not to do that."

"You had that ugly mug shouting at you, that's not the same thing, Harry. He really frightened you, I saw it, that's why I called an early lunch, to get you out of there and to remind you that I'd shred his hide if he so much as wobbled his way out of his chair to try and hurt you. You're no longer a child hidden behind closed doors, Harry. You're in a courtroom full of people who are going to sentence those monsters to thirty years in prison, they can't hurt you, they can't try to hit you, you're safe."

"Sometimes the fear takes over. I know they can't get me, you would stop them, others would step in, there are policemen in that room who would stop them, but sometimes…sometimes the fear just won't listen."

"I understand, sweetness." Richard said in a way that made Harry automatically believe him. "I will always try to petition the court for a break, even if it's just five minutes for you to calm down, to take a breath and for you to beat the fear back and realise that there is nothing to fear in that courtroom, not anymore. You are not alone in that room, though I'm sure on the stand it feels like it."

Harry nodded his agreement and sipped at his lemonade.

"Just remember that I'm here for you, no one is going to hurt you, you've done so well and I'm incredibly proud of you, Harry. You've done great. You make sure those boys pamper you tonight. You and baby."

Harry chuckled at that and he saw the happy triumph in Richard, who had been angling for a laugh. He smiled.

"They have been pampering me a lot lately. We're having a lot of fun with the new swimming pools that we bought, the kids adore them, though we've had a few tantrums over the slide and who gets what bath toy in the pool, but they've all be sharing really well, though Braiden monopolises the bouncy castle area."

"I can imagine that Max tried to get in on that too?" Richard asked with a grin.

"You know he did, because it's exactly what you would have done." Harry laughed. "Don't tell him, but we've ordered the biggest inflatable obstacle course that we could find for his birthday. It's going to be him versus everyone else. It's going to be hilarious. Draco was worried about rain, but I said that rain would just make the competition more interesting and we ordered it anyway."

Richard's eyes lit up. "I can't wait for that, you know I'll be all over that like its Myron spread naked on a bed for me."

Harry snorted into his glass of lemonade.

"I can't imagine Myron spread naked for you, the other way around maybe."

"Hey! That's so stereotypical of you, Harry, just because he's big and bulky doesn't mean he always tops. I'm sure you've had some fun with four boys around you."

Harry grinned. "Of course. Last night for instance, but I don't know. Myron's so serious and uptight."

"Only until you get him on his back." Richard winked.

Harry laughed again.

"I don't think I should be telling you that though, with you being our baby boy and all."

"That's okay. I've never really had a Father or anything, so I've never had any of those inappropriate feelings concerning any of that. It's just, I've been so screwed up that things like that, that should be inappropriate, just aren't."

Richard sighed and reached over to squeeze his hand. "We understand and we still love you, you're just too adorable."

Harry smiled, though they were interrupted by a café waiter, who brought over their two plates, piled high with a thick beef burger in a seeded bun, fries, salad, onion rings and a side of relish.

"The salad is so Nasta can't whine at you." Richard laughed.

Harry chuckled and he dug into the meal happily, feeling much happier and a lot more secure. The thought that after this he would have to go back to that courtroom and face more accusations and lies almost made him choke, but he calmed himself and forced himself to chew and swallow. He would be fine, he could do this.

Eitri Cassair was only one hundred and nine years old and already he was orphaned, had been left in the care of a terrible Uncle who had tried to abuse him and then sell him like an object, and he was now completely alone in a world that he couldn't trust.

He was worried, really, really worried, as he came from Sindri's room in the healing home. He had had to be moved there from his own home just a few moons ago and things were not looking good. It was not Sindri's fault that he was sick, he was six hundred and ninety years old, he was just a mere decade from being seven centuries old, and for his generation, of which very few lived past six hundred, that was a very rare thing. But still, Eitri selfishly wanted Sindri to wake up and get up and put things back to rights. The entire City had devolved into mass chaos and he was almost too afraid to do anything anymore. He had been groped blatantly in the street by passers-by, he'd had a Valkyrie try to kick down his front door, and another had tried to carry him off in full view of two City guards, who had just watched as he'd struggled to get himself free, only managing as such when he'd gotten a good piece of flesh between his teeth and bitten down as hard as he could through clothing. He had tasted blood, but he hadn't stayed still long enough to find out about the severity of the injury, he'd immediately fled back to his home.

Things in the City were going back a few hundred years to when such things were normal and were to be expected, and it had Eitri scared. He wanted to carry on living here, he'd lived in this City for all of his life, and all of his memories were here, the memories of his parents and his Father's twin brother, the Uncle he had loved as a second Father. He was living in the same house, all of their belongings and personal effects were still in all of the rooms. He didn't want to give it up, he shouldn't have to, and he absolutely refused to abandon the younger Faes who had no means of escape if this is what the City was returning to.

But if things truly were going back to how they'd been just a few short centuries before he'd been born, then he would have only one option, and that was to rise up and start a rebellion for the protection of himself, and all other Faes living in the City, or who would be born into it in the future.

He knew the likelihood of success was small, he knew that he would be murdered or even officially executed if things got very bad, but that was the way things were. He would turn himself into a martyr for his beliefs if needed. He would not become some Valkyrie's plaything, to be paraded around and shown off to all of his bonded's friends and family like some pretty, little bauble, unable to remove himself from their presence, not permitted to speak up or protest what was happening to him.

He'd already suffered the grievous indignity and humiliation of a virginity test when he was only thirty, when his vile Uncle Culan had demanded it of him when he had become his guardian. He refused to go through such testing again. He should have the only right to do with his own body as he pleased, he shouldn't be forced to give up the right to decide what happened to his own body for the wishes of others, he should not be forced to deny his own sexual needs because the older generation believed that being a virgin was more valuable and thus worth more, so they could sell their Fae relatives for more, and though he was still a virgin himself, it was not because he placed any value on it at all. It was because he did not trust anyone to come that close to him, to see him that vulnerable and unprotected. He no longer had any sort of hymen, he had made sure to break that himself decades ago, with his own fingers, to stop anyone trying to claim that 'prize' from him, such was his fear of other people. It shouldn't have been needed, he should have been able to say no and have his wishes respected, but there were always vile people within every community, including his own Mother's brother. Who could he trust if he hadn't even been able to trust his own blood not to treat him like an object to be sold off to the highest bidder?

"Eitri, are you well?" Warren asked gently. "Has anyone within this building tried to harm you?"

"No, Warren, I am well." Eitri said distractedly. "It is Sindri, he has not improved overnight."

Warren looked pale and exhausted too, Eitri reasoned that most people were within this nightmare of Sindri's declining health.

"Do you want to go home, Eitri?"

He shook his head, ignoring his bouncing golden curls that shone with the high sun. "I wish to go to the house of worship, Warren. I need to send up a message of health for Sindri. Perhaps the gods will listen this time."

Warren nodded and with a hand on the hilt of his sword, his eyes darting all around and taking in every face they passed, he escorted Eitri out of the healing home and on the walk to the house of worship. It meant walking past the guard barracks and Warren's jaw clenched, his fist tightened on the pommel of the sword that he was carrying, and a vein ticked in his forehead as some of the off-duty guards, his brothers in arms, shouted out sexual comments and lewd remarks to Eitri, who didn't even turn his head and made no notice that he could even hear the comments being shouted at him.

"Say that again and I'll cut your head off!" Warren raged at a particularly vile comment. "Show some restraint and have more respect for a member of the Court!"

"Leave them, Warren." Eitri said calmly. "There is no reasoning with animals. We truly are in dire straits if things are getting this bad within the City. Order needs to be restored, but Donella is being led by her bonded. He is ruling the Court in her place, using her only as a convenient mouthpiece to set up his disgusting fantasy of the City back to how it was a few hundred years ago and she can't even see it, even as his words pour from her mouth condemning all Faes, including herself. She has already become his puppet, his plaything, and I refuse to become the same for anyone."

Warren looked even more stressed then, but Eitri had no time to fret over Warren or his feelings. He needed to focus everything on Sindri and the state of the Court, not just for himself, but for all the Faes who were being threatened and abused. He'd never forgive himself if he let anything distract him from his purpose and a Fae got injured or harmed as a result. He would not lose his objective in this serious matter. To him, this was a matter of life or death, because he could not live with the devolvement of Fae rights, and if he rebelled to change such laws then it would likely mean his death. He was unwilling to compromise, they would not slip backwards in regards to Fae rights, it would not become legal to grope and molest unbonded Faes again, mere children being targeted in the streets. It would not become legal to share a bonded Fae with friends or family members again, and he refused to allow it to become legal once more that a Fae had no rights, no voice, and was legally required to submit to any and all Valkyrie wishes, even those of complete strangers. They would not go back to their past, they would not ever become that ever again. Eitri refused to allow it, he would die for it if necessary.

He steeled his resolve as they reached the house of worship. He took his shoes off before he entered and he stepped into the atrium. He placed his shoes in one of the lock boxes and took the strip of cloth from inside the box and checked it for any damage or tampering. He hiked his trousers up to his knees and then tied the cloth around his own eyes and he stepped forward, into the house of worship proper. He felt Warren beside him and he took half a step closer to him, just in case.

He still jumped when an attendant took his hand and led him slowly to a free grotto. He felt his feet touch the small pool of water and he stepped into it, ignoring the coldness of the icy, clear water that lapped at his ankles.

He reached out and touched the soft petals of the beautiful miniature garden that was grown in these sacred halls. He felt rose, lily, orchid and delphinium under his fingers and he breathed in their mixed scent deeply and the pressure in his chest just eased away, as easily as the wind carried dust. He felt at peace here, and he let that peace wash over him before he thought about Sindri being well again, he thought about his resolve and his need for strength to fight back the creeping darkness. He asked that it never came about, that Sindri recovered from this illness and everything went back to peace and calm, where he wasn't attacked in the streets, where Faes were not again used for sport or mere fun, just an object to improve the lives or pleasures of the bigger, stronger Valkyries.

He had not been alive back in those days, he was only young, he was only one hundred and nine years old, he had not been subjected to this sort of legal treatment before and it was only getting worse. Of course he had been groped and abused before, but it had not been legal and he had been within his rights to kill those attackers to defend himself. If they went backwards, not forwards, then the opposite would be true. It would be perfectly legal for the Valkyries to touch and grope at him, to do whatever they wanted with him, and he would be executed as a murderer if he killed to defend himself and his honour. He could not live in such a world, he refused to do so, yet he refused to give up or abandon the other Faes to such a fate, those both already born and those who had yet to be born.

He felt a spike of heat coming from the ancient, sacred elder tree in the centre of the little grotto that he was standing in and he smiled. The gods agreed with him. He took a deep, cleansing breath and he thought back his confirmation that he'd heard and understood them. The gods did not wish for the Faerie race of this City to devolve back into such chaos. He would fight with his very life if he needed to, so that he could prevent as such from happening. He felt a longer, warmer spike of heat wash over him and he touched the raised flowers surrounding the tree and he smiled. A small wave of water washed over his feet, wetting the bottom of his shins…there was no wind in the house of worship, nothing in the pool of water with him to create such a wave, and he had not moved himself. He took it as another sign from the gods that he was on the right path, on the path that they wanted of him. He took it as a sign that if he carried on fighting, that all would be well. Though he did hope that Sindri got better too and was able to sort out this mess. The pool didn't move, the sacred elder tree didn't heat up, the flowers didn't stir in his hands. He swallowed hard. The next coming moon turns were going to be difficult and painful. He prayed that he had enough strength to see it through to the end, and that even if he did have to die for his ends to be met, that he did accomplish what he set out to do first, or even as a result of his death. He did not want to leave this world with such unfinished business. He didn't want to die in vain.

He stood back from the pool, removing his feet from the water and he waited, several moments later an attendant came to take his hand again, leading him out of the house of worship and back into the atrium, where he pulled off his blindfold immediately, blinking and squinting through the harsh, bright light to try and force his vision back to normal.

Warren was already waiting for him, and he relaxed a little as he opened the lock box and took out his shoes, replacing the soft piece of cloth into the box and turning to sit on one of the provided benches so that he could dry his feet and put on his shoes.

Neither of them spoke as Eitri did this, it was considered taboo to ask after the messages given in the house of worship, though the information could be volunteered up easily enough. Eitri did not feel the need to share his messages, nor the replies that he had received from the sacred elder trees, with anyone.

He stood, made sure his trousers were back to rights, and Warren immediately fell into step beside him as he stepped forward.

"Where to now?" Warren asked lightly.

"Home, Warren. I've had enough of being outside for one day. I need to plan my next move, just in case Donella and her bonded try to pass any more restrictive laws for Faes. How does she not see that what she is doing will also affect her?"

"It won't, Eitri." Warren told him. "Most of the new law reforms she is trying to pass only affect non-bonded Faes."

Eitri made an aggravated noise in the back of his throat. "Only for now." He snapped. "As soon as those reforms pass into law, Talfryn will have her under lock and key and he will take the head of the Court for himself. You know my words to be true, Warren. Perhaps it is only unbonded Fae like myself for now, but as soon as Donella has done as her bonded wants of her, he will strike and take power for himself and she will realise too late what she has done. It needs to stop now, before it gets so far."

Warren nodded. "I agree with you, Eitri, you know that I do. Whatever you need, just ask."

Eitri felt a small flutter in his belly at that, as he always did when Warren declared such things to him, but he ignored it, thankful that his manor home was just at the end of the street to the house of worship.

His home was situated in one of the most affluent, sought after areas of the City, right next to the huge floral gardens that took up a large area of the northwest side of the City. He loved being able to look out of certain windows and see the trees, the flowers, the plants of the gardens right next door.

"Would you come in a moment, Warren?" He asked as they reached his door.

"Has anyone else tried to break in?" Warren demanded, a look of utter fury on his face.

"Not since that one Valkyrie, but I will not feel safe until I have searched all rooms of my home and know for sure that no one has broken in while I've been out."

Warren nodded, a look of furious determination upon his face as he gripped his sword tighter. Eitri adored that Warren took his fears seriously, that he saw unwanted Valkyries in his home as something to cause concern still. He did not want to live to see the day where such a thing was considered normal and to be expected. That he could just come home and there was a stranger in his home waiting to abuse him.

Eitri only breathed easier when all rooms of his home were checked and cleared. He offered Warren some tea and sat opposite him as they both drank.

"What are you plans, Eitri, won't you tell me?" Warren asked. "I don't want to see you get hurt, if I know, maybe I can help you, and help protect you from harm too."

"These are dark and troubling days, Warren. What can we even do to protect the Faes? I could petition to become the head of the Court myself, but I am too anti-social, the people barely know me so why would they cast their vote for me? I know it already, I would not be well received. I am something pretty to look at, and I know many still believe me too young and incapable of sitting on the Court. They will not want me at the head of it. I am too young, too pretty, too controversial and out-spoken about changes that need to be made, yet I'm not social enough for them to know me as a person, and of course, I'm a Fae, one of only a handful that Sindri ever picked to sit the Court and many people still believe it a mistake to have allowed Faes on the Court in the first place, they have no love for me, no reason to vote for me. Our only choice is to convince Kailen to stand, he is the most respected, the more social as a Seelie, and he is well liked by the citizens."

"He will not do it." Warren said, knowing his old friend well. "He refused to stand at the last election as well. He does not want the position."

"He needs to, Warren. We can't let things carry on in this way and we can't have anyone else taking the head of the Court. Perhaps if Amarion were to stand, we could have a chance, but he has already told me that he wants to focus his attentions at home, on the Valkyrie son who is not yet grown and a newly pregnant bonded. I tried to use that as leverage, saying that he might have a Fae next, but he just said that he would protect them from such things and left it at that. No one can see how this is going to destroy everything, Warren. No one can see that no one is going to be safe, I should knock some sense into Amarion, who would look after his bonded and children if he were killed? What then? But no one will listen."

"There must be someone else, Eitri. Azarius or Drennon perhaps?"

"Azarius has been acting suspicious lately." Eitri shook his head. "I think he's secretly enjoying this uncertainty and almost panic. Drennon is a possibility, but I do not trust him, Warren. I cannot trust that if I put my faith in him and put my vote behind him that he will not stab us all in the back as the power goes to his head."

Warren sighed. "Then it has to be Kailen. We have to speak to him, Eitri. We have to make him see that he has to do this for the good of the City. He cannot refuse, not if we bring Leolin into things."

"What does Leolin have to do with things?" Eitri demanded sharply. "He is just a sweet babe who doesn't even live in the City and as an Unseelie, he is more likely to be a Valkyrie regardless."

"Dain and Kailen would do anything to protect him and there is no reason he could not be an Unseelie Fae, look at his Mother, we have been told that male submissive Drackens are very rare, as are Unseelie Faes, but if Leolin's Mother could become a submissive Dracken, why can't Leolin be an Unseelie Fae?" Warren said. "Dain and Kailen are still tentative with Nasta and his family, and though Harry is more accepting of them I can guarantee that if anything were to threaten his son, he would turn on them within the beat of a heart. I cannot believe that Harry, the boy I have come to know, would enjoy any of the details that we could tell him about the state of the City currently. He already knows that something is wrong, he is very intuitive, and he's already showing a divide as he refused to allow Leolin to come here. We could use Leolin as leverage to get Kailen to stand, Eitri. It is not the most honourable way, but if it helps Kailen to realise what he is going to be risking, his own great-grandson…it has to be worth it."

Eitri considered that and he smiled happily. "This could work if we executed it correctly, Warren. Thank you!"

Warren smiled, happy to have made Eitri even slightly less stressed and worried, but he also felt bad for needing to blackmail one of his oldest, most loved friends into doing something that he clearly didn't want to do.

He sighed and lamented that this was even needed at all. That their civilisation was so degenerate that just one person's illness could send them back in the past by three centuries. He worried for Eitri, he worried for the new babes born, for the fate of their City as they went back to what he considered the dark days of the Faerie civilisation, the time that others would call 'the good old days'.

He hoped that they could talk to Kailen and get him agree to stand without needing to resort to blackmailing him with his own family members, but if it was needed, he hoped that all involved forgave him, but this mess needed to be sorted out and soon. The Faes didn't deserve to live in fear and they were not objects to be played with and forced to do what the Valkyries around them wanted them to do. They were living people and they deserved all the respect given to others for that alone. They shouldn't have any restrictions or conditions placed upon them just because of the denomination they were born as. Warren, as a Valkyrie himself, could see this, he just didn't understand how anyone else could see a Fae and see someone to be used and hurt and then discarded as if they were nothing.

It was very upsetting and distressing for him, he could not even imagine how the Faes felt at the moment, knowing that in several moon turns they could be going back to that way of life, that they could be hurt, abused or silenced on the merest whim of the Valkyries around them and Warren was not sure that enough Valkyries thought like he did to ensure the safety of all the Faes in the City.

Too many Valkyries were over three hundred, too many of them remembered and had lived through this before, back when the Faes were subject to the will of their Valkyrie family members, or their Valkyrie bonded. Warren knew that not all of them wanted to go back to that time, himself included, despite being Valkyries and having all of the 'power' so to say, over the Faes, but Warren had never wanted to control another person so wholly and completely. He had never wanted to make himself seem as more by crushing another person underfoot. In fact he believed that doing as such made him seem lesser, and he had always treated Faes as people, the same as he treated other Valkyries.

He saw it as normal, as natural to do so, he saw all people as equal and he absolutely refused to believe that any one person was more or lesser based on their gender or their denomination. Such a thought made him feel sick, to know that people actually believed such things, but it was only through education and progression that such thoughts and beliefs could be changed. Not by going backwards and devolving into what they used to be centuries before. There were just not enough young Faeries, either Fae or Valkyrie, to stand up against the older generations who were more numerous and who had lived through this period of darkness before. Those over three hundred outnumbered those who were under three hundred by a considerable amount, they were too long lived a species for it to be otherwise and with the lack of births, and even less babies born reaching adulthood from a combination of illnesses, epidemics like the dragon pox outbreak just several moon turns ago, and even from the occasional Drow attacks, the numbers of the young Faeries had taken massive blows.

Warren sighed and looked at the furiously writing Eitri, who was putting all of his thoughts and plans to parchment. He was happy to have given Eitri something to work with, a bit of hope, some light in the coming darkness, but that it was at the expense of his friend made everything a little more sour, less palatable. He hated that they would have to force Kailen to stand as the head of the Court in order to protect the Faes of their City, but there was no one else that they could explicitly trust to carry on Sindri's painstaking, life's work of equalising the Faes and the Valkyries. Warren hoped that Dain and Kailen forgave him, and he hoped that Harry, Nasta and their family forgave him and Eitri for using Leolin as a leverage tool for blackmail. He sighed, how he wished that none of this was needed, how he wished that the Faerie race had come along more than to immediately go back to past traditions and practices at the first sign of Sindri's death. It truly said a lot about their species as a whole, and none of it was good.

Harry kept his cool and his calm in the face of all the things being said and thrown at him, and despite the awful, invasive questions, he answered all of them, sometimes with just a small pause for a breath first, but he always answered and there were no more comments from Vernon, who had clearly been told by his lawyer how disastrous his outburst had looked for his defence.

The lawyer, Mister Chorley, had moved on from the pudding incident to when he had 'attacked' his cousin Dudley when they were fifteen. Harry assumed this was meant to be the 'anti-Harry' Dementor incident.

"Dudley was sick on the way home." Harry said simply. "I don't understand how you believe I made him sick when I myself was not sick, or how that would have been my fault even if I had been sick. I came across him as we were both heading the same way and I helped him home."

"Yes, you helped the boy that you have accused of terrorising you. Why would you do that if it were true, Mister Potter?"

"Objection, this incident shows the caring character of my client and does not prove him to be a liar." Richard interjected smoothly.

"Dudley was sick. He'd even vomited on his own leather jacket. I just helped him home and tried to explain what had happened…that Dudley had been sick, but they didn't listen. They were adamant that I had made him that way, but how could I have possibly made him ill?" Harry asked. "They…they threatened to throw me out of the house for that."

"For context, you were only fifteen at this time, weren't you? A minor." Richard asked him gently.

Harry nodded. "Yes, that incident was on August the second, I had turned fifteen two days before."

Mister Chorley looked very uncomfortable with Richard's smooth interference. Then Richard's interjection was not good at all for his clients. It made them look like the monsters they truly were.

Harry remained calm, he made sure to keep his words clear and precise, as Draco had instructed, and he tried not to fall into any word traps or into muddling sentences. If he took a few moments to himself, nothing was said about it. He believed himself to be doing better than the Dursleys had, with their silences or their outbursts, but he truly didn't know. He didn't look at the Jury often, though he tried not to look at them at all because they made him nervous, but he couldn't tell anything from their faces. For members of the public, they were surprisingly good at keeping their thoughts and reactions to themselves.

"Are you not going to answer my question, Mister Potter?" The lawyer snapped.

Harry thought that this was rather rich, seeing as he had obviously coached his clients to remain quiet through most of Richard's cross-examination.

"I was going to before you rushed me." Harry answered. He took another moment's pause to take another breath. "I did not leave the house that night, I left four days later to go to a friend's house for the rest of the summer."

"So you were not, in effect, thrown from the house?"

"Because Petunia stepped in and refused to allow him to do it, she said it would look bad if the neighbours saw me. I was locked in my bedroom from that night until I was picked up four days later, on the sixth."

"Just for clarification, you were not allowed out of your room, and in an emergency, you could not have gotten yourself out of that room, could you?" Richard cut in smoothly.

"No, the padlocks were bolted from the outside, I couldn't have gotten out." Harry said softly. "I had to be let out and that was only once a day, to use the bathroom…if they remembered."

Mister Chorley looked angry at Richard's questions and Harry remembered the man who had threatened Richard before, when they'd been out in the corridor. It seemed that Richard was rather unpopular with his opposition, and it made Harry worry for the man. He calmed himself and he remembered what Richard had told him about being a Dracken against human Muggles. Richard would be able to take them all, he wasn't just a mild mannered lawyer with a stern voice. He was a Dracken, he had claws, fangs and wings. He could attack and defend himself, or get away if he needed to. Harry sighed and he cast a quick glance at the watch on his wrist. Court would be concluded soon, it wouldn't usually go over two in the afternoon and that was approaching quickly.

He wanted to go home, he wanted to cuddle with his babies and have a long Nasta cwtch with all of his mates. He'd had enough of this day, enough of the stress and he was starting to feel sick. This entire court case needed to be over sooner rather than later, before he had an episode of morning sickness, or he started showing his new baby. Thankfully it was just his cross-examination left, then the Jury would deliberate and very soon, Harry hoped that this would be over and he would be free, that he would get his justice and the Dursleys would be in prison, where they belonged.

Thankfully he was correct on the one front and very soon the court was called to a close for the day and Harry was able to leave the stand and go to Richard, as he packed up his work case and then escorted him from the courtroom.

"You did so well, baby." Richard praised him. "Let's go and get you home and take some of this stress from you, you were so brave and so strong. I can't wait to tell those boys of yours, and Myron, just how well you did today on that stand."

Harry almost puffed himself up in pride at that. Something he usually only did when his babies were praised.

Richard chuckled and hugged him tight.

"Come on, sweetie, let's get you home." Richard smiled and led him out and to the alleyway they used as an Apparation point.

It was a relief to Harry to see home again and he took in a deep breath, letting out all the stress and the panic he had felt in the courtroom. He felt better immediately, just by being home.

He got out his key and let himself in and he was immediately greeted by Max's stern words of 'No, Braiden, do not play in the bin.'

Harry shared a look with Richard and he shook his head.

"Braiden, I said get out of that bin!" Max said.

Harry walked into the kitchen to see Max up to his elbows in soapy water in the sink and Braiden was indeed playing with the bin. Even as Harry watched Braiden pulled it over, sending rubbish all over the floor.

"Need a hand?" Harry chuckled.

"It's not funny. I told him several times to leave that bin alone and now look!" Max said.

"I've got it." Harry said as he went and fished Braiden out of the rubbish. He took the two year old straight to the clean corner of the room and sat him on the floor. "Your Daddy Max told you not to play with the bin, you didn't listen, Braiden, so now you stay here in time out until I come to get you."

"Mummy, want hug!" Braiden told him.

"No, you sit in time out." Harry told him, standing up and moving away. Braiden immediately followed him. "No, you stay in time out." Harry insisted, moving Braiden back into the corner and getting up again. Braiden started crying, but he didn't move.

"I've got him from here, thank you, love." Max said, wiping his hands on a tea towel as Richard finished putting the bin back to rights with a spell.

"I'm going to get changed. Remember, we said that it had to be two minutes of quiet, it doesn't count as a time out if he's crying."

Max kissed him and then took over Braiden's time out, though he asked if Richard wanted some tea and a chat first and Harry went to get changed into something cooler.

Blaise was in bed when he went stomping into the bedroom and Harry immediately stopped and quietened down. He cursed Max for not telling him that Blaise was in bed.

Harry eased the drawer out and picked up boxers, shorts and a tee-shirt before he tiptoed into the bathroom to get changed. He wasn't in court tomorrow, so his suit went straight into the laundry bin and he immediately felt the relief of the cool air.

He automatically checked his belly for any bumps, but nine and a half weeks pregnant and he still wasn't showing. He patted his belly and smiled. Soon, but not just yet.

He left the bathroom and he tiptoed back past Blaise and he shut the bedroom door after himself. He was going to kick Max for not telling him that Blaise was sleeping. He really hoped his mate was alright, it was worrying to know that Blaise was still recovering, as he himself was, but Harry calmed himself, it was likely just another of Blaise's headaches and he'd gone to bed with a headache reliever.

"Why didn't you say that Blaise was in bed?" Harry asked Max when he reached the kitchen. He had Braiden on his lap and Richard was sipping his tea, those brown eyes lit up at the hint of a normal family spat.

"Mummy!" Braiden called out as soon as he walked into the room and Max held their son out to him.

Harry put Braiden on his hip, holding him close, but he looked to Max for an answer, Max who actually, physically face palmed himself.

"I was so busy running around that I forgot he was even up there." Max groaned. "Sorry, Harry. Is he okay?"

"He's still asleep. Thankfully I noticed him immediately, before I started tearing open drawers. Did he have another headache?"

"Yeah, Calix smashed one of those toy aeroplanes into the back on his head when he was playing with Eva on the floor. The headache came on soon after. Calix did have a time out for that. I know you said not until they were two, but that was a little more than just pushing boundaries, he knew exactly what he was doing and that it would hurt."

Harry was already nodding his agreement. "Calix is getting so naughty lately. Do you think he's not getting enough attention?"

"I'm sure this is just normal toddler behaviour." Max assured him. "We spend quality time with all of them, love. He's just boundary pushing, like Braiden."

"Mummy, I want potty." Braiden told him. Harry was so excited that he almost fell over the chair in his haste to stand up and get Braiden to one of the three potties floating around their house.

He hurried into the family room and he mostly ignored the greetings and screeches from his other babies as he found the white potty in amongst the toys on the floor. He pulled the teddy off of it, placed Braiden down and pulled down his little shorts for him.

Braiden did the rest as an excited Harry watched. Max and Richard had come in with him, Nasta and Draco had looked over and then stood as soon as they realised what was happening and Harry wanted to burst out crying in pride as he heard the soft, little tinkle of Braiden using the potty.

"He's doing it!" He said tearfully.

"Bay doing potty." Regan said, looking at Braiden and then to Tegan.

"That's right, Regan." Nasta said. "Braiden's using the potty like a big boy."

Braiden stood up and Harry smothered him in kisses. He was all but bursting with pride.

"Well done, Braiden." Harry said, sniffing hard.

Max chuckled behind him and Harry felt a hand rake through his hair, He turned a beaming smile up to Max before looking back to Braiden, who was pulling his own shorts up.

"Let's go get your hands washed, Baban." Nasta said proudly, as he took Braiden's hand and the full potty in his other and he led Braiden to the bathroom.

Harry sniffed again and he wiped at his damp eyes. He was just so proud. Even Draco looked teary at this new milestone.

"He asked after the potty himself." Harry said, a smile on his mouth.

Max hugged him and Harry pulled him down by the collar of his tee-shirt to kiss him.

"You boys do know that just because he did it once, doesn't mean it's all plain sailing from now on, don't you?" Richard pipped up.

"Thank you, Mister optimistic." Max said. "We know that, Dad, and though it's not the first time he's used it, it is the first time he's asked to use it himself. He's getting better at recognising the urge to urinate. He will have accidents, he might even go through a rebellious stage and refuse to use it, but today he asked to use it and we're very proud of him for that."

Richard chuckled. "Well, as I was saying to you, I was very proud of how Harry conducted himself on the stand today. He did really well and he deserves some pampering to relax him."

"Well we can certainly manage that." Max said, swaying lightly with Harry and bending right down to nibble at his neck. It made him giggle.

"I'll see you boys later, I'm going to go tell Myron that our Braiden is getting such a big boy and is using the potty by himself." Richard said, moving to hug Harry, he ruffled Max's hair and then he left them to it.

Harry heard him say goodbye to Nasta in the hallway, he heard the bright praise for Braiden, and then his mate and oldest son were back in the room, Nasta holding the washed out potty, which was put back on the floor.

"My Dad said that Harry needs rewarding for today, Nas." Max said. "He did really well under the pressure of being on the stand."

"Have you offered him tea?" Nasta asked as he came to join their hug.

"Oh hell, no, I haven't! Harry, I'm sorry." Max said. "I'll get that now."

"Sit down, you're so out of sorts today." Nasta said, muscling Max down onto the settee and then chiding Harry onto his lap to keep him sat down. "I'll get you both a cup of tea. Draco, do you want one, Caru?"

"Please, Nasta." Draco asked from where he was playing a game with the kids.

Harry wriggled on Max's lap and he grinned at the groan his biggest mate let out.

"Today has been good."

"Did you at least have lunch today?" Max asked.

Harry nodded. "The biggest burger you could imagine with all the trimmings." He said happily. "It was amazing!"

"Your healthy craze is over then?" Max teased.

"No, I don't think so. But a bit of greasy goodness now and then is needed!"

Max snorted and then surprised Harry with a kiss to the side of the head. Harry chuckled and then he reached down for Calix when their boisterous boy clamoured at Max's feet for him.

"How have they been?" He asked, even though he knew they'd have been fine.

"Wonderful. Calix has been good, besides smashing a toy into Blaise's head of course. Farren had a fit when we stopped him from eating Regan's lunch, Braiden was playing in the bin, as you know, and we think the rest of Leolin's tooth is pushing through because he went cherry cheeked and started rubbing at his cheeks and chewing on his fingers. A bit of the powder that Kailen brought us did wonders and he's sleeping it off."

"I was wondering where he was, is he in his cot?"

Max nodded. "He's sleeping up in the quiet with Blaise. The poor things, they're both tuckered out."

Harry chuckled, but he was distracted by Calix clambering back off of him and back to the floor, where he ran off towards the mass of toys. Nasta came in just a moment later carrying the tea tray. There were four mugs on it and half a dozen beakers of fruit squash.

Harry reached forward and snatched the mug that smelt the sweetest.

"How did you know that one was yours?" Nasta asked.

"It smelt sweeter." Harry said as he took a big gulp of his honey tea.

"Oh, here comes the elevated sense of smell, no one will be able to get away with farting in bed now." Max laughed.

"You're the only one who does that anyway." Draco was quick to point out.

"Forgive me for being raised by barbarians and not having a proper upbringing." Max laughed.

Harry snorted into his tea before taking another mouthful.

"So was court okay? Dad mentioned that there was a moment that you were scared." Max asked him gently.

Harry frowned and looked into the depths of his cup. "Yeah. Vernon shouted at me when I was on the stand and it took me right back to my childhood when he'd shove his flabby, red face into mine and shout at me from an inch away while he'd grip my hair in a fist. I needed to take a break after that, so Richard asked for an early lunch."

Max petted him, as Nasta and Draco both frowned.

"But you're okay now?" Draco asked.

Harry nodded. "I calmed down over lunch and Richard got me laughing again. Everything was fine after lunch, there were no more outbursts or anything."

"I'm glad. We'll keep everything calm for you now, love." Draco said. "Just relax. You're not in court tomorrow?"

Harry shook his head. "No. I was actually relieved to get that damn suit off, my back was actually dripping. It's so uncomfortable being in that suit, in that courtroom, in this heat, while two months pregnant."

"Over two months pregnant." Max pointed out, placing his hand on Harry's belly.

Harry grinned. "I can't wait to meet our ninth child." He said excitedly.

"I'm just happy that it is only the one child, so that the pressure and stress is off of you." Nasta said, sitting down and snatching his own cup of green tea from the tray.

Harry nodded his agreement. "Very soon this case will be over. Richard thinks another week of the actual case, then will come the sentencing. It could be over before the end of September." He said nervously.

"You have nothing to fret over. They're guilty, Harry. This case is literally only to decide how long in prison they'll face." Max told him. "It's not a case of them getting off, or being spared jail, they won't. You will get your needed justice."

Harry smiled then, a little nervously still, but he nodded. He was worried about getting too complacent, or getting his hopes up, but he knew, on some level, that this case was purely to determine the length of the sentence, there was too much evidence against them for any of the Jury to find them not guilty. He calmed himself down, everything was fine and everything was going to stay fine, he was sure. It was all going to be alright.

Harry took the time to relax over the next few days and as Max's birthday approached, he felt much calmer.

It had gotten hotter again and he was sitting out on the back porch with Farren in his lap, stroking his son's back as he looked out over the grass as Max and Blaise had a football match with four toddlers. Draco was cradling Leolin next to Harry and Nasta was feeding both girls in the kitchen, Harry could hear him talking to them in both English and Welsh through the open kitchen window behind him.

"Muma." Farren murmured.

"I know, I'm here. I got lost in thought, I'm sorry." Harry explained, even as he started up his stroking again, running his hand from Farren's rather long hair, over his neck and down his back.

"How are you feeling now?" Draco asked him.

Harry grimaced at the reminder that he'd had a bad bout of morning sickness only a few hours ago, shortly after he'd eaten lunch.

"Better now, but that was a bad bout. This new baby certainly is making waves. It feels like a thunder storm inside me."

"You said that before." Draco mused. "Maybe you should call the baby thunder."

Harry laughed. "That would certainly be fitting, and more attractive than calling the baby puke."

"Please don't call the baby puke." Draco begged.

Harry laughed harder. "I won't, not even my Dracken side could imprint that name to a baby, no matter how forceful or thunderous the morning sickness was. Maybe I should call the baby Thor, you know, Norse god of thunder." He joked.

Draco saw the funny side of that and he laughed.

"What are you two laughing over?" Nasta asked as he carried the two girls out the back door and over to them at the seating area.

"What we're going to call the new baby." Harry said with a smile. "They're going to be named after my stormy morning sickness."

Nasta chuckled and shook his head. "How are you feeling now?"

"Better, more settled." Harry said, even as he carried on stroking Farren's back.

"Good. Do you want to try sipping some water first?"

Harry considered that. He sighed and shook his head. "Not just yet. I think the thunderer will protest."

Draco snorted and Harry gave him a grin. Maybe he should start looking up all the different variations of baby names that meant thunder, for boys and girls, just in case the theme stuck. He was certainly growing to the idea of naming the baby thunder, purely because of the rather explosive bouts of morning sickness he was experiencing and the rumbling and crashing of his stomach whenever he had a bout of morning sickness. It certainly wasn't the best feeling in the world.

"Max, it's getting late, the kids need to wash up for dinner." Nasta called out, shielding his eyes to look out over the garden in the bright sun glare.

"Alright!" Max called back as he slowed to a walk from the gentle jog he'd adopted to run the kids about after the football.

"I can't wait for him to see that obstacle course." Harry giggled.

"It looks like your fantasy of covering it in washing up liquid in the rain is going to come true." Nasta said. "It looks like rain is coming in."

Harry clapped his hands. "It'll make the competition so much more fun!" He declared.

"It's a good way to giving someone a broken neck." Draco grumbled.

"You don't have to take part." Harry insisted. "But Max will love it, you know he will."

"Of course he will." Draco chuckled. Harry sent him a wide grin.

"Come on, go inside." Nasta told them. "I'll get you some tea and I'll see if Max wants a hand with dinner."

"I don't." Max said as he jogged up the porch steps. "Especially not from you, no offence lover, but you cannot cook."

"I can cut and peel vegetables and things!" Nasta insisted.

Max laughed and pulled Nasta into a kiss. "You can, but I don't need help, I promise. Just keep our mates happy, keep our kids happy and I'll do the rest."

Nasta sighed, but he smiled and acquiesced with a hand gesture for Max to precede him into the house.

"Alright, but only because I don't want to ruin dinner and have you start it all over again, or order takeaway."

"Thank you for the consideration, my love." Max said with a grin and he headed into the house.

Harry stood and he sighed, watching Blaise herd four toddlers into the house. Harry followed with Farren, Draco brought in a sleeping Leolin and then Nasta brought up the rear with the twin girls both sat on the same forearm. They really were still tiny little things, despite being almost eight months old. They were due for another dragon pox vaccine next month. Draco had booked them in just the other day. Harry was not looking forward to that, not one bit.

He settled on the settee in the larger family room and he placed Farren on the floor. He still run his fingers through his son's hair, but if Farren wanted to go and play, then the option was there for him without him having to clamber down from the settee too.

Nasta brought in the tea and Harry happily accepted his own mug and drank deeply. He loved days like this, where he didn't have to do anything, where he could just play with his children all day and do what he pleased. There were no court dates, nothing he needed to do, he could just relax and settle in as a little homebody, with his amazing growing family around him. It was perfect.

September carried on bright, but mild as Max's birthday approached. It was almost impossible to talk about their plans, as Max popped up everywhere trying to listen in, almost like a young child at Christmas.

It was adorable, but Harry was ultimately glad that they had started planning his birthday in August, as he was so excited to know what they were doing that he was going to ruin his own surprise. They'd already roped in Myron and Richard to oversee the inflatable obstacle course being set up, while the five of them had a nice, romantic meal in a very posh restaurant the night before Max's birthday, on the Saturday. It was not The Garnet Swan, true to their grudge, they had refused to eat there again after the disaster of their Valentine's meal two years before.

Their children were going to, Merlin forbid, Idris and Aneirin, who had agreed to watch over the kids at Idris' home, to keep them away from the inflatable work in the garden for Max's actual birthday, which was on the Sunday. They had already sent out the invitations, this was done easily as Max had had to go to work yesterday for three hours, to invite all the family to the obstacle challenge, they had included strict messages to not tell Max about said obstacle course as it was going to be a surprise. They had left the challenge off of the invite to Caesar and Amelle, not because they didn't trust Caesar not to tell his brother, but because Harry wanted the obstacle course to be a surprise for him too, so that he would be in the same infectious mood as Max. The two of them were always better when they were on the same page. Harry really, really wanted it to stay a surprise too, he wanted to see Max's face when he saw it for the first time. He'd have a few hours to play on it, and to assumedly challenge his loving mates, before their guests started arriving.

But for today Harry was staying close to home. Or rather he was staying close to the bathroom, the toilet in particular, as every single smell, every motion was making him feel sick. He was ten and a half weeks pregnant, Max's birthday was at the end of the week, in just three days, and he could barely take a breath without running for the toilet.

Eggs had been banned, as had fish, cheese, all fried foods and much to Blaise's ire, coffee. Harry could barely stand to be around any of those smells and he knew that Blaise was sneaking a coffee now and then up in one of the spare bedrooms, trying to get his fix, while still being considerate to Harry's rather delicate condition. Harry really appreciated the gesture and he made sure that Blaise knew that Harry was both sorry and grateful for his sacrifice.

He'd been in court twice, but even that was getting to be a bit too much as he faced the Dursley's lawyer as they had faced Richard, going through all the accusations and evidence to try and poke holes in them, to try and prove him a deluded little liar, and all the while he had to try to hold onto his stomach, and his rather haywire emotions too. Thankfully he was able to take as much calming draught as he needed, despite being pregnant, as the potion didn't affect the baby. Even so, he knew that his mates were worried, he was worried too, about the effect all of the stress was having on their ninth baby, especially after his first scan, when Healer Almus had told them that the baby had an elevated heartbeat thanks to the stress he was under. Because of that he was trying to keep his days as nice and calm as possible, relaxing at home as much as he could. It had been lovely, wonderful to have so much rest and relaxation, but while he was in court, it just wasn't enough to combat the stress of being on the stand, of defending himself from any attempt to justify the abuse that he had suffered through as a child. He couldn't wait for it all to be over.

"Would some tea calm the thunderer down?" Draco asked him.

That made Harry smile, it was a small, almost pained smile, as his belly was very tender from all of the vomiting, but it was a true smile nonetheless.

"I'm not sure what will help at this point." He said miserably.

Draco fluttered around him, unsure what to do, but clearly wanting to do something. All of his mates were doing the same lately. They wanted to help him, to take it away from him, especially when he declared that he didn't feel well enough to eat, the worst of that had been two days ago, when he'd gone the entire day without eating anything and only sipping on water occasionally. Max had almost been beside himself with worry, but Harry had woken up the next morning ravenous and he'd eaten two bowls of cereal, three rounds of unbuttered toast and half a pack of rich tea biscuits. He'd eaten a sandwich for lunch that day and that had been when the morning sickness had hit him.

That had been yesterday and today was turning out to be more of the same, as he was back to not eating and what little he did eat, only came back up. He had taken to rubbing soft circles on his belly to calm his little thunderer down.

"Do you want some more water?" Draco asked him.

"Yes, okay." Harry agreed, just so that Draco could feel like he was actually doing something, as he didn't think that it would help at all. He sighed as Draco went into the kitchen and he pet his belly some more. "You need to settle down, thunderer. You can't grow big and strong if you don't let me eat and drink."

Draco brought him a glass of water and Harry sipped at it, praying that it didn't set him off again. Everything was rather tentative, but it didn't bode well for Max' birthday dinner in a few days. At this rate he would be banning all strong smells and sitting and watching his four mates eating between bouts of dashing to and from the bathroom. He hated the very thought of it, because he didn't want to ruin Max's birthday dinner, but as things were now, he just couldn't see any other alternative. He was struggling to keep water down and Nasta had told him that if it continued, then he'd be calling Healer Almus.

Harry wasn't too aggrieved at that, if it carried on then he'd call the Healer himself as he was as worried as his mates, but he knew his body well enough by now to know that he wasn't in any danger just yet. He wasn't feeling weak or dizzy, he was a little more tired than usual, but he wasn't worried about that. He was just miserable more than anything. Miserable that he couldn't eat, miserable that he couldn't drink anything other than water, miserable that this pregnancy was so unsettling. He once again patted his belly to calm his thunderer down. If this carried on then he would see if Healer Almus could help him, either with some tips and advice, or perhaps with a potion, but he was adamant that he would not ruin Max's birthday. If the worst came to the worst then he would ask his mates to go without him, at least that way they could enjoy themselves and he could be where he needed to be. Hugging the toilet.

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