The soothing, comforting rumble of their top dominant almost instantly eased him into sleep and finally something in the back of his brain switched off. His body relaxed and he sunk into the mattress, into the bodies surrounding him, holding him. This hadn't been exactly what he'd wanted, but it had been what he'd needed and now he was relaxed enough to sleep and rest. He would need it for their zoo visit in four days.
Chapter One Hundred-Thirty-Three – Zoo Babies
Harry tirelessly walked Taren back and forth over the living room carpet, his heart breaking at the distressed wails and snuffly cries of his four-month-old infant. Taren had had his second dragon pox vaccine just half an hour ago and Harry was trying to reassure him and comfort him with limited success.
"Everything is alright now, Taren." He said, stroking a tiny back before moving to tap a nappy-clad bottom.
Taren stopped crying for a moment as Harry's touch moved, then he started grizzling into Harry's neck again.
"Shh, my love." Harry said softly, soothingly. "I know it hurts right now, but it won't last, I promise. I don't like the dragon pox vaccine either, but it'll keep you safe. I won't have you dying from a preventable disease."
"How's he doing?" Draco asked, popping his head in on them.
Harry just shook his head, still shushing Taren and murmuring to him.
"Do you want to tap out?" Draco offered.
"Not just yet." Harry said. "I just…I can't leave him knowing he's this upset. I know it's just a bruised arm, a little soreness, but I still don't like it."
Draco came to walk with him, an arm around him to show solidarity. A large hand stroked over Taren's little head.
"If there was any other way…"
"Oh, I'm not complaining about them needing the vaccines. I know that they're needed. I would never forgive myself if I chose not to vaccinate and then lost one of my babies to dragon pox, I just feel so helpless. How do I help them through this part?"
Draco kissed his cheek as they came to a stop and Harry bounced Taren lightly.
"It doesn't last. He'll cry himself to sleep soon enough and when he wakes up he'll be a little grumpy, he'll maybe have a slight fever, but by tomorrow he'll be perfectly fine and one step closer to being fully immune from dragon pox."
Harry smiled and started pacing again, patting Taren's bottom rhythmically.
"We'll be at the zoo in two days." Draco reminded.
Harry knew the change in subject was a ploy to take his mind from Taren's upset, but it still worked. After a family meeting, as they called it when they gathered around the kitchen table to discuss important matters, which they'd started doing after a suggestion from their group therapist to try it, they had talked everything out. His mates were naturally nervous about going to such a public place now they knew that he was newly pregnant. It was dangerous. Dracken pregnancies were notoriously delicate and all it would take was one strong knock from a stranger and they might lose their tenth baby.
The option had come up of postponing until next year, but it was a half-hearted suggestion at best. All of the planning had been done, days had been booked off of work, Leolin's playdate had been set up, and they all knew how much Harry had been excited about it. So none of them wanted to be the one to burst that bubble by insisting that they didn't go.
So, they had gathered around the kitchen table and they had talked it out, actually sat and discussed it like rational adults. Harry would forever be thankful to their therapist for suggesting this method to them, he very much preferred it to the past shouting matches across whichever room they happened to be in.
After a few hours of suggestions and talks, of giving word to fears and desires, it had been decided as a group that they would still be going to the zoo, but that Nasta was going to shadow his every step and keep everyone away from him, just in case.
It hadn't all been about him either. After they had come to the group decision that they would still be going, they had also discussed rest stops, distraction techniques for over-excited toddlers, and when best to sit down and allow those wound-up toddlers to have a nap. It had also been decided that Max was going to be the one to wear the baby sling all day and carry Taren with him. Being the tallest, it was less likely that anyone would walk into him by accident, and thus harm Taren. Their newborn would be safer with Max, who was still his 'favourite' as he just loved those broad shoulders, so he would be more settled with Max too.
"Is Nasta still outside building the tree houses?" Harry asked.
Draco nodded. "Yeah, Max went out to help him by holding some wood in place, I think. I don't know why they don't just use more magic, it would be done quicker."
Harry chuckled. "I think it's because Nasta uses it as stress relief. He likes woodworking and he likes using his hands. I mean, he gives us those hand-carved wooden love spoons every January. He says it means more that it was handmade, so I think he's doing the same with these treehouses. That, and as I said, he uses it as stress relief."
Draco frowned, then nodded. "Yeah, you're right, that's probably what it is."
"Just let him carry on as he sees fit. We don't want the kids on them before they're four anyway. Have you been out to see that first one? It's huge!"
"It's so we can fit in them too, right?" Draco asked.
Harry nodded. "They're big enough to hold Max. Hell, they're big enough for Myron too."
"I'm sure the kids will never want to come off them."
Harry snorted, then chuckled. "No doubt. Daddy Nasta's gift next year is going to trump anything we try to give to them. So, socks and clothes for everyone."
Draco laughed, then wrapped an arm back around him. Taren had seemingly settled and Harry was relieved as he took the four-month-old back into the family living room, where Blaise was a little overwhelmed by the remaining eight babies.
"Oh, he's finally asleep?" Blaise asked.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, finally. Our poor boy cried himself to sleep."
Harry went and placed Taren into his bassinet, covering him over with a light blanket and then turning back to his other babies.
He went and sat by Regan, pulling his little boy back into his lap and then playing with him.
"Harry, do you want tea?" Blaise asked him.
"Going to sneak a coffee while Nasta's away?" Harry teased.
"Do you want tea or not?" Blaise asked.
"Yes, please." Harry nodded with a chuckle.
Harry went back to playing, trying to ease the little toddlers away from meltdowns or tantrums as someone took a toy that a sibling was playing with, doling out timeouts, and trying to keep everyone happy with the help of Draco and Blaise while Max and Nasta, despite doing manual labour outside, got a break from parenting duties for a bit.
It was getting very close now to their little zoo trip and truly, Harry was exceptionally excited about it. He wanted to be able to enjoy the zoo like a normal person this time and not spend the entire trip feeling like a burden or like he was just in the way. He wouldn't be starving all day, with only half an ice cream and a lemon ice lolly to eat, nor would he be creeping about, looking over his shoulder for where the Dursleys were or expecting pain. He smiled to himself, then threw himself into playing baby games. It wouldn't be long now, just two more days.
It was almost like Christmas for him, as Harry woke up very early on the tenth of June out of sheer excitement. There was no way he was going to get back to sleep now, not knowing that very soon they'd be going to the zoo. He knew he would crash later out of sheer exhaustion, but he didn't care.
He slipped out of the bed, picked up Taren from his bassinet and he took him down into the kitchen and instead of trying to get more sleep, he started setting everything up ready for later. They were going to go early, so that they had a full day to enjoy the zoo, but it depended on when the kids woke up, as none of them wanted to deal with a grumpy toddler because they had been woken up unnaturally, though with some luck the kids would sleep in the car.
But, it was difficult for him not to wake anyone up as he made himself breakfast, set up a bottle to cool for Taren and made himself tea.
Max had spent yesterday evening making up sandwiches and snacks, packing cool bags with juice and bottles of water, while Nasta helped him by cutting up fruit and vegetables for handy snacks.
The first aid kit had been checked and then packed under the large pram they were taking with them, which would be used for Taren's nap times and for carrying all the bags they needed, seeing as nearly all of their babies were still in nappies and none of them wanted to carry an arm full of bags around the zoo all day.
Almost too excited to eat, Harry put his breakfast on the kitchen table, took a drink of tea, then started eating. If any morning sickness came after then he would take an anti-sickness potion too, nothing was going to ruin today for him.
"You are up too early, you're going to be knackered later." Max said, coming from the doorway to kiss him, before yawning and making a beeline for the kettle.
"I'm so excited, Max!" Harry declared happily and he was so overjoyed that Max turned to give him a smile, happy just to see him happy.
"We'll wake up now, get everything sorted, double-check that we've packed everything, get Leolin over to Ezrah and Lathen, and we'll be on the road before eight…hopefully."
Max came to sit beside him with a cup of strong coffee and Harry recoiled a little from the strong smell.
"Oh, fuck, is it too much? You've been so good with your morning sickness that I forgot for a moment that you even had it!" Max said, moving the cup away from him and going to stand.
Harry grabbed his wrist to keep him sitting beside him.
"I'm okay." He said. "I had a small twinge but it's passed. I was going to take one of my anti-sickness potions anyway, I don't want that ruining my day. I don't want anything to ruin today."
"Should I get it down for you?"
Harry nodded and he breathed a little easier when Max took the coffee away from him. It wasn't making him overwhelmingly sick, but there had definitely been a little something there that was reminding him that it was a fine knife edge between being completely okay and puking his guts up all morning.
"Here you go, love. Down it in one and I'll get you some juice."
Harry took the vial of potion, uncorked the top, and then upended the bottle into his mouth. One hard, painful swallow that brought tears to his eyes and a taste that made him toss his head in reflexive disgust and it was gone.
He took the glass of chilled pumpkin juice gratefully, gulping it down, trying to get rid of that horrific aftertaste.
"There you go. Now your day won't be spoiled by any bouts of morning sickness from our little one here."
Of course, Max's hand reached down and cupped his belly. Harry sighed and placed his own hand over Max's and pressed it more firmly for a moment.
"I'm so excited, Max."
"I can tell. I mean, actually getting up early enough to have eaten a big breakfast? You must have been up at five."
"Quarter to." Harry said with a grin.
"You are going to sleep tonight." Max laughed.
"Oh, I'm counting on it. A good, exciting day, a nice early night, a long sleep, and tomorrow I'll feel a million times better."
Max smiled at that and bent to kiss him.
"You might want to grab a shower now, while the kids are still asleep. I'm going to get breakfast started. Nasta was in the shower when I got up, so I know he's awake."
"It's almost time!" Harry squealed like he was still a child, and in many ways…in experiences at least, he actually was.
He hurried to the downstairs bathroom, while Max laughed at him.
"Was that Harry? Is he okay?" Nasta asked, looking over his shoulder at the blur that had rushed passed him.
"Yeah, he's very excited." Max chuckled.
Nasta shook his head and went to greet Max with a hug and a kiss.
"You can do better than that." Max told him, his voice turning deeper.
"There's nothing we can do until later." Nasta warned him, but even so, he pulled Max into him tighter, reaching up those two inches to kiss Max properly, more thoroughly.
"Merlin, I love your kisses." Max sighed.
Nasta laughed and squeezed Max's ribs gently. "I just love you." He announced.
"I love you too." Max assured him. "But your kisses are something else. Let me have another one."
Nasta laughed, but he obliged Max's wishes. Kissing him twice more, before they finally separated.
"You really are in a good mood." Nasta announced, even as he went to the table and smoothed a hand over Taren's head, brushing his hair down gently.
"You should have seen Harry when I came down. He's so excited that it can't help but put you in a good mood."
Nasta smiled at that. "This was a good idea."
"It really was." Max agreed, setting a cup of green tea down in front of Nasta before going back to the counter to finish making breakfast.
Harry came bounding back into the kitchen, dressed, but with his hair still damp before anyone else woke up and he all but leapt onto Nasta, hugging and kissing him.
"Nasta, we're going soon!" He said.
Nasta chuckled. "I know, Caru. Come sit down and eat something, we want you to be settled."
"I've already eaten." Harry assured him.
"He was just finishing a huge breakfast when I came down." Max backed him up.
Harry gave him a smile.
"Do you want more tea then?" Nasta asked.
Harry nodded. "I do, but Taren is going to wake for a feed soon."
"You've fed Taren while drinking tea before." Max pointed out.
Max rolled his eyes and went to make Harry more tea, as he realised that Harry meant that he didn't want to leave Taren to make the tea just in case he woke up.
Taren did actually wake up before Max was finished, though, and Harry eased the baby into his arms and tested the bottle, before feeding the baby.
Max placed Harry's cup in front of him and got a soft smile for it. He couldn't help but answer that with one of his own before he went back to his breakfast.
It took more than an hour to have all the kids up, and while Draco, Max, and Blaise took showers, Harry and Nasta watched over their toddlers, supervising breakfast.
An hour after that and all of their children had been bathed and dressed and Leolin had gone over to Ezrah so easily that Harry was almost jealous as he felt a twinge of something ugly stir under his heart. Leolin was his baby, he shouldn't want to go over to anyone so easily without a fight or a screaming match or some heavy reassurance.
Then Blaise kissed him and Harry smiled and the moment passed.
"Let's get these kids into the car." Max said. "I've packed everything else. The pram, all the nappy bags, the cool bags, the first aid kit." Max started ticking off on his fingers.
"Do any of you need to use the toilet or potty before we go?" Nasta asked their older children and though they all shook their heads, they knew they'd have to make frequent stops along the way for them.
"Don't want shorts, Daddy!" Calix cried, running away from Draco, half-dressed and refusing to cooperate.
"I knew there would be one." Max sighed, catching Calix as he darted past and lifting him so that Draco could slip the shorts on him, though Calix didn't make that easy as he kicked his legs.
"Calix, we're going out, you have to get dressed." Max said authoritatively.
"No! No dressed, Daddy."
"I'll give you a biscuit for the car." Max promised, which did stop Calix from kicking, enough to allow Draco to dress him, at least.
"I have bisky too?" Farren asked, hurrying over to tug on Max's jeans.
"Yes, love, you can all have a biscuit if you just get into the car."
Harry smirked at Max having to bribe the kids with biscuits to get them to behave.
He made himself productive by wandering the kitchen and living rooms, making sure they had everything.
"Harry, can you grab the cameras for me?" Blaise asked, his arms full of a bouncing Ave and a squirming Eva.
"Are you sure you don't need help with them?" Harry asked, nodding to the girls.
"I've got them, just grab the cameras."
Harry did as asked, taking the five cameras from the kitchen table and taking them out to the car where Nasta was coordinating everything.
"Eva and Ave are in those seats, Blaise." Nasta directed as Harry stashed the cameras in the boot, along with the numerous nappy bags.
Max herded out Farren, carrying Calix and he had a box of biscuits in hand that made Nasta raise an eyebrow in question.
"Don't ask." Max grumbled. "If it gets them in the car, I don't care."
Calix was wrestled into his seat, into the straps, though Farren went in so easily, all for the promise of a biscuit.
"There we go!" Max said, sighing happily, even as he started handing out biscuits.
Braiden, who had decided at the very last moment that he did need the potty after all, was the last out of the house with Draco.
"Did he need to go?" Nasta asked.
"Yes. He almost filled the potty, we'd have had to stop two minutes up the road if we hadn't let him go or he would have wet the car seat."
Braiden was buckled up in his seat and given a biscuit to nibble on and Harry ducked into the magically expanded, and cooled, car and made absolutely sure that each child was securely strapped in.
"It's okay, sweetheart. I'm going to be sitting back here with you." He assured Regan gently, leaning forward and giving his baby a kiss.
"Are they all in? We're actually ahead of time and I want to keep it that way." Max told him.
"Yeah, I'm just checking the straps." Harry insisted as he did each child in order, pulling on their car seat straps, making sure his babies were as secure and as safe as possible. Some of them had taken to slipping their arms out of the harness on trips to the supermarket, none of them wanted that to happen today.
"Everything is packed. We have the pram, spare clothes, cool bags, and the first aid kit. It's not going to rain, so we chose a good day." Nasta rattled off.
That made Harry smile happily, as he checked Taren's straps and then stood back.
"All checked, all safe." He declared.
"You're sitting in the back?" Nasta asked, coming over.
Harry nodded. "I want to keep an eye on them all."
"Here, this is the car cool bag, just in case they need a drink or a snack in the car."
Harry took the bag and got into the only seat in the back that didn't have a baby car seat on it and he squashed himself between two bulky car seats, the cool bag by his feet.
He was near enough in the middle and he had Taren on one side of him and Regan on the other, his twin girls were in front of him and he could easily reach them even with his seatbelt on. It was a little claustrophobic, but he didn't care. He wanted to be on hand, just in case.
"It won't be long, an hour and a half." Max assured him, even as he climbed into the driver's seat.
"Let Max know if you need to stop for any reason, Harry." Nasta told him and Harry nodded. "That includes if you need to take a break and not just for the babies."
"Can we please just go?!" Harry insisted. "I'm so excited I might actually explode."
His mates laughed at him, but Max did start the car and Harry settled into his seat as they pulled out of their driveway and set off. Harry was mostly watching his babies as they drove, but also the scenery pass by the window. Several babies were lulled to sleep by the car, but Tegan, sat up behind Blaise's seat, had started singing softly to herself.
Harry was excited, but he was able to settle himself while his babies had a bit of a nap in the car.
"Oh, damn it." Blaise cursed from the front.
"Whatever you've forgotten, let it go, we are not turning back now." Max said.
"I left the damn cameras behind!" Blaise cursed. "Why did you idiots trust me with remembering anything?!" He snapped angrily.
"We can buy a camera when we're there." Nasta said placatingly, but there was a note of steel to his tone. A warning that all of them understood to not argue, to not ruin today…Harry was much too excited and Nasta didn't want anyone or anything ruining that.
"I picked them up, Blaise." Harry said. "You had your hands full with the kids and you asked if I could pick them up and I did. They're in the boot with the nappy bags."
"Thank Merlin!" Blaise sighed, sagging back into his seat.
"We have everything." Draco assured them. "No more fretting, no more anxiety. Everything we need is in this car."
"Do we have all the kids?" Max asked.
He was joking, but Harry's heart still swooped and he twisted in his seat, automatically counting and naming off each baby.
"Damn it, Max." Nasta growled.
"Harry, love, I was joking." Max told him.
Harry ignored him until he'd counted off all eight babies, reminding himself that they had left Leolin in a safe place, and he did it twice, just to be sure, before slumping back into his seat.
"I know. I just had to make sure when you put that thought into my head."
"I'm sorry." Max said sincerely.
"I'm okay." He insisted, even though his heart was still beating frantically in his chest. His eyes found and counted each baby for a third time, and he named them all in his head, his eyes tracking all over their faces.
It took him a while to relax again, and a few more rounds of counting and naming his babies, just to be sure, but he was ultimately distracted by Braiden mooing as they passed a field of cows.
He grinned at his baby and watched as Braiden kicked his feet a little against the back of the car seat.
They had to stop often, just to sort out the amount of nappies they had in the car and their potty training kids needed to stop often too. They had brought a potty in the back of the car so the kids could go on the side of the road if need be, which turned out to be an immensely good idea when they had to stop eight times in just half an hour. Harry would check all of them and the seat straps before they set off again, but inevitably they'd have to stop at the next service station to change another nappy or let the toddlers use the potty.
The older babies were distracted with covered cups of water and vegetable sticks when they got hungry, but Taren couldn't feed in the car so they even had to pull over onto the hard shoulder to feed him along the way.
Harry made sure that all of them were buckled back into the seats securely and then they were off again. It did take them a while to get to the zoo, but when they finally arrived Harry could hardly contain himself, or his excitement.
"We're here! We're here!" He chanted happily, bouncing a little, even as he took in the sights and sounds of just the car park.
It was loud here. It was very busy. Harry could smell grass and trees. He could smell hot metal from the cars parked in the sun.
Nasta was making sure that the kids had their sun hats and sunglasses on, kept on only because they were tied under their chins and behind the backs of their heads.
Max was slipping on the baby sling and tightening the straps and Draco was setting up the big pram while Blaise was keeping a hawk's eye on all their screeching, wandering toddlers.
The nappy bags and the big cool bag were placed underneath the pram, with two of the nappy bags being looped on the handlebars. Eva and Ave were currently sleeping, so they were moved from their car seats to the pram, the umbrella attachment was jiggled about until they were in the shade and then they were ready to head in.
Harry had Nasta shadowing him, as promised, but he could almost feel his mates smiling at him.
Max was the one who handled their tickets, as Blaise ran down Calix who had tried to slip under a barrier.
"Maybe we should have brought the toddler reins." Draco said as he held Tegan's hand on one side and Farren's on the other.
"We have the safety wrist straps just in case." Harry said. "I just want them to be free."
"I've put magical tethers on all of them." Nasta said under his breath. "They will not go missing on my…on our watch."
"Believe me, if anyone touched my babies they'd be missing a throat before they could take them anywhere." Harry insisted. "Enough about that now, though. I want to enjoy myself."
Harry could almost feel the glare that Nasta gave the others, warning them, as top dominant, to not say another word on the matter.
Max came back to them and he seemed a little confused about where the sudden tension had come from, but then Harry smiled at him and tugged on his arm like a child and Max smiled at him.
"Okay, we're going in. Come on." Max chuckled. "Half the kids go free because they're under two, so it was just our older five and us."
Harry had Regan's hand and he looked for Braiden and found him on Nasta's hand. He nodded to himself, knowing that all of his babies were safe, even as they headed into the zoo.
It was noisy, but Harry didn't care. He immediately saw monkeys and with an excited screech, he sped up a little, pulling Regan with him.
"Mummy, what it?" Regan asked, pointing.
"These are monkeys, Regan." Harry explained, even as he sent his mates into a panic by picking his little boy up so that he could see the monkeys better.
"Harry, please." Nasta sighed, taking Regan into his own arms and then hoisting up Braiden too.
Harry just rolled his eyes, but having his arms free allowed him to get a little closer, to watch the monkeys running and playing and screeching themselves.
He watched, completely entranced, as the monkeys crawled all over the climbing frame they had in their enclosure.
"They act like our bloody kids." Max said, laughing, even as he had Calix up on his shoulders, Taren still safely in the sling on his chest.
Harry grinned. "Even in the animal kingdom, kids will be kids."
"A bloody nuisance." Draco agreed, holding up Tegan so that she could see.
"Key! Key!" She screeched happily, giggling.
"Monkey." Draco told her.
"Key!" She echoed, squirming.
"Mon mon!" Farren named them.
"Monk!" Braiden joined in, clapping his hands.
"Where do you want to go next, Harry? Birds of the world or European animals?" Nasta asked as he looked at the signposts.
"Animals." Harry insisted.
"This way, we can't watch the monkeys all day, no matter how entertaining they are."
Harry stayed close to Nasta, almost under his arm to stop anyone from bumping him, but though it was busy, they weren't crushed in or strapped for space. Their kids were allowed to walk, and they had the space to do so, though Calix was kept up on Max's shoulders as he was the most likely to run off out of their entire brood. Harry imagined that the zoo would be at its worst on the weekends, or in late July and August when the schools let out for the year, but they'd come midweek in June. That probably wasn't a coincidence either knowing his mates.
"I never knew pigs could be so big!" Harry said in wonder as he looked at the pig-like creatures roaming the next enclosure.
"They're boars, love." Draco told him.
"Big pigs?" Harry questioned confusedly.
"Big pigs." Max confirmed with a grin, which Harry took to mean that they were making fun of his ignorance again, but he ignored them.
"Piggies." Braiden giggled.
"He would know that word. You keep playing that game with their toes." Blaise directed at Max.
"I love their tiny toes." Max defended.
"Me too." Harry said, smiling. "We'll get our fix this year, Max. As soon as Taren's toes start getting bigger we'll have another newborn with tiny toes to coo over."
"Then a nice long break?" Max teased.
"I bloody hope so!" Harry grumbled.
They moved on to the next enclosure, following the path through the trees and then Harry gasped.
"Are those bears? Bears?!" He dashed for the railing and Nasta jogged after him, trying to keep beside him.
"Brown bears, Caru."
"Fluffy!" Tegan named them.
"They are very fluffy, aren't they?" Harry agreed. Tegan gave him a grin.
Braiden was still on the floor, looking through the railings at the bears. Harry kept half an eye on him, just in case.
"Daddy, want down!" Calix told Max.
"Can you stay right by me?" Max asked him.
Calix nodded, looking like an angel, but they knew better. Still, Max picked him up and placed him on the ground. Calix did immediately run off, but he went to stand beside Braiden, thankfully.
"That one's going to give me grey hair." Draco complained.
Max had taken their picture before any of them could so much as turn, blinking stupidly at him.
"This picture will be great!" He laughed to himself.
"You'll pay for that." Harry declared, reaching for his camera around his neck.
Max was ready and he was giving a really good smile and with Taren sleeping in the sling on his chest, nothing of him to be seen, just his sunhat over the back of the sling, Harry was starting to melt. This was a picture for his personal stash, he thought, as he took the picture before turning a taking a picture of the bears.
"What even is that thing?" Harry asked as they moved to the next enclosure.
"Wolverines." Nasta told him.
"It looks like a giant rat." Harry declared.
His mates laughed at him, but Harry just rolled his eyes.
"They're ferocious rats." Nasta said with a grin.
"But still rats." Harry insisted.
They walked on, enjoying the path as much as they were the animals as their babies sort of ganged together in a little group with one another.
Farren was the tallest, looking more like a four-year-old than the two-year-old he was, but Braiden was not far behind as he approached his third birthday. They traded the place of the tallest back and forth with one another nearly every week. Tegan was in the middle of all of her brothers, bossing them around even as she took Regan's hand, leading him where she wanted him to go.
"Callie, here!" She ordered, looking for Calix and taking his hand as he hurried over to his big sister.
"I love her so much." Blaise said with a loving sigh.
"Taking charge, keeping her brothers in line. Not bad for our oldest girl." Max agreed.
Harry had to get a photo of the five of them together, even if it was from behind. Speaking of behind, he looked over to Blaise and nodded to himself as his mate was still pushing the pram with the twins.
"They're okay, Bello." Blaise assured him, noticing his attention. "Still asleep."
"Calix! Calix! Come back here!" Nasta yelled out, running after Calix who had made a run for it, going down a different path.
Harry couldn't resist taking a picture of that too. If nothing else Sanex would find it hilarious.
Nasta carried Calix back and placed him back down among his siblings.
"Do not run off again, Calix!" Nasta said sternly.
"Down there, Daddy Nas!" Calix said, pointing.
"We're going this way first, for Tegan." Nasta told him, pointing the other way. "We can circle around the bottom and then come back."
"What's down there for Tegan?" Harry asked, then realisation hit. "Penguins!" He said excitedly.
"Penguins." Nasta confirmed.
"Pengy!" Tegan cried out and then she was gone, running down the path that Nasta had pointed to.
"Tegan!" Nasta cried, running after her and Regan, who she was dragging behind her.
Harry laughed and took another picture.
"Nasta's getting a workout today." Max said, grinning.
"So much for being my shadow." Harry giggled.
"You're under my protection now." Max said, slinging an arm around him and following Nasta a little more sedately, keeping the three remaining boys in their sights, making sure they, and especially Calix, went down the right path.
They reached the penguin island and Nasta was at the bottom with Tegan and Regan. Their little girl pretty much had her face pressed between the railing bars.
"She loves penguins so much." Harry laughed, snapping a picture of her.
They stayed for a while with the penguins, just because Tegan loved them so much. Eva and Ave had woken up in that time and after a quick refreshing drink, the year-old twins were allowed to look at the penguins in fascination, toddling around in their little dresses and sandals. Eva was dressed in white with blue and Ave was dressed in white with purple. Draco had managed to find matching sunhats and the two of them looked adorable with the hats strapped under their chins.
"We're going this way now." Nasta coaxed after a significant amount of time spent with the penguins. They had even watched a zoo keeper feed them a bucket of fish, which had absolutely delighted all of their kids, not just Tegan.
"No! No, Daddy!" Tegan burst out. "Stay with pengy!"
"We can't stay with the penguins, Tegan. We need to see all of the animals." Nasta tried gently.
"I stay here!" She declared.
"You are not staying with the penguins, Tegan." Nasta told her firmly.
Harry could see it coming, so when Tegan started screaming and stamping her feet, he could only sigh.
"It was too much to hope for that we had no tantrums today." Max said soothingly.
Harry hummed. "I know. That doesn't mean that I like seeing it, though. I don't like them being upset."
"Mummy, Tegan sad." Braiden pointed out, looking at his sister in concern.
"It's okay, sweetie, we're going to let Daddy Nasta handle it. Do you want some strawberries?"
Braiden grinned and nodded. "Yes, Mummy."
Harry crouched under the pram and found the box of strawberries, unclipping the lid and handing out the large, ripe berries to distract the others from Tegan's tantrum. The last thing they needed was Tegan setting off all of them.
People were staring as Tegan screamed and flailed, demanding they stayed with the penguins, but Nasta was never one to care for such things as he took her away from the penguin enclosure and sat her on the side of the path for a two-minute time out. Nasta stood over her, protecting her and enforcing the punishment all at once as he occasionally looked at his watch.
The rest of them distracted the others with fruit and drinks, and Blaise had started a quick game of 'what can you see?' with the kids, getting them to point out and name all the different things they could see around them, which, given that they were in a zoo, was plenty enough to keep them distracted.
Once Tegan was calm again, and she had had a drink and a strawberry of her own that was bigger than her hand, Nasta took her to the little penguin gift shop and she came out very happy with a brand new penguin teddy tucked under her arm.
"You are so soft." Harry teased.
"We had already decided that the kids were going to get a toy each, I just thought that Tegan would want something from the penguin-themed shop." Nasta insisted.
Harry hummed, giving Nasta a smirk.
"Hungry, Mummy." Farren said, distracting him.
"Okay, sweetie, we'll stop for a bigger snack now."
They moved away from the penguin enclosure, just to get it out of view so that they didn't set Tegan off again, and they found a patch of grass that was suitable. The blanket from under the pram was spread out and Harry corralled the kids around him as he opened the cool bag and got out some of the sandwiches that Max had made up the night before. Harry made doubly sure that he handed the kids drinks that hadn't been cooled. The parents around them had advised them to never give chilled drinks to kids as it could make them sick. Harry did not want to test the theory so the kids had drinks from a bag that wasn't iced. He, however, got a nice cold bottle of water and he enjoyed it.
Max got a small ball out from under the pram and he threw it for the kids to play with to keep them distracted for five minutes while they took a break.
Taren was now in the pram and Blaise changed Eva's nappy, then Ave's, even as Max ran around with the babies, chasing the ball.
"Are you having a good time?" Draco asked him.
Harry nodded, grinning widely. "I really am. It's more than I expected."
"It's nice to see you so happy."
Harry smiled wider, a little lopsided and goofy, but he didn't care. Blaise snuck in a picture of his goofy grin and Harry scowled at him, but he couldn't stay angry. Instead, he leaned back on his hands and absorbed the sun on his skin, the sound of his babies laughing with Max.
Unbeknownst to him Blaise took another picture of him like that.
"Round them up, Max. We're travelling back down." Nasta called out.
Max herded all the kids back to them and they came screeching and laughing. Harry got them to drink more, to eat some snacks, and then they were packing up the ball and the blanket and they headed back off.
Harry wasn't the only one to keep a hawk-eye on the kids as they walked and toddled down the path, the seven of them were getting a lot of attention as they walked by and Harry personally wanted to be sure that they were safe.
The next enclosure contained dogs and Harry frowned.
"Why do they have dogs here?" He asked curiously.
"They're African wild dogs, Harry. I assure you, they're not pets or domesticated." Nasta told him.
"I didn't know there were wild dogs. Wolves, yes, but not dogs."
"Oh, there are plenty of wild dogs; dingoes, jackals, coyotes, and foxes are also classed as dogs."
"Foxes are dogs?!" Harry asked in astonishment.
"They are classed as dogs, yes."
"Wow, I never knew that!" Harry said, even though he was aware there was a lot that he didn't know thanks to his upbringing. He felt a little sad then, but he shook it off. Today wasn't the time to be sad.
They went from the hunting dogs to reindeer and then to lynxes, and then they moved from the European enclosures to the African, and they saw rhinos, elephants, giraffes, zebras and then to an exhibit that excited all of their children, and him. Meerkats.
Harry laughed as they walked through the sandy exhibit, a lady in front of them being warned by the keeper that the meerkats would be fascinated by her painted toenails in her open sandals and that they might come to inspect them.
Regan screeched as one of the meerkats came too close to him and he turned and ran to Harry, clamouring to be picked up.
"It's okay, sweetie." Harry assured him, even as he picked him up. "They won't hurt you."
Despite Harry's assurances, Regan was much happier to look at the meerkats from higher ground as they walked through the open exhibit.
"Calix!" Draco said warningly, hurrying over to stop Calix from chasing a meerkat over the dunes of their tunnel homes and possibly caving them in.
"Daddy! Want kitty."
Harry laughed. "Oh, he thinks they're cats because of their name." He said to Blaise beside him. They shared an indulgent grin.
"You can't have the meerkats." Draco said sternly. "Stay by me."
Of course, Calix started crying at that, even as he trudged along beside Draco, who was holding his hand.
"Where are the tigers?" Harry asked Nasta.
"The tigers are in the Asia exhibit, Harry, there will be cheetahs in this section though, but this zoo doesn't have any lions."
Harry grinned and looked for Braiden, who loved everything big cat. He couldn't wait to see Braiden's reaction to them and he hoped that they were in view, despite that it was rather hot today and most of the animals were sleeping in the shaded areas of their enclosures.
They stopped on the path and had a little laugh and a coo as Ave ran over to a bush and started batting at the leaves. Of course, they had to take a photo of her doing that, it was just too cute.
They finally made it to the next enclosure and, as was becoming the theme of the day, Harry had no idea what it was.
"What's an oryx?" Harry asked, staring at the sign and then trying to spot the animal.
"It's an antelope, Harry. See them there." Nasta pointed out.
"Oh, I see it!"
Harry craned to see them better, Regan coming along for the ride too.
"Mummy!" Calix called out, still crying.
"Let's swap, Draco."
Harry handed over Regan and then picked up Calix, ignoring his mates clenching their teeth and hovering. He was only a month gone, he was still capable of lifting his babies for a while yet.
Calix snuggled his wet face into Harry's neck and Harry stroked his back soothingly.
"Maybe once we're done with Africa we should find somewhere quiet so they can have a nap?" Harry suggested.
"We'll head back to the centre of the zoo. They have a large restaurant so we can have a proper meal and the kids can either nap or go in the soft play." Nasta said.
Harry nodded and they stopped by the cheetahs on the way, watching as Braiden pointed at them excitedly.
"Look, Mummy, look!" He cried.
"I can see them, love. These are cheetahs."
"Cheetah." Braiden repeated, elongating the 'e' in the middle and the 'ah' at the end. Which was oh-so-adorable.
"That's right, good boy."
Harry patted his sunhat-covered head before he moved over to Max.
"Max, can you put Taren back in the sling, please? Calix has fallen asleep."
"Sure thing." Max said, checking on Taren to make sure he didn't need a nappy change before picking him up carefully and sliding him back into the sling on his chest without waking him.
Harry laid Calix into the pram before he jiggled the parasol to keep him in the shade.
"He was getting a little wound up, he needed this nap." Max said.
Harry hummed in agreement, giving Taren's face a gentle brush before they moved towards the centre of the zoo and the large restaurant located there, stopping in on the flamingos on the way.
"Pink!" Tegan declared them.
"That's right, baby girl, they're pink." Max said, patting her sunhat-covered head.
"They sound like geese!" Harry said in amazement, listening to the flamingos honking.
"They're a related species." Nasta informed him, ever their fountain of information on just about anything.
"I…I don't know, I just never expected them to honk like the geese at the local pond." Harry said laughing. "You look at them and they're so pretty and elegant, then they honk like a common goose. It's funny."
His mates all gave him smiles, which probably meant he was being childishly stupid again, but he didn't care. He was really enjoying learning all about the zoo animals, as he listened to Nasta rattle off the fact boards to the engrossed kids, telling them all about the flamingos, and by extension, him too. Harry was enjoying himself immensely.
The kids were starting to get fussy and several meltdowns were imminent as Eva threw herself to the floor and screamed, refusing to walk any further. Blaise picked her up and carried her, still kicking and screaming. There was too much going on, it was too noisy here, in the centre of the zoo and there were more people, the kids were all likely tired and hungry and in need of a rest, so they moved off quickly and went into the large, loud, very busy restaurant.
They were lucky enough to actually find a large enough table to fit all of them and the pram in the back corner of the restaurant, which was still loud enough that it woke up Taren, who started crying, but Calix slept through. Harry took Taren from Max and tried to shush him, but it was almost time for his feed anyway, so Harry grabbed one of the premade bottles from the thermal pouch on Taren's nappy bag and sat in his chair.
"I'm going to put up a silencing ward, stay still, Harry."
Draco slipped his wand from his sleeve and cast a careful noise-blocking charm using Harry as cover and immediately, instantly, Harry could hear himself think again.
"That's much better." Draco said, proud of himself.
"A lot better." Harry agreed, settling back in his chair to feed Taren his bottle. "The last thing any of us need is a headache."
"I brought potions with me just in case." Max assured him, even as he clipped a calmed Eva into the highchair next to Ave. He'd given them both some cucumber sticks and they seemed much happier now, in the almost quiet, in the cool air conditioning of the restaurant, out of the hot sun, and sitting down with some snacks.
"Mummy, juice?" Braiden asked.
"Hold on, Braiden. Blaise, can you grab that, please?"
Blaise, who was closest to the pram, ducked under it to grab the bag with the kids' drinks. He passed out little juice cartons and Draco helped to poke the straws through while Harry continued to feed Taren.
"Baby happy?" Braiden asked as he watched.
"Baby Taren is very happy, sweetheart. Are you?"
Braiden gave him a huge, toothy grin and nodded his head. "Yes, Mummy." He said before going back to his juice.
Nasta came over with a tray laden down with food and drinks and placed it down before handing out everything.
"There's two more trays, the poor workers are already cursing us." Nasta told them.
"Want a hand?" Draco offered.
"Yeah, come and help me."
Harry watched the two of them leave, then turned back to Blaise and Max. "We should have realised there'd be too much for Nas to carry by himself."
"Let the workers curse us and our order." Blaise waved off. "It might be a small inconvenience to them, but we have a right to have a family and we have a right to take them out to enjoy everything the world has to offer. Other people can curse and grumble all they like."
"I couldn't have said it any better." Max said, bending forward to kiss Blaise.
Harry smiled as he watched them, even as Taren finished feeding and Harry put him up on his shoulder to wind him.
"He had five and a half ounces." He told his mates, checking the level of milk.
"He's growing strong." Max nodded, even as he took the book from the nappy bag and wrote it down.
"More milk will keep him sleeping longer!" Blaise added.
Max looked quickly at Farren, who was struggling with his lunch. He stood and went to help Farren cut up a chicken bite so that he wouldn't choke.
All three of them checked every plate after that and Max and Blaise cut up more bits of food that they deemed were too large.
"So much for kids' meals." Max grumbled. "That's all we need, a choking child in a zoo restaurant."
"Max!" Blaise hissed and gave a nod over to Harry.
"I'm calm." He assured them. "I realise that the danger has been taken care of."
"What danger?" Nasta asked, even as he instantly checked the area around them.
"The food was a choking hazard." Max told him quickly before their top dominant went all Dracken in public looking for a threat to his family that wasn't there.
"I noticed that too, I was planning to cut everything up." Nasta insisted, even as he checked the kids' plates to make sure all of the food was small enough for their kids. He nodded to himself before handing out more food, this time for them, and Draco brought over their drinks.
Harry had rocked Taren to sleep so he went back into the pram, snuggled next to a sleeping Calix, and Harry drank his tea first. It was sweetened, but it was not his usual honey tea, but he wouldn't complain…not verbally at least considering he was enjoying himself so much. The first thing he was going to do when he got home, though, was have a perfect cup of honey tea and then he was going to bed. He smirked to himself and took another sip before he started eating his burger and fries.
"What do we still have left to do?" Draco asked.
"The Asia exhibit, then farm animals." Nasta told him.
"They have farm animals?" Harry asked excitedly, stopping what was likely a cutting remark from Draco about coming to a zoo for farm animals.
"Yes, and a petting zoo too. You can go in and touch them."
Harry wriggled in his seat. "I can't wait!"
"Is there anything else after that?" Max asked him.
"Birds and butterflies. Then the reptile house and they also have an aquarium here. It will take us another three hours, at least, but then it'll be home time."
They had already been four hours in the zoo, but Harry had hardly noticed the time passing. He was having too much fun.
Regan was next to go down for a nap, almost as soon as he'd finished eating, and Max chuckled as he picked him up from his chair, where he was asleep sat up, and held him in his arms.
"There's a picnic area just outside the restaurant, we can lay the blanket on the grass and let them sleep for a bit." Nasta told them.
"You really did study the map and plan this, didn't you?" Harry asked.
Nasta nodded seriously. "I planned our entire route. Alexander told us that organisation was key when taking so many kids out. I took that to heart and it's working."
"It really is, thank you for being such a good mate."
Nasta softened a little and he gave Harry a smile, but feeling a little emotional and embarrassed, Harry went back to his food.
He had to stop eating to help the kids eat, and then, as soon as they were done eating, they started getting restless and boisterous, so Harry had to scoff the last of his meal into his mouth and try to keep some control of the kids, who outnumbered them, so that his mates could finish eating.
Once done, they stacked up their dishes neatly and then they made their way outside, back into the sun. Harry was pushing the pram, just because his mates hadn't wanted him to carry the kids. They were heavier when they slept as they were pretty much dead weight.
Braiden wasn't sleeping, though, so Harry was pushing the pram with one hand and his other had hold of Braiden.
Farren was also still awake, chatting to Draco who had his hand.
The picnic area was next to a massive outdoor play area that was swarming with kids of all ages and Harry smiled to see them. That would be his babies in a few more years.
He was the one to shake out the blanket and lay it down, just because his mates had their arms full, but the kids were laid down gently and then they took a break, or rather four of them did as Max took Braiden and Farren to the play area.
Nasta took Calix from the pram and put him on the blanket with his siblings and Harry centred Taren in the pram now that there was more space for him.
"Does he need a nappy change?" Draco asked.
Harry hummed and bent to sniff the baby. "Yeah. He's just wet, though."
"I don't like leaving them, even if they are only wet, not after what we went through with Calix." Draco said as he picked up Taren and grabbed his nappy bag.
"No, he was terrible." Harry agreed, thinking back to the awful rashes that Calix used to get.
"He never used to cry to let us know he was wet." Nasta pointed out. "Taren does."
"Oh, he more than does." Blaise laughed.
"I, for one, am glad of that." Draco told them, even as he expertly changed Taren and then dressed him again in the light romper suit they'd chosen to put him in.
"I think I'd rather the sleep." Blaise said.
"If he was only crying for feeds and changes it wouldn't be so bad." Harry said, a little defensively. "It's that he cries just because he wants to be held. We all know that Max is his favourite. I think Max is getting a little run down, though."
"He is feeling a little better recently." Nasta assured him.
"I know, but being downtrodden in such a way, it's going to get to him."
"We'll support Max." Nasta said. "We're all going to be just fine."
Harry looked over to the playground and he could spot Max a mile away, head and shoulders taller than everyone else. Harry spotted Braiden going down the slide, then Farren after him. He smiled.
He checked the sleeping babies and all five of them were sleeping peacefully in a row.
His mind inevitably went to Leolin. He wondered how Ezrah and Lathen were getting on with him. He hoped that Leolin wasn't being too naughty, though, with the way that he'd easily gone over to Ezrah earlier that morning, Harry was expecting to get back and hear that Leolin had been an absolute dream.
"I hope that Leolin is okay." He said, giving voice to his thoughts.
"He's going to be just fine, Harry." Blaise assured him.
"You know what I'm like. I didn't want to leave him and I could only do it because I rationalised it as saving him from the danger of being around people. I don't like him missing out."
"When he's a little older, and he can tell us how he's feeling and if he might be sick, then we can bring him with us." Nasta said firmly and Harry knew not to argue with that tone. Then, they were all protective of Leolin and all too aware of how vulnerable he was.
"Nasta!" Max called out from across the playground and Nasta surged to his feet and ran.
Harry watched anxiously from his place, wanting to run over too, to see what the problem was, but he couldn't leave his sleeping babies. They needed his protection.
Nasta came back with a crying Braiden, shushing him gently.
"He fell in the park. Max couldn't bring him over because Farren was still playing, that's all."
Draco had already gotten the first aid kit out from under the pram and as Nasta sat down, a sniffling Braiden on his lap, the rest of them were ready to swarm around to make Braiden feel better.
His little shirt and jeans were wet, so Harry went to get him the spare outfit they'd packed for all the kids from Braiden's nappy bag while Nasta sorted out the grazed knee, scraped chin and blooded elbow.
"I felled over!" Braiden told Blaise, still crying.
"I can see, vita mia. Daddy Nasta will make you feel better. You'll feel better very soon." Blaise soothed.
Harry couldn't help but kneel down to kiss those plump cheeks, brushing away the tears.
"Mummy, fell over." Braiden told him.
"It's okay, sweetie. Daddy Nasta will make you feel better and then we'll get you into clean clothes and you can have some juice."
Braiden nodded, rubbing his face with his little arm.
Nasta quickly got Braiden cleaned up and Harry stripped him and changed his clothes. Blaise handed him a juice carton and he happily sucked on it while he calmed from his unexpected fall. Harry himself settled, knowing that his baby had been injured, but also that he had been taken care of and he was now safe and comforted.
They had known that there were going to be accidents and injuries today, and they had prepared extensively for such, but that still didn't mean that Harry had wished for none.
He cuddled with Braiden, but his big boy didn't let his fall stop him for long, as he spotted Farren and Max and he ran back over to them, Draco standing to watch him, to make sure that he reached Max safely.
"Max has him." Draco told them, sitting back down.
Harry breathed out and he went back to his bottle of water.
It didn't take long before the kids started waking up. Eva woke first, after just twenty minutes, then Ave, and then the older kids started waking up one by one after about forty minutes. They had drinks and snacks, Nasta went to find Max and the boys in the park, and then they were off again, towards the Asia exhibit, passing otters and red pandas as they went. Regan especially loved the red pandas and Harry made a note to see if the gift shop had a red panda teddy for him.
The first thing they saw as they made it to the Asia exhibit was the main draw for visitors…the tigers.
Braiden was immediately in love with the one tiger, prowling close to where they were standing, and his tiny hands were gripping the railing, almost trying to slip through them to get closer.
"Mummy, want inside."
"No, we have to respect the animals, Braiden. This is their home, we can't just go in to their homes."
"We visit them?" Braiden asked. "Like Ganda."
"No, this isn't like when we visit granddad. We're not allowed to go into the tiger's home."
"Want to!" Braiden insisted, squeezing the bars.
Sensing another meltdown coming their way, Harry crouched down.
"Would you like a tiger teddy later?"
"If you're good, you can have a tiger teddy later, before we leave. But we can't go into the tiger's house, okay?"
Braiden frowned and shook the solid bars as if seeing if they would move. He frowned as they didn't.
Harry stood back up and patted Braiden's head, very thankful that the railing separating them from the tigers was solid…and a fair distance from the enclosed big cats.
Braiden still wasn't happy though, as his little hands clenched so tightly around the bars that his little knuckles paled and he grunted a little as he pulled and pushed on them. He even stuck his arm and shoulder through, as if to test if he could squeeze through, but he couldn't, and he let out a frustrated cry, watching the tiger prowling longingly. Braiden gave it one last try, trying to squash himself through the railings and then it happened…his first bout of accidental magic. The bars that he was holding on to just vanished and Braiden immediately tried to run to the enclosure housing the tigers. Harry bent as far over the barrier as he could and he snatched Braiden back to safety so fast that it was a miracle that neither of them was hurt. People gasped as they had seen a toddler rushing to the tigers and Harry tried to smother Braiden as his instincts went haywire, and then Nasta was there holding Harry just as tightly and keeping a grip on Braiden's arm, just in case, and he helped him to pull their son back over the safety barrier.
"Did he just…?" Blaise demanded, looking at Braiden, then the two missing bars in shock.
"How did that child get through?" A zoo keeper demanded, hurrying over, looking alarmed and pale. "Was he being dangled over the barrier? Was he sitting on it?"
"It seems that your fence here is missing two bars." Nasta pointed out, playing the part of angry father. "My son easily slipped through."
The keeper looked at the wide gap left over from Braiden's accidental magic and he gaped. "I…this can't be possible." He stammered. "I…we at the zoo would like to apologise unreservedly!" The man told them. "I will see that this is fixed immediately!"
He picked up a little walkie-talkie and started speaking into it fervidly, blaming some poor boy called Gareth who was supposed to have checked the enclosures in the Asia exhibit that morning before the zoo opened, calling him an idiot and demanding immediate fence repairing equipment.
"Gentlemen, please accept the apology of the zoo." He turned back to say to them.
"No harm was done." Harry said carefully, keeping his Dracken side back from the edge of panic, even as he clutched Braiden tightly to him, inhaling his scent to assure himself that he was here, in his arms. He was safe, he hadn't been attacked by a tiger.
"Mummy, want tiger!" Braiden told him, wriggling, kicking, trying to get free. Nasta took him quickly, just in case a rogue foot kicked his belly.
"We should move on." Harry whispered to his mates.
"I agree." Nasta said, making sure they were all together and then carrying a crying, struggling Braiden away from the tigers, while Max and Draco tried to wrangle away the other kids and Blaise tucked Harry under his arm and kept him protected through the large crowd that had lingered and drawn closer to see what the zoo keeper was ranting about.
"I can't believe that he had his first bout of magic in a muggle zoo!" Blaise moaned. "I hope they won't see it on the cameras."
"No, there were too many people in the way, I'm sure." Harry said. "But, Blaise, our little boy did magic!" He said excitedly.
Blaise chuckled. "Of course, his first time doing magic would be to try and run into the jaws of a fucking tiger."
Harry shuddered. "No, I would never have let him. Even if I had to vault over the barrier and run him down. I would never have let anything happen to him."
"Hopefully, our tenth is still okay."
"I'm sure the baby is fine. The barrier was hip height, I pretty much swung over it to grab Braiden. I will go for a check-up tomorrow just to make sure, though."
"Mummy! Want tiger!" Braiden screamed from Nasta's arms.
"Shall we find you a tiger in the gift shop?" Harry asked lightly, speaking calmly, as he would in normal conversation, and Braiden stopped crying so hard to listen to him as Harry reminded him about the promised tiger teddy.
Braiden sniffled, calming down as he thought about it. He nodded his head and rubbed at his wet eyes.
"Okay, sweetie, we'll find you a tiger in the gift shop." Harry told him, stepping forward to wipe Braiden's face free of tears.
"Tiger wanted cuddles." Braiden told him.
"We'll find you a tiger in the gift shop who will love your cuddles." Harry assured him.
"Yes, you made the bars disappear. We all saw. You don't need to be worried. In fact, your daddies and I are very proud of you." Harry told him, smiling and cupping Braiden's worried face. "You're not in any trouble for making the bars disappear."
Braiden nodded his understanding and gave a final rub to his face. Harry bent forward and gave him a kiss before taking him from Nasta and placing him back on the ground.
"Come on, let's go see what else we can find."
Braiden happily took Harry's hand and they walked further away from the tigers…and the meltdown that had happened there.
The next thing they saw was a herd of elephants and they were a sorely needed distraction, even to him, as he stared at the massive animals.
"I never realised exactly how big they were!" He said in amazement.
"Look here, Harry." Draco said, indicating for him to move over a little. Harry did. "Look there, they have a calf."
Harry gasped, and then he awed as he saw the tiny baby elephant.
"They're so small!" He cooed.
"So is our Taren." Max pointed out, their infant son still in the sling. One of Max's huge hands was splayed over his back, patting gently.
"Has he woken up?" Harry asked, watching.
"He's awake." Max nodded.
"Don't keep him in the sling. Show him the elephants!" Harry chastised.
Max chuckled deeply, but he did do as Harry had asked, carefully lifting Taren from the sling and turning him around and pointing out the elephants to the disinterested baby who probably couldn't see them given how far away they were. Harry took a picture of him doing this, Max's mouth open as he spoke, one hand outstretched, pointing the elephants out to Taren. That would be a wonderful photo, perhaps enough to frame it and hang it on the wall. They needed more pictures on the walls of their massive house.
"Calix!" Draco called out, running to fetch back their wayward son who had wandered off.
Harry snapped a picture of that too, just because it was Draco who had run after their son this time.
"Daddy, want juice." Regan told Blaise.
"Me too!" Braiden insisted.
Blaise handed out juice to the boys, then gave one to Farren and Tegan too, and then asked Calix if he wanted one when Draco carried him back.
"No, Daddy!" Calix said angrily. "Want over there!"
"What do you want that's over there?" Nasta asked him.
Calix blinked, as if he hadn't thought what exactly he wanted from over that way, he just wanted to go there to explore.
"Do you just want to see what's over there?" Harry asked.
"Okay, but you have to take one of us with you." Harry said. "We're going this way now, do you want to see what's down here?"
Calix nodded and, not understanding that Harry had meant that he had to take an adult with him, he ran over to Tegan and Braiden, took their hands and he tugged them after him as he ran down the path that Harry had pointed him down.
Thankfully, Nasta had expected this and had been ready to walk with them, leaving Max to carry Taren and tuck Harry under his other arm as they herded the others to follow.
"That little boy is crazy." Max commented.
Harry snorted. "Of course he is, he's yours."
Max gave him a proud grin. "I love him, heart attacks and all."
Harry laughed, but his attention was almost immediately taken by Taren, who heard him laughing and turned his head.
"Do you want to hold him for a bit?" Max asked him.
Harry already had his arms out, ready to receive his four-month-old and Max gently shifted Taren to him.
Harry snuggled him and gave him kisses before he inhaled deeply the scent of his child. Something inside him settled, happy to know that his baby was safe and protected.
Ave took a leaf out of her big brother's book as she toddled off on quick little legs and Blaise had to quickly run her down. Max snapped a picture without Harry needing to prod him. They had sort of the same sense of humour, so naturally, Max also found it funny.
They found Nasta, with their runaways, at the next enclosure and he looked over them all critically, noting with a small frown that Harry was carrying Taren, though he didn't say anything.
"He's not that heavy, love." Harry assured him. "I want to hold him for a bit."
"I didn't say anything." Nasta told him calmly.
"I saw your look."
Nasta nodded. "I had a moment of thinking that you shouldn't be carrying him, but it passed, Harry. I wouldn't take Taren from you."
Harry rested himself against Nasta for a moment and Nasta put his arm around him, cuddling him in.
"We're getting better. We're all learning." Nasta told him. "We love you and you're more than worth learning a few new coping techniques."
"I'm learning a lot from therapy too. I…I think that maybe I should have done it years ago."
"You're doing it now and we're all proud of you for it."
"I'm proud of all of you for agreeing to go to therapy too. It means everything to me that you want to make our mateship work."
Nasta gave him a gentle smile and bent to kiss his head.
"Do you know what these are?" Max was asking their little ones.
"Unicorn!" Tegan declared.
Max laughed. "No, sweetheart. These are rhinos."
"Daddy, grey unicorn!"
"It is not a grey unicorn." Max tried, but he was still laughing.
"Is!" Tegan insisted.
"Daddy, I pet grey unicorn?" Farren asked him.
"It's not a grey unicorn." Max insisted, chuckling. "It's a rhino. Look, rhino!"
"Wino." Farren parroted.
"Come here." Max said, laughing, picking up Farren and sitting him on his shoulders so that he could see better.
Farren giggled and clapped his hands, looking out at the rhino.
Harry had to take a photo of that too. It was too cute. He looked back at the rhino, taking in everything and the experience. It was a much better day than he had ever expected. It was naturally a million times better than his only other trip to the zoo just because he was here with his mates, with his own babies, and not the Dursleys.
"Fuck!" Draco cursed a moment before he heard crying and Harry turned so quickly that he felt dizzy, just to see Calix splayed over the floor, having tripped over.
Draco picked him up, but both knees were cut and Max handed Farren to Nasta and took over as their first aider. Harry placed Taren in the pram and then fetched the first aid kit out from under it and got out some antiseptic wipes, a tube of wound healing cream and two large plasters, handing them one at a time to Max as Draco cradled Calix.
"Ave!" It was Harry running after their toddling girl this time, having thankfully handed the plasters to Max and placed Taren into the pram. He'd been checking on the kids, only to see Ave being distracted by an ice cream cart.
He ran her down and picked her up.
"Where are you going?" He asked her, nuzzling into her belly and blowing a raspberry on her. She giggled.
"Mama. Icy ceam" She said, pointing to the cart, which had large, colourful pictures of ice creams and lollies on it.
"Do you want blueberries instead?" He asked her.
"No." She insisted. "Icy ceam."
"Harry, are you okay?" Nasta asked.
"Is it about time for a treat?" Harry asked, nodding to the ice cream cart.
Nasta considered it, looked at all of the kids, and then he nodded. "I think some lollies and ice creams are in order."
"Ice cream!" Calix cheered, forgetting that he'd just grazed both knees, squirming in Draco's arms.
"Hold on, kid." Max laughed, carefully placing the last plaster over the wounded knee to keep it covered. "There, go on."
Harry was surrounded by kids in short order and he laughed as he hefted them over to the ice cream cart, forcing them to wait in line.
"Sorry, it'll be a big order." He said to the young woman at the counter when he reached it with his horde of excited kids.
"Oh, I don't mind." She insisted with a nice smile. "One kid or a hundred, I have to serve everyone who comes up anyway."
Harry chuckled and he ordered ice creams and ice lollies for himself, his four mates, and their seven kids who were old enough. Taren was going to be the only one to miss out, but he was too young to care or notice.
They took a bit of a break, taking over two benches in the shade.
"How are you feeling, Harry?" Draco asked him.
Harry smiled. "I'm very happy."
"The excitement hasn't worn off yet, then?" Max teased.
Harry laughed at that. "No!" He said empathetically. "No way. It's never going to wear off. I'm seeing animals today that I didn't even know existed! I'm so glad that we came."
"We're glad to share this experience with you, Caru." Nasta told him.
Harry smiled and then took a big bite of ice cream. The kids were all so happy and the ball came back out for them to kick about.
They had yet another injury when Farren accidentally stepped on the ball instead of kicking it and he rolled over the ball, but though he was crying, he didn't seem to be cut or bleeding. He did have a bump on the head, though, so Blaise cuddled him on his lap until he was feeling better.
"Right, we need to move on or we won't get to see everything today." Nasta called out after a glance at his watch.
Harry was the first up, excited to go and see more animals. He hadn't been kidding or downplaying his excitement when he said how much he was enjoying himself.
It was the petting zoo next and Harry left the child wrangling to his mates as soon as it was in view as he ran off and then immediately hopped the wooden fence and went hurrying over to a goat.
"He's adorable." He heard Max say to the others, but he ignored his mates as he went around petting the animals.
There were sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, a pony and a donkey. It was to the latter that Harry went next.
Harry looked to where Regan was holding a very contented-looking rabbit. Harry did quickly adjust Regan's arms so that he held the rabbit a little more comfortably. Then he stepped back and took a photo.
"Is she soft, sweetheart?" Harry asked.
Regan nodded. "Yeah. Soft babbit."
Tegan was behind them with Blaise and she was holding a chicken, stroking soft feathers. Braiden was staring down a goat, but Nasta was at his shoulder in case the goat took it as a challenge and both Calix and Farren were touching a sheep with Max.
Harry went over to see a small pony that was getting a lot of attention from the crowds and, without pushing past any kids, he waited his turn to pet the gentle, contented animal.
Harry made sure that he got every animal in the enclosure, feeling the different textures of them, how the fur of different animals varied by softness and thickness. It was an experience for him and he marvelled at it as much as his children did. It was new to all of them and Harry made sure to make the most of it.
"Come on you lot." Nasta called out, using that authoritative tone that no one dared argue with. "We have more to see and you've seen all of the animals here."
The kids converged onto Nasta, as they always did when he called them using 'that' voice, but Harry went for Draco who was with the pram and hadn't wanted to go into the pen with the farm animals, as he called them.
"Wash your hands." Draco told him sternly, as soon as Harry slipped out of the petting zoo area.
Harry rolled his eyes. "I was going to. I'm not a child, Draco."
Harry went to the sanitising station, where Nasta and Max were overseeing the kids doing the same.
"Mummy, I liked the chickens." Braiden told him.
"I did too." Harry said, grinning widely.
"I took lots of pictures for you." Max assured the kids, then turned to give Harry a wink.
"Daddy, carry me." Tegan asked Draco, holding her arms up.
"Are you getting tired, sweetheart?" Draco asked her.
"I'm not, but my legs are."
Harry laughed, even as Draco sat Tegan on his arm and let her look around from a new perspective.
It was a long day for their toddlers. It wasn't surprising that their legs were aching, but they were assuredly going to sleep tonight, they'd likely drop off in the car even, and Harry was so glad of that.
Harry took charge of the pram and Taren, who was sleeping again after his brief stint of wakefulness. Perhaps they should leave the pram set up in the hallway and push him up and down when he wouldn't settle as he seemed to really like the movement of it. It would save poor Max from sleep deprivation at any rate.
The next thing on their list was birds and butterflies. Eva was especially enamoured of the butterflies and she had to be stopped from chasing them with a warning that they were visitors to the butterflies' home and they had to be respectful and not touch them.
It was a quick walk through the butterflies and then into the bird enclosures. Harry couldn't help smiling at the owls.
"If we're quick we can catch the birds of the world show." Nasta told them.
"Oh, I want to see it." Harry insisted.
"It's just up ahead." Nasta assured him.
There were benches surrounding a large grassy area and they quickly found a seat amongst the other people. Tegan, at least, was glad to have a sit down and a rest as Max handed out juice cartons and snacks, but Calix, ever their energetic demon, didn't want to stay still.
"We go over here." Calix told them, trying to run off again.
"No, we're sitting by here for a moment, Calix. Come and have some juice." Nasta commanded.
"No! No juice. Over there!"
"You don't have to have juice if you don't want it, Calix, but you have to stay here."
"No!" Calix screamed.
Nasta stood immediately and hefted Calix up, sitting him on the bench before hunching down in front of him.
"You will do as you're told, Calix." Nasta said, his voice pitched low and stern. "We are staying here for the moment and you will stay with us."
Calix started crying and kicking his legs and Harry's Dracken fluttered inside of himself, wanting to burst free to comfort his distressed child, but he took a deep breath instead. Discipline wasn't a threat to his babies, the real threat was one of them running off in a very crowded zoo. His Dracken side calmed as Harry explained this to his Dracken.
"Right, you're having a timeout, Calix." Nasta told their son, picking him up and taking him away from the bird show and to a quiet area, to sit him on a little step for two minutes so their child could calm himself down.
"They're getting a little overwrought." Max said, frowning. "We've never done anything like this before with them."
"We planned for several tantrums along the way." Draco said. "We knew it would be a bit much for them, but it's better that they learn how we expect them to behave in public."
They got distracted by the bird show starting and Harry was as entranced with it as the kids. Max was holding both Eva and Ave so that their little girls could see. Farren and Braiden were both stood up on the benches near Draco, who was holding Tegan. Harry was sitting with the pram, keeping an eye on Taren just in case the increased noise woke him up, but for the most part, he couldn't keep his eyes off of the birds, especially when the keeper brought out raptor birds and started showing them off, playing with them and feeding them raw meat from a pouch on her belt.
"Do you think we could have an eagle?" Harry asked.
"No, we're not having an eagle, Harry." Draco replied. "We already have a house full of owls."
"I love our house full of owls." Harry said with a smile.
"No raptors in the house, Harry." Max said teasingly.
Harry laughed because owls were raptors and they all knew it.
"Does that mean we have to sleep outside?" Blaise asked with a smirk. "We're technically predators with wings."
"Ah, but we're not birds, my love." Max said, his grin getting wider. "We get a pass."
Harry snorted a laugh but inevitably got distracted as another raptor was brought out to be shown off.
At some point, Harry didn't know exactly when, Nasta came back with a calmer Calix, who was pointing out the birds to Nasta happily.
"Is he okay?" Harry mouthed to Nasta, who nodded back.
Harry settled further, happier to know that Calix had calmed and was feeling better. He wanted this to be a day they enjoyed, even if they might be too young to remember it later in their lives, he didn't care. He didn't want this to be a day where they weren't happy and excited.
Once the bird show was over, they took a leisurely walk to the reptile house. It was getting later and more of the kids were getting tired and were complaining that their legs were aching. Harry was feeling the same. His feet were throbbing and his calves were aching, but the excitement was keeping him going.
"Ah, ah!" Harry chastised. "Farren, honey, we don't knock on the glass."
Harry caught Farren's hand and then bent to lift his big boy, ignoring the daggers he could feel being thrown at his back.
"This is where the animals live, Farren. It's not nice to knock on their houses when they might want to sleep."
"We be quiet, like nap time?" Farren asked.
Harry nodded his head. Farren was often the one to miss the morning nap and they had taught him to be quiet while all of his brothers and sisters were sleeping and he'd been taking that lesson to heart.
"See, we can still see them." Harry said, pointing out the coiled snake. "But he's sleeping, so we shouldn't knock on the glass of his house."
Harry thought that it was a failure on the zoo's front that half of the glass enclosures were adult height, not child height, as they had to lift their children to see the animals inside.
"What's that?" An excited screech came from Braiden and Harry whirled to see him pressed up against a really large glass window, staring at something that had him completely fixated.
"This is a crocodile, Braiden." Max told him.
"Croc dile." Braiden repeated, separating the name into two halves.
"Do you like it?" Max asked.
Braiden nodded, staring with wide, awed eyes at the crocodile on the edge of the large pool of water.
"I like it too." Harry said, crouching down beside Braiden and looking at his son, who turned to give him a toothy smile.
"Mummy, we have croc dile?"
"No, sweetheart, we can't have a crocodile." Harry said, chuckling. "We have to leave him here, where he's safe and the keepers can look after him."
"We can look after him." Braiden said in all his two-year-old innocence.
Harry loved that he was so empathetic and that he loved animals so much. He pushed some hair away from Braiden's face and kissed his mouth.
"I'm sure we could, sweetheart, but this one belongs to the zoo."
"Yeah, he's got friends and family here. So we're just going to visit him here, but we have to leave him."
Braiden frowned, but he nodded too. He looked at the crocodile and he smiled again. Harry was happy that Braiden enjoyed animals so much, but that most of all, he respected them and he was kind. Braiden was a very good example to his younger brothers and sisters. If he wasn't a Hufflepuff when he got to Hogwarts, then Harry would eat his own wings.
Harry enjoyed the reptile house, even though it wasn't that large. He did like snakes, despite everything that had happened with them throughout his life, from the boa constrictor incident when he was ten, to the duelling club and the basilisk when he was twelve. And despite that it was the emblem of Slytherin.
"Damn, I'm getting tired." Max complained, shifting his shoulders into a stretch.
"We can skip the aquarium if you'd like." Nasta said. "It's the only thing left."
"Harry wanted to see everything, Nas." Blaise said a little sharply.
"We can visit an aquarium separately. It'll likely be better than whatever small section they have here." Nasta said. "We're getting tired, the kids are ready to drop at any minute…how are you holding up, Harry?"
"My feet have been aching since the butterflies." He admitted softly.
"Damn it, Harry!" Max sighed.
"I'm not feeling bad or anything." He assured them. "It's just my feet and my legs. Back-to-back pregnancies are no joke and I guess I'm not really all that fit anymore."
"You're always fit." Max couldn't help joking with a wink.
"Right back at you, gorgeous." Harry said with a grin, winking back.
Max laughed, but he came to Harry and took some of his weight onto himself, encouraging Harry to lean against him. Harry did so happily, lifting his legs one after the other to relieve the ache in them a little.
"Harry, shall we skip the aquarium and just go to the gift shop?" Nasta asked. "I promise we'll go to an aquarium soon, but we're all getting tired and I want the kids to be able to pick out some gifts for themselves while they're actually awake."
Harry nodded his agreement. "I've had such a good day, but it's getting to be too much now. I need to just sit down now. I need to sleep a little."
"Let's go to the gift shop then." Nasta said, herding them towards the exit. "Kids, listen to me." He said as they moved. "We're going to be leaving the zoo soon, it's time for the animals to go to sleep, but first, we're going to get you some toys."
"We get toys too?" Calix asked, sounding amazed.
"You have to have something to remember today."
"I get tiger." Braiden spoke up. "Mummy, you said I get a tiger."
"That's right, honey." Harry assured him. Now he just had to hope that the gift shop had stuffed tigers and hadn't sold out.
The gift shop was huge and it was bustling with people who were leaving the zoo. Harry immediately tightened his hands around the handle of the pram and his eyes tracked all seven of his walking children.
Max went to pick up Eva and Ave and Nasta took the hands of Calix and Regan. Blaise did the same for Braiden and Draco got Tegan and Farren. Harry breathed out a sigh of relief as all of his children were in the hands of his mates.
Most of the stuff here was unsuitable for his children. Mugs, notebooks, calendars, pens and other stationery. There were even clothes and obscurer items like wind chimes, but there was an incredible display of stuffed animals and Harry breathed out in relief as Blaise immediately pointed out a stuffed tiger to Braiden, who plucked one from the shelf and started snuggling it like he'd wanted to do to the real tiger.
Harry didn't like the gift shop as much. He felt closed in and he was paranoid as people kept brushing past him. One stray knock could be the end of this pregnancy and he moved quickly over to Nasta and tucked himself in close.
"What happened?" Nasta asked him, voice pitched low under the cacophony of noise in the shop.
"Nothing, but I don't want anything to happen either." Harry said softly. "It's busy in here and people and shoving past people without care and I don't want to be one of them."
Nasta nodded and, like a shield, Nasta's arm came around him, protecting him from anyone who might bump him and risk their unborn baby.
Harry found a red panda teddy for Regan in a small corner of the shop, showing it to their little boy, whose face lit up happily at the teddy, and as they walked around Harry found the perfect gift for Leolin, a small potted flower that Nasta called an orchid. It was one of the obscure gifts in the shop, but Harry knew that Leolin would absolutely love it and despite that he hadn't come with them, Harry didn't want all of his brothers and sisters to get a gift from the zoo and not include Leolin, or Taren for that matter, who had gotten a stuffed turtle chosen for him because he couldn't choose himself.
It had been a good idea to keep to Nasta's shadow, however, when not ten minutes later a child ran straight into Nasta's arm, who held his arm stiff and strong despite the surprise. If he hadn't of had his arm wrapped around Harry like a steel band at that particular moment then that child would have ploughed straight into Harry's back and knocked him over, risking their unborn baby.
"Are you okay?" Nasta asked the child, trying to be calm, but there was a hint of a growl in his voice that he couldn't quite control.
The little girl nodded quickly and hurried off. Harry didn't blame her, Nasta looked like he was ready to kill.
"I'm okay, love." Harry told Nasta softly.
"If you hadn't come over to me and I wasn't keeping you safe…"
"You are." Harry assured him. "I wasn't knocked into, you kept me safe, Nas. Our baby is safe."
Nasta growled lowly, lost in the hubbub of the store except for their family, who all stilled and snapped their heads to Nasta as one.
Nasta took a purposeful deep breath and then rumbled soothingly, again lost under the noise of the humans around them, but reassuring the others that everything was safe.
Draco was the first to hurry over to them, Harry was carrying his child, after all, and he had the 'good' babies in Tegan and Farren.
"What happened?" He asked urgently. "Are you okay?"
"I'm perfectly fine and nothing happened." Harry said calmly. "We shouldn't speak about this in public." He added warningly.
"Draco, everything is perfectly fine, love. Nasta was here."
"So something did almost happen?"
"Yes, but as I said, Nasta was here. Have Tegan and Farren gotten the teddies they want?"
Harry fussed the two babies, Tegan with another penguin teddy in her arms and Farren with a stuffed rhino.
"Look, Mummy. Grey unicorn." Farren showed him and Harry's smile was wide and genuine.
"That is a very lovely rhino, Farren."
"I should have guessed he'd pick a rhino after he saw them." Harry chuckled.
"Everything okay over here?" Max asked worriedly, making his own way over to them.
"We had an almost incident." Nasta said. "We should be going."
"Ave chose an otter teddy and Eva wanted a koala." Max said, smiling down at the girls in his arms, but their teddies were in a shopping bag and the girls were pretty much asleep already. Every now and then one of them would open her eyes and peer around, or startle at a loud noise, but they would be asleep before they got back to the car.
Blaise came over with Braiden and Calix, the former with a tiger teddy and the latter with a giraffe. Harry smiled at the odd choice for Calix, but he'd had his pick of whatever animal he wanted and if he wanted the giraffe then he wanted the giraffe.
"Are we all ready?" Nasta asked.
"Harry, don't you want anything for yourself?" Blaise asked worriedly.
"Everything I want is in those cameras." Harry told them.
"Let's get home." Max said and, unbeknownst to Harry he gave Blaise a nod and moved off rather slowly.
Harry matched Max's pace, thinking that he didn't want to jostle the twins overly much. Harry didn't notice that Blaise and Braiden were missing until they reached the car and Harry started getting his babies settled into their car seats with snacks and juice.
"Braiden?" Harry turned around and he frowned and his heart skipped as he didn't see his oldest child. "Braiden?!"
"He's with Blaise, Harry. They dropped off a little. I'm sure they're fine and will come along soon. It might have been an untied shoelace." Nasta told him.
Nasta gave him a kiss and Harry tried to calm himself down, distracting himself as Max changed Eva and Ave into fresh nappies and then into their sleepsuits ready for bed. Taren was then changed and put into his own sleepsuit.
He only relaxed when Blaise and Braiden came over to the car from the wrong direction.
"Sorry, I forgot where we parked." Blaise admitted, looking frustrated.
"Did you see me over the tops of the cars?" Max teased.
"Actually, yes." Blaise said giving Max a gentle elbow to the ribs.
Harry gave Braiden a hug and a kiss, subtly scenting him, but his baby was fine and uninjured and that calmed him down.
Braiden got his own juice and a snack and Harry started changing the kids into their pyjamas and then buckling them into their seats securely, pulling on the straps and testing them.
"Everyone safe and buckled in?" Max asked.
Harry gave all of them one last check, compulsively fretting over the straps.
"Yes." He said softly. "They're all secure."
"Now, no one else needs to potty or a drink?" Max asked.
"I could use some water." Harry admitted.
Nasta handed him a bottle and Harry drank deeply. He didn't want to stop on the drive home if it could be at all helped. He just wanted his bed now that the excitement and adrenaline of the zoo visit had worn off. He was crashing hard.
"So, what happened in the gift shop?" Draco asked.
"A kid almost ran into the back of Harry." Nasta told them calmly, casually, as if he hadn't been so very close to losing control in a public space when the incident had happened.
"It was so crowded in there I didn't want to risk anything, so I'd already moved over to stand by Nasta and he had an arm around me. The kid ran into Nasta's arm. Me and the baby are completely fine." Harry explained. "The only one who got hurt was that poor girl running into Nasta's rock-solid arm."
"She should have been looking where she was going and she shouldn't have been running in a crowded shop." Nasta said, trying to control the growl in his voice so that he didn't disturb the kids.
"She didn't hit you at all?" Draco asked worriedly.
Harry shook his head. "No. Not at all. She would have if Nasta hadn't been there, but he was and he protected me as we said he would when we agreed that he would shadow me all day."
"Love you." Blaise called out from the front of the car.
"Love you too." Harry said, screwing the top back on the bottle and then climbing into the back with the kids.
"Are we all ready?" Max asked, taking one last full body stretch before climbing into the driver's seat.
"We're all here. We've got everything." Nasta assured him. "Let's get home. If anyone needs anything, which includes you, Harry, speak up."
"I want a cup of honey tea and to take these damn trainers off my feet." Harry said.
"Take them off now." Blaise told him in his best 'duh' voice.
Harry rolled his eyes. "If I take them off now, they're not going back on again."
"I could carry you to the house." Draco offered.
Harry smiled at the thought and he did kick off his shoes, groaning as his feet started throbbing harder.
"I'll give you a foot massage too." Blaise told him. "Anything to make you feel better."
"Love you all."
Max pulled out of the car park and joined the traffic trying to leave the zoo. Because they'd left a little early, before the zoo closed, it wasn't as bad as it could have been as the car park was still relatively full. It had been a good idea to skip out the aquarium and head to the gift shop and then home.
The kids didn't even last long enough to get more than a mile from the zoo before they were all asleep. Harry was drifting in and out. It was difficult to sleep in the car as it swayed, but he did manage to get a little bit of a nap in. He'd enjoyed himself so much, but now he just really wanted to be home.
It wasn't overly late when they arrived back home two hours later, but it had been a long, hot day and Harry was ready for bed, but he was going to have a cup of tea and then pick up their baby Leolin, who should be fast asleep by now, like his brothers and sisters.
His mates waved away any offers of help from him to carry the sleeping kids from the car to their beds, so he left them to it and he instead went to the kitchen and lined up all of their mugs and set the kettle to boil.
He was sleepy, he was nicely warm from the day in the sun, but he wasn't burnt or overheated, he'd had an amazing day at the zoo. He was so very happy.
He made them all tea, and in Blaise's case a coffee, and he carried them all into the smaller living room on a tray that he put onto the coffee table, before sitting down with a groan and taking his own cup of honey tea and taking a sip. It was perfect, just how he liked it, and he let out a happy sigh. This was exactly what he needed after today.
All eight kids were exhausted, even Taren was sleeping better, considering that he usually needed Max's broad shoulders to rest on and a massive hand rubbing and patting on his back to slip off to sleep for the night
Blaise came to join him first and he snatched the coffee and groaned just as happily as Harry had as he took the weight off his feet.
"That was a long day, Bello." He said. Harry hummed his agreement and took another sip of tea.
"It was well worth it, though." Harry said, though he felt every ounce of his tiredness now that they were home.
"At least all of our babies are asleep, even Farren."
"I still can't believe that Braiden vanished the railings to the tiger enclosure."
Blaise turned to give him a proud smirk. "His first bout of accidental magic and it's to try and get himself eaten by a tiger. Wait until I tell maman."
"He didn't forget that I promised him a tiger teddy. I'm so glad the gift shop had them in stock or we were in for another meltdown."
"He's almost three. He understands everything now." Blaise agreed, then took another gulp of hot coffee. "He's a little boy now, he's not a baby anymore. I'm not sure how I feel about that."
"It hits me too." Harry assured his mate. "Seeing him becoming so independent. He's even staying dry through the night. It seems very young to be fully toilet trained."
"He's not only born of Drackens, but he is a Dracken himself, Bello. Our species tends to be more forward."
"Not in everything and not in every case." Nasta cut in, coming to join them. "We will have some children who struggle at times."
"Leolin obviously will." Harry agreed.
"Not just Leolin, he's a special case in his own right. I mean that multiples tend to be a little behind in age-average milestones compared to singletons. If we exclude Leolin from the quintuplets, we have four remaining and only one of them is an actual Dracken, but Tegan is the one who is toilet trained, Calix will use a potty, but only sometimes, but Regan won't use either. They're all the same age, but they are all different."
"I see what you mean. Out of the four, Regan does seem to be left behind a little."
"He's developing normally, just at his own pace, Caru." Nasta told him reassuringly, sitting beside him and then pressing a kiss to his cheek. Harry smiled. "What started this conversation?"
"We were just talking about Braiden's little bout of public magic." Harry chuckled.
"I thought my heart would leap out of my throat when I saw him running towards that tiger." Draco told them, coming to join them.
"Harry reacted really quickly, nothing happened." Max said soothingly from the hallway, right before he entered the room too.
Draco and Max joined them on the settee, reaching out for their own tea, and they all took a moment to just sit and relax. They'd been on the go all day, they had needed to be alert all day with so many little children to watch over, but nothing overly terrible had happened and they had had their wonderful day trip, giving their children all the experiences they needed. Truthfully, Harry needed them too. He'd never had any sort of normal childhood and he didn't have any good memories of being a child to think back on. He was determined that not only would his babies have all the experiences that he'd never had, but that he would be right there to experience them alongside his children, even if it was as an adult.
"It wasn't that anything, or nothing, happened." Harry said. "It's that he had his first bout of magic."
"Ah, so we're all proud and smug that he almost got mauled by a tiger, got it." Max teased.
Harry chuckled. "Not quite that, lover, but we're proud that he's displayed some magic, despite that it was to try and cuddle a tiger."
They shared a laugh and Harry drained the last of his tea and then stood.
"Are you going to get Leolin?" Max asked him.
Harry nodded. "Yes. I want him to be in his own cot and to wake up here, with us."
Nasta stood then and joined him. Of course, they wouldn't let him floo out on his own. He rolled his eyes good-naturedly.
"Come on, Nas. I want my missing baby back in my arms. His absence is getting to me more now that we're home."
Nasta wrapped an arm around him and escorted him to the fireplace, where he took a handful of floo powder and wrapped his other arm tight around Harry's chest to protect him and their unborn baby.
Lathen and Ezrah were waiting, Leolin sleeping peacefully in the latter's arms.
"How was your trip?" Lathen greeted them.
"Wonderful, we all enjoyed it, especially the kids." Harry said with a smile. "How has Leolin been?"
"He has grizzled a little, but that doll likeness of you works amazingly well." Lathen insisted, even as Ezrah stood and carefully handed Leolin over to Harry.
A part of him that he hadn't realised was on edge finally relaxed as his baby was back in his arms. He sagged a little as he sniffed his baby and found absolutely nothing out of place. Leolin made a small noise and then twisted further into Harry's chest and he melted, cradling his baby closer as Leolin gave a happy murmur, a tiny hand fisting in Harry's shirt.
"We appreciate that you took the day to take care of him for us." Nasta told the two Faeries.
"It was no trouble, we should be thanking you for the honour of caring for him." Ezrah insisted.
"He wasn't too much trouble?" Nasta asked, well aware of how Leolin could kick off, pinching and scratching. They had even cut his fingernails the night before to prepare for his day away from them, just in case.
"It was mid-afternoon when he seemed to realise that something wasn't right." Lathen told them. "But a trip into the garden and he settled lovely. He took his bottle and then fell asleep for an hour and a half. We sat outside under an awning to keep him in the shade and he remained contented for the rest of his visit."
Harry smiled. "He does like being outside."
"All Faeries do." Lathen nodded. "You said you had given him more plants?"
"Yes, we redecorated his bedroom to include more baby-friendly plants and he sleeps so much better since we did. We're also doing the garden, we have basic flowerbeds already in, but it's a work in progress and we're going to plant more and make sure that we include flower varieties that bloom in all seasons, and not just spring and summer."
"We're going to invest in some more trees for the actual garden and not just the outside edges." Nasta added.
"I'm glad he wasn't too much trouble for you. Our little Leolin has quite the temper." Harry laughed.
"He's too much like you." Nasta teased.
"He was no trouble, I swear." Ezrah replied, smiling sweetly.
"Ezrah is correct, we loved having him for the day." Lathen agreed.
Harry was glad of that, as they said their goodbyes and prepared to head back home. He wanted Leolin to be around other Faeries, especially now that Dain and Kailen were almost cut off from them due to the tension in the city. Eitri, as well, had been corresponding less and less. Something big was going to go down in the city soon, something great, something terrible, he couldn't say. He just knew that it could mean complete disaster for Leolin's future and it could lead to the death of all of their Faerie friends.
"How was he?" Blaise asked as soon as they arrived home.
"He was so good for Ezrah and Lathen." Harry said proudly. "They said he barely grizzled all day."
"Wow, they must have a magic touch." Max chuckled.
"It was a combination of being outside all afternoon and his Ma doll." Nasta corrected, grinning.
"Likely the blanket that Harry slept with too."
"I slept with his bodysuit too." Harry said quickly, indicating the change of clothes they'd given to Ezrah and Lathen to change Leolin into for bedtime. "I figured that his bedtime would be the hardest, having gone all day without us, so I made sure the bodysuit he would be changed into smelt like me to limit the meltdown. It seems to have worked."
Harry needed to sit down and just hold Leolin for a while, even though his Faerie baby was fast asleep. He was snuggling very close though, likely smelling him in his sleep and knowing that he was home and back with his beloved Ma.
Max was the first to call it quits and head to bed. He'd driven them to the zoo and back again, he'd been the one to run after the kids when they stopped for breaks, taking them to the playgrounds or kicking a ball around a grassy area. He was exhausted and visibly sagging like a wilted flower, so Harry was not surprised that Max was the first to go to bed.
Harry too was feeling the effects of his exciting day…and his very early start. He was wilting too and it must have been as visible as Max because his mates were watching him closely.
"Go on up, Harry. I'll feed Taren." Nasta insisted.
"Are you sure, Nas?"
Nasta came to kiss him. "I'm sure. Go and put Leolin in his cot and then join Max in bed. You're both exhausted. I have a little bit of energy left to wait for Taren's feed."
"I love you." Harry said, smiling, as he went to kiss Nasta and then headed up the stairs for bed.
He stopped by Leolin's nursery, which looked like a little garden, and he kissed his Faerie baby and then laid him into his cot. He stood and looked down at him for a moment, just watching him sleeping. Leolin was peaceful in his sleep. The perpetual frown he wore when awake was eased and his expression was one of smoothed peace. Harry tucked the teddy likeness of himself into Leolin's arms and covered him over with a light blanket.
He sighed and moved from the nursery, across the hall to the master suite. Max was already fast asleep and Harry smiled at him. He'd taken the spot right in the centre of the bed, Harry's usual favourite place, but he'd make do with being snuggled on both sides.
He was yawning widely as he dressed for bed, just barely managing to brush his teeth. His eyes were already half closed. The exhaustion was catching up with him but the moment he slipped into bed and snuggled up to Max, his body sagged and he felt so tired that he didn't even want to move.
He'd had such a good day. He couldn't wait to do more of these experiences in the future. His eyes had barely closed before he was deeply asleep.
A/N: This has been a long time in coming, I know. Even now I've cut it short, there was much more that I wanted to include, but the longer I leave it, the less I want to come back to this fic, so I made the decision to cut parts out and post it as it was.
I've kept what I have done to my usual high standards, but it wasn't quite what I wanted from this chapter, but for whatever reason, this chapter was causing a massive block. It's better to just get through that block and carry on, rather than obsess over it and halt all progress and I have put up with this block for long enough. It's a new year and I refuse to carry this block into yet another year.
So no, it's not quite what I wanted when I planned this chapter out, but it's good enough and it has all of the important bits that I wanted to include in it, particularly Braiden's little bout of magic and Harry's enjoyment compared to his only other experience of a zoo. These were the most important things for me to get across with this chapter, but with some support and encouragement, I hope to do some more work on the Dracken Universe this year,
StarLight Massacre. X