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Lycanthrope Factory

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Chapter One - Exposure

Anita Blake was almost sick, for the first time in what seemed like ages at a crime scene, when she saw what she had been pulled in on. A Lycanthrope factory.
Cages upon cages of bloodied silver were stacked around like a veterinary practise, only these cages were not for cats or small dogs, but for people. People who were too big to be stuffed into these tiny cages.
There were bodies strewn around the floor, those that were miraculously still alive had been sent to the nearest hospital, including two little boys, who were not expected to survive.
The ‘operators’ who ran this place had had a tip off that the police were on their way and they had killed as many of their ‘experiments’ as they could before fleeing. Only four people had survived the massacre, out of fifty-seven. Originally nine had survived, but three had died on the way to the hospital and two had died shortly after reaching the hospital, they were all waiting anxiously for the update to tell them that all of them had died.
Anita surveyed the scene and felt sick as she had to step over bodies every other moment just to get around. Most of them had been shot or stabbed, but some had been decapitated completely, their heads missing, which put vampire into her mind. But if they were vampires, why hadn’t they fought back?
The half burned paperwork had been recovered and it listed five ‘doctors’ only five, against twenty decapitated people, possible vampires, they should have been able to overwhelm the ‘doctors’ and win their freedom, but it looked like they hadn’t fought at all, there were no defensive wounds or grazes on any of them.
There were half destroyed cabinets, half burned filing cabinets, the police had gotten here before the fire had truly taken hold, which was a stroke of luck because they had paperwork, the contents of the cabinets and all the dead people to process and use for evidence.
What got her the most was the small glass bottles of Were-X, Were-XI, Were-XII and Were-XV. Lycanthrope vaccines for werewolves, wereleopards, wererats and weretigers. Anita would bet Sigmund, her favourite stuffed penguin, that they weren’t being used as vaccines.
She examined some of the bodies, checking for needle marks, only two had needle marks in the bends of their elbows and upper arms and from their ‘specimen number’ they were the newest editions to the factory.
There was an entire laboratory mapped out in this warehouse in the middle of nowhere, what made her stomach roil were the autopsy labs, there were two of them and they were built with restraint in mind and one room was covered in blood. Dead bodies didn’t bleed in a spray large enough to cover walls, only live bodies did.
One autopsy lab was scrubbed clean, everything in perfect order and already being photographed and examined. The other lab still had a body on the metal table, a body that was strapped down with her chest fully opened from groin to breastbone, you didn’t need to strap down dead bodies. Anita turned and had to hunch over her stomach just a bit as bile threatened to slip up her throat.

“It is hard to stomach.” Zerbrowski said soothingly, for once not rubbing her nose in the dead body. “Merloni puked his guts two minutes after being here, tried to claim he’s been feeling sick all weekend.”

“This is…its indescribable!”

“It’s not often that a crime scene leaves you speechless.” Zerbrowski pointed out.

“This is worse than a horror show Zerbrowski, look at this place! Live autopsies, a cabinet full of god knows what, Lycanthrope vaccines, how the hell did these people get hold of so many vaccines?! They’re for hospital use only; you can’t get them anywhere else!”

“That’s what Dolph is trying to work out. There’s crates of it in the chest freezers, others we can’t identify and one crate that is unlabelled, we need to find these people Anita, before they meet up again and start all over again in a new state.”

Anita nodded. “What about the four survivors?”

“Two survivors.” Zerbrowski said. “One died on the operating table, another one reacted badly to the oxygen mask of all things, we don’t know what’s been done to them, so we have no information to give the medical staff, so they are doing the basics, but even the basics are killing them.”

“Was it the two boys?” Anita asked.

“One of them, the bigger one, the littlest one is still alive, surprisingly.”

“I don’t even know where to start.” Anita admitted as she looked around the torture factory, every room held more horror, more bodies, more evidence of a higher level of abuse.

Anita left the factory after she had done all she could and headed home. She felt like crying when she had found the body of the teenage girl. Specimen one-ninety-eight. The numbers went up to Specimen two-three-one or at least that had been the highest record they could find and it had been on one of the new ones still with the needle marks. There had only been fifty-seven people in that factory, including the survivors, so where were the other one hundred and seventy-four specimens? She had suggested digging up the surrounding area; Dolph had already called it in and started the ball rolling.
She made it home, which was lit up like a Christmas tree, signalling that her boys had made it home before her. She sighed; she had just wanted to cuddle up with Sigmund for a bit with no one watching so she could get rid of everything she had seen today. She couldn’t stop picturing the two boys who had been taken to the hospital, one of which was now dead, the other likely going to die during the night and the teenaged girl with the knife stuck in her head behind her ear.
She parked the jeep next to Micah’s car and headed to the house, the door opened and a smiling Nathaniel greeted her with a kiss, handing her a baby penguin mug of coffee. There was a reason she had come to love him.

“Micah’s in the kitchen, the Pard is over, I hope you don’t mind.” He said anxiously.

Anita shook her head as she kicked off her Nikes and sipped her coffee, walking into the kitchen to the greetings of the Pard.
Micah came to her with that lovely smile and kissed her, they ignored the cat calls from Caleb.

“What was the emergency?” Micah asked softly, taking in the comfort hold she had on her coffee mug.

“You won’t like it.” She sighed.

Micah’s eyes went guarded and she hated that she had caused it.

“What’s happened?” He asked as everyone quieted down. She sat down and felt every eye on her, she took another sip of coffee and placed the mug down, but she kept a hand wrapped around it.

“They’ve uncovered a Lycanthrope factory in Saint Louis.”

Micah stiffened, Merle cursed, but many others just looked confused.

“What’s a Lycanthrope factory?” Noah asked.

“They experiment on live Lycanthropes.” Micah spat. “No one has gone missing, we would have noticed, where were they getting the lycans from? It couldn’t have been from any of the surrounding states, we would have heard from their clan leaders.”

“That’s where it gets worse. They were actually very clever in how they operated.” Anita said quietly. “They had crates and crates of different Lycanthrope vaccines stored in the factory, they weren’t stealing Lycanthropes and experimenting on them, they were taking humans, injecting them with the vaccines and then experimenting on them after they had turned.”

Micah looked both livid and sick as his hands clenched on the table top.

“How many?” Merle asked. “How many people?”

“Each person was given a specimen number, it went right up to two hundred and thirty-one and that’s just the highest number we could find. The organisers were tipped off and they slaughtered as many experiments as possible, one was still strapped down to an honest to god autopsy table, they did live autopsies on specimens.”

Noah ran out of the room and Anita took a shaky sip of cooling coffee to calm herself. She shouldn’t have really been saying anything about the factory to anyone else, but she had to tell someone. It was too horrific to keep to herself and she trusted everyone in this room to keep their mouths shut, even Caleb, who Merle would beat into line if he said or did anything.

“Were…were there any survivors?” Micah asked, licking his pouty lower lip.

“Initially there were nine. Three died on the way to the hospital, two died shortly after arriving, one died on the operating table and another one reacted badly when the medical staff gave him oxygen and subsequently died. But that was the last update before I left, who knows if the last two are alive still.”

“All two hundred and thirty died?!” Zane asked.

“No. There were only fifty-seven specimens there, including the survivors, if they numbered them in order then one hundred and seventy-four are missing and presumed dead. They’re going to start digging up the gardens and the surrounding areas for bodies.”

“Will you tell the coalition?” Micah asked mildly, leaving the decision up to her.

She thought about it, before sighing heavily. “You might need to, if the last two do somehow survive then they’ll need to be fostered or they’ll be sent to a safe house, I don’t want to send them from one prison to another.”

Micah nodded and left to call the coalition, Richard would know within the hour, she’d expect his phone call or a body visit tomorrow morning at the latest, until then, she was going to soak herself in a nice, long, hot bath.

--------------------------------------------------------------------- X

Anita felt her belly tighten at the sight of Richard Zeeman, local Ulfric, that was wolf king, and one time sweetie, ex-fiancé and junior high science teacher.
He never failed to arouse her, just by being near her, it wasn’t fair, but she tried to deal with the situation at hand. He was angry. Pissed was probably a better word to use as angry seemed too mild for the spitting rage in those chocolate brown eyes.
She blinked her eyes when Richard growled. He had been speaking and she had been too busy looking at the splay of new muscles he had obtained through weightlifting since the last time she had seen him. Was it redundant to weightlift when you were a werewolf with super human strength? No, not when every other werewolf had super human strength too, plus the added muscle definition wasn’t hard on the eyes.

“You’re not listening again!” Richard shouted.

Anita jumped and looked at that tall, broad, raging werewolf and grew angry herself. Defensive.

“Is there or is there not a Lycanthrope factory in Saint Louis?!” He asked again, his voice disparaging and holding the bite of a growl from his beast, his two enforcers moving just a shade closer to him. He didn’t believe it, couldn’t bring himself to believe it. He would likely deny it until given proof, but was her word enough for proof these days? He knew she didn’t lie, but would he believe her?

“There was.” She answered him finally. “The police were tipped off about it and raided it, but the organisers were tipped off as well and trashed the place, killed the experiments and set it on fire before fleeing.”

“So there’s nothing left? Nothing to trace them with? They escaped to go and do this in another state?!”

“They didn’t have much time before the police arrived, the fire didn’t take hold so most of the paperwork survived, as far as we can tell there were five ‘doctors’ who were the organisers of this factory. We found bottles of Were-X, Were-XI, Were-XII and Were-XV.”

Richard went pale. It had been a bad dose of Were-X that had given him the werewolf gene in college.

“No Were-XIV?” Jamil questioned.

“Not that we’ve found so far, but most of the cabinets were toppled. Forensics are going through every shard of glass and taking samples of every liquid. I’d be surprised if they didn’t find Were-XVI and Were-XVII somewhere in the mess as well.”

“You think they would have had the vaccines for Werebear and Wereanaconda?” Richard asked, going pale again.

“You didn’t see the amount of smashed vaccines, they had boxes upon boxes of unused needles and frozen bottles of unlabelled liquids, it must have taken them years to amass so much equipment and vaccine in one place.”

“Micah said something about autopsy tables.”

“Two autopsy labs, they did live autopsies Richard. Strapped the Were down and performed a live autopsy on them while they were awake and aware.”

“How do you know they weren’t unconscious?”

“The blood spray patterns, too big a spray for an unconscious or drugged body, they were struggling as much as the restraints allowed and flinging blood all over that room.”

Richard looked horrified and sick. It wasn’t a wonder, of all the lycanthropes in the preternatural communities of Saint Louis, Richard was the most naïve to human nature, he just did not want to see the bad in people. It was one of his only faults, though not his biggest one.

“Were there any survivors?” He whispered, all the rage from before wiped away.

“Nine, but three died on the way to hospital, two died upon arrival, one died on the operating table, one died from being given oxygen and one died during the night after the nurses tried to clean her up with a sponge bath, they think she may have reacted to the soapy water. Only one is left and he’s not doing so well.” Anita answered softly; Dolph had updated her that morning over her coffee.

“I want to see him, but I can’t!” Richard lamented, starting to pace in a small circle in front of her.

“There’s nothing you can do Richard, they’re keeping him sedated, they’re talking about transferring him directly to a safe house as they don’t know what was done to him, what strains he has or how dangerous he is.”

“What about his blood work?”

Anita shook her head, her black curls flying. “It’s coming back a mess, whatever those people did to him, they screwed him over completely, screwed them all over completely. No blood test is registering, no sense can be made of any test results, the doctors are combing through the salvaged paperwork to try and figure out what those monsters were trying to do, but half of the pages are badly singed and there is water damage from where the firefighters put out the budding fire, some of it has been made illegible.”

Richard combed thick fingers through his shoulder length chestnut hair with its copper highlights and let out a shuddering breath.

“He can’t go to a safe house; he’ll never come back out Anita!”

“I know that, but no one from the coalition is willing to foster him. The kid might not even survive and people are already condemning him to another prison!”

“Kid?” Richard hissed, picking up immediately on the word.

Anita let out a suffering sigh; she hadn’t wanted to tell him that it had been a kid.

“He looks to be in his early to mid-teens.” She told him reluctantly, watching as he sucked in a breath through his teeth. “But it’s impossible to date his age as we don’t know who he is, where he’s from and can’t pull any blood, x-rays or even put him on a heart monitor, but he’s about four foot eleven, taking into consideration he might have been in these cages for weeks, the doctors think it may have stunted his growth as he goes through puberty, so they are guessing in the age range around thirteen to fifteen, but speculate he could be as young as twelve.”

“None of the students from Seckman have gone missing.” Richard stated.

“No, the police think that they were all pulled from out of state. They’re running missing persons to the photos from the crime scene to see if any match up.”

“I’d take him in if I could, but there’d be too many questions!” Richard gripped his hair as he paced, sounding so distressed she wanted to hug him, but he wasn’t her sweetie anymore, she couldn’t bear to touch him without it dissolving into something that required a lot less clothing.

“I’ll take him in.”

As soon as the words left her mouth she wanted to take them back. She had no idea why she had said it, why she had offered, but she did…she wanted that look on Richard’s face gone, that distressed, frustrated, useless look and as he turned to look at her with a shock slacked mouth and hopeful eyes it was almost worth it.
He picked her up and hugged her tightly, almost crushing her.

“Oh Anita, you will? You really will?” He choked out.

She should have said no, that she had made a mistake, that she hadn’t meant it, but all that came out of her mouth was a small “Yes.” And Richard buried his face in her mane of curls and she felt his shoulders shaking, but there was no sound from him as he sobbed silently into her hair.

“This really matters to you, doesn’t it?” She asked shocked.

He nodded. “I can’t see anyone go to those torture houses for Lycanthropes, not a child, definitely not a child. I would have taken him in, but the school would have asked questions why, the media, the police, it’s too dangerous for me, but…thank you Anita! Thank you.”

She smiled; it wasn’t often that this side of Richard came out these days, but she was happy to see it.

“I have to go.” She said reluctantly, breaking his grip on her even more reluctantly. “I’m going to visit him in an hour and it’ll take me that long to get through the police sentries and all the medical stations.”

“Let me know what’s happening?” He asked uncertainly.

She nodded. “Of course, I’ll call you as soon as I’m out.”

“Thank you.” He said once again and they left the house together, Anita for her jeep, Richard, Jamil and Shang-Da to Richard’s car.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

Anita sighed as she looked through the glass window at the boy bound to the bed. They had actually handcuffed him to the bed even though he was unconscious still. They didn’t seem to realise if he woke up and he was as dangerous as they believed and as strong as she thought he was then the brick walls wouldn’t keep him contained.
He looked so small, so fragile and delicate in the bed, half-starved and sickly looking with skin that was so pale it looked grey, his blue, blue spider web of veins visible through his papery skin. She thought that his hair was supposed to be black, but it was so lacklustre and dull that it looked thin, almost colourless but with a hint of a darker shade of grey that made him look terminally ill. His hair had been shorn unevenly, as though whoever had done it hadn’t cared what he looked like afterwards and just wanted the nuisance that was his hair gone. All of the specimens, male and female, had had shorn hair, but a few of them had shown signs of new hair growth and this boy seemed to have the longest hair, it was only an inch long, two inches in some places, but it allowed them to see the frightful condition of it and that helped the doctors diagnose malnutrition and various vitamin deficiencies, but they hadn’t yet worked out if it was safe to give him the vitamins he was deficient it, so it didn’t really do them any good knowing in the first place.
The doctors had chanced putting him on an oxygen mask, but he seemed to be responding to it better than the other boy who had come in with him, or at least he hadn’t died from it yet. He seemed to be responding to the basic medications he had been given and even remained under sedation, but every new medication they gave him could react with the unknown that was his own body and kill him. It was now a waiting game until he woke up, if he woke up at all.

“Have you found any of them from the missing person’s files?” She asked Detective Clive Perry, a handsome, soft spoken black man, on her way out of the room that looked into the young boy’s quarantined, sealed room.

“Good Morning Ms Blake.” He replied politely, he was the most polite man she had ever known. “We haven’t found any links yet, but Sergeant Storr is hopeful.”

Anita nodded and carried on, she would need to go and visit Jean-Claude tonight and update him to what had been happening in his city plus she had to call and update Micah and Richard.

------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

Jean-Claude sat as still as a statue behind his black lacquered desk in his living room at the Circus of the Damned and Anita sighed. She hated it when he did that unnatural stillness that all the old vamps could do. She half expected him to disappear every time she blinked.

“Are you sure about this information?” He asked finally and Anita glared at him.

“Of course I’m sure about it!” She defended hotly.

“And you suspect that there were vampires in this factory, oui?”

“There were approximately twenty decapitated people opposed to the rest, who had just been stabbed or shot, why go to the trouble and the time consuming process of taking their heads if they weren’t worried about them living through being shot or stabbed and then blabbing about the whole operation going on to the police? It takes time to sever a head, time these people didn’t have much of after the tip off, they decapitated them first, which gave them no time to kill all of the other specimens, which is why we initially had nine survivors.”

“Initially had nine survivors?” Asher questioned from the chair he had been sat in since she had arrived.

Anita rubbed her eyes; it had been a long, long day.

“There’s one left, the others all died, some from the stupidest of reasons.”

“Like what?” Asked Jason, who was on the settee behind and a little to the left of her.

“One boy died when they gave him oxygen, a woman died from having a sponge bath, the doctors think she reacted to the soapy water and one died when they anaesthetised him preceding an operation.”

“That was dangerous.” Jean-Claude said mildly.

“He was bleeding heavily from a stab wound to the chest, he had a punctured lung, he was going to die anyway if they didn’t operate and they had no way of knowing what would happen when they put him under anaesthetic.”

“How is the one that is left alive?”

“In bad shape and not expected to live another night.”

“Is what Richard said this afternoon true? Did you offer to take him in?” Jason asked.

Anita nodded. “I won’t see him go from one prison to another Jason, even if it means I have to take him in myself. The coalition was informed and we advertised for a foster home for the, then two, survivors. No one wanted them, not one damn person would have housed one of them for a while as they adjusted to being outside of a cage, Richard wanted to do it, but couldn’t because of his job, so I was the only one left and I agreed.”

“That’s if he survives.” Jean-Claude cut in smoothly.

Anita glared at him, detecting the slight hint of jealousy in Jean-Claude’s voice, likely at having another ‘man’ in her life.

“He’s twelve Jean-Claude.” She took pleasure in seeing the shock in those eyes, then the anger at what had happened to a child in his city.

“We will find the perpetrators of this disgusting act.” He said softly. “They will not get away with doing this in my city.”

“The police are doing everything they can with the evidence from the actual factory, they’re digging for bodies in the surrounding area and we’re hoping the boy survives and wakes up to tell us anything he knows, the police particularly want physical descriptions of the ‘doctors’ who were in charge of the factory and any helpers or associates he may have seen, but that’s only if he wakes up.”

“I would feel more comfortable, ma petite, if the child were to stay in the Circus until we could assess his state and strength.”

“He’s on his death bed, what do you think he’s going to do?” Anita demanded.

“You know as well as I that appearances can be deceiving, this child may have hidden strength and I would sooner not risk you, or our lovely Nimir-raj and Nathaniel.”

He had mentioned Micah and Nathaniel on purpose. She knew it, to remind her that it wasn’t just her at risk if she was wrong. She could get the both of them killed as well, or at least injured. She ground her teeth together.

“Fine.” She spat out. “Have it your way, he can stay here until you’re finished assessing him and then he can stay with me.”

Because what else really could she do? Jean-Claude was right, what if she was wrong and she ended up losing two of the most important people to her? How could she live with herself then, knowing that it had been her decision that had gotten Micah and Nathaniel killed? It made sense to have the boy stay at the Circus, with all the Wererats and the hyenas running security detail, the vampires that lived here and the always visiting leopards and wolves, it would be that much safer for all involved if the boy was moved here first and then if it was proven that he wasn’t a threat, then he could have her spare bedroom if he wanted it, but just because Jean-Claude was right and his idea made sense, didn’t mean she had to like it.

---------------------------------------------------------- X

Chapter Text

Chapter Two – Awakening

The boy had not woken in eight days and they were no closer to finding out who he was, where he had come from or who the people that had taken him were, but he was alive still and under Lillian’s expert care, which could only be a good sign at the moment.
It had been a snap getting the boy from the hospital, as a federal marshal she had gone to a Judge who was known, but never proven in hard evidence, to hate lycanthropes after an incident that claimed the life of his supposed teenaged lover, again there was no evidence of the Judge having such a young lover and his Wife denied it viciously and perhaps a bit too often to be inconspicuous.
He had thought it a wonderful idea to allow such a dangerous animal out of a public hospital and into the private care of ‘specialists’ and the executioner of Saint Louis and he had made it clear to her that no charges would be brought against her in the event she had to use deadly force to save her own life or that of anyone else from the unpredictable and dangerous male. That is how he had phrased it ‘unpredictable and dangerous male’ not boy, or even man, but male. She suspected he had used the word male as a substitute for animal, because he couldn’t be heard saying such a word to describe good citizens of America, not when he was trying to keep a low profile.
Dolph was very, very unhappy with her and showed it every time she refused a police guard for the boy, but this was bigger than him, bigger than all of them. The five organisers of this factory had to be caught before they could set up another factory and start all over again. The very thought of them setting up another factory like the one she had encountered sent shivers down her spine at the possibility of another graveyard like the one that had been dug up at the factory site.
One hundred and thirty-one skeletons had been found in the surrounding grounds of the factory and still more were being uncovered, she didn’t want to go and scan the area with her necromancy, she was afraid of what would happen with so many tragic deaths around, with so many skeletons, it could help, or more likely turn into a disaster as all of the bodies had been murdered in some way, and necromancy and murder never mixed well even if she didn’t actually plan on raising any of them.
It had been determined that none of the executed experiments were from Saint Louis or the surrounding states, so the police were now looking at missing persons from further afield, even as far as Wyoming, Ohio and Georgia, but no hits so far. It was all very, very strange, surely someone was missing at least one of the people executed in that factory? They couldn’t all be alone, isolated people with no friends or family, could they?
She was so stressed and with no new leads, with no helpful information and only bad news coming in left and right, Anita was constantly in a bad mood. She didn’t mean to take it out on those around her, especially not Micah, Nathaniel and Jean-Claude, but she still did and she was forced to apologise, she hated apologising, even if she was in the wrong, but she still did, because she knew she was wrong to take out her frustration on them, what she wouldn’t give for a bad guy she could actually see and shoot, right here, right now. It might alleviate her stress levels a bit.

---------------------------------------------------------------- X

Harry James Potter made a small noise as he woke up slowly. His first thought as he woke up was that he was sleeping on his back, which wasn’t right. His cage wasn’t big enough to lie down in. Unadulterated panic took over as he realised that his hands were restrained over his head and he was lying on his back. He was on an autopsy table.
He thrashed, tugged, screamed and yanked on his arms to free them from the restraints, but he didn’t open his eyes, he didn’t want to see. There was no falsely soothing voice; no stern reprimands to stay still, no small, sharp prick of a needle delivering sedatives that signified any of the doctors being present. Please no, please don’t let him be the next bisection on the autopsy table, he was interesting! They kept him because he was interesting! They couldn’t have lost interest in him yet, he had responded to the last experiment when none of the others had, he didn’t want to die!
He could feel people around him, too many to be the doctors, had they brought in trainees again? Or were they just stockists?
Harry heard a buzzing and panic made him rip at his restraints harder. He had heard that buzzing several times during his life and it always, always, preceded something terrible happening.
He screamed, high and frightened as he kicked out with his legs, yanking on his arms again and feeling his skin tear in a burning strip that signified a graze. At the first scent of blood, hands were on him and he screamed with a higher, more desperate pitch, struggling more and he felt the restraints give way.
His arms were suddenly free and he sat up despite the hands on him, he hit those hands away from him like they were nothing, he could smell them all around him, he shoved the people away and everything was black. He remembered that he hadn’t opened his eyes, which is why his hearing was acute and he could smell these people so strongly. Their scent was wrong, different, what was happening? His eyes snapped open and his ‘interesting energy’ spilled from him, freezing everyone and he looked at them all rapidly, with small, sharp movements of his head, taking them all in and smelling the fear that pooled from them all as he looked at them while they were stood frozen by his natural energy that caused such hard, heavy debates between the doctors.
He didn’t recognise any of them, or where he was. He looked around curiously and tilted his head until his ear rested on his shoulder, looking at where he was through a different angle, trying to make sense of what this strange place was, he had only ever known his cage and the laboratory he had spent most of his life, and very vaguely he remembered a dusty cupboard under a set of stairs and a small room with a tiled floor taken up by a large table with an even larger man behind it, a thin, blonde haired woman and a fat little boy only just older than he was. Every now and then he got flashes of memory connected to those people, none of them were nice memories and he didn’t like thinking about it.
He didn’t recognise this place, it was strange and unfamiliar and that frightened him as he crouched low to the floor and edged around the walls towards a door, he knew doors normally led outside and he wanted out of this room.
He stood up to try to work the door as he had seen the doctors do, but this door handle was like an orb and it wouldn’t press down. He shook it and the door rattled in its frame and he screamed at it, but it wouldn’t open. He kicked it and the door flew off its hinges and fell with a clatter to the floor after hitting the wall of the corridor outside it.
He looked one way and then the other, both sides were empty, Harry went one way, edging close to the wall, following the smell of fresh air all the way through the twisting corridors until he reached the end of the last corridor and he batted his way through a curtain of cloth at the far end that stopped him from carrying on forward.

“Lisandro? Claudia?” A feminine voice called out.

Harry stopped and reassessed his situation; he could go back and go down the other corridor, but this way smelt fresher, less damp. He knew this way led out and the other way led deeper underground, but there were people out there, or maybe it was just the one woman.
He closed his eyes and inhaled softly. No. More than one person, quite a few more. He tried to go around the flimsy cloth, but he kept hitting walls. He’d have to take his chances with the people behind the cloth if he wanted to leave.

“Fredo?” The woman called out again and there was a thread of tension in her voice that made him think danger and he hesitated again.

He crouched down and crawled on his hands and knees through the cloth and was glad he had done so. There were four of those shocky guns the doctors used to keep them under control when one of the specimens went feral. Harry had had it used on him twice and he had no want to make it a third.
He hissed and slid sideways, sticking to the wall.

“Mon Dieu.” A blonde man whispered.

Harry hissed again and cocked his head, still edging around the wall towards the door. A man with a shocky gun moved to block his way and Harry quivered, hunching away from the gun, the pulses in his mind each telling him to do something different until he raked his fingers through his hair and clutched the back of his head to stop the noise. He yowled and shook his head like he was shaking water from himself and fell to the floor in a heap, he edged backwards and yowled like a cat once again.

“It is nice to see you awake, mon petit pétale, we have been waiting for you to awaken.”

Harry stared at the man blankly. They had been waiting for him to wake up? Why? What did they want, why was he here, what had happened to the doctors and the factory, where was his cage? Was he still in the factory? Was this just a part he had never seen before? Had he reacted unexpectedly to an experiment? What was going to happen to him, what did they want with him? Why him and not one of the other specimens? How had he gotten here? He couldn’t remember. He hissed deeply at the man who had spoken to him.

“What did you do to Claudia, Lisandro, Fredo and all the other wererats in your room?” A woman asked him, her shocky gun held steady at his chest. Didn’t she know the shocky guns could kill him if aimed at the chest?

Harry cocked his head all the way to his shoulder again and looked at her from a different angle. He mewed softly to her. The one woman doctor had always pet him and given him a spoon of sweet stuff when he mewed and cooperated with her experiments.

“I think we can assume he doesn’t actually understand what we’re saying.” A man said to fill the silence.

Harry didn’t stop looking at the woman, who sighed and relaxed her body, but her shocky gun was still aimed at his chest. Maybe she didn’t like mews? Harry yipped instead and that got their attention again.

“Has he been taught to act like this or is it something that was the result of whatever freaky shit they did to him?” A man asked, looking at him like he was a bug to be stepped on, the head doctor had looked at all of them that way.

Harry couldn’t stay here if he was going to be hurt or killed. The experiments were okay, he was knocked out for most of them and they only hurt for a while afterwards, but he didn’t want to be an autopsy, he didn’t want to be awake when he died, he had to get out.
He pushed himself to his feet and pressed himself against the wall again, edging back the way he had come, perhaps the other corridor led to a different way out.

“No!” The woman shouted as she realised what he was doing and he suddenly darted between the fabric curtains and ran.

He wasn’t used to running much, except when they put him on the funny machine where he run on the spot for hours until he couldn’t run anymore and collapsed. He always woke up back in his cage. The ground didn’t move under him as he ran, it was so strange as he did everything he could to get away from the people with shocky guns who wanted to kill him, even if he had to hide for a while to wait until it was safe, he remembered hiding from the large man in his memories when he was very young and he hoped this time it worked out better than those times had.

------------------------------------------------------------ X

Anita was at her wits end. The boy was lost somewhere in the underground maze of the colossal Circus and they couldn’t find him. The only door to the surface had two guards on it, the vampires were afraid to die in the mornings, the wereanimals were afraid to sleep at night and they still couldn’t unfreeze the wererats from whatever the boy had done to them, but Lillian assured them that they were still alive, that it looked like they had been frozen solid, but how the boy had done it was anyone’s guess.
A few sightings of the boy in the underground maze had been called in, but they couldn’t catch him, corner him or lure him in with food or water.

“It’s been three days! You’d think he’d have at least tried to get some food off of us!”

“He’s been fed with a drip.” Lillian told them surely as if they should have known all along.

Anita looked to the older woman, this being the first time she had joined in on their little meetings to find the boy as she had conceded there was nothing more she could do for her frozen comrades, and Anita begged her silently to explain.

“He was kept in a cage not even big enough for him to sleep in properly, he doesn’t react to the presence of food or water, even though he should be starving. We can safely assume these people didn’t care much past keeping them alive enough to perform experiments on them, so it’s logical to assume that the victims were fed intravenously. In which case he has lost his ability to properly bite and chew food, probably his reflex of swallowing and the urge to eat food with his mouth. He’ll have to be taught how to all over again.”

“So there is nothing we can do to feed him?” Anita asked.

“No. He probably doesn’t understand why you are leaving food around, if it has become second nature to him to be drip fed, he likely doesn’t even realise what’s wrong with him and that could make him more panicked, more unpredictable and overall more dangerous.”

“We need to find him; we need to catch him before he dies. He is the only link we have to the factory organisers, we need him or there’s going to be a new factory popping up somewhere and more people are going to be hurt and killed.”

“I’ll enlist the help of Richard and his wolves.” Jean-Claude sighed. “I am sure our Jason has been keeping him informed of every minute of our search.”

“How will that help?” Anita asked grumpily.

“Perhaps they could pinpoint his location through scent.”

“We tried that Jean-Claude; we don’t have anything with the boy’s scent on it.” Anita told him frustrated.

“What if our Richard and his wolves could pick up a scent from the frozen wererats?” Jean-Claude replied mildly and Anita blinked.

“You mean trace him through whatever he did to the wererats? What if whatever he did doesn’t have a scent?”

“Then we can say we tried and send more people to corner him.” Jean-Claude gave a gallic shrug and Anita sighed resigned to giving it a try.

“Alright, we’ll call him and give it a try. I’m willing to try anything at the moment.” She relented.

--------------------------------------------------------------- X

Richard had come straight from work, his shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows and his blue tie rolled up in his pocket. He had found the boy within half an hour of being in the Circus and carried the squirming, wriggling boy into Jean-Claude’s living room restrained to his chest, hands holding the boy’s arms crossed over his wraith thin body as the boy snarled and thrashed like a cornered feral animal.
When a frustrated Richard snarled back, growling deep in his throat, the boy fell immediately still and silent and whimpered softly, arching his head back over Richard’s shoulder, baring his throat to Richard’s mouth and by extension his teeth and simultaneously butted the top of his head against Richard’s chin. Cat and dog all in one.

“You have caused quite a stir, mon petit pétale.” Jean-Claude breathed softly at the child, thinking, like the rest of them, that any loud noise would set him off again.

The boy started purring. Honest to god purring and Anita wanted to let her jaw hang open. He truly sounded like a contented cat, not like the leopards who could also purr to an extent, but like an actual housecat. What had those people done to him?

“We have a bit of a dilemma.” Jean-Claude told the boy softly, who stopped purring to listen to him. “You see, you did something to some of my people.”

Those green eyes didn’t even register recognition of the words spoken. The boy blinked slowly and then turned away from Jean-Claude after the silence stretched on and began purring again, rubbing against Richard’s chin with his cheek, dismissing them.

“Can you reverse what you’ve done?” Anita asked.

The boy stopped what he was doing and looked at her as she spoke, but when she didn’t speak anymore, he went back to nuzzling Richard, who was looking increasingly uncomfortable.

“Can you unfreeze the wererats?!” Anita hissed in frustration.

The boy’s head snapped to look at her, the unadulterated fear in those wide green eyes made her regret her tone instantly as the boy slumped in Richard’s arms submissively, making himself boneless and making a high, pitiful sound in his throat, begging for forgiveness and making soft whining noises.
Anita sighed shakily and combed her fingers through her tight froth of black curls. She needed to calm down, but the thought of all the wererats, some of them personal friends, that this boy had frozen and seemed to be unable to understand them enough to reverse the effects made her heart heavy with guilt. She had suggested the wererats as the best bodyguards for the boy, she was the reason they were in that room with him when he had awoken.

“If he can’t understand us then we may never help those he has frozen.” Jean-Claude said regretfully.

“If we can get him to understand, teach him to speak and understand what we’re saying, perhaps he can help then.”

“Lillian doesn’t know how long the wererats have left. It’s been three days and she thinks they are only still alive still because they are lycanthropes, that if they had been human they’d be dead.” Anita answered Richard’s suggestion.

“I can understand you sometimes.”

Every eye turned to the soft voice that came from the boy who was now nipping at Richard’s jaw with small teeth.

“You can speak?!” Anita demanded furiously.

Green eyes blinked at her and he frowned as if he couldn’t quite understand, either what she was saying properly, or why she was so angry.
Richard moved forward and turned the boy around, sitting him on Jean-Claude’s desk and crouching down so he was eye level with the boy.

“Do you know what I’m saying?” Richard questioned softly, mildly, as if he were speaking about the weather to an elderly relative whom he loved very much.

The boy blinked slowly, his eyes holding Richard’s, but his eyes kept slipping down to Richard’s mouth. Anita wanted to hit him for thinking of kissing Richard when there were several people stiff and immobile in rooms down the corridor.

“You can look at my mouth if it helps you to understand me.” Richard told the boy soothingly. “Can you understand what I’m saying to you?”

The boy’s eyes stared at Richard’s mouth, sometimes mouthing the words silently to himself and Anita felt guilty that she had come to the conclusion of kissing so quickly, before anything else, it made her feel worse about herself that she had come to the thought of kissing first and not anything else, but she wasn’t likely to mention it to anyone else.

“Sometimes.” The boy replied after three full minutes of staring at Richard’s mouth and moving his mouth silently.

“Do you know your name?” Richard asked slowly and clearly, still in that soft, soothing tone.

“Specimen number one hundred and sixteen.” He replied immediately and clinically as he thrust out his wrist, the wrist where the number had been written on a little tag that they had cut off to use for evidence, but the action was automatic, ingrained and it made her swallow.

Richard swallowed his own lump of emotion down his throat.

“No, your name. The name your parents gave you.”

The boy did that strange movement with his head until his ear was pressed against his shoulder, looking at Richard through wide, wide eyes from a ninety degree angle.

“You know, your Mom and Dad?” Richard tried, but the boy looked even more confused.

“Harry?” The boy said it more as a question than a statement.

“Your name is Harry?” Richard asked for confirmation.

The boy nodded. “James.”

“Is your name Harry or James?” Anita snapped impatiently.

The boy flinched and Anita blew out a breath, she needed to calm down and she didn’t need the sideways glance from Jean-Claude or the dead-on glare from Richard to tell her that.

“Answer the question.” Richard encouraged the boy softly, oh so kindly.

“Both.”

“So your name is Harry James?”

The boy, Harry, nodded with a small, shy smile and Richard smiled back widely.

“Do you know how old you are Harry?”

Anita sighed as the familiar look of confusion took over the boy’s face. They would be here all night trying to get anything about the factory and the organisers from him, if he could tell them anything at all.

“I think you are asking the wrong questions.” Lillian commented as she stood silently by the door, an IV bag in her hands.

“What questions should we be asking?” Anita replied, trying to keep her voice emotionless and bland. It was a struggle.

Lillian walked over to the boy on the desk and Harry saw the IV bag. Anita expected him to freak and bolt, but he held out his arm docilely and allowed Lillian to hook him up to the bag with absolutely no fuss, watching as the needle was slid into his vein and taped in place, he even held his hand out for the bag so he could hold it up himself. It was all very strange and saddening.

“So Harry, do you remember being in your cage?” Lillian’s voice was mild and conversational, as if she were doing nothing more than asking his shoe size as everyone else sucked in a deep breath, waiting for the boy to stammer, close up completely, or just bolt. He did nothing of the sort.

“Yes.” He answered softly as he watched the IV bag as if mesmerised by it.

“Do you remember a time before you got put into your cage?”

“Yes.”

“Can you tell me about that time?”

“I remember a cupboard. I used to sleep in the cupboard. There was a fat man who liked shouting and hitting, a fat boy about my age who called me names and a thin woman who liked slapping me.”

“How many years old were you when you first remember being in your cage?” Lillian asked as she checked the boy over, who helped her by always being where she needed him, he was used to this and the familiar, clinical movements were actually relaxing him.

“Eight.”

Lillian strove not to react to that news even as there were gasps and curses from those around her at the possibility of this little boy being in the care of those monsters for at least four years. She fought her facial muscles hard to remain smooth and plain, to not make faces as Harry stared at her mouth so critically.

“Do you know how old you are now Harry?”

Harry shook his head.

“Can you guess?” Lillian encouraged.

“Seventeen?” Harry looked so confused as he answered, but that he thought he was seventeen, which was a very big difference to the twelve years they believed he had been, Lillian made the guess that Harry was older than he looked, perhaps much older, but she actually took comfort that he possibly knew how to count up to seventeen at least.

“Did the people who kept you in the cage turn you into an animal right away?” Lillian questioned.

Harry actually grinned then, a wide, happy, excited smile.

“Leowolftigpire!” He said in a rush, looking to her as if she should have immediately understood.

“What’s that Harry?”

The boy’s face fell, his smile vanishing and his eyes dulling from the excited sparkle.

“Me.” He answered softly.

“Can you say what you are again slowly?”

“Leowolftigpire.”

“So Leo, leopard?” She questioned. “Wolf is obvious; tig is for tiger and pire for vampire?”

That beautiful grin came back and Harry nodded enthusiastically.

“Lupus Pardus Tigris Sanguinus.” Harry told her proudly.

“You are a hybrid of a wereleopard, a werewolf, a weretiger and a vampire. Am I understanding you correctly?”

Harry nodded.

“Sweet Jesus.” One of the hyenas muttered.

“What animal do you turn into on the full moons Harry?”

Lillian had to repeat her question twice before understanding lit those eyes.

“All of them.”

“All together?” Lillian elaborated.

Harry shook his head. “Sometimes they fight for who gets to come out, the tiger usually wins, but sometimes he’s sleepy and lazy and cuddled up with the leopard and the wolf comes out.”

“Was tiger the first vaccine they injected you with?” Anita asked, feeling uncomfortable as those green eyes snapped to stare at her mouth.

“No. I had the wolf one first, then leopard, then tiger and vampire came last. Then the full moon came and it was the worst pain I had ever been in.”

“You’re a Panwere.” Anita said as fear built up. It was irrational yes, but she had only ever met one other Panwere and Chimera had not left a glowing perception of Panweres. He had been crazy, more crazy than anyone she had ever met before. Being so many animals at once had given him a split personality disorder so bad he actually believed himself to be so many different people and he had even looked differently depending on what animal he was portraying.

Harry just looked at her uncomprehendingly. He mumbled silently to himself, but the frown that pouted those lips told her that he did not understand.

“You’re more than one animal at once.” Richard told the boy.

Harry nodded.

“That’s what Panwere means Harry, that you are more than one animal.”

“Oh.”

Harry yawned softly and suddenly and gripped hold of Richard and pulled himself into his arms and snuggled in as Richard scrambled to hold him. Harry fell asleep in a position Anita would have sworn would have been impossible for anyone else, but she had to remind herself that this boy was used to sleeping in a tiny cage, so must have perfected falling asleep at any moment and in any position.
Richard moved that tiny body into a more comfortable position and held him; the look on his face was heartbreak and horror.

“This is so much worse than I thought it would be. If he is actually seventeen then he’s been in the care of those monsters for nine years.”

“Why is he still alive?” Jamil asked and everyone turned to him. “I didn’t mean it like that! I mean, every other experiment was killed sooner. Harry, if that is his name, said that his specimen number was a hundred and sixteen, that’s quite low compared to the other specimens found executed in the factory right?”

Anita could have kicked herself for not picking up on that sooner. The fifty-seven specimens in the factory had gone right up to two hundred and thirty-one. She yanked out the notebook she had started to keep track of all the numbers.
Out of the fifty-seven specimens in the factory, apart from ‘small, black haired boy’ who was Harry, the lowest number was ‘rail-thin, redheaded woman, possibly in early thirties’ who had been labelled as specimen number one-six-seven. That was a gap of fifty-one specimens, if each specimen was labelled in order of arrival to the factory, then there were fifty-one people between Harry and the other lowest specimen in that factory. Why? What made Harry so different, so much more special to the ‘doctors’ than the other specimens in that factory? Was the interest from him being such an impossible, yet successful hybrid of three lycanthrope strains and vampirism or did it have something to do with how he had frozen several wererats like wooden boards? There were too many questions and no answers forthcoming. She looked at the boy, Harry James, could he give them the answers they needed or was he too screwed to be of much help?
When he had been thrashing and snarling at Richard, she had thought he might have to be put down like a sick dog, but once he had submitted to the dominating presence of Richard and had calmed down it seemed he was capable of understanding what they were saying, even if the conversation was stilted due to his limited vocabulary and inability to comprehend certain words and sentences. She hoped he was able to help. She really, really did.

----------------------------------------------------------------------- X

Chapter Text

Chapter Three – Reversal

The second time Harry woke up, it was because he was being tipped backwards and he scrambled to catch a hold of the massive pair of shoulders in front of him, wrapping his skinny arms around a thick neck tightly and holding on to keep from falling, a small whine already in his throat as the burning warmth that had kept him asleep was taken away from his lower body.

“It’s alright Harry, you’re alright.” The soft, soothing voice of the wolfman broke through his whining.

“You’re warm.” Harry complained as he snuggled himself in as tightly as he could. It felt amazing to be held by another lycanthrope and his wolf was rumbling so very happy just below the surface of his skin.

“I can’t carry you around all day.” The wolfman said with a hint of laughter in his voice.

“I want to be warm, just once.” Harry replied as he went still in those large arms, wrapping his skinny legs around that thick waist, making sure to hook his thighs over the hipbones to stay in place.

Richard sighed and straightened up once more, cradling the bony, underweight body of the boy in his arms and walking back out to Jean-Claude’s living room. Harry fell right back to sleep on the way.

“I thought you were going to put him back in his bed Richard.” Anita said.

“He woke up when I tried to put him down. I think he’s been so starved for contact and with him being a lycanthrope as well, that he just can’t bear to be parted from one, anyone, now that he’s been introduced to it.”

Jason went up to his Ulfric and bowed his head, before he tugged the small body from his arms and carried Harry to the settee and sat back down, cuddling with him, rumbling softly in his throat when Harry made a soft noise at the invading cold, before it was washed away by Jason’s body. Stephen joined him on the other side and together they sandwiched the smaller, younger pack member between them, keeping him warm and sleeping.

“Can you two watch him for me?” Richard asked.

“Of course Ulfric.” Stephen replied, twirling a tuft of the dull, greyish hair Harry had on his head around a finger.

“Just be careful.” Anita warned.

“He’s not an animal Anita; he’s just frightened and has been abused.”

“You saw as well as I did what he was like when he first woke up and when you caught him. He has the potential to be dangerous.”

“He didn’t know any of us!” Richard snarled.

“Oh? And now he does, does he? So he’s going to behave and not attack us and inexplicitly trust us because he now knows us, after an hour of conversation?” Anita disparaged.

“He fell asleep with us in the room, that shows trust!”

“No it doesn’t! He has been forced to sleep when he could, wherever he was for years Richard, those people hurt him, experimented on him when it suited them, there was nothing he could do, nothing he could do to stop them, so he slept in his cage regardless because he couldn’t stay awake any longer, it was going to happen anyway, why torture himself by being tired also. Him falling asleep with us here is not a sign of trust, he’s been doing it for years with much bigger threats to his life than us, he’s taught himself to ignore his surroundings.”

Richard stifled a scream of rage and tugged at his hair.

“How can this have been allowed to happen? He was eight when he was turned into a lycanthrope, he shouldn’t have been able to survive the ensuing full moon! That he was given three lycanthrope strains together and vampirism; he shouldn’t have survived long enough to be tortured! Someone somewhere must have missed their eight year old son!”

“I don’t think so, remember what he said Richard.” Lillian put in gently, trying to bring down the tension. “Before he was in his cage he remembered sleeping in a cupboard, living with a fat man who yelled and hit him, a skinny woman who slapped him and a little fat boy who called him names. He was abused before those so called doctors even got their hands on him. I don’t think anyone is going to be looking for him.”

“How can anyone do that to their own child?” He whispered horrified.

“I’ve been trying to tell you for years Richard that the level of human depravity goes deeper than you want to think about. Humans are monsters too; their sick, depraved minds concoct all manner of tortures and abuse. A lycanthrope will just bite and claw at you, a vampire will drain you dry, but a human, you never know what a human will do to you once they have fallen into that mind-set, once they have decided to murder, once they have decided to kill you, it’s up to their imagination on how gruesome a death they give you.”

Richard looked disgusted and Anita shook her head. She could always count on Richard being a boy scout. He just didn’t understand that humans could be monsters too, that just because someone was infected with lycanthropy, didn’t automatically mean they were monsters, no matter what Humans First believed.

“Richard, those ‘doctors’ from the factory, they were humans. From their paperwork we can gather that they hated lycanthropes and vampires so much they were testing on them to find a ‘cure’ for their diseases. It was humans who tortured and killed all of those people, turned them into what they hated just to experiment on them and torture them, killed them and buried them in unmarked graves in the field surrounding the factory. It was humans who hurt Harry and kept him in a cupboard, humans who caged him at eight and turned him into a Panwere. It was humans who fucked him over, not lycanthropes. So who are the real monsters?”

Richard said nothing, though he looked like he had sustained several heavy body blows before having his world ripped to pieces. Hopefully he understood now, that just because he had been turned into a werewolf, that he did have urges and instincts that belonged to an animal, that that didn’t make him a monster, nothing could ever make Richard a monster, not in her eyes, not in his packs eyes, not in his friends and not in his families eyes, no matter what he did, he would always be Richard.

-------------------------------------------------------------- X

Harry slept for thirteen hours straight cuddled up with Stephen and Jason, who also fell asleep on the settee, all wormed together like a little puppy pile, arms here and legs stuck out there, it looked adorable, not that Anita would ever confess to think such a soft, mushy thought.
It was a strange thing; Jean-Claude had died for the day and woken back up, bathed and groomed himself and gone to his living room to find the three cuddled up together on his settee still.
Anita had gone home, had some sleep, gone into work, done her raisings for the night and come to the Circus to find that the boys had barely moved at all.
Jason snuffled in his sleep and buried his head further into Stephen’s stomach, Stephen made a small noise and his hand clenched in Harry’s pyjamas and Harry himself was just awake. One moment sleeping deeply, the next he was wide awake, no sign of his thirteen hour sleep, no sign of lingering sleepiness or fatigue, just wide awake and alert. Anita made a note to never be drowsy or sleepy around Harry, he could wake up a hell of a lot quicker and more effectively than she could and if he turned, he would have the advantage over her.

“Good evening, mon petit pétale. How are you feeling?” Jean-Claude questioned.

Harry was silent for several moments. “I don’t understand.” He said finally.

“How do you feel?” Anita questioned patiently.

“Warm.” He answered softly, snuggling into Jason’s thigh.

Anita was hoping he would drop back off, but those green, green eyes stayed open, blinking languidly, but he remained awake and alert as his head was pillowed on Jason’s lax thigh.
Harry yawned softly and made a small noise, like a stretching cat though his body remained still, cradling Stephen’s upper body.

“Has Lillian left yet?” Anita asked, thinking of something to say to break the silence. Everything she wanted to say was about Harry and even if he didn’t understand everything she said, it felt wrong to speak about him like he wasn’t there or was a particularly dim-witted child.

“Non, she is still with the frozen wererats.”

“We need to try and get him to unfreeze them.” Anita said softly.

“They’re not frozen.” Harry piped up.

“Can you reverse what you’ve done?” Anita asked hopefully.

“What does that mean?” Harry questioned.

“Means can you undo it.” Jason answered sleepily as he rolled onto his back carefully and stretched.

Harry cocked his head up onto his shoulder, it was strange seeing him do it when he was lying down.

“You don’t understand do you?” Jason said sadly. Harry shook his head.

“Can you make them not frozen anymore?” Anita tried.

“They’re not frozen.” Harry reiterated in frustration.

“Then what did you do?” Anita snapped.

Harry whimpered and snuggled down into a still sleeping Stephen. Anita sighed and shook her head.

“I need coffee to deal with this.” She grumbled.

Asher walked through the curtains from deeper under the Circus and joined them.

“What has happened?”

“Besides Harry not understanding anything of what we say? Nothing.” Anita said moodily.

“I do so understand some things!” Harry said stroppily. “You use strange words and shout at me!”

A lance of sound had Harry cringing from his own head, his wolf had woken up with his anger and he wanted out to hurt the nasty lady.

“Calm down Harry.” Jason soothed, touching him and holding him, waving a wrist that smelt like places he had never been, damp and earthy and he grabbed that wrist and inhaled the scent deep into himself, licking at the pale forearm, from wrist to elbow and trying to squeeze his tongue higher under the cuff of the tight tee-shirt.

“That tickles.” Jason grinned, but didn’t move his arm as Harry continued to lick him.

“Do you think it would help to show him the wererats?” Asher suggested.

“And have him finish them off? No.”

Jean-Claude sighed, as if he were dealing with a particularly troublesome child and Anita staved off an angry flush.

“I believe it may help his understanding if he were reminded of what he did, ma Cherie.” Asher placated.

“Fine, but don’t let him near them.” She relented stubbornly.

“Harry, would you come with me?” Jean-Claude addressed the young boy, who was still sensually licking Jason’s arm.

“Do you know why he’s doing that?” Anita asked.

“I think he can smell the wolf on me. He hasn’t smelt another wolf before I don’t think and he’s trying to commit the smell to memory by tasting it.”

Jean-Claude took Harry’s hand gently and pulled him to his feet, Harry looked at him with such large, hurt eyes that it almost choked him. Though Anita was right, there wasn’t an ounce of trust in the gaze Harry gave him, no matter how bright his eyes were.
Jean-Claude forced himself to let go of Harry’s hand, he might have been hurt and abused horrifically, but he wasn’t a child, if Harry truly was seventeen, then he wasn’t a child who needed to have his hand held just to walk down the corridor, if they had any hope in helping him recover and become a normal member of society then they needed to teach him what he needed to know and give him the independence he needed to survive.

“If you would come this way.” Jean-Claude instructed in lieu of pulling Harry along by the hand.

Harry walked beside him, but his gait was unlike anything Jean-Claude had ever seen and it looked like Harry would have much rathered just sunken to his knees and crawled. He had to remind himself that Harry likely had spinal damage from the years of being shoved into a cage far too small for him that had forced him to curl into all sorts of positions just to fit, let alone get comfortable and that was before any experiments the doctors did to him, because if what was unravelling from the salvaged paperwork could be believed, it wasn’t just making successful hybrids that the doctors had had in mind when they had started up their factory. There was even a full documented report of a particular experiment that they had performed, in one of the undamaged exercise books, of a full gender switch on two experiments to see if when they then changed that full moon they would switch back. They hadn’t.
When they reached a corner, Harry flung his back to the wall and peered around it suspiciously and Jean-Claude stopped and watched as Harry’s beautiful, but shrewd, green eyes assessed his surroundings and the danger of heading left or right.

“We are going left, mon petit pétale.” He said softly.

“Just pick him up and carry him.” Anita huffed from behind them.

Jean-Claude had known she was there, so he continued watching Harry, who didn’t jump or startle at Anita’s suddenly loud voice. He had known she was there too.

“If he is to ever become a part of regular society, even if he is involved in the lycanthrope communities, he needs to learn to do for himself, ma petite, he cannot do that if we continually coddle him and carry him around like a child. He is not a child, so he should not be treated like one.”

“We’ll be here all night.”

“Which way is left?” Harry’s soft voice broke in.

“Oh for gods sake.”

Jean-Claude ignored Anita’s annoyed and stubborn stance, he was used to her impatience by now, instead he stepped up behind Harry and slipped his hands under the smaller boy’s. He moved his left hand outwards, moving Harry’s also.

“Left.” He said clearly. He tucked his and Harry’s hands back into their sides and moved the right one out. “Right.”

Harry repeated his actions, moving his left hand out, moving Jean-Claude’s also. “Left.” He said softly before repeating with the opposite hand. “Right.”

“Oui, good boy.”

“I thought you weren’t going to treat him like a child.”

Jean-Claude sighed. He had known Anita was in a bad mood from the marks between them, but she was being nearly impossible tonight.

“Teaching him what he needs to know to live independently is not treating him like a child, ma petite.”

“We go left.” Harry said almost to himself as he wasn’t paying any attention to his and Anita’s quarrel.

Harry extended his left hand out and then followed it like it was a guide. Jean-Claude felt a small amount of pride that Harry had picked up on directions so quickly and was able to apply them correctly, now he just needed his lesson to stick.
Jean-Claude followed Harry as he almost loped down the corridor, partially hunched, still moving like he would be more comfortable crawling, they came to another left or right.

“We go left?” Harry turned to look at him through curious eyes, his words a question to him.

“Non, mon petite pétale, we go right.” Jean-Claude instructed, feeling that swell of pride as Harry stopped, looked at both of his hands, before raising the right one and followed it down the right passageway.

Jean-Claude stopped him halfway down the corridor and Harry looked at him curiously.

“We go left.” Jean-Claude told him.

Harry looked at his hands, before looking to what was left of him.

“There is no left.” Harry told him.

Jean-Claude looked to the door and maneuvered Harry in front of it.

“We must go through the door.”

Harry looked at the handle and scowled. He glared at the handle and extended a hand; he gripped the orb and tried pressing it down. He got incredibly frustrated, very easily when he couldn’t work it.

“Non, mon petit pétale, twist it.” Jean-Claude told him.

“The doctors used to push it down.” Harry told him softly.

“This is a different door handle, you need to twist it.”

Jean-Claude placed his hand over Harry’s and twisted it sharply to the right and the door opened. Harry’s grin could have lit up the room.
Lillian was looking at them when they entered and Harry greeted her subserviently, dropping to his knees and rubbing his forehead over her hand. He then proceeded to flick the tip of his tongue over the back of her hand, tasting her curiously.

“I take it he has agreed to free the Rodere? Rafael is not best pleased about this Jean-Claude.”

“He doesn’t understand what we mean.” Anita bit out to the other woman. “He insists they’re not frozen.”

“They aren’t.” Harry snapped.

“Harry, maybe you could tell me what they are if they aren’t frozen?” Lillian said softly, kindly.

Harry poked Claudia, who had been moved onto a bed with her fellow wererats. “Full body bind.” He said.

“Can you stop them being this way?” Lillian asked.

Harry just touched Claudia; there was a small wave of power that was electrifying, almost like they had all been struck by lightning and then Claudia was sitting up as if she had never been frozen at all.
Harry touched all of the frozen wererats and they sat up, some rubbed their heads, some screwed their eyes shut for a few moments, but they were otherwise completely unaffected by their four day incapacity.

“Thank you Harry.” Lillian said sincerely and gratefully.

“What did you do to us?!” One bodyguard demanded.

Bobby Lee laid a hand on his shoulder in warning as Harry sunk back to his knees and crawled around Jean-Claude to huddle behind his legs. It made a stab of protectiveness flare within him as he felt Harry’s quivering hands pressed against his thighs.

“There is no need to be quite so vicious.” Jean-Claude said pleasantly, though his eyes showed his warning, his displeasure.

“He froze us!”

“You weren’t frozen!” Harry snapped from behind his legs, peeking around them, the side of his head resting on the jut of his hip through the leather trousers.

The wererat bared his teeth and Harry ducked behind his legs again, making a small frightened sound.

“He has reversed what he did in his fright, something he did not need to do, if he had refused, we could do nothing about it. He is a frightened boy, who woke up in a strange place surrounded by strange people when the last thing he remembers is being attacked in a cage in a lycanthrope factory. How could you hold that against him?” Lillian demanded furiously of her fellow rat.

Jean-Claude tugged Harry up to his feet and tried to ignore the way Harry clung to his body, holding him up as he sought to sink back to the floor.

“Where’s Richard?” Harry asked in a small voice. “I want Richard.”

“I’ll go and call him.” Jason said from the door, where he had joined them after waking up a bit more fully, wondering if his Master needed feeding. He was Jean-Claude’s Pomme de Sang after all.

“If you would, mon Pomme.”

“What did he do to us?” Claudia asked.

“Body bind.” Harry answered helpfully.

“How did you do it?” Bobby Lee was more interested in knowing.

“I’ve always been able to do it. The doctors called it my interesting energy.”

“So you can just bind people’s bodies for however long you want to?” Anita asked, more relaxed and less tense than she had been now that the wererats were awake, but there was an alert tension to her still.

“No, usually it only lasts for a few hours, but I was so scared when I woke up, I must have pushed more power into it than usually takes to bind people.”

“Can you do other things?” Lillian asked curiously.

Harry stared at her mouth and frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“What’s not to understand?” The wererat who had shouted at Harry before demanded.

“Leave him alone.” Anita glared. “He finds it difficult to understand certain words or sentences; he has been kept in a cage for nine years, that doesn’t leave much time for an education!”

Jean-Claude almost breathed a sigh of relief, to see Anita protective of him now relaxed something tight within him. She had agreed to take him into her own home, he had assumed it was more to placate Richard than any real want of having a young boy in her home, but she had still found it within herself to agree to housing him, to see her so afraid and so intolerant of the boy’s behaviour and strange mannerisms once he had awoke was unsettling, but it seemed she was just worried about her wererat friends and if there would be any damage done to them at all.
Lillian took charge by cupping Harry’s face gently, not using any of her lycanthrope strength, allowing Harry room to pull away if he wanted to.

“Harry, is binding people all you can do?”

Lillian had to repeat the question twice and on the fourth repeat Harry cocked his head and some light of understanding lit up his green eyes.
He held up a palm and a soft ball of yellow light formed, illuminating everything. Jean-Claude had no doubts that if the room had been pitch black; the little orb would have lit up all except for the deepest corners of the room.

“I never used to like the dark when I was littler.” Harry told them. “This helped and it helped the other experiments too, some of them didn’t like the dark either.”

Lillian reached forward and touched the little ball; she yanked her hand away rather quickly, before pressing her fingers back to the little ball.

“Are you alright Lillian?” Claudia asked.

“It shocked me.” She said. “It felt like little currents of electricity flowing through my fingers and up my arm.”

“Should you be touching it?” Bobby Lee asked worriedly.

“It feels cool, it’s just light, not warmth.”

“We were never cold in our cages.” Harry said simply. “They used to turn the lights off so it was dark, but there were so many of us in the caging room that it was always warm.”

“Harry? What’s going on?”

Richard had arrived with his two enforcers and he was a bit panicked, a bit rushed, but he wasn’t outright shouting, perhaps due to Harry being in the room, so Jean-Claude counted that as a good thing.

“Richard!” Harry’s grin was beatific as he hopped to Richard and hugged him, sniffing and licking over his skin.

Richard picked him up without a second thought, sitting him on his hip like a toddler.

“I see he freed the wererats.” Richard nodded to them, looking relieved. “Rafael has been worried about you all.”

“He’s not a child Richard.” Anita cut in. “Put him down.”

“It’s a comfort thing.” Richard shot down.

“You don’t give comfort to any of the other werewolves by sitting them on your hip.”

“He’s happy Anita.”

“You’re going to ruin him. We’re trying to teach him independence and how to live outside of a cage, not baby him until he can’t do anything for himself.”

Richard snarled, but he took Harry off of his hip and instead held him down the length of his body, which was more awkward, but less toddlerish.

“There! I’ve held countless submissives like this over the years.” Richard snapped, reigning in his power and energy so it didn’t bite along Harry’s skin.

“Thank you, mon ami.” Jean-Claude said gratefully. “I only managed to get him to walk upright, it seems he would much prefer crawling and his way of walking is unlike anything I have ever seen before.”

“He needs to learn a lot.” Richard agreed sadly.

“I know which way is left and which way is right and I know how to open the round door handles.” Harry said proudly and it made Richard smile. “He helped me.” Harry pointed to Jean-Claude.

“I think we might actually be able to get him to a suitable social and independent standard, I won’t be able to leave him alone for any length of time because it just won’t feel right to abandon him right after we’ve helped him, but between all of us, I think he has a chance at a semi-normal life.” Richard said.

“It should be easy, you’re a teacher Richard.” Anita put in. “You know how to deal with kids.”

“He’s not really a kid though Anita, he’s almost an adult.”

“If it’s correct that he is actually seventeen.” Lillian put in. “Just because he believes he may be seventeen, doesn’t mean he is. It certainly means he’s older than we thought he was, but he could be anywhere from sixteen to twenty for all we know. Anita, have the police found any leads?”

“No, I passed on the name Harry James, but again, for all we know those are just two names he has heard and really liked so he adopted them as his own. The police are scanning for any links, but a lot of baby boys in the world are going to have the names Harry and James, they’re common names.”

“Have the police found any of them yet?” Richard asked desperately.

Anita shook her head. “They’re widening the search to include Texas, Colorado, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina and Florida. If that fails it’ll have to be a full sweep of America.”

“Why didn’t they do that to begin with?”

“Do you know how long and how many people it has taken to search just the surrounding states? A full sweep of America can take days, even weeks and that’s only with a lot of people working long hours.”

“I think you should question him again.” Jamil said his dark eyes on Harry, who had been following the conversation, even if he hadn’t fully understood some things. “I think with a bit of coaxing and patience, he could have the answers. He’s not stupid, he knows things even if he doesn’t understand them, it’ll just take the right questions to extract it.”

“No! Don’t extract things from me! Please, I’ll be good.” Harry pleaded, his eyes filling up with tears. “I don’t want to be an autopsy!”

Richard held him and shushed him. “It’s alright Harry. No one is going to perform an autopsy on you.”

“It was a doctor word!” Harry insisted frantically. “He used a doctor word. They used to extract things from us all the time!”

“Jamil only meant to extract information from you Harry, not body parts.” Richard insisted, rubbing a firm hand over that tiny back.

“At least this proves one thing. I was right, he understands more than we realise. He was following the thread of the conversation.”

“You don’t think he was just reacting to the use of the word he had heard those people speak often?” Anita asked.

“No. He may not have understood the context in which I used the word, but he understood what the word meant and what it would mean for him and the other experiments when the doctors used it, that proves cognitive thought of a level higher than a child’s. I think he knows what we need to know, but he doesn’t realise we need it. There’s a barrier between us and the information because he doesn’t realise or understand what we want to know, or why we would want to know it.”

“So what do you suggest? Sitting down and grilling him for everything he knows?”

“Of course not, that would likely traumatise him even more, I suggest asking basic questions to find out who he is and where he’s missing from.”

“He’s already told us his name.”

“I’m not talking about his name, ask him where he grew up, if he remembers any street names, any building names, the names of the people around him before he was put into the cage and see what he knows.”

“I don’t think remembering street names would have mattered very much after everything he went through Jamil.”

“You’d be surprised at the random, irrelevant stuff kids can memorise.” Richard said in support of his Skoll.

“Okay fine, we can try it.” Anita relented.

“Not just yet though.” Lillian chastised them. “I want to hook him up to an IV first, check his vitals and see if he’s as well as can be expected.”

“When do you think is a good idea to start feeding him solid food?”

“Not for some months, it’ll be difficult to get him to put anything in his mouth, let alone get him to chew and swallow. I want him on IVs’ first just to get his health up, then we can think about putting him on a liquid diet, light soups and stews, nothing heavy or too rich or his body will outright reject it, then once he is more used to swallowing and having these objects in his mouth, then we can think about giving him semi-solids, soft things like mashed vegetables to get him used to the texture. If you give him a plate of food and a fork, he’ll likely panic and be very overwhelmed, even if he surprises us by not panicking and eating after he’s shown what to do his body is so unused to actual food, it’ll reject it, which will make Harry not want to try again. So it’s better to start off slowly and work up to giving him actual meals.”

Anita nodded her understanding and watched as Lillian went into the case she had beside her and took out another IV bag. Harry saw it and actually grinned as he held out his left forearm for her to insert the needle.

“I’ve got a higher dosage of vitamins and minerals in this bag; hopefully it will make him a bit healthier and hopefully it doesn’t include anything he’s allergic to or will have a reaction to, the last thing we need right now is an allergic reaction when he’s doing so well.”

“Is that likely?” Richard asked.

“All of the others had very strange reactions to seemingly normal objects. Soap, pure oxygen, Sevoflurane and Propofol, things you don’t usually expect people to be allergic or have severe reactions to. Those people have messed about with their bodies to the point where anything could cause a reaction, if that reaction is vicious or severe enough, then death is a likely outcome.”

Lillian watched Harry critically as the IV was set up and started flowing into his body. She checked his vitals often and checked how fast the bag was flowing into his body.

“He seems fine with it, which is great news, but I’ll watch him over the course of the day just to make sure he really is alright with it, he could have a delayed reaction.”

“Can we question him now?” Anita asked.

“Yes, I’m going to check to see if anything has happened to the rats he bound, then I’ll want to check on him, just keep yourselves calm, be patient, if he shows any discomfort at the question, don’t press him and if he shows fatigue or sleepiness, let him sleep. Do not raise your voices to him, do not stand over him, crowd him or otherwise intimidate him and he should be fine.”

They all nodded their understanding before they headed back to Jean-Claude’s living room to question him; Harry wriggled out of Richard’s hold and stood up front with Jean-Claude, putting into practice his left and right technique, which still made Jean-Claude feel a small amount of pride as he watched Harry perform simple navigation when given directions.
They made it back to the living room, where Jason and Stephen were talking softly. Harry went and sat between them on the settee. Asher was sat in an armchair watching over the two submissives and dealing with all of Jean-Claude’s incoming calls, until the Master could come back to deal with them himself. Once everyone was settled, the real questioning started.

---------------------------------------------------------------- X

Chapter Text

Chapter Four – Revelations.

Harry seemed to know something was going on and he didn’t appear to like it because he was displaying nervous tension and his back straightened into something more resembling a human than a crouched animal. His green eyes tracked them restlessly, his head flicking from one person to the next in rapid motion that was nothing a human would ever do. It was more bird like than anything else, which hammered home that just because Harry thought he was a hybrid of wolf, leopard, tiger and vampire, didn’t mean that the doctors hadn’t added in something extra that didn’t have an animal form but left behind noticeable traits.

“Harry, you know you said you remembered a time before you were in the cage?” Anita questioned, making sure her voice was low and that she gave good eye contact when Harry looked at her, making her mouth move to sound out every word so he understood as much as he could.

Harry nodded, his eyes staring at her mouth waiting for her to continue.

“Do you remember the names of the three people you lived with?”

“Uncle, Aunt, Dudley.” Harry replied.

They shared a look as Anita wrote down his answer to give to the police tomorrow.

“You didn’t live with your parents?” She questioned.

“They died, a car crash when I was a baby.”

Anita’s hand shook as she wrote down that answer, remembering her own Mother’s death from a car crash when she was seven. If only her Mother had worn her seatbelt, it seemed like Harry’s parents should have worn their seatbelts too, then maybe he wouldn’t have been in that factory, maybe he wouldn’t be here now.

“So you were sent to live with your Uncle and Aunt.”

“She was my Mum’s sister.” Harry nodded.

“Mum?” Was the word Richard picked up on and he gave her a significant look. “That’s not an American term.”

“Harry, do you know where you were born?”

Harry shook his head.

“Do you know where your family was born?”

Harry shook his head again. Anita sighed.

“Harry, do you remember the street you lived on?” Richard asked.

“Privet Drive.” Harry answered.

Anita jotted that down quickly.

“Do you remember what number the house had?” Richard asked.

Harry stared at Richard’s mouth. “I don’t understand.”

“Houses have numbers on them Harry, a number and the street name is called an address, can you remember what number the house you lived in had?”

Harry mumbled under his breath, his bottom lip pouted outwards as he thought and then he cocked his head to the side.

“Four?”

“You think the number of the house was four? That’s good Harry, well done.”

“Four Privet Drive, Dursley residence.” Harry repeated as if he had heard someone answer a phone with the same sentence.

Anita reminded herself that Harry was kept in a cupboard and could very well have been kept near a phone.
Harry mouthed something then and swayed his head back and forth like he was gently shaking information out of the corners of his brain.

“Vernon speaking.” He said, confirming that he had been kept close to a phone.

“You’re doing so well Harry, I’m so proud of you!” Richard enthused. “Did your Aunt and Uncle call you Harry? Is that how you remembered your name?”

Harry sucked his pouty lower lip into his mouth, his brows furrowing. He shook his head.

“So they didn’t call you Harry?” Richard’s face had fallen, likely at the realisation that Harry’s name may not have been Harry James after all. “What did they call you Harry?”

“Boy. Freak. Monster. Ungrateful brat. Filth. Abomination. Little stain. Cretin. Bastard...”

“Okay, okay. I…I get it.” Richard swallowed heavily.

“The lady next door called me Harry James. My sixth birthday, I didn’t know it was my birthday, she said Happy birthday Harry James, you’re six today, such a big boy. Petunia, you and Vernon must be so proud of him now. My Aunt just nodded and dragged me to the supermarket.”

“What day was that Harry?”

“Thursday.”

Richard couldn’t help smiling a bit at the answer. “Do you remember what Thursday it was?”

Harry looked hopelessly confused and it wasn’t any wonder, he hadn’t worded that sentence at all correctly and it could have meant anything to the young boy.

“I mean, do you remember what year it was? What the full date was?”

Harry cocked his head to his shoulder and moved his left hand to squeeze around his right in a nervous gesture.

“It’s alright if you don’t Harry.” Richard assured.

“July.”

“It was July?”

Harry nodded. “School was over for the summer, it had been for ages. I think it was almost August.”

“So the end of July. Any particular date that stuck in your mind Harry?”

“Nineteen eighty something.” Harry frowned again. “No, it’s gone again.”

“That’s alright, you’re doing so well.” Richard praised and smiled when Harry beamed at him.

“Do you remember where your house was located?” Anita asked.

“Privet Drive.” Harry answered, misunderstanding the question.

“Where was Privet Drive located Harry, do you know?”

“Little…little winnic?” Harry frowned as if he knew himself that the address wasn’t quite right. “I only saw it once on a letter when I was sent to get the mail.”

“Could you spell it?” Richard asked.

“W. H. I. N. Then a funny C with a line through it. I. N. Then another C with a line through it.”

“Could you draw the C with a line through it?” Anita asked.

Harry was handed the notebook with a clean page and the pen, but he looked so confused with what to do that Jason decided to help by taking Harry’s hand and lowering it to the paper.

“Just draw what you saw.” Jason encouraged.

Harry drew a rough, wobbly, very large capital G and Richard almost smacked himself for not realising what Harry was trying to say.

“That’s a G Harry. You lived in Little Whinging.”

“Surrey.” Harry nodded.

They shared startled looks.

“Surrey as in Surrey, England?” Richard questioned horrified.

Harry nodded again and Anita stood up, her cell already out to call Dolph. If none of the victims were from the United States, then they were looking in the wrong place, she shuddered at the thought of telling Dolph to cancel the all American search and pick up a worldwide search, it would take weeks, perhaps months to complete, time they didn’t have if these bastards were just going to move location and start again.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- X

Dolph hadn’t been happy at all. He had been frustrated and angry that she had let her monster buddies sit in on the questioning of the victim, but hadn’t called him in. She tried not to take it personally, she had tried to explain that Harry was potentially dangerous to humans, but he wasn’t listening to her, in the end she said her goodbyes and hung up, she called Special Agent Bradley Bradford just in case Dolph had missed the information she had given him in between his pissing contest, she was about to commit a faux pas, you never called in the feds when you were on a case with the police, they didn’t get along with one another because the feds always took the credit for solved crimes, not even a mention for the local police force that helped, but she wasn’t police, she was a federal marshal and she wanted this sorted out and soon, she didn’t care who got credit for it as long as this case was solved.

“Bradford.”

Anita would never get over how some police, even feds, answered their phones.

“Special Agent Bradford, this is Anita Blake.”

“Anita.” Bradley’s voice sounded a touch too happy to hear from her. “Please tell me you have something good, I’ve been on paperwork for the last three weeks.”

“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but a Lycanthrope factory was uncovered in Saint Louis about two weeks ago.”

“A what?”

“It’s basically a place where Lycanthropes are caged like animals and experimented on, usually until they can’t take any more and die.”

“That’s barbaric.”

“We have two hundred and thirty-one possible victims, one hundred and thirty-nine dead have been uncovered in the factory grounds so far, eighty-three are still unaccounted for, eight were initial survivors but died either on route to the hospital or shortly after, we have one remaining sole survivor, who is under my care thanks to a court order.”

“Has the surviving victim said anything?”

“That’s why I’m calling you, his name is Harry James, he thinks he’s seventeen, but we’re not sure since he looks about twelve, he’s been abused, experimented on, completely fucked up, but the real kicker is that he remembers a house in Surrey, England before he was given to the factory and caged. I told Dolph but he was more hung up on the fact that I hadn’t included him on the questioning. I want these people found Bradford and if the police are only searching America and these victims all came from outside of America, then we’re not going to get anywhere before these people start up a new factory.”

“Is that likely?”

“They lost all of their experiments, most of their documents and work books, we found cases and cases of Lycanthrope vaccines, it must have taken them years to set up and amass that much stuff, so I’m hoping they’ll have to set up shop over years once again, which gives us time to find them.”

“But you’ve thought of something else.” Bradley said quietly. “Or you wouldn’t be this frantic.”

Anita sighed. “We can’t trace the vaccines to any one person, we can’t find anyone to question over it, they were ordered straight from a warehouse to a hospital that doesn’t exist. That is being investigated, but the vaccines were actually shipped to a storage lock up, from there they disappear. If these people had masses of vaccines backed up in storage lock ups…”

“Then they don’t have to wait to build up their stock of vaccines again.”

“Exactly, the several storage lock ups used were all raided, they’re all empty Bradley, if there were any backed up vaccines in them, then they’ve been removed.”

“Well shit. What do they need these vaccines for anyway? I thought once you had one strain you couldn’t get any others, so why the vaccines?”

“We have found out that they weren’t kidnapping Lycanthropes to experiment on them…”

“But you said…”

“I know, listen, they were abducting humans and then injecting them with vaccines to turn them into Lycanthropes and then when they turned the next full moon they experimented on them. The survivor was abducted when he was eight Bradford, from Surrey, England, brought here, turned into a Lycanthrope, he’s messed up, if you saw him…fuck it’s bad, this can’t be allowed to happen again. ”

“I’ll be in Saint Louis tomorrow morning Anita, where do you want me to meet you?”

“I’ll come pick you up at the airport, let me know when your flight gets in, I’ll bring you to the victim so that you can see him for yourself, but I won’t allow you to take him from here Bradford.”

“Understood. Once I’ve seen him and what you have, I’ll call in my team and we can start searching for these people and hopefully find out who some of the victims were, have you found out anything about any of them?”

“No, nothing. It’s like none of them existed.”

“I’ll get to work on that, their files could be hidden or black listed. Thanks for this Anita, I’ve been going out of my mind with this paperwork and I know my team have too.”

“I’m glad this news could make someone happy.” She said as she disconnected the call. She sighed and headed back down the uneven stairs and into Jean-Claude’s living room.

“Are the police giving you trouble, ma petite?”

Anita snorted. “Dolph is, I called in the feds, they’ll be here tomorrow.”

“Was that a good idea?” Richard asked, indicating Harry, who was playing some sort of hand game with Stephen, though the smile that was on his face was worth it just to watch them.

“I’ve explained that he is under my care due to a court order and that I won’t let them take him away from me.”

“Will that stop them?”

“I won’t let them take him Richard.”

“Take me where?” Harry asked, his eyes narrowed and pinned on her, he had been listening, even though he had been playing a game with Stephen, he had taken in her words and understood them, sort of. Anita made a mental note to be very careful what she said around him, Jamil was right, he took in and understood more than they realised.

“You’re not going anywhere Harry.” Anita assured.

The left side of Harry’s bottom lip was sucked into his mouth, the weight of his gaze assessing her words, her honesty. Anita gave him all the eye contact he could want, showing him how brutally honest she was about this; Harry would not be leaving the protection of the Circus.
Harry nodded sharply and went back to playing what looked like a variant of pat-a-cake with Stephen.
Anita looked around her, at Richard, at Jean-Claude and Asher, she wished Micah and Nathaniel were here, but they were at home, perhaps waiting for her to come home too, she’d have to call them, she wasn’t coming home tonight, she would stay at the Circus.

“What’s wrong Harry?” Richard asked softly.

Anita shifted her gaze to the young boy once again and noticed that he was sitting bolt upright, his little teeth biting sharply into his plump lower lip, his hands twisting together.

“I need a catheter.” Harry said shyly.

It took a moment for Anita to realise what he really needed and she felt herself blush slightly before she fought it off. At least this answered the question of how the specimens’ urinated while stuck in cages all day, every day.

“Come with me, mon ange.” Asher stood fluidly and held a hand out to him. “I will teach you to go without need of a catheter.”

“He’s not going with you!” Richard hissed in anger.

Asher stiffened. “Just what do you think I am going to do to him Ulfric?” He said coldly. “My tastes do not run into children or the mentally abused.”

“Merci, mon chardonneret.” Jean-Claude tempered the growing storm, ushering Asher from the room and trying to calm Richard down at the same time.

Asher took Harry gently by the shoulder, gliding past an angry Richard and took Harry to relieve his bladder.

“How could you let him take Harry like that?!” Richard demanded of her.

Anita sighed. “Asher isn’t going to molest him Richard; we all want to help Harry have as normal a life as possible.”

“There’s nothing wrong with his motor skills or his hand-eye coordination.” Stephen put in softly. “He picked up the hand sequences I gave him quickly and he could perform them perfectly.”

“That’s what you were doing with him then.”

Stephen nodded. “I think he’s just been hurt a lot and too often, but he’ll be okay. He’ll be quirky and odd, but his brain works and he can learn really quickly. I like him a lot, he’s fun.”

“Are you saying I’m not fun?” Jason pouted.

“You are fun, but you’re more adult fun.” Stephen grinned. “Harry has a more childlike, innocent fun, like playing hand games.”

“I can play hand games if you want me too.” Jason replied breathily with an eyebrow wiggle.

Stephen laughed and shoved Jason’s shoulders. “That’s what I mean, you’re adult fun.”

Asher preceded Harry into the room some time later, Harry was grinning softly, the front of his pyjamas soaked, loping in that strange way that Jean-Claude had mentioned, it looked like his neck, back and knees had a permanent bend to them, like Harry couldn’t fully straighten his body and it was that that made his gait strange. Anita made a note to ask Lillian about it.

“How did he do?”

“He did well after the initial panic of what I asked him to do, he did not understand what he needed to do and did not understand why I wasn’t going to insert a catheter for him, but other than that and a mishap with the taps, he did fine. Though I do not think he could go to a bathroom alone for a long while, he panics.”

“I think we need to get you a new top Harry.” Richard said softly.

“I like this one fine.” Harry refuted, narrowing his eyes on Richard.

“It’s wet; don’t you want a nice dry top?”

“No.” Harry said simply, turning back to Stephen.

“None of the vics were clothed Richard.” Anita said quietly. “He’s been nude in that factory, he likes his clothes and he likes the modesty it gives him, he thinks you’re taking away all of that by taking his clothes.”

Richard made a sound like a strangled scream into his hands. He sat back up, scouring a hand through his hair harshly, breathing deeply and noisily.

“This is impossible.” He whispered harshly. “He can’t eat properly, he can’t hold a normal conversation, he can’t go to the bathroom on his own, we can’t even give him fresh clothing without a problem cropping up!”

“Stay calm.” Anita hissed back, keeping an eye on Harry, who was back to playing hand games with Stephen, now that she had had her attention drawn to it, she noticed that Harry really was quite good at it and picked up every sequence and combination Stephen gave him quickly.

“He needs time Richard.” Anita told the frustrated werewolf. “I believe fully that he’s trying his best, he was eight when he was put into that factory, eight Richard! Do you honestly think any eight year old could have survived that place for nine years and come out unchanged and undamaged? We need to help him, not get frustrated and angry at him because he can’t understand some of the things we say, because he can’t do what everyone else can, that’s not going to help him.”

“I know.” Richard said from behind his hands. “I know, but all I want to do is help him. He’s been hurt so badly that I just want to cuddle him, but even then you shout at me saying that it’ll damage his progress. I can’t stop myself from seeing him as a child Anita, I look at him and I see a child and it breaks my heart to see him like this.”

Anita couldn’t not go to him. She stood in front of him and wrapped her arms around him, pressing his head gently into her clothed stomach as she smoothed the hair at the back of his head whilst her other hand rubbed firmly on his back. She let him wrap those strong, muscled arms around her waist and hold on as he cried into her shirt. She hated Richard when he cried; it broke something within her and made her feel like crying too.

“Why are you crying?”

They both turned to look at the curious emerald green eyes of Harry James, who was sunk down on his knees until his bum was on the floor, both hands planted between his spaced legs, looking at them with his head cocked onto his shoulder.
Anita had never thought that anyone’s eyes would ever come close to Damian’s and she hated to be proven wrong in anything, but there was no denying that though Damian’s bright, grass-green eyes were lovely, Harry’s darker, brighter, emerald green eyes were just plain stunning. It made her wonder if they were his natural eye colour or if they were a result of an experiment, but she didn’t know if Harry even knew his colours, let alone if he had known what colour his eyes were before he was in that factory, had he ever seen a mirror before?

“Are you sad?” Harry elaborated as they remained silent. “I get sad sometimes too.”

Anita tried to stop the smile from breaking out, but it was a fight to win. Harry was just so childlike and innocent at times, then he revealed a horrific event in his past that stripped away all innocence and left a naked, bleeding wound behind in its wake that could not be covered by any amount of childish pretences.

“I’m alright Harry.” Richard said softly.

“If you want my shirt that much you can have it.” Harry insisted seriously.

“I just don’t want you getting sick.” Richard told the boy back as he rummaged around in the carrier bag he had brought with him for some clean, dry pyjamas.

He found one top that was very close to the shirt Harry was already wearing; he helped Harry take the sopping wet shirt off and dressed him in the new one.

“Like an exchange.” Harry murmured as he rubbed his hands over the new shirt.

“Yes, just like an exchange, your wet or dirty clothes for fresh, dry ones.” Richard encouraged.

“And that’s okay?”

“Yes Harry, it’s fine. Do you want to exchange your bottoms as well?”

Richard showed Harry the matching bottoms to the pyjama top he had on and Harry gave that innocent, slightly demented, grin as he shimmied out of his bottoms and with Richard’s help got the new ones on.

“Well he’s coming on in fits and bursts.”

Anita looked over to Lillian, who had been watching from the doorway.

“How are the wererats?” She asked.

“All of them are fine, a bit stiff, but no damage was done at all as far as I can tell. Now about Harry, has he displayed any adverse reactions to the IV bag?”

“None that I’ve seen Lillian.”

The wererat doctor nodded her head as she approached Harry and sat in front of him with a groan. Harry seemed very interested in the way she moved and the noise she made as she settled onto the floor in front of him.

“I’m too old for this.” She complained good naturedly.

“For what?” Harry asked curiously.

“For getting myself down this low.” Lillian told the confused boy.

“The other doctor could.” Harry told her.

Lillian shared a look with Anita, who subtly pulled out her notebook and pen once more.

“Was the other doctor young Harry?”

Harry frowned. “No.”

“Were any of the doctors young?”

Harry’s brow furrowed. “Babies can’t be doctors can they?”

“Not that young Harry, perhaps I didn’t make much sense to you. Were any of the doctors your age?”

Harry shook his head.

“Were they about Richard’s age?”

Harry looked to Richard consideringly, his head, of course, cocked onto his shoulder in a move that Anita was beginning to associate purely with Harry.

“Maybe.”

“Were any of them my age?” Lillian asked.

“Two.” Harry answered.

“Two of them were my age?” Lillian asked for confirmation.

“Two or three.” Harry amended. “One was forty I think, she liked giving me sweet stuff on a spoon if I was good.”

“Were there any other female doctors?” Anita asked.

“Yes, she was nasty and horrible and liked hurting me.”

“So three of them were men Harry?”

Harry just blinked at her.

“There were just five doctors weren’t there?” Richard asked almost desperately.

Harry shook his head. “There were five big doctors, but they had lots of little doctors they called underlings and there were trainees too.”

“Jesus, this is worse than we thought.” Anita sighed, rubbing her head where an ache was forming. “I can’t wait for the feds to come tomorrow.”

“What sweet stuff were you given Harry, do you know?” Lillian asked softly.

“It was a yellowish stuff. It tasted sweet and nice. I like sweet stuff.” Harry smiled.

“Does this mean he’s been fed by mouth as well as intravenously?” Richard questioned.

“I think what Harry is saying was that he was given a rare treat orally if he behaved for a particular doctor.”

Harry nodded. “She was a nice doctor, though not if I talked. She liked me to mew at her instead.”

Anita had no idea what she would have said to that as at that moment the door to Jean-Claude’s living room opened and Micah and Nathanial walked in; smiling at her when they saw her and it stopped her breath.
Harry made a small noise and shuffled himself until he was pressed against Richard’s thick thighs, burying his head in Richard’s jean clad lap.

“We didn’t mean to distress him.” Micah told her softly as he bent to kiss her.

“He has to get used to it.” Anita replied. “The feds are popping by tomorrow morning for a chat.”

“Have you found anything else out?” Nathaniel asked as he gave her a kiss and went to sit between Jason and Stephen.

“A bit, he’s been very helpful tonight, haven’t you Harry?”

Harry bit his lip, looked to Richard and only then nodded as Richard smiled at him encouragingly.

“Did you find out where he’s from?” Micah asked gently.

“Oh yes, he’s from Surrey, in England.”

Micah’s yellow-green eyes widened in shock and he darted a look to Harry before coming back to her.

“That far?” He asked. “The police have been searching in the wrong place.”

Anita nodded. “If all of the vics came from outside of America then they’ve been looking in the wrong place, I told Dolph but he didn’t seem to be listening past the fact that I questioned the vic with my ‘monster buddies’ rather than him, so I called some friends in the FBI instead, I want this sorted out and those people behind bars.”

“I don’t want to go back behind bars!” Harry told her panicked.

“No, not you Harry, you’re not going behind bars, the people who did this to you are going behind bars.” Anita explained, hoping Harry understood her and didn’t panic as badly as he did when he had first woken up.

Harry frowned at her suspiciously, measuring her words and her honesty critically.

“Will you experiment on them?” Harry asked her mildly.

“No Harry, they’ll be in prison, they don’t experiment on people in prison.”

Harry nodded. “That’s good. Even if they did hurt me and other people, no one deserves to be hurt like that. It’s wrong.”

Anita didn’t know why that made a feeling of hope and relief blossom within her but it did. Knowing that Harry knew hurting others was wrong eased her slightly and relaxed something tight within her gut.

“Yes it is wrong Harry, what they did was wrong, but doing the same back to them would be just as wrong.” Lillian encouraged kindly.

Harry smiled at her and nodded.

“Well he knows right from wrong.” Richard said happily.

“I do not think that one insight on right and wrong is a true measure of if he truly knows what is right and what is wrong, mon ami.” Jean-Claude said carefully.

Richard scowled at the vampire.

“Regretfully Jean-Claude is right.” Anita sighed. “No matter how much I want him to understand right from wrong, knowing that hurting others is wrong doesn’t mean he actually grasps that fact.”

Richard sighed and pulled Harry from the floor and sat him on his lap, Anita bit her tongue, he had done this before with both Stephen and Jason on occasion. He sat Harry sideways on his lap, one strong arm wrapped around Harry’s waist, his other resting on the curve of spine that was visible, not only through Harry’s skin, but through the pyjama top too, as the strange boy kicked his legs and laughed in joy as he watched his legs swing back and forth.
Richard shook his head sadly at the act and Anita felt helpless, she was at a loss as to what to do with Harry, she could only hope that Special Agent Bradley Bradford had better luck with Harry tomorrow, the thought of this happening again to anyone made her feel utterly sick.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

Chapter Text

Chapter Five – Outlook Perspective

Harry peered around the corner consideringly. He withdrew his head quickly, before he peered around it again. No one was down the corridor. Harry decided that it was safe to head down the corridor and shuffled around the corner and into the corridor, inching his way down towards the end.
He peeked around the corner furthest away from him, before doing the same to the corner closest to him, again there was no one down them, this place was deserted and quiet, still, unlike the factory he had come from, which had always been busy and noisy during the day time, was he still in the factory? Were all the people just in the caging room so he couldn’t find them?
Harry slipped around another corner and carefully made his way to the end, he peered back over his shoulder to see if he was being followed, he wasn’t. Peeking around both corners, Harry decided to go right this time, instead of left. He came to large double doors and frowned. He had never seen two doors together like that, did they lead the same way, or were there different ways behind each one?
Harry slowly peeled one door open, like the vampire had shown him and saw a room filled with wooden boxes, he opened the other door and saw the same, he slipped into the room and curiously touched the wooden box closest to him, then made a fist and knocked on it. It was smooth and cold, it was on a stand and he couldn’t reach the lid. He looked around to see if there was something to stand on; he wanted to know what was inside the wooden boxes. There wasn’t anything to stand on in this room, he toyed with going back out of the room to find something, but he didn’t know if he would find this room again, or anything to stand on, he tried stretching to reach the lid of the box, but the tips of his fingers could only just feel the lid of the box, even when he was on the very tips of his toes.
A yowling in the back of his head had him collapsing to the floor and writhing as his body convulsed, trying to change into a shape to protect him, he knew why when the lid of a box further away opened and a large, thick set man sat up, he looked at him and jumped right out of the box and came to him, Harry tried to scramble away, but the animal that wanted to come out wouldn’t let him.
The man cradled him as another box opened and another man came and touched him. They looked the same, but they had different coloured hair, one blonde, one brunet.

“This is the boy that came from the factory.” The blonde said.

“What is he doing in the coffin room on his own?” The other said.

“He was knocking on Damian’s coffin; I assume he was trying to get into it.”

“Let’s just get him back to Jean-Claude.”

Harry was scooped up, but he didn’t want to go back to that one room. He hated that one room, it was the only room he had really seen since he had been here, it reminded him of the factory and only ever being in the caging room unless he was taken for an experiment.

“No!” He wailed.

“It’s alright little one, I’m sure everyone is missing you.”

Harry was carried back and he heard the noises of surprise. They hadn’t known he was gone.

“Where was he?” The voice he recognised as Anita’s asked.

“In the coffin room, trying to open Damian’s coffin.”

Harry who was calm now, though his wolf was just inside the barrier of his skin, was deposited onto the settee with the blonde vampire, Asher.

“Why did you sneak off Harry?” Anita asked.

“I don’t like being in just one room.” Harry said shyly after staring at the woman’s mouth, he was getting better at knowing what they wanted from him. “I was only ever kept in the caging room and taken to other rooms for experiments, I don’t like it.”

“You go into your bedroom every night don’t you?” Anita asked curiously.

“Never for very long.” Harry said as he stared hard at her mouth, letting Anita know he had had trouble with something in that last sentence. “I was taken out of the caging room for a short while when they were experimenting on me too.”

“If I may, I could show him the Circus above.” Asher stated.

“What’s a Circus?” Harry asked.

“Go and show him, mon Chardonneret.” Jean-Claude said softly. “Keep a close eye on him; we do not want him getting lost.”

Asher held onto Harry as they went up the stairs, Harry could hardly manoeuvre himself enough to walk properly, let alone up such high and uneven stairs, though bless him he tried.
Harry was breathing hard when they reached the storage room at the top of the stairs and held his arms up like a child wishing to be picked up. Asher indulged the boy, even though he knew he shouldn’t, the stairs seemed to have taken a lot out of the recovering boy, even though he could run very fast and for a long time on flat surfaces, it seemed he didn’t deal well with inclines. Asher made a mental note to tell the information to Jean-Claude and Anita when they got back.
Asher sat Harry on his hip, Harry wrapped arms around his neck and legs around his waist and Asher flinched, there was no way that the boy couldn’t feel the scar tissue on his face, his fingers were resting on his cheek, right on the hideous scarring.
Harry however made no mention of it as he was carried out into the main part of the Circus, where excited humans were milling about.
Harry made a small noise of fright and hunched down, looking very small and vulnerable in his arms, more like the twelve year old his body belied he was.

“It is alright, mon ange.” Asher said soothingly. “They are here for the shows, some of which we are going to see.”

“I get to see shows?!” Harry asked, excitement peeking through above his fear once more.

“Oui.”

Asher sat with Harry on his lap, because the small boy refused to sit in one of the children’s booster seats exclaiming, loudly, that they were an experiment, which made the humans overly curious and nosy, but Harry wouldn’t be able to see anything otherwise, so Asher compromised.
It took three hours for Harry’s bubbling excitement to tone down and when Asher offered him candyfloss he looked at him strangely.
Asher made a point of standing in the queue to get Harry the treat, letting Harry watch the people in front buy theirs, so hopefully he wouldn’t think of this as an experiment of sorts and when it was their turn, the vendor handed the pink sugar over quickly once he saw who was waiting, exclaiming that they needn’t have waited in line, Asher waved the vendor away irritably as Harry patted his face like a young child to get his attention.

“What is it?” Harry asked curiously as he sniffed it before pressing the tip of his tongue to it.

The delicate sugar melted at contact from his tongue and Harry pulled back in fright as he looked to the darker pink clump his tongue had made.

“It is food.” Asher exclaimed. “Sweet stuff that you eat.”

Harry perked up at the words ‘sweet stuff’ and he allowed Asher to wind a bit of the floss onto his finger and put it in his mouth. Asher tried not to think of sexual things while the young boy sucked on his finger, but he was so long without comfort or the willing touch of another person besides Anita that it was quite difficult. It helped to think of the boy as a child, but it was equally difficult to push away the knowledge that Harry thought himself seventeen, almost a man.
Harry held his mouth open for more like a baby bird waiting for its Mother and Asher sighed at the predicament he had found himself in. Harry was one of the strangest little things he had ever come across.
With the pink floss melted across Harry’s cheeks and chin, though as Asher had fed him from his fingers he had no idea how Harry had gotten the treat in such a widespread place, they went to the last show of the night. Melanie the Lamia.
Harry was excited by the snake pictures and told him that he liked snakes, that he liked talking to snakes and Asher wondered if his mind was playing tricks on him or not, but Harry seemed to imply that the snakes talked back to him from his childish monologue, that was part babble and words that were so quiet even Asher couldn’t hear them.
Asher settled the over excited, sticky boy on his lap as the lights dimmed and Harry made an almost squeak of excitement that pulled a smile to his lips.
That’s when it all went wrong, as soon as Harry saw the first, absolutely huge snake, that the other audience members gasped and even screamed at, Harry let out a pleased whine and then started hissing and spitting rapidly. Asher was stunned, when what he thought was perhaps a very good imitation of a snake, turned out to be very real. The huge snake took an almost instant interest in the small boy in his lap and abandoned whatever Melanie had told it to do to slither over and take a closer look at Harry, sending the audience members running and screaming for the exit.
Harry kept up his stream of hissing and spitting and tried to reach the snake, who hissed back. Asher was at a loss at what to do in this surreal situation, he wanted to grab Harry and run with the crowd as the massive snake opened its mouth wide, wide enough to swallow them both.
He was almost thankful when Melanie sauntered out; she approached them with angry strides, which slowed when she heard Harry’s hissing. Then an excited gleam appeared in her eyes and Asher thought it was beyond time that they left.

“Well this is a surprise.” She purred as she approached, laying her hand on the massive pet of hers. “Where ever did you find a true male lamia Asher? Is he for me?”

“Non and he is not a male lamia Melanie, though it seems he understands the snake language.”

“Understands it? I have never heard such a fluent speaker.”

Asher felt his undead heart clench and start beating slowly. He exhaled a sigh and stood, bringing Harry with him.

“Where are you going? I’m not done with him!” Melanie hissed.

“Jean-Claude needs to know of this development.”

“You didn’t know.” Melanie said softly. She laughed harshly and then started speaking to Harry in the snake language, which made Harry draw back in surprise and hold tightly around his neck once more with fright.

He spoke back softly, quietly and without the enthusiasm he used with the actual snake. Asher held Harry more securely, turned on his heel and walked away, not comforted by Melanie’s laughter.
Asher rushed as much as he could to get back underground, holding a, now sleepy, Harry tightly. He rushed into Jean-Claude’s office.

“What has happened?” Jean-Claude asked him quickly as Asher set Harry down on a chair, his face still sticky with candy floss.

Asher started quickly rabbiting in French, explaining what had happened with Melanie, while everyone else just tried to keep up.

“What is it?” Anita demanded as she looked at Harry’s sugar coated face, his sticky hands, trying to find a wound or a source of Asher’s behaviour.

“It seems, ma petite, that Harry has a few…undiscovered talents.” Jean-Claude said softly, looking at Harry curiously.

“Like what?”

“He was speaking to Melanie and her pet snakes.”

“So?”

“He was speaking to them in the language of the snakes.”

“Wait what?”

“Melanie is now very interested in him.” Jean-Claude sighed. “What are we going to do with you Harry?”

“No experiments!” Harry cried out, going for sleepy and content to completely panicked in an instant.

“Non, no experiments. But you are too interesting for your own good.”

“Bradford will be here in just a few hours, now something as big as this is revealed?” Anita demanded. “Will Melanie keep her mouth shut?”

“I would be surprised if she had not already told the rest of the circus acts.” Jean-Claude sighed.

“Great, well I guess this hammers home just how fucked up he is, what else did they give him? He’s got wolf, leopard, tiger, bird and snake lycanthropy and apparently vampirism, which hasn’t yet made an appearance.”

“Just because it has not yet come to light, does not mean he does not have it.” Jean-Claude said diplomatically. “We did not know he had snake lycanthropy until just now, we do not even know how much vampirism he has inside him.”

“I like blood.” Harry put in innocently.

They all turned to blink at him.

“What was that Harry?” Jean-Claude asked, even though they had all heard him perfectly.

“I like blood, we were all given raw meat on the full moons and every fourth feed was blood.”

“Hold up. You were fed with a drip, are you saying that every fourth drip was blood?” Anita asked horrified.

Harry nodded happily at her understanding and smiled peacefully, even as the adults around him exchanged horrified glances.

“That means your next drip is supposed to be blood, yes?”

Harry nodded. “I used to count my blood feeds, after every sixth blood feed was a full moon.”

“What blood did you used to have?”

Harry blinked at her, very confused and not understanding.

“Was it human blood?”

“Oh, no. It was from the other experiments.” Harry replied simply.

“They took blood from the other experiments to feed you?” Anita asked, shocked.

Harry nodded. “They took blood from me to feed them as well; we all fed each other blood. Well all of those that were vampires, only the vampire or part vampires needed blood.”

“I shall inform Lillian of your dietary needs.” Jean-Claude remarked.

Harry smiled happily and ignored the vibrating from Anita’s phone.

“Blake.” She answered, ignoring that just yesterday she had been moaning about how people answered their phones.

“Harry, do you need blood?” Jean-Claude asked the yawning boy.

Harry nodded sleepily. “I go crazy without it, they kept it from me as an experiment, I had to be tranqu…tranqua…tranquil…”

“Tranquilised?”

Harry nodded happily. “With darts shot out of a funny metal tube.”

“Go to sleep now Harry.” Jean-Claude encouraged.

“That was Bradford, his plane has just landed. I’m going to go pick him up, take him for something to eat and fill him in before he sees Harry, that should give him time to sleep and for Bradford to know what he’s dealing with before being slapped in the face with it.”

“Take Claudia and Fredo with you.” Jean-Claude said mildly, but leaving no room for arguing.

Anita just nodded and left to pick up the Special Agent, the two wererat bodyguards following behind her silently.
Harry yawned, the sugar on his cheeks pulling tightly, uncomfortably and he swiped his hand and arm over his cheeks to rid himself of the pulling, making distressed sounds as he went.
Asher merely pulled out a handkerchief; wet it with his tongue before washing Harry’s face clean for him, holding the struggling boy still.

“Sleep now for a bit Harry.” Jean-Claude told him as Harry yawned sleepily once more.

Harry just nodded and curled up on the chair he was sat in, leaving two vampires to stress over him and the strangeness that surrounded him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

Anita had finished telling Bradford of what had transpired, from finding the Factory, to the developments immediately after with the police, to getting a Judge to sign Harry over to her care and Harry himself. She also included the other experiments’, what had happened to them, how some of them had died and how Harry could die from anything they gave him or things he could come into contact with. She had also made mention of the on-going police investigation, but had also unhappily had to include Dolph’s reaction and why she had called in the feds in the first place. Bradford had yet to say anything, his sandwich lying half eaten and untouched since she had started speaking of Harry.

“That…that’s messed up. Completely fucked seven ways to Saturday.” He finally said, pushing his plate away and picking up his now lukewarm mug of coffee and taking a gulp.

“That’s not all of it.”

“How much more can there be?!” Bradford demanded.

“Harry is still a mystery, even to us Bradford; we found out only two hours ago that Harry must have some sort of snake lycanthrope after he started a conversation with some of the snakes in one of the Circus’ shows. He only told us of tiger, wolf and leopard, he said those were the only animals he had, but he has distinct bird traits and now he can speak to snakes too. We have no idea of the strains injected into him and we haven’t found a file with his number on it, or any mention of him in any of the documentation recovered from the factory.”

“You said that some of it was damaged and destroyed though right?”

“Not a lot of it, but enough. All of the experiment’s files were in one of the filing cabinets that was set on fire, though it didn’t take hold for long, so those files only have singed edges, but Harry’s file wasn’t with them, we found a few files on desks and one in the autopsy lab, we assume the files were taken out if the specimens were taken for experimentation, Harry was one of the ones not in a cage when the raid took place, he was found barely breathing in what looked like an office which had been set on fire. He was rescued and taken to hospital, but the firefighters didn’t think to look for paperwork, so if Harry’s file was in that room with him, then it’s likely been reduced to ash.”

“Are there still people searching the Factory?”

“Of course, it’s being combed thoroughly by forensics. I still have a small hope that they’ll find Harry’s file, or something that even mentions him, as Harry doesn’t seem to know what was done to him, not fully.”

“You said also that he’s part vampire, how does that work?”

“I have no idea, we don’t know how the so called doctors successfully combined lycanthropy and vampirism into one person, but Harry has told us that he has a liking of blood, particularly lycanthrope blood and that every fourth IV feeding was substituted with blood and that they stopped giving him blood once as an experiment and he went crazy without it, like a revenant vamp, and had to be sedated heavily by tranquilisers.”

“Does he have fangs?”

“Not that I’ve seen, but I haven’t gone searching for them either. He’s very easy to wake and very distrustful, the last thing we need is for him to start distrusting us when he’s been so helpful.”

“Understandable. I think it’s best if I saw him for myself now. Then I’ll make a call and get my team over here to help out. This cannot be allowed to happen again, not ever.”

Anita shared Bradley Bradford’s sentiments and led the special agent to her jeep, Claudia and Fredo hopping into the back before she drove back to the Circus of the Damned. She hoped Bradford could help them; she really did, because while the five organisers of the Factory were at large, more people were in danger of suffering from their clinical cruelty.

---------------------------------------------------------------- X

Harry cocked his head onto his shoulder to look at the new man. He had just been settling in, getting used to everyone around him and then it suddenly changed and a new man was brought in. Harry didn’t like that and showed it by hissing at the new man.

“I see what you mean about him.” The man told Anita, who nodded.

So she was in on it too, Harry looked around, wondering who else was behind this man being here, talking about him like he wasn’t in front of him. He knew he didn’t understand a lot, but he wasn’t stupid. He growled deeply and got onto his hands and feet, positioning himself like his wolf counterpart would have and growled.
Richard crouched down beside him and ruffled the hair at his scruff and Harry knew he was being told silently to stand down by his alpha, but he didn’t want to, he didn’t want this man here, talking about him like he was stupid, the doctors had done that too. He didn’t look like a doctor, but maybe he was one of the trainees?
Harry gave into his alpha, he couldn’t do anything else. Maybe Richard hadn’t been in on it, which is why he was glaring at Anita and the man, Richard had always been there for him and looked after him, he could trust Richard, at least a little bit, so if he said to stand down, he would.
He mewled softly and huddled up in Richard’s arms, snuggling in as tight as he could, letting the stronger, more powerful wolf protect him.

“What’s he doing?”

“Seeking comfort and protection.” Richard said back coldly. “He is obviously distressed by your being here.”

“He acts more like an animal than a person.” The man commented and Harry flew out of Richard’s arms snarling. Jamil caught him around the waist before he could reach the startled man and pulled him away and back to Richard.

“He also thinks like a person and has the feelings of a person, try not to stomp all over the hard work we’ve done special agent.” Richard replied through gritted teeth.

“I’m sorry, I meant no distress to him, it’s hard to know what will set him off when he has the instincts of the lycanthrope strains he carries.”

“He is obviously upset by you being here.” Richard hinted as he held Harry’s wrists loosely enough that Harry didn’t feel trapped or restrained, but strongly enough that if he launched at the special agent again Richard would have hold of him still.

“I only want to help him.” Bradley insisted. “The people who did this to him need to pay for what they’ve done; they need to be stopped before they can do this again to other people. I don’t want to distress him, but if he has any information on the doctors or the factory he came from, we need to know it.”

“The last thing he needs is to be interrogated!” Richard snapped. “He’s a child!”

“Yet he seems to think he’s seventeen.” The agent put in mildly.

“He thinks a lot of things.”

Richard stared at agent Bradford for a long time before the agent turned to Anita.

“What do we do next?”

“I could take you to the police department and show you the recovered documents.”

Bradford nodded before looking back at Harry, who growled when their eyes met and then started barking at him.

“Does he always act like this?”

“The barking is new.” Anita said as she looked sadly at Harry, who Richard was trying to calm.

“Harry. I’ll be back to speak to you later, once you’ve calmed down a bit okay.” He tried.

Harry, who had ceased his barking once he had heard his name, started yowling after a few minutes of silence, once it had sunk in what the man meant. He was leaving, but he would be coming back. He didn’t want him to come back, ever.

“Calm down Harry, I won’t let anything happen to you.” Richard tried, but Harry’s leopard had come out and it was only the touch of the Nimir-Raj, Micah, that calmed him, which brought up Richard’s jealousy and insecurities over Micah, perfect Micah.

Micah pulled Harry into his arms, the very small boy held easily, even though Micah was only five foot four at the most. He held Harry’s face to his neck and even though Harry struggled for a little while he soon gave in and relaxed.
Anita nodded to Micah in thanks and Richard felt his beast roar inside him. He hadn’t even gotten an acknowledgement for calming Harry down and his jealousy and insecurities made him hate Micah just a little more as Anita took the special agent and left.
Harry peeked over his own shoulder as the door banged shut and his head darted around rapidly, much like a bird, before realising the threat had gone.

“Richard!” He called out; squirming in Micah’s arms and Richard smugly stood and snatched the tiny boy from the Nimir-Raj, feeling just a little better that Harry wanted him and not perfect Micah.

He didn’t care if he was treating the boy like a child as he sat him on his hip and let Harry nuzzle into his pectoral, though he jumped in surprise when Harry started nibbling on his shirt.

“Don’t do that Harry.” He said softly.

Harry listened and went from nibbling to licking, seemingly tasting the fabric that was under his cheek.

“Why are you doing that Harry?” Jean-Claude asked.

“It has a funny smell.” Harry replied as he sniffed at the shirt before licking it again thoughtfully.

Richard brought the shirt to his nose and sniffed the shirt himself, wondering if his deodorant had transferred to the shirt or if Harry could smell sweat or something that had spilled onto his shirt. All he could smell was the fabric conditioner he had used, he frowned in puzzlement before mentally hitting himself, Harry could smell the fabric conditioner.

“It’s fabric conditioner Harry, stuff we wash clothes in to make them smell nice.”

“Oh. All the doctors smelt sterile, they used to use a lot of antiseptic stuff on us and their clothes and things.”

“I would imagine they did, but don’t worry, none of your clothes will smell like that again.”

Harry grinned. “Good. I hated that smell.”

“I really think it’s time you had a proper sleep though.” Richard said, looking at the late hour.

“No, I want to sleep with everyone else. I don’t like being the only one awake. The guards are no fun and won’t let me go anywhere.”

“You can’t become nocturnal Harry.”

Harry frowned and mouthed the word ‘nocturnal’ under his breath, or at least he tried to mouth the word nocturnal.

“It means awake during the night and sleeping during the day.” Richard told him.

“The vampires do and I’m part vampire too! I don’t like the day time. It makes my skin itchy.”

“Are you saying that you cannot be in the sunlight, mon petit pétale?” Jean-Claude asked urgently.

“It makes me itchy.” Harry reiterated, scratching at his arm to elaborate.

“How long do you have to be in the sunlight before you get itchy Harry?”

Harry frowned adorably, bringing his thumb up to nibble at the nail as he stared unblinkingly at Richard’s mouth.

“I don’t know.” Harry said slowly. “Maybe a bit longer than a little while.” He answered cryptically in a way that only he understood.

“So an hour, a little under an hour?” Richard tried.

Harry frowned. “Maybe.”

Richard sighed. “Okay Harry, but you do need as much sleep as possible while you recover, so don’t fight it if you’re tired, just sleep okay?”

Harry nodded happily and snuggled into his shoulder tightly. Despite his affronted insistence that he be allowed to stay awake through the night, Harry was softly sleeping within ten minutes and Richard slowly and carefully sat down, scrunching up his face in prayer when Harry made a soft noise and clutched at him tighter, but he let out a relieved sigh when Harry slept on, he didn’t want Harry to wake up, he had had more than enough for one day.

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Chapter Text

 

Chapter Six – Touring

 

Anita breathed in deeply as she watched Dolph and Bradford have at each other. Bradford pulling rank and taking over. No one was very happy with her for the fact that she had invited the feds to take over. It didn’t matter to her who got credit, she wanted the people who had hurt Harry found and brought to justice, so she was content to ignore the glares some were giving her, particularly Detective Arnet, who was still trying after Nathaniel and thought she was abusing him.

When Bradford managed to actually get in to see the recovered documents, he was watched excessively like a suspicious hoodie in a grocery store. Anita rolled her eyes at the childishness of some people and pointed out crucial passages and a lot of doctor gibberish and jargon that they had had to bring in a professional to put it into layman’s terms, which were noted down in a notebook beside the folders.

 

“This is hideous.” Bradford told her, whispering as if the horror of the experiments was just too much to say any louder.

 

“I told you this was bad.” Anita replied, frowning at the folders as she pulled on her own pair of gloves to handle them. They had all been dusted for prints, but not even a partial fingerprint had been found, though spots and smears of blood were normal. It was believed that the doctors always wore surgical gloves, so they wouldn’t find any fingerprints. Every single pen and pencil that had survived the fire had been dusted and again nothing. These people were too smart. It made Anita want to catch them sooner.

 

“Bad? Blake this is seriously as far from bad as you can get, this is disgusting! I’m almost lost for words.”

 

Anita sighed heavily and thought back to the tiny boy in the underground of the Circus. He was coming on in fits and bursts, but as soon as they thought they were on familiar ground, Harry turned around and blindsided them with something completely new. Like the bird and snake lycanthropy he hadn’t mentioned, the whole being fed blood via IV thing, the barking at Bradford earlier that day. She could honestly say she was sick to death of surprises, she wanted to know what had been done to Harry in full, she wanted to help him recover and she wanted the people who did this to suffer like he had. He had been an eight year old boy and they had turned him into a hybrid monster for no more reason than their scientific experiments. Then there was the whole ‘strange energy’ Harry had going on, how the hell could he freeze some of the strongest people she knew completely solid for three days! It was unexplainable.

 

“I was going to have my team come in and look at this, but with your boys being so uncooperative, I’ll get them straight onto field work. Do you have the location of the Factory?”

 

“Sure, I’m not going to forget where that place is for a long while.”

 

“I want to see and speak to Harry again if possible, I know he doesn’t much like me at the moment, but he has information that we need Blake.”

 

“I know. Hopefully he’ll be better the second time around, he reacted to us just fine, I have no idea why he’s suddenly shy around strangers because we’re all practically strangers to him anyway.”

 

“I just hope it doesn’t last, this case is going to be hard enough without our only surviving witness to be uncooperative.” Bradford told her seriously and Anita sighed once again. She knew he was right, but how did you tell that to someone as mentally messed up as Harry?

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry was awake again only two hours after he had fallen asleep. Richard looked to him, sprawled over the floor staring at something that had his eyes flitting from side to side. He tried once again to see what Harry was looking at, but he saw nothing.

He closed his eyes and breathed deeply and calmly. He needed to keep his cool around Harry. He was one of the only people that Harry actually trusted. If he broke that trust or even damaged it, they could end up alienating Harry and that was the last thing in the world he wanted to do, he wanted to help Harry, not cut him off from the only people the teenager could trust.

 

“Richard!”

 

He startled and turned to look at Harry who had called out to him, the boy was still staring at nothing, his eyes tracking something that only he could see restlessly.

 

“What’s the matter Harry?”

 

“Come here.” Harry said lightly, no demand at all in his soft voice, very much making it a choice on his part.

 

Richard chose to go to Harry, kneeling down beside him, then laying down next to him when Harry urged him down, tugging on his hand.

 

“What’s that?” Harry asked curiously, pointing at the ceiling, his finger moving constantly, tracking the same something his eyes were.

 

Richard frowned and looked, but he could only see the dark, black of the stone ceiling.

 

“It’s the ceiling Harry.”

 

“No, not that. That!” Harry insisted. “It’s near the light.”

 

Richard looked near the light, but he saw nothing.

 

“I can’t see what you’re seeing Harry.”

 

“Can’t you? Why?”

 

“I can’t see what you’re seeing Harry.” Richard said slowly and clearly, hoping he didn’t upset Harry in any way.

 

“But it’s right there, those floaty things.”

 

Richard blinked and as soon as ‘floaty things’ was mentioned he had an idea as to what it would be. He looked and sure enough, there were dust motes floating in the air, seen only near the lights of Jean-Claude’s living room. He sighed.

 

“That’s dust Harry.”

 

“Dust.” Harry repeated thoughtfully. “The caging room never had dust, nor the experiment rooms or the offices.”

 

“You were kept in a very sterile place Harry.”

 

Harry nodded. “Can dust hurt us?”

 

“No.” Richard said shaking his head empathetically. “Not unless you’re asthmatic.”

 

“What’s ashtatic?”

 

“Asthmatic Harry.” Richard repeated more clearly. “It’s a respiratory disease caused by an allergy to dust.”

 

“Oh. Do I have Ashtagic?”

 

“Asthma and no. At least I don’t think you do. Have you ever had a really bad, tight feeling in your chest or difficulty breathing?”

 

“No. I don’t think so. There was the one time they pushed the huge needle through the bone in my back, that made my chest hurt, is that ashma?”

 

Richard’s own chest, as well as his throat, felt tight as Harry let that bombshell slip as easily and as unconcerned as if he had done nothing more than announce he was going to go berry picking.

 

“No Harry, that’s not asthma.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Harry turned away from his dust watching to snuggle into his side and he yawned. Richard hoped he dropped off to sleep again. He couldn’t keep up with Harry; he couldn’t keep up with his strange sleeping patterns, one night sleeping for fourteen hours straight, the next waking up every two hours.

 

“I like you Richard, you don’t make me feel stupid or treat me like I don’t understand, even when I don’t.”

 

“I’d be a poor teacher if I did Harry. Go to sleep for a bit okay.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Richard celebrated his small victory mentally, holding Harry tightly and wondering how long it would take before he could move safely, or if any movement at all would wake Harry up.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

Anita nodded to the detectives standing guard at the warehouse driveway, she flashed her badge and Bradford did the same. She kept it out, she’d have to flash it to every cop she came across.

The site was still being processed, the grounds still being painstakingly dug up to reveal more skeletons and bones, they had found an odd arm with no other bones, they’d found a skeleton with no head and a recent burial site where the bodies hadn’t yet started decomposing, there were four bodies in the grave and they were hoping they held more clues that could lead them to something.

 

“This place is a horror site.” Bradford hissed as he watched the team digging out more bones.

 

“Wait until you see the inside.” Anita grumbled unhappily as she flashed her badge to the man who came jogging to intercept her and Bradford.

 

“Who called in the feds?” The man scowled.

 

“I did.” Anita snapped back.

 

Anita shoved her badge under the noses of the two police men on guard at the door to the warehouse and they reluctantly let her and Bradford into the factory.

It was a small receiving room first, nicely carpeted and complete with reception desk and fake plant in a blue ceramic pot. The next room was a long, carpeted corridor, there were five doors here, two on either side of the corridor and one at the very far end opposite the door they had come through.

 

“What’s in those rooms?” Bradford asked as Anita went past them.

 

“Burnt out offices. The firefighters saved as much as they could, but most of them are very damaged on the inside.”

 

“Harry was found in one of these offices?”

 

“No, there are more offices at the back, he was in one of those, we think this was the ‘public’ face of the warehouse, where packages were delivered and where corporate spokes people were brought, they had to amass a lot of equipment, they needed to put on a show for that, we think these offices were for that purpose.”

 

Bradford nodded his understanding but he stopped mid motion as Anita opened the door at the very end, opening up into an absolutely huge space filled with solid, very shiny cages which Anita had said were made out of mostly silver and titanium.

He swallowed convulsively and just looked at the amount of cages, stacked up on one another, on tables, under tables, everywhere. If he didn’t know any better and he had been brought here first, he would have said he was dealing with illegal, unlicensed, freelance veterinarians or people abusing or experimenting on animals. There was no way humans had fitted into some of these cages.

He got onto his knees and looked into one cage, measuring it critically with his mind.

 

“This cage is too small.” He shook his head. “No adult fit in this cage.”

 

“There weren’t just adults here Bradford, teenagers, young adults; we found the skeletons of children in the grounds.”

 

Bradford felt his steel stomach roll and he fought to keep everything he had eaten down. This place was monstrous; the people who had done this to other people with such a clinical detachment had been monstrous.

 

“Which cage was Harry in?” He couldn’t help but asked weakly, swallowing back that weakness; he was an FBI agent for crying out loud!

 

Anita turned and walked to a small cage stacked on top of another, bigger cage, she pointed to the number on the little paper label. It was Harry’s number.

 

“That cage isn’t big enough to hold him.”

 

“Hence why he has a curved spine and difficulty walking upright.” Anita told him. “Come on, I want to see what you make of the autopsy labs.”

 

Bradley wasn’t sure he wanted to see what he’d make of the autopsy labs, the amount of blood on the floor of the ‘caging room’ was already making him feel sick, he wasn’t sure how he was going to handle Autopsy labs.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

“Richard!” Harry pouted at him and Richard really wanted to hand him off to someone else. He had been with Harry all night and all day again and he hadn’t had more than an hour’s sleep at a time. Harry might be able to survive on two hour bursts of sleep when he felt like it, but he couldn’t and the last thing he wanted to do was snap at Harry because he was tired.

 

“What’s the matter Harry?”

 

“What’s that?”

 

They had been playing this ‘game’ for three hours and Richard wasn’t sure how much more he could take of Harry’s endless questions and childlike curiosity.

 

“It’s one of Jean-Claude’s stickpins Harry; you use it to keep a tie in place.”

 

“Oh, what’s the red thing at the end?”

 

“It’s a ruby Harry, an expensive gemstone.”

 

“Oh. I like it.”

 

“You may have it if you wish, mon petit pétale.” Jean-Claude told the young boy as he swept into the room and picked Harry up from his desk and sat down with him in his lap, still holding the stickpin.

 

“Really? I can have it to keep? I don’t have anything of my own to keep.” Harry said as he sat there twisting and turning the stickpin between his fingers.

 

Jean-Claude held Harry tightly and looked at his exhausted wolf.

 

“Why do you not go into my bedroom and sleep for a while, Mon Ami.

 

Richard nodded and yawned, getting up and stretching before heading to the bedroom.

 

“Richard! Where are you going?” Harry asked panicked, his eyes wide.

 

“I’m just going to sleep for a while Harry.”

 

“You slept with me.” Harry said confusedly.

 

“It wasn’t for long enough Harry.”

 

Harry blinked, not understanding and it was obviously upsetting him as his lower lip trembled.

 

“Do you not like me?”

 

“Of course I like you Harry.” Richard explained slowly and clearly, moving his mouth deliberately to sound out the words carefully. “But I need to sleep; don’t you like Jean-Claude?”

 

Harry nodded slowly. “Yes, but I like you more.” Harry said seriously and with no regard for anyone else’s thoughts or feelings.

 

Richard felt a warm bubble fill him with those words and he hugged Harry gently.

 

“I like you too Harry, but I really need some sleep. I’ll be back later, I promise.”

 

“You will come back, you’re not going to leave and not come back?”

 

“No, I’ll be right down the corridor, I promise to come back.”

 

“Okay, but come back soon?”

 

“I’ll be back soon Harry, just enjoy your time with Jean-Claude.”

 

Harry nodded and went right on to questioning Jean-Claude about things Richard had already answered. He didn’t know if it was because Harry had forgotten that he had asked those questions before, that Harry didn’t believe him or if Harry just wanted to be absolutely sure he had the correct answer. He’d ask Lillian later, but only after he’d had a good amount of decent sleep.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Bradley wanted to vomit. He really did. There was no body on the autopsy table anymore, it had long since been removed, but the blood spray and all the pools of blood were still there and due to the high definition, colour photos, he could clearly imagine the woman strapped down onto that table, shrieking and flailing as much as her restraints allowed as her chest was opened up while she was alive.

He shivered and turned away, trying to hold his stomach inside his body, even as it threatened to crawl up his throat. He gagged but controlled it, breathing shallowly and slowly. He turned back around, glad that Anita wasn’t drawing any attention to his episode and seemed content to leave him alone without ribbing him.

He tried to take everything in, the blood, the actual table, the restraints built into said table, this showed clear intent to what the so called ‘doctors’ had had planned for their creations. They wanted to study them, right up to how they worked after they had been changed. They were sociopaths, to have done this to other human beings, to treat them as experiments, to dissect them alive just to see how they worked was on a level that just horrific. These people needed to be caught, Anita was right, they were too dangerous to allow out into the world to start this over again.

 

“Do we know anything; was anything found that even hinted where they would go if they had to disband quickly?”

 

“Not that we’ve found.” Anita answered.

 

“Do we know who any of them are?”

 

Anita shook her head, her black curls flying. “Nope, nothing. I called you in because we have nothing Bradford, zilch, absolutely nothing. We need help.”

 

Bradford sucked in a deep breath and let it go, almost regretting it as the smell of old, congealed blood reached him.

 

“Right, then we have a lot of work to do. I want teams of people designated to the recovered paperwork, I want this ground excavated as soon as possible and I want Harry to answer as many questions as he can, we’ll need as much information from him in order to find out who he really is, maybe then we can find some leads, but we have to work fast Anita, these people are monsters, sociopaths, but they aren’t stupid, they’ll set this factory up again somewhere else and carry on their work, they’ve gone too far to just leave it now.”

 

“I know, it’s why I called you in, this has to be sorted and soon, they need to be caught and put behind bars.”

 

“No.” Bradley said shaking his head. “They’ll get the death penalty for this Anita, aggravated crimes against humanity, kidnap, murder, unlawful contamination of a human with lycanthropy, infecting children with lycanthropy and god knows what else, they all face the death penalty.”

 

“Maybe that’s for the best.” Anita said hollowly. “People this dangerous can’t be allowed to ever re-join society. I don’t want to think on the fact that right now they could be in a different city or state doing the same thing to other innocent people.”

 

“They could be, which gives us all the more incentive to find them. I’ll call in my team, I’ll get them here as soon as I can, I’ll contact my superiors and clue them in, the more men the better on this one Anita. We need separate teams doing all the run down work, I won’t let them near Harry, I’ll do that personally with you if you’d like, but people need to be aware and on alert about this.”

 

Anita nodded and sighed, moving out of the autopsy room and binning her latex gloves. She begged, she prayed that these people were found soon, the alternative didn’t bare thinking about. Having more cases like this one, having more victims like Harry, it steeled her resolve to do absolutely anything and everything in her power or otherwise to take down this ring of mentally sick people, the longer they were at large, the bigger their opportunity to do this again.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------- X

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven – Attentive Interactions

 

Harry stared at the man they were introducing him to. Inspector Bradley Bradford. He didn’t like him, no matter what angle he looked at him through, Harry didn’t like him. He cocked his head to the other side, just in case he liked him better that way, but he didn’t.

He crawled onto Asher’s lap and looked at the man from the higher place and he frowned. He still didn’t like him, not even from up high.

 

“Harry, I know this is difficult for you, but can you remember anything about your family before you were put into a cage?”

 

Harry blinked and turned into Asher’s chest, he didn’t want to answer anything asked by this man. He didn’t like him, he didn’t trust him.

 

“Harry please, we need to know what you know.” The woman, Anita, said to him, a thread of anger in her voice that Harry picked up on immediately, but he didn’t trust her any longer and he didn’t want to answer her questions either.

 

“Where’s Richard?” He asked Asher, patting his face gently to get his attention.

 

“He has had to go to work, mon ange.”

 

“I want Richard.” He insisted.

 

“He’s not here Harry.” Anita told him sternly.

 

Anita swallowed as Harry’s eyes filled up with actual tears that slid down his cheeks slowly. He looked even more pathetic than usual and when he buried himself in Asher’s chest, she just knew that they wouldn’t be getting any answers from him today without Richard being there, if then.

 

“The agreement was that you could come and question him if you wouldn’t upset him. You have driven him to tears, he has never cried before now.” Asher said sharply and angrily. He held Harry tighter when his shoulders started to shake jerkily.

 

“If he would only cooperate…” Bradford started, but Asher stood up angrily, Harry cradled in his arms carefully.

 

“Do not dare to blame him for being upset after your interrogation!” Asher defended.

 

“It was hardly an interrogation Asher.” Anita tried to placate.

 

“Questioning does not lead to tears if it has not turned into an interrogation that is too harsh for him to deal with. I will not let you harm him or upset him.”

 

“We’re not harming him Asher; we’re trying to help him.”

 

“You’re going about it wrong.” Asher said stubbornly as he held Harry safer and more securely as he snuggled in tighter.

 

“Perhaps if you asked the questions for us then?” Bradford tried.

 

“And have him angry at me as well? Non!”

 

“Asher, we need to know what he knows in order to help him, surely you can understand that?” Anita tried with a tired sigh. “We just want to find out who he is, where he came from, who did this to him. We want to get justice for him.”

 

“He doesn’t understand.” Asher told her stubbornly. “He doesn’t understand and it is upsetting him when you get angry because he doesn’t immediately catch on to what you mean. Patience has never been your strong suit Anita, but you must try harder.”

 

Asher sat himself back down and positioned Harry more gently on his lap, brushing the tracks of tears from his cheeks and from under his lower lashes before they could fall. Harry sniffed delicately and looked up at him with such trust that he had to swallow hard.

Harry had only shown Richard that level of absolute trust before and he had been right, seeing such trust in Harry’s eyes was overwhelming, it was frightening to think that this tiny, damaged boy trusted him completely with everything, with his life and happiness and with all the decisions, happy to sit and let him control his life as he saw fit without a murmur of complaint. It was empowering and crushingly awe-inspiring to have such power and control over another and Asher swore he would neither abuse that trust, nor do anything to stop it, he rather liked having Harry trust him that much, he only did so to two people, himself and Richard and the werewolf was cracking under the pressure of Harry’s absolute trust, if Richard broke under that pressure, then that would leave him, and him alone, as the sole receiver of Harry’s trust and that thought rather appealed to him.

Harry’s hand wound through a fistful of his hair, not pulling, just holding, as if for comfort and Asher was struck by the baby like action. Harry patted his cheek to get his attention, now he was holding a lock of his hair in a small hand, all he needed to do now was to start sucking his thumb and Asher would be sold on the idea that Harry had never been allowed to grow up even before he was put in a cage. If they needed more evidence that Harry had been abused as a young child then Asher didn’t believe there was hope for the justice system of this time.

 

“Okay, fine.” Anita relented. “Harry, please, do you remember anything at all about the people who took care of you before you were turned into a wereanimal?”

 

Harry looked up at Asher, his emerald green eyes wide and still bright and shiny with the remnants of his tears. It was heartbreaking, Harry obviously remembered nothing at this moment in time or he didn’t understand what they were asking or looking for. Asher had to put a stop to this interrogation, Harry trusted him to look after him now and he would do his all to protect the tiny, bony boy in his arms.

 

“Harry has said all he can on this matter.” He declared haughtily and decisively.

 

“He hasn’t said anything!” Bradley Bradford cut in angrily.

 

Asher levelled his most dangerous, cruel look at the man.

 

“He has given you the name Vernon Dursley, he has given you the residence number and street of four Privet Drive and he has given you the county Surrey, surely you can do something with that?” Asher intoned dryly, insinuating heavily that of course they couldn’t do anything useful with it.

 

“I already have a team working on that information, I need more to work with, I need to know everything he knows in order to paint a full picture of what these people did to him. I need to know the names of the doctors. I need to know everything.”

 

“Well you’re not going to get it by getting angry and frustrated with him.” Asher said dismissively, turning his attention to Harry, who had been looking at his mouth, watching him speak. When he noticed Asher looking at him, he gave a happy smile and Asher’s heart melted. He had never had a child, but he wondered if this feeling he was developing and growing for Harry would have been close to what he would have felt for a child of his own blood and seed.

 

“Can we please get back on track; we need the names of those doctors. There were only five; surely he can remember something of them.”

 

Harry blinked slowly and wetted his lips with the tip of a pink tongue.

 

“Nuh-uh.” He said softly.

 

Anita swallowed painfully. “What do you mean Harry?”

 

Anita deliberately spoke slowly and softly, trying her hardest to make herself approachable to not scare him off or make him close up yet again.

 

“There were five head doctors.” Harry said. “They had trainees and underlings and things too.”

 

Anita shared a startled look with Bradford. “How many about Harry, do you know?”

 

“I only really knew Oscar, Alfie and Stella.” Harry replied easily. “Stella was a nurse, she gave me my animal injections, but Jillian oversaw those, I think Stella was in training when I first arrived, or that I was really little and she wanted to make sure it went well.”

 

Bradford was scribbling furiously.

 

“Do you know any other names Harry?” Anita asked lightly.

 

Asher rubbed lightly at the back of Harry’s neck, encouraging him silently and reminding him that he was still there for him if he needed support or reassurance.

 

Harry frowned. “There were two stockists, they used to bring medical stuff and all the injections we needed, I think they were called Lewis and Anthony.”

 

“Do you have any last names?”

 

“What’s a last name?” Harry asked, looking to Asher and patting his cheek gently to gain his attention. “What’s a last name?” He repeated once Asher looked at him.

 

“It’s a second name after your first Harry. Yours is James.”

 

“Oh, what’s your last name?” Harry asked.

 

“I do not have one, I am a vampire, I have long since forgotten.”

 

“Mine is Blake.” Anita offered before Asher could confuse Harry. “I am known as Anita Blake, as you are known as Harry James.”

 

“Oh. I don’t think the doctors had last names.” Harry frowned. “Or I never heard them, they only used one name.”

 

“Okay, that’s alright Harry.” Anita coaxed him, even though it wasn’t really, they couldn’t do much with mere first names, millions of people had to be called Oscar, or Lewis, or Stella in the world and with nothing to single any of them out, they couldn’t do anything with the information at this time.

 

“Do you know how many underlings and things they had?” Bradford asked, using his notebook to use the words Harry had so he understood more.

 

Harry immediately curved himself around Asher’s body, his one hand even slipped between the buttons of his shirt and splayed over Asher’s bare skin. He shook his head quickly and jerkily and Anita wondered why he was so afraid all of a sudden, but she had given up hope of understanding Harry and how his mind worked a long while ago.

 

“Are there too many to count Harry?” Anita tried. “Or can you just not remember them?”

 

No answer was forthcoming as Harry buried his face in Asher’s neck and mumbled something quietly to Asher, who stood up and dismissed them.

 

“We still have questions Asher.” Anita said as levelly as she could, wanting to just shout at him, but unwilling to do so with an unstable Harry in the room.

 

“Harry is tired. This experience has worn him out and he needs to sleep to recuperate. Lillian’s instructions were very clear, if he gets tired, he needs to go to sleep.”

 

“I thought we had agreed that he wasn’t allowed to sleep during the day, it messes up his full night’s sleep.”

 

“If Harry wishes to sleep now because he is tired, then I will put him to bed.” Asher stated arrogantly.

 

“You want him to be nocturnal.” Anita said painfully as she realised what was going on. “You want him to spend more time with you.”

 

“I don’t know what you mean. Harry is tired; he is still recovering and needs his sleep. The good doctor told us to let him sleep when he needs too. Besides, Harry likes spending time with me and he likes the activity of the night more than the quiet, stillness of the day. If he wishes to become nocturnal, he has that choice.”

 

Asher settled Harry more comfortably in his arms and strode out, leaving the two in the room in silence. Asher carried Harry to his own bedroom and settled him on the silk sheets.

 

“This isn’t my room.” Harry stated perking up as his insatiable curiosity was awoken by the new surroundings.

 

Non, this is my room mon ange. I thought you might like to spend your nap here, in a different room to the one you have become so used to.”

 

Harry grinned at him and wrapped him in a hug, squeezing tightly. So innocent, so trusting, so loving. Asher hugged him back gently, feeling his heart soar at the unconditional love of a young child. Harry wouldn’t judge him, wouldn’t look at him with shame or accusation, no matter what he did, Harry’s trust in him went deep and Asher would do nothing to ever damage that trust, he was becoming addicted to the attention, to the love that Harry gave to him so freely and to very few others. 

 

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Anita was at her wits end with this investigation. Harry’s information was useless and the information he did have was turning up nought. The house in Surrey was occupied by an elderly woman, who had bought it after its pervious resident had died in hospital a year or two ago.

This woman knew all that, knew exactly what had happened and the ‘scandal’ it had caused, but she didn’t remember the previous owners name, if the previous owner was even male or female, if they had any remaining family left, or anything that wasn’t spiteful gossip.

They now had to go the long way around through the British Housing Association and try and find out who had lived there before this vindictive old woman and it wasn’t going half as fast as she wanted it to.

The excavation at the factory site had revealed more skeletons and one which was buried twelve feet deep and had the skeleton of a large, malformed animal. It looked like it had been buried alive if the marks and damage the officers had found were any indication.

As if they had needed any more proof that these people were sick and twisted, a skeleton had been unearthed with an odd pile of small bones in its midsection. The officers believed that the woman had been heavily pregnant at her time of burial. They hadn’t found out yet if the baby had already been dead at the time of burial or if it was still alive or if the woman had been alive at her time of burial either.

This entire investigation was going to break something within her and haunt her for the rest of her life. The constant reminder of it in Harry was going to drive her around the bend soon, she just couldn’t take how obviously messed up he was and Richard was having a hard time with it too, when he wasn’t with Harry or in work, he was the most miserable and angry person she knew, lashing out at any and every one he could to try and make himself feel just a tiny bit better, but it often made him feel worse, which made him angrier.

Bradford elbowed her gently to bring her out of her thoughts and she looked at him questioningly.

 

“That was the previous owner’s grand-niece. Her grand-Uncle died of a heart attack two years ago, but he bought the house from a work colleague, a Mister Vernon Dursley, who had had to move to Bournemouth with his family for work reasons. At least as far as she knows.”

 

Anita sighed in part relief at having found out something.

 

“Did you get any numbers for the neighbours?”

 

“Already on it.” Bradford said his phone already to his ear.

 

Anita prayed that they got somewhere this time, she did want to help Harry and she wanted justice for him, but more than anything she wanted this case to just go away and be buried in the back of her mind with all the other horrific cases she had worked on over the years.

 

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Richard swallowed down his bad mood and his anger as he pushed open the door and smiled in sincere relief when Harry looked up, startled, only for his look of fear and apprehension to dissolve in to such a wide, happy, excited grin that it warmed him all the way down to his bones. It seemed like the only time he wasn’t angry or taking a dig at someone these days was when he was with Harry, who was so trusting and loving that it was impossible to be angry around him, impossible not to smile at him as he held such a childlike innocent view of everything it put new perspective on everything.

He swept Harry into a tight hug and kissed his forehead as Harry wrapped his tiny arms and legs around him tightly, nattering about the lecture he had been given on carpets and why they were used and what purpose they held. He was almost glad he had missed that conversation, but then anything that made Harry this excited and happy made Richard’s heart ache for the young boy, who had apparently never seen carpeting before.

 

“I mean, it was at the house before the cage, I remember that, but I was never allowed to touch it because I was filthy and slimy.” Harry said, his happy grin not once slipping as he revealed yet more signs of abuse.   

 

“You’re not filthy or slimy.” Richard interjected sternly enough for Harry to believe him, but softly enough so that it didn’t upset him. It was a precarious balance that was hit and miss depending on Harry’s mood and thoughts that he didn’t actually show and Harry had the amazing, but frustrating ability of being able to retain every word spoken to him, though often not in the same context and seemingly sporadically, so everything said to him had to be carefully weighed and measured and even then if Harry was thinking something or feeling strongly about something that he didn’t show outwardly and he was then corrected or even agreed with, it could set him off and he could take it badly, even when it wasn’t intended that way.

It was wearing him down, slowly but surely, and he wasn’t sure how much more of this high stress situation he could take, but for Harry, he had to try harder, he had to try beyond his best to help Harry because absolutely no one deserved what Harry had been through, no one and if he could help in anyway, of course he was going to try his absolute best, but he longed for the day when Harry showed some improvement, even a slight progression would be welcomed, anything, just to prove that he was doing good, that the work he was doing with Harry was helping, something to show him that Harry could come back from this, that he could be saved from the terrible, horrific life he had been forced to live before now. He just wanted to know that he was being useful, that he was helping Harry recover, but the tiny boy gave nothing away and looked at him shyly and trustingly through such gorgeous coloured eyes.

Not for the first time Richard wished wholeheartedly that he was able to read Harry’s mind, he didn’t think he’d like what was inside, but if he could just see what he was thinking he could help more, if he could extract the information Anita needed for the investigation without questioning Harry to tears it would ease a lot of stress, frustration and bad feelings, but he couldn’t and looking into the happy, bright little face looking up at him from his arms, he read absolutely nothing from him. He was blank, happy and blank.

 

“Asher said that carpets can be all sorts of different colours!” Harry continued on when Richard offered nothing to the previous conversation. “He said they can even be black!”

 

He was so excited that Richard had to smile as he sat down in an armchair and let Harry straddle his lap, talking a mile a minute, repeating every single word Asher had told him on the subject of carpets.

 

“What do you think Richard? Do you think they make green carpets?”

 

“They do make green carpets, in every shade of green imaginable.” Richard told him with a smile.

 

Harry grinned widely and bounced on him excitedly. “I think I’d like green carpets. Do you like green carpets?”

 

Richard chuckled. “I like green carpets just fine Harry.”

 

“Where is Asher?” Harry asked suddenly, his voice changed from light and airy to something more solid with a thread of tension and upset.

 

“He has gone to feed Harry. Vampires need blood every day.”

 

“I want him here with us.” Harry sniffled and terrified that a tantrum or a crying fit was coming on, Richard stood up quickly and went to find Asher, carrying Harry pressed to himself, shushing him as he rushed around the underground of the Circus to find the blonde vampire, asking everyone he came across if they had seen him.

 

He finally tracked Asher down; he was sat with Anita, Jean-Claude, Micah, Nathaniel and Jason. Harry twisted in his arms and almost hit the floor as he tried to get to Asher that little bit quicker. Asher caught him and Harry wrapped around him like a limpet.

 

“He wanted to be with you.” Richard said, sitting down in an armchair with a sigh.

 

“Richard!” Harry called out confusedly, patting the seat next to Asher. “Here.”

 

For such a demanding action, there was absolutely no demand in Harry’s tone, more of a meek, timid request and Richard took one look into those watery green eyes and stood up again and sat himself next to Asher on the small loveseat, very uncomfortable with the way his leg was forced to press right up against Asher’s, but Harry happily slung a leg over his thigh, his other leg over Asher’s thigh, sitting on both of their knees and happily grinning, playing with his own fingers and prattling on under his breath so quietly that Richard couldn’t understand what he was saying and if his expression was any indication, Asher didn’t understand it any more than he did.

 

“You’re spoiling him.” Anita said disapprovingly.

 

Richard almost snarled. “He hasn’t even had the basic necessities in his life!” He argued. “He’s been beaten, abused, experimented on for some sicko’s pleasure and you say we’re spoiling him for letting him sit on our laps? What is wrong with you?!” He demanded angrily.

 

“Don’t be angry Richard.” Harry stroked his cheek, patting it gently as Asher had told them Harry liked doing to him ever since their trip to the Circus up top. The gentle tapping got his attention and the stroking calmed him as he looked into wide eyes.

 

“I’m not angry with you Harry.”

 

“I don’t like hearing you angry.” Harry insisted.

 

Richard blew out a breath and shuffled Harry closer to himself for a hug.

 

“I feel better now Harry, thank you.”

 

Harry smiled and rested on his chest, turned to the side so he could play with Asher’s fingers instead of his own, which had been given over freely for Harry to play with.

 

Ma petite has uncovered some information on our mon petit pétale.” Jean-Claude spoke for the first time since Richard had entered the room.

 

“Really?” Richard asked, brightening up considerably, hoping that this was the break that they needed.

 

Anita nodded. “We spoke to neighbours of the Dursley family, a very pretty picture they paint too. Vernon Dursley was the typical male provider, strong ethics and opinions, one resident described him as very overweight with a moustache, his Wife, Petunia was a home maker, her house was spotless and perfect, not a fibre out of place despite having a young son. Most people didn’t know her Nephew lived with her and those that did said he was a little hell raiser and gave the family no end of troubles.”

 

The conflicting stories had led them around in a circle, some had been adamant that it was the Dursley’s overweight son who was the problem child, but others had insisted that it was the Nephew and that Petunia Dursley often sought comfort from other housewives on the street, crying onto them about the problem boy.

One neighbour, a woman called Arabella Figg, had been almost frantic to know if they had found the boy, she wanted to know where he was, how he was and further questioning revealed that she had used to baby sit Harry. She described him as a very quiet, sweet boy, who was always soft spoken and helpful, but she did say he was always covered in cuts and bruises and when asked why she hadn’t told the police or social workers, she had clammed up.

 

“Harry’s name is not Harry James.” Anita told them.

 

“It’s not?” Harry warbled out with a soft gasp. “But I like it, the neighbour told me that’s who I was!”

 

“No Harry, your name is Harry James Potter. Harry is your first name, James is your middle name and Potter is your last name.”

 

“I have a last name?” Harry asked with a grin.

 

Anita nodded.

 

“Have you found out an age?” Micah asked.

 

Anita shook her head. “The neighbours disagree on it. Some think he’s the same age as the Dursley’s son Dudley, which would make him about eighteen, some think he was younger, as young as thirteen and some thought he was older, the oldest stated was twenty. Bradford is looking for his record of birth as we speak.”

 

“So he could be between thirteen and twenty?” Richard asked, his hand playing with the skin on Harry’s hip, his arm wrapped around his back. He tried to think about Harry possibly being twenty, but the thought made him very uncomfortable.

 

It was fair enough if Harry was a young boy, a thirteen year old who wanted comfort, but a twenty year old was a bit different and he didn’t know how he would feel if Harry turned out to be a twenty year old man and acting so babyish with those around him.

 

“Did you find the woman who told Harry his name and that he was six?”

 

Anita shook her head. “She died a few months ago, so we couldn’t question her as she obviously knew Harry the best and at least knew when his birthday was.”

 

“None of the other neighbours knew?” Micah asked.

 

Anita shook her head again. “No, they didn’t even want to guess, apparently he never had a birthday party, the Dursleys told the neighbours that it was because he was always too naughty and spoilt it for himself, but their own son had lavish birthdays despite his bad grades and bad behaviour, but no one ever saw Harry at one.”

 

“I was always in my cupboard on Dudley’s birthdays.” Harry said happily.

 

Richard’s hand moved up to cup Harry’s head, possible twenty year old be damned, Harry had been through such a terrible ordeal, had lived such a terrible life, even before he had been put into a cage by those so called doctors. Richard just wanted him to get better, but if he was a twenty year old man, could they undo twenty years of such harsh, clinical treatment? Twenty years of systematic abuse and mistreatment? It was a lot to ask and a lot of Harry’s behaviour and mental state were still unknown, but if what they had seen so far, coupled together with the complete lack of progress, was any indication then it was going to be a very long road and at this current moment in time, there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight – Experimental Madness

 

Anita had gotten just about three hours of sleep before Nathaniel was shaking her shoulder and handing her phone over, it was a true testament to how tired she was lately that she hadn’t actually heard the phone going off in the first place or stirred when Nathaniel and Micah had.

 

“Blake.” She grunted into the phone and rolled over onto her back.

 

“Did I wake you?” Bradford asked, sounding amused.

 

“What gave it away?” Anita asked sourly.

 

“The grunt of ‘Blake’ down the phone and your boyfriend answering it like he’s your PA.”

 

“Leave it.” Anita grumbled. “What did you want; it’s seven in the goddamned morning.”

 

“I know and I’ve been wanting to call you for the last hour. The guys found a small note in another file about specimen one hundred and sixteen.”

 

Anita blinked and it took her only a moment to figure it out and she sat up sharply. “That’s Harry’s specimen number, what did the notation say?”

 

“That the doctor conducting the experiment had to stop in the middle because he was interrupted by specimen one hundred and sixteen acting up and that one of the other doctors gave him a spoon full of honey to quieten him.”

 

“Sweet stuff.” Anita said with a painful swallow. “He said that one doctor always gave him a spoonful of sweet stuff to get him to cooperate with experiments and things. I didn’t know what he meant.”

 

“He meant honey.” Bradford said softly. “Anita, some of the experiments that the guys are uncovering are horrific. They got the women purposefully pregnant to harvest the conceived embryos for stem cells. They found out that wereanimal conceived embryos made for more potent stem cells and if they found the DNA chain that made them wereanimals, those stem cells could be used on humans without turning them into wereanimals themselves. Anita they were selling this stuff to major research corporations around the world.”

 

“What do you need?” Anita asked.

 

“I need you to come down here and take a look at it all. They played around with their organs, we need to have Harry checked out properly and with more heavy duty equipment, they happily swapped their organs around Anita to see if they healed over it on the full moons.”

 

“Did they?” Anita didn’t think she was breathing as she whispered the question to Bradford.

 

“It was hit and miss according to the files, some of the stronger lycanthropes healed over the surgery and their bodies accepted a third lung or another heart, but some of the weaker lycanthropes rejected the new, unneeded organs, coughing them up or their bodies broke them down and used them for food or energy, but the strongest of them could actually grow back taken organs, but the weaker ones couldn’t, we’ve found several bodies buried in the fresher graves with missing organs, perhaps this explains what happened to them.”

 

Anita swallowed and got up, heading into the bathroom for the shower.

 

“I’ll be with you as soon as I can Bradford, give me an hour and I’ll be at the station.”

 

“I’ll see you then Anita, but keep an eye on Harry, try and find out if he’s had these sorts of experiments performed on him before you come, they did these experiments while they were mostly awake and aware, they didn’t stock much anaesthetic and it wouldn’t keep a wereanimal down for long anyway, that’s why they needed the restraints, if they performed major surgery on him like this, he should remember.”

 

“I’ll see if he’s awake and I’ll ask, but I don’t want to wake him special just to ask him this, he’s a pain for Asher and Richard, you know he’s forced them to sleep in the same bed tonight, even though Asher was just sat there as he can only die at dawn, but every time one of them went to move out of the bed, Harry would wake up and throw a fit.”

 

“He was always going to be a handful Anita; he doesn’t know how to act properly.” Micah said diplomatically from the bed.

 

She nodded her understanding and sighed. “I just wish he wasn’t so…messy.”

 

Micah actually sighed back at her. “He’s been abused for many years Anita, you can’t realistically expect him to be a clean, upstanding member of society, he has to be taught and re-educated on everything he’s learnt so far. He doesn’t know how to act in regular society, he doesn’t know how to behave, what normal people do in certain situations, we have to teach him that.”

 

Anita nodded before turning back to the phone. “I’ll be there as soon as I can Bradford.” Was all she said as she cut the line and went to her dresser to pull out an outfit before going to shower. Today was not going to be a good day, she could already tell that.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Anita slipped into Asher’s bedroom, he was still fully dressed and dead for the day in the bed, Harry was snuggled up tightly to his cold body and Richard was fast asleep spooning behind him, one of his arms pulled over Harry and his large hand was held in a punishing grip between both of Harry’s own.

She didn’t want to disturb them, so she inched her way back out of the door, just as Harry sat up and looked directly at her, jolting Richard awake with him.

 

“What do you want? Go away!” Harry demanded and Anita stood up straighter.

 

“Anita?” Richard said drowsily. “Was matter?”

 

“I didn’t want to disturb you, I was just leaving.”

 

“Why did you come here? What did you need?”

 

Anita looked to Harry, then back to Richard.

 

“Bradford found files on experiments, they played around with the specimens organs, I came to see if Harry was awake.”

 

“I had my heart moved once.” Harry said innocently before Richard could say anything.

 

“Moved or removed Harry?”

 

Harry blinked and frowned and he did that movement with his lips that Anita knew now meant that he didn’t understand.

 

“Did the doctors keep your heart inside your body or did they take it out?”

 

“No lycanthrope can survive having their heart messed with.”

 

“They moved it, to the other side of my chest.” Harry hit his chest with his fist, on the right side of his ribcage, the opposite side to where his heart should have been.

 

“Did they move it back?” Richard asked faintly.

 

Harry shook his head. “No, it moved back on its own when the big moon came out.”

 

“The full moon? It went back to the left side of your chest when you turned into a wereanimal?”

 

Harry nodded happily at having been understood.

 

“Did they mess around with any of your other organs? Take any away, add new ones?”

 

Harry frowned so hard he was almost pouting. “I don’t think it’s an organ, but the doctors said it was. They said it was a sex organ.”

 

Richard went pale under his summer tan and Anita felt light headed. “They played around with your sex organs?”

 

Harry nodded with a smile. “They added female sex organs to my body and the animal healed over them. They were going to…do something.”

 

“Do what?” Anita whispered, not sure she wanted to know any more.

 

“Artafical insemina…inseminay.”

 

“Artificial insemination?” Richard demanded furiously.

 

Harry nodded. “They wanted to see if my new parts worked after my animals accepted it.”

 

“My god.” Anita swallowed heavily, her eyes were blurring around the edges with the horror of what she was hearing. “I have to go and meet Bradford, after what they’ve found, all of those pregnant women buried at the factory site, I wonder how many of them they just assumed were women because of the pregnancy and are actually men with female sex organs. I wonder where they got the sperm donations from, if the doctors used their own samples for testing, we might have their DNA.”

 

“It’s more likely they used a sperm bank or the experiments samples.” Richard told her softly, as if the horror were too great to speak any louder than a whisper.

 

Anita felt light and shaky, not at all fit to do anything, but she had to do something, this had to stop. She just wanted this nightmare over and done with. She wanted this case to go away.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

Richard cursed Anita. Harry wouldn’t go back to sleep, he claimed to have had enough, but they’d only gotten a hour and a half and Richard just could not carry on, on such a short amount of sleep. His body was already trying to shut down, but Harry’s poking, pinching and shouts in his ear kept him alert and from the gentle arms of sleep.

Richard threw an large, muscular arm around Harry and dragged him down, holding him to the front of his body and not letting him get back up. No matter how much he struggled.

 

“Richard! No more sleep!” Harry declared unhappily.

 

“You said you wanted to be nocturnal like the vampires Harry. It’s day time.” Richard said, knowing it was wrong, that he should be encouraging Harry being awake at this time, but it was just so goddamned early and on a Saturday too!

 

“But I’m not sleepy.”

 

“I’m sure you will be if you just close your eyes and lay still.” Richard told him softly, part of his sentence being broken up by a massive yawn that made Harry giggle.

 

Richard fell off to sleep easily; too tired to stay awake for much longer, but Harry pouted at him and slid out from under that heavy arm.

He poked and called to Asher, but he was ignored. He even pulled up Asher’s eyelid, but the vampire remained still and silent. Harry huffed and slid from the bed, he occupied himself for an hour just crawling around the floor, passing under the bed with a soft giggle and going flat on his belly and using his arms to pull himself underneath the chair.

He soon got bored of his game however and the bedroom door called to him. He twisted the orb like the other vampire had shown him and he laughed to himself as he trotted out and started a four hour stream of mayhem that completely disrupted the workings of the Circus and the guards.

He moved props for acts so their owners couldn’t find them when they rehearsed their acts, he slammed doors which made the guards rush around looking for intruders that weren’t in the Circus, he tied shoelaces to chair legs, tipped away all the energy drinks in the gym rest room after a lick of one made his face screw up, he opened one door to the outside, but after the light that almost blinded him made him feel sick, he ran, leaving the outside, employee door open, which sent the guards into a further panic and when he thought for sure he would be caught and punished, he slipped back into Asher’s bedroom and slid back under Richard’s heavy arm, which tightened and pulled him into the werewolf’s large chest tighter and more securely.

Harry smiled to himself, he’d had a good day, even if it had been without Richard and Asher, he’d love to do it again sometime, but for now, he needed to take a little sleep.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X 

 

Anita rubbed her face as she looked to the files laid out before her like a damning stamp of horror. The clinical detachedness that the ‘doctors’ had used while writing up their reports and experimentations was sickening. It was like they were merely testing on fruits or plants rather than living, breathing people that thought and felt everything that was done to them.

 

“There’s something else as well Anita.” Bradford told her quietly, as if the horror was too much to say any louder.

 

“What?” She asked. She had told Bradford about the rearranging of Harry’s heart and the addition of female sex organs that these people had forced on him and then tried to artificially inseminate him just to see if they worked. The people in charge of the excavation outside were now going back over the pregnant ‘women’ to see if they were actually women after all, apparently they could tell female from male from the shape of the bones, they hadn’t checked before. But what could be worse than that? What could be worse than giving males female sex organs and then getting them pregnant with sperm samples?

 

She shouldn’t have asked as a locked filing cabinet, saved from being burnt and miraculously saved from the water and foam of the firefighters, contained hundreds upon hundreds of little disks. DVD disks.

 

“They filmed some of the experiments.” Bradford told her softly. “I’m going to get my people working on these and watching them, we’ll look out for Harry, but hopefully we may have some faces or at the very least body specifications to search for.”

 

“You might find that the ‘doctors’ stay out of the camera shot.” Anita sighed, well aware that it just couldn’t be that simple and lamenting the fact that it couldn’t be that simple.

 

“Either way, we have physical proof that this was a factory, we have bodies above and below ground and we have Harry. If we can find these people Anita, they’re as good as dead. This is the death penalty for sure.”

 

“We need to find and apprehend them first.”

 

“I’m hoping that it’s only a matter of time.” Bradford told her with a long suffering sigh.

 

“They’re going to know that this is a capital offense Bradford. They’re not going to make it easy to find them. This has been going on for fuck knows how many years, right under our noses! They managed to set this factory up, get people and children into this building to experiment on, they got all the equipment and medicine they needed, all without anyone noticing!”

 

“People noticed.” Bradley told her.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“A fresh body has been found, it has to be less than four months old, no lycanthropy or vampirism and death by a sharp blow to the head. Probably a civilian wandered across their factory, saw what they were doing and they disposed of him.”

 

“So not only have they experimented and killed selected victims, they’ve killed others just for wandering across the factory?”

 

“It looks like it. The unknown male is the only body we’ve found without lycanthropy or vampirism, so I don’t think many people stumbled across it, but I have reason to believe that those that did, were disposed of.”

 

“Why not use them as further experiments’?” Anita asked.

 

“I’m not sure, but I think it’s because they had no shortage of experiments.”

 

“Could it possibly be that the ‘specimens’ were handpicked?” Anita asked, swallowing as that sentence would take this case to a whole new level of horror.

 

“We can’t find any of the reported missing peoples among the freshly dead that we can actually identify. It is likely that they were handpicked and kidnapped to order; my team have a lot of wild theories about the whole thing.”

 

“Harry wasn’t kidnapped I don’t think, if his family disliked him and treated him as badly as Harry remembers, then what’s the likelihood of him being sold to these people?”

 

Bradford swallowed uncomfortably. “I wouldn’t like to think on anyone selling a child into this, but we have to cover all bases, we need to find the Dursley family and question them thoroughly on why they treated Harry as they did and why they sold or gave him to these doctors.”

 

“Do you have someone working on that too?”

 

“I’m doing that personally, right after I’ve caught up with the goings on here, but I thought you’d like to know what we found.”

 

Anita nodded. “I’m going to try and get some more information from Harry if I can. I’ll call you if I can get anything from him.”

 

“And likewise, I’ll call you if I catch up to the Dursley family. I hope it’s not like yesterday though, where I’m just buffered from neighbour to neighbour talking about how brilliant the family was, how hardworking, how clean, how ethical. I just want to find them and question the bastards.”

 

Anita nodded and set off out of the office to her jeep. She was going to get back to the Circus and hopefully Harry would be in a better, more sharing mood than he had yesterday, especially with Richard there with him.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

Richard was jerked awake by someone barging through the door. He was up and sat in front of Harry, who was blinking sleepy green eyes, rubbing his face and looking to where the door had been barged open.

When he saw Claudia, Lisandro, Bobby-Lee and his own werewolf Graham he sighed.

 

“What’s the matter? What’s wrong?”

 

“That little pest has been terrorising us all morning!” Lisandro burst out.

 

Richard looked to Harry plastered to his side, still blinking sleep from his eyes.

 

“We’ve been asleep all morning.” Richard said as he shook his head. “He couldn’t have done it, he hasn’t left my side.”

 

“He’s the only one here who would do such a thing!”

 

“Harry, have you been here sleeping with me?” Richard asked gently and easily for Harry’s ease of understanding.

 

Harry nodded. “Yes. I’ve been sleeping here with you and Asher.”

 

“See, he’s not lying.” Richard pointed out. “I know you can taste his lies too.”

 

“Have you been outside of this room?” Graham asked.

 

“Yes.” Harry answered simply. “This is Asher’s bedroom. I’ve got my own room, I’ve been in the bathroom, the living room, Asher took me to see the Circus up top…”

 

“That’s not what we meant!” Lisandro stated angrily.

 

Harry cowered away and buried into Richard.

 

“That’s what you get for asking ambiguous questions!” Richard snapped.

 

“Fine! Have you been out of this room today?”

 

Harry snuggled into Richard, if they could taste his lies, like he could them, then maybe he shouldn’t answer.

 

“See! He refuses to answer because he’s guilty!”

 

“Or because you’ve terrified him half to death!” Richard defended. “I would have felt him leaving the bed, I would have felt his warmth missing from my side or are you trying to claim I am not a fit Ulfric?!”

 

The wererat dropped his gaze at that and backed off. Graham went to his knees and shuffled to the edge of the bed before he held his hand out for Richard to either take or ignore. Richard took it and pulled Graham to his feet, patting his forearm gently.

 

“Harry has not left this bed, let alone this room. I suggest you go and pin the blame on someone else not just a convenient target. I won’t let you attack him or blame him for something he hasn’t done just because you can.”

 

Harry hid a smile into Richard’s side. He liked knowing that he would protect him, though lying to Richard felt strange, he frowned, he didn’t know what that feeling was either.

 

“Hey, it’s alright.” Richard encouraged. “I think you’ve done really well today and sleeping for as long as you have. Do you want to go outside?”

 

“Sun makes me itchy.” Harry answered a few minutes later after he’d processed what Richard had told him.

 

“We can stay in the shade if you’d like, out of the sun, and see if it’s just direct sunlight or being out in daylight that makes you itchy.”

 

Harry nodded and let Richard dress him, before dressing himself and Harry held his hand for Richard to take.

When they reached the stairs, Harry frowned at them, he’d gotten better at going up, but he’d gone up twice already, three times was going to be hard.

He managed halfway up before he stopped and held his arms up for Richard to carry him. Richard sighed and picked him up, sitting him on his hip.

 

“I have no idea why they thought you could have done anything; you can’t even get up the stairs.” Richard blew out a breath and Harry snuggled in tight, even tighter when he felt the sun on him.

 

Richard went to a grassy bank on the far end on the Circus parking lot and settled Harry down under the shade of a large tree and sat down in front of him, more in the sun, loving the feel of it on his skin and letting his wolf bask in the bright warmth of the bright light.

 

“Richard.” Harry whispered as if he were revealing a secret in a crowded room, not on a deserted grass bank with no one around to hear them.

 

“What’s the matter Harry?” He asked as he leant forward.

 

“Is that man coming back today?”

 

“Man? What ma…” Richard stopped as he realised the only ‘man’ Harry had come across and didn’t like was Detective Bradley Bradford. “You mean Detective Bradford? I don’t know Harry, but I wouldn’t have thought so.”

 

Harry stared at his mouth for a long time and Richard wondered if he should repeat himself in simpler terms when Harry suddenly grinned and crawled forward to hug him.

 

“Thank you!” He said sincerely. Richard didn’t have the heart to tell him he didn’t actually know if Agent Bradford was coming today or not, nor did he have the power to stop him if he did, but he hugged Harry back all the same and kissed his forehead.

 

Harry frowned up at him at that and touched the spot he had kissed.

 

“I’m sorry Harry; I didn’t mean to kiss you, I just…”

 

“What was it?” Harry asked as he looked at his hand as if expecting something to be on it.

 

“It was a kiss Harry.” Richard said with a frown of his own.

 

“What does it do?”

 

“What does it…? Harry it’s a kiss to show that you love someone. That you care about them. Have you never been kissed before?”

 

Harry pushed his bottom lip out into a pout, thinking hard. He shook his head.

 

“No.” He said simply. “I’ve never had one; does that mean no one loves me?”

 

“I kissed you didn’t I?” Richard pointed out quickly, not really thinking it through or thinking of any repercussions, but he couldn’t let sweet, confused, little Harry go around thinking that no one loved him, whether tiny teen or not, a young boy needed to know he had someone who loved him.

 

Harry’s face opened up and he bounced excitedly where he sat as he nodded. “Yes! Yes you did!”

 

Harry kissed his cheek and hugged him tight. “I love you too!”

 

Richard laughed, from the hug, the declaration and the soft, dry kiss. It was all so innocent that he thought nothing more of it. Perhaps if he remembered Anita’s anger towards Harry and her jealousy to sharing ‘her’ men with anyone else, he might have.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine – Baby Secrets

 

Anita made it back to the Circus and let herself in. She climbed down the oddly shaped steps as quickly and carefully as she could in her smart heels, it was late afternoon, Jean-Claude should have been up, fed, bathed, dressed and waiting for her.

She was right, he was in his living room, sitting behind the desk, but he wasn’t waiting for her, he had Harry on his lap, who was babbling like an overexcited toddler as Jean-Claude hummed gently at any available intake of breath as he French braided Harry’s hair with gentle, sure fingers.

Asher was watching them both with a stoic face, completely unreadable and Anita wondered if he liked that Jean-Claude was with Harry or if he hated it as he wanted Harry’s affections for himself.

 

“Hello Harry.” She greeted softly.

 

The boy still startled as if she had yelled right in his ear at the top of her lungs and looked at her with such wide eyes. She did not miss how one tiny hand reached down and gripped one of Jean-Claude’s own tightly.

 

“It is alright, mon petit pétale.” Jean-Claude soothed him.

 

“You shouldn’t treat him like a child.” Anita reminded him yet again.

 

“I am treating him with kindness.” Jean-Claude said back, no tone or inflection to his voice. “Not like a child.”

 

“You’re babying him; you’re supposed to be making him fit to live on his own.”

 

“And is he going to live on his own?” Jean-Claude asked back, a definite hint of something in his voice this time. “He is certainly a Panwere. A werewolf, a wereleopard, a weretiger and a vampire, why would he not live in the Circus, with all the other vampires in this city, with other wereanimals of his own kind, why must he live on his own when none of the others do?”

 

Anita didn’t know what to say to that, so she said nothing and went onto something else.

 

“Have you seen Richard?”

 

“He was called away by your lovely wereleopard to the coalition offices, problems with a werewolf.” Asher answered, speaking for the first time.

 

“So he didn’t tell you what Harry said this morning?”

 

“He was in a rush, what did Harry say this morning?” Jean-Claude asked as he shifted Harry more securely onto his lap, wrapping arms around his waist and holding him gently.

 

“We found a notation of Harry’s specimen number in one of the other files referring to the sweet stuff that Harry likes.”

 

“Sweet stuff!” Harry grinned excitedly and he bounced on Jean-Claude’s lap.

 

“What does he mean?” Asher asked.

 

“Honey, the doctors gave him a spoon of honey to make him compliant.”

 

Jean-Claude nodded. “I will send someone to go and get him some.”

 

Harry turned around and kissed the edge of Jean-Claude’s mouth and hugged him. “I love you!” He declared.

 

Jean-Claude looked shocked, but Anita was angry.

 

“Don’t do that Harry.” She bit out hardly.

 

Harry looked at her with wide, frightened eyes. “Why?” He asked. “Richard said it was okay to kiss to show that you loved someone. He kissed me first!”

 

“Richard kissed you?” Anita asked shocked, but Asher was angry now, finally.

 

“He kissed you?” He demanded.

 

Harry frowned and hunched up just a bit, but he nodded. “He said it was okay to kiss those you loved. It was my first ever kiss and my first love!” Harry said, perking up as he spoke.

 

“Is that what he said?” Anita asked.

 

Harry nodded. “He said it was because he loved me, that he cared for me. I love Richard too.”

 

Asher growled and stood up angrily.

 

“I love you too Asher!” Harry insisted.

 

“He should not be taking advantage of you so!” Asher hissed as he snatched Harry from Jean-Claude’s lap and held him tightly.

 

Harry wrapped his arms and legs around Asher’s body.

 

“I can’t see Richard doing anything with a child, mon ami.” Jean-Claude told Asher softly.

 

“Then it’s his fault.” Anita said, nodding to Harry.

 

Harry reeled back and then buried himself in Asher’s shoulder, upset.

 

“Do not dare blame him!” Asher snarled, raising a hand to cradle the back of Harry’s head. “He is a child! Whether thirteen or twenty, he is still underage in this country! He is a child and you will not accuse him of Richard’s actions!”

 

“Richard wouldn’t have done this on his own!” Anita said surely. “He’s a teacher, he’s not even attracted to men!”

 

“Yet he’s the one who kissed Harry and claimed to love him.”

 

“I said I love him too.” Harry nodded.

 

“Yours is an innocent love.” Asher tried to explain, but Harry just looked at him blankly.

 

“He doesn’t understand the difference.” Jean-Claude said as he stood and petted Harry’s braid. “Perhaps this is a misunderstanding. Harry, where too did Richard kiss you?”

 

It took a few, very tense, minutes as Harry mumbled to himself, trying to get the sentence to filter through his brain. His face lit up as he finally understood and he touched his forehead, on his hairline.

 

“Here! There was nothing there though, I checked, but Richard said kisses don’t leave anything behind unless a girl is wearing lip stuff. He said it was a sign of love and care and wasn’t supposed to leave anything behind.”

 

“You see, a simple misunderstanding.” Jean-Claude said happily as he took Harry back from his Témoin and set him on his feet beside the desk, finishing off his French braid before tying it off with a small band and placing an elaborate clip at the end.

 

Harry giggled as he ran his fingers over the clip, but his hair was too short for him to see the clip. Anita remembered when his hair was only an inch long, nearly bald in some places, just patches of stubble, shorn unevenly and hurriedly. It had grown while he had been asleep and even more during the time he had been awake. It was still uneven in places, as evidenced by the little tufts sticking out of the braid, but Micah had promised he’d sort it when it was a little longer, cutting it all one length again.

Asher picked Harry up when he looked over his shoulder and kept turning in a circle to try and see the clip. Asher picked him up before he could fall over or making himself sick.

Harry hugged him and kissed his chin.

 

“I love you Asher.” He said softly and sweetly, like an overgrown toddler.

 

Asher pressed Harry’s head into his shoulder. “I love you too, mon ange.”

 

“Now back to what Harry said this morning, was it just about the honey?” Jean-Claude asked, getting back to business.

 

“No, they…those people played around with his organs Jean-Claude. Bradford found bodies with missing organs, some with too many, Harry confirmed they moved his heart and played around with his sex organs.”

 

“They played with his heart?!” Asher demanded, pressing one hand over Harry’s chest, as if feeling it beating would help, despite that he could hear it beating perfectly.

 

“They moved it over this side.” Harry said, squirming to get a bit of space and then thumping the right side of his chest again. “But it moved itself back on the big moon.”

 

“You mentioned they played around with his sex organs?” Jean-Claude questioned after being reassured that Harry’s heart was fine.

 

“They gave him female sex organs that his body accepted and they were going to artificially inseminate him with a child before the factory was uncovered to make sure they worked.”

 

The looks on the two vampires’ faces made a picture of disgust and horror and Anita sighed. It became more hideous after every retelling, just the thought of those doctors using these people to harvest embryos for stem cells and whatever else they were planning to do with the conceived babies made her feel sick and angry.

 

“I think they do.” Harry said simply.

 

“Why do you think that?” Anita asked, wondering if he could possibly have a menstrual cycle.

 

“The last three boys who had it and accepted the girl organs got babies.” Harry nodded.

 

“Those doctors were selling the information about the potency of wereanimal stem cells to major corporations around the world.” Anita said quietly. “There’s no telling how many companies or countries this information has been spread to. Right now there could be more of these factories being set up, independent of the doctors we’re chasing, just on the information of the potency of wereanimal stem cells.”

 

“I will try and find out.” Jean-Claude nodded. “But for now, perhaps Harry would like to pay another visit to our Doctor Lillian?”

 

“No.” Harry said shortly and with a frown, acting so much like a petulant toddler Anita had the urge to shout at him for it.

 

“I will take him.” Asher said softly, taking Harry into his arms and carrying him off to the medical rooms underground.

 

“He’s getting worse.”

 

“On the contrary, ma petite, I believe he is getting better slowly. He is communicating easier and doesn’t need to think so much about what he is being told as he did when he first came to us. He needs time.”

 

Anita nodded and breathed deeply and slowly as she went and hugged Jean-Claude.

 

“Have you not fed today?” Jean-Claude asked.

 

Anita shook her head. “I fed off of Nathaniel last night, but I had to rush out this morning when Bradford called me.”

 

“Come ma petite, let us leave Harry to Asher and retire to our bedroom.”

 

Anita readily agreed to that and went with Jean-Claude, leaving the giant headache that was Harry to Asher.

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

Seeing Harry hooked up to an IV bag of wereanimal blood almost made Anita feel queasy. He seemed fine, perfectly happy, like this was nothing out of the ordinary, which really for him it wasn’t.

The full moon was fast approaching, Harry’s first full moon since coming to them. If Anita were completely honest with herself, she was a little curious as to what would happen with Harry, he said that depending on what animal was ‘closest’ to the surface, that that’s the animal he would turn into, but he had also said, from what she could understand from what he had said from the conversation she had been a part of about Harry’s changes, he could pick and choose which animal he could be during the full moon after that initial change. She never heard anything like that before, so she was very curious about what he would do and what would happen, Micah had already promised her that he’d watch him carefully as he and the wereleopards went to the wolves Lupanar for the full moon, thanks in part to Richard not wanting Harry away from him, but the very real possibility of Harry turning into a wereleopard.

 

“My food is itchy.” Harry said loudly, but he was looking at Asher who was sat beside him, obviously only talking to Asher, but it seemed he didn’t understand about indoor voices or whispering.

 

“What do you mean Harry?” Richard asked, leaning over and checking the IV bag.

 

Harry lifted his hand and scratched the back of it, where the needle was inserted under his skin. Richard took the tiny hand and scratched it lightly with a single fingernail, being very careful of the needle under the skin.

 

“Is that better Harry?” He asked.

 

Harry nodded with a grin.

 

“Surely he can scratch his own hand?” Anita asked. “This is not helping him to help himself.”

 

“It was a scratch Anita.” Richard huffed, like she was the one in the wrong and not himself.

 

“He needs to learn to do for himself!”

 

“It was a scratch Anita!” Harry told her sternly, obviously mimicking Richard, but it made her fist clench.

 

She was sure Harry knew exactly what he was doing. She had learnt since he had been here that he wasn’t really stupid, just a little uneducated. It made her wonder exactly how much of his behaviour was acting and how much was actually real, but he knew what he was doing as everyone in the room laughed at him.

Perhaps it had been a bad idea on her part to offer to take him in, maybe he would be better off in FBI custody, she’d speak to Bradford about it, but she knew she’d have a fight on her hands if she tried now to take Harry from the Circus, Jean-Claude, Asher and Richard had gotten far too attached to him, even Micah cared about him and Stephen, Jason and Nathaniel liked teaching him and playing games with him, they had all gotten too attached.

Harry had wound them so tightly about his fingers that a single word had everyone rushing to do his bidding, no matter what he wanted, and now that Jean-Claude had jars of honey in the Circus, Harry had taken to asking for the treat several times an hour and he had learnt quickly that if he asked different people, he could get more from them as one person was reluctant to give him more than a few spoonfuls. No, Anita was sure that Harry was not as stupid as people believed him to be and she needed to show them that Harry knew what he was doing and prove that he was playing them for fools.

 

“Are you ready for the full moon Harry?” She asked, ignoring his behaviour.

 

Harry nodded, even as he watched the blood in the bag go steadily down. Nathaniel’s blood that he had more than happily donated for Harry’s first blood feed at the Circus.

 

“I like being under the big moon. I like being an animal.”

 

“Why is that?”

 

Harry turned to face her and she saw a spark of intelligence in those green eyes, the recognition that he had said something abnormal before he cocked his head and adopted a cute little innocent face, complete with a small pout of confusion.

 

“Why what?”

 

She grit her teeth. He knew exactly what she had been asking, she was sure of it.

 

“Why do you like being an animal?” She asked, forcing her voice to be light and made sure to enunciate her words slowly and carefully, even so it took him a long time to answer as he mumbled under his breath, she was sure he was doing it to stall for time to think of an acceptable answer.

 

“I’m bigger and stronger as an animal. It was warmer too.” Harry said with an adorable grin and the men around him fell onto him and cooed like women at a day care centre. She wasn’t sold and she narrowed her eyes on him, even as Harry gave her a smile that looked more like a smirk to her.

 

“My food’s gone.” Harry pouted.

 

“Do you need more?” Jean-Claude asked.

 

Harry shook his head, sending his head flying. “No. I never had more than one bag. It makes me giggly.”

 

“Ah. You get blood drunk. It seems that as your vampire part is shared between your beasts, it is smaller, so it takes less blood to make you blood drunk.”

 

“I like being giggly, but it annoyed the doctors.”

 

“You can laugh as much as you wish here.” Asher told him as Lillian carefully took the needle from the back of Harry’s hand and Asher pulled him straight onto his lap and cuddled him like a baby.

 

“It is past his bedtime.” Richard exclaimed looking at his watch concernedly.

 

“He isn’t a child!” Anita hissed.

 

“We don’t actually know that for sure though, do we?” Richard snapped back as he took Harry from Asher and turned his back on her.

 

Harry grinned widely and waved at her, she got the feeling that he was mocking her and she bit her inside cheek to keep from going up to him and punching him. She calmed herself, Richard was right, he could be a child, even if he wasn’t she couldn’t hit him no matter how much she wanted to, he was considered mentally disabled under law at the moment, she couldn’t hit him even if it turned out he was thirty, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t want to.

 

“Night night!” Harry called, waving like a baby as he cuddled into Richard and there was a chorus of ‘goodnights’ said to him and he smiled happily as he was carried to bed like an overtired four year old.

 

“You have to stop treating him like a baby.” She said when he was gone. “He’s already messed up; you’re going to confuse him further by treating him like he’s an incapable child.”

 

“I have told you…” Jean-Claude started but she cut him off angrily.

 

“There is a different between kindness and babying him!”

 

“He’s had such a hard life.” Jason told her. “I just feel so bad for him.”

 

“You’re not doing him any favours by treating him like a toddler! I’m thinking it might actually be better for him to go into FBI custody.”

 

As she had known, there was an uproar at her announcement and it was some minutes before she could make herself heard over the shouting and screaming.

 

“It’ll be better for him!” She yelled.

 

“He has not been saved from one cage to go back into another!” Asher shouted, making a violent hand gesture as he spoke, his accent thick with his anger.

 

“He won’t be in a cage!”

 

“Cage, cell room, I doubt he’ll see much difference!”

 

“It would only be a precaution.” She tried to sooth.

 

“He’s not going.” Jean-Claude told her quietly. The first he had spoken since she had made her announcement. “I will not allow him to leave the protection of the Circus.”

 

“If the FBI order you to put him in custody…”

 

“They will only do so if you let them, if you tell them to take him into custody.”

 

“It’ll be better for…”

 

“For you.” Jean-Claude interrupted harshly. “It’ll be better for you Anita! Not for him. I have seen the way you look at him, the way you speak to him, you’re jealous of him and the attention he receives where you have no reason to be, you would do anything to be rid of him, even sell him to the FBI where they will perform their own experiments upon him and do not try to tell me that they won’t when we both know that they will, especially after all his…how do you say it? Quirks, when his quirks come to light. They will want to know what makes him work, they will hurt him, experiment upon him and I will not allow it. He has been hurt enough.”

 

Anita stormed away to calm down and left her sweeties to talk and plan behind her back, she didn’t like that thought, but she had to get away, they couldn’t see what she saw in Harry. They couldn’t see the sly smiles, the glint of intelligence in his eyes, they couldn’t see that because Harry hid it behind a mask and only let her see it, he was vindictive and sly and she would expose him.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

Harry woke up early, very early and he squirmed out of Richard’s arms and down to the floor. He padded to the door and opened it and went to look for someone to help him. The sun wasn’t up yet, he could tell because Asher hadn’t been in bed with him and Richard.

He must have taken a wrong turn because he couldn’t find the main room with all the seats and he really needed to make water. He made a soft noise of distress and tried to remember the way back to Asher’s bedroom, to Richard, but he didn’t remember the path he had taken and he got more and more lost in the maze of the underground Circus.

He whimpered and started running, trying to find someone, trying to find his way back, but he was lost and he started crying as his fear and distress overrode his instinct to stay quiet and hidden. He wasn’t used to holding his bladder back as he usually had a catheter and he wet himself without meaning to.

 

“Harry? What’s wrong, are you alright?”

 

It was the cat man, Micah, and Harry held his arms up and let the man pick him up and comfort him, even though he wasn’t his favourite.

The man calmed him down quickly and easily and Harry didn’t feel so scared anymore as he held onto the warm body, feeling the muscles and the broad shoulders underneath him.

 

“Are you hurt?”

 

Harry shook his head. “N…no.” He warbled.

 

“What happened? Did you have a nightmare?”

 

“No.” Harry said, shaking his head again. “I needed to make water and I couldn’t find anyone and then I got lost.”

 

Micah relaxed and sighed. “Do you still need the bathroom?”

 

Harry shook his head and indicated the wet patch on the front of his pyjamas.

 

“Oh Harry, come on, let’s get you changed.”

 

Micah took him into one of the rooms nearby, with a blond head poking out the top of the duvet. The blond head wriggled and mumbled at the invading light, but merely turned over and hid from the light, sleeping on.

 

“Is that Jason?” Harry asked. Loudly.

 

Micah screwed his eyes closed, but it was no good as Jason propped himself up and peered at them sleepily.

 

“W’as ‘appening?” He grunted sleepily.

 

“Harry needs a change of pyjamas and you’re more his size.” Micah explained softly.

 

“I got lost.” Harry said, again loudly.

 

“Harry, we need to be quiet, Jason is trying to sleep.”

 

“S’okay.” Jason murmured.

 

“Where’s Jean-Claude? You sleep with Jean-Claude.”

 

“Not until sundown Harry, when he wakes up for the night, I feed him then.”

 

“Oh. Is he still around? Asher too?”

 

“They were in the living room.” Jason told them as Micah changed Harry amid little giggles and squirms.

 

“I’m sorry for disturbing you Jason, your room was closest.”

 

“It’s fine, I’ll fall back to sleep easily.” The blond werewolf said. “Why didn’t you wake Richard up though Harry? That’s why he sleeps with you, to help you if you need it.”

 

“He looked cute sleeping. I didn’t want to make him wake up.”

 

Jason snorted and laughed. “That right there more than made up for being woken up. I can’t wait to tell him he’s cute while sleeping.”

 

“We’ll leave you be now.” Micah told the sleepy blond as he picked up Harry with one arm and Harry’s soiled pyjamas in the other and walked to the door. “Get some more sleep Jason.”

 

“Night Jason!” Harry called out. Loudly.

 

“Quietly Harry.” Micah reminded him, shutting the door on Jason’s laughter.

 

He took Harry to the living room, where Asher and Jean-Claude were talking to Damien, Wicked and Truth.

 

“What has happened?” Asher asked, striding to him and picking up Harry, brushing the dried tear tracks from his flushed face.

 

“I found him crying in a corridor, he got lost looking for someone to help him to a bathroom.”

 

“We found Jason sleeping, but Micah said I had to be quiet, but Jason still woke up.”

 

“Why did you go to Jason’s room?” Jean-Claude asked.

 

“It was closer than Asher’s room and Harry needed clean pyjamas. He didn’t make it to the bathroom in time.” Micah answered, holding the wet pyjamas up.

 

“I was scared and didn’t know where I was.” Harry said almost too quietly for them to hear.

 

“You don’t need to be quiet now Harry, only around people who are sleeping.” Micah explained, but Harry looked at him blankly.

 

“Why the sleeping ones? I need to be louder around them or they won’t hear me.”

 

Micah couldn’t help but smile. “I’ll get these into the wash for you; you can have them back tomorrow.”

 

“Okay.” Harry said, snuggling into Asher. “Thank you for helping me not be lost any more.”

 

Micah chuckled and kissed a soft cheek. “That’s more than alright. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

“Night!” Harry called out.

 

“Let’s say we get you back into bed.” Asher said.

 

“Not tired.” Harry pouted.

 

“You should be.”

 

“I want to stay with you.”

 

“You need your sleep.”

 

“But I’m not tired.” Harry said, even as he yawned widely.

 

“Asher’s right little one, you need your sleep.” Wicked said as he ruffled Harry’s hair, getting a sleepy smile. “You’re too little to be awake at this hour.”

 

“Anita says I’m not a baby. That means I can stay awake.”

 

“No it doesn’t, mon petit pétale, you need your sleep no matter how young or old.” Jean-Claude told him.

 

“So Anita is wrong?”

 

“Oui. She is wrong to say such things to you.”

 

“Why is she always angry with me?”

 

“Anita is always angry with everyone.” Wicked told him. “Don’t take it to heart, no one else does.”

 

Harry frowned. He hadn’t understood any of that and he mumbled lightly under his breath, trying to repeat as many words as he could remember and forgetting those he couldn’t.

 

“It means don’t listen to her.” Wicked explained with a smile and Harry smiled back.

 

“Okay, but I’ll listen to you, I like you and Asher and Richard and Jason and Jean-Claude. You’re my favourites.”

 

“You shouldn’t have favourites.” Asher told him, though he looked almost perversely pleased that he was included in Harry’s favourites.

 

“But I do. I like some people more than others, so they’re my favourites. Am I not allowed favourites?” He said looking worried.

 

“Of course, but you’re not supposed to say so, you’ll hurt people’s feelings.”

 

“I don’t like hurting people. Too many people hurt me, so it’ll be a secret. A big secret, yes?”

 

“Oui. Yes, it’ll be our secret.”

 

“But they know.” Harry said with a frown, looking through narrowed eyes at Damien and Truth.

 

“They will not say anything.” Jean-Claude told him, giving a look to the two vampires in question.

 

“Of course not.” Truth said. “Though I hope to be one of your secret favourites too.”

 

“You don’t smile enough.” Harry said. “You always frown, like you’re always miserable or disappointed, the doctors never smiled either.”

 

Wicked laughed and nudged his brother. “See, even a little boy says you’re miserable.”

 

“I will endeavour to smile more around you.”

 

Harry grinned. “Okay. If you smile more and not be like the doctors, you can be one of my favourites too.”

 

“Is Micah one of your favourites?”

 

Harry shook his head. “The cat men remind me of him. I don’t like cats.”

 

“Of who Harry?” Jean-Claude asked seriously.

 

Harry shook his head and snuggled into Asher. “I want to go back to Richard now.”

 

“We shall talk more tomorrow, after you have woken up.” Jean-Claude told him and Harry nodded unhappily. He didn’t want to talk of him.

 

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Chapter Text

Chapter Ten – The Full Moon.

 

Harry was up early a few days later and he found Asher in bed with him, but Richard was already gone. He clambered over a dead Asher to get to the floor and he giggled as he pulled his clothes off, searching in the little drawer for the clothes that were his. He liked having his own things.

He was struggling and rolling around the floor trying to dress himself when Richard came out of the bathroom, his hair still damp from his morning shower. He laughed deeply as he saw him and he crouched down on his haunches to help him righten his clothes.

 

“Anita said I had to dress myself, but I don’t know how. I can take them off, but getting them on is harder.” Harry complained.

 

“That’s okay Harry, you’ll learn. You’re very clever.”

 

“Anita says I’m not. She says I’m stupid.”

 

“Don’t listen to a word she says. I’ll make her stop. Are you excited for the full moon tonight?”

 

Harry nodded. “I am staying with you, yes? I don’t like changing on my own, or in a cage.”

 

“You won’t be in a cage and yes, I’ll be right there with you. Micah too.”

 

“I don’t like cat people.” Harry frowned.

 

“So you keep saying, but you like Nathaniel don’t you?”

 

“I like Jason and Stephen more. Nathaniel is like a kitten anyway, he’s not a full cat.”

 

Richard hid the smile from Harry. He liked knowing that Harry didn’t like Micah as much as him, as petty as that was seeing as having Harry’s affection wasn’t a competition and shouldn’t be treated as one, but he did like it and he couldn’t help how he felt.

Richard carried Harry to the kitchen of the Circus and sat him down, making breakfast for the both of them as Harry chatted a mile a minute about things he could barely make out and sometimes spoke so quietly that he couldn’t hear him.

He served Harry his breakfast and sat next to him, watching Harry eat with his hands. He had tried to get him to eat with a knife and fork, or even a spoon, the other day but Harry was confused by them and didn’t like the feeling of things in his mouth or eating with them and when he was forced to use them, he ate awkwardly and had even cut the inside of his mouth with the prong of a fork. So Richard let him eat with his fingers for now, until such a time when he learnt to use utensils properly. This had to be better than feeding him with a drip all the time, even if all he was allowed to try at the moment was just very watery, bland porridge.

Lillian was very optimistic about Harry’s progress with food, he was being weaned off of his drips and that he was holding down the food, even if it was bland porridge, was very promising, but it would be a very long time before Harry would be completely off the drips, if he ever was as he still needed to ingest blood and with the absence of fangs, then the only way Harry could do that was with a drip.

 

“Are you going to be okay with Jason, Stephen and Nathaniel today Harry?”

 

Harry looked up at him from where he was playing with his food more than eating it and he frowned, whispering under his breath, but Richard was very used to this and he waited patiently for Harry to understand.

Harry grinned at him and bobbed his head happily.

 

“Yes, Jason said he’s taking me to his practice! I get to go out, but he promised that I wouldn’t be in the sun for long.”

 

“You make sure you aren’t out in the sun for too long.” Richard told him with a frown. “Tell Jason if you’re feeling itchy, okay?”

 

Harry bobbed his head and giggled as he let his porridge fall through his fingers, before sticking his hand into his mouth and sucking. He was so much like a toddler that Richard’s heart ached for the man that Harry could have been…the man he should have been if he hadn’t been stuck in a cage and left isolated and alone, untaught, uneducated and socially starved. The so called doctors had ruined any and all chances Harry had had of a normal life, even if they could teach him to be more independent and self-sufficient, the events of his past would always shadow Harry’s life and colour his future. He would never forget what had been done to him and there was nothing they could do to help him forget, all they could do was teach him to cope with it and help him to overcome it so that he might think and function as normally as possible.

Jason wandered in just five minutes before Richard had to leave for work and he gave the little wolf a solid look.

 

“Do not take your eyes from him.” He warned as Harry was playing with a cupboard door, having grown tired of playing with his food, which still had more than half left in the bowl. “Remember he still tires easily and he can’t stay out in the sun for too long.”

 

Jason nodded seriously. “The three of us will keep him safe, Ulfric. I swear.”

 

“Jamil will be joining you in a few hours, so you can get some real rehearsal in, if I could get any time off, you know I would, but with the full moon tonight…”

 

“You don’t have to explain it to me.” Jason cut in with a nod. “I know, now go or you’ll be late and won’t that be a horrible thing, a teacher late for his own lesson.”

 

Richard grinned and pulled Jason into a hug.

 

“I’m leaving now Harry.” He called out clearly, only for Harry to rush to him and clamp his waist in a hug.

 

“Have a nice day.” Harry said with an innocent grin.

 

Richard ruffled his hair. “I will, you be good for Jason.”

 

“I’m always good.” Harry grinned, mimicking the phrase Jason said often.

 

“He’s getting more and more like you.” Richard told Jason who smiled at Harry, pulling him into a hug.

 

“As he should, what better role model than me?”

 

Richard chuckled. “I’ll see you both later.”

 

“What are we doing now?” Harry asked, looking up at Jason trustingly.

 

“We are going to get ourselves ready and pick up Stephen and Nathaniel before heading to Guilty Pleasures for rehearsal.”

 

Harry bobbed his head. “For practice.”

 

Jason tugged Harry along, walking slow enough for Harry to walk properly beside him and not have to trot or even run to keep up.

 

“Then later, the real fun will start.”

 

“The big moon.” Harry said with a nod. “Richard said I didn’t have to be in a cage.”

 

“Of course not, you’re coming to the Lupanar with us, we can run and play all night.”

 

“Will Asher be there?”

 

“No Harry, he can’t come. The sun will really hurt him.”

 

“Can’t he come after the sun has gone and before it comes back again?”

 

“We’ll see.” Jason said a bit stiffly, wary of promising anything to Harry just in case he couldn’t deliver. He never wanted to let Harry down; he never wanted to see Harry’s sweet, innocent face crushed in disappointment. He was sure this is what parents felt like when looking at their toddler who was looking up at them with a bar of chocolate and wide, pleading eyes. He didn’t want to disappoint Harry, but sometimes it was unavoidable and he never wanted to be the one to tell Harry no and see that look of disappointment on his face aimed at him.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry giggled as he crawled over the stage, sitting on the edge watching Jason, Stephen and Nathaniel work out dance moves and tricks for their shows. They were being very funny and they all helped him do some dancing when he asked and he was having lots of fun.

 

“Practice going well?”

 

Harry snapped his head around to see Jamil and he held his hands out happily.

 

“Very well, Harry’s been helping a lot, haven’t you Harry?” Stephen asked him gently and Harry nodded, feeling warm and proud of himself that he’d helped.

 

Jamil came and picked him up and Harry snuggled in, playing with the fascinating cornrows that Jamil had coming from his head. Jamil told him they were hair, but they didn’t look like hair. Harry petted them and run them through his fingers, playing with the little beads that were at the end of each cornrow.

 

“Don’t put it in your mouth.” Jamil told him sternly as Harry pulled the cornrow in his hand to his lips.

 

“I wasn’t going to.” Harry pouted. “I was going to lick it.”

 

“Don’t do that either.”

 

Harry frowned unhappily and dropped his hands to his sides, just lying on Jamil.

 

“You’ve upset him now, Jamil.” Jason sighed as he came to pick Harry up off of his pack’s Skoll.

 

“No, he needs to learn proper structure and discipline. Nothing drastic, but he needs to hear the word ‘no’ sometimes.”

 

Jason nodded his head in deference to his pack hierarchy, but he didn’t believe that that is what Harry needed.

 

“I want Asher.” Harry whispered, which was still loud enough for all of them to hear.

 

“The sun is up Harry, you know Asher dies when the sun is up.”

 

“Richard.”

 

“Richard is away too, he’s teaching.” Jason said as gently as he could.

 

Harry’s bottom lip wobbled, but he sucked it in quickly so no one would notice, but Jason had seen it and he petted Harry softly on the back of the head, his tufty hair was still several different lengths.

 

“Do you want to come and help me again?”

 

Harry shook his head slowly.

 

“You don’t want to dance?”

 

Harry shook his head and bit his lip harder. Jamil sighed and picked up the tiny body and cradled him, feeling the small tremors travelling through him.

 

“Go and practice, I’ve got him.”

 

Jason was unsure, but did as he was told when Jamil pulled down a chair and sat on it, murmuring softly to Harry, who had curled up small in his lap.

 

“Harry? Will you speak to me?” Jamil whispered when the three submissives had gone back to their rehearsal.

 

“Mean.” Harry told him.

 

“I’m not being mean. How would you feel if I started licking your hair? It’s not a nice thing to do.”

 

Harry blinked and then looked up at him. “Was I being mean?” He asked with wide, tearful eyes.

 

Jamil shook his head quickly. “No, it’s not mean, but it’s not nice either.”

 

Harry looked at him confused and Jamil wondered how the hell Richard managed this all day every day, it was no wonder he’d been so stressed lately. Harry really could make you feel incredibly frustrated and stressed, but it wasn’t really his fault, it wasn’t his fault that he just didn’t understand, it was the bastards who had done this to him and what Jamil wouldn’t give to thoroughly introduce them to his wolfman form on a dark night.

 

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A few hours later Harry was back under the Circus and Asher was up and awake with the other vampires and Harry was so happy to see him that he refused to stand on his own two feet to walk. He wanted to be carried around everywhere. 

It wasn’t tiring by any means, Asher being a vampire, but it was inconvenient to do everything with a person, albeit a small, light person, attached to your hip and refusing to let go.

 

“Harry, mon ange, do you want to sit here by Jean-Claude?” Asher asked him.

 

“No.” Harry answered simply. “I have to leave you tonight for the big moon and Jason said I couldn’t bring you with me, so I have to stay with you now to make up for it.”

 

“You’ll see me tomorrow, mon ange. I swear it. You’ll be with Richard all night.”

 

“I know, but I like you too.” Harry frowned.

 

“It will be no different than me dying for the day.”

 

“But you won’t be dead for the day, it’ll be night time!” Harry argued.

 

“But it will be like I am, there will be no difference.”

 

“I don’t understand.” Harry sniffled.

 

“I will be here tomorrow afternoon; I will wake up as soon as I can to be with you again.”

 

“Promise.” Harry warbled softly, rubbing his eyes.

 

Oui, I promise.”

 

Harry nodded then and Asher almost breathed out a sigh of relief, but centuries of control and hiding himself behind masks let him still the action before it had started.

It was just a few hours before the sun would set and Richard would come to collect Harry to take to the Lupanar for his change, they were all going to be watching Harry tonight and Asher was worried that this would make Harry self-conscious and make his shift overall more difficult.

He had no time to think about this as Richard walked through the door then, frowning as his muscular upper body was put on display as he wore no shirt tonight. His frown disappeared when he caught sight of Harry.

 

“Are you ready to leave Harry?”

 

Harry shook his head and clung to Asher tighter.

 

“You don’t need to be afraid Harry, I’ll be right there with you.” Richard promised.

 

Harry sniffed lightly. “I’m not afraid.” He denied after a minute of silence. “I’ll miss Asher.”

 

“Asher will be right here waiting when we get back tomorrow.”

 

“But…the sun will be out.” Harry said confused.

 

“Because we are underground Harry I will be awake sooner.”

 

“But…but I’ll turn back when the sun rises, when you die.”

 

“We won’t come back right away Harry, we’ll sleep off the full moon for a few hours, until the afternoon and then when we come back Asher might already be awake waiting for you.”

 

Harry’s mouth made a silent ‘O’ and he nodded. He gave Asher a last, tight hug before he slipped to the floor and loped over to Richard with his strange gait. He was getting better with help, but the damaged had already been done.

Harry held his hand out and Richard took it carefully and Harry was so full of excitement that he easily clambered the stairs, though the last several he went scrabbling up on his hands and feet and he was out of breath when he reached the top.

Richard scooped him from the floor easily and carried him out to his car, this was going to be an experience as he didn’t think Harry remembered being in a car, he’d been unconscious when he’d left the Factory in the back of an ambulance and unconscious when he’d been driven to the Circus by Anita.

He sat Harry down next to him and put his seat belt on him, clipping it in and making sure it was tight and secure. Harry was giggling and he was looking around the car like it was a great adventure. He had been right; Harry hadn’t been in a car before, not that he remembered.

 

“You need to sit still and calmly in a car Harry.” Richard said firmly and Harry nodded.

 

Richard started the car and the vibrations made Harry frown.

 

“Everything is fine, this is perfectly normal.”

 

Harry nodded, but he looked unsure of himself.

 

“I’m right here Harry, now we are going to start moving okay, but it’s going to be fine and I’ll still be right here with you.”

 

“I think I remember this from before the cage. I wasn’t allowed in it and I couldn’t touch it. It was silver.”

 

Richard nodded encouragingly, but he filed that bit of information away, it was unlikely that the Dursley family still had the same car, but if they liked the colour of the car, then perhaps they had a silver car now and that might be able to help them in whatever small way, god knew they weren’t having much luck with tracking them down from the little information they had thus far.

They reached the Lupanar with no fuss, which pleased and slightly surprised him, all six hundred or so of his werewolves were waiting for the full moon on the grounds of the Lupanar, Anita and the wereleopards were grouped around the worn smooth stone throne for which his clan took their name, the Thronnos Rokke clan.

 

“Hello Harry, how are you?” Micah asked.

 

“I don’t like cats. Go away.” Harry said.

 

Richard tried not to laugh, but it was difficult. He was the Ulfric, even if his other wolves were laughing; he had to show a bit of decorum as their wolf king.

 

“Don’t say things like that Harry; you’re half cat yourself and only a quarter wolf.” Anita told him.

 

“Still doesn’t mean I like cats.” Harry huffed as he loped over to Jason and snuggled into him.

 

Richard went and sat on his throne as was expected of him. It took two minutes before Harry realised that he wasn’t where he had last seen him and he spun around to look for him, looking very panicked.

 

“Harry.” He called out softly to him to gain his attention.

 

Harry twisted around sharply and the grin that Richard loved so much lit up his whole face as he darted to him and clambered onto his lap, giving the corner of his bottom lip a soft kiss.

 

“Do we have a new Lupa?” One wolf asked him with a frown, looking at Anita then back to Harry, who was on his lap and wrapped up in his arms.

 

“No, think of him as my ward.” Richard growled. “This is Harry and I’ve taken him under my wing of sorts.”

 

“He smells strange Ulfric, what is he?” Another wolf asked, sniffing deeply.

 

“Harry is a Panwere; he holds tiger, leopard and wolf, maybe some others that we don’t know of. None of you will go near him.”

 

“Is he the survivor from the lycanthrope factory that was found?”

 

Richard sighed, but Harry seemed very interested in the stone throne and was petting it softly with a small hand.

 

“Yes, he is. He is a little quirky, but we’re still finding things out about him, he reacts to different things strangely and the last thing I want is for him to be upset tonight, we welcome him and then leave him alone. He can attack you despite his size, so don’t give him a reason to attack you as I will accept no one attacking him back, he is not aware enough to know what he is doing. There will be no posturing him, no trying to prove you are more dominant, he will not understand and you’ll frighten him and I won’t stand for it. Am I clear?”

 

There were choruses of ‘yes Ulfric’ and happy nods as everyone peered at Harry interestedly, not that Harry took any notice as he was giggling to himself over a leaf that had landed on the arm of the chair from the wind that he was now prodding with the tip of a little finger.

He kept an eye on Harry as he crawled around the Lupanar, sniffing at everything on his hands and knees like an actual dog. It made him sad to see him act this way, but Harry was so happy. He absolutely loved being out in the open, Richard couldn’t imagine being stuck in a cage day and night for years on end, only being taken out to be experimented on by cold, cruel, clinical people who didn’t care what happened to you. He would have wished himself dead several times over, but Harry was so happy, so full of life despite what he’d been through, even though it was a very strange, odd and quirky life, he was still enjoying it.

Richard kept Harry with him when the moon came upon them and Harry made a small fearful sound in the back of his throat.

 

“It’s okay Harry.” He soothed.

 

“It’s different.”

 

“You’re outside now Harry, it was always going to be different to spending the full moon inside and locked up, just let it happen and don’t fight it.”

 

Harry nodded trustingly and he kept breathing deeply and evenly without being prompted. A few wolves shifted early, a few of the leopards went and then Harry sunk to his knees.

 

“Just keep breathing Harry, you’re okay, I’m still right here for you.” Richard encouraged gently.

 

Fur flowed over Harry and it seemed that his tiger was closer to the surface tonight as that was the form that flowed over him, a jet black tiger with grey stripes and livid yellowish-orange eyes. Harry shook himself out; settling his fur and Richard was surprised at how normal Harry looked as an animal. There was nothing in his behaviour or his gait that suggested that as a human he was anything other than ordinary as Harry sat where he was and washed himself with a long, rough tongue like a tiger would in the wild.

The leopards all brushed against Harry and he didn’t pay them the slightest bit of attention as he got up, standing taller than the leopards, and moved around slowly as if wondering what was wrong, what was different. He seemed to realise that he wasn’t in a cage as he started purring and turning around in a circle. Here comes the oddness, Richard thought as Harry started bouncing like a rabbit. Odd didn’t even begin to cover it.

Richard was the last to shift, as only natural for his position and power level. He stood over Harry protectively, claiming him as his ward to all the leopards and wolves in the clearing and daring them to go near what he had claimed as his own, Harry ignored all of this and a moment or two later he broke the protective gesture when he turned around and chuffed softly, bumping against him, rubbing against him continually as if completely delighted to be near him.

Jamil and Shang-Da, his two enforcers, stayed with him at all times and as Richard followed wherever Harry went, they trailed after him too.

He did stop to greet Micah in his leopard form, his own enforcers, Merle and Noah, trailing after him. The three leopards followed him as he trailed Harry, who took three leaping bounds and went straight up into a tree before howling at the moon like a wolf would and so quickly he almost missed it, jet black fur erupted over Harry and he went from a tiger to a wolf in seconds.

He leapt from the tree, landing heavier than he maybe should have as he almost nosedived the forest floor, landing heavily and too deeply on his front paws, but he was so happy as his tail wagged back and forth like a domestic dog. He bounded over to them and he scented them again, brushing against them and he let Micah scent mark him with his leopard chin and let Richard do the same before he was off as fast as a bullet, dodging trees easily, yet stumbling over fallen branches like a newborn kitten and when he tried to jump a fallen log, he didn’t take into account the tree on the other side of his jump and crashed straight into it, that had Harry rushing back to him and seeking reassurance.

They came across more wolves that Richard cared to number and he growled when one got to close to his ward, even if it was Harry who had approached them and soon enough they found themselves back in the main clearing of the Lupanar with the stone throne to find all of Micah’s wereleopards curled up in one big pile sleeping like the lazy cats they were.

Richard nudged Harry and waited to see what he would do next and when Harry decided that he liked the look of the leopard pile, he went to join them. Of course he had to clamber over and step on every single member of the pile first, disturbing them and getting growls of frustration at being woken up from their cat napping, but Harry snuggled right down in the very middle of the pile and as they watched, his leopard form just melted over him, jet black with dark grey ellipses that could only just be seen. He fit himself right in with the leopards and Richard lay himself down to watch over them and grunted as some of the pack females came to ‘keep him warm’ as they would insist later. Jamil and Shang-Da were sat at alert and ready to intervene at any moment, and Richard felt a little flare of jealousy as Micah inserted himself into his leopard pile and fell asleep with them, his bodyguards Merle and Noah doing the same, leaning up close to their Nimir-Raj to keep him protected as they napped.  

The night carried on like this, only Harry didn’t nap for long and after only a few hours he was awake and waking up all the other leopards as he dragged himself out of the pile, and as he shook himself awake, his wolf form flowed over him again and he was as happy and hyper as a little puppy as he ran around, bounding all over the clearing and the sleeping wolves, jumping on their backs, tugging at their ears and batting at their tails. Jason gave chase to him when Harry bit his ear too hard, but Richard saw that they were merely playing and left them to it, Harry didn’t seek him out for protection, he was having fun.

Several times Harry shifted form that night, from one to the other, back to one and then to the third, but Richard paid close attention to him and not one other form other than wolf, leopard or tiger revealed itself as they had feared it might.

When the sun came up and their human forms flowed over them once more, human bodies cuddled together and just slept. Richard made sure that Harry was very close to him and he kept his arm over Harry’s exhausted little body. The last thing he needed was for Harry to wander off in the grounds of the Lupanar because he was curious. They all fell asleep quickly, some of them too tired to even move from where the change had taken them over and they slept deeply for hours, all but one of them, who slept for a few hours before waking up again, his green eyes glinting with mischief.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven – Breakthrough

 

Harry rubbed his eyes and sat up, cocking his head to a right angle so that his ear rested on his shoulder and he looked at everyone lying around on the floor. Over six hundred of them he remembered from last night with a nod to himself.

He got onto his hands and knees and he crawled around the small amount of space he had between Richard and Jamil, who were sleeping the closest to him. He very, very quickly got bored of this however and he soon started moving over sleeping bodies carefully and he giggled softly as he went exploring.

His animals had loved being able to run free last night and they were as content as Harry had ever known them to be. He liked that, he wanted them to be happy, it made him happy.

Climbing a tree, he crawled over the thickest branch he could find and hung off of it like a monkey, giggling. He reached up and grabbed it with his hands and shuffled his way to the very end of the branch upside down where he promptly became too heavy for the branch and he fell as the too thin branch slipped through his fingers.

He landed hard on his back and panicked when he found he couldn’t breathe, he tried to shout out, to make any sort of noise, but he couldn’t get any sort of control of his breathing, he felt like he was back in his cage with the doctors and this was just another of their countless experiments.

It took long minutes before he was able to pull in a breath and in that time his vision had blurred and had spotted with dark dots. Sniffling he crawled back to Richard and snuggled down with him for comfort and reassurance.

Richard mumbled in his sleep and his arm clenched tight around him for a moment and Harry peeked up to see one sleepy brown eye checking him over and he quickly pretended to be asleep as Richard looked around at his wolves before he pulled Harry closer to himself and he slipped back to sleep.

Harry waited patiently until he thought that Richard was asleep again before he crawled out from under his arm and began playing with the other sleeping wolves, he didn’t want to go near any more trees, trees were nasty.

Of course as all the wolves were naked, he was limited to what he could play with, but the best by far were the funny coloured bits of skin on their chests which went hard when he touched them. He had two of his own on his own chest, but the girls were strange, their bits of skin seemed to be swollen and as he touched and poked them, he frowned at the oddity. Had they been experimented on too? He squeezed one of the swellings but when the girl made a noise he crawled away quickly.

He covered one man in leaves and bits of twigs and giggled at him, but he soon tired when there was no reaction. He yawned widely and looked around; he made his way back to Richard quickly and snuggled back under his arm. Jamil had moved closer too so it was a tight squeeze between them both, but he managed and then wriggled around. They both threw an arm around him tight and he sighed happily. He was safe for now and he could sleep happily. He’d had fun and he really hoped they brought him back here on the next big moon; he could have even more fun then.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

Richard was woken by growling and he lifted himself up on his forearms to have a look around, several of his wolves were awake and some were just waking like him, the source of the growling was one wolf who was utterly filthy, he had clumps of mud, leaves and twigs on his body and in his hair, one dry leaf was even stuck to his chest hair and he angrily swiped it away.

 

“Which one of you bastards did this to me? I’ll beat the shit out of you!”

 

Richard sighed heavily and sat up; Jamil was waking up with the shouting and Shang-Da was just there, stood over him protectively as his Hati, he looked down at where Harry had fallen asleep between him and Jamil to see him still in the same position, sleeping peacefully. Jason was snuggled up to Jamil’s back and his Sköll’s movements as he woke up was pulling the blond from his sleep too.

Jason mumbled lightly in protest and tried to keep Jamil where he was. Harry was just awake, sitting up, alert and wide awake, Richard sighed; he’d hoped that Harry would have slept for a little longer. He giggled when he saw the naked wolf covered in dirt, twigs and leaves.

 

“You think this is funny you little shit?!”

 

Richard stood up and postured to the angry man, reminding him that he was Ulfric and that he had claimed Harry as his ward. The man deflated and backed down, but he was still thrumming with anger and pent up frustration and rage that likely stemmed from his humiliation in front of the entire pack and the visiting Leopard pard.

Richard looked back at Harry, who was straddling Jason’s lap, but they were holding one another for comfort, Harry was seeking comfort from Jason and despite the fact that the both of them were completely naked; there was nothing sexual in what they were doing. Harry was scared; it was natural that he would seek comfort from one of the very few people he actually trusted and skin to skin bonding was the best was for a lycanthrope to get comfort.

 

“Go and get cleaned up.” Richard growled at the wolf. “You will not take out your emotions on Harry; he didn’t move from my side, it’s not his fault.”

 

“Yes Ulfric.” The wolf bit out and he stormed off angrily.

 

Harry was there then, leaning his weight on his front, head tilted right back, holding his arms up to him like a child beseeching his parent to pick him up. Those eyes went impossibly wider and Richard couldn’t resist as he swept Harry up and tucked him into the crook of his arm, letting Harry hide himself in his neck.

 

“He’s scary.” Harry told him.

 

“He wouldn’t dare hurt you.” Richard assured him, patting that thin back gently.

 

Harry just snuggled in and Richard pulled back as much as he could to see Harry’s eyes had closed and he seemed to be sleeping. He sighed and carried Harry around his pack clearing wishing that he could just go back to sleep too.

 

“Are we going back to the Circus to drop Harry off?” Shang-Da asked.

 

Richard looked at Harry again, checked his watch and then nodded. “Asher should be awake by the time we get there; he can take over for a while.”

 

“Need a break?” Jason teased.

 

Richard smiled and ruffled that blond head.

 

“Maybe just a small one. He’s…”

 

“High maintenance.” Jamil supplied as Richard tried to find an appropriate word without insulting the boy in his arms.

 

Richard nodded. “He doesn’t mean to be, I know that, but we’re all so unused to this sort of demand for our constant attention, he couldn’t have picked two of the worst people to trust, Asher and myself.”

 

“I don’t know.” Jason said thoughtfully. “I think he picked right.”

 

“How so?”

 

“Well think about it…you’d never dare hurt him and he can sense that from you, so he’s drawn to you. It was you who calmed him when he was caught at the Circus, it was you who held him gently and proved that you could be dominant over him, he felt safe with you, so he gave you his trust and as for Asher…think about it, the worst, most hateful person at the Circus is Asher, so if Asher is on Harry’s side…I think he’s picked perfectly for what he needs, love and protection. You and Asher. No one would dare hurt Harry with the threat of retribution from either of you and if Harry has you both on his side, then he has the werewolves and through Asher, he has Jean-Claude, which means the vampires wouldn’t dare hurt him either.”

 

“He’s a smart kid.” Jamil complimented.

 

“It’s more than that.” Micah pointed out. “It means Anita was partly right, he does have it in him to manipulate people, if he can think all of that through, consciously decide to target you, Richard and Asher, then who’s to say that he’s not doing it to other people, who’s to say he isn’t telling us the whole truth? I don’t believe he’s doing it maliciously like Anita does, but maybe he’s doing it to protect himself, He’s not stupid, we already know that, he takes in absolutely everything anyone says, there’s a language barrier though, because though he might take it all in and understand what is being said most of the time, he doesn’t have the skills to reply.”

 

Richard sighed and held Harry tighter. He didn’t want to think about Harry being so manipulative. He had defended Harry to the back teeth, stepped in front of him and protected him. He didn’t like the thought that Harry had manipulated him to do just that.

 

“I think that you’re forgetting that he was locked in a cage until those awful people wanted to do horrible, painful experiments on him.” Nathaniel said softly. “He’s been hurt worse than nearly anyone here can even imagine and he was just a child when he was sold to them by his own family. Who are we to deny him if he wants to hide behind us for protection? After all, doesn’t he deserve to be protected and loved by his pack and his pard?”

 

They all just stared at the lovely leopard and Jason moved first, nodding his head.

 

“He does. He deserves love and protection and he should have had it from the start. Really speaking he shouldn’t even be here. He’s only a lycanthrope because those people injected him with batches and batches of different vaccines that he didn’t need just so they could experiment with him.”

 

Richard hefted Harry higher, smiling at the small, soft, involuntary moan that was sighed against his neck as Harry was moved and he held that tiny body tighter.

 

“Let’s get him home.” He said softly.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry had woken up the moment Richard had moved to get him in the car and he all but screeched as he clenched tight fists into his hair to keep a hold of him.

 

“Harry, Harry! It’s okay; I’m just putting you in the car.” Richard explained as he quickly held Harry back to his chest and held onto him tight.

 

“I don’t know where I am.” Harry said as he looked around with quick, harsh snaps of his neck in all directions, those green eyes wide open and taking in everything around him that he possibly could.

 

“You’re just outside the grounds of the Lupanar, this is my car remember, I drove you here last night for the full moon.” Richard explained slowly.

 

“The big moon.”

 

Richard nodded. “You fell asleep again and I carried you here, to the car so we can go back to the Circus. Back to Asher.”

 

“Asher!” Harry looked around excitedly as if Asher would be there.

 

“He’s at the Circus, Harry. If you let me sit you down and you are good in the car, we can go and see Asher.”

 

Harry nodded happily and Richard was able to get him sat down, buckled in and he remained seated as he drove from the Lupanar back to the Circus.

 

“Richard?”

 

“What’s the matter, Harry?” He asked as he parked the car around the back and turned off the engine.

 

“Itchy.”

 

He looked over at Harry quickly and he felt his mouth go dry. Harry’s one arm, the one next to the window, which had been in the sun, was bright red and even as he watched Harry clawed at his with his short nails, whimpering as he wriggled uncomfortably.

He slammed out of the car and went around to Harry’s side of the car, ripped open the door and extracted Harry before he kicked the door closed, locked the car on the way to the steel door to the employee entrance to the Circus and he banged fuck out of the door until it was opened.

He barged past Graham and rushed down into the cool underground of the Circus and he placed Harry on the settee. Jean-Claude, Asher and Claudia were in the living room.

 

“His arm, it must have been in the sun for too long!” Richard said as he combed the hair away from his forehead with his fingers as he looked at the blood speckled, rail thin arm that Harry was still trying to scratch. He held the undamaged arm tightly to prevent Harry from taking off the skin of his other arm.

 

“I’ll get him some ice.” Claudia said as she strode further into the underground to the break room.

 

Asher came over and sat on the settee and Harry clambered all over him, settling immediately into his lap and looking up at him with such a pathetic look that Asher chuckled and cuddled Harry.

 

“Was he alright last night?” Asher asked like a concerned parent and Richard smiled. Harry had chosen well in wrapping Asher around his fingers.

 

“He was completely fine, we had no problems and nothing happened until the car ride home when he was exposed to too much sun through the window.”

 

Claudia rushed back with the ice and Asher extended Harry’s arm and Richard grabbed that tiny wrist and held it as Asher took the ice, which was wrapped in a tea towel, and he applied it to Harry’s arm.

 

“The sun is itchy.” Harry sniffled.

 

“He’s reacting to it like it’s an allergy.” Claudia said. “Was his arm the only thing that was exposed?”

 

Richard nodded. “He was mostly covered by the car, but the sun was shining through the car window. Of all the days to have sun, it’s when he’s in a car and not safely in the Circus.”

 

“I don’t like the sun.” Harry cut in. “The doctors kept me in a room with windows when the sun was up to see what would happen. I was so itchy. Itchy, itchy.”

 

Richard chuckled at that childish innocence. How could anyone think that Harry was malicious? He just wanted to be loved and protected. He couldn’t hold that against him, he wouldn’t.

 

“We’ll make it better, so that you aren’t itchy anymore.” Richard told him, smiling as Harry stared at his mouth for a minute before he nodded happily.

 

“I’m still tired.” Harry said, rubbing his eyes as if they needed a physical demonstration to understand what he was saying.

 

“We’ll sort out your arm and then I’ll take you to bed, mon ange.” Asher said softly as he cradled Harry on his lap gently.

 

Oui, I think that would be for the best.” Jean-Claude said as he stood smoothly from his chair. “Ma petite has called, she and Agent Bradford believe they have a lead and they are coming here to discuss it.”

 

“They want to talk about me.” Harry said sadly into the silence that had turned thoughtful and a little hopeful that this lead would take them to the bastards who had hurt Harry so much.

 

“No, no Harry.” Richard assured. “They just want to catch the people who did this to you. You can stay if you’d like, but you said you were tired, so we thought you’d like to go to bed.”

 

Harry yawned widely, like a baby he didn’t even try to cover his mouth as he did so, he just blinked and snuggled into Asher more.

 

“I am tired.” He said quietly.

 

“Then you shall sleep, mon ange.” Asher told him as he patted Harry’s head gently while Claudia took the ice off and checked on the rash.

 

“Does that feel better?” She asked.

 

Harry nodded his head. “It doesn’t itch anymore.”

 

Asher stood up with Harry in his arms and immediately he twisted and flung his arms out to him. Richard pulled Harry into a hug and he inhaled the scent of his clean hair deeply before he let Harry go back to Asher’s arms to be carried to the vampire’s bedroom.

 

“Sleep well, Harry.” He said as he sighed and turned back to Jean-Claude. “What have Anita and Bradford found out?”

 

“Nothing good, mon ami.” The vampire sighed himself. “More bodies have turned up at the factory site, as far as thirty feet away from the building. The FBI believes that the entire ground around the factory, as far as a hundred feet away, could be a burial ground. The further out the bodies are, the older they are, it is as if they started out burying their failed experiments far from their factory, but over their operating years, they have been forced to come closer and closer until there are graves not eight feet from the building.”

 

Richard clenched his hands as he realised how many people that could include. How many innocent people that had been abducted, purposefully infected with lycanthropy and then had grotesque experiments performed upon them until they just died and were then dumped into an unmarked grave where they had likely been lying for a decade or more.

 

“Agent Bradford and his team have realised that the enfants buried do not have specimen numbers, which point to them not being born before their Mothers died, but there are little ones who are buried on their own, without another body with them, but their DNA results show that they were not lycanthropes or vampires.”

 

“Why were they buried?” Richard asked with a tight throat. He really didn’t want to know, but he swallowed down that cowardice. Those people had lived through that terror daily; Harry had lived through that terror daily for more than ten years if what he had said was to be believed.

 

“Some of them were buried alive…ma petite and Agent Bradford believe that they were too young for their bodies to accept the lycanthropy strains injected into them and they either died from it, or the doctors didn’t want to have such young children to care for.”

 

Richard snorted as Jean-Claude stressed the word care. What those people had done to innocent people, to babies, was not care and he could easily see those heartless, cold scientists burying unwanted, highly dependent babies alive just so they didn’t need to take responsibility for keeping them alive long enough for their experiments to be of use.

His hands clenched as he once again thought of a tiny, eight year old Harry being sold by his own relatives to those scientists, not knowing what was happening, where he was going or why, only to be shoved into a cage, infected with several strains of lycanthrope and then inflicted with painful, harrowing experiments just to see how he reacted or how the lycanthropy genes affected his biology and his physiology.

It didn’t take long for Micah and his leopards to turn up and Richard turned around and found that suddenly he had his pack Skoll and Hati shadowing him again as well, he had no idea when they had turned up, he had been too lost in his painful, disturbing thoughts to notice them entering and coming to stand behind him. Not long after the leopards had settled, Anita arrived with Agent Bradford, their faces were pinched with tiredness and they looked grim, but also with a vicious streak of hard won hope.

 

“What lead do you have?” He found himself asking as his impatience grew.

 

Anita smiled that evil smile that was nearly a snarl and sent bad guys running for the hills.

 

“One of them wasn’t too careful. One of the fresh bodies we dug up had blood on the teeth, as if they had bitten someone. If you were caged up and tortured, who would you turn around and bite afterwards?”

 

Richard almost felt relieved. This was an actual lead, a DNA based, physical lead and he felt hope bloom in his chest, if they could tie that blood to a person, they could take them in for questioning, and he knew Anita’s questioning would yield results, she would get that person to tell them who the rest of the doctors were and they could arrest them all and hand them over to be imprisoned.

He almost felt giddy that Harry’s tormentors would be imprisoned, he didn’t even care that Anita’s methods were unsavoury to say the least. He just didn’t care; he only wanted Harry to feel safe and to get justice for what he had been put through.

 

“The blood has been carefully swabbed and we’ve tested it against the body that we took it from. It’s not a match and more importantly, it doesn’t contain a strain of lycanthropy or vampirism.” Bradley Bradford told them.

 

“So it is possible that it came from one of the doctors?” Micah asked.

 

Bradford nodded. “We are very optimistic at the moment that this blood sample has come from one of the so called doctors. We are running it worldwide through every single search engine we can lay claim to, the bureaucracy want these people off of the streets and in containment, this factory has caused an utter uproar and we have protests going on in almost every major city in America.”

 

“How did they find out?” Richard asked. The last he knew it had been a very tightly guarded secret that they weren’t going to flaunt.

 

“There was a leak about it last night, a stupid, tireless reporter got through the police barricade. We’ve been pushing them back, but the reporters have been relentless, trying to find out what’s going on behind the barricade. One finally got through and pictures of the factory and the dug up graves were plastered all over the papers this morning. Well you can imagine the backlash it caused...the higher ups have been riding our arses ever since.”

 

“Do they know about Harry?” Micah asked concernedly.

 

Bradford and Anita both shook their heads and Richard breathed easier, the tight fist around his heart easing off.

 

“No, we…didn’t believe they needed to know about Harry.” Bradford said with a sly smile. “He’s safe and he’s happy here, I’d rather keep it that way.”

 

Richard nodded to show his gratitude. He would have fought hard to keep Harry here, but he had been worried it wouldn’t be enough, especially as he couldn’t come out as a werewolf without losing his job at the school. He couldn’t take on the government, none of them could, but he was glad they didn’t know about Harry, they didn’t have to fight to keep him here, where he was happy, safe and protected.

 

“What if the blood sample doesn’t match anyone?” Jason asked worriedly.

 

“Then we’ll keep it on file. The minute we have a suspect, we can see if the blood matches or not…just because it doesn’t won’t mean that they aren’t involved, of course not, we only have the one sample and several doctors according to Harry, but if it does match, it puts that person at that factory and it links them to all those deaths and inhumane experimentation. We can then push them for information.”

 

“Give me five minutes with them.” Jason growled and Richard reached out and tugged Jason to his chest, rumbling soothingly to calm one of his submissive wolves.

 

“We will find these people, because we won’t give up until we do and now that the public know about the factory, we have to be seen doing something, so we’re going to be getting another team or two as backup and we’re going to be pressed and pressed until we break this case, the higher ups want this solved quickly, so that there isn’t a prolonged protest and a risk of retribution from the preternatural community.”

 

“I’ll see what damage control I can do from the coalition.” Micah said with a nod. “I might be able to stay any violent conduct if I assure the preternatural communities that everything that can be done is being done.”

 

“That could be a great help, thank you. Our focus has to be on finding these people, we can’t do that if we’re side tracked or distracted by protests, violence or even just blockades of people stopping us from doing our jobs.”

 

“Anita being with you should help too.” Richard nodded. “She’s known for helping the preternaturals; not just killing them, so seeing her with you should help reinforce Micah’s assurance that there is a real case going on and that you’re working to help find these people, not just covering it all up.”

 

“I really hope that this find helps give us a solid lead.” Bradford sighed. “I don’t want to work off of guess work or be clutching at straws. This blood could be the breakthrough that we really need at them moment and hopefully we’ll find something else like this again soon, as my team is still carefully combing through the factory and the documents found there. If they can make a mistake like this once, they can do it again. Hopefully there will be another find like this one and we can close in on these people, until then, keep Harry safe and if you can and he will respond, question him lightly. I know he doesn’t like it, but we need as much information as he can give us, even if he doesn’t know what he’s saying is relevant.”

 

Richard nodded understandingly and he sighed. “I’ll speak to him tomorrow to see what I can get from him. I don’t think he’s purposefully trying to derail the investigation, I think he’s just scared. He doesn’t want to be taken away from the Circus.”

 

“I can understand that, after everything he’s been through it’s a wonder he’s still functioning at all, but we do need more information and as the only survivor from this factory…” Bradford trailed off, he didn’t need to finish his sentence, they all knew what he was saying.

 

Richard breathed in deeply. Harry could have the information they needed to find these people without even realising it. They had to get him to open up, they had to try something to get this investigation progressing and as the only survivor, the only person they could actually ask for this sort of information, was Harry. Harry who was not very open or forthcoming with information and was limited by his inability to speak back to them and had the unfortunate tendency to turn to Asher when he was asked or told things he didn’t like. Which was utterly perfect really, as Asher was perhaps the only person in Saint Louis who wouldn’t press at Harry, who would shield him and protect him and pull up an icy, stony mask of anger and arrogance to keep everyone else away from Harry.

Richard shook his head. Again he wondered at the intelligence of Harry to manipulate Asher to his side, Jason was right, if there was one single person who could both love and protect Harry fiercely, jealously and vindictively, it was Asher.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve - Protector

 

Harry rocked back and forth on his knees as he looked up at the ceiling in Jean-Claude’s living room. He was being watched silently by several people as he arched his back and continued rocking on his knees on the floor.

Inevitably Harry got dizzy and he collapsed onto his back, his head spinning. He giggled softly before rolling onto his hands and knees and crawling to where Jamil was sat, where he proceeded to sit back on his heels and lifted his arms up to the werewolf.

With a long suffering sigh, Jamil picked him up and sat him on the settee next to him, but not content with that, Harry slipped easily and smoothly onto his lap and snuggled in. He closed his green eyes and within moments he was sleeping.

 

“Is he…?”

 

“He’s fast asleep.” Jamil answered.

 

“He’s getting worse.” Lisandro commented.

 

Jason shook his head. “I don’t think so, he’s just getting more comfortable with us and the Circus, so more of himself is coming out and he keeps letting things slip.”

 

“He hasn’t gotten lost here for a week now.” Jean-Claude said smoothly. “I am very proud of his improvements and he has stopped flinching at the guards.”

 

“He still has his favourites though.” Wicked said with a grin.

 

“I suspect that he always will.” Jean-Claude smiled. “He hasn’t been raised or socialised as a normal child would have been.”

 

Jamil pulled Harry closer to his chest and he shifted the tiny boy to recline back so that he was sleeping more comfortably. He had been charged, by his Ulfric, with protecting this boy with his life while he was in work.

When had he become a glorified babysitter? He was the Skoll for the Thronnos Rokke clan, he had reached a position of respect and esteemed power, he was charged with always protecting his Ulfric, yet here he was, away from his Ulfric, with a sleeping boy clutched on his lap.

Shang-Da, who was Richard’s second Enforcer and thus below him, was honoured with protecting their Ulfric. He didn’t understand it, why wasn’t he the one protecting his Ulfric? Why wasn’t it Shang-Da here watching over the boy? Did his Ulfric trust Shang-Da more than he did him?

Jamil swallowed harshly and crushed the growing rage. He was the pack Skoll for a reason! It was an insult to be demoted to a mere babysitter for a mentally challenged boy. It’s not like Harry was going to go anywhere or even leave the Circus and Asher was awake now, as was Jean-Claude, so why had he been told to remain here until Richard himself came to the Circus after he was finished teaching for the day?

Harry grunted in his sleep and several people immediately turned to him and Jamil looked down, loosening his grip when he realised that he’d been squeezing the boy a little too tightly. Bright green eyes blinked open to look up at him and Jamil cursed himself for waking him up, Harry was only normal seeming when he was fast asleep.

 

“Jamil.” Harry said softly.

 

“What do you need?” Jamil asked him, hoping that he wanted to go back to sleep. He had no such luck though as Harry squirmed and sat himself up, wide awake and completely alert. That still freaked him out too.

 

“Sweet stuff.” Harry smiled up at him, his eyes bright with hope and expectation.

 

Asher came over with a small jar of honey and a teaspoon and he sat next to Jamil and Harry grinned happily when he realised that he was going to get his sweet stuff. He opened his mouth ready as Asher dipped the spoon into the honey and got a small amount onto it.

 

“Here you are, mon ange.”

 

Harry took the spoon into his mouth and worked at it to get every last hint of honey off of the spoon. He licked all around his mouth before he settled back against Jamil’s chest, clenching a hand in his shirt and rubbing the side of his head back and forth over his shirt.

 

“Better?” Asher questioned and Harry nodded.

 

“Do you want to sleep some more?” Jamil asked.

 

Harry shook his head before he slid to the floor and sat at his feet like a small child. Only instead of toys, Harry was just running his hands back and forth over the carpet, giggling as he dug his fingers into the thick carpet and wiggled them around.

 

“Richard?” Harry asked, stopping what he was doing with the carpet and looking up and around expectantly.

 

“He isn’t here yet, Harry.”

 

“But, I needed to tell him something.” Harry pouted.

 

“What did you need to tell him?” Asher asked with a definite hint of jealousy in his tone of voice.

 

“Richard asked about the doctors.” Harry nodded.

 

All the inhabitants of the room stopped, looked at one another and then gave their full attention to Harry.

 

“Harry, mon ange, if there is something that you can tell us about the doctors, then you can tell me and I will pass it on to our Richard.” Asher encouraged gently.

 

“Sue-sue.” Harry said softly, with a hint of fear as he twitched with stress. “Susie, sue-san…” Harry shook his head. “She had strange eyes.”

 

“Strange how?” Jason questioned carefully, getting down on his knees so that he was sitting blow Harry’s eye level. “Were they like Micah’s?”

 

Harry shook his head, his tufty hair flying. “Not that strange.” Harry said.

 

“So they were just a strange colour, like Nathaniel’s eyes?”

 

Harry cocked his head to the side and mouthed wordlessly. “Pale, like blue, only not blue. It was the same colour as the cages. She had eyes the colour of cages.”

 

“Grey.” Jason said softly. “Her eyes were grey.”

 

“She was a top doctor. She gave me sweet stuff.”

 

“So her name is Sue?”

 

“Sue-san.”

 

“Susan?”

 

Harry shook his head and seemed very frustrated with himself. “Sue-san-an.”

 

“Susanna?” Jason questioned after a huge, silent pause and Harry flinched violently before he nodded tentatively.

 

“I remember more now.” Harry said softly. “In my dreams.”

 

“You have bad dreams?” Asher asked quickly.

 

Harry nodded. “I don’t like sleeping because of the dreams. It was better in the cage with the doctors; I was so sleepy that I never dreamed, all the bad stuff was happening when I was awake, so I was safe in my sleep. It’s the other way around here.”

 

“You feel safe when you’re awake, but you have the bad dreams when you sleep.”

 

Harry nodded. “That’s why I like sleeping with my favourites, so they can keep me safe while I sleep, even if I do have bad dreams.”

 

Jamil sighed and cursed himself for denying this hurt little boy someone he felt safe with, even if it had only been in his thoughts and not out loud. He was surprised to find out that he was one of Harry’s favourites though, he only had a dozen out of the hundred or so people that lived at the Circus and as he was the one most likely to tell Harry ‘no’ he’d thought that he was way off of Harry’s list of favourites. Yet that didn’t seem to be the case, even if Richard and Asher were right at the top of the list and no one else got a look in if either of them were in the room.

 

“Where’s Richard?” Harry asked suddenly.

 

“He’s teaching for now, Harry.” Jamil explained again.

 

“I want him.”

 

“Come here, mon ange.” Asher encouraged and Harry crawled to Asher and allowed the golden haired vampire to pick him up and settle him on his lap.

 

Harry giggled and from one moment to the next, he was completely engrossed in the decorative buttons on Asher’s shirt. Like a fascinated child he turned the buttons over in his hands, watching them closely, his mouth slightly parted as his fingers touched, twisted and rubbed at the buttons.

 

“We need to call Anita and tell her what Harry has said.” Jason said, directed mostly to Jean-Claude.

 

Oui, I will do so now, mon pomme.

 

Jamil sighed and sat back on the settee. He didn’t often stay this long at the Circus. He was surprised by how ordinary, how boring, it actually was. It seemed that every time he turned around that there was another crisis that needed to be sorted out, but when he wasn’t busy and he was forced to just sit and do nothing, then things seemed calmer, peaceful actually, even if they did have Harry to care for. He just wished that he had something more important to do, other than look after an abused, tortured boy all day.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Anita said her goodbyes to Jean-Claude over the phone and turned back to Bradley.

 

“Harry’s remembering more, he’s admitted to having nightmares and, naturally, the doctors frequent them. The one head doctor who used to give him honey was named Susanna and she has grey eyes, like the bars of the cages, so more of a steel grey than blue-grey. If I remember rightly Harry said she was about forty as well.”

 

Agent Bradford nodded. “I’ll call the other teams and have them document it down. If Harry is having these nightmares, then he could have more information than he told the others about, especially if they were unwilling to question him properly after the revelation that he is having nightmares. We need to solve this quickly, Anita. Before these people set up shop again somewhere else, even now they could have already left the country.”

 

Anita nodded, her jet black, tightly curled hair bouncing into her eyes where she swiped it away in irritation.

 

“I more than understand, I’m all for questioning Harry, it’s mostly Asher and Richard getting in the way of things.”

 

“There has to be a time when the both of them are away from Harry.” Bradford almost begged.

 

Anita nodded, thinking hard. “Yes, in the mornings, but Harry is never alone. There is always someone there to protect him, who he can hide behind.”

 

“As long as Richard and Asher aren’t there, then things might go smoother.”

 

“Or they won’t move at all. Harry tends to close up if neither of them are with him and he’ll sit where he is vacantly and just continuously ask for one or both of them.” Anita sighed.

 

“We have to try, or we might have more ‘Harry’s’ on our hands if these doctors are left to carry on their diabolical experiments on innocent people.”

 

“Tomorrow at mid-morning then.” Anita replied. “About ten or eleven is best. Richard won’t be there and Asher will still be dead for the day.”

 

“If he can tell us anything, anything at all that might grow into a lead, then it’s worth it. Even if it’s about those Dursleys, it might give us something to go after. We have the blood sample now, but that will only work if we have something to match it to and at the moment, we’re chasing after ghosts.”

 

Anita nodded. “You know that I understand. I know we need to get these people and lock them up, but to the others, nothing is more important than Harry’s wellbeing, I agree to an extent. The last thing we need is to set him back in his recovery, but I think he’s purposely hiding behind other people to avoid our questions and if we’re going to get these people and bring them to justice, we can’t allow him to do that or there will be another factory set up and more people will get hurt before we can catch those responsible.”

 

“We’ve been monitoring all missing persons reports closely, logging where they are and if they’re within a certain mileage of any other missing persons, we’ve even got a task force in other countries monitoring for missing persons as well. Just in case they have fled the country. I just hope that they haven’t gone underground or we might never find them and bring them to justice for what they’ve done.”

 

Anita took in a breath and held it for a moment. She hoped that these bastards hadn’t gone underground or there would be no way to find them unless they figured out a way to smoke them out, but the one thing she wanted was justice for all of those innocent people. The scared, innocent people who had been tortured, abused, experimented on and killed in that inhumane factory, all so a couple of doctors could sate their morbid curiosities. It was sick and wrong and she would see them brought to justice. One way or another, they would pay for what they’d done.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

“Of course it’s not because I don’t trust you with my life.” Richard told Jamil seriously.

 

He’d only just arrived at the Circus after a day of work and he was still dressed in formal pants and a crisp shirt and tie, though his sleeves were rolled up his massive forearms. Jamil had pulled him aside before Harry could see him and had asked him, very bluntly, if he still trusted him to protect his life as the pack’s Skoll.

 

“What is it then? Why am I the one left here babysitting?”

 

“Because I trust you explicitly.” Richard told him. “Jamil, you are my Skoll, as you were Marcus’, this pack knows you and trusts you and I kept you alive after I took over because I trust you. I am capable of looking after myself, I only need Shang-Da with me to take down any threat that may come up, but if anything were to happen to Harry…” Richard blew out a breath and raked a hand through his long brown hair. “If anything were to happen to him, I don’t know what I would do. I struggle to contain my anger as it is, as you well know as my Skoll. If Harry was hurt or killed, there’s no telling who I would blame or attack because of it, and then where would I and the pack be? No, I need you to stay with him; I need you to protect him, not because I don’t trust you with my life, but because I trust you with his life, I trust you to protect him and thus I trust you with the wellbeing of the whole pack, because if that little boy gets hurt or killed while I wasn’t here to help protect him, I don’t think I’d ever forgive myself.”

 

Richard clenched his large hands into fists at just the thought of Harry being hurt and he shoved down that inherent anger that it caused to well up inside of him.

 

“No, I trust him to you, Jamil. You need to be here with him when I can’t, because I can’t be Ulfric if I’m too angry to even think straight. Please do this for me.”

 

“Of course I will, Ulfric. I understand more now. No one, absolutely no one, will hurt him while you have charged me with looking after him.”

 

“Thank you, Jamil.” Richard said gratefully, feeling a little more relaxed. “I need to know that he’s safe and Asher isn’t always awake to protect him. It’s like he’s my own child, this need to protect him and love him, I can’t explain it, but it’s how I think I’d feel about my own son and just the mere thought of anything happening to him makes me panic and it makes me angry.”

 

The door opened before either of them could say anything more and Harry poked his head around the door. He smiled and held his arms out.

 

“Richard!” He said excitedly. “Jason said you were here, but I couldn’t find you.”

 

Richard hefted the little boy up and hugged him tightly, giving his forehead a soft kiss.

 

“How was your day?” Richard asked interestedly and that was it.

 

Harry went on about anything and everything he’d done, babbling and whispering, shouting out odd words and giggling as he told him about Asher’s pretty buttons.

Richard carried him back out and down the corridor to Jean-Claude’s living room. He greeted everyone softly and he was filled in on what Harry had told them that afternoon, about his new information about one of the doctors, and about the nightmares.

 

“We have to find a way to make him more comfortable at night so that he can sleep easier and without fear of nightmares.” Richard said immediately.

 

“He says that it helps when he has ‘one of his favourites’ with him.” Jean-Claude said gently.

 

Richard nodded. “That makes sense, he always wants Asher and I in the bed with him. He trusts us to protect him even when he’s sleeping.”

 

He looked to the boy now, fast asleep on his lap as he run a huge hand through the soft, multi-length black hair.

 

“It’s no wonder he’s been cat napping more and more often if he’s suffering with nightmares.” Richard sighed as he held Harry closer to himself, the boy was wrapped around him tightly, his body slack in sleep.

 

“He hasn’t said anything else about the doctors, but he is terrified of them.” Jason said sadly. “He was terrified to even mention the one that he did dream about.”

 

“Of course he’s going to be terrified of them!” Asher hissed scathingly. “He was just a child and they did such terrible things to him.”

 

“That’s not what Jason meant.” Richard defended quickly. “I think Jason is hinting that Harry doesn’t realise the difference between his dreams and what’s reality.”

 

Jason nodded. “You saw him yourself, Asher. He was looking around as if this doctor would be hiding behind a chair.”

 

Asher calmed himself and nodded. “I saw. Perhaps we need to have him speak to someone who can help him.”

 

“I agree, mon chardonneret.” Jean-Claude nodded. “Having him happy and healthy is now a priority.”

 

 Richard kept up his rhythmic stroking of Harry’s hair and smiled when the boy snuffled in his sleep and his little hands clenched tighter before relaxing again. He didn’t want Harry to ever be afraid, but he couldn’t protect his boy from his dreams and that frustrated him to no end.

He kept Harry with himself and only passed him over to Asher once, when he went for a shower so that he could change out of his work clothes into jeans and a tee-shirt. Asher had been forced to reluctantly hand Harry back over when Harry had woken up and called out for him.

He’d tried to question Harry a little after he’d eaten a simple broth soup, but Harry had closed up immediately and he looked very upset. For the first time he’d left his lap and gone to someone else and he didn’t like the emotions that dragged out of him. It made him equal parts angry and upset and it was only made worse that Harry had gone to Jean-Claude, who relaxed him and brought him back out of his shell by fixing his hair for him, French braiding it to keep it out of his face.

He actually felt ashamed of himself and guilty for questioning Harry, especially as he’d already given them information today and he’d just woken up as well, which likely meant that he’d had another nightmare. He sighed and raked a hand through his hair, he only hoped that Harry either forgot the incident or forgave him for his tactless picking of the moment to question him. He should have waited at least a couple of hours before bringing it back up, but everything was always much clearer in hindsight.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry hugged Richard goodbye the next morning and then latched onto Jamil, who was going to be staying with him again today. Stephen had bought him a colouring book and a box of pencils and Harry absolutely loved them, even if it was awkward to hold the pencils.

He remembered being in school and using pencils, it was different now, he remembered how to hold them, but he wasn’t used to it, so he was bad at it, but Richard encouraged him to keep practising, because then he’d get better. Before Richard got home he was determined to colour in a picture without going outside the lines, but as his hand quivered and wasn’t that strong after years in his cage, he went out of the lines often without meaning to.

He sat at the coffee table by Jamil’s feet for hours, the werewolf was reading a book with no pictures in it as he coloured and lots of people went up and down the stairs that led into the living room and went down the corridor that led further into the underground living areas or they went up the stairs into the actual Circus.

He went up on his knees and Jamil lowered his book to look at him, but he had only moved to lean over more so that he could colour in the yellow part better.

 

“Jamil, what are you doing here?”

 

Harry looked up at Anita and the man with her and he lowered himself down to the floor and pressed back against Jamil’s legs. A hand landed in his hair and stroked it gently and he calmed. It was wavy today because he’d fallen asleep with his braid in.

 

“I’m looking after Harry today.”

 

“I thought Nathaniel was going to be watching him. Where is Nathaniel?”

 

“He’s sorting out lunch for Harry; Lillian thinks that it might be time to start adding in semi-solids, so Nathanial is making him mashed potatoes that are nearly pureed so that he can have something more textured than watery porridge or chicken broth.” Jamil answered easily. “Why are you here?”

 

“We need some more information to further our investigation.” Anita said bluntly.

 

Jamil shook his head. “Richard tried questioning him last night. He shut himself up tighter than a clam shell. If Richard can’t get anything from him, you’re not going to be able to and I won’t allow you to distress him while I’ve been charged with his welfare.”

 

“Just a few questions, Jamil.”

 

“I said no.”

 

Harry was surprised when he was picked up and sat on a lap, his green pencil still in his hand.

 

“Jamil! I need to colour for Richard!” Harry said as he struggled to be put back down on the floor.

 

“Harry, do you remember what the doctor Susanna looked like?”

 

At the mention of the name Susanna, Harry went unnaturally still and he stopped struggling against Jamil, instead he sunk into his arms and buried his face against Jamil’s shirt, his pencil falling from his hand to hit the carpet.

 

“I told you to leave him alone!” Jamil growled angrily, his beast prowling inside him as the boy he was charged with to protect turned to him to help him. “You’ve distressed him now! He was doing so well today.” His voice distorting with his growl.

 

“What’s happened?” Nathaniel asked as he came into the living room.

 

“Take Harry into the kitchen and keep him occupied.” Jamil ordered with such authority that Nathaniel didn’t even hesitate to come over and take Harry from Jamil, he smiled as he felt small hands wind themselves into his long, knee length hair and he heard Harry sniffing at it. Harry loved the vanilla smell on his hair.

 

“Come on, Harry. We’re going to see what we can find.”

 

“Stephen gave me a book! I want to draw Richard a picture with no going out of the lines, but my hand doesn’t work right, can you help me?”

 

“Of course.” Nathaniel answered as he picked up the colouring book and the pencils before he carried Harry out of the living room, leaving Anita and Agent Bradford to Jamil, who looked very angry.

 

“I told you to leave him alone.” He thundered.

 

“You didn’t care a week ago!” Anita said angrily.

 

“I have been charged with his welfare by my Ulfric.” Jamil said tersely. “I told you exactly how he reacted yesterday to Richard questioning him and still you asked him about that doctor! I told you that it would just distress him!”

 

“We need answers! I am done waiting and having him hide behind everyone around him! These people need to be found!”

 

“Then go out and find them!” Jamil roared. “You don’t need to traumatise a young kid to find them; you’re just not looking hard enough!”

 

“You have no idea how hard we’re working to find these people!” Anita shouted right back. “This isn’t a walk in the damn park, Jamil! Every body we uncover in that factory has to be excavated and processed and it’s another victim we have to pin to these people, but we can’t do that if we don’t even have one of them to question! We need to find them before they start up another factory and we’re running out of time.”

 

“Then stop wasting time and get out and find them. You’re not upsetting Harry just because you can’t find any other leads. I won’t let you.”

 

Jamil turned and left the living room to go deeper into the underground and he found Harry and Nathaniel in the kitchen. Harry was colouring and Nathaniel was stood over him, holding his wrist gently to prevent him from going out of the lines.

 

“Jamil!” Harry called out happily when he saw him stood in the doorway. “Nathanal is helping me colour for Richard, look.”

 

“I can see.” Jamil answered trying to keep his voice light and calm.

 

“Do you think he’ll like it?” Harry asked as he considered the drawing critically.

 

“I’m sure that he will.” Jamil answered as he went to get a coffee from the machine that was always on for the guards.

 

Nathaniel helped Harry finish off his one picture before he set a juice drink down in front of him before he went back to making Harry’s lunch.

Jamil watched as Harry figured out how to use the carton of juice to the best of his abilities…he’d stabbed a pencil through the foil and he was sucking on it happily, completely ignoring the straw on the side of the carton.

 

“When did he progress to drinking actual liquids instead of taking them through his drip?”

 

“Only a few days ago.” Nathaniel said as he turned to look at Harry adoringly. “Lillian said that it might be better for him to get fluids into him orally rather than intravenously. He could not work out how to use a bottle, he tipped most of the water down his front and we definitely didn’t want to give him a baby bottle or a sippy cup, so we tried him on all different sorts and he likes cartons the best, even if his way of using them is a little…different.” 

 

Jamil chuckled at that, sitting himself down with a mug of coffee, black with no sugar. Harry handed Nathanial his sucked out carton with a grin and Nathaniel laughed as he popped it into the bin and handed Harry another carton. Harry happily stabbed it with a pencil, but he didn’t drink it this time, but he did keep it very close to himself, as if expecting it to be taken away.

 

“Lillian said that that is a very good sign.” Nathaniel explained. “That he’s come to trust us not to take away his food or drink. He might be a little wary, but when we first tried this he drank fifteen cartons before we realised that he wasn’t actually that thirsty, he just didn’t want to leave the cartons there in case they were taken back off of him.”

 

Nathaniel ruffled Harry’s uneven hair and the boy looked back and grinned before going back to his new picture. He’d gone out of the lines in four different places already. Jamil watched him closely and he saw for himself why Harry was going out of the lines when after a bit of time his hand started shaking uncontrollably from being held in the same position, curled around the pencil, for too long.

 

“Harry, come here.” He said softly.

 

Harry immediately pushed his book and pencils over to him, picked up his juice carton and loped around the table to climb onto his lap.

 

“Can you do this for me?” Jamil asked as he showed Harry his hand shut tight and Harry copied him. “Now this.” He said as he opened his hand as far as he could, stretching out his fingers and thumb. Harry giggled and copied him, following his lead when he closed his hand slowly back into a fist before stretching it open again.

 

“Now go back to your drawing.” Jamil encouraged and Harry did so happily, picking up the blue pencil and starting a new area.

 

Nathaniel looked on curiously and Jamil smirked.

 

“I think the reason that he’s going out of the lines is because his hand is cramping from being curled around the pencil for too long. If he stops and stretches it out every now and then he should be fine.”

 

“I never thought of that, but of course it would take less time for his hand to cramp up, especially considering how he’s spent the last several years.”

 

Nathaniel sighed heavily before he put a bowl of very mashed potatoes in front of Harry.

 

“Do you want to try something to eat, Harry?” He asked softly.

 

Harry looked up and cocked his head at a very awkward, impossible seeming angle, resting his ear on his shoulder to consider the bowl.

He put down his pencil and dipped his hand into the potatoes and grinned at the feeling of them before four fingers were placed into his mouth and sucked silently.

Jamil watched him in fascination as he repeated this a few times, before Nathaniel showed him how to scoop a bigger bit of potato onto his finger and Harry immediately wanted to try it.

 

“Why doesn’t he use a spoon?” Jamil asked.

 

“He hates having anything cold and metal in his mouth. We tried him on plastic spoons, but he bit one of them far too hard and it splintered in his mouth.”

 

“Have you tried him on silicone spoons? Those ones that you can get to teach kids how to use them.” Jamil asked.

 

Nathaniel shook his head. “No. We’re all a little leery of using anything baby related for him, especially with how Anita would react.”

 

“If it helps him, who cares.” Jamil scoffed. “He needs to learn how to use utensils again and he’s not going to be able to do that if you don’t give him the chance to use them. I can understand he doesn’t want anything cold or metal in his mouth, but those soft plastic and silicone spoons are not going to break and they are going to feel different to metal. It can’t hurt to try him on them at least.”

 

Nathaniel nodded. “I’ll text Jason and he can pick a pack up.” The leopard said as he did just that, typing a quick text before putting his cell back in his pocket.

 

Harry soon grew bored of the bowl of potatoes and he went back to his colouring book, but not before Nathaniel had quickly darted on him with a towel to clean his hands, fingers and face so that he didn’t get the potato everywhere, most particularly on Jamil, who he knew would have pitched a fit over it.

 

“There you are, mon petit pétale.” Jean-Claude spoke softly from the doorway. “Are you well?”

 

Harry grinned and wiggled excitedly until Jamil set him on the floor, watching sadly as Harry loped to Jean-Claude for a cuddle, his legs bent and his back hunched. He wasn’t even sure if they could help to fix all of the damage that had been done to Harry.

 

“I’ve been colouring!” Harry said excitedly, pointing to the book. “Stephen gave it to me with colours and I’ve been colouring all day!”

 

“All day?” Jean-Claude questioned and Harry bobbed his head happily.

 

“He really has.” Jamil confirmed. “He’s done half of the pictures already.”

 

“He’s had juice and his lunch as well.” Nathaniel said proudly.

 

“And Anita came around about mid-morning, when she knew you and Asher would be dead and Richard would be in work.” Jamil said with a hint of lingering anger. “Her and that FBI Agent. They tried questioning Harry even after I told them what had happened yesterday with Richard.”

 

“Was he alright?” Jean-Claude asked as he held Harry easily to his chest.

 

“He went a bit quiet.” Nathaniel answered reluctantly. “It took a bit of coaxing to get him back to colouring, but reminding him that Richard would like a picture helped draw him out of his shell.”

 

Jean-Claude nodded and he carried Harry back down the corridor and into the living room, where the guards had now strategically placed themselves for his protection.

Jamil followed with Harry’s pencils and colouring book and Nathaniel grabbed his open carton and two unopened ones, just in case. Anita was thankfully long gone.

 

“Where’s Asher?” Harry asked, looking around for his favourite vampire.

 

“Asher is still in bed, mon petit pétale.” Jean-Claude told him. “I am the only one awake at the moment.”

 

“Okay. Do you want to see my colouring?” Harry asked, looking up at him with huge, hopeful eyes.

 

“I would love to.”

 

Harry grinned and Jamil handed over the colouring book and Harry showed Jean-Claude every scribble drawing he’d done that day.

 

Harry tore a page out and handed it to the vampire. “This one’s for you.” Harry declared.

 

“Thank you, it is lovely.”

 

Harry giggled before going back to his current picture, colouring it in carefully with his tongue poking out. Jamil made sure to stop him from time to time to get him to stretch his hand out before it cramped.

 

“Asher!” Harry cried out, breaking through the conversation and rushing to the golden haired vampire happily the moment he came through the living room door.

 

“How are you, mon ange?”

 

“I’m sleepy, but I’ve been colouring, come see!”

 

Harry dragged his book off of the desk and showed it to Asher, before pulling out a page and handing it to him. 

 

“This one’s for you.”

 

“Thank you, mon ange. I will treasure it as I treasure you.”

 

Harry squealed and buried himself into Asher’s chest, clenching his shirt in little fists. Just a few moments later and he was fast asleep.

 

“Has he slept today?” Asher asked.

 

Jamil shook his head. “No. I think it might have something to do with Anita’s visit. She tried to question him about the doctors, even after I told her how it had gone with Richard last night. He might have been too afraid to sleep after that.”

 

Asher nodded tightly, one fang bared as he cradled his boy on his lap and close to his chest. He understood the need for them to find the doctors, he wanted a piece of them too for what they’d done, but not at the expense of Harry’s happiness and mental wellbeing.

Harry didn’t deserve to spend the rest of his life traumatised and miserable just because Anita wasn’t satisfied with how hard he was already trying. Harry had given them plenty of information already, he had even upset himself yesterday just to give them the name of one of those so called doctors. Harry was doing more than enough to help the investigation and he was needlessly upsetting himself over it just to help out the police.

He would not allow Anita to harm his boy in the name of justice. Where was the justice if they questioned Harry relentlessly to the point of mental collapse just to get the doctors behind bars for what they had done to him if Harry then suffered every day for the rest of his life because of their questioning? Were they then not as guilty for his mental instability as the doctors were? No, Anita and the police needed to find another way, because he refused to let Harry pay that high a price just so that Anita could put several people in handcuffs. In his mind, it just wasn’t worth it.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen – Present

 

Richard made sure to keep close to Harry as he ran around the grassy field. It was overcast today, with a hint of rain in the air, so he’d believed it to be the perfect time to take Harry out into the fresh air as there wasn’t any hint of the sun breaking through the clouds and thus, Harry could still come outside, but he wouldn’t have the strange reaction that he had to the sun. It wasn’t good for him to keep him underground all day every day, he needed fresh air and daylight, even if it was overcast and threatening rain.

Harry had readily agreed to come out and after a good, long walk, they’d arrived at a field and Richard smiled as Harry went rolling past him. He seemed so free and innocent like this, marvelling at being out in the open and able to touch grass, flowers and tree bark. He sniffed at everything, even licked it to taste what he was scenting and he was so, so happy that it broke his heart.

Here was a young boy, whether thirteen or twenty, who had spent his early years being abused and locked up in a cupboard. If that wasn’t bad enough he had then been sold to vicious people and he’d spent the rest of his young life in a cage as a cruel experiment for inhumane people in the name of science.

He was a high school science teacher, he understood all about curiosity and the need to know how things worked, but no one had the right to do this to other people in the name of anything. Those so called experiments had been innocent people! People who had been specifically targeted, hunted down and then abducted, taken without a trace. They had been scared, innocent people who had been injected with all sorts against their will and imprisoned in tiny cages in a sterile factory, lined up and just waiting for the next agonising, traumatising experiment to take place. Treated worse than animals, men, women, even pregnant women, and children. Those people who had called themselves scientists hadn’t spared anyone and had treated them all just as horrifically, it had been like they weren’t even seen as living things anymore, but objects that couldn’t think or feel anything, so it didn’t matter what had been done to them to those scientists. It made him sick.  

He watched Harry run and dive around, touching everything, smelling it, tasting it and he felt lightheaded and queasy at the thought that this might have been the first time that Harry had seen a flower or a tree before, as he seemed overly fascinated with them. He was however many years old and he was just happy to be in a large field where he could run around and touch nature. It hurt his heart.

 

“Richard!” Harry screamed out to him and at once he was gone, flying across the field as fast as his legs could carry him to hunch over Harry where he was kneeling on the grass.

 

“What is it? Are you hurt?”

 

Harry blinked at him. “What’s that?” Harry asked curiously, pointing to a bug on a blade of grass.

 

Richard sucked in a deep lungful of air and let it out, calming himself and his racing heart. Harry wasn’t hurt, he’d just found something new that had piqued his curiosity. He just wanted an answer to sate his curiosity.

 

“It’s a bug, Harry.” Richard told him patiently.

 

“It’s crawling.” Harry pointed out.

 

Richard nodded. “It can fly too.”

 

Harry’s eyes went impossibly wide. “It can fly?! Like the birds?”

 

Harry craned his head back to look at the sky, hoping to see a bird, but all that was up there was endless grey clouds.

 

“Yes, like a bird, but it has different wings.”

 

Harry nodded and looked back at the poor bug, poking and prodding at it like a toddler.

 

“I remember worms. Lots of worms.” Harry told him. “When I used to do the gardening they always came out of the ground, but I don’t remember bugs.”

 

It started to rain and Harry looked up in shock.

 

“What is that?” He asked, shifting himself backwards until he was pressed against him.

 

“It’s rain, Harry. It’ll make us very wet, so we should be getting back to the Circus.”

 

Harry nodded and Richard stood, taking Harry’s hand and leading him back to the gate of the field so that they could start their walk back to the Circus.

 

“I remember getting wet in the cage.” Harry said softly on their walk as the rain came down heavier. “Alfie was a trainee and he used to spray us all with a hose every week. He liked aiming at our faces. It hurt when it hit my eye or my nose and it used to make me cry, but he’d just laugh and do it more.”

 

Richard kept the hand that was holding Harry’s loose and relaxed, but his other hand was clenched tight to try and control his anger and his wolf.

 

“Fabby was the worst assistant though. He was a mean and horrible old man and he liked poking stuff into me.”

 

“Fabby?” Richard questioned as lightly as he could with a clenched jaw.

 

“Fabbis, Fabbice, Fab…Fabest. Reece.”

 

Richard mouthed a little as he considered the name that Harry was trying to say and he had a light bulb moment.

 

“Fabrice?” He questioned and he knew he had it right when a shiver went through the length of Harry’s body. “That’s a very unusual name, did any of the others have strange names?” He asked carefully.

 

“Isa-ah. He was the head, head doctor. He started everything and all the other doctors were his.”

 

“Isa-ah? Isaac?”

 

Harry shook his head. “Issy-ah.”

 

“Isiah?”

 

Harry did the full body quiver again and hunched his shoulders up.

 

“Can you remember the names of the other head doctors?” Richard asked.

 

“Ruby.” Harry said clearly. “She was the head woman doctor and the oldest. She was horrible and mean and she liked hurting me. Wussel too, he liked hurting me as well.”

 

“Wussel? Do you mean Russel?” Richard questioned as they stopped to cross the road.

 

Harry nodded. “Benny was okay. He was younger and he was just really excited all the time. He was very tall though, your tall, but he had Jason’s hair.”

 

Richard forced himself to remember every single detail that Harry was giving him and the minute that they were back in the underground of the Circus, he passed Harry over to Wicked and his brother Truth and took a piece of paper and a pen from Jean-Claude’s desk, ignoring the vampire sat behind it so that he could write down everything that Harry had told him on their walk back to the Circus.

 

“Are you alright, mon ami?” Jean-Claude asked him once he’d stood up and stopped writing.

 

“Harry was very helpful today.” He said cryptically as he smiled tiredly to the boy who was watching him carefully and listening to his every word from Wicked’s arms. He pushed the piece of paper to Jean-Claude, who read it quickly.

 

Oui, it seems that our Harry has been very helpful. I will call Anita immediately.”

 

“Was I good?” Harry asked after Jean-Claude had left the room.

 

“Yes, Harry. You’ve been very good.” Richard told him and he couldn’t help smiling when Harry beamed at him.

 

“Issy-ah and Ruby were brother and sister.” Harry said randomly. “They said so once. Ruby was older, but Issy-ah was the head, head doctor. He set everything up and it was his money buying all the stuff.”

 

“Thank you, Harry. You’ve been so good today. Do you want a nap, or maybe something to eat?”

 

“Saucy stuff!” Harry said excitedly and Richard couldn’t help shaking his head and cursing Jason and Stephen for introducing Harry to chocolate sauce.

 

“Do you want a banana first?” He asked.

 

Harry frowned consideringly and he nodded. “Can I have saucy stuff and nana-mush?”

 

Richard blinked and then he nodded, wondering why he hadn’t thought of putting the two together in order to get Harry to eat more.

Harry cheered and squirmed to be put down and he loped over to him and took his hand, looking up at him expectantly.

Richard took him to the small kitchen, which was more of a break room for the guards, where he peeled a banana and mashed it up with a fork. He drizzled over the chocolate sauce and gave the bowl to Harry with one of the weaning spoons that Jason had bought for Harry.

Harry took the spoon and used it to eat the bowl of what was essentially baby food, able to eat with the spoon because it didn’t remind him of any experiments and it didn’t hurt him.

Richard was very happy that Harry had eaten all of his banana and chocolate sauce and he was sucking on a carton of apple juice. He was getting closer and closer to being able to eat normally, without the use of a drip…at least for regular food, there was nothing that they could do about the blood feeds as he didn’t have any fangs, but he still needed the blood to keep himself fed and healthy.

 

“I’m sleepy now, Richard.” Harry told him softly.

 

“Come here then. Do you want to sleep in your bed?”

 

Harry nodded, rubbing his eyes and Richard led him to his room, further underground and he took off Harry’s shoes and socks, undid the button and the fly on his loose jeans and tucked him in.

He stayed with Harry until he fell asleep before he made a quick detour to the living room.

 

“Where is Harry?” A recently awakened Asher asked.

 

“He’s taking a nap, he ate all of his lunch and he was tired afterwards.” He told Asher before turning to Jean-Claude. “Harry said that Ruby and Isiah are brother and sister. Ruby was older, but Isiah was the one who set up the factory with his money.”

 

“He’s being very talkative about the doctors today.”

 

Richard shook his head. “I don’t understand why he’s being so helpful today, but he must feel more comfortable, though he flinched every time I confirmed a name. I think he’s picked up on Anita’s lack of patience on the matter and so he’s trying to answer more questions, but it’s distressing him.”

 

“I will speak to him when he awakens.” Asher said. “If he is overly distressed about the matter, then I will allow no more questions this week.”

 

Richard nodded his agreement and quickly went back to the bedroom to sit on the bed with his marking work for Seckman Junior High while Harry slept. He would absolutely hate for Harry to have a nightmare when no one was there to help him if he woke up in terror.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Anita accepted the information Jean-Claude gave her with as much patience as she could muster as she jotted down the little bits that Harry had revealed.

 

“It’s better than nothing.” Bradford insisted as he peered over her shoulder at the scrap of paper. “How many people are called Fabrice or Isiah?”

 

“A couple thousand maybe.” Anita replied scathingly.

 

“Not in connection with one another they aren’t. These people all know one another, they’ve worked together, Anita and we’re getting more and more information. Slowly maybe and not what we want to know, but it’s something and it can help us and now that we’re closing in on those Dursleys, I think that we’ll crack this case soon enough.”

 

“I hope so; I’ve had enough of seeing those bodies being pulled out of the ground.”

 

Bradford nodded understandingly. “I know what you mean. Every new body is evidence, but every new body is also a person who has suffered a terrible ordeal and all those babies, I can’t even look at them.”

 

Anita grimaced. “I don’t want to see them, but I can’t not look, just in case there is a speck of evidence that could help us. I have nightmares about it every night.”

 

“I’ve had a few.” Bradford admitted. “This is a bad case. I’ve never known anything else like it. The cruelty of some people will never cease to surprise me.”

 

Anita shook her head. “I just can’t wait for this case to be over. Are you still glad that I brought you in on this one?” She asked him seriously.

 

Bradley sighed. “I am, because this is the case of the century and I couldn’t stand another month of paperwork, but it is a bad one.”

 

“Agreed. Where are we going next? Have you heard from that contact in Britain yet?”

 

“Not yet, but let’s see what we can do with this information first. Maybe instead of going to question Harry, we should just wait to see what information he gives us. It could be better all around, as we really don’t want him distressed or even more traumatised than he already is.”

 

“This case could last for months if we don’t ask him questions.” Anita denied.

 

“His mental wellbeing is more important here, Anita.” Bradley told her.

 

Anita sighed and she knew that she was not going to win this argument, the FBI wouldn’t risk having the public finding out that they’d questioned a mentally unstable boy who had been severely abused and then locked in a cage and experimented on. There would be a massive backlash from the public.

 

“Let’s hope that he feels more like sharing then, because this case is going to stay with me for a very long time.” Anita sighed heavily.

 

“Let’s get going then, we have a lot to be getting on with and we need to give these names to the task force so that they can start looking for connections to people.”

 

They both stopped and looked at Anita’s cell, which had just started ringing.

 

“Maybe Harry has given them more information.” Bradley suggested hopefully.

 

Anita answered it and listened intently and she smiled happily. She said goodbye to Jean-Claude and looked to Bradley with a satisfied look.

 

“Was it to do with Harry? Has he remembered something significant?”

 

“Definitely.” Anita said with a smile that was turning almost feral. “He told Jean-Claude that Isiah and Ruby are brother and sister. They mentioned it only once in his hearing range and though Ruby was older, Isiah was the mastermind behind the factory. Harry says that it’s his money that set it all up and it was his idea to set it all up in the first place. According to Jean-Claude, Harry phrased it as ‘Isiah was the head, head doctor and all the other doctors were his.’”

 

Bradley laughed. “Oh now that is going to help. How many people, who are medically trained, are going to be brother and sister called Isiah and Ruby? I really think we’ve got them, Anita. This scrap of seemingly inane information could change things drastically.”

 

“Let’s not waste any time then, the longer we wait, the more time we’re giving these people to get underground and hide. Let’s get this information to the task force and they can start searching for these people and we can pray that the blood sample that we have matches one of them.”

 

“At this point, I really think we can hope for that, but let’s hope that one or both of them crack under the pressure of being questioned and leads us to all of the other doctors, the trainees and assistants and everyone else involved in this macabre factory.”

 

“Trust me, Bradley. Give me five minutes with them and they’ll crack.”

 

“If we can’t get them to talk by the books, I say we sneak you in for more ah…traditional methods of interrogation. Off the record and with no cameras, of course. It’ll be like you were never there.”

 

Anita chuckled darkly. “We’ll see what Harry comes up with next.”

 

“Perhaps when you go back to the Circus you could praise him a little, maybe give him a gift for being so good. Perhaps if he realises that speaking about these painful things will get him treats, he’ll be more ready to share information, because at the moment, all talking gets him is painful memories, nightmares and a feeling of upset and fear. If we can replace that with something positive, it might help him a lot.”

 

Anita nodded at the logic of that and she made a mental note to pick up something on the way home for Harry, because though she thought he was manipulative and knew more than he was letting on, he was still a survivor of this hideous factory. He had been sold into this life by his own relatives to those doctors and he had even been abused by the people who were supposed to have loved and cared for him before he’d even set foot in the factory. He’d lived a terrible life so far, he couldn’t remember anything other than abuse and torment and he could be as old as twenty. It was despicable.

She would catch these people and she would ease up a little on Harry. If her men wanted to spoil him and raise him like some little puppy, she wouldn’t stop them, but she would have no part in treating him like a toddler when she thought that it was better to teach him how to care for himself properly.

But she would look the other way and allow them to do as they pleased, she couldn’t deny that what they were doing was actually working. Harry was eating, perhaps not normal food, but he was off of the drips quicker than Lillian had expected him to be. He was eating with a spoon now according to Jason, and not with his fingers, which was a definite improvement. He no longer got lost in the Circus and apparently he was now struggling when he was picked up as he sometimes wanted to stay on the floor. He did still like holding hands though, but he walked while holding hands instead of being picked up and carried all the time. It was a small improvement maybe, but it was an improvement nonetheless and she wouldn’t diminish that, he was doing well and she couldn’t forget that he’d been kept in a cage for at least several years and before that, he’d been kept in a cupboard. He didn’t know any different and thus she needed to be patient, it was just unfortunate that patience really was not her strong suit.

She needed to ease off of him now, he’d done well with remembering this information today and she would take Agent Bradford’s advice, she would buy him a small present and praise him when she got back and hopefully he would feel more positively and he’d reveal more to them in order to get more treats.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry had been given a bath and he was in a soft, fresh pair of pyjamas, waiting for his hair to dry so that he could go to bed.

He was colouring at Jean-Claude’s desk, sat on the vampire’s lap as he scribbled down his red pencil nub. When there was next to nothing left, he passed it over to Stephen, who would do something to it and pass it back all sharp and pointy again. It made him giggle every time.

Someone came through the curtains and Harry looked up immediately. He drew back a little when he saw Anita. She smiled at him and he cocked his head confusedly. She didn’t usually smile at him, she usually shouted.

She greeted everyone and then came to kiss Jean-Claude, that was usual, so he relaxed a little. He was safe here, he knew that now.

 

“You were so good today, Harry.”

 

Harry looked back to her and frowned. This was new. He didn’t like it, it reminded him of the doctors and all their different experiments, they’d pretended to be kind to him too and then they had hurt him worse.

 

“I just thought you should know that you really helped today and you were very good. I got you a present for being so good.”

 

Harry blinked at that and he sat up a little straighter. She’d got him a present? Like his clothes and his colouring book and his pencils?

 

“Would you like your present?”

 

Was this a trick? He chewed on his bottom lip as he considered what was being said to him. She wasn’t usually smiley or nice, she never liked him, so why was today different? Was it because he’d been good today and had told about the doctors, or was it just a trick?

He sat back further into Jean-Claude, just in case, and he nodded tentatively. He did want a present, he liked presents, but he hadn’t ever had any before he’d come out of his cage and he was a little wary of them.

Anita smiled at him and put her hand into a bag she had and she pulled out a new, even bigger colouring book and Harry couldn’t help the excited noise that came from his mouth as he reached out for it. He’d almost finished his book that Stephen had given him and this new one was even bigger!

He wiggled off of Jean-Claude’s lap and wrapped his arms around Anita’s neck and hugged her, giving her a kiss to the cheek as he picked up the big, heavy book. He grinned and shoved it at Jean-Claude and he was picked back up and sat back on the vampire’s lap.

He opened his new book and gaped at all the new pictures that he could colour in and thanks to Jamil, his hand didn’t hurt anymore and he could stay in between the lines better, so he could do his new book properly.

 

“What do you say to Anita, mon ange?” Asher asked.

 

Harry looked up to his favourite vampire and looked back to Anita, who was stood greeting Nathaniel.

He looked back to Asher, who made an encouraging movement to him and he frowned, looking back to Anita.

 

“Please?” He said, then shook his head, that wasn’t right. He mouthed a little, digging in his memories for the right word. “Welcome?”

 

“Thank…” Jason prompted him from the settee and he sat up and grinned as it triggered something in his mind.

 

“Thank you!” He said enthusiastically with a grin. “Thank you for my new book.”

 

“That’s alright, Harry. You were very good today.”

 

Harry went back to his new book and he carefully selected the colour he wanted and he started colouring very carefully. He didn’t want to go out of the lines at all in this book, he wanted it to be perfect as he coloured in the little bird on the pond with his blue pencil. He’d seen birds that were blue before, he knew they were blue, black or white, but he liked the blue ones better, they were prettier.

 

“This is a duckling, Harry.” Stephen told him.

 

“Duckling.” Harry repeated, studying the picture carefully and committing it to memory so if he saw another one, he’d know what it was.

 

Stephen typed something into his phone and turned it to show him.

 

“It’s yellow!” He said in shock. “Birds aren’t yellow!”

 

“Ducklings are.” He was told softly and then Stephen showed him another picture. “This is an adult duckling, it’s called a duck.”

 

Harry looked at it blankly before looking to his picture. He looked to his pencils and picked up the colour that matched. “Bark.” He said happily.

 

“Brown.” Stephen corrected him. “The colour brown is the colour of tree bark.”

 

“Oh.” Harry said deflating a little as he started at the pencil. “Bown.”

 

“Brown.” He was corrected and he concentrated hard and mouthed a little.

 

“Brown.” He repeated.

 

“Good boy.”

 

“I’m doing it wrong.” He said sadly as he looked at his blue duckling. “I only saw white, black or blue birds, I thought they were all that colour and blue was the prettiest.”

 

“It’s not wrong, Harry. It’s just creative.”

 

Harry looked at Jason confusedly.

 

“It means that you do things your own way.” Anita told him. “It’s not wrong to do it different, you’re just making it yours.”

 

Harry grinned and nodded as he carried on colouring his duckling blue. “So my duckling can be blue and my grass can be yellow, because it’s mine.”

 

Oui, mon petit pétale.” Jean-Claude encouraged.

 

“Ten more minutes, mon ange, then you need to go to bed.” Asher told him.

 

“Richard isn’t back yet!” Harry cried out in denial. “I have no one to go to bed with!”

 

“You could spend the night in my room if you wanted.” Jason offered lightly. “It’ll be like a sleepover.”

 

That word triggered a deep, old memory and Harry cocked his head to peruse it. He remembered his cousin having a sleepover with all of his friends and having lots of fun while he was locked in his cupboard. He wanted a sleepover, so he smiled. He nodded his head and slid down to the floor and loped over to Jason and climbed up onto his lap, straddling him.

 

“So I stay with you for tonight. Can Stephen come with us?”

 

“Sure, my bed will fit three as you’re very small.”

 

Harry grinned and cuddled into Jason happily.

 

“Nathaniel too?” Harry asked.

 

“Now fitting him and those new shoulders of his in our bed might be a little difficult.” Jason said.

 

“We’ll work something out, I’m sure. You don’t mind, do you Anita?” Nathaniel asked her softly.

 

She shook her head. “No, I heard about his sleeping troubles, it might help to have you there as Richard won’t be back until late. There’s a crisis with a werewolf at the coalition, Micah texted me to say that they’d both be home late.”

 

Nathaniel nodded and Anita watched as Harry was bundled up and sequestered away. He was already fast asleep on Jason’s shoulder. It still creeped her out how quickly he could fall asleep and how quickly he became alert after just waking up. She knew that it was because of the trauma of living in a cage and not knowing when he was going to be pulled out for an experiment, but it was still rather unnatural.

 

“You seem to be in a good mood today, ma petite.” Jean-Claude said carefully.

 

“Not a good mood, not after the two new babies we pulled out of the ground this evening, I’m just grateful for the information, particularly that two of the doctors are related, Agent Bradford suggested praising Harry and giving him a gift to make him feel like the exchange of information was more positive, rather than something that will only give him more nightmares.”

 

“It was still kind and the gift you chose was rather well thought out.” Jean-Claude insisted.

 

“I called Nathaniel while I was taking a half an hour to eat and he told me that Harry was coming to the end of his colouring book.”

 

“Have you fed other hungers?”

 

Anita shook her head. “I fed the ardeur this morning, but with Micah working late and Nathaniel sleeping with Harry, I don’t have anyone to help me feed tomorrow morning.”

 

“Come, we shall retire for tonight and if you need to feed again tomorrow, we shall deal with it.” Jean-Claude insisted as he took Anita’s hand and led her away. It was Anita who grabbed a hold of Asher’s hand and pulled him along too.

 

“Are you sure, ma Cherie?”

 

“I’m sure.” She said with a smile. “I’ve been distant lately, with this case going on as long as it is and I’m working every day, it’s getting to me and making me edgy. So I think I’ve earned a lie in tomorrow, unless Bradford calls me early with a breakthrough, I should be able to spend some time with you both.”

 

“Let us not waste this precious time then.” Jean-Claude insisted as he pulled Anita to his bedroom and she in turn pulled Asher.

 

It had been a while since the three of them had been in the bedroom together. He was going to savour tonight, even if he had to tease the both of them for hours.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry woke up warm and cosy, sandwiched between two bodies that were both holding him tight and he poked his head up to look around him. He didn’t recognise the feel of the bed he was in.

He remembered then that he’d gone to bed with Jason, Stephen and Nathaniel because Richard wasn’t going to be home in time for him to go to sleep.

He snuggled back in and he went back to sleep, reassured that he was safe in his sleep tucked under Jason’s arm and against Nathaniel’s back with Stephen just on the other side of the lovely wereleopard. The doctors wouldn’t get him here, surrounded by so many people. He was completely safe and he could sleep in peace.

He woke up again when someone moved and he shot upright and he looked around, hoping that he was still safe.

 

“Am I safe?” He asked softly.

 

“You’re safe.” Jason told him. “It’s morning though, you need breakfast and I need a shower, we have rehearsal today.”

 

Harry grinned. “I remember.”

 

“Good morning, Harry. Did you sleep alright?” Nathaniel asked him.

 

Harry nodded his head as he brushed his eyes with his hands. “I had lots of sleep tonight. You keep away the doctors.”

 

“That’s a good thing.” Stephen told him as he pulled him into a hug.

 

Harry got off the bed and stretched before he went to the door.

 

“Are you going to find Richard?” Jason asked.

 

Harry nodded as he turned the orb shaped handle and loped away to find Richard. He knew enough now to find his way to the living room without getting lost and he grinned as he rushed to the living room to find Richard. Thankfully he was stood right there in the living room and Harry was so happy to see him.

He slipped up behind the big werewolf and wrapped his arms around his waist.

 

“I missed you last night.” He said softly.

 

“I missed you too. Did you sleep alright?”

 

Harry nodded happily. “Yes. Did you sleep okay without me?”

 

“Well, it was a little lonely and cold all on my own, but I did sleep alright.” Richard said with a smile.

 

Harry laughed and squeezed him tight.

 

“I wanted to see you before you went to work. Is Jamil staying with me again?”

 

“No, Jamil needs to go out of town for a bit.”

 

“Will I be on my own?” Harry frowned.

 

“No, Harry. No. You’ll be with Micah today.”

 

“Cat man.” Harry said in a whisper.

 

“I know he’s not your favourite, but he’s the only one today, Harry. Unless you want to stay with Claudia and Lisandro?”

 

Harry shook his head empathetically. “No. They still don’t like me after I binded them, I’ll stay with Micah.”

 

“I’m not in work tomorrow, Harry. I can spend the day with you.”

 

Harry grinned widely and he clapped his hands. “Yay, can we go back outside? I like the outside.”

 

“Sure, I’ll find us something to do.”

 

Harry squealed.

 

“Well, you are excited.”

 

Harry turned and smiled at the cat man. Micah had never hurt him and had never wanted to. Not like the other cat man in the factory. He’d been horrible to him.

 

“Richard is spending the day with me tomorrow!” Harry said excitedly. “Will we have fun today too?”

 

“I’m sure we will. You need some more clothes, so we’re going to get you some new ones.”

 

“Do you think it’s a good idea to take him out around other people?”

 

“I think he’s shown that he’s doing well enough for a quick trip to a clothes shop.” Micah said with a smile. “He’s ripped three shirts, worn holes in two pairs of jeans and he used a tee-shirt to put glue on a chair so that he could make it glittery.”

 

“I thought it was a good idea at the time.” Harry said with a bashful shrug. “I wanted to use paint, but I couldn’t open the top and Graham wouldn’t open it for me.”

 

The two men laughed and Harry grinned at having made them happy.

 

“I see your point. But you watch him, you keep hold of his hand at all times!” Richard said seriously.

 

“You know that I will, Richard. I care for him too.”

 

Richard nodded and he hugged Harry goodbye as Jason, Stephen and Nathaniel came into the living room.

 

“You three need a ride to Guilty Pleasures?” Richard asked. “It’s on the way to the school.”

 

“Thank you.” Stephen answered respectfully of his Ulfric.

 

An hour later Harry was dressed, his hair had been combed and tied back and he had happily eaten his breakfast of watery porridge with his soft spoon, though he kept an eye on Micah the cat man.

 

“Are you ready to go?”

 

Harry nodded as he sucked his juice carton. He knew how to open it with a straw now, but he couldn’t suck with the straw, he couldn’t get his mouth around it properly.

He sat in the car happily enough, he remembered this from when Richard had taken him out, for the big moon. He was safe, he knew that, the car was nothing to be afraid of.

Harry was happy to hold Micah’s hand and he watched interestedly as they passed all the other people.

 

“Lots of people.” He said as he took all of them in. There were so many of them and they were all different and interesting.

 

“They’re nothing to be afraid of, I promise. They’re just going about their own business, just like we are. We’re going shopping and so are they.”

 

Harry grinned. “Okay. We’re shopping.” He told a passing woman, who leapt away from him in fright.

 

“I’m sorry. He doesn’t mean any harm.” Micah said with a disarming smile from behind his sunglasses.

 

The woman nodded, but she hurried away quickly.

 

Harry kept trying to go down to the floor when things caught his attention, but Micah held his hand tightly and kept him on his feet and walking.

 

“Have you had ice cream before?” He asked to distract him.

 

Harry shook his head. “Is it food?”

 

Micah nodded. “Nice food. If you’re good, we can get some after we’ve gotten you some new clothes.”

 

Harry nodded. “I’ll be good. I might get more colouring books!” He said excitedly.

 

Micah chuckled and pulled him in closer and wrapped an arm around his shoulders as they made their way through the mall and into a clothes shop.

Harry was not interested in picking out his favourite shirts, he wouldn’t even pick between colours and showed no interest in fashion or shopping at all. He wanted to play with the rails, the coat hangers, the flooring and even stretched himself up to touch mirrors and pictures that were hanging on the walls. So Micah kept a very close eye on him, and an ear, as he picked out clothes for Harry, including new jeans and some warm jumpers.

He paid quickly, went into a few more stores and got some more clothes, and then he took Harry for the ice cream that he’d promised him. He hadn’t realised exactly how challenging that would be, however. Perhaps he should have and he’d known that it was a mistake the moment the words had left his mouth when he’d asked Harry what flavour he wanted, because of course Harry didn’t know what he was talking about and blinked blankly at him before looking at the large selection of ice cream on offer.

 

“Let’s just get you a vanilla.” Micah said wryly. 

 

Harry nodded and he smiled as he watched the man behind the counter scoop out one vanilla and then one strawberry scoop into little cardboard pots with a little plastic spoon.

  

“Use your fingers, Harry.” Micah encouraged. “You won’t like the plastic spoon. It’ll be cold, but I’m sure you’ll like it.”

 

Harry did like the ice cream. A lot. He finished his own vanilla scoop and then started dipping his already sticky fingers into Micah’s half eaten strawberry scoop. He laughed and handed it over happily enough, letting Harry taste the difference between vanilla and strawberry.

 

“Which one did you like the most?” Micah asked as he made sure that he had all of his bags with him as he held on tightly to Harry’s hand as he bounced around him, trying to dart off to whatever had caught his attention. Perhaps getting him the ice cream had been a bad idea for more reasons than just picking a flavour.

 

“I liked them both, but yours was better.” Harry said with a grin.

 

“Next time you can try different ones.” He promised, already thinking about texting Nathaniel to pick up some tubs for Harry to try as a treat. It would be better for him to have his hyper sugar rush in the safety of the Circus rather than out here in a public mall.

 

“Thank you, Micah. You’re not bad at all. I thought all cat men were bad, but you’re not.”

 

“Of course not. I care about you very much.” Micah promised as he reaffirmed his grip on Harry’s hand and took them back to the car.

 

“The other cat man was bad. His cage was right next to mine and he liked biting me. He’d pull my legs through the bars and bite me. He bit everyone, even the doctors!” Harry said the last in a whisper, as if he couldn’t possibly image anyone doing such a thing.

 

Micah hummed but he shook the bags down his arm and used his free hand to pull out his cell phone. He texted Anita the new information as he got Harry settled in the car and put the bags in the back.

 

“Did you have a good time?” Micah asked.

 

Harry nodded. “I missed my colouring, but I liked going shopping and I liked ice cream too.”

 

“I’m glad, maybe we could do it again some when?”

 

Harry nodded and smiled. “I’d like that. You’re not a bad cat man.”

 

Micah parked up at the Circus and got Harry inside with his bags and immediately distracted him with his colouring. He indicated that Fredo, who was standing on guard in the otherwise empty living room, should watch Harry for a moment while he put the bags away. He called Anita when he was in Harry’s room packing away the new clothes.

 

‘Hey Micah, thanks for the text.’

 

“You got it then? I remember you said about the body you’d found with the blood on the teeth. It fits with what Harry was telling me.”

 

‘It fits more than you know. The body has weretiger DNA and with Harry confirming that he was biting the doctors, we’re now very hopeful that that blood sample will match to one of the doctors. If you can, see if Harry knows who this man bit last, if we have names to throw around when we catch any of these people, it’ll help the inquiries.’

 

“I’ll see what I can do. He’s in a good mood at the moment. He had his first taste of ice cream and he’s back with that colouring book you bought for him. I’ll text you anything more that I find out.”

 

‘Thank you, Micah. I’ll see you later tonight.’

 

“I love you.”

 

‘I love you more.’

 

Micah chuckled and headed back into the living room. Harry was still sat on the floor, colouring furiously. His hot air balloon was very creatively coloured and his sun was purple.

 

“That looks lovely, Harry.” He praised.

 

Harry grinned and stopped working for a moment to look at him.

 

“I like this colour.” He said pointing to the sun.

 

“That’s purple.” Micah told him.

 

“Purple.” Harry repeated as he picked up the purple pencil, staring at it hard. “Purple.”

 

“Purple is often thought to be a regal colour, as most royal families wear it.”

 

Harry blinked at him. “Why doesn’t Jean-Claude wear purple then?”

 

Micah tried not to laugh, but there was no way he could stop himself from grinning.

 

“He likes white better.”

 

“But white is blank, it’s nothing. He should wear purple.” Harry nodded and Micah bit his lip to keep his laughter in as Fredo coughed to cover a laugh from where he was stood at the back wall.

 

Micah sat with Harry, fed him his lunch and watched as the boy coloured and fought off sleep before he brought up the topic of the cat man again. He’d even sat himself on the floor and asked if he could colour with Harry, though he was using blank paper and not a colouring book, but Harry had allowed him to use his pencils. It was a small show of trust on Harry’s part and a bit of proof that Harry didn’t completely hate him. He took it for the good omen that it was, he just hoped that Harry still liked him after he had questioned him a little bit. Though the worst thing about questioning Harry was obviously how upset or distressed it could possibly make him. He would hate to destroy the small bond that they’d begun forming today, not to mention the fact that Richard and Asher would likely never forgive him if he upset Harry overly much, if they didn’t out right tear him to pieces.

 

“You know you told me about the cat man, Harry. That he liked biting the doctors? Do you remember which doctor he bit last?” He asked right to the point. He didn’t want to waste questions by asking little, useless things that wouldn’t help and risk Harry getting too upset when he asked the important question that Anita wanted asked and then clamming up.

 

The effect had been immediate. Harry had stopped what he was doing and he had stilled from the moment that he had mentioned the cat man and he’d whimpered when he’d mentioned the doctors, but he’d taken in a deep breath and he’d settled himself. He did not make eye contact and he fiddled with his pencil, watching it as he played with it.

 

“The doctors didn’t like him. He was always biting them. He bit Ruby the last time, before Issy-ah had enough and he shot him in the head and told the underlings to bury him. That was just before the factory was found. I was glad he was gone, I didn’t like him eating me.”

 

“Eating you?” Micah asked, trying to get eye contact with Harry. “He wasn’t just biting you?”

 

Harry shook his head. “He said that he missed chewing and he missed eating meat. He would bite me and the girl on the other side of him. He’d take bites out of us, even when the doctors poked him with the shocky sticks.”

 

“But the last doctor he bit was Ruby?”

 

Harry nodded. “She opened his brain to see what was making him bite people, but when he was being put back in his cage he fought off the sleepy medicine and he bit her arm, dragging his teeth down it. Issy-ah hated seeing his sister hurt, so he ordered the cat man to be killed. All his blood and brainy bits got on me when he was shot.”

 

“He was shot next to you?” Micah asked in horror.

 

Harry nodded. “Issy-ah ordered him killed right away and a man pulled out a gun and shot him in the head. It exploded and went out everywhere and I couldn’t get away because I was in my cage.”

 

Micah nodded, trying to look reassuring even though he felt sick to his stomach. “You’re away from them now, Harry. You won’t ever see them again.”

 

Harry nodded his head trustingly. “I like it here.” He said simply before going back to his colouring.

 

Micah made an excuse about needing the bathroom and he left to call Anita again. He hoped that Ruby being the last doctor bitten would help her and Agent Bradford in their investigation. He saw how badly affected Anita was with this case and he knew, just from what Harry had said and the tidbits that Anita had told him that this case was very bad, she was even having the odd nightmare herself because of this case, something which he couldn’t ever remember happening to his lover before. He wanted this all over and done with already, for her sake, and for Harry’s.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen – Arrest

 

Harry was quiet for the rest of the day and Micah knew that it was all because of his earlier questioning. Harry had even been unusually subdued when he’d greeted an awakened Asher and Micah felt terribly guilty for that, at least until Nathaniel and Jason came home and cheered Harry right up with a newly bought tub of chocolate ice cream for him to try.

 

“Thank you.” Micah said to the lovely wereleopard whom he shared a house and a bed with, as he pulled the taller boy into a hug.

 

“He seems very quiet, is he okay?”

 

“I questioned him a bit about the doctors for Anita, he answered me easily enough, but he went quiet soon after.”

 

“The ice cream should help.” Nathaniel smiled as Jason handed Harry a bowl with his soft spoon and they watched as Harry took the treat into his mouth and sucked on it, a look of bliss taking over his face.

 

“This one’s my favourite, favourite.” He declared and Micah smiled to see him back to his normal self…well, normal for Harry at least.

 

“How did I know that he’d like the chocolate one best?” He said with a smile as he watched Harry perk right up. He made a mental note to tell everyone to leave him be for the rest of today at least. Harry needed to know that he could relax here without the fear that as soon as he did relax then he’d be questioned.

 

“It’s the one with the most sugar.” Jason said as he stood with him and Nathaniel, watching Harry clumsily spoon chocolate ice cream into his mouth. “He looked a little…down earlier, what happened?”

 

“I found out today that the ‘cat man’ in the cage next to him liked taking bites out of him. He doesn’t like cat people because the man in the cage next to him liked grabbing a hold of him and eating him. The bastard was shot in the head, right in front of Harry, so he’s likely traumatised over that too.”

 

“Did you mention that to Anita?”

 

“I called her as soon as I knew.” Micah nodded as he watched as Harry used his ice cream covered fingers to colour in the elephant on the next page. It made him chuckle.

 

Asher was the one who eased himself down next to Harry and took a wet wipe to his messy face and hands. Just like a Mother to her toddler.

 

“No, Asher.” Harry complained as he turned and twisted away from the vampire and his wet wipe.

 

“You need to be clean, mon ange.” Asher argued as he pulled Harry to sit on his lap and managed to get Harry’s cheeks and chin with his wet wipe.

 

Harry gave in then, once Asher had cleaned most of his face already, and he pouted with teary eyes at Asher, who refused to give in to the look directed at him.

 

Non, you need to be clean.” Asher insisted sternly as he took Harry’s bowl and spoon away from him and handed it off to a guard to deal with.

 

“I wasn’t that dirty.” Harry mumbled to himself as he turned and went back to his colouring. His half, ice cream smeared elephant got finished in green and Micah had to smile at the thought of what was possibly going on in Harry’s mind as he looked at his elephant.

 

“Where is Jean-Claude?” Jason asked.

 

“He went back to his bedroom to make some important calls. Harry kept trying to say hello to everyone on the other end of the line.” Micah explained. “I don’t think he’s eaten yet.”

 

Jason nodded and he made his way through to Jean-Claude’s bedroom to feed him. Harry didn’t notice him leaving.

Micah sat down and he had to smile when Nathaniel sat next to him and snuggled in. They took a moment to bond as they watched Harry colour in his elephant and then after the elephant came a boat on a lake. It wasn’t until Richard came back that Harry so much as moved and the moment he caught sight of Richard, he went up on his knees, arms thrown up, beseeching Richard to pick him up, clamouring him with little chants of his name and Richard just laughed, hefting Harry up and onto his hip.

 

“How have you been? Did you enjoy your shopping trip?”

 

Harry nodded seriously. “I got ice cream. I got a nilla one, but then I tried stwarberry and I liked that one more, but Jason got me chocate and I like that one the bestest.”  

 

“Oh, so you’re all pumped full of sugar?” Richard asked and Harry nodded with a grin.

 

“Micah’s not so bad.” Harry told Richard as if he wasn’t sat a few feet away from him and could hear every word that he was saying. “He wouldn’t let me play with the other people, but he got me ice cream and I really like ice cream. He didn’t bite me either.” Harry nodded as if Micah had passed a test that Harry had been administering.

 

“Well, that’s good.” Richard said a little lost on what to reply with.

 

Harry just nodded and snuggled into Richard tightly. He yawned just the once and minutes later he was fast asleep, clutching at Richard tightly.

 

“He was afraid that you’d bite him?” Richard questioned, trying to get his head around what he had been told by Harry.

 

“He doesn’t like cat men because a weretiger was in the cage next to him. A weretiger who apparently missed chewing meat and would take bites out of Harry and eat him.”

 

Richard looked as disgusted as Micah had ever seen him.

 

“The information helped Anita a lot too.” Micah told the Ulfric. “The body they found with blood on his teeth, he has weretiger DNA and his body had the back of his head blown off. Harry confirmed that the weretiger bit one of the doctors, Ruby, and that the head doctor, Isiah, Ruby’s brother, ordered him killed because of it. The weretiger was shot in the head right next to Harry. The blood sample on those teeth belongs to one of the head doctors.”

 

Richard nodded, but he was holding Harry tighter and stroking a hand down his back repeatedly to comfort him from past horrors while he slept.

 

“The more he reveals the more I want to just hold him and take that pain away from him. I don’t understand how anyone can be so cruel. He was just a little boy.”

 

“Anita’s getting closer to finishing this case.” Micah said. “It’ll be like a domino effect, if they get one, the others will fall. They just need to tie everything in and then we will get justice for Harry. From what Anita’s been saying, it’ll start with those Dursleys…the family who kept Harry in a cupboard and sold him to those doctors in the first place.”

 

“Maybe once we find them, we’ll find out who Harry really is.” Richard murmured thoughtfully as he shifted Harry to a more comfortable position. It was testament to how much Harry trusted him now that he never woke up when Richard moved him anymore. Not like when he’d first arrived and the slightest noise or touch woke him up like a shot.

 

“It doesn’t matter to me if it does turn out that he’s twenty.” Micah said as he looked at Harry’s sleeping form.

 

“It does not matter to me, either.” Asher said from his armchair. “He is still Harry, mon ange, and he’ll still look to me to hold him and protect him. I will not fail him.”

 

Richard took in a breath and he nodded as he realised that they were right. It didn’t matter if they found out tomorrow that Harry was actually a twenty year old man. Harry would still be crawling around the floor, eating mashed up bananas and ice cream with a weaning spoon and using pencils to colour in pictures.

He’d still need their help to use the bathroom, he’d still need their help to climb stairs and he’d still need someone to sleep with him, just in case he had a nightmare. He’d still be the same mentally regressed boy that they had come to know because he hadn’t had any sort of normal upbringing and he couldn’t do anything for himself because he’d been kept locked up in a tiny cage. Or at least he couldn’t do anything for himself yet, but between them, they were all helping to teach Harry new things and he was learning steadily.

Richard sighed and held Harry tighter. If he did find out that Harry was twenty, hell if he was twenty-five, it wouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference. They would still have to teach Harry everything he’d need to know and they’d still have to care for him and look after him. It wouldn’t make any sort of difference how old he was. It didn’t matter.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Anita was truly smiling for the first time in what felt like months. They’d found them. The Dursleys that was. They’d been arrested in Britain and then extradited to Saint Louis.

There were three of them, just as Harry had said. Vernon Dursley was a very obese man in his forties, but he looked much older due to his hefty weight and his thinning, greyish red hair.

His Wife, Petunia Dursley, was in contrast, a thin, horse faced, blonde woman also in her forties. She had twice the normal amount of neck and was sneering at everyone she met, insisting that she and her family were normal.

It was as Bradford said to her, people who often insisted obsessively that they had nothing to hide, often had the worst secrets to keep. Thinking of Harry, Anita was inclined to agree with him.

Their son, Dudley, took mostly after his Father but he had his Mother’s blonde hair. He was nearly eighteen and his hair was already thinning like his Father’s and he was wider across than he was tall.

Anita couldn’t even believe that these people were related to Harry, but as she listened to the interrogation, conducted by a highly trained FBI agent, it was becoming clear from the waffling and the differing stories that at least two out of the three of them were lying through their teeth.

 

“We know that you know who this boy is.” The agent was saying, holding up a recent picture of Harry. Petunia Dursley had gasped and almost choked on air when she’d first been shown the pictures of Harry. A dead giveaway if Anita had ever seen one.

 

“I don’t.” Mrs Dursley insisted stubbornly.

 

“Then we can slap obstructing the course of justice, lying in a federal case and withholding information on top of child trafficking and child abuse.”

 

“You can’t do this! I’ve never seen that boy before in my life!”

 

“Your son says otherwise.”

 

Anita gave a flash of teeth as Mrs Petunia Dursley paled and made a weak moaning, sighing sound.

 

“Dudley might…might be confused.” She tried.

 

“He doesn’t think so. He remembers this boy, Harry, living with him for as far back as his memory goes. Dudley says that Harry just vanished one day when he was in school when he was eight. Dudley has told us that this boy, Harry, is his cousin, your own nephew, your sister’s son.”

 

Anita had the immense satisfaction of watching the woman sway weakly on her chair before she grappled for her plastic cup of water with shaking hands that rattled her handcuffs.

 

“You see, we’ve done some digging. A lot of digging, into your past, including your time on Privet Drive. You did have another young boy living with you, a Harry James Potter. He vanished just days before you and your Husband packed up your home and announced that you were moving, completely out of the blue, according to your old neighbours.”

 

Anita rather thought that Dursley was going to faint as she wavered from side to side.

 

“You sold Harry to another person and then you packed up and left to cover yourselves, didn’t you?”

 

“That’s not true.” Petunia denied weakly.

 

“Tell us who you sold him to!” The agent demanded.

 

“My Dudley, he was only a boy, only eight. He shouldn’t be involved in this.”

 

“Oh? So you’re ready to admit now that you do know Harry?” The agent said harshly. “That he did live with you? I’m afraid to say that Dudley is involved, he is a witness to the existence of Harry and his presence in Privet Drive. If you cooperate however, he will be free to go home.”

 

Anita knew this tactic. Technically speaking, they had nothing on Dudley Dursley. He was obese, rude, utterly foul, but he’d been a child the last time that he’d seen Harry and he’d been in school on the day that they suspected that Harry had been sold. They couldn’t hold him and they couldn’t charge him with anything, but if the false threat of holding him got Petunia to sing like a canary then at this point they were willing to use any tactic that they could.

 

“Harry was my nephew.” Petunia admitted. “My sister and her drunk of a Husband got themselves killed and I was forced to take in their son when I already had a son of my own to care for.”

 

“So you sold him?” The agent demanded, not being taken in at all by the sympathetic plea.

 

“We didn’t sell him, he ran away!” Petunia insisted harshly.

 

“An eight year old boy does not just run away for no reason. So we get to the abuse that Harry suffered under your care. Keeping him in a cupboard for instance.”

 

Anita watched as Petunia Dursley did faint at that and she heaved a sigh. She turned to Bradford.

 

“What now?”

 

“We see to her and make sure she’s not knocked what little sense is left out of her head and then shove her back in her holding cell and then we bring in her Husband and let him know exactly what his Wife has been saying. We’ll add the pressure and get him to confess to selling Harry and to who and then once we have names, we throw them to a court and have them in prison for child abuse and trafficking. It feels wonderful to be doing something and getting somewhere, doesn’t it?”

 

Anita laughed. “Yes, I just wish that you’d let me have a few minutes with them.”

 

“I’ve told you, not with the civilians.” Bradford told her with a smile of his own.

 

“I just want them to tell the truth. We know what’s happened, we know what they’ve done, why can’t they just admit it already. I don’t like this back and forth game play.”

 

“It’s all about self-preservation. They’re trying to save as much skin on their own necks as they can.”

 

“I’m not going to let them. Not after what they’ve done to Harry.”

 

“We won’t either, believe that, Anita. These people will not get away with what they’ve done. Human trafficking is bad enough but when it’s an innocent eight year old who’d already been abused…” Bradford trailed off with a heavy sigh. “I think this case has aged me.”

 

“I know what you mean.” Anita answered as she watched as Vernon Dursley was brought into the interrogation room, his hands handcuffed and tethered together with a chain.

 

“Go and get us a coffee.” Bradford barked at a junior agent before he turned back to the two way mirror with interest.

 

“So, Mister Dursley. Here we are again. Have you changed your mind since we last saw you?”

 

“I have nothing to hide!” Vernon Dursley roared. “I don’t know that boy!”

 

“Well, you see, Mister Dursley, we have a problem. Because we questioned your son after you and then your Wife, and the both of them do know who the boy is. Your Wife’s nephew, isn’t that right?”

 

Anita watched with satisfaction as the overlarge man’s red, ruddy face started paling with every word that the interrogator spoke.

 

“So, let’s start again, shall we? I want the truth this time, Mister Dursley. Who did you sell Harry to?”

 

“What’s going to happen to my Wife and son?” Dursley demanded.

 

Anita sipped her Styrofoam cup of machine coffee and waited to see what the interrogator would say now.

 

“At the moment? At the moment they’re both facing jail time, they’re implicated in child abuse, child abandonment and human trafficking. It doesn’t have to be that way if you tell us who you sold Harry to.”

 

“I want a deal.”

 

“Do you think that this is a TV programme?” The interrogator asked with a condescending laugh. “Is getting your son and Wife off of these charges not enough for you, Dursley? Tell us who you sold Harry to!”

 

“He never gave a name.” Vernon Dursley relented, his fat shoulders slumping in defeat and beside her, Bradford made an eager noise as he stepped closer to the glass in an attempt not to miss a single word.

 

“He must have asked you to call him something.” The interrogator insisted.

 

“He said to just call him doctor.”

 

“I assume you found out about him somehow?”

 

Dursley shook his head. “No. He came to me, said he knew that I had a child that I didn’t want. He offered me thirty thousand pounds in cash to take the boy off of my hands.”

 

“And just like that you accepted. Harry’s life was worth thirty thousand pounds to you?”

 

“He’d been nothing but trouble since the day he was left on our doorstep!”

 

“So you resented him enough to sell him to someone you had only just met and didn’t even care what that man wanted to do to the boy.”

 

“I always suspected that it was to do with the sex trade, I’m not hiding that. The boy was always strangely cute looking. It wasn’t natural.”

 

Anita almost dropped her Styrofoam cup of coffee at hearing that little piece of information. Vernon Dursley had just admitted, while being recorded, that he had knowingly sold an eight year old boy into what he’d thought was sex trafficking.

 

“Sick bastard.” Bradford growled furiously.

 

“He actually admitted to that?!” Anita said shocked.

 

Bradford glanced at her then back to the interrogation. “He doesn’t know what that man actually wanted with Harry. He didn’t know that it was for human experimentation. It’s natural to assume sex slavery when a man offers you money for a young ‘cute looking’ boy and with all the news casts and books and films detailing about it, it plays more on everyone’s mind these days. It just shows how truly twisted these Dursleys actually are.”

 

Anita’s hand clenched into a tight fist as she listened to Dursley speak, how he’d dragged Harry to a small, all but abandoned car park in the middle of nowhere to hand the small eight year old off to a man he’d thought would traffic Harry into sex slavery. How he’d accepted the case of money, made sure that it was all there before he’d left without looking back.

 

“What was Harry doing while all of this was going on?” The interrogator asked. “I assume that he wouldn’t have been standing there silently, just watching everything unfold.”

 

Dursley looked up at the interrogator and then back down to the table.

 

“The boy was naïve and docile. I told him to behave and he did.” Dursley hesitated. “At least until we arrived at the drop off point. He…he seemed to know what was going on. He was always a little freak, not like normal boys, he saw the exchange of money and he just knew. He started crying and begging, trying to run. The doctor grabbed him, held him still and gave him an injection in the neck that put him to sleep and he put the boy in the boot of the car.”

 

“That was the last time you saw him?” The interrogator asked.

 

Dursley nodded.

 

“You weren’t at all concerned about what you’d just seen?”

 

“Of course he wasn’t. He had the money, he didn’t care about anything else.” Anita growled.

 

“The man was a doctor.” Dursley answered. “He knew what he was doing.”

 

“No, he told you to call him Doctor. Did he ever show you any paperwork or proof that he was an actual doctor and not just a human smuggler?”

 

Dursley’s silence was answer enough.

 

“So you accepted money from a stranger, just for said man to smuggle Harry here to America. You are facing several very serious charges here, Mister Dursley. I hope you realise that.”

 

Dursley nodded miserably. “But my Wife and son will be let go? It was my decision to sell the boy, I was the one who drove him to that carpark and I handed him over.”

 

“We certainly appreciate your recorded confession.” The interrogator said happily.

 

“Are we leaving it here?” Anita asked Bradley Bradford when the interrogator collected all the sheets of paper and printed photographs back into a folder.

 

Bradford nodded. “We’ve got everything we needed. Now we have to press Petunia again and make sure she corroborates his story and then we charge them.”

 

“What about the son?” Anita asked.

 

“He was a child when all this happened, so we’ll send him back to Britain.” Bradford told her. “He’s going back tomorrow, because he’s a foul little brat and I can’t stand to have him here for any longer and my Agents are actually begging for paperwork in place of babysitting him.”

 

“Is he really that bad? I mean, Harry’s a handful, but…”

 

“Don’t compare the two.” Bradford told her with a grimace. “Harry’s been hurt, abused, experimented on and kept in a cupboard and then a cage. He’s fucked up in the simplest ways so that he can’t actually function properly as he doesn’t have the social skills necessary to tell him what he needs to do, but he’s sweet, kind, mostly curious. You said that he’s learning fast too. Dursleys’ son is disgusting, he’s close minded, self-entitled and a misogynist to boot. He actually told one of my agents that she belonged in a kitchen making her husband dinner and then demanded lunch from her. He compares men by what car they drive, or what style of suit they wear or what job they do and even by how ‘hot’ their Wife or girlfriend is, but women are automatically under men, no matter if they’re the top ranking agent in the room, wearing Prada and driving a Ferrari with a male model on their arm. He’s foul and I want rid of him.”

 

“By the sounds of things your agents will be getting rid of him themselves if he doesn’t stitch his lip.”

 

Bradford snorted. “Oh a few of them want to. I see them inching their hands towards their weapons, but it would be bad for us if we had a dead eighteen year old on our hands.”

 

“He’s eighteen?” Anita asked, her mind clicking over. “He was about the same age as Harry too, wasn’t he?”

 

“He’s seventeen, Anita, which is why we had to contact his Aunt to collect him from the airport. He’ll be eighteen in June, but Harry was younger, so he’s seventeen, nearing eighteen too.”

 

“Have they given a direct date? Harry thinks he was born in late summer and he always said he was seventeen.”

 

“He knows more than people think.” Bradford said with a smile. “Harry’s date of birth is the thirty-first of July, he is seventeen.”

 

“Thank you. It’d been driving us mad trying to work out how old he is, because he looks about twelve, but he was saying that he was seventeen and then everyone was thinking that he could actually be older.”

 

“You should have listened to the little guy. He might be socially inept and childlike, but he might surprise you all with how insightful he can be.”

 

Anita nodded and took in a breath, preparing herself to call the Circus while Vernon was led back to his holding cell and Petunia was dragged back in. It felt good to be getting somewhere, even if it was tiny little baby steps forward, they were still going in the right direction.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry had turned while he’d been asleep. He’d gone from quiet, sweet angel who sat down for hours at a time colouring, giggling at things like buttons and shoelaces to a little monster who was refusing to do anything and he kept screaming.

 

“Did you have a nightmare, Harry?” Richard tried. “A bad dream?”

 

“No!” Harry shouted at him, pushing a mug off of the glass table, spilling its coffee contents onto the plush carpet.

 

“He must have done.” Micah said quietly. “Why else would he be doing this?”

 

“Harry, it’s okay to talk.” Richard coaxed gently.

 

Harry glared at him, for the first time ever, Harry actually glared and that it was aimed at him made his gut twist. He didn’t like it.

Harry picked up the tipped mug and he threw it right at him, thankfully Shang-Da was there to snatch it out of thin air, because Richard was so shocked by Harry’s behaviour that he was too dumbfounded to move.

 

“What is wrong, mon ange?” Asher tried, looking as upset by this meltdown as Richard felt.

 

Harry threw himself bodily back to the floor and he screamed as if someone was taking a knife to him. His fingers and toes were all clenched in, his knees and elbows were locked in bent positions and Harry screamed and screamed.

Anita burst into the room, gun out and she took one look at Harry before rushing to him and pillowing his head on her lap, slipping both of her hands into Harry’s.

 

“What in the hell happened?” She demanded.

 

“We don’t know.” A tearful Nathaniel told her. “He just woke up and he was strange, a bit groggy instead of being alert right away and it took him a moment to recognise us and where he was and he just started playing up and then he stared screaming. We don’t know what to do.”

 

“Get Lillian.” Anita ordered as she freed one of her hands to cup Harry’s chin, working her thumb into his mouth and between his teeth. “It looks like he’s having a seizure.”

 

“A seizure?!” Richard gasped in shock. “What in the hell caused it?”

 

“He is an abused boy who’s had unknown experiments performed on him!” Anita snapped at him angrily. “He said himself that the doctors used to open their skulls and poke about, that they messed with their organs and fuck knows what else! That’s cause enough.”

 

“Would a seizure have caused a meltdown like the one Harry had before the actual event or did the meltdown trigger the seizure?” Jason asked quietly.

 

“I’m not a doctor, but I would assume that the meltdown triggered the seizure, what happened during his meltdown?”

 

“Like Nathaniel said, he woke up different. He was groggy and confused and there was no recognition. He started having a tantrum and he knocked things over and threw stuff, then he threw himself backwards and started screaming and then his body locked.” Jason explained.

 

“But there was nothing that outwardly caused his change in behaviour?”

 

“Nothing. He woke up like it.”

 

“A nightmare perhaps?”

 

“I tried asking him that, but he kept screaming no at me.” Richard explained.

 

“One that he doesn’t want to talk about perhaps.” Anita sighed as she tried to prevent Harry from swallowing his tongue and from bashing his head against the floor as he writhed in her lap.

 

Lillian came rushing in, down from the upper part of the Circus as she’d been driving home from the lycanthrope clinic when she’d been called and she rushed to her knees to check Harry over.

 

“Is it a seizure?” Richard asked.

 

“Yes. A bad one.” Lillian said sadly.

 

“What caused it?”

 

“It’s difficult to say. Harry might actually be epileptic and that could be the cause, but there’s no telling what damage those doctors did to his brain in their so called experiments.”

 

“Lilan.” Harry sobbed softly as he calmed down.

 

“I’m here, sweetheart.” Lillian assured him softly.

 

“Scared.”

 

“I know you’re scared, but it’s going to be okay. You’re going to be fine.”

 

“Richard.”

 

Richard moved immediately and got onto his knees beside Harry, cupping his cheek and bringing their eye line into contact.

 

“I’m right here.” He assured the young boy.

 

“Scared.” Harry repeated as tears fell from his eyes.

 

“It’s going to be alright. You’ve just had a bit of a shock, that’s all.”

 

“Didn’t mean to throw things at you.” Harry whimpered.

 

“I know. It’s okay.” Richard insisted bending over Harry so that he could rest their foreheads together in the way that always made Harry smile.

 

It was a little weak and shaky due to fear, but Richard delighted in seeing the smile on Harry’s face again, he moved back and kissed Harry’s forehead before sitting back up and holding those tiny, delicate hands in his own.

 

“We found out some good news today, Harry.” Anita told him and Harry moved to look at her. “We found out when you were born. It was in July and it was nearly August. You’re very clever.”

 

Harry grinned at the praise and he yawned, closing his eyes, but unlike before where he’d immediately drop off to sleep, his hands kept twitching, his eyes kept opening as if he wanted to sleep and couldn’t or he was tired, but too afraid to sleep.

 

“How old is he?” Micah asked.

 

“As old as he said he was.” Anita said with a smile. “He’s seventeen. He was sold when he was eight and he spent nine years in that factory.”

 

“God, I’d hoped…”

 

“We all hoped that he was younger. That he hadn’t spent so long in that factory, but he has and now we deal with it.” Anita said sternly. “We’ve got the Dursleys, they’re going to prison for a very long time. That bastard actually confessed to selling Harry, an eight year old boy, into what he thought was child sex slavery.”

 

Richard reared back looking horrified. “Are you serious?” He demanded, his voice low with a growing growl from his beast.

 

“Deadly. He confessed, while being recorded, that Harry was abnormal and was too cute for a boy, that he assumed the man who wanted to buy him was some sicko who wanted him for the sex trade.”

 

“And still he sold him?!”

 

“And still he sold him.” Anita nodded. “For thirty thousand British pounds. All in cash. He handed Harry over, watched as he was drugged by the man who insisted that he was to be referred to as ‘doctor’ and as soon as he’d counted his money, he left and he didn’t look back. He said he hadn’t even thought of Harry once until now, when we shoved it in his face. He’s a despicable person.”

 

“Poor Harry.” Nathaniel sniffed.

 

“He’s with us now and he’s staying with us.” Richard said tightly. The urge to shift was getting stronger the more he heard and he wanted to shift into his beast so that he could hunt down this Dursley and maim him.

 

“Richard. Don’t leave me.” A sleepy Harry asked him.

 

He took a deep breath and then another. “I’m not going anywhere.” He said and when Harry lifted his arms up to him, he looked at Lillian before picking Harry up and cradling him. “I’m never going to leave you.” He swore as one hand cradled the back of Harry’s skull, thick fingers stroking through his multi-length hair.

 

“Let’s get him to bed.” Lillian suggested. “He’s had quite the scare and he needs his rest.”

 

“Will you come with me?” Harry asked Richard quietly.

 

“Of course I will.”

 

“Asher too?”

 

Oui, mon ange.” Asher agreed immediately.

 

Harry smiled then, weak, shaky and tenuous, but he still smiled and once again there was hope. Hope that they could teach Harry to be his own person. Hope that they could help him to grow and learn. Hope that one day, they wouldn’t need to babysit him every hour of every day, but they would always look out for him. They would always love and care for him, because it was going to be a long, difficult road ahead, full of stress, failure and frustration, but Harry was worth it because there would also be love, success and development and that would make everything worth it in the end.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Fifteen – Strike

 

Harry’s seizure had not repeated itself again. Almost two weeks after the event and Harry was back to his happy, quirky self and no more seizures, or tantrums, had happened.

Finding out that Harry was seventeen had not changed anything, as Richard had initially thought that it would. Harry had known all along that he was around seventeen years old and that his birthday was at the end of July. He’d known what age he’d been sold and how long he’d been in the factory. He knew more than they gave him credit for.

 

“Neeta!” Harry called out as soon as Anita walked into the living room, his arms up and out for a hug, using the new nickname that he’d given to her as soon as he’d declared that she was one of his favourites.

 

She had become one of Harry’s favourites after she’d helped him through his seizure and Harry had warmed right up to her, even giving her a coloured picture. Something which he’d only ever given to his favourites before.

 

“Hello, Harry.” Anita greeted, bending down to hug him before opening a packet she had in her pocket and handing Harry a biscuit.

 

Harry screeched in delight and sucked the biscuit and nibbled on it, still not complete used to such solid food, but he was getting much better and he was improving daily. He was still overly thin, but he had gained a substantial amount of weight according to Lillian. He was just shy of an eight kilogram weight gain and it truly showed. Harry wasn’t so much a bag of bones anymore, but he still needed to gain a lot more weight before Lillian would even try to declare him healthy. They were all trying to help Harry eat more, and more solid food now, and he was getting much better, slowly but surely.

 

“Any more news?” Richard asked quietly as Harry nibbled and focused completely on the biscuit he’d been given.

 

“No, nothing. We have the description of the doctor who bought Harry from what Dursley remembers, but we’re still trying to figure out who it is. We suspect that it was Isiah, the head of the whole thing, or rather the money behind the whole thing, but we have no way of being sure, though so far we’re having absolutely no luck in tracking any them down. We won’t give up though, we’ll keep trying until every single last one of them is behind bars.”

 

Anita sat down with a sigh and rubbed at her tired eyes.

 

“How about the actual factory?”

 

“We’ve stripped it. We haven’t found any more bodies in days and no more clues like the blood on the weretiger’s teeth. All we have are a few names, some tidbits and one blood sample.”

 

“It’s not enough?” Richard lilted the end of his sentence like a question and Anita shook her head.

 

“Not nearly enough to track them down, especially when we think they’ve gone off the grid and underground.”

 

“Harry hasn’t said anything in a while, but I don’t want to upset him, you know, because of the seizure.” Richard whispered.

 

Anita nodded. “I know and I understand. He needs to be comfortable here. I don’t want to ruin that for him either, Richard, but the thought of them doing this to anyone else, of starting over and hurting more people like they hurt him…”

 

“They’re hurting others?”

 

Anita grimaced at Richard and turned to face Harry, who’d eaten his biscuit and had tuned into what they were saying just in time for him to catch the last sentence.

 

“We don’t know if they are, Harry.” She tried weakly.

 

“But you think they are.”

 

“Do you?” She asked back.

 

Harry sucked in the left side of his bottom lip and bit at it, considering her question. He nodded.

 

“They were doing it for years and years and they made lots and lots of money. They’d want to do it again. They liked doing it.”

 

“That’s why we need to find them, Harry.” Anita said gently.

 

“Can I help?” Harry asked, looking terrified by what he was offering, but doing so regardless. “I don’t want more people to be hurted by them and their experiments.” 

 

“We understand that this is hard for you, Harry. But if you can be brave and tell us everything you know, it would really help.”

 

“I’ll be right here to help you.” Richard said immediately, indicating his lap and Harry crawled over and scrambled into his lap, taking Richard’s arms and wrapping them around his own waist before he clutched at Richard’s fingers. “There you go, you’ll be safe here.” Richard told him, settling Harry more into his lap and holding him tight.

 

“Can you tell us who first took you, Harry?” Anita asked.

 

Harry frowned at her.

 

“When you first came to the factory, who brought you to the factory.” Anita amended.

 

“Oh! Wussell.”

 

“Russell.” Richard amended.

 

“He was horrible and nasty to me. He jabbed me with a needle and made me sleep and when I woke up I was in a bag.”

 

“A bag?”

 

“Case bag, for a fly plane.”

 

“An aeroplane. You were in a suitcase.” Richard asked.

 

Harry shook his head. “Like Anita’s bag.”

 

“A carry-on bag. He kept you with him.”

 

Harry nodded. “Issy-ah’s plane, he used it to get experiments to his factory from all over. Wussell was the one who went out to collect experiments, but he took Patick and Fabice with him sometimes.”

 

“Patrick and Fabrice.” Richard said for Anita’s benefit, who had a notepad out, writing everything that Harry was saying down carefully.

 

“So Isiah had a private jet?”

 

Harry nodded.

 

“Russell brought you to the factory and then what happened?”

 

“I was examined and tagged and then I was put in my cage.” Harry said.

 

“When were you injected to become your animals, Harry?”

 

“The next day.” Harry said. “By Stella, though Jillian was there to watch. The experiments started as soon as I changed into my animals.”

 

“Is there anything else that you can tell us?” Anita asked, trying not to let her desperation come through and frighten Harry.

 

“I heard them once, when I wasn’t supposed to.” Harry whispered to them, as if the doctors would be able to hear him if he spoke any louder. “I was supposed to be sleeping, on the ‘topsy table.”

 

“The autopsy table?” Anita swallowed.

 

Harry nodded. “They put me to sleep with needles and I wasn’t supposed to wake up, but I did. I hurt a lot, because my organs were in bowls on the tables around me and my belly was open. They were arguing.”

 

“Who were arguing, Harry?” Anita asked, trying to stop herself from being sick at the thought of Harry waking up halfway through an experiment to find himself cut open and his organs in metal bowls around him.

 

“Ruby and Issy-ah. The brother-sister doctors.” Harry told her.

 

“I remember.” Anita nodded.

 

“I hurt a lot, but the doctors buckled our mouths shut when experimenting, so I couldn’t make a noise and because it was the ‘topsy table, I was all strapped down too so I couldn’t move. They didn’t know I was awake.”

 

“What were they saying, Harry?” Anita asked.

 

“They wanted a new factory. A bigger one. They said they needed more room, more labs and more people. They were going to move all the good experiments to the new factory too. I was going to go, I was interesting, they liked calling me interesting.”

 

“Did they say where the new factory would be?” Anita asked, hardly daring to breathe.

 

“They were arguing about that.” Harry told her with a nod. “They had lots of spots to pick from. Benny didn’t want to stay in America. He wanted to go to Africa?” Harry asked, looking at them both as if questioning if that was a real place.

 

“But the top, top doctors, Isiah and Ruby?” Anita asked.

 

“They wanted to stay in America. They said it was easier to com...comun…commun…”

 

“Communicate?” Richard offered gently and Harry wiggled and nodded.

 

“They needed to talk to their buyers.” Harry nodded. “Always they were talking to their buyers and Issy-ah and Ruby needed to talk to them always to get lots and lots of money for the factory.”

 

“So where did they want to stay instead?”

 

“Neva…Never…”

 

“Nevada?” Anita asked quickly and Harry grinned and nodded.

 

“Ruby said no Neverda because Issy-ah liked gambing too much and he wouldn’t focus on his work.”

 

“Gambling.” Richard corrected and Harry nodded.

 

“Issy-ah said a desert would be perfect, but Ruby said it was too empty and they’d be spotted too easily. She wanted to go to Nebaska.”

 

“Nebraska?”

 

Harry nodded. “She said that there were lots of trees there to hide the new factory from pying eyes.”

 

“Prying eyes.” Richard offered.

 

“Issy-ah agreed to Nebaska with Ruby.”

 

“Harry, how long was this before you got rescued?”

 

“I became an animal five times between then and when I came here.”

 

“There hasn’t been a blue moon recently, so roughly five months.” Richard told her. “Long enough for them to have bought and secured the area, set up supply channels, but not long enough for them to have moved the experiments and all the work they’d done.”

 

“They’d moved some of their work over.” Harry corrected. “Big lorries came and took lots and lots of paper in locked boxes away. They moved all the spare cages too and lots of boxes of experiment stuff, like needles and knives.”

 

“They’d already started the move to Nebraska?”

 

Harry nodded and Anita grinned ferally.

 

“Call Bradford and go and get them.” Richard said viciously. “I think Harry and I are going to go out and get some ice cream.”

 

“With saucy stuff?!” Harry asked with wide eyes.

 

“With sprinkles and saucy stuff.” Richard told him and Harry did the full body wiggle he always did when really excited and happy.

 

“Take Jamil with you.” Anita breathed into his ear when Harry went to get his shoes from the bedroom. “You heard what he said, those doctors wanted to take him with them to the new factory. They might still want him.”

 

Richard swallowed hard at the thought of these doctors getting their hands on Harry again and he nodded, taking out his cell and dialling Jamil.

Harry loped back into the room with his shoes and he handed them to Richard, who pulled Harry onto his lap and bent to get his shoes on.

 

“Jamil is coming with us, is that okay?” Richard asked.

 

Harry nodded. “Does he want ice cream too?”

 

“He does.”

 

Harry giggled. “Micah likes ice cream too.”

 

“Micah’s in work today, remember.”

 

Harry nodded. “You’re here with me today because it’s the weekend.”

 

“That’s right. Come on.”

 

“Has Neeta gone?”

 

“Yes, she went to her friend’s.”

 

“Should we leave a note for Asher?”

 

“Already done.” Ricard said with a smile.

 

Harry grinned and Richard helped him up the stairs. He was getting much better and his stamina was increasing, especially during the full moons when he ran around like a hyperactive puppy, but it still took him twice as long to reach the top as it normally would have because Harry had to have both feet on the same step before he could step up to the next one.

They made it out and into the sun and Harry looked every which way with a happy grin as he held onto his hand like a small child.

 

“Are we walking or going in car?” Harry asked curiously.

 

“It’s a bit too far to walk, so we’re going by car, but we will be walking around a bit.”

 

Harry nodded and let go of his hand to lope over to his car at a faster pace than usual and Richard realised that Harry was trying to run, but not go too far ahead of him. It saddened him. Something had to be done about these people to make Harry safer and something had to be done about Harry’s gait and posture, about the damage that had been done from him being cramped up in a tiny cage for hours on end for the last nine years. He made a mental note to ask Louie and Lillian about something that could straighten Harry’s back at least.

He opened the car door and Harry scrambled in and sat nicely on the seat and allowed Richard to buckle him in before he climbed in the driver’s side and took him to the mall, where Jamil would be waiting for them.

 

“Jamil!” Harry screeched as they exited the car and he loped over to Jamil and hugged him tight, not noticing that people were staring at him. Richard doubted he’d care even if he did notice them.

 

“Where’s Shang-Da?” Jamil asked.

 

“I didn’t call him.” Richard said as he took one of Harry’s hands and Harry grabbed a hold of Jamil’s hand with his other one.

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because we’re going to the mall for ice cream, not into a diplomatic meeting so I don’t need an entourage.”

 

“Ice cream!” Harry cheered wiggling both of his arms in their hands, making their arms sway.

 

“Doesn’t he have ice cream at the Circus?” Jamil asked as Richard got them walking when Harry tried to dive off in the direction of the mall that Micah had taken him to weeks before.

 

“He deserves a treat and some fresh air. We think he just gave Anita the crucial information she and Bradford needed to nail this case. The do…people, wanted to set up a new place in the cornhusker state. We think that’s where they are now.”

 

“Really? So all of this could be over soon.”

 

Richard nodded and smiled down at Harry, who was trying to jump between them. At the next attempt he pulled up and Harry screeched in delight like a toddler as his feet left the ground for several moments.

 

“Again! Again!” He demanded happily and Jamil joined in unhappily as people turned to watch two men play Daddy with what looked to be a twelve year old. It was no wonder so many people were whispering, pointing and laughing.

 

“Ignore them.” His Ulfric coached him. “They have no idea what Harry’s been through. Who cares about strangers that you’ll never see again when it makes Harry so happy?”

 

Jamil nodded and swung Harry with more gusto, making Harry shriek at how high he went, but he was grinning and laughing and it was the happiest that Jamil had seen him in a long while.

When they reached the ice cream parlour, Richard got Harry several different flavours of ice cream, including mint, pistachio and Peach Melba. Harry tried them all with increasing relish as it got everywhere. Jamil had got himself a coffee ice cream, but he surrendered it to Harry after only several bites when he turned that green eyed pout to him and asked to try it.

 

“Bleh!” Harry grimaced and pushed the little cup back at him. “Nasty.”

 

Jamil couldn’t help chuckling as he got to go back to his ice cream. Richard’s raspberry ripple had been taken from him and Harry had liked it enough to keep it.

 

“I know to buy coffee flavour next time.” Richard chuckled.

 

Harry dipped his spoon into the green coloured ice cream and clumsily got it into his mouth. He grimaced as that one spoonful made him shiver and he immediately pushed the cardboard cup away.

 

“You don’t like mint chocolate chip either?” Richard asked as he took the cup and ate it himself.

 

Harry shook his head and went back to the orange and red Peach Melba. They stayed there for a couple of hours, feeding Harry all different ice creams, watching him as he tried each and every flavour. He liked them all apart from the mint, the coffee and the peanut butter flavours, his new favourite was surprisingly a tossup between watermelon, green apple and maple, honey and walnut, he couldn’t make up his mind which one he liked the most, but he assured them that chocolate was definitely his second favourite.

 

“You’re a complete mess.” Richard laughed as he looked at Harry, whose face, neck, hands and shirt were covered in all different coloured stains.

 

Richard’s phone rang and he cursed as he was trying to clean a squirming Harry off with a wet wipe. Jamil reached over and stuck a hand into his pocket and answered the phone.

 

“Oh, hi babe. Yeah, he’s here, the both of them are here, we’re just on our way back.” Jamil said as Richard managed to clean off both of Harry’s hands and part of his nose and mouth that had been covered in melted ice cream. The boy would definitely need a bath when they reached the Circus.

 

“Is it Anita?” Richard asked and Jamil nodded.

 

“Hi Neeta!” Harry moved over to shout into Jamil’s ear.

 

“Harry says hi.” Jamil said, trying to keep the grimace off of his face as his sensitive ear rang from the unneeded volume. “Anita says hi Harry.” He told the boy who giggled and wiggled his body in joy. “Yeah, it won’t take us long to get back. Oh, you’re ready to strike? That’s good, we’ll be there before you leave. No, he hasn’t mentioned anything more, his mouth has been too full of ice cream. Yeah, he’s an absolute mess, he really needs a bath and a change of clothes. We’ve just realised that he was putting spoonfuls of ice cream in his lap, apparently to save them for later. He didn’t realise that they’d melt.”

 

Jamil laughed at the look on Richard’s face as he stood Harry up to see the utter mess of melted ice cream covering his lap and legs.

 

“Yeah, we’re just leaving the ice cream parlour now, we’ll get him into the car and we’ll be back in ten, fifteen minutes. Have his pyjamas ready for him and a bath. The ice cream’s even in his hair.” Jamil said he walked behind Richard and Harry.

 

At his words Richard looked at the back of Harry’s head and saw the clumps of hair stuck together by melted ice cream where Harry had clenched it between his sticky fists and he sighed.

 

“Richard’s about to have a fit.” He told Anita with a laugh. “If we find any more ice cream on him the bees will be following us home.”

 

It happened too quickly for him to comprehend as a gunshot rang out in the car park and people started screaming and running. Jamil saw Richard go down and Harry was staring around himself, lost and then he screamed, his eyes glued to something.

 

“Doctor! Doctor!” He screamed out in utter panic and fear.

 

“Anita! Richard’s been shot! The doctors are here for Harry!” Jamil said into the phone as he tried to see where the gunman was and who Harry was looking at.

 

Jamil opened the car and all but threw a screaming Harry into it before he went to see to Richard, who’d been shot in the neck.

 

‘Where has Richard been shot?’ He heard a voice yelling and Jamil turned back to the phone in his hand.

 

“In the neck. It’s bad, Anita, he’s unconscious and I can’t see where the gunman is.” He said as he scanned around the rapidly deserting car park, people still screaming.

 

“Jamil!” Harry screamed and he snapped his head around to see Harry staring at a man who looked like he was running in fear, his hands over his head and crouched down, but if Harry was afraid of him, then he was a doctor or someone involved in the factory.

 

Jamil kept the man who was pretending to run away in his sights and he realised that the man was running between the cars, right at them. He growled lowly and touched a hand to his gun. He did not expect to be shot in the back.

He fell forward, onto his Ulfric. He felt pain, a white hot agony. He heard Harry screaming for them both, for Anita, for Micah, for Asher and Jean-Claude, for Wicked and Jason and Stephen and Nathaniel. He was screaming about the doctors, begging them to help him, but Jamil couldn’t move and he lost consciousness soon after.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Anita arrived with the wererats before the police did and they saw Richard’s abandoned car and ran to it. One of the back doors was open, Richard and Jamil were on the floor beside it, bleeding out. Harry was nowhere in sight.

 

“Harry?!” Anita called out, just in case he was hiding. “Harry, its Anita!”

 

Louie, who had come with them, was assessing Richard and Jamil.

 

“They’ve both been shot. Richard in the neck, from what looks like a front facing shot, and Jamil has been shot in the chest, from behind. There was more than one gunman here. This was a planned attack.”

 

“Are they both alive?”

 

“Alive and healing.” Louie told her. “Looks like the shot to Jamil’s chest hit a lung. We need to get them both to the clinic.”

 

“Take them.” Anita said as she looked around. “Do it now before the police get over here.”

 

“What about Harry?” Claudia asked.

 

“I think Bradford and I need to pay a visit to Nebraska.” She said firmly, her teeth bared as she watched a bloodied Jamil and Richard being loaded up carefully into the cars. “Make sure you be careful with Richard’s car, if Harry was inside when he was taken it might have fingerprints on it that we can use.”

 

Anita called the Circus, unfortunately the vampires couldn’t come out to help as the sun was still up, but she’d promised to call as soon as she could. Jean-Claude answered on the first ring and she heard Asher in the background demanding where Harry was.

 

Ma petite, are you alright?”

 

“I’m fine. Richard was shot in the neck, Jamil in the chest. Harry’s gone. I’m on my way back. We need to get to Nebraska and comb the state for that factory. Based on where the one here is placed and how secluded it is, Bradford has people looking for the best possible spot and they’re using satellites to check for anything unusual.”

 

“Are you on your way back?”

 

“I am, yes. Richard and Jamil are on their way to the clinic. Did Nathaniel pack those extra guns?”

 

Oui, he’s added extra clothing and more ammo too.”

 

“I’ll be back soon.”

 

“Be careful, Ma petite.”

 

“I will. I’ll get Harry back too.” She swore as she closed the phone and climbed back into her own jeep.

 

She couldn’t stop thinking of the phone call she’d given to Richard, the one Jamil had answered. They’d sounded so happy, they’d had such a good afternoon and she’d heard the gunshot over the phone, she’d felt through her links to Richard the pain that had ripped through his body and she’d heard Harry screaming and shouting out about the doctors. The next thing she knew, Jamil had stopped answering her too.

Anita’s mind kept playing over Harry’s scream of terror and she tried to imagine how he felt now that he was back in the hands of the doctors. She felt sick.

She all but ripped herself out of her jeep and ran to the Circus to pick up her stuff and Bradford. No one dared stand in her way and most of those at the Circus leapt out of her way as she tore down to the underground.

 

“Did they take Harry?” Asher demanded as she batted her way through the fabric and into the living room.

 

“Yes, Asher.” She scowled. “I said on the phone.”

 

“Are Richard and Jamil going to be alright?” Sylvie asked.

 

Sylvie was Richard’s Geri, or second in command, and if Richard died, she would be the Ulfric of the pack, but Anita knew that there was no way that Sylvie would want to gain control of the pack in this way, not at the price of Richard’s life.

 

“You’ll have to keep in contact with the clinic, they both went right there.”

 

“Is it true Richard was shot in the neck?” Jason asked quietly.

 

“Yes. Richard’s neck was shot. Jamil’s was a chest shot that Louie said nicked a lung. I don’t know any more than that. I need to go, but please keep me updated.”

 

“I will, Ma petite. Be careful.” Jean-Claude held her tight and they shared a kiss.

 

Anita made sure to kiss Nathaniel and told him to tell Micah that she was sorry that she wasn’t able to say goodbye personally, but she’d call them both as soon as she could.

She hefted up the hold all bag and she checked through it, just in case, but of course everything was there. Nathaniel knew well by now what she needed and wanted when she was away from home. He’d even packed Sigmund the penguin for her.

 

“Are you ready?” Bradford asked her and she nodded once, curtly.

 

“Let’s get going. I want Harry back before they have any chance to hurt him.”

 

Anita left the Circus and climbed into Bradford’s FBI issue dark sedan and she let him drive as she checked in with his team, hoping that they’d found something with the satellites or just a place where they thought that the factory could be, taking what they knew of the one in Saint Louis, taking it’s measurements and making it bigger.

 

“They got anything?” Bradley asked as she dropped the call.

 

“They have a few areas of interest and they’re going to cut them down with the satellite before we arrive.”

 

“How many areas of interest? Nebraska is a big state.”

 

“Eight or nine and they’re still searching. It doesn’t help that they could be in an abandoned or sold farm or that the factory might not be fully built or operational yet.”

 

“We’ll find him.”

 

“We will, but put your foot down.” Anita told him as Harry’s scream echoed in her head again.

 

She just wanted to get to Nebraska and get searching for him. She even debated calling Edward, professional assassin and fellow federal marshal. If anyone could find Harry, it was him.

 

“I’m going to call in another federal marshal.” She told Bradford, making up her mind.

 

“We can do this, Anita. You, me and my team.”

 

“I’m not taking any chances here, not now that Harry’s been taken.” She said sternly. “I care more for Harry than any glory or credit for solving this case. I just want that boy back in Saint Louis and back at the Circus, where he belongs!”

 

Anita dialled Edward’s number and thought about what to say as it went to voicemail several times.

 

“Come on, pick up!”

 

“What marshal are you calling?”

 

“Ted Forrester.” Anita answered as she dialled again.

 

“Albuquerque.” Bradford nodded.

 

“That’s right.”

 

The phone clicked over and the first thing Anita heard was a hail of gunfire.

 

“This had better be important.” Edward’s best blank voice answered, even as more gunfire sounded.

 

“It’s Anita.” She said. “I need you in Nebraska, Ted.”

 

She made sure to stress his name so that he knew not to talk about Edward gigs.

 

“What do you need, Anita?”

 

All at once his blank voice had more of a southern drawl to it and she could almost see him settling into his Ted persona. The same persona that had a steady girlfriend in Donna and was a step-dad to Peter and Becca.

 

“I assume you know already of the lycanthrope factory uncovered in Saint Louis.”

 

“Yes. There was only one survivor and he was put into your protection.”

 

“He’s just been taken, Ted. To a new factory in Nebraska. Not only do we have to find the new factory, we have to do it quickly, before Harry is hurt again.”

 

“I’m in. Just let me finish up here.” He told her as an explosion almost deafened her. “I’ll need an hour tops to finish up here. I’m in Minnesota, so I won’t take too long to get to Nebraska. Do you need Bernardo too?”

 

“No, just you. I’ve got Agent Bradford here with me and his FBI team. We’re taking out this factory and all of its operators, Ted. They’re already facing the death penalty for what they’ve done in Saint Louis, we’ve called up the FBI stationed in Nebraska and they’ve agreed to allow us to handle it and they’re on standby as back up. We just need to find this place.”

 

“Alright, you know I’ll be there. I’ve been curious about the little survivor since I heard about him on the grapevine. He’s incredibly strange, isn’t he?”

 

“That’s one way of putting it.” Anita sighed. “Finish up what you’re doing and I’ll call you later when we know where we’ll be settling.”

 

“Lincoln.” Bradford said from beside her.

 

“Lincoln, Ted. We’re going to Lincoln.”

 

“Got it. I’ll fly directly there. Be ready to brief me on everything and we’ll go from there. I’ll look into some avenues I have in Nebraska and see if they’ve heard of anything or have any leads.”

 

“I’ll see you soon.” Anita said and then left Edward to whatever he was doing. She’d ask him when she saw him in person.   

 

“Is he coming right away?”

 

“He has a job to finish up first, but he’ll be here as soon as he can.” Anita said with a sigh.

 

“We’ll be there soon.” Bradford told her, following the GPS to Lincoln, Nebraska.

 

Anita comforted herself with that and with the knowledge that a coincidence that morning had led to Harry revealing about the new factory in Nebraska. If he hadn’t, then they’d still be in Saint Louis, panicking and trying to figure out where those people would have taken Harry. It would have taken them days, if not weeks before they’d tracked him down, if not even longer and there was no telling what those doctors would have done to him in that time.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry whimpered as he came to lying flat on a cold, solid metal table, his arms, legs and head restrained and a very familiar, leering face standing over him.

He screamed as much as the jaw strap allowed him and tried to wiggle away, the tears already falling.

 

“Hello again number one hundred and sixteen.” The stern man greeted him curtly. “We’re happy to have you back. We’d thought you were lost to us.”

 

An evil faced, old woman stepped to the opposite side of him.

 

“Let’s see what damage those idiots it was holed up with did.” She said with a cruel smile, holding up a gleaming surgical scalpel.   

 

Harry screamed and screamed behind the mouthpiece that pinned his jaws together, calling mentally for Richard, for Asher, for anyone to come and save him, to help him as the familiar and agonising sensation of being cut open scrambled his thoughts and tensed every muscle in his body. He was terrified and upset and he didn’t want to be back here. Not in this evil place.

 

“Specimen one hundred and sixteen has gained weight.” Isiah dictated to a recording device.

 

“Seventeen pounds and eight ounces.” Ruby added precision to the recording. “They’ve been feeding it.” She scoffed in distaste.

 

“It has more fat layers than our last exploration on the fifth of February, a little under four months ago.”

 

“Just to make our research that much harder.”

 

Harry sobbed almost silently, unable to make any more noise due to the tight, buckled strap under his chin, and he gave up trying to get loose. It never worked, the restraints were too tight, too well made. He had never gotten free in nine years, no one ever had, not even that huge man five years back who almost got out of his cage. He had been a bear and he was strong enough to break the cages, ignoring the almost acid like burn of the silver, but he’d never been able to get out of the restraints when he was shackled to an experiment table.

There was no point in him trying, he was not a bear and he wasn’t muscly or strong, not like Richard or Asher or even Anita. He lay still and he cried, closing his eyes and just hoping that this agony would be over soon, or that he’d pass out and go to sleep and wake up when it was over. It hurt so, so much.

 

“Its stomach has swollen to a more normal size. It’s bloated too, it has been fed in the last four hours.”

 

“They had the specimen on solid foods then.” Isiah answered his sister curtly. “Perhaps not for very long, however. Its kidneys and liver are still below optimum size.”

 

“Feeding monsters.” Ruby sneered. “Animal lovers.”

 

“They probably campaign against medicine in their spare time.” Isiah laughed dryly.

 

“Barbarians.” Ruby agreed. “Oscar! Bring me specimen one hundred and sixteen’s previous notes!”

 

Harry whimpered as the wooziness threatened to steal his consciousness as Isiah jammed a large hand into his body roughly and felt around. His belly felt strange, like it was going to try coming out of his mouth. It was a new, strange sensation and Harry didn’t like it. It made him cry harder in his tight, buckled restraints.

 

“Here you are.”

 

Harry opened his eyes to see Oscar grinning down at him.

 

“I’m glad to see you back where you belong, one hundred and sixteen. You’ve been missed and no one else exhibits your special energy. We’ve been after you for weeks trying to get you back so that we can study you more.”

 

“Don’t speak to it.” Ruby instructed him. “You’ll give it ideas above its station.”

 

“Ruby’s right, you’ll give the specimen dangerous thoughts. The animal shouldn’t be thinking at all. Who knows what those clueless people have told it or got it thinking about.”

 

“We should open the specimen’s skull and do a brain scan to see if there are any new connections that have been formed.” Ruby insisted.

 

“Oscar, add it to the itinerary at the first available opportunity. We might have the time in three days. We’ve got the new batch of specimens to examine and tag tomorrow. Then the internal for two hundred and seventy-one and two hundred and ninety the day after along with the muscle examination of two hundred and sixty-five, it’s showing advanced toning of musculature, I think it’s been working out in its cage. If it has, we need to move it into a smaller one, where it can’t move as freely.”

 

“Russell called not too long ago too. He and Patrick have taken a longer route to pick up another potential specimen in Elsmere. A woman was killed in a car crash, leaving behind a teenaged son. The boy’s step father doesn’t want him now that his Wife is dead, but he’s under legal obligation to look after the boy. He’s going to see if he can’t take the boy off of his hands.”

 

Isiah nodded. “He has enough spare money on him to do another transaction if he’s careful.”

 

“Perhaps we should try the hyena and bear hybrid again.” Ruby said thoughtfully, even as she prodded around his stomach with her rubbery fingers.

 

“Those crossbreeds never fuse together properly.” Oscar argued. “The last one tore herself apart, literally.”

 

“We just need to find the right person.” Ruby insisted, a manic gleam in her blue eyes.

 

“The only specimen we’ve ever found who will hold differing genus of animal is one hundred and sixteen.” Isiah pointed out. “I was actually wondering if we could add lion to its repertoire.”

 

“We have tried that before, Isiah. Either the specimens have died or they’ve rejected the new beast.” Ruby argued. “Specimen one hundred and sixteen is too valuable to us and our research to waste it on trying to add yet another animal.”

 

“But one hundred and sixteen holds up so well!” Isiah argued back. “An eight year old specimen accepting three beasts and vampirism! Ruby, we were so shocked when it was a success! We were just gene splicing, we never expected it to live, but here it is, nine years later. Something about this specimen is different and we’ve never been able to figure out what it is! I’ve been thinking about this specimen since it’s been gone and looking over all of the notes and I’ve had a thought, if we watch it accept a new beast, it might lead us right to where that energy is stored and we could try to tap into it. It might be the answer we’ve been searching for! The culmination of all our hard work and research!”    

 

Ruby’s eyes glittered and she nodded. “Yes. Yes, this could be just what is needed to tap into that energy. Oscar, put one hundred and sixteen down on the lists for Jillian and Stella tomorrow. Isiah, are you sure you want to add werelion? Why not hyena or even in a completely different direction and add werebear or wererat? It already holds leopard and tiger, why add another feline based animal?”

 

“I was thinking of the value of the specimen. There’s no need to try and kill it unnecessarily and with two strains of feline based lycanthropy already, it’s much more likely to accept a third.”

 

Ruby nodded and Isiah gave a small, terrifying grin.

 

“Oscar, one hundred and sixteen is to go down for a werelion injection tomorrow. That’s Were-XIV.” Isiah called out.

 

Harry whimpered and tried to wiggle, but he couldn’t. It was hard enough with three beasts, he wouldn’t be able to handle four of them.

 

“You should give him Were-XII too.”

 

“We’ve had this discussion, Benny. Just because you’re currently fascinated by the disgusting little rats does not automatically mean that all specimens will be given Were-XII.”

 

“But this particular specimen has always been my favourite!” Benny insisted.

 

“We’re well aware of your interest in specimen one hundred and sixteen. All of us are interested in it, but we don’t want to kill it off unnecessarily.”

 

“He can handle it!” Benny insisted.

 

“Stop referring to it as a ‘he’. The specimens are animals, they’re all its!” Ruby demanded.

 

“Fine. It can handle another dose. I just know it!”

 

Harry watched with mounting horror as Ruby and Isiah shared a look before Ruby sighed and Isiah nodded.

 

“Fine, Were-XII and Were-XIV. Go and tell Oscar and get him to schedule them several hours apart. If we miss seeing the one, we might catch the second.” Isiah told Benny, who whooped with joy and dashed off.

 

“You’d never think that man was almost forty-two, he’s so childlike when it comes to his current interests. Let’s finish up here and then I want to check on specimen two hundred and eighty-four. It was looking a bit too pale this morning.”

 

“You think it’s rejecting the organ swap?”

 

Ruby nodded. “Yes, weak thing that it is. It wouldn’t even take to the vampire genes. Specimen one hundred and sixteen is looking well and strong, it has been fed solids, so the fat layer it’s gained obstructs our view, but we can easily rectify that and get it back on a liquid, intravenous diet. It shouldn’t take any longer than a few days.”

 

“We need to keep an eye on it, just in case it has rebellious thoughts and starts acting up.” Isiah added.

 

“Get Alfie to give it another bath too, the specimen needs to be completely sterilised again. It was so sticky and messy when it arrived.”

 

“Do you want to wipe it down with an iodine solution?”

 

Ruby frowned consideringly. “It might be for the best, who knows where it’s been.”

 

“I’ll get Lea to do that. She needs to learn to look after the specimens correctly.”

 

Harry felt like he couldn’t breathe as he lay on the table, waiting, waiting as Ruby and Isiah left him still strapped to the table. The tears had not stopped once through the ordeal and he just wanted to be back at the Circus, he wanted to lay down in his comfy, big bed with Asher and Richard and he wanted this to be another bad dream. He wanted to wake up in the arms of his favourites and he wanted them to hold him and shush him and tell him that this was all another bad dream and that he was safe with them. 

A young woman came into the lab and her face pinched as she looked at him, as if she’d smelt something foul. Harry didn’t like her, his hackles raised and he tried to curl up to protect himself, to cover his exposed belly, but the restraints prevented him from moving at all.

A very large brown bottle was lifted out of a cupboard and its cap was unscrewed and a familiar scent reached Harry’s nose. He sobbed as best as he could with his mouth buckled shut. He hated the brown water washes.

 

“They could have at least wiped the blood off of you first.” The woman sneered. “I came here to learn, not to be a fucking grunt.”

 

An abrasive cloth was scrubbed over his body and that hurt too, making him mewl and cry as much as he could, wanting this to just be over already. His body spasmed uncontrollably when the cloth was scrubbed over the freshly pinned incision site that Ruby and Isiah had only minutes before had wide open and clamped to prevent it from healing while they worked. It was freshly healed and still very tender and sore and he cried out, fresh tears falling from his screwed up eyes.

A thick cotton pad of the brown water was smeared over his body, every single inch of skin was covered. It got in his hair, his eyes, his mouth and dribbled up his nose. He spluttered and tried to spit the fluid back out of his mouth as the bitter, metallic liquid went through his clenched teeth and touched his tongue, but he couldn’t even open his mouth wide enough to get his tongue through his teeth, let alone spit to get rid of the taste in his mouth and he cried harder.

 

“Alfie! Lab six needs your attention!” The woman called out as she left the lab that Harry was in.

 

“I’m overseeing specimen two hundred and ninety-seven, Lea.” A voice Harry recognised as Alfie’s called out from a long way away.

 

“I thought you wanted to greet one hundred and sixteen.”

 

“Is it ready?” Alfie asked in perverse pleasure.

 

“Yes, just get the damn thing back into its cage. The doctors think it’s going to be unruly.”

 

“Take over for me here.” Alfie all but demanded.

 

The woman, Lea, stomped off as footsteps that were all but running entered the lab that Harry was in.

 

“Oh, one hundred and sixteen. You don’t know how happy I am to have you back. I’ve missed you.” Alfie cooed, a sinister gleam in his eyes. “You always mewed so sweetly for me.”

 

Harry was unbuckled slowly and carefully, though not before a thick band was clamped and locked around his wrist. It was new and Harry didn’t like it.

His legs were unbuckled first and Harry pulled them to his chest, curling up.

 

“Come on now, one hundred and sixteen, behave yourself or you’ll be shocked.”

 

Harry made a soft noise of distress as one of the shocky sticks was shown to him and his whole body tensed. He hated the shocky sticks that made him fall to the floor and twitch. He wasn’t able to move for ages after being touched by a shocky stick.

Alfie unbuckled his head, neck and then finally his hands and Harry was free, but he knew from nine years’ experience that he wouldn’t be able to get away. There would be more assistants, more trainees, the doors were always locked and there were big, muscly men that had shocky guns on them.

He was carried to a new room, a room that was tiled all the way around and he was dumped on the hard floor, which made him whimper, able to make noise now that his mouth was free.

Alfie flipped a switch and water spurted down from the ceiling, drenching him and making him cry out. It was very cold and he didn’t like it.

 

“No! No!” He cried and he curled up, trying to protect himself from the cold water.

 

Alfie stopped the water, only to flip a different switch which rained down a chemical on him, making him smell of the floors and the equipment of the factory as he was washed with antiseptic before a final rinse and then Alfie was scrubbing him dry with a towel, a lot less gently than Richard or Asher did after his baths at the Circus, and then he was being dragged off through the new, much bigger factory and Alfie scanned a little card he had on his belt and a door pinged and opened and Harry gasped in horror and fear as he saw the room full of cages.

 

“Welcome home, one hundred and sixteen.” Alfie grinned sadistically.

 

He struggled weakly as he saw the hollow-eyed people in the cages and the few who were struggling and fighting against their bars, snarling and reaching out to try and grab at him and Alfie.

 

“Settle down you bloody beasts.” Alfie said mildly as he lifted the shocky stick up to show them.

 

Most of the experiments whimpered when they saw the shocky stick and they stopped trying to get out of the cages as they huddled down, but one man ignored the shocky stick and snarled rattling his cage and trying to break the bars. A simple push of a button and the shocky stick activated and crackled and Alfie shoved it through the bars and prodded the man, who yelped and collapsed down in his cage, quiet and twitching.

Harry whined and hunched up to avoid Alfie’s gaze as the shocky stick was turned back off and Harry was dragged further into the room of caged experiments.

They reached the end of the occupied cages, Alfie missed two that had numbers on them, and he stopped at an empty cage that had no number and he manhandled Harry’s arm to scan the new wrist band against the pad of an empty cage. The blank screen glowed blue, then it flashed up his number, one hundred and sixteen, then it went green and Alfie shoved him into the cage and it locked.

 

“Welcome back, one hundred and sixteen. We’ve missed you.”

 

Harry sniffled and curled up in his cramped, too small cage as Alfie left the caging room and he cried into his knees. He just wanted to go home, back to Richard and Asher…he’d even go back with Micah, he just wanted to go back to the one place where he had ever felt safe. He wanted to go back to the Circus with his favourites who looked after him and never hurt him and let him colour and play and explore and gave him ice cream, clothes and a big bed. He didn’t want to be naked in his new cage surrounded by howling, crying, screaming people that he didn’t know. He just wanted to go home.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen – Raid

 

Anita cursed and trudged back into her hotel room in an evil temper. The first two sites were a complete bust. Both had been completely abandoned farmhouses. Bradford had even ordered a thermal scan of the floors, just to make sure that nothing was built under the dilapidating wooden houses and overgrown grass, but they’d found nothing bigger than a couple of rats.

She got the shock of her life when she went to rip off her sweaty shirt, only to spot Edward sat in a chair in her room.

 

“You said you’d call when you were in Nebraska.” She accused.

 

“I thought about it, but this was a lot more amusing.”

 

Anita sighed and took off her outer shirt, leaving herself in a vest. She dug in her bag to get out a clean shirt and tried not to think about what Harry could possibly be going through at the moment. It had been four days since he’d been taken and the very thought of it made her feel sick to her stomach. She didn’t want to think about the horrors he could possibly be going through right at this moment.

 

“How’s Donna and the kids?” She asked, more for something normal to say before they got down to business.

 

“Fine. Becca has a ballet performance at the beginning of next month that I need to be there for, so we need to wrap this up in twelve days, maximum. I take it from your expression that you’ve had no luck?”

 

“None. The first two sites that the FBI pulled up as possible interests are just abandoned farmhouses. No high tech, hidden factory in a hundred mile radius.”

 

“I’ve been making inquiries of my own and I might have a hot spot. A large chunk of land was bought up several months ago and almost immediately, a ton of electrified mesh fencing went around it. It’s over a hundred acres of land, Anita.”

 

“Where?” Anita asked, her tone hard as she went into her killing headspace.

 

“South East of Ellsworth.”

 

“How far South?”

 

“Twenty odd miles South and twenty-five miles East. It’s the middle of nowhere.”

 

“The perfect place to hide an illegal lycanthrope factory. Less chance of anyone stumbling across it if it’s in the middle of nowhere and camouflaged by trees and rocky outcrops. I’ll tell Bradford and he can have his team check it out and then we’ll raid it.”

 

“You want these people alive?” Edward asked in a way that accentuated his disappointment.

 

“Not all of them.” Anita said with a fearsome smile. “There are five head doctors who we would like alive, but the rest are either trainees, assistants or security.”

 

“Take out the muscle, leave the cowering white coats to you.”

 

“We need to find Harry too. If he isn’t here, then I don’t know where they would have taken him and everyone at home is counting on me to bring him back.”

 

“Do you want me to scout it out first?”

 

“No, we can’t risk them seeing any of us until we’re right on top of them. They killed everyone in the factory in Saint Louis when they had a tip off, we can’t risk them doing the same here. I can’t risk that they might move Harry before we get there or even hurt or kill him.”

 

“He’s come to mean a lot to you.” Edward told her, not questioning, but telling.

 

Anita sighed and she thought of the sweet smiles, the babyish innocence, that damn seizure and a high pitched scream echoed around her head.

 

“He has. Despite how much I didn’t want to let him in, he’s wormed his way through despite my best efforts to keep him at arm’s length. The guys adore him too.”

 

“How did these people get him away from you?”

 

“Richard took him to the mall. We’re trying to socialise him, get him used to being around other people and Richard was shot in the neck on his way back to the car. Jamil, who was also with them, also got shot. Harry was taken before we could arrive to help, but both Richard and Jamil are fine, though they’re frantic at finding out that Harry’s been taken and they’re feeling guilty at having let him be taken in the first place. Richard almost passed out because he tried running around to find Harry before he was healed fully. They call every other hour for an update.”

 

“We’ll kill them all and get your boy back.” Edward told her. “It’s about time you got a dose of feeling parental.”

 

“Like you with Peter and Becca? How is Peter anyway, does he still want to follow in your footsteps?”

 

Edward nodded his head. “I’ve been taking him to the range and on hunting trips, killing small things like rabbits. He’s a sharp shot. When he’s older and fully trained he’s going to be a really good bounty hunter to start with.”

 

Anita shook her head and just as she was about to answer him, her phone rang. She sighed.

 

“Your guys?”

 

She nodded. “Richard. Again.” She said as she looked at the caller ID.

 

“Hey Richard.”

 

‘Have you found him?’ He asked and she was surprised to hear that he was actually near tears.

 

“Not yet, Richard, but we might have found where the new factory is. We’re going for a briefing now with Bradford and his team and we’re going to scout it with the satellites and then we’ll raid it. I’ll call you after we’ve sorted it and hopefully I can call to tell you that I have Harry back.”

 

‘I hope so. I need him back, Anita. I need to tell him that I’m sorry that I let him get taken again.’

 

“You were shot in the neck, Richard.” Anita said exasperatedly. “Jamil was shot in the chest and there was nothing that either of you could have done. Jamil couldn’t leave you as your Skoll and we didn’t know that this was going to happen. We didn’t know that they’d risk themselves so openly to get Harry back. It was only that morning that he told us about the factory and about the doctors being especially interested in him. It’s no one’s fault, Richard.”

 

‘I need him back.’ Richard said tearily. ‘I feel awful about him being taken and it’s been four days already. I can’t sleep, I feel sick just thinking of what they could be doing to him. Please Anita, you need to bring him home.’

 

“We’re doing all we can, Richard and I told you that Edward is here now too. We’ll sort this. Now, I need to go, we’ve got a briefing, but I’ll call you after the raid, Richard.”

 

‘Please find him.’ Was Richard parting words as the line went dead.

 

“You’re right, he really is attached to him.” Edward said.

 

Anita sighed. “They all are, not just Richard. Let’s just go and brief Bradford. I want to hit this area you’ve marked out as soon as we can.”

 

Edward nodded and Anita preceded him out of her hotel room and to the room just down the hall where Bradford was staying. Hopefully this area that Edward had found would be the new factory and they would find Harry so that she could call up the Circus and tell them that she was bringing Harry home. She just hoped that the doctors hadn’t screwed him over even more than he already had been.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry curled up in his cage, his neck and back aching and he tried to stifle his sobs. If he was caught crying, Alfie jabbed him with the shocky stick, which made him jump and he would bump his head or his body against his tiny cage and it hurt him even more.

He’d had his first jab and he had been tied down in a big, whirry machine while his body accepted the new animal. He’d gone first and last for his two new jabs and with the last jab, he’d gone back into the whirry machine again.

Then he’d been restrained onto an autopsy table and opened up. He could still feel the pain of it and he whimpered, curling up tighter in his cage. He just wanted to go home. He wanted his favourites back.

He curled up as tightly as he could, as someone screamed in a cage two rows over and several cages to his left. He remembered left and right from Jean-Claude, from his very first day meeting one of his favourites. He just wanted to go back home to them.

The door to the caging room was opened and Harry huddled down, along with a hundred other specimens, all of them hoping that they weren’t the one that was picked by the doctor. Footsteps came closer and closer and Harry curled up so tight, his body protested the movement. Those footsteps stopped a few cages before his own and he heard a man screaming, thrashing in his cage before he was shocked by Alfie and his stick, and then while he was twitching, unable to fight the doctors, he was injected with the sleepy medicine. The doctors waited a few minutes until the man was still and silent before unlatching his cage and dragging him out of his cage and up the floor to the door, ready to experiment on him.

As soon as the door was shut, he and all the other unchosen specimens exhaled a sigh of utter relief that, this time at least, it wasn’t them who were going for another experiment.

Harry uncurled himself a little bit and rested, trying to get a bit of sleep, but it was hard now that he wasn’t in his big bed with Asher and Richard.

He eventually cried himself into an exhausted sleep, but everything was so much harder now that he’d been outside of his cage. He didn’t like being back inside it.

Harry woke to the slightest touch on his arm and he was awake just as he was being sedated. He stared at the needle being pulled from his arm and he knew exactly what it meant and what was about to happen. His face crumpled in distress and upset and he let out a half sob as Russell, who’d come back a few days ago with several new, whimpering specimens, all but glared at him.

Russell had been complaining about ‘the state of him’ ever since he’d come back and every day since, Harry had been forced to run on the funny machine that didn’t get him anywhere and he was back to being fed his water bags. After ice cream with saucy stuff, porridge and banana mush and all the other wonderful things he’d been eating at the Circus, his water bags didn’t make him feel better. His belly was always making strange noises and making him hurt. He just wanted to go back home.

He woke up, as usual, in the room with the runny machine and he immediately sat up. He could see Russell and Fabrice stood on the other side of the window that showed the inside of the room that he was locked in. He knew from other specimens that the glass was reinforced and was unbreakable. The doctors were safe on the other side.

 

“You know what to do, one hundred and sixteen.” Russell told him sternly, pushing a button to talk to him.

 

He didn’t want to run today. He felt so unhappy and so miserable that he started to cry where he was sat on the floor. He wanted to go back to his home, to his favourites, he’d even be nice to those he didn’t like that much if only he was allowed to go home. He didn’t want to be an experiment, his name was Harry and he was seventeen, he knew his left and right, he knew how to use the bathroom without a catheter, he could feed himself and he knew how to colour! He didn’t want to run, he didn’t want to be caged up, he didn’t want to be opened up and messed with. It wasn’t right!

 

“Do as you’re told!” Russell snapped at him from behind the window.

 

Harry was too far gone to listen, he just sobbed and wrapped his arms around his body and he cried. He cried for Richard, for Asher, for Jean-Claude, for Anita, for Jamil and Jason and Wicked and Nathanial and Micah. His favourites. He cried for any of them, all of them and he couldn’t stop.

He was shocked with a stick and he screamed, twitching and jerking out of his own control as the shock given to him made him slam his head into the concrete ground hard. His vision burst with bright lights and he grunted in pain, still sobbing his heart out.

 

“Those idiots have ruined this specimen.” He heard Russell say.

 

“This one can still be useful during surgical experiments, Russell.” Isiah was there too, Harry recognised his voice. “It’s given us endless results and we all know that this one is the most valuable. We’re going to try to inseminate it tomorrow to see if the offspring bears the same strange energy as one hundred and sixteen does. If the offspring is useful, it’ll be worth our efforts to keep it if it turns out to be pliable and docile. We can train it properly.”

 

“I’m sure that one hundred and sixteen can be retrained, Russell, just have some patience. We need to undo what those people did to the specimen slowly, so the lessons stick.” Ruby said primly.

 

“Ruby’s right, we need to do this properly, as if it were a new specimen, not our oldest. Those imbeciles have tried to socialise the animal. It has become unruly. If it doesn’t calm down and start behaving and the offspring shows the same results as specimen one hundred and sixteen, then I see no reason to keep it alive after the offspring is born.”

 

“Get it back into its cage.” Ruby ordered and Harry was grabbed and dragged back into the caging room and thrown into his cage. He sobbed harder as he tucked his twitchy limbs into his body and he cried into his folded arms. He just wanted to go home.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Anita was getting more and more frustrated as time went by. Edward’s marked out section of land was the factory, she was almost sure of it, but the mesh fencing around the perimeter was far enough away from the main building that the people inside would be alerted to their arrival long before they reached the actual factory, which would give them the time they needed to execute any experiments they wanted, which could include Harry, and to burn the paperwork and the evidence or delete it if they were using digital copies in their new factory.

There were high security cameras everywhere, pointing in every direction and encompassing every inch of land, there were even half starved security dogs roaming the space between the first fence and the second fence, which was ten feet from the first fence. The first fence was electrified, the second wasn’t, which was something at least, but she couldn’t see how they could get into the factory without alerting every single person inside it of their arrival.

 

“We need to go in at night.” Edward told them.

 

“We’ll lose the doctors if we do that.” Bradford said angrily.

 

“But if we go in during the day, they’ll kill the experiments.” Edward pointed out.

 

“We need to do both.” Anita said as a sudden insight hit her. “We need to split the force. If we get several cars to follow and pull over the doctors and arrest them, the other half can go into the factory and secure it.”

 

Bradford and Edward shared a look and they both nodded.

 

“Right, I’ll get my team to follow and arrest the doctors, we need to keep on them as soon as they get to the main road. I’ll go into the factory, I assume the both of you want to come with me?”

 

Anita nodded fiercely. “Yes. I want to grab Harry and get him home, Bradford.”

 

“The skeleton crew left overnight might still start executing the people in there, we need to act fast and surely.” Edward told them. “This has to be done right. It’s not a full moon, so the doctors will all leave, which means everyone left in the factory is a grunt or will be employed as security. Shoot first.”

 

Anita nodded and after a moment of hesitation, Bradford did too.

 

“Eight hours until they leave, let’s gather the team and run through the plan. I want everyone to know where they need to be.” Bradford insisted. “We can’t let even one of these doctors escape. They’re too dangerous.”

 

“Make sure you have several members of your team follow them, give them police cars. It might help if the doctors think it’s just a routine stop.”

 

“I’ll coordinate with the local Leos.” Bradford nodded. “We have eight hours, let’s get to work.”

 

Anita sighed and she steeled herself to call Richard. He was sounding increasingly ill and he always answered when she called, no matter if it was nine in the morning, four in the afternoon or the middle of the night. He wasn’t eating properly and he wasn’t sleeping or leaving the Circus at all. She needed to get Harry back to him and soon. Asher was only dying for the day because he had no other choice, she was sure that he’d be staying awake with Richard all day and all night too otherwise.

She dialled the number for the Circus and the phone didn’t even finish one full ring before Richard answered it.

 

‘Have you got him yet?’ He asked desperately, all but croaking as his voice cracked from exhaustion.

 

“We’re going in tonight, Richard.” She told him. “We’ve found him and we’re going to get him back.”

 

‘You’ll bring him straight here.’

 

Richard’s sentence was not a question.

 

“You know I will.” She said. “As long as he doesn’t need any urgent medical attention.” She amended after a moment of thought.

 

‘It’s been over a week, Anita. Who knows what those people have done to him in that amount of time! Please bring him back to me.’

 

Anita swallowed, she didn’t know what to say because she didn’t know the state that Harry was in yet or what those so called doctors had done to him in the amount of time that they’d had him. It had been nine days since he’d been taken, it didn’t seem too long really, but when you were caged up and used for various, vile experiments, all it took was several minutes and one wrong move or an experiment too far and that could be the end of Harry’s life.

She hoped that he held on just a little longer, that whatever those people were doing to him now could be undone. Nine days didn’t seem very long, but to Harry it had probably felt like a month or more already and there was no telling how many experiments had been performed on him in that time.

She firmed herself, she would get him back and she’d bring him home to the Circus and whatever had been done to him, she would help the others to teach Harry to overcome it as they’d been trying to do before he’d been taken from them by the vile people behind all of this electrified mesh fencing.

 

“We’ll get him back, Richard.” She swore seriously. “I won’t let these people get away with this.”

 

‘I can’t believe how much I miss him.’ Richard told her softly. ‘I keep expecting to see him or hear him and it’s driving me crazy not being able to see him or hold him.’

 

“Tonight.” She said firmly. “Tell the others to prepare to have him back by tomorrow morning if there are no complications. I’ll keep you posted.”

 

She hung up before Richard could keep her talking and distract her from her objective. She was determined now, more than ever, to get that seventeen year old boy back. She couldn’t imagine what horrors he was suffering through and being subjected to inside that factory.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry whimpered in absolute agony as he curled up around his burning abdomen. His mind and thoughts were scrambled and he couldn’t make sense of himself.

He’d been open and bleeding. He’d been another experiment and he was in so much pain that he couldn’t even breathe, he was snuffling and his nose was dribbling, but he hurt too much to even try to prevent it or wipe the wetness that was already on his face away.

 

“Please.” He whispered into the darkness of the caging room. “Please.”

 

He tried to stay still, but the pain had him wriggling and that caused him more pain and he couldn’t stop crying.

 

“I want to go home.” He sobbed.

 

“One hundred and sixteen, shut up!” Alfie demanded.

 

The bars to his cage were bashed and Harry whimpered and curled up tighter, hoping that he wasn’t poked with the shocky stick…the doctors hadn’t used it since that afternoon, even though he’d been crying since before he’d been taken from the autopsy table.

 

“Remember not to use the Tasers on this one.” Benny told Alfie. “We can’t risk the offspring.”

 

“You’re too excited for this specimen to be born.”

 

“I hope it’s like one hundred and sixteen.” Benny replied with childlike glee. “I can’t wait to start on this new specimen. It’s like a completely blank canvas! It’s so exhilarating.”

 

“Well tuck one hundred and sixteen in and say your goodnights, it’s time to shut up shop for the night. They’ll all still be here tomorrow.”

 

Harry whimpered as a cool, rubbery finger stroked part of his exposed cheek and he curled up further to hide himself away from the doctor. He hated them all.

 

“I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow, one hundred and sixteen. Your gestation is going to be a complete surprise to us, though with three feline based strains we’re estimating about three months. You are, after all, more animal than human these days, what with five strains of lycanthropy and vampirism as well, who knows how long it’ll take for your offspring to grow, or what that offspring is going to end up being, but then, that’s all part of the fun.”

 

Harry could almost see the manic grin on Benny’s face and he whimpered, curling up even tighter. He wanted them to go away, to just go away and leave him alone.

 

“Come on, Benny. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow, we need the sleep.” Alfie insisted.

 

“Oh, that’s right, the new specimens are having their fitness training with Russel, I almost forgot in the face of one hundred and sixteen’s insemination.”

 

“This particular specimen getting an offspring is very exciting for all of us. I can’t imagine the possibilities if it comes out like one hundred and sixteen, we could make countless new specimens from this one specimen alone and if they all have the same energy, we could have disposable experiments to play around with.”

 

“Let us pray that the offspring takes hold and that this is a success then. We can use one hundred and sixteen as a breeder until we have enough and then if it is still unruly and disobedient at that point, we can just dispose of it. We won’t need it any longer.”

 

“Exactly and we already know that the specimens born in captivity are more docile. They know nothing else, so they don’t fight us.”

 

“Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.”

 

Harry started breathing normally again as he heard their footsteps on the tiled floor, moving away from him in his tiny cage.

He looked at the new band around his wrist and he tried to pull it off, desperate to not have a baby like the others. He’d seen what it had done to them, he’d watched them from his little cage, what the doctors had done, how the specimens had cried themselves sick for their babies, only to be separated from birth, to never see each other again. Most of the specimens had become so unruly that the doctors had killed them. He didn’t want to end up like them.

He sobbed and gave up trying to remove the new band when it started making his wrist bleed. He curled up tightly and calmed his breathing down slowly. It was pitch black in the caging room, Alfie had turned the lights out on them, and a few of the other specimens were crying in fear because of the dark. Because of the unknown.

He focused on his hands and he brought out his little balls of light, casting a soft glow over the nearest cages.

 

“How do you do that?” One man demanded fearfully.

 

“I’ve always been able to do it.” Harry sniffled, curling in on himself and relaxing each body part in turn so that he could sleep. It was so uncomfortable in the cage now, especially after the big bed. He hated it and his neck and back always hurt and he always woke up feeling even more tired.

 

With the soft glow of the light, Harry managed to drift off, only to be woken back up by loud bangs that startled every single one of them, some so badly that their cages rocked. He had no idea how long had passed since the doctors had left, but he didn’t know what it meant if they were back and making so much noise either. He was scared.

For a moment he thought that maybe an experiment had gotten free, but then he realised that they would need one of the doctor’s key cards that were on their belts, no one else could get into the caging room.

The door to the caging room beeped and one of the security men with the shocky guns ran in, his arm bleeding, and he locked the door behind him. Harry’s heart was beating a mile a minute as he, and the hundred or so other experiments, watched the bleeding security man. Maybe an experiment was free in the other rooms.

The security man went to a locked cabinet on the wall and he used a key around his neck to open it. Inside was a button, which he pressed, which brought all of the house lights on and an awful wailing siren sounded which made more than half of the specimens, including him, cover their ears and scream.

Loud bangs over the siren had Harry looking up in horror. He remembered that noise, from the first factory, and he screamed louder when he saw the security man using a killing gun on all the specimens inside the cages.

The noise in the room was deafening as a hundred or more people all screamed, shouted and tried to break out of their cages before the security man got to them. The specimen next to Harry, the man who’d asked him about his lights, actually looked like he was going to manage it as he partially turned into a werelion and used his animal’s strength to help him.

Harry screamed louder when the werelion’s chest exploded with the next shot from the security man’s killing gun. He huddled down and tried to make himself seem as small as possible, especially when the door burst open and more people came flooding in. He was going to die. He was going to be killed without seeing his favourites ever again. He started sobbing, waiting for his death as the loud noises went on over his head. He would have given anything to see his favourites just one more time before he was killed.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Anita cursed furiously as one of the security guards locked himself in one of the rooms, she knew what was happening behind that door, but there were a lot more guards than she would have thought. She’d been expecting three, maybe four at a push…no, there were fifteen of them and though they only had Tasers, they were very well trained and they were blocking their progress, giving the one who’d sealed himself in the one room, time to kill the experiments. She could have already lost Harry and that thought enraged her. She had not done all of this for nothing, she refused to believe that he was dead until she saw him.

All of the doctors were in custody, they’d waited for the call from Bradford’s team before they had hit the factory, just in case the guards inside had a way to contact the doctors and alert them before they had a chance to arrest them. She didn’t like it, but Bradford had overruled her, reminding her that the doctors were the priority as the bigger threat, so they’d had to wait until they got the all clear, when all the doctors had been arrested.

 

“Ted! Get into that room!” She yelled at Edward, who looked across and nodded, making his way over to the steel door as an alarm blared through the whole factory and faint screamed could be heard from behind the locked door.

 

Anita and the small team she had with Bradford finished off the rest of the guards, using lethal force after one of the guards refused to lay down his Taser and instead had fired it at one of Bradford’s people. The voltage on that Taser was not meant for human use…it had killed one of Bradford’s team.

They had had no qualms about shooting first then, not with one of their own dead on the floor and they finished off the last of the guards as Edward ducked behind a filing cabinet as the door to the locked room was almost blown off its hinges….of course Edward would have brought explosives with him.

They hit the room together and the scene almost made her sick as a sea of blood met them, covering the floor and the stands holding small metal cages that housed only a few screaming, hysterical people. The rest were dead, heads and chests blown out by the high calibre weapon that the security guard in this room was firing into them, reloading with practiced ease from a bag he had tied to his belt.

Even as they surrounded him and aimed their own guns at him, his priority wasn’t firing at them or protecting himself, but taking as many of the screaming victims of this factory as he could, eliminating the living evidence of the experiments taking place daily.

 

“Lay down your weapon!” Bradford ordered.

 

But the guard just aimed and shot another screaming woman and Anita couldn’t stand here and try to reason with someone who wasn’t going to listen, she took aim and she shot him, right through the head as he aimed at another screaming, hysterical victim, this one a young boy who couldn’t have been over fifteen, but she had learnt her lesson in not judging these poor people by their appearance from Harry.

She let Bradford handle everything as she looked at the screaming, thrashing people who had been left alive and her stomach sunk as none of them were Harry.

 

“Is your boy here?” Edward asked her.

 

She shook her head sadly. “No.”

 

“What does he look like? I’ll check the dead for you.”

 

“No, I need to do it.” She told him and she went back to the door and started with those who had been killed first. None of them were Harry and her heart tightened…what if he’d never been brought to this factory?

 

“Sir! All the rooms are clear, Sir.” One of Bradford’s team told him.

 

“There’s no one hiding in any cupboards or behind a desk?” Bradford asked.

 

“No, Sir. We cleared everything.”

 

Bradford nodded. “Call it in. We need ambulances and a clean-up crew. Anita, do we remove the survivors?”

 

“No, they’re too hysterical, it’ll be dangerous.” She insisted as she broke her gaze from another body who wasn’t Harry to look at the still screaming victims. “They might attack us through fear.”

 

Bradford nodded, but he looked uneasy. “I don’t like leaving them in those cages, especially not with the view they have.”

 

“There’s sedation equipment here, we could put them under.” Edward suggested, pulling open a drawer to show sealed needles and sealed bottles of sedative.

 

“It won’t keep them down for long.” Anita warned. “But it might help to calm them down at least. They could hurt themselves like this.”

 

“Someone try and shut that damn alarm off!” Bradford shouted as Edward started taking out needles and loading them up with sedative and as Bradford helped him to inject the wildly thrashing victims, Anita carried on looking into every cage.

 

A tiny, skinny little body with a shaved head with a slight, stubbly growth of black hair caught her attention and she ran to the end of the row she was searching and she found him. He was curled up in a tight ball in the bottom of his cage, but there didn’t seem to be any blood visible. She put her fingers through the bars and into the cage and she touched him. Her heart soared when he jumped under her touch.

 

“Harry! Harry, are you okay?” She asked, shouting before the alarm abruptly shut off, leaving deafening silence behind for all of a minute before the specimens went back to rocking their cages and screaming as Bradford and Edward carefully sedated them one by one. They were terrified and had no idea what was going on, some of them might not even be able to comprehend what was happening, for all they knew, this could easily be another experiment and they were scared.

 

“Harry?” She tried again, able to get him to hear her properly now that the siren was off.

 

“Neeta?”

 

Impossibly wide, terrified green eyes turned to peek out at her and her gut turned over at how scared he must have been. Harry carefully peeked around the room and shivered.

 

“Don’t look at all of that, Harry. Look at me.” She ordered him protectively. “I’m here to take you back.”

 

“I can come home?” He asked in such a small, pathetic voice that she wanted him out of this damn cage and in her arms now.

 

“Ted! Get over here and help me.” She demanded and he handed the needles off to someone else and came right over.

 

“Is this your boy?” He asked.

 

She nodded. “Yes, this is Harry.”

 

“What are the odds he survived again?” Edward said to her.

 

“Just help me open this damn cage.”

 

“It’s an electronic lock pad. Hold on.” Edward got his gun out and Harry squeaked and curled up again.

 

“It’s okay, Harry.” She soothed as Edward pressed the barrel against the lock pad and fired, shooting it clean off before yanking open the cage door.

 

Anita pulled Harry out of the cage and just held him. She was dismayed to feel that he was skin and bone again, any progress they had made had been completely undone by his nine day captivity.

 

“Do I pull out these wires and needles?” Edward asked.

 

Anita shook her head. “No. I don’t know what any of them are or if he needs them. Wait for the medics.”

 

“This is saline fluid with a hell of a lot of vitamins added.” Edward said, reading the label on the bag. “It has the same number on it that the cage display was reading. One hundred and sixteen.”

 

“That was Harry’s number.”

 

“This fluid has been tailor made for him…I don’t think it should be removed at all.” Edward said blankly. “Who knows what it’ll do to him if it’s removed and he needs it. Those people were sick.”

 

The medics and clean-up crews arrived and instead of clocking off, Anita stayed where she was holding Harry as he cried into her neck.

 

“Richard was hurt, and Jamil.” Harry whispered.

 

“They’re both fine now, Harry.” She told him reassuringly. “They want to see you so badly.”

 

“I want to see them too. I’ve missed them and all of my favourites. I want to go home.”

 

“I’ll get you home as soon as the medics have seen you and say you can come home.”

 

“I don’t want them prodding me.” Harry sniffled.

 

“Just a little bit, Harry. I promise.”

 

“Are they doctors?”

 

“No, they’re paramedics.” Anita told him and Harry nodded.

 

“Are you going to call Richard?” Edward asked.

 

“Not just yet. I want to have Harry checked out first and get him in the car back to Saint Louis and then I’ll call them.”

 

Edward nodded and went to drag a medic over to look at Harry while Anita held him throughout the examination in which the medic cautiously declared that Harry was alright and removed the wires, catheter and most of the needles, the IV fluid with the added vitamins was left where it was and the medic insisted that Harry should still go to a hospital. Anita shot that decision down and she said her goodbyes to Bradford and she left as soon as she got an affirmative answer from the medic that Harry would survive the car journey.

The medics tried to argue, saying that all the victims needed professional medical assistance. Anita ignored them as she left with Edward and got into her jeep and strapped Harry in. The wires had been removed, but the IV drip was still in place so Anita made sure to be careful with the seatbelt. Harry was cuddling with the fluid bag attached to the IV like young children would cuddle a teddy.

 

“Will I see Asher and Richard?” He asked from the backseat as Anita started the drive back to the Circus.

 

“I’m sure you will.” She said and Harry smiled.

 

Edward used her phone to dial the Circus, from where it was settled into the car’s hands free set.

 

‘Anita!’ Richard’s desperate voice answered before the end of the first ring.

 

“Richard. It’s all…”

 

‘Please tell us you got him.’ Richard cut over her. ‘Please.’

 

“We got him. He’s going to be fine. Say hello to Richard, Harry.”

 

“Hi Richard!” Harry yelled into the phone from his place belted into the backseat. “I’ve missed you so much. Anita is bringing me home so I can see you.”

 

All they could hear was uncontrollable sobbing over the phone.

 

“Is Richard okay? Does he not want me to come home?” Harry asked insecurely.

 

“It’s not that. He just wants you home so badly and he’s missed you so much that he’s crying in relief, Harry.”

 

‘We have all missed you, mon ange.’ Asher’s voice came smoothly over the phone.

 

“Asher! I missed you. I have so much to tell you and Neeta said that the doctors couldn’t get me anymore.”

 

‘That’s right, mon ange. They can’t touch you again. We can’t wait to see you again. All of us are waiting at home for you.’

 

“I can still sleep with you and Richard?”

 

‘Yes.’ Richard answered thickly. ‘I think we could all do with some sleep when you get here.’

 

“Okay. I couldn’t sleep in my cage at all, I was so used to the big bed with you and Asher and it wasn’t the same in the cage. I need lots of sleep.”

 

‘We…we can sort all of that out ready for when you get back.’ Richard said. ‘Do you want anything to eat first?’

 

“He can’t have anything, Richard. He’s back on the IVs. He needs to be weaned back off of them. Can you inform Lillian?”

 

‘It’ll be done, Ma petite.’ Jean-Claude’s voice came over the phone for the first time.

 

“Hi, Cloud!” Harry called out. “You’re a favourite too, so I missed you!”

 

Several people chuckled and Anita actually heard one or two hard sniffs.

 

“Is Jamil okay?” Harry asked with a frown from the backseat, still cuddling his IV bag. “Anita said he was, but I want to be sure. Jamil is a favourite too.”

 

‘Jamil is fine, Harry. He wants to see you when you get back.’ Richard told him.

 

“I’ll see you all when I get back, make sure everything is ready for him. He’s got a blanket around him, but I think Harry will love his pyjamas back.” Anita said into the phone.

 

They said their goodbyes and Edward switched the phone off as those at the Circus made everything ready for their boy to come home.

 

“Go to sleep now, Harry.” Anita told him. “We’ll be home quicker if you sleep.” She added when he frowned at her and looked like he was going to argue.

 

“Okay.” He agreed easily.

 

She watched in the rear view mirror as he curled up around the seat belt with the IV bag. He couldn’t be comfortable, but he had more room on the backseat than he did in the cage at least. She put her foot down and prayed that they didn’t hit traffic or any obstructions, she just wanted to get back to Saint Louis and back to the Circus so her men could see that Harry was fine and well with their own eyes, though hearing him speaking over the phone would have likely gone a very long way in reassuring them that he was physically fine at least.

 

“Call Bradford, Edward. See where he is.”

 

“It’s only been half an hour, Anita.” Edward told her.

 

“I know, but I can’t shift the feeling that those people are going to escape and get away with this.”

 

“They won’t. I’ll see their faces in the reports and then if they do escape, I’ll hunt them down as Death.”

 

“I’ll come with you, as the Executioner.” Anita promised, looking at poor Harry sleeping in the backseat. “One way or another, we’ll get them. I swear it.”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Seventeen – Reunion

 

Harry was so happy when Anita carried him into the Circus. His home. He was wriggling and he just wanted to run off and find his favourites, but he couldn’t. His legs didn’t work very well and he had his water bag back, attached to his hand.

 

“Neeta, faster.” He urged her, swinging his legs.

 

Edward chuckled and Harry grinned at him. He liked Edward, even if he was scary, he wasn’t scary to him. He was always nice to him and he smiled and laughed and Edward had told him in the car that he had two children himself; Becca and Peter. Harry liked Edward.

 

They got down the horrible steps and Anita carried him through the floaty, soft stuff and Harry managed to see the room filled with people and then someone rushed at him and took him from Anita. He smelled Richard and he flung his arms out to hug him tightly, locking his legs around him.

 

“Watch his IV, Richard.” Anita said before going to kiss Jean-Claude with a tired sigh.

 

“I’ve got it.” Richard said as he hugged Harry tightly, watching the IV bag and the needle attached to a shunt in the back of his hand.

 

“Set him down, Richard. Let me see what they’ve done.” Lillian instructed.

 

Richard chose to sit down and keep Harry in his lap, still hugging him around his tiny waist and readjusting the blanket that was now tangled around him.

 

“I see they ruined all of our hard work with your hair.” Micah said as he run a hand over the completely shaved head.

 

“It all went when they gave me a bath with nasty stuff that smelt like the floors.” Harry nodded as he moved himself to the perfect positions for Lillian to check on him. He liked Lillian too.

 

“This IV bag has double the amount of vitamins and minerals as it did when he last came from them.” Lillian said with a frown as she read the label on the front of it.

 

“Maybe it’s because he was on the outside?” Micah asked.

 

“It’s for the baby.” Harry said easily.

 

“What?!” Several people cried.

 

“They seminated me with a baby.”

 

“Insemination. Oh god.” Richard moaned as if he were in pain, his arms holding Harry closer.

 

“They said I was unruly and naughty, so they seminated me and if the baby was better than me, they were going to kill me and keep the baby instead.”

 

Harry lay back against Richard and pulled away the blanket that Anita had given him from her car and he patted the lump in his belly.

Lillian touched it and felt around. She did several more things as Harry looked up at Richard and petted him. He’d missed Richard a lot.

 

“He is pregnant. There is a baby growing in here.” Lillian said breathlessly, almost in shock

 

“A baby girl.” Harry said with a nod. “The doctors said girls had better survival rates and they’d be more docile and less ‘gressive after she’s born.”

 

“Right, we’ll help you through this, Harry. I promise.” Lillian told him. “For now, you’re okay to go and sleep for a bit, if you still want to.”

 

Harry nodded and turned expectantly to Richard, who stood up with him and let everyone say goodnight and welcome back to him before carrying him to his big bedroom with his big bed. Asher was following behind them.

 

“I’ve missed my bed and my room.” Harry said as he crawled naked over his covers, taking his water bag with him, but leaving the blanket behind.

 

“Come here, I’ve got your pyjamas all ready.” Richard told him and Harry giggled as Richard dressed him in his soft, warm pyjamas that he loved. He’d hated being naked in his cage.

 

“Will you stay with me so no one can take me while I’m sleeping?”

 

“Of course. I need some sleep too.”

 

“Asher too?” Harry asked, looking at the blond vampire.

 

Oui, mon ange.”

 

Asher climbed into the bed and Harry cuddled against him as Richard climbed in next to him. Asher held the IV bag for Harry as he and Richard slipped off to sleep. He would not die until dawn, he was alright for another sixteen or so hours. It had been a twelve hour drive from the factory back to the Circus. A very long, very fraught twelve hours for them at the Circus, just waiting for Anita to come back with their Harry.

Asher brushed the shaved, stubbly head and he smiled to himself as Harry smiled in his sleep at the touch. It felt surreal to have him back, but it was such a relief too. Asher had never loved anyone as much as he did Harry. The little boy was right up at the top of his list along with Jean-Claude, but he had never experienced this innocent, nonsexual, love before. The unconditional love of a child with absolutely no strings attached, and he’d become addicted to it without realising it. It had only been when Harry was taken that he’d realised exactly how much Harry had come to mean to him, how much he loved him and now that he was back, he was going to spend his time showing Harry exactly how much he loved and cared for him.

Asher sighed and smoothed his hand over the bristly head. Harry was pregnant. Messed around with so much that he had the womb of a female that was able to carry a baby. It seemed cruel to give such a traumatised, hurt little boy his own child. It was going to mess more with Harry’s emotions and thoughts, not to mention what it was going to do to his already messed up hormones. He just wasn’t ready to be a Father…Mother…whatever he’d be. He might never be ready for such responsibilities, but they had been thrust onto him regardless, uncaring of him or his mental wellbeing.

Harry wasn’t able to look after himself, he didn’t understand or comprehend certain things and there was no way that he could possibly look after his own child. Asher looked to the peacefully sleeping face and the fear and the torment that Harry had suffered through during his recapture leapt out at him like glowing signs that highlighted the terror and the pain that he had suffered through. The purple-black bags that circled his sunken eyes, the worried frowns creasing his forehead, the curled up, tight posture even when asleep and the pained lines that marred the face of one so very young. He hoped that the doctors who had done this so clinically, so emotionlessly, all got the death penalty for this.

How many innocent lives had they ruined over the course of their ‘careers’? How many people had they tormented in their selfish desire for forbidden knowledge? How much blood was dripping from their hands? How many dead were they responsible for? Those people deserved death and a more painful one than a mere injection.

Asher tried to rid himself of those thoughts, he could not go after those people, as much as he’d dearly love to hurt and torment them as they’d done to Harry, he couldn’t. He needed to be here for Harry, who was assuredly going to suffer with nightmares again, as he did before. Perhaps they’d be worse now that his deep rooted belief that he was safe here at the Circus and that nothing could touch him here had been shaken. He needed to be ready at a moment’s notice to help sooth Harry when he inevitably woke up screaming, thinking that he was strapped down and being experimented on once more.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Anita could have killed those doctors then and there if they were in front of her when the petrified screaming started from deeper underground. No one moved, knowing that rushing to Harry would frighten him more. They let Richard and Asher, who were sleeping with Harry, deal with his nightmares.

 

“It begins again.” Jean-Claude said sombrely.

 

“We’ve done this before.” Micah said calmly as he held Nathaniel’s hand comfortingly. “We can do it again, for Harry.”

 

“I still can’t believe that they inseminated that poor boy.” Lillian all but growled. Anita had never seen her quite so angry. “He carries three strains of lycanthropy and vampirism on his own, without adding in whatever the other donor carries, what were they even thinking?!”

 

“That Harry was a mere plaything. They didn’t care if the baby lived or not, they wanted to see the results of it and then they’d just try again, probably with a different donor egg to see if that gave them different results.” Edward put in mildly.

 

“Harry has a womb.”

 

Edward shook his head. “Harry said that they wanted the baby to be his, even if they have put a womb in him, that doesn’t mean that he has the ovaries to go with it. They wouldn’t be his eggs either, even if they did give him the full female reproductive system, they’d be the eggs of the woman who’s womb they put inside him. I’d bet that it was just a womb, though. That means a donor egg, fertilised with Harry’s sperm and then implanted back into him.”

 

“There’s no end to their depravity.” Lillian scowled. “That boy is in no condition to sustain a pregnancy and that’s without thinking of the mental and emotional ramifications. He’s going to be very ill from this and I’d be surprised if that baby wasn’t ill too with all the different strains muddling up its…her, DNA.”

 

Anita closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Harry had said that he was having a daughter, because females were more likely to survive and were more docile. She tried not to think of how many babies those doctors had gone through to find out that information and she pushed away the memory of all the baby skeletons that they’d unearthed at the Saint Louis factory. It was just too gruesome, too barbaric, to think about.

 

“Is it even likely that the baby will survive?” Claudia asked, her massive arms folded over her stomach, as they were too big to go over her breasts.

 

Lillian thought hard for a moment before shaking her head. “There’s no telling how this is going to play out. Those people, and I use the term lightly, have obviously done this before and as much as I hate the thought, they knew what they were doing, as wicked as what they were doing was. I myself would say that Harry is not healthy enough to carry a baby and with all the different strains, it’s likely that the baby will be either lost, stillborn or will be too ill after birth to live for very long. Which makes what they did all the more cruel as they’ve added the unnecessary trauma onto Harry of a possible stillborn baby or miscarriage or the pressure of dealing with a very sick newborn. He’s in no emotional state to be dealing with any of it. I’m not even sure he fully understands what having a newborn is going to be like.”

 

“We could give him a doll.” Nathaniel suggested. “To see what he does with it.”

 

Lillian looked thoughtful. “That might not be a bad idea. It would be purely for reaction purposes. If he doesn’t like it, then it is highly possible that even if he does have the baby that he won’t be the slightest bit interested in her. If he reacts positively, well, then we can take it from there, but Harry isn’t the most gentle when it comes to delicate things.”

 

“What do you mean?” Anita asked.

 

“Richard and I tested his level of grip and his understanding of his own strength and grip a few weeks ago by giving him raw eggs and telling him to pet them without breaking them. He squeezed most of them until they did crack and he threw the rest at the wall. He thought it was funny.”

 

Anita had an image of Harry doing that to a newborn baby and she shivered. He had the strength of a wereanimal and a vampire as he was both. He could do untold damage to a newborn in a split second and there’d be nothing that they could do to prevent it. All it took was one wrong move or a grip that was fractionally too tight and they’d have a dead newborn on their hands.

 

“He needs to be taught how to properly touch delicate things.” Micah said. “We start with the doll and perhaps something that he doesn’t find quite as amusing as breaking eggs. Richard said he responded well to flowers because they were pretty.”

 

“If he has the gestation of one of his wereanimals, we might not have enough time to encourage him to be gentle enough.” Lillian worried. “I don’t want to take the baby from him either.”

 

“You might have to.” Edward said firmly. “Let him touch and see her under supervision, but the mental and emotional trauma of having her partially taken from him will be nothing compared to what it’ll be if he hurts or kills her. That memory will stay with him forever and when he learns and grows as he gets older, that memory will always be with him. He’ll know what he’s done and as he recovers and becomes more normal, he’s going to come to truly understand what he’s done too.”

 

“Edward’s right.” Anita sighed. “We have to take control and take the baby from him for both of their sakes, but right now, I really wouldn’t trust Harry with a baby if we can’t trust him with eggs.”

 

“We’ll try again. Perhaps if we try and get him to pretend that the eggs are babies he’ll respond more gently.” Lillian sighed. “I’ll see about getting him that doll.”

 

Lillian left and Anita turned to Edward to thank him again for his help. They might not have gotten into the caging room quick enough to have saved Harry if he hadn’t been there with his explosives. They said their goodbyes and Anita told him to wish Becca luck on her ballet performance and with Peter’s hunting, even if she didn’t agree with Edward raising him to be an assassin like he was.

She went to Micah and Nathaniel and took both of their hands. She needed some sleep if they were going to start teaching Harry about caring for a doll in the morning and she wanted to be wrapped around her sweeties to chase away the horrors that she’d seen in the Nebraska factory. Harry was having nightmares and she had a feeling that she was going to have them too.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry had barely slept and he lay awake, cuddled up tightly to Richard, who was still asleep. He didn’t want to leave the bed, even though he was bored. He felt safe here, in his bed with Asher on one side and Richard on the other. He wouldn’t feel quite as safe if he went wandering around on his own. For once he didn’t want to go wandering around on his own, he wanted to stay here. He was scared to go around on his own. Instead he lay quiet and still, waiting for one of his favourites to wake up.

 

“Harry, are you okay?” Richard’s sleepy voice cut through his silent musing and he looked up, a smile already on his face.

 

“Richard, you’re up!”

 

“Are you okay?” Richard asked again more pointedly.

 

“Yes. I didn’t want to get up, it’s safe here with you and Asher.”

 

“No one, no one, can get into the Circus, Harry.” Richard told him firmly.

 

“What if they do and they come for me again?” Harry asked.

 

“All the doctors were captured, Harry. They can’t hurt you, or anyone else, ever again.”

 

“Promise?” Harry asked in a small, fragile voice and Richard pulled him immediately into a tight, comforting hug with his massive arms.

 

“I promise, Harry. No one will ever hurt you again. No one can get into the Circus and no one in the Circus would dare hurt you, okay?”

 

Harry nodded. “‘Kay. Is Lilan here?”

 

“Lillian? Yes, she’ll still be here. Are you feeling unwell?”

 

“My water bag is empty.” Harry said simply, poking the flat, bone dry, plastic bag.

 

“Okay, let’s go and get you sorted out.” Richard said, getting up and stretching before he bent down and plucked up Harry, carrying him through the underground to the living room.

 

“Did you sleep well, Harry?” Jason asked him, looking like he hadn’t slept at all himself.

 

Harry nodded, his eyes staring at every face so that he knew who was around him and who was where. He was a lot more cautious than he had been before. He was back to acting how he had when he’d first come to the Circus, wary and distrustful of everyone around him.

Jamil came over and touched his shoulder, which got him a grin.

 

“Jamil, you’re okay?” Harry asked, looking at him.

 

“Yeah, I’m alright.”

 

Harry smiled widely and reached out to tug at one of the waist length cornrows that Jamil had in with a giggle.

 

“What have I told you about pulling hair?” Jamil said sternly.

 

“It’s mean.” Harry said, petting the cornrow in his hand gently before dropping it. “I don’t want to be mean.”

 

“We got you a present, Harry.” Micah said gently as he held out a female doll.

 

Harry looked at it and cocked his head onto his shoulder. “What is it?” He asked.

 

“You hold it like this.” Micah said, cradling the doll in his arms.

 

Harry took it and did the same. “It’s not doing anything.” He said.

 

Harry frowned at the doll, rocking it slightly, before he lifted a finger and prodded one of its unmoving eyes.

 

“No. No, Harry. We don’t do that to baby.” Micah chastised him gently.

 

“Do you think you could keep a hold of baby today?” Richard asked him.

 

If it had been anyone other than Richard, Harry would have refused, but as it had been Richard, he frowned, but he kept hold of the doll.

He cradled and rocked it when someone looked at him, otherwise he dangled it by a leg from his hand and poked at its unblinking eyes. He didn’t like those wide, staring eyes.

He wasn’t allowed to move much and it was very frustrating when all he wanted to do was to drop the doll and crawl around the floor.

 

“I’ve got to go for a few hours, okay?” Richard came to tell him, putting both hands on Harry’s shoulders and looking at him seriously. “I will be back soon and I’m leaving Jamil with you, is that okay?”

 

Harry bit his lip and nodded. “Will Asher be awake soon?”

 

“Asher and Jean-Claude.” Richard nodded.

 

Harry grinned and nodded. “Okay. Come back soon.”

 

“I will.” Richard said, bending forward further to kiss Harry’s forehead.

 

Harry watched Richard go and he sighed unhappily. He didn’t want Richard to go, he felt safer with Richard here with him, but at least he still had Jamil.

Lillian came down the steps and she had a new water bag for him. Harry threw the doll to the side and thrust out his shunted hand for her to deal with.

 

“Harry, we don’t do that to baby.” Micah told him and Harry frowned as he detected a new tone, a sterner tone and he turned to the doll and rolled it over so its unblinking eyes were facing upwards and then he held out his hand again, wondering worriedly if he wasn’t going to get a new water bag until the doll was positioned correctly.

 

“Let me sort this out for you.” Lillian smiled at him and Harry felt much more secure as he watched her take away his empty water bag and give him a new one. He held the bag as the doctors had taught him to do when he’d first been locked in his cage and he watched as the water went down the tube and into his body slowly.

 

“Do you want to pick baby back up?” Nathaniel asked him softly.

 

Harry looked at the doll and he scowled at it. “No. Baby is sleeping now.”

 

“How about some colouring?” Jamil asked him, holding out a brand new book and his pencils.

 

Harry’s eyes went wide and he screeched, jumping up and loping over to Jamil, reaching up for the book and colours.

 

“Jamil, he’s supposed to be…”

 

“You’re pushing him for too much too soon, Micah. If you force that doll on him every minute of every day then he’ll come to resent it. That won’t be good for the actual baby when it arrives. I understand that we don’t have the luxury of time, but at least give him a bit of time to adjust before you force him to carry a doll around with him everywhere.”

 

Micah thought about that seriously, before he nodded. “You’re right. I’m just scared that this baby will come a lot sooner than we’re imagining. He’s not healthy, he’s not in the right position for a baby. He’s skeletal and as this baby gets bigger it’s only going to put more stress on Harry and it’ll come much sooner. I don’t want him to have had no experience looking after something that requires a delicate hand.”

 

“Let him adjust to it first, let him have a bit of time away from the doll to do what he wants to do and then give it back to him.”

 

Micah nodded as he watched Harry become absorbed with his colouring. This was going to be a very long and difficult process. He already knew that when the actual baby arrived, they would not be prepared enough for it, especially not Harry.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry hurried back into the living room after feeding himself his very soft, almost pureed dinner in the kitchen. Nathaniel was just behind him, smiling as he watched Harry lope down the corridor that led to the living room. Harry dangled the doll that he had to take everywhere with him from his hand and he giggled as he swung it into the doorframe with a rather excessive force.

 

“Harry, mon petit pétale, please don’t do that.” Jean-Claude told him. “Come here, I shall do your hair.” 

 

Harry grinned and he hurried over, the doll still dangling from his hand, and he climbed up onto Jean-Claude’s lap, holding the arm that curled around his waist, the arm that was making sure he was settled and comfortable before lifting to his hair and playing with it.

There was not much that could be done with it, it was still shorn short, but he was growing out tiny little tufts that he still liked people playing with and no one played with his hair better than Jean-Claude.

Harry dropped the doll to the floor and he purred gently, his tiger rearing his head as he tipped his head back and nosed up under Jean-Claude’s chin.

 

“You shouldn’t drop the baby, Harry.” Richard told him.

 

Harry scowled heavily. This had been going on for the last week and he hated it as he was handed the doll once again. He’d had enough and after staring at it for a long moment, he flung the doll at the wall with such a force that its ugly head broke.

 

“I don’t want it anymore!” He said firmly. “I don’t like it! I don’t like its staring eyes, don’t give it to me again.”

 

Everyone around him shared a look and Harry didn’t like that either. It seemed like a doctor look to him.

 

“No more.” He said as firmly as he could. “I don’t want it anymore.”

 

“Okay, Harry. Okay.” Richard said easily as he picked up the broken doll and hid it from Harry’s sight.

 

Harry settled back against Jean-Claude’s chest and went back to enjoying having his hair played with.

 

“Is it big enough for a clip?” He asked excitedly.

 

“No, mon petit pétale, it is not yet long enough for a clip.” Jean-Claude told him. “But it will be soon and I have bought you some new ones too.”

 

“For me?” Harry asked excitedly, turning to get eye contact so he could see if it was true or not.

 

“Just for you, mon petit pétale.”

 

Harry laughed happily and he turned to hug Jean-Claude and gave him a kiss.

 

“Thank you. I like my hair clips.” He grinned.

 

“Very soon you’ll be back to wearing them. You look very pretty wearing them.”

 

Harry grinned and he settled back down. He’d been getting better at staying awake for longer and he was getting used to sleeping in his bed and not drifting off randomly due to stress or fear. He no longer needed to take several naps on people’s laps during the day. Though that was not to say that he didn’t like to sit on their laps or cuddle in, because he did, and sometimes he did even drift off, but he no longer did so purely to sleep in a safe place. He’d come to learn that his bed was a very safe place and as long as he had Asher and Richard with him, he was fine and no one had ever come to wake him up or drag him away for experiments.

He was very happy here and he had people that he liked and people who liked him too. He was once again being weaned from his water bags, he was being taught and he got given things that he liked, such as his new colouring books, his pencils, his hair clips, sweet stuff and his clothes. He didn’t like the doll though, with its unblinking eyes, nor did he like socks, which trapped in his toes.

He had finished having his hair played with and he was sat on Jean-Claude, enjoying himself, when Anita came down the stairs from the above Circus.

 

“Neeta!” He called out happily, slipping from Jean-Claude’s lap and loping over to her, almost barrelling her over in his enthusiasm. “Welcome home.” He said as he nuzzled into her neck, nibbling on her skin a bit.

 

“No biting, Harry.” She reminded him as she patted his bristly head.

 

“No biting.” He repeated as he rubbed his nose on her shirt, smelling her and all the places that she’d been that day. He remembered not to bite, it wasn’t a nice thing to do, like pulling hair.

 

“Have you had dinner?” She asked him.

 

He nodded his head. “Neil fed me.”

 

Anita looked up at Nathaniel and nodded. “You’re not in your pyjamas, so you haven’t had your bath yet, why don’t you go and do that, then you can have a story before you go to sleep.”

 

“Okay.” Harry agreed.

 

“Come on, Harry.” Nathaniel held out his hand and Harry loped over to grab it, letting himself be led back underground for his bath.

 

“How has he been? He wasn’t holding the doll.” Anita observed as she greeted her sweeties.

 

“He’s broken it.” Richard sighed as he showed her the broken doll, its plastic head split. “He finally got fed up of having it pushed onto him and he threw it at the wall.”

 

Anita sighed heavily. “He was only getting more and more frustrated with it, it was bound to happen eventually. Perhaps this time get him a doll with eyes that close when it’s tipped backwards and not eyes painted open. That seemed to be his biggest problem with it. How did the egg test go?”

 

“As well as we expected it to go.” Richard told her. “We painted them to look like baby animals and he started out really well, then when it didn’t move or do anything after a while, he gently put it on the floor and stomped on it as hard as he could. After that it went downhill rapidly.”

 

“What of the doctors, ma petite?” Jean-Claude asked after a silent pause.

 

“Because of the nature of the factory and the inhumane testing carried out upon preternaturals by trusted, licenced medical practitioners, the courts have decided that they fall under the misuse of magical malfeasance act of the law.”

 

“That means death within forty-eight hours.” Richard said.

 

“They’ve all been transferred to secure holding cells and have been processed as death row inmates. As they are human, it might take a little longer than the usual forty-eight hours, but they have no chance of appeal. They will be executed before the week is over for their crimes. Soon Harry will be able to rest easy, knowing that those who harmed him will legally be executed and they can no longer come back for him.”

 

“What about the underlings?”

 

“All of them were caught and arrested. Some are also on death row, others will be facing a lengthy imprisonment and all of them have been blacklisted from ever practising medicine in any capacity ever again. The two women who injected the vaccines into their victims are both on death row, it is an offence punishable by death to purposefully infect humans against their will and as they acted within full knowledge of what they were doing, it was easy to bump them onto death row too.”

 

“Now we just have to deal with Harry’s baby.”

 

Anita touched the broken head of the doll. “Maybe we should just take the baby from him when she is born and have someone else raise her. Harry is never going to understand and he doesn’t want her. If he could make a conscious choice and Lillian was able to perform a less risk filled abortion, I’m sure he would have chosen to do it.”

 

“You can’t say that! You can’t put words in his mouth, Anita!”

 

Anita glared down Richard and prodded the doll again.

 

“Do you want to see this…” She squeezed the doll’s already broken head causing it to split further. “Happen to a real baby?” She demanded. “This is the reality of what we are facing, he is going to kill that baby in one way or another if he is left near her for any length of time. He is going to throw her into a wall, or stomp her to death, or crush her, if we let him have any contact with her. He can’t be trusted.”

 

“I’d have hoped he’d have made some progress by now.” Richard sighed, thrusting a hand through his brown, copper tinted hair.

 

“We all did.” Anita agreed. “But that baby is not getting any smaller and Lillian has estimated that it could be here in a mere month. We are running out of time and Harry is proving more uncooperative than we first thought. It isn’t his fault, but Edward was right, we can’t leave him to do something so devastating as to kill his own child and then let him carry that guilt around when he learns the full extent of what he’s done. We would be to blame as much as him if we did. We, who had known the danger but still allowed a newborn baby to be given to Harry, regardless that she would be his own daughter, for him to injure or kill. He won’t forget that it was us who pushed this on him either and he could blame us as much as he would blame himself. We can’t do that to him, Richard.”

 

Ma petite is right, mon ami. Harry would never forgive us and he would be right to. I fear that he will not be ready for such delicate interactions with such fragile things for years to come. We cannot stop him from breaking eggs or dolls, how can we stop him from breaking a baby when all it would take is for one moment of pressure or one tantrum? There will be no second chances and those memories would stay with him for as long as he lived.”

 

Richard nodded in understanding. “I just…I suppose I had hoped that he would be able to look after his own daughter. I knew that it would never have happened overnight, but somewhere deep down it breaks my heart that he isn’t going to love his own daughter, and that she is not even going to be allowed to see him for years and even then all visitation would have to be supervised. What sort of life is that?”

 

“At least it will be that, life.” Anita told him. “The other option will only lead to her death by her Father’s unwitting hands.”

 

The arrival of Nathaniel, sans Harry, stalled their conversation.

 

“Harry’s in his bedroom.” Nathaniel said as several people opened their mouths to ask just that. “He wants you with him.” He directed to Richard before he went to greet Anita with a kiss.

 

“How was he today?” Richard asked, holding back his beast by a thread as he watched Nathaniel kiss Anita.

 

“How do you mean?” The leopard asked calmly.

 

Richard almost snarled, but held himself in check. He was not the Ulfric of the Thronnos Rokke clan for nothing. He was very able to control himself, especially when he was up against submissive leopards. “Did he make any progress today?”

 

“He recognised an apricot from a peach today. He likes them both, even though the apricots were out of season and a little sour, he still liked it.”

 

“Anything else?”

 

“Not really. He coloured in several more pictures, ate his breakfast, lunch and his dinner with no fuss and he had his bath with no fuss. He still refuses to go outside, or even up into the Circus and he hasn’t asked about the doctors.”

 

“Did he eat the actual fruit or were they pureed?” Anita asked.

 

“I pureed them down for him, I did refuse to feed him though and, after a short battle, he fed himself. He’s still messy, but not as much as he was when he first arrived. He’s getting to be much more coordinated too.”

 

Richard sighed and he left for the bedroom, and to Harry, preparing himself to spend the evening at least with Harry, maybe even the night. Harry still wouldn’t sleep on his own and really, Richard couldn’t blame him, and whenever he felt the stirrings of annoyance, all he had to do to dispel it was remember when Harry had been taken from him, the panic he’d felt, the pain and the loneliness. It never failed to make him want to clutch Harry in his arms and never let him go and despite the frustration he felt over Harry’s lack of progress, particularly concerning the doll that he’d hoped would one day be replaced by a real baby, he could never hold it against Harry himself.

It wasn’t Harry’s fault that he’d been sold and experimented on, it wasn’t Harry’s fault that any of this had happened to him or that he didn’t understand what they were trying to do. It wasn’t Harry’s fault and Richard knew it.

Harry was already in the bed when he opened the door, snuggling under the duvet, waiting for him with a book resting beside him and Richard had to smile.

He’d been teaching Harry to read and that was actually coming on much easier than he had initially expected, as Harry had been able to read before he was sold and caged up and he’d just buried the unneeded skill over the years. It only needed a bit of coaxing to get Harry to read and understand words again and reading bedtime stories with him was an excellent way to get him back into reading. Richard got him to follow the words that he was saying and it also allowed Harry to hear how words were pronounced, which improved Harry’s vocabulary and his speech too. Plus it was very enjoyable and the both of them liked this small period of calm, quiet time just before Harry would go to sleep.

 

“Are you comfortable?” He asked Harry as he settled on the bed, letting Harry snuggle into him and shift until he could see the words on the page.

 

“Yeah.” He declared, already looking at the pictures of the first page.

 

Richard pulled the pillow higher up to support his neck before he launched into the story, going slowly, letting Harry follow the words and have time to look at the pictures too. It was relaxing and comforting and quiet. Richard relished this time and he allowed himself to relax. They couldn’t control what would happen next, but hopefully, they could prepare heavily for it.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Another week after Harry’s rescue and it was almost as if Harry had never had the little hiccup and been recaptured by the doctors.

He was back to wanting to explore the Circus above and he never got tired of the acts, even if he’d seen them before, and he happily ate cotton candy and got it stuck all over his face and fingers, though he didn’t want to go outside of the Circus, not yet, and he had a fit if it was even suggested.

Anita had gone to watch the doctors being executed personally, with Edward, just to ensure that none of them escaped or got away. So that they knew that no one would ever come after Harry again.

She looked at him now, kneeling on the settee and giggling at Wicked as the ancient vampire pulled faces at Harry from across the room.

He was coming on much better and now that Richard was teaching him the basics of English, Mathematics and the sciences, Harry was getting a sort of formal education, even if it was just the basics from Richard, who was a secondary school teacher.

Micah coming into the living room with a bag distracted her, and she knew it contained a brand new doll for Harry. It had taken him just two days to break the new one that he’d been given last week. He’d tried to flush it down the toilet before ripping off a plastic arm.

 

“Keep it hidden for now.” She suggested.

 

“I got him something else too.” Micah smiled.

 

Before he could pull out what was undoubtable yet another colouring book, they heard a thump, a curse from Wicked and a cry.

Anita looked over and she couldn’t see Harry, but she could see the top of Wicked’s head behind the settee and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that Harry had fallen over the back of it.

Anita was moving before she consciously thought of it as Harry started crying in earnest, he was holding a hand to his head, but Wicked was being very careful of his neck and back, keeping Harry laying still.

 

“What did he land on?” Micah asked.

 

“Flat on his front.” Wicked said worriedly. “I tried to get to him, but I was just slightly too far away. I got to him just as he hit the floor.”

 

“We need Lillian. The baby.” Micah gave her a worried look.

 

“I can’t hear anything.” Wicked told them. “There’s usually a whooshing sound to indicate the baby, it’s gone.”

 

“He’s lost it.” Anita said matter-of-factly. “Let me call Lillian.”

 

She went to Jean-Claude’s desk and picked up the landline phone and dialled for Lillian.

 

“What’s happened?” Lillian asked in answer to the phone.

 

“We think that Harry’s lost the baby. We’re in the living room.”

 

Lillian sighed. “I was expecting this. I’ll be there momentarily.”

 

Micah was cradling Harry when she turned around, the boy was locked around him tightly, still crying, but calming down as he had the downy tufts of his hair stroked. There was a bump to his head and his face was etched with pain, but his time with those doctors had given him a much higher pain tolerance and he was already stopping his tears and his noises.

Micah sat down on the settee that Harry had fallen over and cradled him, comforting him and then Lillian came bustling in, two wererat guards with her, for her own protection.  

 

“Oh, what have you done, Harry?” She asked in a higher pitch.

 

“I…I fell over the back…back of the chair!” Harry huffed.

 

“Oh, let me see you.” Lillian said gently as she checked Harry over carefully. “Where do you hurt the most?”

 

Harry’s hand went to the bump on his head and then hovered over the baby bump he had. That wasn’t a good sign.

It was a tense wait for Lillian to do the necessary checks and tests. She sat back and shook her head and Anita sighed heavily. Harry had lost the baby.

 

“Keep him sat down and quiet for today. This bump is bad and he needs to rest, but he’s not concussed. Make sure the others know to keep him sat down and quiet too.”

 

Anita followed Lillian out of Harry’s earshot as Micah distracted him with his present, a brand new colouring book. At least that would keep Harry sat down and quiet for several hours.

 

“He’s lost the baby.” Lillian said with no preamble. “There’s no heartbeat and I can no longer detect any signs of life.”

 

“I guessed as much as soon as he fell. Wicked was looking right at him and still couldn’t reach him in time. We should have been more careful with him.”

 

“Perhaps this is the best case scenario. We knew he wouldn’t react well to a baby, we knew he was not healthy enough to carry a baby, but it would have been too risky to give him an abortion. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise.”

 

Anita nodded curtly and turned to look at Harry cuddled up with Micah, his colouring book in hand and Micah holding a fistful of coloured pencils for Harry to choose from.

He was calming down and he seemed happy and peaceful enough. This was undoubtedly a tragedy, not least for the baby who had been lost, but on the other hand, maybe Lillian was right, in a clinically detached way, perhaps this was for the best after all.

 

“What has happened?” Asher asked immediately as he came into the living room with Jean-Claude to see Harry all but cradled in Micah’s arms, the bump on his head had risen up to resemble an egg. A bright red, almost purple egg.

 

“Asher!” Harry called out, holding out his arms.

 

Asher was beside him in a moment, pulling him from Micah and cradling him himself.

 

“What has happened, mon ange?” He asked, as delicate fingers traced around the forming egg.

 

“He fell over the back of the settee.” Anita told him. “Lillian has already seen to him. He’s going to be fine with some rest. There isn’t a concussion.”

 

“The baby?” Jean-Claude asked her as he and Asher looked at her. She shook her head sadly.

 

“Does he know?” Asher asked.

 

“I don’t think he’ll understand.” Anita told him. “Lillian said he needs to avoid stress for the next few days.”

 

Asher nodded and he sat down and cradled Harry, who was still jabbering into his ear.

 

“Is there anything else that we can do for him?”

 

Anita shook her head. “No. His healing abilities will deal with everything, but just in case, he needs to rest. He probably won’t like that, as he has been getting more active lately, but if we can distract him for most of the time with colouring and reading, we should manage it until he’s assuredly better.”  

 

“He is getting much better with his numbers too.” Jean-Claude said proudly.

 

Anita looked at Harry and she smiled. He really was coming on in leaps and bounds. It was almost as if he could feel that those who had harmed him were now dead and gone. Even his blood family…those who had sold him to those doctors in the first place, were gone in a sense. The Dursley family had been imprisoned in an American prison for neglect and human trafficking, their son had gone to live with his own aunt back in Britain.

There was no one left to hurt him and it was almost as if Harry could sense that in his own way. He was happier, less anxious and more adventurous. He wanted to go outside now, he showed no fear of being out in the open and he even enjoyed his trips to the park with Richard or his walks with Nathaniel and Jason. He was becoming more confident, he was learning and progressing and Lillian had started to straighten Harry’s spine with a brace that he wore overnight to correct his posture.

They had done all they could to protect him now, but they would never stop teaching him. He had so much to catch up on and so much more to learn, but she was so proud of how far he’d come. She was so proud of him for never giving up.

The hours passed slowly and they kept Harry calm and quiet, distracting him always with his colouring, which he loved. The news got around quickly and Richard came hurrying in, his face pale.

 

“What happened?” He whispered under his breath.

 

“He fell over the back of the chair.” Anita told him. “He didn’t even try to catch himself so he fell flat on his front. He’s lost the baby and he bumped his head.”

 

Richard’s face crumpled and he turned to Harry. “Will he be okay?”

 

“We don’t know yet, he needs to be kept calm and quiet though. A tough thing to do when he wants to go bouncing around.”

 

“I’ll keep him down and quiet.” Richard said, before turning around. “Hey, Harry. I heard you had an accident today.”

 

“Richard. Richard. Richard!” Harry chanted, trying to get up, but Asher refused to let him go. “Asher, Richard’s here!” Harry tried to get him to see.

 

Richard quickly sat beside Asher and carefully took Harry onto his own lap.

 

“Look at my colouring, Richard!”

 

Richard sat and he looked at all of the pictures and colourings that Harry had done. He really was getting better at them and he’d done at least half a book. That alone said how long they’d been using it to keep Harry sat down and calm.

Richard kissed the bump on Harry’s head and he cradled the boy gently, keeping his hand and arm away from his stomach, which was likely to be very sore. Harry giggled at his actions before going back to more colouring. Richard noticed that all over the edges of the pictures were numbers or the letters of the alphabet. Harry was practising and he was so proud to see that Harry hadn’t made a single mistake. Harry did remember what the numbers and the letters were from before he’d been caged up, but his hands and muscles no longer remembered how to write them down. It was why Harry was better at talking than he was at writing, but that wouldn’t last for much longer. He was teaching Harry himself and the bright boy was an avid learner.

Harry wanted to be normal, it was evident in his face as he strived to learn everything that he could, as he absorbed what was being taught to him. He was such a quick learner because he wanted it so much. He was very much like the little boy who had been first caged up. It was almost like he had never developed past that point, which, seeing as he was in inhumane conditions, kept by vile, evil people, Richard could very well understand. Harry had not learnt anything useful in those years with those people and what he had already learnt had been lost in the fight for survival. Instead of mathematics he had learnt how to position himself perfectly for medical examinations, instead of history he’d learnt to be silent and still, instead of science he’d learnt pain and endurance. He’d been treated worse than an animal and now they had the job of undoing all of that teaching and replacing it with what Harry needed to know to improve and grow.

He might never be truly independent, Richard thought as he smiled down at the boy sat in his lap. He was almost eighteen years old and he was snuggled up on his lap, colouring and practising numbers and letters. He was always going to need them to some extent and Richard would be damned if he let the boy go too far away from him.

Harry shifted uncomfortably on his lap and Richard immediately gave his full attention to the boy.

 

“Are you okay? Do you need the bathroom?” He asked.

 

Harry shook his head and he laid a tiny hand over his belly. “Hurts.” He said softly.

 

Richard swallowed and he kissed the bump to Harry’s head again, trying to sooth him.

 

“How about some honey?” He asked.

 

Harry’s entire face lit up and his already large eyes widened in pleasure. “Yes! Yes, Richard!” He said happily, excitedly.

 

“I’ve got it.” Jason said, smiling sadly. He left the room to get the jar of honey that they kept in the breakroom for Harry.

 

It was a struggle to keep Harry from following after Jason, especially when Harry put his preternatural strength to good use, but Richard was fitter, healthier, bigger and he weight lifted too. He could easily keep Harry on his lap, but he couldn’t keep Harry still as the boy wriggled and fought him, trying to get up to follow Jason for more honey.

 

“Richard, Jacey has sweet stuff!” Harry implored him, trying to get him to understand what he wanted and to let him go.

 

“Jason’s coming back with your honey, Harry.” Richard assured him.

 

When Jason took that moment to jog back into the room with the jar of honey and one of Harry’s weaning spoons, Harry shrieked happily, reaching out for him.

 

“Jacey, sweet stuff!” Harry insisted.

 

Jason couldn’t get the lid of the jar off fast enough as Harry hurried him on and begged him in equal measure. Jason was laughing when he finally dipped the spoon and offered it out to Harry, who bent forward and all but sucked the spoon to get off every last trace of honey.

Jason gave him just two more spoonfuls, aware of the damage it could do to Harry’s health and to his teeth, but, used to this limitation by now, Harry just sat back and licked his lips happily. He was now very content and he’d stopped thinking of his pain too.

 

“Here you go.” Richard offered out the fistful of coloured pencils to Harry, easily distracting him again with the colouring book as Harry selected a green pencil and started a new picture.

 

It was going to be hell keeping him calm and quiet for the next few weeks at least, they’d likely have to use copious amounts of honey, which was going to be a double edged blade, as Harry hated having his teeth cleaned. It stemmed back to him hating having anything in his mouth and the toothbrush was a bit too much in Harry’s opinion, especially as they tried to get his back teeth, as that usually made Harry gag and he did not like that at all. They’d just have to try their best and as Harry snuggled up on his lap and went back to his pictures, Richard knew that he’d do absolutely anything for this little boy.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

It was amazing how much things could change. How much one thing, or rather one person, could irrevocably change your life forever.

Anita sat and she watched as Harry, straight backed and grinning happily, went up on the stage to accept his diploma.

It had been a little over four years since he’d come to them as an abused, terrified, messed up seventeen year old. He was twenty-two now and he’d come on so well that Anita was almost overwhelmed by her emotions. Something that had never really happened to her before as Harry finally got proof of his completion of a formal education.

They had helped him with every single step that he’d taken and they’d built him up to this amazing young man. Harry looked for them and his grin widened when he caught sight of them. He could hardy miss them, they were taking up an entire section of the audience.

Harry was the oldest person in the ceremony by far, but you’d never know it to look at him as he was one of the smallest there and he was so young in his ways still as he waved enthusiastically at them, garnering a few titters and laughs from others in the audience, but Harry didn’t care, especially not as Nathaniel leapt to his feet and waved back. Harry was still very quirky in his ways and he hadn’t yet been touched, or tainted, by thoughts of how he came across to other people. He just didn’t care and Anita hoped that, out of everything, he kept that trait the most.

Harry giggled and walked off the stage and he went to sit back down. Anita didn’t care about anyone else, only Harry. The rest of the ceremony was long and boring now that Harry was done and it was a struggle to keep her attention from wandering to other things. Such as when the next disaster would appear and how she could keep Harry, and all of the others, safe from the disaster when it inevitably struck.

She was roused from her thoughts by movement and when she caught up, Harry had leapt into their midst and he was so excited that Anita had to smile as she was caught up in Harry’s race for hugs from everyone who’d come to see him at his ceremony, even the guards who’d had to come with them.

 

“Can we have ice cream now? I was promised ice cream!” He reminded them.

 

“You can have your ice cream.” Richard assured him gently.

 

Harry grinned, uninhibited, and he hugged Richard around the waist. “I want chocolate…no! I want walnut and honey!” He said happily. “And I want a flake and sprinkles too.”

 

Anita smiled. She had mentioned that he was very quirky and young in his ways, but he had come on so well that she hardly cared. She loved that little boy so much. In a way, he was as close to a son as she was ever going to get. She never wanted a child, she never had done, so she was never going to have one, but she’d helped to teach and raise Harry after his liberation, he was as much her son as he was Richard’s and Asher’s.

She would never forget the look on Richard’s face when Harry had slipped and called him ‘Dad’ for the first time. She wouldn’t have been surprised if Richard had broken down into tears, but he’d held his composure really well. Since that first time slip a few years ago, when no one had reacted badly, Harry had truly opened up and now he called Richard ‘Dad’ more often than not. In fact she hadn’t heard him call Richard anything other than Dad in at least three months or so now.

 

“Neeta, stop daydreaming!” Harry demanded of her. “We’re going for ice cream now.”

 

Anita smiled at him and broke off her thoughts. Harry knew her name, he’d known as soon as he’d arrived to them, but he still preferred to use the nickname that he’d given to her. He was getting very bossy however, the others teased her that she’d taught him that. She didn’t know whether to chastise him or be proud of him.

 

“Come on, Mum!” Harry called out and for a moment she wondered if he was actually talking to her, but he was looking at Nathaniel.

 

Nathaniel who had nurtured and raised him, had cooked and fed him almost every meal and was always on hand if Harry had needed anything, even help with bathing or going to the bathroom, as with a normal diet of solid food, his normal digestive system had started and during those first months, Harry had often been badly constipated as he wasn’t used to pushing anything out of his body. Those muscles had been disused for nine or so years and they’d had a hell of a time re-teaching Harry those basic of human functions.

But that was all behind them and she looked to Harry now, stood completely upright, walking normally and talking normally. He was perfectly normal, he was just quirky, as she was fond of saying.

They walked to the nearest ice cream shop and got Harry his walnut and honey cone and he had the biggest grin on his face as he savoured it.

 

“Let’s get you back home.” Richard said, not taking Harry’s hand, but placing his hand on Harry’s shoulder instead and steering him as Harry focused entirely on his ice cream, moving him out of the way of different obstacles.

 

It was a rather long walk to the Circus of the Damned, and Anita was alert and aware at all times. They had a couple of guards with them, but as it was early evening, they had no vampires with them.

When they finally arrived Harry went tearing off with his diploma to show Asher and Jean-Claude and as soon as the steel door closed, Anita relaxed. They’d made it back safe and nothing had happened to Harry.

The rest of them made it to the living room in the middle of Harry’s retelling. He was sat on Asher’s lap, Jean-Claude next to them, playing with Harry’s hair.

Harry was showing them his diploma and chattering at a mile a minute. He was so happy and Anita just sat down and relaxed for a moment. Then her phone rang and she closed her eyes. It was too much to hope for that work would give her the entire night off.

She said goodbye to everyone and went off to the crime scene, leaving Harry, happy and safe at the Circus as she dealt with the next emergency that needed her attention. Her boy was growing fast and strong and he was always learning. Given another few years, he was going to be near perfect and he was just as happy as he always had been.

He understood a lot more now and he knew that the doctors who had once hurt him, who had damn near tortured him daily, were dead. That all of them had been given the death penalty and they had been killed and that she herself had watched to make absolutely sure of it. He’d been happy about that, or rather he was happy with the fact that the doctors could never come back to hurt him ever again.

Harry also knew that he’d been inseminated with a daughter and that he’d once been pregnant. He remembered the fall over the back of the settee and he remembered miscarrying. He had mixed feelings about this, but he was happy to not have a baby or a child with him at the moment, recognising that he was not in the right place or position for a baby even now, and that he definitely hadn’t been ready for a baby a few years ago.

They were all proud of how mature he was, how rational and how much he’d grown and improved in the last few years. She loved him, she realised. She truly loved him as if he were her own child, despite their rather tumultuous and rocky start.

She couldn’t wait to teach him more, to watch him grow into a real adult, all of his own. His budding personality, his odd quirks, his own person. Given a few more years to come into himself, he would be a different person to the small, huddled boy who had first been brought to the Circus, and she couldn’t wait to see him when he grew into that person. But for now, work called her away and she would have to fight again to make the city safe, to keep Harry safe. She would do her all, always, to protect those who she loved and that now included Harry, the boy who had wormed his way right into her heart and had planted himself there. She would never do any less and she would give her very life if it was needed, as long as those that she loved were kept safe.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Chapter Text

 

Epilogue

 

Harry James Zeeman, formerly Potter, smiled as he jogged the last few feet to the steel door and he knocked on it sharply. It opened almost immediately and Harry greeted Graham, a werewolf, happily with a chin rub and a soft growl, but he didn’t stop as he carried on down to the underground.

There was no way that he could sneak up on anyone, they could already scent him, hear his heartbeat and his shoes on the floor, but he enjoyed barrelling into people instead. Today it was Nicky, a big, burly werelion with biceps bigger than Harry’s waist who had joined their ever growing family just a few years ago. Harry giggled.

 

“Hey, Nicky.”

 

“I’m going to accidentally lash back at you if you keep sneaking up on me!” Nicky growled.

 

“No you won’t.” Harry played off. “You knew it was me and you’d never hurt me, Anita would kill you.” He said easily.

 

Nicky growled and hefted him up, crushing him in a hug as Harry laughed and wrapped Nicky up in a hug just as tight before laying a sweet kiss on Nicky’s cheek before he was placed back on the floor.

 

“How has your day been, mon petit pétale?” Jean-Claude asked him.

 

Harry blushed and ducked his head as he grinned. “It was good. I had coffee with someone today, we’re going on a date later tonight.”

 

That stopped everyone short as he’d never had a date before.

 

“With who?” Richard growled protectively.

 

“A girl.” Harry tried to play off.

 

“Well, what’s she like, is she pretty?” Jason asked with a grin.

 

“Where did you meet her?” Asher demanded just as protectively.

 

“She’s very pretty and she’s nice to me. I saw some other girls hurt her and I didn’t like it, so I told them to go away and took her for coffee. Her name’s Lila.”

 

“How old is Lila?” Richard asked worriedly.

 

“Twenty-two.” Harry looked worried then, because Richard was worried. “Is that too young? Should I not like her?”

 

“She knows that you’re almost twenty-seven?” Richard asked and Harry nodded. “That’s fine, Harry. I would like to meet her though.”

 

“She’s a vet.” Harry burst out happily. “She showed me some pictures of her patients on her phone and she gave me half her cookie too! I bought us both a cookie, but she gave me half of hers too! She made me happy.”

 

Richard sighed and he tried to be happy for Harry. Truthfully they’d all been expecting this to happen, for perhaps the last few years now, for Harry to announce that he had started dating, or at the very least that he’d connected to some other people, but it had still come as a shock to hear the words come from Harry’s mouth.

 

“I shall have the perfect outfit laid out for you, mon petit pétale.” Jean-Claude told him.

 

Harry grinned. “Thank you. Nothing too over the top though, okay?” He said, well aware of what Jean-Claude considered a good outfit by now. “I don’t want to scare her away. Everyone already thinks I’m odd.”

 

“Who thinks as such?” Asher demanded.

 

“Everyone I work with.” Harry insisted.

 

Richard had been so proud of Harry when he’d gotten himself a volunteer job at a homeless shelter ‘because he wanted to help people as he’d been helped’ only for the young boy to go on to set up his own business, with Jean-Claude’s help and expertise in business, catering to those in need. He still volunteered at the shelter, and at the furry coalition too, but their brilliant, smart young boy had dedicated his life to helping others and all of them were so proud of him.  

 

“The volunteer job or the one that you’re actually boss of?” Nicky asked, a dark look on his face that promised pain to anyone who’d hurt Harry.

 

“The volunteer one.” Harry said. “Some of the other volunteers don’t like me, but all of those seeking help do like me.” He said happily. “They matter the most, so I won’t give up helping them just because other people don’t like me…they’re not there to like me, we’re all there to help those who need it.”

 

Richard smiled at the young man who he saw as his own son. Harry had been calling him ‘Dad’ for about five years now and he’d never been happier, nor prouder, to have Harry as his son. Of course his Mother, Charlotte, adored Harry. She’d been horrified when he’d explained Harry’s backstory to her and told her exactly how the young boy had fallen into his care and just how he’d come to be so small and scared. He’d introduced them gently and calmly in slow intervals so that Harry didn’t worry or panic, he’d started with just his Mother at first and then slowly to the rest of his family. He was one of them now, Harry had taken his last name and Richard had formally adopted him. There had been nothing to worry about though, Harry had loved Charlotte from the very first moment of meeting her.

Now Harry often went to visit his Grandmother without needing anyone to take him or hold his hand. He no longer got lost and he had come on so well that he was able to navigate himself around by himself. He was talking about going for driving lessons soon and Richard was so happy for him. He could still remember a time when Harry couldn’t stand up straight, when he wouldn’t sleep without him and Asher in the bed with him and didn’t know how to eat solid food.

 

“Take no notice of them.” Richard encouraged Harry gently. “As you said, you’re there to help those who need it, not please people who don’t matter and should know better.”

 

Harry smiled widely. “Is Rafael around?” He asked.

 

“Are you having trouble controlling your rat?” Richard asked seriously.

 

“No, I just smelt something new today and I wanted to ask about it.”

 

“He’ll be here a bit later, mon petit pétale.” Jean-Claude told him. “If it was nothing serious, of course.”

 

“No.” Harry shook his head. “I’ve just never smelt it before and I wanted to ask, that’s all.”

 

Richard still remembered the day that it had come to light that while Harry had been locked up in the Nebraska factory, that he’d been given even more lycanthropy strains to juggle. He’d been injected with Were-XII and Were-XIV, the strains for wererat and werelion. Harry’s body, against all logic and scientific proof, had accepted both, when it was supposedly impossible for a wereanimal to gain another strain of lycanthropy after their first shift.

Rafael took amazing care of Harry, now one of his own rats, teaching him and protecting him, but then he’d been a Father before he’d been turned…afterwards his Wife, unable to deal with Rafael’s lycanthropy, had divorced him and had moved out of state. Rafael could only see his son twice a year and only then under strict supervision. Richard fully believed that Rafael had started to channel all that care and love for the son that he couldn’t see, into Harry, who loved and adored him.

As Harry was also a werelion, he fell under Nicky’s protection too, as the local Rex. Nicky, being a main lover of Anita, being the Rex to her Regina, was exceptionally protective of Harry in a physical sense…not so much an emotional one as Nicky was a sociopath and had no normal emotions, but despite that he was still a better option to Haven, whom Harry hadn’t liked and had been terrified of. It emerged later that Haven had been abusing the lion pride, including Harry, and Anita had killed him when he’d tried to kill Nathaniel in a huge bust up that had come about when Harry had come running to Anita for protection, sobbing that Haven was trying to kill him, Travis, and Noel, three of the weakest, youngest pride members. Harry and Travis had healed from their ordeal, Noel had died to protect Nathaniel. Nicky had taken over the position of Rex straight afterwards and he’d started properly teaching Harry what it was to be a lion.

 

“Where are my pencils?” Harry demanded as he looked around the living room.

 

Richard snapped back into the present and he smiled as everyone jumped to find Harry his pencils. Nicky found them tucked in a corner of the living room, where Harry had ‘put them safe’ and then forgotten about it.

Harry had never given up his love of colouring, though he had moved on from the children’s books and now he had more adult colouring books, ones that were more difficult and took greater skill and coordination to colour in. Thankfully Harry had gotten better and more coordinated at colouring than when he’d first come to them and as he sat on the floor at the coffee table and opened the rather difficult book of ocean themed pictures, he showed off his talents at colouring now as he took excessive care with picking his colours and keeping inside the lines. He insisted that it relaxed him and kept him happy. No one would ever dare say anything against something that made Harry happy.

Instead, Richard sat back down, right behind Harry, and he started playing with his hair. When Harry was younger, and his brain to mouth filter was much looser and he’d always say what he was thinking, he’d always told him that he couldn’t play with his hair as good as Jean-Claude did, but he’d always insist that that didn’t mean that he wanted him to stop. Now Harry just sat relatively still, colouring his pictures and purring as Richard stroked his scalp with gentle fingers.

 

“Will Anita be home before my date?” Harry asked.

 

“I’m not sure, Harry. It depends on how many raisings she’ll have tonight.”

 

“Okay, I was just asking.” Harry said. “I’d like her to be here, but if she can’t I understand.”

 

Richard smiled down at the boy between his knees and he felt so much overwhelming love for him that he couldn’t resist bending down and kissing the top of his head.

 

“Don’t forget to shower before your date. What time are you going?” He asked.

 

“Six O’clock. I don’t want to keep her out too late, her parents might worry, but I want to spend more than an hour with her so I know better what she’s like.”

 

“I hope everything goes well for you, just remember your manners.”

 

“I’ll be a proper gentleman.” Harry insisted.

 

Richard still remembered when Harry had learnt to use a proper knife and fork, when he could eat normal food from a plate and not merely spoon pureed mush into his mouth from a bowl. It had taken several months, endless lessons on how to hold the knife and fork and how to use them, but between them, they hadn’t once given up, and now Harry was perfectly able to use a knife and fork properly, he could eat properly and he could drink from a glass.

He could hold a normal conversation, even if the topics did change or jump around a bit and sometimes, Harry got lost on his own tangent and forgot to allow others to speak, though he’d gotten more tolerable of topics of conversation that he had no interest in, recognising, at last, that just because he didn’t like something, didn’t mean that others felt the same way.

 

“Remember to let her talk too.” Jason said kindly.

 

“I’ve gotten better at that!” Harry insisted, affronted.

 

“You have, just don’t get so excited that you don’t let her talk too, and ask her about her animals.”

 

“I was going to!” Harry said indignantly. “I asked about her job and her patients when I took her for coffee. When I saw they were in cages, like I used to be, I asked her how they were treated and she showed me videos of her playing and cuddling them. They make sick animals better where she works. There was nothing wrong with me to begin with.” He said sadly. “Lila makes sick animals well again. The doctors took me when I was well and made me worse.”

 

Richard bent over Harry and kissed his head. “We love you, Harry.”

 

“You’re all like Lila. You got me when I was sick and you’re making me better.”

 

“We’re always going to be here for you.” Richard promised.

 

Harry nodded, even as he put down one blue pencil to pick up a darker blue pencil. He had learnt the different shades and how to use them in his colouring.

 

“I don’t know what would happen if I never had any of you with me.” He said quietly. “I think I’d be dead because I didn’t know how to do anything like feed myself or look after myself. I couldn’t even walk properly.”

 

“You do have us.” Asher said fiercely.

 

Harry nodded and spared a smile for Asher from his colouring book. “I know. But if I didn’t have any of you, I don’t think anyone else would have cared enough for me to have made me better. I know from work that there’s not enough people who care in the world.”

 

Richard didn’t know what to say to that. If it hadn’t been for them then Harry would have been locked up in a lycanthrope safe house. Supposedly it was only until the new wereanimal learnt to control themselves, but those who got sent to a safe house never came back out. In the eyes of the government, they would never gain enough control to be free to roam with the human populace.

Richard couldn’t imagine Harry being moved from one prison to another, he couldn’t imagine how scared he would have been, back at the very beginning when all he knew was pain, horror and daily experimentation. To be taken from that and then put in a safe house, where he would not have been cared for and likely locked in a padded room in a reinforced straight jacket just to keep him from trouble. He took in a deeper breath and played with Harry’s hair. He liked it kept long, after so many years of it being shorn to stubble, but he didn’t like it to go past his shoulders, as he didn’t like caring for it too much. He knew enough to comb it and how to put in some of the jewelled clips he liked, that Jean-Claude insisted on buying for him, but that was the extent of Harry’s willingness to care for his hair. He much preferred other people to sort it out for him, then he had always liked them playing with his hair and massaging his scalp.

 

“We would never have saved you and then abandoned you.” Richard said once he was sure that he could control his voice. “You’re ours now.”

 

Harry tipped his head back and grinned up at him. “I like being here. It’s the greatest!”

 

Richard chuckled and used his fingertips to rub over the front of Harry’s head, brushing the hair back from his forehead, exposing the curious scar there. They had never figured out how he’d gotten it, and Harry it seemed didn’t know himself.

 

“Do…do you think Lila will be disgusted if I tell her I have to feed from blood every now and then?” Harry asked insecurely.

 

“You should tell her, but not right away.” Richard said. “Wait until she knows you a bit better first then you can sit down and explain it to her better.”

 

Harry nodded. “But do you think she won’t like me anymore when I tell her?” He persisted.

 

Richard didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know this Lila, part of the reason why he wanted to meet her and scope her out, so to say. For all any of them knew, she could be a member or a sympathiser of Humans First, or she could be a normal human who just didn’t like vampires, wereanimals or other preternaturals and she would run as soon as Harry told her. It would be disastrous for Harry’s self-esteem if that happened, this Lila would be his first attempt at a relationship. It would be fair enough if they tried at it and then decided to break up, but if she ran as soon as Harry told her about what he was, about what had been done to him and what he needed to stay healthy, namely to drink blood at least once a week, then that would crush Harry and all the confidence they had cultivated within him over the years. He had never realised exactly how fragile that confidence was until now, how very little it would take to smash it to pieces and leave Harry in ruins. All of a sudden he wanted to keep Harry close to his chest, to tell him that going on this date with Lila was not a good idea.

It was Nathaniel who took that pleading, crumpled expression and turned it around, giving Harry what he needed as he crouched in front of Harry, placed both hands on either shoulder to establish contact, and he smiled.

 

“You can’t force her to like you, Harry.” Nathaniel said quietly. “Either she will or she won’t, but that’s true for everyone you meet. You said yourself that not everyone you work with likes you, but you don’t let that bother you. If you tell Lila and she can’t get over it, then you come right back to us and we’ll give you lots of ice cream to make you feel better, but remember, just because she doesn’t like you, doesn’t mean that no one else will. I went through so many girl and boy friends, so many lovers thinking that they would be the one. Thinking that they truly loved me, that they’d take care of me, but it wasn’t until years later, when I found Anita and Micah that I really understood love and what it was like to have someone who loved you so much. You shouldn’t give up just because Lila might not like you. There are going to be so many others and you will find someone among them to love you as you love them. After all, I found love and I was the biggest mess I’ve ever met. If I can find two people to love me so much, then of course you can.”

 

“I love you too, Mum.” Harry said, reaching forward and hugging Nathaniel tight.

 

Nathaniel kissed Harry’s head. “Just remember, go on this date to enjoy yourself and if it doesn’t work out, there’s always more dates, more people, more fun to be had. If Lila isn’t the one, then perhaps someone else, who is much more perfect for you, is still out there waiting.”

 

Harry grinned then and he seemed so much more reassured that Richard had to give Nathaniel’s elbow a touch in thanks. He’d gotten used to the boy over the years, had gotten used to his relationship with Micah and Anita and he’d made his peace with it. He had loved Anita enough to propose to her once, but he had moved on from that now. Now he had Harry, his son, who looked at him with such adoration and awe that he had to come first in his life, and now, he always would.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Anita was tired when she finally made it back to the Circus, mostly to pick up Nicky, Micah and Nathaniel, maybe Harry too if he wanted to come to her house for the night.

She knew something was wrong when she wasn’t immediately barrelled from her feet as she walked into Jean-Claude’s living room. She took a look around and all she was were worried, nervous faces and no Harry in sight. Her heart missed a beat.

 

“Where is Harry?” She demanded.

 

“He’s alright, we think.” Micah sighed. “He’s got a date with a girl named Lila. He should be home soon.”

 

Anita noticed several of them glance at the clock as it approached eight at night.

 

“It seems so sudden.” She said. “How did he meet this girl?”

 

“She was being bullied by several other girls and Harry intervened and then took her for a coffee and a chat. They got on rather well, so he asked her to dinner that same night. She agreed, gave him her number and off he’s gone.” Richard said, trying to look relaxed, even as he marked school work, but failing as he took looked at his watch every several seconds.

 

“He’s worried about having to tell her that he’s got lycanthropy and vampirism, namely that he has to drink blood every week.” Nathaniel said, staring at his cell, that he had placed on the coffee table in front of him, the better to watch it, obviously expecting a call.

 

“Do we know anything about this girl?” Anita demanded.

 

“She’s twenty-two and a vet. Likely a trainee nurse just out of university. Or perhaps even still in university if she’s yet to graduate, a doctorate usually takes four years.” Richard said. “Apparently she showed Harry pictures of her in a veterinary practice, as she was playing with her patients and there were pictures of animals in cages.”

 

“How did Harry react to those?” She asked, knowing that they’d hit a sore spot with Harry.

 

“Really well, when he saw those he asked her how the animals were treated and he was happy that they were well cared for. He likes her so much because she takes sick animals and makes them better again, as we got him when he was sick and made him better.”

 

“I just hope that she doesn’t explain herself as an animal doctor, that might make him like her less.” Anita sighed, finally sitting down, understanding that there was no trouble, but the nerves of Harry’s first ever date. They were likely more nervous than he was.

 

“He’s getting much better, especially since he’s come to see Lillian as a doctor.” Jason pointed out. “He no longer freaks out if that word is mentioned and he knows better that those people weren’t normal doctors, they were sadistic monsters.”

 

Anita nodded and she sat back, joining the guys on their clock watching, on listening for a cell ringing, just waiting for Harry to come home.

Perhaps it was perfect that he’d found a vet. Harry loved animals of all shapes and sizes and he loved helping. He volunteered at a homeless shelter, he volunteered at the furry coalition, he had set up his own business helping those who needed it, offering a place to sleep, a leg up to find a home or a job, or even just a nice, thick blanket.

Then there were the bird feeders that he demanded they all have in their gardens. She smiled to herself as she remembered the day Harry had whined and threw a tantrum until she had agreed to put a full on bird feeding station in her, rather considerable, back garden. Harry had so much fun filling up the feeders and the bird bath every morning, putting out stale bread and seeds. Of course he didn’t stop there, he had always loved flowers, the prettier the better, but when he’d heard that flowers helped the bees, he’d started digging trenches in her back yard.

When she had, as patiently as she could, asked him what he was doing, he’d told her with that pleading look of his, that he was making flowerbeds for the bees. She had sighed, but ultimately given in, anything that kept Harry happy kept all of them happy and if he wanted to keep himself quiet and out of trouble for several weeks making flowerbeds, then so be it.

Micah had taken Harry to the garden centre that afternoon, getting him topsoil and gardening tools, plant feed and then as many pots of different flowers as they could fit in the car. He had spent the next few weeks planting wild lilac, marigolds, daisies, hyacinths and a hundred other bright, nectar bearing flowers that she couldn’t name. He’d even sectioned off a part of his flowerbed for a little herb garden, which Nathaniel was excited about as the main cook for them.

Harry took great care with his little garden and that it had the added bonus of drawing in butterflies, of which Harry also loved, the results certainly were worth it. She had to admit also that the garden looked so much better too, it was more alive with bees and butterflies and birds swarming all over it. It was more peaceful too, to hear nature sounds, like bees buzzing and birds singing. Harry had made plans to make some birdhouses and nesting boxes with his own hands for next Spring too. Perhaps he could bond with this Lila over that and they could make birdhouses together.

It was almost half eight before Harry came charging down the stairs and he almost snapped Jason’s neck barrelling into him and taking them both to the floor. He was grinning widely, so it seemed his date had gone really well.

He sat up, straddling Jason’s waist and he started talking so quickly that he was sprouting gibberish. Jason sat up, covered his mouth and then moved them both to sit by the coffee table.

 

“Calm down and slow your words.” Jason encouraged. “I take it that your date went well?” 

 

Harry nodded enthusiastically. “She’s wonderful!” He said happily. “She thinks I’m funny too. In a good way, not a bad way. She laughed at all my stories, not a lot of people do that because they don’t understand or think they’re silly.”

 

“Are you going to see her again?” Jason asked.

 

Harry nodded just as enthusiastically. “She’s in work now for two days, so I have to wait, but she said I can come in on the second day to see the animals and pick her up for an early dinner and a movie. I told her that she could pick the restaurant, but I would pay. That was right, wasn’t it?”

 

“It was, well done.” Richard said with a smile.

 

“I offered to pay today, but she said that we would split the bill today, because it was our first date. I didn’t want to fight or argue, so I agreed, was that okay too?”

 

“Yes, Harry.” Anita said. “Sometimes a woman wants to pay for dinner too, and they should always offer, even if they are declined.”

 

Harry nodded at the quick lesson on dating. He’d been very nervous on his date, as he’d been on his first few days of going to his special school, where he’d gotten his diploma to say that he’d finished all his education. He remembered that day, he had been so excited, all his family had been excited and it had been a day that he truly felt normal. Like none of his past had even happened and he’d never been the small, shrunken little boy stuck in a cage.

Today, sitting at a small table with Lila, talking to her and making her laugh, listening to her and laughing at her stories too, like when a little puppy had peed on her when she was examining him, and he’d had such a nice time that he hadn’t wanted the night to end.

He had walked her home, said goodnight and given her hand a light kiss, as Jean-Claude had instructed him, and he had then almost skipped home to tell everyone the good news. He just hoped that Lila still liked him after she found out about what had happened to him, and some of his more special dietary needs.

 

“Was she nice to you?” Asher asked seriously.

 

Harry grinned. “She was really nice to me, Asher. She takes such good care of the animals, she wants to see the garden too, I can take her there, can’t I, Neeta?” He said, turning to her looking very unsure.

 

“Of course you can, Harry.” She insisted. “Just be careful with the weapons and ammo, remember?”

 

Harry nodded. “I only want to show her the garden. The bird feeder and all the flowers I planted for the bees and butterflies. She wants my help to do the same at her little house. It’s not as big, so I’ll have to plan it out again with Lila, we’re looking forward to it.”

 

They were looking forward to it too. Lila had been so impressed with what he’d done for the wildlife and with his plans to make bird houses, she’d told him about bat boxes too, and Harry had excitedly asked her about it and Lila had agreed to help him with those too. He couldn’t wait to get started on all his designs. He’d ask Richard or Micah to drive him back to the garden centre to get the things he needed, he’d have to be careful with the hammer and nails, he knew that, but if he got a bottle of wood glue too, perhaps he wouldn’t need to use quite so many nails.

 

“You can take her there whenever you want.” Anita told him.

 

“Just don’t bring her here to the Circus.” Harry nodded. He knew all about the security measures that surrounded the Circus and that he couldn’t bring anyone back as it would compromise the security.

 

“Perhaps when you have been seeing her for a while and we have all met the lovely Lila.” Jean-Claude said.

 

Harry smiled and he couldn’t help the little giggle that slipped out.

 

“Do you have a picture of her?” Jason teased.

 

Harry nodded and pulled out his phone. “We took selfies.”

 

“Took what?” Anita asked with a frown.

 

“Selfies.” Jason said as he waited for Harry to open his photos. “Where you use a camera to take a picture of yourself. Holy fuck, Harry, she’s gorgeous!”

 

Jason took Harry’s phone from him and Harry’s cheeks went pink with embarrassment as Nathaniel hung over Jason’s shoulders to look.

Anita got to see the elusive Lila when Richard all but grappled the phone from Jason. She was a young, pretty brunette with nice blue eyes. They were both smiling at the phone that Harry had clearly held out in front of him to take the picture of them both.

 

“You make a good couple.” Nathaniel was telling Harry as the phone made its way around them all so that they all got a good look at Lila.

 

Harry blushed brighter, going from pink to red. “She’s really nice.” He mumbled.

 

“As long as you’re happy.” Richard said with a smile. It was no surprise when Harry shifted and came to sit beside Richard, leaning on him and taking comfort. He still needed to do that, but only when he was very out of his depth, apparently sharing photos of his new girlfriend counted as being out of his depth, his very first girlfriend at that.

 

“Do you think she’s too pretty for me?” Harry asked Richard, though with their enhanced hearing, nearly everyone in the room heard him.

 

“Of course not, Harry.” Richard said. “What makes you think that?”

 

“It’s just, she’s really pretty and popular and everyone likes her.” He mumbled. “Compared to her I’m a social reject who everyone thinks is really weird.”

 

“Harry.” Richard said softly. “No, you’re a wonderful, handsome young man. You’re funny and so kind and caring. Anyone would be lucky to have you, it’s those qualities that Lila obviously sees in you.”

 

Anita did not like this unhappy, unsure, self-conscious Harry. His self-esteem had never been particularly high, but he’d never been concerned with such things before, not about his appearance or how others perceived him. She didn’t like this.

 

“What if she laughs about what I went through?”

 

“Who would laugh about such a thing?” Asher asked. “It is nothing to laugh over, mon ange.”   

 

Harry looked very upset and he flumped onto Richard more, snuggling in in an attempt to soothe himself.

 

“What if she doesn’t like that I’ve got…got…” Harry indicated his mid-section and Anita closed her eyes.

 

A few years ago they had broached the subject of Harry maybe going in for surgery to have the added womb removed. He had freaked out, had two panic attacks, he’d been physically sick and he’d run and hidden, they’d found him three hours later, hiding in the rafters of the Circus. It had taken them an additional four hours to convince him to come down safely and he had begged them to never mention hospitals or surgeries again. He’d had nightmares and often woke up screaming for the next month after that incident.

 

“Harry.” She started gently. Richard shot her a look, warning her not to mention anything, to not broach the subject again. Those huge, green eyes looked at her, waiting for her to carry on. She sighed. “I know that you’re afraid, but you can have the womb removed.”

 

The fear was instantaneous, but he didn’t immediately freak out, instead he took a deep breath to calm himself down. That alone was a vast improvement.

 

“I’ve…I’ve been thinking of it in the last year.” He said, his voice wavering, but he was so strong now, he’d come on so well and Anita was so proud of him just for admitting to thinking of having an elective surgery after what he’d been through.

 

“If you wanted to go through with it, Harry, it will not be done tomorrow.” Anita told him, making her voice as soft as she could. “We would talk about it, it would be planned, you’d get to talk to the surgeon and the nurses.”

 

“You wouldn’t leave me?” He asked.

 

“Absolutely not.” Richard said from behind him, holding Harry tighter about his chest. “We would be right there when you go in and right there when you come back out.”

 

“I wouldn’t be awake, would I?”

 

“No.” They said firmly, together.

 

“You would be under anaesthetic, Harry.” Micah told him, coming to sit behind her, looking at Harry. “You’d be asleep through the whole procedure and you won’t even feel it, and you won’t remember it.”

 

Harry bit his bottom lip, they could all see and hear how quickly he was breathing. His heart was almost beating from his chest, but he was so very brave, asking after a willing surgery. They were all so proud.

 

“I don’t know.” He said, his shoulders hunching just a bit. “I’d need to think about it, and talk to Lillian too.”

 

“We can take as much time as you want, Harry, we know that this is a big step for you.” Anita told him, taking his hand and squeezing it. “We’re very proud of you for thinking about this step and for talking it through.”

 

“We really are.” Richard said. “If you’re serious about this, Harry, then we can talk about it all you want.”

 

Harry nodded. He no longer looked quite so terrified, but he was far from comfortable and his eyes were still a little too wide, but this was a huge step for him. For him to actually have been thinking of having surgery to have the misplaced womb removed, it was monumental.

 

“I want to know everything that will happen. Everything. I don’t want any surprises.” He said seriously, still looking frightened, but he was determined too.

 

“It looks like this really is going to be a new year for you.” Jason said with a grin. “Your new business, a new girlfriend and now you’re conquering your old fears. Well done.”

 

That made Harry smile. “Is it okay if I don’t tell Lila exactly why I’m going for surgery? I know you’re not supposed to lie to the ones you love, but…surely this is a different situation?”

 

“It’s a very personal surgery, I don’t think she needs to know that you’re going in to have your womb removed, perhaps just tell her that you’ll be in hospital for a few days and might not be well enough to meet up for a while. She can come and visit, but there’s no reason to tell her much. Not at this early stage.”

 

Harry nodded, looking a little happier. “I think…I think it’ll be a relief to finally get rid of it. It’s not meant to be there and it’s always in the back of my mind. I can’t forget about it, the only way to make it right is to have it removed, but I’m scared.”

 

“We’re never going to let anything happen to you.” Micah promised.

 

“We’ll be right there at the hospital for you, Harry.” Richard insisted.

 

He nodded, it was a little jerky, but he nodded and though they were all fully aware that Harry could, and most probably would, change his mind, in this moment you could see how much pride they had in him. How much love and care they had taken with him over the last ten years. He’d come on so well, and now, he might finally be rid of the womb that was never meant to be there. It truly was a massive step, but it would be one that they’d gladly all take together, every single one of them.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

Harry was petrified and he unashamedly clung to Richard’s hands, gripping hold and not letting go. The smell of the hospital was getting to him, the men and women in those overcoats, the familiar equipment. He was building up to a full panic attack and nothing anyone said could calm him back down.

 

“We’re here for you, Harry.” Richard told him.

 

“I’m scared!” He wailed. “I’m so scared.”

 

“We know. We know.” Richard soothed. “We’re still right here, we’re not going to leave you. It will all be over soon, Harry. It will seem like a moment to you, but it’ll be several hours for us, waiting for you to wake back up.”

 

Harry breathed quick and shallow, almost on the verge of hyperventilating and passing out. It had been eight months since that talk in the living room of the Circus. Eight months that he’d been seeing Lila. She’d wanted to come to support him, knowing of his peculiar fear of hospitals and doctors, but Harry hadn’t wanted her to see him like this. It was alright for everyone else, they had already seen him like this numerous times in the past, but Lila hadn’t and he didn’t want her to see. He had explained this to her and she’d understood. That’s what he liked so much about her, she didn’t push him too hard.

He’d told her about his past, or at least little bits of it, but as the factory he’d been in had made the news all she had to do was look it up from the pieces he’d told her, it was common knowledge that there had only been one survivor from the original factory, and that the survivor had gone to live with Anita Blake. Lila was a very clever woman, of course she figured it out. It also tied in with his fear of hospitals and doctors, and it had made Lila want to be here all the more, but Harry had been firm, he couldn’t have her there for this and though perhaps a little hurt, Lila understood. Harry would make it up to her.

He loved spending time in the garden with her and they had made several birdhouses, nesting boxes and bat boxes too. A few of them were even being used! Which had made him so excited and so happy. He tried to think of this, of these fun times with Lila. When he’d gone to her small apartment to help her make the most of the jut of balcony that she had, bringing a little touch of greenery to her windowsills and planting nectar flowers for the bees and butterflies. When he’d met her parents, who had both been so very nice and kind to him. During the summer Anita had had a barbeque in her garden and had invited Lila and her parents. Seeing his large and odd family interacting with Lila and her parents made him smile and he’d happily talked and played around, joining in all the funny games that Jason and Nathaniel had picked out for the barbeque, even though he wasn’t really a social person. That day had been an exception and laughing and joking with Lila had been perfect. He wanted more of that, not more of this.

 

“Try to slow your breathing, Harry.” Richard told him, looking worriedly to the heart monitor that he was hooked up to.

 

He couldn’t keep his legs still, he couldn’t sit quiet, his gaze was darting everywhere, almost as if he were trying to find an escape.

 

“I don’t think I can do this.” He said, on the very edge of having a full out panic attack.

 

Anita, who had steadfastly taken the day off of work, took hold of his shoulders and peered directly into his eyes.

 

“You can.” She told him firmly. “You have been talking about this for eight months, you have changed you mind and then changed it back again, but you chose the date, Harry, you chose the surgeon and the nursing team. You even chose which room you would be in.”

 

Harry looked out of the window, at the view of the bright park over the road. He had chosen this room because it had the best view. He took in a huge, ragged breath and he looked back at Anita.

 

“We know that you’re scared. We can see it, we can smell it. But you decided to do this, Harry.” She told him. “You have controlled this surgery as much as you can without actually doing it yourself.”

 

Harry managed a weak, thready chuckle at that. It came out sounding nearly hysterical.

 

Nathaniel climbed onto his bed and wrapped him in a hug, in all of that vanilla scented, auburn hair. It was almost like a comfort blanket to Harry and he turned, wrapping himself around his ‘mum’ tightly, still clutching at Richard’s hand.

 

“Everything will be alright.” Nathaniel told him. “We’ve tested you with the anaesthetic that they’re going to use, we’ve tested your skin against the equipment, you’re going to be fine, Harry. You haven’t done all that building up, all the sleepless nights and the fasting, just to go home now and not go through with it. You’re stronger than that.”

 

“But I’m scared.” Harry said softly. His body all but quivering with his fear. He needed to have a wee again, despite the fact he hadn’t eaten or drank anything in over twenty-four hours in preparation for his operation.

 

“We know, little love.” Nathaniel cooed to him, stroking his hair. “We know. But everything will be over soon. Think how much better you’ll feel when the womb that was never meant to be a part of you is gone.”

 

Harry nodded. It was the main reason why he was going through with this operation in the first place. He wanted that womb gone, so that he had no physical reminders of what those people had done to him. It was hard enough with his beasts, knowing that he only had them because of those doctors, but he had made peace with his beasts now. He loved them all and his family were helping him so much. Richard with his wolf, Micah with his leopard, Rafael with his rat, Nicky with his lion. He was even getting help with his tiger from a white tiger named Victor, from Las Vegas, who came to see him for a week every couple of months. Harry liked Victor.

When the anaesthetist came in with a nurse, Harry’s breath hitched and he whimpered, low and desperate in his throat. His whole body jerked and he closed his eyes, sinking back into that tiny cage, with the cries of other experiments around him, begging that the doctors kept walking, that they went past his cage and that he wouldn’t be chosen.

Distantly he heard the heart monitor go haywire and he knew it was because his heart was beating from his chest, but the scent of vanilla was still in his nose, the warm body of Nathaniel was still in front of him. Richard was still behind him. He could hear them talking, speaking to him in soft, soothing voices.

 

“It will all be over soon.” Richard told him, holding his wrist tightly.

 

Harry didn’t know why his hand was pulled out, why his wrist was being held so tightly, until a sharp pinch had his eyes widening and his memories going back to that cage, back to the tables where they would be ripped open and experimented on while they were awake and strapped down, unable to move. It took all of his willpower to remember what he’d been told. To stay still and don’t pull away from the needle or he could rip his vein.

 

“Well done, Harry.” Richard praised him, using his free hand to pet his hair and face. “You’ve done so well.”

 

“I’m so scared, dad.” He said, but his voice sounded like it was coming from the end of a long tunnel.

 

“I know, but it’ll all be over soon. Just go to sleep, love.” Richard encouraged. “Just let go and go to sleep.”

 

“Stay with me.” He said.

 

 “We’re still here.” Anita’s voice told him.

 

“We will be right here when you wake up.” Micah insisted.

 

“I’ll find a way to sneak you a coffee when you’re awake.” Nicky told him from over by the window.

 

Harry heard his voice as if they were speaking through water, but he still managed a weak giggle.

 

“Almost done.” A closer voice, of the nurse, told him gently. “You’re so brave, Harry.”

 

He nodded against Nathaniel’s chest, still quivering like a leaf in a breeze, but he held very still, he didn’t pull his hand back, even though he wanted to and when the cold feeling spread from his arm to his shoulder, he started crying.

 

“Almost done.” The nurse said again, for the anaesthetist who was bent over and monitoring the administered anaesthetic critically.

 

“It’s alright, Harry.” Richard soothed. “You’re doing so well, this will all be over soon. Just a little more.”

 

Harry heard that comment, but from one moment to the next, he slumped over and he was fast asleep.

 

“There we go. We need to move fast. The OR is prepped for him, the surgeon is waiting.” The nurse said as she shooed both Richard and Nathaniel from the bed and got Harry laying down more comfortably.

 

Anita stood back and watched as her boy was wheeled out of the room in his bed and then there was nothing left for them to do but to wait. It would be almost excruciating to wait to hear if the operation was a success or not. Nathaniel left the room and she wondered where in the hell he was going.

 

“He might need the bathroom.” Micah told her and she nodded at that logic and she sighed.

 

“I need to call Rafael, he wanted to be kept updated.” She said, going to sit in the chair and bringing out her cell. Edward wanted to be informed too, then she’d need to call Jean-Claude when he awoke, Asher was all but having kittens about not being here for Harry’s morning operation, but Harry had decided to have it early, so he would have less time to fret and work himself up.

 

Rafael answered the phone before the end of the first ring. ‘How is he?’

 

“He’s just gone under.” She said. “It’s a waiting game now. It’ll be several hours before he wakes up, they pumped him with enough anaesthetic to take down a bull elephant. Can you let everyone know that he has gone in for the operation? Then we’ll let you know how everything is as soon as we know anything.”

 

‘Of course. Look after him for all of us, Anita.’ Rafael insisted.

 

“I will. After this he’ll have conquered one of his greatest fears. He’ll be fine and he’ll be back at the Circus in a few days.”

 

‘Let us know if anything happens.’

 

“I will.” She agreed before cutting the call and then calling Edward to tell him them same.

 

Nathaniel came back as she ended the call, he hadn’t been to the bathroom, he’d gone to the hot drinks vending machine and he was clutching an armful of cardboard cups of coffee and several sodas. Micah immediately moved to help him.

 

“I thought everyone could use a drink. Richard, I got you water.” He said, holding out the chilled bottle.

 

“Thank you.” Richard said, sitting himself on the floor, having called Jamil, who was at the Circus with Shang-Da, Jason and Sylvie, to tell him that Harry had done so well, that he had bravely gone under anaesthetic and that the operation was going ahead.

 

There were five of them in the room, the absolute maximum that the hospital would allow after their month of heavy talks and planning. Jason had steadfastly wanted to come too, but he needed to be at the Circus to feed Jean-Claude when he awoke, so he had been left behind and Nicky had come instead, more of a bodyguard than an emotional comfort to Harry, but he was a reassuring presence, especially when half of their guards had wanted to come too. Claudia and Bobby-Lee were down in the lobby as it was, waiting for them, here just in case. Anita had sent them both a text message instead of calling, so as not to blow their cover.

Now it was just waiting, endless hours of waiting and it was going to be agonising enough, waiting to see if Harry was alright, if the operation was a success, or if they’d need to do all of this again in a second operation if the anaesthetic wore off because they had to be careful how much Harry had due to the past experiments performed upon him.

 

“Did you message Lila?” Nathaniel asked quietly.

 

“Yes.” Anita said. “She’s very worried, but she’s keeping busy at work. How long it’ll take before she starts bombarding me with messages is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure her worry will win out eventually.”

 

Richard sighed and settled himself in for a long wait for Harry to come back. He already wanted his boy back in his arms and it hadn’t even been a half hour yet. It was going to be a long couple of hours and because of the nature of the wait, it was only going to seem that much longer. He just wanted Harry to be alright.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

It took two hours before a nurse came back into the room. She was smiling and immediately the fear released from all of them.

 

“I’m pleased to tell you that the operation was a success.” She said with a wide grin. “Harry stayed unconscious throughout, the surgeon was able to remove the unneeded organ and double checked that everything is as it should be. His vitals are still good, he has a good blood pressure and everything has gone according to text book.”

 

“Oh thank god.” Anita sighed.

 

“Can we see him?” Nathaniel asked desperately.

 

“He’s in recovery for the moment while we monitor him, but we’ll bring him back here as soon as were happy. You can see him then.”

 

“He won’t be awake, though?” Richard said. “He wanted us there when he woke up.”

 

“He won’t be awake for a while yet.” The nurse assured them. “We know his wishes and he will be back in this room before he wakes up if everything stays as it is now. We’re very pleased with the way everything has progressed.”

 

“I need to tell Jamil.” Richard said, taking out his phone.

 

“Rafael needs to know.” Anita agreed.

 

“I’ll let Merle know to tell the Pard.” Micah took his own phone out and Nathaniel snuggled in between his lovers, both on their phones, and he just let the relief wash over him. Harry was going to be fine.

 

Everyone had been called and told the great news, Lila had been messaged and Jean-Claude, only just awake and alert, had been told by a very happy, playful Jason, who’d been in the bed ready to feed him.

An hour after the nurse had come to tell them about the successful operation, Harry was wheeled back into the room, wired up and still asleep, but he was stirring a little.

 

“The anaesthetic is wearing off now, a little sooner than we thought for the dosage we gave him, but everything is still looking good.” A doctor said, examining a chart and then looking at the monitors. “He’s done really well, we got everything we needed done, so he won’t need a second operation and we’ll keep him monitored now for the next several days and we can go from there.”

 

“Thank you so much.” Nathaniel said gratefully, sitting on Harry’s bed while Richard pulled up a chair to the other side.

 

They all crowded around Harry, as he’d wanted, just waiting for the rest of the anaesthetic to wear off and for him to wake up.

He pulled several strange faces, obviously remembering what had happened to him before he went to sleep, but not knowing where he was or why.

 

“Harry. It’s alright.” Richard said soothingly. “Everything went well. You can wake up now.”

 

Harry made a grunting noise, his eyes screwed shut, his face screwed up, but he started wiggling.

 

“Be careful or you’ll damage your stitches.” Anita told him.

 

It took a bit of wheedling, a bit of coaxing and five more minutes, but those gluey eyes eventually opened and then immediately locked onto all of their faces, all five of them, before Harry’s shoulders relaxed in relief and he forced his hands up, out of his blanket, to touch them.

 

“Am I ‘kay?” He asked, his voice scratchy and sore sounding.

 

“You’re going to be just fine.” Richard told him, leaning forward and kissing his forehead. “The operation was a complete success.”

 

“It…it’s gone? All gone?” Harry asked, his face showing his surprised delight.

 

“Completely gone.” Anita told him. “Not a single trace of it left and everything else is as it should be.”

 

Harry smiled, the action pulling at his dry lips. Richard looked for the cup of ice balls that the nurse had left for Harry, but Nathaniel had already grabbed it and coaxed a few pieces of ice into Harry’s mouth.

 

“Suck them slowly.” Nathaniel said gently. “So it doesn’t make you sick.”

 

Harry nodded and did as he’d been told, the melting ice giving some small relief to his sore throat. He was so happy that it was a success and that he didn’t have to come back and do it again. He’d have to make a present to give to the doctors and nurses who’d looked after him, despite all his demands, crying and tantrums. They’d been so patient with him and with his fears, they’d understood better than he’d hoped and that had gone a long way to reassuring him and it had contributed to him actually deciding to go through with the operation too. He owed them so much, as he’d been terrified of having the operation, but he could no longer live with the working womb that those vile people had put inside him. Now it was gone and it was like something within him knew, like he’d just relaxed and gone boneless. It was all over now, it was gone.

 

“Has everyone been told?” He asked, once the woolly feeling in his brain started to ease off and he could think clearly again.

 

“Yes, they’re all so happy and now they just want you home. It shouldn’t be long with your healing abilities and a few shifts.” Richard told him.

 

“Lila too?” Harry asked.

 

“Yes, we told Lila too.” Anita smiled. Harry smiled back, rather goofily, but that was just the anaesthetic.

 

“I can’t believe it’s gone.” He said and went to put his hand on his belly. It was caught and moved away.

 

“It’ll be sore and painful for a while.” Micah told him. “You have stitches too, remember? You can’t touch them.”

 

“Oh. Oh yeah.” Harry said, his mind catching up with what had happened and everything that had been said before the operation.

 

“Are you in any pain?” Micah asked. “We can call the nurse to give you painkillers if you are.”

 

Harry shook his head. “I’m okay, still a little floaty at the moment, but I’m okay.” He insisted.

 

Richard was so relieved and he send a quick message to Jamil, letting him know that Harry was awake and talking, that he was completely fine. He knew that his Skoll would inform everyone else at the Circus.

They didn’t overexcite Harry, he needed to rest after his impromptu hysterectomy, but when the nurse kept her promise, to feed Harry on all the ice cream he could stuff, the excitement in him was almost infectious.

He hadn’t been awake for twenty minutes when she came in with a smile and a huge bowl of different flavoured scoops of ice cream. They watched his face light up in pure joy.

 

“This is why that operation was worth it.” Harry said as Richard helped to prop him up with a pillow and he was given a spoon.

 

He ate his ice cream with utter relish and he, of course, dived straight for the strawberry ice cream first.

 

“At least this hasn’t affected your appetite for ice cream.” Nathaniel teased, brushing Harry’s hair back from his face as he scoffed his treat.

 

“Nothing could stop me from eating ice cream.” Harry said happily.

 

“Hold on, let me get a photo for Jason.” Nathaniel said, lifting his phone.

 

Harry held the spoon close to his mouth and grinned happily. Nathaniel laughed and took the picture, before sending it to Jason. He got a reply almost immediately saying that Harry looked very happy. Nathaniel looked back to Harry, eating more ice cream and grinning at Richard. He sent back a simple reply to Jason. He is happy.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ X

 

It took him a while to recover, even with shifting into all of his wereanimal forms. There was a while when he felt hollow and empty and nothing he did made it feel any better. Then after that he started to get sore if he stayed stood up for too long, it was painful to walk too far. But slowly he was recovering.

He was back home now, not at the Circus, but at Anita’s home in Jefferson County. He liked being able to sit in his masterpiece of a garden and just watch the nature around him. It helped him feel peaceful.

Lila had been to see him, both here and at the hospital. She had fussed around him, gotten him more ice cream from the nurses, and she had kept him company and entertained with stories from her work. He let her fuss over him as a sort of apology that he wouldn’t tell her why he’d had an operation. He’d told her that it was something done to him in the past, she knew quite a bit about that now, and he’d told her that the operation was to fix some damage that those people had done to him. He didn’t tell her that he had had a womb removed, he probably never would, as it would led to talking about his miscarried daughter and that was very upsetting for him to think of, but thankfully, she didn’t press him about it, knowing how painful it was for him to speak about that terrible time.

 

“Are you alright?” Micah asked him, coming out with a glass of fresh lemonade for him.

 

Harry smiled. “Yeah.” He said. He meant it too.

 

Micah sat beside him, right on the grass and that made Harry grin.

 

“I’m not so old that I can’t still sit on the grass. I’m a wereleopard, I’ll be fit for decades yet.”

 

Harry laughed and accepted the glass, taking a nice big gulp.

 

“Are you really okay? I know you like sitting out here, but you’re normally digging in all the flower beds for weeds.”

 

“I’m a bit sore today, so I’m taking it easy. Sometimes just watching nature carry on is what makes doing it in the first place worth it.” He said, looking to the colourful birdhouse he’d hung in the tree. A nuthatch was coming and going, slipping in and out quickly with fat caterpillars in its beak. It made him smile so happily. He and Lila had made that house together, their very first one.

 

“Well I’m glad that you know to take things easy a little. We wouldn’t want you hurt.”

 

Harry smiled and then sighed, reclining backwards. “I am glad that I don’t have to do that again. I don’t think I could do it a second time.”

 

“You were very brave and we were all so proud of you.”

 

“I got that bit when you threw me a homecoming party.” He laughed, remembering the day he’d come out of hospital fondly. It hadn’t been much of a party, as he still needed to rest, but everyone had been there to welcome him home and to tell him how brave he was, how proud they were. It made him feel better.

 

“Are you seeing Lila today?”

 

“Not today. She’s working and she wants me to rest, so we’re…we’re going to watch the same film and text one another.” Harry said a little bashfully, as if Micah would think him strange.

 

“I think that’s a good idea, that way you get some rest, but you’re still doing something with Lila. Nathaniel’s back from the store, he bought you more ice cream.”

 

Harry perked up at that. “Ice cream is my absolute favourite.” He said with a grin.

 

Micah laughed. “We would never be able to tell! Come on, you should come inside for a bit, you’ll burn if you stay out in this sun for much longer.”

 

Harry nodded and allowed Micah to pull him to his feet, the both of them heading into the cool shade of the house. The air con was on full and it was like walking into a fridge. It was sheer bliss to an overheated Harry.

He went to greet Nathaniel with a tight hug, getting an absentminded kiss to the forehead for his efforts while Nathaniel organised the shopping bags and where everything went in the kitchen. Sometimes kisses like that were the best, because no one had to think to kiss him, they just did it because they loved him. He grinned rather goofily and he went into the large living room and settled himself on the couch, allowing himself to relax. He immediately took out his phone and started texting Lila, he knew that she was in work, but sometimes, if she was in the back with her patients, she would send him a message or a photo of her cuddling with kittens or rabbits, or the one time she’d had a snake around her neck, a big grin on her face.

He sighed. He’d been seeing her for eight months, she had not run from his past as he’d feared that she would, instead she had listened to him speak and held him all afternoon. It had taken a dozen of these little talks to tell her most of what had been done to him, how he was still a little ‘odd’ because of his lack of socialising between the ages of eight and seventeen, how his family weren’t actually related to him but had been the ones to save him, to care for him, to look after him and protect him. He told her what he’d been told about the Dursleys, how they had been the ones to sell him and that they were now in prison.

She had been rightfully horrified and she had started to help socialise him a little more. He’d never really gone out without someone with him. Though he was trusted to get himself to and from work on his own now, he enjoyed walking, but when he started taking Lila on dates, it was really the first time that he’d gone out to somewhere that wasn’t his route to work and then back to the Circus. He was going on his own, well, with Lila, but still, he had no family members escorting him and it was a very freeing experience, to just be a young adult, eating out, going to the movies, going for a walk around the park. It was a whole new experience for him and he was getting more exposure to the outside world and more socialising as a result. He was far from normal, he would never be ‘normal’ by society’s standards, but he was no longer a complete nut case either, where he would speak too loudly, swing in Richard’s hands, or find completely ordinary, boring things, fascinating and engaging. He’d moved on from that, but he would never be completely ordinary, Lila said that sometimes being ordinary was just another word for being boring, and she didn’t want someone who was boring. That made Harry feel better too.

Jason was right in a way. He had had a really good two years. He’d done so much in this year and the last. He’d set up his own non-profit business to help others who really needed it, he’d met and started dating Lila and he’d started thinking about having surgery to remove the misplaced womb. He laid a hand over his abdomen and just patted it very gently. It had taken him eight months of talking, of planning, but he had finally gone through with his operation and he no longer had a womb to torment him.

He could only go forward now. He hadn’t exactly conquered his fear of hospitals or doctors, but he had gone into that hospital several times for talks, he had been brave enough to choose his own preferred day for his surgery, and he had walked into that hospital, knowing what was going to happen, but he’d swallowed all the pre-medications that he needed, given to him by a very kind nurse, then he’d sat in his bed, in the little papery gown, waiting. He had freaked out a little there, but the fear had gotten to him, but he had not tried to run away. A few years before he might have even tried jumping from the large window to escape, but he hadn’t, he had had a little freak out and clutched at his family very tightly, but he had stayed in the bed and allowed himself to be anaesthetised for the surgery he wanted, but didn’t want. Just the thought of being cut open again made him shiver, even now, after it had already happened.

He calmed himself down, it had been done. He had been brave and he’d had the operation. He no longer had a womb to torment him as a constant reminder of what had been done to him. He smiled and focused only on the good. He had come so far and now twenty-eight, turning twenty-nine in July, he was becoming a proper man. A functional man.

His phone beeped and he all but dived on it to read the message from Lila. She was twenty-three now, he’d made her a cake for her birthday and he’d given her a book series that she’d wanted for a while but hadn’t been able to find. He’d gotten Jean-Claude’s help to have the book series imported from abroad, just for Lila. He still remembered the astonished look on her face when she’d opened the box to find the books nestled carefully within. That night had also been the first time they’d had sex, his first ever time having sex, three months after they’d first started dating. He now understood why everyone in the Circus, all his family, were obsessed with sex. He more than understood. It was a mind-blowing experience.  

His family had immediately noticed the change in him overnight, but it had been Jason who had correctly guessed the reason and had teased him about losing his virginity. He thought that his two overprotective father figures would explode from the looks on their faces. Asher had needed to be convinced that he was not to go and tear Lila’s head off. His dad, Richard, had taken a more practical approach, sitting him down and talking about protection, birth control and condoms, but Harry already knew about all of that from school.

He and Lila didn’t want children just yet, it was much too soon. She had her veterinary career to think of, Harry was not mentally ready to be a Father himself. He might have come on really well, particularly in the last few years, but he was nowhere near ready for that massive step. So they had agreed to wait for several years, Lila had gone to her doctor and she had gotten the birth control implant, they used condoms every single time and they were always careful. Their baby, when they decided to have one, if they decided to ever have one, would be planned.

He smiled as Lila asked him how he was, if he was still sore or in pain. He messaged her back that he was alright, just a little sore today, but that it wasn’t painful. He asked her how her shift was going, if her patients were behaving for her. He loved hearing about her day, about all the different animals that she helped to look after and make better.

 

“There you are!” Nathaniel laughed. “Micah, he was in the living room!”

 

Harry blinked and looked up.

 

“I didn’t see…ah.” Micah said as he came into the room and then he laughed. “Comfy?”

 

Harry didn’t realise what was happening until he moved to sit up. He’d slipped down in the chair so much that he couldn’t be seen. He laughed.

 

“Yeah, it was. I didn’t mean to worry you.”

 

“That’s okay, we just wondered where you’d gone.” Micah told him.

 

“Are you hungry?” Nathaniel asked him.

 

“Ice cream?” Harry asked hopefully.

 

“After your dinner.” Micah told him sternly. “You need proper food now, not just ice cream.”

 

Harry nodded. “Do you need help in the kitchen?”

 

“No, it’s mostly all done and Anita’s on her way home.” Nathaniel said.

 

“Can I set the table?” Harry offered.

 

Nathaniel smiled at him. “Go on then.”

 

Harry did as he’d said and he laid the table for all five of them. He’d just finished and was typing a message to Lila when the front door opened and then closed. He sent his message and then went to barrel into his family. He got Anita first, who was caught from falling by Nicky.

 

“Well you’re certainly feeling better today.” She told him.

 

“Much better!” He smiled. “Nathaniel and Micah have been feeding me ice cream and lemonade all day.”

 

“Ah, the dreaded sugar rush.” Nicky teased.

 

“I have to eat a proper meal now before I can have more, Micah said so.”

 

“At least Micah is being responsible.” Anita chuckled.

 

“Welcome home, love.” Micah greeted, coming over now that Harry had had his turn in crashing into people.

 

Harry let everyone greet Anita and he instead lifted his arms up to Nicky, who snorted, but did as Harry pleaded and picked him up, slipping an arm under his bum and holding him easily.

 

“How was your day?” Harry asked. “I spent most of it in the garden watching the birds and bees. That little nuthatch definitely has a baby! She didn’t stop bringing caterpillars all day.”

 

“You don’t want to know what I did all day, but you must be happy that your birdhouse is being used.”

 

Harry nodded. “I told Lila and took photos for her. That was the first birdhouse we made together. I like that it’s being used.”

 

Nicky carried him to the kitchen and then sat him on his chair before sitting next to him. Harry was distracted easily when his phone beeped, letting him know that Lila had messaged him back. He hunched over his phone and read her message, laughing before typing a reply. He didn’t really listen to what was going on around him as everyone started talking, he was lost in his own little world with Lila, who was getting ready to drive home. Harry told her to drive safely and that she was to text him when she was home, not while she was driving. Richard had taught him how important that was, so that no one had an accident or got hurt.

He put his phone down for the twenty minutes it would usually take for Lila to get home and he joined the conversation, getting teased for blocking them out while talking to Lila, but he didn’t mind. He never minded a bit of teasing for Lila.

 

“Is your little movie date still going ahead?” Micah asked.

 

Harry nodded. “She’s going to shower and eat dinner herself, then we’ll start setting it up.”

 

“You’re going out?” Anita asked.

 

Harry shook his head as Nathaniel put a plate in front of him. “Thank you, mum.” Harry said with a grin. “No, we’re both staying at home, but we’re going to watch the same movie and text through it, so we can still sort of have a date, without either of us leaving home or getting out of our pyjamas.”

 

“That’s actually rather genius.” Nathaniel told him with a smile.

 

Anita nodded. “Especially as you can’t push yourself too hard.”

 

“I know. I’ve been doing well today. There’s no pain, just a bit of soreness and pinching, I might shift again later and see if that helps a little more.”

 

“If you need any help, just ask.” Micah told him.

 

“I will, thank you.” He said with a smile as he dug into his meal. It was protein rich, as all of their meals were because they were all wereanimals who needed the extra protein, but Harry was mostly looking forward to his ice cream afterwards. 

 

An hour later Micah and Nicky had helped him to shift and walk off a bit of energy, he’d had a quick bath to get rid of any lingering aches, and he was sat in his bedroom, on the squishy beanbag chair and the film that he’d let Lila pick out was ready to start. He had a bag of popcorn in his lap and a glass of lemonade beside him and his fully charged phone in his hand. Lila had texted that she was ready, Harry had done the same and they’d both pressed play.

It was nice, doing this. He had wanted to spend time with Lila, but he was just too sore and she had been working late. This was a way that they could spent time together, without actually being together. It was perfect as he texted her about the scene that they’d just watched. Lila had enjoyed it too. It made him smile.

No, he was still quirky and odd, he likely always would be, but he’d found someone who could embrace his oddities and not be embarrassed when he did something others would perceive as strange. He didn’t know if his relationship with Lila would last forever, it probably wouldn’t if what he’d learnt from those around him was any indication, but that anyone could actually like to spend time with him, that they could love him and his quirks, it meant the world to him, and if there was one special person that could do so, then there would be more.

He wasn’t looking for another person, of course not, he loved Lila, but that there would be others who could accept him as he was gave him so much more confidence, and it only made him love Lila more, because she had been the first to see him as a person and not as a freak. He did hope that they stayed together forever, but if they didn’t, it wouldn’t throw him back to how he was before, he was never going to go back now that he’d made so many strides forward. He would not undo all of his progress. Of course he would be very upset if he and Lila split up, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world, she had shown him love, she had proven to him that he could be loved despite everything that he had suffered through and he would never be able to repay her for that gift. He would always remember her even if they did break up, but he felt now that he had grown in certain ways, taken several more steps forward and he had become more mature and confident.

Lila liked the one scene that they’d just watched and Harry agreed readily, saying why he’d liked it and discussing it. This was definitely a good idea and he didn’t even need to get out of his lounge shorts.

He was always going to have his family, people he could rely on for everything, even just holding his hand when he was scared or when he had a freak out over ordinary things, such as going in an elevator. He still didn’t like doing that and he would always opt for the stairs if he could, as being in the tiny metal container always forced his mind back to being crammed into the metal cages back at the factory.

He sighed as he watched the film, smiling as he texted Lila and she texted him. Some things were always going to bother him it seemed, but as he looked back to where he was now, to where he’d come from he had made remarkable progress. It had taken a lot of help and support, of course, he just counted himself as very lucky that his family did care for him and love him. That he could rely on them for love and support. He was going to be taking his driving test now, as soon as he was better and less sore. His driving instructor expected him to pass first time. He couldn’t wait until he passed that massive milestone in his life too. He was very excited.

It might have taken him eleven years now, since he’d first been rescued and brought to the Circus, and into the lives of the most important people in his heart, but he was finally feeling ‘stable’ and less erratic. He was having less freak outs, he was making more progress in his life and his understanding. It felt amazing to be considered somewhat normal. He had a steady, paying job at a business that he had set up himself, he had two volunteer jobs now (as Lila had taken him to an animal shelter that she volunteered at and he had started helping out too), he had a wonderful girlfriend, he was going to be driving soon, Jean-Claude had even bought him a car ready. It was by no means a supercar, or anything flashy, but it was brand new and top of the range. Harry loved it and it was a wonderful incentive to keep his mind focused and on his lessons, that had come not only from his instructor, but from several people who had helped him too, Jason, Anita, Micah, Richard, Nicky and even Jamil had all taken him out and helped him learn to drive, giving him tips and advice. He had willingly gone through with an operation to remove the womb he’d never wanted, he had accepted all of his beasts as a part of himself, he was…he was completely and utterly happy with where he was right now. He had come so far, and though he still had a way to go yet, he was happy for the first time in his young life. Truly and completely happy and it was the best feeling in the world.

 

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