The Leader

Chapter 74

Harry apparated back to the warehouse, his mind mulling over what he'd just witnessed. Albus Dumbledore was dying, there was some serious decay on his arm. He wondered what it could be, deficio or better yet exolesco. The idea that Dumbledore had run afoul of such a dark and debilitating curse amused and thrilled him. what had he been doing? Was Voldemort beginning to fear he'd lose so outright targeting everyone he can who might destroy him? He honestly wanted answers, not enough to act like Dumbledore's manipulations were working on him. He'd never recover from something like that. It made him shudder at the reaction of his people and those working alongside him. Given the smell of him, he'd say he was hit with the curse after the attack on the Ministry, two weeks afterward.

"Where have you put her?" Harry asked, as he meandered through his land. The warehouse was one of his favourite places to be. Potter manor might be his official 'home' where he slept at night but he was so rarely there during the day.

"She's in the hallway beside the cells, we've not put her out there yet," Rick explained, as he moved in sync with Severus and Harry.

"The children are outside doing P.E," Wyatt explained before Rick could further explain why she was being held to the side.

The children were cherished and protected above all else. It was ingrained in them, although whether it's their creature side or something left over from their human years nobody knows. It didn't really matter anyway, since all of them all agreed, it was a fundamental thing. These children were protected and cherished above all else, even revenge.

"I'll take care of it," Harry stated, "Remus or Fenrir?" he made sure to avoid the meeting more than necessary. Remus knew the truth now, but he was still very ashamed, of himself, of his father, of the situation. He adored Fenrir's cub, Aaron, in fact, he adored all children.

"It's Remus today," Wyatt told him, moving away if Harry needed him, he could call back. He was not going to miss what was about to go down, not for anything so he made a beeline for the best spot in the middle of the warehouse where she would be judged. Although, he was very aware of everything that had been discussed, including that she had a six-month-old kid and there might be more to it.

He was feeling rather petulant though, she'd called them all out and he felt she deserved everything that happened to her. He hated feeling that way since he was a happy-go-lucky most of the time.

Harry was honestly still mostly thinking of the possible spells Dumbledore had been hit with. It could also be the Tabeo curse as well, he doubted it was any sort of potion. If it had been then he would have most certainly be dead, a potion was far more deadly to a person than a potion. Too bad he couldn't brew a potion version of it and put it in his blasted Lemon Drops and have him die far quicker without anyone the wiser that he'd been targeted.

It would certainly put a stop to any manipulations he was attempting.

It was definitely worth some thought.

"Good morning, Remus, why not start the kids on an early Herbology lesson? The ladies are about to venture into the forest to collect some items that I use for my Potions." His tone calm and patient, a small smile on his face. "I'm sure they'd love to teach the little ones a bit more about nature while they're there."

Remus straightened, caution warring with understanding. Only a blind and stupid fool wouldn't know something was going down. It wasn't just because Harry was changing their routine, which by the way didn't happen very often. He had read the newspaper this morning, and had seen they were all riled up. Sirius and he had asked if there were anything they could do before they'd came here to prepare for the lesson. Sirius spent most of his time while he was teaching as the grim, his dog form, Padfoot.

The kids loved them and Sirius loved the lack of emotions he had to deal with in his Animagus form. A by-product of his time in Azkaban, although he allowed himself only three hours in total before transforming back. He didn't want to end up losing himself like he had nearly done in Azkaban. The only thing that stopped him succumbing entirely, was the idea of revenge much as it pained him to admit it.

"Take this beasty with you," Harry added, patting Padfoot on his rump, carefully of course. "Would you all like that?" he called out to the students, well aware they'd all heard and understood him.

"Yes, Sir!" they all chirped, excited to go on this new adventure.

"Sure," Remus belatedly agreed, smiling fondly at the children, utterly besotted. Just as besotted when he'd seen Harry for the first time and the times after until his parents' deaths.

"There should be enough baskets in the cupboard for all of you, and remember never mix the ingredients unless you've got bags or glass jars but jars are always better." Harry told them, "So, one ingredient per basket, will you remember that?"

"Yes, Sir!" they called out their understanding.

"That's perfect, go on then, grab your baskets and line up in a single file!" Harry watched them rush in, not all of them were human wizards and witches, there were werewolves as well as half-werewolves and half-vampires as well as a quarter succubus.

"What's going to happen to her?" Remus whispered, beside Sirius the most vehemently opposed to some of Harry's solutions and actions.

"You do realise that eight of your pupils actually heard that as clear as day?" Harry said wryly, but his eyes were stone cold. Telling him silently to cease asking questions where young ears could overhear before he lost his temper with him.

Remus sheepishly rubbed his hand over his face, the dragging of the hair from the days of not shaving the only sound he made. "Sorry," he murmured, truthfully, he often did forget that these children weren't all human they certainly didn't act like they had a creature inheritance.

Padfoot barked, and wagged his tail as the children begun to emerge with their baskets. They'd all been handmade by people in this very warehouse. Some more professionally than others, especially for those who used magic. All were capable of holding the herbs the girls came back with. He called them girls but there were likely a dozen men going with them. When they'd started though it was only five girls, one of them May, collecting the potions ingredients for him.

"Go on ahead, everyone's waiting, Remus will follow very soon," Harry called out, a genuine smile on his face.

Severus watched him, and then the children, "Is that something you want?" not that it was possible, well, for them together collectively anyway. If Harry wanted a child, he'd need to have one with a witch and a human one at that.

"A child?" Harry asked, turning to give Severus his full attention.

"Yes," Severus murmured.

"My child or a child there is a difference," Harry pointed out.

"I guess, either." Severus stated, curious now.

"No on a child of my own, there are too many children in the world already to be wanting more brought into it." Harry said darkly, "Nobody can predict what their lives are going to be like, and nobody should be having kids in a damn war." A scowl marring his features.

"If nobody did that, then you wouldn't be born," Remus chided him, seething in fury over the slight against his own damn parents.

"Then they would have been alive and I wouldn't have gone through ten years of abuse." Harry hissed out through clenched teeth. "No matter, nothing can be changed, but no, I'm not having any children, I'd rather help those who need it." Those that would be left abandoned because they were creatures, sickening bastards so they were.

Severus made a sound of agreement.

"How about you?" Harry asked, "Is a child something you've ever wanted?" you always planned your future, imagined it regardless of how bleak your life was.

"No," came Severus' immediate reply, "I didn't even want to educate them, I have no patience for children. Draco is the closest I ever want to come to having a child." He spent some time with him, then gave him back to his parents that was enough for him. He knew his weaknesses; he had his father's weaknesses I reckoned. He would never harm someone by being physically abusive. That was one way he'd never be like his father, and if it meant avoiding any and all children then so be it. Although, the children here were rather polite, calm and quiet, at least when he saw them. However, they were in a education setting so it was different.

Harry laughed softly, nodding his agreement, people also changed their minds as they aged, wanted children in moments of weaknesses, or just want kids as a distant dream but hate it in the reality. "Go, make sure the kids don't get too unruly."

Remus did indeed join the others without a single word.

"I'm surprised he didn't comment on me being the last Potter," Harry said once Remus was gone far enough that he couldn't overhear what he said.

"It would be rather hypocritical of him," Severus said shrewdly, "Since he would never risk passing his lycanthrope off he ends the Lupin line, and Black would rather die than continue on his own line, in a pathetic attempt at his last defiance to his parents…given Bellatrix's problem it's perhaps a prudent idea." She was just the last of the Black blood that was insane and by no means the first.

Harry grunted, conceding the logic behind Severus' points. Wondering if they were true, likely where it came to Lupin though. He had hated what he was with every iota of his being. It's only here that he had begun to accept himself. Sirius himself stood with him even in a world of creatures. He wondered if Remus knew how lucky he was…it was very rare that wizards would stick it out with their significant other, their mother, their brother, their son, their daughter if they were changed or begun to change.

It didn't take long before people began to mill around the area, getting comfortable. Werewolves, vampires, even Brecon and Alan (Succubus) had turned up. No doubt he'd quickly went to see his son before he came here. Alan's wife, a Muggle in the know, had been attacked after it became known she was carrying a succubus' child. It wasn't easy to figure out someone was a succubus, even while sleeping with them. He still didn't know who had blabbed or figured it out. His wife had hidden their child before succumbing to her injuries. It was a surprise none of the blows had hit the baby. He was very protective of his little boy, so much so that he barely let him out of his sight, even in the warehouse.

"Do you want some Veritaserum brought here?" Brecon asked, shifting his seat to get a good view. Nodding in satisfaction, unlike the vampires, he'd get back ache standing for ages. He wasn't as young as he used to be anymore.

"No, if I need it I'll go for it later," Harry said, inclining his head in thanks to Brecon, he respected the wizard just as much as he respected Rick. It was so rare that wizards would give up on their own people and care more for magical creatures. It wasn't like Brecon had been raised alongside a magical creature or anything like that. However, he had his eyes open to what 'light' wizards were like, and luckily bumped into him the next day before he could do something…stupid and get himself hurt. That was how he ended up with Josh and Brecon in his corner.

"Okay," Brecon agreed, sitting close to Alan, "How was he?" teasing the father for his need to be so close. They all did it, it was truly all good natured. "Let me guess, he's fine?" Merlin, help him, when Al (yes, he'd named the child Alan Junior) became a teenager…Alan was going to know all about it.

Alan just smacked his shoulder into Brecon in retaliation, as if suspecting his thoughts.

Harry chuckled, one of these days he was going to curse them silly for their teasing. They'd be begging him to get rid of the curses he placed on them. Alan was very powerful and his magic was slightly different enough that the normal counter-spells didn't work.

"I can walk on my own two feet you know," Rita drawled, sounding indignant but unafraid, but the scents she was giving off were a whole other story. "There's no need to shove me!" her feet moving as if she was running but only running air.

"The tracking spells are off," Rick spoke so low that the human couldn't have possibly hoped to hear.

"Children far enough away and suitably distracted?" Harry asked, desiring to know if they were safe and not about to hear any of this.

"They are," Bill Weasley agreed.

"Glamour up," Harry warned him, he was too noticeable and if by some miracle she got away he didn't want Bill or Brecon to be noticed as perpetrators. He nodded at Brecon when he did as well, they were spies it wouldn't make them very good ones if they were observed. Luckily Rita was still being dragged into the spot and hadn't noticed their normal looks.

"I can wal—" Rita grunted as she was thrust to her knees. "That hurt." She sniped, at Howard who just grunted and walked towards Takumi, both of them big and bulky after years of competitive training. They liked to tease the others who were still thin and bony, at least they'd been in the best years of their lives before being turned.

"Who are you?" Rita huffed, as she turned to the cloaked figure, "What exactly is it you want with me?" practically purring the words, her red painted lips turned up in a smirk.

Severus grinned, feeling rather excited at the intrigue. It was such a silly thing to be excited for, he knew what it felt like being on the receiving end. It was terrifying, to be surrounded by people, knowing that this day could be your last. He loved that she wasn't pleading for her life, yet. Whether she could or not, well, only time will tell. Cloaked in a veil of mystery, Merlin, he felt like a child. He wondered if Harry felt this way when he used a robe to mask himself.

No wonder the Dark Lord liked his dramatic entrances, he thought wryly, they were so much fun.

Harry sniggered under his breathe, wondering if Severus realized he was broadcasting to the point everyone was finding it difficult to keep a grave face.

"You of all people have to ask what I want with you?" Harry asked dryly, as he stepped forward, they surrounded her on all ends. It would be impossible for her to get away, so they didn't even bother binding her. "Really?" purring right back at her, but it was in no way reassuring, as the power exuded from Harry was downright terrifying.

Rita swallowed thickly, paling drastically, making her red lips stand out against her milky white features. For the first time she was visibly affected, as well as the emotions she was exuding. She tottered back on her knees, shuffling back feebly.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you?" Harry declared, still seething in fury over what he'd read.

"Oh? Little old me? Why did I hurt your feelings?" Rita asked, tutting softly, "Poor dear."

"Hurt, no, piss me off yes," Harry declared coolly, "Crucio!" watching her crumple and writhe in agony, screaming and clawing at herself. Harry watched her dispassionately, counting up to sixty. He didn't keep it on for any longer than a minute, he didn't want them insane after all. Although, really, he had nothing he wanted from her other than an answer to why she'd betray her own.

Rita's makeup was completely smudged, watered down with floods of tears she'd shed. And gouges where she'd sank her nails into her cheeks smearing blood as well as her lipstick everywhere. She choked back raw pleadings, as she stared up at the group of what she was sure were likely vampires.

"Why?" Harry commanded, he wanted to know why she'd done it, who, if anyone was behind it.

Rita just panted, tensing and untensing, barely able to think let alone make the motions to actually talk.

"I have all the time in the world," Harry said coldly, as he walked slowly around her body. "It does tend to get boring with repetitiveness of casting the same curse, over and over again, you know? I mean get creative right?"

Rita squeaked, watching him like a hawk as he turned back to face her head way.

"Don't you agree?" Harry asked inquisitively as if he wasn't talking about torturing her further. Green eyes gleaming eerily from within the shadow of where the face should be swathed as it was in robes and darkness.

Rita stayed still, as if hoping to be mistaken for death, nary a word leaving her lips.

"Hmm, no? well, alright then," Harry said chipper, "Crucio!" then in a nanosecond his voice changed to cold and cruel.

It took exactly sixty seconds for her to cease screaming, if it could be called that. It was more a long incessant croak than a scream.

"Why?" Harry asked yet again, grim and determined, not even mildly annoyed she wasn't answering. Honestly, he was rather impressed with her stubborn determination even if she was an enemy.

Rita just lay there panting, not even looking up at him, face pressed against the stone.

"Looks like we might have to make a day of it," Harry commented, moving around her once more. "Crucio!"

Another sixty seconds later, Harry huffed, "Alright its definitely getting boring, hmm…I do have a lot of other spells at my arsenal, all of them unfortunately actually display injuries not just feel like that."

"Stop," croaked Rita, body shaking and shuddering, she'd long ago lost control over her bladder and bowls. She could smell her own bodily functions and it was disgusting.

"I do know a spell that cuts you a thousand times, thin papercuts, although you can alter it to be bigger, the beauty of the spell makes it so that you can make it take chunks out of you." Harry murmured, "I'll heal you up so you don't die of course, I do want answers first."

Everyone remained sombre and silent, watching everything going on. Most of them holding their breathes so they couldn't smell the stink. They were just as desperate as Harry for answers.

Rita shuddered, desperation, despair and determination waved from her very tortured pores.

"If you're hoping for someone to rescue you, you may we well get that thought out of your mind right now." Severus entered the battleground, knowing that this might be the thing having her holding on to feeble albeit deluded hope. "The tracking charm you had on you will have put the suggestion where?"

"This particular one? Just outside of France's district Beauxbaton Alley," came the smooth reply from Rick, sniggering softly, predictably near by Beauxbaton, the look of shocked incredulity on her features was immense.

"NO!" Rita shrieked, "No! No! No! No! What have you done?!" panting dangerously, smacking her shaking hand against the pavement, huddled up, despair consuming her as she choked on her fear and pain, "What have you done?" she whispered over and over again.

Harry watched her, his head cocked to the side, observing her.

"What have you done?"

Severus watched the scene stomach sinking, "Who has been taken?" he asked her, tersely. Suspecting she'd been forced into this, the way she'd crumbled after she learned the tracking charm was removed? It wasn't someone devoid of only hope…but of life. "Veritaserum?" to ensure this wasn't a trap within a trap. Harry's Veritaserum was different, even with an antidote his version of the potion worked, and all too well it was amazing.

"I think that might be for the best," Harry commented idly, "D…" before he could finish Wyatt spoke.

"I'll get it!" and with that he took off, slower than a full vampire but way faster than even the worlds faster runner.

It was time to find out what was going on once and for all. Which was good, because Harry truly was bored of casting the Cruciatus curse, it's the most he'd ever used the spell only because he didn't want to cause permanent harm until he had all the answers.

"Time to get this done before the children return." Harry stated firmly, missing Rita's flinch and the unmitigated pained whimper as she moved.

A/N – Ooo so is it a trick on top of a trick? With an attempt to find out who the leader is? By Dumbledore? Voldemort or Skeeter herself in a bid to figure it all out? Has she noticed the placements of people within the Ministry the good will towards creatures and determined to track it down? Or does her reaction mean shes an unwilling participant in all this? R&R please and heh 😉 so much for it being finished in three chapters…I really need to stop deluding myself don't I? 😊