Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 02 :: Heir Apparent

02 • Heir Apparent

Harry stood before the mirror in his room that Maer had produced and gazed at his reflection. Slightly wavy dark auburn hair framed a triangular face and fell down his back. Amber eyes, flecked with red, glowed faintly in the mellow light of the room. A sculptured face, both delicate and strong, gave rise to conflicting impressions, along with a tall, lithe figure composed of sleek muscles which concealed his strength more than it revealed.

He was pleased. He looked nothing like his former self. He looked commanding, strong, but deceptively fragile. It should serve him well; underestimation is always a potent ally for the aware. Harry stepped away from the mirror and pulled on a plush robe, then moved into the lounge and sat down to eat the meal provided by Maer. Noise from the door made him look up long enough to see Voldemort enter and sit across from him, but he continued to dine, knowing it would not be taken as an insult.

“Your transformation is quite good, Harry. But yet, you need a new name as well.”

Harry chewed thoughtfully, dangling his fork, his brow furrowed in concentration. “Is there any way I could be adopted as your son? Magically, I mean?”

Voldemort blinked at him.

“Is there?”

The slits of Voldemort’s eyes narrowed as he considered then spoke, “Yes, there is. Are you sure that’s what you want?”

“Of course, Tom. I’m joining you, aren’t I? Why not be your son and heir? It’s not like we have any particular feelings for each other, but still. . . . Maybe that would come in time. You did save me, after all. Though, I’d still need a first name.” Harry took a sip from his glass.

“If that’s what you want, I don’t object.”

Harry nodded and went back to pondering names. After a time he looked back up. “Hmm. How about . . . Brand? Ironic in a sly sort of way.”

“Excuse me?”

“I refuse to wear the Dark Mark, but it is your brand.” Harry arched his eyebrow with a smirk, causing Voldemort to chuckle for the first time he’d ever witnessed.

“Yes, that will do nicely. Brand. We’ll perform the ceremony after you’ve eaten. It will change your name and no magical means will thereafter be able to detect that it was anything else. Ancient magic is useful in more ways than one.”

Harry suddenly sat up straight, a worried frown crossing his face.

“What is it?”

“The Marauder’s Map. If one group can make it to begin with, so could someone else. What about next year? I’ll be yet another person. How do you know I won’t be found out?”

“Map? What are you referring to?”

Harry jumped up and strode quickly to his dresser, pulling open the top drawer and fishing out a piece of parchment. He walked back out to Voldemort and intoned, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good,” and tapped it with his wand, then handed it to the older man.

“It’s how I could tell who was at Hogwarts. How I knew Barty Crouch was on the grounds. If it can be made once. . . .”

“We’ll figure something out. You have great power, so I suspect even something like this can be fooled with enough effort and inventiveness.”

Harry slumped in his chair, relieved, then frowned again.

“Yes?”

“Er, after the ceremony . . . what do I call you?”

Voldemort looked at him appraisingly. “That is up to you, Harry. You can continue to use Tom if you wish. A point though. . . .” Harry looked up questioningly. “You will need to produce an heir of your own. You need not lie with a woman to do so, it can be handled magically. Are you willing?”

Harry nodded and went back to his meal.

*

Voldemort lay back against the pillows and relaxed. It was done. He had a son, Brand Riddle. A son, and heir! Exaltation rose within his breast, different from the times when he’d easily tortured, or when he’d experienced the release of his minions from Azkaban.

It was softer, less edged. He shook himself mentally and turned his focus toward Brand’s training and their plans. Toward the death of Harry Potter. The Order must be frantic by now. The boy had been amazingly fast in his defection, and pleasingly obedient. He was amazed at how obedient. So long as he hid nothing, the boy was compliant if it did not contradict his morals. They must seal the fate of the Boy Who Lived quickly, before anything had a chance to go wrong.

The prophecy had been enlightening. He could understand now why the boy had chosen to act as he had. He had sidestepped the prediction in a fashion worthy of Salazar himself. Neither could live while the other survived, so Harry Potter had been obliterated. He chuckled to himself. The prophecy had been fulfilled, just not in a way that stubborn old fool had imagined. Tomorrow they would finish it, and let the Light fall into despair for their failures and mistakes.

*

Voldemort and Brand watched the boy before them, prompting him to turn slowly to display the entirety of his transformation.

Yes, he will do nicely,” hissed Voldemort in Parseltongue to his son.

Brand smirked and nodded back, then returned his gaze to the boy. He was perfect, the exact duplicate of Harry Potter, though his skin was marked with seeping cuts and blossoming bruises. He had willingly stayed awake for two days at his lord’s command and it showed. Dark circles shadowed the brilliant green eyes and his face was slack with exhaustion. He made no effort to stem the flow of blood. He was perfect.

“Get to the dungeons, to the cell. You must be ready when we arrive. Let no one see you,” commanded Voldemort as the boy knelt at his feet with his head bowed.

The boy stood and slipped out, leaving them alone.

“We will go down shortly and drag him out. Your former friends will be ready, chained to a wall, unwilling witnesses to Harry Potter’s demise. They will be allowed to escape at the hands of the traitor and carry back the tale of horror.”

Brand nodded and sat on the edge of the desk, swinging his legs idly while looking at Tom. His . . . father. What should he call him? Would it be a complete betrayal of biology to call him thus?

“You’ll need to be masked and cloaked. Until you are trained, we cannot risk your identity.”

“Understood.” He chose neither appellation for the time being. He’d worry over it later.

They sat in companionable silence for a while before Voldemort rose. Brand slipped off the desk and reached for a mask, and put it carefully in place before pulling up the hood of his robes. Thus made anonymous, the two walked down to the dungeons and into a room made vile with scabrous, phosphorescent fungi that covered the damp walls.

Hanging from rusted chains were Ron and Hermione, looking not much better than the fake Harry. He closed his eyes briefly against the pang of remorse that pierced his heart. It would be better this way. They would never learn the truth; Harry Potter would remain in their memory as the Boy Who Lived, and their friend. They would never have the chance to learn to hate him for what he was, and what he’d become. He must play his role, the one he had chosen.

He let out a low chuckle, mirthless and cold, as their heads slowly raised to see who had come. He steeled himself against the looks in their eyes and gracefully swept over to stand by Voldemort’s side.

“Bring him,” snapped out Voldemort commandingly, letting venom lace his voice like rivulets of acid.

Four masked Death Eaters left in a swirl of sable robes and returned a few minutes later dragging an apparently broken Harry. That he was so tired lent verisimilitude to the surreal tableau. He was dropped unceremoniously on the floor at the center of the room and left there sprawled and panting. The two watchers gasped in fear and cried out unintelligibly.

“Any last words, Potter?” Voldemort’s tone was scathingly condescending, full of malicious amusement.

The sprawled figure groaned and tried to sit up, but fell back with a cry of pain.

“Pathetic. You should be thanking me for ending your worthless excuse for a life.” He stepped back and brandished his wand at the boy. “Avada Kedavra!” he roared.

Blinding green light filled the room, then faded. Harry Potter was dead, and his friends were sobbing and rattling their chains in futile denial.

*

She came awake all at once, the stinging pain in her cheek an agony to be endured.

“Wake up, you foolish girl! There isn’t much time, damn you!”

She was being shaken violently and slapped, causing her head to snap back in another jolt of pain. She opened her eyes to see Professor Snape crouched over her like a storm cloud, his expression thunderous in its intensity.

“Come on, damn it!”

He dragged her to her feet and cursed when she buckled. She felt herself thrown over his shoulder, the breath knocked out of her as his bony shoulder slammed into her stomach. It only got worse as he swept off at a lope, and darkness overcame her.

She awoke to softness and warmth, confused and bewildered. Cautiously she slit her eyes open, peeking out from beneath her lashes. The infirmary? Her eyes flew open and she looked around wildly. There. In the next bed was Ron, looking like death itself.

Voices intruded from nearby and she strained to hear them.

“—do nothing, Albus! I wasn’t even summoned until after he was dead!”

Dead. Harry was dead. She’d watched it happen, constrained by wounds and pain and chains. Watched as he was brought low by the killing curse. Wracking, hysterical sobs overtook her as she curled up in a ball, unaware of Madam Pomfrey hurrying into the room carrying a bottle.

*

Dumbledore was, to put it mildly, pissed in both senses of the word—roaring drunk and madder than a wet hen. In the space of an evening he destroyed more items in his office than Harry ever had during his rage of the year before. He spent the night passed out in the ruin of his office, to be found the next morning by a shocked and horrified Minerva.

*

They had been returned to Hogwarts by the hand of the traitor, alive. His father had kept his word. He thought back over the past few months. They had been hard, to be sure, but fruitful. He glanced at one of the shelves in the workroom, spying his wand. He hardly needed it anymore, but he saw no particular reason to be rid of it.

In three short months he had become proficient in wandless magic, an Adept even, or beyond. Why anyone thought it was difficult was beyond him. Being underestimated was valuable, though, so he kept the wand. It might come in useful if those books were anything to judge by. With that thought he picked it up in his right hand and sat down to reread the ancient writings. He could do this, he was sure of it. Duel weapon combat had interested him for some time now.

He stood and stepped to the center of the room, focusing his will on his hands. He felt rather than saw the glow of his eyes blaze up and watched as a sai formed of serpents twisted around the core of his wand appeared, their forked tongues grossly elongated into razor-sharp sides flanking the central conical blade. In his left hand a replication, though lacking the magical core.

He smiled and left the room to find his father, intending to request physical combat training for Christmas.

*

He padded around the room flicking his tail and rumbled deep in his throat at his father, then yawned to reveal curving ivory fangs of a menacing stature. Voldemort nodded and allowed a small smile to flit across his changed face, and Brand transformed back into human form. He had a sudden absurd urge for cream, so he giggled, and then harder at the look of astonishment on his father’s face.

*

“There. That is what you must learn to become for our plan to work. It should be no great task for you, though you’ll have to maintain it for the coming year. Luckily, he isn’t too . . . displeasing . . . to the eyes.”

“Yes, father. I won’t disappoint you, or our plans.” He smiled sweetly and was rewarded with a knowing smirk.

“You’ll be able to leave the premises for this. You’ll need to in order to study the real man, learn his habits and gestures, how he speaks. I know you’ve learned enough to protect yourself from anything, and you won’t reveal your surveillance. For now, learn to take on his guise. When you’ve gone out to complete the second part of this, contact me if you run into any trouble, but let me know before you depart.”

Brand smiled and nodded, waiting until Voldemort swept out before beginning his meticulous study of the manikin, prowling around the figure slowly.

Even as his mind etched every detail to memory, another part followed an independent line of thought. He was, at that point, far more powerful than his father, having learned things he’d only dreamed of before. They had laid low, considering what Voldemort stood for, and the information reported back by the Death Eaters was interesting to say the least.

The wizarding world, after a massive outcry of grief and fear, had settled down. It was almost as though they preferred to believe that the Dark Lord had once again vanished, or gone to ground to gloat over his decisive victory over the forces of Light. They were divided between those who continued to cower in fear, those who blithely decided the danger had passed into other realms, and those who marshaled watchful forces against another uprising.

Did it matter for the moment? The Death Eaters were gathering intelligence at every opportunity, and feeding back false words to the traitor in their midst, using him as a pawn even as Dumbledore did. He was too useful to kill, and might yet become valuable. Let it not be said that some had not been killed, for they had. Cornelius Fudge, for example, had met an especially gruesome death. Brand winced a little at the thought, but it had been a necessary evil. The man’s surpassing incompetence had been an abomination, and his death had paved the way for a sleeper to be appointed in his stead.

Lives were precious to him. His father knew that and allowed for it accordingly. The raids that the minions of dark did perform were carefully staged to cause terror and pain, but never death except by accident or purposeful design, and were intermittent enough so as to provide no sensible pattern of attack.

A flowing sensation arrested his thoughts, causing him to blink and cast a look over his shoulder at a mirror bolted to the wall. Perfect. Dirty blond hair spiked upward over a ruggedly handsome face and warm hazel eyes peered back at him. He was taller and more muscular than he was as Brand, and not in a way he particularly cared for. It was too obvious in his opinion, too flagrantly blatant. Like Lockhart.

He shrugged. So be it. He left the room with a last glance at the manikin and went to find his father. It was time he did a little stalking.

*

Spring scented the air with new life bursting from the ground and the trees. Brand inhaled deeply from his seat in the garden, twirling a rose between his fingers and thinking about love. He was lonely. Soon though, it would be summer. He’d be able to spend some time with people his own age, even if they did not realize it. He did, after all, look to be in his mid-twenties. Perhaps that was wise though. If he appeared to be their elder, they would make certain assumptions that were to his benefit and advantage.

He tucked the rose behind his ear and stood. Soon. He had a meeting to prepare for in the meantime.

*

His robes were of the deepest black embroidered with threads of glittering gold. His mask was priceless rutilated amber molded by magic to fit him exactly, and while thick enough to obscure his features it was not uncomfortable. He slipped it on and pulled up his hood, checking his reflection in the mirror before heading off to join his father.

Once there he took up his place, standing slightly behind and to the left of his father’s throne-like chair. Musicians waited in a minstrels’ gallery at one end of the ballroom, ready to play at their lord’s signal, and a series of tables were positioned nearby, draped in snowy linen and set for dinner.

His father arrived and took his seat after flashing a quick, private smile at Brand. On the whole, he was looking far more human than in the past, though he never looked anything close to it while away from the confines of the estate. Moments later their guests arrived and arrayed themselves in semi-circles, inner and outer, major and minor, then dropped to one knee before rising again.

Brand noticed more than a few curious glances cast his way, but none were so bold as to openly stare. He smiled beneath his mask and waited.

“Before we begin, I have a few announcements to make, my faithful.” Voldemort swept his gaze around the assemblage before continuing. “I would introduce you to someone,” he said, inclining his head slightly.

Brand stepped forward at this signal to stand even with his father’s chair.

“My faithful, allow me to present Brand Riddle, my son and heir,” he said, gesturing with his left hand.

The assemblage emitted startled, soft gasps as Brand lowered his hood and removed the mask, then they quickly fell to one knee, holding the position for a heartbeat before rising.

“You will,” drawled Voldemort, “obey him as you obey me. If I hear to the contrary, be sure you will regret it most dearly.”

Brand smirked at the controlled menace in his father’s voice.

A collective, “Yes, my lord,” rolled forth in muted tones as dozens of eyes flicked back and forth between Voldemort and Brand.

“Also, let it be known that you shall bring forth your children this summer to the estate, those that are worthy of the honor to serve and are willing. We have no use for anything but. They shall be . . . sorted . . . then.”

He snapped his fingers sharply and stood, making his way to the head table, closely followed by Brand. Once they were seated, the assemblage arranged themselves at tables according to their preferences, and dinner began.

Placed at the head table with them were Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. Brand remained mostly quiet, interjecting mainly with relevant or insightful commentary. He was amused at the continued looks of surprise and did not hide the faint smirks they provoked, but neither did he make it anything other than clear that he was, in fact, his father’s right-hand man for good reason.

After dinner the musicians were signaled and a ball commenced. Brand, though he had asked for and been granted lessons in dancing, refrained. Instead he circulated through the room, pausing to speak with individuals and small groups of people, getting a feel for the people who aligned themselves with his father.

He noted with sharp interest that the couples on the floor were not limited to so-called conventional pairings. The smile that graced his face at that was dazzling, causing several that witnessed it to flush. So he was not disappointed in the least by this evening. His father had not lied back then.

It was also of note that while these people were slightly obsequious, they held themselves proudly and appeared quite willing to be there. Despite the changes in the Dark Lord’s plans, they stood ready to follow and heed his commands.

Brand continued to mingle, the picture of a gracious host, charming nearly everyone he spoke with. For now, let them think as they would. Should any be so foolish as to challenge him, they would learn the truth readily enough and would not soon forget the lessoning. His father could play the heavy, and he would hold himself in reserve.