Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 04 :: Retribution & Plans

04 • Retribution & Plans

:Father?:

:Yes, son.:

:I don’t mean to whine, but was that flash bomb really necessary? I was blinded for several hours by it.:

:What!?:

:You heard me. I’m going to have to figure out a way to shield against things like that. Or maybe you can. I’d hate to have that happen again.:

:Hmm. Someone is going to feel some pain shortly.:

:Don’t be too harsh. It wasn’t pleasant in the least, but it does serve to prove a point, and they didn’t know they’d be up against me. There are things we haven’t considered when it comes to defense. Just because I’m nigh well invulnerable doesn’t mean I can’t be downed temporarily.:

:It should have been tested before it was used on you! Fine, fine. I see and concede the point, son. I’ll make sure they clear their methods with me before going out on any further raids and play with them a little to get the point across.:

:Thank you, father. I’ll talk to you la—wait. I almost forgot. I’ve only been in the Chamber once. Do you know if there are ways into it from outside the castle?:

:I . . . don’t remember. I’ll have to sift through my memories. Isn’t there any way you can get down there personally?:

:I’m not sure I should risk it. You know the old coot has eyes everywhere and he isn’t fooled by invisibility.:

:I’ll think on it, then, and get back to you. I assume you’re thinking of ways to infiltrate that won’t be warded?:

:Precisely. I have some ideas on ways to bring down more than one place of power.:

:Oh really—more than one?:

:Father, you’ve had complete and total access to my mind. You know I’ve held nothing back from you that I’ve been able to share. If I can’t reveal something, you can surely figure out the reason why.:

:I understand. Let me think on this. Let me know if anything new comes up.:

:Good night, father.:

:Good night, son.:

*

The Christmas holiday arrived all too soon, and not soon enough. Brand was itching to get away for a few weeks and spend time with his father. Using the quite reasonable half truth that he wished to relax in privacy at home while he caught up on his work, he was easily able to apparate back to the estate in a roundabout series of jumps.

It was simply not the same to mentally connect. Being face to face was something he found he missed terribly, so on his first evening back they had dinner in private.

“Father,” he began, “I think we should seriously consider bringing Snape into the fold completely.”

Voldemort gave him a searching look then nodded. “Is this another one of those things you’re prevented from explaining?”

“Yes. I also think I know of a way to seriously rattle the headmaster,” he responded with a sly smirk. “Though, I’ll need some assistance in the details.” He cocked his head to one side briefly.

“If you think it’s best. I’ll summon Snape here tomorrow. You need to be Brand, though, son.”

Brand blushed and transformed. “Sorry, father. I’ve been in it so long. . . .”

“I understand, and it’s to your credit that you’ve done so well. My question is, if you can tell me: How do you plan to proceed?”

“I am . . . aware . . . of certain details of Snape’s life. I can use those in whatever way is necessary.” He flicked his eyes toward the ceiling before continuing. “If I can pull this off, then he would be part of the key toward one of our goals. It would be a deception, but only because Harry is dead.”

“Son? Just tell me one thing. If what you’re planning works, will you be able to explain afterward?”

Brand prevented himself from rolling his eyes in frustration with difficulty and instead closed them and pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment. “Not this, no. Only a death would accomplish that, father. I think you’ve realized that.”

“Yes, of course. I should know better than to push what can’t be pushed.”

“You can trust me when I say that the restrictions hurt. I’m your son now. I would never willingly hold back from you what I know would be of use.”

“It’s all right. We’ll find a way to release you completely.”

Brand cast a grateful smile at his father. “Yes, I have faith. You’ve done so much for me already.” He paused, then looked at Voldemort seriously. “I know I’ve never actually said this, but thank you. For being willing to listen to what I had to say and not just killing me outright. For being willing to adopt me, trusting me. Well, for everything.”

His reward was a brilliant smile.

The next day Severus Snape came to visit, summoned by his father. After a very brief set of greetings with Voldemort, he was bidden to wait for the heir.

Brand swept in wearing his ceremonial robes, making them billow out behind him impressively, and seated himself in his father’s chair with a flourish.

“So,” he began with a cool tone, “you do well to answer the summons, Severus.”

Snape replied in an even voice, “Yes, my lord.”

“I’m sure you’re wondering why you were summoned, so I’ll get down to business.” He leaned back in the chair and propped his legs on the desk, ankles crossed.

Snape merely nodded in response.

“You see, I know exactly what you’re up to, Severus, and the . . . shall we say . . . duality of your situation.”

Snape’s eyes glittered dangerously but he did not speak.

Brand smirked at him and waved his hand airily. “I’m aware of a lot of things, Severus. But what I don’t know is what you’ll do. What will you choose, hm? Your precious Order, or us?”

“I am our lord’s spy, my lord, within the Order.”

“Don’t lie to me,” Brand shot back tersely. “You are a traitor, Severus, and that warrants your death.”

Snape twitched minutely.

“I wouldn’t get any bright ideas about trying to leave, Severus. I am far more powerful than you can imagine.”

“I fail to understand why you would possibly think that, my lord,” Snape said with admirable composure.

“Really,” he drawled. “Then perhaps this will help. Visited the House of Black recently?”

Snape flinched visibly. “I see. What do you plan on doing with me, then?” He sounded defeated and resigned.

“More to the point is what you plan on doing, Severus. I’m perfectly willing to give you a choice. If you do anything stupid in this room, though, I will kill you and be done with it.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” Snape said gratingly.

Brand snorted and flicked his hair back. “Father and I understand each other perfectly, my dear man, and he trusts my judgment. And with that understanding comes the realization that things don’t have to be the way they’ve been. I’m sure even you have noticed the changes over the past year or so. Have you been tortured lately? I think not.”

His feet hit the floor with a loud thud and he got up and leaned against the desk. “My dear Severus, let’s talk about choice. We will have you willingly or not at all, so let me explain to you what that actually means. After we are finished talking you will be allowed to return to the school, unharmed. You will not be summoned for any reason until the summer has begun. It is within that time frame that you must make your choice.”

Brand pushed away from the desk and started to slowly circle the room as he spoke. “To that end, you have my assurance that no raids will be staged. Indeed, nothing of any note will occur, so that when questioned by your . . . contact . . . about events, you can report truthfully. This is my gift to you. If, when you return to us, you choose to leave, I will remove the mark of your service and send you on. It will be up to you at that point to explain what happened to your fellows, or to flee to a new life, whatever suits your fancy.”

He completed his prowling circuit of the room and moved back to the desk, seating himself on the edge and casting a serious, though compassionate look at Severus. “However, if you choose to come to us fully and without reserve I will do my utmost to see that you are placed in a position that suits you in both strengths and desires. For example, if you wished to continue your professorship at the school, so be it. Indeed, it may come to more than that, though I can hardly be more specific at this time.”

He brought one leg up and placed his foot flat on the desk, wrapping a forearm on his knee. “There are other considerations, though. Advanced training of any sort you might wish would be one. Also, I am not unaware of your predilections. With us you would have the opportunity to openly choose for yourself a suitable male companion, much as I myself plan to do when the seventh years have graduated, for I have my eye on two likely candidates even as we speak.”

Snape was staring at him with open-mouthed shock by then, which made Brand smile sweetly. He slipped off the desk and stood before the Potions teacher, his face only a few inches away, and raised a hand to gently nudge the man’s jaw back up.

“Let it be understood, of course, that any companion you may choose will have finished their schooling and will not be forced into the association. I will not tolerate the subjugation of another’s will on this matter. It must be mutual or not at all. So you see, things are not what they were, and we can provide you with much—”

Brand was cut off as Severus abruptly leaned into him and pressed his lips to Brand’s, flicking his tongue questioningly. Brand willingly opened his mouth and pulled the man into a searing kiss of battling, aggressive tongues and stinging bites to the lower lip. Once he’d reduced Severus to weak-kneed existence, he pulled away and sat down on the desk, flashing a charming smile.

“A test for me? I cannot fault your methods. Just remember, though—I am not to be yours. Severus, you have leave to depart back to the school. You will be contacted once summer begins. If you choose to disappear before that time, know that you are a dead man. You have nothing to fear by appearing, you have my word.”

A quick gesture opened the door, causing Snape to straighten into his customary visage. He dropped to one knee briefly, then rose and left without another word. Brand heaved a huge sigh and stood and faced the fire. Moments later he felt arms snaking around him from behind, pulling him close, and a heated trail of wet kisses down the side of his neck before being turned into yet another passionate, and skillful, kiss.

The scent of the one who held him was very familiar and he responded despite his confusion, hearing himself moan with pleasure, at which point he was gently pushed back. He opened his eyes to gaze into his father’s. “Father?”

“I had to see what the attraction was all about. Do forgive me.” Voldemort stepped back further and smirked.

Brand rolled his eyes and sat in his father’s chair, tossing one leg over the arm. “Honestly. It’s not like we’re related by blood, but still. . . .”

Voldemort made a dismissive gesture with one hand. “That isn’t why I came here, in any case. It was a spur of the moment action. I came here to tell you that you’re amazing. A half hour with that man and he’s eating out of your hand. I would bet money he’ll join us when he’s been summoned.”

“You know I don’t like to coerce people. If he’s to be here, it should be willingly.”

Voldemort nodded. “So, the Order of the Phoenix and their headquarters. How very interesting. Yes, I was watching the entire encounter, as you suspected I might. I will back off on anything that would contradict what you told Snape. I and the inner circle will use that time to prepare strategy for removing a certain old fool from the picture.”

“Thank you, father. I’m not sure I should have promised what I did, but that’s what came out. I hope you aren’t angry.” He bit his lip.

Voldemort shook his head and smiled. “No, I’ve seen the kind of results your methods produce.”

*

Brand, or rather Aldren, was ensconced back in his room at the castle, reading muggle fiction simply because it intrigued him. Some authors had very interesting ideas on what constituted magic and what was within the realm of possible, so he felt it behooved him to reads books of that nature. It might give him valuable ideas.

The sun slowly sank, and with it dragged down the light, rippling through pastels and into blood before all disappeared in favor of the treacherous light of the moon and stars. Brand closed his book and slipped into bed. It would be some time before they could move forward again. Closing his eyes, he fell asleep.

Despite that, the months rolled by more quickly than Brand could have imagined. Students outside Slytherin were identified as leaning toward Voldemort and noted even as spies within the house were closely watched and carefully allowed to discover or overhear disinformation.

Brand caught Snape lost in introspection more than once as the months passed and took that as a good sign. He could have easily ghosted the man’s thoughts without being detected, but had declined to do so every time. It wouldn’t be right, not under the circumstances.

During the last days Brand prepared quietly. Dumbledore would be called away on an important matter, he knew, even as the students were boarding the train to return to London. He would have a chance to do a little exploration before he, too, packed up his belongings and returned home. As soon as the headmaster was away, Brand was headed toward Myrtle’s bathroom cloaked with invisibility.

Entering, he made a quick check of the room and could not discern her presence. He stepped quickly to the entrance to the chamber and hissed, “Open,” watching as things shifted and rearranged to reveal the tunnel he remembered from before. He quickly placed a glamour over the opening, then sealed the door to the bathroom as an additional measure. With that taken care of he jumped.

It took several hours to explore and map the normal parts of the Chamber, including many of the tunnels which led off from it. Blank memory-strand sendings were released with instructions to return when their mapping was complete so that Brand could update his version of the Marauder’s Map. His, however, wasn’t spelled in parchment, but rather took the form of a floating display that only he could see. The returned sendings simply merged into what he explored personally, forming a more complete map.

Eventually he was ready for the most obvious of tasks, the mouth of the statue of Salazar. For that he also used a sending to spy out the territory, waiting anxiously for it to return as he checked every few minutes to see if Dumbledore had come back to the school. When it returned he was overjoyed with the results; the tunnel not only led to the basilisk’s lair, but to the outside world, well beyond the confines of the school grounds. He had found a way in; his father never had gotten back to him about his earlier question on that subject.

Quickly he returned to the sloping tunnel that led up to the bathroom and checked the area thoroughly. A hissed command resulted in a slow grating noise from far above, and another with the same. It would be all right. Brand levitated himself upward and along the curving passageway, stumbling slightly when he landed back in the castle proper.

He suppressed his jubilation fiercely; working fast he closed the Chamber entrance and removed the glamour, then unsealed the door and headed for his room. The next thing he did was to pack up everything Archer owned and return the room to its original state. With one last look around, Brand gathered up his things and left the castle wards, then apparated to Archer’s home. Dumbledore might be expecting that for once he could have the same Defense professor two years in a row, but that just wouldn’t be possible.

Belongings were unpacked and replaced, with the exception of the pensieve and those things that Brand had purchased personally, and the house gradually took on the look it had when its owner had been living here. Once he was finished, he initiated contact.

:Father?:

:I’m here.:

:I’m done. He can be brought back and the attack staged. I’ll leave as soon as the advance group arrives and return to the estate.:

:Remember to switch back before they come. I don’t want any mistakes.:

:I will do that now, and be home shortly, father.:

After a few moments of intense concentration Brand stepped in front of a mirror. Gods but he was handsome. He smirked and stepped away, pacing the room until the sounds of others brought his head up. He waited until every person in the advance group had kneeled, then nodded and apparated back to the estate. His first thought was to gain his rooms as quickly as possible and fling himself onto the bed so he could completely relax for the first time in months. So he did.

The next morning he breakfasted with his father.

“—summons. He should arrive shortly.”

“You’ve instructed the house-elves to direct him to the study again?”

Voldemort nodded and forked some eggs into his mouth. After a moment he said, “I hope that he chooses well.”

“I think he will. As I’m done, I’ll go await his arrival. I’ll talk with you a little later, father. Oh, and that article about Archer was interesting.” Brand stood and crossed to the other side of the table, placed a gentle kiss on Voldemort’s cheek, then left.

Not long after, when he was seated in his father’s chair with his feet propped on the desk, Severus was shown in. Brand waved him to a chair once he had knelt briefly and smiled.

“Hullo, Severus. Good to see you again. Have you come to a decision?” There was no sense in beating around the bush. If Snape wanted out then Brand wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible.

“Yes, I have, my lord,” said Snape with a smile, which would have been enough to make any other person recoil in horror.

“Brilliant. What’ll it be, then?”

“I choose you, my lord.”

“Even better. Would you be willing to help train some people, then? Last summer was the first session, but they’re coming back again in a few days for more advanced courses. Potions, Defense, Dark Arts, whatever. I’ve already picked out the three best from the last batch, but we’ll have a new influx, too.”

“Who were the best, my lord?”

“I don’t think it will be much of a surprise. Malfoy, Zabini, and Parkinson, two of which I have my eye on personally, though. . . .” He trailed off with a thoughtful look. “I think I’ll be able to tell soon which one I prefer. Or should I say, which one prefers me?” Brand looked back up. “Any objections, then, to staying the summer? We really would need you here. And, did you want to continue on at Hogwarts?”

“None whatsoever. And yes, I think I would, my lord. I trust—“ Severus stopped abruptly, then said, “Rather, I hope that something will soon be done about. . . ?”

Brand angled his head to the side. “Absolutely. Now, before we get too cozy with each other, there are some things I need to say. You say you’re in. Fine. But you will be watched. I am extending you a great trust at this point, considering who you are. When that trust has actually been earned, the watchers will be gone. Though, I suppose it’s best to not bother mentioning when that happens. I’m sure you understand. Regardless, we are going to act as though you truly mean what you say, and work outward from there.”

“My lord, I would expect nothing less.”

“You are indeed wise. So. . . .”

They talked for quite a while, going over what the incoming students would be doing and training in, until it was noon. At that point, Brand led Severus down to the dining room for lunch with his father. If nothing else it became crystal clear to Snape—in this case Brand did snoop—that Voldemort really did consider Brand his equal.

Several days later, the students arrived.

*

“Those of you who are new here, please wait in the adjacent garden. Attempts to enter this space once you have exited will result in excruciating pain. If you choose not to believe that statement, be my guest. You’ll find out soon enough what my words are worth.”

Brand stood there, arms crossed, and waited with an intense look on his face. Eventually, the last of the newcomers straggled off, shooting glances back over their shoulders as they rounded the high hedges. Brand rolled his eyes and then turned his attention back to the students who had been at the estate the year before, some of whom were openly laughing.

He settled himself in a white ironwork chair and said, “This year you will have the opportunity to get more advanced training. You will need to get with me or Professor Snape today to discuss where your strengths lie, and to be tested. Those of you who will be returning to school will receive special training and instructions near the end of the summer to prepare you for the upcoming year.

“Those of you who have completed your formal education will be handled in a somewhat different manner. Whether or not you’ll be moving into jobs is one of the things that must be determined, as opposed to staying here for a much longer, far more intense course of training, though all of you will be regular visitors to the estate. You are here because you’ve proven your loyalty and dedication, and if that changes at any time, I assure you, I will find out, so it’s better if you simply come to me before I’m forced to confront you.

“Now that the threats are out of the way, take some time to talk to Professor Snape about what interests you while I go introduce myself properly to the others.” Brand rose and headed through the gap in the hedges, snorting when he found several unconscious bodies sprawled on the grass.

*

His meeting with the new students had gone well enough. Some were of quality material; those who were hopeless were obliviated and sent home. He hadn’t been surprised that some of them washed out almost immediately. He had spent a lot of time with Draco, Blaise, and Pansy, delving into their minds. It became quickly apparent that Draco had absolutely no interest in Pansy, but was indeed bound by a pure-blood wizarding contract to the girl, who naturally acted as though water on stone would wear the boy down and eventually see him capitulate to her desires.

Blaise, he had discovered, was harboring quite an infatuation for Severus, and Brand had every intention of seeing if that would work itself out. Draco, on the other had, harbored a genuine degree of admiration and respect for Brand, not to mention a seething whirlpool of lust and desire hidden beneath his usually calm mask.

Well and so. The boy still needed to produce an heir for his line, even as Brand did. Perhaps the girl could be persuaded of the necessity of it being a role only. If she proved to be difficult, regardless of her worth, she would be dealt with. Brand hadn’t given up his original life to be balked now. He shrugged and headed toward the dining room to have lunch with Severus.

“Severus?”

“Yes, my lord?”

Brand rolled his eyes at the necessity and trailed his fingers back through his hair. “I know something you don’t, perhaps.”

Severus arched a brow enquiringly as Brand smirked.

“Tell me, Severus—how do you feel about young Blaise?” he asked, and was rewarded by Severus’s brows shooting upward. “Maybe you should . . . talk to him.”

“If you think so, my lord,” came the neutral response.

Brand threw back his head and laughed. “Oh yes, I do think so.”