Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 06 :: Revelations & Plans

06 • Revelations & Plans

They sat there in comfortable silence for several minutes before Draco spoke up in a confused tone. “Wait a minute, what do you mean, when he wasn’t, and when he orphaned you? He isn’t your actual father?” He sat up slightly and twisted around to look at Brand. “Just exactly who are you, then?”

Brand bit his lip and considered the question. Just minutes before he’d talked about honesty, and indeed he had often brought up honesty and trust as foundations of his relationship with his father’s people. Could he in good conscience not tell Draco who he’d been?

“Someone you once knew, for starters.” He arched a brow at Draco’s resulting thoughtful expression. “Two someones, actually. Professor Archer was one of them.”

“That isn’t really a surprise when I think about it, but I expect the real answer would be.”

“Yes, I think it would. Well, much as I hate to get advice on this—hold on.”

:Father?:

:Yes?:

:I’m sorry to disturb you again, but—apparently something I said has Draco questioning who exactly I am, so perhaps I wasn’t as cautious as I should have been. I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to tell him. After all, I’ve been going on about trust and honesty all this time. I—I can’t help but feel guilty at the thought of not coming clean since he wants to know, but I’m not sure how he’ll react.:

:If it means that much to you, tell him, son. But if he reacts badly, I fully expect you to deal with the problem, regardless of the severity of your response.:

:You mean wipe him or kill him.:

:Of course.:

:As you say, father.:

When he looked back at Draco there was a slight frown present and a questioning look. He shifted deliberately, moving Draco away from him so he’d be able to look at him clearly.

“All right. Before I tell you my original identity, though, I should caution you. I am willing to tell you because I feel that if we are to move any further along that there should be truth and honesty between us. But if you react badly, I will be forced to act to protect myself and father. And even if you do not react badly, it is not something you will be allowed to use against me, nor share with any other. Given that, do you still wish to know?”

“When you put it like that I begin to have certain suspicions as to the answer. However, as I trust you, I will say yes, I would like to know.”

“Then I think I shall tell you now, before you make contact with your father about having taken a potential consort mark.” Brand paused deliberately to see if Draco would change his mind at that pronouncement, and when he remained silent, Brand continued. “This isn’t easy, you understand. We never did get along back then, and for good reason, I suppose. I’m certainly not as old as I appear to you to be. I’m the same age as you, actually.”

Draco’s eyes first widened ever so slightly, then narrowed. A look of dawning comprehension suffused his features, but he still did not speak.

“All right. I suppose I’m not usually so damnably coy, so I’ll just say it. I am—or rather, I was—Harry Potter.”

“But he’s—”

“He’s what? Dead? A mudblood-loving Gryffindor? Brunette? Too short?”

A slight grin formed on Draco’s face, then quickly disappeared. “Dead, of course.”

“Why, yes, so he is. I helped kill him myself—in a manner of speaking—and certainly endorsed the idea. As I recall, father was quite enthusiastic about the whole thing.”

Draco was concise and to the point. “Why?”

“If you recall, I explained part of that, though certainly not all of it. And if you don’t mind a long, boring explanation, I’ll give it to you.”

Draco arched a brow and assumed an attentive posture.

“I don’t know how much you really know about Harry Potter, so I’ll give you a condensed version of things. I was raised by my muggle relations—my aunt’s family—with absolutely no knowledge of the wizarding world. It was not a happy time for me, if I may understate the case. It wasn’t until Hagrid came for me that I had any idea of who I really was. And I must say, Hagrid was quite down on Slytherins in particular, there supposedly being so many of them willing to ally themselves with the darkest and most evil of wizards, Voldemort.”

Draco nodded.

“My first friend—I mean that literally—aside from Hagrid was Ron. His mother helped me to get onto the platform for the train, as Hagrid never did explain that part. Ron was a little awed, but kind and friendly, something I’d never really experienced before. And then you came along.”

He shot Draco a slightly apologetic look. “You were . . . well, let’s just say things didn’t go well. I’d already met you at Madam Malkin’s and your words were a bit alarming to me. And then on the train. While it was hardly nice of Ron to snicker when he realized who you were, you didn’t help matters any, and I found myself not only defending my new friend, but buying into the common thought that Slytherins were quite evil as a whole.”

Draco had the grace to look a bit uncomfortable at that point.

“At any rate, time marched on as it tends to do, and we acquired Hermione as a friend after saving her from that mountain troll. So then I’d a rather lax pure-blood for a friend, along with a muggle-born. I’m sure you can understand that I’d hold no prejudice against them, seeing as how my own mother was muggle-born.”

Brand leaned back into the embrace of the couch and sighed softly. “Fast forward to the end of the year where we three prevented Voldemort from getting what he was after, all in the name of the good fight, on the side of Light. After that, there could be no stauncher or more loyal set of friends. The year after you caused a great deal of trouble for me when you conjured that snake, but I don’t blame you specifically for it. And in the years that followed, you did everything you could to be a menace, and we responded in kind. It was—as the nebulous they tend to say—the natural order of things.”

Draco nodded again.

“Frankly, knowing you as I do now, I honestly have to wonder at times why you acted the way you did, but that’s beside the point. Suffice to say that things progressed as many would expect. But that still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter—the reason I switched sides.”

Brand paused long enough to snap his fingers. When Maer appeared he requested something to drink, waiting until he’d been able to soothe his throat with butterbeer before continuing his explanation.

“At the end of our fifth year, after I was lured with my friends to the Department of Mysteries and my godfather was killed, I experienced a very bad time with Dumbledore. I was so angry, so hurt, and felt so betrayed. There were so many decisions that had been made, that once made, could not be unmade. So many things Dumbledore could have told me, but didn’t. Things that made me act in a certain way, trying to protect my friends and family. And because of it, Sirius died. I still hold a grudge against Bellatrix, truth be told.

“Dumbledore was less than open with me, but he did reveal the prophecy I’d gone after—the prophecy about me and Voldemort. So aside from him, I was the only one to know the contents. Voldemort failed on that score.” Brand gave Draco a curious look before saying, “It might interest you to know that it might have been Neville Longbottom in my place.” He was rewarded with an incredulous look.

“Anyway, it all fell apart the beginning of sixth year. But before I get to that, I’ll explain something from when Voldemort attacked and killed my parents, and tried to kill me. According to Dumbledore—and honestly, I still don’t know the truth here—when Voldemort tried to kill me and failed, he transferred some of his powers to me, including the ability to speak Parseltongue. That old fool tells me it was my mother’s love that protected me from the killing curse, but I ask you—how many mothers out there have died for their children, and how many of those children survived the killing curse? None.”

Brand shrugged and flapped a hand in the air negligently. “Back at school sixth year, I overheard some students who took Muggle Studies talking about how vile it was that a section on homosexuality had been included. I didn’t actually know all that much about muggles when you get down to it, and even less about wizarding folk. But as I’d already realized that I was gay, their words really hurt me. I went up to spend time with Hedwig, to talk to her.”

He caught the look on Draco’s face and responded to it. “Yes, I know. Some people think it’s a bit nutty to treat them that way. The point is, I spoke to an entity who could not betray my thoughts, and never realized until later that Dumbledore had been monitoring my every word since I’d come back. He listened, and acted. He chained me, in essence. He placed on me a device which would punish me for harboring ‘bad’ thoughts, and followed it up with a note later on telling me to buck up or suffer further consequences.”

“I do recall,” supplied Draco, “there was a time there when you started to withdraw from everything, then suddenly appeared to bounce back. I found it rather suspicious, and even reported it to my father.”

Brand grinned a bit at that admission. “It was about then that I realized Dumbledore only monitored words, and the device only monitored certain thoughts and actions. After testing things a bit, I wrote a letter intended for Voldemort and sent it off from Hogsmeade. A while later I had a dream-vision and spoke with him.”

Draco blinked. “You—”

“I’ve been able to experience Voldemort’s mind even before he was reborn, Draco, and see through his eyes, feel his emotions. It was the scar that linked us. So I gambled and won. In the dream-vision we talked. I requested to be captured, safe passage, and to be unharmed for the duration of our face-to-face discussion. After that, I didn’t much care. I’d rather have been dead than be under Dumbledore’s thumb any longer. And so I was captured, along with Ron and Hermione.

“We talked. I showed him the device and let him draw his own conclusions. Voldemort removed it for me, which I thought was terribly nice of him, and I moved into a suite on the third floor. This one, actually. He agreed not to push me into doing things I didn’t like, and I agreed to be completely honest with him. Later on I asked if I could be adopted, and he agreed. Magically speaking, I am Brand Riddle, and no test will prove otherwise.

“And if you’re wondering about my appearance, or how I became Professor Archer, I’m a metamorphmagus. Rather handy, that.” Brand paused again for more butterbeer. “You asked me before about changing him. I did, but I didn’t. And it’s true that my childhood was somewhat similar to his, and I turned out much differently for it. I guess it just makes a person wonder, and think. So, that’s the capsule version of events.”

Another sip and another look at Draco showed a thoughtful expression. “Since you already know I can tell exactly what you’re thinking I needn’t ask you to say what’s on your mind, but I would prefer to hear it.”

“I find it all rather funny, actually,” Draco stated candidly. “I hated and despised the symbol, but found I liked the person underneath the hype. It’s like insisting you don’t like a certain food, never having tasted it, but when forced to try it blindfolded, you realize there’s a great deal you never understood, nor made the effort to investigate. Add to that that I really didn’t agree with a number of things our lord was doing, but honestly thought he was the better choice. I’ve never quite trusted Dumbledore, the obvious things aside. He’s quite sly and sneaky, and as much as he gave Professor Snape leeway to let us cause trouble, he exacted revenge for it in cruel ways. I am . . . relieved . . . now.”

“And us?”

“I would be a fool to change my decision now. The only thing that’s changed is I have a little more information than I did before. It doesn’t alter the fact that I admire, respect, and trust you, not to mention, er . . . like you.”

“Well, since you seem to have a flair for the dramatic, perhaps you’d like to sit in on a discussion with father about dealing with Dumbledore. I already know what I’d like to do, but I need to clear it with him first. You may be able to add to my original plans.”

“I’d be delighted.”

Brand could sense no deception in Draco through all of his words, and his body language was backing that up. It was as well that Draco would be unable to reveal the information he’d been given to anyone. Brand thought, after a moment of contemplation, that there was no real threat in proceeding and letting Draco contact his own father about what he wanted from the Malfoy Manor.

And in the morning, or perhaps for lunch, they could meet with Voldemort.

“In that case, why don’t you get some sleep. I know I’m tired. Tomorrow we can get started on specifics.” Brand leaned forward, slowly, and was pleased when Draco did likewise. After a moment’s hesitation, they kissed—more of an expression of beginnings than anything of passion—and it was sweet.

*

They breakfasted in Brand’s room and afterward Draco was left to his own devices after being reminded he could summon Maer at any time. Brand wandered off to find his father to talk about lunch.

After slinging himself into a chair carelessly he said, “I was thinking that we could have a little chat about Dumbledore. I realize that you and your inner circle were working on neutralizing or killing him, but I have my own ideas on that matter. I also thought it might be interesting to see what Draco could contribute to the plan.”

His father graced him with a smile. “If you wish. I allow I am quite curious to hear what’s on your mind. I assume Draco is even now contacting Lucius?”

Brand nodded. “He took the revelation quite well. I daresay it tickled his sense of the absurd. I only wonder how Lucius will react upon learning his son is marked as my mate.”

Voldemort appeared to consider that, passing a hand over his brow and pushing back a stray lock of hair. “From a power standpoint, quite well. From a personal one, I cannot be sure. After all, Draco is his only heir. Finding out that the boy is not suited for a normal marriage may cause him some degree of consternation.”

“Would that be a problem?”

“Absolutely not. I didn’t go to the trouble of breaking him out of Azkaban for him to give me further grief. He may make the occasional mistake, but he is not a fool.”

Brand grinned. “Shall we see you for lunch, then?” When Voldemort nodded Brand bounced out of his chair to kiss his father’s head, then went off to see what Severus was up to.

He found him in the garden along with Draco. Both gave him a welcoming smile as he approached, ignoring for the moment the shocked looks of some of the students milling around. Once Brand had seated himself he made a dismissing gesture to everyone but his two companions and was gratified to see immediate obedience to his wish.

“I’m surprised Blaise isn’t here with you,” he said, helping himself to a bottle of butterbeer and making a discreet movement with his other hand out of sight.

Severus shot him a sideways look, but it was Draco who spoke with laughter in his voice. “He wanted to spend time in the library. There are a number of books in there he was practically salivating over.”

Brand smirked and nodded. “So, Draco, you will be having lunch with me and my father. Severus, you know what it’s about, but as I said I want your reaction to be genuine so you’ll forgive me if you aren’t invited to this one.”

“I understand, my lord.”

Brand noticed that Draco gave the barest of twitches at the appellation. “Were you able to contact your father?” he asked him.

“Yes, my lord. I sent off a message after you left. I hope to hear from him soon.”

“Splendid. Severus, as you’re going to be our only contact within the school we’re going to need to work out a different plan than what we used when I was there as Archer. You are also more under suspicion than he was, but then, he was very carefully chosen to avoid any such thing. Would you be so kind as to think on that during the next few days?”

“Of course, my lord. What you used previously worked masterfully, but I do not share the same talents. I shall consider it.”

“I find myself rather curious about something, Severus, and do feel free to not answer if you don’t wish. I know that staff do not stay in the castle during the summer holiday—so where is it that you normally reside?”

“Various places, my lord. It depends on circumstance and whim. I do own a small manor house, but I find it to be dreary and drafty, though the entire basement is given over to labs where I can experiment. However, I do not always stay there, preferring to move about from time to time, especially when I need to gather some of the more exotic ingredients of the trade.”

“So, it would be foolish of me to worry at this stage if the old man is in the habit of popping in on you unexpectedly or wondering where you’d got off to.”

“It is not his habit, no, my lord.”

“Then I’ll consider that matter closed and trust that you’ll let us know if that suddenly changes.” He fell silent for a time, leaning back in his chair with closed eyes to simply enjoy the warmth of the sun caressing his face. He listened with only a portion of his attention to the low-voiced conversation between Severus and Draco, who seemed to be getting along splendidly.

He was just starting to doze off when a pop signaled the arrival of a house-elf, so he opened his eyes to see Maer looking at him expectantly.

“Master is to be reminded that it is almost time for lunch,” said the little creature.

Brand nodded and stifled a yawn. “Thank you, Maer. We’ll be along directly.”

The house-elf gave a quick bow and disappeared.

“Right. I hope you’ll excuse us, Severus?” he said as he pushed away from the chair. Severus nodded as Draco also stood, so he turned and made another peculiar gesture out of their line of sight, then left the garden when Draco moved to his side. After washing up they joined Voldemort and set about discussing Brand’s idea for dealing with Dumbledore over a light meal.

“It’s really quite simple, father. And since I’m not above revenge now and again, I think it might prove to be a good way of handling things.”

“Go on.”

“After the school year begins, I thought I could slip back into the castle and hide somewhere in the Great Hall. During a meal I produce a ghost Harry who accuses Dumbledore of all manner of things in an effort to rip his reputation to shreds, and then when I’m done, have the ghost drift off. If possible, then cause Dumbledore to suffer a mortal blow, as though he died in shame of what he’d done, either right then or shortly thereafter, depending on whether or not I can accomplish it immediately.”

“A novel approach, I allow. But as we both know, Dumbledore is not fooled by invisibility. How do you propose to get around that?” said Voldemort.

“If I may,” said Draco, “might there be reason for either the Board of Governors or the Ministry to pay a visit, my lord? Lord Brand could easily slip in among them in disguise.”

Voldemort gave Draco a considering look before saying, “We lost much of our influence when your father was removed from the board, unfortunately. However, as the Minister of Magic is ours, that may well be a sound idea.”

Brand could detect a slight hint of pride in Draco’s eyes, though his expression remained respectfully blank. “Then perhaps the minister could visit in order to confer with the old man on the subject of the evil minions of Dark.” The gleam of amusement in his father’s eyes nearly made him laugh. “Since Fudge was so scared of losing his position to the renowned wisdom of Dumbledore—whom we all know turned down the position repeatedly—the old man might find it refreshing to have a minister who asks his advice most earnestly.”

“And what, exactly, were you planning on accusing him of?”

Brand bit his lip. “Well, that’s a sticking point. I’d prefer to be honest, you see, but—one of the reasons I wanted Harry dead was because I wasn’t sure I could face the reactions of Ron and Hermione if they found out I was gay. I figured it was as well they’d never know. So if I used that. . . .”

After running a hand through his hair he said, “But definitely accuse him of failing to protect Harry, and letting him be killed.”

“You’re worried that revealing that will backfire on you, and make people sympathetic to Dumbledore’s decision, my lord?” asked Draco quietly.

Brand smiled. “Considering it is not an accepted thing, yes.” A glance at his father revealed him to be deep in thought. “In the end it doesn’t matter if they were to know, and hated me for it. They’re alive, Harry is dead, and that’s what counts.”

“You have many other missiles in your arsenal, son. You need not use that one if there is any chance of it working against us. For instance, did the muggles ever abuse you?”

Brand blinked and tried to think back. “I guess that depends on your definition of abuse.”

“Try me,” said Voldemort dryly.

“Physically, not really. At least not my aunt and uncle. Dudley would though, which is why I learned to run so fast. Anything that went wrong was my fault, and any chore that needed doing was mine to do. Emotionally, yes. They starved me, I know that now. Materially, yes. I never got anything that wasn’t a hand-me-down, broken, or otherwise useless. I didn’t have a proper bedroom until after I got my letter, and only then because they were afraid of what the wizarding world might do to them.”

“Yes, I see,” said his father. “And do you care if the wizarding world knows how badly Harry Potter fared at the hands of his only family?”

“I suppose not. It might be a shock to them that Dumbledore paid so little attention that they were able to put a number of locks on my bedroom door, cut in a cat-flap so they could shove tinned soup through, and bars on my window so I couldn’t get out that way, either.”

To his credit, Draco didn’t bat an eyelash.

“I can only assume that currently you see the things Dumbledore did during the years you were at Hogwarts in an entirely different light,” Voldemort continued.

“Yes.”

“Then use it all. An impassioned outpouring of grievances, abuses, and whatever else comes to mind, summing it all up with the fact that not only were you left unprotected enough to be captured, but that he failed to rescue you from me and let you die—you, the symbol and hope of the Light, the Boy Who Lived.”

Brand nodded vaguely, already devising speeches in his head that he might use.

“Excuse me,” Draco interjected, “about his death, my lord?”

“What? Oh. An untested theory. I should like to stop his heart, right there in the Great Hall. But if that didn’t work I would need a back-up plan for a short time after.”

They had just started to discuss that when Maer popped in to announce that Lucius Malfoy had arrived.