Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 07 :: Delicate Maneuverings

07 • Delicate Maneuverings

Brand and Voldemort exchanged a look, and Brand gave a slight shrug. Voldemort turned to Maer and said, “Please show him in.”

Maer bowed and popped out. A minute later Lucius walked through the doorway and did the customary obeisance, then at Voldemort’s nod, pulled out a chair and seated himself.

“Good afternoon, my lords, Draco.”

“To what do we owe this pleasure, Lucius?”

“I received Draco’s message and thought this might be a wise time to visit, my lord. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, I expected you would come in response. It certainly brings up matters to discuss because of it. What specifically was on your mind?”

Brand shot a look at Draco to see that his expression was curiously blank, and wondered about the exact relationship between father and son.

“If I understand things correctly, Draco is under consideration as Lord Brand’s consort.” When Voldemort nodded Lucius said, “While I have no objection to this as it stands, there is the matter of the contract between the Malfoys and the Parkinsons. I would like to request, given the circumstances, that it be declared null and void, my lord.”

Voldemort arched a brow as he stared consideringly at Lucius. :I wasn’t entirely expecting that reaction.: “That can be arranged,” he said out loud. “But what of the necessity of an heir? That is a consideration all must pay heed to. While you still have an heir in Draco, he will have none.”

“That is true, my lord. And yet—”

“Oh, pray. Do say what is on your mind, Lucius.”

“It is that my lord has gained an heir, seemingly out of nowhere. I mean no offense by this.”

Voldemort turned to look at Brand and smiled, then back at Lucius. “Well and so. A most surprising occurrence, I allow. However, one presumes that Draco does not suffer as I do.”

And anyone with half a brain, Brand thought privately, would take that to mean father is sterile by way of all his experiments and not that he is incapable of bedding a woman. But apparently not privately enough, as his father gave him a sly, sidelong look, letting the ghost of a smile touch the corner of his mouth.

“Yes, my lord. It seemed to me that while the contract could be upheld and an heir produced in the time-honored fashion, I must say that it might cause my son to be distracted from his primary concerns and wishes.”

:Oh, he is clever. He’s worried that I’ll be upset, or that Pansy will take up too much of Draco’s time and cause problems between us. He’s also worried about the stigma of divorce, especially for a name so old as Malfoy.:

:And your suggestions?:

:Suggestions? There are only three things I can see happening. The contract stays and we all deal with it, the contract is voided and Draco adopts an heir much as you did—an orphaned wizarding child—or . . . Lucius has another son.:

:With Draco being Lucius’s heir, and the second son being Draco’s?:

:Yes, father. The difference in age would be enough, certainly, and there would be nothing to come between Draco and me, nor issues of who is legally joined to who.:

:An elegant solution, my son. Let us see how Lucius receives it. However, it does not solve the issue of your own heir.:

The silence by then had lengthened enough to cause both of the Malfoy men some discomfort.

“You are wise to consider the problems that could arise,” Voldemort said. “But there are ways to sidestep the issue. You could, for instance, conceive another son, to stand as heir to Draco.”

Lucius arched one of his aristocratic brows in an understated display of surprise. “That would be one method, my lord.”

“Perhaps you should take time to consider it before coming to a decision. Speak with Narcissa. In the meantime, you may join us in the discussion we were having on Dumbledore’s demise.”

“As you wish, my lord.”

*

An hour later Lucius and Draco went off together, presumably to discuss the subject of an heir, leaving Voldemort and Brand to themselves.

“I will be candid, father. In truth I would much rather adopt a likely child, even preferably one that is subject to the abuse of a muggle family. Perhaps it is my—as I have often been accused of having—hero complex, but that is how I feel. If you insist on handling it otherwise, I will obey. I do worry about the problems that come hand-in-hand with adding a third person to the equation, though.”

When Voldemort just stared at him, he continued. “I could imagine finding a suitable girl for this, hoping that she would deliver up to me a son and die in the process, but that is a rather callous look at things. Wizarding folk are generally much healthier than muggles in any case. The best reason I could think of for having a child of my own is to pass on my own abilities. Even then, as I do not know how much of what I am is due to my own birth parents, I am not sure what would—“ He broke off in frustration.

“No one,” said his father, “knows where you came from with the exception of Severus and Draco. No one knows if you are of my blood, or something else. It is not out of the question that a girl could be located of decent parentage who would consent to bear a child, then have her memory of it be erased. After that, you could adopt as many as you liked. It would take a great deal of time to remove all references to her condition, but it could be done with proper care and attention to detail.”

Brand straightened up, feeling a bit better.

“As you see, what can be made to work for you would not be such an easy task for the Malfoys.”

Brand was grateful that his feelings weren’t being dismissed outright for being soft. After giving him a smile he changed the subject, knowing that it would come up again later on.

“Father, it occurs to me that if I succeed in taking out the old man someone will of necessity have to take his place, and I must wonder who that would be. I cannot help but think it would be McGonagall, though I don’t have any idea what her feelings or inclinations would be regarding taking it on. It isn’t the sort of thing you ask about in casual conversation, after all. Of course, it would be lovely if Severus could be elevated, but I don’t know his preferences, either.”

“It seems to me that the wisest course would be the most obvious.”

Brand stared at his father for a moment before snapping his fingers. When Maer appeared he said, “Would you please have Professor Snape come to us?”

After a five minute wait Severus arrived, dropped to one knee with bowed head, then stood.

“Please have a seat, Severus” said Brand congenially. “I wanted your thoughts on something of some importance.”

“As you wish, my lord.”

“You already know that it is planned for Dumbledore to be removed from the picture, but what concerns me is who would take over the school in his stead.”

Severus arched a brow and looked briefly at Voldemort, then back to Brand. “The obvious candidate would be Minerva, my lord.”

“I agree, but do you know if that lies within her goals—or should I say, if she would take on that mantle if it were offered, or prefer to stay as deputy.”

“It is my opinion that Minerva would prefer to remain deputy given the choice, based on what I’ve learned of her over the years I have been teaching Potions. However, I cannot be certain of that, my lord.”

“And what of you?”

“I’m not sure it ever occurred to me that I could be in the running, my lord,” Severus said after a short pause.

Brand looked at the floor, thinking, then turned to face his father. “Would it be wrong of me to think that with the right person as Head of Hogwarts that we could attempt to force certain changes as to how students are educated?”

“Such as?” was his father’s not unreasonable question.

“Forgive me if any of this comes out the wrong way, but, such as competent professors for a start. Binns is better off lulling insomniacs to sleep as an example. Also, Ethics and Dark Arts classes, assessments of incoming students so that their abilities and strengths could be identified with an eye toward training them more properly. These are just extemporaneous ideas, and I realize that for some it would mean further changes within the ministry. But, after all, aren’t we out for an overall shift?”

“Ethics?” Voldemort questioned in mild disbelief.

“Well, yes. People fear what they don’t understand. That’s as true for wizards as it is for muggles, though I won’t debate which is more likely to be worse.” Brand ran a hand through his hair and blinked at the magnitude of the debate that could touch off. “So, ethics. For example, it is disgustingly simple to kill a man using a number so-called light spells, yet the spell is not classified as dark. And there are a number of so-called dark spells that realistically are slandered not for their effects but for the fear of a person in power who thinks it may be too powerful, never mind that he himself cannot manage to cast it.”

“I do believe I see where you’re headed with this,” murmured his father.

“Quite frankly, I don’t see why the killing curse couldn’t be used to give mercy to a terminal patient. And I don’t see why I couldn’t go into Diagon Alley tomorrow and levitate someone high enough to kill them when I let go, or use a trip jinx as someone stood at the top of a large staircase in Hogwarts. On the other hand, this could all be a silly and pointless discussion and we’d be better off creating a private college intended for our people’s children.

“Then again,” he continued without pause, “I could as easily say we should find a nice spot in the middle of nowhere—an Atlantis if you will—and start our own damn wizard-only country, sending out people to kidnap every muggle-born, yet magical child to be raised in the proper setting.”

Brand realized what he was saying and stopped abruptly, coughing.

Moments of silence passed before he glanced over at his father to see amusement dancing in his eyes.

“Aren’t we the little revolutionary, my son. Would you like to take over Australia, then?”

Brand flushed and dropped his eyes for a split second, then gave his father a cheeky grin. “Maybe.”

The soft clearing of a throat reminded Brand that Severus was present. “In any case, we do need to consider what might happen once Dumbledore is out of the way.”

“Indeed,” replied his father with equanimity. “Severus, you should consider that you may be asked to take his place.” Voldemort glanced at Brand before saying, “So if the possibility does not suit you, it would be best if we were made aware promptly.”

“Of course, my lord.”

“I think we are done for the moment. You should both probably get back to the students.”

“All right, father. You will let me know if. . . .”

“Rest assured, though you will likely know as soon as I do, or even before.”

Brand grinned, while Severus stood and gave a quick bow before exiting. Brand leapt to his feet and dropped a kiss on his father’s head, then exited as well, ending up a bit startled when he realized Severus was waiting for him.

As they walked down the corridor together on the way to the gardens Severus murmured, “You really are quite close, aren’t you, my lord.”

“Huh? Oh. Yes, we are. I mean, I’m sure things would be different if James had lived, but—well, this is my life now, and I’m happy in it.” Brand flashed a smile at Severus as they headed down the staircase. When they reached the bottom he stopped abruptly and turned.

“I thought you should know. . . .”

“Yes, my lord?”

“Er, actually, it’s more like maybe you should know, or you ought to, or maybe you’d be interested, or perhaps you couldn’t care less, and frankly, I’m not sure which.” By then Severus was giving him a most puzzled look so Brand said, “Draco knows. I told him.”

Severus looked lost for a moment before understanding lit his eyes. He nodded and said, “I find that most interesting, my lord. I trust he took the news well?”

“Sure did,” Brand said cheerfully. “But I did not mention that you know.” He grinned and loped off toward the garden.

*

As it turned out his father was right. Draco received an owl from his father in anticipation of another visit, one which stated simply that Narcissa was in an agreeable mood. Brand was only surprised that it had taken so little time for word of any kind to arrive.

“Well, then, I expect that before long. . . .” he said once the letter was safely tucked away.

Draco nodded. “What about you, though?”

“Father has some ideas on that. Don’t worry about it. I’m certainly not.”

“If you say so.”

“I do. But, I am curious about something. I was wondering, you see, about. . . .” Brand wrinkled his brow. “Do you and your father get along?”

“I suppose so,” was Draco’s startled reply. When Brand remained silent he spoke again. “I wouldn’t say that we’re particularly close. He’s rather a formal person. Why?”

Brand shrugged. “Just something about the expression on your face when he arrived, that’s all.” He grimaced slightly and went on. “It’s not that I’m criticizing, it’s just—I never knew James. But I’m quite happy now, here. I feel . . . welcome. Safe. Needed. And trusted, really trusted. I feel like I fit in. And I can’t imagine what life would have been like otherwise at this point, whether James had lived or not, or maybe I just don’t want to.”

Draco placed his hand on Brand’s knee and let his thumb stroke back and forth slowly. “My father is cool and collected. Very much aware of his bloodlines and stature, though getting thrown into Azkaban sort of tossed things into the air—I don’t blame you for that, by the way. Still, he’s valuable and he knows it, and expects me to live up to that ideal. I haven’t known anything else, so I can’t say exactly what I might be missing, you know?”

After a moment Draco said, “I wonder if what you’re trying to ask me about, or tell me, is that you can’t imagine a child, especially yours, growing up with that little affection.” He tilted his head questioningly.

Brand rubbed his chin and said, “Perhaps. I mean, I’m not worried about how he’ll deal with me. I outrank him. Maybe I’m just wondering about his influence on yet-to-be little heirs, now that I know the surface is it. Again, I don’t mean to criticize.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “You don’t need to repeat yourself. I’m sure if you do find cause to criticize it will be with good reason. I wouldn’t worry about it in any case. Nothing says that the child, whenever it comes, needs to be raised at their manor. Personally, I think you need to eat. Shall I call for Maer?”

When Brand made a vague noise of agreement, Draco ordered dinner for the two of them. Turning back to Brand and seeing a frown on his face, Draco said, “Now why are you like this? Why do you look so depressed?”

Brand shrugged again. “Sometimes I feel so much older. But right now I feel awfully young. I never thought I’d be thinking about children at this point. It all seems so real, and sudden.” He threw his hands up for emphasis. “I guess I’m just being silly.”

“You are,” said Draco firmly. “Not that I mind.”

“I hope not. I’m not always so disgustingly cheerful as I appear to be.”

“You?” said Draco archly.

Brand snorted and sat up properly just as Maer reappeared with a huge tray. He leapt off the couch and took a seat at the table, watching with interest as it was unloaded. When Maer popped out, he immediately set about filling his plate.

“So, hmm. About lunch. I’m not sure how good my histrionics are.”

“You plan on using everything except the one?”

“I might as well. My former family’s tender treatment of me, the danger I was in at Hogwarts every year, the lies, the shaded truths, and of course, my death.”

“Well, then, we should discuss my flair for the dramatic and what it can do for you. . . .”