Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 09 :: New Faces & Old

09 • New Faces & Old

It had come to Brand’s attention that Joshua was doing well. Apparently, Severus was not intimidating when he did not wish to be, and had taken Joshua—the boy had been housed in a set of rooms next to his—a little under his wing. Brand himself had spotted a mischievous gleam in the boy’s eyes on several occasions, so it was clear to him that Joshua was not suffering unduly in his new situation.

Of course, no one could prove that the boy had been up to anything, despite that gleam, so no one worried about it. And while it was not as common for children too young for school to be seen at the estate, several families had brought their younger offspring in to provide the boy with non-adult company.

So it was that Brand wasn’t particularly worried about him, or about the report Lucius had delivered just an hour previous. He walked into his father’s study in good spirits, taking the seat across the desk.

Voldemort flipped the report over to him. “Read that,” he said curtly.

Joshua was an orphan. He had no siblings, his father was dead at Brand’s own hand, and his mother had died years ago. He was the last of his line. Lucius had uncovered a pattern of abuse that had begun after the mother’s demise—a muggle-born woman of no real name—backed up by the notes Severus had included after convincing the child to open up to him personally.

As sole heir the boy commanded a very modest inheritance—enough to see him through school, but not to house him under normal circumstances. Stirling had a bit of a gambling problem, it seemed, and would have shortly run himself into the ground had he lived. In retrospect it was just as well. Brand would not have put it past the deceased Death Eater to have sold his own son into slavery to gain the money for just one more bet.

The only thing that struck Brand as odd in any way was that Stirling—a pure-blood in Voldemort’s service—had somehow managed to marry a muggle-born and get away with it. Eventually he closed the report and placed it on the desk, then looked up at his father.

“Now, about the boy,” Voldemort said with an ugly sneer.

Brand stiffened and gave his father an incredulous look. “How—is that for his mother?” His father gave him a casual shrug of indifference and examined his nails. “Don’t you dare sneer like that,” Brand said, trembling. “Don’t you dare be a hypocrite!” he shouted a second later. “In case it’s escaped your notice, father, you and I are no more than half-bloods by birth, and you can’t alter that any more than I can stop the sun in the sky or prevent the seasons from changing,” he hissed, white-faced with anger. “You—” He stopped and stood up, then faced the other way, hugging himself tightly.

He heard his father mutter something under his breath. A moment later Voldemort quietly spoke. “Do you want the boy for your own?”

“What!?” Brand was startled enough to pivot back and nearly—but not quite—gape unattractively.

“I said, do you want the boy for your own?” repeated Voldemort.

“What the hell are you talking about? First you sneer over his debased bloodlines, then you offer him to me as a son? I barely even know the child.” Brand threw his hands up in the air and turned in a circle, unable to better express his feelings. When his father said nothing, Brand began to calm down—enough so that he suddenly felt ashamed at his behavior. “I’m sorry,” he said in a small voice.

“Don’t apologize when I am, in truth, what you accuse me of.”

“Fine,” said Brand with an edge to his voice, then more quietly, “I should not have shouted at you.”

Voldemort chuckled, startling Brand a second time. “At least you stand up to me.”

“I should not have shouted,” insisted Brand stubbornly. “My behavior was uncalled for.”

“It isn’t as though I can punish you for it,” pointed out his father. “We both know I can’t touch you.”

Brand closed his eyes and replied, “Wounds need not bleed blood, father.”

“Brand—son—you do yourself, and me, credit. I cannot refute your anger when it is backed up by such truth. Maybe you should not have shouted, but neither should I have given into further hypocrisy. I’ve never said this to anyone, but I do love you, and I’d sooner cut my own throat than cause you pain. I could not have asked for, nor hoped for, a better son than you.”

Brand started to step forward, stopped, and let out a shaky laugh as he sat back down. “I’m a bad influence on you, aren’t I.”

His statement was greeted with return laughter, and Voldemort’s was no more steady then Brand’s had been. “Indeed you are. Now, about Joshua—I am serious, if that’s what you’d like. Otherwise, we will find him a good home among our people or raise him in this household, whichever you would prefer.”

“I don’t know,” Brand confessed. He might have said more, but a rapid tattoo of knocks sounded at the door. After casting a revealing spell on the door and soliciting his father’s permission, Brand stood up and opened the door.

One of his father’s men rushed in, bobbed a quick obeisance, then said breathlessly, “Master, we have captured a spy attempting to sneak onto the estate.”

Voldemort lifted his chin and said, “Is that so. Bring this spy to the audience chamber in ten minutes time.”

“Yes, my lord.” The man bowed and rushed back out. Brand turned and blinked at his father.

“Shall we?” Voldemort rose and swept around the desk, patting Brand on the shoulder before exiting to the hall. Together they made the short walk and seated themselves within on the throne-like chairs meant only for them. Brand’s was a bit less ostentatious than his father’s, and set slightly forward and at an angle.

Several minutes later a group of men pushed through the doors, dragging someone with them. The messenger stepped forward and said, “My lord, this is the man I spoke of. A patrol caught him at the fringes of the wards and brought him in.” He made a hand signal to the men behind him, and one responded by roughly pulling the prisoner’s head up by the hair.

:No!: It was all that Brand could do to remain stony-faced and seated as he looked at the battered form of Remus Lupin. A tidal wave of guilt crashed over him as he realized he had not thought once of Moony since he’d defected.

:Excuse me?: Voldemort gave him a sideways glance.

:Father, please, I beg you not to hurt him!: Brand turned to look at his father, the anguish he was feeling surely reflected in his eyes like a gaping wound.

Voldemort snapped his fingers at the messenger, who strode over quickly and leaned in close. His father whispered into the man’s ear, then sat back. The messenger straightened, nodded, and walked away, gesturing for the guards to follow him with the captive. Once the room was cleared, he turned to Brand and said, “Explain.”

“Please, father. Don’t hurt Moony. Don’t use him,” he said.

Voldemort rubbed his forehead and stared.

“I’ve shared so much with you—don’t you recognize him?” Met with a blank look, Brand said, “He’s Remus Lupin, werewolf, and the last real connection to my original family. I care about him. He’s like a—” Brand stopped and jerked his head back, narrowing his eyes. “Wait a minute. Why have I never seen Wormtail since I’ve been here?”

“Him?” Voldemort seemed genuinely surprised. “He couldn’t find his own—never mind. I let Nagini have him when he proved beyond doubt his worthlessness.”

“Oh. All right. And Nagini?”

“Dead, unfortunately. It was quite tragic.”

Brand couldn’t help himself. “How?”

“Terminal indigestion. I never should have let her eat Peter.” Voldemort looked down and sighed.

Brand sat there for the span of several heartbeats, then burst out laughing. When he was able to get himself under control he said, “I’m sorry for your loss, father. Nagini, that is.”

“Yes, well, about this werewolf. . . ?”

Brand nodded. “I expect you may remember, then. Remus was one of James’s closest friends, along with Sirius Black and . . . Peter. James is dead, my godfather is dead, Peter”—Brand sneered—“is dead. Remus is all that’s left.”

“And what exactly is it you propose? That we let him go? That we keep him stashed in the dungeons, but well fed and cared for? That we attempt to turn him?”

“I want to talk to him, to show him why Harry died. And—”

“And?” prompted Voldemort.

“And if he proves out to understand what the old fool has done, has caused, to take that one step further and bring him in. You know I can place coercions on him. He would not be able to betray me, father. And, if necessary, I . . . would kill him.”

“All right. The more we can gain at the expense of Dumbledore’s mistakes. . . .”

“Thank you,” he breathed, then leapt to his feet and dropped a kiss on his father’s forehead. “I’ll go prepare now.” As he rushed out the doors he took a moment to send, :I love you, too, father.:

He stopped in at one of the storage rooms to pick up several pensieves, then ducked into an empty room. After ensuring that the memories he was about to deposit into each would be played in the order of placement, Brand quickly extracted copies from his mind of the pertinent memories for each. Then he banished the third to his rooms and took the remaining two down to the dungeons.

The guards made no comment as he navigated the warrens, coming to a stop in front of Moony’s cell. Within seconds, those nearby had melted away, leaving him in privacy. Brand conjured himself a chair and sat, causing Remus to lift his head from where he sat against the wall.

“What?” Remus said in a tired voice.

Brand smiled faintly and said, “I have a story to tell you, though I suppose it would be more accurate to say show you. Are you interested, my dear man?”

“You think I care what a Death Eater wants?”

“Oh, I think you will,” Brand responded lightly. He closed his eyes briefly, getting the conditions set up just so in his mind, then opened them and created a ball of incandescent light in the palm of his hand.

“What is that?” Remus asked with suspicious eyes.

“Nothing to cause you harm, rest assured. Not that you have much choice in the matter.” Muttering under his breath, Brand flicked the sphere at Remus, silencing himself only when it had impacted on Moony’s forehead. Remus hadn’t even moved, clearly too tired, or too resigned, to attempt to dodge.

Brand smiled again and placed the first pensieve on the floor at his feet, then pushed it through the square opening in the bars. “I suggest you take a look at what this contains. I assure you that you’ll find these memories extremely . . . illuminating.”

Remus didn’t move. Brand tilted his head to the side and said, “I could make you look, of course, but I’d rather not. While I don’t expect you to trust my word, I will give it, and say you will regret forcing my hand.”

“Who are you, anyway?”

“Brand Riddle, at your service. Lord Voldemort’s heir. And that”—he pointed at the pensieve—“contains certain memories of a boy you once knew. I believe you’ll recognize the name Harry Potter?”

Remus jerked slightly, as though in pain, and pushed away from the wall. “How dare you.”

“I dare a lot of things, my dear Mr Lupin. I repeat: I suggest you look at those memories willingly. I have no particular interest in making you my personal marionette.”

That earned him a disgusted look, but Remus reached forward and pulled the pensieve closer. After taking a deep breath, he immersed himself. Some time later he emerged, pale and shaking, and turned haunted, questioning eyes toward Brand.

“Would you like to see the next set?” Brand asked politely. Remus nodded warily, so Brand banished the first pensieve to his rooms and pushed the second one through the bars. As before, Remus immersed himself and later emerged, this time looking even more distraught. And so he should, considering that the second pensieve contained the memory of Harry Potter’s death.

Brand did not speak, but instead banished the pensieve. Gazing at Remus, he carefully ghosted through the man’s mind, discovering a wellspring of feelings—disgust and betrayal were most prominent—all directed at Albus Dumbledore. The prevailing sentiments regarding Harry were a sense of personal failure and heartbreaking sadness. And more personally, a chasm of loneliness.

“I can see you are not pleased with this, but perhaps you may begin to understand what happened, and perhaps even why I have shared this with you.” When Remus directed a snarl at him, he said, “Mmm. There is more to this story, Moony.” Brand deliberately used Remus’s nickname. “And if you promise to behave yourself, I would be happy to let you out of this cell, order up a nice meal, and explain further. I know that you are a man of your word.”

Remus appeared to consider the offer, and gave a resigned shrug. “I have very little left to lose. I give you my word I will not attempt to hurt anyone, or escape—at least until you have finished your explanation.”

“Fair enough,” said Brand, his tone once again light. He stood and vanished his chair, then unlocked the cell door with a thought. After pulling it open, he gestured and said, “After you.” When Remus was on his feet and had left the cell, Brand took a firm grip on his arm and led him out of the dungeons and up to the third floor landing. “One moment,” he said as he adjusted the wards to accept the werewolf, then resumed leading Remus to his personal quarters.

On opening the door he noticed Draco seated in a chair by the fire, reading. The blond lifted his gaze up, his face expressionless, and nodded a greeting, not even appearing to notice Lupin. Brand, who was standing slightly behind Remus, nodded back, then jerked his head slightly toward the connecting door. Draco rose without a word and left, closing the door behind him.

“Please, have a seat,” he told Remus, then asked, “Is there anything special you’d like to eat or drink?”

“I don’t care,” was the morose response.

Brand snapped his fingers, and when Maer appeared said, “Could you please bring us a meal for two, Maer? Thank you.” To Remus he said, “It’s just about gone lunch anyway. Please, sit.” He sat down at his small table and waited for Lupin to do the same. “Would I be correct in assuming that you had no idea how depraved Albus Dumbledore can be?”

“Expedient, yes. Focused, yes. But this? No.” He said nothing for a minute, then, “I suppose it’s better that Harry died for his beliefs, rather than to continue on with Albus holding his leash.”

Maer popped in, served them, and popped back out. “Maer is a lovely fellow,” Brand said conversationally. “He’s been with me since the day I arrived here.”

Remus was curious enough to give him a quizzical look.

“As I told you, my name is Brand Riddle. I am Voldemort’s heir, and son, though he is not my natural father. But please, you must eat. If you don’t mind my saying, you look quite awful. Once you’ve had a chance to get your bearings, I will finish my explanation.” Brand smiled and shook out his napkin, then began to eat. Remus silently followed suit. After a quiet meal, Brand had Maer clear away, then seated himself in one of the chairs by the fire.

Remus stood, then slapped the table and said, “This is all wrong. Why am I sitting here playing social games when I’ve found out my Harry is dead because of Albus?”

“Have a seat, and it will become clear.” Brand gestured at the opposing chair, then summoned the third pensieve to his hands. “This is the part of the story I withheld. This is the part of the story which will determine your fate, my dear Moony.”

“Why do you keep calling me that?” spat Remus, taking the chair in a backward show of defiance. “Is Peter lurking around the corner?”

“Oh, no. He’s quite dead. Father let Nagini have him. You are the very last of that circle. I certainly don’t mourn the fellow. He was a weak, sniveling coward. Unfortunately, he gave her a fatal case of indigestion.” He sighed dramatically and extended the pensieve.

Remus snatched it out of his hands and went in. Brand had given him the last piece of the puzzle—Harry’s conversation with Voldemort about his own death, and a few more recent memories. When Remus emerged his eyes were wide and staring.

“I trust you understand now,” Brand stated calmly.

“What did you do to me, back there in the cell?”

“I made sure you cannot reveal what you’ve learned. And until I am satisfied, I will not lift it. Until that time, nothing from that moment will be taken from you, by force or willingly. It is as much for your protection as for mine. Only I can get at it. Not even father has the power to subvert my protections.”

“And what do you mean by my fate?” Remus retained so little colour that his face looked translucent.

“Whether or not you are released, held, stay of your own will, or are killed. Personally, I would rather it not be the second or the last. I would prefer you choose to stay here, with me. Father did leave this in my hands—he trusts me, after all.”

“You call that . . . thing . . . father?”

Brand chuckled. “I wouldn’t let him hear you say something like that. He might take offense. And yes, I do.” Brand leaned forward and said earnestly, “You know damn well that I’ve never had a family aside from you and Sirius. And I’ve never had a chance to understand what it really meant. Father trusts me, and I trust him. I didn’t include what I did in that last pensieve to try to trick you. I was trying to get you to understand how things are. He isn’t what you think he is, Moony. And I’m not crazy, so don’t even say it. He didn’t kill me when I came to parley—he waited and listened. He took me in, trained me, trusted me, listened to what I had to say and to my opinions, and he cares for me. And if I hadn’t stepped in, you might as well be dead now.”

He gave Remus a pointed look and said, “If not for me being here and being who I am now, you could easily have been used as a weapon. All anyone had to do was wait for the full moon and deny you wolfsbane. I think you’d probably rather be dead than be used in that way.” Moony’s face paled even more. “Because I care about you, because I wanted you to understand what happened to me, he’s stepped back and left things to me. And because he loves me, I’ll be the one to take Dumbledore down, his own plans be damned.”

“I don’t know if I can accept all of this,” Remus stated flatly.

“Will you trust me enough to give me the chance to change your mind? I’m not asking you to hold out your arm and be marked, Moony. I just want you to see what I see, and what I do. I want you back in my life, and I want you away from Albus. I think you could be happy here, and I’ve never asked anyone to do something they weren’t comfortable doing.”

Remus looked away, and Brand felt for one wretched moment that he’d be forced to kill him. Then Remus said, “Fine. I’ll give you that chance.”

Despite wanting to launch himself at Remus and hold him, Brand held back. “Then there’s someone I’d like you to meet. Though, you’ve already met.” He stood up and crossed the room to the connecting door, opened it, and signaled Draco to come back in.

“Pardon the formality, but—Draco, please meet my godfather, Remus Lupin. Moony, please meet Draco Malfoy, my intended.”

Remus blinked dazedly and held out his hand automatically. After reclaiming it, he said, “Godfather?”

“In spirit, at least. I can always hope, can’t I?”

Remus managed a bemused smile.

Brand asked Draco, “Are the students in the usual place, do you know?”

“Yes. In the garden with—” Draco shot a look at Remus, then nodded.

“Oh. I suppose I’ll have to take care of that personally.” He worried his lower lip with his teeth, then said, “Draco, can I trust you to show Remus where he can clean up, then have you bring him down to the garden? I, er, need to go on ahead.”

Draco produced a magnificent sneer, then smiled suddenly, provoking a startled look out of Remus. “Sure. I’d be glad to.”

“Thank you.” Turning back to Remus he said, “Because you’re willing to trust me for now, I’ll return the favor.” Brand made a peculiar gesture at him, then nodded. After touching his arm, Brand left the room and headed straight for the garden, knowing that Draco would behave simply because it was him making the request.

Once there he made a beeline for Severus, shooing everyone else away impatiently. “You can’t have him back until later. Off with you!” Turning to a plainly puzzled Severus he said, “Right, it’s like this. A spy was caught today trying to sneak onto the grounds. The thing is, it’s Remus Lupin, so I wanted to give you fair warning that he’ll be here for a while.”

Severus immediately glared.

“Now, come on, Sev. Work with me on this. Remus is important to me, too.”

“I wish you wouldn’t call me that, my lord,” Severus said testily.

“Fine. Severus, then. Will you please behave? Draco will be down here with him any minute.” Brand batted his eyelashes in an outrageous fashion, finally getting a faint smile for his efforts.

“If you insist, my lord.” Severus stood and made a mocking little bow.

Brand clapped his hands and smiled just as Draco and Remus appeared. Draco cocked his head to the side and said, “You aren’t daring to have fun without me, are you, my lord?”

Brand brought his hand to his chest and said innocently, “Would I do that to you?” The arch of Draco’s brow needed no explanation. Brand snickered and grabbed Remus by the arm, steering him to a vacated chair and pushing him into it.