Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 10 :: Dastardly Plans

10 • Dastardly Plans

The first thing Brand did was to erect protections around their little section of the garden. The second thing he did was say, “Right. With those up, you can drop the ‘my lord’ business. I get tired of it anyway sometimes.”

He pushed his hair back in a reflexive gesture and hunched forward over the table, his arms crossing atop it, and looked at Remus. “You have no idea how happy I am to see you again.”

Remus started to smile, then hesitated. “I’ve seen the memories, but how do I know for sure it’s even really you?”

Brand shrugged. “There’s a lot I could say to try to convince you, but you might assume I learned things from Severus. Though, I can say that after Severus was knocked out in the Shrieking Shack I trusted you enough to let you and Sirius explain the past, and that it was I who insisted Sirius not kill Peter. Of course, I could have tortured that information out of Ron and Hermione while they were here and obliviated them afterward, so even that is suspect. How well do you remember our lessons when you were teaching me how to produce a patronus? Would you like me to cast one? I doubt very much that there is another person living who has Prongs as his guardian.”

“To be on the safe side, yes, I think I would like you to,” was Remus’s cautious reply.

“Sure,” chirped Brand cheerfully, then clearly intoned the spell. A moment later Prongs galloped around the clearing, coming to a stop at Remus’s side. As the creature lowered its head to touch its nose to his cheek, it dissipated.

“All right,” said Remus, clearly shaken. “So you’re telling me that you’re—” He cut off abruptly, confused at his inability to say the words he intended.

“I told you, Moony. My protections cannot be subverted, even by father.”

Remus shook his head sharply, then cast a glance at Severus and Draco alike. “These two know, then?”

“Absolutely. But that’s it besides you and father.” Brand noticed Draco give Severus a faintly speculative look. “I really don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, and as you can see, I am in a position to enforce my beliefs on the matter.”

“Yes, you’ve made that quite clear—what did you say your new name was again?”

“Brand Riddle. The given because it’s a joke. I’m not branded with a mark, but the name serves in a twisted fashion—my idea, actually. The surname because, despite its muggle origin, I have become something of a riddle, even to father’s own people.” Brand smiled cheerfully, and was pleased to see one blossom on Remus’s face in response to his odd sense of humor. “Ask what you will, Moony. If it cannot be answered, I will at least try to explain why.”

“I guess I can understand why Draco is here, but . . . Severus?”

Brand glanced over and arched a brow. It wasn’t as though he had ever specifically asked Severus why he had chosen as he had.

“That is fairly simple,” Severus said after a ponderous moment. “I had always been of two minds about things, never really sure where I should be, or what I should be doing. Like any good Slytherin, I played both sides. But it became apparent to me over time that Albus was not all that he appeared to be, and it worried me greatly. When Brand approached me, when he showed me he knew exactly what I had been up to, and gave me a clear choice, I spent a great deal of time thinking about his offer. What he had said was true, and I found that I believed him when he told me I would be set free if I wished it. As it was, I decided to stay after seeing how things had been playing out. Brand I can trust implicitly, where I cannot trust Albus.”

“I see,” said Remus. “And am I making overly stereotypical assumptions about you, Draco?”

“Yes and no,” he replied. “I did not agree with much of what our lord was doing, but I felt he had the right of things overall. It was after Brand came that I began to feel much more confident that I had, in fact, made the right choice. I have never trusted Dumbledore—I think he’s used his reputation as the defeater of Grindelwald to his personal advantage, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was by his own actions, in part, that our lord became who he was.”

“I suppose,” Remus said slowly, “that you’re wondering why I was even skulking around the edges of the estate.”

Brand perked up; he had been wondering.

“Albus sent me. He said he didn’t want to jeopardize Severus’s precarious position, and he thought my enhanced senses would provide me with a better measure of protection than most of the Order members for a little spying.”

Brand quirked a brow up, feeling more than a little disbelief. “So Albus still believes that Severus is his?” When Remus nodded he said, “But still, that’s ridiculous. I mean no offense, Moony, but did Albus really think we wouldn’t be prepared here? I’m sorry, but it sounds almost as though Albus picked you because no one would mourn a dead werewolf if you were caught and disposed of. You, my dear godfather, were one of Albus’s last hopes of keeping Harry close. Family, if you will. And with Harry gone, well. . . .”

“Believe me, I had already considered that. But as you say, Harry is dead, and aside from fighting for what I believed in, I had very little left to live for. Everyone is long since dead and gone, and current acquaintances are hardly enough to make up for the loss.”

“And how the hell did he have any idea of where you should look?”

“I honestly don’t know. He doesn’t bother to tell me things like that.” Remus seemed a bit resigned again.

“Well, I won’t try to convince you of anything, Moony. But I think Albus considers you expendable. He’s probably put tails on some of our people that have children too young to apparate.”

Remus shrugged. “Does he really care about you?”

Brand smiled easily. “Yes, he does.” Both Severus and Draco were nodding in agreement.

“I have seen any number of instances where it is obvious,” offered up Severus, “and you know how cynical and jaded I am. Though”—Severus smiled, which seemed to startle Remus—“how anyone could not like Brand is beyond me.”

That seemed to startle Remus even more, though a grin slowly began to form on his mouth. “Okay, colour me convinced. Assuming Severus here wasn’t given a personality transplant, this is no dream. But, I’m not sure what to do.”

“What do you mean?” asked Brand.

“Albus sent me here to spy. If I stay, that’s fine. He might just assume I was caught and executed. But if I were to return?”

“Well, as to that, I can protect your mind. That means veritaserum wouldn’t work, nor would the imperius, to get you to speak the truth of what you know. Neither would Legilimency. But, why would you return?”

“I don’t know what use I’d be around here,” said Remus plainly.

“Moony, I wouldn’t care if you sat around all day cracking jokes to make me laugh. I’d be happy just to have part of my family with me I thought I’d lost forever. I love you. What you want to do is your choice. All I care about is that you not betray us, because then I would be forced to kill you—that’s not something even I can get around.”

“You say you can protect my mind.”

“Unequivocally.”

“Then what if I were to return to get some of my own back?” Brand quirked a brow again, and Remus continued, “Albus sent me here, possibly to die, preferably to bring back information. Though honestly, I’m not sure what he expected me to find. He wouldn’t have any reason to suspect I was being less then truthful or helpful. You’ve already said you have plans to dispose of him, so maybe it doesn’t matter, but is it really that simple? I mean, when were you planning to move ahead?”

Confused, Brand said, “Sometime after the start of the school year. Why?”

“Wouldn’t it be better to discredit him before you killed him?”

Severus cut in with, “Do you not think it unwise to be bandying about potential timetables with Lupin’s mind unprotected?”

Brand bit his lip. “Moony, are you with me?”

“Yes, I am. Maybe I’m crazy and maybe I’m being deluded, but yes.”

“Okay, then hang on for a minute.” Actually, it was more like fifteen, and when Brand was done tinkering with Remus’s mind he felt a bit wiped out, sagging back in his chair to let it support him. Severus, having seen this reaction before, snapped his fingers to summon a house-elf to bring refreshments for his master’s comfort. After Brand had drunk almost a full bottle of butterbeer, he said, “Thanks, Severus. I forgot how much that takes out of me.”

He was part way through a second bottle before he spoke again. “All right, what are you suggesting, Moony?”

“I have no idea what you already have in mind,” Remus said as he reached for a bottle for himself, “but it seems to me that it would be a bit of poetic justice to serve Albus with some bad luck before you do whatever it is that you do.”

“Are you saying you’d be willing to play the opposite side of the coin Severus does?” When Remus nodded he said, “Severus passes back only truth, and you pass back only falsehood, or a mixture of both?”

“Sure. I don’t think Albus could possibly conceive that I, of all people, would ever play him false.”

“Where are you living these days?”

“Same place as always, my house. I only go to—” Remus stopped and cast an apologetic look at Draco. “I only go you know where when called, or to the castle. Albus doesn’t seem to think I’m very useful, so I was surprised when he asked me to do this.”

“But he only summons you? He doesn’t come visiting or anything?”

Remus shook his head. “Just the occasional summons.”

Brand pondered, idly taking another swig from his bottle. “What do you two think?”

“There is some merit in the idea,” said Severus. “But to discredit Albus would mean to conceive of situations in which the Order could respond, but end up looking like fools because of.”

“Yes,” said Draco, “but where is Remus getting this information? Assuming the old man sends him out again because he came back alive is one thing, but to assume he would believe Remus is able to get in and out of the estate at will is a bit much. Just because Remus has great hearing doesn’t mean we’re all standing on the other side of the hedge discussing our dastardly plans in loud voices. Though, I agree it would be interesting to set up events in such a way that the Order would bungle things badly no matter what.”

“Mm. Of course, that could be what Remus brings back the first time, in exactly that manner.” Brand grinned at Draco, despite the sarcasm that had dripped from his mate’s words. “Which reminds me. . . .” Brand summoned Remus’s wand to his hands, then placed it on the table. “I think you’ll be wanting this back.”

“How the hell do you do that?”

Brand shrugged. “I just can. I don’t question it. Talk amongst yourselves while I speak to father for a minute.” He ignored the suddenly puzzled look on Remus’s face and closed his eyes to block out that part of his senses.

:Father?:

:Yes, son.:

:Well, Moony is with me, us, in case you weren’t peeking in.:

:And what do you plan on doing with him?:

:Actually, he wants to play Devil’s Advocate to Severus.:

:I’m sorry?:

:We think maybe the old man sent him out here to die as useless, and Moony is inclined to get a bit of revenge. He suggested passing back some disinformation—wait, I’ll just send you the conversation.: Brand shot a compressed memory burst across their link and waited.

:I see. A very interesting idea. It might be worth it to have a little fun with Dumbledore before you kill him. I don’t suppose Severus has indicated yet whether or not he would be comfortable as Headmaster?:

:Actually, no. But we have time, and frankly, I don’t know whether it would be better to change Hogwarts to suit us, or start over with someplace new. There would be a huge amount of resistance to the kinds of changes I proposed and I wouldn’t be surprised at a sharp uprising in home-schooled children as a result. Either direction we go in will not see us reaching as many people as we want, and I really can’t see sending all the children to Durmstrang.:

:There are always your very radical ideas.:

:Would that even make you happy?:

:If Dumbledore were out of the way, I would be greatly satisfied. After that, who knows? Though, I think Australia might be a bit overlarge for our purposes.:

Brand could feel his father’s amusement and chuckled in response. :True, I suppose. So what do you think? Shall we here whip up a nice bit of gossip for Moony to bring back by the skin of his teeth?:

:Yes, go ahead. We shall see what results it brings. If it is likely to suit our purposes well, we can devise more. Otherwise, I would suggest that Remus stays here with us for his own protection, and your peace of mind.:

:Thank you, father.:

:You’re quite welcome, son. In fact, I think I shall come down and join you. It is a lovely day, after all.:

Brand smiled and opened his eyes, letting the sounds around him filter back in. “Heads up, kids. Father is coming to join us.” He made a subtle gesture and sat up straight, then smirked at the dark look Severus was giving him. “He seems to like the idea and wanted to come have fun with us.” Remus looked like he wanted to crawl away crab-wise, but Brand didn’t let that bother him. He placed a reassuring hand on Moony’s arm and smiled at him.

A minute or so later Voldemort appeared and took a seat on Brand’s other side. “Good afternoon, gentlemen.”

Severus and Draco both said, “My lord.”

Voldemort focused his gaze on Remus and said, “So, it appears I should welcome you. I hope you enjoy your stay here.”

“I, er—it’s a . . . pleasure to meet you under more congenial circumstances—” Remus broke off and cast a helpless look at Brand.

Brand grinned and said, “I’m sure father wouldn’t lop your head off for using a simple ‘sir,’ Moony. After all, it isn’t as though you’ve sworn fealty as a Death Eater.” Then he frowned slightly and turned to his father. “Who came up with that term, anyway? It’s a bit silly if you ask me.”

Voldemort gave him a frosty look and said, “I did.”

“Oh,” Brand said with mock contriteness. “I suppose that means I shall be going to bed without any supper tonight, huh?”

Voldemort—he was looking almost entirely human these days but for the slit-pupiled red eyes—played along and grinned, causing Remus to go pale, then said, “Yes, that’s right.”

“Piffle,” Brand responded, eyes demurely downcast. Then he looked up and said briskly, “So, about this idea. I admit my mind is a blank at the moment, but I think it’s fairly important that if Remus is to return as though he’s heard something and left quickly to take advantage of it. . . .”

“There is nothing to say,” said Voldemort, “that this first time must be anything other than the truth. If we were to stage an attack entirely for the benefit of securing Remus’s bona fides, that would be acceptable.”

“You mean like something the Order could rush in for and drive us back?”

Voldemort nodded.

“Perhaps then, my lords, we could pretend to go after the Granger girl and her parents—she is muggle-born, after all—but not succeed because the Order was waiting for us,” suggested Severus. “And, given that she was quite a help to Harry Potter, it could be perhaps”—he shot a sly look at Voldemort—“that our lord harbors a desire to see her dead for her interference.”

Voldemort rubbed his chin in thought. “Yes, we could do that. It would mean handpicking the people to make the raid. Brand, of necessity. Perhaps Lucius.”

“Dementors, my lord?” asked Draco.

“Mm, maybe, so long as I took the time to make the plan exceedingly clear to them.”

“And perhaps in a week, Severus could go to the old man to confirm the story, at least in a vague sense,” said Brand.

“I have no doubt, my son, that you could keep whoever I sent with you safely out of the hands of the Order and still make it seem as though you’ve been routed. I see no reason to object to Severus’s idea. We shall see how it plays out, then plan from there.”

“Brilliant.” Brand flashed a smile at Remus and said, “You game, then?”

Remus only nodded, possibly because he had no idea if he was to call Brand by his name, sir, or my lord.

“Then all you need to do is tell the old man you overheard some snatches of conversation about the Grangers and an attack. I expect they’ll immediately set up a rotation of Order members and—ooo, wait.”

“Worried that they might attempt to place them into hiding, my lord?” asked Draco.

“Rather. Perhaps Severus’s contribution should be confirmation plus a date? The full moon is coming up soon enough, so if we went for that night, Remus would also have an excuse to not be involved. That’s what . . . the eighth?”

Remus nodded again.

“Does that sound all right, father?”

Voldemort nodded, then gave Remus a speculative look. “Has anyone been providing you with wolfsbane?”

Remus shook his head and said, “No, sir. There are very few people who can make it, and it’s quite expensive.”

“Well, we can’t have that, now can we? Severus?”

“Of course, my lord. I will make sure that Lupin is adequately supplied from now on.”

“Very good. And you, Remus—if you need money, talk to Brand. I refuse to have my pe—my son’s godfather running around in poverty when it can be remedied.”

Remus raised his brows and said, “That is kind of you, sir.”

Voldemort waved his hand. “If it makes Brand happy, I’m happy. Now, I need to go have a chat with some dementors. Good afternoon, gentlemen.” He rose, but did not get away before Brand had bounced to his feet to plant a kiss on his cheek.

After Brand sat back down he looked at Severus and said, “Thanks.”

Severus inclined his head.

“Just like that?” asked Remus.

“Huh?”

“Your father asks, and Severus is perfectly willing to make wolfsbane without a fight?”

“Of course,” said Severus. “Our lord wants it, Brand wants it, so I’ll do so with no arguments. Besides, I rather think Brand would blow himself up in the attempt if he tried it.”

Brand snickered and said, “Now that’s not fair.”

“I am only following your policy of honesty,” shot back Severus with a grin.

“Fine,” said Brand hastily. “Back to the plan. Moony, you were skulking, eventually overheard the bit about the attack on the Grangers, but nothing of any real substance. Severus will back you up in a week. Do you want to stay through dinner, or would you prefer to go sooner?”

“Sooner, I think. It’s only been a couple of hours since I got here, so the more quickly I go, the better.”

Brand nodded. “I will make sure that everyone knows you are with us, so apparating in won’t have you stunned and tossed in a cell before you have a chance to blink. Though, I suppose I should show you the normal spot before you leave. I often ward off sections of the garden for privacy and I’d hate for you to bounce. If you’re absolutely certain that the old man won’t ever come looking for you personally, we can always set up a suite of rooms for you here. It’s up to you.”

“I think I’d like that.”

“Wonderful. Then let me show you the travel room. Come on.”