Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 11 :: Assignments

11 • Assignments

“Until you get used to the place, you can always call for a house-elf,” Brand said, leading Remus through the house. “In fact, there’s a pull in the travel room just for that purpose.”

“Sounds a bit odd.”

“Well, it’s not often used. Most people have been here often enough that they don’t need it. Those too young to apparate generally arrive with a parent by floo, so. . . .”

“You’re hooked up the the floo network?” Remus sounded scandalized.

“Of course. Half the ministry is staffed by either Death Eaters or unmarked sympathizers, so it’s no big deal.” They reached the room Brand had mentioned and entered. “This is the travel room,” he said, sweeping his hand around. “For safety’s sake, always apparate into here. If you must floo, we’re listed as Ashwinder Cottage.”

Brand turned and faced Remus. “Listen, come back as soon as you can, all right? And when you do return, pull that over there”—he pointed at a narrow length of ornately embroidered silk that reached to the floor—“and have the house-elf that appears tell me you’re here. If I can’t come get you directly, I’ll tell it what to do.”

Remus nodded wordlessly.

“I love you, so come back to me safely.”

Remus finally stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Brand, who returned the hug with an enthusiasm that matched his pent-up feelings. He said thickly, “I love you, too . . . Brand,” then pulled away and disapparated.

Brand stayed there for a moment, savoring the memory of the hug, then wheeled around and left to go inform the household of its new member with a slight bounce in his step.

*

Remus didn’t actually return until Severus came back from his confirmation meeting with Dumbledore, which caused Brand no small amount of nervous jittering in private. It was bad enough that Draco began to threaten him with calming potions after the first night. One bit of unexpected and good news had arrived, though. Voldemort had tracked down a likely girl and she was even then traveling toward the estate.

That gave Brand two things to be nervous about. Draco retaliated by forcing him into the tub every evening, using very hot water to make Brand relax despite himself, and massaging his shoulders and neck until Brand didn’t have the will to be anything but agreeable. Draco also disdained his own bed to share Brand’s, insisting that he could keep a closer eye on him that way, and would be there to listen or talk if necessary.

Brand wasn’t fooled, and Draco knew it even as he explained his reasoning. That didn’t prevent Brand from allowing it; he enjoyed having Draco snuggled up to him at night. It didn’t matter to him if he was holding Draco or the other way around, either.

The days went by slowly, as they tend to do when one is anxiously awaiting something. Training of the children continued, and Brand expended a great deal of energy teaching the three brightest of the current batch the rudiments of the code he had developed for them to report with since Severus couldn’t ghost minds. And, as all three of the students took Potions, it seemed likely that none of them would be suspected for much of anything aside from having the bad taste to be sorted into Slytherin.

As Draco and Severus had helped him derive it from the original code he had developed, cutting it down so that it would be easily remembered and used, they would continue to drill the three who would need it for the remainder of the summer so that Brand could move on to other things.

On the third day of Remus’s absence, Pansy announced out of the blue that she no longer thought Draco was all that special and would he mind terribly if their contract was broken. Draco, ever the gentleman, took it with good grace and assured her that her happiness was more important than his disappointment. She wandered off, satisfied, and Brand decided she needed something to do with her spare time.

After a very long discussion with his father, Brand eventually pegged her as the person to begin a rather involved research project. She would be placed at the ministry in a fairly innocuous position, but one that allowed her access to a great deal of information. Brand was very keen to better understand why pure-blood families produced squibs, and what the effects were on magical strength when muggles married into wizarding families. He also wanted statistics on the number of muggle-born children in relation to those produced in wizarding families and their non-magical counterparts, and any odd circumstances surrounding those children’s conception or birth.

Blaise he wasn’t sure what to do with yet, so he yanked Severus aside for a private talk.

“I don’t know offhand,” Severus responded, “but I’d prefer you get him off the estate.”

Brand blinked in surprise. “How come?”

“He’s too damn young! We have absolutely nothing in common, either. I find myself inventing excuses to be elsewhere on a regular basis.”

“Oh,” said Brand, nonplussed. “Er. . . .”

Severus gave him a patient look.

“Right. I’ll figure something out. Carry on.” Brand retreated, somewhat annoyed that Severus hadn’t just come to him in the first place. He spent that afternoon pouring over the list of open positions at the ministry for someone with Blaise’s exam scores, narrowing it down to those that stood a chance of actually being useful to them.

At dinner he brought the issue up with his father, presenting the list and asking if he objected, or if he had anything else in mind for the boy. A letter went out that night to the minister, recommending young Blaise for the spot they had eventually chosen. Confirmation arrived the next day on both Blaise and Pansy, so they were called in, informed of their assignments and the arrangements that had been made for their new homes, marked, and released to go pack.

Voldemort was the one to mark them, but as Brand could as easily manipulate his father’s work as do it himself, it didn’t much matter. They would be reporting to him, though, rather than Voldemort. The only real difference was in where they were marked and the size. Were one to look at them one might only notice a small black mark above the inner elbow and toward the underside of the arm.

The day finally arrived when Severus was to confirm what Remus had supposedly overheard. He left after donning a mask of cold disdain, returning later that evening with a slight smile on his face. After dropping to one knee for a moment, he rose and said, “My news caused them even more anxiety, my lords, but they were pleased that I was able to obtain the date of the attack.”

“They suspected nothing?” asked Voldemort.

“Not that I could ascertain, my lord. They had not wanted to believe what Lupin had reported, but set a watch regardless. Dumbledore kept him behind after the meeting, but I believe he will be arriving shortly.”

“Do you know who is to be on watch that particular night?”

“Moody”—Severus sneered—“Shacklebolt, Tonks, Jones, the Weasley boy, and a handful of others, my lord.”

“Very well. Write up a report for us, Severus.”

“Yes, my lord.” Severus started to leave, but was stopped.

“Severus? Incidentally, how is young Joshua getting on?”

“Quite well, my lord. Now that he has no fear of being punished simply on whim, he has blossomed. I find him to be a rather engaging, intelligent boy.”

“I had not heard anything recently—I trust he is keeping himself out of trouble?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Carry on, then. You may go.”

Severus bowed and departed.

“Moody,” said Brand thoughtfully, then, “Shacklebolt.”

“What is it, Brand?”

“Hm? Oh. I was thinking about their weaknesses.”

“In what sense?”

“Physical weaknesses. I’ve been thinking about how to handle our retreat, you see. And, with those two present. . . .” He looked over and smiled, then shrugged. “I was just thinking it would be typically underhanded to take advantage of those weaknesses to provide a distraction so we could leave. For instance, Shacklebolt wears that damned gaudy earring. I imagine it would sting a great deal if someone were to summon it. And it would be a definite distraction if someone were to swipe Moody’s wooden leg or magical eye. Some of our people could do that while I cast the Dark Mark into the sky, which would be the signal for our forces to retreat.”

He paused a moment, then said, “Of course, it would be even more fun if I could set up a full scale illusion, but Moody’s eye would see right through it even if I could.”

“Then perhaps you should be careless and dispose of him.”

Brand opened his mouth to respond when a house-elf popped in. “Yes?”

“The young master was wishing to be informed when Lupin is arriving, sirs.”

“Could you please escort him here, Kale? Then bring refreshments for us?”

“Kale is being happy to, sirs.” The elf popped out immediately.

“If you wish, father, though I’d still like to humiliate him a little before I kill him.”

Voldemort smiled slowly and nodded.

“I know this is a set up, but it’s a bit rude for the other side to hand us opportunities for such cheap tricks,” said Brand. “If it ever came down to a real fight, I should like to know we won fairly.”

Voldemort was grinning when Remus was brought in, and conjured up a chair for him absently. After being detained long enough for a heartfelt hug, Remus sat down.

“Moony, you look upset. What’s wrong?”

Remus didn’t appear to be very talkative, though, scowling down at the floor with clenched fists. Kale popped back in with a tray before Brand could get anything out of him, and so the next couple of minutes were spent choosing drinks and something to nosh on.

Brand tried again at that point. “Moony? You look positively vicious. Now come on, tell me what’s upsetting you.”

“Albus.”

“He kept you after the meeting—why?”

“I thought—he—I had been part of the watch set up on the Grangers.”

Brand nodded, casting a look at his father.

“I thought because the attack was staged for the full moon—I assumed he was holding me back to tell me I was off duty, so to speak.”

A niggling suspicion began to form in Brand’s head, and it wasn’t pleasant.

“He said . . . he wanted me to be there. I had been”—Remus glared—“so useful in bringing back word of the attack, he said. He suggested that I be there that night so I could attack back.”

Both Brand and Voldemort frowned heavily.

“Are we to understand,” said Voldemort after several moments, “that he would have you there, out of your mind? That he would risk his own people in that manner, just to strike back at us, using you as an uncontrolled pawn?”

Remus looked up. “He’s been acting strangely all week. I don’t think he expected me to return at all. I think . . . that with Harry gone, he sees me as a liability, and wants me dead. I think . . . you were right, Brand.”

Brand was too astonished at the utter cruelty to think of a response.

“The man is obviously mad,” said Voldemort. “Do the others even know of this?”

Remus shook his head.

“I see. Then what do you wish to do?” When Remus looked at him blankly, Voldemort said, “As I see it, you have several options. You can disappear and be presumed dead. You could be captured prior to that night, and again be presumed dead. Or you could comply, though retain your mind due to wolfsbane, knowing that we would not cause you any harm during the mission.”

Remus was silent for a long time, then said, “They wouldn’t know I was safe. If I appeared as Albus requested, they would as likely kill me as incapacitate me.”

“Then it must be one of the first two options,” said Voldemort reasonably.

Brand held up a finger and said slowly, “Father. It could be that we move in on two fronts, per your idea. Several days prior to the attack that they know of, we could take out several people.”

“Explain.”

“We stage an attack on Moody, for one. Kill him, that is. Then go after Moony, except of course, no one would know what happened to him. And then, a third. Who, I’m not sure. Someone who isn’t on the list of guards for that night, but is strongly suspected of being with Albus. Or even just someone random that we mess up a bit and leave, after we toss their house in what looks like a search for something.”

“And Remus moves here permanently,” finished Voldemort.

“Yes. Moony stays here, safe from being used.”

“Would that put Severus in danger?” asked Remus unexpectedly.

Brand blinked; Voldemort answered, “No, I don’t think so. Severus was never included in every facet of operations. I knew he was a traitor. That he was not informed of the decision to go after certain people would not be viewed as suspicious.”

“Then I would prefer the second option. If Albus is willing to use me that way, he would have no doubt in thinking you would as well. He would either assume I was killed to remove a very dangerous creature loyal to the Light, or taken to be forced into being a weapon against him.”

“We have a week yet. Brand, we will resume this discussion tomorrow. I will summon a number of the inner circle to join us in planning. For now, you should see to your godfather.”

“Of course.” Brand rose and dropped a kiss on his father’s head, then pulled Remus up and led him away to his own rooms, pushing him down onto the couch and sitting next to him. “I’m so sorry, Moony. I didn’t want to be right about any of this.”

“I know—Brand. It’s not your fault. You saw things much more clearly than I was willing to.”

The connecting door opened and Draco walked in, placing his hands on his hips in frustration. “What the hell is going on around here, Brand? Our lord is storming around like a thundercloud and people are scattering in every direction like peasants during a crusade.”

“Father is just a little upset right now, I expect,” said Brand mildly. “We received some unexpected and troubling news.”

Draco dropped his hands, then said, “Hullo, Remus. Nice to see you’re back. Brand really drove me crazy while you were gone. Maybe now that you’re here he’ll settle down.”

Remus smiled faintly and Draco plowed right on. “Did he tell you yet? His, er, not wife is on her way here and should be arriving within the next few days. That wi—”

“Not wife?”

Draco nodded and launched into a explanation after taking an empty seat. Whether by design or blessed ignorance, the blond managed to redirect Remus’s thoughts to something other than his own plight, eventually teasing out normal smiles and even laughter. Brand bore it all stoically, managing to laugh at himself when Draco described his behavior of late.

When Remus was fairly well relaxed, Brand showed him the suite he’d had set aside. It was not connected to his; it was across the hall instead. Brand also assigned a house-elf to him after a short consultation with Maer, who recommended Clip. Clip’s first job was to retrieve the small suitcase Remus had left in the travel room. Brand left after giving Remus another hug and saying that all he had to do was ask Clip if he needed anything, including himself.

Brand returned to his own rooms, and a very curious Draco, who dragged him off into the bathroom for a shared bath in the very roomy tub and a long talk which persisted even after they had gotten into bed for the night.

The next morning Remus joined them for breakfast. His mood was uncertain, but he was decent enough company. Afterward, they went as a group to the small meeting room and took seats, with Brand at the foot of the table and Draco and Remus to either side of him. When his father arrived, he took the head. Lucius and Severus took the places to his sides, and the remainder of the table was filled with members of the inner circle as had been summoned.

“For those of you who are not yet aware,” began Voldemort, “Remus Lupin has joined us. He is not marked and he is not an official part of the hierarchy. Nevertheless, you will all treat him with respect or face my displeasure. Now, you are all aware that we have already planned an attack on the Grangers for the purpose of making the Order think they have successfully won a round against us.”

He looked around the table for a moment before saying, “Recent intelligence tells us that Dumbledore was perfectly willing to use Lupin’s werewolf state against us during that attack. We are therefore here to plan a second, earlier, series of attacks against the Order. Brand will be in charge of taking out Alastor Moody. Several of you will be needed to assist Lupin in staging his capture, and a third set will be needed to handle a third, as yet undecided target to add confusion. Brand, who do you want?”

“Lucius,” Brand said promptly, “and”—he paused for a split second on being kicked under the table—“Draco.”

“So be it. Next order is the so-called capture of Remus Lupin. Is there anything about your home we should be aware of, Remus?”

Remus gave a half shrug. “It’s in a muggle area, sir, but aside from there that’s nothing special. The street is quiet, and I don’t know of any alarms that Albus might have planted.”

Voldemort nodded. “Very well. Severus, I’d like you to head that up. Pick whoever you feel is competent to assist you and Remus in trashing his former home after it’s been checked over for anything Remus may have missed. Be as creative as you like.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Now, the third party. This would be someone not directly connected to the Order, or someone completely uninvolved. I’m open to suggestions.”

“Percy Weasley,” said Lucius.