Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 12 :: Field Trips

12 • Field Trips

“He might be an interesting choice, my lord.” Lucius paused for a heartbeat, then continued, “His family is certainly connected, but their relationship with him is at best strained. An attack on him, or his death, would cast a very unfavorable light on the situation. Perhaps”—Lucius paused again—“if his home were to contain some rather . . . sensitive information about the forces of Light?”

Voldemort smiled faintly. “If that were the case, then he’d best be dead when the team was finished.”

Brand cleared his throat and said, “Percy is well known for being estranged from his family, preferring to have followed Fudge like a sycophant after an Oracle. It is no great stretch for people to believe he was secretly passing information to us. However, the nature of the information I would question. Would it suit our purposes better were he to be a traitor to them, or passing us erroneous information, in which case, naturally he would be hailed as having died a martyr. And, that is assuming he is chosen, though he does present a flexible choice.”

“Quite correct. Are there any other suggestions?” said Voldemort. A number of names were presented, including Filch from the castle and any number of aurors, but none of them found as much favor as Lucius’s original suggestion. “Lucius, would you like to comment, then?”

“With due respect”—he paused to nod at Brand—“I believe it would be more difficult to create a martyr out of the boy. It would involve a great deal of additional work that I don’t think we have time for. If we were to plant sensitive information in his quarters and that came to light, it could be viewed in two ways. He was taking things home to study, in which case he might be portrayed as someone too curious for their own good and who was foolish enough to be noticed doing it by the wrong people, or as someone who was in fact passing it along to our side.”

:I don’t see a problem with that, father.:

Voldemort nodded. “One of you in the ministry can find something appropriate, then. Antonin, you will be heading up that attack. I’m sure it will appeal to your sense of humor. I expect you can manage to make it appear as though the information was overlooked during your efforts without being unduly obvious. Don’t torture the boy, just kill him. If you absolutely must play with him, do it after.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Voldemort focused his gaze on Remus again. “What would you say to adding a bit more mayhem to the mix, Remus?”

“Sir?”

“Dumbledore was willing to use you against us, so why should we not use that against him?”

A slow smile blossomed on Remus’s face. “Something more on the subtle side, I assume, sir?”

“Indeed. I was thinking . . . perhaps you could be a bit out of sorts around certain friends of yours, disconsolate even. Unable to come to a decision, torn as you are between what you’re being asked to do and what you know is right.”

Remus nodded. “Yes, I can do that, sir.”

“Splendid. Remus will be taken out first, so as to lend credence to the idea that we interrogated him. From there, the other two teams will head out to complete their missions. You can use Remus’s house as the staging point. You’ll move out on the evening of the sixth. If any of you have a problem with your plans see me or Brand. You may go.”

Brand laid a hand on Remus’s arm and leaned over to whisper, “It will be all right, Moony. Have lunch with me in my rooms?” When Remus nodded, he released him and sat back. The meeting quickly broke up, with everyone aside from Draco and Lucius leaving the room. Lucius stood long enough to move down and take the seat Remus had been using.

“Right. Moody is a detriment to us with that revolting magical eye, so he dies. I don’t care that he was an auror, or that he’s paranoid beyond belief, he can still be taken down. Frankly, I think three of us is overdoing things, but it’s better to be safe.”

Lucius and Draco nodded.

“There are only two things I care about doing before he dies. Get his leg and his eye away from him, and I don’t care if getting his fake leg means ripping off what’s left of the real remainder to do it. Any objections or suggestions?”

“Should we torture him, my lord?” asked Draco.

Brand shrugged. “Only if you want to. You can decimate his house for all I care. So long as he ends up dead and we aren’t caught. Lucius, do you know anything about the wards at his home?”

“Extremely tight, my lord, but he’s been lured out before.”

Brand examined his nails for a moment and nodded. After another ten minutes of discussion, Lucius was released and Brand headed off to his rooms. Once inside he flopped onto the couch and snarled.

“What?” Draco asked, having silently followed him in.

“I was wondering if it was hypocritical of me to be so disgusted with Dumbledore for what he’s trying to do to Remus when I have no compunction about killing others who get in my way.”

“I believe there’s a difference,” Draco said, remaining standing.

“Explain.”

“For one thing, Remus knows exactly what’s going on now, and he’s agreeable. As you said yourself, he could sit around all day and simply attempt to make you laugh and that would be enough. But that isn’t exactly the point, is it. Dumbledore has thrown away a number of perfectly good, loyal people on his side simply to further his own personal agenda and manipulative tendencies. People said you had a saving people complex, but look at him. He plays God, with no remorse and no regret. You, on the other hand, have killed with a great deal more reason and cause.”

Draco stepped forward and continued, “Don’t mistake me. Archer was an innocent, and maybe in a better world he might not have died, but he has. That’s what war is about. Archer’s death wasn’t personal. For that matter, the deaths of Moody and Weasley are a means to an end, and also not personal. They’re simply in the way, as Fudge was. You aren’t betraying them. Dumbledore does betray his people, often cruelly. I think it’s an important distinction.”

“I suppose so.”

“You even go out of your way to protect the people you care about, even though they’re on the other side. Maybe you aren’t being honest about what happened to Harry Potter, but you aren’t betraying them either. I realize that they might never believe if you told them the truth of these matters, but that’s a different issue entirely.”

Draco frowned for a moment and crossed his arms. “Speaking of friends, have you ever considered seducing the Weasley twins to our side?”

“Eh?” Brand shot Draco a narrow look.

“Not literally, you git. I’m just saying, out of that family, they seem like they could go either way.”

Brand glared.

Draco sighed and said, “Right, I’m doing a very poor job of being clear. To your knowledge, are they officially connected to the other side?”

“I don’t know.”

“And what are the odds that their mother has tried to shelter them from everything and pitches a fit every time their names come up in relation to this war?”

“Very high, I expect.”

“How useful do you think they could be?”

“I assume you’re still standing because you want to be,” Brand commented, then said, “That depends. I have no idea how they feel about homosexuality, and that is a rather large hurdle for a lot of people. If they were against it, there’s not much point in approaching them. As for how useful they could be, I expect quite. Regardless of their poor showing on the OWLs, I know they’ve got brains and are able to use them, probably for far more than just pranks.”

“All right. Do you ever leave the estate as yourself? I mean aside from the time we went to the cinema.”

“Not usually, no. What, do you want me to go drop some hints?”

“Maybe. And perhaps Remus could fill in some of the gaps.”

“Draco, I understand what you’re getting at. I can think of others who might suit as well. However, at this point, it’s becoming more clear that it may simply be well enough to make Dumbledore go down and find our own island to take over, one without muggle influences.”

“And? Why not take your friends with you? The ones who could at least integrate, that is.”

“Are they, though? They were friends of Harry Potter, not Brand Riddle. You know how it works, Draco. You should know that better than I do. Brand Riddle isn’t friends with anyone. Quite frankly, I’m surprised no one has kicked up a fuss about Remus being here. Yes, he’s considered a dark creature, but so what? I’ve no doubt that if he wished to he could be very persuasive in getting other lycanthropes on our side, especially after what Dumbledore did to him, but that isn’t why he’s here.”

“I think you’re making too much of this. All I’m saying is that the twins could be useful, and it might make you happier if they were with us, even if you are our lord’s son and heir.”

“Perhaps. I’ll consider it.”

“That’s all I ask, Brand.”

*

Over lunch Remus was happy enough to share his opinion of the twins. “I think they’re gifted, brilliant, and utterly devious. I’ve often wondered why they weren’t sorted into Slytherin.”

“I can accept that, Moony, but is there any point in approaching them? Would they simply be better off apart from both sides?”

“You must know that isn’t possible, strictly speaking. The Weasleys have very strong ties to Albus and the Light. Even if they aren’t allowed into the Order, the twins are firmly entrenched in that mind set. Though, on reflection, I would not be surprised if Albus found a way to tamper with the sorting hat.”

“If that’s true, then why did it bother telling me I’d do well in Slytherin?” Brand countered.

“Isn’t that obvious?”

“Don’t make me hex you.” Brand rolled his eyes in frustration. “You know very well that my strengths lie in raw power, flexibility, and on-the-fly reactions. Deep strategy is something I have difficulties with, and it took being hit over the head with the truth for me to understand what Dumbledore was willing to do to his Golden Child.”

“If I’m your godfather, I get to tease you, so live with it,” Remus said and smirked slightly. “In any case, if Albus has tampered with the sorting hat, then it’s also likely he made sure you were prejudiced from the start, so having the sorting hat tell you that you’d do well in Slytherin would have a very good chance of making you react badly enough to strongly reject the placement, and make you very vulnerable in the bargain. With Albus as the leader of the Light, you would naturally look to him for guidance against the Slytherin—supposedly bad or evil—side of your personality.”

Brand sighed and looked down, using his fork to absently push food around on his plate. “I feel so—” He coughed, then said, “This isn’t about me. This is about the twins.”

“No, it’s about all of us. Yes, Lord Voldemort was an evil son of a bitch. Now he’s a bit different, and I think we all have you to thank for that. Different enough that you were able to show me the truth, even if I didn’t really want to hear it, and make decisions based on all of the information, or most of it. Do others deserve that same chance, Brand?”

“And if they were approached?” Brand asked, not looking up. “What would someone tell them? Certainly not how Harry Potter came to be captured and killed. You were different, Moony. You were already in danger of death, or worse. I had leeway with you. It would have broken my heart to kill you, but I would have if necessary. I can’t just waltz into their shop and kidnap them, then try to get them to see the truth, and kill them if they reject it.”

“No, but I can waltz into their shop looking haggard and stressed beyond belief and allow them to overhear some things. I’d suggest letting them accidentally stumble over a journal Harry wrote about his problems, but that might backfire. Of course, I’m supposed to be missing soon, presumed dead. I could hint that Sirius and I used to shag each other senseless at every opportunity.”

Brand smiled faintly. “You could. Who do you plan on moping around, anyway?”

“Tonks, I think. She may be an auror, but she’s still fairly young, with far fewer crushed ideals and dreams. I would expect her to react somewhat violently to the news.”

“When?”

“Possibly the same day we trash my house.”

“That’s definitely a timing issue. If she runs straight to Dumbledore we might end up with company.”

“She’s on duty that night. After talking it over, Severus and I have agreed to take care of the house earlier in the day with the exception of the entrance. Presumably, I walk in not noticing anything odd, am captured, interrogated, then dealt with. Since I plan on asking her to keep quiet and please meet me again the next day, I think she’ll mull it over and wait to see me again before making the decision to go to Albus.”

“Perhaps it would be more to the point to be very restless and haunted when you see her and ask her to meet the next day to explain—after she’s done her best to try to drag it out of you—and we leave a note in your house for her to find about how we got the truth out of you. I’m sure if we were as evil as people claim, people would believe we could get a lot of use out of a werewolf under the influence of the full moon.”

“I can do that. Drop hints, but not come right out and say it. Tell her that I’m conflicted over something Albus asked me to do. I’m sure Severus could come up with a suitably nasty note to leave behind.” Remus paused to give Brand a searching look. “You don’t object to me subtly sounding out the twins?”

Brand shook his head. “If you want to try, I won’t object. I simply worry that they might hurt you, that’s all.”

“What will you do if they react favorably?”

“I may consider dropping in as myself to check things out. Of course, if they react favorably, then perhaps you can invite them to drop by at the same time Tonks would the day after your, uh, kidnapping.”

“The more the merrier?”

“As you say.”

“Should you come with me?”

Brand tilted his head to the side and contemplated his roast potatoes. “In what capacity?”

“Unobtrusive guard. Seeming friend that I’m pouring my heart out to. I don’t know. If we’re whispering in the corner ostensibly looking at the merchandise and I look like hell, don’t you think they’d be curious enough to eavesdrop?”

Brand grinned, just a little.

*

№ 93 Diagon Alley was a cheerful place, and even more cheerful if you were able to disable the trigger for the prank that was sure to hit you as you walked through the front door, but leave it active for the next poor soul. Naturally, that was exactly what Brand did before he and Remus passed into the cool interior of the shop.

The twins were lounging around behind the counter chattering away, pausing to look up to see which one of their pranks had gone off, and frowned when they realized the mechanism must have misfired. By then, Brand and Remus were facing away from them and headed toward a corner of the shop.

Brand thought that Remus looked especially haggard, though anyone who knew the man was a werewolf might have attributed that condition to the upcoming full moon. However, Remus was putting on a grand show of being in a state of mourning, and in some ways, he was. Most people would mourn when a person they trusted betrayed them. As they pretended to peruse the shelves, Remus turned a bit and started speaking in low tones.

“I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this,” he said, seemingly anguished.

Brand took the opportunity to place his hands on Remus’s shoulders and turn him slightly so that his face would definitely be visible to the twins. After a pause he said, “Shh, I understand,” he soothed. “But don’t you think it’s better to honor his memory by at least looking at what’s in here? He wouldn’t have wanted you to grieve for this long.”

“But I loved him.”

Brand could sense the twins’ interest. In fact, he would have been surprised if they had refrained from using extendible ears. “Remus, he would not be happy to see you like this. Don’t you think he’s up there, watching over you, and waiting until you can be together again? If you loved him enough to be willing to die for him, shouldn’t you be willing to live for him, too? I’m not suggesting you rush out and find a new lover.”

Remus hiccupped slightly and turned toward the shelves as soon as Brand released his grip, then cast his eyes over the selection in front of them. “He would have liked these, I think.”

“Then why don’t we get some, and later on, we can have some fun in his memory.” Brand was somewhat pleased to see the new items the twins had created, though a quick scan of the shop revealed that extendible ears were nowhere in sight as sale items. Perhaps they had more sense than most people gave them credit for. “And maybe later on you can think of something that would have brought him a smile, no?”

Remus picked up several things, then sidestepped over to the next shelf, looked for a minute, then shook his head and turned around completely to look at the offerings behind him. Brand stepped closer and pointed at a box of canary creams. “Those are an old favorite. I wonder what else they have along those lines.”

“No, he would have wanted something a lot more subtle. Age, you know, it does that to you. Something slow acting, that creeps up on you and you don’t realize what’s happened until it’s too late.” Remus gave Brand a brief smile that crumpled almost immediately.

Movement out of the corner of his eye caught Brand’s attention, so he asked, “Is there any truth to the myth that . . . they . . . mate for life?”

Remus turned his head to stare into Brand’s eyes and gave the barest of winks before saying, “Didn’t you ever see the mark I left on him?”

“It’s not like he ever stripped down in front of me, so no. Well, then, I repeat that if you loved him enough to die for him, you should love him enough to keep living. There are others who love you, and need you.” Brand thought the entire conversation was bizarre and wondered just how much of it the twins were listening in on. Hopefully, it would be enough.

Ten minutes later, spent mostly in silence, they approached the counter. Brand noticed with some satisfaction that the movements of the twins betrayed their activities.

“Hello, Fred, George,” Remus said softly as he placed his selections down.

“Remus,” they said as one, “you don’t look so good.”

“Tactful as always,” Remus replied wryly. “This is Brand, by the way. Brand, please meet Fred and George, troublemakers.”

Brand inclined his head and offered a bland social smile. “A pleasure to meet you both.”

Fred gave Brand a once-over as George said, “Want a pepper-up, Remus? We have some in the back.”

Remus shook his head. “I’ll be fine. It’s getting close. . . .” He let his gaze drop for a moment. “I just need additional rest. Brand thought a visit here would cheer me up some.”

The twins changed their roles in a heartbeat, with Fred saying, “If you’re sure. You could rest a bit here if you want.”

“Your choice, Remus,” Brand said with a warm smile and a comforting hand placed on his shoulder.

Remus made a negative movement with one hand. “I’d rather plan something out. It would keep my mind off things. Too bad I don’t have the map, though.”

The twins perked up slightly, leaning forward. “The map?” they asked.

Remus gave them a vaguely sly look which quickly disappeared back into weary grief. “Yes, that map. I’d make another, but. . . . Well, it can’t be done by a single person.”

The twins puzzled over that for a moment, exchanging a glance, then brightened. “Moony?”

“Who else? Obviously you two aren’t as swift as I thought if it’s taken you this long and that many hints to get it.”

Fred and George jerked back as though hurt, but their eyes were sparkling with amusement. “Then you could make a map for anywhere?”

Remus shrugged. “Any place you have access to, I suppose,” he said, then looked down at the counter pointedly.

“Right, we’ll just total those up, shall we?” Several minutes later Remus was handed a bag in exchange for several galleons and given a cheerful double smile. “Heard anything interesting lately?”

Remus gave the twins a sharp look that lasted for several heartbeats, then relaxed. “Only things I’m not supposed to talk about.”

The twins eyed him carefully, then nodded. Brand almost snorted at the transparency of their interest. He was quite sure they had caught the specific wording Remus had used. He kept his face quite neutral when they cast him a quick, speculative look, then glanced at Remus when he said, “I suppose we should get going. I know you’ve things to do, Brand.”

“Only if you’re ready,” Brand replied agreeably, then followed him out of the shop after Remus gave the twins a wave good-bye. The second they found a quiet spot Brand said, “They were listening in.”

“Then perhaps they aren’t against it like the majority.”

“Let’s go back, then, so we can talk more freely.”

Remus nodded and glanced around, then apparated. Brand gave him enough time to be clear and apparated as well, then walked with Remus back to his rooms. “They were using extendible ears, as I had hoped. Either they’re very good actors, or they really don’t care about it.”

Remus set the bag down on a convenient table and nodded. “I’ll owl them later, after I have that talk with Tonks.”

“Something you said reminded me, though, of a little something I have. Actually, two somethings.” Brand walked over to a cabinet and opened it, then removed a parchment and returned to Remus, hand extended.

“You took it with you?”

“Of course. I don’t actually need it.”

Remus gave him an odd look.

Brand grinned like a shark and sat down, snapping his fingers and ordering tea from Maer. Once they were both settled in with a cup he said, “I have my own map, you just can’t see it. And I think, perhaps, I can set an alarm within it.” He tilted his head to the side and considered Remus. “I’m not sure if you could manage it or not, to be honest.”

“What do you mean?” Remus asked, carefully tucking the Marauder’s Map into his pocket.

“Well, I’ll show you first.” Brand summoned up his personal map, then forced it into the visible range for Remus and expanded it.

“Merlin,” Remus breathed, reaching out to touch it, then starting when his finger went straight through the image.

Brand took a few minutes to create a new memory strand—this one not blank—and fiddle with it before releasing it into the map. “I used memory strands, as you can see, to map the school, based on the map you made. It’s just that I can hold those memories, if you want to call them that, apart from me as a viewable object. It functions almost exactly the same as what you did, except that I added some places you couldn’t get to, and I can use more strands to alert me when a specific person enters the grounds, like Tonks. If I didn’t know the person—hadn’t met them—I probably couldn’t. So, I’ll know if Tonks goes straight to Dumbledore after you talk to her, see?”

“Other places? You mean the Chamber.”

Brand nodded and smiled. “Absolutely. Rather an interesting place, actually, and it has an outside entrance.”

“Oh, really.”

“You were wonderful today, Moony. I’m really impressed,” Brand said cheerfully.

“Thank you, and don’t change the subject. Can we go see it?”

Brand grinned and shrugged.

:Father?:

:Yes, son?:

:Any objections if Moony and I go on a field trip to the Chamber?:

:No, though you might want to take Draco with you.:

:Of course! He’d be ever so upset at being left out.:

:Severus might also be interested.:

:All right. Thank you, father.:

:Have fun.:

“You don’t mind if Draco and Severus come along, do you?”

“I’m sure they’re just as curious as I am.”