Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 13 :: A Few Minor Details

13 • A Few Minor Details

“Something occurs to me, though,” Remus said with a slight frown.

“Yes?”

“Percy is supposed to die. I’m not saying he shouldn’t or that he should. However, his death will definitely have an effect on other people. Specifically, the twins.”

“You think that they would turn against the possibility we offer because of it?”

“Well, I realize they don’t exactly welcome their brother with open arms, Brand, but he is family. Would an alternative be worth discussing before the plans are enacted?”

Brand shifted in his chair and sighed. “You raise a valid point. Percy was chosen because he was convenient and would make more of an impact. If we simply—”

Remus looked at him curiously for the abrupt stop.

:Father, where are you presently?:

:My study. Why?:

:I believe there’s something we need to discuss. I’ll be bringing Remus with me.:

:As you say.:

Brand pushed to his feet and said, “Come on, then. We’ll go see father.”

When they walked in, Brand slumped into a chair and waved Remus to the other. “Remus has brought up something I feel we ought to talk about. Percy is one of our targets, and that’s fine. But, if we had an eye on potentially recruiting other members of his family, our actions may well serve to block that possible goal. Yes, we all know that Percy is not universally loved by his family, but he is family.”

“I see. What exactly, then, do you propose?” asked Voldemort.

“I’m not sure, though it does seem to be a waste of good potentials. We could change the target, but it was hard enough to agree on one in the first place. Still, perhaps we shouldn’t kill him.”

“Dolohov would be most disappointed,” commented Voldemort blandly.

Brand snorted and gazed at his father steadily. “As if I care. I’m sure you can find plenty of targets for Dolohov to maim and torture that actually deserve such treatment. Yes, I know—he’s the one responsible for the deaths of Mrs Weasley’s brothers. It is all very poetic, I’m sure.”

Voldemort smiled faintly and turned to Remus. “As you were the one to bring up this point, do you have any suggestions as to alternatives?”

Remus seemed far more comfortable in Voldemort’s presence, which Brand thought was quite a good thing. Remus shrugged a shoulder and said, “You could have him obliviated, sir. And by that, I mean for a huge chunk of time. It would be, or could be, a backward way of helping out the Weasley family while still accomplishing one of your goals.”

Voldemort became quite contemplative at that and eventually turned his attention to his son. “Your thoughts?”

“I guess that depends on how much of his memory was removed. It was a bit over two years ago, I think, that Percy first became a real problem for the Weasleys, and Harry Potter was one of the major causes of the strife, not to mention Fudge. That would be quite a lot to deal with. Can Antonin even manage such a feat without permanently damaging him?” He paused for a moment, then continued, “However, I do believe it’s an acceptable alternative. He would still be under some suspicion due to whatever we might plant there, but would be unable to remember that he had broken away from his family. That might make it easier for them to reconcile, and still allow us to poach some of them out from under Dumbledore’s nose.”

“You raise a valid point. Dolohov is not known for his control. Though, how important do you think his family is? Are they worth changing the plans over?”

“The twins are really brilliant when it comes to some things, and they are pure-bloods. Frankly, I would not even care if Percy were recruited. He is quite probably good at grunt work and boring paperwork if past experience is anything to go by. However, he can be easily swayed or intimidated by authority, and is dogmatic.”

Brand aimed an arch look at his father before saying, “Even Ginny is a likely candidate, though I am not so sure she would easily forgive you for trying to use her during her first year. She is quite the spell caster, though.”

“I don’t know about Ron. He can be as dogmatic in his views as Percy,” said Remus.

Brand shook his head. “It would take some doing to recruit Ron. A massive amount of brainwashing, I expect. As much as he was a friend, he was also willing to believe the worst of Harry when it suited him and his quirks. Perhaps that’s simply his age. I don’t know.”

“Let me think on it, then,” said Voldemort. “If I decide to alter the plans, I will inform you, and we will have to decide who shall be the one in charge of that mission rather than Dolohov.”

Brand nodded. “Thank you, father. I guess, then, that we shall go on our little field trip.”

“Before you go, though. . . .”

“Yes, father?”

“Why did this come up in the first place?”

“Oh, Draco. I guess I was feeling a bit morose, wondering if I was being a hypocrite about some things. Draco took it upon himself to explain his thoughts on the matter. He also brought up that Dumbledore often throws away perfectly good people, and used the twins as an example. Later on, Moony and I talked about it and he pointed out that more people than just himself should be given the same opportunity to see the truth of things if possible. I mean, if we did go ahead with the idea of starting our own community or country, shouldn’t we be taking quality people with us who would be able to integrate? It was after we paid a visit to their shop to sound them out cautiously on the topic of homosexuality that it even came up.”

“I assume, then, that they showed no bad reaction to whatever it was you did.”

Brand shook his head. “No. Remus was quite the little actor and I know they were eavesdropping.”

“All right. I will consider this carefully.”

Brand stood and blew a kiss to Voldemort, then turned and left, Remus close behind him. Outside he snapped his fingers and when Maer appeared asked, “Do you know where Severus and Draco are?”

“They is being in the garden, master.”

“Thank you, Maer. That was all.” Once they had found the others Brand said, “How would you like to join us on a trip to the Chamber of Secrets?”

*

The outside entrance wasn’t that difficult to find, and easy enough for Brand to open. The tunnel that led down into the Chamber was dank and echoed oddly, but that was a minor consideration.

When they had reached the basilisk’s lair Remus asked, “Why did you map this, anyway?”

“It was back when I was considering the idea of blowing up Hogwarts, to be honest. I was feeling more than a little vindictive at the time. Either way, it having an outside entrance meant that we could storm the castle from here, since it isn’t included in the wards. It would be a little tricky getting that many people up to the second floor entrance, but not impossible, and the only person normally there to raise any kind of alarm is Myrtle.”

“That’s assuming that the wards don’t already warn Albus when a Death Eater enters the grounds,” Remus pointed out.

“Yes, well, if they did then I expect they were modified to not warn for Severus. Still, it doesn’t really matter, since I can’t conceive of a reason at this time to use this as a staging area, and that assumes that Albus was even able to change them to begin with.” Brand shrugged and brushed back his hair, then glanced at Severus. “I never really knew—are the wards here static, or do they need to be renewed every so often?”

“Static, I believe, though I cannot say for sure. But that does not mean that Albus has not placed alarms in certain places. You mapped this place as Archer?” he asked, then continued when Brand nodded. “Well, it is possible that he had one in place and only learned that the entrance was used after the fact. For all we know, he’s done something to it because of that.”

Brand scowled. “Well I sure as hell can’t check from this side. I don’t dare even to open the entrance, then. It may be that sometimes I outsmart myself, but don’t you dare repeat that.”

Draco snickered and stepped back, out of reach. “We’re safe enough down here, though. Is there even anything interesting left?”

Brand shot him a dark look and said, “Not really. Well, the remains of the basilisk are there, but it’s fairly well decayed. I don’t know if you can use any of it, Severus. Still, Remus was curious to see the place, so why not? This was her lair, by the way, though I think it was much more than that once. The Chamber itself is rather nice, if you like serpents.”

“Then let’s go see.”

The exit sloped and it was only a minute before they were standing at a blank wall. Brand took a moment to open it with a few hissed words, then peered over the edge. “Anyone need help in getting down?” he asked, then nodded when everyone shook their heads and levitated himself down.

When they were all safely in the Chamber he said, “I think that statue is awfully strange. Somehow I can’t imagine that Salazar looked like that, and certainly not so old, but who knows? Perhaps I should ask father how he found this place to begin with.”

The rest of the visit was fairly mundane, and Brand kept them well away from the inside entrance, not being exactly sure where the wards did kick in. Severus gathered up what he could from the corpse before they left and they all returned to the estate simply by apparating there.

Severus immediately set off to put away his new things, and Brand, Draco, and Remus repaired to Brand’s rooms.

“I suppose I could always sneak into the castle and check out the inside entrance,” Brand said as he flopped onto the sofa. “It kind of bothers me that I don’t know now if using it is safe.”

“At least I got to see it,” Remus said. “Rather boring in the end, but hey, how many people can say they’ve been there and lived to tell about it?”

“That would be . . . seven people?” Brand said, then smirked and added, “Or do I count as two?”

“If the opportunity arises, check,” inserted Draco. “If not, why worry? If you don’t need to use the Chamber, does it matter? Unless something goes drastically wrong with your plan for Dumbledore, just let it go.”

“I suppose you’re right. I shouldn’t waste time agonizing over things I can’t control or might not need to. Though, I wonder what father will decide about Percy.”

Draco arched a brow and gave him a somewhat accusatory look.

Brand rolled his eyes in response. “I did promise I’d consider it, Draco, and I did. Honestly. Remus and I talked about it as well, then ended up going to see the twins to sound them out on some things, then brought up your issue with father.”

“Oh,” Draco said, leaning back. “I’m happy to hear that.”

“As well you may, but don’t think that father will simply up and change the plans. He may not care enough about recruiting those people to toss things around.”

“Brand?”

He turned his head to gaze at Remus and quirked up a brow.

“There’s something I’d really like to ask you.”

Brand tilted his head to the side quizzically. “Yes?”

“How do you actually feel about your plan to kill Alastor?”

Brand blinked and straightened. “I suppose that depends. Well, it depends on circumstance. As it stands, Moody is simply in the way, as Draco put it earlier. There’s nothing personal here, but I cannot always allow the fact that I don’t like killing people to interfere. If you think about it, think back, I believe you’ll realize that there’s been very few deaths since Harry Potter died.”

“I understand that. But I’m speaking on a personal level.”

Brand gave Remus an odd smile and said, “You may or may not be interested to know that I’m not innocent, Moony. I have killed a man. Of course, he did rather upset me at the time. Does that make you think less of me?”

Remus considered that for a moment before saying, “I assume you had good reason, whether or not I might agree.”

Brand arched a brow. “Moony, please don’t mince words with me. Not in here.”

After a slight sigh Remus said, “I don’t know. I don’t like to think I’m so naïve, but it really does depend on why you did, or why you would.”

“All right. I have participated in the deaths of several people indirectly, and one directly. If you want to split hairs then you could say I’ve killed people like Fudge and Archer. If not, then I’m responsible for only one. As for him, well, he was a complete bastard. I’m not sure which is the more correct way to do this, but I think I’ll let the actual encounter speak for itself. If you have questions after that point, I’ll be happy to try to answer them.”

Brand summoned a pensieve to his hand and whipped out his wand, then drew forth and deposited a memory into it. He was careful to include even up to the point that his father had summoned Severus and Lucius to them, though not through the portion where they had been given their instructions. He leaned forward long enough to pass the pensieve over, then sat back to wait.

When Remus was aware again he gave Brand a very thoughtful look. “I think I understand that the most obvious reasons are not really the most compelling.”

Brand inclined his head and waited.

“Then this is about several things,” he said, passing the pensieve back so that Brand could regain the memory. “Obviously, he was highly insulting and went openly against your father, as you said. And, of course, he was abusive. You killed him to prove a point.”

“Essentially, though at the time I admit I was very, very pissed off and might not have been entirely rational in my thinking. I’m not so different from before, Moony. What he said hurt me, but that’s not a good reason to kill a man. On the other hand, having gotten to that point, I had little other choice than to punish him. The death itself was a warning and an example, with an unexpected bonus.”

“But not gratuitous death.”

Brand shook his head. “I can’t remember the last time one of our people was tortured or killed, aside from him. Not aside from the necessary. I’m sure you realize that one of our number died on the day Harry did, but it was a willing death.”

“And the bonus?”

“I stopped his heart. No wand, no gestures, just death. As I had wanted to know if I could do such to Dumbledore down the road, I consider it a bonus that I had someone to test it on.”

“And the indirects?”

“Cornelius Fudge was no friend to anyone but himself. Now we actually have a competent minister. Archer was more of a necessary evil. Somehow I don’t think I as Brand Riddle could have waltzed into Dumbledore’s office and been hired on as the Defense professor over tea and crumpets, so Archer spent a year in a cell while I took his place. Fortunately, Severus will be the contact this year, so no one else need die for that particular reason.”

“Moody?”

Brand gave a slight shrug. “I know. I’ll have to live with that as well. In order to play the game, some people will die, even if by accident. I can’t be a baby, Remus. I can’t sit back and watch our people do things I can’t bring myself to do. I can’t ask them to do things I won’t. I can’t feel above it all and pretend that by not getting my own hands bloody that everything is all right and I’m a swell fellow for staying clean. In the end, none of this should matter anymore. It shouldn’t be necessary.”

He paused and cast a look at Remus. “I know . . . it’s hard, Moony. Though, father knew from the start that I believe lives are precious—all lives—and that we needed to choose carefully, lest I be quite likely to suicide rather then steep myself in gratuitous evil. As you saw, I was ready to die. Death was far more acceptable than to continue letting Dumbledore use me as his personal marionette. I tend to think, with you here, that I won’t be able . . . to fall.”

Remus gave him a thoughtful look, then nodded. “I think I understand. And yes, you can be sure I’ll always bring things up that disturb me. The last thing I’d want to be is at odds with you—I love you—but. . . .”

Brand nodded. “I promise you I won’t take offense. I know you aren’t the type to raise a fuss just because you could. Your concerns are valid and your wish to understand as well. And, I know you aren’t silly enough to raise them in a public forum.” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed, then flicked his gaze over to Draco.

“What is it?”

“I was thinking. . . . Suppose father does agree to spare Percy—do you think that you and your father could handle Moody without me?”

“I’m not sure,” Draco confessed. “Keep in mind, I’ve not had many chances to see father in action. It might be as well to send others along, such as Dolohov, especially since he might be a bit miffed to have his toy taken away.”

Brand chuckled. “I just thought that it might be wiser for me to lead the group against Percy. I’m fairly confident I could erase his memory such as described without much risk. And I could bring you along, Moony, if you like, or even Severus.”

Draco snorted. “There are times when I wonder if there’s anything you can’t do.”

Brand rolled his eyes, then waggled a finger at the blond. “Now, now, even I’m not perfect. I expect you recall that thrilling little encounter in Hogsmeade? Being blind was no fun, though it was nice having you help lead me back to the castle.” He fluttered his lashes at his mate and raised a hand to his forehead as though he might swoon.

Draco snickered, then responded to the look of confusion on Remus’s face. “Our lord sent a group to Hogsmeade while Brand was posing as Archer. Right before Halloween, actually. Things would have been fine if they hadn’t used a flash bomb in order to escape. Brand was blind for quite a while because of it. Though, I had no idea who he was then.”

When Remus turned his gaze on him, Brand said, “Yes, and had a thundering headache to boot. And I’m sure you can imagine that I was none too pleased to end up in the infirmary, again. I did complain to father about that, but asked him to please not get too creative in his displeasure. They didn’t know it would be me fighting them, after all. I was only there because of the roster, you know? Staff on duty to keep a weather eye out. It served to show that I’m not bloody omnipotent. If I were, then I’d be a god, right? Even Superman had a wee problem with kryptonite.”

“Huh?” Draco gave him a bewildered look.

Remus snickered and looked over. “It’s a muggle thing, Draco. And it’d be easier to rent the film and have you watch it rather than try to explain.”

Draco continued to look bewildered when he asked, “You can rent a whole cinema?”

Brand slapped a hand over his mouth and let Remus explain. “Er, you don’t. Though obviously, you can go to one and see whatever is playing. You can also rent a film to watch in your own home if you have the right machine to play it. Anyway, all Brand is saying is that even superheros have weaknesses.”

“Then why didn’t he just say so?”

Brand exchanged a look with Remus, then shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, Draco.”

Remus chuckled, then gazed at Brand and said slowly, “There is something else I had on my mind.” When Brand raised his brows he said, “I’ve noticed something. I find it—well—it’s odd. I’ve been in a number of meetings, and now I’m here, and things are so . . . not the same.”

“Never having been in a meeting aside from getting filled in a tiny bit back before fifth year. . . .”

Remus nodded. “Your father is very . . . open. He isn’t just barking out orders and expecting people to follow them. He actually seems to care what his people think, and expects that they’ll be able to contribute good ideas and suggestions. He also doesn’t just dismiss things out of hand.”

Brand tilted his head to the side. “I can’t say what he was truly like before I arrived. However, I will agree with your assessment of the present. Of course, all I ever got out of Albus was lessons in sidestepping and dancing around the subject. Father does listen, though he may not always agree. And he isn’t. . . .” Brand looked off to the side and furrowed his brow. “For example, it was the original plan for father and the inner circle to determine how to take care of Dumbledore. I suddenly had an idea of my own, explained it, and he’s decided to go with it. He liked it. He wasn’t offended.”

Remus nodded and propped his head against one hand. “Yes, well, Albus is. I never really felt as though what I had to say held any real importance. I was only important because of who my friends were. Yes, it was damn nice of him to allow me to attend Hogwarts and all that, but it could also be seen as a long-term plan to make me see him in a very good light and possibly bring more werewolves over to his side.”

He paused and sighed softly. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that, here I feel included, a part of things. So yes, you were right that day. Your father isn’t what I thought he was, not at all. Not now, at least.”

“Well,” Draco offered, “it’s as you say. There are times when I wonder if Dumbledore is so kind to muggle-borns and such simply because it builds his power base and he’s being expedient. For all we know he can’t stand them, and for all we know, he thinks of them as good fodder for the front lines.”

Brand shrugged and ran a hand through his hair. “He made it quite plain to me that he saw me as a tool, and by that I mean back the night Sirius died. He said . . . he’d made a mistake. He made the mistake of starting to care more about my happiness than he should considering what I was expected to do. If I hadn’t been so upset that night I might have realized what he was implying. He didn’t expect to start to like me. He expected to use me, plain and simple. He admitted that I came to Hogwarts looking not so good, but as I was all right, that was fine. So long as I held together long enough to fulfill my purpose, I’m sure he thought his neglect was acceptable.”

He snorted, then continued, “And for that matter, think about what he was actually teaching us during those years. Were we punished for sneaking out after curfew and going after the stone, breaking who knows how many rules? No. We got rewarded, and at the expense of Slytherin house. Were we punished for theft in second year? Granted, we weren’t caught, but still. Punished for impersonating people, sneaking into the Slytherin common room? Were we told to behave ourselves third year? Absolutely not. He even told us what to do! Illegal use of a time-turner! Aiding and abetting a known criminal! Slowly but surely, we were being taught that it was perfectly all right to break the rules, the laws, whatever, if it suited the cause, his cause. Talk about moral decay.”

Draco was giving him a very accusatory look.

Brand flapped his hand and said, “I’ll explain later. I know I’m sounding more than a little cynical here, but I have to wonder at times if Dumbledore gave us the nudge to save Sirius simply because he saw him as another tie to bind me.”

“He was,” Remus said slowly, “the head of the Wizengamot. I have often tried not to think about the fact that he could have brought Sirius to trial on the strength of that position, and had him freed.” Then he sat up and said briskly, “But I didn’t mean to make you morose, Brand.”

“It’s all right, Moony. Just thinking about Dumbledore frosts my cookies. There will always be a part of me that believes I was responsible for Sirius’s death, though if Bellatrix were to fall off a cliff tomorrow, I’d probably laugh myself silly.”

“I can’t argue with that, Brand.”