Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 15 :: Developments

15 • Developments

Brand woke up curled around Draco, which was a fine thing in his opinion. He was a bit sore, perhaps, but in a very good mood nevertheless. Draco had been very thorough in showing Brand everything he knew about inducing delirious pleasure in another. Being young, though, Brand was able to take that knowledge and apply it in kind some time later. Of course, it was later than normal that morning, but he really didn’t mind having been so self-indulgent.

However, he realized that it was getting very close to the point when the triad mission would be carried out and his father had not yet gotten back to him about Percy.

:Father?:

:Finally up, I see.:

:Ahem. I was wondering if you had come to a decision about Percy.:

:Maybe. Should I assume that you enjoyed yourself last night?:

:Father! If you want to know that badly, sift through my mind. After all, you were curious enough to kiss me once.:

:Mm. Since it is nearly lunch time, why don’t you join me.:

:All right. Let me actually get up, then. I’ll be with you shortly.:

Brand dropped a kiss on Draco’s neck, then gently disentangled himself and went to take a shower. When he came back out into the bedroom his mate was almost burrowed under the covers. After pulling on the first set of clothes that came to hand, Brand slipped out quietly and left his suite, heading for his father’s room.

He was greeted with a definite smirk, so Brand forwent his usual greeting and sat down across from his father, a dark look on his face. “You needn’t be so damn smug, you know.”

“As you say,” Voldemort replied, then nodded at the house-elf which popped in with their meal. Once it was gone he said, “All right, you wished to discuss Percy. After a great deal of thought, I have decided that he can be spared, but it will have to be you who alters his memories. You are the only one I would trust to have enough control to handle it, aside from myself.”

“I anticipated that, actually. That’s why I asked Draco if he thought he and his father could handle Moody on their own. He suggested that Dolohov be moved to that team just in case.”

Voldemort arched a brow.

“He’s never really had much chance to see his father in action.”

Voldemort nodded. “That is not a problem. I will let Lucius and Antonin know of the change in plans today. But, I sense that there is something else on your mind regarding this.”

“Sort of. Moony is acting like my conscience in some respects. I thought, if you didn’t mind, that I would invite him along for when I dealt with Percy, and maybe Severus.”

“I didn’t realize you needed two consciences.”

Brand gave his father a frustrated look. “He wanted to understand how I felt about killing Moody, why it was being done. I’m not sure if he would ever ask you directly, but he feels safe asking me, and that’s fine. I think it would help ease his mind further if he were there. He is happy here, father. He appreciates how you do things, that you actually listen to your people. He doesn’t feel like some kind of bizarre decoration, or useless because his sole function is now invalid.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that he’s adjusting well.” Voldemort sighed slightly, then nodded. “If he wishes to go, he can, but I would prefer he’s disguised, as is Severus. You can go as whoever you wish to be.” After a pause, in which he looked directly at Brand, he said, “No, I’m not upset. I’m just thinking about how much I’ve changed since you came to me.”

Brand made the logical assumption that this was another of those things he was often blind to. Yes, he knew that his father loved him and cared about his opinions and feelings, but. . . . “I’m not sure I understand. Yes, you’ve changed, but has it really been all that much? I could see the first time I met your followers that they were proud to be with you, and that hasn’t changed.”

“Yes, they are, and they were. They respect me, certainly. These days I actually care about something, someone. You are a constant reminder that one can work toward a goal without having to be . . . what I was.”

“Okay, but they’re still right there. They believe in you.”

“Brand, I used to torture them on a regular basis. The slightest mistake, any failure, was an excuse. Is it any wonder that Severus betrayed me? I have to wonder now why more didn’t follow in his footsteps. Yes, they’ve adjusted, and I think they’re happier for it.”

“At the risk of offending you, father, I told Severus something once. I said we all have to grow up sometime. Maybe once your obsession was dealt with, you could move past it and move on.”

Voldemort chuckled. “Perhaps, but that isn’t entirely what I mean. They are not my equals, they are my subordinates, certainly as it pertains to power. They had no real way to affect my perception. You, on the other hand, are much more than I am in many ways. You could have gone on as you were and most likely succeeded in killing me. But you didn’t. You came to me willingly, asking either for a merciful death, or help, and even then you made it clear you would not simply abase yourself, though you were willing to obey. Do you have any idea of the effect of that?”

“I’m not sure that’s a valid comparison, father. Yes, all right. I am stronger if you specify raw power. So what? You have decades of experience and you’re brilliant. Even Dumbledore admits to that.”

Voldemort shook his head. “I will grant you that there are different kinds of power. The point is, in order to keep you, I had to listen to you. I had to make compromises in how I did things so as not to drive you away. You would not relinquish your beliefs, so I had to adjust my own. And somewhere along the line, I learned what it was to care for someone. When you asked me if I could adopt you, take you as my son, do you know how that felt? How it felt to hear you say that I saved you?”

“You make it sound like I’m your superior, and I just don’t agree. I think you’ve taught me as much as you think I’ve taught you, and I’m not referring to spells, father.”

Voldemort shook his head a second time and smiled. “You took Severus to meet the girl?”

“Yes. He was muttering something about it being the wrong time, though.” Brand shrugged. “I expect nothing much will happen until after the raids, at least. I went ahead and placed coercions on her. Basically, she can’t speak of the pregnancy, and she won’t be able to speak about anything that happens here once she leaves, though she’s free to converse with people while she is here.”

“Then I expect that’s well in hand.”

Brand smiled. “Regarding Hermione—Draco is checking to see if she’s approached the ministry for employment. Would you object if she found it there, even if she doesn’t react well and I have to obliviate her?”

“I assume you would wish that simply based on the past,” said Voldemort.

“Of course. I’d like her to be happy, even if she’s not with us. If she goes anywhere else, though, I’m not sure what influence we’d have.”

“Then I assume you already have a plan for approaching her.”

After a nod Brand said, “Yes. Somewhat similar to what I did with Draco and Remus, actually. Coercions to keep her quiet, and the intent to obliviate anything crucial if she should reject the offer entirely.”

“And if she says she wants to think it over before coming to a decision?”

Brand furrowed his brow. “Well, it is true that she wouldn’t be here where I could keep an eye on her. And I don’t want to use something like the Imperius Curse. How common is it for ministry people to interview elsewhere, or invite candidates to their home for a more informal meeting?”

“Not common. However, I suppose it is possible that she could be misled into thinking she was to attend an informal dinner with her potential colleagues after the initial interview.”

“Hm. I suppose I could do that. In theory, I guess it would be better to keep the two as separate as possible, even though it can’t be entirely. All right. But, do you think it would be wise to bring her here, even if she doesn’t realize where here is? Dumbledore obviously knows the location of the estate, after all.”

“You could portkey her into the travel room, son. If things went badly, stun her, obliviate the evening, and portkey or floo her back out to a safe location. I do not know, obviously, if she resides with her family still, or if she has found a place of her own.”

“Well, if she hasn’t found a job yet, I expect she’s still at the Grangers. I could watch the place long enough to wait until they all went out, then set up a portkey back to her bedroom or something similar.”

Voldemort nodded. “Then I leave it in your hands. Has Severus come up with a suitably nasty note to leave behind at Remus’s home?”

“I don’t know. I’ll ask today, though. I know I would definitely like to see it beforehand. Of course, Severus is so good at being pithy that I expect it will be quite an amusing read.”

Voldemort smirked and said, “Yes, indeed. Well, then, I shall summon Lucius and Antonin. Let me know if any questions come up.”

“Yes, father.” Brand set aside his napkin and rose, circling the table to drop a kiss on his father’s head before heading out to find Severus and invite him back up to his suite.

*

“Here,” Severus said, handing over a sheet of parchment before he took a seat.

Brand accepted it with no small measure of curiosity and began to read.

How utterly delightful. It is always heartening to find indisputable proof that Albus Dumbledore is as unscrupulous and coldhearted as people have been wont to accuse me of.

After all, who might expect that the self-proclaimed leader of the Light would go so far as to not only send one of his people out to die as useless, but then decide, when that person actually returned, that it was just as well to suggest he appear in werewolf form without benefit of wolfsbane.

It hardly escapes us that he intended for Lupin to die that night, possibly taking down or infecting others of the Order in the process. How very quaint. Are lives so cheap on the side of Light that Dumbledore can afford to throw them away? Or was it his intention to gain more werewolf allies at their unwitting expense?

Brand looked up and grimaced. “You’ve just exposed a major flaw in these plans, Severus. Interrogation of Remus means that we’re aware the Order knows what we intended to do as regards the Grangers. We’ll have to back off on that, unless we want to appear completely fearless, or stupid.”

“That is true. I assume you will be bringing that up with our lord. I admit, it was not until I drafted this out that I made the connection. Most unlike me, I assure you.”

Brand grinned for a second, and nodded. “Yeah, well.” Then he continued reading.

We believe we can do far more interesting things with the werewolf. Perhaps we may even keep it alive for our entertainment. Despair is such an enthralling reaction, especially if the creature is fed on news of the Light’s further actions as we discover them. And if we are lucky, it may even attempt to kill itself. That would be truly delightful.

Even so, one has to wonder at the quality of people who would chose to follow a man such as Dumbledore. Are all of you completely lacking in intelligence, or willfully blind? Are you all so enamored of the man that his words fall like pearls of wisdom from some manner of a god or oracle?

Spare me such delusions. If that is the true nature of the leader of the Light, we find it unfathomable that any are left alive. We have to wonder if muggle-borns are merely fodder for the war. Does Dumbledore truly believe they are as valuable as pure-bloods, or simply that his seeming kindness will make them that much more willing to throw their lives away in a fruitless effort against our forces?

Veritaserum is such a thrilling little potion, don’t you think? One wonders what would happen if Dumbledore were forced to speak the truth. And on that note, we have other matters to attend to.

Brand smiled softly. “I think father will be amused by this. And I don’t think he will care much if we have to toss the Granger plan. I actually think it works out better this way, though I expect that they’ll continue to keep watch on them for a while.”

He lowered the parchment and looked at Severus. “It will mean I’ll have to be very careful about getting her here, though.” He explained his conversation with his father briefly on her.

“I had talked to Lupin about what you said. I believe I can understand your hesitation on the matter of the younger Mr Weasley now.”

Brand smiled, pleased that Severus had done so without further prompting. He would like to see the two of them get along, at the very least. It really had not been Moony’s fault regarding the Shrieking Shack incident and it was time that Severus let that go. If Severus could let go his former feelings about Harry Potter, surely he could set aside the past when it came to Remus, even though Remus had not been forward about reining in his friends’ activities.

Still, he was not going to press the issue, much as he might like to. Severus could be very prickly at times. Even so, it did appear that he was making progress on that score, having accepted that Remus was with them to stay, and even working with him on the matter of the fake capture. While that might indicate that he was unwilling to protest because it was his lord’s will, or even Brand’s, it looked more as though he had had a slight change of heart.

“Father has decided that Percy isn’t to be killed, by the way. Dolohov will be moved to the Moody team and I will be the one leading against Weasley. I intend to ask Remus to come with me, disguised. Would you also like to come?”

“I would be interested, yes. Since Lupin’s home will be the staging point, it should be a simple enough matter. Once we’ve taken care of any last minute details, both teams could head out.”

“Exactly.” Brand paused and looked around. “Excuse me for a moment, would you?” Without waiting for a response he rose, then crossed to the bedroom door and opened it, looking inside. Draco was still sleeping.

With a slight smirk on his face, Brand caused the covers to be whipped off the bed, then a jet of ice cold water to hit his mate. The yelling began almost immediately and was silenced with a quick spell. Once Draco was staring at him crossly Brand said, “If you would be so kind as to get up? I thought you might wish to join Severus and me out here.”

Draco glanced at the clock, then paled and nodded, so Brand removed the silencing spell. Flashing his mate a grin, he backed up and closed the door, then returned to his seat.

“Wear him out, did you?”

Brand glared. “Don’t think I won’t hex you. I almost hit father with one earlier.”

Severus snickered quietly. “As you say.”

Draco came out a few minutes later and sat down next to Brand, a slight scowl on his face. “Was that really necessary?”

“I suppose I could have been kinder, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun,” Brand retorted with a grin. “Now that you’re awake, though, I should fill you in on a few things.” Then he paused, and snapped his fingers. A second later he said, “Maer, would you please find Remus and ask him to come here?”

Another several minutes passed before Remus was sitting with them, at which point Brand briefly explained his conversation with his father again. “When do you expect to hear back from the ministry, Draco?”

“I would hope today, but possibly tomorrow.”

“Moony, you were planning on moping around Tonks on the sixth?” After seeing him nod Brand said, “You’ll send out an invitation to the twins that same day? All right. Obviously, I need to speak with father again and show him this note, but I think for the moment we can assume that the attack on the Grangers is off. I imagine that after they read this someone will make the assumption that we may have seen Moony leaving the estate and decided to investigate. However, Severus? I want you to have an emergency portkey on you at all times. If there’s even the least bit of suspicion about you, I want you out of there if you can’t deflect it. Your life is more important than having a spy in the school.”

“As you wish.”

“Then, about Hermione. If I can get her here, I’d want some of you present. While she might be understandably cautious about identities, she can perform the usual tests to verify who you are. I think it might be more powerful if she could witness you retrieving memories for her to view. I can also use my patronus as I did with you, Moony, since she won’t be able to verify me as anyone other than Brand Riddle.”

“I suppose we won’t know when until we know about an interview,” remarked Remus.

Brand couldn’t help but notice that Moony’s gaze would occasionally drift over toward Severus, and wondered why. “Well, I need to see if father is available so I can apprise him of things. I would like for you all to consider ways in which we can make the Order look bad. Severus, is Joshua still faring all right?”

“Yes.”

“Has he given any indication if he would prefer to remain here, or if he would prefer to be placed with a family?”

“Not as yet, but I will approach him to see if he’s even considered that.”

“All right. Oh, do you think there would be any value in Moony leaving behind a personal journal? Something that expressed your own feelings on what Albus suggested. It might be considered a trick by them, or maybe not.”

“Well, I do actually keep one. Things like that are already in it, actually. I guess I don’t care if it’s found. They’re going to consider me as good as dead anyway, so I suppose it doesn’t matter if they find out a lot of things about me. They might assume that I was forced to speak of it, or something like it, and it was left out in the open with the note to drive home the point.”

“Okay. I’m going to check with father, then. I’ll see you all later. Dinner, if you feel like it, in here. If not, whenever.” Brand gave everyone a nod and left. Some minutes later he slipped into his father’s study, unobtrusively seating himself so as not to interrupt the conversation occurring between Voldemort and his two followers.

A short time later Voldemort dismissed them, then looked at his son questioningly.

Brand rose and switched seats, handing over the note, and said, “I think you’ll reach the same conclusions I did.”

Once Voldemort had finished scanning the page he said, “Yes, I agree. We’ll have to call off the attack on the Grangers. It wasn’t that important to begin with, and it has served its purpose already insofar as Remus is concerned.”

“I’ve already asked Severus, Draco, and Remus to start thinking of how to embarrass the Order again. I had considered the idea of impersonating Order members to cause a little havoc, but that would only work once, perhaps twice, and I’m not so sure I want to embarrass anyone specifically aside from Dumbledore. It’s his downfall I care about. If they happen to come to see him for what he is, that’s a plus, and we might gain new people in consequence.”

“Mm. If you target them specifically they may simply become more angry, and more inclined to disbelieve anything we might try to say.”

“I don’t suppose there’s been any progress on a potential new home?” It wasn’t as thought he had bothered to go looking, checking out maps of the world.

“Some,” Voldemort said. “There are a few places under consideration, though some of them would represent a marked change in climate. Your Miss Granger might be of some use there if she can be persuaded. Though, it has occurred to me that she may not wish to leave this country. Her parents would not be welcome.”

“Well, father, what happens when a wizarding couple produces a squib? Do they deserve the right to grow up among us, or should they be shipped off to a different community? Should they be allowed to stay, but sterilized? I would hate to think they would remain, but forced into being mere servants. It isn’t as though it would be their fault, after all.”

“Honestly? Shipped back. Your concern is valid enough, Brand. As it’s been said, you can’t legislate morality, though people certainly try. They would deserve a normal life, which they would not get in an entirely wizarding community. Of course, they would also likely be as devastated as any muggles if their child disappeared one day. But if we plan to take those. . . .”

“I understand. I’m not sure there’s any right answer. I guess the best we can do is try and stay on the line, somewhere in a grey area.”

Voldemort nodded. “I will rewrite this note in my own handwriting and give that to Severus. It may as well be seen as coming from me directly. If they think I am so bold as to personally have gone after the man, all to the better.”