Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 16 :: Visitations

16 • Visitations

Brand was in the process of dishing carrots onto his plate when a thought struck him hard. He sat up straight and shot Severus an intense look, hand hovering mid-air.

“Yes?”

“Your mind is protected,” Brand said.

Severus was kind enough not to roll his eyes, and instead waited.

“I was just thinking—remember when I said I wanted to blow up a certain place, but discarded the idea?”

Severus began to look very curious, and Draco and Remus looked a bit startled.

“All right. So suppose we did anyway. Especially if they had already become suspicious of you and you had to flee. Either way, it isn’t as though you could reveal anything, Severus. I still can’t help but think it would be not only amusing, but serve as a warning.”

“I can see that, but if no one in the Order is able to confess to such a crime, they might begin to believe that Potter isn’t really dead.”

Brand frowned and tipped the carrots onto his plate, then replaced the spoon. “Then only if you have to flee. You can always be adequately disguised off the estate if it comes to that. I know that while others can gather your supplies, you prefer to go yourself at times.”

“I assume,” Remus broke in, “that you would shoot for a time when it was actually empty.”

“Of course. Absolutely no loss of life. Just a rather explosive statement. Sirius never liked the place anyway. I’m sure if he were to be watching, he’d laugh at my audacity.”

Remus grinned slightly. “He might at that.”

“I could wish I understood what you three are discussing, but I get the feeling it has to with the Order headquarters,” said Draco in a faintly annoyed tone.

“Well, anything is possible, Draco,” Brand said vaguely. “I confess, I was actually thinking of the eighth, since we aren’t going after the Grangers, but you’re right, Severus. How often is anyone actually even there?”

“Generally just meetings, Brand. No one has even bothered to fix things up. Not aside from vanishing dust occasionally.”

“You have already mentioned the possibility of losing me as a spy to our lord?” asked Severus.

“Yes, after I showed him the note. We talked for quite a while. I don’t think he’d object at all. We could even go so far as to plant a body to suggest that Severus died as a result. It isn’t as though you could be located. Of course, we’d have to do some fiddling either way in order for you to have access to your funds and whatnot. I can’t imagine you’d be too upset over losing your manor. . . ?”

Severus shook his head.

“Well, technically you could be become another person, but that shouldn’t matter after a bit. It isn’t as though British forces could invade later on.”

“Our lord is looking into a place to move to?” Draco asked.

“Yes. Nothing definite yet. For all I know he’s considering purchasing a nice island somewhere, then booting out all the muggles and setting up protections.” Brand shrugged lightly. “If father hasn’t already, he said he’d get back to you, Severus, with a new copy of that note in time for the raids.”

“Understood.”

“Speaking of a new home. . . . You didn’t hear anything from the ministry today, Draco?”

“No.”

“Then we might wish to consider a little visit. And at the same time, I could check in with Pansy to see how her research is going. She’s been there for a while now. No one will find it strange for you to be visiting an old friend.”

“As yourself?”

Brand considered. “Now that you mention it, I’m not sure. The only change I made when Moony and I went to see the twins was to my eyes. Yes, okay, I’ll wear a different face, just in case. She doesn’t have to say anything out loud about the research. I can just ghost for it.”

*

Brand and Draco strolled into the ministry casually and submitted to the usual security measures, though Brand had produced a different wand. He didn’t want anyone to make the connection to his original, so he had left that behind and used his backup. Once security had vetted them they boarded the lift and made their way to where Pansy worked, drifting over to her desk.

“Hello, Pansy. I thought I’d drop by to see how much fun you were having,” Draco drawled as Brand signaled her.

She gave them a polite smile and nodded, then pushed the stack of paperwork to one side and launched into a meaningless conversation with moderate enthusiasm. Brand took the opportunity to ghost through her mind, latching onto the bits of information she had been compiling and mentally organizing into research topics. Several minutes later he inserted himself into the conversation.

“It’s been fascinating to hear what you’ve been up to, my dear. You should consider coming to visit soon. We’d love to have you. But for now we have a few other people we should be seeing while we’re here.”

“Of course. I would be delighted. Perhaps dinner?”

Brand nodded and smiled. “An excellent idea, my dear. We shall see you later, then, this evening.” After he and Draco gave a parting inclination of the head they drifted off again, this time to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures on the fourth floor. They searched out Malacai Bentley, Draco’s contact.

“I was disappointed to not have mail from you yet,” Draco said in a low voice. “You have heard from the girl?”

“Yes, this morning,” Bentley replied in an equally low voice. “I have arranged to be the one to do the interview.”

Brand arched a brow, then aimed a smile at the man. “Is that so? You know, you really should stop by for dinner. We’re having a number of friends over for the evening. Perhaps we could discuss things in more detail then?”

“As you wish,” Bentley said agreeably.

Brand considered stopping in to see the minister, but discarded the idea. It wasn’t really that safe to do so, not with Draco along, and not as an unknown face. He nodded a good-bye to Bentley and returned to the estate with his mate, ending up in his suite.

“Pansy has amassed quite a bit of statistical information so far. Hopefully we can get a team of people working on the question of squibs. If there’s a way we can prevent it from happening in the first place, one of my primary concerns about our own country would be nullified.”

“What, sending away the squib children of our own people?”

“Of course. It’s bad enough I advocated the kidnapping of magical children from muggle families, but if we had to separate our own people from their children? They couldn’t stay, Draco. They’d very likely end up as outcasts. I think it would take quite a while of harmonious. . . . Well, a long time before people were confident enough to welcome in non-magical folk without rancor.”

Later that evening Pansy imparted a great deal of knowledge in the form of stacks of parchment she had copied from the ministry files. Brand set them aside in order to look at later, then turned his attention to Bentley.

“So, she did exactly as expected. Have you already set up an interview date?”

“No, my lord. After having received Malfoy’s letter I thought it would be wiser to discuss that with you.”

“It will have to be after the eighth. Consider the fourteenth, then. Whatever you can agree on, let me know. You will not be the one conducting the interview. I will, as you, so you’re going to need to provide me with the appropriate materials. I’m also going to need a complete list of who her coworkers would be should she be hired.”

“Yes, my lord. I will have those for you immediately, and let you know the moment a date and time is decided upon.”

“Splendid. Your promptness will be appreciated, Bentley. You may go whenever you’re ready. I’m sure your wife and children are waiting for you, and I wouldn’t wish to detain you any longer than necessary.”

Bentley smiled and inclined his head, then left. Brand took a brief moment to shoot compressed versions of the conversations to his father, then headed off to lure Draco into the sunken tub in his suite.

*

Severus and Remus headed out fairly early, intent on destroying Remus’s home by themselves. Brand tagged along long enough to assure that there weren’t any surprises placed by Dumbledore, then returned to the estate. They came back several hours later with satisfied expressions.

Brand thought it was slightly odd that Remus felt that way, but then, perhaps he had never been happy. Living in the muggle world, outcast from the wizarding community on so many occasions, must be quite difficult and wearing. Now that he had a home where he could be comfortable. . . .

And—Brand watched them interact for a moment—it seemed that maybe he wasn’t so crazy after all. First Remus being concerned about Severus’s welfare, and then Severus willingly going to Remus for information? What was next—a bonding announcement? Of course, Severus had admitted that he didn’t have much experience himself. Was he even aware of what was developing? Did Severus even think about other people that way in relation to himself—without prodding?

Remus took off again, this time with a calculated expression of sorrow and indecision. Brand grinned as Severus watched him leave with a blank look on his face, then turned to face him.

“I’ll assume everything is set for this evening, then. Have fun?” Brand asked.

“There is something to be said for destruction simply for the sake of it. I imagined a number of my more troublesome students while I worked. I found it immensely satisfying.”

Brand smirked and nodded. “I’m glad to hear that. Nothing like a little mayhem to get the blood going.” He paused a moment to pull up his map and shove it off to one side. He wasn’t sure if the alarm he had placed would function if the map was dormant. “Then I expect you’ll have a bit more fun this evening when we get messy at Percy’s home.”

“One can always hope.”

“It’ll be nice to have the two of you there to make sure I don’t have to deal with any incidentals while working on Percy,” he said casually.

“I am quite certain that Remus and I can find ways to amuse ourselves.”

Brand smiled innocently. It was rather interesting that Severus had used Moony’s given name.

*

When Remus did return some time later he showed up at Brand’s suite with a smug look on his face.

“Dare I hope you had luck today?”

Remus grinned and nodded. “If you thought I was good at the shop. . . . She seemed very concerned, and curious. I just need to send out an invitation to the twins before we leave tonight and that plan should be all set.”

“Then I guess time will tell as to how our targets react. No sense worrying over it at this point,” Brand said, then, “Have you given any thought as to what kind of role you’d like here? I’m not saying you have to do anything, Moony. But you might get bored.”

Remus shrugged lightly and raised his brows. “I could teach. I rather enjoyed it, actually, that one year.”

“Formal, or before that?”

“Don’t many families home-school their children before Hogwarts?” Remus countered.

“Sure, but some send them to muggle schools. It seems to me that if we have this chance to completely renovate the education system, we might as well start early, not that I’m saying people would be compelled to place their younger offspring in the hands of others. However, I expect we’ll be building for a long time, so it might be wise to have people set up to handle the early stages and common skills or information. Once they got into the normal level of schooling, such as Hogwarts, they could begin to divert a lot more. I think it’s silly that people with special abilities aren’t marked and given additional lessons. Sure, it’s nice that everyone gets a grounding in some things, like potions, but for those hopeless at it, or really hate it, is it the right thing to do to force them into five years of classes?”

“I suppose so. Divination is another one. It’s all very well to take those lessons, but if you have no talent, you end up looking a bit foolish come exam time as far as practicals go.”

Brand nodded. “All of that was a waste of my time. I should have just dropped the class. But if someone is exceptionally good at healing spells, or dark arts, or dueling, they may as well be trained to make the most of those. Again, I’m not saying they’d be forced. I think the option should be available. I’m also not saying that children should be allowed to not be grounded in certain things just because they don’t care for it.”

“At any rate, teaching is one option.”

“Has Severus said anything about Joshua? I keep meaning to ask.”

“The boy seems fairly content as he is. He hasn’t expressed any interest in being shipped off to a suitable family. It’s possible that he’s developed a fondness for Severus specifically, which might explain his vagueness.”

“Well, father did say it would be fine either way. He can stay on the estate.”

“He may not have said anything because he might be afraid of rejection.”

“Do you think I should talk to him personally?” Brand asked. “I’ve been worried that my little display that night might have put him off me completely.”

“I don’t think it would hurt. He’s been here long enough from what I understand to have seen you around or overheard a bit about you. I know you can be quite gentle, and you can empathize with some of his treatment.”

“I’ll make a mental note to track him down, then. Perhaps tomorrow.”

“Well, we have a few hours yet,” Remus said. “I’m going to go write that letter, then see what trouble I can get into.”

*

They arrived at Remus’s home at eight that evening and promptly proceeded to trash the entryway with a few well-placed spells. The letter and journal were left out in the open in the sitting room, near a chair which, to all accounts, looked as though it had been used to restrain someone.

Brand had still not heard a peep from his map, and had checked it several times to be sure that Tonks had not somehow slipped into the school without his knowledge. Seeing no reason to delay further, he directed Lucius’s team to head out to deal with Moody, then set about disguising Severus and Remus before changing his own appearance to something suitably nondescript.

On arriving at Percy’s flat Brand cast a one-way revealing spell on the door to see if anyone was lurking, then quietly sprang the lock so the three of them could slip in. Once the door was secured again they each checked out a room leading off the hallway, using hand signals to communicate. Severus made a very rude gesture just as Brand heard voices floating into the corridor.

“Yes, I realize that, Penny, but do you have any idea how important it is to know that someone is keeping an eye on them to assure quality control?”

“Percy, really. Do you honestly think that self-stirrers are going to go out of control and poke someone’s eye out?”

Brand rolled his eyes and silently slapped his forehead. A look at Remus revealed that the man was laughing soundlessly. Brand sighed quietly and crept closer to Severus.

“Look, I’m going to refresh our drinks,” she continued. “I’ll be right back.”

After some rustling noises she stepped out into the hallway, blinked, then immediately screamed. Brand stunned her a second later and watched as she fell to the floor with a heavy thud. Percy appeared as if by magic and exclaimed in distress, then noticed who was standing there.

“And just what are you people doing in my home?” he demanded. “And Penny!”

Brand arched a brow and replied, “You mean this isn’t the new location for wayward wizarding boys home? How unfortunate.” Then he raised his wand a second time and let loose with a stunner. Percy dropped like a stone.

“You would think he would have had the sense to flee, my lord, not ask stupid questions,” commented Severus.

“Yes, well.” Brand absently cleaned up the mess from the spilled drinks and nodded at Penelope. “Unfortunate she’s here, but that’s one less person to worry about dropping by. She can even go sound the alarm after we’re done and I allow her to wake up.” He cast a second spell on her to put her in stasis, then levitated Percy back into the room he had emerged from.

“One of you take position there to keep an eye on her and the front door.”

“I’ll do it,” Remus said.

“I’ll see to being creative, then,” said Severus, “and see about planting those documents, my lord.”

“Fine. Now. . . .” Brand planted Percy in a chair and bound him in place so he wouldn’t inconveniently flop over, then pulled up a second chair so he could sit down. He placed Percy in stasis as well and settled back into a comfortable position. And, though he kept his wand handy, it wasn’t something he actually used during his trip into Percy’s mind. He had every confidence that Severus and Remus could handle anything unexpected that might come up.

Unfortunately, the average human mind wasn’t like a filing cabinet. Brand could not simply open up the drawers he needed for a specific subject, or even a specific year, and destroy them. He couldn’t even have Percy assist him; in stasis, his mind was inactive but for basic functions. It was a painstaking, tedious, and tiring process to sift through memory after memory looking for those with any relevance. He was not looking forward to having to do this a second time with his not-wife.

Each time he encountered something that had occurred within the last three years, or had anything to do with Percy’s own opinion on Harry Potter, Brand destroyed it. He could remember pictures he had seen during his muggle schooling and likened it to zapping memory cells. Since he was well aware that humanity used very little of that available in the brain, he held no particular concern that he was doing overall damage.

After a while it became akin to a game of search and destroy, like wandering around a vast, honeycombed expanse with a laser pistol from some film and shooting the bad guys with perfect aim and unlimited ammunition. He idly wondered if the Order, and the Weasley family, would believe it was simply an attempt to completely wipe Percy’s mind that had gone wrong, or calculated. Perhaps Severus would be able to report back on that.

Just for effect he also randomly destroyed a few memories that weren’t on the agenda, but nothing important for Percy in terms of functioning normally. When he did finally pull his awareness back into the real world it was very late. Though, considering the sun was starting to creep over the windowsill, maybe that was very early.

Remus was snoozing on the couch and Severus standing at attention in the doorway. Brand stretched, almost groaning at the feeling of tendons popping and catching Severus’s attention in the process, then stood up and paced in a circle for a minute to exercise his stiff limbs.

“My lord, it is done?” Severus asked quietly.

Brand nodded. “I assume everything has been quiet,” he said, then yawned hugely and wobbled.

Severus frowned. “I suggest you take care of the final details, my lord. You do not look to be in good shape.”

Brand waved his hand around negligently and blinked slowly. “Yes. Go ahead and wake Remus. As soon as we’re ready to leave I’ll take them out of stasis. I see no point in unbinding him as the Clearwater girl can help her darling stuffed shirt on her own. We’ll apparate directly.”

Severus nodded and went to shake Remus awake. Gently, Brand noticed. His secretive smile turned into another expansive yawn, however, and he hastily covered his mouth. Once Remus was up and ready Brand stunned Percy a second time and brought him out of stasis, then did the same for Penelope. Seconds later they were in the travel room of the estate.