Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 17 :: What!?

17 • What!?

:Father?:

:Son. You have returned finally?:

:Yes. I’m going to send Sev—:

:Brand?: Voldemort didn’t feeling like waiting for an answer to that. After a quick glimpse into his son’s mind he made for the travel room, sweeping in to stop dead at the sight of Brand passed out on the floor, Remus crouched down next to him. “What happened?” he demanded.

Severus answered, “My lord, he did not look well when he was finished with Weasley’s mind, but seemed to think it was nothing to be concerned about. Once we returned here his eyes went a little unfocused—I assumed he was checking to see if you were awake—then thrust out an arm as though dizzy. A moment later he collapsed.”

Voldemort frowned, his eyes narrowing sharply, then sighed. “Fine. Remus, take him back to his suite. I will come to check on him shortly. Severus, you come with me.” He turned and swept back out, knowing that Lupin would take very good care of Brand, and headed off to his study. Once he was seated, and had waved Severus into a chair, he said, “Report.”

Severus gave him a summary of the evening’s events using his usual clear and concise wording, finishing up with, “And, while he was obviously tired, I allow that I did not expect him to pass out.”

“It is, perhaps, just as well the attack on the Granger family is off. All right. Be prepared for a meeting later today, though depending on how bad Brand is, I may postpone it.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“You may go,” he said as he rose, fully intent on checking up on his son, and stalked off without waiting for a further response. He reached the third floor within minutes and barged into Brand’s suite without bothering to knock, then into the bedroom. He found his son tucked under the covers and Draco and Remus hovering nearby.

Draco looked up at his entrance and said, “My lord. He seems to be all right, just drained and exhausted. I’m not skilled enough at medimagic to be able to tell for sure.”

Had it been any other time he might have been amused at the sight of a sleep-rumpled Draco. As it was, he barely gave it a second thought. He moved toward the bed and sat at Brand’s side, then reached out and placed the fingertips of one hand on his son’s forehead, his thumb and pinky touching the temples, and closed his eyes.

Brand gave him a curious look. “Father?” he asked, then looked around with a puzzled expression. “Uh, where are we?”

“In your mind, son. You collapsed.”

“Did you have to make it so dreary?” Brand complained.

Voldemort snorted. “Forgive me for not giving a damn about the décor this time. You scared me.”

“I’m sorry, father. I was about to send Severus to you and then go seek my bed. Where am I right now?”

“Exactly there. Draco and Remus are also present. Severus has already given me his report. No,” he said, seeing the look on Brand’s face, “there is no need for your own report just yet. I simply want to make sure that you are all right. Obviously your mission was a little more exacting than you expected. I have no idea when you’ll actually wake up, but someone will be with you constantly. If it takes too long, I’ll have Severus come look. However, from your perspective, do you feel well?”

“Yeah. I mean, I got really dizzy. Everything sort of went into reverse image and I lost my balance. That’s the last thing I remember. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I feel fine, though. Here, at least. I can’t say much for my body.”

Voldemort thought Brand seemed a bit confused, but kept his expression clear. “Then you shall rest. Once you are yourself again, I will call for a meeting so we can all discuss the results of your missions. Granted, even if you were in bed you could listen in, but I would prefer you to be there physically so I would not have to relay your thoughts on matters.”

“Honestly, father. You make it sound like I’m an invalid.”

Voldemort smiled slightly and said, “The possibility could occur, son. I’m sure you’ll be fine after a decent amount of sleep, but you’ll simply have to accept that I worry about you.”

Brand flashed a smile at him and scratched his head.

“I’m going to release this state now. As I said, someone will be with you constantly and I’ll send in Severus if necessary. We’ll talk again later, though if you don’t wake up in a reasonable amount of time, I will return this same way.”

“All right, father.”

Voldemort opened his eyes and pulled back his hand. “One of you will stay with him at all times and keep me updated. I do not expect any real problems, but I want to be alert to any potential issues. If necessary I will go back in and talk with him again.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Yes, sir,” said Remus.

Voldemort nodded and rose, then swept out.

*

Brand did not actually wake until the next morning, and remembered very little of his father’s visit. He snuggled back into the embrace of the one holding him, presumably Draco, and yawned. The arms around him tightened immediately.

“Back with us, huh?”

“Mm. And hungry.”

“Then I’ll go ask Maer to fetch us some breakfast,” Draco replied, giving him another squeeze, then releasing him to get up. “The question becomes, do you want to bathe first, or would you prefer breakfast in bed?”

Brand wrinkled his nose. “I’ll get up, thanks.”

“Then I’ll be right back.” Draco left and was back before Brand had even managed to stand up. “Right. I told him a half hour, so you have plenty of time to take a bath with me, don’t you.”

Brand squinted up at him and said, “If you say so. I won’t break, you know.” Nevertheless, he allowed Draco to give him a hand up and lead him off into the bathroom where he was directed to strip while Draco filled the tub. Brand did so with only minor grumbling, for in truth he felt slightly shaky.

After being manhandled into the sitting room a bit later and into a seat, he was finally allowed to assuage his gnawing hunger pangs. As Draco sat down himself he said, “I already told Maer to inform our lord that you were awake.”

Brand paused to groan softly. “He’ll come charging in any minute now, you just wait.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Give me more credit than that, will you? I specified that you would contact him yourself after you’d eaten. In any case, today is the day we don’t go after the Grangers, just in case your mind is muddled enough to not be aware what day this is.”

“All right. Then what’s happened?” he asked before taking another mouthful.

Draco snorted—he was being rather tetchy in Brand’s opinion—and said, “No. It can bloody well wait until after you’re done. There is no way in hell I’m going to usurp our lord’s prerogative.”

“And I thought I wasn’t a morning person,” Brand muttered, then pointedly ignored the affronted look shot at him. A short time later he sat back and sighed with pleasure.

:Father?:

:Don’t go anywhere.:

:Huh?:

Brand got no response and rightfully assumed his father was even then headed to his suite. Several minutes later the door opened and Voldemort stepped through with Severus right behind him.

“Good morning, my lord, Severus,” said Draco.

“You could knock, you know,” Brand complained.

Voldemort narrowed his eyes. “Either Draco is in a bad mood, or you aren’t feeling all that well.”

Brand detected a faint, muffled snort coming from behind Voldemort, where Severus was standing. “I feel fine! Well, now that I’ve eaten. I was starving, after all.” After a slight pause he said, “Good morning, father, Severus.” Then he sent, :Or did you neglect to knock because you were hoping to see something naughty?:

Voldemort coughed, then said, “Severus, if you would please. . . ?”

“Yes, my lord,” came the prompt reply, and Severus stepped over to him, wand out. “Just a few scans, Lord Brand.”

Brand suffered through it patiently for several minutes, finally erupting to say, “If you aren’t done soon I’m going to hex someone.”

Severus arched a brow and kept right on working, eventually tucking his wand away and turning back to Voldemort. “He is fine, my lord.”

Voldemort placed a hand on his hip and nodded. “Is that so,” he drawled. “And are we feeling irascible for a reason, son?”

“I’m just tired.”

“Then I expect after you’ve rested for the remainder of the morning that you’ll be fine for lunch and a meeting afterward.” When Brand frowned he said, “I didn’t say sleep. I said rest. Unless you are not feeling up to it for some reason, you and Draco will have lunch in the meeting room with me, Severus, Remus, Lucius, and Antonin.”

“All right, father.”

*

“So, now that we’re all set, let us begin. Lucius?”

Lucius said, “Yes, my lord,” then turned to face Brand. “The rabid dog has been eliminated. Antonin took great delight in following your specific orders, my lord, once we were in a position to subdue him. Draco and I impersonated a couple of hapless passersby using polyjuice, then staged a fight with Antonin outside Moody’s home. Naturally, he charged out to assist, at which point we each cast our assigned spells. Antonin stole his eye, Draco his leg, and I stunned him during the confusion.”

Lucius paused to have a sip of water, then continued. “When he came to he found himself strapped down for interrogation. After we mocked him for letting himself be captured, he was questioned with veritaserum, then killed and the body disposed of.”

“And did anything fascinating come out of it?” Brand asked.

“Mainly that Moody was aware of Albus’s plans as regards Lupin, and agreed with him. He intended to kill Lupin if he had showed up, even if he had taken wolfsbane. The whole of it is already written up for your perusal, my lord.”

“Then I’m even more glad he was targeted. He’s as bad as Dumbledore, though he obviously doesn’t trouble himself to hand off the dirty work.”

“Severus?” Voldemort prompted.

“My lords,” he began. “Dumbledore is not yet aware of Moody’s death, though he was puzzled when Moody did not appear at the meeting last evening. The two main topics of discussion were Percy Weasley and Remus. Percy is currently at St Mungo’s, though I have no doubt they will be unable to reverse anything of what you did to him, Lord Brand. Speculation arose as to the intended fate of that young man. They are, as yet, uncertain whether or not his partial memory loss was to cover up his activities, or for another reason. The documents left behind definitely cast doubt on his loyalties coupled with that.”

“His family?” asked Brand.

“They are beside themselves, my lord. On the one hand they are frightened that one of their own was attacked. However, Arthur was quick enough to realize the benefits to what happened to his son, as you had hoped. Molly is hysterical, but I believe that comes as no surprise given her reputation. As for his siblings, I cannot say. None of them were present.”

“If Arthur could see it, then others may as well,” Brand said with satisfaction. “We may yet poach more people. And Remus?”

“Oddly enough, the only report on Remus was of his disappearance, my lords. Nothing was said of the journal or the letter left behind.”

“I wonder if that means Tonks neglected to inform Dumbledore of those, or if she did it privately,” Brand mused.

“Given the condition we left the house in, Dumbledore believes Remus to be dead or captured. Though, I could be wrong when I say I believe he was a tad chagrined at the prospect of capture, my lords.”

Brand shrugged. “That’s his problem. If he is worried that we captured Remus, and might conceivably spring him on them at any full moon, so be it. And he no longer has his executioner.”

“That is enough for the present time, gentlemen. I already have your written reports,” Voldemort said. “Brand, we will go to my study.” Then he rose and swept out.

Brand gave everyone a nod then followed. The first thing out of his father’s mouth once he had sat down was, “You feel well?”

Deciding that he really ought to be grateful for such concern, Brand smiled fondly and said, “Yes, father. And I won’t do anything strenuous today, all right?”

Voldemort eyed him carefully, then nodded and pushed a folder across his desk. “These are the reports I mentioned. You can take them back to your rooms if you wish.”

“Thanks. I think I will, just so you know that Draco can keep an eye on me. Or Remus.” Brand smirked slightly and arched a brow.

“Aside from that, the only thing I wanted to discuss were your poaching plans. If Tonks did not in fact show Dumbledore the letter and journal, then it might be safe to assume she is having serious doubts about the man.”

“Well, true, but it could also have helped if the twins actually were there with her like they should have been. Either way, if she hasn’t handed those over, I’d agree. For someone who viewed Dumbledore as something akin to a saint, they would have been shared almost as quickly as they were found.”

“Then should I assume you are considering the idea of dropping in on the twins again?”

Brand nodded. “It did cross my mind, yes. Obviously, Severus came back from the last meeting, so Dumbledore probably isn’t on to him.”

“Perhaps. It could be that he is suspicious and wishes to give more time to his speculation before acting.”

Brand frowned. “I don’t suppose you happen to have a spell laying around in those ancient texts of yours that would help? I mean, if Severus is under suspicion, he could be hit with a stunner, or some other method could be used, that would render him unconscious before he ever had a chance to use his emergency portkey.”

“A spell? To do what, exactly?”

“Yank him back here. Take the Dark Mark, for example. While it’s a single spell which places one, each one of them is unique because of who bears it. How else could you summon just a single person, or everyone, or only some? People who aren’t being summoned don’t feel anything, father. So is it possible to modify them? Warn you or me if something happens to one of our people, such as Severus, then allow us to forcibly pull them back to here? Or a portkey that is triggered not by a word or touching it, but by not touching it?”

Voldemort furrowed his brow. “Like a grenade?”

Brand shrugged. “I just hate the idea of him getting taken out with the equivalent of a sucker punch. We would have no idea he was in danger, and might not be able to get him back. I realize that apparation wouldn’t work, especially if he were in a warded location, but it is possible for a portkey, and it might be possible to figure out a way to link one to his Dark Mark if that could be made aware of certain things. . . . Maybe I’m being overly concerned or suspicious, but I can’t help but think about it.”

“I shall consider the idea, son. Carefully, and with due thought. Now I suggest you head back to your suite so you can read those.”

*

Oddly, Draco wasn’t present when Brand arrived, though Remus was. He flopped onto the couch and set the folder to one side and smiled at his godfather. “Are you going to coddle me, too?”

“Maybe not kryptonite,” Remus replied, “but close enough.”

Brand laughed and shook his head. “I hope that means no.”

“I’m going to assume you’re enough of an adult to know your limitations, Brand. Given that there’s no need to out-stubborn anyone at the moment, I think you’re mature enough to give in gracefully if the situation requires it. Therefore, I shall assume you’re all right until you say otherwise.”

Brand clapped a hand to his chest and said, “Ouch. Yes, mother. I promise to speak up if I start feeling unwell.”

“See?”

“I hope you aren’t feeling too badly about the Moody thing.”

Remus shook his head. “I’d already resigned myself to certain things. Moody was simply confirmation. Finding out that he was Albus’s McNair, though. . . .”

Brand tilted his head at the folder. “Are you already aware of what’s in here?”

“Yes. The new information today was Severus’s report. Your father badly wanted to know how the missions went, so when you didn’t wake up yesterday he went ahead with a meeting to hear us out.”

“Am I going to fall asleep reading through it?”

Remus grinned. “Probably not, though I wouldn’t say there’s anything earth shattering. If Albus has some sort of a master plan, Moody didn’t know about it. There wasn’t much of anything that Severus couldn’t have told us, which I find odd. While I didn’t expect to be told much, the fact that neither of them do either says that Albus is either very tightlipped, or clueless and trading on his reputation.”

“Well, I’ll read it over in a bit, then. Though. . . .” Brand paused and gave Remus a speculative look. “If Tonks didn’t actually report the whole story about you, I wonder what will happen at the Granger home this evening. Sort of makes me want to go hide behind a convenient bush or something just to see what they do.”

“I wouldn’t recommend it. You know as well as I do that they’ll be prepared. It shouldn’t matter that Severus didn’t tell Albus anything. He may assume Severus wasn’t summoned or that the information was a red herring to begin with, especially since I went missing and I was the person to originally bring it back.”

“Yes, it could have been a test. We spotted you lurking and allowed false information to drop, then confirmed it to Severus, who naturally was none the wiser. Then we presumably captured you, interrogated you, and so on, and didn’t go through with it because we had never planned to in the first place. Of course, that might lead Dumbledore to believe that the information Severus brings back should be taken with a grain of salt. Or, what was said earlier—we saw you leaving too late and captured you to find out what you heard, and realizing that you knew our plans and had passed them on, decided to axe them.”

“Well, Severus does have that portkey.”

Brand made a face. “I brought that up with father, actually. I may be concerned over nothing, but if Dumbledore were to be really suspicious, he might stun first and ask questions later. Severus might not have the chance to use his portkey.” He almost smiled at the expression that flitted across Remus’s face. “I made a few suggestions concerning the Dark Mark and such.”

“You’re really amazing in some respects, Brand,” Remus remarked. “You hated the man with a passion when you were, er, younger, but now?”

Brand shrugged and said, “Yes, but I had a chance to start over, start fresh. That meant everyone, Moony. He really is a decent person, and frankly, he took the news extremely well when I told him who I used to be. How could I not appreciate that?” Then he paused and let a deliberately sly smile light his face. “He’s also a very good kisser, but don’t you dare tell him I told you that.”

“What!?”