Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 19 :: Just Dinner II

19 • Just Dinner II

She did not ask the expected question. Instead, she took several moments to look at her companions a second time, then shook her head and lifted her fork. With every appearance of calm, she began to eat. The others followed suit, so Brand did as well, casually asking Severus a minute later, “And did you speak with Joshua?”

“Yes. I believe he was quite relieved that the question of guardianship has been dealt with.”

“Would you like me to create connecting doors, or assign you different quarters?”

“Doors would suffice, Brand.”

He nodded. “I’ll take care of it tomorrow, then.”

“When do you want me to begin lessons?” Remus asked just as casually.

Brand arched a brow at Severus and shrugged.

“Not until the normal time, if you please,” Severus said. “He should have his holiday just like any other child.”

“All right,” Remus said equitably. “Dare I hope that you’ll provide me with what you consider to be adequate plans for Potions?”

“Naturally. It was not your strongest subject, after all.”

Remus grinned and waggled his fork at Severus. “Be nice.”

“I?”

Brand was amused to note that Hermione was following the conversation surreptitiously, or so she thought. Her expression betrayed her reaction to what she was hearing, practically shouting at anyone with the wit to interpret. “You can use what’s already set up, Moony. I’m sure it will be no trouble to construct a greenhouse as well.”

At that Hermione’s head came up. “How dare you call him that?”

“He dares because I’m fine with it, Hermione,” Remus said firmly. “You’ll understand well enough once we’ve finished eating.” Then he turned to Brand and smiled. “That would be nice. I can probably conduct most of his lessons in the gardens, actually.”

“In what, dark magic?” she accused.

“Miss Granger,” Severus said in a chill, clipped voice, “you would do well to actually display that vaunted intelligence of yours.”

“I actually trusted you,” she said tersely. “And you,” she said to Remus.

“Miss Granger,” interjected Draco, “if you cannot be civil, I will silence you for the remainder of the meal.”

Brand shot Draco a look, then said, “Since you seem adverse to the idea of polite conversation during dinner, I will begin perhaps a bit earlier than I had anticipated. I was not entirely lying when I said you would be meeting your potential colleagues, Miss Granger.”

She sat up straight as a grimace twisted her face. “Potential colleagues!? You don—” She stopped as Draco shifted in his chair. “I see,” she said after a moment.

“Whether you wish to accept it or not, more than half of the ministry belongs to us. I purposely took the place of Bentley for your interview, and personally made sure that you would be hired on. Bentley is, without doubt, enjoying a lovely home-cooked meal with his wife and children as we speak.” Then, an impish smile crossed his face as he turned to Draco. “You might be interested to know that Miss Granger asked if my wife would be joining us.”

To Hermione’s obvious surprise, Draco burst out laughing, as did Remus. Even Severus smiled. After getting himself under control Draco said, “I hope you don’t expect me to wear a dress anytime soon, Brand.”

He smirked. “Now that you mention it . . . no. I don’t think I could handle you in drag.” He turned back to Hermione and said, “In any case, you were brought here this evening so that certain truths could be revealed to you. Things that all of us think you would be interested to know. Some of those things concern your dear friend Harry Potter.”

“What do I need to know? You killed him.”

“In a manner of speaking, yes. You’re quite right. You sit there, at this moment, secure in the belief that Lord Voldemort is evil. That we killed Harry Potter. That Severus and Remus are traitors. As for Draco, you never liked him anyway. Would it interest you to know, Miss Granger, that it was Draco who suggested we contact you?”

The surprise was back, followed by wariness.

“Draco is quite aware of what Harry means to you, and you to him.”

“You make it sound like Harry is still alive. But I watched him die.”

Draco rolled his eyes dramatically. “Ever heard of illusions, Granger? Polyjuice?”

She retreated to her meal, so they resumed their own. When she was done, Brand snapped his fingers again. “Maer, would you be so kind as to have this cleared away? Thank you.”

Then he stood and approached the sideboard, crouching down to open the doors and pull out several pensieves. After placing them on the table he said, “As you can see, Miss Granger, these are empty. And, as you’ve already determined, we are who we claim to be. While I do not expect you to trust either myself or Draco, I would expect you would at least hear Remus out. Either way, you’ll be gifted with a few memories to watch and digest. Moony?”

Remus nodded and stood as Brand resumed his seat. “Hermione, I expect that you’re as confused as I was the day I was captured. Of course, I was sent here to spy. The only reason I’m alive is because of Brand. Because of the circumstances I was given a choice, and I chose to remain once I realized what Albus was up to.”

“Professor Dumbledore?”

“Yes. He is not the man you think he is, Hermione. It was a harsh truth for me to accept.” She shook her head stubbornly. “And I can see it will be just as harsh for you. However, if you cannot accept the truth, Brand will be true to his word. You’ll be allowed to leave, unharmed. You simply won’t remember anything of what happened here.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and tightened her mouth.

Remus sighed and pulled one of the pensieves over to him, then began transferring memories to it. When he was done he pushed it to her. “See for yourself, if you dare.”

She gave him a distrustful look, but entered.

“What’d you place inside?” Brand asked.

“A number of things, some of which is supposed to establish that I really am Remus. Aside from that? Seeing you in the audience chamber, when I was confined and you came for me, but not what I saw in your suite, or even afterward. Not yet, anyway. Our visit to the twins. What Albus said to me and the conversation that followed here. My second capture, and Percy. Things like that.”

Brand nodded. “She’ll be very confused. Severus, you brought veritaserum, right?”

“Of course.”

It was quite some time before she emerged, and by then Remus and Draco had started a game of Exploding Snap while Brand and Severus talked quietly. She worried her lower lip before saying, “You would have me believe that Professor Dumbledore is a monster.”

“That is for you to decide,” Brand said, catching her attention. “Would you care to see more?” Hermione gave the barest of nods, so he continued, “Some of this may overlap,” as he pulled an empty pensieve to him. As Remus began retrieving his memories from the first, Brand added his to the second, then pushed it at her. He had included what Remus had not.

When she did emerge her eyes were both troubled and hopeful, wary and confused. “You would have me believe that you used to be Harry.”

“Yes. Either Remus is completely insane and we all share a common delusion, or it’s the truth. Obviously, I proved it to his satisfaction.”

“And the whole reason you’re here is because wizarding folk abhor homosexuality.”

Brand smiled. “Not exactly. Maybe my memories weren’t clear enough. I’m here because of what Dumbledore did to me. Remus is here because Dumbledore was willing to have him killed as being no longer useful. Severus is here because Dumbledore cannot be trusted, but I can be. Do you think that Dumbledore can be trusted, Hermione?”

She turned to Draco. “You mentioned illusions and polyjuice. How do I know these memories aren’t staged with clever tricks? And why would you, of all people, want me on this side? Is it so sweet to watch me flounder?”

Draco sighed and yanked a pensieve over, dropping a single memory into it. As he pushed it over he said to Brand, “You’re going to pay for this one.”

“I’m all a’quiver.”

She was back in minutes, giving Draco a very strange look as he retrieved his memory.

“Don’t obsess over it, Granger,” he said shortly.

Brand was very curious, but chose to wait until later to bring it up with his mate. “Questions so far?”

She nodded sharply. “The same. How do I know this isn’t a bunch of clever tricks?”

“Would veritaserum change your mind?” he offered.

“How would I know it was real?” she countered.

Brand slapped his forehead in exasperation.

“If you prefer, we can adjourn to the lab and you can brew your own supply, Miss Granger,” Severus said.

“That would take hours.”

“How kind of you to notice.”

“Severus,” Brand growled.

“Or, you could submit to a small test of what I brought with me.”

Surprisingly, she nodded. “Fine. There’s every chance I’ll end up dead anyway, so why not?”

Brand gave a sigh of relief and nodded.

“Then I expect you will do your best to lie, Miss Granger,” Severus said as he stood and rounded the table. After letting her examine the vial, he administered three drops. When her eyes went slightly glazed in appearance, he nodded at Remus.

“What is your name?” Remus asked.

“Hermione Jane Granger,” she replied with a slight frown.

“Were you surprised when you and your parents were not attacked on the evening of the eighth?”

“Yes.”

Remus paused, then asked, “Were you proud of being able to brew polyjuice potion in your second year?”

“Yes.”

“Are you satisfied that this veritaserum is genuine?”

“Yes.”

“Severus?”

Severus administered the antidote, then waited. Eventually she shook her head and looked up again, clear eyed. “All right,” she said, then pointed at Brand.

He shrugged and nodded at Severus, who came to his side to administer the potion.

“What name were you born with?” she asked.

“Harry James Potter.” He thought it was an interesting experience to be under the influence of veritaserum, though he was not actively trying to struggle against the effects.

“Why did you turn yourself over to Voldemort?”

“Because Dumbledore made it very plain to me that I was simply his pawn, to be used and thrown away when my purpose was done with. He was not willing to believe that I could remain silent about being homosexual and chained me as a result. I felt at that time that it was better to die at the hands of Voldemort than to live any more of the lie.”

“Why didn’t you talk to me? Tell me?”

“Dumbledore could hear every word that I spoke until father removed his spell. If Dumbledore had known you were aware of what he called my deviant nature, you might have been hurt as well. I could not stand to have that on my conscience and thought it was better in the long run for you to believe I was dead, especially if you were as against homosexuality as the wizarding world.”

“You could have written it down,” she hissed, then asked, “Why didn’t you?”

“You might have turned on me, as he did. We always thought that if there was one person who could be trusted, it was Dumbledore. I was too afraid to let you know.”

Her expression softened slightly. “Why am I here?”

“Because you deserve to know the truth, and make your own choices. It was worth the risk to see if I could get my sister back.”

Her lip trembled at that and her eyes became rather shiny. After a moment, wherein she dropped her eyes, she said softly, “Professor Snape, I’m done.”

Brand accepted the antidote, absently pleased at her reaction, and glad that in a few moments he would no longer be drugged. Severus returned to his seat, vials vanishing somewhere in his cloak. A minute later Brand blinked several times and tilted his head. “Hermione?”

When she didn’t respond he moved to kneel by her chair. “Hermione?” he asked again, more softly.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, reaching out to wrap her arms around him. “I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you.”

“Hey, it’s okay. It’s a crazy thing to have to accept,” he said as quietly, reaching up to stroke her hair. They stayed like that for several minutes, him not minding at all that his shoulder was getting wet, until she pulled away and wiped at her eyes.

“Why do you look like that?” she asked in a shaky voice.

He grinned up at her. “Don’t you think it would have made the world a bit nuts if Harry Potter was seen prancing around as an evil minion? But to answer your question, I’m a metamorphmagus, like Tonks.”

She gave him a tremulous smile. “I’m not sure I can go back,” she confessed. “I want to scratch his eyes out.”

Brand chortled and shrugged. “He’ll get his, though I admit that might be fun to watch. You can stay if you want, but you’d have to send a message to your parents.”

“I—Voldemort?”

“That is not a concern, Miss Granger,” Severus interjected. “He was all for this plan, if I recall correctly.”

“Would you like to meet him?” Brand offered tentatively. “I promise you, he’s not what he’s been painted as.”

Hermione glanced over at Remus, who was nodding, then back at Brand. “O-okay.”

Brand smiled and rose, then bent over to kiss her forehead. As he gestured at the doors he sent, :Father?:

:Yes, son?:

:Would you like to join us, please? She’s a bit shaky, but she’s willing to be introduced.:

:I will be there momentarily.:

Brand took the seat next to Hermione. “He’ll be here shortly.”

“How?” she asked.

Brand tapped the side of his head. “You know that I could share his experiences, and he could send me dreams. Turns out, I can talk with father telepathically as well. It’s quite handy.”

Just then one of the doors opened and Voldemort stepped in, closing it behind him before advancing further into the room. “Miss Granger, a pleasure to meet you.”

She, unlike Remus, went with the tried and true. “Good evening, sir.”

Voldemort pulled out the chair Brand had originally been using and seated himself. “I can see that you are quite curious about certain things, Miss Granger. You may ask.”

She started slightly, then settled as Brand laid a hand over hers. “You . . . look different, sir.”

Voldemort gave a faint shrug. “As I recall, Brand made a rather snide remark about my appearance the day he came to me.” He flashed her a small smile and continued, “So I decided to remedy that, for his sake.”

“I’m muggle-born, sir.”

“Yes. But you are important to Brand, and that is what matters. There is more to it than that, but I think it would be easier on you if he were to explain in more detail. There are a great number of things you would want to know that would affect your upcoming decisions, young lady. You may find that you do not agree with our vision. Despite that, you are more than welcome to stay if you wish.”

Her brows drew together, but she nodded.

“I would advise,” he continued, “that you do stay overnight at the very least. I think Brand would be devastated if you did not.” Then he turned to Brand and said, “I trust you will be protecting her mind, son.”

“Of course, father. I didn’t interrupt anything did I?”

Voldemort flicked his fingers. “A meeting with Lucius. Don’t worry about it. I told him it would only be a few minutes. And on that note, I will take my leave. Enjoy your stay, Miss Granger.” He rose and inclined his head, then swept off.

Hermione turned to him and said, “My mind?”

Brand nodded. “Protection, so that you cannot be forced to spill any of our secrets. If you mean to stay, and by that I don’t necessarily mean move here, then I would need to protect you.”

“May I borrow an owl?”

“How about something a little quicker? I know you aren’t all that keen on house-elves, Hermione, but an owl might take long enough to seriously worry your parents. Either that, or one of us could deliver a message.”

She gave him a slightly accusatory look, then said, “They know about house-elves, so they wouldn’t be startled. I don’t understand how one would find them, though.”

“How did Dobby find me originally?” he countered. “Come on, let’s all go up to my suite. It’s more comfortable.” He rose and took her hand as Remus grabbed the pensieves, and led her off to his suite.

Though they had encountered several people along the way, not one of them recognized her due to his unobtrusive use of illusion to disguise her features. Once inside his suite he dragged her over to the couch and flopped down beside her. “Oh, paper.”

Draco rolled his eyes and produced both paper and a muggle pen, handing them to Hermione. She dashed off a note and folded it, then looked at Brand, who snapped his fingers.

“Hermione, this is Maer. Maer, this is my good friend Hermione. We were hoping you would consent to deliver a message to her parents for us.”

“Certainly, master. Maer is being happy to.”

After giving Brand another dark look Hermione held out the note and said, “Thank you, Maer. I appreciate your help.”

“Miss Hermione is welcome,” Maer replied as he accepted the paper, then popped out.

“Harry, really,” Hermione said, but stopped when he pressed a finger to her lips.

“That, unfortunately, cannot be allowed.”