Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 23 :: Take Down

23 • Take Down

“My lord, what happens if someone were to cast an identity spell on, say, a disguised twin?” Draco asked softly as they were emerging into the gardens.

Brand chuckled. “Something annoying, actually. They’d get back a response that essentially said, ‘Lord Brand’s Private Guard.’”

Draco snickered and nodded. “Just wondering, my lord.”

“When I sat down to consider the issue of disguising sis, I asked myself all the questions I could think of, ways that people could get past it. It was only the map I hadn’t bothered with yet. But, if you think of other things, I know you’ll mention them.”

“Of course, my lord.”

Brand headed toward his favorite spot and flung himself down onto the springy moss. Draco immediately sat down with his back against the tree and patted his lap invitingly, so Brand moved so his head was resting on its new pillow, then snapped his fingers.

“Maer, would you be so kind as to request that Remus join us here, please?”

“Yes, master,” said Maer, then popped away.

They stayed like that in tranquil silence, Draco running his fingers through Brand’s hair, until Remus strolled in and folded himself down a seated position on the moss, taking care to stay in the shade cast by the massive oak. “Brand, Draco.”

After making several peculiar gestures Brand launched into a lazy discussion of real estate, grimacing frequently when he realized how complicated it could be for a muggle to purchase a home, or a wizard in the muggle world.

“My first suggestion would be to take a walk through that area, disguised, to see if there are any signs up. It would give you an idea of what estate agents to speak with, but aside from that, walk into one in that area, or several, posing as a student doing research. You could get a very good idea of costs. After that, well, it’s a matter of convincing people to sell, whether they’ve got their eye on a different home or not. And, I suppose once you do have them in your pocket, some of your people can start quietly tailing Order members, at least until one or two of them get the idea they’re being followed.”

“That might cause a problem,” objected Draco. “If they’re sure, or fairly sure, they’re being followed, they might abandon the house. Part of the fun, I’d say, is destroying the place and having them scramble for a new one.”

“I suppose so,” said Remus mildly.

The next hour or so was spent discussing babies. The lady in the tower was due sometime in May of the next year, as was Narcissa. Brand supposed that more than one spell had been involved in order to assure such felicity so quickly. He also briefly pondered over what kind of a woman would willingly bear a child for an unknown man’s benefit, then dismissed it from his mind. For all he knew she was an impoverished widow of good breeding, and with no family left to help support her.

Severus appeared not long after, causing Draco to convulse slightly in silent laughter. “Gentlemen,” he said in greeting. “My lord, I had a question for you, if that’s all right.”

“Certainly, and we’re warded. What’s on your mind?” he asked lazily.

Severus nodded and said, “If Severus Snape is dead, are parents taking over as interim contacts?”

“Yes. They’ll have to. Father has already said he’ll speak with their parents. I need to talk to the children. They’ll be here for another few days, though, so we’ll just go over it on Monday.”

Severus took a seat, carefully folding his legs and maintaining a rigidly straight back, as Remus said, “I’m glad you stopped by. I was curious to know if you spoke to Joshua this morning.”

Severus arched a brow. “I have,” he confirmed.

“I was hoping he would be pleased to know that you won’t be returning to the castle.”

“He is.”

“That’s great. Then perhaps I won’t have to risk my sanity trying to teach him Potions, Severus,” Remus said with a grin.

Severus shifted a little, a faint look of disdain crossing his face. “Agreed. I would be a far better person to instruct him on those matters, though I am sure you would do a superior job over, say”—he paused—“our dear Lord Brand.” A second later he let out an undignified yelp and glared at Brand.

“You really need to ration that particular truth, Sev,” Brand said lazily. “I can see I’m going to have to find something to needle you about just to even up the score. A stinging hex just isn’t the same, don’t you think?”

Severus snorted and lifted his chin. “Hardly a fair return.”

“Yes, well, you know what they say about a battle of the wits with an unarmed opponent. I’ll have to find some ammunition, I think.” He smirked, then said, “Seriously, though. If Joshua is happy about this, that’s good, and it means that you, Severus, can mellow a little, perhaps. For all I care, you can keep right on teaching Potions if that pleases you, here and when we relocate. You might even consider trying your hand at authoring a few textbooks under your new name.”

Brand was not surprised when Severus became thoughtful at that and added, “You might also consider it, Moony. There’s nothing wrong with making annotations to the texts you use and thinking about how you could write them better or more clearly.”

Then he brightened up enough to laugh softly. “Severus.”

“Yes?”

“Well, if you won’t be returning to Hogwarts, I suppose I can tell you what I would not from before about the old man. Hopefully you’ll think it’s amusing. Remember how we’ve been talking about hurting the reputation of the Order and such? I wanted to hurt the old man, preferably badly, before I kill him, so. . . .”

Severus’s reaction was to smirk nastily, but rather than commenting on the idea he turned to Remus after a minute and said, “I was hoping you might consider doing me a favor.”

Remus in turn quirked up one brow in a show of interest.

“Considering that some of us here have a rather odd sense of humor, perhaps you would be willing to do a bit of creative artwork on the next full moon.”

Remus furrowed his brow in thought, and even Brand was having trouble following what Severus was getting at. Suddenly Remus brightened and smiled. “Are you sure? That is a bit of a sore spot, understandably.”

“Indeed. However, in this instance I think it would be . . . sadistically ironic. We have intimated that you might be used as a weapon of sorts, so why not for this particular playlet?”

Brand cleared his throat and stared. “Would either of you like to clue me in?”

“It’s very simple,” Remus said. “Back in the day, you know that Severus was almost killed by me through no fault of my own. So, if it were true that Lord Voldemort were to cotton on to the fact that Severus is a traitor. . . .”

“What better way to kill him than to make him relive one of his worst moments,” said Draco.

Severus nodded. “You could maul the golem. We leave that at my manor along with another note. I would need to stay on the estate as soon as I’ve finished clearing out my valuables, but it goes almost without saying that most of what resides there can be replaced, and it should not appear too suspicious that certain things are missing, if they even knew what to look for.”

Draco shrugged and said, “I would like to think our lord would take anything that might be of use to him.”

“Are you really okay with this?” Brand asked Severus. “I know, you’re the one suggesting it, but. . . .”

“It’s the past,” Severus said simply. “All I would need to do is write up something appropriate.”

“If you’re sure, I don’t object.”

“If that’s what you think would make the most impact, I’ll do it. Though, I admit it might actually be fun were it a golem of Peter.”

“I’m sure I could arrange that if it means so much to you,” Brand said dryly. “I’ll let father know, in any case.”

*

Brand took the time to visit Hermione and retrieve her necklace, then sat with Draco in their suite while he worked on that and the items for the twins. “It would be nice if Tonks would supply something.”

“Forget about Tonks,” Draco said. “Do you even know the name of the lady in the tower?”

Brand shook his head. “And I don’t really want to know. You know I’m not comfortable with any of this. Can you really see me cradling a baby and feeding it from a bottle?”

“You won’t be alone, Brand. You might find that you enjoy it.”

Brand snorted. “I’ll believe that when it happens. I didn’t have the best childhood.”

“No, you didn’t. On the other hand, you got to see two extremes. Surely you can manage to navigate down the middle between what you were forced to deal with and what your cousin got, right?”

Brand set down the necklace he was holding and stared at Draco. It did rather make sense when he thought about it, though he wondered if his mate’s issues would lean more toward being able to show affection and expressing himself openly. Then again, he had not yet managed to say those three words to anyone but his father and Remus.

“Is it going to be a problem if we do things Severus’s way?” Draco asked, changing the subject.

“I don’t see—oh, right. The next full moon isn’t until the sixth of September. Why didn’t you bring this up then?” he asked as he picked up one of the rings.

“It didn’t occur to me then, obviously.” Draco sneered at him. “Of course, you could manufacture a rumor which indicates that our lord has found a way to force a transformation and that Severus ended up being the lucky test subject.”

“Or make it quite plain that Severus has been found out and tossed in the dungeons, his body to be found later. Sometimes I wonder why we bother making plans at all. Every time I turn around one of you lot pokes a gaping hole into them.”

“I aim to be of service, my lord,” was the sarcastic response.

“Really? Perhaps I should send you to speak to father, then.”

“There are limits, you know.”

Brand smiled and set down the ring, then rose long enough to secure paper and a pen. He dashed off a note and called for Maer to deliver it, then set back to work on the ring. “We’ll see what Severus has to say about it first. After all, he would normally be heading back to the school shortly, and we can’t have that happen now. Perhaps we could stage a very public kidnapping?”

“That might be fun,” Draco said cheerfully. “I don’t know if Severus would appreciate it much, though, but I wouldn’t let a minor detail like that stop you.”

“What, that he would have to be seen in public being taken down? What a blow to his pride, I imagine. Draco, do you think those two are ever going to . . . make a move?”

“Eventually, I hope. I’d put my money on it being Remus, though, even if we do see Severus popping up all over the place wherever your godfather happens to be. I’m not sure that Severus realizes what he’s doing.”

Maer popped back into the room and held out a folded piece of parchment for Brand. “Thank you, Maer,” he said as he set the ring on the table and took the note.

Lord Brand,

While there are no doubt countless buffoons in the wizarding community which would fall for a rumor such as that with the same ease that a hawk stoops on prey, I rather think that Dumbledore would not be quite so easily persuaded.

By all means, arrange to publicly kidnap me, preferably as I am making my way from Hogsmeade to the school, having been foolish enough to choose that route over the possibly more safe choice of entering via the forest.

Your servant,
Severus Snape

“Well, that answers that question,” Brand said as he handed the note to his mate.

*

Brand slipped into a seat across from his father and smiled. “So who would you like to be the lucky persons kidnapping dear Severus?”

“You, of course. Though, to make it look good, you ought to take several people with you. While I very much doubt that Severus would complain to me about being taken down by a single man, I am sure he would be thinking it.”

“All right. I would not be surprised if he takes all of tomorrow to go after whatever is in his house.”

Voldemort shook his head. “It would make sense given that he is to return on Monday.” He aimed an innocent smile at Brand and continued, “You know, son, you cheated our people out of a grand show when you decided to finalize that mark on Draco in private.”

Brand pushed his chair back and stared at his father with wide eyes. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“You don’t like the idea?” Voldemort said teasingly. “Just think of how much fun it could be.”

“Father,” Brand said casually as he fiddled with his fork, “there’s this ancient curse I stumbled over recently that I’ve been wanting to test out. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to sit still for a few moments so I can get my aim perfect. . . .”

Voldemort chuckled and snapped his fingers, then began to dish food onto his plate once it appeared. “I don’t think so.”

Brand sniffed and lifted his chin. “You never let me have any fun at all.” After dishing up his own plate he said, “I’m grateful that we shan’t have to worry about Severus’s safety any longer. He’s turned out to be a good friend.”

“Thanks to you. But I agree, though I doubt anyone would presume to call themselves a friend to me.”

Brand fluttered his lashes and said, “I would . . . daddy.” He ducked to the side as Voldemort shot a hex at him, then clapped, saying, “Ooo, a sugar daddy! Hey, father, do I actually have any money, or am I poor?”

Voldemort sighed and pursed his lips briefly. “You could at least stay still long enough for me to connect. And yes, you do have money. You have more money than you know what to do with. All you need to do is ask.”

“You are my friend, aren’t you? I know it’s terribly unfashionable to be friends with a parent and all, but really, who ever said I was normal?”

Voldemort cracked a smile. “Yes, son. But if you ever call me daddy again, I shall refuse to speak to you for a week. Why, pray tell, do you care about money?”

“Just curious, I suppose,” Brand said with a shrug. “I never really thought about it before. I’ve no idea how much money Harry had for that matter.” He set down his fork and scratched his head. “I wonder sometimes, if James and Lily would have hated me.”

“Is there any real point to such speculations?”

“No, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering occasionally. Don’t you ever wonder about your own parents?”

“My own father could not stand the sight of me and never did love my mother. She tricked him, in point of fact, by use of love potions. Unfortunately for her, she decided one day that it was possible he had come to love her without such help and released him from the effects of her machinations. He left shortly thereafter, wanting nothing to do with her. She refused to live past my birth, or so I’m told. It was hardly surprising to have ended up in an orphanage at that point.”

Brand blinked. “How did you find out?”

“Simple investigation, and misuse of my abilities, naturally. I could claim that the insanity which runs in my family prompted my choice to kill my father and grandfather, but I’m not so sure that would be entirely accurate. To this day I have not decided if I am more upset at having been given the man’s name, or that I was his virtual twin in looks.”

“That’s rather scary, actually,” Brand said with a frown. “I was nearly a clone of James. What happens if my own child. . . .”

“We will deal with that when the time comes, Brand. There is no sense in dwelling on it now, and, you must remember that you also resembled me in my younger days quite a bit, though not nearly so much as you did James. I would not worry about it.”

“All right, father. You do have an excellent point.”

*

By the time Monday morning rolled around, Brand was ready to pursue the aim of kidnapping Severus right out from under Dumbledore’s nose. He was lying in wait not far from the train station in Hogsmeade with Draco and Remus, each of them heavily disguised under their masks and robes just in case.

Draco and Remus both had flash bombs ready to be thrown and Brand had already warded them against the effects; he would not have approved their use otherwise. Brand was ready to produce illusory Death Eaters to further confuse the issue, and make it less likely that one of them would get hit by any stray hexes.

The train could be seen in the distance, its smokestack puffing away valiantly as it chugged ever nearer along the tracks, so Brand turned to his companions and nodded. “All right, let’s make this look good. Mustn’t let his ego get too badly wounded.”

Snickers issued from beneath the masks of the other two.

“Just stick with the plan. If something goes horribly wrong, one of you lob a flash bomb early.”

They nodded so Brand crept off to rendezvous with the house-elves who had volunteered for this mission. “Right, you lot. I’m going to set up the illusions now. Keep with them and use your own magic to harass the staff members just like we discussed. As soon as we have our target I’ll make the illusions scatter and appear to retreat. You can go home, then, okay? Just make sure all of you do, so stay in pairs if necessary.”

The house-elves nodded in unison and grinned. Brand thought it was rather spooky the way they did that, though it was a definite bonus that some of the estate staff was willing to come have a bit of harmless fun as a change from their regular duties. That they were so small made it very unlikely that anyone would actually hit them, especially as they would be making it appear as though the illusions were the ones casting spells.

As soon as he was ready Brand gave them a final nod and crept off, this time to a vantage point approximately midway between the elves and his family. He was counting heavily on Draco and Remus to take down Severus from behind as he himself would be intensely caught up in directing his fake Death Eaters’ actions.

The train pulled into the station with a long sounding of its whistle and within a minute staff members began to file off and collect on the platform, breaking away in small groups to head toward the waiting carriages. At that point Brand gestured, using both hands to orchestrate his attack.

Several staff members went down like lead as house-elves fired their version of a stunner off, and that made all of them already disembarked turn toward the source of danger to see a cadre of white-masked, black-cloaked figures weaving in and out of cover farther down the road as they crept closer.

One of the professors—Brand thought it had to be McGonagall—shot off a patronus toward the school, then darted toward the Death Eaters, rallying the others. Brand would have laughed if he dared at the sight of the tartan-clad lady leaping into battle.

As planned, Severus was the last person actually off the train, appearing to hesitate once he saw what was waiting for him. To anyone else watching, they might have wondered if he was divided between several possible reactions, not knowing who he would be exposing his loyalties to. A split second later saw him begin to race toward the battle only to be felled by a cast of cruciatus.

The other staff members were far enough away so as to not be able to see clearly who was attacking Severus, though they could certainly hear his broadcasted agony at having been caught unaware from the back. They immediately formed something of a circle, near half of them facing the illusions and some toward Severus, the odd one or two protecting each flank.

Unfortunately for them, anyone who dared to dart forward in an attempt to drag Severus into cover was picked off by either Draco or Remus (Brand couldn’t tell which) in between short bursts of cruciatus as the other one began using a summoning charm to drag Severus toward them inch by inch after having accio’d his wand. As soon as he was close enough the summoner darted forward and slapped him with a portkey, then threw a flash bomb at the center of the opposition.

The moment Severus vanished Brand sent his illusions into full retreat and began making his way toward his family. The Dark Mark was cast into the air, then all three vanished from sight and ran full tilt for the nearest building and around the back, then up onto the roof in order to be able to watch to see what happened then.

“I really hope Severus is in a forgiving mood,” Draco whispered.

“We can certainly hope, “ Brand whispered back.

The figure nodded. “Luckily I didn’t have to keep him under long. I think I shall avoid him for a day or so.”

“I hope to hell those house-elves got home okay,” Remus whispered, then pointed toward the road. “There’s Albus.”

“A bit late, isn’t he?” whispered Draco snidely. “Imagine that.”

“A shame Trelawney wasn’t on that train,” Brand whispered back. “I’d have liked to have seen her get blasted. Mm, too bad we can’t hear what they’re saying.”

“Dare we hope they enjoy the blindness and headache as much as you did?” Remus asked.

Brand snorted softly. “We’ll stay a few more minutes, then go. I don’t think we’re actually going to learn anything here. However, if the old man calls a meeting, which I suspect he will, perhaps our friend can fill us in on the results of this mission from their point of view.”

It became quickly apparent that Albus was doing nothing more than assisting staff members to the carriages along with those who had been facing the wrong way when the bomb went off and could still see. Within minutes there was little of interest to see, so they returned to the estate.

:Father?:

:I won’t even ask which one of you did it. Come to the meeting room.:

“Uh oh. I can’t tell if father is upset about that curse or not,” Brand said. “We’re to go to the meeting room.”

Severus was sporting an exceptionally nasty scowl when they entered the room, which didn’t bode well. Brand thought it was probably just as well that it had been Draco who had cursed him, as it might have set back the burgeoning relationship between Severus and Remus otherwise.

“I do hope you’re all right, Severus,” Brand said in a concerned tone once he had seated himself. “I’m afraid a stunner just wouldn’t have had the right effect. If you want to get angry with anyone, please blame me.” He slipped his hands to either side under the table and nudged his companions. A second later a wand was slipped into his hand.

Brand stood up and moved around the table, stopping beside Severus and handing over the man’s wand. Severus snatched it back, so Brand meekly returned to his usual seat at the other end of the table and sat down.

“All right, gentlemen. Let’s hear how you think it went,” Voldemort said.

Brand began, saying, “First”—he snapped his fingers and addressed Maer—“has the entire contingent arrived back safely?”

Maer nodded and popped out, so Brand looked back at his father. “As far as I could tell, the illusions worked perfectly, father. Those combined with the house-elves appeared as nothing less than actual Death Eaters. I sensed and saw no evidence that the targets believed them to be deceptions. It was more difficult than I expected to control so many and keep them out of the line of fire, but I managed. I’m hoping that Tonks will be able to fill us in on just how well we pulled this off once the old man has called a meeting to discuss the attack and she can get back to us.” He turned to Draco and nodded.

“My lord, from our vantage point, we concur on the matter of the illusions. As far as the remainder of the mission went, the cruciatus curse was chosen as the best way of disabling Severus from behind. A stunner would have merely dropped him, whereas the curse made sure the targets were aware of his peril. Once he was down, his wand was summoned, he was spelled closer to us, and the portkey used. At that point Lord Brand dispersed the illusions as we set off the flash bomb to further confuse the issue. The Dark Mark was sent up, and we retreated to our spy point.”

“Unfortunately, sir,” Remus said, “we could not ascertain what they were saying. Albus did finally arrive, but all we witnessed was an effort to get the staff members into the carriages and up to the castle. We left at that point to return here. However, due to the formation they chose, I have no doubt that they witnessed the kidnapping as we wished.”

Voldemort nodded and turned to gaze at Severus, who reached into one of his pockets and produced a sheet of parchment. “My lord, the draft.”

Voldemort took it and began to read, chuckling occasionally, then sent it down the table to Brand.

We find ourselves utterly delighted at the realization that the leader of the Light does not make sure that his people are adequately protected, even now. Lives really are cheap for you, aren’t they? It seems to us that the Light’s offers of safety are mere rhetoric. Oddly enough, that appears to march well with the late Cornelius Fudge’s way of doing things, so he must have been a great loss to the forces of Light.

Mind you, it was difficult to bide our time in this matter, having learned from that unfortunate werewolf that our dear Severus was, in fact, a traitor, as well as from that foolish ex-auror. Or, is it that you are still unaware of his fate? We’re sure if you search hard enough, you might just find a trace of his passing, but we wouldn’t count on it.

Granted, we were slightly annoyed at having to forego our original plans, but we believe we have more than made up for it with this particular offering. No refunds, we’re afraid. All purchases are final.

In any case, we certainly hope you enjoy our little present after we went to so much trouble to arrange it. We thought it made for delicious irony, and naturally made sure that our pet was alive for long enough to provide us with this amusement. Until next time.

Brand looked up at Severus and smiled, saying, “You had way too much fun with this,” then turned to his father and said, “Do you think we should also provide a golem of Remus, father, to lend credence to the idea that he is also dead? This does infer that he already is, though. You don’t think they’d attempt to storm the estate to try to get him back do you?”

Voldemort shook his head. “As Dumbledore already tried to have him killed, I doubt it. He would likely state that the risk would be too great to make the attempt. The only real objection I have to providing a second golem is that it would be riskier for Remus to leave the estate should we do so, unless he also underwent the ceremony to change his identity.”

“I . . . don’t really mind, sir,” Remus said hesitantly. “Much as I dislike the idea of having a different identity, not knowing if I’m alive or not might put other werewolves into danger should one have the misfortune of crossing Albus’s path at the wrong time. I suppose I don’t care about providing a golem of me, presumably having committed suicide in anguish over what I’d been forced to do.”

Brand tapped his chin, then said, “Any werewolf would be in danger, Moony. I don’t think it would matter if you were known to be alive or dead. If we use you as an example, it could be said that the old man considers all werewolves to be useless.”

“How so? Simply because we’re half-breeds?”

Brand shook his head. “No, not really, though I would not be surprised if that were part of it. Let’s be honest here. You’re a very intelligent man, Moony, and you were absolutely wasted in the Order. Maybe that is saying it’s because you’re a half-breed, somehow sub-human in his eyes, I don’t know. Either way, I wouldn’t be shocked if the old man would execute any werewolf who got in his way.”

He paused and shook his head again. “Maybe that is the problem—your intelligence. A stupid peon can be quite valuable if all you intend to use it for is as fodder. It wouldn’t know enough to question its orders. You are smart enough to eventually see beyond the glitter. The major reason I think you lasted as long as you did is because of your grief.”

Remus gave a half shrug. “Perhaps. I’ll go along with this without protest, though.”

“All right, gentlemen,” Voldemort said, taking back control of the conversation. “In that case we will provide two bodies. A cage can be set up in the manor for them to be found in, lending credence to the idea suggested by the letter. We’ll just change it slightly to lead them there once it’s received so our offering does not go to waste.”

“Yes, father.”

“Splendid. In that case, all of you except Brand may go.”

As soon as they had cleared the room Voldemort stood and approached his son, then said, “I lied. Which one was it?”

Brand laughed softly. “Draco, of course. We decided, without Remus’s knowledge, that is, that it would be the wisest choice. It had to be him or me, and I was otherwise occupied.”