Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 25 :: The Odd Minor Explosion

25 • The Odd Minor Explosion

Brand did visit the tunnels, as he had said he would, though he took the twins with him. And while they found that for the most part the safety cutoff valves were in good working order, several were not, necessitating a round of repairs. Of course, given that none of them were exactly mechanical wizards, magic was used to ensure that they would function properly when the time came.

Brand had every expectation that as these were a normal aspect of the tunnels, no suspicion should fall when they actually did work. One never knew, however. Once they were confident to move ahead Brand created an odd little shield of sorts in order to contain the leak he was about to cause while the twins moved a golem into place along with a number of supporting pieces of evidence.

They felt, and Voldemort had agreed, that even if that aspect of their plan amounted to nothing, it was worth the extra effort to make it appear on the surface as though a homeless person had been using the tunnels as a shelter (complete with numerous cardboard boxes, a campfire, empty tins, and even wine bottles) and had inadvertently triggered the explosion.

“Are we ready, gentlemen?” Brand asked.

“Yep,” they chorused, then clicked their heels and saluted.

Brand rolled his eyes and half covered his face, then said, “Okay. The shield I’ve put in place will hold until we get far enough away. It’s directly linked to me, so the farther away I go, the weaker it will become. Since you’ve got the fire going, I’ll start that leak, and we can get the hell out of here.”

“It’s kind of a shame,” Fred said. “I almost liked the place. I think you’re right, though, that he would laugh over this.”

Brand flashed them a lopsided grin and nodded, then turned and gestured, concentrating. The metal of one of the pipes began to corrode, then flake, and finally split, and while he could not smell anything escaping from it because of the shield, he could certainly hear it. “I think that’s enough,” he said, looking over his shoulder, “so let’s go.” After making a quick gesture to halt the progress of the corrosion, he turned fully and headed off, the twins right behind him.

They employed the first ladder up they came upon and exited, then walked quickly down one of the streets perpendicular to the tunnel they had just emerged from, pausing only long enough once they were unable to be seen to disapparate and reappear quite some distance away. Brand moved to the window of the room they were in and smiled. They had a perfect view of the area in question.

The twins broke out a set of cards and all three of them enjoyed a game of Exploding Snap while they waited for the effects of their machinations to manifest. It was surely coincidence that at the same time the cards exploded, so did a portion of London.

*

Brand was in a very good mood when he arrived back in his suite, and the first thing he did was pull Draco off the couch and engage him in a lingering kiss that very quickly threatened to get out of hand.

Draco pulled away finally and gave him a curious look, then said, “Should I be worried that you’ll become addicted to causing explosions now because they apparently make you frisky?”

Brand did not deign to answer, instead dragging Draco into the bedroom and banishing the clothes from their bodies, then pushing his mate down onto the bed. “Don’t be stupid,” he whispered just before he captured Draco’s mouth a second time, and his hands began an assault intended to firmly redirect his mate’s thoughts.

He could not get enough of the silken feel of Draco’s skin, his very unique scent, or the way that tongue moved against his own, just as Draco pressed against him almost as though he wanted to meld their bodies into one. It made him feel slightly mad. After ravaging Draco’s mouth to the point that his mate was breathless, Brand pulled back and whispered, “I ache for you so badly.”

Draco, his eyes somewhat hazy and his pale face tinted pink, half closed his eyes and nodded. “I am yours,” he murmured, then lifted his chin and licked his lips.

Brand felt as though someone had ignited a fire under his heart, one that did not burn but rather made him ache that much more intensely. Draco’s hands were quickly pinned over his head as Brand went for his neck, and a more reserved part of Brand’s mind was already casting spells. When his mate was writhing beneath him in deliciously wanton abandon, Brand withdrew his fingers and released Draco’s wrists, then sheathed himself smoothly.

*

The next morning Brand awoke to find himself wrapped around Draco. The sheets were in complete disarray and the blankets were lying in a twisted heap on the floor. A glance at the clock showed it to be well into the morning, causing Brand to heave a mental sigh; his father would surely twit him about this. Draco murmured sleepily and stirred in his arms, shifting around to face him and press a lazy kiss to the corner of his mouth.

Brand smiled and caressed the side of Draco’s face gently. “Good morning.”

“Time is it?” Draco mumbled.

“Half ten.”

“Mm, okay.” A second later Draco’s eyes popped open and he sat up abruptly. “Half ten? I was supposed to meet father at half nine!”

“My very dear Draco, I do believe you’re late, then,” said Brand with definite amusement. “I wonder how upset he’ll be with you.”

Draco turned a glare on him, then slipped off the bed with a growl and entered the bathroom.

:Father?:

:Yes, Brand?:

:I don’t suppose you’ve noticed Lucius wandering around with a scowl on his face, have you?:

:As a matter of fact, I have. However, at the moment he’s sitting with me in my public study.:

:All right.: He rose and followed Draco into the bathroom, and into the shower. “Your father is with mine presently.”

:Should I inform Lucius that Draco will be arriving shortly?:

:Yes, father, please. It should only be ten or fifteen minutes, I think.:

:Then you shall accompany him. You know, I should be upset with you, son. You ought to have reported to me when you returned rather than getting distracted by Draco.:

Brand snorted and stepped directly under the water. :I apologize, father, for being remiss in my duty.:

:Apology accepted, Brand, but do try not to get distracted in the shower, hm? I should hate to have to figure out a way to actually punish you for something.:

“Let’s hurry, Draco. They’re both waiting.”

Fifteen minutes later the two of them strolled into Voldemort’s study and Brand immediately greeted his father and father-in-law before taking a seat. The first thing out of Draco’s mouth was, “Good morning, my lord,” followed by, “I apologize, father, for keeping you waiting for so long. It was not intentional.” It wasn’t until Lucius nodded that Draco took a seat.

“I realize that the two of you have your own issues to discuss,” Voldemort said smoothly, “but as we are here presently. . . . Brand?”

“Yes, father. I will assume you have learned nothing yet from outside sources. The mission went off without a hitch to the best of my knowledge. My team went down and made sure that the valves would function as designed, then pro—” He stopped, aware of an alarm going off from his secondary map.

“What is it?”

“Ah, one moment, please, father.” After a quick check Brand snapped his fingers and gestured Maer close once he appeared, then whispered, “Escort the person presently in the restricted travel room here, please? Make sure they are disguised.”

Maer nodded and popped out, so Brand turned to Voldemort. “One of my people has arrived,” he said even as he sent, :Tonks just apparated in. I asked Maer to bring her here.:

Voldemort nodded. “Continue.”

Brand furrowed his brow, then said, “Yes, we proceeded with locating an appropriate line and setting up the evidence. Once that was accomplished, I created a shield to contain the leak while my comrades finalized the other details, then corroded the line until it split. From there, we moved to the lookout point and waited, and were gratified to see that entire area go up in flames shortly after. A discreet check a bit later on showed that the target was destroyed as planned.”

Voldemort smiled and said, “Excellent work, son. Then I expect we will soon be hearing news of the Order’s reaction.”

Maer stepped into the room and bowed, then retreated as Tonks entered. She had a somewhat nervous air about her, but said readily enough to Voldemort, “Sir.”

Brand addressed her, saying, “Is this something my father should hear, or. . . ?”

She turned, though not without Brand noticing a glance darted toward Lucius, and responded, “Sir, it is in regards to the results of your mission.”

“Please have a seat before you begin.”

Tonks walked a little stiffly over to a chair and sat down—Brand wondered if she was praying she wouldn’t trip—then said, “Sir, Dumbledore is aware of the destruction and a meeting has been called for this evening.”

“At Hogwarts, then?”

She nodded.

“Do you feel you’ll be able to safely report back on the aftermath of that meeting?” asked Voldemort.

“Yes, sir, though when depends. I am on duty tomorrow until six.”

“If the meeting does not run too late, and you’re good to return here tonight, do so. Otherwise I’ll expect you sometime tomorrow evening,” Brand said. “Would you like to stay for lunch?” he added, thinking that if she had anything she wanted to speak about privately, that would give her an easy option.

“I would like to, sir, but I can’t. I sidelined here as soon as I got the notice, but I’m really supposed to be somewhere at the moment.”

Brand nodded. “I’ll not delay you further, then. I appreciate that you detoured here to inform us.”

Tonks rose and gave everyone a nod, then slipped out, so Brand turned his gaze back to his father. “That didn’t take long.”

“Pleasingly, no. Lucius, Draco, you may go.”

“Yes, my lord.” Lucius immediately got to his feet, arched a brow at Draco, then departed. Draco followed a moment later.

Voldemort took a deep breath, glanced at Brand, then closed the door with a gesture. “You might consider asking Draco to alert Maer to days when he must specifically be up at a certain time? Lucius in a snit is not my favorite thing to deal with.”

Brand bit his lip to keep from smiling and nodded. “Of course, father,” he said, then stretched indulgently. “Mm. Would you like to come have a picnic lunch with me? I missed breakfast and I’m starving. I thought we could go sit in the garden.”

*

They ended up in Brand’s favorite spot, sitting on a blanket spread beneath the oak tree and partially in the shade. Maer had been kind enough to bring them a basket of food and drink, and Brand was presently sprawled on his back eating a piece of fried chicken.

“You will retain this place, won’t you, father?” he asked after a short silence.

“I’m sorry?”

Brand rolled over and crossed his ankles in the air, a pensive look on his face. “The estate. Even if we do go ahead with relocation, I am hoping that you retain this place. I have so many good memories here, and this place is home. I think I would be deeply upset if I could not come here when I wished. I know, it’s so much more than that, but. . . .”

“If you wish to keep it, we will. You know I would not deny you.”

Brand smiled with pleasure and had another bite of his chicken. Several moments later he said, “Yes, but I would not like to demand, either. I like that I can come out here and simply enjoy my surroundings. I know the old man knows our location, but even so, I feel safe here. Perhaps it sounds terribly homey, but I can see us taking walks in the garden of an evening, or even having more picnics. Simple things. Of course, I won’t know how I feel once we move, though I can hope we will all be comfortable.”

“Brand, I have decided on a new location.”

His head shot up in surprise. “Where?”

“After a great deal of thought, I’ve chosen the Isle of Man. Much of it is uninhabited, as you may already know, and that will give us a good starting point. However, I fully intend to stretch the limits of magic to the utmost and fashion us not only buildings on the surface, but also underwater. We would be close enough to the British community without being directly in it, so our people would easily have the option to continue to work in Britain, or transfer to jobs within the new community as they become available.”

Brand blinked slowly, considering his father’s words before responding. Finally, he latched on to the one thing that immediately stuck out in his mind. “How would that affect us in terms of banking?”

“In the beginning, it wouldn’t. I realize that you know very little of the family finances, but most of our money is not in Gringotts, though some of it is. However, once we were in a position to do so, we could approach the goblins to see if they would be willing to create and staff a bank for us. And in this case, with a much better deal than they presently enjoy.”

“Well, father, you must know that when it comes to anything financial, I haven’t a clue, and that includes most anything about the goblins themselves. Yes, I do know that they employ people like Bill Weasley and presumably gain wealth that way, but. . . . Well, I’ve never really understood how it works out that they survive when it seems as though vault holders do not pay for the privilege of their service. Or do they?”

“Part of it does come from exchanges, Brand, as well as whatever treasure the curse breakers bring in. However, the British Ministry does subsidize Gringotts. Assuming that we were able to work out a deal that satisfied both sides, I have little doubt that the goblins would serve well and happily, without the temptations of the past.”

Brand shrugged. “You’re going to have to teach me at some point, father. My ignorance of certain things is not an asset. But to change the subject slightly, if you do mean to build both above and below the surface, could we not alter our plans a bit? It seems to me, perhaps, that anything underwater might be reserved strictly for wizards only, whereas the surface territory could be mixed. It might serve to address to some degree the issue of families that either have non-magical children or . . . non-magical spouses. Granted, I would still prefer to prevent squibs in the first place, but it would give us some leeway.”

“Yes, it may at that. Though I question whether or not it would alter the dynamic in any way as far as how staunch pure-bloods view everyone else.”

Brand pursed his lips. “Do any of them even know you’re a half-blood?”

“I’m sure any number of our people have heard the rumors, Brand. How many of them suspect or know it to be the truth is something I do not know.”

“I would not wish to see you diminished in their eyes, but I allow there are times when I think it would be nice for that particular charade to end. And there is no denying the fact that you are of the Slytherin bloodline. Now that I think about it, I did actually tell the group you sent after the prophecy that you were a half-blood. Perhaps they just didn’t believe me.” He stripped the remaining chicken from the piece he held and tossed the bone onto one of the platters.

When Voldemort had not responded by the time he was finished eating it, Brand rose to his knees and moved closer, then flopped down so that his head was resting in his father’s lap. “I suppose,” he said, “that I’m going to have to figure out the issue of coercions. Either that, or we’re going to need one huge fidelius charm.”

Voldemort chuckled and began to play with Brand’s hair.

He eyed his father for a moment with a sly smile, then said, “I always have the urge to transform just a tiny bit when you do that, so that I might be able to properly purr. It seems as though no other response is quite adequate.”

Voldemort arched a brow and responded, “My dear son, I trust you do not harbor thoughts of transforming fully, for I know full well what cats do, and I do not fancy the idea of your claws kneading holes in my leg.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, father,” he assured him. “Besides, you’d probably retaliate with jets of water, and I shouldn’t like that at all. Underwater, huh? I can already imagine the view overhead. It should be magnificent.”

*

Brand was wandering through the halls with a mind to track down Remus and spend some time teasing him when he happened upon Draco’s father. Lucius excused himself from his current conversation the moment he saw Brand, then approached with a purposeful air.

“My lord, I would like to speak with you privately, if I may.”

Brand raised his brows in mild surprise, then nodded. “Certainly.” Knowing that his father had retreated to his private study, Brand led the way to Voldemort’s public study, waving Lucius to a seat as he closed and warded the door, then took a seat for himself. “What’s on your mind?”

Lucius, who had remained standing, gave him a somewhat chill smile and said, “My lord, as a member of the inner circle I am privy to certain information as you know, which is why I choose to raise this issue rather than chance that you will see it yourself at some point. Obviously, I refer to the fact that you can look into people’s minds at will, and without their knowledge even. To that end, I should like to point out that I have finally put my finger on the reasons why a very particular something has been occupying part of my attention for quite some time.”

Brand squinted, then glanced away and blinked. “Lucius, as it stands you are, to all accounts, my father-in-law and a part of my family. I would prefer, especially given that, that you speak plainly and without a lot of verbal circling.”

“As you wish, my lord. You were Harry Potter.”

“Sit down,” Brand commanded after a second of shock. The moment Lucius obeyed Brand created a sphere in his hand and started running conditions through his mind, then flicked the sphere before Lucius had a chance to properly react. After taking a deep breath he said, “I see. And how have you arrived at that conclusion?”

“I would like to think that I am not unintelligent, my lord, nor am I lacking in perception. Our lord certainly left wide open the implication that you are not his natural son, for one thing. Next, knowing what I do from the past, I am fully aware of the mental link our lord shared with Mr Potter, and it is improbably coincidental that you happen to enjoy that same privilege. Further, I found it highly suspicious that Remus Lupin suddenly became a member of our complement. Perhaps my logic is faulty, but there is only one person I can think of who would have been able to arrange that particular feat, never mind the accomplishment of recruiting other people well known to be staunch supporters of Dumbledore, such as . . . my niece. Add to that the fact that Lupin has quarters on the restricted level.”

Brand arched a brow, then slipped into an easy smile. “Supposing, just for a moment, that you are correct, what does this mean to you, Lucius?”

“That would depend, my lord. At the risk of offending you past the point of reason, I would like to know if your choice of my son as your consort is aboveboard.”

Brand did a slight double take, then buried his face in his hands and sighed. “I cannot believe I am hearing this,” he murmured, and after pushing his hands up and back through his hair, he said, “Lucius, I choose to interpret that as a sign of fatherly care and concern for your son, and not the words of a man who thinks only of the continuation of his line to the exclusion of all else. You are, perhaps, concerned that if I truly was Harry Potter, that my choice of Draco has something to do with, oh, a twisted sense of revenge based on our past history in school?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Again, supposing I was Harry Potter, how does that affect you and I, Lucius, for if I am not mistaken, he caused you rather a lot of trouble personally, and I sincerely doubt he was at the top of your Christmas card list.”

“My lord, you have proven yourself beyond question as the heir of our lord, and have long since gained my trust and respect. However, I must know about my son.”

Brand heaved a sigh and stood up to pace restlessly for a bit. “You know, I’m actually at a loss right now. I have no idea what to do with you.” He stopped and looked over. “But I can say that I chose Draco because he also chose me. I—he is very dear to me, Lucius, and I would rather die than intentionally hurt him.”

“I am pleased to hear that, my lord.”

“As well you may,” Brand said, his voice slightly rough. “Just . . . don’t move.” He sat down again and lifted his head to say, “Father?” even as he sent a request for Voldemort to join them immediately.

Several minutes passed in silence, then the door opened and Voldemort stepped in. Brand immediately shot a compressed memory across their link without bothering to look up, and seconds later his father closed the door and took a seat.

:He is your advisor, father. I will not presume to decide how to handle this situation in your stead.:

:Have you bothered to look into his mind to see the truth of things? Or if he has spoken of his suspicions to anyone else?:

:No. I will do so now.: He was . . . very gentle in his search, gentle enough that it was likely Lucius felt nothing at all. What he found did reassure him; Lucius had not spoken of it even with Narcissa. He also was genuinely concerned for Draco’s welfare. After passing that along Brand fixed his gaze on his father and waited.

:Son, I would not be surprised that even if you erased this from his mind he would figure it out a second time. I think it would be wise to simply retain the coercion you placed on him. Whether or not you explicitly confirm his assertion is your choice.:

“All right,” Brand said. “Welcome to a very select fellowship, Lucius. Yes, you are correct, I was born Harry Potter. But that boy is dead, and you should understand that you will not be able to speak of this with anyone except myself. I do not want, nor will I allow, our people as a whole to alter their perception of me based on the mythical icon that he was. I rightfully rejected that revolting little fantasy and I refuse to wear that mantle a second time. I can, however, assure you that Draco is fully aware of my former identity, so you need not have any concern on that particular matter. I will even discuss this further with you if you wish, though certainly not at present. But before I go, I do have one other thing to say. I trust, given that you have in fact realized who one of my informants is, that you will try to treat her as the family she is should she approach you.”

Brand rose and said, “Father, I’ll be on our level if you have need of me.”

*

The first thing he did on attaining the third floor was knock on Remus’s door, then slip inside the moment he heard an invitation. Brand flopped onto the sofa directly next to his godfather and rested his head on Remus’s shoulder.

“What’s wrong, Brand?”

“Lucius figured out who I was,” he muttered, then snuggled closer as he felt an arm wrap around him. “It’s okay. I mean, it’s not like I wasted him or anything. I just feel . . . I don’t know.”

“What did your father have to say about it?”

Brand half shrugged and said, “He said it was my choice to confirm or deny. I went ahead and confirmed it. He is my father-in-law, after all. Interestingly enough, he was concerned about why I chose Draco. He might be a largely unemotional man, but he does have actual feelings for his son.”

“So why are you so out of sorts?”

“I don’t know. People aren’t supposed to add two and two and come up with five, Moony. I don’t like it. And if it weren’t for the fact that this knowledge hasn’t diminished me in his eyes, I think I might be feeling somewhat angry right now, and I’m not even sure that makes any sense.”

“I think it does, actually.”

Brand tilted his head back and to the side so he could see Remus’s face. “How so?”

“If it had diminished you in his eyes, you might say it meant that everything you’ve worked for here was for nothing. All the respect and trust you’ve earned through your own effort would be almost meaningless. On the other hand, you could interpret it to mean that Lucius was a brainless twit who didn’t deserve to be one of your father’s most trusted advisors if he couldn’t weigh the one against the other and come up with the answer he already has.”

Brand snorted softly. “I suppose you’re right.”

“And do you plan on telling Draco that his father knows?”

“I can’t think of a good reason not to, especially as I did let Lucius know that Draco is aware, and it’s not as though they could discuss it directly anyway.” Brand straightened and twisted so he was sitting sideways on the couch and gave Remus a curious look. “How’s it going with Joshua?”

“Very well, thank you. Since it’s just him, we’ve only been having lessons in the mornings, and at that, Severus is taking on half of them. The only exception will be Astronomy, but that’s a given, and not that big of a deal until it’s time for him to do some actual stargazing.”

“That’s good to hear. You know, I wonder if Hermione might want to consider teaching. Surely she would find more satisfaction in that than working for the ministry. I should think she’ll get bored fairly quickly.”

“I could always mention it to her the next time she visits,” Remus offered, “see how she reacts to the idea.”

Brand nodded, then smirked. “Speaking of reactions, how is Severus?”

Remus pinned him with a suspicious look. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” Brand said, widening his eyes, “I was simply wondering about his reaction to that stunt you pulled the other day. You know, when you introduced yourself?”

“I was merely trying to start things off on the correct figurative foot now that we are both supposedly new people.”

“Oh, right. Of course you were. How silly of me to think otherwise.”

“Brand.”

“Yes, Moony?”

“Butt out, will you?”

Brand gasped. “I’m shocked.” Then he leaned forward and flashed a cheeky grin at his godfather. “So, have you kissed him yet?”

“Brand!”

Brand sniffed and sat back. “It’s almost like you don’t trust me or something. It’s not like we have a betting pool going on. I mean really, that would be crass.”

“Brand?”

“Yes, Moony?”

“Why are you being such a pest about this?”

“Because I love you? I want to know if you’re happy? I want to know if I’m right about my interpretation of all the soulful looks you keep giving Severus when he’s not paying attention?”

“How do you know that Sirius and I weren’t really mated for life?”

Brand snorted. “That’s just a silly old myth made up by some hopeless romantic. Isn’t it?”

Remus chuckled. “Yes, Brand, it’s a myth. Look, if anything does happen, I promise that you’ll be the person I confide in.”

Brand clapped and crowded in for a quick hug. “Thank you for cheering me up. I need to go find Draco and tell him about his father.”

*

Draco strolled in and took a seat next to Brand, then quite nearly squeaked when he was abruptly pushed onto his back and straddled. Brand then flirted his brows up briefly and said, “Hi.”

“Hi,” Draco replied, albeit somewhat suspiciously.

“I have some news for you. Sort of. It seems your father is a very intelligent, perceptive man, Draco. He’s gone and figured out who I used to be.”

“I had nothing to do with it. ”

Brand shook his head. “No, you didn’t. He did take the time to explain how it was that he arrived at his conclusion, and I made sure he wasn’t fibbing. So, he knows.”

“Then I’ll assume you didn’t kill him in a fit of pique,” Draco drawled.

“Of course not. That might have gotten blood on father’s carpet and he’d have been ever so upset with me.” Brand sat back and sighed slightly. “Seriously. He figured it out, confronted me, and after a short consultation with father, I decided to simply confirm his suspicion. He was worried about you.”

Draco wrinkled his brow and said slowly, “My father was worried about me.”

“Yes. But please don’t say anything to him about it, all right? He was worried that I’d chosen you because I wanted to lull you into a false sense of security before I enacted my revenge for all the stuff that went on while we were in school together. Of course I told him that was the furthest thing from the truth. For heavens sakes, if I were going to get revenge on anyone it would be the Dursleys, or even your father for nearly getting Ginny killed. But you? No.”

Draco scowled briefly and said, “You make it sound like I wasn’t trying hard enough.”

Brand snickered. “Just think of how much fun we could have had together back then if I’d ended up in Slytherin. We might have been each other’s firsts.”

“That’s it,” Draco said firmly. “No more explosions for you. You’re acting altogether too strangely right now.”

Brand sniffed as though deeply wounded, then blinked. “That reminds me. One of his bits of evidence was that he recognized Tonks. One of us will have to break the news to her when she arrives so she isn’t hit broadside by that. I think, though, that your father will have the good sense to be gracious about a reconciliation.”

“Threaten him, did you?”

“I only made a suggestion, Draco.”

“Brand, why have you pinned me to the couch?”

Brand glanced off to the side for a moment, then said, “Because it seemed like a good idea at the time?”

“Then perhaps you should follow through on your capture, hm?”