November 1, 2015
Author's Note: Written in response to my very own "This is Halloween, This is Halloween, La la la!" challenge on The DG Forum. The prompt will follow at the end of the story. Unfortunately, Halloween is over now for most of the world, I think, but hopefully this is still entertaining. Warning that this is completely unbeta-ed. And also WARNING for implications of child abuse/pedophilia and suicide. Nothing graphic. I'd still rather be safe than sorry.
The Haunted Manor
"You can't tell me you're not a little bit curious," Ginny said as she tossed The Daily Prophet on top of Hermione's desk. A photograph of an ancient manor filled the front page, leaving little room for anything else besides the headline that stretched bold and black across the top and a three-sentence article squeezed underneath the photo.
If Hermione felt any curiosity about the manor, the headline, or the article, she hid it under an expression of displeasure.
"Yes I can," she disagreed, sliding the newspaper off her work and to the edge of her desk. "I haven't the slightest care what kind of nonsense Malfoy is up to these days."
Ginny perched on the corner of the desk, nearly upending a jar of ink that Hermione managed to right before her contracts were ruined. "Come on," Ginny said in a cajoling voice as she lifted the newspaper again. She read, "'Malfoy Opens Home to Public as Haunted Attraction'—You're not the least bit interested in finding out what's inside? Half of the country's talking about it!"
"No," Hermione said as she put quill to parchment once more, as determined to ignore Ginny as Ginny was to distract her. "I've been inside that awful place already. I don't care to repeat the experience, thank you very much."
"Oh, right," Ginny replied, lowering the Prophet with a wince. "I'm sorry, I forgot. I overheard Harry and Ron talking about going, and I just assumed—"
"They wouldn't!" Hermione pushed herself to her feet, knocking over her ink, which did exactly what it had threatened to do and spilled all over the parchment that covered Hermione's desk. She quickly pulled out her wand and began siphoning the ink back into the jar. "If I've told them once, I've told them a hundred times: they need to leave Malfoy alone! Every time they go on a witch hunt, we get into a load of trouble. I thought those days were behind us once we left Hogwarts! I'm going to give them a piece of my mind—"
Hermione continued her rant, clearly distracted from the task of cleaning up the spilled ink, if the growing number of ink splatters was anything to go by, and Ginny smiled to herself in satisfaction. She read the article one more time:
Draco Malfoy, 21, sole heir to the Malfoy legacy and notorious recluse, has opened his home in Wiltshire to the public for tours during the month of October. The attraction, Malfoy promises, will feature "haunts that will put the Shrieking Shack to shame." Tours will be conducted by appointment only, and tickets can be purchased at TerrorTours Travel Agency located at 59 Diagon Alley, London until October 31st.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood at the gates, peering through the iron bars and down the paved lane to Malfoy Manor, when Ginny arrived. She took a moment to steady herself from the usual disorientation that accompanied Apparation, but almost as soon as her feet touched ground, the gates swung open, granting them access to the property.
"You came!" Ginny said in a whisper to Hermione as the group hurried down the lane. She wasn't sure why she was whispering, but the grandeur of the house certainly inspired awe along with curiosity. The manor cast a far-reaching shadow that engulfed them in darkness. It seemed that at any moment, something could jump out of the hedges and attack them.
"Of course I came," Hermione huffed. "If I hadn't, there would have been no one here to keep Harry and Ron in line."
Ron ran his hands along the unruly hedges that lined the lane. "Doesn't look like anyone's taking care of this place, does it?"
Before Ginny could ask, Hermione turned to her and said in explanation, "The grounds were better landscaped last time we were here. And of course no one's trimming the hedges, Ron. It's a haunted house. Unruly bushes are scarier than geometric topiaries."
"Since when has Malfoy Manor been known for being haunted?" Ron asked. "And why would Malfoy let the public in if people have died here? It's highly suspicious."
"No, no," Hermione said with impatience. "I've told you. Haunted houses are typical Halloween attractions in the Muggle world. Muggles dress up normal houses with scary lights and decorations, and then people pay to walk through them."
"Why would someone pay to do that?"
"Because they like to be scared. It's just something fun to do."
"That doesn't sound fun to me," Ron disagreed.
"Says a man who spent his childhood running around chasing and fighting evil," interjected Ginny, who found the conversation amusing.
Harry smiled. "Ah, she's got us there."
"That's different! That was important!"
The three continued their discussion of the merits of their past adventures as they drew closer to the Manor. Ginny's thoughts ran in the same direction as Ron's questions. She wanted to know why Malfoy had turned his ancestral home into an attraction inspired by Muggles. Why now, over three years since the end of the war?
Malfoy had laid low since his trial three years ago and was rarely seen in public. Maybe this haunted house scheme was some sort of trap. But for whom? Harry? People interested in Muggle culture? Anyone curious about Draco Malfoy's whereabouts?
Standing at the front doors, the manor loomed over them, tall and impossibly imposing. Ginny craned her neck back to try to see where the building ended, but it seemed to reach straight up into the atmosphere.
The doors swung open, revealing darkness beyond, and Ginny, Harry, Ron, and Hermione all shared looks with one another before Harry took the initiative to step through the threshold. As soon as all four were inside, the doors swung closed behind them, and a flame ignited, floating in the air before them. It's light didn't have much reach. The floor and the walls remained obscured in darkness.
"I guess we follow the light," Ginny said.
The light seemed to vibrate in affirmation before it began floating down the hall. The group huddled close together as they followed the light's slow pace, subconsciously afraid of what was hidden within the darkness. Furniture and artworks in the forms of statues and busts cast strange shadows as the light bounced ahead, barely touching the objects it illuminated.
The unknown made Ginny's heart race. So far, they were touring Malfoy Manor in the dark. Where were the haunts Malfoy had promised?
Ginny regretted her thought almost immediately as a human-shaped shadow broke away from the darkness, gliding towards them with an arm outstretched, a Death Eater mask gleaming in the light of their guide. She heard a shriek beside her from Hermione, but Harry and Ron immediately acted and withdrew their wands. Before they could utter any spells, the Death Eater collided with them and exploded into a cloud of dust.
The blood had drained from Ginny's face, and her knees were shaking. As Aurors in training, it was understandable that Harry and Ron had kept their cool, but part of Ginny felt shame for freezing at the first sign of danger.
"What was that?" Ron asked, his voice soft.
Harry was the one who answered, and he kept his voice low as well. "It was just like the one at Grimmauld Place. That spectre of Dumbledore, remember?"
Of course they remembered. How could they forget? Ginny's heart slowed down to its usual rate at the realization that the Death Eater hadn't been real. It was practically a ghost.
Their flame vibrated in impatience and continued down the hall. They squeezed through a doorway and immediately turned left, following a wall that they still couldn't see. Their guide shrank and then disappeared, stopping the group in their tracks as pitch black engulfed them.
A sibilant hiss echoed through the room, turning into words as the volume of a voice increased. Ginny knew that voice intimately, and all the hair on her body seemed to stand on end to hear it. Her greatest fear.
"Lord Voldemort is generous to those who are loyal to him."
A sob escaped Ginny's throat.
"Your father failed me, but you will not, will you, Draco?"
"No, my Lord."
"What is this?" Ron spat.
The middle of the room suddenly flooded with a misty light, revealing two ghostly figures. One standing with his back turned to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, his body slightly transparent. The other kneeling, his bowed head obscuring his face. Despite their transparency, the identities of the figures were obvious.
"You must kill Dumbledore for me, Draco. This is your task. Lord Voldemort is a most forgiving master, is he not?"
The vision of Draco merely nodded as his head remained bowed.
"Kill Dumbledore and your father's sins will be forgiven. Fail and pay with your family's life."
The figures disappeared like smoke wafting from a flame, and their light guide reappeared, as warm and carefree as if the most evil wizard to ever live had not just come back from the dead.
"It's a Pensieve," Hermione whispered.
With the floating flame's return, Ginny could finally see how shaken Harry, Ron, and Hermione were. Their faces were bloodless, and their eyes were haunted.
"It's a Pensieve," Hermione repeated, a little louder than before. She pointed to the center of the now-dark room. "V-Voldemort and Malfoy. They were memories from a Pensieve. I saw the basin when they disappeared."
Ginny peered into the darkness, searching for something she couldn't see, but if there was a Pensieve there, it was beyond the reach of the flame's glow. Her heart continued to hammer from the fright she'd received. It would have been a relief to see proof that the vision hadn't been real. Even though the figures had been transparent, they'd appeared too real for comfort.
The flame, once again impatient, drifted along the edge of the room without them, and Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny grabbed hold of each other's hands and raced to catch up.
They squeezed through another doorway and poured into an adjoining room, which brightened as soon as they entered. This time, a long dining table made of blood-red wood sat in the middle of the room, and around the table sat too many slightly transparent, familiar faces—most of them dead, some imprisoned after the war. Above the table, a woman hung suspended, frozen by a Full-Body Bind. Her eyes flicked in the newcomers' direction, and Hermione gasped.
"P-p-professor Burbage! She taught Muggle Studies!"
A giant snake (the very one beheaded by Neville Longbottom at the Battle of Hogwarts) slithered around Death Eater feet and chair legs alike as Voldemort continued a conversation that Ginny and her friends had interrupted.
The combined hissing of Nagini and Voldemort's words were enough to trigger a panic attack. Ginny could feel the beginnings of one as her breathing quickened and her heart beat as fast a Snitch flapping its wings, so she did the only thing she could think of to stop it: she covered her ears. Voldemort's words were muffled as he questioned his followers, which was just fine by Ginny as long as the blasted hissing stopped. She didn't need to know what foul things he had to say.
Harry took a step forward when the Dark Lord addressed a Death Eater in particular and Professor Snape opened his mouth to respond. Ginny pressed her hands against her ears more firmly, ignoring the words to observe the scene. The Boy Who Lived walked around the table and stopped just next to Snape's chair. He leaned over, gazing into their former Potions teacher's eyes. When he leaned a little too far, his body passed right through the vision, which didn't stop playing.
Ginny breathed a sigh of relief that what they were seeing wasn't physical, and then scanned the table for more familiar faces. There was Bellatrix Lestrange, arguing by the look of the slant in her eyebrows. Peter Pettigrew with his silver hand. The Malfoy family, all three of whom kept their eyes lowered to the table, except for Draco whose eyes darted up to the image of the bound Muggle Studies professor as if he couldn't help but look. There was no malice in his gaze, only terror.
Before Ginny could inspect the rest of the meeting's attendees, the snake slithered up onto the table. She could just imagine what Nagini was about to do next, and she had no desire to witness it. Her stomach heaved and she squeezed her eyes shut, pressing even harder against her ears, but the lights dimmed to blackness once more before the snake could strike Professor Burbage.
The flame urged the group forward, but Ginny fell to the back of the group, her whole body trembling. Hermione had told her all about haunted houses in the Muggle world, and Ginny had thought this one would be a laugh if it was anything like the traditional Muggle attraction. Of course Draco Malfoy had used magic to haunt his manor. Of course he'd never settle for low quality cotton cobwebs and plastic skeletons decorating his ancestral home.
She was sorry she'd ever suggested the idea to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but she was glad they were here. Had they chosen not to come, Ginny would have braved the haunted manor on her own, and at the moment, she couldn't fathom reliving this horror without her brother and her friends at her side.
Well, they had been right in front of her… but now they were nowhere to be seen.
"Hermione?" she whispered. "Ron?" she said a little louder.
The darkness pressed against her like a film against her skin, all inky and slippery and impossible to wipe away.
"Harry!" she called. No one answered.
She was stranded, visions she never wanted to view again behind her while unknown terrors waited for her in front. But the darkness was so thick, she didn't even know in which direction to turn.
Drawing her wand was little comfort. "Lumos!" she said into the darkness. Nothing happened. Panic infused her voice as she repeated the spell two more times with increasing urgency.
"Don't have a cow, Weasley. It's all right."
She knew that voice; she'd just heard it in the parlor as Voldemort gave Draco Malfoy a task to complete.
His wand tip ignited with the spell that had just failed her, illuminating his gaunt face. The dark bags under his eyes and his white-blond hair gave his head the appearance of a skull. If he hadn't suddenly put a hand on her arm, she might have thought he was one of the Pensieve visions. Or a ghost.
"Why didn't my wand work?"
"Don't worry." His lips wilted on one side like he couldn't muster enough derision to smirk. "The grounds are protected against the use of magic unless it comes from my wand. It's for the safety of my patrons and my property. Now. Shall we finish the tour?"
He offered Ginny his arm in a gesture of gallantry that was almost more frightening than seeing Voldemort alive again, even if not quite in the flesh. Hopelessly turned around as she was, she had no other option than to complete the tour with Malfoy as her guide. Alarm bells rang in her head, warning her to the danger of allowing him to whisk her away into the darkness of his home while her wand was useless, but she swallowed her fear in order to escape an even greater fear.
By the white light of his wand, they entered a new room, the walls of which were blood-red and seemed to be oozing. Like the bouncing flame that had guided her previously, Malfoy's spell did not penetrate the darkness enough to reveal the entire room, but his light was bright white without the added shadows of a flickering flame, so what was revealed didn't look quite as ominous as it might have if illuminated by the flame.
Another vision appeared in the middle of the room. This time Bellatrix Lestrange formed out of the darkness with her arms wrapped around her nephew. She stood at his back, her chin resting on Malfoy's shoulder, her head turned so her lips were a hairsbreadth from his ear.
Ginny's eyes darted up to Malfoy's face—the one standing next to her, that is. His lips widened into a thin, straight line, his eyebrows pulled in over his nose in displeasure.
"You don't have murder in your heart, do you, Draco?" Bellatrix asked in a sing-song voice. Her fingers wandered up and down Malfoy's torso, and he closed his eyes, repulsed by his aunt's intimacy. Her voice became breathier so that Ginny had to strain to hear her. "You can admit it to your Aunty Bellatrix. You're a weak boy, aren't you?"
"Is this about Dumbledore?" vision-Malfoy asked, his eyes dropping to the ground.
"Of course it is, nephew! You were honored with a task any one of us would have been glad to accomplish for our master, and you couldn't do it. You get your weakness from your father's family. The Malfoys never could get their hands dirty," she sneered, her fingernails now tracing the column of Malfoy's neck.
Ginny's gaze was transfixed on the vile sight of Bellatrix Lestrange running her hands up and down her seventeen-year-old nephew's body, her words at once a hiss and then a purr. The vision of Draco trembled, and at first she thought his disgust had taken hold of him. Maybe it had, but his trembling was due to a different reaction, one that his body absolutely could not control, one that made Ginny blush and triggered a simmering anger inside her.
The live Draco turned to Ginny, his eyes dark. "This looks damning, but it was just my aunt's way. She always toed the line with me; she never crossed it."
"That looks like crossing the line to me!" she replied, her eyes stinging with tears she couldn't explain.
"Good. It's supposed to."
The visions dissipated into the darkness and Malfoy jerked her arm to get her moving again, around the edge of the room, past paintings and sculptures and chair backs.
"What are you trying to accomplish here?" Ginny asked, her throat constricted from the inexplicable tears. "Why do you want people to see these terrible, revolting things?"
"Because they happened."
"You were just a boy! Bellatrix shouldn't have touched you like that at all! You're her nephew!" Outraged tears finally spilled down her cheeks, and Ginny realized what had bothered her so much about seeing Bellatrix and Malfoy together, besides the obvious incestuous edge on which Bellatrix had walked.
There had been a time Ginny had been groomed by an older boy, practically a man in eleven-year-old Ginny's eyes, as wise and compassionate as she'd thought he'd been. To her, he'd been a listening ear for her adolescent problems. He'd given her attention and complimented her, and she'd fancied herself in love with him for a while. She'd tried to imagine herself older for his sake, and she'd desperately wished to be his friend in person, rather than through paper.
There had been a moment in the Chamber of Secrets when both Ginny Weasley and teenaged Tom Riddle had existed at the same time, and he'd taunted her in a way not unlike the way Bellatrix had taunted Malfoy in the vision just now. It had only been a moment, and then she'd fainted as her soul drained out of her. But she could still feel the imprint of his hands running along her arms as he whispered all the nasty words he'd longed to say for months into her ear. It had gone no further than that, but she still felt the taint on her soul.
"Exactly," Malfoy said, his voice soft with a hint of understanding. He saw the mutual trauma in her eyes, just as she could now see it in his. "I was a boy, and I want people to know what happened to me. I need them to see my story."
Ginny wiped her cheeks free of tears, but more kept falling. "Why does this matter so much to you?"
"I don't want my legacy to be tainted by the picture the Ministry painted of me during the trials. The truth needs to be set free while I still have time to tell it. Come on. There's still more to see."
"I think I've seen enough." Ginny took a step back, and Malfoy let her pull her arm from his grasp. "Take me to my friends. I don't want to see any more."
"I can't do that, Weasley. We have to finish the tour."
"Forget the tour! Just get me out of here!"
"The tour must be completed by everyone who steps through the front door. It's the price of the magic."
"What magic?" Ginny asked in exasperation. "What are you talking about?"
Malfoy's gaze darted up over Ginny's head. "It's too late. They're coming."
A chill ran down Ginny's spine as she turned around to see transparent figures pouring into the room through a doorway illuminated by their glow. Bellatrix Lestrange. Teenaged Draco Malfoy. A giant snake. Voldemort. The Malfoy family. Bellatrix again, wearing a different set of black robes. Death Eaters. They all lumbered into the room as though a force was attempting to stop them.
As she turned back to Malfoy, she realized there was: Malfoy raised and pointed his wand at the visions, his lips moving quickly though they released no sound.
"What's happening?" Ginny cried as Malfoy shoved her in the opposite direction, forward in the tour instead of back.
He kept his wand up and pointed behind him while he followed on her heels as she ran blindly through the manor's dark rooms.
In a sitting room they ran through, Amycus and Alecto Carrow taunted Draco for his inability to cast an Unforgivable Curse on a fellow student. The Carrows, Draco, and the young Ravenclaw all replayed the scene at three times the speed. Though indiscernible, the tone of their words was still unmistakable. At the conclusion of the memory, the four figures joined the mob of visions chasing Malfoy and Ginny.
In the sun room they passed through next, an image of Draco leaning over a structure not featured in the vision cried with such vigor, his whole body shook. Moaning Myrtle, misty-eyed herself, stood behind him, her head laying on his back as a gesture of comfort. Both figures, as soon as she and Malfoy entered the room, rose up and joined the chase.
He made a sharp turn down a wide corridor and called over his shoulder, "This way!"
The heavy doors of a ballroom opened upon their approach, granting them access to the dark interior before slamming shut again.
The vision that appeared now was one that Ginny had knowledge of—from Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The three appeared in the center of the room bound together along with Griphook the goblin and Dean Thomas. Ginny's blood ran cold to see two of her ex-boyfriends, her friend, and her brother battered and captured, and she knew instantly which memory she was about to witness at triple speed.
The Malfoys materialized next, Lucius and Narcissa urging Draco toward the group. His anxious expression and darting eyes were clear indicators of his reluctance to assist his parents.
Then, the eight figures rose as one and turned in Ginny and Malfoy's direction.
Malfoy lifted his wand to cast his voiceless spell again, but blue sparks sprayed from the wand tip instead.
"I'm out," he said scathingly, tossing his wand aside in disdain.
Ginny didn't know what he meant by that statement, but she didn't have time to ask. Malfoy had grabbed her hand, their fingers interlocking, and now they were running down the length of the ballroom to the outdoor patio on the other side. He shoved Ginny through the door first and stopped.
"Come on!" she said, reaching her hand out for him to take again.
"I can't," he replied, his voice empty. Under the moonlight, his eye sockets appeared even more hollow, and his skin glowed even paler than before—almost transparent.
"They'll be on us any moment! What are you doing?"
"I can't leave this patio. I tied my magic to the manor, and now that I've run out, I'm bound to the building."
Ginny closed her eyes, impatience and fear urging her to keep moving. "What are you talking about?"
"Don't you get it, Weasley?" His lips lifted at one corner as if trying to smirk, but it looked like he'd forgotten how. "I'm the last memory of Draco Malfoy before he took his life. Before he died, he infused the Pensieves and the manor with his magic to keep his memory alive so his story can be told. I inherited the largest bit of his magic upon his death, and now I've run out trying to slow the other memories down. If I leave the manor, I will cease to exist, my final memory, the end of my story lost."
"How was I supposed to get that?" Ginny yelled. Honestly! As if it was true (and how could it be true? The press would have been all over any story about the Malfoy heir's demise)! "That's not funny. Stop playing around and let's go already!"
She tried to snatch his hand, but she only touched thin air. Both of them stared where their hands met, but his was transparent and hers went through him.
Ginny could only gape at him, but time was running out. The other figures from Malfoy's memories had nearly arrived at the door to the patio.
"They can't hurt me," she finally said, trying to reason through the situation, trying to make sense of it. "If they're memories, they're intangible like you. I saw Harry's body go straight through Snape."
"I had enough magic to keep me tangible, but every time I used my wand, I lost it. They'll have absorbed it. As I get weaker, they get stronger. That means you can't let them catch you."
A violent shiver shot up her spine. Tom Riddle had merely been a memory as well, but he'd taken strength from Ginny's soul until he'd become fully realized outside of his diary. She believed Malfoy that the other memories had the ability to hurt her now, and she wouldn't let that happen. Not again.
"What about you?"
"Don't worry about me!" he snapped. "I've been dead for weeks now. There's nothing you can do for me! Follow the hedges around to the right and you'll reach the front lane. Get out of here!"
She ran as the memories slammed the door open and poured out onto the patio. Before Ginny turned the corner, she looked back one more time to see the vision of Draco that had been her guide crushed under the mob. Even yards away from the scene, in the light of the moon, she could see the figures growing more opaque by the second.
The manor would need to be sealed to keep the memories inside where they belonged. The last thing the wizarding world needed was tangible representations of the most evil wizards they'd ever known wreaking havoc once again.
This was the end of Draco Malfoy's haunted house attraction.
"What happened to you?" Hermione cried as Ginny burst through the front gates where Harry, Ron, and Hermione were waiting for her.
The gates slammed closed and a chain appeared from thin air, wrapping around the bars and locking itself with the largest padlock Ginny had ever seen. Maybe that was the last act of Draco Malfoy's final memory. Perhaps he used the last of his magic to make sure no one stepped on the Malfoy property again.
She bent over, trying to catch her breath to answer, but how could she possibly explain what she'd seen?
They waited for Ginny to straighten up again, and when she did, the concern on their faces made her feel an amount of sadness. Who had been concerned for Draco's well-being?
Instead of answering Hermione's question, Ginny asked her own. "How did Draco Malfoy die?"
"If you didn't make it to the end, how do you know he died?" Ron asked.
"He poisoned himself," Harry answered.
All three of their faces were grim after Harry said it.
Hermione shook her head. "It was awful. He was just sitting in this chair while Bellatrix and Voldemort and Dumbledore and his parents and so many others all circled around him, calling him names and taunting him. He drank a potion, seized up, and then… he died." She whispered the last words as if they were too horrific to speak aloud.
"What a depressing way to end a tour. Let's just get out of here," Ron said, shivering as he glanced one final time down the lane to the dark manor.
The three of them Disapparated at once, but Ginny lingered behind to peer through the iron bars.
There's nothing you can do for me. That's what Malfoy had said, wasn't it? Well, what if there was something she could do?
Ginny wasn't sure Harry, Ron, and Hermione understood the importance of what they'd seen. Someone needed to tell the world about Draco Malfoy's demise. What if she could keep his memory alive? What if she could tell his story?
A flame flickered in a window on the third floor. For just a moment, a figure stood in the light the flame shed and stared down at Ginny with contempt. A memory of Draco Malfoy.
She Disapparated into the night.
The This is Halloween, This is Halloween, La la la! Challenge:
Prompt: A Halloween activity (Trick or Treating, bobbing for apples, costume contest, a party, a festival, etc.)
Bonus Points: Reference to the Pumpkin King (especially if Draco is the Pumpkin King), bats, ghosts, a haunted house
Length: 400 word minimum, no max.
Deadline: October 31st, 2015