DISCLAIMER: The characters and the worldin which they inhabit were brazenly stolen from the minds of greater persons than me. I mean no harm and will make no money, and so I can only hope that those great and powerful people will let this slide.
A/N; This story will be told mostly in flashback, with narration from the storyteller in each chapter and bookended with a prologue and epilogue in real time with the narrator. Hope you enjoy.
Draco Malfoy felt old and tired. Truly, he was old and tired. Having just celebrated his sixty-seventh birthday, he reckoned that he should not have been so ready to die. But ever since the passing of his wife last year from pneumonia, his expansive manor in Coventry had seemed to him more like a tomb than the palace it once had been. He felt as though he were half dead already, just a specter wandering his hallways. For a while his son, who had just moved back to England from a long stint overseas, had stopped in regularly to keep him company. But Scorpius, an author and diplomat, had disappeared nearly eleven weeks ago after attending an international economic conference off the coast of Bermuda. His daughter-in-law scarcely brought his grandchildren by, and it was even more rare that she would come by unaccompanied by the little ones.
This was why Draco was all but completely floored when his sole remaining house elf had given him the news of her arrival on his doorstep. He had her shown up to his study, as his mobility wasn't what it used to be and he would rather use his energy to visit with her than to get to wherever he should receive her. She was family, after all, and he doubted she would be offended at his request to come upstairs.
"Draco," she called, as she poked her head in to the room. Her auburn hair was fastened at her neck and her eyes betrayed the worry she was undoubtedly feeling over her missing husband.
"Come in, Lily," he encouraged, standing from his seat to greet her. Lily Malfoy walked slowly into the room. She was a slight woman, smaller really than Draco remembered her being. Perhaps she only looked small in the absence of her smile, which had always been her most prominent feature. She carried with her a small leather satchel and was dressed as though she had left the house very quickly. "You've not brought my grandchildren with you," Draco observed. Lily shook her head.
"No," she affirmed. "No I haven't. I've left them with Albus and Celina. There's something I need to speak to you about."
"Is everything alright?" he asked, gesturing for her to sit and taking his own seat once again. Lily shook her head.
"I don't know," she admitted, seating herself with the leather satchel on her lap. "That house…" she began. 'That house' was Malfoy Manor. Lily and Scorpius had only moved into the mansion eight months ago when Scorpius had accepted a position as Chief Finance Adjutant to the Minister of Magic. Prior to that he had served as an international emissary on behalf of the ministry and Lily and their children had lived in several homes overseas.
"I warned you that you might find it spooky," Draco cajoled. Lily's mother came from humble means, and her father, though a wizard, had been raised by Muggle relatives, so Draco had figured that she had never been in an ancestral wizarding estate before.
"Spooky isn't the problem," she told him. The concern in her voice was clear. "I think something's happening to the children," she finished.
"To the children?" Draco asked. Certainly if his grandchildren were in peril, he would do what he could to assist. Lily nodded.
"To the twins in particular," she clarified. Her two eldest daughters were in their fourth and first years at Hogwarts respectively, but eight year old twins Cygnus and Callidora were still at home with their mother. "I thought it was only their imagination at first," she told him. "But…"
"What was only their imagination?" Draco asked for clarification. Lily wiped her eyes with her hands and sighed.
"It started just after we moved in," she began her story again. "CJ and Calla told me that they found a secret staircase that led to a secret part of the house. They said there were beautiful rooms and there were toys and games and a wooden rocking horse in one of them and another had broomsticks that they could ride." Lily shrugged her shoulders. "And just after Scorpius went missing, they told me that there were new rooms in there that they had just found. And these rooms had robes of the finest silk and velvet that they could dress up in, and plates of gingersnap cookies and boxes of jewels and…" Lily shook her head briefly and bit her lip for a moment. "And like I said, I thought it was just them imagining things. They'd never been in an old magic house and I liked that they were able to have such adventures. But today they brought me this," she reached into the satchel on her lap and withdrew from it an ornate silver box.
The box was covered in a thick patina as though it had not been given any attention in ages. It was mostly rectangular, with dragon claw feet at the four corners and an intricate crest engraved into the top. Lily handed it to Draco.
"They told me it came from the secret rooms," she shared. "I've been through every room in that house, and I've never seen this before. And it won't open. I've tried everything; spells, curses, everything and there's no way to get the damned thing open." She pursed her lips and folded her hands in her lap. "Is the house possessed?" she asked him earnestly. "Are they being sent someplace horrible? Where have my children been, Draco; where are they going that I can't see or access? Have they found a gateway to someplace dark and sinister?"
Draco ran his fingers over the box in his hands. He knew what it was. He sighed deeply and looked his daughter-in-law in the eye. "They've not found any dark gateway, Lily," he explained. "They've found the private floor of the Manor."
"Private floor?" Lily quizzed. She was clearly confused. Draco nodded again.
"The toys and the broomsticks," he explained, "the hobby horse… those things were mine. They found the rooms I grew up in; the floor of the house containing the master suite and the children's wing. I hadn't known that you were unaware of its existence."
"I was unaware," she told him. "I had no idea."
"Scorpius might not have remembered how to get there," he told her. "He never spent many nights there."
"Why couldn't we see it?" she asked. "Why was there never a way to get there and now there is, but only my twins seem to be able to find it?"
"I couldn't begin to tell you," he admitted to her, running his slim fingers through his thin, white hair. "But if I had to guess; I would tell you that the house knows its heir. If Callidora were to approach that doorway, I suspect she'd not get through it. Only Cygnus will be able to see the entry."
"The house recognizes its heir?" Lily was clearly confused. Draco nodded. He leaned forward in his chair and braced his elbows on his knees.
"When my parents were killed," he began, trying very hard to keep composed. It had been twenty years since the earthquake that killed his parents while they were on holiday in Japan, but it still pained him to talk about it. "I had to come to shut up the house. Scorpius was of age by then and the Manor had been left to him, but you were planning a wedding and I thought I'd do better at it anyway. I got there and the stairs had disappeared. I couldn't get to the rooms I'd grown up in. It was just the house sewing itself up until its rightful heir presented himself. I'm sure that if Scorpius had gone looking, he'd have found the stairs, but I suppose he never did. That North Stateroom that you all moved in to was always his favorite place in the Manor; I never imagined that you hadn't been up to the third level."
"I hadn't known anything about it," Lily confided. "But I'm glad to know that it's someplace real and attached to the house and not at all going to harm my children."
"Not at all," Draco comforted her. "The robes and the jewels were my parents' and I'd wager the cookies are the result of the house elves finding out that the children had been up there and wishing to make them happy." Lily allowed herself a tiny smile.
"So do you know what that is?" she asked, gesturing to the silver artifice that Draco had been gingerly stroking. He nodded.
"I do," he answered with a gentle nod. Draco gently pushed against a flower on one side of the box until it sprang out toward him, exposing a two-inch rod protrusion with the flower on the end. He pulled the rod out until it came free of the box, then he jiggled one of the feet until it slid another rod off of the length of the bottom of the box. Draco shifted the box until the majority of it settled into the cavity exposed at the bottom and then slowly slid the top from the bottom. The bottom half was topped by a dial, which Draco spun ninety degrees until it began to turn the other direction and unscrew itself from the box. The dial came off and allowed Draco to slide a thin sheet of silver from the box, finally exposing its contents. He handed the now opened container to his daughter-in-law as he told her, "It's a puzzle. They didn't want just anyone to be able to open it."
"Who didn't?" Lily asked, looking down at the items in the box. Sitting on a blue velvet lining were two remnants of what had clearly once been wands. One of them was barely more than splinters, held together by the remnants of its silvery core. The other was charred to the point of ash, and even the core was blackened by soot.
"You never knew my parents, did you?" Draco asked her. Lily shook her head.
"I met them briefly at our graduation," she told him. "Scorpius introduced us quickly," she added. Draco nodded. "These belonged to your parents?" she asked. Draco nodded again.
"How much has your father told you about the war?" he asked. The war with Voldemort hadn't exactly been a regular topic of conversation in his own house; but then again, Lily's father had been the great hero of the war, and perhaps they spoke of it more in her household. Lily shook her head.
"They didn't like to talk about it in front of us," she admitted. Draco nodded his head. He reached over to a nearby decanter and poured both of them a drink. Passing one of the glasses to Lily, he leaned against the back of his chair.
"Let me tell you," he offered, "about the contents of this box."
Hope I've piqued your interest. Let me know what you thought. :) I love reviews more than food, which is on its way- we may get another chapter tonight depending on how dinner goes. Cheers!