Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thanks to BarneyXII for Betaing this for me.
Mysterious Happenings at Malfoy Manor
The house at the end of the lane had been grand, once. It had stood as testament to centuries of accumulated wealth, a temple to opulence and excess. The very pinnacle of Elizabethan architecture.
But that was years ago.
Now, it was little more than a crude imitation of what it had once been, a soulless replica. Near death. It likely hadn't been tended since the start of the Second War, when vanity had been overtaken by survival.
Ivy stretched up the walls, vines clinging to the masonry and covering the home in a coat of green, slowly ascending toward the many towers. The house was three stories of stone that had begun to crumble as the magic supporting it had faded. Even as the facade slowly fell back to the earth, it was imposing, resting at the top of a hill, towering over everything around it.
As Harry Potter led his team closer to the old manor, the path narrowed, the overgrown hedgerows to their sides drawing closer together. Harry stepped carefully on the walkway, avoiding places where the stone had cracked and sunk into the earth. The group walked single file behind him. The three directly to his back wore scarlet robes, like Harry's. A pair dressed in black trailed further back from the rest.
"All right you lot. Listen up." Harry paused, waving his wand, deftly vanishing the hedges where they knitted together and blocked the path. "I reckon this is a goose chase, but Minister Greengrass is pressing the Department for a thorough investigation."
"Shocker, that." Harry heard one of the men under his command snickering. He recognized the voice as Terry Boot's.
Harry looked forward, toward the house. The sun sat low in the sky, behind the house, casting its shadow across the Wiltshire countryside. Candles had only just begun flickering in the ground-floor windows, the remnants of spellwork cast quite some time ago, he figured.
He started again. "Greengrass's youngest daughter says there's more to this one than meets the eye, and he's inclined to believe her. They're just trying to save face, I suspect, but the Minister's involvement puts us in a delicate position."
"What do you want us to do, Top?" It was Boot's partner, Richard Harper.
Harry was silent for a moment as he gazed at the manor. He could imagine it as it had once been. He could see the glistening windows, the house lighting up the night as wizards in expensive robes walked this path, beautiful witches on their arms, making their way to the ballroom. He could taste the sweetness of their champagne on his lips, could envision the wealthy couples, twirling across the dance floor as the orchestra played. Harry strained his ears, as if listening for stray notes from long-forgotten tunes played by musicians long since dead. Beneath his heavy robes, goose bumps formed on his skin.
He looked up with a start, at the sound of flapping wings. He saw a crow, flying away from him and toward the house. His eyes followed its path against the backdrop of the manor. High above the oaken double-doors, sections of the roof came together at a sharp angle, one of the home's many gables. Far off to the sides, at the corners, he saw a pair of identical towers. Near the center of the complex was another tower, this one of red brick. It stood high above everything else, ending in a sharp point. He couldn't make out the design on the stained glass. It was a few hundred years newer than the rest of the house, he suspected.
"Officially," Harry said, "we're here to investigate a magical disturbance."
"Four Aurors and a pair of Unspeakables for a three-oh-four?" asked Boot. He laughed outright this time. "Not going for subtlety here, is he?"
Harry turned in time to see one of the Unspeakables taking a quick step backward, his eyes locked on a third-story window. "What is it, Liggins?"
The man shook his head. "It's nothing. Just a trick of the light."
Harper barked out a laugh. "Merlin, Liggins, are ya an Unspeakable or a housewitch?"
The woman directly behind Harry, his partner, Lisa Turpin, sighed. "And unofficially, Harry, why are we really here?"
Harry continued forward, under a stone archway. He ducked, narrowly avoiding vines that dangled overhead. A gust of wind rustled his cloak, causing him to shiver as he approached the entryway.
"Unofficially…" Harry paused, looking back at his team. "We're looking for evidence to prove that Draco Malfoy's death was not a suicide."
Harry climbed a set of steps to the porch, slowing his pace as he neared the entrance. The group was silent as Harry approached the doors. Though faded, he could still make out a distinctive branding on the wood. A shield was marked with a large "M" and surrounded by a pair of serpentine dragons.
He drew his wand and twirled it, feeling for any tension. Though he doubted that any of the wards were still active, it wouldn't do to take any chances. He gave his wand a flick and, satisfied, nodded his head. The door was cold to his touch, and surprisingly heavy. Harry leaned into it and heaved it open. A gust of cold air from within hit him. He took a breath, wrapping his cloak more tightly around himself. Crossing the threshold, he entered Malfoy Manor, the others following close behind him.
He looked forward, straining to take in his surroundings. The entry hall stretched out far to his left, before coming to an end at another set of double doors. It was darker inside than Harry had expected. He walked toward the front wall, examining a window. It was thoroughly covered with grime, keeping out most of the natural light. Candles sitting on the windowsills remained alit, but only just, their glow casting shadows across the room.
The doors at the end of the hall opened with a creak and clattered shut.
Footfalls echoed through the hall. He pointed his wand at the noise, and leaned forward, resting his weight on the balls of his feet. With his left hand, he motioned to his team. Lisa drew her wand and crept across the hall, stepping into an alcove in the back wall.
"Harry Potter." It was a woman's voice. She stepped into a candle's glow as she approached him. "I'm glad you came."
Harry's eyes focused on her as she grew near, and he lowered his wand. Black hair fell past her shoulders, bangs coming up just short of her blue eyes. She wore a black robe that hugged her figure. "You shouldn't be here, Miss Greengrass."
She smiled at him, flashing her teeth. "Why ever not? This was to be my home, after all."
Astoria's shadow danced in the flickering candlelight. Harry looked up at the elevated ceiling, waving his wand. A pair of golden chandeliers came to life, illuminating the entryway. He looked past Astoria, down the hall. The wooden floors were covered with Turkish carpet, the panelled walls dotted with countless portraits of blond-haired, grey-eyed men. "As I understand it, your intended didn't leave a will."
Her eyes locked onto his. "You understand correctly. Your godson's grandmother seems to be the most likely candidate for the inheritance, yes?"
Harry nodded. "The Ministry'll leave it open for a year, of course. It's always possible that someone will be able to prove a closer relation to Malfoy."
"That doesn't seem very likely, does it?" Astoria asked.
"Andromeda's his aunt, and we don't know of anyone closer than that. But it wouldn't be too surprising if Lucius had a bastard child or two." He shrugged. "I figured you'd be upset over losing out on the inheritance."
She waved it off. "The money's gone, and I'm not too keen on living here anyway, believe it or not."
Harry took a closer look around the entry hall, noting the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and dust piling up on the floor. "What are you doing here, then?"
"Daddy figured you'd need someone to show you around. He told me to give you the ten sickle tour."
Harry chuckled. "Why does Elias have such an interest in this?"
"He vouched for Draco at the trials and a suicide could be seen as an admission of guilt." Astoria sighed. "But beyond that, Daddy was always rather fond of Draco."
Harry scratched his chin. "Miss Greengrass, look… I know you don't want to believe Draco killed himself, but that's where the facts point."
She was silent for a long moment, as her eyes scanned over Harry, as if appraising him. She motioned for Harry to follow her further down the hall, away from his team. "I trust Daddy told you what you have at stake here?"
Harry laughed, walking a step behind her. "Your father's a politician. He never says anything outright."
"You want to be Head Auror, right?" Harry arched an eyebrow, and she continued. "You know that'll never happen without help. I saw your personnel file, you see—the mental evaluation from after … well, you know."
Harry's eyes narrowed. "You read my file?"
"Cracked in the head, isn't that what they called you? A broken man with a broken mind?"
Harry's muscles tightened and his voice softened. "You had no right-"
"I'm sorry." Lines formed on her forehead, and Harry noted that she did look apologetic. "But I had to find out some way to approach you about this. This has to be done right, and you're the best."
Harry detected a note of pleading in her voice. He sighed. "Are you blackmailing me, Miss Greengrass?"
"No!" Her eyes widened. "I'm offering to help you! Gawain is ready to retire, and Daddy's willing to nominate you for the position. He can even seal the record before you go before the Wizengamot for confirmation. Just help me here. Please."
Harry paused, considering her offer. He nodded. "I'll try, ma'am, but the evidence seems clear-"
"My fiancé did not kill himself, Mr. Potter." She raised her voice for the first time, her eyes boring into his.
Nonplussed, he asked, "Then who did?"
Astoria said nothing for a moment, and her voice was soft when she spoke again. "You wouldn't believe me."
Swallowing, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "It's not a who, Harry, it's a what."
"I'm not quite certain what you mean."
"There's something here, inside these walls. I don't know what, exactly, but Malfoys tend not to die natural deaths."
"What're you saying?" Harry asked. "The place is haunted?"
"No, no. At least…" Astoria paused, as if searching for the right words. "Not exactly. I mean, it's not haunted the same way the Shrieking Shack and Hogwarts are haunted."
Harry furrowed his brow. "What are you saying?"
"I don't really know how to explain it," she said, shaking her head. "The Baron, Nearly Headless Nick, all the Hogwarts ghosts, they're benign—basically powerless. Even Peeves can't be any worse than a minor inconvenience. Here… It's different."
"Whatever is in this house, it's malignant."
A/N: And here we are, at the start of another story. I haven't seen any haunted house stories in the fandom, and I figured it was about time somebody wrote one. Let me know what you think.