The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 2: The Malfoy Manor
Albus and Scorpius left the Quidditch World Cup campsite in high spirits. Harry arrived to the top box to meet them when the match ended, to say that he’d pick Albus up within three weeks for the wedding. Albus left afterwards, waving a sad goodbye to Rose, and nodding a goodbye to Mark and the twins, who looked happy to see him go.
It was a bittersweet feeling really. Albus leaving to the Malfoy Manor. For one thing, he’d be with his best friend. He’d be away from his family, finally. But then, did he want to be away from his family, particularly in present company? How would it be like with a family full of former Death Eaters? Albus didn’t tell anyone, but Lucius intimidated him. The cold grey eyes boring into Albus’ green ones were not pleasant.
The Portkey took them to a place near Whitshire. They didn’t have to walk far to get to their destination. The Malfoy Manor was located at the end of the small village. It was a large place. Very large. He knew Scorpius lived in a manor because the boy had never failed in bragging about it at least three times a week. The beautiful place had large grounds with a blue fountain apparent in plain sight. White peacocks roamed the large green grounds. However beautiful it was, the iron gates stopped anyone entering.
Albus gazed at it wide-eyed. Draco smirked at Albus’ surprise, “Expect smaller? Born and raised here. You’ll find the pleasures of a Malfoy life, now.”
“The gates are cursed,” Lucius said as he passed through them.
Albus gaped all the more as he watched as the family pass through the gates like it was smoke. When he made to pass through them, he found himself bump into them. Lucius and Scorpius laughed as Draco sighed and opened the gates from the inside. As Albus, confused, walked inside, Draco filled him in, “If you had tried opening them, you wouldn’t be too happy.”
“What would happen?”
“You die,” Draco said simply. He said it so simply and straightforwardly that Albus didn’t know if he was joking or not.
Spotting the confused look, Lucius spoke, “If we had- ah, killed anyone like that, the Ministry would recognize it immediately. We’d be imprisoned. If you try entering the Malfoy Gates, you will be transported back to where you were before you entered Whitshire. You’d be back in Russia.”
“But if we let anything like that happen, we’d have a family war with the Potter’s,” Draco said calmly. “So you’re going to enjoy the benefits of the Malfoy Manor whilst you stay here.”
Albus thought he would soon wish he was back home, but when he entered Malfoy manor, and came to appreciate the magnificent beauty of it, he found he was mistaken. He couldn’t wish to be home. The house was brilliant. A crystallized chandelier hung in the large marble entry way. The floor was clear and clean marble, the walls were almost glass. Speaking of glass, a large glass sculpture of a python stood to greet them as they walked in.
Also standing to greet them, staring up with yellow eyes as ominously as possible was Scorpius’ cat Ursa. Ursa rushed immediately to rub his face against Scorpius’ leg, hoping to be picked up.
As Albus made to follow Scorpius upstairs, Lucius took Albus’ shoulder with the snake staff. Albus spun round, shocked. Scorpius looked uneasy, and Lucius gazed at Albus in the very way the latter didn’t like, and warned, “Make sure you don’t go anywhere without Scorpius. We wouldn’t want anything to… happen- while you’re here.”
The first week was fantastic. Albus got to appreciate everything, like Draco had promised. Speaking of Draco, the man had treated Albus good, like a guest. Albus felt confused at the strange generosity, and when he confided in Scorpius what he felt, the latter laughed, “Since I’m going over to your house for Christmas, I think my parents are trying to make you enjoy the Manor more than I’d enjoy the Potter household. It’s a state of competition.”
Albus couldn’t decide which aspect of the manor was the best. For one thing, the peacocks were fun to chase. Albus felt like a small child running after the peacocks, trying to catch them. He was aware of Astoria watching them and it took Albus and Scorpius working together to manage to catch the peacocks; they didn’t stop until Astoria passed at the end of the first week and ordered them off.
There was also the fountain. Scorpius frequently used his wand to charm the water at Albus. However, Scorpius soon learned that guest or not, Albus could shoot back. They were having particular fun with the fountain when, Ursa, spiking his fur up in shock, ran away during the second week and stayed away until Lucius passed and sent water shooting at both of them.
During the weekend after the second week, Scorpius had shown Albus something hilarious involving Ursa. It was revealed Scorpius enjoyed scaring the living daylights out of Ursa specially for his reaction. Scorpius snuck up behind, and screeched loudly and clearly, stamping his feet like an overgrown child. Shocked and puffed up, letting out a screeching meow, Ursa ran off, and when making a sharp turn on the clean marble floor, actually nearly slipped and slid back two inches before regaining control and running off at lightning speed, slipping at the top of the stairs.
As the third and last week of Albus’ stay dawned, a thought occurred to him. Based on Scorpius’ telling of the Malfoy’s trying to make Albus’ stay enjoyable, Albus thought that maybe they meant to allow Albus and Scorpius to do certain things for just a week. It wasn’t coincidence that they were stopped a week after enjoying a pleasure. The Malfoy’s were trying to psychologically force Albus to enjoy as many aspects as possible.
It was incredible. When Albus was at home, he had all the time in the world to do as he liked but when at the Malfoy Manor, they seemed to be trying very hard to stop him from one activity just to immerse him in the next. Two weeks into his stay, Scorpius promised Albus a trip to the hot springs in the back of the house. But if Albus was not mistaken, Lucius kept shooting him dark looks every time they walked upstairs. Sometimes, Lucius seemed to be trying to lure Albus into a room along with him but Albus kept resisting and Scorpius always popped up coincidentally at the last minute.
Albus had about a week left when he was truly growing afraid of Lucius Malfoy. After breakfast dawning the third week, Draco stood up and looked at Scorpius, “While we’re out, I think you best show Albus the back of the house.”
“Keep him away from- ah… the West Wing,” Lucius said calmly.
“Is your grandfather trying to kill me?” Albus asked as Scorpius guided him to the back.
Scorpius shrugged, and said, “He’s trying to get your attention to other parts. The point is that you can enjoy the Manor all you like but it still retains some of its dark demeanor from before. There is this one room in the West Wing that’s quite cursed. Not sure what happens. Grandma had an extra head, mum got a third arm, Ursa had three tails, and my eyes were fused into one. St. Mungo’s at a field day. But we do have a Banshee. It hasn’t screeched for ages though. Woke me up right when I was four. Foretold grandma’s death,” he added, shuddering.
Albus widened his eyes. He was deep in thought by the time they got to the back, that Scorpius literally slapped him across the face to wake him up. “We’re here, mate. Hot springs.”
The gardens at the back were full of flowers. The springs were warm and comfortable, and by saying they cured the cold, Scorpius was hinting it was eternally warm. It must’ve been for Astoria, because Albus could not see Draco spending time here.
The two soaked and warmed themselves in the springs calmly. Albus wondered for a second when the Malfoy’s would be back, but he couldn’t care. All he found himself caring about now was relaxing. The boy across from Albus looked younger in the water. Scorpius retained a youthful image simply because he was youthful himself. That must’ve been why he and Mark got along by the second year. Mark was also youthful. Too youthful. Albus considered him to be immature, sometimes, to be honest.
However, Albus’ thoughts of Scorpius being young were shot dead and buried after the next conversation. Eyes closed, Scorpius let out a contented sigh, and asked a question that took Albus back a bit, “What do you think of Laura?”
Albus widened his eyes, and gaped, “Laura Creevey? Professor Creevey’s daughter?”
Scorpius nodded. His eyes were open now. He was gazing, almost tiredly, at Albus. Albus couldn’t tell if his friend was serious or not. All he knew was that it was a fool’s hope if he was.
“Wow, I thought you were young, but… Scorps, you’ve changed,” Albus said, looking at Scorpius in a different way now. It was as if he never saw his friend properly before.
Scorpius, covered up to his neck in water, opened his eyes once again, “We’re growing up, Al.”
“Did we start just now, because just last week we were a couple of”-
Scorpius took a breath, and sunk under water. Albus stopped in midsentence, and looked around confusedly. Then, without warning, Scorpius popped out right in front of Albus, tongue hanging out. Albus looked at him for a bit, almost pityingly, and said, “What were you saying about growing up, Scorps?”
“I’m just screwing around,” Scorpius shrugged, and he swam back to his spot across from Albus. He sighed, and gazed at his own reflection,
Before Albus could speculate further, Scorpius spoke again. “Try getting your sister to join us in Slytherin, Al. Can you do that?”
Albus shrugged. He expected a request like this, but he also expected that Rose wouldn’t be unwise to it. “Let’s leave it to the sorting, honestly. If she makes Slytherin, I don’t wanna have anything to do with it. Dad may think you and I coerced her into it.”
Scorpius scoffed, “Oh, Al. Don’t be afraid of daddy. What, is he gonna murder you if Lils makes Slytherin?”
“You know, Scorps, you can’t talk,” Albus said back. “So formal, you all are. Ever hugged a family member before? Or is it all shakes and how-do-you-do?”
Albus sighed, and climbed out. Evening was falling, so Scorpius got out too, and dried up. They put their clothes back on, and Scorpius extended his hand to Albus, “C’mon, before dinner ends.”
Albus grinned, and took it. Drying themselves up and throwing themselves into their clothes, they walked back toward the manor in silence, neither speaking to the other. Draco met them halfway there. Raising his head in realization that they were on their way, he turned and walked back with them. Albus felt strange walking in silence with Scorpius and his father. He was with a very conservative and rich family. He wasn’t used to the style of living and even surprised himself sometimes that he managed to befriend Scorpius so easily and quickly.
The real surprise did not come until Lucius Malfoy finally won in his endeavor to get Albus alone. It was an accident but Albus woke up in the middle of the night for a drink of water. He had been there long enough to feel comfortable enough to treat the place like home and get one himself. On his way downstairs, he felt a forceful stick on his shoulder. A hand reached out from the darkness and threw him into a darkened room. The lights dimmed on and Lucius Malfoy stood there, leaning on his snake staff and glaring at him through the darkness.
The initial shock sent a gasp through Albus. He shook and Lucius did not seem to care but remained indifferent. “Been meaning to talk to you dear boy. Whatever are you doing up at this hour?”
“Thirsty,” Albus said truthfully.
“Already feel at home?” Lucius asked calmly.
“I’ll ask next time, sir,” Albus added, trying to remain polite and well-mannered. If he had fun before, at that moment, he desperately wanted to be at home again. “It’s just- Scorps- Scorpius told me I could get a drink when I wanted.”
“That’s a problem with the Potter family,” Lucius commented calmly, charming the door shut behind him. “Continue treating dwellings they step in as if it belongs to them.”
Albus’ first initial reaction was to tell him that the Malfoy family was guilty of that too but something told him Lucius was not the man to cross in the middle of the night. So, instead he said, “I don’t mean to do that, Mr. Malfoy. I just felt thirsty.”
“So thirsty you could not wait till morning?” Lucius challenged back.
“I’m sorry, ok?” Albus apologized. “I’ll just go to bed.”
Albus turned to walk out, praying Lucius would not stop him but he did. He felt an invisible force pull him back, bringing back painful memories of the incident a couple of months ago in the forest. In his hand was a small glass of water. “Take.”
Albus gulped it down in one and ran out, scared out of his wits. He never before knew just what being a Malfoy meant. However much Draco was trying to get him to enjoy the place, it was not all fun and games. He clambered up the stairs and to the room he shared with Scorpius and threw himself back in bed, remaining awake for another hour, unable to get himself back to sleep. He had his drink but he still felt thirsty… very thirsty. And something told him that Lucius cursed him to feel thirsty especially to get him out of bed and down the stairs. That meeting was planned.