Chapter 2 : The Manor
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Isabelle could feel the dense air shifting around her, it warned of the approaching storm both outdoors and indoors once Papa returned empty-handed. Isabelle knew how to handle her sisters as they chided her for her lack of fashion, her curiosity, and the fact that she normally had a book with her at all times. Angelica would make comments that Isabelle was more of a bookworm than Hermione Granger. Angelica liked to drop the names of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger when she could; she had been two years younger than them in school and pretended like she knew them on a personal level. It drove Isabelle nuts because Angelica had been a Hufflepuff and only could have seen them during meal times.
Anise wasn’t as bad about trying to drop names. She had been a Hufflepuff as well and she was three years younger and knew nothing about the trio that wasn’t already written in the history books. Though, she would always bring up the time she ran into Draco Malfoy in the first floor girl’s bathroom. He had pushed past her with no explanation. Isabelle cringed when hearing Draco Malfoy’s name because even though Draco had been released on all war charges, there had been enough horror stories, albeit mostly rumors, floating around school to let her know he wasn’t someone she wanted to run into alone.
Isabelle tried to be nice to her sisters but she was the baby of the family. An unintended surprise and she had managed to ruin Angelica and Anise’s perfect family. Isabelle was unclear as to what had happened to make Angelica and Anise harbor so much dislike for her, but Isabelle tried to not dwell on it too much because it simply didn’t make sense. Isabelle was shaken from her thoughts by a flash on the horizon of lightening followed moments later by the rolling rumble of distant thunder. She gathered her belongings and made her way into the house, hoping her sisters had locked themselves in Angelica’s room for an evening of gossip.
Nicholas sat uncomfortably in the old carriage as it flew through the sky. He knew he should have waited for the storm to clear but he was ready to get home. His business hadn’t gone well in London, the tip he had received from an old contact had been false, making him had waste three days chasing down a rumor and worse he had let down his daughters once more. He had not been able to buy them anything from London that he had offered. He knew Belle would understand but placating Angelica and Anise would be harder. His thoughts drifted to Belle, the baby of the family, the one who reminded him most of his beloved late wife with her easy manner and sweet personality. Cruelty could not find a foothold in Belle; she was too pure of heart just like his wife had been.
Nicholas’s thoughts scattered as the carriage bucked in the storm, he clutched the armrest with finger breaking strength. His knuckles were as pale as ghosts in the moonlight as the carriage bumped and creaked in the storm raging outside. He was sure the winged horse hauling the carriage was affected by the storm but once these animals were given an order they didn’t waver from their command. Nicholas had told the beast to get home as fast as possible and that is what the winged animal would do. Unfortunately, Nicholas hadn’t accounted for the furiousness of the storm, nor had he taken into account that he could not contact the horse to tell him to land.
The carriage pitched forward, throwing Nicholas in the velvet rear facing seat in front of him, leaving Nicholas sprawling for a handhold to retain some balance. He felt the carriage shudder beneath him as the carriage battled the storm. Nicholas clapped his hands over his ears as a boom of thunder filled the enclosure. The carriage had handled its max amount of abuse as Nicholas felt it give way under his feet and a crack echo in the carriage. Nicholas knew this was it. The carriage was going down and he needed to stop it. He frantically groped his pockets for his wand as the carriage began its freefall to the unforgiving earth below. He could see through the back window as the ground rose to meet him. He managed to slow his fall just enough to save himself from serious injury.
Nicholas picked himself up from the splintering boards and thrown cloth, he noted the blood oozing from a cut below his knee; he took inventory of his injuries from that point upwards. His other leg was fine, and no other cuts were apparent to him. His palm and wrist of his right hand were a bit sore from catching himself. All in all it could have been much worse. Nicholas kicked a loose board at his feet in search of his wand that he had lost grip of during impact. The ground was littered with bits of board and luggage. The end of his wand sticking out beneath one of the torn seat cushions caught his attention through the pouring rain. He grabbed the handle to find that his wand had also been destroyed in the fall. The three pieces hung limp from the handle, all being held together by the tiny dragon heart string core.
This fact sadden him more than anything, it was almost irrational the amount of grief he felt from losing his wand. It had been a part of him since he had first stepped foot into Ollivanders Wand Shop when he was 11. He stuck the broken cherry wand in his pocket, determined to figure where he was. The rain made it hard to see very far in the darkness of the night but Nicholas could barely make out a structure looming in front of him. He couldn’t see any light but he hoped he could get shelter from the raging storm.
Draco scowled as he passed the covered mirror in the hallway. He refused to look at his own reflection since that faithful night the fairy had visited him. He was a beast in reality and all signs of his humanity were absent from his face. One might think he was an animal if he had not insisted to still dress in clothing that was special ordered to his measurements though, modification charms weren’t foreign to him these days.
He had made his house elf cover all portraits and mirrors after the old fairy had cursed him, he didn’t want to be reminded of what he had been. Of course the portraits had issued their protests to being covered but they fell on deaf ears and eventually went elsewhere to other frames in the world. Occasionally, he wished to gaze upon his parent’s portrait, he missed them fiercely but he was glad they never had to see him as he was now.
After the war his father had been convicted of war crimes that he had committed during the Second Wizarding War. Even though his mother had saved Harry Potter’s life, it had not been enough to purge the sins his father had committed during Lord Voldemort’s reign, luckily it had been enough to keep Lucius from receiving the kiss. Azkaban had been hard on his father and the life sentence in the desolate prison had all but sucked his will to live. Two years after being sent to Azkaban, his father had ceased to live. His mother had sunken in to the deep black hole of depression once his father died and it had been enough to weaken her to the point that she never recovered from a small bout of the flu, she had passed quietly one night.
Draco cursed the fairy, he may be proud but it came from the hard life he had lived up to that point. Draco stopped in front of the black drapes that covered his family portrait; it was the last one of his family. It had been done the summer after his fifth year, the year Lord Voldemort returned. He fingered the heavy velvet material, scowling as the material slipped through his fingers, he didn’t need to remove the drapes to see the portrait. He could see it in his mind’s eye and he turned from the space on the wall and nearly bowled over his house elf.
“Master! A man is trying to seek refuge from the storm, he is in the foyer.” Addy exclaimed as she appeared in front of Draco. Draco was about to blow off the broom handle as he thought about the audacity that the man must have to barge onto someone else’s property. Draco wanted to find the man and throw him out of his house by the scruff of his neck in to the raging storm. Storm, Draco thought about the consequences of the last time he had refused to shelter someone from a storm.
“Bah!” Draco exclaimed and threw his hand in the air in a form of dismissal. “Let him stay but you are in charge of him. Feed him and give him a place to sleep but I want him gone in the morning.” Draco growled and turned to flee from the elf and the act of kindness he committed, his cloak whipped behind him as left. The sound barely covering Addy’s “Yes, Master.”
Nicholas was taken by surprise when he saw a pair of eyes peeping around the corner at him. Actually, it had startled him half to death because he had assumed the mansion was empty by the state it was in outside and the lack of light on the inside.
“Hello!” He called out hesitantly, not sure what was looking at him. Nicholas wasn’t sure what to expect but a little elf stepped around the corner.
“S-s-s-sir.” The elf bowed. Nicholas looked around to see if there was anyone else in the Manor.
“Is your Master home?” Nicholas asked.
“Master does not wish to entertain guests. He will grant you permission to stay one night out of the storm. You must been gone at dawn.” The elf replied.
“That is very generous.” Nicholas stated.
“Indeed, please follow me.” The elf’s tone suggested it was an order and not a request. Nicholas felt odd about the situation as the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He did his best to brush off the feeling and followed the elf. It was short walk before the elf opened a door into a sitting room off the main entrance.
“You may stay in here.” The elf snapped its fingers and the couch turned into a bed and the fire roared to life. “I will bring you something to eat and drink. Please don’t leave this room.” The elf disappeared with a ‘pop’ and the doors snapped shut behind him.
Nicholas figured if the host had wanted to kill him he would have done it by now. Nicholas eyed the finery of the room from the plush emerald green carpets to the dark wood moldings. The room reeked of luxury. Everything matched and was perfect placed for the most appealing view but the only thing that seem out of place besides the conjured bed was a thick black drape hung over a massive portrait hanging above the mantle. Curious filled his mind as he stood in front of the fire. He reached up, his fingers barely brushing the black fabric when the heat from the fire became too hot to handle and he stepped away from the hearth.
“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you.” A voice told him from somewhere in the shadows of the room. Nicholas turned to scan the room but no one was with him. “You might make the Master angry.” The voice broke into a cough.
“Who is there?” Nicholas called out.
“This Manor is not what it seems.” called out the bodiless voice.
“What do you mean?” Nicholas asked, trying to keep the fear from his voice. There was no reply and an odd thumping noise came from the shadows where the voice had been. The thumping stopped.
“Some curses are meant for people. Some curses are meant for objects. Some curses are too powerful to be contained and overtake a whole Manor. Hate is a powerful emotion and a rouge fairy can cause more harm than good.” The voice was closer to Nicholas this time.
“Show yourself!” Nicholas demanded.
“Do you fear me?” it questioned.
“I am no coward. Show yourself.” Nicholas responded. A strangled cackled rung out and the thumping started up again.
Thump, thump…. Thump, thump, thump… moving closer to Nicholas. A book slowly came out of the shadows. One cover flipped open and the book jumped closer. Nicholas cringed away. Eventually the book stood itself on end; a face was on the spine.
“What are you?” Nicholas asked.
“A book” was the simple reply.
“What were you?” Nicholas asked hesitantly, afraid of the answer.
“I’ve always been a book.” It answered again. Nicholas was speechless, but fortunately the elf came back with a loaded tray.
“I see you have met Lucinda.” The elf noted before laying the tray on the table. “I’m Addy. Lucinda can keep you company. I warn you. Don’t leave this room, don’t explore this Manor or things will not turn out so good for you.”
“I am Nicholas. Nicholas Bridges.” He formally introduced himself to the elf and the book. Again his level of comfort with the situation was dropping further.
“Good evenin’” The book replied. Nicholas had since many strange things in his days but books with personality were a first. Sure, he’d seen books that read themselves and books that take on characteristics of the books contents, he was thinking of The Monster Book of Monsters. Mostly the books he came across were still books with a little animation. This book in front of him was a complete oddity; it had taken on its own personality and free will.
Addy looked at the book and the guest a few times, “You have been warned” Addy told them and left the room once more.
Nicholas kept a keen eye on the book as he made his way to the dinner tray that Addy had left for him.
“Books don’t talk.” Nicholas stated as he took a chunk out of a turkey sandwich. The book sighed as a response.
“I didn’t always talk.” She told him truthfully. “Actually, none of us talked before that night.” She continued.
“Us?” Nicholas squeaked as he choked on the sandwich.
“Yes, there’re many of us in this place. We use to sit high up on shelf, waitin’ to be plucked up and enjoyed. He won’t read an’more.” Her voice was mournful.
“Who doesn’t read anymore?” Nicholas pried.
“The Master, He enjoyed books a plenty at one point. I think it freaks him out that we talk and move.” Lucinda informed him.
“Who is your Master?” Nicholas tried to pry again but Lucinda wasn’t going to give anything away.
“Don’t be askin’ things you don’t wanna know.” She tutted him with disapproval. Nicholas wanted to know, he was curious man and the mystery of the place was driving him to insanity. The book hinted to things that may have happened and of a Master who may or may not be human. Nicholas shivered as the thought crossed his mind.
“You are right.” Nicholas held up his hands as he finished the last biscuit on the tray. “I don’t want to know.” He faked a yawn and stretched his arms above his head. I think I am going to bed now. Thank you for keeping me company.” He told Lucinda.
“It was truly my pleasure, would you like me to read you part of my story as you drift to sleep.” She practically purred from the pleasure of being useful once more. Nicholas nodded and lay down on the transfigured bed.
“Once upon a time, in a land not so far away lived a poor widow and her son…..”
Draco stared at the mirror in his paw. He had been watching the intruder all night as he conversed with the book and as he slept. Draco didn’t trust invaders in his house. One glance at him and they would be send The Division of Magical Creatures after him, the last thing he needed was Granger’s, bah Weasley’s, whatever her last name was now, department rooting through his land and manor. The sunlight was coming through the sliver of curtains that masked the windows in his room. Draco snapped his fingers and Addy appeared before him.
“Yes Master?” Addy bowed before him.
“It is time for the guest to leave.” Draco growled. “Slip this in his pocket. Once he steps off my land he will be transported to his house and will forget this place.” To Draco’s surprise, the man had been a pureblood which meant Draco could research his lineage and bloodline to one surviving family in England. Draco had set up an unauthorized portkey to get the man home because Draco could risk the man finding his way back to the Manor.
“Yes, Master.” Addy took the small stone and left.
Draco continued to watch the man from his mirror. It was rather boring as Addy woke up the stranger and told him it was time to leave. Addy had done as Draco had requested and managed to slip the stone to the strangers pant pocket unnoticed. He unceremoniously made his way to the door. It all happened fairly quickly. The man walked out the door and along the side of the Manor. Wondering where the stranger was going Draco gripped the mirror in one hand as he made his way to balcony.
The man would be passing under it momentarily. He watched the stranger walk past his mother’s rose bush. It had been her favorite and she had taken care of it herself. Draco had made sure to carry on when she had left and the rose bush was the only thing on the land he really cared for. The man ceased walking and turned to look at his mother’s rose bush. Draco held his breath as the man reached out to touch one of the red roses in full bloom. Draco let out an involuntary growl, fighting the urge to rip off the stranger’s hand for touching things that did not belong to him. The man looked over both of his shoulders before grasping the bloom’s thorny stem and twisted it, breaking it in two, removing the bloom permanently.
Draco’s vision went red as he launched himself over the balcony rail, landing feet from the guest. Draco grabbed the man by the scruff of the neck before the man had time to blink. Holding the man eye level he gently took the dismembered rose from the man before casted the man off to the side like a rag doll. Draco heard the fleshy thud when the man landed feet from him. Draco growled at the stranger.
“Is this how you repay me for my kindness.” Draco held the rose out for the man to see clearly. “You break and take things that you have no right to take?” Draco questioned him. The man’s mouth gaped like a fish out of water, scared was too simple of an emotion to describe what the man was feeling.
“You know not how these careless actions will affect other people. You will not be able to leave now, you have seen too much.” Draco told him. The man finally found his voice.
“My daughters, I have daughters. I cannot stay here!” The man pleaded as he scrambled away from the beast. Draco grabbed the man before he could get too far.
“This isn’t your decision anymore.” Draco growled as drug the man to the dungeon area, taking care to remove the wand pieces from the stranger’s pocket before locking the iron bar door.