The Château de la Grange-Bléneau, known as the official residence of the Malfoy family in France, was a huge medieval castle located at the outskirts of Île-de-France, the wealthiest and most populous of the twenty-seven administrative regions of France. Originally recorded since the 13th century, the castle has belonged to several families: Courtenay, Aubusson-La Feuillade and d’Aguesseau. Ownership passed from the d’Aguesseau to Marquis de La Fayette, who lived there until his death in 1834. After La Fayette’s death, his grandson, Jules de Lasteyrie married Olivia de Rohan-Chabot and the couple lived at la Grange-Bléneau for 54 years. Their son, Louis de Lasteyrie, sold the home to his distant cousin, René de Chombrun, in 1955,thus passing this Château from Muggle to their current Wizard owners.
In the year 1975, René de Chombrun’s only daughter, Audré de Chombrun, was married off to Morpheus Abraxas Malfoy, son of Abraxas Malfoy of the well-known British Pureblood Wizarding family, the Malfoys. The Château was currently in possession of their only son Julian de Chombrun-Malfoy, who inherited it after an early demise of his father. The building dating from the 14th century and altered slightly in the 17th century included five circular towers from the 15th century and a chapel. The Château was surrounded by two plush gardens, three large fountains, a small forest with an all season fruit orchard.
It was a well acknowledged fact in the neighbourhood surrounding the Château that the Malfoy’s, though rich and very influential, were social and well-mannered to their friends and neighbours, an uncommon trait for a family of their status. Julian Malfoy, the Man of the Château, was friendly and easy-going despite having a British father and being educated in a strange school called Beauxbatons. His mother, Lady Audré, although not a social peacock, was always ready to help her neighbours and never missed an invitation from them. Julian’s only sister Lillian, considered as the most beautiful young lady of the neighbourhood, both by her friends and foes, was far from arrogant; with aristocratic manners of her ancestors admixed with cheery playfulness of the modern generation, she was a many men’s dream woman. All in all the family was considered a pleasant company by those who knew them well.
What the Muggles didn’t know about this popular and respected family was that they were a cross between two famous Pureblood Wizarding families: the French Chombruns and the British Malfoys; a fact for which they were considered very high amongst the French Wizarding Society. Both families had rich heritages dating back to 10th century. True that the reputation of the British wing of the family: the Malfoys, were highly compromised during the Second Rise of the Dark Lord Voldemort, but much to the gratefulness of the French Wizarding Community, the Franco-British Chombrun-Malfoys neither participated nor supported any matters related with the Dark Lord. It was well known even to the French Wizarding Community that the British Malfoys carried certain prejudices regarding blood status but the French Malfoys were not such hypocrites. In fact they had many Muggleborn friends and lived comfortably in a Muggle neighbourhood.
But even such a polished reputation was not good enough to keep them out of general conversation. For one, the mysterious circumstances regarding the marriage between Morpheus Malfoy and Audré de Chombrun was still considered a hot topic of discussion whenever elderly witches were gathered for any occasion and Lady Audré was out of earshot. The British Malfoys were no big French Lovers. Then why would Morpheus Malfoy, eldest son of Abraxas Malfoy, get betrothed to a French pureblood witch such as Audré? It was not that she wasn’t pretty or aristocratic enough for a Malfoy; she was far from it. But she was a French. Some speculated that Morpheus did not like his father’s narrow-minded prejudices and decided to leave the family for good. Others thought that he defied his father for his love for Audré. The real reason, due to lack of answers from the respective parties were, of course: unknown.
Narcissa Malfoy and her sister-in-law Audré de Chombrun-Malfoy were comfortably seated in the latter’s Château parlour and were just about to take a sip from their evening coffee when the door swung open unannounced and Lillian burst in, in a state of great alarm.
“What’s it Lillian?” her mother enquired in slightly accented English. Usually they conversed in French but it was impolite to do so in the presence of an English guest.
Lillian was panting. “It’s Brother Draco! I think he’s not well!” She said, looking panic stricken, “I was walking in the garden when he apparated in our Apparition Point. He stood there for a while, and I noticed that he was crying! But before I could ask him what was wrong, he ran inside. I followed him to his suite but he slammed the door on my face! So I came here to notify Aunt.” she looked at Draco’s mother.
Narcissa was on her feet in an instant and left the parlour almost running, with Audré and Lillian following her closely. The guest chamber assigned for Draco was on the second floor. As soon as Narcissa reached there, she turned the door knob feverishly, trying to open the door. But it was locked from inside.
“Draco, dear! Are you alright?” she pressed her right ear against the door and called, hoping against hope that he didn’t cast a Silencing Charm on the door.
There was no answer. The occupant either chose to ignore his mother or was oblivious to her queries.
“Draco!” Narcissa pounded loudly on the door and it creaked slightly, “Draco! Please open the door!” She was on the verge of tears now.
Another ten minutes passed but no amount of pounding, yelling or crying from Narcissa was successful in yielding the door to be opened. Use of various unlocking spells also met with the same results.
“What if he harms himself, Audré?” Narcissa burst into tears and started pounding the door with more force. Audré, meanwhile, called the resident House-Elf matriarch Peggy to bring the keys for all the doors of Château.
Once brought, Narcissa eyed them with suspicion. “How can these Muggle keys open the damn door when all my unlocking spells have failed?” she asked incredulously.
Audré smiled kindly at her. “These are no Muggle keys, my dear. They were specially made upon my father’s order by the famous ‘Klemens Key-makers’. No spell or ward can prevent these from opening the door. Also only the Man or the Lady of the Château can rightfully use them. There is no fear that thieves or plunders might break in using them.” she explained while searching the right key for Draco’s door.
Narcissa was still unconvinced and watched in silent disbelief as Audré inserted a very simple Muggle-looking key into the lock and turned it.
The door opened without any protest.
As if a floodgate has been opened, Narcissa almost burst into the room and looked around. It was a spacious suite with a sitting room, study, bedroom, bathroom and a balcony – every room almost dark now. Audré gave her wand a flick and the small chandelier hanging from the ceiling was lighted, illuminating the place. Everything seemed to be in order except for Draco who was nowhere to be seen.
“Draco!” Narcissa called desperately, “Draco! My son! Where are you?”
Then came a sound of something crushing against wall. It was on their left and they followed it immediately.
They found Draco in his bedroom – his neat silvery blonde hair ruffled, impeccable clothes wrinkled and elegant face tear-stricken. He kept throwing a ceramic statuette to the opposite wall, summoning and repairing it non-verbally to throw it once again.
Narcissa knew better not to question her son in that state. Draco looked angry, depressed and extremely agitated. Instead, she covered the small space between them and hugged him tightly.
“It’s okay, Draco dear! Whatever it is, it’s fine.” She whispered gently into his ear. Her son stood there like a statue himself, not moving a muscle as she hugged him. They didn’t speak for a while, during which she stroked his messy hair soothingly.
“Mother!” Draco, under her comforting touch, suddenly released the statuette, hugged his mother and broke into an uncontrollable sob. “I saw him, mother! I saw him!” he cried in anguish.
His mother did not enquire whom he had seen. She knew Draco would reveal it eventually. She just kept stroking his hair gently.
Draco calmed down after a few minutes. “I am crying like a silly child!” he said, wiping his eyes in the sleeve.
“It is alright, Draco.” his mother assured him, “It’s fine to cry sometimes.” She sighed and they released each other and she looked up at him, her own eyes tearful.
“Draco, please promise me that you’ll never lock yourself up again. Okay? I almost died in fright when I couldn’t open that door. For a moment, I thought I have lost you forever.” She shuddered at the very thought, “Thanks to your aunt. She had those enchanted keys. Else…” she paused and took Draco’s hands in hers, “You are the only one I have, Draco. Please have pity on your poor mother! Don’t ever lock yourself up or harm yourself. Promise me. Okay?” she pleaded.
Draco nodded silently. His mother looked greatly relieved.
“Come, sit here.” Narcissa guided her son to the nearest seat and motioned him to sit. Meanwhile, Audré had conjured a goblet of water for her nephew and she handed it to Narcissa. They were standing at the doorway, watching the mother and son interact in their own way.
“Water?” Narcissa offered the goblet to Draco. He took it from her hand, emptied the water in one go and cleared his throat. He then looked at the other occupants of the room and took a deep breath as if bracing himself before a very unpleasant announcement.
“I saw him today!” he said in a dramatic tone.
“Whom did you see, dear?” his mother asked in a carefully casual tone.
“Scorpius!” Draco replied cautiously. His face was pale but his eyes burning like coals.
Narcissa tensed and exchanged a nervous look with Audré. “Where did you see him, dear?” she asked, trying hard not to sound alarmed.
“Near Tuileries Garden.” Draco leaned against his chair and replied confidently.
Narcissa conjured what looked like a very strained smile. “Draco, I know you are very upset but…” she started but her son cut in.
” Mother, I know what you are thinking. I know.” He held up a hand, “But I am not out of my rockers and I definitely did not hallucinate!” He pressed on the point.
Narcissa was careful to not show her frustration. “Draco, dearest, you must realize your claims are impossible!” she supplied reasonably.
Draco looked livid. “I know mother but I assure you I am not mad. How could you even imagine that I am…” he almost exclaimed but Audré stepped forward. She cast a warning look at Narcissa and looked at Draco when she spoke.
“Now, now, Draco. We certainly don’t think you are going mad, dear. So there is no need to get so excited about that.” She said calmly. “But I also think that it will be better if you could explain everything to us, you know, so that we can understand it more fully. After all, we were not there when you saw Scorpius in Tuileries Garden. Were we, Narcissa?” She asked her sister-in-law for support.
Narcissa shook her head.
Draco looked at his aunt. Ever since their visit to France at his Uncle’s home two weeks ago, he has found this elderly woman to be a very logical yet an easy-going person. It was something new to him. Except for his aunt, all the women he came across until now were either logical but very severe or foolish and easy-going. Being gifted with two opposite qualities was rare to him and somehow, internally, he could not appreciate enough his uncle’s choice of a wife. There was something about Audré that made him think that he could rely on her intelligence.
Draco nodded and gestured the ladies to take seats. Once seated, he recounted the afternoon’s events calmly, taking great care to mention every single detail. When he finished his mother and Lillian looked shocked, as expected, but Audré looked thoughtful.
Draco leaned back on his sofa and waited for the verdict. Has or has he not seen his son?
It was Narcissa who broke the silence. “Draco, dear,” her tone was patient and guarded, “…I can understand what you are going through now…but…but…” she bit her lips painfully, “…our little Scorpius died at the age of two.”
Draco leaned forward. “Do you think that I don’t know that already?” he almost growled at his mother. “I know Scorpius died at the age of two! I know it! And the other two I had died too!” He shook his head, visibly disturbed that his mother was questioning his sanity. “I also happen to remember that my wife, Astoria, died just a month ago from heavy bleeding following her second miscarriage. There is no need to remind me all those wonderful facts, mother!” he spat savagely.
Narcissa visibly paled and flinched at her son’s vehement reaction but Audré took charge again.
“Calm down, Draco.” she said gently and he turned her gaze to her. Audré looked thoughtful, with a deep furrow between her brows. “We all understand that you have been through a lot but losing temper won’t get you anywhere. Narcissa is just as shocked as you might have been had your son told you that he saw your dead grandson in a French garden.” she said, looking straight to him.
Draco failed to argue. He knew better now that this woman was made of a different kind of material and arguing with her wasn’t as easy as it was with his own mother.
“However, I must admit you have made me curious.”Audré continued in a thoughtful voice, “I would like to find out what really happened.” she fixed Draco with a piercing look.
Whatever reaction Draco had expected previously, it was clearly not this. He had thought that no one in his family would believe him and react as if he has finally gone crazy, followed by weekly visits to some psychotherapist. Narcissa has already reacted as he had expected her to but there she sat, his aunt Audré, contemplating the incident under different lights as if she believed his every word. Her demeanor offered him a curious and impossible hope. He searched her face for any signs of fake interest or sarcasm but found none. This dark haired and blue-eyed witch, about whom his father had always reserved the most scathing and hateful comments, was perhaps the most intriguing person he has ever met. Draco himself could not rationalize afternoon’s events; especially when he knew that Scorpius died two years ago. But he could not also forget the boy who looked so much like his dead son.
“Forgive me, Audré dear but I fail to comprehend what you mean by ‘what really happened’.” Narcissa quoted her, looking positively scandalized by her son and sister-in-law’s strange behaviour.
“In a minute, dear.” Audré smiled kindly at Narcissa before turning to her daughter. She gave her a meaningful look and said, “Lillian dear, please be a darling and give your aunt and cousin a dose of Calming Draught.” She stood up, “I’ll fetch something that can help us all.”
Lillian nodded and Audré left silently.
Narcissa and Draco both were curious to know what was going on inside Audré’s mind. But try as they might, it was beyond their capability. Meanwhile, Lillian served them a dose of Calming Draught and Draco drifted once again into the memories of the afternoon. Narcissa silently prayed her son’s recovery.
When Audré entered Draco’s room ten minutes later she was carrying a shallow basin full of Rune markings around it.
“A Pensieve?” Draco exclaimed; he was now beginning to understand his aunt’s motive, or at least he thought he did.
“Yes. A Pensieve” Audré affirmed. She placed the delicate object carefully on the table before Draco, “It belonged to your uncle Morpheus. You surely know that he was one of the Chief Warlocks in French Wizengamot. He used this Pensieve to witness memories provided by convicted criminals or eye witnesses. Pity, Julian does not use it like his father did but some of Morpheus’s old colleagues still visit us only to use this beauty.” There was a tinge of pride in her voice.
Audré took out her wand and tapped on the Pensieve. It glowed.
“Now, Draco, I want you to remove that particular memory and place it in this Pensieve.” Audré explained, even though it was obvious what her motive was. “I may not be as professional as your uncle was but I helped him in many cases as a public prosecutor. I can assure that I’ll be able to distinguish between a true memory and a false one.” She said confidently.
Draco resisted an urge to roll his eyes at his aunt’s attempt to appear modest. He knew for a fact that Audré Chombrun Malfoy was considered as one of the best Public Prosecutors France has ever seen. He took out his own wand, pressed the tip against his temple and concentrating hard, removed a shimmering silvery strand of memory. He dropped it carefully into the Pensieve where it started to swirl.
Audré took a deep breath and plunged her face into the Pensieve.
Minutes passed on. Everyone waited in silent anticipation while Audré watched Draco’s memory. When she came up, after almost fifteen minutes, everyone was holding their breaths. The room had an atmosphere of a courtroom just before a sentence was pronounced.
“Well, it’s real!” André announced simply. She looked at the two most apprehensive people, Draco and Narcissa. “It’s real Narcissa.” She repeated.
Narcissa and Draco slumped back in their respective seats, one out of fatigue and the other out of relief.
” Merlin, Audré! Are you sure?” Narcissa croaked while Draco stared at his aunt. For a moment he himself had thought that everything was his imagination.
“Positive. Draco was not hallucinating.” Audré affirmed, “In fact I am surprised at his ability to produce such a clear memory in this state of shock. I am impressed, Narcissa. But the most curious thing is that the little boy in his memory is an exact miniature of Draco. He is hardly six and yet looks so much like him. Had I not known that Scorpius is no more, I would have thought that they are father and son.” She motioned Narcissa to the Pensieve, “Go on, see it yourself Narcissa.” she said.
Narcissa obliged without further ado followed by Lillian and when they finally came up both women had shock written on their face; especially Narcissa.
“But how is that possible?” She asked incredulously, her blue eyes full of questions.
” That is the same question playing in my mind too.” Audré said thoughtfully, her eyes now fixed on Draco who has not spoken since he dropped his memory into the Pensieve. “Surely, Draco can enlighten us.”
Draco shook his head. He had been pondering over the same question. “I have no idea, aunt. I have never seen that woman in my life.” He said confidently, “The only woman I have ever had children with was my wife, Astoria, who is dead now. I never had any serious affairs with any other woman.” He looked at his Aunt’s eyes. “I know it’s hard to believe considering my reputation as an Ex-Death Eater but I am not a womanizer.” He said firmly, “You can even subject me to Veritaserum or anything but my statement will be the same. I don’t know how this boy came into being. Besides, the woman who snatched him from me, is a Frenchwoman.” He looked defensively at his aunt, “Please aunt, I mean no offense but you surely understand that I was brought up in an environment not very friendly towards the French. Father never missed an opportunity to insult them. But I assure you that I don’t share his ideas anymore.” He said solemnly.
Silence followed Draco’s sincere admission. Then Lillian spoke for the first time. “Then you don’t have any prejudices against the French?”
Draco scrutinized his cousin’s pretty features. With silvery blonde long hair and blue eyes, she looked almost like him.
“I can’t tell that about everyone but surely I don’t have any against you and aunt Audré.” He replied, “You two probably are the most amazing woman I have ever met and I sincerely ask for forgiveness for slamming the door on your face.”
Draco was never very apt at apologizing and a very awkward silence followed.
“Why not? Of course. We knew we are the two most amazing Frenchwoman Draco ever met! Aren’t we, Lillian?” Audré laughed and asked her daughter mockingly. They all laughed and the tension broke. Suddenly everyone felt relieved.
“Now Draco, I think you had enough emotional outbursts for an entire week.” Audré told her nephew as she stood up, “Go, take a bath and come for dinner. After that, we’ll sit down and try to find out a way to know who the strange boy or his mother is.”
Draco nodded in approval and stood up. A hot shower sounded like a good idea. “By the way, aunt, his name is Adrian.” He informed her. Somehow, the name sounded good and grand. Adrian.
“I noticed that already, Draco.” Audré said, “It’s not a very common French name, rather British, I should say. It will be good clue in our pursuit.” She frowned, “Now dear, go and relax. We have plenty of things to discuss after dinner.” She patted him on the shoulder and left with Lillian.
Draco watched their retreating forms and then turned to his mother. “I am very sorry, mother. I should not have yelled at you.” he said looking at his feet.
Narcissa stood up and hugged her son. Draco melted to her touch, “It’s alright, dearest. I know what you are going through and don’t blame you to the slightest.” she said gently stroking his silvery-blonde hair. “Now I think you should follow your aunt’s advice and go to take a bath.” She released her son, “Audré really is an amazing woman. My opinion of her changed remarkably after this evening.” she smiled at him, “Take your time and see you at dinner.”
“Yes, mother.” Draco smiled back. After Narcissa left he stood there for a moment contemplating what his aunt was going to do to find out the boy before turning to leave for bathroom, his mood considerably lighter.