The crack was deafening as always as the grand gates came into view. He stood for a moment as he felt the snow melting into his hair. The snow clouds hadn’t travelled this far south yet. Draco shivered, finally letting his guard down. He rubbed his bare arms against the cold as he smiled slightly. He knew that his jacket was currently draped around Harry’s shoulders. He also noticed that Harry has been so disconcerted by their conversation that he hadn’t even realised. He felt a strange surge of adrenaline rush through his veins at the thought. He was willing to put up with any amount of cold for the look on his face.
He shook his head again as he walked down the path to the manor. As he looked at all the dead plants and decaying outbuildings he sneered, something he hadn’t done for a long time. The manor loomed up in front of him, looking ominous and oppressing. Draco couldn’t wait to get rid of the place, the only reason he had ever tolerated living here was due to his mother’s presence, but with her gone this place held no comfort for him. Now that he was back in the country he was downsizing. He felt a slight pang of guilt, something that the younger Draco would have obsessed over and acted upon, but he wasn’t that person anymore. He still hadn’t decided whether he was going to sell the place or just rent it, but he knew that he couldn’t live here anymore. The manor wasn’t as decrepit as he had expected, he guessed that the house elves had worked keeping the place intact however age had probably gotten the best of them if they were still alive.
His bags were still mostly packed by the door, filled with happy memories from his adventures abroad. He loitered in the large empty hallway and he waited, half expecting to see his mother gliding down the stairs. He felt a wave of sadness wash over him when she didn’t appear. The war had taken its toll on his mother. His father had been sentenced to Azkaban and had died within its walls. His mother had wasted away to nothing after his father’s death; despite it all, she had loved him. As soon as his mother died he had escaped the cold emptiness of the manors halls and hadn’t looked back.
He had travelled to Scandinavia to find Bowtruckles then on to Africa where he joined a group hoping to tag the diminishing Erumpents. Eventually, he found himself in Romania when he arrived at the dragon sanctuary. He’d always had a love for dragons. From as young as he could remember he had been fascinated by the myths and legends about them, reading about them in books. He had been captivated by them when they had arrived at Hogwarts for the Triwizard cup. When he had finally arrived at the sanctuary, he’d seen no reason to leave, even the paintings of the Black-haired, green-eyed founder, Harvey Ridgebit, made him feel safe and welcome. He inadvertently stayed gaining his qualification as a dragonologist. He had heard some news from home as he worked side by side with Charlie Weasley. He had been quite surprised at seeing a familiar face and even more surprised when they had become friends. The Weasley’s owled often with news from home. Draco knew that George had spent a stint in St Mungo’s after the war, the loss of his twin had been too much to cope with on his own. He’d known when Fleur and Bill’s two latest children had been born and he had been painfully reminded of his innermost secret when Bill announced the up and coming marriage of Ginny to Harry. In the week Charlie had taken for the wedding, Draco had been tending his wounded heart, devastated at the news.
He wasn’t sure why it had come as a shock to him, they had been an item at school and he had frequently seen them kissing and cuddling in the corridors. He had longed to be in her place, It was usually after such sights he would pick on Harry, just to get his attention. Just to have those emerald eyes look at him and only him. He knew it was petty and he hated that he had given Harry such a hard time at school, but as he thought back, he found he didn’t regret the moments that they had spent nose to nose. He thought back to that long week, knowing that even if there had ever been any remote chance that there could have been anything with him, all his chances had now evaporated. He had been so distracted that he had almost been impaled by a Romanian Longhorn whilst trying to make drawings and observations. He’d had to spend a couple of days in the infirmary drinking skele-gro and trying to restrain his wandering mind. Charlie had come back filled with gossip and tales of the day, enough to make Draco feign a Migraine whenever the topic was raised. He had a feeling that Charlie suspected his infatuation and stopped talking about Harry from that moment on. Life became more tolerable after that when he could try and move on, to forget about the chosen one. He could concentrate on his important work saving the dragons and learning about them.
But all things come to an end and it had been time to return. He had been offered a job at the ministry in the department for the regulation and control of magical creatures. The job offer had been a surprise all on its own. He would be heading up a project in the ministry as the smuggling of dragon’s eggs had become a serious problem. From Monday he was supposed to be a functioning member of British wizarding society again. He cringed inwardly as he walked over to the sofa which he had claimed as his bed, he hadn’t even been upstairs since returning. He sat down on the hard surface and just let his mind wander trying to avoid the sick feeling in his stomach. He remembered the sneers and insults he had endured around the time of the trials. He had been fortunate enough to escape most of the publicity over the years as no amount of ‘Rita Skeeter’ types were wanting to dirty their quick-quote quills in the dark forests of Romania, not over some former death eater at any rate. He hoped that he could either sweep in unnoticed or at least prove himself through hard work.
He tried to put it out of his mind, it was New Year’s Eve, the time for new beginnings and fresh starts. He tried to force himself into an optimistic mood but struggled as he looked around the dark and oppressive room. This manor where dark things had taken place, but he had discovered a light right in this room. His eyes focused on the spot where a disfigured Harry had stood, he could remember how his heart had twisted in his chest, torn between loyalty to his family and loyalty to his heart. He had stared into those emerald green eyes and he had known. Even with his father rasping down his neck, urging him to identify him to gain favour with the dark lord, he couldn’t betray his heart.
He felt a smile reappear on his lips as he threw himself back into the pillows. He had been watching him for almost the entire weird sister’s gig. His face had been set into a stern and morose look and it was clear that he was brooding over something. Draco wondered what had put that look on his face. He knew very little of what Harry had been up to since the trials. He had seen few tabloids with his picture gracing the front cover, but the disconcerted look seemed to be a constant companion. There had been a few unhappy looking pictures with the Weaslette and Draco did wonder whether everything was well in paradise? He wondered whether she helped remove the weight from his shoulders.
He closed his eyes as he imagined running his fingers through that salt and pepper hair, wondering whether it felt as soft as it looked. He felt his cheeks flush as he opened his eyes again. He wondered whether he would see Harry again. He sighed heavily as he stood up to undress. One thing about living out in the wilderness is that it weaned people off of the unnecessary things in life. He had found it difficult when he had first set off at the idea of not having a shower directly before bed. Now, as soon as his head hit the pillow he fell into a sleep filled with emeralds, ravens, brooms and not at all disturbed by his unwashed hair.