"Father's talking to the roses again."
Draco rested his elbows on the high ledge of the window and stared out onto the garden path, meandering through overgrown rosebushes and ancient trees to the grand gazebo. His father looked very earnest as he drew a withered stick from his robes to demonstrate the killing curse on a thistle, as though he were still able to cast it.
"That's nice, dear."
He didn't turn to look but still, out of the corner of his eye, he could see his mother pull the brush through her hair again and again and again, brittle strands falling onto her shoulders, the dressing chair, the rug. Her hair had become patchy enough he could see the scalp beneath it.
"Shall I fetch him in, then?"
His mother started humming to her reflection in the mirror; Draco pushed himself upright and slipped out of the room unnoticed.
Should he need anything, the house-elves would still fetch it for him, whether it be breakfast or dragon repellent or just a good book. Yesterday Draco found himself holding a conversation with one for half an hour, before abruptly dismissing it and contemplating drowning himself in the lake.
He Apparated to the dining room to avoid committing the same offense again. Perhaps he would teach himself to cook. Who, after all, would ever find out?
On the table, nicely folded, was a copy of the Daily Prophet from eleven months ago, the last they'd ever received, which his father read religiously each morning with his toast and honey. Draco would have cast incendio if it wouldn't have been perfectly obvious who'd done it. The house-elves wouldn't, and his mother and father couldn't.
He dragged his gaze from the loathsome paper and snatched an apple from the fruit bowl and headed outside the manor house. He was browner than he'd ever let himself become before in his life, from days spent outside, flying his broom round and round and round the grounds, as far as he could go before being repelled by the boundaries of the estate.
He dreaded the coming winter, when he would be forced to remain inside the manor again. Perhaps he would teach himself to endure the cold as he had taught himself to endure the sun. At least he would become pale again.
Draco left the dining room untouched to go out of doors, avoiding the rose gardens if he at all could. His father would want to pat his head and feed him sweets and that, of all things, was more than Draco could endure.
There were footsteps from either end of the hall, though, which meant both parents were approaching, for the household ghosts never made so much noise. Draco stood still in the doorway and watched his parents pass by each other without so much as a glance.
He followed neither, turning back around and heading for the kitchen doors. His father had been headed for the entry hall, where a great portrait of Voldemort hung. Draco generally ignored it, but had found that was something he could not do when his father had a cheek pressed to the picture and a hand inside his robes. There was a growing stain on the wall beneath the frame that his father forbade the house-elves to clean away.
Draco unwillingly held an image in his head of his mother pleasuring herself on a rod carved like the head of a cobra, and didn't know if it was nightmare or memory.
Each night when it finally grew too dark to fly, Draco hung his broom lovingly in the shed, on hooks that he polished and charmed on alternate weeks. So each morning when he could bear the manor no longer he would find it there, run his hand over wood that seemed to grow smoother each day and take it up into the air again.
He circled the lake, rode low over the untended woods, flew along the front road to the grand statue of many-times-great grandfather Tobias who'd guarded the property for generations. The property, Draco had to concede, was indeed intact.
His broom was cradled perfectly by the statue's knee once he'd dismounted to walk the last few steps to the edge of his world. It looked precisely the same as it always had.
Draco stared up at the gates for a long time and wondered if he'd ever see the other side again.