There was a sudden flash of bright light that illuminated his eyelids to a fragile, misty orange color. Then, the light was gone again, but he was already consciously awake. Draco opened his eyes with a miserable expression on his face, realizing it was time to wake up again. He couldn't comprehend the flash of blinding light at first - the entire mansion was guarded almost entirely from unwanted light. It was darker than a crypt in this home, and the liked it that way. Then, he lifted his pale gray eyes and saw that the window to his room was open and that the breeze was blowing the curtains apart, sending patches of light across his bed. The pattern of light danced upon his bed again, the curtains rustling pleasantly.
At first, he felt soothed by the sight. Then, the reality of it hit him with such a force that he immediately threw all the covers to the floor and scrambled in desperation towards the window. He slammed it shut so loudly that the crash echoed through the eaves in the room. He glanced awkwardly at the doorway, almost expecting to see the fleeting ghostly figure there that haunted his house nowadays.
Shaking his head, Draco ran out into the hallway, the expensive bitter red Persian rug rushing quickly beneath his feet. He reached the end of the hall and stood before a massive oak door with two paintings on either side of it - two great Malfoy ancestors, their stern faces so similarly structured to his own father and grandfather that the resemblance never failed to amaze him. He pressed his ear to the door and waited to hear a sound inside, and was glad to hear the faint sound of breathing. No coughing as of yet, no wheeze in the exhale.
The apparition could sleep on. Feeling much less shaken, he headed down for breakfast with a cool scowl on his face, trying to steer his eyes away from the dozens of pairs of pupils, all dilated and watching him from their eternal rest in the portraits. The staircase he descended was a fine one - it was sleek marble and ivory cropping, with each knob on the armrest polished until the reflection could show the faintest freckle on his arm. Though the stairs had gone through some neglect in recent years and have been crowded with an overwhelming amount of spiderwebs, there was still a very expensive and aloof air to it.
The kitchen was plain, in contrast, with just a simple table setting that consisted of an oak table and four chairs. There was a crisp white tablecloth on it and a vase filled to the tip with crystalline water, but there were no flowers in it. The lack of flowers didn't make much of a difference to the effect - the jar still shined and the spectra it refracted on the table was more colorful than any combination of flowers. Here he made himself a small breakfast, and after a while of consideration started a second breakfast for his mother. It was only a matter of time before Narcissa would descend down the staircase, still clad in an oversized old bathrobe, with her hair up in curlers, and the familiar family sneer on her face.
Before Draco could even finish the spell that would prepare the oatmeal, Narcissa's shrill voice announced her presence: " Good morning." He nodded in reply, not ready to dapple in on any friendly conversation this morning. He was going to be late for work.
Instead, he intoned: " My window was open."
" Well, that was careless." Narcissa said, coldly, slapping her bowl down on the table and finishing the spell herself.
" I didn't open it." Draco replied. Her high cheekbones were accentuated as she sucked in the air in her cheeks, giving her a very sour expression.
She didn't reply, and a few minutes of deadweight silence went by before she managed: "Don't be silly. You probably wanted to air out your room, or another harebrained idea."
Not wanting to argue, he cocked his head to one side and simply shrugged. Finishing the last spoonful of oatmeal, he stood up, kissed her cheek, and announced: " I'm going to work now." Narcissa's eyes cast a weary glance at him before they fell to her oatmeal again. She had been lost in thought and in turn the oatmeal had developed a thick brown shell on the bottom.
" Ah, have a good day." Her voice was hollow, the line had been spoken day in and day out for so many months now that it had lost meaning. " Goodbye."
She busied with the oatmeal and Draco left. His job wasn't one of any prestige - in fact, if not for the status Lucius had earned at the Ministry of Magic, Draco would have probably not had a job at all. Not that he didn't have a good opportunity for a job - he was Head Boy once he graduated, and had proven himself academically in the Sixth and Seventh years.
However, he couldn't have a job of any importance - he needed a job where he'd be able to miss a day or leave in the middle of the day and nobody would notice. He was Paper Sorter, the type that sat in the corner of the room by a card table that held stacks of odds and ends on it, and he'd have to organize the piles of papers and articles accordingly into the inboxes of the other workers. There was Harry Potter's, one of the heads by then, even at nineteen, and receiving enough mail to require a zip code. Next to his was Neville Longbottom, who had a thin little batch of papers. He dealt with affairs of those that had been affected or misplaced because of Voldemort in one way or another. After Voldemort's demise, there were a lot of those, but within 2 years the applications for help at the Ministry thinned to nothing but those that had already received help and just wanted more.
Draco smiled bitterly, shuffling through a handful of papers and then cramming them into Mailbox 24. He had more talent and intelligence in his little finger than some of these "great workers" had in their entire bodies. Of course, what good did that do, if he had no way to tear himself aside from his work? He needed a job with incredibly flexible shifts and hours, for the shell of a person that remained in their house needed more attention than he ever did in his entire life. Cursing his luck through his teeth daily, Draco Malfoy pressed on, still honorable as ever. If someone would have approached him with a small request, he'd probably not answer until they referred to him as Mister, and even then he'd require an especially nice tone from the person in order to do anything for them.
There was nothing in the world that could break him anymore. Nothing could ever shock him, or ruin him, now. Now that the Shell and the Ghost and the Apparition had all occurred.
The return home was a silent one, encased in dozens of thoughts and moods that slipped like water through his fingers. He had ideas, grand ones, about how to still revive the old majesty that the Malfoys held. Of course, his ideas would be laughed at or jeered now - the Malfoys were over with and all that remained was their large estate and the shallowing money supply as reminder.
Standing in front of the manor, the ragtag suitcase in his hand weighing him down on one side, he wondered if it was all worth it in the end. After everything that had happened to his family, was it worth staying behind with them? He loved his family dearly - but at the same time, he despised them with a passion. His love prevailed, though, and he remained a faithful son.
A scream echoed out of the house, sending a shiver up his spine. Draco could already guess what must have happened, and his forehead broke out in a feverish sweat as he dropped his suitcase and ran for the door.
He slammed the door open and then turned to check on his suitcase - it had splayed open, sending papers across the lawn. He bounded up the staircase and to the Apparition's room, where he could hear the screams intensify. Slowly, carefully, he opened it and stepped inside.
There he lay, on the floor, the shell of a man. His hair was a filmy, thin white, dotted here and there with the old splendid spun gold it had once held. The gray eyes had stilled, grown bleary and afraid. His face was gaunt and elongated, so thin that the eyes seemed sunken into his skull, and the skin was yellowed and revealing all the veins through it. A mesh of wrinkles spanned the face of this ghost, ranging from deep and threatening creases to small and delicate ones. The fiercest ridge appeared between his eyebrows, both so fine and white they were nearly nonexistent.
" Father." Draco said, softly. " What happened?"
The spirit glanced around, almost lost, his faded white sleeping robe stretched across his withered, useless legs. " No. No, no." He said, quickly, his tongue rolling uselessly in his mouth.
" Let's get you back into bed." Draco's voice was ever patient. He approached the figure, putting his hands under the body's arms, and then helping it back into bed. The body writhed and squirmed angrily, in a frustration imbedded inside its brain, uncomprehending of its surroundings.
" No... no..." The whisper grew soft, calmed. Jaunty, frail hands grasped at the sheets of the bed, pulling them taught around its ghostly wisp of a body. " No." Suddenly, the screeching returned: " NO!" A pillow found the hands of the apparition and he threw it across the room. Though the legs lay lifeless, paralyzed forever, the hands still worked on, until the time would come for the entire body to grow still.
" Stop it!" Draco shouted. " Don't you - don't you see what you're doing?" Another pillow was thrown across the room, sending a porcelain vase to the floor, where it shattered apart into a hundred tiny fragments. Draco turned away from the sight, his eyes closed to keep the apparition out of his mind. " Do you need a bath? Is that it?" Draco asked, calmly. The ghost kicked around in the bed, turning, his legs remaining in a rigid position, uncooperative.
" He's coming... Potter - Potter..." The apparition's thin pale lips flipped apart suddenly and a raspy shriek rang out again. Draco backed out of the room, shaking, and then closed the door. The shrieking continued and then finally stopped, but Draco continued to shiver, the goose bumps rolling freely across his body.
He couldn't tear his mind away from the vision he saw - the terrible sight. What frightened him most was that, in the broken old body in the room, he saw himself - in the faint traces of the facial features, the bone structure, the straining, smoky eyes. This was what frightened him most. He made his way down the hallway and then sat himself down on his bed, his heart pounding loudly in his ribcage, like a prisoner held captive in a cold, dark chamber.
Propping his head in his hands, he shivered and wept, his mind flashing with painful thoughts. " Guess I'll need a nurse. I can't do this on my own."