A/N: J.K. Rowling owns it all; I am merely manipulating it in a way that pleases me.
Hermione slowly made her way back to the castle. Her thoughts drifted to Malfoy… no, Draco. After spending the day with him, she realized that she could no longer refer to him as Malfoy.
He was just Draco, a boy trying to make his own way in the world. He went from spoiled brat to frightened orphan in a matter of months. It didn't matter that he was of age. No one deserved to have their parents taken from them that early in life. Harry hadn't and neither did Draco.
The castle was just beginning to come into view when Hermione realized that there was no school tomorrow and Draco would be home alone. She was worried for her new friend.
Wait, she thought, did I just refer to Draco as a friend? Ron is soo going to kill me.
Draco Apparated back to Malfoy Manor. He looked up at the dark house and sighed. He knew the next thirty-six hours were going to be very long. He had very little homework left to distract him from the memories of the last two years.
Sighing softly, he reached down and opened the front doors. The manor was very quiet and cold. A fine layer of dust had settled along all the surfaces of the dark wood furnishings.
There were no pleasant fires or wonderful aromas to greet him as there had been in the past. There were no warm greetings welcoming him home or inquiring about his day from the many Malfoy elves. Most had been killed when the Dark Lord had taken over the manor. The few that had managed to survive were freed by Draco shortly after Lucius died.
Only Nana remained, and she would be waiting for him in the guest house. Draco had tried to make her leave with the rest, but she'd stubbornly refused. Even after she was given clothes, she'd stayed claiming that she would never abandon her young master.
Every night Draco returned home, he would venture to the main house and up to his parents' bedroom. His mother's clothes still held her perfume. His father's cloak was draped across the footboard. He ran his hands across the duvet, stooping to pick up his father's cane.
Lying down on the bed, he began to tell his parents about his day, a habit he started just after going back to Hogwarts. He couldn't explain why he did it. Lucius and Narcissa barely spoke to him on a daily basis before, and yet he still felt as though they would want to know him now. Maybe it was just so he didn't feel so alone in the world.
Draco told them all about his excursion into Muggle London. He explained where he went shopping and everything Hermione had told him about the moving picture show they had gone to. The later in the evening it got, the more his words began to get softer until he slowly drifted off to sleep.
Draco woke in the early hours of the following morning to a frantic elf bouncing on top of him.
"Master Draco, Master Draco. Nana was so very worried. You not come home this night."
Narcissa Malfoy was a true Pureblood witch. So when it came to raising the Malfoy heir, she passed the responsibility off to the elves. Zaina was chosen for the task.
Zaina was relatively new to the Malfoy family, but she had experience raising children. Lucius had acquired her, along with several other more important items, in some shady back alley deal he had made with a gullible Davy Gudgeon.
Zaina instantly fell for the small infant with the fuzzy blond head. To some it appeared as if the little elf was just doing her assigned task in caring for the boy. But she knew it was more than that. She fell in love with him from the moment she saw him.
She moved into the nursery the first night, setting up a small pallet for herself in the bottom of the closet. She fed him, changed him, played with him and even taught him to talk and walk. The only time she was not with him was when one of the elder Malfoys would come and parade him in front of some important witch or wizard.
She saw his first steps, his first smile and heard his first word, Nana. The little wizard was trying to call out to her and had a hard time saying Zaina. The nickname stuck, and she was forever known by the boy as Nana.
Few others in the house ever called her by the name the boy had given her. Narcissa on occasion addressed her as such. When she came to read stories to him or to see if he was well, she called her that. The boy always seemed to smile proudly when she was addressed by the name he had given her.
The few times she encountered Lucius in the nursery, he did not speak to her. He simply allowed her to pass him the baby before sweeping from the room, only to return several minutes later to place a crying infant securely in her arms before leaving again.
Because she was favored by the boy, the rest of the elves in residence resented her. She was never punished or told to punish herself. She was allowed more freedoms than the others so that she may keep a constant eye on Draco. She learned to read, write and do arithmetic in order to help him with his studies.
The only elf that would speak to her was Dobby, but then the others all thought him to be a little strange as well. He proved them correct when he disobeyed their Masters' orders to help Harry Potter and wound up getting clothes. All the elves in residence were forced by Lucius to punish themselves for Dobby's crimes. Except Zaina. The boy never permitted her to punish herself.
She and the boy moved into the guest house after the fall of the Dark Lord. The boy claimed to want more freedom, and his parents permitted him. The elves knew the boy was trying to put as much distance between himself and his father as possible.
It was in the guest house that Nana had paced and worried all night when her young master failed to return home. He had told her of the threats, and she had seen the Howlers that came almost daily to him.
Draco looked at his little elf as a small smile crossed his face. His little elf always worried more than necessary about him. It was going to be hard to leave his little friend.
"My apologies, Nana. I fell asleep. I did not mean to cause you worry. I will join you in the guest house for breakfast as soon as I freshen up."
"Very good, Master Draco. On the terrace this morning?"
"Yes, that will be nice for a change."
Nana nodded and disappeared back to the guest house to prepare breakfast. Draco looked around his parents' room one last time before heading towards the door.
He made his way back to his own house and began his morning ablutions. After showering, he grabbed a pair of black breeches from the wardrobe and a white button down shirt. Dressing quickly, he pulled on his tall boots and headed for the terrace.
Once seated, Nana joined him as she did most mornings. The food was light: toast, fruit and cheeses. His little elf always seemed to know what he was in the mood for. He asked her about the affairs of the estate. Most of her current duties involved acting as the main caretaker of the manor. He told her about his trip into Muggle London.
It would amuse a great deal of people to see a Malfoy and an elf sharing a delicious breakfast and conversation. To Draco, it didn't seem that odd. This is how his life was. He grew up with Nana as his constant companion. She knew more about him than any other person in this world.
He excused himself from the table and headed out to the stables. A day spent in silent companionship with his horse seemed like a good idea. Riding his favorite horse through a series of courses always helped to clear his head, his only thoughts on the jumps and strides in between.
This was another of his well-guarded secrets. His time spent out here. Few people outside of his family knew of his passion for riding. His father tolerated it, as it was seen as a gentlemen's sport, however he had preferred him to partake in fox hunting instead of jumping. Draco had just ignored his subtle prompts to get him to join in the hunts.
To him, it was more personal. Something he had never shared with his parents. In his fourth year, after the imposter Moody had turned him into a ferret, Draco became obsessed with learning what, if anything, his Animagus form was.
He had succeeded in finding out in his fifth year. Turned out the rumors had been wrong. He was actually an arctic fox. Fox hunting didn't much appeal to him after that. He had yet to completely transform, only attempting when Nana was close by, just in case.
He let his thoughts trail as he began to adjust the course into a new configuration. He changed the spread on the Oxer, adjusted a few of the cross rails so that they formed a triple bar and checked the poles in the standards to make sure they were resting properly. Of the twenty-three jumps on the course, he had designed, painted and built every one. He was proud of his achievement.
In just a few moments, he would tack up his horse and enjoy the total freedom from his thoughts as he soared from jump to jump. He would be at peace for the next thirty minutes or so. Reality and the real world could wait until tomorrow.
A/N: Thanks to my wonderful beta for her support and guidance.