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Castles in the Sky

Chapter Text

Chapitre Zéro
Londres

Nothing was magical.

Terribly sentimental and poorly phrased, but that was the raw summary of how Draco Malfoy felt toward his life at the moment as he observed the figures mingling in the ballroom. A glass of whiskey in one hand, he wondered absentmindedly what they were celebrating tonight. He hadn't forgotten—he simply never knew. The business partner that dragged him here didn't elaborate much, only simultaneously inviting him after hearing his father couldn't make it. He was a proxy, but the free booze made him a willing one.

"Excuse me," called a brunette as she approached him. She looked alluring in an olive green gown, easily one of the prettiest girls he'd seen. "Would you like to dance?"

The music had changed and others had begun to frolic gaily on the dance floor, laughter ringing about from different sides of the room. Whatever this party was for, it was certainly a happy event.

Only he had seen this picture too many times.

"Not interested," he replied succinctly. He handed his glass to one of the passing servers before turning and making his way toward the doors, meaning his decision. He quickly got in his sleek, black Lamborghini Gallardo and drove off to the direction of his flat.

Accepting her invite might have led to a bedroom that wasn't his or a flimsy promise to meet again. Perhaps she could even be the one and his parents would finally have peace—but a night in his dark silk pyjamas, tucked under the duvet with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other, was simply more appealing than whatever possibility dancing with her offered. She was pretty, but so were many other girls.

For all the simultaneity and variances in his schedule lately, he still strongly felt as if he were stuck in a routine. The last time he felt this way was toward the end of his graduate studies, which he pursued right after finishing his bachelor's degree—but even then, he had at least looked forward to start formally working in the family business. He poured all of his energy into his career, highly motivated when he started. He still liked his work, really, but it didn't suffice as the spark he wanted. Meanwhile, his colleagues have started marrying and forming families one by one. You would think it would prompt him to settle down, but the idea of commitment and pinning himself down to a woman, a family, a home, and a city just repulsed him. He was still too young.

The rain reflected his miserable thoughts as he parked his car and walked quickly toward the elevator before some bastard in the lobby pressed for it. He arrived in his flat in less than two minutes, his resting scowl softening to a neutral expression as he made his way to a quick shower, a change of clothes.

He was stirring himself a cup of chamomile tea when his eye caught an ad in one of the newspapers he read earlier that morning. The promotion design was neat, but cliché: a photo overlooking a mountain range somewhere in Scandinavia, words layered over in a corner, saying: "You don't climb to the top and skip the view."

It was a good catchphrase for a mountaineering agency. If he weren't averse to extreme fitness regimens, he might've been sold to it right there and then. He was looking for something different to do. Perhaps not mountaineering, but it did provoke the thought of travelling—not on a business trip, of course.

He tried to remember the last time he had gone on vacation—a real one, not one that involved having to interact with people and needing to keep up appearances, manners, etiquettes. His mind could only grab a memory from when he was much younger, probably from before he was ten. His family took him to China and paid one of the zookeepers to let him briefly play with one of the baby pandas. He remembered being so fascinated with the little creatures.

That was probably the last time he had gone on a vacation without a worry in the world.

After that, his time and attention shifted its focus on school, extra curricular activities—building his competencies and his own network. His parents repeatedly stressed the value of achievement and a social environment that encouraged it, though they maintained most of their biases toward the circles they were already in. Draco maintained his honours status throughout his studies, actively playing football (Bulgaria actually offered him a spot after his undergraduate studies, and he suspected it had something to do with renowned athlete Viktor Krum, whom he had the pleasure of meeting and playing against in a practice game when he visited Hogwarts High one summer). He limited the most of his social interactions to a few chosen, acceptable peers. Blaise Zabini, Theodore Nott, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle were his closest friends, but he was not intimately close to any of them to fully trust that they would never judge him or use him to their personal advantage. They've known each other for over ten years, but he kept his caution.

That was just how he's been for as long as he can remember. On guard, cautious and conscious of every single action and encounter. Perhaps that might be the real reason behind his weariness: he was burnt out.

Sipping his tea, he glanced again at the photo of the mountain range and tried to imagine himself standing on that vantage point.

It was about time, he thought decidedly, that he took a well-deserved break.