A Dragon and a Phoenix

Chapter 16

"I wonder if there's anything to eat around here," I mumbled. My stomach was loudly protesting the lack of dinner.

"I was thinking the same thing," replied Draco as he got up from the chair nearest to the fire. He wandered into the pantry and began searching.

"Well, it seems this place has been abandoned for quite a while. There's nothing left in the cupboard."

"We did go to Honeyduke's earlier. I think there are a few sweets left in one of those shopping bags. Have a look and see what you can find."

With a nod he went to the pile of shopping bags that had been dropped by the door. I wasn't sure how, or even why, I managed to hold onto all of them, but if there was anything left to eat I'd just be grateful.

"There is a good bit left in this bag. At least there's enough to keep our stomachs quiet for a while. Let's just not eat too much. I don't want to add a stomach ache to our list of problems," he said.

"You have a point, but the chocolate should help get rid of the lingering feeling from the dementors, too. So at least the sweets will be of some use," I replied.

I had propped my injured foot onto the low table in front of the couch. With the splint it was feeling much better, but it still hurt to move it too much.

Taking the bag of sweets, he walked over and sat down in the empty space beside me. With a half smile he offered me the bag. With the aid of the chocolate we slowly began to feel a bit more relaxed.

"I wonder if there was anyone else that got left behind in the village. They're probably looking for us. Then again, they may not be considering that everyone will assume that we were caught by the dementors," he said.

I nodded in agreement and answered, "Well I suppose we're stuck here in the meantime. At least we have a fire to keep us from freezing."

I looked up from the bit of chocolate that I had been eating to find Draco staring at me intently. He clearly had something on his mind but for once I didn't have the faintest idea what it could be.

"I can't believe that she's not in bloody hysterics about this. She looks positively calm. Why does she have to keep surprising me?"

"What is it? Do I have chocolate on my face or something? You're looking at me like I've grown a second head," I said, breaking him out of his reverie.

"No, there's nothing on your face. I was just trying to decide whether or not you're really this calm under these circumstances, or if you're just in some sort of shock over it all. I was wondering if you'll turn into the typical woman and start shouting and crying," he answered.

Surprised a bit by his reply, I laughed, "Well, I've never really been prone to fits of hysteria. I'm really good at compartmentalizing things, and I just accept that all of this is out of my control at the moment. Not to mention, I'm sure we'll be fine. We'll just have to wait until morning and hope that they've cleared out and we can make it back to the castle, or at least to someone that can help us out."

"I suppose you're right," he paused. With a look like he wasn't sure he wanted to voice his next thought, he blurted out, "When you say, 'all of this' are you just talking about your ankle and the dementors, or do you mean us as well? I know it's not something we've really talked about, and while we've got nothing else to do, we might as well figure out what we can."

I sat for a moment, staring blindly into the distance, considering his question. I didn't think about it when I said it, but it does apply. There's nothing I can do to stop what's happening. Yes, I'm angry at my parents, I think that they should have stood up for me. They are supposed to be on my side. At least my mother knew how I felt about Draco. I had told her how I despised him years ago. Surely she could have done something to stop this from happening. Even though I wanted to be angry with him, I couldn't help but think that he didn't actually want this either. He had just wanted to humiliate me and exact revenge for all of the times that I had publicly rejected him. It was all a matter of pride for Malfoy. He would never have taken it this far. Maybe he can reason with his mother, though. There's a difference in not seeking something out and not fighting what's happening to you.

Finally, I met his gaze, "When I said that, I was only thinking about right now, but it's also true about everything else. I wrote to my parents after you told me what your mother had done. My father returned a very short missive stating that it was a perfectly respectable pureblood marriage to one of the oldest wizarding families in Britain, and that I should be pleased that your mother thought so highly of me. He also commented that there were certain arrangements, contracts I believe he said, that have already been drawn up which are binding. I'm not exactly clear on what penalty would follow for breaking these constraints, but I doubt it's anything simple or pleasant. I know that you didn't ask for this, it's one thing to have a vendetta against me for all of the ways I've publicly embarrassed you, but another entirely not to be able to stop it whenever you've had your fun. You can be mean spirited and cruel, and you're selfish, inconsiderate, and shallow, but this ending serves you no purpose. I'm sure you had a mind to marry some hateful, cruel bitch that wouldn't care what you did as long as she could spend your money and live in luxury. I'm not interested in that. My family is wealthy as well, and I'm not a cold, unfeeling whore. So I suppose the only thing that I can think of to help us out of this whole mess is for you to speak to your mother and explain to her how much you're against marrying me. Surely she can devise another way of getting you out of the ministry's crosshairs."

He had only flinched imperceptibly at the insults flung at him so carelessly, but inwardly he was a roiling mass of emotions; each one fighting for control. Anger was, of course, the initial response. Who the bloody hell did she think she was? Next there was indignation; hadn't he been trying to at least be polite to her? Otherwise, he'd end up married to someone less pleasant to be around than a cat who'd just been given a bath in bubotuber puss. Then there was a feeling that he had trouble identifying. She couldn't really think so lowly of him. Sure, he wasn't some Gryffindor prat, but he wasn't a soul sucking dementor either.

"Well, considering that you seem to think so highly of me, why do you even imagine that I would care to speak to my mother on your behalf? Perhaps I've decided I like the challenge you present. It'll be like breaking a thoroughbred; several of which we have in the stables at the manor. Since I'm so cruel, I would definitely find it entertaining to break the spirit of one as headstrong as you." he retorted with controlled fury clear in his tone.

Taken aback by his sudden shift in mood, I was momentarily speechless. What the bloody hell did I say to piss him off? Surely he wasn't upset about the way I'd described him. If anything, I assumed he would be proud of those traits. This conversation had turned a one eighty so fast that my head was spinning. We certainly weren't going to get anywhere but into a fight if we kept this up and I honestly just didn't have the energy for it. Tired, still hungry, and in a considerable amount of pain, I opted for a different route.

Sighing, I replied, "I'm sorry for saying those things about you. Honestly, I thought those were things that you wanted people to see in you. I would never bring up any of the nicer things because you tend to scoff at those kinds of compliments as if they're insulting. I know you can be courteous and humane when you think no one is looking. I appreciate the fact that you've been polite to me lately. I imagined that you would want out of this for reasons of self preservation. That was all I meant. However, if you really won't speak with your mother about this, then I would just ask that we can continue to be civil to each other until we can figure something else out."

He sat with his gaze downcast, a deflated, tired look on his face. "You always surprise me. Just when I think I have you figured out, you do something unexpected. Just now, I thought you were going to get angry over what I said and bring the house down on us, but instead you apologize? I'm too knackered to fathom what's going on in your head."

He heaved a sigh of exhaustion before fixing his eyes on mine. "Anyway, I've already tried reasoning with my mother. That's where I've been spending all my time lately. I've either been having conversations with her via the Floo network, or writing her letters. She refuses to budge. Once I thought I was making some progress, but the damned aurors stopped by to inspect the manor for any Dark Arts artifacts. Apparently they heard rumors that I was in contact with the Dark Lord, planning on assisting in breaking my father and other prisoners out. 'Hotheaded youth with nothing to lose', I think they called me. She thinks that this will give me a new image, change their opinion. Your family's honor has apparently been above board and they've not been suspected of any involvement with the Dark Lord or his Death Eaters. And without knowing exactly what the details of the contracts are, there's nothing else that I can think of to deter her."

"We are most assuredly trapped, in other words. Apparently we're going to have to make it our top priority to see those documents over the holidays, then. There's always a loophole. In the meantime, I'm exhausted. I think I'm going to go see if there's a passable bed in this place," and with that I gingerly removed my leg from the pillows and made to stand up.

In spite of my best efforts, I couldn't bear even the slightest bit of weight on my ankle. Just as suddenly as I began to fall, I stopped. Strong arms wrapped around me, steadying and supporting me. I looked up at him, mildly shocked, and began to stammer a thank you. He was staring at me with those notorious silvery gray eyes, only now they were darker, more intense, and I could feel his rapid heartbeat under the palm pressed against his chest. Before I could say anything, his lips were on mine. Without thinking, my lips parted against unexpected, soft warmth of his. With his arms wrapped around me, we stood; the length of our bodies pressed against each other, one hand against the small of my back pulling me closer to him, the other trailing a path like fire up my spine to rest cradling my head, his fingers tangled in my hair. Pouring all of the anger, confusion, and emotional turmoil of the last weeks into our embrace, I wound my arms around his neck, pulling him deeper into the kiss. At length, he gently pulled away, his grasp relaxing slightly, though not letting go. We stood, his forehead resting against mine, my palms pressed against his shoulders as I attempted to steady myself; each of us trying to catch our breath and regain our equilibrium.

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