A Dragon and a Phoenix

Chapter 20

The dreams were hazy and a bit confusing, but Kat and Sara were there, as were Draco, Blake, and my parents. Draco held my hand, shouting something insistently. Blake laughed with a wild eyed look that made him appear quite frightening. Kat was dancing with my cat, Bast, and muttering a charm to make tapioca pudding. Sara jumped up and down excitedly as she told me that Blaise was joining her on the moon for Christmas dinner. Meanwhile, my mum and dad sat chained to thrones inside a snow globe.

I was awoken by a hand on my shoulder, shaking me insistently back to reality. Mumbling blearily, I opened my eyes to find Draco leaning over me with a puzzled expression.

"I was talking in my sleep," I mused aloud.

"More like yelling," he replied. "It's just over an hour until we reach London anyway."

I sat up stretching. Swinging my legs off the seat, I turned to face him. "Alright, so what are these essential facts that you need to impart before we get off the train?" I queried.

"Well, for starters, when we get to the platform, we will be Disapparating back to the manor; however, you cannot Apparate onto the grounds. There are charms similar to the ones at Hogwarts that prevent anyone who isn't a Malfoy from entering that way. We'll be returning just outside the gates and taking a carriage the rest of the way. I'm not certain which rooms my mother has chosen for you to stay in, so I'll have to show you how to get to them when we arrive. When you're moving about, don't stray from the routes that I teach you. Some doors are locked and they're meant to stay that way. Dinner is always a rather formal affair. Since my father isn't there, there probably won't be too many unexpected visitors, but should there be any, you would probably be wise to return to your rooms immediately. Also, if my mother thinks that you're willing, you'll have much more freedom than if she thinks you need to be coerced. She is relentless, one thing we actually share in common," he replied.

"So I can't Apparate or Disapparate within the grounds, there are dangerous, locked rooms that I should never enter, there's the possibility of deadly visitors that I'll need to hide from, and your mother will lock me away as a prisoner if she thinks that I'm a flight risk," I summed up with mild disbelief.

"When you put it that way it sounds more like a trip to Azkaban, but I suppose that's an accurate summary. Don't forget to dress for dinner, otherwise, you might find that prisoner comment more truthful than you'd hoped. Mum's a bit strict with dinner rules," he retorted.

What did I expect, a welcome banner and to spend the week decorating and wrapping presents?

With resignation, I asked, "When are we going to look for those documents? I'm guessing you have some idea of where they're hidden?"

Heaving a sigh and running a hand through his hair, he answered, "Not exactly. I've tried to think of all the possible places that she would have put them, and aside from the family vault at Gringotts, there are a hundred possibilities at the manor. I've narrowed it down to a few places to start with, however."

"That sounds promising," I sneered.

"Unless you have any better ideas, I suggest you get on board with this one. We're either going to look for the contracts, or we're going to accept this as inevitable. It's not like she's going to hand them over on request," he snapped.

I realized that fighting wasn't going to solve any of our problems, but it felt so good to let out some of the seething anger that had been torturing me. "Oh no, the only thing that's been handed over to anyone has been me! If you're not going to do more than just look around for something suspicious in a house bursting with dark magic, then I might as well start picking out a bloody wedding dress! It's not as if you're really losing anything in this deal. You'll be getting off the Ministry radar, and have a captive audience for your ego to boot. I'm the only one that's had their freedom stripped like a common house elf!" I shouted.

He sat in momentary silence, staring at me as if I'd grown a second head before his very eyes. Finally, he replied, "You have no idea what it means to really have your freedom taken away from you. When you've done unspeakable things against your will that haunt you and give you nightmares, then we can talk about loss of freedom. If you want out of this, then you need to, for once, follow my lead. If you'd rather spend our time fighting, well then, we'll have our whole lives to keep it up."

As much as I hated to admit it, he was right about that. I had to keep my cool. He wasn't the one at which I should be directing all of my angst. My parents were due to arrive on Christmas Eve to 'celebrate' the holidays with us. I'd better reserve the screaming match for them.

Before I could say anything else, the train came to a halt at its destination. The journey was over long before I was ready to face the music. Draco stood and opened the compartment door. Glancing over his shoulder, he stated, "It's time for you to meet my mother."

I swallowed the anxiety of the moment as I stepped out of the compartment. There was no running now. I followed him onto the platform and stood at his side as she approached. Although I wanted to step behind him and delay the moment as long as possible, I refused to let her think of me as weak or vulnerable.

"Kimberly, good to have you joining us," she remarked formally. Turning to Draco, she beamed, "My dear Draco, I'm so pleased to have you home! Are you alright? Let me have a look at you," she insisted, grabbing his arm and turning him from side to side, apparently checking him for missing or mutilated limbs. "To think that dreadful school put you in such danger! I have half a mind not to let you go back at all."

Exasperatedly, he grasped her wrists, stopping her examination of him, "Mother, I'm fine. We're both completely unscathed. I'm going back to finish the year. It'll just seem suspicious if I don't. You don't have to worry about that at the moment anyway. I'm going to be home for an entire month."

I stood to the side, watching their interactions. She hugged him, and gave him a teary eyed nod of agreement. Having calmed her down, he then insisted, "Let's get back to the manor then. I'll take Kim. There's a carriage waiting for us, I assume?"

"Yes, of course. It's down by the gate. She's going to be staying in the west wing. The rooms have already been prepared. I'll be waiting for the two of you to join me for dinner," she responded.

Of course she wouldn't have to take the carriage. She was a Malfoy, so she would be Apparating directly back to the manor. Just as she turned and disappeared with a tiny 'pop', I looked at Draco.

"You don't have to go with me. I can take the carriage by myself. I'd rather fancy going back to sleep over dinner anyway," I said.

He scoffed, "You're not getting out of dinner; she's expecting both of us. Furthermore, I need to be there to show you how to get to your rooms." He held out his arm as though he were escorting me to a ball. Looping my arm through his, I held on tightly, bracing myself for the momentary crushing pressure of Disapparating.

In an instant, it was over and we reached our destination to find an impressive, solid black stallion, champing at the bit of the carriage to which he was harnessed. Malfoy stepped forward and opened the door then stood aside for me to enter. His formal manners startled me somewhat. I'd never really seen this aspect of him.

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