A Dragon and a Phoenix

Chapter 21

The ride to the manor was longer than I had expected. The grounds were unquestionably expansive and impressive. With nothing to be heard but the quiet sound of the stallion's hooves, my mind began to wander.

What were Blake, Kat, and Sara doing? How was I going to tell them the truth if I couldn't change things? What would Blake say? He was someone that I could imagine spending all my time with, and who knew, maybe one day I would even want to get married. This was certainly not what I had pictured when I thought of my future. I wasn't sure he was the monster I had always thought he was, but Draco wasn't really the kind of guy that cared about anyone other than himself. Although, I had seen things about him lately that normally, I never would have noticed. Oh, I could hear the disdainful comments that Kat would have to say if she had only heard that.

Shaking off my circular thoughts and looking out the window, I could see the immense façade of the manor looming into view. It was one thing to know that this is one of the largest wizarding homes in Britain, but it was quite another to see it up close. Dark stone walls rose up in front of us. Immaculate grounds surrounded the imposing structure.

The carriage rolled to a stop in front of the large ebony doors. As we walked up the marble steps, I took a deep, calming breath. When Draco's foot landed on the top step, the door swung open as if it the manor recognized him and welcomed him home.

I followed him inside, hearing the door close behind me with a soft click of finality. Passing the archways on either side of the entryway, he made straight for the grand staircase that swept down from both sides of the second floor landing, converging midway into one wide, elegant set of steps.

I paused only briefly before following after him. At the top of the stairs, we turned down the corridor to the left. It was well lit and lined with portraits of Malfoy family ancestors. Several of them were huddled together in one frame, whispering and muttering as we passed. After passing a portrait of a sly looking woman in blood red robes, he turned right.

This passage was lined with tapestries depicting violent battle scenes. We walked by five closed doors before taking a left through an open doorway. Here the corridor split into three separate directions. The middle one was the only way that was well lit. Thankfully, this was the one he led me down. There were several doors down the hall, but he stopped by the third one on the right, and turned to face me.

"Through here are you rooms. You'll find a sitting room along with a bedroom and a private bath. If you need anything, the house elves will take care of it. Otherwise, my rooms are at the end of the hall. You'll find that all of your things have already been brought up and put away. I'll be back to escort you to dinner in half an hour," and without further comment he turned and headed down the corridor.

The first thing that I noticed when I walked in was the stunning view. Across the room, there were windows that made up two thirds of the wall and spanned nearly floor to ceiling. Heavy brocade drapes had been pulled back to reveal the sweeping view of the grounds backlit by a fiery sunset. The room was bathed in the warm golden light.

Whatever I had expected, this was most assuredly not on the list of possibilities. Tearing my gaze away from the view, I inspected the rest of my accommodations. The fire in the large fireplace was keeping the sitting room cozy and warm. The furniture was all in shades of deep charcoal gray and emerald green. The small tables were black and matched the bookshelf in the corner. Through an open set of double doors to my left was the bedroom. A large bed was centered against the far wall, flanked on either side by matching nightstands. Crossing the room to the large wardrobe, I found that all of my clothes had indeed been put away. On the vanity, I found my hair brush and makeup. The en suite bathroom contained an oversized bathtub complete with several spouts that reminded me of the prefects' bathroom.

Having looked around properly, I realized that I only had about fifteen minutes to get dressed for dinner. I went back to the wardrobe and selected a dress. After changing quickly, I sat down in front of the vanity and charmed away the dark circles from beneath my eyes before applying a light layer of makeup and brushing through my hair. Quickly, I pulled it up into a neat twist and secured it with a clip. I inspected the final result in the mirror and decided that it would have to do on short notice.

Just as I finished slipping into my shoes, I heard a knock on the door. Draco stood waiting for me on the other side. He looked very polished in his dark slacks and dinner jacket. Giving me a half smile he said, "You look nice." Offering his arm, he added, "Shall we?"

We walked in silence as I peered around, taking in my new surroundings. Back at the top of the grand staircase, I noticed that though our way had been well lit, the opposite corridor was not. Only a dim flicker of light could be seen and there was a definite chill emanating from that direction.

At the bottom of the stairs we ventured through the archway to the left. Passing one entryway, I glimpsed a large formal ballroom. The next doorway led us into the dining room. A chandelier hung over the long table. At the far end, Narcissa sat alone waiting on us. She looked up and smiled at Draco. He pulled out the chair across from his mother and I took my seat. Taking what had surely once been his father's place at the head of the table, he immediately called for one of the house elves.

Nearly tripping over herself to get to his side quickly, she stammered, "Y-yes Master Malfoy, wh-wh-what can Poppy do for you, sir?"

"We are ready for dinner, and bring wine for us," he commanded.

"Oh yes, Master. Right away!" she squeaked, bobbing her head, her ears flapping with the motion. She snapped her fingers and everything appeared on the table. The smell of the roast lamb permeated the air; the requested wine present in our glasses.

"So, mother, everything has been quiet here lately?" asked Draco as he began cutting into the lamb.

"Nott was foolish enough to come here a fortnight ago. After a chat and special cup of tea, he realized the danger that he had put us in and left. I'm sure he won't be back. He'll let the others know not to communicate through direct contact," she answered.

A special cup of tea? That did not sound good for his health. I bet he doesn't come back, even if he found an antidote in time, he won't chance coming here again.

Finding that I wasn't hungry, I merely nibbled at bits of my food. It was all very good, but I couldn't force anything past the knot of apprehension that had taken up residence in my stomach. Throughout the meal, Narcissa only spoke directly to me a few times. I answered her quickly before returning to silence.

Finally, the meal was over and we were excused. I could feel her stare as we left the room. She was trying to figure out how she could control me.

"I don't suppose there's anything that I'm obligated to attend in the morning?" I queried.

He glanced at me before replying, "No. When you wake up, have a house elf bring you to me and we'll start looking for those contracts."

Stopping at my door, I said, "Okay. I'm sure it will be late when I wake up. I feel like I haven't slept in days."

Shutting the door softly behind me, I leaned back against it heaving a tired sigh. This had been the longest week of my life. I pushed away from the door and trudged into the bathroom, shedding clothing as I went. Then, while the water ran, filling the bath, I took my hair down and began brushing it.

The door closed with a muffled click and she was gone. Despite the fact that I know she must be just as tired as I am, she looked beautiful. I should have asked if she liked her rooms. The view from the sitting room was one of the best in the manor. I had owled mother before we left Hogwarts to ensure that this was where Kim would be staying. Standing there staring at the door, I shook my head and scoffed at myself. She's doing her damndest to get away from me, and I'm making sure she's as close as possible. Knowing how ridiculous all of this had become, I turned and retreated to my own room, lost in my own very confused thoughts.

After soaking in the soothing, hot water, I pulled on my favorite worn shirt to sleep in and climbed into the soft bed. One of the house elves had a lovely warm fire in the bedroom fireplace and within moments I had drifted into a heavy, dreamless sleep.

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