At length, we made it back to my door. His silvery gray gaze met mine as I turned to face him. "Thank you for this afternoon," I smiled. Then, before I could question the impulse, I reached up and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Not giving him a chance to say anything, I disappeared into my room.
Dinner was much the same as the night before, and despite the fact that everything smelled and looked delicious, being in the room with Narcissa turned my stomach. Once again, I found myself picking over my plate, merely shoving the food around until I was free to go. Before she dismissed us from the table, her focus shifted to me. With a piercing, narrow look she addressed me directly.
"When your mother arrives, we will be selecting a wedding dress for you. The seamstress will be here to see with several selections that I have already preapproved," she stated in a flat commanding tone.
The sudden urge to leap from my chair and run screaming from the room was almost overwhelming. She was clearly waiting for me to verbalize my submission to her will and I was trying to swallow the negative response attempting to claw its way out. As I was trying to get my thoughts organized enough to speak, I felt Draco's fingers close around mine under the table. I glanced at him and he nodded almost imperceptibly, squeezing my hand in encouragement.
Drawing in a slightly shaky breath, I replied, "Yes, I look forward to seeing them."
Seeming satisfied with my answer, she finally allowed us to leave. Letting go of my hand, Draco stood and offered his arm and proceeded to escort me back to my room. Once there, he stopped in front of the door and hesitantly asked, "Are you alright?"
I gave him a wan smile, answering, "Yes. I thought she might want to do this at some point. I just wasn't expecting it so soon. She caught me off guard. Thank you, though. I didn't think I was going to be able to answer her."
He nodded, "Of course. We're in this together, after all."
"So I suppose we'll resume our search in the morning?" I inquired.
"Yes. I'll meet you in the library. We can check out a few other places around the manor, but I still feel like finding out how to get into the space behind the mantle is worth figuring out. I want to keep looking through that book," he replied.
"You know this place and your mother better than I do, so whatever you think. I guess I'd better get some sleep if we're going to be spending the day searching for our freedom," I said as I reached to open the door.
Draco's hand over mine stopped me from turning the doorknob. I felt the light touch of his lips as he fleetingly kissed my forehead. "Goodnight," he murmured. And with that he turned and strode down the hallway to his own room.
I stepped inside, shutting the door behind me and leaning back against it. That was unexpected. He really could be surprising. It seemed that he had depths that I had yet to discover.
After getting out of the bath and climbing into the warm, comfortable bed, I lay awake thinking about the day and how it had ended. It was strange how things could change subtly and alter your perception greatly. Eventually I drifted to sleep.
Day after day, we met in the library before starting our search of the manor and grounds for the contracts. We searched the dark and hidden corners and continued to read through the book on the original construction looking for the way to open the hidden space behind the mantle.
Somewhere along the way, I found that I didn't mind Draco's company. He had a dry sense of humor that I found amusing, and he was intelligent and engaging in conversation. We liked some of the same authors and I enjoyed arguing over the merits of our favorite characters. In the evenings, we were still required to join his mother for dinner, and the sick feeling always returned when I was forced into her presence, but knowing that we were fighting back in our own way helped me get through it.
One night after dinner, we walked back to our rooms as usual, and Draco stopped short before turning down our corridor. "Are you sleepy?" he asked.
"Not really. I was thinking of reading for a while before going to bed," I replied with a curious look.
"Good. There's somewhere I want to take you. I think you'll like it," he smiled.
"Alright then; lead the way," I insisted.
He led me down a disused passage, and after several confusing turns, we were at the foot of a spiral staircase. Taking my hand, he pulled me forward. At the top of the stairs I was delighted to find a large circular observatory. The ceiling was made of glass and so clear that I thought there wasn't one at first. The floors were covered with a perfect representation of the Milky Way and along the walls was any star chart you could hope to find. It was amazing and beautiful. I stood in awe of the wonderful room.
"It's enchanted," he said with a muttered command and a flick of his wand, the view changed. It was like speeding upward toward the stars. The constellation of Orion was suddenly so close that it felt like I could reach up and touch the stars. It was like looking through a telescope, only a thousand times better.
I turned to him and grabbed his arm excitedly. Can it show us any star? Any constellation? Or other planets?" I eagerly requested.
"Yes. I've activated the charms, so all you have to do is ask," he explained.
For the next hour, we called for planets and constellations, and even individual stars. They glittered brightly, and we laughed as we each created our own images in the cosmos.
Eventually I began to yawn and he insisted that we leave but promised to bring me back. He was leaving me at my door before I even realized that he'd held my hand as we walked back. Looking up from our entwined fingers, I smiled at him. "Thank you for taking me there. That was amazing."
"I used to spend a lot of time in there, but I haven't been in years. I saw something that reminded me of it and I thought you might enjoy it. I'm glad I was right," he replied.
Letting my hand slip from his, he said goodnight and continued down the hallway to his door. That night I dreamed of soaring among the stars, folded safely in strong arms.
The next morning I woke early, dressed for the day and started for the library. Stepping into the corridor, I walked headlong into Draco. We both stumbled, our feet entangling, and fell into a heap on the floor.
"Ow!" he yelped as I landed on top of him; my elbow digging into his ribs.
"Sorry!" I exclaimed. I tried to move off of him and felt a tug around my neck. The thin silver chain I wore had gotten tangled around a button on his shirt. I reached for the delicate necklace and began to untangle it.
"Here, let me help you," he said. He sat up and together, we freed ourselves. I tucked the chain safely away under the neck of my sweater. Only then did I realize that I was still sitting on top of Draco.
He remained pinned down, my knees pressed against either side of his hips, one hand rested on my thigh, the other caught me under the chin. He lifted my face up to meet his. Stormy gray eyes stared back at me for an instant before he pulled me to him. I had no resistance to offer. I couldn't deny that I wanted this too. He kissed me gently at first, almost hesitantly. I realized that he wasn't sure I wanted him to, and wrapped my arms around him deepening the kiss. He responded instantly, his fingers twining through my hair and holding me in place.
A moment, a day, or maybe even an eternity passed before we released each other. Glassy eyed and breathing as if I'd run a marathon, I leaned against his chest and was enclosed in the circle of his arms. He smelled of soap and crisp, clean linen. Our hearts beat a furious rhythm in tandem.
"I'd be upset that you nearly broke my ribs with your elbow when we landed, but I think that was the best apology a guy could ask for," he chuckled.
Laughing, I leaned back and smirked, "Well, if I'd known you were going to be dragging your heels this morning, I would have slowed down."
"Oh sure, blame it on the victim of the accident," he retorted in mock hurt.
"Ah, the victim, I see. Well, come along then victim. We have research to do," I countered.
We got up from the scene of our collision and proceeded to the library, still engaged in a verbal sparring match. I liked the witty banter, and he didn't seem at all displeased with it either. Since arriving at Malfoy Manor, things had changed between us, and I wasn't sure how it had even happened. United against a common enemy, we had become friends.