A Dragon and a Phoenix

Chapter 28

In the entrance hall, Narcissa was already waiting. As we arrived, so did mum and dad. Through the large windows that flanked the door, I could see the sleek black carriage as it rolled to a halt in front of the manor. Though I'd known they were going to be here from the beginning, the actuality of it was wreaking havoc on my emotions. I hadn't anticipated being happy to see them, but I couldn't deny that some small part of me had missed the traitorous monsters.

The forefront of my feelings was anger, though. A strong surge of resentment bordering on hatred washed over me and I was reeling from the sudden effort not to set the room on fire. A clash between mum and me was not going to do us, or Malfoy Manor, any favors at the moment.

Draco glanced at me and muttered, "Though it seems you've forgotten; that is attached."

I looked down and realized that he was referring to the hand that I was crushing in a furiously tense grip. Immediately, I relaxed my hold and apologized, "Sorry."

He smirked, "Ah, I'm sure I can think of a few ways for you to make it up to me."

I rolled my eyes, but had to look away to hide the smile. He'd managed to distract me long enough to get my emotions under control. I wasn't alone in this mess, and we were going to win this battle in the end. I had to keep a cool head to make that happen, though.

The heavy door swung open silently and there they stood. Mum looked as though she'd been peeled out of a fashion magazine. She was clearly putting her best image forward for Narcissa. Dad looked steady and in charge in what he usually referred to as his business attire. The pinstriped suit and pale green silk tie were perfect. The only thing out of place was the brief look of relief when he first saw me. Mum showed no such signs of emotion; she appeared aloof and unfazed.

She scanned my appearance, taking in the white sheath dress with black lace overlay. I'd worn my hair down in loose curls just to annoy her; she always preferred a perfectly coifed updo. She finished her assessment and scoffed, "Leave it to you to ruin a perfectly good outfit with that unruly mane of yours."

Just as I was about to spit out a sharp retort, Draco coolly replied, "She left it down at my request. I find it much less pretentious than such styles as yours."

Her eyes widened at the slight, but she quickly transformed her look of shock into a sly smile, "Well I suppose it's just as well that she does what you want, after all, she'll belong to you soon enough."

Before things could get out of hand, Narcissa took control of the situation. "I'm sure you'll all have time to exchange pleasantries later. Brunch is waiting on us."

With an arrogant tilt of her chin, mum turned to follow her out of the entrance hall. Dad paused briefly and gave me a small smile of encouragement before trailing after her.

We made it through the meal without further incident…barely. As soon as allowed, Draco and I went back upstairs. Mum and Dad were going to get settled into their own room. It wouldn't be long before I had to rejoin Narcissa and Mum for the tedious task of going over guest lists and reception details.

"If that's the kind of fun we're to expect for the remainder of the holiday, then I don't know how any of us will survive it," I dryly commented as I dropped wearily into a chair.

Staring into the flames dancing in the fireplace, I pushed the thought of the next few hours from my mind. Even the warmth of the fire couldn't dissipate the chill that I felt.

"I didn't realize that you and your mother were so close," Draco said, the sarcasm evident in his tone.

"Oh yes, we make friendship bracelets and braid each other's hair on weekends. She likes to bake me cookies too," I retorted.

He chuckled as he sat in the other chair. "Well, there's no use in fighting right now. We're only here for another week and a half, and then we can come up with another way out of this when we're back at Hogwarts."

"You know as well as I do that we'd better find what we've been searching for, or we'll end up unhappily married in the summer. We can keep looking tonight after they've gone to sleep."

He shrugged his shoulders, "As you wish, then. Everyone should be upstairs by midnight. I honestly think that she's put them in the compartment in the library mantelpiece. We've pretty much exhausted all other options. We'll focus on opening that."

Nodding in agreement I rose from my seat. "I'd better get downstairs, or Mum will spend the entire time sniping about my tardiness."

"I should go and find your father. Mother will expect us to have selected one of the gardens for the ceremony."

Even I couldn't have imagined just how miserable my afternoon would turn out to be. Armed with expensive parchment and fancy envelopes, my mother enchanted quills to copy elegant calligraphy invitations for the wedding. With a quick quotes quill, they created a list of guests that happened to include my friends and their parents.

As I sat absently toying with my necklace, I wondered why they had even insisted that I be here. Since we began, they had done nothing but offer me the color, fabric, and flower options only to do choose what they wanted anyway. Narcissa's reasons for having me here, I thought, were more to prove the point that there was no escaping what was in front of me.

Several hours passed and I was astonishingly bored with the proceedings. My mother had become fast friends with our hostess and any complaint on my part was met with utter disdain and contempt on their part. Eventually I gave up on even attempting to pretend that I was actually involved in any of the decisions being made.

Every choice they made had me cringing with distaste. My mother was all about over the top designs and colors. If this was a real wedding and not the theater production they were in the midst of creating, I would have put my foot down before we even got started. This avant garde experiment was going to be a disaster.

I heaved yet another sigh of bored frustration causing Narcissa to stop talking abruptly. "Kimberly, since you obviously find this task less than deserving of your attention, perhaps you should go upstairs until dinner."

I nearly danced with glee at the prospect of getting out of there, but I didn't want to let her think that she had done me any favors, so I rose stiffly and left the room without a word to either of them.

Once the door closed behind me, I slumped against it in relief. I had been considering ways to hang myself with the swaths of fabric lying around the room rather than spend any more time listening to their inane babble.

Finding myself free for about an hour before I would be expected to sit through a long a torturous dinner with my mother and her new best mate, I wandered back up to my rooms.

There, I changed into a comfortable pair of yoga pants and an oversized sweater. Grabbing a book I went to the sofa in the sitting room and called Poppy to bring me some tea.

There was a fire burning low in the small fireplace and I found myself dozing as I read. I woke with a sudden start and found two large eyes peering at me. I yelped and sat up quickly, reaching for my wand.

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