A Dragon and a Phoenix

Chapter 31

I knew that Draco had to be wondering what the bloody hell had happened to me, but I couldn't make myself share this kind of misery with anyone. I didn't want anyone to know just how much it really hurt me that she cared so little for me. I'd always told myself that she loved me deep down inside somewhere, but now I knew that was just the lie a sad little girl had told herself to make the pain go away. I'd had Dad, but he had his political career and wasn't always there to be a buffer between the two of us. Part of me even envied the lengths that Narcissa was willing to go through for her son. On the other hand, his relationship with his father had been less than perfect, that was for sure. I suppose no one could have it all.

Sitting up, I realized that I'd probably been gone for at least a couple of hours. Even if my mother probably hoped I was dead, at least Draco would be wondering where I was. After all, I'd promised to come back.

Remembering the shortcuts, brought me out of the labyrinth quickly, but I was sorry to leave behind the relative warmth of the center garden. The snow was still heavy on the ground, and I was by no means dressed for the bitter cold. Still wearing my formal dress and heels, I was forced to trudge back without so much as a cloak for warmth. Teeth chattering, I numbly searched for my wand and used a few charms to block the wind, and melt a path back to the manor.

I could have summoned my cloak, but in the time it would have taken to go so far, I was already over halfway back to the warmth of the indoors. Once I reached the entrance hall, I took my sodden shoes off and traipsed upstairs. The trailing fabric of my dress was damp from the snow as well, making it difficult for me to feel much warmer.

Shivering in my dripping clothes, I finally made it to Draco's room and found him sitting by the fire. Wanting to remember what it felt like for someone to give a damn that you were there, I rushed over to him, but as I drew near I realized that something was off. He didn't move or look up at me, and I could smell the firewhisky from where I stood.

An open bottle of amber liquid sat on the table next to him and a half empty glass hung limply in his fingers. His normally immaculate appearance was disheveled. He'd removed his suit jacket, vest, and tie and his pristinely white shirt was rumpled and un-tucked.

"Draco, what's going on?" I quietly inquired.

"Not that it's any of your concern, but I've been drinking. Quite a bit, I might add," he responded.

"Why have you been drinking? I thought you were going to wait for me to get back and…" I trailed off.

"Wait for you to get back and what? Undress you? Sleep with you? While you what? Pretend that I'm someone else? I'm sorry, I don't think I'm drunk enough for your games," he sneered.

"What the bloody hell are you on about? Since you're somehow oblivious to what's been going on here, I'm pretty sure that I just burned down part of the manor, and possibly charred my mother beyond recognition. I wanted to be with you; the only person in this entire place that I thought would be pleased to see me, and just might have a bit of understanding for the situation," I fumed.

Still refusing to look at me he retorted, "Well if you're looking for someone to be pleased to see you, you're in the wrong place. I can't imagine why you'd want to be with someone that you 'don't even like, much less want to marry' in the first place."

Abruptly I realized that he was quoting what I had said to my mother earlier. "How much of that did you hear?"

"Well, your little discussion with your parents took so long that I went to look for you. I thought maybe you'd gotten lost, but instead I found that you were busy telling them what you actually think. I heard enough to know that you're just as bad as she is. And here I thought you finally saw me for who I really am, but you'll only ever see the monstrous 'son of a Death Eater' when you look at me," he replied acidly.

Flinching, I shook my head in denial of his accusations, "That's not true! You misunderstood me. I used to think those things, yes, but that doesn't mean…"

"Doesn't mean what?" he snapped.

"That doesn't mean that's how I feel now. I don't think you're a monster, and I do see you for who you really are. Do you think that I would voluntarily spend so much time with someone that I despised as much as you seem to think I despise you? I would never have let you touch me if I still thought you were all the things I used to think you were. I…I…"

"You should leave. I can't even look at you," he replied flatly.

Stepping back as though he had shoved me, my shoes fell from my numb fingers. As they landed with a dull thud on the rug, he finally glanced up at my face. For a moment, I almost imagined that his eyes softened, but I couldn't bear to suffer one more person discarding me tonight.

Reluctantly I looked up at her. Her eyes filled with tears and the look on her face said that I'd wounded her just as I'd intended. That mean, vengeful part of me just wanted to lash out and make her feel the same way I'd felt when I heard the things she'd said about me. Months ago, I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised to hear her say any of those things, hell, she'd said them to my face every chance she got, but this was different. We were different. At least, I'd thought we were.

Stumbling around the chair, I picked up the trailing fabric of my dress and the fallen shoes and ran from the room before he could say anything else. I made it back to my room before the tears, real tears this time, began to fall. Turning back to the door, I charmed it so that anyone that wanted in would basically have to blast their way in unless I opened it.

Without giving much thought to my impulses, I went to the fireplace and tossed in a hand of floo powder. I knew it was late, but I needed to talk to someone that would understand. I couldn't tell Kat or Sara without telling them the whole story, and I just didn't have it in me to deal with that. Instead I reached out to the only other person who already knew most of what was going on.

Surprisingly, Blake was awake. Apparently he'd been putting out the presents for his little brother and sister. I'd already forgotten that it was Christmas.

"I'm sorry to bother you. I know it's late, and clearly you're busy. I'll just go and we can talk later," I insisted. I felt like a heel for just dropping in on him unannounced.

He knelt down in front of the flames and waved off my protests. "Nah, it's fine. Mum insists that I put the presents out since she has to get up early and cook breakfast. Besides, I'm guessing your head wouldn't be in my fireplace at this time of the night unless something serious was going on, so out with it then."

"I've never gotten along with my mother. Dad tries to keep the peace as much as possible, but even he can't fix this. We really got into it this time, and I'm not sure that permanent physical damage hasn't been inflicted. I suppose you could say that things got a bit out of hand," I surmised.

"It sounds like a pretty terrible way to spend Christmas Eve," he said. "Why don't you just leave? You can come here. No one even has to know you're here. It'll be a nice break from what sounds like too much family time."

"Maybe you're right; I could definitely use a change of scenery right now. Give me a moment. I'll be right there."

I pulled my head out of the fireplace and the brilliant green flames subsided. Scooping up some more floo powder, I tossed it into the hearth, called for Blake's house and stepped fully into the fire.

Stepping out of the hearth, I dusted a stray bit of soot from my dress and looked up to meet Blake's steady gaze.

"How about I make you a cup of tea?" he offered.

I nodded and followed him to the kitchen. The click of my heels on the marble floor sounded too loud in the quiet manor. While he busied himself with the tea, I dropped wearily into a chair in the breakfast nook. Curtains were pulled closed over a large bay window blocking out the cold winter air. A small part in the heavy fabric afforded me a narrow, shadowed view of the dimly lit courtyard beyond.

The snow fell lightly outside, but as I watched, wondering what would happen if I just disappeared and started over somewhere else, a shadow broke away and moved across the courtyard.

As I reached to pull the curtain further back, Blake appeared next to me with the tea. "I'm sure it's not as good as my mum's, but I suppose this will do. Cheers," he said, handing me a teacup.

Momentarily forgetting the figure outside, I smiled up at him and accepted the steaming cup of tea. The fragrant brew seemed vaguely familiar, but I wasn't sure where I knew it from. After taking a soothing drink I looked up to find Blake watching me.

"Thank you for the tea, it's really good," I smiled.

"Actually, we've been looking forward to your arrival. I was beginning to wonder if it would be necessary to give you a reason to show up, but I suppose you finally had your fill of that pompous little traitor," he replied casually as he stared through the part in the curtains.

Again, I was sure I'd seen someone out there, but I brushed that thought aside as I considered what he'd just said. "What do you mean, 'we've been looking forward' to my arrival? I didn't even know I was coming. How could you? And why the bloody hell is there someone wandering about outside in the middle of the night?!" I demanded.

"Well, you were always meant to come here in the end. The Dark Lord makes it his business to recruit the strongest and most gifted among the purebloods. Your particular talents could be very useful to us once you've been trained to control them properly. As for the man outside, he's just patrolling the grounds. It's not really necessary considering the impressive magic protecting this place, but he's being punished for his poor service." he said blandly.

In an effort to get away, I tried to run back for the fireplace, but I found that I could barely lift my hand, much less my legs. Breathing was even a bit difficult, and I fought to remain calm. Realizing that something was desperately wrong I looked at Blake for an answer. The malicious grin spreading across his face told me that he was the cause of my paralysis.

"I see that your tea has done the trick. I'm sure you've noticed that you're unable to flee. I'm quite proud of this particular potion. It's completely undetectable and very potent. Don't worry you'll regain movement when we're sure of your compliance. Now," he stood, reaching for his wand; "if you'll just accompany me upstairs. We have a room prepared for you." Without further explanation, he flicked his wand, "Mobilicorpus."

It was a strange sensation, to be lifted by invisible forces and moved through the manor at his direction. He silently guided me through the shadowed corridors. Finally, we stopped in front of a heavy wooden door. Blake took me inside and deposited me on the bed. The room was sparsely furnished with heavy antiques. The rather small space was lit only by torchlight; there were no windows.

"As I'm sure you can see there's only one way in and out of this room. When I leave, the door will disappear. I'm sure you have so many questions, most of which I'll be willing to answer, but there are certain things I should attend to first," he said on his way out.

Just as he had promised the door transformed into part of the wall at his departure and there was no other visible exit. I didn't want to admit it to myself, but I'd been completely taken by is act. He had seemed so laid back and normal, too normal. What a fool I'd been. I'd been willfully blind, and now I was a prisoner.

The inability to move left me with nothing to do but think. When would anyone even notice that I was gone from Malfoy manor? Even if they did notice, how would they know where to look for me? Would they all just assume that I'd run away and didn't want to be found? Draco was too angry to care whether or not I was gone, and Mother, well who knew what sate she was in? Narcissa would be furious about the damage to the manor. I doubt she would be interested in my return. Dad was the only one that would even care that I was missing.

All that I could do was wait, and I found that waiting was torture. There wasn't a clock in the room, and without any windows, there was no knowing what time of day or night it was.

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