A Dragon and a Phoenix

Chapter 33

Windham Estates

Still unable to move, I waited for Blake to return. My mouth felt like it was full of sand, and my stomach grumbled at its emptiness as the minutes continued to tick by. Just when I started to think I might go mad, the heavy wooden door reappeared. Blake sauntered into the room full of confidence.

"I should think you're more than ready to be cooperative after your time alone. It only takes most people a few hours of immobility and solitude to crack," he smirked. "If you agree, I'll give you the antidote to the potion, and you can at least get up and move bout the room. I'm afraid I don't quite trust you enough to let you roam about the place just yet. It's not as if you could escape, though. Among other things, there's blood magic sealing all of the entrances and exits. You'll have to have a Dark Mark before it will recognize your blood and allow you passage. Not that it will be a problem by the time we're ready to let you leave."

He stood over me and leaned down. Holding my mouth open with one hand, he pulled the cork out of a vial with his teeth and poured the contents down my throat. Unable to do anything to stop him, I was forced to swallow the bitter liquid. A feeling like ice swept over me, quickly followed by the prickly sensation of pins and needles all over.

"You'll regain movement in ten to fifteen minutes. I have to go and make arrangements for your Christmas present," he grinned maliciously. Tucking the empty vial back into the pocket of his jeans, he turned and, once again, left me alone.

Just as he had promised, as the pins and needles subsided, I was able to rise up into a sitting position. My limbs were somewhat stiff after their long hours of forced paralysis. Working the kinks out slowly, I swung my legs around and gingerly set my feet on the floor. Still wearing the heels from the night before, I stood slowly; Not feeling any remaining numbness, or weak kneed, I began to pace around the room.

Pausing for a moment I frantically reached for the hidden pocket in my bodice. There, miraculously, was my wand. Apparently Blake thought it was in the small hand bag that I'd been carrying. How careless of him not to double check. A few quick spells let me know that he hadn't been lying about the blood magic sealing the doors. There was no way to disapparate out of the room either. Several charms and curses lay over this place, and the only way in or out was if you were expected or allowed.

Stomping my foot in frustration, I resigned myself to waiting. Replacing my wand safely in its pocket, I tried not to spend all of my time imagining what Blake had meant when he said he was going to make arrangements for my 'Christmas present'.

Paris, France

The snow fell heavily around me. Hurrying along the busy street, I searched for the building number Sara's mother had given me. The hotel where they were staying was clearly a wizarding hotel. Muggles passed by the door without giving it a second glance. The clear glass revolving door deposited him in the opulent lobby. The thick, deep red carpet in front of the doors gave way to the glossy shine of marble floors. Behind the front desk, a svelte witch with glossy brown hair pulled back in a fashionable chignon shuffled a sheaf of papers into a neat stack. Striding past her and up the sweeping, grand staircase, I headed for the third floor.

Knocking rapidly on the dark blue door, I waited, impatiently, on someone to answer. Just as I lifted my hand to knock again, the door swung open to reveal a familiar face. Kat stood staring at me as if I had three heads.

"Malfoy, wh-what on earth are you doing here?" she demanded.

"I thought that would be obvious," I snapped. "I'm looking for Kim. She's run off, and no one's seen her. I thought maybe she came here to meet up with you, but judging by the look on your face, I'd say you don't know where she is either." I turned to leave, but Kat reached out and grabbed my arm. I turned back irritably, one eyebrow raised, looking from the intruding hand to her.

"Look, I know we gave you a hard time and all, but when you two left after the demetor attack, Sara and I had some time to talk. We both agree that there's something different about the way you've been. Are you- do you really care about her?" she asked softly.

"I don't have time for your ridiculous questions. If you hear from her, let me know."

With that I turned and stalked back down the hallway. This had been a pointless trip. With all possible leads ending with zero results, there was nothing to do but return to the manor and start from scratch.

Disapparating from the hotel, I returned home. I stood outside the door to her room, hand resting on the doorknob. There had to be some clue inside as to where she'd gone. Mother had mentioned that she'd had to have Poppy go inside and open the door. Apparently Kim had spelled it shut when she'd come back last night.

The room was cool; the fire having burned itself out some time ago. I searched quickly through the letters on the small desk, finding nothing useful. Nothing seemed to be missing. A book lay on the table; her place haphazardly marked with a random scrap of paper. I sat on the edge of the couch, glancing back around the room for anything out of place- picking up the book absently.

A cloak was draped over the back of a chair. Clothes were tossed on the bed. It looked as if she'd just stepped out for a moment; like she should walk through the door at any moment.

Putting the book back on the table, I was getting up to leave when I noticed something in the sunlight on the mantelpiece. There was a light dusting of Floo powder around the small pot. Mother had said none of the fireplaces were connected except hers. She didn't want Kim to have a way to escape. So, why was the powder scattered about?

Striding into the parlor, glaring at Mother, I asked, "So what was the point in lying to me?"

Her head snapped up; irritation evident. "What on earth are you blithering on about? I haven't lied to you."

"You said that the only fireplace that's connected to the Floo network is yours, but the one in Kim's room is as well. Where did you send her then?" I demanded.

"Obviously you've lost control of your faculties. In what realm of reason would I leave an escape route for your reluctant fiancé? I had any fireplace she might have access to, disconnected prior to bringing her here."

Without another word, I turned and left. If she didn't have Kim's fireplace connected, then who did? Surely there was some way to find out the last place it had transported someone. A trip to the Ministry would be necessary.

Windham Estates

The grating sound of the wall rearranging itself to accommodate the door alerted me to the arrival of a dark, hooded figure. The hood of his cloak hid his face, but a pale hand reached out toward me.

Despite the fact there was nowhere to run, I backed away. "I'm not going with you. I'll never willingly serve You-Know-Who. You can just go ahead and kill me and get it over with now. I'd rather cut my own arm off than let you mark me." My voice was surprisingly steady considering how nervous I really was.

He stepped further into the room and I reached for the hidden pocket and my wand. With a quick flick I sent a stunning charm at him, but he silently deflected it. Before I could cast any more spells at him, he reached up and pulled the hood back. A small gasp of shock was all I could manage in response.

"Lovely to see you too," he commented dryly. "Really, I know you're upset with me, but is now the best time to be hexing your exit strategy?"

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