A Dragon and a Phoenix

Chapter 36

Back in my own rooms, I felt the toll of the last two days catching up with me. Although I'd only been captive for a little over twenty-four hours, it felt like I'd been there for much longer. Last night had been bad enough because of my mother, but when I accounted for the fight with Draco and the mess I'd made of things by going to Windham Manor, it really seemed like a record day even for me. It was half past ten. I'd gone to Blake's sometime after nine last night, and he'd kept me locked in that awful room after that. I still wasn't quite sure how Draco had even managed to find me, but I was definitely grateful. I'd have to ask him when I found him. I should have been looking for him; I had several questions about what was going on with his Dark Mark, and where his mother was, but I found myself on the couch instead. It was so warm and comfortable, and I was so tired. Maybe if I just slept for half an hour, I'd feel better.

Feeling something being pulled over me, I jerked awake. Strong hands caught my arms, preventing me from hitting him. I blinked in surprise, "Dad?" He let go of me and I threw myself against him, hugging him like I had when I was a little girl, the blanket he'd been covering me with falling away. He patted my back and held me like he used to when I woke up, afraid from some nightmare. Eventually I leaned back, looking up at him. He gently wiped a tear from my cheek, and gave me a sad smile.

"I didn't mean to wake you, princess. I know you've been through a lot in the last few months, and even more in the last few days. Draco filled me in on everything when I returned earlier. I've been in to see Dakoda. He was sleeping, but he looked well considering where he's been. I just wanted to see for myself that you were alright as well," he said.

"I'm so sorry for everything, Dad. I never meant to fight with Mother like that. She hates me, but I never would have hurt her on purpose. It's just…Dakoda, and I was so angry at her for trading me away like livestock. Then I went and ran off to Blake, and made everything worse," I said dejectedly.

"There's nothing for you to be sorry over. Your mother is going to be fine. She's clearly a bit unhinged, but physically, she'll be fine when the healers are through with her. In the meantime, I'm having the papers drawn up for the dissolution of our marriage. I always knew she wasn't the best at being a mother, but I thought that she at least loved you in her own way. I've already got the house elves packing up her things," he replied.

A small gasp gave away my shock. He was divorcing her? Part of me was dancing with joy. The other part was sad for him; he was giving up his wife for his children. Who would be there for him? "Dad, I won't be at home for much longer. She may not love me, but she does care about you. I don't want you to be alone because of me."

He chuckled. "Princess, you never cease to amaze me. After all she put you through, you would have me stay with her for myself?" Looking back at him, I nodded, sadly. "Well, you shouldn't worry about me. I'd rather be alone and have you and your brother safe and happy than be with her, and just for the record, she doesn't really care about me at all. Amaranth is only interested in wealth and power. That's all she's ever wanted."

I hugged him again. "I love you, Dad. I'm sorry about Mother turning out to be a traitorous, lying snake, but Dakoda and I are really lucky to have you."

He smiled and stood to leave. "I know we still have a few things to figure out, this Unbreakable Vow, for instance, but how about you get some sleep. We can all sit down and discuss things tomorrow," he suggested.

"Alright," I agreed.

I went to bed after he left, but sleep was elusive. No matter how tired I was, I couldn't stop thinking about what he'd said. It was mad to think that my mother would really be out of our lives. I'd wished she'd move away and leave us alone when I was a child. I'd never told that to anyone, of course. They'd think I was nutters for wanting my mother to leave, but my wish had finally been granted.

An hour later, I was still awake. Finally, I gave up on getting any sleep and went to find Draco. I had so many questions. After knocking on his door several times with no answer, I cautiously opened it myself. In the light from the fireplace, I could see that his bed was still made, and he was nowhere to be found. Turning around to leave, I wondered where else he might be.

After checking the library, the parlor, and the drawing room, I was about to give up and go back to my room. Then suddenly, I remembered. The observatory. Maybe I would find him there. He had said once, that it used to be his favorite place to go.

After a couple of wrong turns, I found the spiral staircase. The room was just as I'd last seen it. Through the clear ceiling, I could see a beautiful nebula, ethereal and delicate looking. Draco lay on a pillowed chaise longue, one arm folded back under his head, the other resting across his abdomen. He didn't move when I came in, and I wondered if maybe he was sleeping.

Thinking of leaving him to rest, I was turning to go when he spoke, "You're here. I didn't think you'd look for me."

Turning back to face him, I took a couple of steps toward the divan. "There are some things I want to know, and I couldn't sleep," cautiously I answered. The last time we'd been alone together, he'd said he couldn't even stand to look at me.

Now sitting up, he looked at me with those stormy grey eyes, and I wondered if he still thought I hated him. "My mother returned. When the Dark Mark burned before, he was calling everyone to him because of the battle. Potter and his bunch finally made their stand. You-Know-Who is dead. I'm not clear on the details, but I honestly don't care right now. What I really want to know is…did you mean it?"

Brow furrowed in confusion, I asked, "Did I mean what?"

"I found a note tucked into the cufflink box," he clarified.

Realization dawned, "Of course I meant it. I know you think that I never saw you for who you really are, that I was just playing mind games and whatever other awful things. It's not true. I did think you were a miserable, arrogant prat all these years. When we met, I knew the 'you' that you show everyone else. I never knew who you really were until recently. I hated what you stood for and the way you acted…and then something changed. You let me see past all that. I finally realized who you were underneath all the pomp and circumstance, and it was someone that I wanted to know more. I meant what I said in that note," I replied.

Still sitting on the edge of the chaise, he stared, wordlessly at me. Only a few feet separated us, but I forced myself to stay there, waiting for him to say something. With a deep sigh, he ran a hand through his hair. "Come here," he demanded, reaching out toward me.

I stepped forward warily, but once I was within reach he pulled me to him, wrapping his arms firmly around me. Sitting, he was only about a head shorter than me. Cautiously, I rested my hands on his shoulders, then running my fingers through his soft, pale blonde hair; I leaned down and kissed him lightly. My lips only brushed his softly, but it was like a static shock of exhilaration. Then, before I could think, before I could breathe, he held me pressed against him, one hand caressing my cheek then cradling the back of my head, fingers tangled in my hair, pulling me into a lingering kiss. I wrapped my arms around him and just let myself get lost in the warmth of his arms and the demands of his mouth.

Sometime later, we broke apart. "Let's go back downstairs. As much as I'd love to keep this up, you have to be exhausted, and I could use a few hours of sleep myself," he murmured.

"Okay," I agreed.

As he stood and I looked up at him, I noticed that the nebula was no longer above us. The view had changed of its own accord, but it was strange. The two constellations that it had chosen weren't even in the same hemisphere. "I didn't know it could show you two things at once," I commented.

"What?" he looked up, confused. "It can't."

"Well it is now. Look," I pointed. "That one there is yours, the Draco constellation. And that one, that's the Phoenix."

"When the dragon soars and the phoenix dances, the people will enjoy happiness for years, bringing peace and tranquility to all under heaven," he muttered.

"What is that from? It sounds like some sort of prophecy."

"It's not. It's just something I remember from a book on ancient Chinese mythology. It is strange, though."

"What's strange?" I asked.

"Well, the constellation of my namesake, and a phoenix, which honestly could represent you if you think about it; it sort of does make it feel prophetic. We're together; the Dark Lord has been defeated. Seems like there might be something to it after all," he shrugged.

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