A Dragon and a Phoenix

Chapter 37

We left the observatory, each lost in our own thoughts. On our way back downstairs, I could see the snow falling outside the windows. So much had changed in just one night. There would be arrests, and the Ministry would surely see a huge upheaval in the coming months. We could go back to Hogwarts, finish our final year, and have normal lives. Well, as normal as you could expect when you were about to be forced into marriage.

I stood in front of the fire, warming my hands. I wondered what the exact terms of my father's Unbreakable Vow had been. I hadn't had a chance to ask him. He'd said we would talk about it in the morning, so I guessed I'd find out then.

Lost in thought, I hadn't heard Draco come in. Silently he'd slipped up behind me and I nearly yelped in surprise when he spun me around to face him. "A little jumpy, there Daniels," he smirked.

"You arse," I chided, "Don't think I won't slap you just because you rescued me."

"And your brother. Don't forget I rescued him, too," he haughtily replied.

"Yes, and my brother. I didn't forget, but that still doesn't mean I won't jinx you into next week if you insist on startling me all the time," I countered.

"Well, I suppose I should make an appointment for next week to do this then," he inquired, as he tipped his head down to kiss me.

"Yes," I said a little breathlessly, "You should make several appointments."

He gave a snort of laughter at that, and pulled me towards the bed. Settling into the soft pillows and warm blankets reminded me just how tired I was. We lay there, facing each other, our legs entwined. He held his head propped up with one hand, the other absently toying with my hair as he stared at me thoughtfully.

"What is it?" I finally asked.

"I was just thinking. Some of our problems have been solved. Your kidnapping boyfriend is gone; your lunatic mother is out of the way. But we still have the Unbreakable Vow to contend with."

I flinched at the 'kidnapping boyfriend comment', but he didn't seem to notice. "About that, I owe you an apology. Before you meant anything to me, I thought I liked him. I saw it as a way to rebel against the situation. But the last time I saw him, before we left Hogwarts, I knew something was wrong. I got away from him as fast as I could. I don't know if I somehow sensed that he wasn't who he said he was, or if it was just that I'd already started to develop feelings for you. Either way, I'm sorry. When you told me that you couldn't stand the sight of me, I just wanted to get as far away from here as possible. It hurt to be surrounded by nothing but thoughts of you, so I went to the one person that I'd even told the whole truth of the arrangement to. I should have stayed, though. I should have fought harder to make you listen," I confessed.

With a small self deprecating smile he said, "If I'm being honest, I wasn't exactly giving you many reasons not to hate me in the beginning. I wanted to make you miserable for all the past humiliations, but the more I was with you, the more I didn't really want you to hate me. I don't blame you for seeing him back then. And if you hadn't gone there when I was being an arse, we probably still wouldn't know where your brother was."

"That reminds me, how did you know where to find me?" I asked.

"Well, after I checked the manor and grounds, I went to your friends. They didn't have a clue you were even missing. In case you're wondering, I told them that you'd had a row with your mum and your dad had asked me to help find you. Anyway, I came back here and found the floo powder on the mantle above your fireplace. Even though they were all supposed to be disconnected from the Floo Network, I figured that it was worth looking into. I went to the Floo office at the Ministry and found out that someone had connected your fireplace with a direct link to the Windham Estates, so I followed you," he explained.

I kissed him, "Thank you for looking for me."

"Don't forget, we still have the matter of the Unbreakable Vow to figure out," he reminded me.

I sighed, "You're right. I don't even know the specifics of it, though. Dad said we would talk about it in the morning. I don't know how he thinks we're going to change it. It's called unbreakable for a reason."

He was silent, just looking at me like he couldn't decide whether or not he wanted to say something. I waited, albeit impatiently, without interrupting his thoughts. Then, finally he closed his eyes, as if he didn't want to see my reaction.

"I love you," he whispered.

I couldn't have stopped the smile if I'd wanted to, but he didn't see it. His eyes were still closed tight, brow furrowed as if he expected me to yell at him for saying it. Instead, I traced the line of his jaw lightly, my hand trailing down his throat over the racing beat of his pulse, stopping just over his heart.

"Look at me," I insisted.

Slowly, he opened his eyes. "I love you, too," I enunciated each word clearly. "You say it like a man before a firing squad."

"I just thought that you might not after I sent you away; which nearly resulted in you being enslaved to the Death Eaters. I'm not sure I would love me if I were you," he said.

"You're not perfect, but neither am I. I'm haughty and headstrong. I like to argue, and I love to win," I responded.

"I do want to be with you. I never met anyone that could match me in everything the way you can and still keep me grounded. I like fighting with you more than I like getting along with anyone else, but I don't want to marry you. Not yet, anyway, and not because of some ridiculous Unbreakable Vow," he said.

I nodded in agreement. "What else can we do, though? I don't want my dad to die because I don't want to be married at seventeen."

"I suppose we just need to wait and see what he says about the Vow. We can worry about it then. In the meantime, I don't want to think about it. I just want to hear you say it one more time before I go to sleep."

Smiling, I did as he asked. "I love you."

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