A Day and A Night

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Chapter 12: A Bone and a Splinter:

She wasn’t sure how long she stayed awake, but once again she had a terrible night of sleep, which was a seesaw of slumber and wakefulness. She laid thinking about Draco’s confession for hours, finally falling asleep and then waking back up again when the early morning was still pitch black. Slipping quietly from the bed without looking back at him, she went over to the dresser where one of the servants had placed her belongings. She found a nightgown and slipped it over her body.

She took the top blanket off the bed. As she pulled it off the bed, and off his body, she watched him. He looked so handsome. She had to have imagined that he whispered that she was his mate. He couldn’t have meant that. Surely, he didn’t even believe in such a thing. She knew she didn’t. He knew either she was still awake, and was joking with her, or she had misunderstood him. She wasn’t his mate. She wasn’t.

She took the heavy down comforter and dragged it behind her on the floor to a chair in the far corner of the room, by the now dying embers of the fire. She didn’t know where her wand was, or she would stoke the flames. She pulled her feet up to the seat of the chair, and wrapped the cover around her, where she watched him some more.

Watching him as he slept, in a remote castle in Scotland, in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours, she realized she could have imagine that he said the things she thought he said. She could be wrong…he could have said a whole host of things, yet, she knew she wasn’t. She knew he said EXACTLY what she thought he said.

Was this the reason he had to come along? Did Harry know about this? Did the Minister of Magic know? Did Milo Dorchester know? Was anyone ever going to tell her? What did it all mean? Did Draco Malfoy, a man who once hated her, suddenly love her? NO! Even if he was under some pretense that she and he were, dare she think it, “mates,” (she whispered aloud), did not make it so and certainly did not mean that he loved her. He had always hated her, and probably still did. She knew that.

She thought about how much they hated each other in school. Usually hate was too strong of a word to describe how people really felt for each other, but in their case, it was apropos. Growing up, he was hateful, antagonistic, egotistical, and a bigot toward her. He hated her merely because she was a Muggle-born, and therefore, beneath him.

She thought she was better than him back then, too.

Of course, he had changed, as had they all. However, he didn’t really like her did he? Although…that was a nice kiss in which they had shared at the book store. A very nice one. Was he only paying attention to her because he thought she was his Veela mate? Was they why he kissed her?

She was a Muggle-born! She couldn’t be his mate! As soon as she had that thought, she recalled what Cat MacNeill had told her. Milo thought his mate was a Muggle-born. Hermione knew both girls that were killed were Muggle-borns. Did that have anything to do with their deaths?

She didn’t want to think about the murders right now. She didn’t want to think about Draco’s confession, either.

The next thing she knew, she lifted her head, and daylight was streaking into her room. The darkness was replaced with light, the night replaced by day, and Draco Malfoy was gone. If he questioned why she was sitting in a chair by the fireplace when he woke up, he didn’t question her about it. She was glad. She was going to ignore what she had heard, after all, she wasn’t meant to hear it, and she was going to concentrate on the matter at hand, that being, finding the murderer of three women.

She went to the small bathroom, which was down the hallway from her room, showered and dressed, and then somehow she found the dining room.

The only one there was Milo.

“How are you feeling this morning?” he asked, standing as she entered the room.

Before she answered, she looked around the large room. “Much better, thank you. Do you know where Draco is?”

“He ate over an hour ago. My brother took him to the site of the first girl’s encampment. He didn’t want to wake you, so I said I would wait for you, and bring you later,” he explained. “Whatever you would like to eat, my servants will be happy to prepare it.”

“I really would rather get to work,” she decided.

He smiled at her and said, “You’ll need a warmer jacket than that. It’s a rainy, cold morning. Let me get you something.” He left the room, only to reappear moments later with a heavy, wool pea jacket.

He held out the coat for her, and she gingerly slipped her injured arm into the first sleeve. “Shall we walk, or Apparate to the site?” he asked.

“I take it I won’t be able to Apparate back here without you, correct?” she asked.

“Correct.”

“Then let’s walk. I might need to know the way on my own,” she remarked. They started out of the massive castle and down the stone steps. The air was cold, there was fog hanging thick on the ground, and there was a mist in the air. Hermione shivered slightly.

“Were both girls who were murdered Muggle-borns?” she asked. She already knew they were.

“Yes,” he answered without hesitation.

“Draco said last night that you didn’t get to meet the second girl, because you were away.” She said it as a statement, but implied it as a question.

“True, I was away when she arrived, but I had met her. I met her in the village. I met her much the same way I met you, to help her have safe passage to Glendora. Then, once she was across the loch, I had other business to attend. When I came back two days later, she was already murdered,” he explained.

He took long strides, and his hands were clasped behind his back. Hermione had to walk briskly to keep up with him. They crossed the land around the castle in no time. “How did the students come to study the ruins of Glendora? I hadn’t heard of them myself, until my professor told me of the murders,” Hermione said, adding, “and I consider myself very learned.”

He didn’t answer. Hermione wondered if he had heard her. They continued over hill and dale, over rocky terrain, climbing over fallen trees, until they reached the mouth of the forest. Milo said, “To answer your question from earlier, I asked the old professor to send some students to these woods, to study some of our ancient ruins and old castles. I told you, I want to open our village up to outsiders, and to do so, we need to learn more about our past, to continue to have a future.”

“How did other members of the community feel about opening up the village to outsiders?” Hermione asked.

Milo seemed to frown with his whole face. He said, “I wouldn’t know, nor do I care. What I say is law.” He pointed toward a trail and said, “Go that way, and you’ll come upon Mr. Malfoy. Forgive me if I don’t take you any further. These woods are enchanted, so take out your wand, and be prepared for anything. If you need me, you merely need to call my name, and I’ll be there.”

Before he could leave Hermione asked, “Did the fact that you let these girls come to your village have anything to do with the fact that you feel you future mate is a Muggle-born?”

He whipped around so fast Hermione thought she had shocked him. He practically pounced on her, took her good arm in his hand and asked, “Who told you that?”

“Your brother’s fiancée,” she answered, then she ordered, “Let go of my arm.”

He did. “Cat should keep her stories to herself. If you need me, call my name, and I’ll come.” He stormed off again, this time leaving so fast that she couldn’t have stopped him again if she had tried. Her eyes watched as he turned and started back toward the large castle, until he was a speck in the horizon.

Well, that didn’t go very well.

She started along the path in the forest, her wand drawn, when she came across the girl’s former encampment very quickly. Draco was bent low, examining something on the ground. He spoke before he looked up.

“Good night sleep?”

“It was fair,” she answered.

“I imagine so, in a chair.” He turned to look at her. “You know, if you didn’t want me in your bed, you shouldn’t have asked.”

He looked angry, too. Great, everyone was angry with her this morning, and she wasn’t sure why. “Why didn’t you wait for me this morning?” she asked.

“I wasn’t aware I was supposed to wait for you. Are you my keeper? My boss?” He turned back toward whatever he was examining.

In her mind she answered, ‘No, I’m just your mate,’ but aloud she huffed, “First Milo is angry with me, and now you are.” She knelt beside him. She felt the heat from his skin, even though it was a cold morning. Kneeling beside him, she felt her skin prickle at his closeness. Was this the whole ‘mate’ thing, or was it because she was becoming more and more attracted to him? She didn’t know if she should bring up the mate thing. She stood up and said, “I asked Milo if the reason he let these girls come to the village was because he thought one of them might be his future mate.”

Draco rose slowly, with something in his hand. “I bet that went over big. What did he say?”

“He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t seem thrilled with my accusation,” Hermione answered. She pointed to his hand, “What’s that?”

“A bone,” he answered. He tossed it to her. She backed away, and it hit the ground. He bent to pick it up and he held it toward her again. “Not a human bone, Granger. I don’t know what sort of bone. This is where both girls set up their camps. Some of their things are even still here.” He pointed to what remained of an old rucksack and some cooking utensils.

“Why wouldn’t the Ministry have taken all of this in for evidence?” she asked.

“The bodies weren’t found here,” he said. “They were killed elsewhere. This was just their camp, and maybe they didn’t know about it. I don’t think Milo was very forthcoming with helpfulness when the Ministry came to call.”

“Which makes me wonder why he’s so helpful now?” Hermione picked up the rucksack and peered inside. “There are some notes in here that might help us.”

“Take that back up to the castle with you, Princess. I’ll be along shortly. I want to go up to the ruins of the old castle where they were studying. There are writings on the walls there, and I want to see what they say.”

Hermione smiled and said, “Runes on the ruins?”

He turned, smiled as well, and said, “Something like that.”

“I’d liked to come. It is rather my expertise.”

He was afraid of that. This place already made him feel strange…different. It magnified everything tenfold. He had to squash the urge to touch her, to grab her, to hold her, to kiss her. He wanted her in everyway possible, that was why he left without her this morning, and that was why he wanted her to go back up to the castle without him.

When he awoke in the pre-dawn hours, he felt for her beside him, she was gone, and he panicked. He sat up, threw off the covers, and instinct told him to reach for his wand. Then, when he saw that she was just across the room, asleep in a chair, he almost cursed her arse.

Why had she left the bed? For a brief moment, he feared that she had heard him last night, but what he knew of Hermione Granger, he knew that couldn’t be true. If she had heard his confession, a million and one questions would be hurling his way this morning, so she was safely asleep last night when he told her she was his mate.

He could scarcely believe he had said the words aloud, even in a whisper. He had never acknowledged it before. Why now? It was because of this bloody place! He stepped closer to her and asked, “How's your arm this morning?”

“What’s that have to do with me coming along?” she asked.

He stood directly in front of her. “How’s your arm?” he asked again, with more intent.

“Fine, sore, but overall, fine.”

“I’d like to see it,” he said.

“Now?” she asked, incredulously.

How could he explain it to her, when he couldn’t understand it himself? Something possessed him. Something that made him want to protect her even more than before. Something not defined, not definitive, but something tangible all the same. He reached for the collar of the old, grey worn pea coat and said, “This is hideous.”

“Milo gave it to me.”

Draco frowned. He didn’t need Milo to give her anything. “Why? Was your coat not warm enough? Were you cold?”

“He thought I would be,” she answered.

“How did you get up here?” It just dawned on him to ask. He now had both hands on the lapels of the jacket.

“Milo walked me as far as the enchanted woods, and then he told me to follow the path. He’s in about as good of a mood today as you are,” she said, trying to smile.

Draco did smile. “I’m in a good mood.”

“Really? Frowning and ordering people about are traits of a good mood?” she chided.

“They are with me, remember, I’m Prince Rude,” he told her. He unbuttoned the first big button of the old coat.

“Draco, what are you doing?” she asked. She put her hands on his to still them.

“I want to check your arm.”

“Do you mean to strip me in the forest?” She pushed his hands away. “I guarantee it looked fine when I showered this morning. I couldn’t rewrap it, but it looked okay.”

She turned to try to leave his hold, but he pulled on the sleeve of the coat. He pulled the lapels again, and started with the second button.

Draco?” she questioned.

“Sh,” he hushed. He unbuttoned the third and the fourth.

She stood by pliant. What was the use? He pushed the heavy wool coat off to the ground. The truth was, it smelled like Milo and he didn’t want it on her. He wasn’t sure when his sense of smell had become so acute, but that was why he wanted it gone.

Was he going crazy? If he told Hermione that he didn’t want her to smell like Milo Dorchester, she would punch him in the nose. He said, “Take off your jacket now, and let me see.”

She unbuttoned her jacket, but she still had on a jumper and a t-shirt. Before he could ask, she slipped the heavy jumper over her head, although she moved carefully, because of the injury to her arm. She was so cold, that she shivered again.

With the jumper removed, and the t-shirt sleeved pushed upward, he looked at the puckered skin, where the bullet had entered. The Healer did a good job of healing her. He put his left hand under her arm, and with the index finger of his right hand, he traced the scarred skin around the mostly healed wound. He closed his eyes. He remembered how badly it looked last night, and how much it bled. He remembered the way her blood smelled.

Then, he had a frightening thought. He wondered what her blood tasted like. He opened his eyes and almost pushed her away. He was breathing heavily and he said, “Get dressed, it’s cold out here.” He turned and started toward the path that would lead to the old castle. “Keep up if you’re coming with me.”

She grabbed her clothing, the old rucksack, and ran after him, slipping her clothing on as she followed him. She left the old grey coat on the path below.

“Draco, why are you in such a disagreeable mood this morning?” she asked.

“This is my everyday mood,” he countered.

She almost couldn’t argue with that, except he had shown a gentler side last night, and yesterday evening in the bookstore, when he kissed her. She still thought it was a nice kiss. Slipping her arms in her jacket, she tripped over a tree root that littered the path. She fell down when her hands went out to brace her fall. She cut one hand on a ragged tree root on the ground. She let out a small yelp, and he turned quickly toward her.

Damn, you’re so accident prone!” He made his way back toward her as she was sitting on her bum, on the path.

Her head was bent as she sat there, examining her hand. “Maybe if you hadn’t undressed me earlier, and then left before I could get redressed, I wouldn’t have fallen,” she reasoned.

“You always find a way to blame me,” he said seriously, standing beside her.

“Better you than me,” she said, just as seriously.

He offered her a hand, and she looked up at him bewildered. She said, “Here’s my pickle, Malfoy. If I give you my left hand, my left arm is still sore from being shot, so that won’t do. If I give you my right hand, well, it’s the one that’s injured, plus you might get blood on you. I best get up myself.”

Draco took a step back. “You’re bleeding?” Why did that fill him with dread? He looked down at her hand. She
was bleeding, and there was a large splintered piece of wood sticking out of her hand.

He sighed. Then, without meaning to, he took a large whiff. Her blood smelled intoxicating to him. He had never held an affinity for the smell of blood before, in fact, its coppery smell usually made him a wee bit sick, but her smell was different. His father explained that Veela could distinguish the smell of their mate’s blood over all others. He looked down at her and placed his hand over his nose. He backed away.

“Get up Granger,” he demanded rudely as he could, turning to walk way.

She stood on her own, and she followed behind him. He kept walking. He could still smell her blood, so rich, so sweet, the very essence of her. Was he some sort of animal? Why would blood make him react this way? The thought made him sick and worried. He stopped and she ran right into his back.

He turned quickly and said, “Let’s have a look at your hand.”

“No. Why do you care all of the sudden?” she asked. “I’ll heal it with my wand as soon as we get to where we’re going. I’d heal it now, but you’re walking so fast, that I don’t want to lose you.”

“I don’t want to lose you, either,” he said softly, though his intent was different than hers.

She looked up at him, more confused than ever. He gently took her injured right hand from the cradle of her left hand and held it in both of his. He examined it carefully, and as he did so, she examined him carefully. She watched the way his pupils dilated, and the way a thin layer of perspiration formed on the top layer of his lip. She watched the way his jaw clenched and unclenched, and the way his pulse beat in his neck. One lock of his hair had fallen in his eyes, and if he hadn’t been holding her hand hostage, she would have reached up and pushed it away.

He was pushing and pulling on the splinter, but she didn’t seem to notice. Instead, she noticed his lips, and how full they looked, and how determined the set line of them appeared as he worked on her splinter. His mouth looked angry, as did the rest of his face. He smelled wonderful, a masculine scent, mixed with the smell of the forest around them. He was so close, because he had pulled her up against his body, as he worked closer on the splinter, and she could see each pore in his face, the stubble on his cheek, and a mole that she wasn’t sure she had ever seen before, on his chin. She knew he had that mole on his shoulder, but this one she hadn’t seen before.

Suddenly, she was brought back to the reality before her when pain shot through her hand. He removed the splinter with his wand, but just as quickly he placed her palm to his mouth, and to the astonishment of them both, he sucked, and he sucked harder, drawing the blood that had welled there into his mouth. Her free hand went to his sleeve, where she clutched hard at the material. She felt each strange little suckle all the way down to her toes. Her knees felt so weak that she thought her legs might buckle. Sensing this, he placed one arm around her waist for support, his other hand still holding her injured hand to his mouth.

Instead of being disgusted, she felt something else entirely. She felt exposed, vulnerable, and slightly sexually unhinged. He dropped her hand and gazed down at her, burning a hole into her eyes with his. For the longest time he stared at her. He too seemed shocked at what he had done. She brought her free hand up to cup his face.

Her hand throbbed, and he reached out to hold it again, but neither seemed to know what to do. It was a moment of ultimate embarrassment, and ultimate enlightenment. He dropped her hand, grabbed her shoulders, and bent his head to kiss her. She was willing, and when his mouth was almost upon hers, she said, “Draco, we aren’t alone.”

Draco lifted his head. There were suddenly at least five birds of prey circling above them. Draco lifted her hand again, the blood flow almost staunched, but he felt he knew why the birds were there, just as much as he knew they were not birds. They were hunters, and Hermione was the prey.

He said, “Are you up for running?” He raised his brows in question, grabbed her hand tighter, and ran with her in tow.

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