A Day and A Night

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 Chapter 16: A Room and an Obsession:

Draco and Hermione entered a large underground cavity through an arched doorway, only to find themselves in a circular room. Draco immediately brought one of the lit torches from outside the doors into the room with them. He held it aloft and all he could think was that this room, for want of a better word, was ‘creepy’. There were more torches in iron brackets around the room. Draco lit the first one, and miraculously, the others lit simultaneously. He raised his brows at Hermione in surprise, and stepped out of the room to place the first torch back in its home.

“I don’t like it in here. It’s creepy,” Draco said as he stepped back into the room.

Unlike Draco’s assessment that this room was ‘creepy’, something about this room embraced Hermione. Something about this room tempted her, persuaded her, and called to her, and if asked to explain why, she would be hard pressed to do so. She walked up to one of the walls and touched the smooth marble. An etched carving was under her fingertips. “What do you suppose the purpose of this room was?” she wondered aloud.

“For torture and mayhem?” Draco asked back as a joke. His back to her, he too was examining the walls. He almost tripped over a stone altar on the floor. He reiterated, “I really don’t like it here.”

“I think the girls might have been murdered here,” she said more to the point.

“I concur,” he agreed.

“Concur?” she asked, flipping around to look at him.

“It’s a valid word,” he said back. Then he smiled. She smiled back.

“I know it’s a word. It just sounds funny coming from you. Hello, I’m Draco Malfoy, and I concur with you,” she mocked, lowering her voice a fraction. “I know from the crime scene photographs that the girls were found in the forest, but I concur, too, Malfoy, they were probably murdered here. I really feel it down in my bones.” She turned back toward the wall to look at the writings and runes.

He was directly behind her, and as a joke to scare her, he reached up with one finger and touched her cheek. She screamed, turned around, and slapped his arm hard. He laughed. “Oh, to see your sweet face. You almost jumped out of your skin. That’ll teach you to make fun of my choice of words.”

“Make fun of this word,” she leveled, saying, “Arsehole.” She stepped around the room, her wand in front of her and she said, “Do you know anything else about the case that I don’t know, because if you do, now would be a good time to tell me.”

“Heaven forbid that an Auror should know more about a murder investigation than a, what are you again?” He stooped down to examine two small stones that were joined in an odd manner on the floor.

“I’m a scholar,” she said.

He looked up at her, cocked an eyebrow and laughed. “You made fun of me for saying the word ‘concur’ and then you’ve got the audacity to use a word like, ‘scholar’? Good day, I’m Hermione Granger, and I’m the world’s smartest scholar,” he said, hiking his voice high. He stood up. “Do you make much money scholaring, Granger? Is there much need for scholars these days? How long does it take one to become a scholar?”

She threw her hands up in the air and said, “I thought our kiss on the stairs was our own little way of making up, but apparently not because you’re being a git again.”

“I’m always a git, my dear scholar,” he said, deadpan. He pointed toward one of the walls and said, “Get to work deciphering the runes on these walls, scholar dear, and I’ll be right back. I have a feeling there’s something more to these dungeons than just this chamber.”

“Are you psychic now, as well as a rude git?” she asked, pulling out a clean piece of parchment from the rucksack and sitting down on the floor.

He stood above her, tapped her on the head, to which she looked up at him as he said, “Maybe I am. Really, get to work; this is why I brought you. Do some scholaring.”

She sighed and asked, “Are you ever going to let me live that down? I am a scholar, you know. It’s a valid word, too. Maybe I should have said educator, instead. You know that I work for the University, and that I’m a consultant for the Ministry and an expert at Magical DNA, but that would have been rather a lot to say, don’t you think?”

“See, Granger,” he said, leaving the room, “when you rattle on and on like that, all your words jumble together and they go in one ear and out the other, and I swear, I don’t even know what you’re saying. Don’t leave this room, and scream bloody murder if you need me.” He laughed, she stuck out her tongue, but after he left, he put up a ward on the door, so that only he or she could enter or exit.

Hermione took her wand, lit it again, and propped it into one of the stones on the floor, for more light. She took out a Muggle pen, and began to copy all the runes and symbols from the walls. After she had copied all the symbols on the walls, she began to copy the rock formations on the floors. After almost two hours, her work, as far as copying the patterns and runes in the room, was complete.

After that time, she was tired, hungry, and the silence was a bit unnerving, so she put everything back in the rucksack, and decided to find Draco. She walked out of the room and extinguished all the lights. She grabbed the last torch before it went out, to use it to guide her way back up the stairs.

She walked all the way up the stairs and out the doors of the old ruins before she found Draco by the original castle’s outside walls, leaning against an urn, smoking a cigarette.

“Working hard?” she accused.

“Are you finished?” he asked back. He flicked his cigarette against the wall of the building. “I’ve been examining the fire pattern of this old building. Pretty odd that something made up almost entirely of stone, granite and marble would burn so severely and completely, don’t you agree?”

“I hadn’t given it one thought, but now that you’ve mentioned it, yes, I find that odd.” She smashed her foot on his still lit cigarette as it lay on the ground. “We don’t want to start another fire, do we?”

“Goodie-two shoes,” he snorted.

“Git,” she pressed.

“Princess,” he smiled.

“Prince Rude,” she snorted.

“Scholar,” he joked.

“Whatever. Did you do anything else while I was working hard?” she asked.

“I may have found some more evidence.” He held up a small, ivory handle fountain pen, quite old, and a woman’s hairclip.

She looked at the fountain pen and said, “These types of pens weren’t used in this last century. I doubt it belonged to one of the murdered girls, but so what?”

“This is a magical community, very old fashioned. They use quills here, Granger. How about the hairpin?” He handed her the hairclip.

“That’s definitely from this century, this decade even, and very Muggle. It may have some DNA on it.” She wrapped it in a tissue and placed both items in the rucksack.

Then she stretched and yawned. He watched her intently as she did. Her shirt and jacket rode up. He could see bare skin at her waist, and it captured his attention. The other thing that captured his attention was the way her breasts jutted out when she stretched and arched her back. He swallowed hard.

She broke his concentration when she said, “We have to get back before six, because it'll be dark by then, remember, and it’s after four now. It took Milo and me almost an hour to walk to the edge of the forest today and another hour for us all to get here, so we'd better get moving.”

“If princess is tired and hungry, we had better do just that,” he said softly. He walked up to her as she stretched again. His hand went to her waist, at the soft expanse of skin that was exposed when her jacket rode upwards from her stretch. She placed her hands on his forearms. He stared at her for a long time, and she was sure that he was about to kiss her, but instead, after a few awkward moments, he moved away, letting his hand slipped slowly from her waist before he moved away quickly.

He moved away so quickly because a terrible thought flashed through Draco’s mind when he touched Hermione’s bare skin. It was the second terrible thought he'd had that afternoon, so he moved away from her before he could act on what he wanted to do, which was to kiss her again, plus more. He thought he best not press his luck. He said, “Can you get back by yourself? I want to go into the other village, and find out about Jennifer Cravens.”

“Yes, I believe I know the way, but do you want me to go with you?” she asked.

He raised his brows, handed her the rucksack, which she'd dropped when she had stretched before, and said, “Don’t you think your face is a bit recognizable to those villagers, Granger? I wouldn’t doubt that they have a wanted poster up with your face on it by now. They probably have a stake erected with a match at the ready in case you show your face again.”

“Ha!” she expelled, though she didn’t find it funny. He turned to walk toward the woods, but she remained behind. He had walked into the trees, and looked back once, before he had noticed that she was still in the courtyard of the old castle.

He waited for her, and she finally joined him. “Do be careful,” she urged.

“Merlin, Granger, I’m an Auror! I can take care of myself. You take care of yourself. That’s all that matters to me. Never worry about me. Get back to the Milo and the other castle.”

He started north again, but saw that once again, she merely stood at the mouth of the path. “What now?” he practically screamed.

“You didn’t say goodbye,” she said.

“Oh my stars, just because I kissed you earlier doesn't mean that I owe you a goodbye when I walk away from you! This is still a professional relationship first, Hermione. It has to be! I’m trying to be civil,” he moaned. In truth, he was trying not to act upon his dark desires.

“Civil? That word is as stupid as ‘concur’. I concur that you’re being civil and a world’s first class, pompous git, so bollocks for civil, Malfoy!” she shouted.

He almost wanted to laugh at her, because she was being funny, but instead, he frowned. “I don’t even know if I can be civil or not, if you’re going to be a whiny little clingy female, but civil is about the best you’ll get from me right now. Go back to the castle!”

“You’re all for ordering people around!” she complained. She started up the path, ranting to herself. “Shut your car door, shut your mouth, go to bed, don’t leave the room, decipher the runes, go do this, go do that, go to the castle. I don’t think you know what you want, and I for one am tired of it. If you can be normal next time we talk, then good, if not, leave me completely alone and stop trying to confuse me, and stop leading me on, because that’s uncalled for, Malfoy.”

He watched until she was out of sight. The truth was, after he had examined the upstairs of the burned-out castle earlier, he had gone back to the dungeons and had started back into the room while she was working, and he felt an overwhelming desire to take her in the most primitive way. His mind actually imagined extinguishing all of the lights, leaving her in pitch-blackness, then he imagined ripping off her clothes, throwing her on the floor, taking her in the brutally, and then the sickest part was that he imagined tasting her blood again. He even imagined her screaming and fighting against him, and he liked that.

He backed out of the room, and the thoughts that he had imagined tore his heart to shreds. His insides burned with desire for causing her pain one moment, and the desire to protect and cherish her the next. He still didn’t know what was going on inside him, and just because he kissed her earlier, and he was able to stop, (even though he didn’t want to) didn’t mean that he wouldn’t act on his obsession.

THAT was why he felt the need to leave that room earlier. THAT was why he was once again putting her at arm’s length because just now he had another dark thought when he touched the bare skin of her waist, and THAT was why he wanted her to go back to the castle by herself. He didn’t trust himself with her.

He wanted to go back to the village, where he would find out about the missing girl, but he also needed to talk with Harry Potter. He needed to tell someone what was going on, and it might as well be St. Potter, because at least Harry understood dark thoughts and obsessions, because the Dark Lord once possessed him.

When he watched her run away from him, all hurt and confused, Draco realized that in his attempt NOT to hurt her, he might have hurt her even more.

This, in the end, hurt him the most.

Draco walked through the forest, toward the loch, and he realized that his and Hermione’s emotions and thoughts were already bound tightly together, and it was almost too late to stop it. He felt her anguish. He felt her confusion, and he even felt that she was slightly afraid to go through the forest all alone. He should go after her.

He could feel that she was still close. She had taken another path, and was headed in a slightly altered direction than him, but she was close. He backtracked back toward the path that she was on, to find her. He had to prove to them both that he was in control of his emotions and actions. Dark magic would never control him again. He had been an unwilling party to dark magic one time before, when he was a teenager, and forced to take the Dark Mark, but never again. He would never let the will of others, or the influence of dark magic, control him. He controlled his own fate.

He was soon walking parallel with her. Hermione looked over toward him, huffed in anger, crossed her arms, and said a single word. “Civil.”

He laughed. He jaunted over to the path, directly in front of her. He said, “We’ll go back to the other village together tomorrow, okay? You can wear a disguise. Maybe a mask or something, so you won’t be recognized, and the villagers won’t be tempted to burn you at the stake.”

She stopped walking. “Are you doing this back and forth shite again? Civil one moment, tender the next, a git the moment after that?”

“That’s not back and forth. That’s back and forth and back again, but no, I’m done with civil, I’m never tender, and I already told you, as much as it pains me to admit it, I’m always a git.” He held out his hand to her. A simple gesture, which spoke volumes to them both, and which she understood meant everything to him. She walked up to him and placed her hand in his. It was exactly what he needed. Another dark thought began to possess him, but he held her hand tighter, and it slipped away. They walked hand-in-hand down the path.

They reached the middle of the forest, near the new, shallow grave in record time. The trees and shrubbery that littered the forest floor did not hinder them, not because they were carefully watching where they were going, but because they weren’t. They were merely walking with hands clasped, no words between them, eyes in front, with the sky above them growing a deeper, darker, indigo blue, through the awning of trees.

Finally, when they reached the edge of the forest, and Milo’s castle was in sight, he dropped her hand. In the early autumn, the sky was a mixture of dark and light, some called it twilight, some called it dusk or sundown, but it was the perfect time for him to tell her what was on his mind.

Without touching her, he turned to face her and said, “I don’t know if what I feel for you is real, or if it's part of the magic of this place.”

“I hope it’s real,” she replied. “I don’t know if what I feel is real, either.”

“I want it to be real,” he stated.

“So do I,” she said, “I mean, I concur.” She smiled and so did he. “Will you tell me when you first realized I might be your mate?” She was embarrassed to a certain point, asking this question of him, but she needed to know.

“I’ll tell you soon, I will, but not now,” he said in a rush. The next moment, he was upon her without her knowing it. He had his arms around her, and his mouth was at her ear, the same as earlier. He said, “I never want to hurt you. It would kill me to hurt you.” His words were even, but breathy, each syllable of each word touched her cheek with a single puff of air. Her hands were on his chest and she placed her cheek next to her hands, on his shoulder.

“You won’t hurt me,” she promised.

“I’m afraid,” he began, “of what’s happening here, and I’m afraid of hurting you, because I think I want to hurt you. I’m having thoughts of hurting you, even though I know I never will. That’s just how it is. It’s what I feel. I don’t want to feel it, but I do. I’ll try hard not to hurt you, though. I want you to trust me. I want to trust me.”

He wasn’t saying it right, and he knew she wouldn’t understand. He stroked her hair with one hand and admitted, “I’m having weird thoughts, compulsions, obsessions,” he began to whisper softer, “I mean, I sucked your blood earlier, and I think if I could do it again, I would. I want to, you know, and I know its sick, but I do.”

She tried to lift her head from his chest to look at him, but he held her tighter. He couldn’t look in her eyes as he said these things. “I feel like I did when I was back in school, and the Dark Lord and my father and aunt forced me to do terrible things that I didn’t want to do, the only difference is, I want to do these things this time. I’m not sure if I’m in complete control. Please, help me not to hurt you. I need your help.”

His pleas tore at her heart, and even scared her to a certain degree. He was so close, so close that she wanted to kiss him, but she actually did fear him now. She didn’t want to, but she did. However, she'd be strong for them both, and help him to control his dark obsessions, and she would even keep her distance, even if that meant they could only be ‘civil’ for now.

She pushed against his chest, moved from his arms and said, “Go to the village right now, by yourself, as you planned. Eat some fish and chips at the diner. I’ll make your apologies to Milo, and I’ll see you later tonight, but know this, Malfoy, I do trust you.”

That wasn’t what he expected to hear, but he was grateful, nonetheless. He smiled, waved, and ran across the open field, happy for the reprieve. She started toward Rhodeana castle, all alone.

When she was almost to the castle, she stopped on a low fence, and took out the journal. She read some of what Sandra had written about the runes in the room. Sandra’s impressions were that they were magical, as well as ancient Gaelic symbols. Hermione knew close to nothing about Gaelic symbols. There were several symbols however that Hermione had seen before. She had seen them in the room, and in the crime scene photographs. She opened her notes to look at the runes, but they meant nothing at all to her.

“So much for being a scholar,” she said to herself. She slipped off the fence, sat in front of it, and though the sky was now mostly dark, she began to compare Sandra’s notes to her own. She lit her wand, and was so engrossed in her work that she wasn’t aware of the passing of time, and she didn’t hear footstep as someone approach. She didn’t even see a man as he stood over her, blocking the moonlight from the page.

However, she did finally hear him clear his throat. She looked up, and gasped.

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