A Day and A Night

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Chapter 18: An Apology and a Secret:

Entering the dining room, Hermione sat down next to Cat, on one side of the table, to Milo’s left, and looked around the table. Iver was across from Milo, and Draco was across from the women, but Cat’s father was missing. “Is Mr. MacNeill going to join us?” she asked no one in particular.

“He ate the first time dinner was served. He goes to bed early,” Cat explained.

“I’m sorry about that,” Hermione said softly, knowing that it was her fault that they held dinner. She looked up and Malfoy was smirking at her. She had an urge to throw a roll at him, but the food had yet to be served. Milo motioned to the servants that they should serve the food. She thought she saw a strange look cross from Milo to Iver, but she wasn’t sure.

As they started eating their soup, Iver said, “Mr. Malfoy told us earlier that the dead girl you found today was from Dorchester, and that she might have been the first victim, as well as being a witch.”

Hermione almost spit out her soup. “Dorchester? What’s Dorchester? Do you mean the other village?” She looked from Milo to Iver.

“Yes, that’s the name of the village across the loch,” Iver answered.

“It’s named Dorchester?” she asked. The same as their last name? Why did she not know that? She looked over at Draco, but he only looked amused. “I didn’t know the other village was called Dorchester,” she said.

Draco laughed and said, “One usually doesn’t ask for the name of a place as they’re leaving it, running for their life.”

“Shut up,” she hissed.

Cat turned to Hermione and said, “You didn’t know that Iver’s ancestors founded both villages originally?”

“No, I didn’t,” she said plainly. She looked over at Draco, accusingly, and said, “I guess there are still many things about this case I don’t know.”

“Hey, don’t blame me,” he said. “You were the one driving that day. We clearly passed a sign that said Dorchester so many kilometers, and then another one that said welcome to Dorchester, but you were too busy driving slow, talking too much, and being a general thorn in my side to notice.”

She glared at him before she said, “You know I didn’t make the connection. You should have told me.”

“I figured you always knew everything,” he leveled back.

“Don’t accuse me of that old thing again. It’s tiresome to always be called a know-it-all,” she said.

“But it describes you so well,” he said amiably.

“It’s rude, you know, but then again, you’re the prince of rude,” she said with disdain.

“That’s the one that’s getting old, dear,” he said sweetly.

The other three dinner guests were watching the two exchange words back and forth, one fascinated, one amused, and one angry.

“I’m just saying, you need to keep me apprised of things, Malfoy,” she complained. “Otherwise, this whole partnership won’t work.”

“I didn’t know we had a partnership. I thought we had a dictatorship, with you being the boss, and as far as keeping you informed, I try, but again, you only half listen to any given thing I say,” he complained.

“That’s because only half of what you say to me is intelligent,” she said back. “And you’re the bossy one, and the one that only half listens to me.”

“That’s because half of what you say is so incredibly boring that it drones on, and on, and on and I fall asleep nine times out of ten,” he said, motioning with his hand.

Iver smiled, leaned over to Cat and said, “Fascinating, aren’t they, how they go back and forth? It’s like watching a Muggle tennis match.”

Hermione sat upright, blushed, and said, “Oh, excuse us. I'm sorry. How rude of Malfoy.”

Iver laughed again.

Milo grumbled and Hermione cast him a dirty look. Cat looked bemused and said, “How long have you and Mr. Malfoy known each other?”

Draco answered. “Since we were children.”

“And how long have you known you were mates?” the girl asked next.

The other four stared at her in shock and an awkward silence ensued. Milo threw down his napkin and said, “Who told you that they were mates?”

“Um, well, Iver did,” she stuttered.

Iver looked over at his brother and said, “I thought you told me that they were. I didn’t know it was a secret. I’m sorry I said anything.”

“It’s not a secret, but neither is it something that should be discussed at the dinner table!” Milo practically shouted.

Hermione looked embarrassed, and Draco looked as livid as Milo. “More to the point, I’m not some mythical creature who has a mate, thank you very much.” He didn’t know what else to say.

“I apologize for Cat speaking out of turn, but that was rude, Malfoy. We aren’t creatures. We are men, first and foremost, who are ruled by magic, but enough talk of mates,” Milo announced. He turned to Cat and chastised, “They aren’t mates! I was wrong when I told Iver that, and he was wrong when he told you. You’ve embarrassed our guests, Cat. Apologize!”

“I’m truly sorry,” the young girl said. She looked from Draco to Hermione and then to Iver, who shrugged, but continued to eat.

Hermione placed her napkin in her lap, her soup spoon down beside her bowl, and then looked down at the table, quietly pondering what she should say and do. Why was Milo so angry? She understood Draco’s anger and indignation, after all, they were discussing his private business, but Milo was acting as if they were speaking about him. Furthermore, why did he say that they weren’t mates? What would he know about things?

Finally, she looked at Milo, and to change the subject she asked, “Why is the other village called Dorchester?”

Milo sat back in his chair and said, “A long, long time ago, some of the Veela who didn’t mate with Vampires mated with Muggles instead, and the Muggle village of Dorchester was born from those people. It’s terribly old, almost as old as our village. They’ve never liked each other, although they’re still related, to a degree. It stands to reason that some of them might still have some magically ability, and that some of our clansmen who’ve left our village along the way might have decided to settle there, and have probably intermarried with our other descendents.”

“And that might be why you look to that village for your mate?” she asked.

Everyone at the table looked at Hermione, shocked that she would ask that question. “Granger,” Draco responded, “I thought we had all decided that we weren’t going to talk about mate nonsense.”

“It’s only nonsense to you,” Milo said, looking Draco squarely in the eye. He looked back to Hermione and said a simple, “Yes.”

Milo snapped his finger and the servants brought the next course. Hermione said, “I’m glad to see you don’t employ house elves here.”

Draco smiled and said, “Granger had a bit of a campaign back in school against slave labor and house elf servitude. She was always championing something or other back in school.”

Hermione smiled at him and said, “Yes well, someone had to champion the less fortunate.”

“You mean Weasley and Potter?” he asked.

“Do you mean Harry Potter?” Cat asked Draco. “Do you know him?”

Draco grimaced as Hermione hid her laugh. “Unfortunately, yes,” he said.

Hermione butted in and said, “Harry Potter is my best friend, and he was Draco’s worst adversary during school, but now he’s his boss at work. Do you know of Harry Potter?”

“Of course we all know of him! The Dark Lord tried to get our village to become Death Eaters during the second war, because they supported him during the first war, but Milo wouldn’t hear of it, would you Milo?” Cat explained proudly.

Hermione looked at Milo and said, “I didn’t know that.”

“Why would you?” he asked back. “Our secrets are our secrets. I’m not proud that some of our clansmen helped the Dark Lord during the first war, and it certainly wasn’t easy not being pulled into the second one.”

“But you should be proud that you didn’t help him during the second war. You must have been young, and it must have been hard to resist him,” she said back.

Draco dropped his fork. She looked at him and gave him an apologetic smile. She didn’t mean to bring up painful memories for him. She didn’t mean to accuse him of anything. She knew that he had no choice but to follow him when he was a boy. She didn’t hold him accountable.

“My, we're having pleasant dinner conversation tonight, aren't we?” Iver said with a grin. “Dead girls, evil wizards, possible mates. What’s the next topic of conversation? Floods, plagues, pestilence?”

Suddenly, everyone looked at Iver and laughed.

Soon, everyone was eating and talking amongst each other, with Hermione trying to explain to Cat about her days in school when she tried to help free the house elves. “You see, I’m just such a passionate person, and it’s hard for me to give up on something when I think an injustice is being done.”

Draco was talking with Iver, so Milo was listening to Cat and Hermione. He said, “Don’t apologize for being a passionate, caring person, Hermione. It’s an admirable trait.” Hermione turned toward Milo as he stared at her long and hard. He reached across the table and grabbed her hand. He gave it a squeeze quickly, and then withdrew his hand before anyone saw. However, Hermione ‘saw’ it. She felt it. She too withdrew her hand from the table and placed it on her lap.

“Say, Milo,” Iver said from across the table, “Draco here was telling me that in the last five years, three other girls have come up missing from the other village besides this Jennifer Cravens.”

Hermione looked surprised. Draco continued, “Yes, I sent all of their names to the Ministry, to see if they might have been witches, or squibs. I hope to get an Owl back from them tonight.”

“And you told them about the body we found today?” she asked.

“Yes. They’ve sent a team of Aurors, with Milo’s permission, to the forest to collect the body already, since it’s been revealed that she was a witch. Harry was in that team. They’ll send us all the reports and copies of all of the evidence when they’re done processing it.”

“Harry’s here, too? He wasn’t just in Dorchester?” she asked.

Draco nodded. He knew he was selfish to keep that information from her, but for some reason, he didn’t want her to see Harry, at least not right now. He was afraid Harry might reveal to Hermione what Draco had told him, or that Hermione might pull it out of Harry. It was better that those two not see each other right now.

When they were eating pudding, Cat turned to Hermione and said, “Do you have a boyfriend, Hermione?”

Milo glowered at her, and even Iver frowned. He reached over for her wrist and said, “I think we shouldn’t ask anymore personal questions, sweetheart.”

“Well if she and Draco aren’t mates, it stands to reason that she might have a boyfriend. I was just curious,” Cat amended.

“It’s fine,” Hermione said. She looked at the younger girl and said, “I had a boyfriend recently, but we aren’t together any longer.” She hoped the girl wouldn’t ask any more questions, but her hope was in vain.

“Did you love him very much?” she asked. “I love Iver very much.”

Hermione opened her mouth, feeling rather like a trout when no words would come out. She looked at Draco, then to Milo. When it was apparent that neither man could possibly answer her question for her, she looked back at Cat and said, “I loved him, or I wouldn’t have been with him, but he wasn’t the man for me.”

“Why?” she asked back.

“ENOUGH!” The order came from the other end of the table, and Cat and Hermione both looked toward the sound of the command. It came from Draco, not Milo. Draco shouted, “He was a pompous arse who wasn’t good enough for her, who tried to control her every move, and who would have made her unhappy in the long run, because they weren’t compatible! Therefore, she tossed the tosser on his ear and before you ask me any questions, I’m single, I like it that way, and there’s no one in my life right now, okay?”

“My,” Milo sneered, “this is turning into a pleasant dinner.” He turned back to Cat and said, “This is why you shouldn’t ask personal questions of people, Cat.”

“Stop picking on her,” Iver said to his brother. Hermione had an inkling that Iver rarely stood up to his brother. “She’s just curious, as am I, and if they don’t want to answer our questions, they don’t have to do so. Here, I have one,” and he looked at them both in turn. “How did you two meet again? I know you said that you’ve known each other since you were young, but how did you meet?” He looked at Hermione and asked, “Did Draco steal one of your toys from the playground, or push you off a swing?” He looked at Draco and asked, “Or did Hermione try to teach you to read before you could walk, and then was angry when you couldn’t do it properly?”

They both laughed, because Iver smiled widely after he asked the questions, and then at the same time they said, “We went to school together.” Then they looked at each other and smiled at the same time.

“You both went to Hogwarts, I assume,” Iver asked.

“Yes, do you know much about Hogwarts?” she asked, before she took a bite of her suet pudding.

“I always wanted to go there. I’ve read
Hogwarts, A History, before,” Iver said.

“Oh Merlin, help us,” Draco groaned to himself. Hermione was already sitting upright in her seat, excited, her spoon dangling from her hand.

“That’s my favourite all time book!” she exclaimed. “If you’ve read it, you know all about the four houses, right? Guess what house I was in!”

“Gryffindor,” Iver guessed.

“Right! I was in Gryffindor, and Prince Rude over there was in Slytherin.”

“I assumed as much,” Iver said with a smile. “So you were natural born enemies?”

“I hated him,” she clarified.

“And I hated her,” Draco added.

“He was pureblood,” she leveled.

“She was Mudblood,” he said with a smirk.

“He thought he was better than everyone else,” she laughed.

“And she knew that she was better than everyone else,” he said back.

“Then we grew up,” she added, “and so the story goes.”

“And we lived happily ever after,” Draco concluded.

Iver, Cat and Hermione laughed. Milo pushed his plate away and determined that dinner was over. “Let’s retire to the Great Room,” he announced. Everyone stood to leave, except for Iver. Cat walked over to Draco to ask him about Hogwarts, so he took her arm and they left the room. Iver remained in his seat, slumped forward, and grabbed his stomach.

Hermione walked over to him and said, “Are you alright?”

“Fine, fine, don’t worry about me,” he said through the pain. Milo was watching them from the door, he snapped his fingers once more, and two servants came and helped Iver from his chair. One stood on each side of the younger man and helped him down the hall and out of sight.

Draco and Cat were already in the large Great Room by the time Iver was escorted toward the stairs, but Hermione was still in the hallway with Milo, watching as they rounded the corner to head toward the large Great Hall, which would lead to the large, circular stone staircase.

What’s wrong with him?” She turned to Milo.

“He’s inflicted with an illness that often affects members of our clan, that’s all. Sometimes it’s worse than other times. Don’t worry about it,” he said lightly. He turned to her and said, “I was harsh to you earlier, and I am sorry. It seems all I’ve done this evening has been to utter apologies.”

“You love your brother, and your people and your village, and you want to see a wrong righted. You’re passionate about things, too, just like I am. I can’t find fault in that, can I?” she said with a smile.

He stared at her, unable to speak. He suddenly felt awkward, and he exhaled a breath, irritated with himself. He shook his head and said, “You have an odd effect on me, Hermione.” He was breathing hard. “I don’t know what to make of the way I feel around you. It’s different than the way I’ve ever felt around anyone else.”

“What are you trying to say?” she asked. She was completely aware they were standing all alone in a long corridor, of a very large castle, with paintings and tapestries on the wall, rugs on the floor, and soft light from sconces on the wall their only company.

He took a step closer, and she was backed against the wall, in the same position that she held before dinner. “I’m trying to say that I don’t think I like it,” he said. “You aren’t my mate. I would know if you were, and you’re not, so I shouldn’t feel this way about you. I know you’re not my mate.”

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” she asked. “Since I seem to be Draco’s mate, even though he’s in denial, it’s a good thing that I’m not yours.”

“No, it’s not a good thing, because if you’re not my mate, then I shouldn’t feel this way. If you’re not my mate, then why do I want to kiss you so badly?” he said in hushed tones. He placed one hand on the wall, leaned down, and brushed his lips softly against hers. She began to shiver, and she held her breath, waiting to see what he might do next.

If I want to kiss you so badly,” he said, after his lips parted from hers, “what does that say about our whole mating ritual system? What does that say about me? If you’re not my mate, then what have I been waiting for, for so long? Does that mean that I’ve been wasting my life, looking for a phantom, for something that’s not even out there? You’re here, in front of me, living, breathing, and I want to kiss you again.”

He leaned down and kissed her again, and she felt powerless to stop him. She didn’t kiss him back…she didn’t lean into the kiss, wrap her arms around him, or stand up on her tiptoes to meet him better, but she didn’t push him away either, though she did eventually, before he could deepen the kiss.

Her hands went to his chest and she pushed him away. He lowered his forehead to her shoulder. “I’m so sorry,” he said. He looked up at her, and his index finger went up to her lips. He traced the line there, and she felt as if her knees were weak and that they might falter. She felt a tingle in her belly from his touch, and with that tingle, she felt as if she had just betrayed Draco.

He lifted his finger and said, “It’s better that we stop, since my mate is still out there, and you’re clearly his. I know it’s a hard thing for either of you to accept, or believe, but it’s true.” He pushed away from her and said, “Anyway, if I decided to stake a claim with you, he would have to fight me, and I would kill him, and I was just starting to like him.”

He said it so seriously that Hermione felt a different sort of tingle, this one laced with fear. She said, “Don’t you dare lay a hand on him.”

He smiled and said, “I won’t,
for now. You have my word.” He turned to walk away from her, but turned back suddenly and said, “But if he continues to deny what we both know is true, you will be fair game. I set up one of the older rooms on the third floor, near the west tower, as an office for you and Draco to work. Your papers from earlier were placed there, as well as your other papers from the crimes. I think I’ll collect Cat from Draco, check on Iver, and then call it a night. Goodnight, Hermione, and once again, and I hope for the last time tonight, I’m sorry.”

“For the kiss?” She had to ask.

He grinned, shook his head, and stepped back toward her. “No, the kiss was nice. I’m glad I did that. I might do it again sometime.” He reached out to push her hair off her shoulder, his hand lingered there for a second before he turned to walk toward the Great Room at the end of the long hallway. Hermione remained motionless by the doors to the dining room.

Milo merely called for Cat, and she came running out of the room. They both walked in front of Hermione as she stood in the hallway, Cat waved and said goodnight, while Milo only glared at her.

Draco leaned out of the doorway of the Great Hall, watching as they walked out of sight. Then he looked at Hermione, all alone by the dining room door, and he said, “Pssst, Granger, come in here, I have a secret to tell you.”

She walked slowly toward him and said, “I think I have a bigger one.”

“Can’t be possible, because mine’s really big,” he said, still in a whisper. “It’s something Cat just told me.” He was leaning partway in the Great Room, partway in the hallway, his hand on the doorknob, holding most of his weight.

She walked to the threshold of the room and said, “Mine is much bigger, trust me.”

He straightened up, rolled his eyes, and said, “Fine, tell me your big secret then.”

She placed her hands on his shoulders, stood up on her tiptoes, and leaned into him, all the things she didn’t do with Milo when he kissed her, and she placed her moist lips right on his ear. He wrapped his arms around her waist. She said, “Milo just kissed me in the hallway, and at first I didn’t push him away.”

Draco swallowed hard, pushed her from him, placed his hands on her shoulders, and looked deeply in her eyes. She was telling the truth. Damn. Now he was probably going to have to kill Milo Dorchester, just when he was starting to like the man.

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