A Day and A Night

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Chapter 19: A Coward and a Backpack:

“You coward,” Draco said to his reflection that next morning. He showered, shaved, changed, and now he was standing in the small bathroom, looking at his reflection in the mirror, and the only thought he had was that he was a coward. The reason for his assessment was simple. After Hermione had told him that Milo had kissed her, he merely walked away.

That’s all he did, even though he wanted to do so much more.

He didn’t say a word to her. He pushed her away, ascertained that she was telling the truth, clinched his fists, huffed in anger, and walked away from her and went to bed. She knocked on the door to his room sometime later to tell her that the Owls from the Ministry had arrived, but he pretended to be asleep and he didn’t answer her. He was a coward.

What was he supposed to do? Was he supposed to be angry with her? He was. He really was. He wanted to ask her a million questions. “Did you kiss him back?” “Did you slap him in the face?” “Did you enjoy it?” She already said that at first she didn’t push him away. What did that mean? Did that mean that the kiss went on and on and only after many moments later did she remember Draco and finally push Milo away? Did that mean that she wanted him to kiss her?

He wanted to accuse her - How dare you! You belong to me! You’re mine!

Only…she wasn’t really, was she? They had only shared a couple of kisses, they hadn’t even gone out on a date, and so what if he had a dream, many years ago, that she was his mate. He didn’t even believe in this whole ‘mate’ thing, did he? Besides, they had never made any formal declarations to each other. They could both kiss whomever they wanted. They didn’t even really like each other that much.

Did they?

He also wanted to find Milo Dorchester and tear him limb from bloody limb, but again, the man wasn’t out of bounds, not really. Draco had sat at the man’s own table, right before the kiss, and had declared to everyone that Hermione wasn’t his mate, that he didn’t believe in ‘mates’, that he was single, and that he liked it like that, so Milo must have thought that Hermione was fair game. Moreover, she was, wasn’t she?

Except she wasn’t! She was his, and everyone should know that. Draco felt horrible this morning, and he didn’t know what to do. He banged his head against the mirror of the bathroom once for good measure.

Last night, after she told him about the kiss, he walked away from her as she called his name. He also ignored her last night when she knocked on his door telling him that the evidence had arrived. After he first entered the bathroom this morning he ignored her again when she knocked on the door to tell him that Iver was Apparating her back to the old castle so she could check out something quickly, but that she would be right back if he wanted to talk.

Now it seemed as if she was ignoring him. He had just arrived to the breakfast room, and the only people there were Mr. MacNeill, Cat and Iver. Draco sat down, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Where are Hermione and Milo?”

“Milo had things to oversee on our property this morning, with the tenants,” Iver explained, “and Hermione asked that a breakfast tray be sent up to your office on the third floor. We just got back from the old castle and she said that she had a lot of work to do.”

Apparently, Draco wasn’t the only coward.

Hermione couldn’t face the same awkwardness at breakfast that she had faced at dinner the night before. She also couldn’t face Draco. He was angry about the kiss, he was avoiding her, but she didn’t know what she could to do about it, so she decided to ask that a breakfast tray be brought up to the ‘office’ that Milo had set up for them, so she could get straight to work. In other words, she was avoiding him, too.

She knew that Draco would be angry about the kiss, but did that mean that she should have lied to him? If she hadn’t told him that would have been paramount to lying in her book and Hermione wasn’t a liar. She wanted everything to be out in the open between them. In the very least, she expected him to yell at her last night. Especially the way she had phrased her sentence, saying that ‘at first’ she didn’t push Milo away. She expected him to ask all sorts of things, such as, “How long did the kiss last?” “Why didn’t you push him away as soon as he kissed you?” and “Did you kiss him back?”

Nevertheless, he said nothing. He didn’t say one single thing. He looked at her, balled his hands into fists at his sides, clenched his jaw, and stormed down the hallway toward the stairs. She called after him and he didn’t turn around once.

And she didn’t even get to find out what his secret was.

She knew he wasn’t asleep when she knocked on his bedroom door last night to tell him that the evidence had arrived back to the castle, because there was a faint light under the door, but as soon as she knocked, it went out. Then this morning she had just heard the bathroom door shut, so she knocked on it, but he ignored her again.

She wasn’t sure she blamed him, but she wasn’t sure she blamed herself either. She didn’t ask Milo to kiss her! True, she didn’t push him away the second he leaned forward, and she should have. True, she didn’t slap the man across the face, and she wasn’t above doing such a thing. True, she could have kept it all to herself…but none of those things made Hermione responsible. Did it?

So what if she kissed Milo, or if Milo kissed her? Draco had mixed feelings about his Veela heritage, and the whole ‘mate thing’ and Hermione wasn’t so ready to go along with it all anyway, so what did any of it matter in the light of day? Draco wasn’t her boyfriend. They weren’t even really friends. They were work colleagues. That’s all they were, apparently. Work colleagues who wouldn’t even talk with each other right now.

Harry sent them all of the actual evidence, along with the photographs and the reports by Owl late last night. Hermione had this, along with all the older reports, photos, and evidence, strewn out before her on a long table that was in the middle of the room. She picked up a pair of earrings that the first girl was wearing when she was killed. They were in a small, plastic bag. This was exactly the piece of evidence for which she was looking. This was a link! She had Iver take her back to the older castle this morning to check out a rune so she could be certain, and she was.

The design of the earrings was unfamiliar to her, but she was sure it was Celtic. She turned them over and sure enough, familiar etchings were carved in the silver on the back. The etchings were so small that she could not make out the symbols with her naked eye. She placed them on the table, and was about to say a spell so she could enlarge them, when a knock came to the door.

She turned, wand in the air, and said, “Come in.”

Draco came in with the breakfast tray. Hermione still had her wand in the air and he said, “Whoa, I come in peace. Lower your wand, please.”

She lowered her wand and watched as he placed the tray at the end of the table where she was working. “This is how I think you should look,” he said. “Papers all around, books opened, things scattered about, yes, this is right. This is familiar, the way I always remembered you from school. You always took up a whole table in the library whenever we had a report to write. It was damn irritating. You would have every book on your table, and no one else could use them.”

She took a steady breath as he walked around to her side of the table. He was so close that she could smell his aftershave, and it smelled nice.

He said, “Hermione Granger,” he picked up her hand, “ink stained fingers, books, parchment, quills, ink all around. You even have a smudge of ink on your cheek.” He reached up to her, touched her cheek, and rubbed at the small ink smudge with his thumb.

“I’m sorry I let Milo kiss me,” she said softly. “I should have stopped him right away. I was shocked.”

“I know,” he relayed, because he did know, and there was nothing else to say about it. “I can’t say I don’t care, or that it doesn’t matter,” he said, lowering his hand. “But I had just spent an hour at dinner proclaiming that I didn’t believe in mates, and that I didn’t have a mate and that I wasn’t in a relationship, so I can’t say anything to you if you kiss another man.”

“Yes you can,” she said quickly. She placed her hand on his arm, and grasped it tightly. He looked down at her hand, then back in her eyes. “I’m not saying I want you to be some possessive buffoon who dictates to me what I can or can’t do, but I thought we had declared our feelings for each other, and made it clear that we felt things…I know I did.”

She let go of his arm and added, “No matter right now.” She sat down at the table and started to eat.

“You coward,” he said.

“Excuse me?” Her head popped up and she stared at him with ire.

He smirked, pushed aside the tray, sat on the table so that his hip was touching her arm, and he said, “How dare you hide up here and make me take breakfast alone with those circus freaks.”

She bit the inside of her cheek, raised her brows, and then said, “Circus freaks?”

“Well, yes,” he explained, “and it was worse when Milo came back.”

“Explain your analogy, please,” Hermione said, highly entertained. She took another bite of her breakfast, and waited in anticipation.

“Well, Milo is clearly the Ringmaster, because he barks orders, and everyone pays attention to him.” He got up, walked around to the other side of her, and sat back down on top of the table. She pushed on his hip to scoot him over before she took a bite of her toast.

“MacNeill is the foreign juggler, because I have a feeling he secretly juggles all of the others around, to do his bidding,” he said. “Plus, I can’t understand a bloody thing that man says, his accent's so thick.”

Hermione merely laughed, then said, “He is strange.”

He continued, “Iver would be the lion tamer, because he has a way with Cat. She’s a scary little thing. She would be a clown. Clowns are scary.”

Hermione dropped her fork, her eggs falling to her plate in the process. “Clowns are scary?”

“They are to me,” he joked. “White faces, red hair, big noses…oh wait, I think maybe I’m just scared of Weasleys.”

She laughed outright but then she hit his thigh and said, “You are so not funny!”

“But you are so laughing,” he teased. He picked up her hand, and examined her fingers for a minute.

“I need my hand to eat,” she said.

“Wouldn’t you rather eat the food I brought up?” he said dryly. He dropped her hand, although he stayed on the table while she continued to eat. After a while he leaned over and picked up the letter from Harry. “When did this arrive?”

“Last night, along with a large package with all the evidence,” she replied. “I tried to tell you last night, but I think you didn’t want to see me. And you called me a coward.”

He stroked her hair fondly, and then read the letter from Harry. He said aloud, “All three girls that went missing in the last five years from Dorchester were registered witches. Two were considered Muggle-born, and one’s mother was a squib. He sent along some DNA from one of the girl’s mothers, to see if you can get a trace on her body.”

“I know,” Hermione said. “Harry feels the other girls’ bodies are buried here somewhere, too. I hope we find them, for their families, and yet deep down, I hope we don’t find them, because Draco, we're already looking at a serial killer.” She stood up, removed the tray from the table, and set it by the door. “What was your secret from last night?” She walked back over to the table.

He scratched his nose, placed the letter back on the table, and then said, “Pardon?” He was stalling just to irritate her.

She stood in front of him and cocked her head to the side. “You heard me. You’re just trying to irritate me.”

“No, I didn’t hear you. Come closer.” He wiggled his finger toward his chest, urging her closer. She stood her ground. He signed and said, “Why can’t you yield to me and my charms?”

She laughed. “Yield to you. You’re so funny.”

He sighed louder and said, “Cat said that originally she was supposed to marry Milo.” When Draco said that, Hermione’s eyes became wide as saucers. He smiled and said, “I told you it was a big secret, but you had to upstage me with that stupid kiss.”

“Are you serious?” she asked.

“I’m as serious as I can be,” he said back. “She said that it was an arranged marriage set by both sets of parents, since Milo is considered the prime, or the clan leader, the eldest. When he took over control of his clan, from MacNeill by the way, who was running the show until Milo reached age seventeen; he proclaimed that his younger brother Iver would do that task instead. She also said that Iver and she should have been married a long time ago, but that Milo keeps putting it off, not Iver.”

“I wonder why,” Hermione said.

“I don’t know, but Cat said she was happy that Iver was her intended instead of Milo. She said she was only twelve at the time of the switch, and that Iver was fourteen, but that she always liked him better than she liked Milo. She said that Milo was too severe and serious for her, and that Iver was sweet. Am I sweet, Granger?” He reached out, grabbed her hand and pulled her toward him. He placed his arms around her waist.

“You're too many things to mention, Malfoy, but sweet isn’t a word that comes to mind, no,” she said lightly, though she seemed distracted. “Did you know that Iver was ill somehow?”

“No, how is he ill?” He dropped his hands from her waist; she tried to walk away, so he pulled on her arm to bring her closer to the V of his legs as he sat on the table.

“Some illness that only affects clan members. I think it’s time we talk to other clan members. I might be able to get more from Iver, but Milo doesn’t want me talking to him. Perhaps we could go into Glendora and talk to some of the people there,” she decided. “I also still really need to read that book of folktales.”

“I need to go back to the area where we found the last body first,” Draco informed her. “I need to see something there.”

“Good,” she added, “because I need to see something else at the old castle. Something I might have missed this morning.” She turned to leave again, but he pulled on the back of her jumper, to pull her back to him. “What?” she asked.

“Where are you going? I need to ask you a question.”

“Okay,” she said softly.

“Will you go on a date with me tonight,” he said seriously.

She bit her lip, and tried not to smile. “Where? This place isn’t very romantic, and we can’t leave, and we can’t go into Dorchester, because as you’re aware, they hate me there,” she reminded him with a smile.

“They, my dear princess, are fools,” he said clearly. He rubbed his hands up and down her arms, which caused a frisson of fury and fire in her belly. She blinked, too many times, she was sure, but they were so close to each other, and she wanted to kiss him again. She placed her hands on his shoulders. “We could go to the tower, above this room. That would be rather romantic, don’t you think? Have a picnic at twilight.”

“Ah, twilight, when day meets the night,” Hermione waxed poetically.

He placed a finger under her chin and said, “Well, don’t leave me in suspense. Will you go out with me?”

“Yes,” she said, a bit too hurried. She could scarcely contain her joy, and he seemed rather pleased as well.

He pushed her away from him, hopped off the table, but then he threw one arm around her shoulders. Surprising her, he pulled her to him and kissed her squarely, soundly, smoothly, but quickly on the lips. “Your mandatory kiss hello, princess. I’m nothing if not diligent. Shall we go?”

“Let me get my things.” She pushed away from him and began to pack a backpack with papers and things. “You go to the new murder site, and I’ll go to the castle.” He picked up the earrings from the table just as she had said that.

“Alone?” he inquired. He looked up from fingering the earrings that were on the table. “No, we’ll stick together, and on this, I’m standing fast. We’ll both go back to the site, then to the castle.”

“No,” she complained. She walked over to the table and took the earrings from his hand. She placed them in the bag. “It'll waste too much time, and I have so much to do here, and it will take us forever just to walk there, and I think its best if I go to the castle alone, and I still want to go to the village, and I have a date to get ready for tonight.”

He frowned and said, “How many ‘ands’ did you use in that sentence?”

She thought for a moment and said, “Only five.”

He threw his hands up in the air, and said to himself, “She’s so weird. Why does my mate have to be weird?” He started to walk out of the room when the backpack hit him on the head. He rubbed his head, turned back to her and said, “I forgot about your propensity toward hitting me whilst my back was turned.”

“Listen, rude boy,” she began, “First, don’t go throwing around the mate word if you’re still unsure about it, because it’s unsettling. Second, I can get Iver or Milo to take me to the castle. I really think I should go alone.”

He stared at her, ready to argue, but then he realized that she was doing this for him. She knew that the castle had an odd influence on him and she was trying to protect him. As he stared at her, rubbing the back of his head, (because a backpack to the head really did hurt), he had another odd thought. He tried to squash this one just as he tried to squash all the other ones yesterday, but his one kept coming, and coming, and coming, and it refused to disappear. He soon recognized it for what it was - He loved her.

He loved Hermione Granger.

Not because of a dream he had many years ago when he was a teenager that she was his mate. Not because of the ancient magic of this place. Not because of his Veela heritage. He loved her because she loved him enough to hit him over the head with a backpack. He laughed.

“What’s so funny?” she asked. She stood with her hands on her hips, her foot tapping on the stone floor, and an irritated look on her face, and he wanted to throw his arms around her and hug her and kiss her and….how many ‘ands’ was that?

He shook his head and said, “Hermione, listen…no, don’t listen.” He laughed again. He loved her. She was frowning. He even loved her when she frowned. He stifled his smile, placed a hand on her arm, and said, “Please, don’t go down there alone, and don’t go with Milo. Please. I don’t mind Iver taking you, or I’ll take you and stay outside, if you don’t want me down in the chamber with you, but I don’t want you to go alone. It’s important to me.” He thought to himself,
‘You’re important to me.’

She nodded and said, “We’ll both go to the site first, then we’ll both go to the old castle, I’ll quickly go downstairs and confirm something, and you’ll stay upstairs.” He traced his finger down her cheek as she spoke.

“That sounds reasonable. I’m glad you came up with such a great plan, Granger,” he said teasingly. He leaned toward her and placed his cheek next to hers. “I don’t want you to ever be afraid to tell me what you think. If you didn’t want me in the chamber, you didn’t have to hit me on the head.” He leaned back and smiled again.

She smiled back at him, cupped his cheek, and placed her lips softly on his. She kissed him breathlessly, softly, and then said, “It’s true, I don’t think you should go back in the chamber, but that’s not why I hit you on the head. I hit you on the head because you’re a rude bugger sometimes.”

He laughed again and thought,
‘Isn’t love grand.’

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