A Day and A Night

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Chapter 20: A Symbol and a Threat:

Draco wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he was looking for something. He was at the gravesite of the latest body, and though most of the evidence had been removed, he was still sure there was something here. ‘Something’ that would tell him WHY these girls were killed, or in the very least, something that would connect all of the cases together. He felt it in his bones.

Hermione was sitting under a tree, looking at those earrings again. They were found on the first victim. He walked over to her and said, “Why are you so fascinated with those earrings?”

She motioned with her finger that he should join her on the ground. He was about to protest, after all, she wouldn’t come to him earlier when he did the same motion with his finger. Still, he plopped down next to her without protest. Hermione took his hand, and placed one of the silver, diamond shaped earrings on his palm, turning it so the back was facing him.

She said, “It’s very hard to make out the symbols on the back of this small earring, but they are there, nonetheless.” She said a spell, and the earring enlarged in his hand. She said, “Look, there’s a snake, a crown under it, a horse’s head under the crown and then a bull’s head at the very bottom, and then a wreath at the bottom of them all, which wraps around both sides, and almost reaches the top.”

She placed the mate in his hand and said, “See how small it appears when it’s normal size. One wouldn’t even notice that there was a design on it.”

“But you noticed,” he said.

“I tend to notice things,” she said, in a self-effacing way. She shrunk the first one back so that he was hold two matching earrings and she said, “Look at the symbol on the front.”

He stared at the symbol, which appeared to be four interlocking circles. “It appears Celtic.”

“I think it is,” she concurred. She held up one piece of the jewelry, her fingertips brushing the palm of his hand as she did so, making him smile inwardly as she said, “This symbol is in the chamber of the old castle.”

“Are you sure?” he asked. He looked at the remaining earring in his hand carefully. She took it from him and placed it in the small plastic bag with its partner.

“Iver took me there this morning so I could be positive, and I want to go again when we’re done here, because there were other symbols there, too. I want to copy them down. I didn’t copy them at first, because I only copied the obvious runes and symbols. These symbols were along the cornice of the room, more like decoration, but now I suspect they mean something more.”

Draco turned to face her as she got up on her knees to reach over for the backpack to place the earrings back inside. He took her wrist, causing her to pause because his touch was almost electric. She stopped and stared at him. He said, “What could the other things mean - the serpent, the horse’s head and the like? And what would Sandra Parrish be doing with earrings that have an ancient Celtic symbol on them?” He released her wrist.

“Maybe someone gave them to her,” Hermione concluded. She leaned down into the backpack and pulled out a folder. She sat back beside him, accidentally sitting on his hand. She looked embarrassed, but he laughed and pulled it out from under her bum.

“Pardon,” she said.

“No, no, my pleasure,” he joked. She hit him with the folder, though she blushed, and then opened it to show him a picture of the second dead girl. “Here’s a picture of the second victim, or if we are counting Jennifer as the first, she would be the third. Her name was Catherine Anderson.” Hermione pointed to the girl’s wrist. “Here, in the picture of her body, before it was examined and exhumed, she has a bracelet on her wrist.” Hermione enlarged the picture, and sure enough, the bracelet had the same charm as the first girl’s earrings.

She placed the enlarged picture in front of them, and pulled out a ring in a plastic bag. “This was in the evidence that Harry sent us last night. It was on the last body we found.”

“Jennifer Craven had a ring with the same symbol?” Draco asked, holding the small bag up to the light that shafted through the bare tree limbs of the forest. What did it all mean? He said, “I really wish someone hadn’t killed Violet Edgewater now, not only for to obvious reasons, but because she could really help us out with this case.”

“That’s probably why she died, because she talked with us,” Hermione said sadly. “I just realized that, because she didn’t have any jewelry, she wasn’t young like the other girls, so she was probably only killed because of us. Oh, Draco. It’s my fault really, solely mine. You didn’t even want to talk with her. I insisted.”

She lowered her head, almost reverently. Draco reached over and stroked her hair away from her face, his fingertips trails down the crown of her head to her jaw as he did. She looked up at him as he said, “Don’t blame yourself, Hermione. It won’t do. I won’t let you.” She shivered. “Are you cold?” She nodded, though they both knew her shiver was more from remorse than from cold. He placed his arm around her, really for comfort, but she could pretend that it was for warmth, and he could know it was to console her.

“We have to find the other bodies, Draco, and we have to find out what this symbol means. I think I can get a trace of the type of metal used in all the jewelry, and perhaps we can try to find the other missing girls that way, if the bodies have similar jewelry on that is,” she said. “It’s some sort of pewter mixed with sterling silver. I’ve never seen the mixture before.”

He smiled at her and said, “You’re a genius.” He said it softly, deferentially, and he meant it sincerely. He leaned closer, smelled her sweet scent, and it nearly knocked him for a loop. He wanted to kiss her so badly that it sent his senses whirling. “That’s a perfect way to try to find these other girls, except, this is a large forest, and we don’t even know if they were killed or buried here.” He stood up and offered her his hand. He pulled her up and said, “We don’t even know if Jennifer was originally buried here, and we don’t even know where Sandra and Catherine were killed.”

“I thought we were acting under the supposition that they were killed in the chamber. We might be able to pull enough magical DNA from the chamber, and compare it with the girls’ DNA, and we might be able to recreate a sort of magical prototype, to recreate the crime scene. We already know they were there, but we need to know if they were killed there, and their dead bodies might have the killer’s DNA on it, too, so if we take that DNA, mixed with theirs, we might be able to determine if they were killed there.”

Draco was listening to her intently, even though he was once again on his knees, looking at the disturbed ground where Jennifer’s body was found. Hermione said, “I know I tend to rattle on and on, but I’m talking about important things right now, Draco. You need to pay attention and listen to me.”

“I am, princess, come here, though,” he said. He held out his hand. She walked over to his, grasped his hand, and he pulled her down next to him. He pointed to the tree next to the now empty grave.

Hermione gasped. “Draco, you might have found an easier way for us to find the other bodies.”

He had seen it earlier, but he hadn’t made the connection until now. This was what he had been looking for, but hadn’t realized until now. There, on the tree, carved in the bark, was the exact same symbol as on the earrings.

Draco looked up at the sound of approaching footsteps. He stood before Hermione stood. “Good morning,” Milo said as he and Iver approached.

Hermione stood while Draco greeted Milo with a curt nod. Hermione, who had not seen the man since their kiss last night, turned away without saying a word. “Working hard?” his brother said from behind him.

“We found a connection of sorts, well, Granger found it,” Draco said. Hermione was busy saying a spell over the symbol on the tree.

Milo stood behind her and he said, “What, the symbol for our clan?”

Hermione turned to face him so fast that she lost her balance, and Milo was forced to reach for her elbow to support her before she fell. She stumbled against the tree, and said, “That symbol is the symbol for your clan?”

“Yes, all clans are represented by symbols, and that’s ours,” he revealed. Hermione took a deep breath and looked at Draco.

Milo looked from Hermione to Draco and then asked, “Why?”

Instead of answering, Hermione went over to the backpack, pulled out the earrings, and handed them to Milo. “Have you seen these before?”

He stared at them and said, “No, but I imagine that they were made in the village. One can buy such trinkets from any of the local artisans. Were these found on one of the bodies?”

Iver stepped around Draco and took the earrings from his brother to examine. Draco said, “They were, and all of the bodies were found with similar jewelry, which is more than coincidental, especially as none of these girls were from this village, and they were all Muggle-borns.”

Iver handed them back to Hermione and said, “Those are old. They aren’t mere trinkets made by a local artisan and sold in some village store. I can tell by the metal used.”

Milo gave Iver a disconcerted look, but Iver said, “Look at the back. They have the clan’s English symbols on them. Those symbols aren’t to be shared, and no local artisan would recreate jewelry with such symbols.”

Milo took the earrings back from Hermione and looked at the back. “Do you have the other jewelry, from the other girls?”

“Not with me, but back at the castle, yes,” she said.

He closed his eyes for a moment, and pinched the bridge of his nose. He said, “This isn’t good.” He signed, then turned to Draco and said, “Perhaps you and I should go talk to some of the village elders, and the other clan leaders.”

“I want to go,” Hermione said.

Milo turned to her, and placed his hand on her arm. Draco took a step closer, frowning that Milo was once again touching her, but didn’t say anything as Milo said, “You can’t go. I’m so sorry, but as I said before, we are a patriarchal system, and they won’t talk to females. It’s not my way, but theirs, but more than that, you’re an outsider.”

“I thought this village was founded by both Veela and Vampire, females and males. Anyway, Malfoy’s an outside, too,” she complained.

“I hate to keep saying this, but he really isn’t.” He turned to Malfoy and said, “Your Veela heritage can be traced back to Katrina's sister. I’m shocked that I know this, and that you don’t, but it’s true. You don’t come from the Valdes, but you do come from the Veela of this area.”

Draco didn’t look particularly shocked. In fact, Hermione thought he looked somewhat embarrassed, as if he had been caught in a lie, or as if he was caught doing something bad. He looked down at the ground, and kicked at some leaves with the toe of his boot.

Hermione stepped around Milo and said, “You knew this already, didn’t you. This is why you came with me, not because you were an expert on Veela, but because of your connection to these people.”

He couldn’t lie to her any longer, so he said, “Maybe. It doesn’t matter why I came. I’m an Auror on a case, and that’s all that matters, nothing else.”

“Go with Milo.” She seemed angry and absolute. She turned to Iver and said, “Will you take me once more to the old castle? I have a few more things to uncover there, and Draco doesn’t wish me to go by myself.”

Iver merely nodded, but not before looking to his brother for approval. Draco took Hermione’s arm and took her aside. “Listen, I know you see Milo’s little confession as another piece of information that I kept from you, but I really didn’t see how it was important information. It didn’t matter where my Veela heritage came from, did it, especially as it’s so diluted, and since I’m not a Valdes?”

“You’re delusional, Draco,” she said. “It matters a lot, or else you would have told me. First you kept the whole mate thing from me, and now this. Don’t keep anything else from me, please.” She stared up at him and she really didn’t know what else to say. She knew she couldn’t make demands on him, after all, what were they to each other, really? They hadn’t even gone out on a date yet. That reminded her. “Don’t get hurt or killed tonight. We have a date, you know.”

“Yes, and if I get killed, that will seriously mar our good time,” he said with sarcasm. “Am I permitted to kiss you goodbye in front of these two?”

“As long as you’re doing it for me and you, and not as some display of ownership,” she spat back.

“Well now that you’re being snippy, I don’t think I want to kiss you,” he joked.

“Who said I want you to kiss me?” she countered.

“Well then, no kiss for Hermione Granger,” he said lightly. He started to walk away, but she grabbed his arm.

“Hey,” she complained. “Remember, kisses hello and goodbye are important to me.” She held her mouth in a slight pout, which he thought was almost funny.

“If they’re important, by all means,” he said. Without regards to either men watching, and he knew that they were because the hairs on the back of his neck were standing up, and the tendons and muscles in his arms were coiled tightly, he brushed his fingertips lightly down her face. He realized that he wanted to say a thousand things to her, but now was not the time or place. “But you’re the only important thing to me. Stay safe, stay alert, and stay alive.”

He pulled her tightly into his arms. “Don’t leave me,” he added, though he thought it sounded stupid and dramatic the moment he said it. Hermione had no reply, but her body grew lax in the confines of his arm, soft, supple, and warm in the cold, late autumn air. A soft sigh escaped her lips, telling him all he needed to know, and though it was barely audible, he heard it, he devoured it, he would remember it and commit that little sigh to memory.

His lips found hers, taking away his own fear, replacing it with desire. She tasted like every good dream he had ever had, and every moment of happy and bliss he had ever experience. He didn’t deepen the kiss, not because he didn’t want to, but because their first real kiss, their first intimate, all knowing kiss, would not be in the middle of the forest, in front of these two men. He hoped it would be on the tower tonight, after their date. He hoped that tonight he could show her how well he knew her, since he didn’t get the chance to show her last night.

He released her, reluctantly, and said, “Go now.” She slipped from his arms, leaving him feeling empty, bereft, almost lonely. She started up the path, Iver ahead of her, but when she turned back, he was still watching her.

When they were out of sight, Milo said, “You don’t want her at the old castle alone?”

“No,” he said plainly. He looked over at the other man.

“You also don’t want her there with you, do you?” he said.

Draco had so many things he wanted to say to this other man, but each one sounded more immature and juvenile than the last, so he said nothing. Milo said, “It’s understandable. Do you know what that chamber was used for, Malfoy?”

“What?”

“Mating rituals,” Milo explained. “And the ancient rituals were sometimes brutal and barbaric, but they were between sometimes brutal and barbaric people. They were outlawed even before my great-grandfather’s time.” Milo started walking and Draco followed. “You know you wear your emotions on your sleeve, don’t you?”

“What?" Draco stopped walking.

Milo turned around and said, “If you really wanted to keep her safe, you wouldn’t have brought her here. You should keep her at the castle tomorrow, and then arrange for her to go back to London.”

“I can’t tell Granger what to do.” Although Draco wished he could. “She has a mind, a big mind, of her own. Also, leave my emotions out of things. You don’t know anything about them.”

“I will if you will,” Milo spat. Draco stepped ahead of him on the path and Milo said, “One more thing, Malfoy.”

Draco turned around sharply and almost yelled, “What now?”

“If you don’t claim her soon, there are others who will. Her blood scent is so unique, so strong, and it’s out there now, and it has attracted other competitors, others besides myself,” he explained in that monotone way of his.

“Yes, I heard of your little kiss last night. She told me,” Draco said, wanting the man to know that Hermione confided in him.

“I knew she would. That was the point,” Milo said snidely. “That was the first step. I have to make you see that you need to do something, either way, and quickly. The others won’t wait long. They caught her scent the day she entered our village, due to the blood loss from the gunshot wound. To the other clan members, she is an open claim, due to the fact that she is an outsider who has not yet been bound to another.”

“Is she safe with Iver? Right now?” Draco asked, worried.

“She’s safe because I’ve deemed her to be so,” Milo said, although Draco thought Milo seemed a bit worried also.


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