A Day and A Night

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Chapter 27: An Answer and a Bad Morning

“Mr. Malfoy?” Cat asked. He turned to her. “Do you really love her?”

“I believe I do,” he said. “I want to love her, I need to love her, but I want to love her because she’s a wonderful person, and beautiful, and kind, and a bit demanding, and a pain in the arse.” Cat smiled and Draco laughed. He sat back down.

“Can Iver ever really love me if I’m not his mate?” she asked suddenly. She looked so sad that it broke Draco’s heart.

“Listen, Cat,” Draco said, taking her hand. “Mate business aside, because frankly it confuses me, I’ve known Hermione Granger for fifteen years. I hated her for most of those years, even after I had my mate dream. I hope that my feelings for her have nothing to do with a dream that I had when I was a kid, and has everything to do with the people we’ve become. I mean, I still hate her sometimes,” he laughed and continued, “but most of the time I think I’m falling in love with her…the real her, not my mate. Even if I hadn’t realized she was my mate, I’m sure I would have fallen in love with her, after I stopped being so irritated by her, that is.”

“But did you come here with her because she was your mate, or was it just a coincidence?” Cat inquired.

This was something Draco hated to admit. He decided to choose his words wisely. “When this case was presented to us, by the Muggle authorities, it was already decided that the Ministry was going to seek help from the University, I went to my superiors, and I told them that I had a slight connection to this place. I didn’t reveal anything else. I didn’t tell them that when I was a teenager I had a vivid dream one night that I was in a chamber, and that Hermione Granger was there, too. I didn’t tell them that I knew immediately, the moment I woke up, that the stories my grandfather had told me, confirmed by my father, that I might have a dream revealing my mate someday, had come true.”

He sat back down next to Cat, and without hesitation, he took her hand in his.

“I never told my superiors that I spent the next several years denying to myself that the dream was real, because by Merlin, the girl in my dream was the epitome of everything that I hated. She was the bane of my existence, and I held nothing but hate and contempt for her. I felt nothing but disdain for the girl that she was. I never told anyone that when we were 18, during the war, and she was being tortured in my home, by my aunt, it felt as if someone was carving my heart out. It felt as if someone had lit a match to my nerve endings, and that each time she screamed I felt as if a piece of me was dying.”

“I didn’t understand it, because I was supposed to hate her. I was raised to detest her. I had always hated her in obedience to the beliefs of my family, but from that point on, I didn’t. I started to see her differently. I became friendly with her, but never more than acquaintances. I sat idly by while she dated one man I totally hated, and then another man whom I once called a friend.”

“I never intended, ever, to act on my feelings. I never intended to tell a soul about my Veela heritage, or my mate dream, least of all, her. But when I found out she was coming here, I knew I had to come, too.”

“Because of your destiny?” Cat asked. Draco looked at her confused. “You were meant to come here, that’s what Milo told me, and you were also destined to protect her, and to fall in love.”

“No, I believe we make our own destinies. I came because I wanted a chance to see if what I felt could be real, and I came to see if she could ever love me in return.”

“Did you find out? Is it real, or is it pre-ordained magic?” Cat asked, desperately.

Draco answered, “If she would leave here today, and decide never to see me again, I believe my heart would break in two, but I would heal, but not because she’s my mate, but because she’s Hermione Granger. Does that make sense? Did any of this help you at all?”

“Did it help you?” Cat asked in return. This time, she stood up first, and she said, “I hope it did. It helped me. Goodnight, Mr. Malfoy.”

“Goodnight, Cat,” he called out as she walked away. He looked at his watch. It was almost one in the morning. He hoped Hermione was still waiting for him, because he had a lot to tell her. He wanted to tell her that he loved her, really loved her, not his mate, but her.

He didn’t knock on her door. He opened it, and saw that she was sitting on the same chair where she slept that first night, and where she was sleeping now. Her face was against the wingback of the chair and the dying light of the fire to her left danced streaks of light and dark shadows across the planes of her face. The book was tucked beside her hip, against the arm of the chair. Her feet were peeking out from the wrap around her legs, even though they were partially under her body.

He stoked the fire with a flick of his wand, leaned down on his knees, and tucked the wrap around her feet. He picked up the book, and with his back against the front of the chair, he began to read by the glow of the fire. He read the story of Milo first, and then he read the story of Milo’s parents. After he read the stories, he believed what Hermione had said, which was that this book was not an old book of folktales. Violet Edgewater probably wrote it, and she was probably trying to reveal something to them.

Then, he found a page, the corner of which was turned down, and he started to read the story about the lost prince of the lost clan. He was almost to the end of the story, when he felt her hand in his hair. He closed the book, closed his eyes, sighed, and leaned his head back against her knee. She continued to rub his head.

“I was thinking earlier,” she said.

He kept his eyes closed and said, “Nasty habit, that. You seem to do that a lot, don’t you? What were you thinking, Hermione?”

“I think what I feel for you is real. It’s not about magic or destiny. It may be in the beginning stages, and it may not be strong yet, but it could be. I want it to be, but I want to take it slow, and see what develops. I’m not convinced any of this…the way you and I feel, has anything to do with being mates. I’m not even sure I believe in the magic of mates. If people can fall in love without being mates, then I’m not certain that being mates has any credence. Do you know what I’m saying?”

He opened his eyes. He brought his hand up to hers, to keep it still. Without looking at her he said, “I was having the same thoughts earlier. In other words, you were having doubts, is that right, and now you don’t?”

“Now I don’t,” she declared.

“And you don’t believe what we feel for each other has anything to do with being mates?” he inquired.

“That’s right,” she confirmed.

“And you want to take it slow?” he asked.

“Is that okay?” She placed her feet on the floor, to the right of his body, and leaned down to look at him. He turned his head and looked right up into her eyes.

“I think that’s a good idea, because no one falls in love overnight, right? We need to make sure it’s real,” he agreed. He smiled at her, although he felt slightly anxious at her declaration. He didn’t want to take it slow. He had no doubts. He loved her, and whether it had to do with mates, or not, her doubts couldn’t take away his feelings for her.

To lighten the mood, he said, “Does that mean you aren’t having sex with me tonight, because I thought that would be a great way to cap off our date?”

She bonked him on the head with a small pillow that was behind her back. “That’s your answer,” she replied.

“Hmmm,” he hummed.

“Did you read any of the stories?” she asked when she spied the book beside him on the floor. She climbed out of the chair, picked up the book, sat beside him, and pulled the cover over her legs as she leaned against his shoulder.

“I read a couple of them. I was just reading the one about me and you, when you woke up,” he said. “I didn’t get to finish it.”

Hermione felt anxious, but she tried hard not to let it show. She put the book on the now empty chair and said, “I thought you said that book was old, so how could it be about you and me?”

He shrugged and said, “You didn’t answer my question. You read the whole thing, so tell me, how does it end?”

“Let me tell you how it ends,” she responded. “They both go to sleep, because it’s after one in the morning.” He took her hand, and rubbed his thumb on her palm. She placed her head on his shoulder.

“No, I’m sure that’s wrong. I know how it ends,” he said playfully. “They go on a date, and she wants to read, but he wants to snog, and in the end, they compromise.”

“Do tell?” She smiled at him.

“Yes, so lets snog a while, and we can use the book as a headrest. That’s a good comprise,” he declared. “Since all the other stories came true, I wonder if this one will?” he joked.

She certainly hoped the real story would never come true, because she could never kill Draco, ever. Seriously, she confirmed, “Draco, there’s no way Violet could have written a story about you and me, if she’s the one that wrote this book, because this was written before she met us. That story isn’t about you.”

“Hermione,” he said back, “I no longer know if this is an old book, or something written by Violet, but I know that story isn’t about us.” However, how could he explain the fact that the two stories that he had read, about Milo and his parents, seemed very, very real. “How does this story end, Granger?” he finally asked.

“They snog on the rug in front of her fireplace, and use the book as a headrest,” she said lightly. She reached for the book, and placed it under the cushion on the chair. “Why were you late, anyway?”

“I had a long talk with Cat, about love, mates, and such.” He played with a strand of her hair, twirling it around his finger.

“And what did you say to the impressionable Cat?” Hermione asked. She leaned her head back on his shoulder. He placed his arm around her.

“I told her that I spent so many years hating you, so I know that it’s not all about destiny and fate. The way I feel for you is real. I know it is. It has nothing to do with a mate dream.”

“Are you sure?” she asked.

No, he wasn’t sure. “Would it matter, one way or the other?” he asked her.

“It would,” she stated. She yawned again.

“Then I’m sure.” He was, too! He knew he was. He stood up and took her hand, and ushered her to the bed. “Get under the covers, Princess.”

She obeyed, because she could hardly keep her eyes open. Hermione sunk down under the covers, and he kicked off his shoes, placed his body on the outside of the covers beside her, and pulled her into his embrace.

“How’s your arm?” she asked.

“I think it’ll feel better after we visit the healing springs tomorrow. Milo told me there is hot springs, with refuted healing powers, and he would wake us early, and take us there. He wants to take Iver. Then he said that he’s taking us to the village, and later, we need to exam the new body.” His fingertips traveled up and down her nightgown-clad arm. She shivered from his touch. He felt intoxicated by her nearness.

“Granger?” he asked after a moment. She looked up at him as a response. “Does the story about the lost prince have a happy ending?”

Hermione had hoped he would forget about that story. She said, “It did. The prince and princess lived happily ever after, although fate had nothing to do with it. The moral of the story is that true love could be found anywhere, and that all that matters is that the feelings are real and reciprocated.”

“What a sappy, sugary, and frankly, boring ending to what began as quite a jaunty little lark of a story. I’m a bit put out. No, I’m more than put out, I’m irked by that stupid ending. Does it have any fight scenes, at least?” He took her hand and made it into a fist, and pointed it to his jaw and said, “Do they at least have a fight, or a duel?” He made her hand hit him on the jaw. He dropped her hand and playfully hit her jaw with his fist.

“No, it’s all sugary sweet, just like you said,” she lied.

“You probably didn’t read it very well, Granger,” he accused. “There’s probably a passage somewhere that you skimmed over about the Princess hitting the prince over the head with a boulder, or something.”

“A folder?” she asked drowsily, with her eyes closed.

“Open your ears,” he laughed. “I said a boulder.”

She opened her eyes, laughed and said, “My ears are open, idiot, it’s my eyes that are closed. I can’t close my ears. But if she hits him with a boulder, it’s not about us, because I hit you on the head with a folder in the hotel room, not a boulder.”

“And a phone, and a few other things,” he accused.

“The phone hit you on the back, not the head,” she pointed out.

“Semantics,” he said. “Also, I think I read that there was an evil ogre that bashed him on the face with his club, marring his bloody, good looks, and the princess, who was the shallowest woman on earth, no longer loved him.”

“You’re barking mad,” she said. She sighed and closed her eyes again. “I might hit you on the head with my pillow if you don’t let me get to sleep.”

“I think it did say that,” he argued. She was breathing steadily, her head on his chest, her hand on his stomach, his arm around her body. He stroked her face with his hand and said, “Sometimes you just have to read between the lines, Hermione.”

“The lines,” she repeated, sleepily.

“I think the princess comes to the village and thinks she can order the prince around, by being a bossy, know-it-all,” he said. He only said it to see if she was sleeping, because he knew if she weren’t, her pillow would hit him square in the face right about now. She didn’t move a muscle. He added, “I also think it said that the prince and the princess have sex in the hot springs.”

She suddenly sprang up in bed, and hit him twice on the face with her pillow. He brought his hands up to his face and yelled, “Watch my face, you evil ogre! Granger, not the face!”

“I think the princess castrates the prince, with a curse to the balls, because he won’t shut up and let her get her beauty rest!” she shouted.

He pushed her over to her back and said, “Well, ouch, Princess, I’m not sure the healing springs could fix that problem.” He hovered over her and smiled down at her. His hand went to her hair, to push it away from her brow. She reached up and cupped his face. “You do look like you need some beauty rest. I see a wrinkle by your left eye, right there.” He leaned down and kissed beside her eye.

She said softly, “I don’t have wrinkles. You just wanted to kiss me.”

“Why would I want to kiss you?” he asked.

“You always want to kiss me. Now, let’s go to sleep,” she urged.

“See, you are a bossy, know-it-all. Maybe that book isn’t an old book of fairytales after all,” he said with a smile. “I know at least one part of the story was accurate, because I know the prince kisses the princess, and that is going to come true, right…about…now.” He leaned over, with his chest pressed against her breasts, and he kissed her mouth.

He propped back up on his elbows, his stare traveled over her face, down her neck, to where the covers were pooled around her waist. He watched her heaving breasts with interest, lingering for a moment, before he brought his gaze back to her eyes. He cupped her cheeks with both hands, his elbows on the mattress beside her, and his voice caressed her body, just as surely as his hands did, when he said, “I could look at you all night and never tire of it. You mesmerize me. You’re my everything. You are so beautiful, so full of life, and so good and precious, and I’ll never let anyone or anything hurt you, and I’ll never let you go. I know what I feel is real. I love you, Hermione. I really do.” He hadn’t meant to make such an affirmation, but the words flowed out of their own accord, and now that they had, he was glad.

Hermione didn’t know what to say to such a statement. She looked over his shoulder, to the ceiling. She took a deep breath before she looked back in his eyes. She bit her lip, and tried to focus on his eyes, but they seemed as if they were too bright, too close, too everything! She closed her eyes, to avoid looking at him. Her hand went to his hair, on its own accord, and she was forced to open her eyes again, captivated by the strain of his stare. Her hand moved from his hair to his face.

Why did he have to say that he loved her? Why did he have to say all of that other nonsense? Why? Should she say something in return?

He moved his face slightly, to kiss her right palm, as her hand still cupped his face. His face was rough, he needed to shave, his lips were wet and sensual, her left hand clutched at his shoulder, and she was thankful that she was on her back, because if she were standing, she would have already fallen. The heat of his body on top of hers sent her senses swirling. She felt helpless, restless, and aroused.

He closed his eyes and his mouth and lips explored her palm. He held it in his hand, his tongue moving along the center of her hand, in small circles. It was the singular most erotic thing Hermione had ever felt. She stiffened under him, and then her body shivered again, a subtle movement, which intensified his need for her.

He had the taste of her in his mouth, the smell of her was in the air, he collapsed on top of her, placed his nose on her neck, and he said, “I want to make love to you, Hermione Granger.” Inside, his mind was screaming, ‘why don’t you say something? Why don’t you say that you love me in return?’

He covered her mouth with his again, and it was heaven. “Talk to me. Tell me what you feel. I told you.” He kissed her again.

Her lips moved under his, and he gently probed her tongue with his own. She felt every hard muscle in his body through the blankets, pressing against her…his hard chest against her breasts, his thighs over hers, and she felt hot and overwhelmed.

She felt as if she was melting under the demands of his mouth, and the torture of his roaming hands, which had pushed the covers down more, and was now cupping her breasts. She trembled, clinging to him with her hands on his shoulders, as his thumb rubbed back and forth along her nipple, over her nightgown. She pushed him slightly away from her and said, “I thought we were going to go slow. Forgive me, but I won’t have sex with you yet, Draco, not until I know if what we have is real. I can’t tell you that I love you yet.”

Then it was over, just like that, and she felt devoid of all feeling, and empty, and alone. An aching withdrawal pressed on her chest, and she felt bewildered and afraid. The reason was that he had moved away from her quickly, stung by her words. He was now sitting on the edge of the bed, his back to her, his head down.

She reached over and tried to touch his back, but the moment her fingers touched him, he stood, swiftly. She moved around, curled to her side, away from him, her hands clenched to her chest, and she asked for no explanation. He offered none as well. However, she did offer an apology. “I’m sorry, Draco. I do have feelings for you, but I won’t rush things, and I won’t let you rush things.”

He turned to look at her, though she was facing the other way. He felt possessive of her, thrilled by her, shocked by the overflowing emotions between them. He also felt hurt by her words, betrayed by her hesitation to admit that she felt the same. He knew she loved him! He finally said, “It doesn’t matter, Hermione.”

“What doesn’t matter?” she asked, perturbed, still not looking at him.

He was angry, with her, with himself, with the whole situation, so he said, “You’re mine now. You belong to me. You’re in my blood. You’re a part of me, and it’s real. It is, damn you, and nothing will change that. I love you.” He hadn’t meant to say all of that either, but he did and he couldn’t take it back. He took a deep breath, and chastised himself for being so harsh with her. He was acting like a spoiled child who wasn’t getting his own way, but he frankly didn’t care. He hoped he hadn’t scared her away, because his sudden outburst even scared him a bit. Perhaps his feelings were more than just love for the sake of love. Perhaps his Veela heritage, and his mate dream, did have more to do with the way her felt for her than he suspected. So be it.

That was all he said. He had denied his feelings for her for a long time, so he could never deny them again. He reclined back on the bed, as far away from her as he could, crossed his ankles, placed a pillow over his groin to hide his erection, and he said, “Goodnight, Princess. We have another body to examine tomorrow, and hot springs to go to, so you had better get some sleep.” He looked over at her back and said, “I know it sounds bizarre, after all we’ve encountered, and after what just happened here, but try to have pleasant dreams.”

“Ha, that’s what you know, Prince,” she said softly. “And it’s not goodnight, because it’s morning now.”

“Then good morning, Granger.” He stared at her back for a long time, and finally he reached over and touched her shoulder. She turned back toward him. He smiled. She moved back toward him, and placed her hand on his chest, her head beside his on the pillow.

She almost felt like crying. She hated that she rebuffed his advances, and that she had hurt his feelings, but she would not be forced to say that she loved him until she was ready. She was slightly afraid of his possessiveness and his declaration as well. “No, it’s a bad morning, Draco Malfoy,” she said, closing her eyes. “A very bad morning, indeed.”

“Ha,” he echoed her words, “that’s what you know.” It was a good morning for him, because when the light of day came, he was going to make Hermione Granger fall in love with him.

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