A Day and A Night

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Chapter 28: A Body and A Spring

For many hours, Hermione and Draco held each other, but never said a word. She couldn’t fall asleep, because she was worried about the case, about Draco, and about his passionate words. He couldn’t fall asleep because she was still awake.

Around four in the morning, he started to tell her about his conversation with Cat. He told her everything they discussed. He also told her he wondered if Cat was being truthful when she said that she loved Iver. He said he was beginning to suspect that perhaps the young girl really had feelings for Milo.

That thought made Hermione wonder if perhaps Cat had something to do with the murders. She told Malfoy as much. He told her he wondered the same thing. She turned to her side, to look at him. He turned to his side to look at her.

Then at the same time they both said, “No, it’s not Cat.” They laughed, and then finally, they both went to sleep.

When Hermione woke up, she replayed that conversation in her mind. Could it be Cat? Draco said that she felt sorry for Milo. Was it more than that? Did she love him? Was she upset that she wasn’t marrying him instead of Iver? Was she trying to prevent him from finding his mate? Wouldn’t it be a trifle to convenient to pin the murders on Iver, getting him out of the way? This, of course, would then force Milo to marry Cat.

Hermione continued to think of these things even as she left her room to head for the breakfast room. She met Milo in the hallway outside the room. “Did you have a goodnight?” Milo asked.

She sighed and said, “Not really, no. Have you seen Malfoy? He was gone when I awoke.”

“He slept with you last night?” Milo asked with one eyebrow in the air.

“He stayed in my room, yes,” she answered, having no need to go into further explanation with the man.

“He’s already eaten, and he’s gone out with Cat. He’ll meet us at the springs in a bit.” Milo placed his hand on the small of her back and ushered her down the hallway toward the small breakfast room. Her foot became caught in a rug on the floor and she tripped. He reached out for her elbow, but she slipped through his grasp, and she braced her fall with her outstretched hands.

He reached down for her shoulders, and picked her completely up from the ground. She seemed startled. “Are you hurt?” he asked.

She held up the same hand that she had injured before. “Somehow my hand is busted open again. I don ’t know how that keeps happening. It was almost healed.”

“The healing springs will take care of that today,” he said. He took her hand in his, held it gently, and then folded her fingers with his encasing hers. He reached inside his trouser pocket with his free hand and pulled out a handkerchief. He wrapped her hand and then to her utter shock, he brought her hand up to his lips and kissed her fingertips.

She stared up at him, breathing hard, and he said, “I won’t apologize for that.”

She pulled her hand from his and walked into the breakfast room, followed by Milo.

She felt self-conscious with only Milo as company, so she decided to make conversation. “Why does Draco always go off without me?” she asked, mostly to herself.

“Perhaps he has the need to get things done when you aren’t around to distract him,” Milo answered. He began to fill his plate. Hermione stood in the doorway with her mouth agape.

“Distract him?” she asked.

“Exactly,” he said back. He sat at the head of the table and said, “Are you eating?”

She filled a plate and sat on the opposite side of the table. “I’m not distracting.”

“Yes you are,” Milo said.

She banged on the table with her fist and said, “I’m not.”

Without looking at her he said, “You are.” He took a bite of sausage and then looked up at her. “You are,” he said again. “You distract me.”

“Well you don’t distract me, you irritate me,” she said. He laughed at her. “Where’s the body of the girl they found last night?” she asked, to change the subject.

“It’s been placed in the dungeons here at Rhodeana castle,” Milo said. “When you are ready to examine it, we’ll take it anywhere you wish it to go.”

“I wish I had the other bodies to examine. I might have it taken to London, so that I can examine it with the evidence from the other bodies,” she said.

“No,” he said. “Would that mean that you would be leaving?”

“Just for a day or two, but I would come back,” she explained. “There’s been something bothering me about Violet’s death. Something about it that doesn’t match the others.”

“I thought you said her body was found the same as the others,” Milo asked. “Drained of blood, same injuries, and same amount of preservation.”

“True, but there’s still just something in the back of my mind that doesn’t mesh,” she said.

Iver walked in the room and said, “What pleasant breakfast conversation…dead, mutilated bodies and the like.” He sat next to Hermione.

“You look terrible,” she said.

“Good morning to you, too, beautiful,” he said back with a laugh.

“You do look horrible,” Milo agreed. “More the reason why you need the healing springs.”

“Will we be in danger, going to the springs?” Hermione asked.

“No, the other clans won’t bother us, if that’s what you mean, and they aren’t far from here. They’re on our land,” Milo explained.

“Cat and Draco had a nice long talk last night, did he tell you?” Iver asked. Milo stood up, filled a plate for his brother, and set it down before him, but he pushed it away.

“I knew they spoke, yes,” Hermione answered.

“What did they speak of?” Milo asked.

“They talked of mates, love, and all sorts of things,” Iver said. He picked up a slice of bacon, but then placed it back on his plate.

“On that note,” Hermione said, “can one of you explain to me why it is that some people fall in love with their mates, and sometimes they fall in love with someone else. I mean, what’s the purpose of a mate if it’s not the person you’re meant to love for the rest of your life?”

“Well,” Milo began, “that’s the thing, Hermione, the thing that has many people in our village worried. The magic of our people is waning. The magic behind finding ones mate, and having that person be your one true love, no longer holds true, and no one really knows why, except to say that somehow, for some reason, the magic isn’t as strong as it used to be. That’s why they feared my father marrying my mother, because she was an outsider. That’s why they fear me finding someone from the outside to marry.”

“But why would that be?” Hermione asked. “Why would the magic be waning?”

“I’ll take this one,” Iver said to his brother. Milo shrugged as Iver answered. “It’s because it’s been allowed, since the beginning, for people to marry other than their mates, or so that’s the belief. You see, when it was ordered, for blood and clan purity, many centuries ago, that one man from each family had to marry a member of their own clan, to keep their clans pure, well, that went against the mating rule, because many of these men couldn’t marry their mates even if they wanted to, because of our laws. Also, the mating instinct comes from the Veela side, not the Vampire side, so it’s not exactly something that was strong from the start, because the Vampire traits always seemed to be dominant.”

“Furthermore,” Milo interrupted, “it was deemed necessary, also around two hundred years ago, to arrange some marriages based on clan alliances, because some of the clans were becoming smaller, weaker, and others were getting more powerful, so arranged marriages became common to build a stronghold for a clan. That meant that even if a man had a mate dream, he might have to forgo that to marry someone from another clan, due to an arranged marriage.”

Iver added, “So you see, our people did this to themselves. We’ve made the magic of mates weaker, by ignoring it, or by not giving it the proper respect, so now, the magic isn’t as strong.”

“In addition, no one uses the mating chambers any longer, they don’t follow the ancient mating rituals, and there is hardly ever a blood exchange, which used to be deemed necessary for a proper bonding. Furthermore, some young men no longer have mate dreams,” Milo offered. “It’s not uncommon these days for it not to happen.”

“I told you I never really had one,” Iver added. “Not a clear one, anyway.”

“This is fascinating,” Hermione said. “It’s evolution, at its most basic form. Fascinating, really. I wonder what some of the elders of your clans think about all of this.”

“You’ll find out, when we go talk to some of them today, after the springs,” Milo said. He stood up, looked over at Iver, and said, “Eat a bit, won’t you? I’ll be back down to get you in a moment.”

Hermione smiled over at him and said, “He’s sort of a strange man, but at least he’s caring brother, isn’t he?”

“He’s very strange and a pain in the arse, that’s what he is,” Iver said with a smile.

“I heard that,” Milo said from the hallway.

Hermione and Iver both laughed. “Where’s Cat at this morning?” she asked.

“I thought Milo told you. She went with Draco,” Iver answered. “She wants to be more helpful. She said that she wants to discover who is doing all of this, so we can all get on with our lives. They went to explore some of the shallow caves that are in the rocky hillsides near the old castle.”

“Oh yes, Milo did mention that. I just forget. Iver,” Hermione said, leaning toward him, “I’ve been thinking. All of these murders seem connected, right? I mean, they all seem to be almost a crime of passion.”

“Yes, so?” he said.

She wondered if she should continue, but before she could say a thing about Cat, Milo returned and said, “Are you both ready to go?”

Cat told Draco she wanted to take him to some caves that she and Iver explored as a child. He didn’t see the harm, so he let her lead him to the caves. They were high in the hills, and they were nothing more than shallow cutouts in the rock face. They climbed the natural rock formations, and entered the first cave, or opening.

“When Iver and I were children, we used to hide from Milo in here,” Cat explained. “He never found us.”

“I find it hard to believe that Milo couldn’t find you in here,” Draco said, walking hunched over toward the middle of the small enclave. “These caves aren’t very deep.”

“Oh, he could have found us easily. We were only six and eight, and Milo was eleven or so. Yes, he could have found us easily, but he always acted as if he couldn’t find us.”

“Where’s your mother, Cat?” Draco suddenly asked. Cat walked toward the opening of the first cave, and climbed out on the rocks, to climb upward toward the second opening. Draco followed.

When they reached the second opening, she sat down with her feet dangling high above the ground. He sat next to her. She finally answered. “My mother left my father and me when I was very young. She left our village completely. We went to live with Iver’s parents, because my father was often gone, with clan business, so Iver’s mother became my surrogate mother.”

“It must have been hard on you when she died, then,” Draco said.

Cat suddenly sprang up, walked toward the opening, and said, “I don’t want to talk about that.” She started to the front of the cave and Draco stood to follow. She lost her footing, and fell into him, pushing him into the rocky wall. He bumped the arm that he injured the night before on a piece of stone that jetted out from the wall. He tore his coat, as well as the sweater underneath. He winced, and took off his coat to look at his arm. He pulled his jumper over his head and saw a crimson patch on his torn shirtsleeve.

She turned to him and said, “I’m so sorry, Mr. Malfoy. Oh my, you’re bleeding again.”

“Yes, I guess I’m not very good at healing spells,” he said half-heartedly.

“Good thing you’re going to the healing springs today,” she said back. She ducked through the opening, went to the rocky slope at the front of the cave, and started back down to the floor of the forest. Draco again started to follow. He bent low, to walk through the opening, but stopped suddenly, when he saw a familiar piece of white gauze sticking out of the rocky wall. He removed a few of the rocks, and then he saw it…another body.

“Cat?” he yelled. “Go get Milo and Hermione, now.”

She started back up but then he shouted, “Don’t come back up here, just get them now!”

Two hours later, Hermione, Milo and Draco had exhumed another body out of the wall of the opened cave. It had been covered with stones, in a crude sort of tomb. Cat and Iver stayed down below, on the path.

Hermione collected evidence from the body as Draco collected evidence from the cave. Milo stood by the opening and he said, “Only two more bodies from Dorchester are unaccountable now.”

“Yes,” Hermione said, as she took some hair samples. “All of these girls had dark hair,” she said suddenly. “Odd.”

“You know what’s odder still?” Draco asked, coming to kneel beside her. He whispered in her ear, “That I was almost led to this body by our young friend, Cat.”

Hermione looked over at Milo, who was staring outside. She nodded to Draco and whispered back, “I was thinking the same thing.”

Milo walked back toward the pair and said, “Here comes MacNeill, Angus and Thom now. Angus and Thom are my first cousins. They’ll take the body back to the castle.”

Once they were outside the cave, Hermione said, “I think under the circumstances, we should all go back to the castle, and forgo the springs, don’t you?”

“No,” Milo insisted. “We must go on the spring. Iver needs it, and I suspect both of you need it as well.”

“You and Iver go on,” Draco said. “I agree with Granger. We should go with the body, and get to work.”

“No!” he insisted louder. “It’s imperative that you come as well. Please, I think you both could benefit from it, as well. The bodies will still be there.”

“I’m coming, too,” Cat said. “I don’t want to go to the castle.”

“Come with me, lass,” her father said. “Ya not be needin’ the healin’ springs, gel. Leave it to Iver and Milo.”

“I want to go,” she begged. She looked at Iver and said, “I want to go with you.”

Iver looked at his brother and said, “I don’t see the harm. Let her come.”

“I want her to go back with her father,” Milo said, giving his brother a stern look. “My word is still law.” He looked at Cat and said, “Go with your father and don’t complain.”

Hermione watched as Milo’s cousins took the body away, and as Cat and her father walked away as well. She and Draco fell into step behind Iver and Milo, but Hermione purposely lagged behind, so that she could have a moment alone with Draco. They needed to talk.

Milo and Iver started down the forest path, assuming Draco and Hermione were following behind. Iver purposely walked ahead of the pair, knowing his brother would match his pace, so he could have a second alone to speak with him. When they were far ahead, Iver frowned and then said to Milo, “I don’t like this one bit.”

“I know, I don’t either. I can’t believe there was another body,” Milo said. His brother turned on the path to face him.

“While that’s terrible indeed, that’s not what I meant!” Iver hissed.

Milo looked confused and asked, “What do you mean?”

He looked around his brother to see how close Draco and Hermione were, and when he didn’t see them he said, “I don’t like lying to them. They’re here to help us! They’re here to help solve these murders!”

“No, he’s here to fulfill destiny, to bring our clans together, and to fulfill the prophecy,” Milo said plainly.

Iver grasped his brother’s coat sleeve and said, “And what if the rest of the story comes true? You know how the folktale ends!”

“We won’t let it,” Milo insisted.

“I still don’t like lying to them. You’re leading them to these springs, telling them that they’re healing springs, when they’re so much more. You purposely caused her to bleed today, I know you did, and Cat told me she caused Draco to bleed, under your bidding.”

“Yes, and the springs will heal them, too,” Milo said, though he too was frowning. “I’m doing what I have to do to save our people, Iver. It’s all I’ve ever done. You should know that.”

“And they should know the significance of the springs,” Iver pleaded. “Please, Milo. Especially as he was injured and so was she. There might be a blood exchange in the spring.”

“That’s what I want,” he said. “She’s his mate. His Veela blood hasn’t been diluted and the mate magic hasn’t waned with him, so this is a perfect solution.”

“I won’t be a part of this,” Iver decided. He walked ahead of his brother. Milo rushed up to his brother, and pulled him around.

“You will do exactly as I say. It’s not as if I’m happy with this solution either! I had hoped she would be mine, but she’s not. You will not say a word to them.” Milo left it with that. He grabbed Iver’s sleeve and dragged him toward the springs.

Draco looked up the path and could barely make out the other two men, as they were so far ahead. He took Hermione’s elbow and said, “Iver and Milo are probably halfway to springs by now. Let’s go back.”

“No, it’s probably best to follow them. You know, bodies are building up, Malfoy,” she said. She looked down at the ground and said, “By the way, you left me again this morning, without even a goodbye.”

“So?” He took her hand in his and walked with her down the trail. He kept a brisk pace, until he spied the other men, and then he slowed down.

“Should we talk about some things?” she asked.

“Like the weather?” he asked. “It’s very cold, for October.”

“Fine,” she said, frustrated. “Yes, it’s cold.” She removed her hand from his and walked ahead slightly.

“Walking away from me isn’t taking things slowly, Granger,” he shouted. “That’s more like avoiding things.”

She stopped and waited for him. She took his hand and they walked along, to the springs. The path was narrow and littered with fallen leaves and timber. The forest was unusually quiet, with only the sounds of a waterfall breaking through the silence and peace. The trees grew denser, and soon, they stood before a pool of blue and green, the water of which was rippling and shimmering in the bright sunlight.

The pool was fed by a small waterfall that jetted from the hillside and rocks. Milo pointed toward an opening in the rocks and said, “Through this cave is an underground spring, which has healing powers. Iver is already in there.”

“What about this spring?” Hermione asked, pointing toward the water in front of them.

“That’s just a pool. There’s nothing magical or healing about it, and it’s not a hot spring, so I dare say if you tried to swim in there right now, you’d freeze, although many a summer days were spent here by my brother and I.” He sat next to the spring and said, “Malfoy, why don’t you go on into the cave, with Iver? Your arm will feel better in no time.”

“What about Granger? She’s bound to still feel poorly from all of her injuries,” Draco pointed out. “She cut her arm that first night, when her car exploded and the glass from the window broke. She was shot, she cut her hand, and well, you know what happened in the chamber.”

“Exactly, so she’ll go in the springs after you two are done, unless you aren’t bashful, and you all want to go in together. Iver’s not bashful, I dare say he wouldn’t care,” Milo said. He gave Draco a challenging look.

Draco said, “Hermione and I will both wait until Iver is done, and then the two of us will go in together.”

“I thought you might say that,” Milo said, smiling.

Hermione sat on the narrow bank of the pool, far away from Milo, and watched the water swirling in front of her. She pulled on a long reed and moved it between her fingers. Draco sat beside her and said, “What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking that you should be angry with me, after last night, but you’re acting very mature about the whole ‘taking it slow’ thing. I’m impressed.” She turned and moved the long blade of grass across his face.

“Don’t be,” he insisted, batting the blade of grass away with his hand. “I am slightly angry. You know, I thought that you would be angry, too. I did say some strange things, you know; all that, ‘you’re mine’ crap.”

“Oh that,” she said. “I forgot that.” He turned to her; she turned to him, and smiled. She laughed and added, “Seriously, I figure that’s just how you view things. You know, you are Draco Malfoy after all, and you’re used to getting your way. I’m fine with you thinking that, as long as you’re fine with me wanting to take it slow.”

He shrugged. “I didn’t say I was fine with it.”

She said, “Did you know that Milo told me this morning that the magic of loving and finding ones mate is waning, and that not many of the young men from their village even have mate dreams anymore. It’s fascinating, from an anthropology stand point.”

“A what stand point?” he joked.

She wiggled the long reed on his cheek again. Iver walked up to them and said, “The pool’s all yours now. I feel one hundred percent better. Milo is going to wait out here for you, and I’m going to head back.”

Hermione and Draco stood and followed the little spring, to the rocky waterfall. They found the opening in the cave, and walked inside. Once inside, the whole cave was illuminated with natural light from an opening in the top of the cave. Sunshine came inside in rays, bounced off the walls, and cast the whole room in every colour of the rainbow, with the water acting as a prism to the natural luminosity.

“It’s beautiful in here,” she said. She walked over to the pool and bent down, to touch the water with her hand. “Oh, it’s so warm, Draco.”

“Good,” he said. He seemed nervous. He paced by the edge of the water. Hermione stood up and watched him.

“Do you really mean to go in with me, or shall we take turns?” she asked.

“What do you want to do?” he asked. He knew what he wanted, but he wanted to see what she wanted.

“I’ll have to go in with my underwear, so I should go in alone,” she reasoned.

He was afraid she would say that. “Are you bashful now, Granger? If you’re going in alone, just go in naked, and I’ll wait over by the opening, then. Call me over when you’ve finished.” He walked over to the opening of the cave, and sat down, his back toward her. He looked over his shoulder once, as she started to remove her coat and jumper. He turned his head back toward the outside.

Hermione quickly undressed, keeping on her knickers and her bra. She sat at the edge of the spring and lowered her feet slowly into the pool. Once she was certain that the water was warm throughout, she lowered her entire body into the water. She found that she could not touch the bottom, so she slipped her whole body underwater, touched the bottom with her foot, kicked upward, coming out of the water rapidly, rubbing her hands over her eyes.

The water felt glorious. Better than anything that she could ever imagine. Her body tingled. She closed her eyes and submerged again. She kicked away from one side to end up at the other side. She twirled in a circle, enjoying the way the water rippled over her arms and legs. She floated on her back and closed her eyes.

Draco stood up and walked over to the side of the pool, and watched her as she floated on her back, eyes closed. She wasn’t aware he was there. He slowly removed all of his clothes, and lowered himself into the water.

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