A Day and A Night

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Chapter 32: A Sigh and a Sign:

Earlier, that same night:

Hermione Granger sat at a tall wooden table in the kitchen of Rhodeana castle, eating a ham sandwich, drinking ale, and pouting. She was angry about the lack progress with the case, she was angry that she couldn’t test her theory about the jewelry, she was angry that she didn’t get to see Harry in the village, and well… she was angry with Draco. How dare he act as if his job was more important, or harder, or…what was the word he said to her earlier? Oh, yes, how dare he imply that he was ‘wearier’ than she was?

As she continued to eat, her anger began to ebb away, eased by nourishment and by her time alone, where she pondered everything he had told her earlier. Of course, he was weary, but so was she.

Earlier, when they left the workroom, she asked him if he wanted to go with her to the kitchen so she could ask Cook to make her a sandwich. He frowned, his forehead crinkling as the scowl passed over his entire face. “Why can’t you just have food brought up to my room for you? I don’t want to go all the way to the kitchen. I’m tired and like I told you, I’ve already eaten.”

“I know, and I told you that I hadn’t, and I thought you would keep me company,” she said, equally irked.

He sighed. “I told you Hermione, I’m very tired. I just want to go to bed. I feel broken down and weary. But, fine, I can see that we’ll always have to do what you want in this relationship. That’s how it’s been from the beginning…bring your car, go talk to the bookstore lady, examine runes in an ancient chamber. It’s always about you and what you want. So in keeping with the way things have gone so far, let’s go to the damn kitchen!” He started toward the back staircase that would take them to the kitchen.

“Draco,” she said, bringing her hand out to his arm to stop him, “I don’t know whether you’re delusional, or just tired, but why are you trying to pick a fight? And what do you mean, I always get my way?” She placed both hands on her hips and said, “May I remind you that if we had brought your car, it would now be blown to bits, instead of mine, and also, we gained a wealth of knowledge from Violet Edgewater.”

“What did we get from going down in the original castle’s dungeons?” he asked, mirroring her body, hands on his hips.

“Are you joking?” she asked, because she simply didn’t know where to start to answer that question. It too, was a wealth of knowledge, and he knew that!

“I’m just saying that I brought you along to help me solve this case, Granger, so help me solve the case!” Now Draco was speaking irrationally, he knew it, and he wasn’t sure why he was doing it. HE WAS JUST SO WEARY!

She stumbled on her words…she was speechless. “I…you…what?” She turned, then over her shoulder said, “I don’t even want you to eat with me now. Go up to your room, tired boy!”

He called out, “I just wish you knew how I felt! All I wanted was for you to come with me to my room so I would have someone to talk to!”

She left him in the hallway of the third floor, went to the basement, to the kitchen and asked Cook to make her a sandwich. On the off chance, that Draco might seek her out to apologize, (though she knew that was a long shot) she stayed down in the kitchen, instead of taking her sandwich to her room, so that she could avoid him.

She knew he was upset about the case, but damn him, he never really articulated his feelings before, so why was he ‘Mr. Talkative’ tonight? He never told her how he felt, he always kept things bottled up inside, and in a way, she wanted to keep things that way. She couldn’t handle his feelings on top of her own right now. She just couldn’t.

Of course, perhaps it was a good thing that he wanted her to come to his room so that they could talk. Maybe now would be a good time to draw him out. If she wanted a lasting relationship with him, his thoughts and feelings should matter to her. She ate the last bite of her sandwich, thanked the cook and her staff for opening the kitchen to her, then she set off for Draco’s room.

While walking up the stairs, she began to think about the necklace. The whole reason she wanted him to go the kitchen with her was to explain to him that she had devised a spell that would draw them to the magical proprieties of the unique metallic material of the jewelry. She would go get the necklace first, show him the spell, and then she would listen to his feelings. She really did want to listen to him, and find out what he was feeling, and comfort him, but first she wanted to show him the spell.

Also, a small part of her wanted to prove to him that her being here did matter, that she was a help, and that she COULD and WOULD help him solve this case.

In the interim, she might comfort him a bit as well. She walked down the hallway and entered the office.

Also, Earlier that Evening:

Cat was lying on her bed, when she heard a knock at her door. She was too tired to get up to answer it, so she merely said, “Come in.”

Iver poked his head in the room and said, “Hey, are you ready for bed?”

“Yes,” she said softly. He walked up to her bed, and brushed her long hair away from her face. Then he leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Where did you go after dinner?” she asked.

“Hermione wanted me to help her translate some Gaelic words that they found in the cave of the hot springs,” Iver explained. “We were having a good laugh until Malfoy came along. He really is a rude bugger. He started to…”

She sat us quickly, and interrupted him by saying, “Their bonding has started you know. They exchanged blood in the spring. Milo had me help him! I made sure Mr. Malfoy’s cursed arm bled again. Milo knows I can help and that I’m useful. There are only two more rituals, and the bond will be complete.”

Iver regarded her a moment, then said, “I know.”

“So she’s his, Iver,” she said quickly. “Not yours, not Milo’s, HIS!”

“I know!” he said emphatically. “I don’t think of her that way. I’m her friend.”

“I see how you look at her. I see how Milo looks at her. You both could still try to claim her after the blood bond, though you shouldn’t you know. She doesn’t love you. She loves him and he loves her. Leave them both alone!”

Iver stood from her bed. “Where is all of this coming from, Cat? I don’t want to claim Hermione. I’m her friend, and that’s all. I want to help them both, Malfoy and her. I want to help solve these murders and get back to our lives.”

She plopped back down on the bed, her head almost buried in the pillow, and she said, “What life? The life of lies? The life of aimlessness. The one where you and I merely continue to exist together, never taking it to the next level?” She looked back at him and said, “When will we begin our bonding? When will we marry? I love you, Iver. I want to get married!”

“You know why we can’t marry yet. We need to find a cure for my ailment, besides, Milo won’t allow it, and as head of the clan, and Prince of the people, he has to give his blessing,” Iver reminded her.

“Yes, and how convenient for you, since you don’t want to marry me anyway! How do you think that makes me feel, Iver?” she harped. She turned so that her back was facing him. “Go away, Iver, but leave Hermione alone. She’s not your mate.”

He placed his hand on her shoulder, but she shrugged it off. “I’m sorry, Cat. I didn’t know you were so upset by our friendship.”

She said, “You know, I could help with the case, too, if you all would let me. I’m not a child who needs to be protected. Not any longer. I could help you, too, with your affliction. I could help you the way Milo does. We would have a good life, but you don’t love me as much as I love you, and you never will.” She turned to her back and looked up at his face. She could tell by his pained expression that she was right.

“I’m so sorry, sweet girl,” he said. He reached for her cheek, and cupped her face. “First, you could get hurt, and that’s why we don’t want you to have anything to do with the solving of these murders, or anything to do with my illness. And, I do love you, but I can’t help it if I’m not in love with you. You’re like my little sister. I don’t see you that way. I don’t know if I ever will. Perhaps we should have Milo release you from your betrothal to me. You deserve someone else…someone who will love you, and give you what you want.” Before she could respond, he turned sharply and exited her room.

She sat on the side of the bed and sighed. She decided that she would prove him wrong. She was smart, as smart as Hermione Granger was. She could help find the murderer. She knew she could. In addition, she was pretty, perhaps prettier than Hermione. The most important thing was that she loved Iver, and she would make him love her. She slipped off her bed, out her door, and headed for the room that Hermione and Draco used as an office. She would find something there to help her help Iver. She would.

That same evening:

Draco watch Hermione as she stormed down the hallway and he called out, “I just wish you knew how I felt! All I wanted was for you to come with me to my room so I would have someone to talk to!”

He practically ran to his room, threw open the door, and then he slammed it shut as hard as he could. He slowly walked to his bed, sat down, and hung his head. He felt so fatigued. He was weary from the top of his head to the tip of his toes. He wanted all of this to end. The truth was, he felt weary because HE wasn’t helping with the case. He felt she was doing everything, taking all the risks. He felt that he was an appendage, a mere tool, and he didn’t know what to do. He hated feeling helpless. He hated it more than anything, even more than he hated feeling weary.

He felt bad for the murdered girls, their families, and for Hermione. She didn’t deserve any of this. He should have kept her from this. He should have insisted that she stay behind. He wanted her here with him because he was selfish. He wanted to bond with her, as odd as that sounded, so in the very beginning he suggested to the head Auror that they seek her help. It was because of him that she was in constant danger, and that she was tired and hurt, and instead of being a comfort to her, a companion, a lover, a protector, all he could do was whine that she didn’t understand how he felt.

Even though he had eaten earlier at the pub in the other village, he should have escorted her to the kitchen. It was all the way in the basement, and she might have been afraid, not that she would have admitted that. Maybe she asked Iver to go to the kitchen with her.

He sighed again. Well, no rest for the weary, he thought. He stood up and then smiled when he realized the real phrase was, ‘no rest for the wicked’. That could apply to him as well, because he really wanted to make up with Hermione so that he could make love to her again. He went over to the desk in his room, wrote up a quick report for Potter, signed and sealed the parchment, and then he rested his head on his hand.

He thought about the experience in the hot springs with Hermione and he concluded that it was singularly the most amazing, right, thing Draco had ever done in his life. She was right for him in every way. It was a pity it took him so long to notice.

The real pity was that it took this place to bring them together. He was beginning to like it here. He felt calm and reassured here. With the exception of that one evil chamber, he liked almost everything about this village, even the people. He had a true affinity for the place, and he even contemplated staying here after everything was over, but he knew that she would always equate this place with the murders. She would never want to stay here, and since Draco couldn’t fathom giving Hermione up, he would go wherever she went, even if it was to the end of the earth and back again.

Yet he wouldn’t go to the kitchen with her. He was so stupid! He stood up from the desk, determined to find her. As he walked, he thought of his future, a future with her. He knew he didn’t want to continue being an Auror. He only became one in the beginning to justify some of the wrongs he had done in the past. He wanted to right them, in his own way. He wanted to feel worthy. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to prove that he wasn’t a bad person. He wanted to do something good with his life.

If he couldn’t find the murderer of these young girls, he would never be able to prove to anyone that he was good enough. Hermione was good. She was good, caring, decent, smart, and he would never be good enough for her, but he wanted to try to be. Maybe there was something to this whole prophecy thing. Maybe he was meant to come here, make a difference – both in solving the murders and finding his mate. Maybe he was meant to bring these people together. Everyone needed a place in the world, and maybe, just maybe, this place was his. Nevertheless, it would never be hers.

He climbed down the stairs and stopped. He sat on the steps. He really was so weary. He would talk to Hermione later, perhaps. She was probably done eating anyway. He walked back up the stairs, back to his room, and practically fell on his bed, face down. He closed his eyes and went right to sleep.

Somewhere else, a bit later:

Iver paced the Great Hall. He explained his conversation with Cat to Milo, who was guarding the front doors. Milo seemed nonplussed, and told Iver not to worry about it. Then he told Iver to go guard the west tower. Their cousins, Angus, Thom and Enoch were guarding the other entrances. The rest of their clan, as well as some others, were guarding the grounds and the forest. Milo seemed uneasy, which made Iver uneasy.

“Why do you think something is going to happen tonight?” Iver asked again. He had already asked Milo that once, and all Milo did was grunt at him.

This time, Milo sighed. “I just feel it, and you know my feelings are almost always right. I tell you, something terrible, horrible, even cataclysmic, is going to happen tonight, something that will change all of our lives forever.”

Milo went back to the large oaks doors, opened one a bit, and stared outside into the dark night.

“I know this is a bad time, but I really need to ask you for this favour,” Iver said. He had already said this once to Milo, too. He asked him to release them both from the betrothal.

“Not now,” Milo said firmly. “It would show weakness among the other clans.”

“I’m not marrying Cat,” Iver finally said.

Milo whipped around, looked at his brother and said, “Stop this nonsense now!”

“I’m not! I don’t love her that way, and she deserves someone who will love, protect, and cherish her. She’s a special, beautiful girl, but she’s only a friend to me, a special friend, but not a lover, not a wife. She wants to get married, have children, start her life, and stop living in the limbo that we’ve created for her. It’s not fair to her or to me to keep this betrothal in place!”

Milo saw the pain in his brother’s eyes but said, “One male from each family has to marry a female from their own clan. You know that.”

“Then I’ll marry someone else someday, if I have to. I know I won’t have the luxury of marrying my mate.” Iver hung his head. Milo placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“I’m so sorry. I know how hard it is, not to claim your mate, especially since you know who yours is. I know you hate lying to everyone, telling them that you’ve never had your mate dream. I know it’s hard to pretend that you don’t know her. I’m so sorry, Iver. If I could take away your curse, so that you could have a normal life, and take it upon myself, I would, you know that, don’t you?” Milo said sincerely.

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” Iver said with a fake smile. He patted his brother’s back, said, “I’ll go talk to Cat and smooth things over with her. I’ll fix this.” He walked up the main staircase, went directly to Cat’s door, and without knocking, he opened it and walked inside. She wasn’t there.

He began to search for her everywhere. She wasn’t anywhere that he looked. He looked in all her usual places…the alcove on the second floor, the library, the conservatory, the music room. She wasn’t in any of her usual haunts. He started to become frantic, and he asked several servants to help in the search.

Finally, he went to Draco’s door, and knocked. He needed Draco to help him find Cat. Draco woke up at the sound of a knock. He hoped it was Hermione. He practically ran to the door, and threw it open.

“Malfoy,” Iver began, “Cat’s missing. Please, I need your help. Milo seems to think that something bad might occur tonight, and he’s usually right about these things. Now, she’s missing, and she was so upset earlier. I broke our betrothal.”

“Why?” Draco asked, shocked.

“I’m not in love with her,” he explained, “But that doesn’t matter. I’m going to tell her that I’ve changed my mind, but I need to find her first. Please, help me find her.”

“Let me get Granger,” Draco said. He walked to the next room, and knocked on the door. She didn’t answer. He opened the door, but she wasn’t there. Where was she? “Looks like we have two people to find,” Draco said, exasperated. “Let’s go look in the office.”

The men ran to the office. Draco entered first. It was empty. He stepped into the room, walked up to the window, and then turned around to look at the table, and his Auror instincts instantly made him notice two things: One – the window was broken, and it wasn’t that way earlier. It appeared to have been broken from the outside. Two – the necklace was missing, as was his jacket, which he had left on the chair earlier.

Why did he give her that blasted necklace? When he bought it, and told Potter about her theory that it was the connection to finding the last body, Potter agreed and told Draco that he wasn’t to give it to her under any circumstances. Potter told him that it might be a conduit – a link from the killer to the girls. Now she probably had it on her bloody neck, and if she were killed, he would never forgive himself. If she wasn’t killed, he would kill her himself, but of course, for her stupidity!

Iver walked over to the window to look at the crack. Neither man had spoken since entering the room. Draco was still searching the table for the necklace, when Iver said, “Draco, come here!”

Draco rushed to the window. Iver pointed outside. Then he saw it: a black figure, perhaps a man, perhaps some sort of animal, running toward the woods, dragging something white behind it.

His blood froze in his veins. Before he could say what he thought, Iver said, “My God, it’s a body! It’s a body! It’s the killer! We have to catch him!”

Iver stormed from the room, with Draco behind him. They both ran down the stairs, straight to Milo, who at that moment, was standing with both doors opened, and his face white, drained of blood. His hands clenched to his sides, knuckles white, he said, “Angus and Thom ran after the thing that was dragging it.” Milo pointed toward the white heap left in the courtyard before them. Iver rushed toward him, stood at his side, saw exactly the same thing his brother saw, and then he dropped to his knees and screamed.

Draco was afraid to see what the other men were seeing. However, he stepped between them, parting them, and walked out the door, down the stone steps, past the columns and he walked up to the body, wrapped in white cloth, on the ground in front of him.

He dropped to his knees. With his bare hands, and without a sound, he began to pull and tear at the white muslin swaddling the dead body.

The first thing he saw was the remnants of his jacket. It was torn, tattered, but it was definitely his jacket. He didn’t want to continue, but he did. He unwrapped more of the cloth, and saw the necklace around the body’s neck. His mouth opened to scream, but no sound came out. He knew he was screaming, but the sound was distant, silent, and he was frozen like a statue, pain etched on his face and the silent scream still on his lips.

Iver stood behind him now, crying openly. Milo lifted Draco away from the body, and with his wand, he reverently continued to cut away the gauze from the body. The clothing was torn and almost beyond recognition, but there was not any blood, whatsoever, on any of the clothing or on the body. There were deep cuts and long gashes on the chest and arms. Milo leaned down, tore the necklace from the body, and extended his hand toward Malfoy. Draco was still frozen. Iver took the necklace from his brother’s outstretched hand and stuffed it in his pocket.

The only thing still covered was the face. Iver was chanting something incoherent in the background. Draco, still stationary in his silent agony, continued to kneel on the ground. Milo sunk to his knees, and with his hand, removed the last piece of cloth around the head and face.

The first thing he saw was blond hair. He said, “It’s not her, Malfoy. It’s not her.”

However, Iver screamed one word, “CAT!” and then Milo knew that even though it wasn’t Hermione, it was just as bad. It was Cat. He hung his head in anguish, stood up quickly, brought his brother into his arms, and held him as he cried.

Draco said, “It isn’t her. It isn’t Hermione.”

Then, where was she?

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