A Day and A Night

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Chapter 33: A Cataclysmic Event and a Tomb:

On a table in the basement of Rhodeana castle, covered with a sheet, was the body of Cat MacNeill. Surrounding her body were her father, Mr. MacNeill, Draco Malfoy, Milo and Iver Dorchester. Placed in this room along with the other two bodies, the men stood silently around the table, her father staring directly at her face, and crying, Draco staring at the floor, worried for Hermione, Milo staring at the damaged done to the poor girl’s body, and Iver - his eyes were closed, deep in a silent meditation.

They had already discovered that she was killed on top of the tower. They found evidence…blood, hair, and even a black feather. They also found a note this time, tucked inside the swaddling that covered Cat’s lower body. There was nothing else for them to do. Draco sent an urgent Owl to Potter, because they needed more help, more Aurors, and oh yes, Hermione was missing.

Mr. MacNeill began to cry openly. He reached out and stroked his daughter’s hair. Draco had always thought the man somewhat cold, aloof, unfeeling, but this was his only child, and he wept as a father who had just lost his only child would weep. He kept saying things such as, “My poor little girl,” and “Look what they did to my little girl.” Draco could barely hide his own sorrow. He placed his hand on the older man’s back and patted it twice.

Draco took a few steps backwards and pulled on Milo’s shirt, to gain his attention. Milo turned around and Draco said, “I need to go find Granger. I can’t wait for the Aurors to arrive. What if whoever did this to Cat also killed her?”

Iver turned to the other men and said, “I’ll help you find her. I feel responsible, somehow.”

Milo told them, “The others will find her. I have them searching the grounds, the woods, the village and both castles. Angus is in Dorchester waiting for the Aurors. We should all remain here and wait.”

However, MacNeill turned around, stopped crying, and he said, “No, Malfoy must find her. She’s his bonded.”

Milo turned directly in front of Draco and said, “Fine, close your eyes, Malfoy, and try to sense her. Feel her. Draw from the blood bond, and perhaps you’ll find her.”

Draco grabbed Milo’s collar and pushed him up against the wall. Iver grabbed Draco’s arm to detain him, but at that moment, Draco was too enraged, too strong, to stop. He shouted, “You did force a blood bond! Hermione thought that you had! WHY?”

“You should be thanking me, not trying to strangle me!” Milo said. He pushed Draco away, and straightened his shirt collar. “It will help you to find her!”

“Oh really? Well what in the hell am I supposed to be feeling?” Draco spat. What he wanted to do was to go run blindly into the night, find Harry Potter and the other Aurors, and flatten this whole place to the ground.

To Draco’s surprise, Mr. MacNeill placed his hand on Draco’s chest. His face, weathered with age, still streaked with tears of grief, was close to his and he said, ”Close your eyes, son. Remember the way she smelled, the way she tasted, and the way she made you feel.” He talked softly, his heavy brogue less pronounced. Draco closed his eyes, as if under a spell. “Seek her out, not with your eyes, but with your senses, your heart, and your heritage. You’ve exchanged blood now, and she’s your mate. You should at least be able to feel what she’s feeling. Now tell me, what do you feel?”

He felt insurmountable fear and anguish, and he didn’t know if it was Hermione’s or his own. It was unbearable – sorrow, trepidation, distress, anguish, and even physical pain. Draco sunk to his knees, MacNeill’s hand moved to Draco’s shoulder. Draco said, “I feel her fear. She’s somewhere dark, she’s alone, and afraid. She’s been hurt. She’s been hurt, badly. It feels like a tomb. I sense death all around her. I don’t know where she is, but it’s dark and she’s terrified. She’s here in this castle, I’m sure she’s close to us.”

Milo looked at his brother and said, “The underground tunnels! But I sealed those years ago; still I wonder…” he turned to MacNeill and said, “You stay here. When the others come back, have them help us search the tunnels. Iver, you begin to search the ones that lead to the springs. I’ll take Draco with me. We’ll search the ones that lead to the old castle.”

Draco stood up and said, “You mean she might be in the old castle? These tunnels lead to the old castle?” Draco was afraid that she might be in the chamber at Dorchester castle.

Milo nodded and said, “They lead almost everywhere. It could take us days to search them all, and she could be anywhere. I closed the entrance to them years ago, but somehow, I think the place you described is the tunnels. I feel it so strongly. I sense her there, too.”

Earlier:

The necklace wasn’t on the worktable where Hermione had left it. She wondered if Draco had taken it. Didn’t he trust her? Well, she did come back for it, so he had every right not to trust her, but still. She looked over at the circular windows of the turret and saw that one had a long crack, top to bottom. She was certain it wasn’t that way before. It wasn’t broken the other day when they had their raindrop race. Earlier, she had heard a strange boom, a loud sound, and she wondered if that was the cause of the window’s crack. She touched the heavy paned glass lightly with her hand. She turned to leave the room, when she noticed that Draco’s jacket was gone.

Maybe he only hid the necklace. Maybe he hid it outside, or up on the top of the tower. That’s why his jacket was gone. It’s cold outside. This would give her a great chance to try her spell. She would search for the necklace with her spell! Then she would take the necklace to Draco, hold it up, gloat a bit, and then comfort him if he was still in a bad mood.

She lit a lantern that was on the table, held it in her left hand, and pointed her wand in front of her. She said the incantation, and her wand began to shake. It pulled her, almost literally, out the door. She began to run down the corridor, her wand guiding her steps, her blindly following. She ran down hallways, stairs, corridors, through rooms, hidden doorways, down more stairs, until she was deep in the dungeons of the castle.

She had a bad feeling about this. What if the spell was leading her to the last body, and not to the necklace that Draco had bought earlier? Did she really want to find a body by herself? The lantern in her other hand did not afford much light, but she decided to forge on, since she didn’t think she could find her way back upstairs even if she tried. The sooner she found the body, the sooner she could worry about someone finding her.

If Malfoy had to search for her down here, she would never here the end of it. She stumbled down the corridor, which became narrower as she continued on her way. It continued to decline as well, so she knew she was deep underground. Devoid of bright light, her other senses kicked into overtime…and they were wrecking havoc with her emotions. She heard rats squealing, which terrified her (ever since the incident with Wormtail, she had hated rats). She heard water dripping from the ceilings, and even felt it on her skin. She was cold and frightened.

Her wand continued to guide her, continued to steer her deeper into the underbelly of the beast. Blackness and more blackness painted the passageway before her. She felt disoriented. She started to run…why, she didn’t know. Her imagination was active and feeding her fears. Her foot caught on something on the ground, and as she fell, she was careful not to hit her hand again, so she turned quickly so that she fell on left shoulder and hip. Her face hit the wall with a hard thump.

The pain was blinding, searing. Her cheek hurt, she had fire like pain in her hip and leg. The pain in her shoulder was unbelievable. The lantern flew from her hand when she fell, and the light went out. She dropped her wand, also. She lay on her side, huddled in a ball, unable to move, unable to breathe for a moment as the wind was knocked out of her. Every nerve ending, muscle, and bone in her body ached from the fall. She couldn’t even cry. She made a pitiful, moaning noise, and felt around for her wand.

She found her wand, lit it, and pointed it toward the floor, so she could see why she tripped. Oh. No. She scooted her body across the floor, against the wall, tucked her head into her chest, bent her knees, and began to panic. She closed her eyes tightly. It was another body, wrapped in white swaddling cloth, on the floor right beside her. She tried to calm herself. She told herself that everything was fine. Someone would find her soon. It would all be over. She did it…she found the last body.

With great difficulty, and pain, she lifted her wand, and removed the wrapping from the face of the body. When she saw the face, she couldn’t help herself, she screamed, and screamed, and screamed.

Draco and Milo decided to split up, and they would send out their patronus when they found her. Not if they found her, WHEN. Draco stopped running, placed his hand on his head, and a feeling that was more than fear, a feeling that bordered on dread, sent a chill down his spine. Then he heard a scream. He knew it was she! He started to run, not aware why he was running, only aware that she was near, and that something was terribly wrong.

He took only a few more steps and then he saw her and something else, possibly another body, beside her on the ground of the narrow passageway. She was on her side, shaking and shuddering, on the ground, in a fetal position. He sent out his patronus, and then approached her slowly. He glanced over at the body once, and then back to her. The sight of her, afraid and alone, sucked all the breath right out of his body.

His blood ran cold when he touched her. Her skin was like ice. “Hermione?” he said. She didn’t answer. She didn’t even seem to be aware that he was there. He couldn’t tell if she was injured, or merely frightened, but she wouldn’t look at him, and she didn’t appear to hear him, as he said her name a second time. “Hermione?”

She appeared to shatter into pieces when he pulled her away from the body. He reached for her arm with his hand, and when he grasped her wrist, she moaned, wailed, and even began to hit at him, claw at him, scream and shout. He backed up, with her in his arms, so he could put some distance between them and the body. He scooted them as far away as he could. He held his arms tightly around her. He said, “I’m here, Hermione. I’m here. It’s okay.”

Her fingers wrapped around his arms like a vise. He tried to pry them off him, so he could see if she was hurt. He moved his wand light across her face. Her cheek was bruised already, purple and blue. She whimpered when he touched her left shoulder. He stood up, picked her up into his arms, and walked further away from the body on the ground.

He sat back down on the cold, wet, stone floor, his back against the wet rock, her in his lap, his wand on the floor, still lit, and he rocked her in his arms. She held her lit wand tightly in her left hand. He said, “I’m so proud of you, Hermione. You did it. You found the last body. You did it.” He didn’t know what else to say. He wasn’t even sure if she had yet to realize that he was holding her, as she still seemed so despondent.

She began to relax in his arms, her trembling lessened, and he whispered soothing words in her ear, telling her that he loved her, he was proud of her, and that she was going to be okay. “Milo will come soon and lead us out of here.”

“There’s another body. I tripped over a body,” she finally said.

He wanted to tell her that was an obvious fact that she didn’t need to tell him, but instead he said, “Yes, I know.”

“It’s not the last girl, Malfoy,” she said. She looked up into his eyes.

“Yes, it is. Remember? We only have one last body to find,” he said. He wasn’t going to tell her about Cat. Not yet.

“I removed the cloth from the face, right before I screamed,” she said quietly, almost in a whisper. “It’s not the last girl. It’s a woman, older than the rest, and she had blond hair, Malfoy. The same colour hair as Cat. At first, I even thought it was Cat. Oh my God.” She closed her mouth into a tight line, moaned, and buried her face in his chest.

He put a finger under her chin, forced her to look up at him, and whispered, “You’re safe, Hermione. Whoever it is, you did a great job. You found her. I was so afraid I lost you this evening. We couldn’t find you anywhere.” She looked up at him, with her big brown eyes, and his heart splintered in two at the pain he found within their depths.

“I should have listened to you. I should have waited. What if you hadn’t come to look for me?” she said. “Why did you come? Did you go to my room first, and see that I wasn’t in bed? I was afraid that no one would discover that I was missing until morning.”

“Well,” he began, and then hesitated. He felt like someone had beaten him to a bloody pulp. He felt defeated. He was still feeling the weariness that he had felt earlier, combined with the grief of Cat’s death and with the fear that he was feeling from Hermione, he wasn’t even sure he could speak. He didn’t want to cause her any more pain. He didn’t want to feel that pain. He felt haunted, and utterly lost and defenseless, and he hated feeling like that. Finally, he said quickly, “We found a body, too, or really, the killer hand delivered a body to our doorsteps tonight.”

She gasped. “Was it the last girl? Please, say that it was, so that this can all end.”

Her hand grasped his tightly. He brought her hand to his lips, kissed the top, and then placed a kiss at her temple, near her hair. He was gentle and his movements slow and deliberate. He held her to his chest, and without looking in her face he said, “It was Cat. She apparently went to the office and took the necklace, and somehow, we think maybe up on the tower, she was attacked and killed. She had my jacket on, and the necklace was around her neck.”

Draco continued, “The killer even left a message this time. It was wrapped up with the body. It was written in Gaelic.”

She sucked in air, looked up at him and asked, “What did it say?”

His hand left face, as he held her in his arm, on his lap, on the cold hard ground of the narrow passageway, so that he could remove the note from his pocket. He moved her slightly to the side to do so. She winced in pain. He apologized, righted himself, pulled her back in his lap and handed it to her.

The note said:
‘Slàn leat Hermione Granger’. She asked, “What do the first two words mean, Malfoy?”

“Goodbye. It says, Goodbye, Hermione Granger.”

She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t process what he was saying to her. He continued, “We went up to the tower, and we discovered blood and other evidence. Milo thinks that the killer may have been acting on the sense of smell, smelling you and me on my jacket, and as you suspected, the killer was using the jewelry as a honing device.”

She looked up at him. “You mean that the killer thought she was me. The killer wanted to kill me.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement.

“That’s my assumption,” Draco said. He hated being brutally honest to her at a time like this, but he didn’t know what else to say to her.

“Cat died because of me,” she said. Then she finally began to cry.

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