All characters belong to JKR
Chapter 40: A Beginning and an End:
"How did you manage it?" Hermione asked. She wasn't afraid, she wasn't even terribly surprised. Actually, somehow, she suspected that Violet Edgewater wasn't really dead all along.
"Do you mean, how did I manage to get past all the Aurors, or how did I manage to come back to life?" Violet asked with a sad smile.
"Well, you can answer both, but I'm really curious about how it is that you aren't dead right now, since I did an autopsy on your body," Hermione stated matter-of-fact.
"It was easy enough. I found a way to use polyjuice potion on a body when it is just recently deceased. Don't worry, I didn't kill anyone. Jennifer took care of that. She found a young maid from the motel alone in your room, right after you spoke with Milo the first time, and having never met you, she thought it was you, so she killed her. I found the body before you did, polyjuiced it to appear as me, and you all did the rest."
"Why did you want everyone to think that you died?" Hermione asked, "And more importantly, what about the girl who really died? What about her family?"
"I knew her. She was alone in the world, she had no one, no family, not that it clears my conscience much," the older woman said. "It was imperative that Jennifer think that she killed me. I thought that would make her stop. I was wrong. May we go out to the other room and finish our talk?"
Hermione looked down at her wand, where it lay on the bathmat. Violet's eyes followed Hermione's and she said, "By all means, get your wand. I mean you no harm." Hermione leaned down, picked up her wand, all without taking her eyes off the older woman.
Then she pointed her wand at Violet and said, "Have a seat on the bed and start talking."
Violet sat on the bed and said, "I persuaded Milo to call the Aurors in the beginning. We both suspected Jennifer of the crimes, after the university students went missing. We didn't really suspect her concerning the other missing girls. It wasn't until the last two went missing that we began to suspect Jennifer was responsible for those victims also."
"No," Hermione said, leaning against the dresser, her wand still pointed at the woman. "Start at the real beginning, and don't use the old excuse that you can't tell me anything."
"There really is a curse that keeps us from talking, but I can fill in the gaps of what you already know," Violet decided. "When I was a little girl, I was different from other little girls. I could do things. My great-grandmother told me that she was a witch, and she told me the legends of Glendora, and how Dorchester was formed. She told me about the eighth sister, and how we were her descendents, but that for most of us, the magic was all but lost. For a few lucky ones, like me, the magic remained in our blood."
"I became best friends with a little girl named Tessa. She was blonde, blue eyed, beautiful. She was a distant cousin of mine. Her grandmother and my grandfather were first cousins. She too had the gift of magic. She too had to keep it secret."
"When our Hogwarts letters came, we weren't aloud to go. We were forbidden by our relatives, who feared that the other members of our village would find out that we were magical, but the funny thing was, there were many magical people in hiding in Dorchester. I think the real fear was that the people of Glendora would discover that we still had magical people amongst us."
"So we went to regular schools, and practiced our magic on our own, on the side. We still had to register with the Ministry. The summer we were both eighteen, a boy named Alexis came to our village. He was dark as night…dark completion, dark eyes, dark straight hair, and too good looking for words. He fell in love with Tessa, and she with him."
"He told us both stories about Glendora. That's how I came to write my book, from his stories. He was already bonded to his mate, and he was prince of not only his clan, the prime clan, but of all his people, but he didn't love his mate. I found that odd. Why have a mating system if you don't automatically love your mate? Nevertheless, he gave her up to marry Tessa, in secret. Then, in the dead of night, he took her away from our village. She came and said goodbye to me. She wrote to me often. She told me that his bonded, a woman named Cairistiona, also known as Cairis, had his baby and that she too was with child. She said that Alexis had stolen the baby boy from his mother, and that he had asked Tessa to raise him. She said she instantly loved the little boy, and that she him Milo."
Hermione moved from the dresser to sit next to Violet. The older woman let out a long breath before she continued. "Her next letter was darker. She wrote to tell me that her son Iver had been born. He was a beautiful little boy and they were very happy, but Cairis, her husband's bonded, heard of this upcoming joyful event. As little Iver drew his first breath, Cairis cast a terrible curse, the curse of vampirism, which often plagued the Valdes in previous generations. Even more disturbing than her curse on poor Iver though was what she did to her own son. She apparently also cast the same curse on Milo, and lastly she performed two other curses on the boys. She cursed her own son so that he would never have his mate dream. She wanted him to walk the ends of the earth, to look for his mate, and never to find her, to punish her own mate for forsaking her. Then the woman cursed baby Iver's future mate, with the curse of the Valeriana. The moment Iver had his mate dream, and revealed it to anyone, at that very moment, the curse would be activated. The mate that the dream revealed would turn into a beast at night. That person, we learned years later, was my own niece, Jennifer."
The old woman hung her head, and began to cry. "Jennifer was thirteen years old the first time she turned into a beast at night. She killed a flock of sheep in the village. Of course, the only people who knew it was she, besides me, was my brother, his wife, Tessa, and her husband Alexis, because I wrote to them. At the time, their sons were 14 years old, and almost 16. Alexis was so enraged that Cairis had threatened exposure of their village by extending her curse to someone unknown that he ordered her death. She was living with the third clan at the time, having been banished by MacNeill many years before, after she delivered her daughter, Catriona."
"That edict never took place. The night before her execution was scheduled, Alexis and his wife, my best friend in the whole world, Tessa, was killed in a fire, set by members of Cairis' family. The boys narrowly escaped the fire."
"I was so enraged, so angry, that I took Jennifer into Glendora, in the dead of night, with great danger to myself and to her, and I confronted the entire third clan. I called the woman out, and demanded satisfaction. I challenged her to a duel. Everyone in her clan laughed at me. They taunted me, threw curses and hexes at both poor Jennifer, and me, so we left, but we hid near the loch. That night, Cairis was leaving the village by boat; she was probably going into hiding, afraid that we might call the Muggle authorities, or the Ministry. Instead, I unleashed my niece on her, in all her cursed glory."
Hermione looked at the woman, shocked. "Jennifer's first victim was Milo and Cat's mother?"
"Yes, she killed the woman when she was only a child, just thirteen years old. It was the first person she killed. We took the body to Rhodeana castle, and MacNeill said he would hide it."
"MacNeill hid her body in the tunnels? I should have known. I never fully trusted that man. You could have gotten help for Jennifer, you know, you could have contacted the Ministry," Hermione said with spite. "Many people would still be alive today, if you had."
"Sometimes I wish I had gotten help from the Ministry," the woman said softly. "Around that time, Milo began to come to the village. He was the new prince of his people, and he was young, just seventeen, but he was searching for his mate. I told him everything. I told him who I was, about his real mother, and about Tessa, who was the only mother he had ever known. Then I told him about Jennifer, and about the curses Cairis had cast on him, Iver and Jennifer. He became interested in Jennifer. He became a friend to her. No one around here liked her. She was lonely. She was exiled from her family because of her differences, and I was the only one that could control her changing. I even taught her to control the change, so that she could change at will. Milo was kind to her. He told her about the village, about the Valdes, and even about Iver. He promised her that someday she could go there to live. I think, in many ways, he fell in love with her. I know she fell in love with him."
Violet smiled a true smile and said, "She is so very beautiful, you see, but her mind, well, she's very child like."
"Yes, I saw her picture," Hermione agreed, "and she is very beautiful, but she's also a killer, and the very fact that you just admitted that she can change at will tells me that she's a cold blooded killer, at that. These murders were premeditated, and calculated. Why didn't you and Milo try to stop her when you first suspected."
"We couldn't find her at first," Violet reasoned. "At least, Milo claimed he couldn't, but I know he has that superior smelling ability, and he has second sight, like me. I suspect he knew where she was. I imagine Milo wanted to protect her because a part of him loved her. More than that though, Milo loves his brother more than he loves anyone, and Jennifer is his brother's mate."
"That's when I decide that we needed to call the Ministry. I told him if he didn't call them, I would. I told him to let the Ministry catch her, and that way, the responsibility of capturing her would be theirs, and they would be the ones guilty of betraying her, not him."
"Yet, he's been working against you, keeping you at bay, keeping you from finding out it was she, even leading you to believe that she was a victim herself, because he's been in denial. In other ways, I think he has been trying to help you. He's in the ultimate quagmire. He doesn't want his brother to go without a mate, he doesn't know what to do with his feelings for you, and most of all, I don't think he wants to believe that she's become an animal, a killer. I know I don't want to think that, either."
"The turning point came when she killed Cat. I mean, not only was he beginning to have deep feelings for you, but adding that to his long standing feelings for Jennifer, his confusion was shaking his confidence in himself. He questioned the veracity of his feelings especially since neither of you are his mate," Violet concluded.
"I once told him that perhaps he needed to stop looking for his mate, and love might just happen upon him," Hermione told her.
"Wise words," Violet said. "I really couldn't just come out and tell you all of this because of the ancient curse. I wanted the book to lead you to the answers, and I didn't know that Iver and Milo would tell you so many falsehoods, and try to confuse you so much. Now, I just want it to end. I don't want any more bloodshed. I want Jennifer to pay for her sins, just as I must pay for mine, because I was the cause of Cairis' death, by exposing her to Jennifer."
"That's for the Wizengamot to decide, not me," Hermione declared. "Thank you for finally being honest. I just realized something. The DNA of the body we thought was yours and the body we thought was Jennifer's wouldn't have matched even if that body was Jennifer's, because the first body wasn't yours."
"That's right," Violet said.
"Where are all the Aurors? How did you get rid of them, and sneak into my room?" Hermione asked.
The old woman smiled again and said, "I'm almost as good at magic as you are, Miss Granger. They're nearby. I might have started a small riot in the town square, to draw their attention away from here and even though your Mr. Malfoy put up all sorts of wards around this motel, I might have found a way in anyway." The old woman seemed quite proud of herself.
"Okay," Hermione said slowly, "What shall we do about Jennifer, Milo and Iver? Do you even know where they are?"
"No, I don't," she answered honestly.
"Does Milo know you're alive?" Hermione asked.
"No one does, but you," she answered.
"Here's what we're going to do," Hermione began, "I'm calling some of the Aurors back here to watch you, and I'm going to ask a few of them to take me back across the loch. Then we're going to find Draco and Harry, tell them what we know, and search for Jennifer, even if we have to use me for bait." Hermione stuck her wand in her pocket, and put her jacket on, and then she looked at the older woman and said, "Since Jennifer obviously sees me as a threat, I think my presence will draw her out, don't you? Now, do you have any of that jewelry on you?"
Harry, Draco and three other Aurors were searching the vast, thick forest all around Glendora. There were more Aurors stationed all around the village, at each exit and entrance in and out, at each of the clan's primary castles, as well as some at Dorchester castle, and Rhodeana castle. They had been searching for the Dorchesters and for Jennifer Cravens for hours, and as the noon sun began to move in the sky, denoting the beginning of afternoon, Harry was beginning to wonder if they had left the village, and if the search for them was in vain.
He sat down near a stream, his hand coming to rest in the water, when he saw a shadow fall over him. He looked up slightly, and saw Draco on the other side of the stream, so he knew the shadow was someone unknown. Draco looked over toward them sharply, immediately, as soon as Harry was aware of the other person being there, and then Draco cursed a blue streak. Harry stood quickly, drew his wand, and tumbled the other person to the ground.
Draco apparated beside them and said, "Get the hell off her, Potter! Damn, I'll never get Potter germs off her now."
"Well, if you hadn't started yelling and screaming like a little girl, making me think it was an enemy behind me, perhaps I wouldn't have come up swinging," Harry shouted, still sitting on Hermione's hips.
Her friends amused Hermione. "Aren't you two happy to see me? Ouch, Harry, I think my bum's on a rock. Get off me, you're heavy!"
"Get off her!" Draco reiterated. He pushed on Harry's shoulder, and then gave his hand to Hermione. He pulled her to a stand, and brushed off her back and backside, and then he shouted, "What the hell are you doing here?"
"He brought me," she said, pointing to a young Auror.
"You're arse is so fired!" Draco shouted.
"You can't fire me," the young man said. "You're just an Auror, like me."
"Potter, do some good, and fire this git," Draco said.
"Why did you bring her, Timmons?" Harry asked. "It's not safe for her here."
"That's why she's here, Sir. She wants to use herself as bait to draw out the murderess," the young man said. "We all thought it was a good idea, and the old woman, Violet Edgewater, said she thought it would work, as well."
Harry looked confused and said, "A dead woman told you Hermione's idiotic plan would work?"
Hermione threw one arm around Harry's neck and said, "She's not dead, and it's not idiotic. Listen to me, and I'll explain." She told them all her plan, and about her talk with the 'dead' Violet Edgewater.
"See, gentlemen, my original theory was correct. The killings are based on jealousy. Jennifer kills everyone she sees as a threat to her, because she loves Milo, even though she's Iver's mate. She doesn't even know Iver. She saw my strange reaction to Milo that first day, in Dorchester, and she became jealous. That's what compelled her to kill that poor girl in our room. She assumed that girl was I and inadvertently provided Violet with an opportunity to fake her own death. She thought it would bring the mystery to a boil, and lead us to find the book of stories in her bookstore, which it did, thanks to me." She gave Draco a, 'so there' look because he hadn't wanted to go to the bookstore that day, but she insisted.
"It makes perfect sense, because she's been trying to kill me since I got here. Violet believes Jennifer blew my car up that first night, and that she might even have been responsible for my being shot, in some way. She locked Iver and me in the chamber that day; she killed Cat thinking she was me, because Cat was wearing the jewelry that night." She turned to Draco, "I was also right about that, you see, she uses the jewelry as a way to track the girls, because when she's the beast, she can't see us as human, so she relies on her sense of smell, and the unique ore used to make the jewelry sends off an odor that only she can smell."
Hermione lifted her hair and showed both men that she had on a pair of earrings that matched the jewelry. "Courtesy of Violet, thank you very much."
"Take those off!" Draco shouted. "Potter, fire Granger, too!"
Harry frowned and said, "No one's getting fired. Malfoy, it may be our only way to get her. We'll be right here. We won't even let Jennifer get close enough to touch her."
Hermione jumped up and down, happily, and said, "Yes! See, it'll work." She turned to Draco and said, "Don't worry about me. You have no reason to worry."
"ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?" Draco bellowed. "You have almost died at least twelve times since we've arrived and I have no reason to worry!" Draco pulled on Hermione's arm, and then he actually tried to take the earrings out of her ears. She hit his hands away. "I won't be a part of this!" He managed to remove one earring. Before he could get the other, Harry pulled her to him and placed her behind his back.
"It's the only thing we have at the moment, Malfoy!" Harry decided. "Everyone, hide in the forest. Hermione, stay out here in the clearing. Malfoy, hide with the rest of us, go back to Dorchester, or go home to London, otherwise the only person who'll be fired today is you."
"Really, Potter?" Draco said seriously. He walked up to Harry, and said, "Well then, if I'm going to be fired, I might as well be fired for a reason." He pulled back his fist and he hit Harry Potter on the jaw. Harry stumbled. A few of the Aurors rushed forward and pulled out their wands. Hermione held Harry's arm before Harry could retaliate.
"Draco! How could you?" she shouted.
"How could you, Granger?" Draco said. "That's the real question, you stupid fool." He stormed off into the woods.
Meanwhile, up on the cliffs, under the veil of magic, hidden from all those who had been searching for them, were Milo, Iver and Jennifer. For hours, the brothers had been trying to figure out what to do with the girl, and they couldn't come to an agreement. Iver wanted to leave Glendora, take Jennifer with him, so that they could try to have a normal life. He wanted to discover what it was like to have his mate by his side.
Milo knew that could never happen. He knew that Jennifer had to be held accountable for what she had done. He knew that he too had to come to terms with his part in her guilt. He also knew that Iver could never control the woman when she turned into a Valeriana, and that Jennifer, in turn, could never control Iver's vampirism. They could never be 'normal', nor did they have a right to be.
Iver was quickly becoming enraged at Milo's insistence that they turn Jennifer over to the Aurors or to the clans. Jennifer, in turn, didn't want to have anything to do with Iver. She didn't know him, she didn't love him, and she didn't care if he was her mate. She loved Milo. She always had. She had loved him since she was a teenager, and if she couldn't have a life with him, then she didn't see the reason to continue living.
The more the brothers argued, as they stood on the side of the cliff, the angrier Jennifer became. She could feel herself turning. She had learned to control her turning over the last few years, so she didn't have to turn to the beast, but if Iver continued to insist that she leave with him, and Milo continued to deny that he loved her, then she wouldn't be responsible for what happened next.
She sat at the edge of the cave to listen.
"Milo, I'm tired of this. I can't convince you, and you can't convince me. We're at an impasse. What do you say we do that will benefit us all?"
"NOTHING!" Milo shouted. He slipped to the ground, down the side of the stone opening of the cave. He was so tired. "Iver, for the last time, trust me, you don't know this woman. I do. I know she's your mate, but that doesn't mean you know her. She killed Cat! She's killed so many! She has to be made to pay for that."
"I know that, but she's not fully responsible. I'll take her somewhere where she'll never harm anyone, ever again. You should be made to pay for your sins, too," Iver said harshly.
"I know, and when the Aurors take her, I'll insist they take me too, because I should have stopped her and tried to find her when the first University student went missing. You'll be ruler when I go. It's what's right. You should be the prince," Milo insisted.
"I'm not talking about you being made to pay for your knowledge of Jennifer," Iver complained. "I'm talking about Hermione. I know what you did to her. How dare you! She's another man's mate, and you tried to take her without her consent!"
"I already told you about that, and I'm so sorry! I'm more sorry than words can say!" Milo responded. He stood up and pushed his brother out of frustration.
Iver rushed back to his brother and pushed him against the rock face. He held him against the stone. Jennifer peeked out the entryway to watch. "That's not what I meant!" Iver seethed. "You tried to form a bonding ritual with her, after you already forced one on them! You committed a blood offense, Milo! You bit her neck! You told me once that you had your vampirism totally under control. You made me feel weak because I couldn't control mine, yet you can't control yours! A blood offense is punishable with death by our people!"
Jennifer backed away, anger seeping out of every pore. Milo tried to mate with Hermione Granger, which meant one thing: Hermione Granger had to die.
"And what do you think Jennifer did to those girls and to Cat! Wasn't that worse than a blood offense?" Milo shouted. He shook his brother as hard as he could. "You're letting your feelings for your mate, which you've romanticized over the years, rule your head!"
"And you're letting your lust for Hermione Granger rule yours!" Iver spat back.
Milo's head sunk to his brother's shoulder. "I hope you never know the pain I feel." He looked up in his brother's eyes and said, "I won't say anymore. As your older brother, and the prince of the prime clan, I'm using my power to rule that Jennifer Cravens will be taken to the third clan, and she will be given to them, in exchange for Cat's death, and they can appoint her punishment."
"I'm the true prince," Iver said, pushing away from his brother.
"Really?" Milo said, suddenly with sarcasm. "Do you really want to finally claim that title? It's not been a friend to me; perhaps it'll treat you better. Fine, stake your claim, take the title, be the prince, be the saviour, but that means you put the clan and the village first. That means you have to give Jennifer to the Aurors or to the third clan. Iver, there's a wide world out there for you. You don't even know this girl. I don't even know her, and I thought I did. I thought at one time that I loved her, but I can't love someone who knowingly kills an innocent. She controls her change into the beast. She controls the kill. Think about that. Let her go. You can still find a girl and fall in love. I promise you that. It's not all about mates and magic. It's about what's in your heart. Hermione taught me that."
Iver looked as if his brother had struck him across the face, but he knew that he spoke the truth. He fell to his knees, dropped his head, and said, "I don't know what to do."
The men heard a terrible screeching noise from within the cave. The sound was a cross between a high-pitched scream of a woman, and a screech of a bird. Milo pushed Iver completely to the ground, stepped over him, and pulled out his wand just as the beast flew from the cave, dove down the side of the cliff, and hovered over the forest. Then it went into the trees, and out of sight.
"NO!" Milo shouted. He turned into a bird, followed by his brother. They followed the beast until in landed in the forest. Both turned back to men and began to run, following the Valeriana as it was now on foot, running before them. Suddenly, someone barreled into Iver, knocking him over. It was Draco.
Milo stopped, turned, and shouted a curse toward Draco that narrowly missed him.
"What the hell, Malfoy!" Iver said from underneath him.
Milo rushed to them, knocked Draco off his brother and said, "I almost hexed your head off, Malfoy. We don't have time for this. Jennifer has turned, and she's getting away."
"Yes, and I think she's after Hermione!" Draco shouted. "Come on, I'll explain as we run!"
Hermione wasn't afraid. Harry was nearby, as were at least a dozen other Aurors. She was upset, however, because she knew that she had disappointed Draco. She had hurt him, and she only hoped he could forgive her. She sat by the stream, and zipped her jacket. It was getting colder as the afternoon sun began to slip from the sky. She decided she couldn't do this without Draco. She reached up to her right ear, removed the last earring, and then said, "Harry, can you hear me? Harry? I don't want to do this without Draco. Harry?"
She heard it before she saw it. She looked up, and then as if in slow motion, she saw the wingspan, and then a dark shadow fell over her, and the screeching was so loud that she had to cover her ears. Then she screamed.
She pulled out her wand, and stood in total shock. The beast in front of her was a truly terrifying sight. She almost cowered in fear, but she held firm. The entire forest drew quiet, and the only sound she heard was her own breathing, and the hissing sound of the half-bird, half-woman creature in front of her.
Milo ran from the forest, Iver behind him, Draco behind them both. Harry also appeared from behind Hermione, toward the back of the forest. The Valeriana circled Hermione, its wings out, standing between her and the men. Behind Hermione was the stream. She took a step backwards, with nowhere to go.
"Jennifer," Milo said. "Please, turn back for me, and let us talk for a moment."
The beast turned around to acknowledge Milo, but no one could tell if it could hear him, or comprehend what he had to say. He held up his hands and said, "My wand is put away. I won't hurt you. I couldn't hurt you. I won't give you up, I promise. You and I can go away together, if you want, just don't hurt her."
Before their eyes, the beast turned back into the girl. She had a wild look in her eyes. "You love her!" she accused, pointing toward Hermione. "You want to give me to the authorities, or to the third clan! You want Hermione Granger for yourself! You don't love me, you love her!"
"No, I don't," Milo said. "I don't think I can love anyone."
"Then you don't love me!" she screamed.
"But we were friends once, remember?" Milo asked.
"I don't want to be your friend! I love you! I killed all those girls to be with you!" she cried. "You do love her, don't you? I heard your brother say that you performed the mating ritual on her!"
"I was confused, just like you," Milo said.
"Then kill her for me, to prove to me that you want to be with me," Jennifer said.
"I can't do that," Milo said. "I won't do that."
"Then you don't really want to be with me!" she declared, crying hard. She hung her head in her hands and said, "No one has ever really loved me! You and Violet are the only ones who were ever nice to me. I thought you loved me. If you don't love me, I don't know what I'll do. I should just kill you, instead."
The girl's tears stopped almost as soon as they started, and she pointed her wand at Milo. Iver jumped between them and said, "Wait, Jennifer. I'm the true prince of our people, did you know that?" He spoke evenly, and calmly.
"No," she said, looking confused. She looked from Milo to Iver. Draco walked around them, to try to get to Hermione.
"Yes, Milo's birth wasn't legitimate, which makes him the Lost Prince. I'm the True Prince. Did you ever hear the story of the Lost Prince?" Iver asked.
"Yes, my aunt Violet told it to me," she said. "But if Milo is the Lost Prince that means that, no…that means he will die."
"Do you care?" Iver asked. "You just threaten to kill him, so you're only fulfilling the prophecy of the Lost Prince. Let me see if I remember the story. The 'lost prince' from the 'lost Veela clan', overwhelmed by the pull of his birthright, becomes confused, mixing bloodlust with love and desire, and he tries to kill the only woman that he ever loves, who in the end, kills him instead. Isn't that about right? Don't make that story come true, Jennifer. Don't make Milo pick you over his birthright, and don't make me, as the real prince, take you from him, because I'll do that. I will. I have the power. You're meant to be with me, you know. You're my mate, and the whole reason you were cursed was that I told Milo my mate dream. If you force me to do it, I'll take you from him. Only the true prince can do that, you know, but if you promise me that you'll take good care of him, and you'll stop killing, I'll let you have him. What do you say, Jennifer?"
Iver was trying to reason with a mad woman, and everyone recognized that fact, except for Jennifer. She smiled. "I wouldn't really kill him."
"And you won't kill Hermione, right, because, she's Draco's mate, not Milo's mate," Iver declared.
"Okay, fine," she said. She looked at Milo and said, "Milo, is that what you want?"
He hated lying to the girl, but he smiled, held out his hand, and said, "Yes, Jennifer. That's what I want. Come to me, and I'll take you back up to the cave, and we'll be safe away from everyone."
Iver suddenly seemed to panic, and Draco thought he knew why. "No, don't take her there. Why don't you take her back to our castle, Milo?"
"No, we'll go to the cave," Milo decided. "It will all be over soon, Brother."
"Milo, I forbid you to leave here, and take her to the cave!" Iver said. He leaned forward and said, "What are you doing?"
"Let me take care of this my way," Milo told him. "It has to be this way. I have to be the one that takes care of this."
Draco finally reached Hermione's side. He started to pull on her hand, to pull her toward Harry. Jennifer sensed everyone's general confusion. "What's going on, Milo?" she asked.
"Nothing, let's go to the caves, Jennifer." He held out his hand again.
"NO!" Iver shouted. "Milo, if you force me, I'll claim her right now! I won't let you continue to sacrifice yourself! I'll claim her, as is my right, and I'll take her to the third clan, as you suggested."
Jennifer looked from Milo to Iver, with a mad look in her eyes, and she turned back to the beast so quickly that all they saw was dirt, debris, and leaves flying in the air. Then Jennifer, as the beast, pounced on Iver. Milo was pushed out of the way in the ensuing confusion. Draco rushed toward the pair, pushing Hermione out of the way before he reached them. From her place on the ground, Hermione pulled out her wand, and before Milo, Harry, Draco, or Iver could react, she pointed her wand, and shouted, "Avada Kedavra!"
Hermione slammed her suitcase closed and then sat on the bed in the motel room. She couldn't believe it was finally over. Just like that. With two simple words, it was all over.
The folktale of the Lost Prince didn't come true, in the sense that the girl who loved the Lost Prince killed him. Instead, the girl from the outside killed the girl who loved the Lost Prince.
She fell back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. There was a large crack in the ceiling. She wondered if this was the same room that they were in before. Of course, they were in so many rooms at this motel, and they all looked alike, so it could be the same room. One of those rooms had a crack in the ceiling, too.
Draco walked out of the shower, finished drying his hair with a towel, and then threw it on the floor. He slipped on a pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt, then his shoes and socks. The whole time he dressed, Hermione stared up at that crack in the ceiling. He asked, "What are you looking at, Granger?"
She pointed up toward the ceiling.
"Hmmm, a crack. Interesting." He didn't really think it was all that interesting, but he also didn't think that she thought it was all that interesting. He climbed on the bed beside her and closed her computer.
She looked over at him and said, "Don't close that, I'm working right now."
"You don't look like you're working," he said. "You look like you're staring at a crack on the ceiling." Nonetheless, he opened her computer back up, and said, "But, there you go, Princess."
She propped herself on her side and said, "You've changed a lot. In the beginning you were all about slamming things closed on me, and now look, how gallant, you opened my computer for me."
"I'm all about chivalry, my dear," he said. He leaned toward her and kissed her forehead. She moved around on the bed so she was facing in the same direction.
"What should I feel right now?" she asked.
"I don't know what you mean," he said slowly. He propped up on his elbow and said, "What do you mean? You mean about me opening your computer?" He was being purposely obtuse. He knew what she meant.
"I killed a woman."
"She was hardly a woman," he replied. "She was a serial killer, who showed no remorse, who would have killed you in an instant, hell, she would have probably killed all of us, since she turned back into the beast, and so what, she's dead, good riddance."
"Seriously?" she asked. "I can't believe you're being that crass. She was a sad girl, who became a sad woman, who was a product of her circumstances, and she couldn't help that she was cursed when she was a baby."
"Please," Draco said. "Stop being such a bleeding heart, Princess. You can feel anyway you want to feel, just don't expect me to feel the same way." He fell on his back, covered his eyes with his arm, and said, "I'm hungry, tired, and a bit weary of making you angry, because you just killed a woman, so what do you want me to say?"
She glared at him and said, "Nothing! Say not another, single word to me if you value our relationship!" She scooted toward the edge of the bed and said, "I'll go to the pub and get us some food. Don't follow me!"
She pulled on her coat, opened the door, and walked outside, where she found Iver and Milo talking to Harry. She walked up to them. Harry placed his arm around her shoulders. "What happens now?" she asked.
"That's up to the Ministry," Harry said. "Milo and Iver are free to go back to their village for now. We'll station Aurors there, for the time being, and if the Ministry declares it, perhaps for always. If they decide to charge them with any crimes, we'll come back and get them, but I doubt that'll happen."
She looked at Iver, then toward Milo, who couldn't look her in the eye. "What will happen to Violet?"
"She's coming to live with us, in the village. We're opening our borders, to all the magical people of Dorchester. If they want to come, they can. We're also going to start sending our children to Hogwarts, and we're going to start to rule with a more egalitarian system, or a clan system, instead of having one prince rule everyone, and instead of having one clan be more important than the other clans."
"Really?" she asked. She looked at Milo as he began to walk away. "Who decided that?"
"I did," Iver said. "My first and last decree as the true prince." He looked at his brother as he walked away. "Milo needs some peace. We all do."
Draco stood in the doorway of their room, listening to the entire exchange. She ran past, smiled at him, and then she caught up with Milo. All three men, Harry, Iver and Draco watched as she said something to him. Milo nodded, and then held out his hand. She took his hand in hers, shook it, and then smiled at him. He looked at Iver, and motioned toward his brother with his hand. He walked away from Hermione and out of sight.
"He's not the prince any longer, but he's still my big brother, so I guess that's my cue to leave. Thank you, Mr. Potter." Iver shook Harry's hand. He turned to Draco and said, "Draco, I can't tell you how happy I am to have met you, and I'm sorry if we made your job harder. I'll remember everything you said to me. I'm going to try to be happy, and I want you to try to be happy, too." He patted Draco's arm.
He walked up to Hermione, smiled at her, and without any words, he hugged her. She hugged him back. "I'll write to you," she said.
"I'd like that." He ran off, after his brother. Draco rushed back into their room, grabbed his jacket, and dashed past Harry, to catch up with Hermione.
"I guess it wouldn't do me any good to ask you what you said to Milo, right?" he said. He took her hand and laced his fingers with hers.
"I don't intend to keep secrets from you. I told him that I forgave him. That's all I said. I told him that he deserved happiness, too, and so I said he needed to forgive himself for that to happen." She smiled at Draco, and then looked down at the sidewalk.
"You're pretty forgiving," Draco declared. "I wouldn't be so forgiving."
"Yes, well, you're not me," she said with a smile. She pulled on his arm when they approached the pub and she said, "What are you getting? Fish and chips?"
"I don't know, what are you getting? I might get whatever you want," he responded. He pulled open the door and when they walked in, he whispered in her ear, "Are you afraid to be in here?"
"Nah," she said slyly, "I'll always have you to protect me." She laughed. "Are you afraid to be in here with me?"
"Nah," he mocked, "Because if they all recognize you, and decide to go after you again, you can do that little freezing spell on them once more, and besides, I can run faster than you, so I'll get away. I'm sure you would sacrifice yourself for me, wouldn't you?"
She sighed and sat down in the booth. "Yes," she declared. "I'll always make sacrifices for you, Prince."
He sat beside her, and said, "And I'll always protect you, Princess."
She picked up the menu. He pulled it from her hands, and slammed it shut. He smiled. She frowned. He smirked. She raised one eyebrow. He leaned over and kissed her lips. She said, "Don't ever slam my menu shut again, Malfoy. That was rude."
"Thank you for always being around to point these things out to me, Princess," he said with a smile. He took her hand from the menu; He placed it to his mouth, kissed her knuckles, and then he leaned closer and kissed her cheek.
Then he opened his own menu, and smiled.
She opened hers, and smiled as well…and it was The End.
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