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You Had Me at Coach

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The wizarding world had an unfortunate misconception of Hermione Granger’s level of interest in the sport of quidditch. Between the fact that a majority of the men she had dated in her past were somehow professional quidditch players, and the number of matches she attended to support Ginny’s career and spend time with her best friends, Hermione couldn’t seem to convince anyone besides those who knew her extremely well that she did not actually care for the injury-inducing mania that masqueraded as a game. 

In fact she actually loathed it. 

She knew Andromeda knew her better than to expect her to want spend one of her weekend afternoons at Teddy’s Under 10 quidditch little league match, but when Andromeda flooed her in a panic about an emergency call in to St. Mungo’s for one of her patients, Hermione readily agreed to take on the responsibility for the day. 

“I know this is not your preference, but Harry’s out of town for a case, Draco is already at the pitch, Ron is still in America for the new shop for who knows how long, and we were running late as it was,” Andromeda said quickly through the floo.

Hermione blinked at the mention of Malfoy, then shook her head to focus on the matter at hand. “Of course, Andromeda. Let me pull some of my things together and I’ll be over in a minute.”

Andromeda thanked her and Hermione set out to collect her usual quidditch match survival kit, a few books and some snacks in her trusty expandable beaded bag, things that would hold her attention during the match.

Once she flooed to Andromeda’s, Hermione took in the scene in front of her: Teddy, bouncing in place with his broom, his hair shifting through multiple colors as it often did when he was anxious or excited, and Andromeda rushing down from the stairs where she had been changing into her Healer’s robes.

“Oh, thank you so much for this, Hermione!” Andromeda told her, as she quickly gave Hermione a kiss on the cheek. “Honestly, you probably don’t even need to stay for the match. I might be done in time to catch some of it myself, but if you could ask Draco to take Teddy home after the match just in case I can’t make it in time, I’d appreciate it. He’s done it often enough already, it should be no problem.”

Hermione knew Malfoy had been introduced to his Aunt and Teddy in the years since the war and his trial, that he had even developed a close relationship with both of them, but she had somehow never really been around much to observe him in action with his family members. Between her work as an Unspeakable and his career as a professional quidditch player, they were fated to never be forced to be in the same room together for very long, even for parties that were centered on Teddy or Andromeda.

“It’ll be fine, Andromeda,” Hermione reassured her. After a confirmation that Teddy’s match was at the usual youth quidditch pitch location in London, one that Hermione had thankfully already been to before, Andromeda apparated to work.

Hermione took a deep breath in the sudden quiet once Andromeda was gone, then turned to Teddy, smiling and holding her arm out for side-along apparition. “Well, shall we?” 

***

As soon as they landed at the apparition point near the youth quidditch pitch, Teddy raced past her towards the rest of his teammates who were warming up on the field, all clad in the same blue and orange Hippogriff kits.

“Good luck!” Hermione called, shaking her head slightly and following him, though much more slowly. Teddy waved his hand behind him to show he’d heard her, and she chuckled at the gesture.

Hermione felt her nerves bubble up as she started glancing towards the stands where the spectators of the match sat. She didn’t really want to think about approaching Malfoy to hand over the duty of looking after Teddy, but she also wasn’t particularly interested in sticking around for the entirety of the match in Andromeda’s absence.

“Teddy!” The sudden yell of Teddy’s name from a gruff voice pulled Hermione’s attention from the stands, and she almost tripped over her own feet in her shock at seeing Draco Malfoy standing at the edge of the pitch, a quaffle in his hand and a disgruntled expression on his face. “About time you got here. Did you just expect your teammates to play the entire game for you?”

“Hi Coach!” Teddy’s response was overly enthusiastic and happy in opposition to Malfoy’s. Teddy dropped his bag next to the rest of his teammate’s things and barreled into Malfoy for a hug that didn’t last more than a second before he dashed onto the pitch with his broom to join the rest of the kids.

Coach?! Since when was Malfoy coaching Teddy’s quidditch team? And when was the last time Hermione had heard Malfoy’s voice? She had plenty of memories of the sneering, pompous Malfoy persona from their youth, but most of those were from before the war. She couldn’t recall hearing much of his voice from their eighth year, except for the stunted apology he had given her at the start of the fall term and the few responses he had given her during school-related tasks. Granted, it had been about ten years since then, but the low, coarse voice he had now was such a change from his old snobbish persona, and completely different from the aristocratic persona his father and mother had always exuded in public.

Hermione realized Malfoy's eyes had fallen on her where she had startled to a stop halfway to the pitch, and his features settled into a calculating look as he watched her. She snapped her mouth, which had fallen open in her surprise at seeing him as the children's coach, closed, and made the impromptu decision to suffer through the match instead of approaching him like Andromeda had suggested. Turning towards the stands, Hermione started up the stairs without much thought until she heard a familiar voice call her name.

“Hermione! Over here!” Ginny called to her from a few rows higher up. Hermione waved back and then set out to join her. Ginny scooted over on the blanket she or Harry usually brought for the kids’ quidditch matches, one that was interwoven with cushioning charms courtesy of Mrs. Weasley, to make room for Hermione to sit. “Didn’t expect to see you here today!”

Hermione hummed in acknowledgement as she sat down. “Andromeda was called unexpectedly into work, so she asked me to deliver Teddy. What about you? I thought Harry usually brought Lily to her matches since you have games on Saturdays? And where is James?”

Harry and Ginny’s daughter Lily had just turned eight this past spring and had been ecstatic to learn that she could join Teddy on his quidditch team that summer. Hermione knew that it was often Harry and Andromeda who sat together in the stands on Saturdays, along with James who was still too young to join one of the little league quidditch teams.

“Oh, we have a bye week, so I already had practice this morning and Harry had to leave after that, since he got a lead in France for his case. And Mum offered to take James this morning to help out,” Ginny said, turning her knees towards Hermione, but keeping her eyes out on the pitch where they could see Malfoy gesturing emphatically at some of the kids who had gotten distracted by something that Lily had on her arm. It was probably a scar of some sort, knowing how clumsy her goddaughter was.

The sound of Malfoy’s yells drifted over to where they were sitting, with Hermione catching bits and pieces that he emphasized in his annoyance. When she heard “little gits!” at the end of one of his shouts, Hermione let out an involuntary gasp. She looked to Ginny, expecting to see a similar expression of offense, but instead saw her friend cracking up. Puzzled, she turned back to the scene, just in time to see Lily finishing her rebuttal to Malfoy by sticking her tongue out. Malfoy rolled his eyes, and then yelled at them to finish warming up before the match started in the next few minutes. 

“He’s allowed to yell at the kids like that?” Hermione asked Ginny, trying not to sound as much of a stick in the mud that she was often accused of, though often by people who often did not know how many rules she had broken both in Hogwarts and during the war.

“Oh, he’s harmless,” Ginny scoffed, waving her hand in his direction. “He honestly saved the team after Emmaline’s dad was hurt at work at the very start of the season and had to step down as coach. And if you tell him I said this, I’ll deny it, but he actually has made them better as a team, which is astonishing considering Emmaline’s dad usually couldn’t even hold their attention to get attendance done, let alone teach them how to run plays.”

Hermione sat back, bewildered at how easy-going Ginny was being about this all. “I’m sure Harry had opinions about Malfoy taking over, though?”

Ginny shrugged. “He’s honestly kind of grown on Harry in all of the time they spend with Teddy and Andromeda together. Grown on him like mold Harry will probably tell you, but still.” Ginny paused, eyeing Hermione critically. “He’s actually changed a lot since the war, you know. You may avoid him like the plague, but I think if you gave him the chance you might be surprised.”

Hermione clenched her jaw, and focused on watching the referee corral the eight, nine, and ten year old quidditch players to their correct starting positions to begin the game. Ginny had interacted with Malfoy a decent amount as they were both professional quidditch players, and of course with her and Harry’s connection to Teddy and Andromeda. She was right, though; Hermione did strategically make choices to avoid situations where Malfoy might be, which didn’t turn out to be hard to do as he was often busy with his own career as the Falcons’ seeker.

Still, that didn’t mean she wasn't slightly blind-sided by the apparent camaraderie between her best friend and the person who had been one of their main antagonists during school, not to mention the war. 

Hermione paid more attention to the quidditch match that afternoon than she had in the last ten years. Though, if she were being truthful with herself, and only herself because she would not admit it to anyone else, her focus was more on the blond coach who consistently yelled at the adolescent quidditch players on and off the field. The most remarkable part of the whole thing, though, was how the kids reacted to Malfoy. They flourished under his attention, even when it was in the form of an angry correction to their form. They lit up at a brusque nod that signified Malfoy’s apparent approval of something they’d done.

Not once did Malfoy’s attitude upset any of his players. Hermione could not wrap her mind around it. But it was clearly working for the team, and by the end of the match, which concluded with the seeker of the Hippogriffs jumping from her broom to catch the snitch and skidding to a stop on the grass of the pitch, the entirety of the team and their spectators were all grins. 

“Thank the gods for the height restriction wards and padding on the youth pitches, eh?” Ginny said to Hermione in between her whistles and cheers for the team. Hermione agreed--those wards were one of the main reasons she was less vocal about her disapproval of the children’s version of quidditch. She was dreading watching her godchildren play at Hogwarts, though, or gods forbid follow Ginny’s path into the professional leagues.

“Come on,” Ginny said, turning to collect the blanket from underneath them. “Let’s go down to meet them before they do their cheer.”

“Cheer?” Hermione asked faintly, following Ginny down the stands.

By the time they had reached the edge of the pitch, Malfoy was finishing his after-match talk with the team.

“--and you can be sure we’ll be doing more sprinting broom drills at practice this week, as I’ve seen pygmy puffs fly faster than you lot out there!” Malfoy paused, before addressing the seeker of the team, who had grass stains down the entirety of the front of her uniform, and a scratch on the side of her face. “Except for you Darlene, way to throw yourself after the snitch--literally. But next time, try to manage to stay on your broom, yeah?”

“Thanks, Coach!” Darlene beamed up at Malfoy, still holding the match-winning snitch in her fist.

Malfoy grunted. “Alright, do your thing, and I’ll see you next week for practice. Do. Not. Forget. Your. Daily. Exercises.”

Each part of his last instruction to the team was emphasized with a stern finger point at a random player, each of whom just giggled back at him.

It was completely bizarre. Had she entered a different dimension where Malfoy was somehow good with kids despite his rough temperament? Who were these kids?

Just as Malfoy moved away from the group of giggling children who were forming a circle to begin what she assumed was the cheer Ginny had mentioned, Hermione felt someone step up next to her.

“Hermione, dear,” Andromeda started, as Hermione glanced at the older witch next to her. Andromeda gave her a quick embrace in greeting. “I didn’t expect you to still be around! Thank you so much again for helping out this morning.”

“Oh, it was no problem, Andromeda.”

Andromeda smiled at her again before she moved closer to where Malfoy was standing watching the children finish their cheer. Without moving his gaze from the huddle on the field, he leaned to the side to allow Andromeda to kiss him on the cheek.

Hermione shifted her eyes away from them and addressed Ginny. “Who supplies the snacks for the team after the matches?” She was pretty sure that had been something her parents had always delivered to her own youth teams back when she had attempted sports before Hogwarts. 

“Snacks?” Ginny asked. “I think Harry usually just feeds Lily when she gets home from the games.”

“What? No one brings orange slices or pretzels for the kids after they’re done exerting themselves?”

“Huh,” Ginny said in contemplation. “You know, I’m surprised Mum hasn’t thrown a fit about that, but I think she avoids these matches almost as much as you do. You can bring it up with Harry next time you see him, I’m sure he could pull something together for future matches.”

Hermione frowned. Harry was a wonderful father, but his memory was not always the greatest in remembering provisions, which she was intimately aware of after their time on the run during the war. No, if Hermione wanted the team to have something nutritional after their matches, she was most likely going to have to do it herself.

“When is the next match?” she asked, trying to convey the question nonchalantly, and struggling to not let her eyes flick over to where Malfoy stood, as this was the closest she had been to him in years. She was irritated that he was looking much taller and fitter than she remembered him looking during their eighth year. 

Unfortunately, Andromeda had made her way back to where Hermione and Ginny were talking, so Hermione received scrutiny from not one but two suspicious witches at her inquiry.

“Next Saturday,” Ginny said slowly. 

“Same place and time,” Andromeda said in a tone of voice that Hermione would almost say was conniving, though she could not place why.

Hermione nodded in response, but luckily the attention was drawn away from her when Lily and Teddy rushed up to the three witches. As Hermione walked with them to the apparition point, she couldn’t help but look back at Malfoy, only to be startled when she found his gaze already on her. 

She sent a nod in his direction, feeling awkward and unsure of what else to do. Malfoy’s response was a tilt of his head as his eyes narrowed in consideration of her. Hermione quickly redirected her attention to the farewells Lily and Teddy were giving her, before she apparated home, determined to not think about Malfoy further.

***

“What was the first thing you yelled at me when Ron found his way back to us while we were on the run?” Harry asked her suspiciously when she sat next to him on the blanket he had spread out on the stands the next Saturday.

“What?” Hermione asked, puzzled at the strange greeting. Then it dawned on her, and she smacked his shoulder. “Harry James Potter, I am not polyjuiced!”

“Can you blame me?” he asked, laughing and leaning away from her continued attack on his shoulder. “I thought we would never see you at another one of Lily’s matches after she fell off her broom the first time.”

“Yes, well,” she sniffed. “I found out after last week that no one brings snacks for the kids after the match, so I felt I needed to help out.” She watched the Hippogriffs team stretch in warm up and practice some sprinting drills on their broom under Malfoy’s careful watch from the sidelines. “And they seemed to have a better understanding of the game and how to safely play it from what I saw at the last match.”

Harry grunted. “Yeah, don’t tell Malfoy I said this, but that’s pretty much all his doing. The kids love him and he knows what he’s doing with coaching, surprisingly.”

Hermione studied Harry’s expression, which had less disgust in it than she thought it would have as he complimented Malfoy. “I can’t believe you, of all people, are okay with him coaching Lily.”

“Eh,” Harry said, as he shrugged. “He honestly has changed a lot since the war. And especially after all the interviews he did, I’m more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt since it seems like it’s genuine.”

“Interviews?”

“The ones he did a few years ago,” Harry told her. “You don’t remember? Any time he was interviewed for the Falcons, he would turn any invasive questions from the reporters around on them and talk about social organizations and charities instead. It was actually pretty impressive.”

“How did I not hear about these?” Hermione asked, dumbfounded.

“Well, most of them showed up in publications like Seeker Weekly and Quidditch Quarterly.” Harry laughed. “I suppose that’s probably why you never saw them. I think Ginny keeps most of the issues hoarded in the basement of Grimmauld since she’s in most of them. I could send you a few.”

Hermione hummed her agreement, eager to read the interviews but not wanting to look eager to Harry.

“Oh, but see this? This is a delight to watch every match,” Harry said, pointing at the referee for the match walking up to Malfoy. The referee, clad in bright orange robes, seemed to clear his throat to get Malfoy’s attention. Even from her spot in the stands, Hermione could see the derision in the sliver of Malfoy’s expression as he barely turned his head in the referee’s direction.

“What’s going on?” Hermione asked Harry, confused as she watched the referee give Malfoy some speech.

“All the coaches are supposed to wear robes that match the team’s uniforms,” Harry explained. 

“But Malfoy is wearing a robe with the team’s colors,” Hermione pointed out. 

“Yes, but the robes need to have the team mascot on them as well,” Harry said, laughing as the referee’s lecture at Malfoy increased to include finger pointing at the level where he came up to Malfoy’s chest. “He glamours the Hippogriff off the robes every time he wears them.”

The humor of the situation clicked into place for her then. She had known from before the season began that Lily and Teddy, having grown up on stories from Harry, Hermione, and Ron about their school adventures, had wanted to lobby the rest of their teammates to choose the Hippogriff as their mascot. They had succeeded, and now Malfoy’s refusal to have the mascot displayed on his coach’s robes made much more sense.

Harry shook his head and they watched Malfoy brush the referee’s hand away from him, before he reached into his robe and pulled out a pouch and dropped it on the ground in front of the referee.

“Rich wanker just pays the fine every time instead,” Harry told her, as the referee bent down to pick up the bag of coins and Malfoy turned back to the pitch.

Hermione couldn’t help but join Harry in laughing. It wasn’t long before the match started, and Harry seemed to be even more invested in the little league quidditch team than Ginny had been last weekend. He knew each of the player’s names and updated her on their strengths and weaknesses that he had observed over the course of the season so far.

Hermione made the little noises of acknowledgement that were her usual response to quidditch discussions that happened around her. Luckily, Harry mostly kept his attention on the pitch, which gave Hermione the opportunity to observe Malfoy more without anyone else catching her.

Despite the clash between the blue and orange team colors and Malfoy’s bright hair, Hermione couldn’t deny that he looked good, his physique having broadened from the regimented physical conditioning that she knew quidditch players kept to. Having dated multiple professional quidditch players, Hermione’s thoughts drifted in imagination of the kind of muscles Malfoy might have under his coach’s robes. And if Harry wasn’t exaggerating about Malfoy’s change in attitude over the years, maybe it was time for her to stop avoiding so many possible interactions with him. 

“Harry! And Hermione, so lovely to see you here again!” Andromeda called out as she made her way to their section in the stands.

Hermione shook herself out of her musings and drew her attention away from Malfoy to greet Andromeda. Andromeda gave her a curious look, glancing knowingly back down to the pitch where Hermione had just been staring, but thankfully she chose to drop it and gave Hermione a quick hug before turning to Harry.

“Thank you so much for bringing Teddy along with you and Lily. No James today?” she asked him, giving him a kiss on the cheek.

“Not a problem,” Harry reassured her, distracted as his attention was mostly still focused on the match. He groaned when Lily missed the goal with the quaffle. “Molly took James again this week. He seems to prefer the chance to play with Arthur and all of his Muggle items instead of sitting in the stands watching his sister. Kid might grow up to be like Hermione in his disinterest for the sport, which would be a shame.”

“Speaking of which, Hermione,” Andromeda said, turning back to her. “Did you bring snacks for the team?”

Hermione brightened, and reached into her beaded bag to pull out the slices of orange she had pulled together that morning. “I did! I figured I would let you or Harry hand them out once the match was over.”

Andromeda patted her knee affectionately. “Nonsense, darling. You should let Draco know that you’ve got snacks for the children so that when he’s done with his post-match speech he can tell them. They should know who to give the proper thanks to.”

“Oh, but…” Hermione trailed off as Andromeda and Harry jumped up from their seats to cheer for a goal Teddy had just successfully made.

Hermione squared her shoulders, making the decision to approach Malfoy during the mandatory time-out that was required for the little league quidditch matches after each half hour of play.

Towards the end of the time-out session, Hermione stood up with the baggies of orange slices and made her way down to the pitch. Taking a deep breath, she reminded herself that she had survived a war and Malfoy had already apologized to her years before. They had even done a few school projects together in their eighth year, quite successfully too. 

As she moved closer, Malfoy barely turned his head in her direction, indicating he knew someone was approaching, much like he had done with the referee before the start of the match. When his eyes finally left the pitch to glance over, she could see that he had not expected it to be her, and he turned the rest of the way to face her, slowly looking her up and down before focusing on the bag she held in her hands.

“Granger,” he deadpanned. She struggled to suppress the shiver at hearing his rough voice directed at her and closer than she had been to it last weekend. 

“Malfoy,” she responded. She shifted awkwardly as he continued to study her in silence. “I, um. Well, I realized last week that no one brought any snacks for the team, so I thought I’d bring some this week. I wanted to let you know so that you could make an announcement at the end of your post-match talk with them so they were aware it was for them.”

She lifted the bag of orange slices up towards him as evidence.

Malfoy was silent for a second, before he smirked at her and then turned back to watch the players on the pitch and drawled, “Typical Granger.”

Hermione bristled. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing, Granger,” he told her. “I’ll let them know after the match like you want. Just be ready for them to descend upon you like Lockhart’s Cornish Pixies.”

Clearly dismissing her, he stalked quickly down the sideline of the pitch to yell in frustration at the referee for what was apparently a bad call.

Well, at least that was done. Hermione headed back to the stands, running through the entire short interaction that had not really gone how she thought it would have. While still the gruff and dismissive personality that he seemed to be with his team and the rest of the adults who interacted with him on the pitch, Malfoy had smirked at her in a way that was different from the cruel way he used to when they were younger.

“Everything okay?” Harry asked, watching her carefully as she sat back down next to him. She realized he must have torn his attention from Lily on the pitch to watch her whole interaction with Malfoy, given how focused he was on her now.

“Mmhmm. He’ll let them know I have the snacks after the match.” She avoided looking back at Harry as she replaced the bag full of the snacks in her beaded bag till the end of the match, and then pretended to refocus her attention on the action on the pitch.

“Uh huh,” Harry said, skeptically. Luckily, having been her best friend for over twenty years meant he knew when to postpone his needling. Hermione knew he would probably be bringing this up more later, most likely with his wife as backup, but for now she was fortunate enough that quidditch, especially Lily playing quidditch, was enough to take precedence over Hermione’s current weirdness.

By the time the Hippogriffs won the match, Harry had already discussed with the other parents his idea to host a celebratory dinner at Grimmauld Place, as they had taken the lead in the league with today’s win.

The adults headed down to the pitch to wait for Malfoy to finish his “congratulatory” speech to the team, and Hermione set out the snacks she had prepared, separating them so each player would have an equal share. She was impressed with the time Malfoy took to address each individual player with something they had done well in the match, and also something they still needed to improve on. Despite his reminders of their weaknesses, each player was sparkling with pride as he addressed them. 

“Oh,” Malfoy said, as an afterthought after he was finished. “Granger over there has snacks for you lot. Don’t attack her like the demons I know you all are, alright?”

Despite his scolding, the kids descended quite like the Cornish Pixies Malfoy had told her they would imitate. She barely got out of the way to avoid being trampled by witches and wizards three-quarters of her size, and when she found herself a safe distance away, she felt a presence just behind her.

“Told you,” Malfoy said, his blunt voice making her turn her head to see how closely he was standing behind her. She could feel the heat from his body along the right side of her back, and Hermione struggled to remember the last time she felt positive nerves from someone being so close to her. It had been a while, she realized, looking back and up at his features as he kept his gaze on the pack of quidditch players devouring her offerings.

“How did you end up here?” she asked him, the question slipping past her lips before she could stop it. He stiffened, and then looked down at her, his face closing off somewhat before she charged forward with the context for her question. “I only meant, I thought you were playing for the Falcons? Ginny usually can’t come to matches because of her own, and I figured coaching would get in the way of yours.”

It was almost imperceptible, and something Hermione might not have caught if she hadn’t already been looking at his eyes to start, but Draco’s irises faded from a hard flint grey to a softer silver brightness as her explanation continued on.

“You don’t pay much attention to professional quidditch, do you, Granger?” he asked her, amusement coloring the tone of his question.

Before she could respond, two of the Cornish Pixie pack had flown over to where they stood.

“Coach! Hermione!” Teddy yelled excitedly. Lily followed just behind, with the same enthusiasm and yelling for them as well. Teddy pulled to a stop before them, while Lily continued on to throw her arms around Hermione.

“Aunt Hermione, you came! You came to another match!” Lily squealed as she tightened the clutch she had around Hermione’s middle. Hermione chuckled as she dropped a kiss on the top of Lily’s head.

“I did,” she agreed, chancing a glance at Malfoy. He was watching the interaction with a considering expression that Hermione couldn’t understand. 

“Harry said we can have a party tonight at Grimmauld to celebrate that we’re at the top of the league now!” Teddy told them, drawing the attention of both adults back to him. “You’ll come, won’t you, Coach?”

Malfoy put his hands in the pockets of his robes, and gave a sigh with the resignation of a man who knew he was unwillingly wrapped around a kid’s finger. “I suppose.”

Hermione laughed, which drew Teddy’s attention to her.

“You’ll come too, won’t you, Hermione? We’ve done better the last two matches you’ve been here. It’s like you’re a good luck charm!”

“Oh,” Hermione said, surprised. “I’m not sure…”

“Pleeease, Aunt Hermione!” Lily pleaded, turning her dirt speckled face up to pout. Her goddaughter really knew how to play up the charm that she had inherited from Ginny.

“Alright, sure,” Hermione agreed. Malfoy snorted next to her, amused at her inability to hold her own stance against the combined efforts of Teddy and Lily.

Teddy and Lily celebrated, and Lily rushed off towards where Harry stood with the rest of the families of the team’s players. “Dad! They said they’ll come!”

Harry looked up, and tilted his head as he took in the image of Hermione and Malfoy standing next to one another still.

“Well,” Hermione started, looking around at the remnants of the snacks she had brought for the team. Most everything had been grabbed, with a few leftover bags that she vanished to clean the space. She avoided looking back at Malfoy, especially now that she was going to be in his proximity for much longer than she had planned for today. “I guess… I’ll be going.”

As she started to move towards Harry to confirm the details for later that night, she heard Malfoy call after her.

“Till tonight, Granger.”

***

After stopping at home for a quick shower and changing into an outfit more appropriate for a children’s party, Hermione headed over to Grimmauld. Harry had convinced her to come earlier than the rest of the team so he could let her peruse the articles that he had mentioned at the match.

Never one to turn down an opportunity for more knowledge, even if it was in the form of articles in quidditch publications, Hermione arrived with plenty of time to inspect them before the subject of her research showed up to Grimmauld.

Grimmauld Place was a whirlwind of preparation. Hermione caught the sight of Lily and Teddy covering the main gathering room with blue and orange decorations, already cleaned up from the match and wearing wild grins. She tracked Harry down in the kitchen, where he was directing an assortment of cooking spells that he had picked up from Molly over the years.

“Won’t Ginny be upset that you’ll be missing her match tonight?” Hermione asked, announcing her presence to Harry as she settled in at the recently installed kitchen island.

Harry smiled at her over his shoulder in greeting. “We had already discussed this as a possibility if they won today so she knew it was probable that we wouldn’t be going to see her tonight. Besides, the team will all want the wireless on for her match after they eat anyway, so we’ll still get the play-by-play.”

Hermione hummed in understanding.

“Oh! That reminds me.” Harry set a few more charms to the multitude of cooking items in the kitchen, and made his way past Hermione and out of the kitchen. Only a few moments passed before he returned to the kitchen, dropping a few quidditch magazines down in front of Hermione. “Those are just a couple I could find before I needed to start on the dinner spread.”

“Thanks, Harry. Do you need any help with the preparations?”

Harry waved her off. “I’ve got it sorted. Feel free to read them before the rest of the team shows up.”

Hermione gathered the quidditch magazines and headed to the newly renovated library in Grimmauld. She set herself up in her favorite chair near the bookshelves and started going through the issues Harry had pulled for her.

It was easy to see how he’d been able to locate these so quickly, as all of them had some photographic version of Malfoy on the covers. Despite most of her previous relationships being with professional quidditch players, Hermione avoided most publications and discussions about the game. She’d had no idea that Malfoy had been such a popular player on the professional quidditch scene. 

Hermione started with the oldest issues in the stack Harry had pulled, from a few years ago. These covers mostly showcased Malfoy doing complicated maneuvers during matches, his seeker’s robes whipping around him in his pursuit of the snitch. She skimmed through a few of the articles in which he was mentioned, until she reached ones that were focused primarily on him. 

Harry had been right. While most of the articles started with a general overview of his accomplishments in the league, most notably the fact that his addition to the Falcons team had brought them up from the bottom of the league to contenders for the League Cup within two years, often the interviewers would deviate from quidditch related questions halfway through their interviews with Malfoy.

Based on his responses, it seemed that Malfoy had adopted a new, rougher persona different from how he had been at Hogwarts. Given the team motto of “Let us win, but if we cannot win, let us break a few heads,” the change made sense, she supposed. His answers about his professional abilities and his team were succinct and didn’t pull punches, but she could tell that he really cared about his team and teammates, and based on his answers, it almost seemed like he was coaching his teammates himself. 

Once the interviews turned to non-quidditch topics, mainly questions about his past in the war in the earlier publications and questions about his romantic life in the interviews from later on in his career, Malfoy shifted from the gruff professional seeker to a diplomatic aristocrat. Early on he would reference his remarks from his trial, which had been made public after the fact, and then transition his answer to some charity or cause that he and his mother were supporting at the time.

As Hermione continued on to the issues that were dated more recently, she couldn’t help but admire the more styled photos that appeared on the covers and articles. While Malfoy had always projected an air of self-assuredness, Hermione suspected it had mostly been a front to protect his insecurities, especially back at Hogwarts. As he was featured more in these quidditch publications, however, she could see the transformation from a cocky, young quidditch player, to a more quietly confident man.

Making her way through the rest of the batch, Hermione was surprised at the headline of the very last Seeker Weekly at the bottom of the pile.

The End of an Aerial Era: Seeker Draco Malfoy Retires from the Falcons

The issue was dated from the spring of that year, just after the Falcons had lost out on their chance at winning the League Cup that season. It was a much longer article than the others Hermione had read from the earlier issues, and she was surprised to see Dean Thomas in some of the moving photos within the article.

But as she read further it became apparent why Dean had been involved, and his inclusion had apparently been at the insistence of Malfoy in exchange for his lengthy interview with the magazine. Malfoy’s reason for retiring, he told Seeker Weekly, was due to a health concern related to concussions garnered from quidditch practices and matches. Dean had become a sports healer in the time since the war, and, after studying under both muggle doctors and healers at St. Mungo’s, he had begun research of his own by bringing the muggle understanding of concussions from contact sports to the wizarding world. 

Over the course of Malfoy’s career, he had worked with Dean on his research, starting from a volunteer as a professional quidditch player who played on one of the most violent teams in the league, till eventually joining the funding venture that kept Dean’s research running.

Part of his research, Dean explained in a section of the article, was exploring the effects from concussions that even magic couldn’t heal when the frequency and intensity were high enough. Dean speculated that previous former quidditch players who had complete personality changes years after their careers had peaked were not from the unconfirmed nefarious curses many had assumed affected them, but actually due to a neurodegenerative disease that was the result of repetitive impacts to the head. Hermione was fascinated by the analysis Dean provided within the article, and absently wondered if her colleague in the Brain Room in the Department of Mysteries had known about this research or would be interested in further exploring the findings in their field. 

The interviewer made sure to bring the focus back to the main draw of the feature, and asked pointed questions that were attempts at preventing the circumventing Malfoy had apparently become known for in his interviews. Each time, Malfoy was able to cover enough information about his professional career that related to the question within a sentence or two, and then smoothly transition to the topic that he wanted to actually talk about in the piece.

Hermione had to give him credit, the snake knew how to wriggle free from the grip of the interviewer without issue.

Hermione paused to study a full page photo of Malfoy, an elegant shot of him that must have been taken candidly at some point at the end of the interview. He had been dressed in a muggle suit by the stylist for the photoshoot, as more muggle styles had started becoming fashionable in the wizarding world in recent years. The black and white photo started its loop with Malfoy standing to the side of the armchair he had been seated in for most of the interview, his profile to the camera and his suit jacket folded neatly on the back of the armchair.

The loop continued with the image of Malfoy efficiently rolling up the sleeves of his white dress shirt on his left arm, his right already folded to the top of his forearm, revealing the unmarred, pale skin. As the Malfoy in the photo continued to make decisive folds in the sleeve, slowly exposing his left forearm, glimpses of the pale grey remnants of the Dark Mark could be seen briefly. 

During the second iteration of the photo loop, Hermione found the Malfoy in the image looking back over his right shoulder directly at the camera as he folded his left sleeve. His grey eyes seemed paler in the black and white image, but had an intensity and focus that gave off the impression that he had already assessed your weaknesses and knew where to strike to cut you down neatly. The final portion of the loop had Malfoy raising his eyebrow in a challenge, his jawline becoming more defined as his features tightened in preparation for a defense.

The sound of children’s high-pitched laughter startled her out of her reverie, and she slammed the Seeker Weekly issue closed. Hermione suddenly had no idea how to balance the two versions of Draco Malfoy she now had in her mind: the Malfoy she knew from eighth year who she had avoided for most of the ten years afterwards, and the Draco who used his retirement announcement to highlight the important work Dean Thomas was doing with quidditch players and the impact that his findings might have on non-professional players, while spending his retirement freetime coaching a youth quidditch team.

Setting the magazines aside on the table, Hermione resolved to give this new Draco Malfoy that she was seeing more of a chance moving forward. She glanced back at the most recent issue on the table one last time before heading out to join the party.

How he looked in a muggle suit had no influence on her decision, she told herself.

***

By the time she made it back down to the rest of the party, the majority of the team had found their way to the gathering room and were loudly celebrating in small groups throughout the area. The wireless was tuned to the station that would eventually broadcast Ginny’s match, but it couldn’t match the current volume of the very excited team and their various family members who had joined in for the impromptu celebration.

“Aunt Hermione!” Lily darted out from behind one of the groups near the door just as Hermione crossed the threshold of the room. “Come here, I want to show you something!”

Her goddaughter grabbed her hand and dragged her over to one of the couches along the wall, an interaction that had become more common between them as Lily expressed the assertiveness she was slowly adopting from Ginny. As they navigated around one of the groups of family members, Hermione realized Lily was leading her to the settee that held a stiff-looking Draco. 

“Come on!” Lily insisted, rounding around Hermione to push her into a seat next to Draco, before climbing onto her lap. Hermione let out a soft grunt as Lily repositioned herself, sprawling across Hermione's lap and digging into her thighs in the process.

Draco let out an amused snort next to her. “Get pushed around by eight year olds often, Granger?”

“And how did you end up here?” she asked, looking at him coolly. Draco tipped his head towards her in acknowledgement of the successful hit.

“Excuse me!” Lily protested, bringing both of their attention back to her.

“Yes?” Draco inquired solemnly, his voice back to its serious gravelly pitch from his previous amusement. 

“I didn’t get to show you my new scar!” Lily exclaimed excitedly. She pulled her sleeve up on her left arm, revealing a faint red line from where she had been scratched deeply enough to leave a permanent mark. “I got it when I was helping Grandpa clean out his shed, but I wouldn’t let Grandma heal it, because look!”

Lily pushed her arm towards the middle of the settee so that both Hermione and Draco could inspect the scar closer. 

“It looks like dad’s! I think it means I’ll be as famous as he is someday,” she informed them both happily. Hermione studied it briefly, amazed at how accurate Lily was about the comparison between the scar on her arm and the much more serious scar that Harry had gotten as a child. 

Draco leant back in his seat, and scoffed loudly.

“Yes?” Lily asked him testily, eyeing him and preparing for a fight.

“I think,” Hermione started, hoping to deter anything negative Draco might say about Harry, “what Coach Malfoy was thinking about was that it’s not really the scars that determine who we are as people.” 

Lily tilted her head back towards Hermione, with a confused expression on her face, so Hermione continued, very aware of the man next to her staring intently at the side of her face as she avoided looking at him. “Do you think your dad would be less of an amazing Auror or dad if he didn’t have his scar?”

Lily paused to think, and then shook her head. 

“The things that really matter are who you are as a person at your core, the kind of decisions you make and how you treat others,” Hermione told her. “Those parts of you are much more important because they’re something you have to commit to every single day of your life. It’s much more difficult to dedicate yourself to being the kind of person like your dad is every day than to rely on a scar you got from one moment in your past.”

Lily nodded her head slowly, absorbing Hermione’s words. “That makes sense.”

Hermione heard a long exhale of a breath next to her. Luckily, Harry chose that moment to enter the gathering room and announce that it was time to eat. Lily eagerly scrambled off of Hermione’s lap to join the rush of the other children towards the kitchen.

Hermione chuckled as Draco stood up from the couch. “She is definitely half-Weasley.”

“Don’t remind me,” Draco told her dryly, as he held out his left hand to her. Hermione regarded it for a moment, then let her eyes flicker up to his, taking his hand to let him pull her up from her seat. “We should get in there before they demolish the spread.”

Hermione followed behind him to the doorway of the kitchen, with Draco’s grip on her own hand light and gentle, so unlike what she was used to from her previous interactions with quidditch players. Similarly to how she had felt earlier that day when he had stood directly behind her at the pitch, sparks burst from her nerve endings in her hand through the rest of her body. What might it be like if it was more than just their hands touching? Hermione’s body quivered without her permission at the thought. Once they reached the doorway, he dropped her hand and motioned for her to enter before him, and then she was swept up in the activity of the kitchen. 

With Harry having his hands full coordinating the food and drink for the guests, Hermione took responsibility for herding her goddaughter through making a plate and finding a seat in one of the dining rooms set for the party. By the time she and Lily had finished negotiating the ratio of vegetables to potatoes on Lily’s plate, most of the seats at the dining table had been taken, but there were two spots left open across from where Draco and Teddy were seated.

Hermione dug into her own meal and started up a conversation with Lily about some books Lily had recently read, but soon enough Lily’s attention was drawn away by her teammates at the table, which unfortunately left Hermione with no distraction from the man across from her.

Hermione had never really seen Teddy interact much with Draco, considering how often she had avoided being at the same gatherings as him, but she let herself observe him now. Draco’s demeanor at the table was much different from how she remembered him at the Slytherin table, where he had often portrayed himself as royalty, commanding all attention with his own stories and comments. But here he seemed to be perfectly content with minimal input into his and Teddy’s conversation, offering quiet comments and glances directly with Teddy in a private conversation amongst a rowdy table. Hermione contemplated the easy way Teddy and Draco spoke with one another, like this was a common experience for them, which she supposed it must be. How much else had she missed with her avoidance of all things Draco Malfoy?

When Teddy took his plate to the kitchen for seconds, Darlene’s mother, who had wormed her way into the seat on the other side of Draco, leant in close and put her hand on his shoulder as she whispered something in his ear.

Hermione witnessed Draco’s shoulders tense and then averted her eyes back to her plate in an attempt to not watch Darlene’s very single mother slide her very elegant hand down Draco’s arm from his shoulder. Hermione’s eyes apparently did not get the memo, however, as they darted back up almost immediately to observe Draco from behind her lashes, just in time to see him stand stiffly and step away from Darlene’s mother.

“I was just doing my job, Mrs. Kensington. No thanks necessary,” he told her rigidly, pushing his chair back in and collecting his plate to bring to the kitchen.

Hermione watched on, fascinated as Mrs. Kensington’s perfectly made up face crumpled in disappointment before she composed her features back into an indifferent expression once she realized Hermione had been watching. 

“Excuse me,” Hermione said to the table, standing and collecting her own things, telling Lily to make sure she finished the rest of her plate before she left the dining room. 

Draco wasn't hard to track down, standing in the backyard just outside the kitchen door. Dropping her things on the counter in the kitchen, Hermione made her way outside to join him. Draco was running his fingers along one of the exterior walls of Grimmauld Place, where the ivy had started to take over. As Hermione approached him, she could hear Harry calling out to the rest of the party that Ginny’s quidditch match was starting on the wireless. 

All of the details Hermione had read about Draco just that afternoon in the quidditch articles swirled through her thoughts like a tornado, leaving her disoriented and unsure of what to say to him now that they were alone. For the first time in her life, she was interested in talking to Draco Malfoy, but was completely unsure about what she should say.

He didn’t give her very long to let her inner panic build.

“Would you be interested in joining me for a drink?”

Hermione blinked, unsure if she had imagined the offer. He was still facing the ivy away from her, though his shoulders seemed to tense as her silence continued. 

“Granger?”

“Oh,” she said, shaking herself out of her stupor and noticing that he still hadn’t turned around to look at her. She took a deep breath and let her Gryffindor bravery lead her on. “Yes, I would like that.”

Draco turned around, with a satisfied look on his face. He looked at his wristwatch briefly, a very muggle style Hermione noticed, and then put his hands behind his back, clearing his throat. “Would you be amenable to leaving early from this gathering?”

Her heart picked up its pace. Despite having made the decision earlier to not avoid Draco at future gatherings, this was much more intentional and quicker than she had been expecting. But she couldn’t help the thrill of anticipation she felt at his inquiry. “Yes, I suppose. Should I floo Hannah at the Leaky to ask for a private table to be set aside for us?”

Once Hannah had taken over the Leaky Cauldron, she made sure that Harry, Hermione, and Ron would be able to enjoy their time at the pub with a reserved table if they let her know they would be there ahead of time. It let them put protective wards up in case they didn’t want to be bothered by the public that had become even more intrusive as they got older. The number of times they were featured in the press had only increased since their war efforts, and Hermione was at least grateful that, as an Unspeakable, there were specific things the press couldn’t cover regarding her career, but Harry and Ron weren’t quite as lucky.

“I was actually wondering if I could take you somewhere else,” Draco hedged, the most insecure she had ever seen him.

Hermione took in his appearance more closely for the first time that evening. He was wearing muggle clothes, dark-washed jeans and a black oxford shirt, much more casual than he usually appeared in photos in the Daily Prophet. 

“Alright,” she told him, deciding to trust him this once. She had survived a war and Harry and Ginny both seemed to have softened to him, not to mention he helped Andromeda take care of Teddy often enough. She guessed he had proven he was trustworthy. “Just let me go let Harry know we’ll be leaving.”

Draco nodded. “Meet me back out here when you’re finished.”

Hermione knew Harry would give her that look of his, the one she had seen often enough throughout their friendship when Harry turned his Auror observation skills on her in an attempt to read her mind without legilimency.

He didn’t disappoint.

“What do you mean, you and Malfoy are leaving? Together?” he asked her, quietly in the hall just outside where the rest of the party was listening to the quidditch match in the gathering room.

Hermione shrugged. “We’re going out for a drink. I figured you would be fine with it since you and Ginny seem to have warmed up to him.”

Harry eyed her, and then huffed a laugh. “Those articles really did something for you, huh?”

“I found them quite interesting academically, regarding the sports healing that Dean is researching,” she protested, but couldn’t stop the blush from covering her cheeks. Harry laughed at her again. “And he’s the one who asked me for the drink!”

Harry waved her off. “Just send a patronus if you need me for anything. Molly’s planning on bringing James back over soon, so she’ll be able to stay with the kids if I need to be there for you.”

“I’m quite capable of taking care of myself, Harry,” she told him dryly. But she gave him a hug, grateful that she knew she could count on him for anything. “But I appreciate the offer, and you’d be the first one I’d turn to if I needed someone.”

Harry squeezed her tightly and then let her go. His face scrunched up in discomfort, like he was struggling to get the next words out of his mouth. “Alright, go have fun with Malfoy?”

She shook her head in amusement and watched him head back into the party, before she left to return to Draco. She had only been gone for a few minutes at most, but she still hurried on her way to the garden. Draco smirked when he saw her, but just offered his arm to her for side-along apparition without commentary on the residual blush she was sure was still on her face from her conversation with Harry. 

When they reappeared, Hermione was surprised to see that they had landed in what looked like a muggle London neighborhood. Draco’s outfit started to make a bit more sense to Hermione, and she was glad she had worn jeans and blouse as well so she didn’t stand out.

Draco led her out of the alley to a pub around the corner, a pub which had beautiful blooming flowers hanging along the top of the ground floor’s front, and signage displaying the name The Crown & Anchor. 

“You’ve brought me to a muggle pub?” Hermione asked, as she passed him holding the door open for her.

She took in the well-kept dining room with a clean bar along the side. Instead of answering, Draco guided her along to one of the tables near the back, his palm light and warm against her lower back. Hermione tried to ignore the tingles emitting from the impressive amount of surface area that his hand spanned as she followed his direction.

She sat down in the chair he pulled out for her, and then gave him an expectant look when he sat across from her.

“Patience, Granger.”

Within seconds, an older woman with short blonde hair and a wide smile was at their table. “Draco! I was afraid you might not be coming this week!”

“Mae,” Draco said in a warm greeting, accepting the slight pat Mae gave him on the cheek affectionately. “You know I can’t stay away from you.”

Hermione watched in astonishment as the gruff exterior she was becoming used to with the older version of Draco melted away in the muggle establishment. As Draco and Mae exchanged more amiable pleasantries, Hermione examined the way his shoulders relaxed as he leant back in his chair in a much easier posture than his posh upbringing most likely had instilled in him. But the most disarming element of the entire interaction was the unguarded and absolutely sincere grin Draco gave to Mae.

Hermione was uncertain if she had ever seen a grin of that nature on Draco. A cruel taunting sneer she’d seen many times in her youth. A proud and self-satisfied smirk happened often enough now that she had assumed it was the only way he knew how to show pleasure in a situation. But this smile on his face lit up his entire appearance, and she was tempted to ask him a question about the time she had punched him in third year to confirm his identity.

“I see why you were much later tonight, though,” Mae said to Draco conspiratorially. She nudged his arm good-naturedly. “You brought along a friend .” 

Draco’s cheeks turned pink and he cleared his throat in an obvious attempt to move away from Mae’s teasing. “Two pints, Mae?”

“Coming right up.” Mae smiled and winked at Hermione, before turning to return to the bar.

“So,” Hermione started, smirking at Draco across the table. He rolled his eyes at her, but settled in further to his seat and gestured a hand towards her in an expectant manner. “You frequent a muggle pub, do you?”

Draco shrugged one shoulder. “One of my muggleborn teammates brought me here to show me a muggle sport once, and it was refreshing to not get noticed for most of the things I’m usually noticed for.”

“Like being a famous quidditch player?” Hermione inquired.

“Or being a disgraced Malfoy.” Draco’s expression dimmed some at his admission.

Hermione hummed, her gaze drifting out across the pub just in time to see a few young men at a corner table look quickly away from where she and Draco were sitting. “I thought you said no one recognized you here?”

“What?” Draco asked, confused. Hermione pointed to the group of men in the corner that had been watching them as an answer, and he looked over to see what she was referencing. “Oh. Give me a minute, will you?”

As Draco made his way over to the table, Mae bustled back to where Hermione sat, placing two pints on the table for them.

“I’m Mae, by the way,” she told Hermione. “The lad usually has impeccable manners; he must be very nervous to not have introduced us.” 

“I’m Hermione,” she said, offering her hand for a handshake, which Mae eagerly took a hold of. “How long has Draco been coming here?”

“Oh, about a year or so now?” Mae answered. She smiled brightly at Hermione. “He’s one of my best customers. Never breaks any furniture and always leaves much more than his tab ever calls for.” 

Hermione chuckled, wondering if he’d been confused about muggle currency or if he just didn’t care how much he overpaid his drink tab. “That’s very good to know.”

“I’m not sure you could do much better than a man like that,” Mae told her seriously. They both looked over to where Draco was currently glaring at the group of men without much heat as they all laughed at him. 

Hermione smiled at Mae hesitantly. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“See that you do,” Mae said, protectiveness colouring her voice as she sized Hermione up.

“Telling secrets are we, Mae?” Draco asked as he approached their table again.

“I’m not a therapist. If people tell me their secrets, they shouldn’t expect them to be kept!” Mae insisted as she walked back to the bar.

As Draco settled back into his seat, Hermione looked at him expectantly.

“They’re some blokes I’ve gotten to know here,” he explained. “As Mae probably has already told you, I don’t often bring anyone with me, so they were very curious. Nothing to do with my status as a wizard or a quidditch player.”

“Mm, she didn’t outright say it, but that was the impression I was getting,” Hermione said, smiling into her drink.

She watched Draco run his thumb and middle finger up the opposite sides of his glass in contemplation, graceful even in an absent-minded way.

“It’s easier here,” he told her quietly, not looking at her as though it would make his confession easier to get out. “I don’t have to be a certain way that others expect. I’ve never had that in my life before.”

Hermione kept quiet, realizing that this was most likely something he’d never been able to tell anyone before, and he was choosing to share it with her . He swallowed before continuing.

“All my life I’ve needed to put on some kind of front for others. The perfect pureblooded Malfoy heir, the obedient Death Eater follower, or a quidditch player talented and tough enough to distract from his past. They’re all just parts I needed to play to survive.” He took a deep breath, still refusing to look up from where his glass sat completely full. “Here there’s no preconceived notion of Draco Malfoy. The only thing I have to pretend is that I’m a muggle, and that was easy enough once I looked into it a bit more. But I could just be… me.”

Hermione let that admission sit between them for a moment, as she processed his words. He still wouldn’t meet her eyes; he wouldn’t, she realized, until she responded to him. 

“That makes sense. I can see why anonymity would be appealing.”

That drew Draco’s eyes back to her as he inspected her for her sincereness. “Yes, you would, wouldn’t you?”

Hermione cleared her throat, deciding to shift the conversation in a different direction. “So, what drew you to coaching a youth quidditch team now that you’ve retired from the sport?”

“Ah, so you’ve uncovered some research since earlier this afternoon?” Draco asked her, raising his eyebrow. Hermione shrugged in response, taking a sip from her drink and unwilling to verbally own up to having looked into him in the time between when she spoke to him at the end of the match and the party at Harry’s. 

“It was Teddy, actually,” Draco said, answering her original question. He finally started on his own drink, and Hermione’s eyes drew to his throat as he swallowed before they darted back up to his eyes. She knew she was caught when he smirked at her before continuing. “He came back one day from practice when I was visiting with my aunt, completely distraught over his coach being too hurt to manage the rest of the season. I had already done my retirement rounds with the press and was considering my next moves, so I had the time. I was hesitant about offering until Andromeda brought it up that evening at dinner with Potter and Weaselette. Once they were on board, I figured I would have a fighting chance with the rest of the parents. The kids were even easier since the only thing they really knew me from was professional quidditch.”

“But it seemed like the reason you retired was the medical dangers associated with the sport,” Hermione protested, ready to get into an argument about this godsforsaken sport once again. “How can you continue to support children playing quidditch when you yourself will not subject yourself to the risks anymore?”

Draco observed her long enough that she felt the itch to pat her hair down and wipe her face, but before she could give into those urges, he sighed and leaned forward against the table. 

“I do it because you can’t stop a sports phenomenon that’s been around for centuries with one article in Seeker Weekly,” he said plainly. “I would think someone like yourself would understand the challenges with working for institutional change. I don’t want quidditch to no longer exist,” he looked at her pointedly as she sniffed, “I want players to be the safest they can be while playing. Coaching and instilling safe practices and good etiquette on the field in the younger generations is one way to do that.”

“Coaching and safe practices cannot protect children or adults from bludgers speeding at their head,” Hermione pointed out.

Draco tipped his half empty glass towards her in acknowledgment. “No, but the charms on the protective head gear that Thomas is devising with his research could. In the meantime, quidditch will still be played by children and adults around the world. One person, regardless of their reputation and wealth, cannot bring down an institution on their own.”

Hermione felt her cheeks burn, aware of her own realization of the same thing, a realization that had drawn her away from the DRCMC and towards the Department of Mysteries instead. 

“I suppose you may be right with that,” she admitted.

Draco smirked at her, looking like the niffler who got the gold. “Do I now get to interrogate you about your chosen profession?”

“If only,” Hermione sighed in mock sorrow. “Unfortunately, my profession forbids me from discussing anything I work on outside of the Department of Mysteries. Though, I think most of my friends are actually grateful for that.”

She ran her finger around the edge of her glass idly, letting the leftover liquid facilitate a smooth glide around the brim. It wasn't her friends' intention, she knew, to make her feel as if they didn't care that she was literally unable to talk about some of her greatest passions she was discovering as an Unspeakable. She still was able to hold conversations with them about other things in her life, and their own careers and families. But it was hard not to feel the sting of yet another restriction she had brought upon herself in the years since Hogwarts, on top of the guilt she felt for her parents still not knowing that they had a daughter who missed them, and the reputation she had built for herself as a prominent crusader for the rights of muggles and non-wizards that had her own life scrutinized non-stop by her opponents for any possible indiscretions that could be used against her.

She caught Draco motioning to Mae as she looked back up from her glass, indicating that she should bring them another round. Hermione was surprised to see that they were both almost finished with their first drinks.

He turned his gaze back on her, a bit more serious than he had been when he was gloating about besting her in an argument. 

“That’s a shame,” he murmured. “I’m sure you would have an infinite number of extraordinary topics to expound upon.”

Hermione’s smile grew as she recognized genuineness in his statement, without an ounce of sarcasm.

“So what do you talk about with others then, Granger?” he asked her, quietly thanking Mae as she dropped off their new pints and collected their previous glasses.

“Oh, usually I tend to stick to topics that others are interested in. Conversations tend to go more smoothly that way,” she said, shrugging in a way she hoped portrayed nonchalance. 

“Humor me, then,” he entreated her. “Any topic of conversation you’d like to discuss, have at it.”

“Well, actually,” Hermione started, biting her lip. Draco raised an eyebrow expectantly. “I’d be fascinated to hear about Dean’s research and what he’s looking to do further as he continues.”

Draco laughed, but it was a surprised laugh, full of mirth that highlighted his amusement and gave Hermione the feeling like she was in on the joke with him, not like he was laughing at her in any way. 

“I should have known,” he said, shaking his head before launching into an in depth explanation of how Dean had started his research, what the current findings were, and what they hoped to work towards in the future. 

Even though Hermione was absorbed in the content of the discussion, eagerly asking follow up questions that he didn’t always have answers for, she still took the time to view Draco in this new setting that let him soften his tone and attitude. He didn’t hesitate to roll his sleeves up to his elbows, in a manner very similar to the candid photo from the Seeker Weekly she had spent too long staring at, and bare his marked forearm to the rest of the pub. She imagined it must be quite freeing for him to do so, knowing that no one was any the wiser that it wasn’t just a tattoo he chose to mark himself with.

But it wasn’t just the ease that he exuded in this muggle pub that captivated her; his relaxed mannerisms drew her attention to things she never really let herself notice before. The constant movement of his hands, between tapping the tabletop as he talked or maneuvering their empty glasses to the edge of the table before Mae even brought about their next round without being requested, highlighted the signet rings representing his lineage that he wore on each hand, his fingers long and graceful and more like what she would expect from a piano player than a professional athlete. 

The way he would brush his fingers over a few strands of hair that had fallen onto his forehead out of their styled arrangement had her thinking about how it might feel to run her own fingers through it. The quirk of his lips in a half-smirk as a response to one of her quips at his expense started her daydreaming about how they might feel against the sensitive spot just under her ear. 

By the time they had finished their third round, the pub had grown rowdy with the Saturday evening crowd, and Hermione was glad that the colour in her cheeks from the turn her thoughts had taken could be camouflaged by the proximity of so many other people.

The conversation paused only slightly when Draco tilted his head towards the exit, indicating they should continue on with their evening. As Hermione stood and gathered her things, he drifted away to drop what appeared to be an exorbitant number of muggle bills on the bartop in front of Mae, and when he turned to give the group of men in the corner one last glare, but both times he returned to her eagerly to continue their discussion, which was a phenomenon Hermione rarely encountered.

As they walked closer to the alley that marked their apparition point, Hermione could see his surly protective shell reconstruct as they moved further away from what she was starting to see was Draco Malfoy’s safe space.

Hermione turned to face him as she reached the dead end of the alley, laughing lightly at a dry quip he made about one of Ron’s recent exploits in America featured in the Prophet. Standing this close to him, she realized how much he towered over her, as she needed to tilt her head back to regain eye contact with him. Her breath caught at the look in his eyes, more open than she had expected given the armour she’d observed him reinstating over the last few minutes.

“Well, Granger,” Draco murmured, his eyes dipping down to her lips briefly before returning to her eyes. “This has been an unexpectedly smooth evening. You didn’t fire one hex at me.”

“Well, you did bring me to a location full of muggles,” Hermione teased, grinning back at him. The night really had gone well considering she had spent it alone with Draco fucking Malfoy. She gathered the entirety of her Gryffindor courage and said what had been on her mind throughout the entire walk to the alley. “Who knows, future evenings might be just as smooth.”

“Mmm,” Draco agreed, looking smug like only an independently wealthy professional athlete could. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Hermione swallowed, then broke eye contact as she reached into her pocket to grip her wand. “Well, I should probably go.”

“Will you be a spectator at the rest of the matches?” Draco sounded mostly nonchalant except for the slight hesitancy she heard before he was able to get his question out.

She looked back up at him from under her eyelashes, breath hitching at the intensity of his focus on her. “Yes, I think I will.”

Draco caught her other hand in his, bringing it up to delicately brush his lips against her knuckles as he held her gaze. “I look forward to it, then.”

Hermione bid him goodnight and apparated home, making her way through the majority of her nightly bedtime routine before the frenzy under her skin finally abated.

***

“You look extremely fit today,” Ginny observed with a leer as Hermione took her seat next between her and Andromeda in the stands.

“Thank you,” Hermione sniffed, unwilling to verbalize the reason why she had chosen this outfit with much more care than she had for any of the previous little league matches she’d attended over the last month.

Her dress today was charmed to match the blue and orange hues of the Hippogriffs team colors, but the cut was one of her most flattering in her closet in her opinion. Though Hermione was nervous it might be a touch too revealing for an afternoon at a children’s game, she had also decided today was the time to finally make a move with Draco instead of waiting around for him, and she needed to feel her most confident in order to follow through.

Over the last couple of weeks, Hermione had been present for more quidditch matches than she ever thought she’d willingly attend in such a short period of time. There was just something about watching Draco coach quidditch players, even miniature ones that giggled at him more than followed his instructions. It was an experience that mesmerized her enough to stay focused on the match in a stark contradiction to every other quidditch match she’d been to that had almost always had her resorting to a book she’d packed in her beaded bag.

But it wasn’t just his coaching that had captured her attention. Each night after a match found her in Draco’s company, most often in the muggle world. They’d returned to the pub he brought her to the first time repeatedly enough that Mae had come to adopt her along with Draco, but they had also ventured further into the muggle world when they agreed on their pub nights to meet up again on the following Sunday afternoons.

In the safety of a society that knew nothing about either of them, Hermione found it easier to get to know him as a man outside of his reputation in the wizarding world, while still acknowledging their shared past. And while Hermione felt like they were getting closer throughout these rendezvous, she felt like she might be waiting for a while if she wanted Draco to make a move much more significant than a guiding hand on her lower back as they explored museums or his tendency to kiss her hand at the end of the night before she apparated home alone.

Hence her slightly more put together look for a Saturday afternoon children’s quidditch match. Today was the championship match, and the Hippogriffs had been on a winning streak in the last half of the season working their way to the championship cup. The pitch stands were much more crowded than their regular season games and pretty evenly split between the blue and orange clad supporters of the Hippogriffs and the red and purple decorated fans of the Selkies team.

“We need to talk to someone about preventing the press from being here next year,” Ginny observed, annoyed at the distraction the couple of reporters and their photographers were causing to the children warming up the pitch. Considering two thirds of the Golden Trio were in attendance for a match which contained a Potter child coached by a Malfoy, it was too tempting for the press to stay away from what was sure to bring them sold-out issues. The public was especially ravenous for news about their war heroes and quidditch stars, and it was one of the primary reasons why Hermione had been so grateful to keep her and Draco’s--well she might as well call them what they were--dates in the muggle world. 

Not that she would be upset to be seen with him in the wizarding world. Since her first foray into the few issues Harry had pulled aside from his and Ginny’s quidditch publication stash, she had utilized her research prowess to search out a more complete timeline of the public opinion of Draco Malfoy. What she found in the days from just after the war wasn’t much of a surprise, what with his connection to the Death Eaters and his very publicly discussed trial, and her own encounters with him in eighth year. But post-Hogwarts, when Hermione had been consumed with the task of looking for her parents, finding disillusionment with her first career at the Ministry, and then subsequently training for her post as an Unspeakable, she hadn’t kept up much with the hogwash of the society pages that so often featured herself.

Over the course of the decade between their graduation from Hogwarts and Draco’s retirement, his public image had completely changed. He had been right that his professional quidditch persona did an excellent job of altering the opinions of most witches and wizards, with the added benefit that he was still the heir to an extremely large fortune and a perpetual bachelor who was unattached from any pureblood marriage contracts. 

Plus, Hermione could be honest with herself at least, he was bloody attractive and she imagined his photos in an issue sold more than just on his name.

Harry clapped his hands as the teams started to find their positions on the pitch, before he leaned over Ginny to address Andromeda on Hermione’s other side.

“Will you be coming to help with the celebration after the match?”

“Of course!” Andromeda confirmed. “But I may have to make a slight detour beforehand if we end up winning today. Teddy backed me into a corner in promising to get him the new edition of the Firebolt for Hogwarts next year if the team wins. I’m sure if they do, he’ll want to go get it immediately. Honestly, if there weren’t so much Nymphadora in that child, I would think he was destined for Slytherin.”

Andromeda’s wistfulness caused the rest of them to laugh.

“Don’t rule out Gryffindor,” Harry told her, winking. “He’s half Marauder too, you know.”

“Don’t remind me,” Andromeda teased him. “Or him, please.”

Harry had told Teddy almost all of the Marauder stories that he knew from their time at Hogwarts, and Teddy had taken on the identity of a trickster like a hippogriff to flight, driving Andromeda almost to the point of insanity. 

“Well, Ginny and I will be heading out as soon as the match is over to finish getting Grimmauld set,” Harry continued. “I was wondering if you might be able to bring Lily home after they finished up here, but I can always just ask Malfoy.”

“Uh,” Hermione interjected, slightly offended. “You’d ask Draco before me? Her godmother?”

Ginny gave her a funny look, and Harry stammered for a few seconds before answering.

“Oh, well. We just… didn’t think you’d be coming to the celebration? I didn’t want to assume, and I knew Malfoy would definitely be coming to the party,” he clarified, rubbing the back of his neck like he used to when he knew he had annoyed her for not completing his homework in time at Hogwarts.

“Oh.” Hermione cleared her throat. “Well, I did think I would attend, since I’ve been at all of their matches recently.”

“Yes,” Ginny said gleefully, similarly to how the twins used to look when they caught an unsuspecting person in one of their pranks. “I’m sure it’s just for the children that you’ve suddenly become an avid quidditch fan.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, but refrained from replying as the stands erupted into cheers as the children took to their brooms to start the match. Just like every other little league match she’d attended, Hermione was transfixed by Draco’s coaching of the game. It was one of the few times he came alive with the passion for the game, even a game that was hindered by the safety precautions and restrictions the little league placed on the equipment and pitch for the children.

Hermione was reminded how grateful she was for those precautions as one of the charmed bludgers made its way right towards Lily, who was unable to dart out of its path in time. The crowd gasped as they watched it catapult towards her, but luckily the little league bludgers were charmed to be both slower and softer than their regulation counterparts. Lily managed to keep her grip as the bludger smacked into her shoulder with only just enough momentum to turn her upside down and cause her to hang from her broom. With the height restrictions for flying on the pitch, she was close enough to drop safely to the ground, before remounting her broom and joining back in on the fray with her teammates.

Despite the propensity for quidditch games to last for hours, or even days, the little league championship cup match finished in just an hour and a half. Hermione jumped to her feet along with most of the people around her in the stands as they celebrated the Hippogriffs winning the championship with Darlene catching the game-winning snitch. 

Hermione said goodbye to Harry and Ginny as they made their way down the stands before the crowd, watching as Harry stopped by Draco to ask him, Hermione assumed, to look after Lily and bring her back to Grimmauld.

“Oh, Hermione, there’s someone here I want to introduce you to!” Andromeda told her, grabbing her hand after they had gathered their things and started to descend the stand’s steps.

Andromeda guided her over to a spot near the sidelines of the pitch, where some adults were mingling and quickly introduced a few of the parents from the other team as her coworkers at St. Mungo’s. Throughout the conversation, Hermione could hear bits from Draco’s congratulatory speech that he yelled at his team.

As the other team disbanded and the parents she had been mingling with went to collect them, Hermione and Andromeda drifted closer to the Hippogriffs team, surrounded by the rest of the children’s guardians.

"And for the lot of you that won't be at Hogwarts next year, I expect to see you back out here on the pitch having kept up with your exercises! If not there'll be many more sprints in your future, you little cretins!"

The team erupted in giggles, much like every other time Draco called them names. Then one hand flew up into the air eagerly.

“Yeah, you with the ribbon in the hair,” Draco called out, despite obviously knowing the chaser’s name from coaching her the majority of the season.

“Coach Malfoy, if you come back next season, our team should be the Dragons!” the girl shouted proudly. 

The rest of the team oohed their approval at the suggestion, as the surrounding adults mostly hid their amusement at Draco’s disgruntled sigh.

“I suppose,” Draco told them, resigned, before he was overwhelmed by the entirety of the jubilant Hippogriffs team. He seemed momentarily stunned at the affection, but quickly regained his grouchy appearance. “Hey, what did we discuss about asking permission before touching someone?”

The children promptly disbanded with scattered apologies to Draco as they scurried their way to the adults waiting for them.

Teddy found Hermione and Andromeda and immediately started questioning his grandmother about going to Diagon Alley for his broom that afternoon, so that he could show it off at the party at Grimmauld. Looking back over to where Draco had moved to help finish clearing up the match equipment, Hermione was surprised to see him paused as Mrs. Kensington stood next to his side looking up at him, a head shorter than him even in her three-inch heels.

Who wore heels to a children’s quidditch match? Hermione wondered, glancing down at her sensible but chic flats. 

Hermione could only imagine how she and Draco looked standing next to one another, as Hermione herself was more than a few inches shorter than Darlene’s mother in her heels. Though Mrs. Kensington did look a bit more regal and pure-blooded than Hermione ever tried to fashion herself. Standing next to Draco in his coach’s robes, one might think that Darlene’s mother was the heir to a fortune and not Draco, though from what she knew, Mrs. Kensington’s late husband had also been a decently wealthy wizard.

Draco gave Mrs. Kensington a sharp look with one eyebrow raised as she finished whatever she had been saying and laid her hand on his bicep. He quickly jerked his arm away from her as he flicked his wand towards the rest of the equipment to have it elegantly pack itself up for the referee. Hermione was far enough away that she couldn’t hear what Draco said to the witch, but she could read the displeasure on Mrs. Kensington’s face as he replied to her and then started to walk away.

“Alright, Hermione, we’re off!” Andromeda told her, grabbing her attention as Teddy speedily hugged her side and Andromeda dropped a light kiss on her cheek. “If we don’t see you tonight, I’ll have to have you over sometime soon for tea, yes?”

Hermione agreed, letting Andromeda know she planned on being at the celebration at Grimmauld, and congratulated Teddy once more before the two of them left for the apparition point together. Looking in that direction as she watched them leave, Hermione managed to get a glimpse of Draco’s coach's robes as he went towards the same destination from the pitch, walking with his hand held out slightly to the side. 

“Potter!” he called out without looking behind him. Hermione watched as Lily said her goodbyes to her teammates and rushed to catch up with him, grabbing onto his hand with an ease and comfort that made Hermione’s breath catch in her throat. Something about seeing Lily, who was usually so contrary in her interactions with Draco, rush to him without hesitation and smile up at him with joy had Hermione’s insides tightening with emotions she didn’t want to fully acknowledge.

Oh, no. She was in deeper than she had originally thought.

As disappointed as she was that she hadn’t been able to talk to Draco after the match, she at least knew where he was headed and could talk to him at Grimmauld. Unfortunately, at just the moment that she decided to head to the apparition point to follow him, a few children from the other team approached her shyly. Hermione smiled brightly at them, used to this from other matches she’d attended where starstruck children asked her for autographs and photos. As annoyed as she got when adults did it to her, she never felt irritation at young children having a muggle-born hero to look up to and admire beyond just being friends with Harry Potter.

After talking with each individual child, and congratulating them on making it to second place in the league overall for the season, Hermione set out to catch up to Draco at Grimmauld and pull him aside for a direct conversation, finally. As much as she enjoyed the flirting and time they spent in the muggle world, Hermione hated being in a stage of limbo and wanted to let Draco know she would be interested in moving past just seeing him on the weekends and the chaste kisses he left on her knuckles.

And if people like Mrs. Kensington were to witness how close Hermione and Draco had become, how his eyes lit up when he teased her about one thing or another in his reserved, husky voice, how he showed her more interest in a single glance than he did with Darlene’s mother in a whole conversation with her… Well, Hermione wouldn’t mind that one bit.

***

Draco wasn’t at Grimmauld.

Hermione tried to hide her disappointment when Harry told her that Draco had dropped Lily off and quickly gone on his way, but the way he was eyeing her like he was afraid she was about to burst into tears on him let her know she wasn’t masking it well enough.

“He did say he was coming back for the party later, though,” Harry told her, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck. Even with how often he had seen Hermione at the little league quidditch games and leaving with Draco at times, Harry still hadn’t approached her about the situation. She assumed he would much rather not know until it was an inevitable situation that he couldn’t ignore anymore.

“Oh, well, that makes sense,” Hermione said, before pursing her lips together in annoyance at the slight quiver in her voice. Desperate to distract herself from her feelings, she asked Harry if there was anything that he and Ginny still needed done before guests started arriving in the next hour.

“You obviously do not need to do anything,” Harry said, cautiously, still watching her like she was a howler about to explode. “But since Kreacher finally left for Hogwarts, we have gotten behind on keeping the first floor clean. If you don’t mind, could you help put some of the rooms in order?”

“Not a problem,” Hermione confirmed, turning to get started as she was eager to get away from Harry’s inquisitive eyes. 

She started in the dining room, and slowly made progress through the other multiple rooms on Grimmauld’s first floor that would be open for the team and their families to mingle and celebrate in. Despite her focus on the cleaning charms that never quite came as easily to her as other forms of magic, Hermione couldn’t help letting her eyes wander to the clock in each room as she worked.

Maybe she had read too much into her excursions with Draco. She was pretty sure he had seen her at the quidditch match earlier, and he could have waited around for her to meet him at Grimmauld, since she had given every indication to him that she would be at the party after the match, win or lose for the team. 

Dressing up had been a mistake, and now she was feeling less and less confident in a dress that had always been her confidence booster without fail. Now she’d need to go shopping for a new one that had no association with this failure and--

The floo entrance in the main receiving room where she was currently tidying up lit with green flames to indicate someone’s arrival. Hermione checked the time, confirming that there was still at least twenty minutes before they had expected any guests to arrive.

The green flames heightened, drawing Hermione’s attention back to the fireplace to watch as someone in a crisp, all black muggle suit stepped through into the room. The black suit was matched by a solid black dress shirt, and a black skinny tie, looking somehow like a purposeful and complete ensemble instead of drowning the wearer in a monochromatic color scheme. With the momentum and the gust of air that accompanied most floo entrances, the suit jacket had blown open slightly to show an emerald green lining underneath, the only color in the whole ensemble, hidden away from most who would see him in this outfit.

Hermione sucked in a breath, her spell that was in the process of returning shoes to where they belonged cancelling with her distraction, and the light thuds of the misplaced pairs sounded as they dropped to the floor where they had been on their way to their correct location. 

Draco.

He stopped just short of the fireplace, using his wand to carefully remove the floo powder and ash from his clothes and skin. Hermione could hear her heart pounding in her ears, and her fingers clenched into fists similar to the fight or flight instinct she used to feel on the run with Harry and Ron.

It wasn’t until Draco looked up to see her already staring at him that Hermione shook herself out of her frozen state. He smirked slightly, and his expression only grew more satisfied as he ran his own stare up and down her person, taking in her outfit and reaction to him.

Hermione squared her shoulders, unwilling to let him have the upper hand in the situation. She stalked forward and grabbed his hand before turning and pulling him along towards the back hallway where the library was located.

“Hello to you as well, Granger,” he said, amusement colouring his hoarse voice. She shivered as she let herself bask slightly in hearing her surname in that deep tone he had acquired as he got older and more serious over the last decade. She wasn’t sure she would ever get used to this new way he said it.

When they reached the Grimmauld library door, Hermione pushed him inside in front of her before following him and shutting the door. She quickly warded the door and set a silencing charm at the last minute, just to cover her bases with a house that was soon to host many young children and their families. 

Then she turned to face Draco, leaning back against the closed door to fully take in his appearance once more. 

Her inner thoughts slipped out of her mouth before she could stop them. “Holy fucking shit, you look incredible.”

Draco preened slightly at her admission, his smirk growing into a full blown smile that she usually only saw at Mae’s pub in the middle of their heated discussions. It only amplified how insanely attractive he looked in his suit, so different from his usual clothing he wore into the muggle world. While those clothes were still impeccable in taste and broadcasted his wealth without much effort, they were mostly more laid back and able to pass as someone who preferred to spend his Saturday evenings in a small London pub.

This suit was completely something else, and even more striking than the suit that he had worn in his retirement Seeker Weekly interview. She was having trouble remembering what she had originally wanted to say to him today, what she had practiced multiple times in her bathroom mirror to gather her wits beforehand. One custom-made suit on a beyond-tempting man, and it was all for naught.

“Well, I saw how exquisite you looked in that dress, and thought I should dress to match if we were to have a date tonight,” he told her charmingly, as he slowly stepped closer to her. He dipped his eyes to her feet and back up again, and she knew the view he had of her outfit, had stared long enough into her mirror before she left that morning that the image was burned into her retinas.

“A date?” she questioned, raising an eyebrow in an imitation of one of his most used facial expressions. “And where was this consideration for all of our previous dates?”

“Mm, well, Granger, those weren’t dates,” he told her, similar to the manner in which he used to correct her papers whenever she made a mistake on their joint projects in eighth year. “So, you see, my appearance is much more important tonight.”

“What, is there some Pureblood code for what is actually considered a date or not?”

Draco paused in his slow prowl towards her to tilt his head in acknowledgement of what was apparently a real thing. With her back already up against the door, there wasn’t much in the way of an escape from his advance, but Hermione wasn’t looking to escape for once.

“There is,” he admitted, wincing before shaking his head and refocusing the entirety of his attention on her and moving to stand directly in front of her. “But that’s not what I was referencing.”

“No?” Hermione breathed out the question. She had to tilt her head back much more to be able to keep eye contact with him this close. 

Draco slowly shook his head in disagreement as he brought one of his hands up next to her head on the door to brace himself. The other came up to tenderly touch one of her curls that fell just to her shoulder. 

“No, my understanding of dates, definitely not the traditional, Pureblood view of dates, is that there needs to be a kiss at the end,” he said quietly, watching his hand loop one of her curls around his finger over and over again, as though mesmerized.

“And what if the kiss was at the start of the date instead of the end?” Hermione asked boldly, bringing her own hands up to rest on his chest, absently brushing her fingers back and forth to feel the soft material of his suit.

“Why not both?” His lips quirked back into a content smirk as his eyes moved back to focus intensely on her lips, his head leaning down more to reach her height. She unconsciously licked her lips in preparation as the hand that had been gently playing with her curls slid deeper into her hair.

“You know, I charmed this dress from its original color,” she whispered, suddenly finding it urgent that he knew. Draco grunted like he was impatient for her to stop speaking so he could engage her lips in other, more enticing actions. “An emerald green.”

His eyes flew up to hers from where they had been laser-focused on her lips, and he was close enough that she could see how his pupils expanded in interest. “You’ll be changing it back as soon as we leave here.”

She scoffed at the commanding way he told her this. It might thrill her a bit, somewhere deep down, when he spoke to her like that, but she was still Hermione Granger, and she wouldn’t let him think he could just command her around any time he pleased. “That was the original plan --” 

And then his lips were finally on hers, and her brain short-circuited in a way that would be embarrassing if she wasn’t so intent on kissing him back with just as much pressure, her eyes fluttering shut and her fingers grabbing onto his suit’s lapels to pull him even closer to her. His lips were much softer than she would have thought, especially for a man who spent a good portion of his time outdoors.

Draco’s grip in her hair tightened slightly to reposition her head to a better angle for the kiss, and his other hand dropped from its position on the door to travel down her back, stopping at the curve of her bottom to squeeze it quickly, before moving on to palm the entirety of the underside of her thigh. Pulling her leg up next to his hip, Draco pressed in more against the space he had opened up between her thighs.

She gasped when she could feel the evidence of his arousal, marvelling at how hard he already was after so short of a kiss, even if she wasn’t faring much better in controlling her own reactions. She could feel herself growing wet, and she pressed herself harder against him. Draco took advantage of her gasp, slipping his tongue in and setting to devour her slowly, like he was savouring the new experience. Her thighs tightened in response, and her core clenched hard in want.

She couldn’t help the whine that slipped out of her as her neck fell back even more to accommodate his kiss, and her hands grappled for a grip on his suit jacket to gain some leverage back. But in the next moment, Draco was pulling his other hand out of her curls so he could grab at her other thigh to lift her up and pin her against the door with his body, putting them at a much more even height to continue their kiss. He guided her legs to wrap around his waist, and when she was secure, he dropped both hands to grasp her arse, squeezing slightly as he rocked into her.

When she finally pulled away to drag in much needed breaths, Draco dropped his head to kiss up her jawline, to the spot just behind her ear that she had daydreamed about so many weeks ago. A groan escaped her, and he took that as his cue to give more attention to the spot, nipping slightly. Chills ran down her arms as pleasure washed over her, and she sucked in a deeper breath, her chest expanding between them, and she could feel her nipples tightening as they brushed against Draco’s broad chest.

He pressed her slightly harder into the door, holding her up with just the pressure of his body as his hands dipped to get under the hem of her dress, his palm and fingers spanning to cover both her skin and the lace knickers she had knowingly chosen that morning.

The lace must have been a surprise to him, as he finally let out a deep groan against her neck where he had trailed open-mouth kisses.

“Gods, Granger,” he bit out, his tone even harsher than usual.

Hermione knew they had been building to this over the past month, had even intentionally worn her best lace set and locked and silenced the door behind them when she dragged him into the library. But suddenly it hit her that this was Draco Malfoy who she was snogging, who was dipping his fingers under the edge of her knickers just slightly as she panted above him. 

If only their past selves could see them now.

Hermione yelped as she felt a pinch on the skin of her throat, her hands diving into the silky strands of Draco’s hair as he pulled back to give her an accusing look, wanting her attention back on him and his actions. Before she could admonish him, he returned back to the same spot on her neck to nip and suck at her skin.

Her sharp inhales melted into low gasps as she felt the warmth of arousal traveling through her whole body from the sensation, her hips pushing against his as friction between her legs became much more of a necessity. As he hit a particularly sensitive spot she dropped her head back on a moan, accidentally knocking her head against the door. She hardly felt the impact, but the sound of the crack stole Draco’s attention and he tilted her more into his embrace so he could walk them over towards one of the armchairs further into the library.

He lowered her down gently to perch on the arm of the chair, before pulling his arms away to briskly remove his outer suit jacket and unbutton the bottoms of the sleeves of his dress shirt. He rolled them up with an efficiency that should not have given Hermione quite as many flutters in her stomach as they did, but she couldn’t help how much more potent the sight was than it had been in the picture in Seeker Weekly. 

The fact that he was doing the motion much less methodically with results much less neat than he had in the quidditch article photo didn’t lessen the appeal; in fact, the urgency he felt to get back to her only increased Hermione’s attraction.

As soon as he finished, his hands were cupping the sides of her face to pull her face up to his for another consuming kiss that drove Hermione dizzy with want. She let Draco keep her steady as the feelings overwhelmed her, whining when she went to place her legs back around his waist but was unable to with the slight height difference from her sitting on the chair’s arm. 

With a growl, Draco picked her up again and broke the kiss to quickly look around the library for a better location to continue. She took advantage of his distraction and started to leave kisses down the part of his throat that she could reach, as her hands started to unbutton the top of his dress shirt. 

When she felt a pressure against her back, she realized that he had moved them up against one of the sturdy bookshelves that populated the majority of the library’s room. A thrill zipped through her as she remembered a long buried fantasy from eighth year involving some inappropriate uses of the Hogwarts’ library. It tightened her abdomen, and she felt her pulse pick up at the idea of what they were about to do. 

Draco grabbed one of her hands from where it had stilled after opening his top two shirt buttons and brought it up to the shelf just above her head, indicating with a squeeze that she should brace herself against it. She used her other hand to pull him back to her for a deep kiss as she rolled her center against him again, the friction from her knickers and the pressure from his hardness had her pleasure building higher and faster than she had anticipated.

Draco ,” she moaned, her head falling back from the kiss as he nipped his way back down to her cleavage. She arched her back to get closer to him, the muscles in her thighs tightening with the effort to keep the rhythmic motion of their bodies moving.

Draco’s right hand squeezed on her bare thigh, firm enough she was sure she would have fingerprint bruises on her skin as souvenirs, before it slid up to her center, where a finger slowly stroked along her soaked knickers. Her core squeezed in anticipation, and before she could urge him to let her legs down so she could shimmy out of the lace, she felt a cool wave of wandless, wordless magic as they vanished and suddenly Draco had much better access than just seconds before. 

Hermione gasped, looking back to Draco to watch as a slow smirk drew across his face at her surprise. Adjusting his stance, he spread her legs wider and drew his finger through her wetness and up to rub lightly against the bundle of nerves, sending bolts of lightning down her extremities. 

“Oh,” Hermione gasped. The hand not keeping her steady against the bookshelf sought for purchase on Draco’s shoulder, not caring that she was digging her nails in. Draco spent a few more moments there, with his fingers against her nub, watching her expressions as he studied the reactions to his movements. “Please, Draco… More .” 

Draco groaned, a noise that ended up sounding much more like a deep growl. Her insides fluttered as one of his perfectly, graceful fingers slipped inside her, and she nudged her shoulder where his head had fallen to be able to pull him into another heavy kiss. Draco’s tongue mimicked his finger’s movement, increasing in urgency as he added another finger to her center.

As his pace picked up, Hermione could feel herself approaching the precipice as she chased the overpowering sensations rippling through her body. Her head fell back again, and Draco dove back to the area on her neck he had favored earlier when he had her against the door. The slight sting of his teeth had her shivering as her pulse skyrocketed higher, the feel of his fingers crooking against the perfect spot inside of her at each pass driving her wild, and the part of her mind that barely had any sense left was suddenly grateful she had thought to add a silencing charm to cover the noises she was currently making. Draco worked his way back up her neck to just behind her ear once more.

“That’s it, Granger.” His voice was gravelly when he spoke against her ear, panting slightly as he kept his pace inside her and moved her closer and closer to her orgasm. “Will you be a good girl? Will you come for me?”

His thumb brushed up against her clit once, twice, and then Hermione felt the pressure inside her burst in the most magnificent way as she cried out in pleasure. Her fingernails scraped down the material of his dress shirt as her hand formed a fist and trembled with the sensation that was coursing through her veins. Draco kept stroking her through her aftershocks, murmuring praises in her ear that had her shaking with satisfaction and bliss.

As he drew his hand away from between her legs, he began to lower her to stand on her shaky legs. Hermione started to reach for the very prominent bulge she could see within his dress pants, but Draco shook his head slightly and dipped to give her a brief but intense kiss. 

“I can help,” Hermione tried to protest, but cut herself off as she watched Draco bring his fingers to his mouth, the fingers that had just been inside her moments ago, to savor the taste of what had remained there. The rest of her sentence came out instead as just a shaky breath as she strove to memorize the vision in front of her.

“Oh, Granger,” he sighed, eyeing her and pressing closer into her once more. He leaned down slightly to leave a soft kiss at the spot on her neck that he had appreciated so much earlier. “I will be extremely interested in you helping me later. But, unfortunately, I think we’re already past due for--”

A sudden pounding on the library door had Hermione jumping in alarm. How could she forget about the party just on the other side of the door?

“Aunt Hermione? Coach?” Lily called from the other side. At her voice, Hermione was startled back into awareness of exactly what she was supposed to be doing at Grimmauld this afternoon, which was decidedly not getting caught with Draco in the library by children.

She reached for her wand with one hand as the other felt for her curls, hoping that their wildness would hide most of the evidence of the tryst. Doing a quick, wordless cleaning charm on herself, she turned sharply to Draco.

“You vanished my knickers!” she hissed at him. 

Draco shrugged, his expression both unperturbed and self-satisfied. “I’m sure you’ll manage. Besides, it’ll probably come in handy for the end of our date.”

She rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help the appreciative glance she gave him as he fixed his jacket suit back on, having already put his dress shirt back to rights and, Hermione assumed, cast a glamour over his own evidence of their tryst.

He walked over to the door, and put his hand on the knob, waving his wand with his other hand to cancel out the ward and silencing charm Hermione had placed on the room. “Shall we?”

Hermione brushed her hands down her dress to smooth it out and make sure she was presentable enough, even sans knickers. As soon as Draco opened the door, a small, red-headed tornado barreled into the library.

“There you are! Dad said you both might be in here because Aunt Hermione loves books so much,” Lily told them impatiently. “Come onnnn. Almost everyone is here and we need to start with the trophies, Coach Malfoy!”

Lily ran behind Draco and put her hands on his back, pushing him through the door with an eagerness Hermione was used to with Ron wanting to get to the Great Hall for a feast. As she maneuvered him out of the room, he passed Harry who was standing in the hallway just outside of the library, where he had presumably been waiting while Lily banged on the library door. 

Harry’s face turned to a slight scowl, and Hermione could only imagine the smug look Draco must have sent his way as he walked past. Harry’s expression cleared some before he took a step into the library where Hermione was still standing. They stood in silence for a few moments, neither really wanting to look the other in the eye.

Finally, Harry sighed, and brought his gaze up to her face. He stopped just before he voiced whatever he was going to tell her, his eyes catching on her neck, and Hermione’s heart dropped to her stomach as she realized what must be there for him to be looking at. 

“You, ah,” he said awkwardly, gesturing slightly with one hand towards her as his other found his pocket in his jeans. “You might want to… take care of that before you come out to the party with everyone else.” 

Hermione squeezed her eyes shut, embarrassed to not have thought of the marks that Draco might have left. She nodded tightly. “I’ll be right out. Thanks, Harry.”

Harry gave her one more inquisitive look, before shaking his head, laughing slightly. “Those articles definitely did something for you.”

“Harry!” she laughed. He waved back at her absently and returned to the main area of the first floor where the rest of the party-goers were.

Hermione quickly stopped in one of the first floor loos to check over her appearance and cast the necessary glamours on her neck. Draco had been perfectly content to let her walk out of the library with the bruises from his mouth on her skin in full sight. She was definitely going to get him back for that, mind already swirling with ideas.

She made herself presentable and followed the sound of the commotion of a trophy ceremony happening in the main living room, stopping next to Harry where he was leaning against one of the back walls. 

Draco was currently holding an award passed from Ginny, who held a box afloat with her wand, as he was required to give at least one compliment to each player on the team before he could hand the award off to the child. Hermione had heard Ginny plotting earlier at the match, enthusiastically going over the various hexes she would inflict on Draco if he refused to follow her plan.

Hermione settled in next to Harry against the wall, catching him looking her over once more before he gave her an approving nod. They watched the ceremony in silence for a few of the children, each child beaming at the compliment they received from their coach and then excitedly running to their family to show off their trophy, before Hermione said what she had been thinking for the last few weeks.

“At least he’s a retired quidditch player this time?”

Harry snorted, shaking his head, his eyes on Lily as she accepted her trophy from Draco at the front of the room.

“What?” Hermione turned to face him. “Is there something else I’ve missed from not following quidditch news?”

Harry’s smile grew as he watched his daughter hug Ginny quickly before she sought him out in the room and started making her way to him. “No, no. Just a rumor Ginny heard at her last match.” He paused, throwing a mischievous grin in Hermione’s direction. “Something about Malfoy becoming a coach for the Falcons.”

“Fuuuuuuuck,” Hermione breathed out in resignation, her eyes drifting shut.

A startled gasp had her eyes flying open again to see Lily in front of them, a disapproving look on her face. “Bad word, Aunt Hermione!”

Harry laughed, picking his daughter up to congratulate her on her trophy, as Draco caught Hermione’s eye from across the room and smirked at her. “Yes, Aunt Hermione, bad word.”

She smirked back at Draco. “I’ll put a sickle in the swear jar.”