Title: Watching Them

Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling owns the characters in this story. I am writing this for fun and not profit.

Rating: G/K.

Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione.

Warnings: AU, in that DH did not happen. Hermione POV.

Summary: Hermione has wondered for years exactly how Harry managed to convince Draco Malfoy to act like a civilized person in company. Now she thinks she might have figured it out.

Notes: Written as a get-better fic for angylsmuse on LJ; she wanted H/D fluff. Hope you feel better soon!

Watching Them

"Good evening, Granger." Malfoy spoke the words as if he actually meant them, though Hermione could see the slight darting-sideways of his eyes that said he didn't, actually.

"Good evening, Hermione," Harry echoed, and leaned in to kiss her on the cheek. "Where's Ron?"

Hermione rolled her eyes. Her husband had tried to describe the professional Quidditch game that would keep him away for most of the evening, but she didn't care about the details of it any more than he cared about the wonderful advances she had made in teaching History of Magic at Hogwarts. "Away again," she said.

"He couldn't be here for this?" Harry's eyes were disapproving.

Malfoy opened his mouth. Without looking at him, Harry reached sideways and touched his side—on the soft skin under the ribs, Hermione thought, as if he might pinch it. Malfoy sighed and shook his head, then stepped past them both to make his way to the doorway behind Hermione. His dress robes were green, edged with silver. Hermione would have thought his clinging to Slytherin colors childish if Harry wasn't wearing scarlet and gold, and if she didn't spend most of her time these days around children to whom House rivalry was the height of importance.

"No, he couldn't," Hermione said, and took Harry's hand to lead him further into the house. She and Ron had chosen a small place in Hogsmeade—not large enough to tempt many couples who planned to have children eventually, but cheap enough and convenient enough to attract their attention. Besides, it had built-in bookshelves in most of the rooms. That would have overcome any objection Hermione had almost automatically. "On the other hand, notice that I am not at his game."

Harry laughed quietly, then stopped her with one hand on her shoulder just as they were about to pass into the drawing room, where a good portion of the Weasley family, some of the Ministry workers who found it politic to attend an event like this, and most of Hermione's Hogwarts colleagues were gathered. She turned to look up at him, and smiled a little. It wasn't so long ago that she wouldn't have noticed the shadows in his eyes. But she'd had a quick, difficult tutorial in observation skills when she began teaching. It was the only way to ensure the students, who had every reason to expect History of Magic to be boring, actuallypaid attention.

"Are you happy?" he asked quietly. "Really?"

Hermione rolled her eyes and snorted. "You're only asking that because Ron and I don't spend every moment under each other's feet the way you and Malfoy do, Harry. Let me assure you, my bond with my husband is as strong as it's ever been."

Harry did do abashed well, Hermione thought. She was glad that he remembered how, considering that he probably spent more time coaxing the expression onto Malfoy's face than using it himself. "I'm sorry," he said. "But—it's just, we're so happy. Molly was right. I really do start wanting my friends to experience the exact same things I have now that I've settled down."

Hermione held up a hand. "If this conversation is about to involve bedroom details, I would prefer that it end here."

Harry laughed softly at her. "But there was a time when you did want to know how I got Malfoy to 'act like a rational person.' Asked me incessantly about it, as I recall."

"Yes, well," Hermione said, and smiled. "I've learned to watch since then."

And she swept into the drawing room, leaving Harry to stare after her in confusion, and then follow.

It really was easy, Hermione thought, watching them over the rim of her drink and around the people who kept coming up to congratulate her.

Now that she kept an eye out, she saw the way that Harry and Malfoy orbited each other, shepherded each other, and kept each other from doing stupid things. Some of it might be unconscious by now, but it had to have started out as conscious accommodation.

It was fascinating.

When Harry was cornered by a Ministry official in the impeccably formal dress robes that usually signaled someone with pure-blood affiliation, she saw the way Malfoy stepped up slightly ahead of Harry, naturally drawing attention to himself, and greeted the official by first name, while his body blocked the woman's line-of-sight to Harry. Harry was more controlled now than to let an expression of relief show on his face, but he did lift one hand and brush it over the jut of Malfoy's elbow, softly and reverently.

A little later, Professor Rhubarb, the Muggle Studies professor, turned away from Malfoy with an inaudible exclamation of something that was probably disgust. Malfoy opened his mouth. Once again, Harry's hand brushed his side, fingers mimicking a pinching motion—but Hermione thought they only caught cloth. Malfoy tilted his head, shut his mouth, and then leaned towards Harry and murmured something that made him convulse with laughter. Professor Rhubarb twitched and visibly stopped herself from looking around.

Harry picked up his third glass of wine. Malfoy leaned towards him and said something into his ear; Hermione was close enough that time to hear, "Don't want you unable to perform tonight." Harry rolled his eyes, but handed the wine off to Ginny, who was involved in an animated debate about Ron's Quidditch team with Professor Sinistra and used the glass to emphasize her points more than she drank from it.

Fred said, thoughtlessly, that tonight was close to the anniversary of Professor Dumbledore's death, and therefore he could use some cheering up. Hermione saw Malfoy freeze, and winced herself, though she was looking over both Fred's shoulder and Bill's to see him, and so she thought no one else probably noticed. Harry nudged Malfoy and asked him something that made his eyes narrow. He began to spout a long tirade about exactly how the Malfoy family was not "of very recent French extraction," no matter what the Daily Prophet said. Harry argued back, playing the part of devil's advocate for Rita Skeeter for once, and drew Malfoy further away from Fred—just in case he said something about the same subject again, Hermione thought. Given that he and George were now trading reminiscences of Dumbledore, that was probably for the best.

Snape, whom Hermione thought retained the position of Potions Professor simply because he could frighten more people that way, gave Harry a cross between a fixed stare and a nasty look. Malfoy looked pained, but only until he realized that Harry was staring back, his face absolutely neutral. Immediately Malfoy leaned his head on Harry's shoulder and whinged for attention. Hermione felt her face flame, causing Professor McGonagall, who was offering her congratulations and accepting Hermione's own on her successful retirement, to look at her curiously. Hermione coughed and explained it away as excitement and wine. She could hardly remark that Malfoy's tone resembled the one she'd heard through the door the morning after the first night he and Harry had spent together, only that time the attention he was begging for was of a rather—different—sort.

When they came up to her, at last, Malfoy swallowed twice, then took her hand and bowed over it. Harry stood behind him with arms folded and watched, though he relaxed and beamed when he saw them getting along. Hermione hid her own grin and accepted Malfoy's gesture with cordial words. She couldn't help but wonder what threat Harry had made and enforced, to prevent Malfoy from ever using the word "Mudblood" again.

Come to think of it, Malfoy's use of it had ceased rather abruptly about a month after he and Harry started sleeping together, and after a week of anguished stares on Malfoy's part and steadfast focus on Ron and Hermione and the Horcrux quest on Harry's. Then there had come a morning when both of them walked gingerly, but Malfoy was all smiles again.

Hermione rather suspected she knew what threat had been used.

Harry stepped past Malfoy and leaned down to kiss her cheek. His words were warm and soft. "Thanks, Hermione."

She blinked up at him.

"I know it must be hard to have someone who insulted you so often in your home and your life," Harry murmured. "But you've been awfully good about it. Better than Ron was, for a long time," he added.

Hermione laughed. "Have you ever wondered why he stopped insulting Malfoy, Harry?"

Harry looked at her quizzically.

"You're not the only one who can go without sex better than your partner."

Harry's eyes widened. "How did you know—"

"A witch must keep some secrets." Hermione waved her hand airily. "And I'm the youngest Headmistress of Hogwarts in centuries, now. Allow me some claim to a share of mystery, won't you? It's part of the tradition."

Harry still gave her an odd look as he claimed Malfoy's hand and led him out of the room. Hermione watched them go with a small smile.

As long as Harry can keep a leash on him, there's not much reason not to allow him to come back here. And it's comforting to know that he's watching Harry's back while Harry goes gallivanting around the world rescuing lost puppies and Muggleborn children. Potter's Rescue Services was a grand idea, but not one that would allow him to live to an old age without help.

Hermione felt a warm satisfaction as she turned back to her other guests. She had been McGonagall's chosen successor, and her husband would be home in two days.

And she had figured out a puzzle for herself, without being told the answer ahead of time.

It was just as exhilarating as it had ever been when she was young.

Add to that, she thought, as raised voices from across the room attracted her attention, that Professor McGonagall is telling Severus off rather more effectively than I could have, and he might not give me any trouble for at least a month after I take up the post.

Life was good.