I want to take a moment to address the tragedy that has happened this week in Manchester, and to let my neighbours and friends and all of you know that EVIL WILL NOT DIVIDE US. We are one community, one people, one heart, regardless of where we came from and where we're going. I believe in that, and I pray for the world to find the strength and courage to believe in it, too.
Be compassionate. Be patient. Be generous. Be hopeful. Be kind. This is your legacy. Nothing else matters.
I send to each of you out there all my love.
Hermione rushed down to the dungeons, walking as fast as she dared without giving away her glamoured belly and being careful of on-coming traffic to prevent accidental run-ins. By the time she got to Draco's Potion's classroom, she was out of breath, sweaty, and a bit in need of a nap.
Still, her excitement couldn't be contained.
"Draco?" she called out. Fortunately, his morning class had finished and he had a break until lunch to grade papers, so he was alone behind his desk. He looked up. "She kicked!" she told him.
He dropped his quill and met her in the middle of the room as they rushed towards each other with elation.
Reaching out with trembling fingers, he put his hands upon her belly where she indicated. They both held their breaths and waited for more movement.
"Hmm, that's odd " she was saying when she felt another decisive boot to her innards that made her instead expel a heavy breath. "Ow!"
Draco's face lit up like a Lumos. He seemed both overjoyed and surprised. "She's strong," he said with a grin.
The baby kicked again.
They both laughed in sheer happiness.
"At least I won't have to worry about her defending herself from boys," he proudly proclaimed. "She's Beater material, though, definitely!"
Hermione sighed. "Seems Ginny was right: Quidditch is in Carina Rose's future, after all." She looked up and gave her baby's father a playful stink-eye. "This is your fault, you know. I can't stand flying! If it was up to me, she'd never leave the library."
Draco didn't reply. Instead, he was staring down at her as if he was deciding something important.
"What?" she asked.
Before she could react, he swooped down and melded his mouth to hers.
Oh, dear lord, she thought. She'd missed this so much!
A whimper of surrender from her was all she could afford before her hands were on him, tangling in his hair, and their tongues were meeting. They were ravenous for each other, kissing until she was so dizzy she needed to sit before her legs gave out.
Draco instinctively caught her and carefully lowered her into one of the student chairs. He followed her all the way down, kneeling before her to assure their mouths never parted. When he did pull back a bit, it was merely to pet her face. Their foreheads pressed together, and their eyes met.
"I'm sorry, I know you want to go slow, but-"
"It's okay," she told him. Her hands touched him everywhere, too, relearning him and satisfying some of her yearnings. "I've missed this. Missed you so much, Draco."
He clung to her as if he'd believed he'd never hear such things from her again. "Slow. We'll go slowly, like you want, but…I'd like to touch you like this, too." He kissed her again, tenderly, and whispered against her lips, "I've missed you, too."
They held each other and talked in whispers until the clock tolled far above them, reminding them that the next group of children would be on their way down to the Potions classroom soon.
As they parted, Draco kissed the knuckles of her fingers. "Thank you for coming all the way down here to share our daughter with me…and for this second chance."
Hermione's heart had never been lighter.
Harry and Ginny came to Hogsmeade again at the end of the month, Ginny insisting that only Honeydukes had the kind of candy she craved. Hermione thought it a clever excuse to get Harry, who was getting a bit paunchy around the middle from his emotional contentedness, to get out and walk more. It helped Gin keep the weight off, too.
…And as Hermione decided to walk down to the station from the castle, now that the weather had improved, it further helped her cause for weight maintenance.
Draco came with her, and despite the stares they received from the children (and the smiles from the staff), he openly held her hand all the way down to the gate and from there, to the station. They talked as they walked side-by-side.
"I'm glad your father's feeling better."
She hummed in agreement. "It seems the worst has passed, and he's on the mend. Mum says he's even back to eating all the things he oughtn't, just because he can. Snack food, mostly. It's driving her mad. She's come to despise the smell of gherkins."
Draco laughed, and Hermione could help but be entranced by the sound. He had a very lovely, masculine laugh, she thought.
"Whereas you adore pickles to the point of madness," he pointed out.
Just thinking about it now made her mouth suddenly water. "I think it must be the salt. That and the crunchy, crisp feeling when you bite into them."
She smacked her lips, and her lover laughed again.
He teased her then with a list of all her favourite foods on the way down to the station, so that her steps quickened as her stomach rumbled. By the time they got to the platform, she'd worked up quite an appetite and a good sweat.
"You're so Slytherin sometimes it scares me," she told him wiping at the moisture above her lip and at her brow.
He leaned down and kissed her, right there in front of everyone, as the train rolled into the station.
"Do you mind it so much, my sly snakey-ness?" he asked with a mischievous grin.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and mock sighed. "Not really. It's kind of fun being naughty sometimes."
He waggled his eyebrows at her. "That's what I've been telling you for a long time, Granger."
She shivered with arousal, as he said her last name in that familiar, little growly voice that he used to use when he was deep inside her, thrusting away, talking to her while driving her onto orgasm.
Did she say she wanted to take things slow? Why was that again?
"You two are like lovesick Crups during the mating season," Ginny said, standing on the platform nearby. "We've been here a full minute and you've been too busy sucking face to notice!"
Hermione reluctantly broke away from Draco and turned to hug her friend, careful of their bellies bumping. "Sorry! It's just…" Her cheeks felt hot at the memory of what she'd just been thinking. "Um, yes, well." She turned to Harry and hugged him, too. "Hello!"
Harry hugged her back, but she could feel his attention shift to his formal rival behind her. "Hello, you," he replied in her ear. "You look good."
She stepped back with a smile. "Yes, well, Draco's been spoiling me." She took her lover's hand and looked up at him, then back at her friends. "So, um…you all know each other."
Harry and Draco just stared at each other, sizing the other up.
Hermione and Ginny exchanged a worried glance as the seconds ticked by, awkward in their silence.
"You still play?" Draco finally asked Harry.
Her dark-haired friend adjusted his glasses on his nose and nodded. "Pick-up game?"
"Best two out of three?"
They stepped towards each other, shook hands, and that was that.
Draco turned back to her, extending his arm for her to take.
Hermione looked up at him in awe. "Impressive."
"Quite," he agreed with a grin.
"How do you men do that?" Ginny asked, exasperated. She threw her hands in the air. "You have an entire conversation in, like, three words! I swear to Godric, your entire gender is from an alien planet—where oxygen is scarce!" She walked away, grumbling loudly. "It's totally unnatural, I tell you! Just freakish!"
Every woman in hearing distance broke out into gales of laughter in agreement.
And the men, they just smiled tolerantly and traded silent, meaningful glances with each other.
Hermione was sitting in the Quidditch bleachers next to Ginny and Neville, along with pretty much most of the rest of the bloody school, shaking her head at the nonsensical pride of men and wondering why she hadn't put a stop to this nonsense back at the train station.
That teensy (barely happened) conversation had morphed into full on ragging throughout lunch between Draco and Harry, who were still as antagonistic as ever, but now they were almost…friendly…about it.
Ginny had been right: men were weird.
And now here they were, playing a game of Snitch catching in front of the entire school, as if they were reliving their past 'glory days' on the pitch against each other. Best two out of three.
"For old time's sake, Potter. Unless you're too out of shape…"
Out in the middle of the pitch, Madam Hooch was mounted on a broom to referee. As she went over the rules, a Sonorus cast upon her voice so everyone in the arena could hear, in her hand, she held a Golden Snitch—one of three that would be thrown that day.
"I'll release them one at a time. Best two out of three wins," she explained.
Neville leaned into her, holding his hand out to shake. "Harry, for five galleons," he bet.
"I'm with you," Gin said. "Five on my man."
"Draco, for ten," Hermione countered and they all three shook on it.
All around them, similar bets were being placed. Theodore Nott was even tending to the betting board in the teacher's tower, she wryly noted. So far, her best friend was favoured to win at three to one odds. Hermione knew something the others didn't, however: Harry hadn't sat a broom since his school days, and Draco flew almost daily, when there was time between classes and duties. He hadn't lost his competitive edge, whereas Auror Potter had spent far too much time sitting behind a desk than out in the field chasing bad guys. Hence the extra weight around his middle that concerned Ginny enough to drag him around wherever she went.
Draco, Hermione knew from personal experience, was all lean, strong muscle. He had the kind of body a woman itched to run her hands and mouth all over…
Watching him now, as he sat his broom, his casual clothing transfigured into a hybrid Quidditch uniform, the same as Harry's, his thighs clenching around the wooden handle to hold him upright as he adjusted his gloves, Hermione felt her heart crawl into her throat with a lust so consuming that it had her clenching her back teeth until it passed.
Shouting and people getting to their feet for the ten second count-down knocked her out of her headspace and back into the real world.
The Snitch had already been released by Madam Hooch, giving it a good head-start. Draco and Harry both hunched over their brooms, flattening themselves as much as possible in anticipation of an aerodynamic lift-off. The crowd ticked down the seconds in a deafening, simultaneous roar.
Both former Seekers acquired their target with ease, and then they were zooming off from the ground at the same time, the power of their brooms being equal. With his longer arms, however, Draco was able to easily snatch and grab the Snitch right out from in front of Harry's flight path before Harry could react, so after only ten minutes of Seeking, Round One went to Hermione's lover.
Of course, she was terribly torn over that outcome.
On the one hand: yes, Draco caught the Snitch! For a man who had spent much of his boyhood draped in failure and who had spent all of his adult life trying to make up for his poor choices, this small win would feel like the earth had shifted for him. It was an important moment and no matter how short or long a time it lasted, this first, real win would be with him forever.
On the other hand: poor Harry! By the way he was breathing hard right then she knew he was probably feeling quite out of shape. Hermione didn't want to see her best friend humiliated, especially as his short-lived Quidditch rivalry with Draco had made Hogwarts legend. She'd secretly cheer him on for the second round.
The second catch went to Harry, as Hermione had quietly hoped. He'd managed to snag the Snitch as it suddenly stopped and reversed course, colliding with his chest. It had been a lucky catch, but a good one nonetheless, especially after the long, grueling chase for it, which had lasted half an hour and taken them all around the course.
Tied one-one, her boys faced off for the final round.
Before Rolanda had even finished dropping her hand to signal the race begun, Harry had shot straight up and to the right, pursuing the Snitch in earnest.
Draco, meanwhile, took a second longer to consider the air currents instead, testing them by wetting his finger and holding it up into the air. Even from the distance, Hermione could see he'd factored in the breeze to determine something important before making his move.
She wondered what her lover knew that she and, apparently, Harry didn't.
Finally convinced of a direction, Draco kicked off from the ground, spiraling upwards and to the left of the arena. Allowing his broom its head, he let it lead him towards his mysterious destination under its own power, streaking through the air at an upwards angle. Within seconds, he'd become a black and green blur against the backdrop of the stand's brightly coloured pinions that snapped to and fro in the wind.
Harry, Hermione noted, was headed in the opposite direction, towards the Quidditch towers decked out in Gryffindor colours.
"What's Malfoy up to now?" Neville asked her, just as confused as she was by Draco's odd start.
Had someone, perhaps, jinxed his broom?
The Snitch's golden face flashed against the grey skyline, streaking around on the right side of the arena…only to shift course suddenly and head left, as if it had spied something interesting and needed to investigate it immediately. It headed straight for one of Slytherin's Quidditch towers.
As if he'd been hit with a nasty curse, Draco's broom suddenly tipped over and went into free fall. It headed for the ground at an astonishing speed.
Hermione froze in horror as she watched the man she loved tumbling to his death.
It took a beat longer for her instincts to kick in and for her to reach for her wand inside her jacket pocket. Before she could extract it, however, the Golden Snitch fluttered right past Draco. Had she not looked up at just that second to cast an Arresto Momentum on him, she would have missed the most brilliant move she'd ever witnessed in the game: with his left hand, her sneaky Slytherin held onto his broom, and with the right hand, he reached out and snagged the little, hovering ball right out of the air as he hurtled for the ground at breakneck speed.
He'd fallen on purpose so he could grab the Snitch as he'd plummeted past it!
"Holy Helga, he did it!" Ginny cried, as surprised as the rest of them as Draco's broom halted on the spot, fully under his control once more. He climb back on it with an easy pull of muscle, and then from there, he floated safely back to the ground.
"Draco Malfoy caught the final Snitch!" Madam Hooch announced. "Two out of three. Winner!"
Everyone roared with excitement, regardless of House affiliation or betting ticket, for Draco's move had been the brassiest ploy any of them had ever seen.
Hermione was, of course, on her feet and stomping and whooping with the best of them as well, proud of her man for enacting such a sneaky plan with a lion's courage. She'd, of course, give him an earful later, when they were without an audience, regarding being so reckless with his life for a mere game, but right then, she couldn't have been prouder of him.
"They'll be calling that one the 'Malfoy Manoeuver' for sure!" Ginny praised, clapping too.
Her girlfriend's voice echoed throughout the school grounds, only encouraging a louder response from the crowd. People whistled, ululated, and many of the Slytherins howled like wolves at Draco's gutsy triumph. Even Harry seemed awe-struck by what he'd just witnessed. He landed at his Madam Hooch's side, his expression one of amazement for his childhood rival as he enthusiastically shook Draco's hand and offered him congratulations.
Hermione's heart pounded for a different reason now as she watched Draco's expression transform. He seemed genuinely affected by Harry's accolades and by the crowd's cheering. In his grey eyes, there was wonder that so much applause was for him.
"Years of being blacklisted, outcast, seen only as the shite ex-Death Eater, persona non grata…"
He'd told her the night they'd made up that he'd never thought he'd move past that legacy, and even despite their relationship, she knew he still felt unworthy.
Looking up at the students he taught and at his working colleagues, she could tell it was finally sinking in that he didn't have to wear that black mantle around his shoulders any longer. He could let go of the past at long last, and move on to build a new life.
She rubbed her pregnant belly under her jacket.
They could, together.
As expected, her lover's frank show of emotion lasted only a few moments, before his natural Slytherin reserve kicked in and his expression altered so that the familiar, smug mask he wore in public fell back into place. He even tossed Harry an arrogant smirk that taunted, "I told you I could whip you, old man". Still, they'd all seen Draco's guard drop and his true emotions revealed for just a moment, and now they all knew the truth: that Draco Malfoy had a heart, after all, and that it could be moved.
Draco tugged Harry closer and leaned down to whisper in his ear. Whatever was said caused Harry to nod and then turn his attention to her, Ginny, and Neville up in the stands. The grin on his face was one of anticipatory glee.
A blink later, Draco was hovering right in front of her, having moved that quickly from the ground to her spot in the stadium with little effort. His grey eyes glinted with mischief as he held his hand out to her. In the centre of his palm, the Snitch lay docile.
Hermione was unsure what to do next. "You want me to hold it for you?"
Next to her, Ginny elbowed her and hissed in excitement, "Take it! It's a public declaration! Seekers only give their winning Snitches to those they love!"
Hermione looked into Draco's face, noted his challenging expression, but far back in his grey gaze there was vulnerability, a fear of her rejection.
"Oh! Of course!"
Her cheeks on fire, Hermione reached out and took the Snitch from Draco's hand. The crowd erupted into cheers again. Her lover's expression warmed with relief, but then of course, he went and ruined it by acting all smug and arrogant. Leaning forward over his broom, he bent and grabbed her up, kissing her aggressively full on the mouth in front of everyone, as if the declare to the world, THIS IS MINE.
And for those seconds, she didn't care. His tongue thrust into her mouth and claimed her sanity, and the rest of the world just dropped away.
Hermione's head was reeling by the time he set her back on her feet, and then he was gone, flying around the stadium like a Greek champion, fist raised and grinning like a conquering hero as students and staff clapped and whistled and cat-called at his brazen behaviour.
Slow-schmoe. She was so going to jump him later, when they were alone. Five months without him giving it to her hard and deep… Yes, she was going to correct that issue pronto.
"Alright, I give. You can keep him," Neville told her.
"Hells yes, she can!" Ginny stated with a raucous laugh. "Swoon!"
Sighing in happiness, Hermione turned to her two friends. "I think you're right." She held her free hand out to them and gave them the 'gimme' wiggle. "Now, about that bet…"
TO BE CONTINUED…