Montrose and Holyhead were still playing at 9pm when Hermione opted to have dinner at Flint Manor. Her motives were many-fold; she'd had enough Quidditch, she was hungry and she could tell Marcus was flagging.

The witches Apparated to Edinburgh to replenish supplies while the wizards remained to keep their seats. More and more people were showing up as the game progressed, with tickets being used on rotation and the standing bleachers packed to capacity.

"I don't know how you stand it as a job." Hermione rubbed her ears as the silence of the old house seemed to thrum after the cacophony of the stadium.

"I play because I like the game. Employment is an excuse." Marcus managed a one armed shrug as he tucked into elf-made steak and kidney pie. They ate in the kitchen, neither inclined towards formality.

"How long do you plan to play professionally?" She asked when they had cleared their plates.

"Much after forty and it gets too hard to keep to a proper flying weight." Marcus braced his foot against the heavy oak bench to fumble with the lacing on his boot.

"Most Muggle athletes retire before they're thirty-five. Due to injuries, usually." Hermione walked around the table to help him undo his knee guards.

"The damage does accrete. Healing magic takes longer, everything aches more." He rubbed his wrist as she pulled off his boots. "I plan to quit once I have children. I do not want them visiting me in hospital."

"Once you have children." Hermione smirked, gesturing for him to give her his right arm so she could undo his bracer. "You'd look radiant pregnant, I'm sure."

"I think you would look better." Marcus smiled crookedly, imagining her round with their child. She would look very fine indeed.

"Do you want a Muggle-born so you can have an easier time of having kids?" She asked bluntly. Slytherin or not, he had always given her a straight answer to a straight question.

"I want you because you are clever and stubborn and honest." He answered candidly. "When I look at you I see a woman who stood when everyone else ran. I would be proud if my clever daughters stood."

"I'm not even going to think about having a baby before I finish my degree. That's four years. Longer, if I go for my Ph.D immediately." Hermione hadn't made up her mind if she would do her thesis right after graduation. She might want a break after twenty years of schooling.

"Fine with me. Gives me longer to play." Marcus would not mind a baby right now but he expected they would have to try for a while before being blessed. "Ogreish looks aside, I am not going to drag you into my cave to be my bride."

"I'd hex your bollocks off." She said confidently.

"I do not doubt it." His dark eyes got that wicked look. "Fancy my bollocks this evening?"

"Suave, and you say you have groupies chasing you." Hermione shook her head. "You've been hurt then healed and you're tired. I think your ambition is over-reaching itself."

"You may well be right." Marcus conceded. As much as he would like to ravish her, it was not lust making him ached. "Sleep with me? Bring Crookshanks over as a chaperone if you like."

The witch returned with her familiar, an overnight bag, and a flannel nightie. Hermione changed then tucked herself into Marcus's huge bed, claiming one of the pillows before Crookshanks decided they all belonged to him.

Marcus, in equally prosaic pyjamas, smiled at the flannel, kissed her then went out like a snuffed candle. Hermione watched her cat pad across the quilt until he found the exact right spot before he curled up. She closed her eyes, feeling a little guilty for not feeling a lot guilty about Ginny, and expected to lie awake worrying.

She didn't. The witch woke to the smell of bacon and the sound of determined crunching. Hermione opened one eye to confirm what she suspected. Marcus was sitting up in bed with a breakfast tray feeding himself and Crookshanks.

"You'll get crumbs everywhere." She grumbled, pulling the covers around her.

"I may not be the most adept wizard but I can clean up after myself." Marcus spoke with the blasé assurance of someone with house elves.

"You're spoiling my cat." Crookshanks was polishing off scrambled egg on a porcelain saucer.

The wizard, chewing enthusiastically, nodded. He shared some more egg with the half-kneazle. It looked good. It smelled good. Hermione shoved the pillows behind her, propping herself up so she could join in the feast.

They ate companionably until she was full then Hermione had a shower while a ravenous Marcus ordered another tray. Crookshanks sauntered out of the room when a house elf brought in second breakfast, intent on claiming the Manor as his. Or at least all the most comfortable chairs.

Hermione took her time in the shower, thinking about her assignments due before the end of term. And Harry. They were going to argue. She regretted that. But the exchange with Molly Weasley had made it clear to her she would always be an outsider at the Burrow. They might have tolerated her for Ron's sake, but only as an adjunct to their son.

She rinsed and dried herself, padding out of the bathroom in a faded red fluffy robe with a Gryffindor badge. Magical or not, Flint Manor was a stone house built without central heating. It was draughty.

"Have they finished playing yet?" Hermione noticed the Montrose logo on a scroll Marcus was reading. He had a mouth full of toast and shook his head, handing her the letter as he finished eating. She read it, marvelled at the tally of fouls then hunted through her overnight bag for clean underwear.

She was foiled in her search by Marcus getting out of bed and putting his arms around her. Hermione straightened, his interest confirming her impression he was feeling much better after a good night's sleep.

"If you're cadging for a reward for defending my honour or some other antiquated rot, you won't get anything." She said sternly, aware of her own freshly shaven limbs and the contraceptive charm she had cast in the bathroom. Hermione enjoyed sex, but not as a currency.

"My revenge was for me." Marcus slipped his hands inside her bathrobe, caressing her breasts. "If she had apologised and you asked me not to hurt her, then I would have found another way. But Flints pay their debts."

"What would you have done?" She was interested in his answer, and he had a quiet house with no one shouting downstairs or running through the hallways or banging on the door. Hermione was coming to realise how arousing peace could be.

"Have her kicked off the team. Reserves are not on seasonal contracts. They have to be sharp every game. A few favours here and there, and she starts looking bad." His fingers made slow circles around her nipples as he nuzzled her. "I can be patient and the Harpies' Captain is relentlessly competitive. She would cut a lacklustre player regardless of their reputation."

"All down to Quidditch." Hermione sighed, somewhat disappointed with his lack of a Machiavellian plan. Marcus bit her neck lightly, sucking at her skin to leave a mark.

"She has too many relatives for me to go for her family, and if I went for Potter you would never forgive it." He had thought about it and weighed his options. "Mrs Potter wants to have everything. She grew up poor, having to choose this or that never both. Now she can do whatever she wants, she wants it all. Take even a little of that away from her..."

"And she'll throw a tantrum." Send Howlers, decapitate flowers and start a vendetta while looking like the villain. And along the way sabotage her own happiness. Hermione nodded slowly, untying the belt to let her bathrobe drop to the floor. "Cunning."

"I had to survive in a pit of vipers." Marcus nudged her towards the bed. She pushed the covers aside and spread her legs, because she did not have to be in control all the time. He smiled and climbed on top, taking his time. Because they had all the time they needed.