Story Preview: How to Win Friends and Influence People

Summary: After the war, Hermione discovered she liked to break things; bones, specifically. Similarly, Draco, whose life had crumbled to rubble, became fascinated with explosives. Dramione, post-war, espionage AU.

The first time:
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Sept 3, 1998

"Oh, for heaven's sake," she growled, glaring at him. "I was here first."

"If you would kindly untwist your knickers, Granger, you might bring yourself to notice that I am simply reaching for a book," he retorted, making a show of picking one up off the shelf. "Didn't your mother ever teach you to be polite?"

She flipped a page, scowling. "I see you haven't changed a bit, Malfoy."

"No, I haven't," he told her, "and regrettably, neither have you."

She slammed the book shut, throwing her bag over her shoulder and rising to her feet.

"I don't know why I thought I'd be able to come back here with you," she muttered. "I should have known you'd be the exact same bullying prat you always were - "

"Look," he interrupted, waving her opposition away. "I'm just here to take my N.E.W.T.s and get out, same as you." She made a face, and he glowered back. "I'm not looking for any sort of reconciliation. You just stay out of my way, Granger," he offered forcefully, "and I'll stay out of yours."

"You'd better, Malfoy," she snapped. "Don't think I've forgotten about everything you did."

"Don't think I care," he retorted, and crossed his arms over his chest. "So are we clear?"

"That you're an arse, and nothing's changed?" she prompted, artificially sweet. "Crystal."

"Good," he said flatly.

"Good!" she yelled back.

"SHHH," Madam Pince interrupted loudly, and they stared at each other, fuming.

"Get out of my w- "

"With pleasure," he drawled, stepping aside with a derisive bow, and she promptly stormed out.

The second time:
The Three Broomsticks, Hogsmeade Village
December 25, 1998

"Oh, for fuck's sake," he groaned. "What in the name of Salazar's wrinkled ballsack are you doing here?"

"Oh, shove it, Malfoy," she retorted. "Go away."

"You go away," he snapped. "I'm just trying to have a drink - "

"What are you even doing here?" she demanded. "Why aren't you with your family? Or better yet, at the bottom of the lake," she muttered under her breath, "being swallowed by the giant squid - "

"They're n- " he began, cutting himself off, and then immediately grimaced. "I just can't go back there right now, okay? And anyway, listen, I really don't have the energy for this," he told her. "What with all the effort at pretending you don't exist that I've had my hands full with over the last four months - "

"Please," she scoffed. "I'm not the one moping around the castle at all hours, staring broodily into space - "

"Why aren't you with Weasley, anyway?" he cut in brusquely, glaring at her. "I thought you two were supposed to be some sort of disgusting apocalyptic approximation of romance - "

"He's busy," she said flatly. "He's an Auror now, so - "

"Well, what a mindless fucking endeavor," he interrupted, arching a brow. "You must be so proud."

"Oh, shove it, Malfoy," she said, curling a fist and then promptly pivoting to exit. "Have a bloody happy Christmas, then, will you?"

"I bloody will," he shouted, slamming his fork down and glaring after her as she left.

The third time:
Outside Twilfitt and Tattings, Diagon Alley
July 10, 1999

"Oh no, don't look," she whispered to Ron. "No," she groaned, bringing her hand to her face as he spun over his shoulder. "I said don't look - "

"Oh, wonderful," she heard Draco drawl, and wanted instantly to sink below Diagon Alley's cobbled steps. "Look, it's my two favorite war heroes, just out for a romantic stroll - "

"Shut up, Malfoy," Ron said, promptly throwing his arm around Hermione and discarding the argument they'd been having; the usual one, as always, about when she'd be halting her research at Hogwarts and joining him in London. Much as she hated to admit it, she wasn't entirely sure whether Draco Malfoy's appearance was a curse or - under those circumstances - a rather unfortunate blessing. "Get lost, would you?" Ron snapped, glaring at the other wizard. "I'm surprised they're still willing to serve you around here."

Draco blinked, furious, and then he licked his lips, forcing a smile.

"So am I," he said coolly, "but money will get you everywhere, won't it, Weasley? Oh, wait," he lamented, facetiously tapping his mouth. "You wouldn't know, would you?"

"I'm a fucking Auror, Malfoy," Ron snarled. "I could arrest you right fucking now - "

"Ron," Hermione whispered, clutching his arm. "Don't start."

"Yes, listen to your fiancée," Draco advised, pointedly inspecting his fingernails. "Many happy returns, by the way. I'm ever so pleased you two paired off so magnificently, especially after such a - what are the papers calling it? A 'rocky start,' was it? I knew those articles about the strained long-distance relationship couldn't be true. Anyway," he said, shrugging, as Ron's face promptly turned scarlet with rage, "do look out for my congratulatory fruit basket, in between the photoshoots and all the convincing yourselves you're doing this for the right reasons that surely must be taking up all your time - "

"Say one more word, Malfoy, and you'll have to look out for my wand up your arse," Ron seethed, and Hermione sighed.

"Come on," she said, tugging him after her. "Let's go - "

"Bye, Granger," Draco called cheerfully. "Do send a postcard when you've birthed the first of the new Weasel clan, will you?"

"I'll make sure of it," she shouted over her shoulder, shoving Ron into Florean Fortescue's.

The fourth time:
Somewhere on Shaftesbury Avenue, London
May 20, 2000

It was just her luck that on the rare occasion that she wasn't looking where she was going, she would have to bump shoulders with Draco Malfoy.

"Hey, wait a second," he called, turning around as she kept walking. "Granger, is that you?"

She sped up, pulling her coat tight around her.

"Granger, aren't you supposed to be at - "

He caught her arm, a little breathless, and she spun, glaring at him.

"What?" she demanded, and he stared, brows furrowed.

"Are you - " he swallowed. "Are you crying?"

"No," she lied, and turned to keep walking. He, irritatingly, held on.

"Wait, I just - wait," he pressed, rooting her in place. "Are you wearing - "

"My wedding dress? No," she said, laughing. "Nope. Just a long white dress, actually," she added, hiccuping once. "No reason."

His eyes narrowed.

"Granger," he said forcefully. "What the fuck?"

She looked down, staring at her feet, and he sighed.

"Come on," he muttered, glancing over his shoulder, and then surreptitiously pulled out his wand, apparating them elsewhere. "There," he said, as her feet settled on a lush set of gardens. It was dewy, and fragrant, and would have been beautiful had it not been tainted with the particular intrigue of things-after-midnight and places she shouldn't have been.

"Talk," he instructed, gesturing to a bench.

He sat. She didn't.

"Suit yourself," he remarked indolently, and leaned back. "I suppose I can talk, if you prefer. For one thing, fuck London," he told her. "Do you know how much a pint costs? Outrageous. I hardly need concern myself with money but it's bloody thievery is what it is, really - "

"I just wanted a happy ending," she told him blankly. "Was that too much to ask?"

He cleared his throat, pausing, and then gestured beside him.

She, reluctantly, sat.

"So," he said. "You walked out on Weasley?"

"He was having cold feet," she said, hearing the robotic tone of her voice and wishing there was something she could do about it. "I heard him telling Harry he wasn't sure. That he thought maybe we'd rushed into it," she added, "because it wasn't working between us, and we'd thought maybe if we were more committed, it would, but - "

She trailed off, and he said nothing.

"I did us a favor," she ruled, shivering. "And anyway, I paid all the vendors before I left," she added, "and I sent apology owls to all the guests individually, and - "

"Fuck, Granger," he exhaled, shaking his head. "You're the only person on earth who could make a traumatic breakup sound like an expertly planned logistical feat."

"I'm considerate," she told him. "And realistic, and - "

"What was it?" he interrupted. "What you were fighting about."

She blinked.

"We weren't fighting," she insisted. "It wasn't that we were fighting, exactly, and everything was fine, it was just - "

"Was it about how you can't sleep at night?" he asked. "That you don't come to bed, because you don't want to come to bed, and yes, you're reading that book for the twentieth time, because it's easier than sleeping? Easier than thinking, and easier than remembering, and thus, a better use of time? Or was it because you don't like to come home," he ventured, staring out into the dark. "That you'd rather be working - and that no, you don't use your time together well, you're not fully present, because you don't feel normal - you can't feel normal, because everything went wrong and so, maybe, it'll just go wrong again? And then she leaves you," he finished, clearing his throat. "Because you don't make her happy, because you aren't happy, and you don't know why."

Hermione swallowed, letting a heavy swell of time pass.

"He wanted me to be his wife," she said eventually. "You know? His wife. Hermione Weasley." She turned, facing him. "Does that make sense?"

Draco shrugged. "Stupid of him," he said. "Terrible name, firstly, and extremely poor grasp of your personality, if we're being realistic - "

"Well, I mean, to his credit, he never actually said that," she murmured. "I just - I felt it." She took a deep breath; let it out. "And maybe that's not fair, but - "

"Who cares what's fair?" he retorted. "What part of our lives was ever fair? We want what we want," he said dully, "and we get almost none of it, so - "

He trailed off. She grimaced.

"I don't know what I want to do with my life," she confessed, saying the words out loud for the first time that she could remember. "And he does, and I don't think - I don't think it would be right if we - "

She sighed. "It's better this way," she finished, and he didn't move; didn't breathe.

They looked out into the night, tacitly agreeing to silence, as a peacock warbled something that sounded suspiciously like a long string of expletives.

"So," Draco drawled. "Should we have sex?"

She turned, staring at him.

"No," she said, and he shrugged, unsurprised.

"Just trying to make you feel bet- "

"There is something I want from you, though," she ventured slowly, and he lifted a single pale brow.

"Well, spit it out, Granger, I haven't got all n- "

"I want to hit you," she informed him. "I want to hit you right in your stupid, terrible face."

There was a pause.

"Kinky," he said eventually.

She glared at him, and then softened, looking down at her hands.

"Do you ever just want to - " she trailed off, eyeing the lines of her palm. "Hurt something? Because you've lived this fragile, breakable life, and so everyone thinks you're fragile and breakable too, and you just want to - " she turned her hands over, clenching them into fists. "Ruin something?"

He stared at her, eyes narrowed, and then launched unsteadily to his feet.

"How many people have you hit, Granger?" he asked. "Is this a common impulse?"

"Just the one," she told him, smirking, and he rolled his eyes at the memory. "But I found it rather a relief at the time, so I imagine it would be equally satisfactory on a second go."

"But what about diminishing returns?" he countered. "Maybe you should find someone else to hit. Like Weasley," he suggested brightly. "That would be fun for everyone."

She glowered at him, and he sighed.

"Fine," he said. "You can have one hit."

She blinked. "What?"

"You can have one hit," he told her. "And only because you've been crying, and crying women make me supremely uncomfortable."

She looked down, eyeing her hands again, and then nodded, feeling her heart pound as she rose suddenly to her feet.

"Okay," she said, feeling her pulse skip. "Okay. One hit?"

"One hit," he agreed. "And if you break anything - "

"Jesus, Malfoy, how delicate are you?"

"Delicate? Where do you get off - ? That offends."

"It offends?"

"Excuse me, you're obviously in some kind of state of - OUCH, fuck me - "

"Oh, it didn't hurt that bad. Don't be a baby."

"Don't be a baby? You nearly shattered my nose!"

"I did not - "

"You did - "

"You're an intolerable little pantywaist, Malfoy - "

"You're a vicious little brute, Granger!"

She laughed, and laughed and laughed and laughed, and then, abruptly, the laughter spoiled itself in her throat, sticky and hot and painful, and he seemed to hear it too, something in his expression vanishing at the sound.

"I need to go," she said hoarsely; after the laughter had burned at the back of her eyes, and when she was suddenly more certain of that than anything. "I have to get out, you know what I mean? I have to just - go."

He stared at her, breathing hard.

"Then go," he said, blinking, and she swallowed it; the tears and heartache and loss.

"Bye," she said dully, and disapparated, leaving him cradling his stinging cheek in his hand.

The fifth time:
Interior of the Sultanahmet Mosque, Istanbul
July 8, 2001

"Well, well, well," he muttered, and she nearly jumped. "Nearly didn't recognize you with that bushy head of yours covered, Granger."

"Not now, Malfoy," she whispered, pointedly staring up at the mosque's high ceiling. "Don't you know when a space is sacred?"

"I often say that about my bedroom, and yet nobody ever listens," he told her, following her as she shifted, trying - or at least appearing to try - to get a better view of the tiled dome. "What are you doing here?"

"Living my life," she informed him, and then let her gaze flick askance, glaring at him. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, nothing important," he said, shrugging. "Business."

"Business," she echoed skeptically, scoffing. "I doubt that." She turned, unhappily facing him. "Isn't this place a little too muggle for you, Malfoy?"

"Hardly," he said. "You really think there's no magic to this?" he asked, gesturing to the tiles above. "It's so blue."

"That's - " she started to say, and then cut herself off. "Nevermind," she told him briskly, heading for the west entrance. "I'm leaving."

"Bye, then," he called after her, not following. "Do be careful, though, would you?"

She stopped, pivoting in place.

"Why?" she asked suspiciously, and he shrugged.

"Avoid the Turkish Ministry," he clarified. "At least for the afternoon."

She glared at him. "What?"

"Just keep that big, bushy head down, Granger," he said, unfazed, and then he turned, tucking his hands in his pockets, and walked out without another word.

The last time:
The One-Eyed Crone, somewhere outside Dublin
February 17, 2002

"Oh, not again," they groaned in unison, abruptly knocking shoulders as they reached for the same freshly-poured pint of Guinness.

"Give me that," she snapped, slapping his hand away and snatching the glass from his reach. "What are you doing here?"

"What are you doing here?" he countered, gesturing to the barkeep for another and then turning to scowl at her. "Aren't you supposed to be trolloping around Europe or something?"

"I was never trolloping," she told him, and pursed her lips, taking a pointed sip of her beer as he grunted his disagreement, waiting. "What about you, anyway?" she prompted. "Blowing up pubs now, Malfoy, or are you sticking with foreign ministries?"

He narrowed his eyes, conspicuously not answering. "You have bruises," he told her, his gaze flicking over her cheek. "Found someone new to hit, Granger? Looks like they hit back," he noted, accepting the Guinness from the bartender and smirking at her. "I have to say, it's an improvement."

"Hilarious," she muttered, and they both paused, eyeing each other over their drinks.

"So," he said, clearing his throat. "There's an underground fighting ring beneath this bar," he suggested slyly. "Isn't there?"

She took a sip, biding her time, and then turned, gesturing to a man who sat in the corner.

"That," she said, jutting her chin towards him, "is a wanted fugitive from the Bulgarian Ministry. A purveyor of illegal herbs who owes some Welsh vampires a coin or two," she added knowingly. "Isn't he?"

Their eyes narrowed in unison, each silently gauging the other's offering.

"I'll say nothing if you will," Draco determined eventually. "Deal?"

She smiled darkly.

"Deal," she agreed, and they nodded, parting ways to opposite ends of the pub without another word.

a/n: The full first chapter of this story is now available for you to follow in my profile. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!