Anger Management by RahNee
Author Note and Dedication: A very long time ago, my dear friend and beta, Lorett, was bugging me to write a Draco/Hermione story. Here is how that first conversation went:
RahNee: Ronnie walks cautiously to the open ocean that is Dramione and carefully dips her big toe into the water. It's scary, and very deep out there.
She slowly slaps on the SCUBA gear...
checks the regulator…
air in the tank?
Lorett: COME ON, you can't be THAT scared.
RahNee: snorkel? shark repellant?
Lorett: I just plunged right in; best way to handle a big, chilly pool. Then, once you're in you see it's a lot warmer than you thought.
Shark repellant! LOL
You can sit in my dingy, darling, I've got room.
RahNee: I need my weight belt... to sink below the dross of all the CRAPPY Dramione out there.
Lorett: No kidding!
RahNee: OK, I'm ready to plunge in.
Lorett: GA! TOOK YOU LONG ENOUGH.
RahNee: I know. (smacking my head) Like I NEED to be working on another story!
She has been haranguing me on a regular basis ever since. Little did she know; I had a brilliant idea for a birthday present for her! So I have been penning this story in secret, telling little white lies to my beta ("No, Lorett dear, I didn't get anything worthwhile written this weekend."), feverishly hoping to get at least the first chapter done in time to post it for her birthday on July 20. Please forgive any mistakes. I couldn't very well have Lorett beta it for me and keep it a surprise!
So without further ado; Lorett lovey, I dedicate this, my first D/Hr story, to you. Thanks for all your love, friendship and support. And for riding my sorry arse until I wrote this! I love you. Happy Birthday, darling!
Disclaimer: I do not own any of JK Rowling's brilliant characters or anything you find in the HP universe. Any characters, etiquette books, coffee shops, side streets off of Diagon Alley, or other places, people and things that you do not find in JKR's works, well then you can safely assume they are mine.
THIS WAY TO ANGER MANAGEMENT CLASS read the block letter sign posted in the foyer of the largest wizarding public library in Britain, which was located just off of Diagon Alley, of course, not far from Gringotts Bank. The cheery lighting in the lobby offset the gloom of the descending night outside, but did nothing for the mood of the man who was apparently attempting to burn a hole in said sign with just the power of his glare.
He considered for a fraction of a moment, in a flash of the rebellious spirit that had defined his youth, just turning around and walking out. But it would be to no avail. He knew he'd be back, so what was the point of delaying the inevitable? His friends had been hammering at him to go for ages… (and once again he found himself amazed that he still even had some friends, considering…) especially since that fiasco with Catherine (Katerina? Caroline?). He knew without them telling him that he was damned lucky she hadn't pressed charges, damned lucky that the only injuries she'd suffered were the finger marks he'd left on her arms.
Even then, there had been a niggling thought, delicately scraping away in the back of his mind that he was out of control, but hell if he was going to admit he had a problem. Never mind that he was unable to sustain a romantic relationship for long, or that most of the people he worked with gave him a very wide berth. Unfortunately, it took a series of events happening in quick succession to bring him to the point that he was ready to admit that Draco Malfoy was not the "in-control bloke" he thought he was.
Actually, it took the trip to St. Mungo's for treatment for his completely shattered hand, to be specific. It wasn't until he was sitting in an exam room, in excruciating pain, waiting for an interminably long time for the Healer to come and mend his bones that he began to really examine his life and the explosions of anger that seemed to mark the passing of time for him. This was how he discovered that introspection, deep gut-wrenching introspection, took one's mind off of pain.
Since it was the Director of Magical Law Enforcement's office door he had put his fist through, he was now on administrative leave, and he could not return to work until he'd completed a third of the Anger Management Class. "Damn it, Malfoy," Kingsley Shacklebolt had thundered as he tossed Draco's employee file across the desk, "you're my best man in magical forensics, but you have enough 'incidences' here in your file to rival the rap sheets of our repeat offenders! I'm forced to put you on leave for one month. Prove to me you are getting yourself some help, for Merlin's sake. We need you here." Shacklebolt had glared at him through the hole in his door as Draco left.
He turned abruptly from the sign and made his way down the hall. He had no choice; he had to go through with it. Twelve sessions. Once a week for twelve weeks. Three months of—
Draco was not the earliest arrival it seemed. As he entered the classroom from the door in the back, he saw a woman sitting in the middle of the classroom, her back to him. Draco's eyes widened in appreciation; she was well dressed, and a thick plait of rich brown hair had been twisted into a knot at the base of her skull. Her neck was slender and fair, her right leg was crossed over the left showing off a navy blue pump and a shapely calf above it. Her head was bent over the book she was reading.
Sitting in the middle was a rather strategic maneuver, Draco thought; sitting in the back row or in the very front tended to draw attention to oneself, but people in the middle seemed to blend into each other when one looked out over a room. Draco decided to emulate his classmate's strategy, but instead of sitting next to her, he chose the seat directly behind her. He wasn't in the mood to make small talk as they waited for the rest of the class to arrive, but he suspected that later on he would appreciate being able to rest his eyes on her pleasing form, especially if the class proved as boring as he suspected it would.
He'd already flipped open his copy of the evening edition of the Daily Prophet by the time the brunette even registered someone had taken the seat behind her, so when she turned, she was met with the latest headlines. Taking the hint, she shrugged and returned to her book.
Punctuality was a hallmark of Hermione Granger. She hated being late, so she always left early for any appointment, and allowed herself plenty of time to get to places she hadn't been before. She professed that the reason for this was simple common courtesy; tardiness was a sign of disrespect, a statement that one did not value the other person's time. Harry said that really, extreme punctuality was her way of trying to exert control over her situation. Hermione wondered if Harry knew what an ass he sounded like when he was spouting psychobabble. What did he know? The prat! Well, he was the Department of Magical Law Enforcement's top profiler, which meant he'd studied criminal psychology, but that hardly pertained to Hermione!
Of course, Harry had also pointed out that she was slowly becoming isolated from her friends, and it was only the dedicated few who stuck by her now, due to her "moody temperament" which was Harry's polite code phrase he used in public. In private, he called it her "bitter bitchiness" or "BB" for short. The sodding git. And was it really necessary for him to point out that the BB was probably the reason she ran through boyfriends like water ran through pantyhose?
It wasn't until the complete blow-out with Ginny that Hermione was willing to admit that Harry might be right. Hermione had been in serious danger of losing her only remaining girl friend, so one Kleenex box and three pints of Ben & Jerry's later, she had swallowed her pride, flooed Ginny and asked for the information about the anger management class Ginny had been nagging her to attend for the last year and a half. Ginny had hugged her. When she'd told Harry she had signed up for the class, he'd hugged her too, and told her he was glad because "I just don't want to keep watching my Hermione slipping away anymore." That had made her cry. She hated to cry; it felt too unnerving, being so out of control like that. Damn him for making her cry.
So here she was, in an over-lit library classroom that was rapidly filling with people who were quite likely ticking time bombs of repressed anger like herself. She snorted; she sounded like an ass when she spouted psychobabble, too.
A flurry of activity at the front of the classroom indicated the instructor had arrived; the witch in green healer's robes began to unpack a satchel. Hermione heard the rustle of a newspaper being folded behind her followed by a rich, cultured, sotto voice, "Thus begins what will be the most boring two hours of my life."
Hermione chuckled as she put away her book, and turned around to smile at her classmate who was apparently reading her mind. "Legilimency without eye contact is quite a skill to have, but you read my…" Her mouth dropped open in recognition as she realized just who it was sitting behind her. "Oh my…"
Draco smirked, and to Hermione's surprise, his eyes lit up with amusement and not malice. "I think I need to amend my last statement. This class just got very interesting!"
Hermione moved with the rest of her classmates toward the door. She could see the tall, blond form of Malfoy up ahead. When she finally exited the library doors, she noticed he was standing on the steps, making no move to leave while the rest of the attendees were scurrying off or Apparating. She stepped closer to him. "Aren't you going home?" she asked.
He turned to look at her. "I'm not sure," he replied. "Don't feel much like going home yet. I was thinking of maybe going to get a cup of coffee."
"Oh." To be honest, she didn't feel much like going home to her empty flat, either. Still… she had to get up and go to work tomorrow… "Well, goodnight, then," she said politely. "I suppose I will see you next week." She turned to go.
"Would you care to join me, Granger?" he called after her. He wasn't exactly sure why he did, except that she had seemed a little reluctant to go home, too. He hadn't expected to know anyone in the class, and granted, he and Granger didn't have the best history together… but she had been a familiar face and somehow he'd felt a little less, well, less lonely when he'd realized it was her sitting in front of him. Besides, if the smartest, most-together girl in his class at Hogwarts was stuck sitting in this god-forsaken anger management class, then maybe he wasn't as much of a failure as he was beginning to feel he was…
She turned back to him with a puzzled expression. "Join you?"
"Yes, join me. For coffee."
She looked skeptical. "This late at night?"
He crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow at her. "They do make coffee without the caffeine, you know." He was sure now that she wouldn't take him up on the offer, and he really couldn't blame her. After all, who would want to have coffee with the person who was an insufferable prat all through their secondary education days?
She studied him a few seconds longer. "All right. Where do you suggest?"
Draco blinked in surprise. "Well, there is a quaint little shop up here a ways on Eatern Alley. They stay open late…" Did she really just agree to go with him?
Did I really just agree to go with him? Hermione wondered. He pointed the way and politely took her elbow to help her across the street.
Soon Draco was holding the door open for her and gesturing her inside. "Thank you, Malfoy," she said as she stepped into something straight out of a Muggle movie. The shop reminded her of an old Fifties diner in décor and atmosphere. She half-expected a bubble-gum chewing teenaged waitress to glide over to them on roller skates, but instead they were greeted by a friendly older woman who told them to take whatever table they wanted. If she tells us her name is 'Flo,' I will know that I've slipped into an alternate reality, Hermione thought to herself.
Draco led her to a booth near the back, out of sight from the widows, but with a view of the entrance. It must be an Auror thing, she mused. Harry does the exact same thing in a restaurant. Draco took her cloak and placed it carefully next to his on the booth bench. She slid into the booth across from him. The kindly woman came over. "What can I get you, dears?"
Draco made a point to look at her name tag. "Well, Flo, we'd each like a cup of coffee, decaffeinated, please." He looked at Hermione inquiringly to see if she agreed. She nodded, stifling a giggle. When the waitress had left, he asked, "What's so amusing?"
"Oh, it's this place," she looked around with a grin. "It really is quaint, as you said. It's quite cute." Her eyes landed on his face. His lips were turned up amusedly. "It's not really the kind of place I'd ever expect to see you in; it's so, well, Muggle." The words slipped out before she realized how they might sound to him. She was relieved to see that the expression on his face didn't change.
"One of the things they taught us in Auror training, Granger: don't be too predictable."
Flo returned with the coffee. "Cream or sugar, dears?"
"Cream for me, please," Hermione requested.
"I'll take mine black, thanks," Draco gave the waitress a charming smile.
They sipped for half a minute before Draco said, "So, I hear you're a barrister." Hermione nodded. "Working for the Ministry?"
She nodded again. "I'm helping draft new laws regarding Muggles and non-wizard magical folk," she explained. "I also do pro bono defense work on the side."
He pursed his lips. "I know how busy you must be, with the Ministry's big push to make up for years of under-representation and disregard of any non-wizard race." A look of irritation crossed his aristocratic features. "Those laws are just slapped on the books, without any regard as to how they will actually work in the real world. It creates nightmares for the DMLE, and then each problem is sent back to the Ministry for review, the law is deemed ineffective, and the process just has to start all over again. How many times, for example, have you people had to rewrite the Werewolf Act?"
"I suppose you feel that it's all a big waste of time? That there shouldn't be protections for non-wizard people at all?" she retorted hotly. "I should have known…"
"Granger, Granger, that's not what I meant!" Draco held out his hands apologetically. "I wasn't criticizing. Certainly we need laws for all type of folk. I was merely pointing out how inefficient the system is. It must get very frustrating for you."
She looked chagrined. "Oh." She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry I jumped down your throat like that."
He regarded her for a few moments as he sipped his coffee. "You're still easy to wind up, Granger."
She opened her mouth to deny it, but let out her breath instead. "Apparently I'm too easy to wind up. At least, according to my friends. Which explains why I'm in that damned anger management class. They insisted I go," she said quietly.
"Ah," he acknowledged, nodding his head. They sipped in silence.
It was Hermione's turn to make small talk. "Harry tells me that you work in the forensics department…"
"Right." Draco wondered just how much Potter had told her about him.
"So, uh… why did you choose forensics?" she queried.
Draco shrugged, a little uncomfortably. "I have a hip injury that kept me from meeting the running requirements for a field officer… and I tend to be able to stomach magical autopsies and examination of corpses better than most."
Her brows were knit together in a puzzled frown. "But I seem to recall that in school you were quite—oh!" She clapped a hand over her mouth, rather aware that she was being insensitive…again.
Draco's visage darkened. "Quite what? Which word did you have in mind, Granger: wussy, wimpy, namby-pamby, milquetoast?"
"I'm sorry!" she gasped. "I didn't mean…"
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly to calm himself. When he looked up, she was sitting with her hand still over her mouth, almost as if she was afraid what would come out if she let go. She looked quite comical. He snorted and raised an eyebrow sardonically. "I really don't think Miss Amelia Poster lists 'mention a childhood aversion to the sight of blood' as one of the ways to chat up an old school acquaintance in her latest edition of Wizarding Etiquette for All Occasions."
Hermione's eyes widened, and she dropped her gaze to the table to regain her composure. She took a deep breath and looked up at him again. "I have to apologize, Malfoy. Apparently I stopped reading the book before I got to that particular chapter." A hint of a smile played at her lips.
He clicked his tongue at her. "Granger." He shook his head sadly. "You are a terrible liar. Anyone who knows you even slightly would never believe that you would leave a book unfinished. It's inconceivable." His jaw twitched like he was trying not to smirk.
Her eyes crinkled as she smiled and said, "Touché, Malfoy."
Silence descended again, as the impudent expression slowly melted off his face. He wasn't sure what prompted him, but finally he said softly, "I saw enough things in the… uh, the… you know…" he faltered a moment, "enough to make the sight of blood the least of the things I could be squeamish about." He shrugged. "I guess I can just detach myself from it now." His eyes shifted quickly to hers, then back down to his coffee cup, as if he feared he'd said too much, or feared she'd ask him to explain.
All she said was, "Oh," very quietly. He heard the sympathy in her voice. They were treading dangerously close to deeply painful topics, and Hermione seemed to sense that, for she didn't say anything else.
"You know," said Draco, breaking the awkward tension, "they have a rather tasty selection of pie here. Would you like a slice?"
"Oh, no… I couldn't, really," Hermione declined.
Draco lifted his hand to wave over the waitress. "Have you any apple pie tonight, Flo?"
The older woman smiled indulgently. "Of course we do, dear. Warmed, or not? One slice or two?"
"One slice, warmed, please."
Hermione frowned. "Malfoy, I said I didn't…"
"Relax, Granger. This is for me." His eyes gave her the once-over. "Although I don't think one little slice is going to ruin your girlish figure."
"It has nothing to do with my figure, and everything to do with too much sugar keeping me up tonight. I have to work tomorrow, you know," she said, a little snappishly.
Draco shrugged. "I don't. I'm on administrative leave until I complete one month of this damnable class."
"Oh," Hermione cocked her head. "So what are you going to do with yourself, then?"
He lifted one shoulder elegantly. "I don't really know. Catch up on some reading, take a few walks, drink disgusting amounts of firewhiskey, visit a few friends…" Hermione's eyebrows shot up at his last comment. "What? You think I don't have friends?"
Hermione managed a reasonably innocent expression. "I didn't say anything!"
He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Uh huh. Your eyes did." A small grin appeared. "You have very expressive eyes, you know." Hermione was obviously nonplussed. Did I just say that? Where did that come from? Draco was glad that Flo chose that moment to place a warm piece of apple pie in front of him. He picked up his fork with alacrity and took a bite.
Hermione watched him eat, thinking that this all seemed rather surreal. Here she was, with Draco Malfoy of all people, and they were having a rational and mostly civil conversation! The situation was, suffice to say, a little awkward, in the way that first dates were awkward—
She stopped mid-thought. Where in the world did that come from? She shook her head. "This evening is turning out nothing like I thought it would." As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she realized she'd spoken out loud.
Draco glanced at her. "I know what you mean. Just look at this," he waved his fork back and forth between them. "Who'd have ever thought that you and I would be here, together," and his eyes took on a little mischievous sparkle, "sharing a piece of pie." He pushed his plate toward her suggestively.
"Oh, all right." She picked up her fork and dug in. "Mmmm… you were right! This is delicious."
"You didn't believe me?"
She placed her hand over her heart. "I will never doubt again."
And they both laughed.
A/N: Well… there you have it. I anticipate it will be about 6 chapters, give or take a few. So if any of you fair readers enjoyed this story, or even if you did not, I would love to hear your opinions. And if any of you caught references to one of my favorite movies and can tell me which one it is, you will be listed in my hall of fame!
Review, review, review!