Title: Cubical Cubicles
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns everything, I'm a poor university student that barely owns my own brain, blah blah blah. Also, I do not in any way advocate or support the bureaucracy. It still sucks, because it didn't bring me a hot Harry or a dreamy Draco. :(
Pairings: Mainly Harry/Draco. Background Hermione/Ron and like a two-second mention of a past Draco/OMC.
Rating: R, I guess? I mean, this story was really pushing T, but I have no idea how strict this site is, so I decided to make it fully R by the end.
Warnings: Um...I got nothing, really, other the fact that this is slash, and well, if you didn't like gay relationships, you wouldn't have clicked on this in the first place!
Summary: When Draco had first joined the Office of Misinformation, he was surprised to find that his cubicle would be next to Granger's. After all, they weren't even in the same Office. He also had no idea that he would end up spending several months listening to Potter every day, lunch after lunch, simply because the prat didn't know how to leave his poor hardworking friend alone. Not that Draco really minds, of course.
Author's Note: This story is told completely from Draco's point of view, but Draco likes to eavesdrop, so we learn a lot, anyway.
Yes, the title is really silly, but it's really me mocking myself for always struggling to spell "cubicle," and also, as a math and English double major, I could not resist sneaking in yet another mathematical reference in my own story title. Heh.
When Draco had first joined the Office of Misinformation, he was surprised to find that his cubicle would be next to Granger's. After all, she worked for a different office, and even though they were technically both under the same Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, there was no reason why their cubicles should be next to each other's at all.
Unfortunately, there was a shortage of office space in the Office of Misinformation, and although they did desperately need another hand to help them with the paperwork—so desperately that they actually gave Draco a chance to work for them despite his former Death Eater status—they couldn't manage to squeeze in space for that extra hand, so he was unceremoniously carted off to the Office for House-Elf Relocation, because Merlin knew nobody would ever willingly work there unless they were Granger. Due to their shortage in staff, they had had plenty of extra space, and thus some of that space became his.
It was inconvenient as hell. Whenever Draco had to personally hand in something to his superiors in the Misinformation office, he had to actually get up and walk all the way down a few corridors just to get there, and the trip took ten minutes of walking time. Consequently, he had had to devise an efficient work schedule to ensure that he did all those special assignments first, submitted them, and then spent the rest of the day doing things that could easily be sent through their memo system. This system was no problem to devise, though. When it came to reducing a workload, Draco was the master.
When it came to social situations, on the other hand, Draco was absolutely pants at it, unless it involved sucking up to snooty purebloods, of course. Draco could suck up to snooty purebloods in his sleep, although doing that literally really wasn't recommended if Draco wanted to retain the last bits of his sanity. But no, there was really nothing in the pureblood etiquette book about how to apologise to a witch that he had once called a "Mudblood."
"Yes, Malfoy? What is it?" asked Granger, running her hand through her thick, frazzled mane as she sat in her rolling chair, staring at him with unnerving calmness.
Draco tried to pretend that she was nothing more than an aunt with an unfortunate hair day. Well, okay, not Aunt Bella, but a saner aunt, one that hadn't tried to kill him.
"I just want to say…" God, why was there this stupid lump in his throat? Go away, lump! Go down the oesophagus and stop being a nuisance!
"Yes?" She tapped her fingers on her thigh, obviously impatient to get back to her paperwork.
"I'm sorry," he finally mumbled, after the hundredth finger tap.
"I'm sorry," he snapped. Did her ridiculously thick hair impair her hearing? "I'm sorry I was mean to you in the past and I'm sorry about the war and I'm sorry about every bloody name I ever called you. Please accept my apology or punch me in the face; I don't care; I'm done socialising; bye."
"Wait!" she shouted, as he started to turn away. He reluctantly turned back to her.
She gave him a faint smile, her eyes shining bright with the glow of a thousand Gryffindor banners. "Apology accepted. I look forward to being your cube-neighbour."
He nodded and gave back his own watery smile before rushing back to the safety of his "cube."
His forehead embraced his desk as he sank into his seat. The pathway towards redemption was really long and annoying.
Since he was only an entry-level worker, he didn't do much. He simply filled out forms and kept track of what came in and out of the Misinformation office. The higher ups did all the cool stuff, like actually going out there and talking to the Muggle Minister about fiascos and how he can help cover them up. After all, the function of their office was very important. Without them, every time some magical creature was allowed to run rampant thanks to the likes of half-giant oafs or what-have-you, Muggles would witness its escape and freak out, and the delicate balance between the Wizarding world and the Muggle world would be severely disrupted.
Draco knew all that, and that was what motivated him to keep on toiling, even when the paperwork never seemed to end and even when he gave himself several paper cuts over the course of a day.
Lunch time was his only respite from the drudgery. He used it to heal his cuts, take out a sandwich he had made at home, and lament his pathetic wealth-free existence while munching on his masterpiece—because, really, no one made a better sandwich than Draco, damn it, not unless they were house-elves, and those were probably going to stop making sandwiches pretty soon, if Granger's mutterings in the next cube were to be believed.
Ah, yes, Granger's mutterings. Although she wasn't necessarily loud, she was always present. He could never forget for even one second that she was just a cubicle wall away. The sound of her voice had irritated him immensely at first, but after a while, it was almost soothing, once he had gotten used to it. It was pretty much white noise. Whenever he started letting his mind run too freely and fret about all the problems in his life that he couldn't fix, he only needed to focus his ears on her voice, and he'd be okay.
"…but what of the House-Elf Ordinance of 1507? Didn't Sir Charles Rochester once proclaim that for every household to contain a house-elf, there must be five households that…"
This voice would even continue to mutter during lunch hour, and Draco began to view it as background music to provide some ambiance for his meal. A fancy restaurant would have had some classical music to sooth the nerves; here, he had to settle for the droning of Granger's voice.
Several months later, he was biting into yet another sandwich when he suddenly noticed that Granger's voice was no longer performing alone.
"So sorry for not visiting you until now, 'Mione. This is the first free lunch hour I've had since I started Auror training. I am so exhausted, and—hang on, why aren't you eating? Don't you ever eat lunch?"
"Of course, I do, Harry; I eat lunch most of the time! It's just that today there is this particular bill that I need to…"
Draco snorted quietly as she waxed poetic about the stupid bill she was studying. Granger was lying. From the constant nattering of her voice, he knew that she never ate at work. She simply starved herself until she went home for dinner. He had even been so kind as to offer her half of his sandwich once for fear that she would spontaneously drop dead of malnutrition one day and place the blame on him, but she refused to accept it, saying that she had a lot of work to do.
Poor, self-starving Granger. Who was actually saying some mildly interesting, non-work related stuff now. He should listen again.
"So how has training been? I've tried to ask Ron, but you know what he's like when he's tired. Just wants to eat and sleep, that man."
"Haha! Well, they're working us to the bone, saying that we need to be ready for all sorts of crud the criminals out there can throw at us." Potter put on a gruffer voice, apparently an approximation of his instructor. "'Not everyone will be as easily defeated by a disarming charm, Potter, so suck it up and learn these spells by heart!' Honestly, I think Richards hates me for some reason."
"Maybe he just doesn't want to look like he's giving you special treatment, Harry. Shouldn't you be happy about that? I thought that that's what you feared, special treatment."
Draco rolled his eyes from his side of the cubicle wall. Was Granger being dense for once? Of course Potter wanted special treatment! How else would he survive without it?
"It's still special treatment, Hermione. He's specially treating me worse than everyone else."
Granger sighed, and Draco had to agree with the sentiment. "Just hang in there and learn your lessons the best you can, okay? As annoying as your instructors may be to you, they are still the kindest and most well-meaning opponents you'll ever have in your line of work."
Potter emitted a low chuckle, one that made Draco's eyebrows rise a little. Had Potter always had that chuckle?
"I guess you're right, Hermione. This is why I like talking to you. You don't feed into my anger, unlike Ron and Ginny."
"Any time, Harry," she said drily. "Speaking of Ginny, how's that going?"
"We're still broken up, 'Mione. Don't get your hopes up."
Draco's jaw fell open, and he was glad that no one could see it. The Golden Boy and the Weaselette weren't together?
"Oh. Well, I saw the Prophet the other day and thought that maybe—"
"You know better than anyone not to trust a thing they say. Remember that time when everyone thought we were a couple?"
Draco could practically feel the warmth from Granger's blush from where he sat.
"Yeah…that was rather ridiculous, wasn't it?"
There was a soft chirp. Draco heard the rustling of robes and the clinking of a chain. Probably Potter trying to dig out a pocket watch.
"Aww, I guess my lunch break is over. If you want, you and Ron can come over to my place for dinner tonight. Give yourself a break from cooking."
"That'd be nice, Harry. I'll let Ron know."
"See you later."
After that, Draco heard Potter's voice join Granger's almost every single lunch break. Apparently, training had finally eased off to the point where he could actually eat lunch on a daily basis now, and he seemed to want to take full advantage of this new freedom by pestering his hardworking best friend. Occasionally, the Weasel's voice would join them, but more often than not, it was just the two of them.
Draco pondered that in between bites of his salmon cream cheese sandwich. Maybe the Weasel didn't like to spend too much time with his wife, and vice versa. It was understandable. No matter how close a couple was, sometimes there was such thing as too much closeness. Draco himself had learned his lesson first-hand when he had made the mistake of dating a random Muggle bloke he had met in a coffee shop once. Ah, Blake. Blake was nice, Draco had thought his offer of a date just too ironic to turn down, and they had been together for a good while, but in the end, Blake was suffocating.
"Why did you come home late, Draco?"
"Where have you been, Draco?"
"Why don't you call me anymore, Draco?"
Yeesh. Draco really was better off without him, good shag notwithstanding.
So really, he understood why the Weasel might not have been too keen on spending every waking moment with his wife, and that was a good thing, both for them and for Draco. Mostly for Draco, because he just could not stand listening to the Weasel's pathetic attempts to be witty. If anyone knew how to make lame puns even more unbearable than usual, it was the Weasel.
Potter, on the other hand, seemed to be starved for Granger's affection. Or perhaps starved for her mothering. He would always show up and ask for advice on the most inane topics.
Today's inane topic was How to Get Creepy Stalker Girl to Leave Me Alone.
"Hermione, what do I do? She just won't get the hint! Just because I'm single doesn't mean I want to just jump into another relationship!"
"Have you tried actually saying no, Harry?"
"Yes! This may be surprising to you, but I actually do know how to say no to people sometimes!"
"Hm. How firm were you?"
"Very! As firm as a rock!"
"Rocks can erode. Maybe she's hoping you will erode if she persists long enough."
"Har, har, Hermione! You're very funny."
"Why, thank you, Harry."
"Maybe I should hex her."
"Please don't. If you lose your job, you'll end up living with Ron and me, and I don't think he'd appreciate that."
"Then what should I do?"
"Hmm. Bring me to her."
"Now. Might as well, since you're not letting me get any work done at present. Let's see what I can do to dissuade her."
They left, without noticing Draco's presence at all. As it should be. Draco had put up Notice-Me-Not charms around his cube for a reason. He did not want Potter to come over and start a fight at his job.
Half an hour later, as Draco was beginning to file a fresh pile of paperwork, he heard footsteps that heralded their return.
"You're brilliant, Hermione. I don't think she'll ever come near me again!"
"Mhm. Now she'll be too worried about her overprotective daddy to even think twice about you. Everyone has a weak spot, Harry; it's just a matter of finding it."
Draco's eyebrows rose into his hairline. That sounded shockingly Slytherin of her.
Potter echoed his thoughts. "I didn't know you had that in you, 'Mione. What changed?"
She sighed. "Let's just say that this job hasn't exactly been sunshine and rainbows. Why do you think I've mostly focused on bills and cases lately? People are horrible."
There was silence, and then a rustling of robes and a quiet exhalation. Perhaps they were hugging.
"I'm sorry, Hermione. Am I distracting you from your work? I didn't know things were so tough."
"It's alright, Harry. At least you keep my life from being boring."
"I daresay Ron manages that all by himself."
Draco imagined her smiling. "Yeah, well, you're a different kind of interesting. At least you're not always begging for food or a shag. Or sometimes both at the same time."
"Hermione! That's way too much info!"
She cackled, which surprised Draco even more than Potter's low chuckle from before, and he found himself smiling. Then he turned green as he thought about the image of Weasel and Granger shagging.
By the time Draco had been working there for a year, he learned a lot about Potter. Harry Potter lived alone in an old house he inherited from his godfather, Sirius Black. He did not date anyone after the breakup with the Weaselette, although that didn't stop all the idiotic fans from trying to get in his pants. He still flew on his broomstick in his free time, using concealment charms to hide from both the public and from unsuspecting Muggles—he nearly hit an aeroplane once, but he swerved just in time. This particular anecdote had earned a long, chastising tirade from Granger, but Potter took it all with great humour. Potter spent a lot of time in Muggle London, shopping and browsing bookstores and watching Muggle games.
Most importantly, though, Draco learned that Potter was lonely.
He didn't say that himself, of course, and Granger didn't seem to want to outright say it to him, either, but Draco could sense the loneliness through the fact that he visited Granger so often in the first place. Yes, Potter had met new people through the Auror training programme, and yes, Potter could always find hangers-on if he wanted to, but Potter was very reluctant to open up to anyone, preferring to cling to what was familiar and safe.
Granger didn't mind being familiar and safe, of course, for she loved Potter dearly, but she did occasionally hint at other options.
"Why don't you join a book club, Harry? You're always reading Muggle books now, and a book club would give you the chance to meet new people and discuss those books with others."
"I don't think so. Reading is a private thing to me, 'Mione. You should be able to relate to that. Besides, I'm not as smart as you. I'd just sound daft if I tried to explain what I felt about a novel."
"Well, how about a pub? You can have a drink and watch sports on the telly."
"It's not the same as watching sports in person. Why are you telling me to do these things, anyway? Can't I just go home and rest after work, maybe hang out with you and Ron?"
There was silence for a moment. Draco could just hear the gears click in Granger's head as she attempted to find a tactful way of telling Potter that she didn't want him to be lonely or rely on her and Weasel too much.
The chirp of Potter's watch put an end to the conversation, however.
"See you later, 'Mione!"
"Malfoy! Where are you?"
Draco jumped at the sound of his boss's voice and quickly waved his wand to dispel the Notice-Me-Not charms. His boss never came to speak to him in person!
"Ah! There you are. I know you've been doing an admirable job of filing the paperwork this whole year, but we need you out there on the field today. Can you handle that?"
He quickly nodded but tried not to look too eager. "Yes, sir."
"Good! Dawkins and Stein are both out sick today, and we need someone on hand for this terrible Crup case. How good are you at Obliviate?"
Draco tried not to grimace at memories of the war. "Proficient, sir."
"Perfect. We might need it today. Report to Reynolds for duty; he'll give you more details."
As his boss walked away, Draco stood up, stretching his stiff muscles and preparing himself for battle. As he made his way out, he caught Granger's eye from inside her cubicle.
She smiled, and he smiled back.
"Good luck, Malfoy."
Apparently, there were idiots out there who thought that getting a license to raise a Crup was unnecessary, part of the evil bureaucracy.
But laws were made for a reason.
The black market had no problems with selling uncut Crups en masse, but that was because they had no morals and only cared about getting their money. Draco wrinkled his nose at the fact that the black market even had this profit-making option in the first place. Honestly, how hard was it to just take the stupid Crup test and get a license and cut off the Crup's extra tail? Did that even take much effort? He was ashamed that these plebeians would squabble and break such ridiculously trivial laws at a huge expense to other people, including him!
As some of his co-workers, along with a couple of people in Auror robes, rounded up the Crups that had run loose on the unsuspecting citizens of Muggle London, eating their shrubs and terrifying those who saw their forked tails, Draco, along with the other co-workers, rounded up the screaming Muggles, tying them up and putting them in a containment area with Cheering Charms to keep them sufficiently happy for the time being. No use letting them get underfoot, after all.
Once the creature situation was under control, they cast careful Memory Charms on the Muggles, hoping to be able to set them free without any recollection of dogs with forked tails. There was always a chance that they had missed a Muggle or two on the outskirts of the pandemonium, but that was okay, because a couple of idiots spouting nonsense about "weird dogs" could be easily ignored by the greater Muggle population.
After the last Muggle was set free, Draco smiled and tucked his wand away, looking forward to writing his first report that actually involved his own work.
He nearly crashed into someone.
"Oof! Gosh, pardon me, I—Malfoy?"
He stared at wide green eyes and realised that, although he had been hearing Potter's voice practically every day for the past several months, he had actually not seen the prat for years. Potter looked tanner, more muscular, and calmer than he had looked back at Draco's Death Eater trials. His stance was centred, and he had greater control of his hands, keeping them close to his body in a way that managed to not look meek.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm part of the Office of Misinformation, Potter. What are you doing here? I thought you were an Auror trainee or something; shouldn't you be with your instructors, lapping up their every word?"
Potter ignored the thinly veiled insults. "Oh, this is part of the training. They occasionally let us handle the milder cases, in order to get a feel of what it's like to be out there and then write a report on it." Potter made a face at the word "report," and Draco almost found it endearing. He quashed the sentiment immediately.
"Ah. Sounds fun, Potty. Well, I shan't keep you with my unpleasant presence. Ta-ta."
"Wait!" A hand gripped his shoulder, just as he started to turn away.
"Yes, Chosen One? How may I serve you?"
"Shut up. Um."
He could feel the nervousness radiating off the other man and wondered why. Was he afraid that Draco would spontaneously hex him for no reason? "Well? I'm waiting, Scarhead."
Potter spoke in a rush. "Would you fancy going to a pub to have a beer with me? It's almost five, and I don't really want to start on this report right now…"
"So I'm your ticket to procrastination?"
An awkward chuckle. "Pretty much, yeah. So how about it? I'd like to know how you've been doing, anyway."
Draco opened his mouth to say no, accompanied with the most impressive sneer he could manage, but then he thought about Potter's loneliness and how Granger had seemed desperate to get him off her back once in a while. Maybe, if he spent a little time with Potter, the git would stress her out less, and that in turn would make her murmurings in the office a bit more cheerful? Besides, Merlin knew it must be awkward to be married while having a friend that kept barging in on their life. Draco cringed at the thought and made his decision, while feeling shocked that he had actually developed empathy for Granger over the course of a year.
"Fine. But this pub better serve some decent swill, or I'm dumping it all on your head."
Just before Potter Apparated them both, Draco turned to look at his face and was surprised to find the sweetest smile he had ever seen. Maybe there was another reason why he was willing to accompany the heroic prat.
The next day, Draco came to his office and started on his report, patting himself on the back for reviewing the memories in a Pensieve the previous night after he came home from his strange night out with Potter. At least he wouldn't struggle for things to write.
When lunchtime rolled around, he took out his Monte Cristo sandwich, admiring the way the Stasis Charm had maintained the heat and crispiness of the ham and cheese. God, he loved magic.
Just as he bit in, though, he heard the bumbling footsteps that announced Potter's arrival, and there was a shuffling of chairs as Granger made room for him.
"So, what'll it be today? A question on how to keep your shoes tied permanently? Another stalker girl? How to avoid punching your instructor in the face?"
"Haha, you're still as funny as ever. No. I um, I saw Draco Malfoy yesterday."
Draco froze mid-bite as Granger murmured a thoughtful, "Oh."
"Yeah! Did you know he works at the Ministry? Apparently he works in the Office of Misinformation now!"
"I always thought he'd spend his days lounging about the Manor, bemoaning his existence, but I guess he's got to make a living like the rest of us, eh? Especially after the war reparations and all that."
"Yes, that's true."
"Oh, man, 'Mione, you should have seen him. He's really changed. He's actually pretty good-looking now, loath as I am to admit it. Now that he doesn't slick his hair back in that ridiculous fashion anymore, his hair actually looks soft…"
"Um…okay. That's nice to know, Harry."
Draco found himself blushing furiously for some reason, even though Potter wasn't actually saying anything embarrassing about him. He was just making mundane observations, that was all. Perhaps the embarrassing part was realising that Granger knew that he could hear all this but seemed to refuse to warn Potter to stop gushing about him. What was up with that, anyway? In fact, why had she allowed him to listen in for all those months?
"Yeah…I went to the pub with him, you know."
"W-What? You did?"
"Yeah! I remembered your advice about going to the pub once in a while, and I decided, hey, why not? Seeing an old acquaintance is always a good reason to go out and have a drink."
"But Harry, didn't you hate him before? Not that I disapprove of you maturing, but why all of a sudden?"
"Haha, I don't know. Maybe it's the fact that he seemed so shocked that I was asking him out. I do like catching him off-guard."
"So…you were asking him out?"
There was a pause, and Draco waited with bated breath.
"N-No, I don't think so. Not in that way. I was just asking him to have a drink with me. We didn't do anything. Just drank and talked about work and stuff like that."
"Alright, Harry. I believe you."
Then the two of them changed the subject and talked about the Weasel's latest food antics, but Draco was no longer listening, his mind whirling with the thought of Potter asking him out.
After that, Draco paid even more special attention to Potter's visits to Granger. Yet at some point, the visits seemed to dwindle down. This irritated Draco immensely for some reason, even as he chewed through another orgasmic bite of his latest sandwich, this time peanut butter and apple slices.
What the hell happened to Potter? Why didn't he visit anymore?
Maybe…maybe he had finally made some new friends?
His musings were interrupted by thumping footsteps, and he was embarrassed to find himself sagging in relief. What the heck? Why did he care or give a damn about Potter? Argh!
"Harry. You haven't been by much lately. What's up?"
"Making new friends among the trainees for once?"
Silence as Granger scribbled on for a bit with her quill. Then, "Harry, you know I don't believe you."
"What are you up to?"
Potter spluttered. "W-What do you mean by that? Why must I be 'up to' something? I've grown, 'Mione."
"Grown more sneaky and curious, that is."
"You know you're going to spill to me eventually, Harry. It's inevitable. You tell me everything. So you might as well do it now, while my curiosity isn't strong enough to make me want to kill you for distracting me from my work with all the wondering..."
"Alright! I've been at the Office of Misinformation! Okay? You happy?"
Silence again as Draco gasped quietly to himself.
"Well," said Granger finally. "Do I want to know what you've been doing there?"
"I've been looking for Draco."
"Draco, is it?"
"Shut up! It's just. If I call him 'Malfoy,' I think about all the bad things that happened in school, so it's just easier to call him 'Draco.' Like he's a different person, you know?"
"Harry. He's still the same person. The past is part of him, too. You can't just make him reborn or something, not even with a name change."
"I know. I know. But yeah, I've been trying to find him again. I actually had a good time at the pub with him, you know? I never knew he could be so funny, even when he tries to make fun of my hair or my glasses. I guess things are always funnier when you don't have Voldemort breathing over your shoulder all the time."
"Mhm. And have you found him?"
"…no. I haven't. He said he works at the Office of Misinformation, but I can't seem to find him there. Do you think he lied to me?"
A pause. Then, "Harry, why would you think he lied to you? What would be the point?"
"I don't know. Maybe he's been on vacation or something."
"Have you tried asking the people there where he is?"
"Of course not! Are you mad? How would that look, me asking around for Draco Malfoy? People already think I'm some nutter that can't let go of the past!"
"Well, you already look crazy just stalking the Office of Misinformation, so what's an extra step going to do?"
"At least when I go there, I can pretend to be looking for case information. But what's my excuse for looking for Malfoy?"
"Hm. Well, before we come up with an excuse, what's your actual reason for looking for Malfoy?"
Silence again. Draco crammed the rest of his sandwich in his mouth, the suspense killing him.
The silence dragged on, and Draco swore he could feel his heart in his throat.
"I don't know," Potter said finally.
"Well, then. Come back to me when you've figured it out."
"Yeah. I guess I will."
Potter walked out of the office, mumbling to himself, trying to work out his little crisis.
Five minutes after the last mumble faded away, Draco heard Granger's voice again, this time directed at him.
"I know you listen in on our conversations."
Draco didn't miss a beat. "Yeah, and I know you could totally prevent me from hearing if you really wanted to."
"Touché. I guess I never really think about it, since nothing we say is ever particularly private. But this time, I don't know. I guess some part of me wants you to hear it, anyway."
"And why would that be, Granger?"
"Because that'll teach him to be so careless with his conversations, Mr Auror Wannabe."
Draco chuckled, but he had the feeling that that was not the real reason.
He didn't ask, though. He had other things to think about.
Such as what to do with a lonely, supposedly-straight Potter that seemed to be developing a little crush on him.
Weeks later, Draco was munching on a pumpernickel and rye bread sandwich, daydreaming about Potter. He was still debating whether or not to make a move on him, and he was particularly busy with a sudden inflow of paperwork due to an increase in creature-related crime, but he could still fantasise during lunch.
Besides, since Potter had not visited Granger ever since their Talk, he had no reason to listen to his surroundings anymore.
He thought about their time in the pub. It had been surprising to realise that Potter was a good conversationalist. Yes, he spoke very well where Granger was concerned, but he had not expected that skill to extend to Draco as well. After all, Draco was practically a stranger to him, so how the hell would the git know what to say to him?
Yet he managed. They started off with Quidditch, then a comparison of Quidditch to Muggle football, then branched out to Muggle theatre and how it compared to Wizard theatre, and from there they delved into all sorts of comparison theories between the two cultures, all without Draco feeling the urge to utter a single insult about Muggles. Potter was just that good.
They also talked about work, of course, since Draco's line of work actually did deal with Muggles a lot, even though for him it was mostly paperwork about said Muggles. Then Potter had smiled with his eyes glowing like marbles before saying, "You've changed a lot, Malfoy. I rather like it."
Even now, Draco still felt a little glow of warmth in his chest at the thought of Potter saying his name and the word "like" so closely together.
The glow turned into cold shock as a paperclip hit him in the face.
"Ow!" he uttered without thinking.
There was a gasp. "See, Hermione? I knew it! There's something and someone over there, concealed with Notice-Me-Nots! Thank goodness they taught us how to detect voids today!"
"Harry, I don't think—"
Draco suddenly found himself face-to-face with the object of his daydreams. Only, this time, Potter wasn't smiling.
"How long have you been here?"
Draco winced, instinctively knowing that Potter was asking "How long?" in a more general sense than just that moment. "I've been working here for a year, like I said before."
"So…every time I came to visit Hermione and…"
He trailed off. And really, there was no need for him to finish the sentence. All three of them knew what he meant.
Potter stormed off, his expression closed and set.
Granger let out a soft whimper, and Draco felt an odd sensation in his chest. Was that his heart breaking?
"Potter. Potter. Potter. Open up!" Granger had taken Draco to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place in order to get him past the Fidelius before Disapparating away, telling him to "Deal with it" himself and "stop whining," since it was not her problem. That was really a sign that they had become friends, he mused, since Pansy acted like that, too.
"Come on, Potter, how am I supposed to apologise to you if I can't see your ruddy face? Everyone knows owl apologies are tacky, and I refuse to let you turn me into a tacky person!"
Draco persisted on knocking so intently that when the door finally opened, he knocked on Potter's nose by accident.
Draco paled. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to—"
Potter scowled, grabbed Draco roughly by the front of his robes, and yanked him into the house, slamming the door shut behind him before pushing him up against the door.
"How did you get past the Fidelius Charm, Malfoy? I just reinstated it recently."
"Granger," he breathed, his heartbeat quickening at Potter's proximity.
Potter's lips twisted, and that in turn twisted Draco's heart. Potter should never twist his lips like that. It looked horrible.
"Of course. I'll bet this is all some plan you two cooked up, eh? I'll bet you two are work spouses by now, bonded together through your mutual exasperation for me."
Despite the tension, Draco found himself snorting. "Salazar, Potter, do you not realise how egotistical that sounds? As if Granger and I even talk, much less waste our limited interaction discussing you."
Potter barrelled on, not caring about that. "Why didn't you show yourself, Malfoy? Even when you knew I was looking for you. Did you find it amusing? Did you like playing a trick on poor, lonely ol' me? I'll bet that's what Hermione tells you, isn't it? That I'm all lonely and desperate for companionship or some bollocks like that. Well, let me tell you, that's wrong. I'm not lonely. I don't desperately need a friend. I was doing just fine with my life, training to be the Auror I've always wanted to be, keeping my distance from crazy stalkers, spending time with my best friends, but then I saw you and I thought, 'Oh, look, that's Malfoy, I wonder how he is.' That was all, Malfoy. That was all it ever was. Just curiosity, just me trying to be nice to a person who used to be part of my life."
By now, Potter's nose was touching Draco's, and he could feel his breath ghost over his lips. This alarming proximity was what actually made him bold enough to voice his thoughts.
"No, Potter. That's not all it was, and you know it. It may have started out that way, but you wanted to know more about me, didn't you? You wanted to know so much that you went out of your way to look for me, stalking my bosses' office—"
"Why are you next to Hermione's cubicle, anyway?"
"Lack of office space," Draco replied immediately.
"Can't they just make more space using magic?"
"Bureaucracy. Too much damn paperwork that takes too much time. They decided I wasn't worth the effort, so I was stuck there."
"Ah, I see. So what's with the Notice-Me-Nots? All the better to spy on me with?" Potter snarled and pressed more closely against Draco.
"No! I just like my privacy. The bosses rarely need to see me at my cube, and I didn't want people coming to bait me, what with me being a Death Eater and all."
Potter stopped snarling and looked down at the floor off to the side, still leaning close against Draco. "Oh."
Suddenly, Potter leaned in and pressed his lips against Draco's, and the next five minutes were spent exploring each other's mouths with their tongues, tasting heaven and then some. Draco had had his share of kisses before, but Potter had this particularly sweet taste that he couldn't get enough of. He fought Potter's tongue and pushed it aside triumphantly as he reached for his cheeks, lapping up more of the taste.
Finally, Potter pulled away, and Draco whimpered at the loss, already leaning in for more. Potter held him back with hands on his shoulders, though.
"You could have said something, you know," he breathed against Draco's lips.
"What, just suddenly burst out with, 'I can hear you from here! I, Draco Malfoy, man you've got a big crush on, am right here! Stop complimenting me right now and come hex me!'? Are you daft, Potter?"
Potter grinned reluctantly, and Draco's breath caught in his throat.
"I guess the situation was awkward for you, too, eh? There you were, just trying to work and not get hexed by prejudiced people, and there I was, coming to talk about you behind your back."
"Mhm. My life has been so terrible, Potter."
"Yeah, well, so has mine. Do you have any idea how fucking embarrassed I felt, realising that you heard everything I said about you? I mean, I guess there's nothing you can do to take it all back, but I feel awful right now."
"Well, Potter…I know something that'll cheer you up…"
Draco smiled indulgently as Potter—well, Harry now—moaned in pleasure, his head tilted back and his eyes closed.
"That good, am I?"
"Fuck, yes, Draco, so good!"
He felt a rush of pride and smugness, knowing that only he could make Harry feel that way.
"Mm, Harry…would you like more?"
"Oh Merlin, please! More! I need more!"
With that, Draco levitated the plate of sandwiches closer to Harry and smiled as his new boyfriend devoured them greedily.
"Godric, these sandwiches are brilliant! Why work in a Ministry office when you can just sell these and make so much money?"
"Because, Harry, I like to be the only one that has the best. I deserve the best. Well, and so do you, I suppose, which is why you and I are the only ones that get to eat these. And also…you're the only one that gets to have me."
He wrapped his arms around Harry from behind, and Harry hummed blissfully, putting down the remainder of his sandwich and turning to face Draco.
"How about I go have you right now?" he murmured against his lips.
"Alright," Draco agreed.
As Draco lay on his back, his legs dangling off the bed and his toes curling as he came into Harry's eager mouth, he had to conclude that the bureaucracy's shortcomings were really conducive to other sorts of comings, after all.