A shared bottle of whisky, without glasses, leads to it. Curls fall forward as she rubs her temple, murmuring something he can’t catch. The office they share isn’t cramped, but it feels so much smaller as liquor settles in his stomach, and her lips, painted cherry red, twitch when she tries not to laugh.
Granger nudges his foot with her own, and his eyes trace the stretch of her legs—from her calves to her thighs—but he doesn’t look any further. She’s probably watching him watch her, and drunk as he is, Draco’s not keen on confronting that.
This is an easy peace, but it’s not simple to maintain.
Tomorrow, when the new year is still a novel thought, they’ll be at odds again.
Tomorrow, this will be nothing but a memory.
It’s such a pleasant memory, though, even if it’s still being made.
Draco startles when she reaches over, and tilts his head up, warm fingers pressed against his chin. Granger tilts her head to the side and brings the bottle to her lips. It’s downright impossible not to watch her mouth as she does. He’s sure she’s well aware of what she’s doing to him—somehow, that makes it worse.
She’s aware, but teases him anyway. What a cruel witch. A sharp curve curls on her lips as she hands the bottle off, sharp enough that he wonders what it’d be like to cut himself on it.
Draco forces out an exasperated sigh. “Has anyone ever told you that you have a staring problem?”
“Only you, but you have the same issue.” Each of Granger’s movements are overexaggerated and sloppy as she pitches forward and scoots closer to him.
Minutes to midnight, she is nothing like the witch that haunts his working hours. She’s unraveled now, hair loose from its elastic, and dress wrinkled in a way that he wishes was for different reasons. Now, Granger is the image of the witch who haunts the rest of his time.
Draco doesn’t say anything, but stiffens when she lays her head on his shoulder. “I didn’t peg you for a cuddler, Granger.”
She peeks up at him—there’s no chance he’ll ever be able to get the image out of his head. She’s soft curves and dark lashes when she blinks. Her lips press together, then part. She’s utterly impossible.
Granger wraps a hand around his forearm, where he’s rolled up his sleeve. “Where do you want to be this time next year?”
“I’ll have gotten a promotion, preferably.” It’s what he’s told his parents, too.
Granger shakes her head and it’s so fucking like her to tell him that he’s wrong, even over something that is only a matter of opinion. “I mean, what’s something you want to do for yourself? Something you haven’t done, but you want to. Something that’s important to you.”
It’s not a bloody promotion.
Draco lays his hand on her thigh, and she nuzzles her face against his shoulder. She’s absurdly drunk, and she’s blown past their boundary.
So has he. It has to be the only reason he tells her anything.
With any luck, she’ll forget it by the morning, and if not, he can blame it on the warmth pooling in the pit of his stomach. “I want to be more honest.”
Her head snaps up, and she winces.
Draco laughs under his breath.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t lie to anyone, if that’s what you’re thinking, but I never tell anyone if I don’t like anything. My parents are determined to rearrange my life to fit their view, and I’ve never told them that’s not what I want. There’s a witch, but I sincerely doubt it will develop.”
Granger blinks. The movement is slow. “Are you honest with yourself?”
Squeezing his eyes shut, Draco shakes his head.
“You should try that first, before you really shake things up by getting your witch or telling your parents to fuck right off.”
He snorts. “You are incredibly drunk.”
She nods, grinning wildly. “So are you, Malfoy. Thanks for this, staying for the new year.”
“Paperwork.” He shrugs.
Draco likes to think that they both know he hadn’t stayed for the paperwork.
By January 27th, Draco’s thought about New Year’s Eve more times than he is willing to admit. Granger is everywhere he looks. From their shared office, which is even smaller after cuddling in the middle of it, to the Leaky Cauldron, where she insists he always comes for drinks, to his own thoughts, every space he knows has been compromised.
But he hasn’t given much thought to what she’d said. Draco’s well aware of the fact that he hasn’t made any moves to be honest with anyone. The witch in question is, well… out of the question. His parents have requested he come to the manor on Sunday for brunch, where there will no doubt be a surprise visit from one of his mother’s friends and their daughter.
While picking up a new book, Draco hesitates on his way to the front. He doesn’t stop fully, but he does reach out to pull something from the shelf before he continues on. A leather bound journal, with a string long enough to wrap around it three times.
The journal goes everywhere with him until the middle of March. It rests at the bottom of the case he carries with him into the Ministry every day. It fits perfectly in the inside pocket of his favorite cloak.
There are no words in it, though, he assures himself that eventually there will be. Even without ink stained inside of it, the weight is welcome, and it serves to ground him.
It’s almost good enough to have it as only that: a blank journal, a welcome weight, a familiar comfort. But, sometimes, he thinks about how he’s taken four witches to dinners he didn’t want to attend. Sometimes he thinks about how, by the close of this year, his mother will be even more unbearable.
In the middle of the thought, Granger drops her bag on his desk, a roll of parchment sticking out of it.
“Can I help you?”
“There’s a witch waiting for you outside.” Granger crosses her arms over her chest. “She’s under the impression that I’m your assistant. You wouldn’t have anything to do with that, would you?”
Flicking his wrist, Draco shuts the door with a subtle wand movement. “No, I didn’t.” Even though she doesn’t look like she believes him, Draco hopes she’ll soften. “Can you help me avoid her?”
“Oh,” Granger whispers. She casts a look over her shoulder. “Still going through the motions then?”
He pulls the journal out that night.
It takes six pages of furious writing, with the ink bleeding through the paper, and his quill ripping it at one point, before he feels better. The first entry is about his parents, familial obligations, and the fact that he’s not interested in marrying.
Everything he’s ever needed to say is right there. If he wanted, he could take it to the manor.
If he wanted, he could let it out.
It’s oddly therapeutic in a way he hadn’t expected, but his thoughts are there, and he continues to carry it for the security it brings.
The second, third, and fourth entries are about Granger. They blend together with no sense of beginning nor end.
Granger, he’s learned, has shot down multiple dates in a week.
He doesn’t need to know, but she brings it into the office.
“They won’t stop,” she says. “This happens for every memorial. If I could avoid going, I would!” She cringes when she throws it out there.
“Don’t go.” Draco looks over the edge of his report. “Granger, just don’t go. Put yourself first for a change.”
Silence falls between them.
“It would look terrible.”
“Granger, you need sleep. No one is going to say anything if you choose not to go.” He shrugs. “And if they do, then leave it to me.”
“Are you putting yourself first? It’s not fair to ask me if you’re not doing the same. A bit hypocritical.”
“Yes, Granger.” Draco rolls his eyes. “In the name of resolutions, I’m being honest with myself first.”
He picks up the journal, and watches her face brighten.
There is a day where he writes that a wizard has turned up in their office with eyes only for his partner, and it’s obvious how uncomfortable she is. Draco resorts to dirty scare tactics to make the man leave, and then he pretends Granger isn’t staring at him as he writes it all down in the journal.
He doesn’t consider that she’ll put it together.
That he’s writing about her.
Or that she’ll take it the wrong way.
Draco blinks. It’s too early in the morning for apologies, but here Granger is, fidgeting in front of him.
She looks up at him, and sighs. “I’m sorry for irritating you.”
“I’m going to need you to give me a bit more than that, Granger.”
Wringing her hands, she nods. “It’s not my business what you write about, and I’m not asking! But you wrote in it yesterday after Davis came in here, and you were so nice when I mentioned how I didn’t want to go to the memorial and…”
“Do you think I’m angry because a bloke asked you on a date?”
“Well, no, not exactly.” The blush spreading across her cheeks decides for him.
“I am angry about it,” Draco manages.
She nods, still red. “I’m so sorry. I’ll deal with it, honestly.”
Grimacing inwardly, he decides he’s already stepped off the ledge; now he has to land without making an arse out of himself.
“I didn’t like watching him fumble because, quite honestly, I don’t enjoy seeing anyone ask you to dinner. I have no right to feel that way since we’re colleagues, but there it is.”
“Of course. It’s probably awkward and completely unprofessional.”
God, he could walk away if he wanted and avoid the embarrassment, but now he’s irritated that she doesn’t get it.
“Granger, you told me that I should try being honest with myself before anyone else. I haven’t talked to my parents once, but I can at least do this.”
Granger furrows her brow, lips parting, but he cuts her off.
“I don’t enjoy seeing blokes ask you to dinner because none of them are competent enough to do it well.” This is not going the way he intended. Another breath. “I’d like to ask you to dinner. I have for months, actually, but I’m a bit of a coward. The writing—I did it so I didn’t spill that in front of you.”
Her mouth closes. Opens again. Closes. “Oh.”
He nods, throat tight. “Right. I didn’t expect you to reciprocate, but now that you know I’m not angry…”
Granger catches his wrist when he turns away. “I do, um, reciprocate. God, I’m no good at this. Come here.” She yanks him down to her, curling her fingers in the front of his robes, and presses her lips to his.
Draco’s hands find her hips, and his fingers trace paths along her curves.
“Dinner?” he murmurs.
“Is that not clear?” There’s laughter in her voice. “So, that mysterious witch you mentioned?”
“You, obviously. As if it could be anyone else.”
It’s the first win of the year, but Draco will make certain it’s not the last.