Hermione's desk was her kingdom and it was under siege.
As she opened the creaky door of her shared Ministry office, she couldn't help but notice the paper dragon blowing confetti flames across her monthly planner. Under claws made from old memos, she spied dribbles of black ink from her ink pot leaving spirals of tiny claw prints across the entire month of April.
The obvious culprit was ensconced behind his desk, leaning back in his chair and conspicuously ignoring her as though absolutely nothing was wrong. He couldn't have proclaimed his guilt any louder.
She dumped her bag on her desk, prompting the miscreant to acknowledge her.
She ignored Malfoy, instead leaning forward to offer her fingers to the paper dragon currently nibbling on the end of her favourite quill. The dragon sniffed Hermione's fingers and then clambered up her arm, pricking her skin through her sweater.
“It likes you," Malfoy said.
“So it does,” Hermione replied, admiring the details of its scales. "If only it didn't like destroying my desk so much," she said pointedly. The paper dragon climbed higher and she winced as it found its way to the top of her head with papery squeaks of delight.
“I wouldn't call it destruction. More like a creative and necessary re-arrangement of your calendar.”
“My calendar is perfectly fine, it does not need to be re-arranged, least of all by a non-sentient dragon,” she replied.
“Shh, you'll hurt its feelings. Also, you're full of lies. Your weekend is abominable.”
Hermione bit back her retort. Her weekend was only abominable because of someone else's rather irregular approach to making appointments.
Malfoy looked up at her and sniggered. “Look, it thinks it's found its nest.”
“Dragons don't nest,” Hermione corrected, as she tried to de-tangle the paper dragon's claws from her hair. As Hermione finally got free, the paper dragon squawked in indignation. Hermione placed the paper dragon on her desk and it went to have a sulk behind her stash of paper clips.“They live in caves at various locations both above and below ground, and occasionally in artificially constructed surroundings designed to mimic their natural habitat, when in specific circumstances such as a magical creatures sanctuary.”
“On the contrary, dragons do display nesting-like behaviour when they've found a place that is secure, aesthetically appealing and comforting.”
Draco covered his heart dramatically. “Let it never be said that Hermione Granger accused me of semantics.”
After diving into Hermione's silvery paperclips, the paper dragon became entranced with its own reflection in the bronze ink pot. Hermione spelled the ink and confetti off of her desk and left the paper dragon curled around her ink pot.
She sat down and began flipping through the sheaf of memos and announcements that had bloomed on her desk like an unwanted paper fungus during her lunch hour. She could feel Malfoy watching her.
“Stop staring at me and do some work.”
He sighed. “Work bores me.”
“Everything bores you, Malfoy.”
“Not true.” He began ticking points off on his fingers. “Quidditch, Slytherin parties, things I want to buy, things I've recently bought, and the horrors of your coiffure are all interesting topics. Plus, there's always rumours and gossip.”
Hermione huffed and pointedly leaned over her desk for a closer look at the weekly summary of Auror reports. Not that it stopped him.
“So, Granger,” he said, drawing out the vowels in her name. “Got a boyfriend?”
“Possibly a depraved relationship with an orange hairball?” He tapped his chin and ummed. “That wasn't specific enough. I meant the orange hairball that's half-Kneazle.”
Hermione glared at him. “At the moment, I am in possession of one lovable, steadfast and intelligent companion named Crookshanks, and one unspeakable annoyance.” Hermione had really wanted to use another word that started with 'A', but they were at work.
“What a coincidence, so am I. The unspeakable annoyance, not the orange hairball.” He eyed her hair. “Actually, the annoyance is more sort of combined with a brown hairball. That reminds me, I've updated your to-do list for you.”
Hermione looked over her to-do list with a sigh. Below a long list of crossed-out, re-inked, and cross-indexed items, there was a recent addition in handwriting that was distinctly not her own:
Memo Shaklebolt re: travel regulations for Aurors
Pick up food for Crookshanks
Get a boyfriend
“As I've said on numerous occasions, the office is in a particularly critical phase and-”
Malfoy rolled his eyes and stood up from his desk. “Want anything from the break room?”
“Just tea, thank you.” With that, she proceeded to be productive.
When Malfoy returned, Hermione bid fond farewell to her productivity. He was holding two mugs and a flyer. “Are you doing anything in June?” he asked.
“Nothing that can't be re-scheduled. Why?”
“I'm considering kidnapping you.” He handed her a mug of tea, made just the way she liked it, and a flyer that read 'International Law Enforcement and Regulations Development Conference: June 15, Hong Kong'.
When Hermione was younger, her parents had run away to Hong Kong. They had actually taken part in a week-long dental conference sponsored by the University of Hong Kong, but the point was that her parents had treated it as though they were running away. It had been all mysterious looks, and admonitions for Hermione to pack her suitcase well for her stay at her Grandmother's house.
All in all, they'd come back exhausted and exhilarated, not to mention equipped with a set of photographs that would be dragged out countless times, and some treats for Hermione. She had come into possession of a t-shirt with a picture of Victoria Harbour, a postcard decorated with orchids, and one unexpected forbidden treat. They'd brought back a bag of jelly-like sweets for her, a shocking move for parents of a child whose first few words included 'oral diseases'.
Hermione had hoarded her stash for close to a year, taking out one of the sealed jelly-like sweets on special occasions. Neither her nor her parents could read the labels, but Hermione had tasted flavours that came from no fruit found in Britain.
For years, Hong Kong had remained on the nebulous list of places she'd like to visit.
“You want us to go to Hong Kong this summer?”
“I'm merely pointing out that participating in an international conference raises the profile of attendees. It's both prestigious and practical to accept, not to mention advantageous in spreading the word about our projects,” he replied smoothly, in a voice which probably made their supervisors nod blithely at whatever he suggested and little old ladies give him cookies. Technically, Hermione outranked him, but if the hierarchy were to be mapped out, he would be the opposite angle of a really big parallelogram. The post of cross-department liaison was to blame for her current cramped office conditions.
“I don't think it counts as kidnapping if we're going to a conference.” She sipped her tea and studied the advert. “I wouldn't have guessed you'd be interested in holidaying somewhere so different.”
Draco snorted. “Please. I'm not Weasley.”
“I bet that fish and chips are the most exotic thing you've ever eaten.”
Draco curled his lip. “I'll have you know that I've eaten and enjoyed dim sum as well as congee. Both were far more palatable than the so-called traditional method of eating fish and chips out of a resold, day-old newspaper. It's a terrible way to violate a perfectly good meal.” He cleared his throat. “So, you'll come with me?”
Hermione opened her mouth to reply, then closed it. She shrugged.
Draco grinned. “Then, we shall go. Even if I have to truss you up to get you away.” He stood up and walked over to her desk, eyeing the still-slumbering paper dragon. “Are you going to keep the little nuisance? I assume, of course, that he was the annoyance to which you were referring.”
Hermione pursed her lips. She glanced at Draco, who was now looking at her. “He is a bit of a bother, but he's harmless and cute.”
Draco snorted. “Harmless? Also, I think you meant 'handsome' rather than cute.”
“I stand by what I said.”
“Fine,” he said, rolling his eyes.
Draco walked around behind her and bent over to study the flyer. He tucked his chin on her shoulder and pressed his face into her hair, nuzzling her neck.
“Now who's building a nest in my hair?” she chided.
“I'm not nesting,” he mumbled. “I'm merely testing the structural integrity of your hair for home-building needs. For your dragon.”
“Run away with me,” he said suddenly. “Just for the afternoon. The office is dead quiet, half the department's taken the afternoon off.” He fiddled with the ends of her hair.
Hermione's heart skipped a beat.“Running away together is quite a commitment. I'll need some guarantee of my safety.”
Malfoy reached over her desk to pull a quill from her stash. He dipped it into the ink pot, neatly avoiding ruffling the scales of the sleeping paper dragon, and drew a line through one item on her to-do list:
Get a boyfriend.
“Decided it's a hopeless cause?”
“No.” He paused. “I'm just crossing out a redundant item. After all, you can't have two boyfriends.” It was a question masquerading as a statement, and she could see the uncertainty in his eyes.
She smiled and brushed a kiss against his temple. “Your logic defeats me.”
Draco looked incredibly pleased with himself. He stood up and pulled her to her feet. “Let's get out of here before this place finishes killing my will to live.”
“I'm sure I can think of something that might keep you interested in this world.”
He smirked and pulled her closer. “I'm sure you can.”
With that, they left the office hand in hand.