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The Taste of Tea

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Hermione loved tea. Loved it. It was actually a bit of a secret obsession with her. Something that she shared with herself and no one else. Which is why she was so confused when Draco Malfoy started bringing fancy tea to their meetings. How had Draco Malfoy, (who may no longer be on her hit list, but still wasn’t her favorite person) known what her best friends had never figured out in their ten years of friendship?

It was odd, but Hermione couldn’t say she didn’t appreciate the gesture. It helped that he always brought the fancy teas from Africa and South America, the ones she would feel terrible about spending 100 galleons on herself. Such as the one he had brought today.

Raspberry Balsamico. Huh.” Hermione flipped it over to read the back of the box. “Malfoy. I’m not even sure this counts as tea, it’s all fruit!”

“I am offended Granger. Of course it’s tea. I chose that one because I figured it would make a better cold brew than some of the others. It’s too damn hot for tea.” He loosened his tie as if to prove his point. Hermione rolled her eyes, but climbed on top of her desk to pull the pitcher from the top shelf of the cupboard, cursing her height the whole way.

“You know you could always ask for help.” Draco said, amused.

“From you? Never.” Was Hermione’s reply when she finally got back to the floor. “Now as much as I like tea, what are you actually doing here? I wasn’t aware we had a meeting today.” She asked him as she measured the tea into the pitcher.

“It seems you’re the only person who is willing to work with me on long projects.” Hermione snorted as she waved her wand, muttering the spell she had invented to make the tea steep faster. She loved magic sometimes.

“You mean I’m the only one who can work with you and keep you from leaving disaster in your wake.” He pressed a hand to his heart dramatically.

“Hey, I’m not that bad!” She levelled her gaze on him and started ticking charges off on her fingers.

“Last time you worked with someone else, you destroyed no less than three different people’s private property, made five teenage girls cry, stole a moped and ran over three pedestrians.” He shrugged.

“I got the bad guy though didn’t I?” Hermione rolled her eyes again and turned to look for a set of cups among all of the mugs she kept stashed on the shelf behind her desk.

“Lets face it Malfoy, you don’t need a partner, you need a babysitter.” She swivelled back around, cups in hand. Draco pouted slightly, but didn’t argue. Hermione strained the tea leaves from the tea before looking up at him again.

“So what are we doing this time?” Hermione and Draco weren’t Aurors, they didn’t often go out into the field and chase down bad guys, despite the fact that the two of them were actually rather good at it. Hermione spent the days she wasn’t helping Harry and Ron out on research projects in the Auror department, working as a cursebreaker for the ministry and studying magical artifacts. It was a job she loved, and she was always pleased when her research had to take her out into the field for hands on research as well. She h ad started working with Draco two years before, when she had come across a set of cursed jewels that were tied to another set, in Russia. As a member of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, Draco was the one who had to work with Hermione in order to get her access to Russia in the first place. They had worked together ever since.

“It seems someone has been trading goods across the channel for the past few months. We’re supposed to take them in.” Hermione bit her lip as she poured the tea into the cups.

“What does this have to do with me? Shouldn’t you be working with the Auror department?”

“Normally yes.” He replied, taking the tea she offered him. “But this isn’t your usual tax evasion trade Granger. They’re moving magical artifacts back and forth over the channel.”

“How?” He had her full attention now.

“From what we can tell, it’s a group of muggleborns. Or at least half bloods who grew up in the muggle world. They’re using the muggle black market to send the goods across the channel into France, where it’s being shipped out across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and even down into Africa.”

“And their headquarters is in France you say?” He nodded an affirmative.

“Paris.”

“Well then. Looks like we’re going to Paris. I take it you already did all of the fancy talking?” It was well known that Hermione had little patience for pleasantries and useless babble, whereas Draco excelled at it, having grown up in Slytherin, and been trained by his father from a young age. He gave her a cocky grin.

“But of course Granger.”

 

Turns out Draco had done more than just fancy talking, he had an international portkey set up for an hour later, (which frustrated Hermione to no end because “I still have to go home and pack Draco!”) He had also taken the time to fill out the paperwork informing the head of her department she would be out on location for an indeterminate amount of time, which Hermione thought made up for the lack of warning; she hated paperwork.

 

They made it to the French ministry just in time for all of the workers to be at lunch, which irritated Hermione, but she got over it when Draco took her to a cafe to pass the time. They spent more time than absolutely necessary making fun of the ridiculousness of the French language.

When they finally made it back to the office, both were in considerably better moods. The moods didn’t last long however.

“Miz Granger. Mizter Malfoy.” A stone faced woman greeted them with her lilting french accent. “Right zis way pleez” She led them down a corridor, and to a conference room, where there were several files already laid out.

“Zeeze are just ze artifacts we have found, zer very well could be more. We are not sure where zeez artifacts are originating from, but we have traced several back across ze channel through the muggle means of distribution.” Hermione had been flipping through the files while she was talking.

“Are all of these items cursed?”

“Not all, but many of zem are.” Hermione stopped and stared at one of the files.

“Draco. Look at this.” She pointed to the necklace. He looked over her shoulder at the page, his breath ruffling the hair at the back of her neck.

“It looks like all of the items, fancy and cursed.” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“I know this necklace. I broke the curse on it last month!” she scrambled around through the paperwork. “And this one. I remember seeing it in the ministry vault, I was supposed to break the curse on it, but we got a rush order in on a different piece, and by the time I was done, the bracelet had vanished. I assumed it was because one of the other curse breakers had already taken it to work on. I bet if we were to check, all of these artifacts will have come from the ministry vault.” He turned to look at her.

“So you think this was an inside job?”

“I think it has to be. There are only a handful of people who have access to that wing, let alone the vault.” Draco sighed and ran his hands down his face.

“Let me go make a few calls.” He walked out of the room, muttering to himself, and Hermione had to catch herself from watching his retreating form.

 

“So you’re telling me, that they can’t be bothered to track down one measly jewel thief, and are sending the British people to do it for them under the thinly veiled excuse of ‘because he’s a British citizen’?”

Draco and Hermione were in Calais on their way to the docks, where they were planning on apprehending their suspect, a man by the name of Jeremy Geoff. Jeremy was a halfblood who had graduated from Beauxbatons the year before. He had only worked in the ministry for around six months, which was ironically, when the cursed jewels had started showing up in France.

“That’s exactly what happened, yes.”

“Ugh.” Hermione fanned her face grumpily. If it was hot in cloudy England, it was blistering in France. She was dressed in a sleeveless sundress and strappy sandals, with her hair tied up away from her neck, and she was still hot. Draco was in suitpants and a button up, which he’d rolled up the sleeves on, but that was the only indication that he might be the least bit uncomfortable. Hermione watched him in disgust. No one had the right to look that good when it was this hot out. Not even Draco Malfoy.

“What?” He must have caught her staring because he turned to look at her, Hermione hid her blush behind an outraged noise.

“How are you not hot?” he smirked at her.

“Cooling charms?” Hermione sent him an annoyed look.

“Do you know a more powerful one that I don’t? Because I have like three different ones on me and I’m still hot as hell.” He just laughed and didn’t answer. Hermione harrumphed, but continued following Draco in the direction of the docks.

 

“Their boat should be getting in anytime now, it doesn’t take that long to get across the channel.” Hermione hummed in acknowledgement, taking a sip from the cold brew tea she had bought on the way there.

“This tea hasn’t steeped nearly long enough. How do these people stand it?” Draco gave her an amused glance from where he was reclining against the fence beside her.

“Not everyone can be a tea snob like you, Hermione.” She snorted and bumped her shoulder into his. They were meant to look inconspicuous, but Hermione thought they might be having the opposite effect, with her floral dress, and Draco looking like- well, Draco. They did look like a harmless couple though, which was something.

“There’s the boat.” Hermione nodded towards the small boat that was now coming into the harbor.

“Think he’s really our guy?” Draco looked down at her.

“He’d better be, I’m going to be pissed if I left the air conditioning for nothing.” Draco laughed, but kept his eyes focused on the little boat. When it had been roped to the dock, and the three men on board had started to move boxes from the boat to the shore, Draco stood up straight. Hermione didn’t waist any time in dropping her empty tea cup in the nearest trash and pulling her wand out of her hair, letting her curls fall back over her shoulders. Draco glanced over at her.

“How did you…” Hermione just smiled at him

“Magic.” he shook his head and marched towards the other wizard. Hermione followed him with a small laugh.

“Hello there!” Draco called out to the man who was obviously in charge. Unfortunately for him, Draco had timed it so he was cornered in the corner of the dock, where the only way he could go was into the water. Hermione recognized him from around the ministry, she had never spoken to him personally, but it still didn’t surprise her when he recognized her standing behind Draco.

“Hello Jeremy.” Hermione greeted him, holding her wand deceptively lightly.

“Hermione Granger. I didn’t think they’d send you of all people. She just smiled at him.

“I’m not the one you’re going to have to worry about this time. I don’t believe you’ve met my partner. Jeremy, this is Draco Malfoy.” Jeremy backed up a bit more, hitting the edge of the dock.

“Your reputation precedes you.” Hermione noted casually. Draco grinned.

“Good.” Jeremy’s face morphed into a sneer, and Hermione noticed his wand come up just in time to jump out of the way of his spell. She clicked her tongue at him.

“Just because I said you needed to watch out for Malfoy, didn’t mean I suddenly became incompetent Jeremy. Honestly.” She waved her wand and sent a levicorpus spell at him, leaving him dangling by the ankle. His wand dropped into the water with a little plop.

“Oops. Draco, the other two. I’ve got him.” Draco nodded at her and sent stuns at both of the other men. Hermione was nearly positive that they were muggles, which meant more paperwork for her. Great. She dropped Jeremy and threw a petrificus totalus at him, then sent a patronus back to the french ministry.

“That was easier than I expected.” Draco nudged her with his elbow as they watched the french ministry take him away.

“Good riddance.” He laughed and started walking back towards the portkey that someone had set up for them a few minutes before. Hermione ran to catch up with him.

“Draco? I was wondering…”

“What else is new.” she swatted at his chest.

“Don’t be a smartass!” he laughed and she felt her chest constrict. “Why do you keep bringing me tea?” she blurted out. He stopped walking and she had to turn around to look at him.

“Seriously Granger?” He stared at her.

“Yes Seriously. It’s been bothering me for years and I-” she cut herself off when she realized how close he had gotten to her.

“Granger, you have to be the most oblivious woman I have even met.”

“Hey!” she protested. “I am not oblivious!”

“No? I’ve been flirting with you for years Granger.” He stepped closer, so they were almost touching, and Hermione had to crane her head to look at him. Why did he have to be so damn tall .

“Oh.” Was the only response she could muster, past the swirling thoughts in her head. Part of her was panicking, the other half was just re-analyzing every single interaction she had with him in the last two years.

“Yeah oh. Like I said. Oblivious.” Hermione shut her brain off and asked the first question that came to her mind.

Why?” He looked confused. “Why me of all people?” she clarified for him.

“I had been working at the ministry for a year before I got partnered with you. You were the first person I ever worked with who put the past behind us and treated me like a person rather than a parah.”

“That might explain why we’re friends but it doesn’t really explain…” she waved her hand vaguely.

“No.” He faltered, trying to catch his words. “It’s just- When I got to know you, I realized just how much I’d been missing.  You’re infuriatingly stubborn, unbelievably clever, and probably the smartest woman I know. Not to mention you’re bloody gorgeous when you put your mind to it.”  Hermione was speechless. She didn’t know anyone could think of her like that, let alone Draco Malfoy.

“How did you know how much I like tea? Not even Harry and Ron know that.”

“I’ve been watching you since sixth year Granger.”

“That long?”

“I admitted it to myself in sixth year. It was probably more like fourth.” he shrugged nonchalantly, but Hermione could see the fear in his mercury eyes. He was pouring his heart out to her, that couldn’t be easy for him. That fact was the final determining factor for her. She didn’t even bother answering him, just grabbed a fistful of his shirt to pull herself up to his height, having to stand on tiptoes even so, and kissed him for all she was worth.

He tasted like tea.