Coffee break. A very close third in the position of Draco's favourite times of the day, only followed by lunch break in second place and the end of his shift in first place. He stood in line to get his regular order (a long black) from the small coffee and tea cart in the atrium of the Ministry - a hidden gem in his opinion compared to the normal staff cafeteria's 'cups of bitter piss' as he liked to refer to the coffee made there.
Two minutes later he had ordered and another three minutes and twenty seconds after that, Draco had his coffee in his hand and took it to one of two small tables that were in front of the cart. Many Ministry workers took their coffees to go whereas Draco liked to savour his break from sitting behind a desk, by sitting on a hard metal chair with a coffee in his hand. The other table was occupied by three greasy looking men, each wearing the small yellow name badges on the pocket of the left breast of their shirts, indicating to Draco that they were interns. He sneered as their raucous laughing disrupted his third favourite time of the day and he would have left if he wasn't so strict to hold traditions - if you could call sitting with a coffee for ten minutes a tradition.
"Save everyone else from looking at that expression and cast a silencing charm," Hermione Granger said as she walked up to his table.
Draco's sneer turned to an expression of confusion and then irritation for having yet another person interrupt his quiet musings. "What do you want?" He asked her. He quite often saw her waltzing around the Ministry like she owned the place; and in due respect, she did hold quite a worthy position. At the 'tender age of twenty eight' according to the Daily Prophet, Hermione Granger had been given the title Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, something that was proudly brandished on a gold name plate on her office door, a small name plaque on her desk and on her own name badge she pinned to the outside of her robes. A year on from acquiring the position and her badge still shone like it was newly made.
"Sugar," she answered quite simply. He was about to question her ridiculous answer when he saw that his table had a small cup in the centre holding small wooden stirring sticks and sugar tubes, three of which were taken by her. "I rather like this coffee cart. Only found out about it two weeks ago, mind you," she spoke, but she may as well been talking to herself as Draco was only focused on one thing.
"Three sugars?" He asked incredulously as she ripped the top of the first sugar tube and poured it straight into what Draco knew was a latte.
"Ah, you can count. Never would have taken you to be so clever," she responded sarcastically, ripping open the other two sugar tubes to pour into her coffee and then stir with one of the small wooden sticks.
Draco ignored the jibe as he took a sip of his own sugar-free coffee. "You might as well be drinking that carbonated soda rubbish with that amount of sugar. That," he motioned towards her coffee, "Can hardly be good for you."
"Worried about my health now, are you?" She questioned with a sly smile as she took a sip of her coffee which made Draco screw his face. He'd never had sugar in coffee. "I have a coffee maybe three times a week, you can settle down now," she rolled her eyes and then took the seat across from him. "Can I sit?" She asked.
"Asking the question after you've already given yourself an answer is quite pointless" he drawled but didn't bother to kick her off. He could…tolerate her. Over the past nine years that he'd been working at the Ministry, he'd worked with Hermione several times. As he was a solicitor in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, his help was often sought to approve different proposals of hers and to make sure they were consistent with the other Ministries she was seeking to collaborate with. The first time they had worked together she spoke the majority of the time, outlining her plan on trying to gain more overseas interns from different Ministry's of Magic. Draco had only taken notes and just as she'd stood from the chair at his desk to leave, he looked up and made eye contact with her.
"Why did you choose to work with me? There are plenty of other solicitors that have been working with your department for years. I just finished my own internship," he said. He would later reflect to realise that was the first time he'd spoken more than a few words to her without malice.
Hermione shrugged a shoulder and held her folder against her stomach, holding it. "It's time I got over my preconceptions of you. It has been three years since the War - I think we've both changed enough to realise that things are different now and they should be different between us too. A better difference."
He stared at her and nodded once. He stood from his chair and extended his hand to her. "I look forward to working with you, Granger," he said to her civilly, his version of an apology of sorts.
She'd stared at him before adjusting her folder and shook his hand. "And you, Malfoy."
Hermione took another drink of her coffee and leaned back in her chair with a sigh. "Are you still working on the Roach case?" She made conversation.
Draco merely nodded and looked off to the side to people-watch. Witches and wizards rushed in all directions, entering and exiting fireplaces, heading to lifts or offices. "How's your case going?" He asked since he knew she had been focusing in particular on bringing a test case to do with new legislation providing stricter checks on previously charged witches and wizards and their movement between England and other countries. This had come after a recent spike in the amount of illegal potions, animals and dark artefacts entering and leaving England in the last nine months.
"You know as well as I do I can't talk about a case like this freely," she responded. He simply nodded, still not having looked at her. "But it's been going well either way."
Despite the neutral conversation they'd been having, Draco looked back at her and narrowed his eyes. "Why are you sitting here? This is my table during my coffee break."
Hermione, who had in part being hoping for some sort of normal conversation, rolled her eyes for the second time since she'd came over. "I've decided I should start having coffee breaks," she answered. "And I needed sugar for my coffee. The other table doesn't have any sugar sticks but this does. You had a free seat, I've been running around mad all morning, so I sat. Does that quell your interest?"
"I had no interest," he responded. "I just hate having my morning coffee break interrupted and it already was with those three baboons back there," he glared over her shoulder at the table of interns, not bothering to keep his voice low. "And you have completely ruined my peace by sitting at my table."
"Step down from the clouds, Malfoy - it isn't your table," Hermione snorted and then drank some more coffee. "I'll be gone in…eight minutes," she said after she checked her watch. "Can you live that long with me in such close proximity without a case between us?"
"I don't know, I'd hoped the opportunity to find out never came up."
Despite him wanting to produce a negative reaction from her to get her to leave, Hermione did no such thing and simply laughed. Over the years their relationship had gone from indifference to accepting upon their first meeting in the Ministry, to snarky and sarcastic remarks in the years following instead of demeaning and callous statements that had been made during their time in Hogwarts. She could easily work with him, having been surprised nine years ago to find that they shared many similar views on their jobs and the necessity of reforming the Ministry to be a place of justice and fairness, not being incompetent or corrupt as it had proven itself to be in the years prior to 1997. He still managed to irritate her to no end, and he had spoken on many occasions - including now - alluding to how he still wasn't overly fond of her company outside of working together.
Hermione drank some more of her coffee and spotted the blonde staring at her as if she'd grown a second head. "Are you really still worked up about th—"
"Three sugars," he shook his head. "Your parents are teeth healers, right? They wouldn't be pleased with that."
She was surprised he'd remembered her parents occupation as she didn't remember telling him at any stage. "Are you sure you aren't one of my parents right now?" She scoffed. "Why do you care how much sugar I drink with my coffee?"
"I don't," he replied. "What I care about right now is the fact that you're sitting at my table disrupting my coffee break," he changed the subject. He looked at his watch. One minute. Sighing, he finished the rest of his coffee which he'd been steadily nursing for the past five minutes. He stood up when his coffee cup was empty. "I would say nice seeing you, but it really wasn't." Those were his parting words to Hermione as he ditched his coffee cup in the nearest rubbish bin and had heard her light laugh and could visualise in his head how she would most likely be rolling here eyes. He headed to the lifts to go back to his office and when he was inside, let out a frustrated sigh.
His second favourite time of the day better exceed his expectations to make up for the last ten minutes.
The next day, the time of Draco's coffee break rolled around again and he stood from his desk. As always when he left his office he ensured a locking charm was applied to his door. He ignored the eyes of everyone he walked past, purely because he wasn't in the mood for stopping during this precious time to talk about useless things such as the weather, or what the other person was doing that weekend; things he simply did not care about. He got to the elevators and pushed the button, waiting for it to arrive. The doors opened seconds later and he sighed in annoyance. The sigh caught the attention of the only occupant in the lift and she lifted her gaze up from the stack of papers in her hands. "You better not be going where I think you are," Draco said bluntly as he stepped in the lift and pushed the button for the atrium level, grabbing onto the handle at the side.
"I hate to be the bearer of bad news."
"You can sit at the other table then," Draco said, staring straight ahead.
"Oh, Malfoy… You really must be delusional if you think I'm going to follow such requests of yours," she responded and stepped forward as the lift doors opened to the large atrium. "I'll sit wherever I please." With that, she strode out of the lift, back as straight as a broomstick and headed towards the coffee cart. The start to Draco's coffee break wasn't turning out to be a good one and he grit his teeth as he walked to the cart too. 'Thank Merlin' he thought as he followed her and saw the tables were free. Just as he got close to the line however, a group of three who had just received their orders, took one table, leaving only one free, and Granger was the only person in line. Draco had a right grumble to himself as he stood behind her, glaring at her hair that was pulled back into a bushy ponytail, because he knew that she was going to sit at 'his' table.
Sure enough, as easily predicted as the sky being blue, after Hermione received her coffee, she made a bee-line straight to the table. Draco muttered a few unsavoury words under his breath and took his coffee once it was made. He wasn't about to break tradition, nor was he going to go back to his office like a petulant child who didn't know how to share. He sat in the other chair at the table and took a sip of his coffee and glared at her as she started to pour her sugar in.
One. Two. Three tubes.
"Not going to make a remark on my sugar intake, Malfoy?"
"Believe me, I'm doing it in my head," Draco responded and took a drink of his own coffee. The two sat in silence for a few minutes until he brought up what he'd thought about yesterday upon returning to his office. "In the nine years I've worked here, not once have I changed my coffee break time and not once have I seen you taking a break at this time during those years," he said and leant forward with his arms crossed on the table. "Why start now, Granger? Are you determined to mess up my traditions? Mess up one of three highlights of my day?"
Hermione gave him a look which made him sit up straighter and glare over the top of his coffee cup as he took a sip. "A tradition. Really? It's a coffee break, it lasts all of ten minutes and most people skip it because it's such a waste of time. How can it be a highlight of your day?"
"Because I don't have such a thrilling and exciting life as you do, Granger," Draco drawled. "You didn't answer my question, however. Makes me think you're doing this on purpose?"
Hermione had just taken a sip of her drink and had to cover her mouth as she almost laughed. "Don't compliment yourself," she said after she'd swallowed and then laughed. "You were right, nine years of working and you haven't seen me at this time because I never used to take coffee breaks until yesterday."
Draco looked at her like she'd grown another limb. "You'd never taken a coffee break in all nine years you've worked here?" Her answer was a simple shrug and shake of the head. "Wow, Granger. You're more ridiculous than I initially thought you were."
"Unlike you, I happen to enjoy my job tremendously and in the past, taking ten minutes out of every day I worked added up to too much time lost. Now however, I think I've paid my dues and deserve a break now and again."
"But you chose my break time and come to my coffee cart."
"Goodness, Malfoy. You're really starting to live up to the phrase 'only-child-syndrome'," Hermione responded, looking rather annoyed at his constant need to bicker. "I'm ever so sorry I decided to have coffee at this precise time and at this coffee cart," she apologised sarcastically.
Draco merely 'hmphed' and drank more of his coffee in silence. He settled back in his chair and watched people come and go through the atrium and his eyes zoned in on a young, gangly looking male who was rushing towards the table. Draco furrowed his brows as the young man seemed determined in getting towards him while Draco had no idea who he was. When the other man arrived, Draco opened his mouth to demand what he wanted, but he quickly realised that he was after Hermione, not Draco.
"Ms Granger, I've just gotten word back from the French Minister, he wants to arrange a meeting for today," he said breathlessly and passed her a small note.
This tidbit of information made Hermione stand up and put her coffee down to take the note. "Thank you for coming to get me, Michael," she said to the him after reading, and it was only then Draco saw the yellow intern badge. 'Poor bastard must be her assistant' he thought in his head and smirked, covering it by lifting his coffee to take a drink.
"Not a problem, Ms Granger," Michael answered. The need for validation from his superior was evident to Draco and he snorted quietly and covered it up with a small cough when Hermione and Michael looked his way. Without as much as a goodbye, Michael and Hermione left the table, walking quickly towards the lifts, the former talking at what looked like a million miles an hour.
'Finally' he thought. He had his table back to himself. With five minutes to go, but still, it was five minutes without Granger. The people from the other table had left and he had a quick look around and eyed the left coffee cup left where Granger had been sitting. Curious to see just what three sugars would taste like, he picked up her cup and wiped his thumb where there was a faint smear of pale lipstick and he took a sip. Immediately he regretted it, and if he were not where he was, he would have spat it out. He followed that sip with a sip of his own proper coffee that didn't taste like it was simply liquid sugar.
Draco looked at the clock mounted just above his office door and swore under his breath. Still another hour until he could pack up his things, floo home and spend the night with a good book and a glass of firewhiskey. He snorted wistfully to himself as he realised that's what he did around six out of seven days of the week after work and it made him wonder why he was always so adamant on leaving work being the best part of his day when he was retreating to an equally as boring place. To say Draco Malfoy was bored with his life was an understatement.
For about two years after the commencement of his working life at aged twenty, Draco came home to Astoria Greengrass. As he was still in training to become a qualified solicitor, hours were long and tedious and work was often brought home with him - something Astoria detested. They had both stayed loyal to each other, but what had began at aged twenty for him was not what was left by the time Draco was twenty two and Astoria was twenty one. She wanted to travel, she wanted to see the world and explore, move to a different country and experience everything - food, fashion, sights and attractions. Draco's life was more revolved around legal terms and definitions, learning legislation and struggling to remember precedent from different cases. Astoria wanted love. She wanted Draco to be by her side travelling, for them to live together in a Paris apartment and make love every night, maybe even getting married and having a child sooner rather than later.
The reality of their situation was very different. Draco lived in a townhouse in London, with Astoria staying most nights but he'd never given her a formal invite to live with him. Instead of making love every night, Draco either didn't come to bed or was too tired, and their intimacy spread from being every couple of days, to every couple of weeks. Any mention of marriage to the two of them was greeted with a hopeful smile from Astoria and a displeased grimace from Draco. Although he did not love her, he cared deeply for Astoria and wished her well in every aspect of life. It was her who ended the relationship. The night was filled with tears on her behalf and he took her to his bed for one final time. The split was amicable and it was another three years before he saw her again and ever since then, whenever they came in contact with each other, it was civil, albeit a tiny bit awkward on behalf of both parties.
In the years following his breakup, he'd only allowed one woman to warm his bed. Cassandra Caliente had been a fleeting relationship for a few months when he was twenty five. It would be wrong to call it a relationship however, as they only met up a couple of times a week and she would leave after their business in bed was done. Ever since then, Draco came home alone to an empty house and from his previous experience with partners, he much preferred his house being quiet and him being the only person there. Despite the teasing jabs he would get from some of his friends who were in relationships or married, Draco still felt no desire or pull to be in a relationship again just for the sake of it.
He leaned back in his office chair and turned slightly to look out the window. The London street outside was busy with people on the sidewalks, in their cars, on their bikes or in the few buses that would rumble down the road every so often. "Lucky bastards," he muttered to himself when he thought of all the people on their way home from work. Turning back to his desk, he picked up his quill and signed his name at the bottom of the letter he had just written to his client, arranging a meeting for the coming week. He was hard pressed for time as the next week involved the date of the Ministry Christmas ball, and the week following that he had one week holiday time and another Christmas party organised by his mother. He'd start work again on Christmas day much to his mother's chagrin. He'd never understood people's fascination with Christmas. It may have been due to the fact it was never celebrated for him when he was younger in the way that so many other children experienced. It was all just another day to him and he didn't feel sorry for himself nor wish it any other way.
Just as he pressed the wax seal to his letter, a knock came from the other side of his door. "It's open," he said and looked up to see Hermione come in with a stack of papers in her hands. "You look like you're in an awful flurry," he smirked and sat back in his chair.
Hermione pushed her fringe back from her face and let out a frustrated sigh as she collapsed into the chair at his desk. "I need your help."
"Trying to cut back on sugar?"
"Can you be serious?" She gave him a deadpan look. Draco simply smirked but said no more and she took this as her cue to start. "I'm trying to propose the exchange student program between Durmstrang, Beauxbatons and Hogwarts an—"
"Haven't you been trying to bring this up for f—"
"Five years, yes." Her frustrated look turned crestfallen. "No one wants to take me up on it! Everyone is bringing up arguments here, there and everywhere that there isn't the right insurance for it, or it's too costly or there's no express interest from parents and children when there's never even been any documents written up proposing the idea to families!"
"And you want me to help you getting these things?" Draco asked.
"Please…" Her answer took Draco aback as he'd never heard such a tone from her directed to him.
"Why are you so passionate about this? What do you believe the benefit is?"
"Students need this cultural diversity. If I was given the chance to go to Beauxbatons for a term, I would have jumped for joy! Wouldn't you have wanted to go to Durmstrang if given the opportunity?"
"See?!" Hermione said with a large grin, not even listening to his answer. He could see the spark of passion in her eyes. Over the years, Draco had come to realise that whenever Hermione set her sights on a project, she dedicated all her energy to it and always considered every angle because of her passion to make it work. "Giving children the option to transfer their studies to a whole new country opens a huge range of opportunities for them. Think of it this way - if someone from Durmstrang transfers to Hogwarts and sees the beauty that Scotland and England have to offer, and find themselves wanting to immerse themselves in our culture, what's to stop them from wanting to move here once they've graduated? It gives the kids so many more options of what to do with their lives, not confined to the expectations of their teachers or parents." She clasped her hands together, having ditched her papers on his desk. There was a rosy flush high on her cheekbones and Draco had known the moment she'd opened her mouth about her project, that he would help her. He could see her fervour on the topic and he knew with an attitude like that, she was surely going to get her argument heard.
He watched her for a few more seconds than what may be considered normal without speaking, and finally leaned forward with his elbows on his desk. "I'll do it, Granger," he agreed.
"Malfoy, you're a lifesaver." She let out a breath of relief and sat back in the chair.
"You've never said that to me before when I help out with your cases," he commented.
"Every other time, you've been assigned to help me."
"Why choose me?"
"I can't believe I'm going to add more fuel to your ego-fire," Hermione chuckled and sat up again. "You're good at what you do. I wasn't going to go around asking someone else to help me when I know no one will be able to present my arguments as well as you can."
"You flatter me," Draco laughed quietly, but was genuinely appreciative of what she'd said.
"Don't let it get to your head too much," Hermione smiled and stood up from the chair and gathered her papers. "I was thinking we should have a meeting about this as soon as possible."
"Name a time and I'll be there," Draco said.
"I'll send you a memo in about…" She checked her watch. "Twenty minutes?"
Hermione walked from his desk and went to his office door about to leave. Just as she was going to shut the door, she poked her head back in. "Thank you. Really, Malfoy."
"Don't mention it," he shrugged and found himself returning her smile with a small quirk of his own lips.
A/N: Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed the first chapter. I have ideas set out for future chapters, it's just a matter of writing them out now. Please leave reviews of what you think - constructive criticism is very welcome! Thank you again