Frustration (Worth the Risk #47)

[ - ]
Printer ePub eBook
Table of Contents | - Text Size +
“Shacklebolt knows,” Hermione says as soon as they sit down.

“What?” Teddy blinks in confusion as he stops opening the menu to look at her.

“I think that Shacklebolt knows.”

“Knows what?”

“What do you think, Teddy?”

“Well, there are a lot of different things that Shacklebolt knows, but I doubt many are things that you whisper about as soon as we sit down for our date.”

“You’re being a smart arse,” Hermione mutters as she opens her menu. After a stressful week, it’s nice to go out for dinner and spend time with her whatever Teddy is. She dislikes using the term ‘boyfriend’ even in her thoughts, but there hasn’t been a better title to come to mind since they became involved.

“I am not,” Teddy denies. “I’m just offended that you start talking about all that before we even order. I had hoped to discuss how much you missed me this week and to see if I had a chance of seducing you tonight.”

“Forgive me for being concerned what my boss thinks about my morals and work ethic.” She glares slightly. “Did your grandmother tell him?”

He sighs and looks up at her. “I don’t know. She knows that we’re keeping it private until the kids know, but I have no idea if she told him. What makes you think he knows?”

“During our meeting this afternoon, he went into some monologue about expectations and reputation,” she says. “It was an odd topic for him to bring up out of nowhere, and I don’t know. There was just this knowing look in his eyes. I think he knows, and he was warning me to be careful.”

“Maybe he was just discussing some basic things in case you get promoted? Ogden isn’t likely to continue working the position full-time if his health is a concern,” he points out.

“It wasn’t about that. Ogden is still working, and Shacklebolt’s not the type to waste his time discussing a possibility until it becomes reality. He’s just too busy, and he wouldn’t want to get my hopes up, either.” She shakes her head. “No, I think it’s because he knows about us. I’m just relieved that he didn’t say outright. I’d have been mortified hearing my boss discuss my personal life.”

“We’re not breaking any rules, Hermione. We made sure of that before we ever became involved.” Teddy shifts and glances up at her. “Would it have been so mortifying to be linked to me by someone you respect?”

“I didn’t mean it that way.” She puts her menu down and looks at him. “I’m not ashamed of you, Ted. I wouldn’t want my boss to talk about my personal life regardless of whom I was dating. It’s just embarrassing and makes me feel like a teenager being scolded for breaking rules. And, yes, I know that we haven’t actually broken any rules, but it still feels that way sometimes.”

“I know you’re not. I mean, I know it here,” he says as he points to his head, “but there are times when it feels like you are. I mean, it’s been a week and you still haven’t told the kids about us. Now, you’re cross because you think Shacklebolt knows, and you’re trying to blame Gram.”

“I’m not blaming anyone. I haven’t told Hugo and Rose because there hasn’t been a good time yet. I don’t want to just announce it at dinner, after all.”

“Why not?” Teddy grips his menu tighter, and she notices a flash of purple in his hair before it disappears. She looks around the restaurant and wonders if it was a good choice to go Muggle. He nudges her leg with his and says, “I’m trying to be patient and understanding, Hermione, but all the excuses are starting to get old. Putting it off isn’t going to make it any easier.”

“That’s easy for you to say. They’re my children, and I just want to make sure to choose a good time before I announce that I’m dating someone they consider a cousin. Rose wasn’t happy about Mel, and she didn’t even know her before Ron started dating her. For that matter, she still hasn’t met her. While there’s a chance that they’ll be fine and accept our relationship, the possibility that they won’t requires me to choose the right setting before telling them.”

“What if there never is a ‘right time’?” he asks. “Will you keep putting it off and giving yourself excuses to cover the fact that you’re scared? I’m scared, too, for what it’s worth. I have good relationships with Hugo and Rose, and this is going to change that completely. Things are weird with Ginny right now, even if she was better at lunch the other day, and I know more people are going to act strange once we’re not hiding it anymore, but the kids are important because they’re your priority.”

“I’m not hiding the fact that I’m scared, Teddy. I think we’ve both been honest enough about that since we got back together. You’re right, though. The children are my priority, which is why I’m waiting and not just rushing into telling them.”

“Hermione, do you think it’s better if you keep putting it off instead of just being honest with them? It’s going to likely be difficult regardless of when you tell them, but it seems like it’s better to tell them sooner rather than later. The longer you procrastinate, the more chance is that they’ll be told by someone else or figure it out on their own. Then what? They won’t like that you kept it from them for so long, you know? I resented Gram when I first found out about her and Kingsley. I don't want you having to go through that.”

He’s right, as much as she hates to admit it. Rose and Hugo are clever, and it’s not as if no one else knows. The risk of them overhearing something is high, but she’s still not sure if she’s ready to tell them. She’s scared about their reaction, and she thinks telling them at the right time might help. Of course, she can’t really say what exactly the right time is, but there has to be one.

Her thoughts are interrupted by the server, and she glances down at the menu. It’s good that he chose the Italian restaurant for dinner because she can order something she’s had before without having to concentrate on their selection. After they order, the server disappears into the kitchen, and she looks at Teddy.

“This isn’t how I wanted our date to go,” Teddy admits. “I booked us a table here to be romantic, since it’s where we had our first dinner and where we made up weeks later. I don’t want to waste the evening arguing about something that isn’t going to change anything right now anyway.”

“We’re not arguing. We’re just having a difference in opinion.” She smiles slightly and nods. “But you’re right. We should take advantage of the fact that I don’t have the children instead of discussing things that we’ve already gone over a dozen times.”

“More like three dozen times.” He grins and reaches for a breadstick. “So, we’ve agreed. There’ll be no talking about secrets or people being told for the rest of the evening, yeah? I’ll do my best to not nag you about telling the kids, at least.”

“We’ve agreed.” She reaches over and snatches the breadstick from him before he can take a bite. “I’ll do my best not to rant in a paranoid frenzy about everyone somehow knowing about us. But I do think that Shacklebolt knows.”

“There’s a basket full of breadsticks, and you nick mine? That’s just wrong.” He makes a tsking noise before he picks up another breadstick and dips it into the garlic sauce. “You’ll have to be punished for stealing later.”

“Oh, I will?” She arches a brow and watches his lips wrap around the end of his breadstick before he takes a bite. A flood of warmth spreads over her, and she shifts as she rips off the end of her breadstick. Teddy chuckles knowingly, and she rolls her eyes. “Very mature, Lupin.”

“Yes, I am.” He preens for a moment before he lowers his voice. “But even I have my immature moments.” He winks before he takes another bite of his breadstick.

“How was your lunch the other day?” she asks suddenly, not entirely sure if that’s breaking their agreement or not. He mentioned Ginny earlier, though, and she’s curious. Besides, there’s a part of her that is still jealous about him spending time with Victoire, though she’s doing her best to ignore it.

“Well, that’s an abrupt change of subject.” He shrugs a shoulder. “It was okay. Like I said, Ginny wasn’t as weird, even if it’s kind of obvious she’s not comfortable with our relationship. Harry was brilliant, as always, and it was nice to see Victoire.”

“I’m glad that Ginny was alright,” she says sincerely. “How is Victoire?” There. She doesn’t sound resentful or snarling, so she’s proud.

“She might come around eventually. Harry tries to explain her issues to me, but I can’t really get past the whole ‘it’s none of her business’ thing to really listen.” He arches a brow and studies her for a moment. “Vic is doing okay. Glad to be out of school finally but anxious for her exam scores. She wants to work at the Ministry, down in Accidental Magic Reversal, but she can’t apply yet.”

“Really? That’s interesting. I wouldn’t have thought of Accidental Magic for her, in all honesty.”

“Hmm. Yeah, I guess it is. She said that she considered being an Auror but didn’t really want to go through years of training.” He nudges her foot with his. “Knowing Vic, she’ll change her mind a couple of more times before she gets her exam scores. It’s one of the things about her that drove me crazy when we were dating.”

“I thought you liked when things were unpredictable and spontaneous.” She frowns slightly as she considers what his relationship with Victoire might have been like.

“No, I like when you act spontaneously because it isn’t routine for you, but I don’t like living every day that way. Victoire’s a great girl, but we definitely work better as friends.” He hesitates before he adds, “You don’t need to be jealous of her or anything.”

“I’m not,” she denies quickly. Maybe she’s lying, but she doesn’t want him to think she’s a possessive old shrew who is jealous of pretty young women.

“Really?” He glances down at the table before he whispers, “I’m jealous of Ron sometimes. I can’t help it. The two of you are so close, even with the divorce, and he knows more about you than I do. It’s frustrating because I want to know everything and to have that kind of relationship with you, but I know it’s too soon for those thoughts.”

After his admission, she isn’t sure what to say. She’s saved from replying when their food arrives, but she can’t just ignore it. The idea of him being jealous of Ron is surprising, in all honesty, but it makes sense when she considers it. She feels petty for being jealous of Victoire’s looks when Teddy’s concerns are much more than superficial.

“The lasagna looks really good.” He sounds cool and distant when he mentions the food, and she realizes that she’s not said anything at all in several minutes. Bugger.

“You have no reason to be jealous of Ron,” she murmurs, still not entirely sure what to say to him. “He and I have been friends for decades, but our relationship is no longer intimate.”

“I know that you’re not shagging him, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t intimate. There’s more to intimacy than sex,” he mutters. “Forget it. It’s silly anyway. It’s not your fault that I don’t like watching him hug you or doing that stupid thing where he seems to read your mind. I just thought that maybe that’s how you were feeling about Vic, so I understood it, but I guess I was wrong.”

“No, I won’t forget it.” She nudges his leg until he looks at her. At that moment, she can see the vulnerability in his expression, and it hurts her to realize that she caused it. “Part of being in a real relationship is being honest with each other, Teddy. I’m glad you told me, even if it was difficult.” She sighs and puts down her fork. “I won’t lie and say that my relationship with Ron is going to change. We were married for a long time, and we’re been best friends for even longer. We’re always going to have a connection because of that.”

“Don’t treat me like a child, Hermione. Even if I might be acting like one right now, I hate when you do that. It’s not like I don’t know about your past or don’t understand it. This isn’t one of those things where you can be logical and make it all okay. This is just how I feel.” He smiles wryly. “It’s not really something I’m proud of, so I hadn’t mentioned it before. Shouldn’t have now, but I just misunderstood your jealousy about Victoire, not that my relationship with her compares to yours with Ron.”

“I know it isn’t easy for you.” She looks around the restaurant before she focuses on him. “We always talk about how difficult this is for me, for my children and my friends, but I do realize that it’s not just about me. I honestly don’t think that I could do it, if it were me. Being involved with someone who has children from a previous relationship and dealing with an ex who is still close and part of their lives? Don’t ever say that your concerns are silly because they’re not. If anything, mine are, since I’ve been worried about something superficial. I know that you’re in a tough situation, and I’m grateful that you think we’re worth it.”

He reaches across the table and takes her hand, squeezing it as he smiles. “See, that’s where you’re wrong. It is easy for me. I want to be with you, whatever it takes. It’s as simple as that.”

“Normally, I don’t like being wrong,” she reminds him. “However, in this case, I’ll make an exception.”

“Seriously, though, we are worth it. You think so, too, or you wouldn’t be planning on telling the kids. I know that you wouldn’t involve them if this was just something casual or sexual.” His smile turns wicked. “Not that there’s anything wrong with sex, of course. I happen to really enjoy that aspect of our relationship, especially when you get bossy and teach me new things. And that’s probably not appropriate to admit over dinner, is it?”

“Not at all appropriate,” she agrees, watching as he blushes and looks generally adorable. It’s a good change of subject after their rather intense conversation. She’s glad that they can talk, though, especially about something as personal as their fears and concerns. A few weeks ago, she honestly wouldn’t have felt so comfortable being this honest with him, so she can recognize that their relationship is changing. She knows that it’s becoming something more meaningful to her, even if she’s avoiding analyzing what that might mean right now.

“Hey, none of that,” Teddy says. “You’ve already done too much thinking tonight, so no more. I think we could both use a break from thoughts and logic. I’ll get back to my original plan of feeding you amazing food and seducing you.”

“You still haven’t learned that you aren’t supposed to share your schemes if you want them to be successful.” She squeezes his hand before she lets go and picks up her fork. “Besides, I don’t think it’s possible for me to stop thinking completely.”

“It’s the curse of Hufflepuff,” he tells her solemnly. “Being sneaky and plotting just isn’t possible once you’ve been sorted into that house. Fortunately, this plan is mutually beneficial, so I have high hopes for its success.”

“I didn’t realize that Hufflepuff had a curse. Susan might disagree with that theory, since she’s pretty proud of being sneaky.” She takes a bite of her lasagna and watches his face as she eats. “You did get one thing right, though. Mutually beneficial does often lead to success. Of course, after being separated from you for a week, I doubt it takes very much effort to seduce me.”

“That’s so not fair,” he groans as he shakes his head. “You can’t just tell me something like that when I can’t do anything about it.”

“I have a secret to share, Teddy. Life isn’t fair,” she confides, fighting a smile as she attempts to sound serious.

“Point. Also, that’s another swat to the running total.”

“What is the total now?”

“Uh, well, I don’t really remember, so I’ll just swat you a lot if you ever actually let me do it.” His hopeful smile fades as he sighs dramatically. “Which isn’t likely to ever happen but, still, I have to have hope, right?”

“Incorrigible.” She smiles before she takes another bite of her food. He nudges her leg and grins before he starts eating. She shifts as she watches his mouth and wonders if he’s deliberately eating in such a way that is intended to make her think about his lips and tongue. It’s likely part of his plan to seduce her. If so, it’s working very well.

Tonight, they’re going to skip pudding.