Obsession (Worth the Risk #1)

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July 28, 2007
It’s just plain wrong.

In fact, it’s probably one of the worst things that Hermione’s done in decades. It doesn’t compare to altering her parents’ memories without permission, something that still causes tension in their relationship all these years later, or to a handful of other incidents after which people occasionally lectured her about ethics. Still, it does call her morals into question and makes her wonder if she‘s working too hard or if she‘s lonelier than she realized. She’s thirty-eight, divorced, a mother of two lovely children, still best friends with her former husband, and successful in a career that she worked her arse off to get over the last twenty years. There’s so very much to lose, which makes her indulgence selfish and risky.

Despite knowing that it’s wrong and that it makes her feel like a dirty old woman, she can’t stop herself. It would be easy to blame the change in her life now that Rose has gone to Hogwarts or the fact that Ron is seeing someone, which hit her far worse than she’d have expected considering they divorced three years ago, but she’s never been one to place her faults on others. She does miss Rose and it does hurt that Ron has moved on, of course, though she knows that neither is a factor in her current obsession.

Obsession. That’s exactly what it is, she decides as she rests her arms on her desk and cradles her head in her hands. It’s obvious that she needs to take time for herself this week while Hugo is visiting Ron and spend a few hours masturbating. Maybe that will get rid of this itch, and she’ll stop daydreaming about her intern. It hasn’t affected her work performance yet, but she worries that she’ll soon start drifting into ridiculous girly fantasies involving a lack of clothes and that strong, young body pressing her against the bookcase while he proves the textbooks about young men and their virility correct.

Oh god. Not helping. She groans and rubs her temples, wondering if her boss would approve a transfer without asking nosy questions or assuming that his job performance wasn’t adequate. If anything, it’s too adequate, which is another issue. She’s known him since he was a baby, after all, and he looks upon her as a doting auntie type, no doubt. He knows she likes just a pinch of lemon in her tea, her coffee black, and biscuits and milk as an indulgence after an exceptionally long day of work during the tougher cases. He also makes sure she eats and goes home in time to get Hugo from Molly’s in the evenings or even offers to do it himself, and she can’t bring herself to dislike him for nagging her when Harry blames that trait of his on her.

‘Is everything okay, Hermione?”

If she doesn’t look at him, she can keep her eyes closed and just listen to the soft, husky voice that makes him sound far older than twenty. Twenty. Oh god. Remus would kill her and Tonks would bring her back to life just so she could kill her, too. Not even that. Harry would kill her if he had any idea the thoughts that she’s been having about his godson during the last few months.

Thinking about Harry makes her get control of herself. She looks up and smiles wryly. “Would you believe it was a mental health break?” she asks hopefully, wishing he weren’t so tall and lithe and bloody attractive. Why couldn’t he be brawny, which wasn’t her type at all? Or too pretty for words? Or unintelligent? Or anything that would make her body listen to her brain and put a ‘do not fantasize about’ label on him? Of course, her body didn’t seem to care that she used to babysit him, had changed his nappies, and even given him the ‘sex talk’ five years ago when his grandmother and Harry had both been too embarrassed.

He leans against the wall and smiles before he shakes his head. “Not with that groan,” he tells her. “That’s definitely one of those ‘it’s been a rough day and I need chocolate’ groans. Fortunately for you, you have an amazingly talented and clever intern who happened to make sure you have a supply of chocolate in the top drawer.”

“You’re trying to make me fat,” she scolds, trying to frown at him even as she opens the drawer and finds a piece of chocolate. It’s not sex with a handsome twenty year old, but chocolate is a good substitute.

“You must be feeling ill if you’re actually worried about that nonsense,” he says, looking at her more closely. “Is Hugo okay? I know you mentioned him having a cold but is it worse? Or Rose? Is that Malfoy kid still beating her marks in Transfiguration? If so, tell her I’ll practice more with her during the summer.”

“That’s very sweet, Teddy. I’m sure she’ll like the practice, though I think she’s managed to best Malfoy during the last two exams,” she tells him. “And Hugo’s fine. He’s actually staying with Ron this week, going on a manly camping trip of some sort, though don’t even ask me what the difference in a normal camping trip versus a manly one is because Ron couldn’t explain when I asked.”

“Ted,” he tells her firmly as he enters her office and sits down across the desk from her. “Teddy makes me sound like some silly child. So, if it’s not the kids and it’s not work, then is it Ron? Gram told me he was dating a, uh, well, that he was seeing someone.”

“I’m not in the habit of discussing my personal life at work, even if it is after hours. But, no, it’s not that. I’m glad that Ron is happy,” she says honestly. “I still love him even if we’re no longer in love. When you get older, you’ll understand that better. It’s just been a long week, and I needed a moment. And chocolate.” She holds up the sweet before she pops it into her mouth.

He scowls and shakes his head, running his fingers through his shaggy brown hair. “I’m not a child, Hermione,” he says tightly. “I’m twenty years old, and I know the difference in love and being in love. I thought I loved Victoire for years but I know it’s not real love. I do love her, she’s smashing and beautiful and makes me smile, but that’s not enough, you know? Maybe she’s just too young. Not in age, but in how she sees the world. She can be so immature and spoiled and, well, shallow.”

“I know you’re not a child, Ted. You and Victoire are both young, and you’ve got time to find out what’s between you, whether it’s real or not,” she tells him helpfully, wondering if Harry knows that Teddy might need a good talk with his godfather.

“I don’t need time,” he mutters. He stands up and begins to pace, his hair changing color along with his mood. “Do they think they’ll hate me for breaking it off with her? I mean, I went to Hogsmeade to see her a couple of months ago, and we had a good talk. She’s one of my best friends, even if we weren’t working out romantically, and I think she understood, but will the rest of the family?”

“I think that it doesn’t really matter as long as you’ve spoken to her and the two of you accept things.” He’s making her dizzy with his walking and the rapid hair color change, but she can’t look away. He walks like his father, graceful yet powerful, and she’s again reminded that it’s dangerous to get this close to him. The lines between personal and work have been blurred since he was hired and assigned to her, something she actually protested due to the nature of their familial connection, such as it is, and her own wicked fantasies haven’t helped things at all.

“What if it’s a mistake?” He stops pacing and looks at her, turquoise hair falling across his forehead as he bites his plump lower lip. “What if I’ve ended things because I want something I’ll never be able to have?”

“Then it’s not a mistake. It’s not fair to be with Victoire when she’s not what you want. Anymore than it would have been fair for me and Ron to stay married when we realized we’d become best friends with children instead of feeling that same passion and need we did for so many years. The best choices aren’t always the easiest ones, Ted, but sometimes you have to be brave enough to make them.”

“I was a Hufflepuff, not a Gryffindor,” he reminds her with a sheepish smile. “I just worry a lot. Gram says that my dad did, too, and it made him miserable and unhappy most his life. I don’t want to waste my life never living.”

“Your father was a wonderful man. There are far worse things you could be in this world,” she snaps, a bit more sharply than she intends. She flinches and looks away. “I’m sorry. It’s just that your father was an amazing professor, and he was a good man. He had his faults, of course, but he was caring and loyal and very intelligent. You take after him in so many ways, in more than just that killer smile of yours.”

He hesitates a moment before he speaks quickly. “Did you have a crush on my father?”

“What?” Her eyes widen and she looks at him as she shakes her head. “No, I didn’t. He was a good man, but I only really had eyes for one boy back then. I might have, if I hadn’t fancied Ron, but I was never infatuated with Remus.”

“Thank God,” he murmurs. He looks at the clock that Ron gave her, which says ‘go home already, workaholic’, and smiles. “So, Hugo’s gone for the week?” He turns his attention to her and tilts his head to the side as if he’s studying her. “That means you’ll be working eighteen hour days before stumbling through the Floo with just enough time to grab a snack and sleep a few hours before coming back to work, yeah?”

“Yes, well, I have an important case,” she points out, hating that he has the unbelievable ability to get under her skin and make her feel sixteen years old instead of thirty-eight. Few people in the world have mastered that, yet Teddy managed to by the time he was eight and used to scold her for working while she was supposed to be resting during her pregnancy with Rose. He’s not much older than your own children, Hermione. Stop this now. Just stop it.

“It won’t be going to trial for months. I think you’re safe if you skive off after working only a couple of hours overtime just once or twice,” he decides. “Besides, if Ron and Hugo are off fishing, then it’s up to me to make sure you’re looked after. I promised Ron, after all.”

“You were six at the time and simply agreed because he promised to take you to a Quidditch match,” she says dryly.

“I’ve never been that fond of Quidditch,” he tells her. “I might only have been six, but I loved spending time with you. You always read me the best books and gave me biscuits when Gram never let me have sweets, and you were pretty, too.”

“You’re such a charmer.” She rolls her eyes and looks at the file awaiting her attention. It’s nearly seven and work ended at five, but she really hates the idea of going home to a quiet house. She doesn’t know what she’ll do when Hugo goes to Hogwarts and the house becomes even more lonely.

“Get that from my mum.” He sits back down, and she can feel him watching her. She glances up and notices that his hair is brown again and a little longer than before. He’s smiling mischievously, which is never a good sign. “I used to want you to be my mum, you know? I even told Gram that before, that I wanted to go live with you and Ron because you’d make great parents.”

“Thanks, I think,” she murmurs, the words as effective as a cold shower. She’s indulging in fantasies about him shagging her on her desk and he’s remembering childhood longings for a mum. Now she feels even more dirty and disgusted with herself. Abruptly, she stands up and picks up a couple of the books neatly stacked on her desk and walks to the bookshelves. “You should go on home, Teddy. It’s getting late, and this case doesn’t need us both to stay late. I promise that I’ll finish up my notes and go home with enough time to eat properly.” And have a nice wank while I’ve got the house to myself, despite knowing I’ll feel guilty after.

“Well, you weren’t my first choice for a mum,” he admits matter-of-factly. “That was Fleur, because she used to spoil me rotten, and Bill’s just bloody brilliant. Second choice was Ginny, mostly because it’d mean Harry was my father, though she’s great, too. Then there was you.”

“So I was third choice?” She is oddly angry at that, not liking being third best behind beautiful Fleur and feisty Ginny. “I suppose that shows where biscuits and books rate for you.”

“I was six,” he says simply. “And I didn’t have a mother, so I looked for one in every woman I found who wasn’t as old as Gram.” She hears the chair move and then he’s behind her. She keeps her attention on the bookshelf as she searches the titles for the right place for the book in her hand. “I’m not six anymore, Hermione, and I‘m not looking for a mum.”

His breath is warm against her ear, and she unconsciously shivers when she feels him standing so close. “It’s getting late,” she whispers, flinching when she hears the stammer in her voice that hasn’t been present in far too many years. Why does it have to be him, of all people? Why couldn’t it be someone more suitable? Someone who isn’t handsome and far too young for her? She bites her lip hard when he moves his fingers through her hair in a far too intimate way.

“Yes, it is,” he murmurs before his lips suddenly brush against her neck. She gasps, unable to believe he’s really done what she just imagined, and thinks maybe she’s drifted into another fantasy. “You told me once that I need to be brave and go after the things I want in life or risk becoming bitter and resentful for never even trying. So, I’m going after something I want. Someone I want. Have dinner with me?”

For a moment, he sounds uncertain and scared, and he moves his hand down her arm until his fingers brush against her palm. “Teddy, we can’t,” she says softly, moving her fingers through his as she sets the book down and grips the shelf tightly with her free hand.

“Why not?” He squeezes her hand and kisses her neck again. “We’re both of age, both single, and we’re not hurting anyone. Why can’t we have dinner and---”

“Because it’s wrong. I’m eighteen years older than you, you’re my best friend’s godson, and you’re too young to know what you want and I’m old enough to know better.”

“That’s not good enough,” he growls, making her shudder as he presses closer. “I don’t care how old you are or what anyone will say. Besides, Harry told me about my parents, about my father resisting and my mum being strong enough and stubborn enough to not let him use his age as an excuse. I won't let you use a mere eighteen years as an excuse, either. I know you want me, I’ve seen you looking at me when you don’t think I’m watching, and I want you so badly. Please, Hermione? Just dinner, and then you can pat my head and tell me I’m not what you want if you still want to after but, fuck, I deserve a chance, don’t I?”

“Language,” she scolds, trying not to listen to him because he sounds remarkably calm considering the unexpected turn of events. In fact, he sounds much like he did when he tried to convince Harry to get him a broom before he was old enough to have one. Harry hadn’t been able to resist, either. “Ted, you’re not being fair. This isn't like your parents. I mean, it is in a way, oddly enough, but it's not the same situation, so it can't be compared exactly. I have a family, children not much younger than you, in fact, and I can’t just satisfy every urge I happen to get, no matter how consuming. That's reality, not excuses.”

“You know, Gram’s told me that my father was a talker, that he talked too much but that my mum wasn’t that way at all. She was more for taking action than wasting words,” he breathes against her neck. “I foolishly approached this like my father, didn’t I? When I know better. You’re a lot like him in that way, which means we’ll spend hours arguing and rehashing the same objections, my age and how others will see it and concerns that might not even need thinking about yet since we haven’t even had dinner, when, really, we could use the time to have a meal, to go on a real date to see if this chemistry is real or not, then we could argue until you’re flushed and glaring and all I can think about is kissing you.”

Before she can object again, he’s pulling on her hand and turns her, pressing her up against the bookshelves as he looks down at her. His hair is a deep blue, her favorite shade, and he’s smiling as he moves his fingers through her hair. He looks surprised and determined, not a good combination in someone as stubborn as Teddy, and she feels a blush coming on when he stares at her in wonder, like she’s a gift he never expected to have. It’s just a crush, she tells herself, and he can’t possibly mean everything he’s said, but a part of her, the annoying part she tries not to listen to, can’t stop thinking about what it means if he’s sincere.

“Please have dinner with me? I just want a chance, Hermione.” When she slowly nods, he sighs and mutters, “Oh good,” before he stares at her lips. He smiles suddenly, mischievous and wicked, before he lowers his head. “Well, never let it be said that I’m not my mother’s son.” Then he kisses her, shyly at first, as if he’s not sure if she’ll hex him or not, and then more firmly when she doesn’t protest.

When he nips at her lip and moves his hand down her back to gently caress her bum, she parts her lips and begins to return the kiss. She’s pretty sure this is the stupidest thing she’s ever done, but she doesn’t know how something could possibly be so wrong when it feels so right.