Suggestion (Worth the Risk #4)

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There’s no such thing as sleeping in anymore.

Of course, Hermione can’t remember a time when she actually stayed in bed late on weekends just because she could. Lying in bed with nothing to do is tedious, so she always get up and starts her day whatever time she wakes. When she and Ron first married, there were occasionally reasons to actually stay in bed, but that was before the kids were born. Now, she’s generally awake, showered, and holding her first cup of coffee in time to watch the sunrise.

Today is no exception. After waking from a surprisingly restful sleep, she's already showered and has coffee in hand as she starts to work on some of the files she brought home last night. Her work isn’t as productive as it usually is when Ron has the children, but she knows that she’s to blame for that this morning. Her mind keeps drifting to last night, to Teddy and the kisses and the complications that have her itching to start making lists. Perhaps if she sees everything on paper in a neat, organized ‘Pro’ and ‘Con’ list, she’ll be able to strengthen her resolve.

Even as she thinks about doing that, she remembers the feel of his lips against hers and the warmth of his body as he pressed close to her. With a quick shake of her head, knowing all too well that she’ll waste another fifteen minutes daydreaming if she continues along that line of thought, she picks up her coffee and takes a sip. The case she’s working on isn’t very difficult, in theory, but the notes are a mess and the statements aren’t even written up yet. Once she has everything in order, then she’ll be able to evaluate everything and hazard a guess on the expected outcome so she can begin to prepare her case.

She’s just finished making a rough chart with the names of the people involved when she hears a knock on the door. She glances at the clock and frowns, trying to think who she knows that would be visiting at eight on a Saturday morning. She can’t think of anyone offhand. Suddenly, she realizes that Ron and Hugo are off doing who knows what in the wilderness. Immediately, she gets up and rushes to the door, hoping it’s anyone but an Auror or constable informing her of an accident.

When she opens the door, she feels a wave of relief at first, happy that it’s someone familiar instead of bad news. Then she blinks and stares at Teddy, who’s holding a brown paper bag and balancing a tray with two cups of coffee. He smiles sheepishly when she looks at him and shrugs as he shakes his head, getting his turquoise hair out of his eyes for the moment.

“Good morning,” he says, holding out the bag and coffee. “I come bearing breakfast and caffeine, perhaps with the hope that said tasty items will distract you from any annoyance you might feel at being disturbed so early in the morning, even by someone as loveable as I.”

“Coffee can only go so far, Lupin,” she tells him. “You’re lucky that I was already awake, or I might have shown you just how cranky I can be.”

“It might have been worth it to see you fresh from sleep with your hair all wild and to find out what you wear to bed,” he says with a cheeky grin.

“Who says I wear anything at all?” she asks, pleased to see him gape at the idea in a way that makes her feel quite desirable. Of course, the reality of her wearing an old pair of boxer shorts that she nicked from Ron and a T-shirt that Luna sent her from the Galapagos probably isn’t what he has in mind at all.

“Evil woman,” he mutters, a very faint hint of a blush on his cheeks as he looks her over and smiles. “Next time, I’ll have to surprise you even earlier. For research, of course. I have to be thorough before forming an opinion on your sleeping attire, after all, or lack thereof.”

“It’s too early in the morning to deal with you. You’d better be glad you brought food, or I’d be hexing you by now.”

“You wouldn’t hex me.”

“Oh, really?”

“Well, maybe you would, but I’d have to do something far worse than ogle you and leer a bit. Women don’t necessarily admit to liking to be leered at, because of some feminism stuff, but I’d think a woman would appreciate being attractive to someone enough for them to leer. You women just don’t make a lot of sense, you know?”

“While men are so basic and obvious that it doesn’t require much thought at all to figure you out, in a general sense. It's a wonder we women even put up with you lot. And, for the record, there's a difference in an appreciative glance and a leer. While one can be flattering, the other can be creepy, depending on circumstances.”

“I’m not simple. Obvious, maybe, but not simple. I have layers and mysteries for some lucky woman to uncover. Want to uncover me? You can start with my shirt, if you must. I don't mind creepy leers when they're from you.”

“Right. You’re the epitome of an enigma.” She snorts and steps aside. “Well, are you going to come inside or stand there tempting me with your unmarked bag of promised food? Your shirt can stay on.”

“Since you asked so nicely, I suppose I can come in. Though, you know, you could give a bloke a complex. Wanting the pastries but not for me to take my shirt off? I’m really hurt and possibly offended.”

“Pastries don’t talk back and have an attitude at eight in the morning. It‘s really no comparison at all. Simply logic, dear boy.”

“And there you go using the ‘L’ word. It’s too early for logic,” he says as he enters the house. He walks over to the table and puts the bag and tray down while she shuts the door. She's relieved that she and Ron chose a house off to itself without nosy neighbors who would wonder why she was being visited so early by a young man with blue hair.

“It’s never too early for logic,” she informs him primly. “Only someone who prefers to think in abstract terms would ever say such a thing.”

“I’m actually far more of a linear thinker and I quite like logic sometimes, but there’s more to life than logic.” He turns and smiles as he steps forward to meet her on her way to the table. “Morning,” he murmurs, reaching up to run his fingers through his hair. She’s about to remind him that he already said that when he moves closer and leans down, brushing his lips against hers. The kiss is hesitant at first and then he presses his lips more firmly against hers.

The kiss deepens, his tongue curling around hers as soon as she parts her lips and allows him access. She makes an odd noise that startles her as she presses closer to him, ignoring the voice in her head warning her to stop. When she feels his hand on her back, she finally pulls away before it can go any further. She’s breathing hard and her hand is on his chest, though she doesn‘t remember putting it there. She drops her hand and licks her lips before she looks up at him. “Why are you here, Ted?”

“Do you want the truth or a glib yet charming reply that might make me sound less of a pathetic tosser?”

“The truth, of course.”

He sighs and smiles wryly as he walks to the table and sits down. “I woke up early and couldn’t stop thinking about you. I just wanted to see you, so I bought breakfast and thought I’d drop by to see if you’re free today. I’d like to spend some time with you, maybe do something spontaneous.”

“Oh.” She doesn’t expect him to actually be that honest, but it’s refreshing, even if he seems embarrassed at his admission. What’s she supposed to say to that? She joins him at the table and takes her seat before she starts to gather her paperwork and notes. Once she has everything organized, she glances at him. “I’ve been thinking about you today, too.”

“You have?” He looks up and smiles. “That’s good. I mean, that I’m not the only one thinking about you. Or me. Or us, that is.”

“I’m not sure how good it is at all,” she admits, accepting the cup of coffee from him. Before she starts rambling about the same concerns she had last night, she decides to change the subject. “Are you normally awake this early on weekends?”

He sips his coffee and nods. “I’m fonder of early mornings than late nights. I suppose it’s because Gram was always up so early when I was growing up, which means the only chance I had to really sleep in was at school or whenever I stayed over with Harry. By the time I went to school, though, I was already in the habit of waking early, and it’s not something I’ve outgrown. What about you? I’d have thought you’d take advantage of having the house to yourself this weekend.”

“I’ve always been an early riser, even as a child. I like to spend the morning getting things done,” she says. “Today has been unusual, though, because I can’t really focus, so I’m not actually accomplishing very much at all.”

“Unable to focus?” He hands her a croissant from the bag and grins. “Any specific reason why?”

“I think we both know why,” she says. She rips off a piece of the croissant and eats it while she considers how much she actually wants to say. “Last night was unexpected, Teddy. I honestly still don‘t know what to think about everything, and I‘m really conflicted about so many things right now.”

“I can’t focus, either, but I’m a lot happier about it than you seem to be.” He reaches across the corner of the table and brushes her hair back from her face, tucking it behind her ear before he traces her jaw. “I know you’re worried, Hermione. I thought about it a lot last night and this morning when I was out walking. I understand, you know? But I’m really glad you’re willing to give us a chance.”

“It’s not that I’m unhappy. I wouldn’t have agreed to see you again if I hadn’t enjoyed last night. It’s also more than just an attraction, which might be another reason I’m concerned. One of many, it seems.”

“Why would that upset you? I'd think it was a good thing instead of something that causes you to frown.”

“Because lust is one thing while more than lust is something else entirely. Are you sure this isn’t just a crush? It’s not that I don’t believe you, but maybe you’re confusing desire with a want for something more.”

“I know how I feel. I’ve lusted after girls before, even fancied myself in love once or twice, and this isn’t the same. It’s more than those fleeting feelings and thoughts about shagging. I showed up at your house this morning because I wanted to see you, and I think about you so much that it’s almost embarrassing. If it was just a crush, I wouldn’t feel so bloody needy.”

He sounds sincere but she really can’t understand why he’d be so interested in her. Even without the age difference, she’s not very exciting or alluring. No matter how much she thinks about it, she really can’t figure out why he’d want her. It’s not even insecurity talking, because she knows she’s got good qualities that appeal to some people and that those outweigh the negative. They’re just not really things that she’d necessarily think would attract someone like Teddy, in all honesty.

“I don’t mean to keep on about the same things constantly, but these issues are on my mind, and I can’t just pretend everything’s fine and perfect just because we’re both attracted to each other. I am willing to try a date, though, and we’ll see how things go, I guess. We might be spending all this time thinking for no reason. Whatever happens, we’ll still be friends, right?”

“Of course,” he promises. He looks down and his hair changes to a deep purple before he looks back up at her. “Will you spend the day with me? Just as friends, if you want to keep things separate right now. I had an idea or two of things we could do, if you wanted to go out with me today, though I don‘t plan to tell you anything because we‘re working on your ability to be spontaneous. Fortunately, you trust me, foolish girl that you are, but I promise that you‘ll enjoy whatever we do. I hope.“

“I can be spontaneous,” she protests. “I’m just not reckless or stupid. There’s a difference.”

“You’re avoiding the question.”

“No, I’m not. I was just defending myself against unsubstantiated claims regarding my lack of impulsiveness.”

“Still avoiding. Maybe I need to kiss you again.”

“How would kissing help me make a decision?”

“It probably wouldn’t, but it would be a lot more fun than just sitting here while we wait for your answer. Besides, as you like to point out, I'm twenty and male. I don't really need any specific reason for wanting a kiss.”

She bites her lip to keep from laughing at his blunt honesty and finally says, “Since I can’t seem to focus on my work, and it’s actually not necessary that I start the file today, I suppose I can spend part of the day with you.”

“Really?” He grins and leans back in his chair. “That’s great. I wasn’t sure if you’d agree or not, but I was hoping I’d wear you down with my charm and good looks. And, if that didn't work, I was prepared to whine or beg in a very pathetic manner.”

She shakes her head and finally gives in and laughs. “Oh, yes, your charm is awe inspiring.” She finishes her croissant and smiles. “I hate to break it to you, Teddy, but it’s actually the food that convinced me. Bribery does work occasionally, especially when I’m starving and don’t feel like making anything.”

“I’ll remember that,” he says. “Buy you food, and you’re easily persuaded. Got it. And, see, I’m on my best behavior. I haven’t tried to swat your arse for calling me Teddy. Of course, if you want me to be a strict rule keeper, I can certainly do my best not to disappoint.”

“I believe that we agreed last night there would be no swatting at all,” she reminds him. “So there’s no rule to follow this time. Now, do I need to change for wherever we’re going?”

“Nope. You’re perfect just as you are,” he murmurs, smiling slightly as he stares at her. “And your clothes are fine, too. It’s Muggle plans, since I figure you’d rather avoid wizarding considering your, uh, issues and stuff. Besides, Muggles have more interesting things to do on Saturdays.”

“Thank you,” she says quietly. She feels slightly guilty for giving an impression that she’d not want to be seen with him, because that's not really the case despite her reservations about their relationship, as it were.

It's mostly that the wizarding world, despite being spread out, is rather small, especially when one is a hero of the war. Twenty years later, and people still remember and know her, though, fortunately she’s not as recognizable as poor Harry. However, it is one reason why she wanted to live near a Muggle town and why she doesn’t frequent Diagon Alley as often as she might if people didn’t stare or whisper or approach her for handshakes and the like whenever she goes there during more crowded days.

Teddy shrugs and stands up. “No need. I’d rather have you all to myself, anyway. Let me toss all this in the bin, then we can go, if you’re ready. I figured we‘d Apparate, since that‘s easier, as well as a good excuse to touch you,” he says with a mischievous grin.

She watches him take the bag and their paper cups to the kitchen, admiring the way his worn denims cling to the curve of his bum. She’s never really found bums attractive in the past, preferring hands, hipbones, and eyes when it comes to body parts that arouse her, but she likes looking at his arse in a way that should make her feel like a dirty old woman. Instead, she just smiles slightly and gets to her feet, wondering what he has planned for their day.

Despite her misgivings and worries, she’s excited about going out with him, even if they plan to keep it just friendly. “I’ll be right back,” she tells him before she goes upstairs to use the loo. She runs her brush through her hair and changes her shirt, since she doesn’t think wearing a Holyhead Harpies shirt in the Muggle world is the best idea. So, she puts on a simple blue T-shirt and goes back to join him. When she gets downstairs, he’s waiting for her and looks up with a smile that makes her belly flop in a way that is slowly becoming familiar once again.

“You look gorgeous.”

“You need glasses.”

“I already have a pair for reading. Besides, I don’t need them to know you’re breathtaking.”

“I agreed to spend the day with you, so there’s no need for flattery.”

“Ah, but see, there shouldn’t have to be a need for sincere praise. And despite those advanced years of yours that you keep harping on lately, you really need learn how to accept a compliment. Just say ‘thank you, Ted.’ See, it’s so easy that even you can manage.”

“You’re a brat, Ted.”

“Eh, close enough. Fortunately for you, I know you’re clever enough to learn it eventually.”

She rolls her eyes and laughs as she gets her purse and keys. He smiles and holds out his hand, bouncing back on his heels as he completely fails to be subtle about his excitement. She takes his hand and moves closer to him, giving in to the impulse to lean up and brush a quick kiss against his full lips. When she pulls back, she smiles. “I’m ready for this spontaneity you seem to find so enjoyable. Let‘s go.”