“I can be, I suppose.”
“I think I like it. Also like you kissing me. Want to do it again?”
“Not at this particular moment.”
“We can wait a minute or two before we leave, just in case you feel the urge to do it again.”
“The only urge I’ll feel if we keep standing here is the one that makes me go back to work and send you on your way.”
“Threatening, too. You know, I never realized just how aggressive you are, what with bossing me around and kissing me without warning. I like a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. Especially when you’re the woman and I’m the ‘it’.”
“You do realize that probably sounded much better in your head than it did when you verbalized it, don’t you?”
“Okay. Just checking.”
Teddy grins and just looks at her in that intense ‘sole focus of his attention’ way that makes her all flustered and blushy, which is incredibly annoying when she knows women who are thirty-eight should not be blushing as easily as she does. She can feel his hand on her back and a gentle tug on her hair as he obviously wraps the ends around his fingers. His gaze drops to her lips, and she feels the air around them seem to thicken as she unconsciously tilts her head back slightly. He leans down and barely brushes his lips against her cheek and then her nose and finally her lips. It’s just a whisper of a kiss, one that makes her skin warm even as she has to resist the urge to whine for more.
“Hold on tight, Hermione,” he murmurs against her lips as he pulls her close to him. She reaches up to grip his shoulders and doesn’t look away from his face even when she feels them Apparate. When they reach their destination, she keeps looking at him for a minute or two before she blinks and steps back, reaching up to nervously run her fingers through her hair as she looks around.
“I’m beginning to notice that you have a fondness for alleys. At least this one doesn’t smell like---”
“Don’t even say it. There are certain words that just don’t belong in pleasant conversation between friends, and that word is one of them.”
“Really? I wasn’t aware of any such list of unacceptable terms for use when conversing casually. I would assume that it’s not a rule or else I’d know about it. What other terms are on this list?”
“If I told you, I’d be saying them,” he points out with a mischievous smile. “This is a good alley and doesn’t smell at all like words we can’t say.”
“I already said that, if you’ll recall. By the way, where are we? Unlike you, I don’t frequent alleys, so I don’t recognize this place.”
“I live in Muggle London. I’ve learned most the alleys within walking distance from my flat and work. It’s not like I come and loiter here, you know?”
“And you’ve failed to answer the question, which makes me rather suspicious. You mentioned it needing to be a surprise for some ridiculous reason that probably only makes sense to you, but we’re obviously here now, so there’s no need to be elusive with details.”
“There’s nothing ridiculous about surprises, Hermione,” he tells her in a shocked tone. “They can be fun. You know fun, don’t you? It’s that word you rarely allow yourself to partake in these days.”
She frowns at him and narrows her eyes. “Regardless of what feelings you believe yourself to have for me, Ted, they don’t give you the right to make presumptions about my life or insult me. Understood?”
“I didn’t mean---fuck. I’m sorry,” he says, shifting awkwardly as his hair fades into a pale blue. “I wasn’t insulting you. I was just---”
“Language. Just teasing?” She shakes her head. “There’s a time for teasing, and there’s some things that are better left out of bounds. I remember when I was your age and hadn’t yet learned all those lines, but I’ll certainly be happy to point them out to you should become in danger of crossing one. Deal?”
“Deal,” he agrees, smiling hesitantly. “We good?”
“As long as you don’t behave as if I’m some tired old spinster who never does anything with her life except work, we’re fine. I happen to have fun with my children and my friends, Teddy. I might not be young and reckless anymore, but that doesn’t automatically mean I’m not able to enjoy life.”
“You’re still young, Hermione. We live to be like, what, two or three times the age of non-magical people? That means you’re just a baby. As for reckless, well, that gets old pretty fast, so no complaints about a lack of recklessness from me. And, yes, I know. We’re still standing in an alley, which goes to support your claim that I’ve got some sort of odd fetish.”
“I’ve not been a baby for years, though I do admit to having a Muggle view of age despite all my years in the magical world.“ She smiles and arches her brow. “I never said you had a fetish, Lupin. Is there something I should know about you and alleys?”
“Now who’s a brat?” he mutters, grinning as he leans his head down and kisses her quickly. “To answer your earlier question, we’re not that far from my flat. More importantly, though, we’re near our destination for the morning. Shall we?”
“’Our destination’ doesn’t tell me specifically where we’re going,” she points out as she falls in step beside him. He moves his hand around hers briefly, stroking her palm with his fingers before he lets go when they reach the street.
“That’s because I’m being vague.”
“Oh, honestly. You’re taking this surprise thing a bit far, aren’t you?”
“Maybe, but it’s your fault. You get all flushed and pretty when you’re cross, you know?”
“I also get rather accurate with my wand and several of the hexes that I can use without even thinking.”
“Point.” He laughs and shakes his head, his hair shortening just a little and becoming its normal brown as he heads to the side. “We’re nearly there anyway. I got the idea during my jog this morning, and I think I remember you mentioning something when I was younger about liking it but not being able to go for awhile.”
“Younger? You mean last week?” she asks with a slight smirk, pleased when she earns a scowl and a roll of the eyes that’s rather adorable.
“Stop it,” he warns grumpily. “I agree not to snog you in the middle of the street if you agree to not mention my age, for just today, at least.”
“You’re negotiating something that isn’t a definite, Lupin. In this case, the audacious claim that you’d even be able to snog me in the street compared to the honesty of stating your age in terms of youth.”
“Oh, it’s not audacious at all. If I wanted, I’m pretty sure I could get a kiss. However, I’m quite happy with my bollocks being in perfect working order, so it’s not something I’d likely ever attempt without permission. Still, it’s somewhat balanced, so just agree before I start to sulk.”
“Pretty sure, are you?” She snorts and purses her lips. “Just for that, I’ll agree to your proposal, though I’ll amend it to stipulate no kisses in exchange for no teasing about your age. If, perchance, I decide at some point to kiss you, it will be acceptable, but you’re not allowed to even mention the word for the rest of the day if I’m to pretend I don’t know that you’re eighteen years younger than I.”
“Bloody hell, woman,” he mutters. “No wonder you’re so successful in your career. I’m really glad you aren’t my mum, besides the obvious reasons, and I have to remember to give Hugo and Rosie extra sweets next time I see them because you’re wicked tough.”
“And don’t you forget it,” she says smugly before she glances ahead of them. She smiles when she recognizes the area. “Oh! The market.”
“Yeah. It’s Saturday, so it’ll be crowded as fuck, but I thought it might be fun,” he tells her, reaching out to tug on her hair before leading her down Portobello Road.
“Language. God, it’s been ages since I’ve been here. I loathe shopping, unless it's for books, but I’ve always had a weakness for markets like this.” She smiles at him. “Good choice.”
“Perhaps good enough to earn me a word-I-can’t-say by the end of the day?”
“Incorrigible.” She laughs and can’t even frown at him because she’s excited about spending the morning walking through the market. “Maybe I can find something nice for the children while we’re here.”
The market is crowded, full of locals and tourists alike. She’s not overly fond of crowds, on the whole, but she likes looking at the odd trinkets and browsing the selections that are more appealing. Teddy walks along beside her, inspecting everything whenever she stops. When she reaches the stall of a book-seller, he gives a resigned sigh and grins at her.
“I suppose I should get ready to stand for awhile, huh?” he teases as he reaches for a book. “Luckily, I have a rather nice collection of books myself and like to look, so you can take your time.”
“I intended to,” she says, leaning closer to him so she can look around his arm to see what book he chose. “Alice in Wonderland? That’s an interesting choice.”
“I like the bunny!” He smiles and bumps her hip with his. “Seriously, it’s a good book.”
“Yes, I’ve read it. Though it was many years ago, when I was a child.” She reaches for a book of modern crime stories and flips through it, making a face when she notices that nearly every other word is foul or abusive. “Why do people assume that gratuitous violence and foul language are edgy and cool? It’s rarely done well and just bores me after awhile. Give me Hammett or Christie any day.”
“A mystery buff?” He grins as he puts his book back and browses the shelf. “I like a good mystery, too.”
“Whenever I read fiction, it tends to be a mystery novel. I’m usually reading non-fiction, though. I have a fondness for history, for both my, uh, backgrounds, and other educational type texts.”
“I like history, too, as you know.” He walks behind her, and she feels his hand brush against the small of her back before he wanders over to the other wall.
She bites her lip and takes a moment to focus before she begins to look at the used mystery books. She’s trying to get Rose interested in Agatha Christie, which is going pretty well so far, so she chooses a copy of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ to owl with her weekly letter. Once done, she walks over to where Teddy is standing. He’s flipping through a paperback, seemingly engrossed, and it takes her touching his shoulder for him to stir. He turns and hastily puts the book back on the shelf, his cheeks flushed as he flexes his fingers.
“Everything okay?” she asks, moving slightly to try to see what book he was reading.
He shifts so he’s in front of the shelf, making it seem very casual had she not been trying to look. “Yes. You find something?”
“I’m buying a book for Rose. Are you finished?” If he thinks she’ll just forget about that book, he obviously doesn’t know her very well.
“Yeah, I’m good. I didn’t see anything I have to buy, so we can pay and move to the next stall.”
He stands there waiting for her to walk past, and she takes a few steps towards the man accepting money. As soon as Teddy moves behind her, she takes a step back and pivots quickly, reaching out for the book he was reading. When she sees a scantily clad woman on the cover being held by an even less dressed male with a broad chest, she blinks.
“Can we please just forget you caught me reading that?” he asks quietly. It’s obvious that he’s embarrassed when she looks at him, though she doesn’t really understand why.
“’The Pirate’s Wench’,” she reads before biting her lip as she thinks. A flip through the book almost makes her laugh out loud when she sees words like ‘turgid shaft’ and ‘throbbing bosoms’. “This looks, uh, interesting.”
He takes the book from her and shoves it on the shelf before he puts his hands in his pockets and glares. “I like romance novels. There. Now you can laugh at me and question my masculinity.”
“You do?” It’s not what she expects him to admit, so it takes her a moment to figure out what to say. She speaks softly, to avoid being overheard, and says, “I don’t think there are many things you could do that would make anyone doubt your masculinity, Teddy." She sees him smile rather smugly before she continues. "I just assumed---”
“That I was sneaking a look at a sex book?” He sighs and shifts. “I’ve been a fan since I was younger and stole Gram’s books, okay? I don’t read them for the appalling descriptions of throbbing or heaving bits. I just like the stories. However, it‘s embarrassing to be caught reading one by the woman I fancy, so I‘d appreciate you just letting it go. Please?”
“There’s nothing to be ashamed about,” she points out quietly, feeling a tightening in her tummy when he casually says ‘the woman I fancy’ as if it’s such a known fact that it can be discussed like the weather. At his pointed look, she smiles sheepishly. “Fine. I admit that I’m surprised, but you promised to surprise me, didn’t you? It’s not a bad surprise. I‘ve just never read any or been a fan myself.”
“That’s rather narrow-minded of you.” He smiles when she frowns at him. “You say you aren’t a fan, yet you admit to never having read one. Granted, that particular one is pretty dreadful, but some are a fantastic blend of history, action, and romance. Besides, I like that the dashing young hero always gets the girl.”
She arches her brow and has to smile. “Guilty as charged. I’ve made a generalization based on a few conceptions that might not be accurate. However, I’d like to mention that perhaps it’s actually the buxom heroine who gets the bloke instead of some antiquated idea of anti-feminism.”
“Perhaps,” he agrees. “I know I’d be willing to sacrifice myself to being cast as ‘the bloke’ if it meant a certain gorgeous, opinionated heroine got to be all feministic or whatever.”
“I don’t think wench would look good on you,” she decides after a moment, rolling her eyes when he winks at her. She shakes her head and impulsively buys the silly book, if only for research into what would be appealing about such rubbish. After she pays, she leaves the stall and waits for him to catch up.
“You bought it.”
“It’s not a good example of the genre.”
“I’ll keep that in mind whenever I read it.”
“I could have lent you one of mine.”
“Yes, you could have, but it wouldn’t have been the one we found today.”
He smiles at that and nods. “Okay. But I’m going to lend you one good one, just for comparison.”
“Right now, I really, really want to do that word-I-can’t-say,” he murmurs as he looks at her. “I won’t, because we made a bargain and I’m a man of honor, but I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking about how your lips feel against mine and that breathy little moan you make when I press close to you and nibble your lips. It, uh, arouses me, and makes me wonder what other types of sounds you make should I do something more than just that-word-I-can’t-say you.”
“You don’t play fair, Lupin,” she says, wondering how he can possibly remember not to say kiss when her heart is racing and her skin feels itchy with tension and heat just from the way he’s looking and talking about her.
“Never claimed I do, though I think you’re not really able to say that because you don’t play fair, either. That makes us equal, I guess.”
Someone bumps into her, breaking the spell as she stumbles towards him. He reaches for her, his hand on her elbow as he glares at the man who pushed her. She inhales his scent and straightens up, fussing with her shirt to keep her hands busy as she collects herself. “Equal is good,” she finally says before she starts to walk again.
“If you want, I can hex him with boils,” Teddy says hopefully, still glaring after the man.
“Yes, because that’s a mature reaction to being jostled while standing still in a large crowd of people.”
“Right. No hexing.”
“Thank you for offering, though,” she tells him, watching him smile as they continue through the market.
They spend several hours browsing Portobello Road market and the shops, with a stop for lunch during the day. She buys Hugo a framed painting of a river with autumn leaves falling from trees, because he’s on a kick regarding nature and redecorating his room, again, for his latest interest, and gets Rose a new charm for the bracelet Harry and Ginny gave her for her birthday this year. She also gets Ron an obnoxious hat with jingling bells that she knows he’ll love, and she sneakily buys Teddy a rather gimmicky coffee mug with the word London written on it that’s obviously meant for tourists but she thinks he might like to remember the day.
After they finish shopping, it’s late afternoon, and her feet hurt. Teddy earns major points for suggesting a stop at a Muggle coffee house, where she indulges in a sweet coffee and shares a large biscuit with him. During their time at the market, she hadn’t really noticed anyone look at them oddly. However, in the shop, she notices two women staring and whispering. She shifts in her chair, suddenly self-conscious as she sips her drink and makes sure her hand isn’t close to Teddy’s since he has a habit of touching her whenever he gets an opportunity.
He frowns, obviously aware enough to realize something happened but, surprisingly, he doesn’t ask. Instead, they finish their coffee and the biscuit before he suggests they go for a walk by the Thames. She agrees, mostly to get away from the gossipy strangers, and is glad after because it’s easy to relax once she’s alone with Teddy again. They talk as they walk and enjoy the view, and she’s surprised when she realizes how late it’s become. There are still chores to do at home, so she reluctantly mentions needing to get back, surprised by how disappointed she is for the day to end.
Instead of just saying goodbye and allowing her to Appare home, he insists on escorting her to her front door. It’s actually her sitting room, but it’s a sweet gesture so she doesn’t point that out. Once they arrive, she puts her bags down by the sofa and smiles up at him. “Thank for you today, Teddy,” she says. “I had fun.”
“So did I. Thank you for coming with me. I know it was spur of the moment, but I couldn’t not see you,” he admits.
“It’s fine. I honestly didn’t have anything planned today, so I was pleased to get out with a good friend. And I’m busy tomorrow, which means this will be the highlight of my weekend, no doubt.”
“Yeah, I’m having lunch with Gram tomorrow and have to get some stuff done around my flat. You doing anything fun?”
“Not particularly. Mostly grocery shopping, cleaning the house, laundry, writing Rose, and meeting Harry for our usual Sunday brunch, though minus Ron this week since he’s off fishing.”
“I’d say to tell my godpapa I said hello, but that might be awkward.”
“Probably, though I could always be vague about when you said it, since we do work together.”
He smiles and nods, his hair changing to the dark blue that she suspects is deliberate since it’s her favorite shade. “Then you can tell him I said hi and that I’m suffering from neglect because I haven’t seen him in ages. Question his abilities as a Godfather and add a bit of woe, if you want. I like making him feeling guilty.”
“Nah, Harry knows I only nag him because I love him. Someone wise once told me that, you know?”
“Wise, huh?” She laughs and watches him as she runs her hand through her hair, shifting slightly as she feels tension sparking between them.
“So, this is another time when I would love to step forward and that-word-I-can’t-say you,” he points out in a rather husky voice as he looks at her lips.
She bites her lip and hesitantly takes a step closer to him, not listening to the voice suggesting that she’s completely insane for not only encouraging this attraction but also letting things develop despite how illogical and complicated it all is. Complications don’t really seem as important when compared to kissing Teddy, after all. It’s after the kissing when she’s alone with her thoughts that she has to listen to that voice.
“Please?” he asks quietly, curling his fingers into his palms as he sways but doesn’t move.
“Yes,” she whispers, not even finishing the word before his arms are around her and his lips are on hers. She moves into him and reaches up to grip his hair as she parts her lips. She takes control of the kiss, curling her tongue around his and pressing closer as he caresses her back and squeezes her bum gently.
One kiss leads to several before she finally pulls back and tries to catch her breath. His hand is on her bare back, her shirt pushed up slightly as he traces circles on her skin, and she closes her eyes when she feels his fingers in her hair. He kisses her jaw and cheek before trailing his lips down her neck. She moans softly when she feels his teeth scrape against her skin, tightening her grip on his hair as he continued to kiss and nibble her neck until he reaches the collar of her shirt.
“God,” he breathes as he rolls his hips forward and presses against her.
“We should, uh, stop,” she stammers, opening her eyes as she pulls back. Her nipples are tight, and she’s tempted to say to hell with common sense, but she knows they can’t continue. He’s already half-hard, and her knickers are slightly damp, which means this is straying into Dangerous Territory.
“Right,” he murmurs. “Don’t want to stop, but, yeah, probably for the best.”
She sighs and nods. “Yes, it’s for the best. Thank for you a lovely day, Teddy.”
“My pleasure,” he says sincerely, reluctantly letting her go and stepping back. “We’re still good, right? I mean, I can, uh, see you again? Not in a professional capacity.”
“We’re still good,” she assures him. She smiles. “Enjoy your lunch with your grandmother tomorrow. I’ll see you at work Monday, in a professional capacity. We’ll discuss outside-work some other time, okay?”
“Okay.” He grins, seemingly relieved as if he expected her to suddenly change her mind. While that is the wisest thing to do, she seems unable to be smart and logical when it comes to this situation, much to her annoyance. His hair changes to turquoise as he pushes it out of his eyes. “Enjoy your Sunday, Hermione. I’ll see you Monday.”
She watches him walk to the fireplace and toss in Floo powder, laughing when he blows her a kiss and winks before stepping through. She sits down and shakes her head, smiling even as she realizes that things are becoming even more complicated, if that’s possible, and she has no idea what to do about it. Or if she even wants to do anything yet, which startles her so much that she just sits there for awhile thinking about life, Teddy, and a surprisingly fun Saturday.