Anticipation (Worth the Risk #10)

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Dating is rather like riding a bicycle, or a broomstick if one is being magically compliant. Although, considering her experience with broomsticks, she's better off to consider the Muggle alternative in this case. Regardless of how many years it’s been since ‘dating’ has been a part of her life, Hermione remembers the basics pretty easily even if she can barely remember not being married anymore. Going out when you’re married isn’t quite the same, after all. It’s probably more of a psychological difference than anything else. While married, there isn’t a worry about sexy knickers, smooth legs, and provocative yet tasteful clothing. Maybe there is at the first, but she honestly can’t remember ever being very girly about such things during all her years with Ron.

Getting ready for her date with Teddy is rather infuriating because she does feel ridiculously girly. It’s not necessarily something she enjoys feeling, because she prefers to just choose clothing that fits well and is comfortable and not care if there’s potential stubble missed after her shower. What’s really pathetic is that Teddy isn’t even likely to notice much less care. The boy has seen her in her ugliest knickers and still came quite easily, so it’s she who is concerned about these silly things.

For tonight, she’s chosen sexy knickers and a lace brassiere because she’s practical enough to know that there’s little chance she’ll be leaving before they’ve had sex again. After all, Hugo comes home tomorrow, which is going to severely limit her free time. It’s only logical to not waste tonight should they feel the urge to get naked. It’s just dinner at Teddy’s flat, so she decides to wear a simple brown skirt and a cream colored top. When she looks in the mirror, she makes a face because it looks like she’s going to work instead of dinner with a man she’ll end up shagging by the end of the night.

She changes the skirt after searching her wardrobe to find something that isn’t suitable for work. Once she puts on the rather cute and flirty black skirt that she doesn’t even remember buying, she approves of the combination. The blouse is low cut, but not so much so that her breasts just hang out, and the skirt is actually quite sexy. She doesn’t wear stockings; instead, she slips on a pair of sandals before she goes downstairs.

Her hair is loose tonight, still damp from her shower and falling down her back nearly to her waist. According to some people, she’s getting far too old to keep it so long, but she can’t bring herself to get it cut. She did years ago, when she was pregnant with Rose and then almost immediately with Hugo after mistakenly thinking the fates couldn’t possibly make her endure another pregnancy so soon after the first. Well, that was her excuse for being so relieved when she was able to actually have sex again, both physically and around having a demanding baby that didn’t understand Mummy wanted to shag Daddy, that she didn’t remember to take her potion for several weeks. By the time she realized she’d forgotten, Hugo was already forming.

He might not have been planned, but she’s grateful every day for that slip-up because, otherwise, they’d not have him. However, she’s taken her potions habitually ever since because two children is enough for now. When they were babies, it was just easier to have her hair shorter, and it’s grown out as they’ve grown up. She likes having long hair, so she doubts she'll ever cut it even if some people seem to think a woman over a certain age shouldn’t have such long hair. Who are they to tell her what to do, anyway?

It’s not quite six, so she goes into the kitchen to make sure she’s not left any chores undone. Her day has been busy since Teddy left this morning, full of errands and cleaning, but now she’s able to just relax tomorrow until Ron brings Hugo home. It’ll be nice to spend a little time reading for pleasure instead of working, so she’s going to enjoy that break. After she walks aimlessly around the kitchen, she laughs at herself and goes to the fireplace. It’s not too early, and Teddy did tell her to show up any time, which means it‘s pointless to try to find things to do when she really just wants to see him.

That realization causes her to stop suddenly, her fingers curled around the tin of Floo powder. It’s terribly easy to get caught up in the euphoria of dating and the pleasure of being intimate with someone she desires. Possibly too easy, a nagging voice warns in the back of her mind. She sighs and leans her head forward against the mantel, looking down at the stone hearth. Despite knowing that all of her concerns are still present, she really just wants one more night to try her best not to think about reality.

It sounds terrible, even in her thoughts, because what she has with Teddy is real, more real than anything she’s had in years, yet it’s almost like a fantasy because they’ve had a week without her children, with being able to see each other at night or on weekends, and she knows things will change tomorrow. The best way to look at things is that they’ve had an amazing week, if nothing else happens once it becomes more difficult to see each other and when they have to hide their relationship.

The idea of hiding and keeping secrets doesn’t sit well with her at all, but she can’t think of any other logical way to handle this until she knows it’s either going to be temporary or it has potential that requires seriously thinking about what to do. Not that she hasn’t been thinking all this time, but there’s a difference between hypothetical possibilities and actual considerations. She shakes her head and smiles as she thinks about Teddy, wondering what he’ll make for dinner and if the third time will, indeed, be the charm.

After tossing in Floo powder, she steps through and enters Teddy’s flat. She can smell something cooking, but she can’t quite place it. Before she has a chance to do the charm to clean herself off, Teddy’s stepping forward and casting it He’s smiling and looks so excited to see her that she’s able to focus on now and worry about everything else later. “Thank you,” she says, smiling at him as he takes her hand.

“You’re early.” He grins as he leans down and brushes his lips against hers. “I’m glad. Hi.”

“Hi,” she murmurs before she kisses him lightly. “Something smells good.”

“Dinner’s not ready yet. I timed it so it would be done after six,” he tells her. “We can have wine while we wait, if you want. I bought a bottle earlier.”

“Wine would be lovely. And don’t worry about dinner. It’s still pretty early, after all.”

He nods, turquoise hair falling across his forehead as he stares at her. “You look beautiful. That skirt is really nice.”

“You look rather good yourself.” She looks him over, taking in the black trousers and dark green shirt with a lot more buttons than she finds necessary, and smiles.

“If you keep looking at me like that, I might forget about dinner,” he warns, grinning as he reaches out to tug on her hair. “You can sit down while I get the wine. I’ll be right back.”

She considers following him into the kitchen, but he doesn’t have a lot of space, so she just goes to sit on the sofa. “How was your day?”

“My morning was smashing. The rest of the day has been pretty good. Getting better again now.” He comes back into the sitting room with two glasses and a bottle of wine. “Did you get all your errands run?”

“Yes, thankfully.” She kicks off her shoes and curls her feet up beside her on the sofa. “I managed to get everything done and stopped by to see my parents for a brief lunch.” She smiles wryly. “I hadn’t realized how much easier it is to see them when I have one or both of the children to act as a diversion. God, that makes me sound horrid, doesn’t it?”

“You don’t get along with your parents?” he asks as he sits down beside her. “I’ve never met them, but I assumed it was because they don‘t attend all the big family events.”

“I invite them, but they usually have excuses,” she says. “When I was younger, they were extremely supportive once I found out that I was magical. As the years went by, though, my life became more in this world than theirs, and I don’t know. We just didn’t have as much to talk about because I was so worried about the war and Harry. When I was seventeen, I did something stupid without their permission, and I don’t think they’ve ever forgiven me.”

He hands her a glass of wine and takes a sip from his own as he studies her. “What stupid thing did you do?”

“I bewitched them into believing they were other people and sent them to Australia,” she says matter-of-factly. “It was during the war, and they were in danger because of me. They also knew a lot about Harry, so it seemed to be the most logical action. Once the war was over, I removed the enchantment, but the damage was done. They’ve not trusted me since, and I honestly can’t blame them. It was a horrible thing to do, not giving them a choice, and maybe it’s more awkward around them because I’m ashamed.”

He stares at her as she looks away and takes a drink of her wine, wondering if he’ll think she’s terrible, too. There are few things she’s ever done in her life that she regrets, but that rash decision, regardless of how logical she thought it was at the time, is the worst. “Hermione,” he says softly, touching her jaw as he makes her look back at him. “It was war and you were only seventeen.”

“I was smart for my age, and I should have known better,” she says simply. “Looking back, I wonder if I unconsciously just wanted the easiest way to not have to worry about them dying or telling Harry’s secrets, which makes me a horrible person. I put our war above their lives.”

“My parents chose to fight despite the fact that I was only a couple of months old,” he reminds her. “People do things during war that might not make sense after but they feel right at the time. I don’t blame them for dying, even if I missed having a normal family. It’s not the same, I know, yet you did something that you felt was the best choice at the time. Would you do it again if you had to do it over?”

“I don’t know,” she says honestly. “And your parents died trying to make this world safe for you to grow up. I sent my parents away in a rather selfish act. There‘s not really a comparison.”

“I sometimes wonder if my parents would do it again, if they knew they wouldn’t live through that battle. Would they choose death versus living and raising me? I never knew them, but I think they would without hesitation,” he tells her honestly. His hair has faded to a pale blue, and she reaches over to squeeze his hand. “The difference is that you’d hesitate, even if you did do it again.”

“They loved you,” she whispers. “I was there when your father came to tell Harry, and he was so happy. It couldn’t have been easy to have you during a war, especially since your mum was an Auror and probably wanted to be out there helping fight, but they did because you were important to them. Never doubt that, Teddy.”

“I know.” He smiles sheepishly and leans his head onto her shoulder. “There are just times when I miss never knowing them, or I hate them for dying without even thinking about me, which makes me the selfish one. God, how did we get onto this topic? Here I was intending to charm you, and I’m whining like a git.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I was whining before you,” she says. “My parents have been an awkward situation for twenty years, but they’re alive and we do get along, even if it’s strained at times. I really don’t have any reason to complain.”

“Well, hopefully I can provide a nice distraction and get you focused on happier things.” He raises his head up and kisses her jaw. “I should probably go check the food, but I much prefer sitting here and snogging like teenagers.”

“Like teenagers? Oh so many years ago for you.” She laughs and kisses him lightly before she licks wine from his lips. “If you need to check the food, there’s time for snogging after.”

“It's been weeks since I was a teenager, thank you very much. And dinner can wait a little longer,” he murmurs as he leans over to put his glass on the table. He takes hers from her and sets it beside his. When he’s done, he tangles his fingers in her hair and pulls her against him. She tilts her head back and parts her lips. He doesn’t kiss her mouth, though. He kisses her temple and her nose, her cheeks and her jaw, and finally presses his lips firmly against hers.

It’s slightly amazing at how they can experience so many emotions in such a short time, from happiness to sadness to desire. They touch, and her body begins to warm almost instantly, which is something she’s still not used to at all. When he kisses her, she closes her eyes and lets go for a few moments. There’s no teasing, not this time, so she curls her tongue around his and pulls him closer as seconds become minutes. His hand is on her thigh, his thumb drawing circles against her bare skin, and she moans into the kiss as he moves his hand higher.

The sound of a buzzer interrupts them. Teddy pulls back and mutters under his breath. His hair is green now, dark and rich, and she can’t help but smile when she straightens back up into a sitting position. “Is that my cue to say saved by the bell?”

“Very funny,” he says, kissing her quickly before he stands up and goes into the kitchen. “We’ll continue this after dinner.”

“I hope so,” she calls back, laughing softly as she picks up their glasses and stands. She walks to the dining table, which he’s set up very romantically. There are candles floating around, a red cloth covering it that looks new, and a bowl of salad already set out. She steals a tomato from the bowl because she’s pretty hungry after not eating much for lunch.

“It’s done, but it might need to cool,” he says, walking to the table with a round pan levitated before him. When she sees the homemade pizza, she grins. He notices and shrugs. “I know, pizza isn’t the most romantic thing in the world, but I make it really well and it doesn’t require much clean up.”

“I like pizza. After Ron left, it became a tradition for me and the children to have pizza on Sunday nights,” she tells him. “When Rose went to Hogwarts, Hugo and I continued that tradition. However, I’m often too lazy to actually make it myself, so we buy it at the supermarket to heat up. This looks much better.”

“I’ll have to make you all pizza one Sunday then.” He smiles and holds out a chair for her. “I mean, I assume that I’m allowed to continue stopping by sometimes, like before, even if you’re wanting to keep us private for now.”

“Yes, of course. I’d never suggest a change in normal routines.” She thinks it’ll be difficult to be around him privately without being able to tease or touch him. At work, it’s a different mindset, and she has to keep professional from personal all the time with various friends whose work brings them in contact with her. However, it’s not fair to prohibit him from being around her with others just because it’ll be strange to have to figure out a personal behavior now that their relationship has changed. She smiles at him after he sits. “The children would enjoy it, I’ve no doubt.”

“So would I. Now, the pizza has a little of everything,” he says, “but I think I kept off anything you don’t like. No onions or peppers.”

“And the fact that you know I dislike onions and peppers on my pizza, despite enjoying them in other dishes, is really quite intriguing. I don’t think Harry even realizes that quirk of mine.”

He smiles and leans back in his chair, moving his legs around hers. “Not that intriguing, actually. I’ve told you before I’m somewhat of an observer. Besides, I’ve ordered pizza for us during an occasional working lunch, so I remembered what you didn’t like.”

“Ah, but, see, I still find it intriguing because it says a lot about you, Ted Lupin. Not only are you observant, but you notice things that might make someone displeased, which is a very positive trait. You also use your knowledge to make people feel comfortable around you. There are times lately when I realize that I never actually knew you until you’ve let me. I just saw parts of you that suited wherever you were or what you were doing at the time.”

“Maybe so,” he says thoughtfully. “I’ve been changing myself, not just physically, to fit in for years, so I guess it’s just habit now. I mean, how I act with Gram wasn’t how Harry expected me to be and neither of those suited being at Hogwarts. I think we all have masks, or at least sides of our personality that aren’t really us completely. You do, with being so hard and focused at work yet also being an amazing mother who cares so much about her children, plus you were a little different with Ron than you are now at family gatherings and all.”

“Point. I don’t really see myself as having other personalities, but I suppose I do, in a general sense. But you still know me, at heart, yet I’m wondering now if I’ve ever really known you. You’re far more guarded and private than you seem since you’re outwardly very friendly and charming.”

“You know me better than most people, even before last Friday,” he says simply. “Now quit trying to analyze me and eat your food. We’ve got unfinished business waiting for after.”

“I wasn’t analyzing,” she denies. At his pointed look, she smiles. “Okay, maybe a little, but it’s just who I am.” She puts salad on her plate and then takes a slice of the pizza, which really does look quite good. “No more analyzing at the dinner table. I’ll be good and eat, so we can get back to that unfinished business you mentioned.”