It’s such a small thing that many people might even overlook or consider routine, but Hermione notices it now more than she ever did in the past. It’s easy to take it for granted when you’re involved with someone or married. It’s just part of life and becomes common over time. Now that she’s been without that one small thing for several years, she’s much more aware of it when she wakes in Teddy’s arms for a second time in as many days.
Since she has to go home early because Hugo’s coming back this morning, she resists the urge to wake Teddy with her hand on his erection. Instead, she quietly gets out of bed before she goes to the bathroom and hops in the shower. When he pulls back the curtain and joins her in the shower, making sure to wash all the places she can’t reach, and then some, she ends up arriving home later than she planned. It’s still far earlier than Ron is likely to be dropping Hugo off, but it’s close enough that she feels a little rushed.
After making a pot of coffee and toast, she sits at the breakfast table and looks outside. Her hair is still damp, and she can practically taste Teddy on her lips. It’s tempting to forego coffee to keep his flavor on her tongue, but such an idea is ridiculous, so she takes a sip and watches the birds. She likes living away from town far more than she liked living in London during the first few years after the war. Harry and Ginny ended up settling in Godric’s Hollow after they married, which actually didn’t surprise her as much as Harry seemed to expect, and Ron wanted to live there, too.
However, as much as she loves Harry and Ginny, she also likes having privacy, which wouldn't be likely if they were neighbors. After discussing it, she and Ron compromised by choosing a house near a Muggle town but far enough away that he could fly whenever he wanted. She fell in love with this old farmhouse as soon as she saw it, draft and all. It’s not new or beautiful in a modern sense, but she thinks it has an unique charm all its own, and it feels like home. The fact that their closest neighbors are a good five minute brisk walk, and that the small town can be reached by walking in under twenty minutes are also positives.
It was most likely the view from the back that convinced her this was the right home. There’s a stream on their property and tons of trees, a small garden that she manages to keep up with Neville’s assistance so she doesn’t end up killing everything, and there’s wildlife that can occasionally be seen from the breakfast table. It’s a great place to sit and think about nature and beauty, to calm down and just breathe when work gets stressful or the children are driving her crazy. This morning, it provides a lovely view as she finally forces herself to stop living in a joyous dream of a handsome young man flirting and of great sex, once the fumbling gave way to pleasure.
Reality, unfortunately, isn’t nearly so euphoric. She’s enjoyed the last week, and she’s happy that she took a chance because it’s the first time since she’s divorced that she’s felt attractive and desirable, and the first time she’s been tempted to have an affair, much less actually done so. Just because things are changing now that Hugo’s coming home doesn’t automatically mean that whatever is happening with Teddy will end, but it’s enough of a possibility that she’d be stupid not to consider what’ll happen if it does cool off.
For a week, she’s done her best to live for the moment, and she’s tried not to dwell upon all the complicated issues for the past few days. Her earlier considerations were accurate, however. Having sex doesn’t change the fact that she’s a mother, first and foremost, that Teddy is only twenty and still has so many endless possibilities for his future, that she’s become intimate with her best friend’s Godson who has practically been a part of the family since he was born, and that having sex hasn’t made her desire him less or not want to spend free time with him. No, that lasts has become even worse, if possible, mostly because she’s had an opportunity to really get to know him.
There isn’t really a point in trying to predict the future. She's a little worried because, once her nights are no longer free and most of her weekends include a rather mischievous eleven year old, she doubts Teddy will find her quite so appealing. In a few weeks, it'll only get worse; she’ll be adding a clever twelve year old to the mix, too. It’s not doubt that he cares, because she knows he does after the last week, but it’s simply being realistic. Some might call it pessimistic. Hermione just doesn’t see any reason to delude herself.
No number of lists or amount of diagramming will help with this, no matter how much she wishes they would. She made her choice, and she has no regrets. Whatever happens, it’s been wonderful to be with Teddy. No one knows about them, either, so it’ll be easier to settle back down if and when things do eventually come to an end. While she hates keeping part of her life, an important part, secret, it makes sense for it to be private. Right now, they’re just dating and having sex. If things do happen to progress beyond that, well, they’ll talk again and decide what to do, she figures.
After she finishes her coffee and toast, she cleans up the kitchen before she sits on the sofa with a book. All the chores are done, and she tries not to do work on Sundays. It's a habit she picked up early in her marriage with Ron when they chose Sunday as first their private day and then a family day once the children were born. It's also the day for the monthly brunch with Harry, which in recent years is brunch with Harry and Ron. Even if she sees them quite a lot for lunch or during a work day, their monthly Sunday brunch is ‘theirs’.
The book she’s reading is quite good, about a witch uncovering a previously unknown historical mystery, and she’s halfway through it by the time she hears an automobile approach the house. She reaches for her wand instinctively, unused to hearing the gravel crunch beneath the wheels that way, but then she remembers Ron’s license and the automobile he bought last summer. She marks her place with a bookmark that Rose made her years ago and goes to the door, excited to see Hugo.
When she steps outside, Ron’s turning off the engine and Hugo’s opening his door. “Mummy!” he yells, running towards her without even closing the door. She leans down and scoops him up into a big hug as he throws his arms around her neck and places a wet kiss on her cheek. “I missed you, Mummy!”
“I missed you, too,” she tells him, rubbing her nose against his before she becomes aware of something tickling the back of her neck. She glances behind her and sees that Hugo’s holding a bundle of flowers and weeds, with the former more prevalent.
“I brung you these flowers,” he says with a wide grin as he wiggles against her and shows her the bouquet. She doesn’t want to let him go yet, because it’s been over a week since she’s had Hugo-hugs, but he’s getting too big and heavy to carry for lengthy periods of time, so she sets him down and takes the flowers.
“Brought,” she corrects patiently. “They’re beautiful, Hugo. I’ll have to get a vase for them as soon as we go inside.”
“That’s what I said. I brought you these.” He rolls his eyes, which are so much like Ron’s that the gesture is particularly familiar.
“Don’t lie to your mum,” Ron warns as he walks up to join them. He smiles at her and gives her a hug, kissing her cheek before he ruffles Hugo’s hair. “I heard brung.”
“Did you have fun camping?” she asks before Hugo can decide if he wants to dispute Ron’s scolding or not.
Hugo nods. “It was fun, but I missed you. Were you okay here without me?” he asks in that serious tone that only children seem capable of mastering. “I told Daddy that you’d be lonely without me.”
“I was very lonely,” she agrees, reaching out to brush his hair from his eyes.
“Did ya work too much?” He looks at Ron and smiles. “Daddy said that you were probably buried in paperwork, but I said that was just silly because you wouldn’t be able to breathe.”
“Did he?” She arches a brow and looks at Ron, who shrugs and laughs. “Yes, Daddy is very silly.”
“Watch it! I’m standing right here. If you’re going to insult me, at least do it behind my back.”
She looks at Hugo and grins at him before they both say, “Then turn around!” They laugh and she leans down to kiss Hugo’s cheek.
“Oi! I can feel the love,” Ron mutters dramatically before he sighs and does his best to look pitiful.
“We love you,” she says, rolling her eyes before she takes Hugo’s hand and leads him inside. “Would you like a cup of coffee before you head home? Or tea, since the coffee I made earlier is probably cold.”
“Tea would be great,” Ron say. “It’s going to be a long drive back if the motorway is as full as it was coming here. Bloody hell, people are crazy with their slow driving and stopping-starting nonsense. Makes me miss flying.”
“Daddy said naughty words on the way home,” Hugo volunteers, smiling sweetly when Ron looks at him.
“Am not,” Hugo says. “I don’t tell Mummy lies, and she always tells you to mind your naughty words around us.”
“Daddy’s old enough to use those words,” she says, “but he’ll remember that they’re rude and bad to say from now on, won’t you, Daddy?”
“Yeah, sure,” Ron agrees, sticking his tongue out at her when Hugo walks ahead of them. She reaches over and lightly pinches his arm, laughing as she follows Hugo into the house.
“So, what all did you do during your trip?” she asks as she heads to the kitchen to put the kettle on. Hugo scoots a chair over to the counter, which catches her attention. He stands on it and carefully removes a vase from the cabinet, grinning proudly now that he’s tall enough to reach. If Rose takes after her, Hugo definitely takes after Ron and his family. George adores him, which should probably worry her more than it does because Hugo’s already mischievous enough without his uncle’s influence.
“We went swimming and fishing and walking,” Hugo tells her as he sits on the counter and kicks his feet out. His trainers are filthy, covered with mud from that hiking, most likely, but it’s dried, so it’s not made a mess on the floor, thankfully. Until now, as it starts to flake off as he moves his feet. “We also rode a horse! And Daddy told me scary stories and we had a fire and a tent and a telly and we had sweets for dinner! And Daddy caught fishes but tossed them right back into the stream cause he said it’s wrong to eat the poor little things. But they weren’t really that little and fishes don‘t have money, do they? So how could they be poor?”
How he manages to say all that with hardly taking a breath is astounding. When he asks about fish having money, she knows exactly how to answer. “Those are questions you’d have to ask Daddy. Mummy doesn’t know fish answers. And that’s very sweet of Daddy. He’s just a big softie, isn’t he?” She smiles at Ron as he comes into the kitchen after taking Hugo’s bag upstairs.
“Oi! I leave for three minutes, and you’re calling me soft? I’m right fit,” he defends, patting his flat stomach before he walks to the counter and sits right beside Hugo.
“Hugo was telling me about your trip, and all the fish you caught.”
Ron ducks his head and smiles sheepishly. “Well, those fish didn’t do anything except swim into the wrong place and give in to their hunger. Can’t really bring myself to kill something that’s just hungry. I feel empathy for those fish. Did you hear that? Big word that I actually know. Impressed?”
“I’m glad you’re obviously reading your Word-a-Day calendar that Rose bought you for Christmas,” she compliments.
“What does emthy mean?” Hugo looks at her curiously.
“I’ve got this one,” Ron says proudly. “It’s empathy, and it means being able to imagine how something else feels, like I did with those fish. I’ve been hungry before, you see, and I wouldn’t want to be killed and eaten cause of it, so I had to toss them back.”
“Very good, Ronald. For that, I might just have to offer you lunch,” she says, laughing as he gives her his ‘I’m starving’ look. She goes to the pantry to see what she has before deciding that sandwiches are easy and fast. “Sandwiches sound good?”
“I’m starving,” Hugo says, grinning at her. “With crisps?”
“I don’t know. If you ate sweets most of your time with Daddy, maybe you should have carrots with your sandwich,” she muses, pursing her lips as if she’s considering the situation.
“Please?” Hugo whines, giving her his best puppy dog look. His red hair has fallen across his forehead, and she makes a mental note to take him to get it cut soon.
“Crisps are healthy, too. They’re potatoes or something,” Ron offers, winking at her as he sides with Hugo in a deliberate attempt to make Hugo forget about the ‘brought’ incident.
“Daddy says crisps are healthy.”
“Daddy also says that chocolate is one of the four basic food groups while conveniently forgetting vegetables,” she mutters. “Fine, we can have crisps, but no sweets tonight after dinner. We don’t want you turning into a rubbish bin for not eating anything healthy.”
Hugo giggles. “A bin with legs!”
Ron shakes his head and smiles at her. “So, how did you enjoy your week? Did you win your case on Friday?”
“It’s been nice,” she says, thinking how much of an understatement that is. “And, yes, I won on Friday. Harry was there to take me for a pint after in celebration, so you don’t have to nag him for failing in his duties as best friend.”
“Good. I’d hate to have to hex the boss.” Ron runs his hand through his hair and rests his elbow on Hugo’s head, grinning when Hugo starts swatting at him. “Were you terribly lonely without the most amazing and brilliant men in your life around?”
“Of course,” she tells him, laughing as she cuts bread for their lunch. “Seriously, it was a really nice week. I managed to go to Portobello Road market last Saturday, and I had dinner with a friend a couple of nights.” She focuses on the food for a moment before she casually adds, “I actually had dinner with Teddy last night.” There. She’s being honest and vague and giving one definite fact, so it’s not lying at all. Plus, if she slips up at some point and mentions Teddy, Ron won’t be suspicious.
“Our Teddy? How’s he doing? He like it in your department or is he ready to try Aurors?” Ron asks curiously.
Our Teddy. And there is the crux of one of the issues right there. As if she needs further proof that this is a complicated situation. “He’s doing well. He seems to like the work, but I don’t know if it’s something he wants to do full time, in terms of being a future career. I doubt you ever get him in the Aurors, though. He’s just not suited for it, and I think his connection with Harry might make it awkward, too.”
“Daddy, stop,” Hugo whines, glaring at him as he swats at his arm. Ron moves his elbow, and Hugo nods emphatically before he looks at Hermione and smiles.
“Yeah, he’s probably too gentle for the Aurors. Would be right handy having him, though, with those skills of his. But I guess it’s not for everyone,” he says in a tone that indicates that he can’t believe anyone would not want to be an Auror, which she also hears in relation to anyone who signs for a team that isn’t the Chudley Cannons. “Lucky for him, he’s still young enough to decide what he likes best.”
“Hmm,” she says in a non-committal tone that she often uses while busy. This time, she’s using it to keep from flinching at how she feels to hear Ron say ‘still young enough’ about the man she just shagged that morning. When she finishes with the sandwiches, she glances at them. “Bums off the counter. I only allowed it this time because you’d both been gone for awhile.”
“Sounds better if you just say arses,” Ron points out as he hops down.
“Arses!” Hugo repeats, smiling mischievously as he looks at Hermione.
“What was that?” she asks, walking over to the counter. She grabs him and tickles his ribs before she helps him down. “If you say that word again before you’re at least sixteen, at which time we’ll discuss your maturity and determine if your vocabulary is extensive enough to merit the use of such a word or if you need to study more, then I’ll be forced to make you read the dictionary for two hours every night.”
“I won’t say it again,” Hugo promises quickly, having been forced to endure that punishment several times over the years for mimicking his father and uncles. He walks over to the table and sits down while she puts the weeds and flowers into water, using the vase he got from the cabinet.
She joins them, kissing the top of Hugo’s head and smiling at Ron as she takes a seat. “I’m really glad you boys are back,” she says honestly. She likes having her best friend and her son home again, even if it means her personal life will become more complex and difficult. She picks up her sandwich and glances at Ron. “So, tell me more about these poor ickle fish Hugo mentioned, you big old softie.”