Interruption (Worth the Risk #13)

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“I miss you.”

The words are so softly spoken that Hermione wonders if she’s imagined them. She glances up from her file to see Teddy standing in the doorway and knows she hasn’t. The office is quiet, and a quick look past him confirms that her assistant, Caroline, is on her lunch break. It’s the first chance she’s had all week to be alone with Teddy, and she takes the moment to move her gaze over him to get her fill before life interrupts.

“I miss you, too,” she murmurs softly. It’s already Thursday, and her week has been full of meetings and appointments that have kept her running most of the day. Ogden’s not been feeling well, so the majority of his cases have been unloaded, primarily onto her, and then she’s sorted them to hand off to others in the office.

Since he resigned from the Wizengamot many years ago and became a prosecutor with the Ministry, he’s been incredibly active despite his age. She’s worried that he’s working too much, which is possibly ironic considering the number of hours she normally puts in a week along with caring for her children, so she’s happy to help lighten the load until St. Mungos either requires him to take a break or he feels better.

However, the main issue with helping is that he generally takes cases that are very involved and dealing with archaic laws that many don’t even remember, much less know. She knows them, of course, since he’d never have concluded her internship if she hadn’t, but they’re not things she deals with every day, so it’s like studying for exams again, which requires extra work on top of everything else. Like her, though, he prefers to personally handle the cases that are in need of a strong hand and aren’t an easy win.

There are others in the office more equipped to deal with open-and-shut, in her opinion, so she likes to focus on those that require attention and concentration. It doesn’t guarantee success, and there are even some in which further investigation has shown there is no need for a trial, but the reward of triumph means far more at the end of the day when there is success. It’s also probably obvious to anyone who studies her case files and fourteen year history with the Department of Magical Law that there are similarities in some of her primary cases, most particularly those dealing with discrimination based on blood or species of magical creature, crimes involving women and children, and crimes involving those who believe wealth equates to freedom regardless of their actions.

When she sees Teddy looking at her, she realizes she’s drifted into her thoughts instead of enjoying the few minutes they have without Caroline underfoot. “How are you?” she asks quietly. I want to kiss you remains unspoken.

“Busy,” he says softly, glancing at her lips. I want to kiss you, too doesn’t need to be verbalized. It’s strange to see him in the office where he usually keeps his hair its normal brown color after so many hours of watching it change to possibly reflect his moods. It makes it more difficult to read him, since he’s so very good at being reserved when he wants to be. He takes a step into her office and smiles as he nods at the files on her desk. “As I’m sure you understand, since you’re shouldering the majority of Ogden’s cases right now.”

“Very busy,” she agrees. She reaches up to tuck her hair behind her ear and moves her fingers along her braid to make sure it’s still reasonably tidy. “Fortunately, Ogden’s kept the two cases that he’s been working on for months. Most of these are relatively new, so it’s just analyzing the data and determining who in the office is best suited for each one. I’m not going to give up one of my personal cases, though, regardless of how many of these end up staying on my desk.”

“You’ve got at least one brilliant intern who’s ready and willing to help, at least,” he tells her, grinning as he reaches her desk. “I’ve been instructed by both Ron and Harry, during two separate visits on Monday, that I’m to keep an eye on you, make sure you take breaks for lunch, and that you get out of the office within an hour of overtime.”

“You have, have you?” she asks, arching a brow as she studies his face. She isn’t aware that her friends had been by the office, though Monday was spent in conferences with Ogden and Shacklebolt for most of the morning and then dealing with newly appointed cases in the afternoon, so it’s little surprise she missed their visits. She sighs and keeps looking at him, curling her fingers into her palm so she doesn’t give in to the desire to touch him. “Was it awkward?”

He shrugs. “Not really. Well, Ron mentioned something about my distracting you during Hugo’s trip with him, which certainly left me startled considering we’d agreed not to mention, uh, distractions to anyone. I must have looked properly confused, because he laughed and said you’d mentioned having dinner with me. Harry is just…Harry. All intense and concerned but scared to death of you finding out that he’s being ‘such a man’ by worrying and you’ll hex his bollocks off.”

“So, of course, you’re sure to tell me about Harry’s visit,” she points out, smiling slightly as she imagines Harry’s reaction to hearing about Ogden. She’s surprised he hasn’t been by to see her himself, though she certainly understands Ron’s surprise visit with lunch during a break in her meetings yesterday. Silly, lovely boys.

“Of course. Can’t keep secrets like that, especially not when I’ve been instructed to keep my eyes on you,” he says solemnly, winking as he stares at her. “Tough job, that, but I suppose I can try. Besides, it‘s funny to see the head of the Aurors, the man who defeated Voldemort, scared of a hexing from you.”

“Why? Because I’m a weak, docile woman and not worth being scared of?”

“You weak and docile?” He laughs, his hair flashing turquoise as he shakes his head. “Not in the slightest. You’re the strongest woman I’ve ever met, and that includes Gram, who seriously kicks arse. No, it’s because you’re a warm, caring woman who wouldn’t ever do permanent damage to your best friend, no matter how annoying and overbearing he becomes. Temporary damage, sure, but nothing too dangerous.”

“Harry can be annoying at times, but I‘d never do serious damage,” she agrees, leaning back in her chair as she keeps looking at Teddy. She glances at the clock and the file on her desk before looking back at him. “Have you had lunch yet?”

“Not yet. I was working on that research for the files you gave me Tuesday. That’s a lot of dry information, let me tell you, but rather fascinating, too. Our legal system here has changed a lot in just the last twenty years, but even moreso compared to the earlier part of the century.”

“Spoken like a true history-geek,” she compliments. “One of Ogden’s first lessons to me was that you have to know the past in order to make the present a better place. He meant it in terms of knowing what horrible things were allowed, but also in regards to knowing the laws that are in place which can be used as tools to benefit our world now, too. Of course, there are also things I discovered during my internship with him that resulted in a meeting with Shacklebolt and proposals to have some laws abolished or changed. When some of those were first written, women were considered possessions and treated even more unfairly than House Elves.”

“He’s an amazing Minister,” Teddy says simply. He opens his mouth but closes it and glances at the floor, not saying whatever it is he intended to. When he looks back up at her, he smiles. “Have you had lunch yet?”

“No, but I think it’s time. I actually don’t have any meetings for a couple of hours, so maybe we can take a couple of these files with us and have a working lunch, if you’d like.”

“I’d like. Even if it involves working.” He lowers his voice and murmurs, “I’ve missed you, as I already mentioned.”

“Me too.” She gathers the file she’s been reviewing, since it’s one she plans to keep, and stands up. “We’ll just go to the usual place, I think.”

He nods and waits while she leaves Caroline a note saying she’s gone out for a working lunch and will be back in the office by early afternoon. They reach the lift and go up to the lobby, discussing the research he’s done along the way. The lift is crowded, so it’s not unusual for her to be standing so close to Teddy or for him to have his hand on the small of her back. Neither of them give any indication that they’re doing more than discussing work, even if she’s inhaling his scent and he’s rubbing his thumb against her shirt during the ride. When they make their way outside, she breathes in fresh air and smiles before they start the short walk to the local pub that‘s become a favorite lunch and after work pint spot since it opened a dozen years ago.

Finnigan’s is a short walk from the Ministry, and they reach it quickly. She looks around carefully and moves the tip of her wand against the brick before she steps through the wall with Teddy right behind her. From the outside, it appears to be an empty store front with broken glass and a faded sign. Inside, however, Seamus has created a welcoming pub that’s warm and enjoyable any time of the day. It’s crowded with Ministry employees on their lunch breaks as well as wizarding families out in this area of town who don’t want to make the walk to Diagon Alley.

“Hermione, you naughty little witch! You didn’t owl me that you were coming,” an amused voice scolds from nearby.

She turns to smile at Seamus and returns the hug that he gives her immediately. “I didn’t decide until just before we left the office. Besides, maybe I just wanted to surprise you.”

“You’re forgiven then. If you’d owled ahead, though, I’d have had a table all ready for you.“ Seamus laughs and nods at Teddy. “Lupin, nice to see you. Is the evil one here keeping you on a short leash or does she allow some freedom at work?”

Teddy considers the question and reaches out as if he’s touching an imaginary leash. “It’s not that short, but she’s definitely a slave driver.”

“That’s our girl,” Seamus sighs dramatically before winking at her. “You working through lunch or just having a bite to relax?”

She holds up the files. “Relax? What’s that?”

“Table in back it is,” he says, knowing her well enough to know that she’ll not want to sit right in the middle of the crowd if she has work to review. Seamus is a great pub owner, not that she knows any to compare him to. He recognizes all his regulars, is welcoming to strangers, and caters to those who are working or playing, with a quieter area in the back for the former. It’s probably why the pub is so successful and a natural choice for anyone magical who works in the area.

When they reach a free table, Teddy pulls a chair out for her, waiting until she sits before he takes a seat across from her. She looks at Seamus and notices him staring at Teddy curiously, probably trying to decide if he’s just being polite, kissing up to the boss, or if there’s a reason to arch his sandy brow and drawl something outrageous. Before he can make a decision, she speaks, not caring if she’s interrupting his thoughts. “What‘s the special today?”

Seamus looks at her and grins. “Bangers and mash with a pint,” he says. “It includes pudding, which is a choice of cake or treacle tart.”

“That sounds good, though I’d rather have water than a pint, since I’m working. Are you going to be the sweet adorable man I know and love and put in the order for me or will you force me to make it through that crowd at the bar to order?” She smiles sweetly and even bats her eyelashes a few times to make Seamus laugh.

“Listen to her,” he tells Teddy, clucking his tongue. “Using her feminine wiles to take advantage of me that way.” He grins. “Sure, I can let the bar know. What do you want, Lupin?”

“I’ll have the same, even the water since the Boss Lady might not approve of my having a pint during work.”

“I’ll let them know,” he says, leaning down to brush a quick kiss against Hermione’s cheek as he squeezes her shoulder. “It’s good to see you. Been too long. Yes, I know it was just two weeks ago, but that’s far too long. Next time, come in on the weekend and bring those kids of yours. Dean would like to catch up with you, I’m sure.”

She smiles and nods. “I will, after Rose gets back from school. Tell Dean I said hello.”

Seamus nods and wanders back into the main pub. After he’s gone, Teddy says, “You have nice friends.”

“I’m lucky that way,” she says honestly. “Even after so many years, we’ve all managed to keep in touch enough that it’s not awkward or weird whenever our paths cross. Of course, I doubt Seamus even knows the meaning of the word awkward.”

“I had friends at Hogwarts, some I’d even consider close, but we lost touch after school ended. I mean, I see a couple around the Ministry, and we occasionally share lunch, but we’re not close like you and your friends are twenty years later, and I’ve just been out of school for two years.”

“I think for us it might be a consequence of the war,” she says thoughtfully. “We were all forced to endure so much together, to help each other and fight together, that it gave us a common link that goes beyond attending the same school. I’m closer to those who were in my house because I was around them more often, but all of us have managed to keep a closeness regardless of houses or paths we took after the war. It’s become even larger of a group due to weddings and children and relationships that have brought in more people. When there’s a huge birthday party or wedding? It just amazes me how many of us attend and it feels like we saw each other just last week, regardless of how much time has passed. It sounds ridiculous and sentimental, I’m sure, but I look at it as one of the benefits from a truly horrible time.”

He listens to her and smiles. “It’s not sentimental. I like it. Growing up around Harry and all of you then working for George, I’ve been able to see it throughout the years, so I’m sort of one of those brought into the group from the outside, in a way, though not a full member. I also like watching you with your friends because I get a chance to learn more about you.”

“I like learning more about you, too,” she says softly, staring at him for several heartbeats before she finally looks down at the file she brought. “How have you been this week, besides busy?”

“I’m okay. It’s funny how easy it was to get used to having you around so much after just a week. Now, the flat feels empty and I remember Saturday night, and Sunday morning, as I sit there with a book or flipping through the stations on the telly. How are you? Did Hugo enjoy his holiday?”

“He had a lot of fun with Ron. Those two are like children sometimes, I swear. Hugo regresses to teasing Ron and being silly, which is really quite sweet, and Ron plays with him so well. He’s an excellent father, you know? The children adore him, and he can be stern yet playful in a way that I never have mastered. I have to give him credit, too, because he took along an actual book and continued Hugo’s reading lessons despite the holiday. Anyway, Hugo enjoyed the trip and has told me all about it several times since Sunday.”

“Is he getting any better with the reading? I remember you telling Gram about his struggles,” Teddy recalls.

“He’s improved a lot, with reading and his vocabulary. I’m not really sure if it’s something I should have worried about, but Rose was just so advanced that I didn’t have a general comparison. She was reading by age three, and she’s definitely taken after me in the respect of her studies and learning, though she somehow managed to inherit Ron’s love of Quidditch and actually intends to try out for the team next year because, as she says, Ravenclaw needs good players because she’s embarrassed at how badly they’ve lost this year.”

“She’s definitely a spitfire,” he agrees, grinning as he casually nudges her leg under the table. “Takes after you in more ways than one.”

“Not when it comes to Quidditch. According to her last letter, she and two of her Housemates, one of whom is the dastardly beating-her-marks-in-Transfiguration Malfoy, are planning to try out and make the team during their second year, which I’m sure will leave Ron extremely torn between supporting her big Quidditch plans and muttering about ’that bloody Malfoy’ being in Ravenclaw.’

“If Rose is like you, she’ll benefit from the competition of Quidditch as well as having students in her house that challenge her to do better, if only to be smug about besting them. Hopefully, she’ll also take an interest in Hugo when he starts there in September.”

“Hopefully,” she agrees. “I worry about him more than I did with her. He’s mischievous and energetic but he’s also gentle and vulnerable in a way that Rose isn’t. It’s not that he isn’t strong, because he definitely takes after me and Ron in that regard as well as being stubborn, but I just worry that it’ll be too overwhelming for him or he’ll not be ready. I don’t even mean his classes, because I know his reading disorder will cause some issues there, even with my reading everything from the dictionary to a fantasy book with him as 'punishment'. But he’s very determined and focused, so I’m pretty confident that he’ll overcome any problems in that regard. It's mostly him being on his own without me being there for support that concerns me.”

“See, that's my kind of punishment," Teddy says with a gentle smile, nudging her leg slightly. "He’s not going to be completely alone, Hermione. Besides Rose, he’ll have James, Al, Lily, Fred, Gideon, Mary, Fabian, Septimus, Will, and Sophie. There’s definitely a benefit to having a nearly a dozen cousins, with at least one in every house now that Septimus, Al and Rose have broken tradition by being sorted somewhere other than Gryffindor. Besides, that’s not even including a good dozen other children he’s familiar with from your and Ron’s friends.”

“It’s really not fair for you to be all logical when I’m being a worried mother,” she points out with a slight smile. “I know you’re right, but it’s easier to know something than it is to stop being concerned. He might be tall and gangly for his age, but Hugo’s a little behind when it comes to some things. I just hope he settles in well and doesn’t feel too weighed down with it all.”

“He’ll be fine. You and Ron are his parents, after all, which means he’s tougher than you might realize. Besides, as soon as he’s there, Fabian and Fred will instantly make him feel at home as they encourage that mischievous streak of his, so you should probably worry more about receiving owls from Flitwick than anything else.”

“God. Don’t even remind me. Those boys are certainly a handful. I’ll hex Percy and George myself if their sons get Hugo into detention within the first two months,” she vows, wishing for a moment that Minerva hadn’t retired before the children started school. Flitwick is definitely more likely to send her owls reporting bad behavior than Minerva, who would scold and give detention without feeling a need to keep her apprised of every infraction in detail.

Teddy laughs. “Maybe you can encourage him to think Hufflepuff thoughts during the sorting. It’s a great house,” he says in a preening manner. “Albus really likes it there, too.”

“It’s a good house. Honestly, I don’t care where Hugo ends up as long as he’s comfortable and happy. Ron, of course, would probably have a fit if he’s sent to Slytherin, if only because he wouldn’t be able to tease Percy about Septimus any longer. Last time I spoke to Padma, she said Percy had finally stopped muttering about ‘a child of mine in Slytherin’, though she admitted to wanting to hex him when he implied that any Slytherin qualities Septimus inherited were from her.”

“She should have. Slytherin isn’t a bad house just because some bad people belonged to it. If my history lessons are correct, there have been bad people in every house,” Teddy says simply. “It’s not the house that makes the people, after all. It’s the people who make the house. Of course, if I were her, I’d have hexed him way back when he insisted on naming Septimus. No offense, but that’s an awful name for a kid, even if he does generally go by Tim.”

“See, I can understand Septimus, because Percy named him for his grandfather. Family names are nice. I mean, Hugo is named after my grandfather, actually, while Rose is named after Ron’s grandmother. But I do think that Septimus Narendra is quite a mouthful for a child." She smiles slightly as she lowers her voice and says, "You were probably too young to understand, but there was a bit of a name drama back after Fabian was born. Septimus actually wasn't Percy's first choice as a name for his second child.”

He grins as their food is brought to the table before he asks, "I don't remember that at all. What happened?"

“I doubt anyone mentioned it around you, but it was quite a fuss for a short time," she recalls. "Percy intended to name his second born Gideon, after his other uncle who died during the first war. However, George had the twins a few months after Fabian was born and needed another name, since he and Angelina had only decided on Fred at the time. So, George stole Gideon, according to Percy, and there was a fuss at the time. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I assume George talked to Percy or he realized he was being silly, and they made up before the twins were even released from the hospital, but that's why Septimus was eventually chosen.”

Teddy laughs and shakes his head. "I never knew about that, but it is rather silly, isn't it? I mean, having new babies around should be fun, not a cause for fighting." He considers it a moment before he says, "You know, I bet George did it intentionally."

“Oh, I’ve no doubt he did, but I doubt he did it with malicious intent. Besides, Percy can’t really stay angry with him much anymore,” she says, her smile fading slightly as she thinks about why. She takes a bite of her lunch and wonders if their Fred ever looks in on his brother and his namesake, who has definitely inherited his mischievousness and cleverness.

Teddy starts to eat, but she can feel him watching her. When she glances at him, he grins. “Our family is rather crazy, but we’re lucky to be part of them, even if it’s not by blood.”

“Yes, we are,” she agrees softly. Our family. Who wouldn’t likely understand about them at all, and who they risk losing by continuing this risky relationship.

“None of that,” he says firmly. “Just eat your lunch and tell me about the file you brought. While I’d love nothing more than to snog you and shag you right against the wall there, I know we can’t, so I’ll just enjoy what I can get for now.”

She studies him a moment and smiles. “Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight? We can get some work done, and Hugo can tell you all about his holiday.”

“Really?” His hair changes to turquoise as he looks at her and smiles. “I’d love to, of course. Even before things changed, I always liked having dinner with you and the children. I can’t wait to hear about Hugo’s camping trip and to spend time with you.”

“Good. That’s settled then. Though I must warn you that you’ll probably hear so much about the trip that you’ll wish you’d never asked him,” she says, smiling slightly as she opens the file and continues eating. She’s nervous about Teddy coming over for dinner considering what’s happening between them and Hugo being there, but she misses him and really wants to see him, so it‘s definitely worth it.