It’s been a hectic few hours.
After having a relatively quiet morning for once and even finding time to go to Finnigan’s with Teddy, Hermione arrives back at the office to find two unplanned meetings added to her afternoon schedule. Since they both involve Shacklebolt, she can’t very well cancel with an excuse that she has a headache and is tired of meetings. After all, she wants to eventually be appointed head of the department, once Ogden retires.
The second meeting runs late, which means she has to hurry to the Burrow to pick up Hugo and it’s impossible to leave without having a cuppa with Molly, who frets over her long hours in that annoying maternal way that seems effortless. It makes her feel like a helpless twelve year old. When she and Hugo finally get home, it’s nearly seven, which is when she told Teddy to show up for dinner. Hugo’s very excited when she mentions that Teddy’s coming by to work and eat with them, so she has to deal with a bouncy child who wants to ‘help’ make dinner before their guest arrives.
She studies the contents of the fridge-freezer and pantry before deciding it’s a good night for breakfast. Hugo, of course, loves when they have breakfast for dinner because he can be in charge of toast and feel as if he’s contributing to the meal. She slices tomatoes, gathers rashers of bacon and sausage, counts out eggs, and adds a tin of baked beans since she’s going for a Full English, minus a few things that she just doesn’t have on hand. It’s not something she makes often, as there’s a lot to it and she rarely has time to spend doing much more than frying bacon and eggs, but it’s a good choice for dinner because it’s very filling.
“May I have a slice of tomato while we cook, Mum?”
“Yes, you may,” she agrees, smiling at Hugo as she summons a napkin and puts a slice of tomato on it before she levitates it to him. “Just be careful not to make a mess or get tomato juice on the bread.”
“Of course,” he says, shaking his head at her. “Toast shouldn’t be soggy with juice!”
“Soggy toast definitely isn’t any good.” She keeps an eye on him as he puts two slices of wheat bread into the Muggle toaster and pushes the lever down. Once he finishes, he chews on his tomato and stares at the toaster seriously. She smiles and looks back at the sausage. “How was your day?”
“I was so busy,” he tells her. “Grandma had me hunting for gnomes in the garden, and I got muddy, so I had to take a bath. Yuck. I hate baths.”
“I’d think you’d hate being muddy more.”
“Nah. Being muddy is fun! I like playing with the gnomes, but they bite something awful.”
“Playing with? I thought you were hunting them.”
He smiles mischievously. “Grandma thinks I’m hunting them, but Lily and I play hide n seek with them instead. She’s a good hider!”
“I’m glad you enjoy playing with the gnomes, so long as you be careful and don’t lie to your grandmother,” she tells him.
“Wouldn’t lie to her. Just didn’t tell her she was wrong,” he says solemnly. “You wouldn’t like me to be rude to Grandma, right? So I can’t tell her she’s not right ‘bout something.”
“That logic will get you nowhere if your grandmother finds out you’re playing in her garden, Hugo.”
“Well, I don't plan to tell her, so it's okay.” He looks back at the toaster and watches as the toast pops up. She finishes with the sausage and begins cooking the rashers of bacon. Hugo puts in two new slices of bread and settles down to watch the toaster. Before he can get comfortable, they hear the sound of the Floo. He grins and scrambles down off the stepstool he's sitting on before he races out of the kitchen and down the hall. “Teddy!”
Hermione bites her lip when she hears Teddy’s deep voice. This is ridiculous. She’s behaving like a schoolgirl with a crush instead of a mature woman who is above such things as butterflies in her belly and a racing pulse just from hearing someone speak. She has to get this under control. It's been relatively okay at work, because she's used to separating personal from professional, but having Teddy in her home is much more intimate.
In a way, she's relieved that they're trying this with Hugo before daring to be around anyone who might notice any slips they could potentially make. Such as her behaving like a teenager just from listening to Teddy talk. Bloody hell, this isn't going to be easy.
“That’s quite a welcome, Hugo. Goodness, you’ve got taller since I last saw you. Are you sure you’re really Hugo?”
“Yes, I’m Hugo!” Hugo laughs. “Teddy, stop!”
“I’m just checking to make sure those are real ears. Can’t be too careful,” Teddy tells him, trying to sound serious but failing.
“I’m gonna be as tall as Daddy one day,” Hugo says. “Maybe even as tall as you! Don‘t tell Mum, though.” She arches a brow and glances towards the hallway where they’re walking towards the kitchen. “She won’t like it when I’m taller than her, but she’s so short that I’m gonna be.”
“Your mum isn’t short. She’s just perfect,” Teddy declares as they step into the kitchen. He looks at her and smiles. “Evening, Hermione.”
“Perfect, am I?” she asks, looking from one to the other. “Don’t think I believe those innocent smiles one bit, you two.” She looks at Teddy and smiles. “Evening, Teddy.” She focuses on Hugo and arches a brow. "And you, Mister 'I'm so tall', need to remember that you take after both me and Daddy, which means there's a good chance you'll not be as tall as you think. Besides, I'm not that short!"
“You're shorter than Daddy and Teddy and Uncle Harry, but I guess you are taller than Aunt Ginny and Grandma. Still, I have to be taller than Albus or he'll never stop teasing me 'bout it." He nods as if the decision has been made before he looks at Teddy. "We’re having breakfast for dinner,” Hugo tells him. “And I’m making the toast!”
“Breakfast for dinner is great,” Teddy says, ruffling Hugo’s hair before he walks over to where she’s standing. “Anything I can do to help?”
“All I have left is finishing the bacon and cooking the eggs,” she says. “If you’d like, you can get a bowl from the cabinet and transfer the beans into it.”
“I can definitely do that.” He turns and looks at the cabinets, biting his lip as he studies them.
“Bowls are there,” Hugo offers helpfully, pointing to the correct cabinet.
“Thanks, Hugo. I knew I’d seen them before, but I couldn’t remember which cabinet.”
Hugo grins. “Mum sorts them alphabetically. Bowls start with B, so they go in that first cabinet with the cups. Plates and saucers are in the next one.”
“Alphabetical arrangement of dinnerware?” He looks at Hermione and arches a brow, grinning as his hair fades from brown to turquoise. “That sounds like your mum.”
“It used to drive Daddy spare,” Hugo says solemnly, obviously repeating something he’d heard many times over the years and probably doesn't quite understand. “Rose says it’s to help us learn our letters, though, so it’s important. Course, Rose is weird and likes to learn.”
“It’s not polite to talk about Mum when she’s standing right here listening,” she points out dryly, making a face at Teddy when he grins at her.
“So, do wine glasses go in the ‘G’ area or the ‘W’?” he asks curiously before he opens both cabinets. “Ah ha! The ‘W’, it seems.”
“Very funny,” she mutters, listening to Hugo giggle as he climbs back on the stepstool and watches the toast.
“Mum’s not really mad,” Hugo whispers far too loudly to ever be considered secretive. “If she’s really mad, her face becomes red and she scowls a lot.”
“I’ll remember that,” Teddy whispers back.
She rolls her eyes but can’t help smiling, glad that her back is to them so they can’t see. She turns the bacon over before she feels someone standing behind her. Teddy is standing so close that she can smell him, even with the frying bacon in front of her, and he leans forward, causing his body to press right up against hers. “Teddy,” she hisses lowly.
“Just getting the beans,” he whispers, his breath warm against her ear and neck as he slowly reaches for the pot. He stumbles slightly, gripping her waist with his free hand and moving even closer as his breathing becomes heavier.
“Teddy, do you like white or wheat toast?”
The innocent question brings them back to reality instantly. Oh God. How can she ever manage to balance this when it's difficult just trying to be normal around Hugo? And Teddy isn't a help when he takes advantage of the first opportunity to touch under the guise of getting the beans. She counts to ten and forces herself to settle down. Teddy grips the handle of the pot and pulls back, not releasing his hold on her hip until he steps away. “Either one is good for me, Hugo.”
“I’ll make you one of each then,” Hugo decides.
It takes a moment for her to calm her racing pulse. When she does, she finishes with the bacon and starts the eggs. “Nearly done,” she tells them, pleased that her voice sounds steady and normal. One touch from Teddy, and she’s flushed with desire. This isn’t good at all. It’s worse than she thought, in fact.
“I’ll get drinks for everyone,” Teddy offers. “G for glasses? Or C for cups?”
“The cups are for tea or coffee,” Hugo volunteers, obviously thriving in his helper role. Teddy’s had dinner with them many times over the years, has even helped in the kitchen, but he’s never really explored the cabinets or pantry since she generally has the table set before she starts cooking. Tonight, she didn’t have time for the organizational bit prior to starting the food.
“Gotcha,” Teddy says, opening the cabinet with the glasses. “What’s it going to be tonight, young man? Milk or juice?”
“Apple juice. Please.”
“A very good choice.” Teddy opens the fridge and removes the bottle of apple juice. “Ah, a very fine year. Vintage, it seems.” He opens the top and makes a show of sniffing it, like it’s a fine bottle of wine. She hears Hugo giggling and has to smile when Teddy pours just a little into a glass and swishes it around before tasting it. He smacks his lips and nods. “Excellent bouquet of flavors, my good man.”
“There’s no flowers there, Teddy!” Hugo laughs. “I brought Mum a bouquet of flowers from my holiday, though! They’re on the table. I’ll show you!”
“Silly me. Of course there aren’t flowers here since it’s apple juice,” Teddy says, shaking his head and making his hair turn a bright shade of purple. “I’d love to see the flowers, but let me finish with the drinks first. Wouldn’t want Mum to punish me for not finishing my assignment.”
“She’d make you read a boring old book,” Hugo grumbles.
“That sounds like a good punishment to me,” Teddy says, winking at her when he catches her watching them. She blushes and rolls her eyes at him before she looks at the eggs. “Juice, Hermione?”
“Yes, please,” she says. She finishes the eggs, and then summons three plates so she can fill them. Hugo brings the basket of toast over for her, so she adds the slices to each plate.
“That looks good, Mum,” he tells her, grinning as he hugs her around the waist.
“So now you try to be charming and sweet, huh? Make fun of my alphabetizing until there’s food. I see how it is.”
Hugo giggles. “You’re silly, Mum.”
“So are you,” she declares, reaching down to tickle him before she swats his bum. “Go on and sit down. I’ll bring your plate.”
“I’ll help.” Teddy watches Hugo leave the kitchen and turn to go into the dining room before he moves quickly and pins Hermione against the cabinet. Without wasting time to speak, he lowers his head and brushes his lips against hers. She whimpers in surprise but parts her lips, flicking his tongue with hers as the kiss deepens. When he pulls back, she stares at him and runs her hand over her braid as she tries to calm down. “I’ve wanted to do that all week.”
“Yes,” she murmurs, glancing at the door to the kitchen and then at their plates. “Me too.”
Teddy moves his fingers along her jaw and cups her chin, tilting her head up until she looks at him. “Thank you for inviting me over tonight. I like being around you, even if a stolen kiss is all I can have.”
“I’m glad you were able to have dinner with us,” she says softly. She reaches up to brush his hair back from his forehead. “We should go on or Hugo will get restless.”
“He’s such a great kid,” Teddy says with a grin. “But, yes, we don’t want him to get restless.”
She levitates the plates in front of her and carries them to the dining room. Hugo smiles as they enter and begins to eat immediately. As they have dinner, Hugo tells Teddy all about his camping trip with Ron, from letting the fish go to sleeping late every morning. Teddy’s always been fantastic with the children, has been since he was a child himself, but she notices it more now as she watches him with a different view. No longer does she see him through a surrogate aunt’s eyes. Now, it’s through the eyes of a lover, which makes her more attuned to little things.
By the time they finish dinner, she’s relaxed and happy. She’s laughed quite a lot, from Teddy’s silly questions that make Hugo giggle to Hugo’s exaggerated stories of his fishing escapades. Clean up doesn’t take too long, since she used the same pan for frying several things, and soon they’ve put away the last of the clean plates.
“Is it time to work now?” Hugo asks.
“Yes, I suppose it is,” she says, glancing at Teddy and smiling slightly before she refills her glass of juice. “We can review your research on the Bryant file tonight.”
“Sure,” Teddy says, obviously not caring what they do so long as he gets to stay longer. She shakes her head and laughs softly, which causes Hugo to look at her curiously.
“I’m going to work, too,” Hugo says earnestly. “I have owls to answer.”
“That you do,” she agrees, pleased that he’s progressed to a point where he actually wants to sit and write instead of having to be forced to try to learn. It helps that all of his cousins send him letters from Hogwarts every week, which is an idea that she had after they found out about his reading disorder. He prefers to read letters from his friends than a book, after all, and it motivates him to focus on his writing enough that he’s improved quite a lot in the last two years. With even more cousins and a sister at Hogwarts this year, though, he receives a ridiculous number of owls every week.
“I’ll go fetch them,” Hugo says, grinning as he races out of the kitchen towards the stairs.
As soon as they can hear Hugo running up the stairs, Teddy walks towards her. She moves and shakes her head. He stops and blinks at her, looking worried. "What's wrong, Hermione?"
“He’ll be back soon,” she points out. "We can't take the chance that we'll not hear him come down."
“I figured that it wouldn't take long, but I hoped we'd have time for a kiss.” Teddy sighs and runs his fingers through his hair, which is now a dark purple as he frowns in thought. “You were right.”
“It’s difficult to be around you and wanting to touch, even just casually, but not being able to. More than I expected.”
“Yes, it is,” she agrees quietly. “And Hugo’s too young to notice the looks, which has given us a little more freedom than if we were around anyone else. We'll be found out in no time if we behave this way around others. And you can't use every opportunity to touch me, Teddy, even if it's just casually. We moved past casual days ago."
"I know. I'm sorry, but I just couldn't resist," he admits, smiling sheepishly. "But we'll be okay, Hermione. We both know how important it is to you that no one find out, so we'll just do what we have to do. We've always been friendly, at least, so no one will think anything about us teasing at times."
"But can we tease anymore without there being an underlying tension? I mean, in private situations that aren't so distinguishable as being at work." She sighs and tucks her hair behind her ear as she looks at him. "Teddy, it’s not an easy situation at all, and I fear it’ll just get tougher as time passes. ”
“It’s worth it, though,” he says seriously, staring into her eyes as he reaches out to touch her face. His fingers barely trace the curve of her cheek when they hear Hugo running back down the stairs. Teddy closes his eyes and bites his lip as he drops his hand and turns away from her. When he raises his head, he smiles wryly and the moment passes.
She lets out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding and carries her glass into the sitting room, where they can sit more comfortably while reviewing their files. Hugo is sitting on the floor with a stack of envelopes by his elbow and a tablet of paper in front of him. He looks up at her and smiles when she sits on the sofa near him. “I’ve got lots of work.”
“It looks like it. If you need any help, just ask.”
“Course I will,” he promises before he opens the first envelope and begins to slowly read. She glances at the handwriting and recognizes Victoire’s elegant loops covering the page. There’s a moment where everything feels surreal as she watches her son read a letter from her lover’s ex-girlfriend, and she can’t help but feel that this is terribly unfair of both her and Teddy. It’s selfish and wrong, regardless of how good it feels and the affection they feel for each other.
“Stop,” Teddy whispers softly as he sits next to her. He hands her a file and frowns at her. “I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but think about work instead of, uh, other stuff.”
“Right,” she says softly, taking the file and opening it. She watches Teddy put on his reading glasses and can’t help staring for longer than is polite. While she knows he has them, has even seen him wearing them at work on occasion, it’s not something she’s really noticed until now. They look really good on him, and she shifts slightly as she realizes that there’s a good chance she’s just discovered something new that she finds arousing. Teddy in spectacles and his work clothes is unbelievably sexy.
“Do you have my notes in that file?” Teddy asks suddenly, leaning over to look at the file she’s holding on her lap. He murmurs very quietly, so as not to attract Hugo’s attention. “I want to word-that-I-couldn’t-say you so much right now that your staring isn’t helping.”
“Sorry,” she mutters softly, blushing at his accusation and the knowledge that he’s right. She just told him they couldn’t risk Hugo seeing anything non-friendly, yet she’s practically drooling while staring at him. It’s very unfair of her.
Teddy settles back and begins to review the case, biting the end of his Muggle ink pen as he focuses on work. For once, she’s unable to concentrate on work and is slightly annoyed that he’s not having trouble at all. Hugo is frowning at his paper as he carefully writes a reply to Victoire, and she can’t help but smile when she sees how he’s improved. She loves him dearly and worries about his disorder, not because she loves to read and thinks everyone should, but because it has him behind other children, since it took them years to figure out why he wasn’t reading and writing as well as he possibly should.
It’s probably foolish to feel guilty for not realizing he had a problem, but she does, especially when she remembers arguing with Ron about how Hugo just had a short attention span and wouldn’t sit to focus long enough to improve. Maybe she overcompensates now. She isn’t entirely sure when it comes down to it. She just knows that she’s so proud of him for every achievement he makes, whether it’s reading an entire letter without needing help or writing sentences on his own.
Hugo looks up and smiles at her. “You’re not working, Mum.”
“I am, too,” she defends, motioning to the open file. “I was just taking a break.”
“Okay then.” He seems to accept that answer and finishes his reply to Victoire before moving on to the next letter.
She watches him a little longer before she looks at her hand, watching Teddy’s fingers move over her palm before he squeezes gently. She glances at him, noticing that he’s leaning back comfortably, burnt orange hair falling across his forehead as he smiles at her. She returns his smile and moves her fingers over his hand.
Teddy lets go and shifts, resting his arm on the back of the sofa in a casual way that also lets him play with bits of her hair that have escaped from her braid. She looks at Hugo before she relaxes against the sofa, flipping through the file as she focuses on work and just enjoys the comfortable silence, broken only by the sound of writing and turning pages.
Relaxation (Worth the Risk #14)
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