Exasperation (Worth the Risk #15)

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It’s probably a sign of old age when a man sleeps over and all that happens is just sleeping.

At least, that’s what Hermione decides when she wakes up wearing her night clothes, and Teddy’s sleeping soundly beside her in his boxers. After Hugo went to bed, she and Teddy spent a little time snogging on the sofa before quietly sneaking into her bedroom. But they were really tired after a long day at the office and also working for several hours after dinner. Teddy offered to go home, when it became obvious that they both wanted more but were really too exhausted for things to progress any further, but when he suggested that he leave, she told him he could stay the night, so long as he left before Hugo woke up in the morning. He agreed, got undressed, and then, they slept.

After she wakes up, there’s no time for a morning quickie because she has to shower and get ready for work before getting Hugo up and dressed and fed before taking him to Molly’s. Once she wakes Teddy up, there is kissing but it’s too risky this time of day for him to stay, much less shower with her, no matter how tempting the idea. He Apparates from her bedroom, just in case Hugo’s already awake and might hear the Floo. When she arrives at the office, she’s frustrated for wanting things she didn’t have time and opportunity for, but she’s also ready to face a day of meetings and files to review with a break for lunch plans at noon.

Teddy arrives early, as usual, and they exchange wry smiles, both most likely thinking that they’re working too hard if they can’t even indulge in passionate shagging when they’re sharing a bed all night. He winks at her before sitting down and starting his research, which is her cue to focus and quit letting her mind drift to last night. There’s at least one positive in that they were able to see that he could sleep over without Hugo being affected. Besides, it’s nice sleeping with someone even if they’re just sleeping.

The morning passes quickly once it begins. She manages to settle two cases without enduring a trial and interviews a witness that will guarantee victory in one of Ogden’s cases, so it’s certainly a satisfactory start to the day. Shortly before noon, she goes back to her office and reviews her mail before calling Teddy in to give him the information she obtained during her questioning. If she looks at him longer than is appropriate, she blames it on a busy day and needing a moment of peaceful contemplation before thinking about lunch.

“You’re working too much this week,” Teddy says simply as he sits down across from her.

“It’s not too bad. At least I have time to breathe,” she says. “When I was an intern, there were some weeks when I honestly considered scheduling ‘breathe’ because I was so busy.”

“If you reach that point, I’ll make sure you find time to relax.”

She smiles. “While I’d be tempted to reach that point just to see you try, I can’t very well work that sort of schedule anymore. I have Hugo to consider, after all.”

“And yourself.”

“Right.” She shrugs. “I know what I can handle, but I have to balance more now that there isn’t just me to think about.”

“Balancing is good. But you’re still working too much this week.”

“It’s inappropriate for an intern to fuss over a boss’s work schedule,” she points out quietly.

“Intern. Gotcha,” he says, losing his easy smile as he opens his tablet and poises his pen against the paper. “What do you have for me, boss?”

“Teddy, don’t,” she mutters, sighing as she leans back in her chair.

“Lupin might be more appropriate. Wouldn’t want anyone thinking we’re too familiar.”

“Fine. I don’t have time to placate you for simply reminding you of reality,” she says sharply. “Here are two cases that are settled. You need to review the paperwork, copy it, send a set to the public archives and file the other. Once the files are ready, they go on Ogden’s desk for final approval.” She pushes the two cases across the desk towards him. “After you get those finished, I need you to transcribe this interview and mark any key information. I expect all three things to be done by the end of the day.”

“I didn’t ask for coddling. Forgive me for not knowing where the boundaries are anymore,” he murmurs quietly. “Before us, there wasn’t a problem with my being a friend and expressing concern. But now that things are different, I’m supposed to, what? Become a stranger because you’re scared someone might find out?”

“This isn’t the time or place for this discussion, Lupin. I never said you had to be a stranger, though, so do stop with the dramatics,” she tells him.

He stands up and reaches for the files. “I’m not being dramatic. I just want to know your expectations.”

She looks up at him and shakes her head. “I don’t know.”

“Then how can you expect me to know?”

Before she can answer, there’s a knock on the open door. She looks over to see Ron standing there. “Is it already noon?” she asks. “Sorry, I just got back to the office and I’m giving Ted a few things to work on after lunch.”

“No problem,” Ron says with a smile. “I’m early.”

Teddy looks at Ron and smiles. “Afternoon, Ron.” When he looks back at her, he mouths ‘I’m sorry’. She nods slightly, and he smiles. “I’ll get started on these after lunch, boss.”

“I’ll see you when I get back, Teddy.“ As he leaves, she closes her file and gets her bag before she stands up. “Are we meeting Harry and Ginny at the pub or in Harry’s office?”

“We’re meeting Harry at the lift then meeting Ginny at the pub.” Ron walks out behind her and closes her office door before leading her into the hallway. “You look stressed. Busy day?”

“Busy week. Ogden’s caseload was more extensive than I realized, so it’s been hectic trying to cover most of them. Managed to get two settled this morning, though. That’s what I was giving Teddy to work on, actually.” She sees Harry down the hall by the lift and waves. “How’s your day been?”

“Boring. Up to my elbows in paperwork, which is the worst part of the job.” He raises his voice slightly as they reach Harry. “My boss is a madman who throws a fit if every 'i’ isn’t dotted.”

“Don’t forget crossing your ‘t’s,” Harry adds with a grin. He looks at her and arches a brow. “You look tired.”

“Nice to know,” she mutters, rolling her eyes at their inability to be polite. “That’s what you come up with after you’re called a madman?”

Harry shrugs. “Like I care what a lowly employee like Weasley says compared to the state of health of my best friend.”

“Ouch. That really hurt, mate.” Ron’s lip quivers and he sniffles. “Lowly? And since when is she your best friend?” Fortunately, before he can embarrass them, the doors to the lift open.

“Besides, coming from this git, madman is probably some demented compliment,” Harry adds with a wink before they step into the lift.

“For the record, I’m healthy and happy,” she says firmly, giving them both a look that indicates they’d better believe her or risk being hexed. “It’s just been a busy week, but it’s Friday, so I have all weekend to rest and relax.”

“Do you actually know the meaning of those words or do you just know to say them to get us off your back?” Harry asks curiously.

“Prat,” she says, elbowing his gut lightly.

“Just don’t work too hard,” Ron says seriously.

“I won’t,” she promises. Considering their definitions of ‘working hard’ are different, it’s not even a lie.

The walk to Finnigan’s doesn’t take long, and they soon arrive to find Ginny already waiting. On the way to the table, Seamus intercepts them. “Your lovely wife’s snagged the best table in the place,” he tells Harry. “And I plan to sit and pester you all later when I get a chance to take a break.” He smiles at Hermione. “And it’s nice seeing you again so soon, especially without work this time.”

“As if these two would let me get away with bringing work to lunch.” She smiles and follows Ron and Harry to where Ginny’s sitting.

“You shouldn’t work over lunch,” Ron tells her as soon as they’re seated.

“Hello, Ginny. Forgive the rudeness, but it seems this is one of those ‘lecture Hermione’ afternoons.”

“Stop nagging her,” Ginny warns, giving Ron and Harry one of her ‘I’ll so kick your arse’ looks.

“Why? She spent decades nagging us, so it’s only fair that we get to enjoy the experience now.” Harry smiles as he pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

“Yeah, what he said,” Ron adds.

“They have a point, Hermione,” Ginny says. She looks at her more closely and smiles. “You look happy. Is work going well?”

“Ha! See? Happy, not tired or awful,” Hermione points out smugly. She looks at Ginny and nods. “Work is going well, and I am quite happy right now.”

“What does she know? She’s just my sister,” Ron mutters, cursing under his breath as he reaches down to rub his leg. “Bloody hell, Gin. That was my leg.”

“Was it? Silly me. What do I know, though?” she asks, smiling sweetly before she winks at Hermione.

“Since I don’t fancy ending up with a bruise on my shin, I’ll just say that I’m glad you’re at least taking time to eat lunch, even if it’s with work,” Harry says.

“Coward,” Ron accuses.

“Smart,” Harry corrects.

Hermione shakes her head. “Men.”

“Can’t live with them, and can’t live without them,” Ginny mutters, rolling her eyes.

“Actually, you can live without them. Logically, you can live without just about anything except oxygen, water, food and shelter,” Hermione muses. “However, the world would be rather dull without them, even if it’s just for amusement.”

“Oi! I think we’ve been insulted,” Ron says. “Not entirely sure, but she’s smirking, so I bet we were.”

“Did you know that the Cannons have a chance at the world cup this year?” Ginny asks.

“They do?” Ron looks at her and grins. “Really?”

“No, but it proves how gullible you are that you continually fall for that after thirteen years,” Ginny says with a mischievous grin.

Ron and Ginny start bickering as they read their menus, which gives Hermione a chance to decide what she wants for lunch. “I wonder if they’ll ever grow out of that?” Harry whispers, nodding towards the others.

She smiles. “Doubtful. Can’t you see them arguing about the Cannons when they’re both wrinkled and old?”

Harry laughs. “Sadly, yes, I can. I tell Ginny that she’s setting a bad example for the children but she seems to think it’s normal.”

“Maybe it is?” She shakes her head and pats his hand. “I guess the bickering is their way of knowing they love each other without having to get soppy and say it.”

“It must just be one of those odd things we only children will never understand,” he decides. “Seriously, though, how are you?”

“I’m really good,” she says. “Just like I was the other day when we had lunch.”

“Do we really nag?” he asks curiously. “We’re just concerned because we know how you can get with work.”

“Harry, that’s how I could get twelve years ago before I had children,” she points out. “Not even work rates ahead of them, so I have no intention of working myself to death, okay?”

“Good. I’d hate to have to get involved with dark magic to bring you back so I could kill you myself for leaving me,” Harry says with a grin. “And, as you so often say, we only nag because we love you.”

“What are you two whispering and giggling about over there?” Ginny asks.

“Harry’s threatening to kill me if I work myself to death,” Hermione says.

“You don’t sound too concerned,” Ron observes. He looks at her curiously before he goes back to reading his menu.

“I have no intention of testing his threat. Now, what’s everyone having for lunch? I’m starving,” she says, effectively distracting them by thoughts of food. She loves them all dearly and considers them family regardless of the fact that she’s no longer married to Ron, but there are times when they can get overwhelming. Maybe she’s still a little on edge after the misunderstanding with Teddy or frustrated from not having sex last night, but she’s definitely not as patient today as usual.

Once their focus is off the concern of her busier work schedule, she relaxes and enjoys the break from the day. During Ginny’s discussion of the Harpies and a new player, she lets her mind wander to Teddy and the awkwardness in her office. They both handled that poorly, she decides, and it’s something they need to talk about outside the office so they can figure out what the boundaries are, so they’ll be on the same page. When Seamus joins them for a drink, the conversation takes a turn for the humorous as he tells them stories from the pub. It’s a fitting way to end lunch, and they‘re still laughing when they arrive back at the Ministry.

Caroline is at her desk when Hermione enters the office, and Teddy looks up from files to smile at her. “I have a meeting at two, but I’m in until then,” she tells Caroline.

“Yes, ma’am,” Caroline says, smiling as she goes back to typing.

When she walks into her office, she sits down and surveys her desk, prioritizing everything and deciding what needs her immediate attention. A knock on the door is followed by Teddy softly saying, “Boss, got a minute?”

“Maybe even two,” she says, glancing up at him. He’s carrying one of the files, which he hands to her.

“I just wanted to give this back to you, in case you had to review it,” he tells her.

“Thanks.” She’s about to put it on another stack when he bites his lip and glances out the door towards the main office before looking back at her. She arches a brow and frowns thoughtfully before she opens the file. On top is a slip of paper that simply says Can I see you tomorrow?

She picks up her pen and writes on it. I’ll have Hugo.

He reads it and nods. “I think I caught everything in the interview. You might want to glance it over and let me know if there’s any details you’d like added,” he says as he writes beneath her words. I know. Maybe I can take you both out or something?

“It looks very thorough, Ted,” she says, rather pleased that she caught herself before she said Teddy. After she considers his question seriously, knowing it’s much different for him to hang out with her and Hugo on a weekend then to come over to work late, she tries not to be so bloody logical and goes with her instinct. She writes a reply and slides it over to him. Yes.

“Oh, great.“ He grins and folds up the paper before sticking it in the pocket of his robe. He holds up five fingers and arches a brow.

She nods. “Everything seems to be in order. Thank you for getting that done so quickly.”

“My pleasure, Boss,” he says, winking as he goes back to his desk.

Once he’s gone, she sits back in her chair and takes a mental moment. There are far too many thoughts in her head right now, and she can’t dwell on any of them because she needs to focus and get ready for her next meeting. So, she concentrates and pushes everything to the side for now as she leans forward and studies her notes for her next meeting. There’s time to worry and think too much later.