“As I told you when you asked five minutes ago, I don’t know.”
“Wasn’t five minutes.”
“Hugo, you’ve been asking me repeatedly since you woke up. I didn’t know this morning, and I still don’t.”
“I’m just curious. You say curiosity is good cause it makes me want to learn things.”
“I notice that you actually listen when it suits you but, when it doesn’t, you never seem to remember anything that I say.“
“I’m talented like that.“
“Stop being so smug. Your face might freeze that way. And it’s good when I actually have the answer, not when it’s hearing the same thing over and over until I’m about to scream.”
“I don’t like when you scream. Your face turns red and you sound shrill.”
“Hence the reason you need to stop asking me where we’re going.”
Hugo nods and flips through a Quidditch magazine that Rose left lying around during Easter break. “Why don’t you know?”
“What?” Hermione asks. He’s been this way all day, since she foolishly mentioned that Teddy was coming over and taking them out somewhere. From that moment on, it had been constant with the question of where they were going with intermittent comments about Teddy being smashing.
“You always know everything, so why don’t you know? You don’t like surprises.”
“I don’t know everything. And, no, I’m not overly fond of surprises, but Teddy offered to take us out today, and it would have been rude to ask too many questions.”
“You always asks questions,” Hugo points out. “But maybe Teddy would have been mad if you asked too many and not taken us out, so I’m glad you didn’t.”
“I’m glad you approve.”
“I do,” he says, grinning as he looks back at the magazine. He turns a few more pages before he looks at her sneakily. “Where are we going?”
“Oh, you!” She reaches for him and tickles his ribs, not caring that he’s nearly as tall as her already.
The sound of the Floo is barely distinguishable over Hugo’s laughter. When she looks up to find Teddy standing by the fireplace smiling at them, she lets Hugo go and blushes. Her hair has come lose from the ribbon she used to tie it back, and her face feels flushed.
“Teddy!” Hugo grins up at him. “Where are we going?”
“Please answer him,” she mutters, shaking her head. “I’ve had to hear that all morning.”
“Hello to you, too,” Teddy says with a laugh. “We’re going somewhere special that you probably haven’t been before.”
“Where?” Hugo asks.
Teddy looks at her and smiles. “I can see that he takes after you with disliking surprises.”
“I’m actually curious, too,” she says, pleased that he has to answer the questions now. She loves Hugo, but she really wonders if she was that pesky as a child. Unfortunately, she figures she was, which is why she’s usually patient until he reaches a certain point. She smiles sweetly at Teddy. “After all, we need to know if we’re dressed appropriately.”
“You’re dressed fine.” He looks her over in a way that makes her skin tingle. “Jeans and comfortable shoes are definitely a necessity.”
“Who cares about clothes?” Hugo groans. “I want to know where we’re going.”
“You’ll find out in about ten minutes,” Teddy promises, laughing when Hugo makes a face. His hair is turquoise, and he’s wearing faded denims and a long sleeve blue shirt that fits him well.
“Do we need to bring anything else?” she asks, knowing from experience now that he’ll be as stubborn as Hugo and refuse to tell them just to surprise them.
“I’ve already taken care of everything, I think,” he says, ruffling Hugo’s red hair before he removes a quill from his pocket. “We’re taking a Portkey. Hope that’s okay, but it’s the only way in and out.”
“A Portkey?” Hugo’s eyes widen. “I’ve never taken a Portkey before! Rose is going to be so jealous when I tell her. I’ll write to her tonight!”
“Nice distraction technique, Lupin,” she murmurs as she walks over to Teddy.
“It looks like a quill,” Hugo complains. “Are you sure this is a Portkey? Maybe it’s a bad one.”
“It won’t activate until noon,” Teddy says, bumping Hermione’s hip with his casually as he leans closer to Hugo. “It’s just a plain old quill now, but, when it’s time, it’ll take us to…Oh, wait. I’m not telling where yet, am I?”
“How much longer do we have to wait?” Hugo asks, moving to a new question.
“According to the clock, six minutes.” Teddy nods towards it. “You can be in charge of time, Hugo. When it gets close to twelve, you have to tell me and your mum so we can hold the Portkey.”
“Okay!” Hugo likes that idea judging by the smile on his face. He stares at the clock intently before he sighs. “It’s going so slow.”
“It’s not too much longer,” Teddy says. He glances at Hermione and smiles. “How’s your morning been?”
“Full of repeated questions that I blame on you,” she says pointedly. “Would it kill you to just tell us without all the secrecy?”
“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise,” he says simply. “I think everyone needs surprises sometimes or life would get pretty dull. Besides, you don’t mind some secrets.”
She arches a brow and purses her lips before she nods once. “Point.”
“Only five more minutes,” Hugo announces as he holds the quill. He studies it suspiciously as if he’ll suddenly figure out how it’ll become a Portkey before he looks back at the clock. She smiles as she watches him alternate between the two.
“How has your morning been?” she asks Teddy.
“Busy. I had to get a few things together for our afternoon and stop by to see Gram for breakfast. She says hi, by the way, and that you need to come by for tea soon.”
“You told your grandmother you were seeing us today?” she asks quietly.
Teddy nods. “I don’t keep secrets from Gram. I mean, there are things I don’t tell her, of course, but spending the afternoon with you and Hugo isn’t one of those things.”
“Three minutes!” Hugo bounces on the heels of his feet and keeps staring at the clock, practically willing it to speed up.
“It’s been ages since I’ve had to take a Portkey somewhere. Where exactly are we going that requires admission in such a way? That’s usually only mandatory at secure areas, which I can’t see allowing permission for outsiders to visit.”
“It’s a secure area with a visitor policy. And that’s all you’ll get out of me before we go,” Teddy vows, waggling his eyebrows at her while Hugo’s attention is elsewhere.
“You love to torment me, don’t you?” she accuses, frowning in thought as she tries to think of more common places that would require such travel arrangements.
“You know it,” Teddy says, making the words sound very dirty to her ears even if they’re just normal.
“Oh! It’s almost time!” Hugo moves to her side and wraps an arm around her waist. “Is it scary to take a Portkey?” he whispers.
“It’s not much different than Apparating,” she whispers back. “Just hold on to my hand, and you’ll be fine.”
When Teddy holds the quill out in front of her, all three reach out and grip it. The sensation of traveling by Portkey is a rush, and she feels sick to her stomach when they suddenly arrive above a green hill. She keeps her grip on Hugo’s hand and eases them down to the ground, making a face when they land. “You all right?”
“That was bloody brilliant!”
“Language,” she scolds.
“Sorry,” Hugo mutters as he looks around. “We’re on a hill. Why are we on a hill?”
“We’re actually standing in the Yr Wyddfa Preserve,” Teddy says carefully, taking his time to pronounce the Welsh name. “That is, we’re in the Snowdonia National Park, but a private wizarding section that is unplottable and closed to the general public.”
“Really?” Hugo grins, suddenly not caring if it’s just a hill since Teddy makes it sound special.
“How are we here?” she asks. “I wasn’t even able to arrange a Portkey here when I worked for the Department of Magical Creatures.”
“I’m just that good,” Teddy says smugly. When she arches her brow, he laughs. “One of my mates from school that I've actually kept in touch with happens to work here, and I now owe him a huge favor, but we have permission to visit and look around, as long as we follow the rules.”
“I’m impressed, Ted,” she admits. “And rather disgruntled that I couldn’t visit when I wanted to work on projects just because I didn’t know the right people.”
“Is it just this hill?” Hugo asks, looking around curiously.
“It’s a protected area for several varieties of magical creatures and magical wildlife,” Teddy explains. “My mate, Dilwyn, has been working here since we left Hogwarts, so about two years, I guess. He’s supposed to have met us at noon, but it seems some things don’t change.”
“Watch your tongue, mate,” a voice calls out from behind them. Hermione turns to see a young man with black hair walking towards them. “Afternoon, ma’am, boy. Don’t yeh listen to anything this one says ‘bout me. I’m always on time.”
“I’m Hugo, not boy.”
“Are you now? I’ll have to remember that, won’t I?” He grins at Hermione. “And who might you be, ma’am?”
“She’s my Mum,” Hugo offers helpfully.
“Hermione,” she adds, reaching out to shake his hand. “Thank you for pulling strings and getting permission for us to visit. Teddy owes you quite a large favor for this, I’m sure. Do be sure he pays up.”
“I like yeh already,” Dilwyn announces. “Might wait on calling in that favor, though, so it’s worth more. You can call me Dil, and this is Yr Wyddfa. All of our area is protected from Muggles, though we do have some grounds where they’re allowed to walk cause we’ve got charms up to keep them from getting too nosy. What do you want to see first?”
“What have you got?” Hugo asks. “Besides this old hill.”
“Well, we’ve got a little of a lot,” Dilwyn says, which makes Hugo frown in thought. “Yeh like dragons? It's about feedin' time fer the greens, 'f you want to go watch.”
“Dragons? I love dragons. My uncle Charlie works with dragons. He’s not married cause Grandma says no self-respecting woman would tolerate him smelling like animals all the time, no matter how handsome he is. Course, I think he’s the one who don’t want a woman cause they’re nothing but trouble.”
“Hugo,” Hermione says, rolling her eyes when Teddy snorts. “Doesn’t, not don’t. And I doubt your grandmother intended for you to hear that, much less repeat it.” She doesn’t point out that Uncle Charlie isn’t likely to ever get married because he prefers being single and isn’t particularly interested in anything serious when there are new men and women working at the colony every year who are interested in flings.
"Uncle Charlie?" Dilwyn repeats slowly. "Charlie Weasley? Works in Romania? Small world. Spent a few months there training after I started working 'ere, actually. Learned a lot from him." He glances at Hermione and runs his fingers through his hair before he clears his throat. "So, dragons?"
“She shouldn’t have said it where I could hear if she didn’t want me repeating it,” Hugo says matter-of-factly. “Can we see dragons now?”
She arches a brow at Dilwyn's words and reaction to Charlie's name, but then Hugo starts to speak, so she doesn't have time to analyze it. At Hugo's remark, she has to shake her head.
“Can’t argue with his logic,” Teddy says, grinning when she glares at him. “What? Just saying.”
“Hmph.” She looks at Hugo and nods. “We can see the dragons, but I think it might be better to wait until after they eat. If I remember correctly, their food of choice is sheep.”
Hugo makes a face. “Eew.”
“Maybe we can just explore and see what we come across,” Teddy suggests.
“If you get lucky, yeh might catch sight of a porlock,” Dilwyn tells Hugo. “They’re fussy little creatures who don’t like us much at all, but they live around 'ere anyway.”
“What else do you have?” Hugo asks excitedly as he starts walking beside Dilwyn, listening with interest as they move ahead of her and Teddy.
“Dil will keep an eye on him,” Teddy murmurs once Hugo and Dilwyn have wandered off ahead of them. “He likes having an audience, especially one who asks as many questions as Hugo.”
“This is really a beautiful place,” she says, looking around and taking in the view. “A very good surprise, though don’t get smug.”
“What’s the fun in surprising you if I can’t be smug?” he asks, laughing as they start to follow after Dilwyn and Hugo, who are discussing pixies. “Seriously, I’m glad you like it here. I’ve been promising to come visit since he started working here, but I just haven’t taken the time. I’d much rather see it with you, anyway.”
“It’s a great choice. Hugo has a fascination with magical creatures and the outdoors, and you know my fondness.”
He reaches out and lightly squeezes her hand. “I’m glad you agreed,” he says. “I wasn’t sure where the line is, in terms of how much time I’m allowed to spend with you after work or whatever. I mean, are there rules?”
“There aren’t, but there probably should be,” she murmurs, squeezing his hand before letting it go. She watches Hugo laugh at a story Dilwyn is telling about dealing with pixies and smiles. “I don’t want to confuse Hugo or involve him in anything that isn’t serious. It’s not fair to him, you know?”
“What if I am serious, though?” he asks quietly. “It’s been two weeks, Hermione. The attraction is still there, worse than it was, and I love spending time with you, even when we’re being like an old couple who just sleep and work.”
“It’s too soon to know if this is serious or not, and I don’t want Hugo to have to deal with all those changes if it’s not going to amount to anything more than a temporary affair,” she whispers. “I know that sounds cruel and heartless, but you’re like a cousin to the children, and that makes it more complicated. I’m really trying, Teddy, but it’s just not that easy.”
“No, it isn’t,” he says, sighing as he runs his hand through his dark purple hair. “So, really, the only thing we can do is continue like we are until you decide it’s more than temporary and casual? At work, we keep the lines separate, and I can’t tease even a little for fear someone will somehow know we’re dating?”
“It’s not just my decision,” she points out softly, letting the others get far enough ahead that she and Teddy won’t be overheard at all. “Please don’t make it sound so selfish. You don’t need any complications if this doesn’t work out anymore than I do, after all. And you can be yourself at work, because we do have a personal connection through our friends and family, but we have to make sure there are boundaries that we don’t cross.”
He nods and makes a face. “I didn’t mean to make it sound like this is all your fault. I know it’s tough and that our history makes it even more complicated, but knowing it and actually being able to think it all the time are really two different things. It’s difficult to remind myself that I can do this and can’t do that, even if I do understand.”
“It’s not easy for me, either,” she says honestly. “However, it’s necessary if we continue exploring this relationship to see what does happen. You said that it‘s worth the risk, but that means it also has to be worth the trouble.”
“It is,” he says firmly. “There’s no doubt about that, even if I do slip up and make mistakes sometimes.”
“We’re just human, Teddy. We all make mistakes. This is new to both of us, and it’s very complex, too, which makes it more of a struggle. I still have my worries and fears, but I’m resolved to trying because I’m happier than I have been in awhile, so I can’t not try now.”
“I’m happy, too,” he tells her, smiling as he reaches up to tuck her hair behind her ear. “If we didn’t have two nosy people not too far away, I’d totally pull you against me and word-I-shouldn’t-even-think-right-now you until your toes curl.”
“If we didn’t have two nosy people not too far away, I’d let you,” she murmurs, glancing at his lips before she looks away at the sound of Hugo calling her name. They’ve reached an area crowded with trees, and Dilwyn is watching them curiously while Hugo bounces around like he’s had too much sugar.
They hurry to catch up, and she joins Hugo while Dilwyn walks over to talk to Teddy. “Look, Mum. It’s a bowtruckle,” Hugo says, pointing out at a creature on the tree. “Dil says they don’t normally get down round here, but there’s some in the trees around the preserve.”
“Really?” She smiles and peers at the creature. “Having fun?”
“Lots. Rose is going to be so jealous when I tell her,” he says with a mischievous grin. He lowers his voice. “Don’t tell her but I asked Dil if we could come back with her this summer, cause it’s not fair I get to see all this and she can’t cause of boring old school, and he said we can. I just have to owl him myself cause we‘re mates now. Teddy has great friends.”
“That’s very nice of you to think of your sister,” she compliments, ruffling his hair because he’s at the age where he would be mortified if she attempted to hug him in public. “And nice of Dil, too.”
She glances back to see Teddy and Dilwyn talking quietly. Teddy’s hair is bright red, and he rolls his eyes when he sees her watching, making a funny face as Dil continues talking. She smiles and looks back at the tree, listening to Hugo repeat everything Dil has said about pixies and bowtruckles.
“I see you were listening well, Hugo,” Dilwyn announces as he and Teddy rejoin them. “Smart son yeh have 'ere, Hermione.”
“Yes, he is. He’s also very impressed by the preserve,” she says. “If you think feeding time is done, we can go on to the dragons now, I suppose.”
“Oh, yes. I like dragons,” Teddy says, bouncing on his heels in a way similar to Hugo that makes her bite her lip to keep from laughing. He sticks his tongue out at her when he notices. “It’s a man thing. You wouldn’t understand, would she, Hugo?”
“Nah, cause it’s a man thing,” Hugo agrees, puffing out his chest slightly.
“Well, I’ve actually ridden a dragon before, so there,” she says smugly, tossing her hair over her shoulder before she walks ahead of them to stand beside Dilwyn, who grins at her.
“She beat us,” Teddy announces with a dramatic sigh.
“Just cause she won’t let uncle Charlie take me or Rose up on a dragon until we’re grown,” Hugo mutters. “She says I have to be wrinkled and old before she’ll ever let me. But if I’m old, I won't wanna ride a dragon.”
“I expect the greens have finished their lunch by now. Why don’t we head on over to their area?” Dilwyn suggests. “And yeh just need to keep working on your ma, cause riding a dragon’s definitely something you should do before yeh got wrinkles.”
Hermione laughs and shakes her head. “No riding dragons until you’re older, Hugo. Just be glad I let you go up on a broom with someone. That’s enough worrying on my part for a few more years. Now, let‘s go see those dragons.”