Impression (Worth the Risk #35)

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The smell of coffee fills the flat. Hermione leaves the bathroom and sniffs the air appreciatively before she starts looking for her clothes. Her skirt is in the bedroom, her shirt is in the hallway, her knickers are by the front door, and she can’t find her bra anywhere. There’s something almost seedy about putting on clothes from the previous day, and she cringes at her dirty knickers before deciding to just forgo them until she can go home and change.

“Have you seen my bra, Ted---” Her words fade as she looks up from fastening her shirt and sees Andromeda Tonks sitting at the table.

“Good morning, Hermione,” Andromeda drawls coolly, her pale eyes sweeping over Hermione as if she can somehow see that she’s knicker-less. It’s obvious she’s not wearing a bra, since she just asked about it, but she’s relieved she at least buttoned her shirt part way. Andromeda arches a brow and nods towards the sitting room. “I believe that I saw your brassiere beside the fireplace when I stepped out of the floo. At least, I do hope that my grandson hasn’t taken to wearing frilly purple undergarments.”

“Nah. I look awful in purple,” Teddy quips as he walks out of the kitchen. He sets a cup of coffee on the table in front of his grandmother and looks at Hermione above her. ‘I’m sorry,’ he mouths before he smiles wryly and shrugs. "Gram apparently decided to just drop by to check on me this morning."

“Good morning, Andromeda.“ She pauses and shifts uncomfortably. “Um, right. I’ll go get it and then I’ll just, uh, head back home,” she says, hating that she’s stammering like a teenager caught doing something naughty by her parents.

“Don’t rush off on my account, dear. I just stopped by to check on my grandson before I rushed off to go shopping and meet a friend for lunch,” Andromeda says. “Sit and stop your fidgeting. You’ll have me wondering if you’re guilty of something besides untidiness when it comes to where you leave your clothing.”

The slight condescension in Andromeda’s tone is impossible to miss, and Hermione tenses unconsciously as she straightens her shoulders. “I think I’ll stay for a cup of coffee, then,” she says, walking to the table.

Teddy pulls out a chair for her and brushes his hand along her arm as she sits. “I’ll get you a cup,” he murmurs, squeezing her shoulder before he goes back into the kitchen.

She blushes faintly when she notices Andromeda staring at her. The woman is shrewd and frightening in a way that Hermione can’t really describe. She’s just blunt and intelligent, and she manages to project an aura of superiority that screams old wealthy Pureblood despite her open views of such things. “I’m sure you’re wondering---”

“Don’t presume to know what I am and am not thinking, dear,” Andromeda says crisply. “I have been concerned about my grandson, hence my surprise visit to ensure that he’d not done anything foolish as would suit someone of his age. I expected him to find him moping or suffering from the aftereffects of too much alcohol, as I know he’s not likely to choose a random female to occupy his bed. Therefore, I am extremely pleased to see him relaxed and happy.”

“So am I,” Hermione says firmly.

“Yes, I am sure you are.” Andromeda’s tone is dry but her lips twitch slightly as if she might smile. She doesn’t, however. Instead, she takes a sip of her coffee and glances towards the kitchen. “Teddy, you and Hermione shall come over for tea tomorrow. I expect you at four.” She focuses on Hermione. “If you have your son at that time, do please bring him along. I’ve not seen Hugo since the holidays.”

“Gram, you need to remember to ask and not command,” Teddy reminds her as he leaves the kitchen. “Regardless of your high opinion of yourself, you’re not wizarding royalty.”

“Hmph. I did not command,” Andromeda denies smoothly, so convincing that it takes Hermione a second to remember that she did, indeed, demand their presence. “I daresay that any opinion I might have of myself will never become too high when I’m forced to contend with a cheeky grandson who forgets to respect his elders.”

“I don’t forget. I just choose not to be polite when you’re being authoritative,” Teddy tells her with a smirk. He puts a cup of coffee on the table in front of Hermione before he sits next to her. She feels his hand on her thigh, squeezing gently, and she realizes that she’s been behaving like a tongue-tied teenager.

“Tea tomorrow afternoon would be lovely, Andromeda,” she tells her composedly. “I’m afraid that Hugo is visiting his father this weekend, however, so he’ll not be home in time to attend. Thank you for the invitation.”

“Are you sure?” Teddy whispers against her ear. “We don’t have to, if she’s making you uncomfortable. It’s just her way.”

“Teddy, it’s rude to whisper when one has guests. One might assume they’re being talked about.” Andromeda does sound amused this time.

“Perhaps if the guests weren’t being bothersome, they wouldn’t be so paranoid about whispers.”

“Ted, be respectful,” Hermione scolds softly. “We’ll be at tea tomorrow, Andromeda.”

“Good. I look forward to it.” She puts down her cup and stands. “Actually, I do need to be on my way. I have a full day planned, as I’m sure is the case for the two of you as well. Hermione, as always, lovely to see you. We shall talk more over tea tomorrow. Teddy, come see your grandmother to the Floo.”

“Yes, Gram.” He stands and waits until she turns and walks into the sitting room before he kisses Hermione swiftly. “I’ll be right back.”

She watches him walk away and leans forward, cradling her head in her hands. Oh God, this is mortifying. Being caught half-naked by Andromeda bloody Tonks is a nightmare. Even worse, now they’re going to ‘have a talk’ during tea. She groans and tugs on her damp hair, wondering if she can feign illness tomorrow. There is a bug going around the office, after all.

“Well, that wasn’t exactly how I imagined breakfast.” Teddy enters the small dining area and sits across from her. He reaches across the table and takes her hands, squeezing tightly. “You were brilliant.”

“I was an utter flake,” she says, looking up at him and glaring. “Don’t lie to me, Ted. I stammered and sat here feeling like I was fifteen and caught taking advantage of you. Oh God. I’m not even wearing my knickers!”

“You aren’t?” He grins and nudges her leg with his foot. “Very naughty girl, aren’t you?”

“Stop that.” She scowls at him. “This is serious. Your grandmother just walked in on me wet from a shower with my clothes strewn all over your flat. This? Might very well top my list of most embarrassing moments in my entire life and that includes Harry walking in on me after a shower, which would have been embarrassing enough without it happening while my leg was raised and I was applying lotion. He saw enough to avoid looking at me for several days, and yet this experience is nearly equal to that one.”

“It’s not that serious, Hermione. She already knew about us, remember?” He frowns and shifts. “Harry’s seen you naked?”

“I remember but knowing about it and walking in on it are two entirely different things.” She snorts. “And, yes, Harry’s seen me naked. Recently, in fact. And it wasn’t in that way, so stop frowning.”

“I’m not frowning.” He runs his hand through his hair and snorts. “Okay, maybe I’m frowning a little. It’s just weird knowing that my godfather has seen my girlfriend naked. Wait, recently?”

“He came over while I was sleeping nude." She arches a brow. "Just remember that a majority of my friends have changed my boyfriend’s nappies, and I think you’ll put things into perspective.”

“Okay, yeah, that does it.” He smiles and shakes his head, hair turning turquoise as he drags his fingers over her palm. “So, what are we going to do today?”

“After I get past the mortification of the visit with your grandmother, I’ll probably start worrying about what exactly she wants to talk about tomorrow.”

“There’s no need to worry about that. She just likes to sound imposing and scary, but you usually stand up to her, which she admires. Just be yourself and tell her to mind her own bloody business if she gets nosy.” He laughs. “Besides, it’ll be nothing compared to my ‘talk’ with Ron, as I can’t see Gram busting your lip open.”

Hermione bites her lip then laughs. “Fine. No physical violence does make it better than what you’ve had to endure so far.” She picks up her cup and takes a drink of the coffee. “As for our plans today, I mentioned having to run errands. First, I need to go home and change then run to the supermarket. After that, it’s a trip to the butcher, the vegetable stand, and the shoe store. Hugo’s feet are growing at a ridiculous rate, and he needs new trainers for the summer.”

“I need to buy a few things from the supermarket, too,” he says. “Buying Hugo shoes sounds fun. Doesn’t he want to be there to choose?”

“He isn’t that picky about shoes. We looked a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t have any extra money on me, so I know what he wants,” she tells him. “I’m not sure how fun it is, but it’s necessary. I think that’s everything that had to get done today. Do you need to do anything?”

“Well, I need to get a few groceries but, otherwise, I can’t think of anything.” He grins. “You know, you don’t have to change on my account. I rather like the no undergarments thing.”

“You wouldn’t if you had to feel the scratch of fabric against your bare bum.” She kicks his leg lightly. “It might sound sexy to not wear pants, but the reality is abrasive material rubbing against sensitive bits, which is a far cry from arousing.”

Teddy considers her comment before he nods. “Point. Fine, we’ll go by your house so you can get changed then we’ll start the shopping.”

After she finishes her coffee and eats a slice of burned toast, they take the Floo to her house. Teddy offers to feed Cliodna for her while she goes upstairs to get dressed. She puts on a pair of linen trousers and a T-shirt before she heads back downstairs. Teddy’s still outside, so she glances through her mail and sorts it. She has to write to Rose later because exams are now over so there is worrying about marks and plans for the trip home. It’s nice to think that she’ll be home in a little over a week.

“Your owl is evil.”

“No, she’s not. She’s just fussy.” Hermione looks up from the mail and sees Teddy holding his finger. “Ah. You tried feeding her directly? She likes to bite when you do that.”

“I found that out,” Teddy mutters. “You look nice.”

She laughs. “Oh, yes. Ravishing, I’m sure. I just need to pull my hair back and then we can go.”

“You should leave it down,” Teddy tells her. “It looks good when it’s down.”

“It’s also heavy, thick and hot,” she points out. “It’s going to be a warm day, so having it off my neck will be nice.” She picks up an elastic band from the desk and pulls her hair into a high ponytail. “Much better. Are you ready?”

“Yeah.” He stops and runs his hand over his hair. “Let me fix this, though, if we’re going into Muggle areas.” The turquoise gives way to the familiar brown and his hair shortens just a little. “Now I’m ready.”

She walks over to him and brushes a kiss against his lips. “I’ll Apparate us near Sainsbury’s,” she says, moving her arms around him. She focuses and they arrive in a private area just down from the supermarket. The store is crowded since it’s Saturday, but they get everything they need easily enough. By the time they leave, she’s tired of crowds and being bumped by trolleys.

“That was a bloody nightmare,” Teddy declares as he pushes the trolley outside the store. There isn't enough privacy to shrink the bags, so they gather them up and walk back towards the spot where they arrived.

“Supermarkets on Saturday and before holidays are up there with going to Harrods or any toy store before Christmas on the list of things to avoid,” she agrees. “I usually go on Saturday or Sunday, though the latter is a pain in the arse because they’re not open as many hours.”

“I usually stop by a little corner market near my flat and pick up a few things whenever I need them.” He grins. “Not very logical, since I have to stop several times a week, but it means I don’t have a lot of stuff just sitting around not being used.”

“When I lived alone and even when Ron and I first married, I’d shop that way. After the children, though, it’s just easier to go once a week and buy a little more. Besides, living out where I do, it’s just simpler that way because the local supermarket is rather small and the prices are ridiculous compared to the ones here.”

They reach the area where they arrived, and Disapparate back to her house. He helps her get the bags into the kitchen before he Floos home with his own purchases. She’s still putting away groceries when he gets back. “Nearly done,” she says with a smile. “Would you like something to drink?”

“I’ll get some juice,” he decides. After he pours himself a glass, he starts to help her sort the rest of the groceries. “This is a lot of stuff.”

“I know.” She smiles wryly. “I’m still used to buying for four, so I tend to slip into that habit. Rose will be home next Wednesday, though, which means a lot of this will be used eventually.”

“It is almost time for Hogwarts to be out, isn’t it? Has she had exams yet?”

“Last week. She thinks she did well, even if she’s nervous about receiving her marks.”

“She’ll do amazing. After all, she’s brilliant, just like her mum.” He reaches out and tugs on her hair.

“I’m sure she’ll do great, but I wouldn’t compare her to myself. I’d hate that if I were her. She’s her own person, just like all the children,” she says. She puts away a tin of corn and shuts the pantry door. “And that’s the last one. Now we can walk into town and finish the rest.”

He nods. “Yeah, we can. Finished with your juice?” He picks up her glass and rinses it along with his. “I’ve never been shopping in the local village before. Is it stupid of me to be excited about something so ordinary?”

“It’s not stupid. I’m afraid that you’ll be rather disappointed, though, because it’s just shopping,” she tells him. They leave the house and walk down the drive towards the road that leads to town. “It’s a larger village than quite a few, even if it is small in comparison to others.”

“I like it, from what I saw a couple of weeks ago,” he says. “It’s quaint and charming without being unreal.”

She laughs. “An unreal town? Not sure I know any of those.”

“Oh, you know what I mean. One of those fake feeling tourist havens,” he mutters, making a face. “Anyway, enough about that. It’s a pretty day, isn’t it?”

“Very nice. Warm and dry is a good combination, even if I do enjoy the rain.” She bumps his hip with hers as they walk towards town.

They talk or just enjoy the silence during their walk. Near town, she bites her lip and reaches for his hand, squeezing it gently as she glances at him. He smiles and entwines his fingers through hers, not having to say anything for her to know he realizes that it took a lot of courage for her to make that simple gesture.

She lets go when they reach town. “The butcher first, I think,” she decides. They make their stop, and she buys a few things to make for dinner during the upcoming week. A stop at the market follows so she can get fresh vegetables and some fruit for Hugo to snack on when he’s hungry. She prefers fruit over crisps or sweets, and, fortunately, the children have acquired a similar fondness.

“Do you want to stop for a late lunch?” Teddy asks after they finish at the market. “I know breakfast was dismal, at best, since I burned the bloody toast.”

“Lunch would be good. We can stop at the pub, if you’d like.” She smiles. “And breakfast wasn’t that bad. The coffee made up for the toast.”

“And here I thought you’d say the company did.” He holds his heart, nearly dropping the bags he’s carrying. “That wounds me. Deeply. You’ll have to make it up to me later.”

“Keep dreaming, Lupin.” She laughs as they enter the pub. After finding a table, they leave their bags and go to the bar to order. Teddy gets fish and chips with a pint, which sounds quite good, so she orders the same, only juice instead of a pint.

“Copycat,” he accuses with a grin as they sit back down. “God, I never realized that errands were so bloody tiring.”

“Try doing them with two children under ten. It was horrendous, especially with Hugo’s grabby hands and Rose’s habit of taking forever to make a choice. I’m so glad they’re older now, if only to make shopping easier. Of course, they still have those habits. It takes Rose hours at the bookstore just to make a selection.”

“I expect you were the same at her age, weren’t you?”

“At her age?” She smiles sheepishly. “I’m still that way over books, though I don't have that problem with other things. I’m not fond of shopping, so I tend to just make my choices and move along quickly.”

“Oh, it’s so lovely to see you two again!”

Hermione glances up to find one of the older women from their trivia team by their table. “Good afternoon,” she says, hoping she doesn’t need a name because she can’t for the life of her remember. Edna? Esther?

“Hello, Ethel. You look smashing this afternoon,” Teddy says with a charming grin.

“You charmer, you. So sweet,” the woman whose name is obviously Ethel practically simpers at Teddy. “We had hoped to see you both during trivia the last couple of weeks. I hope nothing bad kept you from attending.”

“My son has been home, which makes it difficult to go to the pub,” Hermione explains.

“You can bring him along. I’ve seen him with you in town. Adorable boy, and so polite! Not like most of these children nowadays. Rude, the lot of them. My Becky, she’s my granddaughter, she keeps an eye on the children during trivia nights. Hosts their own for the young ‘uns,” Ethel says. She lowers her voice. “I had hoped it wasn’t any of the whispering that kept you away. They’ve no business sticking their noses in your affairs.”

“No, they don’t,” Teddy agrees firmly. “They can whisper all they want, though, because it doesn’t change anything.”

“That’s the spirit,” Ethel says. “My Nathaniel was three years younger than I, and the scandal that created! He was friends with my little brother, and it was the fifties, so people talked and had opinions, but we didn’t listen. Were happy for fifty-four years before he passed on, so I say don’t you listen to any of them.”

The idea of receiving dating advice from a very elderly neighbor is somewhat surreal. Hermione shifts and takes a moment before she says, “If people weren’t talking about us, then they’d just be talking about something else. Besides, I’m sure there are far more interesting things in town to discuss than my personal life.”

“Not at the moment, but I expect those who whispered the most will turn their attention elsewhere soon enough.” She looks around before she whispers, “Word has it that Beatrice Kobler, the chemist’s daughter, is with child and she certainly has a list of possible fathers, if you get my meaning. Far more scandalous than you two.”

“That’s good to hear.” Teddy winks at her before grinning up at Ethel. “We’re actually quite boring and not at all outrageous, so they’d get tired of us soon anyway. And our food’s ready, so I’ll be right back, ladies.”

Hermione watches him walk to the bar before offering Ethel a smile. “While I could do without being the subject of gossip, I’m prepared to face whatever anyone says. However, if they say anything to my children, they’ll regret it.”

“You tend to keep to yourself, love, but we all know you and your children. Have since you and your husband moved into town, though we were sad to realize you two split up. Always seemed quite happy when we saw you two. But we’ve always been right respectable to you because you’re polite and friendly whenever you come here. I’ve lived here for sixty years, and I doubt many people will care a whit who’s warming your sheets at night, so long as there’s no trouble and he’s courteous. Your Ted is certainly a charmer, so what little gossip there is will mostly die down when there’s something else worth talking about that comes along. And don‘t you worry about those children of yours.”

“Okay,” she says, not really sure what else she can say to hearing that people in town are so aware of her life. They knew about the divorce and are obviously talking about her relationship with Teddy, despite it not even being a definite relationship until Friday night. Ah, small towns. There are certainly drawbacks to them. Though Ethel’s blunt honesty is refreshing, as is her blatant concern for Hermione being uncomfortable. She smiles when Teddy arrives back at the table with their food. “We’ll try to attend another trivia night soon.”

“Good. We look forward to it. You and your young man helped us reach the finals, which never happens. Poor Agnes is so determined to win that we’ve had to keep her from dropping by with fresh biscuits as a bribe to get you two back.”

“Biscuits are always a good bribe,” Teddy confides with a wink. “You tell Agnes that we’ll be there next time we can, maybe even tomorrow?” He glances at Hermione and arches a brow.

“Maybe,” she agrees, knowing that it will depend on how tea goes and when Hugo gets home. “We’ll see.”

“Alas, with Hermione, that could mean yes or no,” Teddy says. “She’s entirely unpredictable about that, or so I’ve been told by a good source.”

“Whenever you can, loves. I should toddle on to the florist before they close. That wretched new wife of Clarence’s seems to think the work day ends at two, and it’s a miracle for them to remain open until closing time. She’s not from around here, obviously, and still needs to learn our ways.” Ethel smiles. “You two enjoy your lunch.”

After she leaves, Teddy laughs softly. “Well, that was certainly interesting. It seems we‘re famous.”

“Infamous is probably more apt,” she says dryly.

“She was sweet and harmless.”

“Harmless my arse.” Hermione shakes her head. “That woman is a gossip and probably knows more secrets on the people in this town than they even realize. Shrewdness hiding behind affable scatterbrain is what she is. Fortunately, she seems taken with you and approves of me, so I don't think we've anything to worry about."

“Of course she’s taken with me. I’m charming, didn’t you hear?” He nudges her leg before he starts to eat his fish.

“I suppose you can be sometimes,” she decides, smiling slightly as she picks up a chip and focuses on lunch. Between tea with Andromeda, Hugo coming home from Ron’s, and possibly attending trivia night at the pub, it sounds like Sunday is going to be relatively busy.