Explosion (Worth the Risk #51)

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There’s no need to feel so nervous. It’s just dinner, after all. In this case, logic isn’t helping Hermione relax. Maybe because it isn’t really just dinner. Teddy will be over soon, and it’ll be the first dinner with the children since they found out about her relationship with him. Since her conversation with Ron yesterday, she feels a little better about Rose’s reaction, but she really dislikes the idea that she’s upsetting her daughter by being happy.

Of course, that’s not the proper way to look at things. Rose hasn’t accepted Mel yet, from what Ron said, and that’s been months instead of days. There’s a part of her that hoped Rose wouldn’t care about her dating Teddy despite not being happy about Mel. Unrealistic, probably, but an easy acceptance would have been preferable to being ignored for a week. Even Molly wasn’t able to help her figure out how to handle Rose. Or, at least, Molly claims to not understand Rose’s behavior, but Hermione isn’t completely sure that it’s true.

But maybe it's one of those sorts of child-rearing situations each parent has to work out for herself. Going into the teenage years, she supposes she's going to have to get used to another round of those.

“You look pretty, Mum,” Hugo says, interrupting her fretful musing.

“Thank you, Hugo. You look very handsome yourself,” she says as she smiles at him.

“Rose doesn’t want to come downstairs. She says she’s not hungry, but I think she’s lying because I heard her stomach growling and, besides, it's been ages since lunch,” Hugo announces. He sits down on the sofa next to her. “She’s so weird.”

“Don’t call your sister weird. I’ll go up and get her.” She stands up and glances at the clock. She has enough time to go upstairs before Teddy gets there, unless he’s early. She glances down at Hugo. “If Teddy arrives before I’m back, let him know that I’ll be down shortly.”

“I’ll tell him about my last letter from Dil, and I won’t tell him that Rose is being weird,” Hugo promises.

“Alright, that sounds like a good plan.” She smoothes down the skirt of her dress as she walks up the stairs, wondering what she should say to Rose. This isn’t a situation that was ever written about in the dozens of parenting books that she read when she first got pregnant. That was a long time ago, though, so maybe there’re new books out. She might have to try to stop by the bookshop over the weekend to research if Rose's behavior continues to be worrying.

When she reaches Rose’s bedroom, she knocks on the door lightly. “Go away, Hugo,” Rose calls out before she can say anything.

“It isn’t Hugo,” she says as she opens the door. “You need to come down for dinner, Rose.”

Rose looks up from the book she’s reading and frowns. “I’m not hungry.”

“If you’re ill, we’ll take you to St. Mungos,” Hermione tells her. “Otherwise, you need to come downstairs.”

“I don’t want to eat, Mum. Go eat with your boyfriend.”

"I'm not sure I like your tone, and I'd like to eat dinner with my children and my friend Teddy. That's going to involve you coming down to join the group."

"Why can't you just leave me alone? You don't need me for supper with family; you have Hugo for that." Rose is nearly managing to sound logical and detached, but there's a frustrating touch of petulance that lets Hermione know this isn't cold-blooded rationalism, even if Rose does usually follow her in her tendency to dissect things.

“I can’t leave you alone because you’re my daughter, and I love you.” Even when you’re being a brat and trying my patience. She counts to ten before she says, “Ted will be here soon, and he’s going to make pizza for all of us. You like pizza, and it's something we can all enjoy together.”

“Calling him Ted doesn’t change the fact that he’s still Teddy,” Rose points out. "And you and Hugo can enjoy him and his bloody pizza. You don't need me for that, either."

Hermione considers whether to comment on the 'bloody,' but decides it's not worth prolonging the argument. "Still, that would be me having supper with my son and my friend, not my children and my friend. And I'm calling him Ted because he asked me to; he may not have made the same request of you."

“I already told you, I’m not hungry.” Rose’s stomach growls before she can finish the denial. "And he just wants to sound older so you can feel better about…" She presses her lips together rather than continuing the sentence, though Hermione can imagine several unflattering descriptions of what she and Teddy might do, and from the look on Rose's face, she's imagined one or two, as well.

Hermione sighs and runs her fingers through her hair, leaving that issue alone for now. “It certainly sounds like you’re hungry, and I'd hate for you to go to bed without supper just because you're being stubborn. Rose, please give him a chance. It’s just dinner. You can sit there quietly if you have nothing to say.”

“Fine. I’ll go eat, but only because you’re making me.” Rose scowls as she closes her book and gets off her bed. She walks past Hermione without saying anything else.

The entire conversation is frustrating, but Hermione doesn’t know what else to do. If forcing Rose to go downstairs is what it takes to get her to be social, then that’s the best choice for now. She follows Rose back downstairs and can’t help but smile when she sees Teddy sitting next to Hugo on the sofa.

“Hello, ladies,” Teddy says, smiling as he stands up. “It’s nice to see you, Rose. Hermione, you look beautiful.”

“Why?” Rose asks. “If you wanted to see me, you could have come over any time since I got home from school. Oh, wait, you couldn’t because you and Mum were sneaking around and lying to us.”

“Your mother and I haven’t lied to you, Rose. I would have come over to visit before, but we’ve all been busy.”

“Busy dating my mother and lying?” Rose frowns when Hermione touches her shoulder.

“That’s enough,” she says firmly. She looks at Teddy and grimaces. “Sorry. We’re glad that you could come over tonight.”

“Teddy’s making pizza,” Hugo offers, looking at Rose as he speaks. “He said we can help him, if we want.”

“I don’t want.” Rose shrugs off Hermione’s hand before she walks over to the sofa and sits down. She opens a magazine and studies it closely.

“Well, I want to help.” Hugo walks over and leans against Hermione. He whispers, “You should have let her stay in her room.”

It’s probably not a sign of good parenting that she thinks he’s right. She doesn’t know what to do about Rose. She's always tried to treat Rose as she'd like to be treated herself on the theory that Rose is like her in many ways, and usually it’s worked out all right, but this time, it's only getting progressively less effective.

The continuing situation is actually getting worse than she expected, and the evening’s barely begun. The silence and being ignored might be better than the rudeness. It’s not going to matter whether she wants to continue the relationship or not because Teddy is going to decide it’s not worth putting up with Rose’s attitude.

“I’d appreciate the help, Hugo,” Teddy says as he steps closer. She feels his hand on the small of her back and resists the impulse to hug him. “Why don’t we go get dinner started?”

“Dinner. Right. That’s good.” She smiles wryly before she ruffles Hugo’s hair. “Can you go get the pizza pan out for us?”

“Yes, Mum.” Hugo smiles. “C’mon, Teddy. I’m starving.”

“He sounds like his father,” she murmurs to no one in particular, considering how Hugo still sounds like Ron and Rose has apparently stopped making sense to her. She shakes her head as she watches Teddy follow him out of the room and takes one last look at Rose, sighing. “I wish you’d try to give him a chance, Rose. It’s difficult to treat you like an adult when you behave like a child. We’ll be in the kitchen if you decide to join us.” She waits for a moment, but Rose just flips a page of the magazine, so she leaves the sitting room and goes to the kitchen.

When she gets there, she reaches for an apron but a hand grips her wrist before she can pick it up. She glances up at Teddy and arches a brow. He smiles and shakes his head. “That doesn’t work on me, Hermione,” he informs her. “You look much too pretty tonight to cook. No aprons for you. Instead, you can sit down and watch us menfolk do the cooking. Right, Hugo?”

Hugo laughs. “Yeah. No cooking for Mum tonight, like we planned.”

“Planned?” She looks from one to the other before focusing on Teddy. “A plan that you actually didn’t tell me about in advance?”

Teddy smirks. “I’m getting better at the scheming thing, I guess.” He leans down and kisses her forehead lightly as he strokes her back. “Just relax tonight, okay? I know you’ve had a rough week, both at work and obviously here.”

She considers protesting, but it has been a difficult week, so she decides to go ahead and agree. “Fine. You’ve convinced me. I’ll just sit and watch.”

After she sits down, Teddy gets a glass down from the cabinet and pours wine. “A little refreshment, Madam. And now, some music.” He flicks his wand and the radio turns on. “Voila. Please, keep your applause for after the meal. The pizza will be just that good.”

“Teddy, I’ve got the pan. What next?” Hugo asks.

While Teddy begins to go through the recipe with Hugo, she sips her wine and listens to the music. It’s hard to relax when her daughter is sulking in the other room. When she notices Hugo looking at her worriedly, she forces a smile and that seems to relax him. Teddy, however, doesn’t look so easily convinced.

“They’re so loud that I can’t even read.”

She looks over at Rose, who is leaning against the table and glaring at Teddy and Hugo. “They’re having fun,” she says simply. It seems that anything she says tonight is taken the wrong way by Rose, so she doesn’t want to take any chances.

“Hmph.” Rose scowls at her. “They’re making a mess. Why aren’t you scolding them? You hate when flour spills on the floor. You and Daddy fought when he broke the flour jar that day. Why aren’t you yelling at Teddy?”

“I’m not scolding them because they’ll clean up when they’re finished,” she explains. “As for the argument with your father, it wasn’t about him breaking the jar and spilling flour. That was probably the last thing it was about.”

“I heard it. You were upset about him making a mess, and he yelled about everything having to be exact in your kitchen. I remember it, Mum. It was before he left.” Rose looks at the floor and holds her magazine tightly.

She remembers it, too. She remembers all the silly arguments that happened during those final months of her marriage to Ron. The warning signs that they’d finally acknowledged, that had let them work out some of their frustration and disappointment over a failed relationship. Their separation had been amicable, and they were certainly great friends again now, but it hadn’t been pleasant and perfect near the end of that phase of the relationship.

If it had been, they probably would have stayed together out of convenience. Of course, she can’t tell Rose all that. Rose is only twelve, and she wouldn’t understand. Hermione didn’t even understand it at the time. "I know you will hate this sentence, and I don't blame you for that, but it's unfortunately true: it is, and was, a lot more complicated than that, but I don't think you'd understand until you're older. Sorry."

Rose scowls, but before they can continue the conversation, Hugo calls out, “Look, Mum. We’ve got the crust done. Rose, do you wanna help? We’re putting stuff on it now.”

“Help would be appreciated, Rose,” Teddy offers. His hair has faded from a vivid orange to a pale shade since she last looked. He nods at the various things lining the counter. “You can put whatever you want on them. We have two, so there can be variety.”

Rose looks up, and Hermione’s surprised when she puts the magazine down and goes to the counter. “Did you make pizza for Victoire?” Rose asks Teddy as she picks up a spoon and spreads sauce over one of the pizza crusts.

Teddy looks up at Hermione before he says, “Yes, I did.”

“Why aren’t you making it for her now?” Rose frowns at him. Hermione takes a sip of her wine and wishes that Rose would stop being so stubborn and would try to enjoy herself.

“Because I’m here with you.” Teddy looks confused as he begins to sprinkle cheese onto the pizza in front of Hugo.

“He’s making it for us, silly,” Hugo says as he help with the cheese.

“Hugo, don’t insult your sister,” she warns as she slips off her shoes and stretches her feet.

“That’s not what I meant,” Rose says in a tone that sounds very annoyed. “Why did you break up with Victoire and start dating our mum?”

Teddy puts the container of cheese down and focuses on Rose. “I’m dating your mother because I care about her. I was lucky enough that she said yes when I asked her out. Victoire has nothing to do with my relationship with your mother, nor does Vic care that I’ve moved on.”

“Yeah? Well, what happens to my mum with you break up with her because you want someone else? She’s not Victoire, and she will care,” Rose tells him. “My mum doesn’t need you. She’s happy with us. I’ve helped her since Daddy left. You didn’t. We don’t want you here. Just go home.”

“I want him here,” Hugo says quietly. He looks at Rose and then at Hermione. “You want him here, too, don’t you, Mum? Rose is wrong, isn’t she?”

“Hugo, it’s alright. Your sister is just concerned because this is new and she doesn't understand it.” Teddy reaches over and ruffles Hugo’s hair.

“It’s not alright!” Rose throws the spoon on the floor in a sudden and completely surprising move and shakes her head. “And I'm not a child. I understand fine. Mum doesn’t need you! I hate you. Go home and leave our mum alone!”

“Rose, stop it.” Hermione stands up and rubs the back of her neck, trying to ignore the spatter of tomato sauce and focus on the apparent replacement by aliens of her usually-mature daughter. “Apologize to Teddy and calm down.”

“No. I won’t. I’m not sorry. He shouldn’t be here.” Rose stomps her foot and looks like she’s about to start crying.

“Hermione, it’s okay. She doesn’t have to--“

“Yes, she does,” she interrupts Teddy before he can finish. “Her behavior tonight is rude and disrespectful.” She looks at Rose. “I know that you’re having trouble accepting my relationship with Ted, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to have a tantrum and insult him.”

Rose tilts her chin in a stubborn manner. “He shouldn’t be here.”

“Rose, apologize then go to your room,” she says firmly. Her attempts at being understanding and giving Rose space are through for now. “If you can’t be polite to our guest, then you’ll stay in your room.”

“It’s not my fault! You made me come down for dinner!” Rose stomps her foot again and wipes her eyes angrily. “I’m not sorry. I won’t say I am, and you can’t make me!”

Before Hermione can reply, Rose runs past her and leaves the kitchen. She sits down and cups her forehead in her hands as she hears footsteps thumping up the stairs, not at all sure what to do or say. Teddy and Hugo are quiet, and she feels torn between anger at Rose’s behavior and disgust with herself for being such a terrible mother. What can she possibly do to make this situation better?

“It’s okay, Mum. Don’t cry,” Hugo says softly.

She feels a hand on her back and turns her upper body so she can rest her head against Teddy’s belly. “Hugo’s right. It’ll be okay,” Teddy murmurs as he brushes his fingers through her hair in a soothing manner. "At least she's not like Harry, right? I've heard stories about what happened when he got really pissed off at that age."

“Language,” she scolds before she closes her eyes and feels at least the tug of a smile. "True. Spattered sauce on the floor is nothing like shattered windows."

“Do you want me to go talk to her? Or do you want me to leave? I'm not suggesting I want out, just saying if that's easiest for you.”

“No,” she says, shifting so that she can look up at him. “Don’t go. It’s probably best if you don’t try to speak with her right now, either. She has Ron’s temper, unfortunately. It’s better to give her space right now. I’ll take her something to eat later, once the pizza’s done.”

“I can take it to her,” Hugo offers. “She yells at me a lot anyway.”

“We’ll see how it goes,” she tells him with a look of appreciation before she turns back to Teddy. He’s going to wish that he’d never asked her to dinner. There’s an insecure part of her that’s being very vocal in believing that he’s going to think the drama is too much and end things even though he's just said he's not. She does her best to ignore that voice right now, but can't help apologizing again. “Sorry about all that.”

“Hey, none of that. It’s fine. Well, not fine because I hate that it’s my fault you’re hurting right now, but I’m not running away. Got it?” He looks at her intently until she nods. When she does, he smiles. “Hugo, look behind you for a minute,” he says before he leans down and gives her a quick kiss on the mouth.

“Eeew. Kissing is yuck,” Hugo mutters before he makes a gagging noise.

“That’s why I told you not to look,” Teddy reminds him. “Next time, listen to me.”

She lets him go and watches him rejoin Hugo. They go back to work on the pizzas, but the relaxed atmosphere from earlier is definitely gone now. She feels even more tense and anxious than before, and she doubts that Teddy and Hugo feel much better, though they're both being deliberately absurd, obviously to cheer her, which isn't really working except in that she can appreciate the effort.

Finally, she sips at her wine again and sternly tells her shoulders to drop away from her ears. Things are a mess, but she’s going to try to focus on enjoying the meal and spending time with Teddy and Hugo before she tries to figure out how to make things better with Rose.