The Sugar Quill
Author: Elanor Gamgee and Manu (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Lost Her, Have You?  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: We own Viktor’s unnamed mother, Pavol, Mikolaj and Ketina. Oh, and the lady in a yellow dress, but she’s barely a character. She doesn’t even have a name, poor woman. Everything else belongs to J.K. Rowling, and whoever else bought the rights.

Author’s note: the authors wish to make it clear that the Viktor Krum portrayed here different from the Viktor Krum of either Manu’s “When Words Aren’t Enough” or Elanor’s “Moody Slavic Man”. Manu would also like to congratulate Elanor for being able to keep her Viktors straight.

Thank you to Jedi Boadicea, Zsenya, and TheRealMaraJade for betareading.

~**~

“Ron looked as though he was suffering some sort of painful internal struggle. Krum had already started walking away when Ron burst out, ‘Can I have your autograph?’

Hermione turned away, smiling at the horseless carriages which were now trundling towards them up the drive, as Krum, looking surprised, but gratified, signed a fragment of parchment for Ron.”

-Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

~**~

"The history of the fight against the Dark powers has been filled with unlikely alliances. Those on the side of good, though they may have had bitter rivalries of their own, have had to band together to stop the common enemy. Perhaps this, more than anything, is what has baffled practitioners of the Dark Arts time and time again. These twisted souls cannot understand these alliances, nor the desire to put aside personal gain and petty battles for larger purpose..."

Viktor turned another page of The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and absentmindedly drummed his fingers on the table. He'd been rereading this book all week, ever since the day after the third task. He wasn't sure why it seemed important, but he felt that something was coming, and he wanted to be prepared.Besides, it was something he did every so often when he felt his mother's memory fading, or his brother's. He would read about that time, to remember.

Viktor snorted under his breath. As if he really needed to remember, now. As if spending a year here at Hogwarts, running into Harry Potter at every turn, wasn't enough to remind him. The rest of the wizarding world saw Potter as a hero for defeating You-Know-Who as a baby. But to Viktor, the events of that fateful night were too bound up with his own confused memories, and he could feel no love for Potter. Especially not after this year. Especially not after Hermione.

Viktor shook his head to clear it. No, he wouldn't think about her. She had abandoned him, hadn't she? It was clear whom she was concerned about. She had barely spoken to him since the third task—only once in the corridor, and then only a hurried, "Viktor! Are you all right? I have to go..." before she ran off with Potter again. And to think, he had actually almost believed that there had been nothing going on, when Potter had sounded so firm about it. To think that he had even been nice to Potter. No, it was clear where her loyalties lay. She hadn't even bothered to ask him about the task, about what had happened to him. Hadn't she even wondered, when he'd been carried out of the maze, Stunned?

Of course, even if she had asked, Viktor wouldn't have been able to tell her much. He himself barely remembered what had happened—it was a haze of anguished yells, and sparks, and a strange, half-familiar sensation of weightlessness.

Viktor closed his eyes at the memory. It was too close, too much. The confusion of voices and feelings of that night a week ago had spurred something deep in his memory, something he had long tried to avoid. And now, with the book in front of him in the nearly deserted library, the book that held so many things he both swore to remember and strove to forget, it was…too much.

It had been dark when his mother had swept him up that Halloween night. Viktor had only been four years old, but even at that age he had known that danger often came in the night, and had expected his mother to take him to one of the hiding places. But she had kissed him, and he'd realized she was crying—he remembered that her face had been wet. So it had confused him completely when she'd started laughing and held him up in the air. She'd said something to him, had told him that something wonderful had happened. He didn't remember the words, only the feeling of her excitement and joy.

She'd bundled him up and called to his father and brother, and the four of them had gone out into the night. Viktor had been out in the dark before, many times, when the dangers had come, but never had he seen so many people out as he had that night. The atmosphere had confused him—witches and wizards had been out in the streets, laughing and shouting. His brother, Pavol, had lifted him up and spun him around. And his parents had laughed and hurried them on, on to the end of the street where a celebration seemed to be happening. All Viktor remembered was a sense of overwhelming happiness and...relief. As if all those grownups had been holding their breath and had let it out all at once.

But the mood hadn't lasted. His family had finally left the celebration when Viktor had started to nod off, and he remembered his mother's clear, strong voice singing out through the darkness. He realized now that she had probably had too much to drink at that party. So when the Death Eater had stepped out of the darkness, perhaps she had confronted him a little too readily, a little too rashly. Viktor didn’t remember what she had said, only a flash of light and clash of voices and his brother springing forward with all of his sixteen-year-old confidence and haste. Pavol, who had taught him how to fly on a toy broomstick at age three. Pavol, who was the standard against which Viktor measured everything he did, even now. Then his mother's voice screaming, "Mikolaj, get Viktor away!" and cruel laughter. His father seizing him around the middle and running into the night.

Viktor had asked where his mother and Pavol were every day after that, but his father would only look at him sadly and withdraw into himself. It had been a long time before Viktor had understood what had happened that night.

Viktor opened his eyes and realized that he was gripping the book in his hands rather hard. He pried his fingers loose and set the book on the table, taking a deep breath. No, he wouldn't think about those things, not now, not even if something deep inside him was making connections he didn't want to acknowledge. He hadn't come here for this.

No, he had come here because the Hogwarts library was a pleasant and quiet place to spend an afternoon, particularly now that the other Durmstrang students seemed to blame him for losing the Tournament. Many of them apparently held him responsible for Karkaroff's sudden disappearance as well, as if the Headmaster had been so mortified by Viktor's performance that he had fled in shame.

Really, that was the only reason he was here today. Well, if he happened to run into...someone he wanted to talk to, then that was just a coincidence. Viktor's mind flashed back to the day by the lake a few weeks ago, when Hermione had gone for a walk with him and they had talked about his home in Bulgaria. He'd reminded her of his invitation to visit, and she'd nodded and smiled, but only gone on to ask about the local wizarding culture. He wondered now if she had changed the subject on purpose.

Viktor heard the library door open and he glanced up instinctively, his heart beating a little faster, but it wasn't her. It was only her friend—not Potter, thank goodness, the other one, with the red hair. Ron Weasley—the one with all the brothers.

Viktor frowned and looked back down at his book in disappointment. He didn't want to admit to himself how much he had wanted it to be her, how much he missed her. There was no one else he could talk to right now, no one else who would listen. Even his own father had Apparated home the day after the task, when it had become apparent that Viktor hadn't suffered any permanent damage. His Aunt Ketina, who had attended the task with his father, had been eager to return home, and Viktor hadn't been sorry to see her go. She had always talked much and said little, and his father had always hidden his detachment behind her chatter. Viktor thought of the books he had read about close, happy families, and wondered idly what it would be like to be surrounded by people who were willing to listen at any time, who were able to talk about...well, anything.

A sound of someone clearing his throat made Viktor raise his head.

"Er...have you seen Hermione?"

~**~

Ron moved one of his pawns a spot. “Check. Your turn, Harry.” There was no answer. He ran a hand through his hair. “Harry?”

“Huh?” said Harry, looking like he had just come back from his own little private world, which, Ron considered, didn’t seem to be a very pleasant one.

“It’s your turn,” he said, indicating the chessboard, and not making any effort to keep the concern out of his voice. “We’re playing, remember? Are you sure you’re ok?”

“I’m fine,” snapped Harry for the umpteenth time that day, and, like all the other times, it was obvious that what he really meant was, ‘No, I feel like crap, and I know you know it, so just stop asking, you twit.’

Ron wasn’t sure why he kept asking, it just seemed like the most... sensible thing to do. Maybe to show his friend that he was worried about him. But Harry already knew that, and the fact that his friends cared seemed to annoy him to no end. Ron didn’t quite understand.

Harry moved a rook without looking at the board and without any idea of what he was doing. He stared off into space for an eternity (Ron wondered how he hadn’t already memorized space; staring off into it seemed to be the only thing he could do lately) and then gave Ron an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, Ron, I’m just not in the mood.”

Ron nodded as Harry mumbled something about being tired and went up the stairs. Ron watched after him and sighed, moving his knight forward. “Checkmate,” he whispered, watching dully as Harry’s king begged for mercy.

Had he not been so distressed, his pieces’ victory dance would probably have amused him. But today – the entire week, really – it had taken an extra effort to even crack a smile, particularly around Harry. It just seemed wrong to be cheerful when his best friend was going through so much.

Harry had been distant and unfocused ever since the third task. Ron really wanted to help, but it was hard when the only things he knew about that night were that the cup was a Portkey that had taken Harry and Cedric to somewhere Ron didn’t know; that Harry had returned from said unknown place bleeding, shaking, holding the cup with one hand and Cedric’s dead body with the other... and that You-Know-Who was back.

That last thought sent a shiver up Ron’s spine. It was still hard to process, still hard to believe. But it was true. Harry’s words a week before still echoed through his head: Look, I saw Voldemort come back! I saw the Death Eaters!

Harry had shouted that to Cornelius Fudge from his bed in the hospital wing, the night of the third task. It had easily been the worst night of Ron’s life, hands down. And if it had been that horrible to him, he could only imagine what it had been like to Harry, since he had actually witnessed the Dark Lord’s return. Bloody hell.

Ron started putting the chess pieces in their boxes, trying his best to ignore the stupid anguishy feeling that was coming over him again. He didn’t like feeling like this.

Where was Hermione, by the way? She was the only one who understood what Ron was going through, and really, she was the only one he had left. Whether they wanted to believe it or not, Harry wasn’t there. That boy who had just gone up to his dormitory at six couldn’t be Harry. Their trio was down by one member, and Ron just hoped Harry – the real Harry – would come back soon. He didn’t know how much longer he could take this.

Ron had stood up from his chair and got out of the common room before he could think about what he was doing. But he knew that he had to find Hermione, right now. She hadn’t told him where she had gone off to. She had simply disappeared and left him alone with Harry, no explanations. So he’d have to go to the only logical place to look.

It was only halfway to the library that he started wondering why exactly he felt that urge to see her. He just... needed to talk to her. Get everything that was bothering him off his chest, tell her what he had already told her a million times. Have her nod and repeat over and over that it would be okay, just to watch as she lost her composure and started raving as wildly as he had been before about how unfair the world was. Be the one who nodded and told her everything would be okay, even though both knew it wouldn’t.

That had been their little ritual, ever since that bloody night. It didn’t help Harry’s situation, it didn’t solve anything, but it was oddly comforting to know that someone else felt just as worried as you did. Just as indignant.

Just as afraid.

He pushed the library door open a little more harshly than usual, looking for any sign of Hermione...

And he found a sign of her, all right. Viktor Krum was sitting down at a table not too far away, looking at, but obviously not really reading, a very thick book.

Suddenly it made great sense why Hermione hadn’t told him were she was going. He clenched his jaw. That was hardly the time for romantic encounters, Hermione should have been aware of that. Maybe her love for Krum was just too overwhelming to wait.

Ron was about to turn around and storm out, when the prospect of staying in the common room worrying by himself came to him. It wasn’t a very appealing one. He really did want to know where Hermione was. And Krum would certainly know that.

He looked from Krum to the door, weighing his options. It would be hard to speak civilly to the git, but it wasn’t as if he cared about what Hermione’s boyfriend thought of him... Oh, what the hell!

He cleared his throat and tried not to glare when Krum looked up at him. “Er... have you seen Hermione?”

~**~

Viktor stared in surprise. The red-haired boy, Ron, was standing right across from him wearing an odd expression on his face. For a moment, he wondered if the boy was even addressing him; his eyes seemed to be focused on the wall behind Viktor. Viktor glanced around. There was no one else in the library, except for the librarian, far away at her desk. The boy must be talking to him.

“No,” said Viktor. “I have not seen her today.” He wondered why the boy was asking him this question. Surely he would know where she is, better than I, he thought bitterly.

But the boy only frowned and looked at him dubiously, as if he didn’t believe him. Then he looked away again quickly, as if catching himself. It struck Viktor suddenly that the boy looked... worried.

Viktor frowned in concern. He had been so wrapped up in his own thoughts, he hadn’t bothered to wonder whether she was all right. And now, here was her friend, looking so troubled...

“Is something wrong with Hermione?” he asked sharply. His tone sounded accusatory, but he didn’t care. The boy wrinkled his nose slightly and shot him a look Viktor couldn’t quite read.

~**~

“Is something wrong vith Herm-own-ninny?”

Well, there must be, if she’ll go out with a great big Bulgarian prat like you!

Ron swallowed that particular comment right as it was about to make its way out of his mouth, very aware of how sickened his expression probably looked. Well, it wasn’t as if he could help it. Listening to Krum mutilate her name like that, and just–just have the gall to mention her, really...it was too much to take.

Krum was eyeing him strangely. Ron just wanted to hit something, preferably Krum’s nose. Why did he have to look so clueless? Who ever gave him the right to look clueless?

Ron felt like just turning to him and saying: Hey, you know what? I loathe you. Maybe then Krum would get the picture, and be rude to him, insult him, hit him... anything.

And then Ron would be able to hate him in peace.

“No, I just can’t find her,” he replied finally, even though it took him almost all of his willpower to get these words out.

Krum nodded, still looking worried. Seeing Krum’s concern over Hermione was strangely disconcerting. It was just... wrong. The git shouldn’t be concerned. Ron felt like crushing something, preferably Krum’s skull.

Thankfully, Krum didn’t try to continue the conversation, and went back to his book instead.

Ron looked around the library again, remembering the reason he was there in the first place.

Where the hell was Hermione? How could she have disappeared? Didn’t she know that one of the most important rules during situations like this was ‘Don’t Run Off’? It wasn’t like Hermione to do that. “Really, you’d think she’d want to be around Harry, at a time like this.”

And only when Krum’s head snapped up from the book did Ron realize he had said it out loud.

~**~

Viktor narrowed his eyes. Potter. Of course. It always came back to Potter, didn’t it? She was probably with him right now, doing all sorts of things Viktor didn’t want to think about. Viktor grimaced. You’d think she’d want to be around Harry…the words echoed in his head, mocking him.

“Are you certain she is not?” he said, before he’d thought, surprising even himself with the bitterness in his voice.

The boy gave him an odd look, as if he hadn’t quite understood what Viktor had said, but he didn’t answer. Viktor looked away, toward the windows. It was still light out, and he could see that it was a beautiful evening. He shouldn’t be sitting in the library. He should be out there, with her. Viktor clenched his jaw. He should be happy. Why was that so difficult to achieve?

He looked back at the boy, who was now watching him with a suspicious expression. The boy opened his mouth, closed it, and then looked around the library for a moment. Then he turned back to Viktor, his eyes narrowed.

“So you’re sure you haven’t seen her?” he said, his voice much louder than was necessary. Viktor saw the librarian sat up quickly, as though she had been stung.

Please, remind me of it again, he thought sarcastically, and shook his head.

~**~

“Are you certain she is not?”

Huh? Krum was trying to help? It couldn’t be–his tone had been too sharp with annoyance, and also something...something Ron couldn’t quite identify...Was that impatience? Yeah, it had sounded enough like impatience. It hadn’t been a very courteous tone of voice; that much was for certain.

So what was the git playing at? His tone really had seemed to say, ‘Go look for her elsewhere and stop being a stupid bugger, will you?’

Krum was now looking out the window, clenching his jaw, and ignoring Ron completely. Did he want Ron to feel ignored and leave? But why would he want that? Was there anything really interesting that he couldn’t do while Ron—

Suddenly everything fell into place.

He decided to tell Krum he already knew about his little plan, but then thought better about it. He looked in the direction of the shelves again. No, telling Krum was not enough. He had to make Hermione show herself.

“So you’re sure you haven’t seen her?” he said, making sure that, wherever in the library Hermione was hidden, she’d be able to hear him.

Come out, Hermione, I know you’re there, just waiting for me to go away so you can happily resume your snogging session...

That didn’t sound like Hermione at all, Ron knew, but he really, really didn’t care right now. What else could explain Krum’s behavior? What else could explain her disappearing? She sometimes seemed to care more about that prat than she did about her friends, anyway...

And besides, the mental picture of the two of them together was too disturbingly vivid to ignore.

“I assure you I haff not.”

Ron blinked. Oh, yeah, he had yelled something, hadn’t he? He somehow hadn’t been expecting Krum to actually answer.

“Yeah, right,” he muttered, more to put an end to the subject than anything. He couldn’t deal with it right now. But he was going to confront Hermione later. Yes he was.

Honestly, Harry starting to show signs of a very bad depression, Hermione running off to snog Krum... Could the day get any worse?

That was when Malfoy walked into the library.

~**~

The boy was muttering something under his breath; Viktor couldn’t make out what it was. He didn’t really care, either. He was finding the whole conversation irritating; it made him think of things he didn’t feel like thinking about. Potter, he thought resentfully, I would love to go a day without hearing Potter’s name. Just one day.

Viktor looked back down at the book, to send a message that the conversation was over. This sometimes worked with reporters.

But then the library doors opened, and Viktor automatically looked up at the sound. It wasn’t her this time either. It was only Draco Malfoy. Viktor had heard that Malfoy was supposed to be very impressive. Some of the other Durmstrang students talked about him in hushed whispers, and vied to sit near him at meals. Supposedly his father was very important. This last piece of information was the only explanation Viktor could find believable. He himself found Malfoy irritating and simpering, someone who hid his own cowardice behind his father’s name and his thuggish friends’ muscles.

Draco Malfoy is one of the most respected students in this school! Karkaroff had insisted, when Viktor had shared this sentiment. Viktor had only snorted. If Malfoy was one of the most respected, he would hate to see the least.

Viktor started to return to his book, but then saw Malfoy look around the library, as if searching for someone. His eyes fell on the red-haired boy, and a malicious smile appeared on his face. He strode arrogantly past the librarian’s desk, over toward the red-haired boy.

“What’s the matter, Weasley? Lost your leader? Or have you abandoned Potter now that everyone knows he’s a murderer?” Malfoy’s expression was a perfect picture of smug delight in his own cruelty.

Viktor looked quickly at the red-haired boy. His fists were clenched at his sides, and he was giving Malfoy a look of absolute loathing. When he spoke, however, his voice was low and dangerous. “Shut up, Malfoy,” he said through gritted teeth.

Viktor looked back at Malfoy, suddenly feeling that he was seeing the kind of battle he had been reading about in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts: the clash of two total opposites. Dark and Light, Evil and Good. But that would make the red-haired boy, Ron, Good. Viktor shook his head. He had to stop reading this book so much. It was affecting his brain.

Malfoy’s face showed satisfaction; he knew he had touched a nerve. “Potter’s not so perfect, after all, is he,” Malfoy drawled, his tone mocking. “Not so certain you want to hang around with him anymore, are you? What’s the matter, Weasley, afraid you’ll be next?”

The red-haired boy took a step closer to Malfoy, tensed as if to spring. Viktor glanced over at the librarian’s desk, but Madam Pince was not there. She picked a fine time to go away, he thought, turning his eyes back to the tense scene in front of him.

The red-haired boy let out an angry sound, very nearly like a growl.

“Scared, Weasley?” said Malfoy in a low, menacing voice. “No Potter here to protect you now. No Mudblood to hold you back.”

The red-haired boy let out an incoherent sound, but before he could do anything else, Viktor furiously slammed his book shut. He knew whom Malfoy meant. And no one would get away with calling her that.

Both boys turned to look at Viktor, a furious look on the red-haired boy’s face, a nasty smirk on Malfoy’s.

~**~

“... No Mudblood to hold you back.”

Bastard. Ron was clenching his fists so tightly that it was starting to become painful, but he barely noticed that. He was going to kill Malfoy. No, wait, he was going to break all his slimy pure-blood bones one by one until he begged for mercy and then he’d kill him.

Ferret-boy was right about something. Hermione wasn’t here to hold him back, was she? She wasn’t here to say, ‘No, Ron, don’t! It’s not worth it.’ Well, it damn well was worth it. He was going to put an end to the insults right now. There was nothing more important at that moment than punching Malfoy senseless.

THUD!

He turned to look at the source of the noise. Krum. Looking furious. What was happening? Why would Krum be furious? Didn’t he eat his meals with the Slytherins? Wasn’t he friends with them?

“Viktor Krum,” said Malfoy with his patented smirk, acknowledging Krum for the first time since entering. His voice, Ron noticed, held something he had never heard there before: the tiniest hint of respect.

Krum didn’t answer, but his glare became harsher.

Malfoy looked back at Ron, his gaze withering. “You should be more careful of your company, Krum,” he said.

Krum glanced at Ron for a moment, and then turned his glare back on Malfoy, not saying a word.

Malfoy’s eyes narrowed, and his cheeks went slightly pink. He gave a quick glance at Ron, like he couldn’t believe this was happening in front of a Weasley. Ron raised a self-satisfied eyebrow at him. Somehow, watching Viktor Krum blow Malfoy off was almost as gratifying as beating him up.

“Not that you’ve cared before, I suppose,” said Malfoy in a fairly uninterested tone of voice. “Letting the whole world know about your little fling with Granger. Frankly, Krum, I thought you, of all people, would have better taste than that.”

Right. Maybe Ron should stop watching Krum blow that Death-Eater-in-training off and just beat him up. He was able to stop glaring at Malfoy for a moment and take a glance at Krum, who was looking angrier by the second. No, he could beat Malfoy up later; this was too good to miss.

“Maybe you could have even won the Tournament,” continued Malfoy, his voice becoming a little slicker. “If you hadn’t had that Muggle know-it-all on your mind the ent-”

Krum stood up. Only he didn’t just stand up, he stood up. Abruptly. Threateningly.

Malfoy looked up at Krum’s full height and immediately fell silent, like the good little ferret he was.

Ron looked from Malfoy’s whipped expression to Krum’s menacing one, feeling his jaw drop. He didn’t want to admit it to himself, but that had been sort of... cool.

~**~

Viktor glared down at Malfoy. For someone who was always looking down on others, the boy was not very tall. Or particularly threatening, when it came down to it. Not without his big friends to back him up.

This thought seemed to have occurred to Malfoy as well. He had fallen silent the moment Viktor had risen from his chair, and he was now glancing around the library like a cornered animal.

Viktor’s eyes flitted to the librarian’s desk. Madam Pince was back, watching the three boys over the top of a thick, dusty volume.

He looked back at Malfoy. “You should leave,” he said, in a tone he hoped conveyed what would happen to Malfoy if he didn’t.

Malfoy narrowed his eyes and lifted his chin defiantly at Viktor. Then he turned abruptly to Ron Weasley. “Got yourself a new bodyguard, have you, Weasley? Well, I certainly hope that makes you and your little friends feel safe, because I promise you, nothing else will.” Malfoy turned on his heel and left quickly, Ron staring after him with a mixture of apprehension and revulsion on his face.

“Bastard,” Ron muttered under his breath, massaging the knuckles of one hand with the other. He looked up and met Viktor’s eyes.

It was an odd moment. The dynamic in the room had shifted somehow, though Viktor couldn’t quite describe it. They stared at each other for a few seconds, and then Viktor sat back down and opened his book, to have something to do.

“Well,” said Ron awkwardly, a few minutes later, “if you see Hermione, tell her I’m looking for her.”

Viktor looked up and nodded, a strange pang in his stomach at the mention of her name. Ron hesitated for a moment, as though he wanted to say something else, and then turned and walked toward the library doors.

Viktor glanced back down at his book, but didn’t see the words at the page at all. If you see her... that wasn’t very likely, was it? He had been trying to talk to her all week, but to no avail. He was running out of chances to tell her what he wanted to say.

Viktor raised his head, and the words came out before he had consciously decided to say them. “When you see her, tell her that my invitation to visit me in Bulgaria is still open, if she wants it.”

~**~

Ron stood there, not really sure of how he should say goodbye, if he should just give Krum a wave, a handshake, or something. Under normal circumstances, he’d just walk off without looking back, but the circumstances were definitely not normal. Everything was just weird.

“Well, if you see Hermione, tell her I’m looking for her.” That was the best he managed to say, through the lump in his throat.

Krum looked up, nodded, and then returned to his book. Maybe that had been enough. There was no need for a ‘See you’, after all, was there?

Ron turned and headed for the library doors. Somehow, things were much less awkward when he hated Krum. He wasn’t sure if he still did. He wasn’t even sure whether he was allowed to hate Krum, after that scene with Malfoy. He reached for the doorknob. Anyone who put Malfoy in his place like that had to be worth something, right?

That was when Krum called after him, “When you see her, tell her that my invitation to visit me in Bulgaria is still open, if she vants it.”

Ron froze in his tracks.

Mad-Eye Moody had put Malfoy in his place too, and that didn’t stop him from being a Death-Eater in disguise, did it?

Ron opened the door and walked away without looking back, ignoring the looks he was receiving from the paintings in the hallway. He couldn’t believe Krum’s nerve. Did he really think Ron would ever go to Hermione and tell her that Krum’s invitation was still...

Wait. Krum’s invitation was still open.

“When was the second task?” he asked abruptly to the picture of a tall woman in a yellow dress. He was so thrilled to learn that Hermione still hadn’t accepted Krum’s offer that he didn’t even notice the painting’s silly hair-do, something he normally would never miss.

“Er... February the twenty-fourth, I think,” she answered, and the strange look she was giving him became even stranger when he burst out laughing.

Four months. It had been over four months! He now felt stupid for worrying about Krum. Hermione clearly could take care of herself. Maybe there was a charm to restore figurine models; Krum might deserve to keep both arms, after all.

Ron thanked the painting so much that it left her looking flustered and even more confused, and wandered absently toward the Entrance Hall, smiling to himself.

He still had to find Hermione.

The End


//
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