The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.
Disclaimer: The world portrayed in this fic (and we’re starting to suspect
that the actual world) belongs to J.K. Rowling. The characters belong
either to J.K., Arabella and Zsenya or themselves. We only own William Sommers,
Zachary Hall, Clive Bosher, Josef, Lourenço Pereira,
Antônio Castro, Kevin Dodd, *coughcoughourselvescoughcough* and a few fans.
Authors’ Note: The Viktor Krum portrayed in here is in no way related to the
Viktor in either Manu’s “When Words Aren’t Enough” or Elanor’s “Moody Slavic
Man”. Also, this is the sequel to “Lost Her, Have You?”, so it would be kind
of nice if you’ve read that first. J
Thank you to Jedi Boadicea for betareading!
Fraternizing with the Enemy
A Harry Potter fanfiction by
Ron looked around Diagon Alley, unable to wipe off
the stupid grin that had been on his face for most
of the morning. The Chudley Cannons were signing autographs for the fans! It
was too great to be true.
It was officially the best day of Ron’s holidays.
Of course, that wasn’t very hard to accomplish. The summer hadn’t been exactly
wonderful, had it? Harry’s letters had been short
and disconcerting, and Hermione’s... well, Hermione’s letters hadn’t been exactly
frequent, since she had spent most of the summer annoyed at him.
Maybe things would get better once Harry came to the Burrow. Ron was still
waiting for Dumbledore to give the Weasleys permission to go and pick him up,
although he had a nagging feeling that having Harry in their house wouldn’t
be as much fun as it usually was.
He twirled his Cannons’ hat around in his hands. It didn’t matter. He was going
to get the Cannons’ autographs, and nothing could be bad enough to ruin that.
He looked over at Fred and George, who were next to him, talking to their mother.
She was asking something about the League Cup, which was weird, since she had
never been a big Quidditch fan (Ron still couldn’t comprehend how she was able
to sleep at night after having missed the opportunity to go to the Quidditch
Their father had been working like crazy lately, and he wouldn’t have been
able to go with them even if he wanted to. And he did want to, or at least Ron
thought he did. His father hadn’t had the time
to actually talk with his children, these last couple of months.
So their mother had insisted on accompanying them, because of ‘all that was
happening’. Ron really didn’t see the point. He had protested to his mother
about it until she got that scary glint in her eyes. The glint that meant that
if he didn’t agree with her going with them, he wouldn’t go at all. And then,
of course, he had agreed with everything she said.
However, he still thought it was a stupid idea. After all, if the Death Eaters
wanted to pop out from thin air and murder everyone in the middle of the day,
it wouldn’t be a middle-aged housewife who would stop them. She would only get
herself killed too.
He shook his head slightly to clear his thoughts. The Cannons’ autographs.
He was going to get the Cannons’ autographs.
“Oh, this is going to be so much fun,” said Fred for the third
or fourth time.
Ron nodded. Fred and George were the ones who had told him about this signing,
with big grins on their faces and a somewhat wicked
look in their eyes. Ron had been suspicious. Well,
he was always suspicious of the twins... but of course, it wasn’t as
if he’d miss something like this only because the twins seemed to be looking
forward to it a little too much.
“I don’t get why you two are so anxious to get
there,” said Ron, voicing his thoughts. “You don’t even like the Cannons.”
“What are you talking about?” said Fred. “I love
the Cannons. They make me lose my breath, and get
“And fall from the chair, and roll on the floor...” added George.
“And really, cry from laughing so much every time
they play,” finished Fred.
Ron scowled. After all these long years, he should have known better than to
mention the Cannons to the twins.
“Bloody hilarious, they are. We should at least
say thank you for the fun, right?” said George.
“Did you see that last patheticgame against-”
“Fred, George, that’s enough,” said their mother in her most intimidating shut-up-now-or-else
tone of voice.
Ron opened his mouth to say that he didn’t need her to defend him, when he
remembered that he had already got her angry that morning. He shouldn’t fuel
her temper, especially now that they were so close
to the autograph signing. And besides, it was funny to see the twins look
so whipped, even if he knew that the effect of their mother’s reprimands on
them was usually very short-lived.
“We want to go because players from other teams are
going too, did we forget to tell you that?” said Fred, probably deciding to
answer properly, in his mother’s presence.
“What other teams?”
Fred and George exchanged a look and grinned.
“Well, little brother, enough to say that we wouldn’t miss the opportunity
to attend this lovely signing with you for the world,” said George.
Ron had opened his mouth to demand to know what the hell they were up to when
Fred nudged him.
“Look, we’re here.”
They had arrived at Quality Quidditch Supplies. The giggling fans carrying
autographed scarves and pictures that were leaving the shop and almost bumping
into the passers-by in their blind giddiness left no doubt of the fact that
there really was an autograph signing event going on. Ron suddenly forgot all
about his brothers’ fishy behavior.
Maybe he had been born with his eyes naturally trained for it, but the first
thing Ron noticed upon entering the crowded store was the table on the far left,
with Keeper William Sommers and Beater Debora Jade in their
bright orange Chudley Cannons robes.
Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that their table was the only
one with no fans to block the view of the players.
“Right, Debora, your turn,” Ron heard Sommers say as he approached them. “Who
was the third Seeker to play for the Cannons?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” said Debora, grinning cheekily, her feet
propped up on top of the table. “Zachary Hall.”
Ron blinked. It almost seemed like they were quizzing each other to pass the
time. He was forcefully reminded of Hermione. If
her just-for-fun quizzes had anything to do with the Cannons, maybe he
would actually have some fun.
“Now, Will, tell me...what was the first foul ever committed by the Chudley
“Cobbing,” Ron said promptly, before he’d thought. He blushed when both players
jumped on their seats and turned to face him.
“Oh!” exclaimed Debora, looking at him in awe as if he’d just
done something amazing, like... answering correctly what the first foul ever
committed by the Cannons was. Heh. “William, oh my God, a fan!
He’s a fan!”
“Yes, I can see him,” answered Sommers coolly, although his eyes also looked
somewhat surprised. “You can stop shaking my arm now.”
Jade let go of his arm, her eyes never leaving Ron. She seemed
as excited to see him as he was to see her.
“Sorry, Will, I just... I really feel like doing the happy Snoopy dance right
William snorted. “Snoopy is, apparently, some kind of dog,” he explained to
Ron, noticing his puzzled expression.
“Oh... of course,” said Ron, feeling even more confused than
before, though he’d never admit it. He was amazed that even though his father
couldn’t stop talking about Muggle things, he still didn’t know anything about
them, it seemed. He would just have to owl Hermione later
and ask her about this Skoopy.
“Don’t mind Debora, kid, she tends to get overexcited easily,” continued Sommers
with a somewhat paternallook
in her direction. “She acted that way to all the—” he let out a cough “—many
fans we attracted today.”
Debora nodded fervently in support.
“Do you want us to sign something?” said Sommers.
Oh, yes, autographs, Ron suddenly remembered. Well, he didn’t
need autographs right now, he’d be happy to just stand there all day
listening to the two of them talking. Although yes, autographs would be nice.
He nodded and handed William Sommers his orange Cannons’ hat.
William dipped his quill in the inkbottle. “What’s your name, kid?”
“Er... Ron. Ron Weasley.”
Sommers finished writing his name with a flourish, and then handed the hat
to Debora, who eagerly autographed it.
“I really love this hat, it’s so cool,” she said, handing it back to
him with a big grin on her face.
“Er...” said Ron, his ear growing hot. He knew he was smiling stupidly. “Thanks.”
“Oh, you’re welcome! It really is!” exclaimed Debora.
Sommers rolled his eyes at her, though he was smiling, and then turned to Ron.
“You want a Chudley Cannons badge, kid? Even with—” he coughed again “—so many
fans, I think there are still some...”
But Ron had stopped listening; what he saw on the other side of the store threw
him completely off track.
He finally understood Fred and George’s secrecy about the whole signing, finally
understood their excitement about it. Finally understood the wicked grins.
“Well, little brother, enough to say that we wouldn’t miss the opportunity
to attend this lovely signing with you for the world.”
Oh, how he hated his brothers.
Ron looked again to make sure that it hadn’t just been his eyes deceiving him.
Wasn’t Krum supposed to be in bloody Bulgaria?
“And this is the table where you’ll be signing. I do hope it’s acceptable?”
Clive Bosher, owner of Quality Quidditch Supplies, turned to Viktor with an
anxious expression on his face.
“It is fine,” said Viktor dully. He wished the man would just leave him alone,
so he could get this over with.
“Is there anything else I can get you, Mr. Krum? Something to drink? Extra
“No, I am fine. The doors will be opening soon, yes?” The sooner it began,
the sooner he would be finished, and the sooner he would be able to…see to other
“Yes, in about five minutes.” Bosher seized Viktor’s hand for the fifth time
that morning and pumped it vigorously. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate
this, Mr. Krum. Our little store is so proud to have you here. I know your fans
will be thrilled to see you. Just can’t wait to see you back on the pitch again.”
“Thank you,” said Viktor. He extracted his hand from the man’s sweaty grasp
and wiped it surreptitiously on his robes.
Bosher grinned at Viktor, pulling a large ornamental
pocket watch from his robes. “Goodness me!”
he exclaimed. “I must see to the doors.” He scurried away, barking orders to
a young assistant who had been waiting nearby.
Viktor settled himself behind the table in a hard wooden chair. There were
several quills lined up on the table, ranging from a luxurious blue plume to
a simple brown owl feather. Viktor picked up the owl feather and played with
it idly. He had known he would regret letting his coach talk him into doing
this signing, and he had been right. Now, as he faced the prospect of two hours
of scribbling his signature for giggling girls and boastful men, he wished for
nothing more than to be alone in the mountains, flying. But Josef had insisted
that this signing would be good for his career, that after taking a year off
for the Triwizard Tournament he needed to promote his return to the Vultures.
However, Viktor might not have agreed if he hadn’t had another reason for wanting
to return to England.
Ever since Hermione had left Bulgaria
three weeks before, he had longed to see her again. He felt like he had hardly
gotten to see her at all during her week’s stay, as her parents had been with
her every minute, it seemed. It hadn’t been until the day before she had left
that he had gotten her alone; he had invited her to go for a walk with him in
the woods behind his house. He could still remember every word of their conversation
clearly, though he had tried many times to forget
“Hermione,” Viktor said, as soon as they were out of sight of the house.
He stopped and took her hand.
She turned to him then, looking slightly reluctant, but smiling that brilliant
smile. “What is it, Viktor?”
“I…I want you to know how much it means to me,
that you have come to visit. I had hoped you would…”
She looked slightly guilty, turning her eyes downward to their joined hands.
“Of course I wanted to come. After all you had told me
about your country, I wanted to see it for myself. And it is beautiful here.”
She looked up at him with these last words, and he thought the look
on her face was asking him something,
but he couldn’t tell what.
“I confess I have been selfish,” Viktor said, taking a step closer to her.
“I only wanted to see you again. To have you to myself, without your friends
She looked up at him, opening her mouth quickly and then closing it again,
as if she had bitten back whatever she had been about to say. Viktor reached
up and stroked her hair.
“What is it?” he asked. “You can say anything to me,
She turned her head to the right, away from his touch. “Viktor…I…I came
here to see you, because...because we’ve been such good friends.” She placed
the slightest of emphasis on the word “friends”, and Viktor frowned.
“Yes, we are good friends,”
he said, boldly placing his arms around her waist. “But I hope you know that
I also think of you as more than that.”
She stiffened slightly in his arms. “Viktor…”
“I love you, Hermione.” There, he had said it. The thought had been in
his mind ever since he had seen her emerging from the Muggle airport, hair flying
out behind her.
She stared at him, eyes round.
“Oh…Viktor…,” she breathed.
Viktor didn’t know what reaction he had been expecting, but this seemed
as promising as any he could think of. He leaned forward slightly, intending
to kiss her, but her next words stopped him cold.
“I’m so sorry.”
She closed her eyes, looking pained, and gently but firmly removed his
arms from her waist. “Viktor, I…I can’t do this. I’m sorry. I don’t…”
She couldn’t seem to bring herself to finish the sentence, but she didn’t
have to. Viktor took an unconscious step back, feeling like a complete idiot.
What had he done?
“Viktor, please,” she pleaded. “I care about you very much, I just…don’t…”
Love me, thought Viktor bitterly, though he
didn’t say anything out loud.
“I’m so sorry, Viktor, I never meant to hurt you,” she continued. “You
know I never would have come here if I had thought it would hurt you. I do
care about you. I meant it when I said we’ve been such good friends—”
“Is it…someone else?” said Viktor stonily. He couldn’t look
at her as he said the words, but he had to look
once they were out of his mouth. He had to see her face.
What he saw made him wish he hadn’t looked. She blinked, a shadow passing
over her expression, before squaring her shoulders and saying, “No, of course
Viktor sighed inwardly. Potter. He might have known. Despite all
of her protestations to the contrary, she still cared about Potter. She probably
even loved him. Viktor was suddenly savagely glad that she was leaving the next
“Viktor,” she said, stepping forward and laying a hand on his arm. Viktor
flinched at the contact. If she noticed this, she ignored it. “I don’t want
to lose you…as a friend.”
He forced himself to meet her eyes, so full of sincerity. He still couldn’t
disappoint her, no matter how much it hurt him in the process. “That,” he said,
“could never happen.”
The words were difficult to say, but, he thought as he was rewarded with
a relieved smile, they had been worth it.
Now, as he sat waiting for the influx of fans, Viktor pulled out the bit
of parchment he had received from her just two days ago.
Of course I would like to meet you for lunch while you are
here. I will ask Mum and Dad to driveme
up to London that morning, as I
need to go to Diagon Alley to buy more parchment as well. Also, can you recommend
any other O.W.L. practice materials? I’ve gone
through all I have and I know I need more practice before school starts—they
are coming up so quickly. I will meet you
at Quality Quidditch Supplies at .
He noted, somewhere in the back of his mind, that her letters prior
to her visit had always been signed “Love From Hermione”, and he wondered if
the change had been made purposely. In any case, he had to admit to himself
that he still harbored some hope of changing her feelings. Maybe if he continued
to be her friend, continued to show her how much
he cared…maybe then she would realize she actually loved him after all. Maybe
she would even forget about Potter.
“All right, ladies and gentlemen, here we go!” Bosher shouted from the door.
A moment later, he pulled the enormous glass
doors open and a tide of chattering people flowed in. There were shouts of excitement
as people recognized their favorite players, but Viktor soon tuned them out
as he focused on signing the hats, books, bits
of parchment , and blinking pictures of himself that were placed in front of
him. He was slightly pleased to note that the pictures of himself looked just
as disgruntled as he felt, blinking slowly as if unable to discern what all
the commotion was about.
Once the initial crowd had been satisfied, there was a brief lull, and Viktor
took a moment to look around the store. There were
ten Quidditch players signing altogether, and there were five tables set
up, one for each team represented. Viktor was the only player from the Vratsa
Vultures, which didn’t seem fair to him at all. But, as Josef had said, he was
the most popular, and his appearance at this signing
would reflect well on the whole team. In reality, he suspected that his older
teammates simply knew better than to get themselves into these things.
Directly opposite from Viktor were three players from the Ballycastle Bats:
Seeker Hull Hullington, a tall man with blond hair and a fair complexion, Chaser
Kevin Dodd, who had recently joined the team and was clearly thrilled about
attending his first signing, and Reserve Seeker Maureen Knight. Viktor had not
recognized the woman when he had first seen her, and had assumed she was some
sort of support person for the team. She, however, had recognized him, and had
immediately come over to introduce herself and shake his hand, dark ponytail
swinging behind her. She was perhaps three or four years older than he was,
and had spoken about her team with a kind of fierce devotion that impressed
Viktor. More impressive, perhaps, was the fact that she had not giggled once
in the whole time she had been speaking to him.
To the left of the Bats’ table were two members of the Kenmare Kestrels, one
of whom Viktor recognized rather better than he would have liked. Seeker Aidan
Lynch sat looking slightly dazed, as though he hardly knew where he was, and
Beater Padraig Connelly had to remind Lynch to sign his name whenever a piece
of parchment was placed in front of him. Viktor pushed away a slight feeling
of guilt over the ploughings he had subjected Lynch to in the Quidditch World
Cup last year. That was Quidditch, and if Lynch couldn’t learn to recognize
a feint, then he would suffer for it. However, from what Viktor had heard, Lynch
had fallen for the Wronski Feint more times than
any other Seeker on record.
In the far corner of the store, a table was set
up for Lourenço Pereira, and Antônio Castro, of
the Braga Broomfleet, from Portugal.
Viktor had been disappointed to learn that neither spoke very good English,
as he had been eager to talk to them about their team’s exciting performance
in their game the previous month against the Bigonville
Adjacent to them was one last table. Viktor had to hold in a snort of derision
as he glanced over at the two members of the Chudley Cannons who had shown up
to the signing. Seeker William Sommers, an older man with a lined face,
and Beater Debora Jade, a younger, pretty woman with red hair,
were deeply involved in a discussion about something. The discussion, it seemed,
had been going on for some time. Viktor was unsurprised,
as they had had virtually no autograph-seekers to distract them from it. He
felt a bit sorry for them, sitting there in their
conspicuous orange robes, knowing that their team
had not won a match in over one hundred years. Still, he had to have some respect
for their seeming determination not to give in to defeat. Hadn’t he felt the
same thing, in the World Cup match last year?
The chimes on the door rang out as another group
of patrons made their way into the store. Viktor soon had a line at his table
again, and went back to scrawling his name and nodding and grunting at the excited
comments coming at him from all sides.
Viktor was glad he had only agreed to sign for two hours, because the time
was torturously slow, even though he was kept busy. He kept glancing at the
clock over the door, which featured a minute-hand shaped like a Seeker on a
broomstick and a second-hand shaped like a Snitch.
With fifteen minutes left to go, Viktor put down his quill for a moment and
flexed his hand. There was an autograph spell he could use, of course, but fans
generally preferred the real thing.
He looked around the store again, stretching his neck, and saw a familiarface. It was Hermione’s friend, Ron. What was his
last name? Viktor couldn’t remember. But it was somehow comforting to see a
even if it was one he barely knew. Ron turned around and saw Viktor looking
in his direction. Viktor nodded and raised one hand in greeting.
“Mr. Krum! I can’t tell you what a delight this is! My sister and I
talk about you all the time, how talented you are!
Oh, would it be too much trouble to sign this Bulgaria
scarf? I got it at the World Cup last year and it would mean so much
Viktor turned to see a heavyset woman with thick black hair standing in front
of him, holding out a scarf eagerly. Viktor took
it wordlessly, glancing up at the clock once again. Ten minutes to .
Ron couldn’t help feeling a little surprised that Krum had actually greeted
him. He wasn’t used to being remembered, and especially not by an international
Quidditch star whom he had never treated quite
It was nice, but it didn’t stop Ron from being relieved when an excited fan
made Krum look the other way.
“You’re friends with Viktor Krum, kid?”
It took Ron a moment to realize that Sommers was addressing him. And then he
felt like kicking himself for not paying attention to the Cannons Captain. He
would normally tell anyone suggesting that he was friends with Krum to sod off,
but well... this was William Sommers and all.
“Uh... no, not really. We’ve just... seen each
other once or twice.”
Debora opened her mouth as if she wanted to say something, but in that moment
Ron’s mother joined them.
“Ron, dear, that young man who just waved at you...” Ron started nodding impatiently
for her to finish. Apparently someone remembering Ron was as much of a miracle
to everyone else as it was for him, what with everyone mentioning it. “Isn’t
he that friend of Hermione’s? The Quidditch player?”
No, Mum, thought Ron, feeling irrationally annoyed, he’s a floor
sweeper, that’s why he’s giving out autographs in a Quidditch signing
event, you know.
“Yeah,” he said instead.
“Oh, go talk to him, dear. Don’t be rude.”
“I... uh...” He searched his brain frantically
for an excuse. “I’m in the middle of something here,” he said triumphantly,
indicating William Sommers and Debora Jade with his head.
His mother turned to them and smiled as if she’d just seen them there. “Oh,
hello. I’m Ron’s mother, nice to meet you.”
She shook their hands. Ron flushed with embarrassment.
“I’m sure that they wouldn’t mind giving you a second,” she said.
“Oh, not at all,” said Sommers, before Ron could do something,
anything, to stop him.
“To speak with Viktor Krum? Really, as if we’d make him stay here...”
Ron hadn’t thought he’d ever feel like telling a Cannons player to shut the
He sighed. It wasn’t as if he still hated Krum. He had even been able to ask
for an autograph - granted, he'd thought at the time
that he would never see the bloke again, but still... maybe saying a "hello"
There were only two real problems: Fred and George.
There was no way in hell he'd utter a word to Krum if there was any chance
at all of the twins hearing. Or worse, joining in. He cringed at the thought.
His worry was proven unfounded, though, as he found them by the Ballycastle
Bats table at the other side of the room, talking (no, wait, flirting)
with the Reserve Seeker, Maureen Knight. He shook his head. He could most definitely
see why they were hitting on her, but honestly, their mother was in the
“Do you want me to come with you, dear?”
“NO!” He received weird looks from all the three
people around him. “Er… I mean, you don’t need to, Mum, it’s okay.”
“Thank you so much, Mr. Krum. You don’t know what an honor it is to meet you
in person. I was at the Quidditch World Cup last year and I just couldn’t believe
how well you flew. I said to Lisa here, I said,
‘Lisa, that Viktor Krum is amazing. You just wait
- he’ll catch the Snitch yet.’ Didn’t I say that? Didn’t I, Lisa?” The young
woman paused for breath and looked anxiously at her friend.
Her friend, a shorter woman with extremely blonde hair, smiled in a placating
manner and nodded. “Yes, she did.”
The first woman resumed her excited chatter, her honey-colored hair bouncing
around her head as she spoke. “You see, I knew you’d get the Snitch.
I’ve watched your career, I knew you wouldn’t let anything stand in the way.
It’s really amazing - yes, that’s K-a-t-h-y, that’s right - it’s amazing how
far you’ve gotten at such a young age. I know being in that tournament was quite
an honor and all that, but I must say I am happy to see you back on a broomstick
where you belong.” She gave him a dazzling smile.
Viktor finished signing a picture and handed it to her. “Thank you,” he said
uncomfortably. He wasn’t sure how much more he could take of this. Thank goodness
it was almost over.
The two women moved away from his table, the first one still chattering her
thanks. Viktor raised his head to see who was next in line and came face
to face with Ron.
“Hey,” said Ron, not meeting Viktor’s eyes.
Viktor nodded. “Hello.” He reached for a picture from the stack next to him.
“No, I—” said Ron. He coughed. “I... already have one.”
“Oh, yes.” Viktor remembered that-- he had been surprised,
and pleased, when Ron had asked him for his autograph just before he left Hogwarts.
He had always thought the red-haired boy disliked
him for some reason. They had never even spoken, except for that time
in the library, when Malfoy had come in... “How are
you?” he asked.
“I am fine. I have been training hard for the
upcoming Quidditch season. My coach feels that I wasted valuable trainingtime last year.”
Ron gave him a look; Viktor couldn’t tell if it
was unfriendly or not.
Viktor cleared his throat. “Have you seen Hermione?” It occurred to him that
she might have come to Diagon Alley with Ron’s family. She had mentioned that
she often did, as her own parents were Muggles and often felt uncomfortable
in the wizarding world.
At this, Ron gave him a decidedly suspicious look. “No,” he said. “Why?”
“I thought she might have come with you.” He ran his eyes over the crowded
store, looking for a familiar head of brown hair.
She was supposed to be here any minute, and his anxiety to see her was mounting.
“Well, she didn’t,” said Ron shortly.
Viktor frowned at his tone. What was wrong with the boy?
He shrugged and changed the subject. “Are you having a good summer?”
Ron wrinkled his nose. Was he having a good summer? Well, Hermione was on the
verge of driving him completely barking mad and he hadn’t even seen her for
the last two months, and besides... well, he was best friends with Harry Potter.
That was enough to know just how good a summer he was having.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” he lied. “You?”
“It has been dull since Herm-own-ninny left,” Krum answered, looking away as
soon as he finished the sentence.
It was as if a ton of bricks had just fallen on Ron’s head.
He felt his ears grow hot as his fists clenched by themselves. Of course
Hermione had gone to Bulgaria.
It was quite obvious, now that he thought about
it. He had just convinced himself that her owls were taking so long to get to
the Burrow because she was annoyed at him. He had convinced himself that that
talk she had had with Krum at the end of fourth year had actually been about
how sad it was that they would never see, or write, or even think
about each other ever again. He had convinced himself that Hermione had enough
sense to realize that Krum was a prat.
Actually, if real bricks had fallen, they wouldn’t
have caused any damage to his unbelievably thick head.
“So you... um, enjoyed her visit, did you?” he
said, trying to sound casual and even-toned about
It didn’t come out casual and even-toned at all.
Krum gave him a weird look and, a few moments
later, replied with a simple, “Yes.”
Ron wondered if the fans would kill him if he just knocked the git out right
“So you... um, enjoyed her visit, did you?” Ron’s
voice had an odd, strained quality to it. Viktor wondered what Hermione had
told him—whether she had told him about how Viktor had tried to kiss her.
“Viktor, I... I can’t do this. I’m sorry. I don’t...”
Viktor blinked and tried to keep his expression neutral.
The thought of anyone else knowing about that moment was almost too much to
bear. “Yes,” he said.
Ron’s face flushed. The bells on the door of the
shop rang out then, and Viktor looked past Ron to see Hermione standing in the
Viktor couldn’t help the grin that formed on his face
when he saw her. She was standing there, a few books in her arms as always,
with her hair spilling down around her shoulders. He had missed her so much.
“What is it?” said Ron, turning around. Viktor started; he had forgotten Ron
Hermione was smiling back at Viktor. But when she saw Ron, her smile froze
on her face and she looked back and forth between
Viktor and Ron. Viktor was suddenly reminded of a Doxy he had trapped in his
mother’s garden the week before.
Finally, after a long moment, she drew herself up, clutching her books to her
chest, and walked over to Viktor’s table. She smiled again, but Viktor could
see that her expression was forced this time. “Hello,
Ron. Hello, Viktor,” she said.
“Hermione,” said Viktor. “It is good to see you again.”
Ron didn’t say anything. He was staring at her with an odd, almost repulsed,
expression on his face.
Hermione cleared her throat. “So, are you ready
to go to lunch, Viktor?”
Viktor started to answer, but before he could, Ron muttered, “I’ll bet he is.”
Viktor knit his eyebrows; what was wrong with Hermione’s friend today? He certainly
was acting strangely. Maybe he had some sort of illness.
Hermione’s cheeks went pink. “Ron,” she said, gritting her teeth. “May I talk
to you for a minute?” She turned to Viktor. “I’ll be right back.”
Viktor just nodded and watched as Hermione put her books down on the table,
hard, then grabbed Ron’s arm and steered him behind a broomstick display.
There was definitely something strange going on here.
“What is the matter with you?” said Hermione in a sharp whisper as soon
as she stopped dragging him.
Ron was struck by the fact that her face was flushed
in anger even though she was the one to do all the lying. It was just...
she was just so...
Actually, he was glad that she already seemed to be furious. That way he wouldn’t
feel guilty about yelling at her, because damn, he really, really
needed to yell at her right now.
“Why didn’t you tell me you went to Bulgaria?”
To his surprise, she didn’t tell him to shut up or even to keep his voice down;
she just let go of his arm and avoided his eyes uneasily.
“What are you doing here, Ron?” she asked after
a moment, in a much softer tone.
As he watched her cross her arms over her chest and bite her lower lip, the
only thing Ron could think was that it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that Krum
was back, and it wasn’t fair the way Ron had had to find out that he was never
truly gone. It wasn’t fair that Ron’s best friend had been dating some bloke
behind his back for months and lying to him about it. And it definitely
wasn’t fair that he couldn’t stop himself from caring so much about it all.
“I could ask you the same question, but I reckon it’s pretty much obvious,”
Ron snapped, not really sure if he was angry at her, at Krum, at himself, or
at the world.
He decided that, at the moment, it didn’t matter.
“... e-l-a. Yes, that’s it. And could you sign if ‘To one of my favorite fans’?”
The girl pushed her wavy black hair back from her face
and flashed him a nervous smile. Viktor grunted and scrawled his signature on
the picture, wishing she would be quiet so he could hear the whispered argument
going on a few meters away.
“I could ask you the same question, but I reckon it’s pretty much obvious,”
came Ron’s voice, perfectly audibly.
Viktor stole a glance at the two of them. Hermione, blushing furiously, looked
over at him. When she saw Viktor looking at them, her face
fell slightly. She turned back to Ron.
Viktor wrinkled his brow. Why was Hermione so upset? What was going on?
“Excuse me, Mr. Krum?” Viktor looked up to see
a middle-aged woman and two small boys looking
at him expectantly. “Could we get your autograph?”
Viktor nodded and peeled two more pictures off
the stack. He scribbled his name on them, tuning out the woman as he strained
to hear Hermione and Ron’s conversation again.
It wasn’t too difficult, as Ron seemed much less concerned than Hermione did
about being overheard. “Blimey, Hermione, why the hell didn’t you tell
me you went to Bulgaria?”
Viktor’s quill froze and he looked over at Hermione. Her face
was still flushed, and she looked as though she didn’t know how to answer. Ron
was glaring at her, a furious expression on his face,
and his hands were in fists at his sides.
She hadn’t told her friend about her trip? Was she that ashamed of Viktor?
Or did she have other reasons for hiding it? He stared at the pair of them,
and for the first time, noticed something like...
hurt... on Ron’s face. Hermione was avoiding
Ron’s eyes, and her hands were twisting together nervously. But why would she
be so upset at what Ron had said to her? Unless...
“Ron, can we please discuss this later?” said
Hermione in a low whisper that Viktor had to lean forward to hear.
Ron snorted loudly. “Oh yes, I know you’re in quite
a rush to get back to your boyfriend.”
“He’s NOT my boyfriend. He’s my FRIEND, Ron,” Hermione snapped back. Viktor
winced—even though he had known it was true, it still hurt to hear her say it
Hermione’s next words were so soft that Viktor could hardly hear them. “Like
youare my friend, supposedly.”
Viktor looked over and saw the way she was looking at Ron as she said this,
and all of his suspicions were confirmed.
We are both your friends,
he thought, shoving the two signed pictures across the table to the young boys,
but not in the same way, apparently.
“He’s NOT my boyfriend. He’s my FRIEND, Ron. Like youare
my friend, supposedly.”
Ron’s first thought was to wonder what exactly that comparison of Hermione’s
was all about. What did her relationship with him have to do with her relationship
“Really?” he asked, almost by reflex.
What was really bothering him was the fact that he wasn’t so much happy to
hear that Krum and Hermione were just friends as he was... bothered by
the fact that she had described his relationship with her the same way.
Or maybe ‘bothered’ wasn’t the right word...he had had that feeling before,
and he somehow knew that he knew the proper way to describe it. He also knew,
though, that he wasn’t planning on enlightening himself any time
“Why would I lie to you about something like that, Ron?” said Hermione, in
a voice that gave him no other choice but to believe her – not that she had
said it with confidence or even her usual no-nonsense
tone. Exactly the opposite, actually; her words had sounded anxious, slightly
irritated, and just... true.
He looked in Krum’s direction, and was a bit surprised
to see him watching them, even though it was kind of obvious he would be. Ron
had forgotten about Krum during most of the argument, even though it had been
about him. It really didn’t make much sense.
Krum looked away as soon as Ron caught him, and fixed his stare back on his
fans. Ron only caught his eyes for about half a second, and maybe it was just
his imagination, but he had the impression that Krum was...well, jealous. He
would have laughed if he weren’t so blushingly embarrassed. The idea of Krum
being jealous of him was too amusing, and sort of ironic. Why it was
ironic was something Ron didn’t want to mull over.
He eyed Hermione again, realizing that somewhere along the line, his anger
had dissipated. Maybe she had had some logic behind the comparison that had
bothered him so. Her relationship with him did have something to do with
her relationship with Krum, and it had been Ron himself who had...he would have
said ‘intruded’, but he actually felt like he was entitled to get in
the middle of her business with Krum.
“Hermione?” he said, trying to measure his tone of voice for the first time
since he had seen her by the doorway of the shop.
She released her breath, probably also feeling the battlefield vibes vanish.
“Really, why didn’t you tell me you went to Bulgaria?”
Hermione rolled her eyes, but she didn’t seem as defensive, as nervous, or
even as annoyed as before. She didn’t look like
she felt attacked by his question, and Ron, bewildered, wondered how he had
managed to accomplish that.
“Well...” she said after a moment. “You would make fun of me.”
“I wouldn’t—” He stopped himself. They both knew he would.
Hermione raised a cheeky eyebrow at him. He couldn’t help smiling at her. They
stood there for a while, just looking at each other, until Hermione glanced
at something behind him and then looked at her watch.
“Er... look, I have to go. Viktor and I are supposed
to have lunch...”
Ron narrowed his eyes. “Are you sure you’re just—”
“Friends have lunch together, Ron,” said Hermione, a bit
“Right, I know,” said Ron. “I was just...”
“I know.” She smiled softly. “See you on September the first, okay?”
“See you,” said Ron, almost to himself.
As Hermione walked away, her hair moving a little with each step she took,
Ron realized that that was it. She had just succeeded in driving him totally
out of his mind. And the scariest of all was that it... it wasn’t that bad.
She turned around so quickly that Ron wondered whether she was actually expecting
him to call her back.
“D’y’want to stay at my house the week before school starts?”
Viktor looked down, the picture he was signing blurring before his eyes. He
held his breath, a last, desperate glimmer of hope kindling in his heart as
he waited for her to answer Ron’s question.
There was a pause. Then: “I’d like that very much.”
Viktor exhaled and sagged in his seat. He’d been right, and he’d been so wrong
at the same time. There was someone else,
but it had never been Potter. It was all quite
“Viktor?” Hermione’s voice.
“Excuse me, but I was next in line,” said another
Viktor took a deep breath and looked up at her at last. He handed the picture
he had just signed to the woman. With effort, he met Hermione’s eyes.
“Viktor?” she asked uncertainly. “Are you ready to go? It’s past .”
He looked over the line of people still waiting for his autograph, most of
whom were shooting jealous or impressed looks at
Hermione, and for the first time he was grateful
for their presence. It would make the lie he was about to tell marginally less
“There is still a line,” he said, not looking at her. “You should have lunch
with...your friend instead.”
She didn’t answer right away, and he finally had to face
her. Her forehead was wrinkled, and her eyes showed embarrassment mixed with
pity and – Viktor forced himself to acknowledge it - relief.
She glanced over her shoulder at Ron, who was still standing by the broomstick
display, watching this exchange. Then she looked
back at Viktor, and, by her expression, obviously realized that Viktor had overheard
their conversation. “Viktor, I—”
“It is all right,” said Viktor. “Go.” He hoped she would go quickly, before
he changed his mind.
But then she smiled, her eyes filled with gratitude, and Viktor couldn’t help
but be glad he had said it. She reached across the table and squeezed his hand.
“I—I’ll write to you soon,” she said.
Viktor nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Her hand was warm around his,
and he found it difficult to let it go. But he did.
She gave him one last smile before gathering up her books and turning back
to Ron. Viktor shifted his gaze to the red-haired
boy. He wondered if Ron truly appreciated Hermione
as much as she deserved. Seeing the look that Ron
gave her, he thought it might be possible, and his heart sank. He wondered if
he himself had ever really had a chance.
Ron and Hermione spoke quietly for a moment, then Ron looked up at Viktor.
Viktor gave him a look which he hoped conveyed
what he would do to the boy if he should hurt Hermione.
Ron gave him an awkward smile. “Hey,” he said. He hesitated, looking back at
Hermione, then turned to Viktor again. “Nice Wronski Feint.”
Viktor blinked. “Thank you,” he returned automatically.
But Ron was already smiling at Hermione again, and Viktor watched with a pang
as they turned toward the door of the shop.
“Will you sign my broomstick now?” said an impatient voice, and Viktor turned
to see a small girl with blonde pigtails holding
out a battered Shooting Star. Viktor took the broom without a word, and, with
one last glance toward the door, went back to signing autographs.
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