The Sugar Quill
Author: Elanor Gamgee (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Moody Slavic Man 2: Bright in an Azure Sky  Chapter: Chapter One: On the Far Horizon
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Author’s Note: Viktor Krum and the Harry Potter universe are the creation of J.K. Rowling. I don’t own a thing.

Thank you to Zsenya and Jedi Boadicea, my faithful betareaders!

Chapter 1: On the Far Horizon

Viktor urged his broomstick higher into the sky and closed his eyes as it leveled out, letting the late afternoon sunlight warm his face. It was a relief to be back in Bulgaria, back in these familiar mountains where he could fly for hours without being seen by anyone. It had been a week since he’d left Hogwarts, but he still savored this time each day, when he could be completely alone with the sky.

It was different here, different from the spacious Quidditch pitch and wild forest around Hogwarts. Beautiful though those places had been, these mountains would always be first in his heart. They were his home.

He opened his eyes and blinked against the light. He had reached the peak of the mountain–it was time to turn around, lest he be spotted by one of the Muggles from the small village on the other side. He was safe as long as he stayed on the north face of the mountain, and it was rare that he ventured this far up. But today he had felt the need to see the valley spread out before him, to feel the warm southern wind against his face while the sun shone on him, unobstructed by the trees.

Viktor hovered by the mountain’s peak, peering down toward the Muggle village. The roofs were so close together that it was difficult to see the narrow lanes running between the houses, but he could just make out small figures moving to and fro among the buildings. There was an open area toward the end of the village--the market, he remembered, from the few times he had accompanied his father to the village on various errands. He had been too young to realize the purpose of those errands back then, but now he knew that his father had been gathering information about the movements of the Death Eaters for the Bulgarian Ministry of Magic--casually trying to determine how much the Muggles knew or had figured out, and whether any memories needed to be modified. Did those people down there have any idea of the danger they faced each day, just by being what they were?

Unlikely. Viktor turned his broom toward home, absentmindedly executing a Morrison Double Flip. Which way was better: to know the danger and realize the precariousness of one’s own position, or to remain blissfully ignorant?

“I wanted to tell you...that I do not think you should come to Bulgaria this summer...it is too dangerous, after all that has happened. Especially for you.” She’d known it was true; he’d seen the knowledge of it in her eyes before she had looked away.

Which way was better? He wasn’t sure. But surely either was better than knowing the danger and choosing to ignore it, as his mother had done. On the night of his return from Hogwarts, he had finally told his parents the entirety of what had happened the night of the third task–all of it, even the part that still made him flush with shame. His father had accepted the story silently, face drawn. It was almost as if he had expected it. Then again, Viktor wasn’t surprised; his father’s work as a researcher for the Ministry often meant that he was aware of things long before others in the wizarding community were.

His mother, on the other hand, had worried and fussed just as he had known she would. And when Viktor had told them about the return of You-Know-Who, about Dumbledore’s certainty on the subject, his mother had refused to believe it. Viktor knew, from the sad look his father had given him, that this too was no surprise to him.

Things had been tense in the house since that night. His mother insisted on acting like nothing was wrong, like nothing had changed, and his father would not say a word to her on the subject. “It is pointless,” he had said to Viktor later. “Your mother is afraid to believe it. If she believes it, it will become real, and she cannot bear that.”

Viktor wished he had the luxury of denial, but he had seen too much for that.

“The more people who believe it, the more who will be willing to fight it,” Dumbledore had said.

He landed near his house with a grimace. If I could deny it happened, then I wouldn’t need to do anything about it. But what could he do, really? What kind of power did he really have? If he couldn’t get his own mother to understand, how could he possibly hope to influence anyone else?

He pushed open the front door and went inside. The long front room was completely deserted, and Viktor walked through it, not caring about the mud he was tracking across the white carpet. He would use a scouring charm to clean it up later, hopefully before his mother saw it. He was halfway up the stairs to his room when her voice stopped him.

“Viktor!” Her voice was coming from the back part of the house. Viktor pulled his wand from his robes and muttered a spell to remove the mud from the carpet. His mother appeared in the kitchen doorway. “I thought I heard you come in,” she said, her smile a little too bright, as it had been all week.

“I was flying,” he said.

“I know.” She gave him a sad look, then brightened again. “There is someone in the fireplace for you. Your friend, Ivan.”

Viktor frowned. “Is something wrong?”

“Wrong? No, I don’t think so. Come talk to him.” Viktor started down the stairs, and his mother let out a short exclamation. “Your boots! You must clean them, Viktor. I am surprised you did not track mud everywhere.”

Tergeo,” he said, and the mud disappeared. His mother nodded approvingly.

“Come along. Ivan is waiting.”

Viktor nodded and followed her into the kitchen. The grinning face of Ivan Pashnik looked out at him from the fire. “Viktor!” Ivan cried.

“Ivan.” Viktor leaned on his broomstick. “Is everything all right?”

Ivan grinned again. “You could say that it is.”

Viktor frowned. Ivan knew as well as he did that You-Know-Who had come back. What could he possibly have to be so happy about? Viktor glanced at his mother, who was hovering in the doorway. “Have there been any attacks, near you?” he asked pointedly. His mother looked almost offended, and she turned and left the room.

“No. Not yet, anyway.” The humor had gone out of Ivan’s voice now, and Viktor turned to look at him. “You heard about the attacks near Eger two days ago?”

“Yes, I heard. Is Edina–

“She is fine. Actually, she has been here with me since Tuesday.” Ivan cleared his throat. “That’s...what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“What is it?”

Ivan looked off to the right and smiled. “Edina and I have some news. We wanted to tell you sooner, but we thought our parents should know first. We’re getting married.”

“What?”

“Married. You know, when two people–”

“I know what it is.” Viktor’s tone was sharper than he’d intended. “But–now?”

“Soon. August the eleventh, to be exact.”

Viktor frowned. “But what about–”

“The attacks?” Ivan’s face had gone uncharacteristically serious. “We decided we didn’t want to wait. Especially not now.”

Viktor understood. If he had someone...like that, in his life, he wouldn’t want to be away from her now either. He thought briefly of Hermione, miles away, and frowned. It wasn’t the same, he knew, but he couldn’t help but worry about her.

“...wanted to let you know,” Ivan was continuing. “You’ll be the best man, of course.”

Viktor was jolted out of his thoughts. “Me?”

Ivan laughed. “Yes, you. Unless you don’t want to...”

Viktor took a deep breath. “I would be honored.”He dropped his shoulders and looked at Ivan. “Thank you for asking.”

Ivan smiled. “Who else would I ask? Edina’s cousin will be the maid of honor. Maybe you can find some romance...unless you have someone else you’d like to bring the wedding?”

Viktor winced at the obviousness of the question; however else Ivan Pashnik had changed over the last year, he certainly had not learned subtlety. “No,” he said.

“Ah. Have you heard from–”

“No.” Viktor had written to her the day after he had returned home, but he had not heard back from Hermione yet. He wondered how often “friends” wrote to one another.

“Oh.” Ivan was silent for a moment. “I’m sorry, Viktor.”

Viktor looked up in surprise. Ivan had never said anything like that to him before.

“I...don’t be,” he said gruffly. He cleared his throat. “Congratulations to you. And to Edina too.”

Ivan nodded, still looking serious. “I will tell her you said so. And perhaps–”

“Yes?”

“Perhaps Edina and I could come visit before the wedding. Sit in on one of your Quidditch practices, perhaps.” He grinned. “I have been trying to explain the excitement of Quidditch, but she argues with me. I need to make sure she understands the joy of Quidditch before I can marry her.” Ivan’s tone was jovial and light, but Viktor knew the motive behind his words. They were checking up on him again, just as they had done all year. For some reason, it no longer irritated him as it used to.

He cocked his head to one side, considering Ivan’s suggestion. “I think...I would like that.”

Ivan laughed. “Good, because we would have come anyway.”

Viktor shook his head. He didn’t doubt it.

“I have to go, Viktor. You...take care.”

“Goodbye, Ivan.”

Ivan’s head disappeared with a pop, and Viktor stood looking into the flames for a long moment. It hadn’t come as too much of a surprise to hear that Ivan and Edina planned to marry so soon–after all, Ivan Pashnik was nothing if not impetuous. It was obvious, though, to anyone who knew them that what Ivan and Edina had was nothing ordinary, that they truly loved each other. With a pang, Viktor thought of a pair of warm brown eyes that would never give him the kind of looks Edina gave Ivan. Friends. He had accepted that she didn’t want to be his, that she never would be...and yet, a part of his heart still held tight to the image of her, in his arms at the Yule Ball. The idea of giving her up had been so much easier than the everyday reality of it. He allowed himself a brief vision of Hermione, dressed in white lace, her hair pulled back the way it had been at the ball–

No, he told himself. He couldn’t think like that. He had to find a way to let her go. Somehow.

******

Dear Viktor,

I received your letter and I am glad you got home safely. How are your parents? I suppose they are glad to have you home again.

I have been spending this week drawing up a summer study schedule for myself. There is so much to go over before school starts again, and the O.W.L.s are going to come up so quickly. I want to make sure I am ready. Oh, and if you think of it, would you mind sending me the name of that Transfiguration book you told me about—the one that talked about high-stress transformations? I know I wrote it down in my notes somewhere when we were talking about it, but I can’t find the title now. My parents are letting me go to Diagon Alley with the Weasleys in a few weeks, and I thought I would look for it in Flourish and Blotts.

I hope everything is going well. Take care of yourself.

Hermione

Viktor stared at the letter, wondering if he would ever get used to this. Still, she had written back to him fairly quickly; it had been a week since he had sent a letter to her, and he had half-expected to wait all summer for a reply. It was as if she understood that he had been worried about her safety, and needed to hear that she was all right.

His owl, Branimir, was waiting on the bedside table, watching him with unblinking eyes to see if he would send a response. What was there to say, though? He couldn’t say the things he really wanted to say to her; he did not want to embarrass himself by repeating them any more than she wanted to be embarrassed by hearing them. He sighed and folded the letter, putting it on the table.

“No reply for now,” he told Branimir. “Go rest.” The owl blinked at him, then flew back to the window. Viktor heaved himself up off of the bed and pushed the window open. Branimir squeezed through, and, moments later, caught an updraft with his wings and soared out over the trees. Viktor watched him until he was out of sight, then turned and threw on his robes. He pulled on his boots and crossed the room to carefully remove his Baranof from where it rested on pegs above his bed.

It was earlier than he normally went out to fly, but that didn’t matter. It had been some time since he had seen his mountains in the dewy morning light, he realized as he emerged from the house and looked up. The trees directly behind his house were a riot of blues and golds. He didn’t know what kind they were—some magical variety his mother had planted and maintained. In the autumn, instead of falling, the leaves transformed into small butterflies that swarmed around the house for several days and then disappeared into puffs of smoke. These had always been in his favorite trees as a child.

Further up the slope, the trees consisted mainly of firs, most of non-magical varieties. It wasn’t unusual, however, to find an occasional Jumping Juniper or Higbottom Hornbeam. The presence of these moving species helped fuel the rumors in the Muggle village that the forest was haunted, which in turn, ensured that the Muggles kept their distance.

Viktor mounted his broomstick and kicked off hard from the ground. He rose sharply, then turned toward the east. There was a copse of beeches over that way where he liked to practice his precision flying, weaving between the slender trunks. He let himself rise again until he began to feel dizzy, then slowly descended and leveled out just above the treetops.

I hope everything is going well. Take care of yourself.

Hermione’s letter flitted through his mind, and Viktor sighed into the morning breeze. He wondered if he should just send her the book she wanted—after all, he didn’t need it anymore—or if that would be…too much. He was, apparently, very good at making her uncomfortable, and that was the last thing he wanted to do now. Would this ever get any easier?

Viktor dove and came up in a Campos Spiral to vent his feelings. As he came out of the last loop, he looked down and froze.

There, in the clearing below, was a dark-haired girl. Her face was turned up to the sky, and she was staring straight at him. He was low enough to see her shocked expression and the way her mouth hung open in surprise, and these left no doubt in his mind.

She was a Muggle.

//
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