Thanks to ziusik and Zsenya for giving Rositza a village of her own. Thanks to Zsenya and Jedi Boadicea for the
3: As the World Goes By
morning Viktor was especially careful to cast Revealing Charms ahead of him as
he flew, though he could not truly have said whether he was glad or
disappointed when they revealed that he was alone on the mountain. The image of Rositza Christova stayed with
him, but he did not relish the thought of seeing her again. In fact, he'd meant to avoid the beech copse
altogether. It wasn't worth it to risk
curiosity got the better of him, and he edged closer to the copse, casting
charms along the way. It too was
Good, he told himself, now I can do
what I came to do yesterday. But
after a few half-hearted loops through the trees, Viktor gave up. His mind was not on Brown Ballistas or Levine
Lunges today. Instead he skimmed low
over the treetops, to the mountain's peak, and looked down on the village. It was odd, really, that he had lived so
close to Muggles all his life, and yet had never been curious about them. All he knew of them came from his professors
at Durmstrang, who detested them, or from his father, who, though his job at
the Bulgarian Ministry often involved protecting Muggles, had no particular love
perhaps that was why Rositza intrigued him as she did, why he kept thinking
about her. For she contradicted
everything he had ever learned about Muggles and their slow, stupid ways. Most of the villagers were too afraid to
venture far up the mountain, let alone into the woods on the far side. And yet she had come, alone, just to be by
herself in the clearing. She had seemed
small and delicate, and yet she must have been brave to be there alone.
his eyes over the crowded rooftops in the village below. He wondered which house Rositza Christova
lived in, what her life was like. He
tried to imagine living without magic, and found that he couldn't. For the first time he wished he had elected
to take the "Muggle Studies" class that had been offered to the
Durmstrang students last year at Hogwarts.
no, Dumbledore," Karakaroff had said with a laugh, when Professor
Dumbledore had informed them of this option.
"Just the basics, if you please.
No need for such nonsense. And in
addition I will be tutoring my students in some of the subjects they would
otherwise miss this year." By
which, of course, he had meant Dark Arts Lessons. Viktor had been quite thankful when these
"tutoring sessions" had fallen by the wayside early in the school
year; Karkaroff, it seemed, had had other things on his mind.
looking down at the industrious streets below, he wondered if Muggles really
might be worth studying after all. It
was quite something, wasn't it, that they got along without magic?
resolved to ask his father about it, when he got home, and slipped quietly down
he brought the subject up at dinner that night, his father's reaction was
hardly what he expected.
do you ask? Have you seen something?"
his father pressed, the moment Viktor mentioned the village.
Viktor stammered. "I was
just...curious." He had not told
either of his parents about the Memory Charm of the day before, and he wasn't
sure why he lied to his father now. But
he was taken aback by the intensity with which his father questioned him. "Is something wrong?"
father glanced quickly at his mother, who looked down at her plate with pursed
lips. He sighed and rubbed at his
forehead. "I am sorry, son. There have been more rumors of Death Eater
activity in the area. The Muggle
Explanation Unit has been on full alert for three days, in case anything should
felt his breath leave him. He hadn't
expected it to happen so soon, or so quickly.
Or so close.
father raised his head and forced a smile.
"But why do you ask about this, Viktor? Does it have something to do with your
stared at him. How did he know...
"Nikolas." Viktor's mother gave her father a quick look
and shook her head warningly, and Viktor understood. They thought he was asking about Muggles
because of Hermione. The swift shadow of
an old pain passed over his heart, and was gone.
was just curious," said Viktor, "with all...that has been
the desired effect; his mother looked down abruptly, and his father gave him a
sad smile and nodded his head in understanding.
Viktor's questions were still unanswered, his curiosity now fueled by a sense
the next morning when he rose early to fly, that he should stay away from the
beech copse. He also knew that he
close to the tops of the trees as he approached the copse, and cast a Revealing
Charm ahead of him. The air around the
copse shimmered blue - there was someone there, but not someone dangerous. Viktor's heart thumped in his chest. Silently he descended between two large oak
trees and hid his broom in the lower leaves of the nearest one. Thrusting his wand into the inner pocket of
his robes, he crept forward through the trees.
He stopped behind a tall bush and peered out into the clearing.
there, sitting on the grass, leaning back against a large rock. She was bent over her notebook, her pencil
moving across the page in long, precise strokes. Occasionally she would glance up at the trees
above her, biting her lip, and then return to her work.
suddenly felt very stupid, standing just outside the clearing watching
her. Why had he come anyway? He had had no dealings with Muggles. He would probably slip up if he tried to talk
to her, and have to put another Memory Charm on her. And this, he found, he was loath to do.
you going to talk to me?" she said, not looking up from her notebook. "Or do you plan to hover behind that
bush all morning?"
stared at her, and she glanced up at him.
"Well," she said with a smile, "are you?"
cleared his throat and stepped into the clearing. He felt stupid, and silly, and was now
painfully aware of the contrast between her Muggle clothes - a long flowered
dress today - and his own red school robes.
"I...I was just...taking a walk."
your path led you here." Her tone
was light, but her face was slightly pink as her eyes returned to her
it did." He stood awkwardly at the
edge of the clearing, and there was a silence, broken only by the distant cry
of a nuthatch and the scratching of her pencil.
glanced up at him. "Well, sit down,
why don't you."
hesitated, then stooped and sat in the grass a few feet away from her. She smiled at him. "So you must be real, and not a ghost of
the mountain, if I have seen you twice now."
frowned. "No, I am not a
have I never seen you here before? I
come here often, to draw." Her eyes
were on her notebook again, but Viktor could see that the movement of her
pencil was aimless now, drawing doodles along the side of the page. He began to feel that he was not the only one
who felt awkward, and it gave him a small measure of comfort.
were not here yesterday."
him a quick, sideways look.
"No. I was at church, with
my family." She paused, and then
smiled at him. "But you did not
answer my question."
have been away, at school," he said.
looked up at him. "So far
away? Oh, I would love to travel
there. I have read so much about
was relieved that she didn't ask him the name of the school. He didn't know what he would have said.
have never been there?"
sighed heavily. "I have never been
anywhere. Sometimes I feel as though I
will rot away in Pupgorodok." She
clutched at her notebook, and a shadow passed over her face.
didn't know how to respond to this sudden burst of anguish, so he didn't say
anything. Rositza shook her head
slightly and gave a small, sardonic laugh.
Then she pulled her knees up and rested her notebook against them. She ran her pencil absently across the page.
are you drawing?" asked Viktor.
looked up at him, and her face went pink.
"It is nothing," she
said quickly. "Just silly sketches
embarrassed, he realized, so he didn't pursue the subject, though he was very
curious to see her drawings. He wondered
what kinds of things Muggles drew. No
doubt houses and pails and ordinary everyday objects.
tried to think of something to say, and could think of nothing. Rositza looked up at him from under her dark
eyelashes, then, with a sheepish movement, she shut her notebook. Viktor was slightly hurt. It wasn't as if he would have looked at her
drawings, if she did not want him to.
is ridiculous, he
thought. He shouldn't even be here in
the first place, and now he was feeling slighted by something so trivial? Hadn't he learned a thing in the past year?
with himself, Viktor stood and brushed the grass off of his robes. "I have to go," he muttered. "I have to get to practice." It was true; his first practice back with the
Vultures was today, and he could imagine that Conrad Boyar would have several
choice words for him if he were late.
repeated Rositza, and Viktor stopped in his tracks. He cursed his own
stupidity, letting something like that slip.
Now how would he explain?
Frantically he searched his memory for any mention that Hermione might
have ever made of Muggle sports.
athlete," Rositza said in a musing sort of way, and Viktor could not tell
whether it was surprise or disappointment that tinged her voice. "Hmm, let me guess which
sport." Her lips twisted into a
smile as she looked up at him appraisingly.
It was unnerving, if not unpleasant, to be appraised so by those dark
eyes. Her gaze fell on his face. "Boxing?" Viktor stared at her. "No, I suppose not. Hmm..." She cocked her head to one side,
then raised her eyebrows doubtfully.
"Is it football?"
least, Viktor had heard of. He had a
vague memory of a fan letter once, from a Muggle-born wizard who had written
him a point-by-point comparison of football and Quidditch. He had not been able to follow it then, nor
had he seen the challenge in a game played on the ground with only one ball,
but the memory was enough to go on for now.
he said. "I must go."
you always fly away so quickly when people talk to you?"
turned and stared at her in alarm.
him a puzzled glance. "Well, you
just got here, and now you are leaving.
Have I frightened you?"
teasing him, he realized. She had no
idea about the Baranof floating gently in the leaves of the oak tree a few
meters away. He felt his shoulders
relax, and he looked down at the top of her head for a long moment; her eyes
were downcast again, and she was doodling on the grey cover of her notebook.
to his own astonishment, he heard himself answering her, in that same light,
bantering tone. "I do not wish to
disturb your solitude." Where had
that come from? Perhaps he had been
spending too much time with Pashnik lately.
his even greater surprise, Rositza lifted her head and grinned. "I do not mind so much. I...like the company."
felt his face go red, but he nodded.
"Then perhaps I will see you here tomorrow, and I will not have to
leave so quickly."
"Perhaps." Rositza met his eyes briefly. "Goodbye, Viktor Krum."
turned and walked out of the clearing, pausing only once to look back. Rositza had opened her notebook and was
had better hurry, or you will be late," she said, not looking up, and
Viktor flushed. He hurried back to the
oak trees to get his Baranof.
get in there! Sarac, Veneva, what do you
think this is? A friendly pick-up
match? Move in on that
Hawkshead!" The voice of Conrad
Boyar, magically magnified, echoed across the Vratsa Vultures' practice
pitch. Viktor was, as ever, amazed that
his coach could keep up such a steady commentary, often punctuated with
growling oaths and threats, all while wielding his Beaters' Club with intense
ferocity. Indeed, it wasn't unusual for
Boyar to send a Bludger in the direction of a player he thought needed
"waking up" on the pitch.
"Krum!" Kiril Tsvetanov looped Viktor and pointed
toward the other end of the pitch.
"Ligachev's spotted it."
swung around in alarm and saw Anton Ligachev, the reserve Seeker, hurtling
toward the ground. He snorted.
"Feint," he grunted. It was
too obvious, the way Ligachev's broom wobbled slightly, the way his eyes darted
up to see if Viktor had taken the bait.
If this was the way Ligachev had played Seeker during the time Viktor
had been away, it was no wonder that the Vultures had only won four matches.
stop chattering and get on that Quaffle.
Ivanova's been trying to pass it to you for five minutes." Boyar sent a Bludger racing toward Kiril, and
he had to roll right over on his broom to avoid it. Viktor dodged the Bludger and rose higher over
the pitch, training his eyes for the Snitch.
practice had been going on for nearly thirty minutes now, and Viktor had
already caught the Snitch twice. Boyar
had had the team in the air straightaway; no wasting time standing around
talking for him. The closest thing
Viktor had gotten to a "welcome back" from him had been a gruff,
"Hope you're not believing your press, boy. I don't care how many pieces your heart is
breaking into, you get that Snitch."
The other players, to whom that awful Witch Weekly article was
clearly an old subject of discussion, had laughed, Tsvetanov even punching
Viktor's shoulder in what he clearly thought was a friendly fashion. Viktor's face had burned, and he'd gritted
his teeth as he had mounted his broom.
He wondered how many times he would have to hear about that wretched
executed an absentminded Lopes Lurk as he scanned the pitch. It was comforting, somehow, to be back in
practices with the Vultures, but it was also a bit tedious. Nothing had changed - Boyar's biting
comments, the too-eager smiles of the reserve players, and most of all,
Viktor's own sense that it didn't even really matter if he caught the
Snitch. But he himself had changed. He'd seen things that no one could see
without being changed somehow.
back where he had always wanted to be as a child, he was bored.
thought idly of Rositza's comment - "Is
it football?" - and entertained himself idly trying to remember the
rules of that Muggle sport, at least as they had been explained to him in the
half-legible scrawls of that fan letter.
moment the rustle of silver wings glinted at him from across the pitch,
however, Viktor's mind was back on his business. He spurred his Baranof up and sped over the
two reserve Chasers in his path, until his fingers closed with practiced ease
around the smooth golden ball.
you haven't forgotten how to catch that Snitch!" roared Conrad. His whistle cut through the air, and all the
players flew down to the ground.
regarded them all darkly. "A decent
enough warm up," he said after a moment, and though he had taken the
amplification spell off his voice, it still cut across the pitch and echoed
around the stands. "Fifteen
minutes, and then I want everyone back here to work on strategy." He turned and headed toward the stands, not
sparing them a backward glance.
rolled his shoulders back and stretched his arms. It had been some time since he had been on a
broomstick quite that long, and he was stiffer than he should have been.
bit out of shape?" came a teasing voice behind him, and Viktor turned to
see Susannah Ivanova, one of the Chasers, grinning at him.
am fine," he said, more defensively than he had meant to, dropping his
you mean that you didn't keep up with Conrad's six hour a day practice
schedule?" She widened her eyes in
mock-surprise. "Do you mean that
you could not find time, what with facing down dragons and going to
smiled, almost against his will. "I
practiced," he said.
smiled. "You don't need it
anyway. It's good to have you
back." She glanced over her
shoulder at Ligachev, who was talking loudly to Grubo at the other end of the
pitch. "Maybe we will win a match
once in awhile now."
shrugged. It pleased him, though, to
hear such praise from her. Susannah
Ivanova was, quite simply, the finest Chaser he had ever seen. An offhand remark from her about his skill
meant more than all the covers of Quidditch Today ever could. And she had always treated Viktor as an equal
on the team, always listened seriously to his opinions on tactics, even when
the other, older players had acted as if he was nothing but a young
upstart. He doubted she would ever know
how much he appreciated that.
looked around, then leaned in closer.
"How was...the tournament?"
she asked in a low voice.
looked at her quickly. The question was
innocuous enough, but something in her manner put him on his guard. Dumbledore's words rang in his ears. Be careful about whom you trust. His heart sank at the thought of Susannah
Ivanova, the great Chaser, one of the few Quidditch players he actually
respected, being unworthy of his trust.
But he could not be too careful.
was...intense," he said. He knew
that news of Diggory's death had not reached the press, so it was unlikely that
she would know anything about the tournament aside from hearsay.
lifted one eyebrow, her dark eyes studying him.
She looked as if she wasn't sure whether she wanted to say more. "I have heard...some things," she
said at last, and her voice was so low that Viktor barely caught it.
said Viktor lightly. Warning bells were
going off in his head now. "What
kinds of things?"
hesitated. "That a student died,
and not because of the tournament."
She raised her head and looked him in the eye. "That you - " But then she faltered and broke off her gaze.
took an involuntary step backward. That
you tortured him, she had started to say.
How could anyone know that? Had
rumors spread so far, in the wake of that disastrous night? He felt the bile rising in his throat, and he
forced himself to remain calm. It was
not your fault, he told himself. It
was not your fault.
looked up at Viktor, a smile on her face.
"I'm sure it was nothing," she said. "Just rumors." But her wary eyes studied Viktor's face, as though
they expected to find an answer there to some question she hadn't asked.
boomed Boyar's voice. "Over
gave Viktor one last fleeting smile as she turned to walk over to Boyar. Viktor followed. Boyar launched into a labored description of
new strategies, but Viktor's mind was not on them at all. He went over the rather disturbing
conversation in his mind.
until later during practice, when he was up on his broomstick once again,
watching the Chasers practice the new "Octopus Maneuver" that Boyar
had developed, that he realized what his brain had been trying to decipher.
you tortured him,
he had thought she was going to say. That
you were responsible.
that wasn't it at all, he realized, remembering the dark look of knowledge in
her eyes. He cursed his own
stupidity. Hadn't he learned yet, that
these things were bigger than himself?
You-Know-Who is back. That's what she had been ready to say.
swung around, his eyes picking out Susannah at the other end of the pitch,
hovering next to one of the goalposts and talking with Irina Prandzheva. She must have felt his eyes on her, because
she turned and looked at him.
knew. The expression on her face told
him so. She knew that You-Know-Who was
back, and hadn't even needed the confirmation from him to make it real.
whether that knowledge terrified or delighted her, he could not tell.