PROLOGUE: Boy Meets Girl
Hermione landed ungraciously on her back and winced at the shudder that ripped through her body. Magic was perfect for expedient travel, but when the methods were invented, those involved hadn't focused on comfort in the same way that Muggles did. Every form of magical transportation she had so far come across seemed to be some variant on being ripped from the ground and dropped from a great height.
As Ginny helped her to her feet, Hermione shot a pointless scowl at the old brown boot they had used as a Portkey, while surreptitiously dislodging clumps of grass from her bum, she was sure she would be covered from the fall. Her sense of humiliation was complete when Cedric Diggory's artfully dropped into the middle of their little group not a moment later, without a single hair out of place. Hermione watched him saunter through the rest of the tangled bodies with a hint of a smirk on his chiselled face her own brown arched disdainfully. When she began to think unkind thoughts about the unruffled pretty boy she cut herself off, it wasn't his fault she was in a bad mood. Though Hermione couldn't help her eye roll as Cedric moved between herself and Ginny with a murmured, 'Ladies,' that may or may not have been punctuated with a wink.
Hermione looked around and located her tattered backpack that had landed a few feet away and sighed to herself. She wasn't sure why she was even there; she didn't remotely like Quidditch, or the amount of time the others devoted to it. Since she had arrived at the Weasley house, the evening before, it was all any of them could talk of. But she didn't want to be ungrateful, it was a coup for Mr Weasley to have obtained tickets, and she was delighted to have been asked, she just wasn't sure she would enjoy it. Worse still, Hermione couldn't help but worry that she would mess it all up for everyone by accidentally exposing her disinterest, something she thought was highly probable considering she didn't know what the right thing to say would be. She knew most would wave it off with a shrug and a laugh but her lack of understanding could potentially anger Ron, causing them to fight, and ultimately, for Harry to be disappointed in her. Hermione gave her jean pocket one last brush over with her hands and resolved to plaster a grin on her face and keep her thoughts to herself. Not exactly an area of expertise for her.
Once the scattered group had sufficiently rubbed the various aches in their limbs and collected any items that had been thrown away from them in landing, Mr Weasley and Mr Diggory took the lead of the group while talking animatedly between themselves about events at the Ministry. Hermione brought up the rear with Ginny by her side, feeling her stiffness with every step, and the littlest redhead channelled her excitement by talking non-stop, moving between topics not limited to certain Irish players that 'even Hermione would be able to get interested in' and sighs relating to the snug fit of Harry's jeans.
A short walk later, all of Hermione's lingering concerns fell away as the small group came to an abrupt stop on the crest of a large hill overlooking the biggest, noisiest campsite she had ever seen. It so was vast and so very full of life that Hermione didn't know where to look first, her eyes darted from small families arguing good-naturedly over memorabilia, to children zipping around on practice brooms. It was breathtaking. She could just make out the stadium in the distance behind all of the mayhem, if she squinted her eyes from the rising sun. She shared a quick look with Harry, finding her shock delightfully mirrored on his face before she took off after the adults again, this time with a bit more spring in her step.
Navigating the campsite should have been difficult, Hermione had been to several with her parents over the years - and though on a much smaller scale - it had always been a nightmare to move around the higgledy-piggledy tents and much more dangerously, the guide ropes and tent poles. There were no such issues in this campsite; all of the tents were lined up in formation rows, arranged in a grid with a sensible numbering system which made finding their designated plot a breeze. Hermione was impressed with the deep level of organisation the Ministry had undertaken, earning her a beam from Percy when he heard her whispering praises to Ginny.
Though, despite the ease of their route, Hermione had never been the best with crowds, mainly due to her being shorter than most. After stumbling for the third time, she jumped as she was grabbed on either side of her waist and lifted clean off the ground. She yelped as she was chucked forward and dropped onto Fred's back and she turned abruptly to see George smirking at her.
"Now, now Granger," he said placatingly, with a grin that did nothing to hide his amusement.
"Temper, temper," Fred broke in from beneath her.
"We were only trying-"
"-to prevent you from injuring yourself."
Hermione debated screaming at them, or knocking her already balled fists against Fred's shoulders but the twins were her sparring partners of old, and though she might never admit it out loud, she knew how futile any argument would be. With a huff, Hermione turned back around and scrambled to link her hands around Fred's neck as he ran off at speed.
When they made it to the tent, Hermione was bemused, the stretched tarpaulin looked old and shabby around the edges, not that any of that mattered to her, she was far more concerned by its size, it appeared to be a one-man berth. She shot a quick, slightly panicked glance at Harry who was looking equally wide-eyed before Fred abruptly bent his knees and walked forward, with Hermione still unwillingly secured to his back.
As Fred straighten back out Hermione gingerly raised her head and gasped in surprise as she regarded the very unexpected interior. She had been a part of the magical world for three years, but it never stopped stunning her, the inside of the tent was not like a tent at all; instead it was a hugely expansive space, more like a small apartment. It was decorated in a similar style to the Weasley's home, with homemade blankets and knick-knacks scattered everywhere, it instantly made Hermione feel welcome.
Fred kindly crouched to let her down, and before her feet were firmly planted on the floor, an excitable Ginny grabbed Hermione's wrist and dragged her off to the smallest bedroom to pick beds.
Only minutes later the tent was noisy, full of the usual squabbling that occurred when all of the Weasley children were at home. The ever patient Mr Weasley intervened when tempers began to flare and sent the youngest of them out of the tent to explore, the twins and Ginny jumping up to leave alongside the soon to be a fourth-year trio.
Hermione, wise to potential threats, moved too quick for George to grab her this time and opted to stick next to Ginny. She felt a little less flustered than she had been on arrival, now that most people had settled the crowds weren't so bad, or at least the people weren't carrying as much stuff as they had been.
If she had thought the Weasley's tent was impressive, she hadn't seen anything yet. They walked passed tents of all shapes and sizes in neatly ordered rows, most covered in flags or decorations declaring the occupant's support for one of the teams in the evenings final. Fred and George took it in turns to list off the scores and attributes of the Irish team players, and Hermione tried her best to keep up with the rest of her group when they started to sound as if they were communicating in another language.
She knew enough to discern that Ireland were the favourites to win, as well as being popular with the home fans. That was not to say there weren't Bulgarian supporters in the campsite, as there were apparently many, and where there were fans, one face was draped over tents and flying from banners much more than any other. Seeking to redirect the conversation in any other direction than endless statistics, even if it was still about Quidditch, Hermione pointed towards the nearest one.
"Who's that?" she asked idly, and five faces turned to look at her with expressions that ranged from sceptical to full horror.
"That, Hermione, that," Ron began sputtering, "is the best Seeker in the world, Viktor Krum."
"Oh, a Seeker" Hermione exclaimed, "Like you Harry?"
Harry looked decidedly happy with her pronouncement, and she was glad to have got something right. Ron began a speech regarding Viktor's prowess that moved alarmingly beyond hero worship.
"He looks a little grumpy," Hermione mused, tilting her head to the side to look closer at the fluttering images, seeking to derail Ron from his declarations before the twins began harassing him. It didn't work, as Ron realised she wasn't listening he abruptly turned to start up again only to be stopped by the others who began parodying his passionate display, Hermione shrugged in defeat and turned back to the flag she had been staring at before.
On closer inspection 'grumpy' didn't seem to be the best way to describe him, Viktor Krum, the more she looked, the more confident she was that the expression he wore more likely stemmed from a reluctance to be in front of the camera, which was something to be sympathised with. His dark hair was clipped close to his head, and he had a prominent brow that was made all the more severe by a scowl pulling it down over his eyes. Krum looked older than seventeen; Hermione suspected that was to do with him being more worldly, considering he already had a professional career, whatever that entailed. He wasn't pretty, not in the way that many of the players Ginny had shown her were, not in the way Oliver Wood or Cedric were, but, there was something there that was appealing. He had a largish nose and a full mouth, neither of which she would typically have described as attractive features, but somehow they worked for him. His eyes, though showing no small amount of irritation were penetrating, Hermione imagined Viktor Krum would be a hard person to say no to.
While the twins continued to rib Ron over his undying affection for the Bulgarian, Hermione absentmindedly regarded the nick in the player's right eyebrow and wondered if it came from a Quidditch injury, or something entirely more glamorous.
When night fell, the Weasleys and their happy guests bundled up against the incoming chill and joined the streams of fans heading towards the stadium. Closer up the purpose-built arena was so tremendous Hermione could barely take it all in. She had been impressed with the Quidditch stands at Hogwarts, but this was so far beyond that, it was entirely beyond comparison to anything she had seen before. The excitement among their party ratcheted with every step they took towards the Minister's box, and even Hermione began to succumb to the delight of the event. She may not have been the biggest fan of the sport, but she couldn't deny the splendour and magnitude of the evening. As Hermione trailed behind a racing Harry, she reflected again on the real pleasure of being invited and determined to ask her mum to help her source an appropriate thank you gift for the Weasley's as soon as they were back.
As they found their seats, Hermione's eyes lit up when she regarded the magically illuminated pitch and the thousands of fans visible from her perfect spot. A shiver moved through her, though whether it was down to the mounting excitement or the slight chill in the air, she couldn't be sure, and Fred leant over to secure his chunky, knitted, Ireland scarf around her neck. Hermione smiled in gratitude as he gave her a mock salute and she looked down at the dark green material ruminating on how strange it was not to be wearing house colours. That was until the team mascots arrived, producing such a massive response from the crowd that for the first time since she had joined the magical world, Hermione entirely concentrated on the sporting action happening in front of her, without looking for a distraction.
Viktor felt the air rush around him as he zipped into the stadium in preplanned formation with his teammates. Everything he had been towards since before he could even remember had been building to this moment. After a couple of quick laps of the stadium, and some admittedly showy tricks, he began to shut off his perception of the world around him and switched gears into his 'professional mode'. It was harder than usual. Though Viktor had been playing at a national level for a while and had experience of being a respected, famous player, the scale of this match was something else.
Viktor had attempted to keep a low profile all day and had avoided the campsite entirely. He had used a few complex transfigurations to disguise himself on his way to all the appointments he'd had that morning, not that it took much for him to go unnoticed. People were expecting to see Viktor Krum, the international Quidditch star, most days he could blend in by simply making sure not to wear anything sport affiliated and staying clear of red clothes.
Though he understood the necessity, Viktor was a little saddened not to have seen the campsite, from the noises he had been able to hear all day it sounded like the crowds were having a good amount of fun. However, he was sure he could forgo the unknown pleasures to avoid looking at flags depicting his face; he had been ribbed enough about the ones that were visible from the stadium.
As the game began in earnest, Viktor became single-minded in his search for the Snitch, though it was not a wholly separate role, he relied on members of his squad to tell him when he could act. Viktor had learned that success in Quidditch at any level required seamless - often non-verbal - communication between players on the pitch.
It was evident fairly early on - from the face of his captain - that the match was not going Bulgaria's way, and that development was not unexpected; Ireland had put together an incredibly strong side. Though the Bulgarian team had remained charged and hopeful, they had all known that their chances of winning the match were limited. When Viktor registered the pre-planned throat cutting motion he knew he had been given the green light, they wouldn't win, but they would end it on their terms.
Like the rest of their team, the Irish Seeker was a great player, and certainly far superior to the other adversaries Viktor had done battle with to get to the final. A few minutes into the chase he realised the strength of his team had buoyed Aidan Lynch, and as a consequence was racing out of his skin. Viktor knew he would have to do something drastic to shake him off, failure to catch the Snitch was not an option.
He waited until Lynch had tucked behind him, in close formation, before he began a sudden descent, darting as if tracking the Snitch's fluttering movement. Viktor suppressed a grin when he heard a rush of air behind him, confirming he was being followed. He forced the front of his broom down, rapidly gathering speed and narrowing his eyes to pinpoint the very last moment he could pull back.
The stadium noise was gone, the bright lights muted as he focused solely on the pitch he was fast approaching. When he could identify the individual blades making up the sea of green grass, Viktor hastily pulled back on his broom as hard as he could, and sped back up again, hearing the crunch as Lynch collided with the ground. He felt a familiar rush of adrenaline at his move success, the first time he had tried that he broke every bone in his right arm by misjudging the distance. It felt incredible to have pulled it off, on an international stage, with any luck talk of that would soften the blow of the loss.
Seconds later a new kind of adrenaline took over when he spotted, in his peripheral vision, a flickering shimmer of gold. Viktor sped after the tiny orb in a motion he had come to think of as having more resemblance to dancing with an unwilling partner than sport of any kind. Locked in pursuit he barely registered the bone-crushing force of the Bludger that collided with his face; he didn't have time to react. Viktor roughly wiped his eyes, dimly aware his fingers came back wet before he reached forward, his arm so overstretched that he almost went over the tipping point of balance and fell off his broom.
One breath... he secured his feet.
Two breaths… he splayed his fingers as far as they would go.
Three breaths... his fingers plucked the golden-winged menace right out of the sky.
After Viktor had whooped in relief tinged triumph his teammates pounced, approaching at speed, he blinked slowly, suddenly more aware of the harshness of the stadium lights and the shooting pains in the front of his face.
The initial happy shiver of conquest faded quickly, and by the time Viktor was on his way to the Minister's Box for the medal presentation he was feeling decidedly unhappy. The odds had been stacked against them from the start, he repeated to himself, but it didn't do anything to stop the all too familiar weight settling onto his shoulders. He was the star player, what if he had... The negative thoughts droned on as he trudged up the many steps. He was no stranger to losing games, no one was that good, but he had a competitive spirit, and no matter how unlikely victory had been he was still hoping for it, right up to the last moment.
When Viktor reached the box he smiled - as best he could - when he was handed his consolation prize, he posed for photos and shook hands with whoever was required before he retreated into the shadows while the Irish team had their moment. He thought about returning home to his country, his school, his family his friends. How would they perceive the loss? He would know soon enough, everyone that was important to him was in the stands, for once it wasn't knowledge that made him feel more relaxed.
Viktor was pulled from his mounting disappointment by a sharpish tone whispering - or trying to - over on the other side of the box.
"-I mean really, are they going to make him stand there like that... yes, Ron, I understand that… I know… but… Ronald! That's not what I was talking about… No… I just think that someone should do something about his nose."
A familiar awareness prickled through Viktor. People talking about him, not to him frequently happened within his hearing. He lifted his hand gingerly to his face only to register pain. He had done his best to remove the spattered blood before walking up to the stand, but there hadn't been time to fix the bone. Holding his hand out to obscure his face, Viktor turned to locate the speaker; it wasn't difficult. Though the stand was packed, as soon as his head moved in the general direction of the voice he noticed a witch not so discreetly stiffen, instantly giving herself away. She was surrounded by a sea of redheads who didn't seem to pay much attention to what she was saying, all of their grinning faces were fixed on the medal presentation. As her eyes locked with his she bit down on her bottom lip, he imagined with some embarrassment at being caught, and he unconsciously took a step towards the girl and her large chocolate brown eyes.
"You is speaking to me?" he asked, knowing full well that she hadn't been. Instantly, the girl flushed, and he felt somewhat charmed by her continuing, prominent display of embarrassment.
"I," she stared falteringly and then squared her shoulders. Viktor watched, entirely fascinated as the tiny movement of her body had a huge effect on her mass of curls. "I was just saying that someone should have taken a look at your nose," she admitted eventually.
"You not like my nose?" Viktor said, deliberately feigning misunderstanding, he forced his voice to be serious, however much he wanted to chuckle. He wasn't sure what he was doing, why he had even turned to speak to her in the first place. But he felt somewhat captivated by the girl's flushed, innocent face and expressive eyes. Whatever was compellingly him to speak he didn't want it to stop; he didn't want to turn away from her… not yet.
Her voice sounded strained as she rang her hands out in front of herself. "No, that's not what I... you must believe-" Viktor saw the moment she caught the glimmering in his eyes and her's flashed in reply before she huffed. "That was mean," she chastised, and that time he did grin, immediately wincing as pain shot through his face.
"Sorry," he mumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose, "could not stop."
The little witch tilted her head as she regarded him. "You should get your face looked at, it won't heal properly if you leave it too long. Magic or no magic."
Magic or no magic, Viktor turned the phrase over in his mind before filing it away for further consideration at a later point. He nodded in acknowledgement, after all, she was right, and the sudden silence that descended between them signalled the end of their bizarre conversation, a cue he would generally have followed, but for some reason, he didn't want to. Viktor scanned the box, hoping to find someone or something he could mention to the girl to prolong their unexpected chat but he saw nothing, not until his eyes fell upon the Ireland scarf that was wrapped neatly around her neck. It was something to talk about, though he didn't like it.
"You are Ireland fan?" he asked and realised he must have frowned when his face pulled, and he let out a small groan as his muscles protested against the movement.
The girl looked confused for a moment, and Viktor ran the expression over in his mind, he wasn't entirely confident in his grasp of English, and he had a sudden panic that he may have inadvertently insulted her; he tried to explain himself better by gesturing to the scarf around her neck. That was excellent Viktor, point and grunt like a caveman.
She looked down, and comprehension dawned on her face, her brows unknotted, and she looked back at him smiling.
"No, just a cold girl," she explained while gesturing to one of the identical redheads next to her, he was minus a scarf and Viktor was suddenly a bit sad she hadn't been just an Ireland fan. "I don't know much about Quidditch really," she admitted in a small voice, and Viktor couldn't stop the splutter or the bubble of laughter that escaped him. It was loud enough to get the attention of one of his teammates, who looked back at him with raised eyebrows following his very uncharacteristic show of mirth. Viktor shrugged his shoulders at his teammate who turned back around.
He wasn't sure anyone had ever told him that they didn't know much about the sport he was famous for, even when it was clear they didn't know anything they would still prattle on regardless, there was something so disarmingly beguiling about her honesty. On a night where he felt the full weight of his fame and celebrity status, she had managed to make him forget about all of those expectations, even if it was just for a moment.
Viktor winced again as he smiled broadly at the girl and she flinched at his show of pain, her slight shudder giving him an idea, a mad one but still…
"You fix nose" he stated determinedly.
"I... what?!" she blurted, stepping back from him with a pinched expression.
"I no have wand," he replied, holding his hands away from his body as if to demonstrate. "You say it should be done," he pressed cheekily before stopping himself as he watched her turn his request over in her mind, it was as if every argument she was having inside her head was painted all over her face.
"You probably shouldn't ask strangers to point their wands in your face, Mr Krum," she said finally, crossing her slims arms over herself and Viktor smiled again, he couldn't help it, the earnest look she had as she lightly admonished him was adorable. Their conversation felt more normal than those he routinely experienced with a woman; those were typically simpering appeals to hear about his supposedly 'glamorous' life and sporting achievements.
"What is name?" he asked softly.
"Hermione, Hermione Granger," she replied, her words coming out bolder now they were back on safer ground.
"Hello, Hermy-o-ninny," he stumbled out cringing as he butchered the unfamiliar name.
"Her-my-own-knee," she repeated kindly.
"Hello, Hermy-knee," he tried again with a little more success, "my name is Viktor."
"Yes, I know," she laughed with a wave to the stadium in front of them.
"Well, not strangers now yes?" Viktor asked hopefully, and she laughed again, he liked the sound, it was soft and warm.
"Not strangers, no," she replied softly and after checking the others in her group were still distracted, she pulled her wand from her hip and stood in front of him. "Hold still," she commanded unnecessarily, he was already rooted to the spot. "Episkey," she all but whispered.
"Govno!" he swore at the sharp pain that erupted in his face as the cartilage in his nose realigned.
"Sorry," she said, sounding anything but. Viktor would have delighted in calling her out on her amusement but he knew he had asked - slash demanded - her attention, as such he could hardly blame her for laughing - however politely - at him.
Still blinking from the resetting of his nose, Viktor only became aware of the little bubble they had around them when it burst, growing commotion in the stands alerted him that the presentation was over, and the players would begin leaving soon.
"I go now," he began reluctantly, "I… thank you for help."
"You're welcome," she, Hermione, answered quietly.
Viktor paused for a moment reluctant to leave, he considered inviting her to the after match celebrations but decided against it; the rowdy pub was no place for someone like her. Suddenly a thought occurred and once again he spoke without hesitation. "You attend Hogwarts, yes?" he asked, attempting nonchalance but knowing an irrepressible hopefulness had permeated his tone.
"Yes, this will be my fourth year," she answered nodding.
He started little at that, she was younger than he had expected, but he couldn't be downcast, he would have a whole year of opportunities, he would make sure of it. Viktor flashed her a bright smile, taking a step back, ready to fall in line with the other retreating players. "Have good summer, Hermy-knee Granger."
A/N: As many of you will know this pairing has been floating around in my head for a while. Viktor & Hermione was the first ship I came to love while reading the books and sadly there are not many stories. This fic will be split into three parts; the first will cover the trio's fourth year and the TriWizard Tournament.
Thank you to Kreeblim Sabs for her endless support and her help with this chapter!
UPDATE: December 2018: Part One of this story has been revamped. Nothing will have changed too much, but hopefully, it will be somewhat tighter than the original version.