By the time Professor Moody approached, limping over to them as they remained on the cold ground, Cedric's father had run to where they were and collapsed alongside his son. If Harry's cries had torn at her heart, Cedric's father's pleading shattered something in her soul. Hermione vaguely felt a memory surface, her parent's watching TV and the news announcing another child, a teenager, had been killed in the city, some pointless fight had led to a life cut short. Her father had grumbled, and her mother had held her tight.
'No one should have to bury their child.'
Releasing the death grip he had maintained on the boy's jersey, Harry had thrown himself into her, clinging onto her shirt, despite the increasingly insistent words from the professor now next to them. He wanted Harry to go with him and kept reaching for his shoulder as if he would prize him away. Harry was not going anywhere, at least not without her, and at that moment Hermione's legs weren't responding to any desire she may have had to move.
Ron came barreling over not long after, and like so many times before it was only his voice that got through to them, well, her, Harry wasn't yet coherent. When Hermione felt Ron's hand rest on her shoulder, she suddenly became aware that he might have been talking to her for a while.
"Mione," he said harshly, with a shake of her arm, "we have to get him out of here," he implored, his eyes damp. Hermione nodded, happy in that moment to follow instruction on what to do to. Ron helped her get to her feet, with Harry still attached to her.
Despite not having been aware the din of the crowd while they were outside, the sudden silence, once they were inside the castle walls, was jarring. Their very footfalls seemed to ring out in the corridor, the echo carrying up to the high ceilings. For once even the portraits were silent. Hermione trialled behind the small party intent in getting Harry to safety. Professor Moody was at the front, even more, agitated than ever, and he seemed to struggle with his leg, his limp slightly more laboured than she could remember seeing before. Ron and Harry were in front of her, Ron having to almost hold Harry up by this point, a mixture of his injuries and his emotional exhaustion preventing him from walking by himself. He turned around every now and again, Harry, as if to check she was still there, each time their eyes met his face looked so relieved Hermione had to choke back the sobs that threatened.
She was still numb to the realities of what all of this meant, though, she was far from ignorant of them. Hermione couldn't even to bring herself to imagine the horrors that had befallen her friend and fear gripped at her. Up to now the night in the Shrieking Shack in their third year had been the scariest thing she had ever encountered, and yet now, whether because time had dulled the memory or not, it suddenly seemed tame.
Voldemort had reached within the school, their haven, and endangered everyone she cared about. Her mind shifted to Viktor injured in the Hospital Wing, and she reflexively swallowed. How would she tell him about all of this? He was leaving. Perhaps after the events of this evening, he would go and never look back, and though it made a lump form in her throat, from the bottom of Hermione's heart, she couldn't have blamed him if that's what he decided.
They turned yet another corner, and Hermione looked up, suddenly realising how far she was lagging behind, her footsteps seemingly slowing from the weight of her thoughts, She shook herself before increasing her pace. Noise from further back in the corridor made her whip her head around, so she wasn't looking where she was going when she collided with a firm body, a body that reached forward to grip her shoulders before she could clatter to the floor.
Looking up to thank her would be saviour, and apologise for her lack of spacial awareness, Hermione came face to face with the drawn countenance of Igor Karkaroff. Her planned words of politeness died on her lips when she registered not only who it was, but how he appeared. The Durmstrang headmaster's eyes were wide, his hair a mess, at least half of it having escaped the band he wore at his nape. His robes were askew, exposing a white shirt that wasn't fully buttoned underneath, and his sweat lined collar bone. The typically rigid headmaster was practically vibrating.
He released her with a start, almost as if he abruptly realised who she was, and Hermione reflectively took a step back, ready to mumble her pleasantries and get on, but Karkaroff didn't move, he just kept eyeing her.
"Did… he saw him?" He asked suddenly, his harsh whisper reverberating around the empty corridor.
Despite the fog that had descended in her brain Hermione had no problem following his meaning. She considered playing dumb for a moment but the look in his eyes stopped her, he was tense, too tense.
"Yes," she replied honestly, as her hand moved slightly closer to the holster of her wand, just in case.
"You believe him?" He barked out, his eyes even more maniacal. Hermione hadn't realised before just how tall he was, he took a step forward, and she took a measured one back.
"Yes," she confirmed again beginning to panic, why her belief should mean anything to the man she had no idea. Her eyes involuntarily moved to the end of the corridor where Professor Moody was rounding the corner with Ron and Harry still following behind. Hermione was debating charging off after them when the headmaster suddenly followed her gaze, his eyes widening before he stepped forward, gripping her arm, and preventing her planned escape.
Hermione made to pull away from him, but his constraint was far too strong, "Let go of me."
"No," he said firmly, moving to drag her away, "I think you should get Dumbledore."
Hermione spluttered in confusion, "Get Dumbledore? I… I think he's a little busy at the moment."
"Then we will find him," Karkaroff continued as he yanked her along behind him.
A moment later Professor Snape and Dumbledore appeared at the end of the corridor, and the Potions Master took one look at the desperate grip the Durmstrang headmaster had on her wrist before pulling her towards him by her shoulder.
"Miss Granger will be coming with us," he drawled in his usual no-nonsense tone, though Hermione didn't miss the hint of command those words held. The two angular men glared at each other for a moment, and Hermione had the distinct impression that some silent communication she had no hope of understanding, was passing between them.
"Fine," Karkaroff seethed back finally shooting a hard look at Dumbledore over his shoulder before he looked back at her. "Tell Viktor," he began but his mouth snapped shut as he shook his head, "Nevermind," and with that, he disappeared moving at pace.
"Where did Harry go?" Dumbledore asked as Professor Snape released her, and the unfamiliar sober tone he used pulled Hermione from watching the retreating Karkaroff.
"Professor Moody took him, Sir, I'll show you the way."
When Viktor woke up, he immediately registered a similar sense of confusion that had permeated his being while inside the maze, but his surroundings were filled with none of the silence. His heart began racing; he had to get up, to move, to find everyone. Only when he went to comply with the unsoothing shouting in his mind, being bellowed in his native tongue, he was hindered by strong hands pushing him back onto, what the back of his mind could just about work out, was a hospital cot. He relaxed a little when he realised it was his father holding him down, softly spoken words of assurance letting him know he was safe.
When Viktor properly opened his eyes, he rolled his head, and his mother was sitting on the other side of his bed. She smiled at him as she clasped a hand securely around his, but her eyes looked sombre.
It took a little while for him to place himself, but eventually, Viktor realised they were in the Hospital Wing, where he had come when Hermione had been attacked. She had sat on the edge of the cot, peddling her legs as she tried to hide her new teeth. Though he was in an area sealed off by a series of light blue dividers that had been pulled around the tent for privacy or…
Awareness and memories filtered back to Viktor all at once as he considered the implications, and he turned to look at his father who slumped a little while sitting in a worn looking chair.
"Imperious," he murmured without any unnecessary build up, and Viktor nodded, despite the sick feeling in his stomach. It all made sense now of course, with that one word his behaviour in the maze all came back to him. Someone had been in his mind, compelling him to act in that way. The more he tried to remember the less he could recall; there were some warped images and a slight memory of a voice, a calm tone that had wormed its way inside his brain.
With a start, he remembered the void, the blackness that had come at the end, the point from which he could remember no more.
"Did I hurt anyone?" He asked, fear gripping his chest.
His father wiped a hand over his weary face, "You stunned the girl-"
"-While under the curse," his mother interjected sharply, with a glare to her husband.
"While under the curse," his father amended, with eyes to his mother to say that he was getting to that. "But Viktor, more happened this evening. There is no easy way to tell you all of this, so forgive my bluntness."
Viktor nodded, his concern rising. His father never pre-warned anyone about his bluntness, let alone asked for forgiveness for it in advance; it was typically something people just had to accept about his character.
"The Dark Lord has risen again…"
Viktor laid back in an increasing state of despondency as his father filled him in. The news of what had happened had apparently filtered back to his parents since they had taken his prone form back to the Hospital Wing. Viktor couldn't take it all in. That he supposedly performed the Cruciatus Curse made his stomach roll, it was one thing to have an Unforgivable Curse carried out on you, but for the user to twist that control to make you perform such an atrocity was something else. Did that make him culpable? It was from his wand. Should he have been able to fight it? Had he even tried?
It took a while for the unsaid to filter to the front of his mind, Viktor wasn't stupid, no matter what the British papers might have liked to imply, suddenly the privacy screens around his bed didn't feel like they were there for his protection. He wondered if he would need to prove his innocence again, but how this time? It was only his word that something had happened. He took comfort that his parents were there now.
When he came to the end of his information to impart his father looked older than Viktor ever remembered, and he excused himself to get some hot drinks, Viktor heard him exchanging a few words with what sounded like two men, just outside of the dividers.
His mother stood as Viktor's gaze fell on the distinctive red of the British Auror uniform, visible for a moment in the space his father had exited through before the screen was pulled together again. She pushed some of his short hair off his face and chatted about nothing while she helped him move up into a sitting position, fluffing his pillows.
She retook his hand when she explained about Cedric. Professor Sprout had been in to see them earlier, checking up on Viktor's progress and explaining what had happened to the Champion from her house. He couldn't fathom how to process the news. When they had entered into the TriWizard Tournament it had been pointed out several times that people had been fatally injured before, they all knew it was a possibility, but it didn't mean they expected it to happen. Not this way. They had faced dragons, merfolk and all kinds of challenges but they weren't expecting this, this wasn't the fight they had signed up for.
Viktor remembered just before the task, sitting with Hermione in his lap while Cedric teased her, the boy's face happy and smiling, so full of life. How was it possible that he wasn't here now?
"It is so quiet," Viktor said at last. He didn't know what to say, how to articulate his reaction to any of the information that had been imparted, so he started on a new topic. Thankfully his mother seemed minded to go along with it, though she looked at him knowingly.
"Mikhail and Filip were here earlier, but we sent them away to help get some of the other boys settled on the boat," she replied, "I will send word to them that you are awake."
"Karkaroff?" He asked.
"Is nowhere to be found," his father replied, re-entering the little space with some steaming cups floating in behind him.
Viktor couldn't say he was surprised, the events of the evening were making him reassess the last few months, seeing his headmaster's behaviour in a new light.
"His mark, it was coming back," Viktor whispered, looking at his father who returned his gaze sternly for a moment before nodding once and passing him a cup of tea. Viktor knew they would soon be having a deeper conversation on the headmaster, one that would probably not be in his mother's hearing.
After finishing the tea that he wished was coffee, Viktor placed the empty cup on the side, fiddling with the edges of his blankets. "Where is she?" He asked softly.
"Hermione has not been here darling," his mother answered kindly, placing her own cup down on the table next to his. "But I imagine she has had a difficult evening, to say the least, Harry was there you know, and if what Madam Pomfrey heard was true she had to be the one to drag him away. I am certain she will be here when she can."
Viktor averted his eyes, "What if she believes that I-"
"Son," his father interrupted forcefully, "the right person would find you over a body, with a wand in your hand, and still ask you what had happened before they assumed anything. If your letters are anything to go by she is an intelligent, compassionate witch, who has developed feelings for you, as you have for her. You do her a disservice to doubt her now."
"Yes, Sir," Viktor responded gravely and was thankfully pulled from further discussion on the subject by the divider rattling again.
Viktor had a moment of apprehension, thinking that it was time for the Ministry to question him. However, when Fleur's soft blond hair came into view, he suddenly would have preferred to sit through an invasive inquisition, than face the girl that he had unintentionally wounded. He could see a bruise blooming on her cheek that he had a horrible feeling he would have somehow caused, and he wished he hadn't just drunk a large cup of tea, for fear of bringing it back up.
"Fleur I, I'm sorry," he mumbled out, it was insufficient, but he had no idea how to make up for what he had done properly.
Fleur shook her head, "It was not your fault, you stunned me, which was… unpleasant, but given the events of the evening, being dragged out of that maze may have kept me… alive," she finished with a slight choke, both of them thinking of their fallen Champion.
"In any case," she continued, shaking herself off as her face filled with a resolve that Viktor had seen many times over the course of the year, "You had that man in your mind, I think you had it worse."
Once the stilted initial meeting had passed the two students engaged in some small conversation with Viktor's parents, a more muted explanation of plans for after school life than they would have shared, but for the events of the previous evening. Viktor had liked the pretty girl from Beauxbatons from the off, she was smart and not afraid of who she was, as well as being a fierce competitor.
Fleur explained that she had been accepted onto the Gringotts training scheme, having decided to become a Cursebreaker. The Krum's congratulated her, and his father seemed especially impressed, having heard from a contact of his that the bar for entry was set incredibly highly.
"I expect I will be seeing more of you Viktor," she said with a slight glint in her eyes as the conversation came to a lull and she had announced her intention to leave.
"Da?" he asked curiously.
"My assigned coach during my training will be William Weasley; he is Ron's older brother, he says that Hermione often stays with them over the summer," she finished with a little smile before she disappeared.
The night passed in a blur of whispered conversations and the twisting sensations that accompanied each revelation settling into Viktor's understanding. Though, despite his growing apprehension, the Aurors never came in. Viktor had expected them to have barged in as soon as he regained consciousness, and he began to suspect there had been another reason for his father's sudden trip to get tea earlier in the night.
A little while after light broke through the high windows a soft voice in the Hospital Wing caused an immediate pause in the conversation happening around his bed. Viktor had waited up to see if Hermione would come, despite his mother's protests that he should try and get some more sleep. Now he knew he had made the right choice, hearing her speak he felt calm flow into his chest. She mumbled something that was barely audible and then one of the 'guards' spoke in reply.
"He is recuperating Miss Granger, you cannot go passed," the first began.
"And he needs to speak to the Ministry," the other interjected officiously.
"Really?" she replied, the warm, happy tone that Viktor was used to associating her with was long gone. This was not Hermione on her best behaviour; this was her thoroughly pissed off.
Viktor looked over at his parents gauging their reaction to Hermione's tired irritability. His father seemed to be holding back a laugh, and his mother had inched towards the curtain so she could hear better.
"How does his impending appointment prevent me going back there?" Hermione asked, and Viktor could picture her folding her arms across her chest and looking up at the Aurors menacingly, despite her slight build.
"This is highly irregular," one of the men spluttered and Hermione tsked.
"I would hope that the events of this evening were somewhat irregular, wouldn't you?"
There was a pause where all they could hear was a shuffling of feet.
"Are you… family?"
"Evidently not," Hermione responded with a level of derision his headmaster would have been proud of. "I think everyone here is aware of my heritage thank you."
His mother walked away from the curtain grinning happily. "Oh, I am going to love that girl in time."
"She's certainly… feisty," his father muttered, with a slight air of disapproval.
Sofiya raised an eyebrow at him incredulously, "What is a rose without a few thorns? Surely you wouldn't advocate something so precious being unable to protect itself?"
His father was saved from response by said feisty rose barrelling through the curtains, shooting a sharp look just beyond them before pulling the divider shut.
"Viktor," she said, rushing forward, before she seemed to belatedly realise that his parents were there and she paused for a moment, her fingers twitching in the bottom of her shirt until his mother laid a hand on her back and softly compelled her forward. Hermione charged again, more colliding with him than meeting him, wrapping her arms around him and burying her face against his neck.
"Sorry," she said earnestly as Viktor wrapped himself around her tightly, leaning forward so he could lift her onto the side of the bed, her body was shaking.
"I meant to get here last night, but everything was a bit of a nightmare, what with Cedric and then Harry and Moody or well, Barty Crouch. It was him that stunned you by the way, and then McGonagall said I had to go to bed, and I couldn't just go marching around the halls on my own," she said out in a rush of words that Viktor could only just make out.
Grigor got out of his seat, moving to offer Hermione his chair, which she gratefully accepted, blushing slightly when she realised she had been practically wrapped around him in front of his parents. His father walked out of the dividers exchanging a few words with the 'guards' as he went.
"Did you get any sleep, Hermione?" His mother asked as Hermione settled into the seat.
"No," she shook her head, "I had to see you," she replied politely, looking straight at him before turning to accept the blanket he threw from the end of his bed.
By the time his father got back, holding a single teacup, she was already fast asleep.
"How am I going to leave her?" Viktor asked, looking at the girl who had curled herself into the small chair, her hair spilling over the arm.
"It will be fine, it won't be for long, and you can see her over the summer," his mother said, and Viktor nodded.
That had been his plan after all, only now that the time approached it wasn't nearly as comforting as it had been before.
Hermione startled awake; she must have been tired as she didn't even remember falling asleep. She sat up quickly blindsided for a moment, scrambling when she realised her legs were tangled up in a soft blanket. As she shuffled upwards, groggy and sore, she saw Viktor in front of her on the bed, and she calmed down a little, even more, when she realised he was perched on top of the covers and in his regular clothes.
"Viktor?" She mumbled, getting his attention and he turned to smile at her, stretching his hand to intertwine their fingers.
"Hello," he murmured.
"Sorry," she replied, her head lolling to the side of the seat, "I didn't mean to fall asleep."
"It is okay; you must have needed it."
"I suppose I did."
They smiled at each other, but it felt slightly strained, so much had happened, there was so much she wanted to say, so much reassurance that she wanted, both from him and to give to him. But it felt like a giant clock was suddenly above them both, reminding them that their time was coming to a close.
As Hermione righted herself, she ran a hand through her insane hair with the hope of making it less ridiculous, as she moved she noticed a gap in the curtains and her head snapped back to Viktor.
"Guards have gone," he explained.
Hermione sat up, immediately on her feet, "What did they say to you? You should have woken me up; you can't let them treat you-"
"-Hermione," he broke in with a more genuine smile on his face, "all is okay, my parents were here. They have listened, and now they have gone away."
Hermione resumed her seat with a sigh of relief and fumbled in her pockets for a hair tie. "Sorry, I must look a complete mess."
Viktor put his hand on her shoulder, stilling her movements, "You look like, how I imagined you would look when you wake up."
Hermione felt her cheeks flush and was still averting her eyes when Harry walked in, after a fairly ineffectual knock on the divider.
Her friend looked terrible, though, a little better than he had last night. When she, Dumbledore and Professor Snape, had crashed into Professor Moody's office it was in the nick of time. Though how he would deal with all of this she had no idea. Harry was incredibly brave, he had more courage than any Gryffindor she knew, yet he had enough of a hero complex to blame himself entirely for whatever happened at the school. The holiday was poorly timed. Hermione adjusted her twisted jersey as she debated requesting Harry stay with her for a few weeks over summer.
The two boys had a quiet, laboured conversation, both looking grave in a way that hurt Hermione to look at. But she kept herself out of it, and dutifully did not eavesdrop until they had said what they needed to say.
Harry saw himself out soon after, with a request to meet in the common room later, and they weren't left alone for long. When Viktor's parent's returned, they brought Filip and Mikhail with them, and Filip rushed forward to enlarge the chair she was on before falling next to her, securing her in a cuddle that made Viktor kick at his shins.
Grigor looked on with some bemusement but no judgement before swiping his hand through his exasperated son's hair.
"Igor Karkaroff has fled, I think it might be best if you boys returned with us.'
"No, father," Viktor replied respectfully, "I think we must return on the ship, it is the right thing to do."
A moment of frank pride crossed Viktor's father's face before he stoically patted his son on the back.
"Oh, in all of the… commotion, of yesterday I didn't show you," Grigor opened up his jacket to reveal a Vratsa Vultures pin affixed to his shirt. "I can't wait until they have the shirts."
When Hermione eventually left the Hospital Wing she no longer had any idea how many hours had passed, sections of time since Fleur had emerged from the TriWizard maze had either dragged beyond reason or evaporated in the blink of an eye. She had promised Grigor and Sofiya that she would come to say goodbye to them before they left, and was intent on tracking down the rest of her friends before she went to find some food. Hermione had long thought of herself as a relatively solitary person, but at that moment she wanted nothing more to be around people.
As she exited the heavy swing door, she barely missed crashing into a lone finger standing in the corridor. Cho Chang was standing just beyond the entrance, her eyes fixed on a point inside, through the slight window. Hermione moved towards her, taking in the girls rumpled yellow jersey and tear stained face. As she looked back over her shoulder, Hermione could see Cedric's parents on the other side of the ward, talking to Professor Sprout.
"They don't want to leave yet," Cho said suddenly, her voice utterly hollow. "Something too final about going I think. If they leave, then it's actually happened. If they leave, they go not with their son next to them, but with this body, to arrange his funeral."
Hermione looked at Cho and wished Ron was with her, or Ginny, or even Luna. Her friends always knew the right things to say, not like her, she would probably make it worse.
"I wanted to go in," Cho continued, her gaze still fixed on the grieving couple. "I wanted to say something to them, but I got stuck out here, and now I don't know what to do."
Hermione felt tears prick uncomfortably at the corners of her eyes, she remembered Cedric at the ball, dancing attendance on the beautiful Ravenclaw with the kind eyes and the sense of fun that matched his own. Her fists clenched for a moment with indecision before she stepped forward and wrapped Cho in a firm hug.
She was sure Ron would have gripped the young woman on the shoulder, told her some ridiculous story that would have pulled her away from how she was feeling. Ginny would have tackled the issue straight on, no fear, she would have boldly told her what to do to make the pain lessen. Luna would have said something totally nonsensical, that would have shocked Cho out of her misery in an instant, then, later, when Cho was away from the situation, the blonde's words would come back to her, their meaning now clear and they would be accompanied by a much-needed sense of peace.
But Hermione didn't possess any of that kind of magic; she had no special skills at her disposal. So she pulled herself onto her tiptoes and wrapped her arm's around Cho's shoulders embracing her hard.
"I think you should go in, I think you will regret it if you don't," Hermione said eventually, and Cho nodded once against her neck before moving her previously static arms to return the embrace fiercely.
Hermione stood out in front of the large castle doors, waiting for the Krum's to arrive with butterflies in her stomach, though they were not about meeting Viktor's parents this time. As far as first encounters went theirs was eventful, to say the least, but the couple felt genuine and warm, and Hermione could honestly say that she had enjoyed meeting them. She was more nervous because they were leaving, Viktor was out of the Hospital Wing, and the end of term was approaching, far more quickly than she would have liked.
Hermione mused that if she were a normal girl, at a regular school, all she would have been consumed by at that moment would have been sadness at Viktor's imminent departure. But once again that wasn't the route her life had taken, a war was coming for them, a real war, with real consequences.
It seemed selfish to wonder about her own life at such a time, but she couldn't help it. How would it change the vague plans they had made?
Hermione turned back towards the castle as she heard the door opening and a sound of fastly delivered Bulgarian chatter filled the air as Mrs Krum spoke in seemingly unending sentences at her son. Hermione didn't need to speak the language to understand, the 'be good, be careful speech' had an international application.
When they saw her, Sofiya grinned broadly before stepping forward to wrap Hermione in a hug.
"It was so wonderful to meet you, Hermione, I look forward to seeing you over the summer," she said with a little glint in her eye. "If your parents need a letter from me ahead of your trip please let me know."
Grigor came forward and very formally kissed her hand, which despite his advanced years made Hermione blush severely, and Viktor rolled his eyes.
"We will see you again Miss Granger," he said politely if a little stiffly, and they walked away after a final word or two to Viktor.
When it was just the two of them, they stood for a moment, standing a few feet apart just looking at each other. Hermione was almost afraid to touch him in case it would eventually make it worse. Was it better to create more memories now, or leave it to what had been?
Hermione gestured towards the grounds, and they fell into step next to each other, wordlessly directing themselves towards a tree that overlooked the lake. When they fell under the shadow of its branches, Viktor sat back against the trunk, stretching out his legs in front of himself and without warning pulled Hermione down to sit between them, wrapping his arms around her as they listened to the birds around them.
Hermione felt safe she realised, as her head fell back against Viktor's shoulder. It was such a nice feeling.
"Do you remember that day after the first task, when you gave me the dragon?" She asked eventually. It was easier to speak like this, while they weren't looking directly at each other.
"I was waiting for you that day," she continued in little more than a whisper. Hermione wasn't sure why she made the omission. On some level, she thought he might need to hear it, after everything that had happened in the final task she knew at least part of him would be blaming himself, however needlessly. Another part of her wanted to let Viktor know, for certain, that she had been in this from the beginning. He may have been more overt than her, a lot more open a times, but she cared just as much.
Hermione looked out across the water, her eyes falling onto the anchored ship sadly, and she placed her hands over his. "I don't want to hold you to anything," she uttered quietly, and she felt Viktor stiffen behind her, but she ploughed on. "I've still got three years of school, and I live in a different country, and you have a career and everything."
"Hermione, all of that is true, but maybe I am selfish because I want you too," Viktor said as he rubbed a thumb gently over the skin of her arm.
"What if you meet someone else?" Hermione asked, it had been playing on her mind for weeks. The memories of the fangirls from around the time of the Yule Ball were still fresh, and it wasn't as if their presence had died down any since it became apparent there was something between them, if anything it was just that Hermione had got used to it. The behaviour was bound to be worse once he started playing for a professional team full-time.
"I met lots of women before, but they were nothing like you," he reached forward to pull a strand of her hair behind her ear, his mouth falling to talk directly into her ear, "How many girls would tell me that they did not really like Quidditch?"
His question and the amusement laced through his tone made a small laugh bubble up her throat, and he held her tighter.
"Hermione, we visit over the summer, no expectations, no ties. You are young, and someone could come along and take your heart, but I would like to try, to be something, because… because I adore you, you have made me happy. I am on tour and training full time now; I do not have time for more than you can give."
The air went quiet between them again, and Hermione unconsciously shifted back into his embrace. Viktor dropped his chin on top of her hair. "I thought I had planned everything; you live in a different country, you are younger. I was happy to wait and… I didn't factor on war," he said seriously.
"And now?" Hermione asked hesitantly.
"Now, I don't know how to leave you here."
Hermione turned in her position to hug him, awkwardly getting up onto her knees so she could wrap herself around him. Viktor gripped her tightly, pulling her into his lap and pressing his face against her neck.
"I think," Hermione started, already feeling a blush coming over her cheeks, "I think that it could work, maybe, we could write letters after all."
Viktor smiled then, an expression Hermione was much more familiar with, his eyes held an air of mischief, and she felt her already full blush increase.
"It has been a year, and you still blush," he teased softly, his face drawing near to hers.
"I can't help it," Hermione protested, "you make me flustered."
Viktor grinned, "Please do not try to help it, Hermione," he whispered before he laid his lips over hers, stealing her breath and her fear away.
Viktor walked out of the Hogwart's castle doors for what would probably be the last time, any visits he had in the future were unlikely to be on the school's grounds. He had gone back and forth over what the right thing to do with Hermione was. There was a small part of him that whispered at the back of his mind that wanted a firmer resolution, 'give it a name' it had implored, 'make her your girlfriend, make it more formal'. But he knew it wasn't the right course. He couldn't and wouldn't tie her to anything; she was so young, she could change her mind. It wasn't the same as giving up, Viktor had no intention of doing that. He supposed after a year of practising his spoken English it was time to start getting better acquainted with the written word.
Hermione was a few feet away from him, and he watched with a small smile as Mikhail dropped a formal kiss on her cheek handing her a book he had selected from his trunk, before Filip barged forward, picking the little witch up and twirling her so fast she screamed.
Turning away Viktor stepped over to a little cluster of her friends, Harry, Ron and Luna who were saying goodbye to some of the other departing students.
"Are you going to tell us to look after her?" Ron asked as soon as he was within hearing distance, a slight edge to his tone, not rude exactly but not pleasant either. Viktor suppressed his smile. Game on kid.
"No, was going to ask you to be there for her," he clarified before turning to the ethereal blonde, "Luna, will you and Ginny look after her?"
She grinned, absentmindedly twirling a piece of hair around her finger. "We'll try."
Heading towards Hermione, Viktor managed to dislodge Filip, and his friends left for the boat, Mikhail with a quick hand to his shoulder and Filip with a waggle of his eyebrows that made Hermione blush.
Viktor reached into his warm coat and pulled out the address that he had written up before, "This is for my parent's house, write to me, once I have my own place I will send you the details."
Hermione turned the parchment over in her fingers, "Thank you; I'll let you know as soon as I have spoken to my parents."
Her face fell to the ground as sadness crept into her eyes and Viktor cast a quick glance around them before he leant forward and kissed the corner of her mouth. "Thank you for noticing my broken nose Miss Granger; I cannot imagine what this year would have been like if you hadn't." She smiled at him then, one of those beaming ones she had that made his chest feel relaxed and tight all at the same time. "Keep watching your post," he continued, "I will send you a Vratsa shirt, just as soon as they make one small enough."
She punched him in the arm then, and even though he knew it was coming, he let her connect with her target of his upper arm.
Hermione did her own sweep of her eyes around them before stepping forward and wrapping her arms around his stomach, his heavy fur coat almost obscuring her entirely.
"Be safe," she whispered, and he dropped a kiss into her curls.
"I should be saying that to you."
"I will," she assured him, before reluctantly letting go.
Viktor dragged himself away before he could do something stupid like ask her to come with him. With a final smile and a gentle brush of the back of his hand across her cheek, he began to fight his way through the crowd of students, forcing himself not to look back.
"You alright Hermione?" He heard someone say to her as he entered the throng.
He almost turned when he heard Hermione reply, "Yes thank you, Katie." The distinctive sniffle in her voice was hard to ignore.
"Did he just tell you to write to him?" Katie asked, Viktor vaguely remembered having met the tall Quidditch player when Harry had asked for a game.
"He did, I'm visiting him over the summer," Hermione replied.
"Lucky bitch," Katie said, her tone full of amusement.
Hermione laughed, her voice was still thick but it was much less sad, "I am, aren't I."
End of Part One
A/N Thank you to everyone for your patience while I got the last few chapters of this part out. This fic is now going on temporary hold while I map out Part Two. I know where I am going with it but there are details I want to iron out, and hopefully get to a point where I can fulfil a more regular update schedule.
Huge hugs to everyone that has reviewed and added to lists, I had no idea people would enjoy this fic so much, and the support has been wonderful.
Update: As a few readers have asked, for clarity Part Two will continue within this same fic.