A/N: found this while sorting out some old docs lying around. I've written it quite a long time ago but never got the chance to edit or upload it as I got really distracted with my other stories, so I thought I might as well put it up now since it's complete and all. Anyway, I always thought Cormac was being a little bit pushy and slightly inappropriate in HBP, and while I like to think that he eventually grew out of it, I was still expecting Hermione to snap and put him in his place. It seemed a little out of character of her to try to run or hide instead, then again it was the 90s and they were all, what, 16-17 years old? Anyway, it's interesting to compare his behaviour to Viktor's and Hermione's experience with both as they seemed rather passionate about the same things (Quidditch, for instance) but are still polar opposites. That and I enjoy writing from Harry's POV as he's a total sweetheart but also oblivious 90% of the time.
Anyway, apologies for the long note! Hope you enjoy this!
Harry was surprised to find Viktor Krum amidst Slughorn's party guests, and was further shocked by the very enthusiastic, warm greeting he received from the Quidditch star.
"You're in the Slug Club?" he couldn't help but ask, as Krum was a Durmstrang alumnus so he couldn't have possibly met Slughorn.
"I come with friend," he said, pointing at Gwengog Jones, Captain of the all-girls Quidditch team the Holyhead Harpies. "She insisted I come, said she was bored last year but didn't want to say No to old professor."
Harry looked towards the female Quidditch star. She was looking haughtily down at the small crowd of admirers surrounding her, and seeing as she hasn't yet bothered to look for her date, Harry assumed that she was enjoying herself at least a little bit.
Harry briefly wondered if Slughorn had spotted Krum and if he would make an exception and try to collect him, notoriously opportunistic as he is.
"It's very good to see you, Potter!" said Krum, grasping his shoulders and surveying him as he would a younger brother. "You got so big, you are almost my height now!"
Harry flushed, feeling guilty all of a sudden. On the one hand he was immensely flattered that someone like Krum sees him as not only an equal but as some kind of a familiar, and on the other he feels like it's a form of betrayal to Ron, his best friend, who was already feeling lousy enough about Hermione kissing Krum nearly two years ago.
His friends have been fighting for weeks because of the Bulgarian, although Hermione didn't actually know why and neither did Krum. Harry was really hoping that they'd patch things up when Hermione invited Ron to Slughorn's party despite still being a little cross with him, but then they started fighting again and Hermione ended up coming with Cormac McLaggen instead.
Harry swallowed his guilt when he felt it expanding. It wouldn't be fair to brush off Krum when he seemed so genuinely happy to see Harry, so he decided on a diplomatic course of action, and that is to leave the Viktor Krum bit out when he updates his best friend later in the evening.
"Thanks, Krum," he said. "Er, you've changed quite a lot yourself."
That wasn't exactly a lie, for besides the very uncharacteristically boisterous and friendly demeanor, Viktor's hair had grown thick and dark and mere inches from touching his shoulders, and he had also grown a short beard that made his face look more mature and impressive. Other than that he was exactly as Harry remembered him, extremely skinny and tall and rather awkward on his feet.
Harry's compliment seemed to please the older champion considerably as he stepped back and spread his arms as if to give him a better view. "Ah, you notice, very good! What do you think?"
Harry froze. He wasn't exactly sure which change Viktor was referring to, but he decided to go with his hunch and pick the most obvious one.
"Oh, yea, that's a nice beard, mate, really suits you!" he said awkwardly.
His hunch was wrong. He received an eye roll from Viktor. "My English, Potter, my English! It's better now! I have been practicing ever since I left Hogwarts. I wanted to surprise Hermy-own-ninny."
He looked so proud of his achievement that Harry didn't have the heart to tell him that not only has his accent gotten even thicker than possible, but that he was still mispronouncing Hermione's name.
"Hermione's actually here," said Harry, briefly surveying the room for his bushy-haired friend but coming up short. "She came with someone, but I reckon she'd still be thrilled to see you."
Again he felt like he was betraying Ron, but Hermione was also his friend and Harry felt like she needed a bit of cheering after crying herself to sleep for too many nights. He wasn't exactly sure if Viktor Krum would make things better or worse at this rate, but he knows that she's been writing to him and he remembers seeing her smile and laugh around him during his stay at their school. Besides, it's not like he's going to sweep her off her feet in the span of a few hours! It'll probably be like seeing an old friend.
Viktor scoffed. "I am thinking she was very happy to see me, until her idiot boyfriend got jealous and pulled her away." He didn't bother to hide his revulsion at the word 'boyfriend'. "I only kissed her hand, as I was always taught to do when greeting ladies, and he made it look like I stole her from him!" He took a swig of his drink. "I thought Hermy-own-ninny was smarter than that!"
"She is," said Harry, always quick to defend his friend. "She's the smartest witch of her age. McLaggen is not Hermione's boyfriend. They just came together for Slughorn's party, and quite frankly I don't think she likes him very much."
"She doesn't?" asked Viktor, looking hopeful.
Harry regretted correcting the Seeker's presumption. He was about to rectify the situation when Viktor spoke again.
"Talk of Hermy-own-ninny made me forget!" he said, smacking his forehead. "I am supposed to deliver an important message to you from Dumbledore!"
Harry immediately dismissed all thoughts of Ron and Hermione and Cormac McLaggen and this very odd situation that somehow brought Viktor into the mix. He had been waiting to hear from Dumbledore for a long time. He was a little nervous as he hadn't yet managed to extract the memory from Slughorn, but the Headmaster's silence and absence was far worse.
"That's alright," he said, quickly dismissing his apologies. "What's the message?"
Viktor leaned forward conspiratorially and opened his mouth to relay the message when something behind Harry caught his eye. His expression darkened, and before Harry could ask, Viktor wordlessly marched past him. Harry turned around and saw that he was heading towards a very disheveled Hermione hiding behind a pillar. Harry jogged after him and stopped when he saw that her curls were gracelessly freed from their pins, as if tugged a little too roughly, and that her lips were red and a little swollen and that she was panting as if she's just stopped running.
"Who did this to you?" Viktor demanded rather than asked.
"Yea, are you alright, Hermione?" asked Harry.
"I've just escaped Cormac," she said; peaking from behind the pillar at the faces nearest, ready to duck away should she spot the man in question. "Barely managed to leave him under the mistletoe. Oh, he's just awful, Harry! Not once has he asked me about myself. He's talked about nothing but his family's connections in the ministry and his hundreds of saves on the Quidditch field, and when I tried to include more stimulating topics into the conversation he responded by interrupting me and correcting me on every little fact I've studied and previously confirmed with professors McGonagall and Flitwick themselves! The funny part is his 'corrections' were not even correct to begin with! He's just a walking, talking nightmare!"
"Then why did you ask him to the party if you didn't like him?" asked Harry.
Viktor intervened before Hermione could answer, attempting to sound light and playful despite the slight edge in his tone. "So I'm the better Quidditch player?"
"Oh please, he doesn't even compare!" she laughed sarcastically, causing Harry to look openly astonished at her very bold, very uncharacteristic response to the man that used to make her blush madly and occasionally drop things. "I mean I obviously can't say much about Quidditch, but manners-wise you were perfect, Viktor. You did and said all the right things and if I had known you were coming I wouldn't have asked Cormac."
She was too busy looking frantically for Cormac to notice the slight tinge of red on Viktor's cheeks. Harry wasn't sure if she was being sincere or if she simply meant that she regrets asking Cormac, as going with Viktor Krum would've certainly guaranteed to make Ron even more jealous.
"So what happened to you?" asked Harry to break the awkward silence that followed.
"Oh, he tried to kiss me."
"He what?" it came from Viktor, low and threatening.
Harry surveyed her ruffled state. "Hermione, you look like you got caught in a cat fight."
"Yes, well, I didn't exactly want him to kiss me, did I?" she scowled, "but then we were under the mistletoe and I tried to get out of it but he just– he just grabbed me, Harry! He pulled me back and nearly ripped my dress and I think he pulled my hair and– oh, I know I'm going to have bruises in the morning! He's just too arrogant and inconsiderate and too much of an oaf to realize that I was trying to push him away." Her expression then turned mournful. "Merlin, what have I gotten myself into!"
"Show him to me," growled Viktor.
Their heads snapped towards him. Harry once again saw Viktor Krum as he did the first time during the Quidditch World Cup and the Triwizard Tournament: determined, intimidating, and not above performing a few life-threatening stunts to reach his goal.
"Oh no, Viktor, you can't!" said Hermione, looking anxiously to Harry for help. "You can't hurt a student here, you're no longer an official guest of the school!"
"Trust me, Hermy-own-ninny," he said, attempting to be soft and comforting but instead he sounded like the villain of a crime thriller. "I will take care of this Cormac idiot."
"It's fine, Viktor, I promise, it's not worth–!"
"It is not fine, Hermy-own-ninny!" he snapped, making Hermione gasp at the sudden harshness of his voice, apparently having never had it delivered towards her before. "Look at what he did to you!" He gestured at her dress and hair. "He is a man now, not boy, this is unacceptable behavior. His father did not teach him how to be a man, so now I must."
"I asked him to come with me-!"
"So what if you did!" he barked, and then stopped to take a deep breath, seemingly struggling with himself. When he spoke again he was calmer but firm still: "I am sorry for yelling, Hermy-own-ninny. Sometimes I forget you are young. My family raised me to always respect the woman I am with, whether friend or… something else." His blush became a little more evident but he carried on. "If I did to Gwengog what Cormac did to you I would bring shame to my family."
She was staring at him with a whole different expression that Harry wasn't quite able to read, but he saw that the corners of her mouth twitched upwards and that her rigid posture slacked so he assumed it's a good thing.
"That's… that's really sweet, Viktor, but it's different here," she said softly. "It's sort of expected, especially if I were the one that invited him and insinuated that I find him–"
"He was being inappropriate," he cut in, sounding a little gentler if not for his frown. "He does not respect your wishes. These boys, Hermy-own-ninny, they are idiots. They don't know how to behave, and if someone doesn't teach them they will do something they will regret." He was looking at her, his eyes dark and intense. He placed his hands on her shoulders. "Don't let any man force himself on you. If you don't want him to touch you, kiss you, or even talk to you, you tell him. Hex the idiot if you have to, it's your body and no one can tell you what to do with it– and I know you know very good curses, so if you want to practice now is a good time." He winked.
She smiled, and then panicked at the sight of Cormac approaching them fast. She tried to make a quick escape but Viktor grabbed her wrist and pulled her to stand between him and Harry.
"I will not hurt him, Hermy-own-ninny," he assured her just as she was about to sputter her pleas. "I would like to very much, but I would also like to see you again and it will be difficult if I get kicked out for breaking a student's face. I only want to teach him a lesson." She was still looking at him imploringly. He gave her a reassuring smile and slid his hand from its tight grip on her wrist to cradle it gently around her hand. "Trust me."
She hesitated, searching his expression, then nodded. They all turned to face Cormac as he finally reached them.
"There you are. Quite the tease, aren't you, Granger?" he said, grinning.
He was going for her despite her leaning back, and Harry felt his own anger rise to high levels at the sight of the Cormac's disregard for his best friend's comfort.
"Step back," said Viktor, his voice commanding and firm.
Cormac looked a little startled, as if he just noticed him. "You know I thought you were the best until I actually met you," he said, sneering. "It's disappointing, if I must say so myself, to finally understand why people sometimes call you Dumb Krum."
Harry looked at Krum, expecting anger, but saw it on Hermione instead. Viktor, on the other hand, was regarding McLaggen with the kind of calm he was struggling to maintain a few minutes ago.
"I am glad that you are not my fan anymore," he said, "because I like to think that my fans don't act like crazy baboons when pretty ladies talk to them."
Cormac's face turned bright red with rage and for a moment Harry was worried that he'd actually attack Viktor.
"You were being inappropriate with Hermione, is what he's trying to say," Harry quickly interjected; only to have Cormac's glaring red face snap towards him.
Viktor nodded. "This is no way to treat a woman."
Cormac's eyes fell on Viktor and Hermione's intertwined hands.
"We know each other a long time," said Viktor, following Cormac's line of view, "so this is ok, but if she says it's not I will remove my hand." He then lifted their hands and kissed Hermione's fingers. "This is how gentlemen say Hello to their lady friends in my country, but I am thinking you are trying to impress her. Now I don't know how the English do it, but if I want to impress a woman I don't just sit there and talk about myself! I ask her what she likes and about her family and friends, and I always remind her that she's beautiful, and if she wants to know something about me I will wait for her to ask."
His spoke to Cormac in a way that surprised both Hermione and Harry, for it wasn't in the condescending manner they expected from his outburst earlier, but of that similar to a wise mentor instructing a particularly difficult pupil. He was trying to help Cormac improve rather than just beat him senseless, and it confused Harry because he believed that Cormac deserved exactly that.
Hermione's shock melted into a warm smile. She was looking at Viktor the same way she did in their fourth year, except it was still different somehow and Harry couldn't exactly tell how.
Cormac, on the other hand, appeared to look embarrassed and flustered the more Viktor pinpointed his errors. He muttered something about mistletoe in a last attempt to save himself further humiliation, but Viktor appeared to have an answer for everything.
"Why would you listen to plant?" he asked, a single dark eyebrow raised incredulously. "Mistletoe doesn't know what Hermy-own-ninny wants, Hermy-own-ninny knows what Hermy-own-ninny wants."
"Yes, and I understand that it is a stupid one. Hermy-own-ninny doesn't need plant, she will kiss you herself if she wants. She is a very strong witch, she also doesn't need anyone or anything to tell her when they can or can't kiss her. I know because I kissed her once." He smiled a little at the memory while Hermione dropped her gaze and blushed madly next to him. "It was very nice, and she didn't push me away or run to hide behind her friends."
Hermione was pointedly avoiding Harry's eyes, not knowing that he already knew about her kissing Viktor from Ginny's outburst.
"She asked me to the party herself!" Cormac said quickly, as if he just remembered that, grinning triumphantly. "Now why would she ask me if she didn't fancy me at least a little?"
Viktor shrugged. "I was going to ask her myself. She's obviously better than you."
"Really, now you're just–!"
"Listen," he said, holding up a hand, effectively silencing Cormac, "I know Hermy-own-ninny is a very desirable witch, but you are a man. You must control yourself. You are better than this, you come from good family and I know they raised you well, but you bring them shame when you behave like this."
Cormac stared at Viktor for a while, contemplating his next move. Their conversation had drawn a bit of attention from those nearby, including Harry's own date Luna who drifted to his side to look at the two older men with her usual dreamy expression, and the more the confrontation dragged on the worse Cormac looked.
Finally Cormac sighed, signaling his defeat. "Alright, fine, I understand." He then turned to Hermione and gave her a genuine smile. "I behaved rather inexcusably tonight, Granger, and for that I apologize. I didn't mean to be so forward, and I definitely didn't mean to push you away. Would I be asking too much if I hope to get another chance with you tonight?"
Hermione seemed more relaxed now that the threat has finally been lifted, in fact so relaxed, Harry noted, that she didn't seem to notice that she was leaning towards Viktor with her free hand resting on his bicep.
"Thank you for apologizing, Cormac," she said, "I will put tonight's incident behind me. As for your other request…" she turned from Cormac's hopeful face to smile shyly at Viktor. "I'm afraid I'll have to decline, as I have a bit of catching up to do with a good old friend of mine." She then turn back to Cormac. "If that's alright with you, of course, seeing as we came together?"
Cormac looked at Viktor, who was looking back at him expectantly. He seemed to be thinking over the Bulgarian's words carefully before turning back to Hermione with a smile and a wink. "That's alright, Granger, I can keep myself entertained."
"It was very nice to meet you," said Viktor, extending his hand. Cormac shook it.
He was a long way from them when Hermione finally burst into uncontrollable, girlish giggles.
"What?" asked Harry, glancing at Krum. "What's so funny?"
"Oh, Viktor, you were so brilliant! Thank you!" she said, then turned to Harry and squeezed his arm affectionately. "You too, Harry!"
"I didn't do anything, it was all Krum. He really was brilliant!" he said, earning a appreciative look from Viktor. "I mean, he made McLaggen apologize and mean it, or at least I think he did."
"You were going to hex him," said Luna, startling them with the reminder of her presence and her honesty. "I saw you grabbing your wand, Harry."
Harry cleared his throat, looking sheepish and away from the eyes that trailed to his wand hand. "Yea, alright, but I didn't have to in the end." He discreetly tucked his wand deeper into his robe pockets.
Viktor grinned. He lifted Hermione's hand and kissed it again. "I am happy I came. I have missed you so much, Hermy-own-ninny."
"I'm happy you came, too," she replied, biting her lower lip. "Would- would Gwengog mind if I steal you for a bit? We've got loads of catching up to do, I mean!" she said quickly at his raised eyebrows, flushing.
"I am thinking Gwengog forgot about me," he said, shaking his head at the Quidditch captain still basking in the glory of her admirers' blind love and attention. He then smiled and tucked Hermione's hand into the crook of his arm. "Perhaps we should go somewhere private. It's too loud here and we have much to talk about."
She nodded. She lead the way as they weaved through the guests, occasionally smiling and looking at each other in ways Harry didn't want to analyze in order to be able to feign innocence when necessary. It was only after they disappeared outside that Harry remembered Dumbledore's message.
He groaned. Luna looked at him curiously. He shook his head. Even if he catches up with them somehow, Harry had a feeling that nothing in the world would tear Krum away from Hermione now that she's clearly interested in him again.
"They look lovely together," said Luna next to him, staring at the empty doorway they disappeared into.
"Do me a favor," said Harry, looking at the same spot but for different reasons. "Don't tell Ron."