Author's Note: None of this belongs to me. This story is based on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling and will feature "offstage scenes" as well as scenes from the book reinterpreted from Viktor's point of view. (This is a companion piece to "Hermione's Fourth Year".)
Special thanks to Moey, for being my cheerleader and awesome betareader through this chapter, and to Zsenya for betareading.
Moody Slavic Man
By Elanor Gamgee
Part 10: Leaving Her
Viktor was standing on the highest point of the span, over the dark lake. He looked down. An image of her face was floating in the water below him, but she seemed to be looking right through him. She cocked her head to one side and said something to him, but he couldn't understand it. He could hear her words, as though from a great distance, but they didn't make any sense. It was as if she was speaking a language he didn't understand.
Then the water rippled, and her image was replaced by one of Pashnik, looking at him with concern. A moment later, Pashnik disappeared, and the smooth surface of the water was all he could see. Viktor sighed in relief and looked around. The hedges were there, around the lake, but they had grown even taller than he remembered. There were so tall that the only starlight he could see was directly above him, in a small square high overhead, and the stars were pale and distant.
Vaguely wondering why he was here in the first place, Viktor looked back down at the water. He gasped. He had been high above the lake before, and now the span had dropped much closer to the water, so low that he could have reached down and touched it, if he had wanted to. But he didn't want to.
Another image began to form on the water's surface, and Viktor leaned forward to see who it was. Cedric Diggory's face smiled up at him for a moment, and then the expression changed to one of surprise, and then shock. Diggory was yelling something, something he couldn't hear, and then he was writhing in pain. Viktor tried to move, to get away from the sight, but his feet were too firmly planted to the span. He shoved himself backwards to loosen his feet, and lost his balance. He fell towards the water, swept by a wave of relief as its icy blackness closed over him.
Viktor blinked. There was no water, only pale sunlight filtering through blue curtains. A soft pillow was under his head, and he was lying under a thick quilt. He was hot. Viktor shifted the blankets off of him.
"Viktor! You're awake." His mother's voice came from his right, and Viktor turned to see her looking at him with concern. A set of red robes was draped on the back of her chair, and he could see that they were muddy and grass-stained. He wondered, briefly, why the sight made him feel as if he was about to throw up.
A moment later, his mother had crossed the space between them and placed a cool hand on his forehead. "How are you feeling?" she said softly.
Viktor didn't know how to answer that. "Fine" was not right, he knew that; he simply couldn't remember why. So he settled for shaking his head quickly and asking, "Where are we?"
His mother's face clouded. "You do not remember coming here?"
Viktor shook his head again.
His mother sighed. "The Three Broomsticks, in Hogsmeade. Your father and I had…reserved a room…"
The Tournament. They had reserved a room for the Tournament. He remembered that now. Something else lingered at the back of his mind, something else he knew he should remember. But he resisted it.
Viktor's mother sat on the edge of the bed and peered at him anxiously. "Tomek was here earlier. He said you would be fine. He fixed your hand."
Viktor looked down at the hand she indicated. He vaguely remembered a huge creature, in the maze, with a long sting. He flexed his hand experimentally, and felt no pain. The creature had stung him on his wand hand, he remembered, and his wand had rolled away…
"Where is my wand?" he asked. His mother gave him an odd look, as though this was a strange thing for him to be asking about. He supposed it was, but he also had a sudden need to know that his wand was nearby.
"On the nightstand," she said. Viktor started to reach over and pick it up, when the door opened and his father walked in.
"Viktor! Awake, thank goodness," boomed his father, and Viktor winced at the volume of his voice. "Feeling better?"
Viktor shrugged and turned to pick up his wand.
"Probably still shaky from that potion Tomek gave you…" His father's voice faded out as Viktor stared at the wand in his hand. An odd sight. Menacing, almost. Someone could do real damage with a wand. Many people had.
"…said that you should rest today, but I told him that you would be fine. After all, that was just a little wound, and you have had worse at Quidditch…" Viktor's father was droning on in the background, but Viktor hardly heard him.
What do you think you're doing? What the hell d'you think you're doing?
As though a door had opened somewhere in his mind, memories of the night before came flooding back. The lake, the pixies, Diggory writhing in pain, himself the cause of it, Potter pointing a wand at him. The noise of the crowd, his mother's anxious face bending over him, the cries of "Cedric Diggory's dead!". Seeing her, knowing that she would find out what he had done…he had been sick, he remembered, fighting the urge to vomit again at the memory. And his parents, somehow getting him here.
Viktor swung his legs over the side of the bed. He had to get out of here, to get away. It didn't matter where.
"Viktor! What are you doing?" his mother cried.
"I need to go," he said. Realizing how ridiculous this must sound to them, he added, "back to the ship. I want to talk to Professor Karkaroff."
His parents exchanged a look. "What is it?" Viktor demanded.
"Professor Karkaroff has disappeared," said his father gravely. "No one has seen him since last night."
Viktor shrugged. He had not really wanted to speak to Karkaroff anyway; he merely wanted to get away from his parents and the strange looks they were giving him. "I want to go back to the ship," he said stubbornly.
"But, Viktor, Tomek said that you should stay—" Viktor pushed past his mother and stood up, noticing for the first time that he was wearing a pair of his father's pajamas. He started to reach for the red robes lying on the chair, and then stopped, suddenly feeling as though he would rather burn them than put them on again.
"Father," he said without turning around, "may I borrow some robes?"
"Of course," said his father, and, a moment later, he handed Viktor a set of burgundy robes.
"Mother," said Viktor, looking at her. She looked back at him expectantly, and then seemed to take his meaning. An odd expression crossed her face, and she stood up and left the room so that he could change.
An hour later Viktor and his parents were walking through the front gates of Hogwarts. His mother had insisted that he eat some breakfast, though the smell of food had made him want to be sick again. Now they were going to speak to Professor Dumbledore. It was the only way they would agree to him coming back.
"I am going back to the ship," he said, as they neared the castle.
"We will come find you when we have finished speaking to Professor Dumbledore," said his father.
Viktor nodded, and turned toward the ship, glad to be away from his parents and their anxious looks. It was nearly unbearable, knowing how little he deserved their concern.
He skirted the ship and sat down on a large rock by the lake. He had no desire to face the other students yet, especially Pashnik and Edina, whose concerned looks would probably rival those of his parents. He only wanted to be alone, to think through what had happened and try to make sense of it. If that was even possible.
He had done it. He had put the Cruciatus Curse on another human being. On Diggory. But why? What had he been thinking? He remembered doing it, remembered saying the word, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't remember why. It was as if he hadn't even been thinking when he had done it, as if some instinct had taken over. As if, inside him, there had always been someone capable of doing this, and it had merely picked this time to come out.
And now, Diggory was dead.
Someone sat down on the rock beside him, and Viktor knew without even looking that it was her.
"Are you all right?" she asked, her voice soft and concerned. Viktor cringed to hear it. He didn't deserve anyone's sympathy, least of all hers. He looked at her quickly, wondering how much she knew, how much Potter had told her.
"I was really worried," she continued. "I mean, there was all that horrible yelling, and then Hagrid carried you out, and you were unconscious..." Viktor winced at the mention of the yelling, and closed his eyes. She didn't know. Somehow, this made him feel even worse. He didn't say anything, wishing for the first time in his life that she would go away. He couldn't stand to be sitting beside her by the lake, on a beautiful day, knowing what he was.
There was a long silence. "Listen," she finally said, "If you want to talk—"
"I don't," he said roughly, more roughly that he had ever spoken to her. He turned and looked at her, and she stared back at him, looking slightly frightened.
His heart sank. If he had ever thought that he could tell her about…last night, the apprehensive look on her face would have convinced him otherwise. He looked away and took a deep breath.
"You should go," he said, fighting to keep his tone even.
Her voice was a higher pitch than usual when she replied. "Oh, I can stay if you—"
"I want you to go," Viktor said firmly, unable to look at her.
"Er…all right," she said, standing up, and Viktor could sense her confusion. He couldn't help it, though. "See you later then."
He heard her footsteps die away behind him, leaving him alone once again with his troubled thoughts.
"Viktor! There you are! Why weren't you on the ship?" came his mother's indignant voice behind him, and Viktor was once again drawn out of his tangled thoughts. He turned, and saw his parents hurrying over to him.
"I…wanted some fresh air," he said vaguely.
His mother nodded and patted his head. "Of course, dear," she said. "Now, we've just been to see Professor Dumbledore and he agrees that it would be best if you come home early with us—"
Viktor stood up abruptly. "I am not going home," he said.
His parents both stared at him as if what he had just said were quite ridiculous. "Of course you are," said his father. "After—everything that has happened, and with Professor Karkaroff missing, you must come home."
Viktor shook his head. The last thing he wanted was to be at home right now, where his mother would fuss over him and his father would mask his concern with humor. For the first time this year, he wanted to stay on the Durmstrang ship, to stay here with his classmates. He wasn't entirely sure why it seemed so very important, but it did.
"Viktor," said his mother soothingly, laying a hand on his arm, "I know that you are not feeling well, but you must come home now."
"No," said Viktor firmly. "I want to stay here. I will come home next week with the rest of the students."
His parents exchanged a look, then his mother sighed resignedly. "Well," she said, "I suppose I could stay in Hogsmeade for the week…your father has to go back to work, but I could—"
"No, Mother," Viktor burst out angrily. "I am eighteen years old, and I can take care of myself for a week. Go home." He knew he was taking things out on her that were not her fault, that she was only trying to take care of him, but he wanted her to go away. He just wanted everyone to go away.
His mother gave him an almost fearful look, then looked at his father. "Fine," she said, her voice tight. But then she stepped forward and drew Viktor into a tight hug. "If you need anything, owl us," she said softly, then stepped back. Viktor nodded and squeezed her hand.
His father clapped a hand on his shoulder and looked Viktor in the eye. "Be careful," he said gravely.
Viktor nodded again, and his parents turned and walked back toward the gate. Viktor sagged a little and sat back down on the rock, relived that he had won that particular battle.
Viktor spent the next two days in his cabin, alternately reliving the events of the third task and trying to forget them. He didn't feel like doing anything; not even the thought of flying appealed to him. The thought of doing any of the things that brought him joy after…that night…just seemed wrong. He even avoided eating for the first day, as going to the Great Hall was the last thing he wanted. On the second day, hunger finally overtook him, and he got one of the house-elves to make him a sandwich.
On the third day, Viktor awoke from another disturbing dream to pounding at his door. Pashnik and Edina, and even Poliakoff once or twice, had been knocking on his cabin door periodically for the past two days, but he had always ignored it. He didn't want anything from them, least of all sympathy.
But the pounding this time was more insistent, and Viktor soon realized that it was not going to go away on its own.
"Go away," he called loudly, and pressed his pillow over his ears to drown out the sound.
"No," came Pashnik's voice from the other side of the door. "Let us in, Viktor."
"No," said Viktor. "Leave me alone."
"No," said Pashnik, and Viktor was surprised to hear the firmness in his tone. "We're not leaving until you let us in."
"You've been in there for two days, Viktor," came Edina's voice. "It's time to come out."
"No," said Viktor again. They didn't understand. There was no way they could understand.
He heard them whispering back and forth, and then Pashnik's voice again. "Alohamora!"
Viktor smiled grimly to himself. The Locking Charm he had put on his door was too powerful for that.
There was more whispering, and then two voices sounded. "Alohamora!"
The door swung open at once, and Viktor scrambled into a sitting position. He had underestimated the two of them.
Pashnik and Edina stepped into the room, both looking worried. Edina saw Viktor sitting up in bed and went a little pink, but her mouth was set in a determined line, and she did not leave.
"Viktor," Pashnik burst out, "What is going on?"
Viktor looked away. He didn't want to talk about it with anyone, and certainly not with Pashnik.
"You've been hiding in here for two days. What happened to you?" Pashnik insisted. Viktor didn't answer.
Edina stepped forward. "Viktor," she began, in a low, soothing tone, "you've been inside for two days. It can't be good for you. Come outside and get some fresh air. We'll…have a picnic. We'll get some food and have a picnic. It's beautiful outside."
"I don't want to talk about it," said Viktor in a low voice.
"Then we won't ask," said Edina quickly. She laid a hand on Pashnik's arm as he was about to protest this. "We won't ask," she repeated firmly. She gave him a long look.
"Fine," said Pashnik, sagging a little and looking at Viktor. "We won't ask."
"So will you come?" asked Edina.
Viktor paused for a moment, then nodded. It would be nice, after all, to go outside. It was getting stuffy in this cabin, he told himself. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. Edina made a small sound of protest and started to leave the room, but stopped when she saw that Viktor was wearing his school robes. He had fallen asleep in them the night before. Viktor bent down and put on his shoes.
"But, if you want to tell us anything, you can," said Pashnik. Viktor paused, staring down at his shoes for a moment. Then he cleared his throat and stood up, smoothing his robes.
The three of them looked at each other for a moment. "Well, then," said Edina finally, "a picnic. Let's go."
Viktor followed them out of the room. As he turned to pull the door closed behind him, he looked down the corridor and saw that the door to the headmaster's cabin was slightly ajar.
"Viktor?" said Pashnik. "What is wrong?"
Viktor shook his head. "Nothing," he said absently. "You go ahead. I will meet you outside."
Pashnik and Edina both looked at him suspiciously. "I will meet you outside," he repeated. "I thought of something I have to do. I promise. I will come."
Pashnik and Edina looked at each other and seemed to come to some unspoken agreement. "I suppose we could go get the food," said Edina. "We will meet you in the clearing just outside."
Viktor nodded. Edina and Pashnik turned and went down the corridor toward the gangplank. Viktor watched them go, then turned and went in the opposite direction, toward the headmaster's cabin. He approached it cautiously, as quietly as he could, and peered through the crack of the door.
Albus Dumbledore was sitting on the highly ornate bed, turning something over in his hands. It looked like a carven figure—a dragon, he realized, as he looked more closely.
Viktor turned to go, but stopped dead as Dumbledore began to speak.
"Muggles make these sorts of figures too, you know," he said, quite conversationally. "Oh, they don't move like these, of course, but they can be just as detailed. It's quite amazing, really, to watch a Muggle artist carving. They keep working on it until they get it right. Sometimes they have to start over many times. And yet they don't give up. Many of our kind underestimate them. Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Krum?"
Viktor turned slowly and came back to stand in the doorway. He didn't answer, but that apparently didn't matter, as Dumbledore continued.
"It is amazing what can be done without magic. In fact," he turned his light blue eyes on Viktor for the first time, "some things cannot be helped by magic at all." Viktor stared, not entirely sure what Dumbledore was talking about.
"How are you feeling?"
Viktor was silent for a moment. He remembered how kind Dumbledore had been to him after he had been attacked in the Forest, and he considered telling him what had happened, about what had really been bothering him for the last few days.
But then he realized how ridiculous that thought was. "Fine," he said.
Dumbledore looked at him closely for a moment. "I suspected that you would not leave early, as your parents wanted you to."
Viktor looked at him in surprise. "Why?" he asked, the word out of his mouth before he had decided to say it.
Dumbledore smiled grimly. "It is not your way."
Viktor wasn't quite sure how to take that. He had the sense that Dumbledore already knew every one of his secrets; indeed, that he already knew more about Viktor than Viktor did himself. He noticed, suddenly, that Dumbledore looked older than he had before the third task, but also somehow stronger. Viktor didn't know how that was possible.
"There have been many wounds inflicted," said Dumbledore softly, carefully looking at Viktor, "and not all of them obvious."
"I suppose," said Viktor, not meeting Dumbledore's eyes.
"What do you know about the Unforgivable Curses?" asked Dumbledore suddenly.
Viktor felt his stomach constrict. He knows. "Wh-what?"
"What do you know," said Dumbledore more softly, "about the Unforgivable Curses? Surely Professor Karkaroff has taught you about them?"
Viktor nodded, swallowing hard.
"Then tell me what you have learned."
Viktor closed his eyes. "There are three," he said woodenly. "The Killing Curse, the Imperius Curse, and…the Cruciatus Curse."
"And what are the qualities of each?"
Dumbledore was punishing him, he realized. He wouldn't just say, "I know what you did." No, he would make him relive it, would make him agonize over it. Well, perhaps that was what he deserved. If not worse.
"The Killing Curse," he said, his throat dry, "kills instantly and silently. The Imperius Curse allows the wizard performing the curse to completely control another person, to make them do anything he wishes…" His voice trailed off. He couldn't do it. He couldn't describe the Cruciatus Curse, not now that he had seen it. Now that he had done it.
Dumbledore cleared his throat, and Viktor looked up, expecting the professor to prompt him to continue. But he didn't. "And…do you know what the person under the control of the curse feels?"
Viktor stared at him, confused, but tried to remember what he had read. "Nothing," he said, "Everything else goes away. All the person hears is the command of the wizard performing the curse…"
Pain. Give him pain.
Viktor stared at Dumbledore, suddenly understanding. He hadn't done it. Someone else had, through him.
Dumbledore gave him a sad sort of smile. Viktor felt a wave of relief, immediately followed by a wave of shame at his own inability to fight off the curse. He had been too weak.
"Who?" Viktor asked, standing up straighter. "Who did this?"
"I regret that I cannot tell you," said Dumbledore, and true regret was evident in his face and in his voice.
"There will be many choices to make in the upcoming weeks and months," said Dumbledore, looking closely at Viktor. "We will all be needing our friends more than ever. If you should need anything, please come and see me." Viktor looked at him quickly, something like suspicion rising in his throat, but Dumbledore seemed genuine. Viktor nodded hesitantly.
Dumbledore sighed and stood up. "I believe this is yours," he said, handing the figurine to Viktor. Viktor took it in surprise, and realized that it was the model of the Chinese Fireball he had drawn in the first task. He didn't bother to wonder how it had wound up in Karkaroff's cabin. The dragon strode across his palm and clawed ineffectually at his thumb. I know exactly how it feels, he thought.
"It is odd," said Dumbledore lightly, breaking into his thoughts, "that all of the Durmstrang students have elected to stay here, even though Professor Karkaroff has left, don't you think?"
Viktor shrugged. "There is no leader now," he said absently, and turned to go, now that Professor Dumbledore had apparently concluded the interview.
"I think you are wrong about that," said Professor Dumbledore softly behind him.
Viktor turned around to ask what he meant by that, but Dumbledore was already gone.
Viktor spent the next few days enduring Pashnik and Edina's attempts to draw him out. He had met them for the picnic, as promised, and it hadn't been too bad. They had both avoided asking him about the task, or even mentioning it at all, and for that he was grateful. They had dragged him outside for picnics every day after that. Edina had felt that the fresh air was good for him. Pashnik had even coaxed him onto a broomstick at one point, by insinuating that he had lost his ability to do the Wronski Feint correctly. Viktor had almost felt his old exhilaration at being on a broomstick, but then he had seen the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch in the distance, the remnants of the maze sticking up at intervals. Cedric Diggory played Seeker had flashed through his head. He'd landed and dismounted quickly. Even if it wasn't his fault, it was still too recent, and he had no business feeling joy. Pashnik had asked indignantly what he was doing, but Edina had given him a warning look. Since then, Viktor's Baranof had stayed on its pegs in his cabin.
Even so, it was a relief that they didn't ask questions. And even if their attempts to distract him were a bit obvious, he didn't really mind, not like he used to.
The night before they were to leave Hogwarts, Viktor entered the Great Hall with Pashnik and Edina. Viktor stopped in his tracks when he saw the black drapes lining the wall behind the teachers' table. There was no doubt in his mind why they were there.
He continued to the Slytherin table behind Pashnik and Edina, wondering if he really had a right to be there, for this. It was not your fault, he told himself.
The crowd in the Great Hall was more subdued than usual, even at the Slytherin table. But when Professor Dumbledore stood up, it became completely silent.
"The end of another year," he said, an almost weary note in his voice. He paused, looking at the Hufflepuff table. "There is much that I would like to say to you all tonight, but first I must acknowledge the loss of a very fine person, who should be sitting here enjoying our Feast with us. I would like you all, please, to stand, and raise your glasses, to Cedric Diggory."
Viktor stood up quickly, practically knocking his chair over in the process. Pashnik gave him a concerned, slightly startled look, but Viktor kept his eyes on Dumbledore. Around the Hall, everyone stood, raising his or her glasses and murmuring, "Cedric Diggory."
"Cedric was a person who exemplified many of the qualities of Hufflepuff House," Dumbledore continued, once they had all sat down. "He was a good and loyal friend, a hard worker, he valued fair play. His death has affected you all, whether you knew him well or not." Viktor looked down at his plate. "I think that you have the right, therefore," Dumbledore continued smoothly, "to know exactly how it came about."
Viktor raised his head and stared at Dumbledore.
"Cedric Diggory was murdered by Lord Voldemort." Dumbledore delivered the words in a gentle, but matter-of-fact tone. Viktor continued to stare at Dumbledore as whispers, some incredulous, some panicked, some actually sounding pleased, floated around him. He sensed Pashnik tensing beside him, but said nothing.
The whispers died away, and Dumbledore continued calmly. "The Ministry of Magic does not wish me to tell you this. It is possible that some of your parents will be horrified that I have done so—either because they will not believe that Lord Voldemort has returned, or because they think I should not tell you so, young as you are. It is my belief, however, that the truth is generally preferable to lies, and that any attempt to pretend that Cedric died as the result of an accident, or some sort of blunder of his own, is an insult to his memory."
"…won't be anywhere the Mudbloods can go now," Viktor heard someone muttering nearby, and turned to see Draco Malfoy laughing with his two overgrown friends. Viktor shot him a nasty look and turned back to Dumbledore.
"There is somebody else who must be mentioned in connection with Cedric's death," Dumbledore was saying, and Viktor's blood went cold. "I am talking, of course, about Harry Potter."
Viktor turned to look at Potter, relief flooding him. It wasn't his fault; he hadn't done anything. Except fail to fight off the Imperius Curse, said a nasty voice in his brain. Viktor tried to push it away.
"…risked his own life to return Cedric's body to Hogwarts. He showed, in every respect, the sort of bravery that few wizards have ever shown in facing Lord Voldemort, and for this, I honor him."
Dumbledore turned towards Potter, raising his glass, and nearly everyone else in the Great Hall did the same. Viktor stood, so did Pashnik and Edina and nearly all of the Durmstrang students, but many of the Slytherins remained in their seats.
Once people had taken their seats again, Dumbledore went on. "The Triwizard Tournament's aim was to further and promote magical understanding. In the light of what has happened—of Lord Voldemort's return—such ties are more important than ever before." Dumbledore paused, looking from Madame Maxime, to the Beauxbatons students, and finally to the Durmstrang students.
There will be many choices to make in the upcoming weeks and months. Viktor thought warily of Dumbledore's words to him. Now he understood what they meant.
"Every guest in this Hall will be welcomed back here, at any time, should they wish to come," Dumbledore said, meeting Viktor's eyes. "I say to you all, once again—in the light of Lord Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided."
There is no leader now.
I think you are wrong about that.
What did Dumbledore expect from him? What could he possibly do?
"Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great," continued Dumbledore, looking around at everyone in the Hall. "We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."
Viktor felt someone watching him, and turned toward the Gryffindor table. She was looking right at him, with an expression he couldn't read. He looked away quickly.
…won't be anywhere the Mudbloods can go now…Malfoy's words rang in his head, and he was glad, for the first time, that she hadn't said she would come to visit him this summer. Maybe it was better this way. Maybe it was better if …whatever they had…just ended here. She would be safer.
Goodbye, Hermione, he thought silently.
"Remember Cedric," Dumbledore was saying, as Viktor tuned back in. "Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory."
Dumbledore sat down, and a few minutes later, a low murmuring started up as people began talking once more. Viktor remained silent, staring down at his plate. He didn't feel especially hungry.
"Did you know?" said Pashnik in a low voice next to him, and Viktor noticed for the first time that Pashnik's hands were balled into fists.
Viktor shook his head. Pashnik relaxed slightly and picked up his fork, but he didn't begin eating. Viktor shot a quizzical look at Edina, but she only shrugged and looked at Pashnik in concern.
Pashnik was silent for the rest of the meal, and Viktor was glad. He couldn't have taken the normal prattle, not tonight.
As they filed out of the Hall, Viktor felt her watching him from the Gryffindor table again. He didn't meet her eyes, however; he'd already said his goodbye.
"…talk to me," he heard Edina whispering to Pashnik ahead of him, and Viktor slowed down to let them get further ahead, to give them some privacy.
Pashnik whispered something back to her and glanced back at Viktor. "Viktor, are you coming or not?" It was Pashnik's usual jovial tone, and Viktor marveled at the way Pashnik could just decide to be in a better mood, and then do it.
Edina, however, looked as though she wasn't convinced. Pashnik took her hand and said something softly to her as Viktor caught up with them, and the expression on her face softened a little.
The sky was already darkening as they made their way back to the ship, and the first stars were twinkling overhead. Viktor walked up the gangplank and turned to go toward his cabin, but Pashnik pulled him aside.
"Viktor, wait here. I will be right back," he said, joining the other students filing toward the cabins. Viktor walked over to the ship's railing, where Edina stood waiting.
"What is going on?" he asked, but she just shrugged and leaned her elbows on the railing, looking up at the starry sky above. Viktor imitated her.
They stood there in silence for a moment, and then Edina said, very matter-of-factly, "We go home tomorrow."
"Yes," said Viktor, looking out over the dark lake. He remembered the second task, how hard he had worked to impress her. All in vain. And yet…maybe it was all for the best, in the end.
"It will be strange going home, after spending a year here," said Edina, looking up towards the castle. "I will miss this place."
"As will I," said Viktor softly, and she gave him a quick, sympathetic smile.
Quick footsteps announced Pashnik's return. "In honor of our last night here," he said, handing Viktor and Edina each a bottle of butterbeer, and opening one for himself, "I propose a toast."
"To what?" asked Viktor, twisting the top off of his bottle.
Pashnik looked around. "To…us," he said with a grin.
Edina smiled and clinked her bottle against Pashnik's, then against Viktor's. Viktor stared at them for a moment, then clinked his bottle against Pashnik's. "To us," he said, and took a long drink.
Pashnik grinned at him and flopped down onto the deck. Edina rolled her eyes and perched on a bench, and Viktor went to sit across from her.
Pashnik tipped his head back and looked up. "I had gotten these for the night of the third task," he said, "to celebrate."
Viktor looked down at the bottle in his hand, the butterbeer suddenly tasting sour in his mouth. "There was nothing to celebrate," he said, the words thick in his throat.
"Oh, I don't know about that," said Pashnik lightly. "You're still alive, aren't you?"
Viktor looked up, and could see the serious expression on Pashnik's face, despite his tone.
Viktor shrugged. "True," he said evenly.
"Are you ever going to tell us?"
"Ivan," said Edina warningly. But Pashnik ignored her, and looked determinedly toward Viktor.
"Well, are you?"
Viktor hesitated. "Maybe," he said, looking down. "Not now."
"All right," said Pashnik. "But you can. Whenever you want."
"I know," said Viktor, still looking down at his bottle.
"Good," said Pashnik decisively. "Because I would hate to have to bribe you with the pixie story your parents told me. Can you imagine what Rita Skeeter would do with that?"
Against his will, laughter bubbled up in Viktor's throat. Edina giggled, and Pashnik grinned at them both, looking very satisfied with his own wit.
An owl swooped down then, dropping a letter into Viktor's lap. Viktor lit his wand to read it, his stomach contracting when he saw the handwriting.
I still don't know exactly what happened that night, but I know that it hurt you somehow. I'm sorry if I said the wrong things when we talked last week. I have been thinking a lot about what Professor Dumbledore said at the Feast tonight, and I know he's right--it's really important for everyone on the same side to stand united. I suppose what I am really trying to say is this: you and I became good friends this year, and I don't want to lose that. I don't want to leave knowing things are not right between us.
You asked me a few months ago if I would come and visit you this summer. Is the invitation still open?
Viktor stared down at the letter. How did she always manage to do this? To draw him back into those feelings each time he was ready to let them go?
"Viktor? What is it?" said Pashnik. "Is something wrong?"
Viktor shook his head. "No," he said absently. "I…am going to bed."
He went back to his cabin, clutching the letter in his hand. He sat down on his bed and lit a candle to read it again.
You asked me a few months ago if I would come and visit you this summer. Is the invitation still open?
What could he say to that? He still wanted her to come, very much. Or did he?
about the danger? What if something
happened to her? Considering…everything
that was going on, it was possible that she was in particular danger, no matter
where she was. His heart beat a little
faster at the thought.
Viktor changed and got into bed. He should send her an answer, he knew that. But he didn't know what to say.
Damn it, he thought, this is what I have wanted all year. What is wrong with me?
When Viktor woke the next morning, it was as if his mind had worked on the problem for him and come up with a solution. He knew what he would say to her. And he would say it, too, at breakfast.
When he arrived in the Great Hall, however, she wasn't there. He wasn't surprised. After all, that seemed always to be the case when he wanted to talk to her.
He saw her walk in twenty minutes later and sit at the Gryffindor table. Viktor quickly finished eating his eggs, so that he could go talk to her, but before he could stand up, Professor McGonagall approached him.
"Mr. Krum," she said, "Professor Dumbledore wishes to speak with you in his office."
Viktor looked at her, then over at the Gryffindor table. "Of course," he said resignedly. He glanced over at Pashnik and Edina as he rose.
"We will wait for you, out front," said Pashnik. He looked as though he was dying to ask what Dumbledore might want. Viktor would have liked to know that himself.
He followed Professor McGonagall out of the Great Hall and up the marble staircase to the second floor. She led him down a corridor and stopped at a large stone gargoyle.
"Cockroach cluster," she said in her clipped tone, and the gargoyle sprang to life and jumped aside. "He is waiting for you. Go on up."
Viktor went through the doorway with some trepidation, and found himself at the foot of a spiral stone staircase. The moment he stepped onto it, it started moving, carrying him upward. It deposited him at a polished oak door with a brass knocker. Viktor knocked.
The door opened a moment later, and Albus Dumbledore stood before him, dressed in robes of twinkling blue.
"Ah, Mr. Krum," he said, "please come in."
Viktor entered and looked around. Dumbledore's office was large and circular, with a thick carpet on the floor and portraits of former headmasters and headmistresses snoozing on the walls. It was as different as could be imagined from Karkaroff's overly ornate cabin on the ship. Everywhere Viktor looked, there seemed to be something whirring or spinning or giving off smoke. Next to the door, a large scarlet and gold bird sat on a perch. There were a few feathers lying on the floor below it, and, as Viktor watched, a few more fell from the bird and drifted to the floor. A phoenix, Viktor thought incredulously. He had never seen one up close.
"Please sit down," said Dumbledore, indicating a chair in front of the desk. Viktor sat, and Dumbledore seated himself behind the desk.
"You will be leaving this morning?" said Dumbledore.
"I hope you will remember what I said last night. You are welcome back here at any time."
"Thank you," said Viktor, and he knew his voice sounded stiffer than he meant it to.
Dumbledore considered him for a moment. "It is a strange thing," he said, "But it seems that it is always hardest to forgive ourselves."
Viktor looked up at Dumbledore, wondering how exactly this old man managed to see right into him.
"I fear there will be no time for worrying about such things in the future. As I said before, there will be many choices to be made. I fear that yours may be difficult ones."
Viktor wrinkled his forehead. "What do you mean?"
Dumbledore sighed. "Whether you like it or not, you have a certain influence. There will be those who will try to use that against you. Or who will try to use you against others."
Like he had been used against Diggory. Viktor winced.
Dumbledore leaned forward over his desk. "But you can choose to use it otherwise, should you wish to." His light blue eyes were pinned on Viktor, asking him a question Viktor didn't quite understand.
"Of course I wish to," said Viktor, and he was surprised to hear the determination in his own voice.
Dumbledore smiled and leaned back in his chair, looking satisfied.
Viktor frowned. "What can I do?"
"For now, tell others. Tell them that Lord Voldemort has risen again. Make them believe. The more people who believe it, the more who will be willing to fight it. But be discreet." Dumbledore's eyes were serious. "You, especially, must be discreet. Be careful about whom you trust."
Viktor gave a short laugh. "I always am."
"You understand what is coming?" Dumbledore said gravely.
"Then I beg you to remember that our friends may be all we have. And now, I shall let you get back to yours." He smiled and stood up.
Viktor started, remembering that Pashnik and Edina were waiting for him outside the castle. Friends. Yes, he supposed that was what they were.
Dumbledore held out a hand, and Viktor solemnly shook it. "If there is…anything else…"
"Contact me," said Viktor immediately. He paused. "Professor Dumbledore...thank you."
Dumbledore nodded. "You're welcome," he said. "Goodbye, Viktor."
Viktor left the office, went down the moving staircase and out into the corridor beyond. As he reached the first floor, he heard noise in the Entrance Hall below. He looked down to see groups of Hogwarts students with their trunks, waiting for carriages. His eyes swept the Hall and he found her, standing with her friends near one wall. Potter was talking to Fleur Delacour.
This is it, he thought, sincerely hoping that this was the last time he would have to screw up his courage to talk to her. He descended the stairs and made his way over to her.
"…how the Durmstrang students are getting back?" the red-haired boy was saying as Viktor approached them. "D'y'reckon they can steer that ship without Karkaroff?"
Viktor bristled at the idea. "Karkaroff did not steer," he said. "He stayed in his cabin and let us do all the work."
She turned around to face him, and the expression on her face was an odd mixture of anxiety and relief.
"Could I have a word?" he asked.
"Oh…yes…all right," she said, and followed him through the crowd. He led her to a quiet alcove off the Entrance Hall, where they could talk without being jostled.
He turned around to face her, taking a deep breath.
"I got your letter," he began.
"Oh…good," she said, her tone suggesting that she wasn't quite sure it was.
Viktor paused for a moment, wondering if what he was about to say was the right thing. He wanted her, true, but not like this. Not out of pity. "I wanted to tell you...that I do not think you should come to Bulgaria this summer."
She looked shocked at this. Perhaps she had never expected him to reject her offer. Well, he thought, why should she?
"Why—why not?" she asked, sounding flustered.
Viktor looked straight at her. "Because it is too dangerous, after all that has happened." He paused again, and looked at her more gently. "Especially for you," he added.
She looked down. Viktor stared at the top of her head, wondering how on earth he would have the strength to finish this, when all he wanted to do was reach out and stroke her hair.
Viktor clenched his fist. No, he told himself, you must finish this, for her sake, and for yours.
"But even if it were safe, I would tell you not to come." There, he had said it. She lifted her head to look at him, but he couldn't meet her eyes. He looked away, over her head. He could see her friends across the Entrance Hall. Potter was leaning against the wall, and the red-haired boy was watching them, craning his neck to see over the crowd.
"What? Why?" she said, sounding amazed.
"Because it is not where you want to be," he said, and he cringed inwardly at the truth of his own words. She didn't answer him. Well, he thought, what could she say, really? They both knew it was the truth.
He looked at her finally. "Will you still write to me?"
She nodded, looking relieved. "Of course," she said with a smile, "We're friends, remember?"
Viktor nodded. Friends. Now he had three.
A flash of red across the Entrance Hall caught his eye, and Viktor looked over her head again. The red-haired boy was staring straight at him, a strange expression on his face.
Viktor frowned. "Your friends—they do not like me," he said.
"That's not true!" she protested at once. "Harry likes you fine, and Ron...is, well...Ron..." she trailed off. "I really should be getting back. The carriages will be here soon."
Viktor looked at her, unsure that he could let her go, now that it came down to it. Part of him wanted to tell her that he'd changed his mind, and was the second week of July a good time for her? He opened his mouth to say it, then closed it again. He gestured toward her friends, and she led the way back to them.
"I liked Diggory," Viktor said to Potter, feeling that he should say something, something to let Potter know that he hadn't done…what he had done...to Diggory on purpose. "He was always polite to me. Always. Even though I was from Durmstrang—with Karkaroff."
"Have you got a new Headmaster yet?" asked Potter.
Viktor shrugged. He was graduating anyway. He supposed that they would find someone. Karkaroff couldn't be that hard to replace.
He shook Potter's hand, then the red-haired boy's. Viktor glanced at her, but she was looking at the red-haired boy, a concerned look on her face. Viktor sighed and turned toward the front doors.
"Can I have your autograph?" said a strangled voice behind him. Viktor turned back and saw the red-haired boy holding out a scrap of parchment. He looked at the boy in surprise for a moment. Viktor took the quill in his other hand and signed it. And to think he had thought the red-haired boy didn't like him. Had he been wanting to ask for an autograph all this time?
Whether you like it or not, you have a certain influence.
Viktor handed the quill and parchment back to the boy, and then turned back to her. "Goodbye, Hermione," he said quietly.
She smiled slightly. "Goodbye Viktor."
And he turned and walked out of the crowded Entrance Hall, determinedly not looking back.
The sun shone on his face as he walked outside, and Viktor welcomed it, suddenly feeling as if he had been in a dark, cold place for a very long time, and was just now emerging into the light. He descended the stone steps and saw Pashnik and Edina sitting on a stone bench not far away, heads bent together in conversation. He stood watching them for a moment. They were talking animatedly about something, and neither seemed to be able to stop smiling at the other. Viktor felt his heart constrict briefly, then he pushed the feeling aside. It was time to move on.
"Ivan!" he called. "Edina!
They looked up at him, then at each other. He could see the grin on Ivan's face from where he was, a hundred yards away.
The two of them stood up and walked over to him.
"Are you all right?" asked Ivan.
Viktor looked back at the castle for a long moment, considering the question. "Yes," he said, somewhat surprised to realize that this was the truth.
"So, is it time?"
Viktor took a deep breath and turned towards the ship. "Yes," he said, "it is time to leave."The End
In this world there's a whole lot of trouble
In this world there's a whole lot of pain
In this world there's a whole lot of trouble
And a whole lot of ground to gainWhy take when you could be giving?
Why watch as the world goes by?
It's a hard enough life to be living
Why walk when you can fly?
In this world there's a whole lot of sorrow
In this world there's a whole lot of shame
In this world there's a whole lot of sorrow
And a whole lot of ground to gainWhen you spend your whole life wishing
Wanting and wondering why
It's a long enough life to be living
Why walk when you can fly?
In this world there's a whole lot of golden
In this world there's a whole lot of plain
In this world, you've a soul for a compass
And a heart for a pair of wings
There's a star on the far horizon
Shining bright in an azure sky
For the rest of the time that you're given
Why walk when you can fly?