Chapter Three: Distance

Over the next week, Seamus was spending what Dean referred to as 'entirely too much time' in the library. He wasn't actually going there to study after dinner, but there was this big old chair in the farthest corner of the muggle studies section that was cozy enough for two if, say, the two were prone to cuddling. Conveniently, Viktor seemed rather happy to cuddle.

But Viktor hadn't been kidding. The intimacy they shared in the most private corner of the library was nothing to what they'd shared on All Hallows Eve. There was lots of hugging, and some kissing, but mostly they just sat together quietly with a book open between them. It was the first time in his life that Seamus managed to stay awake while studying and his grades were showing signs of it. He laughed when he told Viktor of the way Snape raised his eyebrow at him at the end of class when he deposited his sample, more or less the same color as everyone else's, and how he hadn't caused even a single explosion the entire class. He still hated potions, but it was nice to stick it to ol' Snape once in a while, he had to admit.

It was a perfect week that passed like a dream. Indescribably magnificent and precious. Seamus should have known it wouldn't last. The owl he got the next morning brought the world crashing back in. First there was The Prophet's front page: VOLKOV BARTERS, BULGARIA BACK IN BUSINESS.As he read on, Seamus found that Andrei Volkov--the bastard who hospitalized Lynch, was back on the Bulgarian National Team, and that the Bulgarians were back in the running for the Cup--albeit at a huge disadvantage. The Prophet reporter suspected bribery. Then there was the Howler from his mum. Oh, it wasn't anything against Seamus, but the woman was livid and he, as her son, was just a convenient target. Over breakfast Mrs. Finnigan ranted, throwing out a number of hexes she'd like to cast on the team--everything from diarrhea to puss filled boils, and continued until ending abruptly with "and what's this business about Krum being a decent bloke, Seamus Finnigan! All Bulgarians are the same and no son of mine will be believing otherwise while he lives under my roof!"

Seamus tried to melt into the table. Viktor was only one table away, and he was staring at his plate. He passed Viktor in the halls a number of times after that, but Viktor wouldn't meet his gaze. He figured he couldn't blame him, when people were watching. He didn't really want to admit publicly that something was going on either. But the next three days when he went to the library, Viktor never showed. He waited from six thirty until curfew each time. Sometimes Viktor was late because he had to coach those Slytherin bastards, but until now, he'd always come. The cozy chair in the back of the library wasn't so cozy without him.

On the fourth day, he almost didn't go, but he decided at the last minute that he'd give Krum one more chance. His grades had reverted to their previous state of explosive failure. He seemed to feel more tired in the morning than he'd been when he went to bed. He didn't feel much like laughing, lately. 'This is ridiculous. Who am I kidding? He won't come.'

But no sooner had he thought it than Viktor Krum looked tentatively around the bookcase. "Seamus?" he whispered. He looked surprised to find Seamus standing there, even if he was glaring.

Seamus ran forward and slammed his palms against the older man's chest. "Idiot! Where the hell have you been?"

Viktor looked away. "I vas...thinking. And also...packing."

Seamus felt his stomach flop. "Packing," he repeated.

"...I vill leave for Bulgaria tomorrow morning." He seemed to be waiting for Seamus's reaction, for him to yell,or cry. But Seamus only stared. He just stood there. Viktor trudged on awkwardly. "Ve vill have to work hard for the Cup. I do not think ve can win it now, must try anyway. not like to lose."

Seamus's fists clenched and unclenched, but he still didn't speak.

" all I have."

Seamus punched him hard in the jaw. Viktor's head turned, but he hardly flinched. He'd been hit by bludgers a good deal harder. "Yeah, right. Whatever," Seamus snapped, crossing his arms over his chest. "I get it, I'm chopped liver, just something to keep you from getting too bored while you have to suffer away from your precious Volkov and then throw away when you're done." He didn't know what made him say that last part.

Viktor glared. "You vould know all about Volkov, yes? After all, all Bulgarians are the same, right?! You don't haff to say it. Your mother's feelings and yours are the same, ya?! Me, or Volkov, or anyone else, one is just as bad as the next. This is vhy you won't tell your friends vhat you've really been doing in the library every day. This is vhy you did not write to defend me or even get angry to your mother! This is are finished now. Ve should not haff even begun."

An icy cold shot down Seamus's spine. They'd never been together in any official sense so this couldn't really be counted as breaking up, but Seamus couldn't find words as Viktor stormed off. He wondered if this is what a Jack-o-Lantern felt like--he had this guts yanked out and carved to pieces feeling. All that was missing was the candle. He didn't make it back to the chair, and found himself sitting on the cold, stone flooring, holding his knees and just staring. He didn't cry. Girls cried. He wanted to, but he just couldn't seem to muster any kind of emotion that felt real. Was Viktor--no, was Krum--right? Would he have been able to tell his friends he was seeing a Bulgarian? Would he have been able to go out on proper dates with Viktor? Was Viktor worth fighting with his mother over? Could his mother even begin to understand how precious this past week had been? Precious? No, it was just a week. Just a nice week, with a warm body and a sexy voice and strong hands...he didn't have to act like something had changed.

'I mean, Krum? Sure, he's handsome, in that rugged sort of way, and he's got a great smile. And sure, okay, I'll admit that night in the supply closet was probably the most amazing night of my life, but I'm still young. And maybe he's kind--if a little emotional--and sweet, and charming but goofy. A bit awkward, but endearing. But, none of those things mean I'm in love with him. You can be attracted to someone without having any real feelings for them. It was just a tryst. It's fine, at my age, trysts are totally normal.'

But the next morning he was staring out the window beside Neville's bed, wondering if he'd be able to see Viktor leaving from here. He wanted to make up, to part on good terms. But that was just selfishness. That Volkov comment he'd thrown at Viktor had been harsh, sure, but hadn't Viktor been more harsh? Well, he should at least apologize for hitting him. Bah, what for? He'd barely flinched. 'I guess I hit like a girl.' He pulled his hand back from the glass of the window and looked down at the palm like it was a foreign object he was seeing for the first time. 'A girl, huh?' He remembered the red polka-dotted dress under his bed and went back toward it. He didn't know whether he wanted to look at it or tear it to shreds, but he just felt like he needed to pull it out and feel the soft material in his hands. If he could do that, somehow it felt like everything would make sense.

It wasn't meant to be. As he started rummaging around, Dean woke up. "Seamus? What are you doing? It's..." he yawned and picked up his watch. "Not even nine a.m."

Seamus lifted his head and said, "Oh, er, ya know, I was looking for that compatibility test mum sent along. Thought it might be fun," he said, moving his hand to the left and finding a black satin board and a golden needle. "See, knew it was down here." He pulled it out to support his lie. "You're up now, wanna do it?"

"Wanna do what?" Ron piped up, throwing his legs over the side of the bed and yawning expansively.

Neville pushed the curtain around his four poster aside and blinked a few times. "Is that one of those compatibility tests?"

"Yep!" Seamus said, forcing a little extra gusto into his tone. "Mum sent it to me. Hey, let's make a morning of it. It'll be fun."

After a bit more shuffling, yawning, and some teeth brushing, the four boys sat down on the floor around the board. Seamus pulled out the question booklet. "Who first?" he asked. This would be good. He'd get some cute girl, and if it was someone good, he'd ask her out and forget all about the Krum fiasco.

"I'll go," Dean said. "Fire away."

"You'll get Ginny," Seamus teased.

"Nah, we broke up. Well, she did more of the breaking than me," Dean admitted.

"Eh, when was this?"

"After the All Hallows Ball," Dean answered blandly. The wound was a week old already, and it didn't seem like true love, though it wasn't as if he was completely over it or anything.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Seamus insisted. "I'm your best mate!"

"You haven't really been around much, Seamus. It's okay. No big deal. She's kinda bossy anyway. Maybe the next girl will be a little more, you know, complacent, or whatever."

Seamus thought a moment and decided to pick on someone who would be more fun. Someone who didn't have as many relationship issues. "Well, it's my game, I say Neville goes first."

Neville managed to stutter his way through the questions, and Dean's very recently ex-girlfriend came up. Seamus laughed. Right. Who needed lovers as long as you had friends? Not that he and Viktor had been lovers. Some kissing and one measly blow job didn't make them lovers. That had been rather obvious. He barely noticed that Dean was answering questions now--his mind wandering back to those strong hands on his bare, heated skin. He shook his mind out of the gutter and guffawed at Luna Lovegood staring up at Dean in that owlish way she had.

Harry woke. The games continued. Seamus got to thinking--this game is completely barking mad. Harry and Snape? That was ridiculous. His mood was really improving. Yeah, he didn't need some guy, least of all some Bulgarian guy. And then...

...then it was his turn, and in spite of jesting his way through all the questions, Viktor Krum stared up at him with eyes full of accusations. And Seamus felt this knot wrench at his stomach before forcing himself to laugh along. Why couldn't he take it back? Last night...if he could only take last night back, maybe Viktor would have...

'Would have what, Seamus? Stayed? Don't be stupid. He's this world famous Quidditch player, and you're just a stupid teenager whose hormones control his entire life, that's what.'

He thought idly that if he'd told Dean any of what he'd been up to, he'd be called an idiot, and his best friend would have said something--just a few words--that made all the pieces fit, forced it all to make perfect sense, and show Seamus what he should do. But Dean was shouldering his own heartache now, even though he acted like it was no big deal. There was no one for Seamus to talk to about this.

So he laughed. He laughed at the results of his friends' compatibility tests, and he laughed at what he'd lost, what he'd thrown away, and his cumbersome pride, and his stupid worries, and all the things he had a week to figure out how to say but missed until they no longer mattered. He laughed at wanting to cry, at falling in love too fast and too hard and not realizing it until it's far, far too late. He laughed because Quidditch was only a game, and somehow, he'd let it dictate his entire life.

It seemed like the only sensible thing he could do, given the circumstances.

~The End~

To be continued in The Game of Love. Coming soon. ~

A/N: Okay, so I haven't written one word of tGoL yet, but I am about to get started. Muse permitting, it will be up in a week or two.