Viktor awoke to the sensation of snow falling gently on his face.
He hadn't walked in his sleep since he was very young. The only explanation he could think of for it now was that it was the change of scenery that had subconsciously made him think of his childhood, when his family moved about every three months so his father could find work.
Out of the all the side effects moving to Britain could have had, this was not so bad. At least he'd slept.
He stumbled to his feet and stretched, not caring if his neighbors saw him. Who knew how often this would happen before his unconscious self realized that this was home, and that he would not be wandering anywhere for a long time. The neighbors may as well get used to the sight of him in his sweat pants and t-shirt.
It was three days until Christmas, and he missed his feeling his little cousins and their palpable enthusiasm at this time of year. He had thought about delaying his move until January but his mother convinced him that it was better that he move earlier, before the housing deal he'd been offered could expire or get offered to someone else.
He still didn't know anyone here except for a middle-aged woman named Joyce at his Muggle day job, and he didn't know her well enough to do more than give her a Christmas card.
As the days passed it became clearer that he would be spending Christmas completely alone this year. It was now Christmas Eve and he was getting depressed. Joyce was grateful to him for offering to cover her work so that she could go home and cook for her family. He only smiled, not saying that he didn't know why she was still employed at all. Her work load was a fifth of his and could have been done by a trained monkey. Perhaps she was kept on for sentimental reasons. He didn't claim to understand the mental summersaults that went through his superior's mind.
It was seven o'clock in the evening when he finished up the last of the work at the office and walked home. There was a bus, but it wasn't a long walk by his standards. He wasn't a fan of public transportation. The solitary aspect of most magical travel had spoiled him against the trials of riding in a noisy, crowded machine amongst strange smells and leering strangers.
A quick review of his pantry's contents revealed that he needed to go to the shops before he died of starvation.
There was only one place open in his neighborhood at almost nine at night, and it was farther than his office to walk to. He almost gave in and rode the bus but decided against it at the last minute. As an ex-celebrity, nothing made him more uncomfortable than being enclosed in a crowded place with strangers who might recognize and mob him at any moment.
Outside no wind was blowing, but the air carried a chill.
He tied his scarf with more efficiency than usual and set off, his hands in his pockets.
His retirement from Quidditch at the age of thirty two had been received with bad grace by the public, but he was long since caring about what they thought. That had always been the concern of his manager.
It was as if the public didn't comprehend that a near-fatal spinal injury could make a man reconsider his career choice. They also seemed to think that he was immortal. The average retirement age of a professional Quidditch player was thirty, and he was two years past that.
His family had supported his choice to retire and even offered to let him live at home until he could get on his feet vocationally. He'd never done anything but Quidditch and felt unprepared to face a life without it.
Thankfully he'd never been interested in fast living and had saved most of the money he'd made over the years, spending only what was necessary on gifts for his family and the few romantic partners he'd had.
He saw the little 24 hour shop at the end of the block and quickened his step, eager to get his errand over with so he could go home and relax.
A man he'd met superficially during tournaments in Britain offered him a seasonal job as a Pitch Inspector, and he'd accepted. It would mean moving away from his family, but he felt that was long over-due anyway. He loved his parents and living close to his younger sister, now married with four children. Still, he was almost thirty-three and it was time for him to move on.
He'd always liked Britain, when it wasn't raining, and since Pitch Inspector was his only job prospect, he took the offer. His job was to check every pitch during season to make sure that it was in accordance with standards and posed no obvious threats to the safety of the players. It was boring, but he didn't mind it too much because it was only three months out of the year and paid very well.
To protect himself from his still over-eager fans, he lived in the Muggle world and worked at a small company that sold medical prosthetics. His job was to answer phones, sound like he knew what he was talking about, and handle upset customers.
It didn't pay very well, but between his two jobs he was very comfortable. He enjoyed talking to the customers even though most of them were angry, simply because it was amusing to hear the things normal people would say to someone from the safety of a phone line.
His shopping basket was about full. He did a quick inventory of its contents and decided that he should buy some fruit.
There was another customer in the produce section, weighing an apple in his hands with intense concentration on his face. With a start Viktor realized he recognized him.
Harry dropped the apple, surprised. A youth wearing the red vest that was the uniform of the employees there appeared from nowhere and drawled that Harry would have to pay for the fruit. Flustered, Harry promised to do so and put the squashed apple into his basket.
When the youth disappeared back to wherever he came from, he turned to Viktor and smiled.
"Krum! What the hell are you doing here? I heard you retired."
"I did," Viktor came to stand beside him by the apples and picked over them, rejecting the bruised specimens and selecting five unharmed fruits. "I live nearby. I work as a Pitch Inspector seasonally here."
Harry smiled at him and Viktor smiled back. For lack of anything better to say, he asked,
"So what are you doing for Christmas?"
Harry shrugged, "Nothing, really."
Viktor raised his eyebrows.
"No Weasley? No Hermione?"
Harry gave a short laugh like a bark and he didn't look at Viktor as he replied, "No, I don't really…we don't really talk anymore. After the war ended, things just got different, I guess."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Harry smiled again and jerked his head at the counter, "I'm going to go pay for this. Are you almost done?"
"If you're not busy, we could go out for a snack or something and catch up."
Viktor realized that if he said no, even though he was tired, he wouldn't see anyone for three days, when he would be going back to work. Maybe he could ingratiate himself into some form of Christmas celebration with Harry. He followed Harry to the counter, "I would like that."
As the clerk, the same youth from before, tallied Harry's items, Harry turned to him,
"It's a pity you had to retire. I've only been to a handful of your games, but I remember you always had the devil's own hands. You were so quick!"
Viktor smiled and said nothing. He was never overly proud of himself despite his reputation as one of the best Quidditch players of the century, but he was proud of his quick hands. They'd served him well in childhood, when he would pickpocket after school for money for sweets.
"I am sorry too. I enjoyed Quidditch very much. But then I hurt my back and it was like a sign from God that it was time to stop. It is hard for me, now, though, to work all the year long."
Harry laughed, "Yeah, I can understand that. My last year of school was like that. It felt surreal to do nothing but school; no looking over my shoulder, no battles, and no excitement."
Viktor's items were tallied. He paid. They left side by side, holding their groceries.
"How far is your flat?"
"About an hour's walk that way," He jerked his head.
Harry raised his eyebrows, "You walked? Can't you apparatate? There are lots of alleys here to slip into; no one would notice."
Viktor was afraid that this would come up.
"I don't have my permit yet."
Harry frowned, "What do you mean? Did you just move here last week?"
"No. I have been here half a year now."
"Then why…" Harry's face suddenly went dark. "It's because you're Bulgarian, isn't it?"
Viktor could only shrug, "Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know why they haven't given me my permit yet. I can only wait and visit the office every month and hope that I will get it soon."
Viktor was not expecting this much vehemence in his defense and smirked as Harry went on,
"I've talked to the Minister about this, but he won't do anything. those guys in the International Department are all a bunch of hundred-something bigots that judge immigrants by what people thought their countries' represented ages ago! They especially dislike Bulgaria because of the Dark Lord Constantine. For fucks' sake, the guy was killed almost 200 years ago!"
Harry grabbed a breath and smiled sheepishly at Viktor, "Sorry about that. It just really bothers me. I mean, god, you've been to our country loads of times before and obviously you're not a crazy dark magic-practicing nut job. Whatever. I'm going with you to the office tomorrow and we will get this sorted out. Now, tell me your address and I'll take us to your place."
He offered his hand and Viktor shuffled his groceries so that he could take it. A shock passed between them when their hands touched and Harry softly apologized. Viktor murmured something calming.
A moment later they were standing in his parlor.
"Would you like something to drink? We might as well have our talk here; most places won't be open tonight or tomorrow because of the holiday. I can even put your groceries in my fridge for now so they don't spoil, if you have anything that needs to be kept cool."
"Thanks so much," Harry followed him into the kitchen and deposited his groceries onto the counter. "What do you have to drink? I can mix you something."
Viktor smiled, "I'm afraid all I have is vodka. I know is stereotypical of me, but I didn't even buy it for myself. It was a gift," he took the bottle out the high cabinet he'd stored it in. it still had the bow on its neck, "See? It's not even opened."
"You're not a big drinker, huh?" Harry removed the bow and unscrewed the top.
"No. It was never something I felt was important for my normal routine. But I will drink on special occasions."
Harry slowed in his inspection of the bottle, his eyes slanting to Viktor.
"And is this a special occasion?"
"Very special," Viktor noticed after he'd spoken that his voice had lowered several octaves and thickened. He turned away his face to hide the flush that rose and looked for suitable glasses. Why did he say that so suggestively? Harry asked him an innocent question. It was inappropriate to flirt with a casual guest.
He laid out the smallest glasses he had. Harry poured a small amount into each with a snicker.
"What should we toast to?"
Viktor sniffed the sharp alcohol scent that vodka carried, "I do not know. How about…to friends?"
Harry raised his eyebrows but smiled all the same.
Harry met his eyes and held them. Viktor felt warmth curling in his belly. He didn't know what to do about that other than ignore it and hope it went away from lack of encouragement. He was lonely, yes, but lots of people are lonely and manage not to embarrass themselves when they had friends over.
They both drank a mouthful. Harry swallowed and then immediately starting coughing so hard he had to set down his glass.
"Wow that is really strong. I'm not used to straight hard liquor."
"We don't have to drink it-" Viktor protested but Harry waved his hands.
"No, no, I can handle it. Why don't we take the bottle and sit on the couch? I feel like I'm snitching my uncle's booze, standing here in the kitchen."
Viktor's sofa was second-hand and still smelled a little funny because he couldn't use his wand to de-scent it yet. He apologized about it to Harry, who wordlessly handed him his drink and swished his wand at the couch. The weird musty smell disappeared from the sofa and the rug on the floor too.
"Thank you very much."
They sat and Harry asked him about his job. Viktor told him all that there was to tell, which wasn't much. He worked in what was little bigger than a closet with a lady named Joyce, who liked to talk to her girlfriends on the phone when she was supposed to be talking to customers. He hadn't made any friends because he didn't like bars and didn't go anywhere except work and the shops. And he missed his family because he had no one to spend Christmas with.
"You have no one?"
He shook his head, "No friends."
Harry punched his shoulder, "No friends? What the hell did we toast to?"
Viktor laughed, "I guess you are right."
He asked Harry about his work, and discovered that he had left the Auror program six years ago and gone into social work while still serving as a consultant to the Minister.
"I don't like to, but I do throw my weight around when I think something is really important."
They both had about three (perhaps four) glasses of the vodka. Viktor tried not to, but his body disobeyed him and slowly crept closer to Harry as the hours ticked by. He couldn't be sure, but it seemed like Harry was doing the same thing. Harry took off his glasses at some point and put them in the pocket of his button-down. Viktor knew that his eyes were green before, but this just made them so much more so that he found it really difficult not to stare at them. And Harry had grown his hair some, not too much, but just enough for it to curl a little against his cheeks.
There was a pause in the conversation, and suddenly he had buried both hands in that shyly curling hair and kissed him.
Sanity returned briefly and he tried to pull away, but Harry wouldn't let him.
After some time, during which they'd rolled off the couch and onto his newly cleaned carpet, Harry stopped doing that hypnotizing thing to his mouth with his tongue and said, "Happy Christmas, Viktor."
He tilted his head back and looked at his clock. It took him a moment because he was, well, a bit drunk and it was upside down. But he realized that it was two in the morning, and technically Christmas. He grinned.
"You are staying?"
"Of course; and now I'm going to kiss you until Christmas is over. It's going to take fucking ages," Harry informed him, leaning in and brushing their lips together again. Viktor tried to be practical and bring up the point of eating something at some point, perhaps in the morning, but Harry's tongue was hot and flickery against his and he'd started fumbling at Viktor's clothing. Viktor decided that food could wait.
I could write a lemon, but that wouldn't be very original of me, would it? (That is now my excuse for everything, especially disappointing/teasing people)