Dear Miss Granger,
This letter is to inform you of the new law passed by the Wizengamot. As you know, Magical Britain lost many of its subjects in the recent war. Every magical being will be tested for compatibility with three candidates for marriage. The list will be issued to you after the testing has been done. Please report to the Ministry offices this Thursday for testing. A copy of the new law is enclosed.
By Order of the Minister for Magic:
The following law now applies to all magical beings living in the combined colony of the British Isles.
As of March 1st- all magical beings will be compliant to the newest law. Failure to do so will result in the binding of their magic and stiff monetary penalties.
Minister of Magic- Kingsley Shacklebolt.
Hermione was horrified. She was engaged to Ron and they were planning a wedding for next year. She immediately owled Ginny to see if she had received the same letter. Within minutes, Ginny had Apparated in to discuss this new development. Luna, Lavender, and the Patil twins all sent owls about the same thing.
An hour later, Hermione's kitchen was filled with nearly hysterical young women concerned about this new edict. Surprisingly, Ginny Weasley voiced the one thing that everyone had overlooked. "You do realise that the edict says 'all magical beings living in the combined colony of the British Isles'. That is going to include the members of all of the magical embassies and the foreign wizards who live here. Therefore, it won't just be the guys we went to school with. Relax, it could be worse."
Luna responded in her characteristic way, "I believe your engagement to Ronald will be nullified, Hermione. Possibly, he will be aligned with another at this table. I wonder who each of us will find on our list of three."
The group agreed to report to the Ministry together for testing. If they couldn't control the situation, it was better to have the support of your friends when you had to submit.
Each young woman went back to her daily life, her job, and the nagging worry about whom she would have to choose.
Exactly one month after the receipt of the first letter, the second letter arrived.
Dear Miss Granger,
Your blood was tested against the thousands of wizards residing in the British Isles and found to be compatible with the three men listed below. You have three days to choose.
Filius Flitwick, Bill Weasley, and Viktor Krum.
All three wizards are resident in the British Isles; all three are known to you. You must make a choice within the three-day time limit. The marriage must occur within the next two months and a magically viable child must be produced within a year.
The Ministry is aware that you were engaged to be married, but as that wizard is not magically compatible with you, you must end that engagement and choose one of the wizards listed above.
The Ministry of Magic
Hermione sat down hard on her sofa. One by one, the others from the group appeared in her Floo. They compared lists.
Padma's list consisted of Donaghan Tremlett, Garrick Ollivander, and Blaise Zabini.
Parvati's list named Dean Thomas, Cormac McLaggen, and Percy Weasley.
Ginny's list had the names of Dennis Creevey, Justin Finch-Fletchley, and Oliver Wood.
Luna's list consisted of Harry Potter, Garrick Ollivander, and Dennis Creevey.
Lavender's list consisted of Ron Weasley, Seamus Finnegan, and Gregory Goyle.
Each girl looked at her list and then at the girls in the group.
Parvati sighed before exclaiming, "I guess my best choice would have to be Percy. How about yours, Ginny?"
Ginny grinned and answered, "My choice is easy. I'll take Oliver."
Padma replied softly, "I think Blaise would suit me.
Lavender was obviously happy about her list, but kept chewing on her lower lip as she looked at Hermione.
Hermione saw that and said, "It is okay, Lav. I know you're going to choose Ron. You have always cared for him. I truly wish you the best. We'll still be friends, I promise."
Lavender hugged Hermione and asked, "But what about your choice, Hermione? Your list should be easy."
"Oh, well, Flitwick is more like an uncle to me. Therefore, he is out. I can't see being married to a Weasley either, I think it would make Ron crazy. At least I have history with Viktor. Therefore, I think it will be Viktor. Luna, what about you?"
"Harry, of course. He is such a love."
Hermione saw her friends off with a heavy heart. The future she had planned with Ron was never going to be.
Then a thought hit her like a ton of bricks. Why was Viktor on her list? What was he doing living in the British Isles?
Knowing she could contact Percy about this, she owled him at his flat. His reply came by return owl.
The same law was being considered in Bulgaria, Hermione. He moved here a year ago to avoid it. I know he's on your list. Maybe you should talk to him before you make a choice.
Thanks, Percy, I will talk to him, she sent back with the same owl.
She sent a Patronus to Viktor, telling him her address, and asking him to come over and talk.
Less than ten minutes later, there was a knock on the door.
"Hello, Viktor. Come in."
"Thank you. It is nice to see you again. I presume this is about the new law; my letter had your name on it."
"Oh, I didn't realise the wizards would get the same kind of letter. However, I certainly should have known that. Sorry. Would you like a glass of wine?"
"Vhy don't ve go get something to eat and talk about this? A little pub not far from here serves excellent food. Get your coat. Ve can catch each other up on eferything over dinner."
He hadn't lost his entire accent, she noticed. His hair was long now, pulled back away from his strong jaw. And it was even curlier than her own.
The pub was close by. The bartender nodded to them as they settled into the booth near the fireplace. The waitress came to take their order after Hermione had perused the offerings on the chalkboard.
"And two glasses of mead, please," Viktor said.
"Where's your mate, Vik? He hasn't been in for a few days." The waitress asked.
"I don't know. Harry has a lot on his mind these days. I'll tell him you asked about him, though."
Hermione was amazed. Harry and Viktor were hanging out together these days. This pub must cater to both Muggles and wizards.
"I understand you moved from Bulgaria to avoid just this kind of marriage law. Why did you pick London, Viktor?"
"Because if there vas going to be this kind of law enacted, I stood a better chance of finding a compatible bride here. Vhen I quit playing Quidditch, the fangirl problem vent avay. Now I run a Quidditch training school. Harry sometimes helps me out vhen I need to impress some cocky youngster. You are vorking for the Ministry, I understand. Harry keeps me up to date on the people I knew from Hogvarts."
Hermione's cock-a-leekie soup arrived along with Viktor's shepherd's pie. The waitress brought the two glasses of mead on her second trip.
"I guess you know I was engaged to Ron. I can't really say I'm upset about having my choice taken away from me. It wasn't working the way I thought it would."
"Do you vant me to say I am sorry it wasn't vorking or that I'm glad it vasn't? Honestly, I am glad it vasn't. It means there is still hope for my suit. The truth is that I came to England because I knew in my heart that our magic vas extremely compatible. I knew the tests vould confirm that."
Hermione could only stare at him. This was moving way too fast for her liking.
She took a gulp of her mead, hoping she could regain some equilibrium.
"Do you have any idea how closely it matched? I'm just wondering, Viktor."
"The letter I got had only one name on it. There vas a cover letter from Shacklebolt saying that there vere only a few matches that vere nearly perfect. There vas only one that tallied exactly—ours. He asked me if there vas any vay I could have rigged the results. I know this upsets you. I do not mean to do that. I have known for years that you were the only vitch I vould ever marry. I fell in love vith you the Trivizard year. I vaited to see if you felt the same. Vhen you engaged yourself to Veasley, I hoped you vould realise that he vas not for you. Then the Marriage law vas proposed in Bulgaria and I had to move here to vait for you. Harry said you vere unhappy. He vorries that he vill not be compatible vith the girl he loves. I think she is friends vith you."
"I always thought he wanted Ginny, but he wasn't on her list. He was on Luna's list though."
"Luna, yes, that is her name. Did she choose him?"
"Yes, she did."
"I hope you vill choose me. You cared for me a little back then; maybe you could learn to care for me again. Finish your soup, I vant to valk in the moonlight vith you. Vill you come to my house? I vant to show you the letters I wrote to you over the years, but did not send. I vill not try to force your decision, love. Howefer, I have a bottle of elf-made vine that ve could share vhile ve talk."
"Why weren't you this charming back then, Viktor? Yes, I'll come with you."
"I vasn't charming because you terrified me. I saw you that day vhen I put my name into the Goblet of Fire and I knew. I didn't know how, but I just knew. I got cold chills vhen I looked at you. It took all of my courage to ask you to the Yule Ball. I vas eighteen and a Quidditch prodigy, yet I vas terrified of a fifteen year old girl. You vould have laughed your head off if I had told you that." That was accompanied by a look of pure mischief.
"You're not serious, Viktor. Are you? Oh, good grief, you are serious!" Hermione was surprised. This was a Viktor who was opening up to her, as he never had before. Could she believe him? They were walking along Cheyne Walk with the Thames glistening off to the side. He stopped and faced her.
"I owled my parents about you; told them how tongue-tied I vas around you; told them I had fallen in loff vith you efen before the Yule Ball. Vhen they announced vhat the second task vas, I knew you vere to be the hostage. Karkaroff vas furious vith me. He knew you vere Muggleborn and that I vas in loff vith you. He told me that the Dark lord vould target you for death because you vere close to Harry. I told him I vould protect you even if it cost my life. Then he told me I must valk avay from you and leave you to stand by Harry vithout me at your side; said my fame vould only draw more attention to you. I saw he vas correct, but it nearly killed me to valk avay from you that year. Merlin help me, Nin, I have loffed you for so long, and I have nearly lost you several times. I svear I vill not lose you this time."
He put his hands on her shoulders, bringing her closer to him. She felt the tension in him. Her arms went around him and pulled him as close as she could. His heartbeat hammered beneath her ear.
Pulling back slightly, she put her fingertips on his lips to keep him from speaking.
"Viktor, I was fifteen. You scared me, too. You were famous, handsome, and worldly. I was an awkward bookworm. I felt the same way I did when I found out I was a witch, that I had no rudder. I was completely out of my depth. But I never, ever felt as safe with anyone as I did with you. I felt cherished, and happy. Nobody has ever made me feel like that, except you. When we were writing to each other, I felt that same kind of connection. When we were hunting the Horcruxes, and I didn't hear from you, I thought you had moved on. I tried to build something with Ron. He was willing, but it just didn't gel. I put the wedding off several times. Ginny knew it wasn't working with her brother. She told me to write to you, but I wouldn't risk being rejected. I guess I should have written."
"I think ve vere both fools, Nin." He took her hand and turned them back to the west. He kept walking until he came to Cheyne Square. There he turned in and walked to a tall Jacobean townhouse. He produced a key and opened the door.
"Why do you call me Nin, Viktor?"
"Velcome to my home, loff. Come, ve vill be more comfortable in the study. Nin vas the name I came up vith vhen I couldn't pronounce Hermione. I can say it now, after practicing." He led her up the stairs to the first floor. Halfway down the hallway, there was an open door.
The room was decorated in muted greens with two red wingback chairs by the fireplace. There were bookshelves on every wall, with hundreds of books and a cheery fire going in the fireplace.
The curtains were open and the windows looked out over the Thames. It was comfortable and charming, just like the man at her side.
Viktor gestured for Hermione to take one of the chairs by the fireplace. Then he moved a low table closer.
"Ptitsa, ve need the elf-made vine, please. "
The smallest house-elf Hermione had ever seen popped into the room seconds later with two glasses and the wine on a tray. She had added a plate of cheese and pastries.
"Here is tray, Master Viktor."
"Ptitsa, this is Hermione Granger, my Nin. She vill be here frequently, I hope. Obey her as you obey me, please."
"Yes, of course, Master. Is good that you bring her. Please be making him happy, Mistress. He is needing you badly. Master Harry speaks of you often. He says you are wonderful person who loves my master."
"Enough, Ptitsa. Ve'll call if ve vant anything else." Viktor shrugged as Hermione tried unsuccessfully not to laugh when the elf popped away.
"Harry is staying here with you? What about Grimmauld Place?"
"He is giving it to the Ministry to be used as an orphanage for magical children that are abandoned by Muggle parents. He vants to rebuild his parents' home in Godric's Hollow. If he and Luna marry, they vill live there."
"Pour me a glass of wine, Viktor. Apparently you know more about Harry than I do these days."
"Vhen I moved here, I talked to him. He vas helpful, but he chastised me that I did not contact you. He told me you vere miserable with Veasley, but vould not break it off. He helped me start the school, and has been staying here vhenever he is in London. My sister and her son are coming to live here as vell. Ptitsa is freed, but she insisted on coming vith me vhen I moved here."
"Harry always did know me better than Ron did. The other names on my list were Bill Weasley and Filius Flitwick. Professor Flitwick has been like an uncle to me. I really couldn't see myself married to him. And Bill… If I am not marrying Ron, I don't think it would be a good idea to marry one of the other Weasleys. I was so glad you were on that list. I know Ginny and Luna weren't surprised that you were on my list. They are my dearest friends, Viktor. I am very, very glad that Luna picked Harry. They will be marvellous together. Ginny picked Oliver Wood. They are both Quidditch players and have some history together. Lavender Brown had Ron on her list and she picked him. She's been in love with him since our sixth year. I wished her all happiness without a second thought. They'll be happier together. If I was completely truthful, I think Ron and I would never have made it to the first anniversary. I couldn't dumb down enough for him."
"You don't haff to do that for me; I loff your mind. You are so intense vhen you are studying a subject. Nin, I loff you, haff loved you for years. I am no longer terrified to tell you this. It is time and past. I am offering you my heart and my hand. You know I von't hurt you. You can keep vorking if you vish. I make enough money to support us lavishly even if you never vork another day. I made enough playing Quidditch to support tventy families. All I ask is that you give me a chance to proof to you that I am serious."
"Give me the rest of the three days, Viktor. I want to be very sure. I really don't want my magic to be bound, but marriage is a huge step. In addition, a child almost immediately… That scares me. What if I am a horrible mother?"
Viktor quirked an eyebrow at that statement and laughed aloud. "You chiffied both Veasley and Harry for years. You seldom lost your temper vith them and alvays helped vithout actually doing their vork for them. Moreover, you acted as go-between vhen they vere at odds the Trivizard year. No, my love, you vill be a vonderful mother."
"Harry has a big mouth. I will never let him live that down." She was laughing now, as well. "Seriously, Viktor, I want the rest of the three days to examine my feelings and come to terms with all this."
"As you vish, my love. Let me get the letters. You can take them vith you. However, do not be surprised if I send you flowers and court you the vay you should be courted vithout the coercion of the new law. I vill valk you home. It is only four blocks if ve cut through the square. I looked for a house that vas close to you. You see how sentimental I am vhere you are concerned."
"No, Viktor Krum, I see how focused you are on capturing your target. This is exactly the way you played Quidditch. You make up your mind to win and nothing will stop you. It is what I admire about you." She laughed at his single-mindedness.
"Ah, progress. You may finish your glass of vine vhile I get the letters." He sheepishly grinned at her.
Hermione watched him leave the room and got up to look at the bookshelves. She was still looking at then when he returned.
He handed her the packets of letters, but kept hold of her right hand. He reached into the pocket of his jeans and brought out a ring, which he slid onto the third finger of her right hand. It was an immense diamond, tinged slightly pink.
"If you decide against marrying me, you can giff it back if you vish. Howefer, I bought it for you just before your sefenteenth birthday. I know it doesn't impress you, but I feel extraordinarily proud that you are vearing it." He turned her hand over and kissed the palm. "Ve should get you home. You haff to be at vork early, don't you?"
They walked through the darkened square, hand in hand. Hermione felt more peaceful than she had in years. She felt cherished and secure, something she had never felt with Ron. Looking back, she saw that the years she had spent being Ron's girl were empty. When they at last arrived at the door to her flat, Viktor tilted her face up for his kiss. His whispered words warmed her heart. "Obicham te, Doushenka. For alvays. Sleep vell."
Then he was gone, back to his house in the dark.
She knew what the words meant. He had said them to her as he was leaving to go back to Durmstrang in her fourth year. She had looked them up in the Bulgarian dictionary her parents had bought for her.
I love you, my soul mate.
With those words echoing in her head, she sent off an owl to both Luna and Ginny before she went to bed.
Viktor arrived back at his house to find Harry waiting for him in the study.
"You saw Herms. Ptitsa told me. What happened? Has she talked to Luna?"
"Sit, Harry. I am going to finish the bottle of vine I opened earlier. Do you vant a glass?"
"Yeah, I guess I had better have one. Now tell." Harry was at his most antsy, wondering if the girl he loved would choose him.
"Nin's list consisted of Flitvick, Bill Veasley, and me. You knew I said that her magic and mine matched vell. Shacklebolt sent me a letter that said there vas one match that was exact. Nin's magic matched mine exactly. Yours and the girl you vish to marry vere among the near perfect matches. Oh, Nin said Luna made her choice, and it vas you."
"Then I guess I'd best finish the house in Godric's Hollow soon. The two of you will always be welcome, Vik. You can visit anytime. I'm glad we became friends. Ron really wouldn't have been a good husband for Hermione. He never went back to Hogwarts to finish school, washed out of Auror training, his brother fired him from the shop, and he never did get a tryout with the Cannons. We grew apart gradually. I had a job to do, and he just sits at his parents' house and does as little as possible. Hermione would probably have killed him."
"I think he vill have to find vork now. One of Nin's friends picked him from her list. Some flower name, I forget."
Harry goggled a bit and burst out laughing. "Lavender Brown. The girl he cheated on Hermione with in sixth year. Her father runs Eeylops, the familiar store in Diagon Alley. They are now handling some unusual animals, and I'll bet Mr. Brown puts Ron to work with the wild ones. That is Karma for you."
Harry finished his first glass of wine and poured a second.
Viktor was rolling his glass in his hands, deep in thought.
"Harry, vould you be my best man vhen the time comes? I think it vould make Nin happy."
"Yes, but on the condition that you do the same for me. You have become a better friend than Ron ever was. Besides, there is the fact that I see Hermione as the sister I never had. You'll be family, just as she is. I do think you should suggest to Hermione that the Weasleys not be invited. They're going to be miffed that neither Hermione nor I are marrying into the clan."
"Do you remember how vorried I was back in the Trivizard year about those stories that Rita Skeeter vas penning about you and Nin? And our talk before the third task? I vas so nerfous that year. I knew vithout any doubt vhatsoever, that Nin vas my soul mate. I vas absolutely terrified to talk to her. I could pull off the Vronski Feint on other Seekers twice my age, but vas a coward about talking to a fifteen-year-old girl. Did that happen vith you and Luna?"
"No, in fact, in fifth year I thought I was in love with Cedric's former girlfriend, Cho. Then in sixth year, I thought it was Ginny Weasley. We dated for several years, but there just wasn't a spark. I asked Luna to go to a Ministry dinner six months ago and when I kissed her goodnight that night, I saw fireworks. That was when I knew. I guess it hits everybody differently."
"But you had known Luna for a long time already, yes?"
"Yeah. We bonded sort of in fifth year as friends. She saw the Thestrals, just as I did. We talked a lot about things and I liked her, but I guess I wasn't ready yet."
"I sure as hell vasn't ready at eighteen to come face to face vith my destiny. I must have looked like a fool. But even when I thought she cared for you, at the first task, I could not stop myself from defending her against Skeeter."
"Go to bed, Vik. She'll choose you and you know it. She just has to have some time to herself to adjust. Hell, I told her two years ago that she didn't love Ron. I begged her to go find you. She was scared you didn't want her anymore. She gets these crazy notions at times."
"You haff to vork tomorrow and I haff to send owls to my family. Leka nosht, Harry."
"Good night to you, too, Vik. I am going to take Hermione to lunch tomorrow just to see what she tells me," Harry taunted.
Viktor merely grinned as he carried the wine glass and the rest of the bottle upstairs.
Hermione, meanwhile, was reading the un-sent letters from Viktor. They proved to be a revelation. As her sixth year progressed, his letters became more cautionary. The letter he had written in response to hearing that she was going off on a quest with Harry and Ron was the most telling of all the letters. In it, he put his thoughts and fears for her on parchment. He finished it by writing that he was going to send his grandmother's charmed necklace to her. She had gotten the necklace with the warning to wear it always to protect her. She still had that tiny gold star with the diamonds.
She went to her jewellery box and found the chain with the star. She fastened the clasp around her neck and instantly felt more peaceful.
The letters were put away with his other letters in her keepsake trunk. Her dreams that night were of Viktor and the future.
Morning came to find Hermione answering the owls from Ginny and Luna. The three were to meet at Hermione's flat after work.
Arriving at her office in the Ministry, Hermione found Harry lounging against the door.
"I'm taking you to lunch today. Right at one, be ready, sestra"
"At least hanging out with Viktor is improving your language skills. I'll be ready."
He left just before an inter-Ministry memo flew towards Hermione.
This is a reminder that your choice must be made by no later than four Pip Emma day after tomorrow.
Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister
"Lovely. Are they going to remind me every day? Never mind. I have things to catalogue."
At ten to one, Harry appeared at her office door, saying, "Time for sustenance, Herms. Fish and chips or pub fare?"
"Fish and chips, Harry. You are exploiting my food preferences."
"You look happier than you have in a long time. I hope it has to do with Vik. I see you're wearing an enormous rock on your hand. The little necklace from the Horcrux hunt, as well. Both are from Vik, I take it."
"Yes, they are. What are you doing, Harry? Is this going to be the day of twenty questions?
"I'm just concerned, that's all. I really want you to be happy with your choice. I like Vik. He is never petty about things, never belittles you, and always asks if I have talked to you. He loves you. Deal with it."
"Did you stay at the house last night? Then he probably told you that Luna made her choice and it's you. Lav is taking Ron; thank Merlin. Gin is taking Oliver Wood, I think. I also heard from Hannah, she picked Neville from her list."
"That's wonderful. They'll be perfect together. He did tell me that Luna had picked me. I asked him to stand up with me when I marry Luna. Here we are your favourite fish and chips shop. I'll order, you find us a table."
When Harry had reappeared with their orders, Hermione asked, "Aren't you the least bit upset by the prospect of a child almost immediately? Luna and Gin are coming by the flat this evening after work. I want to discuss that part of this edict with them, but I'd like your input as well."
"Herms, we've been out of school for years. We aren't kids anymore. Hell, yes, it makes me a bit nervy, but then I think of how Luna will look rounded with our child and I get a warm feeling in my heart. I want several kids. So does Luna. Now, are you going to pick Vik or not?"
"Yes, I am going to pick him, Harry. I do love him; I think I always did. We talked a great deal last night and I am amazed at how open he is being with me. I never thought he had fallen in love with me from the beginning."
"I can't believe you were that dense. Gin and I figured that out by the second task. Ron had guessed it, but we tried to tell him he was imagining it. He felt like both you and I were moving on with our lives and leaving him behind. If he had just grown up a bit more, he might have understood. However, past is past. If you aren't going to finish those chips, can I have them?"
"Honestly, Harry, you're still seventeen sometimes. Yes, take the chips. You do know that Luna can cook as well as Molly Weasley, don't you?"
"I know. And I do love Luna's cooking, but your chips always taste better than mine," he wisecracked.
On the way back to the Ministry, a delivery boy caught up with them. He handed a huge bouquet of flowers to Hermione with a note.
Dinner tonight? Eight o'clock?
The peonies were the exact same colour as her dress for the Yule Ball.
"Hey, isn't that the same colour as your dress was?" Harry asked.
"Yes, now go away, Harry. I have work to do."
At the end of the day, she went to stand in line at the Floos to go home. She heard her name called and looked to see Viktor waiting by the doors to the outside. He was holding another bouquet of peonies for her.
Walking toward him down the length of the Atrium, she heard various comments from her co-workers.
"That's Viktor Krum; he's the Seeker who retired from the Bulgarian team. I wonder what he is doing with Hermione Granger. She's not his type at all." Mavis Thornbuckle, one-time assistant to Dolores Umbridge.
"I wouldn't be too sure about that, Mavis. They dated during the Triwizard Tournament at Hogwarts ten years ago. They have remained friends for all this time." That was Percy Weasley, bless him.
As Hermione reached Viktor's side, he pulled her close and kissed her thoroughly. Laughing, she took the flowers from him using her right hand, which made the diamond ring sparkle in the artificial light.
Behind them, Percy made one last comment to Mavis Thornbuckle. "I think that diamond on her hand signifies that she is most certainly his type, Mavis. Their magic was the only exact match of the thousands that were tested."
"Ooooh, Percy Weasley, you mean they are…"
Outside the Ministry, Viktor was laughing at Hermione's expression.
She swatted at him with the flowers, saying, "You heard all that, didn't you? What in the world do these folks think is your 'type'?"
"No clue, loff. Probably some brainless tvit who vorks modelling clothes. I haff better taste in vomen than that. You haff been my only choice for ten years."
She stopped abruptly and faced him. "Are you telling me you haven't even dated anyone since …?"
"Yes, that is correct. You need not make a scene, love. I vasn't going to date if my heart had already been gifen. I vouldn't raise anyone's expectations."
"But, I've seen pictures of you at functions with a pretty girl on your arm."
"I haff several cousins who do me the fafour of going to team parties and dinners vith me. In addition, sometimes I take Katya or Tasha, my younger sestra. They all know I am not looking for romance. Vhat? Vhy are you looking at me like that? I have an even bigger family than Veasley does, love. Bashta has four brothers and two sestras. Mayka has three sestras and four brothers. They all haff children around our age. I have two sestras, Katya and Tasha. I have three younger brothers, too. Big family."
He was laughing at her again. She was aghast. "I hope that doesn't mean you want seven or eight children."
"No, love. Two or three is fine. I think children should haff their own space and be allowed to find their individuality. As long as there is a beautiful, studious daughter for her papa to spoil, I'll be happy." The remark was accompanied by one of his million watt smiles.
They were almost at Hermione's flat when she remembered. "Oh, Luna and Ginny are coming by to talk. You're going to have to go away while they are here. I'll send a Patronus when they leave."
"Vhy don't ve take Luna vith us to dinner. I can send message to Harry. I vill go home and vork on some papers."
She poured him a glass of wine then found a vase for the peonies.
"Send to me vhen you vish to go to dinner."
"I'm quite sure Luna and Harry would love that. We can discuss Harry's plans for Godric's Hollow."
"Vhy don't ve go back to my house after dinner. Ve could discuss the things I need to tell you."
"Yes, we do need to talk. About lots of things, Viktor."
As he was leaving, both Ginny and Luna came up the sidewalk. He greeted both by name and kissed their hands. Once inside, they told Hermione how absolutely dashing Viktor was.
Luna hugged Hermione and quipped, "You'll have lovely babies, Hermione. And Viktor will be a doting father and an even more loving husband. I am so glad you are going to choose him."
Ginny just rolled her eyes at Luna and said, "She's right, you know. Vik is a really great guy. Oliver thinks it is wonderful that he has started this Quidditch school. Some of the English teams are making their players take refresher classes there."
Just then, Luna caught sight of the peonies and exclaimed, "Oh, they are just the colour of your dress. However did he find them?"
"Actually, I have no clue. This is the second bunch he sent today. He has some notion to court me as if there was no edict in effect. It's kind of sweet."
"Well, just so you know, my git brother is parading around chuffed that Lavender is going to pick him and saying he worries about what kind of fellow you're going to wind up with. I almost had to bite my hand to keep from telling him it was Viktor. And, surprisingly, Lavender didn't tell him. I think she is just as appalled as the rest of us at his behaviour." Ginny was trying hard not to burst out laughing.
"Gin, I do love you as a sister, but I am glad I won't actually be your sister. This edict has been a blessing, oddly enough. I don't think I would ever have had nerve enough to tell Ron off without it. Now, I can move on without a backward glance. I am so glad you picked Oliver. He is steady, reliable, and a great Quidditch player. I think both of you chose well."
"We thought the three of us should send our choices in tomorrow, a full day before the time limit. The others I have talked to are going to wait until the very last minute. Lav said she would wait until then as well, just in case she decides to ditch Ron in favour of Seamus." Ginny snickered as she said that.
Hermione brought out the wine she had opened for Viktor earlier and the three girls all had a glass.
"To making our choices official, tomorrow," they said in unison.
Not long after that Ginny made her excuses and left for the Burrow. Luna was content to sit and talk with Hermione for a bit.
"I think Viktor is going to ask Harry if the two of you want to have dinner with us tonight," Hermione quietly told Luna.
"That would be lovely. I can't wait to see you and Viktor together. This will be exciting."
"Okay, that's settled. I'll send a message to Viktor. "
The otter that Hermione conjured listened to her whispered words then sped off through the wall to find Viktor.
Less than seven minutes later the Floo in her flat lit up with green flames. "Hey, ladies, two coming through," Harry called.
Viktor was very silent on the way to the restaurant. He merely held Hermione's hand and looked thoughtful.
"What's wrong? Is there a problem, Viktor?" Hermione managed to whisper to him.
"There are things I need to tell you and haff no idea vhat to say."
"Let me tell Harry, and we'll go to the house."
The foursome stopped and discussed the problem, then they all decided to go to the house and have dinner brought in.
Harry was dispatched with their orders and promised to be back soon.
Viktor escorted Hermione up to the study and poured some wine for them. Ptitsa had just announced that Viktor's sister and her son had arrived. Luna was waiting for Harry in the hall downstairs.
Just then, Harry brought two huge bags of take-away food in. Luna met him at the door and gave him a welcoming kiss.
"Hi, husband-to-be. What did you bring us? There are two more mouths to feed. Viktor's sister and her son have just arrived."
"I decided that Greek was closest and easiest. Lots of Greek salad for everyone, spanakopita, gyros, and baklava for afters. And they had a couple of bottles of Mavro Daphne, which I know you and Herms like."
"Oh, that sounds exquisite. Here let me have one of the bags. Where is the dining room?"
"Across from the study, love. Ptitsa, bring plates and glasses, please." Harry called over his shoulder as they climbed the stairs.
As they entered the dining room, Viktor was standing in the hall convincing his sister to have dinner with them.
They walked into the room and Viktor said, "Everyone, this is my sister, Katya, and her son, Miko." Then he introduced the rest to Katya.
Ptitsa popped in with dishes and glasses to set the table. She popped back out and returned with a high chair for Miko, and his juice.
Viktor was telling his sister. "Katya, this is Nin; the girl I am going to marry soon."
Harry grinned and added, "Herms, he still gets all flustered and mispronounces your name when he is tired or angry. Besides, I think Nin is cool."
"I am so happy to finally meet you, Nin. Vitya has told me much about you. Congratulations."
Hermione responded at once, "Thank you, Katya. You have an adorable child here."
"I think maybe I vill stay and look for employment. I vas top of my class in Potions at Durmstrang."
"Oh, dear. If you stay, Katya, you may be subject to this new edict from the Ministry about being tested and having to marry and produce a child. But if you do decide to stay, I know of a reclusive individual who runs a very lucrative potions business who needs an assistant. He is not the most amenable person to work with, but he does pay well," Hermione said this as she looked at Harry. He nodded in return, knowing the man she had in mind.
Viktor caught the look and decided to ask Hermione about it later. After dinner, Katya and Miko went up to their rooms and the other four moved to the study to talk.
Luna, always curious, asked Viktor how he had come up with the nickname of Nin for Hermione.
"Vhen I first met her, I vas so nerfous that I could not say her name correctly. Hermione came out as Herm-own-ninny. Vhen these two and Veasley vere off on Horcrux hunt, I vrote her letters every day. Did not send them, because they vere full of my fears for her safety and my loff for her. I began to vrite to Nin because that vas a secret name only I had for her. Harry has heard this story before."
"I think that is beautiful, Viktor. Ron always called her 'Mione, which sounded awful. I think she is very, very lucky to have such a caring wizard to love her." Luna was holding Harry's hand tightly.
"You were always my rock, Viktor. Even when we were hunting the Horcruxes, I knew if I needed you, that you would find me. You really are the other half of my soul."
"So, vhen do ve have vedding? Do you vant media circus or quiet bonding vith only friends and family?" Viktor asked, smiling.
"I think you want the same thing I want. Close friends and family, only. And I want it in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Oh, Viktor, that would be perfect. How about Beltaine morning?" Hermione's eyes lit up as she read approval in his eyes.
"Ve could make it double bonding, if the two of you vish," Viktor said, looking at Harry and Luna.
Harry looked at Luna, who nodded, and answered for them both. "I think that is an excellent idea. The Weasleys will be a bit hurt, but they'll have Gin's wedding and Ron's to prepare for. I know Her—Nin— will be relieved that no Weasleys attend."
"But, Harry, our Hogwarts family will be there. Minerva, Alastor, and the rest. I think Percy would be the only Weasley we should invite. He is not nearly as volatile as the rest of them. I think he would come, if only in his capacity as a Ministry representative."
"I think that is an excellent idea. Why don't we send an owl to Professor McGonagall to ask her permission?" Luna asked.
Hermione smiled and conjured her Patronus to send the message. The otter sailed around the room, stopping to look intently at Viktor before it sped off through the wall.
Within a few minutes, there was a lovely grey tabby cat flying into the room and perching on Viktor's chair, it spoke with Minerva's precise tones. "How lovely. Yes, you may have the ceremonies here. We will decorate appropriately. Much love to all four of you."
"I vill confess that I have offered to teach the Muggleborn students about Quidditch starting this fall. Rolanda Hooch vants to teach flying only," Viktor volunteered.
Harry coughed, trying to cover a laugh. "Yeah, because you taught a certain Muggleborn to get over her fear of flying ten years ago."
Luna turned her gaze on Harry, saying, "I think that is a very noble thing to do, Harry. You shouldn't tease him about it."
"I think that is my cue to make myself scarce here. I'll take you home, Luna. Night, you two."
He and Luna retrieved their coats and left.
"Is that really why you made the offer, Viktor?" Hermione asked quietly.
"No, not really. I just think the Muggleborns haff a better chance of playing competitifely if they are taught at my school. But I vill admit a certain Muggleborn has alvays been in my thoughts."
"You were never far from my thoughts either. Everyone expected me to pair up with Ron, but deep down I knew it wasn't going to work. You were always there in my head. And my heart" she whispered.
He drew here to her feet, enfolding her in his arms. She lifted her face for his kiss with a sigh of contentment.
"Harry suggested that it might be better if ve left the Veasleys off the guest list. It isn't a long time. Can you have a dress by then?"
"Yes, Viktor. I know Ginny and Oliver have set a date for next week because he has Quidditch games until then."
"In the morning. Vill you stay?"
"Not yet. Tomorrow, after we send in our choices. Viktor, I haven't…"
"I know, loff. You are still untouched. Ve vill learn together."
"If you keep kissing me like that, we may not make it until tomorrow."
"Then I vill valk you home, and make sure you know how much I desire you."
When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Viktor frowned at her shabby coat. Nodding, he pulled a box down from the shelf in the cupboard and opened it to drape a new black velvet hooded cloak around her shoulders. It was lined in Durmstrang red silk.
"There, that is better. You should haff finer things," he said as he vanished the old coat.
"You are going to spoil me, Vitya. I love you, you know."
"Tomorrow I vill giff you the gifts I collected for you ofer the years. And I vill make you mine, Nin. There are old traditions and tales I must tell you before then."
"Tell me while we walk, Viktor."
He pulled the hood up to keep her warmer as they left through the front door. Then he tucked her arm though his and they started off.
"Vhen a virgin vitch makes love the first time, both she and the vizard experience a boost of magical power. If the two are soul mates, there vill be a release of vhat vas called vild magic in the old days. It is actually another power boost in their magic, uncontrollable and sometimes destructive. That is vhat I think vill happen tomorrow night. Does it frighten you?"
"No. The only thing that would frighten me is if you left me now that we have found each other again."
"Good. Then ve vill go to my family's dacha, vhich is in high in the Balkans, tomorrow after you leafe vork. There is nothing but mountain forests around it. Ve vill be undisturbed. I vill have Ptitsa ready the dacha tomorrow morning. Is that agreeable?"
"I vill come to the Ministry to pick you up. Ve vill come here to use the Floo. Since tomorrow is Friday, ve vill have all veekend."
"Viktor, are you completely sure? This is an irrevocable step. I am still a bit nervous."
He stopped and faced her, taking her face in his large hands. "Yes, my only loff. I haff been sure since you vere fifteen. I looked at you and saw my future. I haff vaited for you for ten years. Now is our time. No more vaiting, no more uncertainty." Then he kissed her.
The waves of desire nearly engulfed her. She felt his emotions as if they were one being. She had to brace herself to keep from falling.
His hands were warm on her throat as he held her, then he broke the kiss and took her hand again.
"Tomorrow night, loff, ve vill marry the old vay. The Beltaine vedding is for the Ministry, but tomorrow is for us. Now, go inside before I carry you off. Obicham te, Nin. Nefer forget."
He raised both her hands to his lips and kissed the palms. She opened to door to her flat in a daze.
Waiting patiently on her windowsill was her parents' small owl. She opened the window, gave the bird a treat, and read the letter.
We got the letter from Viktor explaining about this marriage law thing and that your magic matches his. He asked for permission to marry you. He came by earlier today to talk to your father. We always thought he was the right man for you. Ron Weasley is not up to your speed; you are well rid of him. You just tell us when you want the wedding.
Mum and Dad
Laughing, she scribbled a note telling them the wedding was set for May the first at Hogwarts. Someone would collect and bring them. The little owl was delighted to have another treat before taking the message back.
Hermione slept easily that night, dreaming of Viktor, and what their life together might be.
As she arrived at the Ministry the next morning, she found another little reminder about the deadline for making her choice. This time she laughed and ignored it.
Luna and Ginny were due to arrive at her office at half three so they could tell the Minister who their choices were at four sharp.
At ten o'clock packages started arriving. Mystified, but unwilling to delve into the boxes, Hermione had them stacked in the corner of her office.
Noon brought Harry with Indian take-away, which they ate in her office. Insatiably curious, Harry looked at a few of the boxes and whistled.
"Hey, I didn't know you shopped at these stores. I'll bet there is some ultra sexy lingerie in these. Oh, hey, several from The Silk Road, that is very classy stuff."
At her look of surprise, Harry knew Viktor had been sending these things.
"Uh, Herms—Nin, maybe you'd better look in the boxes. Are you two going out of town this weekend?"
Blushing furiously, Hermione managed to say, "Yes, we're going to his family's dacha in the Balkans."
"Have fun this weekend." Harry winked at her and grinned his wicked grin.
When Luna and Ginny arrived, Hermione gave up and began to open some of the boxes. Silk blouses and slacks, silk underwear. New robes in a dark teal shade that looked fabulous on her. A brushed silk nightgown and robe in a peacock shade. Ginny and Luna were astounded.
The three went to the lifts to the Minister's office. They passed Percy's office on the way, and told him if he wanted to hear their choices first, he had best come along.
Angelina Johnson was seated at her desk outside the Minister's office.
"Hi, Hermione, Luna, Ginny. Do you need to see Minister Shacklebolt? Is this about the Marriage Law?"
Hermione answered for all of them. "Yes, Angelina, we are here to name our choices. Is he horribly busy?"
"No, he'll be delighted to see you. You're the first to come in. I guess you want Percy to come in with you. That's actually a great idea. Then he can write up the notice that the first choices have been made."
Kingsley was sitting at his desk looking over some papers when Hermione, Ginny, Luna, and Percy walked in.
"Minister, we are here to give you our choices for the Marriage Law. Percy is our witness."
"That is wonderful, Hermione. Let me get your lists out. There, now, who did you choose Miss Weasley?"
"My choice is Oliver Wood. He knows and we have set a wedding date for next week."
"Wonderful. Your magic and his are very compatible. And your choice Miss Lovegood?"
"Minister, my choice is Harry Potter. We are planning a private ceremony with another couple at Hogwarts on Beltaine."
"Excellent. Now, you, Hermione. You are probably already aware that the only exact match of magic was yours and Mr. Krum's. Is he your choice?"
"Yes, Minister. Viktor and I are to be married in the same private ceremony as Luna and Harry. We wanted to be the first to let you know our choices."
"Congratulations, ladies. You have made my day. Percy will announce this to the paper and circulate updated lists to the other candidates. Have a wonderful weekend."
As they left the office, Percy hugged each of them. "I am so proud of you three. I know you'll be happy with your choices."
Ginny grinned at her brother and said, "Just don't tell Ron who Herms picked. You know he'll go off again. I am seriously hoping Lavender changes her choice to Seamus. She'd be daft to go with Ron."
"Mum has been giving Ron short shrift around the house lately. She and Dad are tired of him acting like lord of the manor. I really hope you're happy with Oliver. I do love you, little sister. And you, too, Hermione, you are as good as a sister to me. I don't know you very well, Miss Lovegood, but if you're marrying Harry, then you'll be part of the family. Take care this weekend."
On the way back to Hermione's office, Luna commented. "Percy is a very nice man, isn't he? He isn't stuffy at all. I think he is really just shy."
Hermione hugged both of her friends. She said, simply, "Luna, you are more perceptive than most folks. Yes, Percy is horribly shy and he has a wonderfully good heart. If he says you'll be family, he means every word. Now get lost the both of you. I have to finish my work and pack up all this stuff.
At ten to five, Viktor appeared in the doorway to her office. She had shrunk all the boxes and their contents into her bag.
"Are you ready to go home and pack, loff?"
"You sent such beautiful things, Viktor. I am overwhelmed. Yes, let's go the flat and I can pack."
"You deserve beautiful things, loff. I know you vould like to haff Ginny and the Veasleys at the vedding, but I understand that Ronald might make it, how do I say this, less than perfect. I think it is better this vay, vith only our families and closest friends. Ginny vill understand. Ve vill go to her vedding and I vill make nice vith Vood. "
"Oh, Ginny thinks Lavender might ditch Ron for Seamus. That would be the perfect comedown for him. His parents are not putting up with his lazy attitude anymore. I'm babbling aren't I? It will only take a few minutes to pack." She had unlocked the door to the flat as she was talking.
"Ptitsa has stocked food and drink for us. I told her to bring your bath things. Please do not be nerfous."
"This just seems so calculated, Viktor. I am still leery of this whole marriage law and you appearing claiming you have loved me for ten years."
"I understand. Harry varned me this might happen. Okay, ve are making a side trip before ve go to the Balkans."
"Where are you taking me?"
"To fisit the man who has now hired Katya as his assistant. I'm sure you remember him. Ve vill ask him for Feritaserum and you may ask me any questions you vish. Perhaps that vill allay your fears."
"Harry took Katya to meet him this morning? He hired her already? Wow, that is amazing. Yes, let's go."
"You need to finish your packing. Ve vill go directly from my house. Calmly, Doushenka, think vhat you are doing."
"Oh, Merlin, has Katya received a marriage law letter from the Ministry? She definitely will now."
"It came just after she got back from the interfiew vith Mr. Newman. Take a jumper; it tends to be colder in the mountains. A sturdy pair of shoes as vell. Now, give me the case to miniaturise and ve vill be off."
"Done and done. Sorry, I am being such a widgeon. I'm not usually like this."
"It is understandable. This is your—our future. I vould be concerned if I vere you. You look beautiful. It is just a short valk to the house."
"Oh, I know you're trying to get my mind off this, but I'll be okay."
"Nin, if making loff tonight bothers you so much, ve can vait until the vedding. I have vaited ten years, three more veeks vill not matter."
"Viktor, it isn't you that is the problem. It's my damned feelings. I don't know if I'm ready for marriage."
"Oh, my poor loff. Perhaps Mr. Newman can give you a calming potion."
"I think maybe I should be the one who takes the Veritaserum, Viktor. Than you can ask me whatever you want to know."
"Ve vill talk about it vhen ve get there, love."
Viktor took the green powder and threw some into the fireplace, saying, "Newman Laboratories, Colchester."
The reception room where they arrived was starkly modern. There was an intercom to use to request entry.
Hermione punched the button and said, "Viktor Krum and Hermione Granger to see Adam Newman."
The entry door buzzed and a well-remembered voice snarled, "Enter at your own risk."
The minute they were inside the door, Severus Snape a.k.a. Adam Newman, waved a letter from the Ministry at them. "Is this your doing, Granger? I certainly have no desire to marry or procreate."
"Sorry, but you'll have to take it up with Kingsley. He is the one who sends out the letters. I am subject to this thing the same way you are. That's why we're here. We need Veritaserum, two doses of it."
"Are you letting her speak for you, Krum? I thought she was going to marry the brainless Weasley."
"You vill speak respectfully of my future vife, or I vill have to thrash you. And I might haff to tell your new assistant that she should return to our parents' home in Bulgaria."
"Gads, she would be your sister. Very well, here is the Veritaserum. Nine galleons is the price. Thank you. Now leave."
"Thank you, Professor. Ve appreciate it."
Back in the reception room, Viktor again threw powder into the fireplace. "Volnoya Dacha, Balkans"
This time they emerged into a large wood-panelled room, where Ptitsa was waiting for them.
"Welcome, Master and Mistress. Dinner is set for two hours."
Viktor took Hermione's hand and led her to the doorway in the opposite corner of the room. When he opened the door, she gasped. Wall-to-wall bookcases filled the room. Display cases filled with small treasures were set in spots near the lamps. In a corner of the room there were floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the forest down to the Danube. Lights from other dwellings twinkled at intervals in the trees. There was still snow on the ground.
"It's beautiful, Viktor, so very peaceful."
"I am glad you like it. Shall ve get the questions over vith?" he asked.
"Oh, yes, of course. Why don't we sit there?" She pointed to the fireplace where two chairs flanked a tiny table.
Just then, Ptitsa popped into the room, deposited a tea tray on the tiny table, and popped away again.
Hermione nervously took the two phials of Veritaserum from her bag and handed one to Viktor. He opened the phial and drained the contents. Then he looked at her expectantly.
"Have you really been in love with me since the Triwizard Tournament? And did you really move to England to wait for me?"
"Yes and yes. Vhy don't you ask me if I think this marriage vill vork? I know that is vhat vorries you?"
"Do you think the marriage will work?"
"I do not know. I hope it vill. I vill do all in my power to make it so."
"And you would wait until the wedding to make love to me, if I asked?"
"Yes, of course. I vould do nothing to make you unhappy or uncomfortable, efer."
"And you don't want a huge family? Or care that I am Muggleborn?"
"No and no. I love you for who you are and the number of children ve have vill be up to you."
"Thank you, Viktor. Now I'll take my dose." She uncorked the phial and drank the contents.
"Vhy are you afraid, love? Vhat happened to the confident, unafraid young vitch I fell in loff vith?"
"I'm afraid I won't be good enough, or pretty enough, or a good enough lover. I was told for years that I needed to be more like other girls, prettier, flirtier, and easier."
Viktor's face went very red, and his hands clenched. "Did Veasley say these things to you? Vhy didn't you send to me, I vould have come, loff."
"Yes, Ron said those things. He told me you had moved on and had had affairs with several women and had illegitimate children. I was scared you wouldn't come if I asked."
"Vhy didn't you ask me about that earlier? Are you still afraid, Doushenka?"
"I was too embarrassed to ask. No, I'm not still afraid. Do you have any children?"
"Not a von. I don't sleep around, love. I have vaited for you and vill vait until ve are ved."
He poured tea into both of the silver chased mugs and added sugar before handing her one.
"The effects should vear off in an hour or so. Isn't there another secret question you haff always vanted to ask me?" His smile tugged at her heart.
"Are you really as good at the Dark Arts as everyone thinks?" Her smile was a mirror of his.
He laughed and nearly choked on his tea.
"Yes, Doushenka, I vas Faledictorian of my class vith highest marks in the study of Dark Arts. But the reason I excelled vas so I knew how to counteract any Dark Magic."
"Oh, Viktor, I knew you'd be first in your class. In addition, it is no surprise that you learned everything about the Dark Arts as a way to combat them."
" I vill show you the dacha after you finish the letter to your parents." Then he lightly kissed her neck and sat down to watch her working.
When she finished, he called the house-elf to take the paper to the London house and send it with an owl.
"Are you ready to see the dacha, loff? Ptitsa vill return in a few minutes and ve can have dinner leisurely. I hope you like the house. My parents do not use it as much anymore and vish to give it to us. I told them I vould talk to you about it." He took her hand and led her to the staircase. He gestured to the upper floors.
"There are several bedrooms vith en-suite baths. On the top floor is vhat vas the nursery for my siblings. There is a conserfatory vith a fountain on the ground floor. Large dining room on this floor, can seat all of my relatives. Behind the house is an old bania, the steam bath, or sauna. In the tower at the corner of the house, the master bedroom has a dressing room and bath between it and the Mistress's bedroom. Is a very old house, love. There is a vell in the garden outside, stables for horses, or an automobile or two. Lots of room for children to run and play, yet stay safe. The cellar consists of a potions laboratory and vine cellar."
"Viktor, the house is huge! I thought this was a summer cottage. Isn't that what a dacha usually is?"
"It vas originally a defensive keep oferlooking the river. Ofer the years, it evolved into a comfortable home. This vas my grandfather's home, the grandfather that vas killed by Grindelvald. My parents vant to give it to us for a summer home. I told them I must ask you if you vould consider that."
"We'd live in the London house and come here for the summers? We could have Harry and Luna come visit. My parents, too? Oh, Viktor, this is unbelievable. I love this place. It has such a feeling of love and peace. I feel like the house has wrapped me in a huge hug. Yes, oh yes, this is the place I would want to have our babies. This must be where you learned to fly! Your parents aren't far away either, are they?"
"The family knows ve are here this veekend, but they vill stay avay until ve invite them. I think dinner should be ready now. "
Instead of the huge formal dining room, he led her to a small room next to the library. It had probably been a solar in years gone past, now it was a cosy little reading salon with floor to ceiling windows. There was a marble-topped table near the windows with service for two set out. A bottle of wine sat in a great basin of ice.
Viktor popped the cork on the wine and poured two glasses. He brought them to the table, then pulled out her chair. As soon as she was seated, he took his seat. The house-elf popped in with a tray filled with wonderful dishes. Beef Stroganoff, asparagus with almonds, prawns in aspic, in short, all of Hermione's favourite foods.
She merely raised an eyebrow at him and served both their plates.
"Are you planning on spoiling me like this forever?" she asked him pointedly.
"Yes. Does that bother you?" he replied, smiling.
"I hope you don't plan on bowing to my wishes over every little thing."
"Nin, this is merely part of the courting ritual. Ve vill have many years to adjust to each other's vays. I vant to spoil you vhen ve are alone. Please do not stop me."
"Fine, then, after dinner may I look through the library?"
"Of course, the books will translate themselves into any language you vish at the touch of your vand. There are many different kinds of books, loff. The novels and such vere moved here to the salon by my sisters. The books you are interested in are in the library proper."
"What are you going to do while I look at books?"
"I vill listen to some music. I don't think it vill bother you."
"No, that would be lovely, Viktor. Dinner was wonderful. Thank you for everything."
"Come, the books are difided by subject. They begin on the left side of the door with Alchemy and continue until you reach Zoological Oddities. The Krum family histories are in the case by the vindows. I vill put some music on."
She began to scan the shelves for anything new or unusual. The strains of Vivaldi began sweetly in the background. Looking around, she saw Viktor had taken a seat by the windows. He was writing something. Realising she could peruse these shelves anytime this coming summer, she decided to join Viktor on the sofa.
On the way over there, she spotted the array of photographs on the piano. One in particular caught her attention. A teenage Viktor held a toddler boy, while Katya held another young boy. There was a boy and a girl, just a few years younger than Viktor who were obviously twins. She picked up the photo and took it to Viktor.
Sitting down, she asked him the names of his siblings. "Is Tasha a twin? I recognise you and Katya, but please tell me who the others are."
"Vell, Katya is two years older. Tasha and Andrei are the tvins; they are six years younger. The little defil Katya is holding is Nikki; he is nine years younger. The littlest one is Sergei; he is elefen years younger. Those are all of my siblings. I vas born a tvin, but my brother died vhen ve vere four. He vas named Alexei, after our father."
"Oh, Viktor, I am so sorry. " She set the photograph aside and put her arms around him.
"Vas a long time ago, love. I only remember him a little bit." He returned the hug and kissed her cheek. "I think is time ve vent upstairs to discuss marriage settlements. There is sitting room between bedrooms. You can take bath vhile I get papers straight."
"You are so considerate, Vitya. Yes, I would love a bath."
Hand in hand, they climbed to the tower and its master suite. Viktor opened the door to her room and told her to take as long as she wanted.
Then he brought out the sheaf of papers he had amassed over the last few days. In particular, the marriage settlement that had amazed Percy Weasley.
He remembered Percy's comments when he'd seen what Viktor was giving Hermione.
"Viktor, you are giving her the London house and a million galleons? Don't glare at me, I'm just trying to make sure this is what you really want."
"I am opening an account at Gringotts today in her name vith exactly that amount. Moreover, she vill receive all the jewellery set aside for the Krum bride, and the pieces I have bought for her, as vell. I can profide for her, Veasley. I vant her to be independent, not haff to ask vhen she vants to buy books. She vill also get clothing allowance and house money. Close your mouth, you look like fish."
"Does she even know she becomes a princess when you marry? Or is that something you haven't told her? She is going to be horrified by the amount of this settlement, and the pre-nuptial contract."
"I vill tell her tonight vhen ve are at the dacha. I vould like for us to be friendly, Veasley. Do not try my patience too far."
"All I have ever wanted for her is a good man who loves her. I am overwhelmingly glad that man is you, Viktor," Percy said, shaking Viktor's hand.
Viktor got up to retrieve the jewels from the vault. When he returned to the room, Hermione was standing in the doorway, dressed in a white silk caftan with gold embroidery.
"Are all these papers related to the marriage settlements?"
"Yes, loff. Some vere required by both the British and Bulgarian Ministries. Some are things I had drawn up . Sit here vith me and I vill try to explain." He held a hand out to her.
She sat down and took the first paper he handed her. The pre-nuptial agreement he had had Percy draw up.
Her eyes went wide as she read. "Viktor, this says you give me all of your holdings in England and a separation settlement of eighteen million galleons if we separate. And a very hefty sum for child support. Are you serious?"
"Yes, loff. I opened an account in your name at Gringotts. The signature cards are in the folder vith the paperwork. There is much I haffen't told you. I am sorry, tradition has it that I can only tell you certain things if ve are in Bulgaria. My family… You know there vas a royal family in Bulgaria from 1887 to 1946. My family's claim to the throne goes back a thousand years before that. Ve are direct descendants of Khan Krum. Ve still retain the titles of Prince and Princess. My bashta is Prince Alexei. I am Prince Viktor. You vill be Princess Hermione. It does not matter vhere ve live. The titles are hereditary, our children vill bear the same titles."
Hermione sat, stunned by these revelations. "Viktor, this is astonishing. You are being overly generous when you know we'll never separate. This is so sudden, your highness." She giggled as she said those words and he grinned at her.
He handed her the papers required by the Ministries, which she signed and she signed the pre-nup as well.
"What else, Viktor? I know there is more. What does the marriage settlement itself say?"
"Here, read it, loff." He handed her the simple hand-written document.
She read, then raised wide eyes to his face. "Half of everything? And if you die, your half goes into trust for the children. You don't have to buy me, Viktor. I love you."
"I know. But this is vhat I vant to do. I vant you to be protected and cared for, efen if I die. Now, stand up and come to the mirror." He picked up the casket of jewels as he led her to the huge mirror over the fireplace.
He opened the casket and drew out a necklace of diamonds, which matched her engagement ring.
He fastened it around her neck and drew his hands down her arms. She turned to him and slipped her arms around his neck.
He drew her close, raining kisses on her eyes and face. When his lips reached hers, she moaned. He picked her up and strode into the master bedroom with her. He set her down by the window.
"Vait, loff. First ve make the pledges. Ve pledge loff and fidelity. Then ve touch our vands together. The binding designs vill appear on our wrists aftervards. I vill go first. I, Viktor Ilya Alexeivitch Krum pledge my loff, fidelity, and life to Hermione Jean Granger, whom I take as my bride tonight. You do not need to pledge life. If ever you vish to be free, I vill set you free."
"Hush, Viktor. I, Hermione Jean Granger, pledge my love, fidelity, and life to Viktor Ilya Alexeivitch Krum, whom I takes as my husband tonight, now and forever." She touched his wand with hers and a golden rope appeared on their wrists where it wound around three times and disappeared. A design of roses now graced Hermione's left wrist, and a design of crowns decorated Viktor's left wrist.
A scroll appeared out of thin air and dropped into Viktor's hands. Opened, it had the decorations on their wrists listed and the date and time of the binding. He rolled it back up again and drew her close.
"Ve are bonded, now. Your vords haff sealed the bonding. Obicham te, vife." With a wave of his wand, the fastenings on her caftan opened and she shrugged it off. The light silk gown she wore underneath it was tied at the shoulders. She pulled the ties to let the gown slip off. Then she moved forward to push his jacket off his shoulders and unbutton his shirt. When she fumbled at the fastenings of his pants, he unbuttoned them and pushed them off.
His hands were warm and very tender when he cupped her breasts. The nipples peaked immediately.
He was kissing her neck and caressing her back as one hand teased her breast.
She was holding onto his shoulders as wave after wave of desire ripped through her.
He swung her up into his arms and deposited her gently on the bed. He lay next to her and bent his head to taste her nipples. She arched against him as he trailed a hand down the plane of her stomach to the brown curls at the juncture of her thighs.
He gently parted the labia and circled his fingers around the entrance to her wetness. His thumb found the ultra sensitive bud of flesh and began to massage it. She jerked in reaction to the sensations. Her hands ran over the hard muscles of his chest and one hand slid down enough to find his erection resting near her hip. His indrawn breath evoked a sigh from her.
"Shh, loff, not so fast or I vill not be able to vait," he whispered.
He moved over her to tease both breasts with his tongue and then he kissed his way down her body until his head was between her legs. He again parted the curls and lowered his face to her slit. His tongue flicked repeatedly at her clit and she nearly screamed. When he thrust one finger into her wetness, she tensed. When he thrust two fingers in and began to move them, she raised up, moaning.
He kept up the teasing until she tightened around his fingers and climaxed. When the spasms were diminishing, he slid up to position his erection at the entrance to her body. Silently, he erected a shielding spell around them in case the wild magic was too intense. He plundered her mouth again and whispered, "It vill hurt , loff. But only for a second or two. Hush, now, let me loff you."
Her hands were braced on his biceps, he lifted her legs over his shoulders. He had wedged himself in just enough to stretch her a bit. He flicked her clit again with his thumb, and thrust deeply as she jerked upwards. Her gasp of pain was momentary and then she began to meet his thrusts.
"Yes, Vitya, yes. Oh, oh, oh."
He felt her tightening around his phallus and thrust hard and deep one last time as they both reached ecstasy. He slid from her body to find every light in the room was on. He kissed her, noting that she was already almost asleep.
He padded to the bath and ran a shower. Then he used a flannel to clean the blood off her thighs. The expected crystal phial had appeared on the bedside table. Using his wand, he captured the mingled traces of her blood and his semen in the phial, which immediately split into two. Then, surprisingly, one of the phials again split into two. One phial disappeared immediately. He knew that one had gone to the Bulgarian Ministry along with the notification of the bonding.
He heard doors being closed throughout the dacha. Guessing that the wild magic had only turned lights on and opened doors, he went to bed, knowing that Ptitsa was closing the doors and seeing that nothing had been harmed.
Sliding under the covers, he snuggled close to her and she rolled over to put her head on his shoulder and a leg over his.
In the morning, he woke to find his new wife caressing his morning erection and running her tongue over the length of his shaft. When she took him into her mouth, he moaned. She tasted, licked, and nibbled until he was almost undone. He pushed her onto her back and spread her legs wide. His fingers found wetness to ease his entry, so he slid gently into her body. Her pleas for him to go harder and deeper were rewarded with instant compliance. When he felt his seed spurt toward her waiting womb, the lights all came on again.
He knew instinctively what that meant, but did not want to tell her immediately.
"Is that going to happen whenever we make love, Viktor?" she asked.
"I do not know. I am surprised it happened again. It must be that our magic is so compatible."
"Oh, I hadn't considered that. You're probably right."
The day was progressing toward noon before they came downstairs. Ptitsa had made breakfast and set it on the terrace outside the library.
"Roses are blooming, Master. Is Turkish coffee what you wants or tea?"
"Tea, Ptitsa, please. Princess Krum prefers tea."
"What was the comment about the roses blooming, Viktor? Did something happen?"
"Yes. I do not know how to tell you this, but ve seem to haff fulfilled all the requirements of the marriage law already." He was smiling at her.
"Well, yes, we married. Oh! You mean…"
"Yes, that is vhy the lights came on a second time. Tradition has recorded the roses in the immediate area starting to bloom vhenever a Krum wife is expecting, no matter the season or the veather."
"Oh, Viktor, that is like we're advertising the fact. It is funny, in a way. I'm quite sure your parents will be overjoyed."
"They vill be more than pleased, yes, but happiest for our marriage."
"My parents will be confused about all of this. Bear with them, they may ask some awkward questions, Viktor."
"Nin, I like your parents. They are not at all bothered that you are a vitch. My parents like your parents. They haff been corresponding for several years now. Mayka and Bashta vork vith charities for Muggle orphans. They bring your parents ofer to perform dental vork for the children. I vas surprised to see them von day vhen I vent to pick up Mayka. Ve all vent to lunch after that and your Mayka said she vould not tell you because it might cause trouble vith Veasley."
"Well, that certainly explains Mum's note saying that they were glad I was marrying you and not Ron. She also told me you had been there to talk to them. Thank you."
"It is alvays a plus to get along vith your in-laws, loff. My Mayka thought you vere perfect vhen they met you at the third task of the Trivizard. Bashta has been urging me to contact you for years. They both saw the aura that matched mine. Ve haff made two families happy and created our own."
"Why don't we invite them for dinner tonight? I can probably manage something resembling edible food."
"Ve vill let Ptitsa and her cohorts from my parents' house cook. But be varned, all of the relatives vill probably show up. Are you prepared for an infasion?" Viktor was laughing at her horrified expression.
She shrugged and said, "If they come, they come. I won't worry over it. Send to your parents and ask them to come."
About four that afternoon Viktor's parents arrived. Alexei Krum was an older version of his son: same smile, same quiet strength, and same subtle humour. Alexandra Krum was the perfect combination of Molly Weasley and Minerva McGonagall: smart, efficient, and kind. Hermione remembered how much she had liked the older witch when they had met at the third task of the Triwizard.
"Finally! You haff made me a happy voman, dushteria. My son has pined for you all this time. Now you are married and going to be parents. Ve loff you, Nin. You make Viktor happy."
Alexei chuckled and added, "Ve didn't tell the other relatives. Is enough you have to deal vith all of us. Katya is staying in London, then?"
Hermione smiled, thinking of the Marriage Law letters both Katya and Severus Snape had received.
"Yes, I have a suspicion that she may be getting married again. If it is the man I think it is; they share a love for Potion making. He is reclusive, but quite wealthy." She winked at Viktor when he sent her an incredulous look.
"Bashta, Mayka, ve are supposed to have a British ceremony on Beltaine. Vill you come to the school vith us for it?"
"Of course, ve do not vant the British Ministry to say ve did not approof of our vonderful new daughter-in-law."
Between them, Hermione and Alexandra decided on Gryffindor red and gold robes with a peacock blue dress for the binding ceremony.
"Not to vorry, Nin, dress vill be done by tomorrow. Robes are easy, ve only need to Transfigure the colours." Alexandra patted Hermione's hand.
When the weekend ended, Hermione had a wedding dress, courtesy of her new mother-in-law, new dress robes, and a promise from the elder Krums that they would bring her parents to the Hogwarts the day before Beltaine.
The dacha was now the property of Viktor and Hermione. Mama Krum had promised to bring over the nursery furniture during the summer.
Harry and Luna had owled that someone, probably George or Fred, had let slip that Hermione was marrying Viktor. The ensuing tantrum that Ron had thrown was epic. Moreover, in the aftermath of that, Lavender had switched her choice to Seamus Finnegan. Ron was now paired with none other than Sybill Trelawney.
Beltaine dawn found Harry, Luna, Hermione, and Viktor standing before Kingsley Shacklebolt saying their vows surrounded by their closest friends and family.
The rest of the Marriage Law weddings went off without a problem, except for the Trelawney-Weasley one.