Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters except for poor sickly Uncle
Luc. The owner of these characters is J. K. Rowling.
Chapter 1: The Departure
Hermione opened her eyes, there was no light coming through her window. Checking her watch she realized that it was four in the morning, three hours more till Victor took her to the airport. Getting out of bed she proceeded to check her trunk for the fifth time. Hermione decided that she might as well get dressed and go eat an early breakfast. Slipping quietly into the hall she made her way to the staircase and down into the darkened foyer. She moved easily around furniture in the night filled rooms, she had been staying with Viktor Krum for a little over a month now and knew the lay out of the chateau's furniture.
"I'll miss this place, Viktor too" she mused softly. It's not that Hermione wasn't happy here, in fact, this had been one of her happier summers. Bulgaria was a beautiful country. Viktor's parents had been so kind to her. Hermione was even starting to learn a bit of Bulgarian, which made communicating to the house elf a little easier. She almost laughed out loud when she remember her 'save the house elf campaign' SPEW. If any elf could disprove her theory of brainwashed victims, Gorky was definitely the one. The Krum's house elf had become down right cranky when she had tried to help liberate him in the first few days of her visit.
Only a week into summer vacation word had arrived from Viktor's parents asking Hermione to stay with them for a month. Her parents hadn't been thrilled at the idea, but after Viktor's parent's had sworn that Hermione and Viktor would be supervised, her parent's had relented. They had insisted that she take a plane, not trusting any magical methods over such a far distance. So Hermione had flown from London to Sofia to see Viktor. When she got off the plane she knew she was in a different world. Flying over Bulgaria one could see that it was mountainous and wild. For a moment she was afraid of being in such a foreign place, but waiting for her at the gate with a hand written sign and a broad smile was Viktor. He had given her such a strong hug and he picked her up and spun her around. When he had put her down she was blushing a little bit.
The Krum chateau was near the quaint village of Bansko high up in the mountains. She and Viktor had spent many days walking through this medieval town. She could remember the way the sun had shone so brightly on the cobblestones after the rain shower that had forced them under a tree in the middle of the town park. They had been out of breath and giddy, running to find shelter when the sudden rain started. Under the tree he had pulled her close, trying to shield her body from the rain with his own. They're breathing slowed and they stood quietly. Viktor's hand gently wiped a raindrop that had fallen onto the tip of her nose. And then just as gently he kissed her. His left arm around her, holding her close, his right hand cupping her face. He paused then, waiting to see if she would draw away, but when Hermione just stood there against him, her eyes closed, he kissed her again. This time the kiss was more passionate, more forceful, pulling her closer still. She had wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed against him. And as suddenly as the rain had started, it stopped. The sun came out again leaving them bathed in the brilliantly, burning sunlight. It had been the first time that Viktor had really kissed her.
Hermione reached the large kitchen door and peaked inside. Gorky, who Hermione was sure never went to sleep, was cheerfully cleaning vegetables. He immediately bustled over to her and asked in choppy English if she was hungry. Hermione nodded and then went out to the dining room. She passed several trophies on the mantle above one of the various fireplaces in the Krum household. Smiling she thought of the various Quidditch games that Viktor had taken her to. She always liked to watch Quidditch as long as there was someone playing that she knew. She had found that she could root for Viktor as easily as Harry. Hermione had accompanied Krum to two games that he actually played in. The last one had been against Italy. Viktor had caught the snitch almost immediately. It had been quite a victory; Italy was a heavy favorite this year for the world cup. With the final whistle being blown, Viktor had flown straight to Hermione; snitch still clasped in his hand, and swept her up onto the broom with him. The stands had gone crazy over this show of affection. Hermione blushed a deep red as Viktor kissed her passionately in front of the crowds. But she soon forgot about the game, the crowds, and the flashing cameras as Viktor crushed her to him. When he held her that tight, she lost track of time, the outside world seemed to fade as he kissed her. Viktor had even taught Hermione how to fly. She had known how but never very well. She couldn't control flying by reading books. He taught her how to go with the currents of the wind, how to let go of the ground beneath her and be free. Being taught how to fly meant more to her than she could ever tell him. Harry and Ron never really bothered to teach her. They considered it their own personnel hobby, but Hermione found that she loved it too. Viktor even gave her a broom, one of his old Nimbus 2000s. The broom was now sitting patiently on top of her trunk.
The Dining Room was a beautiful affair with floor length windows and a table that could seat 16. The high ceiling was paneled with the same wood that the rest of the Chateau was made of. A fireplace that was large enough for five people to stand in was already lit by the time she arrived there. "Gorky must have secret passages all over this place" Hermione mused. Looking out one of the great windows she could just see a lightening in the horizon above the surrounding mountains. Great forests surrounded the chateau; Viktor's parents had warned her that they held dangerous creatures. She remembered one fateful evening after dinner when she had taken a walk by the lake that bordered the woods. A letter from Ron clasped tightly in her hand she had become aware of something watching her, something following her. Hermione hadn't known why she snuck out to read the letter, maybe part of her hadn't wanted Viktor to know that Ron was writing to her. She had hurried up, finally breaking into a run, not hearing anything behind her, but knowing, knowing it was there. She was so close to the chateau when hands grabbed her from behind and forced her to the ground. Looking behind her she had come face to face with a vampire. The burning red eyes caught her gaze and she couldn't break it, she couldn't struggle. She had heard a voice in the back of her held telling her to fight, but her will faltered under the gaze of the vampire. She had become aware of the elongated fangs coming down to her neck, hot breath ruffling her hair. Suddenly she had felt the vampire's grasp on her break. There was shouting and a curse in Bulgarian that she couldn't make out. Viktor had swept her up into his arms and had run into the house with her as the vampire disappeared into the woods. The next few hours had been a blur, the authorities had been called, and a doctor. A team of vampire hunters had gone into the woods, but the creature wasn't to be found. The doctor had given her a clean bill of health. When the house had emptied of strangers Viktor had turned to her with a look she had never seen before, fury. He had shouted at her as loud as he could, letting off his fury, anxiety, and fear. She had put her life into so much danger he had told her. And Hermione, the realization of how close she had come to dying had started to cry. Viktor, shocked out of his tirade, had cradled her against him. He had told her that he was in love with her that night and the letter from Ron lay out by the lake forgotten.
Hermione pulled back one of the heavy, high-backed chairs as Gorky brought in a tray with a few different dishes on it and a letter. Sitting down she smiled at Gorky as he put the tray in front of her and then left. Sausage and eggs seemed to be for breakfast today, a glass of pumpkin juice accompanied it. Hermione lifted her napkin and smiled to herself when she saw the letter. Ripping it open she saw that it was from her parents. It did not contain plans to meet her at the airport, however, as she had expected.
We're so glad that you are finally coming home; unfortunately your mother and I have some bad news. Your great uncle Luc has taken very ill. Your mother is thoroughly distraught and we've decided that the best thing to do is leave for France immediately. We've made arrangements with the Weasley's so that you'll stay with them until we return. We hope to be back before school starts again but with your uncle this ill we're not sure.
Love Mum & Dad
Startled, Hermione looked around the back of the chair to find Viktor standing in the doorway. "Oh good morning Viktor, I just got a letter from my parents".
"Is everything all vight?" He asked as he sat down next to her. Gorky appeared almost as if summoned there with another tray of food.
"My great uncle, the one that I visited in France the year before last is very ill. My parent's are going to be with him and I'm going to stay with the Weasleys until they return". She spoke all this in a hushed voice not wanting to wake Viktor's parents. Talking in a whisper also helped to mask the quiver in her voice, she was very fond of her uncle. He was one of the few members of her family that had accepted the witch in her with no problems.
"The Veasley's? You could alvays stay here, vith me." He flushed as he said this, looking away from her into the fireplace. It never failed to amaze her how shy he could be with her sometimes. He was a world famous Quidditch player, he was older than her and yet he could be so shy. It was one of the things that she loved best about him.
"I can't stay Viktor, I'm sorry, but I can't. I'm so desperate to be back in England. I hate to say it but I am rather homesick." She wasn't lying, she missed England dreadfully, she missed school, and more than anything she missed Harry and Ron. She wanted to go home.
"Vell, ve aught to make the most of our time zhen." He smiled warmly at her but she saw the hurt in his eyes. It broke her heart to hurt him. She knew she loved him, but loving someone and being in love with them were two completely different things and she couldn't decide.
They ate breakfast together and then went outside to watch the sun come up. Hermione sat on Viktor's lap, he had insisted so that her dress wouldn't get wet from the early morning dew. She was wearing muggle clothes today, customs officials got suspicious of people wearing long, bulky clothing. His arms wrapped her tightly and her head was against his chest. The lake below them and the forest on the other side slowly started to brighten. The rosy sun gradually rose above the mountains. Viktor kissed her again and again. He traced her face with soft butterfly kisses as if making a mental picture of her, of this moment. He held onto her so tightly she was almost afraid that when the time came he wouldn't let her go.
"Herm-own-ninny, I vant to give you something" Victor blushed slightly as he drew a small box from his robes.
Hermione's eyes widened as she looked at the box, it was very old, made of wood with a few carvings on it.
"Open it Herm-own-ninny" he urged.
Taking the box from his hands she open it to reveal a ring, not an engagement she thought, relief sweeping through her. It was an intricately carved silver band with a deep blue opal set into it.
"Oh Victor" she gasped, her eyes filling with tears as she looked at it. It symbolized her leaving. "I can't.... I can't take it".
"It vas my grandmother's, and yes, you can take it." He answered with a twinkle in his eyes. Before she could say another word he had slipped it onto her finger. "Zhis is so you von't forget, even if zhings don't vork out. Zhis vill symbolizes our friendship". And with that he kissed her again and led her back inside.
"You vill send me an owl vhen you arrive, yes?" Victor had looked at her with such sadness it near killed Hermione. The plane was taxing down the run away, about to take off. As she stared out the window, all Hermione could think about was Krum and whether this was true love or not.