For the next two days, Rose never ventured past her own front door. Viktor left her side only once, to return to his own flat to gather up a fresh change of clothes and a toothbrush. The toothbrush had been a good idea – the clothes had been unnecessary.
Viktor had barely made it inside her flat before they’d fallen on each other. After a quick romp on the kitchen floor, they’d tried moving to her bed, but the low-angled ceiling proved too much of a challenge for Viktor.
“Dammit,” he’d sworn under his breath as he banged his head for the second time. “I’m too damn old to play at being a contortionist.”
Rose tried to explain to him that there was a very easy solution to their problem, but as good a lover as Viktor was, he wasn’t one for relinquishing control. So Rose had been forced to come up with an alternative arrangement. They’d settled for the floor, spreading out a quilt and surrounding themselves in pillows. It reminded Rose of the tents she and Hugo had made as children, gathering up all the blankets they could find and draping them across the furniture, turning the family’s living room into a makeshift fortress.
“How do the other men stand it?” Viktor asked her. They were still on the floor, though they’d come up for air long enough to order dinner – eating lukewarm Chinese take-away by firelight. It was far from glamorous, but at that moment, Rose couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else.
“Stand what?” she asked, attempting to pick at her noodles with a pair of chopsticks that had come free with the food. The two hadn’t even bothered to set out plates or silverware.
“That bed of yours. Forget the ceilings. The mattress is so small, there’s hardly room for one, let alone two.”
Rose gave up on the chopsticks, tossing them aside, using her fingers instead. “And who says there have been others?”
Viktor stopped mid-bite, his mouth falling open.
“Relax,” she said. “I’m only joking. There have been others, though you’re the first to complain. Maybe they just had better moves than you.” Viktor let out a huff, snatching the carton of food out of her hands. “Hey! I wasn’t done with that.”
She made to grab it back but Viktor held it just out of reach. “Perhaps you should have thought of that before you insulted my talents.”
Now it was her turn to let out a huff, though she couldn’t quite keep the smile off her face.
Rose was happy. For the first time in a very long time, she found herself letting go – not overanalyzing everything, not playing through every possible scenario in her head. She knew it couldn’t stay like this forever. Eventually, she was going to have to decide what it was that was going on between them and just how far she could allow it to progress. But not now. Not in that moment. This weekend was theirs and she refused to be the one to spoil it.
“Can I ask you a question?”
It was nearing ten o’clock, their dinner left forgotten on the floor. The room was now dark, the only light coming from a bare bulb that hung over the kitchen sink. They were once again spread out on the quilt, a thin blanket covering Rose’s bare legs, Krum’s head resting in her lap. She was stroking his hair, which was thick and soft. In the dim light, the brown strands looked almost black. Rose would have given anything to have been born with such dark hair.
“Can I ask you a question?” she said again when he failed to answer her. This time Krum let out a low grunt that she took to mean yes. The man was so relaxed, he was like a puddle in her arms. “Where do you live?”
“What do you mean?” he asked, his words muffled by sleep. “You’ve seen my place.”
“No, not the flat you’re in now. The one you lived in before—”
“Before I moved in to Liddy’s place, you mean?”
Rose’s hand fell still. “How did you know—?”
“I told you,” he said, rolling onto his back so he could look up into her face. “We’re old friends. We stay in touch.”
“And you’re not mad? About me going to see her?”
“Vhy would I be mad?”
“I don’t know. Because I didn’t ask you about it first. I would have, only it all happened sort of fast. And after that morning, I wasn’t even sure—”
Krum sat up, pressing his finger to her lips, silencing her. “You don’t have to ask my permission to speak to someone, Rose. You’re your own person. I don’t control you. Do you understand?” She nodded. “Good. I don’t ever want to hear you make that mistake again.”
Rose thought that an odd thing to say, but she was too relieved he wasn’t mad to ask him what he meant. Besides, she had something else on her mind. “So if I’m really free to talk to anyone I like, that would mean I could talk to Regina?"
Krum raised an eyebrow. “I see you and Liddy covered a lot in a single afternoon.”
“We went over a few things, yes. So what do you think? Would you mind if I talked with her?”
Krum reached out, tucking a strand of hair behind Rose’s ear. “I don’t think you ought to do that.”
“But why? You just said I could talk to whoever I like.”
“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. The woman would eat you alive, Rose. And I mean that in the worst possible way. She’d happily see me with a stake through the heart. I can’t see her letting you past the front door once she figures out what you’re up to.”
“She can’t be that bad—“
“Oh, she is. Trust me. And then some.”
“Viktor, I’m sure I can handle her. What’s she going to do? String me up by my ankles and leave me for the wolves.”
“For her, that vould be a good day.”
Rose stuck out her lip. “You don’t think I can take care of myself. I told you before, I’m not a child—”
“Fine,” he said, throwing up his hands. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Rose must have looked like she was about to say something else because he added, “What? Is there someone else you’re just dying to talk to? And you better not say that bloke from the restaurant.”
Rose felt a warmth rise up in her cheeks. “About that... I have a little confession to make.”
“That bloke? His name is Albus. And he’s not my boyfriend.”
“What is he then?”
“He’s my cousin.”
“Your cousin?” Krum repeated. “And you didn’t think that was worth mentioning beforeyou tried to seduce me.”
“Me seduce you?” Rose’s voice clocked in about an octave above normal. “I’m pretty sure you were the one doing all the seducing.” Krum was the one who had come on to her, after all. In the pub. In the restaurant. Even in the middle of the bloody Ministry. And she was just about to remind him of all thiswhen she noticed the corners of his mouth twitching upward as he tried to suppress his amusement. She gave his shoulder a playful shove. “Well, I’m glad you find this all so funny.”
“That I most certainly do.”
He leaned into her, capturing her mouth in his. The kiss lasted a long moment before Rose finally pulled away. “Hey, no fair,” she said. “You still haven’t answered my question."
"And what question is that?"
"Where is it exactly that you live?”
Viktor brushed his lips against her cheek before standing up and crossing into the kitchen. She watched as he removed a glass from the cabinet, filling it at the sink. When he finally looked over at her again, his face was half-obscured in shadow. “And this is off the record?”
“I’m not a reporter, Viktor. But sure. Why not? It’s off the record. Besides, Brooks already told me you have a flat here in London. I was just wondering where it is.”
He took a long sip of his drink. “I did tell Peter that, and as far as he knows, it’s true.”
“But it's not true?”
Krum shook his head. “No, it’s not. But it’s important Peter doesn’t know that.”
“It just is.”
“All right. So where is it that you’ve been living then?”
“I was in London, up until a year ago. I sold the flat. Well, had it stolen out from under me is more like.”
“And since then?”
“I own some land. Quite a bit, actually, which I acquired in a manner not entirely legal. If Peter knew about it...”
“Then he might be forced to report you, as an officer of the court.”
Krum nodded. “Something like that. And once it’s known that I have assets I haven’t claimed. Let’s just say, I have enough legal troubles to deal with at the moment.”
“And where is all this land?” Rose asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
She thought about that for a second. “Is it near where you grew up?”
Krum drained the last of his drink, setting his glass in the sink. “You could say that.”
“And what does that mean?”
“It means it isn’t just near where I grew up. It is where I grew up.”
“You mean you bought your childhood home?” That was a surprise. Rose hadn’t pictured Krum as the sentimental type, especially in light of his reluctance to talk about his past.
“Yes, and about a hundred acres on either side.”
“What do you do with it all?”
“What’s there to do? I live there when I must, though there isn’t much left of the house itself. It’s been falling apart for years.”
“Why don’t you fix it?”
Krum smiled. “Everything is so simple in your eyes, isn’t it? Repairs cost money, and in case you’ve forgotten, that’s just one of the many things I don’t have anymore.”
An idea occured to her then. “But it’s important to you, right? The house and the land?”
“Of course. It’s my home.”
“Then don’t you see?” Rose said, getting to her knees. “This is exactly why you need to help me write this book. It could be the answer you’re looking for. If it does well, there will be a lot of money to go around. Enough for you to fix up the house, or build another one if you like. Don’t you see that?” She was starting to sound like Heart, but she didn’t care. Her boss had been right about one thing: this book could be just what Viktor needed. “But I can’t write it myself. You’ve got to open up with me.”
He flashed her a crooked smile. “I thought I was being quiteopen with you last night.”
“I’m being serious. I can’t write this book without you.”
He studied her for a long moment, seeming to take in every inch of her. She knew she must look a mess: hair sticking up, dressed in nothing but an oversized t-shirt that did little to hide her more sensitive areas. Not exactly the best look for holding an important business discussion. But is seemed to work because Viktor nodded.
“Alright,” he said. “I’ll do vhat I can to be more open with you.”
“Good,” she said jumping to her feet.
“Where are you going?”
“To get my notes.”
“No time like the present,” she called over her shoulder, already rifling though her satchel, crossing into the kitchen a moment later, notebook and quill in hand. Krum was already seated at the table, and she took her place in the chair opposite his.
“What is it?” Krum asked. Rose had paused, tapping her quill against her chin.
“I just thought of another question.”
“Already? You haven’t looked at your notes.”
“This one isn’t on my list. I want to know how you knew that line. The one from my book. The one...”
“The one I used to get you into bed?”
Rose stuck out her tongue at him. “Ha Ha, very funny. I’m serious. I want to know where you got it from.”
“I read it in your book. Where else would I get it from?” She stared at him, trying to gauge if he was telling her the truth. Seeming to sense her skepticism he asked, “What, does it surprise you to learn that I can read?”
“Of course not. That wasn’t at all what I was thinking. It’s only, no one has read my book. I mean, if you don’t count the ones related to me, I don’t think more than a hundred people in the whole world have read my book.”
“Make that a hundred and one.”
“So, what?” she asked, leaning forward. “Were you checking up on me? Making sure my writing was up to par?”
“Do you really think I’m so cynical?”
“What then? Was it just some sort of coincidence? Am I supposed to believe you just happened upon my book somewhere?”
“I never said it was a coincidence. And I didn’t just happen upon anything. It was given to me.”
“Maybe given isn’t the right word. Perhaps 'left in my care' is a better way to put it. Either way, Peter should be more careful about what he leaves behind when he stops by for a visit.”
“So you got it from Peter?”
Krum nodded. “More or less. Looked to me like he got a copy off your boss. There was a note tucked inside. It seems you come highly recommended.”
“Wait a minute,” Rose said, putting up her hand. “So Heart gave Peter a copy of my book, and then...what? Told him to read it? See if he thought I was up to the job?”
“That’s what I took from it.”
Something else occurred to Rose then. “So that’s how you knew about the book in the first place, isn’t it? You knew about it that night at the pub. You’d already seen the book and the note by then. That’s how you knew who I was and what I was there for.”
He tapped her on the nose. “Now you’re getting it.”
“But why not just tell me up front? Why all the song and dance that night?”
Krum shrugged. “You can’t deny an old man a bit of fun every now and again.”
“I’m not sure I’d call that night fun.”
“Well, it had its moments.”
Rose paused. Speaking of that night in the pub, there was something else she’d been meaning to ask him, but she was loath to bring it up, afraid it might spoil Krum’s good mood. But she’d have to ask him about it eventually. Might as well do it why he was full up on good sex and take-away. “Have you spoken with Peter recently? He told me about the plea deal.”
Krum had begun drumming his fingers on the tabletop, just like he’d done that night at the Ministry. He’d been true to his word; Rose hadn’t seen him smoke a single cigarette since he’d arrived at her flat two nights ago. She knew he must be desperate for one by now.
“We...discussed it,” Krum said.
“And that’s it so far.”
“Do you have any idea what you’ll do?”
And that was all he seemed prepared to say on the matter, and Rose didn’t press. She would just have to trust that if he wanted to talk about it, he’d know she’d be there to listen.
She reached out, giving his hand a light squeeze before getting to her feet.
“Where are you going now?” Krum asked, watching as she flittered off down the hall. “I thought you wanted to work on the book.”
“I do, only I’ve decided I want to take a bath first. And when I get out, we’re going to get down to business.”
“And by business, you mean...?” But Rose just shot him a look. Krum sighed. “I vas afraid of that. I don’t suppose there is anything I can do to persuade you to come back to bed instead?”
“Not a chance,” she said as she ducked into the bathroom. There was a long pause before she stuck her head back out into the hall. “Then again, you’re welcome to come in here and try.”
It was Monday morning and Rose had finally sent Viktor home, their weekend of debauchery reaching its inevitable end. This time, however, when they’d parted ways, Rose wasn’t plagued with near as many doubts or fears as she had been after that first night. He’d promised they’d see each other again soon. Very soon. And she believed him. Whatever this was they were getting into, Rose knew now that it had only just begun. As to whether or not Liddy’s warning would prove true and that Krum would ultimately break her heart – she supposed only time would tell.
Rose had just finished getting dressed, preparing to head into the office for the morning, when she heard a knock at the door. She opened it to find Albus standing on the other side.
“Al! What are you doing here?”
“It’s nice to see you too,” he said. He was dressed in a set of industrial-looking green robes – not something he’d opt to wear unless he was heading off to or returning home from work.
“Sorry,” she said. “Of course it’s good to see you. I’m just surprised you’re up and about this early.”
“I’m a family man now,” he said, standing up just a hair straighter. “Got to get to work and earn a living. Aren’t you going to invite me in?” He was peering around her shoulder. From his vantage point, he had a direct view of the living room, still covered in blankets, pillows strewn everywhere. “What have you been doing in there? And what’s that smell?”
Rose quickly stepped out into the hall, pulling the door shut behind her. “Err...it’s nothing. Just a bit of rearranging. So what’s up?”
Albus shook his head as if clearing his thoughts. “Right. I’m here with good news.”
“Good news? I’m not sure how much more of your good news I can take. Don’t tell me Amelia’s having twins or something.”
“Don’t even joke about that,” he said, his face turning white at the mere thought of it. “You know twins run in the family.”
“Sorry. I was only joking. So what’s the good news then?”
Al reached into the pocket of his robes, pulling out a small white envelope, which he handed over to her.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Just open it.”
So she did, pulling out a single sheet of heavy cream-colored paper, an intricate gold boarder running along the edges. Written in perfect script was a message that read:
Dear Ms. Rose Weasley and Guest,
You are cordially invited to celebrate the union of Amelia Elizabeth Strong and Albus Severus Potter On Saturday, the First of November, at Four o'clock. The Wedding will be held at St Andrew’s Church. Reception to follow at the home of Mrs. M. Weasley, Ottery St. Catchpole. Please R.S.V.P. no later than 15 October.
Rose looked up at her cousin. “The first of November. That’s only—”
“But that’s so soon. What’s the rush?”
Albus sighed. “It’s all Amelia. She refuses to be fat at her own wedding. Says being forced to waddle down the aisle is too undignified or something. She told me if we don’t do it soon, then we have to wait until after the baby comes.”
Rose thought that sounded like a perfectly reasonable idea. Why rush down the aisle? They’d have plenty of time to plan a wedding after the baby was born.
But when Rose tried to point this out to him, Al immediately started shaking his head. “No way. We’ve got to do this thing up right before that baby pops out. Her father nearly hexed me into next week when we told her parents she was pregnant. I don’t know what he’d do we weren’t married before it’s born.”
“You’re not children, Al. People have babies out of wedlock all the time.”
“Yea, well, you try telling him that and see how far it gets you. The way he sees it, Amelia’s a victim in all this. Like I somehow tricked her into getting knocked up. Anyway,” he said, gesturing down at the envelope, “I wanted to deliver that in person. I figured since you were the first to know about the baby, you should be the first to know about the wedding.”
“Thanks,” she said. As much as she thought this whole wedding idea was a terrible mistake, she appreciated the gesture.
“And hey,” he added, pointing to the top line on the invitation. “See that there? It says Ms. Weasley and Guest. So make sure you bring someone, all right? Maybe whoever it is that’s been helping you 'rearrange' in there...”
“Goodbye, Albus,” she said, pointing in the direction of the stairs.
He laughed. “Okay, okay. I can take a hint. I guess I’ll see you around then.” Al started to leave and Rose was just about to head back inside when he called out, “Oh, hey, I almost forgot. Be careful when you head out today.”
“There’s some bloke hanging out in front of your building. About this tall.” He put a hand up to his shoulder. “A young guy. Curly hair. Sort of twitchy. Ring any bells?”
Rose shook her head. It didn’t sound like anyone she knew.
“Didn’t think so,” Al said. “There’s something off about him.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing. He’s probably a friend of Mrs. Larson. She draws a strange crowd.”
But Al didn’t look convinced. “Still, just be careful, okay?”
“Okay,” she said. "I promise."
With a final wave goodbye, Al turned around and disappeared down the hall. Rose waited to make he was really gone before heading back inside and locking the door behind her.
“We’ve got one hell of a situation here, Rose.”
It was twenty minutes later and Rose had just arrived at the headquarters of Fletcher and Sons. She’d been planning to spend the morning organizing the notes she’d made last night before heading over to Krum’s later that afternoon to continue on with their work. She hadn’t even had a chance to sit down at her desk before Heart’s secretary had shown up at her door, telling Rose that Heart needed to speak with her right away. The instant she’d stepped inside her boss’s office, he’d slammed the door behind her, gesturing her into a nearby chair and tossing a newspaper onto her lap. Then he promptly began pacing the length of his office.
Rose had a very bad feeling about all this.
“I’m not going to even bother to ask if it’s true,” he said. “I’d have to be blind not to know that was you.”
Rose was confused. Very confused. She could gather from the paper he’d just thrown at her that someone must have printed another article about Krum, but she didn’t see why that would have Heart so worked up. Free press is free press, after all.
“What are they saying this time?” she asked.
Heart stopped his pacing. “You mean you haven’t seen it yet?”
Rose shook her head. “No. Why? Is it bad?”
“Jesus Christ.” Heart ran an exasperated hand through his hair before snatching the paper from her and flipping to a page near the back. He sighed, handing it back to before resuming his pacing. “Jesus fucking Christ.”
Rose looked down at the paper and immediately felt her stomach drop.
Krum’s Mysterious Woman Identified: Witness in Muggle Attack is the Daughter of High-Ranking Ministry Officials and Accused Man’s Lover
Beneath the headline was a picture: a grainy black-and-photo of two people caught mid-embrace. And not just any two people. It was a picture of her and Krum.
She looked up at Heart then back at the photo and then up at Heart again. “I don’t understand—”
“Well that makes two of us. Bleeding hell, Rose. I told you to work with the man, not sleep with him.”
Rose was beyond mortified. She couldn’t even begin to put into words the level of shame and embarrassment coursing through her.
Her eyes moved back down to the paper still clutched in her hand. Her heart was beating so fast she had trouble focusing in on the small type. She read the article once, twice, three times. Each time through was worst than the last. They knew everything. They knew her name. Knew she’d been there that night at the pub. They even knew she was writing a book on Krum. And the photograph. There was no mistaking her there either. The photo showed her standing in front of a window. She was alone, dressed in nothing but Krum’s shirt. After a few seconds, the picture changed and Viktor –bare-chested, his hair a mess – could be seen stepping up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist as she turned her head to kiss him. There was no chance of it being an innocent embrace. It looked tawdry, ever to her eyes.
“But how—?” she asked, looking back up at Heart, who was now leaning against his desk. It was all she could think to say.
“Fuck if I know. Where the hell were you two? Don’t tell me you were stupid enough to do this at some hotel.”
Rose looked back down the photo. The window she was standing in front of was Krum’s – the one in his bedroom that looked out onto the street below. It must have been taken that first night, during one of the brief respites they’d had between go-rounds.
“No,” she said, surprised to hear the tremor in her voice. “That...that was at his place.”
“I’ve got to say, kid, this was not smart. Not smart at all.” Heart was shaking his head, looking down at Rose with an almost pitying expression. “I know a girl’s got to get her kicks, but with him? I thought you had more sense than that.” When she failed to say anything in her own defense, another idea seemed to occur to him. “Oh, hell. Don’t tell me you’re falling for this guy? Look, I don’t care who you throw your legs up for but I’ve got millions riding on this deal, Rose. Do you hear me? Millions. If this is just some itch you’ve got to scratch, I don’t give a fuck who or what you do on your own time. But I need this book. I’ve got people to answer to and I can’t tell the board that profits are below estimates because some washed-up has-been had his way with you and didn’t call you back.”
Rose felt like she’d been slapped in the face, or worse, like she was being scolded like some teenager who’d just been caught letting her boyfriend cop a feel in the back of her parents’ car. Get her kicks? Scratch an itch? What kind of a girl did Heart think she was? But what could she say? She couldn’t justify her behavior. She’d known it was wrong to get involved with Krum. They were supposed to be working together, not sleeping together. She could have really messed things up for all of them.
“Fuck sorry, Rose. I don’t want sorry. I just want this book done and in my hands by the first of December. Whoever or whatever else you do or don’t do between then and now, frankly, the less I know about it the better.”
“But what about the papers? When people see this, won’t they think the book has been...compromised?”
Heart let out a loud snort. “Compromised? Rose, this is publishing company, not the goddamn United Nations. The only thing this is going to do is ramp up the hype. Nothing makes a story sell like sex and scandal – and based on that photo, I’d say we’ve got both in spades. The only thing I care about here is that you’ve still got your head in the game and not...somewhere else.”
This was bad, no matter what Heart said. She didn’t want to sell books this way. And she certainly didn’t want her personal life laid out for all to see. And what about Viktor? Would he suspect she was somehow behind it all. That she'd planned this and then leaked it to the press just to generate a little publicity for herself? If he thought that, he might never speak to her again.
Rose jumped to her feet.
“And where do you think you’re going?” Heart asked. “Not to Krum’s, I hope.”
“But I have to warn him.” That, and she needed to explain to him what was going on before he had the chance to get the wrong impression. He wouldn’t be happy, but better he find out from her than read about it in the papers.
“How can you know that? Maybe he hasn’t seen the story yet.”
“Get a clue, Rose. They know where he lives, remember?” He pointed down at the photograph. “If he’s smart, he’ll have already found himself a new place to hide.”
Rose paused. “Then what should I do?”
“I’d suggest you do the same.”
Rose looked at her boss, her eyes wide. “What do you mean? You think I need to go into hiding? They’ve got their picture. What more could they want with me?”
“That’s not how this works. Like it or not, you’re part of the story now. And the world is going to want a piece of you.”
Rose didn’t like the sound of that at all. “Then what am I supposed to do?”
“If it were me, I’d head home.”
“To my flat? Won’t that be the first place they look?”
“Not to your flat. I mean home – to your parents’ house. I can’t think of too many reporters who’d be able to sniff out the home of two Ministry officials, especially not ones with the kind of connections your parents have. And even if they could, they’d be too scared to do anything about it. A bunch of little chicken shits, the whole lot of them.”
Her parents’ house. Heart was right. If she wanted to keep out of the public eye, that would be the place to go. Still, she hated the idea of being chased into hiding. Would anyone really care enough to come looking for her?
“But what about the book?” she asked. “How am I supposed to get it done if I’m tucked away somewhere while Krum is off on his own?”
“Let me worry about that for now. Peter and I will get him situated, and then we’ll find someway of getting you two back in the same place...though perhaps we should send along a chaperone this time.” Heart smiled at her but Rose wasn’t in the mood for a joke. “Look, kid. Things are gonna be fine. We’ll get this worked out. In the mean time, head home. I’m sure your parents will be happy to see you. You’re always saying you don’t have enough time off, so consider this an early holiday.”
Rose nodded. He was right. There was nothing more she could do for herself at the moment – or for Krum. It was beyond embarrassing to have her sex life out in the open for everyone to see, but the story itself would probably blow over in a few days. These sorts of scandals always did. Rose wasn’t anyone important. How long could the public care about a two-bit author whose book no one had ever read – no matter who she was or wasn’t sleeping with? She would just have to lay low for a spell – ride it out as best she could. She just hoped Krum would be waiting for her when it was all over.
“Look at it this way,” Heart said as Rose made to leave. “Everyone gets their fifteen minutes. It just looks like yours came a bit early.”
a/n - this chapter is dedicated to marina (tell_me_what_the_truth_is) for being my expert on all things British, and to JChrissy for being what I’m sure is my only remaining reader.
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