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Chapter Sixteen: Viktor and Rose

Rose stayed by Viktor’s side for the remainder of the morning and into the afternoon. Peter had offered to hang back, to help her attend to Krum, but Rose had declined, pointing out the fact that there wasn’t much either of them could do for him at the moment. What little there was to do she could manage on her own. And in truth, Rose was ready to be rid of Peter, at least for the time being. She might not blame him for what happened, but that didn’t mean she was eager for his company.

As soon as Brooks had taken his leave, she’d returned to the bedroom, removing Krum’s soiled clothing, tucking the covers tightly around his now naked form. Next, she’d turned her attention to the floor, doing her best to remove all traces of the sick that had already begun to seep into the carpet.

The whole time she was working, Krum remained oblivious to her presence, giving no sign at all that he knew she was in the room with him. For the moment, he looked calm, peaceful even – dead to the world around him. He was so still, in fact, that on more than one occasion, Rose found herself creeping over to his bedside, placing a gentle hand on his chest just to make sure he was still breathing.

It wasn’t until that evening that Krum showed any real sign of life at all.

The tremors came without warning, ripping through his body in waves so violent, it was as if great volts of electricity were being shot through him. His entire body succumbed to the quakes, his arms and legs jerking wildly in all directions, punching and kicking at the empty air around him. At one point, the convulsions got so bad, Rose was forced to climb onto the bad, straddling Viktor’s chest and pinning his arms to his side. All the while, he was shouting – barking out commands that were either gibberish or else in a language Rose couldn’t understand. Either way, it was clear they weren’t directed at her. Krum was hallucinating, his mind having conjured up some terrible image that seemed to both confuse and horrify him.

And then, just as quickly as they had appeared, the convulsions began to recede, taking the worst of the delusions with them. His body, now feverish to the touch, gave one final shake before finally falling still.

After that, Rose couldn’t bring herself to leave his side for even a moment, too afraid of what the next round might bring. So she pulled out her wand, conjuring herself a chair, which she arranged at the edge of the bed. For the rest of the evening and well into the night, Rose sat there, a silent bedside vigil, prepared to react at a moment’s notice. But he made no further movement, even when she took his hand in hers and gave it a gentle squeeze. And eventually, despite her best efforts not to, Rose drifted off to sleep.

She awoke a few hours later, feeling no more rested than she had before she’d fallen asleep, only now with the added benefit of a crick in her neck and a tingling in her legs from having spent most of the night twisted up like a pretzel.

“Hello, Rose.”

At the sound of her name, Rose opened her eyes, the room around her still shrouded in darkness. She immediately looked down at the bed, finding Krum lying just as she’d left him, only now his eyes were open and alert, trained right on her face.

Rose sat up in her chair, the stiffness in her back making the task more difficult than it should have been. “Hello, yourself,” she said, her voice still thick with sleep. “How are you? How are you feeling?”

“Better than I look, I expect.”

Rose placed a hand on his cheek, which was thick with stubble. Right away, she could tell that his fever had broken, his skin dry and cool against her own. “Have you been awake long? What time is it, anyway?” She looked over at the clock, which normally sat on the bedside table, only to find it lying on the floor, the digital readout blinking 12:00. She must have accidentally knocked it over when she’d been attempting to restrain him.

“Early, I think,” Viktor said. “It’s only just starting to get light outside.” He turned his head toward the window, where the first faint traces of pale pink light had begun peeking in through the breaks in the curtains.

“You should have woken me,” Rose said. “You must be hungry. Or thirsty. You haven’t drank hardly anything for nearly a day now.”

“I’m all right,” Krum told her, but his voice was raspy, and she knew his throat must be raw and dry from the vomiting and loss of fluids.

“I’ll get you some water," she insisted. "Or maybe some tea. Do you think you could hold down toast if I made some for you?” She was already on her feet and heading for the door when he stopped her.

“Rose?” he called, his voice soft but commanding. “I’m okay.”

She turned around to face him, about to protest, but the look he gave her told Rose she might as well save her breath. After a pause, she nodded. There would be plenty of time to fuss over him later, she supposed.

“Sit with me,” he said, patting a spot on the bed beside him. Detecting her reluctance, he added, “I promise, I won’t break.” Rose nodded again, crossing to the bed and carefully climbing in beside him. He lifted his arm, making space for her to curl up next to him. She did, nestling her legs against his, her head resting on his bare chest, his arm now draped around her shoulder.

They lay there together for a long time without speaking, Rose listening to the steady thump-thumping of his heart while Krum used his free hand to gently stroke her hair.

It came without warning, a sensation that started in her gut and quickly rose into her chest. It burned for a moment in her throat before escaping through her lips, half-hiccup, half-sob. She hadn’t even known she on the verge of crying until she felt the tears start rolling down her cheeks.

She immediately brushed them away, fighting to regain composure. But it was a losing battle. All the anxiety and the fear of the past twenty-four hours came rushing over of her like water bursting through a broken damn. While he’d been unconscious, she’d been able to hold herself together, focused on keeping him safe and alive. But now that he’d come back to her, holding her body tight against his, she allowed herself to feel the weight of what she’d almost lost.

“I was just so worried you’d—” she tried to say. But the rest of the sentence was quickly lost as another round of quiet sobs sent more tears spilling down her face and onto Krum’s chest.

“I know,” he said, still stroking her hair. “But it’s all right now. I’m okay. You saved me, remember? Everything’s going to be okay.”

“I’m sorry,” she said after a few minutes had passed and the worst of the tears had finally run their course. “I shouldn’t have fallen apart like that.”

“It’s all right. I understand.”

“I just thought you'd—”

But he pressed a finger to her lips, stopping her. “I know. But I didn't.”

She nodded, letting another heavy silence fell between them. It stretched on for so long that Rose started to think Krum must have fallen back asleep – until finally, in a voice so faint she could barely make out the words, he said, “I’m sorry too.”

Weather from the crying or simply from lack of sleep, it wasn’t long before Rose herself dozed off again. When she awoke for the second time, she found the bedroom flooded with light and Krum nowhere in sight.

Rose immediately leapt out of bed, checking first the bathroom and then the living room before heading off towards the kitchen. When she found Krum, he was seated at the breakfast table, his bare legs peeking out from beneath the hem of his bathrobe, two empty mugs resting on the table in front of him.

“I vas going to make us some coffee,” he said, gesturing down at the cups. “But I don’t seem to have made it very far.”

“Here, let me,” Rose said, taking the cups and crossing into the kitchen.

She returned a moment later, handing Krum one of the steaming mugs before settling herself in the chair opposite his. She watched him as he slowly raised the cup to his lips, taking a few small sips before setting it back down on the table.

“How are you?” she asked. With the sunlight pouring in around them, Rose was getting her first proper look at Krum. She couldn’t help but notice how exhausted he looked, his face drawn and tired. Though Rose was pleased to see that at least some of his color had started to return.

“Just a little weak on my feet, is all,” he assured her.

“I could help you back into bed, if you like. Or onto the sofa. You might be more comfortable—”

But he cut her off with shake of his head. “Please, Rose, just...” But he stopped, too tired to argue. “I’m fine right here. Really. But you’ll be the first to know if I change my mind.”

Rose nodded, taking a long sip of her coffee. It tasted burnt, not at all like it did when Viktor made it.

“Your brother stopped by,” Krum said, picking up his own mug only to set it back down again without drinking.

“What? When?”

"Half-hour ago. Maybe less. I didn’t vant to wake you. You look so peaceful when you’re sleeping.”

“But Hugo...? Didn’t he want to speak to me?

“Oh, I’m sure he did,” Viktor said, looking almost amused. “But considering what he must think of me at the moment, I didn’t see how denying him this one request was going to make much of a difference.”

There was a sinking feeling in the pit of Rose’s stomach. “What did he say to you?”

“About vhat you’d expect. He told me that, as much as he hoped otherwise, it didn't appear to him that I’m likely to drop dead anytime soon.”

“He didn’t?" Rose asked, feeling both surprised and just the tiniest bit annoyed to hear that her brother had behaved so hostile towards Viktor.

“Well, no,” Krum admitted. “At least not in those exact words. But I got the message.”

“He’s only trying to look out for me.”

“I know. And I wouldn’t expect anything less. He’d be a fool if he didn’t wish me dead right now.”

“Viktor, don’t...” Rose began, but he’d already turned away from her, his gaze now focused on the window. They both watched as a garbage truck rumbled silently down the street, the noise unable to penetrate the thick glass.

“It’s all right, you know,” he said once the vehicle had passed out of sight.

“What is?”

“To ask me what happened. I know it must be veighing on your mind.”

It was true; Rose did want to know what happened. But more important, she wanted to know why. Why had he thrown away all those years of hard-won sobriety? Why had he risked everything he was trying to rebuild for himself? Was it really just a matter of slipping back into old habits? Peter and Hugo had made it sound as if this sort of thing was almost to be expected of someone with Viktor’s past.

But it was also true that, while she was curious to hear what he had to say for himself – how he could even possibly begin to offer some sort of justification for what he had put them both through – she was also afraid. Afraid of pushing him for answers before he was ready. And, if she was being totally honest with herself, afraid of what those answers might be.

“We don’t have to talk about it right now,” she said. “It can wait until you’re feeling stronger.”

“I think strong may be a relative term in this situation.”

“Fine. Then it can wait until your feeling more yourself. Does that sound better?”

“Not really, no.”

“Then what is it you want me to say?” Rose asked with more than a hint of agitation coloring her voice.

“I want you to say vhat it is you’re thinking. You deserve that much, at least.”

Rose opened her mouth, but then stopped. He was right. She did deserve an explanation. “Fine,” she said. “Then tell me. What happened?”

He sat there for a long moment, seeming to gather his thoughts. At last he said, “I don’t know.”

“I don’t understand,” she said. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means, I don’t know what happened. I don’t remember anything.”

“You’re joking?”

“I can assure you, I’m not.”

“Well, that’s just perfect, isn’t it?” Rose snapped “If you were just going to play dumb about it, why bother to bring it up in the first place?” She made to stand up, but he grabbed her wrist, holding her in place. His grip was strong, despite his weakened condition.

“Wait,” he said. “It’s the truth. I swear to you. I don’t know vhat happened. I don’t remember—”

“How can you not remember?” She was fully on her feet now, looking down at him where he sat. And for the first time ever, he looked small to her.

“I don’t know. There were times before. Back when I... But it’s just blackness.”

He was struggling with this; she could see it in his face. But whether it was because he didn’t want to talk about it, or because he honestly couldn’t remember what happened, Rose wasn’t sure.

“So what do you remember then?” she asked.

He thought about it for a moment, and she could see the wheels turning over in his mind. “I remember you and I arriving back here. I remember coming inside. I remember lights and then...nothing.”

“Viktor, that was two days ago.”

“I know...”

Rose reluctantly resumed her seat at the table, expecting him to say more. But when he failed to add anything further, she asked, “You know what Brooks thinks happened, don’t you? And my brother?” Krum nodded. “So are they right? Did you take something?”

“I told you, I don’t—”

“I know what you told me,” she said. “What I’m asking you is, is it possible that you took something? I mean, do you keep any the house?” His hesitation was answer enough. “Where? Where is it?”

After a long pause, he leaned forward in his seat, whispering something into her ear - telling her a secret Rose didn't want to know. She listened, saying nothing, keeping her expression neutral. When he was done, he pulled away, falling back into his chair.

“If you’re going to do it,” he said, “do it now.”

She gave him a solemn nod before standing up and exiting the room.

When she returned a few minutes later, he asked, “Is it gone?”

She nodded. “Yes, it’s gone.”

“All of it?”

She nodded again. “Every last drop.”

Brooks, it turned out, had been right when he’d told Rose that his latest attempt to get the charges against Viktor dismissed wouldn’t work. He’d stopped by later that afternoon to check on Krum and deliver the bad news in person.

“So it was a waste of time,” Rose said after Peter had finished relaying all the legal technicalities of why the motion had been denied.

“Not necessarily,” he said. Peter went on to explain to them both that while the counsel had declined to dismiss the charges outright, they had agreed that there was sufficient cause to hold a second evidentiary hearing.

“And that’s good news?” Rose asked.

“Definitely,” Peter said. She looked over at Viktor, who was seated on the sofa beside her. He hadn’t said so much as two words since Brook’s arrival. “Of course,” Peter went on, “it’s still a long shot. But I think we’ve got a real chance with this one. The goal here is to get them to drop the public decency charge. The assault charge we can handle. Even if you’re convicted, we aren’t looking at more than a few months probation. The problem with the other charge is that there is no fixed sentence. It could be more probation, or it could be... Well, it could be a whole lot worse.”

Rose again looked at Krum, waiting for him to offer some sort of reply, but he just sat there, his expression unreadable. “Well, that’s great then,” she said.

“It is,” Brooks agreed. “The only catch here is that we’ve got just two weeks to prepare. But I’m not too worried about that. I’ve...brought on a little extra help.”

That caught Krum’s attention. “What do you mean? Who did you bring in?”

But Peter was already on his feet. “Nothing to worry about, I promise. Just a few old friends from school who owe me a bit of a favor. Well, I should be getting on. Let you get some rest,” he said to Krum.

Rose stood up too. “I’ll walk you out.”

As soon as the two were out of earshot, Brooks turned to Rose and asked, “So how is he holding up?”

Rose shrugged. “All right, I guess. He says he doesn’t remember what happened.”

“I’m not surprised. When he was using before, he’d lose days, even whole weeks at a time. You’d pick him up and he wouldn’t even know what day it was, let alone where he’d been or what he’d gotten into. He could have gone anywhere. Done anything. And he wouldn’t have a clue.”

“That’s scary to think about.”

“Terrifying, actually. At least for those of us on this end of things. I guess this is just more of the same.”

“Yeah, I guess...” Rose said.

“What?” Brooks asked, raising an eyebrow. “You don’t believe him? You think he remembers what happened?”

“No. I mean, I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Look,” Brooks said, shoving his hands into the pocket of his trousers. “I don’t mean to add any more to your plate here, but...”

“What is it?” Rose asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.

“What I said before, about the time crunch being our only issue? Well, that isn’t exactly true. There is one other thing.”

“Which is?”

“While it’s true what I said in there - that we’re probably only looking at probation on the assault charge - that’s going to depend on a few things.”

“What kind of things?”

“Some of it’s technical, and I can take care of that on my end.”

“And the parts that aren’t so technical?”

Brooks sighed. “Think of it like this, Rose. Probation is...Well, it’s a bit like playing the odds. You can’t lock up everyone; there just isn’t the space or the money to put away every person who breaks the law. So you hedge your bets, pick the people you think will cause the least amount of trouble and let them keep their freedom. But give the courts any reason to think that you’re just going to go out there and make an even worse mess of it... Well, that makes everyone look bad, doesn't it?”

“So you're saying..."

“This hearing, it’s all for nothing if Viktor can’t keep his nose clean. If word got out about any further incidences... Let’s just say Krum can kiss any hopes of probation goodbye.”

“Which means—”

“Which means that for the next two weeks, if Krum so much as takes an extra does of Hiccupping Solution, then you and I better know about it first. In other words,” he said, dropping his voice until it was little more than a whisper. “For the next two weeks, that man it not to leave our sight.”

Since Brooks was already busy preparing for Krum’s upcoming hearing, the task of watching Viktor fell squarely on Rose’s shoulders. For the first few days, he was still too weak to do much of anything other than lie around, which was just fine as far as Rose was concerned. It left her with plenty of time to work on the book.

At first, Rose had considering ditching the whole idea, telling Heart that, like it or not, the project was off – or at least on permanent hiatus until Krum was back on his feet and Rose was sure that bogging him down with difficult questions about his past wouldn’t send him off the deep end again. But in the end, she’d decided against it. Abandoning the book now would mean that all their hard work had been for nothing. Not to mention the fact that there was still a lot of money to be made, and Viktor’s debts weren’t going to pay themselves. Rose would just have to remain vigilant for signs that her questioning was stirring up something in Viktor that was better left alone.

After a few days of extended bed rest, Krum’s strength began to return. His appetite still wasn’t what it had been, and he seemed to tire easily, but his color was back, and he was no longer unsteady on his feet. Once the boredom began to set in, Rose knew things were finally getting back to normal.

“Do you mind?” she asked.

She was seated at the breakfast table, her notes spread out in front of her. Viktor was standing close behind her, looking over her shoulder, his breath hot against her ear.

“Vhat are you doing?” he asked.

“What does it look like? I’m writing. Or at least I’m trying to.” When he just continued to stand there, she added, “Is there something you need?”

He was reading over the section she’d just been writing – a brief recount of one of Krum’s first professional Quidditch matches. “That’s wrong,” he said, pointing to a spot halfway down the page. “It was a Suicide Plunge. Not a Wronski Feint. People think they’re the same but they’re not. The first requires the Seeker to roll out of the dive. With the other, it’s more of a sharp pull just before the player smashes into the ground.

“And this,” he said, pointing at another spot a few lines further down the page. “The Keeper’s name was Finney, with two N’s. You’ve got it here with just the one. The rest,” he said after taking a moment to read over the remainder, “is fine.”

“I’m glad you approve,” Rose said.

It took him a second to notice the bemused expression on her face. “What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Rose said, still smiling. “Nothing at all.”

It went on like this for the remainder of the day, and the several days that followed - Rose trying to write while Viktor stood over her shoulder, occasionally making suggestions, but mostly just muttering under his breath whenever he spotted something he didn’t like.

“I’m never sullen,” he said at one point, snatching what was to be the last page of chapter twelve up off the table. “You've written here that I'm known for being sullen. Brooding, maybe. But never sullen.”

Just when Rose was sure she couldn’t stand another second of his interruptions, a thought occurred to her. “You know,” she said, calmly taking back the sheet of parchment and placing it on the pile with the rest of the pages she'd completed that morning. “I’ve got about a hundred of these at my office. Dozens of unread manuscripts just waiting to be looked over. Would you like me to bring you some? I’m sure whoever Heart hired to handle them while I’m away wouldn’t begrudge the help.”

Rose thought she saw the faintest trace of pink color Viktor’s cheeks. “I’m bothering you, aren’t I?”

“I didn’t say that. I just thought you might enjoy having something to do while I work.”

It wasn’t a lie. Not really. Rose had been wondering for days what Viktor had done to occupy his time before she’d arrived on the scene. He didn’t seem to have any hobbies. No friends to visit with. No job to go to in the morning. She’d considered asking him what it was he normally did to stave of the boredom, but after giving it more thought, Rose decided she might be better off not knowing. This, at least, was something he could do without getting himself into any sort of trouble.

But getting Krum out of her hair was only one reason Rose was so anxious to drop by the office. She was in desperate need of a change of scenery. She’d been shut up in Viktor’s flat for going on a week straight, and she was starting to show the first signs of cabin fever. She knew Krum had to be suffering from the same sense of claustrophobia; Rose never mentioned her conversation with Brooks, but she got the distinct impression that Viktor understood why it was that she was there - why she hadn’t returned to her flat since the incident. Perhaps he understood that it was for his own good, and the less said about it, the easier it would be on all of them. But Rose also knew that Peter was scheduled to drop by later that evening to discuss a few matters with Krum regarding his upcoming hearing. This meant Rose would be able to slip away for a few hours unmissed.

“Then it’s settled,” Rose said. “I’ll drop by the office tonight and pick out a few for you to read. And now,” she said, pulling out a fresh piece of parchment and waving it in his direction, “unless you fancy writing the rest of this yourself, I suggest you make yourself scarce before I lock you in the loo.”

Her plan worked out even better than expected. As much as he denied it – insisting he was only doing it as a favor to her – Krum seemed to genuinely enjoy reading over the manuscripts she’d brought for him. He’d make a great show of drawing bright red lines through paragraphs that failed to impress him, or else underlying parts he wished to read aloud to her.

Over the following days, the pair of them slipped into a steady rhythm. Rose would work at the table, Krum on the couch. They’d interrupt each other only on occasion, to read each other a few lines or ask for the other’s opinion on something. They’d eat their meals together, take breaks at the same time, and whenever the weather permitted it, set their work aside in favor of taking a walk around the neighborhood.

Rose didn’t know if it was all those years playing Quidditch outdoors, or simply his relief at being away from the flat, but the moment they stepped outside, something changed in Viktor. He seemed to stand a little taller, breath a little deeper. The sunlight, the gentle breeze — it seemed to invigorate him.

Rose was enjoying their time away as well, though maybe not quite as much as Krum. October had arrived, bringing with it a noticeable drop in temperature. The chill seemed to have no effect on Viktor – probably the result of all those years playing sport in the freezing rain and snow. But it was nice being out, just the two of them, walking hand-in-hand as the wove their way up and down the tree-lined streets – the sidewalks littered with brightly-colored leaves that crunched beneath their feet – and past row after row of shop windows, which were already full of Halloween decorations and advertisements for half-price candy.

It was late on Thursday afternoon, the pair having spent the better part of an hour wandering through one of the many parks that dotted the affluent neighborhood. They had stopped to catch their breath, coming to rest on a small bench that overlooked a nearby pond.

They sat without speaking, watching as a flock of small birds landed at the water’s edge, dipping their beaks in and sending ripples across the surface of the water before taking off again, disappearing into the tangle of branches overhead.

It was Viktor who broke the silence first. “Peter seems to think we’re ready for tomorrow.”

The hearing was set to begin at nine o’clock the next morning. Brooks had stopped by the previous afternoon, ostensibly to go over some last minute preparations with Viktor, but Rose had a sneaking suspicions he was really there to makre sure that Krum was still sober and fit to stand before the counsel.

“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?” she asked, sensing something in his tone that made her think he wasn’t so sure.

“Of course,” he said. Then, as if knowing he wasn’t convincing her of anything, he added, “And by this time tomorrow, this might all be behind us for good.”

“Do you really think we’d know that soon?”

Krum shrugged. “Anything's possible.”

Rose had already offered several times to escort him to his hearing. Not out of fear that he might get into trouble without her – Peter would be by his side the entire time, so she wasn’t concerned about that. She’d offered to go with him as a show of support, a gesture of good faith. But he’d declined.

“It will only make this more of a circus than it already is,” he’d said.

She couldn’t argue with that. They’d been lucky of late. Krum’s brief escape to Bulgaria had thrown the press off their scent. Rose had thought she’d spotted a lone photographer or two hanging outside Krum’s building, but until the last few days, they’d spent so much time locked up inside his flat, there hadn’t been anything to report on. The interest in Krum – and her by extension – had subsided. But the hearing tomorrow could change all that, especially if the two of them arrived at the Ministry arm-in-arm. And then there was the matter of Heart to contend with. She didn’t really expect him to stir up trouble, but she also knew the man well enough to know he wouldn’t pass up an opportunity for a little free publicity should "trouble" present itself.

“And after the hearing?” Rose asked. “What happens then?”

It was a loaded question, but she couldn’t help herself. They’d been getting along well enough; Rose would even go so far as to say she’d enjoyed spending so much time with him, at least once he’d gotten back on his feet. But there was still so much they hadn’t discussed. And now Rose was beginning to wonder if they’d ever get around to addressing all the things that remained unsaid between them.

Krum considered her question for a long moment, perhaps thinking the same thing she was.

But in the end, all he said was, “I guess we’ll find that out tomorrow.”

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