Ron maintained that it all happened because somebody misspelled Viktor’s name on the form. Victor Crump. It had only come across his desk because they hadn’t known who he was, initially sent some infants right out of Hogwarts who didn’t understand the concept of discretion, and the resulting media shitstorm meant that the Ministry panicked and sent in the big guns.
“You’re not the big guns,” Ginny said. “Harry’s the big gun. You’re the water pistol.”
“You can’t hurt my feelings because I don’t know what that is,” Ron sniffed.
“I don’t wanna,” Ron complained on the way over. He’d convinced Harry to Apparate first to Diagon Alley so he could stop at the joke shop before walking over. Krum’s flat was just around the corner, a pretty cushy piece of real estate. Probably bought it with his fancy Quidditch money. He probably slept on piles of gold. Whatever. Ron didn’t care. All that was ages ago, and it’s not like Krum could steal Hermione away now; they were married. And had two kids.
Well, a kid and a half. Hugo was only three months; Ron was of the opinion they didn’t become babies until they were at least a year. The first twelve months they were basically just little vomit machines that he was forced by his biological imperative to love.
Ron isn’t saying he’d wanted kids as a Hermione-specific insurance policy, he’s just saying they don’t hurt.
“You gotta let it go, Ron,” said Harry. “It’s been years. You’re a war hero.”
“Please, everybody’s a war hero,” dismissed Ron. “Neville’s a war hero.”
Harry gave him one of his patented I’m Harry Potter Looks, which had no effect on Ron, because Ron knew that Harry once farted in his sleep so loudly it woke up Bus Boy.
(Hermione always got mad when Ron called Albus “Bus Boy,” but in Ron’s defense, “Albus Severus” was an incredibly stupid name, and kids were mean. Ron was doing him a service by toughening him up early.)
“Put the Look away, I’m impervious,” Ron reminded him. “And what do you want, I said he was a war hero!”
“Yeah but you said it like it was a surprise.”
“Mate, it was a surprise. Frankly, we were all a surprise except Hermione. Most of us thought you were a dud well into your teens.”
Harry laughed, because now that he had his fancy title he sometimes liked to pretend like he was a serious grownup, but Ron knew the truth, which was that he was still just a snarky little bitch. And also Ron’s second-favorite person in the universe.
(Ron’s first favorite was a three-way tie between Hermione, Rose, and his mum. His dad was third, and so were all his siblings. Everyone else was like, a distant last.)
They stopped at the block of flats from the address. Ron frowned: this was not quite what he had imagined. Less glitz and glamor and more, like ... fallen Russian oligarch. The building was worn down, door paint chipped, and it was clear that the wards had been made and broken and remade a bunch of times, the way they are when there have been break-ins. Despite how close they were to Diagon Alley, Ron found himself kind of — well, keeping his Auror sense on, just in case.
“People definitely sell drugs here,” he surmised grimly. “Close enough to the shops to get traffic, far enough not to draw attention. I’ll bet you a galleon somebody’s got a whole kitchen full of Euphoria Elixir in one of these flats ready for sale.”
Harry hummed thoughtfully, tapping his wand against the door and saying clearly into it: “Hello, Viktor? It’s me, Harry. From school?”
“From school,” Ron muttered, snorting. “The Boy Who Lived, ladies and gentlemen.”
Harry rolled his eyes at him, because Harry didn’t think it was polite to bring up the Voldemort thing.
“’Arry!” cried the voice of the very person they’d come to see. He sounded delighted. There was a soft bzzt as the ward fell and they were allowed inside; they shared a glance before going in, pulling out their wands, just in case. Ron didn’t really think there was a Euphoria den, but also, he wasn’t going to rule it out.
There was no lift, so they trudged up six flights of stairs until they made it to flat five (“it’s rude to just Apparate into someone’s home,” said Harry), where Viktor Krum stood in the doorway, looking pleased and embarrassed to see them.
“You did not ’ave to come,” he assured them. “All is well. It was a — ah, misunderstanding, yes?”
Krum, Ron was irritated to learn, looked just as stupid as he had in school. He was tall, and broad, and had a jaw so strong you could definitely break a broomstick on it. His hair was sticking out wildly, like he hadn’t washed it, maybe, and when he saw Ron’s eyes on it he hastily patted it down, laughing sheepishly. He had very big arms. Ron was annoyed by how big his arms were.
Also, his accent had improved.
“Well, that’s good to hear,” said Harry diplomatically, allowing Krum to gather him into a bone-crushing hug. “But we wanted to stop by anyway. Just to say — ah! That’s a — that is a tight hug, okay — hello.”
Krum put him down and then turned to Ron, who quickly held his hands up to save himself from similar treatment. “I, uh. Have a cold,” he lied. “I should. Stay over here. Because of the cold, that I have.”
Krum nodded sadly at him, accepting this with great seriousness. “If you are not well, you should stay home,” he scolded. “But where are my manners, come in, come in, I make tea. You like with milk?”
“Yes,” Harry answered, before Ron could say he was allergic to tea with milk and that, since everything was fine, they should go. He did not want to have to be the one to break it to Hermione that her ex-boyfriend was living in a shady flat selling drugs. She would probably say something like oh poor Viktor, he’s just misunderstood, he’s so handsome and strong that the real drug dealers blackmailed him to be their fence.
Krum turned his back on them, disappearing into another room, and Ron was opening his mouth to say something probably a little snotty when he sort of ... looked around.
The flat was a mess. It had clearly been ransacked, drawers open and furniture overturned, rips in all of the fabric. Someone had spelled the words Сгушил са като рибарски уй across the entirety of the back wall; when Ron translated it, he winced.
“That’s some misunderstanding,” he muttered to Harry, who hummed again, this time in agreement.
Krum re-emerged, this time with a tea tray. There were three cups, none of them matching, and one of them with a chip. Ron did his best not to notice that when Krum poured the tea, he kept the chipped cup for himself.
Ronald, do not, he told himself sternly, accepting his cup with what he hoped looked like a smile but certainly felt like a grimace.
“Ah, pardon the mess,” said Krum, laughing again. His hand went to the back of his neck. “I — well! You see, there was, hm, I have fall, in the winter, during match.”
“Against Brazil,” Ron recalled, and Krum’s face lit up a little.
“Yes! You vatch?”
His accent thickened when he was excited, Ron noticed; maybe when he was nervous, too, as it had when he said meesunderstanding like they were all back at Hogwarts and he couldn’t pronounce Hermione.
Ron took a long sip of tea and did not meet Harry’s eyes. “No. Maybe. I don’t remember,” he muttered. “Maybe I just read about it.”
Krum nodded seriously, reaching across to pat Ron’s shoulder for no reason at all. “Yes. I have fall, very bad. But I think, they fix me, no problem, we have very good doctors. But ... ” His brow furrowed a little. “I don’t know. Something is happen, bones not regrow right. They have to rebreak, then fix again. Heal wrong again. Rebreak, heal bad. Many times.”
He shrugged, as if all of this were very routine procedure and not the description of torture methods outlawed centuries ago. “Anyway, is not work. Nothing — there is nothing, yes? So. Sometimes this is the way. My mother, she say: kostite znayat koga e vreme za pochivka. It is, hm. It means something like ... tired bones need sleep.”
Ron glanced around the room. The walls were worn, wood sagging a little. Tired bones, he thought, and winced.
“I didn’t read that you’re retired,” Harry said carefully. “I’m sorry I missed it. I’d have sent something.”
Krum laughed. “Retired,” he repeated, turning the word over carefully in his mouth. “Yes. This is — yes. This is what I want. But, you know, is hard. For team. I am of course big name, back home. Is ... not good, for them, I stop playing. We are have, I think, small disagreement, about this. I am have some trouble, yes? With — bank details, red tape. You understand?”
He was looking earnestly at Harry, clearly not wanting to say it out loud. Ron wondered, suddenly, whether this apartment was the best place to have this conversation at all.
“They won’t give you your money,” Ron interpreted, loudly enough to piss off whoever might be listening. “They won’t release it unless you go back and play for them even though you’re still injured.”
Harry kicked him under the table. Ron kicked back.
Krum said, “Is not — no. Team is, is like family. Want what’s best. Only have small disagreement over what is best. We work out together. No need for all this.”
He gestured at Ron and Harry to indicate that they were all this.
“So who did the graffiti?” Ron asked bluntly. “It’s not very polite. In my family if someone did that they’d be sleeping in the shed for a week.”
Harry dropped his face into his hands and hissed, “Ron,” as if Ron didn’t know that he was being indelicate. He hissed, “Harry,” right back.
“Viktor, where is your bathroom?” Harry asked abruptly. “We have to pee.”
Krum frowned. “You ... both?” he asked. “Together?”
“Yes,” said Harry. “We’re very close.”
Ron huffed half of a laugh and stood, following Krum’s gesture toward the hallway. “Won’t be but a tick,” he promised, and followed Harry to the loo. The corridor they passed through was no less grim than the rest of the building, and had more graffiti magic on it; none of it was nicer than what had been left in the living room.
Harry spelled them into a bubble. “For shit’s sake,” he said, once it had formed. “The place is obviously tapped!”
“I know,” Ron snapped, folding his arms across his chest. “Fuck those guys. I want them to hear me. They’ve got him imprisoned here, basically! They stole all his money! It’s a lot of money!”
“Yeah, and getting him in trouble with them isn’t going to help. They’re just gonna keep harassing him the second we leave.”
“Well it’s not like we’re going to leave him here,” Ron said before the thought had even fully formed in his mind. “I mean, his teacups are chipped. All his walls are fucked up. He said his bones are tired, we can’t just — !”
Harry blinked at him, face registering the same surprise that Ron felt hearing himself speaking. There was a brief moment of hesitation, and then Harry prompted, “You want to put him in under Ministry protection? He won’t say yes. It would mean he could never go home.”
Just because this was a good point that Ron had not considered did not mean he wanted to hear it. He folded his arms across his chest. “Well. No,” he grumbled. “But he can — he can come with us anyway. He can stay with you.”
“He can’t stay with me,” Harry corrected. “Ginny’s four seconds from giving birth. We’re about to have a newborn.”
“Well he can’t stay with me, I already have a newborn,” Ron argued. “And anyway, he especially can’t come to my house, because Hermione is there! He’s still — you know. He still looks like that. I don’t think she’s going to leave me for him but some things are better not left to chance, mate.”
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. Sometimes he looked so much like Ron’s mum that he worried the Weasley clan had somehow managed to change his biology through osmosis. “Okay, well, what are you suggesting? Not my house, not yours, not a Ministry safehouse. Where are we sending him, Hogwarts? — Ron, no. We’re not sending him to Hogwarts.”
Ron groaned. They couldn’t leave him here. He was basically the handsome Bulgarian Quidditch equivalent of a house elf. They had really strict house elf policies in the Weasley-Granger household.
Back in the living room, they could hear Krum puttering around with the tea. There was something kind of heartbreaking about the soft, delicate glass sounds, here in this indelicate house.
“Fuck,” Ron muttered. “Fuck. Fuck! I can’t believe you’re making me do this.”
“I mean, you don’t have to,” Harry told him, quirking an eyebrow.
“No, I’m gonna,” Ron said miserably on a sigh, and waved a hand for Harry to drop the privacy bubble. “Fucking — Krum, of all people. Why couldn’t it be someone else. Someone with a big nose and small arms.”
“Oh my God, they’re massive,” Harry agreed, following Ron back down the hallway. “How much do you think he can lift?”
“I don’t want to think about it,” Ron said. “I’m already depressed.”
Krum looked up from where he was drinking his tea, mouth covering the chip. Ron thought it was maybe because he was embarrassed. He gave them a vague smile.
Fuck, Ron thought again. Everyone was going to make fun of him, forever.
“Everything is okay?” Krum asked, and his accent had gone thick again.
Ron said, “Peachy. Lovely loo you’ve got. Lots of, uh. Roll. Anyway, listen, we’re glad to hear this was all just a misunderstanding and doesn’t require any interventions. Good to know that, uh, everything is perfectly fine.”
“Yes,” Krum said, in a voice that sounded like he’d just finished swallowing broken glass.
Harry nudged Ron at the elbow. Ron sighed, glared up at the ceiling and said, “Well, now that that’s cleared up, I was wondering if maybe you wanted to come stay with me and Hermione for a while,” and before he’d even finished speaking, Viktor fucking Krum was saying, “Yes.”
Hermione said, “Viktor! What a pleasant surprise!” and kissed both his cheeks, swinging Hugo over to one hip and delicately peeling her hand from the top of Rose’s head from where it was stuck to her leg as she peered up at the massive tree trunk of a man in their doorway.
“Rono?” she squeaked, when Ron poked his head out from behind Krum with a sheepish smile, and then toddled happily over to him, to be swung up into his arms. She smacked his cheek with her mouth, a very near approximation of a kiss. “Rono, home?”
“Yes, Rono is home,” Ron confirmed, and cut a glance at Viktor to keep him from laughing. So what if his daughter wanted to call him by his first name? That was — refined. It was very French, actually. “Did you have a good day with Mummy? Did you guys do maths?”
“Ronald,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes but looking carefully down at her nails like she always did when she was embarrassed. “I didn’t make the two year old do maths.”
He gave her a look and waited.
She said, “It’s not maths if you just happen to count the number of Cheerios out loud.”
“Cheerio?” Krum asked, looking puzzled. “What is this?”
“Lazy parenting,” Ron explained dryly, “according to my mum. Anyway, Hermione, our good old pal Kr ... Viktor has come to stay with us. For a little while. Just for a bit. Don’t be mad.”
Hermione blinked, looking from Ron to Viktor and then back. “Come to stay?” she repeated. “Viktor. Is everything all right?”
“Is fine,” said Krum, at the same time that Ron said, “To be honest, Mione, it’s completely fu—”
Hugo let out a screech that had Rose clapping her hands over her ears and Hermione getting a shuttered, traumatized look in her eyes. Ron was not proud of the fact that he’d been excited to get back to work to escape Hugo’s lung capacity, but it was difficult to deny that so far he seemed to basically only like eating, farting, and screaming as loud as he possibly could, without end. Sometimes he slept. Mostly he didn’t.
Ron was more than happy to admit it was unfair that Hermione’s job as Deputy Head of Magical Law Enforcement was more suited to working from home until the kids could get put in daycare, but as the saying went, when God opened a window for you, you climbed out.
Still: it was apparent from the way Hermione’s grip very carefully did not shift or change that she was using all her considerable willpower not to shake their baby, possibly to death, so he said, “I’ll take him. Rose, go to Mummy, okay?”
Rose’s eyes got big.
“Oh,” said Ron. “Baby, please don’t.”
It was Ron’s lot in life to love women who felt no need to listen to him, so Rose threw her head back and gave Hugo a run for his money, crying, “Rono! Hugo loud, not want loud, want home.”
“SORRY,” Hermione shouted over the racket to Krum. “SORRY, RON’S ONLY JUST GONE BACK TO WORK AND HUGO’S ONLY A COUPLE MONTHS, SHE’S STILL ADJUSTING TO ALL THE CHANGES — ”
“Bet you wish I’d left you in that shithole,” said Ron dryly to Krum, and Rose yelled, “SHIDOLE,” and Hermione punched him in the arm, hard.
Ron looked at Krum for support, but Krum was busy gently taking Hugo from Hermione and nestling him deep into the crook of his massive harm. Hugo looked so tiny there. Like a little sausage roll. Krum bent his face down and bopped Hugo’s little nose, saying something soft in Bulgarian.
Packed in nice and tight, Hugo abruptly shut up. He stared, wide-eyed, at the massive, dark-eyed creature that had stolen him from his mum and then gave the world’s tiniest little hiccuping noise before closing his eyes and just ... going to sleep.
Rose, amazed by this sorcery, stopped yelling “shithole,” and instead leaned across Ron’s chest to see whether Hugo was, Ron didn’t know, maybe dead. She probably hoped he was dead. Ron never, ever hoped he was dead but he did, frequently, wish he would stop screaming at almost any price.
“Small baby,” Krum diagnosed, sounding delighted by this. “World too big, yes? Wants back in small, warm place, yes?”
Ron realized that he was holding his breath. He glanced over at Hermione, who was looking at Krum like she was definitely, absolutely going to leave Ron for him, and honestly, at this moment, Ron felt that was fair. Ron was going to leave himself for Krum. Ron was going to rob all the banks in the world to get Viktor Krum back his money as long as it meant he’d keep their beautiful, perfect, angelic monster of a screaming baby quiet.
“I want to be in a small, warm place,” Hermione muttered, and then squeaked a little realizing she’d said it out loud.
Rose giggled. “Shidole,” she whispered, looking pleased and interested, smacking at Krum’s chest.
“Rose, don’t call our guests shitholes,” Hermione scolded, and then said, “Viktor, you can stay as long as you like.”
They installed him in the guest room, which wasn’t so much a guest room as it was the room that they’d intended to be Rose’s room, except Rose wouldn’t sleep in it. Rose slept in their room, on her little bed by the window, and Hugo slept in a crib that mostly blocked the closet and made getting dressed an absolute nightmare, so they had begun leaving all their clothes in Hermione’s office, on and around her books.
This was fine. Ron was told that this was just what parenting was: none of your stuff being where it was supposed to be and all of your children being where your stuff had been.
If Krum felt odd sleeping in a pink room decorated with flowers, alphabet blocks, and complex arithmancy equations that Ron personally did not understand, he didn’t say anything. He just stood in the middle of the room looking around and clutching the pillow Hermione gave him as if it were made out of diamonds.
“Uh ... well, goodnight mate,” Ron said, clapping his shoulder a few times. “Glad to have you.”
Hermione sighed at him and pressed a soft kiss to Krum’s cheek. “Thank you for this afternoon, Viktor. You’ve got a real gift with kids. We’re so happy you’ve come to stay,” she said, which Ron thought was a little much. It didn’t seem entirely fair that Krum should be a tall, broad, strong, famous Quidditch player who was also good with kids. Not even Harry was all of those things. Harry was skinny, and kind of weak. It was Ron’s favorite thing about him.
Krum was at least poor now, Ron supposed, which heartened him.
They tucked Rose into bed, putting her in a sound-blocking bubble in case Hugo woke, and tip-toed past where Hugo had finally fallen asleep in the crib. The sound bubble wouldn’t work for him, because they’d want to know if he cried. Ron had never envied a two-year-old so much in his life.
They climbed into bed, and he really thought he might get away with it until Hermione folded her hands together and shifted to look directly at him, waiting.
“Aw, c’mon,” he said. “It’s so late.”
“It’s barely nine p.m.,” Hermione told him. “You did not have that long of a day. I know, because I approve your assignments.”
“I was told dating the boss was sexy,” Ron complained. “This isn’t sexy. This is like having a Head of House again and I don’t even get points for good behavior.”
“I gave you two children, which I think was very sexy of me,” said Hermione, and she made a good point, so Ron kissed her. “Now. Viktor.”
Ron groaned, slouching down into his pillows and glaring up at the ceiling. “His house was so sad,” he admitted finally. “He said this whole thing about his mom, and bones? I couldn’t leave him there.”
“Is he in danger?”
Ron made a so-so motion with his hand. “No one’s gonna kill him, if that’s what you mean,” he said. “But they’re definitely gonna make his life pretty shit unless he does what they want.”
She raised her eyebrows. “And so your plan is ... ”
Ron buried his face in the crook of his arm. “I don’t know. Keep him here so he doesn’t get eaten alive by rats before lawyers can get him his money?” He pulled a pillow over his head and halfheartedly tried to suffocate himself with it. Hermione, laughing lightly, wrestled it away. When she looked down at him, her hair was falling across her shoulders, big and bushy and untended. He loved it when it looked that way. Her eyes were soft and so was the little smile she bestowed upon him before tweaking his nose, just hard enough to hurt a little.
“Don’t leave me for Viktor Krum,” Ron said. “I know he’s handsome and good with babies but he’s really poor now and the mafia is after him. I’m the much more stable choice.”
Hermione’s eyes twinkled. “Hmm, but who can resist a man at the end of his rope?” she mused. “Women love a little danger.”
“I’m dangerous,” Ron promised. “My middle name is Danger.”
“Your middle name is Bilius.”
“Bilius is Latin for danger.”
“You definitely don’t speak Latin.”
“Maybe I do. Maybe it’s just one of the many dark and dangerous secrets I’m keeping from you,” Ron said, “along with my many adventures hunting evil wizards in an attempt to save the world.”
Hermione laughed then, a real laugh, and finished leaning down to kiss him. “I missed you today,” she said, and Ron reached up to wrap a hand around the back of her neck, tugging her down until she was lying against his chest, fingers threaded into one of the buttonholes on the top of his pajamas. “I got used to all of us being home.”
Ron kissed the top of her head. “I missed you too,” he mumbled. “I even missed Mr. Scream.”
“God, he’s so loud. I love him but he’s so loud. Was Rose this loud?”
“No one in the history of the universe has been this loud,” said Ron. “Maybe Ginny. Ginny was a loud baby.”
Hermione hummed against him, and her hair was so big, and it smelled like pasta sauce. He buried his nose in it and tightened his grip a little, eyes closing. Drifting. “Do you remember sex?” he asked dreamily. “We used to have sex all the time, didn’t we?”
Hermione’s hand patted his chest. “Sounds nice,” she mumbled.
“It was so nice,” Ron agreed, but before he could remind her how nice it was, they were both asleep.
Ron woke up early, for no reason he could discern; they’d been up every few hours for Hugo, as was the norm these days. By rights he should have slept until another screaming fit woke up, but here he was blinking at the ceiling anyway. Hermione was still asleep, splayed out like a starfish with her hair in her mouth and drool on her pillow. His beautiful and perfect wife.
He crept downstairs to find Krum in the kitchen, sitting at the table looking at one of Rose’s picture books. He was sitting in one of the kid’s chairs, so his knees were all the way up at his elbows. He was so massive and also looked — he looked so, Ron didn’t know the word. Out of place, but not in like, a bad way. In a different way, than bad.
“Uh. ’Morning,” he greeted.
Krum looked up and quickly closed the book, standing up. “Yes. Hello. Good morning to you.”
They looked at one another. Ron scratched the back of his neck. “So ... are you hungry?” he asked, and then panicked immediately because Ron couldn’t cook for shit. Everyone knew this.
But it was too late. Krum was already nodding, a shy smile spreading out across his face, and how could Ron not feed him now? He went to the cupboards and opened them; they had the Cheerios for Rose, but that felt — dumb. It felt dumb for one adult man to serve another adult man Cheerios, and anyway, Krum had had a rough week. He should be eating real food.
Ron was smart. He was at the very top of his field. He was very good at chess. He was a war hero. He was a war goddamn hero.
Surely he could make pancakes.
“They’ll taste better than they look,” Ron said, without confidence.
Krum blinked down at the plate of ... well, they had all the ingredients that were in pancakes. Krum looked up at Ron, managed a smile, and then bravely stuck his fork into the mass of pancake-esque breakfast mush and took a bite.
Ron held his breath.
Krum chewed for a minute, swallowed, then said, “Wow. Is very — wow.”
“Wait, really?” Ron asked, brightening. “Hey! That’s great! I mean, yeah, of course, obviously. I’ve made these before. Many, many times.”
“Yes?” Krum asked politely. “We are — not have, in Bulgaria.”
“You don’t have pancakes in Bulgaria?”
“These are pancakes?” Krum spluttered, and then added quickly, “wow! Very different from Bulgarian pancakes. Very, hm, English.”
Ron felt himself grinning. “Thanks,” he said. “It’s my Mum’s recipe. Eat up! There’s loads more.”
Krum’s face did something Ron couldn’t quite read, and then he ducked his head, presumably to focus on eating. Ron made them both some tea, feeling quite pleased with himself.
“So,” he said, “I was thinking, I mean, me and Hermione, we were thinking you could stay here until stuff gets worked out with your team.”
Krum paused. “Is — thank you. But. Could be long time. Is big fight. Is ... hm, complicated? And you have babies. Lots of people in house. Herm-own-ninny, she is big name, very important. Can’t be distracted.”
“Okay, first of all, I’m also big name, very important,” Ron grumbled, despite himself.
Krum’s mouth twitched. “Yes. But you are work outside house, no? Go on missions for solve crime?”
Ron was an adult and he thought it was stupid that he still blushed when he was embarrased. “Oh. Right. Well. Yes.”
“I don’t think I am come with you,” Krum reasoned. “So, would be here. Big distract for kids.”
“Well, maybe but — ” Ron broke off, the idea coming to him the same way inviting Krum back in the first place had: “Wait, no, that’s a great idea.” Krum cocked his head to the side. Ron gestured at his pancakes, because their conversation had clearly distracted him from eating. “You can distract the kids! Mione’s been great about me going back to work, but I know it’s not ... I mean, she’s much more ambitious than me. The sooner she can go back full time, the better. But childcare these days is just — exorbitant, mate, I’m telling you. You’re a perfect solution!”
“...Solution?” Krum repeated blanky.
“Yeah!” cried Ron. “You can be our nanny!”
Krum frowned. “I’m not know this word, nanny.”
“It’s someone who lives with us and takes care of the kids while we’re at work,” Ron explained, gaining steam. This was a great idea. This idea had no holes in it. “You like kids, right? You were great with Hugo. Nobody’s that great with Hugo, not even me. Not even Hermione.”
Krum was blinking at him like Ron had hit him over the head with a pan, but Ron figured he was still just playing catch up. He hadn’t eaten enough, probably. He still had Morning Brain.
From the doorway, Hermione said, “What on Earth are you feeding him?”
Ron looked up. “Pancakes!” he said. “Obviously.”
Rose, scampering past Hermione and Ron without minding either of them, climbed onto Krum’s lap and grabbed a handful of the pancakes, mashing them into her mouth.
She started to cry.
“Hey,” Ron said. “Hey, hey, what’s wrong?”
“Bad,” wept Rose. “Don’t want it!”
Krum, panicked at the sound of her tears, gathered her up and held a napkin to her mouth for her to spit the pancakes out. He dabbed the corners of her mouth, and tucked her right into his arm, like he’d done with Hugo. He said in his deep voice, “Shhh, is okay. Don’t have to eat. Is grown up food, not good for little girls. No more for you, yes?”
“... Well, Viktor liked it,” Ron muttered, to distract himself from the way that he — felt, looking at his tiny daughter on Viktor Krum’s lap, having her mouth dapped tenderly with a napkin. She was staring up at him with stunned eyes. Apparently all Granger women were suckers for Krum’s handsome face.
Whatever. Ron didn’t get it.
Hermione dipped her pinky into the pancakes and tried a dainty portion. Her eyes widened and she looked down at Krum, who was focused very intently on Rose and not looking anywhere else.
“God, you ate this?” Hermione spluttered. “Viktor.”
“Is good,” Krum said soothingly, glancing at Ron and then back to Rose. “I like. Very — smooth.”
Ron opened his mouth to say see? before pausing.
“Smooth?” he repeated.
Krum nodded eagerly. “Yes! Very smooth!”
Hermione still had a hand over her mouth. It was becoming apparent to Ron that she was laughing at him. He reached across the table and grabbed Krum’s fork, getting himself a big portion, but before he could try it, Krum snatched the fork and shoveled it into his mouth.
Ron blinked. “What — ?”
“No need for you to try,” Krum said quickly, through a mouthful of food. In his lap, Rose giggled and whispered, “Is bad very not good,” and Hermione gave up on pretending she wasn’t laughing.
Ron narrowed his eyes and grabbed the fork back, dodging Krum’s hand to taste it.
And promptly spat it back out, to Rose’s shriek of delight.
“Holy shit that’s terrible,” he said, scratching at his tongue. “Oh my God you ate that?”
Krum gave a sheepish smile, looking up at Hermione as if for help. She laughed helplessly down at him. “Don’t look at me, I wouldn’t have eaten it,” she told him.
“Was nice,” Krum muttered. “Let me stay, feed me breakfast. Was nice.”
“... Oh,” said Ron, and felt his neck heat again. “Well. Don’t. Don’t ever eat that. That’s bad.”
Krum laughed, then ducked his head to gently boop Rose’s nose. “Okay,” he agreed, and smiled.
The first morning that Ron went to work, he stood at the door for five and a half minutes, anxiously adjusting his robes. Rose stood on his foot, sucking on the head of a plastic dragon that Charlie had given her for Christmas, blinking up at him.
“Rono go?” she asked around it, words garbled.
Hermione looked up from where she was seated cross-legged on the couch, wand tucked behind her ear as she looked over what Ron assumed was something terrifically boring, like budget sheets. Hugo was nestled on her lap, beneath the parchment. Ron could just barely see the tip of his head.
“Rono has to go to work, yes,” Ron confirmed sadly, lifting her up into his arms and settling her on his hip. He gently dislodged the dragon from her mouth and tucked it into the overlarge pocket of her pyjamas. “But I’ll be back tonight. Okay?”
Rose’s lip wobbled. “Rono ... no go,” she suggested wetly. “Home. No baby.”
From the couch, Hermione’s lips twitched. She looked up and met Ron’s eyes. “No baby, huh?” Ron asked.
“Loud,” Rose muttered darkly. “Too loud, baby. Don’t like. Baby go work, Rono plays dragons.”
She nodded, satisfied with this idea.
Something helpless gathered in Ron’s throat and his fingers flexed against Rose’s hip. He really — he really didn’t like leaving them, not when Rose was old enough now to know that he was leaving. Especially not when she thought he was leaving because Hugo was too loud, even though, admittedly, Hugo was often too fucking loud.
Guilt twisted in his gut.
“Dragons, hm,” said Krum, appearing at the top of the stairs wearing an old pair of Ron’s pajamas and a t-shirt that said HOLYHEAD HARPIES and definitely belonged to Harry. Ron had offered a bunch of times to go collect some of Krum’s belongings from his sad house, but Krum had just shrugged and said, “Is nothing there I need.”
Which was. Depressing.
Rose turned to look at Krum with interest. “I am know dragons! Very big. You want to see?”
“How big?” asked Rose, furrowing her brow.
“Big,” Krum assured her. “Too big for house. I show. We go to yard, yes?”
Rose hummed, sparing Ron no more glances as she twisted to hold her arms out, waiting for Krum to take her. He finished coming down the stairs and collected her from Ron’s arms. Ron’s throat tightened. He didn’t know why.
“Say goodbye to daddy,” Krum instructed Rose seriously. “He is go work. We are go play dragons.”
Rose waved at Ron and gave her own hand a smacking kiss, waving it at him. “Bye, Rono,” she said. “Dragons now.”
Krum winked over her shoulder at Ron and then turned, murmuring quietly to Rose as they disappeared into the kitchen. When Ron looked back at Hermione, she was watching him with an unreadable smile on her face. Hugo’s head shifted beneath the parchment. On impulse, Ron half-jogged to the couch and knelt in front of them, pressing his nose to Hugo’s head to bathe a little in that baby smell.
“He’s so easy to love when he’s not screaming at me,” he joked, and Hermione sparkled down at him. “You too.”
“I never scream at you,” Hermione said. She tipped forward just far enough that it wasn’t hard for Ron to stretch up and kiss her once, briefly.
“Worse, you speak sternly,” Ron agreed, and then pushed off his knees to stand. “Okay. I’m going.”
“Be safe,” Hermione said. “Give Harry my love. Tell him his expense reports are overdue and I know where he lives.”
Ron gave a salute and left them.
“Shit,” Harry said, when Ron dutifully repeated Hermione’s warning. “I forgot.”
Ron shrugged, because expense reports were boring. He’d thought as a teen that he wanted to be number one, but after hanging out with two number ones, what Ron had long since realized was that it was way better to be number two. Number one always had to do paperwork. Number two got to boss around the interns.
“Ohhh the interns,” said Harry, eyes lighting up. “I’ll make them do it. Hey, O’Farrell. Come over here. Fill this out for me.”
“Sir,” O’Farrell muttered, looking nervously at the parchment in Harry’s hand, “I don’t think I’m allowed to do that.”
“Um, it’s very important, and I’m an intern?”
Harry sighed. “At your age I had already saved the world,” he grumbled. “Kids have no sense of responsibility anymore.”
O’Farrell squeaked. Ron took pity and said, “Don’t make the kid do it, Harry. If he does it wrong, Hermione will yell at you. If he does it right and she finds out, she’ll yell at you.”
Harry acknowledged this with a begrudging nod of his head, then cast around his desk for a quill. “Fine. But this sucks. I don’t want to be Head Auror anymore. I want to be a herbology teacher.”
“You suck at herbology,” Ron reminded him.
“I also suck at expense reports, but you don’t see anyone apparently caring about that,” grumbled Harry. “Here, you take half.”
“Fuck off,” Ron laughed. He kicked his feet up on the desk. “But I’ll keep you company. I don’t have another meeting until two.”
“I don’t know, someone from the comms team. They want me to give them an overview of Krum’s case.”
Harry looked up, eyebrows rising. “Are you going to tell them that he’s living in your house?”
Ron wrinkled his nose. “I’m going to tell them that we looked into it and resolved the case to both Krum’s and our satisfaction,” he said primly. “They don’t need to know where he lives. They’re comms people. I don’t trust them not to, like, want to do a whole PR spread.”
“You don’t want them reporting you to HR, you mean,” Harry deduced with a snort. “How’s, uh. How’d it go? Was Hermione mad?”
“To see Krum? No, she was thrilled. I was right, she’s going to leave me for him. But he’s got some sort of dark power over Hugo, so honestly, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”
Harry paused in his writing. “Yeah?” he asked, looking up again. Ron did not like the expression on his face. He hadn’t said anything weird. Had he? He’d been joking. That was what Ron did. 99% of the shit he said was just the stupidest thing he could think of.
“Um, I mean. I’d be. Sad. If Hermione left me,” he said, stuttering a little. Harry’s mouth twitched. “Aw, come off it. You know what I mean.”
“Do I, though,” Harry asked cheerfully. “Wait til I tell Ginny you’ve got one of her biggest competitors living in your house. Maybe he’s a spy.”
“He’s not a spy,” Ron snapped, surprised at his own vehemence. But he — but he thought of Krum, sitting at his kitchen table eating terrible pancakes, and of all the things people used to whisper about him being a Death Eater, about the words spelled onto the walls of his house.
Fuck, Ron thought.
“Don’t,” he said, before Harry could say anything. “Nope. Do not.”
“He really got to you, huh,” Harry said, because Harry couldn’t follow basic instructions. “Wow.”
“Fuck off,” Ron muttered again. “You try looking at him with a baby and see if you don’t get a little defensive. His hands are so big. He makes Hugo look like — a sandwich. He’s like Hagrid, if Hagrid were — ”
Hot, Ron didn’t say, but was horrified to find out he meant.
“ . . . Bulgarian.”
“Bulgarian,” Harry repeated, dubious. He was having a great time. Ron hated him.
“Do your expense reports,” Ron ordered, and swept out of the room.
He was right. The comms people did want to talk about Krum. They wanted to see if Ron would be willing to get an interview with him, because he’d suddenly dropped off the map.
“Maybe he went back to Bulgaria,” Ron said. “That’s where he’s from, you know.”
“Yes,” said the beleaguered communications professional who clearly did not get paid enough for this job. “Most Bulgarians are.”
“I’m just saying. You should try looking there.”
“You really have no way to contact him?”
Ron considered this. He wondered what they were up to, at the house. It was well past lunch; probably Hermione would have put Rose down for her nap. If they were lucky, Hugo would be sleeping, too. So it would be just the two of them. Hermione told him once that she worked best in the couple of hours right after eating, because the house was quiet. So maybe she was scribbling away, and Krum was — what? What would he do in his free time?
Ron should buy him some activities. Like ... puzzles. Or — or maybe he’d want to fly around the backyard, Ron had a spare broom somewhere, and probably a Quidditch set —
Although. Would that upset him? Bad memories? Painful ones?
Maybe Krum would want to learn to knit?
That’s sexist, he thought scoldingly to himself. To think he wants to knit just because he’s a nanny now.
“Auror Weasley?” the comms lady prodded.
Ron shook his head, first to clear it and then to indicate that no, he wouldn’t contact Krum. “Nope,” he told her cheerfully, popping the p. “I really have no idea how to contact Krum when he’s in Bulgaria.”
“Do you have a way to contact him when he’s not in Bulgaria?”
“Well, I guess that would depend on where in not-Bulgaria he was.”
She sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Okay,” she said. “Fine. We’ll ask around.”
“Absolute best of luck to you,” Ron said.
Hermione was asleep on the couch when Ron came home. Rose was playing quietly on the floor. Hugo was tucked into Krum’s arm and was chewing vaguely on one of his fingers.
When Ron came in, Krum smiled up at him from the floor and put a finger to his lips. He gently prodded Rose, who turned around and lit her eyes up, but the quieting finger kept her from shouting. She toddled over to Ron, hands outstretched, whisper-shouting, “Rono!”
Ron swept her up into his arms and rubbed their noses together, then pretended to bite her jaw. “Hi, baby,” he murmured. “Did you have a good day?”
“We played dragons,” Rose told him reverently. “Big! Huge!”
Ron raised his eyebrows at Krum, who — blushed, a little. “Is little spell,” he assured Ron quietly, also getting to his feet. “Is just for fun.”
“I’m not mad,” Ron told him. “I’m jealous. I wanna play with big, huge dragons.”
“Next time,” Krum said, grinning.
On the couch, Hermione stirred. A piece of parchment fluttered off her lap as she sat up, blinking. “Oh,” she said. “Is it — time? Already, now? The night?”
“It’s been time for ages,” Ron teased, bringing Rose over to the couch and flinging both of them down onto it. Hermione’s papers went everywhere. She gave him a grouchy look, but submitted to being kissed anyway.
“I fell asleep,” Hermione told him, still sweetly disoriented.
Ron felt himself smiling, and when he looked up, Krum was smiling too. They exchanged a look.
“Why don’t you head to bed?” Ron said. “I’ll take care of Rose’s dinner. Hugo’s, too.”
“It’ll be tough for you to take care of Hugo,” Hermione told him dryly. “Unless there’s something you aren’t telling me.”
Ron ceded this point but not the argument. “Fine. You feed him, then go to bed. We’ve got Rose and ourselves. I’ll bring you up something to eat, if you’re still awake.”
She hesitated. “Just heat something up,” she told him. “Don’t — not to put too fine a point on it — ”
“I’m cook,” Krum said quickly. “Is soup. Is easy. My mama teach me.”
“There we go,” Ron agreed. “I’ll deal with the babies, Krum can cook, and you have a nice, long sleep.”
“Sleep,” Hermione echoed dreamily, which meant that Ron had won the battle. He helped her up off the couch with the hand not holding Rose and ushered her toward the stairs. She climbed without looking back.
Ron grinned over at Krum. “She’s gonna be asleep before we can bring her any food,” he bet. “So we should make her something she can wake up in the middle of the night and snack on. When she was pregnant with Hugo she was a monster for snacks. Once I caught her eating Bertie Botts with marmite.”
Krum made an oddly delicate face. “I am make soup,” he said again, more firm this time, and Ron laughed.
Hermione rolled over in bed. “Baby?” she asked, and while Ron liked to pretend sometime that she thought of him tenderly, he knew she was referring to the literal baby.
“Asleep,” he assured her. “Fed. Watered. Viktor cooked, I did dishes. We were a very efficient machine. I don’t think we even need you anymore.”
She hummed. “Oh, that’s good,” she muttered, clearly already dropping back to sleep. “Goodbye.”
Ron pressed a kiss to her forehead, chuckling against her. “See you in the morning.”
Having Viktor Krum as his nanny paid dividends almost immediately.
Rose was obsessed with him, and demanded he put her to bed every night, which meant Ron could come home and have time with Rose and Hugo while Hermione and Viktor puttered around in the kitchen, talking softly and getting to be grownups while they cooked dinner, but then Ron and Hermione could have time just the two of them while Viktor read Rose bedtime stories.
Viktor, a perennial early riser from his Quidditch days, always got up and made everybody breakfast. He was getting pretty good at it. Ron liked to watch him make it, blearily over his morning tea while Hermione fed Hugo upstairs before Rose got up.
Ron had tried a few times to help her with this little morning but she always shooed him out. This half hour was hers with them, just like Ron got his half hour when he came home.
So mostly he hung out in the kitchen and bothered Viktor with Quidditch trivia.
(“Oh, are we calling him Viktor now?” said Ginny.
“Here’s an idea: shut up,” said Ron.)
It was — well, whatever, he could admit that it was nice having Krum around. He ... you know, Ron had grown a lot since Hogwarts. He wasn’t a jealous kid anymore. He could admit that maybe he’d been a little unfair, back then.
Krum was nice. He was just a nice person. He was quietly smart and quietly funny. He tried really hard at everything, and always wanted to contribute to the household in some way even though he was already doing that by being their free, full-time, live-in nanny.
Ron liked it. It was just — it was nice. He thought he’d miss having it be just him and Hermione, but it didn’t feel like ... he didn’t know. It didn’t feel like Krum was extra, it just felt like he was also. He balanced them out, Ron guessed.
“I think you’re in looooove, Ron,” Ginny joked, after explaining to him what a water pistol was, and then nearly choked on a breadstick. “Wait. Wait. Do you have a crush. On Viktor Krum.”
“What?” he spluttered. “No!”
“You do,” Ginny hissed, putting down her wine so she could point at him with both hands. It was her first outing since Lily was born and she'd come prepared to make up for lost time. “You have a crush on your nanny! Oh my God, that’s such a cliché.”
“I don’t have a crush on him,” Ron reiterated, kicking her under the table. “Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I just like having him around. He’s a friend. Like Harry. Or — Seamus.”
Ginny leveled him with an expression that reminded him that she’d known him her whole life and was deeply unimpressed by every part of his character. “Yeah? You often wax poetic about how big Harry’s arms are and how good he is with children?”
“Harry’s got twig arms, that doesn’t even make sense,” Ron pointed out. “And he’s not that good with children.”
Ginny snorted and raised her glass in acceptance of this point. “It’s fine, Ron. Lots of people have sexuality crises late in life.”
“You’re a bad sister.”
“I’m a great sister,” Ginny answered, and then smiled at a fan and raised her wineglass toward them. “I’m famous, and I’m great at sports. I always wanted a brother who was good at Quidditch.”
Ron flicked her off. “Why do we do this again?” he asked, gesturing at the table and the empty wine bottle between them. “I’m gonna invite Fleur next time. Fleur is nice to me.”
“Fleur’s not nice to anybody,” Ginny laughed. “You invite me to Super Secret Sibling Drinks Night because I’m your favorite and everyone else would take the piss way worse.”
She paused. “Except Bill,” she added loyally.
“Yeah but I couldn’t talk about my sex life with Bill,” said Ron, horrified at the thought.
“Ha!” cried Ginny, pointing at him with the hand still holding her wine and sloshing a bit over the top. “It is about your sex life!”
Ron groaned. “No,” he said, “it’s — that’s — look, I haven’t like, done anything.”
Okay, fine. The thing was: Ron was having dreams. Not normal dreams. Sexy dreams. Dreams about, like, Hermione, but not Hermione, all the time.
Sometimes. Other people. Were in the dream.
It was just because since Hugo, they hadn’t really had the energy. It was normal! It was perfectly normal to think about sex stuff when you, when your wife was — and then to have a very strong — that is, he was objectively very — and so good, with the kids.
It was just that sometimes Ron had dreams about Hermione but when she spoke, she spoke Bulgarian.
Things came to head around Christmas, when Viktor’s team agreed to enter back into negotiations to end Viktor’s contract and give him all his money.
“That’s ... great,” Ron said to Harry, but his stomach felt ... bad.
Harry gave him a long look. “It is great,” he told Ron, almost gently, for Harry. “He can’t be your black market labor nanny forever.”
“I know that,” Ron snapped.
“I know it’ll be hard to lose the extra set of hands, but you know you can just hire a real nanny. Or ask your mom. She loves babysitting.”
“I know that.”
“Then what’s with the face that looks like you got a shit-flavored Bertie Botts?”
Ron glared you at the ceiling and said, “I just. I really like. ... The soup.”
Harry blinked. “The ... soup?” he repeated, putting down his quill.
Ron nodded as he toyed with the little rubber duck he kept on his desk, a gift from his dad, which Hermione explained was a weird gift but which Ron thought was cute as far as sculptures go. “He makes this soup. It’s Bulgarian. And it’s warm and cozy and nice and easy to — uh, digest — and we sit around the table and eat it as a big family and it just ... tastes really good.”
When he looked up, Harry was staring at him.
“Ron,” he said slowly, and Ron had a moment of panic, thinking that he’d been too obvious, with the soup metaphor. That Harry was going to make him talk about his feelings and then report those feelings to HR. “You know you can ... buy soup, right?”
Ron let out a long, relieved breath. “Yeah,” he grumbled, “but it’s not the same.”
“Is ... good,” Viktor said slowly , eyes darting between Harry and Ron. Hermione stood behind him, one hand on his shoulder and one hand bouncing Hugo against her shoulder. “This news. Yes?”
Harry nodded seriously. “Yeah. It’s good news. It means they’ll talk to your lawyers and everyone will come up with some kind of agreement.”
“And then you’ll be free of us!” Ron said with transparently false cheer. “No more Granger-Weasleys.”
Viktor frowned at him, then looked back at Hermione, who gave him a look Ron could not read. She then looked back at Ron with a look that he could read. It was a look that said you’re very stupid. Which wasn’t fair, because Ron already knew that sometimes he did very stupid things. He needed his wife to tell him new information that he couldn’t glean for himself.
“You can sit in on the negotiations, if you want,” Harry said. “Or the lawyers can do it without you. They won’t make any final decisions without your consent.”
Viktor hesitated. He wanted to go, Ron thought, but also desperately did not want to go. Ron understood; it was like how he always wanted to go to Fred and George’s birthday dinner, but also never wanted to go at all, because there was an empty seat at the head of the table.
“We can sit in with you, if you want,” Ron blurted, and the look on Hermione’s face shifted from you’re so stupid to sometimes you say the sweetest things by accident. “We can leave the kids with my mom for a bit, she won’t mind.”
Viktor visibility relaxed. “If is not ... trouble,” he said slowly. “Yes. I want this. I know, for you, it seems strange. But I am grow up with team, yes? My whole life. I know it is not always good, but a lot of it, yes, was good.”
Hermione’s face went soft and she gently thread her fingers through Viktor’s hair. “Oh, Viktor,” she murmured. “Of course it’s complicated. We understand.”
“Uh, do we?” asked Ron, indignant. “Because I feel like, fuck those guys.”
“Ronald,” Hermione hissed. Harry elbowed him.
“What?” cried Ron. “They broke into his house! They graffiti’d mean things about his mom! They took all his money! Fuck those guys!”
Viktor was looking at him warmly. He reached out a hand to pat Ron’s knee, and then left it there, his thumb tracing a soothing line back and forth.
Ron felt the tips of his ears go red and crossed his arms over his chest.
Hermione said, “How about this: I will go with you to the meetings, and Ron can stay home with the kids. That way we can reduce the probability of an international incident.”
Viktor, one hand still on Ron’s knee, reached up with the other to twine his fingers with where Hermione’s were rested on his shoulder. Something in Ron’s chest knotted, or maybe unknotted. Ron didn’t know. Ron didn’t spend a lot of time investigating his inner life; frankly, he thought it was none of his business.
“...Uh,” said Harry, looking between the three of them, eyebrows in his hairline.
“Ohhhh,” said Ginny, gesturing at the waiter for another bottle of wine. Ron was never going to get to go home. She was going to get him drunk and then he’d have to sleep at her and Harry’s because if he went home like this he’d make too much noise and wake the baby. And also maybe Rose. Certainly Hermione. “Oh, I see.”
“See what?” Ron grumbled. “There’s nothing to see. I’m just trying to tell you that Viktor wrapped up negotiations and they’re. They’re gonna give him his money. So. He can go home.”
To his own surprise, his throat was tightening. He thought he was maybe about to cry. That was weird. Ron was definitely not gonna investigate that.
“Aw, Ron,” Ginny murmured, refilling his glass. “You don’t have a crush on Viktor. You’re kind of in love with him.”
Ron startled so badly he nearly knocked over the glass. Ginny’s Quidditch-quick hands saved them. “What? No. I would never. Hermione! Ginny. Hermione.”
The smile on Ginny’s face was oddly soft. “Have you talked to her?” she asked. “About the Viktor thing?”
Ron twisted his napkin in his life. His sister was the worst. He didn’t want to have this conversation with her, or anybody, ever. Particularly not with his wife who he loved. “No,” he muttered. “What would I say.”
“‘I want to shag our nanny, but with my heart,’” Ginny suggested.
Ron bravely refrained from throwing the wine in her face.
She sent him home, which was really unfair, because he let her sleep at his house when she was too drunk to go home and face her children. But she insisted that he “talk to” his “wife.” So Ron went home, and tried to be very, very, very quiet.
“Ron?” Viktor’s voice whispered. “That is you?”
He winced. “I’m quiet,” he promised.
Viktor’s laugh, suddenly much closer than it had been before, was low, and warm. Ron felt two hands run across his shoulders as Viktor knelt in front of him. Ron had been trying to take his shoes off, but they were stuck. With deft fingers, Viktor untied them and slipped them off Ron’s feet.
Ron felt like he might cry again. He didn’t know why. “Now you're my nanny too,” he said, flopping back onto the ground. “Sorry.”
Viktor gave his ankle a comforting pat. “Is okay. I’m not mind. I like.”
“But you,” said Ron, swallowing thickly, “but you — get to go home now.”
Viktor didn’t say anything. Ron raised his head to glare at him, even though he knew it wasn’t fair to be mad at Viktor. He wasn’t, really. He was just mad in general, and Viktor was here, with his big soft hands on Ron’s stupid feet.
“I had such a crush on you at Hogwarts,” Ron blurted. “I only just realized. Maybe I still — don’t go back to Bulgaria.”
“Fuck,” said Ron, and then scrambled to his feet and up the stairs, leaving Viktor crouched on the floor by the doorway.
“I’m sick,” he told Hermione in the morning.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re hungover,” she deduced. “That’s not the same as being sick.”
“Ethically, no, but in practice, it very much is,” he wheedled, and then, at her sustained judgmental look, sighed. Ginny was probably right. He probably needed to talk to Hermione, if he was drunkenly blurting things out to the nanny he had an inappropriate crush on. “I have to tell you something.”
Because his wife loved him, and was the best person in the whole world, she climbed back into bed and patted her lap. Ron dropped his head into it and submitted to her hands in his hair, soothing away his headache. She waited patiently while he turned over the words in his mind.
Eventually he said, “It’s about Viktor.”
“Mm-hmm,” encouraged Hermione.
“And — and his going back to Bulgaria.”
“And ... how ... I ... I sort of ... okay, it’s like, you know how, when we were kids, we used to bicker all the time?”
Hermione’s smile was wry. “I recall, yes.”
“Right. And — and then we got older, and we realized, some of that was, you know, because we liked each other and didn’t know what to do about it?”
“That is what our marriage would seem to indicate.”
“Well. I think. Maybe. There were other ... instances ... of times when? I was bickering with someone because I liked them and didn’t know what to do about it?”
Ron squeezed his eyes closed, waiting for — he didn’t know, exactly.
Hermione said, “Is this about how you have feelings for Viktor?” and Ron sat up so quickly it made him dizzy. He gaped at Hermione, who was badly hiding a smile.
“Ginny’s a rat,” he said. “A traitor. A snitch.”
Hermione laughed. “That, and also you’re the least stoic person I’ve ever met in my life,” she told him, gently. “It’s been ... very obvious. Honey, you watch him cook with your chin in your hands. The first time he gave Hugo a bath, I thought you were going to cry watching them. You toweled his hair dry.”
Ron dropped his head back into Hermione’s lap with a groan. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I didn’t mean to. I’m not gonna — I wouldn’t — and anyway, it’s not like he even ... ”
Hermione hummed thoughtfully. “He’s very handsome,” she mused. “And kind. And funny. And the kids adore him, even Hugo, who doesn’t have object permanence.”
“And he’s very ...” she gestured vaguely. “Arms.”
“He’s very arms,” Ron agreed fervently, but cautiously, worried suddenly that this too was a dream. Surely his beautiful, smart wife was not letting him lay on her lap and talk about how Arms their nanny, internationally renowned Quidditch player Viktor Krum, was. “You also? Think he is arms?”
Hermione grinned. Ron never understood why people thought she was uptight, when she could look like this. She said, “I’ve always thought he was arms. I thought that when we were still at Hogwarts, snogging.”
Ron spluttered, trying to sit up, but Hermione didn’t let him, trapping him on her lap with her knees, giggling down at him. “Sorry, sorry,” she said. “We really didn’t snog that much. He was too shy.”
The wounded sound that Ron made was not entirely voluntary. “Was he good at it?” he asked, despite himself. He waited to feel his usual surge of jealousy, thinking about anybody even looking at Hermione with Sexual Intentions, but it didn’t come. Instead he felt kind of ... tender. About shy, young Viktor Krum, who’d been so ensorcelled with Ron’s wife.
And Ron, furious with the both of them.
He laughed. “I honestly had no idea,” he said, marvelling. “I really didn’t know.”
Hermione brushed his hair out of his face. “Well,” she said, “you’re smart in other ways.”
Ron sighed, leaning into her touch and muttering, “I don’t want him to go.”
“Have you told him that?”
“I’m only just now telling you that!”
“Well,” said Hermione, “maybe you should. Maybe we should. Tell him.”
“Like ... tell him?” he asked. “About — arms?”
“No, Ronald. About the implications of the Goblin War on modern geopolitics in Eastern Europe.”
“What were the implications of the Goblin War on modern geopolitics in Eastern Europe?”
“If you’d ever paid even one minute of attention in school, you would know the answer to that.”
“Aw, come on, ’Mione. Don’t punish me for past Ron’s mistakes. I’ve grown a lot as a person.”
She traced her fingertip down the line of his nose, then gently bopped his forehead. “You have,” she acknowledged. “And since you’re now so intellectually curious, there are several books I can recommend which I think do a wonderful job of capturing the nuance of goblin-wizard relations.”
“Sometimes I hate you,” Ron said darkly.
“That’s perfectly fine,” said his beautiful wife.
Viktor didn’t meet his eyes all morning. Possibly Ron was also not trying all that hard to meet Viktor’s eyes; he didn’t know what to say. He felt weirdly — shy. He wanted to hide behind Hermione, who was having no problem at all calmly and gently chatting to Viktor about the schedule for the day, making plans to take the kids skating, as if what Ron needed was to see Viktor teaching Rose to stay on her feet with unbearable gentleness!
But nobody ever asked Ron’s opinion about these things. He was ignored and then bundled up and off the five of them went.
Hermione took Rose to get her feet fitted with real skates, while Viktor and Ron simply spelled their regular shoes.
“You should definitely hold Hugo,” Ron said dryly, still not looking up. “I’m really bad at this, I’ll probably just kill us both.”
Viktor gave a very soft chuckle. “I’m hold,” he agreed. There was a notable pause, and then he added, “Ron.”
Ron sighed. Nobody in his life ever let him have any peace. Of course Viktor, kind Viktor, wouldn’t want to leave on uncomfortable terms.
He looked up, grimacing. “Yeah,” he said, resigned.
“I’m sorry,” Viktor said, which startled Ron enough that he nearly dropped Hugo. Viktor’s hands, a Seeker’s hands, came up beneath him, a safety net for Hugo and Ron both.
“What’re you sorry for?” Ron spluttered. “I’m the one who — who — ”
He gestured vaguely, to indicate something like asked you not to return home to your family just because my wife and I have a big dumb crush on you.
Viktor’s brow furrowed. “I’m ... mess up things,” he explained, as if this was obvious. “I’m ... like it here. Get too comfortable. You’re do me such kind thing, even though — ” He swallowed. “Maybe I’m confuse everybody, I think. But is my fault, because I — because I am want to stay, too. I’m like ... be part of the family. I’m want ... too much, what I’m want, you see?”
Ron knew he was gaping like a stupid fish, but his brain felt like it had been been hit with an anaesthetic spell. Viktor was looking at him with an expression that was all too easy to read, sad and tender and affectionate, like he — like Ron was something he —
“But I’m never ask — not ever,” Viktor told him fiercely. “Not hurt Hermione. Not hurt — you. Everyone get all hurt. So I ... so you see, why I’m have to go, yes?”
Hermione and Rose emerged from the office. Ron gesticulated between them and Viktor.
“He likes us!” Ron cried, to Viktor’s horror; his cheeks colored as darkly as Ron’s ever did.
Rose gave Ron a very droll look, for a two-year-old. “Rono,” she said, “is Vik-a-ter.”
Hermione’s eyebrows shot up. “Did you tell him?” she asked. “Without me?”
Now it was Viktor’s turn to look bewildered. “Tell me what?” he asked. “No, I’m say sorry, for — ”
Ron flapped a hand at him, shushing him. “Shh, shh, I’m having an epiphany,” he said. “You like us.”
Hermione pinched her nose. “Ronald, for God’s sake.”
Viktor was red to the tips of his little ears. “Sorry,” he muttered again. “I’m not mean to, it’s happen before I notice, yes? But I go soon. Is not problem.”
“Go?” Ron spluttered. “No, what? You can’t go. You have to stay. Forever. You like us!”
“What?” asked Viktor.
“What, what?” said Ron, who felt his logic was impeccable.
Hermione, taking pity on them both, said gently, “Viktor, do you want to go on a date with us?”
Ron pointed at his wife. “Yeah!” he agreed.
“I was asking Viktor,” said Hermione, dry.
Viktor looked back and forth between them. “Date?” he repeated, sounding dazed. “With — all three of us?”
Rose rugged impatiently on Ron’s hand. “Ice, Rono,” she commanded. “Ice now.”
“Just a sec, baby,” Ron told her. He didn’t look away from where Viktor was staring at Hermione like she’d sprouted a new head. “Come on. It’ll be fun. Hermione can bore us both with stories about the Goblin War.”
“Ice now!” Rose cried again, louder this time. Ron handed Hugo to Viktor, who took him with a dumbfounded expression and then looked down as if to see whether Hugo had any ideas about what to say.
“Think it over,” Hermione told him gently, one hand on his arm. “There’s absolutely no pressure. You can say no and still stay as long as you want.”
“Rono!” Rose shouted, and Ron gave up, giving Viktor and Hermione a helpless shrug and then taking Rose out onto the ice, which was a bad idea because Ron himself could barely skate.
He clung to the wall and Rose clung to him and slowly, slowly they made their way around the rink. Eventually Hermione skated over to help them both, skating slowly backwards with her hands holding Rose’s to keep her balanced while Ron shuffled delicately after them.
He noticed, out of the corner of his eye, Viktor and Hugo taking a long, slow lap. Viktor was talking softly to the baby, their noses close. Ron’s heart constricted.
Say yes, he thought at Viktor, a little helpless. Say yes.
Viktor looked up, and their eyes met. There was a long, terrible stillness, and then Viktor gave a single, firm nod.
“I’m gonna vomit,” Ron said. “How do I look?”
“You’ll look a lot less handsome if you vomit,” Hermione told him, but he could tell she was nervous because she’d spelled her hair into tame, gentle waves, which she only ever did when she needed to feel particularly confident.
She was wearing a dress, one of the velvet ones that Ron loved, and she looked so pretty that it took a not inconsiderable degree of willpower not to kiss her enough to ruin her lipstick. He straightened his bowtie in the mirror.
“He’s a hot celebrity,” Ron whined. “I work for the Ministry. What were we thinking?”
She raised her eyebrows at him. “I also work for the Ministry,” she pointed out.
“Yeah, but you were his first love,” Ron dismissed. “You could work for Voldemort and it would probably be fine.”
Hermione snorted, soothing her hands over his shoulders. “You’re very handsome,” she assured him. “And he already knows that you’re lame, and that you can’t cook, and that you leave the toilet seat up.”
“There are more men than women in the house, officially,” Ron pointed out. “So I’m just saying, the toilet seat thing should be a negotiation.”
Hermione rolled her eyes, opening her mouth to respond right as three timid knocks tapped against their door, and it snapped shut. She and Ron stared at one another, frozen in panic, before Ron gestured at her to open it. She shook her head, pointing at him, but Ron wasn’t going to do it! Ron wasn’t Viktor’s first love! They had to lead with their strongest asset!
There was another soft rap, then the sound of Viktor clearing his throat. “Herm-own-ninny? Ron? You are here?”
“Yes,” Ron squeaked, and pushed Hermione toward the door. She glared back at him, then smoothed down the front of her dress, and opened it.
Viktor was standing in the doorway, Rose on his hip. He was wearing a fresh-pressed set of dress robes and his hair was slicked to the side. It looked terrible, and stupid. Ron was flooded with affection, looking at him shift nervously from foot to foot, and his nerves evaporated, as soft as steam.
Oh, he thought. It’s this easy.
“Mama,” said Rose, eyes big. “Pretty!”
Hermione chuckled, reaching out to take her daughter from Viktor, who then shoved his hands nervously into his pockets. “Thank you, sweet girl,” she cooed, rubbing her nose against Rose’s. “Are you excited to see your gran?”
“Granny cook,” Rose explained, nodding. “Lots and lots. I cook, too. With spoons!”
“Wow, with spoons and everything,” marveled Hermione. “How exciting. Shall we go now? Are you ready?”
“I’m ready,” Rose agreed, then paused to frown. She pointed at Ron and his outfit. “Why this?”
Viktor’s lips twitched. “Dress for the job you want,” Ron told Rose, and could tell by the way Hermione’s hair bounced a little that she’d broken out into a smile.
“New job?” asked Viktor, grin playing on the edge of his mouth. “Promotion?”
Ron shook his head. “Team expansion,” he said. “I hope.”
Ron learned three things at dinner. First, that a date with three people was very different from a date with only two people, particularly if one of the three people was already your wife. Second, Ron was bad at dating, and had never done it successfully until Hermione, and they hadn’t even dated, really, they’d just sort of ... not been together, and then been together, and that was that.
And finally, he learned that if you sit directly across from your date, who has very long legs, you can tangle your feet with theirs under the table and that will make them blush into their butterbeer.
But mostly what he learned was that he was pretty sure they’d been dating Viktor Krum for like, a while. He was pretty sure the trips to ice skating rinks and parks and museums, and the long nights with the three of them drinking wine in the kitchen after dinner, and all the times they’d sat, semi-tangled together on the couch while Rose played with building blocks in front of them and Hugo napped or screamed in his playpen, were, in their own way, dates.
Viktor was, just now, bless him, genuinely listening to Hermione tell him about the implications of the Goblin War in modern geopolitics. Ron thought it was unfair that Viktor got the answers spoonfed to him when all Ron had gotten was some lousy book recommendations, but he supposed that was the benefit of being the hot nanny. You didn’t have to do any of the research that the boring, Ministry-employed husband had to do.
“Still so smart,” Viktor said, eyes warm as he shook his head at Hermione. “Still most smart person in all the world, I think.”
Hermione blushed. Ron felt himself puff up a little, with pride. His wife was the most smart person in all the world, it was true. And she’d married Ron. So. That meant ... something good about Ron, probably.
“You’re very smart, Viktor,” Hermione told him gently. “You used to do that all the time, play it down I mean. But I’ve read some of your essays. You’re very insightful.”
Viktor laughed. “I’m smarter in Bulgarian,” he said wryly. “English ... Not sure. Could learn more, but ... ”
A somewhat furtive look came over his face. “But what?” Ron asked.
“But I’m not like talk to English media,” Viktor admitted, a little sheepish. “So. My English not so good, they not ask such hard questions, I’m sometimes say, ‘Not understand,’ and they believe, don’t push. This has been very helpful.”
Run guffawed, delighted with this piece of news. Beside him, Hermione covered her smile with her hand. “Mate,” Ron said. “That’s brilliant.”
“Is cheating, I know.”
“In this house, we love cheating,” Ron assured him, then glanced at Hermione and amended, “for a good cause.”
“Let’s hold off on teaching Rose about our household cheating policy until she’s got a more developed moral landscape,” Hermione suggested.
“Buzzkill,” said Ron.
“Prat,” said Hermione.
“I like,” said Viktor, quietly.
They both turned to look at him. He was watching them, smiling a little, hand toying with the edge of his napkin.
He said again, “I like. You — the way — is nice. In school, I’m not understand, why you are friends. Herm-own-ninny, I think, is smartest person I’ve ever met, most nice, most pretty. Ron is — ”
“Stupid and mean?” Ron suggested dryly. “Ginger and poor?”
“Funny,” Viktor corrected, frowning. “Loud. Big — presence, yes? And always you bicker. Always Hermione is saying to me, Ron say this, Ron does that, so annoying.”
“Wow,” said Ron.
“I was right,” Hermione told him.
“That’s not the point,” said Ron.
“What’s the point?” asked Hermione.
“Shhhh,” said Ron. “Be polite honey, Viktor’s talking.”
Viktor said, “But even with this, she says Ron with big smile, every time. Even mad, she says Ron like he is favorite person in all the world. I’m not understand, then. But ...” He shrugged. “Now, yes. I see. Is good, you annoy, you tease. Hermione likes. Is ... good balance, yes?”
“Most of the time,” agreed Hermione, giving Ron a soft look. “Sometimes I really do think about places in the backyard I could bury his body and get away with it.”
Ron put his nose in the air. “Well, sometimes I think about faking my own death and framing you for the murder, so there,” he informed her, before turning back to Viktor. “It’s, um. Back at Hogwarts. I was kind of, I mean, I wasn’t always. Very nice to you.”
Viktor grinned. “Jealous,” he said. “I know.”
“Well,” muttered Ron, “yeah. But not ... I don’t think it was just that I was jealous of — of you spending time with Hermione? I think I also ... was jealous of Hermione, spending time with you.”
Under the table, Hermione reached over to grab his hand and give it a light squeeze. Viktor blinked. “With me?” he repeated.
Ron shrugged. He could feel his ears getting hot. “Yeah. I was — really excited to meet you, before ... well, before you showed interest in Hermione, I guess. And then every time I thought about it I was just so mad, because Hermione didn’t even like Quidditch, so why did she get to hang out with you? And I ... well. Hindsight, you know.”
“You wanted ...” Viktor swallowed. He looked at Ron, then Hermione, then back at Ron. “Even then?”
“Sometimes,” said Ron, “I’m a little slow on the uptake.”
“And — still?”
Ron glanced at Hermione. She was smiling at him. She looked weirdly proud. She was still holding his hand. Ron looked down at his butterbeer, then back up at Viktor, and gathered up all his heart in his hands and said: “I don’t think I can because this is a public place and you’re really famous and that table in the back has been looking over at us all night because I think they want an autograph, but I’d really — Viktor, we’d really like to, uh, kiss you,” and Viktor’s hand shot up to signal the waiter so fast he knocked his fork off the table.
It was strange, kissing a man. For one thing, Viktor was much taller than Ron, and he’d never kissed anyone taller than him. He had to go on his tip-toes. For another, Viktor was — very strong, and his grip on the back of Ron’s neck was so secure that he wasn’t entirely sure he’d have been able to get free of it, even if he’d wanted to.
And for a third thing, he was still holding Hermione’s hand.
“Stairs,” she murmured.
Viktor, without breaking away, simply heaved Ron up so that his legs wrapped round Viktor’s waist and began to climb them. Ron pulled back, then looked over Viktor’s shoulder at where Hermione was following them up, eyes dark.
“Did you see that,” Ron said to her. “Are you seeing this.”
“Arms,” Hermione said.
“Very, very arms,” agreed Ron.
He could feel Viktor chuckle against him, his mouth on the collar of Ron’s robes. Ron hadn’t ever been carried up stairs before, he didn’t think. He couldn’t remember the last time he was carried at all that he wasn’t suffering from some sort of near-fatal injury.
They made it to Ron and Hermione’s room without incident, Ron too busy cataloguing all the places Viktor was touching him, editorializing to Hermione, who kept saying things like, “I know, Ron,” and, “I can see that, Ron,” and “I’m right here, Ron,” but he really wasn’t sure that she did know or could see or was there, because all of this felt like an insane hallucination he was surely having, and also, you could see that a man was strong without really internalizing it the second he picked you up like you weighed nothing.
Hermione was laughing. Viktor was carrying Ron toward the bed, biting his jaw and keeping his hand out for Hermione to balance on as she kicked her heels off by the door.
Ron hit the mattress with a soft oof and then stared up at his wife and their — Viktor, holding hands above him, wearing matching grins.
Ron said, “If I wake up and it’s 1995 and this is just a very plot-heavy dream, I’m going to be so fucking mad.”
Hermione climbed onto the bed, twining their legs and tugging Viktor down with him. “I’d be okay,” she mused. “I was snogging Viktor in 1995.”
Viktor shook his head, he put one hand on Ron’s face, and one on Hermione’s. “No,” he said. “Is better. Like this. All three.”
“All three,” agreed Ron, and kissed his wife, and kissed Viktor, and felt the weight of both of them, pinning him down. It felt good, to be secured. To be held in place.
Hermione’s hand slipped up and into his robes, gently freeing the buttons, while above her Viktor undid the zipper down the long stretch of her spine. Ron, with less grace, reached blindly for where he thought Viktor’s dick probably was, and surprised all three of them by absolutely nailing it.
“I’ve never done — this, before,” he realized, as the dress slipped off Hermione’s shoulder, and Viktor’s hand shot down to keep Ron’s where it was.
Viktor smiled. Warm. Always so warm, when he looked at them. Always so full of open affection.
That anyone could have ever been unkind to him, even Ron himself, made Ron’s blood boil. He’d have to do violence, probably, but later. Right now he didn’t want to do violence. He wanted to be — something else. Tender, maybe. He wanted Viktor to think of Ron’s house as his home, Ron’s family as his family, Ron’s bed as his bed.
He wanted Viktor to think of Ron’s hand as his hand, Ron’s mouth as his mouth, Ron’s heart as —
Ron’s heart as —
“I’m show you,” Viktor offered, “what I know. What I’m not know, we — figure out. Together.”
“All three,” said Hermione, and Ron dragged them both down to kiss them, one after the other, in turn.
Ron’s mum was going to floo over soon. They needed to get out of bed. They needed to not look like they’d been having sex with Famous Retired Quidditch Player And Sometime Nanny, Viktor Krum.
But he was so warm, and so comfortable. Viktor’s hands were in his hair. Hermione’s hand was on his chest. There weren’t any screaming babies anywhere in the whole house.
Hermione rolled over. Her hair had come out of its bun, and it tickled Ron’s chest as she leaned over him to look at Viktor. “We would both be very happy,” she said slowly, making Viktor look her in the eyes, “if you’d stay on. Not as our nanny. As our family.”
“Family,” Viktor repeated, “yes,” and the smile on his face could have outshone all the lights in a hundred thousand Quidditch stadiums.