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A Night in the Woods

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Alone in her tent, Hermione Granger finally decided to cast Nox after she finished reading one of the heavy texts she'd taken with her.  As much as she had been enjoying her books, it was well past the time for her to sleep.  She had taken advantage of her mum being back in London and Mrs. Weasley staying behind at the Burrow.  For once, there had been no one to tell her to stop reading and to go to bed.

She wrinkled her nose when the quiet voices of Harry and Ron carried over from the tent next to her.  Of course, with the excitement of the Quidditch World Cup and no maternal hovering, the boys had taken advantage of it as well.

But the voices were starting to fade as much as Hermione was.  She shrank her books to fit back into her bag and settled it on the ground.

She was good enough at charms that she probably could have transfigured the sleeping bag into a more comfortable bed but she'd decided that one night in 'true' camping style couldn't hurt.  After all, how often was she going to be in a tent, actually camping?

Hermione smiled as she snuggled down into her pillow, drifting off...

The screams ripped through the night and into her dream, forcing Hermione to sit up in terror, confused as to what was real and what was nothing more than a shaky dream.  The sleeping bag twisted around her legs when she tried to move and she found herself sprawling on the ground before she managed to shake herself free.

Shoes on, wand in hand and then she was outside of her tent, joining the shocked looking Harry and Ron as they stumbled out of their own tent.

"Harry, what is it?" Hermione asked, flinching as panicked screams continued to pierce the night air.  It was obvious now what had been dream and what was real.

"I don't know - we need to get to Mr. Weasley before..."

One moment, they were all standing around in a huddled, confused group and the next, Hermione found herself on the ground, crushed next to Harry with Ron on top.  It took her longer than normal to figure out what had happened - someone running toward them in the shadows, the green blast of the killing curse flying over their head as Ron slammed into them, saving them all - and then she was twisting her arm out from under Harry's hand and screaming "Aresto Momentum!" at the top of her lungs.

The person in the dark robes had been running so fast that not only did the spell stop him immediately but he ended up tumbling before finally coming to a rest at their feet, unconscious from the fall.

Ron was up first and, to her surprise, he helped to pull her to her feet.

They stared down at the figure at their feet.  "Death Eater," Harry said roughly, his knuckles turning white around his wand and Ron gulped audibly.  "Now we really need to..."

He was interrupted again but there were more this time one solitary Death Eater.  Five of them suddenly emerged from the bushes around them but before they could realize exactly who they were facing, the trio had turned and sprinted into the woods.

"Split up!" Hermione screamed, dodging around a tree as they headed deeper into the woods.  In the dark wood line three separate, fleeing bodies would be harder to hit than one mass.

She was so certain that they'd follow her sudden order that she didn't even bother to wait for their responses, just took off at a dead run, grateful that she'd taken the time to put on her trainers before leaving the tent.  Ron, she'd noticed, hadn't and it was hard enough running around the forest in sleeping shorts and a t-shirt.

Hermione grimaced in pain as a branch ripped at her legs but she gave Harry a thankful thought.  If she hadn't met him, there'd be no way she could have kept up the mad dash through the blackened forest.  Then again, she hated Quidditch and if it hadn't been for him...

She stopped herself immediately because that road was a dangerous one to follow.  Not for one moment, one single moment, would she have traded Harry's friendship (or Ron's for that matter) for anything.  Not for the safety that never went hand in hand with being one third of the trio.

It was worth it; this running and fleeing, this fighting of You-Know-Who.  All of it.

There was enough time to register the hand on her arm, enough time to realize that she was being yanked to the side but not enough to scream in shock.  Just in case, the hand transferred from her bicep to across her mouth - more gently than she would have previously thought but still firm enough she would have trouble breaking the hold.

Someone murmured something in a language she didn't recognize and she shook her head, the hand with the wand starting to come up.

"No time," came the rumble from the man - it was hard not to notice - holding her.  "Please, if not quiet they find."

The accent was thick but Hermione understood the broken English well enough to freeze as the Death Eaters that had been following her rushed past.  In their haste, they missed the shadowy hiding spot that Hermione had been dragged under and her surprise rescuer wasted no time in lifting up his wand.

The curse sent one of them crashing into the underbrush but the other managed to dodge, spinning around, wand lifting.

Hermione ripped the hand away from her mouth as she shouted "Expelliarmus!" as the man behind her yanked her out of the path of a more sinister hex, putting all of her fear and worry into that one spell.  Not only did it send the wand spinning away but the sheer force behind the magic slammed into the man and sent him head first into a nearby tree.

She lowered her wand as she panted, eyes wide with fright as she spun to take a good look at the wizard behind her.

"...Viktor Krum?" she said, blinking with the sheer shock of it.

Viktor didn't look surprised that she'd figured out who he was (it was rather difficult not to, even if one didn't care for the game), just resigned to it.  He had obviously been driven out of his bed as well for he looked rumpled in his clothes, though whatever traces of sleep had been there had faded away with the attacks.

"Okay?" he asked, gesturing at her and she realized he was asking if she was hurt.

"Yes, oh, just ... winded.  Very winded."  She smiled at him sheepishly, surprised when the glower on his face disappeared for a moment as he returned the small gesture.  "Thank you for that, I hadn't realized how close they were..."

Hermione went white as she glanced back at the fallen Death Eaters.  That could have easily been her.  When a hand grasped hers gently, she shook herself and looked back to Viktor.

"Ve must go," he said, tugging on her hand gently.  "There vill be more."  He paused and it was his turn to look sheepish.  "Ah, my manners are..."  He struggled to find an appropriate word and Hermione squeezed his hand.

"Considering the company I normally keep, and the circumstances, your manners are fine," she reassured him as they started to walk again.  "I'm Hermione Granger."

The look he sent her would have normally made her laugh - it was obvious that just hearing her name, not an easy one for some even who spoke English, was sending his brain into fits.  "You can call me Granger until the first name is easier," she offered.

He obviously didn't think it was proper but it would save time if he had to shout out a warning and so they lapsed into silence once more as they tried to find their way out of the darkening woods.

They were still holding hands and normally Hermione would have felt self-conscious about it and would have found a way to remove her hand from his.  Outside of her boys, she wasn't much of a physical contact type of person.  Her parents had never been big on it, though she knew they loved her and each other in turn, and it had taken a while for her to get used to the casual touching that some people found came naturally to them.

Like the entire Weasley clan.

But his hand, big and rough with callouses from the broom and snitch, was an anchor in the dark and she clung to it gratefully.  She didn't know much about Viktor Krum except that he played for the Bulgarian Quidditch team and that he was around three years older than she was.  Ron could have filled her in on more information than she needed to know - which was certainly saying a lot about her! - on Viktor's past.

There was only one thing she did know about him.  He was brave.  He could have stayed in the shadows and let her run past.  She never even would have known he was there.  But he'd decided in a split second to intervene and save the life of someone he'd never even met before and at great risk to his own life.

Ron might have been able to tell her when he was born or the names of his relatives but Hermione knew that she understood the most important thing about him.

And that was the reason she was still holding her hand.

Or, she thought, that was most of the reason.

Suddenly she froze and Viktor, who had still been walking forward, came to a stop when his hand jerked against his.  He turned and frowned, the expression turning an already broody face into something else.

"Vat?  Is something..."  He stopped then and jerked his head around at the faint sound.

Someone was crying.

It was hard to hear but under the whisper of the wind, Hermione could barely make out the sound of small sobs.  It took her a moment to locate the direction it was coming in and she looked over at her companion, eyebrows raised.

He immediately nodded and tightened his grip on both her hand and his wand.

Sighing in relief, Hermione tugged him in the right direction and they carefully made their way through the thicker parts of the trees.  It took them a couple of minutes but they finally found themselves on the edge of a clearing and then...

It was only Viktor's grip on her hand that prevented her from bolting from the protection of the trees.  He tightened his hand around hers almost painfully - she'd probably bruise the next day - but it was either that or have her run head long between the three Death Eaters that surrounded two weeping children.

Red, boiling rage pushed past her fear and exhaustion and a quick look at Viktor's face showed her that he was right there with her.

Viktor pulled her against him and bent his head to whisper against her ear, lips gently touching the shell.  "Ve vill need to be quick," he said and she shivered as goosebumps exploded on her neck.

She lifted two fingers and pointed at herself and he nodded - those two were standing close together and she had an idea.

Hermione squeezed his hand right before she stepped back, slashing her wand through the air as she silently worked her magic.

In the clearing, the effects were instantaneous.  A large tree, felled by some prior thunder storm, levitated and was sent crashing into the two Death Eaters closest to her.  At the same time, Viktor's had spelled ropes to lash tightly around the one that was still standing.

Not waiting to see if he followed, Hermione dashed into the clearing and scooped up one of the children in her arms.  She reached down to grab the other one but Viktor was there before she was and the small boy was firmly in the crook of his arm.  They paused to shift the children so they both had a better grip before heading back out, taking no time to check on the hopefully unconscious Death Eaters.

The small girl in Hermione's arms tightened her near-death grip around her neck as she crashed through the underbrush again.  An unseen branch caused her to trip and she landed hard on her knees, hissing in pain as she felt the skin give way under the assault.  The child wailed softly and she tightened her arm as she struggled to regain her feet.

Viktor paused and helped her climb back to her feet, once again grasping her free hand in his.  They continued their break neck pace for a while until they slowed, listening intently to the sounds around them.

Wordlessly, Hermione accepted the boy from Viktor and sat down with both children while the young man took stock of their surroundings.  Having never spent much time in the woods, she was going to leave that to him.

She murmured encouraging words at the children and sighed with relief when she managed to get them to admit that they were young witches and not young muggle children.  They looked to be siblings but she had no idea how old they were.  As an only child, she hadn't had much experience with younger kids outside of the ones in lower years at Hogwarts.

Eventually, Viktor rejoined them and they decided to keep pressing on.  He had thought he'd seen the light of bonfires in the distance and Hermione figured that if the ones lighting them weren't friendlies, they would keep their distance.

Standing to give the boy back to Viktor, she shivered as the wind turned even colder.  It might not have been fall yet but the night had been a damp one to begin with.  Coupled with the sweat soaking her shirt from the fright and running and Hermione was starting to get cold as the night wore on.

"Give her to me," Viktor suddenly urged, and gently sat the little girl down next to her brother.  Hermione looked at him curiously when he grabbed the helm of his jumper and pulled it over his head, revealing that he was wearing a simple undershirt beneath it.  "Here."

"Oh!  Oh, I couldn't..."  She trailed off, glad that the night kept her blush from showing.

Viktor shrugged.  "Bulgaria is much colder.  This?  Pff, you Englanders, all the same."  There was a teasing tone to his words and Hermione smiled tiredly as she shrugged into his shirt.

He was much bigger than she was and the jumper covered more skin than her nightclothes had; she was forced to pull the sleeves up over her elbows so she could once again get a good grip on the girl.  It was also warm from his body and she snuggled into it, surprised at how cold she had gotten before without even realizing it.

This time, Hermione was the one who reached for his hand and she entwined her fingers through his.

The pace was slower now; the weight of the children forced them to move slower through the forest and they were keeping an eye on the light in the distance.

Roughly ten minutes later and they were emerging into the circle of the bonfire, both squinting against the change in light.  Hermione's eyes were watering as several wizards cautiously approached them with their wands out.  Once they realized that they weren't Death Eaters, they were surrounded by concerned adults.

"Are either of you hurt?"  "Where are your parents?"  "Aren't those Jacob's children?"  "Oh my god, are you Viktor Krum?"

"Enough, Marsha," came a chiding voice and a tall wizard pushed his way through the crowd.  He pushed his monocle back up his nose as he gave them all a quick but thorough once over.  "Yes, yes, I believe those are Jacob Creveline's children - I heard they went missing near the start of the attack.  Here, my dear, let us take them..."

Herimone let a cooing witch take the girl from her arms and Viktor soon followed suit with the boy.  She rubbed at her shoulder, suddenly aware of how much weight had been in her arms since they'd found the children.  The wizard, whose name it turned out was Devon, took her by her other elbow and gently led her to a stump by the fire.

Viktor crouched next to her as he accepted a cup of what turned out to be firewhiskey.  He took a sip and then looked shocked when Hermione reached over to snag the cup from him.  If it had been Ron or Harry, she would have confiscated it but Viktor was of legal wizarding age.

No, she wasn't taking it to toss it in the sand.

After the night she'd just had, one sip wasn't going to hurt her.

Devon ignored them as she gave a bemused Viktor the cup back, coughing hard into her fist.

"Well, I know who the young man is but miss, you are...?"

Hermione cleared her throat and winced, determined to never, ever have that awful stuff again.  "Hermione Granger, sir," she responded and watched as Devon suddenly straightened, eyes brightening in the light from the fire.

"Miss Granger, you've been one very missed young witch!" he exclaimed as he took out his wand.  "Expecto Patronum!"  They watched with awe as a sparrow exploded out of his wand and took off.  "Ahh, there we go, that'll bring those that are looking for you running.  Now, in the meantime, lets get you two some food and warm you up."

By the time they were handed bowls of stew, Hermione was feeling more than a little drowsy.  She had been in the middle of falling asleep when the Death Eaters had attacked and now that the adrenaline had worn off, she was starting to feel the effects of the flight and fighting that had followed.  Viktor had joined her on her log and she was using his shoulder to make sure she wouldn't tip right into her food.

The most frustrating thing, though, was the lack of information.  Every time she asked, she just got a smile and a pat on the hand.  They were probably trying to not stress her out but Hermione was stressing out by not knowing.  She expected it was her age though Viktor hadn't gotten anywhere, either.

She sighed and took another bite of her stew; half-way through chewing, she heard her name and jerked her head up to scan the milling crowd.

A flash of red had her scrambling to stand on the log, straining to just see - and then she saw it again.

"Hermione!" Bill shouted, shoving witches and wizards aside to get through.  "Charlie," he called over his shoulder, "go tell dad we found her!"

She squawked when she was unexpectedly lifted in a brief bear hug before being settled back down.  She didn't know Bill all that well but from the relief on his face, she could tell that Devon hadn't been exaggerating when he had told her a number of people had been worried when she hadn't been found earlier that night.

He gave her a quick once over, frowning at the blood on her knees (a medi-witch had been by but had determined that they weren't very deep and had done the basics before running off to someone with a more urgent case) but very obviously pleased that she was pretty much in one piece.


Hermione was interrupted as Bill stepped aside and more red assaulted her senses.  This time, it was Mr. Weasley - she was startled to see that he'd been injured in the attacks and grew more worried about how her boys had fared.

Mr. Weasley sighed and his shoulders slumped as he took her in, sliding one arm around her shoulders as he pulled her in for an awkward, but genuine, hug.

"Ahh, Arthur, there you are," Devon said as he joined them.  He shook hands with Bill, and Charlie who had joined them, before nodding to the boys in turn.  "Found all your children, then?"

Hermione felt Mr. Weasley give her another quick squeeze around the shoulders before he said fondly, "Now I have, Devon, now I have."


Hours later, Hermione stifled a yawn as she reduced all of her camping equipment.  Mr. Weasley and the two older boys had led her from the campfire and to where Harry and Ron had been forced to wait (and much to the disgust of Ron, under the watchful eye of Percy).  They'd been left alone to cling and catch up on what had happened to each other.

She shook her head at it all; she felt tired and battered, especially since they'd been unable to get any sleep even after the Ministry had finished with everyone.

Now it was just a matter of getting to the portkey home, being interrogated and smothered by Mrs. Weasley (though if she were completely honest, she wouldn't mind with a bit of mothering at the moment) and then sleeping.  Glorious, glorious sleep.

Turning, she gasped when she saw a shadow detach itself from the woods around her and pointed her wand at it.

Only when Viktor sheepishly raised his hands as he stepped out of the shadows did she lower the wand.

"I'm sorry, Herm-own-ninny..."  he blushed as he mangled her name but when she smiled at him, he kept going.  "I vanted to say goodbye before ve all left."

"Oh."  She blushed in return.  Now that the danger was over, she could see how attractive he could be when he wasn't scowling at the crowd.  She'd seen a side to him that she rather liked a few hours previous but was horribly confused by.

He came forward and rubbed the back of his neck.  But he stopped when he saw what she was still wearing and a smile crept across his face.  "Keep that," he teased, fingering the sleeve, "it ... how you saw, looks better on you?"

Now she was blushing and she smacked his shoulder as he laughed quietly.  "Thank you, again," she said after a moment, tucking her wand back in her pocket, trying to keep her hands busy.  "Last night would have been very different if you hadn't saved me."

He shrugged.  "We helped each other," he admonished, shaking his finger at her.  "Powerful vitch like you?  You vould haff been okay.  But I am glad we weren't alone."  There was a lull in the conversation as Viktor patted down his pockets before pulling out a piece of paper.  "Season is over but, ah, school is starting."

Hermione nodded.  "Same for us - I'll be back at Hogwarts soon."  And as much as she was hoping they could put the attacks behind them when they got to school, she was smart enough not to delude herself.

"And I vill be vith Durmstrang."  Viktor's face tightened with hesitation for a moment before he reached out and gently placed the paper in her hand.

"What is it?" she asked, opening it up.

"Address.  For owl.  If ... if you vish to write."

Now he was looking at everything but her, scanning the trees around them, the overcast sky and the trampled grass.  It was surprising to her that anyone at his level could be, well, bashful but it added to her response.

Hermione reached up and gently kissed him on the cheek before stepping back, slipping the paper into her pocket for safe keeping.  "I will, I promise.  And maybe we might even, well, see each again.  One day."

When there wasn't school or Death Eater attacks.

Viktor brightened considerably as he reached for her hand.  For a moment, Hermione thought he was going to shake it but flushed when he kissed the back of it.  Not one of the boys that she knew would have ever done such a thing.

"Take care, little vitch," he said, that soft note of teasing creeping back into his words.  He lingered for a moment before squeezing her hand, before turning around and heading back into the woods towards where his team was waiting for him.

"Y-yeah," Hermione breathed and took a few minutes to feel like someone else.  Not Hermione Granger, know-it-all and best friend to the Boy-That-Lived.

Just ... like a fifteen year old girl for a moment.

It, she decided as she turned to head back to where the boys were probably getting a bit frantic, was a nice moment.

But one that wouldn't last for long.

There was a moment of lingering regret when she reached Harry and Ron but it was hard to hold onto when their faces brightened as she entered the clearing.  They might drive her spare sometimes but they were hers as much as she was theirs.

One day, in the future, there might be time and room for others but she couldn't let herself think too much of the maybes.  She'd missed out on the now.