“Ronald Weasley, would you please hold still?” Hermione admonished, helping him smooth his robes with a spell. “There, very presentable. You’re a picture perfect groom.”
“Thanks, Hermione,” he said, flashing her a smile. “Where’d Harry go? I’ve got my Best Witch, but can’t get married without my Best Wizard too.” Ron looked around the meadow behind the Burrow, bustling with activity.
“He snuck off with Ginny a while ago,” she replied with a chuckle. “They were all over each other. It was sickeningly sweet.”
“Or just sickening,” Ron groaned. “I’m happy for them, but I hate living with them. It’s disgusting.”
“Well, after your honeymoon, you’ll be flatmate free.”
“Well, those flatmates better turn up before the ceremony starts.”
“I’m sure they will,” Hermione said, searching the tent as people crowded in.
A flash of blonde caught her eye and she spotted a tall man in the far corner, his eyes lingering on her.
Her mouth ran dry at the sight of him, heart pounding. Time ticked by slowly as she clocked the same cut jawline and steel eyes, though his platinum hair was shorter, cropped close to his head. He’d filled out his broad form too, arm muscles clear through his dark dress robes.
“What is that tosser doing here? I thought he was supposed to be dead,” Ron muttered. “Viktor swore he’d died in a raid a year ago. Just after we came to get you.”
Hermione could barely hear him, walking towards the man who never broke her gaze.
“ Solnishko ,” he whispered as she stood in front of him, pressing a kiss into the back of her hand. The deep timber of his voice brought back long-buried memories. “I thought that was you.”
“It’s been a long time,” she said softly.
“ Da ,” he agreed. “Too long.”
Hermione was watching the other Gryffindors stare at the students of Beauxbatons Academy whispering lowly to each other, when the Great Hall’s doors burst open and Durmstrang students filed in. As they marched Hermione watched them carefully, taking in the red uniforms the wizards and spattering of witches wore. She’d thought the ship had been a grand entrance enough, but she recognized this ordeal for what it was: a show of power.
She’d read about all the magical schools in her first year at Hogwarts, and Durmstrang was the one that held her interest. In a hidden location, their selective and global student body was taught the Dark Arts. As soon as the Triwizard Tournament had been announced Hermione knew this year would be the opportunity to learn more about the wider wizarding world - and the challenges her best friend would be up against.
“Who’s that?” Lavender giggled to Parvati. Hermione followed Lavender’s pointing to the blonde boy leading the bulk of the student body in. Tall and built, he was scowling at the Slytherin table with each step.
Interesting , Hermione thought, assessing him closer. His platinum hair stood out in a sea of brunettes and dark fur hats, and he walked with purpose.
“I have no idea. He’s fit,” Parvati replied, calling Hermione’s attention back. She watched the other girl’s chocolate eyes raking over his body. Hermione snuck another glance at him, privately agreeing as she cataloged his striking eyes and sharp features.
“They’re all fit,” Lavender agreed. “Look at those cute little red coats.”
“I’d rather look at what’s under all the little red coats,” she heard Seamus whisper to Dean, who choked on his pumpkin juice and looked around before elbowing the other boy. Like usual, Hermione appeared to be the only one who overheard.
A murmur went through the room as a serious looking boy entered with Durmstrang’s looming headmaster.
“There’s Viktor Krum!” Parvati squealed, almost popping out of her seat.
“Bloody hell, it’s him! Viktor Krum,” Ron whispered next to her, craning his neck. “I can’t believe he’s here!” His jaw was slack as he tracked each movement of the famous Quidditch player, ignoring the show they were putting on in their entrance.
As dinner progressed and everyone else around her gushed about Krum’s talents and shared their opinions of the other students’ uniforms, Hermione couldn’t stop looking at the blonde boy. Like many of his classmates, his face was stern. Though unlike them, he seemed unhappy, skirting on the outside of the conversations around him, left out in the cold. Looking at her own table, her friends laughing together, she couldn’t help but relate. Hermione Granger knew loneliness.
The next morning, she, Ron, and Harry were sitting at her favorite table in the library, the one in the back corner by the big window. As the two boys discussed what they considered a criminal lack of Quidditch planned for the year, Hermione was buried in a journal from one of the prior Hogwarts champions, researching more about the tournament and how it functioned. She was especially curious about the previous Hogwarts champions, given the buzz in the Gryffindor common room about those entering.
“I’m just saying, we could’ve organized a season. There are only three tasks!” Ron grumbled.
“Imagine playing with Krum,” Harry added excitedly. “We could learn some new tricks.”
A cough silenced Ron and Harry, bringing Hermione out of the book. The blonde boy who had haunted her thoughts was towering over them, staring intensely at Harry.
“Hello?” Harry asked with a crooked eyebrow.
“Hello,” he greeted Harry, his Russian accent thick. “My name is Malfoy - Draco Malfoy,”
“Oh, erm, I’m Potter...Harry Potter,” Harry offered with a wry grin, quickly glancing at Hermione. She stifled a chuckle, wondering if Ron would understand James Bond when they explained it later. She’d long suspected he’d enjoy action films.
“I know,” Draco replied. “You are famous.”
“Er, yes - I suppose,” Harry said awkwardly. “For something that happened as a baby. It’s not all it’s cracked up to.”
“My parents were killed the same night as yours,” Draco said, glaring at him. “A form of retaliation. I wanted to see the reason they were taken from me.”
“Taken?” Harry echoed, the color draining from his face. “You think I had something to do with it?”
“Retaliation?” Hermione whispered at the same time, looking between Draco and her friends, her stomaching in a knot.
“Malfoy,” Ron muttered, his blue eyes turning to ice. “I’ve heard about your family. You’re Sacred Twenty-Eight.”
“Who are you?” His sneer growing more fierce at Ron’s tone.
“Ron Weasley,” he replied, tipping his chin up, all defiant fire.
“Blood traitor,” Draco said with a nod. His words were harsh, and Hermione drew in a deep breath. She’d been waiting for this - for these new people to judge her by her blood status. “I know the name,” he added matter-of-factly.
“If anyone’s the traitor, it’s you - your parents were Death Eaters!” Ron’s cheeks were nearly as red as his hair. Harry’s frown deepened and Hermione’s heart dropped, her fears confirmed.
“So they say,” Draco replied with a shrug. “But I mean no offense,” he said, holding up his hands. “That is what you’ve always been referred to in my home.”
“And where is that?” Hermione asked, crossing her arms over her chest. If this boy shared Death Eater beliefs, she wanted to get as much information as she could.
“Russia,” he said thickly, eyes finally turning on her. His brows pinched together as he studied her. “My - a distant relative of my mother’s raised me. This isn’t my first time back to England. I often come to visit my aunt and uncle, but Hogwarts is different from what I expected.”
“Like the fact that Muggleborns, like me, are welcome?” she asked, holding his gaze, daring his mask of indifference to falter. “There are no Muggleborns allowed at Durmstrang,” she added in explanation for her friends. Draco’s lips turned into a grimace and as he opened his mouth to speak, a yell from the other side of the library caught their attention.
“ Pich !” The call turned all four heads, and Hermione spotted Viktor Krum waving Draco over.
“Excuse me,” he said, still looking at Hermione, single brow raised. “We will talk soon.” His tone was more threat than promise, and Hermione tried not to shrink back, holding still instead. As he turned, she released the breath she was holding, brain turning to analyze the strange interaction.
“Absolute tosser,” Ron said, glaring at his back as he and Viktor left the library. “I can’t believe someone like Viktor Krum would be friends with someone like that.”
“I assumed this would happen. That some of them would be…prejudiced,” she whispered, watching him walk away. “At least he didn’t refer to me with the word they’re more likely to use.”
She thought of her second year, when she first heard the word ‘Mudblood’ from the tangled teeth of Marcus Flint. She’d been confused at first, never having heard the slur. But as soon as the Weasley boys explained, she did as much research as possible into the treatment of Muggleborns through history, building a wall around herself with books and arming herself with information, like she had all her life.
“He better bloody well not,” Ron growled, fists curling.
“If anyone says anything to you, you’ll tell us,” Harry said, green eyes searching her, “won’t you?”
“Of course,” she lied, smiling at them both. The pair always offered to fight her battles, and while she loved them for it, she rarely shared with them the abuse she endured from the Slytherins about her blood status. “Thank you.”
That night, the champions were selected and their year was turned upside down, with Harry being thrust once again into danger. The resulting fallout between Harry and Ron drove her barmy. As the weeks passed, she spent even more time in the library than usual, staying out of their line of fire and scouring the stacks to find some clue that could help her best friend.
One day in the middle of November, after a few hours of solitude, the sound of loud footsteps approaching startled her. A large Durmstrang student quickly ducked into the stacks by her table, looking around cautiously. When he turned around, he spotted her and stopped.
“Can I hide here?” Viktor Krum asked roughly, pressing his back against the nearby bookshelf and peeking around. “The girls - they will not leave.”
“Most wizards would enjoy the attention,” Hermione said, quirking an eyebrow. “Not you?”
“Not this kind,” he muttered, looking down at his feet and back up at her. “What do you study?” Viktor asked, pointing at the book she had open.
“I’m friends with your competitor, I’m afraid,” she explained, shutting the journal. “Seeing how I can help Harry with whatever this first task is.”
“A loyal friend,” Viktor nodded as he spoke. “My friend helps too, but with potions.”
“It’s important to have friends in a game like this.” She offered a small smile. “Would you like to sit and hide out with me?”
“Blagodariya,” Viktor said, returning her smile and sitting next to her.
After that, Viktor began to spend each day with her in the library, studying at her side. Hermione found it ironic that they began a friendship in the last place his fan club thought to look.
“Are you going to Hogsmeade?” Hermione asked him one day as they were packing up their things. He’d been even more quiet than usual. “The village trip this weekend,” she explained when he furrowed his brows.
“No,” he shook his head sharply, expression grim. “This weekend, I must prepare.” He stood abruptly. “Have a good weekend, Her-min-ne.”
“You too,” she replied, having given up on correcting his pronunciation. She watched his fading figure, mind working. He’d been acting off all week, and she’d assumed it was nerves about the first task, but his tenseness alarmed her. She decided to go after him, grabbing her book and hustling out the door.
She followed him down several corridors until they were in the damp air of the dungeons. A large wooden door she’d never seen before opened and he disappeared within. Hermione huffed, debating her next move.
Wishing she had Harry’s cloak, she decided to try a fifth year spell she’d read about. She muttered the spell for disillusionment, suppressing the giddiness that bloomed as her limbs began to disappear.
Hermione crept towards the door, hearing a muffled discussion in the hidden room. Just as she raised her wand to try a spell perfect for eavesdropping, her hand was visible again. She whirled around to see Draco Malfoy glowering at her and before she could react, he pushed her back against the castle wall.
“The mouthy Mudblood,” Draco said, sneering down at her as he caged her in with both arms. The stone wall was cold against her neck, his breath hot on her cheek. She looked down the dark corridor; they were alone. Her heartbeat picked up as she wondered if stunning him would be the right move. “Spying?” he demanded, an iron gaze chained to her.
“The ‘mouthy’ Mudblood,” she spat, the word like dirt in her mouth, “has a name.”
“Oh, and what is that?” His mouth tipped up, anger melting to amusement. His enjoyment only made her irritation grow.
“My name is Hermione. Hermione Granger. And I wasn’t spying, I was studying,” she said holding up her book.
“Well, Hermione,” he said, ducking his head so they were nearly nose to nose, his spot-on imitation of her accent as he said her name, sent a chill down her spine, “you do best to stay away. Mudbloods aren’t welcome.”
At the statement, something broke inside her, red hot anger pouring out and boiling her blood. She wound up to smack him, but before her hand made contact with his cheek he caught her wrist. He stared at it then back at her, face blank for a moment. Her heart sped up even more, pounding so loudly it was the only sound she could hear.
“So much fire,” he chuckled, grip still encircling her wrist. “You’ll have to get better at fighting if you want to survive, Solnishko.”
She shoved him away, prompting his smirk to become more prominent.
“You’ll be surprised how well I fight,” Hermione bluffed, sneering at him. “Just hope you don’t find out.” She spun on her heel and marched away, adrenaline pumping through her veins. As she walked up the stairs to the tower, she was shaking, though from fear or anger she wasn’t sure.
“Who does he think he is?” Hermione muttered to herself, balling her hands up into fists. “Arrogant weasel.” With each step, the fear dissipated and irritation swelled. As she laid in her bed that night, she stared into the darkness replaying their interaction again and again. He spoke about her fire, but all she could see was the spark in his eye, the warmth in his lips.
“ Solnishko, ” his voice lingered in her ear, husky and deep, as sleep took her.
In the next few weeks, she found him in every room they both set foot in. Draco Malfoy was watching her, like a predator circling its prey. She knew she should feel afraid, that having the pure-blood son of Death Eaters pay such attention to her was dangerous. But his attention only made her angry. She knew he was watching her for a reason, but she wasn’t sure which. Even during the Yule Ball, she could feel his eyes on the back of her neck during the opening dance.
“Who is Draco to you?” Hermione asked as Viktor twirled her during the champions dance, the tell-tale feeling of hair on the back of her neck standing up.
“That is my loyal friend,” Viktor explained as he swept her up. “My…my you. He saved my life before.”
“Do you often find your life in danger?” Hermione’s attempt at levity faltered, her voice shaking on the final word. Her blue dress spun out as they moved.
“It is different at Durmstrang,” he answered as the music switched to a new song and more couples began to join in. “He was…mad that I asked you to the Yule Ball.”
“I’m sure he was,” she scoffed, thinking of their last conversation, of the slur he so effortlessly called her. “But he, and Ron,” she paused, glaring at him from across the dance floor, “can stay mad.” Viktor followed her gaze, lingering on her friends. “Shall we keep dancing and forget about the anger of others?”
“I would like that,” he replied, leading her further into the dance floor. She pressed into Viktor as he led her into a waltz, trying to push the feelings of Malfoy watching her out of her mind. She was only able to for a few minutes before a throat cleared behind her.
“May I cut in?” The deep Russian voice vibrated through her chest like a pebble on a still lake, creating a wave of goosebumps down her body.
Viktor looked down at her with a smile. “If the lady would like.”
Hermione dipped her head before turning to him. Draco’s blood-red coat was perfectly tailored to his broad shoulders, grey eyes matching the fur that decorated it. His blond hair was slicked back, shining under the charmed lights. This was the closest they’d been since the incident where he’d caught her spying and her curiosity won out. She swallowed roughly as she stepped closer.
“The witch with a name,” Draco said, extending a hand as he bowed slightly. “A pleasure, Hermione.” As she slid her hand into his, her eyes grazed his high cheekbones, following his prominent jawline to his full lips. She snapped back to his gaze, still watching her intently. He placed his hand on the small of her back and held her tightly.
“I’m surprised you’d deign yourself to dance with me,” Hermione said as he led her around the floor.
“Viktor has told me of your….friendship,” Draco replied, studying her. “He is trusting.”
“He is,” Hermione agreed. “He’s accepting too. More accepting than other classmates.” She forced her voice to be even.
“Acceptance is a difficult thing.” He drew her closer, bending down towards her ear. “But so is sabotage, friend of Harry Potter,” Draco hissed in her ear.
The song ended and she stepped away. “I would never hurt Viktor, if that’s what you’re implying.”
“Be careful, Hermione Granger,” he said, eyes dark. “Danger lies ahead.”
“I’ll be ready,” Hermione said, fire burning in her chest at his threat. She marched out of the Great Hall, straight to the Gryffindor common room. Emotions swirled throughout her, from hot embarrassment in her cheeks at the memory of his spiced cologne to black shame pooling in her stomach for enjoying the way his hand felt on her waist. Hermione was mostly angry for not refusing him, for allowing her curiosity to take control.
“Back so soon?” Fred asked from his seat by the fire as she walked through the portrait hole.
“It’s not midnight yet, Cinderella,” George added, hand over his heart.
“Are you implying that I’m a pumpkin?” Hermione joked back, the tension leaving her body with a small laugh. The twins were usually good at that.
“You’ll just dance with any of them now?” Ron spat, walking in behind her. She jumped at his question, unaware he’d been following her. Fred and George exchanged a look at his tone. “Fraternizing with the enemy?”
“The enemy?” Hermione echoed, the image of Draco sneering at her bubbling up.
“Viktor Krum of all people!”
“Viktor is my friend - and since when is he the enemy? Didn’t you want his autograph?”
Ron scoffed. “He’s out for Harry. I’m being a good friend.”
“A good friend who ignored him for a month?” Hermione asked, fists on her hips.
“Ronnikins, come over here,” George interrupted her, patting the seat next to him.
“Sorry to split up the spat, but we need your expert opinion on something.” As Ron walked towards them, Fred gave her a wink. She stomped up the steps, cursing all the wizards around her.
Draco’s threat echoed in her ears for the rest of the term, the memory of his voice like wet paint on her hippocampus, never drying, never leaving the front of her mind. She watched him from afar, and studied him like one of her subjects. Hermione found that he had a sweet tooth, and rarely talked to his classmates other than Viktor. When he did, it was usually with a sneer and a pompous eye roll. Like Viktor said, he was skilled in potions and spent most of his time reading. But there was something else, like a missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle.
He didn’t try to approach her again, but she would catch him staring at her, in the Great Hall, in the library, in the courtyard. She would frown back, playing the role of the savage Mudblood she knew he cast her as.
During the second task, Hermione didn’t expect for her relief seeing Draco surface to match that of Harry and Ron. Or that she was thankful to see him by Victor’s side after the third task, tending to her friend.
A few days after the chaos of the final task and Harry’s announcement that Voldemort had returned, the guest students were saying their ‘goodbyes’ in the courtyard. After she bid Viktor farewell, Draco appeared by her side. Sure it would be the last time she saw him, she greeted him with a quick nod.
“Hermione,” he said roughly, studying her face before dragging his eyes down and up her body. “You are unharmed.”
“Unlike others,” she spat back, looking back at her friends. Harry was still in a daze. “Attacked by Death Eaters.”
“Da,” he agreed.
“And do you know anything about that?” Hermione asked, stepping closer to Draco, ready to confront him. “About what Harry is saying?” She stared up at him, challenging him, the whisper of his threats still haunting her mind. Draco reached out and grabbed her hand, throwing her off her warpath.
“Goodbye, Solnishko ,” he said, gently kissing the back of her hand. The moment his lips made contact with her skin, it was like a bolt of electricity. “You’ll need that fire.”
“Goodbye,” she said, yanking her hand back and holding it to her chest. He nodded once and walked away, pushing a younger Durmstrang student out of the way as he strode off.
Hermione ran her thumb over the spot his mouth had touched as she watched the ship disappear, her mind fully blank for the first time in her life.