It’s not often that Hermione miscalculates and has no contingencies. She usually has Harry or Ron as back up at the very least, but not this time. No, they’d both rather mope in the tower, Ron over how Harry is famous, Harry over how Ron doesn’t trust him.
Hermione is very sympathetic, of course, but she is not an owl . She hates being caught in the middle of them and has decided that this is one task she can accomplish on her own, without backup.
Well , Hermione thinks, I’m certainly showing them, aren’t I?
Behind her, a blast-ended skrewt screeches as if to agree with her.
Hermione begins to walk faster, with greater purpose.
How was she supposed to know that they wouldn’t drown? They were abominations! There was nothing written about them anywhere! She’d just like to say that most creatures drown when thrown into the Great Lake!
And, really, this is all Hagrid’s fault! Why had he thought breeding these things was a good idea? Really, Hermione was doing him a favor, trying to get rid of them before they seriously maimed a student.
Oh, she’d really done it this time. She’d only been trying to help and what did she get for it?
A blast hits the ground behind her and Hermione turns, alarmed. The sun is just coming up and, under the faint rays, she can see the disgusting gray exoskeletons of the two dozen blast-ended skrewts she’d tried to murder dragging themselves out of the water. She’s a good hundred feet from them yet she can see the scorch marks from the blast a mere five feet away .
Hermione meeps and prepares to run. She’s fully prepared to abandon her plan, go back to the castle and pretend that this never happened. Maybe she could anonymously tip off McGonagall or Dumbledore. They wouldn’t get Hagrid into trouble and they’d finally see how dangerous these things are and why the Ministry banned this in the first place.
That’s when she sees a figure heading towards the lake.
She pauses, vibrating on the spot. Another blast lands a few feet from her and the responsible skrewt ends up propelled backwards into the water. It emerges and turns, seemingly recognizing another person nearby.
Oh, bother .
“Oh no, oh, no, oh no,” Hermione says under her breath as she sprints, full out, to the shore. She can’t let another person get involved in this and darn her Gryffindor tendencies because she is coming awfully close to the blast-ended skrewts.
She dodges, skids, and pops back to her feet as a skrewt launches itself at her, its stinger missing her by inches.
“Bombarda maxima ,” she gasps, wand swishing. To her panic, the spell does nothing but throw the blasted thing a few feet. It gets back up, screeching indignantly, drawing the attention of its brethren.
Hermione puts her head down and runs .
The figure heading towards the lake is clearer now. It’s a boy, someone from Durmstrang judging by the color of his swimming gear. Hermione despairs. Not only is she about to get a student from another school killed but, in all likelihood, he doesn’t have a wand on him.
She sends another blasting hex over her shoulder and firms her mouth in determination. She’s going to have to bloody well try .
The boy has spotted her now, his truly impressive eyebrows snapping down at the sight of the younger girl. He looks familiar but Hermione is too panicked to place him. He pauses and Hermione doesn’t have time to explain .
She grabs his arm, aware that he’s much too big to be dragging around like Harry, and gasps, “Run.”
The boy doesn’t move, the muscles in his arm flexing as she attempts to pull him in the opposite direction of the lake. “You are from the library.”
She’s what ? Was that where she knows him? Never mind that, there’s no time!
“We have to go,” she tries again. She casts an anxious look over her shoulder to where she can see the blast-ended skrewts coming. “I don’t have time to explain, just run! ”
A blast arcs towards them, smashing into the ground at their feet. The boy swears in Bulgarian and turns, moving his body in front of Hermione’s.
“Oh, get out of the way!” Hermione says. “I’m the one with a wand!” She darts around him and manages to fire off another bombarda maxima before a strong arm wraps around her middle, yanking her out of the danger zone.
“I think,” the boy says in a heavily accented voice, “we take your advice. Run .”
Hermione certainly doesn’t need to be told twice, unlike some people .
They take off and, despite his duck-feet, the boy is fast . Hermione thinks he could easily outrun her and doesn’t have the presence of mind to be properly annoyed that he keeps pace with her, at times nudging her with his shoulder, directing her this way and that to avoid the blasts.
“The castle,” she gasps, stumbles, recovers. “We need to get to the castle!”
“Too far,” the boy says. He’s not nearly out of breath as Hermione and he grabs her elbow, helping her regain her footing. “Come.”
He veers off course, dodging back to the shore line. On the opposite side of the lake is the Durmstrang ship, his clear target.
Hermione curses, shoots another hex that makes the blast-ended skrewts shriek, and follows him. He’s right, the boat is closer and she’s not about to let him go alone .
Unfortunately, this way also has about a million tiny rocks and Hermione slips and slides across them in her sensible shoes. She turns, mouth pressed thin, to see the dozen skrewts stampeding towards them.
“ Bombarda maxima! Stupefy! Incendio! Expelliarmus! Impedimenta! Impedi-- oof!” Hermione gasps for air as the world, for a brief moment, spins and something impacts her diaphragm. The boy had dropped back and picked her up , throwing her over his shoulder with ease before taking off again.
“Forgive me,” he grunts to her, wrapping an arm around her lower back, pinning her to his shoulder. “You are very slow.”
“It’s slippery !” she says indignantly. She wants to fight him and force him to release her but she knows that could be disastrous for the both of them. Instead she tosses her mass of hair out of her eyes and looks back, trying to stabilize herself. She raises her wand arm and bites her lip as her aim bounces all over the place. “Impedimenta! Bombarda maxima!”
“Unbelievable,” the boy says.
Hermione doesn’t answer, too busy trying to save their skins, thank you very much.
There’s a sudden change of elevation and Hermione can see a gang plank, of all things, appear behind them. The skrewts are still a good distance away but not a good enough distance to prevent another blast from hitting the wood and splintering it.
Once they reach the deck of the ship, the boy drops her unceremoniously. The muscles in his arm bulge as he seizes the nearest rope and pulls . The gangplank rises with a groan and then, with another groan of protest, pops out of existence, the magic having been triggered by the boy’s actions.
Hermione lunges to her feet and hits the railing at full speed, eyes wide. She looks down to see the skrewts arrive, screeching angrily. “They’ll destroy the ship! We have to--”
“What is that racket?” a man roars. A porthole on the side of the ship swings open and Hermione can see a dark head pop out. “What are these things?”
Someone else answers in angry Bulgarian and a spell shoots out of the ship to impact the ground. A moment later, another dozen beams of light follow, crashing into the skrewts who screech their displeasure.
The boy grabs Hermione’s wrist. “Come, we must hide.”
Hermione, speechless, goes with him, eyes wide. She barely notices the interior of the ship as they jog through it. The boy throws open a door two levels down and drags her in, slamming it behind them just in time. A herd of angry students charge down the hall, muttering darkly.
The boy goes to the window, footsteps heavy on the wooden floors. He draws back a curtain, heavy brow still furrowed. After a moment, some of the tension leaves his wide shoulders. “They are leaving.”
Hermione comes up, peering out of the porthole. He’s right; the skrewts are skittering away, weaving between spell blasts. They make for the forest, gray shells blending in easily with the shadows there.
“Oh god,” Hermione says. “They’ll breed with something else in there, I just know it.” Or, worse, Hagrid would be able to find them, round them up, and keep forcing students to take care of them; all of this will have been for nothing .
She remembers the boy a moment later. He’s looking at her, perplexed, and he’s not necessarily handsome but he is striking. Striking and a few years older than her.
Hermione inexplicably blushes. “Um, right, I’m Hermione Granger.” She stretches her hand out to shake, transferring her wand to the left.
He takes it, encompassing her hand almost entirely in his much larger one. “Viktor Krum.”
“Oh,” Hermione says and feels like an idiot. She recognizes him, of course, he’s the Quidditch star Ron and Harry are always going on about. She sees him in the library sometimes, being tailed by his fan club. “The library.”
He nods solemnly. “The library.” A smile touches the corner of his mouth and something in Hermione’s stomach flutters.
“I’m sorry,” Hermione blurts out. She waves to the window. “I didn’t-- I didn’t think anyone else would be out or that they would get away from me.”
“What were you trying to do?” he asks. His facial expression doesn’t change but she thinks he might be amused.
Hermione flushes. “Well, if you must know, I was trying to drown them.”
He stares at her,
“They’re dangerous,” she defends. “I’m fairly certain they’re part fire crab and part manticore , I don’t know what Hagrid was think--”
She breaks off, aware that he’s staring at her with outright amusement now.
“Hermy-one,” he says.
Hermione winces. “Hermione.”
“Herm-i-ninny,” he says, this time frowning. “Her-my-ohn-iny.”
Hermione decides his inability to pronounce her name is rather adorable. She feels something warm in her chest and she smiles at him. “Yes?”
He clears his throat. “I am wondering if you would go to Yule Ball with me.”
Her eyes go wide. “I’ve almost just killed you with blast-ended skrewts and you’re asking me to the ball?”
“Well,” he says, “it was very interesting experience.” He pauses, looks down at his feet, and then back up at her. “I have also been meaning to ask you for a some time.”
“That’s why you were in the library?” Hermione asks, shocked. She shakes her head. “I-- are you sure? I--I’m not exactly--” She stops, face burning. She knows she’s not beautiful and she can’t imagine why else a person like Viktor would ask someone to the ball.
“I am sure,” Viktor says evenly. He steps forward and drops to one knee, taking her hand in his. “Hemi-o-ninny, will you go to ball with me?”
He looks so earnest and a little tentative in front of her. She remembers how he automatically tried to protect her from the havoc she’d caused, how he’d hidden her without a second thought. She thinks she was wrong before; he is very handsome.
Her face is aflame but that doesn’t stop the smile from blooming. “I would be delighted, Viktor.”