Grazhir :: Crossover :: Kalpa :: 09

27082014-29082014

09

He stayed in his room, not bothering to join in the merriment, reading; not for school, though, rather fiction. He already spent his extra days on magic so his free time was spent on relaxation.

Viktor showed up at ten, looking harassed. Karkaroff was oozing over me,he complained.

You knew it could happen,he pointed out unhelpfully, then reached out to tug on Viktor’s sleeve. His mentor sat down beside him and scooted back so he could use the wall as a backrest. Are they still celebrating down there?

Yes, and that’s fine. They are our school mates and there is nothing wrong with it, I suppose. But—Viktor stopped, worrying his lower lip between his teeth.

But you aren’t the partying type, I know. So what did they tell you?

Viktor snaked an arm around Harry’s shoulders before saying, Ah, about what I expected. The task is to test our daring, our courage in the face of the unknown. We are not allowed to ask for or accept help from our teachers, and we are supposed to go into it armed only with our wands.

Harry frowned. Maneuvering around that might take some doing, and that was assuming Viktor would accept his well-meant gifts; and also assuming he knew what the actual task was in time to do anything about it. Okay,he said slowly. What about Potter?

Viktor snorted inelegantly. That arrogant ass. He boasted that he’d be in no trouble because his father would handle things. I got the impression that his father is the one who fixed things so his son would be chosen.

Do you know how they got around it?

That was not made clear, but I suspect the boy entered himself under a different school name so he would be the only one available for that school as a contender. So for all we know he used one of the area schools, or perhaps Salem. As to how they got the cup to choose a fourth? I was unable to study the cup in any detail, but I did notice etchings on it. Maybe one of them was altered, if they were runes of some kind? Maybe a spell, but I cannot think of anything offhand that would work.

He sighed and rolled his eyes. Try to ignore him? Because really, if he ends up winning it’ll either be because his father meddled or the tournament tasks were dumbed down too much or are too random to really matter. Wow. I just—I don’t believe it, and yet I’m not surprised. I’d heard plenty of stories, but the reality is worse than I expected.

From your mother,Viktor stated.

Harry noticed that the corners of Viktor’s mouth were turned down unhappily and wondered if this was entwined with the Secret of his full identity. He glanced down at his wrist and saw that Tom had responded with “I’ll take care of it” and wondered how the man would react to him wanting for Viktor to be clued in. And also, while Pelk was there to help and keep an eye on him, what would happen if he was injured beyond the elf’s abilities to correct? It was not as though Tom could just stroll on in as he could at Durmstrang.

Yes,he replied. But even if he could tell his mentor—or rather, have him told by his mother—unless Viktor wanted to turn back days with him he could not always be there to help him as he had classes of his own. He pushed down another sigh and dropped that part of the idea; he would simply have to exercise due diligence when it came to his safety. Hell, he wasn’t even sure how much or how little repeating days was affecting him. Was he older than he ought to be? Did it not count? Would he catch up to Viktor in age?

Viktor muttered something he could not quite catch and probably was not supposed to, then said, Well. How is your work going? Is there anything we need to go over?

*

The next day—normal time—he received both a small package and a message from Tom, delivered by Pelk. The package held the earring he had requested for Viktor, enchanted to protect his mentor’s mind. True, he probably could not wear it for the tasks, not unless he summoned it before each one, but odds were against him needing it for those. Well, unless there was something planned along those lines for the possible maze.

The letter seemed a bit exasperated in tone, but Tom did allow that Lily having asked Viktor to keep an eye on her child (and nephew) had produced some conflicts in the man’s mind that were, as it stood, irresolvable and something of a constant burden. Tom let him know that during the next visit to Hogsmeade Harry would be able to meet up with his mother again, and she could take care of it then. They would be able to go again in approximately a fortnight, so not much longer, thankfully.

Classes and his practice days flowed by and it was soon enough time for Durmstrang students to visit the village. He had brought his cloak with him to breakfast, not wanting to bother with an extra trip of ten staircases. When they did eventually arrive in Hogsmeade Harry led them to the cottage his mother and aunt were staying in. Dudley ran ahead and whipped open the door, calling out as he stepped inside, Mum! Aunt Lily!

Harry shook his head in fond exasperation and gestured for Viktor to precede him. Your mother lives here?

Only during visits. A friend of the family owns the place and has lent it to us. Otherwise they’re at our home in Norway.He smiled happily as his mother appeared from the sitting room and came up to give him a hug and a quick kiss.

Viktor,she said, giving him a warm smile, I’m so pleased to see you. Harry, I want to speak with Viktor for just a moment so go on ahead.She arched a brow at him meaningfully.

He nodded and removed his cloak, hanging it on one of the hooks, and ducked into the sitting room where he was able to give his aunt a hug. Despite being very tempted to eavesdrop on his mother and Viktor he refrained and instead took a seat, availing himself of the amenities on the tea tray. He was happily noshing on his third cherry Bakewell when Viktor took a seat next to him and reached out to squeeze his arm. Harry looked over and smiled, then gestured at a cup he had already prepared for his friend. Talk about the Secret could wait.

His mother, however, did have something to bring up. Has there been any change?she asked. Anyone . . . who has noticed anything?

The dark look on her face made him realize who she meant. He shook his head and replied, None of them. I think we’re just two random Durmstrang faces, if that makes any sense.

I have not noticed anything,Viktor offered.

His mother nodded, seeming pleased. Good. How are your studies going, Harry?That sort of look came back to her face.

He blinked slowly at her and said a bit wearily, They’re going as well as can be expected. All of them.

Good,she repeated, then led them into a more conventional conversation of lighter topics.

An hour into their visit he could hear someone at the door and Mary trotted in moments later to whisper something to his mother, who blinked, whispered back, then said, Harry, you have a visitor in the kitchen.

He frowned and got up, wandering out into the hall and down it to the kitchen. Once through the door he saw Tom and smiled. “Hey. I wasn’t expecting you to visit. What’s up?”

Tom pointed at a chair before saying, “Pelk has been giving me reports on your progress, but I wanted to hear it from you.”

He nodded and took a seat. “I’ve been very careful. It occurred to me at one point that I might get into trouble that Pelk couldn’t fix, and it’s not like you can charge in to help me, not like if I was at Durmstrang. Aside from that I’ve been doing the usual, following the plans, and trying very hard to master these spells and stay ahead of what will be taught this year. I haven’t had as much time for the aetherial spells, but that’s because some of them don’t really—” He paused, trying to find the right words. “Er, they don’t really give experience if they aren’t being used for real? It’s not like I can grind Conjuration or Destruction in the trunk, and Restoration only works in conjunction with draining myself with an Alteration spell. After all, it’s less painful to do that than develop an obsession with cutting myself.”

Tom exhaled heavily, a frown wrinkling his forehead. “As much as I would prefer to tell you to stop with Restoration until breaks or the summer, it is important that you master it. Just, limit how much you do per day, all right? Your mother will do her best to murder me if you get hurt. I assume you’ve kept up with your visits to Valdis.”

“Of course, though I can’t stay for more than a few minutes,” he said sadly. “I’m using the portkey you sent me and so far no one has noticed I’ve been disappearing.”

“I know you’ll continue to be careful, if only to spare your mother worry,” Tom replied, then eyed him. “The first task is dragons.”

“What!?” he said, half rising from his chair. “What the hell?”

Tom glared at him and said coldly, “Moderate your tone.”

Harry felt his cheeks burn in shame at the well deserved reprimand. “I apologize.”

Tom nodded after a moment. “You might consider warning your friend. However, that is not why I’ve told you.”

He sighed and bit his lip. “You don’t think they’ll notice anything, do you? I’d just be sitting there in the stands.”

“I don’t think they will,” Tom replied with a shake of his head. “Still, it’s best that you know beforehand, just in case. If something should happen while your friend is facing his. . . .”

Harry rolled his eyes up toward the ceiling even as he acknowledged that he could easily let something slip if worried or frightened enough. “True. I will do my best to lock down my emotions for the task. I should hate to do something stupidly—apologies to my mother—Gryffindorish.”

Tom smirked a bit nastily, then stood. “I’ll see you later.”

“Oh, wait,” he said. “I just had a thought about something enchanted for resistance. I don’t know if Viktor would accept it, though, and I know it’d be cheating if he actually wore it before the task began.”

“The rules state a champion’s only arms can be their wand. They say nothing about armor,” Tom pointed out. “Elemental resistance is defensive.”

He thunked his head against the table at his stupidity. “I swear that place is making me lose brain cells,” he muttered. After sitting back up properly he said, “Okay. Since I can’t get to an enchanter in time, will you come up with something that’ll mitigate fire and frost damage? Maybe not fully, because that might be a wee bit suspicious.”

“Yes. Now, I must be going.”

He waited until Tom had apparated out, then returned to the sitting room and resumed his seat next to Viktor. Their cups were enchanted to act sort of like a muggle thermos, so his tea was still wonderfully hot.

It wasn’t until they were back at the school that Viktor got a look on his face that demanded they talk, so he led his mentor to the room he shared with Dudley (who, as far as he knew, was palling around with Malfoy). Can you toss up some wards?

Viktor nodded and did so, then sat down beside him. I understand now. Edward is your twin.

Yes,he said with a sigh. My father decided I must be a squib because I never showed any accidental magic and consequently started to ignore me. His friends did, too. They all concentrated on Edward and made a huge fuss about him. You can see how well he turned out. Well, my mother was very upset about that, and eventually, because she was spending so much time trying to prevent my twin from turning into a berk, she agreed to send me to live with my aunt, her sister.

And yet now they’re divorced.

It was making her ill, their actions, their attitudes, and just how little my father bothered to even pretend to listen to her. So she left him, making sure she got sole custody of me. It was then that she learned I wasn’t actually a squib, and not long after that the four of us moved to Norway thanks to a friend of the family who wasn’t about to tell anyone what we were up to.

The same friend whose cottage that was?

He nodded. I am capable of telling you who he is, but I’d rather not. That’s who came to visit me while we were there. I’m not quite sure how I’d define him—certainly not a father or uncle. Maybe kind of a mentor and protector?He wrinkled his nose thoughtfully. My aunt’s ex-husband was causing trouble, which was one of the other factors to us moving, the first being that we didn’t want to end up at Hogwarts.He laughed a bit mirthlessly. Sucks that we’re here for a year, but at least we have our proper instructors.

So your father has no idea,Viktor prompted.

Right. We avoided them at the World Cup and I haven’t actually seen him here, but I expect he’ll show for the first task. I’ll be sitting with Durmstrang so it shouldn’t matter. The whole point of using the Fidelius was to prevent people like him from ever quite being able to make the connection. Edward taunted me for looking a lot like him, but that was as far as it went. And after you cut him down so handily he’s stayed away.

Viktor nodded and sat back, using the wall as a backrest, and pulled Harry back as well, slinging an arm around his shoulders. Well, now I understand better why your mother wanted me to keep an eye on you two while we’re here. I get the feeling there’s a lot more to it, though.

Harry snorted softly. Er, yes. Won’t say, though. I’d catch holy hell if I did.

I can’t say I like that, at all, but as I am not a member of your family I guess I will just have to deal with it,Viktor replied, tilting his head so it touched his briefly.

I have something for you, by the way. I’d have given it to you a lot sooner, but it slipped my mind. And I will have something else soon that I hope you’ll consider using.He reached into his pocket and removed a small box, then handed it over.

Viktor gave him a curious look as he reclaimed his arm and took the box. He wedged a nail in under the top flap and forced it open, then tilted his head on seeing the contents. A few moments later he pulled out a single earring, a small hoop, fashioned from white gold. I like it,he said, setting the box aside.

It’s enchanted,Harry said softly. It will protect your mind against Legilimency and forms of mind control.

Viktor pulled away so as to face him. How did you manage to get something so rare?

He smiled a bit ruefully. It’s a secret. I’d have made it myself, but I don’t have access to my, er, tools here,he said, eyes cutting off to the side a bit shiftily.

And the other gift you hope I’ll use?Viktor asked intently.

Harry reached up to brush his mouth with curled fingers, almost as though denying he was about to speak. I know what the first task is,he admitted, but I don’t want to say unless you want to know. The other gift will help with it, defensively, though I don’t know what form it will take yet. I was reminded that you can only be armed with your wand; the rules say nothing about bringing defensive items with you.

A slow smile broadened Viktor’s mouth. I won’t ask how you found out. You obviously have someone with pull on your side. The thing is, Karkaroff had something to say just recently. Didn’t even give me a choice, he just blurted it out. Dragons. I really like that you offered me a choice.

His eyes went wide. But that—he’s not supposed to do that!

I was told,Viktor said dryly, that cheating has always been a part of the tournament.

He shook his head in denial. So? It’s one thing if you find out from a fellow student—and the headmaster is not my source, by the way—but to just up and tell you?He shook his head again. I suppose that means the other three will know, too.

So this other gift—it protects against something? Dragon fire?

Yeah. Fire and frost. Maybe more. But I asked for it not to be the best resistance because if you do get—well, it would look strange if you could walk through lava with barely any damage. And it shouldn’t do anything for physical harm. It’s a help, not a surety.

Viktor reached out with one hand and wrapped it around the back of Harry’s neck and gently pulled, bringing their foreheads together. Thank you,he said quietly.

Harry could feel his cheeks heating up a bit and dropped his gaze in mild confusion. Viktor drew back and released him. I wonder which ear I should put this in.

A few days later Viktor had pierced his right ear and inserted the hoop. And by then Tom had delivered the other item via Pelk. Harry opened it during one of his repeat days just to see what form it took. It greatly resembled chain mail, he thought, in bracelet form. The links differed in colour, though the base was plain. Some were faintly red, some blue, some purple. A note included with it read: “The colours should be obvious. I have included additional links and it will be a simple enough effort to replace the plain links with more of the enchanted ones to increase the level of protection.”

He also noticed, after a much closer look, that some of the links were not actually metal, but of some stretchable substance. Sizing would not be an issue, then. ‘I’ll give it to him tomorrow,’ he thought. ‘And I’d like to believe that the non-metal links are unbreakable, because otherwise this could get caught on something and snap. I hope he likes it.’

The next morning he yawned his way through breakfast and held a desultory conversation with Dudley and a few other of their year mates, as Viktor was sitting with his. Classes went well enough, but even with all his extra preparation it was tiring and a bit disheartening. He looked forward to taking his OWLs so he could, if he chose, drop the wand classes and study those independently instead.

After classes ended for the day he went for a walk with Dudley and Malfoy, whom by then they were both calling Draco, despite it being awfully cold outside. Draco liked to complain about Dumbledore not having arranged for Hogwarts quidditch teams to use one of the stadiums to continue their season. He argued that for players in their final year it meant they lost out in terms of experience and any scouts had to go by what little they knew from before.

«I agree,» he said. «People play quidditch both because they enjoy it and because many of them are looking at it as a career option. Cavalierly pushing it aside for the year is just rude and dismissive.»

Draco smiled at his support. «At least I have three more years to play and improve. Are you two looking forward to the first task?»

Dudley rolled his eyes and exhaled loudly. «I’m looking forward to it being over, actually. People are being nuts about Viktor and it’s annoying. Groupies are all over the place, girls squealing and blushing.»

Draco laughed softly. «And he’s not the sort to enjoy any of that. He’s amazingly humble for a celebrity.»

«Unlike some people,» Dudley muttered.

«Oh, don’t get me started! Tell me more about your classes,» Draco urged.

«Well. . . .»

Viktor showed up at his side before he managed to get out of the Great Hall after dinner and steered him off for a walk, this time just rambling aimlessly inside the school. He passed on some of the jokes his year mates had been bandying about, though Harry thought they were a little too vulgar even if they were funny.

I get the feeling Dudley will be gaining a pen pal once this year is over. He spends a fair amount of time with Draco,he commented.

Well, he did redeem himself after a bad start, and those two do like to talk about quidditch incessantly. Though from what I’ve overheard I think it’s also the differences between how we’re taught. I expect that Draco is upset that his mother won that argument.

Hm. That would be interesting if Draco could convince his parents to transfer him. Well, assuming they aren’t worried about the school being blown up again. I should think they’d like to get their only child away from Dumbledore. Except he doesn’t speak German, which is a bit of a sticking point.

Possibly. Anyone else of interest?Viktor asked casually.

Dudley was telling me about this blonde girl he met from Ravenclaw, a year below us. He says she’s a bit loopy, but in a good way. I haven’t met her yet, but he’s more complimentary of her than he is Ilsa, if that says anything. I’m starting to wonder if he has a crush. And, get this, she already knew he could speak English perfectly well without him ever saying a word. Oh.He remembered the gift and was about to pull it out, but also remembered things his mother and Tom had said. A look around showed far too many paintings in the vicinity for his comfort.

What is it?

He shook his head. Too many potential watchers. After we finish our walk?

Of course.

So how does this mastery thing work in around quidditch?

Ah, half my day will be practices with the team and then I return for lunch and work on the mastery.

So they’re going to work you like a dog from both ends?

Yes, pretty much. But I think it will be worth it in the end. I want something for the time when I have to retire. If nothing else a mastery would qualify me to teach.

That would be interesting,he said with a grin. They continued to amble around for a while and eventually repaired to Harry’s room, whereupon he pulled the bracelet from his pocket and handed it over. Protection against fire, frost, and shock, and I have pieces to make it a lot more effective for later on with a few adjustments.

Viktor slid it on, his brows rising at how it expanded to fit past his hand and wrist bone, and nodded. I like it. It’s stylish and the colours are subtle enough. Thank you, Harry.

He smiled happily. Have you figured out what you’re going to do?

I can go two ways, to different strengths. I can try to make the dragon dizzy by flying, or I can use spell work.

Except that summoning your broom would sort of scream that you had foreknowledge,he said thoughtfully.

Exactly. Therefore I need to use spells.

Well that kind of sucks. He told what the task was, or just that it’s dragons?

Viktor took a seat. Get past the dragon to grab a golden egg. Points off for things like harming the eggs, harming the dragon, getting hurt, and so forth.

Unfortunately I don’t have a dragon keeper in my pocket I can drag out and interrogate,he joked. After sitting down he flopped back. I almost think I’m more nervous than you are about all this. You seem so damn calm about the whole thing. I don’t know. Maybe it bothers me so much because I don’t have your skill and know I never will.

Viktor shifted to face him better and frowned. What? You’re just fourteen, Harry. You have plenty of time to mature your magic.

He grimaced. No, not really. You already know I have problems, but you don’t know that it’s a lot more than just not being able to use the wand movements. My mean core strength isn’t even average. I’ll never be able to cast the higher level spells. I have to work twice as hard as anyone else to manage as well as I do.He blinked a few times against the sudden sting in his eyes and cursed himself mentally; he thought he had gotten past this already.

I take it back. Maybe you would have been a Hufflepuff.

Harry snorted in amusement.

*

He was strongly considering the merits of taking up the habit of biting his nails when he remembered what he said to Tom, and instead worked on locking down his emotions. His mother seemed to know what he was doing and patted him on the leg. They were sitting with Durmstrang, on the edge of their section. Viktor’s parents had been unable to get away, so it was just students and his mother there as Viktor’s supporters. Aunt Petunia had heard the word “dragon” and responded negatively to coming. Or, as she said, “I had enough of a fright with a calm, human-friendly one. I don’t want to see barely adult students going up against ones that probably aren’t. I don’t think my heart could take it.”

Diggory went first against a Swedish Short-Snout and used Transfiguration to try to distract the dragon; he was only partly successful, but did manage to get his egg. Delacour came out next against a Welsh Green and used some kind of charm; the dragon looked to be very sleepy after a time, but as she was going after her egg it released a gusty—and fire-laden—breath that set her robes alight. Still, she did succeed.

Then came Viktor against a Chinese Fireball. Harry was even more glad he had arranged for the bracelet when he saw the dragon. His mother reached over to grab his hand and squeeze. Viktor scanned the stands and his gaze stopped on Harry with a faint smile; he did his best to smile back. When the task began Viktor stood there for a span of seconds, gazing intently around the arena.

Then his wand came up and he was quickly transfiguring rocks at his feet into replicas of the dragon’s actual eggs, a vivid crimson speckled with gold. He also summoned something from the direction of the forest, but given how tiny whatever it was was Harry could not figure it out. Within seconds, however, there was a small drift of squealing pigs racing off to a point midway between Viktor and the dragon and farther on, to form a kind of triangle.

While the dragon was distracted Viktor cast a spell at his boots and levitated his fake eggs, then began walking along a somewhat curved route toward the golden egg. Every time the dragon started to notice he was getting closer he would roll one of the fake eggs toward the pigs and distract her again. He did attempt to summon the gold egg, but it was obviously warded against such measures.

Viktor kept up the same strategy even after he obtained the gold egg, this time backing away while he kept the Fireball distracted, and got through the task without ever being flamed or in any way hurt. Harry was so relieved. Even though the bracelet turned out to be not needed he did not regret having given it to his mentor. He squeezed his mother’s hand happily and joined in with the other Durmstrang students in standing up and cheering Viktor’s success.

After the scores were totaled up Viktor had forty-six; Bagman had scored him oddly low in comparison to the others, especially for a champion who really did nothing wrong. What the hell?Dudley muttered. Bagman is blind!

While I agree with your sentiment,his mother said, I do wish you’d take more care with your choice of language.

Sorry, Aunt Lily,Dudley said in a subdued way.

The dragon keepers finally got the Fireball away and moved the final dragon into place, a Hungarian Horntail; it looked far more vicious than the others. Oh dear,his mother said, I’m not sure if I can stand to watch this.

We could always go join Viktor instead,he suggested.

His mother hesitated, then nodded. Let’s.

They were almost down to ground level when Edward came out, and as they walked toward the tent Viktor was in Harry could see that his brother had chosen to fly. He laughed to himself and shook his head. ‘Just take out an advert in the Daily Prophet why don’t you?’ he thought. Just before they ducked into the tent he saw his brother fling something at the dragon. ‘Merlin, he’s not actually using prank products, is he?’

Inside he oriented on Viktor, who smiled once he saw them. Harry’s mother dashed forward to give Viktor a hug. Oh, you were wonderful! Excellent job, Viktor. You deserved such a high score.

Viktor seemed almost embarrassed by the praise, but nodded and said, Thank you.

His mother gave Viktor what Harry thought was an odd look, and Viktor responded with a slight shake of his head. He frowned at this unspoken communication between the two. Instead of calling them on it he said, I expect there’ll be another party in the tower tonight.

Viktor rolled his eyes. Can I hide in your room again?

Harry and his mother laughed.