Grazhir :: Crossover :: Kalpa :: 16

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16

“So, I arrived early,” Serana said, “thinking to scope the place out before the meeting. Well, he also arrived early and went to the bar, ordered a few things, then took a small table in the corner. Sat down, back to the wall, pulled out a book to read. One of the girls delivered a glass of wine and a cheese plate—you know, crackers, grapes, a variety of cheeses.”

Harry nodded, leaning into Viktor.

“I saw his wand come out briefly, so I assume he was checking for tampering, but after that he flipped open his book and started reading, working his way through his order. He didn’t even seem to be concerned about possible attacks, or checking to see if I’d arrived yet. This was a shady dive in a bad part of town, so you’d expect differently.”

“So you just watched him for a while?”

She nodded. “I figured I’d wait until he was just about done. It was odd, though. It was almost sexual, the way he ate.”

Harry blushed; somehow Tom and sex just did not click in his mind.

“He was just about finished when I walked up to him. He looked up, nodded, and gestured to the other chair. I sat down and looked at him—I admit I was very curious—and he looked back, slowly putting a piece of cheese in his mouth.” She shook her head. “It wasn’t until he drained the last of his wine that he spoke. Within a minute after that we were portkeying to Hrothgar. He didn’t stay long.”

‘I may never look at the man the same way,’ he thought, his gaze shifting to the side.

Viktor shook his head, smiling, then said, “It’s about lunch. We should be going.”

Lunch was sandwiches. Afterward Harry went off with Tom back to the sepulcher to work on that transfiguration. The evening was devoted to card games. Unfortunately the paper hadn’t turned up anything of interest when it came to films except for Batman Forever—they got them later than the Americans—and even then it was not all that great. It was rather a dry year for entertainment in his opinion.

His repeat was spent doing the usual while Viktor worked hard on mastering wizarding spells, but he was extremely frustrated. Transfiguration up to this point involving inanimate to animate life forms dealt with simpler, more passive creatures. The additional load of a proper carnivore over a herbivore was pushing him to his limits, and it was becoming obvious to him, especially after looking over the syllabus for Transfiguration again that he would have to drop that as a class after the OWLs. Charms was a bit easier, but it still looked bad. Same with Offense and Defense. He was in a seriously foul mood that evening, not a state he usually succumbed to.

Viktor noticed—he would have to be blind not to—but did not patronize him with “comforting” words. Instead he led Harry into the kitchen, reversed one of the chairs, and sat Harry down. “Uncover your torso,” he said blandly.

Harry frowned as his lip curled up. He was already cranky and this mysteriousness was irritating.

“Uncover your torso,” Viktor repeated patiently, his head tilting slightly to the side.

He could feel his nostrils flaring in frustration, but after several long moments he shrugged and did as Viktor asked, setting his clothing on the table.

“Now, please sit backward.”

Despite himself he was becoming rather curious, so he didn’t hesitate, and promptly stood up and resumed sitting, facing the back of the chair. A very short time later Viktor placed a hand on his shoulder and pulled to get him to lean back a little, shoved an elongated cushion in between his chest and the chair, then released him. He saw Viktor grabbing the other chair and moving it behind him, then heard him sitting.

A moment later strong hands came to rest on his shoulders and Viktor said, “A massage. And done this way there is much less temptation. Okay?”

A smile crept onto his face; he nodded, relaxing against the cushion. He quickly found, as Viktor’s hands slid over the flesh of his back, that motion plus heat plus moisture meant a delicious kind of friction that had him rolling his eyes in pleasure. He surrendered against the cushion fully, letting his arms dangle, and just let Viktor have his wicked way. Squeaks and groans and moans escaped his throat when his boyfriend’s thumbs would dig slightly, either pushing up the expanse of his back or in circles, or when he used his nails to scratch on the way back down, or when all his fingers would go after his shoulders and neck. Some timeless span later Viktor gently swept his hands down Harry’s back and pulled away, causing Harry to sigh in disappointment.

“A massage doesn’t erase the cause of your frustration or ease things long term,” Viktor said quietly, “it just gives you a bit of a respite. But my hands are tired now, so. . . .”

He slowly sat up, stood, and sat back down properly, then leaned toward Viktor, who obligingly gave him a kiss. “Thank you,” he said, smiling fondly.

“You’re skinny,” Viktor replied, smiling as well.

“Hey! You’re one to talk,” he said, reaching out to poke his boyfriend in the chest. “Maybe we should be doing weapons work together.”

“Well,” Viktor said thoughtfully, “that would give you an outlet for the problems, and both of us know healing spells. Do you think Serana would help get us started? I noticed she carries a dagger.”

“I think so. I’ve only done a little bit with a dagger myself. I’ve concentrated more on the bow because it’s a distance weapon.”

Viktor eyed him and nodded. “Well, it shows in your arms. Put your stuff back on so you don’t lose more heat.”

While Harry did that he thought about his boyfriend’s suggestion. Given how much he had wanted to kick and destroy things earlier, perhaps learning how to fight with a dagger was a good idea. He would never have it in mind to maliciously hurt Viktor, but the purely physical exertion would have a calming effect on him overall. It would also help with stamina, and Restoration for injuries along the way. Having Serana ease them into it was better than flailing around until they figured it out. He nodded, looking at Viktor again. “If you’re up for trying, so am I.”

“Agreed, then,” Viktor replied. “We can ask in the morning—Valdis if Serana isn’t there, so she can pass on the question if necessary.”

He was content enough later on, when they went to bed, that he refrained from teasing his boyfriend—much. Actually, he thought the hair on Viktor’s chest was simply fun to play with. It was soft and silky and felt nice between his fingers. Viktor took it as the offer it partly was and some time later he had been subjected to a cleaning spell and pulled close. Apparently his boyfriend was feeling too comfortable or sleepy to get out of bed for a shower. Harry supposed it made no difference and the shower could wait until morning; he felt awfully sleepy, as well.

Serana agreed, during her next visit, to teach them the basics. She also pointed out that everyone should learn their own, personal style. Some were more agile, some more forceful. Her words made sense.

When his birthday rolled around he and Viktor had been through three lessons and his days—both types—were incredibly busy. At least three mornings a week on dagger work, afternoons for lessons from Tom, and his repeat days were filled with spell mastery. Only his evenings were free, though all of it would change to some degree in a fortnight. Viktor would have to return to Durmstrang and a week after that Draco and Luna would be arriving.

Like other birthdays it was a quiet day, with nothing in particular to mark it as different aside from some of his favorite foods appearing at lunch. James’s treatment of Edward had produced a curious effect; honest, sincere praise was fine, making a fuss wasn’t; and marking the date of a solar revolution was nothing to get especially fussed over. ‘It will be,’ he thought, ‘next year, but for entirely naughty reasons. And the year after because I’ll be an adult. And the year after because I’ll be done with school unless I try for a mastery in something.’

Viktor’s gift to him was a simple enough fountain pen, except that he had gotten help from Tom to enchant the ink cartridge to never run out. It was certainly easier to use than a quill and produced a cleaner line. It made him feel slightly guilty about not having given Viktor anything on his birthday in May, but his boyfriend had made it quite clear that he wanted nothing after the presents he had already been given in connection with the tournament.

That evening, as something of a treat, Lily and Petunia brought home the rental of a VCR and a copy of Star Wars. Viktor was fascinated, even though it wasn’t being displayed on one of the huge screens found in a cinema. Snape had showed up just before they all got comfortable and handed a package to Harry, then joined them in drinking purely muggle soft drinks and eating buttered, salted popcorn during the film.

Afterward Harry opened the package he had set aside to find a set of annotated Potions books. A faint smile crept over his face as he examined some of the writing; these were the words of a master. “Thank you, sir,” he said quietly. “These will be very useful.”

“Severus,” the man replied.

His eyes widened as he looked up. “Thank you,” he repeated, nodding gently. “Maybe I can become a Potions Master, or come up with new ways to runically enchant things.”

“And how have your Potions classes been going?”

“Well, I think. Byquist isn’t exactly in love with them, but Viktor says Dahl is, and I’ll have Dahl from now on.”

Viktor nodded. “Dahl is a much more enthusiastic teacher. For Byquist it’s just a job. And I think better than you admit,” he said, giving Harry a look. “You always get Outstandings on your Potions work.”

Harry ducked his head for a moment. “Yes, well. Just as well that we get a better teacher for OWL and NEWT years. Byquist is good at teaching the basics—safety, reactions, preparation—and the lower level potions.” His bracelet twitched so he looked down. Tom had sent a message telling him about a gift in his work room. He hoped it was the cage, but it would have to wait until the repeat. After clearing the message he added, “I don’t take Creatures, but Dudley does, so between the two of us. . . .”

Snape nodded, hesitated, then said, “I would like to speak with you privately. Viktor is welcome to join us.”

He eyed the man—was this where a discussion of his mother came up? “All right. Let’s go take a walk.”

Ten minutes along one of the walking trails Snape opened with, “You already know that your mother and I were friends.”

“. . .Yes, she has recounted more than one fond memory to me,” Harry replied.

“Moving here might be seen as idiotic.”

Harry deliberately misunderstood the underlying meaning and replied teasingly, “Are you saying there is something wrong with Norway and her peoples?”

Snape looked over sharply, but relaxed on seeing Harry’s expression.

Harry cleared the emotion from his face and continued, “What is so strange about a person choosing to depart lands of such lingering pain and sorrow? To be near the one person they counted as friend for years?”

“You know what I aspire to,” Snape replied, being rather blunt.

“Yes. My mother is candid with me,” he admitted. “Not one hundred percent, because that would be weird, but candid enough. Now that you’ve stopped giving me those looks—how did I put it again?”

Viktor looked him in the eyes, seeing his mood, then went thoughtful, obviously searching his memories. “Ah, yes. I believe you likened it to a pederast considering which dark corridor to bugger you in.”

Snape choked on his saliva and went into a coughing fit.

“Yes, well,” he said, trying not to laugh. “If you are what makes my mother happy, then okay. The other side of that coin should be obvious. My mother has always been my defender and protector, even when that meant having to send me away from those four. I will do the same in return.”

“I believe we understand each other, then,” Snape said, recovering from his little fit. No doubt he had never, ever meant to give that sort of impression during meals in the Great Hall.

Harry nodded and began asking questions about Potions, and the resulting discussion filled their time until the way brought them back to the his home. Two days later Snape ushered Harry’s mother out for a “date”. He also noticed, that evening, that the book he had loaned his aunt was back on his bedroom shelf. Either Petunia had decided against trying, or had tried and failed. He acknowledged to himself it was back and let the issue drop in his mind.

Viktor left on another sunny day, having waited until after breakfast. Harry was sad to see him go and got a lingering kiss to tide him over, but knew it would only be a few weeks. So much of his time was caught up in work that the time he had with Viktor was precious to him.

Then Draco and Luna arrived. Their portkeys dropped them in the yard out back, away from the sepulcher. Luna was led up to the recently vacated guest room and Draco to Dudley’s room. Thankfully Harry had mastered the transfiguration he needed by then so he would not have to explain why he kept disappearing during the afternoons.

Once those two were settled in Harry and Dudley brought them back downstairs and into the dining area for lunch. Luna immediately started making plans with Petunia for a hair-styling session. Dudley looked a bit bemused by that and quickly began a conversation about quidditch with Draco. ‘Boring week incoming?’ he wondered.

Luna and Petunia disappeared once the meal was over, giggling. Harry stared after them uncertainly, not wanting to know what it was that made a female giggle like that. Dudley and Draco had continued their passionate discussion of quidditch, including whether or not Dudley thought they could get Draco onto his team, but that was broken up—briefly at least—when Snape showed up to go over Potions with Harry.

Draco seemed terribly surprised that his erstwhile Potions teacher was there in Norway, but had apparently learned more of discretion (perhaps due to Tom) and said nothing even after his expression cleared. Harry and Snape spent a companionable afternoon going through what Harry had already learned, and he began to get a better sense of what the man was really like based on what he was seeing now and his mother had described.

Snape was a man driven almost from the start by “Light” bullies down the road to being “Dark”, or at least more so than he had started as given his mother’s family and the abuse he suffered. He had learned to fight back, but that only gave them more reason to call him Dark and step up the bullying. The only thing that brought him back from the precipice was the threat to Lily’s life, and at that he was part of the cause having been the one to overhear the beginning of the prophecy which had since helped to shape Harry’s life.

That had taken a minute for Harry to digest. He absolutely did not know how to react to the knowledge, but the uncharacteristically blunt delivery was indicative of Snape wanting things to be straight between them rather than have it come out later and be seen as a betrayal of any relationship that developed. That he could understand. A tiny part of him did wonder if Tom had given the man some “advice”.

Luna had done up Petunia’s hair, as seen at dinner, and indeed, she looked very pretty and even younger. The style was nice with blonde hair, though Serana was in a class of her own. They settled in to watch Star Wars again after the meal, so that their friends could experience the wonder of muggle technology. The two were enchanted, though Luna had a disconcerting habit of pointing out errors in logic and other flaws in a quiet voice.

All too soon it was time to return to school. All four of them had done their shopping and happily enough took up their portkeys to the school and activated them. Draco looked around wonderingly. “It’s so different here,” he said. “It’s a castle, sure, but it’s so cold looking. So forbidding. There is none of the warmth I’m used to.”

Harry nodded. “We’re a hardy lot here. Come on. We have just enough time to—oh, wait.” He scanned the arrivals area and located Ilsa, and called her over with a yell. “We have just enough time to get our things to our rooms. Ilsa, will you help with Luna?”

That being confirmed he and Dudley led the way to their room, having been assured it was the same one as always. Whatever had happened to close the school for so long had not impacted the living areas. Their room now had three beds, each against a different wall, though it made the arrangement awkward for desks. The other awkwardness might have been Harry doing his repeats, but he knew that Draco was unlikely to be up early enough as to wonder what was going on during those times Viktor might join him. And speaking of Viktor—his face broke out into a smile as he wheeled his trunk over to his bed and parked it.

Draco put his at the foot of his bed for the time being and Dudley did much the same as Harry did. Then they took off for the dining hall. Just outside the doors was Viktor, who smiled on seeing Harry and approached. An arm was slung around his shoulders two seconds later and he was pulled close.

“Do you actually do anything work-wise today or is this afternoon for settling in?” Harry asked.

“We get a break today because of the returning students. After that it’s back to the grind,” Viktor replied, guiding him to a seat.

“Did you at least get this morning off?” he asked, smiling when Viktor sat next to him. Ilsa, Dudley, and Luna sat across from them and Draco to Harry’s other side. Vasilka, Luna’s room mate, sat next to Luna.

“Yes. Any day I don’t have practice I can be here, in theory working myself silly on my mastery. Though, being here to get a mastery means I can come and go anyway, so if you people are nice to me I might consider topping off sweets supplies.”

Harry bumped Viktor’s arm and then when Karkaroff smacked his goblet with a knife for attention turned his focus that way. They got the usual speech, but at least Karkaroff seemed to be a bit more focused than he had been at Hogwarts, and less disinterested. Kozlov looked relieved. Maybe they had just been really discomfited by being out of their usual surroundings? Their comfort zone? Or maybe they disliked Dumbledore that much.

“At least they seem back to normal,” Dudley commented quietly, unknowingly echoing Harry’s thoughts. “And we’re finally back home.”

“So to speak,” Draco said.

“Right.” Dudley nodded, then smiled when the food made its appearance.

When the weekend hit Harry sat down with Luna to see how things were going. She happily enough informed him that things were fine. The mentor system at Durmstrang made it very difficult for bullies to get a toe-hold; no one wanted to bring down the wrath of the upper years for making them get involved in idiotic disputes and younger years trying to assert dominance.

But for Harry, he was having a difficult time. Not his classes, even the wand ones, because he had already taught himself those spells and knew he could perform them well enough to pass. He had been feeling exceptionally moody of late and prone to snapping at people. Viktor noticed and hauled him off into the trunk’s dressing room one evening.

Once the outer door was secured Harry burst out with, “What is wrong with me!? You never acted like this.”

Viktor drew him over to the bench and sat him down, joining him a second later. “Yes, I did. I was just better at hiding it. Your physical self is still maturing, Harry, things keep changing. Your mind as well, for all that you have rigorously trained it. A part of you is chafing so hard against the rules and restrictions, against your very personal problems, and that you cannot simply go out and do whatever it is you feel like doing.

“Believe me, I felt it, too. It seems to hit the more powerful more strongly—and before you say it, your cousin is a good wizard, but he is not particularly special in terms of power. You may not be a strong wizard, but you are strong in the arcane arts. I wonder at times if I found my beginning studies with you on Occlumency to be easier simply because I had so much practice keeping myself calm.

“You need to be aware of it, and you need to use what you’ve already learned to make it dissipate when you don’t have the option to go shatter something or get in some practice with me. Okay? I absolutely don’t want to hear that you’ve been resorting to something like calming potions, because those don’t solve anything, just give you a temporary reprieve from learning to control yourself.”

Harry lowered his gaze to the floor, considering Viktor’s words. He did feel restless, a bit trapped, and certainly frustrated by things beyond his control. He was frustrated right that moment for not having thought to use Occlumency to even out his mood. Maybe because sometimes feeling angry and breaking things was satisfying? It really wasn’t right to let his bad mood affect others, people who had done nothing wrong. Perhaps he should move his Occlumency practice to the mornings so as to help it carry through the day rather then doing so before he slept.

He nodded and said, “You’ll pull me aside again if you see—” He waved his hand around vaguely.

“Of course,” Viktor assured him. “I would be a poor friend if I did not haul you up short on occasions like this—if I did not take the time to listen or try to help—if I did not try to offer you alternatives to losing it.”

He nodded again, exhaling a bit noisily. “I’m dropping the wand classes after OWLs.”

Viktor nodded. “Do you still plan to go as far as you can with them, privately?”

“Mm. I’m already into the sixth year spells, but it’s so hard,” he said tiredly. “I’ll master what I can of them, but I’ll be concentrating more on mastery of the aetherial spells and completing the fifth year spells. I don’t like it, hitting this wall, but it’s there and I have to admit it and not bash my head against it.”

“That sounds reasonable. Do what you need first, then give some time to the rest. When you do want to fit in our dagger training?”

“Um. . . .” Viktor was probably going to be horribly tired a lot of the time. “We have two choices, I guess? Evenings before your mornings off or the opposite. Or, well, it depends a lot on your schedule, right?”

“Tuesdays and Thursdays. Perhaps Saturdays since I have the weekends off,” Viktor replied. “Well, unless there’s a game.”

“That’s a given. Do you think it’d be possible to charm a target for my work room to move erratically within a certain scope?”

Viktor looked a bit puzzled by the request, but nodded. “I don’t see why not. Maybe even something runic.”

“I can’t get any better with a bow if my aim is for shit,” Harry explained. “Draw strength? Sure. I have every intention of being able to use Valdis’s bow, but if I can’t practice against something that moves. . . .”

Viktor nodded again, then smiled a bit oddly. He eyed Harry for a moment, then said, “I can always get you the equivalent of a wind-up muggle mouse toy to set loose inside.”

He snickered, his mood lifting.

Over the course of the year Draco and Luna relaxed even more. Luna had a steady support system in place and people who genuinely wanted to spend time with her, and not just Dudley with his romantic notions. Draco was learning what being friends with someone actually meant, as opposed to the wary system of suspicious bartering any Slytherin was taught. Someone you could depend on to have your back—and not be readying a knife to stick in it? What a concept!

Draco had found out fairly quickly that money meant very little. It had to cost a fair amount to attend Durmstrang, so having money was a given. Flaunting it was just a way of saying you had horrible insecurity issues. In some respects it had been easier for him at Hogwarts, being friends with them, because they did not fit into the established hierarchy there and he could act as he wished. At Durmstrang he had to learn a whole new set of rules. “I think my father is a bit surprised,” he said one day.

“What do you mean?” Harry asked.

“I’m starting to see that kids are taught some really weird lessons at Hogwarts,” Draco replied, “and it skews things. I can see now that my parents are actually rather lucky. Sure, they had the usual pure-blood marriage deal, but they do care for each other. It’s not just an agreement. I think he’s surprised because I have friends now, not hangers-on.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I don’t think my father has any friends.”

“One of the things I found most difficult about Hogwarts was the house system,” he said. “The idea that at eleven years old you get pigeonholed into a group. How after that people stopped paying attention to who you were and simply saw a symbol, and made a whole lot of assumptions about you based on that. If you were a Gryffindor you were stupidly brave and reckless. I look at my mother and shake my head. If you’re a Hufflepuff you’re too stupid, too cowardly, and too naïve, and only good for drudge work. I don’t think anyone can say that about Diggory.”

Draco nodded. “Or my ‘friends’ Crabbe and Goyle. They’re honestly too thick-headed to be Slytherin, but I think they went there because of tradition. They probably would have been better off in Hufflepuff with people who cared about bringing them along. It’s not all wine and roses here, though.”

Harry smiled in amusement. “We do have wine, though,” he joked.

Draco rolled his eyes. “Yes, which is a nice thing. It’s very easy to get tired of having pumpkin juice poured down your throat at every opportunity. No, what I meant was that it’s rather stiff here.”

“Oh yes. I agree. I noticed that almost straight away. But the school seems very concerned with propriety. I was shocked to see some of the things that happen in the hallways at Hogwarts. Viktor tells me it still happens here, but it’s all private. They want us to be mannerly. I also think that explains the mentor system to some degree.”

Draco looked thoughtful, then actually blushed, pink staining his cheeks. “Yes, well, you guys must have been rather discomfited by that scene on the train, then.”

He nodded, a bit apologetically. “The word barbarian might have come up.”

Draco dropped his head and made a faint sound of distress.

“In all fairness, you were really excited. And from what I’ve seen of Potter he’s not easy to ignore.”

Draco sighed and nodded. “I don’t do so well when I’m excited. And Potter’s father is infuriating. Even when he starts it—if it wasn’t for Professor Snape—” He looked up, his brow crinkled. “And what is the story there? I’m glad he’s left because he was never, ever happy teaching. I just thought it was terribly strange to see him at your house.”

Harry shrugged, unsure how much he should be saying. “I think,” he said slowly, “he saw an opportunity to get away from Dumbledore and took it without hesitation. He and my mother were friends back when they were in school—even before that—so why not Norway? Dumbledore seems to play favorites a lot, from what I’ve seen and heard. If he gets involved it’s always the Slytherin who comes off worst, despite all this noise about people deserving a second chance.”

Draco scoffed. “Yeah, sure. Second chances galore and a slap on the wrist for his favorites.”

“Did Snape do the same?”

“Well, maybe a little,” Draco admitted. “The professors were all too ready to take points from a Slytherin, unless they were one in school themselves. He didn’t seem to have any problems taking them from everyone else in retaliation.”

“Maybe he recognized that the points system was utter crap?” Harry guessed.

Draco looked shocked for a moment, then thoughtful.

“Okay, look at it this way. You have prefects who don’t really have much power and frequently look the other way. Half of them don’t take their positions seriously. On top of that you have a points system that applies against the house, not the individual. Someone losing a bunch of points may be vilified by their house mates and someone who gets a lot cheered. The individual means nothing unless they piss someone off, essentially. At the end of the year the house with the most points gets a useless trophy, and most of the people in that house probably didn’t even contribute much. It’s divisive and makes it hard for students to cross house boundaries. At least with the Quidditch Cup you have people actively working toward a recognizable goal in a sporting event.”

Draco looked even more thoughtful. “But here we have mentors who look out for their charges, and stop the problems before they get a foothold. I expect if they slacked off they’d lose the spot to someone else, and it doesn’t seem to be used here as a form of currency.” His head came up. “You’re right about the one thing, the House Cup doesn’t mean anything, though it does kind of teach something.”

Harry tilted his head. “Oh?”

“That winning it doesn’t mean you keep it and you have to keep trying and striving. Winning isn’t the end of the game.”

Harry smiled.