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Chapter 9: Chapter Nine: An Old Friend
Chapter 9: An Old Friend
Two weeks. That’s how much time had passed since Rose had last spoken with Krum.
She’d meant it when she’d said she wanted to write a book about him. And he – at least as far as she knew– had meant it when he agreed to let her do it. But as much as Rose would have liked to get right down to business, there was still the small matter of Krum’s incarceration to contend with first.
Just as Rose suspected, Brooks had pulled a lot of strings to get her into that initial meeting, but he only had so many favors to call in, and even Rose’s last name wasn’t enough to garner her unbridled access to a Ministry prisoner. So she was forced to wait, allowing the legal system to run its course. Brooks did his best to keep her apprised of Krum’s situation – Krum having at last agreed to let his son help defend him. They’d already made it through the initial hearing, where the formal charges were presented: simple assault and outraging the public decency. Brooks assured Rose that this was good news – the Ministry deciding not to pursue hate-crime charges after all. Still, he was far from in the clear. Krum was still facing some serious charges that, if convicted, could land him in Azkaban for years. There was no word yet on when the trial would begin, or if there would even be a trial; Brooks was hoping to score Krum a plea deal that would keep him out of prison altogether. But for the moment at least, the main focus was on getting Krum out on bail. Once he was back at home, they could work on putting together a proper defense.
“Do you think we should just put the whole book idea on hold until after this is over?” Rose had asked Brooks during their last meeting. He’d stopped by earlier that week, poking his head into Rose’s office, filling her in on the latest developments in the case. “I mean, Krum does have more important things to focus on at the moment.”
“As long as he’s willing, I say push forward with it as best you can. There really isn’t much he can do for himself at this point except stay out of trouble, and having something else to focus on might be the best way to ensure that. Besides, I’m doing what I can, but if this goes to trial, the man will need more than an entertainment lawyer to see him through. And good legal counsel isn’t cheap. The sooner this hits the bookshops, the better for both of you.”
So Rose had thrown herself into her work, surprised by how much she was able to accomplish without actually speaking to Krum. Of course, the majority of the book would have to come from him: his stories, his recollections, his thoughts and feelings. But it was going to take more than just copying down whatever the man said; the story would need direction and focus and – just like her boss had told her from the start – it was going to need heart. If Rose wanted to find the right framework for the book, she was going to need a better understanding of who Krum was as a person, to immerse herself in all the things that reminded her of him. And there seemed only one logical place to start: Quidditch.
Rose wouldn't exactly call herself a Quidditch fan, but it was next to impossible to be raised in the wizarding world without having at least a basic understanding of how the sport was played. Still, she was surprised to learn just how little she actually knew about the game. According to the books she’d checked out from the library, Quidditch was nearly a thousand years old, with the earliest recorded match dating back to 1050, when players used enchanted rocks to knock their opponents off their brooms. The sport was now being played in more than two dozen countries, with at least fifty professional teams comprised of more than five hundred players operating at any one time. Revenues from ticket sales alone brought in close to a twenty million Galleons a year, with another ten to twenty million earned though merchandizing and advertising. There was no dobut that Quidditch was a big moneymaker for all parties involved – and that, for a time, had included Krum.
Krum, Rose was learning, had been somewhat what of a prodigy. He’d been picked to play on Bulgarian’s national team when he was just seventeen, appearing in his first World Cup before he’d even completed his schooling. Krum would go on to compete in another seven championships – the last one as a seeker for the Tutshill Tornados, and for which he was rumored to have been paid upwards of a half-million Galleons, the highest sum ever given to a player for appearing in a single match. It would also prove to be Krum’s final game.
Rose knew that Viktor’s career had ended after he sustained a serious injury, and she knew that injury had been the result of a nasty fall, but what she hadn’t known was that the fall had occurred during a practice session. Injuries outside of actual matches, she learned, were rare because players practiced on pitches protected by any number of enhancements that were banned during actual play. It was just before the start of what would have been Krum’s tenth season as a professional seeker; he’d been trying out a new defensive move when he’d lost control and collided with another player. The force of the impact knocked Krum off his broom – a common occurrence for a Quidditch player – but one of the spells that was designed to slow down his descent had failed, and Viktor plummeted more than twenty meters before crashing to the ground. If it hadn’t been for the quick spell work of the team’s mediwizards, Krum might have died right there on the pitch. He survived, but not without suffering major damage to his spine, which left him unable to walk for almost a year. There had even been an inquiry following the incident, accusations of sabotage on the part of another player. But no proof of any wrongdoing was ever found. It was just an accident. A tragic one, but an accident nonetheless.
Rose learned something else about Krum’s injury. According to The Quidditch World Almanac of 2004, even before his fall, critics were already speculating that Krum’s career was coming to an end. They claimed Krum’s best days were behind him, that ten years on, his body was starting to show major signs of decline. He was less agile, less able to dodge bludgers and weave between oncoming players. The sport, they claimed, was ready for a new generation of athletes. Krum, in other words, was simply getting too old to keep up. Even without the injury, Viktor’s days as player had been numbered – a bitter pill to swallow for a man who’d just turned twenty-eight.
Rose had just finished reading through an article on the long-term effects of spinal cord damage when she heard a knock at her door. She looked up from across her desk to find Joseph Heart standing in the doorway, holding a newspaper in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other.
“I figured you could use this,” he said, passing her the cup. The coffee inside was still steaming.
Rose took it, pushing aside the papers on her desk in order to make room. Heart had been over the moon when she’d told him she’d agreed to write Krum’s story. He’d even promised to bring on some additional help to take over her normal workload until the book was done. That had been almost two weeks ago and the manuscripts were piling up fast. Literally. There wasn't an inch of spare room left anywhere in her office. If he didn’t hire someone soon, there wasn’t going to be any place left for Rose to sit.
“I assume you’ve heard the news?”
It was Sunday morning, two weeks and a day since Rose had gone to the Ministry to see Krum. Weekends were quiet around the office, with only a few dedicated souls willing to venture into work outside of normal business hours. Heart was no exception; Rose couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen her boss in the office on a Sunday. His wife didn’t allow such things, saying it was bad enough he was there from sunup to sundown during the week. Seeing Heart standing in her doorway could only mean one of two things: either he and his wife still weren’t on speaking terms, or else Heart had something very important to discuss with Rose that couldn’t wait until Monday. Judging by the wedding ring once again visible on his finger and the cup of coffee she was guessing was meant to serve as a peace offering, Rose was inclined to believe it was the latter.
“What news?” she asked.
Heart tossed the folded newspaper onto her desk. It was already open to the Entertainment section. The headline at the top of the page read:
Quidditch’s Former Bad-Boy In Trouble Again
Rose looked up at Heart. “Is this today’s paper?”
“Hot off the presses this morning.”
“How did they find out about it?”
“Who knows? Actually, I’m surprised the whole story didn’t leak out long before now.”
“But what —” Rose began, but he cut her off.
“Just read it, will you?”
Rose turned her attention back to the newspaper.
After almost a decade out of the public eye, fifty-three year-old ex-Quidditch star and former media darling Viktor Krum has once again found himself on the wrong side of the law. Sources confirm that the former sport hero is back in Ministry custody following a bar fight earlier this month that sent at least one person to hospital. No reports yet on the cause of the fight, but some are already speculating this could be a sign that Krum is once again using drugs.
Witnesses – all of them Muggles and whose memories have now been modified – report that Krum was not alone in the pub at the time of the alleged incident. He was said to have been in the company of an unidentified younger woman, though there is no record of anyone else being found on-scene when Krum was taken into custody, and so far, Krum is refusing to name names. No trial date has been set but records show that Krum was released late last night after posting bail, which was set at one thousand Galleons. Krum has long been rumored to be facing serious financial troubles. It is unknown at present how or where he secured the funds necessary to ensure his release.
That was it. That was all it said. Rose read the story over for a second time just to make sure she hadn't missed anything. When she was done, she said, “So I guess he’s out then.”
“Certainly looks that way.” Heart was staring down at Rose, a curious expression on his face. She wondered if he already knew that she was the unidentified woman Krum had been spotted with that night.
When Heart failed to say more, she asked, “Is there anything else...?” Rose knew there was something more going on. There was no way Heart came all the way down there just to show her some silly tabloid story.
He paused a moment, stepping further into the office and closing the door behind him. “We need to talk deadlines.”
“Publishing is all about timing, Rose. Have I ever told you that?” She shook her head. “Well, it’s true. You’ve got to hit the market while it’s hot. You only get one chance at these things. This business with Krum – his arrest– it’s terrible news, and I feel for the poor bastard, really I do. He’s caught some tough breaks over the years. But it doesn’t have to be all for naught. Do you understand what I’m getting at?”
Rose shook her head again. “Not really.”
“What I’m trying to say here is that we need to act fast. Get ours while the taking is good.”
Now Rose was starting to get the picture, and it wasn’t pretty. “You want to use this – this attention he’s getting – as free advertisement for the book?”
“I don’t want to use it for anything. It is what it is. I’m just suggesting we take advantage of it. The man is back in the public eye whether he likes it or not. And I can guarantee that this,” he said, pointing down at the newspaper, “isn’t the last the press will have to say on the matter. Depending on how this trial plays out, we might be in for a real media firestorm. You know how those vultures can get once they sink their teeth into something. I’m just saying we have a chance to make the best of a bad situation.”
“Don’t you mean exploit a bad situation?
“You’re looking at this all wrong, kid. You’ve got to stop seeing Krum as the victim. He’s positioned to make a lot of money if this book does well. We all are. We didn’t create this mess, but that doesn’t mean we can’t ride the wave.”
As much as she hated to admit it, Heart had a point. Like Brooks said, Krum was going to need money if this all went to trial, and the book did have the potential to bring in a lot of cash, even more so now that Krum was back in the headlines. People would be more interested than ever to hear what the man had to say for himself.
“And just how soon do you expect this wave to roll in?” Rose asked. “What kind of deadline are we looking at?”
“Three months? You’ve got to be joking.”
“I never joke about money, Rose.”
“But...no, that’s just not possible. A project like this will take six months at least. Maybe more.”
Heart shook his head. “That’s way too long. In six months, the whole scandal could be over and done with and we’ll have missed our chance. Look,” he said, “you might have a hell of talent for writing, but you’ve got no clue about running a successful publishing operation. It’s one thing to hit the market with a new idea – something fresh and unexpected. It’s another thing to be chasing after it once all the interest has come and gone. We need to lead the way on this one. Anticipate the demand. So either this book goes out before Christmas, or the whole deal is off.”
“This isn’t up for negotiation, Rose. I don’t care if you have to chain yourself to the man, live on his fucking doorstep. You get in there and get this done before the world goes back to forgetting why they ever cared about Viktor Krum.”
Rose just sat there, unsure what else to say. Three months? It was preposterous to even suggest she could put together anything decent in such a short amount of time. She was going to have to follow Krum around morning, noon and night if she wanted to have even a prayer of meeting such a deadline.
“Buck up, Weasley,” he said as if reading her thoughts. “I’ve got a feeling this is all going to work out just fine.”
“And what makes you so sure?”
He shot a look at the newspaper still resting on her desk. “A mysterious young woman? Don’t tell me that wasn’t you.”
“So what if it was? I was only there—”
Heart put up a hand. “Hey, I don’t want the details. I’ve got enough legal troubles of my own. But you saw what it said – Krum’s refusal to name names. You know what that means?” But Rose just shook her head. “It means he’s trying to keep you out of this. Keep the press from hounding you like they’ve hounded him for the better part of four decades. How many people do you know who’d keep their mouth shut when faced with such an opportunity?"
“Let’s put it this way,” Heart said, crossing back to the door and yanking it open. “I don’t know too many blokes in his predicament who’d pass up the chance to throw around the name Weasley once the Ministry came knocking at their door. Maybe it helps him, maybe it doesn’t. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt his case if people knew he’d spent that evening in the company of the daughter of two of the country’s highest-ranking law enforcement officials. He’s taking a risk by keeping it to himself, and from what I know of the man, he’s not the kind who sticks his neck out for just anyone. So if you ask me, I'd say you’ve made yourself a friend, Rose. So do us both a favor and try not to fuck it up.”
Her brief conversation with Heart had given Rose a lot to think about. Was it really possible that she was the reason Krum had been so reluctant to speak up in his own defense? That he was somehow trying to protect her from what might happen if people found out she’d been with him that night? It sounded a little far-fetched. Why would a man she barely knew risk what might be his best shot at avoiding prison just to spare her from having to handle a little unwanted attention from the press?
Still, it would explain why no one from the Ministry had bothered to come around and take her statement yet. If Krum hadn’t told them, then it was possible they didn’t know she’d been there, that she’d witnessed the whole thing. Brooks knew, of course – and she suspected he’d been the one who’d told Heart – but as his lawyer, he’d be obligated to keep his mouth shut unless Krum gave him the go-ahead. With the possible exception of the bartender, all the other witnesses had been Muggles. They wouldn’t have been able to identify her; even most wizards wouldn’t know who she was just by looking at her – the exception being Krum, of course, who had spotted her coming a mile away.
Rose could have gone back and forth on the issue for days, but she didn’t have the time. With only three months to turn in her final draft, Rose didn’t have a single second to waste. So she got back to work, spending the rest of that morning and the better part of the afternoon jotting down a list of questions she wanted to ask Krum. Despite all the research she’d done, there was still a lot she didn’t know about the man. When had he first started playing Quidditch? He'd been so young when his career had begun, had there ever been anything else he’d wanted to do with his life? What had it been like growing up in Bulgaria? Did he ever return home to visit? Were his parents still alive?
Rose didn’t even know if the man was married. She didn’t think so, but she couldn’t be sure. She knew he’d been married at least twice – once to Brooks’ mother and once to a woman he’d met not long after sustaining his injury. But both marriages had ended in divorce. Had he ever gotten around to finding wife number three? Besides Brooks, did he have any children of his own?
And then there was the matter of the drugs. There wasn’t any way around it. She was going to have to ask him straight-up about why and how his life had taken such a dark turn. Rose wasn’t looking forward to broaching the topic with him, but she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t curious about what his answers might be.
By four o’clock, having come up with enough questions to fill three books, Rose knew there was nothing left for it but to find Krum and start getting down to business. After managing to track down his address – which Brooks had given to her at their last meeting, but which had soon been swallowed up by the mountains of paperwork that threatened to bury her alive – Rose gathered her notes, hit the streets, and went off in search of Krum.
The address she’d been given led her right into the heart of one of the poshest areas in all of London. It was the kind of neighborhood where it wasn’t unusual to spot celebrities, bankers, politicians, and even a few foreign dignitaries just out for a stroll, walking their dogs, or else playing with their well-dressed children in any of the impeccably manicured parks set up for their use only. The streets there were wide, at least by London standards, lined on either side by grand stucco houses, their white fronts sporting long, narrow balconies with rod iron railings and perfectly tended flowerboxes. Even the shops and restaurants were exclusive, with prices high enough to scare away any tourists who might wander into the area. It was a respite, a sanctuary for the rich and famous set up right smack in the city center.
Despite its obvious wealth and charm, Rose found it an odd match for Krum. It seemed kind of stuffy for a man of his reputation. Not to mention the cost. Rose couldn’t even begin to imagine what property in the area must run. It certainly wasn’t the type of neighborhood where she expected to find a person who was hurting for money.
Krum’s address turned out to be a four-story row home that had probably once belonged to a single family but had long since been converted into individual flats. Unlike most of the other houses in the area, the homes on this street were made of brick, which while still expensive-looking, made the place feel more homey, just a bit less ostentatious than the rest of the neighborhood. The front door, painted a bright blue, led into a grand hallway that occupied most of the first floor. Just inside the door sat a row of post boxes. Rose spotted Krum’s name on the box labeled Four. As there were only four boxes total, she assumed that Krum must be living alone on the top floor. She moved on, stepping further into the hall, her heels clicking against the marble floor, half-expecting to be stopped at any moment by one of the residents, or else a round-the-clock security guard wondering what a girl like her was doing in a place like this. But there was no one else in sight, so she crossed to the stairs and started making her way up.
Rose was just climbing the last flight of steps when she spotted someone heading down in her direction. He was tall, middle-aged perhaps, and dressed in a dark suit and tie. Catching sight of her, he slowed his pace, staring at Rose from behind his thick-framed glasses. But as soon as they were level with one another, he broke off eye contact and hurried past her without saying a word.
A friendly bunch, Rose thought to herself. Living here must be a real hoot.
Reaching the top landing, Rose spotted a solitary door at the far end of the hall, a little number “4” hanging just above the peephole. She looked down again at the small scrap of paper on which she’d written Krum’s address before stepping forward and rapping her knuckle against the frame.
A muffled voice from somewhere inside let out a string of profanities. This was soon followed by the sound of heavy footsteps heading in her direction.
“For fuck’s sake, vhat do you vant now—” Krum was shouting as he yanked open the door but stopped short once he caught sight of who was on the other side. “Rose?”
Krum was standing just inside the door. He was clean-shaven, dressed once again in his own clothes. His hair was damp, and the strong scent of soap and cigarette smoke preceded him out into the hall.
“Is this a bad time?” Rose was suddenly feeling very stupid for having not checked first to make sure it was all right for her to stop by. She’d been so distracted by her conversation with Heart and the thought of all work they needed to do, she hadn’t stopped to think that Krum might not be up for visitors just yet. He’d only been released from custody the night before.
Krum’s attention had moved from her face to the hall behind her, as if checking to see if she was alone. Rose turned around but saw no one else. After a pause, Krum looked back down at her. “No, it’s fine. Come in.”
He turned around and Rose was left to follow after him. The space she entered was incredibly bright, the far wall lined with windows, sunlight flooding in and reflecting off the crisp white walls. The space itself was huge, at least ten times the size of her own tiny flat, with tall ceilings that must have reached up at least twelve feet.
The space was very open. From where she stood, just inside the door, she could see off to her right sat the kitchen, looking like it had been carved out of marble and chrome, every surface spotless, as if the space had never been used. Off to her left was the dining and living room. The furniture there was sparse, but what little was there was dark and heavy, crafted from a mixture of oak and leather. The whole place had an industrial feel about it, which seemed entirely at odds with the old historic charm of the neighborhood. The space wasn’t cold, but there was something distinctly masculine about it.
Krum had crossed in front of her and was now seated in one of the leatherback chairs positioned opposite the couch, facing away from the windows that looked down onto the street below. He was watching her as she took in the space around her.
“You don’t like it?” he asked
“What?" she said. "I mean, no, it’s not that at all. It’s lovely...”
“Only not vhat you vere anticipating? Were you expecting a cardboard box, perhaps?"
Rose looked aghast. "No, I—"
But Krum was smiling. "Don’t vorry. I’m vell aware that Peter vill have filled you in on all my money problems. The boy never could keep his mouth shut.”
“He was only trying to help. He just wanted to make sure I understood—“
“You don’t have to defend him," Krum cut it. "I’m not angry. And it’s not like it’s a secret. The whole vorld knows I’m broke, so vhy shouldn’t you?”
“So how then—” But Rose couldn’t bring herself to finish the question.
“How do I afford to live here? Is that vhat you vant to know?” Rose gave a little shrug. It sounded so rude to hear it said out loud. “It vas a gift, of sorts.”
“From who?” she asked, not able to help herself.
“From an old friend. She thought I might like a place to lay low for a vhile.”
“That’s quite a friend, to give you all this.”
“You could say that.” Rose must not have looked convinced because he added, “I swear, it’s all on the up-and-up. I didn’t murder the previous owners, if that’s what you’re thinking. No bodies stuffed in the closet. At least not yet. Check for yourself, if you like. The bedroom’s just through there.” He pointed towards a pair of double doors set into the far wall.
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“Good. Now that that’s settled, vhy don’t you sit down and tell me vhat you’re doing here.” He gestured at the couch, and Rose joined him, perching on the edge of her seat and setting the papers she’d brought with her from the office down on the coffee table in front of her. “So, to vhat do I owe this great pleasure?”
“I’m here to talk business.”
“Business? Vhat business?”
Rose hesitated, not sure if he was teasing her or if he'd actually forgotten about the book. What other business could the two possibly have to discuss? “I’m here to talk about the book...”
“Ahh, that business. Very vell then. Vhat do you have to say about it?”
“I spoke with Heart this afternoon. Do you know him – Joseph Heart?”
“Well, he seems to think it’s best for everyone if we get this book done as quickly as possible.”
“I agree. The sooner the better.”
“Right, but I’m not sure you understand just how soon we’re talking about here. Heart wants it done in three months." Rose let that bit of news hang there for a moment, giving Krum time to process just how absurd it was. But he just sat there, nodding his head as if what she was saying made perfect sense. “You do realize it means I will...we both will have to put in a lot of hours over the coming weeks. And I know you’ve got...other matters to attend to.”
Krum laughed. “Matters to attend to? Is that vhat they call being arrested these days? Are you always so mindful of what you say, Rose Veasley?”
“I’m being serious here.”
“So am I.”
"So you're saying you're still okay with all this?"
"Shouldn't I be?"
"Well, yes, but–"
"Good," he said. “I take it you’ve come prepared to get right down to it.”
Krum pointed down at the stack of papers resting on the table. A single piece of parchment was sticking out above the rest, the writing across the top clearly visible. Rose Weasley’s Questions for Krum.
Rose moved to gather up the papers, setting them on her lap before folding her arms across the top. “They’re just my notes,” she said, feeling foolish. She hadn’t meant for him to see that. She’d wanted to give him the impression she knew what she was doing, that she was a professional. Instead, she was looking more like a silly schoolgirl prepping for her next big exam.
“Don’t worry,” he said, still smiling. “No need to be embarrassed. I like a girl who comes prepared. So go ahead then, Rose Veasley. Ask me your questions. I am, as they say, at your mercy.”
A/N – First, a little site plugging. In case you haven’t heard, the Dobbys are starting this weekend! It’s my first time at the planning helm, so to speak, so if you aren’t a forum member already, you should really consider joining up and participating. All the staff have been working hard, and I hope they will be extra fun for everyone this year. Second, a BIG thanks momotwins for Beta-reading this chapter for me. She (and her stories) are wonderful. And finally, of course, thanks to anyone out there reading this. If there are still people out there following along, the romance hits full swing next chapter. Hopefully the build-up has been worth the wait!