It was hard to describe what he was feeling as he waited for her. Nerves were, after all, something he was used to getting on a daily basis, almost a constant companion. This was different, stronger perhaps, and without the accompanying faith that came shortly after the nerves had arrived.
Playing Quidditch, he mused, was easy. All you had to do was watch for the little golden Snitch, keep your eyes sharp and peeled, focus intently on that one sole thing, and get it. It helped if you were a good actor as well - the Wronski Feint only worked if the other person believed with every fibre of their body that you had seen the Snitch. For him, the combination of sheer belief in his own abilities and the adrenaline pumping through his veins meant that he barely had to think - it just happened.
Despite his long-lasting relationship with nervousness, this feeling was slowly destroying every sense of self-control and confidence he had had when he left his apartment five minutes ago. A lonely elephant stamped its way through his stomach, butterflies beating restlessly above it; he could feel his stomach tossing and turning. He felt faintly seasick, even though he was certain he was nowhere near any saltwater body remotely big enough to count as a ‘sea’. He wasn’t even close to a freshwater stream, for Merlin’s sake!
Tugging subconsciously on the suit jacket he was wearing - he was only wearing it because Hermione had assured him it would look good - he turned his eyes back to the polished glass doors in front of him, avoiding to look at the mirror-Viktor the lights had produced, and took a deep, calming breath. His manager had suggested this after an appalling training session one day, telling him he was too stressed and that was why he was playing badly.
Vorobiev didn’t even know the half of it.
All thoughts abandoned ship when he saw Fleur tumble out of a fireplace in the room beyond the doors. He jerked slightly, as though to go over to her, but they were separated by glass, and a footman had stepped over to her, anyway, offering her a hand. Repressing the tiger in his chest that growled at the sight of his girl with her hand on another man’s arm, he watched as she dropped his hand, giving him a heart-melting smile and gliding away. Towards him.
Before he knew it, she had pushed open the door and stood before him, smiling gently, almost nervously. Her silver earrings, long and slender, tinkled as came to a halt.
“Bonsoir,” she greeted him softly, both of them acutely aware that they were being watched by everyone around them - the man at the desk was getting quite frustrated with the secretary, whose mouth had fallen open. Viktor wanted to punch him.
“Shall ve,” he cleared his throat uncomfortably, offering her his arm. “Shall ve go through?”
“Of course,” Fleur nodded once, the motion seeming odd without the delicate swish of her hair to accompany it. Turning his head, he noticed that her hair was up, fixed into a sleek hairstyle, a shining silver clip gleaming from within the sideways coil on the back of her head. He wondered briefly why he hadn’t noticed the difference when he first saw her - and then remembers that of course he wouldn’t have. She was a quarter Veela, after all.
“Eet was a pleasant surprise to ‘ear zat you ‘ad decided to come,” Fleur commented, after a couple of moment’s silence. “I know you do not normally enjoy zese events. My fazzer did not understand.” No, he wouldn’t, would he? With a beautiful wife and two radiant daughters to show off, he would never have considered the idea that for some people their reputation might be a little too much.
“How is your sister?” he asked finally, avoiding the topic of him deciding to attend this ball. He had no idea what to say, how to explain. His English wasn’t as good as hers.
“Gabby ees fine,” Fleur spoke of her sister warmly as they approached the pair of huge, white doors. “She keeps asking me about you. I am theenking I weel ‘ave to introduce you soon, or she weel never stop pestering me.”
That he hadn’t been expecting.
“You are sure?” he questioned curiously, dropping her arm, turning to face her and taking her hand. “You vould not mind? I haf tree sisters and they vanted to know if you vere coming for… coming for Christmas.”
“Eef I was not sure, I would not ‘ave said anyzing,” Fleur gave a tinkling laugh, like a cascade of bells. “And Chreestmas would be lovely.”
As the footman pulled the doors open, announcing ‘Mr. Viktor Krum and Miss Fleur Delacour’ in a loud voice, Viktor couldn’t help the smile creeping across his face. Smiling wasn’t an expression he was used to wearing but it felt just right. Perfect, in fact.
In his mind, he wondered why he had been so worried about asking her - buoyed by her easy acceptance, he concluded that he really should have asked earlier. It had been a silly thing to stress over, foolish almost. Those nights spent pacing in anxiety, wondering what she was would, dreaming fitfully of her rejecting him with a cold word and a perfect spin on her foot, her hair swinging round like a silver waterfall, trailing that delicate perfume she wore through the air, seemed so fruitless now.
Nevertheless, even her acceptance wasn’t enough to keep him from scowling and shrinking into himself as he stepped into the room, the heads turning to see them arousing his annoyance. Didn’t people have better things to do, like continue their conversations, than gawk at everyone who stepped through the door? Apparently not.
“Viktor!” someone called his name, waving him over to a large group of redheads.
Hermione beamed at the couple, clutching Ron’s arm. “How are you? I wasn’t sure if you were going to come.”
“I haf been vell, Herm-own-ninny,” Viktor responded as politely as he could manage whilst exchanging glares with Ron. “How are you?”
“I’m brilliant, thanks Viktor,” Hermione replied cheerfully, although he noticed that she looked more than a little uncomfortable in the long green dress she was wearing. Perhaps, he thought, Weasley was holding her waist too tightly? “And Fleur. It’s great to see you again. How’s Gringotts?”
“You too,” Fleur’s smile to Hermione was friendly - but that was it. Viktor suddenly felt very uncomfortable, catching Harry Potter’s eye, who rolled his eyes with a faint smirk. Beside him, Ginny Weasley was openly grinning at the scene. “I ‘ave moved back to France, to work in ze branch at Paris. Eet ees much better for me, I zink. Less of zis ‘orrible Eenglish wezzer.”
“I know, it must be so terrible for your hair,” Ginny interrupted brazenly, her tone only the slightest bit sarcastic. Viktor wondered if her mother had taught her manners. Certainly his mother would have slapped him round the head if he’d ever interrupted someone like that, no matter who they were.
“You ‘ave no idea,” Fleur sighed with an angelic smile. “Well, eet ‘as been nice seeing you all. I ‘ope you enjoy ze rest of ze ball.”
“You too,” Hermione replied, returning the smile and giving Viktor a brief hug. He didn’t miss the tensing of Fleur’s body, the way her jaw tightened. Despite noticing, he wasn’t sure he understood why: Hermione and him had been friends since her fourth year - that was nearly three years now - so he didn’t understand why that had suddenly become a problem.
Women. He’d never understand them.
Fleur slipped an arm through his and towed him away, surprisingly strong for such a delicate-looking woman. Then again, he recalled the Veela he’d seen in his hometown, lifting grown men into the air, their claws raking down their skin. Mentally, he thanked his lucky stars that being a quarter Veela wasn’t enough to give you that ability. Generally your only defence against them at that point was a well-placed Stupefy or running away.
“Zat girl ees so annoying,” she hissed, managing to look perfectly composed above her fury. “She theenks she ees so clever, zat because she ees dating ‘im she ees so much better zan everyone else - eet ees ridicule! ‘E could do zo much better zan ‘er, eef ‘e wanted. Someone prettier, cleverer and definitely plus charmant!”
“Are you talking about Herm-own-ninny?” he asked cautiously. Why anyone would think that someone like Ron Weasley could do better than Hermione, he had no idea, but Fleur had dated his brother - perhaps they had got on? The thought made his frown deeper than usual, his slouch more pronounced.
“Oh, non, absolutely not,” Fleur stared at him for a moment before giving a throaty laugh - real and genuine, heads turned to see the source of the noise. She seemed oblivious. “I meant Ginny Weezley.”
That made a lot more sense to him. Ron Weasley was too thin, too stupid and too ginger to be considered remotely attractive to someone as fascinating as Hermione; to someone as mesmerising as Fleur he shouldn’t even be allowed to drool after her, like he was currently.
While it soothed his pride a little (he would be astounded to ever be considered on the same level as Weasley), it stirred something else within him. Memories of his seventh year, of the Yule Ball, the meeting with the madman in the forest, the Maze, began to return to the surface.
Why was it always Harry Potter? Whenever he was comfortable enough to share himself with someone else, interested enough to swallow the fear and say something, it was Potter who somehow got in the way. He didn’t hate Harry - no, definitely not, how could one hate the saviour of the English wizards? - but he was certainly resentful of the attention he seemed to receive. Reporters flocked to him, Ministers adored him, girls swooned over him and the worst of all was that somehow his girls were always inexplicably linked to him. First Hermione, now Fleur.
Slipping easily through the crowds, they made their way outside, onto the large, semi-circular balcony. Others out there glanced at them once, taking note of their arrival, and looked away again, re-immersing themselves in conversation. He led her over to an empty spot, nearly knocking over a champagne glass in the process, and dropped her arm.
“Sank you,” Fleur broke the silence; when he looked at her, she was watching him closely, her stare penetrating. “I know you do not enjoy zese zings, and I am very grateful zat you came with me. Eet means a lot.”
“It vas nuzzing,” Viktor muttered in reply, allowing himself to relax a little when her delicate fingers slid into his, lacing their hands together.
“Eet wasn’t nuzzing,” Fleur countered firmly, and he found himself entranced by the burning look in her eyes, almost believing what she was saying, almost falling under her spell. He was terrible enough about expressing emotions without being affected by her. “Eet was very nice of you to do eet. Ozzers would ‘ave left me to come on my own.” He didn’t agree, of course, but he said nothing.
It was strange, he reflected, how the two of them had fallen together. They were so similar in some ways (disliking media attention, preferring white wine to red, loathing the English weather), but polar opposites in others (she adored shoes and he didn’t understand why, he lived for Quidditch and she barely knew the rules, she was always polite as possible whereas he almost enjoyed being rude). Perhaps that was what made them tick, what made this work more than other relationships, other attempts, had. Opposites attract, yes, but similarities keep you together.
Sliding an arm around her waist, Viktor didn’t bother fighting the allure that was pulling him closer to her, leaning in. She closed her eyes; he could smell her perfume, sweet and light and a reminder of hazy summer days.
There was a polite cough from behind them.
“Er, I’m really sorry to interrupt,” Harry Potter’s voice, sounding deeply embarrassed, and, when Viktor scowled at him, he could see that the other man’s cheeks were bright red. Like a child, he avoided Viktor’s gaze. “But King - the Minister has asked if everyone could come inside for the presentation.”
Accepting that as a relatively valid reason for interrupting, Viktor nodded curtly and, taking Fleur’s hand, began to head towards the French windows separating the ballroom from the balcony. Relieved, Harry rushed back inside, quickly becoming lost in the throng.
“Viktor, you ‘ave forgotten sumsing,” Fleur purred in his ear as they neared the doors. Feeling quite helpless and totally at her mercy - neither of which he considered a bad thing in any way - he turned to face her, frowning.
“Vot do you mean? Did you haf a bag?”
Fleur gave him an amused smile, invading his personal space and kissing him, not giving him time to breathe. The kiss was fierce, demanding; he couldn’t stop, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. She had conquered him completely, every sense he had was now geared towards her and only her. Hermione’s shadow, present for so long, vanished; Harry Potter’s looming figure crumbled into dust.
When she pulled away, he lightly replaced a stray hair, fallen down from the elaborate coif, his eyes fixed only on her. She gave him a confident, glorious smirk, slipping her hand through his arm. Tossing her head, she declared,
“Now we can go.”
As they swept in, he didn’t care about the mutterings of the reporters or the buzz going round the other guests, fuelling rumours and gossip and lies; he didn’t care that people had seen them and even managed a smile and a shy wave when Kingsley Shacklebolt called his name to congratulate him on winning the European Cup for the Vrasta Vultures.
Fleur left him briefly, with a kiss on the cheek and a squeeze of his hand, to go and talk to Roger Davies, her English counterpart in Gringotts - he had to force himself not to watch her as she walked away in her baby-blue silk.
As a waiter passed with a tray of champagne flutes, he reached for one, wondering if he should take another for Fleur. Before he could pick it up, though, another hand cut in and took it.
His scowl returned.
“Excuse me, I vos going to - oh,” he regarded Ron Weasley cautiously, unsure of how to act or proceed now. Neither Hermione nor Fleur would be too pleased if he started a fight with him, and he didn’t want to annoy either of them. He needed to ask Hermione for advice on a Christmas present for Fleur.
“Veezley,” he said eventually, his tone curt and clipped. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Ron replied, looking at him with an expression of intense dislike. “You? And,” he nodded his head in the direction Fleur had gone. “Fleur?”
“I’m good,” he paused. “She’s good. How is Herm-own-ninny?”
“She’s fine,” Ron nodded once, hesitating before adding, like a knight throwing down a gauntlet. “We’re engaged.”
“Good,” Viktor inclined his head back. “You vill be good to her, no? Othervise I vill come over from Bulgaria and break your head.”
Striding away, quite pleased with himself (he’d always wanted to say something like that and saying it to Weasley was even better), he took a moment to savour the dumbstruck expression on Ron’s face. He’d expected a fight, an argument - but not that. Never that.
Making his way through the crowd and avoiding the gossip-hungry reporters flitting around, he found Fleur. Without saying a word, he sidled in next to her, giving a nod to Davies and taking her hand gently. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her smile.
In his stomach, the elephant settled down to sleep, the butterflies folded up their patterned wings and the green-eyed monster faded away, crumbling into dust.
Bonsoir = good evening
Ridicule = ridiculous
Plus charmant = more charming
Non = no
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