Chapter 5 : Chapter Five: Viktor Krum
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By Rose Weasley
An Excerpt From Chapter Four
To the casual observer, Viktor Krum seemed to be living a fantasy, filled with all the extravagance money could buy. But on the inside, things were beginning to fall apart. The lingering pain from his career-ending injury continued to plague him, and like so many before him, Vikor began to self-medicate. Alcohol was his drug of choice, but there were days when it just wasn’t strong enough to dull the pain. Soon he was seeking out more potent substances, which opened him up to an entirely new way of life. His party-loving friends were soon replaced with even more unscrupulous characters. Some were his suppliers, keeping him doped up and suggestible. The rest were an assortment of enablers just hoping to cash in before the well ran dry...
Chapter Five: Viktor Krum
Krum’s situation, as it had been explained to Rose, was this: The man was broke. Virtually indigent, at least according to Brooks. Whatever fortune the former sports legend may have amassed over the years was now gone. What was even worse, his lawyer warned, was that if Krum didn’t find a new source of revenue soon, he’d lose what few belongings he still had that hadn’t yet been repossessed by the bank.
And so, in an effort to help ease his client’s financial woes, Brooks had come up with the brilliant idea of selling off Krum’s life story to the highest bidder. A quick exchange of personal information for cold hard cash. He’d even managed to line up a few interested parties, mostly of the tabloid variety – the kind of papers that were always lurking nearby, waiting to sink their teeth into the latest scandal. The plan would have worked too, if only Krum hadn’t refused to go though with it. In fact, he’d gone so far as to threaten to fire Brooks if the man ever so much as suggested anything like it again.
“But if Krum’s so opposed to a few silly newspaper articles," Rose said, "what makes you think he’ll ever agree to let Heart publish an entire book about him?”
The two were still seated at the conference table, and based on the steady stream of Fletcher and Son's employees she’d seen filing past on their way towards the lifts, Rose knew it must be well past quitting time. And the fact that most of them were sporting umbrellas and raincoats didn't bode well for her walk home. Still, Rose was determined to hear Brooks out, if for no other reason than to gather ammunition for her inevitable confrontation with Heart.
“The thing you have to understand about Krum,” Brooks said, “is that he’s a very proud individual. And also a very private one. In the end, I just don’t think he could allow himself to be –”
A look of annoyance flashed across Brooks’ face. “I was going to say exposed, but call it what you like. The fact of the matter is, the man doesn’t have a lot of options left. His days of playing sport are long over. He’s fallen too far out of favor with the public to bring in any endorsement or sponsorship deals. And it’s not like he’s got a host of other marketable skills to fall back on. The only thing he was ever really good at was playing Quidditch. Without that, what has he got to offer? Frankly, it’s this or nothing.”
Brooks grabbed one of the empty glasses lined up along the center of the table. The instant he touched it, water began to fill the cup as is being poured from an invisible pitcher. He took several large gulps before turning his attention back to Rose.
“You think I’m being cold, don’t you? Talking about Krum this way?”
“No,” Rose said, though in truth, the thought had crossed her mind. “I was actually wondering why you’re going through all this trouble for him. I’m no expert but lawyers don’t usually go out looking to find their clients jobs, do they? Plus, if he’s as broke as you say, how is it that he can afford to retain your services? Wouldn’t it be simpler for you to just drop him and focus on your other clients?”
Brooks let out a snort. “Now who’s being cold?”
“It’s not a matter of being cold, Mr. Brooks. It’s a matter of being practical. If working for Joseph Heart has taught me anything, it's to always be practical when doing business. So tell me, really. What’s in this for you?”
Brooks took another swallow of his drink before setting it back down on the table. “I like you, Rose. Heart was right. You are a sharp one.”
Rose ignored the remark. At the moment, she was too mad at Heart to give a damn what he thought about her.
“You want to know the truth?” Brooks asked, leaning back in his chair. Rose nodded. “Okay, here’s the truth. I don’t have any other clients. At least not at the moment. Krum’s it. The only one.”
“I see...” Rose was doing her best to keep her tone neutral, but her suspicions regarding Peter Brooks were mounting quickly. “And why is that?”
“Because...” he started, but then paused, as if bracing himself for what he was about to say. “Because he’s my father.”
"What?" Rose didn’t know what she had been expecting to come of the man’s mouth, but it certainly wasn’t that. “Krum’s your father?”
“Well, stepfather, actually. Former stepfather, if you really want to get technical. He married my mother when I was three. She was his first wife. He was her second husband. They were only together for a couple of years, but he was always good to her. And to me, even after they split.”
“So this is what - your way of repaying him? A debt of gratitude? Trying to get your father to sell out to the highest bidder – having him humiliated in the papers – that seems an awfully funny way of saying thank you.”
Rose knew she was being harsh. She didn’t know this man, or his true motives. But she couldn’t help herself. Something about Brooks just rubbed her the wrong way. Not to mention her growing annoyance with Heart. He had to have known about this. What was he thinking getting them mixed up in some old family drama? That wasn’t like him at all.
“I wasn’t trying to humiliate him,” Brooks said. “I was trying to help him. I still am. But I’m not a miracle worker. The man is stubborn as hell, and I’m doing my best here. It’s either this or he ends up on the streets. So what would you have me do? What would you do?”
Brooks’ arrogance and professionalism were starting to slip away. He was no longer just a lawyer looking to cut a deal for his client. He was a man trying to help someone who had once shown him and his mother a little kindness.
“Look,” Rose said, trying to steer the conversation back into neutral territory. “I can appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I don’t see how this is going to work. You still haven’t explained how you plan to convince Mr. Krum to go along with any of this. I mean, I assume you’re planning to tell him about it at some point.”
“Of course! I mean, I wouldn’t move ahead with any of it unless he was fully on board.”
“And yet here you are...”
“This is different. I only came here to set up the ground rules. Like I said, Krum’s a very private man. He won’t agree to anything unless he knows certain details are off limits.”
“What sort of details?”
Brooks hesitated. “I’d...rather not say. I’ll let him explain that, if and when the need arises.”
“Al lright,” Rose said, letting that matter drop for the time being. “Say I sign your papers – promise to avoid any topics he’s uncomfortable with. Do you really think that’s enough to convince him to move forward with the book?”
Brooks didn’t answer right away. After a brief crack in his façade, his lawyering instincts were kicking back into high gear and he seemed to be considering his next move. “No. No, I don't think it will be enough. But I do know something that might do the trick.”
“And that would be what, exactly?”
"Me?" Rose asked, unable to keep the skepticism out of her voice “What in the world can I do? I’ve never even met the man.”
“Exactly.” Brooks leaned forward, his hands resting on his knees. His tie had worked itself loose from its clip and it swayed as he spoke. “Anything I suggest to him he’ll reject straight away. I pushed my luck too far already. I don’t doubt he’s serious when he says he’ll fire me if I bring anything like this up again, step-son or not. Mind you, not that I’m getting paid for my troubles. But if you were to suggest it, he might be willing to at least hear you out.”
“But why me?” Rose suddenly felt like she was reliving her early conversation with Heart. Here she was once again asking why she was so essential to this ridiculous plan. What was it about her that made people think she was capable of things that were clearly beyond her abilities?
“Because you’re a writer. A real one... or at least that’s what you shouted at me when we started this meeting. Think of it this way. Imagine you’ve been told some sleazy magazine wants to cash in on your past mistakes. You might take offense to that. Krum sure did. Now, what if instead you were told that some pretty little author was interested in writing a book about you. One that lets you tell your story to the world on your own terms. Well, that doesn’t sound nearly so tawdry, now does it?”
“Pretty little author?” Rose repeated. “Now that’s offensive.”
“It’s not meant to be, honestly. Though I won’t lie, the fact that you’re easy on the eyes certainly doesn’t hurt matters. It’s just that you're...not threatening. You’ve got the kind of face people can trust. Added to that the fact that you’ve been published, and not just in some crummy tabloid... Who knows, Krum might even be flattered you asked.”
Her "pretty face" aside, Rose knew this man was delusional if he thought for even a second that she would be able to convince Krum to let her write a book about him. Persuading people to do things they didn’t want to do was Heart’s specialty, not hers. Besides, just how exactly was she supposed to convince Krum to go along with this whole book idea when she wasn’t sold on it herself?
Rose was just about to point all of this out to Brooks when he held up a hand, silencing her objections before she had a chance to voice them.
“I know this is a lot to ask, but I’m desperate here. Please, just...” He stopped, reaching into the breast pocket of his suit and pulling out a folded piece of paper. He scribbled something on it before folding it back up and handing it to Rose. “That’s the address for a local pub Krum likes to frequent. The owner’s an old friend of his. He’s there most nights until closing. Always sits in a little booth in the back, away from the others. Just go and meet with him. You don’t even have to mention the book. Just see if you can stand the man. If you can’t, we’ll drop the whole thing. Pretend like I was never here. If, on the other hand, you hit it off... Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
So there she was once again, being strong-armed into a plan she knew was a bad idea. Why did no one believe her when she said this book deal wasn’t going to work? It had seemed a rotten fit when Rose thought the idea had been Krum’s. She wasn’t any fonder of it knowing he wasn’t even aware of her existence. Rose supposed she could say no, refuse to meet with the man, but her gut told her it would be a waste of breath. Heart would find a way of reeling her back in, one way or another.
Rose looked down at the scrap of paper. The addressed wasn’t one she recognized. “All right,” she said. "One meeting. But that’s all I’m agreeing to.”
“Of course,” Brooks said, “That’s great. Just great.”
Yeah, great, Rose thought to herself. Fan-fucking-tastic.
As soon as Brooks was gone, Rose gathered up her things and marched off towards Heart’s office. She was all set to give the man a good telling off, but it seemed she'd missed her chance. Heart had already left for the day, his door locked up tight, no lights visible through the frosted glass. She knocked anyways, just on the off chance that he might still be inside, but she was greeted with only silence.
Rose sighed, weighing her options. She could plant herself outside his door, waiting there until he returned. That way, at least, she’d be sure he wouldn’t give her the slip. He’d have to come back sometime that evening. Of course, that was assuming he hadn’t managed to patch things up with his wife and been allowed to return home. In that case, as it was Friday, Rose would be forced to spend the entire weekend at the office - not exactly an appealing prospect.
So she scratched the idea, resigning herself to the fact that she would just have to wait until Monday to speak with him. Perhaps it was for the best. Confronting Heart while she was this upset probably wasn’t the smartest idea. His affection for her meant he cut her a lot of slack, but he was still her boss, and yelling him wouldn’t be the wisest of career moves. Besides, if she waited to talk with Heart until after she'd met with Krum, she would be able to tell her boss that she’d done everything she could but that the whole book deal just wasn’t going to happen. There was no doubt in her mind that Krum would shoot the idea down just as fast as he’d done with the tabloid tell-all. But if she went through with the meeting, spoke with Krum face-to-face, she could at least tell Heart that she'd honestly tried but he'd turned her down. Without Krum, there was no book. And with no book, there was no need for an author. Once Krum official refused to participate, Rose would be off the hook.
At least that’s what Rose told herself as she prepared to head home, stopping by her office on the way to collect her usual pile of unread manuscripts – which was growing out of control thanks to all the recent meetings and last night’s unexpected visit from Al.
She spotted it as soon as she arrived home: the small note taped to her front door.
I stopped by on my way home from work but I guess I missed you. Your mum wanted me to invite you over for supper tomorrow. Hugo’s finished his first round of training and she’s putting together a bit of a celebration dinner for him. Nothing fancy, but you know how she can be.
Hugo, Rose's younger brother, was studying to be a Healer. He’d already completed the necessary two years of post-Hogwarts schooling, and now it seemed he’d finished the first of the three rounds of specialized training necessary to qualify as a full-fledged Healer. Rose knew each round of training took about six months; she couldn't believe so much time had passed since Hugo had started his work at St. Mungo’s.
St. Mungo’s hadn’t been his first choice when it came to his residency. Hugo had hoped to go abroad, to study at one of the wizarding hospitals in America. Rose was pretty sure this had more to do with a certain blonde-haired American he’d met while at school than because of some desire to travel the world. Still, he’d been devastated when his application was denied and he’d been forced to stay behind in London. Not that there was anything wrong with St. Mungo’s. It had a fine set of programs for Healers of all specialties, or so Rose had been told. Plus, staying in the country meant Hugo could go on living at home free of charge. Being a Healer-in-training was one of the few jobs that seemed to pay less than her own, so a bit of free room and board courtesy of Mum and Dad could go a long way.
With the exception of Al, Rose hadn’t seem much of her family during recent months. She was just so busy. They all were. Hugo with his training, she with her job. Both of her parents still worked too. Her father had been with the Auror Department since before she was born, and her mother had recently accepted a top position at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. That had caused a bit of tension once her father figured out that her new job title meant his wife would also now technically be his boss. But he’d gotten over it once he realized she wouldn’t actually be in charge of telling him what to do.
“I get enough of that at home,” he’d said to Rose when he thought her mother wasn’t listening.
Rose glanced back down at the note still clutched in her hand.
Knowing her mother, 'coming over for supper' meant that Rose would be expected to arrive by noon and not leave again until after tea on Sunday. This wouldn’t normally be a problem. Aside from the extra work she brought home with her from the office, Rose’s weekends were pretty open. But if she was going to spend most of Saturday and Sunday with her family, that would mean that if she wanted to meet with Krum before talking to Heart on Monday, she was going to have to go see the man tonight.
Rose's stomach dropped. Promising Brooks she would meet with Krum at some unspecified date and time was one thing. Going out to see him that very night was another thing altogether.
Rose glanced over at the clock. It was already after seven. If she was going to go, she needed to leave soon. It was bad enough she’d be meeting the man at a pub on a Friday evening like it was some sort of date. There was no way she was staying out with him past ten. Rose knew a lot of otherwise perfectly decent bars that could get very dicey that time of night, especially for a woman out alone. Plus, staying out with a strange man until the wee hours of the morning could give off the wrong impression. This was, after all, supposed to be a business meeting.
What Rose really needed at that moment was a glass wine to calm her nerves. But as she hadn’t yet had the chance to replace the bottle Al had finished off the night before, she was forced to settle for a glass of water, which she filled at the kitchen sink and carried with her into the bathroom.
Lucky for Rose, she wasn’t one of those women who needed a lot of time in front of the mirror before leaving the house, and as there wasn’t a lot of variety in her wardrobe, selecting an outfit didn’t take long either. In no time at all, Rose was primped, dressed and out the door.
Finding the pub turned out to be easier than she expected. Within ten minutes of leaving her flat, she was standing in front of an old four-story brick building tucked into a narrow side street set off from the main road. Above one of the doors hung an iron sign coated in peeling paint that marked the entrance to The Olde Friar’s Pub.
The door was flanked on either side by windows that were so pitted and cracked, looking through them was like looking through a kaleidoscope, only without all the pretty colors. There was a menu board resting against the wall to the right, but whatever was written there was now too faded to read. Clearly the owners weren’t using it to draw in the dinner crowd.
Her first impressions of the place weren’t great, and as Rose reached out for the doorknob, she braced herself for she might find waiting on the other side.
The inside of pub wasn't all that much better than the outside. At one time, it might have been a respectable gathering spot for London’s more wealthy gentlemen. At least the dark oak paneled walls, oversized marble fireplace, and arched windows along the back seemed to suggest some measure of wealth. But that was perhaps more than a century ago by now. These days, the pub was poorly lit, crammed too full of wobbly looking tables and stools, and the smell that permeated the air was an unpleasant mix of stale beer and day old sausage.
To Rose’s surprise, the place was packed, though the caliber of the cliental left something to be desired. Most of the patrons were older and looked like the sort who started drinking at noon and didn’t stop again until closing time. The only exception was a small group of university students seated near the door. They seemed to be celebrating something: a cricket victory perhaps, or the end of the school term.
A single bar took up the majority of the front room. It was situated along the far wall opposite the door, and accented by a large mirror encased in a tarnished gold frame. The counter, complete with brew taps, stood about four feet tall and was lined with bar stools, most of which were occupied. The shelves behind the counter were stocked with the usual assortment of mismatched bottles, a few of them hung upside-down, the rest packed in tight along dusty shelves.
There was a second room, separated from the first by an arched walkway. It was even darker back there then in the main bar, and as soon as she caught sight of it, Rose knew it was where Krum would be. Tucked away in the corner, set off from the other patrons, just like Brooks said.
Rose debated heading straight over. From her position just inside the door, she couldn’t see who else might be back there. She didn’t even know for sure if Krum was there that evening. She decided instead to head to the bar. She was still in desperate need of that glass of wine.
There was a single bartender on duty – an older gentlemen in his seventies. Rose wondered if this was the owner Brooks had mentioned. He moved with the sort of languid pace that suggested he’d been serving drinks for longer than Rose had been alive.
“Chardonnay, please,” she said when he'd made his way over to her.
The man made no reply, turning his back on Rose only to reappear several minutes later, glass in hand. He set the drink on the counter, pushing it towards her.
“Thanks,” Rose muttered, picking up the glass, not all that surprised to find that the stem was sticky to the touch. The wine itself was bitter but oddly refreshing - certainly no worse than the cheap stuff she was forced to drink at home.
Glass in hand, Rose placed a few coins on the bar before turning around and scanning the room. There were several empty seats but no empty tables. Unless she wanted to stand while she sipped her drink, she was going to have to either make friends with one of these strangers or head to the back and see if she could find Krum.
She hadn’t taken more than three steps towards the archway when she felt someone close in behind her. Before she had the chance to turn around, the person leaned in and a husky voice whispered something in her ear.
“If you aren’t a Veasley, I’ll eat my vand and buy this whole place another round of drinks.”
She spun to face the stranger.
As it turned out, Rose could pick Viktor Krum out of a crowd. Only there wasn’t any need.
He was standing right in front of her.
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