...With the quiet came reflection and a newfound desire for sobriety. But getting clean was only the beginning. Leaving behind the drugs and the alcohol meant creating a new way of life, one that included new disappointments and new sources of humility. For Viktor – a man who had been showered with a lifetime’s supply of wealth and adoration before he was old enough to appreciate it – this meant a change in the way he thought about himself. His worth could no longer be determined by his athletic prowess or the amount of money he had. Even his name no longer held any sway. Viktor had to find a new way to define who he was, to crawl out from under the shadow of his own ruined reputation. He was a changed man, to be sure...only the world didn’t yet know it...
Chapter Eight: Viktor Krum, Part III
It took a lot of convincing but Rose finally agreed to accompany Brooks to the Ministry, barraging him with questions as they traveled the few blocks that lead from her parent’s favorite Apparition spot to the Visitor’s Entrance located on the east side of Whitehill Road in the heart of London.
“What will happen next?” Rose asked as they climbed into the small lift that would take them down into the heart of Ministry Headquarters. It was at least the fourth time Rose had asked that question in the last ten minutes. The fact that he didn’t bother pointing this out was a testament to how much Brooks must have wanted her help.
“He’s entitled to a hearing, but as it’s still the weekend, I don’t imagine that will happen until at least Monday morning.”
“And ‘til then?”
“They’ll hold him here, I expect. They aren’t likely to ship him off to Azkaban without presenting the charges against him first. At least I certainly hope not.”
The lift ground to a sudden halt, the gates sliding open and allowing the pair to step out into the nearly deserted Atrium. The small cafes and newsstands that lined either side of the long corridor were all closed up, not a shopkeeper in sight. Rose figured there must not be enough weekend traffic to justify the cost of staying open for the few people unlucky enough to find themselves trapped inside the Ministry on a Saturday night. Still, it was eerie to see the normally crowded space looking so empty.
“Do you think that’s likely?” she asked. “Do you really think they’d send him to Azkaban over one silly bar fight?”
“It’s not just this fight. It’s all of it: his past run-ins with the Ministry, his reputation. Krum hasn’t exactly been working hard to endear himself to people. And if he continues to refuse to offer up even a half-hearted defense for himself...” Brooks didn’t bother to finish the thought, allowing Rose to draw her own conclusions about Krum’s fate.
“And he didn’t say anything to you? Anything about why he attacked that man?”
Brooks shook his head. “Not a word. He might as well be mute for all the talking he’s doing. I’m not a criminal lawyer, mind you, but I know enough to be sure Krum’s not doing himself any favors by keeping his mouth shut.”
“But it’s his right not to talk —”
“Of course it’s his right, but that doesn’t make it smart. The Ministry can’t go around looking like it’s soft on muggle-baiting. That’s Public Relations 101. So unless Krum makes it clear he didn’t attack that bloke because he was a muggle, the Ministry will have no choice but to treat it as a hate crime.”
“That’s ridiculous! It wasn’t anything of the sort—”
“You know that,” Brooks said, cutting her off again. “And I know that. But the rest of the wizarding world doesn’t know a damned thing except what the Ministry tells them. If they charge him with a hate crime, then it was a hate crime, simple as that.”
The pair had been talking as they made their way across the Atrium but fell silent once they reached the visitor’s check-in, which was empty save for the middle-aged security wizard stationed behind the counter. As was required of all non-employees entering the Ministry, the two of them handed over their wands for inspection. They, in turn, were each presented with a visitor’s badge, which they were instructed to pin to their shirts and make sure to keep visible at all times.
As soon as their wands were returned and they were once again out earshot of the guard, Rose continued on with her line of questioning. “And what is it exactly that you expect me to do here?”
“Whatever you can,” Brooks told her as they turned and headed toward the main lifts. “Just get him talking. See if you can’t convince him to explain himself.”
“But why can’t I just explain what happened? I was there, after all. I saw everything.”
Everything except whatever happened to Krum after I left him sitting alone in that alleyway.
There was a pause as the pair stepped into one of the waiting lifts, this one much nicer than the one at the Visitor’s Entrance. With a quiet clink!, the golden metal gates slid closed and the lift lurched forward.
“It won’t do any good,” Brooks said, removing the badge from his shirt and shoving it into the pocket of his wrinkled suit jacket. “Though I imagine someone will get around to taking your statement eventually. The Ministry isn’t trying to figure out what happened. They have plenty of witnesses who can tell them what they saw, at least that’s what the Hit Wizards who picked Krum up are saying. In other words, they know what Krum did. Now it’s just a matter of proving why he did it. Hell, I’d like to know why he did it.”
The lift slowed as a cool female voice announced, “Level Two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, including Auror Headquarters, the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, and the Wizengamot Administration and Support Services.”
The gates opened again and Rose stepped off first, glancing to her left, in the direction of her parents’ offices. She half-considered running off and finding them. Surely they – having worked for the Department for all these years – would be of more help to Krum than she could ever hope to be. But Brooks was already on the move again, seeming to be in a hurry now, stepping out of the lift and immediately turning right before disappearing around the nearest corner. Rose had no choice but to follow after him.
“Did you speak with them? The Hit Wizards I mean?” Rose asked, almost running now just to keep up with him. Rose had met a few such wizards in her day — none of them very pleasant. Though to be fair, she supposed being friendly wasn’t exactly a top priority for those whose job it was to pick up criminals and cart them off to Azkaban.
“Not personally, no. But I read their report. One of the few things I’ve actually been able to get my hands on.”
“What did it say?”
“About what you’d expect. Krum, it seems, didn’t put up much of a struggle. He allowed himself to be brought in without incident. Thank God for that, at least. We don’t need resisting arrest added on top of all the other charges.”
Rose was hoping Brooks would say more. Her conscience was once again gnawing at her, and she was desperate to know what kind of state Krum was in when the Hit Wizards had found him. And just where exactly they had found him. Was he still outside the pub, or had he managed to make his way home by then? But Brooks had stopped talking. He had stopped walking too, and Rose had to throw up her hands to keep from crashing into him. They had traveled down several long hallways, entering an area of the Ministry Rose hadn’t visited before, and they were now standing outside a plain metal door. Without bothering to knock, Brooks turned the handle and together they stepped inside.
The room they entered was small, not much bigger than Rose's kitchen. There was a desk in one corner, surrounded on all sides by glass that reached up to the ceiling, which was covered in a thick layer of peeling white paint. Behind the desk sat a woman Rose guessed to be in her fifties, dressed in a set of dark green robes and sorting through a thick stack of files. She looked up as they entered.
“Take a seat,” Brooks told Rose, gesturing towards the row of empty chairs lined up against the far wall. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Rose sat, watching as Brooks made his way over to the woman behind the desk. Rose tried to listen in but everything – at least everything the woman was saying – was too muffled by the glass for Rose to make out. She did, however, hear Brooks repeat her own name several times.
As she sat there, it occurred to Rose just how odd this whole situation was. Surely suspects – even those accused of relatively minor offenses – weren’t often afforded the courtesy of speaking with anyone they wished. Krum would be given access to his lawyer, of course — though he clearly wasn’t interested in Brooks’ services, even if they were free of charge. But why in the world would she — someone with no legal expertise, someone who barely even knew the man — be allowed to just waltz in and speak with a prisoner simply because he had asked her to come? No wonder Brooks wanted to make sure the woman behind the desk knew who Rose was. Or should she say, who Rose’s parents were.
Brooks returned a few minutes later, taking the seat beside Rose.
“So what now?” she asked.
“Now we wait.”
And so they sat there for what felt like hours. Brooks seemed glad for the respite, clearly feeling he'd done his duty by getting Rose this far. He wasted no time getting comfortable, leaning back in his seat, his legs stretched out in front of him, head tilted back. His eyes got heavy before finally closing, his breaths coming slow and steady. Rose couldn’t blame the man for taking advantage of the brief reprieve. If his wrinkled suit and day-old beard were any indication, Brooks probably hadn’t slept going on thirty-six hours. Maybe longer. Still, tired or not, Rose couldn’t relax. Not when there were still so many unanswered questions.
“Krum knows about the book,” Rose said to Brooks.
He was silent for a long moment, Rose half-convinced he'd fallen off to sleep. But after a time, he offered her a muttered, “That’s nice.”
“Nice? Don’t you mean odd?"
“Why would it be odd?” he asked, stifling a yawn. “It’s why you went to meet him last night, isn’t it? To tell him about the book.”
“That’s just it. I didn’t tell him anything.”
That got Brooks’ attention. He opened his eyes, turning to look at her. “What do you mean you didn’t tell him?”
“I mean, I didn’t tell him anything. Someone had already beat me to it.”
“But who?” Rose just stared at Brooks, and after a moment, he seemed to catch her meaning. “What, you don’t think I told him, do you?” Rose said nothing. She just continued to stare at him until he finally sat up in his chair. “But that’s absurd! I’m the one who sent you there. Why would I do that if I’d already told him about the damn thing?”
Rose shrugged. “Well, if not you, then who?”
But any further thoughts Brooks might have had on the matter were going to have to wait. The door – the one that blended so seamlessly into the wall Rose hadn’t even noticed it was there – swung open, and out stepped a very tall, very serious-looking man, sporting a shaved head and wearing the same deep green robes as the woman behind the desk. The man said nothing. Instead, he lifted his arm, gesturing at the pair of them with a quick wave of his fingers.
Rose stood, expecting Brooks to do the same, but he remained where he was. “Aren’t you coming?” she asked.
Brooks shook his head. “Only one visitor at a time.” He shot a glance over at the woman behind the desk. “They’re very firm on that rule.”
“But...” Rose began.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. Remember, just get him talking. I can handle the situation from there.”
Rose wasn’t convinced – either at her ability to get Krum talking or Brooks’ ability to deal with whatever came next. The man was a bloody entertainment lawyer. What the hell did he know about keeping someone out of Azkaban? The fact that he'd had to ask for her help at all told Rose everything she needed to know about Peter Brooks’ ability to "handle the situation."
But there wasn’t time to argue the point. The bald wizard cleared his throat. Rose took one last look at Brooks, who gave her a reassuring nod, before she turned around and allowed herself to be escorted from the room.
There first stop was a small holding area. Once inside, she was directed to turn over her wand and, according to the sign on the wall, any other magical devices or substances she might be concealing. Rose handed the man her wand, assuring him it was the only “device” she was carrying. After a few waves of his own wand, the bald wizard seemed convinced and once again gestured for her to follow him onward.
Next, they entered a long corridor lined on either side by more doors that seemed to melt into the walls. There were no windows, but the area was flooded with light. Too much light. The unnatural shine reflecting off the polished marble floors made Rose squint.
They'd traveled about halfway down the hall when the man stopped short, pausing in front of a solid white door with a large black seven emblazoned in the center. He looked down at Rose, his expression as unreadable as the wall behind him.
“You have ten minutes,” he told her. “You aren’t to touch the prisoner at any time. If you feel threatened, you’re to call out and one of the guards will come to collect you. Otherwise, you are not to leave the room until I return for you. Is that understood?”
Rose nodded, trying not to show her surprise. This man was talking as if she were about to come face to face with a dangerous felon. Was this standard procedure for all visitors, or did they know something she didn’t? She supposed she had witnessed Krum try to beat another man to within an inch of his life. Still, she hardly considered him a threat to her personal safety. Maybe that was a mistake on her part.
“And remember,” the wizard was saying, reaching out for the door handle, his wand still clutched in his free hand. “Don’t touch the prisoner.” And with that, he pushed open the door and ushered her inside before slamming it shut again, locking her inside.
Rose was greeted by an unexpected though not altogether unfamiliar sight. Viktor Krum was seated at a small table set up in the center of an otherwise empty room. His large hands were resting in front of him, and when he looked up at her, she saw a coy smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. If she didn’t know better, Rose would have through they were back at the pub, Krum waiting for her to join him at his usual booth. All that was missing was the cigarette dangling from between his lips.
Aside from his clothes – which now consisted of nothing but a thin cotten shirt and matching trousers – and the extra day’s growth of beard, Krum looked just as she had left him. Better, in fact. He was upright, as opposed to on his knees in a dirty alley.
“Vell, if it isn’t just Rose Veasley,” he said, not missing a beat. “Two nights in a row. People vill start to talk, don’t you think?”
Rose had to give the man credit. There he was, sitting in an interrogation room with the threat of prison hanging over his head, and he was still being cheeky with her. That takes balls, she thought. No doubt about it.
But Rose was determined not to give Krum the opportunity to start playing head games with her again. “What do you want?” she asked, getting right to the point.
“Don’t you at least vant to sit down?” He used his foot to push out the chair opposite his. Rose noticed that the rest of his body remained still. She wondered what type of spells the guards used to keep their prisoners in their place.
Rose ignored the invitation. “What do you want?” she asked again.
“Vhat do I vant?” Krum repeated, feigning confusion.
“Brooks, he showed up at my parent’s house this afternoon. He said you wanted to speak with me, so here I am. Now what is it that you could possibly have to say to me that you couldn’t say to him?”
Krum flashed her a brief smile. “I like that.”
“You like what, exactly?”
“I like that you came vhen I called for you.”
Rose felt a quick pop of heat pass through her body, a mix of embarrassment and indignation, and maybe something more. But she did her best to keep the discomfort from showing on her face.
“Either say what it is you want to say," she snapped, "or else I’ll turn around and leave right this minute. There’s a guard out there who I’m sure would be more than happy to chat you up, if that’s what you're looking for.”
“Fine,” Krum said. “Ve’ll talk. But first...” He prodded the chair again with his toe. “Sit down.” When she refused to move, he added a reluctant, “Please.”
Rose hesitated before finally relenting, though she was careful to stay well back in her seat, keeping as much distance as possible between herself and the table.
“There,” she said once she was settled. “Are you happy now?”
“Good. Then talk.”
Viktor was drumming his fingers against the tabletop. At first, Rose thought it was just his way of stalling for time. But looking closer – noticing the faint yellow stains on his fingertips – she realized it was probably subconscious, his body's way of coping with the nicotine withdrawls. The thought made Rose smile to herself though she wasn’t quite sure why.
“Vhat ever shall ve talk about?” Krum asked, still sounding as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
“Oh, I don't know. I suppose we could start with the weather. Maybe discuss a few current events. I’m not one for sport, but I suppose that’s always an option, given your background. Or maybe,” she said, dropping the sarcasm, “you could just tell me what the hell you were thinking last night.”
Rose was doing her best not to get worked up. She was, after all, there to try and help Krum – to get him to tell the Ministry that he wasn’t going around attacking muggles for no good reason. But now that she was in the room with him, Rose was finding it very difficult to keep her cool.
“Vhat can I say? I lost my temper.”
“Lost your temper? Is that your excuse?”
“It’s not an excuse. It’s vhat happened.”
“No,” she said. “What happened is that you nearly killed a man and now the Ministry wants to send you to Azkaban for committing a hate crime against a muggle.”
Krum let out a derisive snort. “Who told you that?”
“My lawyer is an idiot.”
“That idiot is your son. A son that’s trying to keep you out of prison. Why won’t you speak with him? Do you want to spend the rest of your life locked up?"
“There are vorse things than Azkaban, Ginger. You’re still too young to see that, but you vill...someday.”
“Bullshit,” she said. “Don’t get philosophical on me. And don't call me Ginger.”
This wasn’t working. Krum wasn’t interested in helping himself. It sounded to her as if he was already resigned to his fate. Rose should have just left it at that, but for some reason she couldn’t. She pressed on, almost as if she were trying to get a rise out of him – not, perhaps, the smartest thing to do to a man with a short fuse.
“I mean, who does this?” she continued. “Who refuses to let people help them? Brooks is trying to keep you out of prison, to keep you off the streets, and this is how you repay him? By refusing to even talk to him?”
“I didn’t ask for Peter’s help—”
“Yeah, well, I’ve heard that one before, haven’t I? You don’t like help. We get it. So why ask me to come here then? Answer me that then, why don't you.”
The provocation seemed to be working. The smile on Krum’s face was slowing slipping away, but the look that replaced it wasn’t one of anger or annoyance. It was weariness. The same weariness she had detected in him last night, the one that seemed to seep in through the wrinkles around his eyes. The one he seemed so desperate to hide from the world.
“Vhat do you vant from me, Rose?”
“I want you to –” she began, but then stopped.
What did she want from him? For him to explain his behavior? What good was that to her now? He did what he did. Nothing was going to change that. And she wasn’t looking for an apology either. He hadn’t done anything to her, except perhaps waste her time by asking her to come down there to see him. So what then? She could see with her own eyes the man was fine, at least physically. That should have been enough to assuage her guilt over abandoning him the night before. If the man didn’t want to defend himself against the charges, it was no business of hers. Krum had committed a crime. And a pretty serious one at that. Who was she to decide what sort of punishment he deserved? So what was it then that she wanted from this man?
“I want to write a book about you.” The words tumbled out before Rose even realized what she was saying.
“Oh, don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about," she said, tired of all the pretense. "I know you know that’s why I came to see you at the pub last night. I don't have a clue how, but you knew all the same. So if you won’t tell me why you’ve asked me to come here, I’ll tell you the real reason why I came. I want you to let me write the book. I can do it. I know I can.”
Those last few words were more for her benefit than his, but she meant them all the same. She wanted to write this book. She didn't know why the sudden change of heart - why it took her until that moment to realize it, but she felt in her gut that it was the right thing to do. And not because Brooks had asked her to, or because Heart would give her hell if she refused. She wanted to write this book because she wanted to tell Krum’s story, whatever that story may be.
Viktor sat there, seeming to drink it all in. His face gave away nothing of what he thinking, and Rose didn’t push. She let him consider it, mulling it over at his own pace. The final call would be his, after all.
Krum gave a quick glance around the room before focusing back in on Rose. When he spoke, his tone was measured but Rose was sure she could see him fighting back a grin.
“Well," he said, "seeing as I may have some free time on my hands, I suppose that vould be alright by me.”
END OF PART I
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