This is chapter seven of the alternate version of “Red Ribbon Redux.”
Harry had taken far longer than he thought he should have to get dressed. His trunk was always neat and orderly—Winky saw to that—but he found himself taking especial care with his appearance. He knew there were reporters probably swarming outside of the hospital and that only emergency patients could Apparate into St. Mungo’s. It was also a Sunday, and it was the first time Viktor would see him out of his pajamas since he arrived back in England. He still felt awkward in the situation, uncomfortable, and unready especially when Viktor would declare his affections and Harry knew that he didn’t yet return his love and he possibly never would completely. It was all a horrible gambol on Viktor’s behalf. So much could go wrong. Yes, Viktor’s presence comforted him and he found himself anxious that he wasn’t too much of an imposition, but that wasn’t enough to fully base an unbreakable marriage upon—at least not yet.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a mirror, so Harry was forced to flatten his hair without reference to his actual reflection, and hope that he didn’t look too wan or sickly as he finally exited, wearing charcoal gray trousers, a white pressed shirt, a black blazer and green tie under his Muggle winter coat. He carried his mother’s Bible in his gloved hands, as he didn’t like to go to Church without it, the red ribbon folded into the first page of the Song of Solomon. He looked up anxiously to where Viktor was prowling the hall, two security guards in formal robes flanking the door, and watched as Viktor’s eyes widened and then trailed over him appreciatively.
“You look vell in Muggle clothes,” he finally complimented, and Harry nodded in relief.
Viktor was dressed in formal burgundy robes with black accents made of thick brocade.
“Are you ready? Your elf vill get your trunk,” he said quietly and then passed Harry his Phoenix wand, which Harry slipped up his sleeve.
Harry glanced anxiously at the doors that led out of the ward, where he could hear the din of the general hospital. He knew that he would be gawked at, that when people saw his Bible they would jeer at him as was often the case although he refused to hide it, that members of the Order of the Phoenix could easily be lying in wait for him.
A warm hand took his free one and Harry looked down to see Viktor’s ungloved fingers entwining with his own. It was a silent offer of strength and support, and Harry was grateful for it.
“You know the Muggles won’t know what to do with you, dressed like that,” Harry whispered, trying to lighten the mood and genuinely fearing his aunt’s reaction.
“I do not own Muggle clothes as off yet,” Viktor admitted quietly, “but I am hoping my donation vill make them look the other way—I haff pounds.”
Harry looked at him, startled.
“It is your church. It is important to you and family, yes?” Viktor asked, his dark eyes boring into Harry’s.
“Yes,” Harry whispered, emotions of gratefulness and a soft affection swirling through him. “Yes, very much.”
“Then it can only be good,” Viktor nodded. “Is a hundred too little?”
He was now leading them toward the doors, the two guards stepping in front of them, but Harry hardly noticed. He started chuckling as they entered the main lobby. “Reverend West won’t know what to do with it,” he murmured—and then everywhere there were stares and people gaping at the international delegation that had been the center of a great deal of speculation since they had taken over St. Mungo’s three days before.
Harry saw Granger sitting in the lobby, a stony and betrayed looking expression on her face when her eyes took in Viktor and their joined hands, which then darkened as they lighted on the Bible in Harry’s hand.
Then, though, Harry was swept out onto the street. Flashes went off from all around, but within moments he was sliding into a waiting car and Viktor was beside him. Harry looked around him and smiled. “It’s as large as a limousine,” he whispered before collapsing again, the tinted windows protecting him from the camera snapshots that were still being taken.
The ride was quiet and introspective, Harry quietly reading his Bible and using the red ribbon as a bookmark, which caused Viktor to smirk in satisfaction. Harry leaned against Viktor the entire way, using his chest as a backboard as his legs stretched out along the magically lengthened seat, Viktor’s firm arm around his middle as he occasionally read over Harry’s shoulder.
“I think I need book in Bulgarian,” he finally muttered and Harry looked up, smiling at him.
“I’m sure the Bishop or local priest will give you one if you asked,” Harry murmured. “You—we,” he amended, reminding himself that he should try to become comfortable for the changes his life will eventually take, “will have lessons before we are baptized. Re-baptized.” His face blanched. “Oh no. What will Reverend West say?”
Viktor sighed and breathed in Harry’s scent as he nuzzled the top of his head. “I vould hope he vould understand. It is same religion, no?”
“Yes,” Harry agreed after a moment. “Just different dogma, theology, traditions—“ His voice was rising, becoming more and more panicked.
“But in essentials I think it is the same. It vould be the same for magic in different countries and regions. In South America they haff not been using Latin for spells, same for Asia. It is still the same magic, though.”
“I suppose,” Harry agreed before leaning back against Viktor and continuing his reading. Whatever happened, though, he would always use his mum’s Bible, he decided. He was an Evans after all and if somehow they ever had children—through adoption or something—then he would give it to his eldest upon his confirmation. It would be a link to their past, to England, to the time when they were Muggles and Muggle-borns. It was their heritage as much as magic also was.
The journey was relatively swift and Harry found them arriving only five minutes after the service had begun. He smiled as Viktor helped him from the car, a bodyguard moving into place beside them.
Harry glanced nervously at the man. They would be even more conspicuous if they had someone there just for protection.
“Is it necessary?” he whispered to Viktor as they walked up the snow-covered path through the graveyard toward the church doors.
“I vill not compromise your safety,” Viktor responded, his hand pressed to Harry’s back protectively.
“But they’re all Muggles.”
“Vone can never know.”
Harry decided it might be better just not to argue. He carefully opened up the church’s door and winced at the loud creak that drew the attention of several people sitting in the back row.
Reverend West was still in the opening prayers (he was currently praying for the Royal Family) and Harry slipped inside, leading Viktor quietly down the main aisle until he found Aunt Petunia and Dudley in a pew near the front. He quietly shuffled in next to Dudley—Big D as he now liked to be called, and Harry thought it was fitting given that Dudley could probably take anyone out in the boxing ring—who was staring widely at Viktor, who carefully was sitting and looking up toward the minister, a look of intense concentration on his face.
Dudley knocked their shoulders together, and Harry smiled at him.
“Glad you’re okay,” he murmured, just loud enough for Harry to hear.
Harry soon lost himself in the familiar liturgy, moving through the motions easily and from memory and quietly guiding Viktor into sitting, standing, and kneeling at the appropriate moments. When it was time to take the Eucharist, he quietly whispered to Viktor to stay and then filed up with the other churchgoers to take the sacrament. Reverend West smiled at him kindly and gave him an added blessing for good health, causing Harry to grin widely in thanks before he took his seat again, his hand quietly grasped in Viktor’s before the final hymn.
“What did you think?” Harry asked Viktor quietly as they began to file out, leaving Aunt Petunia and Dudley behind as his aunt liked to greet her friends before finally leaving to the harsh winter cold.
Viktor hesitated. “I do not understand—there is your vone God.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed, nodding. “What don’t you understand?”
“But there are three,” Viktor responded carefully, and Harry began to quietly laugh.
“The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” Harry supplied when he finally managed to control himself. He glanced over Viktor’s shoulder and saw the stern, Slavic bodyguard watching them intently before his eyes once again began scanning the room, and then focused on them for another half-moment before repeating the process.
“Yes. There are three—but you said there is but vone. It is some magic, then? These people belief in magic?”
“No,” Harry responded shaking his head. “Not really. Instead it’s three expressions of the same entity. He’s one being, but he’s portrayed in three different ways, Viktor.”
“So it is magic,” he replied cautiously.
Harry paused, and looked up into Viktor’s brooding face. “You—you love me,” he murmured, and Viktor nodded. “To show me that, you kiss me, you hold my hand, and you send me red ribbons. Three different actions, but they’re just three different ways of saying or expressing the same emotion. It’s the same with God.”
Tenderness flickered across Viktor’s usually stoic features, causing Harry’s heart to melt a little. What had he done to deserve such devotion? He could not understand it.
My ardor although previously unspoken has proven the test of time.
The emotion was so strong, blazing red and burning brightly, and Harry was confused as to how it had all begun.
A strong hand cupped his cheek and wiped away a solitary tear—Harry hadn’t even realized he was crying. “Do not be sad,” Viktor begged. “I do not vish to make you sad.”
Harry shook his head and carefully wiped his eyes. “You don’t,” he murmured. “I—I don’t know—“
Viktor nodded slowly, accepting Harry’s confusion, his hand slowly sliding down to Harry’s shoulder before he took his hand.
“Come meet my friend,” Harry finally said, casting around for a subject and his eyes settling on Kevin and his parents still sitting in a pew a little way ahead of them. “Kevin’s my best friend, a Muggle-born,” he supplied, and then he was pulling Viktor forward, not noticing the curious gazes they were getting from many of the parishioners.
“Harry,” Kevin said happily and instantly grasped him in a hug. “I was so worried when I couldn’t find you on Thursday and read the Prophet the next day. Are you all right?” He looked Harry over worriedly, his gaze lingering on his eyes and then peeking at his forehead.
“Yes, thank you. St. Mungo’s sorted me out. Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Entwhistle,” he greeted politely.
Mr. Entwhistle smiled at him brightly. “Hello, Harry. Who is your friend?”
“Yes, Harry,” Kevin persisted, a knowing glint in his eye. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?”
“Right,” Harry murmured and turned back to Viktor, giving him a tremulous smile. “Viktor Krum, my—“
“Harry is member off House of Krum,” Viktor supplied quickly when he saw Harry’s confusion. “It is pleasure.”
Mrs. Entwhistle looked between them. “Are you related then?”
Harry blanched at the assumption. It made everything else just seem surreal.
“No, Mum,” Kevin said quietly. “It’s an old wizard custom. I’ll explain later—is that okay, Harry?”
Hesitating only a moment, Harry nodded. “Yes, of course.”
“Aurors came on Thursday,” Kevin was now whispering hurriedly. “Everyone saw and then Dumbledore left the school in Professor Flitwick’s hands, if you can imagine that. Then it hit the papers that there was an international incident involving you. They got your name wrong in the papers—again,” he added.
“They always do,” Harry answered in turn. “They can’t get it around their head that I might not be fond of my father’s memory or society in general.”
“Then when there were mentions of Krum,” he added, looking at Viktor, “and the fact that it had somehow become knowledge that you received a red ribbon.”
“Now everyone knows,” Harry guessed. He sighed. “It is only to be expected, I suppose.”
The group moved toward the door again, the Entwhistles trailing behind and murmuring to each other while Harry walked between Viktor and Kevin. “There’s speculation of how and when you two met,” he continued. “Whether there has been a quiet romance all during the Triwizard Cup, but—“ he hesitated— “the general consensus is that everyone’s glad as they think this will make you, er, less Muggle inclined.”
Harry stopped, his eyes widening before they narrowed again. “I shouldn’t be surprised,” he spat viciously before coming up to Reverend West and trying to smile.
Viktor’s arm slipped around him. “That is absolutely ridiculous,” he said firmly. “I am converting to Bulgarian Orthodox church for Harry—I vould never make him giff up religion.”
Several people around them paused, including Aunt Petunia, who breathed out a sigh of relief. “Thank God,” she muttered. “I would have murdered you like I should have James Potter when he made Lily do just that. He wouldn’t even allow Harry to be baptized. If he had died when they had—“ Tears welled in her eyes at the thought, and Dudley carefully hugged her. “You’ll come to lunch of course, Lord Krum,” she said, finally pulling herself together. “And your bodyguard.”
“There’s another one outside,” Harry murmured. “And a driver, I think.”
Reverend West’s eyes widened before he took Harry’s hand. “I’m glad you’re out of the hospital,” he said, trying to regain his calm although his voice shook slightly. “What happened?”
“I—“ Harry began.
“He vas attacked by high master,” Viktor answered succinctly. “And then not given any medical care.”
Kevin’s eyes widened.
“Scourgify,” Harry explained. “On my eyes.”
“On your eyes?” Kevin repeated. “What was the man thinking?”
Harry shrugged, and turned back to the minister, who looked flushed. “I hope this man is in custody.”
“He vas. There is investigation and restrictions. He cannot be vith Harry alone and he vill haff vone off my guards at all times if he vishes to return.” He took out an envelope from his pocket. “For the church,” he murmured. “It is dear to Harry and he is Krum now.”
The man blanched and carefully took the envelope. “Thank you, Lord Krum. I will keep both you and Harry in my prayers.”
Harry offered him a small smile. “Thank you, Reverend.”
He began to move forward, but Reverend West caught his hand gently. “A moment, Harry—alone,” he added and Viktor nodded before moving a short distance away. “Harry,” the minister murmured gently. “I am truly glad you are well, but—Lord Krum—“ He appeared to search for words, and Harry understood his confusion.
Viktor, although not overly demonstrative, was still behaving as if he were Harry’s guardian and fiancé, which Harry supposed he had every right to do. To a Muggle, however, it might be confusing.
“He is not—pressuring you—into something you don’t want?”
Harry laughed softly, knowing that in a way that was exactly what was happening. “My father was an atheist, Reverend,” he murmured, and West nodded his head in understanding.
“Yes, your aunt has told me on a few occasions. She was most distressed when your parents were killed and feared for your mother’s soul—as well as yours.”
Harry glanced at him surprised. “I didn’t know—“
The minister nodded in understanding. “She has always been a friend of this congregation. Her husband didn’t always approve, so she didn’t often attend until you were seven, but she would still come to evensong once or so a month.”
“Oh.” Harry nodded to himself, thinking. It made sense. He knew his aunt and mum had been raised as Anglicans, and his aunt was devout now—and Uncle Vernon had thought it was only for Christmas and for nancy boys. In a way, he was no better than his own father had been. “My father,” he began again, taking a deep breath, “he belonged—no—I—“ He breathed deeply, casting his mind for some way to explain. “He was different, from an old line and when Mum married him, he made her give it all up. Viktor is higher in society,” he laughed. “Much higher. The equivalent of a prince, I suppose you would say.”
The reverend’s eyebrows rose into his graying hairline. “Indeed.”
“Yes,” Harry nodded emphatically. “Yet, despite that, he wishes me happy, and wishes me well. I’ve been adopted into his family and he—cares for me. I think, I’m beginning to think, he’d do anything to make me comfortable once I go to Bulgaria. He’s doing this—for me.” He blushed. “Does that make sense?”
“The church will not look kindly on any—association that is not strictly platonic,” Reverend West said quietly. “God will not look kindly on it, Harry. If he is pressuring you—“
“He loves me,” Harry whispered vehemently, “he would never presume to push me.”
The minister sighed, as if his worst fears had been confirmed. “You’re fifteen.”
“I won’t be forever,” he murmured, his gaze seeking out Viktor’s brooding one, to gather some small comfort. “A great deal can change in a few years, Reverend.”
“—will overlook and even bless it,” Harry stated loudly enough for a few people around them to hear, his eyes still locked on Viktor. “He is powerful enough for it to be done, especially as he is converting for my sake—and God will bless it because he will see into Viktor’s heart and know that he is true,” he said, realizing the power and truth of his words as they left his lips. Viktor had bled for him, proven to magic that he was worthy, and God was understanding and forgiveness and love in its truest form. He smiled tremulously at the pastor. “He is not like my father who would condemn the one he claimed to love after death, who would take away my comfort and my solace.”
“And your aunt?” the minister continued to question.
Harry took a deep breath. “She understands this is an aspect of my father’s echelon of society that she does not understand.”
“What was he?”
Harry smirked. “The thing of myths that walks among us,” he said more to himself than to his pastor. “It is a cultural difference—a place of honor and respect. We cannot even fully speak of it, that is how revered and great it is, Reverend.”
“It sounds like witchcraft.”
He laughed openly. “If only it were that simple,” he muttered, thinking of Hermione. “There are people waiting for you.”
Harry walked away from the stunned pastor and nodded at a few parishioners he recognized before Viktor’s hand came to rest at the small of his back and lead him outside.
“Where are Aunt Petunia and Dudley?” he asked, the cold December wind hitting his face.
“They decided to leaf,” Viktor responded, “to prepare for lunch. I hope that is fine vith you.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “I needed to speak with Reverend West. He thinks that our relationship is a matter of witchcraft.”
Viktor still and then a grimace crossed his already grim visage. “He vould not be far off.”
“No, he wouldn’t,” Harry agreed as they approached the magically expanded car. It was sleek and black and had small flags on its hood, showing that it was the property of the government of Bulgaria. Harry was impressed with it. “His understanding of witchcraft is different from the reality, of course, and I wouldn’t want to start an impromptu witch hunt.”
Viktor shivered as he passed Harry into the car, which was already warm and toasty. “No,” he agreed as he slid in. “And they alvays catch the Muggles and they are the vones to suffer.”
Harry silently agreed. “We won’t have trouble—in Bulgaria?” he said worriedly. “When you wish to be baptized—with our—?” The word marriage stuck in his throat. He couldn’t say it, could barely think it.
“No,” Viktor whispered quietly, his hands raking through Harry’s hair lovingly. “Ve are abuff Muggle law and the Bishop vill be glad for our actiff patronage. I expect favorable reply vithin veek.”
Harry gazed into Viktor’s dark eyes. They were almost black, and yet they really were a deep blue when he looked more closely. He had never seen eyes like them. “When?” he breathed out, feeling suddenly light headed at Viktor’s proximity.
“Vhen you vish,” Viktor responded quietly. “Vhen you can tell me that you luff me, for I vould not haff you othervise. I vould rather vait decades, Harry, for a chance that you might return that luff. If you cannot ever luff as I luff, you should tell me.” His warm fingers continued to run through his hair.
“One day,” Harry murmured, his gaze holding Viktor’s. “One day I might.”