Chapter Eight

Please Note

This is Chapter Eight of the alternate version of “Red Ribbon Redux” and is not complete.

Harry had never really thought of himself as an idiot.  He battled for the highest slots in his class and often exceeded—except in Potions and Herbology, but one couldn’t have everything in life—and whatever his professors’ opinions on his personal life, they constantly praised his spellwork.  However, whenever he returned to the Muggle world, he found himself happily forgetting the wizarding one—and all the trappings that came with it. 

Christmas had always been special for Harry—well, ever since Uncle Vernon left with his tail between his legs; the man had several restraining orders against him after trying to kidnap Dudley after the divorce and settlements—but at the sad look on Neville’s face the previous October when he mentioned his own Christmas tradition, Harry had offered to go to St. Mungo’s with him after Christmas dinner, as long as he could get there.

Harry, sadly, was a boy of his word.  Aunt Petunia had agreed by owl, saying that it was his Christian duty to help his friend and to give succor to the ill, and Viktor had calmly offered him the use of his Ministry car so Harry wouldn’t have to catch public transportation as he had been originally planning.  Now, though, he wished he hadn’t agreed, especially when Viktor was escorting him. He didn’t want to seem unsympathetic to Neville’s clear views on the Red Ribbon, but Viktor wouldn’t allow him out of his sight in the wizarding world, which was entirely understandable.  Also, he just knew that the Weasleys and even Granger would be wandering around St. Mungo’s.

He was wrapped up cozily in his new winter’s coat that Aunt Petunia had given him for Christmas.  “It looks a bit like the ones Potter used to wear,” she said.  “I thought it might be a nice compromise.”  He’d hugged her for the first time in years at her kind thought.  Harry was also wearing a Gryffindor scarf and the same black gloves that he had worn when he had left St. Mungo’s the previous Sunday.

“You look vell,” Krum remarked when Harry slid into the car, touching the coat.  “Is it vizard?”

Harry laughed.  “No, Muggle, but Aunt Petunia thought it looked a bit like a wizard coat.”

Krum offered him a small smile in response.

Dinner had been polite the previous Sunday but it was clear that Aunt Petunia was uncomfortable having three wizards (apart from Harry) in her home.  She had tried to be pleasant, to find a common ground, but in the end the only acceptable topic had been Harry, which had been unnerving at best.  He really didn’t like it when Dudley was telling stories about how little Amanda Root had tried to kiss him when they were nine, and Harry had started to cry.  Viktor, though, had thought the story endearing.  At least he hadn’t brought it up again.

“Well, at least there are no reporters,” Harry had murmured when Viktor had handed him out of the car a few hours later.  The air was cool and crisp, and Harry wondered absently if it were going to snow later on.  The sky looked a bit gray and there were clouds hovering over the city.  Harry rather liked a Christmas snow.  It seemed fitting.

“Vhere are ve meeting your friend?” Viktor asked and Harry shrugged.

“Lobby.”  He glanced at his watch.  “We’re a little bit early.”

He carefully took a seat and looked around at the various patients, staring for a few moments at a girl who was floating, her father holding her tightly by the wrist.  He wondered absently what sort of spell had done that, especially if her parents couldn’t reverse it.

Krum sat down regally next to him, which Harry privately thought was a feat given that he had a duck footed walk and round shoulders.  He was beautiful and graceful in the air—no one could deny it—but on land his gait left something to be desired.  It made him—human, though.  Intriguing.  It caught Harry’s interest and made it linger on Krum—Viktor, he mentally reminded himself again—longer than just a handsome face and a graceful figure would.  Not that Harry ever allowed himself to look when a feature would catch his eye.  He would glance away from Ron’s smooth stomach, from Cedric’s pouty lips, from Malfoy’s arched neck.  He never allowed himself to look but now—now he could.  He could look at Viktor all he wanted.

“Tell me off this friend,” Viktor requested quietly, casually taking Harry’s hand in his own.  “He is important?”

Harry shook his head.  “A dorm mate more than a friend,” he elaborated.  “Neville is—quietly brave,” he finally decided.  “Loyal.  He’d never say a word against anyone if they didn’t deserve it, but he—I think he wants a red ribbon.”  He glanced into Viktor’s eyes and saw that they were a deep, soothing brown, almost golden in the light.  He smiled wistfully.

“I am sorry then, for your friend.  Is it likely–?”

Harry shrugged.  “I didn’t think it was likely for me—not that I even knew what a red ribbon was until Winky and then my roommates told me.”

Viktor’s face fell.  It still seemed impassive, surly, and yet Harry found that he could somehow read the expression.

“I am very sorry for it then,” he admitted after several long moments.  “I had thought—had hoped that you vould know.  I apologize.”

Harry shook his head, his fringe falling into his eyes, and looked away.  “It’s all right.  Just think of me as a Muggle-born.  I consider myself one.”

“You are the best off both,” Viktor quietly responded, reaching out and clasping Harry’s hand.  “Muggle and vizard.  I admire that in you.”

Harry looked back and caught the earnest expression in Viktor’s eyes, causing him to relax slightly.  Before he could answer, however, a commotion had him turning toward the door and then he found that Ginny was hugging him, crying into his shoulder.

A moment later and the security wizard was hauling her off of him.  “I apologize,” he said to both of them, and Harry nodded absently.  The wizard’s voice was rough, heavily accented, not as soothing as Viktor’s had already become over the short few days they had been together here in England.  Harry wondered why that was.

“You disappeared,” Ginny was saying hurriedly, her brothers and Granger—her face red and angry as her eyes flicked between Harry and Viktor—coming up behind her.  Harry noticed that Tonks and Moody were coming up behind them.  They were probably their escort to the hospital.  “In the middle of the night.  We came to find you and there was vomit and you were gone.  How could you be so thoughtless?”

Harry’s eyebrows rose.  “Thoughtless?  I was injured—something which no one seemed to care about—and was rushed to the hospital.”

Viktor nodded to the security wizard and Ginny was unceremoniously escorted away.

The twins gazed hatefully at Harry.  He ignored them in return.  They were ignorant bullies.  At least Crabbe and Goyle had the grace to dislike him for a reason other than the fact that he wouldn’t give up his Christian religion.  Taking down Voldemort when he was a baby was far more valid in his mind, not that Harry really had much of a choice or had done much of anything as far as he was concerned.  Sometimes, in the dead of night, he thought that perhaps God was watching over him.  Generally he just accepted that it was one of the great mysteries of his existence and he would probably never really know for certain.  He knew Dumbledore thought he held all the answers, but he didn’t trust the Headmaster farther than he could throw him. 

Harry sighed in relief, but soon found himself sitting taller when Mrs. Longbottom arrived with Neville in tow.  Augusta Longbottom was the most frightening witch Harry had ever met. 

After the debacle at the Burrow after his first year, Harry had been loath to visit Ron ever again. He did, however, briefly stay with Neville the week before third year began.  Augusta Longbottom couldn’t be called tolerant by the best of standards, but she knew discretion.  She would take in his pressed shirt on the Sunday he was there and her eyes lingered on the Bible he read openly in the family den with a disapproving look, but she hadn’t said one word against it.  Harry rather suspected that she believed that one should always be courteous to guests.  He only wished Mrs. Weasley held the same views.

“Mr. Potter,” she greeted, and Harry sighed.  Unfortunately, Augusta Longbottom also insisted on referring to him by his father’s surname.  “A red ribbon, I’ve heard.”

“Yes,” he agreed absently, looking momentarily on Viktor, whose dark gaze lingered on him.  “This is Viktor Krum.  Viktor, Augusta and Neville Longbottom.”

Viktor nodded to them imperiously, saying nothing.

“Alice and Frank don’t like visitors they don’t know,” Mrs. Longbottom continued.  “Introducing one is difficult enough.”  Her voice was tight and her eyes snapped rapidly between them.

Harry wasn’t certain what to say.

“Off course, Madam,” Viktor agreed sternly.  “But even you must respect that I vill not allow Harry out off my sight.  I vill stay outside off the room but vill accompany him to it.” 

Lips thinning, she took a deep breath and looked directly at Harry.  “Perhaps you shouldn’t have come.”

Harry felt as if he had been slapped and looked away, wishing that he hadn’t.  He was here for Neville, because he understood what it was like to never feel a parent’s influence in his life and thinking it was even more horrible to know that they still lived and yet could not even recognize him.  He’d felt compassion for him—and wished to make this easier, not be chided like a child because of matters that were outside of his control.

“You misspeak, I think,” Viktor growled quietly, commanding the attention of everyone around them.  His eyes glinted dangerously, sending a shiver through Harry, and he was secretly glad that Viktor’s suppressed anger had never been directed at him, only in defense of him.  Part of him wondered if that would somehow change, if Viktor would be tired of being patient, if despite his letters and his words he did not truly love him and respect his ways of life or would just decide that it wasn’t worth it.  He’d never been loved before, not really.  Harry knew intellectually that his parents had loved him once, that his aunt and cousin felt affection for him—he had always told himself that it was enough, but now he wondered if that was true.  “You vill not speak in such vay to a member off the House of Krum again,” Viktor continued quietly, the words caressing the air and yet filled with danger.

Mrs. Longbottom stared at Viktor for a long moment before lowering her gaze away from him.  “If you see fit,” she clipped out, and then she was walking away from them, Neville toddling behind her as he hadn’t quite grown into his lengthened limbs.

Harry felt a warm, firm hand on the small of his back, and found himself standing and following the Longbottoms, the security detail falling into step behind him.  Everyone’s eyes were on them, but it was only to be expected, although Harry […]

please don’t kill me

As the warning said, this is the alternate original version of the also unfinished “Red Ribbon Redux.” It is not currently complete and is technically abandoned.

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