As Silent As the Grave

Title: As Silent As the Grave
Author: ExcentrykeMuse
Pairing(s): fem!Harry/Viktor, fem!Harry/Draco, Hermione/Ron
Summary: Krum took her flying.  Draco wrote her love letters.  Krum kept her in the limelight while Draco kept her hidden from it.  Each man wants to marry her.  She thinks she loves one while the other loves her.

For: Ell Roche/Kamerreon

Warnings: Rule 63, emotional infidelity, ambiguous ending (don’t kill me!)

Hester Potter was never jealous.  Such a thing was beneath her.  She was on the arm of the most eligible bachelor at Hogwarts—Draco Malfoy—and yet all she could do was stare at Hermione in the arms of Viktor Krum.  What made it worse was that Malfoy looked like a priest in his dress robes.  He was handsome otherwise and had been kind to her since third year.  Still, whose idea had it been to wear those dress robes?

No, she was not jealous, but the image was seared forever in her memory.

She was not jealous two years later when she sat next to Krum at Fleur and Bill’s wedding.  He asked her about Ginny and whether or not she had a boyfriend.  Hester answered that she had.  A very jealous one.  Of course, this was all hogwash, but she couldn’t help herself.  Hester Potter was never jealous and yet she found herself lying.  Draco then asked her to dance and she waltzed away.

The memory was forever seared on her memory.

After Hogwarts, much to the consternation of Ron and Hermione, Hester left the wizarding world.  Well, almost left.  She still wrote a column for the Daily Prophet and gave the occasional interview at Witch Weekly.  Still, she moved down to Oxford and worked at the University library, and simply loved it there.  Oxford was the perfect little town and it suited her perfectly.  She rented a small house, allowed Dobby and Winky to move in to “take care of her”, and was glad when they disappeared whenever she had friends or Draco over.

Her life could not have been more content.  She was flirting with a Muggle named Andrew and she knew that it could go somewhere if she accepted one of his numerous invitations to tea.  Still, she would never do that to Draco.  How could she?

She thought about him on the train ride up to London where she had a photo shoot for Witch Weekly.  She knew that someone else was having their photos taken before her, but she hadn’t really been paying attention when they told her, so she didn’t bother trying to remember now.  Draco had thoughtfully written her another love letter, this one on paper of acromantula silk, and it had been sheer heaven just to hold it.

Hester was dressed for autumn, in long brown slacks, a purple shirt, and a green and brown scarf.  Her hair was piled into a bun at the back of her head, a mass of black curls, and she wore a brown cap to top off the ensemble.  She was slight and powerful—an aphrodisiac to pureblood males, but fortunately she rarely ran into any of them.  Still, she received letters from Draco Malfoy, and occasionally (when she was feeling sentimental) she would answer them.  Still, she saw him every Wednesday on the dot even if she didn’t.

She arrived on set just as the last shoot was wrapping up.  There, on the podium was Viktor Krum.  He was just completing his summer European tour in England, Hester remembered, and she was surprised at his choice of magazines for an interview.

“Ah,” he said, approaching her, a gleam in his eyes.  “You must be vone off the models.”

Hester stared at him.  Did he really not recognize her?  It had only been two years since they last saw each other at the wedding, but still.  She didn’t think she had changed that much.

“You are being late,” he concluded.

“No, I’m early,” she countered.  “I’m not here for your photo shoot, Mr. Krum.”  She batted her eyelashes at him.  She could not stand his superior tone or the way that he was looking at her.

He glanced up and down her frame.  “You are being too pretty to be a model.  You be taking all the attention avay from subject off photo.”  He laughed, rough and deep and masculine, sending a shiver down Hester’s spine.

“Should I take that as a compliment?”  With Draco she always knew where she was.  With Krum, now, she wasn’t quite so sure.

“If you be going out to dinner vith me tonight,” he answered smoothly, as if he already knew the answer would be yes.

An idea formed in Hester’s mind and she smirked at Krum.  “No, thank you,” she answered.  Two could play at this game—and Krum wouldn’t know what game he was playing.

Krum didn’t linger and Hester was soon whisked away to her dressing room where she was pulled out of her clothing, her hair tusseled, her nose powdered.  “You look so beautiful in red!” the show runner trilled and Hester could only agree with her.

Hester found Krum waiting around the corner, trying to look casual, and she smiled to herself.  “Mr. Krum.”

“You be haffing drink vith me.  Now.”

“Now?” she asked in innocence.

She looked down at her watch with exaggerated slowness.  It was a Wednesday.  Hester sighed.  “I suppose I have time before my train.”  And before she knew it, she was whisked into a tea room and a seat was being pulled out for her.  She sat down elegantly and looked across the table at Krum.

The tea was served.  Earl Grey, at her insistence.  She took a long sip, hummed, got up with an “I can’t miss my train,” and was out the door before Krum could register any of it.

Yes, she wanted Krum to remember her.  More than that, she wanted him to fall in love with her so that images of her would be forever seared on his memory.  He was the debonair bachelor who took a new witch out every night.  She would be the one witch that would stand out from all the rest.  All without being the famous Aloysia Hester Potter.

Draco was waiting for her in Oxford when she returned.  He sat at their table in a small little tea room that overlooked the river.  “You look beautiful, Aloysia.”

“Not too Muggle?”

“Would I have complimented you otherwise?”  True, he would have said nothing.  He was like that.  “How was the photo shoot?”  He tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.  She smiled at him and began to chatter away, ignoring his smug expression.

Two days later she took the train up to London again to turn in her latest copy for the Daily Prophet.  She dropped it off with a “hello” for the assistant, Annabelle, and then headed to Krum’s hotel.  There she sat in the lobby, a newspaper open and simply waited.  Krum’s entire schedule was printed in the Prophet including his hotel.  He would be along soon.

After a half hour she was aware of a presence behind her paper.  She folded down the corner.  “Mr. Krum,” she greeted.  “Are you stalking me?”

“Hardly,” he answered, sweeping the paper out of her hand.  “You be haffing tea with me.  Now.  No trains to catch.”

“But I need to get down to Oxford.”

“Vhat is being there?” he asked, his hunched shoulders seeming more sloped for some reason.

“My home,” she answered.  She wouldn’t be so plebian as to say her job.  The likes of Viktor Krum didn’t have jobs; they had careers.  She could have had one simply going to party after glittering party.  Ron had been all for it.  Instead, she chose her quiet country life.

“You are going to be Apparating,” he told her succinctly.

“I like the train.”

“You von’t be liking it this afternoon.”

“If you say so,” she answered doubtfully.

The tea was once again Earl Grey.  He had remembered.  Hester felt the cameras flashing but didn’t mind them for once.  Let Krum find out who she was from the papers.  He would find out eventually.  She took a sip of the tea, made to stand, and then smiled at Krum when he opened his mouth.

“Kidding!” she said, sitting back down.  “What do you like apart from Quidditch, Mr. Krum?”

It turned out he liked to read Muggle crime fiction.  He couldn’t get enough of it.  He was always wandering into Muggle Sofia to buy the latest Grisham novel.

“But you’re a pureblood,” was all Hester could say, completely shocked.

“Are not you?”

Hester let the question hang there.  “Would it matter if I wasn’t?”

She left before he could answer her.  Hester smiled for the cameras, confusing Krum.  The next day, on the front of the Prophet, was a large spread on their budding romance.  QUIDDITCH STAR WOOS GIRL-WHO-LIVED the page announced and there was a picture of them having tea together.  MALFOY THROWN OVER FOR NEWER MODEL.  The article went on for two pages.  What did this mean for the reclusive and Muggle-loving Girl-Who-Lived?  Was she finally coming back into the fold?  What about Viktor Krum?  Was he thinking of flying for England?  What would this do for English/Bulgarian relations that had been so damaged at the Triwizard tournament where the two lovebirds had met?  What did this mean about business tycoon Draco Malfoy and his known continuing romance with Aloysia Potter?

Hester wasn’t surprised when Viktor waltzed into the Bodleian with a copy of the Prophet under his arms.  He was dressed smartly as a Muggle and was carefully taking off a pair of brown leather gloves.

“Miss Potter,” he greeted her as she walked by him with a pile of books.

She cocked her head, indicating that he should follow.  “Ah, so you know my name now.  I thought you might.”  She took great pleasure at the stunned look on his face and smiled secretly to herself.

“Vhy veren’t you telling me?”  He spoke a little too loudly.

Mrs. Smith, another librarian, came over and sshed him.  Krum looked slightly cowed.

“How could you not recognize me?” she countered, putting down her pile of books.  “You have to admit, it’s rather astonishing, especially considering the fact that we know each other.”

“You vere not beautiful then.”  Strange.  Draco had always thought that she was beautiful.

“Am I supposed to take that as a compliment?” she snipped back, turning toward him, her eyes ablaze.

Krum cleared his throat.  “My publicist be thinking—“

“I don’t care what your publicist thinks,” Hester interrupted, jabbing a loose pin into her hair.  “I care what you think.  Think of me as just a model.  That’s all I am to you anyway, right?”

He looked a little taken aback by her statement.  She was somewhat glad for it.

“Nameless, faceless, just another notch on your bedpost.”

“But you are being Aloysia Potter,” he countered.  “This be meaning something.”

Hester shivered.  She hated her full name.  Aloysia Hester Potter.  It’s why she went by Hester.  It had the added benefit of making her feel less like the savior of the wizarding world.  Of course, Draco usually called her Aloysia, but she didn’t mind it, coming from him.

“Marry me.”

“What?” she looked at Krum confused.

“Political marriages are made all the time.  I am liking your company.  You are liking mine.  It vould keep our countries happy.”

Hester paused and looked at Krum, truly looked at him.  He was stooped shouldered and duck-footed.  His nose was strong and a little too large for his face.  He wore a goatee that made him seem somewhat older and yet, somehow, he was undeniably attractive all put together.

“You don’t know what it would mean being married to the Girl-Who-Lived,” she said slowly, pretending not to like the idea.

“I am knowing vhat it is like being famous, yes?”

“I am more famous than you are.”

He shrugged.  “I vould not mind.”

And then he kissed her, there in the library, long and slow and oh-so-good.  When he let her go, she sighed.  “You’d have to be faithful.”

“So vould you.”

What are you doing? Her mind cried.  You’re supposed to make him fall in love with you and then leave him to become Mrs. Malfoy, not end up as a pile of goo on the floor at his feet. 

“I’d keep my own name.”

“You vould enter the vizard vorld again.”  There was a sheen to his eyes, as if he were reciting a list.  His publicist had probably given it to him.  “Ve are public figures.”

“I do quite well, here at the Bod.”

“You should not be doing quite vell,” he insisted.  “You should be glittering in jewels and being at parties.  It is being your place.”  He sounded like Ron.  “No more vriting your little column.”

“Little!”  She bristled like a cat.  “There’s nothing little about it!”

“No vone be caring about orphans from last var,” Krum stated, waving the Prophet at her.  “It is being too much.”

“No,” she said sternly.  “I’m not marrying you.”

Krum looked dumfounded.  “Vhy?”

“You want to marry the Girl-Who-Lived, not me.”  It was as simple as that.  Hester pushed past him and entered a back room where he could not follow, at least not without the use of his wand.  Fortunately, he couldn’t use it with so many Muggles about.  It would break the International Statute of Secrecy.

She breathed in deeply.  She couldn’t believe she had contemplated marriage to such a man just five minutes before!  In an arranged marriage no less!  It was positively frightful!

What about Draco? a small little voice in her mind asked.  What about your love for him?

Hester shivered and ran her hands up her arms.  She must stay strong.  This game had taken a strange turn and she just couldn’t…

She walked out of the room and saw Krum waiting for her.  “I’ll marry you,” she stated, “but only if you can prove you’re in love with me.”  The game, indeed, was on.

The next time Hester was up in London, she had lunch with Hermione.  Her friend looked wounded.  “He was my boyfriend, you know.”

Hester looked up, startled.  “Five years ago.”  Strangely it had been that long.  It was rather surprising.

Hermione was dressed fully as a wizard. She had dark blue robes on and her hair was tamed into a ponytail.  Her complexion was bright even though her brown eyes were stormy.

“Aren’t you seeing Ron?” Hester couldn’t help but ask.

Hermione’s robes came to about half a foot below the knees and she wore matching tights.  Her feet slipped nicely into heeled booties.  Hester was always astonished what a fashion guru Hermione had become.

Hermione flicked her hand to the side and then picked up her piece of pizza.  “We’re on again, off again.  Currently we’re off.”

“Seeing anyone else?” Hester questioned.

Hermione’s eyes narrowed.  “I see what you’re doing.  Really, though.  Girl Code 101.  Krum’s been mine since we were fourteen.”

“Doesn’t that run out after a certain numbers of years?  Yes, he’s your ex, but still—“

“He’s my ex.  Period.  It would be like me trying to date Draco Malfoy.  How is he taking the news by the way?”  Another small bite of pizza.  Delicate even.

Hester sighed.  “He wrote me a long letter as to why he would make a better husband than Krum.”

“And that’s another thing,” Hermione pointed out.  “Isn’t it a bit soon to talk about marriage?”

Someone, and Hester wouldn’t be surprised if it were Viktor’s publicist, had leaked their supposed engagement to the press.  She had had rather a laugh over it over breakfast the week before.  Dobby just looked at her, confused, while Winky burst into tears of happiness.

“That was a leak.”

“But is it true?”

“It’s been discussed.”

“You can’t go marrying my ex-boyfriend!” Hermione exclaimed with a little huff.

“Vhy not?” the clipped tones of Krum asked.  Hester looked up and saw him standing at their small table.  “I vas being eighteen.  I am now being twenty-three.”

Hermione looked up at him dumfounded.  He was carrying a bouquet of lilies.

The tension was so thick one could slash it with a cutting curse.  “Are those for me?” Hester asked innocently.

Krum took his eyes from Hermione.  “Yes.”

“How lovely.”  She motioned to the maître d’ and he came over with a vase and a small table.  Being famous occasionally had its perks, especially since Hermione would only dine in the wizarding world.  “This still hasn’t convinced me, you know.”

Krum looked non-plussed.  “I am being in it for game long.  Game long, yes?”

“Long game,” Hermione corrected.

Krum looked back at her.  “You no longer be looking like the Muggle-born I be dating.  You being looking like a pureblood.”

Hermione bristled.  “Is that a compliment?”

“I am knowing so many purebloods,” Viktor responded before turning back to Hester.  “You be Apparating here for lunch?”

Hester dabbed her lips on a napkin, knowing her wizard lipstick wouldn’t stain the cloth.  “Yes.  We have lunch every Thursday.”

Krum nodded.  “I be knowing.  Prophet tells me.  Every Vednesday you haff lunch vith Malfoy.”

Ah, yes, the Daily Prophet.  Since the romance broke her editor had wanted her to write about her romance in her weekly column, and Hester had had to very firmly refuse the man.  It was just too much.  She’d gotten her way in the end, anyway.  She was Aloysia Potter, after all.

“I am come to invite you to Quidditch skirmish tonight at six,” Krum stated after a pause.  “At grand stadium.”

Hester got off at six, so she could make it there, if a little late.  “I’ll be there,” she stated.

He leaned down and kissed her forehead.  “Aloysia,” he said in farewell, and then he was gone.  He had neglected to say goodbye to Hermione.

“You cannot marry that man,” Hermione stated as she took in Hester’s silly grin.  “It’s simply out of the question.  He’s infuriating.”

“He is.  Isn’t he?”  Hester couldn’t stop smiling.

“What about Malfoy?  You know I hate the little pureblood, but you’ve been stringing him along for over a year—“

The smile fell from Hester’s face, her heart constricting.

She showed up that night in her old Quidditch Jersey with Firebolt in hand.  When it took Krum over a half hour to find the snitch, Hester couldn’t stand it any longer.  To the bemusement of the other players and to Krum’s bafflement, she took off on her broom and caught the snitch in two minutes, smiling at Krum the entire time.  He tackled her and as they fell on their brooms.  He smiled at her indulgently and said, “See, I be catching the Snitch.”

Somehow, Hester thought he meant her and not the golden ball with wings.

That night she ran to Malfoy Manor and, when a house elf showed her to the drawing room, threw herself into Draco’s arms.  His mother, unfortunately, was there.

Hester colored.

“I caught the Snitch before Krum!” she exclaimed rather lamely.

Narcissa Malfoy stood slowly.  “My son’s rival, I presume.”  She sniffed.  “Aloysia.  At least you’re here now.”  She swept from the room just as Draco was sweeping her into his arms.

“You’re wearing a Quidditch jersey.”

“Yes…” Hester began.  She wasn’t quite sure where this was going.

“I always imagined making love to you after one of our heated Quidditch matches,” he admitted.

She took in a deep breath.  “And Malfoys always get what they want.”

“Malfoys, Aloysia,” Draco confirmed in a haughty tone, “always get what they want.”

“You haven’t been playing Quidditch.”

“Details, details,” he said as he swept her from the room.

Hester hadn’t much thought about it when she asked Krum to her home the first time.  It seemed like the logical next step.  Her publicist had been thrilled by it.  Hester hardly paid attention to the woman though she was good at keeping the dogs at bay.  Somehow Hester just knew that there would be pictures of her answering her door to Viktor Krum in the next Witch Weekly.  “All publicity is good publicity,” Stella Morningchild would sing, much to Hester’s regret.

It hadn’t occurred to her to hide the latest letter from Draco Malfoy.

“Make yourself at home,” she said to Viktor as she went to see about his tea specifications (every wizard had them), only to return to him standing over her desk and holding her letter.

“My luff?” He asked, a brow cocked to one side.  It was how Draco addressed every one of his letters.

“Draco will be Draco,” she explained, not noticing Winky as she brought in the tray of tea, looked between the two of them, and quickly popped out of the room.

“You receive luff letter from other vizard.”  Fury burned in Krum’s eyes.  “Vhat am I, a game?”

Hester reared back.  So what if it was true.  “I thought I was just a publicity stunt.”

“I told you that you are being faithful.”

“I am being faithful!” she yelled at him although it wasn’t quite true.  “I’m sure you get loads of letters from adoring fans who profess their love to you!”

“I am not being keeping it in my living room!”  Krum squared his shoulders and looked like he was ready to take on another dragon.  “Is he not being the boy who took you to Yule Ball?”

Hester was frankly stunned.  “How can you remember that?”

“I am being remembering everything about you.”

The conversation halted to a stop and the two just stared at each other.  The letter was still in Krum’s hand.  How could he possibly remember everything about her?  Until this Autumn he hadn’t noticed that she existed, and then it was only as a pretty face!  How could he possibly …?

Then Krum was kissing her and she was kissing him and he was gone.  He took the letter with him.

Two nights later their publicists arranged for them to have dinner.  They weren’t speaking.  Krum was taking her to a very exclusive restaurant, the White Witch, that only catered to the rich and the famous—mainly purebloods with Hester the Half-Blood thrown in.  Hester took the train up, dressed in silk and pearls, and made sure she had charms in place so that dust and dirt wouldn’t get on her dress as she made her way through the train station.

Krum was unusually surly and Hester just smiled through it all.  What else could she do?  The food was exquisite, and she made polite small talk that he would only grunt at.

Finally, near desert, he spoke.  “Malfoy be speaking off your night of passion.”

Ah, yes, that.  There was the one just last week, and the one three months before that…but then there had been the first.  Hester had been afraid she was going to die at the hand of Voldemort and Draco had been as devoted and as available as ever.  She took a bite of crème brulée.  “What of it?”

“You are being not virgin.”  Krum’s voice was stiff and matter-of-fact.  Hester knew that purebloods favored virginity, but then again, she wasn’t a pureblood.

“I’m not a pureblood,” she reminded him.

“You might as vell be.”

“But I’m not.”

“Aloysia, Malfoy should not be dishonoring you—yes, dishonor?—you in this vay.  He is pureblood.  He should know.”  His eyebrows came together and he looked as masculine as ever, which was just what Hester didn’t need right now.

“There was a war on.  I was going to die.”

“That is not mattering,” he argued stubbornly.

Hester put her spoon down.  “I think he thought that it would make me beholden to him.  That I would have to marry him.  Clearly he forgot that I’m the Girl-Who-Lived and almost any wizard would forgive me my indiscretion.  You clearly have to be sitting here with me tonight.”

Hester triumphed in the fact that she was correct when Krum only stared at her long and hard.

“Perhaps I should thank your publicist.”

He remained silent.

“And you can’t pretend that you wouldn’t have bedded me if I were some nameless pureblood model.  You would have expected it.  You’re the great Viktor Krum after all.”

“That vould be different—“

“No it wouldn’t.”  There was a finality in her tone and she returned to her desert.

At the end of the meal, champagne appeared and Krum got down on one knee.  There was a shadow of hope in his eyes, but mainly the firm resolve of a man doing his duty, so when he asked her to marry him, she simply took the ring holding the box, closed it, and set it on the table.  Krum remained motionless on the floor.  The restaurant held its breath.  “You know I can’t, Viktor,” she said quietly, but then again, you could hear a pin drop in the White Witch in that moment.  Krum stiffly got up and managed to drink his champagne in one gulp.  He left her, with the ring, at the table.

The next morning the Daily Prophet announced that she had broken Krum’s heart.  Hester doubted that it was true.

Draco popped by to see her the morning the news broke.  She found him in the back garden, looking as self-satisfied as ever.

“Come to gloat, have you?”

“Aloysia, I’ve come to see if you’re all right.”  He almost sounded sincere.

“You have, have you?”  She didn’t really believe him.  She never really did.

“Can I help but be concerned when my future bride is proposed to in public by another man?”

“And one more famous than you?” That was the real problem, that and that she wouldn’t marry him no matter how many times he asked.

“No one’s more famous than a Malfoy.”

I’m more famous than a Malfoy.”

He waved it off.  “You’re a special case, and you’ll be a Malfoy once you see sense.”

She didn’t bother to answer him.  Hester very rarely did anymore.

Draco proposed to her again over tea and she didn’t bother to answer.  They both knew what she would say.

Two days later, Krum appeared at the Bod with two tickets to the Pegasus Races there in England for the upcoming evening.  “You haff a dress, off course.”

“And a hat,” she agreed.  She’d never been to the races.  It all sounded rather exciting.

Hester slipped into a lace late-afternoon gown the color of a sunset with a large grey hat that perched on top of her curls.  She could only move in itty bitty steps but that is all she needed to do.  The train on the dress would allow for nothing more.

Ginny was the one who insisted she have such a dress.  The thing was only really suitable for the races, but she said, “You could wear it to tea with the Queen.”

“When would I meet the Queen?”

She had met the Queen, though not in the dress, and it had been hanging in her closet ever since.  Now she had the occasion to wear it and Hester wondered why women did such things to themselves.  It was positively ghastly.

She did not object when Krum arrived at her door, dressed in a waistcoat and grey robes, holding his arm out to her, which she gladly took.  He side Apparated her to the tracks, and she held onto his arm for dear life when they arrived.  It wouldn’t do to fall after all.  She was constantly told she had an image to keep up as the Girl-Who-Lived.

But with Draco it was different.  He didn’t expect her to be anyone but herself.  He would only take her to the races if she asked, not to be seen…

The press pounced on them as soon as they arrived, but Hester ignored them.  She stood on the side rail cheering on the pegasi she bet on, sat at their private table sipping at tea, and grinning the entire time.  She couldn’t help noticing that Krum was looking at her fondly, as if the entire proposal debacle hadn’t happened.

The pegasi were beautiful.  Large and majestic, their wings beat with strength through the wind.  Unlike Muggle horse racing, pegasi could undercut another by flying under or over the pack.

The stadium was made entirely of glass and twenty feet in the air so that attendees could watch the pegasi fly by across the track that circled within the stadium.  It was a riot of greys, whites, and blacks, and Hester felt as if she belonged in the outfit Ginny had picked out for her a year ago.  “They never go out of style,” she assured Hester.  Ginny, after all, followed all the fashion magazines (not that she followed any of the advice).  She was like Hermione in that way.

At one point, one of the owners, a chubby man with large whiskers, asked Hester if she would like to sit on his horse, Steel Glory, and then Krum was lifting her into the saddle, and she sat there smiling down at Krum, who smiled back up at her.

The picture appeared in the Prophet the next day.  Hester was surprised how in the moment she looked and she thought she was beginning to see the same emotion in Krum’s features.

Picture after picture of them rolled out of the newspapers and always Krum showed reserve when he looked at Hester.  It broke Hester’s heart because, despite her plan, she was falling more and more in—not love, no, this was not love, this was something stranger—with Krum, while he seemed immune to her charms.

“I’ll always love you, Aloysia” Draco insisted over tea at Malfoy Manor.  His mother and father always disappeared when Hester was over—not that she minded.

“I thought you only loved yourself.”

Draco looked over at her solemnly.  “You are my second half.”

When Krum took her flying, Hester wasn’t really paying attention to her would-be suitor.  Instead she couldn’t get Draco’s words out of her head.  You are my second half.  “Viktor,” she said.  “Do you love me?”

“Is this question being a trick?” he asked.

Hester claimed she was tired soon after that.  She was never good at lying, and she could tell that Krum knew she could go on flying for hours, but she didn’t much care.

The first day of Christmas rolled round.  Draco sent her a partridge in a pear tree.  Krum sent her a pearl necklace.  Hester spent the day with Ron and Hermione, who were off again but “still friends” and Ron was tactless enough to bring his new girlfriend “Jenna.”  Jenna was tall and leggy and a pureblood.  The type of pureblood no one would want to marry, but Ron was obviously interested in.  Or at least he was pretending to be interested.

“Thank you,” Hermione said during a quiet moment when it was just the two of them.

“For what?”

“For not accepting Viktor’s proposal.”

Hester swallowed.  She didn’t know if she could turn down the next one—except that it meant losing Draco.  And she couldn’t lose Draco.  She wondered if she would lose Hermione as a friend over all of this.  She certainly hoped not—but then again, where would she live?  Britain or Bulgaria?  She and Krum had never talked about such things before.  It’s as if they didn’t matter.  Only the god awful publicity.

“Where would we live?” she asked Krum over hot chocolate in Diagon Alley on the third day of Christmas.  She didn’t mention that Draco had sent her three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Her garden was getting rather full.

“Vhere vould ve liff vhat?”

“If I married you, where would we live?”

Krum looked like he had never considered the question.  Hester supposed that he hadn’t.

She knew what the answer would be with Draco.  He would move into her little house in Oxford, letting her work at the Bodleian and go up to London on the train.  When there was a party they had to go to, she would obligingly go, only protesting in private.  Still, he would try and shield her from it.  He had promised as much in one of his many letters.

“I can’t wait forever, you know,” Draco said obligingly as he appeared with five golden rings.  “I won’t press you until St Valentine’s Day, Aloysia, but I have to start thinking about children for the Malfoy line.”

“I thought you didn’t want children.”

“Not for two or three years, but I’d like to enjoy time being married first.”

“Any ideas who the lucky woman is going to be?”

Draco looked at her sharply.  “That’s not fair.  You know I’m in love with you.”

“You’ve been telling yourself that since we were fourteen!”  Hester was feeling a little panicked.  Why couldn’t things just go on the way they had?  Krum taking her out, Draco writing her letters, working at the Bodleian and going up to London by train?

“It doesn’t make it any less true,” he said as he kissed her, the door firmly shut behind him.  Her toes curled despite herself.  She wanted Krum, didn’t she?  No, a voice whispered.  You want this.

Krum took her to the White Witch again, and Hester wore the string of pearls that Krum had gotten her for Christmas.  She wore white and matched the snow on the ground, preserved with charms so as not to get mushy or dirty.  Krum actually listened to her as she talked and smiled when she ordered the same desert.  When he got back down on one knee, Hester opened her mouth to answer but no sound came out.

She was as silent as the grave.

The End.

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