Hermione liked the peaceful tranquility of winter. All it took was a simple warming charm and layers of clothes and you didn’t even realize it was cold enough to see your breath. Harry sometimes found her when she went down to the lake but he seemed to understand this was a quiet time for her and didn’t bother her that often unless he just wanted to talk to her.
The castle had become rather suffocating since the news of the Yule Ball had been announced. Everyone was acting bloody ridiculous and studies had been forgotten as flirting and dating had become commonplace. Her library had become some sort of primitive mating ground with girls giggling and boys stammering. It was disgusting!
She scowled at the water as she ignored the open book in her hand. She hated that her sanctuary had become part of this odd ritual and resented the fact that her quiet nights of studying with her new friend were now interrupted by chattering girls playing some sort of game Hermione just didn’t understand.
She had studied her classmates, tried to analyze their behavior, had even done a bit of reading on it when she failed to come to any logical conclusions, but she was still rather lost on how all of it worked. Of course, her being clueless about flirting and silliness just made her hate it all the more because she hated not understanding something.
“You are mad at squid?”
The soft voice interrupted her plan to hex Ron and Harry in some subtle way that would never be traced back to her if they didn’t quit going on about the ball like a couple of silly girls. Hermione looked up, her lips curving into a smile. “Actually, the squid is probably one of the few people at this school that isn’t infuriating me,” she admitted with a sheepish grin at having been caught glaring at the lake.
“Vot is vrong, Herm-own-ninny?” Viktor asked with concern as he glanced at the ground by her feet and then the rock beside her that was possibly big enough for one other person to sit. “Are you cold? I haff heaffy coat if you are cold.”
“It’s really quite silly,” she said with a wry smile as she scooted over on the rock and looked at him with just a hint of shyness. They had been meeting in the library for several weeks and had actually become rather good friends during that time, but there was still something about Viktor that flustered her.
It was possibly the fact that he was still rather imposing with his quiet broodiness that she no longer considered stand-offish and knew was simply his nature. It could also be that he had a way of looking at her that made her feel like he was seeing her in a way no one else ever had. Or it could just be the knowledge that she had thought about kissing him and he made her feel strange in a butterflies-in-her-tummy and stolen-looks sort of way that she found disconcerting.
“Vot is silly?” he asked curiously as he finally sat on the edge of the rock beside her, looking as if he might fall off at any time.
“Viktor, there’s plenty of space for you to sit up here,” she told him as she indicated the rock beside her.
“I not vant, how you say, crowd you?” He looked at her and she noticed his cheeks were red from the cold and he had snow in his dark hair. “I vould being close to you and I haff no vish to be haffing you not comfortable.”
He struggled with the last sentence, taking his time and thinking of the words he wished to say in the way that had become endearing over the past weeks. She looked at the lake, her cheeks flushing as she said softly, “I wouldn’t mind.”
There was a moment of silence and then he moved to sit beside her. His leg brushed against hers and she could smell the scent of broom polish and peppermint when he bumped her as he got settled. “Sorry,” he murmured.
They both stared at the lake, their bodies touching as they sat, and she wondered if this feeling was why the girls acted so silly and the boys were behaving like gits. It was an awkward feeling, confusing but also somewhat pleasant. In the library, they always had something to talk about. Viktor was still learning how to communicate in English and his broken words could make some believe he was unintelligent but he had a sharp mind and interesting opinions.
They had debated a variety of subjects in soft whispers amidst the stacks of books in her library. He was stubborn and had strong convictions but he could admit when he was wrong and listened intently when she discussed her own thoughts. The silence was nice, too. It wasn’t odd or uncomfortable, though she had caught him staring at her a few times with an expression on his face that was indescribable. She had stolen a few looks, herself. After all, Viktor might not be what many considered handsome but she found him striking in a way that was far more appealing than pretty looks that would fade with time.
“Vot is vord silly meaning?” Viktor broke the silence with his curious question.
“Silly is an adjective. It means to behave in a way that is somewhat ridiculous, I guess you’d say,” she explained.
He thought about her explanation and nodded slowly. Then he looked at her and asked, “Vy vere you being silly?”
“Oh, I was just annoyed with everyone and how they’re acting about the ball,” she replied honestly. “I’m going to be quite glad when the thing is over and everything can return back to somewhat normal.”
“Ah,” he said in an understanding tone. He grinned. “They haff, how you say, interrupted your library? No, that is vrong vord. Oferrun is right vord?”
She nodded. “Overrun is a good word to use. It’s not just my library, though. They’re all over the place with their giggling and flirting. I don’t see why they don’t simply just ask the person they’d like to go the ball and find out yes or no without playing such foolish games. Our common room has become nearly unbearable since the ball was announced.”
“You think girls should ask boys?” He looked at her with surprise, frowning slightly as he considered her words. “I haff neffer heard of such things. Haff you asked boy?”
“I didn’t mean,” she started before she grew thoughtful. “Actually, what’s wrong with a girl asking a boy to the ball? Boys ask girls out all the time, after all, so why can’t a girl ask someone she fancies without feeling a need to giggle and flirt as if she has to earn an invitation? It’s a double standard is what it is!”
He studied her a moment and smiled. “You haff such passion, Herm-own-ninny. You haff asked boy to ball?”
“Well, no,” she stammered, blushing at the thought of asking a boy out like that. She just wasn’t confident about those sorts of things and could already hear the laughter that would surely follow such an invitation. She’d be horrified of rejection and would surely be teased by everyone when the boy said no, as any was surely likely to do.
“Vy you not ask boy?” Viktor asked curiously as he brushed his shaggy black hair away from his face, knocking the snow from it and onto his coat. “Is there boy you vant to be asking?”
His last question was spoken quietly after he looked back at the lake. Hermione studied his profile and admitted, “Well, there is one boy but I would never ask him.” She unconsciously moved a little closer to him when the wind got cooler.
“There is boy?” he repeated softly, sounding disappointed as he scowled at the lake. “Vy you not ask him? Any boy vould being lucky to escort you to ball.”
She snorted at his words and rolled her eyes. “Oh, yes, any boy would be very lucky to have me as their date,” she said dryly. She sighed and watched her breath drift away as the day got later.
“Is it Potter?” Viktor’s question was surprising and spoken rather sharply.
“Of course not,” she told him in a tone that questioned his sanity. “Harry is my friend, just my friend, as you well know.”
“You are close vit Potter. If not him then it is boy vit red hair. The Veasel boy,” he said with a frown.
“No, it’s not Ron. Really, Viktor, are you going to go through an entire list of my classmates?” she teased in the hopes it would alleviate some of the sudden tension.
“It is not Veasel,” Viktor decided as he looked away from the lake again to focus completely on her. His expression was intense and she felt that same awkward fluttering in her tummy as her gaze moved over his angular face. Whatever he saw seemed to make him happy because he relaxed his shoulders and smiled slightly. “Vy you haff not asked boy?”
“Because I wouldn’t know what to say and he’d just say no,” she confessed softly. Viktor enjoyed talking to her in the library because she didn’t treat him the way those other girls did and she’d not ruin what had become a very nice friendship just because she wondered what it would be like to kiss him.
“Ve vill practice,” he declared as he moved on the rock so he could face her better. “You haff been teaching me the English so now I vill teach you vay to be asking boy to ball.”
“Viktor, this is silly,” she told him matter-of-factly. “I’m not going to ask a boy to the ball so it’s pointless. I don’t even really want to go. Why dress up and go through so much trouble when I could have my library all to myself?”
“Is not silly,” he said with a firmness that she recognized as him being stubborn. He’d not let it go until she tried and he was probably more stubborn than her so it was better to just get it over with. “I haff not asked many girls out, but I vatch my friends.”
“Fine. I still think this entire idea is ridiculous, for the record,” she said as rubbed her gloved hands over her cheeks in hopes he’d think the blush was from the cold.
“You think many things are silly,” he observed with a grin that made his face go from brooding and imposing to handsome and approachable. She rarely saw that grin outside of the library.
“That’s because many of them are,” she replied with a smile. “All right, Mister Krum. What would I do in the very hypothetical situation of asking a boy to the ball?”
“I know not vot hypothetical mean,” he admitted with a frown as he stumbled over the word.
“It means imaginary,” she explained after trying to figure out a word for comparison.
“Ah.” Viktor nodded and she watched him mentally add the long word to his memory as he sounded it out a few times silently. “Vell, to ask boy out, you say simply ‘Boy, vill you go to ball vit me?’ and he vill say yes.”
“That’s your advice?” She started to laugh, shaking her head when he glared playfully at her, wondering if anyone else got to see this side of Viktor Krum, rather hoping they didn’t. She liked thinking he only showed it to her.
“Is good advice,” he declared with a nod of his head. “Is now your turn to be asking. Instead of boy, you vill use my name.”
“All right,” she said as she tried to stop laughing and become serious. She looked into his dark eyes and suddenly felt nervous even though it was just playing. “Viktor,willyougototheballwithme? There. I said it. Isn’t the lake pretty during the winter?”
“Herm-own-ninny, that was awful,” he said with a dramatic sigh. “I thought you vere good student?”
“I am!” She glared at him slightly as she tossed her long hair over her shoulder. Her nose was running, her cheeks were cold, and her lips were chapped, but she forgot about those things as she tried again. “Viktor, will you go to the ball with me? See, I can do it,” she said smugly.
“Yes.” He studied her closely and the word was almost hesitant as he uttered it but he didn’t look away from her. “Yes, I vill go vit you.”
Hermione blinked at him, opening her mouth to speak before she realized she wasn’t sure what to say. “Oh,” she suddenly realized, feeling rather disappointed, “he’d say yes then. Okay, that lesson is over. I’m getting cold.”
“You are frustrating girl, Herm-own-ninny Granger,” he muttered as he shook his head. He licked his lips and took her hand in his. “I vould loff to be going to ball vit you if you not find idea silly.”
“Really. If you vant go vit me? I hoped I vas boy but maybe it being the plant boy?” he asked uncertainly.
He was nervous and his cheeks were pink and she knew, somehow, that wasn’t because of the cold. “I’d like that,” she said softly.
“You vill go vit me?” he asked hopefully.
“I did ask you, after all,” she told him with a shy smile.
“Yes, you did,” he replied with a grin. “You are not like other girls, Herm-own-ninny Granger. I loff that about you.”
“No, I’m not,” she agreed as she impulsively leaned forward and brushed her lips very briefly against his. She pulled back and slid off the rock, her cheeks pink as she realized she’d just kissed Viktor Krum after asking him to be her date for the Yule Ball. She looked at him and smiled. “And you’re not like other boys, Viktor Krum.”
Viktor moved his finger over his lips and stared at her before he shook his head slightly and stood. He smiled as he offered his hand to her. “I vill valk you back to castle,” he told her softly as his gaze looked from her eyes to her lips and back again. She thought he might kiss her and she wasn’t sure she was ready for that yet.
He seemed to realize that, knowing her so well already, and, instead, brushed a stray curl away from her face, the leather of his glove smooth against her cheek. When she took his hand and smiled, he squeezed it gently. They shared a private smile as they walked back to the school talking quietly to each other about classes and the ball.