Victor Krum had been told that being a Seeker wasn't just speed, skill and nerve. A good Seeker had to be able to see things before his opponent did. A great Seeker had to be able to see things no one else could ever spot.
He spotted her on her way to the gamekeeper's hut. True, he had seen her before, her and the red-haired boy who followed Potter everywhere. But at that moment the sun, breaking through the high Scottish clouds, touched her hair with the color of dark honey and she turned, pink cheeked with her eyes flashing, and said something that made the two boys walking with her laugh. When he felt then, he had only felt before when catching sight of the flash of gold against the green of a Quidditch field.
Maybe he was the great Seeker they said he was, he thought. After that he kept his eyes open, watching the girl, Hermione Granger, the same way he watched Potter and his other rivals, the same way he watched Karkaroff.
Although watching Hermione was different: he never felt the breath catch in his throat when he saw the real Karkaroff. The scowl faded from his face at the notion; a brown haired girl hovering nearby thought his expression was meant for her and edged up to ask him to sign her notebook. When he looked up again, Hermione was frowning at him across the library. He ducked his head to keep her from seeing him smiling.
After the Yule Ball was announced, Karkaroff called him into his cabin. "This Ball of Dumbledore's," he said. "It is important to make a good impression. You will take Elena as your partner."
White-skinned, black-haired Elena. Everyone could see how beautiful she was. Everyone knew that she was related, somehow, to Elisabeth Bathory. Karkaroff probably thought that Viktor dreamed about Elena, like every other boy in Durmstrang. Karkaroff, Viktor thought, probably dreamed about her himself. He could have her. Viktor scowled at him and waited to be dismissed.
He loathed Karkaroff. Fawning all over him in public, like some girl, and ordering him around in private. Karkaroff had ensured that Viktor made no friends at Durmstrang. Practice, practice, always more practice. "You need to work harder, Viktor, if you want to be a great Seeker." He'd show Karkaroff. He'd show Karkaroff what a great Seeker could do.
He tracked Hermione Granger down in the restricted section. She was standing in front of a bookshelf, taking one volume after another down from the shelves, paging through each one and then replacing it. He stood there, suddenly dry-throated. She looked up to frown at him and then immediately returned her attention to the book in her hands.
Suddenly, this didn't seem like such a good idea. He tried to leave, but his feet felt pinned to the ground. While he stood there, wishing he could run, she looked up again. "What?"
"Herm-- Herm-eye-" Her name had always flowed so easily in his mind; to stumble over it now was excruciating. "Vill you go to the Ball vith me?" The words came out in a jumble, rushing over each other.
"What?" she said again.
Maybe she hadn't understood. He said it again, more carefully. "The Yule Ball. Vill you go, vith me?"
He watched, entranced, as her face turned bright pink. "You want me to go to the Ball with you? The Yule Ball? But I don't even like you!"
He felt himself in free-fall, felt himself hitting the ground, all the breath knocked out of him as if he'd fallen off his broom in the middle of the game, how humiliating, with a crowd watching him. And his feet still weren't moving to let him run away.
"Drat," she said. "I'm sorry. I mean, we don't even know each other. We aren't friends, or anything."
"I vould... I vould like to know you. To be your friend."
She turned even redder. "What about those girls who follow you around?"
He felt a familiar scowl on his face. "Them! Herm-eye... Hermy..." He gave up on her name. "I come to the library, every day, to see you. Not them. I think you are..." Wonderful, his mind supplied. Beautiful.
She was staring at him with her mouth half-open.
"If you haff already... vith Potter, or another friend..."
"Oh," she said. "Oh, no. It isn't... You want to go to the Yule Ball with me?"
His English couldn't be that bad, could it? "If you vould like to."
A smile broke out on her face. He smiled, tentatively, in answer. "I would," she said. "I'd like that very much."
He felt his smile turning into a grin, pulling his face into an unfamiliar shape. "That is... that is vonderful." She stared at him so intently that he had to look away. "Vat?" he asked.
"Nothing." Her smile, when he looked into her face again, was still there. "Well," she started.
"Vell," he said at the same time, then caught himself and smiled again. "I haff practice now. To fly."
"Me too. I mean, I have to finish what I'm working on. Not flying, obviously."
"I vill see you? In the library?"
"In the library," she agreed.
He backed away, reluctant to turn around, until he bumped into a bookcase and hit his elbow.
She grinned at him. "Bye," she said.
He smiled back and rubbed his elbow. "Bye." Even the thought of breaking the news to Karkaroff wasn't enough to wipe the smile from his face.
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