A/N: This was largely inspired by Konstantin Simonov's poem Wait For Me. He was a Russian war correspondent during WWII and he wrote the poem to his would-be wife Valentina Serova sometime in 1941. A lot of soldiers were dying and he was basically asking her to not loose faith and to wait for him. It was published the following year and was instantly popular especially with USSR soldiers that proceeded to send it to their own wives and girlfriends, and it became so widespread that it was found in the most unlikely places, such as the breast pockets of dead and wounded soldiers. Anyway, it's one of my absolute favourites! If you're interested you can find it here (without the spaces): www. simonov. co. uk/ waitforme. htm.
He had his back to her the entire time she talked. He was so still he could've easily been mistaken for a statue, with both hands resting firmly on the windowsill and his shoulders just barely rising and falling with every breath he took. Hermione longed to see his face but she felt rooted to the closed door she was leaning against.
"Remus doesn't mean to insult you, Viktor," she said, pleading for what felt like the hundredth time, desperate for him to understand. He had to. They were all counting on her to make him see reason. "He understands that you'd be a great asset to the war. We all do, and we all appreciate the sacrifices you're willing to make for the Order, but Remus is right. You can't be involved."
She bit her lip, waiting for another outburst that nearly silenced her old professor, but he remained unmoving.
"It's not that anyone doubts your skills," she added. "I'm sure you can hold a fort on your own, but the fact remains that your face is not exactly hard to recognize and I hardly think it's a secret that you've got family in powerful positions in the Bulgarian ministry. We're trying our best, but it's still very likely that Voldemort will soon take over our ministry, and if he suspects that you're in any way affiliated with the Order–" she stopped, shuddering at the thought, and then willed herself to continue. " –He'll consider it a declaration of war from wizarding Bulgaria, and if worse comes to worse, he'll respond by infiltrating the Bulgarian ministry. The war will no longer be contained. Voldemort's army of Death Eaters will expand and he'll be even more elusive and much more difficult to defeat."
She hated that she was speaking in that practical, detached tone of voice. It made her sound like she was discussing development plans rather than war strategies and death, but she needed him to set aside his pride and to really listen to her. If he was still the same man she knew three years ago then he definitely wouldn't dispute facts.
"As far as the world is concerned, you need to remain neutral," she said. "Many more lives will be spared that way. Please try to understand, Viktor. This is for the best."
She felt tears stinging her eyes at his silence and at his still-turned back. She knew she had no right to feel hurt, not when she knew just how troubled and insecure he had been ever since he got easily cursed into torturing Cedric. The press didn't make things any better, for he was Durmstrang Institute's finest and they thought it appropriate to continuously reference and question the legitimacy of that title following the third task of the Triwizard Tournament. He had expected her of all people to understand and she had disappointed him.
She couldn't take the silence anymore. She needed to see his face, to hear his voice, even if he was going to tell her that he regrets trusting her. She pushed herself from the door and slowly walked towards him. She reached for his shoulder but only allowed the tips of her fingers to graze the thick fabric of his sweater, suddenly afraid that he'd flinch or move away from her touch.
"I'm sorry," she said in a low voice, close to a whisper, as tears rolled down her cheeks. "Viktor, please say something."
"I have spent three years learning Occlumency," he said slowly, his voice as still as his posture, his Eastern European accent as prominent and thick as she remembers. "Three years of strangers in my head, Hermione. There were times I did not feel like a man, and in those times I wanted to be dead, but I learned to close my mind because I wanted to be with you. I wanted to be a man worthy of my name, the kind of man you deserve."
"Please don't say such things, you are that man and much more," she said, gripping the back of his sweater with both hands. "I didn't– I didn't need you to get stronger, I just wanted to be with you. I missed you so much, and I always thought were strong, Viktor, so very strong!" He didn't seem affected by her words. He was still and quiet again, and for a while she thought he wasn't going to talk anymore. "Viktor, please talk to me, I can't take this!" She cried.
"I just got you back, and now you're going to war and you're asking me to go home and do nothing while you risk your life," he said, so low she barely heard it. "Tell me, Hermione. What do you want me to say to that?"
"Anything!" she said, quickly wrapping her arms around his waist and burying her face in his back. "Anything that comes to your mind, just please…!" anything but the silence, she wanted to add.
One of his hands moved from the windowsill to cover both of hers. "I love you."
"I know," she choked, muffled against his back. "I don't understand why, but I suppose it's possible if you're crazy enough to repeat that horrible Wonky Faint move."
"Wronski Feint," he corrected, his tone only slightly amused. He then carefully turned around to face her without breaking free of her embrace. "Marry me."
"Marry me," he repeated, cupping her face in his hands and wiping her tears with his thumbs, his dark eyes soft and imploring and desperate. "Be my wife."
He was trying very hard to hide his fear but she saw it as clear as the stars shinning bright in the sky. He was afraid he wouldn't see her again; that she'd either die or loose herself in the war, and he was desperate to savor every precious minute they had left. A part of her, the part that shared his fears and was just as equally desperate, wanted her to say Yes and to find the first Ceremony Official willing to bind them, but the other part, the stronger one that kept her fears hushed and hidden from the concerned eyes of her friends, thought they deserved better than a rushed ceremony.
"Wait for me," she said softly.
He sighed and closed his eyes, hiding his pain.
"I'll come back," she said determinedly, pulling him closer. "Wait with all you've got, even if they tell you to forget me, even when they start doubting if I'm alive. Wait for me, because I'll come back, and then… and then we'll have the life we deserve."
The words were too sweet and fanciful for a tongue as sharp as hers, and if someone had told her days before that she was capable of uttering them she would've laughed.
"Let me fight with you," he all but pleaded.
"I can't let you," she said, shaking her head. "You'll only save my life by waiting for me."
She had erased her presence from her parents' lives. They were blissfully unaware of her plight, probably lounging in a sunny beach somewhere in Australia. They couldn't save her. Her friends were all fighting by her side, each and every one of them ready to put their lives on the line for the greater good. There was no point trying to survive if they were all going to die. Viktor on the other hand had seen things, she's sure of it, at least when he was still in Durmstrang under Karkaroff's reign, but he was still unmarred by the horrors of war and she needed him to remain that way. He was her only chance.
She closed the remaining distance between them and pressed her lips to his. It took a moment for him to wrap his arms around her and to fully respond to her kiss, and only then did she know that she finally broke his resolve.
"Don't be late," he breathed when they pulled back, staring at her lips for an interval before covering them with his own again.
"Why, are you going to start looking for someone new?" she asked, pulling back to arch an eyebrow at him.
"Of course not," he said, kissing her brow. "If you're late, I will come looking for you."
"You know for a man who's already waited three years you're not very patient," she teased.
He chuckled for the first time in days and her heart soared. "Well, I'm a man and men usually go to war and women do the waiting, mostly because we men can't wait."
"I will come back," she promised, leaning her forehead against his. Only if you wait.
"I know, otherwise you would not be the smartest witch of your age," he said, smiling. "But I will always worry, Hermione. I will sometimes try to find you, but I trust you just as much as I love you, so I will wait. They will drink to the martyrs and I will drink to your health when you return."
A/N: I figured Viktor would manage to perfect his English in the span of three years, since he was planning on coming back and all... anyway, I especially loved writing this, so I really hope you enjoyed it!