FIC: "Cultural Differences" for leni_jess Recipient:leni_jess Author: schemingreader Title: Cultural Differences Rating: NC-17 Pairings: Snape/Krum Word Count: ~4,101 Medium: Fic Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *None.*. Summary: "Of course Viktor didn't really want to spend the weekend reading for work. One couldn't say that to a man who had nearly sacrificed his life in single-minded pursuit of stopping evil." Author's Notes: Thank you to R for reading this quickly at the last minute! I hope I did not add errors in the work I did on the story after she read it. She was very encouraging!
It was never a good idea to go drinking with Englishmen. True, they were excellent company and he rarely had to pay for a round once they remembered his days as a Quidditch prodigy. "I saw you at the World Cup," they'd say, "You were brilliant." He never knew what to answer, and then he couldn't find a reason to leave. He'd have drink after drink with people who couldn't converse.
They were generous and pleasant, but he could not master their teasing. Some things they said would have provoked a knife fight or a wizarding duel in Bulgaria, and these were only jokes. Of course, they became angry about comments that would have made Bulgarians smile and slap one on the back, but these were fewer.
For example, he could never tell what would cause Ron Weasley to flush red, or redder than he was from Firewhiskey and ginger hair. Weasley admired him; he could feel it. He thought perhaps, after a round or two, Weasley would invite him home to mess about. He'd visited the Weasleys' place in the past. They had a sofa in front of the fire. He imagined Ron's freckled belly, and his cock curving up against it. Red-haired men had soft, smooth skin. He took a sip of his drink.
"I saw Snape," Harry Potter said. "It's amazing that he survived."
"Was he the same old Snape?" Ron asked.
"Yeah," Harry said. He sighed. "He wasn't very glad to see me."
"Why not?" Viktor said.
"Because Harry told his biggest secret, that's vy not," Ron said. "Ugly old bugger."
"You think Snape is ugly? I have never thought this."
"Of course you have never sot zis," Ron said. He snickered and elbowed Harry, who looked down and smirked. "Clearly he's the pinnacle of handsome for Bulgarian wizards, what with your preference for beaky gents with mullets."
"Ah," Viktor said, and rose. "You do not prefer such men. I can drink elsewhere."
"No," Harry said, laying a hand on his arm. "Please, Viktor."
"I was just teasing," Ron said. "Don't get your knickers in a twist." His face was red.
"If you didn't think Viktor was handsome, why did you have all those posters of him?" Harry said. He nudged Ron.
"That was before he stole my girlfriend," Ron muttered.
"Women aren't objects one may steal," Viktor said. He knew he sounded self-righteous.
"Vimmen aren't objects—get you," Ron said. "So you don't barter sheep for vimmen in Bulgaria."
Harry started to laugh. "It's no use when he gets this way," he said to Viktor. "I knew this was something about Hermione. Ron, he hardly stole your girlfriend. He took her to a dance, once, eight years ago."
"About this you are jealous? Are you also jealous of Snape?"
"No," Ron said. "But the bugger bled to death on Harry, and he can't even speak civilly to him."
Harry shrugged. "Don't blame him," he muttered, shoving a handful of crisps into his mouth after the words.
English wizards were so messy. It was like a family gathering with his grandparents' family. His step-grandfather and his uncle and his grandparent's oldest male friends would eat seeds and nuts and smoke. They would sit there playing tapa and then someone would stalk angrily from the room, sparks shooting from his wand.
"It's the war," he said to himself.
"What?" Ron interrupted. "English please."
"The war," Viktor repeated. "You're angry with me because of the war."
"Yeah, the vor," Ron said. He stuck his face into his mug of drink and took a long gulp. "But I'm not angry, man. You're all right, yeah?"
"And Snape?" Viktor asked.
Harry looked up. "Snape is the bravest man I ever met," he said. His lip trembled.
Viktor rose to his feet before the weeping started. This was also just like home—they had a few shots of rakia and then the raging and the weeping started.
"Thank you for a lovely evening," he said, repeating what he'd learned to say before the Tri-Wizard Tournament as a teenager. He clicked his heels together and bowed, before he recalled himself.
He just had to imagine he had traveled back in time 50 years or so and that the young, shell-shocked wizards were speaking Bulgarian. He just had to regret, regret, regret. He had spent their war back in Bulgaria, at muggle university. His grandmother had insisted.
Viktor worked with Professor Snape in the Department. He knew enough not to mention anything about his evening out with Harry Potter. He barely spoke to Snape at all, aside from careful pleasantries. Snape was exceptionally kind to him—for Snape. That is to say, if Viktor greeted him, "Good morning, how are you?" Snape would respond with, "I am fine, thank you, and you?" This was more than he said to most people in the Department.
In any case, most people in the Department were distrustful. You couldn't be hired for the job unless you were a fence-straddler, an exile, or a turncoat. Everyone there had to be trained by dark wizards, had to know the darkest spells, and had to have impeccable credentials of loyalty to "the side of Light," whatever that meant.
What it really meant was that Viktor spent hours in the company of the most paranoiac witches and wizards in Europe. Andromeda Black Tonks was a perfectly pleasant woman, but she was only available to consult on occasional projects. The rest ranged from tetchy to downright hostile.
Perhaps someone had noticed that Snape didn't treat him as badly as he did everyone else. On Friday morning there was a memo on Viktor's desk, assigning him to work with Professor Snape and the Darkness Prevention Team. He went to meet with Snape at 2PM.
"Hello, Viktor," Snape said.
"Good afternoon, Professor," Viktor said, he thought correctly.
"I have had some of the files on our current assignment copied for your benefit." He handed Viktor a stack of Muggle-style manilla folders.
"Thank you," Viktor said, though of course he didn't really want to spend the weekend reading for work. One couldn't say that to a man who had nearly sacrificed his life in single-minded pursuit of stopping evil.
It was a very odd project, all about parenting and child abuse. The first file was full of newspaper stories reporting attempts to stop abuse in a part of Scotland where alcoholism was high.
But most the files weren't about Muggles. They were about wizarding childrearing practices. "Methods of Revealing Magic in Infants and Children," by Matilda Hopkirk. "Children's Responses to Danger," by Perenelle Flamel, translated by Fleur Delacour.
Viktor sat in the kitchen of his flat after work, reading, drinking a small glass of his uncle's homemade rakia and eating shopska salata. By the time he got to the end of the sixth scholarly article, he could see where Snape was going.
He wanted to prove that mistreatment in childhood was the single greatest factor in the shaping of Dark wizards.
Snape had requested his summary of the files.
He only felt a little buzzed, not drunk, after the rakia, but he knew that he couldn't afford to drink it all up in the first night. Still, he drank a little water. His uncle always said cheese would stop a hangover, but Viktor thought his uncle told him a lot of things in order to sound like a charming simple peasant.
Simple and charming was the opposite of Snape, who would certainly become remote, chilly and sarcastic if Viktor disagreed with him too much. He also tended to be contemptuous of people who gave in to him without an argument. Viktor knew that Snape was waiting for him to prove himself.
After a few false starts, Viktor decided use his Muggle academic training. He proposed that in order to prove that child abuse caused wizards to become Dark, they conduct systematic interviews of wizards through the Ministry of Magic. The responses could be completely anonymous.
On Saturday afternoon, Viktor went flying with Harry Potter over the Walthamstow Marshes. He enjoyed this much more than going out. Harry was an excellent flier, and didn't have anything to prove. He was good at avoiding the fat, English geese. Afterward, they landed in the clearing where they'd met, and he reached out to shake Harry's hand.
"Understand you're working with Snape," Harry said, looking at Viktor's shoes.
"Malfoy should not tell you this," Viktor said.
"I know," Harry said.
"He is difficult to work with," Viktor blurted.
"No, no, Malfoy," Viktor said. "I am sorry. I know he is your friend."
"Sort of," Harry said, and blushed. "He can fly without a broom, you know."
"No, Snape," Harry said. He laughed. "I suppose you don't have the history with him that the rest of us do," Harry said. Viktor knew he meant Snape, now.
He clapped Harry on the shoulder. "All right," he said. "You know I do not talk about work."
"No, of course not," Harry said.
"But you had to try," Viktor said.
"I cannot help you with what is between you and Snape," Viktor said.
"Yeah," Harry said, smiling miserably. Viktor patted his shoulder again. "Thanks, Viktor."
"See you later," Viktor said. He was learning to be a bit less formal in English, the longer he was here. Of course it wouldn't do to use these expressions with Professor Snape, who was ever on his dignity.
Harry Potter couldn't possibly understand how much Snape stood to lose if they reconciled. To have to see the person who had witnessed him kill, witnessed him nearly die—who had seen his lowest moments, including Harry's own mother's death—it was not something Snape could bear.
Viktor knew something about how survivors could be so tough that they were brittle. He also understood why Harry would pursue Snape anyway. It was nothing either of them could help. Harry must know why Snape avoided him and Snape must know why Harry sought reconciliation, yet they could not stop. Someday they would be old men like his uncles, almost whole, almost recovered, but not quite.
Viktor was grateful that he hadn't accused Malfoy of telling Department secrets, as Malfoy had not done so. Flying home he realized that Harry had not said how he knew Viktor was working with Snape—Viktor had assumed it was through Malfoy.
Harry would make an excellent Dark wizard, himself, Viktor thought. He had the sophistry to deceive without lying, which was Snape's stock in trade. Snape never told anyone an outright lie if he could help it.
But perhaps that wasn't a characteristic of Dark wizards, but of honorable men who didn't like to lie but were driven to do whatever it took to win. It was unfortunate that Viktor found himself between them.
At their team meeting Snape greeted him politely. He was a bit brusque in grabbing for the written summary and recommendation he'd requested of Viktor. He said nothing as his eyes tracked down the page.
"I will comment on this later," he said finally. "Thank you for your conscientious work, Mr. Krum. Now we have an appointment."
He reached for Viktor's wrist and without warning, Apparated them.
Viktor was relieved he hadn't splinched. Professor Snape looked down into his face and scowled. "Come along," he said. "We have a parenting class to attend."
He turned them toward the stone steps of a majestic public building. Viktor looked up at the green copper dome. "A parenting class?" he repeated slowly.
"Come along," Snape repeated, and they walked up the steps into the public library. They progress past the front desk, where there is a sign announcing events on the second and third floors—Triple P Parents Group. Snape begins marching up the stairs.
"Wait, Professor," Viktor said. "Wait." He pulled Snape to the side. "What are we going to do here?"
"Follow my lead," Snape said, his voice heavy with irony.
They sat at the far corner of a rounded ellipse of chairs, and were soon surrounded by ordinary Muggles—young, tired-looking, yet somehow beautiful. They all had accents that were difficult for Viktor to understand, even the immigrants. He remembered Professor McGonagall, but her burring English was not as hard to parse as this.
Snape pulled out a notebook and a biro and began taking notes immediately. Viktor looked over his shoulder. "When your child wants to show you something, stop what you are doing and pay attention to your child. It is important to spend frequent, small amounts of time with your child doing things that you both enjoy."
This was what they were there to learn? Yet Snape frowned with concentration. He scribbled down the questions of the parents and the answers of the facilitator, and collected every flyer. What should parents do to help older children with new baby siblings? How should parents deal with children's tantrums?
By the end of the hour, Viktor had the beginnings of a headache from using Snape's notes as subtitles to the hard-to-understand accents.
Snape put up a hand. "I had always heard that paying attention to small children inflate their sense of self-importance and makes them spoiled," he said to the presenter. "Does your research show otherwise?"
The researcher explained that paying attention to children's good behavior reinforced it and that this led to a calmer family life.
"But what kind of people does it make them in adulthood?" Snape asked.
The researcher paused. "Not all people who grow up in chaotic and violent homes become chaotic and violent people," she said. "But nearly all chaotic and violent people, all people who wind up in prison or on the street with drug abuse and homelessness, they've all grown up in chaotic and violent environments."
"I would like to see more about that," Snape said, and the presenter told him she would help him.
It took two more hours in the reading room of the library for Snape to acquire another set of articles proving that child abuse could damage the moral sense of an adult.
Snape was beginning to look tired.
"Where can we get a cup of tea?" Viktor asked the librarian. There was a café right in the library building. Snape looked startled. "I'm sorry, Professor, I'm a bit hungry," Viktor said, trying to spare his supervisor's easily bruised feelings.
Snape was a bit fragile after all he'd been through, and could become exceedingly grumpy when he felt ill. Even though he was still a young man, he would push himself to work hard enough to make himself sick. One could never say, "Are you all right, Professor?" because he was liable to growl and snap.
They sat and Viktor ordered a toasted cheese sandwich, Snape a bowl of Scotch broth. He took a spoonful and chewed the meat with his mouth closed.
"We're in trouble," Viktor said.
"Not that type of trouble," Viktor clarified. "Your plan is going to encounter obstacles."
"Ah. I see. You are not, then, building a case for a change in parenting practices throughout the wizarding world."
"What do you think you'll find," Snape said, "if you survey the wizarding population about their experiences of childhood?"
"The year I was at Hogwarts," Viktor said slowly, "there was this very sweet chap called Neville Longbottom. His uncle had dropped him off the pier at Brighton to see whether he had magic. Fortunately, he did, and he bounced. When he told the story, he expected everyone to laugh, and they did."
"No. I supposed it was funnier to a native speaker."
"But Neville Longbottom was far from a dangerous, dark wizard."
Snape winced. "He was quite dangerous as a student, and he grew up to be a powerful wizard. He defied the Dark Lord and killed his snake."
"But he is not now a Dark wizard."
"So his family's ideas about the importance of difficulty in shaping a wizard's power were correct."
Snape had a cup of tea on his tray, and he picked it up to drink, and then set it down. "A better example," he said, "is Harry Potter."
Viktor nodded carefully, not willing to risk Snape's temper if he said the wrong thing.
"If anyone should have become Dark from a difficult childhood," Snape said, "Potter should have. He had a shard of another wizard's corrupted soul embedded in his forehead, for Merlin's sake."
"But," Viktor said.
"But we should not discuss each individual case," Snape said quickly. He rose and left the table.
Viktor stood and wiped his mouth and put down his napkin. "Wait," he said, and followed Snape to the door. "Where are you going?"
"Back to the Department."
"You can't Apparate like that. You'll splinch."
Snape's hauteur was impressive. "I have Apparated under many worse conditions than a stomach full of Scotch broth."
"I can see that you are upset," Viktor said.
Snape looked right at him. "I don't know what you mean."
"Because of the children."
"I don't—I don't even like children." Snape said. His face fell a little. "Do you know that? I don't like them."
"This isn't about them."
"Of course not, Professor."
"They're so fragile, and they never seem to know it," he said. Viktor Summoned an ordinary broom from one of the janitor's closets at the library. It came through the open front door of the building.
"Come on," Viktor said, mounting the broom. It was a push broom, the bristles an industrial orange. Viktor could fly it; he could fly anything.
Snape put his arms around Viktor's waist and they pushed off the ground.
"You don't need to do this," Snape said.
"I know. You can get through anything, but sometimes the war makes you sad."
Snape craned his neck to look at Viktor. "That's right, your family was affected by the Grindelwald war."
"You don't need to take care of me," Snape said.
"I know, sir," Viktor said.
They flew for an hour south, over England's northern border.
"Here's me," Snape said, as they were flying through Yorkshire. He gave a few terse directions about how to get to his house. It was dusk. Geese flew overhead, honking their ugly, irresistible song. Viktor landed them beside a canal on one of the older streets. They landed on their feet, in the garden of an old row house, Snape's arms still around Viktor.
The push broom dropped clattering to the ground, and Snape pulled Viktor backward. It could have been an attack, had they been fighting, but Viktor leaned back against Snape's warm body and turned his head into the kiss.
"Would you like to come in?" Snape asked.
"Yes," Viktor said. They kissed again, and Snape let their hands slide together into a clasp to take him into the house.
He brought them into the living room, and backing into the sofa, pulled Viktor onto his lap. His hand slid under Viktor's shirt, feeling his belly, and then upward to caress his chest.
Snape kissed wetly, as though his mouth watered more the more aroused he became. Viktor could feel the hardness of his cock through their trousers, pressing suggestively against his buttocks.
"I want to fuck you," Snape said. "Can I fuck you? Do you want that?"
"Yes," Viktor said. "With a condom."
"Of—of course," Snape said.
"I know there's magic," Viktor said. "I don't—"
"No need to explain," Snape said. He caressed the side of Viktor's face, and then moved quickly to unbutton his shirt. He was slurping, licking Viktor's neck, his chest, his nipple. He had him pinned down to the sofa, and was unbuckling his belt.
"I'm not going anywhere," Viktor said.
"Good," Snape said. "Good." He got Viktor's trousers undone and down, and his underwear, very quickly. "May I, please," he said, and then got his mouth over Viktor's cock.
Viktor swore in Bulgarian. "Wait, wait," he said. "I don't want to come yet."
"Right," Snape said, "right," and moved Viktor into position to fuck him, essentially throwing him against the sofa, pulling his legs apart.
"Please slow down," Viktor said. He was hard. Being manhandled turned him on, but he could feel Snape's desperation. He turned. He was naked and Snape was still wearing all his clothing. "Severus," he said. "I want to see you." He reached for Snape, to kiss him, running his fingers through the long salt and pepper hair.
Snape leaned into his hand. "I'm not—I don't usually do this sort of thing," he said. "Bring beautiful young men home from work to fuck them."
"Whereas I have lovers by the dozens," Viktor said, and smiled.
Viktor kissed him again, and began to unbutton Snape's shirt.
"I have scars," Snape whispered.
"I know," Viktor said, mouthing where the snake had bitten. "I love your scars. Mark of courage."
Snape shivered as Viktor removed his shirt, unbuckled his belt, let his trousers drop.
"I'm older than you are," Snape said.
"I like that," Viktor said, and he did, sometimes. Right now he did. The softness of Snape's belly was appealing, and he buried his face in it.
"Some men do," Snape said as if to persuade himself. Viktor nuzzled his balls, licked a stripe down his cock, and took him in his mouth.
Snape stilled. "I—" he said. "It's been a little while for me. I might come too soon if—"
"OK," Viktor said. He rummaged through his pockets, found a condom, opened the wrapper, and put it in his mouth. He could roll one of these on with his mouth, and get the outside nice and wet. Snape stayed quiet as Viktor's lips firmly pushed the sheath over his cock.
"I need some lubricant," Snape said, and he Summoned a bottle. Viktor rose and bent forward over the sofa. "I wanted your arse the entire ride home."
"I could tell," Viktor said. He moved against Snape's exploring fingers. "I want your cock."
"Christ, that sounds sexy," Snape said.
"Because of my accent?"
"Yes," Snape said, his own voice low and thrilling. He pulled his fingers back and began to work himself into Viktor's hole. "Talk to me," he said.
"You are very sexy," he said. "I want you so much."
"In Bulgarian," Snape said.
"You are a wonderful man," Viktor said. "You are a hero. I want to make you happy." Snape's cock penetrated him in a smooth slide, and he gasped. It hit home. He began to babble in Bulgarian, "Oh, this is good, this is, oh, good—"
"What is 'dobre,' is it good?"
"It is good, it means good," Viktor said in English. He knew Snape was distracting himself from coming. He pushed in, and they both caught their breath, pulled back, pushed in again.
"It's good," Snape said, fucking a little harder, and then neither of them could speak, because Snape was doing him very hard, each stroke feeling deep in him. He knew it would hurt later—Snape was big, and this was still not quite enough of a preparation for him--but for now it was just good, just so good, and he was coming from the prick inside him.
"Oh," Snape said, and there was a reverent sound to his voice. "I didn't even touch you," he said. He leaned forward again to kiss and kiss and kiss.
Viktor leaned against the sofa, panting. "Take off the condom and I will suck you," he said.
"No, I came," Snape said. He pulled out slowly, and pulled the condom off, and tied it.
"I was too loud to hear," Viktor said.
"You were beautiful," Snape said. They sat on the sofa. "Thank you." He pulled Viktor into his arms and held him. They sat that way for a few minutes. "I want to ask you something."
"When you were little, did they try to find out whether you had magic by—by hurting you?"
"No," Viktor said. "That's not how we do it. Cultural difference."
"But did they hit you when you were bad? Muggles do that."
Viktor shrugged. "My mother was modern. She didn't believe in that."
Snape nodded. "I don't know why some wizards grow into great power from childhood pain, and some become Dark."
"It is a mystery."
Snape choked back a laugh. "I'm sorry," he said.
"It's all right," Viktor said. "Was joke."
Snape's laugh vibrated through his chest, where Viktor's head rested. "Thank you," he said again.
When Viktor was a little boy, his mother got a kitten. For weeks Viktor pursued the cat, trying to befriend him. It would hide behind a very large bureau and not come out when he sat and coaxed it, clicking and meowing.
Finally he gave up and sat on his bed, practicing a multiplication table. He quietly recited to himself when the tiny cat broke his concentration by crawling into his lap and purring.
"You have to be patient," his mother had told him, smiling. "But I think you're good at that."